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 Thursday, 30 July 2015
CD/DVD/Book Reviews
Steve Johns' "Family" (StrikeZone, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   
Wednesday, 13 May 2015

 “Steve Johns is a master drummer and bandleader. His bass playing son Daryl Johns and saxophonist wife Debbie Johns are amazing.  Stellar debut and Steve proves drummers are musicians, and pretty good producers too.  Great musical family.” --Lenny White

“A tight knit modern quartet with great feel, original tunes, arrangements and soloists.”  --Randy Brecker

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Master drummer Steve Johns has been in the creative jazz world for better than three decades.  He met his wife, tenor and soprano saxophonist Debbie Keefe Johns, at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1979.  They started out their career journey in New York City and both have many, many memorable credits.  Their new CD Family is a celebration to capture their music as a family before son Daryl, an upcoming dynamic bassist, goes off to studies at the Manhattan School of Music.  Daryl Johns plays both acoustic and electric bass.   They are joined by special guests, guitar great Dave Stryker (who produced the CD) on five tracks and electric guitarist Bob Devos on four tracks. 

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Right at Home in "Foreign Territory": John Raymond's New Release PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 05 May 2015

 

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Foreign Motion

Twin Cities native John Raymond seems to be living every young jazz musician's dream -- finding success in New York, on the bandstand and in the studio. With regular club gigs with his own ensembles, participating in the renowned Festival of New Trumpet, and now releasing a recording with the great Billy Hart,  John is building a reputation as one of the rising stars of the Big Apple. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and State University of New York-Purchase jazz programs, John released his first full-length recording, Strength and Song, in 2012 with support from SUNY-Purchase mentor and producer John Faddis. Noted All About Jazz New York, "Strength & Song signals the arrival of an exciting new trumpet personality poised for greater things." Greater things indeed. Now on Fresh Sound/New Talent, John Raymond is celebrating the release this week of Foreign Territory, featuring pianist Dan Tepfer, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Billy Hart. 

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Talent Indestructible: Ashley Daneman ("Beauty Indestructible," 2014) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Thursday, 05 March 2015

 

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Beauty Indestructible

"I believe in the indestructible beauty of people and of life. No matter what may happen, we are redeemable.  That is the message of this album." --Ashley Daneman

“…an uncompromising concoction of subtle and intimate jazz with a touch of hipster singer-songwriter.” --West Michigan Jazz Society

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Classic Reissue: Jeremy Steig's "Flute Fever" (IPO Recordings, 2013) PDF Print
Written by Ken Vermes   
Saturday, 11 October 2014

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Flute Fever
 

One of the most effective methods to get deep into the music called jazz is to follow instruments, not just players.  Pick one, pick any one, and learn as much about it as you possibly can. For this writer, besides the saxophone, my pick for favorite instrument is the flute.  It helps that I play the flute, have studied it with a classical teacher, and have seen hundreds of performances by flute players. 

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The World of Steven Hobert: Improvising Through "Ocean Eyes" PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 19 September 2014
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Ocean Eyes

"My vision is to create an authentic expression of my passion & play through music and let it sing out into the world." --Steven Hobert

Steven Hobert is one of those musicians that tends to stun you when you hear him because he typically flies under the radar. We hear him on piano with the Adam Meckler Orchestra, on accordion with Lulu's Playground, but rarely as leader or interpreter of his own creations. He played a solo set during the 2014 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, which provided a preview of some of the bold original works and spontaneous improvisations that form the bulk of the material on his new recording, Ocean Eyes. It's a release that should open eyes, and ears, to one of the more creative minds in the region. And the release will be celebrated this weekend, in Eau Claire (September 19) and St Paul (September 20).

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"Live and Natural" Over Twenty-Five Years With Bruce Henry PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Sunday, 14 September 2014

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Bruce Henry©Andrea Canter
 

"His voice is his horn, and he can swing like Goodman, spin and spiral like Parker, or levitate like Coltrane."  -- JazzINK

Perhaps the most easily identified male voice in Twin Cities Jazz, Bruce Henry relocated to his adopted home town of Chicago in 2008. But he left not only a raft of friends and fans, but some unfinished business, including an album's worth of live tracks recorded at the Dakota Jazz Club in 2005 as well as a couple tracks going back to Ruby's Cabaret in 1990 and a couple studio tracks recorded at McNally Smith College of Music shortly before his move to Chicago. Finally, this music is assembled into Bruce's third and arguably best album yet, Live and Natural.


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George and Chico Freeman/Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

 July is rapidly becoming a month for the books. Having cleansed myself with a trip to the Rockies, I returned to the usual piles of material on my desk. Here are just a couple I couldn’t wait to devour:

 

George and Chico Freeman:  All in the Family (Southport)

ImageOnce in a while, the toils of a Music Director in a jazz station present a challenge. That is, every so often a recording comes along that simply blows me away but isn’t quite, in the parlance of the industry, a “radio friendly record.” Such is the case with an intimate new tribute album from the venerated first family of jazz in Chicago, the Freemans. The focus of this gem is on revered saxophonist Von “Vonski’  Freeman, who left us in 2012. Von was a true denizen of the City of Big Shoulders, having inspired countless players from Chicago.

 


But his sphere stretched well beyond the Midwest. Generations of players have absorbed his crafty approach to saxophone, sometimes without their knowledge.  He was also difficult to pigeonhole, so it’s only right that a musical postcard should be crafted by two of his closest relatives and sidemen:  Brother George and son Chico. In spite of, or perhaps all the better for, its intimacy, All in the Family is a challenge for the typical radio audience.  With its sweet interludes and seamless themes, this is one better left on “Continue” for your player, should you actually have one. Having said that, you’ll hear select tracks on KBEM for at least a couple of months.


Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band  Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform)

ImageIt was once said by somebody, sadly not me: “Bill Frisell is a genre unto himself.” Though the guitar-brandishing fret wizard from Seattle chuckles it off, there’s rarely been a more apt description of a musician.  Frisell is a celebrated change-aholic, but not in the conspicuous ways of many of his peers.  With each recording, he explores new and strange visions. He’s never been above resorting to great gadgetry -- tape-loops, turntables, electronics. But he’s also disarmingly organic and as pure a jazz player as it gets, when the mood suits him.


This time, it’s not Frisell at the helm but NDR bandleader Michael Gibbs. Bill does appear on every track of this set list, which as the title betrays, is a live stab at the best and oddest of Bill’s pieces and his known renditions of other composers: “Benny’s Bugle” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”  This hits the airwaves this week.  

 
Robert Glasper: “Covered” (2015, Blue Note)
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImagePianist Robert Glasper is that all-too rare jazz musician who manages to reel in a respectable and growing crowd of jazz fans. More significantly perhaps, he also resonates with the hip hop and electronica crowd, particularly the ones who like a little substance and grit in their pop. There’s barely anything in the way of new composition on Covered, hence the title. The glaring exception is “Got Over.” Glasper  shares writing credits with no less than Harry Belafonte, who also appears on the track. The other original clocks in at thirteen minutes: “In Case You Forgot.”  It’s an opus unlike any he’s recorded to date. He also joins the ranks of pianists like Brad Mehldau in showing reverence for Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and other pop noteworthies.  

 
 

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