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 Sunday, 24 May 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 HenryİAndrea 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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Michael LeVan Trio, A Different Shade of Blue (Shade of Blue Records, 2015)
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   
ImagePianist Michael Le Van has produced a new CD, A Different Shade of Blue, which is an expression of his life experiences and challenges. Le Van is both classically and jazz oriented. His unique pieces show connections to both. His choosing of musical partners is excellent: David Enos (bass) and John Ferraro (drums). They provide impressive balance of sound, fulfilling all of Le Van’s music skillfully.

 

LeVan includes ten originals on the recording. There are two numbers reflecting well-designed blues: “Fantasia in G Minor” and “Remember That.” Le Van uses some well-thought out chordal arrangements that drive these tunes in good fashion. Both Enos and Ferraro display their virtuosity in making all their solos quite meaningful.

After listening to the CD, I find that Mike Le Van’s work is a lot like telling a story with each number his trio plays. There are two nice ballads: “A Different Shade of Blue,” and “A Beautiful Moment.” “A Time to Remember” starts slowly, but picks up into a moderate Latin tempo. “Blue Nocturne” is probably my favorite. It is done in 6/8 time and has an unforgettable melody as well.

James Linahon at LMP Studios, who recorded, mixed and mastered this CD, gave a very high compliment to the LeVan’s music as being truly unique and one of the best he had heard in his many years doing CD engineering. For some relaxed and accessible listening, this CD will be a good investment of time. See Michael Le Van’s website for information re purchasing the CD:

http://www.michaellevan.com

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, April 2015 issue

 
"Slant Signature": Benny Sharoni Featuring Jim Rotondi
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   

ImageWith his second CD, Slant Signature (2015, Papaya Records), saxophonist Benny Sharoni has moved the bar up a notch from his previously released Eternal Elixir (2010, Papaya), which garnered rave reviews.  Sharoni’s longtime quartet appears on the new release, with pianist Joe Barbato, bassist Todd Baker, and drummer Steve Langone, plus special guests, trumpeter Jim Rotondi and guitarist Mike Mele.  Mele also played on Sharoni’s Eternal Elixir.  Although this was Rotondi’s first time performing with the Sharoni ensemble, he sounded as if he'd been with the band for a long time.  Sharoni mentions that the bottom line is that the music moves and inspires people.  He says, “This record is 99% heart.  The band is full of heart and joy and intensity and everybody’s mission was to make the most beautiful music they could.”  

Sharoni’s home for many years has been Boston, MA, where he has spent time not only performing but also composing. Five of his original tunes are on his new CD, along with three famous classy jazz tunes -- Freddie Hubbard’s “Down Under,” Lee Morgan’s “Ceora,” and Ray Bryant’s “Tonk.”  They are all done with lots of favorable flavor. The musicians support each other to the max and everyone plays an important part in every tune. The front line, Sharoni, Rotondi, and Mele, are perfect and backed 1000% by the rhythm team of Barbato, Baker, and Langone.  


One of several jazz influences for Sharoni has always been Sonny Rollins.  His powerful tone is reminiscent of Rollins on his original "Minor City Blues." You can hear just how tight this band is by listening to Sharoni’s compositions “Subterranean Samba” and “The Bodega."  Another Sharoni original, “Bitter Drops,” has relaxed blues lines and gives way to outstanding solos from Sharoni, Mele, and Barbato.  On the title track, Sharoni's “Slant Signature,” the group performs immaculately.  It is an up-tempo and hard-driving piece.  


Slant Signature will be released on March 17, 2015. This CD will be wonderful to play and play many more times.  See Benny Sharoni’s website: http://www.bennysharoni.com

                                                                       

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, March 2015       

 
 

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