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 Thursday, 30 October 2014
CD/DVD/Book Reviews
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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Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord, 2014): Raising, Hurdling Over the Bar PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014

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Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio
 

At the finals of the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition at Kennedy Center last September, then 24-year-old Melissa Aldana not only won first prize, she became the first woman instrumentalist and first South American to win any of the Monk top honors in the 26-year history of the prestigious competition. Tenorist Aldana earned the $25,000 first-prize scholarship with the Monk Institute and a recording contract with Concord Music Group. The resulting album, Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio, was released in June, right before the trio's festival debuts at the Twin Cities and Iowa City Jazz Festivals. Anyone who had the opportunity to enjoy the trio live will find the album to be a pleasurable reminder of the energy and synergy of the live event; anyone who has not yet experienced Aldana and company (bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela) on stage will revel in the discovery of her talent as performer, composer and bandleader.

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Jane Ira Bloom's "Sixteen Sunsets" Sets New Standard for Soprano Sax PDF Print
Written by Ken Vermes   
Thursday, 24 July 2014

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On Steve Lacy’s birthday day (July 23), it seems fitting to write a tribute to someone playing today who has set a new standard for this, one of the loveliest and mysterious of the family of saxophones. As with many musical details, most listeners have no idea how technically challenging this particular sax is, or how musicians spend countless hours on just the mouthpiece problem--how one can find the right one to avoid the harsh grittiness that can infest a player's sound. The problem goes back and forth from plastic mouthpieces that can warm the instrument to metal ones that give it power and presence.

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Denny Zeitlin: Trio Splendor on "Stairway to the Stars" (2014, Sunnyside) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Thursday, 17 July 2014

 

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Stairway to the Stars

I live in Minnesota, pianist/psychiatrist Denny Zeitlin lives in California, yet I feel like I have been his patient for years.  Listening to a Zeitlin recording is surely the equivalent to an hour on his couch without a co-pay--alternately relaxing, provocative, and refreshing. And while his latest release, Stairway to the Stars, was recorded over a decade ago with his then-new trio with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson, the music has lost none of its power to intrigue and endure.

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New and Notable
Tri-Fi's "Staring Into the Sun": Contemporary and Personal
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageOriginally coming together as the rhythm section for vocalist Curtis Stigers, pianist Matthew Fries, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Keith Hall branched out on their own ten years ago as "Tri-Fi," and are now celebrating a fifth recording,  Staring Into the Sun (2014). "We knew we had a special musical connection and wanted another outlet to develop our own music as a trio: music that is contemporary and personal, while still deeply rooted in the tradition of the classic piano trios," they explain in the album's liner note. They have met their goal on each outing, but perhaps never more elegantly than on Staring Into the Sun, which they funded through Kickstarter.

The album includes ten tracks of all original compositions, six from Fries and two each from Palombi and Hall. They start of with Fries' "Open Water," a lightly swinging, upbeat tune that introduces the telepathic communication among the trio. Palombi's solo brings a bit of apprehension, yet still hopeful. The bassist contributes a more joyful solo to Fries' festive "Circle Dance." The pianist's "Clockwork" is reminiscent of compositions for Lynne Arriale, as he engages himself in two and even three-way conversations like a mini-travelogue, while Hall's continual punctuations keep your ears wondering, what's next? Fries describes his "Airstream" as optimistic, and it is indeed upbeat, laid-back, playful and bluesy, like Keith Jarrett on a bright day; Palombi adds a bouncy solo. One of the album's most exquisite tracks, Fries'  swaying "The Night Watch"  has an old fashioned ballad feel, while Hall kicks up some fine sonic dust.


Phil Palombi contributes the beautiful "Cielo," featuring bass and piano in counterpoint, generating a pastoral ambience. Palombi's title track starts with a distant drum rumble and sparse piano lines, then builds momentum like an adventure tale, while the bassist's solo adds fine details to the storyline.  With "Song for Butterfly," Drummer Hall provides delicate patterns in a slow meandering ballad, with Palombi setting a steady pulse from the deep end of the bass. Hall's "Josie Bebop" --dedicated to his daughter--is as loose and playful as his previous composition was delicate.


The album closes with Fries' "Compassion," starting with Hall's regal percussion as if a funereal ballad, as if written to honor a friend or mentor's recent passing. Palombi's mournful solo is one of the album's instrumental highlights. This track--indeed the entire album-- is as good an example of trio communication as one can find in the modern piano trio canon, with each instrument contributing significantly to the impact of the whole. The pieces just fit together perfectly.


Staring Into the Sun is available from CD Baby or the Tri Fi website (tri-fi.com)


 
New and Notable: Chip Stephens Trio, "Relevancy" (2013, Capri Records)
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   

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Relevancy
I first heard Chip Stephens and his amazing piano playing on a deliciously groovy two-disc CD of famed trombonist Curtis Fuller, titled I Will Tell Her (2010), which I reviewed for L.A. Jazz Scene and Jazz Police website as well.  What stood out about Stephens' playing on several selections from this CD were his amazing, incredible piano runs and his beautifully full chordal voicings.

That work is continued on his latest CD, Relevancy, one of the best, in my opinion, from 2013.  His trio is made up of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Joel Spencer, all sturdy and excellent performers who have been working together a number of years.  There are eight tracks on this CD -- three original by Stephens and five other very well picked selections.  One of my favorites is Stephens' “C Hips Blues,” ten minutes of some great chords, piano lines and groovy solos from all of the trio members.    Two more originals (and excellent) are “A Day in May,” and “Somewhere Before the End.”  Two better known tunes are “34 Skidoo” (by Bill Evans) and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love.”  The CD begins with a perky number by Carla Bley, “Syndrome,” that gives the trio a real workout and defines each musician’s strength, especially in their solos.    This CD is one that affords the listener lots of exceptional jazz from Chip Stephens Trio from Capri Records: www.caprirecords.com

Reprinted from L.A. Jazz Scene, July 2014 issue

 
 

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