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 Monday, 30 November 2015
CD/DVD/Book Reviews
Peg Carrothers Takes Us to the "Edges of My Mind" (Vision Fugitive) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Edges of My Mind

Vocalist Peg Carrothers has been singing professionally for more than two decades, but her career has been largely in the shadows of family life in rural northern Michigan and piano titan husband, Bill Carrothers. Trained in classical voice and steeped in jazz since college days when she met Bill, Peg has released a few recordings over the past ten years, including stunning appearances her own Blue Skies (2004), on Bill's Armistice (2004), on Matt Turner's Voices That Are Gone (2008), and on the Carrothers' collaboration, Play Day (2008). In 2013, Peg was in the Twin Cities to record Edges of My Mind at Creation Audio, with Bill on piano and pals Dean Magraw on guitar and mandolin, Billy Peterson on bass, and Gordy Johnson handling bass duties on two tracks. Engineering, mixing and mastering were handled by Steve Wiese and Miles Hanson of Creation, with Bill and Peg serving as producers. The album was first released in Europe on the Vision Fugitive label, and now officially released in the U.S. It's an elegant collection of what would be considered "art songs" if not for the familiarity of songwriters, from Stephen Foster and Johnny Mercer to Dave Frishberg and Johnny Nash, from Aerosmith to the Rolling Stones. But regardless of source material, each of these nine tracks belongs to Peg Carrothers and her gentle, ethereal soprano, a voice that seemingly melds a sunnier, higher-toned Patricia Barber with an understated Eva Cassidy.

"Many a New Day": Karrin Allyson Revitalizes Rodgers and Hammerstein PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Saturday, 21 November 2015
Karrin Allyson - Many a New Day

With fourteen acclaimed albums and four Grammy nominations over her nearly 25-year career, Karrin Allyson could simply coast through a recording session and release a respectable album. But what makes us eagerly anticipate every new release from Allyson is her consistently inventive selection of repertoire, arrangements and collaborators, as well as the confidence that, regardless of the material, we'll hear something new, something assembled with the utmost respect for both the music and her audience. Album number fifteen meets our expectations and then some.

Chris Potter Underground Orchestra, "Imaginary Cities" (ECM, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 03 November 2015
Imaginary Cities

Imaginary Cities is the recording debut of Chris Potter's new Underground Orchestra, an expansion of his long-standing Underground Quartet (Adam Rogers, Craig Taborn and Nate Smith). With Potter on tenor and soprano saxes as well as bass clarinet, Rogers on guitars, Taborn on piano and Smith on drums, the orchestra also includes Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba, Fima Ephron on bass guitar, Scott Colley on double bass, and a full string quartet of Mark Feldman and Joyce Hammann on violins, Lois Martin on viola and Dave Eggar on cello. This is Potter's second foray into larger-scale orchestration, following his 2007 Sunnyside release, Song for Anyone, which featured a similar core of strings as well as some additional winds.

Jazz and Seduction: An Unlikely "Night Together" (Illicit Productions, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Sunday, 20 September 2015
A Night Together

Everyday, it seems, I get one or more recordings sent to me by artists and agents in hopes of getting a review on this website. Given the costs involved in producing an album, even if self-produced, crowd-funded or digitally released, there's a surprisingly large number of musicians putting their work out into the world in hopes of not only recouping expenses, but (probably more so) in hopes of getting "discovered," acknowledged, and promoted. The majority of the recordings that fill my mail box are projects with a personal angle, a set list of original compositions or a concept that the artist hopes will stand out in the vast sea of concepts. Each artist asks, "What can I do to stand out from my peers-- how is my music unique, different?"

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


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. 

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


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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New Releases: Clarke/Lagrene/Ponty and Lionel Loueke
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImageWhat’s that parental axiom and admonishment to writers who gleefully pan things that come across their desk?  “If you can’t say anything nice…..” Truth told, a busy month fundraising at KBEM and a general lackluster crop of recordings have kept me away for a while. But the mailman was especially kind this week.

Stanley Clarke/Bireli Lagrène/Jean-Luc Ponty, D-Stringz (Impulse, 2015)

If Frank Zappa were to suddenly open a Parisian café in Chocolate City, it would sound like this record. The theme on this delightful excursion, if there is one, seems to be a hot club style litmus test of jazz hits and a great vehicle to try new wares.

Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty are household names, even to people who may have a casual acquaintance with jazz, especially fusion.  Ponty is known for his work with Frank Zappa as well as his equally astonishing solo career.  And Stanley Clarke has all but reconstructed what it means to be a bassist in any kind of music. Lesser known to some, guitarist Bireli Lagrène comes from the classic French mold of Reinhardt-laced gypsy swing. But he’s also good at dancing around the fringes of soul, blues, flamenco, jazz and whatever else can be played on guitar.   

With nothing whatsoever to prove, these men will make you rethink how to listen to some of your favorites like: “Blue Train” and “Mercy Mercy  Mercy.” They could have stopped there and phoned the rest in. They didn’t. Check out all the originals.  Highly recommended.

Lionel Loueke,  Gaia (Blue Note, 2015)

ImageWhen the news broke that Pop producer Don Was would be helming Blue Note Records after the death of the beloved Bruce Lundvall, the predictable waves of angst fell over the jazz community.  As it turns out, those fears were not entirely unfounded.  Was has (yes, that’s grammatically acceptable) steered the iconic brand away from the sacred stables built by Lundvall and all his forebears. Many fled the company or were perhaps encouraged to seek other distribution.

But artists like Joe Lovano and Dr. John appear to have remained. Whether that is due to their crossover appeal is uncertain.  Lionel Loueke is a poster child of musical morphing, mostly in the global vein. Whatever stylistic cross-dressing he is guilty of has never been conspicuous or pre-meditated. Born in Benin, West Africa, the guitarist was weaned on a strong dose of musical variety: West African blues, Kora music, Afro-Pop and Afro Caribbean rhythms are strong threads that are immediately noticeable in his playing.  He also displays impeccable choices of companions on the road and in the studio.

Like Bill Frisell, Loueke’s pure musicianship transcends any genre bias and has made him a top recruit for many established jazz masters.  Gaia finds him breaking away from the “World Music” stamp. It is moody and compositional, with very little in the way of beat fare.  The title track is great and there’s a serviceable Bee Gees cover, too. I won’t tell you what, explore for yourself!

Lizz Wright: "Freedom And Surrender" (Concord, 2015)
Written by Kevin O'Connor   


Another artist from the cover school is Lizz Wright, though that term is neither fair nor accurate with her latest recording, Freedom And Surrender.

Circular would be a good word to describe the career arc of Ms. Wright. She was signed by Verve Records in the early 2000’s during the late phases of the great Diana Krall fallout. Stylistically she couldn’t be more opposed. She went on to a modest career in Pop and R & B and is just now back in the jazz crossover realm at Concord Records.

She has clearly maintained her soulful sensibilities and jazz reverence. But along the way, she’s picked up an incredible knack for lyricism and a shrewd ear for collaboration. Guitarist and producer Larry Klein was a music and life partner for a late and crucial phase in Joni Mitchell’s narrative.  He’s all over this one, too:  Chief production, playing, songwriting and hand claps kept him pretty busy.

Nick Drake’s aching “River Man” is paid a nice tribute.  The best originals would have to be the title track and one called “You.” Although Gregory Porter is rapidly entering the venue of the overexposed, I’d rather hear him than the aforementioned Mr. McDonald on most anything. Wright and Porter team up on another original, “Right Where You Are.”  Straight ahead? Not really. But a beautiful diversion.

(Lizz Wright appears at the Dakota in Minneapolis, September 22-23;


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