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 Wednesday, 02 September 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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London/Meader/Pramuk/Ross: "The Royal Bopsters" (Motema)
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

 

ImageSometime after receiving my 11,932nd copy (unsolicited) of vocal jazz standards, I became a bit jaded. Be mindful this was the last time Bob Dole was on a Presidential ticket. While I would never discourage a musical venture of any kind, my tolerance for tuneless warbling through “I Thought About You” reached a saturation point long ago.  When a vocal venture makes it to the audition player, it’s usually because there’s a mitigating factor or two.

This is certainly true of a new release on Motema  Records:  Amy London, Darmon Meader, Dylan Pramuk and Holli Ross have recorded more than a tribute in The Royal Bopsters.  It’s a living, breathing participatory memento of new meets old.  No less than Mark Murphy, Bob Dorough, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross make appearances on what amounts to great choices of original and standard material--all done in the classic mode of bop singing exemplified by these giants of scat and song.

These are arguably the best of the surviving jazz vocalists from their era and they can still swing with the younger set, who gives them plenty of room. This quartet also shows strong potential in the Manhattan Transfer tradition.  Let’s hope they stay true to bop form, since top forty success is likely to elude most crossover acts these days.  

 
Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo: "Swing Zing!" (Self-Produced)
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImageA good guitarist can strum up a storm in any genre. A great guitarist can sound like a one-man orchestra who seems to effortlessly glide from style to style without giving much thought to idioms.  Such a player is Frank Vignola.  For decades, Vignola has been a master of all music, especially acoustic swing, classical and jazz. He flies under the radar with much of the mainstream in spite of or maybe due to these chameleon-like tendencies. 

His new CD Swing Zing doesn’t go too far in the direction of phase-shifting; it’s pretty much a swing affair. He has recruited Vinny Raniolo, who is more of a hollow-body Joe Pass denizen. As it turns out, this is a perfect complement to the Vignola whirlwind.

There are no jaw-droppers in the selection of material.  it’s the usual guitar-friendly standards like “Tico Tico” and “Sleepytime Gal.” Stop by for those, but stay for the musicianship.  Guests include:  Julian Lage, Bucky Pizzarelli and Gene Bertoncini.

 
 

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