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TCJF 2016
 Wednesday, 02 September 2015
New and Notable
London/Meader/Pramuk/Ross: "The Royal Bopsters" (Motema) PDF Print
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.

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Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo: "Swing Zing!" (Self-Produced) PDF Print
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. 

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George and Chico Freeman/Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band PDF Print
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.

 

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Robert Glasper: “Covered” (2015, Blue Note) PDF Print
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.  

 
Kenny Werner: “The Melody” (2015, Pirouet Records) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

Image“Lyrical.” “Evan-esque.” “Impressionistic.” These are the terms that get bandied about quite a bit in music circles when people get a yen to brand a certain type of player. While it’s true that pianist Kenny Werner is a disciple of Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck and a short list of other like-minded stylists, he follows his own muse, both as a composer and interpreter. The Melody is his latest recording and it seems to fall in line with his more recent material. He’s enlisted long-time associates, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and flexible drummer Ari Hoenig, to fulfill his vision. The title is a bit of an obfuscation, though. You may find yourself buried in standards like Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” or Coltrane’s “26-2” before you give any thought to melody. As for his own contributions? Cerebral but approachable, calling cards of his long career.

 
Maria Schneider: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImageWith her latest recording, The Thompson Fields, Minnesota-reared composer Maria Schneider has pulled off the unfathomable. She’s painted what we can assume is an apt soundscape of the pastoral surroundings of her youth. She’s assembled a top-notch ensemble to carry out this vision including guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Frank Kimbrough and multi-reed player Steve Wilson. That’s nothing new since  her career has been defined by excellent collaborative choices.

 

Here’s the rub: With the help of the Artist Share collaborative, she’s put together an actual keepsake rarely seen these days. A CD!   Ornithologists, nature enthusiasts and graphics buffs will delight in the booklet that comes with this impressively packaged recording.  Listen to the musical pastiche as you peruse.  The title selection is an especially poignant family memory, looking back 40 years from the top of a silo. Kimbrough and Lund carry the solos nicely.  Other pieces, like “Walking By Flashlight,” and “A Potter’s Song,” had me pining for the rural childhood I never had.  

 
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