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 Monday, 30 November 2015
Interview With Candy Dulfer PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Monday, 03 September 2007
Candy Dulfer © Carin Verbruggen
Many labels have been applied to the music performed by Dutch alto saxophonist Candy Dulfer, including smooth jazz and funk, but it is perhaps the superlatives that her fans use to describe her music that is most accurate, words like unbelievable, wonderful, incredible and awesome.


Speaking to me on the phone from the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, where she was performing, Dulfer said, “I just make albums that I like, and if smooth [jazz] radio picks it up, then it is a great thing. I never want it to be the other way around, making music that hopefully radio will pick up. I don’t think that is being true to myself. A lot of people seem to like the relaxed stuff that I do.”

Equally telling are her comments concerning the success that she experienced early in her career, at age nineteen, with the debut CD Saxuality in 1990. More than one million copies of Saxuality were sold. “My main goal wasn’t to make a video (Lily Was Here, with Dave Stewart) or a hit album. My main goal was to be a little bit famous,” she says, sounding a lot like Billy Crudup’s character, Russell Hammond, in Cameron Crowe’s movie Almost Famous.

Tippin’ On The Edge of Funk: Interview With j.dee PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Saturday, 18 August 2007

Tippin’ On The Edge of Funk

Jazz saxophonist j.dee is one man you do not want to refer to as funky. He will also object if you say his music is smooth. So what is it with this cat from LA anyway? The sax man who is better known for his production and songwriting skills will tell you that his music is “tippin’ on the edge of funk,” and that just happens to be the name of his current CD.

“What I wanted to try and do is to be a little funkier than the mainstream smooth jazz artists are, but still be smooth jazz. I thought I would come up with a track that sounds kind of funky, with a funky melody, but still has the jazz overtones to it, that underline the little nuances that keep it in the jazz idiom,” says j.dee in talking about the title track, “Tippin’ On The Edge of Funk.”

Interview with Rob Fried PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Monday, 30 July 2007
Wind Song
To say that jazz bassist/composer Rob Fried thinks outside the box and that his music is complex would be enormous understatements. To say that his songs on the current album Wind Song leave you feeling relaxed and immersed in their many moods would be a truer statement. Unlike so many sophisticated writers whose music is wonderful, but sometimes leaves the listener mentally and emotionally exhausted, Fried seems to have a knack for creating music that, despite pushing the envelope, provides for listening enjoyment. To this end, he in part credits the instincts of the many talented musicians who appear on the Wind Song.

During my conversation with Fried, he spoke about his ambitious multi-CD project, of which Wind Song is the first in the collection. Wind Song as the title implies Fried set out to write charts that would leave the listener with a musical representation of wind. His future projects will recreate various elements of the earth such as earth, fire, water, metal and wood, through his charts. He says, “Imagine in your mind four circles or rings and each one of them represents a style of music. One of them represents jazz, another rhythm and blues, one world music—the music of Brazil, Cuba and Africa, and the final one represents ambient or new age music. All the circles intersect. The area where they intersect is where I dwell.”

Interview with Gretchen Parlato PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
Gretchen Parlato

Donning a blue wig, performing a whacky improvisation of a very senior citizen awaiting her boyfriend’s arrival, the absolutely comedic woman on the youtube video is obviously blessed with talent. "Miss MacKenzie’s" performance was repeated in part last Valentine’s Day as she delighted the patrons of New York City’s Cornelia Street Café. This time she had an accomplice in a jazz artist by the name of Dave Devoe. Miss MacKenzie is the alter ego of the very talented and equally beautiful jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato, whose ethereal vocals have caused seasoned jazz musicians and singers to marvel at her seemingly endless musical gifts.


Interview with Morrie Louden PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Sunday, 08 July 2007
Morrie Louden

“To me the most amazing thing as a writer is to get a concept in your mind, have it come out through your fingers, find it on the piano, write it down, play it, have someone else hear the melody and get that same thought and same feeling that I had originally. That is the ultimate reward as a writer,” says the personable upright bassist and composer Morrie Louden.

Louden who is the proud owner of an almost three hundred year old Pietro Rogeri upright acoustic bass describes how songs often come to him, “Sometimes I will grab a piece of paper and write down notes, or I will create a manuscript piece of paper and write out the notes so I won’t forget what is in my mind. It is amazing, I don’t know where they come from, it must be God because I can be doing just about anything, and a melody will come to me. I will run to a piano to try and find it. When I do (find the melody), oh man that is just the most wonderful thing in the world, to take a sound that is in my mind, find it musically and then put it across.”

It was with this same enthusiasm and flair for the creative that Louden approached his current CD Time Piece. Reflecting upon the title track he says, “That piece got its name because it literally represents pieces of time. I was very careful in writing that piece. I wrote sections in different periods of time because I did not want to rush it or force it. I had a vision of how I wanted this whole song to lay. It tells a story and there are many stories within that piece. The whole thing is an odyssey. It wasn’t the type of piece that I sat down and wrote in a day or week. It has definitive directions and sounds. If I knew it wasn’t a good direction, or it wasn’t everything that I wanted out of the sound, I would stop, and let it sit until the right sound came to me. I just wanted it to flow.”

Interview with Wayne Escoffery PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Monday, 02 July 2007
Wayne Escofferey © Nick Ruechel
Although his composition skills and his ability to master the tenor and soprano saxophones move him to the head of the class, Wayne Escoffery still relishes those opportunities to perform as a sideman with the ensembles of other leading musicians. It would be easy for a man with his stature in jazz music to be caught up in his own significant accomplishments, yet one never gets the impression from talking with Escofferey that he dwells on what has been, but instead spends more time thinking of ways to improve his craftsmanship.

In 1999, Escoffery moved from Boston, where he studied at the Thelonious Monk Institute at the New England Conservatory  of Music, to the Mecca of jazz music, New York City. Reflecting upon the past eight years and evaluating his career to date, he says, “I have had so many opportunities and they seem to keep coming. I am keeping my fingers crossed, because I am blessed to have some of these opportunities. I just hope to keep working more with my groups, and more as a sideman. I really think working as a sideman is important. There are still a lot of great musicians out here that I want to play with. I hope to continue doing what I am doing.”

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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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