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 Monday, 05 October 2015
An Interview with Tierney Sutton PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Wednesday, 14 February 2007
Tierney Sutton © John Whiting
Most jazz ensembles or bands have one or two primary composers but not so with the Tierney Sutton Band as I discovered during my recent conversation with the lead vocalist Tierney Sutton. All five musicians and Sutton present ideas to the group and work collaboratively on original compositions and new arrangements for songs previously recorded by others.

“Everybody has veto power over something that we play or an idea that we have. All the (musicians) in the band are very creative and knowledgeable people. They are always striving to find something different than they have found before,” says Sutton.

“These guys play on a lot of great records with a lot of great players. Our drummer (Ray Brinker) played on Genius Loves Company the last album recorded by Ray Charles, (while) Kevin Axt has played with Natalie Cole and Chuck Mangione. All of these guys have played on a million rock, country, television and film projects. For them to come to the table and say, ‘I want to be part of something that is different than anything that I have played or heard,’ means that there is a lot of stretching that goes on,” says Sutton.

Swinging With Elvin and a New Quintet: An Interview With Delfeayo Marsalis PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Thursday, 28 December 2006
Delfeayo Marsalis

In January at the Blue Note in Manhattan, trombonist/producer/composer Delfeayo Marsalis launches a tour in celebration of his new recording, Minion’s Dominion (Troubadour Jass), a tribute to the late great drummer Elvin Jones. While the recording proved to be one of the last for Jones, the tour is the first for Marsalis’ new quintet, featuring Anthony Wonsey, Mark Shim, David Pulphus and Jeff Fajardo. A long-time member of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, Marsalis is one of the most respected producers in jazz. The new recording and new tour provided an opportunity to ask Marsalis not only about his work with Elvin Jones but also about his views on playing and producing.



JP. Tell me about your work with Elvin Jones—when and how did you get involved with his Jazz Machine? Did you feel a special connection with him given that you both grew up within famed jazz families?
I was in London in 1993, playing with my own band. We were there a day early and I was able to sit in with Mr. Jones. Later in year he called me to play on a recording, and then he called and asked me to join the group [Jazz Machine]. We felt a connection having older brothers—Elvin was the youngest of ten and I am one of six. It [families of musicians] was probably important because we had a similar love for the music.
Interview with Marcus Strickland PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Sunday, 24 December 2006
Marcus Strickland © Jimmy Katz

“If you are a jazz musician at a concert and all you see in the audience are jazz saxophone geeks and nobody else then there is something wrong. You have missed the point,” says Marcus Strickland an accomplished tenor and soprano saxophonist and composer. “There should be doctors, lawyers and beauticians there. There should be people from all walks of life. Life is much grander than just jazz music,” he concludes.


Strickland was making the comments during our conversation at the end of October shortly after he returned from his most recent European tour. Strickland’s point was jazz artists need to view themselves as being part of a much broader musical landscape. He believes that artists who are serious about their craft will become in his words “experts in music.”


Through taking a closer look at other genres of music, Strickland says far reaching benefits will be realized. Artists will learn how to incorporate other instruments and vocal styles into their music. Moreover, he says, “There are very specific intentions behind other genres of music.” Those intentions may be to convey a story, express an ideology or particular sentiment. It is through listening to different styles of music that artists will be able to remain current with their music rather than retrospective.
Interview with Roger Kellaway PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
Roger Kellaway © Kent Lacin
It is not very often that one has an opportunity to speak with a music icon as celebrated as Roger Kellaway and it is even less often that one gets to talk to him on his birthday (67th). I had the opportunity to do both recently and found the pianist/composer to be one of the more congenial people that I have spoken to inside or outside of the music industry. Kellaway took time to reflect about the relationships he has forged, time spent in the late sixties as the arranger and pianist for Bobby Darin, the numerous films he has scored and his forty-one year marriage to Jorjana.



Now entering his sixty-eighth year Kellaway is not a man stuck in the past but quite the contrary. He spoke of the need to ensure his own music and career is more firmly entrenched in the digital age. Inspired by Maria Schneider’s success in the digital age Kellaway says, “I am much more interested in it right now than I ever have been because I just don’t think there is any other possibility (for selling music on a large scale)”.
Interview with Sherrie Maricle (Diva Jazz Orchestra / Five Play) PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Friday, 17 November 2006
Sherrie Maricle © Paul LaRaia

“We are living with an attitude of gratitude and we perform that way,” says Sherrie Maricle. Based out of New York City, Maricle is the bandleader for The Diva Jazz Orchestra and drummer with her quintet, Five Play. Maricle is one of the most delightful and talented people that I have spoken to. She is engaging and genuinely grateful for the opportunities that have come her way. Early in her career she kept overcoming obstacles placed in her way because she is a woman musician in jazz. Her talent simply could not be denied.

I went to someone who knows Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra very well, the legendary Tommy Newsom (the Tonight Show, Benny Goodman, and Erich Kunzel). Newsom has worked on a number of the arrangements that the big band has performed and in 2004 the Diva Jazz Orchestra released the Tommy Newsom Tribute CD. Newsom had this to say when I spoke to him: “I was just talking to a friend of mine and saying that band plays with exuberance, with a flair that almost no other band has. I think they realize this is their shot. They give it their best every time. I have never seen anything like it.”

It seems wherever Five Play and the Diva Jazz Orchestra have performed they have drawn rave reviews from the critics for their energy and the passion with which they approach their music.

Vinny Valentino Interview PDF Print
Written by Joe Montague   
Friday, 29 September 2006
ImageAlthough Vinny Valentino is a guitar virtuoso, his talent with six strings often overshadows his insight and genius as a composer. "I think that it is very difficult in our world to wear many different hats and for people to be accepting of those different hats. If you are a guitar player you are not really thought of as a great composer," says Valentino. He continues the thought with, "(Take) Pat Metheny, nobody really thinks of Pat as a great composer. Well I guess some people do but not as many as think of him as a great guitar player. George Benson is another one who is a great composer although he doesn't do it that often."



"In the piano world there are a lot more (composers). In terms of composition people view the piano as more of a tool for composing than they do the guitar. That may be another reason why those two (guitar and composition) don't necessarily go hand in hand," he says.



Valentino says, "In my opinion the greatest improvisers were also great composers no matter what instrument they played." He then goes on to list Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington. "Composing and improvising go hand in hand," he says.
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New and Notable
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;

John Pizzarelli: "Midnight McCartney" (Concord,2015)
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

Though most of us balk when we hear others say it, Jazz is predominately cover music. These two words are sure to start a bar fight with practitioners and fans in the know. In truth, the music is at its best when players offer unique improvisations of works composed by others.   When it comes to the beloved music of The Beatles, many jazzers tend to play it safe and go the pure cover route. This is certainly true of John Pizzarelli in his latest Midnight McCartney recording.

This is well-combed turf for Pizzarelli. He has been mining Nat King Cole, practically all of the pop standard lexicon, and The Beatles for most of his long recording career. As the title betrays, Midnight McCartney focuses on the cute Beatle’s solo output.  Most of the choices and renditions aren’t particularly inspired.  The singer-guitarist’s redemption lies in his takes on hits like “Let ‘Em  In.” But the rouser “Hi, Hi, Hi,” is noteworthy because it is drug reference-free thanks to its instrumental treatment.  It really sounds at home in the big band setting. There’s also a good version of the lesser-known “Heart of the Country.”

Condemnation, for me, must be reserved for a guest appearance from the over-exposed -since-the- 80’s Michael McDonald. The CD also contains a cover of the worst Christmas carol ever written: “Wonderful Christmas.” It should sell a gross or two.


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