Monday, August 22, 2022

EEE Eubanks-Evans Experience Two Like Minds Create Together


Two Philadelphia musicians, separated by an almost generation of age, have nonetheless found themselves linked by a foundation in music that emerges, in part, from their shared Philly experience. 

Guitar wizard Kevin Eubanks is a member of a jazz family that includes his two brothers, younger Duane a trumpeter, and elder brother Robin an established trombonist. Eubanks attended Berklee and has worked with drummer Art Blakey, saxophonist Sam Rivers, and bassist Dave Holland. The guitarist made his presence known more widely to the public when he became the musical director of the band of the Tonight Late Show and the subsequent Jay Leno Show from 1995-2010.  

Orrin Evans attended Rutgers, worked with drummer Ralph Peterson, saxophonist Bobby Watson, soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, and studied with master pianist Kenny Barron. He has made his mark with his work with the quartet TarBaby, his Grammy-nominated Captain Black Big Band, and increasing his exposure to a wider audience by replacing leaving pianist Ethan Iverson for a time with The Bad Plus.

These two created a dynamic duo for this album and titled it the Eubanks Evans Experience. The synergy here becomes apparent from the opening cut “Novice Bounce,” a Eubanks composition from his debut album Guitarist from 1983. This groove starts with some delicate guitar work and some precisely accompanied piano work that demonstrates just how in-tune these two can be. Like two joyously dancing fairies in an enchanted forest, there is a magical air to this one. The group morphs it into a more soulful endeavor with Evans' syncopated piano. Eubanks guitar increases the funk quotient without ever losing the sensitivity. His slithery guitar work shows a commanding articulation and an inherent flare that are impressive.

One of the most beautiful interpretations from the duo takes a soul/funk, some may say smooth jazz, hit from trumpeter Tom Browne from 1980 titled “Dreams of Loving You.”  Eubanks and Evans reimagine this as a dreamy haunting ballad. Evans introduces this with a sensitive statement of the catchy and moving melody. Eubanks is the star here with his deft modulating guitar sound that emerges from Evans’ entry with an almost eerie Theremin-like sounding line that eeks with longing and pathos. This one is just beautiful.

The two break it up with a blues/funk-drenched collaboration “I Don’t Know” that raises the temperature of the proceedings up a couple of notches. Eubanks guitar is slippery and gut-busting and Evans’ piano takes on the feel of a barrel-house honk-tonk. The two get into it and play off each other’s ideas telepathically in a way that flows spontaneously.

“As They Ran Out of Biscuits” is a free-style collaboration that seems to be built by establishing a groove and then taking the improvisations to where they may go. This is probably the least structured and most adventurous of the set. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea but there is a real joy to absorb the active fluid collaboration going on here.

Orrin Evans composed the next ballad “Dawn Marie” for his wife. Eubanks opens the song with his own creative lead before the two enter this fetching melody. Evans plays beautifully here. There is obviously a deep connection with the loving sentiment that Evans intends to convey with this composition, and his touch and feel speak volumes. Eubanks is a master of using his electronics on his guitar to enhance his instrument’s effect. Here, his control is spookily modulated, perfectly aligning his sound to the mood intended.

The last two cuts of this album “Variations on the Battle” and Variations on Adoration” were both apparently recorded live at Chris’s Jazz Café in their hometown of Philadelphia. The two use two songs Evans’ “Half the Bottle” from his album #knowishalfthebattle of 2016 and Eubanks's “Adoration” from his album Zen Food from 2010 as the armatures upon which to improvise and expand. In the longer “Variations on the Battle” Eubanks exhibits a fusionist approach. His lines bloom in front of you as he gestates his ideas in an organic process that compliments over Evans' fertile backdrop. These two are brain-linked when playing so there is no hesitation, no awkward transitions they simply follow each other intuitively.

The shorter “Variations on Adoration” has a more melodic identity and Eubanks gently finger picks the entry as Evans creates lush pianistic lines. There is an exploratory feel to this composition as the two find a pulsating path to follow here, one that has a heartbeat of its own.

Eubanks Evans Experience is just that an experience; one that requires attention, one that requires awareness of nuance, and the ability to appreciate the true creative excellence of these two marvelous musicians. I will be looking forward to more from these two.

 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Recollections of past experiences :The Michael Wollny Trio: Ghosts


Michael Wollny Trio: Ghosts ACT 9956-2

Michael Wollny and his trio have recently released their latest album, Ghosts, on ACT recordsThe album reunites the German pianist with the progressive American bassist Tim Lefebvre and the spatial percussionist Eric Shaefer. Together these three made quite an impressive debut on their first outing together in the 2013 title Weltentraum. The album set a high-water mark in the pianist’s career and established Wollny with this trio as a creative force that could conjure up a body of music that could excite and intoxicate the listener. Wollny describes the trio’s unique simpatico, "The three of us are aligned in a special, inexplicable way. It‘s hard to describe but the effect is massive."

Tim Lefebdre, Michael Wollny & Eric Shaefer (photo credit Gregor Hohenberg)

Wollny develops inspiration for his musical adventures utilizing off-beat themes. In Weltentraum, the album was based on night songs or dreams. In Ghosts, Wollny describes his concept of how some songs are possessed by spirits, spirits of remembrance. "As an improviser, you often find that it‘s not the compositions themselves you‘re playing, but your own memories of them. And as these memories come back to you in the moment…” On Ghosts, the artist chose a diverse selection of songs, each with a distinct memory for him that personalizes his interpretation of them. There is a logic to the way Wollny cleverly links all these compositions by what he views as their unifying factors. Lost love, forgotten love, loss of simplicity, sentimental recollections, yearning, fragility, sadness, these are the ghosts that linger in the music long after.  The album includes Gershwin’s bittersweet  “I Loves You Porgy,” a traditional Irish folk song “She Moved Through the Fair,” Shubert’s "Erlkönig," Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ “Hand of God”, Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Way,” Paul Giovanni’s “Willow’s Song,” from the horror movie Wicker Man,  Timber Timbres’ “Beat the Drum Slowly” and “Ghosts” by David Sylvian, along with two of Wollny’s own theme derived compositions “Hauntalogy” and “Monsters Never Breathe.”

The trio offers a dynamism that is quite captivating, with the music making its musical impact in tight, often brief, precisely executed cuts. Wollny‘s piano sets the tone establishing ostinato grooves or fleet arpeggios that carry you with energy and authority. Lefebvre’s bass bellows with facile, vibrant lines that carry the pulse with a sometimes-tempestuous quality; especially impressive is his lead-in to “Hand of God.” Check out the loping lines of Lefebvre’s bass on Wollny’s “Monsters Never Breathe.”  Shaefer’s drums can wrap the sound in a cirrus-like whisp of atmosphere or erupt with a cauldron-like boil of intensity.

Wollny has assembled an excellent trio that can take long familiar compositions and re-imagine them in new and surprising ways. Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” erupts with drive before stating the beautiful melody with passion. There is a poignancy to this song and these three interpret in a contemporary way, creating a drive that never erases the sentiment. Shubert’s "Erlkönig" is modernized by the group into a new century. How would Ellington have imagined his “In a Sentimental Way” being played so barely and in such an expansive, cadenced way? Perhaps the Irish folk song “In a Sentimental Way” retains the most melodicism in the set while still being brought forward in the group’s own inimitable way. Timber Timbre’s “Beat the Drum” features shimmering cymbals by Schaefer and a cadenced piano line by Wollny, as Lefebvre’s bass pulses with a heartbeat consistency.

Take a listen to this album and see if you too are not drawn into the dynamic, entrancing world these three musicians create with Ghosts


Unfortunately, I couldn't find any videos of this new music, but here is the same group from their 2015 performance at the Jazz Baltica. Enjoy!


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Music to Transcendence :Chris Dingman's "Journeys Vol 1"


Chris Dingman: Journeys Vol 1 Inner Iniative Arts Inc.
Not all music is designed to make you dance, to bring a smile to your face, or rock you out with reckless abandon. Music can pull at your emotional strings and elicit an amicable response, or it can energize activism or foment anger when it portrays injustice or a shameful human condition. Music can bring us together or at times it can divide us like a cleaver. Some music is meditative, ethereal, rhythmically drone-like or tonally expansive to create a path to awaken the most spiritual side of our inner psyches or to help heal.

Musician/educator Chris Dingman had a life changing experience in 2018. His father Joe was suffering from what became a terminal complication from cardiac Amyloidosis. Chris offered a musical gift for his father, five hours of spatially soothing music, created specifically to ease the father’s suffering. Before transitioning, the father uncharacteristically told his son “A miracle has happened through this music. It has transformed me over and over again. It has made me stronger, made me want to live life again.” This emotional experience changed the artist’s perception of just how powerful music could be and altered his solo approach to his instrument.

Vibraphonist Chris Dingman has been on my radar since I first caught his delicate and creative work with a quintet at Firehouse 12 in New Haven back in 2010. Since then, I have followed this talented artist as his musical horizons seem to expand exponentially in every passing year. His debut was Waking Dreams with his quintet from 2011. Then came The Subliminal and the Sublime, again his quintet, which I named one of the best releases of 2015. This was followed by his trio on Embrace in 2020, of which I wrote “a stunning treasure of musical tastes, senses, and sounds." His deeply personal solo album to his father Peace followed in 2021.

Dingman’s work is strongly influenced by the tradition of the vibraphone as an instrument in jazz. As a percussionist, he has also absorbed elements of South Indian, Western African, Korean and Brazilian music in his eclectic playing. He was born in San Jose, California, and studied music at Wesleyan with artist/educators like vibraphonist Jay Hoggard and multi-reed/composer Anthony Braxton. I also hear the airy, tubular approach that marks the vibraphonist work of Gary Burton in much of Dingman’s playing. 

Dingman was selected to participate in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at USCLA in 2005 where he spent two years working with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terrence Blanchard. He has studied with jazz masters like bassist Rob Carter and Jimmy Health and has collaborated with some of the most progressive and innovative artists in the music today, including altoist Steve Lehman, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey. The man has cred.

On Journeys Vol 1, Dingman creates five, non-symphonic, what I think of as tone poems. They evoke an atmosphere, a landscape, an occurrence, a path, or an immersion into a sensory state. These experiences the artist is aurally capturing are named by their titles. “Silently Beneath the Waves,” Light Your Way,” “Hope-Rebirth,” “The Long Road,” and “Refracted Light.” Each piece is performed solo by Dingman using his skill, his creativity and his resonating vibraphone.

On the fifteen-minute “Silently Beneath the Waves,” Dingman creates a swirling, liquid environment that surrounds you. A womb-like, amniotic fluid-type protective hollow of space and peace. As a listener, if you release your mind, absorb the eddies Dingman creates with his soothing, repetitive, sometimes cascading resonant tones, it can sweep you away, transport you into a sensory world that connects to a primal part of your being.

Chris Dingman (photo credit unknown)

On “Light Your Way” Dingman’s playing sometimes takes on the tone of a mbira (pronounced m-Bee-ra) a Zimbabwe-originated instrument that creates a drone-like, meditative sound by plucking metal tines over a hollowed wood board or resonator. The pedal tone drone he employs creates the base on top of which he improvises a secondary harmony line. In the African Shona people tradition, the instrument is used to summon ancestral spirits. Dingman’s music has become transformational. His experience with healing and the spiritual effects discovered during his father’s illness has changed his musical direction and focus.

mbira

On his “Hope-rebirth,” Dingman utilizes the higher register of his instrument to express lightness, spritely elements that have their own effervescence. The artist creates a whirl of notes that seem to be set free, open, released. They rise like emancipated angelic beings from the firma, transversing space and elevating to the next level.

“The Long Road” could be described as Dingman’s aural representation of our journey in life from birth to transition. We are created, we find our way, we discover, we make choices, we love, we lose, and through it all we are on a long  road that hopefully leads us to enlightenment. The artist’s musical choices are hopeful, the road rises, the path may be arduous, but it can lead to a higher state.


“Refracted Light” is an immersive experience, an aural translation of a visual experience. Like we experience joy or awe when we see the refraction or bending of light in a sunset or a sunrise, or we visit the prismatic dispersion of white light into the refracted colors of a rainbow. This is an experience that Dingman's music  points out how we should pay attention to its fleeting beauty.


Enjoy this transcending music https://chrisdingman.bandcamp.com/album/journeys-vol-1


Monday, February 7, 2022

How Hip Can You Be About "You"? The latest by Giacomo Gates.

You : Giacomo Gates : Savant SCD 2189

Baritone vocalist Giacomo Gates has just released his latest album You on the Savant label with an accomplished backing trio that includes the pianist Tim Ray, the bassist John Lockwood and the drummer Jim Lattini. Gates trained ear allows him to reinterpret music often overlooked or underappreciated by others. His inherent musicality and a unique hip approach to vocalizing lyrics allow this vocalist/storyteller to mine the hidden gold in the songs he chooses to sing. 

Gates has previously released albums that follow a theme, like his The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron from 2011, Miles Tones: Giacomo Gates Sings the Music of Miles Davis from 2013, and What Time Is It from 2017. In each case Gates’ keen intuition to reimagine the thematic music shows how a tuned-in artist can expand one’s perception of the meaning of these classic compositions.  

On You, Gates has chosen eighteen different compositions, most under three minutes in duration, to weave the thematic essence of this album- songs that emphasize someone else, someone whose significance is animated by the singer’s delivery, someone who is familiar, one who the listener knows, or even someone like You.

Gates baritone is a warm, resonant instrument that he employs with an unpretentious sense of cool. His voice engulfs you with a revelation that this is a  knowing person. He has perceived wisdom in his voice that seems to come from a place where life has been lived and foibles have been experienced. Like a wizened sage who has been there and done that.

Gates sings the words of telling stories penned by songwriting team artists like Bob Russell and Duke Ellington, Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen, Coleman Hawkins and Thelonius Monk, and even Lucky Thompson to name just a few. These are all well-worn compositions that have been visited by others before, but Gates’ delivery and the banter he creates inside this music offers a fresh perspective, a clarity to the listener about the nuances embedded in this music. Listen to Giacomo Gates singing and you're taking a course in life with Socrates or maybe more likely Lenny Bruce. To this, Gates vocal approach is a passing of the musical baton that he carries from some of his vocalist heroes like Babs Gonzales, Jon Henricks, Mark Murphy, and Eddie Jefferson.

Giacomo Gates (photo by R. Miriello)

The album opens with a swinging “Exactly Like You” and Gates weaves multiple songs into the jazz pastiche he creates including elements of Ellington’s “Take the A Train,” Michel Legrand’s “Watch What Happens,” and even Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema.” Only a musical history student like Gates can skillfully link into being these disparate approaches so seamlessly?

Storytelling is what this music is all about and Gates expertly personalizes his delivery on his improvised intro to “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” worth the price of admission by itself.

Check out the hip “With Plenty of Money and You” and dig the walking bass line from John Lockwood. There is always a knowing commentary in Gates' delivery, with his tongue-in-cheek humor that puts a smile on your face, he relates how bright love could be if only he had money.

The Ellingtonian “I Didn’t Know About You” is a classic torch ballad that Gates brands with his own brand of soul. Just wonderful to hear this song so well brought to life with just the right amount of sincerity.

If you appreciate the judiciously used skill of scatting (using the voice to imitate an improvising instrument like a saxophone) then check out Gates’ on “The Nearness of You.”  His voice flows like a slick skiff’s hull through a calm sea, seamless.

Another delight on this wonderful album is Billy Eckstine’s luscious “I Want to Talk About You,” with a beautiful piano solo by Tim Ray. The sensitive “PS I Love You” is a classic Johnny Mercer torch song that demonstrates just how deep Gates’ understanding is of the meaning behind the words of this love song. The swinging “Are You Havin' Any Fun” is just joyous fun. Mercer’s “I Remember You” is a Gates must hear, with some of the trio’s best in the groove moments, and don’t forget drummer Lattini’s deft use of the rim on this one. Don’t’ miss “Everything But You” and allow yourself to be transported to a Harlem nightclub back in jazzes hey day.  

“You’ve Changed” is the perfect vehicle for the raconteur Giacomo to speak to his audience, captivate them with his smoky voice, and relate an unspeakable intimacy that almost grabs you by the shoulders through the speakers. Listening to Giacomo is like sitting at a bar with him while he sings to you about his life’s woes. As personal as it gets. Don’t miss the whole band on “I’ve Got News for You” or some of Gates’ best blues on Lucky Thompson’s “You Never Miss the Water ‘Till the Well Runs Dry.”

I have to admit I am a big fan of Giacomo Gates. No other singer on the scene today comes close to him in his milieu. Like a cool breeze on your face as you stroll on a warm sandy beach, Gates singing on You is one of those treasures that epitomizes the simple but finer things in life. The compositions are classic, the delivery is hip, the sensitivity is poignant, or just plain fun. So sit back, put up your feet and enjoy this musical journey.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Notes on Jazz Best of Jazz 2021 : Post Pandemic Jazz Offers a Year of Beauty, Promise and a Look back.


The Year 2021 stubbornly evolved into what is a post-pandemic year for most of us. Miraculous and effective vaccinations effectively conquered the likelihood of getting seriously ill, or even worse, becoming a casualty from the mutating Covid virus. At least the science seems to have it at bay for now. Isolation, masks, and limiting traveling all added to our safety. For artists in all disciplines of the performing arts- music, theatre, dance, film & fine visual arts- the chance to meet safely with collaborators, to record with colleagues, or even to perform to a live and encouraging audience was practically nil and lingered on for an interminably long period. The shutdown was dreadful for most artists. The creative juices are often stimulated by the chance to interact,  collaborate,  inspire with peers, and receive valuable feedback that is best emotionally transmitted by the visceral response of a live audience. Was this pandemic going to be responsible for the total evisceration of the arts? Fortunately, many artists found the isolation that the angst that Covid brought on over the last year and one half became a chance to dig deeper into their creative wellspring. Strangely, we were all the beneficiaries of that self-imposed period that allowed some deep reflection, some serious reevaluation, and in the case of musicians some inspired creativity and brilliance in new music.

As the year of 2021 ebbs to its close, it is a tradition of those of us who review jazz and contemporary music, to select some of the music in the genre that we have heard and found worth noting over this past year. It is impossible to pick a "best of list" since it is a totally subjective opinion and certainly restricted to what this reviewer has been able to carefully listen to over this past year. Acknowledging those inherent limitations I humbly offer this one person's ideas of notable, creative, and often promising music of 2021. I also found some rewarding reissues and historical recordings that are definitely worth a listen. I list the music in no particular order. I know there is much more music that is worth your serious attention, but I hope my list helps you navigate and hopefully introduce to you the plethora of deserving artists who have created some magical music this year. Happy Holidays to all. Listen and have fun.

                                Reissues and Historical Releases: 

Roseanne Vitro: Listen Here  originally recorded in 1982


https://roseannav.bandcamp.com/track/centerpiece

Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller: In Harmony  recorded in 2006 & 2007: Resonance Records


Harvie S Trio w Mike Stern & Alan Dawson: Going For It: Savant Records recorded live in 1985


https://youtu.be/OFYasSheQSU

Wolgang Lackerschmidt and Chet Baker  w  Larry Coryell, Buster Williams and Tony Williams.  Wolfgang Lakerschmidt Chet Baker Quintet Sessions  recorded in 1979; Dot Time Records

https://dottimerecords.bandcamp.com/track/balzwaltz


                                        New Issues:

Jakob Bro: Uma Elmo : ECM Records w Arve Hendriken and Jorge Rossy


https://youtu.be/lIj3XLGoQqE

Chick Corea Akoustic Band: The Akoustic Band Live: w John Patitucci and Dave Weckl: Concord Records

https://youtu.be/BhBamw_cRys


Steve Gadd:  Steve Gadd Band At Blue Note Toyko: w/ David Spinozza, Jimmy Johnson, Walt Fowler, and Kevin Hays:  BFM Jazz


https://youtu.be/k19gdWO-D28

Lyle Mays: Eberhard: OIM 

https://youtu.be/BylqOtOIMdE

Chris Potter Circuits Trio: Sunrise Reprise: w James Francies and Eric Harland: Self-Produced

https://chrispotterjazz.bandcamp.com/track/southbound-2

Alex Sipiagin: Upstream: w Art Hirahara, Boris Kozlov and Rudy Royston: Posi Tone Records

https://alexsipiaginjazz.bandcamp.com/track/upstream

Lorne Lofsky: This Song is New: Modica Music w/Kirk MacDonald, Kieran Overs and Barry Romberg


https://modicamusic.bandcamp.com/track/the-time-being

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Soundprints: Other Worlds: Greenleaf Music w/ Lawrence Fields, Lind May Han Oh and Joey Baron.

https://soundprints.bandcamp.com/album/other-worlds

Dave Holland: Another Land: w Kevin Eubanks and Obed Calvaire: Edition Records


https://daveholland.bandcamp.com/track/another-land


Pharoah Sanders w Sam Shepherd and the London Symphony Orchetsra: Floating Points

https://floatingpoints.bandcamp.com/album/promises


Kirk Lightsey: I'll Never Stop Loving You: Solo Piano on JoJo Records:


https://soundcloud.com/user-957185833-419687414/01-kirk-lightsey-ill-never

Nnenna Freelon: Time Traveler: Origin Records 


https://youtu.be/m90rHFNkQmQ

Marc Johnson: Overpass: Solo Double Bass ECM 


https://youtu.be/PNdB8szK9Rk

John Daversa Jazz Orchestra featuring Justin Morell: All Without Words

https://youtu.be/1CsY5FzA2Gc

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette : Skyline : 5 Passion Records


https://youtu.be/heeYsq5Asbw

Sinne Eeg and Thomas Fonnesbaek: Staying in Touch: Stunt Records


https://youtu.be/gSLYf6_hTlA

Carlos Henriquez: The South Bronx Story: Self Produced

https://youtu.be/jxyS24VBh5o

Kate McGary + Keith Ganz Ensemble featuring Ron Miles and Gary Versace: What to Wear in the Dark: Self-Produced



Mike LeDonne: Mike LeDonne: It's Your Fault: w The Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet +Big Band: Savant Records
https://youtu.be/sKB-uzSBzz4

Dave Zinno: Dave Zinno and Unisphere :Fetish: Whaling City Sound
https://youtu.be/7knLmgA0JKo

Rachel Eckroth: The Garden: Rainy Days Records w Tim Lefebvre, Donny McCaslin, Christian Euman, Andrew Krasilnikov and Nir Felder. 



Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios: Songs From My Father: Whaling City Sound

https://youtu.be/g1gz-kqR_js

The Baylor Project: Jean Baylor and Marcus Baylor : Generations: Be A Light Records


Roberto Magris and Eric Hochberg: Shuffling Ivories: JMood Records

https://youtu.be/NNFCdonAlW4

Ross Hammond: It's Been Here All Along: Solo Resonator Guitar: Self Produced 



David Kikoski w Boris Kozlov: Sure Thing: High Note Records



Gabor Lesko: Earthway


Slowly Rolling Camera: Where the Streets Lead: Edition Records



Michael Wolff: Michael Wolff Live at Vitello's: w Mark Isham, Mike Clark, and John B. Williams: Sunnyside 



Jim Snidero: Jim Snidero Live at the Deer Head Inn: w Orrin Evans, Peter Washington, and Joe Farnsworth: Savant Records 
https://youtu.be/ChET8p6m5B8

Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist: w Russ Speigel;, Mike Holober, Howard Britz, Andy Watson; Origin Records


Chuck Owen and The Jazz Surge: Within Us; Celebrating 25 Years of the Jazz Surge: Mama Records


Monday, November 22, 2021

Unlimited High Energy from bassist Dave Zinno's Unisphere on "FETISH"

Dave Zinno Unisphere Fetish  WCS130

Some great things come in small packages. As a  state, Rhode Island is according to its geographical area, the smallest in the country. Despite its’ small footprint, the state features many important universities, beautiful resorts and has some of the countries most beautiful beaches, so much so that it is known as the Ocean State. The bassist/composer Dave Zinno hails from Rhode Island, and his compact appearance belies the large and dynamic presence he projects when he plays his double bass. 

Zinno attended the University of Rhode Island and Berklee School of Music and is a teaching associate at URI, Salve Regina, and Brown Universities. Fetish is the third album from his group Unisphere, and was released back in September on Neal Weiss’ Whaling City Sound. For the musicians, this album came like a long-awaited breath of fresh air, a release of energy from the pent-up restrictions that held them hostage to restrictions for over a year during the peak of the pandemic. This album was their get out of jail card to return to playing and hopefully performing to a real audience.

Zinno energizes the music of this album with power, exuberance, and skill that sets the stage for an enjoyable listening experience right from the opening salvo of his title composition “Fetish.” Zinno’s double bass repeats the fusillade-like opening statement with fury and precision and the group takes the clue and lightens up the intensity with a controlled, tight front line of sax and trumpet, two pianists, and a spirited drummer. This music just shouts out with excitement and it's only the beginning. 

The Unisphere group has a formidable front line that includes tenor saxophonist Mike Tucker and trumpeter Eric Benny Bloom as they add to the intensity. The dual pianists include Leo Genovese and Tim Ray add texture and style and the rhythm section is anchored by Zinno and drummer Rafael Barata. 

Leo Genovese’s composition “Out of the Hole” is a driving outing that features this talented pianist who just shreds with an endless flow of ideas and intensity. Bloom’s trumpet sends it to the skies and Tucker wails with piercing intention as Zinno and Barata drive relentlessly. Zinno offers a fleet pizzicato solo at the coda that resonates with force.

“Unknown Mystery” is a powerful Bloom composition, with the front line sounding like they could be graduates of the Art Blakey Messengers school. Zinno’s booming bass just erupts with steady drive and authority. Genovese offers a spacey electronic keyboard solo and Barata’s drums percolate kinetically.


Dave Zinno ( photo credit unknown)

Tuckers’ “The Golden Age” is a jagged, energized piece that features some incendiary work by the saxophonist and some intense front-line work. Tucker also contributed “Melancholy Daydream” whose music creates the feel of catching you in a rising thermal, like you’re in a hang glider and reaching altitudes you never dreamed of. Tucker’s “Over the Horizon,” one of my favorites of this album, a more subdued ballad that features some somber arco work by Zinno, some well-matched front-line work by Tucker and Bloom, and Genovese piano accents that shine. The bassist anchors the song with his huge bass sound and offers a sensitive pizzicato solo that is a delight.

“So Close So Far” is a Zinno composition that just struts with confidence. Zinno’s bass chops almost explode with attitude as he demonstrates formidable facility and inventiveness. Genovese, Bloom, and Tucker pick up on the music’s raucous sentiment and with Barata’s energized drums make this one a family affair.

The album adds a sensitive Tim Ray arrangement to the Brazilian ballad by Edu Lobo titled “Beatrix”. Ray’s piano work is warm and moving. Zinno and Tucker add to the emotional impact of this song with their individual contributions. The beauty of this music obviously moved this group and it shows. The drummer Barata knew this one well having worked with the composer in the past.

One of the album’s standouts, Paul Nagel’s “Future History,” opens with a dark, fluttering bass entre before Zinno starts with the ostinato-driven bassline. Genovese’s cascading piano comps create watery lines that waterfall over the movement. Tucker’s sax is relentlessly probing and wails with a rabid sense of purpose, very Coltrane-inspired. Genovese’s piano work is captivating and teeming with speed and a flow of ideas that are hard to imagine can come from one bubbling mind.

Dave Zinno’s “Nile” is perhaps the most adventurous tune on the album. It includes the bassist playing the cuica (pronounced ku ike), a Brazilian percussion instrument that produces a high-pitched squeaky timbre which Zinno uses in the opening. The song was written by Zinno in the eighties after watching the Bogart and Hepburn classic movie “African Queen.”  The song emulates the aural sounds of the jungle and depicts the sauntering, swaying feel of traveling up a river by boat that is in no hurry to get where it is going. Bloom’s trumpet work here is entrancing, and Ray’s piano is expansive and splendid. Zinno and Barata maintain the slow, deliberate pace to perfection.

The album also includes Genovese’s “Into the Whole” a driving waltz, and it ends with Dom Salvador ‘s “Menu Fraco e Café Forte” which translates from Portuguese as “Weak Menu Strong Coffee.” The song was arranged by Brazilian trombonist Rafael Rocha who also plays as a guest on this one. The front line is enriched by the presence of Rocha’s trombone and the music has a joyous sway to it. Barata's drums add great power and joy to this one.The samba was recorded remotely and when the composer Salvador got a chance to preview this arrangement he said it all:  it was “…a beautiful rendition of this song…such a fresh approach…too wonderful for words.”

If you are into high energy music played skillfully and with highly skilled musicians that obviously love working together, Dave Zinno and Unisphere's  Fetish is an album that will surely please.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Jazz-Blues Brothers: Jeremy Monteiro and Alberto Marisco Cook up some Blues

Jazz-Blues Brothers - Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico Jazz Note 261084-99

It is always a pleasant surprise to discover musicians, unknown to you but admired and respected on an international level, defining the depth and breadth of people who carry on the tradition of jazz and blues throughout the world. Case in point, the latest album from Singaporean pianist Jeremy Monteiro and Italian organ master Alberto Marisco titled Jazz-Blues Brothers on JazzNote Records. While this music is an art form that was developed out of the African American experience, it has and continues to touch the hearts and souls of people of all races, ethnicities, geographical locations, and life experiences. It is a true communicating vehicle that never ceases to astound with its unequaled ability to bring people together and share an emotional expression of the human condition. This album just proves how well absorbed into musician’s DNA this music has become.

Singaporean-based pianist/composer Jeremy Monteiro and Italian-based B3 organ player Alberto Marsico are matched here in this unusual format of having two keyboards. The band includes Oklahoma-raised saxophonist Shawn Letts, drummer Shawn Kelley, who makes Syracuse NY his home, and the guitarist Eugen Pao who hails from Hong Kong. The album includes two performances recorded live in London at the Elgar Room in Albert Hall and includes the under the radar vocalist chanteuse Miz Dee Logwood on two blues classics “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” made famous by Lou Rawls and an Etta James notable “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

The album starts with the Marsico composition aptly titled “Opening Act,” a swinging, sauntering blues. Monteiro’s piano comps perfectly.  Marisco’s funky B3 excites with his fluid and gutsy approach which is pure joy. Letts’ blows his tenor with ease and confidence as Kelley’s drums and Marisco’s foot-based bottom lines keep the pace swinging. Pao’s guitar work is a revelation. This man has some overflowing ideas that just fit without being trite or overplayed. Monteiro’s piano solo is exciting as it is appropriately funky.

Monteiro’s composition “Olympia” was first heard on saxophone great Ernie Watts album Stand Up from 1993.  Monteiro joked he was watching the Los Angles Summer Olympics back in 1984 and wrote this driving gem inspired by the sports event. There is the drive of sports competition and the regality event in this music.  Marisco’s feet set the beat. There is pushing tenor work by Letts (you can just hear Watts influence), and percolating drum work by Kelley setting up the locomotive rhythmic drive of this incendiary piece. Monteiro offers a scorching piano solo that demonstrates the mastery of this man. Marisco adds his own organ version of flame-throwing creativity. Pao’s solo dances on his fretboard with amazing tenacity and precision. This one just breathes fire.

Getting back to a swinging blues, North California-based Miz Dee Logwood gravely voice is featured here on “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water”. The group swings at a brisk pace and Monteiro’s piano sets the stage with his own remarkably athletic piano work that just lets loose. Logwood is a gem of authenticity and soul.

Eugene Pao. Shawn Letts, Jeremy Monteiro, Alberto Marisco Shawn Kelley

Monteiro’s “Mount Olive” has a funky, gospel-like feel that was inspired by and written for the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Washington D.C. a place that the pianist visited and was moved by the church's musicality. Marisco has his B3 set to be angelically inspired and Monteiro’s piano is as funky as if listening to the late Billy Preston in spirit.

Marisco offers four other compositions for this project. The first is the slow sizzling composition “Lou” which lasts for over eleven minutes. The song first features Letts on some burning tenor solo on this homage written to the great blues-jazz singer Lou Rawls. The music starts slow and builds to a white-hot apex with each soloist performing in progression. Monteiro’s piano gets the next chance to work on the build-up and goes from gospel to funk. Pao gets his turn on his ripping guitar work. Ultimately Marisco offers the finale with an inspired B3 solo that shows that this man’s organ voice is both inventive and very potent. B3 master Joey DeFrancesco has called Marisco “…one of my favorite organists.” and this kind of playing verifies his respect.

Probably the funkiest of the songs on this plethora of fun and moving music is Marisco’s composition “Jack-Pot” which is another homage this time to jazz organ great Jack McDuff. This one just gets into an infectious groove that just won’t kick. The gang starts with guitarist Pao who continues to surprise with his inventive language and formidable chops. Monteiro’s piano is just smoking and worth the price of admission. No wonder why Monteiro is called “Singapore’s King of Swing.”  He is also the go-to pianist for name artists playing in Asia. Marisco’s organ work on this one is just classic, steeped in  the style of veteran B3 legend McDuff ,who is a Marisco inspiration.  

“Catastrophy,” a "going to the races" composition that has the band stretch out and features some nice drum work by Kelley> The closer “Wish Washy” is a soulful end of evening piece that Marisco uses at his home performances and was recorded by the band remotely during the pandemic from worldwide locations including Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Italy.

The real closer to this album is the soulful live performance from London featuring some down-home blues by Miz Dee Logwood, just a treasure to hear sing on Etta James’    “I’d Rather Go Blind” which she just owns with sincerity and grizzle. The band, Marisco, Monteiro, and Kelley set the stage like a throne for the queen Logwood, and she rises to the challenge regally. Pao rips out a fantastic guitar solo that goes from soft and soulful to fiery and screeching then back again, inspired by the whole simpatico of this great performance.

Be assured Jazz-Blues Brothers is sure to give you many hours of enjoyable music listening.