The Fall and Rise of a Stanza: Lena Bloch Honors Russian Poet Marina Tsvetaeva
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
2w ago
If we’re talking food, Lena Bloch’s saxophone is a pouring of honey, a warm trickle of red wine and a bite of the crisp, sweet and salty in turn. Describing herself as a “long-time disciple of Lee Konitz” (see below) and having studied under other greats such as David Liebman, Yusef Lateef, Joe Lovano and others, she soaked up enough to create her own signature sound—sweet, full-bodied, textured and pure. Born in Russia, she moved to the US and joined the incredibly explosive jazz scene in Brooklyn and is now firmly embedded in New York City jazz culture.  A composer and educator, she has ..read more
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Braiding Harmony with Style: Eva Kess’s New CD Inter-Musical Love Letter
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
3w ago
There’s something light, fizzy even, about the tones and colors of Eva Kess’s music. The double bassist who was born in Berlin has released a new CD titled Inter-Musical Love Letter. Within it are ten original compositions that traverse all the corners of the universe, driven by an engaging and engaged 14-piece ensemble. All of the voices meld and depart, come together and disperse, like a living, breathing organism. “Peculiar Times” starts with a lone saxophone, unadorned and exposed. Its opening line stops and then all join in this fun-tempo noodling session. Spoken voice (in French) offers ..read more
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A Bear Hug of Jazz Goodness: New CD Red Beats by Drummer/Composer Steve Fidyk
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
3w ago
If you love big band and want to keep that amazing, engaging and evocative classic feeling but you’re writing brand new music, how do you infuse extra flavor and dimension? Ask Steve Fidyk. His upcoming CD, Red Beats, features nine newborn songs that he turned over to some of the most exciting dyed-in-the-wool big band personalities and invited them to do the arranging. Presto chango: pure magic to the ears. Red Beats’ first track, “Bebop Operations,” starts with a brilliant crashing cymbal and a bounce that brings you right to the dance floor of your mind. Exquisite pacing and a drum-tight (p ..read more
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New Film JazzTown by Ben Makinen is Transportive, Immersive, Exciting
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
1M ago
What does jazz’s Old Guard think of the music industry today and what was it like to come up into it? Filmmaker/producer, drummer and jazz lover Ben Makinen has just released a documentary called JazzTown that examines the changes in the music biz and the performing life. With a loving eye to the greats who prevailed through all their battle scars, challenges and the joys of being a musician, the film is an incredibly entertaining and vibeful experience where the artists, some now gone, provide their honest opinions on how it was to be part of the mid-century jazz scene in America. Some of tho ..read more
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Shaping the Air Around Her: Yuko Kawasaki’s New CD, City Counterpoint
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
1M ago
The new release from vocalist Yuko Kawasaki, City Counterpoint, is proof that even during strange times, art born of passion will ultimately rise to the top. Beset by delays from the lockdown, Kawasaki and her musical colleagues have produced a scattering of tracks that have a quality of hope, harmony and better times on the horizon. The six songs on this album feel smooth, balanced and soul-satisfying. In “On Gates Avenue,” her voice evokes a mist, a mood and the nuance of the slightest change of temperature; a reediness and openness that blends perfectly with the accompanying pure lines from ..read more
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All Who Listen Have Fortunate Ears: “The Silent Call” from Szabolcs Oláh
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
1M ago
He is a jazz guitarist, composer and arranger based in Hungary who started his musical life on violin. Five lush, involving, intricate yet astoundingly listenable tracks make up Szabolcs Oláh’s  new CD, “The Silent Call.” Some of the most beautiful new music this reviewer has ever heard. Oláh’s classical roots show through in music that sneakily transitions to another form—a jazz tsunami takes hold and the experience is like a drink of water for the parched. In the song “Pure Laws of Growth,” the gathering rhythm in the song washes through, a pace pulled forward by hi-hat, the melody ench ..read more
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Complex, crystal beats: Chloe Kim on drums
Debbie Burke
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
1M ago
Playing the drums expertly and cleanly comes easily to Australia-based percussionist Chloe Kim. She cut her teeth on the Jazz Studies Program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and went on to complete her master’s in research in 2021. A versatile pro who is invested in many different kinds of music, she is active in several ensembles (a nine-piece all-female jazz group, Rainpatterns; a percussion trio, Ta Go Lak, incorporating Korean folk and Shamanic drumming traditions; a bass/drum duo; and drone/jazz/rock ensemble that highlights experimental music). Kim adds a subtle shimmer through the ..read more
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Pure Pulse Delivered in Delicious Layers: Michele Bazzani
Debbie Burke – Jazz Author
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
2M ago
When a percussionist can add a bit of swirl and funk (but lightly) to a classic like “Naima” that serves the song in a surprisingly new and pretty way, it’s true instinct. Drummer Michele Bazzani has a sixth sense, providing a voice that belongs in the foreground. Largely influenced by the Afro-Latin vibe, Bazzani’s drums always add, never overpower, leaving plenty of room for the beautiful vocals of Tonia Ray (in “Saturday Night”) or for a hot, sweet trumpet in “My Dream.” These songs and others are on the 2019 CD titled Journey Through Existence. What was the first jazz song you remember hea ..read more
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It Hugs You Like It Should: “First Christmas Loving You” by John Korbel
Debbie Burke – Jazz Author
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
3M ago
What are the ingredients to an instant classic, especially in a subgenre with so much existing material like Christmas jazz? A sultry pace, heavy on the brushes, lyrics that make it seem like the song was written only for the listener, and vocals that are comfortable, warm and evoke time together by the fireplace. Who can do this? John Korbel. The Orlando, Florida-based vocalist has a crooner’s vibe with a natural and confident presentation. Smart lyrics, a foray into a blue-eyed soul kind of feel, his discography grows with this Christmas song. Pairs well with another great holiday song of hi ..read more
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Mark Christian Miller is in the pocket with new CD Music in the Air
Debbie Burke – Jazz Author
by DebbieBurkeAuthor
3M ago
When all the components are just right, the “music in the air” is a delightful and immersive breeze. Mark Christian Miller shows skills in pacing, punctuation, scat and melody. It’s all there in his new album, where he and the band swing like a gate in a hurricane. A thoughtful and multi-colored tonal experience in “Mutineer” presents an offering to the gods of love. With clever lyrics, unexpected movement through different keys and an open-ended resolution, this song could easily rise to be a classic. “If You Could See Me Now” is sweetly redrawn as a bossa nova and “Too Darn Hot” has drama an ..read more
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