My name is Michael Ferber and I love jazz music. I created this site to talk about jazz music. I’m also an “aficionado” jazz musician, playing guitar. I’m not a professional, but I’m lucky enough to play with some very good jazz cats.
California based saxophonist Dann Zinn has just released his fantastic album “Day of Reckoning” where he presents nine new original compositions along with a great version of the classic ballad, “Blame It On My Youth.” Zinn created this project specifically for his longtime collaborators Taylor Eigsti on piano, bassist Zach Ostroff and drummer, Mark Ferber.
“Day Of Reckoning” was recorded in the final weeks of the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. Dann Zinn explains: “We ended up being in Studio A, which is actually the best sounding room in Fantasy Studios. However, we could only isolate the bass, which made for a really live situation. A live vibe but a studio sound. So, what you’re hearing is just full on takes we played beginning to end.”
The album starts with the title song “Day of Reckoning” a fast and energetic composition inspired by John Coltrane and Michael Brecker. The song starts at full throttle, with a great saxophone solo, slowing down for the bass solo and gathering speed again for the piano solo. This song is one of my favorite songs on the album and what impresses me most is the energy and the power of drummer Mark Ferber. Dann Zinn has some more details about Mark Ferber: “I wanted the New York vibe on drums, kind of more energy and excitement then you typically find on the west-coast kind of musicians.” Excellent choice.
“Longing” comes next and this tune is Dann’s favorite tune on the album. It starts very calm with a centered and pretty piano intro inspired by cinematic music. The melody is played in different keys like in classical music. The solo part alternates between piano and saxophone and the song winds down at the end with the theme from the intro. Dann has again some more information: “It was written very quickly. I turned on the voice memo on my mobile phone and played the melody. I played it to the guys and they came with all those elements. The melody changes keys and the band keeps adding stuff.”
The album continues with “Continental Divide”. It starts very energetic as a duet between sax and drums in the tradition of Michael Brecker (to whom the album is partly dedicated) and Jack DeJohnette. The singable melody is very much inspired by pop-music melodies and the bridge makes some weird jumps. We hear brilliant solos from Taylor Eigsti on piano and Dann Zinn on saxophone.
“Blame It On My Youth” the only standard on this album comes next. Dann has some more details: “We played it in the studio and everybody took a solo. The song was about 10 minutes long and we had to shorten it. For the piano solo the changes move twice as fast with a half time speed and for the sax solo the changes move normal but with double time feel. This helped to compress the tune. The end was played very spontaneous and is one of my favorite parts of the record.” A very beautiful ballad and also one of my highlights of this album.
“Brave New World” was written in “one fell swoop” as Dann Zinn explains in his podcast: “I picked up my sax, pulled out my phone, hit voice memo and played the song from beginning to the end, so the melody you hear came out in one fell swoop. I wrote it down, went to the piano and made chords, and voila. For a song I would like to give a good anchor, give a good beat and have a melody that can stick in your head.” This song is no exception. Great melody and and an easy to follow form with a very traditional Latin/Swing mix for the groove. Dann plays a fantastic saxophone solo and we hear the live sound during the bass solo with Zach’s voice accompanying his improvisation.
Dann has started a nice podcast where he presents once per week a lot of background information for each song and where I could collect all those details for the first five songs of the album. So for the remaining five songs I would recommend that you follow this podcast under: https://www.dannzinn.com/podcasts/
Dann shows his versatility on “Infinity Road” where he switches to soprano sax and on “The Journey Home” where he picks up the flute.
“Family Reunion” and “Don’t Look Back” impress with singable melodies and “Time’s Up” is a nice grooving modern jazz composition.
Altogether this album is a great example of contemporary jazz music where saxophonist Dann Zinn has gathered some fine musicians and recorded the music he loves to play. The focus is jazz music but the inspiration and the compositional elements come from different sources like jazz, pop, cinematic and classical music and lead to an excellent album which I can really recommend.
Two official CD release concerts take place on May 30 in San Jose and May 31 in Oakland. So, time enough to organize your trip if you don’t want to miss these events.
Dann has a nice website with a lot of background information and updates on live performances under: https://www.dannzinn.com/
And finally a complete playlist for the album on Spotify:
An incredible debut album from Hungarian-Swedish-Danish singer and multi-instrumentalist Claudia Campagnol has found it’s way to my desk. Official release date is April 23, but two songs have been released as singles in February and March 2019 and are already available on Spotify.
Claudia Campagnol was born in 1987 in Budapest, Hungary, to parents who are both professional musicians. She sang before she could talk, and started playing the piano when she was 4. The whole family moved to Sweden and by the age of 12 she could be seen “guesting” on her parents’ gigs in venues all around the country.
At the age of 12 she discovered her dad’s Jazz fusion albums with Chick Corea, John Patitucci, Mezzoforte or Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter who inspired her for her first composition “Rainbow Dreams” which is found on the album.
After graduating from the University of Music in Malmoe she worked several years in Sweden and around Europe. She settled in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she met the Swedish-Italian drummer Niclas Campagnol, who became her husband. After a baby break Claudia is back on the scene. In 2017, she reached the final in the Danish “Young Jazz” competition. She also starred on Antonio Faraò’s latest album “Eklektik” (with Marcus Miller) (a very interesting album) and now she is finally releasing her debut album “I’m Strong.”
The album starts with the brilliant Stevie Wonder inspired “All Through You”, which was released as a single on February 22 and was selected by Apple Music’s editors for their “Best of The Week” playlist covering all genres. Claudia plays keyboards, bass and sings lead and background vocals, Niclas Campagnol the drums. This song is a soul-pop song in the best tradition of Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau or Chaka Khan. I was listening a lot to this kind of music in the early ’80s and so I cannot get enough of it.
“I’m Strong”, the title song of the album comes next. A soft tune which was written for Vivian Buczek for her 2014 album “Curiosity”. What I like especially is the cool combination of keyboard and vocal sounds.
“Do You Love Me” adds Gábor Bolla (saxophone), Zacharias Celinder (guitar) and Gerard Presencer (flugelhorn). The solo goes to Claudia Campagnol with what she calls her keyboard “signature” sound. Claudia wrote and recorded this tune to win the love of Niclas. Nice story with a happy ending.
“For Her” features Gerard Presencer on flugelhorn and is about a woman Claudia Campagnol once met in a dark and smoky jazz club who “made a hell of an impression” on her. The highlight of this song is definitely the flugelhorn solo by Gerard Presencer.
“Conquer the World” is the second tune that was released as a single. We see a different line-up with Jimmy Haslip on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Claudia explains: “Vinnie Colaiuta played a monstrous drum fill on John Patitucci’s album “On The Corner” which I just had to rewind a hundred times the first time I heard it. Thanks to my label Giant Sheep Music, one of my greatest dreams has now come true!” The tune has a nice steady odd groove and harmonic sequences that remind me again on Stevie Wonder.
“Rainbow Dreams” is a soft and open ballad. Claudia wrote the song at the age of 12 and it includes interesting harmonic structures. Claudia explains again: “In my teens, I couldn’t wait to get home from school, put on the meanest chord progressions with the baddest cats on the planet and let all my emotions explode through my ears”.
“Z-Song” comes next and features Eliel Lazo on percussion (he is a friend of Silvio Caroli who was featured in my blog two weeks ago). The melody is sung without lyrics, nevertheless the beautiful vocal arrangement dominates this Latin-song.
“Don’t Let It Die” features Carl Mörner Ringström on guitar. Interesting harmonic sequences and a great guitar solo are the highlights of this ballad. Claudia Campagnol gives us more insights: “If you ever had a best friend or a lover whom you could drift away with over a bottle of red wine, talking about the meaning of life throughout the whole night, as if time almost stood still, then you fully understand this tune”.
“It Makes Me Glad” starts with a great and lengthy a-cappella intro and ends with an open piano solo. The inspiration for this song came after an audition for the Swedish vocal ensemble “The Real Group”.
The album ends with the Charlie Chaplin tune “Smile”. Claudia prepared an arrangement that combines the melody from this song with her idea of “mean” chords to a very uncommon but rather refreshing interpretation.
Overall a great album with a sound I haven’t heard for many years and that reminds me a lot of the music I was listening to in the ’80s but with a fresh and inspiring touch. It is jazzy, it grooves and it is full of new ideas. Claudia Campagnol managed to do her own thing in a brillant manner. Chapeau!
The official CD release party takes place on April 23 in Copenhagen at the PH Halmtorvet 9. If you are in Bremen at the jazzahead!-clubnight on April 27 you can see her at the Swissôtel Bremen.
The album I would like to present today comes from Italian pianist and composer Silvio Caroli. His album “Flowing” is the result of a prize in a competition in Italy which he won and which allowed him to produce this record. It was released in December 2018 and found it’s way to my desk last month.
Silvio Caroli is a pianist, composer and educator from Lecce, Italy. He graduated as classical pianist in 2005. In 2012 he received a jazz scholarship at the Lecce State Conservatory and he also studied Economics and Finance at the University of Salento. He works as a music teacher and sheet music arranger for musicnote.com. So we see, this is quite a talented and multi-facetted guy. The various influences, impressions and experiences are also reflected in this piano solo album.
The album starts with “Into the Dark”, a composition from the book “Microrock” for piano students from Christopher Norton, a composer from New Zealand. The arrangement from Silvio Caroli combines this short tune with elements from “Pines of Rome”, a composition by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. This combination works very well, the part from Christopher Norton is played very powerful while the Respighi’s part has this 19th-century impressionistic touch. A beautiful contrast.
“Martha”, the second tune is composed by Eliel Lazo, a cuban percussionist and friend of Silvio. This tune is a soft modal composition and Silvio Caroli uses this harmonic frame to improvise in Ravel or Debussy-style, which gives this tune again this impressionistic feeling, which I like very much.
The next song is called “Part of Your World” and is from the movie “The Little Mermaid”. Silvio Caroli starts this pop-ballad softly and gentle but increases the intensity and brings the song to a dramatic peak inspired by Liszt and Rachmaninoff.
“Beirut” a composition by trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf comes next. Silvio explained to me: “This song really touched my heart, I imagine that this song speaks about love and suffering at the same time, and for that reason I dared to quote the theme of Schindler’s List by John Williams in my improvisation. A lot of people appreciate the performance of “Beirut”, and that was a real surprise for me, because it is the most simple arrangement that I’ve ever made”.
“And Sammy Walked In” by Michel Camilo is the next tune. Michel Camilo comes from the Dominican Republic and Silvio Caroli had the chance to lead workshops in Santo Domingo, so he met and played with musicians from that country. This tune is the tribute to his friends there and according to Silvio people go crazy (in Italy and the Dominican Republic) when he performs it in a concert. It is the most jazzy tune on the album and was also my favorite right from the start.
The last song on the album is “Porz Goret” by French multi-instrumentalist and composer Yann Tiersen. He is famous for the soundtrack to the movies “Amélie” and “Good Bye, Lenin!” This tune is a soft ballad in 3/4 meter beautifully performed and leaving us listeners in a melancholic mood.
What I like about this album is the very personal selection of songs and arrangements, combining elements from Jazz, Caribbean, classical and film music. It looks like Silvio Caroli has found his individual voice and he created an impressive solo album. I am a big fan of impressionistic music and painting and this album is like an echo of this period that has been brought back into life.
Today I would like to present another guitar player from New York City, his name is Q Morrow, and he grew up in Idaho before studying classical and jazz guitar in California and Texas. He also spent a year studying Carnatic music in Bangalore and has settled now in Brooklyn, NY where he is an active part of the music scene.
He plays (as you can see) a classical guitar with nylon strings and that characterizes his music and the sound on his new release “There Are Stars in Brooklyn”.
The album features:
Q Morrow – Guitar
Will Vinson – Alto Sax
Evan Francis – Flute, Alto Sax
Sam Bevan – Bass
Raj Jayaweera – Drums
The line-up is special with two alto saxes and a flute, but my experience is that flute and alto sax fit perfectly together with a guitar, because the guitar frequencies are quite low and so there is not much of an overlap with the wind instruments.
The album starts with the title song “There Are Stars in Brooklyn”. Q plays a beautiful solo intro, the head is then played by Flute and Sax , the band grooves nicely. The melody and guitar solo is inspired by classical guitar music while Evan Francis on flute and Will Vinson on Alto Sax play their solo with much more modern jazz inspiration.
The beginning of the second song “The Do How” reminds me of Sylvain Luc (another master of the nylon guitar from France which I used to listen a lot to) but the song becomes rhythmically much more complex. Q explains: “One thing in the album that warrants explanation is the metric modulations on track 2. What I’m experimenting with there is the temporal reflections (interpreted with metric modulations) of the chord changes’ relationship to the tonic of the key. In other words the length of each chord change correlates to the length of the wavelength of the root note of the chord as it relates to the tonic (F# in this case). So a D chord will last for 5 beats, a C# for 4 1/3 beats, a B for 3 (or 6). And it gets more complicated from there. All of the changes fit within the framework of 5/4 time, based on the idea of Mora in Carnatic music where complex, over-the-barline rhythmic phrases fit into a larger beat cycle framework. The bass maintains a 5/4 ostinato figure throughout to illustrate the original tempo. The B section of the title track is also based on the Karnatic mora, but in 7/8 time. So those tracks are my attempt to unify harmony and rhythm in the spirit of experimentation, something I’ve been working on for a few years now and will continue to do in the next couple of years”.
A very interesting concept behind this song. The composition is done in a way that it returns back to 7/8 time intro which gives the listener a fixed point.
The next tune is called “Pupusa da Jamaica” and is based on the Cuban folkloric rhythm Guaguanco. Even if the tune is in straight 4/4 time the band enjoys a lot of rhythmic freedom here as well.
“Sueño de Miel” (which means Dreaming of Honey) is named after a dream Q Morrow had when he was gathering honey in the South American jungle with an indigenous tribe. It shows Q’s mastery of the classical guitar. The tune is written down like a classical composition ( Q was so kind to share the sheet music with me) and is inspired by Venezuelan Joropo dance music.
“Chinook Passing” comes next and this song is clearly inspired by Spanish flamenco and tango, sounds very European and reminds me again of Sylvain Luc and his style of Basque folklore and Jazz music.
“Inferno Astral” is another tune for classical solo guitar. The constant 32nd notes are meant to evoke pouring rain. There is a live version of this available on Youtube, so if you want to see the exact fingering of this tune, here is your chance:
Inferno Astral - Q Morrow - YouTube
The album continues with “Not Quite Sure Yet”, another experiment in rhythm/wavelength relationships as described above. Also an homage to Q Morrow’s early roots in the Northwestern US (Idaho) which he describes as grunge rock. A very interesting song with multiple changes in rhythm and feeling. Great solos by guitar and saxophone and my favorite song on the album.
The last tune is “Loose Ends” which Q Morrow describes as a Blues with a vamp section, rhythmically straight but with multiple harmonic centers. A straight modern jazz tune played very well.
The album is a eclectic compilation of Q Morrow’s compositions. It shows his versatility as composer, arranger and musician and includes all different aspects and influences that he was exposed to and which found their way into his work. He has surrounded himself with excellent musicians who are able to understand and realize his ideas. This release is another perfect example of today’s Jazz music that gets inspired by the individual path of each musician.
NYC guitar player Yotam Silberstein has just released a new album called “Future Memories”. Yotam is one of the most remarkable guitar players on the Jazz scene today and he is accompanied by other extraordinary musicians foremost bass player John Patitucci.
The album has been recorded in January 2018 but it needed the additional help of a crowdfunding project to finance the release of this album.
Officially released on March 1, 2019 the album contains mostly original music from Yotam Silberstein which he has been playing on tours around the world for the last couple of years. He is traveling constantly and during his travels he is also studying a lot of music, mostly the music of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, and north Africa. These influences combined with his knowledge of Jazz, Blues, Israeli and Arabic music (Yotam grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel) has merged into something very unique.
The album starts with the title song “Future Memories”, softly and relaxed with a very simple melody, the solo from Yotam Silberstein also feels very open, unintrusive but intensive at the same time, especially Daniel Dor on drums adds the extra push. In the long outro of the song we hear Vitor Gonçalves on accordion, which gives the song the special musette feeling, all very sophisticated.
The album continues with “Matcha” a fast and pushy contemporary Jazz tune. Great solos by Yotam Silberstein, Glenn Zaleski on piano and Daniel Dor on drums. I found a video of this song:
Yotam Silberstein ft. John Patitucci - Matcha - YouTube
“Wind On The Lake” is more like an impressionistic musical painting with acoustic guitar and acoustic piano background supporting the electric guitar playing the melody. After a piano solo we hear the melody again, this time with Yotam singing and playing it on the guitar. The song ends with an incredible guitar solo with great dynamics.
“Impedimento” starts with a intensive latin groove and features again Vitor Gonçalves on accordion. He and Yotam play solos on this gorgeous Brazilian samba.
“Night Walk” the next song has short intro by John Patitucci and is a softer song again with beautiful harmonies, in Latin style with John Patitucci on electric bass, Glenn Zaleski on Fender Rhodes and Andre Mehmari on synthesizers which defines the special more “electric” sound of this tune.
The next song “Capricho de Donga” is a composition by Brazilian bandolin player and composer Hamilton de Holanda and shows the virtuosity of all musicians. Solos are by Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Yotam Silberstein on guitar and John Patitucci on bass. This song is one of my favorites on the album, a great composition that requires mastery on the instrument.
“A Picture of Yafo” comes next and this composition by Yotam Silberstein follows his composition pattern with a simple melody, played this time by John Patitucci on a fretless bass, and an open improvisation part that gives a lot of space to the soloist.
A second capricho by Hamilton de Holanda comes next. “Capricho de Espanha” sounds like an etude for the advanced student. The solo part has an open first part where Yotam Silberstein plays in harmonic minor to emphasize on the Spanish character. The second part of the solo are regular chord changes. Glenn Zaleski on piano is the second soloist. During the first part of his solo he gets great support from Yotam on guitar and Daniel Dor on drums, it sounds like Glenn and Daniel have a real similar understanding since they connect so well.
“Choro Negro”, the last song of the album, a composition by Brazilian guitar player and composer Paulinho da Viola, is a beautiful duet between Vitor Gonçalves on piano and Yotam Silberstein on electric guitar. Sometimes you don’t need more than that, a gorgeous ending of this album.
Yotam Silberstein is very proud of this album, he said: “Together with an amazing group of musicians and humans, I went into the studio in Brooklyn, NY and after 3 intense days, we came up with what I consider my best work so far.” I think he has every reason for being proud. “Future Memories” is an album with a lot of rich facets of contemporary jazz music. The sound, the compositions and the groove are heavily influenced especially by Brazilian music and sets this album apart from the Jazz mainstream.
Yotam is currently on tour in Europe, in the next 10 days he will play in the UK, Sweden, Norway, 3 x in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and France. In November he will be in Muri AG, Switzerland, so I saved November 3, 2019 already in my calendar. More tour dates are found on Yotam’s website:
Steve Smith’s “Groove Blue Trio” was in Bern last week and played five nights at Marians Jazzroom. With Steve Smith on drums came Vinny Valentino on guitar and Tony Monaco on the hammond B3 organ.
I saw Steve Smith and Vinny Valentino before and they are excellent musicians but today I would like to focus on Tony Monaco. I heard him playing on some Pat Martino albums but last week was the first time that I could see him performing live. It was good to see him alive and healthy because he recovered from a major blockage of his widomaker artery.
Tony Monaco began his keyboard life at age eight, so he plays the organ now for 51 years. His destiny as a jazz organist was sealed when he first heard Jimmy Smith. Tony began working in Jazz clubs as a teenager in his home town Columbus, Ohio, guided by local organ gurus Hank Marr and Don Patterson.
In April 2000, Tony met fellow jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco, who offered to produce his debut CD “Burnin Grooves”. The international success of the recording helped him to become a sought-after sideman. Tony toured and recorded with Pat Martino for over two years. Tony is an accomplished teacher as well. He has produced a series of instructional DVDs titled “Playing Jazz Hammond” that have become indispensable for many serious students of the organ. He released his 11th international CD “The Definition of Insanity” on Chicken Coup Records January 2019.
The album refers to the situation in the last years where he suffered health problems and became father at the same time, that’s what he called insanity. What he also wanted to achieve with this album is to look out for new musical directions. Tony explains: “With this project I wanted to present music that I love and I do it in a way I love to do it without an agenda”. Tony plays the organ, the accordion and he sings, his wife Asako plays piano on one song, guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Tony McClung, both from Columbus, Ohio support Tony Monaco on this CD.
The album contains songs from Phish (“Cars Trucks Buses”), Greateful Dead (“Truckin’”), “Never Let Me Go” as a reminiscence to the late Roy Hargrove, an excellent grooving funky version of Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down”, a very light version of “Quando Quando Quando”, the traditional Neapolitan song “Non Ti Scordare Di Me”, where Tony sings and plays the accordion and finally “A Song For You” by Leon Russell.
The album is a very personal and eclectic collection, all songs are played with a lot of heart and soul and so this albums gets a clear recommendation from me.
Tony is currently on tour with Steve Smith’s “Groove Blue Trio” and he told me that this band is about to record a new album. So look out for more Tony Monaco in the next months.
The album “The Definition of Insanity” on Spotify:
A nice video where Tony plays solo the song “Indonesian Nights”:
Mathias Heise is a 25 year old harmonica player, pianist and composer from Denmark. He released a fantastic album of his original compositions arranged for The Danish Radio Big Band last September. The album is called ‘The Beast’ and it refers to Mathias impression of a big band: “A big band has incredible musical powers – almost like a beast that has to be tamed. But once you’ve tamed it, it can do incredible things”.
Fascinated by the sound and the possibilities of a big band it is a dream that became reality with this album. Some of the band members have been Mathias’ teachers and so we also see here the passing of the torch to the next generation of jazz musicians.
The album starts with ‘Para Mi Madre’ a soft and relaxed latin-style song Mathias has written for his mother. The tune has a great melody and a very easy groove that shows the excellence of this band. The soloists are Gerard Presencer on flugelhorn and Nicolai Schultz on flute and these two instruments emphasize the soft character. This tune is one of my favorites on the album.
Para Mi Madre (With English subtitles)
DR Big Band & Mathias Heise "Para Mi Madre" - YouTube
‘Brain Soup’ is the second song and this song is much more serious stuff. Beginning with a heavy groove the brass sections play an almost improvisational melody in what Mathis Heise called ‘bombastical block harmonization’. The solo is based on modal harmonic sequences but handled perfectly by Mathias Heise. The song has a second part where Jakob Munck Mortensen sings some strange lyrics, accompanied initially by the rhythm section but ending with the brass section playing long notes and Peter Fuglsang on soprano sax improvising over these sound layers. An ambitious sound collage but performed excellently.
The album continues with the title song ‘The Beast’. It starts with the piano playing dissonant seconds over a steady pulse pushed by bass and drums. Tenor sax and a distorted guitar play the melody of the A part, the flugelhorn plays long notes in the B part of the song. The first solo goes to Per Gade on guitar followed by Karl-Martin Almqvist on tenor sax, Kaspar Vadsholt on electric bass and pianist Nikolaj Bentzon. This song features the incredible rhythm section of this big band.
Mathias Heise on harmonica returns with the next song ‘Repetition’, an ambitious composition. Mathias says about this tune: “The melodic DNA of ‘Repetition’ is made up of eight notes/intervals that are repeated over and over, but in new ways. The composition is inspired by the principles of the fugue, by Arnold Schönberg’s tone rows and also by Per Nørgård’s infinity series, which enabled me to construct an infinite – in principle – series of notes from the eight original ones”. And he continues: “I see the composition as a representation of the eternal repetition of life in new and beautiful ways”.
‘Evening Coffee’, dedicated to Mathias’ grandparents, is a beautiful ballad, starting with harmonica, guitar, bass and drums and the big band focusing on long notes creating harmonic layers. The first solo goes to Nicolai Schultz on flute followed by duets of flute/harmonica and guitar/harmonica.
‘One Man Army’ was written in honor of Mathias’ philosophical hero, Karl Popper. The song features Nikloaj Bentzon on piano. Bass and drums produce again a steady pulse on which harmonica and piano can rather freely improvise. The big band gets a chance to play an ‘a cappella’ interlude without rhythm section before we hear the main theme again.
One Man Army (Unfortunately Danish subtitles only)
DR Big Band & Mathias Heise "Enmandshær" teaser - YouTube
‘Sudden Ascent’ is already the last song of Mathias Heise with the Danish Radio Big Band. Mathias says: “Sudden Ascent is one of my oldest pieces of music, which I composed back in 2013, and I’ve always dreamed of being able to arrange it for big band”. Again, drums, bass and piano provide a pushing groove, the arrangement gives all sections one more chance to shine and we hear excellent solos by Hans Ulrik on tenor sax, Søren Frost on drums in dialog with Mathias Heise on harmonica. This song ends with a great trumpet finale.
The last song on the album is like an encore: ‘Kærlighedsmusik til Anne (Love Song)’ with Mathias Heise playing piano and harmonica. A beautiful ballad in a nice ‘blue’ mood, the harmonies modulate between major and minor and the harmonica got some extra reverb creating additional space.
The songs from the album have been performed live with Mathias Heise as headliner when The Danish Radio Big Band toured Denmark last September. Every single concert received standing ovations from the audience as well as outstanding reviews. ‘The Beast’ even managed to get a full page review in one of Denmark’s biggest broadsheet newspapers ‘Politiken’, which is very rarely seen when it comes to jazz.
To sum it up: An ambitious album with a fantastic big band and a great young artist who earned to be featured this way. Mathias Heise got the chance to materialize his dream and he took this opportunity and created a masterpiece. Please listen!
I would like to start the new year with an EP from Shubh Saran, a guitarist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. He released his album entitled H.A.D.D on November 9, 2018.
H.A.D.D is an abbreviation for Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device, i.e. the tendency for humans to assume the presence of a sentient being in situations that may not involve one at all.
Shubh explains: “This represents the core idea of the EP, assigning greater meaning to everyday life. We are comforted by the idea of someone or something having a deciding hand in our lives, believing that everything happens for a reason. I wanted the music from this album to represent that feeling.”
Shubh Saran continues: “The music from the record is a melting pot of contemporary jazz, indie-rock, neo-soul, and fusion. After a year of monthly performances in New York and an India tour, the record draws its inspiration from the energy of my band’s live shows. H.A.D.D features five new songs written and recorded this year. “.
The line-up of the band is a little bit unconventional:
Shubh Saran – guitar
Angelo Spampinato – drums
Josh Bailey – drums & percussion
Christian Li – piano & keys
Brian Plautz – alto saxophone
Mark Minoogian – bass
Jared Yee – tenor saxophone
Hannah Sumner – vocals
Regarding the musicians, I have received some background information from Shubh: “I’ve known Brian and Jared since our time at Berklee. Although we rarely played together then, they became some of my closest musician friends after moving to New York. I met the rest of band playing in the music circuit here in New York, performing with them in various other projects and bands. When the time came to put together my own band for touring and recording, I asked the people who I admired the most.”
The first song “Pareidolia” starts soft by keyboards and saxophone, with growing intensity and turns into a cool funky groove at around 1:22, a great surprise to me. This change is repeated, first softly, increasing tension and groove change. We hear a guitar solo over funky slapping bass. Focus is on arrangement and sounds but diversified and never boring. This song is already my first highlight on the album.
“Eudaimonia” begins with guitar and saxophone and the intro reminds a little bit of the happy sound of the Daniel Bennett Group but without the changes of tonality. We hear an excellent piano solo with a nice horns background arrangement.
“Sight And Seen” comes next. Focus here is definitely on the pushing groove by the two drummers. The two saxophones play the melody alternating with the guitar.
“Falter” features Hannah Sumner on vocals and is my second highlight on the EP. She is supported by a great arrangement with multiple layers of keyboards and guitar sounds. A saxophone solo towards the end of the song brings also great dynamics. A beautiful song, presented softly and intense.
“Divisible” is already the last tune of the EP. The melody is played by the guitar supported by the piano in pop-style. After a soft beginning the song becomes again more intensive and ends with a mellow single piano.
Overall I like this EP very much, it has the focus clearly on composition and sound, not on improvisation. It is definitely very individual and the ideas and the inspiration come from the personal experience and impressions of Shubh Saran. The musicians are all excellent and place their skills into the service of the composition and the arrangement. An album outside the conventions.
Finally, I asked Shubh if he has been able to perform the songs from the EP in front of an audience and he told me: “We have performed the songs in New York a number of times and the audience reception was great and very inspiring. The song forms are open enough to allow us to stray away from the recordings and spontaneously create new moments while playing live.”
Shubh Saran produced a “making-of” video with some nice impressions from the studio:
Shubh Saran - H.A.D.D (EP Trailer) - YouTube
The album is also available on Spotify:
More information including the possibility to buy the sheet music for some of the songs and dates of live shows are found on Shubh Saran’s website: www.shubhsaran.com
Just in time for the holidays comes an album from Grammy-winning music producer, vocal contractor and studio singer Laura Dickinson. Her album “Auld Lang Syne” was released November 20, 2018 and is a program of songs centered around the Christmas holiday season. This album is thought as a loving tribute to a time of year when people sincerely open their hearts to family and friends, and count their blessings while reflecting on the year gone by.
The record features excellent big band arrangements by top names like Johnny Mandel, Brent Fischer or James A. McMillen and brilliant vocal arrangements by Laura herself.
The album begins with the big band at full speed with “Happy Holiday / The Holiday Season”. Fantastic swinging by band and Laura Dickinson make sure that nobody starts to fall asleep during the holiday season. One blues chorus of solo go to trumpet, alto sax and guitar and then the horns get their chance to show off. A really great arrangement played and sung perfectly.
The second song “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” is in Laura Dickinson’s repertoire for quite some time and finally made it on this album. The arrangement is by Brent Fischer (he is also a Grammy winner) and he arranged it with a steady moving funky groove. My first highlight on the album. I found a live version of this song for your recommendation:
#FYC I'VE GOT MY LOVE arrangement by Brent Fischer - YouTube
“Christmas is Starting Now” continues in full-speed-Christmas-spirit with another cool big band arrangement where all sections can show their skills. Trombones, saxes and trumpets and especially the drums have all highlights in the 2:46 minutes of this song. If you plan to have a dance party at Christmas, then this is the right song for it.
“Peace And Joy” is the next tune on the album and we hear Laura Dickinson together with a 24-voice choir including some of her vocal contractor colleagues. This tune is (again) perfectly arranged and sung and brings us back to the traditional more contemplative Christmas mood.
“The Man with the Bag” features Steve Trapani on bass-trombone, which other instrument would represent Santa better? Very entertaining, dynamically arranged and played.
“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” from the movie “White Christmas” features Kye Palmer on trumpet. He switches to “How Deep is the Ocean” in his solo. Laura gets her chance as well here with an impressive finale of the song.
“A Marshmallow World” is the next song and returns with it’s sweet and happy sound to the classic picture we have of American Christmas.
“Miss You Most At Christmas” is a cover version of the Mariah Carey hit, but Laura’s version has much more power and emotions than the original. The incredible string arrangement creates a very natural sound and makes this song to my favorite on the album.
“Let It Snow!” surprises with an extraordinary and extravaganza arrangement in New Orleans style by James A. McMillen. Here is one of those versions where I am really surprised about the ideas and creativity of well-established arrangers.
A video from the recording studio is also available for this song, which I highly recommend:
"Let It Snow!" - The Laura Dickinson 17 (Live In Studio) - YouTube
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” features Laura and pianist Alan Steinberger. Another ideal opportunity for Laura to show her mastery, her vocal range and her perfect intonation.
The final song on the album is the title song “Auld Lang Syne” (Old Long Since) which is the traditional tune sung in the English-speaking world at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the old year. The tune is based on an old Scots folk melody and the arrangement of guitarist Andrew Synowiec revives that spirit. Guitars and Laura’s for several voices singing dominate this tune.
To summarize it, the album is an impressive collection of outstanding arrangements presented in a impeccable manner by a great big band and an incredibly versatile Laura Dickinson. The album covers different nuances of the Christmas spirit from sticky sweet to melancholic back to a big party and ends with the right song for New Year’s Eve, so it is the perfect companion for the whole holiday season.
Here comes a playlist on Spotify to listen to the album:
Today’s album comes from Ryan Timoffee, a piano player, composer and producer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He composed, arranged, produced and played piano and keyboards on his debut solo album “Cuban Safari” which was released on November 12.
The album features an all-star line-up of Cuban musicians from Camaguey, Havana, New York, Miami and Los Angeles:
Keyboards – Ryan Timoffee
Bass – Daymar Calvario
Percussion – Daniel Rodriguez
Saxophone – Yasel Barreras Sifontes
Trumpet – Randy Veitia Godinez
Flute – Javier Porta
Guitar – Dean Faulkner
Tres – Yuniel Jimenez
Trombone – Diana Osumy Sainz Mena
Guitar – Roman Lajara
Vocals – Yoandri Castro
Ryan explains on his website: “In 2017 I had been on a composing frenzy and everything I wrote had Cuban flavor. Since I returned from Cuba for the second time in January, I felt very connected to the music of the island and it was manifesting in everything I wrote. So my next step was to turn my Cuban-influenced themes into something real.”
The project became real, but the realization was not straight-forward, it turned out to be an adventure.
Ryan continues: “The band recorded at an unknown studio in the Castro compound in Havana. Police pay-offs, a jam-packed vehicle full of musicians, 14-hour sessions, a missing sound engineer and detours around the Hurricane-flooded streets of Old Havana brought the world this hard-fought victory for music.”
Nevertheless, the result of this fight is an excellent album that combines a wide range of authentic Cuban grooves like Timba, Son Montuno, Mozambique and Cha cha cha with Funk, Soul and Jazz elements, it is old-fashioned and modern at the same time.
The album starts with “Super Tren”, bass and horns play the melody very precise and accentuated. The first solo goes to Ryan on piano, he starts softly and relaxed, dynamics increase and prepare us for a trumpet solo and percussion fills. The band grooves perfectly, the horns are sharp, the trumpet plays high and we see that these guys know what they are doing.
“Bambino” comes next and continues in the traditional Salsa style, but the song gets it special touch from the electronic piano sound. The horn section is extended with Diana Osumy Sainz Mena on trombone.
“Bolo” has a steady funk groove dominated by Dean Faulkner on guitar. The solos go to saxophone and guitar, followed by a dialog between drums and bass. A nice change in style and my first highlight on this album.
“Guajira” is going back to traditional Afro-Cuban music. Yuniel Jimenez on tres opens the song and plays an excellent solo. Randy Veitia Godinez on trumpet again shows his mastery and the song ends with vocals. Yoandri Castro as lead singer and Yasel Barreras Sifontes singing background carry us away.
“Bio Ritmo” is the next tune and this is another Salsa tune with a great piano solo, increasing intensity by the horn section and a steady pushing bass by an outstanding Daymar Calvario.
“Border Control” the next song, is a Cha cha cha. The first solo goes to Yasel Barreras Sifontes on saxophone, followed by Ryan Timoffee on piano and Daniel Rodriguez on percussion.
“Persigueme” introduces Javier Porta on flute and Ryan Timoffee on a Fender rhodes e-piano. A pushing groove by bass and percussion lay the foundation for a modern latin song. This is one of my favorites on the album.
“Fantasma” is a tune with a funny melody but returns to a classic Salsa song when the piano starts with the montuno. We hear a short bass solo, a piano solo and another great finale from the trumpet.
“Cohiba Funk” is the second funk tune on this album, again with a grooving guitar by Dean Faulkner. The melody is played by the flute which gives the song its unique character. Ryan plays a nice solo on the Fender rhodes.
“Tapp Timba” is the last song on the album. It reminds me a little bit on fusion bands like the Brecker Brothers but with a Cuban percussion section. Cool horns, a brillant guitar by Roman Lajaraa and funky slapping bass are the ingredients for another fantastic tune and a great finale of the album.
There is a Youtube video available for this song which I don’t want to keep back from you:
Ryan Timoffee - Tapp Timba - YouTube
To sum it up, “Cuban Safari” is an excellent album with a lot of variety in it. The songs are perfectly arranged and Ryan Timoffee found a bunch of incredible musicians to record this album. The combination of traditional Cuban music, Jazz and Funk works perfectly and creates an entertaining and diverse album which I can highly recommend.