more from a jazz life …

Before going into the music and other events of the immediate past, I have to make a correction to my blog post from October: the wonderful album ONKALO by Julie Campiche will only be released in February … getting my advance copy I got carried away a bit and reviewed it already … I will at the time of release re-post that review and a link to an updated video, so everyone who wants can follow up and listen to the full record then.

Brenda Earle Stokes / Solo Sessions, Volume 1 – composer, pianist and singer Stokes’ delivers as her second album a solo recording for piano and voice. The album is an eclectic mix of originals, standards and covers of songs by k.d. land, Huey Lewis and Michael McDonald, as arranged by Stokes and performed by her in top quality. She is a wonderful pianist with delicate touches on the ballads and power when needed – her singing is immaculate and touching. Key tracks are McDonalds ‘I can let go now’, her own ‘The Waltz’ and the Swallow/Winstone tune ‘Ladies in Mercedes’.

Bria Skonberg / Nothing Ever Happens – this new album by singer and trumpet player Skonberg is pointing in a new direction – more edgy, modern and more fun. The album showcases Skonberg’s working band of recent years – pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas – along with guest appearances by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, Hammond B3 master Jon Cowherd, and guitar great Doug Wamble. Her own compositions mix well with the well chosen covers by The Beatles, Sonny Bono and Queen and make for an interesting listen. Touches of Soul, New Orleans and Pop run through her jazz arrangements and make them personal and her performances on trumpet and vocals are always in service of the song. For me her best album so far!

Jerome Jennings / Solidarity – drummer Jennings’ second release is a hard swinging affair featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy  Dillard, trombonist Andrae Murchison, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and Jennings’s friend and mentor, bassist Christian McBride plus special guests saxophonist-flutist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist-vocalist Camille Thurman, bassist Endea Owens, and percussionist Carlos Maldonado. A truly great jazz album, with very good originals and standards; with variety and surprises in many forms, but always swinging and played on the highest level. Recommended!

Van Morrison / Three Chords & The Truth – since ‘Astral Weeks’ I have been a Van Morrison fan and followed what he did over the years and this new album is again a proof of his amazing song writing skills and his unique singing style. The album features contributions from legendary guitarist Jay Berliner and a duet with The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley (‘Fame Will Eat the Soul’). Songs like ‘March Winds in February’, ‘Read Between The Lines’ or ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ are typical Morrison and are excellent in delivery and composition, as is most of the album. Highly recommended!!

Naughty Professor / Everyday Shredder EP – New Orleans funk jazz outfit Naughty Professor released their digital EP earlier this month to critical acclaim. No surprise as the funk running through the 5 tracks is immaculate and powerful. Great brass lines with heavy grooves make this one to dance to. Check out ‘3 Wise Men’ or ‘Pleiades’ and get up and move your body.

November – as in the last few years, is the time for the International Jazz Festival in Madrid, which this year started on October 28th and will run until November 30th … and the first show I attended was Charles Tolliver presenting Paper Man @ 50. That album featured besides the leader and trumpeter Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers and was recorded at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey on 2nd July 1968. The modern versions of these compositions were performed by Tolliver and Jesse Davis on alto sax, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lennie White on drums. Tolliver’s music sounded modern and fresh and his and everyone else’s playing was impressive and captivating. Brown and Davis were wonderful soloists next to Tolliver and his amazing rhythm section. Left me and the audience asking for more …

The second gig I attended was that of young saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whom I had seen before and enjoyed her show. This one was as good as the first I saw, and she and her band were giving the mostly standing Madrid audience in a packed Conde Duque groovy jazz to dance to. Excellent musicians who gave her the support and groove to improvise freely and with verve and lots of ideas. This is modern and adventurous jazz, deeply rooted in a tradition of Coltrane or Sanders. Powerful, groovy and melodic improvised music that reaches a younger audience. Captivating!

In the last few weeks the music world lost many great and important artists, some of them I had the pleasure to see perform or work with – Ginger Baker, the outstanding rock and jazz drummer of his generation I saw at the Cream reunion concerts in London in 2005 and once before many years back with his Airforce band … incredible power and intensity!! Pianist Milcho Leviev I heard first through his 2 duo recordings with Dave Holland, but as well liked his solo or group recordings. One of Europe’s most underrated but best pianists. Producer Gerry Teekens I met a few time at North Sea Jazz and liked his enthusiasm for jazz, which he brought to his wonderful label Criss Cross and all its productions. Jan Erik Kongshaug was not only one of the best sound engineers of all time, but as well a warm and gentle human being. I had the pleasure meeting him and working with him on a few occasions and always enjoyed his company and professionalism. They all will be missed. May they rest in peace.



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