Sunday, September 20, 2020

Album Review: Contrabajo, Works for Bass and String from Pablo Aslan

Album:  Contrabajo, Works for Bass and String
Artist:  Pablo Aslan
Label:  Self-Released

Serene, lulling, and operatic, the playing of acoustic bassist Pablo Aslan can bring a tear to one's eyes and simultaneously lift one's spirit and incite joy in one's heart.  His latest recording Contrabajo, Works for Bass and String Quartet is a superbly arranged collection of mindful soliloquies, symphonies, and discourse.  Track after track, the listener feels like the music is playing out an opera with the dramatic phrasing of the strings and reflexive voicing of Aslan's bass notes.  The symphonic lift in the instrumentation is penetrating and holds the audience in rapt attention.

The swivels and squiggles of Paquito D’ Rivera's clarinet scampering across "Tanguajira" has the intensity of a tango fused with the fluidity of a choreographed ballet.  The strings played by the Cuarteto Petrus quartet turns mournful and crestfallen along "Te Extrano Buenos Aires" as Aslans bass enhances the sullen mood.  The instruments move with the grace of a dance, moving elegantly around each other.  There is an Igor Stravinsky quality in the orchestration that grips the listener's senses.

The ambience of Duke Ellington's iconic piece "Come Sunday" changes to a romantic interlude as the weeping sensations flowing and ebbing from the quartet's strings canvass the track with soft strands, twining and twisting.  The interplay is sonically beautiful and majestically mellow.  The bowing action of Aslan's bass produces a hypnotic rhythm joined by the flexing and coiling of the strings along "Tango para Cuerdas," making for an engaging dance akin to the amorous entanglements of a Puccini composition.

As graceful as a ballet, as dramatic as an opera, and as suave as a passionate tango, Pablo Aslan's recording is a viable entry in the history books alongside the works of Igor Stravinsky and Giacomo Puccini.  Aslan and his collaborators created something very special with worldly appeal.

Pablo Aslan:  acoustic bass

Cuarteto Petrus Quartet:

Pablo Saraví: violin
Hernán Briático: violin
Adrián Felizia: viola
Gloria Pankaeva: violoncello

Special guests:
Paquito D’ Rivera: clarinet on "Tanguajira"
Raúl Jaurena: bandoneon on "La Cumparsita"

Album Review: Mad Romance And Love from Maurice Frank

Album:  Mad Romance And Love
Artist:  Maurice Frank
Label:  Jumo Music

Blues crooner Maurice Frank performs a stimulating rendition of swinging jazz numbers on his latest release Mad Romance And Love.  His contemporary interpretation of such nostalgic tunes as Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's memorable "How Little We Know" and  Billy Strayhorn and John Latouche's lounging melody " Day Dream" are captured in his soothing vocalese.  The lyrics are cradled in his register as though they were precious gems, needed to be handled with care.  His affection for these songs is palpable.

His performance of Robert Wright and George Forrest's showtune "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" rekindles a famous favorite from the Great American Songbook, possessing the sultry swagger of Michael Feinstein and the dreamy resonance of Paul Anka.  His refreshing interpretation of "In My Life," penned by the Beatles, revitalizes a classic pop standard.  The emotion and warmth he puts into his delivery moves the audience, touching them personally.  His duet with Luques Curtis playing acoustic bassist on Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner's timeless tune "On The Street Where You Live" is a new way to hear the song and one interpretation that presents the melody in a pleasing phrasing.

Frank's offering is enjoyable in its entirety.  The soothing and sultry textures of his timbres project a soulful resonance that personalizes the tracks while giving them a contemporary polish.  His fluency as a blues crooner is steep in tradition, and his devotion to melodic lyricism is strong.  Growing up in Yonkers, New York,  he lists some of his musical influences as Nat Cole, Sinatra, Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Louie Prima, and Tony Bennett, all of whom can be heard in Frank's singing style.

Maurice Frank - vocals
Eric Alexander - tenor saxophone
John DiMartino - piano
Aaron Heick - soprano saxophone, clarinet, and alto flute
Paul Meyers - guitar
Luques Curtis - acoustic bass
Obed Calvaire - drums
Samuel Torres - percussion

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Album Review: Fool's Journey from Matt DeMerritt

Album:  Fool's Journey
Artist:  Matt DeMerritt
Label:  Self-Released

An assortment of original tracks and cover tunes, saxophonist Matt DeMerritt steps out as a solo artist on his latest release Fool's Journey.  Supported by a montage of musicians, DeMerritt delves deeper into the contemporary jazz palette, whipping up works that shimmy, swing, and serenade at various times throughout the recording.  From the uplifting shindig-style treads of "Elixir" to the lounging swivels of "Venice Lullaby," DeMerritt makes music that fits into the listener's home life.

The sedate sonorous of DeMerritt's saxophone navigates daydreamy inclines along the slow and twisted course set by bassist Kaveh Rastegar and drummer Gene Coye through "Loner's Waltz," illustrating immense control and a penmanship for graceful phrasing.  The capricious swivels of DeMerritt's saxophone toots shaping "Limbo" cultivate an urbane disposition in the arrangement.  Moving deeper in the CD, the moonlight ambience that DeMerritt and his band produce in Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "A House Is Not A Home" maintains the dreamy quality previously visited in the recording.  Meanwhile, the R&B-style grooves of "Earth" draw out a funky quality in DeMerritt's playing, personalizing Joe Henderson's iconic composition.

DeMerritt's repertoire is a small representation of his experiences as a sideman, playing for such recording artists as Macy Gray, Diana Krall, and Beck to name a few.  His endeavor primarily displays his musical influences including Joe Henderson, Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  His affection for contemporary jazz is evident throughout the recording, and his talent for drawing from the contemporary jazz palette demonstrates his caliber as a composer.


Matt DeMerritt: saxophone
Jamelle Adisa - trumpet
Sam Barsh - piano and keyboards
Kaveh Rastegar - bass
Jonny Flaugher - bass
Gene Coye - drums
Brock Avery - drums
Scott Seiver - drums
Oliver Charles - drums
Davey Chegwidden - percussion
Satnam Ramgotra - tablas
Fabiano Nascimento - guitar
Josh Lopez - guitar
Suzy Williams - vocals

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Album Review: The Portal from Thor Polson

Album:  The Portal
Artist:  Thor Polson
Label:  Self-Released

Pianist Thor Polson takes listeners through an imaginative portal into utopian sounding worlds on his latest offering The Portal.  His rapport with the musicians on his recording displays a refined choreography, resonating a soothing stroke throughout. Even the ruffled twirls of Dana Mathewson's soprano saxophone on "Sparrow" are soothing, assuaging listener's senses with a lulling caress.

The balladry stride in Polson's keys strolling elegantly along “Norwegian Blue” has a meditative glint. The composition is a tribute to the majestic and often misty landscape of southern Norway.  The suave and casual amble of Polson's keys amplify a Dave Brubeck-esque quality in “Beyond Pettus Bridge: A Dream Deferred” while the furling toots of Jeff Keys's trumpet and Keith Nance's tenor saxophone add thickness and movement to the track.
The swirling motions of Steve Watne's harmonica give “Waltz for Heather" a rustic complexion as Polson's keys shepherd the wandering strands. Pressing forward, the sensual vocalese of singer Nancy Harms affixes a healing vibration through "Threnody," a tune dedicated to Polson's father while the flaring squiggles of Allan Adler's tenor saxophone on “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” has a fancy-free versing that engages the listener's aural senses with a hypnotic grip. 
The Portal is dedicated to the memory of Charles Shelby, containing eight original tracks penned by Polson, a collaboration with Jeff Keys, Eric Solberg and Joe Dowdall, and the jazz standard "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein. The tracks were recorded in the Twin Cities and southern Oregon where Polson has become a fixture on the club circuit.

Allan Adler - tenor saxophone
Joe Dowdall - drums and percussion
Nancy Harms - voice
Jeff Keys - flügelhorn and trumpet
Dana Mathewson - soprano saxophone
Theresa McCoy - drums
Dave Miller - acoustic bass
Keith Nance - flute, tenor saxophone, and soprano saxophone
Thor Polson - keyboard and piano
Darrell Pridgen - electric bass
Eric Solberg - acoustic bass and voice on "Potion of Solitude"
Steve Watne - harmonica

Album Review: Pathways from Dave Anderson and Mike Wingo

Album:  Pathways
Artists:  Dave Anderson and Mike Wingo
Label:  Self-Released

Pathways, the sophomore release from the team of pianist Dave Anderson and percussionist Mike Wingo  is laden with contemporary jazz passages.  Anderson's flights on the keys travel into ethereal planes as the flexing rhythmic patterns of Wingo's percussion provide a warmth berth for the euphoric jaunts.  They produce a spellbinding harmony through a steady flow of improvisations and structured motifs. 

Their track "The Leprechaun's Jam" is a melodic fusion of bongo-style beats and chamber music-inspired phrasing.  The pairing of these two voices is deeply magnetic and charmingly compatible.  The dialogue formed between Anderson and Wingo through "Lament" has a natural fluidity, part sobbing and part elevating.  The prismatic facets of Anderson's keys illuminating "Perspective" have a calming flicker that changes to fidgety shuffles along "Milestones," a contemporary interpretation of Miles Davis's classic work by that title.
The reflective mood portrayed in "Minor Motion" demonstrates Anderson's astute dexterity to shift seamlessly between moving slowly and rapidly as he rides the waves of his inner voice.  Wingo's glistening chimes and percussive beats support Anderson's improvised excursions and wistful meanders into melodic vistas.  The solemn ambience of "Mindful" displays Anderson's talent for soft promenades while "Joy Ride" showcases Wingo's skill to form syncopated beats that bend and flex with a winsome suppleness.
All compositions with the exception of "Milestones" are penned by Dave Anderson.  The pair's thoughtful musings and harmonious communication display a pleasing compatibility.  Pathways, which follows the duo's debut release Conversations, builds on the duo's like-minded instincts for making sonic passages that touch the listener's senses with a positive charge.
Dave Anderson - piano
Mike Wingo - percussion

Friday, September 11, 2020

Album Review: You, Me & Cole from Noa Levy and Shimpei Ogawa

 Album:  You, Me & Cole
Artists:  Noa Levy and Shimpei Ogawa
Label:  Self-Released

An emotive chantueuse, singer Noa Levy is paired with upright bass player Shimpei Ogawa on their latest CD You, Me & Cole, The recording consists of the duo's interpretations of some of Cole Porter's most memorable tunes, fusing traits of caberet blues, torchlight jazz, and Broadway style burlesque.  The arrangements reflect the duo's melodic sensibilities for playful nuances and whimsical improvisations.

Levy's sensuous vocal phrasing through "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" purrs like a siren leading the Broadway show Gypsy.  The pair's mixture of sultry tango and beefy klezmer form a complementing harmony that resonates a American jazz feel with an European flare.  The pulsating beat of Ogawa's bass driving  the swing jazz tune "Just One of Those Things" buffers Levy's expressive vocals, injecting shards of improvisation with a bluesy torchlight slant.  Levy's vocal elasticity is displayed brightly through "It's All Right With Me" as Ogaway's nimble bass playing fodders the playfulness inherent in the melody.

Her penetrative voicing ignites "So In Love," pervading a stark passion that engulfs the tune in a sensual lure.  The pair's treatment of "Anything Goes" has a pulsating calypso beat that incites the playful nuances in Levy's vocals.  Ogawa suspends Levy's vocals in throbbing pumps along "Love For Sale" and provides lavish swells through "In The Still of the Night."

Levy and Ogawa's offering celebrates the jazz culture rooted in blues, burlesque, swing, cabaret, and torchlight fused with the worldly flavors of tango and klezmer.  Their collaboration is artistically inspiring and aurally enjoyable.


Noa Levy - vocals
Shimpei Ogawa - upright bass

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Album Review: The Story Behind the Story from David Boswell

Album: The Story Behind the Story
Artist:  David Boswell
Label:  My Quiet Moon

The warm aesthetics of David Boswell's guitar playing is magnetic.  His latest CD The Story Behind the Story emanates soothing sensations from beginning to end, keeping the listener in his clutches. Joined by Mitchel Forman, Scott Kinsey  and Otmaro Ruiz  on piano, MB Gordy and Gary Novak on drums, Jimmy Haslip and Bart Samolis on bass, and Andy Snitzer on saxophone, the recording cleanses the mind of clutter and bathes the senses in blissful jaunts.

Track after track feels like a flight through lush soundscapes and leisurely rambles.  Boswell's meanderings on the guitar through the title track pervade an ambient vibe that engulfs the listener is sheer pleasure.  The meditative swells blanketing "Prayer for the Planet" offer solace to the listener, spiking the guitar licks with a hint of flamenco while the guitar patterns sauntering along "Alta" project a modern jazz bent that buttress the glinting sparks of Kinsey's keys. The agility and compatible improvisations of the musicians is reminiscent of the guitar trio of Kevin Eubanks, Russel Malone, and Mark Whitfield.  The musicians are so in sync with one another that the music sounds like perfection.  There is no way imaginable to improve on it.   
Boswell's narratives roam freely, always holding the listener's attention.  Consisting of all original tracks composed by Boswell, The Story Behind the Story is a mesmerizing collection of flowing soundscapes, soothing melodic motifs, and captivating improvisations.

David Boswell - electric, acoustic and synthesized guitars
Mitchel Forman - piano
MB Gordy - drums and percussion
Jimmy Haslip - bass
Scott Kinsey - piano and keyboards
Gary Novak - drums
Otmaro Ruiz - piano and keyboards
Bart Samolis - bass
Andy Snitzer - saxophone

Album Review: Contrabajo, Works for Bass and String from Pablo Aslan

Album:  Contrabajo, Works for Bass and String Artist:  Pablo Aslan Label:  Self-Released Website: Serene, lulling, and o...