In which the beleaguered reviewer attempts to make some headway into the mounds of CDs seeking reviews accumulating daily by providing quick hits on a few recordings at a time.
Simak Dialog - Demi Masa
My favorite Indonesian jazz fusion band is back with an engaging new release which again combines traditional Far Eastern percussion with electric pianos, synthesizers and electric bass to make music with a lot of room for the players to improvise. Fortunately, the musicianship and band chemistry is first rate and the song structures interesting and melodic. Veers into 1970's progressive territory, and if you enjoy that style, it is well worth picking up a copy.
The Joel Larue Smith Trio - September's Child
Talented pianist Joel Larue Smith admits to wanting to mix Afro-Cuban music with straight-ahead jazz, and he succeeds splendidly here (even mixing some Western European classical influences in). A solid and entertaining mix of seven originals and four arrangements of rumbas and mambos will have you shaking your booty all day long.
Larry Slezak - No Worries
An enjoyable effort from Houston-based saxman, Slezak and his crew, proving that jazz is alive and well in the Lone Star State. Songs like the opener, "Floatin'" showcase Slezak's big tenor sound. Meanwhile, standards like "You've Changed" and "Cry Me a River" (with vocalist Sheri Lavo) bring in the strings and allow Slezak to show his sensitive side. Big time fun with his tenor sax take on the theme song from TV's "Chico and the Man" - a pretty hip tune after all.
Julian Lage - Sounding Point
Former child prodigy Julian Lage (who was performing with Carlos Santana at age 8, and has since worked with Gary Burton and mandolin master David Grisman) has released his debut album, which puts the young man's incredible talent on display for all to hear. Now an ancient 19, Lage plays some selections as a soloist, while being joined by his regular group, featuring saxophonist Ben Rosethon on several tracks. Pianist Taylor Eigsti appears on the bluesy encore duet of "All Blues," and mandolinist Chris Thile and banjo master Bela Fleck join Lage in a trio setting. The results are mostly quite impressive falling primarily in a classical/folk vein with jazzy and bluesy touches.
The John Temmerman Quartet - Live in Evanston: John's Mixed Bag
John's big, brawny tenor makes a welcome return on this enjoyable live album, on which he also pulls out his soprano sax to add to the fun. Backed by some well-known locals, including Steve Hashimoto on bass, Rusty Jones and Steve Magnone on drums and Neal Alger on guitar, Temmerman takes his band through an eclectic and satisfying set (actually recorded at two separate gigs: the 2007 & 2008 Custer's Last Stand Festival of the Arts) that includes some of John's fine originals (including a more compact version of "Plan B" - called "Plan B Downsized" and the excellent "Fundamental Dreamer"), covers of Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie," Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and more, a hymn (befitting Temmerman's interest in spirituality) and a Beatles tune ("Norwegian Wood"). Some highlights of this no-frills session include the band's work with guest trumpeter Steve Thomas (on two tracks), and the wonderful exchanges between Temmerman and Alger (and drummer Jones) on the pop song, Spooky."
Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, featuring Candido - Kenya
Fans of the rumba and mambo will want to break out there dancing shoes for this new release from Jazzheads, in which the noted percussionist, multiple Grammy Award nominee, composer and educator Sanabria leads the world renowned music conservatory students through a hot live recreation of the Machito Afro-Cubans, featuring Cannonball Adderley's 1957 classic album. The young musicians don't sound like mere students and they are joined not only by Sanabria on drums and timbales on two tracks, but also by legendary conga virtuoso Candido, who at age 88 is still able to generate sparks. Hard to keep your body still while listening to these new arrangements of treasured Afro-Cuban classics.
Pierre Sibille - Since I Ain't Got You
This is an enjoyable release that is as much Charles Aznavour as Ray Charles. Sibille has a pleasant and addictive voice, plays some fine piano and organ as well as harmonica. His Euro-soul sound is appealing, and the song sounds and structures recall 70's American R&B music from artists like Stevie Wonder. A bit of a throwback of sorts, the smooth songwriting, clear recording and intelligible lyrics comes across like a breath of fresh air in today's often turgid musical atmosphere. Some smart programmer should pick up "To Be With You" for a soundtrack, as the background for a sadly romantic scene. This song would have been a hit in 1975, but it's emotions are thankfully, timeless.