archiv of the category jazz

 

an interview with Janet Klein


Oh!, the recent album by Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys is a real different and unique effort in these days or like Janet puts it “like music from a lost planet“.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Janet Klein talks about her love for the vintage stuff, how she became a keeper of said music from the lost planet, what she likes about modern technology and a lot more. So enjoy your visit to Janet’s parlor.

Q: Please tell me something about yourself. How did you become so fascinated by the early 1900s?

Janet Klein: I was an artistic type kid growing up in San Bernardino, California, a rather dreary town, although if you look at photos of it from old postcards from the 1910s, it was at one time, a beautiful place…lots of orange groves and a Carnegie Library building with an onion dome, an idyllic valley setting. The only places I found beautiful were those spots that were old or left alone and in tune with nature, like the old ranch down the street called the “Bachelors Back Achers” or the old Mission Inn, built in the early 1900s in nearby Riverside. An old stone cottage stood in the wash near our house, that was used as a shooting range…it was a mysterious old structure. Pointing down to the wash was a natural arrowhead shape imbedded in the hill above. Indians looked to this signpost to find a natural hotspring below. The hotspring, for as long as I can remember was a closed off Christian enclave. It had once been the fancy Arrowhead Springs CountryClub in the 1920s. Most of the modern buildings around town looked like trash. It’s that basic sense of discontent and a search for places or things that made me happy or intrigued. I was fairly disconnected and discontented with contemporary culture and retreated to my dad’s painting studio where he had a great record collection and a nice bohemian atmosphere. I was more comfortable around my parents, grandparents and great aunts than with other kids my own age. They told me great stories about New York in the 1930s-50s and about their experiences in the “Old Country”, i.e. Poland. When I visited them I loved to see objects in their homes, clothes in the back of the closets, photographs etc. I became quite a sentimentalist…I love objects and places infused with the presence of a person or a history.
As far as female role models, I had wonderful women around me, strong, lovely, interesting, smart, talented…I didn’t care for the tough-talking, “athletic” unfeminine angle of the “women’s liberation” movement I saw around me in the 1970s. The grown women I knew didn’t seem to be oppressed, in fact, they were ruling their respective roosts. “Bra-burning” wasn’t as interesting to me as going through the lingerie drawers of my lady relatives. I think I am attracted to finding evidence to show that women have always accomplished impressive things and have had no shortage of intelligence, attitude and feminine power, without trying to be “like” men. Which has led me to paw through alot of old books, photographs, printed matter,etc. When I see photos of women from the 1910s,20s 30s…I relate, I see people like me. I look at books and magazines today and I feel like an alien.

Q: You’ve just been on a tour in Japan. What was the experience like to perform in a country with a totally different culture and what do you like about the Japanese audience?

Janet Klein: We love it. This was our third tour in Japan and we have felt very welcomed and comfortable. To our surprise we’ve met and played with talented Japanese groups playing, American string band, jug band, klezmir, 20s hot Hawaiian music there. The clubs are beautiful and well-equipped and our fans have been gracious and enthusiastic. Sometimes girls wear their grandmothers’ kimonos to show me the old fabrics, and bring old photos. I have learned several obscure westernized jazzy Japanese songs from the 30s and recently a well known boogie woogie type tune from 1947, that translates as “The Ginza Can Can Girl”.
I admire Japanese culture very much. They are so careful with their land. It is a very aesthetic place. There seems to be a real preservation of regional specialty and the appreciation of nature is apparent in so many ways. I wish their sensibilities of modesty and politeness and their aesthetics of “small scale refinement” would make their way over to the USA. We could use a good strong dose of that kind of influence.

>>>continue

top
 

an interview with Funsho Ogundipe (Ayetoro)


It’s been a while since I raved about Ayetoro’s The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat). And even though the album was recorded in 2003 it’s still fresh and fans of jazzy Afrobeat (or afrobeaty Jazz) should check it out. The good news is that Vol II will soon be with us (early July 2006). So here’s your chance to learn a little bit more about the man behind Ayetoro, Funsho Ogundipe, in his jazz-not-jazz interview.

Q: You’ve started quite late in your life with playing musical instruments. In fact you’ve never played the piano before you were seventeen. Please tell me how music have changed your live. Was there a certain situtation or moment when it just made click and you know music is your calling?

Funsho Ogundipe: Music has always been there. To me it was only natural.

Q: Where do you see your progress as a musician in the ten years with your band Ayetoro?

Funsho Ogundipe: Interesting. The journey is really the reward in itself. Meeting musicians from different countries and performing together is fantastic. Also learning how to be a band leader and adjusting to the different processes involved in playing live and recording albums in the stuidio. As a musician I cannot be still. I have to create. so the journey has been good for a man of my temprament.

>>>continue

top
 

an interview with Mala Waldron


It’s been a month ago since I reviewed Mala Waldron’s album Always There. If you’re looking for inspiring music soul music with lots of jazz (or jazz music with lots of soul) then Always There is the album for you.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Mala talks about the influence her parents had, why she dedicated three songs to family members and her Soulful Sound imprint amongst others.

Q: Both your parents are professional jazz musicians. How much have they influenced you to become a musician yourself? Did they try to push you in this direction?

Mala Waldron: Fortunately, neither of my parents tried to push me in that way. They seemed to take note of my natural affinity for it, giving me lots of encouragement. As a young child I used to watch my mother rehearsing for performances. Mom started me off with classical piano lessons at age 7 years. When I wasn’t practicing scales or some sonata, I would often go through her sheet music collection looking for something “cool” to play to impress my friends. Sometimes my father took my sister, Lauren, and I on tour with him in the summers. I remember one concert in particular, in Italy where he was scheduled to do a solo performance. I was about 13 years old and recall feeling frightened for him because there were thousands of people at this outdoor festival. I couldn’t imagine what he could do up there all alone to hold this audience’s attention. I saw him take the stage and in a matter of minutes, mesmerize the entire crowd. It was an amazing experience that made a lasting impression on me.

Q: You’ve had the chance to work and record an album with your late father. Please tell me more about this experience.

Mala Waldron: The first time my father and I worked together it was in 1995 during a tour of Japan. Jazz vocalist, Jeanne Lee was also on that tour with us. Dad turned 70 that year so I wrote a song for him called “He’s My Father” and gave it to him as a birthday gift. Later it became the title track of our CD. We decided to make a recording of the songs we were performing. We ended up going to a studio on one of our days off and recorded six tracks. I couldn’t imagine trying to accomplish so much in so little time, but Dad seemed so relaxed about it, I just followed his lead. I did “He’s My Father” and another original piece as solo piano/vocals. We recorded the rest of the tunes as piano duets on two grand pianos. One of my favorites from that recording is a free piece called “Cat and Mouse.” It was totally improvised from start to finish. We didn’t know beforehand what we’d play, but somehow it was decided that I would be the “mouse” and he’d be the “cat” — the rest just unfolded naturally.

>>>continue

top
 

an interview with Kellylee Evans


Kellylee Evans recently impressed me with her all-original album Fight Or Flight?
And it looks Kellylee and I have more in common than just liking her music: Then, I proceeded to do my favourite thing - procrastinate. Well, I’m actually another person who likes to procrastinate things but finally I’ve found the time to copy & paste Kellylee’s jazz-not-jazz interview into my template. So keep on reading to learn more about how Kellylee started writing songs, why she recorded her debut album in NYC, what she had in mind when writing Enough or Rapunzel and much more.

Q: Please tell me something about yourself. When and why did you started singing and writing songs?

Kellylee Evans: I used to only sing standards. Even as a music listener, I found that I wasn’t open to listening to original music in jazz. Pop music, no problem, but for some reason I had this shut down mechanism when it came to jazz. I only wanted to hear songs that were familiar. And sing songs that were at least familiar to me.
I had this music theory teacher that kept telling me that I would never make any money as a singer if I didn’t write my own music. I thought you had to be a born writer. I had co-written a song as a teen with someone I knew, but I didn’t think I would be able to do it on my own. Still, I really respected this teacher and I went out and bought a bunch of books on songwriting. Then, I proceeded to do my favourite thing - procrastinate. I needed something really big to make me focus on writing.
That came one day after I had an ankle roll over playing tennis in the morning and almost ended up dying that evening. I had an allergic reaction to a common over-the-counter drug and went into anaphylactic shock. The next day, I started writing with a vengeance. One of my first songs, “I Don’t Want You To Love Me” ended up on the album. In fact, the album is all my first songs.

Q: Who has influenced and keeps influencing you musically?

Kellylee Evans: I was listening to Abbey Lincoln a lot initially, Sting…Shania Twain. When I say that, people cringe, but I love the way she is able to make songs that people really identify with. I think she’s great. I listen to a lot of soft rock, Coldplay, Keane, Rufus Wainwright, Feist. Every song I wrote seemed to come to me over a dancehall or calypso beat. That definitely speaks to my West Indian heritage (both my parents are from Jamaica). I have a very diverse musical collection - country, jazz, opera, classical, rock, pop, lots of pop, calypso.

>>>continue

top
 

Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys Oh!


I’ve mentioned Janet Klein And Her Parlor Boys some weeks ago and finally I have a copy of her latest (and fifth) album Oh! for a review.
Janet and her Boys are really out there on a mission. And that mission is to keep old jazz and vaudeville from the 1910s, 20s and 30s from sinking into oblivion. Even if you think you’re not into the old stuff, I recommend to pay Janet’s website a visit because here we have an enthusiastic artist totally devoted to her music and wallowing in yesteryears’s design and glory. And with five albums under her belt you can tell that’s really her and not just a clever marketing decision.
Somehow Janet seems to be beamed from the past into our present to make us aware of the beautiful songs and melodies people have written decades ago. Sometimes you hear a few of these songs while watching vintage b&w movies. Whether it be The Jazz Singer (one of the first Vitaphone movies) or movies that featured songs that later became standards like The Bad in Every Man (made famous as Blue Moon) from Manhattan Melodrama, even screwball comedies like The Awful Truth featured scenes with song performances by a (in this case not really talented) songbird, who sang My Dreams Are Gone With the Wind).
And let’s not forget the Screen Songs with the bouncing ball (something like karaoke to sing along in the cinema, Irene Bordoni singing Just A Gigolo for example) and cartoons like the early Betty Boop that featured Cab Calloway (Snow White [St. James Infirmary Blues], Minnie The Moocher, The Old Man Of The Mountain) or Louis Armstrong (I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You).
But Janet has dug much deeper. In an interview with David Reffkin she answered when asked how she finds new material: “I do collect sheet music, in a lot of cases for the beautiful graphics. From the mid-teens through the early thirties, every piece of sheet music, practically, had ukulele arrangements. I mostly work out things from listening to old recordings. Many of these tunes were not particularly meant to be played on ukulele. What works really well are the nice verses, the little prologues to the songs. Along the way the verses came to be considered corny. By the Forties, nobody bothered with these verses. But for me, they’re perfect to be performed rubato…out of time and they set up a story and are great for the ukulele.
(By the way, the Duke University gives us an impression what Janet may have meant with the beautiful graphics).
It’s not only Janet, her singing and her ukulele that bring the old songs back to live. Her Parlor Boys are equally important. With cornet, upright bass, piano, guitar, trombone, sousaphone, mandolin, banjo or accordion amongst others the Parlor Boys provide the perfect musical background.
If you listen closer to the songs there’s one thing that may be the most obvious difference to most of today’s music and that is that the writers of songs like That’s Love, Ida, I Do or Rebecca Came Back From Mecca really cared about the language they used and loved to play with it. The catchy That’s Love (written by Ray Henderson and Lew Brown) for example is a swinging song that’s really funny with its menagerie of comparisons (”When the bull looks at a cow, says eventually ‘Why not now’/ Ladies and gentlemen, that’s love/…/When the toucan at the zoo do what only two can do, Ladies and gentleman, that’s love“). Rebecca Came Back From Mecca features some racy lyrics about a quite emancipated young woman who spend two years in a Sultan’s harem and came back full of new ideas (”And since she got back from the harem/ She’s got clothes, but she don’t wear them.“) [Here’s a longer explanation of this song]
Baltimore is another highlight here. This song by Jimmy McHugh is really a great dance song with a memorable melody.
Sweet Man is one of my favourite tunes with Janet accompanied by the piano only. Here she impersonate the ever true and loyal lover (”He’s as true as I would expect him to be/ And he sees only me/ It’s true, I know, cause he told me so.“)
The daring I’m Busy And You Can’t Come In (originally from 1928) is another fine example that the 1920s were in some way more liberated then the decades that followed. Even today most people may feel a little puzzled if a woman tells you she’s busy rigth now with another.
With nineteen songs on offer there are actually too much to mention every song here. But believe me they are all worthwile and Oh! is a real lovely designed treasure box of long forgotten songs.

Tracklisting of Oh!: 1. Oh!/ 2. Concentratin’ On You/ 3. When the World Is At Rest/ 4. That’s Love/ 5. Baltimore/ 6. Ida I Do/ 7. Who-oo You-oo That’s Who!/ 8. Mon Ami Perdu/ 9. Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me/ 10. Undecided Now/ 11. Sweet Man/ 12. Hello Bluebird/ 13. Little Coquette/ 14. I’m Busy and You Can’t Come In/ 15. Lonesome and Sorry/ 16. Butterflies In the Rain/ 17. If You Hadn’t Gone Away/ 18. Rebecca Came Back from Mecca/ 19. When? | released 2006 Coeur de Jeanette

For more infos visit janetklein.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss the Janet Klein’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

Kellylee Evans Fight Or Flight?


Canada is becoming more and more important upon the map of black music and the attentive readers of jazz-not-jazz surely remember Nick-e, Diane Taylor or LAL. Kellylee Evans is another Canadian who impresses with her debut album full of original songs.
Kellylee was born in Toronto but lives now just outside Ottawa, Ontario. Throughout the years, she performed at various talent shows and was a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir. At the Carleton University she was part of a school jazz combo. Soon she realised that studying law may be fine but her heart was really with music and she eventually pursued a career in music.
And Flight Or Fight?, her debut album, is really an amazing start. To start with, there’s the well photographed cover (yes, I’m always a sucker for a great photo) and unlike most of her peers Kellylee relies only on the strength of her own compostitions.
Kellylee offers a unique blend of jazz, soul, blues and reggae and then some with a few pop overtones on her debut album. “I started getting into jazz before Diana Krall started getting big. Her success really floored me,” Kellylee says. “Growing up, I wanted to be a pop star, but when I started liking jazz so much, I realized I wasn’t going to be pop star famous, but then Diana’s success really got exciting.
The majority of the songs were produced by Lonnie Plaxico and Kellylee and recorded within two days in New York City (January 12-14 2004 to be exact). Only the first two songs were recorded in April 2005 (again in NYC, but co-produced by Carlos Henderson).
The album’s starter What About Me?, is a great haunting slow tune with fine acoustic guitar input by Carl Burnett. The subtle Lead Me Closer is of the same calibre.
The powerful Hooked provides a nice change with its rock influences. The heartfelt I Don’t Want You To Love Me is one of my favourite tracks, here we have a singer torn between one of the greatest emotion and the fear of getting hurt one day (”I don’t want you to love me no, no/ I can’t handle the thought that you would go/ It’s easier if we cut these ties that bind/ Ever tightening as days go by/ This may come as a surprise but/ I don’t want you to love me goodbye/ Don’t think of this as a fear to commit/ My therapist said there’d be days like this/ Though it seemed that our love would go stronger each day/ It did, but I fear this attachment to you/ I know I’m not meant to feel passion this was/ Just as I know that you won’t stay“)
But Kellylee’s lyrics can cut even deeper. On the Latin-tinged title Fight Or Flight? (Help Me, Help You) for example. “That song is all about seeing tragedy and people in need all around you, but not really wanting to get involved; not being sure how far you can get involved,” Kellylee says. “So many people of my generation, we feel apathetic. We feel like if we make a move we’re not gonna be able to effect any change.
The album continues with the bluesy I Don’t Think I Want To Know, which adds further proof to Kellylee’s musical diversity. There’s even some reggae thrown into Let’s Call A Truce Tonight and Rapunzel impresses with a mixture of Spanish and French folk.
Finally there are more traditional jazz songs with How Can You Get Along Without Me? or Enough, which explores jazz in the vicinity of soul music.
With these different influences and styles it may seem that Kellylee tries everything not to get pigeonholed and this album may lack coherence. Quite the contrary, it’s her distinctive voice and her personal lyrics that make this a well-rounded album. To sum it up, Fight Or Flight? is an exceptional and musically diverse debut album.

Tracklisting of Fight Or Flight?: 1. What About Me?/ 2. Lead Me Closer/ 3. Hooked/ 4. I Don’t Want You To Love Me/ 5. Fight Or Flight? (Help Me, Help Me)/ 6. I Don’t Want To Know/ 7. Let’s Call A Truce Tonight/ 8. Rapunzel/ 9. How Can You Get Along Without Me?/ 10. Enough/ 11. Who Knows/ 12. What About Me (Bonus Track) | released May 2006 by Enliven! Media

For more infos visit kellyleeevans.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss Kellylee Evans’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

Ayetoro The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat)


Ayetoro is a Yoruba word that means world of peace. Ayetoro is also the name of a band formed in Nigeria ten years ago in 1996 by Funsho Ogundipe. Funsho has quite an interesting and unusual biography for a musician. He has never played the piano before he was seventeen and he only discovered his deep love for music while he was at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. After he graduated he worked in a law firm for five years and then for the Prudent Merchant Bank (now Prudent Bank). Oddly enough one of his early encounters with a world famous musician ended in disaster. “I remember when I was in Law School, I used to hang out and go and watch Fela play at the Shrine on most Friday evening after school,” Funsho recalls. “There was this day I just walked up to him and told him that I wanted to play the piano. I was wearing a jacket, so I think I must have convinced him. At this time, I didn’t know what they were playing. I didn’t have a clue about what they were doing. So, he took me on stage and put on the piano and I succeeded in making a fool of myself because everybody laughed. I remember one of Fela’s dancers called Folake laughed at me and said ‘You this man, lawyer, Fela friend, you want turn to musician abi? Fuck off men!’ That was in 1988“.
Luckily Funsho didn’t give up then and continued to practise the piano, formed the band Ayetoro and has since then released four albums: Naija Blues (1996), Something Dey (1998), Six Thousand And A Minute (2004) and the Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I, which was already released in 2003. Like most independently released albums the Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I has escaped my notice back then. But as we all know there’s really no expiration date for good music. And Ayetoro’s own blend of afrobeat and jazz, with a strong emphasis on jazz on this album, is simply good music.
The album was recorded in London with no overdubs with Funsho Ogundipe (fender rhodes electric piano), Byron Wallen (trumpet), Robert Fordjour (drums), Linus Bewely (clarinet, soprano sax), Olalekan Babalola (percussion), Ayokunle Odia (tenor sax), Angela Al Hucima (percussion), Orefo Orakwue (fender jazz bass) and Curtis Shaw (guitar).
The album starts with the cheerful From Benin To Belize, a catchy tune with subtextual Latin references. Becklow Gardens (Afrofunkycool) with its tight woodwinds section is just that, afrofunkycool. One of my favourite tracks is Revenge Of The Flying Monkeys (yes, I’m always a sucker for oddly titled songs), an inspiring and danceable afrobeat song, I just wish it would last much longer than its 5:20 minutes.
Blues 4 The Earth Mother is another highlight that shows what a great band Ayetoro is and what beautiful songs Funsho writes. The album’s closer Yoruba Boyz Club can best described as afrobeat meets broken beats done with real instruments. And it features some fine fender rhodes playing by Funsho.
There’s just one letdown with this album and that is, it’s too short with five songs in less than half an hour. Especially the repetitive Yoruba Boyz Club could be a (dancefloor) monster in an extended version that could accent its trance-like qualities.
All in all The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat) is a great album that shows that afrobeat isn’t dead but but very much alive and it flourish if married with jazz and played by talented musicians. Highly recommendable.

Tracklisting of The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat): 1. From Benin to Belize/ 2. Becklow Gardens (Afrofunkycool)/ 3. The Revenge of the Flying Monkeys/ 4. Blues For the Earth Mother/ 5. Yoruba Boyz Club | released 2003 by Funsho Ogundipe

For more infos visit ayetoro.com, sternsmusic.com, cdbaby.com and Funsho’s blog.

[If you want to discuss Ayetoro’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

an interview with Walter Smith III


Now that was really fast…I’ve mailed Walter Smith III my interview questions yesterday night after I’ve written about his highly recommendable debut album Casually Introducing and just a few hours later I already had the answers.
So here’s your chance to learn more about Walter, his music, why he teamed up with a Spanish label for his debut and the inspiration behind the album cover.

Q: You’ve started playing the saxophone at the age of seven. How soon did you know that this is your instrument?

Walter Smith III: I actually started at 7 because my father actually had been a professional saxophone player in New Orleans, and he kind of pointed me in that direction. After a few years it just kind of seemed that once I started to listen to instrumental music that all of my favorite players happened to be saxophonists. That made me really decide to stick with it.

Q: How important were your stays at the Berklee College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music for your musical development?

Walter Smith III: While I was at Berklee, I went through a huge amount of musical growth. Coming to a town like boston, you are surrounded with a lot of guys (and girls) on every level in all genres from all around the world. I felt like I was exposed to lots of different styles of music as well as many different approaches that really helped to encourage and motivate me to practice and learn all that I could from them. I was also able to work with a great trumpet player Darren Barrett weekly, and he was really a mentor to me in terms of exposing me to lots of different possible approaches to improvising. Also Bill Pierce and George Garzone were huge influences on me during my time at berklee. My Manhattan School days were really benificial to me due to the location in New York. I got a chance to be in the scene and work a lot as well as get some wisdom from the great faculty that teaches there. I got a lot of help with my writing from Gary Dial, Phil Markowitz and Dave Liebman.

>>>continue

top
 

Kyoto Jazz Massive 10th Anniversary


Shuya Okino and Yoshihiro Okino aka Kyoto Jazz Massive may have the longest anniversary in history. In 2004 Shuya released FOR KJM, RE KJM and BY KJM on his own Quality Records imprint in Japan. FOR KJM was reviewed almost one year ago on jazz-not-jazz. So another 10th anniversary album may be a little bit late but that’s really nitpicking. It’s the music that counts. And this double album, which will soon be released by the German Compost Records label, features more than enough to keep any discerning fan of quality house, dance and even jazz music happy and grooving.
Most of the tracks from the FOR KJM album appear here as well so if you’ve missed it because it was only available as an obscure and expensive Japanese copy then here’s your chance to finally get the tunes I raved about last year. Don’t worry they still sound fresh and great like Da Lata’s latinesque Ronco Da Cuica, Reel People’s epic Tomorrow Never Comes with Vanessa Freeman at her best, Restless Soul’s delightful Time To Fly, Louie Vega’s classic latin instrumental jazz song Aphrodite or Kyoto Jazz Massive’s own Endless Flight.
Even if you have a copy of FOR KJM (or BY KJM or RE KJM which also feature some songs that appear on this double CD) you want this compilation because it features songs that have been previously available on sometimes hard-to-find 12″es only. There’s the inspiring Quantic remix of KJM’s The Brightness Of These Days (again with vocals by the ubiquitous Vanessa Freeman), the soulful and deep Blaze remix of KJM’s Mind Expansions with vocals by Maiya James or Kenny Dope’s remix of KJM’s Shine with Chris Franck and Guida De Palma on vocals.
One of the many highlights is A Calamaria by Japan’s best female jazz singer Monday Michiru. The epic Sailing Into The Unknown Version with its nine and a half minutes is an enchanting and deep track that starts (and ends) on the cill-out side with waves, piano and Monday’s talking to turn into a great jazz-house song with additional scatting by Monday.
Sleep Walker’s Eclipse is a fast instrumental jazz song with a driving saxophone by Masato Nakamura and an uplifting piano solo by Hajime Yoshizawa.
Behind The Shadow adds a welcome spirituality to this compilation. The song reminds me a lot of songs Alice Coltrane recorded in the late 60s/early 70s. Here we have Earl Zinger (pianica), Ski Oakenfull (piano), Simon Richmond (theremin, percussion) and Pentagon (programming and mix) under the production guidance of Toshio Matsuura (of United Future Organization fame) creating a song that’s already one of my most valuable finds this year. Stunning!
Although this 10th Anniversary compilation combines the best tracks of the previous Japan only released FOR, BY and RE KJM with some additional songs, the result is nevertheless an inspiring and coherent journey into the music of the Kyoto Jazz Massive and like-minded artists. You will hardly find a compilation this year that is musically as diverse as this one.

Tracklisting of 10th Anniversary:
CD1:
01. Kyoto Jazz Massive - “The Brightness Of These Days” - Quantic RMX/ 02. Incognito - “Where Love Shines” - Kyoto Jazz Massive RMX/ 03. Kyoto Jazz Massive - “Endless Flight”/ 04. Restless Soul feat. Rasiyah - “Time To Fly”/ 05. Kyoto Jazz Massive - “Mind Expansions” - Blaze Shelter Sundae Mix/ 06. Kyoto Jazz Massive feat. Chris Franck & Guida De Palma - “Shine” - Kenny Dope RMX/ 07. Domu - “Taking Flight”/ 08. Afronaught feat. Alison David - “Now Or Never”/ 09. Dego & Kaidi Tatham - “Come With Me”/ 10. Reel People feat. Vanessa Freeman - “Tomorrow Never Comes”

CD2:
01. Da Lata - “Ronco Da Cuica”/ 02. Jazztronik - “Shine”/ 03. Louie Vega & The EOL Band - “Aphrodite”/ 04. Monday Michiru - “A Calamaria” - Sailing Into The Unknown Version/ 05. DJ Mitsu The Beats - “Spireedom 2004″/ 06. Sleep Walker - “Eclipse”/ 07. Toshio Matsuura Group - “Behind The Shadow”/ 08. Electric Sheep feat. UA - “The Brightness Of These Days”/ 09. Aurora - “Nacel Do Sol”
released May, 8th 2006 by Compost Records

For more infos visit kyotojazzmassive.com and compost-rec.com.

[If you want to discuss the music on this sampler, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

an interview with Deborah J. Carter


Just like Beautiful Nubia jazz singer Deborah J. Carter has become a constant artist on jazz-not-jazz with three albums reviewed (‘Round Midnight, Girl Talking and recently Deborah’s excellent tribute of Beatles songs Daytripper) and a previous interview featured. It’s good to see that independent artists can establish a career apart from the mainstream and major labels. And of course it’s good to see that these artists support websites like this one.
In her second jazz-not-jazz interview Deborah talks about the Beatles, their songs, her workshops and life in the Netherlands amongst other things.

Q: In the liner notes of Daytripper you are quoted with “I was never the greatest fan of the Beatles themselves but compositions of their calibre are a treasure“. Please tell me why you decided to dig out these treasures.

Deborah J. Carter: There was no ‘digging out’ of these treasures to do. These are songs that kept popping up throughout my lifetime - they still do - and I simply wanted to record them the way they were playing back to me in my head. I had never owned recordings of any of these songs, but the compositions were so familiar to me that by the time I started preparing the initial charts I already knew the chord progressions of most of them. Besides the original Beatles charts themselves I had heard several versions done by other artists of their songs. I think the most impressive of them was Sarah Vaughn’s Beatle’s tribute produced by Toto. I heard that album back in the 80’s and I think since then, I was forever destined to make a Beatle’s tribute album of my own.

Q: Please tell me why of all the songs the Beatles wrote you’ve chosen the eleven songs on the album. Is there a certain story behind the songs you’ve recorded?

Deborah J. Carter: Except for Fixing A Hole - which I first heard four years ago - these are the 11 songs that I knew best and found most interesting to ‘jazzify’ with my trio. The two songs on my album that have been in my repertoire the longest are ‘Something’ and ‘Yesterday’. In both of these songs, the things I liked best about them were the melody and the lyrics; I thought it would be nice to put more elaborate chords underneath. They say ‘less is more’, but now and then ‘more is also more’.

>>>continue

top
 

Walter Smith III Casually Introducing Walter Smith III


The Spanish label Fresh Sound Records is a label eager to release music by new talents but somehow they may lack a few things in the promotion department. Maybe that’s why Walter Smith III contacted me himself to tell me about his debut album. And I’m glad he did.
Hailing from Houston, Texas/USA, Walter began playing the saxophone at the age of seven. In 2002 Walter graduated from the renowned Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Education. In 2003 he began stuying at the Manhattan School of Music to receive a master’s in jazz performance. In between and since then he has performed with what looks like a who’s who of jazz artists (Roy Hargrove, Joe Sample, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Mulgrew Miller or Terence Blanchard to name a few) and even soul/R&B musicians like Bilal, Lauryn Hill or Destiny’s Child. Not being content to play other people’s music Walter took the next step and wrote songs for his debut album and recorded five original compositions with four cover versions for his Casually Introducing album. He’s supported by Reuben Rogers (bass), Aaron Parks (piano, fender rhodes) and Eric Harland (drums) with additional musicians like Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) or Lionel Loueke (guitar).
The album starts with the energy-laden hard bop of Sam River’s Cyclic Episode. By the way the CD cover is a remake of Sam Rivers Fuchsia Swing Song album which also used a fish-eye photograph on a red (fuchsia) background.
Walter’s original composition Kate Song with its beautiful melody adds some soul into the mix with Robert Glasper on fender rhodes and Linoel Loueke and Gretchen Parlato on vocals (actually it’s more humming than singing). If you liked the Marcus Strickland album Brotherhood than that’s the song to start with to discover Walter Smith III.
Tail Of Benin, another original, is an interesting song starting with a solo by Walter which then is modified into some futuristic effects. Benny’s, a song by Lionel Loueke starts as a relaxed slow groove with some fine guitar playing by Lionel himself until the band raises the pace after five minutes and a more ad-lib horn solo gives way for Aaron parks on piano. Great tune.
My personal highlight is Walter’s reading of the Mingus’s composition Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love. On this ballad Walter delivers a moving and soulful solo. If this is the sound of love I really want to be in love so badly.
Walter’s own Wooden Box (Spatula In Three) continues with the calm mood set by Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love while Ornette Coleman’s Peace offers a delightful uplifting vibe. P.O.S. is another fine mellow slow groove. The album’s closer, Blues, is actually a furious hard hitting song representing the wild and angry side of the blues.
The design of the CD with the reference to the Fuchsia Swing Song album and the typographical design of the back are certainly subtle hints that Walter likes to see his music in the tradition of Blue Notes’s halcyon days and judging the quality of songs and playing on Casually Introducing I can only say mission accomplished. A highly recommendable pure jazz album from a young and independent artist.

Tracklisting of Casually Introducing Walter Smith III: 1. Cyclic Episode/ 2. Kate Song/ 3. Tail of Benin/ 4. Benny’s/ 5. Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love/ 6. Wooden Box (Spatula in Three)/ 7. Peace/ 8. P.O.S./ 9. Blues | released 2006 by Fresh Sound Records

For more infos visit waltersmith3.com, freshsoundrecords.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss Walter Smith’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

Deborah J. Carter Daytripper


I must admit that I had my reservations when Mark Zandveld contacted me and told me about a new Deborah J. Carter album of Beatles songs. While I know that Deborah really can adopt a song and make it her own - like she has proved on ‘Round Moonlight and Girl Talking (the latter also features an impressive live version of Yesterday), I wondered if it will really work for a whole album with Beatles songs. And besides I have never been a fan of the Beatles and their music. I know everybody tells you they wrote such great songs. But for me artists like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye or even Prince (after all it was Prince who introduced me to funk and soul back in the 80s) mean so much more because they’ve (and hundreds of other soul and jazz musicians) provided my personal soundtrack of life (and still do).
On the other hand it might be helpful not to be too familiar with the songs of Paul, John, Ringo and George. Of course I know the old chestnuts like With A Little Help From My Friends, Yellow Submarine or Yesterday but I never felt the need to listen to their whole oeuvre. And I remember very well how I hated Yesterday back in school when we discussed this particular song in music classes. Of course jazz or soul never happened in school and the pop music of the Beatles was the most recent kind of music one would hear in school.
So does Daytripper work? Yes, surprisingly well. Actually Deborah makes you forget the bland original versions by putting the songs into new arrangements within a jazz context and just using the melody and lyrics as a foundation to create her own songs. As on her previous albums Deborah is accompanied by her husband Mark Zanveld (bass), Coen Molenaar (piano, keys) and Enrique Firpi (drums). And as a well-rehearsed band they provide the perfect background for Deborah’s rendition of Beatles tunes.
Can’t Buy Me Love for example celebrates its resurrection as a soulful jazz song. What a great way to start this album. And I Love Her/Him is done as a moving ballad. Things get a little funkier and upbeat on Ticket To Ride with extra percussion by Daniel Patriasz.
The old chesnut Yesterday resurfaces as acoustic guitar driven midtempo song (thanks to Ed Verhoeff on guitar) with a slight Spanish touch. Did I ever say, I don’t like the songs Lennon & McCartney composed? Well, by all means I do like the way Deborah handles these songs. Daytripper for example brings us the best of soul and jazz with warm Fender Rhodes and a swinging Deborah. Oh! Darling gets revamped as releaxed late night bar jazz.
Most people may associate With A Little Help From My Friends more with Joe Cocker than with the Beatles and Joe’s version certainly has been mimiced to death by an endless numbers of impersonator. Of course, Deborah doesn’t fall for that trap. Instead she reflects upon her principle to identify a good song. “It must have a well-constructed melody and harmonies. If I can play a song I like on the piano with no extras - strings, horns, studio effects - and still love it, then it passes the test.“, she told in her jazz-not-jazz interview a few years ago.
So With A Little Help From My Friend is stripped down to the song’s core with just Coen Molanaar on piano and Deborah’s heartfelt vocal input.
To sum it up Daytripper is an impressive showcase for Deborah J. Carter and her band to show their ability to adopt even the most well-known composition to come up with something new you haven’t heard before.

Tracklisting of Daytripper - A Beatles Tribute: 1. Can’t Buy Me Love/ 2. And I Love Her/ 3. Ticket To Ride/ 4. Yesterday/ 5. a - Daytripper/ b - Trippin’ (Vocalese)/ 6. a - I Will/ b - Here, There, And Everywhere/ 7. Something 4:22/ 8. Fixing A Hole 3:14/ 9. Oh! Darling 4:06/ 10. Things We Said Today 3:55/ 11. With A Little Help From My Friends | released 2006 Timeless Records

For more infos visit deborahjcarter.com and timelessjazz.com.

[If you want to discuss the Deborah J. Carter’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

Edsel Gomez Cubist Music


Cubist Music? What the hell may that be? Music made with cubes? Music made for cubist? Well, not really. In fact, pianist and composer Edsel Gomez has recorded a fine jazz album made with traditional instruments that should appeal to listeners of more intellectual instrumental jazz music.
Cubism is defined as an avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture in the early 20th century.In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form — instead of rendering objects from a single fixed angle, the artist depicts the subject from multiple angles simultaneously as an attempt to present the subject in the most complete manner. Often the surfaces of the facets, or planes, intersect at angles that show no recognizable depth. The background and object (or figure) planes interpenetrate one another creating the ambiguous shallow space characteristic of cubism. It was a complete and clearly defined aesthetic.
Edsel’s main aim was to approach the music from a cubist angle. “The basic principle of Cubist music is very simple and can change the way a musician improvises instantly,” he says. “In very much the same way a Cubist painting portrays an image by combining cubes or building blocks, this concept consists of a search for melodies or patterns that are perceived to have a beginning and an end,” he explains. “I call these melodic motifs or complete unit patterns we search for ‘unitifs.’ For this recording, musicians were requested to search for these unitifs within their improvised lines and build their solos by juxtaposing and contrasting different unitifs just like cubes in a Cubist painting.
Still sounds rather academically, doesn’t it? It becomes much clearer if you read what Edsel says about the first time he thought about cubist music after moving to New York in 1997. “I would go out to different places and hear so many great players who have so much music to offer. Everywhere you go in New York, even on the subway, you find somebody playing great. So I would hear all of this stuff and remember what somebody would play — maybe one phrase that caught my attention. And I would think, ‘If I could just play one idea and then construct another idea to this one where one is fueled by another; if I could take the ideas that I like and just make a music out of those little ideas, that would be something unique.’
So Cubist Music is Edsel’s unique way to create a tapestried patchwork of music with enough room for improvising that takes influences from various sources to create something new.
Edsel recorded his Zoho debut album with Don Byron (clarinet), David Sanchez (tenor sax), Miguel Zenon (alto sax), Steve Wilson (alto sax), Gregory Tardy (tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute), Drew Gress (acoustic bass) and Bruce Cox (drums).
With thirteen original and musical varied compositions (all by Edsel Gomez except for Molly which was written by producer and clarinetist Don Byron) there’s enough to keep the discerning listener happy. There’s the fast, energy-ridden opener NYC Taxi Ride, that captures the chaos of overcrowded streets. The furious, fragmented Ladybug reminds me of late last summer when an invasion of ladybugs caused some confusion. Personally I think Edsel’s cubist music works best in its quieter moments like the tribute to the Puerto Rican trombonist and longtime Duke Ellington sideman Juan Tizol, the excellent solo piano song The “Adoracion” Variations or Coqui Serenade, a song that tries to re-create the sound of small tree frogs, that are endemic to Puerto Rico and have become an unofficial national symbol of Puerto Rico. Another favourite is the haunting Empty House that finds Edsel in inspiring conversation with bassist Drew Gress. Thanks to Drew’s bowed bass this song has a really captivating quality.
All in all Cubist Music is an inspiring album that may need a few plays but then it rewards the persistent listener with its very own beauty.

Tracklisting of Cubist Music: 1. Wolfville/ 2. To the Lord/ 3. The Minetta Triangle/ 4. Lady Bug/ 5. Juan Tizol/ 6. The 3 – 3 Clave/ 7. Empty House/ 8. Coqui Serenade/ 9. W 54th Street Theme/ 10. NYC Taxi Ride/ 11. The “Adoracion” Variations/ 12. Harmolodic Collage/ 13. Molly | released 2006 by Zoho

For more infos visit edselgomez.com, zohomusic.com and cdbaby.com.

[If you want to discuss Edsel Gomez’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

Mala Waldron Always There


Music certainly runs in Mala Waldron’s family. Her dad was jazz pianist/composer Mal Waldron and Mala had the opportunity to play and record with her father. In 1995 while touring Japan Mala and her father Mal recorded an album entitled He’s My Father. Later Mala released her debut solo release, Lullabye. Both records were only released in Japan which makes Always There Mala’s first independent release in her home country USA.
Mala’s music has a pleasant warm and organic sound that combines the best of the soul and jazz world. Early records by Roberta Flack spring to mind or Vivienne McKone if you have to have a comparison. All songs except one were written and arranged by Mala. Some of the songs were written back in the mid 90s, some a few years ago so that Always There is like a Best Of of the Mala Waldron songbook.
Mala recorded Always There with a bunch of talented musicians she met over the years like bassist Miriam Sullivan, Steve Salerno (guitars) and Michael “T.A.” Thompson (drums, percussion).
The album starts with the soulful Whispers In The Wind, a great midtempo soul/jazz tune with fine keyboard playing by Mala. It may be hard to beat such a highlight but Because Of You shows no backlash. This beautiful midtempo soul song is about a new love that provides you with new energy and lets you see the world in a brighter light…ah, we all know this feeling and wish it may last forever.
Mala continue to deliver the good stuff with the album’s title track Always There, which is not a cover of the famous song by Ronnie Laws but an original composition by Mala. Always There is a slow, bluesy song that sees Mala pleading to a higher power to find “that the light still shines in this heart of mine“.
The delightful Too Good For Words provides a welcome change of pace. This swinging jazz song features some fine scatting by Mala.
Three of the songs are dedicated to Mala’s family members. The mellow, retrospective I Do Remember You is dedicated to her grandmother Mardi, while Ellie, an uptempo song with a scatting tour de force by Mala, is devoted to her mother. The heartfelt Proud Lion, finally, is her tribute to her father.
Add to this other highlights like the soulful Why (When I Say Goodbye), Can’t Stop Thinking About You or Mala’s inspiring rendition of The Door’s Light My Fire and you have a highly recommendable album full of quality soul and jazz tunes.

Tracklisting of Always There: 1. Whispers in the Wind/ 2. Because of You/ 3. Always There/ 4. Too Good For Words/ 5. I Do Remember You/ 6. Ellie/ 7. Why (When I say Goodbye)/ 8. Can’t Stop (Thinking About You)/ 9. Light My Fire/ 10. Proud Lion/ 11. Maybe It’s Not So | released 2006 by Soulful Sound Music

For more infos visit alwaysthere-cd.com, soulfulsound.com and cdbaby.com.

[edit: Mala Waldron will host a CD Release Event/Concert at The Jazz Standard, 116 E. 27th Street, New York, NY, on Monday, March 27, 2006, 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm sets, $15 cover, no minimum.]

[If you want to discuss Mala Waldron’s music, you can leave your comment below and also use the forum]

top
 

an interview with Danny Green


Past Due by the Caballero-Verde Quintet was a welcome breath of fresh (Latin) air last month full of grooves that makes me long for summer finally to appear.
In the meantime the Quintet has been re-named the Danny Green Quintet with Ian Tordella on saxes and flute replacing trumpeter Bill Caballero.
In his jazz-not-jazz interview Danny Green talks about the new energy Ian Tordella has brought to the group, his love for Latin music, his other groups Gente Fina and Trece de la Suerte and much more.

Q: Please tell me something about yourself. You’ve started quite early with music at the tender age of five. How pushy were your parents back then?

Danny Green: My parents were always supportive of my piano studies. They were never overly pushy, but they made sure that I practiced and was prepared for my lessons. I think I went through phases where I really enjoyed practicing as well as phases where practicing felt like a chore. Around the age of twelve, I got pretty tired of the music I was playing and decided to quit taking lessons. Of course my parents were disappointed that I wanted to quit after seven years of lessons, and so my father bought me my first keyboard with the idea that it would keep me interested in music. He was right. I started playing around with the sounds and connecting it to the computer. Soon I started learning how to play the music that I was into by ear, and from that point on, music became a passion instead of a chore. The only pushiness then from my parents was to stop playing so that they could sleep at night.

Q: Who has influenced you musically and how did you discover your love for Latin jazz?

Danny Green: I have had a ton of musical influences throughout the years. I studied jazz piano with Kamau Kennyata at UCSD for three years, and he would definitely stand out as a major influence. My classical teachers, John Mark Harris and Luciane Cardassi, have also been very influential as well as Rick Helzer, who I am currently studying jazz with. As far as artists go, there are so many to mention. I’ve always been very interested in the mixing of styles, and so my two biggest jazz and Latin jazz influences are Brad Mehldau and Danilo Perez. They both have such unique sounds which touch on their roots and move forward at the same time. Other musicians that have influenced me include Chano Dominguez, Caetano Veloso, Wayne Shorter, Ernan Lopez-Nussa, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdes, Paquito d’Rivera and Ruben Gonzalez. I tend to go through phases where I spend months listening to a specific musician or composer. For the past two years, I’ve been immersing myself in the music of Rachmaninoff. I learned his Second Piano Concerto, and I’m working on the third. More recently, I’ve started doing a lot of listening to Mahler’s symphonies (especially No.2 and 8).
I’ve been into Latin music for about six years. My first exposure to it was seeing the Buena Vista Social Club documentary. Shortly after seeing it, I got some of their albums and started playing along to the music. Eventually I checked out Chucho Valdes and Irakere and fell in love with that music. Through friends and other musicians, I kept hearing of more and more Latin Jazz artists.

>>>continue

top
 

an interview with Jonny Enright (Grupo X)


Grupo X’s second album Food For Your Latin Soul is a must-have soulful Latin jazz album. Period. And when temperatures will (hopefully) rise soon in Europe it will sound even better. If things work out, there will also be a vinyl EP with remixes by Rich Medina and Bobbito Garcia to be released this summer as Jonny Enright, head of Grupo X, mentions in his jazz-not-jazz interview. Read on to learn more about the group’s name, their influences, how they teamed up with Lisa Millett and much more.

Q: It’s been almost six years since Grupo X released their debut album. What happened in the six years and why did it take you so long to come up with a second album?

Jonny Enright: The last few years seem like a blur, with one thing and another. When X-Posure came out were really working hard as a band, touring and promoting the album and EPs. In the summer of 2001 we started recording the follow up album at a studio in Hoxton, North London, and things were going really well; in fact we just about finished five tunes. Then I became a father for the first time and, not surprisingly, the project stopped for a while. After a while we got back into recording, but it was a bit more of slow process, due to lack of money and time and the guys in the band being busy with other projects.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, at the end of 2003, brimming with ideas, Jimmy and myself had a writing session up in Yorkshire, where my family now lives. We got most of the remaining tunes done and booked ’60s analogue-based Toe Rag studio in East London to record the band. It was like stepping back in time. Even the ‘phone was from the ’60s (and I don’t think the toilets had been cleaned since the ’60s). Aside from the conditions, we had a few really good sessions with engineer Ed Deegan and I think we really captured the live sound of the band.
By the end of 2004, Simon Edwards (our bass player) had taken the project by the scruff of its neck and remixed the tunes in his studio and given the tunes a veneer and punch that had been a bit lacking. We felt we just needed a couple more songs to get the album right, so we went into Ed’s studio (Gizzard) in East London and finished off the recording, apart from a few overdubs, which we did at mine and Simon’s as well as some flute at Finn’s.
So that’s the story. Although it’s been a long, drawn-out process at times, we’re really pleased with the final result. And we promise to be quicker with the next one!

Q: Please tell me something about the group’s history. How you’ve met the group members, how you came to be called Grupo X and what’s your motivation and the musical vision you share.

Jonny Enright: Grupo X came out of Jimmy Le Messurier’s successful UK 11-piece salsa band La Clave, formed in the mid ’80s. I joined the band in 1991, whilst still at music college. We were really busy, playing three or four times a week in the UK and making regular trips around Europe. We used to get asked to do weddings and parties from time to time, so Jimmy started a cut-down version of the band called Hijos De La Clave (Sons of La Clave). We got together a good repertoire of classic salsa; tunes by Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto (RIP), Mon Rivera and the gigs went down well. Jimmy had his hands full with La Clave, so I offered to run the band.
We got asked to do a gig in Richmond Town Hall (this was in 1996). The booking agent didn’t like the name we had (she was a bit fussy) and asked me to find another, so I said “Grupo X.” It was a bit tongue-in-cheek; the idea was that we were this new mysterious band, when in fact we were all from La Clave. So that’s how we became Grupo X.
After we’d done a few gigs as Grupo X, I started to take the band a bit more seriously and began writing for it. We’d been playing together for so long (in one shape or form) that we had a really good natural groove and understanding. We were all into the same kind of music, Latin and non-Latin and we were really good mates. Not a bad basis to start from!
By about 1998 we were starting to get club gigs up and down the country in clubs like the Underground in Leeds and the Toucan in Cardiff. The scene was quite new and fresh and people wanted to hear good live bands. We found we were going down really well with our audiences. They liked our groove and found us good to dance to. We were still essentially a salsa band, but we’d started to get into boogaloo and Latin Jazz. It was a matter of finding what style suited us as a band and what went down the best with the crowds.

>>>continue

top