Stunningly Beautiful New Music

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Clare Fischer – Out Of The Blue
Clavo Records

Dr. Clare Fischer, keyboards, composer, arranger; Brent Fischer, producer, arranger, all percussion instruments & bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Mike Shapiro, drums; Denise Donatelli, vocals; John Proulx, vocals.

Here is another amazing album featuring the genius and talents of Dr. Clare Fischer. In keeping with his son’s devout determination to promote and produce his late father’s work, this project is the long-term result of Brent Fischer archiving the written music library of his famous dad. The elder Fischer chose to record a number of his own compositions, as well as songs dear to his heart, right up to the end of his life on earth. These recordings reflect his spontaneity, arrangement mastery and creativity. Unbelievably, most reflect the ‘first take’. Dr. Fischer rarely allowed himself more than two takes at a session, believing the important, emotional content was always strongest during the first or second take. Consequently, imperfections are kept for the greater good of his performances. His son continues that practice today.

“Someday My Prince Will Come” is ethereal and Clare Fischer’s sensitive piano playing reminds me of a music box. I would love to open my jewelry box and hear this arrangement play just the way this great man recorded it. He often layered songs. In this case, combining “When You Wish Upon A Star” with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” as a medley of compositions from Walt Disney’s motion pictures. Both of these songs went on to cross all musical classification, and recorded hundreds (if not thousands) of times by all kinds of artists, including jazz icons like Miles Davis, Grant Green, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Leon Spencer Jr., and Bill Evans.

This album is a rare treasure that I could not stop listening to because of the emotional context of the music and how it connected to me. You can hear the genius of Dr. Fischer’s piano performances and the love he puts into every song. The younger Fischer (Brent) knows just how to embellish his father’s arrangements and thoughtfully enhances his dad’s solo performances by adding some of the best jazz players available including pianist/vocalist John Proulx (who sings on the title tune along with Grammy nominated vocalist Denise Donatelli). Other respected jazz artists like Peter Erskine and Mike Shapiro add tasty drums to various tunes and passages. They are artfully woven into the fabric of this project. You will find this artistic work a ‘coat of many colors’ full of bright, Latin flavor and subtle melancholy blue tones, like on “Two For the Road” written by Mancini that nearly brought me to tears. It was so beautiful! Brent Fischer adds his bass and percussion to appropriately enrich this production. As an eager listener, I’m full of gratitude that his skill in rescuing and producing Dr. Fischer’s music, from archives of brilliance, continue to propel his dad’s talents into the forefront of great music.

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Aliquo & Adair – Too Marvelous For Words
Adair Music Group

Don Aliquo, alto and tenor saxophones; Beegie Adair, piano; Roger Spencer, bass; Chris Brown, drums.

Here is a tight quartet playing straight ahead jazz standards in a bebop fashion. It takes me back to the 1950’s and 60’s.. Beegie Adair is a Nashville pianist with a strong sense of swing. Don Adair is proficient on both alto and tenor saxophones. They’ve picked songs composed between 1937 and 1952 that feature composers like Billy Strayhorn, Rodgers & Hart, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Duke Ellington & Johnny Mercer. This familiar material alone is enough to satisfy the most critical ear. “Day Dream” is one of my all time favorites by Ellington/Strayhorn/LaTouche and Aliquo caresses it with real confidence and sensitivity. Adair has an easy, breezy style that always surprises with the most engaging chord inversions and seemingly simplistic innovation, but she’s a master who plays in the pocket of the groove with adept hands. Spencer on bass and Brown on drums hold the production in place with their tight rhythms and musicality. Brown offers an excellent drum solo on Monk’s “Bye-Ya”. I’m so glad this quartet introduced me to the Strayhorn song, “Isfahan”. Beautiful! This recording was so nice I played it twice, and enjoyed it even more the second time around.

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Ariel Pocock – Touchstone
Justin Time Records

Ariel Pocock, piano/pump organ/vocals; Larry Grenadier, bass; Julian Lage, guitar; Eric Harland, drums & percussion; Seamus Blake, tenor saxophone.

Ariel Pocok has a vocal tone that is alluring, fresh and stands out from the number one cut, produced with only drums and vocals. “Exactly Like You” never sounded so original. I enjoyed Pocock scatting against open space and rhythm, with no harmonic instrument to guide her. She lets her audience know, right off the bat, that she has good pitch, good sense of time and is comfortable with improvisation. There is sincerity in her presentation and it’s refreshing. Not only does she sing well, she is an excellent pianist. Her classical roots are solid. But it’s her sense of style and her ability to wrap technical training into the freedom of jazz that’s appealing to this reviewer. Her music influences seem to float somewhere between folksongs and Thelonius Monk with tinges of Chick Corea and Bill Evans popping up now and then. On the other hand, her voice is a pleasant mix of Joanie Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, but always with her own unique coloring and phrasing in each presentation. Only twenty-two years old and a recent graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, Pocock is based in North Carolina. I believe her to be a rising star on the horizon of popularity. There is an open space in the jazz community for a talent like hers.

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Catina DeLuna – Lado B Brazilian Project (featuring Otmaro Ruiz)
Independent Label

Catina DeLuna, vocal/piano/body percussion; Otmaro Ruiz, piano/accordion/ arrangements; Larry Koonse, guitars; Edwin Livingston, bass; Aaron Serfaty, drums; Alex Acuna, percussion; Bob Sheppard, flute; Nick Mancini, marimba; Mike Shapiro, percussion; Clarice Cast, percussion; Greg Beyer, percussion.

Her voice is clear, poignant; flush with feeling. I am entranced. When you listen to Cantina DeLuna, (or any world artist who is not performing in English), you begin listening with your whole body, not just ears. Perhaps, because you can not understand their language, you begin listening for the emotion. DeLuna puts plenty of feeling into each of these eleven compositions, both vocally and on the piano. This production, along with the artist and her competent Lado B Band, transports me to Brazilian shores. Something about this production reminds me of an old friend of mine, the famed Brazlian composer, Moacir Santos. “Ipanema” takes on a whole new meaning when DeLuna and ensemble approach this familiar standard by Jobim. They have spiced it up with an arrangement full of creativity and surprisingly beautiful, with unexpected chord progressions. The melody remains solid, rigid atop the arrangement like a gliding seagull, flying above a beautiful wave. This is 63 minutes of rich, lovely compositions and creative arrangements. DeLuna’s voice soars above the mix; helping to paint a fresh face on tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Pixinguinha, Egberto Gismonti and others. Tradition is respected, but the arrangements make a modern statement. The choir voices on “Chovendo Na Roseira” are startlingly provocative and add wonderful depth to this piece as they harmonically chant, “Here comes the rain.” DeLuna whisks me to Africa with her folksy and child-like rendition of “O Canto Da Ema.” Several Los Angeles musicians are featured on this piece of CD art, including Edwin Livingston on bass, Larry Koonse on guitars, and Bob Sheppard on flute to name only a few of the great players herein.  The album foreword is written by Tierney Sutton.

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Cesar Orozco & Kamarata Jazz – No Limits For Tumbao

Cesar Orozco, piano/keyboards; Rodner Padilla, elec. bass; Francisco Vielma, percussion; Euro Zambrano, drums; and featuring guest artists:Paquito D’Rivera, Pedrito Martinez, Gary Thomas, Yosvany Terry, Luisito Quintero, Vladimir Quintero, Linda Briceño, Pablo Bencid, Zamira Briceño.

As the familiar Latin beat of Tumbao filled my room with energy and excitement, I began to read the linear notes on Cesar Orozco’s recording. I learned something quite interesting. Tumbao, for Latin music, is what ‘swing’ is for jazz. I had never thought about it that way. It’s said that if Latin music is missing the addictive rhythm of Tumbao, it loses its authenticity. That’s certainly no problem on this CD. It is soaked in Tumbao. Orozco’s original music is well written and very jazzy, with his special guests and core musicians eager to improvise on the Orozco themes. The artist is a Venezuelan native and he’s incorporated the Afro-Latin call and response chants into some songs, along with Cuban-flavored rhythms and Venezuelan Merengué. His special guests bring authenticity to the project, incorporating Afro-Venezuelan drums and multi-percussive dimensions. Rodner Padilla plays some beautiful electric bass licks and sparkling grooves that caught my ear like a dangling diamond. But Orozco is the star of this recording throughout, setting the pace and playing with passion and excellence.

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Sinne Eeg – Eeg-Fonnesbaek
Stunt Records

Sinne Eeg, vocals; Thomas Fonnesbaek, bass

Sinne Eeg is publicized as the premiere Danish jazz vocalist and preeminent jazz vocalist of Scandinavia. From the very first familiar strains of “Willow Weep for Me”, I found myself captivated by her power and tone. This is an album of bravery and improvisation. It features only two musicians; voice and bass. Having worked many years as a duo, I know the challenge of having no other musicians to interact with or to share time and stage. The weight is on two performers who stand naked before their audience. It either brings out the best in you, kindles your creativity and inspires and audience, or tears a hole in your confidence. Madame Eeg handles it with grace and tenacity. Her bio explains that she has recorded seven other albums before this one, all of which were lushly produced. This is her first duo recording and features Thomas Fonnesbaek, an award winning Danish bassist. Consequently the title, of this CD represents both artists; Eeg and Fonnesbaek. I enjoyed listening to Eeg’s crystal clear tones and improvisational scats. There was one exception; “Evil Gal Blues”. Ms. Eeg sounds way too sweet and friendly to attack such a formidable, threatening blues song. The ‘evil’ was missing in the song and that’s the gist of the lyrics. The meat of that particular blues song is anger – that attitude was simply missing. Otherwise, every standard jazz song on this album is beautifully represented by both musicians. Favorites are “You Don’t Know What Love Is”; “Beautiful Love”; and “Come Rain or Shine”, where Fonnesbaek plays a visceral solo and I do hear the ‘blues’ in Eeg’s voice become prominent on this tune.

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Kim Nalley – Blues People
Kim Nalley Jazz Singer Productions – Independent label

Kim Nalley, singer/songwriter; Tammy Hall, piano & organ; Greg Skaff, guitar; Michael Zisman, bass; Kent Bryson, drums; Bryan Dyer, background vocals.

There are trace influences of Nina Simone, Rachelle Ferrell and Big Mable that permeate this artists’ style and delivery. Like Simone, she includes protest music on this recording, including a song titled, “Ferguson Blues”. Ms. Nalley is blues to the bone, and flaunts a powerhouse vocal with minimal production. She conjures up juke joints & Bessie Smith with her traditional blues songs and presentation, slamming them in your face like a heavy, oak wood door. Her vocal range is over three octaves and Nalley uses every bit of those to attack her songs like hot grits on skin. Her music burns and sticks to you. I can imagine her as a tour-de-force on stage. Awarded “Most influential African American in the Bay Area” in 2005, she’s already referred to as “legendary” and a “San Francisco Institution”, remaining extremely popular in the Bay Area. But this woman is no local vocal. She’s performed from concerts in Moscow to those at Lincoln Center in NYC. Nally is on the faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory and is a Ph.D candidate at UC Berkeley’s history department with plans to write her dissertation on the Globalization of Jazz and Black Cultural politics.

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