CD/LP/Track Review

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Benny Bailey / Nashville Big Band: A Bird in the Hand

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To accentuate the positive: A Bird in the Hand is Georgia-based drummer Ben Bailey's debut album as a big-band leader, and a splendid one it is, thanks to Bailey's ample talents and those of the Nashville Big Band. The recording arose from a chance meeting in 2011 when another well-known timekeeper, Duffy Jackson, traveled to from Nashville to Atlanta as featured artist with a band in which Bailey was the regular drummer. A bond of friendship and respect was formed, and shortly afterward Jackson phoned to ask if Bailey would like to come to Tennessee to record with Jackson's band. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

DIVA: A Swingin' Life

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As if being the premier all-female big band on the planet weren't enough, DIVA has enlisted the services of two purebred divas--Nancy Wilson and Marlena Shaw--to enrich its latest album, A Swingin' Life, recorded live at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (November 2011) and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center (September 2012). Wilson and Shaw are more than window dressing, giving their all on five of the album's eleven numbers. Wilson brings out the best in Sammy Cahn / Jimmy van Heusen's b-level standard, “All My Tomorrows," and the far more congenial (and swinging) “All of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Yeager: Affirmation

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No sophomore slump for pianist Jason Yeager. His trio disc Affirmation actually has the feel of a mature artist's fourth, fifth, and sixth recording. Maybe that is because he has preserved his working trio of bassist Danny Weller and drummer Matt Rousseau from his initial offering Ruminations (Inner Circle Music, 2011) or possibly it's his ability to integrate varying musical concepts without sounding imitative. Yeager's piano, under the tutelage of Danilo Perez, masterfully pulls from jazz, classical, blues and pop music with a seamless approach that yields a coherent and consistent document. He pulls bits of Thelonious Monk-speak ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tom Barton: Aspirations

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Australian vocalist Tom Barton aspires to blur the lines between genres on this debut. Electronic and acoustic thoughts merge and co-exist beautifully, improvisational elements are born around concrete expressions, and in the middle of it all sits Barton, putting his poetry in motion with beautifully clear-headed vocals. While the gist of many an album can be gleaned from a single track, Aspirations doesn't work that way. If someone were to simply stumble upon Barton's take on “Spencer The Rover," they might mistake him for a modern folk troubadour. And if Bjork fans were to encounter his slowed-down, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

New Zealand School of Music Big Band: Awright Awright

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It's hard to believe this is a school band, no matter what the level. Music director Rodger Fox, a seasoned trombonist who leads his own play-for-pay band, must be extremely pleased and proud of what his students at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington have accomplished, as their third album, Awright Awright, is superlative from start to finish. The first five numbers, in fact, offer a textbook lesson in how big-band jazz should feel and sound. The ensemble is solid, the rhythm section sharp, the soloists aggressive and engaging. That's not to imply that things ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kate Williams: Atlas & Vulcana

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Atlas and Vulcana formed a strongman and strongwoman act--Vulcana's real name was Kate Williams--whose feats of strength were renowned in Victorian and early twentieth century Britain. Pianist and composer Kate Williams (no relation, presumably) takes inspiration from the couple in titling this album and two of its tracks. Atlas & Vulcana has its own strengths--no brute force, but plenty of power and dynamism. Williams has written some stunning tunes: she's also brought together a septet of some of the finest players in the UK. The combination is a winning one.Williams' 2011 album, Made Up (Kwjazz) was also a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Brad Gibson: Poontet

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Seattle drummer Brad Gibson's second release as a leader Poontet is a spicy batch of soulful grooves that belong on the soundtrack of a 1970s gritty detective film. Heavily reliant on electric instrumentation and densely atmospheric these half a dozen tracks are short on improvisational rigor without being mundane. They also allow for some soloing room for the members the sextet to showcase their individual styles. The funky “I Hope U Make It Dirty" for instance features Gibson's percolating beats paired with bassist Jason Gray deeply resonant reverberations laying down loose hypnotic, vamps. Saxophonist Bryan Smith's muscular, agile ...



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