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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

1000+.....and counting

Sometime yesterday, this blog logged its 1000th visitor.
- and with our first anniversary coming up to boot
Just would like to say a big thank you to
everyone who's checked out Jazzofonik over these
past 12 months - and greater thanks to those of
you who've commented and sent e-mails

By God's grace we'll continue to do our part
[however small]in keeping this music alive. Its been a great
trip so far and I pray you'll stay with me

Versonic @ Red Bones

The up 'n' coming combo Versonic Vibes
brings their multi-element hybrid to the
Red Bones Blues Cafe this Friday (Jul. 1)
Includes sax, bass, steel pan (excellent)
drums and violin (and any other instrument
that may occur to them to throw into the mix).
Deserving of wider recognition for sure

Monday, June 27, 2005

Correction to releases post

The previous post should have ericalexanderjazz.com
and not simply ericalexander.com as the webiste
reference for Eric Alexander. Apologies
for the error

Recommended releases

Terence Blanchard: Flow - Blue Note;
Eric Alexander: Dead Centre - High Note;
Randy Lippincott: Soul Monkey -GP Recordings

I've been playing the Blanchard disc several times
over - its great. The Alxander record was an impulse
pick-up after their smokin' live set to close the
Ocho Rios jazz festival - It took some time but the
record has definitely grown on me - A Few Miles From
Memphis and Sonrisa are my faves. Randy Lippincottt is
a bad-ass blues guitarist and (from my meeting with him
during Ocho Rios jazz) an all-round good human being. This
is a rocking good CD - Nightshade (an original), Stop Runnin'
Behind Me and Uhhh! are just a few of the highlights

for more info (in reverse order):

Pray for Michael brecker

Came across item in NY Times that stated that the great
tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker has been diagnosed
witha serious blood disorder. Our prayers for
complete healing go out to him and for strength
to his loved ones friends and colleagues

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"THREE X FOUR" - Ocho Rios jazz review

Other band formats came and delivered good accounts of
themselves (this writer arrived after the reportedly good
performance by the Antelope Valley Big Band), but its arguable
that the final day of the 2005 Ocho Rios Jazz Festival belonged
to quartets.

The first such to greet us was the effervescent Kathy Brown group,
comprising Brown on keyboards and the now road-tested trio (with
Brown and other groups) of Dale Brown on electric bass, Denver Smith
on percussion and Deleon "Jubba" White on drums. One of the real gems
to have emerged in jazz over the last several years, Brown never gives
you the same tune twice and even her oft-performed numbers, like The
Flinstones theme, and Afro-Blue were presented on Sunday last with some
interesting, if minor variations. The group also played a Cuban compositon
entitled The Light that went over well with the audience.

After their departure, another large aggregation took the Almond Tree stage.
Billed as a tribute to ska, theirs was a meandering albeit energetic set
that saw, founder/leader Errol Lee also hailing Ocho Rios festival founder
Sonny Bradshaw and others associated with the event. Lee, aided and abetted
by festival sponsors bMobile, also encouraged some audience participation
to the lively ska numbers, as well as a hilarious sing-along in which the
contestant – clearly a foreigner - warbled his best Bob Marley, blissfully
out of tune and pace with the band.

The next foursome brought a change of pace to the festival, at a time
when organizers were beginning to "chase the sun" as it were (the garden
setting with its gazebo are not equipped for a nightime show). Black
Zebra saw the return of Brown on bass, along side Richie Cunningham on
the trap set. Up front were Mark Pritchett and Wayne McGregor, who did
a virtual quickstep through a part-tribute to Delta blues legend Muddy Waters
, including "The Blues Had A Baby" the salacious "You Shook Me" and I’ve Go to
be Goin Home". They threw in Gary U.S. Bonds’ "New Orleans" and closed in
customary fashion with Steve Winwood’s "Gimme Some Lovin’" the latter featuring
some heavier-than-usual pedal effect work by Pritchett especially.

The blues was just the right platform for the next guest, Philly storyteller
and guitarist Randy Lippincott, who brought his laid-back humour and fluid
acoustic guitar lines to the likes of Robert Johnson’s "Kind-hearted Woman"
The only lament in this case was that Lippincott’s band could not accompany
him to Jamaica. That would have enabled the audience to experience some of
the rollicking bar-burners on his excellent CD, Soul Monkey.

The "Philly Posse" extended their presence with the arrival of the sax-vocal
tandem of Byard Lancaster and Barbara Walker. The poignancy of the absence of
the festival’s founders and spearheads, was much in evidence as Walker dedicated
an intense reading of Simon & Garfunkel’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to
Myrna Hague. Walker, ably supported by Marjorie Whylie on piano also showed
characteristic gusto and tonal control on blues chestnuts like "I Ain’t
Doin’ Too Bad" (with a snatch of "Everyday I Have The Blues" thrown in),
her own "One Eyed Man" and, in a nod to her home state, ‘Georgia On My Mind"

But the afternoon’s best "four" by far came right at the end. It comprised
pianist David Hazeltine, upright bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth
in support of tenor man Eric Alexander( making a return visit to the event
from last year). They made their take-no-prisoners philosophy abundantly clear
(amid high heat and humidity) from the opening number "Nemesis" (an Alexander
original) and scarcely let up from that point onward, careening through Hazeltine’s composition "Blueslike" and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s " Triste" before effecting
a palpable shift of gear on the Gene Ammons ballad, "Didn’t We" but even this
piece took on a gentle shuffle with time. The final two numbers saw the band
again off to the races, several in the audience more than happy to be swept along.

One can’t say enough about he pleasure of taking in an experienced, hard-swinging
group of musicians who are well acquainted with each other and committed to the
task of making straight-ahead jazz come alive. Within the overall group dynamic,
the band members conducted intricate dialogues (bass-piano; piano-drum; drum-sax)
without ever forgetting the audience before them. Farnsworth in particular,
reeling off stunningly fast tempos, still brought refinement and control to
his drumming, making meaningful comments on all of the drums, but particularly
in one extended display of lightning-fast cymbal work.

With the sun loosening its grip on the venue, the 15th staging of the Ocho Rios
Jazz Festival came to an end. Sonny and Myrna are undoubtedly missed (the
fraternity continues to pray in respect of Myrna’s illness), but it
was demonstrated that even without them, the show must go on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

After the Storm....

After a busy weekend, things are somewhat calm on the
local jazz front. The 15th ocho Rios jazz festival
wrapped at its traditional venue, the Almond Tree
restaurant and garden, with blistering sets by the
Eric Alexander Quartet, Black Zebra and the "Philly
Posse" featuring Byard lancaster, barbara Walker and Randy Lippincott.
kathy Brown and her group also sparkled, as did returnee
Ginetta's Vendetta (at one ofthe Pegasus Jam Sessions).

those of you (Jamaicans) with dual currency credit card
and a taste for the blues should log on to randylippincott.com
and get a copy of his "Soul Monkey" a really satisfying stew
of roginals and standards with some sizzling group play.

also pick any of the albums from the Alexander quartet
(Alexander on tenor sax, David Hazeltine on piano, Nat
Reeves on upright bass and Joe Fransworth on drums. Each
have recorded extensively as both sidemen nad leaders so
your chocie may be difficult

Barbara Walker and Byard Lancaster also have excellent
recordings available.

That ends my "product pimp" post Jazz in the Gardens
renews at the Jamaica Pegasus this Sunday, Jun 26More on
that later


Friday, June 17, 2005

Sommers Time

Following is text of feature from my conversation
with sax man Jimmy Sommers(didn't do Q&A format)
as it appears in the Jamaica Obsever.
Met Jimmy at a welcome party thrown by the sponsors
the other nite and he was every bit as personable
easygoing and vibrant as he was on the phone


Their music may not be comparable, but in outlook,
R&B/jazz saxophonist Jimmy Sommers, who comes to
Jamaica this weekend courtesy of Appleton V/X, appears
to have quite a bit in common with "Margaritaville" icon
Jimmy Buffet. First name similarity aside, both have
interests in themed restaurant ventures along with their
musical careers. And both project a distinctly easygoing
demeanour –at least Sommers did during a telephone conversation.

Ironically, it’s the upbeat drum-and-fife of Junkanoo bands
that is Sommers’ most vivd memory of Jamaica from his previous
visit – several years ago. "I really enjoyed it," he remarks.
"I’m definitely looking forward to coming back and playing there."

In that wish, he is being accommodated by Appleton V/X. The rum
brand is actually sponsoring the saxophonist on a multi-city
jaunt that has so far taken him across the U.S. The Jamaican
leg will culminate at the renowned Fault Line property of musicinas
Peter and Suzanne Couch. Sharing the bill with Sommers on that occasion
will be Gem Myers, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Dwight Pinkney and Suzanne Couch.
The affair is billed as Appleton V/X Evening Escape.

Commenting on the previous dates, which have been club-focussed
[as opposed to the more open vistas of Jacks Hill] Sommers says
the response ahs been "great" and has high praise for his sponsors.
"This gig has helped me to broaden my reach quite a bit, and I’m
sure its been beneficial for Appleton also." The emphasis for the
local dates he says will be on "a party vibe" adding "We’ll be playing
stuff for people to groove to, even get up and dance."

Such fare, typical of the now dominant smooth genre, is the kind
of stuff thattends to alienate jazz fans with a more purist bent.
That’s fine by Sommers, who doesn’t generally attach the term jazz
to what he does. ‘There’s just too many notes in jazz," he says.
"I’m trying to do more groove-oriented stuff, really just laying
some funky riffs over R&B grooves, because that’s what I like and
what I believe people generally like too."

Not that he lacks the chops to make a credible jazz statement.
Sommers started on the instrument at age 10. ‘"It was just one day,
band day, while in fourth grade…Usually people start in fifth grade,
but they came and they had all the instruments laid out. And of course,
when you’re so young, 10 years old, you really don’t know what each
instrument sounds like, so I kind of went for the coolest looking instrument. Well not only was it the coolest looking instrument, but it sounded the
coolest! I got lucky with the sound. I ended up picking it up, and all my friends tried it. It’s funny because usually if there are too many saxophone players, they push you to something else, and thank God that didn’t happen.

Before long, that "cool sound" was taking him to clubs and music joints
in his hometown of Chicago where he would sit in and jam with the likes
of blues guitar legend Buddy Guy. He knew then that he wanted to make a
career in music but elected to study engineering in college, for the sake of having a ‘fall-back’. I know how difficult it can be to build a music career,"
he notes.

After graduation, Sommers took the plunge and moved west – to Los Angeles.
But stardom was elusive and difficult. He played with a few local bands, but nothing really clicked. "Then I ended up going to Europe with a couple of people, did the tour thing. That was fun, but I moved back to Chicago in 1996 and met Eric Benét, he turned me on to his music and I just loved it. He’s from Milwaukee and I ended up doing my first record with him and his producer, his cousin. That got me. I finally got it, how to make records. And that record came out and it’s called James Café. So that kind of gave me the bug again…I finally get it, I finally know how to make records and produce them. So I moved back to LA and things just started cooking"

James Café was followed by 360 Urban Groove and by his latest release Lovelife. Both those albums feature stellar collaborations with some of the top names in the pop-R&B and smooth jazz spheres: Macy Gray (who spices up the title track of the Lovelife album); trumpeter Chris Botti, Ginuwine, Raphael Saadiq and the criminally unheralded soul singer Rashaan Patterson. Of the latter, Sommers says, "He’s amazing, I originally went in to do one track with him and we ended up writing and recording three."

Sommers’ upcoming projects include a "chill-out" album with noted R&B mix artist/vocalist Viktor Duplaix, a Christmas disc, and a more dance-oriented record. Like his previous two albums, these are being released on his own Gemini Records label (licensed to Higher Octave Jazz). "I’ve seen what the big companies do, and this way works out much better for me," he says, "I really get to experiment and to put out what I really like and believe should be on a record."

In between recording and touring, Sommers, who has been featured on both jazz and mainstream television programmes, will be keeping an eye on his culinary venture, the sushi restaurant Koi, in L.A. "We’ve had Janet Jackson, [Leonardo] Di Caprio, J-Lo, we had Madonna in there the other day! We’ve had everyone in there. It’s pretty incredible…it’s become quite the hot spot! His next restaurant venture is called the Rokbar and the partners include bad boy rocker Tommy Lee (formerly of Motley Crue, who dominated tabloid headlines with his now ex-wife Pamela Anderson)

More exciting to the musician than his restaurant projects is a venture called Baby Genius. "It’s a line of kids music products for child development," he explains. "When they’re young or infants, listening to music and helping their spatial intelligence…studies have shown that classical musical does help. So we started the company and distributing CDs and it turned into a monster company. We’ve sold a couple million CDs, videos, toys…it’s becoming a complete entertainment company for kids."

Thus, Sommers brings his many facets to bear on a discerning Jamaican audience. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes, having been voted by people magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Eligible Bachelors. As for commitments, Sommers insists, he hasn’t yet found the right one, but is enjoying the search.

The "island magic" may well claim him this time around, with or without the assistance of the Junkanoo. In the meantime, music fans and smooth jazz aficionados will relish the opportunity to hear one of the best in the genre at the top of his game

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ohci Jazz jam sessions

The Bmobile Jam Sessions in support of the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival
cotinue at the Pegasus (Polo Lounge) tonite (tues.) tomorrow
(Wed.) and Saturday beginning approx. 9:00 p.m. each nite

Also, this and every Wednesday, Jazzofonik CD session + Solo
Spotlite live artiste showcase continues at The Deck

Friday, June 10, 2005

French Musique Night - new date

Thanks to our good friends at the Alliance-Francaise
for the following:
The Alliance Française de la Jamaïque in collaboration with the
Jamaican Federation of Musicians is organizing on Saturday June 18,
“La Fête de la Musique” (Music Fest) on its premises (12b Lilford Avenue,
off Lady Musgrave rd, Kingston 10) from 7:30 pm to midnight.
During this celebration dedicated to all music styles, professionals
and amateurs musicians will participate for free so far as the aim is
to gather people in a joyful atmosphere and to create a link between
people and cultures thanks to music.
The concert will be free of charge and drinks and French Caribbean food
(Sugar Daddies) will be available for sale.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sommers interview

The feature I promised based on my conversation with U.S. saxman Jimmy sommers hould run this Thursday (just did the interview today) Interestingly enough, Sommers characteriszes himself as an R&B artist, "I do R&b stuff over saxophone - there are too many notes in jazz"
Full feature on Thursday

Jazz Reunion for July

The next in guitarist Seretse Small's 'Art of Music" series in July will feature saxophone ace Dean Fraser, as well as his co-horts in the first batch of graduates from the jazz perfomance programe at the Jamaica School of Music (once taught by the great American arranger/trombonist, Melba Liston). Details on this lineup and a brief look at the programme's difficult history next week

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Coming Soon - "Iron Lions: Jamaica's Jazz Heroes"

Have begun work (seriously this time) on book on the greats of jamaican jazz, including overseas jazz figures with strong links to Jamaica. Aim to have out by early December.

Watch this space for updates. Any one with info on Jamaican jazz performers (whether native or of Jamaican parentage) in your area pls fwd to me (bluriter@yahoo.com)


Thursday, June 02, 2005


Originally uploaded by mike e.bop.
The montag here is from Enid Farber, no strnager to jazz and no strnager to Jamaica. Met Enid at a previous Air Jamaica jazz &Blues Festival. You can see more of her work at farberfoto.com

Bits & Pieces

....Jazz Jamaica featured in May issue of Jazzwise (UK);
....Joe Harriott quintet subject of discussion on
All About Jazz.com Artists & Bands thread;

....sax man Houston Person breezed in and out
of Kingston for start of Ocho Rios Jazz;