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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jazz Xprss: CD Reviews


Roberto Magris & the Europlane Orchestra - Current Views (Soul Note);

As if we hadn't already run out of superlatives in relation to the imagination, warmth and sheer musical drive of pianist Roberto Magris, he again ups the ante with his latest, Current Views. This one features familiar and new cohorts from his Europlane Orchestra. Together they take the listener on an exhilarating ride through just over an hour's worth of originals, though clearly inspired by jazz heroes such as Ellington (Dukish Mood)and Coltrane (For Naima, not actually dedicated to the legend's first wife)The skillfully meandering opener, The StoryTeller and the propulsive "React" are standouts. Well worth the time.

Ray Gaskins - A Night In the Life (Expansion Records)
Ray Gaskins has lived a few lifetimes as jazz/r&b soul sideman and leader, between gigs with Roy Ayers, disco diva Jocelyn Brown and the late great Phyllis Hyman. The Baltimore native puts the mileage to great use on this convincing melange of styles, encompassing soul, funk, and even gospel in good measure. all are buoyed by Gaskins' driving sax wail, and an unavoidable sense of joy - as well as gratitude - for life lived and for the adventures to come.

Benjy Myaz - You've Got Me (MyWerks Music)
enjy Myaz is oneof the leading musical exponents out Jamaica, and though he made his commerical name with homegrown audiences on the strength of vocal ballads such as Intimate Relationship and Randi Crawford's Love You Higher, its Myaz the instrumentalist that comes to the fore here, and to mostly good effect. His covers of the Emotions Don't Ask My Neighbour and Marvin Gaye's What's Goin On are tasty, and Love You Higher gets the instrumental treatment just for good measure. The recording sounds a little top-heavy to these ears, but overall a good product.

Jackie Ryan - Doozy (Open Art)
An aptly named disc, the latest from Jackie Ryan is as easy on the eyes as the singer is, and just as easy on the ears. Ryan ranges with a calculating abandon through a diverse territory of standards and contemporary tunes in English, Spanish and Portuguese(the latter two with even greater intensity than the English), interesting given her own mixed ancestry. The sensuality on such come-ons as "Do Something" is inviting and breezy, without ever becoming cheap or frivolous. A first-class vocal exercise in a very attractive package.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jazz & Blues 2010 opening nite


The Gardens of the Pegasus are no strange ground for live music, improvised and otherwise, and the expanded format Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival turned to the tried and true for the staging of its kick-off for 2010. The fare was mostly tried and true as well with pop covers abounding.The band In2Nation opened at 7:20 with "so Amazing, the first in a medley that took in snips of 3rd World's "Reggae Ambassador" Steel Pulse's "Steppin Out" before Norma Brown-Bell took the stage with apologies for the late start.

Nattily dressed in a white suit, Rico Suave belted the opening lines of Lou Rawls' "You're gonna Miss My Lovin" before stepping up to face the audience. He preceded his next tune Ben E King's "I WHo Have Nothing" witha hypothetical plea for the ladies to support those men who are low on funds in this time of recession.

Suave's "Covers Parade" earned its first noticeable 'forward' when he raised Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and he exited on a higher plane than when he entered.

Noddy Virtue continued the covers trend, opening with Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped" (made famous by Bruce Springsteen) immediately setting the stage alight with his trademark intensity.
He next delivered "breakfast in Bed" and then an original "mistaken Identity"

Fellow Rising Stars alumnus Jodiann Pantry was waiting in the wings, and he called her on to do their hit collaboration, a cover (of course) of Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses". Pantry was more than up to the task, her voice sounding even more powerful and capable (despite a bit of a Beyonce lilt that appears to have become prominent in her delivery) than during her Rising Stars stint.

Roslyn strated off funky, with Faith Evans' "Mesmerize"before going sultry with "Two Kisses Away". Gave props to Beres hammond ("one of our best male singers -bar none," she said) with "Love Means...." and even the obligatory Marley tune (in this case "Could You Be Loved") was given a high-energy kick by vocalists and band alike.

Sax man Tony Green reprised the earlier-performed "Human Nature" on his instrument
Fausto Papetti's evergreen "Jambalaya" preceded the entry of Harold Davis, who joined Green to deliver the Stylistics' "Stop-Look-Listen to Your Heart" from Green's appropriately titled forthcoming CD, "Covers" and he capped with "Little Red Shoes" the Parker standard that has become something of a signature for Green as well.

Bassist-gutiarist-vocalist Benji Myaz then entered to a cascade of bells, which eventually gave way to his trademark guitar sound and the opening of the hit "Love Will Find A Way" swirling with horn and key breaks, segueing seamlessly into Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On". Scatting through this tune was the first concession made to what was otherwise a full instrumental session.

It deepened with a suitably raucous dub exercise , before Myaz brought topical subject into the mix: Haiti. His "I Feel Your Pain" was written in the early hours of Monday morning and recorded Wednesday of that week. A suitably spare tune, it allowed Myaz to share his compassion and feeling for our neighbours to the east.

A lighter feel ensued with his fluid cover of Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do (You'll Do For Love)" and then went into "My Father, My Friend". Of course, he could not perform in Jamaica without doing "love You Higher" ably supported by Nicholas Laraque on saxophone. The audience was ready to sing along even before he prompted them.

The opening act dressed in white, and veteran vibraphonist Roy Ayers(proudly declaring that he was 69 years old), the headliner, was a visual counterpoint, dressed in full black. He opened with "In Time We Will Be One" a mid-tempo smooth number, with good support from the entire band, but particularly saxophonist ray Gaskins and drummer ...

He followed with the funky "Don't Stop The Feelin'" (with more incendiary sax work from Gaskins) before dedicating his first major hit "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" to those "living in a sunshine environment".

The sultry "Baby You Got It" followed, with vocalist ... putting his superb falsetto to work.

After a brief "Happy Birthday" to one of the band members, Ayers did a couple of tunes from his early CD "Evolution"( including "Top of the world" "Runnin Away" and the title track. On the introspective yet expressive "The third Eye" Ayers expounded in spoken word. .... (popularized by rapper Busta Rhymes as "Put Your Hnds Where My Eyes Can See")saw Ayers taking command unleashing solo after intense solo.

Too intense for a considerable number of patrons, who departed intermittently throughout the set. Those who stayed were richly rewarded by a super performance form a band truly at the top of its funk-pop-r&b instrumental form.

The festival unfolds at various venues over the next several days.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gerald Wilson & Orchestra