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insomnia bytes: bye bye blue bird

28 Jan

Every time! Just as I was about to fall asleep, I started singing… or rather, mumbling in melody. I must admit, my voice is shot- what with battling the onset (or retreat? let’s hope!) of a cold. Having played through this scenario countless times, I still only manage to record a meager number of these insomnia sound bytes. Granted I am half asleep… half awake… quite happy that I seem to be writing somewhat coherently. As always, apologies for my weak voice and midnight bedside recording… very high tech. Yes. Indeed…

Sharing this insomnia byte for your dark-thirty-in-the-AM, sound-snacking soul:

bye bye blue bird

it was nice to know you while you graced this world

your song so beautiful to me

i will do my best to sing

in memory of

your sweet melody

you fly so high

i wonder did your wings ever breach

the atmosphere

i hear

it’s hard to breathe up there

Insomnia Bytes

3 Dec

oh i’ve been stuck in a rut
these past few days…
oh who’s kidding-
it’s been weeks since i
could hold my head up high and say:
“good morning,
how are you?
i’m fine,
thanks for asking…”
oh i guess i confess i need
a friend
someone to share the moments
from start to end
oh i guess i confess i need
some help
‘cus life’s just not worth living
by myself

**Apologies for the low hum… this is the built in compy microphone**

insomnia bytes 12.3.2010

It keeps me up at night…

5 Nov

… yet still I hope that everything will end up alright.

Maybe, one day someone will say: “Hey, that’s cool enough to buy!” Until then… I’ll ebay my life away.

The Journey so far

13 Jun

Though I find it near impossible to write a substantial post from my phone, I have discovered a way to share a little nothing of a melody in progress. It’s inspired by countless hours on the road and 32 amazing and extraordinary individuals.

Christian Scott “Live at Newport”

27 Nov

Christian Scott, the rising voice of jazz trumpet today, has released his first live album and DVD, “Live at Newport”. The 2-disc set showcases Scott and his band performing in their element, live at the JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, RI. While featuring 5 new compositions, “Live at Newport” revisits material from both “Anthem” and Scott’s Grammy nominated debut album “Rewind That”. The result is a stunning experience of slow burning jazz infused with an intense and earnest energy harkening back to Scott’s critically acclaimed sophomore release, “Anthem”.

If you’re familiar with Scott’s previous albums you know his music is an expression of personal experience. The set opens with “Died In Love”, harnessing all the heartfelt emotion of losing a close friend. Scott’s playing here echoes cries of sorrow that will send shivers up your spine. Jamire Williams’ staggered drums tumble with energy while Matthew Stevens and Aaron Parks’ brood over a heart wrenching chord progression on the guitar and piano. And this is only the beginning.

Building upon the intensity, “Litany Against Fear” is a composition from Scott’s previous release, “Anthem”. Stevens steals the spotlight with sharp riffs and runs that trickle about the fret board, while saxophonist, Walter Smith III, makes his presence known in this piece by laying out a fervid solo that will leave you breathless.

The energy settles down as Scott’s plays “Isadora” a sweet and smooth ballad that caresses your senses while providing some emotional resolve after the first two numbers. Stevens’ “Rumor” is driven by a funky rhythm with Smith’s solo igniting the composition midway through the piece, while Parks tears up the piano in “Anthem”.

“Live at Newport” is a performance that allows you to experience music in the moment: there are no dubs or retakes. The album affirms that Scott’s unique sound, coupled with his innovative and breath-taking style, is unmatched among his peers. Reinforced by a skillful and adept band, Scott’s “Live at Newport” is an album that will resonate for years to come.

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Bozz Scaggs “Speak Low”

14 Nov

In 2003, Boz Scaggs released his last studio album “But Beautiful”, a first volume of jazz standards. Sure it may seem cliché, as all the greats and not so greats seem to have turned to the Great American Songbook, but there’s a reason why “Speak Low” was five years in the making. Scaggs’ follow up album is a thoughtful approach to 12 carefully selected classics performed with delicate sophistication. You’ll hear the works of Mercer, Ellington, and Hart & Rodgers among other notable composers.

There’s a sense of deference in the arrangements and Scaggs’ silky smooth performance, refreshing rather than reinventing the classics which will surely delight jazz aficionados. Pianist and arranger, Gil Goldstein, has done a brilliant job bringing out the essence of each song through simple, yet not exactly conventional instrumentation. For instance, “Invitation” begins with a syncopated tabla beat providing a foundation for the song’s ethereal sonic atmosphere, while the title track features an up-tempo marimba solo. For the most part however, “Speak Low” meanders through subdued tempos in the realm of smooth jazz, begging for mood-lighting and fine wine.

The minimalistic arrangements provide a sense of space that let each song unfold in their own time and cater to Scaggs’ laid back delivery full of artistic subtleties and nuances that make this album a pleasure with every repeat listen. The interplay between instruments and Scaggs, while anything but electric, is still a musical delight with its conversational tone that develops in such songs as “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” and “Save Your Love For Me”. Scaggs flirts with bossa in “Dindi”, his voice lending itself perfectly to the style while the accordion adds a little extra flavor.

All in all “Speak Low” let’s the music speak for itself. Scaggs performs with decided reverence, never overpowering, never a hint of strain. While the performance could have been pushed a little further, the immediacy and intimacy of this album is a something to be treasured.

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Spryo Gyra “A Night Before Christmas”

4 Nov

Spyro Gyra, the veteran New York based jazz, presents a musical gem this holiday season with A Night Before Christmas. It’s sure to be a holiday favorite for new and old fans alike as it delivers sophisticated yet accessible, complex yet melodic jazz renditions of traditional holiday favorites.

“O Tannenbaum” opens with a short, but compelling layered intro. Jay Beckenstein introduces the melody on saxophone in his distinctive style and Tom Schuman answers on piano. Together they develop a musical conversation that is carried on by Julio Fernandez’s acoustic guitar solo. The energy builds quickly as Tom Schuman riffs up and down the piano, but just as quickly and expertly, we are brought back to the beginning where Beckenstein maintains the melody through to the end. There are some truly beautiful moments in this piece.

An original holiday tune, “It Won’t Feel Like Christmas”, is performed with suave sophistication by Tony Award winning vocalist Christine Ebersole. However, its performance falls a bit short of expectation, as Ebersole plays it safe in her delivery. In contrast the energy and performance of Janis Siegel and Bonny B in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” have a sense of dimension and character which brings this song to life.

Spyro Gyra puts a their own twist on evoking the sound of holiday bells with Dave Samuels on the vibes for “Winter Wonderland” and “Carol of the Bells”. The interplay between Samuels and Schuman creates a unique and much appreciated atmosphere. Schuman leads “Silent Night” off with a lush intro that hangs in the air like the snow almost out of time but grounded by the bass. Shifting the rhythmic accents in “This Christmas” Spyro Gyra, delivers a mesmerizing version of this traditional piece and Berkenstein’s does a fine job of captivating you with his melody line.

A Night Before Christmas is an expertly performed holiday album that conveys the holiday spirit resonating with pure jazz vibes. Its quality mix of instrumental and vocal tracks will provide the season with entertainment for years to come.

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Jimmy Demers’ “Dream A Little”

3 Nov

With a unique and captivating voice, Jimmy Demers appeals to both an adult contemporary and smooth jazz sound in his debut album Dream A Little. Demers’ natural talent shines through each of the 13 tracks, keeping you hooked from the first notes of “There She Goes” to his version of Cass Elliot’s classic “Dream a Little Dream of Me”. The album also features Diane Warren’s “Nothing Hurts Like Love” and arrangements by Grammy Award winning Victor Vanacore.

Demers’ voice reaches out with honest emotion and clarity in “We Go On” and “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963”. These back to back ballads will wrestle for your heart while prepping your soul for “Nothing Hurts Like Love”. Consequently, you’ll either love or hate this line up; but if its emotional sway does align with your mood then multiple repeats of these songs are a must.
As if to relieve the emotional tension, “We Just Disagree” and “Special” are lighter more uplifting tracks, reminiscent of classic pop with a more playful vocal inflection. However, it’s clear that Demers’ most definitive moments lie in his unique and emotive vocal delivery fully realized in the album’s ballads. Songs like “Just Another Night”, “Maybe I”, and “Save Your Love For Me” are musical highlights showcasing Demers musical sensitivity and versatility in this area.

The album’s final track, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” opens and ends with a sample of an old cassette recording of Demers’ late mother singing the first verse. Cass Elliot’s daughter, Owen Elliot, joins Demers on backup vocals and together they craft an enjoyably modern, smooth jazz rendition of the classic tune.

“Dream A Little Dream” is an enjoyable collection of songs showcasing Demers’ vocal abilities. This album’s strength is in its moving ballads that Demers’ shapes with his incredibly emotive delivery and unsurpassed talent.

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Diane Schuur Interview

29 Oct

October 16, 2008 – Looking forward to the American Society of Young Musicians Music Benefit Concert & Award Ceremony, Jazz vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur reflects on her most recent release Some Other Time which marks a return to her jazz roots.

The album is a tribute to the music of her parent’s generation, a solid return to Schuur’s jazz roots. It is also a celebration of her mother’s life; its release made to coincide with the 40th anniversary of her mother’s passing.

The two-time Grammy-award winning singer performs a number of instantly recognizable selections on the album, including tunes by Gershwin, Berlin, and Hammerstein. Through her stunning voice style and compelling interpretation, one is reminded at once of both the timelessness and immediacy of jazz.

Some Other Time features a 1964 recording of the then 10-year-old Schuur singing “September in the Rain” at the Holiday Inn in Tacoma, WA. This is followed by an intimate exchange between Schuur and her mother, who asks her daughter if she knows “Danny Boy.” A young Schuur answers that she will record the song just for her one day. What follows next is one of the most beautiful and emotive arrangements of the Irish classic.

On October 20th, Schuur was awarded the “All That Jazz Award” in recognition of her contributions to the world of jazz and music.

Sandy Zio’s “All That I Am”

3 Oct

 It’s refreshing to discover a new voice infused with the maturity and inspiration found in Sandy Zio. Her debut album “All That I Am” is a solid production of 13 enjoyable tracks which skillfully and artfully combine the elements of soft rock, country, and jazz. The album features original music as well as two covers, the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed”.

The title track “All That I Am” is a soft rock ballad highlighting Zio’s beautiful alto voice. She delivers the melody with a natural ease and charisma that begs the listener to sing along. “Someone To Love” is another ballad, however the piano and strings are a pleasing and subtle aesthetic shift from the previous guitar focused tracks.

Zio’s cover of “We’ve Only Just Begun” is brilliant in its delivery with its funky groove. It’s a nice departure from the ballads that Zio sings so well. Her arrangement of “Overjoyed” is a smooth and simply beautiful rendition of one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs. Dim the lights when you listen and let Zio’s voice over joy your senses.

The song that will get you up on your feet is “Sister Madelene” as it is the strongest and most dynamic track on the album. It’s got a funky vibe with a great horn arrangement and features a retro organ solo and guitar solo. Zio’s voice resounds with vibrancy and life that will have you dancing and singing along the very first time you hear it.

This is a quality debut album featuring great songwriting and talent. A sonic treat from start to finish, “All That I Am” has a consistent and cohesive sound that can be appreciated and enjoyed time and time again.

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