1th October 2004
Happened To Hear… October 2004
Benoit/Freeman Project 2 by David Benoit and Russ Freeman
could they fail with one of the most versatile guitarists anywhere and a
pianist with a superb mastery of light and shade?
If you’ve heard Freeman burn like Hendrix on the second
Rippingtons live album, you’ll be amazed how much like Earl Klugh he
sounds on the acoustic guitar here, yet then sounds more like Larry
Carlton when he switches back to electric.
sounds fantastic throughout: from the moving Moon In The Window
to the upbeat, funky Struttin’ he’s never sounded better.
guys gel so well – for example Stiletto Heels sounds like
Fourplay locked in at their cool and funky best.
The album has great songwriting and more improvisation from both
leaders than you’d probably expect.
It also contains a surprise performance from guest singer Vince
Gill on Two Survivors – sounding very much like George Benson.
This is even better than the first collaboration for my money.
Round by the Yellowjackets
was surprised to see one from the Yellowjackets, but I’m glad that
they took this step. If you read my review of their Time
Squared, you’ll know that I really feel the band has never sounded
better. As the tasteful and
stunningly classy arrangements of these traditional songs wash over me,
I still feel the same.
Their rendition of Little Drummer Boy is boisterous and I love the way that the chords on the bass hint at Celtic roots for this song. The high-register sax on Silent Night is gorgeous and the whole arrangement is wistful. Russell Ferrante’s piano notes hang in the air like big, fat snowflakes – it’s truly beautiful.
a simple grandeur to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas that
is heart-warming. The
temptation to resort to clichés when describing it is almost
overwhelming. The First
Noël is the only vocal here and it features an emotional
performance by Jean Baylor. She
respects the melody but injects a feeling to the lyric that I’ve never
other traditional songs featured on the CD are Deck the Halls, God
Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Winter
Wonderland and In a Silent Night (a musing on the theme of
Silent Night) and each one delights in its own way.
The Heads Up website calls the title track “an old English
canon built on a simple eight-measure round”.
I can’t add much to that but the music is as impressive as the
If you thought you’d heard all the jazz “takes” on Christmas music, this should still be on your shopping list.
of the Sun by the Kyoto Jazz Massive
band has at its core DJ’s Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino and its name was
coined by acid jazz DJ/label owner/journalist Gilles Petersen in the
magazine Straight No Chaser.
such, there is no getting away from the band’s acid jazz roots and as
acid jazz derives many of its sounds from underground 70’s funk bands,
much of this music has a lovely, deep retro feel.
Brightness of These Days
has a very 70’s jazz feel with a warm Rhodes sound and a sinewy bass
sound. The bassline is very
repetitive and adds to the intensity of the song. I got particularly hooked on Between the Lights.
I adore the husky Bennie Maupin-type sax on the opening.
It has nice keyboard sounds and percussion and a hint of the
‘70’s Blue Note sound – to me one of the world’s best every
sounds and a vibe I never tire of.
favourite vocal performance is on Deep in your Mind where there
is an echo of Al Jarreau in the male vocal – I can’t put my finger
on it but I feel it. The
cymbal sounds and the shimmery guitar sounds on this are very appealing,
as is the percussion build-up.
good acid jazz band should look at its roots (as KJM undoubtedly do) but
should also be contemporary and relevant.
Mind Expansions is up-to-the-minute stuff, trancey and
very powerful dance music. My
notes say “good club dancer” – yeah.
The instrumental Eclipse is another uplifting, strong
dance track. Its fierce
latin drumbeat gets chopped up into something much more acid.
I’m happy when the insistent bassline kicks in and then the
laughing synthesizers make me smile…
I turned you off by mentioning acid jazz, tune back in because this
release from the small Compost
Records label deserves to be heard for the way diverse influences
are on display on this massively danceable CD.
Good Life by David Lanz
While I’m on a high, let me tell you about this recent find. This 2004 CD by pianist David Lanz marks a departure from the New Age style his fans have enjoyed for over 20 years.
bought this album on the strength of a review I read and it’s already
one of my “grab it if there’s a fire” treasures.
first two songs Big Sur and Kal-E-Fornia have the rhythmic
bounce and sheer melodic content to have you tapping your feet and
humming or whistling. You’ll
keep grooving to the funky title track and Mood Swing with its
gorgeous staccato drumming and crystal-clear piano.
the mellow sax of Eric Marienthal on the more laid-back It’s the
Way that I Feel – it’s another strong melodic piece.
favourite song - on a ten-song CD where there are no fillers - is Not
a Moment Too Soon. It
has everything: an insistent
bassline, tiny riffs on keyboard and guitar which get right inside your
head, Michael Paulo’s gorgeous sax and Lenny Castro’s delicious
percussion. Add that
superlative piano and a strong composition and you’ve got music that I
can only describe as… perfect!
mentioned some big names already. If I
told you that Lanz has enlisted the talents of Jeff Lorber, Paul Jackson
Jr and horn ace Jerry Hey and that he co-produced this set with Steve
Dubin and Gregg Karukas (hello!) you’d be interested, right?
2004 so far has been a reassuring year for me as a lover of
contemporary jazz – this album is one of the reasons why.