November  2009





I Happened To Hear… November 2009



 … The Jazz in Me by Eric Copeland

This 5-track EP taken from the album of the same name comes from Christian singer, composer, pianist and producer Eric Copeland. It contains the lyrically very clever ‘The Jazz in Me’ which grows on me the more I hear it with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Michael Franks, and some scatting.
There’s a funkier feel on ‘My Steps are Ordered’ with some very nice piano sounds. ‘Come to Me’ is a mellow piano-led song with gospel undertones and surely has the potential to be a radio hit – I wish the guitar/vocal scat break had been a bit longer…
The Latin feel on the vocal ‘Have Thine Own Way’ is enhanced by the sweet acoustic guitar. The elegant production on this song lets the Christian lyrics speak for themselves.
The instrumental ‘Softly and Tenderly’ certainly has plenty to please jazz fusion fans and some lovely soloing on bass and guitar augments that warm piano sound. This is one of the classiest things I’ve heard in 2009, to be honest. It’s the standout song for me on a sampler that certainly makes me want to seek out Eric’s earlier albums.
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… VIP by Jonathan Fritzén
I remember being very excited when I heard Jonathan’s debut CD Lovebirds. From the first track on his follow-up, the title track, it’s obvious that he’s aiming to consolidate his place as a major smooth jazz artist. It’s got a groove, it’s got a hook and his honey-coated piano sound. It can’t fail.
There’s an infectious groove on ‘If You Want It’ with phat synth bass holding it down. The head-nodding will continue with the simple ‘In Motion’.
The urban groove gets deeper on ‘Fading Away’, an instrumental ballad with a very contemporary feel. Michael Lington’s alto sax adds a lot to this song, but in an understated way.
For me, the ‘money’ song on this CD has to be ‘The New Vibe’ which has a synth bass and mechanical drum track – so for me that should be a turnoff, but it isn’t. It’s a compulsive foot-tapper and as usual Fritzén’s production is so uncluttered that the piano speaks out strongly. He’s deep into Brian Culbertson territory here.
‘Stay’ has a bassline that old-skool funkers will appreciate and background vocals that will make Patti Austin fans smile. If you like your ballads sexy and your funk mellow and invigorating, seriously check this CD out.
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…Wild Soul by The Sunnie Paxson Band
I think it’s fair to say I raved about Sunnie’s ‘Groove Suite’ CD on this site A few months ago, I took the disc out and played it again and its impact had not diminished. I decided to contact Sunnie to let her know and she sent a copy of her fine debut album. The albums share some tracks so I’ll focus on the ones that appear only on ‘Wild Soul’.
‘MP3 Blues’ is really a straightahead jazz number which really flies along and features some very muscular acoustic piano from Sunnie and Doug Webb’s confident sax. It’s in very stark contrast with the lovely ballad ‘Peppermint Road’ with some truly lovely vocals, both lead and background.
I really like the blues shuffle ‘Heart on Hold’ with more strong vocals and some nice Larry Carton-style blues picking by Rohan Reid. ‘Feelin’ Mellow’ is soothing piano-led instrumental with a Latin feel and maybe it’s too soulful for ‘smooth jazz’ radio but I’d love to hear someone play it on the radio – maybe I’ll do it.
Rohan Reid is to the fore again on the startling fusion instrumental ‘Lightning Rod’ showing off his killer licks on fretless bass, while Sunnie gets all ‘Dukey’ on us and stretches out on a great retro-sounding solo.
There are some real surprises on this disc. If you can track it down, I hope that you enjoy them like I do. A conversation I had with Sunnie suggested that her partnership with old buddy Stanley Clarke continues and I’m excited to think a recording featuring them both could see the light of day soon…
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…Bajo El Sol by Russ Hewitt
I didn’t just happen to hear this really. This incredibly talented guitar player contacted me out of the blue. I think he had heard some tracks by Acoustic Alchemy on my internet radio station.
And it’s for sure that fans of Acoustic Alchemy and Jesse Cook would be drawn to ‘Bajo el Sol’. From the opening bars of the sexy and strutting title track I was utterly hooked. On Russ’s website he talks about his music as a blend of Latin, jazz and Flamenco – and I can’t come up with a better description.
You can feel the sun on your shoulders and the irresistible urge to move on any of the following songs: ‘Lydia’, ‘Palma de Mallorca’, ‘Inger’ and ‘Ojos Bonitos’. That’s not to say there is anything simplistic about them: it’s just that while Hewitt has respected the traditions in the music, he reinforces the point that this music tells a story through dance.
His bow to tradition goes even further on the haunting ‘Simatai’ and on the fiery ‘Byzantine’, where the Moorish influence is probably at its most tangible. There are moments that I would describe as ‘dark’ in this song and that’s where I feel the depth of Hewitt’s love for Flamenco most: a yearning and a passion that can sometimes only be expressed in music and dance.
This CD has truly been one of the surprises and delights of summer 2009 for me. I hope that I am hearing Russ Hewitt’s music for many years…
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