Music I Like

Trial by Light – Damian Coccio

Trialbylight-smallA well written song can transport you to another place and time.  Every melody, note, space and phrase can take you on a voyage into the past, present or future.  It can become a vacation and escape to be enjoyed and absorbed.  Upon several listenings, Damian Coccio‘s newest recording Trial by Light has provided this and much more.

The bass guitar is a relatively young instrument compared to others.  The first mass produced model was created by Leo Fender in the 1950s which places it at the tender age of about 60+ years.  It is a mere child when compared to it’s big brother the double bass (which dates back to at least the 1500s).  While normally viewed as a supportive instrument it is being pushed to the foreground as a solo instrument by artists like Michael Manring, Steve Lawson and others.  Damian’s Trial by Light is a great example of the evolution of the bass guitar and how very versatile it can be.

While some solo recordings can easily shift into a hey look at how fast I can play affair, Trial by Light makes song writing and aural colors the star.  Each song paints a unique picture by stimulating the ear with singable and memorable melodies.  They create a sense of adventure and mystery without becoming abstract.  “What the Storm Brought” begins the journey with a beautifully chorded introduction accented with harmonics and leads into a mellow groove.  The title track “Trial by Light” shows the ability of the bass to play both the role of support via deep bottom notes and lead with lush ringing chords.  On “Fire Interlude” Damian switches to fretless bass and takes full advantage of it’s beautiful singing characteristics to deliver a hauntingly beautiful melody.  These are just a few examples but each song will truly transport you to another place and time.  The music will actually tell a unique story with each listen.  Damian has an amazing command on the instrument and the tones he coaxes from each (fretted and fretless) are nothing short of beautiful.

If you’re looking for new music to inspire and transport you from where ever you are, Trial by Light will deliver.  It is a great musical start to 2016.  I can’t recommend it enough.

To find out more about Damian visit his web site  To purchase music visit the links below:

CD Baby

Damian also has a host of videos on his Youtube channel that will give you a taste of his music.  Below is one of my personal favorites – “Dawn” from the Waves of Spring release.

Hymnology Vol. 1 – The Kash Wright Trio

hymnologyMy first serious connection to music started in the church.  At the age of 5, I was singing in choirs and exposed to the sound of piano delivering rich, spirit inspired melodies.  I don’t believe I’m alone in the regard.  Many vocalists have a similar upbringing and it is immediately apparent when they open their mouths to sing. In his autobiography, Miles Davis spoke of his life in Arkansas and the soulful church music that resonated along the country roads when he visited his grandfather. Miles said those sounds shaped who he became as an artist and sent him on his journey to play music.

No one would ever dispute the direct connection that exists between R&B, jazz and gospel music.  Hymnology Vol. 1 by the Kash Wright Trio embraces this marriage of genres brilliantly.  In gospel music and jazz, the offerings that I appreciate most are those that honor the roots from which the music was born.  From the first tune to the last, Hymnology Vol. 1 provides that and so much more.

The trio includes Kash Wright on piano, Mike Montgomery on bass and Bobby Beall on drums. Hymnology Vol. 1 is their third recording as a group and it shows by how well they play together.  Each member honors the importance of individuality while using their strengths to create a singular swinging unit.  At the risks of making assumptions, it sounds like these guys really enjoy creating music together.

Kash Wright wrote fantastic arrangements of tunes one would regularly hear in church and the trio executes his vision wonderfully.  The beautiful introduction on “There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit” yields way to a light bouncing swing that sets the tone for the entire album.  Bobby Beall’s solo drum work on “How Great Thou Art” could have lasted another 10 minutes.  His feel on the kit is expressive and the projected vibe of the trio is pure joy.  The band raises the energy to another level with “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” which starts out with a playful rendition of melody before diving headfirst into swinging rhythm changes (Mike Montgomery provides a tasty solo here and his playing throughout is impeccable).  Kash’s roots of playing in church become evident when listening to his intro on “What a Fellowship, What a Joy Devine” and is brought home by excellent solos by Mike and Bobby.  “Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus, When We All Get to Heaven” serves as the perfect benediction.  The transition from burning swing to slow groove works really well.

I could easily go on but some things are best enjoyed for yourself.  I’m already looking forward to Vol. 2, but there is so much good music to digest in this recording.  Use the links below to listen to the samples available on Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes.  Highly recommended to anyone who loves jazz, gospel or is just a fan of good music.  Let the church say Amen and pass the collection plate.

Available on:
CD Baby

Find out more about the Kash Wright Trio here:

Rewind That

rewindthatWith his new CD Rewind ThatChristian Scott shows that his name must be included in the list of cats pushing jazz forward while still remaining true to its roots. Joining Christian on this album are Walter Smith III (tenor saxophone); Matt Stevens (guitar); Zaccai Curtis (Fender Rhodes & Wurlitzer); Luques Curtis (acoustic bass & electric bass); Thomas
Pridgen (drums) and Donald Harrison (alto saxophone). I was particularly impressed with Walter Smith III who debut CD is a must have on all jazz lovers list.

As a trumpet player and composer Christian really shines. His sound is unique and versatile. Bright and searing one minute, soft and fluffy the next, he adjusts to mood of the music. All of the songs on the album are originals with the exception of two. My favorites include the pulsing title track “Rewind That”, “Say It” (drummer Thomas Pridgen really shines) and “Suicide.”  The original songs were all closely tied to Christian’s personal experiences and it
shows in solos.

This fantastic CD is one of the few that manages to fuse many different genres of music together successfully while still remaining true to elements of jazz that I love. I can easily hear influences of jazz, rock, hip hop and R&B in each track. Normally an album does a good job of addressing one or the other – but this CD does a fantastic job embracing them all. Big props to Christian and his band for that. If forced to pick a favorite CD for 2006 this would be one of the first on my list.

On a side note, I also picked up one of Donald Harrison?s CDs just for an opportunity to hear Christian play some more. On Kind of New he plays a solo on the title cut that sounds so much like Miles Davis it’s scary. This cat has skills. Now he needs to come to Washington
DC so I can hear him live!

First One Up

FirstOneUpSince taking up trumpet and trying to learn jazz I’ve learned that there are a ton of extremely talented cats out here who can flat out play. Many of them leave you scratching your head trying to figure out why they are not getting the attention that they deserve. One of those cats in my opinion in Darren Barrett. His CD First One Up is a great example of why people need to know him and his music. If you don’t know him – consider this an introduction.

First One Up was produced by the legendary Donald Byrd who was Darren’s teacher. Dr. Byrd’s impact is obvious in Darren’s playing. All the things you would want — big round sound, amazing technique, energy and beautiful phrasing — are all there. Darren shows off his writing with six original tunes. My favorites include “Word! Dr. Byrd”, “Dee’s Theme” and “Conceta Elfreda” — the later has gotten HEAVY play in my car and on my iPod. The band swings for the fences with “First One Up” and Mr. Barrett displays his exquisite ballad playing on “Impossible.” This recording is a treat from start to finish.

Joining Darren on this CD are reed men Kenny Garrett (2 tracks), Jimmy Greene (6 tracks), Aaron Goldman on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and John Lamkin on drums. If your listening experience is anything like mine you’ll probably run out and buy Darren’s other CDs – Deelingsand The Attack of the Wren – Wrenaissance Volume 1. You will not be disappointed.

I want to close this out with a quick shout out to Jason Palmer who hipped me to Darren. Jason was featured in Downbeat magazine as one of the 25 cats to watch on trumpet (along with my main man Jeremy Pelt). His debut CD is due for release soon on Ayva musica and I’m looking forward to checking it out. Thanks Jason and good luck with the new release!


songbookI first got hip to Jason Palmer when I checked out some of his music on SoundClick.  One performance that I attached to immediately was a rendering of the standard “All the Things You Are.” Jason took that tune in every possible direction and I marveled at his command of the horn and his ideas. I had never really heard the song performed that freely before. After hearing that performance, I looked forward to his first CD release. That release, entitled Songbook, has arrived via Avaya records and I was right to be excited about it.

All of the songs on this album are written and arranged by Jason. I really like where he’s going with his compositions. To my ears he pays homage to the jazz tradition but he still manages to move the music/genre forward. My favorite tunes are the energetic “Checkmate,” the cleverly named “Shadowboxer” and “One for J Mac” which is dedicated to the late great Jackie McLean. When I listened to “Found It” I immediately thought of Booker
Little who I think Jason admires as well.

His writing skills are equally matched by his prowess on trumpet. Joining
Jason on Songbook are Warren Wolf on vibes (who plays a great solo on
“The Shadowboxer”), Leo Genovese on piano/Rhodes, Matt Brewer on bass
and Tommy Crane on drums. The group as a whole sounds really good and they are
joined by Greg Osby on alto and Ravi Coltrane on tenor.

Jason was listed as one of the top 25 young trumpet players on today’s jazz
scene. In the article he was described as an adventurous player within his music
but he stressed that he “doesn’t want to lose the movement, the danceability.” I agree with his approach wholeheartedly and Songbook accomplishes exactly what he aims for. The more I listen to it, the more I find to like about it. Highly recommended!

The Jody Grind

thejodygrindI’ve been listening to a lot of music over the past few months but this one
has consistently found it’s way into my ears, CD player and iPod. From beginning to end this is trademark Horace Silver — funky jazz with tunes that will stick in your cranium long after you stop listening. Joining Horace on this endeavor is James Spaulding (alto saxophone, flute); Tyrone Washington (tenor saxophone); Woody Shaw (trumpet); Larry Ridley (bass); Roger Humphries (drums).

Woody Shaw is simply outstanding. His solos are well crafted and his technique is flawless. On “Grease Piece” he goes on a series of runs and acrobatics spurred on by Silver and the rhythm section. Shaw’s playing on this album really changed my concept of sound. I found myself REALLY listening to what he was doing from an improvisational and trumpet playing standpoint. For example – I love that touch of vibrato that he throws in on the end of some
phrases. Up till now – I’ve played everything straight with no vibrato (ala Miles). I may have to add that flavor to my playing in the future.

Most people mention Cape Verdean Blues as their favorite Shaw/Silver recording (and how could you NOT with Joe Henderson and J.J. Johnson joining them) but this is probably my favorite of the two. Still, I have played The Jody Grind WAY more than Verdean so perhaps I need to apply the same attention to the later.

More to come…

Into the Blue

into-the-blueSince he came on the scene, Nicholas Payton has been known for his killer technique and big sound. Listening to him you could easily hear the influences of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw ? all cats who could make flames jump out the bell of their horns. It would be a safe statement to say that Nick can pretty much do it all when it comes to trumpet. While some may argue that this recording lacks the fire of his previous works, to me Into the Blue feels like new chapter in the musical life of its composer. I find it to be more honest and real than anything he has released to date and because of that I consider it his best thus far.

I read one comparison between Into the Blue and the Miles Davis classic recording of Kind of Blue and there is evidence to support that statement. While Nick may be known for high energy, several songs feature some of the most soulful, melodic and thoughtful playing that I’ve ever heard from him or any other trumpet player. “Drucilla” starts off melancholy and moody before gradually transforming into a swinging affair that ends far too soon.  “Let It Ride” and “The Backward Step” also feature the same fantastic playing.  When I caught Nicholas at Blues Alley a few weeks ago he had added lyrics to these tunes which makes sense when you hear them. They practically scream for words. He also lends his voice to the tune “Blue” following in a long line of trumpet players who also sang (Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and Clark Terry to name a few). “Triptych” and “Nida” remind me of DC’s homegrown sensation of go-go. Both are groove based and feature in the pocket percussion.

What is amazing to me is Nick?s transformation with regards to sound and style. Even his phrasing feels different. Needless to say I enjoy this album very much. Run (do not walk) to the store and pick this one up.  Feeling lazy?  Pull iTunes and download it.  You will not be disappointed.

The Dock of the Bay

dockofthebayGrowing up, my parents never played jazz albums. I didn’t really find out
about Miles Davis, John Coltrane and others until much later in life. One thing I did get a good dose of was Otis Redding. My father was (and still is) a huge Otis fan and I think I inherited his love. I also count it as a heavy influence in how I approach music – whether it is jazz on the trumpet or singing in the church choir.

The Dock of the Bay is easily one of my favorite albums. I have great memories associated to each song (I vividly remember singing the song “Tramp” with my sister all the time as kids) but even without the memories the music presented is simply fantastic. Otis Redding had a unique voice and the ability to pour so much emotion into a song. Whether he was begging his girlfriend to “Open the Door” or telling about the “Glory of Love” you could feel every bit of it. He plays with an incredible horn section including Otis Redding died at 26 in a plane crash. He was in the prime of his career and his writing on this album showed that he was on the verge of something tremendous. The lyrics of the song “Ole Man Trouble” hold a bone chilling irony considering that this album was released after his death…

Sometime I get – I get a little worried
ole man trouble Please Please
Stay away from me
Ole man trouble
Stay away from me
You’re nothing but trouble
Stay away, stay away Please


choices“I consider myself a jazz man in the world of ideas, a
blues man in the life of the mind.  Because my models were jazz musicians and
blues men, who have to find their voices, not just be echoes.  Who had to have a
vision, not just a stare.  And in the end, have to be true to themselves.
Because all imitation is suicide.  All emulation is a sign of an adolescent
mind.  Now all of us imitate.  All of us emulate.  But those who love us, like
Monk loved Coltrane?  You don’t need to imitate Johnny Hodges.  Go ahead and
find your voice brother.”  – Dr. Cornel West.

The profound quote above is taken from a track called “Jazz
Man in the World of Ideas” from Terence Blanchard’s newest recording Choices.
This latest release is an example of the perfect marriage of philosophy and
ideas woven into the fabric of good music.  After listening to this recording
several times I find myself inspired as a musician but most importantly,
inspired as a human being.

Choices was recorded at the Ogden Museum of Southern
Art in New Orleans – a first for Terence and a surprise considering it is where
he was born and raised.   The previous and Grammy Award winning recording A
Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina)
. dealt with Hurricane Katrina and
it?s aftermath.  Choices deals with decisions made with regards to
religion, acceptance, politics, race and several other important subjects that
we deal with on a daily basis.  As deep as those subjects are Choices
still provides what most people look for in a recording ? good music.

The musicians on Choices include Derrick Hodge on bass,
Kendrick Scott on drums, Fabian Almazan on piano, Lionel Loueke on guitar and
Walter Smith III on tenor saxophone.  Also making a guest appearance is vocalist
Bilal who?s energy and unique delivery adds a nice change of pace.  Terence
asked each member of the band to provide new material for this recording.
?Winding Roads? by Derrick Hodge features a haunting melody layered with Bilal?s
wordless vocals.  The song has a spiral, hypnotic feel to it and is probably my
favorite cut on the recording.  ?Him or Me? and ?Hugs (Historically
Underrepresented Groups) both feature unique musical themes that transform into
a vehicle for the soloists to stretch out and express themselves.  These songs
were penned by Walter Smith III and Fabian Almazan respectively.  ?A New World
(Created Inside the Walls of Imagination)? also by Derrick Hodge, is a
great tune featuring the rhythm, feel and energy of a New Orleans 2nd
line parade.  As with all of Terence’s recordings – group interaction is
fantastic.  The give and take between each musician is exciting to hear.

As good as the music is on this recording, I found myself
also inspired by the spoken word of Dr. Cornel West.  Dr. West speaks on the
different types of choices we make in life and how those choices affect us and
ultimately the world we live in.  I was originally concerned with how dialog would
mesh with the flow of the music but it works and it works really well.  Each
spoken segment becomes an important part of each song.

Dr. West’s thoughts on religion and spirituality leading
into “Winding Road” struck a chord deep within me.  I believe that music can do
so much more than make you dance.  History has proven that it also has the power
to reach deep within a person and cause them to evaluate their lives and
actions.  Sometimes it can inspire change.  If you’re open to that type of
experience (and I think we all are), Terence Blanchard’s Choices
accomplishes this feat while still managing to feed your entertainment ear.

The Cape Verdean Blues

capeverdeanWhen I mentioned to a few folks that I really dug Horace Silver’s The Jody
, they immediately told me to be sure to check out Cape Verdean Blues. The funny thing is I had already purchased this album before Jody Grind and while I thought it was good — it wasn’t a CD that received frequently play. Upon revisiting, that time is over. Cape Verdean Blues and Jody Grind have been played more than any others in my music collection over the past few months.

The front line horn section includes Woody Shaw on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor and a guest appearance by J.J. Johnson on trombone for three selections. What more could you ask for?  The music is classic funky Silver but stretched and filled with exploration. The tune selection gives the horns an opportunity to show their stuff. Their solos are reflective, aggressive, energetic and plugged directly into spirit of the player. It is a true example of what we all strive for when we attempt improvisation. Break out a pen and pad… take some notes on this one.

Woody is brilliant as usual. I can’t say enough about the influence he has had on me over the past few months. I am probably repeating my comments from my Jody Grind review but his technique, tone, ideas and phrasing are absolutely astonishing.

Highly recommended.