Music I Like

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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 electrifiedbass.net.  To purchase music visit the links below:

CD Baby
iTunes
BandCamp

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:
iTunes
Amazon
CD Baby

Find out more about the Kash Wright Trio here:
http://www.prakashwright.com/kash-wright-trio

Woody Shaw Live Vol. 3

woodyvol3Well what do you know… another CD review where Woody Shaw is the trumpet player. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Over the past few months listening to Woody has been an amazing education for me. We won’t even talk about encouragement and inspiration through his sound and reading various articles about him on the Internet. He has quickly risen to the top of my trumpet influence list. While I know that I cannot attempt to play his ideas due to my lack of technique, the experience of getting to know him musically has
really opened my ears in so many ways. One – I embraced the power and authority of the trumpet. Two – I embrace the ring and bright full sound that it can create in the hands of a master. Woody Shaw is truly one of the masters.

Woody Shaw Live Volume III is an amazing CD and a testimate to this great artist and composer. I have always loved the song “Little Red’s Fantasy” but the song “Organ Grinder” is now a true favorite of mine. I can’t count the number of times I have played this song. All of the solos on this cut are incredible (especially Stafford James on bass and Mulgrew Miller on piano).

Woody is trule the star of the show and his solos leave my head spinning as I wonder where this beautiful cat developed such an amazing command of the trumpet and the language by which he communicates. The good news? Late February promises a Woody Shaw Live
Volume IV
CD release. I can’t wait.  In the mean time, pick up Volume III to keep your ears occupied and happy.

Brotherhood

brotherhoodAs a professor in the jazz department at Towson University and founder/teacher of the Jazz Band Masterclass program, Jeff Antoniuk has helped many aspiring musicians accomplish their goals.  Combine this with his work in the Maryland Summer Jazz workshops and it’s safe to say that he’s been very influential in the lives of many jazz players.  All of that knowledge, direction and inspiration shared as a teacher can be heard and felt in his latest CD releaseBrotherhood.

Jeff Antoniuk and the Jazz Update include Jeff Antoniuk on tenor/soprano sax, Tom Baldwin on bass, Wade Beach on keys and Tony Martucci on drums.  This unit is a regular working band that delivers energy and excitement from the word go.  It’s wonderful to listen to a group of musicians who are comfortable playing with each other but also very interested in stretching the boundaries that they collectively explore.  They also seem to really love playing together and that joy comes crashing through in the music.

The opening tune “Screwball” is dedicated to Jeff’s son Aidan.   The humor and energy of a six year-old is evident as Jeff weaves through the time changes effortlessly with loads of expression and humor.  The title track “Brotherhood” cranks down the intensity a notch at the band settles into a solid groove accented by a great solo by Tony Martucci.  “Meet Me at the Ponderosa” is a treat from beginning to end with Wade Beach taking a ear catching solo combining piano with electronics.  “Waltz with the Wind” was composed by Tom Baldwin and it’s melody has been jammed in my head since I first heard it at the Maryland Summer Jazz workshop last year.  Tom’s melancholy solo sets the mood leading into a great response by Jeff on soprano sax.  These are just a few of the songs you will hear on Brotherhood and none of them disappoint.

Anyone who studied with Jeff knows that he often stressed the importance of listening to good music in order to grow as a musician.  With Brotherhood I was given a lesson in playing with good tone, good time and feeling but I as a music lover I was entertained from start to finish.  I recommended this CD highly as well as seeing Jeff and his band perform in several locations around the MD/DC/VA area.

Identity

identityJeremy Pelt has done it again. His recently release Identity is everything a jazz CD should be – expressive, personal and explorative. When I caught up with him at the Kennedy CenterTwins a few months ago he was very excited about this CD and rightly so. To me it contains some of his best work.

If you have been listening to the MP3s of live shows he has performed over the past year – the direction he takes here should come as no surprise. The personnel on this CD are Frank LoCrasto: piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, effects; Vicente Archer: bass; Eric McPherson: drums. With Mike Moreno: guitar; Warren Wolf: vibraphone and Myron Walden: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet. All of these cats have played with Jeremy prior to this recording and it shows. The group is clearly on the same page in concept/direction while still allowing their individual voices to be heard.

From the energetic (and to my ears rock inspired) “Suspicion” to the floating “Eye of the Beholder,” Jeremy covers a wide but related spectrum of material. I say related because the overall vibe of the CD remains relatively constant. All music was written by Jeremy and shows that he is developing some serious composer chops. My favorite tune on the album is “Eddie’s Story” a tribute to a fantastic trumpet player by the name of Eddie Henderson. As far as his playing is concerned – he is on his game technically. His trumpet tone varies from dark and mysterious to electric and energetic. His sound on flugel is to die for makes me very glad that I picked up another Conn V1. His ideas are spontaneous and seem unrehearsed.

If you like straight ahead jazz and appreciate tunes that deviate from the norm, you should enjoy this latest offering. Jeremy and the group stretch the boundaries of music without totally destroying them. Personally speaking – I like that.

Soul

soulI have been horrible about documenting my exploration in music and sharing gems.  Since my last entry Jeremy Pelt has managed to release two new recordings.  The first was The Talented Mr. Pelt (which featured one of my favorite classic, recording covers) and his latest release – Soul.

AAt a time when many musicians sound alike, Jeremy’s sound, style and phrasing are truly his own.  His technical prowess on the horn is known from live performances and recordings but the level of emotion that he displays truly sets his playing apart.  He crafts solos that are thoughtful and exciting but most importantly – lyrical.  J.D. Allen (be sure to check out his release Matador & the Bullstrong) on tenor provides the perfect musical partner to Jeremy.  With the dynamic rythmn section of Danny Grissett (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums) – the Jeremy Pelt Quintet shows was a working band is truly capable of.  These talented musicians have played together for a number of years and it shows.

Always considered a very strong composer, Jeremy’s pen shines bright on this
release.  His knowledge and appreciation for the great american song book have given bloom to some exceptional music.  From the hauntingly beautiful “Second Love” to the stormy “Tempest,” Jeremy creates musical playgrounds for his group to explore and they bring us along for the ride.  Each player brings their own unique flavor and interpetation to the music and that quality is probably why Jeremy has continued to work with these talented men.

At a time when many artists explore inovation for the sake of inovation, Mr. Pelt’s journey is one that honors a rich history while showing what is still possible to keep this music exciting and fresh.  Each progression feels natural and unforced.  Soul is the culmination of that effort and it makes me hopeful and excited about what is coming up next.  Highly recommended.

Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall

monktraneWhen it was announced that previously unreleased material from a Monk/Coltrane concert had been discovered at the Library of Congress everyone who loved jazz had to lick their chops as I did.  Two of the giants in jazz performing their material live at Carnegie Hall of all places!?  What could be better?  My imagination at the time did not prepare me for what my ears heard when I listened to this CD for the first time.  It was truly beyond anything I expected.

From the first tune – “Monk’s Mood” you realize that something really special happened that night.  Monk’s opening statement is absolutely beautiful.  His touch seems soft but confident.  When Trane joins him…  good gracious…  somebody pinch me please.  What you
hear on this recording is two masters of music completely confident with the material and each other.  While I would be hard pressed to find favorite tunes on this recording (they are all excellent) I would have to say that “Bye-Ya,” “Blue Monk” and “Epistrophy” really
plugged in with me.  Coltrane navigates the changes with confidence and Monk continues to stretch the boundaries of tunes that he had probably performed countless times.  My goose bumps have goose bumps.

The sound quality is absolutely astounding.  Crystal clear and incredibly balanced.  Monk was playing on a grand piano that really allows his genius and unique playing abilities to shine.  Check out Shadow Wilson’s cymbal work on “Epistrophy” — good gracious.  To me this ranks with some of the greatest jazz albums recorded and a must have for every music library.  Easily the best release of music this year and the best I’ve heard since getting turned on to jazz.  Get it.  Now.

At Sea

atseaIt is no mystery to anyone who visits my site regularly that I am a big fan of Ingrid Jensen. Her ability on the horn and her music are a big reason for this but she is also a fantastic person. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a few times and I found her to be nice and very genuine.  I hope to get another trumpet lesson from her next time she is in the area – I really learned a lot the last time we met and I left feeling encouraged.

In jazz, one of the ultimate goals for any musician is to be able to find their own voice.  Preferably that voice would contain echoes of the legendary players who have come before but that voice would still speak with individuality. To my ears – Ingrid has managed to do this in her ideas, phrasing and her sound (both on trumpet and flugelhorn). Every note that spills from her bell seems to have a purpose and emotion behind it. Nothing sounds planned or contrived.  It truly is a joy to hear.  What she plays seems to come from within and as
a response to what she hears around her.

What she hears and responds to on At Sea is generated by a very talented group of musicians: Geoffrey Keezer, Jon Wikan, Matt Clohesy, Lage Lund and Hugo Alcazar. There is a great sense of unity with this group and obviously a heavy dose of listening to one another. On different songs there are shifts in tempo and even style – everyone handles it without hesitation. “Swotterings” is an excellent example of this (it’s a really fun song).  On the title track “At Sea” I can close my eyes and actually imagine the ocean, its movement and life within it stirring about in response.  As I write this the melody of “As Love Does” is running through my head – all of the music is quite memorable.

Ingrid Jensen is a musician who is on top of her game and sure of her direction in music. We should feel fortunate that she is sharing her journey with us.  I can’t recommend this CD enough.

Just Noodlin’

justnoodlinAs I spend time trying to learn this music and attending area performances, I realize that Washington DC has a wealth of talented artists dedicated to keeping jazz alive, well and prospering. Paul Carr is one of those talented artists and his latest CD Just Noodlin’ is a sample of why he is one of the areas finest performers.

After spending several weeks spinning this disc, Just Noodlin’ brings to mind the music of the golden Blue Note era. Part of that is because all of the tunes on this CD were recorded without overdubbing.  This gives a feeling of living/playing/creating in the moment and I applaud Paul for taking that approach.  The tunes include two songs composed by Paul himself in addition to two tunes written by Rueben Brown (another DC area player). Rueben wrote my favorite cut on the album – “Blue and Brown.” Other stand outs include the title track “Just Noodlin’”, “Krush Groove” (both composed by Paul) and “Pat & Chat.” Paul’s skills as a balladeer are showcased on “You’ve Changed.”

Joining Paul on this CD is the one and only Terell Stafford. Terrell continues to crank out quality work as leader and sideman – this recording is no exception. He is definitely one of the ones to watch in arena of jazz trumpet.  His tone is to die for and his abilities on the horn are simply amazing. I always learn something when I listen to him and that usually sends me straight to the practice room (always a good thing).  The core rhythm section consists of Andrew Adair (piano), Gavin Fallow (bass) and Steve Williams (drums). Also joining Paul on are Bob Butta (piano), Vince Evans (piano), Sam Turner (percussion), Harold Summey (drums) and Michael Bowie (bass).

Paul’s playing on the CD is fantastic and currently has me running all over town to hear him live.  If you don’t live in the Washington DC area this is the next best thing.  You can find out more about Paul Carr and purchase this great CD at his website http://www.paulcarrjazz.com. There was also an excellent interview with him on AllAboutJazz.com that can be read 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!