Friday, March 5, 2021

Doug Macdonald - Toluca Lake Jazz (2021)

Doug MacDonald and Harvey Newmark, two greatly in-demand players from Southern California, have worked together many times through the years, often in MacDonald’s groups which range from trios to his 13-piece ensemble The Jazz Coalition.

The guitarist and the bassist are so complementary to each other’s playing that they often seem to think as one, as if it were one musician playing a single instrument with four hands.

Toluca Lake Jazz features swinging versions of such beloved standards as “Flamingo” (a ballad that is taken here at a medium-tempo pace), the classic bossa-nova “My Little Boat,” a jazz waltz rendition of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” “These Foolish Things” (featuring beautiful ballad playing from the guitarist), John Coltrane’s “Village Blues,” “Easy Living” (which has some particularly close interplay by the musicians) and a cooking “If I Had You.”

MacDonald’s originals include an uptempo “Toluca Lake Jazz” (originally composed for his big band), his unaccompanied “Is This It,” “Desert Jazz” (featuring both of the musicians sharing the melody), the augmented blues “De-Ha,” “Pleasante Pleasant” (named after drummer Tim Pleasant), and “New World” which is loosely based on “It’s A Blue World” and has close interplay by the two players.

Long a major force in Southern California as a guitarist, bandleader and composer, Doug MacDonald is originally from Philadelphia and spent periods living and playing in Hawaii (where he worked with Trummy Young, Gabe Baltazar and Del Courtney) and in Las Vegas, performing at the latter with Joe Williams, Carl Fontana, and Jack Montrose. Since settling in Los Angeles, he has been a sideman with such notables as Bill Holman, Ray Anthony, Rosemary Clooney, Jack Sheldon, Bob Cooper, Buddy Rich, and Ray Charles. However, MacDonald has made his greatest impact as the leader of his own groups and with his long series of inventive and rewarding recordings.

Harvey Newmark was born in Hollywood, took up the bass as a teenager, and has since worked with the who’s who of jazz including Buddy Rich, Bill Holman, Lew Tabackin, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Super Sax, Terence Blanchard, Carmen McRae, Joe Henderson, Anita O’Day and Cal Tjader plus the L.A. Philharmonic and several symphony orchestras. He has also performed with Doug MacDonald in a variety of groups during the past 15 years.

Throughout Toluca Lake Jazz, Doug MacDonald and Harvey Newmark create easily enjoyable music that is melodic (always keeping the melody in mind), filled with subtle surprises, and often magical.

1. Flamingo  4:06
2. My Little Boat  3:48
3. Baubles, Bangles, and Beads  3:02
4. These Foolish Things  4:52
5. Toluca Lake Jazz  5:28
6. Is This It?  2:17
7. Desert Jazz  3:34
8. Village Blues 4:25
9. De-Ha  4:02
10. Easy Living  5:05
11. Pleasante Pleasant  3:16
12. If I Had You  4:59
13. New World  4:49

Harvey Newmark bass

Larry Newcomb Quartet – Love, Dad (2021)

Larry Newcomb, who is considered one of the top all-round guitarists on the scene today, has played in a wide variety of settings during his productive career but his true love is modern straight ahead jazz. Love, Dad, Newcomb’s third recording as a leader, features the composer’s talented son Jake Newcomb on bass, the consistently inventive pianist Thomas Royal, and the supportive Dave Marsh on drums. The Quartet now explores new musical territory following Newcomb’s 2017 release, Living Tribute and 2015’s LIVE Intentionally!, which received a four-star review in Downbeat.

The quartet performs fresh renditions of four standards plus the leader’s six originals. The set begins with a relaxed version of “You Stepped Out Of A Dream” that, with its melodic guitar, piano and bass solos, serves as a fine introduction to the group. The guitarist’s “Essential Messengers” has a jaunty Latin feel and chordal work that recalls Wes Montgomery in spots, but advanced harmonies all its own. Newcomb’s quirky and almost Monkish “Cliffhanger Blues” displays his sly wit and has a particularly colorful piano solo.

“Love, Dad,” which is dedicated to Larry Newcombs’ three sons, is based on the chord changes of “Stella By Starlight” and is a cooker that inspiers thoughtful solos. Jake Newcomb is in the spotlight on Oscar Pettiford’s classic “Tricotism,” taking the melody and a subtle yet inspired solo. The leader’s “Soirée” is an original jazz waltz with a French feel to it and features one of his most adventurous solos of the program.

A change of pace is next in “Secret Agent Man,” certainly an offbeat choice for a jazz date but one that works well. This rollicking performance gives Newcomb an opportunity to revisit his roots. The heartfelt ballad “Hearts In Suspension,” a 6/8 to 4/4 hybrid “Love Intentionally” and a swinging “The Song Is You” conclude the enjoyable album.

Larry Newcomb was originally a blues rocker and worked along the way as lead guitarist with the touring bands of many pop and rock artists including Peter Noone (of Herman’s Hermits) and Leslie Gore. However while attending the University of Maine, he became interested in jazz. He has since earned Masters and PhD degrees in Music from the University of Florida and studied with such notables asg uitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Pat Martino, Jack Wilkins, Howard Roberts and Mark Elf. In his career, he has played with many of the top jazz musicians in New York and Florida including Reuben Wilson, Bob Mover, Bob Cunningham, Benny Powell, Manny Duran, Brian Charette and Joe Donato.

A busy educator as well as a performer, Larry Newcomb’s previous recordings, LIVE Intentionally! and Living Tribute, featuring the late jazz guitar icon Bucky Pizzarelli are each quite worthy; but, Love, Dad is his most inventive and mature recording to date, an excellent sampling of his guitar artistry and original approach to playing creative jazz.

1. You Stepped Out of a Dream (Nacho Herb Brown) 7:05
2. Essential Messengers (Larry Newcomb) 7:57
3. Cliffhanger Blues (Larry Newcomb) 6:58
4. Love, Dad (Larry Newcomb) 8:03
5. Tricotism (Oscar Pettiford) 4:31
6. Soirée (Larry Newcomb) 4:38
7. Secret Agent Man (P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri) 6:49
8. Hearts in Suspension (Larry Newcomb) 6:58
9. Love Intentionally (Larry Newcomb) 5:08
10. The Song Is You (Jerome Kern) 7:09

Larry Newcomb - guitar
Thomas Royal - piano
Jake Newcomb - bass
Dave Marsh - drums

Nelson Riveros – The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery (2021 Zoho Music)

The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery is a triumphant tribute album. It’s made by one master, in honor and celebration of another. Nelson Riveros is an acclaimed guitarist and composer who embodies the very idea of cultural fusion. Born in New York to Colombian parents, Riveros grew up learning about the music and cultures of the Americas. A few years ago, after playing a gig that involved performing songs in Wes Montgomery’s vaunted repertoire, Riveros had the idea of reimaging the legendary guitarist’s music in a Latin American style: “I started to hear all kind of rhythms, bass lines, and melodic variations to some of his tunes. The next day, I started writing arrangements, and this very project began to take shape,” said Riveros.

In making this terrific album, naturally Riveros wanted to collaborate with the very best musicians. And he did just that. He partnered with Hector Martignon (piano), a two-time Grammy nominee; Mark Walker (drums); Andy McKee (bass); Jonathan Gomez (percussion). Throughout the album, we can hear the band playing together as one, channeling the fluidness and virtuosity you will find on most if not all Wes Montgomery recordings.

Road Song is the opening salvo of Riveros’ opus. This rendition features an intro played in unison, which is actually a melodic cell that happens later in the song. The song has well placed space near the bridge so that Martignon can comp with a Latin feel, even introducing head-nodding montunos. The piece fades into a surprise ending that gives the listeners one more jolt, a reminder that the festivities continue. Tear It Down comes from Montgomery’s Bumpin’ which was released in 1965 on Verve. Montgomery’s version was a polished, straight-ahead swing number, which Riveros recast as a Brazilian Samba with Walker and Gomez adding colorful Latin percussion.

Four On Six is one of Riveros’ favorite songs of all time. He took the original bass line and turned it into a syncopated Tumbao. In fact, he first heard the Tumbao in his head before arranging the piece. Riveros studied Montgomery’s different recordings of this piece, noticing when the legendary artists played the chord hits and when he didn’t, for example. Riveros took all these elements and fused them into his arrangement, creating a wonderful collage in which the band grooves together marvelously. Wes’ Tune comes from Far Wes which was released in 1958. Riveros arranged the tune as a Colombian porro, which has a slower and more meditative tempo. It’s on this piece that Riveros shines as a soloist, spanning the fretboard with intervallic octaves and virtuosic chromaticism.

Nelson’s Groove is Riveros’ original composition, inspired by “Wes’ Tune.” The distinctive rhythms at the beginning are afoxé and baiao from Brazil. In a musical nod to Montgomery, Riveros plays mostly octaves during the bridge. West Coast Blues was on the LP The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery released in 1960. Riveros arranges this seminal number into a joropo, a style from Latin America, notably Venezuela and Colombia. With its 6/8 rhythm, this piece feels like a jazz waltz, or a number that could be found at a fandango with son jarocho music from Veracruz, Mexico. Musical highlights are Jonathan Gomez’s great touch with the maracas and Riveros’ elevated virtuosity.

Jingles is the last piece on the LP The Dynamic New Sound by the Wes Montgomery Trio, released in 1959. Riveros arranges it with a brisk tempo. It begins with a snippet of melody in the intro. The bridge swells with a fiery Latin jazz groove. Martignon delivers a rousing and impassioned solo which dramatically crescendos and gives way to Riveros’ intriguing improvisation.

Facing Wes is another original composition of Riveros, set in 7/4 with a section in 5. This piece certainly feels like a blues but it doesn’t go back to the IV minor. McKee plays a beautiful bass solo in which the low register rumbles with a rich and lush sound. This piece features a Montgomery-inspired melody of octaves in the bridge. “The turnaround features the ‘Wes’ style solo chords that I so love to play,” said Riveros. That Riveros is admitting his love of certain turnaround chords reveals the respect he has for Montgomery and the depth of this magnificent musical production. Leila is the capstone number that also comes from the 1958 Far Wes album. Riveros performs this piece as a solo arrangement on his nylon string guitar, as to inhabit the piece fully and give it a softer and more mellow feel. He harmonized the melody with different chords, so the piece sounds familiar but also fresh. Here too, Riveros adds a Latin vibe with a tumbao bass feel. This selection is both intimate and revealing, borne of Riveros’ mind and performed with his total heart.

You’ve never heard Wes Montgomery’s music like this before. Master guitarist Nelson Riveros reimagines many of the legendary guitarist’s pieces with a Latin aesthetic. Not only does this music swing, but it’s syncopated, accented by percussion from the Americas. Riveros has given us something wholly unique and inviting. The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery won’t just help you rediscover the music of a veritable music legend. It will also introduce you to Nelson Riveros, a talented guitarist with a big heart who has created a superb tribute to his musical hero.

1. Road Song 04:59
2. Tear It Down 05:16
3. Four On Six 04:19
4. Wes' Tune 04:31
5. Nelson's Groove 04:24
6. West Coast Blues 04:14
7. Jingles 06:04
8. Facing Wes 05:31
9. Leila 02:06

Nelson Riveros - guitar 
Hector Martignon - piano 
Andy McKee - bass 
Mark Walker - drums 
Jonathan Gomez - percussion 

Recorded at: Mozart Studios, Little Falls NJ, June 13, 2019. Recording engineer: Kostadin Kamcev. Additional recording: Lighthouse Studios.
Mixing and Mastering engineer: Ed Reed at Lighthouse Recording. Producers: Nelson Riveros, Kabir Sehgal, additional production work by Ed Reed.

Sonic Twist - Unity (2021)

Sonic Twist (Bruce Arnold, Guitar y Judi Silvano, Voice) nunca rehuye la aventura en su música, y para su último álbum UNITY, han adoptado un enfoque innovador. A partir de septiembre, han presentado una nueva pista con un video correspondiente cada semana en YouTube, lo que lleva al lanzamiento completo de UNITY.

Every piece of music on UNITY is evocative and varied, running the gamut of mystical, whimsical, dynamic and downright surreal. Videographer/artist Michal Shapiro was given a free creative hand and the results are visual counterparts to the music filtered through Shapiro’s “mind’s eye.”

This is the third album by the Sonic Twist duo, and each release has demonstrated the special affinities Silvano and Arnold share. Structure, theme and development are apparent no matter how far out they spin with each other. Theirs is a unique, spontaneous choreography. Although each track on UNITY is its own world, all 17 of them can be listened to as a unified suite that expresses a range of human experiences.

1 A Ha

2 Capricious

3 I Saw That

4 Bruce’s Boogie

5 Dryads

6 Lacewing

7 Hovercraft

8 Flutterby

9 Ha

10 Home Free

11 That’s What That Is

12 Chrysalis

13 Shamans Plane

14 Confabulation

15 Frisky

16 Shimmer Down

17 Compression Expansion

Judi Silvano | vocals

Bruce Arnold | guitar


Albare – Plays Jobim Vol. 2 (Alfi Records 2021)

Guitarist and composer, Albare was born in Morocco and grew up in Israel and France. Althoug he joined at age 8 the Music Conservatory in his hometown in Israel 2 years, his musical development was completely self-taught. These days, as Albare has lost his central vision faculties due to an illnes, his playing is completely by ear.

In 1972 Albare discovered the sound of Jobim while watching Marcel Camus's cult film, Orpheus Negro. The haunting melodies and unique compositions left a profound impression on the young guitarist and inspired Albare to study and play the melodic style for which he is now known for.

After the great sucess of Albare plays Jobim Volume 1, it only made sense to release a Volume 2.

1. Dindi 5:16

2. Summer Samba 3:56

3. A Felicidade 4:57

4. So Danço Samba3:28

5. Caminhos Cruzados 4:57

6. How Insensitive 5:09

7. Triste 4:30

8. Girl From Ipanema 3:56

9. Once I Loved 4:58

10. Favela 4:52

11. Meditation 4:59

Albare: acoustic, electric guitar

Joe Chindamo: arranger, orchestra conductor, piano

Paolo Bencid: drums (2-8, 10, 11)

Luisito Quintero: percussion

Guest artists:

Randy Brecker: trumpet (4, 10)

Nestor Torres: flute (2, 6)

Antonio Sanchez: drums (1, 9)

Dave Stryker - Baker’s Circle (2021)

After last year’s successful big band outing, Blue Soul, guitarist Dave Stryker is back with his hard-driving, deepgrooving B3 organ group on his new recording—Baker’s Circle. With the addition of cutting-edge tenor player Walter Smith III, Baker’s Circle features Stryker’s originals as well as a couple Eight Track gems and a tip of the hat to his former boss Stanley Turrentine. Along with Smith III, this fresh recording features Dave’s working band of Jared Gold on organ and McClenty Hunter on drums and adds Cuban percussionist Mayra Casales to three tracks as well.

Baker’s Circle starts with three Stryker originals. The hard-hitting “Tough” leads off with exciting solos by the whole band. Casales’ congas join in on the latin groove of “El Camino” followed by the bluesy 7/4 of “Dreamsong.” Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” is a medium swinger after which Gold’s burning “Rush Hour” shows why Walter Smith III is considered one of the best of his generation. And Dave adds his Eight Track fingerprint to Leon Russell’s “Superstar” and Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.”

Says Stryker: “Composer and educator David Baker was in my corner from the time I met him at a jazz camp when I was 17 till he hired me to take over as guitar professor at Indiana University a few years ago. I used to see him standing outside the Music School on a circular drive waiting for is wife Lida to pick him up. I named the song ‘Baker’s Circle, in his memory.”

Baker’s Circle closes with “Trouble (No. 2),” a grooving shuffle originally recorded by Stryker’s former boss, the great Stanley Turrentine. This caps a diverse program that showcases Stryker at his best—modern playing with the groove and soul that comes from years of experience.

1. Tough – Dave Stryker 7:27
2. El Camino – Dave Stryker 7:39
3. Dreamsong – Dave Stryker 5:24
4. Everything I Love - Cole Porter 6:11
5. Rush Hour – Jared Gold 4:59
6. Superstar – Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett, & Delaney Bramlett 3:40
7. Baker’s Circle – Dave Stryker 4:18
8. Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye & James Nyx Jr. 5:45
9. Love Dance – Ivan Lins, Gilson Peranzzetta, & Paul Williams 5:19
10. Trouble (No. 2) – Harold Logan & Lloyd Price 6:38

Dave Stryker - guitar
Walter Smith III - tenor sax
Jared Gold - organ
McClenty Hunter - drums
Mayra Casales - percussion (#2, 7, 8)

Produced and arranged by Dave Stryker
Executive Producer - Rick Simpson
Recorded January 11, 2019 by Chris Sulit at Trading 8s Studio, Paramus NJ
Mastered by Ed Littman