Sunday, February 22, 2009

CDs of note

Terrence Brewer, Groovin Wes, (Strong Brew Music)
The northern California (Bay area) guitarist pays tribute to modern jazz guitar icon Wes Montgomery on this fine project. It includes eight tunes that Montgomery wrote or covered. “Bumpin’ on Sunset” and “Yesterdays” are highlights, as are John Coltrane’s “Dearly Beloved” and a fresh take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.” In addition to Brewer’s clean, warm-toned sound, this classic guitar-organ-drums trio session is a superb showcase for Wil Blades on B3. Twenty-something Blades’ past affiliations have included the bands of John Lee Hooker, Stanton Moore and Idris Muhammed. He has also participated in organ summits with his B-3 mentor, Dr. Lonnie Smith. Micah McClain’s drumming is supportive and on the mark without being overbearing on this, his third CD session with Brewer.

Marc Copland, New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers, (Pirouet)
With the right combination of musicians, there can be extraordinary chemistry within the traditional piano-bass-drums trio. When they’re truly on, the magic is something to behold. Marc Copland’s trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart is climbing toward that rarified air. On this third volume of his trio recording series, Copland starts off with and then intersperses the trio work with three very different solo piano versions of “Emily” – one pensive and rather straight-forward, one busy and frenetic, one shimmering with bell-like tones. The bell-like theme to the first trio piece, “The Bell Tolls,” rather chant-like in its intensity. Copland’s title track, “Night Whispers” is more groove-like with interactive soloing. Exploration of the depths of possibilities within their interesting hornless version of “So What.” The Copeland-Gress-Stewart interplay is very fine throughout the trio pieces. Each of the players brought original music to this summit. Their collaborations on Copland’s “Scattered Leaves” and Stewart’s “Space Acres” (from his own 1995 release, Snide Remarks, stand out.

John Monllos, Shadow's Dance, (self-produced)
When you think Newport, it is natural to think jazz because of the granddaddy of all jazz festivals. But is also good to do so because of the Newport-based talent – players who work in and around the coastal resort city year-in, year-out. One such player is guitarist John Monllos, who built his chops in a Newport-based Navy Band, and decided to stick around these parts after his military days were done. Monllos is a versatile, high-energy guitarist whose sound has absorbed quality portions of rock, funk, Latin and contemporary jazz (a la Pat Metheny and Mike Stern, not the jazz smoothies or instrumental popsters). The title track is gorgeous, with very sensual samba-rhythm that blends his acoustic guitar sound with some very nice flute work by reed player Art Manchester, another local deserving wider recognition. There’s a wonderful and uncanny Carlos Santana sound on the Monllos original “CSW,” the best I’ve heard by someone other than Santana himself. Not surprising, CSW stands for Carlos Santana Wannabe.” Trumpeter Doug Woolverton turns in fine support on “Shadow’s Dance” and the funky ballad “Red Wine Girl.” Non-originals here include bassist Joe Potenza’s “Where the Buses Don’t Run,” a hot version of Miles Davis’s “Nardis” and a tribute to Michael Brecker – on Brecker’s composition “African Skies.”

John Scofield, Piety Street, (EmArcy)
This latest project from the versatile modern guitar master is a gem. It’s a project in which the bluesy side of gospel intersects with the funky, authentic sound of New Orleans. Scofield’s biting, stinging, singing guitar fits right in with his principally New Orleans-based bandmates – with Jon Cleary on keyboards and vocals, George Porter Jr. on bass and Ricky Fataar on drums. With this project recorded at New Orleans’ Piety Steet Studios, the unit became the Piety Street Band for a tour now supporting the CD. Crescent City local treasure John Boutté splits and shares vocal duties with Cleary. “Motherless Child,” “It’s a Big Army,” “The Angel of Death” and “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” are among the highlights. The singers blend nicely on “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” while Boutté shines on “Never Turn Back” and “The Old Ship of Zion,” which becomes a very strong guitar-vocal duet of sorts. This is due for release on March 31.

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