Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CDs of Note…

Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge, The Comet’s Tail (MAMA Records)
Tampa-based Chuck Owen is directs the University of South Florida’s Center for Jazz Composition. He also runs his own mighty fine, high-flying pro big band, The Jazz Surge. This project features his band performing new robust arrangements of a wide range of compositions by late saxophonist Michael Brecker (from his Steps Ahead days in the 1980s through his final recording, Pilgrimage). It’s an outgrowth from, and features the winning entry in, the Center’s International Jazz Arranging Competition in Honor of Michael Brecker (more than 80 arrangements were entered), along with other arrangements by Owen, CJC colleague Dave Stamps, and guest contributors Vince Mendoza and Gil Goldstein.

Guest musicians for the recording and a series of related concerts include Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Adam Nussbaum, violinist Rob Thomas, saxophonists Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano and vibes player Mike Mainieri. Highlights: “Peep,” the competition-winning arrangement by Fred Stride of Vancouver, British Columbia; “How Long ‘Til The Sun” featuring Randy Brecker and Rob Thomas; the frenetic “Itsbynne Reel,” the Mendoza-arranged “Slings and Arrows” and the poignant “Everything Happens When You’re Gone,” which features Lovano. Other standout soloists include pianist Per Danielsson, guitarist LaRue Nickelson and tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins.

Ralph Bowen, Dedicated (Posi-Tone)
Tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen recorded this forceful CD of original material as a musical thank you to six mentors who played key roles in his musical and career development. The Canadian first emerged on the New York scene in the 1980s as co-leader of Blue Note Records’ sextet Out of the Blue. This new CD teams him with guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Antonio Sanchez and trumpeter Sean Jones, who guests on one track.

Everything here is a gem, showcasing Bowen’s muscular tenor and strong credentials as a composer and improviser. Favorites: Rogers’ soloing and comping on the opener “Canary Drums,” the spirited Bowen-Jones interplay and unison on “Mr. Bebop” and the beautiful ensemble work on “Prof.” (The six tracks are dedicated to the late Keith Blackley, Pat LaBarbera, Jim Blackley, David Baker, William Fielder and Eugene Rousseau.)

Carol Bach-y-Rita, What Love Is (Arugula Records)
This is an intriguing mix of Brazilian and American jazz and pop standards - shifting between English and Portuguese - from Los Angeles-based singer, dancer, actress, voiceover artist Carol Bach-y-Rita. This debut CD has a lot going for it, including its most-musical, sensual and laid-back feel. Her interpretations of Jobim’s “Corcovado” and Johnny Mandel’s ”A Time for Love” are as cool and soothing as a pitcher of caipirinhas on a sweltering summer afternoon. Her backing quartet features bassist Trey Henry, pianist Jamieson Trotter, drummer Mike Shapiro and saxophonist/flutist Robert Kyle. The Bach-y-Rita-Henry duet version of “Don’t Explain” is exquisite. A beautiful version of “Lazy Afternoon” closes the session.

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