New Music For Friday October 25th

Lizanne Knott - "Bones and Gravity" - Good Dog Jake Music 

AR-LizanneKnott.jpgOddly enough, Philadelphia based Lizanne Knott is more popular in the UK than in the US. She has a certain following in the greater Philadelphia area, however, where she is a managing partner in Morning Star Studios, a Grammy winning recording company. With six albums in total now released, Knott has had her music showcased on radio, the BBC, films, TV movies, and of course, the humble CD to which anyone may listen. Across the range of songs on the "Bones and Gravity" release hints of a variety of styles, including pop, country and folk may all easily be found. By her own admission, her intent was to "create something personal and cohesive in nature." To that point, much of this work is about the struggles she has endured in life. She sings about failed relationships. And in what I felt like was sort of unique, I really thought her voice had a Taylor Swift quality about it. Combine that with songs about lost love? I don't know... In any event, I really enjoyed "Bones" not only for Knott's ability to tell a story, but also the creative way in which the music was presented. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Troy Roberts - "Days Like These" - Toy Robot Music

AR-TroyRoberts.jpgIn his eleventh release, Troy Roberts takes his place as a bandleader in his own right. What follows are eight works of traditional, mostly straight up jazz. The arrangements are well crafted and appear mostly complex, a nice feat given that there is basically only a trio - sax, organ and drums. On track three, "Trams," Roberts admits "the melody is actually the bassline played backwards." Hint: what is "Trams" backwards? So it's fair to say he is having some fun along the way.  Roberts is quite skilled on the saxophone and in total, there are three covers and five original works. What may be equally impressive is that "Days" was recorded live and in only one day. This makes for a "you are there" quality and demonstrates a certain spontaneity and versality. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Bill O'Connell - "Wind Off The Hudson" - Savant Records


AR-BillO'Connell.jpgIf I am going to listen to traditional jazz, I prefer a more upbeat tempo as opposed to lethargically slow, melodically drawn out compositions. I want to tap my foot. And with O'Connell's latest release, "Wind Off The Hudson," I am able to do that. For that reason alone, I pretty much liked this album. This is a pretty complex work as well, with ten musicians and a robust string and horn sections. There is a definite Latin-based theme in his compositions which is something he has been doing for most of his 40-year career. O'Connell is a recipient of the "Jazz Writer of the Year" award and is on the faculty of Rutgers University. He is a dedicated proponent of Latin Jazz and this dedication shows up very clearly in "Wind." Fun. Mostly upbeat. Toe Tapping. Yeah, this is a good one. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Shawn Purcell - "Symmetricity" - Armored Records

AR-ShawnPurcell.jpgPittsburg, PA native Shawn Purcell spends most of his time in the Washington, DC area as a jazz guitarist, arranger and composer. He also serves as an educator in jazz studies. He has performed at jazz clubs and worked as a session player for a host of Jazz artists and even played on quite a few Grammy winning performances. His latest release, "Symmetricity," is technically traditional jazz, however, it is done in a firmly regimented improv style. While Purcell is the lead guitarist, he shares each of the ten tracks with horn sections and does so seamlessly. Strings and horns blend beautifully and moves back and forth in a very organic way.  He has been called a "fresh addition to the modern jazz scene." His music is certainly so. All in all, a very good work and very much recommended for all traditional jazz fans. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Randy Lewis Brown - "Red Crow" - Berkalin Records

AR-RandyLewisBrown.jpgTwenty years ago, I would have not given the latest work by Randy Lewis Brown a passing thought. At that time, I was not in any manner a fan of Country music. Times have changed and while I am still not disposed to that twangy, lost my love and my truck music of the 1950's, I do like a Country song, albeit more in a rock style. Such is the case with "Red Crow." Originally from Shreveport and raised in Texas, it seems natural Country music would be in Brown's blood. Yet, however, Brown is also a magnificent storyteller. He weaves tales of despair and redemption, loneliness, and sings about times past. One thing I did enjoy is the ample use of a Hammond B3, one of my more favorite instruments. Also joining in are all the instruments found in the Country genre, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin and of course, drums, guitar and bass. While this is a work of Country, it is done in a rock style and I even detected a hint of funk at several points along the way. Twenty years ago, no, not a chance. Today? I thought it was a heck of a good time. 

Overall: 8.5

Sonics: 8

Rich Willey Boptism Funk Band - "Conspiracy" - Wise Cat Records

Thumbnail image for AR-RichWilley.jpgWhen I first picked up the CD of the latest release from Rich Willey (rhymes with "Billy") I thought it felt familiar. I reviewed his earlier work, "Down and Dirty" on July 26. Aside from a slight name change of "Boptism Big Band" to Boptism Funk Band," what I liked about the earlier release I liked as much, if not more about this one. Simply put, "Conspiracy" is just a lot of fun music. Okay, maybe it could be classified as big band. But not completely. Traditional Jazz, maybe? Well, not totally. How about my personal favorite, smooth jazz, would that apply? It would in places but not all the way through. Actually, Willey's latest work is an amalgam of all three styles and is positive, upbeat, great tempo and just a lot of fun. All eleven original tracks seemed to me to just fly by and it was over before I even knew it. There is a strong horn section of course, but also acoustic and electric guitars and bass. Also on display are piano, organs, and my buddy, the veritable Hammond B3. When he is not performing, Willey teaches music at the college level at several schools in the Western, NC and upper part of SC regions. This one has it all, horns, strings, percussion, great arrangements, and a whole lot of toe tappin' fun. 

Overall: 9.5

Sonics: 8

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