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Andy Adamson – A Cry For Peace
Label: Andross Records
That Andy Adamson is a self-taught musician, composer and arranger is impressive enough. What is equally, if not more impressive is his latest release, “A Cry For Peace.” Accompanied by bass, drum and saxophone, Adamson delivers a completely enjoyable work of what, if pressed for a classification, call traditional jazz. However, “A Cry For Peace” is really more than that. The first track, Ariel, begins quite slowly and builds into an up tempo work that is somewhat traditional jazz, somewhat contemporary or smooth jazz. Perhaps this is why I liked this work so much, it has contemporary jazz leanings which is my preferred jazz genre. Clearly, Adamson is totally in his element as he magnificently weaves his way through eight tracks that are just stellar.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver – Burden Bearer
Label: Mountain Home Music Company
Doyle Lawson is a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and with his band, Quicksilver, have released fifty albums in their long and storied career. In “Burden Bearer,” Lawson combines the Bluegrass sound for which he is so well known with twenty tracks of Gospel music. Not only will the listener be treated to superb Bluegrass performances, they will also be fortunate recipient of tight harmonies and accomplished vocal arrangements. There are several tracks performed all A Capella and it is with those tracks that the harmonic arrangements really stand out. Then again, this is something Doyle Lawson has always been known for delivering. If you like Bluegrass music, and you also like Gospel music, then “Burden Bearer” will be one you will certainly enjoy.
Suzanne Dean – Come To Paradise
Label: Ship’s Bell Music
Suzanne Dean was influenced by acoustic folk music from the 60’s and 70’s as well as delving into traditional jazz later in her career. In her latest release, “Come To Paradise,” she mixes all of these together, and even throws in some other eclectic African styles in what is a very listenable work. I especially enjoyed her mix of acoustic instrumentation, particularly guitars, with other jazz influenced instruments such as the saxophone. Having degrees in both Music and Film Scoring, and having released two previous jazz albums with guest musicians and jazz greats such as John Patitucci and Peter Erskine, Dean enjoyed both worldwide distribution and airplay. When she is not writing and recording music, Dean may be found teaching Music Application and Theory, Arranging and Harmony in her position as Associate Professor at Berkeley College of Music. It seems the teacher has become the student because with “Come To Paradise,” one might reasonably posit that Dean had been attending some of her own classes. I enjoyed every track and in fact, I plan to listen to this work again very soon.
Gene Ess – Absurdist Theater
Label: SIMP Records
Gene Ess is a confluence of styles. Born in Tokyo, Japan he studied classical piano by way of Beethoven and Chopin. While still pretty young, he moved to a US Air Force Base in Okinawa, switched to guitar and was introduced to the pop and jazz favored by the US soldiers. At age 14, he was performing in clubs and other venues in Okinawa. When he moved to the US, he attended and received a music degree from the Berkeley College of Music in Boston. In “Absurdist Theater,” Ess uses voice, specifically in the form of vocalist Thana Alexa, as an instrument of sorts. Oddly enough, he pulls this off flawlessly and surprisingly, makes voice as an instrument seem like it should just naturally be there. Ess’ ability as an award winning guitarist are also on full display on a work that would likely be considered by most as traditional jazz. It is, however, more than that. Turn down the lights, turn up the volume, settle into your listening chair and enjoy.
]]>Roger Hoover – Pastures
Label: Last Chance Records
Sometimes, what we need is more simplicity, both in our everyday lives and perhaps even in our music. In “Pastures,” Roger Hoover delivers simplicity, musical searching and wistfulness all done in a folk music style. Influenced by the likes of Roger Cohen, Tom Waits and Kris Kristofferson, Hoover flows his way through all eleven original tracks with a folk / rock style and even, at times, resembles a young Woodie Guthrie. And growing up in Northeast Ohio just possibly gave him a unique perspective on the successes and failures of the working class and provided an inspiration for his music. In any event, “Pastures” is a work that may both be listened to for the music as much as the interpretations of the lyrics. All in all, I enjoyed each in equal measure.
Livo Almeida – Action & Reaction
Label: Self Released
Livo Almeida may possibly be the most accomplished jazz saxophonist you’ve never heard before. Growing up in Brazil, he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Saxophone and is a winner of the International Saxophone Competition Victor Assis Brazil. He also performs on a regular basis with Grammy award winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill. Additionally, he is 1st tenor chair at the Eco-Music Big Band and has performed at festivals such as the Newport jazz festival, the Los Angeles Central Avenue Jazz Fest and several NYC based jazz festivals. Action & Reaction is a combination of precise arrangements that have a uniquely improvised flavor. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes high energy, never contrived, and done in an improv methodology, Action & Reaction will certainly become a valued work for any traditional jazz collection.