Tuomo Uusitalo - "Stories From Here and There" - Self Released
Tampere, Finland born Tuomo Uusitalo began playing piano at the age of six. He attended the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria where he graduated with honors in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York and has since established himself as a regular force in the NYC jazz scene. He was noted as saying that he liked the spontaneity and improvisation jazz offered. "Stories From Here and There," his third release, is a collection of a more mellow based, piano centric, traditional jazz sound. Basically, the instrument lineup includes Uusitalo on piano, accompanied by saxophone, bass and drums. While the melodies are certainly on the softer side, they are no less enjoyable and listenable. Uusitalo is a composer, producer, and perhaps best of all, a teacher of music. If traditional jazz done in a relaxed style is preferred, "Here and There" should certainly be highly regarded.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8/10
ESOEBO - "ESOEBO VI" - Knot Reel Records
In case you were wondering, ESOEBO (pronounced E - SO - BO) is actually an acronym for "eclectic selections of everything but opera." Comprised of the duo of Chuck McDowell and Gail Burnette, "VI" is, according to McDowell, "a gumbo of styles." Based in Atlanta, GA, McDowell and Burnette combine quite harmoniously on what is predominately a vocal driven release. Stylistically, there is mostly a folk sound but also country and light rock. McDowell's vocals are very good and he has a warm, rich voice. Classically trained Burnette melds in with outstanding harmonies. Overall, I found this to be a very listenable release of a composite of various styles, and the fun is trying to figure out which is which. From a recording perspective, I found this release to sound excellent on my system and I thought the imaging was superb.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8.5 / 10
Elsa Nilsson, Jon Cowherd - "After Us" - Bumblebee Collective Music
The duo of Elsa Nilsson on flute and Jon Cowherd on piano have, in their latest release, "After Us," a collection of finely crafted songs. Cowherd is positively skillful on the piano and Nilsson plays alto, bass and standard flute on nine compositions of original music. What they do very well is to blend in and out of piano and flute to the extent that the listener hardly even notices. Nilsson was born in Sweden but had made New York home for quite a few years now. Cowherd was born in Kentucky and is perhaps best known for his work with Brian Blade and the Brian Blade Fellowship. Essentially, this is traditional jazz although it is quite melodic and softer in its complexities. I found this to be the kind of work to which one can close their eyes and just listen. Which is exactly what I did.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8/10
Datura Road - "Datura Road" - Self Released
With so much so far in this review being "soft and melodic," I was heartened to come across the latest work by the group Datura Road. They are probably best known in and around the Hudson Valley and Greater New York areas. Their first work, simply titled "Datura Road" was funded by a Kickstarter campaign which was instrumental in getting this CD produced and released. Something else I found interesting was their use of non-traditional instruments such as the doumbek (an Egyptian styled drum), bansuri (an Indian styled flute) and the tabla (an Indian styled drum). Perhaps best of all, this work has some funky, upbeat songs that one could easily consider "dance grooves." The first track, "One Day," is such a song - quite upbeat and fun to listen to. But there are also shades of Far East melodies as well as Latin ballads. All in all, I liked this work for its positive, upbeat nature.
Overall: 8.5 / 10 Sonics: 8/10
Coniece Washington - "Shades of Shirley Horn" - Self Released
Not five minutes into the review from the new release from Coniece Washington I believe, if I remember correctly, I actually said "wow" out loud. Why? Simple. I find Washington to have a stellar voice and one that can be listened to for a long time. Her style is straight ahead, traditional jazz. Her lofty influences include Sara Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and of course, the CD's namesake, Shirley Horn. In fact, Washington has stated that "the first time I heard Shirley Horn sing, I fell in love with her groove and elegance." She has assembled a grouping of twelve covers from Horn that finely exemplify the Great American Songbook. Her voice is absolutely effortless and sounds like she is not even trying. Quite a feat when emulating a siren like Shirley Horn. Manifestly, these twelve tracks will set the listener back with abundant joy and a feeling of "wow."
Overall: 8.5 / 10 Sonics: 8/10
Kenney Polson - "For Lovers Only" - No Slop Media
Borrowing styles from jazz, new age, Latin, classical, funk, and gospel, sax phenom Kenny Polson gives the listener exactly what the title suggests. This is nice music. Imagine being in a movie and walking along a moonlit beach with that special someone by your side. Got that image? Well, this music would be the soundtrack for that scene. What Polson seeks to accomplish is a blending of smooth jazz with R&B but do so in a romantic way. Six of the ten tracks are original works, the remaining four covers. This is definitely mood music and if you would ever like to impress a special someone, this is it. Born in Kansas City, MO, Polson earned a master's in jazz composition and arranging from Howard University in 1997. He resides in the Pacific Northwest and has performed in over thirty countries around the world.
Overall: 9.5/10 Sonics: 8/10