Brazilian born Badi Assad’s lineage is sometimes likened to Brazil’s musical royalty. Her latest release, “Hatched” is a collection of covers and two original works of Brazilian themed works. Assad plays guitar on all nine tracks of what is not only stellar guitar work, but also stirring vocals. Hardly new to the music world, in fact her career spans twenty years, she has been called one the the finest Brazilian guitarists of her generation. She calls upon works from the likes of Mumford & Sons, Lorde, and even has her own version of “The Hanging Tree” from the movie “The Hunger Games.” On some level, her arrangements have a “Copacabana” feel to them yet remain deceptively simple. Oh and don’t forget the impressive guitar work. All in all, this was an enjoyable, very listenable release.
Label: Outside In Music
Chris Ziemba is perhaps torn between his own musical education, teaching music and actually writing and performing music. He has both a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance and Music from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. He recently graduated with an Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School. He also spends time teaching Jazz at the New York Jazz Symposium and the Institute for Creative Music. “Manhattan Lullaby” is his debut release of eight original compositions. His excellent piano work seems to resemble Gil Evans and possibly Keith Jarrett. Accompanied by the simplicity of a bass, drums and alto sax, Ziemba and his quartet weaves their way through the piano side of traditional jazz, sometimes more reflective, sometimes powerful, but always highly listenable.
Label: Famous Brown Boots Music
Upon first picking up the review sample CD I wasn’t sure what to expect musically. Seeing only a picture of a lady’s head in the grass, this music could be most anything. When track one, “Half Way Gone” started I immediately thought, OK, C&W – and done in a Faron Young, Ferlin Husky-esk style. When track two, the title song started, I heard a softer more reflective musical presentation. As the CD played on through, I heard ten tracks all telling a story. Kramer herself was quoted as saying that “Carnival” “tells the story of facing down dark inner demons.” While essentially a country flavored work, the unmistakable ties to Appalachian Bluegrass is readily present. And this is no surprise as in her formative years Kramer studied at Warren Wilson College and performed with an Asheville, NC based, all female band called the “Barrel House Mammas” that honored Blue Ridge Mountain Americana music. However, her vocal skills and songwriting abilities shine as a solo artist that all come through on this work. Kramer has been called an “artist on the rise.” After hearing “Carnival Of Hopes” I’d say that’s about right.
Label: Self Released
If you want to hear three guys, one on piano, one on bass and one on drums lay down eleven tracks of swing / traditional jazz / real fun rompin’ music, then listen to “Rootless.” In some ways, I kept thinking “Oscar Peterson” as I listened to each track sometimes sizzle, sometimes gently weave their way through my psyche. Born in Iowa and living in Detroit, Kendrick is a pianist, composer, and educator and while he may look somewhat mild mannered, his music is anything but. He holds a Masters in Jazz Studies from Michigan State and has studied with Xavier Davis, Reggie Thomas and Willie Pickens. The trio’s exploration of music harkens to themes of life in transition, loneliness, new friends and parenthood. All the while done with musical excellence.
Label: Ric Todd Music
On “Drawing Lines,” Todd is quoted as saying that the work is “the culmination of suffering through a very long and cold winter.” Given that he is from Fargo, ND, a place uniquely qualified for long and cold winters, hard driving blues / rock must have been the perfect respite for staying warm. Todd is, in fact, an award winning songwriter and was a multi-instrumentalist for the rock-pop band Dirty Word. “Lines” was produced by the much sought after independent producer J. Hall and includes an appearance by Shane Ochsner who leads the acclaimed band Everything In Slow Motion. Because this work is an independent release, Todd gives thanks to those who contributed, monetarily or otherwise, in order to complete and release the recording. Despite only having five tracks, all of them are skillfully written and have that 1970’s feel and sound. With the success this work rightfully deserves, maybe Todd’s next release can up the ante on the number of tracks. Either way, these five will get things going.
Label: Sono Luminus
A review of a Christmas music CD when summer is just coming to an end? Yeah it made me wonder the same thing when I decided to include this magnificent work in this review. Judith Clurman is the conductor of the widely heralded and acclaimed Essential Voices USA. While this is a Christmas CD, Essential Voices also has released a work titled “Songs of the Jewish Spirit.” “Holiday Harmonies” guest stars Jamie Barton as mezzo-soprano, Maureen McKay as Soprano, Tedd Firth on piano and Stacey Shames on harp. It was produced by David Frost, recorded and mixed by Tom Lazarus and mastered by Silas Brown. Musically, the harmonies are absolutely stunning. I could have easily forgotten that I was listening to Christmas music and simply become lost in the amazing presentation of innovative harmony and arrangements. Despite being some months away from the holiday season, if your family enjoys playing Christmas music, you will be really amazed when you hear “Holiday Harmonies.” Very highly recommended