It’s that time of year!
Label: Self Released
Trumpeter Ellis Williams was first introduced to music by sitting in on his mother’s recording sessions at the tender age of five. At thirteen, and still in middle school, Ellis picked up his first trumpet and his interest in music was sealed. He earned both a Bachelor as well as Master’s degrees in music and business entertainment. “Call To Battle,” Ellis’ second release, is a trumpet based jazz / funk work that sometimes resembles Philly soul and might even have a hint of Miles Davis every so often. Ellis wrote all the music, lyrics and also does double duty as the lead vocalist. What impressed me was the complicated arrangements that was not necessarily like many of the trumpet works I’ve heard in the past. “Call To Battle” is a raw action packed work that frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed.
Label: AdiTone Records
What’s not to like abut a female sax player with blond and blue hair, who graduated from Juilliard, and has played with artists such as Beyoncé, Tricia Yearwood, Nicki Minaj, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride and JayZ to name a few? “Hero” is Evans’ debut album and while I’d really classify it as traditional jazz, it seems to fit into several different jazz genres. Not specifically traditional, not really smooth, not all together any one type of jazz, what I’d say does apply is very well done. The eight original works and four covers were inspired by her experiences at Juilliard, traveling about the world and living for a spell in Tuscany. She notes that she has been inspired by Stevie Wonder, Steve Wilson and sax legend, Sonny Rollins. Inspirations aside, Evans played on the Beyoncé album that (supposedly) crashed iTunes titled “Beyoncé and has appeared on several HBO specials. “Hero” is a really enjoyable work that spins along and takes the listener along for the ride.
Label- Self Released
On the opening track, the McCartney / Lennon classic, “Blackbird,” Lewis proves why she has been described as “a singer with a hauntingly beautiful voice.” The five covers and two original works won’t do anything to enlist any measure of a different opinion by the listener. Her voice is definitely “hauntingly good.” From Bob Dylan, to Irving Berlin to her own music, the arrangements on the covers as well as her original works are equal to the vocals. Mostly soft and melodic, Lewis portrays songs from popular music as well as the American song book. And when she wants to let go, as she briefly does on track two, “Cheek to Cheek” by Irving Berlin, she gives the full portrayal of her vocal talents. Her formative years in the greater San Fransisco area earned her accolades such as “Best Female Blues Vocalist” on the GarageBand web site as well as “Best Crooner” at the 2009 San Francisco Cabaret Competition. She performs on the West coast as well as abroad in both jazz and Gospel. If you find yourself in the mood for some soft, melodic music from a woman with a remarkable voice, you might want to give Alision Lewis a listen, she’s worth the effort.
Label- Centaur Records
In his third release, clarinetist Paul Green set a goal to blend music for the clarinet to jazz, with it’s complex, improvisational nature, and also to Jewish music which tends to be more melodic. Green grew up in the era of Lewis Armstrong and other noted jazz greats yet at the same time has a background in Jewish themed music. Similarly, he is also familiar with classical music and continues to devote time to that genre as well. Frankly I found it difficult to wrap this work up into one genre stylistically and by content. It is easy to hear both jazz and classical attributes throughout. But in addition, he harkens back to his Jewish roots. Of the ten tracks, he credits both Wayne Shorter and and Miles Davis but four tracks are credited to “Unknown.” These four tracks are traditional Jewish Compositions Green has interpreted. Musically, Green’s goal was to unite traditional Jewish music with traditional jazz and for the fun of it, throw some classical in for good measure. His success in the endeavor is evident and while the listener can’t really paint this work as any one style throughout, it’s pretty safe to say that the goal of “Music Coming Together” applies.
Label- Origin Records
If Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at City College of New York, formerly on the faculty of the Juilliard School and textbooks on Jazz improvisation are not impressive enough, then one listen to the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra should do the trick. Accompanied by no less than nineteen musicians in his orchestra, Reeves delivers seven original compositions along with his own arrangement of Jobim’s “Waters of March” with complex melodies and arrangements. The horn section, consisting of multiple trumpets, saxophones, flugelhorns, clarinets and trombones, play nicely with the the bass and drums in what is, frankly, upbeat and complex music. Reeves has called upon some the the best jazz musicians in New York and their collective talents on “Portraits” are quite evident. Several adjectives have been used to describe this debut release that include “restless,” “full of color,” and “ample solo space.” All in all, this was a great listen, an endeavor I fully intend to repeat.
Label: Mesa / Bluemoon Recordings
Rock and Roll has traditionally been a male province. So when a female comes along that can crank it up with the best of them, yet be highly melodic and introspective, that is a work I can really enjoy. Taylor either wrote or co wrote thirteen of the fourteen tracks. The one cover is the Supremes classic “My World Is Empty Without You.” Her inspiration for “Wind” ranges from the American independence from Great Britain, to Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement, to the heroics of the passengers aboard Flight 93 that crashed not into Washington on 9/11, but into Pennsylvania farmland. Having won awards as the New York Times Best Songwriter, Taylor infuses lyrics with meaning into music with purpose. Anyone who lives in California might be wise to catch her live as the press release that accompanied the CD included a concert schedule which takes her all over California. Since I’m 3000 miles away, I’ll have to settle for the CD, which I found to be magnificent.