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Both Roberts and Jago were born in Australia and have been more or less what the title suggests for many years. Roberts, the saxophone player, has two Grammy nominations, twelve highly rated albums, and performed at the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition where he was a semi-finalist. Tim Jago plays guitar and has recorded with such notable acts as Chic Corea, Gloria Estefan, Steve Miller and Arturo Sandoval. He performed in and finished a semifinalist in the Wes Montgomery International Guitar Competition. “Best Buddies” is just what you might expect – a couple of friends getting together to jam. Actually, they wound up in the same place because of Covid shutdowns and figured why not. In this case, they are doing so with traditional straight-ahead jazz. Track one – “Chythm Ranges” is more upbeat while the remainder of the work is more introspective and mellow. One of the things I liked is how they sync’d their respective instruments, so they played off each other, not simply taking turns at solo. All in all, this is a refreshing listen and one that is certainly recommended.
Overall: 8 Sonics: 8
Steve Hunt – “Connections” Spice Rack Records
Steve Hunt has toured the world as a jazz band leader, composer, and performer. He spent ten years as the leader of the Jazz Explosion, a jazz ensemble that toured the world. Oh, and he also serves as an instructor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts where he lives and has a recording studio. “Connections,” Hunt’s latest release, is a collaboration of sorts, pairing Hunt with some of his friends and notable acts in their own right. Some of these more notable acts include Jimmy Haslip and famed John Patitucci on bass, and one of my all-time favorite saxophonists, Eric Marienthal. “Connections” has a New Age / Traditional Jazz feel to it, this not surprising as artists like Chic Corea and Herbie Hancock are among his influences. This is a work that might also be termed reflective as two of the nine tracks are dedicated to different individuals. I enjoyed “Connections” not only because of the contributors but also because it was music that was easy to listen to and in a way, sort of spoke to me.
Overall: 8 Sonics: 8
Michael Whalen – “Future Shock” Michael Whalen Music
Spanning a thirty-year career, Michael Whalen has composed music for advertising, television, film and video games. He is also a two-time Grammy winner with thirty-five recordings to his credit. He has served as executive producer for over a hundred recordings. Needless to say, a storied career. His lifelong dedication to jazz fusion and progressive rock is plainly evident on “Future Shock,” his latest release. I’m not normally given to electronica as a genre, but this was different. While there is a definite nod to long ago groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Whalen adds his own brand of fusion jazz with absolute keyboard mastery. The arrangements were tight and well thought out. At first listen, it might even sound somewhat improvised, but I felt like the melodies were tightly composed. “Future Shock” may be just that, a keyboard artist creating the music he enjoys most, and doing so in an innovative way.
Overall: 8.5 Sonics: 8
Bob Malone – “Good People” Delta Moon Records
Song writer, instrumentalist, composer and performer may well describe Bob Malone, but it does not describe what he does, or has done on his latest release, “Good People.” This release came about principally because of the strife and problems people had to endure in 2020. While this is no doubt a work of good, no, make that great blues, Malone also adds slick instrumentalism and magnificent keyboard performance to the mix. Several cuts, like the title track, starts out rather slowly and finishes with more of a frenetic pace. More than anything, Malone’s goal was to create something positive, something to countermand the bad that recently happened in people’s lives. Of the eleven tracks, Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Fleetwood Mac (Oh Well) and Bob Dylan (Tangled Up In Blue) are covers, the remaining seven are originals. And believe me, hearing Malone’s rendition of a classic Dylan Song is worth the listen. While Malone set out to write music to elevate people’s spirits, what he has really accomplished is to create a stunning blues work and one that even if The Blues is not especially your thing, you will probably still come back to this work time and again.
Overall: 9 Sonics: 8
Kenny Polson – “Colors of Brazil” Rosetta Records
Imagine being in Rio de Janeiro in a packed nightclub dancing until 3 AM to the cacophonic rhythms of high octane Bossa Nova. Not your style? Fear not because the latest release from master jazzman Kenny Polson has your back. Imagine lounging on one of Rio’s world class beaches while sipping umbrella drinks. Don’t want to travel? No worries, ole Kenny sets the mood with his latest release of Brazilian styled music in “Colors of Brazil.” Having traveled to over fifty countries performing jazz, his time is Brazil is among his happiest. No wonder his latest release is a tribute to that style of music. He doesn’t stop there, however. There are hints of World music including African and even Japanese influences scattered throughout. Polson obviously took these musical cues from his time spent traveling the globe. All this from a guy born in Kansas City, MO and who makes his home on the West Coast. Polson has made his career combining musical styles like R&B and Smooth jazz. So, the world influences on “Brazil” make sense. Most importantly, they ebb and flow so naturally, meld in and out so seamlessly they may easily go unnoticed – almost hiding in the background. I have been listening to Kenny Polson for years. I have really enjoyed his music for the most part. Other performers, however, piqued my interest and captured my attention. On this release, Kenny Polson shines through in an immense manner and has created a work of truly impressive World Jazz. All one needs is a disco or a sandy beach in Rio. Or a stereo system, whichever is easiest.
Overall: 10 Sonics: 8.5