It’s that time of year!
Massimo Biolcati – “Incontre” Sounderscore Music
Swedish born, New York Jazz performer Massimo Biolcati feels 21st Century jazz has become global in its following. First professionally playing jazz at 16 in Turin, Italy, he returned to Stockholm to study jazz and subsequently was given a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He later auditioned for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC where Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Terence Blanchard, all legends of jazz, judged the audition and decided if Biolcati would be admitted. He was the only bassist selected. His latest release, “Incontre,” is ten years from his first release and is a collection of songs he has been performing over the last few years. Stylistically, this is a work of traditional jazz and perhaps somewhat unique, features the bass as the principal instrument. His arrangements are superb, and the horn, piano and percussion accompaniment all blend well together. This is very soft, melodic music and in my view, “mood inducing.” This is a well-done release by a seriously talented musician. It will fit in very well in any traditional jazz collection.
Frank Kohl – “The Crossing” Self-Released
This marks the third release by Frank Koh I have reviewed so his music and style is obviously something I like. On “The Crossing,” Kohl is actually one of a trio and one of two guitarists, the third musician playing an acoustic bass. An acoustic bass is not used as often as its electric brother and it is because of that fact the bass really stands out as noticeable. And it is also adds an interesting twist to the nine compositions. This release, like his other two I’ve featured, are works of very traditional jazz. Kohl and second guitarist John Stowell play off each other with breathless ease, while bassist Steve LaSpina adds definition and body to the trio’s efforts. Kohl also sees fit to allow the other two musicians to each take turns doing solos in almost each track. All the arrangements work very well together and I would say “melodic” and “harmonic” would be apt descriptions. The nine compositions range from basically swing based to very soft and mellow – all done in a traditional jazz style. It would seem Kohl has struck in me a chord, so to speak, and one that leaves me interested to hear what comes next.
Deline Briscoe – “Wawu” Gaba Music
OK, so let’s get this out of the way first – “Wawu” is a Kuku-Yalanji word that essentially means spirit, heart and love. Where, you ask, is the language of Kuku-Yalanji spoken? That would be on the southeast coast of Cape York between Cooktown and Mossman in Queensland. And yes, that would be in Australia. Her voice is first rate and she does a stellar job on the thirteen included tracks. I was, and really still am, a little undecided as to the exact, specific genre I should attribute to this work. Some of the songs, or parts thereof, are sung in Yalanji, some in English. There are hints of jazz, contemporary and pop influences throughout this work. Pinning it down to one seems difficult. I suppose it could most readily be called “World Music.” Really though, none of that matters because “Wawu” is an outstanding work regardless of the genre or language in which it is performed. I will admit that because I obviously do not speak Kuku-Yalanji I found myself curious about the meaning of the lyrics I couldn’t understand. But that’s not a real big issue because I just settled back in my listening chair and, frankly, just enjoyed myself – language notwithstanding.
Raquel Cepeda – “Passion” Raquel Cepeda Music LLC
Imagine being a geological engineer in the oil industry. Imagine then casting all of that aside to pursue a career in music. Think that might be “Passion?” Because that is exactly what Venezuelan born Cepeda did. Growing up in a family of musicians, Cepeda was endeared to music as much as she was science. I cannot say with any certainty which is the better off for her talents, engineering or music, but what I can state is her “passion” for Latin Jazz is complete. All thirteen tracks, five of which are originals, are done in a Latin jazz style and something I didn’t think I would like but actually did, many tracks prominently feature a trumpet with a mute. There are two saxophones, two sets of drums, a conga, percussion and piano all sometimes sizzling as Latin jazz does, and sometimes portraying a very mellow, introspective sound. Cepeda’s voice is excellent and the listener will not find themselves thinking “she shoulda stayed in the oil industry.” She has a great voice for sure. Some of the lyrics are sung in Spanish, others in English and all arrangements are well done. Personally, I think the oil industry will survive because music is certainly the beneficiary of Raquel Cepeda.
Jeff Rupert / George Garzone – “The Ripple” RUPE MEDIA
When you look at the iconic careers of legendary jazz artists like Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, as well as others, all can in some way, be it minimally or profoundly, claim they were influenced by Lester Young. Called the most profound improviser since Louis Armstrong, Young, or “Prez,” as he was called by Billie Holiday, influenced not only saxophonists but also pianists, trumpeters and trombonists through his impressive his body of work. “The Ripple” is a tribute to Lester Young and the profound influence he had on the traditional jazz genre. While “The Ripple” contains no covers of songs actually recorded by Young, there are covers of the aforementioned artists, and others, who did cover Young’s recordings. There are also two original works by Rupert. Joining Rupert on sax is Garzone and having two saxophones makes things very interesting at times. Both play off each other without being greedy and when combined with the remaining instrumentation, makes for a stellar work. I got the impression I was hearing this work in a really cool jazz club rather than my audio room. All said, this is a magnificent work of traditional jazz. While smooth jazz may be my overall favorite, this one makes a strong case for a different perspective.