It’s the time of year for saving money!
Ric Harris- “Open For Business” – Self Released
To say that Ric Harris has moved around is almost an understatement. He moved from North Carolina, to Chicago, to Los Angeles – where he attended the Guitar Institute of Technology – and finally back to Chicago where he became entrenched in the jazz and blues scene. Such is Harris’ debut work, a combination of jazz and blues with the guitar as the principal instrument.During my initial listen of the work, I thought I heard, at least stylistically, a hint of Southern Rock. I dismissed that notion as pure imagination and upon reading the press release, discovered I was actually correct.
With “Open For Business,” Harris works to combine improvisation with actual melodic arrangements. What remains is a blues / jazz / guitar centric work with a smattering of Southern Rock. I cannot end without mentioning Harris’ voice – rough and “gravely,” and I found his voice interesting and certainly listenable. Definitely something different. Whether or not anyone likes his voice is one thing, what is undeniable is his skill on the guitar. And for that, he is magnificent, as is “Open For Business.”
Overall: 8; Sonics: 8
June Bisantz & Alex Nakhimovsky – “Love’s Tango” – EH2U
In my mind, musically, the Tango is somehow a type of Latin based, or Samba based musical style. And okay, maybe some measure of jazz thrown in as well. Titles can be deceiving, however. In the latest release from June Bisantz and Alex Nakhimovsky, they deliver a work that combines soft, melodic, jazz themes with, at times anyway, a Rachmaninoff inspired string section and overall, a magnificent work. Make no mistake, this is a sweet, soft, Sunday morning, lazy breakfast type of music. Or a romantic evening at home. Yet somehow, this duo, who has been writing and performing together since 2005, manages to combine Latin rhythms, jazz, classical, and soft, easy listening music into a group of seven songs that are sure to please. Bisantz has a terrific voice and one that seems perfectly suited for this style of music. Nakhimovsky is a force on the piano and his skills are no less apparent than the vocal abilities of his partner. Put this on and get lost in romance.
Overall: 8; Sonics: 8
Raul E. Blanco & Jazz Wires – “Land Of Giants” – Self Released
Like so many of his predecessors from Cuba, think Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera, Raul E. Blanco studied music in his native Cuba. Studied is not really accurate. He attended the prestigious Music Conservatory “Alejandro Garcia Caturla” when he was ten years old. During his time there he entered and won several piano music competitions. At eighteen, he moved to the US and settled in Houston, TX, where he taught 3rd Grade music. While teaching music, he was also studying music at Texas Southern University and developed an affinity for jazz. And like his predecessors who came before, developed a piano centric Cuban / Jazz style. In all honesty, “Giants,” while certainly Cuban Jazz, also has hints of reggae, pop and rock based themes. Track 1, the title track, was my favorite due primarily to its strong Smooth Jazz arrangement. The remaining ten tracks may best be summed up as traditional type of jazz with a Cuban influence. Blanco and trombonist Gabriella Aragon also share vocal duties on several tracks. This is primarily a jazz work with a variety of styles – from Cuban, to smooth jazz, to traditional jazz, to world music. Oh, and for all you math fans out there, Track 6, “Tangent” (with the “e” replaced with a numerical representation) was written by trumpetist Noah Austin. He majored in both music and mathematical physics.
Overall: 8; Sonics: 8
Linette Tobin’s Pangaea – “The New Shape Of The World” – Tobin Recordings
I have to believe Linette Tobin must be an interesting person. By day, she is a lawyer specializing in immigration law. By night, she discards the briefcase and picks up, ready for this – the congas. Tobin has studied Conga in Cuba and in different parts of Africa in an attempt to heighten her skills and develop new and different rhythms. I would say her style is primarily jazz although, and this should not be a big surprise, there is an unmistakable Latin and African flavor to her music. Call it jazz. Call it World Music. Call it Latin based music. Call it what you would like as all of those descriptors are accurate. Basically, I call it very good.
Overall: 8; Sonics: 8
Gary Dean Smith Project – “Awakening” – MFRecords
If, like myself, you are a fan of that Southern California, Smooth Jazz style of music you will like the newest release from Gary Dean Smith. I mean, shoot, Jimmy Haslip, a founding member of the Yellowjackets was the producer. Jeff Lorber, a HUGE smooth jazz icon, and one of my absolute favorites, played piano on the track “Lucky.” Smith was born in LA and moved to the South as a child. Raised on good ole Southern Rock, and whereupon moving back to LA, honed his musical style resplendent in the smooth jazz sound that literally was born in Southern California. I fell in love with this work but I do have one regret. I sure wish it had more than five tracks. I could have listened to more of this music with no problem at all.
Overall: 9; Sonics: 8
Katherine Rondeau – “Unfortunate Point Of View” – Self Released
I reviewed Rondeau’s first work released under her own name, “New Hope Chateau” and found it to be a magnificent debut work. My opinion of “Unfortunate,” her second release, is no less effusive. Were I to say that folk based music can also have a “catchy” tune, would that make any sense at all? Yet that is exactly what I found in Rondeau’s second release. Her voice is no less spectacular than before. Hailing from Philadelphia, not especially the bastion for folk based music, Rondeau delivers eleven tracks that while technically folk styled, have interesting enough arrangements that one not especially given to folk music would certainly find pleasing and very listenable. Rondeau, through her first two, self released works, has established herself as a national force in folk music. However, after listening to “Unfortunate,” I’d say she is really much more. She’s just good.
Overall: 9.5; Sonics: 8
Thanks! Checking them out on Tidal.
What? The cover of Land of Giants is Wazzu, my alma mater!