The Jeff Benedict Big Big Band – “The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”
Maroon Creek Music
For most of the last thirty years, Jeff Benedict has been a staple in the LA music scene. He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and other similar venues. He holds a B.M., M.A. and also a D.M.A. (Doctor of Musical Arts) in music composition and is currently Professor Emeritus of Music at California State University in LA. He has played in various quartets and has released very well received works in traditional jazz, both as part of a group and on his own. In 2014, Benedict formed his “Big Big Band” whose intent was to recreate the big band sound in 1970’s era TV shows and movies. “The Weather Is Here” is his second release under the Big Big Band name. Four of the ten tracks are original compositions. What remains are six diverse tracks, among which are covers of Miles Davis, Irving Berlin and a very cool remake of the Disney classic, “Someday My Prince Will Come.” All ten tracks have Benedict’s arrangements and interpretations through and through. Given the band name, the genre is pretty easy to figure out and all ten tracks are very well done. A strong horn section with sax, trumpet and trombone combines skillfully and seamlessly with bass, guitar, drums, piano and percussion. This release shows what someone who is skilled in both teaching and performing music is capable of accomplishing. Big band proponents will love this one.
Chris Rottmayer – “Sunday At Pilars” Pilars Records
Residing in the cold enclaves of Madison, WI, jazz pianist and composer Chris Rottmayer was once a pianist for Walt Disney World for one year and since 2007 has been a part time instructor of Jazz Piano at the University of South Florida. He is concurrently working on a Doctor of Music Arts in piano performance. “Pilars” is Rottmayer’s second release and like the previous one, features a piano as the principal instrument. Stylistically, “Pilars” is traditional, piano centric, straight ahead jazz. Most of the twelve tracks are more on the slow and melodic side. The quartet consists of piano, sax, bass and drums. From an audiophile perspective, and perhaps most interesting, this recording was originally recorded on a 2” analog tape. It was then transferred to ProTools for mixing. Mixes were recorded to 1/2” tape and mastered at Masterdisk by Scott Hull. All in all, the sonics were exceptional, even in CD form.
Deborah Silver – “Glitter and Grits” NTL Records
On the good side, music icon Quincy Jones once called Silver “the real deal,” saying her “strong and sultry vocals are seductive and soul-soothing.” On the downside, or maybe the good side revisited, is the fact that Silver had Covid for 40 days and at one time didn’t know if she would make it through. Now Covid free, she wanted to share a release of “fun and cheerful” songs that covers a wide swath through several musical genres. On display in the thirteen tracks are tunes ranging from country, to jazz to the Great American Songbook. I do not recall hearing a work with covers of songs like “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” immediately after “Fly Me To The Moon.” Track one is an excellent version of “I Got Rhythm” and the work moves on from there. Orchestrations and arrangements are superb and make listening to this entire work quite easy and relaxing. Toe tapping. I even found myself singing along on several occasions. Perish the thought…
Patrick Bradley – “Exhale” Patrick’s Song Factory
Perhaps it was coincidental, maybe planned, but the January 15, 2021 release of the new work by keyboardist Patrick Bradley was intended to be a respite from everything going on around us. Bradley was quoted as saying “It’s kind of a release from all the tension and difficulty of 2020.” Like almost any of his other five releases, “Exhale” is a work of smooth jazz. Some may call it contemporary jazz. I call it my favorite musical genre and Bradley is one of my favorites as well. The title track was written by another one of my favorite artists, saxophonist Darren Rahn and it is superb. What Bradley has released is an outstanding amalgam of contemporary jazz, fusion jazz, rock, R&B and even some pop thrown in for good measure. This is music that flows along and at times imbues the listener in contemplation and reflection, and other times fighting the urge to jump up and dance. I spent most of my initial playing of this CD just smiling and turning up the volume. I’m all for something to remind us that our difficult times will eventually end. What I am most excited by is the sheer exultation I feel when I listen to Bradley’s latest work. Whether inspired by a pandemic or anything else is one thing. What matters to me most is how spectacular of a work “Exhale” really is.