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Five Play – “Live From The Firehouse Stage” – Diva Jazz Orchestra, Ltd.
Five Play is the sister group of the Five Diva Orchestra and was formed in 1999. I reviewed the Five Divas on July 20, 2018 and found them to be highly skilled, and very enjoyable. As the name suggests, there is a close association between both groups. In fact, all five members of Five Play are involved with Five Divas. Stylistically, this release is also a work of Big Band Jazz. Their purpose is to bring swing type music to the masses and this release is no exception. I kept thinking I was in a Chicago Jazz club as I listened to each of the ten tracks. Most are originals by one or more band members although there are one or two covers of well-known works. One such track is number three, “Just Squeeze Me” by Duke Ellington. “Firehouse Stage” is mostly very upbeat, toe tapping, happy music although there are a couple more melodic and somber tracks as well. Overall, this is just fun music from five gifted and highly skilled musicians having what certainly seems to be a really good time.
Overall – 8.5; Sonics – 8
Steve Lipman – “Hats Off” – Self Produced
Steve Lipman has embarked on the goal of bringing the Great American Songbook to his audience and “Hats Off” is his latest effort towards that goal. Stylistically, think Frank Sinatra with Nelson Riddle orchestration. This is his third release and, in some sense, he is looking to break ties with the unmistakable association with “Ole Blue Eyes” and similar artists. In his early years, he performed wearing a fedora as a tribute the likes of Sinatra. Metaphorically at least, the hat has come off and Lipman is looking to stand on his own. I did enjoy this work of mostly “American Songbook” covers – there’s even a version of “The Sound of Music,” – and the arrangements and Lipman’s vocal abilities are very listenable and enjoyable. OK, he’s not “Ole Blue Eyes.” No one is, for that matter. However, Steve Lipman is an artist emerging into his own and anyone who like American Classics should find this work a welcomed addition to their collection.
Overall – 8; Sonics – 8
Anthony Caceres – “Something’s Gotta Give” – A Jig In G Productions
Bassist / Vocalist Anthony Caceres is the lead performer of a sometimes trio, sometimes quartet of jazz vocal centric works. On his latest release, Caceres has nine covers and one original of works such as “A Night In Tunisia,” and a swing arrangement of the Modern English hit “I Melt With You,” the original version being one of my favorite songs and the cover quite impressive. From an instrumentation standpoint, this is a melodic, uncomplicated assemblage of songs. Stylistically jazz, Caceres deftly handles vocals while also playing the bass. While his career to this point has been mostly as a member of a band or orchestra, Caceres is looking to the future as a bandleader, front man, and interpreter of music whether his own, or those who have come before. I found this work quite enjoyable and one I can listen to often.
Overall – 8; Sonics – 8
Scott Ramminger – “Rise Up” – Arbor Lane Music
With his fifth release, Scott Ramminger laughingly admits he wanted something “less like we were at Blues Alley and more like we were playing at a Brooklyn strip club in 1960.” And I know this sounds crazy, but I cannot shake the feeling that Ramminger just looks like he should be playing jazz. All eight tracks are originals and Ramminger plays lead sax on each. This work, while only eight tracks, is quite upbeat, toe tapping, and although my review didn’t find me actually doing so, music to which one could easily dance. Tracks two and three, “88 Reasons” and “Lemonade Blues” are stylistically more blues oriented. Unlike his earlier works, Ramminger wanted a more refined, more acoustic type of sound. His other bandmates have varying backgrounds which makes for interesting collaborations. Scott Ramminger looks like he should be playing jazz. And on “Rise Up,” that is exactly what he is doing. Quite well, in fact.
Overall – 8.5; Sonics – 8
Luca Di Luzio – “Globetrotter” – Self Released
In the jazz genre, there is no classification or sub-genre I enjoy more than smooth jazz. Originating in Southern California, smooth, or contemporary jazz has more of a funky, R&B type of feel as opposed to the free form, improvisational style so widely recognized as jazz. It should therefore come as no surprise I absolutely loved the new release by Luca Di Luzio. Given where he was born, studied and the artists with whom he has performed, I would expect a more Latin Jazz type of work. However, I didn’t really find that to a great degree. One or two tracks had a Latin feel but then again, I have heard a lot of Southern California based smooth jazz with a Latin flavor. My preference must be a desire for a funkier type of beat, something characteristic of both music styles. I also was impressed at Di Luzio’s ability to make a guitar fit so nicely into a smooth jazz framework, something typically reserved for the saxophone. My favorite track was number 3, “Jazz Life,” which found me playing three times before moving on to the next song. Skilled guitarist. Skilled musicians. Great music. Need I say more?
Overall – 9.5; Sonics – 8
The Interplay Jazz Orchestra – “On The Sunny Side” – The Interplay Jazz Orchestra
I’m not exactly sure how this happened, maybe it is because of doing these music reviews, but I have seemingly developed an affinity for Big Band Jazz music I really didn’t possess two to three years ago. I’m not even sure that matters because anyone who likes jazz should recognize the new work by a bunch a New York / Brooklyn / Long Island musicians a great find. “Sunny Side” has tight yet complex arrangements and all eleven tracks are horn driven. If you like music with sax, trumpet and trombones, you are in for a treat. Make no mistake, this is a Big Band work with a total of seventeen musicians with horn, string and percussion sections. All eleven tracks are originals from several of the band members contributions. While mostly performing live in the greater New York and Long Island areas, “Sunny Side” is their third full length release. I still find it unusual that I have developed an interest in Big Band music. Then again, maybe I just like really good music performed by great musicians. Either way, “Sunny Side” is exactly that, really good music.
Overall – 9.5; As Big Band Music – 10; Sonics – 8.5