Matt Skellenger Group – “Vitality” – Self Released
Denver, CO born Skellenger has learned and honed his craft exclusively on the electric bass. He earned a B. A. in Music from Metropolitan State College in Denver and has also attended numerous electric bass workshops such as “Bass At The Beach” and “Bass Nature Camps.” Stylistically, he has covered many varying genres that include jazz, rock, folk, blues and pop. In addition to writing and producing music, he is also a teacher at Swallow Hill Music School. In his latest release, “Vitality,” Skellenger added new instrumentation consisting of trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn. These instruments round out an already interesting release of a combination of jazz and rock. For the most part, the nine tracks are pretty upbeat and have a toe tapping groove. There are, however, a few more mellow tunes as well. Skellenger also gets to showcase his considerable skill on the electric bass and manages to do so in an unobtrusive manner. On my system, I thought the recording was excellent and had superb imaging.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8.5/10
Dred Scott – “Rides Alone” – Ropeadope Records
St Louis born Scott has recorded eleven self-produced albums and has performed on a remarkable fifty or more other works. Talk about a kid getting around. Currently based in New York, Scott plays in various outlets in the greater NY area and is the house pianist at the 4 -Star restaurant Del Posto. In his latest release, “Rides Alone,” Scott plays all the instruments, piano, bass and drums. Think of it as a one-man band trio. This is a straight up, traditional jazz work that has both upbeat tracks, as on track seven, “Wild Turkeys,” as well as some more somber tracks such as track one, “Coal Creek Road.” Recorded in Northern California, Scott wrote all eight tracks and as previously mentioned, played all the instruments and produced the CD as well. I also thought the recording was excellent with some of the piano parts exploding on my system.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8.5/10
Simon Sammut / Omar Vasquez – “Gravity” – Self Released
I have to be honest here. At first, I thought this was a work of electronica music – hardly my cup of tea. But prudence required that I keep listening and what I found very much surprised me. This is a jazz, new age work with electronica mixed in. And you know what? It really works. With Sammut being born on Malta and Vasquez from Mexico, it should come as no surprise that “Gravity” could legitimately be termed “world music.” Narrowing it down further, think jazz fusion, funk and Latin-based themes. Being true to their origins, there are both musicians from Malta as well as Mexico that appear on each of the eight tracks. Perhaps more intriguing, Sammut and Vasquez both play the bass guitar. I didn’t know this at first listen and they make having two basses work very well. Each seems to compliment the other. And given all the other instrumentation going on, much of which is not widely heard on US recordings, this recording just seems to blend together perfectly.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 8/10
Adam Carroll – “I walked In Them Shoes” – Gypsy Shuffler Music
Adam Carroll’s ninth release was recorded in Dripping Springs, Texas and done all in one day. That alone is remarkable enough. Perhaps even more remarkable is Carroll’s pervasive gift for making a song sound like he is telling a story. I always seem to enjoy music that not only sounds good but also forces me to pay attention to the lyrics. “Shoes” does exactly that. And what is also surprising is the amount of words he manages to get into each song. Suffice it to say this is lyrically driven music done in a mostly folk based style. He covers subjects like a tribute song to his wife to, of all the unlikely subjects, the Flying Burrito Brothers – an American rock band perhaps best known for their debut album, “The Gilded Palace of Sin.” If you really like a song that tells a story, do yourself a favor, take a long listen to the new release by Adam Carroll, “I Walked in Them Shoes.” Listen to the words and enjoy.
Overall: 9/10 Sonics: 8/10
Chad Richard – “Worthy Cause” – Barn Noise Publishing (BMI)
In the interest of accuracy, Chad pronounces his last name REE-shard. Also in the interest of accuracy, what I found really appealing about this release is that it is pure and simple, straight up Country & Western. No jazz. No rock. No none of that. This is a country performer playing country music. Well, he mixes in a little Texas Blues for good measure. All the typical instruments generally found in good ole country music are there – instruments such as the fiddle (not to be confused with a violin), lap steel guitar and the dobro. The themes are generally what Richard encountered growing up in Texas. In track one, “Slow Rollin Stateline,” he talks about Zydeco (Louisiana styled music) to the East and Texas swing to the west. His voice is rich and at times displays power and authority. And like so many other great country artists, he does an excellent job telling a story. There was a time when I disliked country music and I would have not enjoyed this album at all. That time is not today. Because enjoyment is exactly what I discovered when reviewing “Worthy Cause.”
Overall: 8.5/10 Sonics: 8/10
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, “Hilda-Takayama Jazz Session” – Master Music Label
My impression of music in Japan is that one, they love jazz and two, they demand excellence in recordings. I am always happy to see the JVC XRCD 24 selections show up for a music review. Almost without exception, the recording quality of these works is excellent. For more information on how the JVC XRCD 24 recording process works, this link offers additional insight. Of course, none of this is worth salt if the music is not well received and enjoyed. Given what appears to be a Japanese penchant for Jazz, the “Hilda-Takayama Jazz Session” are six covers of classics from the American Songbook. Selections such as “You Are My Sunshine” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” are done in a really tight, really traditional jazz style. The “Sunshine” track is almost ten minutes in length, so this is a trio exercising a lot of improvisational style in their music. Jazz improv. Tight arrangements. Superior recording. This one has it all. The Master Music, XRCD 24 releases are available from Elusive Disc.
Overall: 8/10 Sonics: 10/10