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New Music Friday

Paul Wilson looks at six new works of jazz and other genres…

Slide Attack – “Road Trip” SACD

If the term “dueling banjos” holds any meaning or fond memories of the movie starring Burt Reynolds, then maybe a traditional jazz quintet starring not one, but two slide trombones may be of interest. I was curious enough to try and predict beforehand how the interplay between both bandleaders might take place. Trombonists Alan Goidel and Howard Levy not only trade licks back and forth, but they also follow and work around each other in this traditional jazz release. I found superb harmonies overall and enjoyed how the orchestrations seem to both work well together and, almost to a certain extent, against each other. Most of the tracks are energetic and enlist a toe tapping response. I’ve never heard dual trombones in a jazz group before, but it is obvious, these guys know what they are doing. 

Sonics: 8

Overall: 8

Luke LeBlanc – Only Human

In this era of multi conglomerate musical artists, it is refreshing to see a work by an actual singer / songwriter. While I do so very much enjoy the musical part of a song, I find the best and most fervent connections occur through telling a story. Officially, this is a work in the Pop genre. I’m not so sure I agree completely with a single classification. Perhaps as much as it is anything, “Human” has a definite tinge of country, folk and well, okay, pop. Born in Minneapolis, LeBlanc was winning awards at age 13. Even now at only 25, “Human” is his third studio release. These songs express much of what might be expected in a lyric driven release – life, love, loss, joy, triumph and sorrow.  Each of the ten tracks are well crafted and I found it very simple to become lost in the stories being told. All in all, I found this work to be very enjoyable, one I will absolutely enjoy again. 

Sonics: 8

Overall: 8

Kenny Carr – Distance         ZOOZAZZ MUSIC

When I saw this CD, I smiled. Kenny Carr is familiar to me as I have several of his works already. Like many contemporary jazz artists, his music is best not pigeonholed into one genre. While it is technically a work of smooth jazz, he adds doses of blues, funk, fusion and maybe even a small hint of rock throughout. Carr is a classically trained guitarist who has become comfortable in the contemporary jazz genre. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a resident of NYC, Carr has worked on both coasts and once traveled with the legendary Ray Charles for ten years. He has released a total of nine albums on his own label. Several of the songs for this release were written over 25 years ago, hence the album name and representative of his youth. Musically, Carr wrote and arranged each of the nine tracks, all done in a jazz, funk, fusion style, and even plays multiple instruments. Put simply – great jazz, great music. 

Sonics: 8

Overall: 8.5

Kenny Shanker – “Beautiful Things” Wise Cat Records

Award winning composer, saxophonist, pianist, and vocalist Kenny Shanker has released his latest work of traditional jazz, both original songs and covers of jazz standards. In addition to his own music, he has worked with several prominent groups and artists such as The New World Symphony, The Nelson Riddle Orchestra, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and one of my all-time favorites, David Benoit. In addition to performing at some of New York’s most celebrated jazz clubs, he has even performed at Carnegie Hall. Several of the tracks, such as Track 2, “Prestissimo” is high octane, free form sax that almost sounds totally improvised. Other tracks are cool jazz all the way and I really enjoyed how Shanker weaves the sax and trumpet together so fluidly. Between the bebop sound on several songs to the flowing luxury of a more traditional jazz sound, “Beautiful Things” is exactly that – beautiful. 

Sonics: 8

Overall: 8

Max Highstein – “Tiptoes”         Desert Heart Music

Max Highstein has lived a varied life. Growing up, he was immersed into art and music by his parents. He started with clarinet lessons and at age 13, switched to the organ. He studied jazz in college and has two graduate degrees in psychology. During this time, he developed a series of meditation programs and decided to compose the music himself. This led him back to music fulltime. On “Tiptoes,” Highstein plays multiple saxophones, a clarinet, piano, organ and even a fretless bass. I found this work at times to be somewhat ethereal, which fits nicely with its official classification of New Age. But really, its more than that. It flows along so effortlessly that I easily became absorbed in what I was hearing. As soon as I became settled into a transformational experience, the tempo changed and Highstein was giving the sax all he could and waking me from my proverbial “mood.” All the while, each track seems perfectly at home, flowing along and weaving an effortless montage of relaxing, yet “kickin” music.  

Sonics: 8

Overall: 8.5

Sarah Jarosz – “Build Me Up From Bones” Sugar Hill Records

With roots in bluegrass, native Texan singer / songwriter Sarah Jarosz releases her third full length album despite only being 22 years old. “Build Me Up From Bones” is manifestly a work of country. It has all the country themed instrumentation one would expect – banjo, dobro, lap steel guitar and mandolin being the more prominent. In fact, Jarosz herself deftly handles the guitar, banjo and mandolin and does so very effectively. Instruments effortlessly weave in and out throughout each track. Combine superb arrangements with Jarosz’s remarkably fine voice and “Bones” is an excellent all-around work. What impressed me most is that while County is ostensibly the predominate genre, other styles are also present. In fact, combinations of genres take place. There are hints of Folk (“Build Me Up From Bones”), Rock (“Over The Edge”), Bluegrass (“Fuel The Fire”) and my favorite track, which is not really any of the previous genres, “Mile On The Moon, which to me has origins in more of a pop sound.” Of the eleven tracks, nine are originals and two are covers – Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” and “The Book Of Right-On” by Joanna Newsom. Overall, I was completely captivated with enjoyment listening to this album, which for this review was a well recorded LP. Perhaps identifying this work as one genre is not a complete description. What I found was more than country, blues, rock or folk, which, manifestly it was.  Actually, what I found was outstandingly excellent, very enjoyable music. 

Sonics: 9 (LP Version)

Overall: 10

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