Krall Impressive As Ever On Her New LP

Courtesy: Verve Records

Diana Krall has become one of the leading names in jazz over the course of her career.  Her voice and her chops as a pianist have made her a household name among not just among jazz aficionados, but among the mainstream masses, too.  But on this new release, Krall has stepped from her comfort zone, and tried something new.  So far, Glad Rag Doll has become an album that fans either love or hate.  There is no gray area with this album.  In the case of this critic, it’s one more success from an artist who continues to prove herself to be one of the industry’s elite.

Glad Rag Doll presents Diana Krall in a different avenue than in her previous releases.  Rather than take the safe road, this time she has ventured out and gone back in time to the 1920’s and 30’s.  Perhaps the closest that Krall comes to her old sound is in the album’s opener, ‘We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.’  This is one of those songs that could easily be imagined in a smoky old jazz club in the heyday of jazz.  Krall’s vocals are just as smooth as ever.  And the backing of fellow musicians Marc Ribot, Jay Bellerose, and Dennis Crouch add even more of a gentle touch to the song. 

From the gentle jazz mood of ‘We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye’, Krall and company move into something with a little more edge to it in their cover of Fred Fisher’s ‘There Ain’t No Man That’s Worth The Salt of My Tears.’  Fisher wrote this one originally.  But it was made largely popular by singer Martha Wainright.  Again, as with the album’s opener, Krall manages to maintain the integrity of this song from its early days.  The bluesy guitar and light brushwork by Krall’s drummer here make it one of the album’s true highlights.  It proves without a shadow of a doubt that Krall and company can swing it with the best of them both as a jazz and blues artist.  She also proves this on the equally bluesy cover of Betty James’ ‘I’m A Little Mixed Up.’  Her piano work on this song is incredible.  The way she plays shows exactly why the piano is considered more a percussion instrument than belonging to any other instrument family.

All of the songs noted here are excellent additions to Krall’s new album.  They’re not the only enjoyable pieces presented here, either.  All thirteen tracks included on the standard edition (and seventeen on the deluxe edition) will make for an enjoyable listen for any true jazz and blues fan.  Her album is available in stores and online now.  And fans can even see her live now as she is currently touring in support of her new album.  She is currently touring overseas in support of her new album.  Fans can go to her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/dianakrall to order her album and to get all of her tour dates and more.

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Jazz Lovers And Lovers Alike Will Love Marcus Goldhaber’s New LP

Courtesy: Randex PR

Almost love.  Those are two simple, short words.  But they make for a fitting title to jazz/pop artist Marcus Goldhaber’s new album.  One has to ask oneself, when is a feeling between two people almost love?  When is it love?  The album’s title track does an outstanding job of capturing that mix of emotions when a person is trying to figure out if what they feel is love or if it’s almost love.  He sings in the album’s title track, “And it’s love/Or it’s almost love/If you/Can be certain of your heart/But so much depends on/How you connect with/What you can’t expect it to be.”  Who hasn’t been at that moment when they are trying to figure out that mix of emotions at a given point as a relationship grows?  These lyrics mixed with the gentility of the music makes this just one of many high points on Goldhaber’s new album.

After taking listeners through the emotional journey of sorting out one’s feelings, Goldhaber gives listeners the high point of realizing that love is real in ‘Somebody in Love.’  As with the album’s title track, this song also does a great job of catching the emotion that is felt by a person newly in love.  And while it’s told from the vantage point of a male, it’s a great piece in that it could just as easily have been told by a female, too.  Goldhaber sings in the song, “I’m in a big mess/I haven’t a clue/Ain’t got the time/Can’t spare a dime/I don’t know what to do/Don’t know who to call/can’t seem to get friends/I’m losing my mind/And I don’t know why/My anxiety won’t end/I gotta get through this/Unique situation/I gotta get through to/Somebody in love.  Doesn’t sound too happy, right?  Well he goes on from here singing, “I was doing fine/Figured it all out/had lots of money/I was so funny/Gigolo no doubt/I was in control/Never had a mess/The ladies would call me/nothing would stall me/from getting that kiss/I gotta get through this/Unique situation/I gotta get through to/Somebody in love.”  He’s singing about actually being in love and how crazy it makes him feel.  That’s why he sings about needing to get through to somebody in love.  He wants to make sure that the crazy feelings he’s having are normal.  Yet again Goldhaber and his band mates—Jon Davis (piano, Hammond B-3 organ) and Marcello Pelliterri (drums)—expertly capture the high that a person feels when he or she first realizes that he or she really is in love.  Any new happy couples will enjoy this track just as much as the others on this disc, of not more so.

Just as ‘Somebody in Love’ highlights what a person newly and truly in love feels, ‘As Long As I’m With You’ somewhat continues that positive vibe, with Goldhaber and his band mates yet again musically capturing the excited lyrical vibe of the song.  Goldhaber sings just as happily here, “I have never been so happy as when I’m with you/I get lots of funny feelings/and my dreams come true/When you’re in my arms/There’s no way I could be blue/It doesn’t matter where I am as long as I’m with you.  That one verse alone sets the tone for the rest of this song.  That energy is just as obvious in the lyrics as it is in the music.  Together, they make yet another great track for this album.  Audiences could almost argue that it sort of has a Stan Getz meets Nat King Cole vibe.

“Almost Love” has plenty of up-tempo pieces that perfectly capture the highs of being in love.  And even the slower, more gentile songs do an equally impressive job of capturing the more romantic moments of love.  These songs do their job both musically and lyrically.  Being entirely assembled, they make a wonderful album for any jazz lover.  And for those who may be new to Marcus Goldhaber’s music, it makes for a top notch introduction.  “Almost Love” hits stores October 9th.  While fans wait, they can get all the latest news and more from Marcus online at http://www.facebook.com/marcusgoldhaber and http://www.marcusgoldhaber.com.

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Nickelodeon, Shout! Factory Offer More “Spirited” Fun In Danny Phantom Season 2.5

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

The end is near for another of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons.  Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory have officially released Danny Phantom Season Two Part Two, which will henceforth be simply called Season 2.5.  Danny Phantom Season 2.5 completes the penultimate season to this short lived series from Butch Hartman.  While this show would be short lived, Hartman would go on to create what is one of Nickelodeon’s more popular of the new generation of Nicktoons in The Fairly Oddparents.  Audiences see Danny get shrunk thanks to his dad’s bad aim, all while learning the value of physical fitness, believe it or not.  Also, after learning Danny’s secret, his sister Jazz tries to offer her help, but only makes things worse until she goes to visit Vlad Masterson.  And Danny also learns a very valuable lesson in a special Christmas themed episode.   

Danny Fenton (A.K.A. Danny Phantom) has had to face a lot of challenges ever since accidentally gaining his ghost powers.  He has also learned a lot of valuable life lessons along the way.  One of those valuable lessons that he learns is on the importance of physical fitness.  That lesson is contained in the episode, “Micro Management.”  In this episode, Danny has to utilize his “natural abilities” after being accidentally shrunk by his dad while battling Skulker.  Skulker also gets shrunk along with Danny’s classmate, Dash.  Ironically, Danny had been doing everything that he could to avoid the phys. Ed. test for which he was supposed to have been training prior to getting shrunk.  After going through the adventure, he realizes the importance of being physically fit.  This episode was a smart way to discuss the importance of physical fitness without preaching to young audiences.  Hartman and company were very smart to attack the concept in this way.

The importance of physical fitness is just one lesson that Danny learns in the second half of Season Two.  He also learns lessons about the importance of family through a handful of episodes.  One of those episodes was “Secret Weapons.”  Danny has faced some tough challenges before.  But nothing could prepare him for a sister who is trying way too hard to help Danny hunt ghosts.  Danny’s sister, Jazz, means well in her efforts to help him.  But her help seems to keep causing Danny trouble.  So he ends up confronting her about it at school.  This leads Jazz to go to Vlad Masterson’s home, where she discovers one of his secrets.  In learning his secret, Jazz and Danny team up in the end to beat Vlad.  Thanks to their teamwork, Danny learns to appreciate Jazz’s efforts as his sister, and to appreciate her as a sister, too.  Again, it’s a smart way to tackle a subject to which any younger viewer could relate.

Danny also learns to appreciate the rest of his family, as well as others In the Christmas episode, “The Fright Before Christmas.”  In this episode Danny is no fan of the holiday season.  Viewers learn that the reason for that is his parents constantly fight every Christmas.  So one year, Danny’s in such a foul mood that when he goes into the ghost zone, he destroys a Christmas book written by the Ghost Writer (voiced by Arrested Development star, Will Arnett).  The Ghost Writer is so angry that he traps Danny in a holiday story to teach Danny about appreciating Christmas.  The ghosts from the ghost zone are there, too.  They tell Danny that while they may fight him and each other through the year, Christmas is the one time of the year when they all have a truce, kind of like in All Quiet on The Western Front.  Fans will also enjoy the Christmas music in the background helping to set the mood of each scene.  Eventually, Danny learns that no matter how people celebrate (even if it’s by arguing and fighting), he shouldn’t let that spoil his view of Christmas, and in turn ruin others’ holiday season.  It’s a very valuable lesson for parents and kids alike. 

The episodes noted here are just small samplings of what Danny Phantom Season 2.5 has to offer.  Fans will likely have their own favorite episodes after watching this half of Season Two for themselves.  The two-disc DVD set is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Shout! Factory at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com

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New PBS DVD Shows The Importance Of Knowing One’s History

Courtesy: PBS/Inkwell Films/Kundhart McGee Productions/Ark Media/WNET Thirteen

America is a melting pot.  Its history is made up of the stories from the immigrants who settled here from its earliest days.  Sadly, many of those stories have been lost because we as a nation have forgotten our roots.  We have forgotten from where we came.  Now thanks to PBS, a new special has been released that will hopefully re-ignite the fire among Americans to learn their family roots. 

“Finding Your Roots”, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a ten part special spread across three discs.  Gates interviews many of this great nation’s most famous names, discussing their family roots with them.  The famous names come from the world of music, acting, politics, and more.  One of Gates’ most interesting interviews comes in the segment featuring musicians and friends Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Another was his interview with actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  And one of the most interesting cross sections shown in this ten-part special comes in his interviews with Doctor Sanjay Gupta, comedian Margaret Cho, and famed personality Martha Stewart.  They, along with the other unmentioned interviews, make this special one of PBS’ best to date.

“Finding Your Roots” starts with gates interviewing musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Starting the mini-series with this pair of interviews is more than just an interview with a pair of famous musicians.  What gates and those behind the camera intended to do with this segment was to try and bridge the racial gaps of our nation.  The connection between Connick and Marsalis shows that while people may have different color skin, that’s all that really separates us.  Connick admits in his interview that he wanted to be black.  He says that he dressed and acted the part.  What’s really interesting about this is the discovery that one of his ancestors, James Connick, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  On the good side, it should be noted that James Connick  did not fight for slavery.  He fought solely for economic reasons.  He wasn’t even a slave owner.  He was just trying to support his family.  Apparently, Harry didn’t know this.  But it raises what becomes a very interesting trend that viewers will see as the special moves to other notables.

Just as Harry Connick, Jr.’s roots proved to be rather interesting, so did those of Branford Marsalis.  Interviews with Branford’s famed father Ellis Marsalis, reveals that Branford may have actually gotten his musical abilities not so much from his father, but from his mother.  Or rather, he got his talent from her side of the family.  What’s more, it’s also revealed that one of his ancestors was actually the result of a relationship between a white man and black woman.  This brings this very first pair of interviews full circle.  Gates tells audiences that despite the popular belief, far fewer African American males were born of Native American blood than believed.  Many more will find that they have deeper African American and European roots than Native American.  What it seems that Gates is getting at in this first segment is that while the color of our skin is different, blacks and whites may be far more closely related than we think.  We need only take the time to look back and find our roots.

Gates’ interviews with Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis are both entertaining and very insightful.  They’re just one part of what makes “Finding Your Roots” so impressive.  Another interesting pair of figures interviewed for the special is Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  It’s revealed that both are descended from Jewish ancestry.  What’s more, Gyllenhaal’s Jewish ancestry is one hundred percent pure Jewish.  She admits in her interview some interesting facts that reveal ancestry and genetics play directly hand in hand.  Again, viewers will see this pop up a lot throughout all ten parts of the mini-series.  What’s really interesting to learn about Maggie Gyllenhaal is that apparently she’s descended from nobility.  It’s revealed through investigations and Gates’ interview with her, that Maggie Gyllenhaal is actually descended from King Henry I.  And somewhere along the line, she’s also linked to both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, as well as Shirley Temple, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  She showed that she had no clue about any of these links, and just how amazed she was by all of it.

Robert Downey, Jr., on the other hand, had much different roots.  He and Gyllenhaal both are children of film makers.  And like Gyllenhaal, he too has Jewish roots.  It’s also revealed that he has Swiss roots.  Unlike Gyllenhaal’s roots, though, he can’t claim connection to any real famous historical figures.  Ironically enough, he himself has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood throughout his career.

Musicians and actors were only a tiny portion of the whole that makes up “Finding Your Roots.”  Gates also interviewed Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho and Martha Stewart.  This feature offers perhaps some of the most interesting material in the series.  These segments reveal to both the celebrities in question and to viewers some rather unexpected and surprising information.  One of the most interesting pieces of information is that Martha Stewart has links back to the Mongols.  She laughs in discovering this as she admitted to Gates that her dog is actually named Genghis Khan.  What’s more, many of her ancestors also had professions that involved much of what she does today.  As noted in previous segments, it seems yet again that there is at least some link between one’s ancestry and one’s own personal genetic makeup.  Maggie Gyllenhaal admitted her pleasant surprise at her link to her Jewish ancestry due to her own recent personal choices before her interview.  Branford Marsalis’ parents told Gates that he got his musical abilities from his mother’s side of the family.  That link is explained in the connection to specific well known acts from the rich history of music. 

The roots discovered in conversations with Martha Stewart are the revelations of Margaret Cho’s family.  Her interview reveals that one of her distant ancestors was a very well respected member of his community.  What’s most interesting in her discussions is that members of her family are not actually Korean.  They came from other regions of Asia.  She shows her surprise, laughing about it.  She tells Gates that this was a surprising revelation, being that her parents always claimed such national pride for Korea.  This discovery is made through genetic testing.

Sanjay Gupta’s interview was one of the most moving of the entire mini-series.  Gupta shows just how amazed he is by all of the information discovered through the research done for his interviewed.  At one point, he even begins to tear up.  That single moment is perhaps the defining moment of this entire special.  The emotion that he shows is the entire point of the presentation.  So few Americans are aware of their families’ histories.  It doesn’t matter if someone is related down the line to this famous person or that, or if they are simply related to some random person.  It’s that discovery of one’s past is the most important.  It can make all the difference in a person’s life.  It adds that much more to the nation’s already rich history as a whole.

Gates’ interviews with members of the entertainment community reveal some very interesting notes about them.  It also reminds viewers that they might be just as interested if they take the time to do some research into their own family roots.  There’s no telling what viewers might find if they take that time.  “Finding Your Roots” is proof of that.  “Finding Your Roots” is available on DVD now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie boogies bigtime

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Records is known as one of the leaders when it comes to live releases.  The companies ahve already released the majority of the year’s best live releases so far.  And now with the release of The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie live in Paris, Eagle Rock has continued to maintain its place at the forefront of live releases. 

The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie is a solid recording from start to finish with plenty of jazz and blues for any occasion.  Being that Summer is now here, lots of people are planning road trips, parties and much more.  This is one of those records that is perfect for any of those events.  The band plays its own renditions of  (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, Doctor John’s ‘Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door’ and W.C. Handy’s famed ‘St. Louis Blues’ along with plenty of its own original compositions throughout the course of this concert.  There’s even a cover of Leroy Carr’s blues classic, ‘Low Down Dog Blues’ and Don Raye’s ‘Down The Road a Bit.’

The set list on this show is impressive to say the least.  But no concert is a concert without musicians who are capable of interpreting the music and making it pleasurable to the ear.  This quartet of musicians is exactly that and then some.  The pure musicianship of each member shows the respect that the group as a whole has for the music.  Even in the longer pieces, audiences won’t even be able to tell how much time has passed.  That’s thanks to the group’s attention to dynamics, style, and everything else that goes on in each piece.

The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie isn’t the only act out there currently spreading the joy of jazz and blues to the masses.  And while the group may not be the only one doing so, it’s one of the best, without a doubt.  And chances are, regardless of how many acts come and go through the years, this is one recording that fans of jazz and the blues will keep coming back to over and over again for years to come.

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