Otis’ New Album Is A Good Fit For Any Jazz Lovers’ Romantic Moments

Courtesy: Adrielle Music

Singer Jeannine Otis has been making her mark in the music industry for more than four decades, recording and performing with the likes of Grover Washington, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and her cousin, famed drummer Elvin Jones.  While Otis’ resume is extensive to say the least, she herself has ironically released only one solo album, 1980’s Magic Song.  That eight-song record was re-issued twice, in 2003 and 2013.  Otis finally ended the three-decade-plus wait for her next solo album last month with the release of her sophomore album, Into My Heart.  The nine-song record, released March 5 through Adrielle Music, is a production that listeners will agree is worth hearing at least once.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body.  They will be discussed shortly.  Otis’ performances of said songs — and those of her fellow musicians – add their own appeal to the recording’s presentation.  They will be discussed a little later.  The overarching lyrical theme that accompanies the record’s musical content rounds out the most important of the album’s elements.  It will be discussed later, too.  When it is considered along with the record’s musical arrangements and related performances, the whole makes Into My Heart a presentation that will find itself a widely appealing record.

Jeannine Otis’ sophomore album is a presentation that most listeners will agree was worth the thirty year-plus wait.  That is proven in part through its featured songs.  The songs are a mix of original compositions and covers.  The covers comprise only a small portion of the songs, at only two of its nine total songs.  They are covers of Duke Ellington’s ‘In a Sentimental Mood,’ and Billie Holiday’s ‘Lover Man.’ The rest of the songs are compositions that were composed either by Otis, Otis and others, or by her fellow musicians.  That Otis and officials at Adrielle Music opted to give Otis and company’s music more presence here than the covers shows a concerted effort to really put their collective talents on display.  The covers become little more than window dressing.  That is not to say that the covers are anything bad.  It is just to say that their minimalist presence allows Otis and company to fully shine, and shine they do in each performance.

Speaking of the performances presented throughout the 44-minute run time of Into My Heart, each is unique from the others.  That is even with each song being so gentle in its presentation.  Case in point is the performance by Otis and company in ‘Touch Me Tonight.’  As the song’s title infers, the song is a song directly centered on intimacy between a man and woman.  Keeping that in mind, it would have been so easy for Otis and her fellow musicians to get way too schmaltzy.  Thankfully, that did not happen here.  The gentle piano line performed here alongside Otis’ satin-soft vocal delivery gives the song such a depth in its simplicity.  The production used to give Otis’ vocals and the piano the airy sound that they exhibit adds its own touch.  The whole makes the performance overall feel and sound like something that belongs in the soundtrack for some romance flick from the 1960s.  That is meant in the most complimentary fashion possible.

Another example of the importance of the performances featured in this record comes in ‘Brazilian Jam.’ The song’s very title leads listeners to expect a Latin-tinged composition.  That is what audiences get here, but it is not all that they get in the largely instrumental track.  Listeners also get some subtle electronic elements incorporated into the whole.  The thing is that even with everything going on, those elements and Otis’ singing are so well-balanced.  What’s more the subtlety in each musician’s part is so powerful in its own simple, subtle presentation.  That clear sharing of the spotlight so to speak shows a certain chemistry between the collective.  It also makes the song a nice respite from all of the run-of-the-mill Afro-Latin type works that are out there.  It is just one more way in which the group’s performances prove important to the album’s presentation.

Otis’ performance of ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is yet another example of the importance of the performances overall.  Whereas the original composition is relaxed, it still boasts a full compliment of instruments, including subtle time keeping, horns, and saxophone.  Otis’ performance on the other hand features a far more relaxed take on the song.  In this case, the song is performed solely by Otis and guitarist Saul Rubin.  It is such a light work that one could easily classify it as an easy listening style jazz composition.  It is a unique take on the song, but is still its own positive performance that continues to show why the performances overall are so important to the album.  It shows the diversity in those performances and at the same time, the talents and abilities of Otis and all involved.  Keeping that in mind, it should be clear at this point why the performances featured in this album are just as important to the record’s presentation as the songs themselves.  They are just one more part of what makes the album worth hearing.  The overarching lyrical theme of Into My Heart rounds out its most important elements.

The overarching lyrical theme of Into My Heart is that of romance, as the album’s title infers.  From the album’s opening number, ‘Mood is for Lovin’,’ to ‘Lover Man,’ to its title track – which closes out the record – the songs featured in the album follow that central theme.  Yes, there are some songs (E.g. ‘Brazilian Jam,’ ‘Sweet Sad Guitar,’ and ‘Cokika’) that are not directly centered on that theme.  That aside, the majority of the album’s songs run on the noted theme.  Considering that and the mood that the performances of the songs creates, the elements overall make Into My Heart a record that couples will find a good fit for any date night soundtrack.

Jeannine Otis’ new album Into My Heart is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.  It is a presentation that most jazz fans will find is worth hearing at least occasionally.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body.  The songs are mostly original compositions.  A pair of covers blends with the originals to make the songs their own important part of the album’s presentation.  The performances of the noted songs that Otis and her fellow musicians present here add even more to the album’s appeal.  That is because of their ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained even being so simple and subtle in their presentations.  The overarching lyrical theme that runs through the album’s body rounds out the record’s most important elements.  It works with the songs and their performances to complete the album’s presentation.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Into My Heart.  All things considered, they make the album a work that jazz fans will find a good fit for any romantic situation.  Into My Heart is available now.  More information on the album is available along with Otis’ latest news at:

Website: https://jeannineotis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannine.otis.7

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Cohen Media Group’s Re-Issue Of Syncopation Hits All The Right Notes

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/RKO Pictures

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/RKO Pictures

Every year, any number of classic movies is re-issued on DVD and Blu-ray. The re-issues range from modern movies that come from the latter part of the 20th Century (the 1980s and beyond) and those that come from Hollywood’s golden era (the 1970s and before). Among that yearly mass of movies, some are sort of memorable. And then there are those that prove to be must have movies for any true movie buff. While 2015 is still very young, already one movie has been released that is more than deserving of the title of a must have for any movie buff. The movie in question is the 1942 classic RKO Pictures movie Syncopation. It was re-issued on Blu-ray and DVD February 10th via Cohen Media Group. Syncopation is a must have not just for any true-blooded movie buff but for any true-blooded lover of music (and more specifically jazz). While it has never been known as one of the major blockbusters of Hollywood’s golden age, it is still a wonderful work. The main element of this movie that makes it a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music is its story. Writers Philip Yordan, and Frank Cavett have crafted a tale from Valentine Davies’ original story that bucks the general trend of most romantic movies. Rather than putting the script’s romantic plot line at the center of the story, they instead make the movie’s music the center of the story. It is the central element off of which the story’s romantic subplot works for its own development. And just as the story’s essentially inverted story makes the movie enjoyable, so do the transitions used throughout the story. Audiences are presented with solid scene transitions throughout the movie’s nearly ninety-minute run time that make the movie’s central story easy to follow. The end result is a story that will not only entertain viewers but is also easy to follow. In turn, it will keep viewers engaged from beginning to end and is sure to, again, show why this movie is a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music. The largely original story and its easily followed transitions are both key elements of what makes Syncopation a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music. If they are not enough reason, collectively speaking, for audiences to pick up this golden age re-issue, the footage and performances included with the movie as bonus material is sure to convince audiences. Cohen Media Group has included as bonus material a number of classic recordings from the likes of Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and others that equals out to roughly nearly an hour and a half in itself. The recordings in question are taken from their original tapes. And being that they have not been re-mastered, they look just as they did nearly a century ago. And that is not a bad thing, either. As a matter of fact, it helps the overall presentation of Syncopation in terms of taking audiences back in time. It is a wonderful feeling brought on by both that bonus footage and the movie together is a realization that Cohen Media Group’s new re-issue of Syncopation is indeed a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover and one of this year’s best new re-issues.

Syncopation is one of the best new re-issues of 2015 and a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover. This movie was never one of the bigger names from Hollywood’s golden era. But it is still a wonderful classic that any movie buff and lover of classic movies and music will love. The main reason for this is the movie’s story. Crafted by co-writers Philip Yordan and Frank Cavett, the movie takes a route not very often taken by screenwriters both past and present. Instead of just being another romance movie, Syncopation makes its romance story secondary while putting the evolution of America’s greatest music front and center. From the Dixieland and blues sound of New Orleans to the more up-tempo sounds of Chicago’s jazz scene and more, audiences get to hear for themselves the roots of the jazz community. Even better for audiences is that jazz legends Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Charlie Barnet all get some screen time along the way. Getting to see and hear these legends perform makes for an excellent introduction to them and their music for those that might not be so familiar with them or their work. It could be a doorway into a whole new world of music for that matter. And for those that are more familiar with them and their music, it is that much more reason to add this movie to their home collections.

The musical elements of Syncopation’s story more than make this movie worth the watch by anyone that has any love of classic movies and the rich history of Hollywood’s golden era. They are just part of the story’s whole, of course. They are the base on which the movie’s secondary romance story sits. The romance side of the story follows Kit Latimer (Bonita Granville) from her childhood in New Orleans to her adult life finding love, losing that love because of war, and learning to love again afterward. Director William Dieterlie didn’t allow this subplot to overpower the movie’s central story honoring what is America’s music, instead balancing both elements together. The end result is a story that proves to be unlike so many other romance stories both of its age and Hollywood’s current era and in turn one of the perhaps most underrated movies in Hollywood’s history. It is one that any true lover of movies and music should add to their collections should they not already own it.

The dual-lined story that serves as the body of Syncopation makes for plenty of reason for any movie buff and music lover to add it to their personal movie libraries. They are but a tiny portion of what makes it worth the purchase, too. Throughout the course of the movie’s story, director William Dieterlie and those behind the cameras make following the story especially easy thanks to the story’s scene transitions. The scene transitions are smooth dissolves. There is no jumping from point to point. Audiences will see this as Kit leaves her childhood behind in New Orleans for her new home. They will see it just as clearly when America is pulled into Work War I and the man she loves goes off to fight for her country, and after the death of her childhood nanny Ella. The examples could go on and on. But it should be clear just how Dieterlie used this effect to help advance the story. And because he used them when and where he did, it went a long way toward keeping audiences engaged from beginning to end thus making for even more reason for true-blooded movie lovers and music lovers to pick up this movie’s much deserved re-issue.

The writing that went into Syncopation is key to its success and enjoyment. Yordan and Cavett are to be commended for the way in which they balanced the movie’s two separate plot lines. Dieterlie’s handling of the transitions (and that of those charged with assembling the final product) is just as important to the whole of Syncopation. Both parts are integral to the enjoyment of the story in whole. On another branch, the presentation that is Syncopation’s re-issue is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the recordings that make up the movie’s bonus features. Cohen Media Group has included a total of nine classic recordings featuring some of the greatest names in jazz. The names in question include: Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and a handful of others. The recordings are presented exactly as they were in their original presentations nearly a century ago. They look and sound surprisingly good considering the fact that well over eighty years have passed since they were originally recorded. Their collective run time comes to almost an hour and a half if not more than that, with the shortest (Jazz A La Cuba w/ Don Aspiazu) coming in at five minutes and nineteen seconds. The longest (St Louis Blues w/ Bessie Smith) comes in at fifteen minutes and forty-one seconds. The recordings aren’t just audio tracks, either. They are actual audio/visual recordings that tell stories alongside the songs. And they will definitely keep audiences engaged even by themselves. Lena Horne even makes an appearance in one recording, singing ‘Stormy Weather.’ She is presented singing her song inside a house, rain falling on the window. The pain in her voice as she sings against that backdrop makes the classic gives the song so much emotional punch. The other bonus recordings offer their own entertainment, too. And audiences will see that for themselves when they pick up Syncopation for themselves whether on DVD or Blu-ray. It is yet another reason that Syncopation’s new re-issue is a must-have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover. What’s more it is that much more way in which it proves itself one of this year’s best new re-issues. Together with the work of the movie’s writing team and the work of those behind the cameras, it proves that without even the slightest shadow of a doubt.

Syncopation proves in its brand new DVD and Blu-ray re-issue that it is one of the best new re-issues of 2015. It proves to be a piece that any true-blooded movie buff and music lover should have in their own home libraries. It proves this through the solid work of co-writers Philip Yordan and Frank Cavett. It proves this just as much through the story’s scene transitions. they make both of the movie’s story elements entertaining and interesting for audiences. The bonus classic recordings that were unearthed for this re-issue make its presentation whole. That is thanks to the surprisingly impressive quality of their audio and video. The combination of all of these elements makes crystal clear why Syncopation is such a welcome re-issue. Their combination shows without a doubt why it is one of this year’s best new re-issues and a work that every true-blooded movie buff and music lover should have in his or her home movie collection. It is available now in stores and online. Audiences can check out a trailer from the movie and check out the movie’s image gallery online at https://cohenmedia.net/films/syncopation. A link to Amazon and iTunes is also available at this website for those looking to order or download the movie online. More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online at:

Website: https://www.cohenmedia.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup

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Shemekia Copeland’s 33 1/3 Is A Perfect 10

Courtesy: Telarc

Shemekia Copeland is only in her thirties.  But in the course of her career so far, she has already garnered the title of Queen of The Blues.  Her current slate of releases shows why she is more than deserving of that title.  And now her new upcoming album, “33 1/3” serves to maintain that reputation.  “33 1/3” is a solid record that ushers in the blues for a whole new generation of music lovers.  From the socially conscious opener, ‘Lemon Pie’ to the slower twelve bar blues style of ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo’ to the semi-country, almost Etta James style of ‘A Woman’, Copeland’s new record is a record that shows her musical prowess yet again.

“33 1/3” opens with a song that will grab audiences both with its groove and its lyrical side in ‘Lemon Pie.’  The gentle groove from bassist Kevin Jenkins and drummer Morris Roberts instantly grabs audiences right off the top.  When Copeland starts singing, something happens.  Even first time listeners of her music will be gripped by the power of her voice.  It’s not an angry sound.  But there’s a certain power and almost a sense of urgency to her voice that lets audiences know she means business.  She sings, “Train left the station/I didn’t climb aboard/price of the ticket was too much to afford/And I saw that politician/I know you know his name/Waving from the window of that gravy train.”  This is a great way to open her new album as it’s the kind of song to which everybody can relate.  She goes on in the song, “I’m hungry for a job/I’m hungry for a meal/I’m hungry for all the good things that/I’m too proud to steal/I’m barely getting’ by/I’m doin’ this and that/While people up top keep getting’ fat.”  It’s pretty obvious in the chorus that lemon pie is that proverbial piece of the pie that every American wants; that American dream.  Again, it’s something to which every listener can relate.  That combination of almost pleading lyrics and the up-tempo music makes this a great introduction for this album.

Copeland doesn’t lose her social consciousness after ‘Lemon Pie.’  The slower, ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo’ is just as hard hitting.  The way that she sings here, one can only imagine a combination of Billie Holiday and certain other blues greats.  Add in the soaring guitar work of Arthur Nelson, and listeners get what is one of this album’s top tracks.  Copeland sings on this song of a subject who was able to get out of an abusive relationship.  She sings as the song opens, “Just what I said wrong is anybody’s guess/But the bruise on my face/Was as blue as my dress/Broken bottle on the table/Broken lamp on the floor/Couple thousand miles/From the bed to the door/Lipstick on his cheek/from my last kiss/Took a ten from his wallet/Left the maid a tip/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo/End up faded and blue/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo.  That opening verse is so powerful in itself.  As the song progresses, audiences will be hooked as she tells her story through song.  While it’s sad what happened in her story, what makes this song good (besides the outstanding music) is that she was strong enough to get away, and not “be that guy’s tattoo.”  If ever there was a song that was pure blues for the new generation, this is it.   

Copeland shows her blues chops throughout the course of “33 1/3.”  But something interesting happens on the song, ‘A Woman.’  She shows the close roots of blues and country music.  At the same time, she reaches a point in the song where she sings with a gritty growl that would have made Etta James proud.  Musically, this country blues hybrid hits all the right notes.  Lyrically, it takes a different turn than ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo.’  She sings about the right way to treat a woman so as to keep her.  She sings, “Any old fool can stay through the good times/And any old fool can run out on her/So you got to buckle up/And face that stormy weather together/And that’s how a woman wants to be loved by her man.”  That one verse alone is so powerful in its truth.  When she reaches the point about a woman telling a man not to put his hands on her unless he really loves her is the point when she hits that gritty vocal spot.  It perfectly highlights the song and makes both her and the song shine.  It’s one more that is bound to make programmers at any blues centric radio station take notice and want to play it again and again.

These three songs are just a tiny sample of what Shemekia Copeland has in store for fans in her new upcoming album.  There are so many other great songs such as:  ‘I Sing The Blues’, ‘Mississippi Mud’, ‘One More Time’, and ‘Can’t Let Go’ that shine here.  Fans might even have their own other favorites.  And that is the sign of a great album.  “33 1/3” will be available September 25th.  It will be available both in stores and online via Telarc’s website, http://www.telarc.com.  While fans wait on the new release, they can also check out all of Shemekia’s latest tour dates and news at http://www.shemekiacopeland.com, and http://www.facebook.com/ShemekiaCopelandBand.  

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Shahidah Omar’s debut is “Freedom” from the musical masses

One look at the cover of her debut album, and one might automatically assume that she’s probably just like any other pop star on the radio.  But everyone knows what assuming does.  We won’t go there.  Just one listen through “Freedom” and listeners will hear that this young up and coming pop star has an album with all the pop sensibility that will make her a star on Top 40 pop radio nation wide, without losing her identity.  The album’s opener, ‘Live My Dream’ is a bold statement from Miss Omar that clearly states she hasn’t lost her identity by any means.  She sings on the song, “I wanna go real high\I wanna live out loud\I’m gonna reach inside\I’M GONNA LIVE MY DREAM.”  It’s a wonderful, uplifting opener to an album that’s filled with emotions and social commentary.

“Freedom” opens with a great up-tempo piece that’s sure to be a radio hit, if it already isn’t, in ‘Live My Dream.’  That song is only one part of what makes Shahidah Omar’s debut album the unexpectedly impressive work that it is.  Rather than simply being another pop or R & B album, she sings about more than just breakups or emotions.  She also includes some social commentary here and there, all while blowing listeners way with her vocal range.  On ‘People of the World’, Omar sings with a voice that seems to combine the best elements of Billie Holiday and Macy Gray.  She also does something that audiences would never expect to hear from a pop artist.  She actually shows off her operatic singing ability.  That one song alone is anough to make one believe that should her pop carer not pan out, she would definitely have a career as a professional opera singer.  Her vocal abilities are that amazing on this piece.

Shahidah Omar has wonderful pop sensibilities.  She also has an impressive vocal talent.  And she also has equally impressive musical sensibility in general.  The song, ‘Cold Inside’ is proof of that.  What could otherwise have been just another standard R & B/pop song is a song with so much more heart, simply for its music.  Rather than simply take the standard auto tuning and general pop route, Omar has crafted her own song that gives audiences a more realistic song to which they can relate both lyrically and musically.  She sing of not giving someone a chance because of past hurt in her life, rather than being just another breakup song.  She sings, “You took the fall for showing me love\Oh, Oh I\Thought you were pretending when you cried\I cry~~\\Cause baby it’s cold inside\Since I let you go\Oh baby it’s cold inside\Need youto keep me warm at night…And if you come back\I will be good baby\Cause I know you were good for me.”  The song continues in this fashion.  She is singing of realizing that she let her past keep her from a potentially happy future.  Who hasn’t ben there.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to let go of the past.  And it can hurt us.  That Add in that this piece doesn’t come across as just another  one of those stereotypical songs, and audiences get one more piece of what is overall quite the opus.

Now for fans who want to check out Shahidah Omar live, they’ll get their chance this Summer as she’ll be performing once more at the famed Bonaroo Festival.  The festival runs this Thursday, June 7th – Sunday, June 10th.  Fans can also keep up with her online at http://shahidahomar.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shahidah-Omar/116194041743650, on Twiiter at http://twitter.com/shahidahomar, and on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/shahidahomar

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