Jazz At Lincoln Center Septet’s New Record Is 2021’s First Great Live CDs

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

Less than a year after the release of its live recording The Ever Fonky Lowdown, members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchesta are set to return this week with a new socio-politically charged recording in the form of The Democracy! Suite.  This time presented by a smaller collection of musicians – dubbed the Jazz at Lincoln Center Septet – the recording is no less entertaining and engaging than its predecessor.  That is due in part to the recording’s featured arrangements.  This will be discussed shortly.  The sequencing thereof adds its own touch to the album’s presentation.  This element will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production puts the final touch to its presentation and will also be addressed later.  All three items noted here are important in their own way to the whole of The Democracy! Suite.  All things considered, they make the album another enjoyable offering from the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Septet with Wynton Marsalis’ latest recording The Democracy! Suite is another welcome new offering from the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Additionally, it is a welcome follow-up to its predecessor, The Ever Fonky Lowdown.  That is proven in part through the eight total arrangements that form the record’s body.  Much as was the case with the arrangements featured in The Ever Fonky Lowdown, the arrangements featured in this record are meant to reflect the socio-politically charged themes of the songs.  One of the most notable of this recording’s entries comes early in its 44-minute run in the form of ‘Ballot Box Bounce.’  The song’s upbeat arrangement is a great musical representation of the energy that flowed through Americans this year as they headed to the polls and even voted early by absentee ballot.  The energy is so light.  It conjures thoughts of works crafted by Vince Guaraldi for the beloved Peanuts TV specials, what with its light, bouncy piano line, flute, muted trumpet and brushes on the snare.  Considering the excitement that people seem to have had in being interviewed about taking part in the electoral process this year, the high but controlled positive energy exuded by the group here does well to translate that energy to this format.

‘Deeper Than Dreams’ is another standout addition to JLCS with Wynton Marsalis’ latest recording.  To what the song’s title is referring is anyone’s guess.  However, knowing that this record in whole is meant to reflect the thoughts and feelings that we have all dealt with over the past four years, one has to assume with relative certainty that it is meant to reflect the sadness that we have so often felt through everything.  To that end, the more reserved, bluesy sense exuded in this composition is a wonderful reflection of those emotions and thoughts.  From dealing with the latest issues brought on by COVID-19, to just the depression of hearing the Republican rhetoric on a daily basis (especially from the soon to be former President), to so much more, the music here reflects so well Americans’ feelings.  The controlled dynamics from the saxophone and the percussion and the subtle backing of the trumpet creates such rich emotion.  The picture that the group paints with this song is one of people dreaming beyond dreaming about times being better.  It is such a powerful piece in that richness.

That’s When All Shall See’ is a well-placed addition to JLCS’ new recording.  The almost sarcastic tone in the song’s upbeat arrangement, complete with tambourine and horns, infers a certain sense of overcoming all the negativity that has flooded this nation (and world) since 2016.  Considering the song’s title, “That’s When All Shall See,” it’s as if this song is echoing people saying, the day will come when people will finally see the light and the reality of things, and as a result, things will finally change.  Simply put, being the recording’s closer, it leaves listeners with a sense of hope.  Considering that we as a nation are finally seeing the end of the Trump administration and hopefully all of the damage that it has caused, it would seem that the noted time in which people would see is in fact here.  To that end, that the album closes with this song and that the album drops only days before Biden and Harris are elected, it is just one more example of how this recording’s arrangements make for so much enjoyment in this presentation.  When it is considered with the rest of the recording’s arrangements, that whole forms a strong foundation for this recording.  That foundation is just one level of what makes the recording work as well as it does.  The sequencing of the record’s featured arrangements adds even more to that appeal.

The Democracy! Suite starts out in upbeat fashion in ‘Be Present.’  The energy in that song would seem to echo the sense of urgency in the calls to action last year to stand up to everything that the Trump administration (and GOP) had put against America.  From there, the record’s energy pulls back slightly in ‘Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters).’  The song’s title is self-explanatory, and the sense of controlled frustration does well to echo what the African-American community must have felt building up to last year’s protests.  It makes for a good contrast to the record’s opener, in terms of energy and an equally interesting contrast to the energy in ‘Ballot Box Bounce,’ the album’s next song.  From there, the energy gradually pulls back even more over the course of the next two songs before picking up again in ‘Out Amongst The People (for J Bat).’  ‘It Come ‘Round ‘Gin’ pulls the record’s energy back again, but only partially.  The song does pick up again as it progresses through its nearly six-minute run time.  That energy carries on through to the album’s closer, leaving listeners feeling very good.  Looking back through the album in terms of its sequencing, it is clear that the sequencing balances the record’s energy expertly from start to end.  The energy rises and falls just enough at all of the right points throughout the album, ensuring that together with the songs themselves, listeners have even more to appreciate here.  It is just one more aspect of the record that audiences will appreciate.  The production that went into the record rounds out its most important elements.

Whether the song is upbeat and energetic or more reserved and slow, each work featured in this record has a lot going on.  Between the horns, the percussion and even at times woodwinds, there is a lot going on in each song.  A slower song, such as ‘Deeper Than Dreams’ required the utmost attention because of how simple the song is.  Those behind the boards had to fully control the dynamics, so as to bring out the most emotion.  The work put in there paid off, too.  On the other end of the spectrum is a song, such as ‘Ballot Box Bounce.’  This light, upbeat work involves a lot of moving parts.  There is a piano line.  There is a flute line.  There are horns.  There is a light percussion line.  That means that a different attention had to be paid to balancing the instrumentation and even the dynamics.  Again the production paid off, as it accomplished the noted goals.  Between these two songs and the production that went into the rest of the record, the result is a record that sounds so good from beginning to end.  All of the performers get their moment in the light and none of the instruments outplay the others.  It creates a positive aesthetic that listeners will enjoy just as much as the songs themselves and their sequencing.  When all three items are considered together, the result is a record that JLCO’s fans will appreciate just as much as any jazz fan in general.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Septet with Wynton Marsalis’ new recording The Democracy! Suite is a positive new outing for the smaller unit of musicians from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Its featured arrangements do so well to illustrate the thoughts and emotions evoked by the song’s titles.  The sequencing of the noted arrangements does its own share to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  That is because the sequencing ensures the energy in the arrangements is balanced throughout.  It rises and falls at all of the right moments and for the right amount of time.  The production that went into the record’s creation rounds out its most important elements.  It ensures that the unit in whole is balanced in its performance, with no one performer overpowering the others at any point and the emotions in the songs well-translated.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the recording in whole the year’s first great live CD.  The Demoracy! Suite is scheduled for release Friday through Blue Engine Records.

More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online at:

Websitehttp://jazz.org

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/blueenginerecords

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/blueenginejazz

More information on JLCO is available along with all of its latest news at:

Websitehttp://jazz.org

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/jazzatlincolncenterorchestra

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

JLCO’s Latest Live Recording Paints A Rich Musical Picture For Audiences

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis has been busy this year with new live recordings.  Between January and March, the collective released four new live recordings.  One of those recordings was a performance of the greatest hits of famed jazz sax player Wayne Shorter.  The other paid tribute to legendary band leader and composer Duke Ellington.  Yet another was an original work by one of the organization’s own musicians, Sherman Irby while the latest was a tribute to the history of the Kansas Jayhawks basketball program.  Simply put, the group’s latest group of live recordings has offered audiences quite a variety of material to engage and entertain audiences.  JLCO continued that trend of presenting diversity in its releases Friday with the release of Christopher Crenshaw’s The Fifties: A Prism.  Crafted by Crenshaw, another member of JLCO, this latest offering from JLCO impresses in part because it continues that noted trend.  This will be discussed shortly.  The songs that make up the body of the recording are just as important to its overall presentation as its approach, and will be addressed a little later.  The performance of those songs is also important to address in an examination of the recording, and will be addressed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Christopher Crenshaws The Fifties: A Prism.  All things considered, they make the recording a modern day blast from the past that any jazz lover will enjoy.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis has established a trend of success in recent years with its live recordings.  That trend continues with its latest recording, Christopher Crenshaws The Fifties: A Prism.  That is proven in part through the recording’s through its concept.  The recording’s concept is a retrospective on the music of the 1950s.  More specifically, it pays tribute to the jazz sounds of the 1950s, according to Crenshaw himself during an interview promoting the new recording.

“When I was presented with the idea of coming up with a suite dealing with the 1950s, I immediately realized this was going to cover all the genres of jazz, from bebop to freedom music,” Crenshaw said.

That tribute to the various jazz subgenres from the 1950s is a welcome presentation, as it continues to show the intention of the JLCO to bring something new and unique to audiences from one performance to the next.  It is just the latest unique presentation from the group, too.  From taking on material from the realm of family music, to creating a tribute to the Kansas Jayhawks basketball program, to creating a new musical interpretation of Dante’s epic poem Inferno to taking on the music of jazz legend Wayne Shorter and more, the group has constantly given audiences something different and enjoyable in every one of its offerings.  This record is just one more of those unique, original concepts.  Keeping that in mind, that original approach in itself makes the concert recording well worth experiencing.  It is just part of what makes the recording engaging and entertaining.  Its featured songs add to that experience.

The songs that make up the body of Christopher Crenshaws The Fifties: A Prism are noteworthy because they do in fact cover a wide range of sounds from the fifties.  Right from the performance’s outset, audiences are treated to a touch of bebop in ‘Flipped His Lid.’  The nearly seven-minute composition exhibits that through its up-tempo arrangement and its key and chord changes, as well as its full-on improvisational style from its soloists.  From the beginning to the end of this opus, audiences’ engagement and entertainment is fully ensured.  That swing-inspired bop sound continues in the performance’s second song, ‘Just A-Slidin’’ before giving way to more of a mainstream jazz approach in ‘Conglomerate.’  ‘Cha-Cha Toda la Noche’ presents more of an Afro-Cuban jazz style.  Given, that genre originally is rooted in music from the 1940s, but since that time, has become very much a standard within the jazz world.  JLCO switches things up again in its performance of ‘Unorthodox Sketches,’ opting this time for a more cool jazz approach, once more ensuring audiences’ engagement and entertainment.  ‘Pursuit of the New Thing,’ which closes out the record, has elements of bop, but could als be argued to have a touch of free jazz.  Given, it’s not a free jazz composition in its purity, but that seeming combination of elements shows once again a concerted effort by Crenshaw to craft another song that paid tribute to that subgenre of jazz, too.  Looking back at the album’s body, listeners can say with certainty that Crenshaw accomplished his goal of paying tribute to the jazz of the 1950s with these compositions.  To that end, it is clear why they are so important to this recording’s presentation.  They show that Crenshaw did not rest easily on his laurels.  Rather, that he really wanted to keep listeners engaged and entertained, which he did so quite successfully here.  While the songs featured in this recording play their own critical role in the whole of JLCO’s latest live offering, they are only one more portion of what makes it important.  The group’s performance of each song is important in its own right to the whole of the presentation, too.

The performance of the JLCO’s members in each of this concert’s songs is noteworthy because it displays the professionalism and expertise of each musician.  From the energetic, yet controlled performance of the show’s opener to the equally upbeat yet controlled performance of Just A-Slidin’ to the more subdued performance of ‘Conglomerate’ and beyond, each musician exhibits the utmost precision in his/her performance.  The group showed throughout the concert, full attention to the dynamics in each arrangement, which in turn added so much depth and enjoyment to the show in whole.  The performances show that each of the group’s musicians clearly gave the utmost attention to giving audiences something memorable.  That effort and care paid off in whole, putting the finishing touch to this recording.  Between this element, the songs featured in the recording and the very concept at the recording’s heart, audiences get here, another successful offering from JLCO, which cements even more, its place in the bigger picture of the jazz world.

Christopher Crenshaws The Fifties: A Prism is another strong, positive offering from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra that lovers of the genre (and its many subgenres) will wholly appreciate.  It is also a live recording that is deserving of its own applause in this year’s field of new live offerings overall.  That is proven in part through the very approach taken with this record.  Once again, the orchestra has offered audiences a unique concept, this time paying tribute to the history of at least one era of jazz history.  The songs featured throughout the record add to that impact, clearly taking influence from specific jazz subgenres from the 1950s.  The performance of the collective in each performance puts the final touch to the recording.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make The Fifties: A Prism its own musically colorful recording.

More information on this and other titles from the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchesta with Wynton Marsalis is available online at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://jazz.org

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/jazzatlinconcenterorchestra

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://jazz.org

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/blueenginerecords

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/blueenginejazz

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

JLCO Earns Its Own Championship Title With Live Recording dedicated To KU’s Basketball Program

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

Late last year, Blue Engine Records announced it was going to open 2020 with a bang by releasing four new live recordings from The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.  Three full months into the year, the label has stuck to its busy schedule, releasing the group’s live recording of its performance of music from Wayne Shorter, and of Shermann Irby’s Inferno, as well as a presentation of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s timeless record Black Brown & Beige.  The label continued that packed slate of new recordings last week with the release of JLCO’s fourth live recording so far this yeear, Rock Chalk Suite.  Released March 20, the 63-minute recording is another wonderfully enjoyable performance from the collective.  It is a work that apparently will appeal to sports fans, too, thanks to its central concept, which will be discussed shortly.  The arrangements that make up the body of the recording add even more interest to its presentation, and will be addressed a little later.  The recording’s production and mixing round out its most important elements, and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is key in its own special way to the whole of Rock Chalk Suite.  All things considered, this latest live recording from JLCO is yet another one of this year’s top new live CDs.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis’ latest live recording Rock Chalk Suite is another impressive new live offering from the organization that deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live CDs.  That statement is supported in part by the concept at the heart of the recording.  As noted in information provided about the recording, its concept bases each of its 15 songs on one of the famous basketball players from none other than the University of Kansas.  That includes members of the men’s and women’s team.  One might immediately begin to scratch one’s head wondering how such a concept came to life.  The answer to that question is that the recording was meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the construction of the university’s Lied Center.  Given, the Lied center has never hosted KU basketball games, being a cultural arts center, but that aside, KU students, staff and alums will appreciate the very fact that this group recorded this entire performance in dedication to the university in so many facets.  Few if any music acts from any genre can say they have dedicated an entire recording – whether studio or live – to a college and its rich history.  To that end, this is really unique, and sets a solid foundation for the recording.

The foundation set by Rock Chalk Suite’s premise is strengthened by the arrangements that make up the body of the 15-song recording.  It is important to re-state here that each arrangement is meant to pay tribute to a specific member of KU’s basketball program throughout the years.  Figures, such as Paul Pierce, Jo Jo White and Bill Houghland are honored along with the likes of Mario Chalmers, Charlie B. Black and Lynette Woodard throughout the performance.  ‘C.B.’s Theme,’ which pays tribute to Black, is a wonderful classic 1960s style work that conjures thoughts of works from the likes of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Miles Davis Quintet and the Chet Baker Quartet.  That is evident through the horn arrangements, the dynamic changes and the subtleties in the work’s piano and percussion lines.  Considering the success that KU’s men’s basketball program enjoyed during his time as a member of the team, it makes sense that this song would be so light and upbeat. The light, bouncy approach to the song serves well to illustrate the happiness that must have flowed through each player and the university in whole during his time with the team.

In contrast to ‘C.B.’s Theme,’ ‘Third Quarter’ is a stark contrast.  The song pays tribute to KU and former NBA star Nick Collison.  This work is more reserved than ‘C.B.’s Theme’ and some of the recording’s other works.  It could be argued that maybe the title and vibe in the song are a reflection of how understated Collison’s career was.  He led the Jayhwks to two consecutive Final Four appearances during his career at the university.  He was the NCAA Player of the Year during the 2002-03 season; Big 12 Player of the Year during the same season and was a first-team All-American.  Those are some pretty hefty accolades, but he apparently never rose to the superstar level of some of his counterparts, such as Carmelo Anthony.  He did go on to play with the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics and Oklahoma City Thunder, but was the 12th overall pick in the NBA’s draft after his graduation from KU.  So yes, he was successful, not at the level of other NCAA standouts from KU and other schools.  Of course, this is all this critic’s interpretation, and could be wholly inaccurate.  So, it should not be taken as gospel.  Regardless, the fact of the matter remains that this song boasts its own share of entertainment with its combination of woodwinds, piano, light percussion and standup bass.  The arrangement will put anyone at ease.

‘The Ponderous Pachyderm of the Planks,’ which pays tribute to Clyde Lovellete, is another example of the importance of this performance’s arrangements.  It’s fitting that a song about Lovellette would basically call him a pachyderm.  He was a giant in many ways, physically and in his accomplishments.  Lovelette stood six-feet, nine-inches in height, which is very tall.  Given, elephants are much taller, but in comparison to most other plays of his day and present, he clearly was “as big as an elephant.”  His ability to make one-handed shots during his professional career draws images of someone his height almost taking huge steps down the court, a la an elephant, and making those shots.  Looking at his college career, he led the team to the 1952 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, earned MVP status and scored what was then a record 141 points along the way.  He was named first-team All-American twice during his college career, too.  As an added highlight, he also won gold with the USA Men’s Basketball team at the 1952 Summer Olympics, not long after leading the Jayhawks to the NCAA title.  He was the team’s leading scorer during the games.  Lovelette’s life after basketball was humble, finding him working as a farmer and Sheriff and even worked at a faith-based school helping at-risk youths.  Considering all of these accolades, it makes sense why the arrangement presents a certain swagger and bombast.  That energy is about as big as he was along with his career.  It’s just one more way in which the recording’s arrangements serve to show their importance to the whole of this presentation.  Between this arrangement, the others noted and the rest of the featured arrangements, each does its own part to properly honor KU’s program and its members.  When considered along with the very concept of joining sports and music in this fashion, the two elements make this record even more engaging and entertaining.  They are not the recording’s only key elements.  The recording’s production and mixing round out its most important elements.

The production and mixing that went into Rock Chalk Suite is just as impressive as that of JLCO’s past live recordings.  Whether the arrangements are upbeat or more reserved in their energies, whether they are more lively or subdued, each member of the orchestra has his/her performance expertly balanced with that of his/her fellow musicians.  The horns lead the way throughout the majority of the record, given, but the subtleties of the piano are there, too, as are those of the drums and percussion.  Every part gets its own attention, and in turn, each line is heard perfectly.  The end result is a presentation that is just as easy on the ears because of the content as for the content’s aesthetics.  Those behind that work are to be commended for their continued attention to every finer detail.  Keeping this in mind along with the value of the recording’s content and its foundation, all three elements join to make Rock Chalk Suite a work that is most certainly a slam dunk for sports fans, jazz aficionados and music lovers alike.  Yes, that awful pun was intended.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s latest live recording Rock Chalk Suite is a work that will appeal not just to jazz lovers, but to fans of college basketball — and specifically to fans of the Kansas Jayhawks – and to music lovers in general.  That is proven in the very concept that the recording is a tribute to a college basketball program.  That is unique to say the very least.  The arrangements do an applause-worthy job of paying tribute to some of the program’s most notable names.  The recording’s production and mixing put the finishing touch to the presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered, they make this recording deserving of its own trophy.  More information on this and other titles from the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchesta with Wynton Marsalis is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jazzatlinconcenterorchestra

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blueenginerecords

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blueenginejazz

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

JLCO’s Performance Of Duke Ellington Orchestra’s ‘Black, Brown & Beige’ Is Jazz Gold

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

Blue Engine Records has been on a roll this year.  Two months into the still young year, the label has already released two more new live recordings from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, continuing the ongoing series of recordings that it released last year.  That trend will continue next month when the label releases its latest JLCO recording Black, Brown & Beige.  Scheduled for release March 6, the nine-song recording is an important new release, as it presents the timeless recording from Duke Ellington and his orchestra, live in its entirety.  That presentation is just one of the items that makes the recording such an important new presentation from JLCO, and will be addressed shortly.  The orchestra’s performance of the recording adds even more engagement and entertainment to the recording’s presentation.  It will be addressed a little later.  The recording’s production and mixing rounds out its most important elements.  When it is considered along with the recording’s presentation and the group’s performance thereof, the whole of the recording proves to be one of this year’s best and most important live recordings.

The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra’s forthcoming live performance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s timeless record Black, Brown & Beige is an important new offering from the group and from its label, Blue Engine Records.  That is due in part to its very presentation.  The presentation is so important because since Ellington and company originally debuted the performance in 1943 at Carnegie Hall, it rarely was performed live from that point on.  According to information presented about that history, after performing it at Carnegie Hall and at Rye High School in Westchester County, NY, Ellington and his orchestra never performed the opus in whole again.  Allegedly, Ellington said the reason for that was that he felt it was too long and that “too few people are familiar with the story” behind the recording.  The story in question behind the song is what is meant to be a unique African-American history.  Called by Marsalis, a recording that “sits alone in the history of Jazz,” few if any full presentations of this landmark composition have ever seen the light of day from Ellington and any other act.  To that end, having the 48-minute performance presented in whole for the first time in a very long time makes this recording quite valuable in itself.  It is just one part of what makes this presentation of Black, Brown & Beige so important and impressive.  The orchestra’s performance of the composition is key in its own right.

The orchestra’s performance of Brown, Black & Beige is important because it is that performance that does such a good job of helping to tell the story that Ellington originally intended to tell with the expansive work.  Brianna Thomas’ vocals on ‘Blues Theme Mauve,’ for instance goes such a long way toward exhibiting the life of the African-American during the early portion of the 20th century.  Her vocal delivery presents such pain that translates so well.  The third movement of the composition opens with the fully-energetic ‘Various Themes’ that shows in itself the changes that African-Americans were going through as America grew and changed.  The contrast of the song’s energetic opening and its more subdued second movement – those subtle horn and piano lines – does so much to show that change.  By comparison, the melancholy of ‘Come Sunday’ early on in the opus’ first movement evokes its own share of emotion, especially as it presents a very brief show of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’  Violinist Eli Bishop’s performance adds to this work to add even more impact to the song and overall performance.  It’s just one more way in which the overall performance proves so pivotal to the whole of this presentation.  When that performance in whole is considered along with the record’s very presentation, that whole goes a long way to show why the recording is such a welcome addition to any jazz aficionado’s music library.  They are not the only key elements to examine, either.  The record’s production and mixing round out its most important elements.

The production and mixing that went into Black, Brown & Beige is so important to note because without that work, the end product would not even be worth consideration.  Considering that this is another live recording from JLCO, that work becomes even more important to note.  That is because the sound balance between the musicians and their impact within the given venue – in this case, the Rose Theater – has to be considered even more than sound balance in a studio setting.  Those behind the production and mixing are to be commended for their work just as much here as in JLCO’s previously released live recordings.  The horns and percussion are expertly balanced with one another, as are the woodwinds with the rest of the orchestra.  When Thomas’ vocals are added in during the very subtle ‘Blues Theme Mauve,’ her tone resonates so richly with the rest of the orchestra.  The drums that open the recording in ‘Work Song’ are just as controlled in their presentation against the rest of the orchestra, as another example of the payoff of the production and mixing.  That example, considered with the other examples noted here and so much more, it becomes clear that the time and effort that went into the recording’s production paid off and then some.  Keeping this in mind as one examines the record’s presentation and the group’s performance of said presentation, the whole of Black, Brown & Beige proves to be jazz gold.

Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis’ latest live recording Black, Brown & Beige is another enjoyable offering from the organization.  That is due in part to the fact that Ellington and his orchestra’s timeless work has so rarely been presented in full either in studio or in live setting.  This presentation is one of the very rare moments in which it has been presented in full since its 1943 debut at Carnegie Hall.  That alone makes it an important recording.  The performance of the opus by the collective fully pays tribute to the original composition and those who performed said work.  The production and mixing that went into creating the final product puts the finishing touch to the recording.  Each item noted here makes the recording well worth owning by any jazz aficionado.  All things considered, they make Black, Brown & Beige jazz gold.  It will be available March 6 through Blue Engine Records.  More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blueenginerecords

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blueenginejazz

 

 

 

More information on JLCO is available along with all of its latest news at:

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jazzatlincolncenterorchestra

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

JLCO’s Latest Live Recording Is A Musical Time Capsule That Jazz Fans Everywhere Will Enjoy Opening

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

Wayne Short has done it all, it seems.  Over the course of his now 86 years on this planet, the legendary saxophonist has released 26 albums, earned no less than 19 awards and worked with some of the music industry’s most respected figures, such as Miles Davis to Weather Report to Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock.  In May 2015, he added to that already long list of famed names even more when he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to perform some of his most beloved songs live. That performance, recorded during a three night stint at the Rose Theater in New York City, will be released Jan. 30 through Blue Engine Records in a new two-disc set.  The archived live recording is a fitting tribute to Shorter and the music that he has crafted over the course of his decades-long career.  That is proven in part through the recording’s featured set list, which will be discussed shortly.  The collective’s performance of said set list adds even more appeal to the recording and will be addressed later.  The recording’s production and mixing round out its most important elements.  They will also be addressed later.  When they are considered along with the recording’s set list and the performance thereof, the whole makes the recording in whole an easy, early candidate for any critic’s list of the year’s top new live recordings.

The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis’ latest live recording The Music of Wayne Shorter is a work that will appeal to Shorter’s fans just as much as it will to fans of the JLCO and jazz aficionados in general.  That is due in no small part to the recording’s set list.  The 10-song set list pulls from Shorter’s solo career as well as his work with other acts.  Among the acts that he recorded with featured here are Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Wynton Kelly.  The set list reaches as far back as 1961 and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ album Witch Doctor and as recently as 1985 with his solo album Atlantis.  Also featured in the recording’s set list are works from Shorter’s 1964 album Night Dreamer (‘Armageddon) and his 1967 album Adam’s Apple (‘Teru’).  Shorter’s work with Wynton Kelly shows up in the group’s performance of ‘Mama G,’ which was featured on Kelly’s 1959 album Kelly Great.  Shorter’s work with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers gets the most representation in this recording, with three nods, including the already noted album Witch Doctor and its song ‘Lost and Found.’  Also featured in the recording from Shorter’s time with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers are the songs ‘Contemplation’ (taken from Buhaina’s Delight – 1963) and ‘Hammerhead’ (taken from  Free For All – 1964).  All things considered, the recording’s featured set list pulls from some of the strongest moments in Shorter’s expansive and successful career.  This gives audiences but a brief look into his career, but at the same time, a strong starting point for those who may be less familiar with his catalog.  For Shorter’s more seasoned audiences, it proves to be just as entertaining on its own merits.  Keeping all of this in mind, the set list featured in The Music of Wayne Shorter creates a strong foundation for the recording.  The performance by Shorter and company in this recording builds on that foundation, making the recording that much more appealing.

The performance of the set list featured in this recording is another reminder of why not only Shorter, but the LCJO, too is so respected.  From start to finish, the musicians put on a collective performance that gives audiences so much to enjoy.  The set’s opener ‘Yes Or No’ is just one example of the group’s ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  The song stays mostly true to Shorter’s original work in its arrangement here.  The only difference between the original six-and-a-half-minute opus and this work is that this take on the song is extended out a bit, but about four minutes.  There is more improving taking place throughout.  The thing is that every bit of that noted improving works.  Shorter works wonders alongside the group’s drummer, who works just as expertly as he takes on legendary drummer Elvin Jones’ timekeeping here.  The pianist who takes on McCoy Tyner’s piano line makes that line more subtle this time out than in the original work.  What’s interesting to note is that despite this, that increased subtlety still makes the song work in its own right.  Meanwhile, Shorter’s work on the sax is just as powerful and professional as ever here.  He shows that even at his age at the time – he would have been between 81 and 82 at the time of the performance —   he still was just as talented as he had been in his younger days.  That is a testament to him and his abilities.  When that is considered along with the talent of the JLCO’s musicians, the whole of the group’s performance makes that song just one example of why the orchestra’s performance here is crucial to the recording’s impact.

‘Contemplation,’ which comes a little later in the recording’s run, is yet another example of the importance of the group’s performance to the recording.  Yet again, audiences get in this performance, a full tribute to the song’s source material (so to speak).  Shorter’s work on the sax in this gentle, bluesy work is just as engaging as it was so many decades ago.  The fluidity of the  notes as the song progresses from its more reserved opening bars to its slightly more upbeat moments is just as solid as in the original work that Shorter recorded with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.  The time keeping and the piano work here would make Blakey and pianist Cedar Walton proud.  Taking into account those lines and the rest of the song’s elements, the whole of the song’s arrangement and performance here proves just as enjoyable as the song’s source material.  It truly pays tribute to not only Shorter, but his then fellow musicians while also offering just as much for listeners to enjoy.  It’s as if a musical time capsule has been opened after so many decades and the music has just flowed so freely from that container.  That’s how enjoyable this performance is, just like with the recording’s other performances.

Much the same can be said of the group’s performance of ‘Teru’ that has been noted of the group’s other performances in this recording.  The slow, gentle composition is just as powerful and moving in this 2015 recording as it was way back when. Shorter’s performance alone evokes so much emotion as it pulls listeners into the song.  Meanwhile, the JLCO members add their own subtleties to the whole, making that original work that much more powerful, and easily one of the record’s highest points.  It really shows in the end, that less really is more.  When this is considered along with the rest of the recording’s performances, the whole of said performances makes the group’s overall performance just as powerful and important to the recording as the show’s set list.

Keeping in mind the importance of the group’s performance featured in this recording, the natural progression from there is to address the recording’s collective mixing and production.  Throughout the course of the recording, the mixing and production proves expert in its own right.  Every musician’s part is expertly balanced with one another in every song.  The result is a performance that perfectly captures the essence of Shorter’s work while also once again putting on full display, the talents of the members of the JLCO.  The only downside to the whole of the production comes at the end of the performance when the orchestra’s members are introduced.  It would have been nice to have known who the musicians were, not having liner notes to work with.  However, those introductions have to be played time and again throughout the work in order to catch each name.  It would have been nice to have had Marsalis (or whomever conducted the introductions) mic’d up so that audiences could hear that part.  While this does detract slightly from the production and mixing, it is hardly enough to make this recording unlistenable.  To that end, the production and mixing in this recording is just as strong as the recording’s featured set list and the orchestra’s performance thereof.  Keeping all of this in mind, everything noted here comes together to make The Music of Wayne Shorter a strong start to this year’s field of new live recordings and just as strong a start to the new year for Blue Engine Records and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s new live recording The Music of Wayne Shorter is another positive new live offering from the famed musical collective.  It is a work that will appeal just as much to Shorter’s longtime fans as it will to jazz aficionados and those of the groups with whom Shorter has performed.  That is due in part to the set list, which despite running only 10 songs, is still expansive in its own right.  The group’s performance of said set list adds even more interest and appeal to the recording.  The same can be said of the recording’s production and mixing.  Each item noted is key in its own right to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the recording the first of this year’s top new live recordings.  More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jazzatlincolncenter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Jazz, Holiday Music Lovers Alike Will Enjoy ‘Big Band Holidays II”

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

The holiday season is officially here, and while Christmas is still more than two months away, many people are (wisely) already starting to make their plans as to where and how to spend the big day and the days leading up to said day.  Blue Engine Records will help revelers get into the holiday spirit later this month with the release of the new Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Christmas music compilation, Big Band Holidays II.  Set for release Oct. 25, this 11 song compilation of live performances from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will come almost four years after the release of its predecessor.  It stands out from that record, and other holiday music offerings that will soon hit store shelves and digital retailers in part because of its featured songs.  This will be addressed shortly.  The performances of said songs plays into the compilation’s presentation just as much as the songs themselves.  They will be addressed a little later.  The compilation’s collective mixing and production round play their own crucial collective role to the whole of the presentation, too.  They will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the overall presentation of Big Band Holidays II.  All things considered, they make the recording a work that is in its own way, a welcome presentation that Christmas and Christmas music lovers appreciate.

Music is one of the most important parts of the holidays when it comes to setting the mood for gatherings of family and friends.  The problem is that it is so difficult to find holiday music compilations that stand out from the masses each year.  Thankfully, Blue Engine Records will release later this month, a compilation that actually does stand out in the form of Big Band Holidays II.  The latest holiday music offering from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, this collection of live holiday performances stands out in part because of its featured songs.  While the recording does feature some holiday standards, such as ‘We Three Kings,’ ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Silent Night,’ it also features just as many (if not more) songs that are far less familiar and common on any other act’s holiday music compilations.  ‘Brazilian Sleigh Bells’ is definitely not something that American audiences can expect to find from holiday music recordings from other big bands.  The same can be said of ‘Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow,’ ‘Cool Yule’ and ‘(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag’ as well as ‘What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swinging).’  ‘Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow’ might show up on holiday collections from perhaps  the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but otherwise, it is not something that most listeners can expect to find in holiday music collections from most popular music artists and acts.  Keeping that in mind, listeners looking for some kind of diversity for their holiday music settings will appreciate just that from this recording.  The familiar tunes are there, but so are pieces that are less familiar and commonplace.  That in itself forms a strong foundation for this recording.  It is just one of the items that makes the compilation so enjoyable.  The performances of the recording’s songs add their own interest to the record.

The performances of this recording’s featured songs did not come from just one performance of the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.  They were taken from performances that the organization conducted between 2015 and 2018.  That means that listeners get not just one performance from one concert, but various snippets of the group’s live show from different points in time.  That is just the start of why the performances are so important to the recording.  The actual performances themselves play their own key part in its whole.  Veronica Swift’s vocal performance couples with the performance of the orchestra on ‘Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag’ is like something right out of the big band era.  Swift’s presence is completely engaging and entertaining, conjuring thoughts of great big band singers, such as Helen Forrest, Martha Tilton and Bea Wain.  The energy in her performance, coupled with that of the orchestra’s members, makes this performance feel like a gem long locked in some time capsule way back in the golden age of the big band and finally released after all these decades.  That is the power of the group’s performance here.  Much the same can be said of fellow singer Catherine Russel’s work with the group on ‘What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swinging).’  The group’s bluesy take of ‘Silent Night,’ which features vocals from Denzel Sinclair and Audrey Shakir is yet another example of the importance of this recording’s performances.  Composer Victor Goines’ take on the holiday standard gives the typically very somber song a whole new identity and life that is so welcome because it is so unexpected.  Rather than taking the usual noted tone, Goines opted for a more bluesy-mid-tempo arrangement that will leave any listener tapping his or her toes.  The group’s take on ‘Rise up, Shepherd, And Follow’ gives even that standard its own identity, moving it more in the direction of an Andrew Lloyd Weber type work than the more solemn vibe that it might have in a church setting.  At the same time, it boasts the band’s own jazz sensibility, giving it that much more of a unique identity.  There are no vocals here to accompany the group; just the musicians.  Even with that in mind, the song stands out because the performance is so unique both in comparison to other arrangements of the song and to the other performances featured in this collection.  It’s just one more way in which the performances featured in the recording stand out.  One could just as easily cite the other noted performances in showing why they are so important to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, the performances of this recording’s featured songs build on the foundation formed by the songs and make the recording that much more interesting.

While the songs and performances featured in Big Band Holidays II are both critical in their own way to the whole of the recording, they are just a portion of what makes the recording stand out.  Its collective mixing and production adds even more enjoyment to its whole.  As was already noted here, the 11 songs that make up the body of the compilation were pulled from performances put on by the orchestra between 2015 and 2018.  In other words, each performance was in a different setting.  The work on-site and in post is to be commended, as each performance expertly captures the live setting.  The instrumentalists and the vocalists are balanced meticulously.  The transitions from one performance to the next are seamless with the fade-outs.  On the surface, this might not seem important, but in the bigger picture of things, it is very important.  That is because despite being only available on CD and digital, the collection leaves listeners feeling just as fulfilled as if they were taking in the performances on DVD and/or Blu-ray.  This is important to note because concerts are typically more worth taking in when they are presented on full audiovisual presentations than just audio-only presentations.  Yet here in this case, the audio-only presentation is just as enjoyable as any full audiovisual experience.  To that end, the work of those behind the scenes proves just as applause-worthy as the work of the performers.  When the work of all involved is considered together, it makes Big Band Holidays II a wonderful musical backdrop for any holiday gathering.

The forthcoming holiday collection Big Band Holidays II from the Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis is a presentation that will appeal to anyone looking for some variety for their holiday gatherings this and every year.  It is a presentation that is a gift for listeners in its own right.  That is proven in part, as discussed, by its featured songs.  The performances of said songs play their own part to the recording’s whole.  The collective mixing and production of the recording is just as important to its whole as the performances and songs.  Each item is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Big Band Holidays II a must have for anyone looking for a new musical setting for their holiday gatherings.  More information on this and other titles from the Jazz & Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis is available online now at:

 

 

Website: http://jazz.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jazzatlincolncenterorchestra

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jazzdotorg

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.