Yellowjackets’ Big Band Collaboration Makes Its New LP An XL Success

Courtesy: Mack Avenue

Jazz and blues fans have had a lot to like this year.  That is because this year has produced so much enjoyable and memorable music from the two genres, which are so closely aligned.  From Yellowjackets’ new album Jackets XL to Joe Bonamassa’s new album Royal Tea to he Rev. Shawn Amos’ latest album Blue Sky and more, this year has seen so much great music released.  That being said, with the year winding down, critics are already releasing their lists of the year’s top new albums in these categories.  This critic is joining those ranks with a list of the best of the year’s new jazz and blues albums.

As with each list released by Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 new albums from the two genres and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums.


  1. Yellowjackets – Jackets XL
  2. Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
  3. Lisa Hilton – More Than Another Day
  4. The Rev. Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky
  5. Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
  6. Melody Gardot – Sunset In Blue
  7. Dion – Blues With Friends
  8. Ronie Earl & The Broadcasters – Rise Up
  9. Shadow & The Thrill – Sugarbowl
  10. Diana Krall – This Dream Of You
  11. Sugar Ray & The Bluetones – Too Far From The Bar
  12. Carol Welsman – Dance With Me
  13. The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Blues
  14. The Roots of Blues
  15. The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues

Next up from Phil’s Picks is the Top 10 New World Music Albums from 2020.  Stay tuned for that. 

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Coltrane’s “Lost Album” Is The Best Find Of 2018’s Jazz, Blues Offerings

Courtesy: Verve Records

Jazz and the blues are among the great genres of music to ever grace the world’s airwaves.  From the days of the “chitlin circuit” that featured so many of the greatest blues musicians of all time, to the fusions sounds of Weather Report, Yellowjackets and others to the more modern jazz and blues of Joe Bonamassa and The Jamie Lawrence Sextet, both genres have produced an infinite number of timeless, influential albums and songs.

That is why as with past years, Phil’s Picks is featuring again, a list of the year’s top new jazz and blues albums.  The two genres are being combined as they are invariably connected to one another.  It has not made crafting this year’s list any easier than in year’s past.  Keeping that in mind, there are no bad albums here.

Taking the top spot in this year’s list is the long lost studio recording from John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once.  Up until this year, the recording had been long thought lost to time, and its “resurrection” of sorts this year is welcome.  The arrangements show a unique side of the famed saxophonist and his fellow musicians featured throughout.

Second Place in this years list goes to Yellowjackets’ new album Raising Our Voice.  This record is everything that the jazz outfit’s fans have come to expect with a little something extra thanks to the record’s guest vocalist.

Third Place belongs this year to The Jamie Lawrence Sextet and its debut album New York Suite.  The record’s arrangements throw back to some very interesting influences while also using those influences to generate an identity of their own in the process.

Also featured in this year’s list are new releases from the likes of Joe Bonamassa, The James Hunter Six, The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite just to name a handful of other acts.

As always, the list features 15 total acts and titles.  The first 10 records are the Top 10, while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Jazz & Blues Albums.


  1. John Coltrane — Both Directions at Once
  2. Yellowjackets — Raising Our Voice
  3. The Jamie Lawrence Sextet — New York Suite
  4. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite — No Mercy in This Land
  5. Ry Cooder — The Prodigal Son
  6. Onyx Collective — Lower East Suite Part Three
  7. The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band — Poor Until Payday
  8. Joe Bonamassa — Redemption
  9. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa — Black Coffee
  10. James Hunter Six — Whatever It Takes
  11. Tony Bennett & Diana Krall — Love Is Here To Stay
  12. Gary Moore — Blues & Beyond
  13. Brian Bromberg — Thicker Than Water
  14. Kamaal Williams — The Return
  15. Victor Wainright & The Train — Victor Wainright & The Train

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Ala.Ni’s Debut LP Proves To Be A Solid Offering On Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Jazz & Blues Albums List

Courtesy: Missing Piece Records

2017 has been a good year fans of jazz and the blues.  From more established acts such as Diana Krall, Charlie Watts, Trombone Shorty and Diana Panton to new yet equally promising acts such as Ala.Ni, Nova Collective and others, both genres, which despite their musical differences are still related to one another, have turned out a mass of enjoyable (and in some cases surprisingly) impressive albums.  Ala.Ni’s debut album You & I is one of those surprising releases.  It also tops this critic’s list of the year’s top new Jazz & Blues albums.  Also on this year’s list is Argentine musician Fer Isella’s latest LP The Art of The Possible, new offerings from Putumayo and Music Action Ensemble’s new album Foundation among others.

This year was not an easy one to choose top records.  Charlie Watts, who is known just as much for his jazz work as for his work with his band mates in The Rolling Stones, released quite the impressive new offering this year in Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band. Taj Mahal and Keb Mo partnered for the simply titled TajMo.  Even veteran blues man John Mayall is still going strong.  He released his new album Talk About That this year, too.  Back on the jazz side, Charles Lloyd and his new group of fellow musicians released their own standout offering in the form of Passin’ Thru.  Even here, there is so much to say.  Simply put, coming up with a final list for this year’s new jazz and blues albums was not easy because of the level of talent exhibited across the board.  So no dishonor was meant to any act on this year’s list.   

As is the case with each Phil’s Picks list, this list features the Top 10 Albums on the list and five additional honorable mention titles.  Enough rambling.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Jazz & Blues Albums.


  1. Ala.Ni — You & I
  2. Jazzmeia Horn — A Social Call
  3. Diana Panton — Solstice/Equinox
  4. Charlie Watts — Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band
  5. Taj Mahal & Keb Mo — TajMo
  6. Charles Lloyd New Quartet — Passin’ Thru
  7. Diana Krall — Turn Up The Quiet
  8. Charnett Moffett — Music From Our Soul
  9. Fer Isella — The Art of the Possible
  10. Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band — Lay It On Down
  11. Courtney Pine — Black Notes From The Deep
  12. Trombone Shorty — Parking Lot Symphony
  13. Music Action Ensemble — Foundation
  14. John Mayall — Talk About That
  15. Jimmy Greene — FlowersBeautiful Life, Vol. 2

Again, this was NOT an easy list to assemble.  This critic still feels rough coming to terms with the list.  That is because so many great jazz and blues records were released this year including new material from Elvin Bishop and so many others.  Even with that in mind, the list noted here is this critic’s final choice for this year’s top new jazz and blues albums.  Now with this list completed, there is still plenty more to go including the year’s top new Rap/Hip-hop albums, reggae albums, rock and hard rock albums as well as the year’s top albums overall.  There are also a bunch of categories for DVDs and Blu-rays including box sets for families and for older audiences, new live DVDs and Blu-rays, etc.  So stay tuned!

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Audiences Of All Ages Will “Believe” In Panton’s New Album Re-Issue

Courtesy: eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Diana Panton is one of the most respected and accomplished performers in the jazz community today. One look at the singer’s bio shows that. She has released six critically acclaimed full-length albums, been nominated for two JUNO awards, won two Silver Disc Awards in Japan, 7 HMAS and has been tapped to play some of the world’s top jazz festivals among so much more. Needless to say the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based vocalist has done and earned quite a bit in her career so far. And last year she added yet another proverbial feather in her cap when she released her first-ever children’s album I Believe in Little Things. The album, originally released on September 25th, 2015 in Canada, will be re-issued this spring (March 18th to be exact) in the United States via eOne Records. The fourteen-song collection earned its own acclaim overseas in its initial release. And it would be no surprise for it to earn even more accolades upon its release domestically. That is especially the case considering that while it is being marketed as a children’s album it really isn’t just an album for children. That is because its featured songs are in fact songs lifted from movies, not just children’s standards. The catch is that the songs and the movies from which they were lifted are all family friendly. Yet young audiences today likely are far more unfamiliar with the songs or said movies than their parents. Considering that, it becomes just as enjoyable for adults as it is for younger viewers. It will generate a sense of nostalgia in older listeners and serves as a starting point for younger listeners to learn about the beloved songs and movies from which they were lifted. Keeping all of this in mind, it is safe to say that while most American audiences likely don’t know Diana Panton’s name or body of work, her new album could very well be the album that makes her more of a household name here in the states.

I Believe in Little Things, Diana Panton’s first-ever children’s album, is an interesting collection of songs. That is because considering its featured compositions it doesn’t necessarily come across as being solely for younger audiences. The compositions in question are songs lifted from a handful of classic family friendly movies. Those movies include but are not limited to: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Muppet Movie (1970), and Pinocchio (1940) just to name a few. Also featured in this album are songs from Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). There are even songs lifted from the beloved children’s series Sesame Street and Jim Henson’s other family favorite series The Muppet Show. So not only does Panton touch on timeless movies but on timeless television series, too. On the surface this doesn’t seem like much. But on a deeper level the link between the songs, movies, and TV series serves as a starting point in a history lesson that will hopefully get younger listeners into said classics versus what is begin offered to them today. What’s more the songs themselves also serve as a starting point in a lesson about the importance of jazz in young listeners’ musical upbringing. Older audiences could start with the featured songs and go back in time from there, exhibiting some of the jazz tunes that have made (and continue to make) jazz such a great and important genre. It would have been nice to have had the movies and TV series listed in the album’s companion booklet. If anything can be said negative of the album’s overall presentation that is it. Even with that having been noted it isn’t so overwhelming that it overly detracts from the album’s presentation. Keeping that in mind, each element noted here is important in its own right in terms of exhibiting what makes I Believe in Little Things an impressive new recording from Diana Panton. Collectively they show clearly why this recording is an offering that could help establish her in the American musical community. They are, together, just one way in which this is shown. Her approach to each of the album’s featured songs is just as important as the songs and the movies and TV series from which they were lifted.

The songs featured in I Believe in Little Things are in their own right hugely important to the compilation’s overall presentation. That is because they serve as a starting point in a discussion on the histories of both jazz and music in film for younger listeners. The movies from which they were lifted are by connection just as important to the album’s presentation as the songs. That is because they serve as a starting point in a discussion for audiences of all ages about film and television history. While both noted elements play their own integral role in the overall presentation of Panton’s new album they are both by themselves and collectively just a couple of important portions of the album’s presentation. Panton’s approach to the songs is just as important to the album’s presentation as the songs and their links to their associated movies. Listeners will note that her approach to the songs is very soft and gentle. The best comparison that can be made is to the vocal style of Norah Jones and Diana Krall. Panton sticks to this vocal style from beginning to end of the nearly fifty-five minute record (its total run time—or TRT—is fifty-four minutes and forty-seven minutes as noted on the back of the album’s case). The thing is that even though she sticks to that one vocal style and her band mates maintain the same sort of gentle, relaxed musical approach it never gets old at any point. There are artists and acts out there whose albums get real old real fast because they don’t deviate at any point. But for some reason that isn’t the case with Panton and her band mates here. That being the case it’s one more important element in the overall presentation of I Believe in Little Things. It still isn’t the last notable element in the album’s presentation either. While it might not seem like much to note, the album’s track listing is just as pivotal to its presentation as its other noted elements.

The songs that are featured in Diana Panton’s new children’s album and the approach taken to each song both in regards to her own approach and that of her band mates are both equally important to the album’s overall presentation. Even as important as they are to the album’s presentation they still are not the album’s only important elements. The track listing included with the album is just as important as the album’s content. Here is the reason why: The track listing is printed clearly on the rear exterior of the album’s packaging. Each song is listed clearly with its respective run time. On the bottom right after the final song is the album’s TRT. Having the specific run times with the songs and the album’s TRT can be very helpful for parents with younger children. The specific run times can help parents and educators determine which songs will best potentially hold those young listeners’ attention since every child’s attention span is different from the other. They aren’t left to guess the lengths of the different songs. Any parent and/or educator out there will agree just how stressful it can be to keep young minds engaged in any manner. In regards to the album’s TRT, parents and educators can use it to help time nap time for children regardless of setting. To that extent the display of the album’s track listing and run time on both levels proves to be just as important to the album’s presentation as its featured songs and the approach taken by all involved. And together with the noted elements they come together to make I Believe in Little Things an album in which listeners of all ages will believe.

I Believe in Little Things is an album in which listeners of all ages will believe after hearing its collection of classic movie and TV themes. That is thanks in large part to the songs and the movies and TV shows to which they are connected. The songs and their related movies and TV series are more than just entertainment for audiences. They serve just as much as a starting point for lessons and discussions on music history and that of television and movies. To that extent it serves as an album that older audiences will appreciate just as much as younger audiences. They are also a way to get younger audiences interested in the golden era of music, movies, and television. The stylistic approach taken to the album both from Panton and her band mates is just as important to note of the album’s presentation. Even with the group’s approach staying largely the same from beginning to end it keeps audiences fully engaged. That is a testament to the group’s work. That is especially the case when their work is compared to such an approach taken by other acts with their respective albums. The album’s track listing both in regards to its song listing and run times (both separate and overall) rounds out the album’s presentation. The run times help parents and educators determine which songs will best keep young minds engaged when considering their attention spans. The overall run time listing can help parents and educators alike in terms of using the album for little ones’ nap times. Any parent and/or educator will agree that this is extremely important. Keeping that in mind, it is just as important to the album as any of the album’s content. All things considered I Believe in Little Things proves in the end to be an album in which listeners of all ages will believe. It will be released domestically Friday, March 18th in stores and online.

Diana Panton is currently performing live in support of I Believe in Little Things. She will be live at University Club in Toronto, Ontario on February 26th. She also has a handful of dates currently scheduled for March, May, and August. Her current schedule of live dates is noted below.


Diana Panton Performance Highlights – February – August 2016

Feb. 14 – McMichael Art Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario

Feb. 26 – University Club, Toronto, Ontario

March 3 & 5 – MMM Live Lab, Hamilton, Ontario

May 28 – Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario

Aug. 1 – 12 – Tour in Asia

Aug. 16 – 21 – Woody Point Festival, Gros Morne, Newfoundland


More information on her current tour is available online now along with more information on I Believe in Little Things and all of Panton’s latest news at:






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Shout! Factory Announces Archived McCartney Tribute Concert Coming This Spring

Shout! Factory will release a very special tribute to music legend Paul McCartney this spring.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, March 24th.  The concert was originally recorded on February 10th, 2012.  It was part of a celebration honoring McCartney as the MusiCares® Person of the Year.  The concert featured a who’s who of the music industry including: Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Norah Jones, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Alison Kraus & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, James Taylor, Diana Krall, Duane Eddy, Sergio Mendes, and the cast of the Broadway play “Love.”  McCartney himself even performed, pulling out hits such as ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ ‘Junior’s Farm, ‘My Valentine,’ and a medley of tunes that included renditions of ‘Golden Slumbers,’ ‘Carry That Weight,’ and ‘The End.’  McCartney was joined by Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh (The Eagles, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band).  The concert’s set list totaled fifteen songs.

A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney will retail for MSRP of $16.98 on DVD and $21.98 on Blu-ray.  It can be pre-ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s online store for reduced prices of $14.98 (DVD) and $17.98 (Blu-ray) respectively at  Proceeds from sales of the recording will go towards providing essential support for MusiCares®, which helps those in need.

Paul McCartney is an 18-time Grammy® winner.  His career spans more than three decades and includes a multitude of songs recorded with The Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist.  His most recent album was 2013’s New.  McCartney is a freeman of the City of Liverpool and Lead Patron of The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.  In 1995, McCartney was named Fellow of The Royal College of Music by the Prince of Wales.  And in 1996, he was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for his services to music.  He is also committed to various charities including: PETA, LIPA, One Voice, The Vegetarian Society, Nordoff Robbins, and Adopt-A-Mine-Field.

More information on A MusiCares Tribute To Paul McCartney and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at:



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Live Kisses Another Gem From McCartney

Courtesy:  mpL/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: mpL/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Former Beatle and veteran musician Sir Paul McCartney has proven once more on his new release, Live Kisses, why he is still one of the music industry’s most respected names.  This live in-studio performance presents McCartney from Capitol Studios as he recorded the tracks for his most recent release, Kisses on the Bottom.  The recording session was recorded on February 9th of this year.  A lot went into making Live Kisses the enjoyable in-studio performance that it was and will be for any McCartney and Beatles fan this holiday season and well into the New Year.

Live Kisses takes audiences not so much behind the scenes of the recording of Kisses from the Bottom but into the recording process as it happened.  Watching the recording process at work is just as entertaining as listening to the finished product.  The whole mood of the “performance” is set through simple factors such as lighting, the use of older style microphones, and even recording pieces of the session in black and white.  That alone really helps to elevate the nostalgic vibe of the classic standards included in the record as each is being recorded.  If that isn’t enough, the very setting of the recording room at the legendary Capitol Records adds even more to the throwback feeling of the music.  Especially those who have any knowledge of the history behind Capitol Records will appreciate the session being filmed at the company’s headquarters.  There is even a note about the space in which the recording session took place in the booklet that accompanies this recording  Along with the session’s other factors, they all come together to make a performance that will create a strong sense of nostalgia in any listener’s mind.

The setting and general effect went a long way toward making this performance something very special.  They were just part of the overall enjoyment of Live Kisses though.  While enjoying the songs performed in this session, audiences are also presented with images of his own childhood as he sings, ‘Home (When Shadows Fall).  The combination of the two adds a truly emotional moment to McCartney’s performance here.  Famed jazz musician Diana Krall’s inclusion on the piano on this song makes it that much more of a joy to experience. 

Speaking of Mrs. Krall, both she and her husband Elvis Costello play a role throughout the recording session presented on this Blu-ray disc.  Costello shares with viewers both an introduction to the performance and a transcript of the conversation between himself and McCartney in the accompanying “book” in which the disc comes.  There’s even a joke shared between the two veteran musicians about the inclusion of Krall in the performance.  Of course, the comments regarding her are nothing but positive.  Audiences can find out for themselves what the pair discuss, and can also experience this amazing performance when they pick up this brand new Blu-ray release in store or online.  Live Kisses can be ordered direct online via Eagle Rock Entertainments, website, and at McCartney’s own official website,

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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, to order her album and to get all of her tour dates and more.

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