Todd Cochran’s New Record Is A Unique Addition To 2021’s Field Of New Covers Collections

Courtesy: Sunnyside Records

More than ten years after he released his last record, jazz pianist Todd Cochran will officially return Friday with a new album.  The record, Then and Again, Here and Now, is a 15-song compilation of jazz standards that most jazz fans will find interesting and worth hearing at least once.  That is proven in large part through the liner notes featured in the record’s packaging.  It will be discussed shortly.  The arrangements performed by Cochran and his fellow musicians tie directly into the liner notes and their importance.  They will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of the noted performances rounds out the most important of the record’s elements.  When it is considered along with the other noted items, the whole makes Then and Again, Here and Now a positive return for Cochran and a presentation that even being a covers set, is still worth hearing at least once.

Todd Cochrane’s forthcoming covers compilation, Then and Again, Here and Now is a presentation that most audiences will agree is a welcome return for the jazz pianist.  That is proven in part through the record’s liner notes.  The liner notes in question serve as a solid starting point for the overall listening experience.  They explain how the compilation came to be in Cochran’s own words.  He explains right from the outset, the songs that are featured in this collection were chosen deliberately.  He points out that they are works connected to certain periods in his life and certain events therein.  What’s more, Cochran points out in the liner notes some background on at least a few of the covers that are featured herein.  That added background makes for added interest in said songs, and even the other songs.  That is even without background. As if all of the background that Cochran offers in the liner notes is not enough, he also waxes philosophical in the liner notes about the role of music as a cultural connector for the world.  That discussion and the discussions that it is sure to create show even more, the importance of the compilation’s liner notes. 

While the liner notes featured in Cochran’s new collection are unquestionably important to the record’s presentation, they are only a portion of what makes the record worth hearing.  As pointed out already, Cochran offers background on some of the covers that he features in his record in its liner notes.  One of those songs is ‘Foggy Day in London.’  Originally composed by George and Ira Gershwin, Cochran explains that the song made him think of his time living in London and in San Francisco.  It goes without saying that Cochran and company’s rendition of the 1937 standard is quite different from that original.  The original is a light, upbeat composition from beginning to end.  By comparison, Cochran’s rendition is split into two “movements,” the first being a subdued composition, while the second is more upbeat and along the lines of the brothers Gershwin’s rendition.  Cochran pointed out in his liner notes that the changes he made to the originals were intentional.  In this case, it is understandable.  He and his fellow musicians make it an almost original work.  That first movement does well to conjure thoughts of Cochran’s time in London while the second movement does just as well to create thoughts of fog-filled streets in San Francisco.  The whole is such an interesting take on the Gershwins’ original work. 

‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ originally composed by Duke Ellington, is another of the songs that Cochran addresses in the liner notes.  He points out of his take here, he was only 13 when he first heard Ellington and his big band live.  Cochran adds that at the time, he was still learning about the vast world that is jazz.  Understanding this, one can understand the toned down but still so enjoyable solo performance of the Ellington standard.  The gentle tones that Cochran produces in the chords that he uses throughout the song give a unique dissonance that actually works alongside the more familiar sound of the original.  The juxtaposition of that original content and Cochran’s reserved update shows even more, the importance of the performances featured throughout the record.

‘Bemsha Swing’ is yet another song that Cochran addresses in the album’s liner notes.  The performance that Cochran and company present here is yet another example of the importance of the featured performances.  The performance by Cochran and company is about as far from Thelonius Monk’s original as could be.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, either.  As Cochran pointed out here, It was Monk’s “outlier” status during Cochran’s younger years that drew him to Monk in the first place.  He always respected Monk’s willingness to “pursue the music he heard in his head.”  That is exactly what Cochran and his fellow musicians do here.  They follow the music in their heads, presenting a wonderful improv style performance that still stays at least somewhat true to its source material.  It is just one more prime example of what makes the record’s featured performances so important to the album’s presentation.  When this performance, the others examined here, and the rest of those featured in the record are considered together, the whole enhances the listening experience even more.  That is especially when they are considered along with the background information featured in the record’s liner notes.

Having examined the liner notes and actual content featured in Then and Again, Here and Now, that content does much to make this compilation worth hearing.  It is only a portion of what makes the record engaging and entertaining.  The sequencing of that content rounds out its most important elements.  It is important because it takes into account the energies in each arrangement.  A close listen shows that from one song to the next, the arrangements’ energies do rise and fall.  At the same time though, the record remains relatively subdued and relaxed within each arrangement.  That is the case even in the slightly more upbeat works.  Cochran and company exhibit a certain control even in those instances.  The result of the attention paid to the record’s energies is that they ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment (again thanks to the sequencing) just as much as the content itself. All things considered, the content and the sequencing make Cochran’s new covers collection a record that is worth hearing, even being a covers collection.

Todd Cochran’s first new record in more than a decade is a presentation that audiences will find an interesting work.  That is because it is essentially a covers compilation.  Even being a group of covers, it still offers audiences something to appreciate, not the least of which being its liner notes.  The liner notes, which are encouraged to be read first, set the groundwork for the collection.  They offer insight into how the collection came into being and how Cochran came to create the covers in question.  Speaking of those covers, the performances thereof create their own interest.  That is because of the balance in original and new content featured in each performance.  The sequencing of the performances balances each song’s energy, ensuring even more, audiences’ engagement and entertainment.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation.  All things considered, they make the record worth experiencing at least once.  Then and Again, Here and Now is scheduled for release Friday through Sunnyside Communications/Sunnyside Records.  More information on the compilation is available along with all of Cochran’s latest news at:

Website: https://toddcochran.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CochranMusart

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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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Jazz Fans Will Find WMN’s New Compilation Easy On The Ears And Mind

Courtesy: World Music Network

World Music Network has played a key role in the education of some of America’s greatest musical forms in recent years with its Rough Guide to… compilations.  The records have done an impressive job of introducing audiences to the songs and artists that formed the foundations of blues, gospel, country music and even the subgenres connected therewith.  Now this week, the company will continue delving into the history of American music when it releases its latest compilation, The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz.  Scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network, the 26-song compilation proves itself an important teaching tool for any music history educator.  It proves itself an equally positive presentation for anyone looking to learn the history of jazz.  While maybe not the presentation that is Ken Burns’ Jazz, it is still a successful record.  That is due in no small part to its featured songs and artists.   This will be discussed shortly.  The songs’ sequencing plays into the record’s presentation in its own right and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s overall production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this compilation’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the record another positive new offering from World Music Network that this time, will appeal to any lover of jazz.

World Music Network’s forthcoming addition to its ongoing Rough Guide to… compilation series is a work that any jazz fan will find appealing.  It is a presentation, additionally, that continues to show the value and importance of the series.  That is proven in part through the record’s featured songs.  Audiences will note that the songs in question focus on a very specific time frame.  The time frame in question is a decade-long time frame from 1918 to 1928.  This period, typically called “The Jazz Age,” is one of the most important eras in the history of jazz.  It is a period that saw great change and diversity in the jazz community.  The beginning of the big bands came about in this time period through the introduction of acts, such as Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and the Ray Miller Orchestra.  Dixieland jazz also saw its earliest iterations during this era.  It was also during this age that jazz and blues started to blend even more.  Those changes and others are all exemplified in the songs and artists featured in this record.  Fats Waller’s take on ‘Muscle Shoals Blues’ for instance exhibits the way in which ragtime and blues really started to meld with jazz for a unique style of jazz in itself.  Meanwhile, the inclusion of Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra’s performance of ‘The Stampede’ is a prime example of the increasing presence of New York in the then growing jazz community.  What’s more, the upbeat rhythms and melodies serve well to show the also growing popularity of swing and big bands across America at the time.  The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s performance of ‘Tiger Rag’ shows, on yet another hand, the influence of the New Orleans jazz community on the nation’s growing jazz scene.  The ragtime influence is there, but so is the regional Dixieland influence, creating yet another key addition to the compilation.  Between these songs, so many others from some of the most well-known and respected jazz acts (and even a handful of lesser-known but still important acts), the songs and their related acts create a solid foundation for this record.  They do well to start any discussion and soundtrack to any lesson about the evolution of jazz in its early evolution.  Building on the foundation formed by the songs and their performers is the actual sequencing of that content.

The record’s sequencing is important to examine because of its connection to the content overall.  Listeners who pay close attention will note that the sequencing shows a clear attempt to exhibit all of the forms of jazz that started appearing during the post-World War I era.  The whole thing opens with an example of the blending of jazz and blues in ‘Dippermouth Blues’ before moving on to a country music-influenced composition in ‘Eddie’s Twister’ by none other than “the father of the  jazz guitar” himself, Eddie Lang.  ‘Sud Buster’s Dream,’ performed here by Tiny Parham and his Orchestra.  The ragtime influences that he enjoyed early on in his career are evident here along with a more orchestral jazz approach.  From there, the record changes the stylistic approaches and sounds (and by connection, energies) throughout.  This ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in its own way.  When that overall sequencing and its impact is considered along with the record’s songs, that collective gives listeners even more reason to take in this record.  Taking all of that into account, the record’s production proves itself to be the last of the compilation’s most important elements.

The production of the songs featured in this record is important because of the sense of nostalgia that it will create among listeners.  Every bit of static from the original vinyl recordings is audible in these songs.  It serves as another example of why there will always be a place for CDs.  This despite the belief among some audiences that vinyl and digital will replace CDs one day.  The ability to transfer such old recordings to CD without any loss makes this compilation just as good as any vinyl if not better.  The only real downside to the fact that the masters were transferred direct is that listeners might find themselves having to adjust the volume on their stereos at points throughout the compilation’s 76-minute (one hour, 16-minutes) run time.  Luckily, those adjustments are minor and not needed in every song.  To that end, the general effect of the record’s production is that it is just as easy on the ears as on the mind.

World Music Network’s forthcoming jazz compilation, The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz is a positive new addition to the label’s ongoing Rough Guide to… series of compilations.  It is a presentation that any jazz aficionado will enjoy, at that.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs and their performers.  The songs and their  performers are a mix of the well- and lesser-known acts that made the “Jazz Age” such an important era in the history of music.  The sequencing of that content keeps said content varied from beginning to end, making sure to paint the fullest picture possible in regards to the history of the era.  The record’s production sounds just as great as any ever put to vinyl in that era, too.  It shows it is possible to transfer vinyl to CD without any loss.  That positive effect generates a welcome sense of nostalgia, even as listeners will have to occasionally adjust the volume on their stereos as the album progresses.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of The Rough Guide to the Roots of Jazz.  All things considered, they make the compilation another positive addition to World Music Network’s Rough Guide to… compilation series and a work that any lover of jazz will enjoy.  The Rough Guide to the Roots  of Jazz is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network.

More information on this and other titles from World Music Network is available online at:

Websitehttps://www.worldmusic.net

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WorldMusicNetwork

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/WMN_UK

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Dan Rose’s ‘Last Night…’ Covers Compilation Re-Issue Is A Compilation That Is Worth Hearing At Least Occasionally

Courtesy: Ride Symbol Records

The term “solo record” is a term that has always seemed so intriguing in its use.  It is a term that seems so contradictory.  That is because when one thinks of the very word “solo” one thinks of being alone, by one’s self.  However in the music industry, it is a term that is used decidedly more liberally.  It is used in the music industry to define records released by musicians and artists who otherwise work with other acts.  Two years ago however, veteran jazz guitarist Dan Rose gave the term a whole new meaning when he released his then new record, Last Night….  Rose re-issued that album last month through Ride Symbol Records.  The approach forms the foundation for the re-issue’s presentation and will be discussed shortly.  The songs featured in the recording add to the recording’s appeal.  They will be discussed a little later. The songs’ production rounds out the record’s most important items and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Last Night….  All things considered, they make this re-issue a presentation that will appeal easily to audiences who are less familiar with Rose’s work and those established audiences who might not already own this compilation.

Dan Rose’s recently re-issued 2019 covers compilation Last Night… is a presentation that will appeal equally to jazz aficionados who might be less familiar with Rose’s work and to those established audiences who might not already own the record.  That is due in part to the approach that Rose took to this record.  The approach in question took the term “solo record” and turned it on its ear in this case.  That is because he performs…well…solo here.  Throughout the 57-minute record’s 13 total songs, audiences get here, Rose by himself with his guitar.  There are no other musicians at any point.  Obviously Rose is hardly the first musician to take the term “solo” literally for a recording.  At the same time though, actually going fully solo is not overly common in any genre across the musical universe.  To that end, the intimate performances presented in this recording gain a certain special sense, especially considering the unique arrangements that Rose presents within his performances.  That special sense makes for a positive starting point in examining the overall presentation of Last Night….  The songs that make up the record’s body builds on that foundation, making for even more appeal.

The songs that make up the body of Last Night… are, as noted, covers.  What is interesting to note is that even being covers, only a portion of those songs is familiar.  The rest of the songs are compositions that a more limited audience will recognize.  What this means is that Rose gives audiences in these songs, some variety, rather than just making the presentation another run-of-the-mill covers compilation.   Among the more familiar songs featured in the record is a medley of tunes originally composed by Duke Ellington and company, and a pair of works composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.  The Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes are: ‘If I Loved You,’ from the duo’s 1945 musical, Carousel, and ‘Spring is Here’ from the pair’s 1938 musical, I Married an Angel.  The Ellington songs: ‘Prelude to a Kiss,’ ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,’ and ‘Sophisticated Lady’ are all joined in the noted medley.  Interestingly enough, I Married an Angel is nowhere near as well-known as many of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musicals.  To that end, it makes this song’s inclusion here all the more special because of its “rarity.”

While the songs from Rodgers &  Hammerstein, and Duke Ellington are more well-known, a song, such as ‘Say It Over and Over Again,’ composed by famed figure Jimmy McHuugh and band leader Eddie DeLange, gives audiences something lesser-known, even despite the pair’s own fame.  Much the same can be said of ‘What’s New,’ by Bob Haggart and Johnny Burke.  Taking into account that song, the others noted here, and the rest of the record’s featured works, audiences get in the record’s featured works, a healthy array of works that presents its own share of originality.  That overall unique presentation pairs with Rose’s own unique performances thereof to make clear, the importance of the songs featured in Last Night….  The songs are not the last of the record’s most important elements.  The production of these songs rounds out the most important of the record’s elements.

The production that went into the presentation of Last Night… is important to examine because of the approach that Rose took to the noted songs.  From beginning to end, each song is just Rose and his guitar.  This has already been noted.  Each song is a gentle, intimate presentation because of this approach.  That means that the utmost attention had to be paid to each smooth, gentle composition.  Those behind the glass could not just phone it in, nor did they.  The mood established here thanks to the expert production is so relaxed.  The result of that easygoing mood is that the record proves just as enjoyable for its general effect as for its content.  Keeping all of this in mind, Last Night… proves to be a presentation that despite being a covers collection, is still worth hearing at least occasionally.

Dan Rose’s recently re-issued 2019 record Last Night… is a relatively successful presentation.  That is even with the record being a collection of covers.  The fact that Rose took the approach of actually making the record a truly qualifying solo record as he takes on the noted songs is a notable part of what makes the record so interesting.  The songs themselves are of note because they offering audiences something more than the same old tried and true standards.  There is some familiar content and familiar names   featured throughout the record, but there is also plenty of content that is not as prominent among so many jazz records.  The same applies to the figures who crafted said content.  The production of the noted content puts the finishing touch to the presentation, ensuring   the general effect of the songs and performances thereof is the utmost in its impact.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the compilation a presentation that Rose’s established audiences an  jazz lovers in general will find largely appealing in hearing it at least occasionally.  Last Night… is available now.  More information on the record is available along with all of Rose’s latest news at https://danrosemusic.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.   

Eagle Rock Entertainment Debuts New Trailer For New Ella Fitzgerald Documentary

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment released the first new trailer this week, for its forthcoming documentary, Ella FitzgeraldJust One Of Those Things.

The new trailer, released Wednesday, features clips of Fitzgerald performing with Duke Ellington and his orchestra, new interview footage with the likes of Tony Bennett and Jamie Cullum.

The 90-second trailer also features vintage photos of Fitzgerald from early in her career and even footage of interviews that Fitzgerald herself conducted on television.

The trailer is streaming here.  Eagle Rock unveiled a clip from the documentary last month, that featured discussions on Fitzgerald’s time on the road with Chick Webb and his orchestra.  It is available to watch here.

Ella FitzgeraldJust One Of Those Things is scheduled to make its theatrical debut April 3 in select theaters nationwide.  Award-winning director Leslie Woodhead helmed the project, and Reggie Nadelson produced the presentation.

Just One Of Those Things follows Fitzgerald on and off the stage, showing how she used her musical talents and her intelligence to break down barriers and overcome great odds throughout the course of her life.  It features never-before-seen footage of interviews with Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Norma Miller and Ray Brown Jr., Ella’s son. along with many other famous figures.

Fitzgerald lost her mother when she [Fitzgerald] was 15 years old.  From there, she also endured mistreatment in reform schools.  in 1934, her life took a turn that would set her on the path of success from then on, winning a contest at the famed Apollo Theater.  She would eventually go on to work with jazz greats, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.

While she had great success on stage, Fitzgerald was very different off-stage, wanting privacy for herself and her family.  Audiences will see that dichotomy throughout the course of this new documentary.

Fitzgerald earned a number of accolades during the course of her career. Among those honors were 13 Grammy awards, record sales exceeding 40 million records and an NAACP Equal Justice Award. She also received the American Black Achievement Award.

More information on Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Ella Fitzgerald documentary is available online at:

 

Websitehttp://www.ellafitzgeraldmovie.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/EllaFitzgerald

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/ellafitzgerald

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

New Wayne Shorter Performance Among Four New Albums Due Out In 2020 From Blue Engine Records

Courtesy: Blue Engine Records

Blue Engine Records will release open the new year with four new jazz recordings.

The label will open the new year with the release of Inferno, the new album from saxophonist Sherman Irby.  The album was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s poem by the same name.  It is scheduled for release Jan. 17.

The Music of Wayne Shorter follows the release of Inferno on Jan. 31 from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra w/ Wynton Marsalis.  The 10-track recording finds the famed saxophonist performing some of his greatest songs alongside the JLO, such as ‘Yes Or No,’ ‘Endangered Species’ and Teru.’  The album was recorded live in 2015 at the Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Pre-orders for The Music of Wayne Shorter open Dec. 27. Marsalis spoke highly of Shorter in a recent interview about the forthcoming release.

“Wayne Shorter is at the highest level of our music — You can’t get any higher than him,” he said.  “Everybody strives to have a personal sound.  Wayne’s sound is definitive.”

The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra takes on the music of legendary composer/musician Duke Ellington Feb. 28 with the release of Black, Brown and Beige.  The album’s release marks the first time that Marsals has taken on Ellington’s famed musical masterpiece.

As spring nears, Blue Engine will release one more album to open the first part of the year. The Ever Funky Lowdown is scheduled for release March 6.  The record, which is meant to be a commentary on modern culture and society, features narration by famed actor Wendell Pierce and guest vocals from Camille Thurman, Ashley Pezotti and Christie Dashiell.

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

 

Website: http://jazz.org

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/blueenginejazz

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

 

 

PBS Revisits America’s Civil Rights Movement With New Documentary

Courtesy: PBS

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  That is why next month, PBS Distribution is bringing audiences what is one of so many important stories from America’s Civil Rights movement.

The Jazz Ambassadors is currently scheduled to be released on DVD on June 19.  The story centers on the so-called “Jazz Ambassadors” — jazz greats Dizzie Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck — as the group  worked with the United States government to fight the Soviet Union’s propaganda war while at the same time facing the reality of Jim Crowe laws in America.

The Jazz Ambassadors is told through archival film footage, photos, radio clips, and performance clips from the musicians and their integrated bands.  The story overall shows how the Jazz Ambassadors’ work ultimately played a key role in the Civil Rights movement at a critical moment while also serving its other purpose in foreign affairs at the same time.  A trailer for the program is streaming online now here.

The Jazz Ambassadors will retail for $24.99, but can be pre-ordered online now at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on The Jazz Ambassadors and other PBS programs is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/

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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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Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies Is One Of This Year’s Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  MGP Records

Courtesy: MGP Records

MGP Records’ newly released children’s album Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprising releases in its genre so far this year.  The album, which was crafted by composer-musician Darryl Tookes and Joe Beck is a beautiful tribute to the memory of Beck, who passed away in 2008.  Beck, like Tookes, was himself a composer and musician.  He wrote and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry throughout his life. From Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis to the likes of James Brown, David Sanborn, and Paul Desmond, Beck’s resume was a shining list of who’s who in the music world.  So it goes without saying that when Beck passed in 2008 his friend Darryl Tookes had to wonder if this project would ever see the light of day.  Thank goodness, it did.  That’s because of the pure musical beauty contained from beginning to end in this compilation of songs.  The compilation opens with a catchy, jazzed-up take of the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ that in this critic’s view, boasts quite the Stevie Wonder influence.  It’s a take that will take many by entirely pleasant surprise.  The flowing harmonies and keyboard line in ‘I Love You Too Much’ conjure thoughts of Boyz II Men.  The song is a touching tribute to every young boy out there.  The young ladies out there haven’t been forgotten, either.  As a matter of fact, ‘Daddy’s Girl’ is great for when a young lady is still a little girl or even for the first father-daughter dance at the wedding of any father’s daughter to her suitor.  It boasts its own old school r&b style that will move any dad with a heart to tears of happiness.  All three of the songs noted here are excellent examples of what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies a beautiful surprise of a record.  Audiences will find for themselves in purchasing this album that every single one of the album’s ten tracks will leave a smile on any parent’s face; some songs more so than others.  In the end, audiences will agree that this record is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joe Beck and an equally fitting addition to any parent’s music library.

Tookes and Beck make quite the first impression with this compilation in their jazzed up take on the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’  That jazzed up feel is the most obvious aspect of the song that audiences will appreciate about it.  This classic poem/song is typically much slower and straight forward.  This more up-tempo take on the song is the polar opposite of that standard sound. One could almost argue that it boasts a celebratory vibe for lack of better wording.  And after hearing it, audiences will agree it is worlds better than that standard format.  Tookes channels Stevie Wonder as he sings poet Jane Taylor’s classic work.  Audiences that hear this song without knowing it is Tookes singing might actually mistake him for Wonder.  That in itself is quite the statement to Tookes’ vocal talents.  Not to be left out, Beck shines with his guitar work alongside Tookes’ vocals.  Their talents alongside the song’s vocal harmonies and the percussion add even more depth and emotion to the song.  That depth and joyful emotion generated through the song makes it clear why it was chosen as the album’s opener.  It makes just as clear that it was the right choice to open the album.

Beck and Tookes’ jazzed up take on ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ was the perfect choice to open this album, especially when taking into consideration the body of the album, closer included. It isn’t the only cover included on the album, either. There is also a medley of nursery rhymes that is just as enjoyable. And the duo’s gentle adaptation of ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ is just as impressive. The pair’s re-imaginings of classic songs aside, there are just as many equally moving originals throughout the album, too. One of those truly great pieces is an ode to sons everywhere in the song ‘I Love You Too Much.’ The gentle strains of the piano set against Tookes’ equally gentle vocals makes a person want to listen. The picture he paints of a father and son’s relationship is something worthy of a music video. This critic already has a vision of a music video in mind just listening to the video as the father and son talk to one another in the song’s verses. And as with the album’s opener, harmonies play a big role in this piece, too; especially in the song’s final moments. The best way to explain the combination of it all is that it is something that truly must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated. And in hearing it, every parent out there will appreciate the pure talent and musicianship exhibited throughout the composition. It is one more work that makes this compilation in whole an absolute for any parent out there.

The cover of the classic children’s poem/song ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and the tribute to every son out there that is ‘I Love You Too Much’ are two absolute gems that shine so brightly one Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies. Every parent that picks up this album will be glad to know that in crafting the album before Beck’s passing, he and Tookes did not forget all of the young princesses out there. Beck and Tookes pay tribute to all of the daughters out there early on in the simply titled ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ All of the parents and daughters alike will be happy to see that this original song is also the first original work included in the compilation. It is the second song overall, yes. But it is the first of the record’s original tunes. So in a sense, one could say that the young ladies out there are getting a double tribute, getting their own song before the boys. Of course, that was meant in the most playful sense possible so as to not offend anyone. The lightly Latin-jazz tinged song is a piece that works whether a young lady is a child or enjoying her first father-daughter dance at her wedding. Tookes sings happily of a daughter, “This is a love/A love like no other love/This is a love/Unlike another/A love like no other I’ll ever know/And so she goes/And as I watch her grow/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so.” Once again, the harmonies that are so prevalent throughout this record do so much in this piece. The addition of what sounds like bongos in the background alongside a light triangle line adds even more emotion and depth to the whole thing. As with ‘I Love You Too Much’ that depth and emotion makes it so easy to see this song being accompanied by a music video, too. Yes, that is a not so subtle hint to whoever makes those choices. Music video or not, it is one more absolutely beautiful and moving piece that exemplifies what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies one of the most wonderfully surprising children’s albums to be released this year. That is not to discount the album’s other songs, either. The lullaby that is ‘Daddy’s Here’ and the album’s African-influenced title track will impress audiences just as much. Whether it be for those songs or any of the others not noted here, one will come away from this album knowing that in listening to it, they have just experienced something very special. They will know they have just experienced not just a group of songs, but a group of truly thought out and heartfelt songs that dare this critic say is timeless in its own right.

Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable children’s albums to be released this year. From start to finish, every song on this album plays its own part in making this album timeless in its own right. Collectively, they make the album potentially one of the year’s definite best in its category this year. It is available now in stores and online. 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.

Scholastic Set An Excellent Tool In The Classroom And The Home

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Scholastic’s African-American heritage based box set, Stories About African American Heritage featuring MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World is a wonderful box set.  This triple-disc set is an excellent tool both inside the classroom and in the home, regardless of whether viewers are celebrating Black History month or simply to learn about an important part of African American history.  The stories culled for this collection celebrate some of the most respected and notable figures in the African American community such as musicians Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.  Also featured in this set are stories of famed civil rights figures Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Viewers are even introduced to some of the most well known African-American stories.  In all, this collection includes thirteen stories for audiences.  As an added bonus, interviews with the sister of Dr. King, Dr. Christine King Farris and with author of Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine.  There are even discussion questions included for students, children and parents both in the classroom and at home.  And what Scholastic set would be complete with the optional Read-Along feature?  That is here, too.  It all comes together to make a box set that any viewer will appreciate and enjoy.

Stories About African American Heritage (as it will henceforth be known) opens fittingly with a collection of stories centered on two of the most well known figures in the Civil Rights movement; Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  It opens with a story by Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris titled, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World.  In this story, Mrs. Farris describes not only how her brother prepared for his landmark speech at the nation’s capitol, but the reaction of the people who were in attendance.  The story is made even more interesting as it includes actual photos of Dr. King throughout the story as well as of those in attendance.  Audiences also learn that Dr. King wasn’t the first minister in his family.  His grandfather, A.D. Williams was also a minister.  Just as interesting to learn is that while most people remember this moment in history for Dr. King’s speech, many may not know that Dr. King had also come to meet with Congressional leaders about passing a new law that would make whites and blacks truly equal.  He hadn’t come just to give a speech.  This story is more than just a story.  It’s a trip back in time to a pivotal moment in history.  It’s a trip that everybody young and old, white, black and otherwise should take at least once.  While the story’s companion interview with Christine King Farris is dated (it mentions the monument built in his honor before it had been built), her interview helps to bring the story full circle and show just how significant his speech was and still is today to Americans as a whole.

The main feature on Dr. King is a very powerful and moving piece.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces included in this set of thirteen stories.  Also included as part of the set, is a feature on famed pianist/composer and band leader Edward Kennedy Ellington, A.K.A. Duke Ellington.  Right from the start, audiences get a little history lesson on Ellington that’s easily accessible for all audiences.  Whitaker reads to viewers that Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. and that the name “Duke” was a name he brought on himself as he told people to call him by that name.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Ellington apparently originally did not lean towards music.  Rather, according to the story—narrated by veteran actor Forest Whitaker—Ellington originally was more interested in playing baseball than the piano.  The story of how Duke was drawn back to the piano is just as entertaining as his early lack of interest in the instrument.  The history lesson centering on Duke’s rise to stardom is equally easy to grasp for audiences.  Being that it’s being read out loud, both parents and kids alike will easily remember the majority, if not all, of what they are taught.  That’s really what makes this an especially nice addition to this set.  Just as with the feature on Dr. King, it doesn’t come across as a history lesson.  It comes across simply as a story about important historical figures since it’s coming across on the screen instead of in a book.  The visual images will stimulate the eyes and mind, while the history will stick with viewers.  As a result, it could help to foster an interest in music in younger viewers just as the piece on Dr. King could get young audiences interested in politics.  Again, it’s one more wonderful tool for viewers both in the classroom and in the home.

The last disc in this set celebrating African American heritage focuses on the literature of a people.  Just as religion, politics, and music are important parts of African American history, so is literature.  In the set’s final disc, viewers get a healthy dose of literature from the African culture as it includes five classic stories anchored by the story, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  This tale tells the story of why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, just as the title notes.  According to the story, the mosquito buzzes in people’s ears because it has a guilty conscience after causing the death of a baby owl.  This concept might be a bit much for some younger audiences.  So parents should use their own discretion with this story.  That aside, it still is an interesting addition to this final disc’s collection of stories.  Added to the set’s other stories, the entire collection comes together to make a set that again is a wonderful tool that any parent or educator will want to use every year any time of year, not just for Black History Month.  It is available now and can be ordered online via New Kideo’s official website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-heritage-collection/.

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