Weekes’ ”Round Midnight’ Compilation Re-Issue Mostly Succeeds

Courtesy: Amber Inn Records

Jazz vocalist Amber Weekes is scheduled to re-issue her 2002 album ‘Round Midnight again Friday.  Originally released in 2002 as a promotional presentation for clubs and festivals, the 12-song album was re-issued in 2007 through Sunset Records according to information provided through AllMusic.  The compilation’s forthcoming re-issue is an intriguing presentation, especially among the year’s current field of re-issues.  While the recording has added the word “Re-Imagined” to its title, the only new aspect here from its previous releases is its production, making for a bit of a concern.  While this concern is unavoidable, the album is not a total failure.  The songs that make up the compilation’s body and the way in which Weekes’ uses them makes for at least some interest.  This will be discussed shortly.  Weekes’ performance of said songs is also of note.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined proves itself a presentation that will appeal to audiences who do not already own ‘Round Midnight.

Amber Weekes’ forthcoming re-issue of her album ‘Round Midnight is a presentation that will find appeal among a targeted audience base.  Its appeal among those audiences comes primarily through the songs that make up the compilation’s body.  According to information featured in the record’s liner notes, the songs are meant to help tell a “story” of sorts.  The story in question is not some concept piece per se.  Rather, it is that of life in the Sugar Hill region of Harlem centralized in Weekes’ Luncheonette, a real business that was owned and operated by Weekes’ grandparents.  The notes, penned by San Francisco Chronicle writer Andrew Gilbert, point out that famed figures, such as actor Sidney Poitier, jazz pianist/composer Due Ellington, and saxophonist Sonny Rollins patronized the business.  He notes in his writing that the songs (E.g. Johnny Mercer’s ‘One For My Baby,’ MarcosValle’s ‘Summer Samba,’ Cole Porter’s ‘Lovers’) are meant to tell the story passed down to her by her family.  The songs are meant to set the mood while also telling the story of life in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem.  The approach is not unique per se.  However, that the songs are used to tell a story, requiring listeners to use their imagination so as to see the story in their own minds is a positive approach.  Add in the fact that not all of the songs covered in this compilation are the run-of-the-mill standards, but rather some lesser-known songs (and lesser-known artists) and the songs prove even more important to the compilation.  That and the manner in which the songs are used makes for even more appeal here.  Keeping all of this in mind, the musical selections featured in ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined are in themselves reason enough for the noted targeted audiences to hear this covers set.

There is no denying that the songs (and artists) featured in ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined form a solid foundation for this re-issue.  At the same time, they are the same songs and artists featured in the record’s initial 202 promotional release and its 2007 Sunset Records re-issue.  The only “new” aspect of this latest presentation of ‘Round Midnight is the production, which also includes some newly added string arrangements here and there.  That work paid off, too and should not be ignored.  Where added, the string arrangements add an appealing touch to those works.  The problem here is the use of the word “Re-Imagined.”  The addition of the strings to some of the songs and the re-mastering are the only aspects that really make the record “re-imagined.”  What’s more, the liner notes do not point out which of the songs feature the added strings.  That means that audiences who are unfamiliar with the original works will not even know which songs to compare.   There are no extra covers or even original works featured here.  Keeping all of this in mind, the simple use of the term “re-imagined” proves somewhat misrepresentative.  It creates in listeners’ minds, an expectation of something noticeably different from the compilation’s initial release and any other re-issues.  In reality, what audiences get is a minimally “re-imagined” collection of covers at best.  Luckily, the concerns raised through this marketing shortfall are not enough to doom the recording.  It is just a matter that one cannot ignore and does detract from the compilation’s appeal.  Now keeping this in mind, it is the compilation’s only negative.  Weekes’ performances of the record’s featured songs works with the songs and how they are used to make the record’s presentation more appealing.

Weekes’ performances of the songs featured in ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined makes for its own share of appeal for the compilation.  Her performance of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s ‘My Romance’ for instance is very much a different take from the original.  The piano and sax featured in the original are replaced by a mix of late 80s/early 90s R&B what with the pairing of Weekes’ vocals and the keyboard, and a string arrangement.  The whole at times makes the arrangement sound like it belongs in the soundtrack to Paramount Pictures’ 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Now some might try to argue that this plays into the “re-imagined” label, and maybe so, but again, it was also a re-imagining of the original in the compilation’s previous releases.  So that negates that argument.  That aside it is still an impressive performance, regardless. 

Weeke’s performance of Sting’s ‘Sister Moon’ and George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ is another example of the importance of her performances here.  In the case of these two songs, Weekes performances (and those of her fellow musicians) is a relatively close to the originals.  Just as interesting is the closeness in sound and style between Sting’s work and that of George and Ira Gershwin.  The two songs actually do sound like they belong together, so it makes sense that Weekes would join them in this presentation.  When the performances of these two songs, that of ‘My Romance’ and those of the compilation’s other songs are all considered together, they collectively show a real devotion on the part of Weekes and company to pay tribute to the songs’ source material while also giving listeners something at least somewhat unique.  That clear attempt to balance new and old ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in itself.  The appeal that this insures along with that generated through the songs and the manner in which they are used here gives audiences plenty of reason to hear this unique covers collection.

Amber Weekes’ forthcoming re-issue of her covers compilation, ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined is an intriguing addition to this year’s field of new re-issues and covers records.  That is due in part to the songs featured in the record and how they are used.  The songs are a mix of well- and lesser-known works as are the artists who crafted the works.  Weekes uses the songs to tell a story that is original and real.  It is not a concept story.  That is unique in itself and makes for reason enough in itself to hear this record.  While the songs and their use makes a strong foundation for its presentation, the fact that the changes between the original record and this latest re-issue detracts from the presentation.  That is due to the mis-use of the word “re-imagined.”  The only re-imagining between the original record and this re-issue is the addition of some string arrangements and re-mastering.  Even more, one has to wonder if the “re-imagining” done here was also done in the album’s 2007 re-issue.  That wonder detracts from the record’s appeal even more.  Even with the concerns that are raised through the record’s marketing here, they are not enough to make the record a failure.  The performances presented by Weekes and her fellow musicians work with the songs to make for even more appeal.  That is because they show a valid (and successful) attempt to balance honoring each song’s source material with giving audiences something unique.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation.  All things considered, they make the record a presentation that will appeal primarily to fans of Weekes who do not already own the set in its previous iterations.  ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined is scheduled for release Friday through Amber Inn Records.  More information on the compilation is available along with all of Weekes’ latest news at:

Website: https://amberweekes.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amberweekkes4jazz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amberweekes4jaz

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Andy James’ New Covers Compilation Will Get At Least Some Love

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Jazz singer Andy James has made a career of covering music from well-known artists who have come before her.   Her debut 2018 record No Regrets and its 2019 follow-up Blue are collections composed primarily of covers of others’ works.  Now in 2021, James has continued that trend with yet another collection of covers in her latest album Tu Amor — roughly translated, that title means Your Love.  The 11-song compilation does not necessarily break any new ground for James, though is still somewhat entertaining.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the body of this compilation.  They will be discussed shortly.  Staying on the topic of the featured songs, they lead to one detractor that listeners cannot ignore, the lack of information as to the songs’ information.  Ironically, that negative actually leads to its own positive.  That will all be discussed a little later.  Everything noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Tu Amor.  All things considered, the compilation proves itself a presentation that at least some listeners will love.

Andy James’ new compilation record Tu Amor is an intriguing record that will appeal to her most devoted audiences.  That is proven in part through the songs that made up the record’s body.  The songs in question are largely well-known standards from some equally well-known figures.  James takes listeners as far back as 1930 with a take on George and Ira Gershwin’s timeless tune ‘But Not For Me’ and as recent as 1970 with a take on Henry Mancini’s ‘Loss of Love.’  Along the way, there are also covers of songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra (‘Night & Day’), Carlos Santa (‘Evil Ways’) and even Tony Hatch (‘Call Me’).  The latter is slightly less well-known than the others noted here, but the song itself is still well-known.  Simply put, James pulls from a relatively wide range of influences here.  She pulls songs from some of the most gamed American composers and performers for this compilation and from some equally popular Latin/Hispanic names (E.g. Alberto Dominguez and his hit song ‘Perfidia.’  That James would pull from that range of composers and performers gives listeners reason itself to hear this record at least once.  That the songs come from a relatively wide range of eras means the songs have different feelings in each work.  Her Latin-tinged take on the famous songs (which is nothing new for her, considering she has taken the same approach on the aforementioned records) gives the songs their own unique take while staying at least somewhat true to their source material.  Keeping all of this in mind the songs that feature in James’ new record are themselves a positive that her most devoted fans will appreciate.  Staying on the topic of the songs, they lead to the compilation’s one and only negative, its lack of information about the songs’ backgrounds.

As noted already, James takes listeners on a musical trip back through time in this compilation.  The artists and composers whose music she covers is relatively diverse, as is the style of songs.  While this in itself does enough to make for at least some appeal, audiences will note that James does not make mention of the original composers and artists associated with each song.  Whether this omission was the result of James herself or someone else, it means on one level that those responsible for the songs are not getting the credit they deserve.  Yet at the same time, the musicians who performed the songs with James in each song get their due credit.  To that end, one is left scratching one’s head why even that simple starting point is ignored here.  This is important to note because those who might not be so familiar with the noted songs and their history might be misled to believe that this is in fact a collection of originals rather than a grouping of covers.  That again is a disservice to the composers and artists who originally crafted the featured songs.  It is a negative that one cannot ignore and detracts considerably from the record.  Luckily it does not detract to the point that it makes the compilation a failure.  That is because it leads to an unexpected positive.  That positive is the fact that it leads the noted uninformed audiences to make their own journey in music history education.

The lack of a record of artists and composers in James’ new compilation is negative, yes, but at the same time it is positive.  That is because, as noted, it leads audiences who might be less familiar with the histories of each song on their own journey of discovery and education.  So actually in a way, there is a latent function to that lack of information here.  In researching the songs and learning the identities of their composers and performers, audiences will perhaps gain a new appreciation for those figures and their works.  On an even deeper level, discovering the identities of the noted figures and even the stylistic approaches to the source material of each song could also serve as a starting point for what could become an even bigger, deeper voyage into the great American genre that is jazz.  Keeping that in mind, the one negative from which this record suffers is in some odd way, its own positive.  When this is considered along with the wide range of songs covered here, the two elements together make the compilation a presentation that will find some of its own love.

Tu Amor is an intriguing new offering from jazz singer Andy James.  Its intrigue is raised in part through its featured songs.  The songs are compositions that pull from the “great American songbook” and from even rock and Latin worlds.  They pay tribute to some well-known and lesser-known works while giving those songs welcome updates.  The songs can and likely will lead to discoveries and appreciation of even more jazz in the process.  That is because audiences are left to research the songs themselves due to the lack of information on the original artists and composers in the compilation’s liner information.  That lack of information is the compilation’s only negative, because it does not give the noted figures their due credit.  Again ironically, it leads to the noted positive, bringing everything full circle.  Keeping everything noted here in mind, the compilation in whole will not ultimately prove to be a timeless compilation (especially considering that James has made a career of covering others’ works), but it will still find its own love.  Tu Amor is available now.  More information on the compilation is available along with all of Andy James’ latest news at:

Website: https://andyjames.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesjazz

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Jarreau’s ’93 Montreux Show Another Hit For Eagle Rock, Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Montreux Sounds

This Friday, April 15th, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release music legend Al Jarreau’s new live recording Live at Montreux 1993. While it was not his first time ever performing at the famed music festival, the upcoming CD release of the performance marks the first time that the concert has been released in any format.  That is just one part of what makes this new CD recording a welcome addition to the music library of any of Jarreau’s fans.  The concert’s set list is just as important to note in the recording’s presentation.  That will be discussed later.  It is a rather interesting element to note, too.  Last but hardly least important to note of the recording is Jarreau’s stage presence and that of his fellow musicians.  Even with the performance being presented only on CD (so far) the group’s stage presence translates relatively well.  That translation, when set alongside the concert’s set list and its presentation, rounds out the recording’s presentation.  It joins with them to make Al JarreauLive at Montreux 1993 a welcome first offering for this concert.  One can only hope, of course, that from its success a DVD and/or Blu-ray presentation of the concert will follow sooner rather than later.  Regardless of whether or not that happens, it can still be said of this single-disc presentation that it is, again, a welcome addition to any Al Jarreau fan’s music library.

Al Jarreau’s new live recording Live at Montreux 1993 is a welcome addition to any of his fans’ personal music libraries.  The main reason for this is that while the concert contained herein was hardly his first-ever performance at the famed music festival, it is the first time that this particular concert has been presented on any platform (E.g. DVD, Blu-ray, vinyl, etc.)  That means it’s the first time that this particular performance has been available for audiences to enjoy for themselves.  It is interesting that the concert wasn’t also released on any visual or other audio platforms.  That is because that it is not the usual course of action for Eagle Rock Entertainment.  Generally Eagle Rock releases its live recordings across every possible platform unless said recordings have already been released on other platforms.  This recording isn’t one of those cases, though.  Again it is the first time that the recording has been released on any medium.  Nonetheless, having it released on only one platform in its initial release is actually a good thing in its own right.  That is because in doing so none of Jarreau’s fans will feel left out in any sense of the word. Everybody will be on the same playing field so to speak.  To that extent having it released on just the one platform—at least for now—is in fact quite important to its presentation even as minor as it might seem to some.  It’s not the only important element of the recording’s presentation, either.  The set list featured in this recording is just as important as the concert’s overall presentation on CD.

The presentation of Al Jarreau’s 1993 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival solely on CD is in itself a hugely important part of the recording’s presentation.  On the surface it might not seem all that important.  But the reality of the situation is that it is in fact more important than most audiences will realize.  It’s just one of the recording’s most important elements.  The songs that made up the show’s set list are just as important to it as its general presentation.  The reason for this is that the songs in question largely came from one specific album, Tenderness.  The album in question was originally released on December 6th, 1994.  That was roughly a year and a half after this performance.  Even his 1992 album Heaven and Earth, which was released much closer to this performance, isn’t represented here.  Keeping this in mind one can’t help but wonder why exactly it took so long for Tenderness to be released following this performance.  Regardless the concert’s eleven song set is a near full representation of Tenderness.  Keeping that in mind the wait might have been rather long.  But at least for those in attendance experiencing the songs was like just like hearing Tenderness well ahead of its release.  And even for audiences today the same applies.  It is virtually the same as having Tenderness in their libraries just in live form.  This makes the concert’s set list all the more important in this recording.  Even with the concert’s CD presentation in mind both that and the show’s set list are not the only important elements to consider in examining this recording.  Jarreau’s stage presence and that of his fellow musicians is just as important to note.

Both the CD presentation of All Jarreau’s 1993 Montreux performance and the concert’s set list are important in their own right to the overall presentation of this recording.  They are hardly the recording’s only important elements.  Jarreau’s stage presence throughout, and that of his fellow musicians is just as important to note as the aforementioned elements.  Listening through the concert Jarreau and company come across as being entirely organic in their performance.  That is especially evident as the group makes its way through its rendition of ‘Summmertime.’  For those that might not be familiar with the tune, the original composition, penned by George and Ira Gershwin, boasted a much slower, bluesy vibe.  This take on the classic tune however, is the polar opposite of that work.  It is upbeat and free-flowing.  One could go so far here as to say it felt entirely natural and organic in its presentation.  In the same vein, ‘She’s Leaving Home’ shows in its own way the power of the group’s stage presence.  The song’s title is self-explanatory.  Yet even with the song’s title its energy in its performance here is not what one would expect.  Rather it’s one of those performances that even in such a massive venue, still manages to conjure thoughts of a smoky, dimly lit jazz club.  Jarreau and company are so laid back throughout the song that one wouldn’t even begin to think of the song as a piece about a woman leaving a man.  That shows the power of the group’s performance just as well as its take on ‘Summertime.’  On a completely different note (no pun intended) the power in the band’s performance of ‘Alonzo’ is yet another example of the importance of the band’s stage presence in this concert.  Unlike many of the set’s other featured songs it boasts more of the group’s R&B side than its jazz side.  It does so quite well, too.  The natural progression of the song’s energy over the course of its nearly six minute run time is itself an important part of the song.  The manner in which the group progressed through those changes is just as important.  That is because it once again shows the importance of the group’s stage presence here.  The group’s performance never once feels forced as it gradually builds the song’s energy in its opening minutes and then calms it just as gradually over the course of the song’s final moments.  Again, it all feels entirely organic.  Because it feels so natural it is just as apt to keep audiences engaged as any of the recording’s other offerings.  All things considered the group’s stage presence throughout the course of the concert’s seventy-one minutes proves in the end to be just as important to the concert as its set list and its general presentation on CD.  When it is set against those elements, all three elements combine to show once and for all why Live at Montreux 1993 is a welcome addition to any Al Jarreau fan’s personal music library.

Al Jarreau’s new live recording Live at Montreux 1993 is a welcome addition to the personal music library of any of Jarreau’s fans.  That is thanks in part to its singular presentation.  Whereas so many of Eagle Rock’s live recordings are released on multiple outlets, this fist time release of Jarreau’s ’93 Montreux show has been released only on CD.  Being available exclusively on CD means that none of Jarreau’s fans will feel left out if they purchase or order the recording.  The concert’s set list is just as important to the concert’s presentation.  That is because of the closeness of the concert (or lack thereof) to the release of his 1994 album Tenderness.  The set list presented in this concert almost entirely represents that album.  And being that the album wasn’t officially released until roughly a year and a half after this concert it makes the set list all the more important.  For those that don’t already own Tenderness even today it is just as important because that set list more than fills said void.  The group’s stage presence throughout the course of the concert’s hour-plus run time plays its own important part in the concert’s recording.  That is because of just how organic the group’s performance felt from beginning to end.  That organic vibe makes the show’s songs all the more enjoyable for audiences and in turn assures even more listeners’ maintained engagement.  Each element is important in its own right to this recording.  One could even note the recording’s companion booklet which is its own bonus as an important element. All things considered Live at Montreux 1993 shows in the ed to be a recording that any of Al Jarreau’s fans will want to add to their personal music libraries.  It will be available in stores and online this Friday, April 15th.  More on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:



Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews



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PBS’ Broadway History Documentary Hits All The Right Notes

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS has shown time and again that it is the last bastion of true kid friendly programming on television.  It has also shown just as many times why it is the last true bastion of worthwhile family friendly programming with series such as Nova, Great Performances, and Nature.  Now, the network has shown yet again why it is one of the best networks out there with its six-episode miniseries, Broadway:  The American Musical.

Broadway: The American Musical is just one more feather in the cap of what is not just a great television network, but a virtual American institution in itself.  This six part documentary series takes audiences on a journey through time.  It takes them from Broadway’s roots in the famed Ziegfeld Follies up to modern day Broadway.  Host Julie Andrews was an excellent choice to lead audiences on this musical journey through not just Broadway’s history, but also America’s history.  Being a seasoned veteran of both screen and stage, Andrews makes the entire presentation worth experiencing.  The inclusion of interviews with other professionals from around the entertainment world (E.g. Mel Brooks, Carol Channing, Tim Robbins, etc.) makes the story even more interesting.  There’s even discussion on some of the greatest names in Broadway’s history, including: the famed Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, Cole Porter, and of course Rogers and Hart just to name a few.  The stories shared around these figures illustrate not only their careers, but the influence of their works on America through each one’s career.  They also serve to illustrate just how important each one was and still is today to both the entertainment world and the world in general.

One of the most interesting of the stories in the special comes in its third episode.  The song, ‘Buddy Can You Spare a dime’ is discussed early on in this segment.  It’s noted that the song was a response to what was going on in the Great Depression.  And if it hadn’t been included in a Broadway play, the powers that be might have kept this extremely important song from every having become known to anyone.  It shows the power of the unseen men in suits even back then.  And that it resonated so much with American audiences today shows its continued musical and cultural importance, especially in this nation’s current economic and political state.  From this point, the program expands on this topic, explaining how musical theater increasingly became the voice of Americans as they weren’t able to voice their own opinions openly.  In simple terms, it shows how musical theater really became the voice of the voiceless, so to speak.

The story behind ‘Buddy Can You Spare a Dime’ is just one of so many at which audiences will amaze.  Equally interesting are the stories of how Disney helped to bring Broadway into a new age and of a working class man’s rise to fame with his original play, “Rent”, his untimely death, and the reaction to his play and passing.  That moment alone will leave any viewer feeling at least somewhat emotional.  It makes for one of the documentary’s more memorable moments.  Just as memorable as that moment are the extra performances included in the triple-disc set as bonus features.  Each disc includes bonus performances of acts from each highlighted era.  They are more than just bonus footage.  They serve to help illustrate the type of performances being held during each era.  And the very fact that the oldest of footage has stood the test of time so well is just as impressive as the stories included throughout the program’s length.

The stories and the footage together make for quite the viewing experience for any Broadway lover.  There is at least one more factor that makes this set the complete item for fans of the theater.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  PBS has hit the mark on the head with the set’s packaging.  All three discs included in the set are placed on their own spot inside the set’s box.  The first two discs are placed back to back on opposite sides of an insert, while the third disc is placed on the backside of the box.  Placing the discs in this fashion protects all three and thus increases their longevity.  Looking at the set from this vantage point to that of the presentation itself, PBS has assembled a documentary that is fitting both for students of the theater arts and of any lover of the theater.  It’s available now.  It can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store, at http://www.shoppbs.org.

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