Harold Mabern’s New Live Recording Is An Enjoyable Tribute To John Coltrane And His Legacy

Courtesy: Smoke Sessions

Saxophonist John Coltrane is among the most influential figures in the history of jazz.  That goes without saying.  Between his own records and the records that pay homage to Coltrane, his music has remained in the mainstream for ages and is certain to for many more to come.  Another of those noted tributes will see the light of day Friday through Smoke Sessions Records in the form of jazz pianist Harold Mabern’s new live CD, Mabern Plays Coltrane.  The hour-plus presentation is an impressive new offering from beginning to end.  That is proven in part through its featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  The group’s performance thereof is of its own import to the recording’s presentation and will be examined a little later.  The recording’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the presentation.  All things considered, they make Mabern Plays Coltrane a wonderful listening experience for fans of Coltrane, Mabern, and casual jazz fans alike.

Harold Mabern’s forthcoming collection of live John Coltrane covers is a thoroughly enjoyable new presentation.  It is certain to appeal widely among jazz audiences.  That is proven in part through the featured songs.  Seven in all, the songs put the recording’s run time at approximately one hour, five minutes.  While there are only seven songs here, they are still important because they are essentially a vivid snapshot of Coltrane’s own career, pulling from nearly every point in his career.  His time with Prestige Records, Impulse! Records, Atlantic Records, and Blue Note Records are all represented here.  The only era of Coltrane’s career not represented in this concert is that in which he was signed with Savoy Records.  The set list reaches all the way back to Coltrane’s 1957”self-titled” record, Coltrane — which was the first on which he was a band leader – and all the way up to 1970’s Dear Lord.  A handful of the songs here are taken from Coltrane’s time with Atlantic Records, while two of his Impulse! Records releases and his lone Blue Note Records release – Blue Train – are also represented.  One of the most important of the Atlantic releases featured in the set list is Giant Steps.It is represented through the timeless song, Naima.  For those who might not know, Giant Steps is featured in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry because of its influence on the jazz and music communities in whole.  ‘My Favorite Things’ – the title track from Coltrane’s 1961 Atlantic release – is also included in the set list.  It is among Coltrane’s most well-known and beloved songs, being a cover of the song from the timeless musical, The Sound of Music.  On yet another note, ‘Dahomey Dance’ – featured in Coltrane’s 1961 album, Ole Coltrane – is important because the album in whole was a key moment in itself in Coltrane’s career.  The album in whole was a display of Coltrane getting more interested in music from Spain.  That interest showed in each of the album’s songs in its own way, too.  Between this song and record and all of the others featured and represented here, it should be clear that the songs play an extremely important part of Mabern Plays Coltrane’s presentation.  If in fact Mabern intentionally assembled the set list with the albums in mind as to how they would represent Coltrane’s career, then he is to be highly commended.  Regardless, it is still a positive that no listener can ignore.

There is no doubt that the songs featured in Mabern Plays Coltrane are collectively an important part of the recording’s presentation.  They are just a portion of what makes the recording so important, too.  Mabern and company’s performances of the songs are of their own importance.  Case in point is the group’s take on ‘Naima.’  The collective – Mabern on piano, Vincent Herring on alto sax and Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Joe Farnsworth on drums, Steve Davis on trombone, and John Webber on bass – takes the original song and takes its energy up a few notches.  Coltrane’s original is such a cool, relaxed composition with Coltrane leading the way alongside an equally subtle piano line.  Meanwhile, Mabern and company give the song more of a swing type of approach while staying true to the original.  It makes for an interesting update on the song, but enjoyable nonetheless.  As is pointed out in the liner notes, it keeps that Bossa Nova sensibility, but really turns the song somewhat on its ear and makes it a song that would be just as much a tribute to a loved one as the original was to Coltrane’s wife.

On another note, the group’s performance of ‘Blue Train’ is just as impressive as any other in this record.  The performance stands out because of how true it stays to its source material throughout its nearly 11-minute run time.  Yes, it does open with a big more swing sense than the original, but even in that case, the swing still works relatively well.  It is shorter than the original by only two seconds, coming in at 10 minutes, 42 seconds.  That in itself says plenty in terms of examining how closely it sticks to the original.  Herring and Alexander are especially tight as they take on the song’s sax lines while Farnsworth’s nuanced time keeping on the drums is so rich even in its supporting role.  Interestingly enough, there is a wonderful, high energy trumpet solo also featured in this cover that is so engaging and entertaining in its own right.  The issue is that there is no direct credit for the trumpet solo anywhere in the recording’s liner notes or even on the CD’s case.  Mabern’s son Michael, who penned the liner notes does make a note of “Big Daddy’s” “own fluidly funky solo.”  This leads to the belief that maybe it was Mabern himself who handled the solo, but again, without any real credit given anywhere in the case and liner notes, one cannot be 100 percent certain about that.  Regardless, the trumpet solo here is still a nice touch to the performance.  When it is considered along with everything else noted here, the whole shows even more why the performances featured in the recording are just as important as the songs themselves.

As f everything noted is not enough proof of the importance of the recording’s performances, the group’s performance of ‘My Favorite Things’ is yet more proof of that importance.  While somewhat shorter than the original – Coltrane’s original runs nearly 14 minutes while this one clocks in at just under 12 minutes – it mostly stays true to its source material, too.  However, there are some notable differences, beginning right from the performance’s outset.  Mabern has developed a whole new introduction to the song through a funky piano solo that takes influence from so much fusion jazz from the 1960s.  Even as the song progresses from that introductory solo, it picks up the pace from the original, incorporating more of a swing vibe once again, with Mabern leading the way.  Farnsworth’s steady jazz waltz time keeping adds even more depth to the song while also continuing to build on the cover’s unique update.  There are even some variances between the sax solo presented here and that from Coltrane in his original take on the song.  Overall, the group’s take on the song in this case is just as enjoyable as Coltrane’s take on the song as it gives the song such new energy and life.  It is just one more example of how the performances featured in Mabern Plays Coltrane are so important to the recording’s body.  When this and the other examined performances are considered along with the rest of the recording’s performances, the whole makes clear just how important the performances are to the overall presentation.  They work with the importance of the songs themselves to further enrich the listening experience.  They are not the last of the recording’s important items, either.  The presentation’s production rounds out its most important elements.

The production of Mabern Plays Coltrane is important because this is, again, a live recording.  Not knowing how large the venue was in which this recording was captured, it is tough to have a full picture of things.  Regardless, the group’s performance was handled expertly in concert and in post.  The balance in the instrumentation is exceptional in the more energetic moments and those that were more subdued.  Even the audience noise was minimized, adding more to the general effect.  The audience applause was barely there, but just enough to be evident between songs.  That and the balance in the songs’ instrumentations makes for so much enjoyment, aesthetically speaking.  When the positive impact of the production is considered along with the positive impact of the songs’ performances and the songs themselves, the whole of that insight makes the recording in whole a fully enjoyable presentation that any jazz lover will enjoy.

Harold Mabern’s forthcoming live tribute to John Coltrane, Mabern Plays Coltrane, is a wonderful way for Mabern to honor Coltrane and his legacy.  That is proven in part through its featured songs.  The songs in question represent a handful of key moments in Coltrane’s career and personal development as a musician.  The performances of those songs is of its own interest.  That is because of how they blend Coltrane’s origins with the group’s own more modern influences.  They make each song unique from one another and from the original songs while paying tribute to those songs at the same time.  The record’s production rounds out the most important elements.  That is because of its ability to balance all of the recording’s audio.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make Mabern Plays Coltrane, another of the year’s top new live CDs.

Mabern Plays Coltrane is scheduled for release Friday through Smoke Sessons.  More information on this and other titles from Smoke Sessions is available at:

Websitehttps://www.smokesessionsrecords.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/SmokeSessionsRecords   

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/smokejazzclub

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.  

‘Thoughts On The Matter’ Is A Unique, Enjoyable Start For Saxophonist Ryan Devlin

Courtesy: Timucua Records

Making a live recording one’s debut record is anything but common for any musical act. Of course that is par for course for saxophonist Ryan Devlin. His career has been anything but ordinary.  Devlin grew up the son of a musician who worked for Disney, and he himself has performed with a variety of respected musical organizations in and around Florida.  Just last month, the up-and-coming musician added to his exceptional resume with the announcement that he has been accepted into the New England Conservatory’s Master of Music program in Jazz Performance for the upcoming Fall semester.  Keeping all of this in mind it is only fitting that his debut recording, Thoughts on the Matter, released Feb. 13, is not commonplace.  The 10-song record proves an unlikely success, due in part to its booklet, which will be discussed shortly.  The songs and their performances add to the recording’s engagement and appeal, and will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation and will be discussed later, too.  When this item is considered along with the other noted elements, they make the whole another welcome addition to this year’s list of best new live CDs.

Ryan Devlin’s debut record, Thoughts on the Matter is an offering that jazz fans will find an intriguing yet enjoyable first outing for the up-and-coming saxophonist.  Its presentation proves so interesting in part because of its booklet.  Speaking more specifically, the liner notes contained within the booklet are what make the booklet worth noting.  The liner notes offer listeners a brief but concise background on the recording’s creation.  Devlin points out right from the notes’ intro, “the project came together almost by chance.”  He goes on to discuss how if not for help from a certain source, the recording might not have even happened.  Audiences will be left to learn that whole story for themselves.  It goes without saying that the story, while brief, makes for more appreciation for the recording, considering how slowly live music continues to make its return as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread despite people getting vaccinated.

The story behind the creation of Thoughts on the Matter is just one part of what makes the liner notes important to address.  Devlin also points out in brief but concise fashion, some background on the songs featured in the performance.  Listeners learn that the concert’s featured songs focus on matters of family for the most part, while at least one is a cover of a work from another even more famed saxophonist.  That person’s identity will also be left for audiences to discover by themselves.  The whole of the information on the songs and on the album’s creation collectively creates a solid foundation for the record’s presentation.  That foundation makes this aspect of the recording a positive starting point for its whole.   Building on that foundation is the presentation of the songs and their performances.

The songs featured in this recording are, for the most part, original compositions.  There are two songs that are covers.  Devlin briefly discusses one of the covers following the performance of ‘The First and Last of Everything.’  The other is noted in the album’s liner notes.  Audiences will be left to learn more about the covers for themselves so as not to ruin the experience for anyone.    This is important to note because it shows the clear intent by Devlin and his fellow musicians to display their talents with original work more than just a bunch of covers.  That in itself is admirable to say the least.  Among the most notable of the originals is the four-movement opus, ‘Grief Suite.’  Devlin makes a point to explain in concert and in the liner notes, the suite was his way of dealing with his mother’s passing in 2019.  While this work is so extensive, it is also fully immersive and engaging.  The emotion that the group evokes in each stage of grieving is powerful and moving in its own right.  ‘Anger’ does so well to help listeners relate with the short beats and notes, and the tension in the opus.  That tension is especially evident through Devlin’s own performance.  The almost frenetic energy from Devlin and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. in ‘Shock,’ the suite’s opening movement does well to illustrate the many thoughts that race through a person’s mind as he/she initially deals with the loss of loved one.   Pianist Per Danielsson deserves credit for adding to that energy and tension here, too, what with the percussive nature of that performance.   ‘Depression,’ with its gentle but reserved saxophone performance and subtle drumming, conjures thoughts of something one might expect from the soundtrack of a vintage noir flick, but it still works here regardless.  Between this movement, the others noted here, and that of the suite’s finale, ‘Acceptance,’ the suite in whole and the group’s performance thereof makes for a clear example of what those two elements (the songs and their performances) are so important to the recording’s presentation.  ‘Riley,’ which according to Devlin was composed to honor his girlfriend, is another example of those items’ importance.

‘Riley’ presents a certain relaxed energy throughout its nearly seven-minute run time.  Knowing that Devlin composed the song in honor of his girlfriend, that relaxed energy and performance does well to illustrate perhaps how she is able to put him at ease and  make him so happy.  That is all of course just this critic’s interpretation and should not be taken as gospel.   That aside, it is still an enjoyable composition which is made even more enjoyable through the subtle performance of all involved here.

Devlin does not offer any background about ‘The First and Last of Everything,’ which comes early in the album’s run, in his new recording’s liner notes.  That might not be such a bad thing in listening to the group’s performance here.  Knowing that the recording’s songs are meant to be Devlin’s commentary on certain topics, maybe this was meant to be “the first and last” word on some topic, thus the title. Once more, this is just this critic’s own interpretation of the song.  Between this matter, the other songs and performances noted here, and the rest of the record’s presentation, the songs and performances overall make clear why they are so important to the recording’s presentation.  They are just one more part of what makes the recording stand out.  The recording’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.

The production of Thoughts on the Matter is important to the recording’s presentation because of its impact on the listening experience.  This recording is a live production in what one can only assume was an intimate setting.  The sound does well to paint that picture what with the balance of the instruments against one another and even the applause at the end of each song.  Listeners will never feel the need to adjust the volume from one song to the next, showing even more why the recording’s production is so important.  That stability in the volume and the balance in the instruments, by connection, means that audiences will be able to sit back and enjoy each song without having to stop at any point or even strain to hear the performance.  This puts that noted final touch to the recording’s presentation.  When that wonderful final touch is considered with the recording’s content (on disc and in the booklet), the end result is an overall presentation that becomes a fully enjoyable concert experience for any jazz fan.

Ryan Devlin’s debut recording, Thoughts on the Matter is an intriguing but impressive first offering from the up-and-coming saxophonist.  The live recording stands out in part because of its booklet.  The booklet is important to note because of the background that it offers listeners before they even listen to the recording.  The songs and performances featured on disc add to the engagement and entertainment because they are a mix of originals and covers.  The performances thereof display the talents of Devlin and his fellow musicians both in terms of each work.  The production used in the recording rounds out the presentation’s most important elements.  That is because it leaves listeners feeling as if they are right there at the performance, fully immersing listeners in the concert with the expertly handled sound balance.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Thoughts on the Matter.  All things considered, they make the recording another welcome addition to the list of this year’s top new live CDs. 

Thoughts on the Matter is available now.  More information on the recording is available along with all of Ryan Devlin’s latest news at https://ryandevlinmusic.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.  

Every Jazz Fan Will Find Shai Maestro’s Latest LP Surprisingly Enjoyable

Courtesy: ECM Records

The best records that have ever been created throughout the musical universe are not the ones that just hit a person in the face on the first listen.  Rather, they are those unsuspecting presentations that gradually grow on listeners more with each listen. Yes, there are some albums and EPs out there that do hit listeners right away and have that staying power.  However, those records are far and few between.  That being the case, an album such as Human, pianist Shai Maestro’s latest studio recording, is one of those records that is certain to have its own staying power within the jazz community.  Its musical arrangements do plenty to support that statement.  While they do follow a certain type of impressionist style approach, the arrangements still vary from one to the next in their general composition, giving listeners lots to like.  Case in point is the free-flowing nature of ‘Prayer,’ which comes late in the 56-minute record’s run.  It will be discussed shortly.  Maestro and company’s take on the standard that is ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ is another example of how this record’s featured songs make it such an interesting presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘Mystery and Illusion,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is one more example of what makes the album’s content so engaging and in turn the album itself a success.  It will be addressed later, too.  Each song noted is important in its own way to the whole of this record’s presentation.  When the noted songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s compositions, the whole of the album becomes a presentation that every jazz aficionado should hear.

Shai Maestro’s latest full-length studio recording Human is a presentation that any jazz lover will find surprisingly enjoyable.  As noted, that is because while the record’s featured songs.  The songs follow, from one to the next, a clearly impressionist approach in terms of their styles.  The actual compositions meanwhile, are still their own unique presentations.  ‘Prayer,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is one example of that diversity in the arrangements’ differences.  The song is centered on Maestro’s subtle performance on piano.  The gentle, flowing chords and runs are so rich even in their simplicity.  Drummer Ofri Nehemya’s sometimes frantic time keeping and at other times controlled rhythms meanwhile add such a unique creative touch to the song.  The duo by itself more than creates its own share of interest.  Trumpet player Philip Dizack’s performance is a less-is-more presence, coming in at just the right moments.  Even when he does come into the mix, his dynamic control alongside Maestro creates such a powerful juxtaposition in feeling and even energy.  As the song progresses, the group comes together, building the song even more until it reaches its climax in the opus’ final minute or so.  It is from there, that the group eases listeners back in those final moments.  What is interesting to note among all of this is that noted controlled chaos, which really defines (to a point at least) impressionist style songs.  To that end, the fully immersive composition proves in its own way, what makes ‘Prayer’ stand out among Human’s impressionist works.  It will completely capture listeners’ attention and keep it from beginning to end of its eight-and-a-half-minute-plus presentation.  It is just one of the most notable of the album’s most noteworthy songs, too.  The group’s take of ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ does its own share to make this record stand out, too.

Maestro and company’s take on Duke Ellington and John Coltrane’s timeless song ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ gives the song not only new life, but an entirely new identity.  The free-flowing trumpet, piano, and time keeping in the upbeat update is completely unlike its source material.  It presents more of a lighthearted sense of a sentimental mindset.  That original work, by comparison is a much lighter, subtle composition.  Its approach more fully captures the essence of the song’s title, especially considering the use of the word “sentimental.”  Keeping all of this in mind, Shai Maestro’s free-flowing take of ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ is a unique approach to a timeless song, but at the same time, continues to show how the impressionist approach to Human makes the album so appealing.  It is just one more example of why the approach taken to this album makes the record successful.  ‘Mystery and Illusion’ is one more example of how the album’s approach is a winning take.

‘Mystery and Illusion’ exhibits clearly, the characteristic of impressionism that is the focus on mood and atmosphere.  It does that through its gentle, flowing piano line.  The warmth that Maestro’s performance on the piano itself creates a rich mood that is in fact warm, yet to a point, mysterious through the minor chords.  Even considering that, the timbre is so warm throughout.  The “mystery” is heightened even more through the duality in the pairing of Maestro’s performance and that of Dizack.  At the same time, so is the noted depth and warmth to the arrangement.  Simply put, the way that that all involved took part here resulted in yet another work that follows the album’s overall stylistic approach, but still presents its own unique identity.  That whole leaves even less doubt as to the success of the album overall.  When it and the other songs noted here are considered along with the rest of the album’s works, the result is a record that is one of this year’s most unique jazz offerings.

Shai Maestro’s new album Human is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.  That is because its songs follow one overarching stylistic approach yet still boast their own unique sound from one to the next.  That is proven through all three of the songs noted here.  When those songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s works, the whole of those works makes the album overall a surprisingly enjoyable work that every jazz fan is recommended to hear at least once if not more.  Human is available now.   More information on the album is available along with all of Shai Maestro’s latest news at:

Website: https://shaimaestro.com

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

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.   

Rick Margitza’s New LP Has Lots Of “Heart”

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Saxophonist Rick Margitza’s resume reads like a who’s who of the jazz community.  Over the course of his decades-long career, Margitza has recorded and performed with some of the jazz world’s most famed and respected figures, such as Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis.  For more than three decades, Margitza has been making music in some capacity.  Yet, for all the work that he has done throughout his career, the last time that he released a solo record as a band leader (as opposed to an accompanist) was 17 years ago in the form of 2004’s Bohemia.  Early this month, Margitza ended that drought when he released Sacred Hearts.  The 11-song record was released Feb. 5 through Le Coq Records, and offers much for audiences to appreciate, beginning with its very packaging.  This aspect will be discussed shortly.  The musical arrangements that make up the body of the record add to its appeal.  They will be discussed a little later.  The album’s production puts the final touch to its presentation.  It will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this album.  All things considered, they make the album one of this year’s top new jazz albums. 

Sacred Hearts, thefirst new solo album in more than 15 years (17 years to be exact) from Rick Margitza, is a positive return for the veteran saxophonist.  It is a presentation that will appeal to any modern jazz fan just as much as his existing catalog.  That is due in no small part to the album’s packaging.  The packaging is important to the album’s presentation in that it features “liner notes” of sorts that actually give some background on each of the album’s songs.  Audiences learn through the “notes” that for the most part, the songs are dedicated to someone who Margitza knows.  The one exception to that rule is ‘Trail of Tears,’ which according to the “notes,” “is for all the people who have died under the hands of social injustice.”  These notes are all so important to address because providing even such minimal notation is rare to nonexistent in jazz albums.  Jazz fans, unlike those of most other genres, are largely left to have to interpret the titles and arrangements in their music for themselves.  The only way for those fans to really gain insight into the songs – save for miraculously having such minimal background information  — is to either read or hear interviews with acts on radio/TV, or to get it direct from the acts at concerts.  Not having even that most basic of information is actually detrimental to jazz records, so to have it here builds a good foundation for the record.  That is because in having a basic understanding of the songs’ purposes, audiences will find themselves even more engaged in the songs.  So again, to this end, having even the slightest background on the songs here is key to this album’s presentation. It is just one of the record’s most important elements.  The arrangements themselves add to the engagement in and enjoyment of Sacred Hearts.

The musical arrangements that make up the body of Sacred Hearts are important in part because they connect so well to the songs’ titles.  Case in point is the arrangement featured in ’12-123.’  According to the song’s description, the song is a celebratory work that honors Margitza’s family.  He notes in the description that the song “is for all the new life in our family.”  The song’s upbeat but still controlled stylistic approach translates well, the happiness felt by being among family.  Margitza’s performance on the saxophone, Jeff Boudreaux’s timekeeping, joins with the subtle percussion, piano, and vibraphone here to make the arrangement so engaging and entertaining.  It does so well,  again, to echo the emotions felt about a growing family, whether it be through marriage, the birth of a new child, or both.  It will surely put a smile on any listener’s face.  That is even more certain considering that this arrangement so easily lends itself to works from the likes of Margitza’s jazz counterparts in Yellowjackets.

‘Trail of Tears,’ which comes late in the album’s run is another example of the importance of the album’s featured arrangements.  It has already been noted that the song is a response to what has happened to Americans throughout America’s history due to social injustice.  The somber tone exhibited through the arrangement does well to illustrate the mood and emotions of those who have been wronged by the system and by their friends and family.  Margitza himself is largely to thank for that, through his performance.  The accompaniment of the piano and subtle time keeping adds even more to the arrangement’s depth.  What’s more, it would have been so easy for Margitza to have gone perhaps in a more avant-garde direction here, considering the theme here.  To have taken the alternate path leads to even more emotional impact.  Kudos to all involved here for making such a work instead.  It is just one more way in which the arrangements featured in this recording serve so well, to show their importance to the album’s whole.  It certainly is not the last example of how the arrangements show their importance, either.  ‘Muse’ is yet another way in which the album’s musical arrangements show their importance.  According to the information printed in album’s packaging, the song is meant as a tribute “for all the extraordinary artists who have shaped my life.”  The statement is illustrated throughout the song through the use of musical styles from different jazz sub-genres and eras.  The 10-minute-plus composition opens with a distinct Weather Report type approach before eventually changing gears and turning in a more modern approach a la John Coltrane.  The style evolves again from there, becoming even more modern.  Simply put, the song really does pay tribute to Margitza’s forebears.  It’s one more way in which this album’s musical content proves so important to its whole.  When this arrangement is considered along with the others noted here and the rest of the record’s compositions, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the album’s musical content. 

While the packaging and content featured in Margitza’s latest album are equally important in their own way to the whole of the album’s presentation, they are just a portion of what makes the record successful.  The production that went into each composition is also worth examining.  The production that went into crafting each arrangement ensures that each instrument is expertly balanced with its counterparts within each composition.  Even the rare instances in which the vocals are added to the whole, their subtle, airy nature gives those arrangements even more richness.  All in all, whether it be in the more complex songs or the simpler works (which require their own share of focus because there is less instrumentation – it is easy to get lax with simpler compositions) the production presented throughout this record brings out the best in each work.  When this is considered along with the importance of the album’s packaging and its content, the whole of the album makes itself a viable new listening option for any jazz aficionado.

Rick Margitza’s new album Sacred Hearts is a presentation that any jazz purist will find appealing.  That is proven in part through its packaging.  The packaging offers at least some background on the songs.  That background, while minimal, at least gives audiences a starting point in listening to the songs and appreciating them.  The arrangements themselves match well with the titles.  Audiences will agree after reading through the titles and the brief background information in the packaging.  The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation, bringing out the best in each composition.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album in whole a viable contender for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new jazz/blues albums.  Sacred Hearts is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of Rick Margitza’s latest news at  https://www.facebook.com/rmargitza.  

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

Verve’s New Coltrane LP Is The Cream Of 2018’s New Albums Crop

Courtesy: Verve RecordsVer

From the mainstream to the underground, from the worlds of jazz and blues to the worlds of pop and rock, audiophiles have been given quite a bit this year to appreciate.  Up-and-coming blues-rock band The Record Company and veteran jazz outfit Yellowjackets joined World Music act Yiddish Glory to prove to be some of this year’s best new music.

Experience Hendrix, LLC’s new Jimi Hendrix album Both Sides of the Sun, composer Klaus Schultz and veteran performers Elvis Costello & The Imposters also provided some memorable new music along with Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Ry Cooder and Femi Kuti.

Considering how many top notch records were released this year, developing this year’s list was not easy by any means.  The acts noted previously all turned out some very impressive offerings.

After much analysis and consideration, this critic has placed atop the year’s top new albums list is the long-lost album from John Coltrane, Both Directions At Once.  The record stands out as a shining beacon that music lovers across the board should hear at least once, regardless of their familiarity with Coltrane and his body of work.

Second in this year’s list is taken by Yiddish Glory’s new album The Lost Songs of WWII.  Listeners learn some very important history about Jewish music, culture and history through this album that should be in so many listeners’ libraries.

Third place in this year’s list goes to composer Klaus Schultz and his new album Silhouettes.  The otherworldly compositions featured in this record are stunning in their presentation.  They conjure thoughts of some of Nine Inch Nails master mind Trent Reznor’s most powerful instrumental works crossed with just a touch of John Williams sensibility.  It really is a powerful presentation that crosses genres and deserves so much attention.

The remainder of this year’s list features new albums from the likes of Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Femi Kuti and The Record Company just to name a few acts.  As always, the list’s top 10 titles are the best while the five that follow are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 Albums of the Year.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

  1. John Coltrane — Both Directions At Once
  2. Yiddish Glory — The Lost Songs of WWII
  3. Klaus Shultz — Silhouettes
  4. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite — No Mercy in this Land
  5. The Jamie Lawrence Sextet — New York Suite
  6. Jimi Hendrix — Both Sides of the Sky
  7. Femi Kuti — One PeopleOne World
  8. Ry Cooder — Prodigal Son
  9. Yellowjackets — Raising Our Voice
  10. The Record Company — All Of this Life
  11. Billy Gibbons — The Big Bad Blues
  12. Elvis Costello & The Imposters — Look Now
  13. Onyx Collective — Lower East Suite Part Three
  14. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Tearing at the Seams
  15. Joe Bonamassa — Redemption

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.

 

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.

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

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.