Andy James’ New LP Is A Surprisingly Welcome Addition To 2022’s Field Of New Jazz Albums

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Veteran jazz singer Andy James is scheduled to release her latest album, Rhythm in New York Friday through Le Coq Records. The 15-song record will come less than six months after the release of her then latest album, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James, and a little more than a year after the release of its predecessor, Tu Amor (which was released in January 2021). It is a presentation that audiences will find worth hearing at least once. The record’s blend of originals and covers makes that clear. Among the most notable of its covers, is the cover of ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,’ which opens the record. It will be discussed shortly. ‘El Ritmo, which comes just ahead of the album’s midpoint, is a prime example of how much the album’s originals have to offer. It will be examined a little later. The album’s closer, ‘Just In Time,’ is yet another example of how much the album’s original content has to offer and will also be examined later. Each song noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Rhythm in New York a record that James’ fans and casual jazz fans alike will appreciate.

Rhythm in New York, the third new record in a little more than a year from Andy James, is a presentation that her established audiences and casual jazz fans alike will find worth hearing at least once. Each of the 15 songs that make up the record’s body does well in its own right to make that clear, beginning with the album’s opener, a cover of ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.’ Originally composed by the trio of Al Hoffman, Walter Kent, and Mann Curtis in 1950, the song was first recorded the same year by Frankie Laine. It wasn’t until Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1954 that it really took off. It has been covered by countless artists across the musical universe since there. In the case of this rendition, the song features guest appearances by Marcus Strickland and Nate Smith. The performance by James and her fellow musicians here sticks well to the original big band vibe of the original composition. Drummer Nate Smith’s ability to keep time so steadily on the hi-hat as he works his way through his polyrhythmic fills is impressive to say the least. His ability to divide the up-tempo eighth notes on the hi-hat as he works his way across the kit not only shows his creativity, but his expert abilities. James’ own vocal delivery and her fellow musicians’ big band style performance makes the song in whole a great way to start the album. It is just one of the songs that stands out in this presentation, too. ‘El Ritmo, which comes just ahead of the album’s midpoint, is a prime example of how the album’s originals make the record enjoyable, too.

‘El Ritmo’ is of note because while it does bring out some of James’ all too familiar Afro-Latin jazz leanings through the percussion and even the distinct, simple piano line, there is something about the combination of the combination that makes this work less in your face in its Afro-Latin leanings than much of her work. James’ vocal delivery is partially to thank for that. The gentle, melodic approach that she takes to the song makes that clear. The same can be said of the performance of saxophone player Chris Potter. What sounds like a soprano sax or maybe a tenor sax being played in a very high register, it comes across as a clear modern jazz composition in its own right. The contrast of Potter’s intensely energetic solos opposite James’ vocals here make for a nice counterpoint to the more familiar Afro-Latin influence of the instrumentation. The collective makes the composition in whole truly unique and a nice change of pace from what James is known for crafting.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘El Ritmo’ (roughly translated, it fittingly means ‘Rhythm’) comes across as a song about the all too familiar topic of a broken relationship. Lyrics are not provided in the record’s booklet, but the lyrics are more than understandable here. What makes this interesting is that even with this all too familiar topic being seemingly presented here, it doesn’t match with the energy of the song’s arrangement. The arrangement is such an upbeat composition, yet this seeming theme is the polar opposite. It almost paints a picture of someone who is perhaps at that point in the breakup of just being frustrated, trying to make sense of things, which happens more than once. Anyone who has been through a breakup will attest to that. This is all just this critic’s interpretation, but it certainly makes the song all the more intriguing, and not in a bad way, either. It is just one more example of what makes Rhythm in New York worth hearing. ‘Just In Time,’ which closes the album’ is yet another way in which this is proven.

‘Just In Time’ is another original featured as part of the album’s body. The song stands out because once again, James and company take audiences in a different direction here. In the case of this song, it comes across as a sort of chamber jazz piece, what with Patitucci on bass, Jon Cowherd on the keys, Marcus Gilmore on drums, and Potter on saxophone. There is a certain intimacy about the group’s performance here. Each musicians gets his own moment to shine in this performance. There are no liner notes to explain how the fully instrumental composition came about, but that aside, it is still a welcome, modern jazz tune with the swing of a bigger group, and compliments the album’s opener well in its own way, leaving listeners on a note just as positive as the opener. When this song and the others examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole whole makes even clearer why the album in whole is an improvement on its predecessors.

Andy James’ new album, Rhythm in New York, is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is proven from beginning to end. While her familiar Afro-Latin jazz leanings are present once again, James has complimented those sounds with more Western jazz influences for a record whose originals and covers alike will keep audiences engaged and entertained. All three of the songs examined here make that clear. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Rhythm in New York an improvement on the album’s predecessors that James’ established audiences and more casual audiences alike.

Rhythm in New York is scheduled for release Friday through Le Coq Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Andy James’ latest news at:

Websitehttps://andyjames.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/AndyJamesJazz

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/andyjamesjazz

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.  

Le Coq Records’ Second ‘Jazz All Stars’ Record Is Imperfect But Still Enjoyable

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Independent jazz label Le Coq Records released its new Jazz All Stars compilation record Friday.  The nine-song record, released Friday is a presentation that any jazz fan will find interesting, even being imperfect.  The record’s one lone negative comes from certain information that is lacking from its packaging.  This item will be discussed a little later.  It is not enough to doom the collection, but is still problematic to the set’s presentation.  Moving to the collection’s positives, its primary positive is its featured songs.  They will be examined shortly.  The songs’ production rounds out the record’s most important items and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the collection’s presentation.  All things considered, The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2 proves to be a presentation that despite being imperfect, is still well worth hearing.

Le Coq Records’ newest record from The Jazz All Stars is a presentation that audiences will find imperfect, but still worth hearing.  That is due in large part to the record’s featured songs.  According to information provided about the set, the songs are “some classic favorites.” This is where the record’s one glaring negative comes into play.  It will be discussed a little later.  Sticking to the songs for now, one of the most notable of the record’s songs comes late in its 57-minute run in the form of ‘Balinda.’  Bill Cunliffe’s gentle, flowing piano line pairs so well with Rick Margitza’s performance on saxophone here.  The duo leads the way as bassist Chris Colangelo and percussionist Alex Acuna add just the right flare to the arrangement with their respective performances.  Colangelo’s bass work gives the arrangement just enough low end while Acuna’s work on percussion deepens the song even more.  Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta’s solo late in the song’s almost 8-minute run time is one of the arrangement’s most notable highlights along with guitarist Jake Langley’s Middle Eastern style solo.  The control that Colaiuta displays even as he throws in so many cymbal crashes, diddles and paradiddles across his kit is awe-inspiring.  Langley’s subdued performance only serves to make audiences want to listen all the more.  The whole makes the opus in whole so engaging and entertaining from beginning to end.

‘Freddie’s Blues’ is another example of the importance of the collection’s featured songs.  That is because it serves to show the diversity in the sound and stylistic approach that the songs exhibit.  While ‘Balinda’ is more of an active song, even being so subdued, ‘Freddie’s Blues’ is more of a light, bouncy tune.  That is exhibited through the pure, blues-tinged sound and style of the composition.  Trumpet player Rashawn Ross leads the way and is complimented through the performance of Russell Malone on guitar.  The kick from Ross’ work on trumpet against Malone’s smooth groove makes for a wonderful contrast.  Bassist Ben Williams brings even more swagger to the composition through his subtle performance.  Their work and that of their fellow musicians in this work gives the song a great identity that is separate from that of all of the record’s other songs, further showing the importance of the record’s musical arrangements.

Much earlier in the album’s run is yet another standout addition.  It comes in the form of ‘Yesterday’s.’  The collection’s shortest track – it clocks in at just under five minutes in length – it shines because of the pairing of Andy James’ velvet soft vocals and Chris Potter’s work on saxophone.  Whether it be his controlled accompaniments to James’ singing or his full on solos, which are so controlled in their own right even being so active, Potter’s performance in this song is so impressive to say the least.  Colaiuta’s solid time keeping adds its own welcome touch to the song, too, while Cunlifee’s subtle performance on the piano proves true the old adage that less really is more.  Stylistically, this subtle swinging work takes audiences back to the high end jazz clubs of the 1930s and 40s, showing even more, the diversity in the record’s musical arrangements.  When it is considered along with the other arrangements examined here and with the rest of the collection’s works, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the set’s featured arrangements.  They are reason in themselves for audiences to hear this record.

Now as much as the arrangements do to engage and entertain audiences, the record is not perfect.  Going back to the previous note of how the songs are allegedly “some classic favorites,” the record makes no note as to who wrote the songs, but rather who arranged and performed on them.  This leaves audiences to have to research for themselves who wrote the songs, and that is no easy take to put it lightly.  Not giving credit to the original songs’ composers takes away from their credibility and legacy, and likely poses some legal issues, too.  The noted information provided with the album, by the way, was only provided to media outlets.  There are no liner notes here, so again, the lack of any background detracts from the collection’s presentation in its own right.  It is not enough to doom the record, but its inclusion certainly would have made the presentation stronger.

Moving on from the record’s one negative, there is still another positive to the whole.  That positive is in the record’s production.  Whether it be in the record’s more subdued, controlled moments, or its more active moments, every performer gets his and her own moment in the limelight.  Every performer compliments his and her fellow musician/performer.  The result of that expertly balanced work throughout is that each composition does its own share to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  When this is considered along with the impact of the songs by themselves, the two elements join to give audiences plenty of reason in themselves to hear The Jazz All Stars Volume 2.

The Jazz All Stars Volume 2 is a mostly successful new presentation from the independent jazz label, Le Coq Records.  Its success comes in large part through its featured arrangements.  From beginning to end of the nearly hour-long collection, the arrangements change style and sound from one to the next.  The performances put forth in each song pairs with that continued diversity to make for plenty of enjoyment and engagement in itself.  While the record’s featured songs are themselves reason for audiences to hear the collection, the record is not perfect.  The lack of any background on the songs – since again some of the songs are allegedly classics – detracts from the set to a point.  The damage that this issue does is problematic, but not enough to doom the record.  The songs’ production rounds out its most important elements.  It shows that painstaking efforts were taken to make sure every performance was expertly balanced in each song.  No one performer outperformed his/her counterparts at any point in the record’s presentation.  When this is considered along with the impact of the songs themselves and the performances thereof, the record gains that much more appeal.  It collectively makes the compilation a work that most jazz fans will agree is a pleasant new collection of jazz songs.

The Jazz All Stars Volume 2 is available now. More information on this and other titles from Le Coq Records is available along with the label’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://lecoqrecords.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/leCoqRecords

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

Audiences Will Enjoy An Occasional “Evening” With John Patitucci And Andy James In Their New Compilation Record

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Early this month, jazz vocalist Andy James and jazz bassist John Patitucci released a new collection of covers and originals to audiences in the form of An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James.  The expansive record spans a total of 17 songs.  The compilation is James’ second covers collection released this year, following that of Tu Amor, which was released in January., so it is kind of interesting that she has essentially book-ended the year with a pair of covers sets.  As with Tu Amor, this collection is neither a total success nor a complete failure, but rather a presentation that is worth hearing occasionally.  That is proven in part through the collection’s featured songs.  They will be discussed shortly.  On a related note, the apparent lack of any liner notes/song credits detracts notably from the record’s presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The performances of the featured songs work with the songs to help with the record’s appeal in their own right.  Together with the songs, the two elements make for at least some reason for audiences to hear this collection occasionally. 

John Patitucci and Andy James’ recently released covers collection, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James is a presentation that is worth hearing at least occasionally.  That is due in part to the record’s featured songs.  The songs in question are not just covers.  A pair of originals from James – ‘To Dream As One’ and ‘Burn For Love’ – is also featured as part of the record’s body.  The covers themselves are of note in that they are not limited to just jazz composition.  Yes, there are a lot of jazz covers here, but james, Patitucci, and their fellow musicians also take on some pop hits, such as The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird,’ Sheriff’s ‘When I’m With You’ and James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.’  Even the jazz covers themselves are of interest because they are a mix of well-known songs and lesser-known works.  Among some of the more well-known compositions featured in this collection are the likes of ‘Moonlight in Vermont, by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf; ‘I Love You and Don’t You Forget It, by Henry Mancini and Al Stillman, and ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy,’ by Cole Porter.  The slightly lesser-known songs include and are not limited to ‘Angel Eyes,’ by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent; ‘Some Other Time,’ by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and ‘More Than You Know,’ by Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose, and Edward Eliscu.  They are not among the most commonly covered songs in the “American Songbook.”  Simply put, the songs featured in this collection provide appeal to a wide range of audiences.  They also take listeners through a relatively rich history of American music.  To that end, the songs featured in this compilation are reason enough for audiences to hear the record.

While the songs that are featured in John Patitucci and Andy James’ new compilation are impressive in their own right, they also lead to at least once concern.  The concern in question comes in the form of an apparent lack of liner notes and song credits.  Perhaps this critic received a promo copy of the collection that just so happened to lack said information.  However, if in fact the record does in fact come without that information, then it does a disservice to quite a number of individuals, from the songs’ original composers to the audiences themselves.  It means those composers in question are not getting credit where due, and what’s more it leaves audiences otherwise having to guess which of the record’s two originals are the noted originals.  On yet another level, it means that audiences will potentially have to spend lots of time researching the songs to learn of their composers’ identities.  Now on the good side, that could serve as the starting point in a bigger history lesson for audiences who are less familiar with said composers and their respective bodies of work.  At the same time, the very process can and likely will prove rather tedious for audiences, regardless of that familiarity.  Keeping that in mind along with the lack of deserved credit, that lack of liner notes/credit information proves notably concerning for the record’s presentation.  Again, one has to hope that this issue is only presented with the record’s promotional copies and not the consumer copies.  If it is indeed an issue with the consumer copies, then again, it maintains that concern.  Thankfully it is not enough to make the collection a failure, but it certainly would have enhanced the listening experience in this case.  Moving on from there, the performance of the record’s featured songs pairs with the songs themselves to make for at least some more enjoyment.

 The performances that Patitucci, James, and company present in each song is well deserving of its own applause.  The group’s performance of ‘I Love You And Don’t You Forget It.’ The original song, which was popularized by Perry Como has so much cheese to say the absolute least.  The amount of cheese in the original is enough to make so many of today’s audiences cringe.  It is like a really bad lounge song what with its choral effects and Latin percussion.  By comparison the performance here by James, Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Chris Potter (saxophone) Alex Acuna (percussion), John Beasley (piano), and Dan Higgins (piccolo), gives the song a much needed and welcome update.  The group’s performance takes the original song into account in its presentation, but gives the song more of a swing approach, focusing much more on the Latin percussion and avoiding the trappings of the vocals used in the original.  The addition of the trumpets to the mix alongside the drums even gives the song something of a big band vibe.  It really is a nice update to an original that while fun, is still somewhat campy in its sound and approach.  To that end, this performance is just one example of the importance of the record’s featured performances.  The performance of ‘Some Other Time’ is another key example of that importance.

‘The original take of ‘Some Other Time’ runs almost four and a half minutes and is relatively simple with its vocals and subtle string arrangement.  That simple, subtle approach makes the song so rich and immersive.  Even with what feels like a 4/4 time signature here, it still presents such a distinct waltz feeling, which adds even more to the enjoyment.  It is that enjoyable.  The rendition presented here, which features guest appearances by saxophonist Rick Margitza and Charles McNeal, give the song an almost entirely new identity.  Gone are the strings in the original composition.  In their place is that subtle mix of woodwinds alongside the equally gentle time keeping from Colaiuta and James’ own vocal delivery.  Their work and that of others involved makes this song so rich in its own simplicity.  It makes the song more of a piece that one might expect to hear from an upscale jazz night club in New York or Los Angeles (or some other major metro city anywhere in America) rather than on the stage.  That is how distinctly different the two renditions are from one another.  Each is enjoyable in its own right.  That is not to be misunderstood.  It is just that the group’s take here is so notable even in its own presentation here.  It is just one more example of what makes the songs’ performances so important to this record’s presentation.  The group’s performance of ‘Blackbird’ is yet another key example of the importance of the featured performances.

‘Blackbird’ has been covered countless times by just as many acts and artists ever since the Beatles first crafted the song decades ago.  There have been some renditions that are good and others not so good.  The take featured here is among the better renditions.  Where the original song featured just vocals and guitar, the performance featured here steps things up, but only slightly so.  The use of the strings in the group’s take pairs with James’ vocals, Patitucci’s equally subtle bass line and Acuna’s gentle work on the cymbals to make the performance in whole a borderline easy listening jazz work but still appealing in its own right.  It comes across like something that one might expect to hear in the soundtrack to some movie or TV show from the 70s, but in the best way possible.  It does true honor to the original work while giving the song a whole new, renewed life in this case.  It is yet another example of the importance of the performances featured in this record.  When it is considered along with the other performances examined here and those in the rest of the record’s works, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the collection’s featured performances.  When they are considered along with the songs themselves, the two make for reason enough for audiences to hear the set at least occasionally.

John Patitucci and Andy James’ new covers collection, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James, is a presentation that deserves at least some attention from jazz and pop music fans alike.  Its appeal is due in part to its featured songs, which are covers are jazz and pop songs along with two originals from James.  That intentional push to approach such a wide range of songs from such a wide range of times and figures is reason enough for audiences to hear the record.  While the songs that make up the record’s body are clearly an overall positive, the seeming lack of credit for the songs detracts from the record’s presentation.  The radio promo copies of the record lack any of that information, thus causing certain parties to have to do a lot of tedious research into the songs.  One can only hope that the consumer copies do not also suffer from that shortcoming.  If they do, then that definitely detracts from the presentation to a certain point.  It is not enough to make the record a failure, but it is still a shortcoming that is unavoidable in its impact.  The performances of each of the record’s featured songs rounds out the most important of its items.  The performances are notable in their own right from one to the next.  That is because in some cases, they pay full homage to their source material, while in others, they give the songs entirely new identities even as they pay homage to their source material.  Regardless, the performances give audiences plenty to enjoy in their own right.  When that enjoyment is considered along with the importance of the record’s featured songs and even the issue of the seeming lack of information on the songs, the whole makes An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James a work that audiences will find themselves enjoying at least occasionally.

An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James is available now through Le Coq Records.  More information on this and other titles from Le Coq Records is available at:

Website: https://www.lecoqrecords.com

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

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.  

Jazz Lovers Will Enjoy Le Coq Records’ Latest Collaboration Compilation

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Late last year, three of the most respected names in jazz joined to take on a handful of jazz standards for a new collection of songs.  The group’s –John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Bill Cunliffe – efforts resulted in Le Coq Records’ recently released record, Trio.  Released Feb. 19, the nine-song record is an enjoyable, but imperfect presentation.  The most important of its positives is its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly.  While the record’s featured arrangements do much to make the recording so enjoyable, the lack of information on those songs in the packaging detracts considerably from the record’s presentation.  While it clearly detracts from the recording’s presentation to a point, it is not enough to make the recording a failure.  The trio’s takes on the song put the finishing touch to the collection.  When this is considered along with the recording’s featured songs, the two elements together make the album a wonderful whole that again is enjoyable even with its one notable fault.

John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Bill Cunliffe’s new jazz standards collection Trio is an enjoyable offering from the group that any jazz lover will enjoy.  That is due in no small part to the recording’s featured songs.  The nine songs that make up the body of Trio are all standards.  The songs take listeners seemingly all the way back to 1917 through the original Dixieland Jazz Band’s song, ‘One-Step,’ —  having no notes in the packaging to tell for certain, this has to be assumed. It will be discussed a little later — up through the 1940s with David Raskin’s ‘Laura’ and the Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer 1943 song, ‘My Shining Hour’ and then to 1950 with George Shearing’s ‘Conception’ before reaching into 1956 and ‘Just in Time’ by the trio of Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green.  As the record moves into the 1960s, listeners are treated to a performance of Miles Davis’ ‘Seven Steps to Heaven.’  The musical ride through the history of jazz ends in the 1970s and Wayne Shorter’s 1974 song, ‘Ana Maria.’  Simply put, what the album offers in the way of this record’s is a collection of songs that lifts from jazz standards from throughout the 20th century.   What’s more, the featured songs lift from a variety of jazz sub-genres.   ‘Conception’ for instance offers listeners something of a bebop style work. The inclusion of ‘Good Morning Heartache’ gives listeners a touch of blues-based jazz, on a different note.  One could even argue that the group’s take on ‘Just in Time’ is a post bop style composition, along with its source material.   It’s one more way in which the featured songs show their importance.  When the varied styles featured among the songs are considered along with the range of eras from which the songs are rooted, that in itself will make the album appealing for the history that they teach overall.

There is no doubt that the songs featured in Trio play their own important part to the record’s presentation.   Now, for all that the songs do for the record’s appeal, they lead in to a discussion on the record’s lone negative.  That negative is the lack of information in the album’s packaging about the songs’ original composers.  This lack of information can and does lead to confusion over who wrote which songs.  This critic will admit that in researching the songs – due to that lack of information – the connection of ‘The One Step’ to the original Dixieland Jazz Band was assumed.  It is very possible that this song in question was someone else’s especially in comparing the rendition here to that of the original Dixieland Jazz Band.  So overall, that lack of information is detrimental in that as demonstrated, it can and does lead to confusion about the songs’ roots among some audiences.  Directly connected to that is that the original composers are not getting credit where due.  This can become very problematic for Le Coq Records, since technically those credits are supposed to be provided since these are someone else’s works.  Le Coq Records’ Trio is just the latest to present this problem.  Andy James’ recently released album Tu Amor also suffered from this detriment.  That record was also released through Le Coq Records.  So again, this is something that the label’s officials likely do need to address.  If they don’t and this trend continues, it will cause increasing problems for the company and its artists.

While the lack of information on Trio’s songs is unquestionably problematic for the record’s presentation, it does not make the record a failure.  To its benefit, that lack of information could actually lead listeners to begin their own journey of musical discovery and maybe even a lifelong love of jazz, as a result of having to look up the information.  Moving on from that, there is still one more item to note here, and that is the group’s very performance of the songs.  The trio’s performance of ‘Good Morning Heartache’ for instance, gives the Billie Holiday classic a nice touch even without the strings that were so abundant in the original.  Even without Lady Day’s vocals here, listeners can still hear her voice here.  Cunliffe’s performance on the piano and Colaiuta’s performance on the drums are equally subtle here as in the original, making for even more enjoyment.  The  short and simple is that the song stays true to its source material, but still gives listeners something new and unique here that is also enjoyable.

The trio’s take on Thelonius Monk’s 1962 song ‘We See’ is another example of the importance of the performances featured here.  While the sax line from the original is absent here, Patitucci’s performance on stand-up bass takes on that part strongly.  At four minutes, 19 seconds, Patitucci and company’s version is far shorter than that of Monk’s original.  The original comes in at just under 12 minutes.  Even despite that, it has all the energy of the original.  Colaiuta’s drum solo adds even more spice to the group’s take on the song, making it just as enjoyable as its source material if not more so.

Cunliffe and company’s take on Wayne Shorter’s ‘Ana Maria’ is yet another example of the importance of the group’s performance of the record’s featured songs.  Patitucci seems to take on Shorter’s saxophone line on his bass while Cunliffe moves fluidly along with the original piano line.  Colaiuta’s performance on the drums once more adds a welcome subtlety to the song.  The whole of the song proves just as enjoyable as its source material.  When it is considered along with the other performances noted here and the rest of the group’s performances, the whole of those performances works with the importance of the songs themselves to make this record worth hearing at least occasionally. 

Le Coq Records’ recently released album Trio is a positive collaboration from its featured performers.  It is a presentation that any jazz lover will enjoy.  That is due in part to its featured covers.  The songs take listeners on a musical journey through the history of jazz in the 20th century and serves as a starting point for any discussion on the genre and its music.  While the record’s featured songs are themselves are undeniably important to its presentation, the lack of information on the songs anywhere in the record’s packaging detracts considerably from the compilation’s presentation.  It is not enough to make the record a failure.  The group’s performance of the songs puts the final touch to the record.  The group’s performances stay true to their source material, but also give the songs a somewhat new identity, making for even more interest.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Trio.  All things considered, they make Trio a presentation that any jazz fan will find worth hearing at least occasionally.  Trio is available now. 

More information on Le Coq Records is available along with all of the label’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://lecoqrecords.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/leCoqRecords

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

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.  

Le Coq Records’ ‘The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1’ Is A Compilation That Is Actually Worth Hearing

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Independent jazz label Le Coq Records is working hard early in he new year to put its footprint on the music world.  That was already made obvious last month through Latin jazz singer Andy James’ new album Tu Amor.  The label also has new music from Rick Margitza on the way Friday, as well as a new collection of songs titled Trio.  That latter record, schedule for release Feb. 19, brings together jazz legends John Pattituci, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Bill Cunliffe for a collection of songs that will entertain and engage listeners in its own right.  The three musicians are also featured on another recently released Le Coq Records record, the compilation set titled The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1.  The eight-song collection, also the first of this year’s new releases from Le Coq Records, is one of the first great jazz records of 2021.  Released Jan. 8, the 52-minute presentation stands out in part because of its featured songs, which will be addressed shortly.  The performances of said songs adds its own touch to the record’s presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The songs’ sequencing rounds everything out, completing the record’s presentation.  It will also be discussed later.  When it is considered along with the songs and the group’s performances thereof, the whole makes The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 a surprisingly entertaining and engaging compilation record.

Le Coq Records’ recently released compilation record The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 is a presentation that jazz aficionados of all walks will enjoy.  That is a strong statement, considering that it is first and foremost a compilation.  Compilations are, after all, typically little more than space filler presentations that acts and labels use to fulfill contractual obligations for given acts.  In this case, this compilation breaks that mold, opting instead to profile a group of superstar jazz musicians and their talents through a series of originals and covers.  That collection of songs in itself forms a solid foundation for the compilation.  That mix of originals and covers is evenly split through the record with four of each.  In terms of the covers, the record takes listeners all the way back to 1920, with a cover of the famous Al Jolson song ‘Avalon’ and as recent as 1959, through a cover of Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Afro Blue.’  Along the way, listeners are also taken back to 1931, with a cover of the Duke Ellington hit ‘Rockin’ in Rhythm’ and to 1936, with another Eillington hit, ‘Caravan.’  Those songs are both well-known and lesser-known, giving audiences a specific range of works at least in terms of the covers.  The originals meanwhile offer their own engagement and entertainment.  ‘Theme for FLOTUS’ for instance, which opens the album, is a modern jazz work that lends itself lightly to comparisons to works from the likes of Yellowjackets.  ‘Tu Wero Nui’ (roughly translated, it means ‘Your Great Challenge’) is another modern jazz work that will appeal to fans of said genre.  ‘Log Jammin’’ meanwhile harkens back to the work of the late, great Vince Guaraldi in the Peanuts TV specials.  It is in itself a special presentation hat changes things up in this record.  That will be discussed a little bit later.  ‘There You Go,’ the last of the originals featured in this record, takes audiences back to the Latin jazz clubs of the 1950s and ‘60s.  The use of the Latin percussion, drums, keyboards and horns collectively is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained throughout the course of its four minute, 33-second run time.  When this song and the other originals are considered wholly with the record’s equally enjoyable covers, the whole of that mass makes the record’s musical makeup reason enough in itself for jazz aficionados to hear this recording.  It is just one part of what makes the recording work as well as it does.  The performance of the songs adds its own appeal to the presentation.

The performances of the songs featured in The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 build on the foundation formed by the songs themselves.  Every jazz lover knows the steady, driving beat of the drums in ‘Caravan.’  It is a rhythm that is unmistakable.  The same applies with the clear Middle Eastern influence in the horns.  The Jazz All Stars’ take on the timeless classic gives that original a whole new identity.  Rather than using the same sense of mystery that is exuded through the original, the group instead gives the song more of a funky update here, making an opus that sounds more like something out of the 70s than the 1930s.  It lets the piano and vocals take center stage instead of the horns, which were front and center in the original song.  Gone, too from this rendition, are the Latin percussion elements used in the original.  The sax solo is yet another new touch that is certain to grab listeners’ attention.  Now with all of this in mind, for all of the updates that the group makes in this rendition, the original composition is still there.  It is, simply put, a composition that likely will not immediately grab listeners, but will possibly grow on some.  No doubt it will divide listeners, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  It means that the song will have achieved its goal of standing out, regardless.

‘Avalon’ is another cover that has received a whole new identity through the Jazz All Stars’ performance.  The original song is a sort of waltz style composition.  The balance of low brass, Jolson’s vocal delivery and what may be a string arrangement comes together to make the song a unique presentation in its own right.  Fast forward all the way to 2021 and the Jazz All Stars’ take on the song has taken it in a whole new direction.  The group’s approach here does still have a light waltz approach, but instead has more of a Latin approach.  The addition of Jake Langley’s guitar work and Cunliffe’s work on piano combines with those Latin influences to make the song a light work that sounds like it came right out of the 1960s instead, in some high society gathering.  It is yet another performance that is certain to divide audiences, but ultimately to the good because it has so re-imagined its source material.

As noted already, the original tune ‘Log Jammin’’ while original, harkens back to the work of the late, great Vince Guaraldi for the Peanuts TV specials.  The live performance of this song featured herein is another example of the importance of the performances of the featured songs.  The pairing of the vintage keyboard line from John Beasley with the horns and laid back groove of drumming great Marvin Smitty Smith immediately conjures thoughts of the works that Guaraldi composed during his career.  One can almost see Charlie Brown and company out on their adventures as the group performs.  It is a wonderful throw back to a greater era of jazz that still manages to hold its own against Guaraldi’s works, showing once more why even the performance here is so important to note.  When this performance and the others examined here are considered with the rest of the featured performances, the whole of that aspect make even clearer what makes this composition so engaging and entertaining.  The performances are still not the end of what make The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 a success.  The sequencing of the record’s songs rounds out its most important aspect.

It is clear in listening to The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 that plenty of thought and consideration went into its sequencing.  As has already been noted, the record is composed of both covers and originals.  Going deeper into that discussion, the covers and originals are clearly and intentionally divided.  The first half of the album is fleshed out with the originals while the album’s second half – its other four songs – is composed of the group’s covers.  One could argue that it would have made just as much sense to mix and match the originals and covers to make things even more interesting.  However, by dividing the two halves so distinctively, the group (and officials with Le Coq Records) took a road less traveled.  It made for a more natural progression, going from the original works right into the covers.  It actually makes for a much smoother progression for the album, and ensures even more that listeners will remain engaged and entertained. 

On yet another level, the sequencing is important to examine because of its impact on the songs’ energies.  ‘Theme for FLOTUS’ opens the album on a decidedly upbeat vibe.  It starts of lightly before gradually building as it progresses.  ‘Tu Wero Nui,’ which is interestingly enough the second longest track in this collection, immediately relaxes listeners after the energy of the album’s opener.  Things pick back up from there over the course of the next two songs – ‘Log Jammin’’ and ‘There You Go’ – before relaxing again somewhat in the group’s cover of ‘Afro Blue.’  The energy rises all over again in the record’s next two songs, the group’s covers of ‘Caravan’ and ‘Rockin in Rhythm’ before finally relaxing one last time in the noted cover of ‘Avalon.’  That finale is a wonderful way for the record to close out after the clearly well-thought out sequencing of the rest of the record.  It is a nice gentle accent to the record that will leave listeners feeling fulfilled by the time the song ends.  When this aspect of the record’s sequencing is considered along with the sequencing of the songs themselves, and with the songs and performances thereof, the whole makes the whole of this record more than just another throwaway compilation record.  It is a profile of great songs by great artists past and present that gives listeners the best of the old and new alike.  It gives great hope that The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2 will come sooner rather than later.

Le Coq Records’ compilation record The Jazz All Stars is a presentation that jazz aficionados across the board will find engaging and entertaining.  It is not just another run-of-the-mill compilation.  That is proven in part through its featured songs, which are a mix of new and old alike.  The performances of the songs makes for its own interest, as even the covers are not just copy and paste compositions.  They are works that give their source material whole new identities while still paying tribute to a point, to those works.  At the same time, the originals take listeners to great eras of jazz gone by, too.  The sequencing of those songs both in regards to themselves and their energies rounds out the most important of the album’s elements.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation.  All things considered, the record will leave listeners hoping The Jazz All Stars will follow sooner rather than later.  The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 is available now.

More information on Le Coq Records is available along with all of the label’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://lecoqrecords.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/leCoqRecords

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

Le Coq Records Launches, Announces First Releases

Courtesy: Le Coq Records

Fledgling record label Le Coq Records announced its initial slate of new releases for 2021.

Starting the label was a personal decision by its founder Piero Pata and his partner, according to information about the label’s launch. The information states Pata wanted an outlet for her to return to jazz singing after spending much of her career as a Flamenco dancer.

Pata said in his own statement that the decision to launch the label also led to the decision to help other musical artists.

“As we embarked on this process, we met so many wonderful players,” said Pata. “We soon realized that Le Coq could be an ideal avenue to get their music out to the world.”

Keyboardist Bill Cunliffe, one of many artists already signed to Le Coq Records, spoke warmly of Pata when asked about joining the upstart label.

“Piero is great to work with because he’s all about the music,” said Cunliffe. “He shares that quality with all the great jazz producers. He’s also an artist himself, so he knows good from bad and he gives me the freedom to do what I need to do things right. No one can ask for a better producer than that.”

Le Coq Records Engineer Josh Connolly (Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar), echoed Cunliffe’s comments.

“Piero has a vision for quality,” said Connolly. “That’s true in everything that he does. He gives the artists complete creative freedom when it comes to the music, but he brings great ideas to the table. He likes to create situations that take people a little out of their comfort zones, but that can lead to something new. He provides an environment that is very nurturing and fruitful, which honestly doesn’t happen too often.”

Along with Cunliffe, Le Coq Records already boasts a roster that includes but is not limited to acts, such as keyboardist John Beasley, bassist John Pattituci, and famed drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith and his fellow drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Also on the label’s roster are vocalist Andy James, percussionist Alex Acuna, saxophonist Ralph Moore, and trumpeter Terell Stafford.

Many of the noted artists will feature on Le Coq Records’ forthcoming compilation record Le Coq Records presents The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1. The compilation is scheduled for release Jan. 8. James’ own record Tu Amor will follow on Jan. 22.

Saxophonist Rick Rick Margitza’s new record Sacred Hearts is set for release Feb. 5. A new, as yet untitled collaboration between Cunliffe, Pattituci, and Colaiuta is scheduled for release Feb. 19.

More information on Le Coq Records is available along with all of the label’s latest news at:

Website: http://lecoqrecords.com

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

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.