Audiences Will Reflect Fondly On Foster’s Latest LP

Courtesy: Smoke Sessions Records

Early this year, renowned jazz drummer Al Foster celebrated a big milestone when he celebrated his 79th birthday.  That was back in January.  Now as the year slowly inches toward its end, Foster has another reason to celebrate.  That reason is his brand-new album, Reflections.  His second for Smoke Sessions Records and his seventh as a bandleader, the 11-song record is an enjoyable collection of originals and covers.  The covers pay tribute to the likes of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson (all of whom he has worked with during his expansive career) while the originals offer their own share of engagement and entertainment.  Among the most notable of the covers is that of Rollins’ ‘Pent-up House,’ which comes early in the album’s hour-plus run.  To be precise, the album clocks in at one hour, seven minutes.  Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which comes just at the album’s midpoint.  It will be examined a little later.  Another notable addition to the album is its finale, ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which obviously pays tribute to another legendary jazz artist, Thelonius Monk.  All three songs noted here are key in their own way to the album’s presentation.  When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the whole becomes a thoroughly enjoyable offering that every jazz fan will find enjoyable.

Reflections, the latest album from famed drummer Al Foster, is an enjoyable presentation that any jazz aficionado will find enjoyable.  That is proven throughout its blend of originals and covers.  Among the most notable of the record’s covers is that of Sonny Rollins’ ‘Pent-Up House.’  Rollins’ original was featured as part of his 1956 album, Sonny Rollins Plus 4.  Foster and his fellow musicians – Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (saxophone), Kevin Hays (piano), and Vicente Archer (bass) – stay true to the source material here.  Right from the song’s outset, Payton leads the way with his light but still energetic performance.  Given, Rollins’ original tops the eight-minute mark while Foster and company’s take on the song is much shorter at five minutes, five seconds, but it still pays the fullest possible tribute to the work of Rollins and his then band mates.  Potter’s work on saxophone takes the place of the solos from the original and does so quite well at that.  There are also some solos in the original performed by Foster’s fellow famed drummer Max Roach that are omitted in the updated rendition, but that is beside the point.  This group’s take will still leave listeners fulfilled by its finale.  It is just as enjoyable in its own right as the original song.

Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which serves as part of the record’s midpoint.  Composed by Payton, the eight-minute-plus composition starts out in a very subtle, contemplative fashion before giving way to a more vintage funk style approach.  That throwback style is evident through the use of the horns and keyboards.  Foster’s equally funky time keeping pairs with those instruments to really give the song the sense of a work from the likes of Stevie Wonder.  Considering the amount of information in the album’s expansive liner notes, it is difficult to know for certain if there is any discussion on the song, though many of the other songs are discussed.  That aside, the song is still such an enjoyable work.  The pairing of Payton and Potter alongside Hays (whose work on the keyboards really adds even more to that feeling) really makes the composition all the richer.  It stands out so starkly from any of the album’s other works, original and otherwise and it just one more of the notable additions to the album.  ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which serves as the album’s finale, is one more interesting original featured as part of the album’s body.

‘Monk’s Bossa’ is an interesting work what with its sort of lounge style presentation.  Hays leads the way with his work on the keys here while Foster’s light touches on the toms expertly compliments that work.  That is because his playing is so gentle.  He adds just enough, making sure to let Hays have his moment here.  Potter and Payton each get their own moments to shine, too, making the most of their performances, too.  The whole of the performances makes this song just as enjoyable as any other in the record.  When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Foster’s latest album engaging and entertaining and another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.

Al Foster’s newly released album, Reflections, is an aptly titled record that so many jazz fans will find enjoyable.  That is proven throughout its hour-plus body through its originals and covers alike.  The songs examined here do well in their own right to make that clear.  When they are considered with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Reflections another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.

Reflections is available now through Smoke Sessions Records. More information on this and other titles from Smoke Sessions Records is available at:




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Adage Could Be North Carolina’s Next Big Name In Music

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

Austin, Texas.  Seattle, Washington.  Los Angeles, California. Atlanta, Georgia.  New York, New York.  Most people reading this right now are likely scratching their heads where this is going.  The answer is simple.  The cities noted here are some of America’s biggest hotbeds in the music industry.  They aren’t the industry’s only major hotbeds, though. Most people might not know it, but North Carolina as a whole state is a music hotbed within itself.  As a matter of fact, North Carolina could be argued to be one of the biggest musical hotbeds in America.  That’s because of the variety of major name acts that have called North Carolina home throughout the ages.  Jazz pioneers such as Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Max Roach all called North Carolina home as did fellow jazz great Billy Taylor. Taylor hailed from Greenville, North Carolina while Monk and Coletrane came from Rocky Mount and High Point respectively.  The Fabulous Corsairs, which featured famed singer-songwriter James Taylor called Chapel Hill home.  In terms of the world of rock, the world renowned Corrosion of Conformity is still performing and recording today.  As a matter of fact, COC released its latest album earlier this year.  The band calls The Old North State’s capital city Raleigh home.  Delta Rae, which is one of the biggest of North Carolina’s biggest acts today calls Durham home as does indie band Bombadil.  Of course one can’t forget the likes of The Avett Brothers, Parmalee, Between The Buried and Me, or Trioscapes among so many others.  Now another young up and coming band has added its name to that list of bands and artists that have made North Carolina the rich musical hotbed that it is for so many decades thanks to its new EP Defined.  The band’s debut for Pavement Entertainment presents great potential for the Winston-Salem based band even with only a total of five songs.  The songs included on this record exhibit influence from bands such as Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, and to a lesser extent Trapt.  What’s more any of the songs included on this disc could easily be used as a single to promote the band.  That is obvious right off the top in the EP’s opening number ‘Anymore.’  It is just as obvious on the EP’s third and final songs, ‘Hold On’ and ‘By Myself’ respectively.’  ‘Best Of’ and ‘Growing Colder’ are also excellent examples of what audiences can expect from Adage’s new EP.  Collectively, the songs included on this record show Adage as a band that is on the brink of adding its name to the list of North Carolina’s biggest bands and artists.

The members of Adage show why the band is close to becoming another of North Carolina’s most well-known and talked about acts right from the outset of its new EP in the song ‘Anymore’  The song’s agro-rock stlye sound hints at influences both from the likes of Trapt and even Taproot to a slightly lesser extent.  Drummer Alex Hough’s timekeeping in this piece is exception especially considering the polyrhythmic patterns that he handles while keeping time for the band.  And the 1-2 punch of guitarist Luke and vocalist Justin Doyle heightens the song’s energy and emotion as well.  There is a certain furiousness in Doyle’s voice as he sings over the equally driving guitar line, “Everytime you look in my eyes you lie/And tell me everything’s alright/I know you don’t feel it anymore…I hate you/For all you’ve done to me/Some things you never see/And I don’t care.”  Songs about breakups are nothing new to the music industry.  They go back as far as the industry’s own beginnings it would seem.  But those songs that take the high road instead of the depression oh-woe-is-me angle are rather few and far between.  So when angrier, more aggressive pieces such as this one come along, they are a welcome change of pace.  That more aggressive lyrical and musical style that collectively make up this song makes it an instant radio ready song and a good representation of the band’s work on Defined.

As with ‘Anymore,’ ‘Hold On’ is also centered in the standard lyrical theme of relationships.  It also boasts the same agro-rock style that made so many bands in the late 90s and early 2000s fan favorites.  This song absolutely cries “LIVE” because of that sound.  Doyle sings Sorry that I’m not perfect/One day I will be worth it/To you/So hold on/I can’t ever find the right words/For saying nothing is so much worse to you/Hold on/All of this will come together/And I promise you/I promise you/Say goodbye for you.”  This song comes across as the polar opposite to the EP’s opener in that it seems more like his subject here is pleading for a woman to stay around versus the self-assured figure in ‘Anymore.’  He is trying his hardest to convince her to stay.  The musical comparison to the band’s bigger named counterparts only serves to make the song even more entertaining for audiences.  It goes to show the caliber of material the band is presenting here.  And that caliber is high, needless to say.  Together with ‘Anymore’ it makes for even more reason for fans to check out this EP when it drops August 19th.

Both ‘Anymore’ and ‘Hold On’ are good examples of what makes Defined an impressive new release from Adage.  Of the EP’s five songs, though there is still one more example of what makes this release the work that could potentially make Adage North Carolina’s next big name.  That song is the EP’s closer ‘By Myself.’  This song is a good way for the band to have closed out Defined.  It was such a good choice for a closer in that it shows the band’s softer side.  It’s a more melodic piece.  And among the EP’s five songs, it is perhaps the strongest candidate of all for the song that really breaks out the band.  Doyle sings in this song, “I’m crying out/Out for help/I just can’t be by myself/Remember how/How I felt/I just can’t see/By myself/I hear it from all sides/On how I should love you/I can’t make up my mind/On anything I do/Why am I here/Why won’t you just take me home/Why am I here/Why won’t you just leave me alone.”  The guitar breaks that follow the chorus are right up there with the likes of Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge) and other top named guitarists.  That along with the power in Doyle’s vocals make this song just as fitting a closer as ‘Anymore’ is the opener for the record.  Such a powerful final statement along with the EP’s other noted songs (and the pair not mentioned) seals the deal for Adage and for Defined.  It is the final piece of musical evidence proving why Adage is on the verge of becoming North Carolina’s next big name.

Defined will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 19th via Pavement Entertainment.  Audiences can check out the songs from Defined online now via Adage’s ReverbNation website at while they wait for the EP to drop.  They can also keep up with the band’s latest tour dates through that website and the band’s official Facebook page at  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at