Dave Stryker’s New Album Deserves Attention In Plenty of Circles

Courtesy: Strikezone Records

Guitarist Dave Stryker apparently likes to keep himself busy.  Just last year, he worked with members of the WDR Big Band and Yellowjackets saxophonist Bob Mintzer on the record Blue Soul.  Additionally, he released the latest addition to his Eight Track series, and a holiday compilation in 2019.  As a matter of fact, going all the way back to his1988 debut record First Strike, Stryker has gone no more than two years between new albums, both as a band leader and as a member of a given group.  One would think that considering this, Stryker would have burned himself out by now.  His latest album, Baker’s Circle seems to say otherwise, though.  Released March 5, Baker’s Circle shows Stryker is still at the top of his game, along with his fellow musicians – Mayra Casales (percussion), McClenty Hunter (drums), Jared Gold (Organ), and Walter Smith III (tenor saxophone) – with little if any  sign of  slowing down.  This 10-song record impresses in part because of its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly.  The songs’ sequencing builds on the foundation formed by the songs themselves and will be examined a little later.  The album’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make Baker’s Circle another viable candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new jazz and blues albums.

Dave Stryker’s latest album, Baker’s Circle is an enjoyable presentation that any jazz enthusiast will find engaging and entertaining.  That is due in no small part to the album’s featured songs.  The songs in question are a mix of Stryker’s originals and a series of covers.  What’s important to note here is that in regards to the covers, they touch on more than one style of music.  The collective takes on a jazz standard in Cole Porter’s ‘Everything I Love,’ a well-known R&B song in a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’ and a pop song in the cover of Leon  Russell’s ‘Superstar.’  There is even a cover of Stanley Turrentine’s ‘Trouble (No. 2)’ here as part of the whole.  Given, covers make up the majority of the record (seven of the record’s 10 total songs are covers), but there is still a trio of original tunes here.  The originals are engaging and entertaining in their own way.  ‘Tough,’ the first of the originals and the album opener, blends Stryker’s subtle  guitar work with the work of Hunter and Gold to really give the song a big band feel and sound even with so few instruments.  The eventual addition of Smith’s work on saxophone — which at times sounds like it’s been layered — adds even more to the composition’s appeal.  It adds even more to that big band vibe in its own right, too.  That is a tribute to the work of the musicians and those behind the glass.  It is a great modern jazz piece that will still entertain jazz aficionados across the board.   ‘El Camino’ by comparison, has a bit more of a bluesy approach and sound.  That is evident through the organ, guitar, and Latin percussion.  ‘Dreamsong’ is even more bluesy than ‘El Camino.’  Smith takes center stage on this one while Hunter’s subtle time keeping partners with him and Gold to flesh out the song even more.  The three originals collectively make for plenty of engagement and entertainment within themselves.  When they are considered with the arrangements featured in the covers, the arrangements in whole give listeners plenty of reason to take in this record.  The arrangements are, collectively, just one part of what makes the album successful.  The song’s sequencing adds to that appeal.

What is important to note about the sequencing of Baker’s Circle is that it keeps the record’s energy relatively stable throughout its 57-minute run time.  While ‘Tough’ is subtle in its approach, Stryker’s performance on guitar opens the album on a high-energy note.  Audiences will note that from there, the energy gradually pulls back until it reaches its most relaxed point in ‘Everything I Love.’  ‘Rush Hour,’ the album’s midpoint, picks things back up with its hybrid bop/free jazz style approach.  So through the first half of the album, what audiences get is a record whose energy gradually and deliberately lessens up until its midpoint.  ‘Superstar,’ which immediately follows, is a direct contrast to ‘Rush Hour’ with its gentle, danceable slow jazz groove.  Stryker and company once again pick the energy right back up immediately after in ‘Baker’s Circle.’  ‘Inner City Blues’ keeps the groove going before the album pulls back once again in the even slower ‘Love Dance’ before giving way once more to something more energetic in ‘Trouble (No.  2).’  Looking back, it is evident that there was a deliberate approach taken to the sequencing of Baker’s Circle’s songs.  It starts off strong before gradually pulling back.  Once it reaches a certain point, the album picks back up, ensuring listeners’ engagement even more.  The energy pulls back again from that second crest before gradually picking back up again to close out the record.  The clear thought put into this sequencing paid off, as it, again, pays off in its own way.  The overall result here is that the sequencing does its own share to keep listeners engaged and entertained as the songs themselves.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is still one more item to examine in addressing what makes this album work.  That item is the record’s production.

The production here is important to discuss because it is that work that ensures the songs impact well not only because of how they are sequenced, but also because of how they sound.  That painstaking work paid off, too.  Whether in the album’s more relaxed moments or its busier songs, the instrumentation in each arrangement was so well-balanced.  The slower, more “reserved’ songs allow the subtleties in the drums, guitar, and saxophone to really shine through while the busier songs make sure that none of the musicians overpower one another.  The overall result here is that each arrangement is fully immersive.  To that end, the production of Baker’s Circle proves just as important to the album as its content and related sequencing.  All things considered, they make the album a viable candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new jazz albums.  That is the case even though the majority of the record is composed of covers.

Dave Stryker’s latest album, Baker’s Circle, is an enjoyable new offering from the veteran guitarist.  It is a presentation that his fans will appreciate just as much as those of the acts whose music is covered here.  That is due in no small part to the songs and the arrangements connected with each.  The sequencing of those songs adds even more appeal to the album thanks to the obviously intentional order.  It ensures the record’s energy rises and falls just enough at the right points.  The production of the songs ensures that each song sounds the best that it can, bringing everything full circle.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Baker’s Circle an enjoyable listen for any jazz fan.  The album is available now.  More information on the record is available along with all of Dave Stryker’s latest news at:

Website: https://davestryker.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.tryker.7

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Pop Singer-Songwriter’s New LP Is The Best Of 2020’s Best In Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums List

Courtesy: Wicked Cool Records

The musical universe spawned so much great music this year. From rock to rap to pop to country, jazz, and even family music, the musical universe gave audiences a lot to like about 2020.  For all of the entertaining and engaging music that was released this year some proved to be the best of its given categories.  Not all of that music could be the best of the best though.  Only certain records could obtain that title, and they come this year from a wide range of genres.  The Okee Dokee Brothers and their new album Songs For Singin’ are here among the best of the best in Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year.  They are joined by new albums from the likes of Sons of Apollo, Ricky Byrd, and The Devonns among others.  Topping this year’s list of the best of the best is Jessie Wagner’s new album Shoes Droppin’. 

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, the Year’s top new albums list features the year’s Top 10 new albums and give honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

  1. Jessie Wagner – Shoes Droppin’
  2. Chris Stapleton —  Starting Over
  3. Sons of Apollo – MMXX
  4. Yellowackets – Jackets XL
  5. U.D.O. – We Are 1
  6. Ricky Byrd – Sobering Times
  7. Deep Purple – Whoosh!
  8. The Devonns – The Devonns
  9. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V
  10. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI
  11. Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
  12. The Okee Dokee Brothers – Songs For Singin
  13. The Tibbs – Another Shot Fired
  14. Ala.ni – ACCA
  15. Ben Harper – Winter is for Lovers

Now that all the music lists are done, it is on to the DVD and Blu-ray releases.  Up first in that side of things is the year’s Top 10 New Documentaries.  Stay tuned for that.

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Yellowjackets’ Latest LP Is An “XL” Hit For The Band

Courtesy: Mack Avenue Music Group

Jazz fusion group Yellowjackets’ latest full-length studio recording Jackets XL is some of the band’s best work to date.  Released this past September, the album is also the best of this year’s new jazz and blues albums.  That is proven in part through the record’s featured arrangements, which will be addressed shortly.  The sequencing of those arrangements couples with the works to make the album even more appealing.  This aspect will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production puts the final touch to the presentation that is Jackets XL.  It will also be discussed later.  All three elements are, in their own way, important to the whole of this record.  All things considered, they make Jackets XL a successful new effort that jazz fans will enjoy just as much as Yellowjackets’ established fan base.

Yellowjackets’ latest album Jackets XL is a strong new offering from the veteran jazz fusion group.  The arrangements that make up the body of the one hour, nine minute record for the foundation for this widely appealing presentation.  The arrangements are so notable because they take the quartet in various directions rather than just sticking to its familiar electronic approach.  Right from the record’s opening, audiences are treated to a modern big band jazz composition whose up-beat arrangement immediately ensures listeners’ engagement an entertainment.  The horns and the drums make a great foundation for the arrangement while the bass work of Dane Alderson adds its own welcome accent to the work, not just in his solos, but throughout the course of the six-and-a-half-minute composition.  The whole of those and other elements makes the song in whole a great start to the album and just one of the most notable of the record’s arrangements.

While the album’s opener takes the band in a new direction (and brings listeners along for the ride), the band also brings something a little bit more familiar in terms of the arrangements in ‘The Red Sea,’ which is early in the album’s run.  The nearly eight-minute composition takes audiences back to the sounds of its self-titled 1981 album that really set such a tone for this group from that moment on.  The light keyboards and the tight time keeping pair with the more subtle addition of the big band, to maintain the song’s own unique identity separate from its counterparts.  It is important to note again, the subtlety of the big band element in this composition.  It is there, but is less prominent.  It is more of a “supporting element” here, used to add a little something extra to the band’s more familiar sound, and it succeeds in its use here, too.  The whole of the arrangements within the bigger composition makes the song in whole another prime example of why the album’s musical arrangements so important to its presentation.  ‘Revelation,’ which closes out the album, brings listeners to Yellowjackets’ more recent era, and is one more way in which the album’s arrangements show their importance.

The arrangement featured in ‘Revelation’ is reminiscent of works featured in Yellowjackets’ 1998 album Club Nocturne.  That is evidenced in the use of the piano and drums, primarily.  The addition of the big band element to the composition adds a new twist to the song, enhancing the arrangement even more.  Its own unique identity in the bigger picture of the album shows even more, the diversity in the album’s musical arrangements, and in the bigger picture, why the album’s arrangements are important to its presentation.  When these examined arrangements are discussed along with the rest of the album’s works, the record’s musical content forms a strong foundation for its presentation.  When the arrangements are considered along with their sequencing, the album’s foundation is strengthened even more.

The sequencing of Jackets XL’s arrangements is important because it is this element that ensures the record’s energy remains stable throughout.  The sequencing featured here is important because a close listen reveals some clear attention to detail.  The energy clearly changes between the album’s opener and its follow-up, ‘Dewey.’  The latter of the pair is so laid back by comparison.  It gives audiences a very funk style composition in comparison to the big band swing of the album’s opener.  From there, ‘Mile High’ and ‘The Red Sea’ change things up and pick the energy back up in their stylistic change before ‘Even Song,’ the album’s midpoint, pulls things back even more noticeably.  It serves as a good way to break up the album and keep things interesting.  After things pick right back up in ‘One Day,’ ‘Tokyo Tale’ pulls the album’s energy back once again, breaking things up once more the album’s energy rises yet again in ‘Imperial Strut.’  The energy falls once more in ‘Coherence,’ the album’s penultimate song, before the record closes out on one more high note in ‘Revelation.’  Looking back through the album, what can be obviously heard is that the album’s energy rises and falls in all of the right points.  At the same time, the stylistic approaches change just enough throughout the album’s 10 total songs to keep things interesting in this fashion, too.  All things considered, the sequencing of the arrangements featured in Jackets XL works with the featured arrangements to give listeners even more to enjoy.  Even keeping all of this in mind, the arrangements and their sequencing are just a portion of what makes Jackets XL such a success.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.

The production presented in Jackets XL is important to examine because of the fact that between the big band element and Yellowjackets’ own instrumentations, there is a lot going on throughout this record’s arrangements.  The horns add accents at some points, and serve as the center of other arrangements.  The keyboards, sax line and others all switch up along with the big band throughout.  That means that a lot of music is going on in each song.  That means that a lot of attention to detail had to take place in balancing dynamics and general instrumentation.  Audiences will be pleased to know that the painstaking efforts that were undertaken in this aspect paid off.  No one instrument or group of instruments overpowers the others at any point in the album’s run.  The result is that the album’s arrangements sound just as good because of this aspect as for their instrumentation.  Along with that, the sequencing of those arrangements plays its own important part to the album’s whole.  When all three elements are considered together, they make the album in whole a work that is a standout offering in this year’s field of new jazz and blues albums and from the band itself.

Yellowjackets’ new album Jackets XL is an impressive return for the veteran jazz fusion outfit.  It is a work that stands out among the band’s own catalog and among this year’s field of new jazz and blues albums.  That is proven in part through its arrangements, which do well to show the band’s past and present.  The sequencing of those arrangements adds even more appeal to the album because it changes the songs’ stylistic approaches and sounds just as much as the songs’ energies expertly.  The production of the album’s featured songs puts the finishing touch, making sure each instrument and performer’s part is balanced just as expertly within each composition.  Each item addressed here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Jackets XL a welcome addition to the music libraries of Yellowjackets’ fans and jazz aficionados alike.  They make the album the best of this year’s new jazz and blues albums and potentially one of the best new albums of the year overall.  Jackets XL is available now.  More information on Jackets XL is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.yellowjackets.com

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

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

Yellowjackets’ Big Band Collaboration Makes Its New LP An XL Success

Courtesy: Mack Avenue

Jazz and blues fans have had a lot to like this year.  That is because this year has produced so much enjoyable and memorable music from the two genres, which are so closely aligned.  From Yellowjackets’ new album Jackets XL to Joe Bonamassa’s new album Royal Tea to he Rev. Shawn Amos’ latest album Blue Sky and more, this year has seen so much great music released.  That being said, with the year winding down, critics are already releasing their lists of the year’s top new albums in these categories.  This critic is joining those ranks with a list of the best of the year’s new jazz and blues albums.

As with each list released by Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 new albums from the two genres and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW JAZ & BLUES ALBUMS

  1. Yellowjackets – Jackets XL
  2. Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
  3. Lisa Hilton – More Than Another Day
  4. The Rev. Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky
  5. Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
  6. Melody Gardot – Sunset In Blue
  7. Dion – Blues With Friends
  8. Ronie Earl & The Broadcasters – Rise Up
  9. Shadow & The Thrill – Sugarbowl
  10. Diana Krall – This Dream Of You
  11. Sugar Ray & The Bluetones – Too Far From The Bar
  12. Carol Welsman – Dance With Me
  13. The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Blues
  14. The Roots of Blues
  15. The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues

Next up from Phil’s Picks is the Top 10 New World Music Albums from 2020.  Stay tuned for that. 


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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

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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

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Franti’s Latest LP “Rocks” Phil’s PIcks 2016 Albums Of The Year List

Michael Franti and Spearhead Soulrocker Cover Art

Courtesy: Fantasy Records

The time has come.  Today is New Year’s Eve eve.  That means 2016 is nearly in the books.  With that year right at it’s end, it’s time for the last two of this year’s Phil’s Picks best of lists.

Rounding out this year’s lists are the year’s top new albums overall and the year’s top new overall movies.  The year’s top new albums list is up first.  It was not an easy list to assemble either as there were so many stand out records released from across the musical universe’s many genres.

This year’s top albums list is represented by music from the jazz community, the world of children’s music, rock, blues, and even reggae in the form of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s new album Soulrocker.

As with every previous Phil’s Picks list, this list features Phil’s Picks’ top 10 new titles plus five honorable mention titles, bringing the total count to 15.  Having noted that here for you is Phil’s Picks 2016 Top 10 new albums.

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2016 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS

 

  1. Michael Franti & SpearheadSoulrocker

 

  1. Santana IV

 

  1. Joe BonamassaBlues of Desperation

 

  1. YellowjacketsCohearance

 

  1. FoghatUnder The Influence

 

  1. The Okee Dokee BrothersSaddle Up

 

  1. Songs of the Night: Dance Recordings by the Joseph C. Smith Orchestra 1916 – 1925

 

  1. Marian HillAct I

 

  1. Love and a .38Nomad

 

  1. Red Hot Chili PeppersThe Getaway

 

  1. Rich RobinsonFlux

 

  1. Charles Lloyd and the MarvelsI Long To See You

 

  1. Logan Richardson Shift

 

  1. Tedeschi Trucks BandLet Me Get By

 

  1. Mountain HeartBlue Sky

 

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Bonamassa’s New Blues Record Is No Desperate Act From The Veteran Performer

Courtesy J&R Adventures

Courtesy J&R Adventures

Phil’s Picks has focused a lot lately on rock and other genres of music in the vastness of the musical universe.  Today, the focus shifts away from those genres to something a little bit less mainstream.  In today’s list, Phil’s Picks presents the year’s best new Jazz and blues records.  This year’s list presents a wide variety of acts, from more well-known acts such as The Rolling Stones, Joe Bonamassa and Yellowjackets to perhaps lesser known, but still talented acts such as Hazmat Modine, Takuya Kuroda and others.  It wasn’t an easy list to work up, either.  That’s because there was so much great material out there this year.  Combining jazz and blues into one list didn’t make things any easier.  But it got done.

As with every other list, the Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums features the year’s top 10 new jazz and blues albums.  It also includes five honorable mention titles for a total count of 15 albums.  That is not to take away anything from those honorable mention titles.  They are enjoyable in their own right and deserved to be noted, too.  Enough rambling.  Here, for everyone’s consideration, is Phil’s Picks’ 2016 Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums.

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2016 TOP 10 NEW JAZZ AND BLUES ALBUMS

 

  1. Joe Bonamassa – Blues of Desperation

 

  1. YellowjacketsCohearance

 

  1. Joseph C. Smith OrchestraSongs of the Night

 

  1. John Coletrane – Trane 90

 

  1. The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

 

  1. James Hunter SixHold On!

 

  1. Takuya KurodaZiggerzagger

 

  1. Fela Ransom Kuti & His Koola LubitesHigh Life: Jazz & Afro Soul (’63 – ’69)

 

  1. Gregory PorterTake Me To The Alley

 

  1. Quinn SullivanMidnight Highway

 

  1. Charles Lloyd & The MarvelsI Long To See You

 

  1. Logan RichardsonShift

 

  1. Hazmat ModineExtra – Deluxe – Supreme

 

  1. Keely Smith – The Intimate Keely Smith

 

  1. Jazz Haunts & Magic Vaults – The New Lost Classics of Resonance

 

 

 

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ESPN Family Of Networks Covering Entire Men’s 2014 NIT

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The 77th annual National Invitation Tournament (NIT) tips off tonight and the ESPN family of networks will have exclusive coverage of the entire tournament.

Every game of the annual NIT will be carried across the ESPN family of networks and online on ESPN3 via WatchESPN.  Round One tips off tonight at 7pm with games on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU.  The Mountaineers of West Virginia will take on the Georgetown Hoyas on ESPN, while the Florida State Seminoles will face Florida Gulf Coast on ESPN2.  The third of the 7pm games sees Robert Morris on the road against St. John’s on ESPNU.  St. John’s is making a record 30th appearance in this year’s NIT and is one of six teams in this year’s tournament that also made an appearance in the 2013 NIT.  The other five teams on that list are: Florida State, Indiana State, Louisiana Tech, Robert Morris, and Southern Miss.

Illinois and Boston University lead off coverage of Day Two at 7pm on ESPN2 with Iona and Louisiana Tech following at 7:30pm on ESPN3 at 7:30pm ET.  Florida Gulf Coast reached the NCAA Tournament’s “Sweet Sixteen” round in 2013.  This year marks the first time that the school will play in the NIT.  It is one of three schools that will make its first ever appearance in the NIT this year.  The other two schools making their first appearance in the NIT this year are High Point and Utah Valley.

Round Two of the NIT is March 20th – 24th.  Quarterfinals are scheduled for March 25th – 26th.  Semifinals are April 1st and the NIT Championship follows April 3rd.

The complete NIT First Round coverage schedule is listed below.

2014 NIT First Round Schedule:

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Tue, March 18 7 p.m. NIT First Round: West Virginia at Georgetown
Mike Patrick & Dan Dakich
ESPN
7 p.m. NIT First Round: Florida Gulf Coast at Florida State
Mark Jones & Darrin Horn
ESPN2
7 p.m. NIT First Round: Robert Morris at St. John’s
Dave Pasch & Tim Welsh
ESPNU
8:15 p.m. NIT First Round: High Point at Minnesota
Clay Matvick & Mark Wise
ESPN3
8:15 p.m. NIT First Round: Belmont at Green Bay
Jim Barbar & Sean Harrington
ESPN3
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Indiana State at Arkansas
Brad Nessler & Jimmy Dykes
ESPN
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Davidson at Missouri
Bob Wischusen & Malcolm Huckaby
ESPN2
9 p.m. NIT First Round: Georgia State at Clemson
Tom Hart & Bob Valvano
ESPNU
11 p.m. NIT First Round: Utah at St. Mary’s
Dave Flemming & Sean Farnham
ESPN2
Wed, March 19 7 p.m. NIT First Round: Illinois at Boston University
Sean McDonough & Tim Welsh
ESPN2
7:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Iona at Louisiana Tech
Brett Dolan & Daymeon Fishback
ESPN3
8 p.m. NIT First Round: Vermont at Georgia
Joe Davis & Dino Gaudio
ESPNU
8:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Toledo at Southern Miss
Roy Philpott & Joe Dean
ESPN3
9 p.m. NIT First Round: UC Irvine at SMU
John Saunders & Fran Fraschilla
ESPN2
10 p.m. NIT First Round: LSU at San Francisco
Roxy Bernstein & Bill Walton
ESPNU
10:30 p.m. NIT First Round: Utah Valley at California
Trey Bender & Jon Crispin
ESPN3

 

More information on the ESPN family of networks’ coverage of the NIT is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ESPNCollegeBasketball and http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Yellowjackets Take The Top Spot As The Year’s Best New Album Overall

Courtesy:  Mack Avenue Records

Courtesy: Mack Avenue Records

A Rise in the Road, the latest release from the pioneer jazz-fusion group Yellowjackets has been largely met with mixed reviews.  This is an album that fans either have loved or hated.  There seems to be little to no grey area at all with this album.  But in this critic’s own personal opinion, the band has never sounded better.  This latest record takes audiences back to the days of Blue Hats and other similar previous Yellowjackets releases.  Gone are the electric additions used in so many of the band’s other albums.  This is a fully acoustic record that is perfection from start to finish.

The band writes in the liner notes of its new album, “It’s hard to believe that Yellowjackets is now thirty-two years old.  No thirty-two year journey is one long stretch of level highway.  Along the way, one invariably encounters a rise in the road…We now find ourselves moving purposefully with renewed energy up that rise in the road.”  That could not have been better stated.  Right from the album’s opener, ‘When The Lady Dances’, one gets images of a high class jazz club, and people dancing happily, while others enjoy a drink at the bar.  One can almost see a camera panning and zooming slowly, focusing on one woman in particular.  She is dressed quite well, dancing quite happily with her male partner.  Being the album’s opener, it is a perfect first impression from the band, whose most recent album, Timeline, was released two years ago.  Founding member Bob Mintzer has never sounded better as he presents the main musical storyline on his sax.  And drummer Will Kennedy, who returns after being absent from the band for many years, keeps a solid backbeat offering a certain extra “seasoning” where needed.   Much the same can be said of longtime keyboardist Russell Ferrante.

The band members offer listeners plenty of energy in the first half of its new album.  So it’s just fitting that when it reaches its mid-point, the band slows things down quite a bit.  ‘Longing’ is another of those pieces that is so fittingly titled.  Again, Ferrante shines here.  This time, he partners with new bassist Felix Pastorius to paint a fully encompassing and touching musical picture.  Listeners get in ‘Longing’ perhaps a Central Park scene in early Fall.  Someone is standing on a small bridge over a stream, leaves falling around them, a cool breeze blowing.  This person could be a man or woman.  And the person in question is contemplating perhaps a missed chance at love or another social situation.  Ferrante’s gentle strains on the keyboards present that deep emotion and the setting alongside Pastorius’ bass lines.  Kennedy’s drumming and cymbal work serve to finalize that picture.  It all comes together to make ‘Longing’ one of the highest of highs on this record.   For those wondering why Pastorius’ name sound familiar, it should.  He is the son of the late great Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius.  As the band writes in its liner notes, its members had been friends with Jaco for many years before his passing.  So it was just fitting that he filled the shoes of longtime bassist Jimmy Haslip.

The musical pictures painted through A Rise in the Road run the gamut.  Regardless of the scene and emotion, those pictures are so rich and vivid.  And just as the band can paint some rich musical pictures and textures, it can also pain quite the thought provoking picture, too.  A prime example of the band’s ability to do so comes in ‘An Amber Shade of Blue.’  One could argue that the bizarre musical tapestry painted in this near seven-minute song harkens back to the golden era of bop.  Ferrante’s piano licks, Kennedy’s polyrhythmic patterns, and the trumpet playing of guest musician Ambrose Akinmusire feels entirely improvisational here, versus the more structured vibe of the album’s other songs.  A comparison to music from Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool could be made with this song.  It is one more example of what makes A Rise in the Road such an outstanding album from this group of highly talented veteran musicians.  It’s an example of why any fan of this veteran jazz act should give this record at least one listen.  Many might find after one listen that it’s worth well more than just one listen.  It’s worth every listen every time.

European fans of the band will get to see the band live this month as it makes its way across the continent.  It will perform in Copenhagen two nights on October 18th and 19th before heading to Germany on the 21st, 22nd, and 25th.  The band will wind down 2013 with a performance in North Carolina’s “Queen City” on December 14th.  The band will be at the Knight Theatre in Charlotte at 8pm that evening.  Information on other tour dates and more is available online at http://www.yellowjackets.com and http://www.facebook.com/yellowjacketsmusic.  And 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.