Sunday, May 28, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Seven

Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne

By Peter Bacon
We know the WDR is a fine band, so exemplary ensemble playing with striking soloists is to be expected. But the compositional and arranging skill that the Connecticut-born Vince Mendoza - former Metropole Orchestra MD, arranger to everyone from Joe Zawinul to Joni Mitchell and resultant multi-Grammy winner - brings to the party lifts the band up further into the sumptuous fertile high grounds of jazz orchestra land.
Homecoming is the right title, for it was with the Cologne band that Mendoza added further big band wallop to the already punchy Zawinul material for the album Brown Street, and he has done various other projects with them as guest arranger. It's a very happy reunion.
Here the tunes are all Mendoza's own, and they have all those characteristic Mendoza elements: cinematic breadth, emotional tug, funkiness, classical structure, romance, wit, Latin tang.
The opener, Keep It Up, is a happy coalescence of soul-funk for the rhythm boys John Goldsby on fat bass guitar, Hans Dekker on drums and Marcio Doctor as guest percussionist, with expert big band writing over it and searing solos from guitarist Paul Shigihara and tenor saxophonist Paul Heller.
Little Voice does something that is special to Mendoza - the ability to construct a thoroughly satisfying piece of music without any clear, strong melody, reliant on gossamer light suggestions of a tune while strong on atmosphere and harmonic richness. There is one falling chord change which never fails to bring a catch in the chest, it’s so exquisitely sad.
Choros #3 has the Latin groove allied to soaring orchestral parts blossoming around Andy Hunter's trombone solo, with a fugue-like finale The title tune has all the loping, cruising, travelling 6/8 rhythm of a hope-filled homeward journey - the cover gives an establishing shot and it's easy to add the rest of the movie in one's mind's eye.
Also worth noting throughout the album is the marvellous pliancy of the band’s dynamic range and control of push and pull, which is built into Mendoza’s expert arrangements but is given full effect by the virtuosity of the band.
Recorded live over two nights in 2014, other standout soloists are Karolina Strassmayer on alto saxophone, John Marshall on trumpet and Frank Chastenier on piano, but for me it’s the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts with the WDR, especially when playing Vince Mendoza’s exquisite music.

Ken Schaphorst Big Band
How To Say Goodbye

By Filipe Freitas
Ken Schaphorst, a composer, trumpeter, and educator with more than a decade of experience leading big bands, counts on a great lineup of musicians and friends, including a few former students from the New England Conservatory in Boston. Schaphorst’s modern big bands are typically packed with trendy and inventive jazz instrumentalists, and for this new album, entitled How To Say Goodbye, he maintains this feature. Donny McCaslin, Ralph Alessi, Chris Cheek, Uri Caine, Jay Anderson, and Matt Wilson are incredible performers that need none introduction.
Shifty and animated, the title track immediately lets us know about Schaphorst’s art of orchestration. The tune was written for the trumpeter John Carlson, who evinces an absolute confidence and takes the lead through thoughtful moves.
“Blues for Herb”, dedicated to trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, borrows the fundamental elements of Duke Ellington, adds a touch of Mingus, and jolts with the striking, articulated verbalization of McCaslin on tenor. The engaging saxophonist shines once more in the first part of “Mbira”, an African celebration of exultant rhythms and joyful disposition. The guitarist Brad Shepik assumes a similar role in the second part of the tune, injecting scented folkish sounds and showing how comfortable he moves within the fusion genre.
While the city of Boston is recalled in “Green City”, a tune that evolves harmoniously with a 3/4 time signature, the music of Astor Piazzola was a strong inspiration for “Amnesia”, which is dedicated to Schaphorst’s late grandmother. The former features Chris Cheek on tenor sax, and the latter is dominated by the alto of Michael Thomas.
“Take Back the Country” is another tribute to one of the bandleader’s mentors, the celebrated trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. His influences are blended with Gerry Mulligan’s way, and this combination is fueled by penetrating improvisations of Luis Bonilla on trombone and Brian Landrus on baritone sax.
Schaphorst also takes the opportunity to display his skills on trumpet in “Global Sweet”, a somewhat spiritual chant enveloped in glamour.
The album couldn’t have had a better ending with “Descent”, an impulsively groovy (impeccable foundation by Jay Anderson and Matt Wilson) and vividly swinging piece that shakes us with its emotional robustness. The tune features the irresistible pianist Uri Caine, who becomes lyrical whenever accompanying and effusive when improvising, and also Ralph Alessi, whose melodic movements and rhythmic contortions are both impressive and opportune.
Schaphorst’s genius compositions come from the heart and the thankfulness toward the talents who have been sharing music with him is translated into honest tributes and magical reciprocation. Unabated, How To Say Goodbye was beautifully conceived, standing as one of the big band favorite albums of 2016.
Ken Schaphorst: composer, trumpet, Fender Rhodes;/ Donny McCaslin and Chris Cheek: tenor sax;/ Michael Thomas and Jeremy Udden: alto sax;/ Michael Landrus: baritone sax, bass clarinet;/ Ralph Alessi, John Carlson, Dave Ballou, and Tony Kadleck: trumpet;/ Luis Bonilla, Curtis Hasselbring, Jason Jackson:/ trombone; Jennifer Wharton:/ bass trombone;/ Brad Shepik: guitar;/ Uri Caine: piano;/ Jerry Leake: percussion;/ Jay Anderson: bass;/ Matt Wilson: drums.

Mike Jones Trio

By Dan Bilawski
The musical legacy of The Roaring Twenties is alive and kicking. For his second date on the Capri imprint, pianist Mike Jones decided to pull together a collection of Jazz Age nuggets and drop into the studio for a nonchalant session with bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek—a blue-chip rhythm duo whose musical stock has steadily been on the rise in the past few years. Jones had never recorded with the pair before, there were no rehearsals, and everything, save for one number, was said and done in one take. You'd just never know that from listening. This trio gels in all the right ways as it swings its way through a winning program of classics.
While every track on Roaring is tied together through time and age, there's more variation here than you might expect. Quite often it simply comes through the way the tempo and swing feel are chosen and calibrated. On one track these three might be working a cool and hip angle ("Yes Sir, That's My Baby"), on another they might be speeding down the thoroughfare ("I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me"), and on a third they may slowly glide along ("Am I Blue"). All three of those examples swing, but they do so in very different ways. Add to that some other numbers in completely different realms—a reflective solo piano saloon song ("What'll I Do"), a peppy take on the Latin sound from another time ("I'll See You In Cuba")—and you have more than enough variety to satisfy the ears.
Jones is a pianist with many gifts, both technical and interpretive in nature, but he never takes to preening through his piano work. He simply enjoys sitting behind the instrument and giving a song a spin. He can prance, pounce, and deliver a blinding flurry across the keys as well as anyone, but he's not using artifice as a sales tool. He's playing music, and he's just as likely to charm with a small gesture as he is to impress with a grand artistic stroke. Thiroux and Witek, likewise, are all about the sound and the songs. They stand tall and speak for a form of the music that's sorely missed in today's too clever by half jazz atmosphere. While Roaring doesn't represent anything strikingly new or different, it's certainly noteworthy. It perfectly zones in on the spirit of jazz, serving all the while as a strong tribute to a much-loved period.
Track Listing: 
Yes Sir, That's My Baby; If I Had You; I'll See You In Cuba; Home; Mean To Me; I Found A New Baby; Me And My Shadow; What'll I Do; I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me; Am I Blue.
Mike Jones: piano; Katie Thiroux: bass; Matt Witek: drums.

Banda Mantiqueira
Com Alma

By Carlos Calado
Manter uma orquestra ativa durante 25 anos já é por si só uma proeza, mas os músicos da Banda Mantiqueira e seus fãs têm mais a comemorar com o lançamento deste álbum. Basta ouvir algumas faixas para comprovar que a aventura iniciada por essa big band paulistana, em 1991, resultou em uma linguagem instrumental brasileira que não se fecha às enriquecedoras influências de outras tradições musicais.
“Nos últimos anos, conseguimos aprimorar uma concepção musical mais aberta, que promove um encontro da música popular brasileira com o jazz e a música clássica”, resume o clarinetista e saxofonista Nailor “Proveta” Azevedo, referindo-se ao período que sucedeu o lançamento de “Terra Amantiquira” (2005), o álbum anterior da orquestra.
Para quem sentiu falta de um novo disco da Banda Mantiqueira, na última década, o fundador e líder explica que vários de seus integrantes, assim como ele, têm dedicado mais tempo ao ensino musical, buscando transmitir a linguagem da banda às novas gerações. Paralelamente, a banda participou de projetos com talentosas intérpretes da canção brasileira, como Mônica Salmaso, Rosa Passos, Fabiana Cozza e Anaí Rosa.
“Passamos esses dez anos sem gravar outro disco, mas, por outro lado, a gente cresceu muito musicalmente. Tocar e conviver com outros músicos ajuda a amadurecer. Os projetos com essas cantoras, assim como nossas atividades pedagógicas, trouxeram mais experiência para os músicos da banda”, avalia Proveta.
“Com Alma” representa o fim de um ciclo musical na trajetória da Banda Mantiqueira. Por isso, segundo seu líder, a necessidade de revisitar no repertório do novo álbum um pouco dessa história. Criada no início dos anos 1990, em um apartamento do bairro paulistano de Bela Vista, onde Proveta morava com o trompetista Walmir Gil e os saxofonistas Cacá Malaquias e Ubaldo Versolato, a Banda Mantiqueira veio coroar as experiências desses músicos em formações anteriores, como a Banda Savana, a Banda Aquarius e a Sambop Brass.
Duas composições incluídas no álbum nasceram durante a fase inicial da banda. O frevo “Forrólins”, de Cacá Malaquias, é uma homenagem ao veterano saxofonista norte-americano Sonny Rollins. O arranjo de Proveta combina o contagiante ritmo do Nordeste brasileiro com fraseado e improvisos típicos do jazz. Também composto por Malaquias, o lírico “Chorinho pra Calazans”é dedicado ao artista plástico pernambucano J. Calazans. Se você sentir algo de impressionista no arranjo de Proveta, saiba que não é mera coincidência.
“Stanats”, composição que o pernambucano Moacir Santos (1926-2006) dedicou ao saxofonista norte-americanoStan Getz (1927-1991), foi arranjada por Proveta, em 1994, como uma homenagem ao nosso genial compositor e maestro que muitos brasileiros só descobriram neste século. “Foi incrível ter tocado esse arranjo para o Moacir, o homem que levou o ritmo afro-brasileiro para o jazz clássico, com o requinte da música clássica europeia”, comenta Proveta.
Padrinho da Banda Mantiqueira, o grande músico e compositor João Bosco também é homenageado com seu samba “De Frente Pro Crime”, em arranjo inédito de Proveta. Ao violão, em participação muito especial, surge o cariocaRomero Lubambo, com o qual a banda já planejava fazer algo há tempos. Lubambo também é o solista na gravação de “Desafinado” (obra-prima de Tom Jobim e Newton Mendonça), em belíssimo e inédito arranjo de Edson José Alves, que ressalta a sofisticação harmônica da bossa nova e as influências da música clássica que Jobim assimilou em sua obra.
“Con Alma” – a composição de Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993), mestre do trompete e do jazz moderno, que inspirou o título deste álbum – ganhou cores de bossa nova e samba-canção, no arranjo de Edson José Alves. Além de contar com o violão de Lubambo, essa gravação destaca outro convidado muito especial: o trompetista norte-americanoWynton Marsalis.
O líder da Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra também participa da gravação de “Segura Ele”, clássico choro de Pixinguinha (1897-1973). “Quando convidei o Marsalis, disse a ele que essa música lembra um ragtime do Scott Joplin”, conta Proveta, que escreveu a primeira versão desse arranjo para a orquestra paulista Jazz Sinfônica, ainda na década passada.
“Sentimos a necessidade de revisitar a história da banda, para lembrar de encontros musicais que fizeram a diferença em nossas vidas”, comenta Proveta, sintetizando muito bem o conceito deste álbum, que tem tudo para repercutir tanto em nosso pais, como no exterior. Vivendo hoje uma fase de grande produção e primor artístico, a música instrumental brasileira reflete na original experiência dessa big band um exemplo a ser seguido pelas novas gerações.
Como outros admiradores da Banda Mantiqueira, cuja trajetória tive o prazer de acompanhar desde o início, posso declarar que escutá-la durante estes 25 anos também foi sempre algo muito especial.

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