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  • Review of Diane Schuur’s Performance at Catalina’s 2005

    Preferring instrumental music over vocal, there are very few vocalists that I listen to regularly, but Diane Schuur is one of them. Diane Schuur recently performed at Catalina’s bar and grill. I attended the very last show of the last night that she was there.

    The ensemble sounded great, especially Diane Schuur. Her singing and piano playing was incomparable. She picked really great tunes for the set and played them all amazingly. In addition to her outstanding musicianship, Diane Schuur is also a fantastic performer. Occasionally smiling at the crowd during a solo, or talking to the audience between songs really showed her desire for the audience to be truly involved in the show. One of the most entertaining non-musical moments of the show was when she explained what “Deedle-caf” was. It is her name for decaf coffee (her nickname is Deedles). When she was brought “Deedle-caf”, she said “mmm” into the mic after every sip, which in itself defined why she named decaf coffee after herself.

    Diane Schuur is an absolutely amazing performer. If you have not seen her perform yet, you really should – it will be some of the best jazz you will ever hear.

    November 8, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 875

  • Review of Kirk Whalum’s Performance at the Cerritos Center 2005

    This is an archive article.

    On October 12, 2005, Kirk Whalum and Pieces of a Dream performed at the Cerritos Center in Cerritos, California. Split into two sets, the show was opened by Pieces of a Dream, and after a twenty-minute intermission, Kirk Whalum performed with his group. Overall, the performance of both ensembles was dynamic, attention grabbing, and fully interactive. There was not a single moment the entire night where any audience member’s attention anywhere but the stage.

    In brief, Pieces of a Dream originated in Philadelphia, 1976. After being discovered by Grover Washington, Jr., their first three albums were produced, which yielded some of their earliest hits. Since, the group has had frequent success with their records in the smooth jazz, easy listening, and new adult contemporary genres.

    Kirk Whalum has also had a successful career as a professional saxophonist. As a seven-time Grammy nominee, Kirk Whalum started his career on tour with Bob James. He later signed with Columbia Records and released his first five records, then switched to Warner Brothers Records. In the gospel and jazz genres, Kirk Whalum has seventeen records to his name as of his most recent release “The Babyface Songbook“.

    Pieces of a Dream’s charismatic opening set the tone for the entire night at the Cerritos Center. A set list full of power ballads and peppy instrumental tunes, kept the listeners’ attention – not to mention the amazing musicality and technical abilities of the members of the band. The guest bass player, Gerald Veasely, played excellently the entire night. The founding members of the band, the pianist and drummer, were also featured. The piano player definitely made his presence known with an incredible vocal solo. However, the most impressive thing that he did was walk around to the back side of his keyboard while comping, then play Charlie Parker’s entire Donna Lee solo accurately on the wrong side of the keyboard.

    Following Pieces of a Dream was the astounding saxophone player Kirk Whalum and his entourage of musicians. Opening with a medley to assure the entire group was featured, the band immediately grabbed the attention of the audience. Kirk Whalum performed mostly songs off of his newest album, but when Kevin Whalum was brought out, they played a composition entitled Ta Ta You Jesus, which had a very endearing story behind it that Kevin visually acted out while performing the song.

    Overall, the entire show was riveting, a spectacular display of musical talent, artistry, and how a performer should truly perform and treat their fans.

    November 4, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1032

  • Complete Jazz Styles by Randy Hunter | Review

    A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE “COMPLETE JAZZ STYLES BOOK 2”

    “Complete Jazz Styles Book 2” has 12 different etudes in various styles – Latin, Swing, Funk, Ballad, Waltz, Rock, and Bop. “Nobody’s Fool” (ballad), “Streamline” (the rock tune), and “Same as Yesterday” (slow funk) are more advanced tunes for a more advanced player or tunes for when a student is looking for something more challenging and/or has already studied the other tunes.

    “Complete Jazz Styles Book 2” has two tracks for each tune – a demonstration track (where the student can hear how the track should sound, or so they can play along with Randy playing the melody) and an accompaniment track where the student can play the track alone.

    Randy Hunter plays woodwinds on the tracks, Guy Fenocchi plays guitar, John Hooper is on bass and Tim Nash is on drums.

    “Complete Jazz Styles Book 2” is available for saxes (Eb and Bb), trumpet, and trombone. Randy Hunter has several other books available including a duet book. “Complete Jazz Styles Book 2” is endorsed by people like Joe Lovano.

    MY INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE “COMPLETE JAZZ STYLES BOOK 2”

    Visually, “Complete Jazz Styles Book 2” is very appealing. The book is very colorful, very attractive to the eye – something a student would pick for themselves based on the look of the book. I think that this is a good thing for a book aimed at students to have because in addition to teacher recommendation, students will trip across it on their own as well since image plays a big part in making something appear attractive to younger people.

    Looking at the music, there is not “a lot of black” (or too many notes with too difficult rhythms), so it is not “scary” to look at as some etude books are, and is less likely to intimidate a student. The music is simple enough to give the student ideas of what to play over the given changes and with the CD, allows them to experiment with their own ideas as well.

    There are comments on what to do for each tune that help to explain and aid the style the etudes should be played with at the bottom of each tune. I feel that these side notes should be near the top so that it is the first thing that the student sees. I also think that the song/songs that the changes are based off of should be listed so that the student knows as reference.

    So, after reading the liner notes and text/information in the book, I threw the play-a-long CD into my boom box and played along with the CD. I found that listening to Randy Hunter play all the etudes first really helped as far as style and articulation. You heard his interpretation of the etude first, giving you an idea of how it is meant to be played, but also leaving it open to your own interpretation. I think this really helps students to emulate someone else, and Randy Hunter has a great sound to imitate.

    Also, the fact that the book has a play-a-long CD helps the student to practice playing with a group. It is a great alternative to an Aebersold which only gives you a melody and leaves it up to you to come up with a solo, “Complete Jazz Styles” gives you a brief melody and an example of an excellently shaped, example solo. This book has great lines that every student should make their own and will really help improve their jazz vocabulary and solo ideas.

    Get the Book for Tenor Sax Complete Jazz Styles Introductory Etudes in Jazz Comprehension, Book1: Tenor Sax

    Get the Book for Alto or Bari Sax Complete Jazz Styles Introductory Etudes in Jazz Comprehension, Book1: Alto/Bari Sax

    Get the Book for Trumpet Complete Jazz Styles Introductory Etudes in Jazz Comprehension, Book1: Trumpet

    Get the Book for Trombone Complete Jazz Styles Introductory Etudes in Jazz Comprehension, Book1: Trombone

    October 17, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1024

  • REVIEW OF AARON SANTEE’S “EVERYTHING SAX PLAYERS MUST KNOW”

    A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE BOOK

    “Saxophone – Everything Sax Players Should Know” offers advice on everything from equipment (reeds, mouthpieces, necks, ligatures, etc.) to technique (embouchure, breathing, vibrato), how to practice, and even describes the anatomy of the saxophone and its function. The book also provides saxophone basics such as scales, blues, basic improvisation, suggested listening, and saxophone fingerings.

    MY OPINION ON THE BOOK

    “Saxophone – Everything Sax Players Should Know” was very cleverly designed in a Student to Teacher form, allowing notes and other important things to be added into the book by the student or the teacher to become an excellent and very personal resource to its owner.

    The Suggested Listening I personally felt was the best section of “Saxophone – Everything Sax Players Should Know”. It illustrated everything I’ve heard a thousand times – to steal ideas from everyone. It explained the importance of emulating what others do and making it your own. He also recommends a few artists, but leaves it mostly up to the listener to determine their tastes so they don’t get burnt out on any one style or person. He also lists non sax players which shows that you can learn from people who don’t play your instrument – which I feel is something often overlooked; and specifically by young musicians.

    The jazz section is very well introduced as opposed to more traditional (aka stiff) beginning jazz books. Aaron Santee provides in detail the significance and function of scales and sounds by describing the moods and effects they create in music.

    All in all, I feel that “Saxophone – Everything Sax Players Should Know” is best targeted to the beginning adult saxophonist. Because of the layout of this book, a more mature player with a teacher would find more use than a young player. Also, because “Saxophone – Everything Sax Players Should Know” points out things that beginners often overlook, it would be a great book for beginning teachers of where to start and what to teach their students.

    October 16, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 948

  • Review of Greg Fishman’s “Jazz Saxophone Etudes”

    A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE “JAZZ SAXOPHONE ETUDES”:

    “Jazz Saxophone Etudes” by Greg Fishman is a book for students who know chords and scales, but lack jazz vocabulary. The main focus of the book is to demonstrate the introduction, development and evolution of musical ideas while clearly outlining the harmonic structure of a song using a post-bop approach to phrasing and use of chromaticism. “Jazz Saxophone Etudes” is targeted to three different levels of players – intermediate, advanced, and professional.

    The intermediate player should have a few years of experience in combos or big band and know their chords and scales. The book provides them with a model of phrasing and technical challenges. To make the most of the book, an intermediate player should arpeggiate the chords 1-3-5-7 and be able to sing the bass notes.

    An advanced player studying this book should have the goal to understand how phrases are developed. They should be able to arpeggiate the chords 1-3-5-7-5-3-1 and 3-5-7-9. They should also write out voice leading lines and write their own etude based on the changes. A professional player should do an analysis of the etude as well practice them in all 12 keys AND play the phrases in different parts of the etude.

    On the accompaniment CD, Greg Fishman plays alto and tenor saxes, Dennis Luxion is on piano, Eric Hochburg is on bass, and Phil Gratteau is on drums. “Jazz Saxophone Etudes” is endorsed by Michael Brecker and David Liebman.

    MY INITIAL THOUGHTS ON “JAZZ SAXOPHONE ETUDES”:

    “Jazz Saxophone Etudes” is for both tenor and alto. Instead of the music being in two keys, the CDs come in different keys. I feel this can inhibit a student who plays alto and tenor, not giving them an extra key to work things out in. The extra key would help them gain proficiency in both, and since songs don’t change keys for the sax player, I feel that it should have been the same for “Jazz Saxophone Etudes”. I then read the text in the front of the book and it explains the reason there are two CDs as opposed to the etudes in two keys is because of the range of the instrument that the etude covers. The solos use the full range of the instrument and certain parts would have to be transposed up or down an octave making the solo not “lay right” on the horn. I agree that this is a good point, but I still feel that the book should have come in both keys.

    One thing that I absolutely love about “Jazz Saxophone Etudes” are the tempos of the play-a-long. You want to be able to play with the CD, and the tempos of the songs are really fast, so it forces you to actually study the etudes and get them under your fingers before you can play with CD. So, when you have the lines and phrases from the etudes under your fingers, you have a lot of it memorized – this is great because when you are thrown into a real live situation and improvising, what comes out of your horn is what your fingers know. Thus, some of the licks in the etude are likely to come out, and the licks are great ones.

    In the beginning of “Jazz Saxophone Etudes”, Greg Fishman does a great job of illustrating articulation, alternate fingerings, and several other basic tools to improvisation. These “tools” are in the beginning of the book so that there is more emphasis on training the ear of the player than the eye because jazz is based on an aural tradition, and it is important for students to train their ears and recognize details in music than to rely on visual notation. However, the book also challenges the technical ability and improves the sight-reading of the student because of the rhythmic variation in each of the etudes.

    I feel that the book is a very good tool for a musician seeking to build their musical vocabulary, increase their harmonic knowledge and gain recognition of the way certain notes, line, and phrases lay over changes. I plan on using the book for myself for personal improvement, and I know that it will help raise my playing to another level.

    You can visit Greg Fishman’s site and read more about his books. His site has in-depth theory articles, downloadable licks, and sample clips from the etude book.

    Get the book Jazz Saxophone Etudes by Greg Fishman on Amazon

    October 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1357

  • Chieli Minucci, Without You Review

    In my experience as an active music enthusiast, I have yet to discover an artist who can more cleverly merge such diverse styles of music not only onto a single album, but also within each individual song. Guitarist Chieli Minucci creatively hints at his vast musical influence and repertoire with his epic new release Without You.

    The album opens with a very intriguing rhythmic, almost world-music styled piece entitled “Quivering”. Described by Minucci as “mischievous”, the opening piece fuses a fusion-influenced melody with a somewhat Middle Eastern track. The first piece makes a fantastic introduction to the album; Without You musically transverses the globe and generations of musical style in 22 songs and 2 discs.


    Chieli constantly throws curveballs at his listeners with his new album. This includes everything from incorporating violin into most of his compositions to short musical interludes between some of the longer works. Many of the pieces on Without You are modern, updated renditions of the Special EFX catalog. “You Make Me” and “You Make Me Blue” are contemporary versions of “You Make Me Smile” while the 1982 “Sambuca Nights” appears halfway through “The Night is Ours”. “Ballerina Rocks” also makes an appearance on the album as an island-style piece with an instrumental rock styled melody, not to mention several other Special EFX songs disguised in new arrangements.

    Overall, the album has the perfect blend of intense, fusion, hard-driven pieces and mellow, relaxing, smooth compositions providing listeners with a diverse aural experience. With everything from orchestral film scores to Brazilian and Latin pieces, RNB-influenced vocals to electronica, any music fan will find something to enjoy.

    Without You features many well-known guests including Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, Jeff Lorber, Will Brock, Dave Anderson, and Alan Grubner. Chieli’s son, Gianluca Minucci, is also showcased on the song “Wonderboy” as both a composer and as a bassist.

    Leave it to Chieli Minucci to ensure his listeners are constantly on their toes. At some point, each song harmonically, melodically (or both!) goes to a place one wouldn’t expect. Without You implements modern music style and technology to avoid the typical instrumental song format which has become too predictable and repetitive.

    If it hasn’t already been added into your music playlist, I would be amiss if I didn’t recommend you doing just this! For diehard fans, the physical version of the album includes an in-depth history of the band Special EFX.

    Get Without You on Amazon

    September 19, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1056

  • Jeff Lorber, Now is the Time Review

    Release Date: 01 JUN 2010

    Fusion is re-emerging as a popular genre in the instrumental music market. In fact, many artists are “going back to basics” and rediscovering their musical roots and influences. Artists like Jeff Lorber and Chieli Minucci are bringing back fusion while saxophonist Mindi Abair has released an R&B/Motown inspired album.

    These artists are moving away from the overly produced, synth dominant smooth jazz style and rediscovering their roots. It’s not out of place to say that many smooth jazz artists have come full circle, trading in midi sounds for more traditional and acoustic instruments. Hopefully, sequenced drums and horn sections will continue down the path of extinction as live musicians once more begin their way back into recording studios and onto the albums of their peers.

    For those unfamiliar with the various genres of instrumental music, fusion is a style that developed in the 60s and 70s, and was made popular by groups such as Weather Report and Return to Forever. It is a combination the improvisation and somewhat enhanced instrumentation of jazz with rock, R&B, and funk styles, implementing more electronic sounds than most of the music that came before. In fact, the literal definition of fusion is “the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity”. So, by definition, most musical styles today are “fusion”.

    By the late 70’s, Jeff Lorber Fusion, originally from Portland, Oregon, had begun its expanse into national and international markets. After a brief period as a solo artist and producer, Lorber has returned to the style that launched his career.

    Now is the Time, Jeff Lorber’s latest release signifies his return to fusion. The title of the album is not the title of a song as one would assume, but rather a statement of the musical shift the album takes to something a little “jazzier… exciting…”

    Many of the songs on the album are reinventions of the old Jeff Lorber Fusion material. His reason for covering his own songs is because “… people seem to be interested in hearing that again. They’re ready to hear musicians who can really play, really stretch the envelope with their technique, with their songwriting, and with harmonic structure.” Several artists have been redoing their catalog; even mainstream artists like Jewel are doing it. Many artists look forward to the opportunity to rerecord their pieces, and in the case of Jeff Lorber, with three decades of improvement by both the musicians and technology. The pieces are recreated in a way that stimulates the aural senses and intellect of listeners. Some of the updated songs on the album include Black Ice, the 7/4 piece Chinese Medicinal Herbs, and my personal favorite, Water Sign. Lorber also covers Wayne Shorter’s “Mysterious Traveler.”

    This album features a selection of exciting melodies, both instrumental and vocal, and showcases many great artists. On Now is the Time, Lorber collaborates with guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and rhythm secion players Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Haslip, Alex Al, and Lenny Castro, and Dave Weckl. The Blood, Sweat and Tears horn section also appears on numerous tracks.

    Now is the Time, is not the typical aggressive, in your face fusion typically associated with the genre. Instead, it is more laid back and easier for listeners to enjoy. The instrumentation on the album is fairly simple – it is easy to identify each of the sounds (instruments) on the record, and it is far more enjoyable to hear. The arrangements are clear and comprehensible because they are not buried by strings and synthesizers. Over all, any listener looking for something a little more edgy or musically interesting is sure to enjoy Jeff Lorber’s Now is the Time.

    Get the album Now Is the Time on Amazon

    September 19, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1021

  • Review of Incendio Performance at Spaghettini’s Sep 1, 2012

    On September 1, 2012, the Latin guitar world fusion group, Incendio, performed at Spaghettini’s in Seal Beach as part of their 2012 tour. Incendio was established in 1999 and has since released seven albums (with an eighth on the way). The members – JP Durand, Jim Stubblefield, Liza Carbé, Nicole Faizone and Brian Brock – come together to create an energetic and exciting performance with unique compositions and excellent playing.

    Incendio’s performance at Spaghettini’s featured many of their classic and popular tunes including “Los Rios” and “Misterioso” as well as unexpected titles such as Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” In addition to a captivating selection of original music and covers, the evening was filled with virtuosic acoustic guitar solos from Jim Stubblefield and JP Durand, skilled percussion and drumming from Nicole Fazione and Brian Brock, while Liza Carbé provided her talents on bass.

    With impressive unison guitar licks, Latin-influenced music and a contagious energy, Incendio’s music had the audience dancing in their seats. The night was as entertaining as it was musical.

    For those looking for something a little outside the typical instrumental scene, this is a must-see performance. For young artists, they also make a fantastic example of strong stage presence and audience communication. Check out Incendio‘s website to see when they are performing in a venue near you.

    September 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 927

  • Review of the BG France Duo Ligature

    To start out, I want to let you know that I have been playing the same setup on my alto for several years now. Even when I’ve changed my mouthpiece, reeds or ligature, I have always tended to go back to my Beechler mouthpiece, Rico Plasticover Reeds and Ishimori ligature. No matter how much I may have enjoyed different products, I’ve always ended up being more comfortable with my sound and performance on the equipment I’ve been using for most of my music career.

    Recently, however, I came across a ligature that has given me reason to change my setup – and I am more than happy that I’ve made the switch!

    BG France’s new ligature, the “Duo Ligature” is hands down the best ligature I have had to opportunity to play for either jazz and classical setups. At first, I was skeptical. When Franck Bichon played me the demonstration videos for the ligature, I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way the ligature would do all the things the video claimed it would, but I have been of fan of BG France products for some time, and so, I decided to give the ligature a try.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the ligature, the description of the Duo Ligature on the BG web site offers the following:

    • GRIPS PERFECTLY TO CANE AND PLASTIC REEDS
    • SETUP EASY TO SWITCH SECURELY AND QUICKLY
    • FOCUSED TONE
    • WARM SOUND QUALITY
    • PRECISE ARTICULATION
    • FITS ON Bb Clar + ALTO SAX + ALTO SAX Jazz
    • MINIMUM CONTACT FOR MAXIMUM VIBRATION

    I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant because of my experience with my then current ligature (the Ishimori) which constantly slipped. It had minimal reed touch points like the Duo ligature, but each time I adjusted my mouthpiece, the ligature would move, and in result, my reed would shift out of place. I was constantly readjusting the placement of my ligature and reed, but I dealt with it because I was content with how it played and sounded. Little did I know that I could have better response and sound from a ligature without the hassle.

    The first time I played with Duo ligature was during a practice session. I noticed a difference immediately and couldn’t wait to use it during a performance later that week. The result during the performance was identical – I was able to play with less resistance, greater ease and I was elated with the result. Unlike most equipment changes I’ve made, I never reverted back to my older setup. I still play the BG Duo Ligature and I recommend it to anyone looking for a way to open up their sound and facilitate playing for either saxophone or clarinet.

    Visit the BG France web site to learn more about the Duo Ligature.

    Get the Ligature BG LIGATURE DUO SAXOPHONE ALTO/CLARINETTE SIB DUO-LD1

    September 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 3691

  • U-Nam | Weekend in LA: A Tribute to George Benson Review

    Today marks the official US release date for French guitarist U-Nam’s George Benson Tribute Project, “Weekend in L.A.” The album has already made it to #1 on iTunes in Japan for Jazz, the Top 13 on Amazon in the US and has been a Top 5 for radio stations throughout Europe and the world.

    “Weekend in L.A” provides fans with a fresh perspective on many of Benson’s most popular songs with the playing and performances comparable to the great artist himself. The songs are reinterpreted in a way that not only remains true to George Benson, but leaves listeners with something new, fresh and exciting. One definitely has reason to listen to and enjoy the album on it’s own and without comparison.

    With this album, U-Nam’s goal was to provide tribute to an artist who served as a significant musical influence while taking classic songs and making them his own with a soulful and urban touch. In other words, only U-Nam could successfully incorporate rap into the R&B classic “On Broadway.” That’s not to say, of course, that Jeff Lacey’s well composed lyrics didn’t help in the success of this feat – it’s quite the contrary! In fact, Lacey’s cleverly crafted words appear on more than one track on the album.

    Weekend in LA, a tribute to George Benson The project also features the talents of many renowned musicians including Phil Perry, Ronnie Foster, George Duke, Marcus Miller, Michael White, Wah Wah Watson, Patrice Rushen, Stockley Williams, Paul Jackson Jr, and more. Despite the amazing list of guests, however, the real stars are vocalist Tim “TiO” Owens and U-Nam himself. Tim Owens is a huge part of the album, appearing as the primary vocalist on the majority of the tracks. He does a fantastic job performing the different pieces, namely my favorite track from the album “Give Me the Night.” Of course, as for U-Nam, there are no words to describe his excellent playing and all the heart he poured into putting together this album.

    Although I was a part of this project since it’s inception and performed as part of the horn section, I did not have the opportunity to hear the songs in their entirety until the album was mixed and mastered. Like anyone else, the first time I heard each of the songs from start to finish and without pause was when I received a finished copy of the album. When I finally had the hard copy, I was very impressed with how it all came together, especially since I had the opportunity to see all the work that went into the project behind the scenes.

    Because of U-Nam’s tribute, I personally have found a reason to connect with the music of George Benson and that of artists that came a generation or two before me. That’s not to say I was not a fan of Benson – I’ve always appreciated his great artistry – but U-Nam’s contemporary versions of his music provided me with the means to relate to the songs and the music in a way that didn’t exist for me before the release of this album.

    Overall, I think the album is amazingly put together. U-Nam combines the talent of a large collection of musicians from a diverse range of genres, bringing them all together to pay tribute to a great artist. I give this album two thumbs up and I definitely have to say it is my favourite tribute albums by far.

    Track listing:

    1. Weekend in L.A (feat. Andreas Oberg & Ronnie Foster)
    2. Give Me the Night (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens)
    3. Shiver (feat. Paul Jackson Jr & Tim “Tio” Owens)
    4. Love X Love
    5. Nature Boy (feat. Stokley Williams)
    6. This Masquerade (feat. Marcus Miller, Phil Perry, Tim “Tio” Owens, Jeff Lacey & George Duke)
    7. Hip Skip
    8. I Just Wanna Hang Around You (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens)
    9. Turn Your Love Around
    10. Before You Go / Breezin’ (feat. Patrice Rushen)
    11. On Broadway (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens & Jeff Lacey)

    Buy the album Weekend In L.A ( A Tribute To George Benson ) | Download the album Weekend in L.A (A Tribute to George Benson )

    August 29, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1366