music reviews

  • Review of NAMM in 2006

    This year I had the pleasure of working at the NAMM show. As an exhibitor for HollywoodWinds Saxophones, I had most of Saturday and a few other times that I was able to sneak away during the four days. Working the show was interesting, I got a little taste of everything having worked at the HollywoodWinds, Beechler, BG France, and SaxRax stands throughout NAMM. I did, however, miss getting the full floor time.

    While I was there I checked out a few things. I went back to P. Mauriat and played through their booth several times and took friends over to do the same. Roger Greenburg is a really great guy to tolerate having to hear me play tenor sax so often. (Thanks Roger)

    Of course, I hung out at D’Addario and Rico for a significant amount of time. Jean-Francois Rico and John D’Addario were kind enough to grant me interviews, which are up on the site.

    Something new to me at the show were Marca Reeds. The company was started in 1953 by Franco Guccini, and he and his grandson Nick were there at the booth. The two of them were the nicest people and I had a lot of fun practicing my French. They gave me reeds to try out, and I cannot wait to try them.

    And of course, at HollywoodWinds, there was the most incredible bari sax, of which I am now the proud owner! The copper bari played so wonderfully with a nice dark tone (with a silver neck) and the horn really projected. An added bonus is that it has a case that I can actually carry! I am pretty excited because I have a cool looking pink saxophone.

    At NAMM, you get a lot of Chinese instruments, so I checked some flutes out and ended up buying a purple flute with gold plated keys to have just for fun. The flute actually sounded really good and I think it will be fun to bring it out to play at shows in the future.

    BG France also caught my attention this year. I helped Franck Bichon with the booth for a moment while he went to a meeting so I was able to learn a lot about their different products. BG France really offers great accessories, and has a lot of new great products out. I bought a “Tradition” ligature for my Rousseau for classical music, and a great pouch for my bari necks. I strongly recommend checking out their “propacks” (kits with everything you could ever need for any woodwind instrument), cleaning cloths, pad dryers, and neck pouches. I am definitely a new regular user of BG France products.

    Going to NAMM all four days was a very different experience. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else (it is tiring!), but I would do it again anyway. If you do it right, it is a really great way to meet new and wonderful musicians, see your musician friends, and get to try out and see all the music equipment you could ever dream of.

    December 23, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1297

  • Review of a Kurt Elling performance in 2005

    Kurt Elling Live at Catalina’s 2-19-05

    Kurt Elling has been my greatest vocal and melodic influence for the last few years. I first became inspired by his style with the album “The Man Up in the Air”. Being from Chicago, he rarely plays out in California, and last February 2005, he was out at Catalina’s, so I couldn’t miss the chance to go and see him.

    This performance was my first at Catalina’s in Hollywood, California and what better way to “break-in” a new venue than with a performance by Kurt Elling while sitting in the second row?

    Kurt Elling’s trio opened the show with a song before he joined them on stage and his performance was inspiring. His stage presence was very comfortable, and confident. He had a great sense of humor and was very interactive with the audience. His facial expressions and body language/movement were very into the music, and he was very enjoyable to watch as a performer. His singing was, of course, amazing, you couldn’t expect it to be any less, and he received quite the response from the audience.

    One of the songs he received the most response from was “Space Cowboy”, which of course, rightfully received the amount of attention it received, but in all respect, his original music moved me more since you could tell it meant something to him because he created it.

    Kurt Elling is extremely talented vocally, and an extremely brilliant man. If you check out his site, you will find some amazing sound clips and you can read some of his projects or lyrics. A lot of his work is putting lyrics to instrumental solos – one he performed was a Dexter Gordon (if I remember correctly) solo which was also amazing. Kurt Elling is someone who has greatly influenced me, and so I recommend his music to anyone and everyone.

    December 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1446

  • Review of Guitars and Saxes at Thornton Winery

    Founded by Bob Engel and John Harrington in 1995, Guitars and Saxes has since featured artists including Marc Antoine, Rick Braun, Steve Cole, Warren Hill, Mindi Abair, Wayman Tisdale, Jonathon Butler, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, and more. With 2006 marking its eleventh year on tour, the group’s popularity in the smooth jazz community was apparent in its sold out show at the Thornton Winery in Temecula, California. This year’s show featured saxophonists Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot as well as guitarists Peter White and Jeff Golub.

    The Guitars and Saxes show seemed to feature the artists in an almost, “get to know the artists and their music” sort of manner. Featuring the artists one at a time, for the most part, gave each of the four the opportunity to play songs off of their newest albums, which were available for purchase. Of course, they did play a few charts that were not off the newest albums. For example, Jeff Golub and Gerald Albright performed Cold Duck Time, which is on one of Jeff’s previously recorded albums.

    Gerald Albright, was the first to take the stage. With a combination of his amazing tone and killer saxophone technique and abilities, Gerald Albright really showed the audience that he had earned his place on the tour. Playing his original take on Georgia on my Mind, a Ray Charles tune off his newest album New Beginnings, Mr. Albright showed the audience that he truly has command of his saxophone and can say whatever he wants through his music. Later in the show, to the surprise of the audience, Gerald took up the bass on one of the songs to display his versatility as a musician. The talent that Gerald possesses is enviable by anyone and appreciated by everyone.

    Richard Elliot was able to take hold of the audience with his catchy soul jazz compositions and his “schtick” that he so well known for. One of the things he would do is move low to the ground and growl into his saxophone. The other thing he would do was bite the reed to play altissimo and glissando to the highest note he could possibly squeeze out. Richard Elliot, along with Peter White is one of the reasons that the Guitars and Saxes tour has been going as long as it has, and it probably would not be as successful without him.

    Jeff Golub, like Gerald Albright, proved that he deserved to be a part of the Guitars and Saxes show. One of the newer members of the tour, Jeff Golub casually took the stage but played quite elegantly. Dressed in jeans, an unbuttoned shirt and converse, Jeff Golub showed the audience that to him, music is really all about the music and not about the artist. A misconception that a lot of artists have – especially in the smooth jazz community.

    Peter White, also a guitarist, has also earned his place on the Guitars and Saxes tour. As the most popular smooth jazz guitarist over the last decade, Peter White has consistently released “chart-topping” albums, and has almost shaped the way smooth jazz guitar is defined to this day. On stage, Peter played very heartfelt guitar, fusing his rock roots with his smooth style to create the sound he is associated with as an artist today.

    Overall, the Guitars and Saxes show had its ups and downs, just as every show does. However, the show did not lack in musicality or energy at any point. Whether it was Gerald Albright’s inimitable playing and sound, Jeff Golub’s youthful rocking out on guitar, Peter White’s definitive guitar playing, or Richard Elliot’s schtick, these four artists certainly made their mark on the audience that day as they have throughout their careers. Years from now, their names will be remembered amongst the next generation of musicians and the influence will be apparent in the style of the future artists of smooth jazz.

    November 20, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1556

  • Review of Big Phat Band and Yellowjackets in 2005

    This year at IAJE (2005), the Yellowjackets and Big Phat Band performed a concert the first night of the event. After I went to IAJE, I headed out to the concerts to watch the two groups perform for the first time (it wasn’t the first time they performed, it was the first time I saw them perform). On different occasions, I have seen a few of the musicians in the groups perform as solo artists, such as Eric Marienthal from Big Phat Band, but I had never seen them perform as part of these bands.

    The Yellowjackets were the first of these two groups to perform. I was most impressed by Bob Mintzer on sax and Russell Ferrante on piano. I have been a fan of the Yellowjackets for a while, favoring their album “Time Squared”, and was very pleased when they played several tracks off the album. Bob Mintzer played mostly tenor sax, but during a few songs, he also played EWI. His EWI playing was amazing.

    Big Phat Band performed immediately after the Yellowjackets, and I was very impressed with them as well. It was the first time I had ever heard a professional big band perform and it was really great getting to hear them.

    If you are interested in reading more about the IAJE conference, I wrote an article about it that you can read.

    November 19, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1504

  • Review of the Kilauea Reunion in 2005

    Kilauea, a contemporary jazz group owned by Dean Whitney, started out in 1990 doing covers of tunes written by Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons. After ten successful years, the band members each began their own solo careers when the band contract expired, but in 2005 reunited for a reunion concert at the Catalina Jazz Festival.

    Playing original compositions of Daniel Ho, the pianist in the ensemble, the energy of the group came to life – it was like Kilauea never broke up. The excitement of the members performing together again was apparent and reflected in their performance, allowing the show to be all the more entertaining for the audience. The dynamics of each member of the band contributed to the inspiration they received from one another in their playing.

    The music performed at the Catalina Jazz Festival by Kilauea included a medley of compositions from their six CDs in addition to one song written by Daniel Ho from his solo CD playing Hawaiian slack key guitar. Accompanied by Randy Drake and bass player Steve Billman, Coolest Drop of Rain featuring Daniel on guitar and vocals by far contrasted with the rest of the set, but was just as pleasing and energetic as the faster, more contemporary tunes performed by the entire ensemble.

    Two of the songs performed at the festival were Avalon Sunrise and Waimea Bay (whose publishing title is still Catalina Island) greatly pleased Art Good, the festival host (who had the idea to reunite Kilauea in the first place) and were also big hits with the audience. Their signature composition, Theresa’s Confession, however, was the favorite and received the strongest applause and response from the attending crowd.

    Overall, the Kilauea Reunion was one of the highest energy and most exciting shows at the Catalina Jazz Festival. The music was inspiring, the individual musicality, technique, and creativity of the players was incredible, and the appreciation and friendship between the members of the band was heartening. Having had such a positive performance after ten years of being apart, Kilauea has already made plans to reunite in the near future, which will be greatly anticipated by their already growing following.

    November 17, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1486

  • Review of IAJE in 2005 [Archive]

    This year I had the opportunity to go to the IAJE Conference in Long Beach on Saturday, the last day of the Convention. When you first walked in, you walked through aisles of schools with prestigious music programs. The was an array of attendees at the convention – from junior high band students to jazz veterans. Everywhere you looked there was a big well-established musician trying out this horn or that mouthpiece and I had the chance to meet and talk with people like Don Braden, David Liebman, Kurt Elling, James Moody, Dan Higgins, Bob Mintzer and the Yellowjackets, Eric Marienthal, Dave Koz, Bob Sheppard and Rheuben Allen.

    I had a blast at the convention. There were a bunch of really interesting instruments including a plastic saxophone, a straight alto, an old military sax that you play with a bassoon reed and curved sopranos. Walking around the exhibit area, I had the chance to hear a lot of people play, and there are definitely a lot of talented young musicians out there that I hope have successful futures in the music industry.

    I had the opportunity to try out a couple of different soprano saxophones while I was there, and I was pretty impressed by the creativity and genius that goes in the manufacturing of some of the horns. I also tried a few mouthpieces and absolutely fell in love with my new Jody Jazz mouthpiece. I bought a new 7* gold plated or lacquered (I can never remember the difference) for my tenor sax that I can’t stop playing just because I adore it so much. In the future I hope to check out the new soprano and alto mouthpieces from Brancher, a really great French company.

    If you went to IAJE, what did you think and what did you see while you were there?

    November 17, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1739

  • Review of Michael Brecker’s Performance at the Cerritos Center 2005

    This is an archive article.

    The concert held at the Cerritos Center February 2005 was the first and only time I had the great opportunity to see the legendary Michael Brecker perform live. Being an avid Brecker listener, I really looked forward to attending this concert and I was not disappointed with the amazing performance.

    The performance was part of the tour for the “Directions in Music” album, and if you are interested in hearing the fantastic music performed that night, the recording is called “Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall” (the link is below). Because it was the tour supporting this album, it wasn’t just Michael Brecker performing that night. In addition to getting to see Brecker play, I also had the chance to see Roy Hargrove and Herbie Hancock perform. I was completely blown away by the level of playing I heard that night.

    As far as Michael Brecker’s playing – he is absolutely amazing. My absolute favorite part of the entire night was when he played EWI alone. He used a computer to save these little two to four bar ideas he was playing and then would loop them. He ended up creating this awesome funk chart that had people dancing in their seats. He ended the piece by using an electric guitar sound on his EWI, soloing over the other parts he played.

    Another cool thing Brecker did was whenever he soloed. He would play a line, pause at the end and then play a new line. In result, his solos were extremely well thought out and I was even more impressed than if he had just played crazy line after crazy line nonstop. It inspired me to rethink a lot of my playing at the time and helped me to quit “meandering” over the changes when I solo-ed.

    I really enjoyed this concert and I so happy that I had the opportunity to see Michael Brecker perform live.

    Get the album:

    Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall

    November 15, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1680

  • Review of Lin Rountree’s Performance at Spaghettini’s Sep 2, 2012

    This past weekend has been a whirlwind of music events, and I had the pleasure of seeing and sitting in with several great artists. The first event was a performance by Incendio where I had the chance to sit in on a few songs, you can read the review on Teen Jazz. Lin Rountree’s performance with U-Nam was the following night, and although vastly different from the music of Incendio, it was just as exciting.

    Lin Rountree is an accomplished trumpet player who performs in the smooth jazz and soul/R&B styles. He began playing the trumpet at the age of 11 and since has led a successful career with four solo projects. He endorses Wisemann trumpets and flugel horns.

    The concert featured the music of Lin Rountree and U-Nam, the two main artists, and consisted of two sets. The band was outstanding, the artists had the audience on their feet and even those on the other side of the restaurant snuck into the bar to see what all the excitement was about. It was a fantastic performance and it was amazing to see these two great artists perform together.

    November 13, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 1829

  • 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: 1487

  • 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: 1641