Sunday, June 18, 2017

Anna Mjoll All Star Quintet @ The Baked Potato, next week!

Almost SOLD OUT! (yay!) - this one will be INSANE!!
THIS Friday at The Baked Potato, the Anna Mjoll All Star Quintet - two shows 9:30 and 11:30
Featuring: Randy Waldman, Carlitos Del Puerto, Dave Tull, Larry Koonse

The Baked Potato
3787 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City 91604

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Big Band CD of the Month - "The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big"

Big Band CD of the Month
The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: "Dreaming Big" (GoldFox Records) 2017
CD Release Date: June 16, 2017

Rating: **** (musical performance & sonic quality)

Composed & Arranged by Brett Gold
Produced by Pete McGuinness
Executive Producer: Brett Gold
Recorded by Mike Marciano @ Systems Two Recording Studio (Brooklyn, NY) on November 3 & 4, 2016
Mixed & Mastered by Paul Wickliffe @ Skyline Productions (Warren, NJ)
Cover Painting: Edouard Vuillard
Photo: Pete McGuinness
Designed by Disc Makers Design Studio (Pennsauken, NJ)
Liner Notes: John Fedchock and Brett Gold

Featuring: Ted Kooshian (piano), Phil Palombi (bass), Scott Neumann (drums), Sebastian Noelle (guitar), Mark Vinci (alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute), Matt Hong (alto sax, clarinet, flute), Dave Riekenberg (tenor sax, flute, clarinet), Tim Ries (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet), Charles Pillow (tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet), Frank Basile (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Jon Owens, James de la Garza, Dylan Schwab, Scott Wendholt (trumpet), Bruce Eidem, John Allred, Bob Stuttmann, Jeff Nelson (trombone)

The release of "Dreaming Big," which marks the recording debut of the Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra and features the compositions of Brett Gold, illuminates a most intriguing jazz odyssey.

A star trombonist in high school in his native Baltimore, Gold was steered away from a music career by his parents as well as his trombone teacher, of all people. Gold became an attorney and went on to achieve formidable success in the field of international and corporate tax law. But 25 years into his legal career, Gold changed course and reestablished contact with his musical muse.

"Dreaming Big" is remarkable not only for its very existence but also for the striking sounds it offers. A tour de force, the music ranges from 12-tone melodies to playful Monkisms to a stirring political statement. While the album introduces one of jazz's most challenging new instrumental voices, at the same time its warmth, humor, and accessibility convey an easy sophistication one would associate with an artist of far greater experience.

Gold enlisted first-call players from New York's jazz, studio, and Broadway scenes to produce the recording, including saxophonists Charles Pillow and Tim Ries, trumpeter Scott Wendholt, trombonist John Allred, bassist Phil Palombi, and drummer Scott Neumann.

Many jazz composers and arrangers, including Gold, cite Gil Evans and Bill Holman as influences. But Gold's affinity for the odd time-signature music of the late Don Ellis is reflected in a number of pieces on the CD. Among the compositions on Dreaming Big, the Middle Eastern-themed "Al-Andalus" (featuring a virtuosic turn by trumpeter Jon Owens) is partly in 11/4 and partly in 5/4. "That Latin Tinge" is a 7/4 mambo, not the usual time signature for a salsa piece. Even the fairly straightforward "Stella's Waltz" can trip someone up with its occasional judiciously placed bar of 5/4. And then there's "Nakba," the powerful 11-minute finale, which was composed partly with Gold's Moroccan sister-in-law in mind. The song is named after the Arabic word for "catastrophe," used by the Palestinians to describe the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Featuring Ries on soprano saxophone, it traces the tragic history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 Brett Gold "I found out that you can stop playing music, but it's still there circulating in your head," Gold says of the years when he was not involved in music full-time. After finishing high school a year early, he attended the University of Rochester as a double major in history and film studies (Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and continued his music studies at the Eastman School of Music where he played with one of its nationally recognized jazz ensembles. But he soon placed his jazz activities on the back burner, earning a J.D. from Columbia University Law School (1980) and an LL.M in tax law from New York University Law School (1983).

When Gold returned to jazz, he had no problem coming up with ideas for compositions -- his brain was full of them -- but his sabbatical from music left him unprepared to execute those ideas both on paper and on his horn, which he hadn't touched in 10 years. He first sketched his pieces out and hired professional musicians to record demo-like CDs of them. Then, studying privately with distinguished teachers like Pete McGuinness, Neal Kirkwood, and David Berger, he learned how to write complex compositions for big band.

Eventually, in 2007, Gold was accepted into the esteemed BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, under the direction of Mike Abene, Jim McNeely, and Mike Holober. During his tenure there, he developed a book of more than two dozen arrangements, of which 11 of the best appear on Dreaming Big.
"As a member of BMI, I was pushed to write longer, more abstract orchestral pieces, something I resisted," he says. "Instead, I looked to the way Duke Ellington wrote for his band -- his best pieces were seldom more than three to five minutes long. I also admired his idea of writing for individual members of the band."

Over the years, Gold has absorbed and strongly personalized any number of influences, some more than just musical. A study in diminished chords featuring clarinets and flutes, "Theme from an Unfinished Film" reveals his debt to what he calls the "internalized lyricism" of movie composers such as Bernard Herrmann, David Raksin, and Ennio Morricone. The genesis of "Exit, Pursued by a Bear (Slow Drag Blues)" was Shakespeare's most famous stage direction. And "Al-Andalus" was originally inspired by the hopes raised by the Arab Spring.

Gold does not play in the trombone section on Dreaming Big. "I actually function a lot better in a dark room writing music," he says. The roles he plays on the new album are those of composer, arranger, producer -- and big dreamer.
Photography: Lily Edelman-Gold
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Vocal Jazz CD of the Month - "Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles / Songs by Joe Bushkin"

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month
Bob Merrill: "Tell Me Your Troubles - Songs by Joe Bushkin" (Accurate) 
CD Release Date: May 19, 2017

Rating: **** (musical performance & sonic quality)

Produced by Bob Merrill
Engineers: Chris Sulit, Adam Keil, John Arbuckle, Wes Hovanec
Mixed by Jay Newland
Cover Photo: Alec Harrison
Liner Photos: Pam Setchell
Graphic Design: Ian Carey

Arranged by Bob Merrill, Laurence Hobgood and Eric Comstock
Featuring: Bob Merrill (vocals, trumpet, cornet & flugelhorn), Howard Alden (guitar), Nicki Parrott (bass, vocal), Steve Johns (drums), Harry Allen (tenor sax), Laurence Hobgood, John Colianni and Rossano Sportello (piano), Adrian Cunningham (alto sax, clarinet).
Special Guests: John Bushkin (piano), Kathryn Crosby (vocal), Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), Eric Comstock (vocal, piano), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone, vocal), Duffy Jackson (drums)

Coinciding with the centennial of pianist/composer Joe Bushkin's birth, the new album by trumpeter and singer Bob Merrill, "Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin, Vol. 1," celebrates the musical legacy of a man who was revered by many of America's foremost entertainers for his wizardry at the keyboard and skills as a tunesmith. He also happened to be Merrill's father-in-law.

Bushkin penned songs with his longtime lyricist John DeVries or the great Johnny Burke in the repertoires of the likes of Sinatra (Joe's "Oh! Look at Me Now" was Frank's first hit), Bing Crosby, Nat "King" Cole, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan, and countless others.

This first volume of a planned two-album commemorative project pays reverential tribute to Bushkin's oeuvre and its special blend of mood and merriment on contemporary interpretations of 10 songs ranging from the popular to the obscure. The album opens and closes with archival spoken word salutes to Bushkin by Sinatra and comedian Red Buttons.

Cut from the same engaging entertainer's cloth as Bushkin -- not to mention trumpeter-singers like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Prima, and Chet Baker -- Merrill was already performing crowd-pleasers like "Oh! Look at Me Now" and "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate" (a 1947 hit for Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five) before he met his future wife Christina and bonded with her gregarious father. "These songs have such a timeless, universal appeal," says Merrill. "I really hope the album exposes them to a new generation. Maybe Harry Connick, Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, or even Lady Gaga will give them new life."

"Tell Me Your Troubles" is full of classic tunes and rediscoveries, charismatic vocals, swinging solos, and sparkling arrangements and presents Merrill at his elegant best, whether showcasing his brass palette of trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn or his smooth Tormé-like vocals, easy articulation, and natural enthusiasm. In addition to the A-List rhythm section of guitarist Howard Alden, bassist Nicki Parrott, and drummer Steve Johns, the album features an illustrious list of guest artists including saxophonist Harry Allen, trombonist/singer Wycliffe Gordon, cabaret star Eric Comstock, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and pianist Laurence Hobgood.
                                         Joe Bushkin and Bob Merrill 

A previously unreleased performance of "Oh! Look at Me Now!," from Bushkin's final recording session in 2003 with Merrill, Howard Alden, and drummer Duffy Jackson, is one of the album's standouts. "Joe's tempo for the song had increased over the years," says Merrill, "but I suggested we slow it down to the tempo of Sinatra's later version, from the 1957 album 'Swingin' Affair' on Capitol." (Pictured at left: Bushkin and Merrill, 2003.)

"I got to spend a lot of time with Joe, always looking over his shoulder, absorbing stuff by osmosis," recalls Merrill, who coaxed Bushkin out of retirement in the early 1990s and performed with him at festivals and clubs such as New York's Tavern on the Green and L.A.'s Jazz Bakery until his passing in 2004 at age 87. He also produced and wrote liner notes for CD reissues of four Bushkin albums, including last fall's release of "Live at the Embers" (Dot Time Legends) from 1952.
Born in Manhattan in 1958, Bob Merrill traces his early interest in jazz to the fact that Benny Goodman lived in the penthouse of the building he grew up in on the Upper East Side. After his father took him to a Tonight Show taping where he heard Doc Severinsen, Merrill devoted himself to the trumpet (Bushkin's second instrument).

He studied with William Vacchiano, first trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, and received improv tips as a teen from Red Rodney. Merrill attended both the New England Conservatory of Music (studying with Jaki Byard, in whose Apollo Stompers he played) and Harvard, where he co-founded a jazz concert series at the Hasty Pudding Club and led a house band for such visiting artists as Illinois Jacquet, George Coleman, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh.

Merrill released his first album as a leader, "Catch as Catch Can," in 1997, the same year he was featured on American Movie Classics leading the AMC Orchestra on the series Gotta Dance! His second album, "Got a Bran' New Suit," featured pianist Bill Charlap among others. It was followed by "Christmastime at the Adirondack Grill," and then the wildly eclectic "Cheerin' Up the Universe" (2015), which featured pianist John Medeski and trombonist Roswell Rudd.

On Thursday May 4, Merrill will preside over a Joe Bushkin Centennial concert at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers Street, Manhattan), part of Jack Kleinsinger's Highlights in Jazz series. Featured performers include several from the new CD's cast (Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Comstock, Nicki Parrott, John Colianni, Harry Allen) as well as pianists Ted Rosenthal and Spike Wilner.

Photography: Pam Setchell
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