Andreas Oberg – My Favorite Guitars (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgAndreas Oberg honors several of the most recognized guitarists in jazz through this contemporary outing, where his guitar speaks for generations and his smooth approach appeals to a broad audience. A full studio orchestra complements much of the program as Oberg’s guitar floats effortlessly over the gathering.

An appealing Brazilian atmosphere pervades on “Aqui, Oh,” where the leader’s wordless vocals ride waves of warmth that wash over his acoustic guitar with pleasurable results. Oberg enjoys a fluid technique where notes run clear and distinct. When keyboard player Kuno Schmid steps forward, the contrast between his muddy cascades and the guitarist’s clearly-defined runs is magnified.

With Oberg’s ballad “Endless Love,” acoustic guitar takes over with a folksong approach while the studio orchestra colors from a distance. With “Funky Tango” and “Waiting for Angela,” it’s the background instrumentation from the keyboards and the orchestra that occupy much of the focus. Oberg enjoys a better stride when paring it down and allowing his guitar to shine.

Elsewhere, as on “Uptown Downtown,” “Villa Hermosa” and “Here to Stay,” the guitarist finds his niche as he fits comfortably into Pat Martino’s bag with all points covered. He’s at his best when improvising alongside the small group and excluding the lush orchestra Oberg01and surround-sound keyboard swirls. (Jim Santella)

Swedish jazz guitarist Andreas Öberg has been quoted as saying that one of his desires is to “make music that can appeal to people who don’t like jazz.” Many hardcore jazz musicians become nervous and apprehensive when they hear other improvisers talking about commercializing jazz in some fashion or making jazz more accessible to rock, pop or R&B fans; they think of all the robotic elevator music that smooth jazz/NAC radio stations have played in the ’80s, ’90s and 21st century. But My Favorite Guitars is an album that, despite its commercial appeal, isn’t going to win over the Kenny G./Najee/Richard Elliott crowd. Öberg isn’t trying to be the Dave Koz of the guitar — far from it. Actually, the best stylistic comparison on this 64-minute CD — which finds Öberg paying tribute to other guitarists — would be the pre-Breezin’ CTI albums that Creed Taylor produced for George Benson (one of Öberg’s main influences) in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At times, Taylor was guilty of overproducing, but when he achieved the right balance of jazz and commercial considerations, he soared as a producer — and My Favorite Guitars achieves that type of balance. This 2008 release isn’t in a class with Benson’s best CTI releases, but it’s definitely respectable. Although Öberg brings a strong sense of groove to the table, he has plenty of room to stretch out and improvise whether he is paying tribute to Benson on “The Changing World,” Django Reinhardt on “Troublant Bolero,” Pat Metheny on “Here to Stay,” or Wes Montgomery (another major influence) on “The Trick Bag.” My Favorite Guitars won’t appeal to jazz purists or bop snobs, but it has integrity and demonstrates that an improviser can reach out to pop and R&B fans and still maintain an improvisatory, jazz-oriented focus. (Alex Henderson)

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Personnel:
Kevin Axt (bass)
Tamir Hendelman (keyboards)
Andreas Öberg (guitar)
Marian Petrescu (keyboards)
Harish Raghavan (bass)
Kuno Schmid (keyboards, bass)
Vic Stevens (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Funky Tango (Salinas) 5.32
02. Troublant Bolero (Reinhardt) 6.13
03. Waiting For Angela (Horta) 5.43
04. Aqui, Oh (Horta) 5.15
05. Uptown Down (Martino) 4.00
06. AM Call (Öberg) 6.24
07. The Changing World (Benson) 4.38
08. The Trick Bag (Montgomery) 5.11
09. Here To Stay (Metheny) 5.13
10. Endless Love (Öberg) 5.13
11. Villa Hermosa (Pat Martino) 6:34
12. Valdez In The Country (Hathaway) 4.44

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Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Live From Madison Square Garden (2009)

FrontCover1.jpgLive from Madison Square Garden is a 2 CD/2 DVD live album by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood which was released on 19 May 2009 by Duck / Reprise Records. The album is made up of recordings from Clapton and Winwood’s performances at Madison Square Garden in February 2008. It is Eric Clapton’s ninth live album and Steve Winwood’s first live album as a solo artist.

The duo performed songs from their time in the band Blind Faith as well as selections from Traffic, Derek and the Dominos, Clapton’s and Winwood’s solo careers and some rock and blues covers. Their band consisted of Willie Weeks on bass, Ian Thomas on drums and Chris Stainton on keyboards.

Winwood and Clapton first crossed musical paths as members of the one-off group Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse in March 1966. They recorded songs issued on the Elektra Records compilation album What’s Shaking. Later they teamed up again in 1969 with the formation of Blind Faith, shortly after Clapton had left Cream. Blind Faith pioneered the fusion of rock and blues into tremendous studio and stage success. Despite critical and popular acclaim, the band was short-lived with only one album and a brief 1969 tour that debuted 12 July at Madison Square Garden and ended 24 August in Hawaii. Since then, Winwood and Clapton have remained friends but had only performed together a few times over the years; an occasional song at a charity event.

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In 1998, they both appeared in the movie Blues Brothers 2000 as members of the fictional blues group, the Louisiana Gator Boys (Willie Weeks was also a member). During Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, Clapton and Winwood played six songs together including a few Blind Faith songs. After that successful experience, the two decided to collaborate again. The 2008 Madison Square Garden shows were the first full Winwood-Clapton concerts in almost 40 years.

The night before Buddy Miles died, a friend called him on his cell phone so he could hear Winwood and Clapton perform his best known song “Them Changes”. When they found out the next day that Miles had died, they dedicated the performance of the song to him.

On 11 February 2009, the pair announced a 14-city US tour that kicked off on 10 June 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. They were joined on stage by Chris Stainton (keyboards), Willie Weeks (bass), Abe Laboriel, Jr. (drums), as well as backing vocalists Sharon White and Michelle John.

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Live from Madison Square Garden was recorded from 25 to 28 February. The shows were recorded and mixed by James Towler, while the production was handled by James Pluta, John McDermott, and Scooter Weintraub with executive production by John Beug, Michael Eaton, Peter Jackson, and Tom Whalley. Most of the production staff were also involved in the recordings for Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festivals.

The art direction for the album and DVD was Ellen Wakayama with the design handled by Donny Phillips of the Tehachapi hardcore bands The Warriors and Machines, and photography by Danny Clinch. Phillips is one of the lead graphic designers at Warner Bros. Records, which the other two people mentioned also work for. The artwork was based on the taijitu, although the colours on the packaging were red and blue instead of black and white. (by wikipedia)

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Eric Clapton’s new millennium has largely been defined by collaborations with friends, beginning with a duet album with B.B. King following through with a Cream reunion and closing with tours with his former Blind Faith running mate, Steve Winwood. Clapton and Winwood did three concerts together at Madison Square Garden in February 2008 and the results were fruitful enough to spawn this double-disc album — along with its accompanying DVD set — and a moderately scaled 2009 tour. Live from Madison Square Garden culls 21 highlights from those three nights and spreads them over two discs, sequencing the songs so Traffic numbers alternate with selections from Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos, blues standards, a handful of Clapton’s hits, and a heavy dose of Hendrix, who has no less than three songs here. That extended salute to Jimi is a good indication of the vibe here — this is a genuine shared co-billing with Clapton and Winwood trading vocals and solos almost equally.

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There’s not much ego here and not much hunger, either, with the two stars sliding into a relaxed groove that yields plenty of rewards. There’s a comfortable touch to their playing that’s greatly appealing, and the straightforward setting places the spotlight directly on their interplay. Clapton and Winwood might roll easy but they can still create some sparks, sometimes in unexpected places, such as the somewhat forgotten ’80s hits “Forever Man” and “Split Decision,” both which are highlights here. Ultimately, this isn’t an album of moments, but rather a sustained whole that finds Clapton and Winwood egging each other on to produce a wholly satisfying, if not quite surprising, reunion. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

Oh yes … this was a night, two legends came out to play !

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Personnel:
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)
Chris Stainton (keyboards)
Ian Thomas (drums)
Willie Weeks (bass)
Steve Winwood (keyboards guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:

CD 1:
01. Had To Cry Today (Winwood) 7.47
02. Low Down (Cale) 4.10
03. Them Changes (Miles) 5.10
04. Forever Man (Williams) 3.33
05. Sleeping In The Ground (Myers) 4.50
06. Presence Of The Lord (Clapton) 5.23
07. Glad (Winwood) 4.13
08. Well All Right (Allison/Holly/Mauldin/Petty) 5.35
09. Double Trouble (Rush) 8.06
10. Pearly Queen (Capaldi/Winwood) 6.10
11. Tell The Truth (Clapton/Whitlock) 6.42
12. No Face, No Name, No Number (Capaldi/Winwood) 4.09

CD 2:
01. After Midnight (Cale) 4.45
02. Split Decision (Walsh/Winwood) 6.25
03. Rambling On My Mind (Clapton only) (Johnson) 4.01
04. Georgia On My Mind (Winwood only) (Carmichael/Gorrell) 5.05
05. Little Wing (Hendrix) 6.42
06. Voodoo Chile (Hendrix) 16.23
07. Can’t Find My Way Home (Winwood) 5.33
08. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Capaldi/Winwood/Wood) 7.41
09. Cocaine (Cale) 6.41

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