Al Kooper – Black Coffee (2005)

FrontCover1Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt, February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song “Like A Rolling Stone”, French horn on the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, and lead guitar on Rita Coolidge’s “The Lady’s Not for Sale”, among many other appearances. He also produced a number of one-off collaboration albums, such as the Super Session album that brought together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. In the 1970s he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums. He has also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live. (wikipedia)

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Black Coffee is Al Kooper’s first new recording of solo material in more than 30 years. While Kooper, rock music’s most infamous polymath, has never been entirely idle (he has continued to sporadically produce, write, arrange, perform, and hustle), he has been living in semi-retirement in Nash Vegas since the 1990s and this is a major re-entry. The good news is that Black Coffee is a heady brew of loose, rootsy rock, soul, and funky R&B. Kooper and “the Funky Faculty” — drummer Larry Finn, guitarist Bob Doezma, and bassist Tim Stein — along with some select guests, turn up the inspiration dial to 10 and cut loose with a batch of solidly written originals that accent the gritty, immediate and timeless heart of a popular music that hasn’t been so in decades, and a couple of crafty covers. Kooper produced and arranged the set and plays multiple instruments. The opener “My Hands Are Tied” is classically written soul in the Stax/ Volt vein. With a horn section, a trio of backing vocalists, and his B3 carrying the melody, Kooper also plays mandolin on the tune and it sounds like it was meant to be in the mix. He may be adding the first new instrument to the soul canon in decades. His singing voice is in fine shape here as well, turning in a tough, emotive performance underscored by Doerzma’s ragged lead work in the break.

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This is followed by Keb’ Mo”s “Am I Wrong,” on which Kooper plays everything (and the mandolin is present here as well). This is a gritty, high lonesome blues that drips with emotion and atmosphere. The faux lounge swing of “How Am I Ever Gonna Get Over You,” is tainted just a bit because Kooper’s voice is not particularly well suited to the tune (think Leon Russell singing Sinatra), but it’s a minor complaint and the arrangement is stellar. Longtime compadre Dan Penn co-wrote “Going, Going, Gone,” with its slow, deliberate, and humorous look at getting old. Drummer Anton Fig joins him (he plays everything else) on a stomping rock & roll cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” that underscores the blues in the melody. There’s also a smoking live version of “Green Onions,” a rare instrumental here. The steamy reggae-meets-R&B mode on Hal Linden’s “Got My Ion Hue,” is quirky yet utterly gimmick free. And while Kooper’s voice may not be ideally right for Lil Armstrong’s classic “Just for a Thrill,” he pulls it off seamlessly — and his organ and piano work on the tune are stellar. Another live selection is “Comin’ Back in a Cadillac,” that goes on for nearly ten minutes with smoking horn and guitar grooves before closing with the soulful ballad “(I Want You To) Tell Me the Truth.” Black Coffee is consistent and engaging; it is a better album than anyone had any right to expect. But as iconoclastic and unpredictable as Kooper has been in his nearly 50-year career, expectations themselves are suspect. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Larry Finn (drums)
Al Kooper (keyboards, vocals, guitar, french horn, oboe, Organ, percussion, pizzicato)
Daryl Lowery (saxophone)
Tom Baird Stein (bass)
Jeff Stout (trumpet)
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Anton Fig (drums)
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background vocals:
Curtis King – Sherryl Marshal – Catherine Russell – Jimmy Vivino

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Tracklist:
01. My Hands Are Tied (Kooper) 4.52
02. Am I Wrong (Moore) 3.29
03. How My Ever Gonna Get Over You (Kooper) 5.35
04. Going, Going, Gone (Kooper/Penn) 4.58
05. Keep It To Yourself (Kooper) 5.20
06. Get Ready (Robinson) 3.14
07. Imaginary Lover (Kooper/Stewart) 3.38
08. Green Onions (live) (Jones/Cropper/Jackson/Steinberg) 6.23
09. Another Man’s Prize (Kooper) 6.07
10. Childish Love (Kooper) 3.26
11. Got My Ion Hue (Lindes) 4.18
12. Just For A Thrill (Raye/Armstrong) 3.54
13. Back In A Cadillac (live) (Kooper) 9.54
14. (I Want You To) Tell The Truth (Kooper) 3.55

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More from Al Kooper:
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Petra Haden – Sings The Who Sell Out (2005)

FrontCover1Petra Haden (born October 11, 1971) is an American musician and singer. She has been a member of That Dog, Tito & Tarantula, and The Decemberists; has contributed to recordings by Bill Frisell, The Twilight Singers, Beck, Mike Watt, Luscious Jackson, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Weezer, The Rentals, Victoria Williams, Yuka Honda, The Gutter Twins, Sunn O))), and Cornelius. She is the daughter of the jazz bassist Charlie Haden; the triplet sister of bassist Rachel Haden (her bandmate in That Dog) and cellist Tanya Haden (married to singer and actor Jack Black) with whom she has performed as The Haden Triplets; and the sister of bassist-singer Josh Haden, leader of the group Spain.

In New York City, in 1996 she released her first album, Imaginaryland, consisting mostly of original a cappella music. In 2000, Petra was struck by a car while crossing a street in Los Angeles; the resulting injuries forced her out of performance for several months. In 2005 she released the home-recorded album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None), a complete a cappella rendition of The Who Sell Out. The project was suggested to Haden by longtime friend Mike Watt, who also gave her the eight-channel multi-track cassette recorder she used to make it. Funded in part by a Durfee grant and wanting to perform the work live, Haden created a new arrangement of The Who Sell Out for a ten-woman a cappella choir called Petra Haden & The Sellouts. The premiere live performance of the full work occurred in July 2005 at the Ford Amphitheatre as a PetraHaden3part of the “sound.” concert series.

She has also released a self-titled collaboration with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

She contributed to the recording of ØØ Void by drone metal band Sunn O))) and played on the debut and follow up album of Sunn O))) guitarist Greg Anderson’s other doom metal band Goatsnake. The Haden Triplets sang the part of the Fates in Anaïs Mitchell’s 2010 release Hadestown on Righteous Babe Records.

She is also at work on a collection of songs with Yuka Honda,[2] apparently with contributing performances by Sean Lennon.

In 2007, Haden recorded an a cappella cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” for the compilation album Guilt by Association Vol. 1. This arrangement of the song is very similar to that used in the Glee version of the song in 2009.

She performed on the soundtrack to the film An American Crime, starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, which premiered on Showtime in May 2008.

In 2009, Toyota commissioned Haden to perform three songs for television commercials for the third-generation Toyota Prius, including an a cappella version of the Bellamy Brothers 1970s song “Let Your Love Flow” and worked as an arranger and vocal coach The Sing Off on NBC, alongside Deke Sharon.

Haden played violin on “Sentimental Tune” by Tegan and Sara, off of their album Sainthood (released October 27, 2009).

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In 2011, Haden formed the group If By Yes with Yuka Honda, the culmination of an eight-year songwriting collaboration. The band released one album, “Salt on Sea Glass”[7] Other band members included Yuko Araki on drums and Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu on guitar, with contributions from David Byrne and Nels Cline.

In 2014 she worked on a collaboration with Jim Bianco in Hooray Matinee. The resulting tracks were released on a number of digital outlets.

In 2015, she provided vocals for the rock mockumentary “Gentle & Soft: The Blue Jean Committee Story”, the 1st season finale of the IFC series Documentary Now! (starring Fred Armisen & Bill Hader). Haden’s voice was used as the falsetto of Blue Jean Committee bassist Clark Honus (played by Hader). Haden even appeared live with Armisen & Hader as “The Blue Jean Committee” on Late Night With Seth Meyers, with Hader lip-synching to Haden’s vocals.

Also in 2015, Haden again collaborated with Bill Frisell, providing vocals on his 2016 album When You Wish Upon A Star.

In 2016, the song “Easy Street” by The Collapsable Hearts Club, which featured Haden and Jim Bianco, played throughout The Walking Dead episode “The Cell”. A few hours after the episode’s broadcast, the song rose to number 92 in the UK Singles Chart.

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Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is an album by Petra Haden, an entirely a cappella interpretation of the album The Who Sell Out by English rock band The Who. Haden supplies all of the vocals. It was released in 2005 on Bar None Records. The recording was inspired by former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who gave Haden the 8-track recorder with the original Who album on it.

In the Boston Globe on 13 March 2005, The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, Pete Townshend, had this to say about Haden’s version of the album:

I was a little embarrassed to realize I was enjoying my own music so much, for in a way it was like hearing it for the first time. What Petra does with her voice, which is not so easy to do, is challenge the entire rock framework … When she does depart from the original music she does it purely to bring a little piece of herself — and when she appears she is so very welcome. I felt like I’d received something better than a Grammy.

In his book Paddle Your Own Canoe, actor Nick Offerman recommends the album as ideal to listen to while building canoes. (by wikipedia)

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One of the triplet daughters of legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, Petra grew up in a world of music. At a young age, she developed a remarkable talent to perfectly mimick the sounds of instruments she was hearing around the house from Captain Kagaroo to the Cocteau Twins. She developed complex arrangements in her head and could interpret all sorts of songs. Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is the latest chapter in the always provocative, often unpredictable yet never less than fascinating musical career of Ms. Haden. The impetus for the project came from her friend, bassist mike watt, who suggested that she attempt to re-imagine this classic Who album as an a capella tour de force (this at least a year before any news of Bjork’s Medulla leaked to the press). He gave her an 8 track cassette tape with the original Who album recorded onto one track and the other seven empty, for her to fill with intricate vocal harmonies reinventing not only all The Who´s singing and instrumental parts  including drums  she also recorded all the mock radio commercials so integral to The Who Sell Out experience. The final result is a technical tour de force that highlights The Who’s own achievement, bringing all the elements of chorale music, vaudevillian schmaltz and Renaissance chamber ensemble playing powerfully to the fore. (Press release)

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No one would have seen this coming, but it’s as natural as loving a great album can be. Petra Haden renders the classic album, The Who Sell Out, in its entirety — fake commercials and all — and she does it a capella. She has a voice and sensibilities to make this work as she performs both the lyrics and components from the Who’s instrumental tracks. It is the latter which is particularly affecting, her choices addressing how many fans of the original album would also identify a song’s key characteristics. Townshend’s guitar parts in particular are sung with virtuosity and unmistakable glee. Far from being a mere stunt, this set works on its own as well as giving one pause, reconsidering the original work in a new light. –David Greenberger

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Personnel:
Petrta Haden (vocals, all instruments)

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Tracklist:
01. Armenia City In The Sky (Keen) 3.40
02. Heinz Baked Beans (Entwistle) 1.10
03. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (Townshend) 2.30
04. Odorono (Townshend) 2.18
05. Tattoo (Townshend) 3.10
06. Our Love Was (Townshend) 3.25
07. I Can See For Miles (Townshend) 4.14
08. I Can’t Reach You (Townshend) 3.30
09. Medac (Entwistle) 0.57
10. Relax (Townshend) 2.41
11. Silas Stingy (Entwistle)
12. Sunrise (Townshend) (Townshend) 3.03
13. Rael (Townshend) 5.30
14. Untitled 0.18

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Deke Leonard – Freedom And Chains (2005)

FrontCover1Deke Leonard is a Welsh musician serving a life sentence in the music business. After several unsuccessful escape attempts he is now resigned to his fate.

During the sixties, Deke served his apprenticeship in several successful rock’n’roll bands on the Welsh gig circuit, including the CORNCRACKERS, the JETS, the BLACKJACKS and the DREAM, who headlined the national press in 1967 with the headline ‘The Biggest Freak-Out To Hit South Wales’. There were occasional adventures abroad in the footsteps of The Beatles, notably residencies in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg – where bands cut the mustard playing up to 7 or 8 hours a day – and a tours of US Army bases in Europe.

In 1968 Deke joined Pye recording artists, THE BYSTANDERS, whose single releases included 98.6 and When Jesamine Goes. But the times were changing and the BYSTANDERS were changing with them. They changed the name of the band to MAN and renegotiated their deal with Pye Records from a singles deal to an album deal, and started seriously writing their own material. Deke, a compulsive songwriter, thought he’d gone to heaven. They released two albums on Pye, REVELATION and 2OZS OF PLASTIC (WITH A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE). They signed a new management deal with Marshall Arts and were soon touring Europe, so much so that they based themselves in Germany for a year.

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At the start of the seventies, Marshall Arts negotiated a new record deal with United Artists and MAN entered a golden period. They made seven studio albums with UA, four of which charted, and two live albums, LIVE AT THE PADGETT ROOMS and XMAS AT THE PATTI featuring Dave Edmunds. Both topped the budget album charts and are now regarded as collectors items. Each album was promoted with British and European tours, and they found themselves working 364 days a year (Marshall Arts allowed them Christmas Day off).

After the second UA album Deke left the band and was immediately offered a solo deal with UA and went on to make two albums, ICEBERG and KAMIKAZE. Deke formed a band called ICEBERG and set off to promote them with British and European tours, and live radio performances on the John Peel session shows. During his absence MAN had recorded two albums, BE GOOD TO YOURSELF and BACK INTO THE FUTURE, both of which charted. Things were going well. But when things were going well, the MANBAND (a name by which they have become definitely known) usually broke up and they duly followed this pattern. Deke, abandoning his solo career, rejoined a reconstituted MANBAND giving Marshall Arts, who had continued to represent Deke, a collective nervous breakdown.

DekeLeonhard04The next album, RHINOS, WINOS & LUNATICS went to number 12 in the British Album charts, and the band went off to the USA, doing three long tours, the first supporting HAWKWIND on the ‘Space 1999 Tour’, and headlining the next two. During the second tour they met one of their heroes, John Cippolina from QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE and invited him to join the band for a British tour. He agreed and the resulting live album, MAXIMUM DARKNESS also charted. After his departure, the band broke up, reformed, signed a new record deal with MCA and recorded THE WELSH CONNECTION. As soon as it was released the band went out on tour in America and Europe to promote it.

But during this tour, cracks began to appear and Man headed for a final break up. They finally broke up during a Scandinavian Tour that followed the last American adventure. They did a farewell tour of Britain which resulted in the album, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL and a HTV documentary LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE – now released on CD and DVD.
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After the break-up, Deke stayed with United Artists and made BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, a solo album produced by Martin Rushent, whose clients included the BUZZCOCKS and the HUMAN LEAGUE. Then corporate shenanigans intervened. EMI bought United Artists and the new regime delayed the album release. It was finally released five years later.

In the meantime, Deke formed THE FORCE with former DUCKS DELUXE frontman Sean Tyler and they released an album called, imaginatively, THE FORCE. Extensive touring followed during which Sean Tyler had a nervous breakdown and THE FORCE mutated into ICEBERG. Then, in 1983, Deke’s agent informed him of an offer he’d received for a European tour for MAN.

Would they be interested? Yes, they were. The new tour was booked and the next incarnation of MAN hit the road. The new line-up included MAN originals, Micky Jones and Martin Ace along with Deke, but did not include long-time drummer Terry Williams who had joined DIRE STRAITS. His replacement was ex-GENTLE GIANT drummer, John `Pugwash’ Weathers.

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For the next twenty years the band toured extensively and continued to produce albums including THE TWANG DYNASTY, CALL DOWN THE MOON, and ENDANGERED SPECIES and most of the back-catalogue has now been re-released by Point Records. Further to a number of official bootleg albums are now on the shelves, several new compilation albums have been produced (including live concert material) by various companies including Sanctuary Records. DVDs include MAN LIVE and MAN AT THE ROUNDHOUSE and a live appearance on the latest rock compilation DVD THE LEGENDS OF ROCK.
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Throughout the 1980s Deke also became a journalist contributing regular articles and reviews for, amongst others, VOX MAGAZINE, NEW HI-FI SOUND and STUDIO WEEK. For the past 10 years Deke has written a regular monthly column ‘Deke Speaks’ for the fanzine THE WELSH CONNECTION compiled and edited by his publisher, Michael Heatley (author of the Dec.2004 publication JOHN PEEL A LIFE IN MUSIC).

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During the 1990s, Deke wrote two critically-acclaimed autobiographical books, RHINOS, WINOS, & LUNATICS (The legend of the MAN a Rock’n’Roll band) and MAYBE I SHOULD’VE STAYED IN BED? (The Flip Side Of The Rock’n’Roll Dream) both published by Michael Heatley of Northdown Publishing, author of the December 2004 publication JOHN PEEL, A LIFE IN MUSIC. Deke’s books reveal the quirky side of the rock’n’roll dream and provide a sideways glance at the social history of the last forty years. THE TIMES called them `hilarious and unputdownable’; TIME OUT (London) called them ‘the quintessential rock’n’roll memoirs that’ll have you laughing out loud’; CLASSIC ROCK remarked ‘This is a genuinely hilarious feast. Forget Spinal Tap. This is the real deal’ and MOJO observed ‘Leonard writes up a storm. You will find these books irresistable’.

In 2003 The Fiction Factory, a film company, acquired the film rights to both books and a film is now in pre-production.

Occasional TV appearances include from the past THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST and BBC coverage of festivals such as READING and GLASTONBURY and a host of European shows. Deke has more recently appeared as a panellist on HTV’s PUB ROCK QUIZ and guest commentator on BBC 1’s JUKE BOX HEROES and BBC1’s WALES IN OUT TIME with JOHN HUMPHRYS.

DekeLeonhard07Past radio shows include five live JOHN PEEL SESSIONS and Deke is now a regular on BBC Radio Wales, most recently presenting a programme of rock’n’roll anecdotes called TALES OF THE ROAD; as a guest narrator on DRAGONS BREATH (a history of welsh rock music) and assuming the mantle of team captain on the musican quiz series ROCK OF AGES with guest panellists Trevor Burton of THE MOVE; Reg Presley from THE TROGGS and Mike D’Abo.

Recently, Steve Elsdon, a promoter and friend, suggested he try a one-man show, telling rock’n’roll stories and singing songs. The first show was at the new DYLAN THOMAS CENTRE THEATRE in Swansea. It was a great success and Deke loved every minute of it. Other shows have followed in London and nationally. Deke now sees himself as a cross between Bo Diddley and Peter Ustinov. A tour of one-man shows is now planned and this biography is intended to whet your appetite in the hope that you will be encouraged to participate.

In 2004, Deke left the band to follow his own star. The split was amicable but Deke thinks the band were secretly glad to get rid of him. “Well,” he says, “given half a chance I’d get rid of me.”

Deke Leonard’s one-man shows are an hilarious journey, illustrated with songs, around the flip side of the rock’n’roll dream. It is designed to appeal to both those familiar with Deke’s career, and newcomers alike. As RECORD BUYER remarked “It is social history, rock’n’roll and essential’.

During 2004 Deke also went back into the studio to record his first solo album for a quarter of a century entitled FREEDOM AND CHAINS, a compilation of new songs recently released on 17th January, 2005 by Angel Air Records. Also, soon to be released by Hux Records is Deke Leonard WIRELESS – a collection of live radio shows recorded during the 70s including John Peel session. (official biography)

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Deke Leonard is singer & lead guitarist with Man, Wales’ psychedelic music wizards founded in 1968 & still going strong. He has also fronted his own hard rock band & made three solo albums – ‘Iceberg’, ‘Kamikaze’, & ‘Before Your Very Eyes’. This is a 21 track collection of songs from the 70s & 80s only seven of which exist in officially released form & are featured here in alternate form. The rest are studio recorded demos & songs that for various reasons never got out. (Promo text)

I first saw Deke Leonard way back in 1976 when he was playing with the Man band at Edinburgh University round about 1976 and it turned out to be one of the best live DekeLeonhard08concerts I had ever been at ! I went on to buy Deke’s “Iceberg” albums Iceberg and Kamekaze over the next few years and very much enjoyed the songs. I drifted out of music, essentially for the next 35 years but started to replace many of my 70’s vinyls with CD’s round about 2012. In February 2017, I Iearned of the passing away of Deke and felt quite sad about it, this kick started my re-newed interest in his music and I recently purchased Freedom and Chains. It amazes me why Deke Leonard didn’t rise to the great heights of fame and fortune, but unless you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s you might not appreciate his contribution to the music industry. This album has some very clever lyrics and you can’t help but smile all the way through Guantanamo Bay(track 04). Hope that’s how you spell it !!! So black !!. Palestine has an amazing lead guitar throughout the song again with a superb chorus. The theme of the album is just as the title suggests and the songs pretty much stick to the general theme. If you liked the Man band, this is actually quite different but in all the best ways, it will not disappoint. Take a risk and listen (Bruce Craig)

This album portrays a master performing his art. ENJOY

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Personnel:
Deke Leonard (guitar, vocals)
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Martin Ace – Simon Parsons – Keith Hodge – Gareth Llewelyn – Silve Thorrington – Bob Richards and many more

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Tracklist:
01. The Thrill Of Revolution 6.07
02. I Don’t Love You Anymore 2.56
03. Cuba 5.18
04. Guantanamo Bay 3:17
05. Blues 4:01
06. Tahitian Thunder 4:21
07 Palestine 3:58
08. Just Another Woman 4:27
09. Queen Of My Heart 2:53
10. Something In My Heart Says No 2:02
11. Tomorrow’s Gonna Come 3:26
12. Empty Places 4:17
13. The Same Mistake 4:03
14. Is This What Love Is? 5:22
15. Trapped (In The Jaws Of Love) 4:00
16. Blues 2 (The Meek Mix) 4:18

All songs written by Deke Leonhard
except 06., written by Deke Leonhard & Sean Tyla

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DekeLeonhard09Roger Arnold “Deke” Leonard (18 December 1944 – 31 January 2017)

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Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion – Mozart Meets Cuba (2005)

KlazzBrothersFrontCover1In celebration of the anniversary of Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006, Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion dedicated their new album to the genius of composition and improvisation, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The album is part of the quintet’s sophisticated crossover series between classical music, jazz and Latin-American rhythms. “Mozart meets Cuba“ invites the listeners to join in on an imaginary musical trip to Cuba, where they get to experience the Viennese Classic in a mould-breaking innovative way. Witty and playful and with a delicate musical intuition the arrangements of the Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion lead Mozart and his music on to novel musical dimensions, fusing the most beautiful compositions of the great Salzburg genius with the rhythm and harmonies of Latin jazz. Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion pay homage to a great composer of an extraordinary dramatic art, that is as relevant as it was 250 years ago. Thus, the ensemble has created a unique conversation between the Caribbean and the occident, glossily reconciling classical sonata themes with the Caribbean dancing rhythm. As a result the „Serenade No. 13“ is transformed into a cha-cha-cha and „The Turkish March“ converted into a “Cuban” one. Next to it, two single compositions are united to one piece as can be heard with Pamina’s aria from “The Magic Flute”. The aria is combined with „Besame Mucho“, motives of Ennio Morricones’ “Once Upon a Time in the West” resound within the overture of „Don Giovanni“.

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The programme „Mozart meets Cuba“ premiered at the Munich Philharmonic Hall in 2005. It was broadcasted worldwide by Euroarts. In the same year the same-titled album was released with Sony Classical, which was awarded the “Echo Classic” in the category “Classic Beyond Borders”, thus presenting the second “Echo” award for the successful quintet. Their international tour started just in time for Mozart’s birthday on 27th January 2006 with a concert at the “Wiener Konzertverein”, followed by various other performances at renowned concert halls such as the “Berlin Philharmonic Hall”, the “Gewandhaus Leipzig” and the “Semper Opera Dresden”.

“Mozart meets Cuba” becomes a memorable musical experience thanks to the unique intensityof the quintet’s impressive creativity in perfectly blending music of different genres. (grandmontagne.de)

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As a follow up to their accomplished fusion effort last year, “Classic Meets Cuba”, the Klazz Brothers and Cuba Percussion have collaborated again for much of the same, only this time focusing specifically on the works of Mozart. If the results are not quite as exhilarating as the first effort, it may be that the novelty feels somewhat worn this time despite the often virtuoso playing displayed here. Recalling some of Vince Guaraldi’s work in the 1960’s, the jazzy arrangements are once again supplemented with the beat-heavy Cuban rhythms churned out by Alexis Herrera Estevez on timbales and Elio Rodriguez Luis on congas. What continues to impress on this recording is how well the two sides of the ensemble – Estevez and Rodriguez on one and on the other, pianist Tobias Forster, bassist Killian Forster and drummer Tim Hahn – mesh so well in making all the disparate musical elements balance without contrivance.

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Many of Mozart’s most renowned pieces are here in reconfigured form. The warhorse Piano Sonata K. 545 (“Sonata Facile”) turns into a sunny Caribbean number, “Calypso Facile”, while the staccato-tempo Turkish March evolves into the propulsive “Cuban March”. More creatively, the familiar Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467 turns into an African-accented bolero named appropriately “Afrolero” complete with a faraway-sounding whistle, while Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K. 525 becomes a percolating dance number, “Bomba de la Noche”. Even more audaciously, they turn the overture to “Don Giovanni” into a slow, evocative bolero number, “Don Muerte”, and the familiar aria, “La Ci Darem La Mano” into a lovely piano-dominated ballad, “Reich Mir Die Hand (Your Hand in Mine)”. Somewhat less successful are the two selections derived from “The Magic Flute” – “Yo Siento Mucho”, a cha-cha version of “Ach, Ich Fuhl’s” and Forster’s extended piano riffs based on the potpourri passage, “Salzburger Schafferl”. Latin pop artist Lou Bega lends his saucy vocals to “Son de Mozart”, a clubby reinvention of Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475. This is fun listening for fans of Latin-classical fusion. (Ed Uyeshima)

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Personnel:
Alexis Herrera Estevez (timbales)
Kilian Forster (bass)
Tobias Forster (piano)
Tim Hahn (drums)
Elio Rodriguez Luis (percussion)
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Lou Bega (vocals on 16.)
Olivier Roland Kerourio (harmonica on 08.)
Mario Felix Hernandez Morejon (trumpet on 08. + 16.)

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Tracklist:
01. Guantánameritmo – Sonate c-Moll KV 457 / 2.59
02. Salzburger Schafferl – Die Zauberflöte 5.16
03. Calypso Facile – Sonate C-Dur KV 545 / 6.11
04. Poema con Cohiba – Klarinettenkonzert 3.07
05. Kubanischer Marsch – Türkischer Marsch 4.00
06. Afrolero – Klavierkonzert Nr. 21 / 5.08
07. Don Cajon 0.34
08. Don Muerte – Don Giovanni 5.03
09. Sonatadur – Sonate A-Dur KV 331 / 3.29
10. Wenn Son, Danzon – Klavierkonzert Nr. 23 / 4.32
11. Reich mir die Hand – Reich mir die Hand, mein Leben 4.44
12. Tercero de la Noche – Eine kleine Nachtmusik 5.07
13. Yo siento mucho – Die Zauberflöte 4.48
14. Bomba de la Noche – Eine kleine Nachtmusik 3.59
15. Hasta la vista Mozart 2.27
16. Son de Mozart – Fantasie c-Moll 4.21

Music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Raul Midón – State Of Mind (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgRaul Midón is a contemporary singer/songwriter whose impassioned acoustic guitar playing — a mix of rock, classical, and flamenco — has gotten him just as much attention as his smooth, relaxed voice. Blind since birth, Midón was born in Embudo, New Mexico, to an Argentine father and American mother. He began playing drums early in his childhood before switching to guitar, taking in flamenco, jazz, and classical styles on his chosen instrument. He relocated to Miami for college in the ’90s and while there moonlighted as a background vocalist for Latin pop recording sessions. Midón was a remarkable talent even then, and word quickly spread of his talent as a singer and guitarist, one inspired by a crop of artists including Hermeto Pascoal, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Bill Withers.

As a solo artist, Midón made his debut on RCA with Gracias a la Vida (1999), after which he relocated to New York, where he concentrated on a solo career. Following the independent release Blind to Reality (2001), he signed with the EMI-distributed Manhattan label and released State of Mind (2005) and World Within a World (2007). The former featured appearances from Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz and cracked the Billboard 200 chart. A short stint with Decca produced Synthesis (2010), highlighted by a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”; the same year, a performance in support of Marcus Miller was documented on A Night in Monte Carlo. Invisible Chains: Live from NYC (2012), self-released, preceded an association with Mack Avenue subsidiary Artistry for Don’t Hesitate (2014) and Bad Ass and Blind (2017). (by by Wade Kergan)

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Hailed as one of the breakout releases of 2005, blind guitarist Raul Midón’s major-label debut generally justifies the hype. He is a stunning acoustic guitarist with a percussive, at times Latin style, and a silky, inviting singer straight out of the Stevie Wonder/Donny Hathaway school. (Wonder plays on one track and Hathaway is the subject of another.) Midón’s major-label debut was co-helmed by Arif Mardin, the legendary producer behind Norah Jones’ successful first release. While musically there isn’t much common ground between the two artists, Mardin’s subtle, airy approach works perfectly here. He lets Midón’s expressive voice and nimble acoustic guitar set the tone, adding hints of percussion, flute, vibraphone, acoustic bass, wispy keyboards, and occasional backing vocals to flesh out the songs.

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It’s a successful formula, beefing up the music without making it overly slick. Despite the vocal similarity to Wonder, Midón establishes his own sound, singing uplifting songs of love and life with Latin and jazz flourishes that marinate in the stripped-down, acoustic arrangements. It’s pleasant enough, but even with a few left turns such as the fiery conga- and flute-driven spoken word “I Would Do Anything,” the style and songs tend to get a little repetitious as the album creeps past its midpoint. Unlike Wonder, Midón’s lovely, smooth quiet storm voice doesn’t shift often enough to a harsher side, something that would help this album shift gears out of cruise control and Sunday morning brunch mode. Regardless, this remains a beautifully focused and mature work. Midón has already found his voice and the intermingled jazz/Latin/folk/soul qualities indicate a musician who can move in any one of a number of directions after this impressive start. (by Hal Horowitz)

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Personnel:
Richard Hammond (bass)
Raul Midón (vocals, guitar)
Shedrick Mitchell (organ)
Daniel Sadownick (percussion)
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Cyro Baptista (percussion on 11.)
Jerry Barnes (bass on 06. + 08.
Sammy Figeroua (percussion on 12.)
Lisa Fisher (background vocals on  04., 07. + 13.)
Stefon Harris (vibraphone on 07. + 13.)
Donny Hathaway (vocals on 08.)
Joe Mardin (piano on 03., drums on 09., percussion on 11.)
Gregoire Maret (harmonica on 11.)
Jonathan Maron (bass on 02.)
Jason Mraz (vocals, guitar on 03.)
Eric Revis (bass on 11.)
Dave Valentine (flute on 12.)
Stevie Wonder (harmonica on 07.)

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Tracklist:
01. State Of Mind (Midón) 3.25
02. If You Gonna Leave (Midón) 3.52
03. Keep On Hoping (Midón(Mraz) 4.33
04. Mystery Girl (Midón) 4.23
05. Waited All My Life (Midón) 4.36
06. Everybody (Midón) 4.01
07.  Expressions Of Love (Midón) 2.50
08. Sittin’ In The Middle (Midón) 3.32
09. Suddenly (Midón) 3.32
10. Never Get Enough (Midón) 3.46
11. Sunshine (I Can Fly) (Menedez/Midón/Vega) 4.34
12. I Would Do Anything (Midón) 3.34
13. All In Your Mind (Fournier/Midón) 3.18

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**

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Brian Crain – Spring Symphonies (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgBrian Crain was a musically inclined child, but he was never formally educated in music, and yet has still found success as a pianist/composer. He was born in Hollywood, and although offered piano lessons, he preferred honing his baseball skills to practicing. He also built his own home studio while working on audio production for films as a teenager. Crain’s dreams of being a professional ballplayer did not come to fruition, but in the meantime, he had managed to teach himself how to play piano as he picked out his own melodies. He released his first CD, Morning Light, in 1997, and met with enough success to make music his career. Crain has since made more than a dozen albums of his own music. The use of one of his piano pieces, Butterfly Waltz, in a South Korean drama has made him an artist better known in Asia than in his home country. He has a large fan base and toured there several times, as his music is used in more TV commercials and programming. Crain enjoys trying new ideas in his music, such as unusual meters and minimalist concepts used on his albums Piano Opus (2011) and Piano and Light (2009), to complement his flowing, attractive melodies. (by Patsy Morita)

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In 2004, Brian Crain took the opportunity to reflect on his recording portfolio by revisiting his catalog and re-recording with a string quartet. Apparently, this was one small step toward the giant leap that Crain has made here. The great adventure is that his latest recording includes a collaboration with the 52 member Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This progressive statement comes without the backing of any recording label and yet the results are grand and magnificent.

In a short two-year period, Crain has gone from the synthesized string arrangements of the 2003 Sienna to organic warmth of the quartet arrangements on his retrospective release last year. This time around Spring Symphonies, despite all the risks and investment is not only a heroic but equally bold and successful creative step. Crain not only collaborated with a full orchestra, he also traveled to the Czech Republic which was probably a huge financial risk taking into account that the project comes with no label backing.

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Considering the creative use of an orchestra, the classical influences are obvious and are even reflected in the title of the compositions that are also divided into two symphonies. The intermission comes courtesy of the one stripped down track appropriately entitled “Piano Solo”. The tempo is slow and the mood very somber giving the album its most philosophical and reflective moment. Otherwise, the remainder of the album makes full use of the orchestration made available to Crain who continues to emphasize the melody line that he repeats over and over with additional embellishments from various members of the orchestra. Though Crain maintains his own identity his blending of classical movements along with memorable memories brings to mind the musical comparisons of Tim Janis. The tearful strings of “Andante Affettuoso” are about as powerful as the vapors of an onion to the naked human eye.

Also most memorable is the opening movement “Andante Cantabile” that is arousing and emotive. Countered by Brian’s piano bridge brings the listener to the early realization that Spring Symphonies has something very special to say. Though not quite as complex, it would be daring to compare this album with David Foster’s Symphony Sessions and the equally remarkable Skyline Firedance of David Lanz. Again, keep in mind that these two talented artists created their epics with the backing of major recording labels. Crain still managed to pull this feat off without the same assistance.

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Frankly, all of the movements are for the lack of a better phrase, very moving. But one specific mention should be given to “Allegro Maestoso” that has a stunning piano bridge that returns the listener to a luscious string overture. It is simply wonderful, as is the entire 49 minutes and odd seconds of this ambitious and audacious album.

Brian Crain has shown the ability not only to create and compose but do so on a grand scale whether it comes with major label backing or not. This artist will not be stopped and is starting to secure the word of mouth that is far overdue. However, Spring Symphonies is so superior to anything Crain has done that the only negative aspect is how does he follow up on this tour de force? However, this is a great quandary to be in. (by Michael Debbage)

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Personnel:
Brian Crain (piano)
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Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Petr Vronsky

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Tracklist:

Symphony No. 1:
01. Andante Cantabile 6.17
02. Andantino 4.00
03. Adagio Con Amore 7.05
04. Allegro Maestoso 4.59

05.Piano Solo 4.18

Symphony No. 2:
06. Andante Affettuoso 5.12
07. Adagio Appassionato 5.41
08. Largo Maestoso 6.37
09. Allegretto 5.16

Music composed by Brian Crain

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Tracy Chapman – Where You Live (2005)

FrontCover1Where You Live is Tracy Chapman’s seventh studio album and was released September 13, 2005. The album was co-produced by Tchad Blake. It produced two singles: “Change”, and “America”.

Where You Live is a reminder that somewhere during her career, Tracy Chapman softly transformed from just an early publicized face of contemporary folk into a quiet stalwart of social commentary and atmosphere. Though she is certainly best known for her hits “Fast Car” and “Give Me One Reason,” those two songs stand within her history as suspension bridge supports: visible from afar as beacons of a structure with purpose, whose job is to sustain the action from point A to point B in her slow evolution. And with major labels’ consistent tendency to lean further and further away from hosting artists for more than an album or two, it is commendable that Elektra seems dedicated in serving Chapman’s subtlety and dependable longevity, affording her the luxury of having producers and players aboard who nurture her sound through said evolution. Where You Live is yet another elegant and easy album from Chapman, just the kind her fan base has come to expect, and with the help of co-producer Tchad Blake, it embraces some details of Chapman’s penchant for darkness, where parts of her earlier records glossed over these folds. Judging by many of the artists with whom he has worked,

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Blake’s inclination seems to be to find minutiae such as this and latch on, his approach being generally heavy-handed, but here he has left plenty of room for the songs to really breathe around their most intriguing attribute: Chapman’s warm voice. Perhaps it was Chapman’s role as co-producer that served as a ballast, or perhaps it is an example of Blake’s growth, but it is worth noting Blake’s late-’90s trademark — ultra-compressed, watery, and claustrophobic drum sounds — has been given a rest in exchange for simple, dry, and tight drums played minimally by Quinn. This restrained foundation is integral to the dynamics of Where You Live, allowing any flourish to meet the ear with immediacy and purpose. Short of a few examples, Where You Live slides along at a gentle, mid-tempo gait. The nature of Chapman’s calm delivery, as with much of her catalog, is deceiving, considering some of the heavy subject matter, but it is perhaps one of her greatest assets that she is able to allow her messages to sink in like mellow fatigue on a late-summer Sunday evening. In anyone else’s hands, these smooth edges would likely suffer under the force of preaching, but her demeanor allows the words and melodies to work for themselves. Perhaps due to the album’s fluidity, no song from Where You Live immediately presents itself as the single; instead the album operates entirely as a measured course and will enlighten those who will choose to fall into its simple allure, rather than acting as a hook for new listeners. (by Gregory McIntosh)

And this wonderful album comes with a beautiful booklet !

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Personnel:
Paul Bushnell (bass)
Tracy Chapman (guitar, clarinet, harmonica, mandolin, percussion, glockenspiel, keyboard bass, hand drums)
Flea (bass)
Mitchell Froom (keyboards, celeste, harpsichord, wurlitzer)
Joe Gore (guitar, dobro, percussion, bass, lap steel guitar, keyboard bass)
David Piltch (bass)
Michael Webster (keyboards)
Quinn Smith (percussion, piano, drums, glockenspiel)

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Tracklist:
01. Change 5.07
02. Talk To You 4.28
03. 3,000 Miles 5.59
04. Going Back 5.23
05. Don’t Dwell 3.22
06. Never Yours 3.37
07. America 3.44
08. Love’s Proof 3.45
09. Before Easter 3.04
10. Taken 3.43
11. Be And Be Not Afraid 4.45

All songs written by Tracy Chapman.

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Magna Carta – The Fields Of Eden (2015)

FrontCover1.jpgFinally after so many years it is really going to happen. Magna Carta have recorded the long awaited album, “The Fields of Eden”. And what better time to release it than on the actual date of the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years later. June 15th.

Fields of Eden has already been classed as a masterpiece and by many has surpassed the band’s legendary Lord of the Ages which went Gold after its release back in 1973. A mixture of vibrant new songs highlighted by the epic 16 minute title track The Fields of Eden.

This simply has to be Chris Simpsons best release ever!

Chris and the gang do it again!! A wonderful new release chock full of some of the best evocative music and lyrics Mr Simpson has come up with. The album moves through an eclectic set of styles, is refreshing and above all sincere. Magna Carta in all it’s various guises has always been known for creating that warm feeling you get when you listen to music that is from the heart and comforting. No “Doom and Gloom”, just from the heart!! I have been an avid follower of the band all the years they have been performing and I have to say this album ranks among the very best they have done. Good on you Chris, keep on rockin’. (by GuitarTony)

Indeed: Another hightlight in the long career of Magna Carta and Chris Simpson !

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Personnel:
Will Jackson (piano, guitar)
Chris Simpson (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
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Matt Barhoorn (violin)
Andrew Jackson (spoken word)
Laurens Joensen (guitar, slide-guitar,, mandolin, dobro, banjo)
Doug Morter (guitar, background vocals)
Derek Nash (saxophone)
Kate Peters (background vocals)
Elliott Randall (guitar)
Wendy Ross (violin)
John Shepard (drums, percussion)
Cathy Simpson (piano)
Alan Thomson (bass, slide guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Anemos / Child Of The Light 1.25
02. Long Rime Running 5.20
03. Walk Away From Heaven 5.02
04. Fields Of Eden 16.14 :
04.1. Overture
04.2.The Tumbling River
04.3.Middlesmoor
04.4. Stonebeck
04.5. The Fields Of Eden
04.6. Epilogue – Middlesmoor
05. The Same Rain 5.20
06. Greenhow Hill 4.34
07. This Time Around 4.34
08. European Union Blues 3.28
09. Nidderdale / Backroads 5.45
10. The Wild Geese (The Spirit Of The Wide Northland) 4.21
11. Life In The Old Dog 3.09

All songs written by Chris Simpson

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  • (comin soon)
    **

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Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Nothing But The Water (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgGrace Potter and the Nocturnals is an American rock band from Vermont, formed in 2002 in Waitsfield by drummer Matt Burr, guitarist Scott Tournet, and singer Grace Potter. They began their career as an indie band, self-producing their albums and touring extensively in the jam bands and music festivals circuit, playing as many as 200 gigs in a year. In 2005 they signed for Hollywood Records; they have published four studio albums, encompassing rock subgenres such as blues rock, folk rock, hard rock, and alternative rock. Their third, self-titled album (2010) has been a major commercial success, topping iTunes charts and receiving international attention.

The band is fronted by lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter (born June 20, 1983), who is known for her vocal qualities—evocative of blues rock singers like Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, or Koko Taylor—as well as for her vibrant energy on stage. Besides playing with the Nocturnals, Potter has also released solo material and collaborated with other artists including Kenny Chesney and The Rolling Stones.

Nothing But the Water is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ first studio album. It was released on May 10, 2005 independently by the band. The album was re-released with re-mastered tracks and a bonus DVD on May 23, 2006 after the band signed with Hollywood Records in late 2005.Nothing But the Water is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ first studio album. It was released on May 10, 2005 independently by the band. The album was re-released with re-mastered tracks and a bonus DVD on May 23, 2006 after the band signed with Hollywood Records in late 2005. (by wikipedia)

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While the 22-year-old Grace Potter’s vocal influences are obvious — Bonnies Raitt and Bramlett, Susan Tedeschi, and Lucinda Williams — it’s what she does with her voice that is most impressive. This sophomore indie album gets all the parts right. Even though the band is from Vermont, there is no denying the Southern blues, gospel and swamp rock that course through its veins. Potter’s songs, all co-written with her group, grind through a combination of the Band, J.J. Cale (who she namechecks on the opening “Toothbrush and My Table”), Taj Mahal, and Tift Merritt. Although it is self-recorded, Nothing but the Water exudes a professional sound and the band knows when to play and when to lay back. Lyrically, Potter is stuck on the lost love track, but she makes the most of that overworked concept with smart, savvy words that retain an air of mystery. She’s got a terrific, grainy voice, but it’s her piano and Hammond B-3 playing that really set her apart from the pack. The organ adds a gospel flavor — part Gregg Allman, part Booker T., part Steve Winwood — that pushes this material from good to great. “Treat Me Right” throbs with a sexuality perfectly echoed in the band’s skeletal swamp funk backing.

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In particular, Scott Tournet’s slide guitar pushes the rollicking “Sweet Hands” down Highway 61 as Potter charges through lyrics such as “it’s like touch and go without the touch” with a mix of sassy fire and feisty intensity. “Joey” tells the story of spousal abuse with images that are powerful and scary (“He looks me in the eye, he’ll hit me ’til I cry”). She goes full Delta blues/Bonnie Raitt mode on the acoustic “2:22,” accompanied only by acoustic guitar and subtle standup bass. It’s an impressive track and shows she could be a fine traditional blues singer if she wanted to pursue that avenue. The final trilogy of tracks is the album’s highlight. Shifting from the spooky instrumental “Below the Beams” to the a cappella gospel of “Nothing but the Water Pt.1” and into the song’s rollicking “Pt. 2,” the band fires on all cylinders as Potter spits out the gospel words powered by her own keyboards and the band’s surging storm of blues-rock. It caps an impressive release that only scratches the surface of what this band can generate live. (by Hal Horowitz)

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Personnel:
Matt Burr (drums, percussion)
Bryan Dondero (bass)
Grace Potter (vocals, keyboards, tambourine)
Scott Tournett (guitar, background vocals)
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Jennifer Crowell (tambourine, background vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Toothbrush And My Table (Potter/Burr) – 4:31
02. Some Kind Of Ride (Potter) 3.40
03. Ragged Company  (Potter) 4.59
04. Left Behind (Potter/Burr/Dondero/Tournet) 3.39
05. Treat Me Right (Potter/Burr/Dondero/Tournet) 4.27
06. Sweet Hands (Potter) 3.37
07. Joey (Potter/Burr/Dondero/Tournet) 5.17
08. 2:22 (Potter, Tournet) 4.32
09. All But One (Potter) 4.53
10. Below the Beams (Potter/Burr/Dondero/Tournet) 1.33
11. Nothing But the Water (I)  (Potter) 2.44
12. Nothing But the Water (II) (Potter) 5.16

CD1*
**

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Oh yes, I´m a fool for a pretty face …

Eddie Higgins Trio – Christmas Songs (2005)

FrontCover1Edward Haydn Higgins (February 21, 1932 – August 31, 2009) was a jazz pianist, composer, and orchestrator.

Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Higgins initially studied privately with his mother. He started his professional career in Chicago, Illinois, while studying at the Northwestern University School of Music. An elegant and sophisticated pianist, his encyclopedic harmonic approach and wide range of his repertory made him one of the most distinctive jazz pianists to come out of Chicago, gaining the respect of local and visiting musicians for his notable mastery of the instrument. Higgins also had the unusual ability to sound equally persuasive in a broad span of music, whether he was playing traditional swing, exciting bebop or reflexive ballads, providing the tone and stylistic flavor of each styles, as both a soloist and as accompanist.

For more than two decades Higgins worked at some of Chicago’s most prestigious jazz clubs, including the Brass Rail, Preview Lounge, Blue Note, Cloister Inn and Jazz, Ltd. His longest and most memorable tenure was at the long gone London House, where he led his jazz trio from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, playing opposite jazz stars of this period, including Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing, among others. Later, Higgins said the opportunities to play jazz music with Coleman Hawkins and Oscar Peterson were unforgettable moments. Higgins’ time spent at the London House Restaurant was with bassist Richard Evans and drummer Marshall Thompson. Higgins also worked for Chess Records as a producer.

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During his stay in Chicago, Higgins also recorded a significant number of albums under his auspices and many more as a sideman with a wide variety of musicians, ranging in style from tenor saxophonists Hawkins to Sonny Stitt to Wayne Shorter; trumpeters Bobby Lewis to Harry Edison to Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard; and trombonists Jack Teagarden to Al Grey. His versatility was captured on stage and records, backing up singers and leading his own projects as both pianist and orchestrator, working in every jazz circle from dixieland to modal styles. Although he opted to decline the offer, Higgins was asked at one point by Art Blakey to join the seminal hard bop quintet, The Jazz Messengers.

In 1970, Higgins moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and began spending winters in Florida and summers on Cape Cod, where he played in local clubs. Since the early 1980s, he traveled widely on the jazz festival circuit and performed frequently in Europe and Japan. His releases on the Japanese Venus label earned him number one in jazz sales on more than one album. After that, Higgins played his music mainly in East Asia including Japan and South Korea. During his career in East Asia, Higgins formed a successful trio with Joe Ascione (drums), and Jay Leonhart (bass).

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In 1988, Higgins and jazz singer and pianist Meredith d’Ambrosio were married and became a popular team at clubs and festivals, as well as recording for Sunnyside Records. In 2009, dates in Japan and Korea were on his calendar of upcoming concerts, which were suspended due to a long illness.

Higgins died in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 77.

Eddie Higgins’s delicate tone and conception were often compared to those of Bill Evans, one of the most influential and successful jazz pianists. He mostly played bop and mainstream jazz music throughout his career. Higgins was at home playing melodies with swing-like feeling. His melodies had groove and swing-feeling without being too superfluous. Such swing-feeling of Eddie Higgins was also often compared to those of Oscar Peterson and Nat King Cole. (by wikipedia)

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This is only the second product review I have ever written, and it is the consistent quality of this CD that prompts me to write an enthusiastic endorsement. While the music is not groundbreaking in the least, it is a most solid and satisfying set of traditional Christmas tunes, the lion’s share of which are secular. I am very much a Jazz Guy, and my tastes gravitate towards the straight-ahead jazz camp, with the piano trio as featured here being perhaps my favorite jazz ensemble. This CD falls squarely in that straight-ahead camp, without being the least bit square. On each tune, you will hear the melody clearly and simply stated, followed by an improvisational interlude, then back he goes to the melody to close out. Though it sounds formulaic and predictable, it most certainly is not, predictability being the mark of most inferior jazz. And I would agree that this is a CD that could be thoroughly enjoyed by someone who claims to hate jazz; the straight-ahead jazz fan will be ecstatic with it!! I am a last-minute Christmas shopper, with Christmas Eve day being my favorite shopping day. That shopping pattern makes me feel pretty under-the-gun, once my shopping mojo kicks in.

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If I were at Nordstrom, Christmas Eve day, focused and in my shopping groove/crunch mode, and I heard Eddie Higgins (may he rest in peace) playing Christmas tunes on the Nordstrom grand piano, I would stop and listen for an hour or so, this versus the tune-and-a-half listen I would typically give a lesser player. This may sound like faint praise, but it does accurately reflect my feelings about and affection for this CD. I am stingy with stars, so that fifth star is hard to pry out of me — well deserved here, however, and, again, I do endorse this CD without reservation — great Christmas music, from the first note to the last! Excellent support/work from Jay Leonhart on bass and Joe Ascione on drums, as well. Terrific!! (written by an amazon customer called Zimmerman)

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Personnel:
Joe Ascione (drums)
Eddie Higgins (piano)
Jay Leonhart (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Let It Snow (Cahn/Styne) 3.41
02. Christmas Song (Tormé) 5.15
03. I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Gannon/Kent) 4.29
04. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional) 4.35
05. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Gillespie) 3.34
06. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Traditional) 4.49
07. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Blane) 4.19
08. The Christmas Waltz (Cahn/Styne) 3.25
09. White Christmas (Berlin) 4.43
10. Winter Wonderland (Bernard) 6.16
11. Deck The Halls With Boughs Of Holly (Traditional) 3.42
12. Sleight Ride (Anderson) 3.48

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