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Yolanda Rabun — Christmastime

December 18, 2012

Dec. 18, 2012

Here’s one of those standout projects celebrating the Christmas season in grand style. Yolanda Rabun, a talented vocalist who’s worked with former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken and has opened for Jennifer Holiday and is now preparing to open for the R&B icons The Isley Brothers, offers us a totally attractive R&B/jazz/gospel/soul holiday album entitled Christmastime. The album simply drips with charm and good vibes.

This well-traveled, beautiful young vocalist has adeptly taken on many of the classics here and, together with a pair of splendid writers (Alton Tisino and Mitch Uscher, and her musical director Christopher Evans, transformed them with her soft style. Adding to that are a few very impressive originals. Read More

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Smooth Operation – Ah Yeah

November 19, 2012

Nov. 19, 2012

Ah Yeah, the debut release from the group Smooth Operation may well be the shortest CD I’ve ever reviewed. It has a total of 4 songs, the last of which consumes most of the album’s time (10 minutes). Still, there is so much to like (maybe even love for a variety of reasons) about this album with its strong material bearing lots of “oomph” and up-tempo funk. The smoothness and funkiness share equal time with some pretty solid fusion. This is a CD worthy of serious consideration.

The lead track “Z” leads you into that funky party room complete with a rap element and hearty rhythm. The high-steppin’ and rhythmic title track which immediately follows is a cool fusion piece that has some very interesting phrasing, keys, and guitar work. Read More

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Daniel D. — Epic Sounds

November 19, 2012

Nov. 19, 2012

Young violinist Daniel D. hit the ground in full stride with his previous release entitled Serenade. He’s again off to the races with a deeply soulful mix of covers and originals on his latest offering Epic Sounds.

This CD comes packed with a delicious, sensuous delivery on violin that places the young man solidly in the circle of the few truly fine violinists we have in this genre. His is such a refreshing and expressive style that breathes life into each tune.

Obviously preferring the slower tempo timing over the more up-tempo rhythms, he transforms the “candlelight tune” into a form of true art. Romanticists beware. You need to be ready for this one; you need to hear it coming. The melodies, whether covers or original, are tender and enticing, the mood is seductive, and Daniel D.’s violin is very persuasive. Read More

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Dennis Angel – Timeless Grooves

November 14, 2012

Nov. 14, 2012

Producer/keyboardist Jason Miles, who brought us the sterling Grover Washington Jr. tributes—among other projects, presents yet another promise in the form of trumpeter Dennis Angel and his new release Timeless Grooves. Seems that Miles has a bit of a knack for finding and defining good jazz, I’d say.

Angel’s smooth handling of the trumpet and flugelhorn coupled with long-time collaborator Gottfried Stoger on saxes on this project, not to mention Angel’s 16-year-old daughter Rebecca on vocals on a track she co-wrote with her dad, are all bound to propel this project to a comfortable place on the charts for awhile. Read More

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Nicholas Bridgman – Forest Vision

November 10, 2012

Nov. 10, 2012

For a mild change of pace, I offer this review of easy listening/piano bar jazz just to illustrate the artist’s adeptness and to add the sweet element of surprise and diversity here on The Ride. Not often reviewed here, this rather tame, quiet style of music will sometimes catch my ear because of a special kind of richness and fluidity. This project, Forest Vision, is offered by one Nicholas Bridgman and carries quiet confidence with its mild flavorings and rhythms.

The lead and title track is a rather sassy little piece demonstrating very decent skills by Bridgman. The bounce and traditionalism of upbeat piano jazz can be witnessed on track 3’s “Push.” Read More

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Craig Chaquico – Fire Red Moon

November 7, 2012

Nov. 7, 2012

It should come as no surprise to longtime Craig Chaquico fans that the talented guitarist and former member of the legendary rock group The Jefferson Starship can kick out a mean blues jam or two, given that much of rock is based on the blues. What just may catch one by surprise is that, after years of immersing himself in smooth jazz and themes that touched on a love of nature, he returns to his blues roots with a vengeance on his latest release Fire Red Moon and definitely…takes…it… there.

From his door-busting entrance with “Lie to Me,” sporting blazing guitar licks and gritty dead-on vocals by Noah Hunt, there is no stopping Chaquico’s momentum and fiery licks. Offering originals with bite and hot covers of Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Robert Johnson gems, you are left with but one choice: Sit back and groove to this riveting brand of blues. Read More

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Jesse Cook – The Blue Guitar Sessions

November 7, 2012

Nov. 7, 2012

To be sure, one should not confuse the title of the new release from Nuevo Flamenco guitar great Jesse Cook, The Blue Guitar Sessions, with the 12-bar blues that may come to mind.  This is not The Blues Guitar Sessions. Rather, it is a very different, very well-produced and well-performed project full of soft, sweet melodies and moods.

Oh, there are clear nods to the blues. A good example would be the opening track, sung by a breathy Emma Lee, the classic Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and, later in the album, a sublime and beautiful jazz/blues arrangement called “Miles Shorter.”

However, following that is a great group of tunes designed to place you in that romantic space that disregards any part of the world that falls outside of melody, exoticism, and romance. Helping with that escort into that world are the celestial strings that make their presence so well felt. Read More

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Streetwize – Feelin’ Sexy

October 26, 2012

Oct. 26, 2012

It’s been a little while, but the sax lovemeister, Kim Waters, is back with his Streetwize series where he pays spectacular tributes to our R&B/hip hop brothers and sisters by taking a few of their gems and turning them into the stuff “jazz love” is made of. This installment is simply called Feelin’ Sexy.

As always, the Waters touch is ever-evident. Adding to that, he showcases backing vocals by so much sparkling talent including Dana Pope, Jakeem Ali, and the one and only Maysa Leak along with Lori Williams and Angela Phillips. The sax, the vocals, the material, the feel, and the energy are all simply far too much to which to turn a deaf ear. Read More

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Ragan Whiteside — Evolve

October 26, 2012

Oct. 26, 2012

I recall watching flautist/vocalist Ragan Whiteside perform for the very first time at the Capital Jazz Fest as part of the Capital Jazz Fest New Talent Competition a few years ago and, even before she was declared the winner, I felt deep in my bones that she would have that honor bestowed upon her. So fluid, assured, and comfortable with her instrument and within herself that you just knew she had claimed that honor long before it was given.

Here with her sophomore release Evolve, she continues her self-assured strut with an R&B/smooth jazz mix of tunes that beckons you to dance along with and follow her down the path she’s taking here. Read More

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Wenso Ashby — Signature

October 26, 2012

Oct. 26, 2012

Ahh, as cool as a fresh autumn breeze, as light as a feather yet with enough body mass and structure, courtesy of some really effective bass lines, to be classified as really good, unpretentious contemporary jazz piano, pianist Wenso Ashby brings a tender most competent yet unassuming dimension to the genre with his latest offering entitled Signature.

This album brings the sophistication I admired in a lot of the work of another fine pianist, Roger Smith. There is a bit of resemblance in style although both do venture off into their own territories.  Read More

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