10-25-2016  10:21 am      •     
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The spirit and music of the late bassist/band leader Charles Mingus is being kept vibrantly alive by the Mingus Big Band in this Tokyo Live recording.
It begins with "Wham Bam," a fierce and fast composition featuring solos by trumpeter Alan Sipiagan, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, pianist David Kikoski and drummer Jonathan Blake.
"Celia," written by Mingus, as are all eight tracks, is nicely articulated by long-time band member Craig Handy — this time on alto. From his hospital bed, the late tenor player John Stubblefield arranged "Prayer For Passive Resistance," the last piece of music he worked on before his death in July 2005.
"The tenor is the preacher," he told the musicians gathered around his bed. "He's confronting the cops and the barking dogs. He's telling everyone to passively resist and pray."
Wayne Escoffery on tenor is the preacher, and the Mingus Big Band without a doubt is America's finest big band year in and year out!

This Ella Fitzgerald DVD is another in the series of nine European concerts featuring American jazz legends.
Fitzgerald became one of the less than half dozen major female jazz voices, and this double concert proves the case.  The earlier of the two takes place in Belgium in 1957.  She casts her magic spell singing such tunes as "Angel Eyes," "Lullaby of Birdland," "Love for Sale," "Tenderly," and "It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing."
She is backed by pianist Don Abney, bassist Ray Brown, drummer Jo Jones and guitarist Herb Ellis. On the last tune, trumpeter Roy Eldridge and pianist Oscar Peterson join the group.
The second concert in Stockholm, Sweden is the musical equal of the first but photographically falls short. She sings "No Moon At All," "Desifanado," "Mack The Knife" and more. Pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Jim Hughhart, guitarist Les Spann and drummer Gus Johnson are excellent with their accompaniment.

There is some very lovely jazz in this retro-sounding effort by six young musicians, four of whom play stringed instruments.
Using the Hot Club of France (circa 1934) as its role model, this band is more than simply credible. Its take of Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" is pure beauty; its sweet, flowing melody is a nice contrast to the opener, "Belleville," a brisk tune featuring clarinetist Dave Bennett.
Evan Perri is lead guitarist; Colton Witherspoon is on rhythm guitar; Shannon Wale is on acoustic bass; and Julien Labro is on button accordion, rounding out the group.  They also turn "The Godfather Theme" on its ear with a furious 12 minute up-tempo version that, however, removes all the menace from the original.

Veteran tenor saxophonist Von Freeman, at age 84, can still play a ballad so well that any other master would try to emulate his takes.
Backed by the Cobb's Mob's rhythm section of another master, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist John Webber and pianist Richard Wyands, Freeman takes on six moderate tempo lovelies. They include "Why Try to Change Me Now," "An Affair to Remember," "Didn't We," "Smile" and "I'll Never Be Free." 
My favorite is the opener, "Why Try To Change Me Now."

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