News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More

Mike Greenblatt

Spin Cycle

REVIEW: Spin Cycle, 'Spin Cycle,' Sound Footing Records >>

Oklahoma drummer Scott Neumann, 54, and California saxophonist Tom Christensen, 55 relocated to New York City in the late '80s, became known by gigging out a lot, formed a quartet with guitarist Pete McCann and bassist Phil Palombi, called the band and CD Spin Cycle (Sound Footing Records), yet separated themselves from the glut by including the grunge-punk "Smart Aleck" right smack dab in the middle of nine other originals.

Cason Fentress

REVIEW: Cason Fentress and the Euphonious Express, 'Clear Cool,' Self-Released >>

Singer/songwriter Cason Fentress has had a long and circuitous journey but with the self-release of 'Clear Cool,' he has finally found himself amid what could have easily been a ruined life, hampered by alcoholism, meningitis and divorce. Sure, it took him a little longer to get here but 'Clear Cool' is the type of 5-song EP that leaves one hungering for what he could possibly do over the course of a full-length.

Myriad3

REVIEW: Myriad3, 'Moons,' Alma Records >>

Get ready to take off as Canada's prog-jazz trio Myriad3, for its third CD, sets its sights on the heart of the 'Moons' (Alma Records). If 2012's 'Tell' and 2014's 'The Where' were any indications, 'Moons' is where they want to be: packed with surprise, voluptuous weirdness, classical gas and an eccentric eclectic no-holds-barred vision of instrumental music run amok.

Eric Bibb

REVIEW: Eric Bibb, 'The Happiest Man in the World,' Stony Plain Records >>

On 'Lead Belly's Gold,' Eric Bibb teamed up with French blues-harpist JJ Milteau in tribute to folk giant Lead Belly [1888-1949]. Now, 'The Happiest Man in the World' (Stony Plain), has Bibb wandering off into the English countryside with North Country Far and bassist Danny Thompson for one of the best CDs of 2016 so far.

Rocco John

REVIEW: Rocco John Quartet, 'Embrace the Change,' Unseen Rain Records >>

There's no telling where Rocco John Iacovone will go. The sax man studied under Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers. In the case of the latter, John has successfully taken the Rivers dictum (if they can't understand it, go even further!) and whittled away at it, sanding it down, putting on a coat of varnish, to ultimately let his listeners alternately swoon and get excited. 'Embrace The Change' (Unseen Rain Records) is more than a CD title. It's good life advice.

'Hangin' with the Big Boys' cover

REVIEW: Lafayette Harris, Jr.,'Hangin' With The Big Boys,' Airmen Records >>

Lafayette Harris, Jr. is 'Hangin' with the Big Boys' on his new Airmen Records release. Actually, the one big boy he's hangin' with is Houston Person, 81, a classic oh-so-lyrical-and quite persuasive-tenor sax man who can elicit goose-bumps with his tone. Harris rightly defers to him yet sprinkles the sweetly swinging session with clusters of notes up and down the 88s in a soulful style bound to woo both jazz fans and lite-jazz fans alike.

Patrick Cornelius

REVIEW: Patrick Cornelius, 'While We're Still Young,' Whirlwind Recordings >>

Inspired by 'When We Were Very Young' by A.A. Milne, a book of poetry read to his mom by his grandmother, then read to him by his mom, then read to his daughter by him, composer/bandleader Patrick Cornelius plays alto and soprano sax plus flute in this, his sixth CD. 'While We're Still Young' (Whirlwind) consists of six wholly entertaining and highly recommended tracks stitched together as a suite.

New Zion

REVIEW: New Zion, 'Sunshine Seas,' RareNoise Records >>

Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista adds his snap, crackle and pop to this heavy underground dub CD of slinky beats called Sunshine Seas by New Zion on RareNoise Records. Jamie Saft-composer, producer, keyboards, guitars, electric bass-leads this quilt of a quintet through a patchwork of ancient yet futuristic sounds, glued together by electronics. It's a bumpy trip smoothed out by the blips and bleeps of what used to be known as microtonal dance music.

Jane Lee Hooker

REVIEW: Jane Lee Hooker, 'No B!,' Ruf Records >>

When Muddy Waters claimed his manhood on "Mannish Boy" in 1955 by shouting "No B," he was talkin' 'bout how boyhood left him long ago. The Brooklyn ladies in Jane Lee Hooker also say 'No B!' Their Ruf Records debut of the same name is revelatory.

Professor Longhair

REVIEW: Professor Longhair, 'Live in Chicago,' Orleans Records >>

On February 1, 1976, a living legend performed at the University of Chicago Folk Festival. His name was Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd and he played the piano and sang. Most of the folks in the crowd knew him as Professor Longhair. He was 57 at the time. 'Live In Chicago' (Orleans Records) documents the short seven-song set. Still at the height of his powers, this architect of New Orleans rhumba and R'n'B who could shout a blues or rock the "Mess Around" should be a staple of every American record collection.

'Stick It'

Blogarrhea: Rock Star Drummer Carmine Appice's 'Stick It' Memoir Goes Beyond All Others >>

It's called 'Stick It: My Life of Sex, Drums and Rock'n'Roll' by Carmine Appice with Ian Gittins (Chicago Review Press, hardcover $26.00). In it you'll find tales of lust, degradation, cocaine, power and, yeah, a little music too. But the most heartwarming relationship of all is one he shared with his idol, jazz drum legend, Buddy Rich.

Ernie Watts

REVIEW: Ernie Watts, 'Wheel Of Time,' Flying Dolphin Records >>

It was November 1981. I was still married to my ex-wife. With no kids yet, we could rock'n'roll and the Rolling Stones were in town. When they went into "Brown Sugar," there was saxophonist Ernie Watts blowing big to recreate the iconic Bobby Keys sax solo. Man, did he wail! I've loved him ever since. There isn't any rock'n'roll on his new 'Wheel Of Time' CD (Flying Dolphin Records). It's only jazz but I like it.

Kenny Barron

REVIEW: Kenny Barron Trio, 'Book of Intuition,' impulse! Records >>

Every year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) names who it feels are Jazz Masters. Pianist/composer Kenny Barron, 72, was awarded his in 2010. His 40+ albums as a leader, his hundreds of sessions and concerts-most notably in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz-make this Philadelphia native the perfect NEA pick. On 'Book Of Intuition,' he performs like the master he is.

Charlie Ballantine

REVIEW: Charlie Ballantine, 'Providence,' Self-Released >>

Charlie Ballantine, 26, is one of those new breed of guitarists unafraid to incorporate non-jazz into his jazz. So like Bill Frisell and John Scofield, he's widened his palette to include rock, tango, funk, atmospheric instrumental pop and blues. Alternately playful and intense on his self-released `Providence,' he's upped the ante from his 2015 'Green' debut.

Tweed Funk

REVIEW: Tweed Funk, 'Come Together,' Tweed Tone Records >>

Tweed Funk lead singer Smokey Holman ain't gonna let a little thing like cancer slow him down! Despite facing chemo and an elongated absence from the road, 'Come Together' (Tweed Tone Records) positively reeks of that oldschool Memphis mentality. The horns, the excitement, the songs, and, especially, the vocals, sound straight outa Stax until you realize they're from Milwaukee.

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