Wow! What a discovery! I was at the Berks Jazz Festival last week. Unfortunately, I was only able to spend two of the festival’s ten days taking in music. Simultaneously I realized that Peak has released the debut of 26-year-old saxophonist Jessy J, who also was to appear at Berks as part of the Guitars & Saxes show. What a debut, from the opening throaty chords of “Tequila Moon,” I knew I was going to like this woman. I’m not sure the last time I’ve gotten this excited over a debut by a young sax player. Jessy J, under the ever-watchful eye of Paul Brown, exhibits maturity on her instrument beyond her age. I can’t help but make the comparison to Grover Washington, Jr. – and that’s a good thing! The album Tequila Moon has a definite Latin lean to it, but in a very sophisticated, intense, contemporary jazz way. This album just feels different – unlike anything that’s been released the last few years – smoky, intense, throaty, complex, and sexy. On top of the blowing, this girl can sing as well! This just might be the best all around contemporary jazz release of the year so far.
It’s hard to believe that Kenny G is 51 years old but, after releasing 26 albums for Arista, he is starting a new relationship with Concord Records. Concord, by the way, is about the only record company supporting jazz in a big way these days (thank God for an independent label!). I haven’t really listened to Kenny G since his Kenny G Live album from 1989, and if it wasn’t for my emusic subscription, I probably wouldn’t have picked this release up. But Concord has been on a pretty good roll with their releases, so I decided to give the smooth one a shot. This is actually a good album, and this is coming from someone who felt Kenny’s best years were when he was still using his last name and playing along side a guy named Lorber. The album starts off with a “Sax-o-loco” that sounds a lot like “Tequila,” a real upbeat Latin number, but it’s on the next tune, “Ritmo y Romance” that I really sat back and listened hard. Kenny’s as good as anyone in contemporary jazz on this one – maybe even better; no repetitive, simple smooth (boring) jazz here. There’s a little Samba, some Salsa, Spanish and Latin flavorings all tossed together to create a very seductive sounding album, where the energy is bubbling just beneath the surface ready to breakout. There was a time, 40 or so years ago, when the jazz labels, routinely put their stars in a Latin or Bossa setting, even Concord did it 20 and 30 years ago. Listen to Kenny tackle the standard “Besame Mucho” and you’ll understand why it was such a popular idea. If you haven’t listened to Kenny G in awhile, or got tired of all the holiday songs and standards he was putting out, or just gave upon him as I did, give Rhythm & Romance a listen. You just might be as pleasantly surprised as I am.
I’m listening to what may be the coolest release of 2007. Following their eternally enjoyable Detroit and Philadelphia Experiments, Ropeadope is releasing The Harlem Experiment to retail on October 30. You can listen a stream of the entire release at the promo site. Go ahead and hit the link right now, queue up the music, and come back to finish reading this. I’ll wait.
Grammy Award-Winning producer Aaron Levinson has “assembled another genre-bending tribute to perhaps America’s greatest cultural crown jewel.” Genre-bending is accurate – spoken word, Latin, hip hop, soul, and blues are all heard – but, at its heart, it’s jazz. It would take me several hours to write out what I thought about each track. Each song has its own identity. The variety of styles all flow together. “A Rose in Spanish Harlem” is featured twice – in a traditional Spanish setting and as an instrumental – and both are just beautiful. There are a number of killer grooves.
I had recognized some of the names of the Harlem House Band that made the music but now I’ll remember all of them: Carlos Alomar (guitar, David Bowie), Eddy Martinez (keys, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Run D.M.C.), Steven Bernstein (trumpet, Sex Mob), Steve Berrios (drums, Chick Corea), Don Byron (clarinet) and Ruben Rodriguez (bass, Tito Puente). Olu Dara and Queen Esther (Duke Ellington), and James Hunter are also featured.
I think people use the word “brilliant” too often. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review where I’ve used that term. This is a brilliant recording – one that should not fly under the radar. I can’t promote it enough. It’s one that I’ll be recommending to everyone I know.
On the Web: The Harlem Experiment
If you’re looking for a contemporary jazz recording that’s not quite a formulaic smooth jazz release and covers a number of styles, your search is over. Candy Dulfer’s latest, Candy Store, is an audio testament to the freedom she felt making it. “I was free from any recording contract,” Candy reports, “so there was no pressure at all in terms of style or time. Hence the two years working on it and the total mish mash of styles.”
Candy delivers the strong funk she does so well on the opening track “Candy” then slips into a comfortable groove on the memorable, mid-tempo composition “L.A. Citylights.” It’s right back to the dance floor with the one-two punch of the jamming “Music=Love” and the spicy “La Cabana.” After a breather with the chill-down track “11:58,” it’s funk time again. Candy pulls up the mic to sing her original song “Summertime,” a true tribute to the season. The title of the next track says it all: “Soulsax,” though I have to add that it’s got a really good groove. “Smokin’ Gun” has an obvious reggae influence. ” “If I Ruled the World” sounds like something from the soundtrack of the last hip film you saw. All of the music on Candy Store are new compositions. “For me, it was important that I’d do only originals and that they had to show different aspects of my life, since I’m the kind of person that likes all kinds of different things at the same time,” says Candy.”
Candy Store is a good recording, full of flavor, from the first track to the last. It’s definitely deserving of more exposure. Check out Candy’s thoughts on each track at her fresh and informative site.
Candy’s playing has my respect. Here’s a video of the Marcus Miller Band playing “Rehab” at the 2007 North Sea Jazz Festival. It’s a smokin’ performance and features solos by Roy Hargrove, Gregoire Maret, Patches Stewart, and Candy Dulfer. Candy’s solo is in the pocket. The fun she’s obviously having here, in addition to the sound she can put in that alto, makes me wish I could catch her live.