From Cuba With Love

    Dayramir Gonzalez traverses The Grand Concourse (Machat Records) of New York City on his second CD. The multi-talented pianist/composer/arranger/orchestrator/bandleader came fully formed out of his native Cuba where he started the Havana Jazz Festival with Chucho Valdes in 2008, a year after his promising debut was released. He received a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music in 2009, becoming the first Cuban national to do so, and graduated in 2013 after winning the Wayne Shorter Award for Most Outstanding Composer.

    But what has he done for us lately?

    The Grand Concourse is filled to the brim with as much music as one CD can hold. The configurations alone will give you a clue as to his all-encompassing eclecticism ranging from an orchestral chamber piece of sumptuous classical called “Sencillez” to the hotly pulsing Afro-Cuban Latin fire of “Situaciones En 12/8.” Along the way, there’s moods and rhythms straight from the Manhattan sidewalks for full orchestra, solo piano, septet, string quartet and choir. Bravo!


From Norway With Love

    The Circle of Chimes (ACT) emanating from Norwegian sax man Marius Neset, 32, straddles free-form improvisation, composed/highly arranged jazz, classical, world, fusion and tubular bells. Neset calls it, “avant-sax jazz rock, post-Zawinal world-jazz [with] chattering Zappa-esque melodies.” Maybe so but a track like “Prague’s Ballet” is “wonderfully mellow chamber classical-jazz.” It helps to have a young lion like West African Lionel Loueke on guitar and tribal vocals plus cello, flute, piccolo, alto flute, piano, vibraphone, marimba, bass, drums and assorted percussion from France and Sweden bringing up the rear. Genre-defying, tightrope-walking (without a net), adventurous, and exuberantly creative, Circle of Chimes will ring your inner bell and make you melt. It’s a keeper. 


No Drums

    Acoustic roots bluegrass string quintet Love Canon, for their fifth CD, tackle bad pop and make it wonderful. Cover Story: A Journey Through Music’s Greatest Decade Featuring People With Grammys (Organic Records) has them covering bad songs by Mister Mister (“Kyrie Eleison”), Howard Jones (“Things Can Only Get Better”), Billy Joel (“Prelude: Angry Young Man”), BeeGees (“Islands in the Stream”) and Depeche Mode (“Enjoy The Silence”) plus a few good ones too like Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” REM’s “Driver,” Squeeze’s “Tempted” and a medley of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill/Icecaps of Pentatonia.” They righteously do it up in a back-porch bluegrass kinda way with those high lonesome vocals, no drums, and stringed wizardry (guitar, Resonator guitar, banjo, mandolin and stand-up bass). All five are lead vocalists. Plus, they’ve got the cream of the studio crop: no less than 15 solid professionals adding all sorts of sound to make this thing sing and swing with country smarts. Sometimes it’s not the song, nor the singer, but the genre!  


Oddball Bill Haley Tribute

    Not really a tribute in the traditional sense, the various artists on The Bill Haley Connection: 29 Roots and Covers of Bill Haley & His Comets (Bear Family Productions) are about as various as one can get. His most famous song, “Rock Around The Clock,” is represented here by Sonny Dee & His Knights who recorded their version of this 1952 pre-rock swing by Max Freedman only months prior to Haley. Songs associated with, inspired by or pre-dating the Comets fly by like mosquitos on a dumpster. Little Richard’s superior version of Bumps Blackwell’s “Rip It Up” came out around the same time as Haley’s. Jimmy Preston and His Prestonians did “Rock The Joint” in 1949. Bing Crosby did “Yes Indeed” in 1941. Count Basie did “Stop Beatin ‘Round The Mulberry Bush” in 1938, 14 years before Haley.

    “Chimpanzee Rock” by The Hula Hawaiians and “The Dipsy Doodle” by The Goofers are the two worst clinkers but beware of a few children’s choruses here and there that beg to be fast-forwarded.
    Highlights include Big Joe Turner’s “Corrine Corrina” (Haley’s version of this 1928 blues is just too, uh, white), Louis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’boogie,” Bobby Charles’ “Later Alligator” and Ella Mae Morse’s “Razzle Dazzle.” As with all of the Bear Family’s packages, there’s a wellspring of reading and rare photos to be savored.      


German Rockabilly

    Ray Black and the Flying Carpets have found a Better Way To Move on their new Black Shack/Rhythm Bomb Records CD. This string-band quartet rocks the ‘billy ‘50s style with punk attitude but country chops. They can blues it, they can stroll moodily, they can twang and bop and reel. And they’re from Stuttgart, Germany, of all places! Black sings up a storm while getting all slap-happy on his big stand-up acoustic bass. Howling’ H provides the meaty, chunky slabs of rhythmic guitar chording while the man called Bone takes those Scotty Moore-inspired electric guitar solos. It’s all pushed, poked, prodded and propelled forward by Boz Doz on his Sonar Teardrop Drum Kit. Add piano and harmonica for some studio spice and you too can find a Better Way To Move.


Brazilian Fusion

    Guitarist/Composer/Producer Flavio Silva stuns the ear on his self-released Break Free. It’s a treasure trove of African and Afro-Brazilian jams, all original with but one classic cover: “Samba e Amor” by Chico Buarque (the great singing, composing, multi-instrumentalist poet and playwright from Rio de Janeiro). Sax man Seamus Blake, bassist Apolo Ayala, drummer Curtis Nowosad, keyboardist James Francies and vocalist Michael Mayo keep things moving briskly but it’s the world-beating guitar of Silva that truly makes his second CD Break Free.


Swing is The Thing

    Capri Records presents A Bright and Shining Moment starring Cleveland’s Ernie Krivda and Swing City.  Krivda, 73, is the tenor saxophonist/composer/arranger/producer/educator who blew behind Ella Fitzgerald back in the day. Since then, it’s his sax that sings. These 16 tracks were recorded just prior to this band’s dissolution in 2002 (he now fronts The Fat Tuesday Big Band). Post-bop to the max, Swing City, a sax/piano/trombone/bass/trumpet/drums/vocals septet, did its fair share of Ellingtonia, Hoagy Carmichael, Gershwin, standards and originals, all of which pulse with rhythmic integrity here. Highlight “Dream Of Life,” written by Carmen McRae in 1939 for Billie Holiday, is a perfect example of how Krivda’s sax sings. Wholeheartedly Recommended.