Tchaikovsky/Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn: "Nutcracker Suites"

December 2013

Nutcracker SuitesFirst Recording in 50 Years of an Ellington Classic

Harmonia Mundi HMU907493
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn version of Nutcracker Suite has not been recorded since Duke's original in 1960. How great, then, to have an excellent new rendition in superb sound. And what a stroke of genius to pair it with Tchaikovsky's original, which is why this disc is titled Nutcracker Suites.

Read more ...

Tianna Hall and Chris Cortez: "Noel"

November 2013

NoelHoliday Tunes from Houston

Blue Bamboo Music BBM023
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans-based guitarist Chris Cortez moved to Houston where he quickly became a part of that city’s jazz scene. He founded Blue Bamboo Music, which not only gives him a recording outlet for his own talents, but also makes it possible to focus attention on other performers from the Houston area. One of the latter is singer Tianna Hall, whose often-sultry voice is heard on all but one of Noel’s tracks.

Read more ...

Tim Warfield: "Tim Warfield’s Jazzy Christmas"

November 2013

Tim Warfield's Jazzy ChristmasPassionate Jazz Rhapsodies on Familiar Holiday Tunes

Undaunted Music UM007
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

For the past few years, I've received albums of holiday music on the late side. Had I reviewed them, readers would have been hard pressed to purchase one in time for the holiday celebration. This year, however, there have been a lot of fine releases that started arriving in September, so there's no such problem. Starting this week, then, I'll be covering the best of the holiday titles, a group that runs across all genres. These aren't discs you'll find at Walmart or Best Buy, but you can easily obtain them from Amazon.com, CD Baby, or other online dealers. If you're lucky enough to have an old-fashioned dealer in your neighborhood, you can probably find them there.

Read more ...

Gina Kronstadt: "Come Over"

October 2013

Come OverContemporary Jazz with Pop Influences

Falloff Records FO 1002
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Gina Kronstadt is based in Los Angeles and has a tremendously impressive resume as a violinist. I can say without reservation that you must have heard her. Her motion-picture credits include Pirates of the Caribbean, Disturbia, Star Trek, and three or four dozen others. She's also played on audio recordings by artists such as Ray Charles, Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift, Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, and Elton John. And she's been on a lot of TV shows, including The Voice, The Tonight Show, and more.

Read more ...

The Swingle Singers: "Weather to Fly"

September 2013

Weather to Fly50 Years and Still Going Strong

World Village 450025
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Can it be? The Swingle Singers are 50 years old, and Weather to Fly is their first 50th-anniversary album. It seems like only yesterday that the brainchild of Ward Swingle swept in from Paris and informed us that Bach and other Baroque composers could be successful with a hot-jazz treatment. The group has gone through a lot of personnel changes in their half century of existence. Ward Swingle left the group to form his own New Swingle Singers and is still alive, back in Paris after a stay in the United States, doing new arrangements and guest conducting.

Read more ...

Tierney Sutton: "After Blue"

September 2013

After BlueAn A+ Tribute to Joni Mitchell from Tierney Sutton

BFM Jazz 302062419-2
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

When Tierney Sutton was recording for Telarc, I always felt that she had great promise but that she tried too hard, sometimes resulting in uncomfortable grandstanding. But 2011 brought American Road, her first disc for BFM Jazz, and everything seemed to change. Her voice had matured and darkened a bit, and she seemed more at home and less driven to prove a point, which made her all the more able to make those points.

Read more ...

Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler: "West Coast Cool"

September 2013

West Coast CoolCool Singing and Playing Bring Back an Era

Summit Records DCD 615
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

This saucy, hip CD stems from a live concert that Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler put together in 2010. Bentyne is a Grammy Award-winning singer from the Manhattan Transfer, and Winkler is a staple of West Coast jazz, both as singer and lyricist. Each is an appealing singer alone, but together they're downright irresistible. Not many jazz duos feature a match like this one.

Read more ...

Lorraine Feather: "Attachments"

September 2013

AttachmentsA Perfect Album from a Brilliant, Multi-Talented Artist

Jazzed Media JM1063
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Lorraine Feather was born into music. Her father was Leonard Feather, a jazz pianist, composer, and producer who is best remembered for his journalism -- writing reviews and album notes pertaining to jazz. Her mother was a singer in the big-band era and an ex-roommate of Peggy Lee. And her godmother was none other than Billie Holiday. Being blessed with genes and attention from the best offers no guarantee that one will come out ahead, but in Lorraine Feather's case everything took, and she has become one of the most brilliant and multi-talented artists performing today.

Read more ...

Lyn Stanley: "Lost in Romance"

August 2013

Lost in RomanceThe Ultimate Album about Love

A.T. Music 3101
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The mellow flugelhorn from Gilbert Castellanos sets an elegant and sophisticated tone for "Change Partners," the opening cut from Lyn Stanley's Lost in Romance, a mood to which the rest of the album adheres. Stanley's vocals are so voluptuous and assured that I was surprised to learn that this is her first album. I had thought it was probably another in a string of successes.

Read more ...

Randi Tytingvåg: "Lights Out"

August 2013

Lights OutSorrow As Life’s Twin

Ozella SW 513 EP
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

A true international sensation, Randi Tytingvåg is a Norwegian singer who records in Germany and sings in English. She has a style that is completely her own. You simply can't peg it, since it contains elements of jazz, cabaret, and pop put together in a unique and effective manner. Her first album, Red, was a huge hit, and it brought her to the attention of American listeners through Ozella Music, a German audiophile recording company.

Read more ...

More Articles ...