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TakeTwo & Friends “Rochester Express”

10 Dec, 2010 Gary Brown

TakeTwo & Friends have created a very special collection of improvisations of some of the most traditional, yet original and popular jazz standards ever. The set is highlighted by the talents of TakeTwo’s Bryan Wattier on piano, Joe Dearani on saxophone and Randy Nelson on drums.  The “Friends” portion of TakeTwo include the gifted abilities of saxophonists Dave Townsend, Charles “Barney” Fox, and Arnie Krakowsky, with additional contributions from Jeff Boris on bass guitar and Gil Wernovsky on piano. TakeTwo & Friends take jazz onto the Rochester Express, destined for success!

“Lester Jumps” leaps out in front as the initial track reminiscent of the dance and swing eras of yesteryear, filled with vibrant horns and light piano. The next tune in the suite is “Variations (Radio Edit)” which has two variations of its own on the album. Its classical solo opening drives the song to embrace the group’s saxophone depth as TakeTwo & Friends demonstrate instrumental multiplicity.  One of the most satisfying tracks, “I’ll Be Coming Home” slows down the tempo as the song’s smooth horn alliance reveals the power and allure of the baritone sax. “I’ll Be Coming Home” is accentuated by the beautiful piano and rhythm which serves to underscore the outstanding saxophone play throughout almost seven minutes of pleasure.

The classic “Stolen Moments” has been performed by countless artists including Lee Ritenour to Oliver Nelson, and TakeTwo & Friends’ version shines beyond a simple retake.  “Stolen Moments” is distinguished here by the artful saxophone opposite a very modest yet engaging piano arrangement.  “On Green Dolphin Street,” uniquely covered by Miles Davis, is offered skillfully here in an energetic take on the classic.  The track combines diverse saxophone styles tempered by a well-stridden piano tempo.

The title track Rochester Express glistens as a brief treat of intertwining characters, and articulates the bold traditional tone and attractiveness of jazz.  “Comin’ Home Baby,” made famous by the likes of Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, and most recently David Sanborn, comes next.  TakeTwo & Friends covers the stylish song in their own bravura, pace, and grace as “Comin’ Home Baby” stands outs as the collection’s liveliest!

Duke Ellington would be proud as the group takes its listeners back in time with “Harlem Nocturne.”  The song’s soft and elegant keys provide a harmonizing backdrop for TakeTwo & Friends to showcase their saxophone virtuoso, Barney Fox.   The richness of “Harlem Nocturne” is a fitting complement to Rochester Express.  The superbly arranged Dexter Gordon track “Soy Califa,” or “I’m the King,” is expertly covered here by the group.  The song resonates as a performance of calypso bounce and joy.  “Freddie Freeloader,” per Miles Davis and Bill Evans, is offered here by Take Two & Friends as a joyful mix of horn explosiveness and serene piano complement.

TakeTwo & Friends deliver with Rochester Express.  The entire set showcases the group’s diverse and extensive abilities destined for radio play, jazz clubs, and home entertainment.  Highlighted by “Variations,” “Comin’ Home Baby,” “Stolen Moments,” “Harlem Nocturne,” and “On Green Dolphin Street,” Take Two & Friends succeed in bringing out the heart and soul of traditional jazz. Rochester Express is a nonstop train delivering classic jazz and unforgettable moments of listening pleasure.

Review by Gary Brown
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Carl Bartlett, Jr. “Hopeful”

01 Dec, 2010 Gary Brown

Carl Bartlett Jr.’s Hopeful is a treat for anyone who enjoys the smoke-filled, traditional, and contemporary style of Jazz.  Although the first six tracks on Hopeful are original works, they resonate with the eloquence and spirit of John Coltrane.  With the assistance of his band, including Sharp Radway on piano, Eric Lemon on bass, Emanuel Harrold on drums, Charles Bartlett on trumpet, and Ron Jackson on guitar, Bartlett, Jr. and crew deliver a well-balanced blueprint for success.

The first and arguably finest track of the group, “Hopeful, touts Carl’s exuberant yet original alto saxophone play.  Reminiscent of a backdrop to a film-noir soundtrack, “Hopeful” displays the strength and confidence of an accomplished artist.  The song is complete, as a tour-de-force alto saxophone solo highlights Carl’s skilled range and sensitivity in his approach to Jazz. Next, “Fidgety Season” begins as an upbeat and well-orchestrated track complete with an apt piano introduction that embraces the depth of Carl’s jazz ensemble. “Fidgety Season” showcases a traditional jazz tune filled with lively piano and drum solos culminated by Carl’s vibrant alto leads throughout.

Another masterwork created by Bartlett, Jr. and Co. is “Julie B,” which gracefully intones the deep emotional moods of the eight song collaboration. “Julie B” shines through as an extended but well-paced melody of the set on which the magnificence continues as the jazz ensemble maintains its intensity and keen organization of tracks. The calm, serene atmosphere highlights Eric Lemon’s crafty bass talents, allowing the song to shine while accentuating Carl’s alto virtuoso.  The next track, “Quantum Leaps and Bounds,” opens like a mood-filled emotional piece but quickly cascades and leaps into an upbeat montage of piano, bass, drum, and Ron Jackson’s dazzling guitar lead.  With hints of George Benson and Wes Montgomery, it offers the set an acoustic flavor drenched in rich tone, balance, and artistic creativity.  The intense guitar resonance is accompanied halfway by Carl’s powerful saxophone flair, culminating into a fusion of elegance and grace.

“Release” continues the second half of the set as a mellow bass-filled song of beauty.  Carl’s lead again is reminiscent of Coltrane’s strength in tone and character.  “Seven Up” provides a skillful performance featuring Carl’s cheerful saxophone intro, Sharp Radway’s well-paced piano lead, and Emanuel Harrold’s enticing drum solos.  The sharp-edged collaboration here is undoubtedly the most optimistic tune of the entire set. The song also has the elegance the 1950’s and 1960’s era where jazz music and ballrooms would swing with dancing charm.  “It Could Happen to You” captures Charles Bartlett’s brilliance on trumpet as the song sways in both style and poise throughout. The final track of the group, “I Love Lucy,” starts like a darkly mesmerizing jazz piece that gradually leaps into the fervent theme song of the show many have come to love.  “I Love Lucy” brings Carl Bartlett, Jr.’s group full circle as the tune picks up tempo and maintains its stylishness saxophone riffs that only Carl can provide, and is a befitting final piece to an excellent portrait of Carl Bartlett, Jr. and his group of gifted jazz performers.

Carl Bartlett Jr.’s Hopeful brings together a very smooth mix of traditional, contemporary, and enthusiastic jazz.  The 8-track set never fails in its delivery of skillfully composed songs that represent today’s contemporary jazz scene while not forgetting the past. Carl Bartlett, Jr. and his band have given radio and home listeners another reason to enjoy the pure pleasures of jazz.

Review by Gary Brown
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

ade ishs “New Butterfly”

20 Nov, 2010 Gary Brown

Songwriter, composer, and pianist Ade Ishs has created a harmonious ten-song masterpiece of piano treasures entitled New Butterfly.  Aptly titled, New Butterfly’s entire collection is like a transformation complete with piano rhythms and tones culminating into a strong, professional effort. Ade captures many different emotions in song highlighting acoustic jazz, classical, and meditating cascades.  From softly falling leaves to ripples on a calm sea and therapeutic meditations to quiet nights on the beaches of Melbourne Australia, Ade Ishs presents a world of peace and pleasure. New Butterfly also appeals greatly to traditional jazz and adult contemporary radio station listeners.

The opening track, “Little Butterfly,” gently resonates into a climax of hues and flourishes of brilliance. The song introduces Ade Ishs’s enormous ability to inject passion and tenderness into more than an hour of pure enjoyment.    In returning to his roots, Ade’s next song, “Jakarta at Night 3,” presents a mellow jazz piano delight that maintains a flavor of a comforting evening with an Asian flavor.  Tracks three and four, “When the Sun Sets 1” and “When the Sun Sets 2,” begin and continue as one grand classical/acoustic jazz composition. Ade’s signature of arranging multiple versions to many of his songs shows of the lavishness of his musical ingenuity. “St. Kilda Waters” is undoubtedly in reference to Ade’s admiration for Australia as the tunes delicately flows and epitomizes his fine approach to his craft.

“Go On 2” is the most heartfelt, emotional track in the set as its alluring composition brings Ade’s New Butterfly to great musical heights. “Go On 2” is like a great classical play filled with sadness, triumph, and hope as Ade manages to bring various emotions into a bright crescendo.   Reminiscent of veteran Bob James, “I Saw Happiness” shines as a vibrant solo filled with anticipation and optimism.  “Unity in Diversity” provides a brief but upbeat song full of joy.  The tune “Moving Ashburton” picks up where “I Saw Happiness” ends as another angelic piece showcasing Ade’s immense aptitude in delivery and energy.  The listener can feel the emotional strength and warmth of Ade Ishs in every key.  His undeniable profound love for Melbourne, Australia glows brightly in New Butterfly’s closing song, “Melbourne Still Shines”. This track sustains a very peaceful yet radiant flow of Ade’s distinctive piano style.

New Butterfly is a blossoming whirlwind expression of love, emotion, and tranquility.  The compilation follows his previous album, Visions, which was another strong set of jazz and conventional tracks.  New Butterfly continues in the same path of excellence with full-layered piano solos, and is packed with songs that are destined to be described as Ade Ishs’s best musical production to date.  New Butterfly encapsulates many of Ade Ishs’s deep-seated classical piano roots and many of his jazz influences as well.  His acoustically rich, profound piano solos offer  both new and old fans an insight into his enormous musical talents.

Review by Gary Brown
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

111 East “Sunset”

12 Nov, 2010 Gary Brown

James Bratton’s enormous arranging and musical talents are on full display with the rich, percussion-laden, calypso flavor of “Sunset”.  The tune exhibits a well-balanced arrangement of keyboards, guitar solos, saxophone leads, drums and eclectic tempos.  The melodic piece immediately calls to mind a fusion of smooth jazz harmony and rhythmic beats of an immense island dance ensemble.  James Bratton has captured the essence of Contemporary Jazz with a very fresh and upbeat single ready for Smooth Jazz Radio stations at home and abroad.  The song should also enjoy heavy airplay with Adult Contemporary Radio listeners because of its wide-crossing application of instrumental pitch and style. Although soft in tone, “Sunset” exhibits a very strong portrait of an unforgettable melody encased with lush overtones of a captivating beat.  A short but effective element of the great George Benson-like guitar solo, really transitions the tune into another level. The captivating saxophone riffs advances the song even further into a climax of keyboards as the song ends as smoothly as it began.  James Bratton’s collaborations with other talented musicians in the R&B, Dance, House and Hip-Hop genres shine radiantly with his release of “Sunset”.  As the song is widely appealing for radio-play listeners it is equally attractive as an addition to anyone’s MP3 library and for home entertainment as well.  The easy-going and pleasant sounds of” Sunset” culminates a perfect end to a day on the beach with that special someone or simply a peaceful departure from today’s worries.  The temptation to start dancing, finger-popping, and just feeling uplifted speaks to the tune’s pure allure quality combined with a constant percussion-based snare in both the opening and closing of the track.  “Sunset” resonates with traditional and contemporary jazz aficionados alike. The track’s easy listening attraction makes the song an instant favorite among jazz enthusiasts as well as those that simply appreciate great music.  “Sunset” exhibits an atmosphere similar to a cool island drenched with a piña colada twist! James Bratton’s “Sunset” delivers and is destined to become a favorite among his fans and others. Hopefully the sun continues to set brightly for James Bratton as his new track “Sunset” promises to strengthen his current professional resume of diverse yet entertaining music.

Review by Gary Brown
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)