Takuya Kuroda, “Rising Son” (CD review)

(originally published in Relix)

Takuya Kuroda, “Rising Son” (Blue Note)

Neo-electro-funk is the dominant flavor on Takuya Kuroda’s Rising Son, the major-label debut for the Brooklyn-based, Japanese-born trumpeter, who is best known for his work with singer Jose James.

James produces, lends his band for the session and sings on a soulful, chill-out version of Roy Ayers’ slinky “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Elsewhere, it’s mostly about Kuroda, whose music hints at the likes of ‘70s Miles and Donald Byrd, with blues-edged playing sometimes suggesting Lee Morgan.

Fender Rhodes skronk, hand claps, swirling synthesizers, rolling percussion, deep bass synth and Nate Smith’s sticky drum-kit funk set the stage for Kuroda and trombonist Corey King on the title track, and guest guitarist Lionel Loueke amps the Afrobeat textures of “Afro Blues.” The acoustic “Mala” and mellow closer “Call” are among other standout numbers.

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (CD review)

(originally published in JazzTimes)

Gerry Gibbs, Ron Carter, Kenny Baron, “Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio” (Whaling City Sound)

gerry gibbs thrasher

For his seventh album as a leader, relatively unsung drummer Gerry “The Thrasher” Gibbs enlists two revered jazz veterans as rhythm-section partners, bassist Ron Carter and pianist Kenny Barron. Both were childhood heroes to Gibbs; he was 10, in 1974, when he first heard Carter, and 11 when he heard Barron, courtesy of albums bought at a used-records store in California. So why not call the group his dream trio?

Fortunately, the session isn’t merely a document of hero worship. Instead, the three connect as equal partners, with Barron and Carter, who figure heavily in each other’s discographies, livening Gibbs’ compositions. “When I Dream” is a pulsating, stair-stepping tribute to McCoy Tyner; “Here Comes Ron” is a spritely bebop tune for Carter, bolstered by some deft brushes work and a rubbery extended bass solo; “The Thrasher” is a bluesy groove tune for Don Pullen; and “The Woman on the TV Screen” is a lush ballad penned for Gibbs’ wife, Kyeshie.

The three also draw from the elder statesmens’ books, with the twists and turns—and hard swing—of Carter’s “A Feeling,” which he first recorded four decades ago, and the driving bossa rhythms and textures of Barron’s “Sunshower.” And the three explore plenty of tunes they’ve played on various bandstands over the years, including a lively version of Monk’s “Epistrophy,” a sprint through Herbie Hancock’s “The Eye of the Hurricane,” a surprising rework of Coltrane’s “Impressions” and a quick “Beat Box Version” of Miles’ “The Theme.” Another highlight is the swinging stroll through Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing.” No worries here.

 

 

Airto, Last Night at USF

The great Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira came to USF in Tampa this week for a workshop, a talk, and, last night, an exuberant show in the intimate setting of Theatre 2 (portrait courtesy of Joseph Gamble).

Airto, who was an essential ingredient of Miles’ early ’70s  jazz-funk-fusion projects and went on to play with the original versions of both Weather Report and Return to Forever,  alternated between drumset and a table full of percussion toys during the concert. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, Krishna Booker, also a percussionist (and son of late, great bassist Walter Booker, Airto’s connection to many jazz greats in the late ’60s ).

For the first part of the show, the two joined the USF faculty jazz group, for a set of Airto’s compositions — some incorporating bossa grooves, one in 6/4 (or 3/2), one in 7/4. Several pieces had tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins, head of jazz studies at USF, and trombonist Tom Brantley joining for unison lines, with Airto occasionally contributing wordless vocals. Brantley, with and without a mute, Wilkins, and LaRue Nickelson, whose guitar sometimes sported a fusion-style overdriven burr, turned in several of the evening’s most inspired solos. The group also included Mark Neuenschwander on acoustic and electric bass, pianist Chris Rottmeyer and drummer Ian Goodman.

Airto, for his solo piece, pounded out complex, driving rhythms on a large tambourine, sang along in Portuguese, used his voice (sans electronics) to create some harmonic overtones, and at the end added a whistle to create the feeling of a street parade at a Carnaval celebration in his home country. Booker turned in a brief “beatbox” solo – mouth sounds recreating hip-hop rhythms.

The show closed with a short set nicely contrasting with what came before. Brantley directed USF Jazz Ensemble 1 in performances of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and “La Fiesta,” written by Chick Corea. Airto reminded listeners that he appeared on the original version of the latter tune, on the debut Return to Forever album, recorded in 1972 but not released in the U.S. until 1975.

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol. 1

Sonny Rollins’ latest CD, Road Shows, Vol. 1, has gained loads of critical acclaim and landed on more than a jazz critics’ year-end lists.

sonny-rollins1And for good reason: The disc captures the great saxophonist in full flight, playing at the peak of his considerable powers.

Click here to read my review, published in Las Vegas City Life.

Or read the text, below:

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Sonny Rollins

Road Shows, Vol. 1

(Doxy)

It’s not overstating the case to call Sonny Rollins one of the last living jazz giants. Even on the down slide to 80, the tenor saxophonist continues to roam the earth, playing every solo as if it were his last, threatening to turn every show into an event, the kind where listeners are likely to learn something new about the art of jazz, and discover something unexpected about the playing of a monster improviser who has been thrilling audiences since making his breakthrough in the early ’50s with the likes of Miles and Monk.

That said, too many of Rollins’ studio recordings have been subpar – failed attempts to recreate the live vibe. Not so with Road Shows, Vol. 1, culled in part from concert recordings made by Rollins devotee Carl Smith. Here, in live performances caught between 1980 and 2007, Rollins absolutely romps. His brawny horn digs deep during a long, unaccompanied section in “Easy Living” and turns alternately tender and questioning for a bracing version of “Some Enchanted Evening,” with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, performed last year at Carnegie Hall.

He stretches to the breaking point on his signature blues tune, “Tenor Madness,” rocks a calypso groove on his “Nice Lady,” and opens up the ballad “More Than You Know,” even slipping in a snippet of a Christmas melody. Undeniably brilliant.