The Jazz Project

Thoughts Of A Jazz Lover

Jazz can be enigmatic, an alchemy of mysterious sounds and moods that is spontaneous and yet deliberate in its free flowing creativity. The music can be complex, but good jazz feels as simple as first love—it goes straight to the heart and rests there, beating gently. At times, the music can be so life-like that it speaks to you with honesty and love. One still gets a keen sense of understanding of the complexity of the music. There is such a high note of haughtiness, perhaps a sort of natural aristocracy from a kind of inbred austerity about jazz that puts it in a class by itself, elevating one to a higher ground of one’s consciousness. It almost borders on elitism, and yet jazz strikes one as a beautiful music for everyone. And it is, especially for those of us who not only enjoy but truly love the music. True, most good jazz musicians more than likely think of jazz as the arbiter of modern music. And on a good day, I think they are correct.

You can walk in your door after a hard day’s work and a harrowing Metro ride, put on Sarah Vaughn and your world is transformed. Your mind clears, your body relaxes and suddenly life is pretty good. There’s no drug in the world that can do that. Jazz is beautiful music.

Dreamweaver ••••
George Duke, Concord Records

A legendary keyboardist and pioneer in the jazz, funk and R&B genres, George Duke, who died on August 5 at the age of 67, has left us with a farewell album that encompasses all of his musical styles. Everything about Mr. Duke’s life and his music is captured in the appropriate title, “Dreamweaver.” A keyboard pioneer, singer, composer and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres, Mr. Duke first made a name for himself with the album “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio.” Throughout his career Mr. Duke gave us more than 30 solo albums, often collaborating with many other famous and successful musicians, most notably with Frank Zappa. All through “Dreamweaver” the music is first class. It’s almost as if Mr. Duke wrote his own eulogy, brought to life by music for celebration, dancing, romancing, lost-and-found-love, memories of yesterday, and the breathtaking journey of jazz explorations. In capturing the world between living and dreaming, Mr. Duke has erected his own living monument.

Eleven •••
Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band

Perhaps having 19 of New York’s finest musicians appearing on this album was not enough. Too much performers with not enough space on many of the album’s standards left little room for enjoyable improvisations and cohesive collaborations. All this is even more strikingly evident when you compare many of the other compositions to those delightful highlights like “Moanin’, ” “Common Ground,” and “Open Invitation.” That the whole album was a challenge might best be summed up as “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Enjoy the opening track, “New Ground,” but stick to the highlights, please. Musicians of note include Tommy Igoe (drums), Tom Kennedy (bass), Rob Paparozzi (harmonica), Glen Drewes (trumpet), Nathan Childers (sax), and Rolando Morales-Matos (percussion).

Tango Caliente •••
The Jay D’Amico Quintet

Although the title of this album is Tango Caliente, the music heard here is pure and simply jazz for total peace and contemplation. The interplay between musicians is more fitting for classical ballet dancers on an open-air stage nestled in a garden-like park on a warm spring day. Other pieces take you to an outdoor café on a wide plaza watching a parade of beautiful dancers doing the milonga at the end of a soft, cool summer evening. Standouts include the title track “Tango Caliente,” “Etruscan Call,” “Maura’s Chant,” and “Balland in E Minor.” Best jazz performances include “Alfreda,” and “Song for Maria.” Performers are Jay D’Amico (piano), Paul Gill (bass), Tim Horner (drums), Andrew Sterman (sax and flute), and Richie Vitale (trumpet and flugelhorn).

Live2Love •••
Theresa Grayson, L2L Records

Saxophonist Theresa Grayson’s Live2Love mesmerizes us with a spellbinding album for those nights when passion runs wild and wishing that particular lover is only your life’s story down memory lane. Live2Love reminds us that memories that celebrate the joys of love do tell the story of who we are, what makes us happy, and what’s next to come. The sweet and lovely sounds of her saxophone beckon and seduce us with songs of Aretha Franklin, John Legend, Sade, Hall & Oats, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5 and others. The album also showcases five soul-jazz originals, four of which were written by Ms. Grayson including “Afterthoughts,” an urbane track featuring soprano sax, scat-like vocalization and live instrumentation. This is a great follow-up for the Texas-born and Houston-raised musician whose 2010 debut album, “It’s All About You,” featured a rich endowment of inspirational instrumentals.

Here Ms. Grayson alternates between expressive tenor and soprano sax, amplified by graceful flute flourishes. The frenetic pace on “Locked Out of Heaven” pours streams of flowing melody. “Sarah Smile” is a soulful tenor serenade. Her glowing but soothing lead and backing vocals surprise on “Smooth Operator.” She employs soprano on the lush ‘70s retro themed “More Pressure.” “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)” soars upon a futuristic aural sound giving flight to the Ms. Grayson’s impassioned calls. “Moves Like Jagger” prances with a sense of urgency established by a driving beat. Lights dim for “Spend My Life” and “Close Your Eyes,” seductive urban adult contemporary grooves lit by Mr. Grayson’s sensual soprano and a vocal chorus. Desire permeates the ballad “Just A Little Time” while the longing continues on the classic slow jam “It Never Rains in Southern California,” which closes the collection.