[ALBUM REVIEW]… inspiring bassist-composer Mark Wade’s fourth album True Stories

Several years ago, I had an unexpected pleasure to meet and explore a recording titled “Event Horizon,” to my delight this album was thoughtfully curated by an evolving young bassist and composer named Mark Wade. Of course, Wade has since meticulously labored through the layers of three lyrically enticing recordings “Moving Day, Songs From Isolation” with noted musicality, and focused tonality anchored to his major influences surges with precision.

With the arrival of  “TRUE STORIES,” his fourth album features the talented Tim Harrison and Scott Neumann to establish Wade’s most fertile work to date. Moreover, fear not his loyal fanbase won’t be surprised but ecstatic to hear Mark’s flawless voice, warmth, and elasticity armed with significant growth documented through this fruitful collection of eight originals and one cover tune for good measure.

From the outset, the Miles Davis-inspired “I FEEL MORE LIKE I DO NOW” lives up to expectation as he channels his way note by note through the body of metered melodies, embraceable rhythms, and poignant harmonics are inviting and pleasing to the ear. “FALLING DELORES” appears next, this lovely gem my favorite sways with spirited lyricism, while clothed with Wayne Shorter’s immersive voicings is shaped by Wade’s coalesced tone on this attractive composition.

In recent memory I’ve grown fond of the velocity, warmth, and ambiance of the acoustic bass, Mark Wade is among many who has encouraged and developed my ongoing appreciation through tunes like “THE SOLDIER AND THE FIDDLE” inspired by virtuoso Igor Stravinsky embellishes the lingering and delectable tonality intertwined I yearn to hear jazz wise. The next tune, “IN THE MARKET” literally caught me off guard originally recorded by the iconic fusion ensemble Weather Report, Wade’s intuitive voice is apparent and virtuosity articulates his reimaged vision with ample twists and layers is a near-perfect addition to this collection.

At the fifth position, the bluesy swag of “PISCATWAY WENT THAT-A-WAY” to capture my attention encompasses the talents co-written by the incomparable duo Wade and pianist Fred Hersch. Combining their insightful approach is an example of why jazz enthusiasts love and appreciate this genre and continue to be sustained by remnants of what jazz embellishes historically has embodied and expands and perfects its colorful voicings in real-time.

With three songs in the balance from a listener’s perspective, I wonder which way will this journey take me?  The tangible “SIMPLE SONG” in the lineup accentuates Mark’s viable yet embolden tonality with a spark of enthusiasm provided by pianist Frank Kimbrough together materialized by their passion and unity as collaborators student and teacher. Cemented in the nuances of Wade’s musical vocabulary echoes hints of Charles Mingus penned in the context, architecture, and savoring swing of “SONG WITH ORANGE & OTHER THINGS.” Closing this session, Mark Wade’s signature is deeply inscribed in the delightful passages adorned with unmatched interplay applied on “AT THE SUNSIDE,” much like his previous pieces this gem paints his musical persona with a vivid array of gracious accents usher listeners into the wealth of this varied musical collective.

Even though I don’t consider myself an authority on jazz, nonetheless, novice and enthusiasts alike are likely to agree with each listen will recognize the substance, maturity, and ascension of bassist-composer Mark Wade’s rousing voice is vaulted into the future with excellence on his latest and stellar contribution to the world of jazz titled “TRUE STORIES.”

~Reviewed by Rob Young of AJE

 

 

NOTEWORTHY: Many Worlds contains a myriad of influences featuring Melbourne, Australia ensemble Menagerie

Nine-piece Melbourne-based Jazz ensemble Menagerie features some of Australia’s finest musicians, including pianist Mark Fitzgibbon, drummer Daniel Farrugia, and saxophonist Phil Noy, and was founded by producer, guitarist, DJ, Lance Ferguson. Inspired by both the post-Coltrane generation of the ’70s, labels like Strata-East, Impulse! and Tribe, along with the current ‘New Wave Of Jazz‘, Menagerie aligns with the world of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings, and Nubya Garcia, whilst also bringing their own unique twist. Lead single ‘Free Thing‘ leans heavily into the spiritual side of the band’s sound.

The hypnotic spoken word poem is evocative of The Last Poets, an earthy yet futuristic meditation on the universal theme of freedom itself, set to a backdrop of insistent percussion, double bass, and brooding piano voicings. ‘Hope‘ carries forward the sound of spiritual jazz into the 21st century, with its epic vocal harmonies and melodic fanfare, it is an uplifting anthem for this period of global worldwide upheaval and uncertainty. The title track ‘Many Worlds’ is a perfect example of how Menagerie incorporates their myriad influences but manages to create a sound that feels uncannily fresh and contemporary. Book-ended by ambient, ethereal sections, the slow-burning groove builds over its 11-minute duration to create a standout crossover track. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Check out, “MANY WORLDS” featuring the poetic lyricism and flavors of Menagerie

Just in case, you missed it…Brazilian pianist/composer Amaro Freitas’ “Sankofa”

Sometimes visually represented as a heart, or a bird flying with its head facing backward (or taking an egg from its back), the Akan principle of Sankofa states that in order to move forward, we must look back to our ancestors and traditional practices to help guide the way. For Brazilian pianist Amaro Freitas, Sankofa not only provides the title for his latest release but also acts as a guiding principle for his approach to the music.

Working in a trio with bassist Jean Elton and drummer/percussionist Hugo Medeiros, Freitas’ playing throughout Sankofa straddles the cultural and historical intersections of post-bop and samba batucada. The title track is a beautifully understated piece, in which Freitas’ rich chords and melody lines swing hazily against the rhythm section. On “Ayeye,” the trio dances over Medeiros’ funky midtempo groove, while “Cazumbá” combines imaginative playing with delightfully irregular rhythms. “Batucada” builds tension with a dramatic opening before giving way to a truly open-concept arrangement guided by Freitas’ Cecil Taylor-Esque playing.

The music here is consistently inventive, both rhythmically and melodically engaging, delivered by a trio more than capable of commanding a wide range of African diasporic musical traditions. ~Daily.bandcamp.com

As time allows, become acquainted with the imaginative voicings of “SANKOFA” by pianist/composer Amaro Freitas

REFLECTION: Rendering classic jazz INFINITY by an amazing artist, pianist/composer McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner Trio, INFINITY (ORIGINALLY RELEASED: Jan. 1995)

When I think about great piano players, it is appropriate to say not just because of familiarity McCoy Tyner’s name rises among the top as significant, vibrant, and soulful players on the jazz scene regardless of era. Perhaps, it is easy to come to this conclusion because of his musical virtuosity undoubtedly speaks volumes. Case in point, in front of me is his brilliant 1995 recording “INFINITY” qualifies as a defining moment and a supreme choice for jazz collectors to embrace and listen to repeatedly.

Tyner paired his voice with some of the best to record INFINITY, bassist Avery Sharpe, drummer Aaron Scott, and saxophonist Michael Brecker appeared to combine their formidable gifts and presence to amplify originals such as “FLYING HIGH” to Monk’s bouncy “I MEAN YOU” featuring Brecker’s solo places firm exclamation point on it! Penned by Tyner, the palpable funk meets jazz sound is underscored on “HAPPY DAYS” and a pellucid rendition of Coltrane’s “IMPRESSIONS” features Brecker’s recognizable tone to this delectable palette of music.

As a player and composer, it is Tyner’s complex, bold, and soul-stirring vocabulary that integrates naturally. “MELLOW MINOR” an original yet vigorous piece at the number eight spot title does not match the tempo and far removed from being remotely relaxed (jamming). Moreover, this gem is solidified by saxophonist Michael Brecker’s rich vibrato and stimulating voice is undeniably icing on the cake. Tyner closes the session with his muscularly fluent touch (solo) and distinct stride is utterly amazing on the classic “GOOD MORNING HEARTACHE.” When an artist approaches timeless pieces like this is an opportunity to excel and make it your own or not and he met this challenge without breaking a sweat. ~Reviewed by Rob Young

At your leisure, listen to “INFINITY” a timeless classic by the legendary McCoy Tyner.

REFLECTION: I’ve been thinking about the musical genius of pianist Ahmad Jamal lately, have you listened to any of his music recently?

Ahmad Jamal, LIVE AT MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 1985 (Vinyl)

In the late 80s, my sister bought me a pair of tickets for my birthday to see pianist Ahmad Jamal at a local college. As a result, I was pleasantly in awe with anticipation of the event because this was the first time seeing him perform live. The hour and a half set was elevated by his eloquence yet graciousness, soulful style, and powerful interplay provided stoked a roar of applause from the audience who was hungry for more. Till this day the mere thought of this concert is truly mesmerizing.

Today’s album review is fitting, why? Because “LIVE AT THE MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 1985” captures the essence of the live set I witnessed that cold night nestled in the foothills of the mountain terrain. Recorded and released on Atlantic Records, this gem incorporates eight palpable compositions three originals, and five masterpieces all worth the price of admission. To bring vitality to this moment, Mr. Jamal summons A-list players to join him in Montreal, bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley with percussionist Seldon Newton as a quartet these players brought the energy and superseded expectation.

As I revisited this tenacious jewel, I’m reminded of Jamal’s unique prowess that’s fluent while anchored to his impressive agility defines his voice as potent, unrivaled, and unmistakably influential on every level. The revered interplay showcased throughout this set demonstrates the importance of the musician’s skill to communicate as they exchange thought-provoking ideas with one another as they excel in their performance. ~Reviewed by Rob Young

You can listen to this amazing performance below

REFLECTION: Do you remember Brazilian trombonist/composer Raul de Souza?

Raul de Souza Generations Band, PLENITUDE (RELEASE: May 21, 2021)

I vividly recall the distinct yet brisk tonality provided by trombonist/composer Raul de Souza from his days playing with keyboardist George Duke, mostly his 1977 Brazilian, Jazz, and Funk flavored album “SWEET LUCY was the first of three followed by DON’T ASK MY NEIGHBORS & ‘TIL TOMORROW COMES (not available)” projects produced by Duke in the latter 70s. Until today, considering that he’s been recording since 1965 I was unaware of the Rio de Janeiro native’s impressive catalog that has unmeasurably blessed music lovers globally even though most of us only knew him during his short-lived success in North America.

Today, I’m thrilled to present the mysterious Raul de Souzas latest endeavor aptly titled “PLENITUDE” which by the way embodies the familiar accents, catchy hooks, and Latin rhythms he was known for. If contemporary jazz and fusion bend by contagious voicings of Latin jazz spread throughout is your bag, there are six interludes plus Souza serves up ten infectious gems guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating jazz enthusiasts.

Out of the box, Souza doesn’t hesitate for a moment with the sassy “NANA.” It burst right away with glowing and illuminating tones colored with Latin attributes. With an artist of his stature, his versatility is quickly exposed on “APESAR DE VOCE” which basked in the rhythmic brilliance of the aforementioned piece. A tune titled “DAISY MAE” adjacent to “NETINHA AURA” arrives it seems out of nowhere as my overall favorites are explorative, robust, and punctuated by contemporary accents. What I hear underscored through this magnificent recording is Souza’s uncanny gift to layer alluring tones, contoured shapes, polychromatic lyricism evitably captures your attention with every evolving note makes this album a poetically appealing, beautiful, and joyous listening experience. ~Reviewed by Rob Young

Check it out, as time allows listen to PLENTITUDE by trombonist/composer Raul de Souza

REFLECTION: Trumpeter/composer Gregori Hollis’ new album “LANDING” recently caught my attention…

From the outset, “LANDING” unexpectedly unraveled trumpeter, and composer Gregori Hollis‘ swift chameleon-like phrases on his horn matched with his notable writing skills navigates with ease into one’s listening space and before you know it you find yourself wanting to dive deeper into this colorful tapestry of modern jazz meets Latin music.

Gregori Hollis’ LANDING (RELEASED: April 13, 2021)

On this winsome collection of eight original pieces, right away you’re bound to find yourself focusing on several if not all selections to be quite pleasing to the ear. Hollis brilliantly marries the cherished elements of jazz and Latin music seamlessly as one cohesive voice to paint a picture-perfect soundscape from start to finish. One of my favorites is the punchy “PUJA D’ESTIU,” this sassy gem glistens out of the gate. The Salsa-driven “QUE SUENE DANZON” at number 5 rhythmic sequences will draw even none dancers into the pulse of this hip-swaying piece.

“LANDING” appears at the sixth spot, as hoped for the title piece rhythmic tones, sharp brass, swag, and choppy flavors are indeed the sauce, the real deal worth the price of admission. I say this, with “LANDING” trumpeter/composer Gregori Hollis brought his signature fused with the right textures, shapes, and colors provide and open path and a bright future ahead. ~Reviewed by Rob Young

REFLECTION: Some critics have described the album Leaning into the Night (Inclinado en la Noche) as “watered down nouveau flamenco” by guitarist Ottmar Liebert, what do you think?

In today’s REFLECTION, it’s always interesting to hear or see someone’s perspective. In this case, the music of guitarist Ottmar Leibert. Over the years, I’ve grown into being a novice to listen to various styles or genres of music, his voice fits well within the scope of intimate and sounds worth exploring. At the moment, this my first meeting with “LEANING INTO THE NIGHT (INCLINADO EN LA NOCHE).” What I discovered here, is a calming soundscape that illuminates with perils of romanticism. As a result, this carefully constructed narrative is developed by an appointed yet timely lyricism note by note frames an inviting atmosphere to savor for if only a temporary cure for restlessness souls who are open listen.

Ottmar Liebert’s‘ LEARNING INTO THE NIGHT

At your leisure, escape into the appealing nuances of LEARNING

“REFLECTIONS” …each day contains cherished memories to embrace. Today it’s the illuminating beauty of an album titled “LIKE MINDS” featuring 5 remarkable musicians …

Being a self-proclaimed musical futurist isn’t an easy way of life, sometimes a brother must pause and take a break to enjoy the simplicities of the obvious treasures that are just a touch away. On this gorgeous Wednesday afternoon, I decided to return to the source to rediscover familiar voices, rhythms, and melodies that pushed my hunger for music forward in the past to revisit once again these intriguing artists who speak fluently as if it were the first time I heard them with an abrupt reverence to stimulate minds and revive souls of those who listen throughout the body of this wonderful music.

Burton, Corea, Metheny, Haynes & Holland, LIKE MINDS

LIKE MINDS is one of those records that is shelved in the data bank of my mind knowing at any given moment, time, or day this masterpiece can speak with unmatched synergy with inventiveness and artistry known to mankind. Recorded and released in the latter 90s, this brilliant album features 5 of the best in the business featuring Gary Burton (vibes), Chick Corea (piano), Pat Metheny (guitar), Roy Haynes (drums), and Dave Holland on (bass) all are undoubtedly stellar musicians and soloist. Need I say more? With the anointed gifts to play music given to them, through hard work, and tenacity to play music live or in a studio is unsurpassed. There’s no doubt about it, if you don’t have “LIKE MINDS” in your collection, or your playlist and cease being a voyeur and get this gem now you won’t regret it!

Chillin with guitarist Steve Khan’s EYEWITNESS, what are you listening to?

I’ve been doing a little virtual crate-digging today and bumped into “EYEWITNESS” released in 1981 by guitarist/composer Steve Khan. I’m more familiar with his previous albums from the 70s “TIGHTROPE and BLUE MAN” and a couple of other ones since but sort of lost track afterwords.

Steve Khan’s EYEWITNESS

During the early 70s, I was a huge jazz fusion lover because of the influences like Hendrix, Johnny Winter, and Santana. So adapting to cats like Khan, after spending endless hours listening to cats like Bill Connors, Al DiMeola, Larry Carlton, John McLaughlin, and others was only an added plus. “DR. SLUMP” the Fender Telecaster featured on track two reminds me a heck of a lot like Carlton. The organic yet piercing arc of Khan’s guitar is a perfect fit for the times now and then. As usual, it’s the sidekicks that bring life to the compositions, featured on the record are bassist Anthony Jackson, percussionist Marlono Baderna, and drummer Steve Jordon. Although most of the pieces are sonically relaxed proportionally compared to the heavy-hitters I’m reminded I am not as deep into grinding elements of fusion as I once was though it’s refreshing to hear a familiar voice to reset my brain to the latter days of this era. Unfortunately, EYEWITNESS has only 5 tracks available but I’m quite certain guitar and fusion aficionados would find this record pleasing to the ears.