Cory Henry; Taking us to Church
The Revival (Live) Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival Series
May 28, 2018
Memorial Day Edition
I guess it is appropriate that we should be going to church on this Memorial Day, and Corey Henry is just the one to take us there. Cory is an organist and pianist who also happens to be the son of a preacher (Bishop Jeffrey White), and from his style one can tell that he used to (and probably still does), play organ for his dad in the church (and “yes” his dad is featured on this album singing “Old Rugged Cross). Cory has also played with the likes of Snaky Puppy, Michael McDonald, Boys II Men, Kenny Garette, and many other well-known secular and gospel artists. He and his band “The Funk Apostles” are scheduled to appear in The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival (PIJF) on Saturday, June 16 at Liberty Avenue Stage 1 from 6:15 – 7:30PM.
The album being reviewed here is entitled The Revival. It’s a 2014 release recorded at The Greater Temple of Praise in Brooklyn, NY (yes, his dad’s church). And his stated purpose for recording this album was to feature the organ not only as a vehicle for gospel music in worship, but also to showcase the impact the instrument has in music in general. And being that the organ is one of my favorite instruments in jazz music as well as other musical genres, I was more than a little interested in what I would hear. For this review, I won’t concentrate too much on the gospel music, but instead I will focus on the jazz aspect of his playing (although I do have some Gospel Music reviews coming up in the not too distant future; D.V.)
The first tune I’d like to talk about is the Naanaanaa song. I chose this song because it’s an example of the pure joy this young man exhibits in his play. I can imagine him composing this song; just sitting down at keyboards and playing just because he’s happy, and this cute, beautiful song was the result. Now, the only accompaniment he had was the drums and tambourine, and of course the audience, but because of the instrument the sound is full and complete. That’s the magic of the organ. And believe me, this song will make you smile and put you in a good mood. You just can’t help it. One other fun aspect of this song is that it reminds me of another one of my favorite musicians, Bobby McFerrin. Bobby has the same kind of youthful exuberance and playful attitude in his music and with his audience, and I believe Cory has listened to Bobby a time or two. You simply cannot remain stuffy while listening to this one; this song won’t let you.
The very next song is entitled That is Why I’m Happy. Yes, this is a gospel song, but on this song, Cory really stretches out and shows off his chops. His musicianship and virtuosity are on full display, and the man is on fire. He starts out a little subdued (for him), but he slowly fans the fire, and by the end of the song he is fully lit. Immediately following the drum solo Cory really lights it up! He makes the organ roar with a driving groove and unadulterated funk! The man is a player, and please don’t let the venue fool you; church or not, this man will lay it down. He is startling in his virtuosity; a truly gifted musician!
On the eighth track of the CD, Cory interprets John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Initially his approach has an eerie feel to it. The song seems to cautiously move along as he gains momentum and fully expresses his soulful intent as he enters the body of the song. Cory then enters the groove and lays down his interpretation in his own fresh handling of this piece that so many have done before him. He manages not only to keep the standard fresh, but at the same time stamps his name over the body of the work as though it were his own composition. Cory does exactly what any accomplished master does, he takes the historic and brings it to the contemporary in a fashion that not only makes it palatable to the new generation, but also keeps it satisfying to the traditionalists. His pedal bass play would make many bassists envious, and I imagine Jimmy Smith is looking down on Cory and giving him his nod of approval. This tune demonstrates that he can handle jazz with as much vim and expertise as he can with gospel. Exemplary work from a master musician.
The next song, number 9 on the album is another standard. This time by an R&B master with as much renown as John Coltrane. Cory pays homage to this great artist by doing his excellent interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s All is Fair in Love. The song begins with an almost dirge-like pace, which quickly evolves into a slow ballad feel. The song emotes the pain of love in a way that most have felt. Cory pulls so much emotion out of his instrument that you can almost hear the organ weep. It’s amazing. The final bars of this song cry in anguish as Cory brilliantly wrings tears from his instrument. His connection to the keyboard is astounding.
The eleventh song of the CD is entitled I Want To Be Ready. This song is an almost 12-minute ride of joy. On this song, the drum kit is replaced by an African drum and tambourine. Cory takes his time and stretches out in a joyous display of the love of music, and the love of the Gospel. There is just no other way to describe it. On this track, as well as on the entire album, you can tell that not only is Cory at home on the stage, but he is at home in the Pentecostal Church too. He has spent his whole life there, and his love for what he does, and Who he does it for shines through. I can imagine three-hour long church services with the young Cory inciting the congregation into throes of passion with his remarkable playing, and then bringing them to tears as he settles down into an emotional solo. This man can do it all on his instrument of choice.
This CD gets a big “Thumbs Up” from me.
But wait! At the PIJF Corey will not be solo but will be performing with his band “The Funk Apostles”. He probably won’t be playing too much gospel music (although I could be mistaken on that), because the new CD by his group has just been released, and it appears to be R & B heavy. But, a new single was released a little earlier on iTunes, and its entitled Trade It All. So, enjoy the live rehearsal version of the song here, go to iTunes and purchase the single (help the young man out), and if you have a chance, go see this man and his band do their thing. You won’t be disappointed.
Well, I’d like to thank all of you who took time out of their busy day to read this article. I have to say again that I really enjoy writing this column (Brian’s Corner). The research is so much fun. I get to hear great music, and I have the privilege of sharing it with you.
As usual, I sincerely hoped you enjoyed reading this article just as much as I enjoyed writing it. I wouldn’t be here without this audience, and I appreciate all of you. Feel free to leave any comments in the provided space and you can also give me a heads up if you want me to hear someone I may not be aware of, or a new album that I missed.
Be on the lookout for our updated website coming very soon. You will love its improved appearance and streamlined controls.
Come join N-Motion Entertainment at our First Friday Celebrations at the Pittsburgh Hilton Garden Inn in the Oakland section of the city every first Friday of the month. Come join us; listen to the music, dance, enjoy some delicious food, and “holler at your boy”!
Next week I’ll review PIJF’s featured artist Kenny Garrett’s latest CD Do Your Dance.
Thanks, again, to all of you. Take care, and next time “Catch You on the Corner”!
B. B. Suber
Edmar Castaneda Jazz Angel of Columbia South American February 25, 2019
On February 2, 2019 the stage of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (Pittsburgh, PA), was graced with the duo of South American (Columbia), jazz virtuoso musicians Edmar Castaneda/ harp, and Grammy Award Winner Gregoire Maret /harmonica. The banality of the previous sentence cannot begin to convey the explosion of beautiful music these two exceptional musicians shared with a captivated and enchanted audience.
The sound that emanated from the electric harp of Edmar was at times ethereal and at other times just down to earth funky, and Gregoire’s harmonica expertly and fluidly accentuated the heights and fancies of the spirited and lively playing that Edmar’s fingertips produced. Edmar can make a harp sing, thump and cry. His emotional range on his instrument is just as wide as his virtuosity is high. He brings out sounds and music that you would never expect a harp to produce, and he emotes in such a marvelous fashion that he can make you feel what he is feeling as he plays. And just as great of a musician as Edmar is, Gregoire is his equal with his “ax” of choice, the harmonica. The product of the two musicians was amazing beyond description, and after being blown away by their performance, I had to meet the two musicians in person and purchase
Edmar’s latest CD; Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble (Live at the Jazz standard). Both men were very friendly and Edmar (in his ever preset Kangol style hat) was extremely engaging, and he also was pleased to know that they would be featured on my small corner. Gregoire, on the other hand, spoke very little English so we couldn’t communicate much (especially since my Spanish is probably much worse than his English), although he spoke volumes on stage with his harmonica.
Since I only wore my music fan hat at the Guild concert that night, I did not take notes. At times a person must simply exist and enjoy the music, and that’s exactly what I did, but the album I purchased brought a small sampling of what I witnessed at the concert home with me. The album has only six songs on it, but those six songs are all lengthy (the average length is about 10 minutes), and those six pieces give you an inkling of what the live performance spectacularly delivered. By the way, Edmar is also an accomplished composer as well. Of the six songs, all but one (Carrao Carrao), were composed and arranged by Edmar, and the entire album was produced by him too!
The World Ensemble consisted of six other musicians besides Edmar and Gregoire: Marshall Gilkes/Trombone; Itai Kriss/Flute; Shlomi Cohen/Soprano Sax; Pablo Vergara/Piano; Rodrigo Villlon/Drums; and David Silliman/Percussion. There are also three “special guests” on the album; Andrea Tierra/vocals; Tamer Pinarbasi/Qanun (a middle eastern lute like instrument); and Sergio Krakowski/Pandero (a tambourine like instrument).
The first song on this colorful album is entitled Cuarto De Colores (Room of Colors). From the initial downbeat Edmar jumps in with both feet, or, as I should say, both hands. He pounds out the melody with a ferocious intensity that doesn’t let up for nearly the entire eleven minutes of the tune, and all the bassline you hear is played via the Edmar’s left hand on his harp. It’s startling how much sound and power he produces out of his instrument. When I first heard him play, I did not know what to expect. I had never seen an electric harp, and I anticipated the sound associated with the acoustic version of the instrument; well, I was wrong. Although the sound is very similar, the electric harp produces a harp sound that is on steroids! Its bold and vibrant in a way that is otherworldly. You just do not expect to hear what you’re hearing, and….its great!
Cuarto de Colores is a song that reeks of Columbia and the Latin flavored jazz of the region. The rhythm and flow of the music is indicative of the region from whence Edmar hails. The African influence is a huge part of the music just as the black people of South America make up a large part of the continent’s population. Their influence cannot be denied, but it is instead celebrated within the music, rhythm and dance of the Southern Hemisphere. South America is a large “room of colors” and every color of the heritage of the people of the region manifests itself in the music. This tune exhibits that reality in an energetically superb fashion.
The length of the song also allows space for the song to evolve and transform in complexity of sound and feel. The horn section has a meaty quality to it; they sound loud and large in unison, and as all the musicians are allowed their room to speak during this number, they each add their own flavor to the rhythmic soup, the result is a journey of grand proportions. Itai Kriss’ flute solo is creative and spontaneous. It is balanced and crisp and never becomes laborious. Itai seems to frolic through the measures as he tells his delightful story. He is followed by the virtuoso talent of Gregoire on the harmonica.
Edmar and the Harps!
Although for most Americans the harmonica may evoke thoughts of Stevie wonder or Toots Theilesmens (he of Sesame St. fame), or even Lee Oskar of the band WAR, but Gregoire has a style all his own. He plays in a style that is reminiscent of a guitar player. He approaches each note at times almost as if he were plucking a string. It’s a wonderful effect that adds to the complexity and timbre of the instrument. But he also allows the uniqueness of the harmonica’s qualities to shine through as well. He’s an amazing musician and fills the room with his soul and sound. Percussionist David Sillman exhibits his talents for a few bars, and then as the song winds down with each horn player improvising for a few bars and the song ends as abruptly as is began. This song is amazing from beginning to completion and it never leaves the listener fatigued (but I can’t say the same for any dancers who may try to keep up).
The third song on the CD is entitled Jesus De Nazareth. It’s a beautifully enchanting song that evokes a pacing quiet grace. Edmar is a religious man, and although not in overbearing fashion he does openly acknowledge his Christianity. This beautiful song emotes his faith in a way that words cannot. Its genesis is enigmatic as it quietly builds in dynamics, complexity and urgency. It continues its inexorable march and slowly grows into a heavenly melody of unearthly beauty. This is initially a solo number that displays a certain simplistic complexity that very few solo instruments can pull off; the harp is made for a tune like this.
As the song builds, the listener can hear all the intricacies of the harp. The bassline and melody seem nearly independent of one another; almost as if they were played on separate instruments. At almost exactly six minutes in, the entire band joins in to help tell the story. It’s the Gospel according to Castaneda, and although there are no written words, one can begin to understand what Edmar’s Savior means to him. We can also begin to gain some insight into Edmar’s quiet regal character the he publicly exhibits.
Although not written by Edmar, Carrao Carrao, the fifth song of the CD is a beautiful number that I simply must talk about. A carrao is a beautiful wading bird indigenous to Florida and South America. The lovely voice of Adrea Tierra sings this song which also happens to be the only vocal number on this CD. The eerie beauty of this tune goes hand in hand with the beauty found on this CD itself, and it also lends itself to the beauty of Edmar’s craftmanship on the harp. Andrea sings with and insistent grace that draws you in even if you speak no Spanish. And one thing I found so remarkable is her ability to thrill the double “r” in the Spanish language. I, personally, have never heard anyone thrill those consonants to such an extent. The ability accentuates the beauty and mystery of the song. Andrea has an impeccable voice, with masterful command of her vocal cords, pitch and range. This song exudes mystery intertwined with the call of nature’s beauty. It’s a lovely interlude on an intensely rich album. A “must listen” for any music fan.
The last song on this CD is entitled Zamir Blues. This song is the funkiest tune on the disc. It has a cool steady groove and it keeps you rocking. The song begins with a funky bass intro that Edmar so expertly plays with his right hand on the bass strings of the harp, eventually he begins to explore the improvised melody of the intro with his left, his technique and musicianship as stellar as ever. After the brief solo intro, the percussion and drums set a smoking rhythm to accompany the harp, and usher in the entire band. Edmar continues the bass line which anchors the tune and the groove. After a few bars of nastiness, the entire ensemble enters in and the band erupts into the body of the song.
The World Ensemble.
The number has a familiar tone and quality to it, but the music is new and fresh. The song progresses and Gregoire begins to speak to the crowd with an inspired melodic funky and thoughtful harmonica voice which leaves the listener in awe while being completely entertained. The trombone of Gilkes speaks up next. He pours out his thoughtful sermon in a complete and satisfying fashion. Finally, Edmar enters in again with his solo, and you’re again amazed by the bass hand he displays, but there’s a reason for that too. You see, Edmar’s bass hero is Jaco Pastorius (Edmar even named a song after him), and Edmar has learned a thing or two about how the bass should be played by one of the best bassists ever.
This song has all the elements of a classic, and the one thought that I cannot shake as I contemplate America’s Black History month, and as I listen to not only this song, but the entire album, as well as jazz music from the four corners of the world is just how influential and ubiquitous American Jazz has become, and how it has shaped and defined modern musical language. Jazz is a language that brings people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances together. It’s America’s gift to the World’s musical conversation. A gift that was born in the rough fields of American slavery; a gift that was born out of the African rhythms of drumbeats heard on a distant continent, and a gift that was birthed out of the interpretation of a culture and a music that was foreign to and foisted upon unwilling subjects. This music is a bridge to all of mankind. It can be heard on every continent in the world, and it speaks a universal language that all can understand. Out of adversity emerges supreme beauty.
Well, once again I arrive at the end of another fun adventure. I must apologize for the, as of late, irregular postings. I am doing a lot of research and listening to various artists and I am trying to bring fresh and new (or, should I say, unfamiliar), artists to the conversation. I don’t want to become bored or sound stale as I do what I love, and this it to entertain (I hope) you. I hope to bring many new and extremely good local musicians to light, and (as I do not want to jump the gun and tip my hand), I hope to bring some exciting local musicians to the table, and also continue to write about established artists that I like as well.
Let me do my due diligence and state for the record that I do not own the rights to any music videos or images of artists that appear on this page or in this article. I refer to the “fair use” clause within the law to use this material.
I want to stir up interest, as well as give you a hint of things to come, by letting you know that N-Motion Entertainment will not only continue to bring stellar musicians to the Stage, but we will be doing some exciting work along the lines of some of the events we have done in the past. Tell you family and friends to stop by the “Corner” and read the articles, leave comments, make suggestions, and in the near future, you will be able to take advantage of special offers and discounts available only to readers of this article. We appreciate all of you, and I ‘d like to personally thank any and all of you for stopping by and checking things out.
Well, that’s all for now, and as always, next time “Catch You on the Corner”.
B. B. Suber
Marcos Ariel / “Americas” January 29, 2019 A Taste of the Western Hemisphere
Classically trained Brazilian smooth jazz pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Marcos Ariel has dedicated himself professionally to his art since the mid 1970’s. This album’s release in 2017 demonstrates his masterful ability to not only craft great music, but to also deliver his product with remarkable charm and quiet grace. His music, based upon the “Carioca” style of play indigenous to musicians from his home town of Rio De Janeiro, is tinged with that subtleties of Latin American rhythms and an international timbre that defies categorization. Although much of the album information is difficult to find in North America, (as the album is currently only sold on MP3 format), I can tell you that the album features Jean-Pierre Zanella on saxophone; Paulino Trumpete (sic) on trumpet, and Lula Galvao on guitar. Marcos is responsible for nearly all (if not all), of the composing on the CD, and via his composition style he allots himself a comfortable amount of quiet space (between the notes) to his unhurried and thoughtful piano style. His superb music composition skills compliment his storyteller approach to music magically. He quietly weaves a tale that can be not only heard but felt too. With this album, aptly titled “Americas”, Marcos desired to meld the many influences of the music of the western hemisphere into a beautiful presentation of New World modern jazz, Latin America’s smooth funky rhythms, and smooth jazz to the global musical conversation. He succeeded in that quest epically.
The first cut on the album is the title track Americas, and it exemplifies Marcos’ desire to meld the music of the two great continents of the Western Hemisphere. The song is smooth and mellow, and it demonstrates the varied influences that Marcos embraces. The steady Carioca undercurrent is intertwined with the smooth jazz groove of North America and the effect is that of pure delicate emotion. It’s a peaceful excursion that takes the listener on a gentle ride; the song seems to speak of the grandeur of the natural beauty that exists in the vast stretches of sparsely populated area of the land while also bringing to mind the people of the hemisphere who give their countries the diverse cultural differences of the various regions. It’s an exotic ride for not just the people to whom this land is foreign, but it’s just as exotic for those who live here too. Sometimes the familiar is too familiar and one loses the sense of awe that newcomers are so keenly aware of. Music like this makes even those who have been on this side of the ocean all their lives sit up and take notice of all there is to appreciate in the natural beauty of the landscape as well as the beauty of the people of which we are all a part of. It’s the freshness of the work that allows us to see this land as Marcos’ musical story telling describes it; a land of immense beauty and multiplied races of beautiful people. “Americas”, the common cradle of the music, the flora and fauna, and the listeners (at least those on this side of the Atlantic Ocean).
Song two is a continuation of the beautifully mellow mood that Marcos has set in the first cut. The song titled After You Left is a relatively short piece, but its smooth and lovely as it brings about the calm cool ambience of sound and space; a space that is larger than the sum of the individual musical instruments parts being played. The song seems to lull your senses into a place that allows clarity of thought and the letting go of outside noise and clutter. Once again, the music brings the cultural vagaries of the many different nations into the music. It simmers like a slow stew of diverse ingredients on a warm kitchen stove. One can almost smell the delicious dinner being prepared for appreciative guests. The song is grounded by a strong yet subtle bass line (sorry, I could not discover the name of the player). The bass is a demonstration of the North American influence into the international jazz landscape, and although it carries the song, Marcos’ composition skills never allow it to overpower the number; it merely and gracefully augments the mood and character of this beautiful ballad. This song is superb in its simplicity and charm. Marcos’s years of playing and writing are on full display in the most understated and fascinating way imaginable.
Copacabana Strut, the fourth number on this album, begins with a funky U. S. style bass run that eventually allows the song to morph into a smooth jazz basso-nova track that seems to dance along with the masterful rhythm section. The song combines Marcos’ piano with a smooth jazz organ, and they fill the melody with their cool interplay, all the while the bass keeps this high flying band firmly grounded as it weaves its dance beat into the fray. The smooth quartet of drums, bass, piano and organ form a tight grooving ensemble that cha-chas with the number being played. The piano seems to plead it case and it urges the listeners to get up on their feet. It’s a mellow number, but at the same time it begs the listener to dance; just like so much of the music of not only this region, but world music in general. That is the thing about music; it and dance go together like hand in glove and to ignore that reality takes away the humanity of it all. Dance cannot be ignored; our bodies just won’t allow it; and the music of the Americas screams this reality, even in a seemingly quiet tune such as this one.
With track seven Marcos pay homage to his home town of Rio. The song is titled Ipanema Sunset. Ipanema is a southern neighborhood of Rio de Janiero. It’s now famous for the song “The Girl from Ipanema” of course, and this song is the offspring of the mood of that now famous place. The song begins with an almost sleepy trumpet intro which is immediately followed by a cool samba beat and the articulated playing of Marcos on the piano. Marcos’ playing is fantastic, and his play is bolstered by the fantastic play of the bassist (whomever he or she may be). The trumpet play of Pauliho is remarkable. It’s understated, but at the same time complex in tenor and feel. Marcos uses a simple solo to keep his story light and mobile. It’s not bogged down with heady articulation, but instead uses simplicity to tell its magical tale. This song is one of the highlights of a highlight filled CD. One can almost see and feel the sun setting on the ocean of the beautiful Ipanema beach as the twilight seems to invite an evening of fun and frivolity. It’s a nice getaway for any vacationer; a place where we’d all love to visit and would never want to leave. And, less I forget, one of the most indispensable and incredible aspects of this song is (as it is with most if not all of the music from this region), the percussion play. The percussionist is absolutely amazing. He (or she), keeps the beat in an interesting, fresh and hip moving fashion. The percussionist alone makes you want to dance. The song would not be what it is without that individual; remarkably stellar play by whomever that person may be (again, I apologize for the lack of information in this aspect).
Song nine Canto Afro may well be the funkiest song on the entire CD. Marcos leads the band on the intro; a heralding three cord statement that sets the funky tone which resonates for the entire song. But it’s the sax that takes center stage on this one. At times the play is reminiscent of Coltrane, and at others its reminiscent of Grover or Eddie Baucus Jr. But whomever you want to compare it to the man is funky. The song is compelling and grooveful. It has an air of the heyday of the jazz fusion era; the late seventies or early eighties. It grooves from beginning to end, and the sax cries and at time screams its grooving voice. The feel and mood are accentuated by the soulful play of the bass and drums which not only ground the tune but keep the ball bouncing along. Although the song is less than four minutes long the players tell a complete story within the allotted time. When it ends you are not disappointed (although I’m sure this song is longer when played live because it grooves so hard), but instead you are satisfied because you have the complete meal; the entire course has been run, and the ending is simply the finish of something great, and you know there is more to follow.
The last piece on the album is the bouncy tune titled Samba in Lapa. The organ is centerpiece on this dance cut. This song tidies up all the loose ends of the Americas with this album. It dances in harmony with all this album attempts to encompass; The feel is lovely and warm, and it urges all to give into the groove of the moment. The organ solo is masterful. The syncopation and counterpoint that the organist uses to drive the dance feel is breezy, light and it is relentless in it’s cry to bring all to the dance-floor. Rio is for vacationers and revelers, and this song exemplifies that characterization of the region. The song is a vacation that you never want to end, and alas, its only four minutes and sixteen seconds long. This song accentuates the concept of this entire album. It’s an excursion into the realm of the Western Hemisphere, particularly the South American region. The sound beacons us to explore and enjoy, if only for a few moments, the allure of the Americas; all of the Americas. It’s an excellently performed offering, and a great introduction to an amazing veteran jazz/smooth jazz artist.
Well, before I get accused of being long-winded, I’d like to take this time to thank any and all of you for dropping by the Corner and checking us out. I appreciate your time and I hope I brought a little levity and fun into your day. I love checking out new and interesting artists, and I love sharing and writing about them with you even more. It really is a privilege and an honor. I also want to take this time to state that “I do not own the rights to any music or video that I have used in this article. I would refer anyone who is interested in my use thereof to the “Fair Use” clause of the law”.
Now that that is out of the way, please feel free to leave us any feedback or comments in the space provided, and as things settle with the new site, we promise to get back to you. Also, please tell your family and friends about us. We’d love for them to join us here too, and if there are any albums, acts or bands you’d like us to check out, drop us a line in the comment section as well. And since I mentioned “video”, I’d like to share this link to a video of Marcos showing off his jazz chops while playing the famous song Girl From Ipanema. Yeah, the man can play straight jazz too!
You can find all of Marcos Ariel’s music on the NMoJazz search engine.
Well, that’s all for now. Thanks again for dropping by, and as always, next time “Catch You On The Corner”.
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