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Helen Sung/ Sung with Words : March 25, 2019 Exceptionally Sung!

The 2018 offering “Sung with Words “, is the soul-child of five-star pianist Helen Sung. This album begins in a quite different mode than most jazz albums; that’s because of the presence of the spoken word in many places throughout this disc.  The spoken intro of the first track features the pedestrian voice of Poet Dana Gioia. He collaborated to write the lyrics for many of the songs on this album and even reads some of the lyrics between a few of the numbers, and before this first tune he reads one of the poems he wrote for this CD. The poem is entitled “Meet me at the lighthouse”. With it, Dana effectively sets the mood for the entire CD. He speaks in a plain, uncool fashion; nothing in his timbre denotes a sense of the streetwise or city savvy that most would have at one time associated with jazz music. Instead the voice reminds you of the voice of a classroom professor as he reads an assignment from one of his students; but as soon as the drum beat of the first number begins you know you’ve come to the right place. The music takes you right where you want to be; on the corner of cool, hip, and worldly; smack-dab in the center of inner-city jazz on straight ahead avenue.

There are over fifty minutes of music on this CD, and with the  accompaniment of the spoken word, this album will entertain and surprise the listener for nearly an hour. That is no small feat because every track on this CD is quality; there are no fillers or throw offs tracks, but only stellar number after stellar number. This is a very impressive offering to say the least, and Helen’s playing is thoughtful, measured, sure and artistic. She doesn’t miss a beat or flub a nuanced note. She is a world class seasoned jazz pianist.

Drummer Kendrick Scott

All-star drummer Kendrick Scott begins the first jam with the fade-in of his insistent snare drum and cymbal as Dana recites the finishing lines of his vivid poem; “we are at the bar, The Lighthouse bar”, and the band has begun it session. The feel of the spoken intro is what you’d expect from a poetry reading symposium held in a university lecture hall or at a local library, while the seamless percussion intro adds to the appeal and mystic of the first tune on this album. The mood has been set, and you get the feeling that this is not an ordinary set of numbers on a disc, but instead, it’s a living breathing creation that must be experienced as the sum of its parts in order to be fully appreciated.

The drums slow crescendo intro leads us into the heart of the first number Convergence! This slick number is a straight-ahead masterpiece. It’s a throwback to a time when jazz was king, and the players were the avant-garde of the music and artistic world. This tune, just like much of the music from that time period (or as Dana calls it in the intro poem “that sinister century”), to which this tune beacons to, is a testament to the mind and spirit of a true artist. It speaks from the convergence of intellect, spirit, and the eye of the artist’s mind. The listener/experiencer must rise to the level of the art for the art will not descend to the easy ditty of the masses. Don’t get me wrong, the music is in no way pretentious or cumbersome, but instead it’s thoughtfully large, and allows the musicians room to explore the nuances of the music and their own interpretations thereof. Helen wrote this piece, and while listening to it, one can see that Helen it not only a master jazz player, but she is an appreciative student of the genre (as are all jazz musicians of her caliber), and a fine composer. This track has aspects of Coltrane and Miles, and many of the other musical giants of that era, and if they were around today, that would all love to have a crack at playing this one. John Ellis’ tenor sax leads us into the heart of the beast. His solo is strong, well balanced and sure. He tells his story in a satisfyingly complete manner and leads us into Ingrid Jensen’s trumpet. Her masterful solo has depth and complexity. It tells a complete story in a rich staccato manner and after satisfying us fully eventually lead us into Helen’s deft piano. Helen’s style has aspects of many of the masters who have come before her. She exhibits a knowledge and feel for the sixties reminiscent jazz piano style, and yet she gives it her own unique flare. This woman is for real.  If they can could  hear this track, I’m sure Miles and Trane would be smiling down on this one, and I’m certain Mr. Wayne Shorter would be, and probably is a fan of this one as well.

Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen

The track and the attendant solos are underpinned by the smooth rhythm section of bassist Reuben Rogers, and (as previously stated), drummer Kendrick Scott.  Reuben’s’ expert chops ground the number into a classic cool jazz strut that glides along at an unhurried yet quick pace, and fans of Kendrick know of his ability not only as a band leader in his own right, but as one of the finest young drummers on the jazz scene today. Each solo is supported by Helen’s beautifully intelligent chords phrasing; she is masterful in her ability. But when we finally get to the band leader’s solo, we hear world class jazz piano at its’ finest. Helen is a champ. Her style is strong and firm, and she puts thought and instinct into each measure. It’s like setting a caged cerebral beast free for a romp; there’s no holding her back, and she takes over. Her playing is insistently exuberant while at the same times her phrasing allows the music space to breathe. It’s a delicate balance, and she pulls it off in supreme fashion. If you’ve never heard of Helen Sung, you have now, and she’s claiming her stake at the top of the heap.

Tenor Sax: John Ellis

After that killer first number, we get a chance to catch our breath with the beautiful ballad entitled The Stars On Second Avenue. The tune (just as is the entire album), is written by Helen, and the words  (just as are all the words on this album), are written by Dana. The combination produced a hypnotically romantic wonder of a song. It’s the birth of a classic, and Helen and Dana should be extra proud of this baby. This one will be sung (pun intended), for decades to come. Everything about this song speaks to the heart of the listener. The song is designed to invoke visions of you and your lover sharing time on the neon lit city streets, and it does this in high fashion. There are some things that are common to all of humanity, and a true artist homes in on this reality with a gentle laser like intensity. Great artists have this connection with the audience; be it a painter who’s medium is oil paint and canvas, or a sculptor who’s medium is marble, chisel and hammer, or, as in this case, musician and poet; piano and the written word; the effect is the same; the recipient of the experience is transported to distant experience either real or imagined.

Jean Baylor’s beautiful voice delivers this lovely song in such an emotive and romantic fashion. You can feel the reality of her words as she softly sings them; she has lived this song, and she expresses that to her enthralled audience. Bassist Reuben Rogers’ warm solo divides the song in two,  as he thoughtfully extends the mood and ushers in Helen’s piano voice for a few measures And lest I forget the unforgettable, John Ellis’ sweet tenor sax accompanies each of Jean’s measures with a breathy sexiness that lends itself so well to this song and the aura the song produces. An exceptional tune indeed!

Poet: Dana Gioia

Dana recites the vivid lyrics to the next song Hot Summer night. This cool, light dance-able tune immediately follows and begins with Samuel Torres’ hot conga percussion intro follow by Reuben’s funky bass. Christie Dashiell, and Carolyn Leonhart do the singing on this number; their voices have so much similarity that one can believe it’s an overdub, but it’s actually a cleverly well-done duet. Helen’s piano displays her ability to “woman” multiple genres of music. This lady does not merely play this funky tune, but she knows how to deliver it ease and a hot creativeness. This groove should be played all summer on many every jazz and smooth jazz station around the country. Helen is a top-notch pianist and her composition skills are off the chart. And I must mention the horn arraignment on this one. The horns accentuate the feel and dance groove laid down by the piano, bass and drums. This tune rounds out this LP in a fashion that allows this disc room to breathe. Without it, this CD would probably seem too heavy to listen to very often, but this track (and a second dance track “Mean what you say”), round out this hot album and give it the well-developed appeal that many listeners appreciate. I must apologize for not having an accompanying sample of this song, but Helen needs to be paid for her work, and she intentionally left some of her music off the sample list so she can eat (and who can blame her? She deserves to make a living like everyone else).

I’ll end this article by talking about song 10; Lament for Kalief Browder,  I chose this song because of the contrast it has with the upbeat dance numbers on the disc. Helen not only has a keen sense of who she is as a musician, but she also has a keen sense of who she is conception-ally. Like an exceptional movie director, she  knows what she wishes to get across to the audience. I could have chosen a couple of other tunes on the disc, but I chose the song because of the deep melancholy produced by the artist. Helen initially uses her Fender Rhodes to evoke an aural spaciousness to the intro, and John Ellis’ bass clarinet adds a deep sense of sorrowful foreboding that pulls the listener into the lamentation. Carolyn Leonhart’s haunting voice sings the notes in unison with Helen’s pensive piano; the effect is awe inspiring and surreal. The listener is transported to another world; a world of their imagination. You don’t actually know what the lamenting is all about, but the reality of that sorrow can be felt. Four minutes into the song, Kendrick Scott and Samuel Torres pick up the beat and the lamentation turns up in tempo and feel. The feel is the same, but there’s an urgency that permeates the music for several measures until, once again, the mood reverts back into the sorrowful mysterious dirge. It’s as effective as watching a movie on the big screen; in fact, you feel as though you’ve watched a distressful play unfold before you very eyes. This is when you know you’re in the presence of a master. Helen is just that.

Helen

I could go on. I absolutely love this album, and although I never heard of Helen until I stumbled across this album while searching for new music on one of my favorite sites, I do plan on going to see here when I get the first opportunity. She’s a superb artist and worthy of all accolades. I, personally, believe she should have been considered for a Grammy nomination for this album, and maybe, since this album was released so late in 2018, she’ll get that consideration in 2020. If so, it will be well deserved. And since I did not have a lot of video to share with you, I’ll drop this nugget of Helen playing Four by Four.

And, also, since I did find this link, and it’s on this album, I’d like to introduce you the the song Pity The Beautiful.  It’s only a short bit of the song, but it allows you to understand just how good this album is.

I’d like to thank you all for dropping by again. I have been informed that traffic to “The Corner” is picking up, and I’d like to thank my readers for that as well, and I urge you that if you like what you read, pull some of your friend’s and family’s coats and have them drop by too.
And.. let me state for safety sake that “I do not own the rights to any music or video used within this article and refer to the “fair use” clause within the law to do so”.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to brag just a little bit. I get excited about some of the good music I review on “The Corner”. Some of the stuff I hear is so good that it stops me in my tracks and I just have to write about it. Well that happened to me when I heard a cut off of this woman’s album; I wrote about Tia Fuller’s album Diamond Cut last year. I was blown away when I first heard it, and I thought it was some of the best stuff I had heard all year, and apparently so did many others because she was nominated for best Jazz Instrumental Album of the Year (I thought she should have won). The award went to Wayne Shorter (one of my favorites, and he has the recognition, so I guess I’ll live with it), but Tia’s album is still FIRE!!! Check out the article and listen to the music in our archives!

In the upcoming weeks, I have some very good (and interesting), music to write about. I plan on writing about Marvin Gaye’s new release (it will be released by the end of this week) “You’re the Man” which was recorded in 1072, and I also will review some of the music of Dr. Don Shirley’s (he of the Academy Award winning movie “The Green Book”) music too, and many new national and international artists as well. AND, I plan on visiting Baltimore MD at the end of March to see Darrin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony at Morgan State University. I will definitely be writing about that!
You can also catch me in the SoulPitt Magazine where I have been the Music contributor for two years. You can find the magazine in many shopping establishments around the greater Pittsburgh area.

I sincerely thank you again for your support. I apologize for not responding to the comment section (I’ve been super busy trying to earn money for a new powerful computer which will allow me to work more efficiently). I should be up to speed on that real soon.
Thanks again, and please continue to stop by and check out the site as it comes together, and remember, next time “Catch you on the Corner”!

B. B. Suber

I’ve been a jazz lover for quite some time now; nearly as long as I can remember. I’ve always liked jazz in one form or another, and I grew to love it as my palate for music matured throughout the years. One of my earliest memories as a child was my then favorite song; “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I heard it on the radio, and I was hooked. I was born in Pittsburgh in 1958, and reared in the Hill District, and back then, WAMO was only an A.M. station (they actually did a remote broadcast from a little store on Webster around the corner from my house), and while Motown was the rave, Stax records, and Soul music was the background music for life in the ghetto (and I lived in the “ghetto”; the Hill District), jazz was a constant undercurrent, a heartbeat of the vibrant life of the slums in which I lived. Until next time.... “Catch You on The Corner”!

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Brian's Corner

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.

Gregiori Maret

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.

Adrea Tierra

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

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Brian's Corner

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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