By Chuck Diliberto
Herb Ellis Trio with Hendrick Meurkens
Acoustic Music Records
In jazz circles Herb Ellis has been a fixture since 1953. He is one of the early pioneers of "classical modern jazz guitar" style. In "Burnin," Ellis, now 77 years old, has released a live recording that showcases his almost fifty years as a performing musician. Jazz, truly American, is likely to invoke a take-it-or-leave-it response from most music listeners. Jazz has come so far since its inception in the early 1900's. Herb Ellis presents the first truly polished jazz sound that evolved from the pioneer electric guitar work of Charlie Christian with the Goodman bands of the late 1930's and early 1940's. Ellis is unmistakable in his presentation of the first developed jazz sound and style.
The music is passionate, sensitive, and extremely moody. Accompanying Ellis is bassist Chris Berger and drummer Chuck Redd. Berger and Redd must have been an exciting find for Ellis, the master. The groove they created melts and rises to support the musical mood swings that roll effortlessly from player to player.
The addition of a harmonica with Jazz music has been an issue in debate for some time. Seemingly, there is an aural conflict occurring without hearing what the harmonica in a Jazz musical context would sound like.
Hendrik Meurkens, with his poignant, stylistic harmonica playing is a perfect fit. His playing is as sensitive as a guitar or saxophone. His timing is impeccable, helping to create the numerous mood swings inherent in Herb Ellis' proficient style. This is Jazz music in its purist form, played to perfection with a highly polished glean. Jazz music, as well as Herb Ellis, are American treasures, and still "Burnin."
For more information, please call (510) 528-0860.
Douglas Spotted Eagle
Higher Octave Music
When we consider the presence and atmosphere that is created by the playing of music, we realize how music exhibits a certain influential ambiance upon the listener. This created musical ambiance is the realm from which Douglas Spotted Eagle connected to the meaning of "Voices."
Spotted Eagle has transfused the Spirit of traditional indigenous music with a sense of psychedelia and poise last heard from in the late 1960's. Taken the next generational step, Spotted Eagle is creating a Rave crossover that is infused with the soul of a rhythm and blues player. Spotted Eagle plays a variety of instruments, adding to a layering of tribal beats and contemporary rhythms with a style of bamboo flute playing that could be best described as seductive.
The music gently sways and rolls, slowly flowing, meandering, but not aimless. There is a host of traditional vocalists chanting ethereally as the music began to unwind. This added a soundscape of Buddhist contemplation in contrast to Native American sensibilities of Mother Earth. It was a beautiful archetype of not only a cultural, but multi-dimensional connection inherent in the evolution of humanity.
Douglas Spotted Eagle also showcased his rock & roll roots in a couple of straight ahead rhythm and blues numbers. The music is polished with a slightly rough hewn outer edge, aptly placed there to replicate the Spirit of rock & roll's early rebelliousness to the norm. "Voices" brings a fresh approach and original energy to the definition of ambient music. Don't miss this one.
For more information, please call (818) 762-8353.
Pacific Moon Records
Planet Earth is blessed with many fine and talented musicians. In music, we find a vehicle for international, transcendent communications. Beyond language barriers and the confines of borders, race and religion, music lifts up the heart to blend with the intangibles of Spirit and Universe. In this dimension of soundscape and soul expansion, Japanese keyboard player Naoyuki Onda has found his niche.
Onda has a very relaxed style of playing. He cajoles his notes to find the right direction, often taking a back seat to the ensemble he has gathered around him. In this context, his keyboard playing is a focal point of contemporary ideas and musical nuances. Onda plaintively expressed his musical consciousness, resembling the Zen realities exhibited in a Japanese rock garden.
Onda’s “Dream” is not only pertinent to the time when we are sleeping. It is that state of consciousness where we transcend the mundane, searching for that mythical, elusive Utopia so inappropriately labeled a fantasy. This is where music once again becomes the universal communicative.
In furthering this reality, Naoyuki Onda’s choice of supporting musicians and instruments has led him to the edge of where reality meets “Dream”. Two classic Chinese folk instruments, the Niko (a stringed lute played with a bow), the yohkin (a percussive string instrument), and two Japanese folk instruments, the koto (a long zither), and the shakuhachi (a large bamboo flute) add the necessary ingredients to create the dynamics inherent in Naoyuki Onda’s “Dream.”
For more information, please call (719) 548-9872.
East of The Moon
In “East of the Moon” David Lanz has decided to explore two different realms of musical styles. The first seven songs are a mixture of pop-influenced melodies backed by Lanz’s inimitable virtuoso piano playing. The last six songs are described as “Music for Piano and Orchestra in Six Parts.”
David Lanz has a flair for pop melodies. His songs are instrumental in nature, yet there is plenty of room to add lyrics. Lanz influences range from Steely Dan, the Beatles, through to REO Speedwagon. The melodies are recognizable and contemporary by today’s music standards. This familiarity is then stretched and personalized by David Lanz’s soul-influenced musical vision. The notes ring clearly as they cascade down the piano keys. Lanz has a special touch that resounds each tone with feeling and verve. The piano has become the translator for his angelic inner voice.
The “Music for Piano and Orchestra in Six Parts” finds David Lanz much more musically introspective. The melodies are borderline melancholy, straddling morosity with a highly sensitive emotional state. The resultant compositions are pretty sounding and sentimentally endearing.
Lanz purposefully tugs at the heartstrings, evincing hidden feelings and sub-conscious memories. The listener is transported through inner visual landscapes of Lanz’s designs. He is very aware of the sensuality of the moods being created. The orchestra behind him has found a way to shape his vision, and propel the music beyond time and space.
As the last composition ends, we the listener are slightly “east of the moon”, searching for how we got there, wondering if we would like to come back. David Lanz has continued to bring us the finest he has to offer. This one is a keeper.
For more information, please call (212) 333-1485.
Jesse Dawn and the Kind
World Changing Records
The conviction, courage, and charisma of Bob Marley lives on as the muse for Jesse Dawn. What Bob Marley was to the plight of the citizens of Kingston, Jesse Dawn is to Hawaii, and ultimately the world.
“Youthman” is a lyrical combination of human rights activism and a positive support of marijuana as an herb with healing and medicinal properties, not to mention heightening of communal exchanges of real feelings and common-sense truths. The emulation and eulogizing of Bob Marley in the song, “Praisin Jah Marley” elevated Marley to a position of power. The intensity of this power drives Jesse Dawn to carry the cross of Reggae musician/ activist in search of meaningful changes in a general resignation that the “Powers That Be” are out of touch.
Reggae music is meant to liven up the Spirit, put a hop into the feet and get the body moving. Jesse Dawn takes the beat of reggae and imbibes it with a smooth coating of rhythm and blues. This combination created a funky groove with room to step out and explore the musical register. And, to dance, dance, dance.
Jesse Dawn exhibits a naïve, schoolboy charm with regards to the complexity of the issues he has chosen to illuminate in his lyrics. His heart is in the right place, his idealism borne of the 1960’s youth movement for equality and fairness. In light of the familiarity of Jesse Dawn’s prognostications, they are still personal to his vision (Marley’s panacea). He is searching for meaning in his life, and, as with any artist, the creative urge to be heard is driving the momentum of Dawn’s visions.
For more information please call (800) 736-3922.
Chuck Diliberto is a resident of New York State. Having written for a hometown publication that covered local and national musicians, reviewing CDs is an extension of that experience. His main interests are spiritual in nature and right living in practice.
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