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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - Trouble Is ... 25 [CD+DVD]
Artist - Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

For those unaware, Provogue Records is proud to announce the 25th anniversary re-issue of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s highest selling album to date, Trouble Is ..., which has been re-recorded for a new physical product run.

The re-issue will be available on CD+DVD, CD+Blu-ray, Earbook, and for the very first time, a 2LP vinyl configuration that wasn’t part of the initial 1997 release.

The initial run of Trouble Is... sold 1 million copies, and was certified platinum in 1999. The album had 4 Top 10 hits including Slow Ride, Somehow, Somewhere, Someway, Everything is Broken, and the No. 1 hit, Blue On Black.

Additionally, the song Blue On Black won the award for Rock Song of the Year at 1998 Billboard Music Awards. Trouble Is ... 25 is available everywhere December 2nd, 2022.

1. Slow Ride
2. True Lies
3. Blue on Black
4. Everything Is Broken
5. I Don’t Live Today
6. (Long) Gone
7. Somehow, Somewhere, Someway
8. I Found Love (When I Found You)
9. King’s Highway
10. Nothing to Do with Love
11. Chase the Rainbow
12. Trouble Is
13. Ballad of a Thin Man

This frenetically-charged album opens on the gut-wrenching, Stratcoaster blues of Slow Ride and the funky blues of True Lies and backs those up with the smoothness of the hit single Blue on Black, a simply smoking version of Bob Dylan’s Everything Is Broken, a haunting cover of Jimi Hendrix’s I Don’t Live Today, and then comes the harmonica-driven foot-tapper (Long) Gone.

And while Kenny had yet to find his own singing voice (then, as now, Noah Hunt handles powerhouse lead vocals on ‘Trouble Is…’), his precocious guitar work was in a different class to the fading grunge scene and thus is stamped all over this pulsating album.

Up next is the Stevie Ray Vaughn-esque Somehow, Somewhere, Someway and the piano-driven, Gospel-imbued I Found Love (When I Found You) and they are in turn backed by a glorious assault of sound on King’s Highway, the smooth jam of Nothing to Do with Love (which was written by Jerry Lee Williams a great song writer from Leonard, Oklahoma, then we get the gently frenetic blues rock of Chase the Rainbow and Kenny’s crackling guitar on the fully blown, titular instrumental Trouble Is.

And while the track-listing is almost the same, there is one outlier that fans will notice, for the recording now comes to a close on a rather spectacular version of Bob Dylan’s iconic song, Ballad of a Thin Man, where the piano is reminiscent of the original, but the guitar is typical of Kenny.

“I wanted to do Bob Dylan’s ‘Everything Is Broken’ because I had just been on tour with him and he was so good to me and such an inspiration. Our producer, Jerry Harrison, had suggested another Dylan song, ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man.’ But I was concerned that might be too much of a step outside the box for the fan base, and ‘Everything Is Broken’ was closer to an actual blues song.”

“Jerry was fighting hard for ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ so we butted heads, had a miniature battle over those songs. Ultimately, I prevailed and although we recorded ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man,’ it was ‘Everything Is Broken’ that went on the record. But what’s really cool is that for this new recording of ‘Trouble Is…,’ we went in and very faithfully re-recreated that version of ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ from 1997, and included it on this box-set.”

Great songs are not set in stone. Since he burst from the blues clubs of Louisiana onto the global music scene with 1995’s breakthrough first album ‘Ledbetter Heights, followed by his career defining second album ‘Trouble Is…’ in 1997, Shepherd has twisted those classic cuts into bold new shapes each night on the stage.

Led by the pulse of the crowd, every last note alive in his hands, the ‘Trouble Is…’ tracks have always been on the move, never settling into museum pieces. But to give a quarter-century-old album a second birth is another matter. And in more recent times, the multi-platinum-selling artist looked up the road and saw the 25th anniversary of ‘Trouble Is…’ on the horizon, he hatched an audacious plan.

To join the dots from the hungry 18-year-old gunslinger who caught lightning in a bottle in 1997 to the still-questing master musician, with a lifetime’s soul under his fingers. To assemble the old crew from the original ‘Trouble Is…’ sessions at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California and attack the track listing afresh. And to remind seasoned fans and new listeners alike how this album struck the match that reignited modern blues.

“During the ‘Trouble Is…’ anniversary tour,” says Shepherd, “everybody was commenting on how this album could be released today and still be just as relevant as it was 25 years ago. Making this album in 1997 was just a really monumental achievement. The new recording was a serious trip down memory lane for me. And I’m still so proud of these songs…”

The DVD contains the Trouble Is... 25th Anniversary Show, recorded in The Strand Theatre in Shreveport, LA, and a documentary about the making of Trouble Is...25.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band - Ballad Of A Thin Man (Official Music Video)

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band @ Twitter

Title - Alice in Wonderland
Artist - Sonja Kristina

For those unaware, the original version of Neuschwanstein’s “Alice in Wonderland” had narration in German but, for the first time, this has been replaced with English language parts read by Sonja Kristina of Curved Air.

Musically this 1976 album belongs among the great prog albums and sits between Rick Wakeman’s and Jeff Wayne’s iconic narrated rock albums. This edition has been re-mastered with a booklet that includes two separate sets of liner notes (with rare images) on the history of the band and Sonja Kristina’s 2022 vocal sessions.

Sonja Kristina said of the release “I was delighted to narrate this wonderful psychedelic musical version of Alice’s dream in a dramatic instrumental landscape. I loved Alice in Wonderland as a child and I’ve really enjoyed returning to the magic of this story. This album deserves to be thought of as a classic progressive rock album of the 1970s, so I’m pleased to have recorded the narration for it.”

1. White Rabbit
2. Gate To Wonderland
3. Pond Of Tears
4. Old Father’s Song
5. Five O’Clock Tea
6. Palace Of Wonderland
7. The Court Of The Animals
8. Alice’s Return

This beautifully orchestrated album opens on the short instrumental White Rabbit and then bleeds seamlessly into the melodically-themed Gate To Wonderland and then we get the just-barely narrated, yet free-flowingly elegant Pond Of Tears and the flute, piano and keyboard-imbued instrumental Old Father’s Song.

Up next is the gorgeously sumptuous Five O’Clock Tea and then we get the 12 minute opus Palace Of Wonderland, which showcases some of prog rock at it’s best (and is, at times, also comparable to maybe Camel, Old Genesis, sometimes Jethro Tull, a little bit Grobschnitts rockpommels land), the recording rounding out on the lyrically playful The Court Of The Animals, coming to a close on the symphonically-charged Alice’s Return.

This was the only mid-1970s album in the ‘Narrated Rock’ genre to be unavailable in English…until now.

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Official Website

Title - Electric Garden [Remastered]
Artist - Mike Starrs

For those unaware, Mike Starrs is the former lead singer of jazz rock fusionists Colosseum II, Lucifer’s Friend and the German band Lake. This is the first ever re-release of his only solo album, Electric Garden, with four bonus tracks added.

When it was first released in 1973, Electric Garden was only available in six European countries and the non-album singles, now included as bonus tracks, were only available in three European countries. This re-release is a ‘catch-all’ of his 1970s solo releases.

The album has been re-mastered by band member Gerry Morris and approved by Mike Starrs and original producer Tony Atkins. The booklet includes two sets of liner notes; the original 1973 notes and retrospective notes newly written by Mike Starrs.

All the tracks feature Geoff Whitehorn of Procol Harum on guitar and all but one track includes John Richardson of The Rubettes on drums.

Mike Starrs said of the re-release: “A young man who had his whole life / career in front of him. I remember hearing my first single Love Song on Juke Box Jury and they all voted it a hit. Who could ever have imagined that I would be sitting here talking about and reminiscing about my very first album Electric Garden…?”

1. Feel So Good
2. When It Comes to Love
3. Electric Garden
4. The Will
5. Good Life
6. To Everyone Concerned
7. Loving You
8. Beautiful Day
9. Looking for Love
10. I’ll Take Good Care of You
11. Hold On
12. Love Song
13. Witches Brew
14. Lost Without You
15. Da-Doo-Ron-Ron
16. Blue and White

This deliciously-accomplished album opens on the free-flowing, Sun shining, and aptly-named Feel So Good and the languishing When It Comes to Love, and they are followed by the prog-imbued rock of the titular Electric Garden, the lazy hazy The Will, the old school rocker Good Life, the aching, one minute, jaunty and Beatles-esque the next To Everyone Concerned, and then come the guitar rock of Loving You and the softly cultured Beautiful Day.

Up next is the funky foot tapper Looking for Love and the soaringly electric I’ll Take Good Care of You and they are in turn backed by the soaring guitar work within Hold On, the melodic prog of Love Song, the grounded rock of Witches Brew, the easy going Lost Without You, the recording rounding out with a mid-tempo cover of the Phil Spector-written Da-Doo-Ron-Ron, closing on the airy AOR of Blue and White.

Official Purchase Link

Official Website

Title - Love and Learn
Artist - Rosemary Clooney

For those unaware, a new album from Hindsight Records, Rosemary Clooney’s Love and Learn, has just been released. The latest project from the label’s Reimagined Series was produced by John F. Forbes and executive produced by Thomas Gramuglia.

“This album is the combination of Rosemary Clooney in her prime, Buddy Cole’s colorful keyboards and John Forbes’ orchestrations, which makes Love and Learn both an excellent introduction to her beautiful singing, and a welcome addition for her longtime fans,” expressed Scott Yanow.

1. Harbor Lights
2. I Get A Kick Out Of You
3. Love And Learn
4. Always Together
5. When I Sing
6. Goodbye Blues
7. It Just Happened To Happen To Me
8. Mountain Greenery
9. Anyone For Love?
10. Witchcraft
11. Time For Love
12. You Got
13. I Love You (My Every Thought Is You)
14. You Ol’ Son Of A Gun

This gorgeously-sequined, and divinely-orchestrated collection opens on the stunning beauty within Harbor Lights and her laid back, hipsway’d version of I Get A Kick Out Of You, and they are in turn backed seamlessly by the dreamy Love And Learn, the alluring balladry of Always Together, the sweeping When I Sing, and then comes the gently perky, Hammond organ-imbued Goodbye Blues and the upbeat and flirtatious It Just Happened To Happen To Me.

Up next is the free-flowing Mountain Greenery and the charmingly pertinent Anyone For Love? and they are both followed by her dazzling rendition of Witchcraft, a dulcet-engraved Time For Love, the finger-snapping joy of You Got, the album rounding out on the low slung balladry of I Love You (My Every Thought Is You), closing on the almost Christmas-imbibed You Ol’ Son Of A Gun.

Session musician Buddy Cole played piano, celeste, harpsichord and organ. The Reimagined Series additional production was recorded, mixed and mastered by John Forbes at Forjam Studios.

“Rosemary Clooney has become one of my favorites of all of the singers that I’ve worked with in this series,” shared producer John F. Forbes. “She has a deep resonance in her voice that really touches my heart and for many other listeners. It is easy for me to feel an emotional connection to her with her voice. She has a beautiful tonality, her phrasing is wonderful, and everything that she sings is warm.”

He continued and said, “My Dad was a big theater organ fan, as was I. Buddy Cole’s organ was going to be in the mix of these performances with Rosemary Clooney and, rather than fighting it, I embraced it and orchestrated around his sound. I considered this a bit of a balancing act for his trio, which was different than the usual piano trio, and led itself to more orchestration than on the other projects.”

“I used a bassless chamber ensemble that included a few cellos, alto flute, oboe, piccolo, and every now and then, a trumpet. I also added vibes on a couple of songs, although most of the vibes one hears is due to the stops Cole used on the organ, which sound great.”

Official Purchase Link

Title - Let There Be Love
Artist - Carmen McRae

For those unaware, Hindsight Records has announced the release of a new album, Carmen McRae with Let There Be Love.

The new record is part of the Hindsight Records Reimagined Series, a collection of timeless recordings tastefully enhanced for today’s listeners.

This new project was produced by John F. Forbes and executive produced by Thomas Gramuglia. Re-recording was done by John F. Forbes with the Sentimental Pops Orchestra.

1. If You Never Fall In Love With Me
2. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
3. Let There Be Love
4. It Could Happen To You
5. I’ve Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
6. Make Someone Happy
7. The Right To Love (Reflections)
8. Watch What Happens
9. I Left My Heart In San Francisco
10. Alfie
11. I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away The Key)
12. Miss Brown To You
13. Stardust
14. Too Close For Comfort

This charmingly-imbued, heartfelt and divinely gorgeous collection opens on the swinging hipsway of If You Never Fall In Love With Me and the languishing beauty of the ballad Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) and then comes the finger-snapping Let There Be Love, the rhythmically melodic It Could Happen To You, the sweeping I’ve Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), and then we get the pure balladry gossamer of both Make Someone Happy and the lush The Right To Love (Reflections).

Up next is the ornately grand Watch What Happens and the luxuriant I Left My Heart In San Francisco, and they are in turn backed seamlessly by an opulently-cultured Alfie, a groovy I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away The Key), the playfully-crafted Miss Brown To You, the recording rounding out on the lavish Stardust, closing on the upbeat vibrancy of Too Close For Comfort.

With studio musicians including Norman Simmons (piano), Frank Severino (drums), Victor Sproles (bass on 1963 session) and Chuck Domanico (bass on 1969 session), this Reimagined Series also included additional production, recording, mixing and mastering by John Forbes at Forjam Studios.

“From the start, I loved the tonality of her voice, which really resonated in my heart. She touched me on an emotional level and gave me an immediate connection, more than most singers. Carmen McRae is like an instrumentalist who can play one note and really have a strong effect on listeners,” shared producer John F. Forbes.

He continues, “In this music with her trio, there are not as many leading lines as there are with most singers; instead there are moving chords. That gave her a lot more freedom to phrase and reshape the melodies in her own style. It also meant that I had a bit more freedom in writing the orchestrations, following her ideas rather than sticking overly close to the original themes. Since the music was originally recorded in stereo, unlike the earlier ones in this series, they lent themselves to a wider range of orchestration.”

“Carmen McRae comes up with fresh variations on these songs while digging deep into the lyrics, altering the melodies at times, while not losing the essence of these songs,” expresses executive producer Thomas Gramuglia. “The Carmen McRae Trio’s original recordings were enhanced with a few strings, flute, oboe, vibes, occasionally a French horn and bass clarinet, adding a touch of class by The Sentimental Pops Orchestra.”

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Title - Charging The Electric Dream
Artist - Leon Alvarado

For those unaware, Prog music artist Leon Alvarado will be releasing his new album Charging The Electric Dream on December 15th, 2022.

According to Leon, “‘Charging The Electric Dream’ is a very personal record without any collaborators or guest musicians. If I were to describe it, I would say that it is an album of what I like to call headphone music, because it plays out more like a soundtrack that stimulates the listener’s imagination. Like many of my other records, you can hear my inspirations throughout the album. There are definitely nods to Brian Eno, Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. It is not a Prog album per se, but definitely something that Prog fans can appreciate.”

Says Leon, “‘Charging The Electric Dream’ refers to revitalizing material I recorded in response to the electronic music that influenced me throughout the years. I am giving it a new life by releasing it for the very first time.”

The music on the album was recorded periodically over a span of several decades. To reflect this, the artwork shows a collage of Leon’s face constructed of passport photos taken over many years. A video for the title track will be released concurrently. A short film titled “Outside The Dream” will follow the release.

1. Alternate Frequencies
2. Megapolis
3. Space Glitter
4. Orion
5. The Rising Sun
6. The Electric Dream
7. Outside The Dream

This luxuriously transcendent work of musical art opens on the veritably fluid, industrially driven, yet Eastern-tethered Alternate Frequencies and then brings us the atmospherically charged Megapolis, and then the luminously-enthralling, flirty and abounding Space Glitter is brought forth.

Along next is the pumped up, snyth-tastic Orion and that is in turn followed seamlessly by the spacial, cinematic, drum-led The Rising Sun, the album rounding out on the gently fervent The Electric Dream, coming to a close on the organ-imbued hues that drive Outside The Dream forward. Primarily known for his record label and music promotion artwork, in 2008 Leon Alvarado released his first album, “Plays Genesis and Other Original Stuff” as an ode to one of his favorite bands.

Since then, he has released several records and worked alongside an impressive list of well-known musicians such as Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Billy Sherwood, Jon Davison (Yes), John Goodsall (Brand X), Trey Gunn (King Crimson), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, KC), Jerry Marotta, (Peter Gabriel), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Tony Franklin (The Firm), Johnny Bruhns, (Circa), Edoardo Scordo, Damian Darlington (Brit Floyd), Ty Tabor (King’s X) to name a few.

Leon’s musical output can be categorized as a blend of Prog Rock with Ambient, some Classical and a measure of Fusion. Each piece, as well as his library as a whole, is a constantly evolving musical landscape that can simultaneously embrace the listener in familiarity, while embarking on exciting and experimental journeys of sound.

Leon Alvarado @ Melodic Revolution Records

Leon Alvarado @ Bandcamp

Title - Sound Alchemist
Artist - Myron McKinley

For those unaware, keyboardist Myron McKinley has a clear vision for his own creative expression, but perhaps more importantly, he has a clear vision for providing a necessary impetus to shatter the boundaries and stimulate the evolution of jazz.

Dropping October 28th, 2022 on the Dark Elf Music label, the ten-song Sound Alchemist is a learned thesis of sonic exploration and experimentation written and produced by McKinley as a mélange of contemporary, straight-ahead and fusion jazz; hip hop, R&B and soul; and multicultural nuance.

While the music industry continues to shift towards singles as singular musical statements, McKinley prefers taking listeners on a complete journey via an album. “Sound Alchemist” does just that.

Deftly, he offers enough of the familiar allure, such as recording The Carpenter’s “Close to You,” Sting’s “La Belle Dame San Regrets,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Imagination,” and Drake and Jhene Aiko’s “From Time,” but he reinvents each one - sometimes radically - making you forget the source material.

1. “Close To You”
2. “Will You”
3. “Matrix”
4. “Crowded Club”
5. “Let’s Just See”
6. “Imagination”
7. “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets”
8. “Remembering You”
9. “Tunisian Morning”
10. “From Time”

This warmly-imbued, heartfelt and divinely gorgeous collection opens on an ardently sculptured rendition of The Carpenter’s “Close to You,” and then comes one of McKinley’s own compositions, his delicious “Will You” being a tribute to Nat King Cole, and then we are given the eagerly intrepid instrumental “Matrix,” and then he and his troupe reference early 1970s funk and jazz fusion hybrids for the shimmering “Crowded Club” and then McKinley fuses straight-ahead jazz, hip hop beats and electronic dance music on “Let’s Just See.”

Next up we get McKinley’s tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire on the lushly regale “Imagination” (for the past twenty years, McKinley has toured with the legendary band, serving as their musical director for the last dozen years and thus the group’s energizing bass player Verdine White plays on the track, which also featuring falsetto singer Danny McClain), an audacious cover of Sting’s lesser-known 1996 “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets,” another of McKinley’s own is brought forth within the divinely expansive “Remembering You,” before an all-star lineup illumines the centerpiece selection within “Tunisian Morning” and a graciously fulsome reworking of Drake and Jhene Aiko’s “From Time” rounds the new project out.

Los Angeles native McKinley studied classical and jazz piano, including under the tutelage of Grammy-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. But hip hop’s influence in his works is just as prevalent as jazz and classical.

“I grew up in the hip hop era. I was listening to A Tribe Called Quest and Oscar Peterson on the same radio station. I loved all of those. When you come up like that, it’s still a part of you, even though you have classical and jazz. It still becomes a part of your DNA musically. I think ‘Sound Alchemist’ shows a lot of that. You can hear church aspects, classical aspects, jazz aspects and it also shows hip hop aspects.”

In addition to his long-time duties with Earth, Wind & Fire, McKinley has toured with Whitney Houston, Kenny Lattimore, Stanley Clarke, En Vogue and Shai. He has written, cowrote or produced songs for EWF, Clarke, Doc Powell, Silk, Vesta, Cherokee and Howard Hewett.

He’s also composed music for film and television scores, contributing to “Soul Food,” “Romeo Must Die,” “The Best Man,” “Think Like A Man,” “Shaft,” and “The Godfather of Harlem” among many others. But jazz is home, so McKinley makes time to perform with his own straight-ahead jazz trio.

McKinley’s bold spirit and intrepid scope heard throughout “Sound Alchemist” are purposely sprawling, purposely edgy, purposely youthful and vibrant, and purposely inclusive. That’s where he believes jazz needs to go in order to thrive again in relevancy.

“I don’t think musically right now the boundaries are being pushed. I could have easily done (recorded) something else and directed it towards a certain genre and left it there without pushing, but musically, to really make things grow, it takes adventurers to push the genre.”

Official Website

Myron McKinley @ Facebook

Myron McKinley @ Instagram

Myron McKinley Trio @ Spotify

Title - Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule
Artist - Louis Armstrong

For those unaware, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong devoted his life to the cause of happiness, as he once put it, giving the gift of joy whenever he put his trumpet to his lips. Since his passing, his music has become synonymous with the holiday season.

Louis Wishes You a Cool Yule is the first ever Louis Armstrong Christmas record (I know, right!), and this release includes a previously unheard recording of his reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas, with fellow New Orleans icon Sullivan Fortner providing a gorgeous musical under bed.

“Louis Armstrong’s first album of holiday-associated songs is an auspicious aural example of why he was a man for all seasons, singing and playing his Promethean trumpet in the cause of happiness,” said Wynton Marsalis, president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation (LAEF).

“Whether you’re seven or 70, these evergreen selections featuring the great composer/arranger Benny Carter, and the incomparable vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Velma Middleton are illuminated by Pops’ down-home vocals. His reading of ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ with my New Orleans homeboy, Sullivan Fortner on piano, is a swinging Crescent City Christmas card. If anybody can bring joy to the world, Louis Armstrong can!”

1. Cool Yule
2. Winter Wonderland
3. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (W/ Ella Fitzgerald)
4. ’Zat You Santa Claus?
5. Christmas in New Orleans
6. White Christmas
7. Christmas Night in Harlem
8. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (W/ Velma Middleton)
9. Moments to Remember
10. What a Wonderful World
11. Reading of ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (with Sullivan Fortner, Piano Accompaniment)

Well, if you are a long time Louis Armstrong fan/collector, you more than likely already have the six Decca singles from the 1950s – and probably the two duets (one with Ella and one with his All-Stars vocalist Velma Middleton - but I’ll bet you haven’t heard the closing track: the poem A Visit From St . Nicholas (although you’ll know it better as The Night Before Christmas).

Known for sitting in his home and making reel-to-reel tape recordings of his thoughts, this quite wondrous seasonal outing opens on the vibrant scat of the titular Cool Yule and the delightfully languishing Winter Wonderland and then lovingly brings us the buoyant I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (featuring Ella Fitzgerald), the finger-snapping ’Zat You Santa Claus? and the achingly earnest Christmas in New Orleans.

Up next is the luxurious, sweet-to-the-tooth White Christmas and the throaty elegance of Christmas Night in Harlem and they are in turn backed by the jovially harmonious Baby, It’s Cold Outside (featuring Velma Middleton), the regally embroidered Moments to Remember, the collection rounding out on the always-delightful What a Wonderful World, and as noted, for this release, Producer Ken Drucker had pianist Sullivan Fortner add a newly-created accompaniment to an absolutely heartwarming reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas.

Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule, available digitally, on CD, red vinyl and a limited edition vinyl picture disc, collects nearly the entirety of Armstrong’s holiday output and presents the recordings as a cohesive body of work for the first time, marking his first-ever official Christmas album.

Louis Armstrong - A Visit From St. Nicholas (’Twas The Night Before Christmas)

Purchase Louis Wishes You A Cool Yule on SPOTIFY!

Title - Caledonia
Artist - SuidAkrA

For those unaware, Caledonia is the eighth studio album by the German melodic death metal band SuidAkrA. The lyrical themes of Caledonia are the mystical side of the tribe of the Picts, their war against the attacking Roman Empire and the co-incidence of these two completely different worlds.

Caledonia was recorded and mixed between July 10th, 2006 and July 30th, 2006 by Martin Buchwalter at Gernhart Recording Studio in Siegburg, Germany, was released on November 17th, 2006 by Armageddon Music, released in the USA on May 22nd, 2007 through Locomotive Records, and has now made its way back out again in 2022 via this remastered form.

1. Highland Hills (8:01)
2. A Blackened Shield (5:15)
3. The Ember Deid (Part II) (3:15)
4. Evoke the Demon (5:27)
5. Forth-Clyde (5:31)
6. Ramble (2:57)
7. Dawning Tempest (5:13)
8. The Distant Call (3:34)
9. On Torrid Sand (3:52)
10. The Ixth Legion (5:44)
11. Farewell (1:14)

Known simply as Melodeath, this genre was, admittedly, new to me, but my goodness, the melodic leads that come forth, all intricatley created hybrids, each one showcasing Suidakra as a band that can easily combine melodic death metal along with folk elements, makes this one of the most inventive, and yes melodic albums to, well, perhaps ever come out.

Opening on the melodic rock opus, the eight minute Highland Hills and the free-wheeling A Blackened Shield, next up is the Renaissance-flavored The Ember Deid (Part II), the angered euphoria Evoke the Demon, and then we get the melodious Forth-Clyde and the intricate guitar balladry within Ramble.

Along next is one of my own personal favorites from the album, the foot-pounder Dawning Tempest which is itself followed seamlessly by the almost Prog-driven fluidity of The Distant Call, the frenetically-charged, death metal-AOR of On Torrid Sand, the album rounding out on the fist-clenched, growled vocals of The Ixth Legion, coming to a close on more Renaissance flare within Farewell.

SuidAkrA @ Facebook

Purchase SuidAkrA’s Caledonia on SPOTIFY!

Title - Memories Of A White Magician / Lady MacBeth
Artist - John Symon’s Warlock

For those unaware, Jon Symon was known as a one-man band called Rasputin and he toured throughout Germany and Austria and also appeared on several TV shows. He released a couple of singles before, in the 80s, becoming better known for his Warlock musical works.

These (re-mastered) editions are the first time the albums have been available on CD and digitally.

The “Memories of a White Magician” studio album was recorded twice, once in 1981 and then again in 1983 and this edition includes both versions of the album. The highlight of the 1983 album’s release was the performance in front of 7000 people in Berlin’s International Congress Centre.

“Lady MacBeth” was originally released a year after the first album and this edition features the 1984 non-album single of the title track which now appears in its rightful place in the score.

Joining Jon Symon on the releases are members of the German band JANE including Peter Panka, Werner Nadolny, Detlef Klamann, Charly Maucher, Edu Wahlmann and Bernd Klamann.

Jon Symon’s Warlock: Memories Of A White Magician (2CD Edition)

1. Warlock
2. Pagan Memory
3. Spirits Of Hell
4. Angel Of Death
5. Four Seasons Of A Soul
6. The Magician
7. Into Eternity

The original album opens on a thunder and lightning, short intro to the vocally introduced Warlock, before bleeding into the languishing, storytelling majesties within Pagan Memory, and then we get the Renaissance-flavored Spirits Of Hell, the synth drum-led rock opus Angel Of Death, the synth-bedded Four Seasons Of A Soul, the album rounding out on the bouncy rock of The Magician, coming to a close on the zip-line effect of the vocally strewn Into Eternity.

1. Warlock
2. Angel Of Death
3. Four Seasons Of The Soul
4. Magician
5. Saucers
6. Karma
7. Morgan Le Fay
8. Pendragon
9. Vision Of The Wizard
10. Neutron Fire
11. Wizard King

The 1983 recordings open, once again, on the aforementioned thunder and lightning, complete with a short intro to the vocally introduced Warlock, before this time bringing us the synth drum-led rock opus Angel Of Death, and then we get the mid-tempo, AOR prog-rock balladry of Four Seasons Of The Soul, the bouncy rock of The Magician, the all out, Sax-led rock of Saucer, and then we get the soaring Karma.

Up next is one of my own favorites from this 1983 set, the hip-shaking, guitar AOR of Morgan Le Fay which is itself followed seamlessly by the euphoric Pendragon, the rambunctious sax-guitar rock of Vision Of The Wizard, the album rounding out on the low slung Prog of Neutron Fire, coming to a close on the beautifully-crafted Wizard King.

Jon Symon’s Warlock: Lady Macbeth
1. Eyes of the Witch
2. Spirits of Hell
3. Forever and a Day
4. Spells
5. Devil’s Daughter
6. Lady Macbeth
7. Lady of the Night
8. Banquet
9. Nightmare

Opening on the Scottish bagpipes that give way to bring us a darkly-constructed, hard-edged Eyes of the Witch, that then gives way to the lighter pop-synth-rock affair Spirits of Hell, the soaring guitars that envelope Forever and a Day, and then comes the buoyantly poplicious AOR of Spells.

Next up is the brilliant, effectively-driven rock of Devil’s Daughter and the upbeat Lady Macbeth, the album rounding out on the languishing beauty within the melodic, mid-tempo rocker Lady of the Night, the prog-charged Banquet, coming to a close on the synth foot-tapper Nightmare.

Memories… 2CD Purchase Link

Lady Macbeth 1 CD Purchase Link

Jon Symon’s Warlock on Spotify

Jon Symon’s Warlock on Apple Music

Title - Services [EP]
Artist - Shira Elias

For those unaware, LA-based futuristic R&B-funk artist, Shira Elias has released her highly anticipated sophomore EP, Services today.

Alongside the full project comes the latest triumphant, self-assured single “OK” where the silky track explores the complex feelings that come with exiting an unhealthy relationship, and the moments of acceptance and relief that follow.

Services the EP is a dreamy, six track collection from Elias that boldly encapsulates the singer’s growth as she further establishes her sound and discovers more of herself–both as an artist and as a person.

The release of the EP picks up where Elias’ 2020 debut EP, Goods the EP left off. It kicks off a new chapter for the singer, one that is refined and self-assured. Elias explains, “Where ‘GOODS’ was my first solo endeavor, really trying to find a voice while still living and grinding in New York, ‘SERVICES’ is me exploring a new world, moving to Los Angeles during a global pandemic, and trying to love who I am.”

“I think you can really hear the evolution and the difference in the writing and production.” Produced by MEGA, featuring co-writing by Mackenzie Green and Taplin on keys, Elias is thrilled to share her most realized body of work to date.

6. OK

This highly-intoxicating, and warmly-heartfelt new EP opens on the ethereally effervescent, R&B jam TOXIC and the pop-tastic bounce about animalistic love within HOOK’D and then moves seamlessly into the lushly orchestrated ILSD (featuring talk-box by Swatkins), the mid-tempo, soul-imbued, dance floor slide of EARTH SUN, rounding out on the smooth, love balladry grooves of PERFECTLY ABLE (a duet with co-writer and vocalist MacKenzie Green), coming to an all-too-soon close on the aching yearn found within the veritable gossamer of OK.

As noted, alongside the release of the EP is the project’s newest emotional single “OK.” The sleek, sultry track allows Elias to find peace in parting with someone she once loved. Delving into the nuances of love, Elias ultimately finds confidence in leaving the unhealthy relationship behind and proudly recognizes her self worth.

“This is an ANTHEM for me. I needed to make this song for myself,” says Elias. “For so long I let myself be in a toxic situation because of fear. OK is the final moment of acceptance and honoring that it’s OK to walk away and it’s OK to acknowledge that you are worth all of it. I think everyone can relate in some way or another to feeling stuck in a situation, and I hope that everyone can chant along at the end, that epiphany, “I NEVER NEEDED YOU.” I really dug deep for the emotion in this one.”

Purchase Services [EP] on SPOTIFY!

Shira Elias @ Facebook

Shira Elias @ Instagram

Shira Elias @ Spotify

Title - Night Drive 3
Artist - Peter Hesslein

For those unaware, Peter Hesslein has completed this new studio album and conclusion of the Night Drive trilogy.

Lucifer’s Friend reformed in 2015 and since then has recorded new studio albums and played concerts and high-profile festivals and the last track on Night Drive 3, Chapters Of My Life, features a guest appearance by former Lucifer’s Friend lead singer Mike Starrs.

For the record, no pun intended, Lucifer’s Friend were originally formed in Hamburg in 1970 by guitarist Peter Hesslein, singer John Lawton, bassist Dieter Horns, keyboardist Peter Hecht, and drummer Joachim Reitenbach.

1. This Way Home
2. Sunset Drive
3. At a Crossroads
4. Driving All Night
5. Going South
6. In the Fast Lane
7. Road of Dreams
8. On the Horizon
9. A Few More Hours
10. No Backseat Driver
11. A Warm Day’s Night
12. Faster Than a Slug
13. Exit Number 9
14. Sunrise Pit Stop
15. A Gnat in My Life
16. Chapters of My Life (feat. Mike Starrs)

This highly-intoxicating final part of the trilogy opens on the vibrantly commanding This Way Home and then throws a sharp left turn into some Samba hipsway for Sunset Drive before delivering us some soaring beats within At a Crossroads, some 80s synth work commands our attention on Driving All Night, more Latin hipsway is brought forth on guitar-imbued Going South, and then we get some dance floor beats within In the Fast Lane, the shimmering Road of Dreams and then comes the Mediterranean-imbibed On the Horizon.

Up next are more Latin-created grooves within A Few More Hours and then a more sharper-edged set of guitar and drum work comes together No Backseat Driver, and they are in turn followed by the sumptuously gorgeous A Warm Day’s Night, the frenetic, sonically-charged, almost surf rock appeal of Faster Than a Slug, the languishing Exit Number 9, the album rounding out on the melodically haunting appeal of Sunrise Pit Stop, the atmospheric, frenetically-charged surf rock of A Gnat in My Life, coming to a close on the sumptuous Prog balladry of Chapters of My Life (featuring Mike Starrs).

Peter Hesslein said of his new studio album: “So now I’d like to share with you a third Night Drive album because I had a lot of messages asking about it. When I started the idea, I thought the first Night Drive album would be on its own, but now fans have asked for two more albums for car journeys! I am very grateful fans like this music and they want more from me!”

Purchase Night Drive 3 on Spotify [Official Link]

Peter Hesslein / Lucifer’s Friend @ Facebook

Peter Hesslein / Lucifer’s Friend @ Instagram

Title - A Pocket Full Of Love Songs
Artist - Claire Hamill

For those unaware, best known for her hit ‘Baseball Blues’, her work with Wishbone Ash and for writing Eva Cassidy’s hit ‘You Take My Breath Away,’ and celebrating over 50 years in the music industry, the brand new studio album from Claire Hamill is out now, entitled A Pocket Full Of Love Songs (via Archway Music).

Claire Hamill released her much-loved debut album ‘One House Left Standing’ on Chris Blackwell’s Island label in 1971 and worked with John Martyn, Steve Howe from Yes and a host of others as she developed her folk roots into new age music and beyond.

‘A Pocketful Of Love Songs’ was written during lockdown and features songs from the heart on all aspects of love and life.


This highly-intoxicating, sumptuously-heartfelt album opens on the free flowing melodies within APHRODITE OBSCURED and the finger-snapping, toe-tapping YOU CAME THROUGH TIME and follows those up with the mid-tempo balladry of THIS DUET, the joyous and upbeat I GOT MY MOJO BACK! and then we get the lazy hazy, sunny Sunday afternoon vibe of TURNING MY BACK ON LOVE.

Up next is the dutiful, and harmoniously gorgeous A POCKET FULL OF LOVE SONGS and the acoustically-imbued, Renaissance-tinged I’LL WAIT FOR WINTER, and they are in turn backed by the languishing GO WITH THE FLOW, the mid-tempo guitar rocker WHO CARES? IT FEELS SO GOOD, the album rounding out on the beautiful, countrified storytelling within THIS WOMAN IS A MESS, coming to a close on the airy ambiance of SPRINGTIME FOR LOVERS.

Official Purchase Link

Title - Sweet Lucy, Don’t Ask My Neighbours, ‘Til Tomorrow
Artist - Raul De Souza

For those unaware, encouraged by his friend percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife, singer Flora Purim, Raul de Souza left Brazil for the USA in the early 70s. In 1976, he contributed to an album by a US-based Latin fusion group called Caldera, which was released on Capitol Records and put him in the orbit of its executive producer Larkin Arnold.

For Raul’s debut LP, ‘Sweet Lucy’, Arnold paired him with the capable George Duke, a jazz musician with a deep appreciation of Brazilian music who was just beginning to branch out as a record producer. Raul also worked with George Duke in 1978 on the follow-up album, ‘Don’t Ask My Neighbors’, although Duke is credited under the alias Dawilli Gonga.

George Duke vacated the producer’s chair for the third Capitol Album ‘Til Tomorrow Comes’ to be replaced by Arthur G. Wright, a prolific guitarist, songwriter, arranger and producer from Los Angeles whose credits ranged from Diana Ross to Linda Ronstadt.

He surrounded Raul with some of LA’s best session musicians including keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, saxophonist Ernie Fields, guitarist David T. Walker and drummers Ed Greene and James Gadson – and concocted a different musical backdrop for the trombonist; one that tapped more heavily into disco and R&B rather than jazz.

Releasing on January 13th, 2022 via Robinsongs / Cherry Red Records (UK), those three late 70s Capitol Albums by Raul de Souza: ‘Sweet Lucy’ (1977), ‘Don’t Ask My Neighbors’ (1978) and ‘Til Tomorrow Comes’ (1979), are now all available in a double CD package, with additional bonus tracks.

CD 1: Sweet Lucy & Don’t Ask My Neighbors
1. Sweet Lucy
2. Wires
3. Wild And Shy
4. At Will
5. Banana Tree
6. A Song Of Love
7. New Love (Cancao Do Nosso Amori)
8. Bottom Heat
9. Don’t Ask My Neighbors
10. La La Song
11. Daisy Mae
12. Beauty And The Beast
13. Fortune
14. Overture
15. At The Concert
16. I Believe You

Unquestionably a giant of Brazilian music, whose mastery of the trombone placed him in the instrument’s elite, Raul de Souza is one of the mysteries of the jazz world. In the 1970s, it was obvious that the Brazilian trombonist had a lot going for him: a distinctive and appealing tone, major chops, versatility, and a lot of soul and warmth. So why did he mysteriously fade into such obscurity in the 1980s?

In an ideal world, de Souza would have built a huge catalogue, but regrettably, his recording career was short-lived. Produced by George Duke, 1977’s Sweet Lucy is chock full of vocal-oriented funk jams like Wires and the title song (both written by Duke).

Both are catchy, but the fusion and pop-jazz instrumentals are where de Souza really shines, like when he stretches out on Bottom Heat, Wild and Shy, and other such notable pieces that he composed himself; and which all come together to showcase exactly what de Souza had to be a soloist.

On the next album, Don’t Ask My Neighbors, in truth, Duke sometimes overproduces, and a few of the tracks are weak, perhaps none more so than de Souza’s disappointing versions of major R&B hits of the late 70s.

For instead of really interpreting the Emotions’ titular Don’t Ask My Neighbors, de Souza instead provides a veritable note-for-note cover and turns the song into elevator muzak, in my humble opinion.

Michael Henderson’s At the Concert, which is marred by robotic female background vocalists who insist on singing the chorus instead of getting out of the way and allowing de Souza’s trombone to be dominant, also suffers much the same fate.

However, and even with all that said, de Souza’s interpretation of Dorothy Moore’s I Believe You is more than decent, and he really lets loose on Wayne Shorter’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as jazz-funk smokers that include Duke’s Daisy Mae and his own Jump Street (which mysteriously finds its lonesome way to the second disc here in this package).

CD 2: Don’t Ask My Neighbours (Continued) & ‘Til Tomorrow Comes & Bonus Tracks
1. Jump Street
2. Raul de Souza & Arthur Wright – ‘Til Tomorrow Comes
3. Only When You Can
4. Fe-No-Me-Nol
5. Pleasurize
6. Up And At It
7. Everybody’s Got To Dance To The Music
8. Self Sealing
9. Boogie Shoes
10. Sweet Lucy – Single Version [Bonus Track]
11. Daisy Mae – Single Version [Bonus Track]
12. Raul De Souza & Arthur Wright – ‘Til Tomorrow Comes – Single Version [Bonus Track]

With his third Capitol album, ‘Til Tomorrow Comes, de Souza decided to switch producers and hooked up with Arthur Wright instead of George Duke. While Duke saw de Souza as a fusion/pop-jazz type of artist, Wright had very different ideas - he wanted the Brazilian trombonist to jump on the disco bandwagon.

As a result, this 1979 LP doesn’t sound anything at all like de Souza’s previous Capitol releases, for ‘Til Tomorrow Comes is pure disco, and it has absolutely nothing to do with jazz.

Thus, this record must be judged by disco standards, not pop-jazz standards, not fusion standards, not Brazilian jazz standards, and certainly not straight-ahead bop standards. Applying disco standards, one has to say that ‘Til Tomorrow Comes is competent, but unremarkable (and I only say that as the charts were being dominated at that time by acts such as Chic, Gloria Gaynor, the Village People, Sister Sledge, and Donna Summer, et al).

With sleeve notes by MOJO and Record Collector journalist Charles Waring. Born João José Pereira de Souza in Rio de Janeiro on 23 August 1934, Raul de Souza played with the legendary Brazilian composer and bandleader Pixinguinha at the age of 17 in 1951 and, a year later, performed with Agostinho dos Santos, a popular singer who later had a role in the burgeoning bossa nova movement of the late 1950s.

Official Purchase Link

Title - Losing My Mind
Artist - Darmon Meader

For those unaware, Darmon Meader, vocalist, saxophonist, arranger, composer and founding member of New York Voices releases his second solo project, titled Losing My Mind on January 20th, 2023.

Indeed, this new recording represents his solo vocal sensibilities through a variety of compositions and orchestrations.

The repertoire includes classics from the Great American Songbook, Stephen Sondheim, Ivan Lins, old-school pop tunes as well as a couple of original compositions. Orchestrations range from quartet to full big band and feature a host of musical partners and friends, including a guest appearance by his NYV bandmates.

1. It Could Happen To You
2. Losing My Mind
3. Last Call
4. Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise
5. Gaia’s Lament
6. I Hear Music
7. Lembra De Mim
8. The Last Thing On My Mind
9. Lovely Day (feat. New York Voices)
10. East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon)
11. All My Loving
12. The Song Is You

This beautifully-crafted new album opens on the low slung It Could Happen To You and the late night, smokey jazz bar ambiance of the titular Losing My Mind and follows those up with the lavishly-embed Last Call, the melodious Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise, and then we get the veritable gossamer of Gaia’s Lament and the beautiful I Hear Music.

Up next is the gentle hipsway of Lembra De Mim and the atmospheric, Christopher Cross-esque The Last Thing On My Mind and they are in turn backed by their enigmatic rendition of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day (featuring New York Voices), the affable finger-snapper East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon), the album rounding out on the dulcet jazz-pop bounce of All My Loving, coming to a close on the fervent toe-tapper The Song Is You.

In addition to being the featured vocalist and tenor sax soloist, Darmon arranged all the music. To round out the project, longtime NYV collaborator and friend Elliot Scheiner added his mixing expertise.

Darmon is thrilled to be sharing this music, and hopes to bridge the classic and new in an exciting new release he hopes you will lose yourself in, and tap into the creative energy and joy highlighted throughout.

Official Website

Darmon Meader @ Facebook

Title - 9 to 5
Artist - 3D Jazz Trio

For those unaware, fiercely swinging on purpose, with purpose, this powerhouse trio 3D Jazz Trio plays original, traditional, and contemporary standards from all genres of music. Their unique style and innovative arrangements are always supercharged by their boundless musical joy and gratitude.

Sherrie, Amy and Jackie met in 2014 at the Cleveland Playhouse while playing in The DIVA Jazz Orchestra as part of Maurice Hines’ award-winning show Tappin’ Thur Life. From their first shared downbeat, they became kindred-swinging spirits, and the resulting musical synergy was fast and fierce - or, as the New York Times said, blistering hot!

The 3D Jazz Trio’s latest album, 9 to 5 was released in December 2022 and other recordings include Christmas in 3D (2020), I Love To See You Smile (2020), and 3Divas (2017).

1. I Only Have Eyes For You (6:03)
2. Tin Tin Deo (6:38)>
3. Sing (5:08)
4. 9 to 5 (5:23)
5. Some Other Time (6:38)
6. There Is No Greater Love (6:40)
7. Lágrimas Negras (6:54)
8. Blues for G-C (3:51)
9. Theme for B.T. (6:10)

This infectiously upbeat and wholly impassioned new album opens on the infectious grooves and melodies that simply sparkle within I Only Have Eyes For You and then we get the more pronounced hipsway associated with the vibrantly alluring Tin Tin Deo, the stunningly-crafted ensemble work within Sing and then along comes the New Orleans-imbued, jazzy blues of the titular 9 to 5.

This delightful new recording continues onward with the late night, smoky jazz club appeal of Some Other Time and the finger-licking piano-led There Is No Greater Love, with the album rounding out on the Latin hipsway of Lágrimas Negras, the upbeat and free flowing Blues for G-C, coming to a close on the fervency within the rhythmically-charming Theme for B.T.

“Maintaining our mission to “fiercely swing on purpose, with purpose,” the music we’ve selected for 9 to 5 includes arrangements we’ve had in our library for years and some that were created especially for this recording. From our in-the-pocket swingers to the classic Afro-Cuban anthem “Lágrimas Negras,” a bembe-swing treatment of “Tin Tin Deo,” our reimagined treatment of Dolly Parton’s multi-Grammy winning “9 to 5,” our “Sing” tribute to Karen Carpenter, and our heartfelt originals, this is music that inspires us, the music we love, and music we enthusiastically share with you.” - 3D Jazz Trio.

Purchase The Album On Spotify

Official Website

3D Jazz Trio @ Facebook

3D Jazz Trio @ Instagram 3D Jazz Trio @ YouTube

Title - The Age of Misinformation
Artist - The Aaron Clift Experiment

The Aaron Clift Experiment is a multi-faceted band that blends influences from classic rock (Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson), modern rock (Porcupine Tree, Opeth), jazz, and classical – all anchored by a dedication to high-quality songwriting and musicianship.

The band’s upcoming fourth album, The Age of Misinformation (due out January 6th, 2023), distills the songwriting and atmospheric highs of their previous albums and combines them with a wide stylistic diversity and instrumental virtuosity.

A conceptual work about the destructive power of lies and the search for truth in the face of overwhelming odds, The Age of Misinformation marks a high point for their lyrical ambition, musical creativity, and emotional resonance.

1. The Age of Misinformation (4:56)
2. L.I.A.R. (5:14)
3. Bet on Zero (10:43)
4. Dark Secrets (3:34)
5. Rise (5:55)
6. The Color of Flight (5:44)
7. Málaga (4:49)
8. Weight of the World (5:46)

This quite exceptional new album opens on a gentle build to an eventual hard rocking number within the titular The Age of Misinformation and the emotively translucent L.I.A.R. and then comes my own personal favorite, the jazz/prog/rock, groove-laden fusion, and ten minute opus Bet on Zero (featuring Big Wy’s Brass Band), and then comes the, at first, veritably shimmering, yet latterly a most diligently astute rocker, Dark Secrets.

Up next is the melodically free flowing, tinged with uptempo and emphatically-charged bridges of Rise and the sumptuous, the almost ethereal elegance within the balladry of The Color of Flight, the album rounding out on the frenetically-imbued Málaga, closing on the impassioned soulfulness within Weight of the World.

Band founder, Aaron Clift, explains: “During the COVID lockdown of 2020 – 2021, my friends, colleagues, and country went through an incredibly challenging time, and I knew that I had to say something about it. ‘The Age of Misinformation’ is The Aaron Clift Experiment’s document of that era.”

“For ‘The Age of Misinformation,’ we wanted to do more of everything: record music that was more intricate, more melodic, and more diverse than anything we had done before,” he continues. “I’m really happy with how we pulled it off, but above all, I love how the album explores a concept that reflects the events of our current world. There are songs all about frustration with the crazy state of politics, but there’s also a renewed sense of optimism in other songs – knowing that there’s always a light at the end of the cave.”

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aaron Clift / vocals, keyboards
- Anthony Basini / guitar, backing vocals
- Clif Warren / bass
- Pablo Ranlett-López / drums & percussion

With: - Zach Matteson / violin I (6,7), soloist (7)
- Charles Anderson / violin II (6,7)
- Jason Elinoff / viola (6,7)
- Ellie Prager / cello (6,7)

And Big Wy’s Brass Band (3):
- Ethan Brown / trumpet
- Austin Johanning / trumpet
- Justin Dunlap / trombone
- William Wright / trombone, soloist
- Marcus Cardwell / alto saxophone
- Colin Houlihan / baritone saxophone, soloist

The Aaron Clift Experiment ft. Big Wy’s Brass Band - Bet On Zero [Official Video]

Official Website

The Aaron Clift Experiment @ Facebook

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The Aaron Clift Experiment @ Twitter

The Aaron Clift Experiment @ Instagram

The Aaron Clift Experiment @ YouTube

Title - Blood 2 Dust [EP]
Artist - Mad Symphony

For those unaware, MAD SYMPHONY is the collaboration of accomplished and professional Vancouver-based musicians who collectively have many years of experience writing, recording, and touring internationally with various acts.

Formed from the ashes of Seattle grunge-metal band Soulbender (which also featured Michael Wilton of Queensryche fame on guitar), lifelong friends and collaborators Dave Groves (guitar) and Wes Hallam (drums) joined up with multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer Ted Tosoff (Blue Voodoo) in 2018 to begin writing for a new project (which turned into them releasing their first self-titled, 5-track EP, Mad Symphony).

Ted knew of powerhouse vocalist Kevin Wright (The Wilds, TNT (Bon Scott Tribute), whose raunchy and melodic vocal stylings a-la Bon Scott and Robert Plant, fit the new songs perfectly; Kevin was quickly recruited into the fold.

To round out the lineup, the formative members didn’t have to look far. Dave and Wes had both played with keyboardist Mike Russell (Sweeney Todd) and bassist Amrit Prasad (Assault), but not always in the same bands or at the same time.

With the addition of Mike on keys and Amrit on bass Mad Symphony immediately began recording their aforementioned debut EP and rehearsing tirelessly.

With the goal of creating memorable and powerful music that resonates with the listener both in style and substance, Mad Symphony write songs with a message of hope and resiliency that harkens back to the glory days of rock and roll.

And now they are back with their sophomore EP, the 5-track Blood 2 Dust where screaming guitars, driving drums, and huge vocals combine with melodic keyboard orchestrations and thundering bass to make the sonically dense and raucous sound that is … Mad Symphony!

1. Blood 2 Dust
2. I Can’t Remember Your Name
3. Reality Check
4. Judgement Day
5. Truth In The Shadows

This quite exceptional new EP opens on the hard rocking Blood 2 Dust and then bleeds seamlessly into the funky, synth-strewn, mid-tempo post relationship ballad rock of I Can’t Remember Your Name, the free-flowing AOR of Reality Check, the EP rounding out on the drum-led, fist-clenched Judgement Day, coming to a close on the synth and guitar-laden, melodical masterpiece Truth In The Shadows.

Kevin Wright – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Dave Groves – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Ted Tosoff – Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike Russell – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Amrit Prasad – Bass
Wes Hallam – Drums

Mad Symphony - Blood 2 Dust [Official Video]

Official Purchase Link

Official Website

Mad Symphony @ Facebook

Mad Symphony @ Instagram

Mad Symphony @ Twitter

Mad Symphony @ YouTube

Title - Shadows
Artist - Tiffany

For those unaware, legendary pop star and 80’s icon, Tiffany, is best known for the #1 Billboard hit, “I Think We’re Alone Now”, which recently garnered a whopping 100 million streams on Spotify.

At the start of her career, Tiffany earned two U.S. #1 hit singles with the aforementioned “I Think We’re Alone Now”, as well as the ballad, “Could’ve Been,” and also set a record as the youngest female artist to top the Billboard charts with her debut album ”Tiffany”.

Indeed, over the course of her three-decade career, Tiffany has sold over 15 million records.

Now comes her latest and most personal album Shadows.

1. Hey Baby
2. I Like The Rain
3. Cried For The Last Time
4. Shadows
5. I’ll Meet You Anywhere
6. Always In My Head
7. You’re My Everything
8. I Love You
9. Keep On Swinging
10. Lost Inside
11. Bed Of Nails

This quite vibrantly alive, wholly heartfelt new album opens on the foot to the floor rock of Hey Baby and the foot-tapping rocker I Like The Rain, and they are followed by the Simple Minds-esque, synth-guitar layered Cried For The Last Time, and then comes the titular drum-led AOR of Shadows and the orchestrally-imbibed, aching balladry of I’ll Meet You Anywhere.

Up next on this truly exception rock album is the soaring Always In My Head and the mid-tempo ballad, expertly aligned with Tiffany’s timbered cadence, You’re My Everything, and then comes the low key piano and acoustic guitar balladry, at first, later a euphoria power chord is struck on I Love You, the fist-clenched, countrified blues rocker Keep On Swinging, the album rounding out on the frenetically-charged Lost Inside, coming to a close on the ascending, beautifully aching balladry within Bed Of Nails.

The most fascinating artists have both darkness and light. No one understands that duality better than Tiffany. She’s the former teen icon with the scars of a lifer.

A multi-million-selling phenomenon whose outward success story belies bad romances and bum deals. A genre-blind singer/songwriter who writes starkly personal lyrics that make entire stadiums sing along.“Shadows is about the light and dark of my life,” says Tiffany. “The heartbreak that nobody knows about, when you’re trying to be fabulous onstage. My life has never been perfect. But maybe all those things are meant to be. And what helps me more than anything is writing songs.”

The Shadows tour has already kicked off in 2022 and will continue through 2023.

Tiffany - I Like The Rain (Official Lyric Video)

Tiffany - You’re My Everything (Official Music Video)

Official Website

Tiffany @ Facebook

Tiffany @ Instagram

Tiffany @ Twitter

Tiffany @ YouTube

Title - Kill The Beautiful
Artist - Scream Taker

For those unaware, Scream Taker is a brand new outfit fronted by Buffalo Music Hall of Fame vocalist Jim Crean, alongside French guitarist Steph Honde (Paul Di’Anno, Hollywood Monster), and legendary drummer Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath). The newly-released Kill The Beautiful unleashes 11 original songs including standout tracks “Stone Cold” and “Shattered Mirror”. Jim Crean gives an outstanding vocal performance only matched by Vinny Appice’s signature drumming.

This is truly a must have for fans of any of their previous work.

1. Kill The Beautiful
2. Stone Cold
3. Eternity
4. Shattered Mirror
5. Love Takes
6. Silver Tongued Devil
7. Blindman
8. The Curse Of The Werewolf
9. Burning Flame
10. These Words You Speak
11. Frontline
12. Shine On

This magnificently-cultured, and passionately-created new rock album opens on the headbanging rock of the titular Kill The Beautiful and the soaring rocker Stone Cold, and they are backed by the frenetic, free-flowing AOR of Eternity, the mid-tempo, foot-pounder Shattered Mirror, and then come the towering Love Takes and the euphorically-charged Silver Tongued Devil.

Up next is one of my own personal favorites on this new album, the atmospheric and veritably throbbing Blindman and then we get the mid-tempo balladry of The Curse Of The Werewolf, and they are in turn backed by the free-wheeling, Iron Maiden-esque Burning Flame, These Words You Speak opens quietly before raising the roof, the album rounding out on the frantically furibund Frontline, closing on the elevated, vocally crystalline and guitar-ravished Shine On.

Jim Crean can also be seen fronting the Appice Brothers with Vinny Appice and his legendary drumming brother Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, etc…).

Scream Taker recorded the album during the pandemic and post Jim Crean’s short lived tenure with former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent. Crean was to perform with Vincent in his comeback performance alongside Carmine Appice (Ozzy Osbourne, Vanilla Fudge, Appice Brothers) and Tony Franklin (the Firm, Blue Murder), which unfortunately never materialized.

Scream Taker is quickly getting noticed for its powerful combination of heavy riffs and soaring melodies, with offers already coming in for the band to take the show on the road in 2024.

Scream Taker - Stone Cold (Official Music Video)

Official Merchandise Purchase Link

Scream Taker @ Facebook

Title - Open All Night: Expanded Edition [3CD]
Artist - Marc Almond

Marc Almond’s tenth studio album, originally released in March 1999, Open All Night, is now been re-configured as a 49 track Expanded Edition by SFE / Cherry Red Records (UK).

This new deluxe Expanded Edition is a comprehensive celebration of this singularly moody and magnificent Marc Almond album, the first big solo album released without any major label involvement.

To quote Keith Phipps of AV Club, Marc effortlessly establishes himself herein as, “a smoky chanteuse of the synth age” offering “a private world of romantic martyrhood set to electronic beats”.

The curation of this Expanded Edition offers a multi-faceted insight into this unique album through the inclusion of alternative, demo and live versions of both album tracks and other contemporaneous songs.

The three discs combined offer over three and a half hours of music. Disc One features the original album with three remixes, one of each of the singles released from it. Disc Two majors on bonus period studio recordings and demos. Disc Three offers live versions of many of the album tracks as well as the three dance remixes of the album’s debut single ‘Black Kiss’.

CD 1: The Original Album & Single Remixes
1. Night and Dark
2. Bedroom Shine
3. Tragedy (Take a Look & See)
4. Black Kiss
5. Almost Diamonds
6. Scarlet Bedroom
7. My Love
8. Wrap My Heart in Velvet
9. Open All Night
10. Threat of Love
11. When Bad People Kiss
12. Sleepwalker
13. Midnight Soul
14. My Love (Dave Ball Remix)
15. Threat of Love (Marc Almond & Neal X Remix)
16. Black Kiss (Hard Vocal Mix)

To my mind, Open All Night was the album that Marc Almond had always been trying to make since leaving Soft Cell. Luckily for all his fans, he still managed to fuse together all of his influences: pop, disco, dance, electronic, R&B and cabaret all thrown into the mix to produce this incredibly diverse and entertaining album.

Perhaps it was the freedom of recording and releasing the album as a semi-independent release, for it was initially to be released in 1998 on the British label Echo; and, in fact, the first single release from the album, Black Kiss, was actually released on that label.

But, and for reasons only they know, Echo released Almond from his contract and he decided to go the independent route, which, for him, turned out to be a very good move.

For he produced a very original work that still falls into the Marc Almond mold and thus even though his hardened fans will always love whatever he puts out, the album was also highly accessible enough to attract new listeners as well.

Indeed, Almond surrounded himself with very talented guests on this album, including Siouxsie Sioux (of Siouxsie & the Banshees and the Creatures), who duets with Almond on the brilliant Threat of Love, and Kelli Ali (of Sneaker Pimps fame) on the glacially ethereal Almost Diamonds.

Song topics are the usual for Almond (death, sleaze, love, lust and the like), but what makes this album so interesting is the music: beautiful, well-crafted melodies with heavy dance beats. Not an easy task, but he does it very well.

As we all know by now, Almond is very talented and a great deal deeper than he has, at times, been given credit for, and this album has always stood the test of time as being a great example of just how creative he is when given the artistic freedom to be so.

CD 2: Bonus Tracks & Demos
1. Beautiful Light of Madness (Alternate Version)
2. Beautiful Losers
3. Lonely Go-Go Dancer
4. One Big Soul
5. Rhythm & Blues
6. My Porno Star
7. Satan’s Child
8. Sequins and Stars
9. One Night of Sin
10. Tale of a Tart (Hell)
11. Scarlet Bedroom (Full Version Demo)
12. Half World (Demo Version)
13. Heart in Velvet (Demo Version)
14. Sleepwalker (Demo Version)
15. Tragedy (Demo Version)
16. Almost Diamonds (Early Demo)
17. When Bad People Kiss (Early Version)
18. Lonely Go-Go Dancer (Early Version)

Undoubtedly Almond’s greatest, and most overlooked album of the whole of his recording career, to my humble mind, and featuring backing instrumentation which could adorn a Portishead album in an instant, Almond had crafted a superb, darkly tinged, collection of tracks.

And now hearing a few of them in their alternate forms, just makes the original listening pleasure even more 3D for us fans now.

People have since concluded that the album’s commercial failure was down to a poor selection of singles, but I honestly don’t think that there is a really weak track amongst the set, to be quite frank.

Indeed, on one last note, my own personal favorite is the second single, Tragedy (Take a Look and See), which unaccountably failed to achieve the chart success it should have and his now here as a haunting Demo Version.

CD 3: Live Versions & Black Kiss Remixes
1. Black Kiss (Live - Almeida Theatre, 1999)
2. Threat of Love (Live, 1999)
3. Midnight Soul (Live - Wilton’s Music Hall, 2008)
4. When Bad People Kiss (Live - Almeida Theatre, 2004)
5. One Big Soul (Live - Lokerse Festival, 2000)
6. My Love (Live - Lokerse Festival, 2000)
7. Open All Night (Live - Lokerse Festival, 2000)
8. Black Kiss (Live - Lokerse Festival, 2000)
9. Lonely Go-Go Dancer (Live - Almeida Theatre, 2004)
10. Satan’s Child (Live - Almeida Theatre, 2004)
11. One Night of Sin (Dress Rehearsal - Almeida Theatre, 2004)
12. Open All Night (Dress Rehearsal - Almeida Theatre, 2004)
13. Black Kiss (Tall Paul Mix)
14. Black Kiss (Baby Doc Mix)
15. Black Kiss (DJ Face Telephone Mix)

As you would fully expect, all the live tracks are amazing, showcasing Marc Almond’s vocals as beautifully crystalline then as they still are today, and the inclusion of five versions of Black Kiss might well be overkill, but if it is your own personal favorite, you will delight in that fact.

The discs come with a 28-page color lyrics booklet insert with photographs.

Official 3CD Purchase Link

Title - Dreams
Artist - Tommy Kaelin

For those unaware, Tommy Kaelin is a drummer singer/song writer best known for playing with The Hatters (Atlantic Records), The Michael Parrish Band (Geographic Records) and Vince Welnick of the Tubes and The Grateful Dead.

He has also has played with dreamspeak, Gravity, Gent Treadly, now plays with The Rusty String Band and Ride, and his new album, Dreams is out now.

“The music on Dreams is a nod back to the time I played in the band dreamspeak. While not all of these songs were played by dreamspeak, they were mostly of that time and scene. It features many of the musicians I’ve played with over the years including members of The Hatters, The Michael Parrish Band, Gravity, Dreamspeak, Buddy Cage and more. I’m just a drummer, without them this wouldn’t have happened. Thank you to my friends. Enjoy!” - Tommy Kaelin.

1. Coloured Rain (featuring Sean O’Brien) (3:51)
2. Wishing Well (featuring Tree Adams) (4:50)
3. The Van Song (featuring Buddy Cage) (5:51)
4. Put Me on a Train (featuring Buddy Cage and Sean O’Brien) (3:58)
5. Sweet Return (featuring Tree Adams) (3:38)
6. Muldar the Elephant (4:02)
7. Salvador (3:33)
8. Green River (featuring Tree Adams) (5:43)
9. Al’s Anti-Gravity Machine/Liftoff/Time (7:03)
10. Lay Yourself Down (featuring Matt Zekala) (2:37)
11. Peepers (featuring Tree Adams) (4:10)
12. The Marby Dube Song (1:57)

This oh-so beautifully sculptured, fruitfully-blossoming recording opens on the free flowing melodies within Coloured Rain (featuring Sean O’Brien) and a languishingly dulcet Wishing Well (featuring Tree Adams), before they are followed seamlessly by the smooth moving The Van Song (featuring Buddy Cage), the beautiful, Mandolin-imbued love song within Put Me on a Train (featuring Buddy Cage and Sean O’Brien), the mid-tempo rocker Sweet Return (featuring Tree Adams), and then the upbeat, perky and flamboyant instrumental Muldar the Elephant.

The rhythmic heat gets turned up for the bouncing Salvador and then Green River (featuring Tree Adams) opens atmospherically, before charging full on into a deep blues groove, and they are followed by the harmonica-happy, piano-lulled, and banjo-driven Al’s Anti-Gravity Machine/Liftoff/Time, the recording rounding out on the low slung Lay Yourself Down (featuring Matt Zekala), the Hammond-led, blues rock of Peepers (featuring Tree Adams), coming to a close on the short, but sweet acoustic jam, The Marby Dube Song.

Put Me on a Train (featuring Buddy Cage and Sean O’Brien) [Official Music Video]

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Title - Becoming
Artist - Skip Grasso

For those unaware, Skip Grasso has worked as a freelance jazz guitarist based in the Baltimore/Washington Area performing in a very wide variety of situations, which include everything from solo guitar to big bands.

Indeed, Skip can be heard on the recordings The Don Junker Big Band: Junkyard Dog and the Hank Levy Alumni Band: An “Odd-Time” Was Had By All.

He has taught guitar as an adjunct professor at Mount Saint Mary’s University, and continues to teach privately. Besides receiving a Masters of Music from the University of North Texas, he was fortunate to study with numerous renowned educators and musicians including pianist Charlie Banacos, pianist Garry Dial, guitarist Paul Bollenback, and Dr. Asher Zlotnik.

Skip also had two books of guitar transcriptions published Vital Blues Guitar: Freddie King and Vital Blues Guitar: Gatemouth Brown.

Skip’s new album is Becoming out now via Barking Coda Music, and also features the trio of Harvie S (acoustic bass), Anthony Pocetti (piano, organ, electric piano), and Billy Drummond on drums.

1. Belew’s Knot
2. Harvie Livingston Seagull
3. Three Simple Truths
4. Don’t Forget
5. Canto Belo
6. Garry on a Bike Ride
7. For Lou Lou, Where Ever You Are
8. Spring Forward

This beautifully-crafted new album opens on the veritably shimmering Belew’s Knot and the late night, cinematic affair of Harvie Livingston Seagull, before bringing us the ornately sculptured, organ-imbued Three Simple Truths, and then the drum-led fervency of Don’t Forget comes forth.

The local Baltimore/Washington DC area legend continues onward with the twinkling Canto Belo and the gently fervent, mid-tempo Garry on a Bike Ride, the album rounding out on the foot-tapping, alluringly upbeat For Lou Lou, Where Ever You Are, coming to a close on the what can only be described as a cooking vibe within Spring Forward.

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Title - Prime
Artist - The Dave Stryker Trio

For those unaware, fresh off their summer tour opening for Steely Dan, Dave Stryker releases the brand new album, Prime - the first recording featuring his working trio.

Along with Jared Gold on organ and McClenty Hunter on drums, Stryker offers eight new compositions and the beautiful standard “I Should Care.” From the burning title track “Prime” to songs penned for his first boss Jack McDuff (“Captain Jack” and “Dude’s Lounge”) as well as “Mac” for his drummer and the original trio versions of “Hope” and “As We Were” from Stryker’s last album As We Are, Prime grooves from start to finish with the precision of a trio that has been road-tested for the last 12 years.

1. Prime
2. Lockdown
3. Captain Jack
4. Hope
5. As We Were
6. Mac
7. I Should Care
8. Deep
9. Dude’s Lounge

This groove-laden, upbeat and vibrant new album opens on the low slung, finger-snapping rhythms within the titular Prime and the alley cat-esque saunter of Lockdown, and then brings us the groove-laden Captain Jack, before the tempo is brought down for the shimmering balladry within Hope.

Up next is another laid back, melodically-hued ballad, the almost reticent As We Were, which is itself backed by the upbeat and vibrant Mac, the album rounding out on the languishing beauty found within I Should Care, some de facto rhythms of Latin hipsway thread their way loving through Deep, closing on the funky grooves explored within the near nine minute, Dude’s Lounge.

Dave Stryker: “In October of 2020 my long-standing trio of organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter was booked to play a concert out of town. Due to the pandemic, in lieu of traveling, we were given the opportunity to tape a show that could be streamed by the venue.”

“Inspired by getting the chance to play together again after eight months in lockdown and knowing we would be in the studio, I was motivated to write an album of new music—my first featuring this trio exclusively.” “I decided we would record live in the studio with just one take per song and no overdubbing. The connection, interplay, and fire of the group was captured on that day and we’re happy to now share with you the music of our trio in its Prime.”

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Title - Unjust
Artist - Ben Wolfe

For those unaware, New York bassist/composer and bandleader Ben Wolfe’s music has been described as “Mingus and Miles Davis meet Bartok and Bernard Herrmann” (Ben Ratliff – The New York Times).

Acclaimed by some of the jazz world’s most respected critics for his “wit and cool intelligence” and signature “innovative, melding of hard-swinging jazz quartet, outstanding guest soloists and classical string quartet.”, Wolfe continues to produce works that draw top-flight reviews from fans and jazz journalists alike.

Ben’s February 3rd, 2023 release Unjust, is his tenth as a leader and features all original compositions. As stated in the liner notes “This project was a gathering of musicians I believed would find common ground with each other and would also find some magic within the ensemble. I very much enjoyed the process and I’m extremely proud to present Unjust.”.

1. The Heckler
2. Hats Off to Rebay
3. Lullaby in D
4. Bob French
5. The Corridor
6. Mask Man
7. Eventually
8. Unjust
9. Sparkling Red
10. Sideways
11. Hats Off to Rebay (Interlude)
12. Reprise (Credits)

This quite vibrantly alive, wholly heartfelt new album opens on the fervency of The Heckler and the cinematic, Pink Panther-esque Hats Off to Rebay, and then follows those up with the smooth as silk Lullaby in D, the mid-tempo, gentle hipsway of Bob French, and then comes the softly orchestrated finger-snapper The Corridor and the upbeat swing sense of Mask Man.

Along next on this new recording is one of my own personal favorites, the veritably crystalline ballad Eventually and the drum-led, titular jaunt within Unjust, and they are in turn backed by the shimmering Sparkling Red, the perky Sideways, the album rounding out on the short, but sweet, Hats Off to Rebay (Interlude), and the lush Reprise (Credits).

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, when the right musicians are placed into a room together, it can result in unexpected magic – individual performances that honor the conception and philosophy of the pieces, but marry together to create a cohesive unit where these disparate voices speak as one.

Even rarer is the occasion when these voices come together to say something truly unique. Such is the case with Unjust.

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Title - Pan Africa
Artist - Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets

For those unaware, Impact Jazz is proud to announce the January 13th, 2023 release of Pan Africa, a groundbreaking artistic endeavor by trumpet great Derrick Gardner and his steadfast ensemble the Jazz Prophets.

Inspired by a life-changing visit to Ghana, Gardner pays homage to his ancestors on this riveting release, rooted in the spirit and traditions of the African diaspora.

An unerring emphasis on African rhythm lies at the center of each track of Pan Africa, displaying the Jazz Prophets’ stellar integration of the language of jazz and of its parent — traditional African music.

On Pan Africa, Derrick Gardner is joined by his brother, trombonist Vincent Gardner, alto and tenor saxophonist Robert Dixon, pianist George Caldwell, bassist Obasi Akoto, and percussionist Kweku Sumbry on the drum kit and African percussion.

1. Djemba Kan (1:30)
2. Appointment in Ghana (5:10)
3. 10,000 Ships (9:29)
4. The Sixth Village (7:39)
5. Highlife Suite (6:52)
6. Blues for the Diaspora (7:31)
7. Vicente, The Afro Mestizo (7:36)
8. NKRUMAH ’da RULAH (7:22)
9. Assin Manso … The Last Bath (10:48)

This beautifully crafted, wholly embolden of the African diaspora, musical journey opens on the traditional piece Djemba Kan and the triumphant, solo-laden perfection of Gardner’s arrangement within Jackie McLean’s Appointment in Ghana, and follow those up with some hauntingly somber notes and chords, all by they themselves entwined within layers of harmonized melodies, of the near ten minute 10,000 Ships, the infectiously buoyant percussion within The Sixth Village, and then we get the low slung, rhythmic blues jazz of Highlife Suite.

Along next is the soaring, euphorically beholden, minor blues of Blues for the Diaspora (where Gardner uses his horn to beckon and reflect) and that is seamlessly followed by the delightfully elated vibes within Vicente, The Afro Mestizo, the album rounding out on the atmospherically-charged, yet underscored NKRUMAH ’da RULAH, closing on the celebratory vibrancy of the reflective Assin Manso … The Last Bath (which was written in tribute to Assin Manso, a city located in the central region of Ghana).

It was the summer of 2021 and Derrick Gardner found himself traversing the coastal savannas of Ghana amidst a five-week tour with the Jazz Prophets, Gardner’s long-standing sextet since 1991. Between performances, Gardner visited important historical sites relative to the transatlantic slave trade, Ghanaian independence, and the Pan African movement. This had a profound effect on him, and served as the genesis of Pan Africa.

The resulting nine tracks strive to honor different facets of the African diaspora. A rhythmic motif lies at the center of each track, acting as the pulse, driving and unifying each member of the Jazz Prophets, like six limbs of the same body. Gardner and his band mates deliver a passionate, fervent performance here. The ancestral connections are palpable and real in the work, where honoring the ancestors is paramount.

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Title - Makram
Artist - Joe Locke

For those unaware, Circle 9 is delighted to announce the release of Makram, the latest album from vibraphonist Joe Locke, out February 17th, 2023.

Featuring a selection of new compositions and a return to his celebrated quartet (pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Lorin Cohen, and drummer Samvel Sarkisyan) Makram is the latest addition to Locke’s extensive leader discography, an album that incorporates soul, swing and world-music influences, synthesized into Locke’s inimitable style.

1. Love for Sale (7:04)
2. Raise Heaven (7:35)
3. Makram (7:31)
4. Elegy for Us All (3:41)
5. Tushkin (6:45)
6. Shifting Moon (9:06)
7. Song for Vic Juris (7:57)
8. Interwoven Hues (7:35)
9. Lush Life (5:00)

This free flowing and veritably glistening album, named after the talented Lebanese bassist Makram Aboul Hosn, opens with an uptempo, quite fervent arrangement of Cole Porter’s Love for Sale and a dulcetly soulful, lyrical homage to the late Roy Hargrove, Raise Heaven and then along comes my favorite of all the tracks, the addictive blues and Middle-Eastern melodies entwined within the titular Makram, and the deeply ensconced rhythms that make up the doleful Elegy for Us All thereafter.

Up next is a track penned in honor of his grandfather, the emotive Tushkin (and which also features the gifted multi-instrumentalist Tim Garland on soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and flute), and the frenetically melodic, at times, even barrelling, near ten minute magnificence of Shifting Moon and they are in turn backed seamlessly by the sheer balladry gossamer of Song for Vic Juris (where guitarist, former collaborator, and friend Vic Juris is lovingly remembered by Jim Ridl), the recording rounding out with Lorin Cohen’s upbeat and perky Interwoven Hues, closing on a Locke solo on Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life.

Joe Locke has always been known for his immense stylistic versatility and ability to connect. His diverse approach was honed by performances over the years with such notable musicians as Grover Washington Jr, Raul Midón, Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Cecil Taylor, Dianne Reeves, Eddie Palmieri, Ron Carter, Bob Berg, The Beastie Boys, the Münster Symphony Orchestra, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, the Orchestra da Camera della Sardegna and the Lincoln, Nebraska Symphony.

After decades as one of the most impactful vibraphonists in jazz, with countless awards, critically acclaimed albums, and a remarkably diverse array of musical associations to his credit, he is still expanding his artistic scope.

His new release Makram is a recording glistening with the spirit, ingenuity, musicianship and inquisitiveness of an artist joyously embracing kinship as the foundation for making music entirely on his own terms.

Locke’s quartet with Ridl, Cohen, and Sarkisyan is a unique musical fraternity, a group perfectly suited to the quality of compositions that make this recording so special.

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Title - Connected, Vol. 1
Artist - Richie Goods & Chien Chien

For those unaware, Jazz-funk bass extraordinaire Richie Goods and in-demand vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu are expanding their collaborative musical relationship with the upcoming release of Connected, Vol. 1, a multi-dimensional, riveting conversation constructed around unity.

While offering imagery of love and peace, frequent collaborators Goods and Lu present a dynamic landmark contextualizing unwarranted violence against African American and Asian communities.

While bridging the gap between their respective backgrounds, the pair cements their synergistic harmonic sensibilities with the release of Connected, due out January 13th, 2023.

With Lu on vibes and marimba throughout and Goods splitting his time between electric and upright bass, Connected also includes the all-star contributions of drummer Allan Mednard and guitarist Quintin Zoto.

Special guests include vocalists Sy Smith, Jamison Ross and Pastor Dr. Adolfus Lacey, drummers Lil John Roberts and David Frazier Jr, percussionist Danny Sadownick, keyboardist BIGYUKI, Shedrick Mitchell on organ and piano, Brett Williams on keys and rhodes and Mike King on rhodes and organ.

1. Water / H20 (feat. Sy Smith) (7:12)
2. Treasure Mountain (8:15)
3. Embrace the Now (feat. BIGYUKI) (5:28)
4. 2021 Interlude (3:47)
5. Rain (6:36)
6. Rain Interlude (2:11)
7. Dull Ice Flower (4:49)
8. Someday We’ll All Be Free (7:25)
9. Someday Interlude (2:50)
10. Someday We’ll All Be Free (Radio Edit) [feat. Jamison Ross] (Bonus Track

This vibrantly alive album, deliciously overflowing with musical perfection, opens on the gleaming Water (which commences at the command of guest vocalist Sy Smith, with “Water” effectively washing away distractions from the outside world, while Lu establishes herself on a mystical opening solo) and the hauntingly ethereal one minute, funky and groove laden the next, Treasure Mountain, and they follow those up with the buoyant hipsway within Embrace the Now (featuring guest keyboardist BIGYUKI), the conversational 2021 Interlude (where the co-leaders overdub a more melancholic and acoustic musical sound, and discuss Asian hate crimes), and then comes the pairing of Rain and Rain Interlude.

The former is the iconic ‘90s hit from SWV, but here organically drawn back to expose the roots of its harmonic inspiration and now inclusive of a sample from Jaco Pastorius’ “Portrait of Tracy”. The latter provides a deeper framework for the inception of the very same recording.

Next we are brought the free-flowing musical majesties found within Dull Ice Flower (which actually takes its inspiration from a 1989 Taiwanese film based on a novel of the same title) and that is itself backed by their rendering of the Donny Hathaway hit Someday We’ll All Be Free (here featuring guest vocalist Jamison Ross), the album rounding out with the spoken word of Pastor Adolphus Lacey, providing his didactic point of view over a graceful, yet emphatic musical bed, Someday Interlude, coming to a close on the CD bonus track, Someday We’ll All Be Free (Radio Edit) [feat. Jamison Ross].

Connected follows several Goods-Lu collusion’s, including Lu’s tenacious debut leader date, The Path from September 2020 followed by the arrangement “We Three Kings” released two months afterward. Last year, the duo presented the dynamic arrangement “Rain” (December 2021), which tracks as the centerpiece of Connected.

After practicing, writing, and eventually hosting livestream concerts together during the pandemic quarantine, Lu and Goods decided to work together more extensively. With the help of a small grant from NewMusicUSA, the two musicians were able to fund a full-length project.

The pair cites their shared love for groovy music as the impetus of their bonafide creative connection. “Our work together has been the most natural and organic thing I have done in my career,” Goods remarks.

The final output is a stunning display of melodic deftness from a thought-provoking and soulful cast of players.

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Title - The Source
Artist - Kenny Barron

For those unaware, NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron issues his first solo piano release since 1981. The Source presents a personal expression at its most intentional and most vulnerable. He relies solely on the music and the moment to guide his exploration.

Returning to four original compositions and five enduring tunes, he creates new pathways through familiar forms. Each song, however orchestrated and tempoed, becomes an intimate gesture. The Source will be released on January 20th, 2023 via Artwork Records.

“One of the things I’m after when I’m playing is communicating on an emotional level,” says the 79-year-old artist. “A response of ‘Hmmm…’ is not what I’m after; ‘That was really interesting,’ is not what I’m after. I want people to feel something.”

  The Source abandons pretense. In stretching out — at times, settling his solo performance nerves — Barron transmits truth. Over the years, he’s allowed the record’s nine selections — each reflecting a poignant turn in his development and a vivid memory — to move rapidly or evolve slowly, in different directions.

And while their interpretation may change from one performance to the next, sometimes moment to moment, his approach persists. “To be able to move somebody, to me, is the highest compliment.”

1. What If? (8:02)
2. Isfahan (6:14)
3. Teo (6:06)
4. Daydream (9:41)
5. I’m Confessin’ (6:16)
6. Dolores Street, SF (8:54)
7. Well You Needn’t (5:50)
8. Sunshower (8:35)
9. Phantoms (8:01)

This absolutely masterful new recording opens on the title track of his 1986 recording, the dutiful What If? and a lushly orchestrated rendition of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s Isfahan and then brings us a playfully profound depiction of Thelonious Monk’s Teo, a near ten minute rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s Daydream, and then comes one of my own personal favorites, a veritably shimmering I’m Confessin.’

On an album that proffers an expansion of Barron’s live expression, we continue onward with a track he first recorded on his 1982 release Spiral, the contemplatively melodic Dolores Street, SF, a deeply toned, resonant rendering of Ellington’s Well You Needn’t, the album rounding out on the richly thrilling Sunshower, closing on a track that he has performed with his quintet since 1986, the organically woven melodies found within Phantoms.

On The Source, Barron pays the simplest melodies nuanced attention, romancing dissonance for the sweetest sounds. He gives listeners permission to let go, providing an anchor of motion from one section to the next. But perhaps most intrinsic to Barron’s sound, after so many years, is its humanness. He plays through uncertainty, translates strength and frailty, and remains at once present and reflective.

“Playing solo is still nerve-racking,” says Barron. “After the first song, it usually goes away. It’s the initial feeling of sitting down alone. You realize there’s no one else to cover you if you make a mistake. You’re out there by yourself. Which is okay. But it always takes a minute to realize that it’s okay.”

More than 40 years after his last solo piano release, The Source shares a fresh translation of a long held truth in Barron’s artistry: “You’re always your most critical peer. You always hear what you missed, what you didn’t play right. But the listener can’t react to what your intentions are. They can only react to what they hear. If you’re connecting with them on an emotional level, that’s what matters.”

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Title - Live at Smalls Jazz Club
Artist - Jesse Davis

For those unaware, Cellar Music Group and SmallsLIVE Living Masters Series are thrilled to announce the January 27th, 2023 release of Jesse Davis’s Live at Smalls Jazz Club.

Alto saxophone great Jesse Davis has been a staple within the jazz community for nearly forty years. Davis’ heartfelt conviction is channeled through his horn with an assertive, fluid tone and a singular sound deeply entrenched in be-bop and the blues, self-described as ‘Neo-Bop’.

On this electrifying quartet release, Davis takes the stage at Smalls Jazz Club alongside an all-star rhythm section comprised of bassist Peter Washington, drummer Joe Farnsworth and pianist/producer Spike Wilner.

1. Gingerbread Boy 8:47 (Heath)
2. Ceora 7:43 (Morgan)
3. Cup Bearers 9:35 (McKintosh)
4. These Foolish Things 8:06 (Strachey & H. Link)
5. Juicy Lucy 8:55 (Silver)
6. Rhythm-A-Ning 6:02 (Monk)
7. Street Of Dreams 7:24 (Young)
8. Love For Sale 11:16 (Porter)

This upbeat and phenomenally crafted live album opens on the vibrant foot-tapper extraordinaire, Gingerbread Boy and then launches right into the cultured Ceora (both featuring his renowned blues-centric bebop language), then we get the upbeat and buoyant Cup Bearers, and then we are lovingly delivered a delightful, veritably shimmering ballad, These Foolish Things.

Up next is the joyously enriched Juicy Lucy and the rhythmically-regimed Rhythm-A-Ning, the album closing on the late night, low slung magical melodies within Street Of Dreams, coming to a righteous close on the finger-snapping delights of a near twelve minute ensemble piece, Love For Sale.

New Orleans native Jesse Davis honed his craft while studying with Ellis Marsalis at the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts. Upon his emergence in New York City in the late 1980’s, Davis took the “young lion” movement by storm.

As a sideman, Davis cut his teeth alongside such luminaries as Jack McDuff, Cecil Payne, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson, and Wynton Marsalis. The artist went on to record eight critically-acclaimed albums as a bandleader under the Concord Jazz label. Despite decades of stellar creative output, Davis remains a somewhat unsung hero of the alto saxophone, due in part to him living in Italy for nearly twenty years, becoming a staple in the European jazz scene.

Pianist, Smalls Jazz Club owner and producer Spike Wilner reflects: “I first met Jesse in 1989 and we became close friends. Jesse hired me for his band and took over the Friday and Saturday slot at Augie’s (which is now Smoke, the Upper West Side jazz room)… I’d nervously take the train uptown for our gigs and each weekend hang on for dear life. Jesse navigated complex bebop tunes at white-knuckle tempos.”

“Playing that fast was something I had to learn and was thrown into the deep end of the pool. Sometimes the tempo was so fast that I was like a deer in the headlights – just stunned, I couldn’t comp or even play a note. Yet, Jesse believed in me, and we worked together there for more than a year.”

“I can’t think of anyone else currently playing that has the kind of alto sound that Jesse has. He is a master of the horn, a master of rhythm and a master of swing.”

Jesse Davis Live at Smalls Jazz Club is a stunning document of Davis’ ubiquitous return to New York City to bless the harrowed hall of Smalls Jazz Club with the declarative grace – the quiet confidence that his horn imbues.

The release features a collection of jazz standards interpreted in a way that only Davis can. Davis gets to the core of each tune and tells its story – and his own, with ease, soul and finesse.

With each note expelled from Davis’ horn, one can hear the lineage of jazz running through the player’s heart and soul and into his fingers.

Get To Know Jesse Davis

Title - Legacy
Artist - Christian-Pierre La Marca

For those unaware, on January 20th, 2023, Naïve Classiques will release Legacy, the latest album from Christian-Pierre La Marca. The “unfailingly lyrical, stylish” (Gramophone) cellist performs with French period orchestra Le Concert de la Loge and its violinist director Julien Chauvin to present a program devised to provide the listener with a new perspective on the cello concertos of Joseph Haydn, surrounded by works of Nicola Porpora, Christoph Willibald Gluck, and W.A. Mozart.

The album, entitled Legacy, also includes performances by Christian-Pierre’s violist brother Adrien La Marca and countertenor Philippe Jaroussky.

“This album tells a true story about my instrument during the classical period,” says Christian-Pierre La Marca. “There is a connection, a legacy from one composer to another. We wanted to show the connecting links, the filiations that run through the cello repertory during the era of Viennese Classicism, what was transmitted from one composer to another for this specific instrument, and finally the development of purely ‘cellistic’ style.”

“Porpora was the precursor. An esteemed pedagogue, he was Haydn’s mentor and had a great influence on him, just as Haydn in turn influenced Mozart’s style. Gluck was one of the first to introduce a certain Viennese Classicism into French music.”

1. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Cello Concerto No.1 In C Major
Cadenza: Christian-Pierre La Marca

2. Nicola Porpora (1686-1758)
Largo, from Cello Concerto in G Major

3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)
Sinfonia Concertante in A Major for violin, viola and cello
Robert Levin completion/reconstruction | with Julien Chauvin, violin & Adrien La Marca, viola

4. Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87)
Danse des ombres heureuses, from Orphée et Eurydice
Christian-Pierre La Marca transcription

5. Nicola Porpora
“Giusto amor tu che m’accendi” from Gli orti esperidi
Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor

6. Joseph Haydn
Cello Concerto No.2 In D Major
Cadenza: Maurice Gendron

This magnificently cultured, inspired and profound new recording opens on Joseph Haydn’s vibrantly triumphant Cello Concerto No.1 In C Major and follows that up seamlessly with the more cultured fare of Nicola Porpora’s Largo, from Cello Concerto in G Major.

Along next is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s simply magnificent, veritably euphoric Sinfonia Concertante in A Major for violin, viola and cello and that is in turn backed by the more sombre affair within Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Danse des ombres heureuses, from Orphée et Eurydice.

This sumptuously-crafted new recording then rounds out on the aching yearn found within Nicola Porpora’s “Giusto amor tu che m’accendi” from Gli orti esperidi, coming to a close on a rather sweepingly atmospheric rendition of Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No.2 In D Major.

La Marca: “Porpora had a very thorough knowledge of the cello. He was also the teacher of the great castrati of the time, including Farinelli – hence the presence in this program of the aria ‘Giusto Amor, tu che m’accendi’ from the opera Gli orti esperidi, which combines obbligato cello and voice (performed here by Philippe Jaroussky). Porpora did a great deal to develop the Italian musical tradition in Vienna, and Haydn synthesized that heritage and developed it in terms of his personal style.”

“Haydn’s vision of the cello radiates an aura of brilliance and perfection: he was one of the first to push the instrument to so demanding a level. We establish the link with Mozart through the fragment of a sinfonia concertante – his only concertante work that calls for the cello.”

La Marca adds, “I wanted this program to introduce new ways of listening to Haydn’s concertos. The title of the album Legacy emphasizes more of the aspect of transmission than that of inheritance – the goodwill one generation passes on to the next, the encounters between musicians who hand down a tradition, the development of styles of writing for the instrument.”

“Haydn’s concertos are often recorded on their own,” adds Julien Chauvin. “The fact that they are ‘enveloped’ in other pieces gives them an additional dimension.”

Christian-Pierre La Marca CELLO
Le Concert de la Loge
with Adrien La Marca VIOLA | Philippe Jaroussky COUNTERTENOR

Official Purchase Link

Official Website

Christian-Pierre La Marca @ Facebook

Christian-Pierre La Marca @ Twitter

Title - From The Shoals
Artist - Barbara Blue

For those unaware, on From The Shoals, Barbara Blue intertwines Blues, Soul, R&B, & Americana. Recorded at the legendary NuttHouse Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, AL and produced by Jim Gaines, the album’s 13 tracks features 11 originals.

Joining Ms. Blue in the studio were musical icons Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums), David Hood (bass), Clayton Ivey (keyboards), Will McFarlane (guitar) and her Croatian songwriting partner Davor “Hutch” Hačić (whom she met at 2019’s IBC in Memphis).

Simply put, on From The Shoals, Barbara Blue is truly at the top of her game.

Pittsburgh, PA native Barbara Blue doesn’t remember life without music. Her answer to the question “When did you start singing?” will always be “since the day I was born and my plan is to exit this life the same way”.

Early childhood years were spent singing in church choir, school choir, school band (flute), piano lessons, school plays and with radios throughout the house. “We always had music. I taught myself to play guitar. I would put on concerts in our back yard from 13 years on up. I left home June 1977 for Phoenix, AZ.”

That’s when Barbara’s professional musical career began. Playing a solo show (vocals & guitar) Barbara Blue played every club, biker bar, party and corner possible.

1. The Shoals (3:20)
2. Nutthouse Blues (7:10)
3. Tell Mama (3:22)
4. Steal Away (4:04)
5. Severed (5:13)
6. Curse of Beauty (4:43)
7. Lost Young Love (4:40)
8. Slide Man (3:15)
9. Too Far (7:41)
10. Nothing Last Forever (3:09)
11. Never Stopped Loving You (5:12)
12. Song Of The River (6:42)
13. Trail Of Tears (6:25)

This oh-so beautifully sculptured, fruitfully-blossoming recording opens on the free flowing, uproarious vocals and melodies within the titular The Shoals, that is seamlessly followed by the laid low, slow crawl blues within Nutthouse Blues, my personal favorite, the loud and proud Tell Mama, then we get the mid-tempo ballads Steal Away and Severed, and a funky, earthy and dirty Curse of Beauty.

Next up on this gloriously sumptuous new album is the beautiful, ornate gossamer balladry of Lost Young Love, the finger-snapping hipsway of Slide Man and they are in turn followed seamlessly by the atmospherically-charged, saxophone-imbued ballad Too Far, the funky foot-tapper blues rock of Nothing Last Forever, the recording rounding out on the heartfelt ballad Never Stopped Loving You, the stirring Song Of The River, coming to a close on the ardently impassioned Trail Of Tears.

The Line Up / Musicians:
Drums Bernard “Pretty” Purdie
Bass David Hood
B3 & Wurlitzer Clayton Ivey
Piano Mark Narmore
Guitar Will McFarlane
Guitar Davor Hačić – Hutch
Saxophone Brad Guin
Trumpet Marc Franklin
Vocals Barbara Blue
Background vocals Kimberlie Helton & Hutch on Curse Of Beauty
Background vocals on Song Of The River ~ Hutch, David Hood, Will McFarlane, Mark Narmore, Celia Purdie

From her gritty urban blues to her saucy Memphis soul, Ms. Blue is so much more than just a “singer” - she is a “True Blue Entertainer”. Barbara Blue reminds us on FROM THE SHOALS just why she has been the longstanding Reigning Queen Of Beale Street.

From 1980 -1987 Barbara lived in Detroit, MI and was a bartender/college student by day and a vocalist by night playing gigs all over the city with the “City Limits Blues Band”.

In 1987 Barbara Blue returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA where she put together a band and played 6 nights a week at various clubs for 10+ years -- Wednesdays at the Baggy Knee in Greensburg, Thursdays at Gene’s Blues Bar on Rt 51S, Sunday nights at the Apple Inn in Dormont (5 yrs), then Sundays on the South Side (E. Carson & 21st Street) where Barbara held down the fort while 3 owners came and went.

“We would travel up to 3 hours each way out of the city to do one night stands. I had so many gigs in those years I can’t begin to remember them all.”

She opened shows for locals and road acts - Delbert McClinton, Jeff Healey, Marcia Ball, Billy Price, on and on and on. In 1994 Barbara recorded her debut CD Out Of The Blue at The Control Room in Pittsburgh, PA. Ms. Blue also traveled with her band playing gigs in Memphis, Clarksdale & NOLA (Hogs Breath) to compete in the very early conception of the IBC.

During this time, Barbara began taking the Ultimate Rhythm and Blues Cruises (13 in total) meeting and jamming with elite blues artists. Meeting Taj Mahal and The Phantom Blues Band was an amazing journey which led to Barbara recording 3 albums (2001, 2004, 2006) with the Phantom Blues Band (Mike Finnigan, Johnny Lee Schell, Tony Braunagel, Larry Fulcher, Joe & Darrel - Texicali Horns & John Porter).

In May 1997, Barbara took a trip to Memphis and landed a gig at Silky O’Sullivan’s at 183 Beale Street, where she performed 5 nights a week for nearly 25 years and is known as “The Reigning Queen of Beale Street”. “Barbara Blue can make a glass eye cry.” (Silky Sullivan).

Performing on Beale Street lead to many performance opportunities - including performing with James Cotton, Bobby Rush, Sam Myers, Anson Funderburgh, Sean Costello, Ronnie Baker, Wayne Baker & Lonnie Brooks, Preston Shannon, Tas Cru, Henry Butler, Roy Carrier, Carla Thomas, The Cate Brothers, Candye Kane, Leo “Bud” Welch, Ronnie Earl, and Bernard “Pretty” Purdie.

In 2015 Barbara Blue was honored with a Brass note on The Beale Street Walk of Fame. She received the 2011 Emissary of Memphis Music Award. Both the Hard Rock Cafe Memphis, TN (2014) and Pittsburgh, PA (2010) honored her with a Memorabilia Case. She received a 2007 BMA Nomination for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist.

She was nominated for 2019 Independent Blues Music Award Traditional Female Artist of the Year and best Traditional CD (2018’s Fish In Dirty H2O), and was a 2019 BMA Nominee for Female Soul Blues Artist Of The Year.

Barbara Blue continues to travel around the world to select festivals, gigs and events. She’s had 5 successful tours of Australia along with a long list of International Festivals.

Official Purchase Link

Barbara Blue @ Facebook

Barbara Blue @ Twitter

Barbara Blue @ YouTube

Barbara Blue @ Instagram

Title - Tiddlywinks
Artist - NRBQ

Over a decade into their career, NRBQ entered Bearsville Studios and recorded their eighth album. The line-up featured Terry Adams (keyboards), Joey Spampinato (bass), Tom Ardolino (drums) and Al Anderson (guitar), plus The Whole Wheat Horns (Donn Adams and Keith Spring).

The end result was Tiddlywinks, which contained the singles “Me And The Boys” and “Never Take The Place Of You.” It immediately became another fan favorite NRBQ classic album, and provided an entry point for new a new audience to come on board as “Me And The Boys” garnered repeat airplay on radio stations across the country.

Now, over four decades later, Tiddlywinks returns. This time, four bonus tracks are added to the mix: “I Don’t Think Of…” and “Big Goodbyes”—recorded during the Tiddlywinks sessions and released on 1983’s Tapdancin’ Bats collection, plus the controversial TV and Radio Spots originally issued on the flip side of the “Never Take The Place Of You” 7” single.

Featuring updated artwork and liner notes from original engineer Tom Mark (who had worked with the band on At Yankee Stadium), the Tiddlywinks experience is now complete. From Mark’s liner notes: “Working with those guys was such a pleasure. We always had fun. Four amazing musician/writers really listening to each other, what else do you want? Thank you NRBQ.”

7. I DON’T THINK OF… [Bonus Track]
13. BIG GOODBYES [Bonus Track]

This resoundingly upbeat, grounded indie pop-rock album, which fairly early on, the synchronicity among the quartet is highly apparent, opens on the jaunty pop bounce of FEEL YOU AROUND ME and the alt-rock vibe of ME AND THE BOYS (later to be recorded by Bonnie Raitt), before bringing us the country-jazz-hop, barn burning swing of MUSIC GOES ROUND AND AROUND, the low slung, mid-tempo balladry of BEVERLY, the guitar twanging THAT I GET BACK HOME, and they are followed by the Randy Newman-esque ROLL CALL and the free-wheeling beauty of the first bonus track, I DON’T THINK OF…

Next up we get one of my own personal favorites from this remodeled album, the upbeat, countrified R&R of WANT YOU TO FEEL GOOD TOO which is itself backed seamlessly by the gracefully appealing NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF YOU, then comes the mid-tempo rocker YOU CAN’T HIDE, the breezy, carefree, yet wholly melodious DEFINITION OF LOVE, the Beatles-esque HOBBIES and the angst-alt rock of the next bonus track, BIG GOODBYES rounding the music out, the two other bonus tracks being a brilliant old-school flashback TIDDLYWINKS TV SPOT and a live introduction then brings forth a rather anxiously aggressive TIDDLYWINKS RADIO AD.

Available on LP, CD, and Digital, it’s time to stop playing games, and grab some Tiddlywinks!

Official Purchase Link

Official Website

NRBQ @ Facebook

NRBQ @ Soundcloud

Title - Tarmu Jazz Quartet
Artist - Eldad Tarmu

Eldad Tarmu was born in Los Angeles, California, where he started his musical career by studying drums and percussion. He learned to play jazz vibraphone mentored by Dave Pike. Upon graduating from Tel Aviv University in Israel, he returned to the US and began touring internationally with various jazz ensembles, performing in festivals and music venues in over twenty-five countries, mainly in Europe and Asia.

In 1997 he released his first record, Aluminum Forest, followed by Get Up Close in 2001, to notable critical acclaim. In 2005 he got a Master’s degree in Afro-Latin Music from California State University Los Angeles. The same year he was appointed Head of the Jazz Department at the Richard Oschanitzky Jazz School of Tibiscus University in Timisoara, Romania, following a collaboration with Romanian bassist and violinist Johnny Bota, one of the school founders.

In 2006, he established a partnership with the American Cultural Center in Bucharest, aiming to contribute to the strengthening of cultural ties between Romania and the USA, by promoting jazz as an American art form. In 2009 he returned to the US to continue his education at Stony Brook University, where he got a second Master’s degree, in Classical Composition.

He is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance from the same school, a degree pursued under the guidance of Ray Anderson.

A professor of Music Studies at Hudson County Community College and Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, he developed and introduced a Latin-American Music course for HCCC.

Throughout his career, he collaborated with names like Ron Affif, Ray Anderson, Mike Clark, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Taj Mahal, Frank Morgan, Poncho Sanchez, Cybill Shepherd, and Ernie Watts.

In recent years, he has been increasingly focused on original contemporary classical music for chamber ensembles and vibraphone, composing for string quartets and woodwind quintets, as well as works for piano. His Grammy-nominated CD Stained Glass Stories, was released in 2017 and was dedicated to his late mother, Chicago-born painter Galya Pillin-Tarmu.

A new album of jazz-funk originals, called Tarmu Jazz Quartet, will be released on March 1st, 2023 on the Boho Indie Label, and aside from having Eldad Tarmu at the helm, will also feature saxophonist Adam Hutcheson, bassist Sam Bevan, and drummer Cengiz Baysal.

1. Cafe Sole (4:41)
2. Self-Inflicted Wounds (3:42)
3. El Hipnotizador (5:37)
4. Beneath the Gloss and Shine (5:05)
5. Kinda Elegant (5:13)
6. No Makeup (4:49)
7. A Tale of Dirt and Flowers (4:21)
8. Mating Calls (4:35)
9. Tall Grass Prairie (5:43)

This wholly hypnotizing, magnificently alluring new album opens on the infectious grooves found within Cafe Sole and then brings us the cheerily jaunty Self-Inflicted Wounds, the veritably cinematic El Hipnotizador, before one of my personal favorites is brought forth, the shimmering ambiance within Beneath the Gloss and Shine.

Up next is the smoothly mellifluous, and aptly-named Kinda Elegant and the more forthright No Makeup and they are in turn followed by the sheer honeyed elegance of the titular A Tale of Dirt and Flowers, the album coming to a close on the quietly rambunctious Mating Calls and the low ebbed, beautifully crafted Tall Grass Prairie.

Tarmu Jazz Quartet is:
Eldad Tarmu - vibraphone
Adam Hutcheson - saxophone
Sam Bevan - bass
Cengiz Baysal - drums

Eldad is endorsed by Zildjian and Mike Balter Mallets.

Official Website

Tarmu Jazz Quartet @ Facebook

Tarmu Jazz Quartet @ Bandcamp

Title - Big Band Extravaganza
Artist - Doug MacDonald

There are some musicians who earn the label “a players player”. Individuals who possess a quality and integrity that peers look up to, not for mere bursts of blazing notes or chops, but for the perfection of their performances and the joy they bring. Such a musician is West coast based Jazz journeyman guitarist Doug MacDonald.

“I’ve simply never lost my love affair for warm notes, a good standard and striving for the best performance”, states the guitarist. In that regard, MacDonald’s musicianship evokes thoughts of such artists as Chet Baker and Sinatra, to name a few, who performed and excelled in a particular style their entire careers while keeping it fresh for their audiences time after time.

To date, MacDonald has released a prolific catalog of 15 CDs spanning configurations as a soloist, in duos, trios, quartets and big bands, and now you can total that as 16, his latest release Big Band Extravaganza out now.

1. Toluca Lake Jazz (6:18)
2. Rashomon (4:42)
3. Luces Azules (5:36)
4. Aventura En Triadas (4:21)
5. Desert Jazz (5:27)
6. Luz De Amour (4:34)
7. De Ha (5:26)
8. But Not For Me (3:51)
9. Minor Mess (4:51)
10. Ya Know Bill (4:54)

This expertly cultivated and magnificently melodious new album opens on the vibrant finger-snapper Toluca Lake Jazz and then brings us the lushly orchestrated Rashomon, the delightfully perky Luces Azules, before we then get the forthright, yet harmoniously mellow infused Aventura En Triadas and the swing-imbibed delights within Desert Jazz.

Up next is the late night, lounge-esque mood within Luz De Amour and the aptly-named, upbeat and infectious De Ha and they are in turn followed by the swingtastic hipsway of But Not Me, the album rounding out with the creepingly cautious, yet always accordant Minor Mess, closing out on the full on jazz soiree of Ya Know Bill.

Doug MacDonald - guitar/leader Saxophones: Kim Richmond - alto sax Alex Budman - alto sax Rickey Woodard - tenor sax Glen Berger - tenor sax Tim McKay - baritone sax Trombones: Ira Nepus Les Benedict Ivan Malespin Rich Bullock - bass trombone Trumpets: Mike Campagna - split lead Dan Fornero - split lead Aaron Janik Carl Saunders Bill Cunliffe - piano (day 1) Andy Langham - piano (day 2) Chuck Berghofer - bass Paul Kreibich - drums

Official Website

Doug MacDonald @ Facebook

Doug MacDonald @ Bandcamp

Title - The Heavy Hitters
Artist - The Heavy Hitters

For those unaware, Cellar Music Group is delighted to announce the January 20th, 2023 release of The Heavy Hitters, the eponymous album from a brand-new sextet featuring some of the most established players in the jazz game.

Co-leaders Mike LeDonne (piano) and Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone) present nine compositions calling upon the timelessness of old Blue Note sounds through a vibrant and formidable all-original collection.

The pair is joined by Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and Vincent Herring (alto saxophone) on front line duties, aided by back line support from Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums).

Coming together for their first date as an ensemble, The Heavy Hitters show their deep knowledge of the jazz tradition, to which they add a classy, life-affirming 21st Century touch.

1. Hub (8:19)
2. New Day (6:14)
3. Silverdust (7:31)
4. Un Dia Es Un Dia (5:26)
5. Big Richard (5:37)
6. Chainsaw (7:58)
7. This Is Something New (6:14)
8. Cedar Land (6:08)
9. Bluesit (7:27)

This oh-so beautifully sculptured, fruitfully-blossoming recording opens on the free flowing, intoxicating melodies within Hub, with that being seamlessly followed by the dreamy piano work that ebbs and flows through New Day, the finger-snapping rhythms of Silverdust, and then we get one of my own personal favorites, the drumstastic Un Dia Es Un Dia.

Up next is the quietly composed, ornate swagger of Big Richard and the earnestly bejeweled Chainsaw and they are in turned backed by the upbeat and perky This Is Something New, the recording rounding out with the melodically charming Cedar Land, coming to a close on the gently rambunctious Bluesit.

The group is led by Mike LeDonne, New York-based bop pianist best known for his sideman work with Milt Jackson and Benny Golson as well as his huge selection of leader and co-leader records, mainly for the Savant label. His partner in crime, Eric Alexander (himself a first-rate soloist working with Harold Mabern amongst others) was his quartet-mate on a well-received series of releases on the Venus label in the mid-2000’s. The two friends came together for this, their first sextet release as leaders, featuring a set composed entirely of originals.

The Heavy Hitters project began with the express intention of emulating some of their jazz heroes, with a modern-day twist. “It’s not to look back, but to say ‘this is still relevant because this is happening right now. It’s pretty much what we’ve been doing our whole lives,” the group says about their philosophical approach to tradition.

There are various nods to that history, from track titles referencing various jazz titans, to the album art, which evokes Reid Miles’ classic Blue Note graphics. “And of course, we got to record it at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio,” they add. “It’s a place we’re so lucky to still have up and running, and that is putting out the same great sound we’ve loved all these years. To us it’s a true ‘jazz’ sound.”

Many of the tunes began as homages to the jazz masters; opener “Hub,” for example, is a tribute to the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. “As a player, he was the toughest, and his writing was at the very highest level,” begins LeDonne. “The introductory figure of “Hub” is Freddie in a nutshell.”

Cracking into the tune reveals a slew of varied solo statements, from the runs of Mike LeDonne, to the thrilling squeezes of Jeremy Pelt, and a dancing solo from Jeremy Pelt. The theme of homage continues with LeDonne’s “Silverdust,” a crowd-pleasing classic.

“Horace was the first to focus on bringing jazz back to the people,” LeDonne says. “He was super hip, but he based everything on having a funky dance feeling to it, with plenty of blues and soul,” a target the group hits with their studied soul inflections and deep-sitting groove. Squeezed in between the two is the charming waltz “A New Day,” a chance for Alexander to enthusiastically deploy his reams of bop language.

LeDonne continues the theme of tributes with a hat-tip to his friend, the great Cedar Walton, who bonded with LeDonne having also shared the sideman duties for the Milt Jackson Quartet. “Cedar Land” nods to Walton in more than just the title. LeDonne adapted the chords from Walton’s standard “Holy Land,” with LeDonne playing a starring role.

LeDonne’s compositional contributions conclude with “Un Dia Es Un Dia,” (roughly translated as “a day is a day”) an up-tempo Latin number in the Getz/Gilberto lineage.

Tenorist Eric Alexander contributes three tunes – “Big Richard,” dedicated to his father who died in 2017, “Chainsaw,” one long funky minor blues, and “This Is Something New.” The idea for the last tune came from a George Coleman chord progression that always cried out for a melody. “I simply put the top extension notes of each chord that he dictated to me at the top of the horns’ three-part harmony, and that became the melody,” Alexander explains. The album wraps up in joyful fashion, with the effortlessly stylish “Bluesit.”

The record is born from the close-knit relationship built by LeDonne and Alexander over a 25-year period. “I consider Mike a close confidant,” Alexander concludes—this record is the sound of personal and musical confidants working in tandem.

Title - Retrospective [2LP]
Artist - the Animals

For those unaware, back on November 4th, ABKCO Records released, for the very first time, a vinyl edition of Retrospective, the definitive 22-track collection spanning the years 1964-1970 from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Animals.

Originally released in 2004 on CD and SACD formats, the 180-gram black 2LP set gathers all fourteen US top 40 hits by The Animals and late ‘60s lineup Eric Burdon & The Animals, including “See See Rider,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “San Franciscan Nights” and the transatlantic number one “House Of The Rising Sun.”

The set is capped by the 1970 smash hit “Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War and exclusive edition pressed on 180g orange vinyl is available at Target.

Side A:
1. House Of The Rising Sun
2. I’m Crying
3. Baby Let Me Take You Home
4. Gonna Send You Back To Walker
5. Boom Boom
6. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Side B:
7. Bring It On Home To Me
8. We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (U.S. single version)
9. It’s My Life
10. Don’t Bring Me Down
11. See See Rider
12. Inside-Looking Out

This quite brilliant, awe-inspiring and just all-round musical comfort food of a collection opens the Animals’ early crossover hits (as well as some of their best garage rock output), with the traditional House of the Rising Sun, their first original composition released as a single in 1964, I’m Crying, another flawless track from their golden era, Baby Let Me Take You Home (Bert Berns and Wes Farrell), the flowing rhythms within Gonna Send You Back To Walker (and which also features a great Jimmy Reed riff), and then comes John Lee Hooker’s lurching Boom Boom, the first side rounding out on Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, originally recorded by Nina Simone.

The second side leads with the feelgood soul of Bring It On Home To Me and follows that up with the Brill Building-culled We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (U.S. single version), and then come Burdon’s shouting and roaring voice (which actually sounds very appealing and philosophic here) on It’s My Life, the Gerry Goffin/Carole King-penned Don’t Bring Me Down is next, the first LP rounding out on the charismatic blues of See See Rider, closing on a song that would later bring great success for Grand Funk Railroad, the rambunctious Inside-Looking Out (loosely based on Rosie, a prison work song).

Side C:
13. Hey Gyp
14. Help Me Girl *
15. When I Was Young *
16. A Girl Named Sandoz *
17. San Franciscan Nights *
18. Monterey *

Side D:
19. Anything *
20. Sky Pilot *
21. White Houses *
22. Spill The Wine **

* Eric Burdon & The Animals
**Eric Burdon & War

The second disc now on the turntable and being spun, next up is their blues hand-clapper rendition of Donovan’s Hey Gyp (where the name Gyp refers to Donovan’s best friend, Gyp Mills, known then as Gypsy Dave), the organ-yearn of Help Me Girl, the introspective, self-penned pearl When I Was Young, then comes their thinly veiled ode to LSD, A Girl Named Sandoz, the side rounding out on their psychedelic phase; shining brightly through on both San Franciscan Nights and Monterey.

The fourth side opens on the beautiful hipsway of Anything which is itself backed seamlessly by the the vivid battle sequence which we all now know to be for the atmospheric Sky Pilot, the double album rounding out with the melodic, groovy gem White Houses, coming to a close on the Latin-laced Spill The Wine (this version Eric Burdon & War).

Formed in Newcastle, England in the early 1960s out of the ashes of The Alan Price Rhythm & Blues Combo, The Animals moved to London in ‘64 and were signed to EMI’s Columbia label by the visionary independent producer Mickie Most.

Influenced by folk, blues, jazz, R&B, and early rock and roll, The Animals and front man Eric Burdon seemed tougher and more brooding than their British Invasion peers The Beatles and even The Rolling Stones. An international sensation almost out of the gate, the band toured and recorded non-stop until the end of 1968, going through several lineup changes and parting ways with Mickie Most in ’66 to work with producer Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Mothers of Invention).

After disbanding, Burdon joined forces in the early 1970s with Los Angeles funk band War for two albums and scored a Billboard number three (Cashbox number one) hit with “Spill the Wine,” which featured the spoken-word style that he effectively employed on many of the latter Animals albums.

  The Animals’ approach to music was three-pronged. There were the “Animalized” covers of folk and blues songs like the traditional “House of the Rising Sun,” blues great John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” originally recorded by Nina Simone. Then there were tunes written for the band by Brill Building songwriters such as “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” by Mann and Weil (which became an unofficial anthem for disgruntled American forces in Vietnam), the Gerry Goffin/Carole King-penned “Don’t Bring Me Down,” and “Baby Let Me Take You Home” by Bert Berns and Wes Farrell.

Lastly, The Animals had original compositions that they leaned towards in the later years. The thinly veiled ode to LSD “A Girl Named Sandoz” (named after the company that chemist Albert Hofmann worked for when he synthesized the drug). It was covered decades later by Smashing Pumpkins. “Sky Pilot,” the epic, cinematic anti-war masterpiece, and the contemplative “When I Was Young” helped define The Animals’ second wind in the flower power era.

“We were the ultimate club band,” concludes Burdon in Jim Bessman’s Retrospective liner notes. “We had our differences and sometimes came to blows, but we all stood together when anybody attacked us from the outside.”

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