Jeremy Fox: "With Love"

April 2014

With LoveThe Art of the Arranger

Jazzbill Records
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Music arrangers seldom get their due. Though they handle instrumental ensembles that can make or break the artist out front, their names are usually in fine print on the back cover of the album. I found With Love intriguing because it is the arranger, Jeremy Fox, who takes top billing. Fox has degrees from Western Michigan University and the University of Miami, and since 2001 has coordinated the SMV Vocal Jazz Camps around the US. Since 1999 Fox has received ten awards from DownBeat Magazine, including Best Written Song, Best Arrangement, and Best Studio Engineering.

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Will Kimbrough: "Sideshow Love"

April 2014

Sideshow LoveWill Kimbrough Takes the Lead

Daphne (self released)
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Will Kimbrough has often served as a sideman in backup bands for the likes of Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris (just to name a couple; the list is long), but on his new album, Sideshow Love, it's all his show and he proves more than up for it. He's a terrific songwriter, an appealing singer, and he plays mean, lean guitar, banjo, mandolin, and more. At times I heard shades of Rodney Crowell (no surprise there), Tom Waits, and Loudon Wainwright III. I use those names merely as a reference point, because Kimbrough doesn't actually sound like any of them, but he triggered those connections in one way or another when I listened to his superb CD.

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A.J. Croce: "Twelve Tales"

February 2014

Twelve TalesAcoustic Rock Singer Effectively Meshes Different Styles and Genres

Compass Records 4623
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Not content to coast on the success of prior albums, A.J. Croce took on the Herculean task of creating a 12-cut album using six different producers and recording locations. The main thing his producers have in common is that they're all considered legendary -- Cowboy Jack Clement, Allen Toussaint, Greg Cohen, Mitchell Froom, Tony Berg, and Kevin Killen.

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The Iveys: "Jenna's Song"

February 2014

Jenna's SongSolid Acoustic Rock from El Paso

Self released
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

I have a theory that folk and acoustic music will never die. No matter what the decade or the prevailing musical styles, musicians will find a way to include folk and acoustic elements. Look at the recent popularity of Mumford & Sons and Lady Antebellum. They play sold-out houses in very large venues. The Iveys aren't quite there yet, but they have played over 500 shows and had six national tours, albeit in some smaller venues. Their fans pay more than lip service to the three-piece sibling band, having entirely funded their third and newest album, Jenna's Song.

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The Dave Miller Trio with Rebecca DuMaine: "Better Than Anything"

February 2014

Better Than AnythingA Swinging Delight

Summit Records DCD 619
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

The title song for Better Than Anything was written some years ago by David "Buck" Wheat and Bill Loughborough and has become a standard for many jazz performers, but I've never heard it set forth so persuasively as in the first cut of Rebecca DuMaine's new CD. With its endless list of delights, always culminating in "better than anything except being in love," the tune can become breathless or kitschy, but DuMaine manages to make it swing with her beautifully enunciated approach. It's a great start to an album that's the swingiest affair I've heard in some time.

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Bob Dorough: "Eulalia"

January 2014

EulaliaUpbeat Jazz at 90

Merry Lane Records LLC
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Back in the day, one of my favorite bands was Spanky and Our Gang. They were a little stronger on folk than rock and sang some devilishly clever tunes, one of them being "Five Definitions of Love." I marveled that anyone could create such flowing music from reading the dictionary, and I was at a loss to describe the style. Spanky and Our Gang weren't just rock, or just folk, and what was that other element that made them irresistible?

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Charlotte de Rothschild and Danielle Perrett: "Christmas Lullabies"

December 2013

Christmas LullabiesSoothing Holiday Music to Heal Jangled Shopping Nerves

Nimbus Records NI7095
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

If your nerves are frayed by shopping the malls where “A Holly Jolly Christmas” or “The Little Drummer Boy” are being blasted out with 16-percent harmonic distortion by inadequately powered sound systems, Christmas Lullabies might be just the album for you.

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Tchaikovsky/Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn: "Nutcracker Suites"

December 2013

Nutcracker SuitesFirst Recording in 50 Years of an Ellington Classic

Harmonia Mundi HMU907493
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

The Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn version of Nutcracker Suite has not been recorded since Duke's original in 1960. How great, then, to have an excellent new rendition in superb sound. And what a stroke of genius to pair it with Tchaikovsky's original, which is why this disc is titled Nutcracker Suites.

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Tianna Hall and Chris Cortez: "Noel"

November 2013

NoelHoliday Tunes from Houston

Blue Bamboo Music BBM023
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans-based guitarist Chris Cortez moved to Houston where he quickly became a part of that city’s jazz scene. He founded Blue Bamboo Music, which not only gives him a recording outlet for his own talents, but also makes it possible to focus attention on other performers from the Houston area. One of the latter is singer Tianna Hall, whose often-sultry voice is heard on all but one of Noel’s tracks.

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Tim Warfield: "Tim Warfield’s Jazzy Christmas"

November 2013

Tim Warfield's Jazzy ChristmasPassionate Jazz Rhapsodies on Familiar Holiday Tunes

Undaunted Music UM007
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

For the past few years, I've received albums of holiday music on the late side. Had I reviewed them, readers would have been hard pressed to purchase one in time for the holiday celebration. This year, however, there have been a lot of fine releases that started arriving in September, so there's no such problem. Starting this week, then, I'll be covering the best of the holiday titles, a group that runs across all genres. These aren't discs you'll find at Walmart or Best Buy, but you can easily obtain them from Amazon.com, CD Baby, or other online dealers. If you're lucky enough to have an old-fashioned dealer in your neighborhood, you can probably find them there.

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