Sunday, October 6, 2013


don’t be that way  Dave Bennett (Mack Avenue Records)

“don’t be that way” is the impeccable and rousing debut album from jazz clarinetist Dave Bennett, coming out on Mack Avenue Records the 15th of October. Bennett, 34, is a former member of the Hot Club of Detroit. The Pontiac, MI native is a self-taught jazz musician, which is hard to believe because he plays the clarinet as if he invented the damn thing.

As far back as Bennett recalls, he looked up to the swing era clarinetist and big bandleader Benny Goodman. Bennett opens “don’t be that way” with Goodman’s “Slipped Disc,” stumping through the changes as if his feet is on fire. Understand this Bennett is in no way a Benny Goodman copycat.  On “don’t be that way,” he plays the blues, swing, and even barrelhouse Boogie-Woogie with equal proficiency.

The album is filled with jalopies such as “St. James Infirmary” and “Sing, Sing, Sing” that Bennett gives overdue oil changes. The album rocks primarily because Bennett put together a heavenly rhythm section drummer Pete Siers, bassist Paul Keller, and pianist Tad Weed. Those who follow Detroit jazz know Siers, Keller, and Weed are key figures who have blessed every album they have performed on.

Four Directions  Marc Cary Focus Trio (Motema)

This is the jazz pianist Marc Cary’s second album this year. June the 11th, Motema Records released Cary’s exceptional solo album “For The Love of Abbey,” dedicated to his mentor the late jazz vocalist Abbey Lincoln. Cary’s Focus Trio—drummer Sameer Gupta and bassist Burniss Earl Travis II and Rashaan Carter who occasionally subs for Travis II—have been together going on a decade.

Cary’s trio is heavily into experimentation as shown on their 2009 live album “Focus Trio Live”. On it, the trio played tunes that had excerpts of speeches from human right activists Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. Bank on something special when Cary’s trio puts out an album. The music on “Four Directions,” which comes out nationwide the 8th of October, is a mix of aggressive post-bop with African and Indian inspired rhythms.

Cary brought all his toys to the party. He plays an Ultra Nova Synthesizer, the Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer. The soul-stirring cuts are “Boom” “Indigenous,” and “Waltz Betty Waltz”. The latter is a Waltz that Cary wrote to honor one of his idols vocalist Betty Carter. “Four Directions” shows how tight-knit and imaginative Cary’s trio continues to be.

live in nyc  Gretchen Parlato (Obliq Sound)

I caught the jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato’s show at the Paradise Jazz Series in Detroit in 2011. That jazz series attracts jazz conservatives. And Parlato’s neo-soul tinged brand of jazz did not fly. I was disappointed. I have always adored Parlato’s modern style and soothing voice. I implored my friends to get her last album “The Lost and Found”.

 Not until I played her forthcoming album for Obliq Sound “live in nyc,” did I understand Parlato is a vocalist who feeds off her audience. “live in nyc” was recorded at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall, and the audience there showed Parlato a lot of love.

“live in nyc” is a hell of a live date. Parlato sings material from her studio albums such as “All That I Can Say,” and “Holding Back the Years”. The standout on “live in nyc” is the cover of “Weak” by the 90’s R&B group SWV. On it, Parlato is so alluring and sexy a man-of-the-cloth would toss his underwear on the stage without hesitation. The album is due out the 8th of October.

Bella Napoli  Gary Smulyan and Dominic Chianese (Capri Records)

Dominic Chianese is a damn good part-time jazz vocalist. If you don’t recognize that name, Chianese is best known as the actor who portrayed the sociopathic figurehead New Jersey mob boss, Uncle Junior, on the hit HBO series the Sopranos. Chianese loves Neapolitan classic songs. So does the jazz baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan.

The most casual observers of jazz know about Smulyan’s billing as the top baritone sax player on earth right now. He has earned that billing brick by brick. He plays in a number of popular big bands, which explains why his tone on the baritone could fill up a gas tanker truck.

Smulyan is the closest in curb appeal to the great baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams the jazz world has set eyes on in a years. For “Bella Napoli” Smulyan and Chianese teamed up and made an album of their favorite Neapolitan songs.  

On “Bella Napoli,” out October 15th, Smulyan struck a balance. Half of the album is, Smulyan jamming with his current band Matt Wilson, Martin Wind, and Joseph Brent. The other half of the album the band accompanies Chianese. His voice is gorgeous and strong. It locks in perfectly with Smulyan’s band. The track that captures Chianses’ range is “Santa Lucia Lontana”. On paper, Smulyan teaming up with a fictional mob boss seems odd, but Smulyan pulled it off.

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