Maria Jameau and Blue Brazil - Gema

October 8, 2011
Marie Jameau is a vocalist of Italian and English origins with a sultry yet delicate voice that captures the moods of a song beautifully. This release features a mix of classics from the Brazilian repertoire as well as other musical gems.

Jameau’s talent for capturing the melody and inflecting her own unique delivery of this time honored classic Girl From Ipanema is showcased throughout. Beautiful comping in the background from her talented group of musicians.

Another classic, Triste is wistfully performed with a mid-tempo beat and some beautiful flute inflections from Bob Afifi.

When I was much younger, one of my favorite songs was Mas Que Nada. It seems that this particular song never gets tired, and with Jameau’s infectious sense of fun throughout, this version ends up being one of the highlights of this recording.

Listening to Gracias A La Vida, we hear Jameau singing duet with members of her group. We are also treated once again to the fine flute playing of Bob Afifi. This piece screams for repeted listening. The melody is beautiful and the musicianship first rate.

If you love the inviting sounds of Brazilian music, you can’t go wrong with Gema. There is so much to love from Jameau’s voice to the group of musicians chosen for this outing.

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Mark Harrison Quintet - Just Add Water

October 7, 2011
Mark Harrison is a pianist from the United States who is not afraid to chance it with slick arrangements and a solid band to boot.

Just Add Water and you are in for a fascinating excursion into the meaning of what is meant by ensemble playing. What stands out on this track is the way sax player Rossi delivers a gutsy yet smooth solo while never forgetting his sense of rhythmic balance. Billman's simple yet effective solo adds more flavor to the mix. Harrison is happy to oblige with some fine comping carrying the piece to a satisfying ending.

Gentle cymbals and a subtle guitar intro carry us through a steady and relatively mainstream number. Pacific Time showcases the fine talents of guitarist Mark Chosak and Steve Billman. I always find it amazing how one instrument can change the dynamics of a piece and how the melody developes. One only has to listen to classic Miles Davis to understand the magic that can happen when the music is just allowd to "happen".

It's one thing to listen to Harrison in a group setting but listening to the delicate intro to Conundrum we are able to hear a softer more inviting side to his playing. Rossi is first up with a tasty solo that captures the mood perfectly.

Mark Harrison's recordings have never disappointed. Just Add Water is a welcome addition to a growing discography from one of America's most talented and lyrical pianists.
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Sultans of String - Move

October 5, 2011

This latest release from the Sultans of String features many satisfying surprises.

Andalucia is a rhythmic festival with full bodied strings dancing over a bed of intriguing delight.

Another standout is the Neil Young classic Heart Of Gold. The strings convey a sense of longing before Wlther and Carabine sooth us with smooth delivery and a sense of poignancy. This track is a fine example of how in the right hands a classic can be turned into something special.

One of the most interesting cities in the world is captured on Montreal. A slow, measured beginning gives way to a lilting steady tempo with some lyrical violin and dainty strings adding a certain color to the piece which for me conveys the wide appeal of a great city.

Nascimento is a tribute to the great Brazilian vocalist Milton Nascimento. To listen to Milton's voice and spirit is to experience a rare visit to the soul of this extraordinary musician. We listen to the strings weaving in and out of a cultured melody that seems to never end and captures the listener in a world of self discovery and mystic.

One of the most interesting bands to come out of Canada, Sultans of String continues to satisfy with a refreshing blend of various string instruments, vocals, trumpet and flute.
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