IZZI DUNN: Recycle Love (Absolute Marketing)

Monday, 21 August 2017 19:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince May we've been promised a new album from UK soul cellist and vocalist Izzi Dunn. The lady debuted way back with 'The Big Picture' but her second solo album 'Cries And Smiles' won her quite a reputation - and 2017 singles 'Our Time' but more especially 'Look Up To The Sky' got more believers on board. Well the new long player has just become available and 'Look Up To The Sky' still impresses. There's a definite Rotary Connection feeling about it... little wonder it was chosen as one of the lead singles... a great hors d'oeuvre. Sadly, though, the newer items on Izzi's platter don't quite match up.

The next best cut on the album is 'Love Interrupted'. This boasts a sweet, string driven cinematic intro and gentle, soothing vocal over a chilled out backing track. Once again soul veterans might be reminded of Rotary Connection or indeed Minnie Riperton's solo work but many of the album's other tracks lack a similar focus and tend to meander. Things like 'Unforgiven' and 'Lady' are prefaced by mournful strings but what ensues doesn't quite deliver. Maybe the meandering is explained because the message that Ms D is trying to get over is complex and itself "meandering": "' Recycle Love' toils through human emotions, nature and values within the world presented to us. A story of belonging and personal experience runs through the album's tone, and through musical diversity there's a cinematic journey to reflect on our own selves. With a current state of affairs where fact is indistinguishable from fiction, and terror hides behind shirts and ties, 'Recycle Love' exposes vulnerability and talks about our families, our time, and all that lies within." She explains.

There are funkier items on the album too. The single 'Our Times' was/is a funky bumper but on release some commentators noted that Izzi's voice was too pretty, too polite.... yes, too English to harness the power of the funk. You can hear the same problem on 'Control'. This offers a Norman Whitfield style backdrop behind Izzi's warbling... but the two don't quite gel.

Izzi sounds much more convincing on the chillier things – stuff like 'Don't Let Them'. Even that, though, doesn't match the charm of 'Look Up To The Sky'... the one tune here that deserves serious consideration. It's also available in interesting Wookie and Twilite Tone remixes.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 21 August 2017 19:08


VARIOUS; Cool Heat – The Best of CTI (Robinsongs)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:15 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn 1967 frustrated jazz trumpeter, Creed Taylor was allowed by A&M records to set up his own jazz label – CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated). The label allowed the indulgence because Virginian-born Taylor had previously enjoyed success as producer and A&R exec at labels like Bethlehem, Impulse and Verve. His new imprint enjoyed quick success with artists like Wes Montgomery, Quincy Jones and a young guitarist named George Benson. Ever-ambitious, in 1970 Taylor severed his link with A&M and went out on his own and his faith in his own ability was justified as the newly indie CTI (and its Kudu subsidiary) continued to score hits and win accolades.

Serious jazz buffs will know all about CTI and most likely have all the label's key discs in their libraries but for those less familiar with the CTI catalogue, this new 2 CD, 25 track compilation serves as a first rate introduction.

The collection (which focuses on CTI output between 1970 – 1980) brings together all of CTI's big hitters and their big hits – so enjoy (again) things like Deodato's 'Also Sprach Zarathusa', Lalo Schifrin's take of the famous 'Jaws' theme, Bob James' 'Westchester Lady', Hank Crawford's 'Wildflower', George Benson's 'Supership' and Ron Carter's 'Barreta's Theme'.

Soul fans can luxuriate with Patti Austin's ever-lovely 'Say You Love' and can remind themselves that soul can be harrowing too via Esther Philips' ever-haunting 'Home is Where The Hatred Is'.

The sleeve notes for the album come from SOULANDJAZZANDFUNK'S Charles Waring, so quality and excellence are both guaranteed.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:21


FRANK PIOMBO: Keep It Movin’ (Sound Exchange)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:12 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altItalian-born, New Jersey-based Frank Piombo is a smooth jazz guitarist who debuted in 2010 with 'Smooth Reminiscence'. The album won Frank a plethora of local awards. So, encouraged, here he follows up with the 8 tracker that is 'Keep It Movin''. The set is named for the opening cut – a sprightly soul strut that is full of optimism with hints of the Blackbyrds' 'Walking In Rhythm' about it. Mr P knows it's one of his best tunes 'cos he reprises it at the end adding a vocal from Joe Armino. Without knowing why, I think I prefer the original instrumental.

Enjoy similar grooves on 'Al Dente' and 'Rush Hour Funk'. If you prefer a Latin vibe 'Middle Of The Night' would be you go-to track, while the quiet storm flavour comes via 'Sunset Beach'. On 'Easin' Up', Frank shows he can do more cerebral jazz though on 'Sogno D'Amore' (the only non- original tune on the LP) our man shows off his Italian heritage with a romantic reverie that could have come from an obscure 60s Italian movie. On this cut Joe Armino is featured on sax – other sidemen include Michael Mahadeen on flute, Sam Hankins on trumpet and sax man Tony Exum.

Frank Piombo's 'Keep It Movin'' is out now and you can learn more @

BB (3/5)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 19:22


LEVERT: Family Reunion (SoulMusic Records)

Sunday, 06 August 2017 14:35 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altEddie Levert is the soul man's soul man. The O'Jays front man has a delivery that is both passionate and forthright. He takes no prisoners and with such commitment to his craft it was a given that his sons, Gerald and Sean would follow in his considerable music footsteps. So it was that in 1985 the Levert siblings along with childhood friend, Marc Gordon secured their first record deal as LeVert (the upper case V was how they spelled their name back then). They'd long been honing their craft and polishing their songs, so, it was a mighty disappointment  when their first outings on the indie Tempre Records bombed.

It wasn't long however before the trio scored a deal with Atlantic Records and pretty quickly the hits and the acclaim started to flow.... 'Pop, Pop, Pop Goes My Mind', 'Fascination', 'Casanova' et al. Gerald Levert was , it seems, always the driving force behind the group and in time he began to strike out on his own; at first, though, still remaining part of the group. But by the early 90s Gerald was a bona fide solo star and in demand as a writer, producer and collaborator too. Apart from collaborating with dad, Eddie, maybe his most remarkable collaboration was with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill in LSG.

Label hopping and a cameo in the Motown Funk Brothers movie kept the Gerald Levert profile high; then, at his peak, he tragically died. In November 2006, aged just 40, he overdosed on pain killers. Compounding the Levert tragedy, brother Sean passed two years later. In 2008 he'd been incarcerated and, denied the drugs he depended on, he died from withdrawal symptoms.

It's impossible to gauge how Eddie Levert felt. He was left to reflect and mourn but maybe deep down he drew a little satisfaction from the knowledge that his boys had left a considerable soul music legacy.

SouMusic Records have here brought together the best of that legacy in a 32 track, 2 CD album that pulls together all the hits along with a slew of rarities and hard to find items. Interestingly some of the hits arte offered in different versions to the originals – for instance 'Casanova' comes in its "Dance Mix" but more interestingly we get the likes of Gerald's duet with Mikki Howard ('That's What Love Is'), his duet with Sean ('Point The Finger'), a selection of Sean solo tracks and, maybe most poignantly, a trio of duets between Gerald and Eddie that include their version of 'Wind Beneath My Wings'... a "family reunion" indeed.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 August 2017 14:53


DVD REVIEW: 'Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins' (Wienerworld)

Sunday, 06 August 2017 10:06 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Noted Chicago-born filmmaker, Robert Mugge, is renowned for the honesty of his music documentaries - his subjects have ranged from Robert Johnson and Zydeco music  to Gil Scott-Heron and Sun Ra - and in 1986, he brought his unique, informal style to bear on a portrait of jazz legend, Sonny Rollins, who was then 56-years-old. It mixes in-concert footage of Rollins and his band together with talking head contributions from the saxophonist himself (who talks to the camera alongside his late wife, Lucille, from a New York park bench) and several noted US jazz critics (among them Gary Giddins), who attempt to define Rollins' contribution to jazz and his place within it.

The film opens with Rollins playing live on a summer's day in a sculpted quarry in a New York park. He's captured doing a fifteen-minute track called 'G-Man' and with its cascade of melodies over a swinging backbeat, it shows exactly why Rollins is considered one of jazz's greatest ever improvisers. It proves to be quite an intro and leads into Rollins talking about his life. He comes as across as a thoughtful, articulate man, who despite being burdened with the nickname 'Saxophone Colossus' at an early age, appears to be an exemplar of modesty.

Rollins talks with candour about his life, refusing to gloss over or ignore his drug addiction in the 1950s, which he eventually got over. His abiding addiction, though, remains music. Talking of his relationship with the tenor saxophone, he quips "it's almost closer to me than Lucille." Lucille, though, who became his manager as well as wife, showed a greater understanding of Rollins and his obsession with music than some of his previous partners ("one of them broke up my saxophone when she was mad at me" he reveals).

Later in the documentary, Mugge and his camera team follow Rollins to Japan where he rehearses then premieres a specially-commissioned large ensemble suite, 'Concerto For Saxophone & Orchestra.' The four-part composition has never been commercially available so it's a treat for Rollins fans to hear this rarely-heard work in its entirety. 

Sadly, Rollins, who is 87 now, ceased performing due to health problems in 2012 but for those who want to witness him playing in his prime, then this DVD (which is remastered in 4K and includes an updated bonus feature commentary by Robert Mugge) will provide a lot of satisfaction. It's an insightful  and enjoyable portrait of one of the last true jazz greats from the idiom's golden age.

(CW) 4/5



Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 August 2017 07:17


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