Debra Milne Jazz

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Debra's CD and Gig Reviews

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Posted by gabzas331 on March 12, 2018 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (4)

Norma Winstone – voice; Klaus Gesing - bass clarinet, soprano saxophone; Glauco Venier – piano; Helge Andreas Norbakken - percussion; Mario Brunello - violoncello, violoncello piccolo.

British singer Norma Winstone has been performing jazz for six decades, and the outstanding quality of her music has been so sustained that as recently as 2017 she won Jazz FM award for Vocalist of the Year. Her latest work, ‘Descansado - Songs For Films’ is the fifth album recorded with pianist Glauco Venier and reedsman Klaus Gesing. For this project the trio were augmented by percussionist Helge Andeas Norbakken and Marion Brunello on violoncello. Gesing and Venier have created new arrangements of music by composers such as Michel Legrand, William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone, from films by directors including Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard, Wim Wenders, Norman Jewison, and Franco Zeffirelli.

The opening ‘His Eyes Her Eyes’ by Michel Legrand is given a restrained , contemplative treatment compared to the lush 60s soundtrack in ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’, but its intensity is focussed in the soaring soprano sax solo. More reflections on young love follow in ‘What Is A Youth?’, from Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a dramatic arrangement featuring percussion, violoncello & bass clarinet. However, the mood lightens with songs such as the Latin influenced title track ‘Descansado’. The oldest piece is by British classical composer William Walton - ‘Touch Her Soft Lips And Part’ , from Olivier’s Henry V (!944). Walton’s orchestral string arrangement is transformed in an intimate ensemble featuring Winstone’s touching lyrics and a tender violoncello accompaniment. The traditional English theme continues in ‘Meryton Town Hall’, from Joe Wright’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005). Starting with violoncello, the rhythmic, vibrant piece gradually builds with clarinet, percussion and voice intertwining melodic lines. This is surprisingly effective, and joyous, although one imagines that the Bennetts and their peers may have found ‘ Ye Olde English Scat’ quite disturbing!

Much of the music of the album feels spacious and contemplative, reflecting its cinematic context, and Michel le Grand, one of the masters of this genre, has two compositions included. His second piece, ‘Vivre Sa Vie’ is presented firstly as an atmospheric and evocative ensemble piece, and then in the last track, as a short reprise of solo piano by Glauco Venier. An appropriately understated, yet dramatic finale.


Posted by gabzas331 on March 14, 2017 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (2)

Barb Jungr – vocal, vocal arrangements & harmonica; Simon Wallace – piano; Russell Churney – piano; Julie Walkington – double bass; Sonya Fairburn – violin; Sonia Oakes Stuart – cello; Kim Burton – accordion; Gary Hammond – percussion; Mark Lockheart – soprano & tenor saxophone.


Barb Jungr’s album of Bob Dylan songs is being reissued as a 15th anniversary special edition, following its original widely acclaimed 2002 release. Apparently coincidental with his recent award of Nobel prize for Literature, her selection of songs, spanning 5 decades, is a timely reminder of his sustained productivity. Dylan’s distinctive style of delivery is not universally admired, but his songs are vocally invigorated by Jungr’s combination of impeccable singing and the range of her emotional delivery, backed by a highly sympathetic, piano led ensemble. The album opens with ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ and ‘If Not For You’, but really kicks off in the third track with ‘Things Have Changed’, reimagined as a dramatic tango. Another highlight is ‘Not Dark Yet’, where the restrained accompaniment of accordion and cello underlines Jungr’s sombre and melancholic vocal. Dylan has rarely sung anything without sounding cynical; in the original version of ‘Forever Young’ , apparently simple tidings of encouragement are delivered with anger, as if he’s singing about his own loss of innocence. But Jungr transforms it into a joyful hymn dedicated to the optimism of youth, with an up-beat Latin arrangement featuring percussion, accordion, and exuberant vocal improvisation. The only reference to blowing winds in this Dylan tribute is subtle, in the final and title track ‘Every Grain of Sand’, which starts and ends with a distant storm. The stripped back arrangement of accordion, strings and harmonica, with the lyric to the fore, gives a traditional folk feel. Although this is one of his later songs (1981), it’s a reminder of Dylan’s early days in New York, and of the influence of US and British folks musicians, as well as of the expressive quality of his writing.



Posted by gabzas331 on November 2, 2016 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Barb Jungr – vocal & harmonicas; John McDaniel – piano & vocal.

‘Come Together’ is the latest album from internationally acclaimed cabaret chanteuse & jazz performer Barb Jungr. Previously she has undertaken projects that have focussed on a broad range of individual artists, including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Nina Simone & Peggy Lee. Now, in collaboration with pianist & arranger John McDaniel, she has turned her attention to the Beatles Songbook. With around 237 originals the choice is wide, and the selection includes songs from throughout the band’s career, including some lesser known gems, wisely avoiding the most over played Lennon/McCartney standards.

The opening piano intro is a brief musical reference to ‘Let It Be’, and makes a rapid transition to an up tempo & fresh interpretation of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ . The stripped down piano and voice format enable McCartney’s outstanding lyrics to come to the fore, and this is particularly effective in ‘Things We Said Today’, ‘For No One’, The Fool On The Hill and ‘Eleanor Rigby’. McDaniel’s piano accompaniment is sensitive and dynamic, and he provides backing harmonies, & takes lead vocal for 2 of my favourite lesser known Beatles songs ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (whilst remaining on the piano). In three tracks 2 or more songs are combined; ‘Getting Better/Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Something/The Long and Winding Road’, and ‘It’s For You/Step Inside Love’, the latter a pairing of tunes McCartney wrote for Cilla Black. Perhaps this approach was inspired by the Beatles own medley on ‘Abbey Road’ (this reviewer’s favourite Beatles album), however I’m not sure it adds much musically other than enabling the inclusion of a few more pieces.

Sometimes it is hard to compensate for the mastery of George Martin’s arrangements and production, so whilst ‘Back In The USSR’ is transformed to a lively bluesy, honkytonk number, with a harmonica solo from Jungr, it is no match for the original Beach Boys’ pastiche on the White Album. However, as with many of these great songs, McDaniel & Jungr really get hold of the title track ‘Come Together’ and make it their own. Overall, a worthy project, and it would be great to see the duo’s interpretations as a live performance.



Posted by gabzas331 on November 2, 2016 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Susana Pineda – vocals; Luis Salcedo – guitar; Jeff Denson – bass, percussion, backing vocals; John Santos – percussion.

Opaluna is the eponymous first album from this young California based vocal & guitar duo. Their distinctive collaboration brings together jazz , Latin and a range of other traditional and contemporary music. The project was overseen by Ridgeway Arts founder & bassist Jeff Denson, who is also featured in ‘Instinto Ornitologico’, an atmospheric jazz funk piece, and in Does it Rain on the Moon?, a melancholic ballad. Comprising predominantly original songs, sung in Spanish & English, ‘Bridges’ opens the CD with a brief coastal soundscape as a prelude to a breezy acoustic samba funk . Wayne Shorter’s Mahjong and the original Petalos showcase the fluidity & versatility of Pineda’s voice, often used instrumentally to supplement rhythmic passages, or as an additional melodic line. Throughout the album there is a strong sense of rhythm, most evident in Baile de Opuestos (Inchworm), featuring John Santos on percussion. Salcedo’s guitar playing encompasses traditional Latin acoustic, jazz, funk, rock & folk. This variety, supplemented by the selective use electronic sounds & of vocal harmonies, provides dynamic depth and adds texture to the intimate vocal-guitar combination. An original and impressive debut.



Posted by gabzas331 on April 25, 2016 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Kat Parra – vocals; Murray Lowe – piano; Marc van Wageningen – electric bass; Aaron Germain – acoustic bass; Sascha Jacobsen – acoustic bass; Colin Douglas – drums; Daniel Foltz – drums; Michael Spiro – percussion; Masaru Koga – alto & soprano sax, shakuhachi, flute, coros; John Worley – trumpet; Wayne Wallace – trombone; Lila Sklar – violin; Seth Asarnow – bandoneon.

San Francisco based Kate Parra brings together a range of jazz and Latin influences in her fifth album ‘Songbook of the Americas’. It’s all there in the opening ‘Four’ , played as a mambo, with tight fluid horn lines and original lyrics, including a break into a Spanish ‘coros’. Betty Carter’s characteristically witty phrasing in ‘Please Do Something’ goes down well as a ‘Cha- Cha’ , the arrangement potentially ideal material for Strictly Come Dancing. And then Parra nails her vocal bebop credentials in ‘Wouldn’t It Be Sweet’, an outstanding delivery of original lyrics, vocalese & scatting of Charlie Parker’s ‘Au Privave’ . The rest of the album is composed of predominantly Latin songs, and Parra’s slightly hard edged tone is well suited to the emotional delivery of Spanish lyrics. The variety of the material is enhanced by subtly dynamic arrangements & contributions from the guest vocalists. A highlight is the ensemble’s version of well known bolero ‘Besame Mucho’ , which is refreshed by a slow and atmospheric interpretation featuring Masaru Koga on shakuhachi (Japanese end blown flute), with the acoustic bass & percussion combining particularly effectively. However, the final track ‘Mambo Italiano’, with lyrics so cheesy they include mozzarella (it’s true!), may be a mambo too far. Fortunately , the track is redeemed by some great horn lines, a fine trombone solo by Wayne Wallace, and the impression that the band clearly had such a good time playing it, along with the rest of the album.



Posted by gabzas331 on April 25, 2016 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Ira Hill – vocals; John Proulx – piano; Kevin Axt – bass; Dave Tull – drums; Craig Fundyga – vibes; Doug Webb – saxophones; Alex Acuna – percussion; Ramon Stagnaro – guitar; Cheryl Bentyne – vocals.

Although just 19 years old, the young American Ira Hill has immersed himself in the vocal jazz tradition of the latter half of the 20th century. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, he was mentored by Count Basie vocalist Dennis Rowland and Grammy-nominated pianist & vocalist Judy Roberts. Cheryl Bentyne, of The Manhatten Transfer, was so impressed by him at a jazz singing workshop in LA, she went on to produce Tomorrow, his debut album. Stylistically broad, the CD includes some relatively obscure material, encompassing swing, Latin, ballad & bebop, and it is disappointing that the composers are not listed (although, the reviewer had fun looking them up). ‘My Funny Valentine’ is the best known, and possibly an overused, standard. However, the spacious arrangement, with the excellent John Proulx on piano, showcases Ira’s mellifluous voice, as he gives a heartfelt, but not overdone rendition. The album features a number of bebop numbers, with Eddie Jefferson’s vocalese revisited in ‘Billie’s Bounce’ & ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’, and ‘Cloudburst’ – a recreation of the Hendricks, Lambert & Ross arrangement . The vocal acrobatics are handled assuredly, along with some pretty fine scatting. The most contemporary track is the atmospheric ‘Minuano’, a nod to Kurt Elling’s version of the Pat Metheny composition. And to finish off, Mark Murphy’s ‘You’ve Proven Your Point’. Yes he has, watch out for Ira Hill.




Posted by gabzas331 on September 18, 2015 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Liane Carroll – vocal & piano; Steve Pearce – bass; Ian Thomas – drums; Mark Edwards – piano; Malcolm Edmonstone – piano; Julian Siegel – tenor sax; Evan Jolly, Rob Leake, Andy Wood – horns; Rob Luft – guitar.

LINN Records – AKD 533

UK release date 18th September 2015


The preeminent UK jazz singer & pianist, and long time south coast resident, Liane Carroll’s latest album is devoted to the sea & it’s environs. Initiated by the song ‘Seaside’, written for Carroll by singer-songwriter Joe Stilgoe, this musically diverse selection explores love and relationships, reflecting how changes in the physical environment are used as metaphors for the transience and frailty of so much that is cherished.

The opening & title song sets the scene, with an atmospheric brass introduction to a tender waltz, with seaside reminiscences of new found love (‘Come kiss me quickly…’). In contrast, the next track is an up tempo & totally swinging version of ‘Almost Like Being In Love’, with Carroll letting loose in some relaxed & accomplished acapella scat. Yet she knows when to hold back & focus on the lyric, with heartfelt deliveries of ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and Alison Krauss’s ‘Get Me Through December’. The excellent piano trio (keyboard duties shared with Mark Edwards) is augmented by Julian Siegel’s tenor in a laid back, funky take on ‘Nobody’s Fault By Own’. Evan Jolly’s fine horn arrangements are featured elsewhere, notably in US folk singer Mary Gauthier’s ‘Mercy Now’, which gradually builds to a wall of sound, complementing Carroll’s powerful, soulful rendition. The album ends aptly with the hymn ‘For Those In Peril On The Sea’, featuring Grammy nominated producer James McMillan on soaring flugel horn. ‘Seaside’ is their third album together, and another outstanding project.



Posted by gabzas331 on June 22, 2015 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Aimee Allen – vocal, Romero Lubambo – guitar, Toru Dodo –piano & Fender Rhodes, Francois Moutin - bass, Jacob Melchior – drums, Scott Ritchie – bass .

‘Matter of Time’ is New York chanteuse Aimee Allen’s fourth CD, and brings together her Latin-steeped repertoire of jazz standards with some original compositions. She collaborated with some fine musicians in this project, including Brazilian guitar maestro Romero Lubambo , who has previously recorded with artists such as Dianne Reeves, Astrud Gilberto, & Al Jarreau. He features in the title track & in 3 duets, notably Jobim’s ‘Corcovado’. The strongest original piece is ‘Soul Cargo’, a grooving waltz inspired by Allen’s travels, featuring Francois Moutin on bass, and with hand percussion from Melchior. Standards are given fresh treatment, with a pared down & lively rendition of ‘Close Your Eyes’, where Allen is accompanied by outstanding double bass, & great brushwork from Melchior . Moutin again features initially as sole backing for the vocal in Rogers & Harts’ ‘My Romance’, delivered assuredly in 5/4. In a more traditional interpretation, the singer & piano trio led by Toru Dodo really get swinging on ‘Out of Nowhere’. Allen’s warm, supple & relaxed vocals are well suited to the variety of material, & with the help of some great musicians, she has made a fine album.



Posted by gabzas331 on May 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Michael Dees – vocals; Terry Trotter – piano; Chuck Berghofer – bass; Steve Schaeffer – drums; Steve Huffsteter – trumpet & flugelhorn; Chuck Manning – tenor sax; Sal Marquez – trumpet; Bob Shepperd – tenor sax & clarinet; Doug Webb – tenor sax; Don Williams – percussion.

Michael Dees is a vocalist steeped in the tradition of the Great American Songbook , with a lifetime’s experience singing on TV and film soundtracks, as well as of live performance. His voice may not be instantly recognisable like those of Tony Bennett, Matt Monroe or Frank Sinatra, but you’ve almost certainly heard him before. After decades recording other songwriters’ material, & composing & producing commercial ‘jingles’, he has finally got round to recording this album of 14 original songs.

Unapologetically sticking with the genre, & clearly inspired by it, the CD contains a selection of well written swinging tunes and thoughtful ballads. The opening track is the sprightly, up tempo ‘In A Moment’ , but the highlight is ‘I Miss You’, a heartfelt and beautifully penned ballad, with an immaculate understated delivery, worthy of inclusion in the GAS book Dees so greatly admires.

The album features a band of extensively experienced West Coast musicians, with arrangements featuring the classic piano trio at the core, augmented by sympathetic horns, which are particularly sumptuous in ballads such as ‘Every Time You Touch Me’.

The collection is definitely worth a listen for fans of the aforementioned mature, male jazz vocalists, and for those young pretenders seeking to master the craft.



Posted by gabzas331 on March 12, 2015 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Susan Krebs – vocals, Rich Eames – piano, Rob Lockart - woodwind, Scott Breadman – percussion, Paul Cartwright – violin & viola.

Chamber ensembles developed in the era of classical music, where groups of musicians would play without a conductor in small venues and society residences, in contrast to larger orchestras conducted in formal concert halls. ‘Simple Gifts’ is the result of a similar collaboration over several years in Southern California, between vocalist Susan Krebs and a group of jazz musicians. The material encompasses a wide range of musical styles, although the opening ‘Let’s Call A Heart A Heart’ is an easy going, swinging blues. In contrast, ‘Looking Back’ a reflection on a rural childhood, has a more pastoral & classical feel with lilting phrases from violin and saxophone. Abbey Lincoln’s ‘Throw It Away’ is outstanding; Krebs’ passionate vocal is reflected in dramatic Eastern influenced instrumentation with exquisite violin from Paul Cartwright, and great support from Scott Breadman on percussion. Other highlights include ‘So Many Stars’ featuring Rob Lockart on free flowing soprano sax, and ‘Falling Grace’, where the lyric is elaborated by an atmospheric soundscape, inspired by a winter snow storm (presumably not in California). Susan Krebs’ acting background is evident in her expressive delivery, which can be a little mannered. However, there is great cohesion and musical sympathy shared by the ensemble throughout the project.