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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

Hi-Res Distinctions Découverte JAZZ NEWS - Hi-Res Audio
New Orleans' Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews knows the music biz inside out. Hounded for years by friends and music business types to jump into the game, he understood the lessons of his lineage elders: too many had been been ripped off and discarded. He took his time, assembling, rehearsing, and touring Orleans Avenue, a band steeped in brass band history, jazz improv, funk, soul, rock, and hip hop. He finally signed to Verve Forecast and released Backatown in April of 2010. Entering at number one on the jazz charts, it stayed there for nine straight weeks, and was in the Top Ten for over six months. For True hits while Backatown is climbing again. Chock-full of cameos it is an extension, but sonically different. It's production is crisper, but the musical diversity more pushes further. In addition to trombone, Shorty plays trumpet, organ, piano, drums, synths, and, of course, sings. Orleans Avenue colors the rest. They are tighter, even more confident, and perhaps even more adventurous here. Though Shorty handles some tracks playing all the instruments himself, or with a guest or two, OA bear the lion's share with gravitas. “Buckjump” is the first clue that this is part two -- it could have been the closing track on Backatown. The Rebirth Brass Band guest and play a big funky horn chart as Shorty's big trombone solo greases the skids. NOLA's Weebie chants in tandem with the break-heavy rhythm track. "Encore" (written with Motown's Lamont Dozier) showcases some of Shorty's B-3 and soulful vocal skills, as Warren Haynes lends his trademark guitar sound. The title track, one of the album's brief musical interludes, features Shorty's solo with a killer trumpet break. “Do to Me” has a melody constructed around Shorty's smoking bone solo and a knife-edged guitar solo from Jeff Beck. "The Craziest Things" and "Dumaine Street" showcase Shorty's and Orleans Avenue's collective ability to create locking, complementary grooves; they play funky second-line rhythms countered by a jazz horn chart and improv in an R&B tune on the former, and a marching stepper on the latter. Ivan and Cyril Neville help with some fine vocal work on "Nervis," and Ledisi's stellar performance on the swinging rhythm & blues “Then There Was You” shines. "Mrs. Orleans" featuring Kid Rock's out-of-place, boisterous rap, could have been left off without the album suffering. The cut "Big 12," with producer Ben Ellman on blues harmonica, is titled for Shorty's older brother James' nickname, it kicks with big bass drums, hi-hat, and snares, locked on horns, rock guitar vamps, and a dubwise bassline. Ultimately, comparing For True to Backatown is pointless: they are of a piece, experimental records that show different sides of his identity besides the one for punchy homegrown R&B he's known for at home; two parts of a compelling, dynamic musical aesthetic firmly in and of the 21st centuryeven whenthey look back at history. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

Distinctions Le top 6 JAZZ NEWS
Apparently, Etta James' musical career ends with The Dreamer. The legendary vocalist announced a few months back that this would be her final album; she's retiring from music in order to deal with serious medical issues. Co-produced by James, Josh Sklair, and her sons Danto and Sametto, The Dreamer's 11 tracks offer an imperfect but utterly worthy portrait of the places she's been musically with a couple of selections that reveal her dictum that "every song is a blues." Her signature meld of soul, blues, rhythm & blues, rock, and country are all on display here. The production underscores her lifelong commitment to these styles and suits the material at large. Her musical accompanists include not only her co-producers, but guitarists Leo Nocentelli and Big Terry de Rouen, saxophonist Jimmy Z., trombonist Kraig Kilby, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg. Ms. James' choice of material is rigorous even if two of its selections are questionable: the cover of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" doesn't lend itself well to the choogling boogie arrangement here; and the funkified reading of contemporary country stars Little Big Town's "Boondocks" sounds like she tried too hard to make it fit. These cuts aside, the rest of the material is vintage; it reflects the work of Ms. James' influences and contemporaries. Her readings of Otis Redding's "Cigarettes & Coffee" and "Champagne & Wine," Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer," Bob Montgomery's country-pop standard "Misty Blue," Ray Charles' "In the Evening," Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "That's the Chance You Take" and "Too Tired," and Little Milton's "Let Me Down Easy" all contain within them not only their original traces, but the musical experience necessary to bring their subtler, deeper meanings to the fore. She re-creates these songs not as mere touchstones or mementos from a career, but as signposts to the living, breathing tradition that bears the signature and considerable influence of her life upon them. The Dreamer is a fitting -- if not perfect -- bookend to one of American popular music's most iconic lives. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

It's an interesting question: would Boney James have recorded Contact if he'd never had a car accident that damaged his teeth and fractured his jaw? In May, 2010, he was rear-ended while stopped by a driver traveling at high speed. Though he was back on-stage in three weeks, the accident caused James to think back on where he'd been in his career. He reflected on the period he spent backing the Isley Brothers, Morris Day, Randy Crawford, and Teena Marie before his solo offering, 1992's Trust, catapulted him onto the contemporary jazz scene. Contact -- his debut for Verve Forecast -- indulges those influences. James produced and co-wrote every cut here, including the four vocal numbers. The first of these, "Close to You," features a stellar performance by Donell Jones; it is one of the album's true highlights. James plays plays his soprano, interweaving those silky vocal lines with gorgeous fills. Former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett sings on the lilting ballad "When I Had the Chance," Heather Headley appears on the slippery-grooved Latin-tinged "I'm Waiting," and Mario does a magnificent job on the dancefloor stepper "That Look on Your Face." James' own chops are fine as ever On the instrumental title track, he lets a slightly angular, syncopated, B-3-led rhythm section groove assert itself before smoothly entering and laying down the melody amid Rob Bacon's guitar fills and a bright-sounding, tightly arranged horn section. On "Cry," Dean Parks plays a nylon-string guitar, giving the cut an exotic flamenco feel before James breathily lets the melody flow from his tenor. With percussion work by drummer Teddy Campbell and Lenny Castro on congas and timbales, it streams forth in a rich, sensually arrayed meld of colors and textures. "There and Back" is a soul ballad where the saxophonist is the singer. It's lithe, silky groove is colored by hand percussion as James, with his canny sense of timing, tells a story on his horn. On "Everything Matters," the laid-back album closer, he plays tenor and alto, aided by Parks on electric guitar, Jimmy Johnson's keys, Campbell, and Castro. It's sweet and slow, but not sentimental, one almost hear Ron Isley singing to its melody. Contact is a bright spot in James' catalog, and underscores his welcome return to recording. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Verve Forecast

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
On her fourth album, Lizz Wright returns to her gospel roots after writing her own material on 2008's The Orchard. Typically, however, this is hardly a traditional collection of faith-based songs. Wright does include a medley of old spirituals including "Up Above My Head," and she closes the proceedings with "Amazing Grace." But her idea of gospel is highly eclectic, also encompassing the Gladys Knight & the Pips hit "I've Got to Use My Imagination" and Jimi Hendrix's "In from the Storm," neither of which seem particularly religious, as well as Eric Clapton's "Presence of the Lord." Wright also draws material from a clutch of black female contemporaries and influences including Me'Shell Ndegéocello, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Joan Wasser, and Angélique Kidjo as she ranges from neo-soul to African-styled folk-rock music. The disparate sources are united by Wright's distinctive and powerful alto voice, which anchors the music and provides a stylistic through-line, no matter what the nominal genre. This is an unusually somber type of gospel, as Wright favors moodiness over fervor in her statements of faith. That is especially true at the end, when she presents "Amazing Grace" in an ambient, funereal mood. Listeners should expect to be moved by these performances, but not to be cheered. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Verve Forecast

The smoky, sizzlingly soulful rural Georgian created an immediate and well-deserved critical firestorm with her 2003 debut Salt; the L.A. Times wasn't overstating it when they said, "She walked onstage at the Hollywood Bowl a virtual unknown...Fifteen minutes later, she walked off a star." Like her more (so far, but maybe not for long) renowned labelmate Diana Krall, Lizz Wright is a brilliant interpreter who can cover rock classics (Neil Young's "Old Man," the Youngbloods' "Get Together") as if they were fresh new generational statements, and even give an emotional urgency to fluffy classics like "A Taste of Honey" (done all swampy here). She even works wonders with her transcendent twist on Ella Jenkins' "Wake Up Little Sparrow," turning the tune into a meditation on the bluesy realities of love. But she is also an inspired songwriter in her own "wright," creating the resonating and heartrending, Norah Jones-like "Hit the Ground," with Jones' writer Jesse Harris, and other instantly seductive tracks like a soaring "Trouble" (the first song she ever wrote on guitar) and hauntingly dark title tune. These latter two, easily on par with the original material, shouldn't be so deep in the mix, and Wright should definitely include more originals as time goes on. Clearly aware that he has a future legend with a one in a million voice on his hands -- and that anything getting in the way of that intimate emotional connection would be criminal -- producer Craig Street provides only the sparsest and down-home of productions. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Verve Forecast

While she's a fresh and exotic voice on the recording scene, the multi-talented, Italian-born, internationally minded singer and musician has been keeping great company. With a vocal range and style that quickly bring Dianne Reeves to mind, she's recorded with Tony Bennett and James Taylor; so impressed Burt Bacharach that he collaborated here on the lush, emotional ballad "Trouble"; snagged legendary rock producer Russ Titelman to helm the recording; and is roundly adored by no less than '80s pop queen Cyndi Lauper, who crowed, "This record is haunting and she's just fantastic...her voice just captivates you." What Cyndi says. Civello's not quite as crisp vocally as Lizz Wright, but her jazz-soul heart is in the same place while traversing many borders -- singing in English, Italian, and Portuguese. While gently swinging numbers like the Brazilian-flavored, hypnotic "Ora" are more compelling, slower and smokier tunes like "Parole Incerte" offer her deepest modes of expression. Her skills as a songwriter are firmly on display, but she chooses a few interesting, somewhat obscure covers in samba-flavored cuts like Suzanne Vega's graceful "Caramel" and Rosa Passos/Fernando DeOliveira's "Outono." That sort of globe-trotting will set her apart from the pack of great female singers currently dotting the jazz landscape. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Verve Forecast

Jackie Greene continued to expand his base as one of the more interesting new roots-based singer/songwriters of the early 2000s on Sweet Somewhere Bound, although the compositions were of varying quality. Certainly the best of them were satisfying, and had a wider range than many similar artists working in similar territory. His vocals had a lived-in earthiness, and his arrangements blended folk, roots rock, country, Americana, and bit of the blues without particularly favoring any certain combination. The lyrical themes do tread on some of the same areas common to singer/songwriters of the style: restless urges to escape the mundane grind he sees his community settling into, story-songs and character sketches about troubled souls, and a lament for a death of someone close to him ("Emily's in Heaven"). The Bob Dylan comparisons that have come up in some coverage of his work are still here, particularly in his spontaneous yet accomplished harmonica work, but not so overwhelmingly that Greene's own persona is subsumed. He really whoops it up in the jovial prison song "About Cell Block #9" -- one of the set's highlights -- but for the most part it's a more contemplative record, concerned about the state of things but not quite discouraged. Some of those songs skirt the more routine clichés of weary-gazing roots music, but "Miss Madeline (3 Ways to Love Her)" in particular is haunting enough to rise above such pitfalls. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo