Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jazz Station - Vocal CD of the Month - "Dancing with Johnny"

Jazz Station
Arnaldo DeSouteiro

Vocal CD of the Month Linda Ciofalo: "Dancing with Johnny" (Lucky Jazz) 2010

Rating: *****
A very pleasant surprise, full of surprises thanks to the creative arrangements (by pianist John DiMartino and Linda herself) and, of course, the lovely vocal & instrumental performances.
On this self-produced release, Ciofalo is backed by Grammy winner - and a current member of the CTI All Stars 2010 Band - Brian Lynch on trumpet, John DiMartino (piano), John Benitez (bass), Ernesto Simpson (drums), Little Johnny Rivero (percussion), Paul Meyers (nylon string guitar), Chieli Minucci (electric guitar) and Joel Frahm (tenor & soprano saxophones).

A Johnny Mercer Songbook -- showcasing the lyricist's genius with such diverse partners as Victor Schertzinger, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini, Robert Emmett Dolan, Gordon Jenkins, Ralph Burns, Woody Herman & Rube Bloom -- couldn't go wrong in terms of repertoire, but what makes this CD really so special is the fresh appeal of each & every track, with Linda Ciofalo's bell-clear beautiful voice shining throughout the 52-minute program of 13 tunes, all recorded in a single session, on October 20, 2009 in NY.

My personal favorite tracks are the exciting latin-tinged scores of "Tangerine" (on which the intoxicating percussion work of Little Johnny Rivero, combining congas & timbales, sounds like a meeting of Mongo Santamaria with Tito Puente) and "That Old Black Magic," both also featuring Lynch (undoubtedly one of the Top 5 trumpeters in the contemporary jazz scene) and Frahm.

But there are many other highlights, such as the Diana Krall-like sensual approach to "Talk To Me Baby" (done as a slow bossa nova, with Paul Meyers, a veteran of Thiago de Mello's Amazon band, playing acoustic guitar a la Joao Gilberto) and the up-tempo bossa take of "Day In, Day Out," again embellished by Meyers' syncopated guitar beat.

The magnificent "Early Autumn" becomes a quasi-bolero, "Skylark" receives a bluesy feel with Minucci evoking memories of the late Eric Gale, and "P.S. I Love You" (a song that Diana Krall has been singing on her current "Quiet Nights" tour and plans to record on her next album) appears here with Rivero adding bongos to add a soft latin spice to this sumptuous Gordon Jenkins ballad. Pure delight!
For additional infos and pics, please check:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

POET E. J. ANTONIO DEBUTS CD featuring Christian McBride

Poet E.J. Antonio envisioned her debut CD, Rituals in the marrow: Recipe for a jam session, as an “in-the-moment jam session.” This recording is a unique blend of spoken words that dance with the sonic diversity of instruments as they wind their way through the genres of jazz, blues, gospel, r&b, and Afro-Latin rhythms. “I often go to live jazz performances,” spoke Antonio, “and write down the images that come to me from listening to the music and watching the musicians’ physical reactions to the music. These genres of music and this gift of words have influenced me my entire life. My bones have absorbed these sounds, move to these sounds, and rest in these sounds.” Blues, jazz, r&b and pop music were staples of Antonio’s life growing up in Spanish Harlem. So was her fascination for words and gospel influences that were a direct result of watching her grandmother Lucille, a Pastor of Gospel Temple Church of Christ, work on and preach her sermons.

The musicians on this project were chosen because of their creative improvisational skills and extraordinary ability to “listen” to each other. Antonio’s concept was to keep an element of surprise and risk, so all the tracks are live collaborations with no rehearsals. On the first track, renowned jazz artist Christian McBride along with Christopher Dean Sullivan (acoustic bass), Saco Yasuma (bamboo sax), and Joe Giardullo (reeds) resonate together to form the tension egg of sound necessary to make the birthing of the poem “foreign monkey” possible. Trumpet player Eddie Allen becomes the foil in “bluesman/truth be told,” while Tyehimba Jess on harmonica is the “in-your-face” gospel sound bolstering the voice in “Pullman porter.” “Sound rhythium” musician Michael T.A. Thompson (drums) and Joe Giardullo (flute) are complimented by Sullivan who uses his acoustic bass as a percussion instrument bringing home the Afro-Latin sound in the danceable “ballad mambo.” Track number eight was inspired by the music of June Kuramoto and the sounds of the koto instrument. The bamboo sax of Saco Yasuma with the French horn treatment by Mark Taylor add the perfect touch of serenity and introspective to “koto suite.” Every track, with words that drip like honey from Antonio’s mouth, is clearly live improvisation at its best.

E.J. Antonio is a 2009 fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a recipient of fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Cave Canem Foundation. She has appeared as a featured reader at several venues in the NY tri-state area, such as Cornelia Street CafĂ©, the Bronx Council on the Arts First Wednesday reading series, the Calypso Muse Reading Series, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, the Harvard Club, WBAI’s broadcast Perspectives, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Bahai Center, Hunter Mountain Arts Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Port Chester Art Fest 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Home Base Project, the York Arts Center, the Latimer House Museum, and the Howl Festival.
Her work appears online at,, and, and has been published in various Journals and magazines; including, African Voices Literary Magazine, Amistad Literary Journal, Terra Incognita, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Mobius: The Poetry Magazine, The Mom Egg Literary Journal, One Word/Many Voices: A Bi-Lingual Poetry Anthology, and Torch. Her work is forthcoming in The Encyclopedia Project. The Premier Poets Chapbook Series published her first chapbook, Every Child Knows, in the Fall of 2007, and she is one of the featured poets on the CD, Beauty Keeps Laying It’s Sharp Knife Against Me: Brant Lyon and Friends.

“I use my work to bring attention to the commonalities we share as human beings, and to shed a light on the idea that there needs to be a place for a different kind of spoken word; that the collaboration of music and poetry is still a viable art form. Some call this jazzoetry, others call it pojazz, and others call it poemusic or spoken word. Whatever the title, it is clearly not just jazz or poetry, but something that resonates in the heart, something that causes a person to slow down and listen.”

and now, somebody
will sing you a praise song
a revival song
a song
buoyant / full of the blues and the jazz and the hymn
of struggle fraught from one continent to another and back
to the beginning
where the ocean carves
skeletons to gauze / unraveling
it sings
praises to your dead
while you push
on and on and on and on and on...
writing new choruses to Amazing Grace
how sweet the sound…
we sing
(from “pullman porter” by E.J. Antonio)

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