Thursday, July 10, 2014

Joshua Breakstone: With the Wind and the Rain

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: With the Wind and the Rain

My memory of Joshua Breakstone goes back a long way, when I was being overwhelmed by artists such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; I frantically searched for other instrumentalists who could do what Charlie and Diz were doing with their horns. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon Breakstone’s guitar, and I was hooked; he has been a favorite ever since. 

Breakstone is a prolific artist with an extensive discography; this is one of his newest albums. He has favored “small jazz” units, usually recording with a bassist and drummer, but for this disc he added a cello (Mike Richmond) a few tracks. Richmond also is a name bassist, and he employs that style — plucking, rather than bowing — on these four quartet selections. The other supportive artists are Lisle Atkinson on bass, and Eliot Zigmund on drums: both regulars on many of Breakstone’s releases.

Most of these tunes come from jazz icons who’ve had a major influence on Breakstone’s career: Kenny Dorham, Oscar Pettiford, George Cables, Keter Betts and Paul Chambers. The program is rounded out by three of Breakstone’s favorite standards: “Be Anything,” by Irving Gordon; “The Very Thought of You,” by Ray Noble; and “With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair,” by Jack Lawrence and Clara Edwards. 

These four musicians have been around for years, and have played with many famed soloists and groups, sometimes in genres that extend beyond jazz. All are internationally known; Breakstone has toured Japan more than 50 times. 

This is bop-tinged, straight-ahead jazz: a true joy to hear. 

Adam Unsworth, Byron Olson and John Vanore: Balance

Acoustical Concepts Inc.
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Balance

This release features two groups: a jazz quintet backed by a large chamber ensemble, and a jazz sextet in conjunction with woodwinds and a string quartet. All the music is composed by Adam Unsworth, who also plays French horn, and composer/arranger Byron Olson. The result is one of the finest “marriages” of the jazz and classical genres, that I’ve ever heard.

Unsworth is without peer on the French horn, and he’s equally adept as a composer/arranger. He’s an associate professor at the University of Michigan, has been on the faculty at Temple University, and has appeared as recitalist and clinician at numerous universities in the State. He also played with the Grammy-nominated Gil Evans Centenial Project, and has recorded with many other jazz organizations.

Olson has written for numerous name artists and symphoney orchestras; perhaps his most famous productions are his Sketches of Miles and Sketches of Coltrane.

Unsworth is joined by John Vanore (trumpet/flugelhorn), Bob Mallach (tenor sax), Bill Mays (piano), Mike Richmond (bass) and Danny Gottlieb (drums), and the full ensembles consist of violins, violas, cellos, flutes and other orchestral instruments. 

Everything blends superbly, with Unsworth, Vanore and their associates delivering stunning, beautiful and truly swinging music. Don't miss this tour de force!