Music Review: George Winston – Love Will Come – The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2

Hi all…

The music of Vince Guaraldi has inspired many artists over the years in different ways, including jazz pianist George Winston. Winston started as an organist, but after hearing Guaraldi’s music on Charles Schultz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas television special in 1965, he picked up the record and quickly became a Guaraldi fan. As he says in the liner notes, “I felt a great satisfaction from getting records of music I loved.” He had taken a few piano lessons at age 6 and with his friend Clark Cochran he’d “fool around with trying to play the left hand part of “Linus and Lucy” in the key of C (the white keys), not in A flat as Vince had done it…” But by that point he was hooked and over the next several years, he’d also pick up everything else Guaraldi would release.

In 1971, Winston switched to piano from the organ and his path was set. Winston actually met Guaraldi at a jazz club in Palo Alto, California, not long after moving to California. “He was very gracious and encouraging,” he recalls in the liner notes. And Winston was asked in 1988 by producer Lee Mendelson to score an episode of the Peanuts television series called This is America, Charlie Brown – The Birth of the Constitution, and he still considers it one of the highlights of his career.

Winston released Linus and Lucy – The Music of Vince Guaraldi in 1996 as a tribute album to Guaraldi. And as with many things, one album is never enough and he recently released a follow-up – Love Will Come – The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2.

Love Will Come manages at once to hold true to the spirit of Guaraldi’s music and yet be original. These songs are flowing, beautifully composed and performed pieces that would feel equally at home played in a concert hall or in your kitchen at breakfast on a lazy morning. They blend into the background but hold your attention at the same time.

Sixteen tracks grace this album in a variety of times and sensibilities – everything from the love song for There’s No Time for Love, Charlie Brown – “Time for Love” – to the bluesy “Macedonia/Little David” medley of two songs Guaraldi recorded with Conte Candoli on the 1960 album Little Band, Big Jazz. Winston’s fingers glide across the keys as an extension of his soul. “Macedonia/Little David” is without a doubt my favorite song on the album, evoking the mental image of a jazz piano at the back of a smoky jazz club in some forgotten corner of the world. In that same bluesy-vein is “Fenwyck’s Farfel/Calling Dr. Funk”, another medley of pieces from Guaraldi merged seamlessly as one complete story…

But the lovely pieces such as “Time for Love” and “Room at the Bottom” leave no doubt that both Guaraldi and Winston have a romantic soul amidst their jazz and blues sensibilities. Guaraldi originally recorded “Room at the Bottom” for the 1957 album Jazz Impressions and Winston mentions in the liner notes that he thought this piece evoked images of San Francisco nights.

Love Will Come – The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Vol. 2 is an album to be savored and enjoyed a track at a time. George Winston has once again proven that tickling the ivories can be expressive, jazzy, and sentimental without selling your soul…

For more information about this and other George Winston releases, tour dates, and more, check out his website at GeorgeWinston.com.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up some great George Winston and Vince Guaraldi music below…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Music Review: Melancholy Waltz – Richie Lawrence

Hi all…

Tickling the ivories. Slapping the keys. Playing the piano. Modern pianos have 88 keys covering seven octaves and three pedals. And though I myself never learned to play well, some of my fondest memories are of my mother sitting before our old upright piano whiling away the minutes into hours as she’d stretch chord and note to chord again… Even now, nothing quite can match the expressiveness of a well-played piano.

Enter Richie Lawrence and his family’s 1917 Model AIII Steinway Grand Piano. On his latest release, Melancholy Waltz, he proves my point with twelve amazing piano and accordion instrumentals and songs. And though his Americana-themed lyrics and vocals weren’t my favorite tracks on the CD, there’s something powerful and joyful about his piano compositions that’s hard to explain. Melancholy Waltz cuts across a majority of his influences – from Americana, blues, and folk – while showing off his talents as not only a performer, but a composer and songwriter.

Lawrence was born in Oklahoma, but lived in Colorado for a time and now calls California home. He’s played everything from blues to Polka and along the way met a literal Who’s Who of famous musicians – Bonnie Raitt, Steve Goodman, Crystal Gayle, America, and George Thorogood as well as the Neville Brothers, David Lindley, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Little Richard, David Byrne, and more.

Of all the tunes on the album, my favorite is the “Bee’s Blues”, which weaves the classic melody of “Für Elise” with a series of lively ragtime blues riffs that I can listen to over and over again. The joy as Lawrence plays with these melodies comes through loud and clear.

In contrast with the blues, the soft and steady strains of “The Melancholy Waltz” brings to mind a couple dancing through time and space. This is a piano composition I would hope that dance choreographers, television and movie producers take note of for their own shows. It’s impossible for me not to see the waltzing couple as I listen to this gorgeous melody, which ends in a happier place than it begins with a more upbeat/ragtime feel.

And lastly, I’ll talk about “My Oklahoma Hills,” which shows his love for where he was born. He explains in the lyrics that “I left my home behind me / My dreams do travel there still / Through prairie ocean grasses / My Oklahoma hills…” This is for Lawrence what “Country Roads” was for John Denver – a call home through song.

Richie Lawrence’s three decades of experience playing music professionally truly come through in this great album. If you have a love for original piano compositions as I do, be sure to pick up Melancholy Hills. Check out his website – www.richielawrence.com – for more information about the man and his music.

–Fitz

p.s. Look for this and other great albums at Amazon!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Music Review: The Besides EP by J.Viewz

Hey all…

Once again, a fusion of musical styles strikes when I least expect it. Never in my life have I heard a Michael Jackson song done as a jazz tune. And that was just the start of this strange journey into the world of J.Viewz. It’s like stepping into a pool filled with color. Each song lays out just so with elements of electronica, jazz, unique vocals and keyboards, all seamlessly blended together.

Jonathan Dagan established J.Viewz while working with his band Violet Vision on their 2nd album back in 2002. Muse Breaks, Dagan’s first album with the group, was released worldwide in 2005 by Deeplay Music. Since then, it doesn’t seem like he’s taken much of a breath, working to create remixes with artists like Nina Simone while producing soundtracks for the BBC, National Geographic, Fox Kids, and Discovery channels, while touring to support J.Viewz. Though Dagan hails from Israel, there are definitely no language barriers for his music as it travels the world.

The Besides EP was released overseas in 2008 and is just gaining ground in the U.S. with tour dates at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City and the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C. in November.

The EP starts off with a jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” which absolutely snuck up on me. As a child of the ’80s, I certainly had heard the original version but somehow must have blocked the lyrics from my mind. So when I heard the vocals of Noa Lembersky I simply got lost in the song until I heard “You’ve Been Hit By / You’ve Been Hit By / A Smooth Criminal”. After that I was just along for the ride.

Each song grooves right into the next, smoothly transitioning us through a jazz landscape I wouldn’t mind exploring for a while longer.

The band is made up of Dagan, who handles production, the computers, and turntables; Lembersky on vocals; Urijah on vocals and guitar; Eran Asias on drums; and Daniel Koren on keys. As a lifelong fan of jazz, especially where a fusion of rock sensibilities is mixed in, I have to say I love their style. They manage to bridge multiple gaps without missing a beat.

When the last strains of the live version of “Under the Sun” ends and the EP fades away, I immediately started it over again not wanting it to be over. Lembersky’s sultry vocals with the horn, bass, drums, and the ’70s guitar in the background had a groove that didn’t want to let me go. These guys must be a joy to see live.

If you want to hear more from J.Viewz, check out their MySpace page and look for The Besides EP. It’s worth more than one listen if you like jazz.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out other J.Viewz albums:

Besides Ep

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]