This early summer heat wave is a good reason to escape and cool down with some varied new jazz CD releases. These recordings cover a wide range and may be of interest to you. Noah Baerman
Lemal Musicians Productions
Baerman is a respected pianist/composer and educator for three universities in Connecticut. Soul Force is an exceptional recording that traces the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Baerman's efforts cover an entire spectrum of emotions, ranging from large instrumental ensembles to trios in conveying powerful musical images of joy, devotion, passion, brooding and sadness, but finishing with hope. Two traditional African-American spirituals, "This Little of Light of Mine" and "Ain't Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around," feature Baerman's piano in a somber, spiritual-toned quartet setting. He composed six of the 11 tunes.
"Memphis 1968" is the most expressive, from its hopeful start and drive to explosive drum choruses that reflect the chaos of King's assassination, followed by a mood of melancholy. The tribute ends on a note of power, hope and energy, with Stevie Wonder's composition "Happy Birthday," recognizing a holiday for Dr. King, as the saxophone section shouts out.
The portrayal of King's mission, message and life in this musical tribute is, like Dr. King himself, both passionate and positive.
It has been some time since Lee "Captain Fingers" Ritenour has recorded. His first recording for the Peak label has him in a smooth jazz, pop/jazz setting but fervently paying homage to his guitar hero Wes Montgomery on "Boss Guitar." There are many guests here: Trumpeter Chris Botti wails away on "Poppa Was a Rollin' Stone." Brazilian star Ivan Lins is buoyant on "She Walks This Earth." Eric Marienthal and Ernie Watts share sax duties throughout while Dave Grusin and Patrice Rushon split time on piano. This is a live audience recording. A DVD was taped at the same time and will be released separately.
Ritenour offers something for all schools of jazz lovers here with a high level of musicianship.
* MS Mercedes "Queen of the Blues" will play a free "Blues in the Hood" concert at Watkins Park, 2300 Dr. Martin Luther King St., Sunday, July 10 from 5 to 8 p.m.
* Gregg Bacon, sax/flute, and James Simmons, guitar/keyboards, can be heard Tuesdays at Cafe @ Ray, 946 S. Meridian St., 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
* Paul Holdman's Band will play a free concert at the Indianapolis Artsgarden Thursday, July 7 from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.
* Burke & Taylor play at Easley Winery's "Summertime on Easley Street" Tuesday, July 12 from 5 to 7 p.m.