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Mitch’s Reflection: Bil Carpenter Presents “An Uncloudy Christmas”

If you’ve enjoyed the book “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia” by Bil Carpenter, music journalist and co-founder of Capital Entertainment, then you will enjoy the compilation “An Uncloudy Christmas.”

The 12-track compact disc features artists Bryan Wilson, Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels, Ann McCrary, Candi Staton, Richard Hartley, Markas Nair and Carpenter ending things country style with title single “Uncloudy Christmas.”

Opening with “The Savior Has Come,” Wilson presents such a feel-good house of prayer shout band style that it’s hard not to clap your hands a few times. Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels presents traditional gospel style tracks “The Angels Watching Over Me” and “I Just Want to Thank Him.” McCrary brings a modern touch to the compilation with the jazzy “Remember Not to Forget Jesus.”

In “An Uncloudy Christmas,” there is a song to fit any fan’s musical taste or holiday mood, and each artist does a fine job of presenting the true meaning of the holiday season.

Editor’s Note: Review CD was provided by Capitol Entertainment.

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Chicago Bass Clarinetist Jason Stein presents 2 releases in November

When he was 16, Chicago-based Jason Stein was known to be more of a rock guitarist than a base clarinetist. But it was jazz great Thelonius Monk who drew him in. And later when he heard Eric Dolphy play the bass clarinet, Stein was so inspired that he forged an unwavering commitment to cultivate a single tonal voice.
Also a student of drummer Milford Graves, saxophonists Charles Gayle and Donald Walden and brass player/theoretician Ed Sarath, Stein assimilated from these powerful figures the conceptual and philosophical lessons that compelled him to capitalize on his innate nature as a serious, self-motivated musician.
Fans will have two chances to appreciate Stein’s talent on November 10. His compositions are contained in the upcoming release “Three Less Than Between,” from a reconfiguration of Stein’s original trio, Locksmith Isidore, on the Clean Feed label, and in Stein’s debut solo outing on Leo Records, “In Exchange for a Process.”
“Three Less Than Between” will feature Chicago bass player Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride in a traditional jazz setting. “In Exchange for a Process” is described as “an articulated source for endless discovery of the elements indigenous to a world that is known only to Jason Stein. Treating the bass clarinet with energy equal to that applied by sax players, he follows in the footsteps of many contemporary avant-garde solo saxophonists, who have each expanded the concept of tonality.”

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Concord Music to honor late saxophonist Lester Young in special collection

Concord Music Group will celebrate the legacy of Lester Young with the August 4 release of “Lester Young: Centennial Celebration.”
The 10-track compilation is the latest installment in Concord’s ongoing Centennial Celebration series, which honors the 100th birthdays of some of the most iconic and influential figures in jazz history.
Compiled and produced by Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s vice president of Jazz and Catalog A&R, “Lester Young: Centennial Celebration” draws primarily from recordings made in December 1956, during Young’s week-long run at Olivia Davis’ Patio Lounge in Washington, D.C. Young was accompanied in the first seven tracks by the Bill Potts Trio, the house band at the Patio Lounge: pianist Bill Potts, bassist Norman Williams and drummer Jim Lucht.
Even during his lifetime, Young’s approach had become highly imitated in jazz by such luminaries as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and John Coltrane.

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Journey of Sean Jones continues with upcoming CD release in August

Trumpeter-bandleader and Mack Avenue Recording artist Sean Jones has not only performed at the Jazz Studio at the White House, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, in June, but Jones is preparing to release a new project “The Search Within” in August.
“The Search Within,” Jones’ fifth project, is described as “a journey inside my soul that’s taken place over the past 10 years.” He says “it’s an assessment of where I am in the present as well as how I’ve learned from my mistakes and triumphs as a way of looking into the future. This album goes very deep for me. It’s a spiritual and sonic journey for me.”
Jones and his quintet, consisting of Orrin Evans (piano), Brian Hogans (alto sax), Walter Smith (tenor sax), Luques Curtis (bass), and John Davis (drums) – will perform at a CD release event at Jazz Standard at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 11 and Wednesday, Aug. 12. For more information, go online to

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Count Basie Orchestra to salute Jazz Masters

Count Basie Orchestra presents “Swinging, Singing, Playing: The Count Basie Orchestra Salutes the Jazz Masters,” a 11-track CD that salutes jazz titans as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane, in addition to such living legends as Bennett, Quincy Jones, Hank Jones, Frank Wess, Jon Hendricks, Curtis Fuller, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and others.
Produced by Mack Avenue’s executive vice president of A&R Al Pryor and CBO producer / conductor of special projects Dennis Wilson, Count Basie Orchestra achieves just what the CD title boasts: a swinging good time of extraordinary blues-fueled performances that hail various jazz legends. There are top-drawer performances by the big band and its all-star guest list that includes Jones, Wess, Hendricks, Fuller, Geri Allen, Nnenna Freelon, Janis Siegel, Butch Miles, Rufus Reid and, in a nod to the younger generation that embraces Basie music, sparkplug singer/pianist Jamie Cullum. The project will be released on Aug. 25 on Mack Records.

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Stefon Harris and Blackout to Release “Urbanus” in August

Vibraphonist-composer Stefon Harris is set to release his 7th album as a bandleader in August. The 10-track “Urbanus” picks up where 2004’s “Evolution” left off in that it features Harris’ ensemble Blackout that’s as versed in modern jazz as it is with rhythms, melodies and soundscapes associated with R&B, pop, hip-hop and funk.
Marc Cary complements his acoustic piano with Fender Rhodes and alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin lends his captivating vocoder work to the proceeding. Harris’ broadening textures and colors comes to play with his sensational woodwind and string arrangements on a few of the compositions. New Blackout bassist Buster Williams rounds out the group.
Harris and Blackout will be on tour to promote “Urbanus” (on Concord Jazz label) starting in September 2009.

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VaShawn Mitchell To Record Live CD in Atlanta

Gospel artist VaShawn Mitchell is gearing up for a summertime live CD/DVD recording in Atlanta for his fourth project “Triumphant.”
The project is the Chicago native’s first live recording in his newly adopted home town of Atlanta, Ga. Mitchell describes “Triumphant” as “about victorious living whether it’s in your finances, your personal life, your spiritual life or your overall being. It is imperative to understand that you are more than a conqueror.”

Singers making cameo appearances include: Lowell Pye of Men of Standard, Lisa Page Brooks of the group Witness, and singer Lecresia Campbell.

“Triumphant” recording will take place at 6:00 p.m. August 8 at Higher Living Christian Church (formally New Birth South) at 2455 Mount Carmel Road. Doors will open at 5:00 p.m. For more information, call (678) 479-4990.

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Detroit guitarist Johnnie Bassett to release CD June 30

Legendary Detroit blues guitarist and singer Johnnie Bassett is set to release “The Gentleman Is Back” June 30 on Sly Dog Records.
Bassett returns to the spotlight after a nine-year hiatus. “The Gentleman Is Back,” is an 11-song set that finds Johnnie, at 72, in prime form as a player and singer. Recorded in Detroit and co-produced by longtime Bassett collaborators Chris Codish and Keith Kaminski, the CD includes a richly rendered cover of the Hoagy Carmichael and Gorrell Stuart standard “Georgia” and a batch of originals penned mostly by Codish and his father, Bob, another regular in the Bassett camp.
According to his bio, Bassett was born in Florida, where his father was a bootlegger during prohibition. Bassett was surrounded by music. His mother, sisters and aunts took him to church and surrounded him with gospel spirituals. But in the summer he’d head out to his grandmother’s famous fish fries, where the likes of Tampa Red, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, Lonnie Johnson and others would set up and play while folks ate and danced. He has been on the music scene for more than five decades, amassing a career that’s crossed paths with some of the greatest artists in the field, including John Lee Hooker, Smokey Robinson and Jimi Hendrix.
Johnnie didn’t have to think twice about what “The Gentleman Is Back” would sound like. “I like doing fun music – fun jump music and fun blues music and stuff like that.”

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Drummer Alvin Queen keeps the beat “Mighty Long Way”

New York-born, Swiss-based drummer/bandleader Alvin Queen will release a new CD on June 30 entitled “Mighty Long Way,” a no-nonsense, straight-ahead 10-track recording of original compositions and jazz standards by Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver, Ray Charles, and Wayne Shorter, with an unstoppable band featuring alto saxophonist Jesse Davis, trumpeter Terell Stafford, organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Elias Bailey and Neil Clarke (Randy Weston’s longtime sideman) on percussion.
Queen, noted for the past four decades as one the most formidable drummers in jazz, has played with every major superstar – from Peterson and Silver, to Wynton and Branford Marsalis and George Benson. He has released a number of critically acclaimed recordings as a leader, mostly on his Nilva label, including, “In Europe,” “Glidin’ and Stridin’,” and “A Day in Holland.” He also released “Lenox and Seventh” (with Lonnie Smith), “I Ain’t Looking at You” (Enja/Justin Time), “Jammin’ Uptown” (Just a Memory) and “Nishville” (Moju). Queen lives in Geneva, Switzerland, but travels frequently to the U.S. for jazz concerts and studio dates.

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Grace Kelly releases new album

16-year alto sax prodigy Grace Kelly has released her fifth album, “Mood Changes” on Pax Productions.
Kelly’s star is becoming brighter each day. Kelly, who enjoyed critically acclaimed success on her previous “GRACEFULEE” album, has dominated the DownBeat Student Awards over the past four years. From 2006-09, the saxophonist has garnered 12 student awards, including her latest three for Jazz Soloist, Outstanding Jazz Vocalist, and Pop-Rock Blues Soloist.
“I’m just trying to listen to as much music as possible, which makes it hard for me to put together a CD about just one thing,” Kelly says in explaining her inspiration for “Mood Changes.” “A year before the session, I wrote ‘Tender Madness,’ which is slow and sad, and around the same time, when I was in a good mood, I wrote `Happy Theme Song.’ At that point, I realized that a concept for my next album was taking shape. Two more originals, ‘101’ and ‘But Life Goes On,’ extended the idea, as did the six standards.”
Grace studies saxophone with Lee Konitz, Jerry Bergonzi, and Allan Chase. Grace is the youngest ever to complete the four-year Jazz Studies certificate program at New England Conservatory Prep School. Grace also plays piano, soprano and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, and some drums.