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Mark Hollingsworth – Chasing the Sun

Chicago native, Berklee graduate and Los Angeles-based saxophonist Mark Hollingsworth has released his newest Cd Chasing the Sun on his own Windshore label. This newest offering features 14 selections of various styles yet all have close ties to Contemporary and Smooth Jazz.

First of all I must say that I have known Mark Hollingsworth since our days together at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He and I started on the same path some 25 years ago. His journey took him to L.A. and mine to Atlantic City and Philadelphia. We have stayed in touch these many years and even reunited while he was on tour with Tom Jones in Atlantic City. It is a pleasure to hear him continuing to offer new music on this Cd, Chasing the Sun.

The opening track Spirit of Adventure begins with a deceptive world music feel set up by the introduction. It quickly morphs into a furious tenor sax and bass riff reminiscent of both Weather Report and Steps Ahead. Just as the listener thinks he has an idea where things are headed the tune shifts one more time into what is a more traditional-sounding Smooth Jazz groove. Hollingsworth has you guessing right from the beginning on this musical journey.

It appears this kind of musical schizophrenia is by design according to Hollingsworth himself. In the liner notes he writes, “Chasing the Sun is an adventure embracing the spirit of exploration…There will be things familiar, but perhaps with a twist…”

As the Cd continues with Open Throttle, Hollingsworth and band mates stretch out a bit on the bluesy romp featuring tenor and guitar solos backed by some slick horn parts. It is clear on this cut that Mark has listened to a few Tom Scott records over the years.

Although the first two tracks are well done and representative of Hollingsworth’s talents, the Cd really hits its stride with tracks 3, 4 and 5. Tropic Breeze is a beautiful, flowing tune that should bring a smile to your face. This is a wonderful example of Hollingsworth’s tenor playing and even more so his compositional skills. The overdubbed woodwinds add a nice touch among this pretty straightforward foot tapper. Very nice job Mr. Hollingsworth.

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Michael Pedicin Quintet – Everything Starts Now

michael pedicin quintet - everything starts now...Veteran saxophonist Michael Pedicin has released his newest offering on The Jazz Hut label, Everything Starts Now. Pedicin has had multiple releases under his own name and has enjoyed associations with Dave Brubeck and Maynard Fergusson over the years. The acoustic quintet here documented 10 tunes for this straight-ahead album rooted in the traditional sounds of classic Blue Note, Prestige and ECM recordings.

The very capable quartet backing Pedicin features fellow Philadelphians Chris Colangelo on acoustic bass and Mick Rossi on piano. Michael Sarin on drums and composer/guitarist Johnnie Valentino round out the ensemble. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike Pedicin, Mick Rossi and Chris Colangelo when they all lived and worked in Atlantic City. They are among the finest musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with and it is a pleasure to listen to them play together after a separation of many years.

The opening track, Pelican beckons the listener with a subdued start reminiscent of that popular ECM sound of the 70s and early 80s. Pedicin’s sound is his own but the tenor sings ala Jan Garbarek at times. Not a bad start at all to this record!

This Way Out, the second track on the Cd begins with some nice interplay in the quintet let by Pedicin and Valentino. Colangelo’s bass sound is a big as a house. Chris always has had a great sound on both electric and acoustic bass. The Latin groove builds with Mike Pedicin taking the first chorus, followed by Colangelo on bass. It’s refreshing to hear the bass solo mid-tune, rather than after everyone else has had his turn. Rossi then takes his turn with a sparse, punctuated solo exemplifying his ability to think and play out of the box. The final statement in this piece breaks down into a free-sounding exchange between all but the bass.

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Theo Wanne Classic Mouthpieces – The Amma

Theo Wanne of (and now has long been a gifted, talented and sought-after mouthpiece refacer. For about five years many of us have eagerly awaited the arrival of his production pieces. He has now unveiled his truly remarkable and equally unique new mouthpiece – The Amma. 

Over the past few years Theo has immersed himself in the process of developing and perfecting this world-class mouthpiece. Theo has now done just that. The Amma is a meticulously crafted large chamber mouthpiece that surpasses the very capable Custom Links for which he is so well known. If you are a fan of vintage mouthpieces and Links in general, you will likely be a big fan of the Amma.

The description of the Amma goes as follows: “Reminiscent of the vintage mouthpieces of the 1940s and 50s, the AMMA brings the craftsmanship of the past together with the technology of the future to create the ultimate medium baffle, 'true' large chamber, mouthpiece.” I couldn’t have said it better. The Amma is Theo’s response to the booming vintage mouthpiece market and the need for a better mouthpiece. No stranger to the vintage mouthpiece trade, Theo operated Mouthpiece Heaven for several years where he catered to the needs of some of the most respected saxophonists of our time. The endless search for that vintage piece and the perfect reface may be a thing of the past for many. The job of thinning the rails, scooping out the sides, leaving just enough rollover and perfectly flattening the table – all done already by Theo on the Amma. The result for me is an even-sounding mouthpiece from low Bb into the altissimo that retains the character of my individual sound.

If the above paragraphs have peaked your curiosity – read on and listen for the details. I will share my experiences with Theo, the mouthpieces themselves and the accessories. There are also audio clips below of me playing on the Amma.

The Pieces – Theo originally sent me 2 Amma 7* to try, one was gold plated and the other silver. I had them for about a month and used them live on stage and in the studios – both recording and teaching. Here was my initial reaction, shared with Theo about a month ago:

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Anibal Rojas – ah-knee-ball

 A mutual friend introduced me to the music of Anibal Rojas (ah-knee-ball) some months ago. He has a stunning clip of Body and Soul on Youtube. I remember wondering what he was up to now after checking out that performance clip. He’s up to plenty!

Rojas’ self-titled release features his pure tenor sound, world percussion and ethnic flutes. It would be hard to deny the huge influence Michael Brecker has had on this younger player. Despite the obvious Brecker influence, Anibal has created enticing tracks on this Cd, which are a perfect bed for his wonderful tenor sound. The influences are there however he does have his own twist on this popular school of playing – one close to my own heart.

The native Chilean turned Philadelphian – by way of Middle America – has a unique sensibility as evidenced in the opening track Los Andes, Part 1. His tenor soars over the percolating drums and percussion almost to the final cadence where the sound of ethnic flutes finishes the statement.

The second Cd track Tano’s Tuto, written for his son, showcases a mellower yet still driving side of Rojas’ tenor playing. About two minutes into the track the song takes a refreshing twist with Latin percussion break and bass solo interlude. Then it’s back to business as usual on this free flowing but unassuming melody. I was a little surprised by the distorted guitar solo toward the end of this recording. The element of surprise is something Anibal Rojas uses to his advantage throughout this record. In the end it works.

Le Montrose is full of surprises right from the beginning. The exotic sounds in the intro lead the listener to believe we’re in for something completely different than what follows – a funky smooth jazz jam. I found myself rocking in my chair while tapping my foot to this one – really just a great groove for Anibal to blow over. Just when I forgot the deceptive introduction the exotic world music sounds return briefly before the funky smooth jazz returns. There may be two different tunes going on here. I like them both.

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Frank Macchia – Three new Cds

Multi-instrumentalist and master of self-promotion, Frank Macchia has been very busy. Since moving to L.A. 16 years ago, Macchia has been weaving his way into the inner fabric of the Los Angeles music scene. The San Francisco native and Berklee graduate has been busy in the studios, writing and arranging for feature films such as Superman Returns, The Fantastic Four, Austin Powers:Goldmember, Santa Clause 2, and television shows Nickelodeon's Oh Yeah Cartoons, Disney's Oliver Twist, and the Tonight Show.

An adept composer and instrumentalist, Frank Macchia has penned compositions on at least 3 stellar releases. Animals, Mo Animals, and Emotions all feature Macchia alongside some of the biggest names in the business. Guitarist Grant Geissman, Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and trumpet phenom Wayne Bergeron all add significant contributions to Macchia’s compositions. The writing is dense and intellectual at times but always accessible.

Animals begins with the soothing Dolphins followed by the funky Kangaroos. This is a great feature for trombone master Bruce Fowler. The Cd features soundscapes conjuring up images of Tigers, Gorillas, Jaguars, Camels Hippos, Snakes, Alligators and Vultures. This Cd is full of thought-provoking music that simply grooves!

The final track, Lone Wolf,  features Franck Macchia on tenor sax however his real voice is in the writing and playing behind the tenor. Macchia accompanies himself on Piccolo, Flute, Wood Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Contra Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax, Baritone Sax and Ethnic Flutes – that’s a mouthful!

Mo’ Animals features many of the same very capable instrumentalists as Animals. The opening tune, Hummingbirds is a playful yet aggressive samba featuring Billy Childs on piano, Howard Levy on harmonica and Frank on saxophone. The background writing behind Childs’ piano adds the perfect compliment to the lively solo.

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