Last Call May 2016 Reviews

May 2, 2016


Grover Washington, Jr's legacy of soulful, funky jazz is paid a sincere tribute on this immediately enjoyable disc from Jason Miles and company. The legendary saxophonist who made a series of hit records featuring his immediately recognizable, soulful saxophone voice in the 1970s is celebrated on this danceable, groovy date. Keyboardist Jason Miles, who always has the right touch(he worked with Miles Davis in the 1980s) presented this tribute before an enthusiastic crowd in June 2010 at the Blue Note in Tokyo.

The band includes Jason Miles on Fender Rhodes and other keyboards, with Andy Snitzer and Eric Darius on tenor saxophones, Gerald Veasley on bass, Nick Moroch on guitar, Ryan Shaw on vocals, Buddy Williams on drums and percussionist Ralph MacDonald, who worked with Grover Washington, Jr. on the Platinum Album Award winning Winelight, which is a romantically infused recording loved by generations of music fans. 

Energetic, festive, yet respectful renditions of much loved gems including "Winelight", "Loran's Dance" "Black Frost", "Mr. Magic", an extended take on "Let it Flow", and more, are here for the listener's enjoyment. Saxophonists Snitzer and Darius truly shine on this date with almost volcanic fire. Veasley's bass is highlighted on "Let It Flow" which is also where MacDonald makes a strong statement on percussion. Bandleader Jason Miles as always keeps everyone in the right groove. It's another very fine project from this accomplished keyboardist who has released a consistently entertaining series of recordings in recent years, most recently 2015's "Kind of New".

One of the most popular saxophonists of all time, Grover Washington, Jr.'s roots were in R&B and soul-jazz organ combos, but he also fared very well on the occasions when he played straight-ahead jazz. Most of the time, Washington pushed himself with the spontaneity and chance taking of a masterful jazz musician, being arguably overqualified for the formulaic R&B/pop music that he performed. His big break occurred in 1971, when Hank Crawford could not make it to a recording date; Washington was picked as his replacement, and the result was Inner City Blues, which launched his career.

Recognition followed, particularly after recording the dance floor friendly Mister Magic. Washington developed his own personal voices on soprano, tenor, alto, and even his infrequently used baritone.  He even recorded a soulful take on Christmas Jazz and holiday favorites, Breath Of Heaven.

Tragically Grover Washington Jr.  died of a sudden heart attack on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS television's The Saturday Early Show; the pacesetting saxophonist and contributor to humanitarian causes was just 56. Keyboardist Jason Miles has succeeded in making a heartfelt, yet festive, tribute to this much loved jazz saxophonist.

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Truly a surprise! Karl Latham and his trio create compelling covers of Beatles, Doors, and other classic rock and pop gems of the 1960s and 1970s. Latham, on drums, is joined by veterans Mark Egan on bass and Vic Juris on guitar. These artists dig deep on a truly rich reading of the Doors "Riders on the Storm" which is arguably one of the finest covers of this song in years. Other featured tracks include The Beatles "Day Tripper", "Tax Man" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl", and more.  Recommended listening!


Drummer Allison Miller has released a multihued CD of ten selections that will captivate the listener. This recording is inspired by a truly watershed event in the drummer's life, the arrival of her first child.  With the impressive talents of cornetist Kirk Knuffke, violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist Todd Schikafoose, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and pianist Myra Melford, the 10 tune session is filled with unpredictable twists and turns that are engaging. Highlights include "Slow Jam", "Staten Island", and "Shimmer".  Allison Miller is a New York City based drummer, singer, composer and bandleader who has led the her Boom Tic Boom band for eight years. This is her third recording and it is a kaleidoscope of musical colors for the listener's enjoyment.  Miller has worked with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith among other music luminaries and is an adjunct teacher and clinician, giving lessons and master classes at universities and schools throughout the United States.