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Brent Black runs down Jim Rotondi “Blues for Brother Ray”…

About a year ago I reviewed a tribute to Ray Charles that was a train wreck from the start. The focus of the release was placed squarely on the arrangements with the complete presentation of the tune best described as some sort of sonic after thought.
Consider this the flip side.
There is a more laid back feel to this release then one would normally expect. Those familiar with Rotondi who is a fixture on the New York scene may expect something with a little more bite. Rotondi is backed with what is the current Mike LeDonne quintet with the end result being a unique jazz interpretation of a soul/blue mix with Rotondi leading the charge. What works so well is that the heads are delivered straight without any unnecessary embellishments or self indulgent arrangement that could easily derail such a stellar recording. “What’d I Say” is brimming with a deceptively subtle syncopated pop led my Hammond B-3 star Mike LeDonne. Rotondi’s solo is clean, clear and swings like a beast. Peter Bernstein delivers a crisp angular single note solo again a groove you can use. The finesse of drummer Joe Farnsworth along with the lyrical soul of Eric Alexander lets the listener know this is indeed a musical celebration. “Cry Me A River” is re harmonized but with more of a swing feel and Rotondi does a magnificent job directing traffic on this gem. Solid contributions from guitarist Bernstein along with a slightly more aggressive approach from Alexander seem built around Rotondi’s talents. Mike LeDonne showcases his own versatility on the B-3 and is pure flavor on “Cry Me A River.” The joy of Ray Charles on stage was always apparent and the vibrant swing of “One Mint Julep” is indeed a fitting tribute to one of the finest entertainers ever. Alexander’s tenor solo never loses the key element of a lyrical sense of purpose which you find throughout this stellar release. “Georgia” even gets a face lift for the more straight ahead jazz aficionado. Rotondi makes this work when a lesser talent may have fallen flat. An amazing transformation that was a huge roll of the dice pays off big here.
Ray Charles was Jim Rontondi’s former boss and musical mentor. Blues For Brother Rayis an absolutely stellar recording of one of the better trumpet players you may not necessarily be familiar with backed by one of the hottest 4tets working today. All the stars were in perfect alignment for this recording. This is one of those releases you can play for the person that is intimidated by jazz and the immediate response will be, “I don’t like jazz but I sure like that!”
An absolute must for any library!
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Critical Jazz reviews Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”…

Change is never bad, just different. The forth Posi-Tone release for Gold finds two stellar horn players to replace the use of guitar on the previous three outings and with surprising results. Saxophonist Ralph Bown and trumpeter Jim Rotundi add freshness and depth to the eight composition where Gold compositions are featured on five selections and Jim Rotondi, Ralph Bowen, and Quincy Davis compositions round out this tight release and new musical chapter in Gold’s Posi-Tone discography.
The Gold tune “Mama Said” kicks off the fun with both horn players working through the swinging head and a deceptively subtle soul groove starts to build around the traded solos along with the finesse of drummer Davis. While each member contributes at least one composition, Ralph Bowen’s “Midnight Snack” is a syncopated adventure in odd meter punctuated with the rhythmic pop and vitality of what sounds like a working band having played together for a great many years. Bowen’s passion is certainly felt through the lyrical intensity of his playing and in turns spreads like wildfire throughout this formidable 4tet. “Dark Blue” is the sexy Rontondi composition which follows and intensity may be dialed back the passion is no less evident and is part of an intoxicating ebb and flow that envelopes All Wrapped Up. The Gold tune “Mama Said” has an intriguing all most retro vibe. A soulful groove you can use. “Just A Suggestion” closes this soulful romp with Bowen’s solo alone worth the price of the release. An odd metered tune but Gold is masterful is not building an entire release around the odd meter or harmonization of the melodies so as to become a member of the flavor of the month club. The addition of the two horn players is a stroke of genius as they in turn open Gold’s sound by highlighting some of the more soulful qualities and find Gold channeling his inner Larry Young or a young Jimmy Smith.
The creative juices flow deep on All Wrapped Up with Gold proving yet again he may be a relatively new shooter in the world of jazz organ but he is the real deal. All Wrapped Up is a virtually flawless release where Gold welcomes you to the land of rhythm and groove!
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Another review for Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”…

New York based Jared Gold brings us a classic set on his forth Posi-Tone release. Ranging from straight forward hammond B-3 fair to more daring arrangements and feel, showing us just what he is capable of with the support of acclaimed Ralph Bowen on tenor saxophone, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and Quincy Davis on drums.

All Wrapped Up as a whole draws from different corners of organ lead jazz and the punchyMy Sentiments Exactly opens the progressive set with gusto. The interaction between the band comes out flying through this ever twisting and turning bebop style piece. Get Out Of My Sandbox steps up with a super cool swing and biting keys from Gold gives the track a lingering edge.

Slowing the pace with Piece Of Me, an intoxicating combo of Sax and Trumpet interplay create a lilting harmonic that draws the listener in to a dreamy sounds-cape underpinned by snappy B3 organ, stitched together by the technically easy feel that Davis brings on drums. Dark Blue follows on as a mid paced ballad. A late night dreamy vibe brought to life by Rotondi’s timing and perfect phrasing.

Mama Said is classic, funky and fun. A foot-tapping groover guaranteed to bring a smile before Saudades goes introspective and wistful, showcasing a well thought out arrangement and bringing a moment for Davis to show off his percussive flair. Just A Suggestion wraps up the set in style with Bowen letting go of the reins and Gold’s slinky playing acting as the perfect foundation.

The band really comes together here and the whole album exudes class from ever pour. A great set mixing classic combo arrangements with one foot in the future. A really sweet summer record.


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JazzTimes review for Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”…

Hammond B3 organ master Jared Gold wastes no time building a head of steam, launching All Wrapped Up with “My Sentiments Exactly,” one of the more driving tracks on his latest CD. Like the other tunes on this entertaining disc, it gives each player plenty of blowing room. It’s a robust reminder of a time when jazz was sociable, and Gold’s light touch makes it cohere.

Listening to All Wrapped Up will awaken memories of walking into a neighborhood bar and coming across a cooking band: In this case, Gold plus tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, trumpeter/flugelhornist Jim Rotondi and drummer Quincy Davis. This is comfortable music no matter how fierce the improvisation or how passionate the playing. Check out how Gold sneaks around Rotondi’s solo in Davis’ “Piece of Mine,” how he gooses the jaunty “Just a Suggestion” to set up Bowen’s burly, jagged solo. The band is precise but loose playing this riff- and groove-heavy jazz.

Some titles pack double-entendres, hinting at Gold’s sensibility. The tracks segue easily, encompassing the sultry “Saudades,” the perky “Suggestion,” Rotondi’s slinky “Dark Blue” and “Get Out of My Sandbox,” a bop strut featuring Bowen and Rotondi at their joint best.

Carlo Wolff/JazzTimes

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John Barron reviews Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”….

New York-based organist Jared Gold leads a no-nonsense set of original progressive jazz compositions on All Wrapped Up, his fourth release for Posi Tone Records. Along with a trio of acclaimed sidemen—tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, trumpeter Jim Rotondi and drummer Quincy Davis—Gold draws deep into the well of organ-led jazz, preserving the styles of some of the genre’s more intricate pioneers, particularly Don Patterson and Larry Young.
The disc’s high flying opener, “My Sentiments Exactly,” features a twisting melody, deftly pronounced by Gold, Bowen and Rotondi. All three soloists careen through the tunes’ clever changes and boisterous bebop tempo. The angular stride and soulful bounce of “Get out of My Sandbox” inspires swinging rounds by all. Here, Gold stands out with his hard-driving, aggressive approach.
The medium-tempo groove of “Piece of Mine,” along with the melding of Afro Cuban and swing on “Midnight Snack” entice both Bowen and Rotondi into displays of technical brilliance. There’s a noticeable difference in musical personalities between the two that leads to interesting and welcomed contrasts. Rotondi’s lyrical, hard bop phrasing fits like a glove over the walking ballad “Dark Blue,” while Bowen’s take-no-prisoners approach adds a layer of thickness to the funky “Mama Said.”
Gold masterfully manipulates the organ’s draw bars to enhance clustered harmonic textures on his moody ballad “Saudades,” a compositional highlight featuring colorful percussive strokes from Davis. “Just a Suggestion,” a tune with a spirited contemporary gospel vibe, closes the session with a slightly more greasy side to Gold’s capacity and blistering lines from Bowen.
All Wrapped Up is a first-rate affair, combining tradition with a spirit of adventure.
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Ken Blanchard on Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”….

I’ve been listening to more organ music tonight: Jared Gold’s All Wrapped Up.  Gold leads a quartet consisting of Ralph Bowen on tenor sax, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Quincy Davis on drums.  The instrument conspicuous by its absence is the bass.  Is it really jazz if there isn’t the thump of the bass?
Well, yes.  Gold has a very vigorous strike for an organ player and he has to fill in for the bass when the horns are up front.  He does a good job of that and more.  Gold plays the organ like a catcher plays baseball: he minds his post and manages the field.  The horns are prominent, as God intended, but the organ is always supporting the action.  If you were moving a resolution for more organ in jazz, you would want to introduce this album into evidence.
Ralph Bowen knows what a saxophone is for.  His solos are brilliant.  I was constantly surprised by his changes and by his sense of where the sweet spot in the melody lies.  Rotondi’s horn reminded me of a smoky room many years ago when another horn player reminded of why God made ears.  I won’t neglect the drumming, which was flawless and rich.
But Gold’s organ was the interesting thing.  His solo work ranged between soulful singing and the precision of a computer dialing a phone number.  The latter was wonderful on its own, but it highlighted the mood of the former.
Don’t miss All Wrapped Up.  Tell ’em I sent ya.
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Lucid Culture write-up for Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”….

Organist Jared Gold Wraps up a Diverse, Intense Album

Jared Gold’s new B3 organ jazz album All Wrapped Up may not be the last thing you would expect, but it’s different. Before we get into this, let’s establish the fact that the world would be a much less enjoyable place without the B3 grooves of Lonnie Smith, Jimmy McGriff, the late Jimmy Smith and of course James Brown, who in case you didn’t know, first got an appetite for funk when playing this kind of stuff. Gold’s previous album Out of Line continued that great tradition: this is a lot more stylistically diverse. Once in awhile Gold will slip in a piano voicing; he’s also the bad cop here, bringing on the night when there’s too much sunshine. In addition to a couple of the usual grooves, the band also does a couple of swing tunes, slinks into noir mode and explores the fringes of Sao Paolo and New Orleans. Gold has a great cast behind him: Ralph Bowen on saxes, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and Quincy Davis on drums. The compositions are all originals: everyone in the band contributes.

The first cut, My Sentiments exactly works a pretty traditional shuffle groove and a triumphant horn hook, Bowen and Rotondi spinning off bright, bluesy eighth-note runs. A vivid swing tune, Get Out of My Sandbox has Bowen artfully playing off a descending progression as Davis adds rumble and crash, Rotondi getting to the point much more quickly with some scurrying downward chromatics. Gold messes with the tempo: if Keith Emerson wasn’t so hell-bent on showing off, he might have sounded something like this. Piece of Mind, by Davis, introduces a casually catchy, upbeat swing tune afloat on Bowen’s melismas, Davis varying his tread from nimble to stomping, with an intense, animated group conversation out of a pianistic Gold solo.

Midnight Snack, by Bowen shoots for nocturnal and noirish quickly – a nonchalantly crescendoing sax solo goes gritty, Rotondi’s insistent glissandos heighten the tension and Gold pushes him as he takes it up. And then the organ morphs it into a moody jazz waltz. Dark Blue, by Rotondi, brings it further down into the underworld, a slow slinky blues ballad with Taxi Driver ambience. Gold’s biting staccato righthand adds neon glimmer in the shadows; the whole band takes it up to a wailing, somewhat tongue-in-cheek crescendo.

Mama Said starts out as a jaunty New Orleans strut and ends up as a crime movie theme, Davis and Gold again working in tandem to boost the suspense, the organ eventually taking it down and then matter-of-factly back up in a vintage Quincy Jones vein. They follow with Suadades, a deceptively creepy, languid number, again with matter-of-factly impactful, ambling mysterioso ambience from the organ and drums, Bowen bringing a rare gentle balminess. They close the album going back to the funk, if not completely all the way, with Just a Suggestion, a lauching pad for Bowen’s on-and-off-kilter, weaving lines and Gold’s Memphis allusions. There’s an awful lot going on here: while it takes a lot of time to get to know this, stick with it, it’s all good. It’s out now on Posi-Tone; Gold is at the Fat Cat on May 20 at 10:30 with a quintet.


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Bruce Lindsay’s AAJ review for Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”….

Jared Gold’s fourth album as leader, All Wrapped Up, finds fresh faces joining the organist as he releases his first recording without a guitarist. This is also Gold’s first all-originals album—although he shares the writing credits with his band mates, who each contribute a tune. The new lineup and new tunes ensure that this album, and Gold’s playing, sounds bright and upbeat from the off.

All Wrapped Up is Gold’s follow-up to 2010’s relaxed, almost laidback Out Of Line (Posi-Tone). It’s a much more muscular collection, with its roots in hard bop and its front line of trumpeter Jim Rotondi and tenorist Ralph Bowen both favoring an attacking, energetic, style of playing that Gold and drummer Quincy Davis are happy to match. Indeed, Gold seems less inhibited than on his previous outings, the result perhaps of his increasing confidence as a player as well as the influence of his new partners.

The combination of Rotondi and Bowen gives the music a real spark and intensity. Bowen delivers a nicely languid solo on Gold’s “Saudades,” but for most of the time the horn duo is up for something a bit more lively. The quartet lets loose from track one, “My Sentiments Exactly” moving along with a terrific energy as all four players drive ahead. “Get Out Of My Sandbox” is a little more relaxed, but Rotondi and Bowen have such a rich sound that they seem like an entire horn section.

Davis’ “Piece of Mine” is a mid-tempo swinger marked by one of Rotondi’s best solos, while Bowen’s “Midnight Snack” is underpinned by Gold’s slinky groove. But overall it’s Gold whose compositions have the edge, and make best use of his Hammond sound.


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Music and More review for Jared Gold “All Wrapped Up”…

Jared Gold – All Wrapped Up (Posi-Tone, 2011)

Organist Jared Gold builds a fine mainstream outing of hard-bop, blues and ballads on this album in conjunction with Ralph Bowen on tenor saxophone, Jim Rotondi on trumpet and flugelhorn and Quincy Davis on drums. They open the the record fast with a couple of fine cookers, “My Sentiments Exactly” and “Get Out of My Sandbox”, both of which feature fast grooving organ solos and deft bass pedal work, along with fleet work from the horns and drums. The full band as an organic unit is the key to “Midnight Snack”, with the horns raving strongly over organ and drums before Rotundi breaks out with a deep sputtering trumpet solo over bubbling organ and drums. Blues comes to the forefront on “Mama Said”, introduced by strutting horns, they set the stage for a deeply grooved tenor saxophone solo over a rock solid medium boil organ and drums table setting. Ballads are also a part of the album, with “Piece of Mine”, “Dark Blue” and “Saudades” slowing the tempos. These performances allow Gold to play in a more lush, full bodied style, where texture takes precedence over muscularity. The horns play with great patience and style and Davis keeps things moving admirably. This album is accessible and enjoyable for mainstream jazz or B-3 organ aficionados, the music is played with a thoughtful panache that suits the players and compositions well.


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Posi-lutely (CD reviews) by Peter Hum

Los Angeles-based Posi-Tone Records sends me red-meat jazz discs faster than I can keep up with them. Here’s what I think of some of the label’s most recent releases from musicians who have been on its roster for a while now:

All Tied Up (Posi-Tone)
Jared Gold

The latest CD from organist Jared Gold could equally have been billed as an outing by the Posi-Tone All-Stars. The fourth disc by Gold on Posi-Tone in as many years, All Tied Up features Gold with label-mates saxophonist Ralph Bowen and trumpeter Jim Rotondi. Completing the quartet is drummer Quincy Davis, on faculty these days at the University of Winnipeg’s jazz program. He has a precise, powerful hookup with Gold and contributes just the right crackling swing.

The disc is all about swinging fiercely and blowing hard, with an occasional break for a bit of funkiness. Gold contributes five of eight tracks and there’s one apiece from each of the other musicians. Gold’s My Sentiments Exactly and Get Out of My Sandbox and may not be so striking when it comes to their titles, but they’re rousing themes that give the CD plenty of ignition as Gold, Bowen, Rotondi and Davis tear into them. Gold’s a potent player coming out of Larry Young’s arresting modal style, and he draws on the organ’s sonic possibilities to spur the music on. Bowen, one of Saskatchewan’s biggest gifts to jazz, is an absolute terror thanks to his passionate sounds when it comes to exploring chords with long lines. Rotondi steps up and sounds sassy on this disc, a bit Hubbard-like at times, only more mortal.

The disc is pretty much balladless if we’re talking about songs that express tenderness or romance. Instead, the slow songs Dark Blue (by Rotondi) and Gold’s own Saudades are more in keeping with the disc’s muscular, bopping vibe. Mama Said, and the closer, Just A Suggestion, funky, gospel-tinged.

Power Play (Posi-Tone)
Ralph Bowen

On his third Posi-Tone disc in as many years, saxophonist Bowen works his way deeper into the post-bop bag that he’s been exploring for almost three decades. In the mid-1980s, soon after he graduated from Rutgers University, the Guelph native was tapped for the post-Wynton, Young Lions outfit Out of the Blue, which also included Renee Rosnes and Kenny Garrett in one of its incarnations. A stylistic straight line connects the music on those OTB records and the hearty, hard-swinging fare on Bowen’s aptly named Power Play CD.

Bowen’s made his reputation as a virtuosic, eloquent tenor player, and on tracks such as the swaggering KD’s Blues, the brisk harmonic slalom Two-Line Pass, the urgent modal exhortationThe Good Sheppard, and the lyrical but exciting Walleye Jigging, his flowing lines and rhythmic drive consistently delight. Bowen’s one of many saxophonists of his generation who flow out of the John Coltrane-Michael Brecker branch of tenor saxophone, but he’s certainly among my absolute favourites in this subset of hornmen.

That said, Bowen branches out on this disc, demonstrating how he can express himself on other horns. On one track, he plays alto saxophone (the knotty, intense, BreckerishDrummheller Valley, which finds him in a few spots recalling his former OTB bandmate Garrett). On two change-of-pace tracks, Bowen plays soprano saxophone. The slow, waltzing Jessicaand the disc’s closer, A Solar Romance are fine, although the latter tune’s placement at the end of the disc gives Power Play a less powerful finish.

Alternately, the disc might have ended with its only standard, a gorgeous, classic My One And Only Love, to send listeners out with a reiteration of Bowen on his primary horn. It sounds like it could have been a classy set-ender to me, akin to a ballad encore.

Bowen’s rhythm section consists of the Philadephia pianist (and Posi-Tone recording artist) Orrin Evans, who is unfailingly interesting as he draws upon pianists from Wynton Kelly to McCoy Tyner, bassist Kenny Davis (an OTB alumnus like Bowen) and drummer Donald Edwards, a snappy, convincing player.

Captain Black Big Band (Posi-Tone)
Captain Black Big Band

Here’s a video that says what the Captain Black Big Band, directed by pianist Orrin Evans, is all about:

The group’s eponymous CD features seven tracks culled from three nights of gigging in Philadelphia and New York. Regardless of when and where the music was recorded, the excitement on the bandstands and in the rooms is clear. While I sometimes wish the disc’s recording quality was better, it still allows the whoops and exhortations of the band members to be heard during the driving performances.

The first few tracks on the CD lean toward minor modal thrashing. Case in point is the opener, Art of War by drummer Ralph Peterson.

On the disc, Art of War is a punchy, concise opener, featuring Rob Landham’s tart alto saxophone. It’s followed by two tracks that extend the minor modal vibe — Here’s the Captain, a lush Latin tune by Gianluca Renzi that features saxophonist Victor North, and bass clarinetist Todd Marcus’ Inheritance, which pulls from John Coltrane’s India, and which allows Marcus and the Handel-quoting trumpeter Walter White to stretch out.

Big Jimmy, the first of four Evans tunes, is a bright, classic swinger. Trumpeter White seizes the tune by the horns during his solo, and Ralph Bowen contributes a sprinting soprano saxophone turn. Captain Black offers some swaggering swinging, and Bowen is back, tearing through the changes.

Easy Now, the disc’s longest, slowest track, feels a bit baggy to me at first as it moves through its rumbling overture — better recording quality would likely have helped — but the piercing trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt lifts the music up during his feature.

The disc closes with its most intense piece, Jena 6, which is named after six black youths in Louisiana whose arrests on an assault charge gave rise to massive civil rights demonstrations in 2007 (trumpeter Christian Scott’s composition Jenacide is similarly inspired). After the tune’s initial, dirge-like passage, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is utterly searing as the tune moves from roiling, rubato to fast, frenetic swinging to a Coltrane-style ovation. Shaw finishes the tune by himself, adding some screech to his sound during the powerful cadenza.

The End of Fear (Posi-Tone)

The End of Fear is the stylistic outlier of this batch, eschewing Posi-Tone’s primarily post-bopping sensibility for music with more jagged edges and not-so-thinly-veiled social commentary.

The clearest link to Posi-Tone is pianist Orrin Evans, who joins bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits to form Tarbaby. Guesting on selected tracks are trumpeter Nicholas Payton, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen and alto saxophonist Oliver Lake.

The disc’s four shortest tunes function as interludes but they’re also bursts of energy and attitude that tell you a lot about where Tarbaby’s coming from. The first of them is the opener by Revis, E-Math, which combines dark fractured funk lines with layers of mysterious muttering — snippets such as “Does it swing?” “Swing is old,” “The only way you can could swing is from a tree — put a noose around your neck,” and “Where’s the melody?” compete with someone muttering mathematical gibberish. Heads is a condensed bit of meta-music and protest, opening with the words, “Jazz. The word to me means freedom of expression. That’s what I think of it. That’s all.” Someone yells “Go!” and after a minute and half of tumultous free playing, the track ends with Malcolm X saying — apropos of the disc’s title — “No, I don’t worry. I have no fear whatsoever of anybody or anything.” Tails is an roiling, miniature companion to Heads. The CD’s other sub-two-minute track is a run through the Bad Brains’ Sailin’ On, true to its hardcore punk spirit.

Also defiant, and in a more programmatic way, is Evans’ Jena 6. Performed by Tarbaby’s core trio, it’s more mournful and less fierce than the version heard on Evans’ big-band recording.

While they may not be so explicit in their politics, covers of pieces by Sam Rivers (Unity) and Andrew Hill (Tough Love), as well as Oliver Lake’s urgent, start-and-stop swinger November ’80 are similarly spirited. In a similar vein, Revis’ Brews is, in fact, a blues and a waltzing, fractured one at that.

In the middle of the CD, there’s a moment of rest when the trio, joined by Allen, offer a melancholy, beautiful reading of Fats Waller’s Lonesome Me, stressing its melody over any flourishes of improvisation.

Hesitation by Waits, which features Payton, begins as a rumbling ballad but grows to be florid and turbulent. Paul Motian’s Abacus provides a wispy, ethereal conclusion for a CD that for much of its duration was spiky, tense and audacious — to the point that it did not sound quite like a Posi-Tone CD.