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Another nice review for Joe Magnarelli “Lookin’ Up!”….

Joe Magnarelli: Lookin’ Up! (2014)


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Joe Magnarelli: Lookin' Up!

Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli has been a jazz scene stalwart for 30 years. Based in New York since 1986 he’s worked with a broad range of musicians including Lionel HamptonJimmy Cobb and Michael Feinstein and has released a series of albums as leader.Lookin’ Up! is his first recording for the Posi-Tone label and it proves to be a fine addition to that label’s roster of top-flight straight-ahead jazz.

Lookin’ Up! is a quintet outing, with trombonist and fellow Posi-Tone artist Steve Davis sharing the front line with Magnarelli. The album has a full, rich, sound courtesy of producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole. It showcases the five musicians as a group and the result is powerfully seductive.

Magnarelli and Davis form a strong front line—punchy and tough on Magnarelli’s “44” andJohn Handy‘s “In Walked Lila”; swinging on “You Go To My Head” and “Suddenly It’s Spring.” The rhythm section—pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Jason Brown—provides the expert support that ensures the lead players shine as brightly as they can. Brown is the driving force, Karn’s cool and reliable, Wonsey is a master of comping. Even without Magnarelli or Davis the three men hold the attention, establishing a groove or a mood with ease—on their brief but cool intro to the leader’s “Blue Key” for example, or during Karn’s energetic solo on “Suddenly It’s Spring.”

Magnarelli takes on the leader’s role with aplomb. His playing is consistently superb. On his own “Inner Beauty” he’s controlled yet romantic, characteristics that also define Wonsey’s solo: on John Coltrane‘s “Miles’ Mode” his muted trumpet flies over Karn and Brown’s rhythmic foundation, the whole tune full of exuberant joy. Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Darn That Dream” starts as a trumpet/piano duet then adds bass and drums—from start to finish it’s a graceful and lyrical reading of the old standard.

Lookin’ Up! closes with a fiery rendition of “In Walked Lila” which gives each musician a chance to loosen up and let rip. Five masterful talents, ten great tunes, that’s Lookin’ Up!.




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Here’s the first review for the new Joe Magnarelli CD “Lookin’ Up!”…





Longtime trumpet sideman Joe Magnarelli first bowed as a leader in 1995 (Why Not) but Lookin’ Up! (out June 24, 2014) marks his first for Posi-Tone Records. The welcoming environment the label offers for straight-ahead cats like Magnarelli is one good reason why Lookin’ Up! is already off on the good foot.

The other is because this adjunct professor of music at the Julliard School of Music and Rutgers University presides over a master class in mainstream jazz. Assisted by Steve Davis on trombone, Anthony Wonsey on piano, Mike Karn on bass and Jason Brown on drums, Lookin’ Up! teaches of the importance and the majesty of post-bop jazz not with words but with sounds.

The trumpet/trombone front line defines that sound in this case, as Davis brings his accomplished chops to bolster Magnarelli with his counterpoints, done with style as on the outro to Magnarelli’s composition “44,” harmonizing like hand-in-glove during “Third Set” and “Easy Transition,” and often following up the trumpeter’s hot solos with cool-toned ones; “In Walked Lila” is one example.

But Magnarelli shows time and again he gets the job done on his own, architecting a thoughtful aside on “44″ and easily conquers quick-tempo swingers like “Suddenly It’s Spring” with crisp trumpet flights, followed by Wonsey’s own, block chord-rich solo. Magnarelli’s muted horn acuity is on display for the tracks “Blue Key,” a bossa nova rhythm set to a ballad melody and during an agile take on John Coltrane’s “Miles’ Mode” backed only by Karn and Brown.

Ballads, however, are where Magnarelli shines the brightest; he tackles Jimmy Van Heusen’s classic number “Darn That Dream” with a clean delivery that’s sensitive to the beauty of melody, as Davis sits out. That warm, wistful tone is also put to great use on Magnarelli’s own pretty number “Inner Beauty.”

Lookin’ Up! is simply damned good, no-nonsense, straight-ahead jazz carried out with veteran proficiency. Anyone who likes their jazz served up that way will have no problem at all with this disc.



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Here are some French Reviews for several of our 2014 releases…










Steve DAVIS : “For Real”

Le tromboniste Steve Davis (né en 1967 aux USA) reste très attaché aux émanations du be-bop. Dans ce nouvel album il s’exprime avec verve et générosité sur ses propres compositions, essentiellement. Remarquablement entouré, il laisse de l’espace à des complices très aguerris. Si Abraham Burton se montre brillant, c’est Larry Willis qui impressionne par un jeu de piano qui apporte un punch revigorant à l’ensemble. Conventionnel, certes, mais jamais ennuyeux.

Steve Davis: “For Real”
Trombonist Steve Davis (born in 1967 in the U.S.) is still attached to the fumes of bebop. In this new album he speaks with verve and generosity on his own compositions, basically. Remarkably surrounded it leaves space at very seasoned accomplices. If Abraham Burton was brilliant, this is Larry Willis impresses by a piano playing brings a refreshing punch to the whole. Conventional, yes, but never boring.








Sarah MANNING : “Harmonious Creature”

Une découverte pour bien commencer 2014 ! Nous ne connaissions pas la saxophoniste-compositrice Sarah Manning mais ce disque ne peut que nous inciter à la suivre de plus près. Les choix esthétiques, les assemblages de timbres (sax alto, violon alto et guitare) donnent à cette musique une silhouette singulière aux lignes épurées et assez audacieuses, jamais hermétique. La saxophoniste (excellente !) a su fédérer un vrai groupe dans lequel nous repérons en particulier le guitariste Jonathan Goldberger (qui croise parfois la route de Jim Black, entre autres et compose pour le cinéma) et l’altiste “miniaturiste” Eyvind Kang. Une de nos références préférées du label californien Posi-Tone.

Sarah MANNING: “Harmonious Creature”
Discovery to start 2014! We did not know the saxophonist and composer Sarah Manning but this disc can only encourage us to follow more closely. Aesthetic choices, assemblies stamps (sax alto, viola and guitar) give this music a unique silhouette with clean lines and bold enough, never sealed. Saxophonist (excellent!) Was able to unite a real band in which we identify in particular guitarist Jonathan Goldberger (sometimes crosses paths with Jim Black, among others, and composes for film) and violist “miniaturist” Eyvind Kang. One of our favorite references Californian label Posi-Tone.
Brian Charette - Square One cover
Brian CHARETTE : “Square One”Passionné d’échecs et ceinture noire de kung-fu, Brian Charette est un musicien déterminé qui va droit au but. Sa musique, directe et efficace ne manque pas de subtilité. Il apporte une touche personnelle à la tradition (renaissante ?) de l’orgue Hammond dans la formule assez conventionnelle du trio avec guitare et batterie. Ce musicien qui a travaillé avec Lou Donaldson ou… Chaka Khan, entre jazz, soul, funk ou pop, reste attaché aux éléments fondateurs du jazz. Il traite lui aussi la thématique du train, récurrente dans le jazz, d’une manière très personnelle dans “People On Trains”. Ça swingue et ça “groove” !


Brian Charette: “Square One”
Chess enthusiast and a black belt in kung-fu, Brian Charette is a determined musician who goes straight to the point. His music, direct and efficient does not lack subtlety. He brings a personal touch to the tradition (reborn?) Hammond organ in fairly conventional formula trio with guitar and drums. Musician who has worked with Lou Donaldson or … Chaka Khan, between jazz, soul, funk and pop, remains committed to the basic elements of jazz. It also deals with the theme of the train, recurrent in jazz, in a very personal way in “People On Trains”. It swings and it “groove”!

Jared GOLD : “JG3+3”Golden Child“(PosiTone-2012), le précédent album de l’organiste américain Jared Gold, reprenait la formule du trio avec guitare, en l’occurence Ed Cherry l’ex-complice de Dizzy Gillespie. Cette fois, il augmente son nouveau trio d’une section de “souffleurs” qui renforce la dimension “funky” de la musique de Gold qui puise sa matière dans un répertoire varié, chez James Taylor (version en trio de “Shower The People”), Wayne Shorter, Cannonball Adderley ou Michael Jackson. Efficace !

Jared GOLD “JG3 +3”
“Golden Child” (PosiTone-2012), the previous album by American organist Jared Gold, repeated the formula of the trio with guitar, in this case Ed Cherry former accomplice of Dizzy Gillespie. This time, it increases its new trio of a section of “blowers” that reinforces the “funky” dimension of Gold music that draws its material in a varied repertoire, from James Taylor (trio version of “Shower The People” ), Wayne Shorter, Cannonball Adderley and Michael Jackson. Effective!







Ralph BOWEN : “Standard Deviation”

Saxophoniste américain réputé pour sa maîtrise technique irréprochable,Ralph Bowen reprend ici une série de standards qu’il interprète avec une belle énergie, soutenu par une rythmique de haut vol. Une manière de se hisser au niveau des références du sax ténor mais sans vraiment apporter une touche de nouveauté. Un disque qui ne déroutera personne. Est-ce suffisant ?

Ralph BOWEN: “Standard Deviation”
American saxophonist known for his impeccable technical mastery, Ralph Bowen takes here a series of standards he interprets with great energy, supported by a rhythmic top flight. A way to reach the level of references tenor sax but really add a touch of novelty. A disc that will confuse anyone. Is it enough?

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover






Walt WEISKOPF : “Overdrive”

Le saxophoniste Walt Weiskopf (né en 1960) a fait ses premières armes dans le big band de Buddy Rich avant de rejoindre celui que dirigeait la pianiste Toshiko Akiyoshi. De solides références auxquelles on ajoutera la participation au groupe Steely Dan de Donald Fagen et Walter Becker avec lesquels il joue régulièrement. Avec “Overdrive“, il passe la “surmultipliée” et emmène sa formation sur des thèmes simples et acrobatiques nécessitant précision et vélocité (et ils suivent !). Une musique “survitaminée” qu’on pourra apprécier si on est friand de jazz “high-speed” !

Walt WEISKOPF “Overdrive”
Walt Weiskopf saxophonist (b. 1960) made ​​his debut in the big band Buddy Rich before joining one Toshiko Akiyoshi led the pianist. Solid references that participation in group Steely Dan Donald Fagen to be added and Walter Becker with whom he performs regularly. With “Overdrive”, it passes the “overdrive” and takes his training simple and acrobatic issues requiring accuracy and velocity (and they follow!). Music “supercharged” we can assess whether we are fond of jazz “high-speed”!




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Audiophile Audition reviews Steve Davis “For Real”…

Steve Davis – For Real – Posi-Tone

Steve Davis – He always “brings it”…


Steve Davis – For Real – Posi-Tone PR8116, 58:09 ****:

(Steve Davis – trombone; Abraham Burton – tenor sax; Larry Willis – piano; Nat Reeves – bass; Billy Williams – drums)

Steve Davis is one dependable cat. We’ve previously reviewed many of his prior CD issues, and they all hit the mark. Going back to Alone Together in 2007, to the more recent  Eloquence(on JLP), and Images and Gettin’ It Done (on Posi-Tone), the sense of swing and polished presentation is always there. Davis is an integral member of the new millenium’s version of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s, One for All. His solo projects, usually containing his own compositions, are eagerly anticipated by fans of hard bop.

Steve’s pedigree is first rate, having been mentored by Jackie McLean, and serving on the last version of Blakey’s Messengers from 1989 to 1990, before Art’s passing. He has taught at the Hartt College of Music, where his studies brought him in contact with Jackie Mac.

On his latest CD, For Real, his pairing with tenor saxist Abraham Burton, strongly brings to mind the Jazz Crusaders’ sax and ‘bone masters, Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson. On the opening title track, they totally nail the funk and “grease” of the Crusaders appeal. With long time accompanist, the brilliant pianist Larry Willis bringing gospel tinged piano fills, it’s a great way to set the stage for what is to come. On “Nicky D” Steve Davis’ burnished tone kicks into a nice groove that the rhythm section supports. “Angie’s Groove” shows off the ensemble blending that One for Alldoes so well. They are locked in until Willis, and then Steve, and Burton take center stage. “Days Gone By” is a mellow ballad that will showcases Abraham Burton’s lyrical skills matched by Davis’ ability to enter the realm of JJ Johnson as a balladeer.

“Blues on Blues” is just that. Written by Larry Willis, it is manna from heaven for those that love soul jazz. “Tactics” is more assertive, and the closer, “Daylight” lets the group explore a Latinesque tinge, with Billy Williams’ percussion providing the propulsion to keep the juices flowing.

Kudos again go out to Posi-Tone’s main men: producer Marc Free, and engineer Nick O’Toole, for bringing supreme acoustics that help Davis and Company strut their stuff. Steve Davis is definitely “for real.”

TrackList: For Real, Nicky D, Angie’s Groove, Days Gone By, Big East, Blues on Blues, Tactics, I Found You, Daylight

—Jeff Krow


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Steve Davis “For Real” is KIOS album of the month…

Here’s a release that is going to write it’s own review, a session so inspired and intuitively right-there that it all bubbles to the surface propelled by the buoyant trombone sound of Steve Davis. This quintet session is Davis’s seventeenth album as leader and a gem among a steady succession of strong recordings.

Certainly one of our great contemporary jazz artists, Steve Davis has acquired his impressive jazz chops through years of wood-shedding and playing in good company. A member of Art Blakey’s final group of Jazz Messengers, Jackie McLean’s group, Chick Corea’s “Origin” and the cooperative group “One For All”, he has been an essential element of the modern jazz scene for over two decades. With a warm trombone voice evoking the sound of J.J. Johnson, Davis is a superb soloist and composer. All but one of the pieces on this album are substantive originals.

The second horn player for the date is tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, who was a member of drummer Arthur Taylor’s “Wailers”, plays in the Mingus Big Band and also tours with the Abraham Burton-Eric McPherson Quartet. He possesses a rich, authoritative sound and invokes a restless edge to the selections with his creative solos.

The rhythm section on “For Real” is a dangerous trio capable of supporting and steering the horn men with articulate drive and finesse. Pianist Larry Willis’s discography extends back to classic Blue Note sessions with Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean. He was a member of Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band and has also led his own sessions. Willis is a player with consummate taste and a polished soulfulness expressed with exquisite chords. Bassist Nat Reeves has just the right touch. He spent a lot of time with Jackie McLean in the 1990s and has recorded with Steve Davis numerous times. Drummer Billy Williams is one of those fine musicians who combine taste and energy, laying back when the mood is serene and driving proceedings on more upbeat numbers – as evidenced with his splendid work upon “Daylight”.

All of these artistic elements come together on “For Real” in a pleasingly cohesive album. From the bluesy strut of the title track, the relaxed beat of “Angie’s Groove”, the smoking, boppish feel of “Tactics” to the insistent Latin beat of “Daylight”, there’s a lot to like. “Big East” sounds like a page from the Jazz Messengers book with mellifluous notes flowing from Davis’s trombone. “Days Gone By” finds the group in a pensive mood and “I Found You” is laid back and melodic. The one non-Davis piece, Larry Willis’s number “Blues On Blues”, is a low-intensity groover with marvelous interplay between bassist Reeves, drummer Williams and the soloists.


Yes, there is a lot to enjoy on “For Real”. Check it out this month during our jazz programs on KIOS-FM and even pick up a copy for yourself. As with Steve Davis’s other albums, his music stands up very nicely over the years as enduring jazz statements.

Musicians: Steve Davis: trombone; Abraham Burton: tenor saxophone; Larry Willis: piano; Nat Reeves: bass; Billy Williams: drums

Tracks: For Real; Nicky D; Angie’s Groove; Days Gone By; Big East; Blues On Blues; Tactics; I Found You; Daylight


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Marc Myers weighs in on Steve Davis “For Real”…

Steve Davis—For Real (Positone). Trombonist Steve Davis has hit a tasteful sweet spot here—a mellow, hard bop configuration that keeps the feel gentle but enveloping. All the songs are Davis originals except for one (that one is by pianist Larry Willis)—and the results are so cohesive and melodic you’d think they were from the Blue Note catalogue. Tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton matches Davis’ easy-does-it nocturnal feel. A gorgeous album. –

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All About Jazz reviews Steve Davis “For Real”…

For lovers of straight-ahead jazz the Posi-Tone record label is a pretty safe bet, a mark of quality. Label owner and producer Marc Free seems to possess a knack for combining excellent musicians and high quality studios (aided and abetted by engineer Nick O’Toole) to create fresh and rewarding music.

Trombonist Steve Davis is one of those excellent musicians andFor Real is his fourth album for the label. Davis’ long career has seen him produce 16 previous albums as leader, while his sideman credits are extensive and include albums with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Art Blakey. For Realfinds him once again in the company of pianist Larry Willis, bassist Nat Reeves and drummerBilly Williams, who all appeared on Davis’ previous release, Gettin’ It Done (Posi-Tone, 2012). Davis is joined on the front line by saxophonist Abraham Burton, a Grammy winner with the Mingus Big Band. The tenor and trombone combination works beautifully, the instruments complementing each other to boost the richness of the quintet’s sound.

“Blues On Blues,” written by pianist Larry Willis, is a pleasant tune that, unsurprisingly, gives the players a chance to show their bluesier side. The rest of the tunes are Davis’ own compositions.

Mid-tempo groovers such as “For Real” and “Angie’s Groove,” the Latin swinger “Daylight” and the up-tempo, hard bop “Tactics”—which features tight, assertive solos from all five musicians—are irresistible chunks of fun: effortlessly swinging and positive tunes. They’re impressive, as compositions and as performance, but it’s the gentler numbers that really impress. “Nicky D” may have a similar tempo to “For Real” but there’s more space (Burton sits this one out) and Davis’ trombone sound is at its warmest and most inviting. “Days Gone By” finds the quintet in a meditative mood. It’s a ballad that takes its inspiration from pre-bop rather than post-bop, with Burton’s solo and Willis’ comping proving central to its success. The easy-going romance of “I Found You” completes the trio of soulful tunes.

For Real is a superb album, an object lesson in small band jazz and a shining example of the trombonist’s art. It can proudly take its place as one of the Posi-Tone label’s finest releases—as a quick check of the label’s catalog will show, that’s quite an accolade.

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StepTempest speaks highly of Steve Davis “For Real”…

Any recording by trombonist/composer/educatorSteve Davis is a reason to celebrate.  A 1989 graduate of the HARTT School’s Jackie McLean Institute (at the University of Hartford), Davis has performed with Art Blakey, Chick Corea, Christian McBride and so many others, especially the collective One For All.  He’s also served on the faculty of his alma mater since 1991 as well as working with Hartford’s Artist’s Collective.

For Real” is the title of Davis’s 4th release for PosiTone Records and an apt description of the man himself.  Though he can play with great fire, Davis eschews histrionics in favor of a smooth, steady, tone and music that builds from solid melodic lines and a strong chordal structure.  Joining him for this date is long-time associates Larry Willis (piano) and fellow HARTT faculty member Nat Reeves (bass), McLean Institute graduate Abraham Burton (tenor saxophone) and the fine young drummer Billy Williams.  Right off the bat, the title track reminds this listener of the sounds of the Jazz Crusaders with its funky blend of ‘bone, tenor sax and piano. Burton is a strong soloist, blending the drive of John Coltrane with the bluesy explorations of players such as Booker Ervin and Hank Mobley.  Willis, the 71-year old native of Harlem (New York City), is, at turns, playful, wistful, swinging, and always melodic.  On the rousing “Tactics” (all the songs on the CD are Davis originals save one), the pianist’s solid chords give Reeves the freedom to fly while Williams supplies the drive.  Willis’s impressionistic chords open the handsome ballad “I Found You” with its 2-part melody line – his graceful solo unwinds freely over the classy foundations supplied by his  partners in the rhythm section.  The trombonist’s solo blends short phrases with longer, sweetly flowing lines. Brazilian rhythms underpin the sprightly closing track “Daylight“, giving the soloists a springboard for imaginative and hard-driving explorations.  Burton’s joyful romp builds off the energy created by Willis’s ebullient solo.  The leader picks up on the dancing quality of Reeves’ bouncy bass lines and Williams’s enthusiastic percussion, delivering a sweet melodic statement.

Yes, “For Real” is just that – “real” music that is as exciting as it is entertaining.  Steve Davis connects with his audience on a number of levels, his honest approach to his art refreshing and certainly enjoyable.

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JazzWrap covers Steve Davis “For Real”…

Steve Davis: For Real

Steve Davis (trombone)
For Real (Posi-Tone; 2014)
Abraham Burton (sax)
Larry Willis (piano)
Nat Reeves (bass)
Billy Williams (drums)

Steve Davis is in superb form on his new album, For Real. This is probably the best I heard in a couple albums now. While the bandmates remained the same for this album, with the inclusion of Abraham Burton, their tone and Davis’ writing feels stronger and more confident.

“For Real” takes a calm but groovy approach, with some additional homage to the Blue Note legacy (you’ll know what this means when you hear it). While keeping the hard bop tradition, Davis still manages to make his compositions stand above some of his contemporaries. The lovely ballad “Days Gone By,” excels thanks to the raw but lush notes from Burton and the always steady hand of Willis. Davis’ playing is understated and warm reflecting a soft elder statesmen quality.

“Daylight” closes out the album on a wonderful Brazilian swing. While having the infectious flavour, Davis crafts the tune with a number changes that allows for some adventurous movements throughout the piece. Not your typical number. And not you typical Brazilian influence tune. Well done.

With For RealSteve Davis show that he has a lot more to write about and he continues to go from strength to strength. For Real is probably his best record to date for the Posi-Tone label. And its well worth seeking out. Right now!

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Midwest Record reviews Steve Davis and Sarah Manning Cds…..

STEVE DAVIS/For Real:  Kicking it off with some classic feeling soul/jazz/funk,
Davis and his crew find that sweet spot where mainstream and post bop collide in
a bouncy ball fun house.  Ensemble playing that doesn’t miss a beat, this set of
all originals  never takes you to that place where you start wishing the gang would
break into something like “Compared to What?” so your ears can feel on familiar ground.
Smoking, tasty stuff throughout, this is a must for the sitting down jazz fans that
like to bounce in their seats as the groove unfurls.  Solid!8116
SARAH MANNING/Harmonious Creature:  Some might find this improvising sax player an
acquired taste, and a lot of them would be right.  With her roots in the free jazz
sound of the sixties, it’s sounds like she’s never paid her dues in a church basement
even if she’s made some off beat stops along the way.  An arts council darling, she
knows how to make free jazz for parents that have to get the sitter home early because
it’s a school night.8117