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Music Reviews

Nella-Joi

Nella-Joi

M.I.A.

Nella-Joi’s captivating lively revolutionary music, a combination of R&B, jazz, pop, hip-hop, and soul influences, is uniquely innovative.

An independent recording artist, singer/songwriter Nella-Joi’s latest single titled, “M.I.A.,” encapsulates the current socioeconomic crisis in the U.S. pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement, aiming to build power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to the community. The provocations for social change in order to create equality for all reverberated throughout Nella-Joi’s latest single. Her passionate musical expressions instills the necessity for long-lasting alteration of the social order in society in “M.I.A.” reiterating, “don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right…they say it’s time for a revolution…I think we need some evolution… please understand there’s so much power in our hands.” Nella-Joi’s soulful proclamations is apparent within the lyrics addressing racism with heartfelt riffling, scale patterns, rhythmic articulation alongside a beautifully conveyance of a call for social change.

Nella-Joi has cultivated a spirit of advocacy in “M.I.A.” encouraging the community to combat the widespread racial injustices and socioeconomic inequalities within the nation through political action suggesting, “we need to leverage our ‘Trump card’ and turn out to vote because we live in a critical time when basic humanity, love, respect, courage, selflessness and leadership are missing in action in our society, but it’s a new day and we have to do things differently to affect real change.” Nella-Joi conducts a brilliant depth of musical techniques in “M.I.A.” with expressive abilities that encompasses the independent recording artist, singer, and songwriter’s pragmatic social reformer milieu as an entrepreneur, author, speaker, disability community advocate, activist, and mother of an adult daughter born with disabilities.

Alongside Nella-Joi’s elegantly fierce assertiveness to inspire social change, Nella-Joi hosts and produces the weekly Nella-Joi radio show sharing news and advocacy on Btalk100.com. The breathtaking technical textures of R&B, jazz, pop, hip-hop, and soul genre by Nella-Joi brings forth a variation of bright tonal colorings, which are all brilliantly emphasized in of Nella-Joi’s all musical endeavors.

www.normastanley.com/nella-jo

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Music Reviews

Eunha So

Eunha So

Reminiscence

Eunha So’s compositions encompassing classical to jazz combine both virtuosity and great spiritual intelligence. In the album, Reminiscence, every shift in mood speaks volumes in elucidation that are consistently striking. So sought to interpret and reveal a meaningful sense of place which provokes the deservingness of all works to be heard more frequently. One can attest to the breathtaking technical finesse of So in the song “Swing’s Starlight,” provoking inspiration to many and a nod to a number of prominent artists the pianist worldwide. In the song “Moving Castle” and “Dream Hopper,” one can hear a superb and wonderfully composed sequence of tones alongside a balance of transitions. The aura of aching quality carriers across all musical expression. Eunha So’s dexterity and dynamism is also apparent in “My Romance” and “Shadows.” The overall elegance and wonderfully fluid notes in “Red Rocks at Night” and “5 AM Blues” also authenticates So’s exquisite textures throughout every dynamic musical creation. The crisp compositions are bold providing insight into the expressive dynamics of all musical forms. So has a multifaceted and one-of-a-kind musical representation by extraordinarily undertaking an even grander scale across the board. In “Donna Lee,” it is apparent that So brings in a unique medley conducting brilliant depth through all articulations of music.

Without a doubt, Eunha So’s musical background as a recent graduate from SUNY Purchase’s graduate program in Jazz Studies in 2019 alongside graduating from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music with a Bachelor degree in Jazz Studies and Commercial Music in 2016 has solidified the ever-changing pianist and composer’s distinctive style in music.

Amongst So’s educational background in music, the pianist and composer is also a recipient of the Pathways to Jazz Grant in 2017 producing her debut album as a leader. So has been selected and featured in Jazz 89.3 KUVO’s “30 under 30” musicians and performed at White Plains Jazz Festival in New York, Blue Note NYU, Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Denver’s premier jazz clubs Dazzle and Nocturne. So has transpired her musical abilities into teaching as an educator. Indeed, the transcendental technique of So cultivates a warmth depth of tones. The tenderness and tonal colorings are expressively emphasized in all musical pieces. Eunha So has expressive abilities that are incomparable and the excellent capacities in all musical varieties are all-encompassing of the greatness within the pianist and composer. This fearlessly assertive style is fearlessly virtuoso, making So a pianist and composer to steadfastly observe.

www.eunhaso.com

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Music Reviews

Gentlemen’s Crow

Gentlemen’s Crow

Gentlemen’s Crow’s comprehensive blend of tones and dynamism are clearly noticeable in their latest self-titled two-track EP. They embrace the astounding sound capabilities of Cameron Moratis on guitar and vocals, Alex Sandlin on lead guitar, Mike Eyer on bass guitar, and Mark Rutski on drums. The evolving original indie music provided by Gentlemen’s Crow speaks volumes on their balance of transitions and one-of-a-kind musical representation. The balance of clear melody, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums with harmonized vocals, and intricate instrumentation pervades.

One can authenticate the forward-thinking lyrics and magnificent textures of Gentlemen’s Crow’s compositions. The extraordinary spirit of a raw indie sound alongside a medley of striking music composition are features unique to the band. The soulful vibes with idiosyncratic upbeat indie rock techniques of Gentlemen’s Crow is manifested in “Backwind,” which includes a poetic enlightenment indicating in between well-placed tonality that: “their feelings reach their peak.” The overall fluidity of notes well constructed with poetic articulations and thorough meaningful sense of place in all music pieces makes them the go-to for original indie music. Most notoriously noticed as a blueprint for any original indie band today, Gentlemen’s Crow never ceases to inspire the world of countless artists. The overall dynamism of musicianship by Gentlemen’s Crow is apparent in “All There Is” with written poetic verses encompassing a sensitively emotional style of musical expression describing that: “this is how the door swings open.” The distinctive vocals alongside the feeling of great music making of Gentlemen’s Crow is audibly discernible.

This calmly resolute and savant sound and style of Gentlemen’s Crow creates an encouraging atmosphere for all music enthusiasts to catch sight of this EP.

www.gentlemenscrow.com

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Music Reviews

Pat Nason

Pat Nason

Here and Now

Pat Nason is a singer and songwriter who set out to release a brand new EP, inspired by his passion for great country music, folk, Americana, and roots rock. His new studio release is titled Here and Now, and it features five tracks.

The first cut is the perfect opener: “One Night in Texas” turns the heat on with some great melodies and an engaging rhythm which instantly transports the audience into Nason’s engaging musical world. The second song, “Let’s Make a Memory” is a sweet, charming track with a warm personal feel. It is an ode to living for the moment and treasuring every experience, because years down the line, when we’ll all be old and grey, memories are going to be something worth cherishing and holding on. With powerful lines such as “We’re alright as long as we’re together,” his song highlights what matters the most in the world: being in love and sharing the best moments in life with someone who matters. “The Way You Let Me Love You” is another breathtaking love song, which reveals more of his spontaneous lyrics. What I love about his songwriting is definitely the fact that it is so easy to relate to and it is so filled with truthfulness and passion. You just can’t kill off the authentic spirit of great songwriting, and artists like Pat are here to keep that fire alive and well. The next song in line, “Say the Word” happens to be one of my personal favorites on this particular EP. I just love how the track progressively unfolds, leading to a beautiful crescendo of harmonies and melodies in the chorus, while still retaining an incredibly nuanced and minimalist approach.

In addition to that, the last song on the EP, “A Long Night Coming,” is no less memorable. This song is a really good way to send off the audience, revealing yet another side to his amazingly spontaneous and honesty brand of musical storytelling. All in all, this is a fantastic EP which combines good songwriting with a clean production that highlights the best qualities in these compositions, without relying to heavily on studio trickery.

www.patnasonsongs.com

Categories
Interviews

Pamela Claire

Pamela Claire

With its percolating mix of indie-pop, funk, and jazz, “Directing Traffic”, the latest single from Australian singer/songwriter Pamela Claire offers a welcome respite from the gloom of the current pandemic. Oddly enough, it was her previous song, “End of Days,” unexpectedly released right before the virus enveloped the world stage seemed to predict, at least in its title, what could seemingly unfold. But that doesn’t overshadow the colorful charms of “Directing Traffic,” which is like a hip cross between the folk experimentation of Joni Mitchell with the streetwise rhythms of Luscious Jackson.

Q: It seems eerily fitting that you released a single called “End of Days” before the pandemic we’re experiencing happened. What are your thoughts on what’s happening?

A: Music has a life of its own and part of that is recognising how the listener grabs, and ‘owns’ it. Music can be very personal and a few people have shared that “End of Days” sums up how they are feeling about the current crisis, as in not being able to see the people they love or fearing the loss of the people they love. “End of Days” was written a while ago (4 years) and recorded last year (2019) before the current crisis. Maybe we are eternally ending? “End of Days” may speak to the moment you finally realize you are at the end of something, not a pretend or maybe end but the very end. The salt in the wound being that by the time you realize it’s over, it’s already long gone. I just hope everyone is close to people that care about them and supporting each other in these unsettling times.

Q: Being a professional musician is a difficult path in life to take. What made you decide to embark on that journey?

A: It’s hard to deny your creative self, you can try but you end up all twisted up inside. In many ways it’s an extension of who you are. Life can be difficult whatever path you take, whatever profession you pursue. You may as well pick a path that you can enjoy. Writing songs is something I have always done. It helps me process myself and the world around me.

Q: What are the personal challenges you have gone through as a musician, and how did you overcome them?

A: Over the years I’ve been challenged by a lack of confidence and connection. For years I wanted to ‘make something’ but didn’t credit any ideas I had as good enough to make. I’ve been lucky enough to be around really good musicians in my life. It was always so much easier and enjoyable for me to sit in the audience than to ‘pick up and play’. There came a time about 5 years ago where I gave myself permission to stumble and create. At first it was just for me, an audience of one, incredibly personal and confessional. Eventually I braved it and shared the music with some close friends who were very encouraging and supportive of me developing the music. I developed a demo then connected with the very talented producer and arranger Justin Ossher who started to build the songs into the vision – giving it a big wide landscape and many different moods and musical idioms.

Q: In terms of musical style, where do you see fitting? It can be more than one.

A: Absolutely. The album is a real mixed bag of lollies or sweets as you may say in the U.S. There are hat tips to jazz, country, blues, rock and disco. Terms like ‘Retro Pop’, ‘Alt folk’ have been thrown around but I’m unsure- maybe you can tell me? The music at times sounds nostalgic with modern storytelling. The album has some of Melbourne’s finest musicians playing on it. Diego Villalta (guitar), Adam Spiegel (bass), Damien Ellis (drums), Fabian Acuna (trumpet), Carmen O’Brien (violin), Luis Poblete (percussion), Huw Gregory (piano), Terry Mcleod (sax). All talented musicians influenced by various styles from jazz, classical, blues, country and rock.

Q: What was the first slice of music that ignited your imagination?

A: I come from a family of more music lovers than players and was lucky to be introduced to a wide range of music as a little one – Janis Joplin, Creedence, Bruce Springsteen, Cream. I remember being fascinated with Janis Joplin’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” and “White room” by Cream – I was seven.

Q: Tell me your artistic influences and how they affected you. What did you learn from them?

A: Tom Waits I adore. His songwriting, voice and feel. Tori Amos is so beautifully emotional and otherworldly. David Bowie, an incredible artist famously quoted for “Don’t play to the gallery”. Sarah Vaughan and her magnificent voice. All different artists but so uniquely able to very quickly transport you. I’m drawn to artists that create a world for you or are able to share their inner world.

Q: Can you describe how you have evolved creatively throughout the years?

A: I sang in musicals as a kid. I played ‘Fagin’ in the school musical Oliver when I was 11 years old. Strange but true. I was an actor in my late teens/early 20’s in a few theatre productions. I then became involved with filmmaking and editing and ran a small business making music videos for Australian artists. I left that world behind and focused a decade on studies and community service work. I picked up a guitar and started writing again 5 years ago when I was home with our baby daughter. As most parents can relate to, you are very housebound in the early years and creatively I had 20 years of emotional back catalogue to process, so it was perfect timing. Making this album (Lonely Sets Me Free – out late 2020) with Justin Ossher and some of Melbourne’s finest musicians was in every way a dream come true. The process pushed me way out of my comfort zone and off the cliff. I have a background in film making so writing and directing the music videos for the album allowed me to creatively and visually take the storytelling to different place. There are many ways you grow creatively over time: by allowing yourself to take risks, to make mistakes, to take time to develop ideas, to embrace the multi faceted ways in which you grow and the way ideas fully express themselves – are all part of it. Also knowing when to back yourself and learning when to listen to people who you trust and who respect your ideas – are all so important. My intention, from the beginning, was that the music was realised to its fullest potential. As challenging as it can be at times, it is such a wonderful experience being able to create your own work. It’s incredibly creatively satisfying and when others connect to the work you have made- well that’s the cherry on top.

www.pamelaclaire.com/about

Categories
Music Reviews

Debbie Deane

Debbie Deane

Grove House

Now Forward Music

Debbie Deane’s Grove House album is an emotionally powerful and musically captivating work.

This stunning LP features twelve songs, including the beautiful opening track “Poseidon,” which sets the bar quite high from the start. The song reveals the intimate mood of this album, as well as Deane’s mellow and intimate vocal style. The song “Yesterday” has a very low-key arrangement, with a smooth drum sound and some vibrant piano parts, which match her silk-smooth vocals. The track “Bad Boy” features some R&B vibes as well, especially due to the beautiful electric piano parts. Deane’s singing is highly dynamic, as are the feathered drum parts which have a nice touch on the hats and some great side click tones on the snare during the verses, getting way thicker in the chorus with a full-on sound.

The song “Pie” is a true folk-pop jam with a bit of a ’90s feel. This one makes me think of artists such as Alanis Morissette as well as KT Tunstall. I really enjoy the simple and direct arrangement, with Deane giving one of her warmest vocal performances. The choruses have a beautiful set of harmonies, creating a nice contrast with the verses, which are more sparse and understated. Another one of the highlights on the record is “The Spell.” The intro has a beautiful ambience, almost beginning in a free-form factor. Later, the track dives deeper into a rather experimental fusion style, showing off her incredible versatility and ability to reach new creative heights. “Slow It Down” is one of my favorite songs on this release. I enjoy the piano tone and how the simple melody locks in perfectly with Deane’s vocals, almost tipping the hat off to some of the best modern jazz singers of this generation. From jazz to rock, pop, and folk, this album reveals Deane’s mastery and ability to channel so many influences under one roof.

If you are a fan of artists as diverse as Gillian Welch, Ani DiFranco or John Prine, this one is going to be right up your alley.

rkmmusiccom.bandcamp.com/album/grove-house

Categories
Interviews

Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva

Q: Being a professional musician is a difficult path in life to take. What made you decide to embark on that journey?

A: I usually say that we don’t choose music, but music choose us. A musician has deep inside a passion that drives him into doing what he loves. As a composer I also had a will to bring some love to people through my music and also bring something new and fresh for peoples ears. All that combined drove me to face the world of difficulties and challenges of a journey that took me out of the middle of Brazil and to make it here in New York where I live today.

Q: What are the personal challenges you have gone through as a musician, and how did you overcome them?

A: I think of two major challenges in a musician life that we learn to overcome or deal with it in a daily basis. One is the financial stability and the other is believing in yourself. New York is a place that makes you work so hard to survive that it is almost like a gym for overcoming obstacles. This city made me endure, believe in myself and find many talents I had to use in my benefit. Today, other than playing and composing I also teach piano, guitar, drums and believe it or not dance too ! But that is another story.

Q: What are the qualities of drumming that attract you the most?

A: First of all drums are fun. I think what I like most about being a drummer is that drummers have to be masters of the form and keep their ears open all times wile playing. For me that is really important once it boosts arranging and composing abilities. Other than that I think that having a great sense of rhythm is the first skill a great musician must have.

Q: In terms of musical style, where do you see fitting? It can be more than one.

A: Well, that’s a tricky question for me. Since I started my professional life I chose to study and practice a variety of styles so I could become a contemporary musician, with capacity of creating something fresh and being able to play in different style situations. Of course my Brazilian roots are very strong in my core, specially music from my state Minas Gerais, but I’ve always been in jazz, funk, Latin and big band stages. I can say that this EP I am releasing now is a fusion of contemporary jazz and the music of my state in Brazil, Minas Gerais.

Q: What was the first slice of music that ignited your imagination?

A: I grew up on the music of Milton Nascimento, Caetano Velozo and classical music influenced by my mother that used to sing in a church choir. I remember learning by ear part of the Ode to Joy in the piano in a very young age.

Q: Tell me your artistic influences and how they affected you. What did you learn from them?

A: I have so many influences in the most diverse styles. I can name a few of the most important ones that really came out in my latest compositions such as: Toninho Horta, Toninho Horta, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and others. Milton and Toninho are from the Clube da Esquina movement in Brazil in the ’70s and deeply influenced me through my whole life affecting everything I do in special harmony and melody wise. Wayne is my favorite sax player and one of my favorite jazz composers as well and his solo Ideas and sound influenced me profoundly. Tony Williams is my favorite drummer of all time, and through listening and transcribing his playing I got a lot of his ideas into my playing.

Q: Can you describe how you have evolved creatively throughout the years?

A: In general I think creativity was always there in a way. I try to keep my mind young and playful so I can always access that creativity. I think that the musical tools that I acquired through the years, in the drums, piano and music theory, made possible to access that creativity and put it out in the form of music.

Q: Do you feel being a musician is a job or a hobby? Or both. Please explain.

A: For me being a musician is Being. Being a musician is being free to express myself and get more skilled developing the biggest passion in my life and make a living through this process. It is also sharing love, culture and knowledge with people. Is much more than a job or hobby and that is also why should be always be respected by society as an important role.

Q: Are there any artists you dream of collaborating with? Which ones and why?

A: I have many artists that I dream of collaborating and some of them I already had worked with such as Toninho Horta and Darcy James Argue. Their music deeply influenced me. Also with the great Jazz masters for sure. One thing that really instigates me is collaborating with amazing musicians of my generation that are creating the music of this time we live in, and that’s why New York is the place to be. I can name a few such as Rafal Sarnecki, Helio Alves, Chico Pinheiro, Alex Cummings, Lucas Pino, Panagiotis Andreou and many other brilliant minds that makes the New York jazz scene what it is

danielsilvamusic.com/home

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Music Reviews

Sarah and the Swinging Richards

Sarah and the Swinging Richards

Rollercoaster

Florida-based Sarah and the Swinging Richards bewilders and astounds on an unpredictable Rollercoaster of a new LP. The album is extremely well-produced, showcasing a distinctive and dynamic sound that’s inspired by rock, soul, indie, R&B, and so much more.

The album features eight songs, including the opening track “Feels Good,” which has a distinctive and personal touch. The sultry vocals match the blues-rock inspired arrangement, which makes me think of groups such as Menahan Street Band or even The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The second track, “Back Away,” is kind of opposite when compared to the first. While the opening song says “I’ve been feeling good since you’ve been coming around,” this one is an ode to independence and looking for your own path in life and getting rid of toxic people: “There’s only so much a person can take. You pushed me to my limit, and that I can’t forget.”

“The Whiskey Song” is another distinctive track with a retro-inspired sound that almost reminds me of Paul McCartney and Wings, with a cool set of melodies and some great arrangements. “Funny Feeling” begins with a catchy bass riff, and it dives into a completely different arrangement, bringing more depth to the sound with some bluesy vibes. The title cut is one of my favorite songs on the record, particularly due to its sophisticated drum beat and smooth melodic arrangement inspired by jazz and neo-soul.

“Betting Girl” is a highly energetic song with a special touch and a melodic twist. I love how the bass interacts with the electric piano and guitar, not to mention the vocals! “Lyin’ Love” is a fresh song with a warm and blues-driven style, almost making me think of legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughn. Last, but definitely not least, “Rising Water” is a perfect song to end the record, with its smooth textures and masterful work on the drums.

The album is enjoyable from the first note to the very last, and it is an incredibly textural record with a superb production and some memorable songs that hit the mark on all fronts. This is catchy music which also holds a bit of an experimental touch and the willingness to explore.

satsr.com

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Music Reviews

Mike Cottone

Mike Cottone

Thank You

Trumpeter/composer Mike Cottone is back on the scene with a brand new album titled Thank You. The release features twelve songs, and each track has something unique to offer. The album explores a wide range of music style, ranging from jazz to funk and fusion. Cottone is a skilled trumpet player, who brings a lot of passion and expressiveness to his sound. The opening track, “Funky Sam” is actually a perfect taste of his vision. The track features funk-inspired bass lines and sophisticated drum patterns, adding to the charm and character of this release.

“I’m Not the Only One” is definitely another highlight on this record. The intro features a classic electric piano sound, a bit distorted and compressed, reminiscent of some of the best performers of the ’60s. The percussive backdrop is minimalist, yet it definitely hits the mark, accompanying his lead melodies to perfection. This song has a bit of a nostalgic vibe, but it’s also positive and inspiring.

“The Way It Is” is another stand-out moment in my opinion. The song kicks off with a sparse drum introduction, and it later develops into a very hypnotic arrangement with somewhat of an experimental feel. Influences as diverse as math rock and fusion creep in, echoing the work of composers such as Sam Prekop, only to mention one. There is also room for a rendition of a classic, as Cottone and his band gave their own spin to the famed “Killing Me Softly” tune, this time giving the track a special ’70s feel, with a bit of a progressive jazz edge.

Ultimately, what makes Thank You special is the fact that this is a direct yet open-ended album, which seamlessly embraces a huge variety of creative influences to perfection. There is always room for more ideas and unique creative vibes, with Cottone providing some outstanding melodies and harmonies whether he goes for a more classic feel or for something more outlandish and one-of-a-kind.

www.mikecottone.com

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Music Reviews

Rhonda Head

Rhonda Head

Played

One of the first things that you might notice about this single is the fact that it has a very minimalist arrangement, based on few, very powerful elements. The song begins with a beautiful rhythm pattern on the acoustic guitar, going for a staccato feel, that later matches perfectly with the subtle drum tracks. Rhonda Head’s vocals are intimate and direct. If you listen to this song with a good pair of headphones, it almost feels like the singer is gently whispering into your ear. There is an intimate quality to her vocal sound, and she feels present, yet extremely soothing and down-to-earth. Her lyrics are personal and dynamic, and the song is about deceit in relationships, the aftermath of being in a relationship with someone who is not entirely truthful with you.

Although the experience can be painful, this song has a positive message. Head states that “being played isn’t fun for anyone,” but she also reminds her audience that life goes on, and there are going to be many other opportunities along the way to find through love, and people who are worth the wait and the while. This is a very honest track and it has a diverse approach to production as well. The sound of this effort is remarkably personal and intimate, and one of its biggest strong points is definitely the inner simplicity of the arrangement. In other words, this tune proves that you do not need extensive studio trickery in order to really make the most out of your sound, and it stands out as a great example of “less is more.”

Head combines her stunning vocal performance with a one-of-a-kind sound, which appears soulful and mellow, with a distinctive touch and with so much to offer in terms of musical storytelling as well. Head’s excellent vocals are special. They are extremely beautiful and nuanced, going for a sultry, yet dynamic and catchy approach. Her music is jazz at its core, but her vocals showcase a lot of versatility, with hints of blues and R&B at play as well.

rhondahead.com