CHARLIE APICELLA & IRON CITY (FB)– “THE BUSINESS” (Guitar/organ ensemble, groovin’ straight-ahead to originals and jazz tunes).
AllAboutJazz.com (Greg Simmons): "In places it seems as much indebted to rock 'n' roll as to jazz, with Korzin pumping out solid grooves—playing with the same economy as Apicella, sticking with keeping time, but almost never throwing in so much as an accent roll. It's that restraint—the precedence of the group over the individuals—that makes The Business a good record. This is simple, toe-tapping, head-nodding music—mostly blues and R&B-based. It's not flashy or especially innovative, but it is fun, and that seems more to the point."
RICK BRAUN (FB, @RickBraun9, YouTube) – “SINGS WITH STRINGS” (Smooth jazz trumpeter takes a shot at singing standards, not bad)
Allmusic.com (William Ruhlmann): There is a long tradition of jazz trumpeters putting aside their horns and singing into the microphone, dating back to Louis Armstrong and including Chet Baker, and Rick Braun belatedly joins this confraternity on Sings with Strings. " Braun certainly doesn't embarrass himself as a singer. He has a light, breathy tenor that marks him as a sort of little brother to Mel Tormé, and he is sufficiently assured to try a few note substitutions and time variation..." The album is not the revelation that Chet Baker Sings was, and it does not suggest that Braun should hock his horns. But it is a more than respectable side project.
DEEP BLUE ORGAN TRIO – “WONDERFUL!” (@DeepBlueOrgan3o, FB) (Organ/guitar trio, swinging the tunes of Stevie Wonder).
The Jazz Word: "the disc is a toe tapping, swinging affair with nine interpretations of classic Wonder material, featuring the soulful renderings of guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham.Wonder's reputation as a master craftsman of melody and harmony has been secured for some time and jazz musicians recording his music is nothing new. What makes this recording stand out is the convincing and seemingly natural way the trio presents familiar pop tunes in a straight-ahead manner. The groovy swing heard on "If You Really Love Me" and "As" and the crawling ballad tempo of "My Cheri Amour" bring freshness to the material, enhanced by the band's signature, greasy allure. The dirty funk treatment given to the Wonder-penned hit for Rufus "Tell Me Something Good" is worth the price of admission."
ORRIN EVANS – “FREEDOM” (@PosiTone) (Pianist, in a straight-ahead session, with a sax on 2 tracks, doing mostly originals)
AllAboutJazz.com (Dan Bilawsky): "The music itself, despite a title that might indicate otherwise, is actually Evans most conventional output in quite some time. The spiky intensity of The Captain Black Big Band and the left-leaning, in-and-out esthetic of Tarbaby's work is nowhere to be found on this date. While Evans still injects his own personality into these pieces, his mission here is to honor others. Swing is a central element on a large number of the tracks, but it isn't all that Evans has to offer. Dewy balladry built with glacial grace (Evans' "Dita"), a rhythmically engaging workout on Shirley Scott's "Oasis," and an album-closing, solo piano take on Herbie Hancock's "Just Enough" all exhibit different sides of the indefatigable Orrin Evans."
SIR ROLAND HANNA – “COLORS FROM A GIANT’S KIT” (Previously unreleased solo piano collection of mostly originals).
JazzTimes.com (David Whiteis): "These selections were recorded during the 1990s and as late as 2002 by IPO’s Bill Sorin, before his label came into being. They showcase pianist Sir Roland Hanna, the label’s first artist, at the height of his powers. Hanna’s playing resonates with an authoritative, almost regal forcefulness yet it’s also graceful. Despite his deft technique, he never sacrifices meaning for display, and there’s a sense of joy and discovery at every turn—life-affirming melodic and harmonic richness, deep emotion without bathos." "Hanna brings to bear the full arsenal of his technical and imaginative gifts, yet his playing is infused with an emotional immediacy that cuts to the core of blues expression. A balance of strength and soul this effective was remarkably rare, and makes Hanna’s absence—he died in 2002—all the more unfortunate."
RANDY JOHNSTON – “PEOPLE MUSIC” (Random Acts Records FB) (Guitar/organ trio, doing originals and jazz tunes, with Randy singing on 2 tracks).
NICK RUFFINI – “PRESSIN’ ON” (FB, @Nick_Ruffini, YouTube) (Drummer-led session, with guitarist Johnny DeFrancesco, again, an organ oriented sound…edgy).
RICHARD UNDERHILL (@richardunderhill, FB, YouTube) – “KENSINGTON SUITE” (Saxophonist, leading a variety of ensembles, doing all originals, on the edgy side, with 4 tracks featuring…you guessed it…the organ).
JazzReviews.com (Samira Blackwell): "The unexpected, elastic sparkle of brilliance shimmers through every song - an endless tingle that dances down your spine and begs repeated listening over and again. Kensington Suite makes such contribution and Richard’s artistry positively equals the transcendent peaks made by Parker, Coltrane, Henderson and Brecker. This is jazz at its finest and being a veritable collector, I make no apologies for these comments."
TOM WOPAT (@tomwopat, FB, YouTube) – “CONSIDER IT SWUNG” (Former “Dukes of Hazzard” star, singing a collection of old and new standards and originals. Well done).
JazzTimes.com (Christopher Loudon): Now, another five years having passed (since 2006 Harold Arlen tribute Dissertation On the State of Bliss), Wopat is back with Consider It Swung, a far more wide-ranging album. New York Times music critic Stephen Holden, whose knowledge of jazz and cabaret singers is likely unequalled, has aptly compared Wopat to the later-career Sinatra. His gravelly baritone is singularly engaging and, like Sinatra, he has an actor’s ability to fully embrace a lyric, digging to the roots of each song’s story. "...Wopat is equally, if not more, appealing when he ventures beyond the Great American Songbook. Bobbie Gentry’s delta mini-drama “Ode to Billie Joe” is particularly well suited to his story-weaving skills, as are Joni Mitchell’s wistful “2 Grey Rooms” and “You’d Rather Have the Blues,” Dave Frishberg’s delightfully cynical portrait of a perpetual pessimist. His bluesy retelling of Delbert McClinton’s “Maybe Someday Baby” is a first-rate scorcher that swings with Joe Williams gutsiness, his hazy reading of “Deacon Blues” is earthier than the Steely Dan original and there’s plenty of soulful swagger in his “A Natural Man.”