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Modern Jazz: Kevin Neale, Tribute to Jaco Pastorius

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KEVIN NEALE: Life and Soul (CD on Skyline Studios)

This release from 2005 features 49 minutes of satisfying modern jazz.

Pleasant keyboards define easy-going tunes embellished by wafts of good-time violin. The keyboards express themselves in a variety of modes, some vibrating with infectious joviality, others sweeping with more pensive sentiment, but all pursuing vibrant melodies that expand rather than cycle. Delicate riffs surface at all the right moments. There’s even an incidence of highly charged synthesizers that combines techno and contemporary jazz with particularly rewarding results.

Bass rumbles with a smoothly lurking presence. Acoustic guitar creates a romantic flair that merges nicely with a melancholic cello. Generally, though, the guitar is electric when it makes its sneaky appearances, providing a fiery voice that smolders without burning.

Sturdy percussion provides a pep with periodic rhythmic diversions. The beats remain appealing throughout, generating a soft thrill with their sinuous undulations.

The compositions are a tasty mixture of uptempo and dreamy. Catchy tunes are produced with an engaging touch of fusion. Pop influences creep at the periphery of the songs, lending a congenial air. While the calming harmonies establish a pastoral affability of exemplary influence.

From the stoic humor of the title track, to the glistening tension of “Psychodrama” to the jubilant swing of “West Burnside”, these tunes are charismatic and delightful.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Gospel for J.F.P. III: a Tribute to Jaco Pastorius (CD on Moonjune Records)

This release from 2005 offers 69 minutes of modern interpretations of classic Pastorius jazz compositions.

The late (and great) Jaco Pastorius is best known for his session work, although he played with Weather Report and numerous other bands. His innovative mastery transformed the bass from a foundational piece into a lead instrument.

Featured pieces are:

“Three Views of a Secret” performed by Hiram Bullock, Bireli Lagrene & Contrafarsa. Blending vocal arrangements with electric and acoustic guitar results in a lazy humidity of endearing quality.

“Las Olas” performed by Michael Gerber (with Toninho Horta, Kenny Davis, Danny Gotlieb, and Armando Marcal). An old school take on a romantic song.

“Havona” performed by Othello Molineaux (with Bob Mintzer, Abel Pabon, Pete Sebastian, Jonathan Joseph, and Robert Thomas Jr). A distinctly modern version with rolling propulsion.

“Continuum” performed by Michael Gerber (with Gil Goldstein, Mike Stern, Romero Lubambo, and Armando Marcal). A sedate piece handled with cafe sensibilities.

“I Can Dig It Baby” performed by Grupo Del Cuareim. Easy jazz with vocals and a plethora of percussives. (Technically, this is not a Pastorius composition, but represents the first time he lent his signature groove as a session artist.)

“Dania” performed by Michael Gerber (with Kenny Davis and Billy Hart). Another sentimental excursion conducted with minimal ensemble flair.

“Punk Jazz” performed by Gil Goldstein using only accordions. Truly a pleasantly surprising miracle to behold.

“Teen Town” performed by Kenwood Dennard (with Marcus Miller, Hiram Bullock, Delmar Brown, and Charles Blenzig). Energetic modern jazz with a strong kick.

“Microcosm” performed by Rich Franks, Alex Darqui and John Patitucci. A sparse piece making superb use of piano, bass and drums to achieve a straight-ahead jazz feeling.

“Good Morning Anya” performed by Zebra Coast (Gil Goldstein, Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent, and Alex Acuna). Evoking a smoky room milieu with saucy saxophone, meandering piano, thumping bass, and durable drums.

“Gospel for J.F.P III” performed by Trio Fattoruso. A dense piece putting traditional instruments to purely modern use. (This track is not a Pastorius composition, but a dedication to the man.)

Overall, a rewarding dose of Pastorius handled with reverence and inventive accomplishment.

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