Archives for the month of: July, 2018

Album Review: Focus, Shaun Martin (Ropeadope, July 2018)

I liked Shaun Martin the instant I heard his first chord. His debut 7 Summers album (Ropeadope, 2015) is still one of my favourite piano jazz recordings. Martin has a majestic compositional and musical style. There’s something sweeping and “American” about his sound – a hint of Aaron Copeland.

In Focus, Martin delivers jazz piano in a more conventional trio framework while retaining his knack for rhythm and pleasing chords. This record, more than his last, oozes patience and evokes the touch of a pianist like Ahmad Jamal. To wit, Martin’s version of “Body and Soul” is as classical a rendering of that standard as one can imagine. “Festina Lente” is more grand, bridging contemporary and smooth jazz. “Ms Genell” is an easy-going and bluesy number, named for his grandmother.

Martin writes on his bandcamp page, “this album reminds me to focus on the purity of the instruments and the authenticity of music.” With Focus, he’s achieved thisĀ for himself and for the listener.

 

The Players: Shaun Martin (piano), Jamil Byrom (drums), AJ Brown (double bass); On “Focus,” Keith Taylor (bass), Robert ‘Sput’ Searight (drums)

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Concert Review: Herbie Hancock, Toronto, June 29 2018, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

L to R: Herbie Hancock, Lionel Loueke, Trevor Lawrence Jr., James Genus (photo by author)

What’s constantly impressive about Herbie Hancock is his ability to innovate. A full 6 decades into his career, his forward momentum has never dragged. His June 29 show in Toronto was no exception.

Hancock opened with not so much a tune as a sonic sculpture. Layering, bending, crescendoing, Hancock reminded the audience that he is a pioneer of synthesized music. He had told the audience he would take us on “a journey.” By the end of his opener, we had taken flight.

Lionel Loueke was on guitar that night in his inimitable way, crafting sounds with his effects pedals that blurred the lines between keyboard, guitar, and horns. It reminded me of a passage I read in Hancock’s autobiography wherein he chose a clavinet for his Headhunters ensemble, partly to avoid the need for a guitar. With Loueke’s innovations, Hancock has come full circle, electing to play the acoustic piano while Loueke rocked the spacier effects of the evening. The flipside to Loueke’s presence was the conspicuous absence of Terrace Martin, who had been touring with Hancock until his recent departure for a European tour for one of his other projects. Although I would have liked to see Martin on keys and saxophone, I would not change anything about the show that ultimately materialized.

The performance was deep with delight. Hancock enchanted everyone in the place with his music, his virtuosity, and his disarming affability. Seeing Hancock for the first time qualified as a bucket list checkmark for me. Now that I’ve experienced him live, I realize one doesn’t satisfy a jonesing for Herbie Hancock’s performances. One can only relish them in the moment because they will never be the same again.

 

Setlist (from Setlist.fm)

  • Overture
  • Actual Proof
  • Come Running to Me
  • Secret Source
  • (unknown)
  • Cantaloupe Island
  • Encore: Chamaeleon

 

The Players: Herbie Hancock (piano, keyboard, keytar), James Genus (bass guitar), Trevor Lawrence Jr. (drums), Lionel Loueke (guitar)

 

Further Reading:

Playlist Review of Hancock’s autobiography, Possibilities (Viking, 2014)

Best of 2017, including Trevor Lawrence’s solo album, Relationships (Ropeadope, 2017)

Review of Terrace Martin’s last album, Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1 (Ropeadope, 2017)