Tag Archives: Album

Robin McKelle: Alterations

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Vocalist Robin McKelle has just released a new album called “Alterations”. She picked songs from some of the most celebrated female vocalists and developed her own interpretation of these masterpieces. With the support from pianist and arranger Shedrick Mitchell she transformed her visions of these songs into stunning arrangements for an extended jazz combo.

The line up for this album is:

  • Robin McKelle: vocals
  • Shedrick Mitchell: piano
  • Richie Goods: bass
  • Charles Haynes: drums
  • Nir Felder: guitar
  • Keith Lofti: saxophone
  • Marquis Hill: trumpet

The album starts with Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”. The soft latin pulse is in great contrast to the steady beat of the original version but this freedom allows the band and Robin McKelle to develop greater dynamics.

“Rolling in the Deep” is the next song. Again much more open than the original version which puts Robin’s singing in the front. Nir Felder plays a fantastic solo accompanied by a pushing rhythm section with an incredible Charles Haynes on drums.

The album continues with the only original from Robin McKelle called “Head High”. This song is a true jazz song and underlines that she is really a jazz musician. The band is playing again incredible and saxophonist Keith Lofti is featured with this song.

“Don’t Explain” from Billy Holiday comes next. This song shows again the perfection of this band to handle a steady pulse without pushing for it. Soft drums and percussion and overdubbing vocals are the major characteristics of this song.

“Born to Die” from Rana Del Rey comes next. This song features Marquis Hill on trumpet. Remarkable is here again that the singing and the lyrics of this song are so clear in Robin McKelle’s interpretation compared to the original version where a lot of electronic ballast covers the vocalist.

“Jolene” by Dolly Parton is the next song on the album. Very groovy and bluesy with a nice Fender Rhodes piano solo.

The album continues with “River” by Joni Mitchell. A nice pop ballad perfectly played with a great guitar solo by Nir Felder.

“No Ordinary Love” from Sade comes next. This song was released as a single on January 31, 2020 and is presented in the open style which we have heard before and which is the main characteristic of this album. Guitarist Nir Felder gets the next chance to shine with an extended guitar solo and I am again enjoying the incredible drumming by Charles Haynes.

The next tune is Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”. This tune comes with a much harder beat and a heavier rock guitar sound than all the other songs on the album and shows the versatility of Robin and her band.

The album closes with Carol King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” presented as duet between Robin McKelle on vocals and Shedrick Mitchell on piano.

In the making of the album, most of Robin’s vocal tracks used on the final recording were the takes she sang live with the band. Robin explains: “The energy and connection with the musicians was so powerful. They lifted me up and made it feel effortless. I’ve never felt so confident in the studio.”

As I said before the album impresses with a band that enjoys the scope and the space they have with these excellent arrangements. Robin McKelle’s interpretation is also totally in line with the band and so we have here an outstanding album of very well-known songs presented in a new and very inspiring way.

Robin McKelle is on tour in Europe in March, April and May where she will present the new album. Nir Felder will be touring with her so this looks quite interesting. All tour dates are published on her website:

https://robinmckelle.com/

And here is the complete album on Spotify:

Claudio Scolari Project: Upside Down

The Claudio Scolari Project has released a new album in October 2019 and this band continues its journey in free and improvised music. The evolution of the band is obvious and the focus of the album is on live performance. Everything on the album was live improvised and recorded.

To have this full and balanced sound the band added a bass player and the line-up is now:

  • Claudio Scolari: Drum set 1, Synth Programming
  • Daniele Cavalca: Drum Set 2, Live Synths, Rhodes, Piano
  • Simone Scolari: Trumpet
  • Michele Cavalca: Electric Bass

The advantage of this line-up is evident and answers one of the question which many people might have asked: Is it possible to play the music live on stage? This is now clearly the case and the following video shows the band playing the song “Wired”:

The album starts with “Smoke in C Minor”, a song that features  Daniele Cavalca on piano. It has some typical elements of this band, the pulse comes from the drums (with some surprising breathing pauses) and the acoustic piano is spiced up by electronic sounds.

We hear the full band with bass and trumpet in “Underground Soul”. This song begins soft but steady with the piano introducing the main riff, the piano and trumpet hold a dialog which is joined by the bass. At around 5:00 min the steady pulse is opened by the drums and all musicians improvise freely. Daniele Cavalca returns to the main riff to end the song. Very impressive.

“Upside Road” is a dialog between drums and a funky Rhodes piano with some additional synthesizer elements.

In “And I’ll Make You Smile” the complete band returns. The main riff for this song is again kind of funky and either the rhythmic or the melodic pattern of this riff is kept throughout the song.

The title song “Upside Down” comes next. The drums groove in a classical swing style and after a lengthy introduction the piano introduces the main theme which is complemented with trumpet fills. Claudio Scolari keeps his steady pace and the other musicians have the space and freedom to improvise together.

“Twister” is drum duo piece which I was also hoping to hear once. Very sophisticated  playing by Claudio Scolari and Daniele Cavalca show the many sounds of two extended drum sets.

“Syrah Hangover” impresses with its beautiful harmonic structure. The melody comes from the trumpet this time and synthesizer sounds dominate the background. I like the synthetic sounds by Daniele Cavalca very much, in a way they sound not too digital, even a little bit old-fashioned.

“Wired” comes next and this song is definitely my favorite on the album. Some nice stereo effects in the introduction, a beautiful spacious motif from Simone Scolari on trumpet, a grooving bass and really pushing drums create an incredible intensity in this song. Very powerful.

“Bismantova Castle” is as an open dialog between Michele Cavalca on bass and Simone Scolari on trumpet. The trumpet sound has a lot of echo and is very spacious while the bass is rather direct without effects which gives this song its nice contrast.

The album ends with another drum duet called “Fast And Last” which is fast and furious and sounds to me like a spontaneous session which was recorded, a little bit like an unplugged encore but nevertheless sounding great.

The Claudio Scolari Project has reached another level of freedom with this album, it has found it’s own sound and style and it is now in a position to perform this music live. So I hope some festival organizers become aware of this incredible band and invite them. I would really love to see this band playing live.

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify: