Tag Archives: Review

Jon Sheckler Trio: Cityscapes

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A brand new album comes from drummer and composer Jon Sheckler. It’s called “Cityscapes” and it features

  • Steve Denny – Fender Rhodes
  • Aron Caceres-  Double Bass
  • Jon Sheckler – Drums

Official release date was October 19 and Jon Sheckler celebrated it with a release show at the Nublu Classic. The album is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

This album has a special setup: all songs have been written by drummer Jon Sheckler and sound is dominated by a Fender Rhodes.

I have to admit that the Fender Rhodes piano is one of my personal favorites. For me, it still has this modern electric sound compared to a piano or grand piano. So good preconditions for me to listen to this album.

The first song “Right Side Up” starts with an easy and melodic theme with nice rhythmic breaks, played very relaxed in medium-up tempo.  The first solo goes to the piano, Steve Denny gets great support from Jon Sheckler and Aron Caceres stays focused. A bass solo with nice interplay with the piano comes next. Jon Sheckler plays the last solo of this tune. His excellent drums solo is straight and dynamic at the same time. Jon says about that song:  “I wanted the first track to be an example of the whole album.  It has a good singable melody that seems less complicated then it is.  You don’t really feel the key changes and abnormal form.” And yes, this first song sets the stage for the whole album. It lasts a little bit over 7 minutes but is entertaining and diversified.

“Cold Reading” is the second tune. It has a much slower and heavier groove. It becomes softer for a extensive bass solo and tension rises with the piano solo that follows. The song ends with a very nice and dynamic outro.

The song “Junction Junction” is one of my favorites on the album. It is a 24-bars moll blues played in up-tempo. We hear a great piano solo, where Steve Denny is again fully supported by bass and drums and then Jon gets his chance to shine with a another perfect drums solo.

The title song “Cityscapes” comes next. This is not really just a song only, it’s more like a suite. It has three different parts plus a drum solo between the second and third part. The first part lasts about 4 minutes, the second goes for 5 minutes, followed by the drums solo of about 2:30 minutes before the final part comes.  The total playtime of this masterpiece is 15:47 minutes. Jon gives more details: “The three sections each represent a neighborhood in New York and New Orleans. The first section is based around Ridgewood in Queens, the second is inspired by Midtown Manhattan and the final act is meant to sound like the Garden District in New Orleans. The tune is so sprawling and the title invokes so much imagery that it had to be the foundation of the record.” The Ridgewood-section is quite contemplative and features Aron Caceres on bass. Midtown Manhattan starts soft before it really picks up and ends with piano and drums enlivening each other. The drums solo leads over to the Garden District part which is a sunny, almost Caribbean theme played with variations by the piano.

The album continues with the tune “CBR”. Another highlight for me. A neat theme played in straight swinging style in the sound of a Jazz standard. Piano and bass play very good solos and the drummer has two 8-bar solo breaks, in typical jam style.

“Each Others”, a beautiful ballad, comes next.  According to Jon it is one of the songs that are “landing very well” with the audience. Especially the bass solo is very catchy.

The last tune on the album is “3rd Floor Walk Up”. A steady 7/8 groove lays the foundation of this song. Steve Denny takes again the opportunity to play a fantastic piano solo and Jon Sheckler follows with an impressive and very dynamic drums solo. The song and the album fade out with a pulsating bass. Very cool.

“Cityscapes” is an excellent album with a distinct sound. The Fender Rhodes piano creates this special and unique touch. All compositions have tonal centers and give the listener an easy access to the songs. The musicians are masters on their instruments and manage the up-tempo tunes in a very relaxed and easy way. The interplay is also remarkable and shows that these guys have spent a lot of time together and understand each other very well. So a clear recommendation from my side.

More information about upcoming shows are found on Jon’s website: https://www.shecklermusic.com/

And finally a playlist on Spotify:

Daniel Bennett Group: We Are The Orchestra

We Are the Orchestra - Album Cover (Photo by Pooja Rudra)

More than two years have passed since I presented an album of the Daniel Bennett Group. The group comes back this September not with mysteries or confusion but with pure music. “We Are The Orchestra” is the name of the latest album that has been released on September 7.

Daniel Bennett prefers to play in small ensembles, he goes on tour only with drums and guitar. For this album he reduced the number of musicians down to two.  He and Mark Cocheo recorded all of the wind, string and percussion instruments with the goal to create the sound of a large ensemble.

The line-up looks as follows:

  • Daniel Bennett: Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Oboe, Piano, Percussion
  • Mark Cocheo: Electric Guitar, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Nylon-String Guitar

The collaboration between these two musicians started when Bennett arranged the musical score for “Whitman at the Whitney” at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The show featured Daniel Bennett on saxophone and Mark Cocheo on banjo playing famous opera excerpts from the 19th and 20th century.

The official promotion video explains that in detail:

The album contains eight songs with a total playtime of 29 minutes and features six originals by Daniel Bennett and two opera themes by 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi.

The album starts with the song “Loose Fitting Spare Tire”, a typical Daniel Bennett composition that modulates heavily. The banjo and the western guitar define the folk sound of this tune. Solo instruments are an electric guitar and saxophone.

“I’m Not Nancy” follows this pattern, a catchy melody based on harmonies with multiple tonal centers. Flute and banjo are the solo instruments and the band sounds this time like a bluegrass combo.

The third song “Gold Star Mufflers” is another Daniel Bennett-original. The piano background gives this song it’s character and the minor chords moving in major thirds create that special “mystery” sound of this song.

The album continues with the “Theme From Ernani”, the first opera theme on this album. The pulse of the song comes from the banjo rhythm, Mark Cocheo plays a great guitar solo (I guess on his telecaster), the flute adds nice fills and someone had fun with the percussions especially with the vibra-slap.

We come to my personal favorite on the album. It’s a composition by Daniel Bennett again and is called “Refinancing For Elephants”. This song has a beautiful contemplative feeling, with the clarinet and the piccolo playing the melody and guitar and tambourin laying the background.

“Inside Our Pizza Oven” goes all the way to Marrakech, a song that reminds me of the atmosphere of the ‘Djemaa el Fna’-marketplace. Daniel plays the oboe and percussion and Mark adds a strumming guitar.

The next tune is the second composition by Guiseppe Verdi on the album. This title is called “Theme From Il Trovatore” and the Daniel Bennett Group interprets this waltz straight even a little bit cheesy, especially when two saxophones play the melody together at 1:30, but it fits perfectly for this song.

The album closes with “Carl Finds His Way”, again a typical Daniel Bennett-composition with moving tonal centers. Mark plays his guitar solo with a distortion effect, so this songs sounds much more like a pop song. Mark and Daniel again have a chance to show their virtuosity and the song ends with a dialog between guitar and saxophone.

The album is quite an eclectic collection of musical elements from folk, classic and jazz music and shows the versatility and the mastery of these two musicians. They have been able to create a full and well-balanced  sound. The Daniel Bennett Group has clearly found it’s style and the success of their unique musical approach proves them right.

More information about the Daniel Bennett Group can be found on their website:
https://danielbennettgroup.com

And finally a playlist on Spotify: