Winston Byrd - Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

Winston Byrd: trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone; Mahesh Balasooriya: piano; James Santangelo: piano; David Sampson: guitar; Julian Coryell: guitar; Steve Graeber: tenor saxophone; Mark Zier: keyboards; George Rabbai: trumpet, vocals; Nick Rolfe: keyboards, synth; Mike Boone: bass; Mychael Lomas: bass; Donzell Davis: drums; Gene Lake: drums, etc.


Winston Byrd is a versatile trumpeter who developed his own language while playing on the road in small and big bands. Despite the past collaborations with David Murray and Oliver Lake, his musical instincts are not oriented to the styles of those two. In Once Upon a Time Called Right Now, he rather blends straight-ahead and traditional jazz, hard bop, soul, and funk in considerable amounts, joining the influences of Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval, and the jazz fusion of Larry Coryell and Blood, Sweat & Tears, with whom he played before.

Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin” is a thrilling festivity that oozes wha-wha funk and bracing sound effects from every pore. It ends up with an unabashed collective improvisation and bass solo.

Retrieved from the musical Evita and arranged by Joel Martin, “On This Night Of A Thousand Stars”, a composition by Andrew Lloyd Weber, is an excellent showcase for Byrd’s virtuosity. The interesting treatment this song was subjected to, includes multiple changes in pace and groove, and also features the crisp rumbles of Steve Pemberton on drums.

An electrifying version of Frank Loesser’s “Brotherhood of Man”, where the bandleader has the company of George Rabbai on trumpet and James Santangelo on piano, makes us jump, while Eric Otis’s “Grandma Jo’s House”, transforming a 3/4 into a 4/4, cools the temperature down with its moderate swing.

Anticipating Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, in which the pianist Mahesh Balasooriya lets out a mix of classical and jazz temperaments, we have the crossover jazz of “Borrowed Time”.

In “Anne Rising”, an illuminated ballad, Byrd embarks on a duet with the pianist Steve Rowlins. He accelerates the pace in “Mumbles”, a provocative bebop blues composed by Clark Terry, where he scats with Rabbai. The tune culminates with Byrd saying: ‘love ya grandpa Clark!’.

The following couple of tunes are the product of the collaboration between Byrd and his right hand, Giovanni Washington-Wright, who besides composing, also produced, arranged, and orchestrated in this recording. “Times”, the first original of the recording, is dominated by the eloquent guitar by Julian Coryell who sounds pretty much like Gary Moore. The second and last, is “Brown Eyes”, a smooth funk that invites us to a deep breath while relaxing to the cool sounds of the band. 

Winston Byrd’s third record will cheer you up with its moods, grooves, and gracious amplitudes. From the arrangements to the interplay, the quality and consistency of the whole are guaranteed by the participants’ synergies and dynamics.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Label: Ropeadope, 2016
Favorite Tracks:
01 – Ramblin ► 03 – Brotherhood of Man ► 10 – Brown Eyes

Charlie Hunter - Everybody Has A Plan Until...

Charlie Hunter: guitar; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Bobby Previte: drums.


Charlie Hunter, a New York-based guitarist with a catchy sound and superior technique, has a new album whose long title, Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth, was taken from a quote uttered by the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.
Hunter returns to the quartet format, adding the extraordinary trumpeter Kirk Knuffke to his regular bandmates - focused trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and exciting drummer Bobby Previte, who had partaken in his previous album, Let the Bells Ring On.
The title track invests in a persuasive jazzy bass groove, intuitive guitar chops, and well-calibrated drumming. The horn players, whenever not blowing in the same direction, fill the available spaces with tasteful detail. First solo of the recording was conceded to Fowlkes who didn’t disappoint.
(Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication”, doesn’t stand out only because of its super enigmatic title, but also for being slightly more abstract in its approach. Hunter shows off an engaging sound, establishing a fruitful connection with the reedists while Previte substantiates he's a true master in rock-style cross-cuts. 

Leave Him Lay” and “No Money, No Honey” are sketched with chunks of funk, blues, and rock. The former begins in the guise of an effulgent blues before shifting into a horn-driven extravaganza delivered at typical 4/4 tempo; the latter bursts with punchy rhythms occasionally disrupted to let the horns assume the command with authority.
The gently exotic “Latin For Travelers” does justice to its title, changing completely the mood and displaying the best solo of the record, splendidly conceived by Knuffke.
Who Put You Behind The Wheel?” adopts the form of a cartoonish dance in which we find the bandleader smothering the sound of his strings. It reserves a surprising variation for the finale. 
In turn, “(Wish I Was) Already Paid And On My Way Home” flows at a more relaxed pace than the brassy and reggae-ish “The Guys Get Shirts”, which inevitably takes the path of blues afterward.

Hunter shows all his polyvalence on guitar and forges a great album strongly rooted in the traditions of blues and rock. The quality of his arrangements is an asset.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 – (Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication ► 06 – Latin For Travelers ► 08 – Who Put You Behind The Wheel?

Snaggle - The Long Slog

Graeme Wallace: tenor sax; Max Forster: trumpet; Nick Maclean: Rhodes, organ, synth; Mike Murray: guitar; Doug Moore: bass; Tom Grosset: drums + Brownman Ali: trumpet.


The music of Snaggle, a fruitful sextet based in Toronto, translates into mature compositions and stupendous executions. The members of the band, virtuosos in their respective instruments, resort to a laudable sense of unity and superior taste to creatively orchestrate the nine pieces of The Long Slog, their sophomore feature album.

“Snaggle #7” brings us lots of fun through a riveting electro-jazz-funk that consistently alternates between smooth and powerful. In this track, the horn players showed improvisational acuity, and Mike Murray’s guitar sound was particularly appealing to my ears in its mixed hard-rock and jazz incursions.
“Sad Ritual” starts introspectively but doesn’t remain too long in that state. The initial wailing slides into an energetic rock where the super-active drummer, Tom Grosset, shows how he combines speed with accuracy.
Breezy and smooth modulations adorn “Tree Assassin”, which proudly distribute several catchy grooves outlined by organ, bass, and drums. This plot serves to support strong solos that never felt strained or misplaced.
“Theorum” is a thrilling, up-tempo tune that features the trumpet of Brownman Ali, an illustrious guest whose fluidity of language is remarkable. He found solid ground in the spunky, forceful movements of the rhythm section.

A penetrating wha-wha plays a crucial role in “SAW”, a mutant exercise that lives from surprising effects. Polished jazzy melodies blend with more aggressive bass lines inspired by Rage Against The Machine, while keyboardist Nick Maclean shows his gripping musicality.
Murray’s tuneful guitar, interplaying with Ali’s trumpet, is decisive to wrap “Lagaan” in a relaxing crossover jazz that slightly makes a turn in the direction of a danceable orgy of R&B and avant-jazz-funk. Here, the band members build up a crescendo, using their skills and expertise to deliver an overpowering finale.
The title track closes the album, leaving traces of rock, jazz and funk in the air.
The Long Slog inherited the same power and straightforwardness of Snaggle’s members who were capable of rendering a burnin’ hot fusion inclined to explore an infinity of possibilities within the same composition. In a certain moment they’re confronting Miles Davis with Medeski Martin & Wood; in the other, you may find the Red Hot Chili Peppers colliding with Incognito or Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Snaggle #7 ► 07 – SAW ► 08 – Lagaan