Summoning Juan Tizol's travel-worn "Caravan" to raise the curtain on a big-band album poses a challenge for any arranger, one that John La Barbera easily brushes aside on the third recording as leader of his own ensemble. And while "Caravan" dazzles in La Barbera's capable hands, it is merely the opening salvo in a session that smolders from end to end…
Kim Waters ninth album, Love's Melody was released in 1998 by Shanachie and dedicated to his twin girls. Self-produced with Chuck Loeb, Dino Esposito, Scot Rammer, and David Mann, the CD offers 11 sensitive and enchanting tracks with special guest performances by Chuck Loeb and James Lloyd. In a deviation from Waters' R&B-flavored background, Waters asserts his mastery of the soprano saxophone on this smooth collection of well-crafted tunes. Each composition adds a different dimension to his musical catalog. Lush, poetic rhythms combined with mid-tempo grooves and fresh melodies on songs such as "Nightfall" and "Possession," and assure his success in the contemporary jazz style. Waters' saxophone caters to the senses with the grace of a romantic on the beautiful title track "Love's Melody." His soprano saxophone speaks volumes with the mastery of tone and musicianship that defines the sensual nature of the saxophone. "Two Hearts of Mine," a ballad written for his twins, is compassionate and offers his most personal and intimate song to date. Other well-known works such as "Sunny" and "Midnight at the Oasis" are brilliantly distinct, with Waters lending former renditions fresh breath. The resulting creative ideas offer a splendid showcase of his eloquent, trademark saxophone voice.
Nascente's Beginner's Guide series has offered excellent primers on a wealth of neglected genres – salsa, tango, Indian filmi music, Arabian music, and many more – so it shouldn't come as a surprise that their three-disc volume of gospel music is a success as well. What may be surprising, though, is that its primary achievement isn't to resurrect a brace of hoary old chestnuts (many of which have already been reissued) but to shine a light on gospel's relatively recent past, which has suffered more than the classic gospel of the '40s, '50s, and '60s.
Of all the factors making the more cynical amongst us dread the oncoming of another festive season, the preponderance of the same dozen records spun endlessly across the airwaves and in department stores for months prior to the big day, is one of the most potent. But with a compilation as refreshing, thrilling and eclectic as this alternative yuletide collection now available, with its delightful tunes actually complementing the event in question, the time has come to welcome in the season of goodwill while enjoying the likes of The Reindeer Boogie, North Pole Rock, Mambo Santa Mambo or one of 53 other Christmas Crackers as presented on this 2 disc set.