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You can count on one hand the number of bassoon players to make a name in jazz, and no wonder. Not only does the bassoon, like the oboe, require a fragile, balky double reed, but it was designed by a masochist who assigned no fewer than 14 keys to the thumbs-which on any other woodwind mostly just hold the damn thing up. But Michael Rabinowitz merits a place in jazz history for more than membership in this tiny club: he has managed to craft a viable, idiosyncratic style that incorporates his instrument's strengths while mitigating it's weaknesses. Rabinowitz first showed up on a 1981 Ira Sullivan album, where his playing contributed a tentative novelty; in the ensuing years he's evolved into an astonishingly forceful presence. On the symphonic stage the bassoon is best known as the stern, aloof voice of the grandfather in Prokofievs's Peter and the Wolf, but in Rabinowitz's hands it sounds like it could eat gramps alive. He has learned to swing hard and sail above a rhythm section, even though the bassoon sounds as if it were born to burrow; and he takes advantage of the instrument's malleable timbre to reach the time-honored jazz goals of expressivity and individuality. On two recent albums, Bassoon on Fire (Cat's Paw) and Gabrielle's Balloon (Jazz Focus), the instrument holds it own against two of its more popular cousins. His recording of John Coltrane's "Central Park West" manipulates the upper register to sound exactly like a flute-which makes his plunge into the throaty low register all the more delicious. And when he sticks to the middle register, with the piano doubling the melody, he approaches the vaunted power of the tenor sax. But Rabinowitz is most impressive when he finds his own hip applications for his uncool instrument: staccato slap-tonguing to create a hip-hop rhythm, or wildly bending notes to get a banshee moan that most soprano saxists can only dream about.  Neil Tesser” - Bassoon On Fire Michael Rabinowitz

— Reviewed by Neil Tesser

Trombonist Howard Prince's new recording takes off immediately with a drum roll and a blast of horns, instantly engaging the listener. With players like John Stubblefield, Claudio Roditi, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith as part of a rotating cast of characters, you know you're going to get a lot of bang for your buck. There are some peaceful moments too. Prince's "Memories" played as a duet with guitarist Dave Moreno is pretty and complex. But more of the tunes are like the funky "The Loop," or the short and sassy "Double Take" where bassist Bryce Sebastien's throbbing pizzicato leads us into something sounding like a latin circus. Guitarist Moreno also wails on a mean rock driven guitar in some places, while pianist Jon Davis plays alternately smooth, discordant and boppish. The other players are too numerous to mention, but suffice it to say that there's a lot of action, both acoustic and electric, with spicy percussive touches seasoning the mix. Prince composed most of the pieces and slides a tasty trombone throughout. Sunsh Stein” - Double Take Howard Prince

— Reviewed by Sunsh Stein

Inner Vision provides a retro treat with Tropico (Cats Paw CPD-6301; 43:20). Trombonist Warren Moore's horn arrangements provide an unexpected spark on lighter tunes- like the lithe, Jobim-like "In the Clouds" and a piping, sun and surf read of Dionne Warwick's pop chestnut "Deja Vu" (featuring a cool fluegelhorn solo by Ronnie Buttacavali)-but the power side rules the house. The funky "C&N" demonstrates a wall of big brass power and execution and Moore's original "rBST" runs with jangling guitars, and horn sounds hitting staccato and jumping off. Another Moore-penned gem, "Point 9," has a laid-back, yet tough strut and swagger recalling the famed L.A. Jazz Ensemble. In the age of programmed-and-synthesized arrangements, Inner Vision's real, in-your-face approach is a change of pace that classic jazz fans will love.” - Tropico Inner Vision

— Reviewed by Lou Furino

If Chuck Mangione is your cup of tea, you'll love James Ingenito. The young flugelhorn master and composer from Long Island offers us 12 tracks arranged in contemporary light fusion and funk settings. The rhythm section provides excellent support and accompaniment, with D'Angelo providing solid bass lines, and Roselli laying down a groove deep enough to fall into. The light funk-fusion formula really works with these guys. They have enough experience playing both types of music that they merge the two successfully within a progressive environment. Keyboardists Pisano and Senerchia possess a wide range of emotional color and personal voicings that offer the right touch of creative energy at the right places. Ingenito's warm and enchanting tones will lull you into altered states of alpha and provide a pleasant respite from everyday stress. This is not to say that this sound is all sensitive and warm, he knows how to get an edge as well. On the title track, Rhythm Room Blue, Ingenito blasts the ensemble lines with an emphatic and eloquent edge, adding a sophisticated level of intensity and drive to the original composition. Stonybrook, the first track of the CD, embraces a delightful and pleasant melody by Ingenito. He definitely has a knack for writing strong melodies that are accessible to the average ear while maintaining a high level of artistic quality and musicianship. The arrangements are simple and uncomplicated, providing color, shading, and accent for important melody lines and punches. This is a good quality in this type of setting, whereas overbearing arrangements can dissipate the focus of the overall composition. The standard My Funny Valentine again gets a light fusion-funk feel to it, which for the most part, is refreshing. Ingenito's soaring and soothing flugelhorn gives us a colorful juxtaposition to the rhythm section's funk-a-fied syncopations. T.N.” - Rhythm Room Blue James Ingenito Project

— Reviewed by T.N.

The Hammond B-3 continues its jazz resurgence with this, the second Cat's Paw release from Weldon and Forrester. This ensemble recalls the heyday of jazz organ, specifically Jimmy Smith's 60's groups with Stanley Turrentine. However, while not as "contemporary" as Greg Hatza's ORGANization, this band does inject a modern feel into their warm blend of bebop and organ groove. This album doesn't break any new ground for the jazz organ combo, but it's a comfortably familiar and relaxing sound. Weldon and Hart add suitable ambience to the band, as Jimmy Turrentine and Kenny Burrell did for Jimmy Smith, but these players dont consciously emulate their fore-bearers as much as pay tribute to them. The set's one original tune, J&B, starts the disc off in fine flair as Forrester maintains a quick bass-pedal groove throughout. The remaining tunes are standards ranging from two Sammy Cahn gems to Dizzy's Con Alma and Bird's Bloomdido, and the band swings proudly in all areas. Weldon in particular is as capable of blowing good bop as he is of exuding blue soul. This one is recommended for Hammond devotees and fans of straight-ahead grooving. Jazz News” - Second Time Around Jerry Weldon & Bobby Forrester

— Reviewed by Jazz News

When fellow zinester and PASSIONS member Bob Koenig told me he was cutting a new CD, I was very happy for him and looking forward to hearing it; his last effort, a country music tape was quite good. However, I usually dont buy a lot of CD's-even from performers who i'm really crazy over. On the other hand, it would be nice to support "one of our own". Well, Bob made it easy for me...he gave me a copy of his new CD, "Prose & Icons"-a mostly pop-oriented mix of ballads and up-beat soft rock. Now if I didn't like it at all, I wouldn't review it and say I liked it 'cause that wouldn't be right and I don't think Bob would want that; I also wouldn't write a bad review about it and hurt his feelings. I'd probably just say some nice things, personally, to Bob about what I did think was good and offer some constructive criticism if asked for it. Happily, Bob made it easy for me again...he put out a really fine album-one that I enjoy reviewing. The first thing I noticed, when keying it up, is that the production values are excellent; producer & engineer George Petersen, of Cat's Paw Recording in Mineola and Bob deserve a lot of credit. The mix between instruments and vocals is perfect and the overall sound clean and bright-a first rate job! Bob wrote all but three of the songs. The opening cut, "The Apple", is one of the best. Catchy? I was humming it the next day and couldn't get it out of my head. It features strong lead and background vocals, some attention-grabbing chord changes and an often complex, twangy lead guitar. Vibrant guitar work also makes "Egos on Parade" stand out and a great hook makes "River in you, River in me" quite interesting; PASSIONS readers will note that some early versions of the lyrics to this cut were included in one of Bb's earlier contributions. 8-track Moment" is a novel lead-in to a cover of Tommy James & Bob Kings "Tighter, Tighter"...and a fine duet between Bob and wife Jesse; I thought she sounds a little like Grace Slick without the drugs but she reminded Joe Torcivia of Linda Rondstadt. Some very quick-picking on the guitar combine with vocal overdubs and great rhyming lyrics to make "Spirit becomes the master" stand out. You won't be the sole stone caster. When the spirit becomes the master, your long term investments become a destest-ment, Hanging on 'til the River runs dry The only two cuts I didn't like-"Without You" and "My Heart is True"-are very slow ballads. I felt the vocals were a bit weak, the messages and the melodies too simplistic; they might work better with a different singer or another arrangement. I could imagine someone like Peter Gabriel mournfully singing one of these two cuts in his inimitable way. The only other suggestions I might have offered for the album would have been to try and add a little more variation between some of the tunes; maybe put in a little more piano on one cut, perhaps a sax solo on another. (Another duet with Jesse would also be nice.) My favorite song on the album, however, is a cover of George Harrison's "Give Me Love(Give Me Peace on Earth)". Bob and his band of studio performers have crafted a version that closely mimics the essence of the original Beatles hit and yet personalizes it with a unique, slightly out-of-synch phrasing of vocals and guitar treatment near the end. Harmonies are top notch all around, with Bob's voice a very close duplication of Harrison's (You held that long note really well, Bob!) This is as good as it gets! If any of our readers are in the market for a good collection of listenable soft-rock featuring mostly originals by a local talent, give "Prose & Icons" a chance. If you can't find it in a nearby store, give Bob a call or contact Cat's Paw Records. PASSIONS” - Prose & Icons Bob Koenig

— Reviewed by Ken Bausert

Mood Swing, an eclectic Valley Stream-based jazz band, just released its debut CD for Cats Paw Records. The CD, entitled "Very Little Steps" features a blend of hip-hop, mainstream and contemporary jazz reflective of the bands name. According to John Passarelli, Keyboardist, sales of the Cd are doing very well. "Jazz is no longer a bad word," he said. "It has become a viable, listenable art form attracting a huge audience. Passarelli, who resides in Valley Stream, said every song on the CD is different. "We have songs with Latin influences, hip-hop, waltzes and we cover some Peter Gabriel and Seal songs," he said. The band was formed 6 years ago by Passarelli and bassist Mike Belmonte. "We [Mike and I] actually started a rock band about 13 years ago," Passarelli said. "We went through quite a number of bands ranging from rock to pop to dance." Passarelli looked up college buddy Tom Westbay to join in on saxophone and Joseph Nocilla on drums. Nocilla was playing with them in a wedding band. They found their niche, jazz, and have been touring clubs, performing promos and playing festivals ever since. They first went to clubs that didn't offer any music and created their own market at these venues. In the summer of 1994 the band performed at the Hartford Jazz Festival and have been performing around the tri-state area. "The band is very easy to listen to," Passarelli said. "The songs are memorable. Soon you will be hearing Mood Swing on local radio stations. They are negotiating with CD 101 to promote their CD. "Our stuff is played on commercial jazz stations across the country," Passarelli said.  While Passarelli and Nocilla had years of training, Michael Belmonte was the natural. "He never took a lesson in his life," Passarelli said. "It just came naturally to him. Jazz is the perfect medium for this Long Island-bred quartet. With the number of rock bands out there, the only way you can stay on top when you are in your 50s is if you are Mick Jagger, Passarelli said, noting the band members are in their 30s. "Jazz musicians have an illustrious career," he said. "Look at Spyro Gyra or Kenny G. They're in their late 30s and just starting their careers. Mood Swing will be performing every three weeks at Viva Loco in Huntington. The next date is Nov. 30. on Dec. 1 the group will promote its new CD at Tower Records in Huntington Station at 6 p.m. The band had released a CD with the same title a few years back. The new CD contains new songs.” - Very Little Steps Mood Swing

— Reviewed by Ellen Neary of The Music Paper

Ray Alexander is one of those musicians who was born to swing. In his case he has chosen to express himself on vibes, and Vigorous Vibes (Cats Paw - CPD-4104) is a fine example of his artistry. With the backing of Mac Chrupcala on piano, Marshall Wood on bass and John Anter on drums, Alexander hits many bases. Horace Silver's classic, "The Preacher," kicks off the disc with plenty of verve. His own "Sweet Bossa" has a title to tell you what road the song takes. Pop standards like "Sunday," "Georgia on My Mind," and "Love Walked In" are also well represented. Alexander even provides a taste of his vocalizing on "Victoria Sez," a humorous and hip little ditty. Throughout Alexander maintains a high level of musicianship and is ably supported by the rhythm section, who seem to be having a ball, as will you if you give Vigorous Vibes a listen.” - Vigorous Vibes Ray Alexander

— Reviewed by Joe Lang of Jersey Jazz

The dynamic quartet Mood Swing lives up to its name on Very Little Steps (Cat's Paw CPD-2201;55:49), offering a pleasing variety of settings for its joyful, swing-out hooks. Where "Corrective Action" combines a soulful organ whirr and blippy electronic sound with the solid rip of percolating bass, "Denise" swings and sings with ride percussion and lovely piano work. The band really steps out on the meaty rocking walk "Buzz-head," detailed with funky drawled bass notes, and the hot rhythmic combinations of "Five and Dime." Mood Swing also chooses its covers wisely, with Tom Westbay's sax capturing just the right wistful melancholy on Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," and a basic arrangement de-sappifying Madonna's "Live to Tell." The only over-sweetening, on Seal's "Prayer for the Dying," is minor in the context of such a strong, captivating outgoing.” - Very Little Steps Mood Swing

— Reviewed by Hilarie Grey

It's always interesting to guess the age of a performer from a recording. Maturity shows. For one thing, there's confidence, not in the brilliance of the technique but in what the performance implies. Having been there, mature performers exude a depth of emotion that younger players lack as they hide behind velocity and volume. Volume of sound and volume of notes. And there's choice of music as well. Rather than contriving a repertoire to highlight virtuosity or to reiterate the masters' licks for whatever effect, the mature performer seems to select tunes with personal meaning or for sheer beauty. That kind of guessing game has its rewards, if only for creating self-congratulatory smugness. For while it's difficult to ascertain Bobulinski's age from the cover of the liner notes-Bobulinski of the dapper green broad-brimmed hat and rainbow-hued untucked shirt-Clark Terry's liner notes mention that Bobulinski dedicates the album to his granddaughter. Indeed, Bobulinski appeared on the Clark Terry Big Band CD's, Live at the Witchita Jazz Festival and Live at Buddy's Place, which included fellow band members Ernie Wilkins, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess and Duke Jordan, among others. With a type of Ruby Braffishness, Bobulinski calls attention to the harmonic richness of the songs on this album by exuding drums on seven of the ten selections. In fact, the three tunes involving Bross Townsend are trimmed down to just trumpet/flugelhorn and piano. With his lyrical, airy and bright tone, Bobulinski unpretentiously leads his fellow professionals through unrushed renditions of standards, allowing for their own personal statements along the way as extended solos or opportunities to trade fours. Townsend and guitarist Dan Weiss stand out by being part of the team as they advance the development of their songs on which they perform. But more than that, their solos represent personalized and technically impressive departures from their melodies. Weiss in particular prods Bobulinski from lyricism to humor in I've Never Been in Love Before as they throw ideas back and forth. On the other hand, A Child is Born is positively lugubrious in an ironic sort of way as Kirchmer sustains three-beat lopes, accented by the rumbles and swishes of Ed Balsamo with his mallets commenting behind James Guarnieri who keeps time with the brushes. Bubulinski plaintively wrings darkened emotions from the song with grace-noted clarity of tone as Marx harmonizes and offsets Bobulinski's plain-spokenness with a bluesier sensibility. For contrast, all five of the Child Is Born group romp through Dixieland-inflected Wabash, the least meditative and joyous selection on the album.  Clark Terry mentions that the musicians on East of the Sun "deserve wider recognition," and like everything else on this album, thats and understatement. Bill Donaldson” - East of the Sun Greg Bobulinski

— Reviewed by Bill Donaldson