Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Far-flung sounds on display

Early 2017 has already seen a slew of notable new album releases, including titles featuring Nathan East, Dennis Coffey, Eric Johnson, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and England Dan & John Ford Coley.

Artist: Nathan East
Title: Reverence (Yamaha Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Fourplay; Earth, Wind & Fire
Tell me more: Bassist Nathan East has performed on many of the most celebrated hits in the history of pop and modern jazz, so it is little surprise he continues to chart a winning course on his new sophomore solo effort Reverence. A founding member of the contemporary jazz troupe Fourplay, East's new collection finds the virtuoso bass player assisted by an all-star team of top players including Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson of Earth, Wind & Fire (on an infectious remake of that group's "Serpentine Fire"), saxophone master Kirk Whalum, singer Ruben Studdard, jazz pianist Chick Corea, singer Yolanda Adams and others. Information: YamahaEntertainmentGroup.com.

Artist: Dennis Coffey
Title: Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin' at Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge (Resonance Records)
You might like if you enjoy: 1960s Motown and soul recordings, 1960s jazz
Tell me more: The previously-unreleased tracks on Dennis Coffey's Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin' at Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge celebrate not only the artistry of the famed guitarist, but of the Detroit music scene of the late 1960s and the adventuresome spirit of that decade. A native of Detroit, Coffey was a groundbreaking member of the Funk Brothers studio band who played on a slew of classic Motown Records hits. Along with his band Lyman Woodard (Hammond B-3 organ) and Melvin Davis (drums), he also was a frequent performer at several Detroit clubs that allowed him to explore and extend his musical muse beyond Motown. On "Hot Coffey in the D" there are potent and smoking live takes on a wide range of material, including the soul nugget "Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over," Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" and Jimmy Webb's "By The Time I Get to Phoenix." The deluxe edition includes a 56-page book of liner notes with archival photos, essays by producers Zev Feldman and Kevin Goins, and interviews with key players including Coffey. Information: DennisCoffeySite.com.

Artist: Eric Johnson
Title: EJ (Provogue)
You might like if you enjoy: Rik Emmett, Laurence Juber
Tell me more: On his 12th studio album titled EJ, Texas guitar great Eric Johnson has set aside his electric instrument and takes listeners on a distinctively different sonic journey via intimate material featuring his vocal work adorned with his top-tier work on acoustic guitar and piano. One of the greatest and most original electric guitar masters in the history of the instrument, Johnson's artistic voice is equally strong in the acoustic territory that plays out over the 13 tracks on the self-produced EJ. There are breathtaking instrumentals ("Mrs. Robinson," "Once Upon A Time In Texas," "The World is Waiting For The Sunrise"), beautiful ballads (the piano and violin anchored "November") and genre-blending confessionals (the jazz-tinged "One Rainy Wish," ambitious "Wrapped In A Cloud"). Many of the songs here venture far beyond cliche territory as evidenced by "Wonder" and "Water Under The Bridge," the latter a potent message on moving on beyond the pain of the past. Information: EricJohnson.com.

Artist: Ronnie Baker Brooks
Title: Times Have Changed (Provogue)
You might like if you enjoy: Vintage Trouble, Tommy Castro, Big Head Todd & the Monsters
Tell me more: From the rock 'n' soul of "Show Me" and "Long Story Short" to Memphis soul of the textured title track and the smooth R&B gem "When I Was We," Ronnie Baker Brooks' solid return Times Have Changed is pure joy. As if the Chicago bluesman's own talents as vocalist and guitar slinger were not impressive enough, a talented parade of notables guest on the album; Todd Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters adds vocals and electric guitar on the heavy blues rocker "Doing Too Much" while his father, the legendary Lonnie Brooks, adds some fiery guitar work on "Twine Time." Information: MascotLabelGroup.com.

Artist: England Dan & John Ford Coley
Title: The Very Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley (Varèse Sarabande)
You might like if you enjoy: 1970s pop-rock, Dan Seals, Paul Davis, America
Tell me more: The recording duo of England Dan & John Ford Coley helped create a sound that is forever associated with the pop rock sound of the 1970s. Listening to the outstanding collection The Very Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley is to rediscover song craft enhanced by the two singers' sweet harmonies and artful arrangements. Beyond the bona fide hits ("I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," "Nights Are Forever Without You," "We'll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again"), there are some real treasures - especially the affecting "Soldier in the Rain" and a spirited cover of Todd Rundgren's "Love is the Answer." In addition to the duo's best known hits, the collection also includes the rare Japanese single "Keep Your Smile" and two songs from the "Just Tell Me You Love Me" movie soundtrack. Information: VareseSarabande.com.

Robert Kinsler

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