Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recommended Listening: Ben Wendel "Simple Song"

I was first introduced to the playing of saxophonist Ben Wendel through his work with the genre-defying band Kneebody.

After listening to the band's records countless times, I had the privilege of seeing them perform live at Bennington College a few years back and was blown away not only by Ben's playing but how personable he was after the show. We've kept in touch over the years and I was elated when he sent me a pre-release version of his new record Simple Song this winter.

Simple Song is a collection of nine original compositions - as well as an arrangement of John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" and a beautifully orchestrated version of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" - featuring Ben on soprano and tenor sax as well as melodica and bassoon! The music is intricately composed and arranged but highly accessible.

I've been listening to this record a lot and encourage you to do the same. "Simple Song" is out now and available from iTunes and the countless other places music is sold online.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recommended Listening: Matthew Loiacono "Penny Riddle" & "Kentucky"

For this week's recommendation I'd like to direct your attention to the multi-talented Matthew Loiacono.

I've known Matthew for a long time - he was the original drummer in first incarnation of the BPQ when I moved back to Albany from Cincinnati. Over the years the multi instrumentalist has become an integral part of the Capital District's music scene, most notably as a member of "upstate porch rock" favorites, the Kamikaze Hearts.

More recently Matthew has focused his efforts on a solo career and running the Collar City Records label as well as an all encompassing blog/website documenting his endeavors, both musical and otherwise.

Last year, as part of the RPM Challenge he produced an incredible album entitled Kentucky using only his voice and his mandolin, though you'd never guess it by listening to the music. I've listened to this record quite a bit and I often find myself humming these melodies at the most unexpected times.

Earlier this year Matthew released Penny Riddle - a collection of eight one minute songs - an EP for the Twitter generation if you will. Matthew expanded his instrumental pallet on this one, even including several tunes with drum loops. It's a credit to his song-writing skills to hear what is accomplished in just sixty seconds. In addition, Matthew also printed up some sharp looking t-shirts featuring the cover artwork of Phil Pascuzzo.

Both Kentucky and Penny Riddle are chock full of great tunes and I highly recommend checking them out!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recommended Listening: David Caldwell-Mason "Sharp As Knife"

Over the years I've had the pleasure of performing with pianist David Caldwell-Mason on numerous occasions. His constant creativity and unique approach to the piano never ceases to amaze me.

David has just released his debut CD Sharp As Knife which features his long standing trio of bassist Kellen Harrison and drummer Bryan Bisordi.

To my ears the music has shades of jazz, classical, gospel, indie rock and electronica all blended into a sound that is uniquely David's.