Exclusive Magazine reviews Randy Napoleon, Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill

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Randy Napoleon Group Shot


by Anne Carlini

Title – Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill
Artist – Randy Napoleon
For those of you not in the know, while staying true to his roots as a guitarist deep in gratitude to Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, Randy Napoleon aspires to find new routes through the music and refine his already fully evolved voice.

On Puppets: The Music of Gregg Hill, he teams with the prolific composer Gregg Hill, finding energy in Hill’s quirky, out of the box melodies, and arranging them to keep the spirit of the tunes while amplifying Hill’s intentions.

He joins with longtime compatriots – three of the hardest swinging and creative voices in jazz, Rick Roe, Rodney Whitaker, and Quincy Davis – and features New York vocalist Aubrey Johnson on several Napoleon-penned lyrics.

1. Andy’s Lament (5:19)
2. Fan-O-Gram (5:54)
3. The Jazzdiddy Waltz (4:19)
4. Lyrica (7:10)
5. Moonscape (7:03)
6. Puppets (7:28)
7. Still Life with Tuba (6:28)
8. The Unknown Ballade (6:20)
9. Tone Colors (6:40)
10. Truck Driver’s Blues (3:33)
11. Wide River (3:16)

As his former employer Freddie Cole reminded him often, It’s not only how good you play, it’s about how you present the music, Napoleon takes the advice to heart, continually swinging while looking to keep his audience surprised and inspired.

Opening on the sweetly organic tone of Andy’s Lament and then the energetic hot bop of Fan-O-Gram, those are backed up by the blues ambiance of The Jazzdiddy Waltz, the over-easy feeling within Lyrica, some deft tandem lines come to the fore on Moonscape and then comes one of my own personal favorites, the soulfully sung title track by Aubrey Johnson.

With this highly impressive collective effort never putting a musical foot wrong, along next is the low-end horn-imbibed Still Life with Tuba and the emotionally-charged The Unknown Ballade, and then comes the melodically layered Tone Colors – where Aubrey channels Sheila Jordan – and the reflective Truck Driver’s Blues (again by Aubrey, but less Merle Haggard and more Patsy Cline), the album closing on a resonating Randy/Aubrey duet; one that recalls both traditional and contemporary rhythms, Wide River.

Randy Napoleon – Guitar
Aubrey Johnson – Vocals
Seth Ebersole – Bass clarinet (5,6,7,8), Flute (3,4,5)
Rick Roe – Piano
Rodney Whitaker – Bass
Quincy Davis – Drums
Brandon Rose – bass (2)
Will Crandell – drums (2)

Official Website

Randy Napoleon @ Facebook

Kari Gaffney

Kari Gaffney

Since 1988 Kari-On Productions has helped artists get an even footing in the industry through jazz promotion in the genres of Jazz, World & Latin Jazz through Jazz Radio and Publicity. Why do we do both, because they compliment each other, and we care about fiscal longevity for the artist.

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