James Austin, Jr. receives a 9.1 from Staccatofy

James Austin, Jr, Songs in the Key of Wonder Review

Pianist James Austin, Jr. is originally from Chicago, an accomplished pianist and bandleader. He studied under the direction of a number of legendary musicians, including renowned jazz educator, Barry Harris. James received the honor of being selected as a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano competition. He recently served as pianist and arranger for two star-studded concerts at Carnegie Hall under the baton of esteemed musical director, Ray Chew. He has curated and led the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) Jazz Jam series since its inception. For the past couple of years, he has also served as musical director for jazz phenom Miss Alexis Morrast.  All of this hard work has culminated into his debut offering that features a firm focus on the legendary artist Stevie Wonder, aptly title Songs in the Key of Wonder.   Joined by a lineup of jazz’s modern-day lions: Bobby Broom: guitar; Jarrard Harris: alto sax; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; Ben Rubens: bass; Samuel Torres: percussion; Kobie Watkins: drums and David Williams on bass.

Positives: Austin has created a collection of Wonder’s slam dunk hits. Tastefully executed its not just a pablum regurgitation, but a stylish homage to the great songwriting of Wonder and how his tunes are lent easily to the jazz genres.

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