Jazzweekly Revels in New Songbooks by James Austin Jr. & Melbreeze

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George Harris of Jazzweekly takes a look at two decisively different, yet two groundbreaking releases by James Austin, Jr. and the artist known as Melbreeze.



NEW SONGBOOKS! Melbreeze: Amazonia, James Austin Jr: Songs in the Key of Wonder


Here are a pair of albums by artists that are bringing composers of the past up to date in mood and arrangement.


Vocalist Melbreeze takes the tried and true Antonio Jobim canon and puree’s it through the skilled production of Jimmy Haslip & Scott Kinsey, who also provide bass and keyboards, respectively. Together with a cast of Cyril Atef-Gary Novak-Georgo Borlai/dr, Larry Konse/g, Brad Dutz/perc, Bob Reynolds/sax and various guests, Melbreeze delivers rich and textured reads of pieces like “One Note Samba” and “Desiafinado” mixing the irresistible bossa nova pulses with creative vocal harmonics. Instead of exuding vulnerability, Melbreeze almost scolds as she is supported by sitar and table on “How Insensitive,” while “Like a Lover” is bold and confident. Jazzy bass solo by Selcuk Karaman and extra guitar layers by Jeff Richman make “Favela” a creamy delight as well. Enticing like a 10 layer cake of samba.



James Austin Jr answers the perennial question, “Why area all jazz standards from the Depression era” by going forward a generation and tackling the songbook of Stevie Wonder. He brings together a hip bop team of Joe Magnarelli/tp, Jarrard Harris/as, Ben Rubens/b, Kobie Watkins/b, Sam Torres/perc and Bobby Broom-David Williams/g for a mix and match of toe tapping reads of Motown classics. Magnarelli’s warm horn glistens on an irresistible “Isn’t She Lovely,” with some sweet sax during “Overjoyed.” Sonny Rollins alumnus Broom is lyrical with the leader during a delicate “Tuesday Heartbreak” and the front line horns bop like a vintage Blue Note session during “You’ve Got it Bad, Girl.” Austin is perfect as a supporting leader throughout, and gets his chance in the spotlight to show his adroit style with a gloriously sensitive and romantic duet with bassist David Williams on “Lately.” This is the kind of album that makes you ask “How come no one’s thought of this before?” Always a good sign; check this guy out!!!


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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