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Caroline Loveglow: Strawberry (album review by Christa V.)

This album is a sweet musical dream, the ethereal singing mixed with the simmering backing track makes this the perfect album to vibe to and get carried away. Loveglow’s lyrics feel vivid yet airy and her voice really ties all of the music together with her ability to float above the instruments while staying connected to them. The opening track, “Patience Etc,” draws you in immediately with the mesmerizing synths and gorgeous vocals. The title track continues this feel while adding a funky beat to the background. This is one fresh and sweet album that you won’t want to skip!  Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 6

Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band: Soundscapes (album review by Christa V.)

Mintzer is a veteran saxophonist and composer who has also been leading the WDR Big Band for about five years when this album came out. It immediately stands out as one of his finest works. The blend of Mintzer’s prowess as an arranger and a soloist mixed with the technical skill of the band he’s been leading for years creates an impressively tight and expressive album. “A Reprieve” starts the album off with a bang, showcasing the solidarity of the group. “Herky Jerky” is another stand out song, with a great beat that’s impossible to not bop along to. It’s difficult to highlight any individual soloists as they are all amazing across the board, but I would particularly highlight those on “The Conversation.” This album is firing on all fronts: the ensemble, the soloists, the composer, all of them work excellently together! Favorite tracks: 1, 2, 3, 7

Watchhouse @ The Ark (concert review by Laura T.)

This Sunday, I entered the legendary Ark to watch Watchhouse (fka Mandolin Orange) perform, supported by folk-singer songwriter Erin Rae. The intimate seating provided for a warm, intimate performance from Erin, as she chatted back and forth with the audience on the pronunciation of limoncello and played cosmic country and acoustic indie with refreshing lyrics. Sounding uncannily similar to Adrienne Lenker, I was definitely convinced to take a listen to her new release, Lighten Up.

 

The house lights went up after her set, and soon after, Watchhouse–composed of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz–walked on stage joined by three touring musicians. What followed was a beautiful and charming set that exceeded all my expectations, as this was my first folk or americana concert. Barely communicating with each other, each member circled a single mic (save for the upright bass, which had its own mic), advancing and walking away to do their own mixing. They even would go on their toes when soloing to put their instruments in center stage. Andrew played his mandolin the entire time, while Emily would switch between a violin and her guitar, and two of the touring musicians would trade between guitars, a cello, and even an acoustic bass. This all happened seamlessly, making the performance transform from a musical performance to a dance.

 

Their music was filled with thoughtful lyrics balanced by their emotional instrumentation. Watchhouse’s songs are ones that I can imagine playing along a story book, with their whimsical structures and endings that left you wanting more. Songs’ subjects ranged from love, to children, to cyberbullies. It was an incredible treat to hear their thought processes behind each song, and learning their goals of what they intended to communicate added such a valuable layer to hearing their music, especially the ones I had not listened to before.

Dan Pitt Quintet: Wrongs (album review by Christa V.)

This is Dan Pitt’s third album as an ensemble leader, and it expands to include winds as well as a rhythm section. The group consists of Dan Pitt on guitar, Alex Fournier on bass, Nick Fraser on drums, Naomi McCarroll-Butler on alto saxophone, and Patrick Smith on tenor/soprano saxophone. The pieces, all written by Pitt, showcase a wide variety of styles and feels. “BroOke” is fast-paced yet musical with a melody that bops along. “Hunter’s Dream” then completely contrasts this with free flowing almost ambient noise to ease the listener along. The title track then consists of 5 minutes of aggressive playing swelling and ebbs but never stopping. It’s a masterfully crafted album that hits all of the different notes a listener could be looking for! Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 6

Emma McDermott: She Likes To Fly (album review by Michael G. Nastos)

From Ann Arbor through Chicago, Chelsea, Michigan and now Nashville, singer/songwriter Emma McDermott is showing promise on her debut recording. Produced by the renowned Brian Brill, Emma sings in a most lovely voice and presence. She's composed all original songs straight from the heart. Mostly synth-pop, an occasional string accompaniment or background vocals enhance these songs of love, hope, doubt and at times forboding episodes. This is but a first step. 

Jazzlab Orchestra: Loguslabusmuzikus (album review by Christa V.)

The Jazzlab Orchestra is really an octet, but clearly the group likes to have fun with unique names! Their sound is jazzy, but more “free” or “contemporary” than your typical sound. All of their notes are tightly written though, keeping it shy of typical “free jazz” either. The result is fascinating to listen to, they have a driving rhythm that sometimes gets more jazzy, and sometimes gets more obscure. Clearly they are walking a very fine tightrope with their compositions. The highlight of a number of tracks is the solos, particularly those on the second track, “Humor de la Seconda Noche…” Track 4, “Bluesy del Lunedi,” is also incredible and focuses on the crisp, clear ensemble sound while playing more canonical jazz. Well worth a listen, this is an album that rewards many a jazz fan, whether you like freeform jazz or classic swing! Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 7

The Heavyweights Brass Band: Stir Crazy (album review by Christa V.)

Amazingly the title is not a direct reference to the global COVID-19 pandemic, as this was recorded in March of 2020 right before lockdown began! This is the fourth album from The Heavyweights Brass Band, and it just oozes energy and excitement! All of the tracks are bops from innovative covers like “Rehab” to originals like the title track. True to the name of the band, all of the horn solos are stellar and the players mix together as though they were a single unit and not a full band. The album also shows real breadth, from New Orleans jazz to more soulful tracks. All in all, a true joy to listen to and experience!  Favorite tracks: 2, 6, 7

Levi Dover Sextet: Imaginary Structures (album review by Christa V.)

This is the debut album of Levi Dover’s sextet, featuring entirely tracks that Dover wrote himself. Dover shines on the double bass, but the entire group meshes incredibly well together. The album itself feels like a synthesis of traditional jazz with elements of progressive rock and an overall improvisatory feel. At times, it can feel disconcerting as the rhythm section appears to disconnect from the rest of the group, but it always comes back together by the end of the track. One of the best tracks is probably “In Hindsight” since it features all of the members really going nuts and having fun! More toned down tunes like “Galapagos” are also very fun as well. Finally, “The Fox and the Cat” is an amusing play between the trumpet and the piano that is sure to surprise you and sound very different from anything else on the record. Favorite tracks: 2, 5, 7

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