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Review: Robert Harper, The Fonk Record

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New Album: Robert Harper, The Fonk Record

Bassist Robert Harper, The Fonk Record

Funk originated in the mid-’60s as a danceable blend of Soul, Jazz, and R&B. This musical genre snowballed in popularity and has a memorable list of musicians that flourished in this rich musical pool for decades.

Now in 2021, bassist Robert Harper and drummer Mark “Showtime” Brown do their part to not only keep the genre alive but bring a new contemporary spin to this classic style, with “The Fonk Record.”

This album has a great backstory, paying tribute to the late Wayman Tisdale, a former NBA star, and a smooth jazz bass guitarist. His album, of the same name, was a 12-year collaboration with Derek (DOA) Allen that was finished shortly before Wayman’s death to cancer in 2009 and released in 2010.

Funk is not only Robert’s passion but mission…

“Just like many musicians are preserving Jazz, Heavy Metal, and Classic Rock… I’m embracing and preserving the genre of funk music… someone has to do it.” Robert Harper

Harper’s “The Fonk Record” is comprised of seven original tunes (and a bonus track) which feature four special guests to add gusto to the musical mix. There is a solid bass groove, (driven by his custom Lairat Stega Pearl 5 bass), that is tied into a lot of very cool percussive elements. The tempos are driving and deliberate giving you something to funk out to.

If Funk is your thing, you should check this album out. Available on Amazon here

For more information visit robertharperbass.com

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

Brian Bromberg, LaFaro…

Scott LaFaro was an extraordinary upright bass player who we lost in 1961 at the age of 25. Even though he was a young bassist he worked with the Bill Evans Trio from 1959 to 1961; he was an exceptional musician and his bass work was lightyears ahead of his time.

Brian Bromberg has teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero to produce a tribute album to this legendary player. We are treated to a dozen tracks (with three bonus tracks on the digital platforms) that were Bill Evans Trio standards. While the original band’s work inspired Brian, this tribute album is not an attempt by the musicians to replicate the music but to organically express themselves on these tunes. When you listen, you may note that it doesn’t sound like LaFaro and it isn’t supposed to.

As I have noted on many of Brian’s previous albums, the bass work (all upright here) is extraordinary and he knows how to get a crystal-clear sound. Every note is pristine and balanced perfectly with the piano and drums. Brian’s approach to recording upright bass should be the golden standard for all upright players. He also handpicked the other members of this trio and they are excellent musicians who really deliver the goods.

If you would like more insight into this album, I can share that in my cover interview with Brian, coming soon.

The projected album release date is April 5, 2024, and will be available at www.brianbromberg.net

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Album Review: Gabriel Espinosa, Bossas and Boleros

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Album Review: Gabriel Espinosa, Bossas and Boleros

Bassist Gabriel Espinosa was inspired by the music he grew up with in Yucatan, Mexico, and now brings us a collection of ten tracks on Bossas and Boleros.

Six of these tunes on Bossas and Boleros are his original compositions. As you might expect from the title, some of these tunes fit in a kind of retro/romantic category whereas others are in a kind of soft Latin jazz vein. Interestingly, Gabriel also found inspiration in current events and translated them into musical interludes.

Gabriel assembled an excellent collection of musicians to bring this album to life and his bass playing is solid and precise but not flashy. His playing compliments the music in a noticeable way but is very balanced in the overall mix. The compositions are intricate and quite lovely with a generous helping of Latin tempos. I especially enjoyed his vocal rendition of “Aqui Estoy Yo” where he sings with just a piano. It is a rare treat to actually hear a bass player’s voice in a tune.

The great thing about this album is it’s universal appeal as it is not all about the bass. Everyone can relate to a collection of beautiful music and it’s excellent execution. This album is perfect to listen to while you enjoy a glass of wine with a loved one as you watch the sunset. Listening made me feel both relaxed and happy and that are feelings we all want to share.

Bossas and Boleros is available on Amazon.com

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Album Review: Fernando Molinari, Reaching Inside

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Album Review: Fernando Molinari, Reaching Inside

Album Review: Fernando Molinari, Reaching Inside…

Bassist Fernando Molinari assembled a team of excellent musicians (including Marco Minnemann on drums) to bring us eight tracks of original, hard-hitting, instrumental rock. Now, even though this music falls in the rock category, it has progressive elements as well as shades of fusion.

This album is high-energy providing a platform for these talented musicians to treat us to the full extent of their abilities. Fernando’s bass playing is flawless and precise and definitely drives each tune with frequent solo sections that give us a clear idea of his skill. Of course, with a tight group like this, the bar is set very high and everybody delivers perfectly.

This is a perfect album to listen to when you want to be pumped up. It would be a great workout set, road trip music, or a fitting background for an action movie. If you want to get your heart pumping, this is the album for you!

Available on Amazon.com

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Album Review: Brad Russell, Metal Improved

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Album Review: Brad Russell, Metal Improved

Brad Russell, Metal Improved…

We have been listening to Brad Russell play bass over the years, and it is quite clear that versatility is at the heart of his talent. Whether it is playing in the pit for a musical or on stage at the NAMM Show, Brad has serious chops. With Metal Improved, he is giving us a sample of what it sounds like when he applies a focused, overdriven, metal approach to a collection of tunes.

Brad has teamed up with hardcore drummers Gregg Bissonette, Jason Furman, and Aquiles Priester to produce seven tracks of high-intensity, calculatedly frenetic, musical wizardry. Three of the tracks are Brad’s original compositions and the others are very recognizable tunes by Billy Sheehan, Edward Van Halen, Chick Corea, and J. S. Bach.

This EP is badass… if Metal is your thing you will want to give it a listen.

Metal Improved available on Amazon.com

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Album Review: Wolfgang Van Halen, Mammoth II

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Album Review: Wolfgang Van Halen, Mammoth II

Album Review: Wolfgang Van Halen, Mammoth II…

Following hot on the tail of Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang Van Halen now brings us Mammoth II, clearly showing us that he has a lot more music in store for us to enjoy.

Wolfgang repeats the amazing act of writing the music and playing all the instruments for the entire album with the exception of one track where there is Wah operation on a solo by Patrick “Uncle Pat” Bertinelli. Without a doubt, Wolfgang Van Halen is the consummate musician with a serious amount of talent to play all the instruments at such a high level; you just have to listen to the music to know he has the goods. Pay attention to the detail in each instrument and you find them impressively balanced and expertly performed. The bass work is tight but I find the drums catching my ear as there is some serious drum work here.

The vocals in this album are excellent and the harmonies are nicely blended as it is all Wolfgang’s voice.

There is a generally energetic, upbeat feel to the music in this album and it is loaded with high-energy rock. I personally tend to overlook lyrics as I get caught up in the music itself but it is clear that Wolfgang has a lot to say and I am guessing that it is cathartic to let these thoughts and feelings out. I am sure that many listeners will identify with the lines that they can relate to and adopt these songs as their own personal anthems.

Mammoth II stands firmly on its exceptional merits and is another great piece of work. Bravo Wolfgang!

Available on Amazon.com

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