Don Braden/Karl Latham: “Big Fun(k) Live” JazzHistory Review

Don Braden/Karl Latham: “Big Fun(k) Live” (Creative Perspective 3001)
by Ellen Johnson
Don Braden and Karl Latham’s new album, “Big Fun(k) Live” explores new territories in jazz and funk with hard-hitting grooves, clever riffs and sophisticated harmonies. The project was recorded over three nights at Cecil’s Jazz Club in West Orange, New Jersey. Saxophonist Braden cut his teeth early on playing instrumental funk and jazz of the 1970s and then became one of the “young lions” of the 1980’s touring with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes. Drummer Latham broke out on the New York jazz scene in the late 1980s, and since 1993 has gravitated to the European jazz scene sharing the stage with Joe Lovano, John Lee, and Boris Kozlov. Keyboardist Nick Rolfe shines on every track with synthesizer grooves, neo-soul and world beat chops. But it is bassist Gary Foote’s pure funk solos and perfectly pocketed grooves with Latham that fuels the excitement of the band. The master bassist is best known for his 20-year plus association with Blood, Sweat and Tears as well as with Billy Cobham. “The main difference with our music now is that we probably use more non-diatonic harmony than our predecessors,” said Braden. “That’s not an innovation per se; we’re just using material from our experience with today’s modern jazz, so naturally it will sound different than the 1970s. I’m not as concerned about moving the style forward as I am interested in the potential for creating expressive music and magical moments in real time.”

The first track, “High Rise” sets the mood and groove one would expect from this high caliber group. Foote’s solo eight bar intro reminds us of all the things we love about funk like strong riffs and lines with “popped” high notes and thumb-slapped bass.The drums and Fender Rhodes piano join in the next eight bars, leading to the sultry melodic line carried by the saxophone. There is a seamless mix of funk and jazz textures that work exquisitely together. According to Braden, the unison ensemble section was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”. The band reaches into the pop world as they re-create the Beyoncé tune, “Déjà vu”. Braden adds his own flair by changing the key from the original recording and including jazz harmonies in the melody sections, which contrast with the solo sections (there is a vamp in E-flat minor that modulates to e minor on a smoking bass solo and back to E-flat minor on the return to the vamp). On “Having A Ball,” the only song on this set that features just the saxophone, Braden’s technical prowess assists in telling his soulful story. Braden’s sax solos are always on target throughout this project because he understands the importance of conveying the message of each phrase. “Having a Ball” is actually the intro to a gospel tinged funk interpretation of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Braden remarks “I was looking to combine the two songs and I thought of Lucille Ball which made the perfect connection.”

One of my favorite tracks is “A Foote in the Door” because it is reminiscent of the great jazz-fusion from early groups such as Weather Report.
This piece clearly demonstrates the interrelation between complex harmonic melodies and solid syncopations. The solo section has minor chords moving down in minor thirds (G minor, E minor, C# minor), which makes for an interesting sound yet a definite improvisational challenge. However, with this group of exemplary musicians, each one brings a visceral level of spontaneity that demonstrates their effortless musicality and skill. Although “The Funky View” is one of the most harmonically and melodically simple tunes on the disc, it is still hard-grooving and danceable. Originally conceived as a “smooth jazz” piece, “Heads Up” contains a fairly intricate melodic and harmonic feel, losing itself in a trance-like improvised section. “Confusion,” contains a minor-tinged main melody with a solo section similar to the Jaco Pastorius tune, “The Chicken,” and a challenging time signature of 13/8. “Song for Mother” is a dedication to Braden’s mother and one of the most beautiful songs on the recording. It begins in a slow tempo with the alto flute playing the melody accompanied by ostinato bass. The alto flute creates an ethereal quality supported by Rolfe’s complimentary string sounds and synth solo. The ability to switch from the hard-hitting grooves of the previous tracks to the sublime treatment of this sensitive song is another reason to appreciate the talents of these fine musicians. The rousing finale to this set is a tune called “Grover Miles,” in tribute to the bands all-time favorite musicians, Grover Washington, Jr. and Miles Davis. The bass line is related to the Davis composition “Tutu” and the melody has elements of classic Washington tunes from recordings of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The more I listen to this infectious recording, the more I love it. It’s questionable that anyone could sit still listening to the killer grooves on this project, which is why this is a funk lover’s dream! This tasty recording belongs in any serious funk, jazz-fusion, and soul collection.

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Jazzkeller Frankfurt Review JMQ



Jazzkeller Frankfurt

Sa. 19.11.
Johannes Mössinger NY Quartett feat. Joel Frahm
Joel Frahm (tenor-sax)
Johannes Mössinger (piano)
Calvin Jones (bass)
Karl Latham (drums)
Der vital pulsierende und Energie sprühende Sound dieses Quartetts repräsentiert den kraftvollen Herzschlag einer modernen, urbanen und großzügig angelegten Jazzauffassung. Der gelungenen Verbindung zwischen europäischer Moderne und amerikanischem Drive entspringt ein elegant fließendes und vorwärts strebendes Klangbild, das durch seine Melodiosität plus Expressivität besticht.
Der in Freiburg lebende Johannes Mössinger gründete 2001 sein NYer Trio, arbeitet seither regelmäßig in Amerika und gewann 2008 mit Joel Frahm einen der Shooting Stars der US-Szene für sein neues Quartett. Er arbeitet u.a. mit Jane Monheit, Brad Mehldau, Maynard Ferguson, Betty Carter, Matt Wilson, Larry Goldings, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Andrew Hill, Ben Allison, Pat Martino, Ingrid Jensen, Dena Derose, The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra…

Recklinghausen “Fringe”Festival Review JMQ



Recklinghausen. Set The four virtuoso jazz musicians of the New York Quartet “, a steady pulse driven by a high-class set

Fringe means not only the cultural “edge”, the outlying areas away from the established mainstream. The Jazz in the Freiburg John Mössinger of strangers would not even in the finest concert halls. His “New York Quartet” maintains the right tone between dreamy and lyrical, and a huge drive.

At the start of their three concerts Sparkasse Vest as a co-sponsor of the “weird” festival a particularly distinguished Formation in the deepest jazz diaspora was invited. . And despite the classic line up of drums, bass, piano and saxophone this quartet acted not only conservative values: Instead of the canon of the “American Songbook” to work, presented the band leader and pianist exclusively his own compositions, with a preference of the rich material of his latest double album ” Rules – no Rules.

Rules and “no rules” (the latter said, however, never atonal noise-explosions): In this charming area of conflict moved the four-rounder with enthusiasm. The compositions Mössinger John, which he presented only once, unfortunately, with their title, are characterized by a steady pulse that connects the individual works as a comprehensive suite.

The ensemble playing, however, ensures that this river never melts in uniformity. Drummer Karl Latham drives his players with obvious enthusiasm. Calvin Jones tugs and strokes his bass with dedication and to the lyrical moments – but he also suggests the thumb on the strings, as it is otherwise known only from the e-bass funk.

Saxophonist Joel Frahm finally shows thanks to its stylistic range, from the smoky-shrouded chief Balla to hard bop tube as an ideal sparring partner for the flashes of melodic pianist.

All four instruments were miked, but perfectly modulated to a convincing transparent sound. A central composition of the 90-minute sets John Mössinger then has yet presented by name: “Joanne’s Dance”, a mini-suite within the comprehensive “suite” of this concert was moving at quite natural grandeur between Karl Latham battery upgraded (with Gong and sheet-strokes) and a reverie of a Nordic look.

JazzImprov NY Magazine Review



RESONANCE — DropzoneJazz Records 2005.
Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder
Manic Depression – Jimi Hendrix
Tadpole – John Hart
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
Spanish Castle Magic Prelude – Jimi Hendrix
Spanish Castle Magic – Jimi Hendrix
Pagan Poetry – Bjork
Hekete – Kermit Driscoll
Bemsha Swing – Monk
Pastime Paradise – Stevie Wonder

Vinnie Cutro – Trumpet
John Hart – Guitar
Kermit Driscoll – Acoustic Bass
Karl Latham – Drums.

By Paul Sakion

Karl Latham is well known for his interest in and talent for many styles of music. In Resonance, many of these styles are represented through a rearrangement of tunes from well known rock artists. This leads to unusual and thought provoking results. For example, U2’s, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is used almost as a ballad to shift the mood and provide a smooth transition into the more challenging Hendrix piece that follows, Spanish Castle Music. This arrangement is also unique while still being recognizable. Hendrix’s work comes across intact with a strong back beat providing a foundation for some excellent trumpet work by Cutro.

Other pieces such as Bjork’s “Pagan Poetry,” defy categorization and can only be enjoyed for what they are, in this case, another beautiful trumpet / guitar ballad. Finally, Resonance’s last two tracks are Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” and Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise.” “Bemsha Swing” is a wonderfully twisted arrangement with Hendrix-like guitar solos and “Pastime Paradise” becomes a pleasant Latin samba swing. It’s as if Latham has created a sampler album of his styles.

Resonance must be given some listening time to be appreciated. It’s complex and varied interpretations force the listener to think about each piece as an individual artistic expression rather than a cohesive album and if you are looking for a new sonic landscape in your jazz world, Resonance, will not disappoint.



By Jeff Tamarkin

Jazz drummer Karl Latham is an inventive powerhouse whose influences are many but whose ideas are his own. On Resonance, his second album as a leader, Latham hooks up with guitarist John Hart, acoustic bassist Kermit Driscoll, and trumpeter Vinnie Cutro for a set of interpretations of rock, pop, and jazz classics from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Björk, and U2 that reinvent the source material while paying respects to it. Both Hendrix and Wonder turn up twice as composers, with the former’s “Manic Depression” serving as the album’s most far-reaching, avant exercise. Each of the bandmembers is a virtuoso, but it’s Hart who drives this particular jam, taking it to free-form places that Hendrix himself would no doubt have admired.

Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” is a chill samba-esque reading that allows Latham an opportunity to make use of subtleties on his kit and his mates to swing softly. The Björk tune, “Pagan Poetry,” is handled with a light, moody touch that practically places the leader into the background and conveys the song’s atmospheres smartly, but U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” while also a smooth acoustic ballad that amply displays the band’s chops, never quite delivers fully. Of the remainder of the tracks, Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” is thrown into modern dance club territory with angular twists and a tight, ever-shifting rhythmic emphasis, and Hart’s original “Tadpole” is a bit of ’70s-era Miles Davis funk that pushes each player to the edge.