Jazz 'N' Samba

by Espresso Jazz

Released 2001
SANBAR RECORDS
Released 2001
SANBAR RECORDS
Led by guitarist/vocalist Sandi Russell, this combo serves up a rich brew of hot caffeinated jazz and latin favorites.
NOTES
"Espresso takes third CD to new heights"
By Marc Lemay
www.imassjazz.com

I've never been a fan of samba, mostly because I have two left feet. Lucky for me I don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case a CD cover by its title. Sandi Russell and Espresso opened my eyes to a different flavor in music, rather than the dance steps, in their latest CD Jazz 'N' Samba. Don't let the title fool you, its not all samba. Ten songs grace the CD, ranging from the jumpy title cut, to the blues sounding Love Is Here To Stay and Never Make Your Move Too Soon. Russell's voice stands out in the later cut, showing complete range of her abilities, teasing you with jazz inflected blues while not disrupting the flow of the rest of the CD.
Speak Low (Track 4) mixes the different music styles beautifully. Between the sultry sounds of Russell and the musicians working with her on the CD, this cut takes the top spot on my favorites list. That coming from someone who wouldn't normally give samba a second chance prior to this album.

Kudos to Kerry Blount on the tenor sax. There's something about the sax that is sexy. With the music on this CD, Blount makes wonderful music, allowing the sax to talk to the listener in ways surprising this writer with each listen. Blount also flows with the flute work on Little Sunflower - flowing in the breeze.

As an aside, this is a great CD to listen to with headphones. While I originally listened to it over my sound system a couple of times, another time I had the cans plugged in and its amazing what you can catch while listening so closely. All in all, Jazz 'N' Samba needs to take a place in your CD rack to help complete a jazz fans collection of great music.

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ESPRESSO "Jazz 'N' Samba"

By KEITH "Muzik Man" HANNALECK
www.jazzreview.com

Any time I am feeling a little down and life becomes overwhelming all I have to do is throw on some jazz music and everything seems to melt away. This is the kind of music that soothes my soul. "Espresso" is a four piece ensemble from Northampton Massachusetts, which happens to be in my back yard, only an hour away. It's nice to know that there is this kind of world class talent right around the corner that I can drive to and enjoy.

"Jazz 'N' Samba" is a collection of jazz standards recorded live. Many younger listeners were present when this was recorded, and many of them had never heard these songs before, so it must have been an interesting experience for the band to see their reactions when they performed them. When I see a jazz recording with all the standards I never fret that it will be the same old thing. Invariably every group puts their own twist and spin on the songs, so the music remains alive and perpetually improvisational .

The main focus here was to present a nice cross section of jazz with some spice and flair. Bossa Nova standards by Jobim, like the title track "Jazz 'N' Samba", are given a new meaning and perspective. I thought Monk's "Straight No Chaser/Get It Straight" was as smooth and cool as it gets for a jazz number. If you aren't tapping your feet to this music you had better check the obituaries. Sandi Russell's presence is very sturdy and genuinely appreciated throughout this entire CD by this writer. Her bluesy jazz inflected vocal dexterity and skillful guitar work keeps the rest of the group on task, making them a tight-as-a-drum musical machine. And that factor is very much in evidence with each song.

The flute and saxophone playing of Kerry Blount was notable, particularly on the closing track, which is a lovely instrumental piece entitled "Little Sunflower" (Freddie Hubbard). His flute is light and airy creating a decidedly heavenly ambiance. Barbara Hilton is totally reliable and consistent on standup acoustic bass; she does a great job keeping time with the newest member Tom Rinaldi. I think it takes a special talent to be a drummer in a jazz band, and Rinaldi is a welcome addition to the fold I am sure.

So there you have it, straight jazz with no chaser. You will get a full bodied brew that offers a dynamic blend of genres that makes for a great listening experience that will have you coming back for a refill time and time again. If you like your espresso especially strong your taste buds will be dancing when you get a taste of this.

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ESPRESSO JAZZ is a rich brew of choice standards from the Great American Songbook. The smoky vocals and swinging guitar of Sandi Russell set the stage for this eclectic duo. A New England native, Sandi has performed in musical venues throughout the East Coast. After a stint with the jazz quintet, Sweet Basil, Russell followed her muse to Kansas City where she pursued a successful solo career. The City of Fountains had a lasting effect on Sandi's musical style and became the keystone to her brand of "bluesy jazz".

In 1993, Russell returned to New England and teamed with bassist, Barbara Hilton, for a jazz performance at First Night Cape Cod in Orleans. Hilton's deep, pulsating, acoustic bass added the perfect rhythmic punch and the rich essence of ESPRESSO JAZZ began to perk. The duo continues to share their brand of quiet cookin' at many fine New England restaurants. Catch them the first Friday of each month at Chandler's Yankee Candle's North American flagship restaurant in South Deerfield, MA.

ESPRESSO JAZZ recorded their debut CD, All Of Me during the fall of 1999. This live recording features Russell & Hilton with jazz clarinetist, Bob Sparkman. James Lincoln Collier, guest historian for Ken Burns' PBS series " JAZZ " said of ESPRESSO "This is just the sort of eclectic chamber jazz that we desperately need. "

ESPRESSO JAZZ 's millenium offering I'm Just A Lucky So & So is a mellow blend of standards featuring Russell, Hilton, and saxophonist / flutist Kerry Blount. A recording artist with Atlantic Records, Warner Brothers, and London Records; Blount added a dark richness to the mix.

Radio host, Ken Irwin of WMUA's Java Jazz described the collaboration - "The participants are definitely on the same page, as they effortlessly weave their laid-back magic."

In 2001, ESPRESSO JAZZ poured out another steamy release with their third recording- Jazz 'N' Samba . This caffeinated brew of latin and jazz standards features Russell, Hilton, Blount, and drummer Tom Rinaldi.

The addition of Rinaldi brought a new depth to the trio.Tom's swing and latin grooves propelled the combo to new heights. Jazz reviewer, Keith Hannaleck described the four piece ensemble as "world class talent ... a full-bodied brew that offers a dynamic blend of genres."

Sandi Russell and Barbara Hilton recently completed their fourth independent release from Avocet Studios . The 2003 recording titled- The Blues Are Brewin' is a compilation of jazz blues and swing standards. All of the songs chosen for this CD were written during the '20s, '30s & '40s. Many were rediscovered from the archives of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday.

On board for this session with Russell and Hilton are Brattleboro, Vermont drummer Richard Mayer and Paradise City Jazz trumpeter Dave Pinardi. Mayer's unique light touch and Pinardi's vintage New Orleans sound help to keep the Espresso machine perkin' on this latest project.