Nick Bewsey

Latest from ICON Magazine
11:00 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Ben Williams: More Than Just Jazz Appeal

It was easy to see why bassist Ben Williams’s debut CD State of Art made such a splash. It had a deserved buzz around a rising talent, and remains a primer for how to make a modern jazz record.

Since then, besides heavy side-gigging and touring with his band as Ben Williams and Sound Effect (Christian Sands, Marcus Strickland, Matthew Stevens, and John Davis), the 30-year-old had a key role in the Pat Metheny Unity Group. The band played over 150 shows internationally in 2013, which is a lot of experience in a compressed time frame.

So it’s not surprising that his follow-up CD, Coming of Age, is a rush of pleasure from beginning to end.

A taste of the new Ben Williams CD, Coming of Age:

The highly-disciplined Williams, a Juilliard graduate and winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition, weds fresh jazz to pop and R&B on seriously engaging tunes that hum and heave from his nimble bass whether he’s on acoustic or electric. The record is backboned by tracks that electrify (“Strength and Beauty”) and groove (“Half Steppin’”), yet his vocal collaborations with soul singer Goapele (“Voice of Freedom”) and a reprise of a track called “Toy Soldiers” with rap/spoken-word artist W. Ellington Felton satisfy the de rigueur groove revivalism and album’s crossover appeal.

Instrumentals like “Black Villain Music” and the sweet gloss of strings and muted trumpet by guest Christian Scott on “Lost And Found” will satisfy on multiple spins, but it’s the keyed-up guitar solos, funky electric piano, sonorous sax, and wicked beats that give Coming of Age its more-than-just-jazz appeal.

It’s a contagious hang, fueled by virtuosity and vision along with Williams’s canny sense of music-making.

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Latest from ICON Magazine
11:23 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Joanna Pascale, Wildflower

Listening to Joanna Pascale sing is like getting a big hug. Her voice is warm, wise and easy to love. The Philly native has put out fine solo albums previously, but nothing like Wildflower, a deeply-felt record that freely mixes pop tunes, blues, and outlier standards.

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Latest from ICON Magazine
2:00 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

The Centennial Collection of Billie Holiday

Is Billie Holiday the ultimate jazz singer? You might think so, listening to this commemorative anthology that draws from Lady Day’s early period. She performs tunes recorded between 1935 and 1945, either fronting pianist Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra or leading her own. These are timeless, defining songs that continue to feed into the myth, magic, and tragedy that is Ms. Holiday.

Billie Holiday singing “Sugar” with Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra, 1939:

Released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Holiday’s birth (April 7, 1915), these essential tracks showcase the singer at her peak. As a cultural icon, she has no modern-day equivalent (Amy Winehouse deserves her own story).

Hearing Holiday sing these pop tunes, jazz songs, and jukebox tracks on this artfully prepared collection is not only a gift to music fans of all stripes, but a paean to a singer who ultimately transcends genres. (Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection. Sony Legacy)

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Latest From ICON Magazine
12:51 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

What Makes DUCHESS Swing?

Credit: Shervin Lainez

The notion that “everything old is new again” blossoms like spring on the charming self-titled debut record by the DUCHESS trio, and it’s altogether refreshing. With a sound inspired by songs sung by the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters—albeit with classy, updated arrangements—to charts that date back to the 1930s and '40s, Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, and Melissa Stylianou are three strong jazz and pop vocalists with their own solid careers. Here, they serve up sophisticated humor (Cy Coleman’s “A Doodlin’ Song”) and café society swing (Peggy Lee’s “Love Being Here With You”) with the cleverest wit. 

Up close and personal, I heard them during their March CD release gig at the Jazz Standard in NYC, where the sold-out crowd was seduced by ballads like “Que Sera, Sera” and Johnny Mercer’s “P.S. I Love You.” Their warm, earthy harmonies hit you like Cupid’s arrow. That original blend of sauce and swing deservedly make DUCHESS stand out.


With a fine band in tow anchored by pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Paul Sikvie and ace drummer Matt Wilson, this completely delightful trio hearkens back to the era when performers like Bobby Short sang songs and entertainment was the priority.

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Latest from ICON Magazine
5:16 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Romance, Swing, Blues, and Marcus Roberts

There are jazz pianists who lead their own bands, and then there is the innovative Marcus Roberts, an Ellington acolyte and original Young Lion (along with his peer, bandleader and collaborator Wynton Marsalis). Though some critics shrugged when Roberts released his early opus, Deep in The Shed (1998), many—including me—found that work exhilarating and an essential jazz recording.

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Latest from ICON Magazine
7:26 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

The Particular Nature of Duane Eubanks

Duane Eubanks (photo credit: Gulnara Khamatova)

Trumpeter Duane Eubanks isn’t yet as well known as his brothers (trombonist Robin and guitarist Kevin), but his highly listenable album, Things Of A Particular Nature, should mitigate his under-the-radar status. This Philadelphia native is a top-notch musician, having fronted the horn section in the late pianist Mulgrew Miller’s group, Wingspan, and as a member of two-time Grammy-winning Dave Holland Big Band, while playing with many others.

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Latest from ICON Magazine
11:31 am
Fri March 13, 2015

Straight-Ahead Swooning: Michael Blum's Guitar Jazz

Jazz guitarist Michael Blum

The up-and-coming Michael Blum makes an impressive and vital debut with Initiation, and a persuasive case for straight-ahead guitar jazz. While this precocious 20-year-old New Hampshire native has forged an accessible modern sound with a rooted connection to jazz masters like Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, and early George Benson, Blum embraces an intimacy with his material and dispatches a thoughtful set list with the surprising sureness of a more experienced musician.

Michael Blum plays "Castle Rock"

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Latest from ICON Magazine
4:49 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Red Garland Live: A Time-Machine Discovery

Pianist Red Garland (1923-1984) was an integral member of the Miles Davis Quintet and a key collaborator with John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, at a time when those leaders were swelling in popularity during the late ’50s and early ’60s. A hard-bop player, Garland also led his own bands mostly for the Prestige and Galaxy labels, with many of his recordings still available.

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Latest From ICON Magazine
12:22 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Beautiful Life: Saxophonist Jimmy Greene Remembers His Six-Year-Old Daughter

Ana Marquez-Greene was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. She was six years old.

The first sound you hear on Beautiful Life is a home recording of Ana Marquez-Greene singing “Saludos” at a Christmas celebration in Puerto Rico with her mother, Nelba, and her father, Jimmy, playing saxophone in the background, - a year before her death at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. She was six years old.

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Latest From ICON Magazine
3:38 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Why Ron Carter is the Ace of Bass

The legendary bassist Ron Carter

As a cultural institution, the Blue Note in NYC's Greenwich Village is surprisingly small. It’s a long, shotgun room with a snug stage set midway down against the left wall - the jazz club’s glowing blue neon logo centered as a backdrop. Tables line up front in tight formation and fan out to the left and right with as many patrons squeezed into place as the room can hold.

Since it's always about the music, there’s a collective understanding why you’re there. And last February, it was all about the man of the hour—the one and only, bassist Ron Carter.

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