"Look What the Cats Drug In" opens with ripping guitar work from Dan Baraszu on "Neutron Star", a song inspired by Stevie Wonder's "Too High". There is no slowing down with the complex harmonies by Eugene Maslov on "Last Ray". Blue Canoe's stable of talented artists is further exposed in "Symmetry 1" with the fluid, highly polished lines of virtuoso trumpeter Thomas Heflin. The album continues with unimaginable horn players Bryan Lopes and Ron Westray as well as the stellar compositional and orchestral arranging of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. The compilation brings it home rhythmically with percussionists Philip Smith and Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson. Listen for the famous Jimmy Smith on the B3 on the final tune by Junebug, "Save Your Love For Me (live)".
"Look What the Cats Drug In" is a vibrant exploration of the post-bop gems in Blue Canoe Records' vast and ever-growing catalog. Quite literally, "Look What the Cats Drug In" displays the finest musicianship of modern jazz.
"It's About The Melody", by Saltman Knowles Quintet, brings tight jazz harmonies and elegant lyrics together in a pleasing, sophisticated fashion. By combining compelling, interesting jazz arrangements and a sense of poetry in a friendly, non-pretentious manner, the group offers a comfortable program of songs that is sure to be in step with listeners and contemporary jazz radio formats world wide.
The ten songs on the cd were composed alternately by bassist Mark Saltman and pianist William Knowles and have a fresh, contemporary jazz feel about them with a hint of Latin grooves lurking throughout. Lori Williams vocals are sensuous and romantic: her clarity of annunciation skillfully brings out the irony of the lyrics in "The Joke's On Me", and the wistful spirit of "My Secret Lullaby". Ms. Williams' warm and inviting stylings are particularly evident on "What About April", which is already getting significant airplay around the country.
Charles Langford's sax work is thoughtful and laid back. His lines deftly shadow the vocals and add counterpoint to Knowles' piano work, while drummer Mark Prince plays tasteful grooves that pull the entire effort together.
Reviewers have described The Saltman Knowles Quintet as "rhythmically infectious" and "colorful", and have mentioned the band always "has the whole house swinging." Saltman and Knowles concur that "we want to be musically challenging ... but entertaining as well."
The Saltman Knowles Quintet has superbly melded together the three main elements that make a great musical experience: good writing, good musicianship, and good lyrics. "It's About the Melody" is just that and more.
"Symmetry", the debut of jazz trumpeter Thomas Heflin, explores the vast possibilities of contemporary post bop jazz through a carefully balanced program of original compositions and thoughtfully selected cover tunes. The self produced cd admirably showcases Heflin's brilliant, highly praised improvisational skills as well as the formidable talents of his band, including four tracks featuring the late world renowned pianist James Williams.
A rising star in the jazz world, Heflin made waves on the international jazz scene in 2005 when he placed second in the prestigious Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Solo Competition in Seattle. One reviewer described his playing as "a very fluid approach... generating lines in a seamless, highly polished manner that is really a joy to experience."
Among the original compositions are "Symmetry", the title track which opens and closes the album; "Salutation", a piece based on Kalidasa's poem "Salutation to the Dawn", and the ballad "Eastern Star", dedicated to James Williams. Heflin also covers material ranging from Louis Armstrong's anthem "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" to Cole Porter's "Night and Day" to Stevie Wonder's "Ma Cherie Amour".
"Symmetry" is aptly titled: Thomas Heflin has achieved a fine sense of proportion through his original pieces and covers. And though it is one of the last recordings James Williams made before he passed away, perhaps a new jazz legend, Thomas Heflin, is emerging in his own right.