Tiny Reviews: Oscar Penas, Tyler Blanton, & Sara McDonald

Tiny Reviews edition!

Featuring:  Oscar Penas Music of Departures and Returns, Tyler Blanton Gotham, and Sara McDonald A Very Tiny Big Band Album.



Oscar Penas – Music of Departures and Returns

Oscar Penas - "Music of Departures and Returns"Lovely Latin jazz session from guitarist Oscar Penas, who delivers a series of flowing melodies atop a pleasant murmur of percussion.  Violinist Sara Caswell balances nicely with the electric sound of Penas’ and Moto Fukushima’s guitar and bass.  Even when Penas turns up the heat on “Etude No.1,” the song never gets too heavy.  Various guests sit in, with the greatest benefits provided by additional percussion to help round out drummer Richie Barshay’s contribution, but Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet and Gil Goldstein on accordion are sure nice, too.

A few tracks have Penas in a trio formation with just bass and drums, whereas the other tracks bring in violin, electric bass, clarinet, accordion, and a nifty guest vocal spot by Esperanza Spalding.  The two faces of this album complement one other to perfection, each enhancing the other by leaving openings just waiting to be filled with their respective sounds.

Music of Departures and Returns is a beautiful album that just seems to keep getting prettier with the passing of time.

Your album personnel:  Oscar Penas (guitars), Sara Caswell (violin); Moto Fukushima (6-string electric bass); Richie Barshay (drums, cajon), Edward Perez (bass), Rogerio Boccato (drums, percussion), Paquito D’Rivera (clarinet), Gil Goldstein (accordion), and Esperanza Spalding (vocals).

The album is Self-Produced, released on Penas’ Musikoz label.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



Tyler Blanton – Gotham

Tyler Blanton - "Gotham"A crack line-up on this exciting quartet session led by vibraphonist Tyler Blanton.  Mostly up-tempo tunes that move at a brisk pace, but no matter what speed attained, the songs maintain a diverting conversational tone.  Compositions that peck at the lines that separate modern jazz from indie-rock, giving the songs a nice edge to balance with the warm geniality of vibes.

The relentless drive of “Never Sleeps” transitions nicely into saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s slow unwind of melody, which, in turn, makes a nice transition of its own into the brooding title-track “Gotham.”  Nate Woods is the perfect fit for this project, as he continues to display his talent at leaving his mark on up-tempo, rhythmically driven albums.  The pulsing “Cogs” and the slick “Tunnels” continues to toy with tempo, treating time like an icy surface to glide across the length of the album.  The album ends nicely with the slow build of “Breaking Through the Clouds,” providing each musician the opportunity to stretch their legs.

Gotham is one of those albums with a personality easy to take to.

Your album personnel:  Tyler Blanton (vibes, malletkat), Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Matt Clohesy (acoustic & electric basses), and Nate Wood (drums).

The album is Self-Produced, released on Blanton’s Ottimo Music label.

Available at:  CDBaby | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



Sara McDonald – A Very Tiny Big Band Album

Sara McDonald - "A Very Tiny Big Band Album"Charming debut from vocalist Sara McDonald.  There’s a refreshing simplicity to it all.  McDonald’s voice gets out front and rides the melody from first note to last.  The big band sends out one wave of harmony after the other to where it’s impossible to tell where one surge ends and the next begins.  This is jazz big band as comfort food.  It’s also how “Dead the Trees” and “Plans” open A Very Tiny Big Band Album.

However, “Isobel” has a burst of intensity where the ensemble breaks formation, letting emotional gusto win out over structure.  It’s a nice bit of deviation.  McDonald gets a little indie-pop action going with a cover of Grizzly Bear’s “Southern Point.”  The album closes with “Sand Castles,” which returns the album to its opening voice, though it does take the liberty of going out with a bang for the big finale.

An enjoyable recording that’s got some charm and panache.

Your album personnel:  Sara McDonald (vocals), Johannes Schneider, Matthias Lindermayer, Vincent Eberle, Thomas Rath (flugelhorns), Daniel Smith, Karl Muskini, Lukas Bannte, Felix Schluter (trombones), Bernhard Adam, Franziska Glas, Gabriel Keeser, Sebatian Wehle, Florian Leuschner (saxophones), Martin Seiler, Franziska Glas (flutes, clarinets), Lukas Voith (piano), Martin Wessalowski (guitar), Yvo Fischer (bass), and Stephan Treutter (drums).

The album is Self-Produced.

Available at:  Bandcamp



The Tyler Blanton & Sara McDonald tiny reviews are original to Bird is the Worm, but some of the Oscar Penas tiny review was used originally in the weekly new jazz releases column I write for eMusic (via Wondering Sound), so here’s some language protecting their rights to that bit of reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2014  eMusic.com, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.