Jazz CD Reviews

Yoron Isreal and his quartet, High & Standards — Visions (The Music of Stevie Wonder) – Ronja Music

Visions is a work of artistic tribute to the compositions of Stevie Wonder—a wonderful choice that is.

Published on February 2, 2013

Yoron Isreal and his quartet, High & Standards — Visions (The Music of Stevie Wonder) – Ronja Music

Yoron Isreal and his quartet, High & Standards — Visions (The Music of Stevie Wonder) Ronja Music Co. — Y13072, 61:11 *****:

(Yoron Isreal -– leader, drums & percussion; Lance Bryant –- tenor & soprano saxophone; Lazlo Gardony – piano, keyboards; Ron Mahdl –- bass; Thaddeus Hogarth -– guitar (track 2), harmonica (track 8); Larry Roland -– spoken word (tracks 5&10))

Yoron Isreal is one very busy performer.  He has many “hats” in that he is a drummer, percussionist, band leader, educator, author and composer.  He operates in the genres of jazz, world styles, gospel, contemporary Christian, R & B and orchestral idioms according to his bio.  Originating out of Chicago, he now is located in Boston, Massachusetts leading the above quartet High & Standards.  “This ensemble led by Yoron performs “new standards” for the 21st century; compositions from various musical genres that will stand the test of time and become common repertoire of choice for future generations of jazz musicians.  Yoron has several album releases, the more prominent of which are A gift for you in 1996 and reissued in 2006, Live at the Blue Note in 1999, Chicago in 2000, Traneing in 2004 and now Visions in 2012.  He has credits as a drummer/percussionist  with some big names such as Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Abbey Lincoln, Ahmad Jamal, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Clark Terry, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutchinson, Art Farmer, Tony Bennett and a host of more.  He has racked up more than 100 albums as an accompanist.

Visions is a work of artistic tribute to the compositions of Stevie Wonder.  A wonderful choice that is, to be sure.  The first track grabbed me at the start with the mellow swingin’ tenor saxophone of Lance Bryant carrying the melody for the first third of the song, then Lazlo Gardony picks up the solo line swingin’ and dancing on the keys of his piano for the next third of song.  Lance comes back in again with Lazlo for the final third of the song and all the while, Ron Mahdl does a wonderful job walkin’ his bass with Yoron on drums through the whole song called “Another Star”,

Yoron kicks up his drums to the front with a Latin beat starting introduction to “Bird of Beauty” to be joined with the lyrical sound of soprano sax played by Lance who literally makes the song dance in samba time.  Backing up the melody with counter melodies are Thaddeus Hogarth (guitar) and Ron Mahdl (bass).

Yoron softly kicks off “All in Love is Fair” with his brushes on the snare drum in a fast-paced solo that suddenly slows as Lazlo softly comes in with the melody on piano.  A little later Lazlo switches to accompany Lance playing the melody on his tenor sax.  I was affected by Stevie Wonder’s original version but this cover and arrangement brought both tears and joy as the song progressed… beautiful! “Visions” the title track to the album starts in a slow Latin rhythm with Ron on bass and Lazlo setting the pace in an intro to be joined by Larry Roland speaking thoughtfully about visions… It’s a nice piece.

“Contusion” though a lengthy tune (just over 9 minutes) is very exciting in the sound and rhythms that move in progression to an Afro sound.  The dancing sound of the keyboards by Lazlo and soprano saxophone of Lance often times playing in unison.  This coupled with Ron on bass and Yoron on percussion accenting the others makes this a very worthwhile listen.  “Passionate Raindrops” was very pleasant to hear because of the harmonica of Thaddeus Hogarth giving it that Stevie Wonder touch.

Visions is well produced.  The sound quality is excellent.  It is in a cardboard case where the liner notes are printed.  I have one criticism on the liner notes:  the text requires a magnifying glass.  It is a classy album.

TrackList: 1. Another Star; 2. Bird of Beauty; 3. All In Love is Fair; 4. Creepin’; 5. Visions; 6. You Are The Sunshine of My Life; 7. Contusion; 8. Passionate Raindrops; 9. Where Were You When I Needed You; 10. Visions Reprise.

—Tim Taylor

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