Recent Recordings by Area Artists

Detroit songstress Naima Shamborguer has never been content to rest on her laurels, which are many. A Kresge Artist Fellow, now Naima expands her repertoire, her stylistic approaches and vocal range with the new CD Naima on her independent record label, Shambones Music. Shamborguer’s soprano soars — at times into the coloratura range — from her first note to the CD’s gentle but swinging close. Her voice has matured magnificently as have her skills and ideas as an improvisor. She controls vibrato and pitch with strength while expressing the tenderest, gentlest of emotions.

Shamborguer has always worked with Detroit’s finest jazz practitioners, and on Naima her “Pick and Roll Band” continues the tradition. The chemistry between pianist Ian Finkelstein, bassist Marion Hayden, drummer Djallo Djakate, saxophonists Wendell Harrison and Rafael Statin and trombonist Steve Davis is flawless. Shamborguer is well aware that great arrangements breathe new life into classic repertoire. An example of the arranger’s art is the opening track, “Out of This World,” the Arlen and Mercer standard arranged by Sven Anderson. Also, the late Eddie Russ’ arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Naima” with lyric penned by Jean Carne is sublime. Ms. Shamborguer is primed to take on this legendary song and elegant arrangement.

Shamborguer has been listening to and loving jazz for decades. This is evident in her song choices, including “Red Clay,” which dates to 1970 and features the Mark Murphy lyrics from 1975. What a joy it is to hear it again! We hope that Shamborguer’s version will lead to a rediscovery of this treasure. The exquisite ballad, “Poinciana” is from 1936, but Shamborguer’s version relies on the classic jazz arrangement by Ahmad Jamal from 1958. Familiar with Jamal treatment, drummer Djakate and bassist Hayden gently keep the rhythm flowing while Finkelstein caresses the piano keys and subtly supports Shamborguer’s vocalise. Her voice is as soothing as the tropical breezes the song brings to mind. Shamborguer also soothes with the rare lyric to saxophonist Johnny Griffin’s “When We Were One.” This lament of lost love is not saccharine or morose, rather it is a delicate reminiscence of days past. Trombonist Davis also communicates and provides a softly swinging foil to Shamborguer’s expressive vocal.

Over the years many great singers have hailed from Detroit. Naima Shamborguer belongs in the group for her dedication to craft and for all of her recordings of which Naima is a jewel in her crown. For more information visit her website.

If “groove” is what you crave in jazz, grab a copy of Journey with Me by violist/violinist Leslie DeShazor. While Journey with Me is Mrs. DeShazor’s first outing as a leader, she is no stranger to the recording studio. She is on all three recordings by the Detroit-based string and percussion ensemble Musique Noire. She is adept in both classical music and jazz. Her University of Michigan degree is in classical performance. Along with playing in the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra, Raisin River Ragtime Revue, The Sphinx Symphony and more, DeShazor is an in-demand teacher with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Sphinx Organization and in her private studio. Jazz fans may recognize her as one of the many string musicians who perform the large orchestral and big-band concerts on the Hart Plaza stage at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

Journey with Me recalls 1970s and 1980s recordings by Noel Pointer and Jean-Luc Ponty but flows with 2021 urgency and sophistication. This is due in no small part to her musical colleagues: drummer Nate Winn, guitarist Sasha Kashperko, bassists Brandon Rose, Marion Hayden and Robert Hurst, as well as pianist Brendon Davis. All songs are DeShazor originals with the exception of “Kunta’s Revenge” penned by Hurst. “Cruisin” is co-written by DeShazor and John Celebi. “Cruisin” is a delicate dance echoing a blithe spring day or Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” DeShazor’s use of pizzicato is an elegant contrast to Kashperko’s guitar and her bow technique and swift adaptation is showcased in the title track. Another standout selection is the ballad “Acceptance,” which sings through DeShazor’s acoustic viola and sensitive heart. She is a loving mother and dedicated family woman. I imagine that she drew from this well of affection in crafting the melody and the solo. Journey with Me concludes with Hurst’s “Kunta’s Revenge,” a passionate piece summoning the energy of a whirling dervish with Detroit funk. It’s fun! Leslie DeShazor’s life and musical journey has been diverse and dedicated. Celebrate her achievement by owning a copy of her debut CD as a leader. For more information, visit her website.

If merely for preserving and recording Detroit jazz history, Leonard King deserves major credit and recognition. His foundation, The Lyman Woodard Organization for the Arts, co-founded with his wife Colette Gilewicz, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the late organist, pianist, composer and band-leader, Lyman Woodard. In the ensuing years after Woodard passed, King and his bandmates have expanded the repertoire far beyond Woodard’s tunes to originals and surprising covers. Credit should also be given to King and Gilewicz for keeping the orchestra together through the pandemic and after Woodard’s death. The 2-CD set, Studio/Live Interval #2, released in September 2021 on Uuquipleu Records, includes 25 Detroit-area musicians who might not otherwise be recorded or recognized. Throughout the recording, King powers the ensembles from behind his drum kit.

As ever, King reveals deep Detroit roots. He’s comfortable in swing, cutting edge jazz, blues, soul and many other genres. He’s a living embodiment of the “in the pocket” pulse of Motown drummers Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones and Richard “Pistol” Allen and takes it into the jazz realm with ease. The man also sings with impeccable intonation, timing, power and passion — not easy to do while keeping time for a big band.

King is incredibly creative. He defines his music as “Genuine Rutude Music:” a combination of roots and attitude. He also encourages creativity in his band members. “Funny Talk,” which closes disc one (the September 2021 studio session), has brilliant solos from pianist Jordan Anderson and propulsive congas from Andy Wade. Both are talents to seek out. “Paradise Now,” also on disc one, is a showcase for section cooperation — especially among the saxophonists and flutists: Dominic Bierenga, Donavan Boxey, Christopher Tabycynzski and Mark Kieme. We’ll be forever grateful to King for sharing this rare Lyman Woodard masterpiece dating back to 1978.

Disc Two is a live session from October 2019 recorded “off the board” at Cliff Bell’s, which surprised King with its audio and performance quality. It illustrates another aspect of King’s charisma: his secure attitude with an audience. He tells stories in and out of the tunes with a smile, while acting as a living metronome. Disc two illustrates more Detroit hustle and “Rutude” energy as King takes you on a “Zug Island Calypso,” into “Coco’s Trash Can Tango” and wraps up with “True Bassonification.” Disc two is not for the faint of heart, but if you want to experience Detroit jazz energy and edge with a healthy dose of funk, you’ll dig disc two of Studio/Life Interval #2 by the Dr. Professor Leonard King Orchestra. For more information, check out his website.