Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month - "John Minnock: Right Around The Corner"

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month
John Minnock with guest Dave Liebman: "Right Around The Corner" (self-release)
Rating: **** (musical performance & sonic quality)

Recorded in September 2018 @ Sear Sound (NYC, NY)
Mixed in October 2018 @ Good Child Music Studios (Brooklyn, NY) by Thom Beemer
Mastered in October 2018 by Fred Kevorkian
Photos: Jason Ignacio
Album Design: Vickie Vidana

Featuring: John Minnock (vocals), Dave Liebman (soprano sax), Enrique Haneine (piano & Fender Rhodes electric piano), Carlos Mena and Will Woodard (bass), Pablo Eluchans and Diego Voglino (drums), Tony DePaolo (guitars)

New breed vocalist John Minnock is thrilled to announce the release of his new album, "Right Around The Corner." On his sophomore effort, Minnock presents jazz, blues and cabaret classics in a way that has never been heard before with the help of special guest, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Dave Liebman on saxophone. John’s experiences as an openly gay man gives way to a unique perspective that is at once eye-opening, touching and down right fun. Supported by such great musicians as pianist/arranger Enrique Hanenine (whose latest album, "The Mind’s Mural," hit #1 on the NACC Radio Chart), John’s new “gay-ahead jazz album” is a groundbreaker as it explores LGBTQ subject-matter in a jazz setting. Minnock celebrated the release of his new album at the iconic Don’t Tell Mama in Times Square.

John Minnock’s first album, "Every Day Blues," introduced his signature wit and candor as he explored the American songbook from the perspective as a gay man in today’s world. His long-running show of the same name, presented through the years at the Metropolitan Room, the Triad Theater and, most recently, Don’t Tell Mama, has been an audience favorite, attracting a diverse cast of attendees from inquisitive cabaret fans to serious jazz listeners. "Right Around The Corner" features a mix of material frequently performed at his live show (Hoagy Carmichael's standard “Skylark”, a cool bossa-oriented version of Henry Mancini's “Moon River”, “I Love Being Here With You”, “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”) and impressive original compositions that tell stories of gay life that are seldom heard on the bandstand.

A stand out moment is Minnock’s original composition, “Right Around the Corner”; the title being a play on the Mel Torme/George Shearing classic “Love is Just Right Around The Corner”. John Minnock’s lyrics were lifted directly from a personal experience and offers plenty of nods to real life nightlife experiences in the New York City gay community. “Less so today, but in the past it was common for gay people to, when visiting a city, look for the neighborhood that designated LGBTQ and visit some or most or all bars there. This was a way to get to know the community in that city,” says Minnock, who takes listeners through all of his favorite corners, many of which are home not just to him, but others in the gay community as well: Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up on 46th and 8th, Rise on 56th and 9th, Arriba Arriba on 51st and 9th, Don’t Tell Mama on 46th and 9th and Hardware and DBL at 48th and 10th. The song was also synthed, which is a nod to electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos; a pioneer as well in gender re-assignment.

Another highlight is Minnock’s interpretation of “New York, New York” by Jay Brannon (not the famous Kander and Ebb tune). The lyrics call back to “My Favorite Things”- specifically the version made famous by John Coltrane. “I thought of it as My LEAST Favorite Things about New York!” said John. Soprano saxophonist David Liebman, a jazz musician who is quintessential “New York” and is arguably the greatest living bastion of Coltrane’s sound, joins John here to dazzling results. “Liebman’s playing here invokes for me the bluesy black and white bankrupt world New York was in the 1960’s and 1970’s… I tried to adapt my vocalizing to match the players,” he said. Liebman joins John again on a superb version of “Skylark”. Performed often at his live show, the studio version gives new life to the stalwart melody with a jaw-dropping saxophone-vocal duo. John’s presentation of “Skylark” is painted by his experience workshopping it with the revered Lina Koutrakos.

Minnock's other originals, “Are We All Alone” and “Everything Changes”, tell different stories within the context of a gay relationship. The first deals with the challenges of a relationship without much experience or support from family or friends, and the second tells of a more mature relationship with all of its peaks and valleys. “There’s a section of happiness like an anthem, then a section of doubt and complication, maybe a bit neurotic (I call this ‘the Seinfeld section),” says John, adding that “most of the subject matter comes from issues and topics of the LGBTQ community”.

John Minnock is a native New Yorker who has been “telling it like it is” in the cabaret and vocal jazz scene for over a decade. Recipient of the Hot House Jazz Fans Decision Award in 2016, John is a classically trained musician who immediately blossomed when he saw Ruth Brown’s live show, which incorporated energy, enthusiasm, and her personal life experiences. While Minnock has performed myriad styles from r&b, funk, soul and classical, jazz and blues have been the genres in which he is most comfortable.

Jazz and blues were, essentially, borne of the life experiences of an oppressed and discriminated against group – African Americans. The sound developed in and around New Orleans. Various cultures (beyond African Americans) have contributed their own experience and styles to the art form – and for John as a gay man, this same thing occurred in an evolutionary manner. “I personally understand oppression and have experienced discrimination. I believe this is an underlying reason I gravitate toward the music.”

On "Right Around The Corner," Minnock brings a much-needed, fresh perspective to the vocal jazz genre. In John’s own words: “In writing the original songs, it became clear ‘it had to be jazz”. This genre offers the flexibility to fully express yourself (as Madonna might say). At one point in writing, I had a specific question and I asked Enrique “can I do this..?” and he responded “you can do anything, it’s jazz”’.

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