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Jazz CD releases for late summer swinging

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Eric Harland, Jazzhole, and Diva release new CDs, reminding us that jazz will never be wrapped up in any easy definition.

Eric Harland Voyager- Vipassana (GSI Studios) Release Date: August 11th

The press release accompanying this CD expressed the publicist's respectful inability to merely label Vipassana a jazz album. Understandable, for although this is a very good album, Harland and company (Walter Smith, Julian Lage, Taylor Eigsti, Harish Raghavan, Nir Felder, Chris Turner) seem more inclined to create what they want, play what they want and exactly how they want to play. We like to call it artistic freedom.

Vipassana is an ancient form of meditation with the purpose of seeing things as they really are. The CD seeks to see music as it truly is- multi-layered, unruly, contemplative, funky, unfettered. Tracks like Relax, Passana, and Vi fulfill the dream of neo-soul. An unexpected acoustic ballad, "Normal", contains this great line, "Can I wait another day for normal?” all the while striving to transcend it.

Jazzhole- Blue 72 (Beave Music) Release Date: June 10th

Jazzhole has created interesting concept albums throughout their career, and Blue 72 might prove to be one of their finest to date. Choosing to do an album of covers from the year 1972 was a way to honor the great pop, rock and soul music of the era. The highlight is hearing the bright, magical interpretations of the songs by vocalists Marlon Saunders, Rosa Ross, Michelle Lewis and Lindsay Webster. Take a listen to Saunders imitate a sultry background group on the Bee Gees' "Run to Me" and Webster jazz up Elton John's "Rocket Man" and America's "Ventura Highway" with full Brazilian lyrics. Warren Rosenstein of Jazzhole stated that he was not necessarily sure how the group settled on the year 1972, except maybe because the title Blue 72 seemed to rhyme. If 1972 was simply a roll of the dice, Jazzhole has succeeded in betting on a winner.

Diva- A Swingin' Life (MCG Jazz) Release Date: August 5th

A Swingin' Life would require little discussion if it wasn't so impressive. The latest CD from this 15-piece all female big band features the vocal brilliance of legends Nancy Wilson on "All My Tomorrows" and "All of Me", and Marlena Shaw on "Blues Medley", "Blackberry Winter", and "Wonder Why. Both ladies are in fine voice and put their perfect spin on each track. Truly, what else needs to be said? Diva delivers another collection of songs that maintains that big band jazz and swing is still valid, vibrant, and delightful to hear.

Eric Harland Voyager Vipassana and Jazzhole Blue 72 are available on iTunes and Amazon; visit www.divajazz.com to purchase A Swingin' Life.

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