New Today
Top Nav

Bill Heller : Passage Review

Now Reading
Bill Heller : Passage Review

Bill Heller : Passage Review

bill-heller-cdBill Heller is best known as the keyboard player for the legendary Grammy-nominated jazz group the Rippingtons. In addition, Heller has served as the Musical Director for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame awards shows for over ten years, providing arrangements and incidental music. These shows have featured performances by such acts as Daryl McDaniels of RUN-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Little Anthony, and the Imperials, Gary US Bonds, Felix Cavaliere and The Lovin Spoonful, Charlie Daniels, Eddie Money, Steve Vai, Vince Giordano, and more. Some of the legends inducted at these shows have included Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Webb, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Clive Davis, Ron Delsner, Lou Reed, Eddie Palmieri, and Charles Koppelman, and Steven Van Zandt. As a recording artist, Heller composed and produced his first album, Find the Way, in 2014. His current 2021 release is titled Passage and contains twelve compositions written and produced by Heller. This recording features performances by Jonathan Butler, Steve Jordan, Will Lee, Marc Antoine, Ken Navarro, Jeff Kashiwa, Brandon Fields, Andy Snitzer, Allen Hinds, Paula Atherton, Dave Karasony, Brian Dunne, Joel Rosenblatt, Frank Bellucci, Rico Belled, Dave Anderson, and Mike Hall and many more.

The title track, “Passage,” starts our journey through Heller’s musical realm. The song has a cinematic overtone as the various instruments layer into the sonic field. Heller’s sense of drama is delightful, and the instrumentation of the French Horn, trombone, woodwinds, and steel pan add an exotic character to the melody. The song features intense soloing from the leader along with guitarist Russ DeSalvo. As the music weaves through different textures and expansive orchestrations, it is apparent that Heller is a master of sonic qualities. The song’s intensity is also very balanced, letting the melody flow naturally between each development and section.

“Journeys End” has an upbeat feel with a happy melody and more interesting textures. Featuring Ken Navarro on guitar and Brandon Fields on alto saxophone, the solo sections are energetic and build even more interest. Heller’s solo and trading with Fields push the intensity to the closing section. Heller keeps a balance between written material and improvisation that always gives the listener much interesting sonics to listen to and follow along with through the song form.

Passage shows a fully developed organization of Heller’s compositional process as he does a marvelous job unearthing so many great melodies, and the various ensembles bristle with energy as they play outstanding performances throughout the album. But, make no mistake, Heller is a veteran at work, issuing a strong recording of many styles, textures, and feels – a must-hear.


Bill Heller: Website

Now Reading
Paula Atherton : Can You Feel It

Paula-Atherton-3Paula Atherton has been consistently building a career filled with credible heights. With each new CD’s release in her discography, she creates a nascent reputation as one of the leading saxophonists, vocalists, and songwriters in the smooth-jazz idiom. Her credits are impressive and include a cavalcade of luminary collaborations and chart-topping singles. Her single, the title track off her sixth album, Can You Feel It, has already garnered a #1 hit for three weeks in a row, proving it’s not a fluke on Billboard. With additional #1 slots on as of April 4th, 2020, “Can You Feel It” hit #1 on Mediabase and #1 on the Smooth Jazz Network for 4 weeks. The single was produced by Greg Manning and written by Atherton and Manning. Listeners agree Atherton has a hit on her hands, only further building the delight with her full-length album.


Atherton has shared the stage with such contemporary jazz notables as The Rippingtons, Nick Colionne, Chuck Loeb, Cindy Bradley, Brian Simpson, Althea Renee, Four80East, David Sanborn, Bob James, Marc Antoine, Hiroshima, Gerald Albright, and Chieli Minucci. Atherton has also worked in the traditional jazz field, one of the notable performances being a weeklong engagement at the Blue Note NYC with pianist and jazz legend, Hank Jones. Atherton has performed with GRAMMY award-winning singer Dee Dee Bridgewater at the Annenberg Theater, for the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival.


PAULA-ATHERTON-cd-2Preceding “Can You Feel It,” Atherton has enjoyed 5 Billboard Top 30 charting singles, “Sassy Strut,” “Herbie,” “Between You & Me,” “My Song For You,” and “Into the Night.” Atherton was also featured on Cindy Bradleys’ single, “Girl Talk,” which hit #2 on Billboard.


Atherton is an avid performer. She has appeared at the Smooth Hot Jazz festival in Madrid, Spain, in April 2019 at Maria Guerrero theater. Other 2019 performances include the Jacksonville Beach Jazz series, Dauphin County Jazz Fest, Potomac Jazz Festival, Brass City, Grand Rapids, and Legacy Jazz Festival. 2020 began with performances at the Bishop Arts theater in Dallas, the Empire theater in San Antonio, the Redstone Room in Davenport, IA, and the John Ruffin theater in Chicago before the quarantine of Covid-19 hit in March.


Atherton’s latest album, Can You Feel It, is filled with memorable melodies that are only punctuated by Atherton’s robust alto saxophone tone, laced with funk and groove-based feels, including Latin rhythms on select tunes that are tuneful with melodic phrasing. The album accentuates 11 tracks with 1 bonus track. The album percolates from beginning to end with stunning performances.


“One Night in Madrid,” produced by Lou Gimenez and Bill Heller, is precisely what you would expect. Exciting Latin majesties with a breezy melody, this time featuring Atherton on flute, Heller adds his signature keyboard sound, while Gimenez colorizes with tastefully chosen accents. Not to be missed is the rhythm section of Kip Sophos on bass and Lionel Cordew on drums. The two tightly weave an active and exciting foundational support for Atherton to solo upon.


“Forget Me Nots,” a classic Top 40 hit for Patrice Rushen in the 80s, is personified by Atherton, who pulls out the stops, this time showcasing her soulful vocal qualities. Atherton is the full-tilt artist, a passionate and robust soloist on alto sax, but a noteworthy vocalist not to be missed. Equally, “Don’t Let Me Wait,” co-written by Atherton and Gimenez, once again features Atherton on lead vocals proving once again her vocal prowess.


Paula-Atherton-1The title track “Can You Feel It” proves why it had such a chart-topping success. Manning spins forth an expressive, yet melody focused album. Atherton’s responds with emotional wails and nicely arpeggiated lines. Followed by a call and response melody between Manning and Atherton, setting up an exciting modulation that Atherton riffs on for an exhilarating ride to the songs slow fade. The two further join forces on “Just Can’t Stop,” a Manning original featuring phenom Cindy Bradley on trumpet.


“20 Miles to Nowhere” is adorned with all the trappings you look for in an exciting smooth-jazz melody. What was especially intriguing is the percussion work of Emedin Rivera, like a bubbling under additive to Atherton’s soaring alto work. Co-written by longtime collaborator Lou Gimenez. The two have created a deliciously savory and savvy collaboration on this cut.


 “In the Pocket” is a ‘funkin’ good time. A heavy backbeat lays down the entrée of hip-smacking goodness. Atherton is in command, aided by co-producer Matt Godina who provides guitars, bass, keyboards, and programming on this tri-collaboration of Godina, Paula Atherton, and Lou Gimenez. Once again, Cordew is on fire, lending the rhythm glue for each soloist to propel from.


 “Calling You,” a lush and yearning ballad on the album written by Atherton and Gimenez, has a reminiscent of power ballads that are familiar and comforting. Atherton’s voice has a mystique that rings of great R&B classic singers. Supported by backing vocalist Deanna Carroll the two blend harmonically with a transcendent nascent sound.


“Summer Song” has a timeless aesthetic of good vibes and a flowing melody that quenches the longing for summer presentiment and the days when we can get back to enjoying all that summer can offer with friends and good times.


“Ain’t No Denying” spins forth a production by Paul Brown, a mid-tempo pleaser. Easy on the ears and meant to be played on repeat. Paula-Atherton-2Michael “Nomad” Ripoli lends his funky guitar riffs, adding commentary to the tune, while Atherton once again shines of alto-sax on this highly infectious instrumental cut.


“Funkulator,” written and produced by Schuyler Deale, portrays its namesake powerfully. Atherton slinks and grooves soulful expressiveness on alto-sax. Only punctuated by Cindy Bradley on trumpet and trombone and Deale on guitar, bass, programming, horn arrangement. The tune is augmented with well-placed hits adding to the impact of the melody throughout.


The bonus track “Just Can’t Stop,” is a radio edit of the full-length cut. Ending the album in an upbeat emotive that adds to the ambrosial sentiment of the album.


Fans can revel with Atherton’s tour de force and celebrate her slice of joy in this unprecedented time in Atherton’s career and in our country. A ray of hope if you will, “Can You Feel It.”


Inayah - For The Streets
Anne Wilson - Songs About Whiskey
Royal & the Serpent and GAYLE
Hippo Campus - Everything At Once
Latest Reviews
Bella Rios : Sincerely Review
Kings of Leon : Can We Please Have Fun Review
Alyssa Bonagura : Love Wins Review
Klemntyna : IN N OUT Review
Maya Beiser : Maya Beiser X Terry Riley: In C Review
Editor’s Choice
Read More
Read More