"Oasis" is the newest collaboration with bassist Rodney Whitaker and composer Gregg Hill. See what the reviews are saying!
Making a Scene
November 26, 2022
Bassist Rodney Whitaker is back with his third album dedicated to music of his East Lansing neighbor, composer Gregg Hill, with Oasis.…a swinging, swaying set of music that both honors tradition and injects enough surprises to keep one guessing.”
— Jim Hynes, Making a Scene
For a full review visit:
Nov 17, 2022
“Mr Whitaker and the composer Gregg Hill have collaborated on two other occasions and the output has been exciting and elegant. The repertoire on this disc doesn’t simply pick up from where both men left off in 2021 with the music on Outrospection. In fact, the music takes a proverbial leap forward.
…this music gives the most sustained pleasure you would expect from an hour+ long disc. Mr Whitaker and his ensemble play with brilliant focus and timbral variety bringing electric flashes of harmonic and rhythmic energy to even the simplest of melodies.
This is music that is gentle, touching and painted in sensible human proportions – mimicking new paths in old forests… some old genes newly – and eloquently – expressed…”
— Raul Da Gama, Jazz Gamma
Randy Napoleon: Puppets – The Music Of Gregg Hill
— By Roger Farbey,
The Montgomery, Green and Burrell flavoured guitarist is joined by a virtuoso singer who reminds at times of Flora Purim
Guitarist Randy Napoleon was born in Brooklyn, New York but grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His musical journey has encompassed stints with Freddie Cole and Michael Bublé, residence in Detroit, a spell in NY and a return to Michigan in 2014 where he met prolific composer Gregg Hill. He is currently associate professor of jazz guitar at Michigan State University. Puppets is his second collaboration with Hill, the first being Brothers: The Music Of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge Records, 2019).
Apart from his pleasingly accessible playing, redolent of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell, the real secret weapon on the album is the prodigiously talented vocalist Aubrey Johnson. A teacher in the voice department at Berklee College of Music, she made her debut as leader with Unraveled (Outside in Music, 2020), which was received with critical acclaim. Proof, if it were needed, of her virtuosity is evident on the final note of Lyrica, where she hits a spine-tingling high D with surgical precision.
Of the remaining 10 tracks, four contain lyrics: three were penned by Napoleon while Truck Driver’s Blues, a straight country and western song, came from Hill. The other tunes are delivered wordlessly by Johnson and might remind the listener of Flora Purim’s contribution to the first incarnation of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever.
The title track, appropriately the strongest tune on the album, is endowed with a hauntingly memorable head. Napoleon’s solo here is typical of his excursions throughout, showing him to be a craftsman-like guitarist who plays to fulfill the instrumentalist’s role rather than dominate with flashiness or unsuppressed egotism. In short, he is a very fine guitarist indeed. Hill’s attractive compositions consolidate Puppets as a thoroughly satisfying album which does not require repeated plays to win the listener over, although repeated plays will be inevitable.
Discography Andy’s Lament; Fan-O-Gram; The Jazzdiddy Waltz; Lyrica; Moonscape; Puppets; Still Life With Tuba; The Unknown Ballade; Tone Colors; Truck Driver’s Blues; Wide River (63.35) Napoleon (elg); Aubrey Johnson (v); Seth Ebersole (bcl, f); Rick Roe (p); Rodney Whitaker (b); Quincy Davis (d) and others. Lansing, Michigan, 28-29 June 2021.
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Randy Napoleon, Puppets, The Music Of Gregg Hill Review
By Sylvannia Garutch
Randy Napoleon has returned with a collective effort that is diverse and conveyed with an outstanding ensemble of talented, like-minded performers. The album centers around the music of composer Gregg Hill and is implemented by guitarist Randy Napoleon, vocalist Aubrey Johnson, and a stellar all-star jazz ensemble of Rodney Whitaker on bass, Quincy Davis on drums, and Rick Roe on piano. Special guest include Seth Edbersole on bass clarinet (track 5, 6, 7 & 8) & flute 3, 4 & 5), Brandon Rose on bass (track 2) and Will Crandell on drums (track 2). The album is titled Puppets, The Music Of Gregg Hill.
(The Album)..."is a beautiful collection of excellent compositions that are vehicles for this top-shelf ensemble to explore and create upon. Each composition has a balance of lyricism and appealing harmonic twists and turns. Napoleon is a gifted guitarist who shines brightly throughout the album, as does Johnson."