Album: Jeff Oster Live!
Artist: Jeff Oster

jeff-oster-liveLive concert recordings are not as common in the Contemporary Instrumental genre as they are in some others, which makes Jeff Oster Live! something special. Although in reality, everything Jeff Oster does is pretty special. Writing about this album and performance is something I feel particularly qualified to do since I was fortunate enough to actually be at the concert in the San Francisco Bay area where the album was recorded. It was quite an event and I quickly did a write up about it the next day on Facebook. Here’s what I wrote:


I don’t know how many “wow” moments I had while watching Jeff Oster and his band last night at The Fenix in San Rafael, CA, but there were a lot of them! Covering songs from Jeff’s award-winning, chart-topping album Next, as well as a few tunes from his earlier albums, an improvisation, and a song from guitarist Todd Boston’s Touched By The Sun album, this group of A-List players gave the audience an experience they will not soon forget.



Michael, Frank, Jeff, Celso, & Todd

The band included the aforementioned guitarist Todd Boston who is a rising star as a recording artist and producer in the new age genre, fretless bassist maestro Michael Manring who was the house bassist for Windham Hill Records as well as playing on many other projects including my own Ambient Alchemy album with Steven Halpern, drummer Celso Alberti who has played with Steve Winwood and many others, and last but certainly not least, keyboardist Frank Martin whose extensive credits include playing with Sting at Carnegie Hall! The concert also featured special guests Jeff Taboloff on sax and vocalist Roberta Donnay, as well as vocal loops by Melissa R. Kaplan on one track.


The master of ceremonies, Jeff Oster, who plays flugelhorn and trumpet, has quite an impressive musical resume himself and his Next album includes GRAMMY winning recording artist/producer Nile Rogers, as well as studio legends Bernard Purdie and Chuck Rainey. Jeff is one cool cat on stage and exudes a sense of confidence mixed with humor that is totally engaging. He is also quite generous in sharing the spotlight with the various band members. The ensemble cruised through two sets like a well-oiled machine covering a nice variety of musical styles including ambient, smooth jazz, world music, and funk that ranged from slow rolling to seriously smoking. They even got a bit psychedelic on a tune from Next called “Half A Cookie.” A real crowd pleaser was their cover of Bonnie Rait’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which is also featured on Next. Another highlight for me was Michael Manring’s tour de force bass solo that brought the energy back in after the intermission.


Although it may seem paradoxical to say, but Jeff and the band were incredibly tight and looselive-at-the-fenix at the same time. They were totally locked into the pocket, yet flowed through each song in a way that made it look effortless. Jeff’s main instrument, the flugelhorn, is one that is not as commonly seen, and the things he does with it have probably never been seen. Using a variety of electronic effects like reverb and echo, Jeff’s sound ranges from drifting ambient washes of sonic color to Miles Davis-influenced jazz phrasing, and more. His duets with sax man Jeff Taboloff absolutely brought the house down! I sincerely wish that everyone reading this review could have been there to experience Jeff Oster in concert, but stay tuned to Jeff’s Facebook page for an announcement about the video that was made from the event, which will be streamed online.

(Update – click here to view a live stream of the album release concert on 9/8/16 at The Fenix.)


The album itself, Jeff Oster Live!, is comprised of 7 tracks from Jeff’s extensive song catalog, and includes: “Serengeti,” “Voce Quer Dancar,” “Once In a Blue Moonlight,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Half a Cookie,” “Night Train to Sofia,” and “The Man From Brazil.” Many of these are extended versions in the 9 to 10 minutes range, providing plenty of room for everyone to showcase their formidable talents. These songs were compiled from two different live shows at The Fenix on October 15, 2015 and March 24, 2016. The Fenix is a high-end supper club and the acoustics and sound system are top notch. The album was mixed by Todd Boston at his Magic Cottage Studio and mastered by Tom Eaton at Will Ackerman’s iconic Imaginary Road Studios, so the audio quality is superb.



The maestro Jeff Oster & Michael Diamond

In my recent interview with Jeff about the album, he shared these thoughts: “This is my first live album. It was inspired by the excellence and artistry of the musicians that were a part of these performances. They are just SO good, it felt important for me to capture them on record.” He went on to say: “My live performances are quite different than my recordings. There’s something about the moment, an electricity, and the conversation with the other musicians that takes the music into places It would never have gone otherwise. Each musician gets an opportunity to stretch out, and the results are magnificent! I am fortunate to work with some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best musicians in my live show, and I am so glad to have been able to share that with my listeners with this new album. I hope the joy of our performance is captured on this record!”


In reply to this, I can say that it definitely is. The excitement is palpable right from the start in the cheering of the crowd as Michael Manring’s funky bass line launches the band into the opening track, “Serengeti.” The musical communication between the band seems almost telepathic as they swing between slamming funk and more mellow spaces including the heart-wrenchingly beautiful instrumental version of the Bonnie Raitt ballad mentioned above. Jeff Oster Live! captures virtuoso performances by one of the best bands I’ve heard in a long time. While I’m grateful to have been there for the recording, I’m equally grateful that it is now available for everyone else to enjoy. Most highly recommended!



Click the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album:



CD Baby