Justin Hellman
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Justin Hellman

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"Assorted Press Quotes"

“Shakin It Like a Blue Funk Monkey is really a great sounding CD and the compositions are fabulous"
--Chris Cortez, KCSM 91.1 FM

“this weekly jam session… writhes -- with the fresh blood of locals Justin Hellman on bass and Khalil Doak-Anthony on guitar, among many unsigned others.. “
--Daniel King- SF Chronicle.

"Justin is a highly skilled and expressive bassist who understands the subtleties of music. His dedication to his art is evident in every note."
--Michael Manring, Bass Player

“I Like it”
--Chuy Varela- KCSM 91.1

“Justin Hellman's newest release, "Shakin' It Like a Blue Funk Monkey", is a good recording of excellent musicians playing well-composed original jazz. It's funky, it's bluesy, it's soulful, and Hellman's upright playing sounds fantastic.
--Silas Durocher, Indie-Music.com

"Tangria Jazz Group performs as a conventional rhythm section trio, wheher they cover standards like "Freedom Jazz Dance" (which features bassist Justin Hellman's break-out solo, the high point of their version)..."
--Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine

"Justin Hellman adds a solid heartbeat on bass."
--Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

"Excellent bass is provided courtesy of Justin Hellman, with a mix of walking basslines and some inspired solos."
--Adam Greenberg, All Music

"Teach Yourself To Live Elsewhere is the first song. A moderately paced piece, this primarily features the keyboards, but there is a nice bass solo [by Hellman] on the song."
--Bruce VonStiers, BVS Reviews

"The skillful play from bassist Justin Hellman is the glue that holds the combo together."
--Edward Blanco, All About Jazz

- SF Chronicle, KCSM, All Music, etc.


"Indie-Music Review"

The Skinny:
Justin Hellman’s newest release, Shakin’ it Like a Blue Funk Monkey, is a good recording of excellent musicians playing well-composed, original jazz.

The Details:
Shakin’ it Like a Blue Funk Monkey features Justin Hellman on upright and electric basses, Jon Arkin on drum set, Eric Vogler on guitar, and Roshywn Bullock on tenor saxophone. In the liner notes of the album, Hellman thanks the other musicians for “bringing my music to life,” and indeed they do. These are all very talented, skilled jazz players (I should mention that between all these guys, they have played with world-class musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Roy Hargrove, Chick Corea, Ira Sullivan, and Freddie Hubbard). These are musicians who understand the importance of subtlety (why are there so few of those?).

That said, like any all-instrumental CD, each musician has many opportunities to shine. Bullock takes a very directional, well-phrased solo on “Anthem of the Little People,” the album’s opening track, while the rest of the band builds intuitively along with him. His saxophone solo on “Mindfudge” comes in with a gorgeous beginning and continues on with tremendous soul. Volger’s guitar playing is very melodic and creative. His solos are interesting and his comping is very effective. “Snizzle” and “Furious George” both feature perfectly executed guitar leads. Arkin is a laid-back drummer; his beats fit tastefully into the pocket of the music, respectfully giving priority to the composition by relegating himself to a role of support. Even his solo on “Interesting Apples” is very mellow and simple, but undoubtedly tasteful, well-done, and great to listen to.

Hellman himself is a very versatile player. Throughout the CD we hear him walking jazzy lines (“Shakin’ it Like a Blue Funk Monkey”), pushing the music with driving bass (“Ironical”), playing funky, laid-back grooves (“Furious George”), delivering melodic leads on the upright (“Snizzle”), nailing guitar-like solos on the electric (“Ironical”), and creating bluesy, pentatonic-based lines (“Interesting Apples”). It is clear by listening to his playing that he is a trained bassist and an educated musician.

Having established that these are great players, let’s turn our attention to the compositions themselves. Again, Hellman’s music education shows through here. With the exception of a couple of tunes such as the title track, which features a simple head and blues progression somewhat reminiscent of Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” (not a bad thing to be compared to, by the way), the compositions are complex and interesting enough, and the band well-rehearsed enough, that the music avoids the “any-good-musician-could-sit-in-read-a-chart-and-play-this-music-with-no-practice” feel of a lot of jazz. “Proclamation,” for example, has some very interesting counterpoint and rhythmic shifts that the group makes sound easy. That said, Hellman isn’t afraid to keep it simple, and that’s very respectable. The main bass part for “Mindfudge” is just one note - but it grooves so well. It’s tasteful (the fact that that word keeps coming up in this review should tell you something about the album). The best musicians are usually the ones who don’t need to constantly prove to you how many notes they can play and how fast they can play them.

The strongest track on the CD is the last one, “Interesting Apples,” which is a great treat at the end of an already strong album. Granted, “shakin’ it like a blue funk monkey” as a description of music could be interpreted many ways, but for me, “Interesting Apples” embodies the title of the CD most accurately. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, it’s soulful, and Hellman’s upright playing sounds fantastic - it wraps up the CD perfectly.

Shakin’ it Like a Blue Funk Monkey is a smooth listen (without ever coming close to “easy listening”). Well-crafted music performed by great musicians ... what else do you want? If you have any interest in jazz, I can fully endorse this CD. I would go so far as to say that it is the best CD I have heard since I started writing reviews for Indie-Music.com (although I have to admit, I just started a week ago and this is the first review I’ve written). Give this CD a try - contemporary, original jazz deserves to be supported. Why not start here?

--Silas Durocher

link to review: http://www.indie-music.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=7003 - Silas Durocher


"O's Place Review"

Justin Hellman - Shakin' It Like A Blue Funk Monkey

O's Notes: Justin (b) leads a quartet with John Arkin (d), Eric Vogler (g) and Roshywn Bullock (sax). They play ten originals that have a fresh, funky, fusion sound. Hellman takes center stage on "Ironical" with a strong solo following Bullock’s melody. They dabble on the funky side with “Groobalooing” and hold that groove for the rest of the set. Our favorites are “Mindfudge” and the finale, “Interesting Apples”. - O's Place Jazz Newsletter


"Weekend Top 10"

Jazzschool hosts Justin Hellman

The bay area bassist teams up with Dave Ellis and others to celebrate the release of his new CD, "Shakin' It Like a Blue Funk Monkey". The Cd's title alone is enough to make me want to go.
Details: 8pm Feb 8, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley, $15, 510-845-5373, www.jazzschool.com

(in the top ten Bay Area events that weekend with Jill Scott, the SF Symphony, and Marcus Shelby) - Contra Costa Times


"Department of Virtuosity Review"

Justin Hellman - Shakin' It Like A Blue Funk Monkey (2007)
Self-released
I think that Justin Hellman hit the bull's-eye sending me his debut stuff, since Department of Virtuosity's watchword is "If your monkey can play the comb like a real virtuoso, I can write a review". What does it have to do with this CD? Let's take a glance and its cover and convince yourself there is... the monkey playing the upright bass, haha. You can't be surprised I am so happy though!

Well, this American acoustic and electric bassist is a graduate of Berkeley College of Music and also studied under Michael Manring, Kai Eckhardt and Stephen Tramontozzi. He cooperated with Paul McCandless, Paul Hansen, Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Dave Ellis, Henry Kaiser, Julian Lage, Will Bernard, Taylor Eigsti, Tangria, Plum Crazy, Social Funktion, Echo Beach, Stefania Rubini, Sugar Shack and Minimal. I am not sure if they are all groups Justin played in, but I must admit this list is really impressive as we are talking about a young virtuoso. In recording the debut he was supported by guitarist Eric Vogler, tenor saxophonist Roshywn Bullock and drummer Jon Arkin. These are musicians who played with the likes of Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, Stevie Wonder, Ira Sullivan and Freddie Hubbard. This is an extra-league indeed!

Although Justin's music is not smooth jazz, it is accessible enough in a sense. I do like bassy strikes, speeding and coquettish sax, classy guitarwork and interspersed drumming. I also enjoy all of the moments when the instruments interact, making the instrumentals blistering and overblown in positive meaning. This disc includes diverse music including mind-refreshing funk, relaxing acid jazz and swinging drum'n'bass. Highly recommended! - HMP Magazine and Department of Virtuosity


Discography

Shakin' it Like a Blue Funk Monkey 2007

Photos

Bio

The sound of Justin Hellman’s ensemble has evolved over time. “It writhes -- with the fresh blood of locals Justin Hellman on bass and Eric Vogler on guitar” (SF Chronicle 8-05), who have been creating, performing, and arranging together for several years, developing an approach that is exciting and fresh while rooted in the jazz tradition. With influences like Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and Wayne Shorter, the group strives for a dynamic sound that carries a great deal of tension and release yet also possesses an element of lyricism.

Bandleader Justin Hellman is quickly making a name for himself in the Bay Area jazz scene as both a leader and a sideman. He has a bachelor’s degree in music from UC Berkeley and has studied privately with Michael Manring, Kai Eckhardt, and Stephen Tramontozzi. Over the years, Hellman has performed with countless bands and a variety of different genres has had a chance to perform with Bay Area greats like saxophonists Paul McCandless and Dave Ellis, bassoonist Paul Hansen, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, and guitarists Henry Kaiser, Julian Lage, and Will Bernard. His creativity and energy on acoustic and electric bass make him an exciting young voice within many genres of music.

Tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis graduated from Berkley High in 1985 and moved on to the Berklee College of Music, where he graduated with a degree in music production and engineering. Upon returning to the Bay Area in 1992, Ellis teamed up with eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter and drummer Jay Lane to form the immensely popular Charlie Hunter Trio. After releasing his first disc as a leader, Ellis was named Best New Talent (along with Diana Krall) in the 1997 Jazziz magazine Readers Poll. In 1999, he received 2 California Music Awards for Outstanding Jazz Album and Outstanding Jazz Artist in Northern California. While establishing his solo recording career, Ellis was playing live for tens of thousands of Deadheads in arenas and stadiums around the country with Bob Weir's Ratdog, Phil Lesh and Friends, and the Other Ones--sharing the stage with Bonnie Raitt and Rickie Lee Jones, sitting in with the Black Crowes, and performing at Bill Clinton's 1996 inaugural ball.

The drummer, Deszon Claiborne, has studied with Billy Cobham, Ralph Humphrey, James Levi, Richard Peterson and Kenneth Nash. He is a first call drummer for way too many groups to mention. Notably, he has recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Bo Didley, Phyllis Hyman, Jay McShann, and Alex Acuna.

Bay Area native Eric Vogler is the guitarist in the group. He studied music at UC Berkeley with Steve Coleman, Bevan Manson, and Ted Moore. Vogler has performed at some of the best venues in the area, including Yoshi’s, Zellerbach, and Hertz Hall, and he has worked with a diverse array of artists including Howard Wiley, Dayna Stephens, and Ambrose Akinmusire.

Hellman’s debut CD, Shakin’ It Like a Blue Funk Monkey, shows his many sides as a composer. The tracks range stylistically from funky acid jazz to straight ahead to drum n bass, yet there is a consistency that helps define the group’s dynamic, interactive sound. The album features saxophonist Roshywn Bullock, drummer Jon Arkin, and guitarist Eric Vogler, 3 stellar musicians who have played with the likes of Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, Stevie Wonder, Ira Sullivan and Freddie Hubbard.

For Booking Information Contact: Justin Hellman 510-338-0015
justin@justinhellman.com www.justinhellman.com