Friday, May 27, 2016

Saxophonist Kris Allen - a protégé of the great Jackie McLean – advances the state of his art with Beloved, an album of originals

Saxophonist and prolific composer Kris Allen continues his fascinating evolution with his stunning second release Beloved.  The album's artful originals are simultaneously rooted in deep tradition while resonating with a personal sense of seeking.  Featuring Allen on alto and soprano saxophones alongside close friends Frank Kozyra (tenor sax), Luques Curtis (double bass) and Jonathan Barber (drums), the album will be released June 17 via Truth Revolution Records.

Many of the songs on Beloved are dedications to loved ones, while others reference musical models dear to Allen. The Connecticut native - who learned at the elbow of alto great Jackie McLean in Hartford and is now artist-in-residence at Williams College in Massachusetts - believes that music can help artists and listeners alike manifest the better angels of our nature: "I think art has a positive role in society, even if it's a subtle influence, of the spirit. I think music can help you connect to the best aspect of yourself, suggesting the values of diversity and cooperation. I know that I'm a better person when surrounded by beautiful music."

The music of Beloved has a hypnotic weft and weave, like the pattern of a beautiful Persian rug. With no harmonic instrument in the quartet, Allen leads the way, his horn a focal point, the weight of the beat in his sound. Low-toned and glinting by turns, his alto has an ideal complement in the warm, round sound of Frank Kozyra's tenor, as they voice melodies with a simpatico time feel. The rhythm section of Luques Curtis and the ever-in-demand Jonathan Barber plays the foil, the pair's sound muscular - with neither afraid to step upfront. In composing for Beloved, Allen aimed to challenge himself away from the piano and create a character for this band that is more open - earthy yet elusive, straight ahead but with a twist.

"Not having a piano or another chordal instrument in the band lends the music some mystery," Allen says. "The music still has complex chord changes, but things aren't spelled out so obviously. I've always liked the way that draws me in as a listener. I remember being struck by the Branford Marsalis Trio. They had a way of playing free that was open to structure that developed as the music flowed. As far as a two-horn band without piano, I always dug the Elvin Jones band with Dave Liebman and Steve Grossman, as well as Kenny Garrett and Joe Henderson on the LP Black Hope. I've always loved that sort of tight unison blend, where the melodies really speak."

Beloved kicks off with the warm, groovy "Lowborn." Another highlight is "Hate the Game," with its upbeat unisons and subsequent headlong alto/tenor chase. Allen composed many of the album's more lyrical numbers for people close to him. "'Beloved' is for my wife, while 'One for Rory' is for my 9-year-old daughter," he explains. "I wrote 'More Yeah' for my 11-year-old son when he was a baby. 'Mandy Have Mercy' is dedicated to our dog, just because everyone else in the family had a tune! But it's one of my favorites. It's based on this old Tin Pan Alley song 'I'd Rather Have a Memory Than a Dream,' which Sarah Vaughan sang with Charlie Parker in the band."

Several pieces on Beloved reference musical heroes and collaborators. " 'Threequel' is based on 'The Sequel' by the late pianist Mulgrew Miller, who was such an inspiration," Allen explains. "And 'Bird Bailey' references 'Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey' in the version by Ernie Andrews, with Cannonball Adderley quoting Charlie Parker's 'Cheryl.' Our rendition features a composite of more than a dozen Parker tunes played by the tenor and bass while I solo over the top. It's almost a compositional game piece. The Latin-tinged 'Flores' is for a friend and collaborator of mine, Charles Flores, a bassist from Cuba who passed away a few years ago, just in his 30s. Leading into that piece is 'Lord, Help My Unbelief,' which I had originally written for a church service, with lyrics. Now it's about having your faith tested."

From age 14 through his college years, the most important musical relationship in Allen's life was with Blue Note icon Jackie McLean. "Jackie's individual saxophone style was so striking, the way he blurred lines between the chromatic and the atonal, even if he was ultimately coming out of Bud Powell," Allen says. "But I learned a lifetime's worth of lessons from Jackie, soaking them up alongside peers like Wayne Escoffery, Jimmy Greene and Julius Tolentino as well as guys who were a bit older, like Abraham Burton and Eric McPherson. Jackie inspired my pedagogical career, too. I ended up taking over his saxophone master class in Connecticut, at the Hartt School of Music." Reflecting on Beloved, Allen adds: "I hope people hear love in this music - for the tradition of jazz, for the people I've written pieces for - and for the guys I'm playing with. We take music seriously, but we're a pretty lighthearted, upbeat group on the bandstand. As I said before, being around beautiful music - as I hope mine is - makes the world feel like a better place."

Born in June 1976, Kris Allen grew up outside of Hartford, Connecticut, and studied with Jackie McLean at the Artists Collective and University of Hartford. He inherited a love of music from his mother, a church organist who gave him his first lessons on a tiny xylophone. Although he showed a gift while studying classical piano, the young Allen fell for jazz upon hearing a copy of Lee Morgan's Blue Note LP The Gigolo and switched to alto saxophone. He entered two venerable jazz academies: first Hall High School in West Hartford, known for nurturing excellent jazz musicians (including Brad Mehldau and Joel Frahm) and then the Artists Collective in Hartford, where founder McLean schooled Allen in the blues and bebop language, composition and arranging. Allen was drafted twice for the Grammy All-American High School Jazz Band and named its Most Valuable Player in 1994.

With a full scholarship, Allen continued his apprenticeship with McLean at the Hartt School of Music. After graduation, Allen moved to New York City. Playing in multiple groups and fronting a few of his own, Allen also toured and recorded with the likes of Gerald Wilson, Illinois Jacquet, Andy Gonzales and Curtis Fuller, as well as Winard Harper, Andy Laverne, Mario Pavone and Helen Sung. An in-demand sideman, Allen has played in the groups of Jen Allen, Noah Baerman, Earl MacDonald, Benje Daneman, Andy Jaffe and Avery Sharpe among others. He is a member and co-founder of the Jazz Samaritan Alliance, as well as a member of the Truth Revolution Recording Collective. In 1999, Allen was handpicked by McLean to teach saxophone and ensembles at the Hartt School. He went on to hold positions at Trinity College, Southern Connecticut State University and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Since 2013, he has been the Lyell B. Clay Artist in Residence in Jazz at Williams College. Allen has also been a teaching artist for the Litchfield Jazz Festival since 2001.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Miles Davis: The Universe of Cool. Visualized.

Miles Davis, international musical icon and cultural archetype, would have turned 90 years old on May 26, 2016. To commemorate Miles' 90th, Legacy Recordings (the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment) and Polygraph (a publication for thoughtful, data-driven storytelling) is launching "The Universe of Miles Davis," an immersive destination website visualizing the astounding ongoing cultural impact and importance of Miles Davis. {Please link to site here: }

Built from data collated from over 2,000 Wikipedia pages mentioning the artist, "The Universe of Miles Davis" uses stunning visuals and animation to construct charts, graphs and interactive models illustrating that Miles Davis' larger-than-life impact extends beyond music into the worlds of fashion, film, politics, fine art, popular culture, social media and more.

Motown Gospel Presents ‘1 Mic 1 Take’ Live at Capitol Studios featuring Tasha Cobbs, Smokie Norful, Brian Courtney Wilson, Myron Butler & Levi and Newcomer Royce Lovett

Motown Gospel presents 1 Mic 1 Take, recorded live at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA.  1 Mic 1 Take will be available at retail and digital outlets everywhere on Friday, June 3rd. The ten-song acoustic gospel compilation includes five of Motown Gospel artists performing two songs—stripped of mass production to focus on the message and the voice. Many selections are already popular while others are receiving a well-deserved shot for wider exposure. The participants include GRAMMY®-winners Smokie Norful and Tasha Cobbs as well as award-winning artists Myron Butler & Levi, Brian Courtney Wilson and newcomer Royce Lovett.

1 Mic 1 Take is a concept that Blue Note Records president and super producer Don Was (under parent company EMI-Capitol) spearheaded initially as one-off promotional-only clips to highlight the legitimacy and vibrancy of the label’s acts by showcasing their vocal and song craft talents in naked, unadorned forms. In the world of pop music this can be revealing. In the world of Gospel music, it’s a revelation—offering kinetic alternatives for praise and prayer of favorite songs. Call them divinity remixes.  See preview of 1 Mic 1 Take featuring Don Was:
Motown Gospel Presents 1 Mic 1 Take marks the first time such a project has been created for purchase to the public. The ten-song album will be released both physically and digitally plus a deluxe edition will include four high definition videos—all recorded in Hollywood’s hallowed and landmark Capitol Studios. “Putting world class artists in a legendary room performing their signature songs with scaled back production doesn’t present itself often,” says, Larry Blackwell, Vice President and General Manager of Motown Gospel. “I believe the artists captured the fundamental essence of our genre with their soulful performances.”
In sequence order, the compilation opens with Brian Courtney Wilson’s GRAMMY-nominated titled track “Worth Fighting For,” which also earned him both Dove and Billboard Award nominations. The compilation continues with Tasha Cobbs’ “For Your Glory,” her second single from her GRAMMY-nominated and chart-topping album, Grace. Multiple Stellar Award-winning artist Myron Butler & Levi’s “Nobody Like Our God” is featured from his new studio album, On Purpose. The majestic call and response praise and worship number is performed to piano, backing vocals and snare drums accompaniment. Singer and songwriter Royce Lovett performs “Write It On The Wall.” He dubs the music he takes all around the world as Cerebral Soul. 

“Write it On The Wall” is the title track of his debut EP (following six self-released projects with titles such as Ought-ism and Acoustic Incentive). Co-penned with Nate Butler, Matt Armstrong and Bryan Fowler, the song is performed here by Royce to guitar accompaniment only. Wilson’s second offering, the guitar driven “Mindful,” also featured on Wilson’s Worth Fighting For project is a heart-stilling declaration about staying the course to grow ever-closer to the Lord. Butler’s title-track “On Purpose” is the introspective jazz-tinged song on Butler’s latest album, beautifully rendered with piano, drums and support vocals. Lovett’s “Say Something (Sasha)” is a catchy reggae pop song (co-penned with Nate Butler) that finds him reaching out to a girl in need of Christ in her life. He incorporates singing and rapping to fervently get his point across in this touching performance that he closes a cappella with finger snaps. Smokie Norful’s brilliantly written “Imperfect Me” (co-penned with Antonio Dixon, Habsen Jones, Harold Lilly & Demonte Posey) is sung solely to piano accompaniment. It was originally recorded on his chart-topping album, Forever Yours.  Cobbs’ “Jesus Saves” is her self-penned rock solid comfort song first introduced on her One Place Live album from 2015. 1 Mic 1 Take closes with Norful’s “Forever Yours,” the title track (co-penned with Antonio Dixon and Demonte Posey) from Norful’s latest 2014 album, bridging soul music with sacred gospel.


Message to funk received from the Mothership: hit-maker Brian Culbertson is in the studio conspiring with his cosmic group of musical soul brothers on his second funk collection, “Funk!,” which will be released September 16 on his BCM Entertainment label. Less than a week after his seventeenth album streets, the award-winning multi-instrumentalist will launch a coast-to-coast concert tour on a scale unlike any trek ever mounted by the vivacious showman who will be flanked by the same band showcased on the album. To help set the stage for the 11-song set plus three playful interlude sketches, all produced by Culbertson, radio stations will be serviced “Been Around The World” in early July.   

Those who have caught a Culbertson show over the last year might have had a premonition that the R&B-jazzman was about to again morph into an emissary of funk, a mission that began with his 2008 recording “Bringing Back The Funk,” which he co-produced with the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire and featured legendary funksters Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham. His set list at recent gigs included a pair of funk classics, “Got To Give It Up” and “Play That Funky Music,” which made it onto the new album. The Chicago-bred musician who plays piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, clavinet, Hammond B3 organ, synths, trombone, bass, drums, percussion and sings on the entire record wrote or co-wrote nine new songs for “Funk!” that showcases his live band – Marqueal Jordan (vocals & sax), Tyrone Chase (guitars), Eddie Miller (keyboards, organ & vocals), Rodney Jones, Jr. (bass, guitar & vocals), Chris Miskel (drums) and Michael Stever (trumpeter & horn arrangements) - along with Chance Howard, a nasty R&B keyboardist, bassist and vocalist who has toured and recorded with fellow Minnesota native Prince. Noted trumpeter Patches Stewart will replace Stever for the Funk! Tour.

Next month, Howard will join Culbertson on stage to premiere a few choice cuts from “Funk!,” including the first single, at Culbertson’s fifth anniversary Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a wine and jazz lifestyle experience in the heart of California Wine Country taking place June 8-12. 

“The concept for ‘Funk!’ was to make an old-school, throwback funkadelic record in the style of P-Funk meets Prince and to tour with the same band that appears on the album - my band plus Chance (Howard). We finished tracking and are mixing this week. The show we will be taking out on the road is unlike anything anyone has ever seen from me before. It’s on an entirely different level. Yes, we’re taking it there! I’m also very excited about capturing the magic by shooting a Blu-ray to be taped on tour this fall,” said Culbertson, who as an imaginative and trend-setting artist, producer and songwriter has architected 28 Billboard No. 1 singles along with a library of chart-topping albums. 

Once again, Culbertson has opened the doors to the recording studio by posting a series of video blogs from the “Funk!” sessions on his website ( as well as engaging his followers through Facebook Live. And like his most recent studio release, he’s offering fans the opportunity to get involved with the process by launching an Indiegogo campaign ( that provides a menu of unique options, including VIP concert tickets, tickets for the Blu-ray filming, autographed CD, limited edition vinyl album, a private personalized video message, sheet music and a bobble head Funk! doll.         

The songs that comprise “Funk!” are:
 “Get Ready”
 “The Call”
 “Been Around The World”
 “Take It Up”
 “Let’s Take A Ride”
 “We Got What You Want”
 “Sunshine” (interlude)
 “Hey Girl”
 “Damn, I’m Hungry” (interlude)
 “Got To Give It Up”
 “Mile Sauce”
 “Play That Funky Music”
 “Spend A Little Time”
 “To Be Continued…” (interlude)

The Funk! Tour itinerary is listed below (additional dates will be added):
September 22-25 - Seattle, WA @ Jazz Alley 
September 26 - Portland, OR @ The Aladdin
September 27 - Bend, OR @ Tower Theater
October 5 - Fresno, CA @ Tower Theater
October 6 - Santa Barbara, CA @ Lobero Theater
October 7 - Newport Beach, CA @ Hyatt Newporter
October 8 - Temecula, CA @ Thornton Winery
October 9 - Scottsdale, AZ @ Livewire
October 11-12 - Denver, CO @ Soiled Dove  
October 13 - Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
October 14-15 - Las Vegas, NV @ Aliante Casino
October 16 - Catalina Island, CA @ Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival
October 20 - Indianapolis, IN @ Murat Theater
October 21 - Cincinnati, OH @ Ludlow Garage
October 23 - New Albany, OH @ Schottenstein Theatre
October 25 - Pittsburgh, PA @ MCG Jazz 
October 26-27 - New York, NY @ B.B. King’s
October 28 - Cranston, RI @ Park Theatre
October 29 - New Haven, CT John Lyman Center
October 30 - Boston, MA @ Scullers Jazz Club 
November 4 - Collingswood, NJ @ Scottish Rite Auditorium
November 5 - Mount Pocono, PA @ Mt. Airy Casino Resort
November 11 - Minneapolis, MN @ Dakota 
November 13 - Detroit, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre
Nov. 28-Dec. 2 - London, England @ Pizza Express

Drummer Matt Wilson Celebrates the Memory of His Late Wife Felicia and His Extended Musical Family on Beginning of a Memory

Both a joyous act of communion and a solemn farewell, Beginning of a Memory is a celebration of life, community and family expressed with the virtuosic wit and embracing humor that has made Matt Wilson so beloved in the jazz community as a drummer, composer and human being. Returning to the studio as a leader for the first time since his wife Felicia lost her battle with leukemia in June 2014, Wilson convenes the closest members of his extended musical family, including all the members, past and present, of his longest-running ensembles: the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts & Crafts, and Christmas Tree-O.

Due out May 27 from Palmetto Records, the result is a warm and loving commemoration, featuring new renditions of many of Felicia's favorite tunes from Wilson's past recordings interspersed with snippets of studio dialogue that capture the spirit of the session. The release also marks the 20th anniversary of Wilson's tenure on Palmetto and of his collaboration with producer/label founder Matt Balitsaris, making Wilson's behind-the-scenes collaborators as much a part of the Big Happy Family as his bandmates.

"I made this album to celebrate a community of people and how much their love and support through all of this has meant to me," Wilson says. "It also celebrates her relationship with all these folks, because Felicia had a really special relationship with each and every one of them."
Wilson's Big Happy Family is a raucous clan whose members span a considerable stylistic spectrum, spotlighting Wilson's sonically inclusive versatility. The horn section alone brings together saxophonists Jeff Lederer, Joel Frahm and Andrew D'Angelo with trumpeter Terell Stafford and cornetist Kirk Knuffke; they all gathered together in the studio with Wilson and bassists Martin Wind and Paul Sikivie.

Improbably, that recording session was done without written arrangements, adding to the raw, informal feeling of the album and showcasing the camaraderie among Wilson and the various members of the family. "Just letting the cats play is risky business," Wilson admits, "but I was really into that. It was nice to see what would emerge. I love the courageous trust that everyone had. It was a pretty vulnerable situation to be in, but the vulnerability opened up everybody's sound to put them in a different light. Each and every one of them are characters, but the moment and the surroundings welcomed them into other territories.

"This was a very special occasion," adds Martin Wind. "Matt creates a very special atmosphere because of his style of leading. He picks the guys who he trusts and loves and then he puts the music in front of us. He trusts our instincts and decision-making and he's exceptional in the sense that he embraces everything that you could possibly come up with. There's no such thing as a wrong musical decision when you play with Matt."

Chris Lightcap added his bass parts later, as did pianist, organist and accordion player Gary Versace. Long-distance contributions also came in from Larry Goldings, who contributes a loving and tender solo rendition of "How Ya Goin'" on prepared upright piano from L.A., while original MWQ bassist Yosuke Inoue chimes in all the way from Japan with an unexpectedly moving solo version of '80s schlock-pop masterpiece "Endless Love."

Most of the pieces on the album have been associated exclusively with one of Wilson's groups or another, making nearly every track simultaneously a revival and a discovery for the various members. The conjoining of bands also carries that feeling of familiarity and freshness into the ensemble itself. At the same time it felt like a homecoming with Balitsaris producing and engineering, Michael MacDonald mastering, and former label GM Pat Rustici cooking for the band.

The most deeply personal moment comes on "Flowers for Felicia," a heartwrenchingly intimate piece that combines the melodies of Wilson's "Orchids," written for his wife, and one of her favorite songs, the Carter Family classic "Wildwood Flower." She's also there in spirit on the title track, on which Knuffke plays the melody that Felicia originally performed on violin for the original recording on 2003's Humidity. But equally indebted to Felicia's memory is the album's most unruly moment, an impromptu romp through "Schoolboy Thug," originally recorded on 1998's Going Once, Going Twice and a song that she adored.

"She liked the music that was pretty nutty at times," Wilson says with a chuckle. "I know she would love that version of 'Thug.'"

"We all knew we were gathering that day for a special purpose," recalls Jeff Lederer. "It was a day of remembering, it was a day of celebration - of Felicia, of Matt, of the special bond between them which was music, and so much more.  Each one of us in the room had our own unique relationship with Felicia and with Matt and knew that, even more than usual, there was a special purpose to the music we played that day."

That spirit infuses every note on Beginning of a Memory. Moments of uninhibited joy collide with passages of bittersweet sadness, but all of it combines with Matt Wilson's emotional openness, empathy and exuberance to conjure a mood of wistful optimism.

"I wanted this to be a landmark representing new beginnings and celebrating all the new memories that are starting," Wilson sums up. "No matter what goes on in life, we have to welcome new things all the time but also celebrate the gifts that we've been given - and all of these musicians are full of gifts."

The neo-jazz sextet Ratatet - led by drummer/composer Alan Hall - dissolves genres and expands musical horizons on debut album, Arctic

With its audacious frontline of trombone and electric bassoon, the Bay Area-based sextet Ratatet is no run-of-the-mill jazz ensemble. The adventuresome spirit exemplified by the band's novel instrumentation is also reflected in leader Alan Hall's cliché-free and melody-rich compositions on Arctic, the outfit's genre-dissolving debut recording. Incorporating prime elements of jazz (from mainstream to fusion), funk, rock, South American idioms and classical music, Ratatet categorically rejects rigid categorization. The band, featuring Alan Hall on drums, Paul Hanson on bassoon and tenor saxophone, John Gove on trombone, Dillon Vado on vibraphone, Greg Sankovich on keyboards and Jeff Denson on acoustic and electric bass and vocals, blends sterling musicianship with unbounded creativity, taking full advantage of the inclusive freedom that characterizes the best of new millennium jazz. In addition, Paul McCandless, a member of the famed group, Oregon, is a guest on the album's last track.  

Hall's eleven strikingly melodic original compositions can build off of spirited rhythms ("Electrick," "Red State, Blue State,"  "Word By Word," "Gataxi") or paint effectively moody landscapes ("Arctic," "Returning"). Binding everything together is the singable quality of Hall's writing. "I thought in terms of tight pop song-like structures" he says, "melodies that were stimulating yet accessible and memorable." Full blooded yet succinct improvisations from Hanson and Gove, along with concise and noteworthy contributions from the others, enrich the performances. The darker, low-toned quality of the unique trombone-bassoon front line is cushioned by an active and supportive rhythm section bolstered by the inspired inclusion of Vado's atmospheric vibraphone. Although Hall cites such significant influences as jazz icons Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea, as well as classical masters including Ravel, Debussy and Copland, his own music has thoroughly assimilated its sources and found its own voice. The result is thoroughly contemporary jazz that owes its identity to no other composer or ensemble.

A respected drummer and educator, who has taught at Berklee College of Music, and worked with Cirque Du Soleil, Lee Konitz, Art Lande and Geoffrey Keezer, Hall brings the full range of his broad experience to his sextet. "It's hard to define Ratatet's music," Hall claims, "I purposely avoid limiting it to one genre. I also want to explore the full range of what the band's instrumentation can offer. Some songs call for funky electric bass, others for bowing on the acoustic bass. Some songs need organ, some need a muted trombone and a vocal. It's great having this sonic versatility."

Of special interest is bassoonist Paul Hanson's occasional employment of startling sonic effects on his electrified instrument as in "Gataxi," where his unaccompanied introduction and vigorous exchanges with trombonist Gove reveal a boldly altered bassoon tone. Hanson emerges as an integral key to the band's unique approach. "Paul is a Bay Area fixture." Hall asserts, "Anyone who has heard him knows he's one of a kind." Paul and the other members of Ratatet have performed with such celebrated artists as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Lee Konitz, Ralph Alessi, Dennis Chambers, Cuong Vu, and Pete Escovedo.

A visual artist as well as a musician-composer, Hall was inspired by celebrated works from a host of iconic painters. Song titles including "Basquiat (inspired by Jean Michel Basquiat)" "What Cy's Eyes See (inspired Cy Twombly)" and "The Marriage of Arnolfini" confirm the links between his passions. For the musicians in Ratatet, Arctic is as personally revealing as an artist's brushstroke. As Hall states, "the truth of who you are is on display."

Ridgeway Records is dedicated to the recording and perpetuation of jazz and related styles of music. The label is committed to providing artists a platform to promote improvisation, artistic growth and audience development. The label is a part of Ridgeway Arts, Inc. - a new non-profit serving the Bay-Area jazz scene led by renowned jazz bassist, composer, educator, and community activist Jeff Denson.  The organization is built upon a series of initiatives designed to enhance and fortify the Bay Area scene, and to make a strong contribution to the national landscape of jazz and the arts in general. Ridgeway Arts will present concerts, organize educational and community outreach activities, and more.

MOPDtK pianist Ron Stabinsky to release debut recording Free for One

Mostly Other People Do the Killing pianist Ron Stabinsky's debut recording Free for One is a seamless collection of eight adventurous, genre-hopping solo piano improvisations showcasing the artist's technical virtuosity and unerring musicality. The recording will be released June 10, 2016 on Hot Cup Records, home of MOPDtK.

A 44 1/2-minute program comprising eight contrasting solo piano improvisations recorded on a single day in January 2015, Free for One documents a critical point in the evolution of Stabinsky's improvised solo work which he began in 2002 under the mentorship of Bill Dixon. After more than a decade of experimentation and constant reassessment, Stabinsky entered the studio with no preconceived musical framework, allowing his keen instinct, intuition and past musical experience to converge. The result is a technically impressive and deeply artistic program of music from which new layers of meaning unfold with each hearing. The simple, looping notes of the ironically-named first track "After It's Over" quickly lead to more complicated, animated patterns that display Stabinsky's pianistic expertise. In tracks like "Viral Inflection," "Gone Song," and "Rapture," he demonstrates the intelligence of his musical ideas and his ability to convey them in stirring ways. From the crystalline, almost danceable trills of "For Reel," to the keyboard mastery in "31," to the improvisational tour de force of "Not Long Now / Long Now" (the record's longest track), and the jazzy feel of "Once, But Again," Free For One is the rare work of a rare pianist, one who cares little for labels and deeply for music, one whose love and command of his instrument shines through in every note.

Stabinsky's passionate interest in the quality of sound recordings and equipment made finding a sensitive, responsive instrument a necessity. Recorded with vacuum tube microphones to 2-inch analog tape on the Hamburg Steinway D at Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, New York by Ryan Streber, with mastering by Seth Foster at Sterling Sound in New York City, Free for One utilizes the best of analog and digital technologies. The uninterrupted performance in the Compact Disc and 96kHz/24-bit download formats closely mirrors the feeling captured by the original analog tape recording

Pianist Ron Stabinsky first started playing with MOPDtK in 2011 as part of a project at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam commemorating the anniversary of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little's Live at the Five Spot.  After collaborating on this and the subsequent Blue project, Stabinsky's presence in the group was solidified. He performs in both the quartet and septet versions of the band and is featured on MOPDtK's three most recent albums Red Hot, Blue, and Mauch Chunk. Stabinsky fits into the aesthetic of the group perfectly, contributing virtuosic solos packed with the irreverence that MOPDtK is known for, as well as musical non-sequiturs, quotations, and references to everything from Philip Glass and Conlon Nancarrow to Billy Joel and earlier MOPDtK material.

In addition to his work with MOPDtK, Stabinsky is an accompanist in virtually every possible context from classical recitals, to community choirs, to improvised music, jazz, pop and everything in between.  Since 2013, Stabinsky has been the pianist for the Peter Evans Quintet, appearing on Destination:Void, the group's epic sci-fi adventure of an album based on the Frank Herbert novel of the same name.  Stabinsky also performs in projects with the Philadelphia New Music Ensemble Relâche, the Charles Evans Quartet with NEA Jazz Master David Liebman, and his collaboration with Cris Kirkwood, bassist of the Meat Puppets.  Stabinsky lives in Plains, PA.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016



Real Gone Records is release (by far) the biggest anthology ever afforded the trio that pioneered the Philadelphia Sound, The Delfonics, featuring 40 sweetly soulful tracks, most of ‘em recorded under the watchful eye of the great Thom Bell and featuring the potent songwriting team of Bell and lead singer William Hart. In fact, this collection is so comprehensive that it’s missing only six tracks from the group’s four classic Philly Groove studio albums, and has thrown on three non-LP sides to boot! Every key track is here, including “La-La Means I Love You,” “You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine,” “(Didn’t I) Blow Your Mind This Time,” “Trying to Make a Fool of Me,” “I’m Sorry,” “Break Your Promise,” “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love), and more, all beautifully remastered by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in New York. And for an extra special treat, Joe Marchese’s notes include exclusive quotes from Thom Bell, William Hart, and legendary Philly Soul sideman Bobby Eli. Undeniably definitive Delfonics!


He’s one of the all-time great soul balladeers, with 58 pop and 38 R&B hits to his credit, and his beautiful baritone is one of the most recognizable voices in all of pop and soul music, but Brook Benton has never had any kind of collection devoted to his last great body of work, the Jimmy Bowen-produced sides he recorded for Reprise and the Arif Mardin-produced material he recorded for Cotillion during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Now, in true Real Gone fashion, we’ve put together a two-CD package that includes the A and B-side of every single side Benton recorded for the two labels, all but one (see below) in their original mono single mixes and, after an exhaustive vault search, all but three from original tape sources. These 31 sides display a staggering stylistic versatility ranging from R&B takes on pop standards like “My Way” (yes, that song can be funky, and it’s here in a rare stereo single mix!), “I Gotta Be Me,” and “The Glory of Love,” to gospel songs like “If You Think God Is Dead,” topical tunes like “Heaven Help Us All” and “A Black Child Can’t Smile,” and, of course, some Southern-dipped soul like the #1 R&B hit “Rainy Night in Georgia” and the seven single sides he recorded with the Dixie Flyers, including the hits “Shoes” and “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home.” Remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision and annotated by Gene Sculatti, Rainy Night in Georgia—The Complete Reprise & Cotillion Singles A’s & B’s is a major soul find and deserves a place on the shelf right next to Brook’s classic Mercury material.


From floor-shaking soul tunes like 'Dog Days', 'Get Back Tuesday' and 'Next Time', to the deep soul of 'Wild Way' and funk stormer 'Suffocated', singer Elsa Bekman - supported by a super tight big band - will impress everybody with her unique, raw, gritty vocals that do not fear comparison with big names such as Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Based around Amsterdam and founded by a bunch of northern-soul and funk disciples, The Tibbs started in 2012 taking inspiration from the golden age of Soul Music. In 2014 they self-released a demo EP and they also released a 45 vinyl on German funk label Tramp Records. Now, after a few exciting years turning heads and spreading soul tunes all around the country - including appearances at the legendary North Sea Jazz Club and a live performances at national Radio 6 and Radio 2 - The Tibbs are finally ready to make their official debut on Record Kicks.Take notice, The Tibbs are the new name to watch!



Cyrus Chestnut's got that wonderfully full, rich sound we always love in his piano – and he's working here with a group who really brings out the best in his style – bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White! Williams is always a treat on any sort of trio date – and this album is a great showcase for his ability to swing rhythmically and keep things in a very melodic mode as well – and the album's maybe as much a showcase for Buster's talents as it is for those of the leader! White's great, too – but more in a manner of understatement – which leaves plenty of room for Chestnut and Williams to interact. Titles include "Mamacita", "My Romance", "Dedication", "Faith Amongst The Unknown", "My Romance", "Minority", and "Toku Do". ~ Dusty Groove 


We waited years for the full length debut of Columbia Nights, and not only was it worth the wait, it's a stunner – a beautiful batch of timeless spacey soul! Essentially the multi-instrumentalist trio of John E Daise, Jason "Brotherspanky" Edwards and Hayling Price, they have really expansive sound – built from bass, synths, keys, percussion that lifts it cosmic heights – in a perfect mix of atmospheric instrumentals and vocal-led tracks. The sound carries influences for soaring 70s soul jazz, to post millennium electronic soul – which mingle seamlessly, and carry a really depth of genuine earthy soul, however spacey the composition! The guest vocalists are top notch, including Diggs Duke, Aaron "AB" Abernathy, Vaughan Octavia and others, and titles include "Sphere", "Cerulean", "In All Things", "Circle", "Now" with Diggs Duke, "The Rhythm" with Sarai Abdul-Malik, "Coming Home" with Aaron "AB" Abernathy, "Neverend/All For You" feat Siara Shawn, "Ever Between" with B Jamelle and "Glide" with Vaughan Octavia. ~ Dusty Groove


Welcome to a new adventure in the world of the Italian coolest 60s sound. If Calibro 35 explores the weirdest side of Italian soundtracks, Massimo Martellotta's new creature Il Complesso di Tadà focuses on the grooviest and hip-shaking side of Italian mid 60s TV Shows music. Recorded in Milan and mixed by Grammy Award Winner Tommaso Colliva in London, the album goes from the opening single, the cover of the Muppet Theme masterpiece by Piero Umiliani "Mah Na Mah Na", to the beat explosion of "Il Surf Delle Mattonelle" and "Ma Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi" and to classic italian treasures such as "Sapore di Sale" and "Guarda Che Luna". Thanks to Mr Martellotta’s direction and meticulous care of all details, the sound is super tight and punchy from start to finish, full of percussive rhythms, wild organs and groovy percussions, leading you into a pure and super cool mid60s experience.Alongside the list of the unforgettable Italian pearls, there's also place for a bunch of irresistible groovy instrumental tracks such as "Veloce, Non Troppo", "Allegro" and "Movimentato" all composed by Massimo Martellotta, which mostly reflect his admiration for one of the Italian greatest soundtrack composer of all time Piero Umiliani, as it is also remarked on the album's liner notes that have been written by Piero Umiliani's family.

Austin’s 10-Piece Collective and Purveyor of African Funk HARD PROOF Releases PUBLIC HI-FI SESSIONS 03

Austin’s Hard Proof has confirmed the release of its new record, Public Hi-Fi Session 03, out on June 24 on Jim Eno’s Public Hi-Fi Records. The release will be available on 12-inch vinyl (180gram/45rpm), digital download, and to stream.

The award-winning 10-piece collective is the finest purveyor of African funk, world music, and jazz inspired by the sub-Saharan African continent in the state of Texas. Formed in 2008, Hard Proof features members of Black Joe Lewis, The Calm Blue Sea, Ocote Soul Sounds, Spanish Gold, The Echocentrics, and several other notable Austin acts.

Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03 is the fourth release from Jim Eno’s (Spoon) record label after three successful vinyl releases from Dupree, Dana Falconberry and Sondre Lerche. This release was recorded in two separate sessions at Eno’s Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin. What makes this release so unique is that the recording sessions were live and 100 percent analog from top to bottom. Stephen Bidwell, the drummer for Hard Proof states, “The first half of the tracks were recorded in December 2015, and Eno was teaching a class from Ohio University, so we had half a dozen ‘interns’ running around learning how to track a large group live to tape. This was sort of a no-pressure situation, but the tracks we got out of it were so solid that we knew we needed to release it. After some talking with Jim, we came back with three more songs in February 2016 and rounded out the record.” Jim Eno expresses: “I first saw Hard Proof at the Continental Club in 2012. It was an amazing show. The 10-piece band had a great feel and magnetic energy. I’d recently recorded the jazz band Dupree live to 1/2-inch tape, and it hit me that Hard Proof would be perfect for this type of project. To record live to tape, the band needs to be incredibly tight because no overdubs are possible, and no mixing occurs after tracking; the tracks are mixed as the band plays in real time. I was confident that Hard Proof could pull this off.”

The six songs on the record each pack their own punch but holistically showcase the band at a new level with its compositions and dynamic live-to-tape performances. The three main composers for the release are Derek Phelps (trumpet), Joe Sokolik (bass), and Joe Woullard (bari sax/flute). Phelps breaks down some of his inspiration and creative process around the songs he composed. He states: “For ‘The Break,’ I was on a break from playing the trumpet due to a busted lip, but that helped me break through my writer’s block, and this tune is one of the first to come out of that.” ‘Popemobile’ was built off a melodic figure created around the beginning of the band, which we played a handful of times, and then I sat on it for many years. When I knew this recording was coming up, I brought it back with a different perspective. It’s one of those simple songs that leaves a lot of room for the group’s interpretation. ‘Institution’ is about the idea of religion and the institutions it creates because I started questioning the religion I was brought up in. Being an instrumental tune, communicating something as complicated as religion is not really possible, but it can be an inspiration.”

Woullard explains his inspiration of compositional songs: “‘Painted Flowers’ is about a grocery store in Texas that sells flowers painted in bright, unnatural colors. Why would you want to paint a flower? Flowers are already beautiful as they are. Some of the prettiest ones are free, growing wild on the side of the road. ‘Revenge’ is a great tune where the ensemble locks into in an aggressive rhythm. Sparse melodies weave between percussive barks and stabs; harmony emerges as lines converge in urgent dialogue. Revenge is a cycle of tension.”

Sokolik rounds out the compositions with ‘Default,’ mentioning that, “The song is a result of an externally imposed deadline where I got to cranking out melodies and overlapping rhythm parts. After running it a few times with the band, we decided it needed to be a lot faster. Then Gerardo came up with the concept for the deceptive introduction, and we ran it in the studio until it worked.”

While Hard Proof’s releases are always well-received, there seems to be universal agreement that the band’s live shows are something not to be missed. KUTX tastemaker Laurie Gallardo put it best. “This local ensemble always puts on an electrifying live show,” she says, “an absolute blowout of nonstop percussion action and blasting brass, bringing the best of both worlds to the stage by mixing classic styles and plenty of their personal panache.” Stay tuned for Hard Proof’s upcoming shows and a new full-length album later in 2016. 
Hard Proof is:
Stephen Bidwell – Drums, Tommy Spampinato – Percussion, Tony Cruz – Congas, Joe Sokolik – Bass, Aaron Sleator – Guitar, Gerardo Larios - Guitar/Keyboards, John Branch – Guitar, Joe Woullard - Bari Sax/Flute, Jason Frey - Tenor Sax, Derek Phelps – Trumpet

MJ12 Featuring Bass Legend Percy Jones To Release Debut Album

MJ12, featuring Brand X bass legend Percy Jones, will be releasing their eagerly awaited debut album on Gonzo Multimedia UK on June 24, 2016. Recorded in the summer of 2015 at Shelter Island studios in Manhattan, MJ12 is jazz, fusion, and progressive music at its finest. Featuring virtuosic performances by all four band members, in many ways this album is an extension of what Percy Jones created with Brand X!

Says Percy, “We took the name from Majestik 12, which was supposedly a group of 12 scientists and engineers assembled in the late 40's to investigate UFO's. There is an ongoing debate as to whether this group actually existed or not. Stephen Moses and I had been doing  gigs for a while where we would invite  guests to sit in. We did all improv, so this was actually M&J +1 or 2.  After a while we started using David Phelps and Chris Bacas on a regular basis if they were available. At this point we started writing stuff, but keeping a lot of the improv thing going to keep it spontaneous. The end result was bits and pieces of ideas coming from everybody that were all tied together to try and make a coherent tune, but with lots of blowing inside. By last Summer we felt like it had shaped up well enough to record it, so we went in and recorded it over 2 days.”

Track listing:
1) Call 911
2) Bad American Dream Pt2
3) Magic Mist
4) Talk Time
5) The Wow Signal
6) Big Daddy Road
7) The Phantom Maracas
8) Guns And Pussy
9) Magic Mist Reprise

MJ12 is:

Percy Jones
Percy Jones grew up near Llandrindod Wells, Wales. He studied electronic engineering at the University of Liverpool before joining Liverpool Scene in 1967 He was a member of jazz fusion band Brand X from 1974 to 1980, and a reformed version which lasted from 1992 to 1997. He was in NYC based band Tunnels from 1990 until 2005. Still residing in New York, he is currently a member of MJ12. Jones is best known for his unique fretless bass sound. Jones was also briefly a member of the jazz fusion group Soft Machine, and has contributed to recordings by David Sylvian, Brian Eno, Steve Hackett, Roy Harper, Paranoise, Suzanne Vega, Richard Barbieri, Nova and Fovea Hex, amongst others.

Stephen Moses
After several years playing as part of “the loft jazz scene” in NYC with the likes of James Chance, John Zorn, Phillip Johnston, Ken Simon, Dave Hofstra (and many others) drummer/trombonist Stephen Moses started getting busier with more rock and jazz/rock in the CBGB's scene with Giant Metal Insects and Quality Trio with Jim Matus & Percy Jones. Alice Donut formed after that and took Stephen on the road and the studio for several years and a dozen albums followed by a few tours with Rasputina. Then a few years ago Stephen rejoined Percy to do what we do today.

Dave Phelps
Guitarist David Phelps is currently a member of Peter Apfelbaum's 11-piece band The New York Hieroglyphics, which includes many of today's best creative musicians, including drummer Dafnis Prieto, bassist Patrice Blanchard, trombonist Josh Roseman and vocalist Abdoulaye Diabate. Their newest album “It Is Written” was released in August 2005 on the ACT label. He also leads his own band the Eclectic Troubadours. David grew up in Denton, Texas, the home of the University of North Texas, formerly known as North Texas State. As a youngster, he started playing the bass clarinet and later played in bands with many of the children of North Texas faculty members. David, along with his twin brother, bassist Drew Phelps, attended North Texas, studying with Rich Matheson and guitar guru Jack Peterson, among others. David then traveled to Alberta, Canada where he studied at the Banff Centre with jazz greats Dave Liebman and Dave Holland (both Miles Davis alumni). He also studied with John Abercrombie, Steve Coleman and Kenny Wheeler.

Chris Bacas
Saxophonist Chris Bacas began his career at age fifteen as a sideman with a club band in York, PA, and after attending North Texas State, he began his jazz performance career in earnest. Beginning in 1983, Chris played in the Glen Miller Band, The Tommy Dorsey Band, the Artie Shaw Band, and Buddy Rich's legendary Big Band until Rich's passing in 1987. Over the past twenty years, Chris has appeared at festivals all over the world, including the Nice, North Sea, Cork, Santiago, Montreal, Moers Texaco, Annapolis, JVC New York, and Central PA Jazz Festivals. He has performed in Copenhagen at the Tivoli Gardens; in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Bowl and LA's Comedy Store; in New York's Blue Note and Birdland; at Chicago's Jazz Showcase; and in Washington D.C. at Blues Alley and One Step Down.

In conclusion Percy has this to impart, “Well, I hope people like this record. I have a lot of appreciation for everyone who supported Brand X back in the day, or any of the other projects I was involved in. The band follows on from stuff  I've done in the past, trying to keep the music unpredictable, interesting and moving in a  new direction.”

Never Before Released Charlie Parker Sessions - 'Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes'

Discovering previously unheard music is a consistent hope for serious jazz fans. Finding unreleased music from legends, especially those who departed far too early with their legacies incomplete, is a true joy; one of those legends whose every note leads to an adventure of innovation is the immortal Charlie "Bird" Parker. On July 1, Verve/UMe brings a thrill to jazz lovers worldwide with the release of Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes, a comprehensive two-disc set featuring a cornucopia of previously unknown music - 58 never listed studio takes from Charlie Parker. The set was co-produced by Phil Schaap, the eminent jazz historian who is currently Curator at Jazz At Lincoln Center and the foremost expert on Ornithology.

"These previously unknown takes are a blockbuster," Schaap says, "providing heretofore-unheard Bird improvisations, and in high fidelity." Discovered in a cache of materials owned by a former associate of Norman Granz, the founder of Verve Records and visionary producer of these sessions, the newly discovered takes allow the listener inside the private domain between Parker and Granz as they developed some of the most important music in jazz. In his highly detailed liner notes, Schaap provides overview, session-by-session history and track-by-track analysis, further illuminating the creative process of Bird's genius.

Originally issued on Mercury and Clef, but ultimately housed on Verve, the Parker/Granz studio collaborations were well-designed and thoughtfully conceived to display Bird's unparalleled talents in a variety of contexts. These included Parker's four to six piece ensembles (both working and pick-up groups); Latin Jazz efforts, some of which were labeled "South of the Border;" the orchestral Charlie Parker including his masterpieces with strings; standard Big Band; and Parker's prescient view of the Third Stream. Unheard Bird touches on all of these, including a couple of brief false starts on "If I Should Lose You" that were not included in the remarkable 2015 companion set, Charlie Parker With Strings: Deluxe Edition.

From the Latin side, there are five tracks with Parker as the featured soloist with Machito and his Orchestra; and 13 "South of the Border" tracks that feature a rhythm section of Walter Bishop, Teddy Kotick and Roy Haynes or Max Roach, along with Jose Mangual and Luis Miranda on bongos and congas, respectively, and joined on a pair by trumpeter Benny Harris. As a bonus we hear snippets of studio chatter, including Bird discussing tempo; on "Tico Tico" he asks studio guests to quiet down lest they ruin the session.

There is a fascinating set of ten tracks from a Cole Porter project that was never completed due to Bird's illness and untimely passing. Featuring a Big Band that included such heavyweights as Oscar Peterson, Freddie Green, Flip Phillips and Ray Brown, Bird digs into three Porter classics - "Night and Day," "What Is This Thing Called Love" and "Almost Like Being in Love," with brilliant results.

More than half of the package features Bird in the small group hardcore bop settings for which he was best known. This features a reuniting of Parker's quintet, referred to as The Golden Era BeBop Five, the only Granz-produced recordings by this ensemble. These 14 tracks feature Kenny Dorham, Al Haig, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. They are joined for four more by trombonist Tommy Turk and Carlos Vidal on conga.

Dizzy Gillespie - Bird's co-conspirator in the Bebop movement - joins Bird for ten tracks, along with Thelonious Monk, Curley Russell and Buddy Rich. The all-Parker program includes complete run-throughs of "An Oscar for Treadwell," "Bloomdido" and "Mohawk." A quartet setting brings Hank Jones, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich to the bandstand for explorations of the beautiful Raye/DePaul gem "Star Eyes" and Bird's "Blues (Fast)."

To round out the new, 69-track set, included are the songs' master takes. (The mismatched math - 58 unreleased takes plus 20 master takes somehow equaling 69 - is due to the producers combining some of the shorter takes for this release.)

Spanning the years 1949-1952, Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes displays the immortal master of the alto saxophone Charlie Parker at the peak maturity of his prodigious talents. Accompanied by so many of the era's giants, and allowed the time, space and support to produce art at its highest level, this set is a monumental addition to a legacy of artistry that is breathtaking in its scope and majesty. With Phil Schaap's erudite and perceptive delineation of the ways and means by which this artistry was achieved, and his portrait of the era in which it all took place, Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes is an essential addition to the library of all serious fans of jazz.


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