Sunday, March 22, 2015

10TH ANNUAL JAZZ IN THE GARDENS MUSIC FESTIVAL - SATURDAY, MARCH 21, 2015 CONCERT REVIEW

Jazz Chill attended the 10th Annual Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival on Saturday, March 21, in Miami Gardens, Florida.  A sold out crowd attended the festival on this beautiful sunny day at Sun Life Stadium. Day one of this two day event was headlined by Sheila E., Men of Soul featuring Jeffrey Osborne, Freddie Jackson, and Peabo Bryson, Toni Braxton, and R. Kelly. Two local acts, Karina Iglesias and John Erinosho opened the show. The master of ceremonies throughout the evening was comedian, D. L. Hughley.


Jazz Chill had the pleasure of interviewing Voice-alumni, Karina Iglesias. Miami-born of Honduran parents, Karina was selected to be a contestant on NBCs The Voice in 2013. Her epic performance of "It's a Man's World" turned into a YouTube sensation overnight and she eventually made it to the Top 16 on the Live Shows. Karina is currently appearing at local venues with her jazz quartet playing a mix of neo-soul and jazz music. Karina is no stranger to the music scene as her first album was released back in 2006. Her set included a jazzy version of Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" as well as her latest single, "Only Love Can Save Us."

Next up was another local musician, Nigerian-born saxophonist, John Erinosho who is currently in the studio working on new music for release in late 2015.  John is a featured artist at the American Express Jazz lounge and is well respected in South Florida for his soulful style. John displayed his talent on three seductive tracks and left the stage leaving the audience begging for more of his musicianship. The last track that her performed is a current radio favorite by another artist (I wish I es song because it was really good). On it, he added a Nigerian beat which had the crowd up on their feet and grooving to his sax playing. 

Sheila E. is a world-class percussionist whose credits read like a who's who in a music history book: Marvin Gaye, Prince, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, George Duke, and many others. She is a Grammy-Award nominated singer and songwriter responsible for the seminal hits "The Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre." Aside from constantly touring, Sheila E. this past year released her first new album in 13 years, the aptly titled "Icon."  She also added  the title of author to her list of accomplishments with the publication of her autobiography, "The Beat of My Own Drum" this past September. Her performance consisted of a couple of songs of the "Krush Groove" album, her hits, and many songs from "Icon," including one of my favorites off this album, "The Leader of the Band."


Jeffrey Osborne, Freddie Jackson, and Peabo Bryson have been touring the country as the Men of Soul. Balladeer Jeffrey Osborne's career has spanned several decades as he swayed the audience with such favorites as "On the Wings of Love," "Don't You Get So Mad," "Only Human," and the crowd favorite "The Woo Woo Song." Jeffrey told the crowd that the late George Duke had produced every one of his solo albums since leaving the group LTD, and that he vowed to pay tribute to George at every single show where he performs. Jeffrey also performed a George Duke song, entitled "Jam," which got the crowd standing and dancing.  He also performed some LTD classics such as "Holding On," "Back in Love Again", and of course the timeless "Love Ballad."


Freddy Jackson is considered to be one of the most popular R&B artists of the '80s and early '90s, effortlessly dominating the R&B charts with hit after hit.  Freddie has a total 11 number one hits to his credit, many of which he performed, including "Rock With Me," "Jam Tonight," "You are My Lady," and "I Don't Want to Lose Your Love."  Freddie was looking svelte after announcing that he had just recently lost 107 lbs.  


Oscar and Grammy award winner Peabo Bryson swooned the crowd with such favorites as the Quiet Storm stalwarts "Feel the Fire," "Reaching for the Sky," 'I'm So into You," and "Can't Stop the Rain,"  Peabo paid homage to his duet partner Roberta Flack with whom he performed the massive hit "Tonight I Celebrate My Love," which he performed with one of his back up singers.  


Although he is an official member of the Men of Soul, Howard Hewett was not on the bill this evening, however he was backstage and contributed to background vocals throughout the night. As a matter of fact, during D.L. Hughley's portion of the show, Hughley called on Howard to come join him on stage, and when he in fact did join him, Howard joked that this was the longest time he spent on a stage without getting paid. 


One of the most popular and highly recognized stand-up comedians,D.L. Hughley,kept the action moving along in between the performances. D.L. was most recently heard on the New York radio airwaves as host of the morning show on WRKS-FM.  Nowadays her serves as a weekly contributor to the nationally syndicated show, "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." D.L.'s 10-minute bit in after the Peabo Bryson performance was extended to about 40 before Toni Braxton took the stage.  At one point, Jay Anthony Brown (The Tom Joyner Morning Show) came onstage to entertain the crowd with is non-stop comedy bit.


The beautiful and talented Toni Braxton hit the stage with her distinctive sultry vocal blend of R&B, Pop, Jazz and Gospel.  With more than 40 million albums sold worldwide and six Grammy Awards to her credit, Braxton delighted the audience with an endless selection of classics. The audience totally enjoyed her performance as evidenced by how many people were actually singing along to the songs with her.Toni shared the story of when she was diagnosed with lupus which led her to lose her desire to continue her singing, and that it was the encouragement of her peers (Madonna, Lady Gaga, etc), who gave the drive to get back into the business. She also acknowledged Babyface who discovered her and produced many of her greatest hits.

Unfortunately Jazz Chill did not get a chance to see the R.Kelly performance.  In any event, it was a great show.  Kudos to all the performers and to the Jazz in the Gardens organizers. 

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

NEW RELEASES: MARLENA SHAW - MARLENA; BRAZILIKA: BRAZIL & BEYOND; MARCOS VALLE - '1985 / PREFIXO' (THEO PARRISH AND DAZ I KUE REMIXES)

MARLENA SHAW - MARLENA

A great lost treasure, and one of Marlena Shaw's most obscure albums – a really compelling batch of sophisticated vocal tracks with arrangements by Wade Marcus! The instrumentation is wonderful – with lots of soulful guitar and organ licks amidst the larger orchestrations, giving the set a down-home feeling in the right places, usually underneath some of Marlena's more intimate vocals – and the style is a great bridge from her Cadet sound of the 60s into the more sophisticated years of the 70s. Marlena sings a lot of soundtrack and easy material – including "Somewhere", "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life", "You Must Believe In Spring", and "So Far Away" – but she mixes these cuts with good doses of soul material – like "Save the Children", "Wipe Away the Evil", and "Runnin Out of Fools" – into a killer batch of tracks that stands with the best of some of Marlena's Cadet work! ~ Dusty Groove

BRAZILIKA: BRAZIL & BEYOND - 20TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY DOUBLE CD CELEBRATING THE BEST OF FAR OUT

Celebrating 20 years of Far Out Recordings, the Brazilika double CD featuring both Theo and Daz’s remixes amongst a host of other Far Out classics, exclusive remixes and unreleased rarities, will be available from May 2015. Far Out’s iconic Brazilika series encapsulates the absolute paramount of Brazilian music. Celebrating landmark years of Far Out Recordings, previous editions in the series have seen exceptional, globally celebrated compilations from Kenny Dope, Giles Peterson, 4hero and Andy Votel. To mark the label’s twentieth year, label boss Joe Davis has lovingly brought together his own retrospective of Far Out’s most stunningly immersive music, illuminating the virtuosity of this host of Brazilian brilliance. CD2 is a forward thinking, twenty-seven-track mix, featuring new, exclusive and unreleased material among timeless Far Out dance floor destroyers. The mix was compiled by Joe Davis and expertly mixed by DJ, producer and Brazilian music aficionado Spiritual South, a long-time Far Out friend.

MARCOS VALLE - '1985 / PREFIXO' (THEO PARRISH AND DAZ I KUE REMIXES)

A 12” single featuring two tracks by Marcos Valle - one of Brazil's most accomplished artists and composers - remixed by underground dance music pioneers and long-time label friends, Theo Parrish and Bloodfire (aka Daz I Kue). Both tracks are taken from the forthcoming Brazilka compilation: a 20th Year anniversary CD on Far Out Recordings.


NEW RELEASES: ANTONIO SANCHEZ & OTHERS - BIRDMAN (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE); JOE LOVANO & DAVE DOUGLAS - SOUNDPRINTS: LIVE AT THE MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL: ; DAVID TORN - ONLY SKY

ANTONIO SANCHEZ & OTHERS - BIRDMAN (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)

"Birdman" is the 2014 film by visionary Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, Babel, Biutiful....), and winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Part comedy, part tragedy, "Birdman" tells the story of a washed-up actor (Michael Keaton) who once played an iconic superhero. He must now overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory. This unique film features a drum score composed by acclaimed drummer Antonio Sanchez (player on the Pat Methany Unity Group). The soundtrack features a selection of classical music. Tracks include: Get Ready;  Dirty Walk;  Just Chatting; Waiting For What; Semi Comfortable In 3; Strut, Pt. 1; Doors and Distance; Night Chatter;  Almost Humanl; and Schizo (all by Antonio Sanchez); plus additional  tracks. ~ Amazon

JOE LOVANO & DAVE DOUGLAS - SOUNDPRINTS: LIVE AT THE MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL

Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas will release Live at Monterey Jazz Festival on April 7, the debut recording from their co-led quintet Sound Prints featuring pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Joey Baron. The album was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival on September 21, 2013. Sound Prints takes their primary inspiration from the music of their primary inspiration Wayne Shorter the band's name is a nod to his classic "Footprints" however the quintet s focus is on new original compositions by Lovano and Douglas, as well as two new Shorter compositions in direct collaboration with the composer himself. ~ Amazon

DAVID TORN - ONLY SKY

David Torn ever-intrepid guitarist, producer, improviser, film composer and soundscape artist returns with only sky, an album that explores the far sonic edges of what one man and a guitar can create, a solo recording of almost orchestral atmosphere. It is Torns first ECM release since 2007s acclaimed prezens, a full-band project, with Tim Berne, Craig Taborn and Tom Rainey, that Jazzwise described as a vibrating collage full of shimmering sonic shapes, a dark, urban electronic soundscape a potent mix of jazz, free-form rock and technology that is both demanding and rewarding. Many of those same descriptors apply to only sky, with its hovering ambient shadows and vaulting flashes of light, its channeling of deep country/blues memories and Burroughsian dreams of North Africa. Recorded in the acoustically apt hall of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in upstate New York (and then added to and manipulated in Torns own mad-scientist lair), only sky is an album to get lost in, over and again. ~ Amazon






DONNA LEWIS DELIVERS AN INTOXICATING SET OF JAZZ-INFLECTED COVERS & ORIGINALS ON "BRAND NEW DAY"

The Welsh-born singer Donna Lewis is one of those rare artists whose immense success on the pop radio charts disguises an exceptional and serious musicianship and breadth of repertoire. Lewis' new album,Brand New Day, reveals the range of her artistry, and may surprise listeners who know her only for her pop hits 'I Love You Always Forever,' 'At The Beginning,' 'I Could Be The One' and 'Love Him.' Produced and arranged by Lewis longtime friend David Torn, the genre-busting composer and producer, Brand New Day is an intoxicating set of jazz-inflected covers and Lewis originals in which she is joined by the eminent progressive jazz musicians Ethan Iverson (piano), Reid Anderson (bass) and Dave King(drums). Palmetto releases the album March 10, 2015.

With her distinctive, breathy voice and unique phrasing, Lewis brings a fresh immediacy to the covers on Brand New Day, including David Bowie's infrequently heard 'Bring Me the Disco King,' Neil Young's 'Helpless,' Damien Rice's 'Amie,' and Chocolate Genius' 'My Mom,' among others.The album also features two new Lewis originals, 'Sleep'and 'Brand New Day,'as well as a powerful remake of 'I Love You Always Forever.'

For an artist used to the do-and-do-again perfectionism of pop music recording sessions, returning to the improvisational nature of jazz was an exciting prospect. It took nerve for Lewis to take on songs so deeply etched in the pop consciousness in such a stripped-down setting, but she recorded most of them in a single take. As a result, the record has live,organic, nearly ambient feel.

'I Love You Always Forever' was such a hit for Lewis that, for many listeners, it will always be the thing for which she is remembered. Atlantic Records Chairman Doug Morris had been so enamored withthe demo for that song that he flew Lewis to New York to meet him and perform her material, and offered her a deal on the spot. It became the first song ever to get a million spins on American radio and the third best-selling song in the history of Atlantic Records. The record also was an international sensation, topping charts all over the world. Lewis' second album for the label, Blue Planet (1998), spawned two hits: 'Love Him,' which topped the Billboard Dance charts, and 'I Could Be the One.'

She soon began to reveal other dimensions of her creativity. While on hiatus to start a family, she left her mark on such projects as The Art of Noise's The Seduction of Claude Debussy.She began her longtime collaboration with David Torn, a guitarist and studio wizard known for his film scores including Friday Night Lights, The Order and Lars and the Real Girl, as well as for his work with rock legends such as David Bowie and Jeff Beck. In 2001, five electronically textured songs Torn and Lewis wrote and recorded for the Chute project were among the most requested on Los Angeles' KCRW for three weeks running. She released the acoustic Be Still in 2002 and the high-energy In the Pink in 2008.

Still, the aptly titled Brand New Day is both a striking departure from anything she has done before, and the fullest realization of qualities that have always set her apart. As Time Out NY said before a recent NYC performance, 'If you really listened past the ear worm chorus and bubbly beat of Lewis's debut hits, you quickly sensed that she was no flash in the pan. The classically trained...Lewis had a breathy coo that could recall Kate Bush, and used it with a flexibility that few pop princesses could muster.'
~ Amazon




NEW RELEASES: BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB - LOST AND FOUND; JEFF GOLUB - THE VAULT; JAMES LLOYD - HERE WE GO

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB - LOST AND FOUND

World Circuit Records is set to release Buena Vista Social Club’s Lost and Found on March 24, distributed in North America by Nonesuch Records. Coming almost two decades after the release of the original Grammy-winning, self-titled LP, the new album is a collection of previously unreleased tracks––some of which were recorded during the original album’s sessions in Havana and others from the years that followed.  The studio tracks on Lost and Found were recorded at the 1996 Egrem studio sessions in Havana and during a period of rich and prolific creativity stretching into the early 2000s following the recording of the original album. Lost and Found also features live recordings from the world tours of Buena Vista’s legendary veterans. “Over the years we were often asked what unreleased material was left in the vaults,” says World Circuit’s Nick Gold. “We knew of some gems, favorites amongst the musicians, but we were always too busy working on the next project to go back and see what else we had. When we eventually found the time, we were astonished at how much wonderful music there was.” ~ Amazon

JEFF GOLUB - THE VAULT

On New Year s Day 2015, the music world mourned the death of Jeff Golub. After suffering the loss of his eyesight 3 years earlier, Jeff was diagnosed with PSP, a rare brain disease which rapidly debilitated his entire body and ultimately robbed him of the ability to play guitar. Knowing that Jeff s playing days were over, three of his closest friends and musical collaborators, Steven Miller, Rick Braun and Bud Harner dug deep into the Golub vault and uncovered some rare gems - radically different versions of some of Jeff s early tunes along with 2 songs that were never released. From there, Jeff handpicked a number of musical friends to add to the recordings and give each song a modern twist and unique flavor. The Vault was completed just days before Jeff s death and provides a passionate and soulful overview of one of the music community s most beloved figures. The Vault has become an All Star Tribute to the genius that was Jeff Golub.  The guests represent the very top echelon of the Smooth Jazz music community. Included in the collection of unreleased music are such stars as: Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Philippe Saisse, Boney James, Brian Culbertson, Jeff Lorber, Bill Evans, Gerald Albright, Peter White, Richard Elliot and Steve Ferrone. ~Amazon

JAMES LLOYD - HERE WE GO

Hitmaker James Lloyd of Pieces of a Dream has written, produced and played on more than 30 top 10 smooth jazz radio hits. As a founding member of the legendary Pieces of a Dream, James has been the heart and soul of that smooth urban jazz super group for more than 20 years. Renowned for his brilliant keyboard stylings and soulful compositions, James has produced #1 hits for the likes of Walter Beasley, Najee, Eric Darius, Gerald Albright, and of course, Pieces of a Dream. And now he is about to perform the same magic under his own name. The first single, the spirited Play It Forward, is already climbing up the smooth jazz charts, soon to be followed by a funky No Holds Barred, featuring the Grammy nominated saxophonist Gerald Albright. Other highlights include smooth jazz superstar and Grammy winner Najee on the soulful Movin Right Along, the sensuous ballad Granted Wish and much more. ~ Amazon





NEW ALBUM FROM EXTRAORDINARY PIANIST JOEY ALEXANDER

An extraordinary and uniquely gifted pianist from Bali, Joey Alexander marks his recording debut with the release of MY FAVORITE THINGS (April 14, 2015). Joey brings a delicate, profound and soulful touch to his own interpretation of such classics as “My Favorite Things”, “Giant Steps” and “Over the Rainbow” and showcases his talents as an arranger, composer and bandleader.

A native of Bali, Joey Alexander taught himself to play piano by listening to classic jazz albums his father shared with him. An amateur musician, Alexander’s father soon recognized his son’s gift for jazz, as his technique and ability to grasp complicated musical concepts was beyond someone of his years. Due to the lack of jazz education where he lived, Alexander began attending jam sessions with senior musicians. From there, his musical intuition flourished, as did his love of playing jazz. In recognition of his talent, UNESCO invited Alexander to play solo piano in honor of his jazz idol Herbie Hancock, who provided early enthusiastic support to Alexander’s budding career. Other significant influences are Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and John Coltrane. Alexander has a special affinity for trumpet players including Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis.

The world has taken notice of this phenomenal and exciting pianist with the astonishing technique and soulful sound. Alexander has been featured at festivals worldwide including Jakarta’s International Java Jazz Festival and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. His brilliance as an improviser won him the Grand Prix in the 1st International Festival Contest of Jazz Improvisation in Odessa, Ukraine, in 2013, which included over 43 talented jazz professionals from 17 countries. He has performed for President Clinton and other luminaries at galas including the Arthur Ashe Gala, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual gala and A Great Night in Harlem at The Apollo, where he played in honor of Hancock and received a standing ovation. A performance at the University of the District of Columbia immediately blew up Facebook, attracting half a million views.

Global media have shared his story, most recently NBC News New York, which featured his concert with Juilliard students to raise money to allow him to stay in New York City. Fortunately the concert was successful and Alexander was granted the O-1 visa, the visa granted to people with “extraordinary ability.” He plans to stay in New York City to continue honing his jazz chops in the jazz capital of the world.

Alexander’s exclusive worldwide recording deal with the maverick, multi-Grammy-nominated Motéma Music label in New York City includes him in a notable stable of jazz piano stars such as Geri Allen, Monty Alexander and Marc Cary. Alexander’s label debut My Favorite Things features his working band of Sammy Miller, Russell Hall and Alphonso Horne and special guests Larry Grenadier and Ulysses Owens, Jr.  The recording is slated for release in spring of 2015 and is produced by Jason Olaine, a multi-Grammy Award winner.

~ Motema


MELODY GARDOT Returns With A Brand New Album, CURRENCY OF MAN

International best-selling singer, songwriter and musician, Melody Gardot, is back with her 4th studio album, Currency of Man.

The highly-anticipated Currency of Man is an intensely creative milestone, transcending musical distinctions of jazz, blues and R&B, to offer a stirring social and musical statement. On the new album, Melody joins forces again with Grammy Award-winning producer Larry Klein. This striking musical partnership saw their last collaboration, 2009's My One and Only Thrill, sell over 1.5 million copies, and produce songs that have become modern classics.

Currency of Man marks a substantial leap forward indeed, as we see Gardot take her gift for songwriting in a completely different direction to her last record, the critically acclaimed release The Absence.

As Melody explains: "Every album is a journey and this disc in some ways is a leap into the unknown. After spending time in LA, the songs all became about the people I'd meet: people who were experiencing life on the fringe…"

But her extraordinary voice, and underlying attitude, which exudes both strength and grace, is unmistakably Melody Gardot. The music world will be reminded instantly of the rare combination of natural talent and musical sophistication with which Melody effortlessly captures and holds her audience in the palm of her hand.

The singer adds, "We have a slamming horn section and these cinematic and somewhat existential arrangements. It's a body of work where Larry and I discover an electric side of the songs, something I've never done before.. It's all an exploration, but it feels good to have something new, and even a bit strange."


Thursday, March 19, 2015

David Sanborn To Release New Album, Time and the River, Produced by Marcus Miller, Featuring Randy Crawford and Larry Braggs

After saxophonist David Sanborn recorded the well-received Quartette Humaine acoustic jazz album with pianist Bob James as a one-off for OKeh Records in 2013, the label continued the conversation with the renowned alto sax star who one reviewer labeled the "soul of the project." That exchange led to Sanborn - deemed the most influential crossover artist of his generation and the most commercially successful saxman since his 1975 Taking Off debut - to link up with his old collaborative friend, electric bassist Marcus Miller, to serve as producer in creating the superb jazz-meets-R&B recording Time and the River, the 25th album as a leader in his illustrious genre-crossing career. "I felt like I was in good hands," says Sanborn. "Marcus can cover all the bases--as arranger, composer, instrumentalist, producer-and since we have a lot of history together, working together was like shorthand."

The top-tier core band of the recording comprises Miller on bass; Roy Assaf on keyboards; Ricky Peterson on Hammond organ; Yotam Silberstein and Nicky Moroch on guitars; Peter Hess on horns and flute; Marcus Baylor on drums; and Javier Diaz on percussion. Other players include trombonist Tim Vaughn and trumpeter Justin Mullens, and Sanborn enlists two vocalists: Randy Crawford, who does a gorgeous read of the classic "Windmills on Your Mind," and former Tower of Power lead singer Larry Braggs, who delivers a soul-train take on the Temptations' 1969 No. 1 hit, "Can't Get Next to You."
  
With two Sanborn originals, two tunes by French singer/songwriter Alice Soyer (including "Oublie Moi," featuring Sanborn's graceful alto circles and swoops), one by Miller (the R&B cooker "Seven Days Seven Nights" that was originally slated for the Bob James project but reworked for this album), the cover of the hot funk D'Angelo number "Spanish Joint" (from 2000's Voodoo) and David Amram's "Overture" from the film The Manchurian Candidate, Time and the River stretches out with a variety of styles and soundscapes. "The biggest thing was that both Marcus and I were trying to push out of the comfort zone," Sanborn says. "I don't want to settle into complacency, to just sit back and enjoy the view. I want to keep pushing. I want to keep going down a new path to see where it leads." 

Indeed on Time and the River, Sanborn - a six-time Grammy® Award-winner with eight gold albums and one platinum - takes his expressive lyricism and singular ecstatic alto blowing to a new plateau, creating colors and textures through mesmerizing dreamscapes, R&B grooves, balladic beauty, deep funky soul and jazz-steeped improvisations. Undergirding most of the songs on the nine-tune collection is a percussive spice thanks to Diaz's laid-back polyrhythmic contribution. It's the first time the leader has used a percussionist since the death of his go-to percussionist Don Alias in 2006. "I decided to retire his chair," Sanborn says. "He was a hard act to follow. But Javier has that organic quality. Like Don, he pulls the sound out of the drums instead of hitting them." 

Another important factor that's noteworthy on Time and the River is how Sanborn plays throughout the tunes as an integral voice in the band when he's not in a solo spotlight. "Normally I don't like to wear out my welcome," he says. "I'm usually the first to sit out. But the way this record is structured we're not playing a lot of solos after a head. My role is feeling like a part of the band, part of the rhythm section. I'm playing a lot of notes, but I'm laying back, weaving myself through the fabric of the tunes and interacting with the song."

Case in point: the joy-and-elevation leadoff tune, Soyer's "A La Verticale," which, Sanborn says, with its melodic legato serves as a "mission statement" for the album. "There's a contrapuntal reality with the piano and percussion setting the music up, then little guitar fills, little bass fills and me with my little fills," he says. "Everyone was interacting with one another all the time. I encouraged everybody to do that. It was like when I was growing up and listening to music, and whether it was pop or jazz, there was a lot going on at the same time - layers of rhythms and instrumentation. It was like Earth Wind & Fire, which made you stand up. That's what I was going for here." 

The vocal tunes have their reference points. The cool and sweet-grooved "Windmills of Your Mind" may have been featured in the 1968 and the 1999 remake of the film The Thomas Crown Affair, but for this session, the rendition came from the Dusty Springfield songbook. Likewise, for "Can't Get Next to You," this new version owes more to the Al Green interpretation than to the Temptations. An additional voice comes from Sanborn himself, who says, "I think of myself as a singer on the alto, especially on this record. With all the textures going on, I'm able to rise up and play over the top like a vocalist." 

Sanborn's originals include the Rhodes and Hammond B3-shaded "Ordinary People," a popish tune that arrived intact while playing the piano, and "Drift," inspired by D'Angelo. "I'm a huge fan of his music," Sanborn says. "I was trying to recreate a vibe for him. I wanted a sleepy, thick cushiony atmospheric sound. We did the thematic and chord changes on the sax and piano, then overlaid synth pads and Marcus overdubbed. It was demoed and recorded in my home studio."

Time and the River closes in a reflective and even mystical space with a duet between Sanborn and Assaf on piano on the moody "Overture," which is built on a melancholic 14-note theme. "I've always been haunted by that tune," Sanborn says. "It goes to so many interesting places. Part of it feels modal-like, part of it feels like church. I loved The Manchurian Candidate and I loved David Amram's writing. I've tried to record this for years, so I decided to just do it with the alto and piano. This is one of those moments that's a gift."

As for the title of Sanborn's remarkable new album, Time and the River holds special significance. "The river is really for a mundane reason," he says with a laugh. "For many years, my wife and I lived in a Manhattan brownstone on 69th Street between Columbus and Broadway, with my studio upstairs and guys like Pat Metheny around the corner and Jazz at Lincoln Center so close by. But we sold it and moved upstate to Tarrytown, which is still close enough to get into New York for the juice of the city. But our house overlooks the Hudson River, which is one of the U.S.'s great rivers. So I see it flowing everyday. The river is moving and so is time."

Incidentally, the symbol for river in Japanese is three vertical lines, as represented on the album cover, and is pronounced "sanbon." "When I play in Japan, I always hold three fingers up when I come onstage," Sanborn says. "And everyone knows what I mean."

As for what's beyond Time and the River, Sanborn beams. "As artists we keep pushing because this is what we do," he says. "I want to learn something new everyday, whether it's listening to the outtakes from Charlie Parker With Strings to Michael Brecker to D'Angelo. What a great thing music is. It's the key to spirituality. It humbles you. It's so vast, so great. You can never master it and never get to the end. You just keep working to find those transcendent moments - all the stages along the way of the journey. As a kid, I knew I had to be around music."

David Sanborn · Time and the River
OKeh  ·  Release Date: April 7, 2015

DANIELLE NICOLE makes her Concord Records solo debut with New Orleans-flavored blues-soul based EP

Singer, bassist and songwriter Danielle Nicole oozes groove. There’s so much funky, bluesy soul coming out of her, you wonder if her heart beats in syncopated time. The Kansas City-raised daughter of musicians already had a solid blues foundation with Trampled Under Foot, but she found that groove — or new variations of it — in New Orleans, where she worked with GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitarist Anders Osborne and Stanton Moore of Galactic. 

It wasn’t until she was 12 that Danielle took to the stage for the first time singing, Koko Taylor’s “Never Trust a Man” at a Blues for Schools program that her parents were playing at Englewood Elementary. From then on, she knew music would be her passion for the rest of her life.

Danielle began singing in coffeehouses and at open mic events at age 14, jamming with her parents whenever she could at clubs that would allow minors. At 16, she began singing lead in her father’s band, Little Eva and the Works – until he became too sick to play. In March of 1999, she started her own band, Fresh Brew, with Kansas City music veterans Steve Gronemeyer, Steve Hicks, Chuck Payne and Terry Roney. They performed for four years and even represented Kansas City in the International Blues Challenge.

It was during this time that Danielle and her brothers Nick and Kris began talking about a family band that would eventually become Trampled Under Foot. Not only did she and Kris have to move to Philadelphia (where Nick was living), but she would have to learn the bass guitar to keep it a family band. It took a few years of lessons and saving money before that could become reality.

After several acclaimed self-released albums, Trampled Under Foot released Badlands on July 9, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group. Toughened by years of nonstop roadwork, Badlands revealed a musical sophistication well beyond the band’s years.

On Badlands, the band worked with veteran producer Tony Braunagel at his Ultratone Studios in California. The drummer in the Phantom Blues Band, Braunagel played some percussion on the album and recruited veteran keyboardist Mike Finnigan (Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James) to play keys. Johnny Lee Schell, who also recorded the album, added acoustic guitar to one track and John Porter mixed the final results at Independent Street Studios in New Orleans.

Badlands debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and Trampled Under Foot performed live throughout the United States and Europe in support of the album.

As Trampled Under Foot wound down after 13 years, Danielle formed her own band and now makes her Concord Records solo debut with the March 10, 2015 release of a New Orleans-flavored, blues-soul based EP, featuring GRAMMY®-winning producer-guitarist Anders Osborne, Galactic’s co-founding drummer Stanton Moore and her regular keyboardist Mike “Shinetop, Jr.” Sedovic.


The self-titled EP is an introduction to Danielle as a formidable solo artist. A full length album is currently scheduled for release in late summer 2015, featuring more music created in New Orleans with Osborne, Moore and Sedovic.




POKEY LAFARGE to release SOMETHING IN THE WATER; Incorporating elements of early jazz, ragtime, country blues, Western swing, and beyond

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, Pokey LaFarge will release Something in the Water, his Rounder debut.

The dozen-song set, produced by Jimmy Sutton (best known for his work with JD McPherson), marks a new landmark in a career that's already filled with musical highlights.  The St. Louis-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist draws from a deep well of American musical traditions to create distinctively personal music that's timeless rather than retro, transcending the confines of genre in a manner that reflects the artist's openhearted attitude.
  

Incorporating elements of early jazz, ragtime, country blues, Western swing, and beyond, LaFarge has created a vibrant, deeply expressive body of work that embodies an expansive musical vision and vivid storytelling sensibility that are wholly his own.  He's also earned a reputation as a tireless, uniquely charismatic live performer, winning a loyal international fan base that regularly packs his rousing, celebratory live shows. 

Something in the Water features a diverse cast of talented players, including his own longstanding touring combo as well as members of such notable outfits as NRBQ, the Fat Babies, the Modern Sounds, and the Western Elstons.

Something in the Water finds LaFarge doubling down on his established creative strengths, expanding and deepening his musical reach on such new originals as the wry, rollicking title track, the swaggering ragtime workout "Wanna Be Your Man," the infectiously jazzy "Underground," the evocative crooner "Cairo, Illinois," the exotic ballad "Barcelona" and the swinging album-closer "Knocking the Dust off the Rust Belt Tonight," whose witty lyrics underline the album's proudly Midwestern sensibility.  Also featured are fresh, buoyant takes on popular blues standards "When Did You Leave Heaven" and "All Night Long." 

"The Midwest is at the heart of this record," LaFarge asserts. "The people playing on these songs are from Wisconsin and Illinois and Chicago and St. Louis, and there's a certain attitude that comes across in the songs and the way that they're performed.  I'm born and raised in the Midwest, and my family's been here for generations.  This is where I'm from and how I think, and that's reflected in the music I make.

"Americans love to reinvent themselves, but you can never really get away from the place that you come from," he continues.  "And in a globalized world, I think that there are some parts of our regional identity that we should hang onto and cherish.  I do buy into that old idea of the Midwestern work ethic, and it's definitely something that's been passed down through my family and something that I feel connected to, and it influences the way I approach making music." 

Pokey LaFarge 2015 World Tour
March 26, Auckland, New Zealand, Tuning Fork
March 27, Havelock North, New Zealand, Black Barn Winery
March 28, Masterton, New Zealand, King Street Live
March 29, Wellington, New Zealand, Bodega
March 31, Nelson, New Zealand, The Mussel Inn
April 1, Christchurch, New Zealand, Dux Live
April 3, Tallarook, Australia, Boogie Fest
April 4, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, Byron Bay Bluefest
April 6, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, Byron Bay Bluefest
April 8, Oakleigh, VIC, Australia, Caravan Music Club
April 9, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, Corner Hotel
April 10, Castlemaine, VIC, Australia, Theatre Royal
April 11, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Manning Bar
April 12, Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Cambridge Hotel
April 17, Dallas, TX, The Loft
April 18, Driftwood, TX,  Old Settler’s Music Festival
April 19, Driftwood, TX, Old Settler’s Music Festival
April 22, Nashville, TN, Mercy Lounge
April 24, St. Louis, MO, Off Broadway
April 25, St. Louis, MO, Off Broadway
April 26, St. Louis, MO, Off Broadway |
April 30, Pittsburgh, PA, Rex Theater
May 1, Philadelphia, PA, World Café Live
May 2, Washington, DC, Black Cat
May 3, Charleston, WV, Mountain Stage
May 6, New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom
May 7, Cambridge, MA, Sinclair
May 8, Burlington, VT, Showcase Lounge
May 10, Toronto, ON, Horseshoe Tavern
May 12, Cleveland, OH, Beachland Ballroom
May 13, Detroit, MI, Magic Stick Lounge
May 14, Grand Rapids, MI, Pyramid Scheme
May 15, Chicago, IL, Lincoln Hall
May 16, Indianapolis, IN, The Vogue
May 27, Leeds, United Kingdom, Brudenell Social Club
May 28, Oxford, United Kingdom, O2 Academy
May 29, London, United Kingdom, Islington Assembly Hall
May 30, Rouen, France, Festival Zone Rouge
May 31, Brussels, Belgium, Retrorama Festival
June 3, Rotterdam, Netherlands, Maassilo
June 4, Groningen, Netherlands, De Oosterpoort
June 5, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Paradiso Amsterdam
June 6, Eindhoven, Netherlands, Naked Song Festival
June 7, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Doornroosje
June 12, Eau Claire, WI, Blue Ox Music Festival
June 14, Manchester, TN, Bonnaroo


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

JOE LOCKE'S Most Personal & Emotive Work To Date LOVE IS A PENDULEM // Set For Release On Motema Music May 5, 2015

Joe Locke is a musician's musician, an artist for the ages, a man who has been gracing stages and studios with his immense talent, and uplifting spirit, since he was fifteen. Locke is a man who has gathered no moss as he evolved into a communicator, a conceptualist, a composer, and a modern virtuoso who defies categorization, creating music with small groups to symphony orchestras, and with artists as diverse as Cecil Taylor and The Beastie Boys. Derk Richardson said of Locke in The San Francisco Bay Guardian that, "not only has he mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz - but he has done so in a way that transcends mere technique and establishes him as a unique and adventurous musical voice." With more than thirty acclaimed recordings to his credit, it is no wonder The Times (London, U.K.) proclaimed that, "there seems little doubt that Locke, with his ability to play cool and funky, heady and relaxed, is set to become the pre-eminent vibraphonist in jazz." Joe Locke's new recording, Love Is A Pendulum (available on the Motema Music imprint on May 26, 2015), is just over an hour in length, but has taken a lifetime to make, as it encompasses all of Locke's joys and sorrows, and utilizes all of his slings and arrows.

Love Is A Pendulum is an arresting collection of all original music, the centerpiece of which is a five movement suite, based on a poem by the writer and musician Barbara Sfraga (from her Subway Series work), a multi-dimensional artist who Locke has long admired. Locke explains further, "each verse begins with a metaphor describing love - its properties and tendencies - and how (possibly) to navigate them. As is so often the case in my composing process, the genesis of a musical idea comes from words, whether it be a novel, a poem, or even a simple phrase uttered in a certain way. I feel that Love Is A Pendulum is my best work thus far and I am eternally grateful to Barbara for the inspiration her poem has provided."

This recording is the most personal, most compositional and most emotive work of Locke's career, and it features a hand-picked cast of outstanding musicians that bring Locke's vision to life in spectacular fashion: special guests Rosario Giuliani, Donny McCaslin (saxes), Paul Bollenback (guitar), Victor Provost (steel pan) and Theo Bleckmann (voice), with Locke's core working quartet, featuring Robert Rodriguez (piano), Terreon Gully (drums and co-producer) & Ricardo Rodriguez (basses). Locke commented in the liner notes about the musicians featured on Love Is A Pendulum, "as tightly composed as much of this music is, it would not have risen off the page without the creative contributions of the musicians here. Robert, Terreon and Ricky, the core of this group, have been hugely important to the realization of this project. Working together with a great natural chemistry, they sculpted the shape of each piece into something beyond what I had imagined. Their ability to deal with the written material while at the same time injecting it with soul and spontaneity was (and continues to be) remarkable. I'm also grateful that all of my first choices were available (with a bit of juggling!) to be guests on Love Is A Pendulum." 

Variation On Wisdom is a through-composed chamber piece and a re-working of the material from "Last Ditch Wisdom" (track #7). On Love Is The Tide, "I wanted to convey the surging power described in this particular verse of the poem. There are a lot of shifting rhythms occurring, but its essence is the Blues," said Locke. Love Is A Planchette (featuring Theo Bleckmann) depicts the movement of a planchette as it moves across a ouija board. This melody is beautiful and gentle rather than spooky, as it, "describes the light touch we must keep on love in order for it to move us from one place to another," explained Locke. Love Is A Pendulum was the first movement Locke composed for the suite. As with the movement of a pendulum, the band goes back and forth between the sections of this composition. Played as a rubato ballad, Love Is Letting Go is a meditation on love's eternal nature. "For the beginning of Love Is Perpetual Motion I wanted a wide open canvas for the two saxophones to have a conversation, interspersed with written material. The main melody of the piece does not occur until after the 4:20 mark, where it emerges from 3/4 time into a 9/4 clave, followed by vibes/pan trading and a piano solo before a restatement of the melody," explained Locke. For Jesse Mountain is dedicated to Locke's nephew Jesse. "Big man, big heart," said Locke. Last Ditch Wisdom speaks for itself - "NYC hardball, start to finish." The album concludes with the lovely ballad, Embrace, a composition based on George Gershwin's "Embraceable You", and conceived by Locke as a vehicle for Victor Provost. Pianist Robert Rodriguez's lyrical ride, on top of Gully's creative groove, concludes the recording on a consonant note.

Joe Locke is widely considered to be one of the major voices of his instrument. Long known to be a soloist capable of stunning physical power and broad emotional range, it was not until the last decade that he emerged as the composer, bandleader and conceptualist that he is considered today. 

This is in no small part due to his recent solo projects, notably the three distinct albums he has released since joining Motema Music in 2011, which display his immense stylistic versatility and ability to create artistic depth in a variety of contexts: Signing (2012, the long awaited follow-up studio album of Live In Seattle), Wish Upon A Star (2012, Locke's first ever symphonic project, featuring Locke's Quartet with the Symphony Orchestra of Lincoln, Nebraska), and Lay Down My Heart (2013, jazz radio chart's #1 Blues & Ballads album). Locke's latest Motéma release, Love Is A Pendulum is already being hailed the most important work of his career. Other notable recordings in Locke's extensive discography (more than thirty albums as a leader) include, Four Walls of Freedom (Sirocco), a six movement suite featuring the late tenor saxophonist Bob Berg; Live in Seattle (Origin) by The Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, which won the 2006 Ear Shot award for Concert of the Year, and his eloquent and vibrant quartet, Force Of Four (Origin). 

Locke has won numerous awards and polls, including the 2006, 2008 and 2009 "Mallet Player of the Year" award from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Awards for best Vibes Player. He is active as a clinician and educator in the United States and Europe and has been the International Vibraphone Consultant at the Royal Academy of Music, London, on a visiting basis since 2008, holding the title of Honorary Associate of The Royal Academy of Music since 2013. Locke endorses Malletech instruments, and Love Is A Pendulum is the first recording to feature the innovative OmegaVibe (also endorsed by Stefon Harris, Tony Miceli and Warren Wolf). 

Joe Locke - Love Is A Pendulum

All compositions by Joe Locke
1. Variation On Wisdom 2. Love Is The Tide 3. Love Is A Planchette 4. Love Is A Pendulum 5. Love Is Letting Go 6. Love Is Perpetual Motion 7. For Jesse Mountain 8. Last Ditch Wisdom 9. Embrace 

UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
April 11 - Fayetteville, AR, Walton Arts Center
April 12 - Columbia, MO, Murry's
April 18 - Kansas City, MO, The Gem Theater
April 24 - Germantown, NY, Jazz Workshop at Germantown High School
April 25 - Germantown, NY, Central House Historic Hotel
CD RELEASE CELEBRATION:
May 29-30 - Cape May, NJ, Exit 0 International Jazz Festival
June 3 - Ocean Grove, NJ, Leigh Howard Stevens 36th Summer Marimba Sem.
CD RELEASE CELEBRATION:
June 8 - Burlington, VT, Discover Jazz Festival
CD RELEASE CELEBRATION:
June 9 & 10 - NYC, The Jazz Standard
June 13 & 14 - Hollywood, CA, The Hollywood Bowl  
CD RELEASE CELEBRATION:
June 22 - Rochester, NY,  Xerox Rochester Int'l Jazz Festival
July 10-12 - NYC, Smoke Jazz Club - special guest with the Jim Rotondi Group
July 30 - NYC, 92nd Street Y - Swing Into Summer Series
(Joe Locke performing with Bill Charlap)


Smokey Robinson, The O'Jays, The Whispers, Stephanie Mills, Billy Ocean, Howard Hewett, Atlantic Starr, Sheila E., Deniece Williams, Tavares, The Dramatics featuring LJ Reynolds And More Confirmed To Appear On 2016 Soul Train Cruise

On the heels of this year's sold-out Soul Train Cruise, StarVista  LIVE announces the star-studded lineup for a new voyage, Soul Train Cruise 2016, featuring concerts by R&B legends Smokey Robinson, The O'Jays, The Whispers, Stephanie Mills, Billy Ocean, Howard Hewett, Atlantic Starr, Sheila E., Deniece Williams, Tavares, The Dramatics featuring LJ Reynolds, Enchantment featuring Jobie Thomas and more.  The cruise will be hosted by award-winning and longtime Soul Train television show producer Tony Cornelius and joined by comedian Bill Bellamy, original Soul Train dancers and MC Extraordinaire Doug E. Fresh.  The "hippest trip at sea" will depart from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Saturday, January 30th and sail through Saturday, February 6th with stops in Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios (Jamaica), CocoCay (Bahamas) and Key West aboard the Celebrity Constellation, renowned for its refined elegance and lavish service.

"Soul Train keeps getting better, 45 years after the great Don Cornelius introduced it to the world," says Eddie Levert of The O'Jays, who will be performing onboard the 2016 cruise.  "For everyone who loves R&B, loves a first-class vacation, and loves to have a lot of fun, this is the trip for them – and me!" "We are so excited about returning to the Soul Train Cruise," adds O'Jays co-founder Walter Williams.  "We get to see old friends, many of them legends of R&B, and meet our fans up close and personal during our time on the ship. It's like nothing we've ever experienced before."

Longtime Soul Train television show producer Tony Cornelius, remarks "I'm especially excited that Smokey Robinson, The O'Jays and The Whispers are going to be a part of the 2016 Soul Train Cruise.  These gentlemen were extremely close to my father and we're going to celebrate a lot of love, peace and soul together on the cruise."  Michael Mitchell, Soul Train Cruise Executive Producer and StarVista LIVE / Time Life Vice President, explains, "The Soul Train Cruise has become a vacation like no other, it combines the biggest entertainers in classic R&B in a relaxed luxurious setting.   We are constantly looking for new ways to deliver the very best to our guests, and this year we've got an incredible lineup and will be sailing on the Celebrity Constellation for the first time, a gorgeous, top-of-the-line ship with a modern elegance." 

Guests on the Soul Train Cruise attend concerts by R&B superstars every day and night while on the cruise, held in intimate theatres that bring them closer to the performers than most concert halls on land.  These superstars entertain off the stage as well, giving cruisers a chance to rub elbows with them as they participate in interactive, artist-hosted events such as cocktail parties, meet & greets with fans, panel discussions, interviews in front of live audiences and embarking on many of the excursions in the stunning islands the ship docks in during the journey.  



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

LARA DOWNES - A BILLIE HOLIDAY SONGBOOK

When classical pianist Lara Downes was 8 years old, she wrote in her diary that her favorite song was Billie Holiday's I Cover the Waterfront. Ever since, says Downes, who has been praised by the New York Times for "loving attention to mood and color", she has been enthralled with "the distinctive qualities of mood and phrasing, line and color" heard in Holiday's singing.

Now, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth, Lara Downes offers A Billie Holiday Songbook, a deeply personal tribute to an icon of American music (Steinway & Sons Records). With radiant sensitivity and timeless intimacy, Downes performs the songs forever associated with Lady Day's legendary interpretations.

Downes grew up listening to Holiday's recordings with her father, who was born and raised in Harlem only blocks from the iconic jazz clubs where Lady Day was a star presence in the 1930s and ‘40s. Trained in the conservatories of San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and New York, Downes acknowledges that Holiday's singing has been a lifelong influence. "As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music," she says. "something that is completely your own - maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful. To take a chance. As the song says: "But beautiful to take a chance, and if you fall, you fall. And I'm thinking I wouldn't mind at all."

Billie Holiday was a true artist of her day and rose as a social phenomenon in the 1950s. Her soulful, unique singing voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time. Today, we remember Holiday for her masterpieces and her creativity and vivacity. Holiday's poignant voice is still considered one of the greatest jazz voices of all time. Steinway & Sons celebrates the centenary of this iconic jazz singer's birth with an album of 22 songs she made famous. The result is a musical portrait of the singer's life.

The pianistic re-imaginings of songs forever associated with Holiday, such as "God Bless the Child," "Strange Fruit," and "But Beautiful," not only evoke the eternal artistry of Lady Day, but also place her unparalleled talent in a much larger context. "My take on this music, as a classical pianist paying tribute to a jazz icon," Lara Downes explains, "is also a tribute to the unique diversity of our American musical tradition - a tradition which includes European concert music, the blues, jazz, folk, rock, and on and on - evolving, absorbing the sounds of each successive generation to reflect the multifaceted complexity of American music. We come from so many different places and people, and our music is a synthesis of our complicated heritage and blended cultures."

Composer Jed Distler took Downes' intentions to heart in his arrangements, honoring both the original melodies and Holiday's singular phrasing while harvesting elements from the patchwork styles of American piano music: ragtime, parlor music, stride, pop, gospel, classical and film music. He also brings the personalities of Holiday's predecessors, contemporaries and descendants: Monk, MacDowell, Weill, Ellington, as well as Don Shirley, Billy Joel and Bernard Hermann.

The result is an unforgettable experience that places Holiday's spirit in soulful communion with the past, present and future of American music. A Billy Holiday Songbook will be available on the Steinway & Sons label on March 10, 2015. 

Lara Downes is recognized as one of the most dynamic and communicative artists of today's generation, praised by NPR as "a delightful artist with a unique blend of musicianship and showmanship" and by the Washington Post for her stunning performances "rendered with drama and nuance". She has appeared on the world's greatest concert stages, from Queen Elizabeth Hall London and the Vienna Konzerthaus to Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. Her recordings have met with tremendous critical and popular acclaim: Exiles' Café (2013) topped the Amazon bestseller charts and was called "ravishing" by Fanfare Magazine; Some Other Time (2014) debuted in the Billboard Top 10 and was called "luscious, moody and dreamy" by the New York Times. Lara is the producer and host of The Green Room, a radio program about the real lives of classical musicians, in national syndication through the WFMT Network. She serves as Artist in Residence at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis. Lara Downes is a Steinway Concert and Recording Artist.


TWIN DANGER will release their self-titled debut album April 21, 2015 on top of performances at SXSW, and in NYC and LA

Twin Danger, the "dark, sexy" (VH1) new brainchild of Stuart Matthewman, GRAMMY-winning co-founder and multi-instrumentalist of Sade, and vocalist Vanessa Bley of Brooklyn-based alt-rock outfit Beast Patrol, will release their self-titled debut album April 21, 2015 on top of performances at SXSW, and in NYC and LA.

Bound by a mutual love for juxtaposed musical influences, spanning Black Sabbath to Chet Baker to iconic film scores, Twin Dangermelds noir jazz with midnight blues and cinematicgrooves. On the album, Vanessa's smoldering vocals and Stuart's smooth saxophone infuse a classic sound with contemporary style on 11 captivating originals. The album sessions also yielded one surprising cover, a distinctively different interpretation of the hard-rock single "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age.

On their approach to the album, Vanessa notes, "We're making music to get lost in. It's warm and beautiful but there are dark undercurrents revealing fundamental issues of the self. That's what makes it Twin Danger. We like to fit into that category of what you want to play when the lights go down."

In addition to the album, Twin Danger will perform at SXSW this March following a flurry of performances in NYC and LA, which includes a set at KCRW's MojaMoja GRAMMY Brunch benefit alongside neo-soul band The Internet.

"We encourage people to dress up and get lost with us," says Vanessa about Twin Danger's live experience. "You'll be swinging, dancing, maybe a little teary eyed. Probably spill some wine on yourself, get a few bruises. You know, the usual jazz show." Stuart adds that "our journey so far has delivered us to sweltering, unexpected, and often messy places, with live performances climaxing with laughing tears and trodden on toes. Certain songs seem capable of striking St. Vitus dance into the hearts of hipsters, or touching the tear ducts of the wallflower in the corner."

Hailing from England, Stuart co-wrote many of Sade's best-loved songs on the band's multi-platinum records including "No Ordinary Love," "By Your Side" and "Your Love Is King,"in addition to collaborating with Maxwell on three of the superstar's critically-acclaimed albums. Vanessa, the daughter of renowned free jazz pianist Paul Bley, attended the Fashion Institute of Technology but soon found herself in the midst of NYC's downtown music scene, co-writing songs with collaborators like self-professed "bubble goth"singer Kerli (who introduced her to Stuart) and heading up Beast Patrol. According to Vanessa, the name Twin Danger "refers to the alter ego, the part of you that can be wild or irrational or even destructive-but it's still a part of you and not accepting that is what makes it dangerous."



Bassist/Composer Nilson Matta releases "EastSideRioDrive" // New recording features Cyro Baptista, Romero Lubambo, Edsel Gomez, Craig Handy, Anne Drummond, & Vince Cherico

Brazilian jazz?  Yeah, me too.  I liked it the first 5,000 times I heard it.  But, like a lot of other things, it got to be a cliché after a while, every album sounded like the one before, the same tropical groove, the same rhythmic patterns, the same lightweight feeling.  That is, until I heard this latest project by the Sao Paulo-born, New York City-based bassist Nilson Matta, and my interest in the genre has been rekindled.

Unlike nearly every South American-styled CD that's crossed my doormat in recent years, this uniquely creative offering has got some real force and punch to it.  The blend of South (Romero Lubambo, Cyro Baptista) and North (Anne Drummond, Craig Handy) American musicians– as well as pianist Edsel Gomez from Puerto Rico - is a wonderfully balanced mixture of jazzy sounds from the two hemispheres.  It's soothing and relaxing in places, but gutsy and bold in others – it utilizes the conventions of the genre creatively and, at the same time, refuses to be limited by them.

At the center of it all is Nilson Matta, who is both an outstanding bassist and an exceptional maestro, to employ another overused term.  As a bandleader, he has an innate sense of orchestration, of flow, of sequence, of musical space and together with New York based producer/arranger Humberto (Howard) Léder  (no stranger to mixing musical cultures, e,g. B.B.King with legendary Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos), they masterfully conceived an idea to make one piece, with specifically-sized ensembles and a unique groove, and to proceed emotionally and logically, how to make a well-known melody seem fresh and exciting, and then, how to contrast it with something not quite so familiar.

I may be showing bias for the home team when I state that much of my enthusiasm is for the two locally grown reed players, Mr. Handy and Ms. Drummond.  They are all over this record, often as not, complementing each other and intertwining their flute and saxophone lines in a delightful souffle of sound.

Mr. Matta opens the album with a highly danceable original, "Sertao" (which means, in English, "Sertao," as Paquito D'Rivera would say), co-arranged with Mr. Léder, within which his own melody and Jesse Lynn's beautiful vocals are combined with the inimitable Cyro Baptista's very instrumental like vocals and exotic instruments that he uses to offer sounds that at times are like double flutes and berimbao playing at once, and with gutsy guitar rhythms and solos by the great Romero Lubambo presenting a very hard edge within the tropical context……and then a full blown jazz statement by Craig Handy's tenor, that happens to be made in the middle of a Brazilian band thus becoming not strictly Brazilian….!

If Mr. Matta's bassistry is at the center of this project, then he makes his allegiances and influences clear with two pieces offered up in honor of the greatest bassist-bandleader of them all, Charles Mingus.  Mingus is feted both on one of his most celebrated compositions, "Boogie Stop Shuffle," and on Mr. Matta's original "Proemio Do Mingus."

The first is a melody that was treated to a Brazilian interpretation famously as "Boogie Bossa Nova" by Quincy Jones and his Orchestra – yet I think it's much more effective here that Mr. Matta restores that unforgettable melody back to the instrument that it was written for, as a tune for bass fiddle, but within the Brazilian context.

Opening with appropriate bass intro, then tenor & bass, flute harmonizing tightly on the theme, sounding more like a bigger horn section playing an elaborate line together, tenor then going off on its own, then flute, then the pianist with a kind of a postmodern splash, with notes spilling out to the left and then the right of the keyboard, then Nilson's solo, given an especially big sound, and closing with a great shout chorus at the end, like big band chart.

"Proemio do Mingus" is a feature for Mr. Matta's ringing strings, which, commendably says all that it needs to say within less than a minute in honor of the greatest of all bassist / bandleader / iconoclasts, this is a highly declamatory solo - an exciting and brief statement that hardly wears out its welcome.

"Verde" and "Blue In Green" are a pair of other pieces that are also two of a kind.  As the titles indicate, both are especially verdant: lush, ripe, overgrowing with rich melody.  The first is a trio piece that's mostly built around the compelling piano work of the wonderfully gifted and not enough heard, Edsel Gomez.  A sensual, romantic piece driven by the piano, almost suggesting a bolero. I love his touch here – the notes sound quite like raindrops falling on a jungle leaf, within a very lovely, positively verdant tropical style piano trio, I'm always amazed that they can get such a distinctive South American feel with standard North American instrumentation including regular trap drums, as opposed to latin percussion.   

The second is the Kind of Blue masterpiece given a wholly different complexion, with emphasis on Mr. Lubambo's guitar – I've never heard this iconic melody expressed in quite this kind of way, opening with bass and then Mr. Handy's bass clarinet, which, in this context, gives Miles Davis' melody a uniquely other-worldly sound.  In this version, the melody is much more green than blue, and like "Verde," it's positively verdant, and in fact, extends the verdant feeling - pastel and relaxed, but with the more intense purposeful kind of meandering that we associate with Miles…. a lovely and imposing gallery of sound and textures clustered around a familiar tune, well not only a tune. … Miles Davis wrote a mood as much as a tune,.. And both are firmly established by Romero's guitar and Handy's mournful bass clarinet.

Over the years, we've been inundated with so much Jobim – mostly the same three songs over and over – that I had long since abandoned the idea of ever actually hearing anything new with Jobim's name attached to it.  Imagine my delight to find two compositions performed so inventively new to me. "Ângela" was performed and recorded by the composer himself (on Urubu, which, spelled backwards is Uburu) and "Mojave" was likewise recorded and performed by the composer on his iconic 1967 release "Wave". They're both such remarkably performed and recorded here, that I fear it will make it even harder for me to sit through "Ipanema" and "One Note Samba" the next time somebody in a jazz club chooses to inflict them on me.  (This is not anti-Jobim bias, I feel exactly the same way about "Over The Rainbow," "Summertime," and "Skylark," beautiful songs that have all been overdone the same way to death.)

"Angela", a lovely medium ballad is highlighted and begins with an intertwining of Drummond's flute and Nilson's bass before the rest of the rhythm section and Mr. Handy join in, the latter playing his big toned instrument in a manner of such boudoir tenors as a Gene Ammons and Houston Person or Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins.

"Mohave" is a particularly insistent melody and an eloquent duet for flute and bass, with Nilson doing the work of an entire trio all by himself.  I could swear there are moments when the mind drifts slightly and one swears that one hears piano and drums in there (brushes at the very least) in addition to bass, but no, listening more closely behind Ms. Drummond, it's all Nilson, fully filling the role.

"E Menina"is Joao Donato'and Gutemberg Guarabiras classically covered Brazilian samba/pop melody, arranged here with piano - some mirrored chords, a Cuban feeling, not strictly Brazilian…. and drummer Vince Cherico (c. Candido, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Ray Barretto, Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra", etc) also a lot more aggressive, more like an American player with Brazilian accents, Ayja's vocals harmonizing with horns, sounding like a choral group, and then very appropriately, it ends on a fade, which to me suggests a street parade marching off into the distance.

Ever since Eric Dolphy, most famously allied with Mingus, the bass clarinet has primarily been used in what we, for lack of a better word, call avant-garde or free jazz, but the way Mr. Handy wields the unwieldly instrument shows that it can also be used beautifully on more traditionally melodic forms of jazz such as with Mr. Léder's homage to Jobim, "Luas de Nadine", which spotlights the unique combination of bass clarinet, flute, Mr. Lubambo's guitar and Nilson's beautiful arco solo.

"Mambo Inn" is an appropriate piece to sum up.  This is the Latin jazz classic by Mario Bauza (most famously performed by George Shearing and Armando Peraza) and it illustrates that at least three of the Americas (North America, South America, and the Cuba-Puerto Rico continuum) can work together in concert, as they say, to create outstanding jazz, and especially well when sparked by the tradition of the en clave piano of Senor Gomez.


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