Friday, February 17, 2017

Trombonist JOE FIEDLER Expands His Palette With New Recording, LIKE, STRANGE

Featuring Joe Fiedler (trombone), Jeff Lederer (tenor & soprano saxes), Pete McCann (guitar), Rob Jost (bass) & Michael Sarin (drums)

"Fiedler is a veteran of big and small jazz, rock and Latin ensembles. He's composed musical cues for Sesame Street and, in separate projects, paid tribute to Wayne Shorter and Captain Beefheart. He's equally facile playing inside and outside, but just as important, he likes and respects both. The trio's fourth recording marks out a boundary where these elements can cordially coexist, and then throws a party inside that perimeter." - Bill Meyer, DownBeat Magazine (Four-star review on I'm In)

"In addition to his diverse sideman work, Fiedler's reputation as a vanguard artist with a penchant for experimenting outside conventional norms is somewhat belied by the accessibility of his creative efforts-which are well represented on this engaging (and appropriately titled) session. I'm In, a noteworthy addition to his burgeoning discography, is every bit as compelling as the work of his heroes." - Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz

  "The versatile Joe Fiedler has often been associated with the avant-garde . . . [but he] proves that he's also a master of swing and blues-based music . . . he uses superb technique, which includes playing chords (multiphonics), and a wit worthy of trombonist Ray Anderson to invigorate straight ahead jazz, paying indirect tributes to tradition while simultaneously turning the music inside out" - Jazziz Magazine  

The imaginative and adventurous trio of trombonist, composer, bandleader Joe Fiedler, bassist Rob Jost and drummer Michael Sarin just accomplished the near-impossible; with the addition of saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Pete McCann they have broadened their melodic and harmonic range, and expanded rhythmically, becoming even more awe-inspiring. The Quintet is featured in all its splendor on Fiedler's new recording, Like, Strange (available on Multiphonics Music on March 17, 2017). After thirteen years of leading his trio (documented on I'm In, Plays The Music of Albert Mangelsdorff, The Crab and Sacred Chrome Orb), and that format being his primary creative outlet, Fiedler felt the urge to expand. He explains, "after more than a decade of playing trio I still love it, but I found myself wanting to branch out and bring different colors and textures to my music. Thus I thought that it was time to add some people who were both unique soloists and great interpreters of music in general."

Like, Strange, in many ways, is a continuation of the music from Fiedler's previous critically acclaimed recording, I'm In (which also features bassist Jost and drummer Sarin). "In general, and similar to my previous recording, the compositions are more traditional forms and variations of traditional chord progressions, yet still pliable and able to handle both inside and outside playing. For my ears, adding Pete and Jeff turned out to be the perfect way to expand the trio and give it an added, richer depth of color and sound," said Fiedler.

Joe Fiedler on Jeff Lederer:  "Last year I was working as a sideman on a project along with Jeff and we got to talking about our shared and unique niche in the music world. We are probably the only two musicians that have been playing for years in both the 'downtown' jazz and hardcore Latin music scenes. So during a rehearsal I had an idea to loosely fuse these two worlds and make a project that played old school Latin boogaloos, but with a more open-freewheeling vibe. Jeff was into it and the expanded trio was set into motion. Then a funny thing happened. We started playing together a lot over the past year in many different configurations and I loved the hook up that we had. Suddenly the concept of the boogaloo became secondary to the idea of writing music that just felt good and highlighted the way that our sounds came together."

Joe Fiedler on Pete McCann:  "So I began writing music that had a Latin feel but I wouldn't consider it 'Latin Jazz.' I realized how lucky I was to have Rob Jost and Michael Sarin, rhythmic masters who are quite able to handle any style that I wanted to bring to this project. I also realized that in order to fully embrace the harmonies and textures that I was hearing I was going to need a chordal instrument. Pete was the very first person to come to mind. I have played with him in many different bands for more than twenty years and his creativity and virtuosity are second to none, not to mention the sense of humor and positivity that he brings to the bandstand/studio/hang.   

More on the music on Like, Strange:
GO GET IT - Inspired by one of Fiedler's favorite composers, Jimmy Guiffre, With this tune the trombonist/composer was looking to write something a little playful. This has an unconventional, long form that starts as a jazz waltz and is broken up with half-time funk sections.

MAPLE AVENUE TANGO - Fiedler has always loved the tango and the way that guys like Dr. John and Bennie Wallace took a greasy approach this rhythm, so here he offers his take on it. "I love the way that the two horns trading solos turned out - Jeff's idea, in the studio," said Fiedler

A LADYBUG IN MY NOTEBOOK - This tune highlights Fiedler's current interest in simple motifs and less angularity. After years with the trio he was quite happy to have another horn to create melodic tension. Note how the low register of soprano saxophone blends with the trombone, adding a nice change of texture.

LIKE, STRANGE - The title track "Like, Strange" was once Fiedler's daughter Cleo's assessment of his music. The composition was also loosely inspired by early recordings of John Scofield.

E.T. (For Eje Thelin) - Thelin is perhaps the most overlooked jazz trombone master of all time, especially in the U.S. Fiedler explains, "next to Ray Anderson, he is probably my biggest influence and I just really wanted to write something for him. He was known for his Coltrane-esque 'sheets of sound' in his improvisations."

GUIRO NUEVO - "I have always loved the Guiro (the rhythm, not the instrument) and its infectious, hypnotic quality. I was always a big fan of the great Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache band and their use of this rhythm," commented Fiedler.

TUNA FISH CANS - This tune was inspired by Fiedler's wife, Shari, and her use of the expression, "tuna fish cans," while teaching Pilates. "The expression is just a verbal cue to help clients visualize the vertebrae in their lower back.  She encourages them to try and separate and create space between the stacked cans. So I set out to write more of a classic Latin jazz tune with five 'cans' with a little separation between them," said Fiedler.

QUASI... - Fiedler finally got around to tackling a boogaloo, however when completed he wasn't so sure of its boogaloo-ness, hence the title.

YINZ - "Yinz" is a Pittsburgh expression meaning "you guys." "For balance, and because I dig it, I felt that the arc of the recording needed some free improvisation and textural elements," said Fiedler.  

CD Release Celebrations!:
March 22 - "Dimensions in Jazz" Series, Portland, ME
March 23 - The Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA
March 24 - Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT
March 25 - The Jazz Gallery, NYC
March 30 - The Bop Shop, Rochester, NY
April 3 - Quinn's, Beacon, NY
April 6 - An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
May 21 - Twin's Jazz, Washington, D.C.

Gong Expresso Feat. Gong Alumni Francois Causse, Benoit Moerlen and Hansford Rowe To Release New Album “Decadence”

Montreal - Hansford Rowe's HRIII merges with Gong Expresso! Gong alumni Francois Causse, Benoit Moerlen and Hansford Rowe join HRIII guitarist Julien Sandiford for the recording of the new album by Gong Expresso titled “Decadence.”

Says Hansford, “ 'Decadence' is the title tune on the new Gong Expresso album. Here the word means 'falling away.' I hope this tune and all the music on the album somehow addresses this in an unadorned, direct way. When I play with these 3 musicians I am convinced there is something special happening. Benoit Moerlen (vibes, marimba) and Francois Causse (drums, perc) and I began playing together in early 1977 in PM's Gong and our rapport is of the kind only long term relationships can provide. On the other hand Julien who is 25 has been alive less time than I have been playing with the others. Yet our musical relationship feels infinitely long. We are recording in two cities, Paris and Montreal. Francois' studio in Paris is a tuned percussion church and Piccolo Studios in Montreal is owned by Denis Savage who is co-producing with the band. He is known for his work with Celine Dion.”

Francois Causse - drums, percussion
Julien Sandiford - guitar
Benoit Moerlen - vibes, marimba
Hansford Rowe - bass

PM's Gong was a major branch of the massive Gong tree. In the mid 1970's drummer Pierre Moerlen separated from Daevid Allen marking an end to the Flying Teapot period and a powerful jazz/rock unit was formed and signed to Virgin Records. Pierre's brother Benoit Moerlen, Hansford Rowe, Francois Causse, Allan Holdsworth were core members. Many major guests joined them both on albums and touring. Mick Taylor, Mike Oldfield, and French violinist Didier Lockwood were key participants. Mike Oldfield occasionally used the PMG rhythm section for touring also calling on members for albums such as “Ommadawn”, “Incantations”, “Exposed” and “Platinum.” Pierre Moerlen sadly passed away on May 5th, 2005.

In concert Gong Expresso mines their huge repertoire and has exceptional guests joining them regularly. Along with finishing their new album, the band will be releasing a new video soon.

Multi-Instrumentalist Adam Turchin's Debut Album Manifest Destiny Blends Soul, Rock, Funk, Jazz, and Hip-Hop

"I'd never been to California or LA. In my early twenties, I sold all of my saxophones to a store in New Jersey except for the horn my father gave me, a 1965 Selmer Mark VI. I packed my 2002 silver Saturn and drove west."

Saxophonist Adam Turchin's impulsive decision seven years ago was a risky and romantic move that has proven to be a worthwhile gamble. After performances on albums by Kendrick Lamar, The Game, and Terrace Martin, Turchin is ready for the spotlight, writing, producing and playing ten different instruments on his debut album, Manifest Destiny, an autobiographical chronicle to be released through Ropeadope of his journey from Philadelphia college life to the sunnier streets of in the City of Angels.

When Turchin arrived in Los Angeles, he found a gig trading what he knew: saxophones. A chance encounter with saxophonist and producer Terrace Martin changed his life. The two locked in on the intricacies of various vintage reed instruments and Turchin found himself invited to a session that night. Martin, a fixture on the Los Angeles jazz and R&B scene, took the enthusiastic East Coaster under his wing and brought him around town.

Nearly half a decade into their friendship, after recording and performing gigs such as the Soul Train Music Awards together, Martin suggested Turchin bring his baritone saxophone to the studio "just in case" for Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly sessions that he had been attending for months. As the finishing touches were being put on what would become one of the cornerstones of modern hip-hop and the bleeding edge of jazz, which would go on to net eleven Grammy® Award-nominations, Turchin was recruited to record on the album. Laying down baritone sax as part of the major horn component on the Lamar's "u," Turchin was no longer just an observer but a participant in a major musical movement.

As the studio time for the album became more prominent in his schedule, he realized he could remain at his monotonous day job or watch and participate in history being made; and the choice was clear -- Turchin quit the saxophone trading gig and pursued recording and performing full time. "That's where things changed," says Turchin. "In the early morning after we recorded 'u,' I went home and wrote the song '5:55am.' While the album had already been in the works for months, the TPAB sessions were shaping how I perceived music, how I wrote music, and how I produced music -- that's where this song came from."

Two years later, Turchin has arrived with a rich album of lush soul and orchestral swells of lysergic wanderlust. His band, which includes Terrace Martin (whose recent Grammy® nominated album, Velvet Portraits, Turchin was heavily involved in, playing tenor and baritone sax and working on the administrative side also) as well as vocalists Rose Gold and Kate Faust, is a tight ensemble, not overwhelmed by guests but instead performed mostly by Turchin. That's not to say that he didn't get some other highly regarded friends such as rapper Javier Starks, trumpeter Josef Leimberg, electric guitarist Marlon Williams, and others join the project.

"The album is full of reoccurring themes, both musically and lyrically," he says. "Musically, the album is chock full of Easter eggs, secret passages, hidden tunnels and other fun secrets. Melodies come and go all over."

The hip-hop funk essay "My Mind is Moving So Crazy" features rapper Brandon Ashe and Snarky Puppy drummer Robert "Sput" Searight, while a deconstructed and soothing version of this appears again later as an instrumental interlude on "AE."

"Like a Ghost," shrouded in an analog crackle, is the more subdued approach to "Coast to Coast," a track which features Turchin's voice layered over Gold's singing on top of a warm bed of saxophones. The tune is the soundtrack for a coin-op racecar, wet pavement flickering by in a haze of determination, the score incrementally rising higher and higher. "Vanished into thin air like a ghost, I hit the road when coast to coast" Turchin sings over the simmering ensemble. "Gold Rush" is a classic, West Coast laid back groove co-produced by Martin. "This track is the melting pot of some of my favorite styles," Turchin explains. "It has complex jazz chords, beautiful swirling harmonies, classic Mini Moog funk synth lines and Terrace's West Coast 808 to pull it all together."

"Everything is very intertwined. It's an album for people who like to listen and catch the secrets. My voice is on every track -- background voices, percussive voices, singing. It was important for me to step away from the saxophone become a producer and songwriter."

The album opens with the title track, a soaring swell of horns, including trombonist JP Floyd. It is a warm welcome, full of promise and mystery. It is a preparation for conquest while album closer "Memories" is the culmination of Turchin's journey. Ashe returns with a smooth, auto-tuned purr before a swarm of horns and synths swirl in, overtaking the track with a tense free-jazz climax. 

The saxophonist/producer collaborated with his road-trip partner, sculptor John Souter, on the cover art. Turchin wrestled with how to portray destiny when he remembered a bouquet of fake flowers his father hastily compiled for his mother when he was a child. A bouquet that still sits in his family's home. "Destiny is eternal. Destiny is a still life. A flower is a moment in time, enjoy it while you can. A flower is beautiful and living. You can appreciate it, smell it and move on but a silk flower is eternal. It can't die. It is a still life too. The fake flower is destiny." From there, the two worked together on the sculpture that graces the album's cover - created in one day, one drop at a time,

Apart from his work with Souter, Turchin teamed up with painter Jackie Stanton to create a painting for each major track on the album -- she also constructed a much larger painting while Turchin and Souter worked on the sculpture, replicating their creation -- expanding on the idea of the silk flower and the dreams that await those willing to take a chance. "I am a musician and my specialty is in music however I can't be held within just music. I'm interested in mixed media, cross-boundary ideas. This is not just an album of music. In my mind, this is a destination where all different forms of art meet."

Clearly, Turchin has no regrets about his decision to head west. He has found a welcoming community and they have helped to nurture his unique voice amid the clamor. He is possessed by the spirits of soul, rock, funk, jazz and hip-hop in a city that embraces all of those sounds.

"Where else can you drive from the beach to the mountains during a day?" he asks. "I feel like anything is possible here. I feel like there is a time-space continuum that exists nowhere else in the world. In LA, anything can happen in any amount of time. People get old quickly, they can stay young forever. That's an exciting feeling."  

Adam Turchin · Manifest Destiny
Ropeadope Records  ·  Release Date: April 28, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017


On March 17th, 2017 Tedeschi Trucks Band will release their second live album and first ever concert film, 'Live From The Fox Oakland' on Fantasy Records. Led by the husband-and-wife duo of guitar master Derek Trucks and singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, the 12-piece ensemble's breathtaking live show is captured here over 15 blistering tracks. The film also features extensive behind the scenes footage, including Derek’s recent visit to Marc Maron’s garage for the WTF! Podcast (, and an interview with Derek and Susan conducted by Rolling Stone critic David Fricke for SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Fricke also penned liner notes for the release).

Filmed and recorded in a single night, September 9th, 2016, at Oakland, CA’s gorgeous Fox Theater, the concert film and audio were mixed using a vintage Neve console to achieve an exquisitely immersive sound experience, and mastering guru Bob Ludwig added his craft to the full 5.1 surround sound mix and album audio. The film was produced and directed by Jesse Lauter (Bob Dylan In The 80s: Volume One) and Grant James (Father John Misty) with Trucks continuing in his role as producer on all music elements. 'Live From The Fox Oakland' will be released in multiple formats including vinyl, DVD and Blu-ray. The collection includes cuts from Tedeschi Trucks Band’s 2016 album ‘Let Me Get By’ as well as TTB’s own interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire” and Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Pity the Fool,” two songs which feature the full range and power of Tedeschi’s vocals. On Derek and the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing” it’s Trucks’ guitar work that grabs the spotlight for a stunning extended solo. Watch the full 10-minute powerhouse performance here: In another memorable segment, sarod master Alam Khan joins TTB onstage for the first time on their original song “These Walls.” This genre-defying moment reveals TTB’s classical Indian influences and proves the 12-piece ensemble can drop their sound down to a whisper when it serves the song.

For a band that spends hundreds of days on the road a year, it was important to choose the right time for their second live album. As Trucks explains, “we’ve been wanting to properly document the progress of this band for a while and it really felt like we were hitting our stride and firing on all cylinders last fall.” Tedeschi adds, “it was special capturing the live performance from Oakland. The audience was great and the band played with passion. I am thankful we captured the band at this moment in time.”

Trucks and Tedeschi’s full commitment to making the best sounding live recording possible was evident from start to finish. “Our engineers Bobby Tis and Brian Speiser have been tweaking our recording setup on the road over the last year so we can really capture the sound of being in the room,” says Trucks. “The three of us spent countless hours in our studio after the recording to bring the tracks to life and make sure you can hear all the energy and nuances, which isn’t easy with a 12 piece band. We put a lot of work in to make sure the mixing/mastering was a notch above and I think our fans and music deserve the extra effort.”

Tedeschi Trucks Band will kick off a string of tour dates in February, including three consecutive nights at both Washington DC’s Warner Theater and Nashville’s storied Ryman Auditorium. The three night stands continue in June with a run at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. On July 1 they will launch their third annual Wheels of Soul tour, this year featuring like-minded roots-rockers The Wood Brothers and bonafide rock legends Hot Tuna. All tour dates for this burgeoning summer tradition are listed below.

‘Live From The Fox Oakland’ follows TTB’s 2016 studio album ‘Let Me Get By,’ (Fantasy) which earned praise from Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press, who called it "one of the great records of the year,” and opened at #15 on the Billboard 200, the group’s third album in a row to debut in the Top 20.

Album Track List
 1. Don't Know What It Means
 2. Keep On Growing
 3. Bird On The Wire
 4. Within You, Without You
 5. Just As Strange
 6. Crying Over You
 7. These Walls (featuring Alam Khan)
 8. Anyhow
 9. Right On Time
 10. Leavin' Trunk
 11. Don't Drift Away
 12. I Want More (Soul Sacrifice outro)
 13. I Pity The Fool
 14. Ali
 15. Let Me Get By

Film Track List
 Don’t Know What It Means
 Keep On Growing
 Bird On The Wire
 Within You, Without You
 Just As Strange
 Crying Over You
 Color Of The Blues
 These Walls (featuring Alam Khan)
 Leavin’ Trunk
 I Pity The Fool
 I Want More (Soul Sacrifice outro)
 Let Me Get By
 You Ain’t Going Nowhere

Tour Dates

Feb 23 – Washington, DC – Warner Theater +
 Feb 24 – Washington, DC – Warner Theater
 Feb 25 – Washington, DC – Warner Theater
 Feb 28 – Charleston, WV – Charleston Municipal Auditorium ^
 Mar 2 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium ^
 Mar 3 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
 Mar 4 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
 Mar 17 – Munich, DEU – TonHalle Munchen
 Mar 18 – Zurich, CHE – Kongresshaus Zurich
 Mar 19 – Milano, ITA – Alcatraz
 Mar 22 – Koln, DEU – E-Werk
 Mar 24 – Berlin, DEU – Tempodrom
 Mar 25 – Nurnberg, DEU – Bluesdays
 Mar 26 – Karlsruhe, DEU – Tollhaus
 Mar 30 – Brussels, BEL – Cirque Royal
 Mar 31 – Amsterdam, NLD – Heineken Music Hall
 Apr 3 – Frankfurt, DEU – Batschkapp
 Apr 4 – Tuttlingen, DEU – Stadthalle
 Apr 5 – Stuttgart, DEU – Longhorn oder Theaterhaus
 Apr 7 – Copenhagen, DNK – Amagar Bio
 Apr 8 – Randers, DNK – Vaerket
 May 27 – Jacksonville, FL – Daily’s Place Amphitheater
 May 28 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
 June 8 – Philadelphia, PA – Merriam Theater
 June 9 – Philadelphia, PA – Merriam Theater
 June 10 – Philadelphia, PA – Merriam Theater

Wheels of Soul Tour (ft. The Wood Brothers & Hot Tuna)

July 1 - Gilford, NH - Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion *
 July 2 - Essex, VT (Burlington) - Midway Lawn at Champlain Valley Exposition *
 July 3 - Saratoga, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center *
 July 5 - Vienna, VA (DC) -Wolf Trap *
 July 8 - Rochester, NY - Highland Bowl *
 July 9 - Simsbury, CT - Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center *
 July 12 - Virginia Beach, VA - Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater *%
 July 14 - Raleigh, NC - Red Hat Amphitheater *%
 July 15 - Atlanta, GA - Fox Theatre *
 July 16 - Charlotte, NC - Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre *%
 July 19 - Indianapolis, IN - Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn *
 July 21 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center *
 July 22 - Huber Heights, OH (Dayton) - Rose Music Center *
 July 23 - Rochester, MI (Detroit) - Meadow Brook Amphitheatre *
 July 25 - Rogers, AR - Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion *
 July 27 - Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Casino *
 July 29 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre *
 July 30 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre *

+with Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett (of Little Feat)
^with Jorma Kaukonen
* with The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna



Two great Ann Margret soundtracks back to back on a single CD! The Swinger is Ann-Margret at her grooviest – singing the super-groovy theme from The Swinger – perhaps her greatest film appearance ever! There's a mod bounce to the album that goes way way beyond any of Ann's other albums of the period – thanks to arrangements from Marty Paich, Quincy Jones, and Johnny Williams – all of whom put a nice sort of lilt in the backings, and manage to capture Ann at her sexiest. The title tune "The Swinger" is worth the price of entry itself – as it's a catchy, guitar-twanging number delivered in an incredibly breathy mode – supported by 2 great instrumentals from the film as well, "Swinger's Holiday" and "Kelly's Dance". But even on more conventional numbers, Ann's got a great sound here – bringing whole new sexy life to tracks that include "I Wanna Be Loved", "By Myself", "I Just Want To Make Love To You", "More", and "Cute". Pleasure Seekers is a dreamy little soundtrack from Ann-Margret! The record features 4 unique vocal numbers by Ann – including "Madrid/The Pleasure Seekers", "Next Time", Something To Think About", and "Everything Makes Music When You're In Love" – plus instrumental tunes by Lionel Newman. Newman's work is partially snoozy, as it can be when he's scoring a more dramatic film – but there are some nicer groovy bits that really fit the mood of this 60 sex comedy. Nice numbers include the Latinized tracks "Romantic Bossa Nova", "Pleasure Seekers Bossa Nova", and "Zig A Sig A Ding Boom Bah".  ~ Dusty Groove


Sublime spiritual sounds from reedman Chip Wickham – part of the new revival of soulful 70s modes that we see in the music of Nat Birchall and Matthew Halsall! Chip lists both of these musicians as key influence in the notes, and we can definitely hear that in the music, too – which is a mix of modal groovers and more spacious numbers that blossom with Strata East-like energy – all handled by a great quartet that features Chip on both flute and tenor, plus Gabriel Casanova on piano, David Salvador on bass, and Antonio Pax on both drums and vibes. The music also has some hip European echoes – with styles that recall older work by Harold McNair on the flute numbers, or maybe the best of the Saba/MPS acoustic years. Easily the most righteous album ever issued by the Lovemonk label – with titles that include "Sling Shot", "Red Planet", "The Detour", "La Sombra", "Pushed Too Far", and "La Leyenda Del Tiempo".  ~ Dusty Groove


Fantastic funky work from Jungle Fire – a group we've heard before, but who never seemed to blow us away this much! In a moment when so many other groups are grabbing an Afro Funk sort of vibe, these guys hit a space that's almost completely their own – more Latin America, taken across the Atlantic – then maybe back to LA for a bit of Chicano funk in the grooves! The blend is completely wonderful – some moments feel like outtakes from the sessions for the best sessions by War, others feel like some lost wax you might find digging in a Colombian record store, and still others are a sound that's completely the group's own. Basslines are nice and heavy throughout – and titles include "Cumbia De Sal", "Callejero", "Efori", "NUSAU", "Lamento Momposino", "Mofongo", and "La Kossa".  ~ Dusty Groove 

Béla Fleck Juno Concerto with the Colorado Symphony, Conducted by Jose Luiz Gomez, also Featuring Brooklyn Rider

Béla Fleck is often considered the world’s premier banjo player.  The 15-time Grammy winner has earned awards in Jazz, World Music, Classical, Folk, Bluegrass, Pop Instrumental, Gospel and more, and has been nominated in more categories than any instrumentalist in Grammy history. 

On March 3, 2017, Fleck will release Juno Concerto (Rounder Records), a concerto for banjo and orchestra, recorded in March, 2016 with the Colorado Symphony, conducted by Jose Luiz Gomez.   The album also features two pieces for banjo and string quartet, performed with Brooklyn Rider.

Named for his son Juno, “every note of the concerto is colored by the experience of being a new father, and how that has changed what is important to me as a person, as well as what I wish to express through music,” says Fleck, who became a father for the first time at 55, with his wife, musician Abigail Washburn.   Co-commissioned by the Canton, Colorado, South Carolina, and Louisville Symphony Orchestras, Juno Concerto was composed in 2015.

Companion pieces to the Juno Concerto include “Griff” (G riff), featuring Béla with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, and the second movement of 1984’s “Quintet for Banjo and Strings.”  Recorded here for the first time in 2016, the piece was co-written with friend and mentor, Edgar Meyer and was Béla’s first foray into classical music.

“For Juno Concerto, I wanted to take what I had learned from writing and performing my first concerto and apply it here. The Impostor was written in 2011 and now that I’ve had the chance to play it over 50 times, I’ve had the chance to observe what I like and what I think could be different,” says Béla. “This time I wanted to improve my writing for the orchestra, to create more and better slow music, and for the solo parts to focus on flow and things that come naturally to the banjo, rather than attempting to do the nearly impossible, constantly.”

Béla made the classical connection in 2001 with Perpetual Motion, his critically acclaimed, two-time Grammy winning recording with John Williams, Joshua Bell, Evelyn Glennie, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and others.   In 2003, Fleck and Meyer debuted a double concerto for the Nashville Symphony which featured banjo and bass, which they co-wrote. The dynamic pair collaborated again with the Nashville Symphony in 2006 on The Melody of Rhythm, a triple concerto for banjo, bass, and tabla, this time with Indian consummate tabla virtuoso, Zakir Hussain.  All of this built up to Béla’s first stand-alone banjo concerto, The Impostor, a commission by the National Symphony which premiered in 2011, followed by the companion documentary, How to Write a Banjo Concerto.



The son of a sharecropper, blues legend John Lee Hooker was one of the very first artists to break out of that genre and become a world-wide force. He based his sound on a driving boogie beat and lyrics that sometimes seemed to come from another world. To begin the centennial celebration of Hooker’s birth year, Vee-Jay Records, a division of Concord Bicycle Music, will release WHISKEY AND WIMMEN: JOHN LEE HOOKER’S FINEST on March 31. The multi-label compilation features songs from Hooker’s Vee-Jay, Specialty, Riverside and Stax Records releases, and includes many of the bluesman’s most iconic songs. 

Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917, the man who would become known as the “King of the Boogie” was destined for blues royalty. Hooker’s 1948 single, “Boogie Chillun,” sold a million copies and set Hooker on his unstoppable path. Countless recordings followed, and a winding road through different labels and audiences. He was a huge influence on the burgeoning British Invasion in the early ‘60s, and welcomed with open arms by the rock audience around the world. Hooker is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Memphis Music Hall of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won four Grammy's. He performed with or had his music covered by music's elite, including Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana and many more. 

WHISKEY AND WIMMEN: JOHN LEE HOOKER’S FINEST is the perfect collection to honor the man. It includes many of Hooker’s most exciting and time-honored recordings, showing how an artist who started with literally nothing but his inspiration and talent was able to make such a lasting impact on music. His work for the Vee-Jay, Specialty and Riverside labels were many of the recordings his unshakeable legend is built on, and provide a sonic tour of what Hooker’s blues accomplished. Music journalist Bill Dahl contributes insightful new liner notes.

In the proud history of American music there have been a handful of blues artists who really did shape what the music became. They took the primal forces of Mississippi country blues and twisted and turned it into their very own creation. To hear how John Lee Hooker did that over the course of these 16 songs is a blood-rushing history lesson of all that he created. And to have them all on a single disc is as convincing a collection as has ever been assembled that, indeed, John Lee Hooker will remain the “King of the Boogie” forever. 

“When so much music of great importance exists, it’s thrilling to continually find ways to share that history with collections like this,” says Concord Bicycle Music’s Chief Catalog Officer Sig Sigworth. “It literally sounds like America at its most exciting, and honors someone who changed the way we hear and feel forever.”

 Track Listing:

1.Boom Boom
2.Boogie Chillun
4.I’m in the Mood
5.I Love You Honey
6.Whiskey and Wimmen
7.I Need Some Money
8.Grinder Man
9.I’m Going Upstairs
10.Big Legs, Tight Skirt
11.No More Doggin’
12.No Shoes
13.Crawlin’ Kingsnake
14.Frisco Blues
15.It Serve Me Right to Suffer
16.Time Is Marching



Moon in Paris, recorded in New York – as Japanese singer Fukumi works with some of that city's top jazz talents – including Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Behn Gillece on vibes, David Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums! The instrumental core of the album is wonderful – very much in the Alexander/Hazletine camp – and Fukumi's a hell of a singer, too – one who can put forth the lyrics at one point, then scat wordlessly with a very melodic approach – a style that sounds especially nice next to the piano and vibes! Production is wonderful – lean, clean, and just the right mode to capture the interplay between the singer and the band – and all arrangements are by Hazeltine, who also plays a bit of Fender Rhodes. Titles include Fukumi's original "Moon In Paris" – plus nice takes on "The Windmills Of Your Mind", "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life", "Devil May Care", "Once Upon A Summertime", "Sunny", "I Will Wait For You", "Yesterday When I Was Young", and "This Girl's In Love With You". (HQ – Hi Quality CD pressing!)  ~ Dusty Groove


A record with a cosmic cover, but a sound that's very down to earth – fierce deep funk, in the best Legere Records mode – played by a group who are currently one of the hardest-hitting acts on the funky label! The music's got the full-on power of Afro Funk – especially in the way that everything seems wrapped around the fast-moving rhythms on the upbeat cuts – but the sound is hardly Afro Funk at all – as these guys push things in all sorts of different grooves and currents, and also know how to throw in an offbeat or mellow rhythm when needed – which creates a great sense of freshness on the record. The lineup features alto, tenor, baritone, flute, and trumpet – plus some very strong drums and percussion, and nice use of riffing guitar. Titles include "Street Market", "Islands", "Kinshasa Strut", "Piece By Piece", "Moon", "Me & I", "Nap Xtra Long", and "Numbers".  ~ Dusty Groove


Trumpeter David Weiss never fails to give us amazing music, no matter what the setting – and here, he's working with his Point Of Departure group – an ultra-hip lineup that features Myron Waldon and JD Allen on tenor sax, each taking on different parts of the record – plus guitar, bass, and drums – as well as a bit of extra Fender Rhodes from Weiss himself! As with some of David's other projects, the music is a look back at the future of modern jazz in the late 60s and early 70s – with a spotlight on amazing compositions by artists like Wayne Shorter, Kenny Cox, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams, Charles Moore, and John McLaughlin – music that was years ahead of its time when written, and which gets even more forward-thinking treatment here by the group. Rhythms are tentative and angular at some points – really allowing for shades of color between the trumpet and tenor – and other points are bolder, and unlock some deeper righteous power in the compositions. Titles include "Sanctuary", "Noh Word", "Two Faced", "Pee Wee", "Gazelle", "The Mystic Knights Of The Sea", and "Sojourn".  ~ Dusty Groove



A jaw-dropper of a record from Mark De Clive-Lowe – much more of a jazz album than anything he's ever done before – and a set that's recorded live, too – which is also more of a change! The style here is wonderful – with Mark handling piano, keyboards, and some live effects – in a quartet that also features alto sax, bass, and drums – spinning out in territory that's a bit 70s space jazz, but also inflected with a lot more 21st Century phrasing, too. The blend is sublime – way more spiritual and spontaneous than anything Mark's ever done before – even though we've really loved most of his other music, too. It's wonderful to hear such a shift in someone we've already dug for well over a decade – and the titles are dedicated to Sun Ra, Ahmad Jamal, and Yusef Lateef – which should give you an idea of the spirit that he's going for on the record. Titles include "Evergreen", "L&H", "The Golden Lady", and "Swahililand".  ~ Dusty Groove


One of the most unusual projects we've ever heard from trumpeter Nicholas Payton – a record that's not straight jazz, or a standard exploration of some of the roots that have influenced his music – and instead a wonderfully criss-crossing combination of sounds from the African diaspora – served up here in a way that really lives up to the title! Payton plays his usual trumpet, but also delivers sounds on Fender Rhodes, organ, and even a bit of vocals – in a vibrant group that also includes more Rhodes, cello, sound effects, turntables, percussion, and even a string ensemble – interspersed with vocal snippets from Art Blakey, Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and many others! Payton's always had a sense of history in his music – but this may well be the first time he's taken that history and focused it forward – really creating something new in the process. The double-length set gives him plenty of room to express and experiment – and titles include "La Guajira", "Jazz Is A Four Letter Word", "Bamboula", "Kimathi", "Madmwazel Ayiti", "Junie's Boogie", "Jewel", "Othello", "The Egyptian Second Line", and "Call & Response".  ~ Dusty Groove


Fantastic work from a group who never fail to blow our minds – and who also seem to try out something different with each new record, yet never falter at all in their progress forward! Mostly Other People Do The Killing may have one of the longest names in jazz, but they've also got a brash approach that really lives up to the cockiness of their name – a confident step in whatever direction they want, which always leads them down the best path. This time around, they're mixing both modern and trad jazz expressions with literary inspiration from writers who include Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace – each of whom are listed as reference points for certain songs – which are based around snippets of their text, then transformed into a musical mode. The instrumentation is a very offbeat take on trad – with Jon Irabgon on tenor and sopranino sax, Steven Bernstein on trumpet and slide trumpet, Dave Taylor on bass trombone, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, Kevin Shea on drums, Ron Stabinsky on piano, and leader Moppa Elliott on bass. Titles include "Kilgore", "Hi Nella", "Honey Hole", "Bloomsberg", "Glen Riddle", "Mason & Dixon", and "Five".  ~ Dusty Groove

Therapeutic “Conversations”: Smooth soul singer Selina Albright comfortable and confident enough to “Eat Something”

While a song about the joy of packing on a few pounds and a widening booty may seem contrary to the messages bombarding the popular music and media landscapes, smooth soul singer Selina Albright’s “Eat Something” is instantly resonating with fans and radio programmers, including SiriusXM Watercolors’ Dave Koz Lounge, which will feature the song on the February 5 national broadcast. The mid-tempo adult R&B song bolstered by guitarist Kay-Ta Matsuno’s crafty touch is the lead single from Albright’s first full-length album, the very personal “Conversations,” which will be released March 17 by Golden Rays Music..       

“Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that I’ve reprioritized my life and stopped putting so much emphasis on doing and being what’s most acceptable to others, and instead focused more on appreciating and expressing who I’ve become. Getting to that place in my life inspired me to write about topics I normally wouldn’t, such as ‘Eat Something.’ I know it’s unconventional to write a song about being so happy that you gain weight from eating more, but there’s a freedom in the candor of the lyrics. There was no way I was going to change that. It was far too special,” said Albright, who selected the heartening cut as the first single based upon the immediate and rousing response she receives whenever performing the song in concert and from the fervent reaction from her “FanFamily” on social media.   

Describing the custom-tailored blend of sensual soul and sultry jazz album as “my own therapeutic diary through joy, betrayal, liberation and hope, all written without holding back,” Albright wrote the lyrics for all nine original tunes and co-produced three tracks on “Conversations.” Her subject matters are based upon intimate and probing conversations she’s had, shared as if she’s confiding in a close friend. Whether skillfully unleashing the full power and magnitude of her gravity-defying voice or harnessing her passion in a reassuring caress, Albright’s demeanor remains sunny and glowing on uplifting numbers like “Possible” and “Highest High.” Even when confronting weightier subjects head on like she does on “Wifey Anthem (You Don’t Have To Fight At Home)” and “Victim,” her inherent optimism remains present and undaunted. “Let Go” also is wrought with emotion and includes dramatic flute flourishes from multiple Grammy nominee Gerald Albright, Selina’s father. The disc’s lone cover is a stripped down, jazzy take on “If I Were A Boy” with accompaniment by contemporary jazz hit-maker Peter White on acoustic guitar and Randy Ellis (Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé) on sax. Also contributing to the date are producers Chris “Big Dog” Davis and James “JRob” Roberson as well as guitarist David P. Stevens.    

To help launch the album, Albright will perform at three record release parties: February 12 at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, California, April 6 at the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania and April 15 at The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver, Colorado. The Southern California show is already nearly sold-out. 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Albright was reared in the jazz and R&B scene, making her first appearance singing on one of her father’s albums twenty years ago. She has since sung on several of his collections, including penning lyrics and singing on the Grammy-nominated “24/7,” a 2012 duet set from the chart-topping saxophonist and Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown. Oozing stage presence, exuberance and captivating charisma, Albright has made her own name while singing on records and stages around the world, shining brightly amidst a galaxy of contemporary jazz stars and R&B legends that spans Brian Culbertson, David Benoit, Dave Koz, Kirk Whalum, David Sanborn, Boney James, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun to Chaka Khan, Will Downing, Regina Belle, The Temptations, Hugh Masakela and the late George Duke. In an entirely different setting, she injected her soul-powered energy into the electronic dance music world by collaborating with Manufactured Superstars, leading to a performance with the internationally-revered DJ duo at Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival in 2011. Recording as a solo artist, Albright placed the spirited jazz original “You and I” on the iTunes Top 100 Singles Downloads in 2010. A few years later, she topped the soul chart in the United Kingdom for four weeks with her R&B/soul single “Brighter.” Last year, Albright primed the marketplace for “Conversations” by issuing “Sun Comes Up,” which outpaced her previous singles.                  

“Conversations” contains the following songs:

“Eat Something” (featuring Kay-Ta Matsuno)
“If I Were A Boy” (featuring Randy Ellis)
“Talk To Her”
“Highest High”
“Wifey Anthem (You Don’t Have To Fight At Home)” (featuring David P. Stevens)
“Search My Name”
“Let Go” (featuring Gerald Albright)
“Uncharted Love”

"Akua's Dance," by Cellist Akua Dixon Features Guitarist Freddie Bryant, Bassist Kenny Davis, & Drummer Victor Lewis, & Special Guests Ron Carter & Russell Malone With Victor Lewis

Akua Dixon Akua's Dance With her sublime new album, Akua's Dance, cellist Akua Dixon brings her sumptuous sound to the foreground on an array of material encompassing exquisite balladry, the music's deepest roots in African and African-American culture, and instrumental pieces gleaned from Dixon's opera-in-progress. 

"The music moves forward from where I was to where I'm going," says Dixon, who notes that her last release, 2015's critically hailed album Akua Dixon, was a string-centric recording that featured her "in a sectional way," Dixon says. "On this one I'm out front with the rhythm section."

Two rhythm sections, to be precise. Seven of the 10 tracks feature her stellar working quartet with guitarist Freddie Bryant, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Victor Lewis, with Dixon performing on the baritone violin. Built by the late luthier Carleen Hutchins, "it's an instrument with the same tuning as my cello but a larger, deeper sound," Dixon says. "I wanted some more power."

On three pieces Lewis and Dixon (on cello) are joined by guitar ace Russell Malone and bass legend Ron Carter, with whom she first performed some four decades ago on Archie Shepp's The Cry of My People (1972, Impulse!). But Akua had never had a chance to work with Carter playing her music, "so I reached out to him. If you don't ask you don't receive."

Akua Dixon Quartet The album opens with Dixon's "I Dream a Dream," a piece she repurposed from her opera based on the life of 19th-century New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau. "This dance rhythm has roots in many parts of Africa and wherever Africans were taken," says Dixon. "Akua's Dance" is another tune drawn from the opera, and its terpsichorean groove was inspired by Dixon's gigs performing for dancers at African-American socials. "Dance was at the foundation of this music," she says. (Above: Dixon with Ron Carter, Russell Malone, Victor Lewis.)

If the album has an emotional centerpiece it's Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," a song that's become a bona fide standard in recent years. It's the only piece featuring Dixon's soulful vocals.

Closing the album are several pieces that embody the sacred and secular sides of African-American culture. Following a slinky version of Sade's "The Sweetest Taboo," Saturday night revelry gives way to Sunday morning revelation with a reverent rendition of the Negro spiritual "I'm Gonna Tell God All of My Troubles" that basks in the baritone violin's voluptuous lower range. "I always like to include a spiritual," Dixon says. "It's an important part of my legacy."
Born and raised in New York City, Akua Dixon grew up in a family suffused with music. She started playing with her sister, the late violinist Gayle Dixon, shortly after the cello came into her life in the 4th grade.

After graduating from the prestigious "Fame" High School of the Performing Arts, Dixon studied at the Manhattan School of Music at a time when the only track available focused on European classical music. She describes her post-graduation gig in the pit band at the Apollo Theater as an essential proving ground.

With the doors of most symphony orchestras closed to African-American musicians (to say nothing of women), Dixon found a home in the Symphony of the New World, where she experienced the Ellingtonian epiphany that led her to jazz. "I started immersing myself in jazz and spirituals, and became determined to learn the secrets of improvising," she says.

In the early 1970s, this jazz string pioneer served as director of new music for the String Reunion, a 30-piece orchestra founded by Noel Pointer, and at the same time launched her own string quartet, Quartette Indigo. A founding member of the Max Roach Double Quartet in the early 1980s, Dixon had honed her rhythmic drive backing the likes of James Brown, but learning to phrase bebop with one of the idiom's founding fathers was an invaluable experience.

"It's been a calm couple of years," says Dixon, now resettled in New York's Hudson Valley. "I'm working on The Opera of Marie Laveau, a project I started a long time ago. I recently completed the second half of the opera since moving to Rhinebeck."

Dixon, along with a quartet of singers and accompanied by her string quartet, will perform scenes from The Opera of Marie Laveau and African-American spirituals, at Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church (15 Mount Morris Park West, 122nd Street at 5th Avenue) on Sunday 2/19, 3:00pm. She is also planning a pair of CD release shows with her quartet at Trumpets, Montclair, NJ, 3/4, and Sistas' Place, Brooklyn, 3/11 (Freddie Bryant, g [replaced by Richard Padron at Sistas' Place]; Kenny Davis, b; Orion Turre, d).


"Horizonte," 3rd Album by Brazilian Pianist/Composer David Feldman, set for release March 3

With his new album Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro-based pianist David Feldman has fully come into his own as a composer artfully extending the samba jazz tradition. Feldman introduces his superlative working trio with bassist André Vasconcellos and drummer Márcio Bahia, and welcomes two very special guests to the proceedings, the legendary guitarist/composer Toninho Horta and the brilliant trombonist Raul de Souza. Horizonte will be released by Feldman's imprint, David Feldman Music, on March 10.

"This album blurs the boundaries," Feldman says. "I'm trying to incorporate song forms into this language that's called samba jazz. But my music is going somewhere else and I don't know if we have a label for it yet. It's Brazilian and it's jazz, but not straight-ahead samba jazz."

The great bossa nova vocalist Rosa Passos calls Horizonte "one of the best CDs of Brazillian instrumental music that has been released in the last 10 years." And composer Ivan Lins asserts that "hearing this music leaves in my soul a confirmation that the new generation that is making quality music today . . . will continue to keep up the beautiful reputation of Brazilian music."
While Feldman focuses on his original compositions on the new CD, he includes three tunes by other artists. Horizonte opens with a fleet version of Oscar Castro-Neves's "Chora Tua Tristeza" and closes with a rhapsodic reading of Johnny Alf's "Céu e Mar," a standard from an earlier era. Toninho Horta's gorgeous "Soccer Ball" is the album's only quintet track. "You can't have Toninho on your album and not have him playing one of his songs," says Feldman.

The leader's original pieces reflect a refined and supremely lyrical sensibility gleaned from deep listening and study of Brazilian and American masters. Among the album's numerous highlights, his "Adeus" stands out as the tune most likely to be picked up by fellow artists, with its graceful waltz feel and sumptuous melody. Horta is featured on the ballad "Tetê," and de Souza on the supple samba jazz of "Sliding Ways."

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1977, David Feldman grew up in a family immersed in European classical music. He started piano studies at four, and within a few years he began resisting the expectation that he should play only what was written on the page, preferring to elaborate on the score. Introduced to jazz by Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso," he sought out teachers versed in improvisation, eventually studying with Luiz Eça, the pianist from the pioneering Tamba Trio (and composer of the standard "The Dolphin").

Feldman eventually enrolled at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, graduating in 2002. While in New York he played with veteran masters like Slide Hampton, sat in with the Mingus Big Band, and performed with outstanding young musicians such as Matt Garrison and Eli Degibri. He forged particularly close ties with samba jazz pioneers Claudio Roditi and Duduka da Fonseca, appearing on three of the drummer's recent albums. 

"Duduka is a great influence on me," says Feldman, who continues to work with da Fonseca, performing in his trio and hiring him for trio gigs in New York. "I'd go to Duduka's place and he'd tell me stories about bossa nova. It's a style that feels very natural for me to play. Duduka introduced me to Claudio, another musician I admire a lot. They gave me this injection of samba jazz."

A semi-finalist in the Montreux Jazz Festival's 2004 Solo Piano Competition, Feldman has thrived since moving back to Rio. He's performed widely at jazz festivals at home and abroad, maintained a steady presence in New York City, and released his critically hailed debut album in 2009. Featuring bassist Sérgio Barroso and drummer Paulo Braga, O Som do Beco das Garrafas is an homage to the musicians who forged the bossa nova sound in Bottles Alley, and focuses on well- known Brazilian standards by composers like Johnny Alf, João Donato, Carlos Lyra, and Jobim. He followed up in 2014 with the solo Piano, a project that showcases his keyboard command.

"My thing is jazz and improvisation," he says. "The new album isn't about the pianism. I try to think like a movie director, always looking at the bigger picture, but I'm always thinking about bringing people into the music. I like things to sound simple, but with a lot of hidden complexity."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith presents the CREATE Festival - April 8 & 9, 2017 at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT

Visionary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith proudly announces the first-ever CREATE Festival, a two-day celebration and exploration of his inventive and unclassifiable music that will feature classic works alongside world premiere performances. Taking place April 8 & 9, 2017 at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, Connecticut, the festival will include performances by five separate ensembles as well as seminars discussing Smith’s singular compositional innovations.

“This idea has been in a dream state for many, many years,” Smith says. That long-cherished dream has been realized in part due to support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which awarded Smith the Doris Duke Artist Award in 2016. The festival offers a thrilling, rare opportunity to delve deeply into the full scope of Smith’s sui generis compositional voice and approach, which – in their category-defying range and breadth – can only be classified using Smith’s preferred term, “Creative Music.”

The eclectic weekend will include two unique trios, each featuring unusual, ingenious instrumentation; three of the composer’s most recent works for string quartet, the latest entries in an oeuvre now spanning more than five decades; a vocal oratorio; and the world premiere performance of Smith’s latest epic composition, “America’s National Parks.” In addition, both days’ performance schedules will kick off with short sets by young, unrecorded musicians (including Wadada’s 21-year-old grandson, guitarist Lamar Smith), providing an invaluable opportunity for artists in the early stages of their careers to receive guidance and exposure from the iconic composer.

Both evenings’ concert programs will culminate with the first-time live performance of the four largest movements from “America’s National Parks” by Smith’s newly-expanded Golden Quintet: Smith, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and cellist Ashley Walters. Cuneiform’s 2-CD recording of the suite last year was widely acclaimed, taking its place at or near the top of most annual lists of the year’s best releases. JazzTimes wrote that the album “unites political engagement with a soul-deep connection to nature… rich with ineffable majesty, [the suite] fully engages with tensions at the heart of the American experience.”

Saturday’s line-up commences with “Dark Lady of the Sonnets,” a piece dedicated to Billie Holiday and originally recorded in 2011, by Smith’s Mbira trio with akLaff and pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen. Mbira will then be joined by the RedKoral Quintet, a string quartet specially assembled to perform Smith’s music, and a pair of vocalists for excerpts from his “Rosa Parks Oratorio,” originally premiered during the 2016 FONT Festival of New Trumpet Music. The Oratorio, Smith says, “is not a portrait of Rosa Parks. It’s my view of how she generated her ideas, her courage and her notions about how to resolve conflict.”

The RedKoral Quintet, comprising longtime collaborators Shalini Vijayan and Mona Tian (violin), Lorenz Gamma (viola) and Ashley Walters (cello), will then premiere Smith’s “String Quartet No. 9” and the first movement of “String Quartet No. 10,” two of the latest in a book of music begun in the mid-1960s. “No. 9” features four movements dedicated to female African-American pioneers in music and the Civil Rights movement (Ma Rainey, Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks, and Angela Davis), while “No. 10” was inspired by the legendary Duke Ellington and also features pianist Anthony Davis.

Sunday’s concert begins with Smith’s 12th String Quartet, the “Pacifica,” which was premiered at the 2016 Vision Festival and was written for four violas (Stephanie Griffin, Gwen Lester, Tanya Kalmanovitch and Jason Kao Hwang) with Smith’s trumpets and electronics by New York-based sound designer Hardedge. The evening continues with a newly-composed piece for the trio New Delta Akhri, in which Smith is joined by saxophonist and flutist Dwight Andrew and vibraphonist Bobby Naughton. That trio, Smith says, continues to expand concepts inaugurated with his influential early trio, the Creative Construction Company, with fellow AACM pioneers Anthony Braxton and Leroy Jenkins. “That trio set the pace for the idea of an ensemble that didn't have a set bottom, middle and top,” he says. “It sits in a zone that’s quite unique.”

Several of the works will be supplemented by images provided by video artist Jesse Gilbert, who Smith says adds integral visual context to the aural elements. “The music and imagery don’t move in separate streams,” he says. “They’re actually intimately connected and responsible for each other, allowing us to create a narrative that transcends space and time. It’s twofold: there’s a technical and musical connection, and then there’s a psychological and historical connection that help to provide for comprehension of the work.”

In order to further that comprehension, Smith (aided again by Gilbert’s images) will offer two afternoon seminars during the weekend, one to elaborate on several of the compositions and the inspirations and approaches behind them, and one to offer insights into his symbolic musical language, Ankhrasmation. Both seminars will be accompanied by premium coffee brewed by Wadada himself and Creole gumbo prepared by Gianna Chachere, executive director and founder of New Orleans arts organization The New Quorum.

Smith chose New Haven’s Firehouse 12 as the ideal venue for the CREATE Festival, calling it “almost a perfect place to play. The size is intimate enough that everybody in the space will feel that they’re part of the performance and can have a clear, engaged audio and visual experience. It’s a strong center for music in Connecticut.”

As with every performance, Smith sees the overall festival as a work in itself, which he calls “Kosmic Music: A Sonic Spectrum of Crystallized Rhythm: Pure – In Eight Parts with Five Ensembles.” In the end, Smith hopes that audiences who attend the festival will come away “with a deeper understanding of how I make my art. I expect that they’ll be more informed about what my music is and therefore they can create a deeper level of appreciation for what I do. Ultimately I wish to create a dialogue about issues of liberty, democracy, art and the connection between human beings.”


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