Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Laurie Antonioli's "Varuna," A Duo Session with Pianist Richie Beirach, to Be Released by Origin Records

Since returning to her native Bay Area in 2006 from a period of living and working in Europe, vocalist Laurie Antonioli has concentrated her creative energies on her American Dreams band, which backed her on last year’s breakthrough Origin Records release "Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light." For her new Origin CD, "Varuna," Antonioli returns to an important chapter in her musical life by recording intimate sessions with her collaborator of more than 25 years, the esteemed pianist Richie Beirach. The CD, Antonioli’s 6th as a leader, will be released September 18.

I’ve been sitting on these sessions until the time was right,” says the vocalist of "Varuna," which was recorded in Leipzig, Germany (Beirach’s home base) nearly 10 years ago and completed in Berkeley in 2012. “We do some of Richie’s brand-new original material, with my lyrics, as well as several standards completely reimagined. The 'Resolution Suite' features three pieces improvised by Richie and me with bassist Pepe Berns. The poem on ‘Revelation’ happened in the moment, and ‘Exaltation’ was inspired by Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound.’”

Laurie is the real deal,” says Beirach, “with a rich, elegant alto voice, great intonation and phrasing, and most of all, that unteachable, unexplainable element of humanity in every note she sings. Piano and voice is very intimate, with no place to hide but incredibly free and capable of magic moments. I love working with Laurie because it’s truly like breathing from the same source of air. Especially on this CD, we are as one mind, one will, and one musical entity.”

Antonioli and Beirach’s first recorded encounter, in 1992, was a startlingly inventive date released by Nabel Records in 2005 as "The Duo Session." With Antonioli holding down a professorship at Austria’s KUG University between 2002 and 2006 and Beirach teaching in Leipzig, they performed regularly in top clubs and concert halls around Europe. The prolific Beirach gave Antonioli his latest original tunes so she could write lyrics to them, an activity that has formed the backbone of their creative partnership. “Writing lyrics to Richie’s music feels like an extension of our conversations,” says the vocalist. “And knowing what he had in mind often informs the storyline.” "Varuna" features three of these songs: the hauntingly cinematic “Inside My Dreams”; the sensuous ballad “My Love”; and the gently flowing title track, which establishes a shimmering feel that pervades the entire album.

Varuna, the Vedic god who lives in celestial waters, is also the name of the recently discovered dwarf planet near Pluto. The album’s themes of time and space are echoed throughout—longing for home in “Over the Rainbow,” the night wind in “Summer Night,” the unseen presence of a loved one in “You’re an Angel Now” (Laurie’s lyrics to John Patitucci’s music).

Early on in her career, Laurie Antonioli was a protégée of Joe Henderson, Mark Murphy, and Pony Poindexter, who recruited the 22-year-old singer for an extensive European tour that turned into an eight-month sojourn in 1980.

Following the release of her 1985 recording debut Soul Eyes, a duo album with George Cables, Antonioli was one of the Bay Area’s most visible singers, booked at leading venues and festivals with her own band, performing regularly with Bobby McFerrin, and sitting in with luminaries like Tete Montoliu, Jon Hendricks, and Cedar Walton at Keystone Korner.

Laurie’s second album, 2004’s "Foreign Affair," is a bracing blend of post-bop jazz and Balkan music created with players from Serbia, Albania, Germany, and the U.S. Her fourth, "American Dreams" (2010), was inspired by feelings that arose during her years abroad and features a number of her collaborations with Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer.

Her brilliant 2014 Joni Mitchell tribute, "Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light," appeared on numerous best-album-of-the-year lists and received particularly cherished accolades from Ms. Mitchell herself, who invited Antonioli to perform at SFJAZZ’s May 2015 gala celebration in Mitchell’s honor (alongside Kris Kristofferson, Kurt Elling, and Patti Austin, among others).

For the last nine years Antonioli has served as the Chair of the Vocal Program at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory (formerly the Jazzschool). She created a unique eight-semester curriculum for the Vocal Department’s degree program as well as overseeing hundreds of artists in workshops and concerts she organizes. “I enjoy the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned and implement a program that is both organic and academically sound. That said, artistry is elusive and not necessarily something that can be taught, which is a very provocative challenge. I’m motivated to contribute what I can to preserve this delicate, complex, and soulful art form.”

Laurie Antonioli and her American Dreams band will be appearing 9/6 at JoniFest in Greenville, SC; 10/10 at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley; and 11/20 at the Unitarian Church in Berkeley, before entering Fantasy Studios 12/14 to record their next album. Antonioli and Beirach are planning a European tour, with dates to be announced, in April 2016.

Tony Bennett and Jazz Pianist Bill Charlap Team Up for The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern

RPM/Columbia Records is proud to announce the release of The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern, a new album from American musical legend Tony Bennett and acclaimed jazz pianist Bill Charlap, arriving Friday, September 25, 2015. The album is available for pre-order beginning today at at and iTunes at

Following the enormous success of his #1, Grammy-Award winning album with Lady Gaga, Cheek To Cheek, this new release continues the classic series of Tony Bennett album releases celebrating the essentials of the Great American Songbook. The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern is an appreciation of the genius of Jerome David Kern (1885-1945), one of the 20th century's most important American composers of musical theater and popular music.

Tony Bennett is the only artist to successfully bridge the worlds of pop music and jazz on an international scale for over 60 years. The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern become parts of a timeless legacy of recordings that Bennett has done throughout his career that have embraced both genres, in particular the revered piano jazz albums that he recorded with the late Bill Evans in 1975 and 1977. Tony has become synonymous with the pop/jazz connection and in recent years has been a mentor to contemporary artists such as Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse in encouraging them to embrace jazz music. With his 90th birthday less than a year away, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern defines what makes Tony Bennett unique in the pantheon of great singers and is a testament to the legacy that he continues to create as a recording artist and influence in the music industry.

Over the course of his career, Kern composed more than 700 songs, creating musical elements used in more than 100 stage works, collaborating with the greatest lyricists and librettists of the era including P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, E.Y. Harburg and many others on a seemingly limitless repertoire of classic songs including "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Long Ago and Far Away" and many more.

New York native Jerome Kern was a major force on Broadway and in Hollywood musicals in a career that spanned more than four decades. He expanded on earlier musical theater traditions, from vaudeville to operetta, to embrace new dance rhythms, syncopation and jazz progressions and helped invent the modern musical template. While many of his Broadway musicals and Hollywood musical films were contemporary smash hits, Kern is perhaps best remembered today through revivals of "Show Boat," one of his signature achievements.

In his liner notes for The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern, music historian Will Friedwald describes Kern as "...the key link between the great music of historical and contemporary classics, a direct connection between Brahms and Charlie Parker....a key architect of a uniquely American art form that would eventually take shape as musical of the founding fathers of a term that Tony Bennett later coined himself, 'the Great American Songbook.'" Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for The Wall Street Journal, worked with Tony Bennett on Tony's "The Good Life" memoir, and is author of eight books including the award-winning "A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers," "Sinatra! The Song Is You," "Stardust Melodies," and "Jazz Singing."

"The idea of a Kern Songbook project was Tony's," writes Will Friedwald, "thereby placing Kern on the very short list of canonical composers (Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and Cy Coleman) who have been the beneficiaries of an entire album by Bennett. It was also Bennett's idea to create the album in collaboration with the remarkable Bill Charlap....who can also take a great song we all know by heart and make us feel like we've never heard it before."

Playing alongside Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap on The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern are pianist Renee Rosnes (on the piano duet pieces), Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). Unrelated, though sharing the same last name, Peter and Kenny have been performing with Bill Charlap for nearly two decades and pianist Renee Rosnes has been Charlap's life partner for close to 10 years.

With more than 700 Jerome Kern compositions to choose from, the set list for The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern is a distillation of essential highlights from a boundless catalog. With these interpretations of some of Jerome Kern's finest songs, Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap offer a definitive introduction to Kern's music while providing a deep understanding of the abiding and universal qualities of these songs.


Vocals: Tony Bennett
Pianos: Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes
Bass: Peter Washington
Drums: Kenny Washington

Arranged by Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap

Tracks in Alphabetical Order (14 total)
ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE (single piano)
I WON'T DANCE (trio)
LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY (piano duet)
MAKE BELIEVE (single piano)
THE SONG IS YOU (piano duet)

*Single piano is Bill Charlap
*Piano duet is Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes

Tony Bennett is an artist who moves the hearts and touches the souls of audiences. He's not just the singer's singer but also an international treasure honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award, which aptly describes the scope of his accomplishments.

The son of a grocer and Italian-born immigrant, Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born on August 3, 1926, in the Astoria section of Queens, New York. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he nurtured his dual passions, singing and painting. His boyhood idols Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole were big influences on Bennett's easy, natural singing style. Tony sang while waiting tables as a teenager then performed with military bands throughout his overseas Army duty during World War II. After the war, the GI Bill enabled him to study vocal technique at the American Theatre Wing School.

With worldwide record sales in the millions, Tony has received eighteen Grammy Awards including the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The MTV generation took to Tony Bennett during his appearance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the 1993 MTV Video Awards. He appeared on MTV Unplugged and the recording of the same name earned him the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. "Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap," observed The New York Times, "he has demolished it. He has connected with a younger crowd weaned on rock. And there have been no compromises."

His initial fame came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950s, including such chart-toppers as "Because of You," "Rags To Riches" and a cover of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart." He has placed two-dozen songs in the Top 40, including "I Wanna Be Around," "The Good Life," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" and his signature hit, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." One of only a few artists to have albums chart in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and the new millennium, he's introduced multitudes of songs into the Great American Songbook that have become pop music standards. Upon the release of his boxed set collection, TONY BENNETT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, the New York Times commented, "we aren't likely to see a recording career like this again." Bennett made music history when he became the oldest artist at the age of 86 to achieve a #1 record on the Billboard charts with his DUETS II CD. He broke that record at the age of 88 when his collaborative album with Lady Gaga, CHEEK TO CHEEK, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Album charts. The album went on to win a Grammy Award and fostered a sold-out and critically acclaim world-wide concert tour. Tony Bennett is a Kennedy Center Honoree and an NEA Jazz Master, and a 18-time Grammy Winner. Tony has authored four books, his official biography, two books devoted to his artwork, and the latest New York Times Bestseller, Life Is A Gift.

Tony is a dedicated painter whose interest in art began as a child. He continues to paint daily, even while touring. He has exhibited work around the world, and three of his original paintings are part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Throughout his career, Tony Bennett has always put his heart and time into humanitarian concerns. He's raised millions for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. His original paintings each year grace the cover of the American Cancer Society's holiday greeting card. He received Martin Luther King Center's  "Salute to Greatness Award" for his efforts to fight discrimination, having marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965. The United Nations presented him with their 2007 Humanitarian Award.

In honor of his great friend and staunchest supporter, Tony established the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, which opened as a New York City public high school, offering an extensive arts curriculum, in September of 2001. In 2009, a permanent site for the school opened in Bennett's hometown of Astoria, Queens. With his wife Susan, they founded Exploring the Arts, which supports the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and provides support to arts education in public schools.

One of the world's premier jazz pianists, Bill Charlap has performed with many leading artists of our time, ranging from Phil Woods and Tony Bennett to Gerry Mulligan and Wynton Marsalis. He is known for his interpretations of American popular songs and has recorded albums featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Duke Ellington.

The Bill Charlap Trio was formed in 1997 with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, and is now recognized as one of the leading groups in jazz. The trio has received two Grammy Award nominations: for Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein, and for The Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard, both on the Blue Note label. Mr. Charlap now records for the Impulse! record label, and his new trio recording, Notes From New York, will be released in March of 2016.  The Bill Charlap Trio tours all over the world, and their New York engagements include regular appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Village Vanguard.

This summer Bill Charlap celebrated his 11th year as Artistic Director of 92nd Street Y's Jazz in July summer festival. He has also produced concerts for Jazz at Lincoln Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), the JVC Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl.

Mr. Charlap has been newly appointed Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University, in Wayne, New Jersey. Founded in 1973, the program is one of the longest running and most respected jazz programs in the country, and Mr. Charlap will be the fifth director of the program, following distinguished musicians Thad Jones, Rufus Reid, James Williams and Mulgrew Miller.

Born in New York City, Mr. Charlap began playing the piano at age three. His father was Broadway composer Moose Charlap, whose credits include Peter Pan, and his mother is singer Sandy Stewart, who toured with Benny Goodman, appeared on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows and earned a Grammy Award nomination for her recording of "My Coloring Book."

Mr. Charlap is married to renowned jazz pianist Renee Rosnes, The couple released their highly acclaimed two-piano album Double Portrait on Blue Note in 2010. Mr. Charlap's website is

Photo Credit: Kelsey Bennett Music Legend Tony Bennett and Jazz Pianist Bill Charlap Record The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern

Legacy Recordings Acquires Catalog of Music Legend Van Morrison, Spanning More than 50 Years of Music Most Complete Van Morrison Archive Ever and Compilations, including Van's Solo Recordings from 1971-Present and Early Work with Seminal '60s Rock Band Them

Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, has acquired the rights to the most complete discography of contemporary music legend Van Morrison ever assembled under one label imprint.

The Van Morrison musical acquisition spans more than 50 years of music, encompassing some 50 album, video and compilation titles from 1964 to the present. The new Legacy Van Morrison archive includes all of Morrison's solo works from 1971 to the present as well as the recordings made with the groundbreaking rock band Them from 1964 through 1966.

33 Van Morrison album titles will be made available as digital releases and through all streaming services beginning Friday, August 28.

That same day, Friday, August 28, Legacy Recordings will release the Essential Van Morrison, a 37-track career-spanning anthology, available digitally and as a 2CD physical album.

Later this year, Van Morrison's early recordings as the singer, frontman and principal songwriter for the seminal band Them will be available on Legacy Recordings.

In the upcoming months, Legacy will launch the label's ongoing Van Morrison library release project with new compilations, deluxe Legacy Editions of classic album titles and a digital rollout of the full Van Morrison catalog.

Most of the Van Morrison catalog has never been available for streaming and many titles have long been unavailable online through iTunes or other DSPs. Much of the catalog has been out-of-print in any format, with some titles being unavailable for as long as 15 years.

Forthcoming new Van Morrison releases on the Legacy label will include a new career-spanning single CD compilation and deluxe Legacy Editions of classic Van Morrison solo albums: Saint Dominic's Preview, It's Too Late to Stop Now, Hard Nose the Highway and Enlightenment.

A half century's worth of recordings, endlessly innovative and unique in the annals of rock and pop music, Van Morrison's discography incorporates elements of blues, jazz, folk, gospel, skiffle, pop, soul and R&B to create a sound and sensibility immediately identifiable as Van the Man's. One of the most fascinating and uncompromising artists of the rock and roll era, Van Morrison brought Northern Irish soul to the world as one of the most transcendent singers, writers and performers to ever grace a stage or recording studio.

"Van Morrison is one of the great singers, performers and musical artists in the history of recorded music," said Adam Block, President, Legacy Recordings. "He continues to touch the hearts and souls of millions with the emotional power and spiritual truths of his songs. Legacy Recordings is proud to partner with Van to help him protect and curate his astounding catalog and to be given the opportunity to bring his music to whole new generations of fans around the world."

Inspired at an early age by Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Lead Belly and Solomon Burke, the Belfast-born Morrison was just 18 when he joined the R&B combo Them in 1964. Known for spontaneous, energetic performances, Them represented the Northern Irish element of the 1960s British Invasion, breaking into the pantheon with the indelible "Gloria," presaging punk with an anthem subsequently covered by The Doors, Patti Smith and many others.

Van began his solo career with a Top 10 pop smash, the radio perennial "Brown Eyed Girl," but soon moved in compelling new directions. He boldly crossed numerous musical genres in the decades that followed, investigating country music (Pay The Devil, 2006), jazz (What's Wrong with This Picture?, 2003), New Orleans R&B (Into The Music, 1979), traditional Celtic folk (Irish Heartbeat, with The Chieftains, 1988) and straight-ahead rock (Days Like This, 1995), among many others.

Morrison's first recording for RCA Records, 2015's Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue featured collaborations with Steve Winwood, Mark Knopfler, Mavis Staples, Taj Mahal, Michael Buble and others on new versions of hidden gems from his multi-faceted discography.

Tracks from Van Morrison's discography have been consistently licensed for film and television with notable examples including"Into The Mystic" in the film Patch Adams, "Days Like This" in As Good As It Gets and Them's "Gloria" in The Outsiders.

Legacy Recording's new Van Morrison deal covers studio and live recordings released from 1971 to the present, as well as all his recordings with Them. Combined with Morrison's solo debut Blowin' Your Mind, which features "Brown Eyed Girl," Legacy's holdings encompass the largest Van Morrison musical archive ever assembled.

Van Morrison has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1993) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2003) and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010.

Winner of a BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music (1994), Van Morrison holds six Grammy Awards (1996-2007) and an Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement (1995).

Morrison has been named one of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time (2004, #42), 100 Greatest Singers of All Time (2008, #24) and 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time (2015, #22). Van the Man has two albums on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and four songs--including "Brown Eyed Girl" (#109) and "Gloria" (with Them) (#208)--on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

An internationally successful artist with chart-topping hits on both sides of the Atlantic, Van Morrison has six gold and three platinum/multiplatinum certifications from the Recording Industry Association of America.  In the UK alone, Van has charted with more than 20 Top 20 albums, including an astounding 13 titles placed in the Top 10.

On Friday, June 12, 2015, Van Morrison was awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II during her annual Birthday Honours celebration. Newly-titled Sir George Ivan Morrison, the artist received the United Kingdom's highest individual honor for his "services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland."

"Throughout my career I have always preferred to let my music speak for me, and it is a huge honor to now have that body of work recognized in this way," said Van Morrison in a statement given in response to the news, reported the BBC.

On June 18, Morrison received the Johnny Mercer Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala in New York City.

Van Morrison will celebrate his 70th birthday on August 31, 2015 with "Van Morrison: Live on Cyprus Avenue," two concert performances serving as part of the closing event of the Belfast EastSide Arts Festival 2015.

Van Morrison Material included under Legacy Recordings Auspices

The Angry Young Them / Them (1965)
Them Again (1966)
Them featuring Van Morrison (compilation, 1972)
The Story of Them featuring Van Morrison (compilation, 1997)

Van Morrison
Available Digitally and Streaming on Friday, August 28

St. Dominic's Preview (1972)
Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
It's Too Late to Stop Now (Live) (1974)
Veedon Fleece (1974)
A Period of Transition (1977)
Wavelength (1978)
Into the Music (1979)
Common One (1980)
Beautiful Vision (1982)
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
Live at the Grand Opera House, Belfast (Live) (1984)
A Sense of Wonder (1984)
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1984)
Poetic Champions Compose (1987)
Irish Heartbeat (w/the Chieftains) (1988)
Avalon Sunset (1989)
Enlightenment (1990)
Hymns to the Silence (1991)
Too Long in Exile (1993)
A Night in San Francisco (Live) (1994)
Days Like This (1995)
How Long Has This Been Going On? (1995)
Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
The Healing Game (1997)
The Philosopher's Stone (2CD outtakes compilation, 1998)
Back on Top (1999)
The Skiffle Sessions: Live in Belfast (Live) (2000)
Down the Road (2002)
What's Wrong with This Picture? (2003)
Magic Time (2005)
Pay the Devil (2006)
Keep it Simple (2008)
Astral Weeks "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" (Live) (2009)

All albums credited to Exile Productions, Ltd. under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment.



Over the past few years, Vintage Trouble have wowed audiences across the globe by opening for The Rolling Stones in London's Hyde Park, touring with legends like The Who and AC/DC, and playing sold-out headline shows worldwide. Now, on their first album for Blue Note Records, the Los Angeles-based foursome singer Ty Taylor, guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill, and drummer Richard Danielson channel the vitality and passion of their live show into a fresh and urgent take on guitar-powered rhythm & blues. Produced by Blue Note president and three-time Grammy Award-winner Don Was, 1 Hopeful Rd. finds Vintage Trouble building off the groove-fueled sound that Yahoo! once painted as ''James Brown singing lead for Led Zeppelin'' and blending blues, soul, and riff-heavy rock & roll with joyfully gritty abandon. As heard on lead single ''Run Like the River,'' 1 Hopeful Rd. matches Vintage Trouble s emotional intensity with a raw yet sophisticated musicianship that's prompted the New York Times to name the band modern-day answer to Otis Redding and BBC Radio 6 to anoint them ''the heirs of rhythm and blues.'' ~ Concord Music


The deepest work yet from Foreign Exchange – and as hard as it is for us to believe, a record that unofficially kicks off the second decade of the one-time transatlantic partnership of Nicolay and Phonte – which has evolved into a bonafide indie soul supergroup with Zo!, Tamisha Waden and Carmen Rodgers! Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey is as full of life as anything we've heard from them, and honestly, a record we'll be able to keep coming back to for years. On the production front, Nicolay has found a way to pay homage to the past half century of breezy soul and R&B, club grooves, bossa and more, and distill it all into a fairly tight sound that belongs to FE+. Phonte is as vocally charismatic on his cuts as ever, whether he's playing it straight, or just having a little bit of fun – like when he's affecting a British accent on "Asking For A Friend" – and the women's voices are never less than beautiful, on both the lead vocal turns and the hooks. Includes "Milk And Honey", "Work It To The Top", "Truce", "Disappear", "Sevenths And Ninths", "Asking ForA Friend", "Body", "As Fast As You Can", "Face In The Reflection" and "Until The Dawn (Milk And Honey Pt II)". ~ Dusty Groove


Great late 60s work from Marvin Gaye – a pre-What's Going On set that still shows him picking up some of the hipper, deeper themes bubbling under at Motown – a bit of the heavier bass and politics of Norman Whitfield camp, touched with some of the sweeter soul from earlier years! The mix is really great, and makes the record a key transitional one in Gaye's years at Motown – a great hint of the deeper styles to come, and proof that even in these earlier years, Marvin was still capable of sounding plenty righteous! Titles include the hit "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby", plus "That's The Way Love Is", "The End Of Our Road", "Seek & You Shall Find", "This Magic Moment", "It's A Bitter Pill To Swallow", "I Got To Get To California", and "It Don't Take Much To Keep Me". ~ Dusty Groove 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bass Icon Jeff Berlin To Launch Pledge Music Campaign For New Tribute Album To Legendary Jack Bruce

Bass icon Jeff Berlin has launched a Pledge Music Campaign for a new tribute album to legendary Jack Bruce titled “Jeff Berlin Plays Jack Bruce: Songs For A Wailer”! Jack Bruce, best known for his work with classic rock legends Cream, as well as his critically acclaimed solo work, sadly passed away in 2014. Jeff Berlin, who has been called “the greatest bass player in the world”, was a personal friend of Jack's and felt the time was right for a tribute.

Says Jeff, “Recording the music of Jack Bruce will be the most emotional recording project of my career. Jack was the greatest musical influence I ever had. As an impressionable 14 year old bass player, I was stunned by Cream, literally in awe of the music that came from them. And, in the center of the music were these strange and wonderful bass lines weaving in and out of the key, reaching for resolutions and finding them, again, and again. Jack’s playing was a living evolving improvisation. I simply never heard a bass player that had the breadth of originality like Jack had. In fact, I still haven’t!

“ 'Jeff Berlin Plays Jack Bruce: Songs for a Wailer!' isn’t a cover CD, not in the literal sense. Except for a couple of tunes from his Cream period (arranged in ways that should surprise people) most of the songs on this CD come from other periods in Jack’s musical life before and after Cream. Jack's solo career represented a multitude of musical styles, so many in fact that his career reminded me of that famous quote from Forrest Gump: You never knew what you were going to get. This recording, to me, will be a new revamp of some of those songs, some of the best music that I heard from one of the greatest musicians of the last fifty years.”

Guest performers are:
Ginger Baker on drums
Chad Smith on drums
Paul Shaffer on Hammond organ
Allan Holdsworth on guitar

Guest list is still being expanded.

Known worldwide for his innovative style, Jeff has graced bandstands and recordings with legendary players like Bill Bruford, Dennis Chambers, Neil Peart, Billy Cobham, John McLaughlin, and Allan Holdsworth, and has led bands and recorded his own CDs for nearly 30 years. He has recorded for vocalists Patti Austin and kd Lang; he has traversed the progressive rock realm with former YES members Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and is the only electric bassist to have played with jazz pianist Bill Evans. Jeff famously turned down an offer to join rockers VAN HALEN. Jeff is also hailed outside the usual musician ranks: Actor Gary Sinise (also a bassist) is one of his biggest fans, and renowned boxing trainer and ESPN commentator Teddy Atlas refers to Jeff as “the best in the business.” Jaco Pastorius considered Berlin a better soloist than he was. Geddy  Lee called Jeff “the best bass player on the planet”. Jack Bruce said that Jeff “was the greatest bass player I ever heard!” From straight ahead Jazz to Fusion to Prog-Rock, Jeff is famous for playing anything, always at the very highest level of proficiency and musicality.

“Jeff Berlin Plays Jack Bruce: Songs For A Wailer” will be co-produced with Jeff Berlin by New York based producer John McCracken. John is a gold and platinum record producer/musician/engineer with over 100 recordings produced for major and independent record labels as well as TV and film. He has worked in all genres including rock, pop, jazz and classical/opera. John is also a former EMI Music Group Executive as Head of A&R/Staff Producer for EMI Music/Blue Note Label Group. There he worked with Norah Jones, Amos Lee, Rosanne Cash, Diana Ross, Sarah Brightman, Anouska Shankar (daughter of Ravi and half sister of Norah Jones), Robert Glasper and many others. John is currently spearheading guitar legend Allan Holdsworth’s Tales from the Vault PledgeMusic campaign. He is also an acclaimed guitarist and recording engineer and brings over 35+ years of experience at all levels of music production, A&R/project management and publishing.

Audio Fidelity To Release Guitar Innovator Michael Hedges “Aerial Boundaries” on Limited Edition SACD

Marshall Blonstein's Audio Fidelity will be releasing guitar innovator Michael Hedges critically acclaimed album Aerial Boundaries on a limited edition hybrid SACD! This will be the first time that the celebrated album has been made available on the SACD format.  It is important to note the "hybrid" SACD is compatible with all standard CD players and no special audio equipment is needed to enjoy the brilliant, remastered sound of unquestionably one of the most groundbreaking albums in acoustic guitar history.

Aerial Boundaries is the record that presented Michael Hedges to the world as the ultimate acoustic guitar visionary, stretching the limits of the instrument to accommodate his uncanny musical ideas. There are moments on the record where it seems impossible that so much music is coming from one man and his guitar. The liner notes inside the SACD booklet assures the listener that the guitar is the origin for every sound heard...attacking his instrument, snapping strings, banging on the fingerboard with his right hand.

The songs on Aerial Boundaries are all beautiful and haunting and it is this emphasis on composition over technique that makes this such an important recording. Hedges' tracks feature layer upon layer of musical complexity and every performance expands the dynamic range of the instrument. Stirring, complex compositions like “Rickover's Dream,” “Spare Change,” and an ingenious instrumental take of Neil Young's “After the Gold Rush” are on full display. Hedges could be seductively quiet and suddenly explosive...slow or fast, timid or thunderous.

“There was simply no one like him,” Bonnie Raitt said of Michael Hedges following his untimely death in 1997, “a very gifted performer, arranger and composer whose music sounded like nothing that had come before it." Aerial Boundaries remains the late composer-guitarist's seminal work, and its innovations in technique, tuning, tone, and intensity remain key texts in modern acoustic circles. Hedges electronically manipulated some of the guitar sounds to an almost unrecognizable point and still managed to create music of untarnished beauty and so very rich in classical harmony.

Aerial Boundaries is also available from Audio Fidelity on a deluxe 180g high quality vinyl pressing.

1. Aerial Boundaries
2. Bensusan
3. Rickover's Dream
4. Ragamuffin
5. After the Gold Rush
6. Hot Type
7. Spare Change
8. Ménage à Trois
9. The Magic Farmer

Produced by Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges, Steven Miller 
Engineered by Steven Miller, Oliver Di Cicco, Bill Mueller, Michael Hedges
Mastered for this release by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio


The Gilad Hekselman Trio's new recording, Homes, fills you with quiet enthusiasm. You listen to it - or rather experience it as a contemplative contrast to the artist's complex identity in a globalized world: identification with his origins, the variety of places he has lived and worked, his musical models and influences, his place among family and friends, and his place within the history of his art. This recording reflects Gilad's relationships with his many homes; physical, geographic, musical and spiritual.

With this opus 5 (on JazzVillage, distributed by harmonia mundi) the six-string prince is celebrating a dozen years since his arrival in New York City, and also a decade of making music with his bandmates, double-bass player Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore. The triumvirate is featured on Gilad's Words Unspoken, Hearts Wide Open and This Just In. On these essential recordings, and now with Homes, one could find abundant evidence that these formidable musicians form the ideal trio.

Homes is a true suite in musical terms: the prelude is repeated in the finale and the twelve tracks pass through a number of diverse moods. The dominant feeling is one of great tenderness. That is no doubt the keyword for this CD - and there is a story behind it.

In 17th century Paris, the first feminist writers invented an imaginary "geography of love" map. On their wonderful "Carte du Tendre" (the Tenderness Map, a huge publishing success at the time), the heart and body were depicted as countries, emotions as rivers, various stages of love were cities, and passion, a wild sea. In the same way Homes is the intimate mapping of a young musician on the threshold of a musical zenith, who loves life and love as much as the music and instrument he plays - you feel that all of this mingles easily within this artist.

One piece, "Verona", is actually dedicated to the city of Romeo and Juliet near Venice and the mythical "home" of all lovers. Full of contrast, this piece really develops like a love affair, alternating gentleness with exaltation. It is also a fine example of the impressive cohesion of a trio establishing itself as one of the very best in jazz today.

Virtuoso Joe Martin, with his powerful, woody sound, was the pillar of the Mingus Big Band (a supreme honor he fully deserved), prior to revealing his talent as a composer on the album, "Not by Chance", recorded with Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter and Marcus Gilmore. In addition to his essential participation in this trio, he also holds the bass chair in Anat Cohen's Quartet, Mark Turner's Quartet, and is simply one of the most sought-after bassists on the NYC scene.

Marcus Gilmore is the grandson and fortunate heir of Roy Haynes, one of the last of the great historic jazz drummers - still active at 90 years of age. In both men can be found the same miraculously magical balance between cymbals and skins, as well as the same ability to shape and color music that can conjur gasps and other communiqué of delight from audiences.

But if we really want to find models for Gilad Hekselman's trio, we look at those of Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett whom Gilad listened to so much. Over the years, the fusional human and musical relationship they developed and the exceptional interplay they achieved, are precisely what make the biblically accented lament, "Eyes to See", so marvelous.

In New York jazz clubs or anywhere else in the world, bebop, three-quarters of a century after it was invented in Manhattan, remains the trial by fire for young jazz players. It's a sport: get it wrong and you risk losing face. Just listen to Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare", because when it comes to bebop, Gilad Hekselman and his friends are serious customers, as Parisian jazz-speak has it. Gilad's trio provides a joyously exhilarating version of this piece. You can just imagine the exchange of knowing glances between them: besides the fact Gilad says that Paris is one of his favorite cities, this track is a pinnacle of controlled speed and a high point on the album.

There are other very different tracks which reveal a more "psychedelic" side to Gilad's playing; Jimi Hendrix inevitably comes to mind listening to "Space" and "Cosmic Patience", together a sort of day-dreamy waltz of the cosmos, deceptively slow and quiet and which wildly take off at the end.

To those who have compared him, often wrongly, to Pat Metheny, Gilad Hekselman has a fine retort; his spare and graceful "Last Train Home" (a duo with special guest Jeff Ballard) is without a doubt the best performance as yet recorded.

Gilad Hekselman's guitar style is extremely varied, reflecting his career. We can hear him "naked", ideally sober, in "Home E Minor", a solo worthy of the classical guitar greats. This also reminds us that, for a musician, a key (in this case E minor) can in itself be a "home".

Among his musical "Homes", there is Africa. It is there in the title "KeeDee", which is the central drum used by people from southern Ghana and Togo. Like the three musketeers who were really four, Jeff Ballard comes in to wind up the trio on "KeeDee", and it ends in fireworks. Brad Mehldau's drummer (and before that drummer with Ray Charles then with Metheny) has enormous fun with Marcus Gilmore.

Brazil is there too, mixing in more discreetly. With impressive counterpoint artistry, the trio surpasses itself in an overwhelming performance of a bossa nova masterpiece, "Samba em Preludio": magical music by Baden Powell to a poem by the "Rimbaud of Rio", Vinicius de Moraes. Nobody has ever sung better of love at a distance.

Here we are, back again at the heart of the "Tenderness Map", the geography of love which definitely seems to be the theme of this CD: a universal love as expressed in the sublime "Dove Song" dedicated to the emblematic dove of peace.

Pertinently pointing out what in Gilad's music is new and interesting, critic and philosopher Michel Contat sees in it, a blessing in these times of trouble and fear: that music should express "peace and love" without sounding mawkish is probably the best way to rise above all that.

ACT - Featuring Ben Wendel, Harish Raghavan & Nate Wood - Announce the Release of Their Second Recording, ACT II

The sophomore recording from ACT, ACT II, aligns the orbits of three of the most creative forces in our vast galaxy of music, Ben Wendel (tenor saxophone, melodica, bassoon), Harish Raghavan (bass), and Nate Wood (drums). These musicians are supremely talented, that is a given. What is fascinating and gripping is the level of their creativity, and their ability to fully express their individuality while complimenting each other. Their new recording ACT II, fulfills one's need to hear imaginative, adventurous music, and also stands as a shining example of what it means to play selflessly in a trio setting (albeit one with a distinct instrumentation); they are that in tune and sympathetic to one another, and together they conjure up another winner with this recording.

Ben, Harish and Nate, long-time friends and collaborators, have known each other for quite some time, and have found themselves side by side in many other groups (most notably - Kneebody, with trumpeter/composer Shane Endsley). Collectively they have appeared with Ignacio Berroa, Chaka Khan, Greg Osby, Vijay Iyer, Wayne Krantz, Daedelus, Billy Childs, Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric Harland, Mark Turner, and numerous others. Despite this plethora of outside opportunities, Ben, Harish and Nate feel an enticing lure to perform and record as this compelling trio. Wendel explains, "we've always had a great time as a trio and this group has always felt like the no pressure/just-for-the-fun-of-it project. After we recorded our first album years ago, we always assumed we would document the group again in the future. For me, it's great to keep coming back to this group and see how things have changed over the years." With the release of ACT II, the trio moves to the head of the queue as one of the most exciting bands on the scene.

ACT II was recorded at The Pocantico Center/Rockefeller Brothers Fund, in Tarrytown, NY (a connection made possible by Rio from The Jazz Gallery in NYC). "In the dead of winter, we stayed in a beautiful home upstate and recorded/composed for three days to make this album-it was a total blast," said Wendel. "This record, along with our first, was recorded in one room with no headphones. It's a very liberating way to record music as it gives the band a natural blend, and the recording space becomes a phantom band member. It adds to the familiarity of our musical relationship, and makes it very easy to make full sounding music with just 3 people and no chordal component", said Wood. Raghavan added that, "recording this CD was a unique experience; going to a random house, not knowing what the space would sound like, writing, and arranging and recording the record in three days. It was crazy, but also inspiring, and we did every tune in one or two takes. Something about the atmosphere was comforting, or maybe it was the band. Playing with Ben and Nate is and has always been very natural. We've played together for almost a decade, and months, even years, can pass between gigs, but there's always a familiarity that's inspiring." Highlights on the recording include "Unforeseeable", originally a duet for saxophone and trumpet that was to be included in Wendel's acclaimed "Seasons Project". It sounds tailor-made for the trio, and Nate and Harish relish in the driving, up-tempo groove in five. "Yes You" "is a new tune that I've been trying a bit in Kneebody and thought would fit well in this group," explained Wendel. With "Day and Night" we find a loose adaptation of the standard "Night and Day"; a riveting departure that has just enough of the original's elements to tease the ear and move the soul.

Grammy nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel (born in Vancouver, raised in Los Angeles, and currently living in Brooklyn) has enjoyed a varied career as a performer, composer, producer and conductor. Highlights include multiple domestic and international tours with artists such as Ignacio Berroa, Tigran Hamasyan, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Snoop Dogg and the artist formerly known as Prince. Ben is a founding member of the Grammy nominated group Kneebody, currently signed with Concord Records. As a composer, he has received an ASCAP Jazz Composer Award, the 2008 and 2011 Chamber Music America "New Works Grant" and most recently was awarded the Victor Lynch-Staunton award by the Canada Council For The Arts. He also co-wrote the score for John Krasinski's 2009 adaptation of David Foster Wallace's "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men." Ben was honored to work with conductor Kent Nagano in producing a series of concerts for the Festspiel Plus in Munich, Germany. Since 2008, he has produced a multi-genre performance series at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. Recently he was appointed the head of their Jazz and Blues initiative, which will include producing and expanding performance opportunities for these genres in Los Angeles. As part of this appointment, Ben helped to create an artistic council with includes such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert and Luciana Souza. Ben's recent producer work includes the Grammy nominated album "Life Forum" for pianist Gerald Clayton on Concord Records. Ben is a recording artist with Sunnyside Records and Concord Records, with two solo albums under his belt, Simple Song (2009) and Frame (2012), a duo project with French-American pianist Dan Tepfer entitled Small Constructions (2013) and multiple Kneebody albums. A third solo album is planned for release in 2015. Ben is a former Adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at USC and a current Adjunct at the New School in NYC. Educational outreach has been a constant in his career with over 250 masterclasses at various colleges, universities, high schools and also previous work with the LA Philharmonic Artist Program. Ben had the honor of conducting a re-creation of "Bird With Strings" at Jazz At The Lincoln Center with guests Charles McPherson and Wes "Warm Daddy" Anderson.

Harish Raghavan grew up in Northbrook, Illinois. At age 8 he began studying Western and Indian percussion, and switched over to the double bass at 17. He was accepted to study double bass at the University of Southern California. Since moving to New York City he has quickly become a rising star on his instrument.

Grammy nominated Nate Wood is a drummer/multi-instrumentalist and mastering engineer based in New York City. He is a founding member of the Grammy nominated quintet Kneebody, which released their self-titled debut album in 2005 on trumpeter Dave Douglas's label, Greenleaf Music. In 2007, Kneebody released Low Electrical Worker on Colortone Media. They also completed an album of arrangements of Charles Ives compositions with singer Theo Bleckmann and released the recording 12 Songs of Charles Ives which was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Classical Crossover Album". Kneebody's latest record The Line was released on Concord Records in 2013.

In addition to Kneebody, Nate has also performed or recorded with many notable artists including Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, Dave Grohl, Brian May and Roger Taylor (Queen), Chris Squire (Yes), Elliot Easton (The Cars), Chaka Khan, Wayne Krantz, Billy Childs, Tigran Hamasyan, Donny McCaslin, Sting and many others. Nate was featured in Modern Drummer in March of 2014, and placed in the 2015 Modern Drummer Magazine reader's poll among the top 5 drummers in his category.

Along with his work as a sideman, Nate has released 3 albums of his own material, where he performed, recorded and mixed everything himself. His newest album "Another Time" was released in July 2014. Nate also masters records for artists from around the world (for an abbreviated list of credits.Nate is endorsed by Gretsch Drums, Istanbul Agop Cymbals, Promark Sticks, Remo Drumheads, Gibraltar Hardware, D'addario Strings, Aguilar Amplification and Moollon instruments.

Friday, August 14, 2015



This is one of Denmark's hardest working and most sought after bands. They have played as many as a hundred live gigs a year for the past ten years, become one of the country's hottest music exports, and have released seven albums. Now Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado (formerly the Thorbjørn Risager Band) are coming out with their eighth album, Too Many Roads. Until recently the band released its records on a variety of Danish labels, but has now signed a contract with Ruf Records. This new collaboration reflects Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado's great international potential, placing the band in the fine company of artists such as Walter Trout, Candye Kane, and Omar and the Howlers. For this latest recording, the band assembled a strong team for its recording session at the Medley Studio in Copenhagen, with Søren Andersen as engineer and Jesper Yebo Reginal in charge of mixing. This time the band has chosen to produce the album themselves. ~ Amazon


More than one jazz critic has claimed that listening to tenor saxman Eric Alexander unfettered and at length, is one of the greatest treats in jazz. This imposing improviser is reunited here with his mentor, the veteran pianist Harold Mabern and joined by another hot favorite, the legendary and amazing guitarist Pat Martino on three of the eight tracks. Add in the still stunning engineering of Rudy Van Gelder and the swing engendered by bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth and you have a formula for excellence, if ever there was one. Martino and Alexander perform together often in a variety of venues and their collaborations have produced some of the most inspired playing on disc. ~ Amazon


'A family project' is how Alex Taylor, singer-songwriter as well as John s son, labels the English pianist s latest album. A project made all the more poignant by the shocking news of John Taylor's death, in July, aged 72. And that is exactly what it is, considering that John, who wrote the music, and Alex, who wrote and sang the lyrics, are joined by Leo Taylor on drums. Oren Marshall on tuba, whose surname is not Taylor but who is most assuredly very close to the Taylor family, completes the quartet. '2081' draws inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut s short story 'Harrison Bergeron', published in 1961. John Taylor was commissioned to write the music by BBC Radio 3 for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Originally written for octet, it was then readapted for quartet. Alex Taylor explains: 'Vonnegut s story depicts a dystopian future in which everyone is equal. Nobody is allowed to be smarter, better looking or more physically able than anyone else. Those individuals who are gifted with intellect, talent and so on are made to bear handicaps '. At times, John Taylor s musical realm is reassuring and consistent with his own standards, while, at other times, it conveys the mysterious, unsettling future depicted by Vonnegut, by pursuing a hybrid sound, mingling jazz, pop and a moody soundtrack vibe. This pursuit definitely benefits from the sonic scenarios opened by Marshall s tuba, as well as the drumming style of Leo Taylor (already launched on a brilliant career on the indie-rock scene with his band The Invisible), who very often introduces modern, offbeat hypnotic rhythms here. ~ Amazon



Three-time Grammy and Emmy Award winning multi-platinum artist / producer Narada Michael Walden is releasing Billionaire On Soul Street, the first single from his upcoming full-length album Evolution! Producing and co-writing hits over the years for iconic artists such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Wynonna Judd, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, Lionel Ritchie, Lisa Fischer, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck, The Temptations, and countless others, Narada has been at the helm of hit music that spans decades. Marking his now 40th Anniversary in the music industry, Narada was recently honored by Billboard Magazine as one of the Top Ten Producers of All-Time, and now Billionaire On Soul Street has already garnered rave reviews worldwide. Narada reveals, "This song Billionaire on Soul Street means the world to me because it reflects my personal feeling of spirituality and that feeling renewed for life by having my children Kelly and Kaylah in my life and my wife Katie. Having children now at this time in my life really has touched my heart to feel like 'WOW! Look how lucky and how blessed I am by God.' So I used this slogan, cause' I feel so good, like a Billionaire on Soul Street!"


Le Bébé de Brigitte (Lost in Translation) is alto saxophonist-composer Darius Jones new album work, and the 5th installment in his expansive Man ish Boy epic. The highly acclaimed series began in 2009 with Man ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing), and shall eventually comprise nine albums. This release arrives soundly at the mid-way point with aplomb, and is performed by the Darius Jones Quartet featuring vocalist Emilie Lesbros. As ever with Jones work, the compositional palette ranges widely here. From the new blues swagger of 'Universal Translator' to the equally universal sense of great loss evoked in 'I Can t Keep From Weeping' (as aching a ballad as Jones has yet written/recorded); from the infectiously swinging & (finally) unhinged cabaret dialogue that is 'Chanteuse in Blue' to perhaps the deepest essence of the album (and platforms of intent) which are 'Two Worlds, One Soul' & 'Beneath The Skin', a pair of extended works which evolve with the utmost in careful consideration to timing and gesture by all involved. French singer-lyricist Emilie Lesbros own composition, 'Quand Vient la Nuit' (arr. by Darius Jones) closes and lyrically encapsulates the album: espousing no fear, in life, in art. ~Amazon


Kirk Knuffke chose for this his sixth leader/co-leader album somewhat special material (music that relates to spirituality and death) and executed beautifully with superb support from B-3 organ player Jamie Saft and legendary drummer Hamid Drake. The leader of this album Kirk Knuffke has been voted "Rising Star (trumpet)" of 2015 by the prestigious DownBeat Magazine's Critics Poll. Kirk moved to NYC just 10 years ago and he has firmly established as one of the most sought after cornetist/composer on the scene. Personnel: Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Jamie Saft (Hammond B3, syntheziser), Hamid Drake (drums). ~ Amazon


Mindi joins forces with blues rock veterans The Boneshakers for a September 25, 2015 release, recorded LIVE at Jazz Alley

Raw, Edgy and Inspired- 11 Originals, 2 Raucous Covers and 3 Brand New Songs Ignite a Different View of the Saxophone Fueled by Rock, Blues and Soul

In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Mindi Abair has made her mark as one of the most recognizable saxophonists in the US. You may know her as the saxophonist on American Idol, or the only saxophonist to tour with rock legends Aerosmith since 1973. You may have seen her on stage with Bruce Springsteen for a historic night at the Beacon Theater, or tuned in as she joined Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman, or caught her recent appearance at The Grand Ole Opry or as Al Pacino’s sax player in Danny Collins.

Her seven solo CDs have garnered ten #1 radio hits, six top 5 spots and two #1 spots on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz album chart. Abair received a 2014 GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, and more recently received a 2015 GRAMMY® nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo cd Wild Heart.

After Wild Heart, Abair wanted to translate its edgier rock/soul sound to the stage. She called longtime friend Randy Jacobs (Bonnie Raitt, Was (Not Was), Willie Nelson) to join her live band. Randy brought his Detroit blues/rock edge to her music.  In June, Randy’s band, The Boneshakers, was playing The Newport Beach Jazz Festival on the same bill as Mindi’s band, and she hopped on stage to “sit in” with The Boneshakers. “There was so much electricity on stage. We all felt it. The blues and rock just pulsed through me. Everyone played with complete abandon,” Abair said. “It felt like home. And most of my band was also playing with Randy’s band. It was really only about hiring longtime Boneshakers vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson (Bonnie Raitt, Was (Not Was), Lyle Lovett). So we made it official and hit the road as Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers.” Which brings us to Mindi Abair & the Boneshakers Live in Seattle, set for release September 25, 2015 on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group.

Tracked at Jazz Alley over Valentine’s Day weekend (Abair’s standing gig for a dozen years), this album captures the intent of a rock band, the grit of a blues band and enough energy to light a stadium. Fourteen sizzling tracks include eleven originals and two dramatic covers, which feature the exceptional combined skills of Mindi Abair (alto saxophone, vocals, producer), Randy Jacobs (guitar, vocals), Sweet Pea Atkinson (vocals), Rodney Lee (keyboards), Derek Frank (bass, vocals), and Third Richardson (drums, vocals).

The album opens with a bang on the throbbing “Wild Heart” featuring Mindi’s melodic saxophone. The band flows right into “Haute Sauce,” which features a driving beat and a joyous Eddie Harris vibe. On “I Can’t Lose,” Mindi adds some swagger singing “It’s my time, it’s gonna go my way,” then breaks into a screaming saxophone solo. “Ball and Chain” is a gutsy, bluesy Boneshakers classic with Sweet Pea Atkinson growling and grinding his appeal, “I never want to be your ball and chain.” And the house lights up with Sweet Pea, Mindi and the rest of the band on the uplifting heart-grabber, “Be Beautiful.” Abair also adds three new songs to the set, including her haunting original “Gone,” “Make it Happen,” a powerhouse rocker penned by Abair and icon Booker T. Jones, and an indelibly original take on George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which roars with Jacob’s fiery Hendrix-inspired rock riffs and Abair’s soaring alto work.

Mindi’s ode to stadium jazz, the anthemic “Bloom” takes off like a jet engine with Jacobs and Abair front and center. And there’s nothing but old Memphis soul when Abair and Jacobs trade vocal lines on “I’ll Be Your Home” (which featured another longtime friend, Keb’ Mo’, on her Wild Heart version.) On her funk guitar-driven song “Flirt,” Mindi struts her stuff. And Randy’s muscular funk-rock arrangement of “Cold Sweat” — which pays as much homage to BB King as it does James Brown — closes the album with raucous exuberance.

“I’ve always felt that my band is a live band first and foremost,” says Abair. “I’m happiest on stage. And The Boneshakers just brought it to a whole new level. I’ve always been a fan of Randy’s band.  We’ve been friends and have played with each other on and off for over 20 years. The marriage of me with The Boneshakers has been an infusion of blues and rock into my sound that is beyond inspiring. I’ve never made a live record, and this is why you make one — because your live show has magic, and you want to capture and share that magic.”

Abair regards Live in Seattle, which she produced, as an extension of the energy she poured into Wild Heart following the experiences that led to it, all of which reawakened her beloved rock ‘n’ roll side. (Even the Los Angeles Times noticed, labeling Abair “the Joan Jett of saxophonists” in its coverage of the January NAMM’s She Rocks Awards.) Wild Heart tapped talents including Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, rocker Gregg Allman, guitar hero Waddy Wachtel, Trombone Shorty, Keb’ Mo’, Booker T. Jones and E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.

Abair’s first inspirations came from her musician father, who towed his family on tour until she was five, and her opera-singing grandmother. Once the family settled back home in St. Petersburg, Fla., her birthplace, she began her own musical explorations, first with piano, then sax. Though even today, female sax players are treated as anomalies, she reflects, “I was never told that it was odd for a girl to play saxophone until it was way too late. What a great gift to be taught, ‘You can be anything you want. Go play any instrument you want and it’s going to be cool.’”

And if writing, recording and touring aren’t enough, Abair authored the book “How To Play Madison Square Garden – A Guide To Stage Performance” and she launched her own fine jewelry line in December of 2014. She also serves as a National Trustee for The Recording Academy, the company that puts on the GRAMMYs. “It’s been a very eye-opening and inspiring role,” she says. “What an honor to serve as a leader in the most preeminent organization of the music business. This is a group of people who give back constantly to inspire and strengthen the next generation of music makers, and they remind me daily what beautiful power we hold as creators of music.”

It helps that she’s still so inspired to push her own boundaries as a musician and writer. Abair says, “A record is supposed to be a snapshot of where you are in your life. Well, that’s what this is. It’s a band that I absolutely love playing with, and the audience is as excited as I am every night. That’s what it’s all about. As long as I can make great music and have so much fun with these guys, I’m going to do it. Life is short. Play music that makes you happy. Play with people that inspire you. I’m doing that every night. It’s just amazing.


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