Thursday, January 11, 2018

MATISYAHU ANNOUNCES SPRING 2018 FOREST OF FAITH TOUR

The GRAMMY-nominated, King without a Crown Matisyahu has announced his 2018 Forest of Faith Tour. While he wraps up the Broken Crowns Tour with Common Kings, Matisyahu continues to keep his eyes firmly on the horizon as he tours in support of his critically-acclaimed sixth studio album Undercurrent.

Matisyahu has created his own space in reggae music, developing a loyal following that has driven singles such as “One Day” and “King Without a Crown” to international recognition. His newest album, Undercurrent, was released earlier this year via Thirty Tigers and Matisyahu’s own imprint, Fallen Sparks. The album embodies a collaborative and freeform spirit as Matisyahu and his band seamlessly merge instrumental improvisation sessions with lyrics and vocals. The synergistic energy of the album is especially apparent onstage, where Matisyahu and guitarist Aaron Dugan, bassist Stu Brooks, drummer Joe Tomino and keyboardist Big Yuki bring their creative dynamic to life.

Matisyahu had this to say about the significance of his upcoming tour – “Forest of Faith means entering into the unknown of the music and creating unique musical experiences born out of the immediate here and now. This requires faith.  Faith in the musicians, the fans or listeners, faith in the process, and the innate holy quality of music made out of such a pure process. Much like the innate beauty and purity of the untouched forest. I am looking forward to starting out 2018 dancing, listening, singing, and making music together with you who allow me the opportunity in the forest of Faith tour this February and March in a town near you. Blessings and love.”

The boundary-breaking artist has been busy on tour, recently dropping a 3-part video series on the making of Undercurrent and taking time to speak to Billboard and the Huffington Post about it. He took time at his show in Austin to record LIVE AT STUBB’S VOL IV., capturing the freeform essence of his set at the historic venue.  Don’t miss Matisyahu at a city near you and stay tuned for the release of LIVE AT STUBB’S VOL. IV.

2018 Tour Dates:

2/10 – Long Beach, CA @ The Queen Mary [One Love Cali Reggae Fest]
2/11 – Long Beach, CA @ The Queen Mary [One Love Cali Reggae Fest]
2/13 – Berkeley, CA @ Cornerstone
2/14 – Redway, CA @ Mateel Community Center
2/15 – Bend, OR @ The Domino Room
2/16 – Bellingham, WA @ Wild Buffalo
2/18 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
2/21 – Spokane, WA @ The Knitting Factory
2/22 – Missoula, MT @ The Wilma
2/23 – Park City, UT @ Park City Live
2/24 – Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre
2/25 – Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
2/28 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s
3/01 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
3/02 – North Kansas City, MO @ Jannus Live
3/03 – Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
3/04 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
3/05 – Atlanta, GA @ City Winery
3/07 – Atlanta, GA @ City Winery
3/08 – Macon, Georgia @ Cox Capitol Theatre
3/09 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
3/10 – Mobile, AL @ Soul Kitchen
3/13 – Chattanooga, TN @ The Signal
3/14 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater
3/15 – Newport News, VA @ Boathouse Live
3/16 – Matthews, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte
3/17 – St. Petersburg, FL @ Reggae Rise Up Festival
3/18 – North Myrtle Beach, FL @ House of Blues


NEW RELEASES: JEMAL RODRIGUEZ – AFRICAN SKIES; BRIT FUNK ASSOCIATION – FULL CIRCLE; HRISTO VITCHEV QUARTET - OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS

JEMAL RODRIGUEZ – AFRICAN SKIES

A killer record from Cali drummer Jemal Ramirez – maybe his greatest set so far as a leader, and a record that features a top-shelf lineup that really captures his vision! We'll be honest in saying that it was vibist Warren Wolf who first caught our attention here – as we love anything that Warren does, and especially value his contribution as a sideman – where he seems to bring the same sort of soulful flow to a group that Bobby Hutcherson could back in the 70s! That's definitely the case here, as Wolf's bold colors work perfectly with the rich lines on piano and Fender Rhodes from Matthew Clark – and are given a soaring spirit when reed work from Howard Riley kicks in – as the player handles alto, tenor, and soprano sax on the set. Mike Olmos plays trumpet on half the album, John Shifflett handles bass throughout, and it's definitely the case that Ramirez's rock-solid drumming and leadership are what really keep the album moving. Titles include Jemal's originals "On The Move", "A Long Way Home", "Where Are They", "No Time Left", and "Stasia" – and other titles include "African Skies", "It Always Is", "A Good Time", "Sister Cheryl", and "Episode From A Village Dance". (180 gram vinyl pressed at RTI! Includes download with 4 bonus tracks!) ~ Dusty Groove

BRIT FUNK ASSOCIATION – FULL CIRCLE

An all star section of the Brit funky soul scene comes Full Circle – with members of Beggar & Co, Incognito, Hi Tension, Central Line and more – on a sweet batch tunes with an upbeat, jazzy groove, too! The opening "BFA Theme (Let The Music Blow Your Mind)" kicks the set off with a theme of togetherness that holds strong throughout, with lead vocals that are often shared by the group in harmony. Kenny Wellington & Paul McLean handle a lot of the songwriting & production, sharing vocals with sax player Patrick McLean, guitar player Breeze McKrieth, sax & flute player David Baptiste, and trombone player Jerome Harper. The Association also includes Steve Salvari & Peter Hinds on keys, Billy Osborne on percussion, and Ernie McKone on bass – with guests Simon Law, Toby Barker and others. Titles include "I've Found Someone To Love", "We Love The Sunshine On Our Face", "Stand Strong, Stand Tall", "Paradigm Shift", "Seventeen", "The First People", "Make It Funky", "Let's All Work It Out", "Shine" and "Get Up". ~ Dusty Groove
  
HRISTO VITCHEV QUARTET - OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS

The highly anticipated new album by the Hristo Vitchev Quartet has been officially released worldwide! "Of Light and Shadows" marks Hristo's 9th album as a leader and catalogues the evolution and creative development of the internationally award wining quartet through its most adventurous and exploratory chapter yet. "Of Light and Shadows" which consists of 2 parts - the first part is the main musical work and the 2nd part "Behind the Shadows: freely improvised stories" is a free jazz album that shares thematic material from the main compositions but was played and recorded in a completely free manner. 


PIANIST LESLIE PINTCHIK RELEASES YOU EAT MY FOOD, YOU DRINK MY WINE, YOU STEAL MY GIRL! WITH STELLAR BAND

Pianist and composer Leslie Pintchik found the title for her new album in one of those "only in New York" moments. While crossing Canal Street at West Broadway in the SoHo section of Manhattan, she heard a voice behind her yell, "You eat my food, you drink my wine, you steal my girl!" As it happened, she'd just completed writing a new composition, and at that very moment she knew she'd found its title. It was a perfect fit for the sharp-elbows vibe of the piece, with its samba-funk groove, understated humor and fender-bender of an ending. So with one gruff shout, serendipity handed her a bold, spunky title, for a bold, spunky tune.
With its implied but elusive narrative and personality to spare, the outburst also turned out to be a perfect title for Pintchik's new recording, which features six of her original tunes and two standards. As on her five previous albums, Pintchik has penned a collection of songs overflowing with warmth, humor, tenderness, depth and smarts - without forsaking her razor-sharp edge. Pintchik is unique in combining a brisk energy and drive with a gift for accessible, infectious melodies - like that overheard accusation, her music strikes a unique balance between the sharp-edged and the charming. You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl! will be released February 23, 2018 via Pintch Hard Records.

In his liner notes for the CD, Allen Morrison writes "As a composer, [Pintchik is] like a novelist, unspooling each song like a good story with twists and turns, and with a story-teller's patience and sense of form. And, like a good novel, her songs appeal to both the head and the heart; they are subtle, sometimes wry, sometimes somber. I think they're not-so-buried treasures, waiting to be discovered by other jazz artists." In addition, the wide range of grooves (samba-funk with a touch of partido alto, swing, bolero, traditional samba, straight-eighths, and ballads-all played with exceptional skill and pizzazz by Leslie and her top-notch band members) is a great added pleasure.

For this outing, Pintchik returns once again with the musicians with whom she has played and recorded for many years: Steve Wilson on alto sax, Ron Horton on trumpet and flugelhorn, Scott Hardy on bass and guitar, drummer Michael Sarin, and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. On accordion, Shoko Nagai is the newcomer, and a wonderfully intriguing addition to the mix. Recalling the recording session, Pintchik said "I had the time of my life playing with these extraordinary musicians and people, all gems and superb players."
"You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!" is not the only mouthful of a title on the album. It's topped by "Your call will be answered by our next available representative, in the order in which it was received. Please stay on the line; your call is important to us," which should instantly raise the blood pressure of anyone who's ever wasted hours of their life on hold to fix - or at least attempt to - a problem that's already wasted too much time. Fueled by that all-too-common experience, the tune swings hard with a fervor born of equal parts frustration and an antic comic spirit. Special kudos to the rhythm section for its drive amidst the unexpected stops and starts.

From the playful to the poignant: Pintchik's ballad "Mortal" was written, she says, "to express a sense of life's fragility, beauty, and especially shortness." A highlight of the set, "Mortal" showcases a fearless use of space and silence, and gorgeous heart-on-the-sleeve solos from Pintchik, Wilson, Horton and Hardy. (Of particular note is Horton's flugelhorn solo, which is both beautiful and wrenching.) On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, "Happy Dog," as its name suggests, is a cheerful tune. Shoko Nagai plays the melody in unison with Pintchik, and the samba-based rhythm provides a simpatico backdrop for the wonderfully frisky solos of Pintchik, Hardy and Takeishi.

Like Pintchik's tunes, Edward Hopper's paintings are renowned for suggesting stories not quite told in full within the confines of their canvases. A tune with a straight eighths time feel that features Shoko Nagai on accordion, "Hopperesque" was inspired by the iconic artist's work, especially those paintings that depict people in the kind of threshold moments that provoke the viewer to wonder what happened before, and what might come after, the scene we're presented with. "I've tried," Pintchik says, "to capture that feeling of mystery."

One of the earliest tunes written for the album, "A Simpler Time" was inspired by the composer's trip to the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, where she was touched by the rare adult cradles that she saw, used to soothe the elderly and infirm. Pintchik characterizes the piece as "an adult lullaby." In his liner notes, Morrison writes "There's an emotional maturity to it that seems to acknowledge that life itself is not simple, that we are often overwhelmed with hard choices and mixed emotions, and we have a universal need for kindness. As with so many of Leslie's songs, the melody is memorable, but not simple."

Approaching the album's standards with the same unique perspective and wry insight that she brings to her own tunes, Pintchik plays the jazz and pop standard "I'm Glad There Is You" as a bolero, which affords the melody of this love song a lot of breathing room. In his liner notes to the CD, Allen Morrison writes "It's one of the most tender readings of this great song (by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira) that I've ever heard." The Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach chestnut "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" is played as a samba, with an added catchy rhythmic hook that bookends the melody. This version features a wonderfully relaxed rhythm section that, in the ending tag, builds up a strong head of caffeinated Brazilian steam, before the rhythmic hook returns, and it's over and out.

Before embarking on a career in jazz, Leslie Pintchik was a teaching assistant in English literature at Columbia University, where she also received her Master of Philosophy degree in seventeenth-century English literature. She first surfaced on the Manhattan scene in a trio with legendary bassist Red Mitchell at Bradley's, and in the ensuing years Pintchik formed her own trio which performs regularly at New York City jazz venues. Pintchik's debut CD So Glad To Be Here was released in June 2004, followed by Quartets in 2007. About So Glad To Be Here, Ken Micallef wrote in DownBeat "Pintchik's music is fresh, full of light and instantly invigorating (4 stars)." In the fall of 2010, she released her third CD We're Here To Listen, as well as a DVD Leslie Pintchik Quartet Live In Concert.  Jim Wilke, creator of the nationally syndicated "Jazz After Hours" radio show included We're Here To Listen on his "Best CDs of 2010" list, and the jazz journalist and scholar W. Royal Stokes included both projects in his "Best of 2010" list. Pintchik's fourth CD In The Nature Of Things was released on March, 2014. Steve Futterman, in The New Yorker magazine, called it "...one of the more captivating recordings to come out so far this year...", and Gary Walker of WBGO jazz radio called it "...a gorgeous display of the trio." In his review of Pintchik's fifth CD True North-released in March, 2016-Dan Bilawsky in AllAboutJazz.com wrote "Leslie Pintchik's music has a magical draw to itŠ Getting lost in this music is simply a joy. If 2016 has a more pleasurable listen to offer than True North, this writer hasn't heard it yet. (4 1/2 stars)"

In addition to composing the music for her band, Leslie has also written the liner notes for some notable recent jazz CDs, including Duologue by saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Lewis Nash (on the MCG label), and Daybreak by pianist Bruce Barth (on the Savant label).


Belgian pianist, keyboardist, composer and music educator DOMINIQUE VANTOMME and his project VANTOMME "Vegir"

Dominique Vantomme of VANTOMME, is a pianist, keyboardist, composer, band leader, music educator and producer, equally well known for his work with many European pop and rock acts as for being the jazz piano instructor at the Music Conservatory in Kortrijk, Belgium. This album was born from his nomadic adventures: traveling in 2016 to see Stick Men, in Holland, and meeting up with old pal, MoonJune's Leonardo Pavkovic; and shortly thereafter befriending the legendary bassist/stickist Tony Levin of the King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Stick Men hall of fame. In the studio session which shortly followed, Dom and Tony were joined by veteran MoonJune artist, also from Belgium, Michel Delville (The Wrong Object; douBt; Machine Mass), who was recruited on guitar, and another Belgian musician, Maxime Lenssens, tasked with holding down the timekeeping duties. 

The spontaneity and freshness of this sizzling, high-altitude set reflects the equally unpretentious manner in which the session itself came together. Tackling some decidedly hip musical sketches of  Dominique Vantomme, the band is given full artistic liberty – and with all participants in top form, the resulting music weaves and winds its way across paths previously untrodden ... in stunning fashion, and with sure footing! In the truest MoonJune tradition, "Vegir" thumbs its nose at convention and showcases these seasoned veteran musicians at the top of their game: with the skill set, bravery and chutzpah to follow their instincts and, in the process, allow the music to seek out and ultimately capture its own form. It slinks; it growls; it stalks; it devours! It grooves; it stutters; it holds you in suspense, then explodes! (... think 'juggling chainsaws' in the sonic realm.

Dominique Vantomme will appear on the new album of Mark Winggield featuring Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis, as a special guests on three tunes, to be released in May 2018.

Besides being an extraordinary musician, Michel Delville also teaches English literature and comparative literature at the University of Liège, where he directs the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Poetics. He is the author of books pertaining to comparative poetics and interdisciplinary studies. His awards and distinctions include the 1998 SAMLA Book Award, the Choice Outstanding Book Award, the Léon Guérin Prize, the 2001 Alumni Award of the Belgian American Educational Foundation, the rank of Officer of the Order of Leopold (Belgium) (2009), and the 2009 Prix Wernaers pour la recherche et la diffusion des connaissances.


Jazz Innovator David Murray & Acclaimed Actor/Poet Saul Williams Craft Powerful, Political Expression of the Blues on New Album, BLUES FOR MEMO

At Amiri Baraka's funeral in 2014, Saul Williams recited a poem imploring the iconic poet, author and social critic to "get out of the coffin" and continue his important work. Sadly, Baraka was beyond hearing the younger poet's words, but they did reach the ears of one of his closest collaborators: saxophonist David Murray.

Williams' impassioned reading made such an impression on Murray that a day later he was on the phone, proposing a new collaboration. "Saul was one of the most dynamic speakers at the funeral," Murray recalls. "His words were violent, but Baraka used violent words too."

Williams sent several of his works to Murray, mostly pieces that were soon to be published in his politically scathing 2015 collection, US(a.), which powerfully confronts issues of race, class, gender, economics and culture in modern-day America. The saxophonist responded to the poet's words with his trademark vigor, resulting in their new album, Blues for Memo, due out February 2 (digitally). Recorded in Istanbul at the end of a three-week European tour by request of the legendary Turkish producer Ahmet Uluğ, the album features a stellar band - pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and drummer Nasheet Waits - performing road-tested versions of these newly-penned compositions. Trombonist Craig Harris, keyboardist Jason Moran, guitarist (and Murray's son) Mingus Murray, kanun player Aytac Dogan, and vocalist Pervis Evans offer striking contributions as well.

Blues for Memo was commissioned by Ahmet Ulug, of Pozitif music in Istanbul to commemorate his late brother Mehmet Uluğ - affectionately known as "Memo" - who co-founded the music promotion company Pozitif (with a third partner, Cem Yegul), and opened the well-known Istanbul club Babylon. Pozitif opened the doors to experimental jazz in Turkey, and have presented such artists as David Murray, Butch Morris, Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders.  The album is a labor of love from Murray to the Ulug brothers in response to their many years of friendship and support. Saul Williams knew Memo from his shows in Babylon in the late '90s with saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin's Wax Poetics project.

The session also provided an opportunity to pay homage to another longtime Murray collaborator, conduction innovator and cornetist Butch Morris, who lived and taught in Istanbul for several years in the late 1990s. Williams adds his words to "Obe," one of nearly 30 Morris compositions that Murray has recorded over the decades. "We were all really close," Murray says. "So we all put our heads together and ended up making a tribute to Mehmet and Butch Morris at the same time."

The union between Williams and Murray becomes even more meaningful as it allows the two to continue poet Amiri Baraka's mission. "As someone who had grown up extremely familiar with and inspired by the works of Amiri Baraka, I was honored when David asked me to work with him," Williams says. "I stepped into this very much aware of the fact that I was collaborating with someone who had worked with Amiri."                      

When Williams began performing in the mid-90s, as part of the thriving New York slam poetry scene, he consciously avoided working with jazz musicians. He saw the pairing of poetry and jazz at that time as somewhat cliché, especially in light of the thrilling merger of poetry and hip hop then underway. "I was eager to find a way to make sure that my work was not easily connected to some passé idea," Williams says. "I never really wanted to dive too deeply into jazz because it seemed to fit an existing idea."

Two decades later, Williams could count a wealth of experiences stemming from his widely acclaimed work: a half-dozen books, appearances in films including Slam (1998), the lead role in the Tupac Shakur-based Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, and several albums fusing his poetry with hip hop, rock and electronic music. So with an established reputation, years of distance, and a deep respect for Murray's work, he undertook his first substantial jazz collaboration - and was surprised by what he found.

"As a poet who's very often tied to the page, collaborating with David has freed me up," he says. "What's beautiful about jazz is that it's a celebration of improvisation. It has so much to do with listening, how you hear and what you hear, and how you respond to that. It keeps me fresh, so it's the opposite of what I was afraid of when I was dodging performing with jazz musicians. It has invigorated the creative process."

For Murray, the collaboration with Williams took on a similar form to his work with Baraka and other poets, whether living writers like Ishmael Reed or his adaptations of work by long-dead authors like Alexander Pushkin. "I let a poem just sit on my piano for a week, and the next thing I know it turns into a song," Murray explains. "The words are like water; they find their own way."

The band also takes a few pieces without Williams' words. The title track pays homage to Memo with a blend of blues and classical Turkish music with the addition of Aytac Dogan on the kanun, a zither-like stringed instrument from the Middle East. Murray's "Positive Messages" offers an uplifting yet forceful message, with a laid-back groove fueled by Moran on Rhodes; Sun Ra's "Enlightenment" tips its hat to the Uluğ brothers' love of the cosmic bandleader and the influence of his teachings on Murray's formative years.

At a challenging time, Williams' interpretation is understandably confrontational and incisive. Commissioned by Simon & Schuster upon Williams' return from a four-year sojourn in Paris, US(a.) was intended to be a celebration of being an African-American living in Obama's America, but the string of police shootings that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of Donald Trump led to a much darker tone.

A piece like "Red Summer" is directly inspired by the 2015 mass shooting in a Charleston church. "Citizens (The River Runs Red)" takes an excerpt from "Said the Shotgun to the Head," urging a shift from a patriarchal society to a female perspective. "Cycles and Seasons" draws from Williams' poem "Coltan as Cotton," which parallels the mining of coltan - a precious mineral found in smartphones and other technology - with more traditional forms of mining.

Reflecting on Blues For Memo and their work together, Murray says, "Saul is a very forward-thinking visionary. I've always tried to be very accommodating to poets and their vision of what the world is. I've tried to make it a clearer and truer vision through music."

2018 TOUR DATES
January 30 - February 2 New York (NY) Birdland
February 6  Paris (FR) Sons d'Hiver
February 7  Saint Jean de Védas (FR) Victoire 2
February 8  Zurich (CH) Moods
February 9 Salzburg(AT) Jazzit
February 10 Vienna (AT) Porgy & Bess
February 11 Antwerp (BE) Arenberg Theatre
February 13  Stockholm (SE) Fasching
February 14  Oslo (NO) Victoria
February 15  Helsinki (FI) Selo Hall
February 16  Bergen (NO) Sardinen
February 17  Goteborg (SE) Nefertiti

David Murray featuring Saul Williams· Blues For Memo
Label: Motéma Music · Digital Release Date: February 2, 2018
Physical Release Date: February 16, 2018


Toronto-based Ori Dagan 1 of 12 Jazz Artists to Perform at SXSW

Exciting news this week for Canada’s music scene: Award-winning jazz artist Ori Dagan is confirmed to perform at the 2018 South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas this March.

As seen on Billboard.com, Ori Dagan is one of just 12 Jazz artists out of SXSW’s total lineup of 600 musical acts, and the only Canadian Jazz artist on the bill.

Ori Dagan will perform his critically acclaimed release Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole as well as showcase the album’s accompanying videos that formed the genre’s first ever visual jazz album.

The release debuted at #1 on the iTunes Canada Jazz Chart, and has racked up an impressive series of International awards and accolades, as well as hefty growth as a beloved fan favorite genre-wide. Hitting more than 100k collective views on YouTube within days of release, Nathaniel’s visual album also took home Global Music Awards’ Silver Medal Winner for Best Album, Nevada International Film Festival’s Winner of Platinum Reel Award for “Sting of the Cactus”, Open World Toronto Film Festival’s Winner of Best Music Video for “Sting of the Cactus”, Australian Port Shorts Film Festival’s Official Selection for “Sweetheart”, India’s Arthouse Asia Official Selection for “Bibimbap”, and many more.

Award-winning jazz singer, songwriter and recording artist Ori Dagan is, quite simply, an original. His rich baritone voice and impressive abilities as an improviser produce an instantly recognizable sound.

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Having won numerous accolades for his witty and inventive original songs — from “Googleable” (his ode to a search engine) to “Clap on the 2 and the 4” (an anthem for the rhythmically challenged), it’s his most recent release Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole (2017) and its accompanying collection of imaginative and delightful videos that have created the largest bounty of awards for the singer yet.

Released October 2017, Ori Dagan’s third studio recording won Silver for “Best Album” at the Global Music Awards soon after release. The collection debuted at #1 on the iTunes Canada Jazz Chart, and is a unique homage to one of the genre’s most legendary musicians and pop culture icons. Featuring five original songs inspired by facets of Cole’s life, music and legacy, with highly-esteemed special guests Sheila Jordan, Alex Pangman, and Jane Bunnett, it’s no wonder Nathaniel has caught the ears and approval of the likes of Jazz FM.

In a move as bold and next-level as Ori himself, Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole was also jazz’s first ever visual album, with a collection of 12 original music videos spanning the mediums of live action to claymation to felt puppetry portraying each track.


Urban-jazz bassist Darryl Williams releases “Do You Remember,” featuring saxophonist Michael Lington

It took ten years for urban-jazz bass player Darryl Williams to write, record and release “Here to Stay,” his Billboard top 10 single and the title track to his second album. This week’s release of the follow-up single, “Do You Remember,” proves that he doesn’t plan to go away anytime soon. Plucking rubbery basslines on piccolo and electric basses on the slick jazz-funk energizer that he wrote and produced, Williams is joined on the dancefloor filler by chart-toppers Michael Lington (saxophone) and Adam Hawley (guitarist).  

Williams’ return to center stage as a frontman with the “Here to Stay” set resulted in a 2017 Best New Artist nomination from the Smooth Jazz Network. The first-call bassman calls the collection that he produced with sax powerhouse Euge Groove “a labor of love,” featuring eight of his hand-penned originals along with a pair of remakes that have personal meaning to the San Diego native who currently resides in Temecula. A stellar list of his regular employers were quick to return the favor by making guest appearances on “Here to Stay,” including Groove, who ignites a pair of tunes including the title cut, two-time Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Paul Brown, jazz-funk keyboard pioneer Jeff Lorber, saxmen Marcus Anderson and Elan Trotman, and keyboardists Jonathan Fritzen, Greg Manning and Scott Wilkie. The disc’s lone vocal number, a faithful rendering of The Emotions’ “Don’t Ask My Neighbors,” is soul kissed by R&B crooner Ashling Cole. Williams remembers his late mentor, Carl Evans Jr., by revamping the former Fattburger leader’s sweetly redolent “The Doctor,” which is graced by Michael Paolo’s caressing soprano sax.

“While to some people, ‘labor of love’ is an overused cliché, it certainly applies to ‘Here to Stay.’ I began writing songs for the collection in 2007 before moving my family to Temecula from Las Vegas. The compositions were inspired by different experiences we went through in our journey throughout that period. It was an important and formative time in my career as well. That’s when I first started playing in Euge’s (Groove) band and did a tour with Jeff (Lorber) a couple years later. In between is when my very good friend and mentor Carl (Evans Jr.) passed, which was devastating. ‘Do You Remember’ was one of the last songs I wrote for the record and it was inspired by reflecting on how far I’ve come from growing up as a kid in Los Angeles and San Diego to playing in a funk band with my brother as a teenager. It took me ten years to finish this album and while it takes me back in time, the reaction from fans, radio and reviewers has me looking forward with excitement. I couldn’t be more proud of this album,” said Williams.       

Williams was a teenager when he opened for R&B acts Lakeside and Al Green along with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. After studying jazz at San Diego State University, Williams went from regular gigs backing many of San Diego’s most prominent homegrown talent to the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip where he accompanied such nationally-renowned headliners as Clint Holmes, Angela Bofill, Tevin Campbell, Howard Hewett and Keith Washington, and did a road stint with Chaka Khan. After moving back to California in 2008, Williams dropped his debut album, “That Was Then,” garnering praise from JazzTimes and national airplay on SiriusXM. He has become a fixture on the smooth/contemporary jazz scene where he has shared the stage with the genre’s heavy hitters: Richard Elliot, Peter White, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, Brenda Russell, Darren Rahn, Jessy J, Everette Harp and Jeff Kashiwa. He has also recorded with Jackiem Joyner, Blake Aaron, Nils Jiptner, U-Nam and Kay-Ta Matsuno.       


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Lao Tizer Band Set to Release Songs From The Swinghouse, Recorded Live at Conway Studios in Hollywood

With more than five years since their last release, The Lao Tizer Band has taken the time to grow in every aspect. An updated larger band is exploring some new methods on their upcoming CD/DVD combo, Songs From The Swinghouse: recorded live in just three days at Conway Studios in Hollywood, the band explores three cover tunes with vocalist, a first for the group, alongside original instrumental tracks, bringing them to new heights of excellence and exuberance.

Featuring a thoughtful and at times surprising choice of tracks, while adding to an already stellar lineup of players with the addition of a seasoned vocalist, this is an album that has set a new path for the band and its dedicated fans. Songs From The Swinghouse features eight blistering original instrumentals and three iconic classic rock songs with reimagined arrangements. "We've never done anything with a vocalist and we've never done any cover songs, so this is the first time that I decided to delve into that realm, to basically expand the scope of our music," says Tizer. Critically acclaimed music-film director, Andy LaViolette (Snarky Puppy, Bokante, David Crosby, etc), documented the entire session in a simultaneous, 8-camera HD video shoot for the included DVD.

From the 2007 album Diversify, which showcased the multi-faceted richly textured musicality of an already celebrated career, to 2009's Passages in which the keyboardist and composer focused on a minimalist expression of his musical journey in a virtually solo piano recording with the barest of accompaniment, and then back to a pulsating full band on the 2012 release Downbeat, this ensemble of world-renowned musicians has taken Tizer's vision to a new level on the latest album. The jazz and world-fusion group now adds rock to its repertoire with a sizzling new collection of eleven songs.

Hailing from Boulder, CO, with a career that now spans nine albums over nearly a quarter of a century -- he was a teenage prodigy -- Tizer is the son of hippies with a Russian-Jewish background, and the mix of that ethnic family heritage, parental new age influence and growing up with the sights and sounds of '80s and '90s pop culture (alongside the music of the '60s and '70s he heard from his parents) have brought him to a place in his artistic life where he was ready to embrace a wider range of influences and stretch himself and his players to pull off such an ambitious project.

If the choice of Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On," U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," and Cat Stevens' "Sad Lisa" seem astonishing, Tizer's arrangements render them almost entirely original. They are taken to the transcendent through the warm and soulful vocals of Tita Hutchison, who sang with the likes of Michael McDonald, Rick Rubin, Michael Jackson, and Foreigner, among others.

Hutchison joins Tizer's regular collaborators who are celebrated in their own right: Chieli Minucci, the three-time Emmy-winning and Grammy® Award-nominated guitarist and composer; Grammy® Award-winning saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who is a permanent member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band; longtime member and EWI/saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Nieves; and violinist Karen Briggs, who has graced the stage with Yanni, Diana Ross, Wu-Tang Clan, Chaka Khan and more. Tizer also credits the powerhouse rhythm section (bass players include Grammy® Award-nominee Ric Fierabracci and Cheikh NDoye, Grammy® Award-nominated drummer Gene Coye, and percussionist Munyungo Jackson) with underpinning the dynamic force and arrangements for the project.

The group in fact stretches to 15 members at times with the addition of a string quartet, horn section and a marimba player. Just watching the video of "Metropolis" shows the vast ambitiousness of the undertaking, the concentration of so many musicians in the studio playing live together and feeding into work that was so much grander than the breathtaking individual performances, while the sultry and intimate duet -- just piano and violin -- on "Forever Searching" reminds the listener and viewer of the purity of Tizer's jazz beginnings.

"It was all recorded live at Conway Studios," Tizer says. "So this is as authentic as it could possibly be. It's a star-studded cast, a lot of pros, and they all came in with their A-game. We got just the right mix of players in the band at this time to make this particular set of music come to life and be artistically deep in an accessible way. And that's always what my favorite music has been -- well written, well composed, but also with that room to stretch, that's the improvisation and the jazz of it."

Tizer praises each musician for his and her contribution to the whole. Conceptually focused while always generous as a composer, arranger and band-leader, Tizer produced Songs From The Swinghouse on his own and wrote all of the instrumental tracks himself, aside from one co-write, "A Prayer For Unity" with the band's other guitarist, Jeff Marshall. They wrote it just after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, and the significance at this particular time amid current events is imperative for Tizer. "It's a message that the world needs on a much more macro level, and music is one of those few mediums that can bridge some gaps."

It's also a nice counterpoint to the groups Gospel, funkified arrangement of U2's, "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," the civil rights-inspired song that Tizer had loved since first hearing it in the movie In The Name Of The Father. "Ramble On" was, says Tizer, "the one tune I wanted to do because I'm not sure that there's any classic rock group more iconic than Led Zeppelin, and I wanted a song that we could take and put our stamp on, which I felt really strongly that we could with that tune, take it to another place." As for "Sad Lisa," dedicated on the album to the late daughter of a friend, "I had Cat Stevens' album Tea For The Tillerman since I was in high school, and right away I knew I could do something with that."

The evolution of the Lao Tizer Band is revealed joyously in Songs From The Swinghouse. Now incorporating a vocalist into the recording and touring band, the road ahead is enthralling to the group's founder. "I spent my whole life writing instrumental music, and now I'm working on original material for the group including vocals." Ultimately, Lao Tizer eschews being formulaic. "I try and just stay true to my muse and to use every bit of my facility to create great music that hopefully has its own voice and continues to evolve as I continue to evolve as a person. It's very reflective of me, it's all I've done all my life."

The Lao Tizer Band U.S. Performances

January 20 | Spaghetinni Jazz Club | Seal Beach, CA
February 9 - 10 | Myron's Cabaret Jazz @ The Smith Center | Las Vegas, NV
February 24 | Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival | Punta Gorda, FL
March 9 | The Baked Potato (LA RELEASE SHOW) | Studio City, CA
March 10 | Oxnard Performing Arts & Events Center | Oxnard, CA
March 22 | Desert Willow Golf Course | Palm Desert, CA
March 28 | Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill & Jazz | Bel Aire, CA
April 21 | Chino Hills Jazz & Blues Festival | Chino Hills, CA
April 27 | Bakersfield Jazz Festival | Bakersfield, CA
May 11 | Atlas Center for the Performing Arts | Washington, DC
** more dates to be announced **

The Lao Tizer Band · Songs From The Swinghouse
Yse Records · Release Date: March 16, 2018


Drummer Bob Holz To Release VISIONS Feat. Bass Legends Stanley Clarke and Ralphe Armstrong

Jazz-fusion composer and drummer Bob Holz will be releasing his third album “VISIONS: Coast to Coast Connection,” featuring  bass legend Stanley Clarke on February 23, 2018! “This collaboration with the jazz star and Return to Forever bassist/composer, Stanley Clarke involved the recording of new compositions I wrote taken from my roots in jazz, classical, blues and rock music,” says Holz. Joining Holz and Clarke is former Mahavishnu Orchestra bassist Ralphe Armstrong who currently plays in Holz's touring band, Bob Holz and A Vision Forward featuring Jamie Glaser and Ralphe Armstrong. “My compositions have plenty of room for interplay between both bass players,” adds Holz. Bob Holz is presently managed by Roy Holland Productions and is signed to MVD Entertainment Group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWDKDTfM59Q

“I'm really honored to record with Stanley Clarke as his music has been a strong influence on me,” added Holz. Clarke has written the music for over 70 major motion pictures in addition to his successful solo career and long tenure as a member of Return To Forever with Chick Corea, Al Di Meola and Lenny White.

“I enjoyed playing this music very much. Good players along with good compositions is always a winning combination!” - Stanley Clarke

The recording took place in Los Angeles with famed sound engineer, Dennis Moody recording, mixing and mastering the performances. “Dennis mixed my last album and really knows how to create a world class record,” continued Holz. Moody also helped out with mixing Holz's band live last May at Catalina Bar and Grill Jazz Club in Hollywood, California. Stanley Clarke also attended that concert which led to the upcoming recording session for Holz's next album. Additionally, Executive Producer Rob Stathis once again contributed his production skills to the making of the record. Rob Stathis has been involved with producing Holz's past collaborations with guitarist/composer the late Larry Coryell. “The loss of Larry Coryell last February was really rough. Bob and I want to continue in the tradition which Larry excelled in,” says Stathis.

“Many years I have been friends with Stanley Clarke, we talked about recording together!! Bob Holz made it happen on this recording!” - Ralphe Armstrong

Since the February 2017 release of Holz's second album, “Visions and Friends,” Holz's touring band, Bob Holz and A Vision Forward featuring Jamie Glaser and Ralphe Armstrong has played numerous live concerts from New York to California. The band features guitar guru Jamie Glaser (Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty, Bryan Adams) and bass virtuoso Ralphe Armstrong (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock). Los Angeles based keyboardist Billy Steinway has been an integral contributor to Holz's efforts playing both live shows and recording sessions. Steinway also joined Holz, Clarke and Armstrong on the recordings for the new album.


Internationally Acclaimed Trumpeter Sean Jones to Chair Peabody Jazz Department

Sean Jones, an internationally acclaimed trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and educator, has been appointed the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. Jones will officially assume his duties as chair with the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, and will make several introductory visits to Peabody during the Spring 2018 semester to hear auditions, conduct master classes, and work with student jazz ensembles. His appointment is the result of a months-long search which produced an outstanding field of diverse and competitive candidates from throughout the world.

Jones comes to Peabody from the Berklee College of Music, where he has served as chair of the Brass Department since 2014. He is artistic director of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, Artist-in-Residence at San Francisco Performances, and a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. In addition, Jones serves as a member of the Jazz Education Network's Board of Directors and was recently appointed as artistic director of Carnegie Hall's NYO Jazz, which makes its Carnegie Hall debut and inaugural European tour in the summer of 2018.

"Jazz is a deep and important aspect of the Baltimore story, and an essential contemporary American art form," said Fred Bronstein, dean of the Peabody Institute. "Peabody's strong commitment to jazz and its critical points of intersection with many different aspects of musical creation and performance, along with our focus on citizen artistry, make this an ideal time and place to mark a new chapter for jazz at Peabody and in Baltimore. Sean Jones -- an inspiring artist, engaging leader, and dedicated teacher -- is the perfect choice to lead this effort for our jazz students and all our Conservatory musicians, as well as in the broader community. We are thrilled to welcome him to Peabody and eagerly anticipate his leadership."

Jones joins a diverse roster of artist-faculty colleagues charged with implementation of the Conservatory's new Breakthrough Curriculum in Music Leadership, a model at the forefront of arts training in the United States. The Breakthrough Curriculum is designed to help students develop skills in performance, career development, and citizen artistry to meet the demands of today's ever-changing musical landscape. This includes a reimagined instrumental ensembles program in which students move through a rotation of varied ensemble experiences to ensure musical flexibility and training across a range of performing contexts, musical styles, and ensemble configurations.

"Peabody is at a crucial point in its history as a beacon of music education and curator of American Music," noted Jones about his appointment. "It has the unique opportunity to support the codification and curation of America's indigenous art form not just in word, but in deed! Although I will miss my wonderful colleagues at the Berklee College of Music, I am thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to help lead this storied institution into the future of American music education."

A highly respected and in-demand musician, Jones has performed and/or recorded with major figures including: Joe Lovano, Chico O'Farrill, Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Gerald Wilson, and with Marcus Miller, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter in the 2011 Tribute to Miles tour. He holds a master's degree from Rutgers University and was lead trumpeter with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, where he worked closely with Wynton Marsalis, until 2010. He has recently released his eighth recording, Live from Jazz at the Bistro, on Mack Avenue Records. In addition to Berklee, Jones has taught at Duquesne University and at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, while regularly offering master classes and clinics around the world.

Located in the heart of Baltimore's Mount Vernon Cultural District, the Peabody Institute was founded in 1857 as the first major intellectual and arts center in an American city by philanthropist George Peabody. Now celebrating 40 years as a division of Johns Hopkins University, the Peabody Institute trains musicians and dancers of every age, stages nearly 1,000 concerts and events each year, and extends music and musical training throughout the community. Building on its rich history of professional music training at the highest level and focused on the four pillars of excellence, interdisciplinary experiences, innovation, and community connectivity, Peabody is introducing the Breakthrough Curriculum in Music Leadership to prepare artists for a world that is constantly changing yet still deeply in need of what music brings to the human experience.


Friday, January 05, 2018

NEW RELEASES: GAL COSTA – ESTRATOFERIA – AO VIVO (DVD); LAWSON ROLLINS – AIRWAVES: THE GREATEST HITS; SYLVIA BENNETT – I WISH YOU LOVE

GAL COSTA – ESTRATOFERIA – AO VIVO (DVD)

A nice little live set that follows off the same sort of energy as the studio album Estratoferica – which has Gal Costa coming across with a more youthful vibe than she's had in years! As with that record, Gal's working here with a group of younger musicians – players who bring more rock currents to the music than you might expect, with especially strong use of electric guitar and keyboards – which Costa matches with a surprising degree of power in her voice! The tunes are pretty straightforward – no Tropicalia experiments here –but the overall approach still feels more 70s MPB than much of Gal's more recent material. Titles include "Meu Nome E Gal", "Estratosferica", "Por Um Fio", "Cabelo", "Quando Voce Olha Pra Ela", "Casca", "Dez Anjos", "Nao Identificado", "Mal Secreto", "Ecstasy", "Os Alquimistas Estao Chegando", and "Por Baixo". ~ Dusty Groove

LAWSON ROLLINS – AIRWAVES: THE GREATEST HITS

'Airwaves: The Greatest Hits' - featuring all of Lawson Rollins' radio chart hits taken from his seven solo albums, including the Billboard Top 30 contemporary jazz radio charting songs 'Island Time,' 'Moonlight Samba,' 'Infinita,' 'Flight,' and 'Daybreak. ' Two brand new bonus tracks were recorded exclusively for this album: the contemporary jazz track 'World of Wonder' (featuring the Billboard #1 group 3rd Force) and the classically-inspired, world-music composition 'Prado' (featuring 2-time Grammy Award winning violinist Mads Tolling). Other guests include iconic Brazilian singer Flora Purim. 11 of the 18 tracks are never-before-released radio edit versions that feature different performances and guests artists not heard on the album versions, like 'In Motion (radio edit)' which features an exclusive appearance by Billboard #1 soprano saxophonist Praful, not heard on the original album version.

SYLVIA BENNETT – I WISH YOU LOVE

Ooh la la la… Ms. Bennett is back and this time with a sexy nod at the City of Light, and the joie de vivre that France brings to the global community. From her forthcoming album I Wish You Love, due out in the spring of 2018, “C’est Magnifique” leads the way as the album’s first single. A whimsical, jazzy version of the Cole Porter classic, featuring the Grammy-nominated vocalist’s smooth as silk voice and a playful horn soloing throughout, leaving the listener to feel more magnifique than tragique! Produced by long time musical collaborator and renowned Miami producer, Hal S. Batt, this catchy creation is sure to light up the Contemporary Jazz charts like Paris! ~ smoothjazz.com

 

Saxophonist Kevin Sun Creates Compelling New Music on his Solo Leader Debut, Trio

Due out Feb. 2, 2018, Trio features bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor on a set of Sun's thrillingly complex compositions, devised from close study of the jazz tradition.

"[Kevin] Sun is... clearly a player who sees the big picture and his evolving place within it."
-David R. Adler, The New York City Jazz Record

It's something of a cliché - though no less true for it - for gifted musicians to proclaim themselves to be perpetual students, their accomplishments achieved in part through a lifelong appetite for learning and new experiences. While still in the early stages of an incredibly promising, already impressive career, saxophonist Kevin Sun has more then taken that idea to heart. A tireless student of the jazz tradition, Sun has dedicated himself to dissecting the music of his forebears with a scientific precision, only to reassemble the pieces in new ways as only the most instinctual of artists can do.
On his first album under his own name, Trio, Sun puts the results of his intensive studies into thrilling practice, crafting era-spanning compositions that are as propulsive and swinging as they are intricate and challenging. The titular trio teams Sun, on tenor as well as clarinet and the rarely-seen C-melody saxophone, with bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor, two peers from the contemporary New York City jazz scene.
Trio, set for release February 2, 2018 on Sun's own Endectomorph Music, follows equally adventurous releases by two collective quartets, Great on Paper (with drummer Robin Baytas, bassist Simón Willson and pianist Isaac Wilson) and Earprint (with Simón Willson, trumpeter Tree Palmedo and drummer Dor Herskovits). Here, though, the vision is entirely Sun's, though his complex writing leaves Stinson and Honor ample opportunity to show off their estimable skills.

"Composing for three voices, I feel like I can really challenge myself," Sun says. "There's plenty of room to make something happen when you have three musicians interacting with each other. I picture it as a triangle versus a square: it's still very sturdy, but you have to give it a point."

There's no lack of sharp edges on Trio's dozen jaw-dropping compositions (supplemented by a pair of fiery free improvisations captured in the wee hours of an all-day recording session). While to the listener these songs offer knotty melodic lines and shape-shifting rhythms that are tricky but enticing to navigate, for Sun, each one posed a unique challenge. Captivated by the higher-order writing of modern jazz innovators like Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, and Steve Lehman, Sun conceived of the music on Trio as a way of summoning similarly advanced music from his own pen. The trio itself, with Stinson and Honor, was originally assembled to workshop that music - it was only when they realized the chemistry they shared together that it evolved into a working group.
"I was thinking of people who I thought would be willing to get together a lot and really dig into the music," Sun says. He had shared bandstands in the past with both Stinson and Honor, and soon found that both shared his own enthusiasm for plumbing the depths of his compositions.
That scholarly approach has served Sun well, both in his education at Harvard College and New England Conservatory, in his studies with master composers Miguel Zenón and John Hollenbeck, and beyond, in his own research. He's been noted for his solo transcriptions, having published more than 120 on his blog by the likes of John Coltrane, Steve Coleman, Joe Henderson, Clifford Brown, and Vijay Iyer.

"I work on inhabiting the sound, the beat, and the vibe of the musicians I transcribe," Sun says, a practice he learned from Zenón as well as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. "Coming from an oral tradition like jazz, you want to be able to communicate the details that convey the feeling that comes out of the great playing of those musicians. Ideally you'd get that in person, but when many of them are no longer around, the next best thing is to listen to, say, Lester Young recordings and try to generate the same excitement."

Beyond simply striving for the sound of such masters, Sun has recently begun to delve into emulating their gear. He recorded Trio with an instrument almost identical to that played by Lester Young on his classic recordings with Count Basie - a gold-plated Conn New Wonder sax and an early metal Otto Link mouthpiece. He began to experiment with the C-melody for a similar reason, as the instrument as played by virtuoso Frankie Trumbauer was a not insignificant influence on Young's sound.

Though the ensuing sound links him to a tradition that weaves circuitously from Young through more modernist players like Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, Sun's voice is wholly his own. That's evident from the breathy, insistent notes that open "Transaccidentation," a piece that takes fragments of harmonic ideas from Charlie Parker's "Confirmation." Bird is also an inspiration behind the drum chant of "Find Your Pose" as well as "Air Purifier," a play on Parker's "Air Conditioning" that also pays homage to the modern appliance crucial to living in Beijing, China, where Sun spends time each year when not in his Brooklyn home.

Sun's supple clarinet can be heard on the mysterious "Loading Screen" and the elegiac "Deliver the Keys." The C-melody comes to the fore on the album's sole standard, "All of Me," which most clearly shows how Sun has reimagined Lester Young's sound in a 21st-century context, and on the first of the two completely improvised tracks - "One Never Knows Now" and "Does One, Now Does One, Now Does" - which take their curious titles from a story by the late David Foster Wallace.

The taut, wiry "Three Ravens" was originally written as an etude, while "Bittergreen" is a negative reharmonization of "Sweet Georgia Brown." The waltz is abstracted on "Ballroom Dancing," the brutal "Misanthrope" delivers heavy metal intensity, and "Announcements" offers an unconventional setting for every concert's obligatory band introductions. Finally, "Thunder" ends the album on a starkly expressive note.

A saxophonist, improviser, composer, and blogger, Kevin Sun has studied composition with Miguel Zenón and John Hollenbeck, and cites contemporary composers such as Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, Miles Okazaki, Henry Threadgill, Steve Lehman, and Mark Turner as key influences. Currently based out of Brooklyn, New York, Sun performs with the collective quartets Great On Paper and Earprint and has shared the stage with Vijay Iyer, James Moody, Kenny Burrell, Dave Liebman, and Rich Perry, among others. He is an active contributor to Jazz Speaks, the official blog of The Jazz Gallery, where he has conducted interviews with artists such as Herbie Hancock and Joshua Redman. His blog on jazz and literature, A Horizontal Search, has been recognized by National Public Radio's A Blog Supreme and Ethan Iverson's Do the Math.


PDX Jazz Celebrates Mingus Dynasty: Rarely Performed 1957 Tijuana Moods Masterpiece

The Western Jazz Presenters Network, a consortium of 25 presenting organizations, will celebrate the legacy of the iconoclastic jazz legend Charles Mingus through a series of concerts to be presented in Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Tijuana and Portland, Oregon. The auspicious occasion by the majestic Mingus Dynasty celebrates the historic 1957 Tijuana Moods recording.

Mingus Dynasty, which rarely tours in the U.S., will feature: tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, alto saxophonist/flautist Brandon Wright, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy, pianist Theo Hill, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Adam Cruz.

While considered one of Mingus' masterworks, the Tijuana Moods album has not been played
in its entirety since the formation of Dynasty shortly after Mingus' death in 1979, and the
performance featured an all-alumni group spearheaded by the exuberant Dannie Richmond and arranger Jimmy Knepper. The albums' genesis came from a trip to Mexico in the late '50s by Mingus who reflected, "...with the sting of tequila, salt and lime in my mouth and burning my nostrils, I decided to benefit musically from this experience and set out to compose and re-create what I felt and saw around me."

Considered one of the most important figures in twentieth century American music, Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer. He is often mentioned alongside Duke Ellington as one of the most important composers in jazz history. Active from the 1950s through his death in 1979, Mingus created a rich repertoire of jazz standards and an impressive catalog of major recordings, and fostered generations of musicians who had their apprenticeship in his band.

After his death, Mingus' widow, Sue, continued the Mingus Big Band and the smaller Dynasty band, which draws its musicians from first-chair players in the larger ensemble. The big band -- and on occasion Mingus Dynasty -- plays Mingus' music every Monday night at one of NYC's most important jazz venues, the Jazz Standard, and includes some of the top jazz musicians in New York.

Legendary jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus Jr. was born at the Camp Little Army Hospital in Nogales on April 22, 1922. His father, a sergeant, was stationed at the camp with his wife and two daughters who were born at Camp Little before him. Although the family soon left this segregated camp for a new life in the Watts area of South Central Los Angeles, the birth of this jazz great is reminder of the legacy of African Americans in southern Arizona.

While rumors perpetuate of Mingus visiting Nogales and playing in clubs in Sonora, there is no proof of this romantic notion. But he did spend time in Cuernavaca, Mexico seeking a cure for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and died there on Jan. 5, 1979. Nevertheless, Mingus revisited this border town in spirit through projects generated by southern Arizona music fans and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

"Jazz on the Border: The Mingus Project" was produced in April 1993 by the Tucson Jazz Society and the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce. It included youth education, a performance of Mingus' Epitaph including the world premiere of a long-lost movement from that masterwork, and free concerts on both sides of the border.
  
The Santa Cruz Advocates for the Arts was formed in 2007 to renew the celebration of Mingus' legacy by producing the annual Charles Mingus Hometown Music Festival around his birthday, and by building The Mingus Memorial Park at the former entrance to Camp Little at Western and Bejarano streets. The park is a public/private partnership, the City of Nogales having donated the land, infrastructure and upkeep.  A pocket oasis of plants and art, the park is easily transformed into a performance facility which may be used by other local non-profits as well.

Dan Atkinson, a leading jazz presenter for UC San Diego and the Athenaeum, conceived of the Tijuana Moods project as a way to strengthen ties with Mexico and the neighboring border city of Tijuana. "We live here at the busiest border crossing in the world, where the 8th largest city in the US meets the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Mexico. In a region where the US and Mexico are constantly exchanging influence in every sector, what better way to express this reality than to present an American jazz giant's creative reflections on Tijuana, and to see this music performed there for the first time ever by his own legacy band?"

"Charles Mingus has cast an imposing influence over post war modern jazz and Dynasty musically and politically speaks to the heart of his various ensembles. Dan Atkinson is to be commended for initiating this project, and Network Director Yvonne Ervin for collaborating with the Nogales community and network partners," concludes PDX Jazz Executive Artistic Director Don Lucoff.
  
Mingus Dynasty on Tour is presented by WJPN and funded in part by
WESTAF Tour West, The Bright Moments Fund and the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Jan. 19: Tucson, AZ, HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival, Fox Theatre
Jan. 20: Phoenix, AZ, Musical Instrument Museum
Jan. 21: Tijuana, Baja CA, Mexico; CECUT Cultural Center
Jan. 22: San Diego CA, TSRI Auditorium (Athenaeum Jazz at TSRI series)
Jan. 23: Portland OR, Revolution Hall (PDX Jazz)


San Francisco Bay Area Guitarist George Cotsirilos To Release "Mostly in Blue"

George Cotsirilos Quartet Mostly in Blue Jazz guitarist/composer George Cotsirilos had previously recorded mostly in a trio setting with longtime associates Robb Fisher on bass and Ron Marabuto on drums. For his forthcoming sixth CD, Mostly in Blue, he expanded to a quartet, with pianist Keith Saunders, to shake up his approach a bit but also in the interests of being true to the music he was hearing in his head. OA2 Records will release the new CD on January 19.

"I started hearing a little different sound connected to the tunes I was writing," Cotsirilos says. "It seemed more amenable to a quartet, with a little more harmony underlying the melody line."

The trio tested out its chemistry with Saunders, a mainstay of the New York jazz scene with whom the guitarist had never played but both Fisher and Marabuto had. "When we first got together, it wasn't hard to tell it was working," he says. "We kind of jelled immediately. In the studio, even before we started playing tunes, when we were playing to get the sound, the chemistry was there. It's stunning how quickly Keith was there, on top of everything." Every track on the album was recorded in one or two takes.

In addition to six Cotsirilos originals, the repertoire includes a luminous arrangement of the Harry Warren-Mack Gordon classic "I Wish I Knew," where Saunders's presence liberates the stylistically wide-ranging guitarist to play legato more than he usually does. Another highlight is a feverishly fast performance of the Charlie Parker classic "Crazeology."

The band worked as their own producers in collaboration with engineer Dave Luke, a decorated veteran of Fantasy Records with whom Cotsirilos had worked several times. "We wanted the album to have a live feel," says Cotsirilos, and this live-in-studio sound can be heard as much in the playing as in the engineering, whether on Bird's bebop burner or the guitarist's slinky "Ms. Luna," written for his "troublemaking" cat.

"Blue Dusk," another Cotsirilos original, is a darkly shimmying tune with a swaying movement that puts the listener in the best kind of mood to greet the evening. And then there's "Down, Not Out," which in speaking to and for the underdog in these agonizing times suggests a cure for the melancholy many people are feeling today.

George Cotsirilos was born in Chicago in 1951. Under the influence of his aunt, a classical music devotee, he chose violin as his first instrument. His involvement in jazz was elevated when an uncle who'd played drums with the Woody Herman Orchestra took him to hear Louis Armstrong. Seeing Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner play at Chicago's venerated London House turned him on to the piano. But during his teen years, with local notables including the Butterfield Blues Band and Michael Bloomfield making a national noise, he became strongly involved in blues guitar.

In 1969, Cotsirilos enrolled at UC Berkeley as a sociology major. He taught himself blues riffs, using his background in piano to improve technique. A turning point for him came when he commenced music studies with Warren Nunes, a phenomenal jazz guitarist and prolific writer of guitar books.

Nunes shifted Cotsirilos's attention to jazz and had him listen not just to great guitarists such as Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass but also luminaries on other instruments, among them John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans. Cotsirilos studied classical guitar privately as well through the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

George Cotsirilos Music wasn't the only thing vying for Cotsirilos's future. Born into a family of lawyers -- his late father, George, Sr., the son of Greek immigrants, was a prominent Chicago defense attorney -- Cotsirilos acquired a law degree with thoughts of getting involved in social causes. He became an assistant public defender, then moved on to a successful criminal defense practice in San Francisco and a faculty position at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, where he taught criminal trial practice for fifteen years. At the same time, Cotsirilos continued to practice, perform, and record jazz, releasing co-led quartet and quintet albums featuring venerated drummer Eddie Marshall, and, in 2003, his first solo album, Silenciosa. He subsequently released three trio recordings with Fisher and Marabuto.

While he finally retired in recent years from practicing and teaching law, he has remained deeply involved in music. "I have done what I have for a number of reasons, both personal and socio-philosophical," he reflects. "Involvement in criminal law, while still trying to maintain and grow as a musician, was a life experience that was intense, often very rewarding, but also frenetic. Music, which was always there as a salvation, really, remains and now gets my full attention."  

The George Cotsirilos Quartet will be performing CD release shows at the following: 2/10 Bird & Beckett, San Francisco; 2/18 St. Albans Church, Albany, CA; 2/25 Chez Hanny, San Francisco. 

  

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