Friday, July 19, 2019

Funk and Fellini: Electronic jazz innovator Paolo Rustichelli goes retro on “Hypnofunk”

When asking electronic jazz recording artist Paolo Rustichelli about his new single, “Hypnofunk,” which goes for playlist adds on Monday, the eclectic artist’s hodgepodge response careens from celebrating 70s funk and early 80s sounds to UFOs to his pioneering use of keyboard technology and computer plug-ins that enable him to be a “genuine solo artist” and concludes with a story about dining with legendary Italian film director Federico Fellini. 

An Italy-based composer, pianist, keyboardist, singer and producer, Rustichelli’s latest music offering is a spacy, melody rich and funky trip, an unconventional flight of keyboard harmonies that jet in, out and in between techy hip hop beats and imaginative synth passages. Accompanying the single is the vivid video he crafted (  

“The song ‘Hypnofunk’ is meant to be a celebration of the psychedelic era of the late 70s and the funk years of the 80s. In fact, there are typical synths sounds of that time along with a modern hip-hop rhythmic drum base. The colorful minimalist video salutes late 70s elements, ranging from psychedelia, Graeco-Roman symbols and includes some UFO images. UFOs are being seen more and more in our friendly skies lately,” said Rustichelli.         
“Hypnofunk” offers a preview of Rustichelli’s forthcoming album, “Tempus Fugit,” that is slated to drop in March 2020.

“The album title, ‘Tempus Fugit,’ comes from the ancient Latin term meaning time is running away from us. Time is running and we humans are inside this mechanism that we cannot escape, but music is capable of being eternal,” Rustichelli explained.

Rustichelli has created music alone ever since he began his career in the late 1970s as a 16-year-old prodigy playing progressive rock and writing film scores like his three-time Oscar-nominated father, Carlo Rustichelli. His approach comes from the belief that a solo artist expresses oneself individually, that a record made using other musicians, writers and producers is interpreted by others therefore making it a collaboration, not the true work of a solo artist.

“I create a song from A to Z - from composition to production - all by myself, playing every instrument represented by a plug-in, which mimics the sound of real instruments or creates new sounds. I believe it is extremely important to give the public a genuine and sincere product that reflects the artist and their vision. Accordingly, my recordings can be considered genuine because I do everything myself without outside input. There are superstar ‘solo artists’ who are making ‘solo records’ with creative input from literally a hundred or more people. I cannot consider these works as genuine solo albums.”
Rustichelli has always been on the forefront of innovation, pioneering the use of synths, Moog synthesizers, samplers and organs such as the ARP 2600, Mellotron, Fairlight CMI and Hammond C-3.  He was among the first to score a film entirely with synths. His 1995 debut album, “Mystic Jazz,” was seminal in the “chill” movement while two years later, the follow up, “Mystic Man,” was influential in progressive smooth jazz. The latter collection was a collaborative album featuring legends Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Andy Summers and Jill Jones. “Mystic Man” spawned the Billboard No. 1 single “Paisa.” In 2002, Rustichelli produced a song, “Kyrie,” for Placido Domingo’s “Sacred Songs” album, a feat that required him to command a 250-piece orchestra. His first disc made entirely using plug-ins was 2006’s “Neopagan,” which found success with the single, “My Geisha.” Since then, Rustichelli has issued a series of singles and videos, including the top 10 “Soul Italiano” (2011) and “Med Groove,” which had lengthy runs atop the and Amazon Top Sellers charts in 2014.     

That brings us to dinner with Fellini.

“When I was a kid, I went with my father and his friend, director Federico Fellini, to several of the best, lesser-known restaurants in Italy. They really liked the food because it was authentic, genuine and traditional. This impacted my entire life and how I approach my art. Genuine music cannot be manipulated like most music is today. To be real and  genuine musically, in my opinion, the artist needs to compose and play the music themselves. Like a good restaurant that has a few signature dishes and would become something entirely different if it took on a mass production mentality, the artist needs to express their music and vision singularly,” said Rustichelli. “I also clearly remember that the dinner ended with a discussion about UFOs. Fellini, who was a good illustrator, drew bizarre and funky alien faces on the restaurant’s paper napkins. They were hypnotic faces…or should I say ‘Hypnofunk’ faces.

Tenor Saxophone Legend George Coleman Finally Leads Longstanding Group into the Studio on New Album, The Quartet

NEA Jazz Master George Coleman has been involved with notable bands throughout his remarkable career. As a leader, he’s worked with such estimable players as Ray Drummond, Billy Higgins, Mike LeDonne, Bob Cranshaw, Hilton Ruiz and Sam Jones. As a sideman, Coleman has wielded his powerful tenor alongside such legendary artists as Miles Davis, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Cedar Walton, and B.B. King, among many others.

So when the saxophone giant christens an album The Quartet, those two simple words speak volumes about the esteem in which he holds the musicians that make up his band. Coleman’s latest album, due for release September 27 on Smoke Sessions Records, more than backs up that typically understated compliment with a captivating session of bristling swing, lively interplay and deep communication.

That fact isn’t particularly surprising considering the musicians involved. On this all-too-rare excursion into the studio, Coleman is joined by pianist Harold Mabern, with whom the 84-year old master shares an almost lifelong relationship, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. This quartet has been sharing the bandstand for the better part of two decades, though this release marks their debut recording as a unit. That fact alone lends considerable heft to that seemingly straightforward title.

Coleman and Mabern share roots in the fertile musical soil of Memphis, Tennessee, and have known each other since their days in high school studying under swing-era saxophonist Jimmie Lunceford. The two have been recording together sporadically for more than 50 years, ever since Mabern’s 1968 debut A Few Miles From Memphis.

“We’ve kept that connection through the years,” Coleman says. “We’re still alive and halfway healthy, and there’s a certain amount of maturity that we’ve developed through the years. He and I share a lot of experience and knowledge.”

The rhythm section’s profound chemistry can hardly be overstated; in addition to their work with Coleman, the three have logged countless hours on stage under Mabern’s leadership and as a quartet with saxophonist Eric Alexander. “I’ve had some great people in my quartets over the years,” Coleman says. “These guys are all great musicians. I don't have to rehearse with them; we just get on the stand and play, and they keep their ears open.”

That relaxed approach is evident throughout The Quartet, which manages to feel warm and effortless while never for a moment losing the scintillating surprise of in-the-moment discovery. Coleman’s impassioned strains, sounding over Mabern’s emphatic chords, immediately grab the listener’s tension on opener “Paul’s Call,” a new piece dedicated to Smoke Jazz Club owner Paul Stache. The title stems from the deep mutual respect and longstanding friendship held between the saxophonist and the club. Coleman’s quartet opened Smoke in 1999 and has remained a favorite on its stage ever since.

“Recording George Coleman and his quartet is the reason we have a label,” Stache says. “They represent a certain musical ideal that we hope to promote.”

Coleman’s supple fluidity with melody is evident in his breezy take on the standard “I Wish You Love,” highlighted by his solo, its fluttering figures tracing curves through the air like the path of a butterfly alighting and lifting off again. Mabern responds with a playful, toying turn. The quartet’s heartrending sensitivity comes to the fore on the Ellington classic “Prelude to a Kiss,” with Farnsworth’s whispering brushwork and a winking quote of “Take the A Train” during Mabern’s solo.

“Lollipops and Roses,” best known for singer Jack Jones’ Grammy-winning 1962 rendition, is an unexpected choice but yields a lilting romp that builds in intensity before erupting into Farnsworth’s compelling solo, a spotlight-stealing tour de force. The whole band gets a chance to stretch out on the 12-minute “East 9th Street Blues, an example of in-the-moment composition of the sort only a band with this kind of longevity and virtuosity can pull off.

Over nearly as long a take, “When I Fall in Love” takes a turn from ballad (with some of Coleman’s most exquisite playing) to jaunty swing. Benny Golson’s immortal “Along Came Betty” showcases the rhythm section’s steely vigor, contrasted by the airy elegance of “You’ve Changed.” Jobim’s “Triste” closes the album, beginning in an intimate duo dance between the leader and Webber; the bassist takes the melody out for a fleet, nimble spin, engaged by Mabern’s witty comping.

The Quartet is Coleman’s second release for Smoke Sessions, following 2016’s acclaimed quintet outing A Master Speaks. That title could apply to any number of releases throughout the tenor great’s breathtaking career; a man of few words, he’s stunningly eloquent when he lifts his horn to his lips.

That’s evident when one considers the landmark albums on which Coleman has been a key player over the last 60 years: Miles Davis’ Seven Steps to Heaven, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Booker Little and Friend, Charles Mingus’ Three of Four Shades of Blues, Lee Morgan’s City Lights, and Cedar Walton’s masterpiece Eastern Rebellion, along with great album’s by a who’s who of jazz masters: Max Roach, Chet Baker, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Elvin Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Johnny Hartman, Slide Hampton, and on and on.

The Quartet adds a new chapter to that considerable discography, one that reflects the wealth of experiences and encounters that George Coleman has enjoyed over the decades. Most importantly it captures a stellar band at the height of its powers, a tantalizing glimpse of an extraordinary quartet only previously enjoyed by those who’ve been awestruck by seeing them in person.

"The Quartet" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith and
recorded live in New York at Sear Sound's Studio C on a Sear-Avalon custom console
at 96KHz/24bit and mixed to ½" analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.
Available in audiophile HD format.

Locos Por Juana Announces New Album Crazy for Jane Available Now

Miami’s own GRAMMY® and Latin GRAMMY® nominated reggae fusion band Locos Por Juana is proud to announce Crazy for Jane their 6th studio album due out July 12th via Rock the Moon. The new release includes the critically acclaimed hit singles, “Crazy for Jane” ft. Common Kings, “Don’t Tell Me No” ft. Freddie McGuire, and “Children of the Light.” Crazy for Jane will be available everywhere.

Taking Locos Por Juana back to their reggae and cumbia roots, the new album embracing their bi-lingual heritage and is stack with stellar songs. The title of the new album Crazy for Jane is also the first track, the band wrote, lead single, and features the amazing reggae group Common Kings. It has a special message for the fans as Mark Kondrat, Guitarist, explains, “Locos por Juana translates directly to Crazy for Jane from Spanish to English. It’s always a question we get from new fans and old fans, what does Locos por Juana mean and why did you name the band locos por Juana? I think for our English speaking fans it gives them a chance to feel more part of the music and also gives an explanation or at least a translation for the band’s name.”

The band is comprised of Itawe Correa, the charismatic lead vocalist, Mark Kondrat, talented guitarist, Javier Delgado, innovative drummer, and David Pransky, electrifying bass player. For the new album, Crazy for Jane, they found inspiration from everyday life.  Mark mentions, “We make music because music heals us and we use every day and the experiences from those moments when we write.” He adds, “Life, our family, Situations we find ourselves in, our life goals and mission as well as our destiny is all the inspiration we needed for the new album, Crazy for Jane.”

They recorded the majority of Crazy for Jane at the famous and vibey Studio 26, in Miami, as well at guitarist/producer Mark Kondrat’s studio, Blue Room Studios. The ten track album is stacked with collaborations including Freddie McGregor, the Jamaican reggae legend, Common Kings, ¡MAYDAY!, and Producer/Artist Maffio, (Akon, Farruko, Kymani Marley). And it hits deep with outstanding songs featuring Locos Por Juana island swing. Standouts include the lead single “Crazy for Jane” which Billboard hailed, “an amalgam of Caribbean sounds with Common’s South Pacific and West Coast vibration connecting effortlessly, the collaboration extols the virtues of reggae.” “Don’t Tell Me No” Ft. Freddie McGregor first appeared on KCRW’s PanCliente called it, “a 'lover’s rock', bilingual jam that combines McGregor’s vocals on some sweet verses, with LPJ’s reggae groove.”

Creating the track for Freddie McGregor was an amazing experience for the band. Mark reflects, “I knew I wanted to write in a Lovers Rock style, which is essentially a reggae love song. I spent 3-4 days writing an instrumental that just wasn’t coming to life so I decided to put that aside and started writing something fresh and wrote the entire instrumental in one session. The next day I presented the track to Itawe and he wrote the chorus almost as soon as he heard the music.” He continues, “This song was inspired by love and perseverance. The best things in life don’t come easy, and when something feels right the only answer is yes!”

Additional hits include “Children of the Light” was a collaboration with Locos Por Juana and Tony Gonzalez, founder of the tastemaker imprint Rock the Moon. Tony recalls, “One day Itawe and I were sitting at his house and I played Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” and shared the new lyrics with Itawe – and it just worked – then Mark reggae’d the track up with his musical talents. We presented the track to Simply Red and he immediately jumped on board and gave us his blessing to release the song.”

Signed to the Rock the Moon, Locos Por Juana has always written and produced their own music and, in a music industry that has continuously been focused on urban genres, they represent an alternative genre of Latin and Reggae Music that cannot be boxed in by labels. With their signature, high-energy style, the band has amassed a cult following, Locos has been touring non-stop throughout the United States, and is gearing up to release their new reggae album, Crazy for Jane, dropping on July 12th.

Reflecting back, Locos Por Juana comments, “We want to take a second to thank our familia and God for all the opportunities to make music every day and to do what we love. We are happy with the collection of tracks we are presenting to the world and can’t wait to share them.”
“Locos Por Juana has always impressed with how they have absorbed the disparate influences of South Florida into a sound that could almost be a regional soundtrack.”  – NPR Music

Follow Locos Por Juana:

Locos Por Juana is a GRAMMY® and Latin GRAMMY® nominated bilingual band, most notably recognized for their high energy live performances and unique fusion of reggae, funk, cumbia, salsa, and rock. The band, featuring Itawe Correa as its charismatic lead vocalist, talented guitarist Mark Kondrat, innovative drummer Javier Delgado, and electrifying bass player David Pransky, write and produce all of their own music. Voted Best Latin Band in 2017 by Miami New Times, LPJ’s sound is a hybrid that incorporates the sounds of their heritage and upbringing. Correa and Delgado were born in Colombia, Miami native, Kondrat, is of Colombian descent and Pransky hails from Vermont. Colombian sounds such as Cumbia and Champeta, along with the Afro-Colombian rhythms, Mapale and Chande are integral to their sound, as are musical influences from Miami and the Caribbean islands including Reggae, Raggamufin, Dub, Hip-Hop, Rock and Funk; all of these influences have led to a fusion that Kondrat has coined as “that island swing.”


Gogol Bordello’s bass player Tommy T’s newest single, Anchin, is available now on all digital platforms via Afroxoid. Tommy was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The fabric of global rhythms he weaves throughout Gogol Bordello is echoed in Anchin, which features the legendary Ethiopian artist Mahmoud Ahmed on vocals. The single Anchin, which translates to the feminine pronoun ‘you’ in Amharic, Tommy explains, “fuses roots reggae with the very familiar sound of Ethiopia’s musical golden era, delivered by the incomparable booming voice of the world-renowned legend, and 2007 BBC world music award winner Mahmoud Ahmed.”

Tommy has been fusing Ethiopian melodies with other types of afro-rhythms since his critically acclaimed debut release ‘The Prester John Sessions.’ Anchin is a continuation of his work in exploring the vast world of afro-rhythms combined with an Ethiopian melody and will guide the listener on a cross-cultural musical journey. Amplified by the unmistakable voice of Mahmoud Ahmed and a universal message of LOVE, Anchin is sure to capture the imagination of audiences young and old worldwide.

For over 55 years, “Mahmoud Ahmed has deftly combined the traditional Amharic music of Ethiopia with mostly pop and jazz, yielding some of the most adventurous, passionate, ear-opening, downright surrealistic sounds this side of the deepest, darkest dub or the most out-there free jazz. In fact, until you’ve heard Ahmed’s sweeping multi-octave voice in full workout, words hardly do it justice.” Ahmed has been a star in Ethiopia almost since the day he began recording, and in 1986, Mahmoud’s music reached a larger western audience when the Belgian label Crammed Discs released the collection Ere Mela Mela drawn from two Kaifa LPs, Mahmoud had recorded in Addis with the Ibex Band a decade earlier.

“But it’s Ahmed’s voice — swirling high notes that sound as if they’re chasing one another, impeccable tone and phrasing — that is the distinguishing element.” By singing in this style Ahmed has fused the past and present, and specifically in this release, Ethiopian melody and Roots Reggae. He’s open minded when it comes to collaborating with other artist of different styles, and hears the similarities in music and rhythm that have thrived over time and welcomes the challenge to create something new.

* Quotes about Mahmoud Ahmed are taken from Wikipedia and

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Phil Madeira releases his first instrumental jazz album, “Crickets”

He’s a Nashville mainstay, a seminal Americana music pioneer with Grammy-winning credentials as a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger yet his unexplored desire was his passion for jazz. Phil Madeira finally indulged his long-beckoning muse when he recently dropped his first instrumental album, “Crickets,” a collection of ten original compositions set in the context of a quintet anchored by astute jazz piano rendered in a production palette redolent of 1950s-60s straight-ahead jazz. 

Known for being a lyrical writer, Madeira titled “Crickets,” his eighth solo disc, as a playful reference to his first album without words. His piano romps of swinging acoustic jazz take structure from the rhythmic support of drums and upright bass and are enriched with bluesy guitar and saxophone harmonies. Stylistically, “Crickets” possesses cool vintage appeal along with earthy, organic elements. Initially, Madeira thought he was creating music for use as film scores. When he realized the material had become quite personal in nature, he, with encouragement from the album’s co-producer, Sirkka Svanoe Wood, he expanded the pieces into full-length songs.

Madeira did hit the Billboard Jazz Albums chart last year with his first jazz record, “Providence,” which contained vocal selections.  

Normally heard in the company of Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, The Civil Wars, Elvis Costello, Alison Krauss, Toby Keith, Amy Grant, Mavis Staples, Keb Mo’, Bruce Hornsby and Vanessa Williams, Madeira’s honors include Grammy, Dove, ASCAP and Nashville Music Awards. In April, he was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, his home state. He will be leading his Mercyland Songwriting Workshop in Hot Springs, NC later this month, which is an intensive retreat for songwriters.

“High Hopes” for six-year-old jazz singer Sophie Fatu’s recording debut

Six-year-old jazz singer Sophie Fatu charmed the nation singing Frank Sinatra classics on national television and her videos have amassed over 150 million views. She cheekily called “Mr. Simon” (Cowell) her favorite judge when she became the youngest contestant ever on “America’s Got Talent”; she told Ellen DeGeneres secrets on the host’s top-rated daytime show before crooning “Fly Me To The Moon”; and she teasingly asked Steve Harvey what happened to his hair on “Little Big Shots” prior to belting out “My Way.” Now the bubbly chanteuse is working on her debut recording, a six-song set of selections from the Great American Songbook sung by her biggest influences: Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nina Simone and Michael Bublé. Sophie’s “Love is…” EP is slated for September release. 

Sophie is an effervescent spark, a joyous entertainer with a bluesy jazz voice who exemplifies “born to sing” and “an old soul in a young body.” Even her mother, award-winning classical music pianist and vocalist Victoria Fatu, describes her middle child as “a male crooner in a little girl’s body. Her style and delivery are more patterned after male singers than any of the female vocal legends like Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald.” 

On the surface, Sophie’s desire to sing is simple: “I want to sing to make people happy.” But the maturity of her underlying mission has meaning and significance far beyond her years. “I sing Sinatra because I don’t want people to forget him or this music. I want to travel the world to share this music, to sing these great songs and keep his legacy alive.” 

Sophie excitedly elected to sing “(Love is) The Tender Trap” because it fits her sassy and brassy style. The lyrics are about love in a mocking way with a sense of humor, which is more apropos for someone so young. Culling a slow, romantic ballad from Sinatra’s catalogue, “All The Way” spoke to the Fatus the most because of its beauty. Representative of who Sophie is as a performer, “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” is a statement song for her. She sings it to open her live performances because she literally blooms while singing it. A signature Simone tune, Sophie feels more drawn to Bublé’s version of “Feeling Good” and she dreams of singing it with him one day. “High Hopes” is being completely restyled into a big band number, resisting the obvious cutesy, adorable nature of the song. The jazzy-bluesy production will be strong, explosive, disjointed, creative and unique. Sung by Sinatra and Frankie Lymon, the impish and audacious “Goody Goody” is challenging vocally, requiring plenty of slow vibrato for which Sophie rises to the occasion.
In addition to making the record this summer, Sophie is currently shooting her feature film debut, an action thriller scheduled to arrive in movie theaters in 2020. 

The “Love is…” EP contains the following songs:
“(Love is) The Tender Trap”
“All The Way”
“Ain’t That A Kick in the Head”
“Feeling Good”
“High Hopes”
“Goody Goody”

Sarah McKenzie releases "Secrets Of My Heart"

After the great success of Sarah McKenzie's 2017 disc, Paris in the Rain (Impulse! Records), the 31-year-old pianist, singer, and composer returns with the poignant, Secrets of My Heart. The former disc opened more opportunities for her to perform around the world in such far away places as Brazil, Korea, Japan, and also established her in the United States. Its title song became one of her signature tunes and is one of the highlights of her live shows.

"Traveling was something that I really had to adjust to," McKenzie says. "In the beginning, it is very exciting. I often describe it as going into a magical world; it's stepping off reality and going into this world that's so unreal. Then you come home, and all of that activity stops. It's been a world of extremes."

While embarking on her music career, being so far away from her family in Australia tore her. Sometimes, she contemplated abandoning music for the security of being with her family. "I went through a big coming-of-age process because I had to really decide how much I love this dream versus how much I love being with my family," she explains. "How much am I prepared to sacrifice for my dream as a professional musician? And is it OK to follow that dream?  And is this constant traveling the dream itself? I had some poignant questions to ask myself since the release of Paris in the Rain. And that process resulted in Secrets of My Heart."

For Secrets of My Heart, she reunites with noted Australian composer, arranger, and events music director, Chong Lim, who produced her first two discs – Don't Tempt Me and Close Your Eyes. "He's the guy who introduced me to Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer and Antonio Carlos Jobim's Stone Flower. We always had a great connection; he knows me inside and out," she says.

Recorded in New York City, Secrets of My Heart exudes cosmopolitan flair with its lineup that includes French bassist Pierre Boussaguet and Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Bocattoalongside guitarist Dan Wilson, drummer Donald Edwards, vibraphonist Warren Wolf,tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts, and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber(all of whom based in the United States).

Secrets of My Heart documents McKenzie's burgeoning brilliance interpreting 20th-century jazz standards with her penchant for crafting sterling compositions that will surely become jazz standards in the 21stcentury.

McKenzie penned the lion's share of Secrets of My Heart's 12 songs. The titled track deftly articulates emotional reticence while being pulled in multiple directions with regards one's passion. Amid a lithe bossanova rhythm and orchestral accompaniment, McKenzie sings such poetic verses as "Kept in a box/Locked in a darken room/Buried beneath the places where roses bloom/Sinking so slowly/Drifting apart/Just like the secrets in my heart/Swept by the wind/Lost in the black of night/Hidden behind the sun/Denied the light/Alone in the world without a guide or chart/Just like the secrets of my heart."

While she acknowledges the blue corridors of some of her lyrics, McKenzie tries to counter them with glimpses of hope. "With a lot of my songs, for some reason, I can go negative, but I always need to end them with something positive," she explains. "I don't want my songs to get too dark. In general, I think I'm an optimist. Everyone is struggling with something. And definitely in this last period, I've struggled more than I'd usually have. But you got to have positivity."

Indeed, the fetching original "I Fell in Love with You," prances to an upbeat swing momentum as she conveys the seemingly inconsequential moments that occur when you fall in love with someone; the song also highlights McKenzie's succinct yet masterful piano improvisations and Wilson's beguiling guitar aside. He also accompanies McKenzie magnificently on the guitar/vocal duo "My True Love Is You," a pensive original ballad, one of two on the album. McKenzie channels the elegiac wonder of Cole Porter on her ebullient mid-tempo ballad "You and the Music," an original, which she cites as the album's anthem. On the whimsical, blues-drenched "It's All About Love," McKenzie celebrates her love for jazz by challenging herself to write eloquent vocalese lyrics inside Charlie Parker-esque bebop lines.

"I love writing lyrics. I think I'm very specific with my lyrics. I like Johnny Mercer, Sammy Kahn, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter," says McKenzie before explaining that she now begins with the melody when composing. "Initially, I wrote songs together – the lyrics and melody. But when I pulled them apart, I realisedthat my melodies weren't as strong as I thought they were in my head. I think for me, I always want to have a flow with the words or something witty; and I know how it should sound."

McKenzie's favourite song on Secrets of My Heart is "TillThe End of Time," one of the two originals that explicitly betray her love for Brazilian music. She wrote the song during a stint in Rio de Janeiro, where she collaborated with musicians who played with one of her heroes – Antonio Carlos Jobim. The other strongly Brazilian-inflected original is the bossa nova, "DeNada" (also written in Brazil), which contains carefree lyrics and a sauntering piano solo from McKenzie.

Even though McKenzie hailed from Melbourne and studied at Boston's Berklee College of Musicon a full scholarship, she started her career in Europe, first living in Paris,then London. And while she's absorbed great harmonic and lyric-writing knowledge from the Great American Songbook, she says that Secrets of My Heart reveals her time spent in Europe, especially from a harmonic standpoint. Her residency in Europe also afforded her the opportunity to sit around the piano with the iconic composer and arranger Michel Legrand. "His style differsfrom the classic American Songbook standards," McKenzie says. "Michel is a little bit more lyrical and French; his music is a little bit more Debussy or Ravel-influenced thanthe classic American Songbook standards. To have been able to spend time with him at the piano was one of the highlights of the year."

McKenzie's mesmerisingreading of "You Must Believe in Spring" best exposes her time with Legrand on Secrets of My Heart. Her solo performance of just vocal and piano accentuates Legrand's pensive yet hopeful lyrics as well as his impressionistic harmonic language.

Secrets of My Heart opens with McKenzie's transfixing rendition of John Barry and Leslie Bricusse's "You Only Live Twice," which showcases McKenzie's comely piano soloing as much as it does her alluring singing.  She also delivers an exquisite makeover of Stanley Styne and Donald Kahn's classic "A Beautiful Friendship" and a gutbucket take on Dinah Washington's "Come on Home."

She concludes Secrets of My Heart with a tour-de-force homage to another hero, George Gershwin with "The Gershwin Medley" an instrumental on which she plays snippets of "Rhapsody in Blue," "Summertime," "The Man I Love" and "I Got Rhythm."

"Ultimately, this album is about me embracing the unknown and going with love," McKenzie explains. "I'm so lucky to be able to play my music for a living."

Guitar Shorty - "Trying To Find My Way Back" is out and trending

At 84, Guitar Shorty is moving his music into the future with “Trying To Find My Way Back” an album that is at turns funky, gritty, modern and soulfully poignant.

This new record is produced by Jerry Williams Jr., AKA Swamp Dogg who was recently featured in Rolling Stone for his Bon Iver helmed, album 'Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune' that featured Guitar Shorty. Kindred spirit Larry “MoogStar” Clemon, from the legendary funk group Cameo was brought into the mix and a holy alliance was formed. Featuring 16 original tunes penned by Shorty, Swamp Dogg, and MoogStar. The resulting sound is like no other Guitar Shorty album up to this point. Exclusive downloads available below. 

6 things you want to know about Guitar Shorty:

Inspired by Guitar Slim, David Kearney honed his style in the Tampa Bay area at age of 16, where he earned the nickname “Guitar Shorty”, as the featured guitarist in The Walter Johnson band.

Guitar Shorty recorded his first single in 1957 (“You Don't Treat Me Right”), for the legendary Cobra label at the behest of blues legend Willie Dixon after Dixon caught his act.

In addition to his residency at the famed Dew Drop Inn with his own band, Shorty, has played alongside Sam Cooke Ray Charles T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner and Little Richard just to name a few.

Legend has it that the young Jimi Hendrix was so enamored with Shorty's playing, that he often went AWOL from his army base to catch him perform. Shorty let Hendrix borrow one of his wah-wah pedals and the rest is, as they say, history.

During his first tour of the UK in 1991 he recorded the album “My Way, Or The Highway” which won him the prestigious W.C. Handy award (A Grammy Award).

His 2 highest charting albums, are 2004's “Watch Your Back” and his 2006 album “We the People.” Both charted on the Billboard Top Blues Albums at eleven and twelve, respectively.

New Releases: Matt Brewer - Ganymede; Edu Lobo, Romero Lubambo, & Mauro Senise - Quase Memoria; Gabriele Mitelli & Rob Mazurek - Star Splitter

Matt Brewer - Ganymede

An album of brooding intensity from bassist Matt Brewer – a trio date that takes very special advantage of the tenor saxophone voice of Mark Shim! Shim's very much at home here – blowing these long, complex solos that have that sort of deep burning quality of his early work as a leader – free, but not in a free jazz sort of way – really covering a lot of space, in ways that are almost circular at times – as if he's slowly trying to plot out a new universe in jazz! Drummer Damon Reid matches the intensity of Shim in a great way – so much so that we're almost tempted to say that Brewer is the quietest partner on the date – save for the fact that his deep tones on bass have this low rumble that really sets the tone for the moodiness of the tenor. Titles include "Triton", "Ganymede", "Don't Wake The Violent Baby", "Afro Centric", "IO", "Psalm", and "Willisee". ~ Dusty Groove

Edu Lobo, Romero Lubambo, & Mauro Senise - Quase Memoria

A beautiful meeting these thoughtful Brazilian creative talents – in a mode that provide a perfect backdrop for the vocals of the great Edu Lobo! Lobo's been a sophisticated force from the 60s bossa years onwards – and in recent years, he's gotten even more subtle and personal in his approach – in a way that really comes through here, with his well-phrased original lyrics set up in light instrumental settings that feature the guitar of Romero Lubambo and flute and saxes of Mauro Senise – with occasional guest work from Cristovao Bastos on piano, Kiko Horta on accordion, and Anat Cohen on clarinet. The tunes have all the charms of Lobo's lofty work from the 70s, but in a very different way – and titles include "Rosinha", "Labia", "As Mesmas Historias", "Terro Do Nunca", "Peregrina", "Senhora Do Rio", and "Quase Memoria". ~ Dusty Groove

Gabriele Mitelli & Rob Mazurek - Star Splitter 

Some of the darkest sounds in years from the great Rob Mazurek – a musician who's matched perfectly on every front by Gabriele Mitelli – who does everything that Rob does on the record, and also throws in a bit of soprano sax as well! The music is all improvised, and in that very deep blend of electronic and acoustic elements that Mazurek has explored over the years – with textures so intense, it's often difficult to figure out what's coming from where – as Rob blows piccolo trumpet, Mitelli blows cornet, and both artists served up a wealth of sounds on electronics, voice, and other objects too. Titles include "Venus", "Mercury", "Mars", and "Uranus". ~ Dusty Groove

New Releases: Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble - Where Future Unfolds; Marlene Rosenberg - MLK Convergence; Candace Woodson – Desire

Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble - Where Future Unfolds

An amazing record from Chicago musician/artist Damon Locks – maybe the album he's been waiting his entire life to make – and the first to really bring together the mighty sum of his many talents! The material was recorded live in performance at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory – at an event that also included a group of singers and dancers to augment the musical performance – in a setting that gives Damon's majestic vision the proper setting it really deserves! Locks himself moves between electronics and vocal performances – in a core instrumental group that's heavy on drums and percussion from Dana Hall, clarinets from Angel Bat Dawid, and more percussion from Arif Smith – making music that's even more beautiful when the singers come into the mix, and take the energy to the sky with a very cosmic, righteous vibe. Locks has given us a glimpse of his vision in artwork, music, and writings over the years – but this time around, it feels like we're seeing the full scope at once – with more power and meaning than ever before. Titles include "Solar Power", "Rebuild A Nation", "Which I Believe It Will", "The Colors That You Bring", "The Future", "From A Spark To A Fire", "Black Monument Theme", and "Sounds Like Now". ~ Dusty Groove

Marlene Rosenberg - MLK Convergence

Bassist Marlene Rosenberg leads a hell of a trio here – one that features Kenny Barron on piano and Lewis Nash on drums – both tremendous players who sound even better in the round, rich company of Rosenberg's bass! Most titles are trio numbers, but driven as much by the bass as by the always-wonderful work of Barron – and the tunes include many originals by Marlene – instrumentals, but with a current of the more righteous energy promised by the title. One exception is the great "Not The Song I Wanna Sing" – a number that has Rosenberg on vocals while Christian McBride handles the bass – alongside other vocal contributions from Thomas Burrell and Robert Irving III – which help make the song the most political number on the set. Titles include "The Line Between", "American Violet", "Togetherness", "And Still we Rise", "Visions", "The Barron", "Rain", "Love's In Need Of Love Today", and "Not The Song I Wanna Sing".  ~ Dusty Groove

Candace Woodson – Desire

Twenty-eight days after her 2014 breast cancer surgery, Candace Woodson was back to business as usual performing at the wedding of one of John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s daughters. This is a testament to Candace Woodson’s lifelong passion for performing and a talent for resilience she calls “stick to it-ness”. A survivor since 2014, she wrote the UK Soul Chart hit “Free,” a funky old school dance anthem that conveys hope and positivity in the wake of adversity. This is a message she conveys stemming from her own experience and feeling after receiving her last cancer treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina. This success laid the foundation for a handful of other chart topping singles, including “The Answer Is No”, a defiant female empowerment ballad produced by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tom Glide. “The Answer Is No” hit #1 on the UK Soul Chart Top 30 and has continued to receive airplay on Smooth Jazz Radio. Woodson received Billboard’s “Most Added” designation and a Best International Artist nominee. Her highly anticipated full-length debut album “Desire” includes her UK hits as well as new tracks produced by hit smooth jazz guitarist/producer Nils and Lew Laing (Paul Brown, Richard Elliot, Stephanie K) and others helmed by the singer herself.

New Releases: Lonnie Smith – Think!; Roy Budd – Get Carter; Kaina – Next To The Sun

Lonnie Smith – Think!

A seminal album from Hammond giant Lonnie Smith – a bold statement that really gives the organist his own identity after some killer work in the combos of Lou Donaldson and George Benson! Lonnie's one of the key flag-fliers of the new style of funky organ jazz – a mode different from the earlier styles of Jimmy Smith or Jimmy McGriff – leaner, cleaner, and often tied heavily to the drums – which, in this case, are handled by Marion Booker Jr, but in a way that recalls some of the Idris Muhammad greatness on other Blue Note albums of the time. The mighty Pucho (of Latin Soul Brothers fame) plays added timbales, and there's also two more conga players – ensuring a tight, yet complex sort of groove – and the frontline features Lee Morgan on trumpet, David Newman on tenor and flute, and Melvin Sparks on guitar. Tracks are long, with complicated rhythms – and soulful yet sophisticated solos to match – and titles include the seminal "Son Of Ice Bag", a great cover of "Think", and the tracks "Slouchin", "Call Of The Wild", and "Three Blind Mice". ~ Dusty Groove

Roy Budd – Get Carter

Maybe the greatest moment ever from Brit soundtrack genius Roy Budd – an artist who started with his roots in jazz piano, but who really explodes here in a range of groovy styles! The main title is an incredible blend of Eastern percussion and moody jazz – and other cuts bring in some trippier elements, mixed with funkier bits and warmer moments – all at a level that have Budd even outdoing the best late 60s work by Lalo Schifrin! The keyboards are often at the forefront – either acoustic or electric – and the album's got so many groovy grooves, with such variety, it's got a feel that's much richer than the usual soundtrack set. Titles include "Love Is A Four Letter Word", "Carter Takes A Train", "Looking For Someone", "The Girl In The Car", "Livin Should Be This Way", "Manhunt", "Goodbye Carter", and "Hallucinations". This fantastic 3CD set is overflowing with greatness! First, the whole thing comes in a heavy book-style cover – with dozens of pages of notes, photos, and images from the film – and CD2 features 18 more rare mixes of songs from the film – a great addition to the 22 tracks on CD1 – making for a whopping 40 tracks in all. CD3 features 19 more Roy Budd grooves, mostly from soundtracks – songs that include "Mr Funker", "Diamond Fortress", "No Cooperation", "Cassette Jazz", "How Can We Run Away", "Fear Is The Key", "Who Needs Love Anyway", "Versailles Exit", and "Jazz It Up". ~ Dusty Groove

Kaina – Next To The Sun

A soaring effort from Kaina – one we're sure to remember as a major creative statement from a versatile singer and as a vital snapshot of a burgeoning era in Chicago's indie soul scene! Kaina's triumph here is the way she sets up a dreamy mood that holds throughout the album – wherein her layered vocals carry it along as if on a wave – then takes it to an even deeper level thanks to her soulful lyricism. She's got a good creative partner in Sen Morimoto, whose roots in genre defiant jazzy hip hop production are used to such hypnotic effect behind Kaina's beautiful voice. Next To The Sun coming out so soon after similarly fresh and inspired material from fellow Chi voices like Jamila Woods, it feels like the dawn of an era! Includes "House", "Ghost", "Next To The Sun", "What's A Girl", "Waiting On A Day", "Joei's Secret", "Could Be A Curse" feat Sen Morimoto", "So Small/So Vast" and "Green". ~ Dusty Groove

JAZZ AND ART by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performing original compositions inspired by modern master artists

In past concerts that have been described by the New York Times as being “soulful,” “evocative,” and “playing directly to the band’s strengths,” the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performed original compositions inspired by masters of modern art including Romare Bearden, Stuart Davis, Sam Gilliam, Winslow Homer, Wifredo Lam, Norman Lewis and Piet Mondrian. On August 2, 2019, Blue Engine Records will release the studio recordings of these charts on a new album entitled Jazz and Art.

Jazz and Art will be released on all digital platforms on August 2nd, 2019.

GRAMMY Award-winner and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Ted Nash says, “Music and paintings share so many characteristics; textures, colors, layers, line, form, shape. No wonder they are such agreeable collaborators. When these two art forms come together, they create a new medium.”

“In February 2010, the audience in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater got to experience that transcendent combination when seven imaginative composers presented new works accompanied by projections of the paintings that inspired their creations.”

Jazz and Art displays impressive musicianship and a range of musical styles, from modern jazz to gospel, American pastoral music, Afro-Cuban, spirituals, New Orleans, Indian chants, avant garde, and beyond. The compositions were inspired by works of art from beloved museums such as The Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.

1. Stuart Davis for the Masses: The Mellow Pad
For Stuart Davis
Written & Arranged by Doug Wamble
Solo: Vincent Gardner (trombone)

2. Stuart Davis for the Masses: Garage Lights
For Stuart Davis
Written & Arranged by Doug Wamble
Solo: Marcus Printup (trumpet), Sherman Irby (alto saxophone)

3. Stuart Davis for the Masses: New York
For Stuart Davis
Written & Arranged by Doug Wamble
Solo: Dan Nimmer (piano)

4. Blue Twirl
For Sam Gilliam
Written & Arranged by Vincent Gardner
Solo: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone)

5. Bearden (The Block)
For Romare Bearden
Written & Arranged by Chris Crenshaw
Solo: Dan Nimmer (piano), Victor Goines (tenor saxophone)

6. Air, Earth, Fire, Water (Orisha Medley)
For Wifredo Lam
Written & Arranged by Papo Vasquez
Solo: Papo Vazquez (trombone), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)

7. Winslow Homer: Homer’s Waltz
For Winslow Homer
Written by Bill Frisell
Arranged by Andy Farber
Solo: Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone)

8. Winslow Homer: Homer’s Blues
For Winslow Homer
Written by Bill Frisell
Arranged by Andy Farber
Solo: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Dan Nimmer (piano)

9. The Repose in All Things
For Piet Mondrian
Written & Arranged by Tim Armacost
Solo: Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Ryan Kisor (trumpet)

10. Twilight Sounds
For Norman Lewis
Written & Arranged by Sherman Irby
Solo: Victor Goines (bass clarinet), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)


Sherman Irby (alto saxophone, clarinet, and flute)
Ted Nash (alto saxophone, clarinet, and flute)
Victor Goines (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, and clarinet)
Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone)
Joe Temperley (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet)

Ryan Kisor
Marcus Printup
Kenny Rampton
Wynton Marsalis, trumpet and vocals

Vincent Gardner
Chris Crenshaw
Elliot Mason

Dan Nimmer, piano
Carlos Henriquez, bass
Ali Jackson, drums and tambourine

Special Guests:
Papo Vazquez, trombone
Iwao Sado, Batá drums
Xavier Rivera, Batá drums
Anthony Carrillo, Batá drums


New Five CD Set Of Art Pepper Sessions Due September 23

Producer John Snyder had always wanted to record alto saxophonist Art Pepper and booked him into a week at the Village Vanguard in New York. At the time, Pepper was under contract to Contemporary Records, whose label head, Les Koenig, decided he would record the gigs, quashing any notion Snyder had of doing the same. However, Art promised Snyder that he’d record an album for Snyder’s label, Artists House, at some point down the road. Together they wound up making four.

Omnivore Recordings will make available for the first time the complete Artists House sessions including 19 previously unissued takes. The original albums drawn from these sessions, So In Love, Artworks, New York Album, and Stardust, have been remastered and expanded with additional takes, some having appeared previously on releases such as The Complete Galaxy Recordings and Artists House—Complete (download only), while some appear here for the first time.

The five-CD set, also available on Digital, will be available September 23, 2019.

“Art Pepper had had a brilliant career as a jazz soloist and band leader until the mid-1950s when he started using heroin,” writes Pepper's widow, Laurie Pepper, who contributed the liner notes for the set. “After that, incarcerations and treatments in prisons and hospitals kept him off the stages and out of the studios. He was only able to record sporadically until he got (relatively) sober in Synanon in 1972, and married — me. Then, in the last ten years of his life, he composed, recorded, and toured more ambitiously than ever before, focused on securing his place among the true jazz greats — where he knew he belonged.”

In addition to her liner notes, Laurie Pepper provided photographs she took at the sessions. Altogether, this is the most comprehensive window onto the Artists House sessions ever likely to be.

Ms. Pepper says, “John and Art both kept their promises. John brought Art into the wider world; he put him on the road. Just as he said he would, he brought him to New York and to the Village Vanguard, got his picture in the papers, got him on the radio. From Art, John got his dearest wish. He made these 32 recordings.”


Jazzmeia Horn Releases Second Album "Love And Liberation"

In the two years since Jazzmeia Horn bowed with her first album, the GRAMMY Award®-nominated A Social Call, she’s been busy on the road, honing her vocal skills to a finely tuned level, writing songs of personal relevance and social message, and perfecting a fearless approach to improvisation and performance in general. The convergence of this drive and development has resulted in what is sure to be hailed as one of the most courageous recordings of 2019—Love and Liberation—filled with songs of daring musicality, emotional power, and messages of immediate relevancy. 

Horn chose the title she did for her second album because, “Love and Liberation is a concept and mantra that I use consistently in my everyday life. For me the two go hand in hand and they both describe where I am in my life and career right now. An act of love is an act of liberation, and choosing to liberate—oneself or another—is an act of love.” 

Love and Liberation, scheduled for release on August 23, 2019 via Concord Jazz, marks a formidable leap forward for Horn as a singer, bandleader and songwriter, the result of an almost non-stop touring schedule that followed the release of her debut album and which benefitted her vocal chops as well as her band sound. “I have evolved,” she says. “It’s like I’m really understanding music in a different way.” 

“Once A Social Call was released in May of 2017, I hit the road and I am still on tour. The album literally came out two years ago. I’m really tired but grateful because I’ve had the opportunity to travel and practice and improvise night after night in a room full of people with some of the best musicians playing today. We’d experiment, using a trumpet player on a song one time and a saxophonist the next, or sometimes just drums and voice in the beginning of a song, trying out different combinations and ideas, challenging ourselves. This was worth more than gold to me—understanding how to utilize my instruments: my voice, my body, the band that I’ve hired.” 

Horn has substantial experience with all the A-list musicians on these tracks: pianists Victor Gould (her regular accompanist) and special guest Sullivan Fortner, tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer/singer Jamison Ross. Chris Dunn, who produced Horn’s debut disc, is producer on this album as well. 

Eight of the dozen new tracks are original tunes, a point of pride and significance for the 28-year old Horn: “All of these songs are about me and my experiences, but also as part of any young person’s journey. The message they all share is that you just have to learn—about people, about relationships, about business, love, or whatever. They don’t just tell one person’s story, they tell many people’s stories.” 

The songs on Love and Liberation comprise an impressive variety of styles, approaches, and feel—some with full band, some just voice and one instrument, even an a capelladuet—each with a precise message to convey. There are songs that resonate with a powerful sense of African American identity, and others that speak with intention about her stature as a strong, independent woman. Still others deal with matters of love and attraction—with tenderness and humor. 

“Some of these songs are very cute and fun,” Horn admits. “But a lot of them are meditations and have deep meaning that people can listen to, to help free up their minds. People of all creeds and races, and even all generations because there’s a lot of tradition in this music. My godfather gave me the best compliment when I played the album for him. He said, I’m really proud of you because this music sounds like what Ella [Fitzgerald] or Billie [Holiday] or Abbey [Lincoln] or Nina [Simone] would have evolved into.” 

Musically, Horn’s compositions both breathe and bend jazz tradition, with tasteful touches of R&B and hip-hop, revealing a marked inventiveness and a love for a good melodic line. On Love and Liberation one can hear it on the opener “Free Your Mind” (a plea for more human interaction and less focus on digital media) and the coy yet firm “Time” (urging an avid suitor to take a breath and cool his jets), to the upbeat, off-kilter, rhythmic slam of “Out The Window” (warning of the other woman) and the intelligence and nuance of the a capelladuet, “Only You” (weaving the inner words of two lovers as their thoughts connect, diverge and reconnect.) 

Horn is quick to point out that she is constantly writing while on the road, and that many of the originals on Love and Liberation are not exactly new. “We’ve been playing ‘Legs And Arms’ for about a year now, and some, like ‘Searching’ goes back to 2013! We’ve also been doing ‘Green Eyes’ which is by Erykah [Badu] and then a bunch are brand spanking new.” 

The four covers on Love and Liberation are equally impressive, both in which tunes Horn chose to cover and how she approaches them, finding fresh takes on Jon Hendrick’s “No More” (as clear and strong a statement on Horn’s own philosophy of personal empowerment), Badu’s “Green Eyes” (Horn’s interpretation giving it a shot of gravitas with a more spiritual feel), Rachelle Farrell’s “Reflection of My Heart” (a poignant vocal duet with drummer/singer Jamison Ross), and Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer’s “I Thought About You” (the sole classic standard of the set.) 

Blessed with a fitting name for her chosen path—it was Horn’s jazz-loving, piano-playing grandmother who chose “Jazzmeia”—the singer was born in Dallas in 1991, grew up in a tightly knit, church-going family filled with musical talent andstarted singing as a toddler. She attended Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts, known for launching such musical greats as Roy Hargrove, Norah Jones, and Erykah Badu. Her education included steering herself to the mentors who would guide her passion for jazz, like Bobby McFerrin, Abbey Lincoln, and Betty Carter. 

In 2009, Horn moved to New York City to enroll in The New School’s jazz and contemporary music program. An intense four years of training and performing followed, when she met many of the musicians who appear on her recordings, including Gould and Dillard. In short order, her talent began to be noticed. In 2013, she entered and won a Newark-based contest named for an initial inspiration—the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition. In 2015, she won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition,the most coveted award a jazz musician can hope to attain. Part of her prize was a contract with Concord, which led to A Social Call and now Love and Liberation.
“Honestly, I’m way more excited now about Love and Liberation because this is mostly my original music,” says Horn with palpable giddiness. “Don’t get me wrong, I love A Social Call and all the acclamations were great—the reviews in Downbeat, The New York Times and London Times. But now I’m like, You guys don’t really know what’s coming. Boy, do I have something in store for you!” 

- By Ashley Kahn


Grammy-Winning Conguero Poncho Sanchez Pays Tribute To John Coltrane On His Latest Album

On his first new album in seven years, GRAMMY Award-winning conguero Poncho Sanchez celebrates the life and music of the iconic saxophonist John Coltrane. Due out September 20, 2019 via Concord Picante, Trane’s Delight is a love letter from one musical pioneer to another, as the Latin Jazz legend pays homage to one of his earliest and most indelible influences. The joyous album arrives just in time for the late tenor titan’s 93rd birthday on September 23.  Throughout his career Sanchez has held aloft the torch lit by such Latin Jazz innovators as Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader, embraced by each of those icons and entrusted to carry forward the traditions of Latin Jazz. But Sanchez’s influences are numerous, and Coltrane looms large in Sanchez’s pantheon alongside those pioneers. On his latest album Trane’s Delight, Sanchez pays tribute to the late jazz legend with Latin-tinged reimaginings of Coltrane classics as well as new pieces composed in honor of the tenor titan.  “I’ve always loved John Coltrane,” Sanchez says, “ever since I was a kid and first learned about jazz. I’ve recorded tributes to a lot of my heroes in life – Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader – so I thought it was definitely time to do a tribute to the great John Coltrane.”
 Trane’s Delight also continues Sanchez’s remarkable 37-year relationship with Concord, a rich legacy that has now yielded 27 albums. The album features the conguero’s longtime band, featuring trombonist and musical director Francisco Torres, trumpet and flugelhorn master Ron Blake, saxophonist Robert Hardt, pianist Andy Langham, bassists Rene Camacho and Ross Schodek, and percussionists Joey DeLeon and Giancarlo Anderson.  The 11-track album features three classic Coltrane compositions and a pair of new compositions written in honor of the sax master, alongside a host of original pieces and classic favorites chosen to represent Sanchez’s wide spectrum of influences. At its heart, though, Trane’s Delight provides a direct link from the 67-year old conguero to his 11-year old self, staring in the window of his local record store at the entrancing, blue-tinged cover of the 1962 album Coltrane.  “I had eyeballed this record for about a month, looking at it with not enough money to buy it,” Sanchez recalls. “I played a couple little gigs around town and saved up the money, so it was the first album I ever bought by myself. I used to have a little space in my mother’s garage with my record player and my drums and congas. I put that record on, and that first track, ‘Out of This World,’ kicked in and I was blown away. I listened to that record daily for years.”

The wonder with which Sanchez first heard Coltrane’s singular voice is still present more than a half-century later in his vibrant reimagining of the saxophonist’s compositions. Trane’s Delight features a buoyant Latin spin on “Liberia,” from 1964’s Coltrane’s Sound; the classic “Blue Train” rendered as a cha-cha-chá; and a rumba twist on the immortal “Giant Steps,” that perennial proving ground for jazz musicians, its challenge not only embraced by Sanchez’s virtuosic collaborators but taken at a breakneck pace that leaves no room for trepidation.  In collaboration with Torres, Sanchez also penned two brand-new pieces inspired by Coltrane. The bustling title tune is a lively encapsulation of the saxophonist’s adventurous spirit, highlighted by DeLeon’s rollicking timbale solo. “Yam’mote,” meanwhile, coins a new hybrid term combining two cultures’ words for the same food: yams and camote. The music, as warm as the comfort food that it references, was inspired by another of the young Sanchez’s brushes with his idol.  “When I was in high school, I would lay in bed listening to Los Angeles’ jazz radio station,” he says. “One night, the DJ announced, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to interview John Coltrane at 11am.’ It was during the week, but I had to hear this interview, so the next day I woke up and started coughingand told my mother that I didn't feel good, so I didn't have to go to school that day. It ended up being a short interview, but the part that stuck with me the most was at the very end. The host asked Trane his favorite food. My ears grew huge and I leaned in to the radio, thinking he’d say BBQ ribs or fried chicken or something, but he said sweet potato pie.”  Dumbstruck, Sanchez asked his mother if she knew how to make sweet potato pie. Instead, she offered to make the candied camotesthat is a favorite dish in Mexico and across Central America. “I ate that camote every day for like two weeks because I loved John Coltrane,” Sanchez laughs. “I just thank God that he didn't say dog food, because I would’ve run out and got some dog food. That’s how much he meant to me.”  As always with Sanchez’s wide-ranging interests, Trane’s Delight casts its sonic net much wider than just Coltrane’s sphere of influence. The blissful Duke Ellington composition “The Feeling of Jazz,” provides a bridge: the lovely, relaxed tune, here featuring eloquent turns by Torres and Camacho, was recorded on 1963’s Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, the sole meeting of the two jazz icons.  Trane’s Delight opens with “Soul Bourgeoisie,” a Hubert Laws composition originally recorded by the Jazz Crusaders on their 1965 album Chile Con Soul. Featuring a soulful Hardt solo, the upbeat tune sets the exuberant tone for the album. The classic bolero “Si Te Dicen” slows things down to an elegant sway, with Sanchez’s heartfelt vocal harkening back to Joe Cuba’s 1966 version featuring singer Cheo Feliciano.  Pianist Andy Langham contributed “Sube” (which translates as “ascend” or “go up”), a bristling 6/8 piece ornamented by the mesmerizing kalimba playing of Cornelius Alfredo Duncan Jr. Sanchez befriended the percussionist more than 40 years ago, and reconnected when he saw a YouTube video of Duncan playing the African thumb piano. He immediately reconnected with his old friend and invited him to join the band for the occasion.  A sequel to the medley of classic tunes that appeared on the conguero’s last release, Live in Hollywood, “Poncho Sanchez Medley #2” combines three old favorites: “Baila Mi Gente,” from 1979’s Poncho, which Sanchez cites as his first original composition; “El Sabrosón,” co-written by Sanchez’s longtime pianist and musical director, the late David Torres; and “El Shing-A-Ling,” a song born from Sanchez’s impromptu singing in a Fayetteville, Arkansas convenience store.  The album closes with “Todo Termino,” a song written by Bobby Manrique and immortalized by another Sanchez idol, the great Puerto Rican singer and bandleader Tito Rodríguez. For the occasion he invited the Los Angeles vocalist Norell Thomson, a standout voice on the city’s salsa scene, to front the ensemble.  Ultimately, Trane’s Delight offers a tribute not only to the stellar music and influence of the great John Coltrane, but a spotlight for the myriad ways that the tenor giant’s explorations have fueled courageous artists like Poncho Sanchez. The results, as on this passionate new album, would no doubt delight Trane’s searching spirit.


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