Thursday, March 23, 2023

Astrocolor – AstroJazz Vol. 1

Named Instrumental Artist of the Year at the 2022 Western Canadian Music Awards, Astrocolor blend elements of jazz, psychedelia, and electronica – resulting in an experimental genre of their own cosmic invention, aptly dubbed “AstroJazz.”

The new album Moonlighting – AstroJazz Vol.1 was Executive Produced and mixed by GRAMMY-winner Steve Christensen, best known as Khruangbin’s longtime producer and studio collaborator. Given Khruangbin’s significant cultural influence amongst modern instrumental-leaning projects, Christensen’s stamp of approval was not only a massive feather in Astrocolor’s cap, but also an opportunity to add his revered touch to the spacious soundscapes the band has been celebrated for.

Moonlighting imagines an exploratory trip into deep space, combining improvised experimentalism with hypnotic repetition that recalls the influence of late 90s electronic acts like Air, St. Germain, and Massive Attack. Engineered by Neil James Cooke-Dallin at Burning Rainbow Studios in Victoria, Canada, the album sprinkles moments of electronic stardust atop a traditional bed of live drums, bass, guitar, saxophone, and upright piano. The result is both meditative and interplanetary.

Astrocolor’s catalogue has over 10 million streams on the major platforms and regular national radio airplay from flagship CBC shows including Drive and Afterdark. The band’s dynamic live show has brought them to notable festivals including Bass Coast, Burning Man, Shambhala, Rifflandia, Laketown Shakedown, and the Victoria International Jazz Festival. 

Melissa Pipe Sextet | "Of What Remains"

Of What Remains is Montreal baritone saxophonist and bassoonist Melissa Pipe’s first release as a leader. It explores ideas around temporality: the shifting of time, form and being. The pieces form a whole, joining together fragmentation, symbiosis, distillation, evaporation, and transience, while looking at what is left behind, or what remains.

“The sextet’s instrumentation allows me to write in both traditional jazz ensemble configuration (trumpet and saxes with the rhythm section) and in a “chamber jazz” format,” says Pipe about choosing the unique instrumentation and writing for her sextet. “The additional colour, timbre and orchestration possibilities of the bassoon and the bass clarinet are particularly effective in infusing elements of classical and folkloric music into the pieces”. 

Her compositions here range from moody, atmospheric pieces to more traditional styles like a minor blues, but most tend to be on the darker, introspective side. “I write what I hear. Sometimes it starts with a bass line, a progression. Sometimes it’s a melody. The pieces on this album use a variety of jazz and classical compositional devices and techniques, but beyond the theoretical framework that I use to build its structures, harmonies, textures, etc. the most important thing for me is that it has to have soul. It has to be something my ear wants to hear. At times that can be something more modern, and at others something steeped in the jazz tradition: to me it goes beyond genres, it’s all about the soul of the thing.”

In addition to leading her own group, Pipe also performs regularly with jazz, hip hop, indie, and classical ensembles as a freelancer. She also had the honour of interviewing Yusef Lateef, whose playing and compositional style have greatly influenced her, for an article about his double reed playing which was published in The Double Reed, as well as on Lateef’s website. In 2014, she was invited to perform her arrangements of Charles Mingus pieces for bassoon quartet at the Jazz Standard in NYC alongside Michael Rabinowitz, Paul Hanson and Mark Ortwein, as part of the International Double Reed Society conference

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

BT ALC Big Band | "Hearing The Truth"

The might and muscle of a big band is in all those horns. And that magical power became a serious challenge when COVID restriction prevented BT ALC Big Band from being in the same room to record together. That scene was the inception of the fifth album by the Boston-based soul-jazz funksters, “Hearing The Truth,” which drops April 14 on the Vintage League Music label.

Band leaders Brian Thomas (trombone) and Alex Lee-Clark (trumpet) produced and arranged the collection of nine original compositions featuring special guest performances by G. Love (G. Love & Special Sauce), John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood), Adam Deitch (Lettuce), Karl Denson, two-time Grammy winner Eric Krasno, Nigel Hall (Lettuce) and Eric "Benny" Bloom. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to that first recording date in 2020 and how they made it work.

As the pandemic spread fear, and civil unrest sparked disharmony, tension and anger, and the looming presidential election fanned the flames of division, Thomas penned “Bring Forth Change” for the band to record.

“This was the first tune we remotely recorded after the pandemic hit, and it really set the tone for what this album became. Brian (Thomas) is one of the most positive forces I’ve ever come across, and the way he willed this whole thing into existence was amazing, and definitely gave all of us musicians a spirit boost as the reality of the pandemic set in,” recalled Lee-Clark.

Recorded remotely and later pieced together, “Bring Forth Change” became the ethos of the album on the super funky track bolstered by an anthemic affirmation captured in this imaginative cartoon strip-like video (https://bit.ly/3mUFGnG).

Teaming with Soulive’s Alan Evans, BT ALC Big Band recorded and released the joint as a single followed by two more singles that year. The groovy “What Will You Do” spotlights Medeski on trippy keyboards and the retro hip “The Iguana” boasts Krasno’s guitar and Denson’s saxophone.

A couple years later, finally the horn sections were able to safely gather in person to finish the final six tracks. “Dimples” opens the album.

“There’s something on the melody on this one that feels like it could be on the ‘Superfly’ soundtrack. It’s upbeat, but there’s a lot of emotional depth to it, too. This tune was written for Brian’s wife, Annette, who has the warmest smile complete with eye-popping dimples that can be seen from across the room. This tune and the trombone solo to me are quintessential Brian Thomas - in the pocket, relentless but calm and full of character. Guitarist Steve Fell is also the perfect Swiss army knife of a soloist and elevates the entire band to an epic climax,” explained Lee-Clark.

The album’s tentpole is the title track. It’s a blues-based, storming organ number written by Lee-Clark that he says references James Brown & The J.B.’s classic sound. Amidst the chaos of instrumental voices vying for attention, the trombones burst forth to lay the foundation for guitarist Jeff Lockhart to shred. Recorded during a surge in the virus, the band was masked up during the studio session, but you can almost hear the joy in being able to play together live, which they’ll do on stage at an album release concert on the release date at Soundcheck Studios in Pembroke, Mass.

Lee-Clark wrote the tension filled “Here In This Cave” about the little room in his apartment where he “musically survived the worst of the pandemic.” Deitch’s “Egyptian Secrets” gets a big band makeover, taking on new dimensions in the hands of BT ALC Big Band. G. Love flows and rhymes on the Wu-Tang Clan-inspired “That Sound.”

Lee-Clark said, “We tried a more hip-hop process recording this than straight up big band while still being us. Dean (Johnston) played that drum groove for about two minutes straight, and we took the funkiest grouping we could find and made a loop out of it, building everything else off of that sound. (Jeff) Lockhart’s guitars were actually recorded at my house with the intention of chopping them up and making similar loops, but when I listened back, amazingly, the two independently recorded takes totally lined up into this really original, intertwining texture. I’ve never heard anybody with a more unique and impeccable musical understanding of what sounds right than Lock(hart).”

Sensing something was missing, Thomas and Lee-Clark decided to up the funk quotient by writing a Go-Go song for the disc. “Pound For Pound” is a party in which the solo spotlight is shared equitably while erupting into a “Soul Train”-line dance-off.

BT ALC Big Band’s previous outing, “The Search For Peace,” hit the year before the lockdown. The outfit debuted ten years ago with the “Superhero Dance Party” album. In addition to recording and playing gigs at clubs, theaters and festivals, Thomas and Lee-Clark are committed educators throughout the New England region where they teach clinics and workshops and perform with college and high school students throughout the East Coast. On a mission to create new potentialities for big bands in the modern era, Thomas and Lee-Clark acknowledge the influence of Duke Ellington and Count Basie in their crafty big band arrangements. They take the traditions of the past and fortify them with explosive soul power, Afrobeat culture, festive New Orleans nuance, and deft hip-hop beats and biting political commentary.

There’s so much soul and swagger throughout “Hearing The Truth,” but the most important element is BT ALC Big Band’s message. Lee-Clark delivers it.     

“This whole record was really written in the teeth of COVID, the 2020 presidential election, and the dizzying experience all of us Americans are feeling as we reckon with our past and decide as a country what we want to be in the future. Through all those growing pains, there is a lot of noise. Everywhere you turn, you're being inundated with new information, and it only seems to be getting faster. The music on this album is all about slowing down just enough to hear the truth in the noise. Plus, more plainly, ‘Hearing The Truth’ was written about Fox News, and all the charlatans on that network telling us not to believe the thing we're seeing with our own eyes.”  

Ed Neumeister Quartet | "Explorations"

Being an artist who has been at the forefront of creative music for more than forty years, it is remarkable that trombonist Ed Neumeister continues to create thought-provoking music for curious ears; music that challenges, inspires and delights us. His upcoming release, Explorations, does just that, and more. 

Explorations, the follow up to What Have I Done?, will be released on March 17, 2023. The album showcases two ensembles from two different periods (the bulk of the album recorded in Vienna in 2001, in Zurich in 2002, with three tunes from his current Quartet, recorded in Brooklyn in 2021), having in-depth conversations, riffing off each other, chiming in, finishing each other’s “sentences”, agreeing, laughing, and most importantly, listening to and trusting one another. Neumeister explains, this album is made up of some of my favorite pieces, and examples of our music when I just give a few basic parameters and then we just play. It, of course, doesn’t hurt that we are long time colleagues who have played together for many years. ‘Trust’ being a key concept. Trust in oneself and trust in the others. Not unlike any well-functioning team. And ‘listening’, always an important aspect of any musical performance, but especially important in a situation where one must decide not only what to play but when to play, and more importantly, when not to play.”

What a treat for us to be able to listen to the compelling dialogue which transpired amongst these musicians on those days in Vienna and Zurich back in 2001 and 2002, featuring the late, great pianist, Fritz Pauer. Explorations is a recording project that began in 2001 when Neumeister’s longtime quartet (Fritz Pauer-piano, Drew Gress-bass & John Hollenbeck-drums & percussion) was on tour in tour in Europe. “Taking a page from the Duke Ellington tour book (I played in the Ellington Band for over 15 years), to take advantage of having everybody together and comfortable with the material, while on tour, I scheduled a recording session whenever possible on a day when we didn’t have a concert. The result was two CDs, New Standards (2005-MeisteroMusic 0016), and Reflection (2006-ArtistShare 0058). The tracks are very special to me because they are all completely live recordings (in the studio) without any editing, showing the expertise, sensitively and musical integrity of the players.” explains Neumeister. 

Neumeister puts together amazing ensembles, and the two quartets featured here are no exception, with the common denominator being contra bassist Drew Gress. The late great Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer who passed away in 2012, shows his depth on these recordings. He was an amazing musician in all regards and these recordings show his versatility. He even “sings” some impromptu vocalizations on Exploration #6 (track 8). “Our first encounter together was in 1993 at the Jazzland Club in Vienna. We had never met before that night, so without any rehearsal, we picked some tunes that we both felt comfortable with, went on the stage and stated playing, in duo. At one point in the middle of the first set, Fritz looked up at me and said. ‘I can’t believe what my fingers are doing!’ That was the beginning of a long musical and personal relationship that lasted until his untimely death in 2012. ‘Deep’ doesn’t even begin to describe this guy,” said Neumeister.

Drew Gress and John Hollenbeck are long-time colleagues who Neumeister collaborates with frequently. Gress is a member of his current Quartet together with Gary Versace (piano) & Tom Rainey (drums), featured on What Have I Done? (MeisteroMusic 2021). During the recording of this album the band recorded three Explorations, now titled “fawg-it #1”, which opens the Explorations album, “Pickled Ginger” (track #2) & “fawg-it #2”, which closes the album. 

“One of the joys of performing with these amazing musicians is that they can, literarily play anything. They can read and creatively interpret complex notated music at the same time, and play open improvisations as if it was worked out in advance, and everything in between. I am honored and humbled to be associated wh these great musicians and thankful that they agree to “play” with me. The child in us lives on enhanced by our knowledge and experience of doing what we love to do.” proclaimed Neumeister.


Joe Farnsworth | "In What Direction Are You Headed?"

Drummer Joe Farnsworth has honed his estimable skills behind the kit through decades of work with some of jazz’s greatest elders – iconic names like McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Harold Mabern, Horace Silver, Benny Golson, Cedar Walton, Barry Harris, Curtis Fuller, George Coleman, Johnny Griffin, Lou Donaldson, Cecil Payne, Kenny Barron, and others. In recent years he’s seen many of his mentors pass away, while peers from his own generation have ascended to the status of innovators.

In What Direction Are You Headed? marks a turning point in Farnsworth’s career, as he’s assembled a new quintet featuring not his renowned forebears but esteemed talents from his own generation and a younger, rising class. Due out May 19, 2023, via Smoke Sessions Records, the drummer’s third outing for the label debuts a stellar all-star group with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, keyboardist Julius Rodriguez, and bassist Robert Hurst.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to play with great musicians like Cedar Walton and George Coleman and Harold Mabern, and I have been very fortunate to achieve those goals,” Farnsworth says. “Meanwhile, there are all these guys my age and younger players doing a whole new thing. It’s time for me to take the lessons I’ve learned from those elders and develop my own thing.”

Along with the loss of so many of those older giants, Farnsworth was inspired to find his own voice by several memorable opportunities to share the stage of the legendary Village Vanguard with some of his most celebrated contemporaries: Peter Bernstein and then Brad Mehldau in a band that also included bass great Christian McBride. He was also invited to the venue for a particularly memorable stint with Rosenwinkel.

“Kurt basically called me out of the blue,” the drummer recalls. “I’d never met him or really even heard him play. That week at the Vanguard opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. It was stunning to hear his compositions and his artistry.”

From that moment, Farnsworth decided that his next project would prominently feature Rosenwinkel. As he has with his past Smoke Sessions outing, he built the concept around one key collaborator – Wynton Marsalis on Time to Swing in 2020, Kenny Barron on the following year’s City of Sounds. To complement Rosenwinkel, he decided on Wilkins, the guitarist’s fellow Philadelphian and a saxophonist/composer whose two Blue Note albums have garnered resounding acclaim for his adventurous playing and compositional vision.

The Juilliard-trained Rodriguez made his own splash with his Verve Records release Let Sound Tell All, a kaleidoscopic blend of jazz, R&B, gospel, classical and hip-hop influences. Farnsworth also seized on the opportunity for a long overdue hook-up with Hurst, a multiple Grammy winner known for his work with Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr., Mulgrew Miller, and others.

The title track from In What Direction Are You Headed? provides not only a mission statement for the album but a bridge between past and future. The bold, determined Harold Mabern composition was originally recorded for Lee Morgan’s final studio album from 1971. It became something of a theme song for Mabern throughout the decade before being largely dropped from his repertoire. Despite his extensive experience accompanying the pianist, Farnsworth had never played “In What Direction Are You Headed?” until his final gig with Mabern, once again at the Village Vanguard.

When the idea struck him that the song would be a perfect fit for the session, he contacted the late pianist’s son, Michael Mabern. As Farnsworth recalls, “Michael said, ‘I've been listening to that song all week. I was hoping that someone would rerecord it.’ That became the foundational block that I needed for the record.”

With the Mabern family’s blessing, Farnsworth had a single tune that would maintain his ties with the past while pointing him in a new direction forward. “I knew I had all these great players who would take me to a different place,” he continues. “But the liftoff pad was going to be Harold Mabern, so I knew everything was going to be okay.”

The album begins with a pair of Rosenwinkel compositions: “Terra Nova,” from his 2006 Vanguard date The Remedy, and “Filters,” originally recorded in 2001 for The Next Step. “Terra Nova” immediately spotlights the captivating weave of Rosenwinkel and Wilkins, their sounds twining elegantly together before Farnsworth ushers in the band with his nuanced, deft rhythmic bedrock. “Filters” reveals how the drummer is reimagining his vigorous sense of swing for a more modern jazz context, both intricate and buoyant.

The Remedy is also the source for Rosenwinkel’s third contribution, the shimmering ballad “Safe Corners.” Wilkins provides the tender, soulful “Composition 4,” while Rodriguez penned the blistering “Anyone But You,” a mercurial, bop-contoured burner. Farnsworth’s “Bobby No Bags” brings the blues to the table with a dedication to Hurst, whose ordeal with lost luggage during a tour with Diana Krall earned him the nickname that became the tune’s title. He and Farnsworth engage in a nimble dance that showcases the bassist’s graceful eloquence.

The session closes with Donny Hathaway’s classic “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” In some ways, it’s a choice that glances wistfully back to the past; again, there’s a Mabern connection, as the song was one of the pianist’s favorites, and Hathaway his favorite male singer, according to Farnsworth. The combination of political and spiritual optimism also echoes the themes of Farnsworth’s last album, the NYC-centric City of Sounds. At the same time, the idea of freedom is one that the drummer fully embraced with this expansive new album.

“The thing that connects guys like Billy Higgins and Roy Haynes with younger guys like Kurt and Brad Mehldau is that they all play happy, joyous, and free,” Farnsworth concludes. “For a long time, I obsessed over trying to play the perfect Max Roach solo or the perfect Art Blakey solo. That's never going to happen, but I realized that I’m free to play a pretty good Joe Farnsworth solo – and I’m cool with that.”

"In What Direction Are You Headed?" 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 1/2" analog tape. Available in audiophile HD format.

Ray Barretto’s 'Que Viva La Música' returns to vinyl

Craft Latino announces a post-50th anniversary reissue of Ray Barretto’s classic salsa album, Que Viva La Música. A landmark title in the influential bandleader and conguero’s prolific catalog, Que Viva La Música features such favorites as “Cocinando,” “La Pelota,” and the title track – all performed by Barretto’s legendary original band (including Adalberto Santiago and Orestes Vilató). Available for pre-order today, the long-out-of-print album was cut from the original master tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and returns to vinyl for the first time in decades on May 26. The LP is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and housed in a classic tip-on jacket, replicating Izzy Sanabria’s stunning cover art. A Ruby Red Vinyl variant color will be available exclusively at Fania.com. On digital platforms, meanwhile, Que Viva La Música will make its debut in hi-res audio (192/24).

Conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto (1929–2006) was one of the foremost names in Latin jazz, boogaloo, and Afro-Cuban rhythms. A pioneering salsa artist, who also kept one foot planted firmly in jazz, the versatile musician remained in the spotlight for more than five decades. Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents and raised in the Bronx, Barretto grew up admiring both the swing of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, as well as the rhythms of Arsenio Rodríguez and Machito Grillo. By the end of the ’50s, he was a member of Tito Puente’s legendary band and had become the go-to conguero in the New York City jazz scene. Over the next decade, he would appear as a sideman on albums by greats like Wes Montgomery, Cal Tjader,
Kenny Burrell, and Dizzy Gillespie, while enjoying success as a bandleader (his 1963 hit, “El Watusi,” made him an international sensation).

When Barretto joined Fania Records in 1967, he had released a dozen albums as a leader and was a leading voice in boogaloo – a New York-centric style that blended R&B, soul, and Afro-Cuban beats. His supremely funky 1968 Fania debut, Acid, introduced the Ray Barretto Orchestra (featuring singer Adalberto Santiago, timbalero Orestes Vilató, trumpeter Rene Lopez, bongosero Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez, and bassist David Perez, among others) and launched a decades-long partnership with the legendary label. Que Viva La Música, released at the tail end of 1972, marked the orchestra’s final album together – but also one of their greatest.

Considered by many Afro-Cuban music scholars to be a highlight of Barretto’s prolific career – as well as a touchstone of ’70s salsa music, Que Viva La Música found the bandleader reaching a new apex. In liner notes for an earlier CD edition of the album, music journalist Ernesto Lechner wrote that the artist’s “transition from the early charanga and Latin soul excursions of the ’60s to the hard-edged salsa sound of the ’70s had been successfully completed. Barretto had raised the temperature of his music as high as it could possibly get. The beats, the swing, and the intensity of his musical manifesto was simply reckless. His band, too, had achieved a complete communion of musical souls….”

Among the album’s highlights is the joyful anthem “Que Viva la Música,” which opens with a dramatic swell of percussion and horns – letting listeners know that they are in for something special. Another treat is Barretto’s enduring salsa hit, “La Pelota,” which slowly builds in intensity and ignites into a fiery number. The band puts their own stamp on Arsenio Rodríguez’s classic “Bruca Maniguá,” while singer Adalberto Santiago shines particularly bright on the soulful ballad, “Triunfó El Amor.” The standout track, however, is “Cocinando” – a hypnotic, ten-minute-long psychedelic jam. Not long after it was recorded, the iconic composition was chosen to open Leon Gast’s 1972 documentary, Our Latin Thing, which showcases New York City’s exploding salsa scene.

Despite the enormous popularity of Que Viva La Música, the album marked the end of an era for Barretto. Not long after its release, five members of his band (including Santiago and Vilató) broke off to form Típica 73. Despite the highly publicized split, Barretto moved forward with his thriving career, splitting his interests between jazz and salsa. The conguero also remained busy as the musical director of the legendary Fania All Stars, while he continued to be an in-demand studio musician, appearing on albums by the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Remaining active until his death in 2006, Barretto released more than 50 albums during his career, including nine with his celebrated band, New World Spirit, in the ’90s and 2000s. Among many honors, Barretto earned a GRAMMY® for his 1988 collaboration with Celia Cruz, Ritmo en el Corazón, while in 1999, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. In his final year, he received the prestigious Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

New Music Releases: Steve Baxter, Funktastic Players, Blue Moka, Dwight Trible

Steve Baxter - Do What You Feel

Truly manifesting the thought-provoking title of his fourth album Do What You Feel, veteran Urban Contemporary Jazz trombone master, Steve Baxter’s stirring blend of soulful, funky and smooth music invokes the classic R&B/jazz vibe of Wayne Henderson and finds him joining the ranks of Trombone Shorty and Brian Culbertson as contemporary jazz cats making Smooth Jazz a wonderland of possibilities for the instrument’s unique lower toned timbre. Steve’s unique stylistic array has its roots in his years sharing stage and studio time with everyone from The Crusaders, Barry Manilow and Gladys Knight & The Pips to Alicia Keys, Babyface and Ziggy Marley. Adding deeper emotional cool to the mix are the very different moods created on several key tracks by guest vocalists Devere Duckette and Lynn Fiddmont. This is a must have for music enthusiasts! ~ www.smoothjazz.com

Funktastic Players - Jazz On The Funky Side

Years after establishing his career as an MC/DJ during the early days of rap/hip-hop, writer, producer and musical visionary David Williams had ideas of creating the next Incognito or a hip-hop fired James Brown vibe before organically developing the ultra-melodic, silky cool and laid back funk and sizzling brass tinged sonic universe of the perfectly named Funktastic Players. On their exuberant, soulful and freewheeling seventh album Jazz On The Funky Side, the quartet of Williams, saxophonist Marcus Mitchell, guitarist David Prince and keyboardist Kevin Croom ride both smooth and swanky, rhythmically eclectic waves of sassy, romantic, sensual and playful joy to create an exciting fusion that draws from all of Williams’ many musical passions and continues to fulfill his founding funktastic vision!  ~ www.smoothjazz.com

Blue Moka - Enjoy

Having already made a name for itself as one of Italy’s most distinctive, creative and talented post-bop projects, Blue Moka is now ready to conquer international shores with its second full-length, called Enjoy. Album opener “Enjoy Enjoy” immediately sets the mood with its toe-tapping, easygoing energy. The same energy the band has become famous for live, and that inspired uptempo Hammond burner “Lotus Night”, composed with the declared intent of getting the audience to move. From the driving jazz-funk grooves of “What Happened” to the psych influences of “Fill The Void”, the soulful vibes of “Homeland”, or the 70s jazz-rock inspirations of “Touww”, the band’s original compositions reveal a broad palette of references that have been internalized and reprocessed into something quite unique. This is further proven by the two covers present on the album. Blue Moka pay homage to Massive Attack with their rendition of “Teardrop”, where a haunting sax takes place of the vocals. And the band also makes George Gershwin’s jazz standard “A Foggy Day” its own, with a touch of playfulness and irony. Enjoy is an album that first and foremost wants to express joy. The evident joy the members of Blue Moka feel when playing together, captured on record, and served fresh for the most discerning ears. Emiliano Vernizzi: Sax, Electronics; Michele Bianchi: Guitar; Alberto Gurrisi: Hammond, Keys; Michele Morari: Drums.

Dwight Trible - Ancient Future

The "future" in the title is very well-put – as the album seems to open up a rich new chapter in the music of the legendary vocalist Dwight Trible – a singer who's carried on the spiritual legacy of the 70s well into the 21st Century, and who's always given us some fantastic records in the past! And here, Trible's continuing that legacy, but in a different way – mixing up styles in ways that almost seem to echo the experiments on the London and Chicago scenes of late, and also mixing cosmic elements with more down to earth soul styles – in a core group that's heavier on bass and electric guitar than some of his other groups. The set features guest vocals from Georgia Anne Muldrow on one track, and guest tenor from Kamasi Washington on another – and titles include "Beach Vibes", "Elements", "African Drum", "Black Dance", "Wind", "Derf Reklaw", and "My Stomping Ground". ~ Dusty Groove

Brandee Younger | "Brand New Life"

GRAMMY®-nominated harpist and composer Brandee Younger announces her new album, Brand New Life (Impulse! Records), set for release on April 7th. Out now, the first single off of the Dorothy Ashby inspired album is the previously unrecorded and evocative Ashby composition, “You’re A Girl For One Man Only.”

Produced by multi-hyphenate drummer and composer Makaya Mccraven, on Brand New Life, Younger celebrates one of her greatest inspirations, iconic jazz harpist and composer Dorothy Ashby. Ashby is widely credited with having asserted the harp’s place in contemporary music, showcasing the traditionally-classical instrument on groundbreaking albums such as Afro-Harping and Dorothy’s Harp. Her unparalleled body of work has continued to be influential for decades and has been heavily sampled and transposed across jazz, hip-hop, and R&B, by artists including Jay-Z, J. Dilla, Pete Rock and Flying Lotus.

Brand New Life is a stunning amalgamation of past and present, combining original works from Younger, select reinterpretations of Ashby’s work, and previously-unrecorded compositions by Ashby. Younger was initially introduced to Ashby’s work through the many hip-hop artists who sampled her music, and now collaborates with some of those very artists on Brand New Life, including the legendary Pete Rock and 9th Wonder. Brand New Life also includes features by Meshell N’degeocello, Mumu Fresh, and production by drummer and composer Makaya McCraven.

Younger says of the album, “Creating this album has been a longtime dream of mine. I really had a lot of living to do before being able to execute it, genuinely. The finished product is truly representative of where I am now and it is an honor to convey that through the compositions of one of my heroes.”

The first single from the album, “You’re A Girl For One Man Only,” is a composition by Ashby that had never before been recorded, the charts of which were only unearthed through Brandee’s lifelong commitment to Ashby’s history. What may have become a jazz standard of 1960s - had it been recorded at the time of it’s conception - now emerges as timeless as ever and is colored with the vibrance of the 21st Century via Makaya’s trademark cultural synthesizer. The single is accompanied by a visualizer that further immerses listeners in the ethereal world of Brand New Life.

Celebrated as the premier harpist of her generation, Brandee Younger has broken new ground for harpists over the entirety of her career. Younger made history as the first Black female solo artist to be GRAMMY®-nominated for Best Instrumental Composition, for “Beautiful is Black” from her genre-busting 2021 major-label debut album, Somewhere Different. That same year the album also garnered an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Jazz Album – Instrumental. Along with the release of Brand New Life, Younger will be embarking on a series of headlining shows across the U.S. this spring, and will follow her whirlwind 2023 with a residency as SFJazz’s Resident Artistic Director in early 2024.


Bobby Harden & The Soulful Saints | "Bridge Of Love"

For Fans Of… Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Lee Fields, it's the debut album from Bobby Harden & The Soulful Saints. Produced by Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik, and featuring members of Charles Bradley, Dap-Kings, Antibalas. The album was recorded to 1” analog tape at Hive Mind Recording Studios.

Bobby Harden & The Soulful Saints are proud to announce their debut album, “Bridge of Love.” The album’s ten original compositions are presented in sparklingly-clear stereo sound and run the soul gamut, from grits-n-bricks R&B (‘Played a Fool by You’) to throw-back psychedelia (‘One Tribe’), svelte seventies pop (‘One Night of the Week’) and some seriously sophisticated ballads (‘Wounded Hearts’, ‘Bridge of Love’).

Together they document Bobby’s life journey in song. Through youthful self-doubt in the opening track ‘It’s My Time’, to confirmation on the exuberant finale ‘Raise Your Mind’, Bobby proves that faith and hard work can pay dividends. “Life is a joy when you free your soul.”

Throughout the album, Harden’s voice is tailored to perfection by the almost impossibly dexterous Soulful Saints, and further dressed to the nines by an accoutrement of Latin percussion, full-on horns, high-flying backing singers and even a string quartet. This comes as no surprise as The Soulful Saints have performed live and recorded together with acts such as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Lee Fields & The Expressions, The Budos Band, Mark Ronson, Antibalas, The Impressions, & The Wu-Tang Clan.

Johnny Britt | "After We Play"

In response to an interviewer’s question, legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis said, “I’ll tell you after I play.” That philosophy struck a note with urban-jazz trumpeter-vocalist Johnny Britt, who titled his fifth album “After We Play,” that dropped on Friday (March 17) on J-Jams Records. Britt wrote ten new songs and produced the thirteen tracks on which he plays with an array of luminaries. The collection starts off on top as the title cut featuring guitar star Peter White recently went No. 1 on two national singles charts.

The recent Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award recipient will launch his multi-genre album at two Los Angeles-area record release concerts: March 26 at The Venice West and April 6 at the Catalina Jazz Club.

Simultaneous to the instrumental single “After We Play” summitting the Mediabase and Smooth Jazz Network charts, Britt’s vocal ballad with Will Downing, “Butterflies,” entered the top 50 on the R&B singles chart and is soaring skywards.

Two years in the making, Britt describes “After We Play” as “an album of feelings, emotions, thoughts and imagination. I wrote, produced and performed every song from within. Every song was birthed out of a deep sense of love, compassion and sincerity. I love singing and I love playing the trumpet. That’s what you’ll hear when you listen to the album, which came together wonderfully.”

According to Britt, the title song, a sultry midtempo flugelhorn and guitar duet captured in this video (https://bit.ly/42hyyC7), sets up the entire album. There are many marquee moments to embrace from the album, including a dreamy version of “Goin’ Out of My Head” that finds Britt in the company of greats. He croons the song with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Little Anthony who sang the original version with The Imperials with whom Britt has been singing as first tenor since 2012. Gracing the tune with cool electric jazz guitar is ten-time Grammy winner George Benson. SoulTracks recently world premiered the track, the type of collaborative recording that begs for Grammy attention.

The album opens with the twin trumpet powered “Ain’t Nothin But The Funk” spotlighting the horns of Britt and Tom Browne. Nine-time Grammy nominee Gerald Albright thumps his bass on “Summer Love,” an affair heated by Kashan’s mid-cut rap. “Ocean Waves” washes over like a sensual caress, thanks to Britt’s sultry voice and muted trumpet along with sinewy bass and Piccolo bass work from Blair Bryant. The album’s second remake is a haunting take on the Bacharach & David classic “Walk On By,” given an ethereal treatment on which Britt handles all the vocals and instrumentation except for drums. Ricky Peterson adds piano, organ and strings accoutrements to illumine the positive affirmation that is “Hold On Be Strong.” Billboard hitmaker Nils teams with Britt for “Let’s Do This,” an empowering horn and guitar instrumental that bodes to become a chart topper. “Love Paradise” is a heavenly slice of the best of Britt: a funky R&B groove, a splash of contemporary jazz nuance, and a vibrant pop hook. Nils reappears on “Midnight,” but it’s Britt’s flugelhorn that shines brightest. The seductive “More Love” is an amorous late-night mood setter. “After We Play” closes with an instrumental version of “Love Paradise.”  

Britt will soon share his story in the autobiography “The Soloist.” He grew up “an inner-city kid” in Cleveland where he was in a band while in junior high school with a young drummer named Arsenio Hall. The multi-instrumentalist studied abroad at the prestigious Conservatoire de Versailles under the tutelage of Roger Delmotte, first trumpeter of the Paris Opera. After returning Stateside, The Temptations’ Otis Williams made Britt the youngest musical director ever for the iconic Motown Records vocal group. That led to Britt coproducing the music for the Emmy-winning miniseries “The Temptations.”

After the move to Los Angeles, Britt landed his own Motown record deal in 1995 for his group Impromp2, which recorded four albums. Always desiring to be a soloist, Britt finally made it happen in 2012 by releasing his debut album, “Feels So Good.”

“I loved singing in groups, but deep in my heart, I always wanted to stand alone in the spotlight in front of that microphone - just me, my voice and my trumpet,” said Britt.

In addition to his solo catalogue, Britt has written three No. 1 Billboard hits for saxophonist Boney James as well as songs for Peabo Bryson, Rick Braun, Euge Groove, Paul Brown, Jeff Golub, Jessy J and The Temptations. He played trumpet on the big screen in Academy Award-winner “La La Land” and was hired by two-time Oscars and four-time Grammy winner Hans Zimmer to be the trumpet soloist for the Oscar nominated “Hidden Figures.” 

Britt will embark on a three-month U.S. concert trek this summer with Little Anthony on the Happy Together Tour. Before then, he will support the release of “After We Play” on the following dates:

  • March 26 -The Venice West - Venice, CA
  • March 30 - Middle C Jazz Club - Charlotte, NC
  • April 1 - The Tin Pan - Richmond, VA
  • April 6 - Catalina Jazz Club - Hollywood, CA                     

The “After We Play” album contains the following songs:

  • “Ain’t Nothin But The Funk” featuring Tom Browne
  • “After We Play” featuring Peter White
  • “Butterflies” featuring Will Downing
  • “Summer Love” featuring Gerald Albright and Kashan
  • “Ocean Waves” featuring Blair Bryant
  • “Walk On By”
  • “Hold On Be Strong” featuring Ricky Peterson
  • “Let’s Do This” featuring Nils
  • “Goin’ Out of My Head” featuring Little Anthony with George Benson
  • “Love Paradise”
  • “Midnight”
  • “More Love”
  • “Love Paradise” (instrumental)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Eric Reed | "Black, Brown, & Blue"

Think of the songwriters whose work comprises the canon of jazz standards, and names like George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter immediately come to mind. On his new album, Black, Brown, and Blue, pianist/composer Eric Reed argues for a revision of that canon to focus on Black and Brown composers, songwriters whose work originates within the jazz realm rather than on the Broadway stage. 

Available today, via Smoke Sessions Records, Black, Brown, and Blue features music written by jazz masters like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Buddy Collette, and Buster Williams, along with jazz-conversant pop/R&B songwriters Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. In addition, Reed and his bandmates on this thrilling session – bassist Luca Alemanno and drummer Reggie Quinerly – each contribute a new piece of their own. 

“Historically, many of the contributions and works of Black and Brown people have either been destroyed, devalued, or appropriated,” Reed writes in his liner notes. As he elaborates, “There has been a back-and-forth battle with regard to who controls the music, who runs the music, who sells the music, and what it should sound like. It basically comes down to a lack of representation.” 

Reed points to the early stages of his own career when he was a member of that highly touted generation known as the “Young Lions.” Without dismissing the music created during that period, which he acknowledges was executed by a staggeringly talented group of artists, he regrets the narrow stylistic vision and the carefully controlled image that he was “coerced” to present to audiences. “There was an agenda to create a narrative around jazz that was far too often skewed and extremely antagonistic,” he says.  

“When I first started my path in this music, it was under a different, very revisionist type of energy. Where I am now in my life, I'm only concerned about conveying the most personal and heartfelt ideas through my music. I’ve found myself becoming so much more open.” 

That openness extends beyond the realization of Reed’s musical choices and into his personal life. Black, Brown, and Blue marks the first album that he has recorded while being completely open about his bisexuality, resulting in what he calls his most “autobiographical” release to date.  

“It's time for me to just go ahead and be completely authentic in every aspect of my life,” he insists. “That includes, but is not limited to, being more open about my sexuality and proactively moving into spaces connected with the LGBTQ+ community. I think that would have happened in spite of the political climate in this country and the pandemic, but it’s been hurried along.Those aspects of my life were becoming more bold and more broad, and I could no longer keep them on the margins.” 

There’s nothing about the choice of material or the performances on Black, Brown, and Blue that mark it explicitly as a “coming out” record or a political manifesto. What shines through on these performances is the deep well of emotion and feeling that Reed mines in his playing, his expression, and his ability to communicate on a profound level with his new trio. 

Reed points to the example of Art Blakey, Betty Carter, and Elvin Jones, all jazz giants who also took seriously their roles as mentors, as models for his new band with Alemanno and Quinerly. “Working with my peers is wonderful,” the pianist says. “But after a certain point, just like in any relationship, the growth begins to diverge. Art constantly moves, and I know that if I invest my time in younger musicians, they'll be able to absorb that experience and carry it further.” 

Reed’s solo improvisation “Black, Brown, and Blue” opens the album of the same name, providing a free-flowing thesis statement that touches on myriad aspects of the tradition from which the pianist draws while being a lively depiction of his singular voice. Despite his complicated relationship with the church in which he was raised, Reed had scripture in mind while playing the piece – specifically, Hebrews 12:1, which alludes to “such a great cloud of witnesses.” 

“As I was playing I was envisioning that cloud of witnesses looking down and cheering me on,” Reed explains. “I could see my family and neighbors, and all the people I’ve admired: Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Gerald Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Harold Mabern, my good friend Mulgrew Miller. My father. I could see their faces and I could feel their validation. I could sense themseeing me and encouraging me to keep on going.” 

Reed’s roots in the gospel church also come to the fore on two vocal pieces on the album, both of which feature acclaimed gospel singers. Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” features veteran minister and vocalist Calvin B. Rhone, a mentor to Reed whom the pianist met while still a teenager. David Daughtry, whose soaring voice graces Stevie Wonder’s classic “Pastime Paradise,” is a singer of traditional and contemporary gospel, actor, and worship leader at West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. 

It was important to Reed that Alemanno and Quinerly be represented as composers as well as musicians on the album, scorning the term “sideman” as reductive. The bassist contributes the tender “One for E,” while Quinerly provides the yearning ballad “Variation Twenty-Four.”  

The remainder of the album comprises jazz favorites given Reed’s own individual twist. Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” takes on a fox-trot feel, while Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes” shifts to a gospel-inflected dirge. Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” wallows in the deepest of blues feeling and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” is brisk and optimistic. Buddy Collette’s “Cheryl Ann” and Smoke Sessions labelmate Buster Williams’ “Christina” offer two gorgeous and wistful portraits. Reed pairs McCoy Tyner’s “Search for Peace” with Horace Silver’s “Peace,” quoting Ornette Coleman’s own “Peace” at the conclusion of the latter to complete a triptych of hope for the future. 

Reed calls Black, Brown and Blue, “the culmination of my life thus far. I'm freer than I've ever been in my personal life, and I'm freer than I've ever been in my music. I'm accepting who I am. I love who I am. And as I continue to evolve – my artistry, my sexuality, and my overall humanity – my music will continue to become more and more personal.”

L.Dre | "LoFi Symphony"

Introduced by Stephan Kunze

A new music genre has emerged in the last few years, mainly thanks to streaming playlists: LoFi beats are chilled instrumental hip-hop tracks whose hazy, hissing aesthetic makes them sound as if they’ve been lifted from well-worn cassette tapes. LA-based producer L.Dre is a true master of this style, but in making his album LoFi Symphony for Deutsche Grammophon he rose to a completely new challenge by blending LoFi beats with high-quality orchestral recordings of classical music. His bold combination of two musical worlds, involving a conscious clash of styles, has led to impressive results on an album that’s more than just the sum of its parts.

While growing up in Los Angeles, L.Dre learned to play various instruments, including guitar and drums, but back then, skateboarding and hip-hop dominated his life. Although he studied music production in college, YouTube became his most important teacher. Inspired by his early heroes, hip-hop producers such as J Dilla or Kaytranada, he started uploading instrumental tracks to streaming platforms when he was still a teenager. His chill beats were influenced by the classic 90s boom bap style and fitted a trend that was beginning to appear in certain playlists at the time. His generation were using LoFi beats primarily as background sounds – music to study to, for example. 

As a digital native, L.Dre has used social media to build his own brand right from the start. Through Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, he regularly shares music software tips and hacks with his followers, as well as giving them behind-the-scenes glimpses into the day-to-day life and working routines of a music producer. This educational side of his content makes L.Dre stand out from a crowd of faceless LoFi producers. His strong work ethic, combined with his laidback, approachable personality, has earned him an ever-growing following on all channels.

Always open to a challenge, when Deutsche Grammophon approached L.Dre and suggested the idea of mixing LoFi beats with classical music, he leapt at the opportunity. The first step was to select the right music from the historic label’s vast catalogue. Debussy’s Clair de lune and Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata were already among the producer’s personal favourites, and he decided to expand his soundscape by adding Satie’s Gymnopédies and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As well as choosing peaceful, melancholic pieces which obviously lent themselves to a LoFi treatment, L.Dre also deliberately went for some more upbeat works to add variety to the new album.

His main aim was “to pick a few truly iconic pieces and re-tell their story in a new way, my very own way”. He adds, with a laugh, “And I wanted all my producer friends to ask themselves how I actually got clearance for these tracks!”

Producing LoFi Symphony turned out to be a more complex process than it would be for a standard LoFi project. L.Dre began by sampling his choice of music to get a raw version of the beat, then the “new” composition was transcribed and handed over to a carefully chosen ensemble of orchestral musicians to re-perform. The producer then finalised each track with meticulous attention to every last detail. What makes LoFi Symphony so innovative, so full of colour and interest, is the finely balanced tension between the LoFi aesthetic and HiFi recordings. In L.Dre’s hands, strings are mixed with the vintage sounds of an original 1920s Steinway and with the genre-typical vinyl crackle and muted drum sounds.

To get that mix and balance right, L.Dre had to put all his musical instinct and intuition to work. Instead of slicing up his sample sources beyond recognition, he embraced the big melodies of the classical originals. Both concept and execution have worked to perfection: LoFi Symphony not only has a gloriously timeless sound, it takes LoFi music beyond its customary background-music status by encouraging active listening.

In working outside his comfort zone for this project, L.Dre has become an even better musician. “This is definitely different from everything I ever did before”, he says, before summing up the unique nature of this album. “Actually, I don’t think something like this has ever been done before.”

Mette Henriette | "Drifting"

After Mette Henriette’s critically acclaimed, self-titled first recording comes Drifting – an album pervaded by trio conversations of idiosyncratic and original expression. Mette: “Drifting vividly captures a moment in time. I can hear everything still growing – in motion – on the record and how present my imagination is. Prior to the recording, I had a lot of time to sit down and focus on this new music. From the very beginning, I wanted to create material that could grow, expand and contract in different formats.”

With Johan Lindvall returning on piano, new addition Judith Hamann on cello and herself on saxophone, Mette’s chamber musical elaborations prove of a concentrated and exploratory quality, marked by subtle yet intense interaction. Motifs and recurring patterns crystallize and reveal a concise, intricate narrative. The saxophonist-composer explains how “this album is in movement. It’s on its way somewhere and has its own pace – its creative agency is fundamentally different from what I’ve done previously.” 

The difference not only manifests in the change of instrumentation, but moreover in the fabric and compositional design of this collection of songs. At once organized programme with a compelling instrumental narrative and playground for impulse and improvisation, Drifting connects to the deeper processes within Mette’s musical consciousness. Illuminating the mechanisms behind her musical inventions and touching upon the diction of her language, Mette notes: “for me, a very important tool in the compositional process is to let ideas mature to the extent that they start living their own lives. Then things just spontaneously come to the surface in different pieces and start interconnecting. And I like playing with prepositions in music. Shedding light on different things from different perspectives, playing with foreground and background, repositioning elements and flipping arrangements. To me, that’s how different improvisational opportunities come to life.”

Some of those interconnections can be traced between “Across the Floor” and “Chassé”, found in the pieces’ correspondingly hesitant pulses and likeminded melodic themes. Or between “I villvind” and “Rue du Renard”, based around their shared sweeping piano arpeggios and their similarly urgent dynamic waves. Elsewhere, the trio presents its rich pallet of timbres within far-reaching, un-repetitive structures, as in the title track, “Oversoar” or “Indrifting You”, abound with steadily shifting tonal tensions, Hamann’s defiant cello flageolets, divergent chordal piano frames and Mette’s distinctive, wide-ranging saxophone explorations.

Recorded at the recently relocated Munch Museum in Oslo, the album was completed at Studios La Buissonne in close collaboration with Manfred Eicher, who produced the album and, as Mette stresses, whose “intuitive and complete understanding” of her music significantly influenced the shape and sound of Drifting. 

KEA | "We Made It Thru"

Empowerment and transformation are key themes that come up repeatedly in neo soul singer-songwriter KEA’s poetic storytelling lyrics. While there are clear stylistic changes heard on her forthcoming single, the celebratory up-tempo “We Made It Thru,” her message – and her brand – remains the same: anyone can conquer their circumstances and challenges with perseverance and a grateful heart. The new single that KEA wrote drops March 31, shortly after her two concert dates in Austin during SXSW.  

The singles KEA previously released – from the smooth and soulful caress of her 2017 debut, “iLove You,” written when her young daughter was battling a kidney disorder; to her defiant “Not My Friend,” penned about a woman breaking free from an abusive relationship; to her powerful testimony in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, “Holla If You Hear Me”; to last year’s encouraging “Turn It Around,” written to inspire persistence and summon the courage to overcome bad choices of the past – were all midtempo soul-jazz grooves. The triumphant “We Made It Thru” lifts the tempo to dance club intensity with inspirational gospel tones – rousing church organ and all – and thankful lyrics urging determination, tenacity and resilience.        

“My goal was to make the song about a woman's need for healing and self-love. The reality is that we face unfortunate happenings every day and yet find a way to make it through. I purposely made it ‘We Made It Thru’ because I’m making music that we relate to ‘together.’ This isn't a KEA thing, but an ‘our’ thing and an ‘us’ thing,” said the Pittsburgh-based KEA who recently lost her mother.

“I consulted with my mother before she passed and added biblical context to the lyrics, reminiscent of how the bible speaks of signs of the times in Matthew 24.”

KEA is astute and keenly observant, which informs the lyrics that she wrote with contributions by Lem Springsteen. In addition to producing the track for Bread & Butter Productions, Butter is featured on keyboards, drums, drum programming, percussion and backing vocals. David Delhomme (keyboards, organ and lead synth) and Mark Bowers (guitar and bass) complete the lineup.

“‘We Made It Thru’ speaks of how everything has changed. We went from being principled to having zero filters. People say and post on social media whatever they want without giving any thought or care to how their words impact others or society. However, the ‘good times keep us still and alive.’ That verse in the single is meant to encourage us not to lose hope and find the joy that is there where there is pain. We are always ripping and running and cannot hear from God in a hurry or see/feel what’s happening around or within us where most of the work needs to be done. I encourage stillness and to keep plugging away,” said KEA who will take the stage twice during SXSW for performances at Flamingo Cantina on March 16 and Smokey Greek Cajun Bar & Grill on March 18 at events hosted by RhythmandSoulRadio.com.

A frequent performer on the Pittsburgh scene, ever since KEA started issuing singles, she’s received radio spins and praise nationally, including from respected R&B outlet SoulTracks, which has consistently championed her singles and videos, and internationally via top 20 chart appearances on the UK Soul Chart and going top 40 on the DRT Global Independent Airplay Chart.

Considering herself to be a philosopher at heart, KEA began by writing poetry, turning poems into songs. Growing up in a musical household instilled a love of music. She started singing, initially studying jazz vocals, the nuances of which remain in evidence in her recordings today. What KEA experienced growing up, as a young mother and as an adult is also present in the stories she tells in her songs. It makes her a unique and authentic communicator as an artist.

“What makes me relatable is my trials. Without any extensive music training or degrees, and no connections to industry powerbrokers or mainstream artists, who I do have a connection with is ‘the people.’ Your everyday person who works 12-hour shifts, struggling financially, single parents, low-income housing recipients, childhood trauma, suffering from low self-esteem, mental health problems, homelessness, and people in unhealthy relationships who are now learning boundaries and seeing their worth - you name it. Those are my people and I know how to reach them because I've been them.” 


 

Bob Coate | "Sasha"

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding multi-instrumentalist Bob Coate. You won’t find his picture on his single covers or on his website. When you try to pin him down to name his primary instrumental voice, he declines to name just one. While he presents clear marketing and branding challenges, Coate’s perspective – which he himself admits is naïve as a new artist who emerged on the instrumental pop-jazz scene last year – is free from limitations, restrictions and expectations. He enjoys and exercises his freedom to explore his artistic muse while maintaining an air of mystery on the newly released single, “Sasha,” which he wrote and produced with SONIX (David Bowie, Lauryn Hill, Sean “Diddy” Combs). 

On the midtempo R&B groove, Coate plays haunting and lyrical flugelhorn verses before yielding to SONIX’s vibrant melodic keyboards and Fender Rhodes choruses. Johnny "JTwo" Johnson added guitar while bassist Jordan "Jo Peezy" Yussef anchors the rhythm.

“‘Sasha’ is based on a tune that was floating around in my head for many months. Every time I sat down at the keyboard, I would experiment with it some more. You wouldn’t believe how many preliminary versions I recorded and then discarded. Teaming up with SONIX helped push the tune to completion. I think we were able to give the track a dreamy, surreal feel to it,” said Coate.

“Sasha” has instantly been embraced by fans who made it a top ten single on the Smooth Global Listener Countdown. Beyond U.S. airplay, the single is garnering spins internationally, including London Soul Radio and on radio stations in Spain, Australia, Poland and Panama.

On Coate’s previous nine single releases dating back to his 2021 debut, “Super Smooth,” he did everything himself: writing, producing, performing, recording, mixing, mastering and even designing the cover art. “Sasha” is the first of two singles that he recorded with SONIX.

“I am very grateful to have had the privilege of working with world-class producer and musical powerhouse SONIX. This was my first time working with a producer or guest artist,” said Coate, a Boston-area native who is now based just outside of Washington, DC.

“Writing and producing ‘Sasha’ with Bob was a great compromise of who we are as creatives. I enjoyed his input and blunt honesty. We paid great respect to the composition, which blends a color palette of yesterday and today to paint a beautiful picture of ‘Sasha,’ a lady of beauty that lets the listener define her,” said SONIX, who also collaborated with Coate on a high-energy Latin jazz single called “Mamba Rosalita” that is slated to drop in May.  

While SONIX infers that the inspiration for “Sasha” is a woman, Coate says not so fast.

“Most people assume ‘Sasha’ is named after my wife, or girlfriend, or daughter – but no,” he said with a Cheshire grin.  

“I’ll let the listener come up with their own interpretation. That’s part of the magic of music, especially instrumental jazz. Each listener can hear something and use their imagination to come up with their own imagery. For all anyone knows, it could be a song about a family member’s cat, but I’ll never tell!”

Friday, March 03, 2023

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club Features 3x-GRAMMY® Award-Winner & 9x-GRAMMY® Nominated Guitar Icon JOHN SCOFIELD

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club Features 3x-GRAMMY® Award-Winner & 9x-GRAMMY® Nominated Guitar Icon JOHN SCOFIELD in a Rare Solo Performance on Thursday March 30 at 7:30 P.M. From 1982–1985, John Scofield toured and recorded with Jazz Legend Miles Davis. His Davis stint placed him firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness as a Player and Composer. Scofield contributed tunes and guitar to three of Davis's acclaimed albums, Star People (1983), Decoy (1984), and You're Under Arrest (1985).

JOHN SCOFIELD took up the guitar at age 11, inspired by both Blues and Rock players. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a debut recording with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, he was a member of the Billy Cobham-George Duke band for 2 years. He recorded with Charles Mingus in 1976 and replaced Pat Metheny in Gary Burton's quartet. In 1976, Scofield signed with Enja, which released his first album, John Scofield, in 1977.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Scofield formed a quartet that included GRAMMY® Award-Winner & 14x-GRAMMY® Nominated Saxophonist Joe Lovano with whom he recorded several albums for Blue Note. Time on My Hands (1990) showcased Scofield's guitar and Mingus-influenced writing. The other albums Scofield released on Blue Note with Joe Lovano were Meant to Be (1991) and What We Do (1993).

In 1992, Scofield released Grace Under Pressure, featuring GRAMMY® Award-Winning Guitarist Bill Frisell. In 1994, Scofield released I Can See Your House from Here with NEA Jazz Master & 20x-GRAMMY® Award-Winner Pat Metheny.

Scofield recorded the 1997 album A Go Go with avant-garde jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood. In 2006, Scofield released Out Louder, his second collaboration with Medeski, Martin & Wood. The group, known collectively as MSMW, toured worldwide in 2006 and 2007.

In 2016, Scofield won his first GRAMMY® Award for "Best Jazz Instrumental Album" for the album Past Present – which was also Nominated for "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" for the song "Past Present". In 2017, Scofield won his second and third GRAMMY® Awards. He won a GRAMMY® Award for "Best Jazz Instrumental Album" (Country for Old Men) and another GRAMMY® Award for "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" for the song "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (from the Country for Old Men album).

Innervision Records Celebrate A Shiny Silver Anniversary

Consistent excellence in artistry combined with passion, innovation and imagination have been the hallmarks of Innervision Records during its 25 years. The Southern California-based imprint that specializes in shades of jazz spanning groove, smooth and chill along with neo soul and world music continues to ride high on the Billboard charts after their artists Blake Aaron and Will Donato scored No. 1 singles in 2022 and Kim Scott collected the highest honor: Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Song of the Year.

Aaron was the first artist inked to Innervision Records thus there’s something special about the guitarist continuing to be a part of the label’s storied successes. His “Dreamland” occupied the No. 1 spot on five charts  - Billboard, Groove Jazz Music, Mediabase, Radiowave and Smooth Jazz Network - simultaneously last summer. The cherry on top is that Aaron is the featured soloist on Scott’s year-end chart-topper, “SHINE!”

"As one of the first artists on Innervision Records, I've had the honor of watching Innervision Records grow from a very small label into a major player in the industry with dozens of amazingly talented artists and become a powerhouse in the genre. It is exciting to see Innervision Records all over the Billboard charts each and every week, and most of the time, at the top. As one of the most artist-friendly labels out there, Innervision Records is truly a ‘family’ that I'm honored to be a part of,” said Aaron who has captured the No. 1 position on the Billboard singles chart for Innervision Records five times.

With roots in classical and jazz, Scott’s success has come by crafting a groove-laden mélange of urban, jazz, soul and pop music. The flautist has notched Billboard No. 1 singles in the past yet “SHINE!” accomplished the rare feat of becoming the most played song of the year without hitting the peak position. With an MVP performance by labelmate Aaron’s electric jazz guitar, the title cut of Scott’s “SHINE!” album is a shimmering and sophisticated blend of R&B and contemporary jazz.  

“I’m so honored that “SHINE!” was the most played smooth jazz song of 2022 and that it was named Billboard’s #1 Song of the Year. It was truly a labor of love to co-write the song and I was instantly inspired to write the melodies for the verses and chorus. They flowed from my spirit almost effortlessly. It was like a bright light was shining on me as I wrote it, bringing me energy, joy, inspiration, and hope. Featuring Blake Aaron on the track made the song shine even more and he did a brilliant job with his guitar solo! I’m so proud to have played a part in this achievement for Innervision Records, my team, and all the artists involved with the song. I plan to continue to let my light shine so listeners can find joy and inspiration in my music,” said the Birmingham, AL-based Scott.

For the fourth consecutive year, Innervision Records placed third on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Label of the Year tally on the strength of Scott’s massive airplay and No. 1 singles by Aaron and saxophonist Donato, the latter who recently vaulted into the top spot with his soul-powered single “Good On You.” Other Innervision Records artists to enjoy Billboard top 20 success in 2022 were JJ Sansaverino, Cal Harris Jr. and Tom Braxton.

Innervision Records will celebrate its silver anniversary at their tenth annual After NAMM JAMM on April 16. Many of the artists on the label’s roster are expected to take the Spaghettini stage in Southern California for the popular post-NAMM show jam session. 

“We’re excited to bring everyone together for our Innervision Records After NAMM JAMM once again.  Originally starting out as a get together for our artists and their musician friends to come out and jam during the heavily attended annual music industry convention, the After NAMM JAMM has evolved into an exciting opportunity for many of our Innervision Records family members to get together and celebrate the label, our shared successes, the fans and, most importantly, our friendships face to face,” said Steve Belkin, Innervision Records’ general manager.

Independent labels come and go fast in today’s music industry thus reaching a 25th anniversary is a testament to Innervision Records’ vision and execution. The label eagerly anticipates celebrating the milestone with their artists at the After NAMM JAMM. And while they are enthused by their accomplishments to date, they’re energized about what’s ahead.   

“To think Innervision Records has been around for 25 years is pretty crazy.  What started as a very tiny independent one-artist label has developed into an eclectic, creative and artistic boutique label featuring artists from around the country. I'm very proud to be a part of Innervision's growth and success, building a distinct brand. Watching several of our artists go from emerging to chart-topping artists are like proud parent moments. The artists deserve the credit, but you can't help but take some pride in their success,” said Belkin. 

Innervision Records’ A&R and radio promotions executive Adam Leibovitz concurs, acknowledging the role fans have played in the label’s accomplishments.

"Innervision Records has endured and grown into a major source of talent and I am so proud of what we have accomplished. I’m proud of our artists who create incredible music, and, of course, grateful to all of the fans who have been so loyal and so dedicated to what we have built. I am amazed when thinking about where Innervision Records started, beaming with pride over what it has become, and most of all, filled with excitement over what it will be!" 

Thursday, March 02, 2023

New Music Releases: Jazzanova, Joe Chambers, Astrud Gilberto, Josh Lawrence

Jazzanova - Beyond The Dream (musclecars Reimaginations) / Face At My Window (Kyoto Jazz Massive Remixes) 

Taken from the album ‘Strata Records – The Sound of Detroit – Reimagined by Jazzanova’, BBE Music, DJ Amir and 180 Proof records present the 3rd single from this monumental project. This release features remixes by Japanese Club Jazz pioneers Kyoto Jazz Massive, and Genre Blending New Yorkers, musclecars. Kyoto Jazz Massive were enlisted to remix the Jazzanova reimagining of Sam Sanders’s iconic song Face at my Window. Their mix adds an intimate Jazz Club feel to vocalist Sean Haefeli’s recording, which highlights the dynamics of Sean’s voice. The subtle tempo increase maintains the feel of the original and adds a punch to the brass section, making the track an entirely new experience. Musclecars add that traditional New York / Chicago House vibe to Jazzanova’s reimagining of Kenny Cox’s ‘Beyond the dream’, and the result is a skippy afro/latin dancefloor filler which can go on forever. Musclecars demonstrate their genre blending superpowers on this mix which adds a garage swing to a jazz record, definitely going to be a jam for the dancefloors in 2023. Both remixes showcase the importance of DJ Amir’s unearthing of these strata gems, and Jazzanova’s reimagining, how they have breathed new life into one of Detroit’s hidden gems – Strata Records. They will definitely on board new audiences to the treasure trove that is Strata, and the iconic stories surrounding the often overlooked record label.

Joe Chambers - Dance Kobina

A fresh new chapter of the long legacy of drummer Joe Chambers – a key instrumental force in the hipper reaches of the Blue Note label in the late 60s, but an artist who seems to finally be catching up with his own work as a leader after all these years! Joe is every bit as wonderful here as on his famous recordings, and his more recent dates for Blue Note – a wonderfully inventive percussionist, and an inherently rhythmic player who's got this ability to spin sounds out in all these different directions, yet always make things feel wonderfully unified too. His group on the set has excellent vibes from Michael Davidson, almost recalling Joe's work with Bobby Hutcherson – and other players include Caoilainn Power on alto, Andres Vial on piano, Eli Miller Maboungou on ngoma drums, and Ira Coleman on bass. Titles include "Dance Kobina", "Intermezzo", "Gazelle Suite", "City Of Saints", "Moon Dance", "Power To The People", and "Caravanserai". ~ Dusty Groove

Astrud Gilberto - Beach Samba (180 gram pressing)

A great album from Astrud Gilberto – one that has her pushing past the simple bossa of early years, running through a range of 60s styles that all sound great – really opening up, finding new confidence in her vocals, and bridging a few different musical worlds in the process! Arrangements are by Deodato and Don Sebesky – and handled with this growing sophistication that holds on to bossa elements, but elevates the style with some of the cooler late 60s touches we love on Verve Records – all at a level that's completely sublime, and which does really wonderful things for Astrud's vocals. There's still plenty of Brazilian tunes in the mix – like "Oba, Oba", "Canoeiro", "Bossa Na Praia", "Nao Bate O Corocao", and Marcos Valle's great "The Face I Love" – and the album also features great versions of "Misty Roses", "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice", and "Stay".  ~ Dusty Groove

Josh Lawrence - And That Too

Trumpeter Josh Lawrence has a nicely compressed approach to his trumpet – a sound that's sometimes got the more focused vibe of an early Miles Davis, along with all the sense of sparkle that might imply – yet with a delivery that's got a lot more space between the notes, and which really catches the best sort of energy from his hip bandmates on the date! Willie Morris III provides some sharper lines on tenor, and the rhythm work is wonderfully warm and fluid – with Art Hirihara on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, and either Rudy Royston or Jason Tiemann on drums. Lawrence contributed some great original material to the record – "Left Hanging", "Cantus Firmus", "North Winds", and "Black Keys" – and Morris contributed the cuts "Grit" and "Hole In The Wall". ~ Dusty Groove

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