Wednesday, October 04, 2023

New vinyl reissue for Tito Puente’s foundational Latin jazz masterpiece 'El Rey Bravo'

Craft Latino hasy announced a vinyl reissue for Tito Puente’s foundational Latin jazz masterpiece, El Rey Bravo. Originally released on Tico Records in 1962, the album includes the legendary bandleader and percussionist’s iconic hit, “Oye Cómo Va,” plus enduring favorites like “Tombola” and “Tokyo de Noche.” Set for release November 10th and available for pre-order today, El Rey Bravo features (AAA) lacquers cut from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. Completing the package is a vintage-style tip-on jacket featuring the album’s classic design. Additionally, for the very first time, fans can experience El Rey Bravo in 192/24 hi-res audio on select digital platforms. In addition, a Canary Yellow color vinyl exclusive, limited to 500 copies, with exciting bundle options that include a commemorative Tito Puente T-shirt is being offered at Vinyl Me, Please is also releasing a 180-gram Orange Crush exclusive variant.

This reissue offers a fitting cap to Craft Latino’s year-long centennial celebration of the influential artist. Throughout 2023, the label has honored Puente’s vital contributions to Latin music through exclusive digital content and a series of releases, including 180-gram vinyl pressings of Puente’s 1972 classic, Para los Rumberos, and his best-selling 1985 album, Mambo Diablo. 

In the late 1940s, an exciting new sound was taking root in New York jazz clubs, as Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians settled in the city, introducing Afro-Cuban and Caribbean rhythms to American audiences. Within a few years, everyone was dancing to the cha-cha-chá and mambo, thanks to a host of inspired young artists, including Tito Puente (1923–2000). The Manhattan-born, Puerto Rican percussionist honed his craft under the legendary Cuban bandleader Machito, who was instrumental in bringing Afro-Cuban jazz to America. Puente furthered his studies at the prestigious Juilliard School, where he received a degree in conducting, orchestration and theory. Before long, he was leading his own orchestra and by the end of the ’50s, “The King of Timbales,” as he was lovingly known, was one of the era’s most successful bandleaders, with multiple hit albums to his name, including 1958’s Dance Mania.

When 1962’s El Rey Bravo arrived on Tico Records, more than a decade into Puente’s career, the bandleader and his orchestra were at the height of their prowess. El Rey Bravo cements the band’s status, as they deliver a dazzling set of original dancefloor numbers—all primarily comprised by Puente. Among the highlights is the fiery opener, “Malanga con Yuca” (“Potatoes and Beans”), the joyful “Batacumba” (“Brazilian Beat”) and the cinematic “Tokyo de Noche” (“Tokyo After Dark”)—a rare instrumental track that features standout flute and violin solos. One of the album’s few covers is “Tombola” (“Circus”), written by the legendary team of Augusto Algueró and Antonio Guijarro for the 1962 Spanish musical of the same name.

The centerpiece of the album, however, is “Oye Cómo Va.” Praised by AllMusic as “one of the brightest, most exuberant Latin performances of the century,” the song was written by Puente as a classic cha-cha-chá, with an inviting title that borrowed from the chorus, “Oye cómo va/Mi ritmo” (“Listen how it goes/My rhythm”). While the infectious song was certainly a favorite of fans at the time of its release, “Oye Cómo Va” would become an international hit nearly a decade later, thanks to Carlos Santana. With his band, Santana, the Mexican-born guitarist transformed the classic tune into a psychedelic anthem of unity, swapping the song’s original horn section for a Hammond B3 organ and electric guitar.

This updated rendition of “Oye Cómo Va” was released in 1971 as the second single off Santana’s sophomore album, Abraxas. It was a major hit for the band, peaking at No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100, and landing in the Top 10 in Mexico and Canada. But it also gave a middle-aged Puente a significant boost. On his 1999 live album, Mambo Birdland, Puente introduced “Oye Cómo Va” with a tribute to Carlos Santana: “He put our music, Latin rock, around the world, man. And I’d like to thank him publicly ’cause he recorded the tune and he gave me credit as the composer of the tune. So since that day, all we play is Santana music.”

Thanks to artists like Santana (who also covered Puente’s song “Para los Rumberos” in 1972), the bandleader enjoyed a career resurgence. At the same time, salsa music was reaching peak popularity. As a reluctant forefather of the genre, Puente’s status as a cultural icon only continued to grow. “Oye Cómo Va,” meanwhile, would become a standard, covered over the decades by numerous artists, including Julio Iglesias, Celia Cruz, Natalie Cole and the Ventures, to name a few. Santana’s rendition of the song would be inducted into the Latin GRAMMY® Hall of Fame in 2001 and the GRAMMY Hall of Fame a year later, while it ranks on a variety of lists, including Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Puente never slowed down and continued to remain in the public eye until his death in 2000. During his five-decade-long career, the tireless artist released more than 100 albums and wrote over 400 compositions, while he collaborated with the biggest names in music, including Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Celia Cruz. Among other achievements, he performed at the 1996 Summer Olympics’ closing ceremony, appeared in a variety of films (including 1987’s Radio Days, 1992’s The Mambo Kings and the 2000 documentary Calle 54) and even made a cameo on The Simpsons. Throughout his life, Puente’s influential work was celebrated with an array of honors, including five GRAMMYs, Billboard’s Latin Music Lifetime Achievement Award and the prestigious National Medal of Arts from the United States Government.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Darius Jones - fLuXkit Vancouver (i​̶​t​̶​s suite but sacred) LP

A radiant manifesto of artistic freedom, fLuXkit Vancouver (i̶t̶s̶ suite but sacred) brings together a composition in four movements written and performed by Jones on alto saxophone, long-time collaborator Gerald Cleaver on drums, and four Vancouver-based string musicians: violinists Jesse Zubot and Josh Zubot, cellist Peggy Lee and bassist James Meger; with original artwork by Stan Douglas and liner notes by poet Harmony Holiday.

Commissioned by Western Front, an artist-run center for multidisciplinary experimentation and the historic home of the avant-garde in Vancouver, Jones drew inspiration from Western Front’s art is life ethos and its legacy of exchange with creative musicians such as George Lewis and Ornette Coleman. Composed across a series of residencies beginning in 2019 and recorded in June 2022 at Western Front’s iconic Grand Luxe Hall, fLuXkit Vancouver (i̶t̶s̶ suite but sacred) is the first collaborative release with Brooklyn-based Northern Spy and Helsinki-based We Jazz Records.

The album’s spirited first movement, Fluxus V5T 1S1, reveals a compositional universe as penetrating as it is expansive. For Fluxus artists, art can exist anywhere. This can take the physical form of a fluxkit, a collection of artworks and everyday objects placed in a small container or box. By challenging definitions and pushing artistic boundaries, anyone who opens a fluxkit can experience an art event. Jones presents us with a fluxkit that we want to reopen again and again. 

The cover art for fLuXkit Vancouver was contributed by internationally acclaimed Vancouver-based artist Stan Douglas. Part of Douglas’ DCT series (2016 - ongoing), Occ6 is a brightly colored abstraction created through manipulating frequencies, amplitudes, and color values at the point in the digitization process where a photographic image is only represented by code. Occ6 mesmerizes and in turn offers a visual language that is untethered from conventional notions of the art form. “Stan found this world inside of a machine. Is this a photo?” Jones asks. “Is it a painting? What am I looking at? Maybe something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.” 

The music of fLuXkit Vancouver also exists in between worlds: Is this a compositional suite? Is it sacred music? Or is it simply art? Jones’ score includes visual components — a 25 unique graphics key for extended technique on strings — alongside standard musical notation. “I wanted the musicians to respond in a way that was unique to them, to explore the relationship between what we hear and how we see, where sound becomes visual, emotional, and visceral.” That relationship is seen in the second movement Zubot, a bopping earthy elixir, and in the third movement Rainbow, an alluring and sultry ballad. “The music has a cinematic quality. Like Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, I wanted to tell a story about a place,” Jones says.

The album’s fourth and final movement, Damon & Pythias, marks Jones’ chrysalis as a sonic painter. The 200-year-old building that houses Western Front was originally a fraternal lodge of the Knights of Pythias. When Jones arrived in 2019, he encountered a multidisciplinary space that had fully integrated art practice into daily life. Between composing, Jones spent time with Fluxus artist and Western Front founder Eric Metcalfe and explored their historical archive. “I was able to sit and converse frequently with Metcalfe about why he and other artists created Western Front and how they were influenced by a movement called Fluxus. Being there helped me remember the importance of art existing together, music alongside visual art, writing, and dance, as a way to influence one’s process and perspective. This inspired me to make a compositional statement that would present me fearlessly as an artist.”

In her liner notes for fLuXkit Vancouver (i̶t̶s̶ suite but sacred), poet and archivist Harmony Holiday writes, “The playing here is gorgeous, but what stands out most is the rigor of the compositions, which feel like tributes to Sun Ra’s call that ‘only the impossible happens.’ Their mood is expansive, gleeful, wistful, sometimes frantic, but so coherent and poised at every turn that all you can do while listening is marvel at this fluency in the language of will and won’t that lives here alone.”

WAR The World Is A Ghetto: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition

In 1973, the best-selling album in America was The World Is a Ghetto by WAR. This fall, the multi-ethnic SoCal band is giving fans a new way to experience its mega-million-selling classic with a new 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition available exclusively for Record Store Day Black Friday.

The World Is A Ghetto: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition is a one-of-a-kind 5-LP boxed set available exclusively at participating independent music retailers on November 24 while supplies last. Limited to 4,000 copies, the deluxe collection was curated by WAR's producer, Jerry Goldstein, founding member Lonnie Jordan, and Jeremy Levine. It includes the original album, newly remastered, as well as six unreleased bonus tracks and unreleased "the making of" recordings that trace the evolution of each of the six original album tracks from the first note to the master take. The original album and bonus tracks are pressed on two gold-vinyl LPs, while "the making of" tracks are pressed on three black-vinyl LPs. 

The World Is A Ghetto: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition introduces six unreleased bonus tracks recorded during the sessions for the album. These previously unreleased recordings include original jams that later developed into future WAR songs. For example, versions of "War Is Coming" and "L.A. Sunshine" would appear on Platinum Jazz in 1977.

In the 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition liner notes, Goldstein and Lonnie Jordan (lead singer and founding member) share insights into the "making of" recordings introduced in the set. Goldstein states these tracks show the songs taking shape in the studio. "The nice part about all these 'making of' tracks is that the final take of all of these tracks is the actual final master that we used in The World Is a Ghetto, without edits, without overdubs, just raw." Jordan cleverly adds, "Then we turned it around… R-A-W to W-A-R."

In 1972, The World Is a Ghetto soared to the top of the Billboard album and R&B charts, becoming Billboard's No. 1 Album of the Year for 1973, generating two gold singles, including the title track and "The Cisco Kid," which shipped gold and remains WAR's highest-charting song on the Billboard Hot 100. This album also marked the beginning of an extended period of creative and commercial triumph for WAR, which boasts 17 gold, platinum, or multi-platinum albums in the band's remarkable career.

Today, WAR's music provides an inexhaustible source of inspiration for R&B and hip-hop artists. Samples from four of the six songs on The World Is a Ghetto have appeared on tracks by artists like A$AP Mob, Geto Boys, Janet Jackson, and a hip-hop supergroup featuring Method Man, Redman, and Cypress Hill. 

WAR continues to tour steadily, with live shows scheduled for the fall. (See the band's itinerary below.)

  • Oct 4 - The Big Fresno Fair - Fresno, CA
  • Oct 5-8 - Jazz Alley - Seattle, WA
  • Oct 14 - Music Hall Center - Detroit, MI
  • Oct 20 - Chumash Casino Resort - Santa Ynez, CA
  • Oct 21 - Palace of Fine Arts Theatre - San Francisco, CA
  • Oct 25 - The GRAMMY Museum - Los Angeles, CA
  • Nov 4 - Hutchinson Fox Theatre - Hutchinson, KS
  • Nov 11 - Primm Valley Casino Resorts - Primm, NV
  • Nov 16 - The Plaza Theater Performing Arts Center - El Paso, TX
  • Nov 17 - Arlington Music Hall - Arlington, TX
  • Nov 18 - Freeman Coliseum - San Antonio, TX
  • Dec 1 - Paramount Theatre - Denver, CO
  • Dec 2 - The Magnolia - El Cajon, CA

Silvan Joray, Nadav Erlich, Jeff Ballard | "Updraft"

New York City-based guitarist and composer Silvan Joray is proud to present Updraft, his second album as a leader and first for the Ubuntu Music label. The album showcases his forward-thinking original style characterized by a transparent tone, crispy articulation, creative rhythmic ideas and extended techniques like quarter tones and „tapping“ which are not traditionally associated with jazz guitar playing. A follow up to his ambitious 2020 trio album, Cluster, Joray’s latest outing features once again Israeli double bass player Nadav Erlich and this time, living legend Jeff Ballard (Brad Mehldau, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny) on drums.

Born and raised in Switzerland, Joray embraces both the openness of European as well as the rootedness and swing of American jazz. While the music on Updraft is clearly influenced by the American jazz tradition, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not and is totally content with being in its own category. Renowned jazz bassist Larry Grenadier states: “Silvan along with Nadav and Jeff have made a musical statement together that has at its core a sense of history and at the same time moves the music towards the future with bold playing and fresh compositions. Sonically beautiful and captivating music.“

The recording includes seven original compositions and two short, freely improvised tracks. The serenity of joyful straight eighth grooves, as heard in “Kokodrillo“ or “Kaeppeleview“, complements the swinging energy of pieces like “Updraft" and “Kurtish". Joray is also passionate about playing jazz standards and pays tribute to two masters of the genre, Cole Porter and Andrew Hill, with "At Long Last Love" and “Subterfuge“.

Starting in September 2020, the trio had the chance to refine its band sound and interplay over the course of two years before going into the studio. At the same time, humanity faced some new challenges that heavily impacted everyone’s life. Updraft is Joray’s personal way of dealing with these difficult times and presents a collection of compositions that strive to lift our spirits and elevate our perspectives. The title of the album beautifully encapsulates this sentiment, and Joray’s innate gift for melody and lyricism shines through both in his playing and compositions.

Silvan Joray is currently based in New York City. He has gained recognition in the jazz community, having won special prizes at the UNISA International Strings Competition in South Africa 2022 and the Smietana Jazz Guitar Competition 2019 in Poland. He has performed at prestigious jazz festivals including the Krakow Summer Jazz Festival, Offbeat Jazzfestival Basel, and International Jazz Festival Bern, and has toured in Germany, Norway, Poland, Spain, and Israel. Silvan will be touring throughout the year – please see his website for details:

IZANGOMA debut album ‘NGO MA’

IzangoMa, a 15 piece experimental collective hailing from Pretoria, South African, today release their debut album ‘Ngo Ma’ via Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings label (Kokoroko, Doom Cannon and Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner). 

Although IzangoMa’s debut may only be reaching us now, the avant-garde collective’s roots stretch back to the meeting of core members Sibusile Xaba (vox/keys) and Ashley Kgabo (synths/snare drum/drum machine) in 2016. It was a galvanising connection which allowed Xaba to begin cultivating a different side to his virtuosic talent, one at cardinal opposites with the familiar folk sound the largesse knew him for. 

IzangoMa are Cosmic sgubhu with the alchemic powers of Sun Ra mixed with township styles ranging from pantsula to bubblegum. ‘Ngo Ma’ - which loosely translates from Zulu to English as ‘by my mother’ - explores themes of Creation as seen through the all-knowing feminine energy that transcends time and space. This is rhythm music; it spills into crevices ever-evolving, and revolts against a revolution yet to be finalised.

The ensemble is a link-up of Mozambican and South African musicians - says Sibusile; “I had this idea of working with my students from Mozambique. When I first met them [during exchange workshops], they were young men. We’d return every year to find these great human beings growing into these phenomenal musicians. We felt like it would be nice to incorporate them into this thing that we were doing.” Fittingly, the future-forward ‘Ngo Ma’ is a collective effort - while the duo of Xaba and Kgabo forms the backbone, it’s the kaleidoscopic collective which feeds into the cycle that expands each time, adding something new on each iteration.

“It’s never effort; it’s always joy,” says Ashley, reflecting on the fluid nature of how ideas find them while they’re jamming to the tunes of their own creation, to which Sibusile adds: “Even this idea of this music being a voice of remembering the feminine energy — that wasn’t there. It developed as the music was leading us. And funny enough, every song is talking about mothers. This wasn’t something that we planned.”

‘Ngo Ma’’s title track is a cry to The Spiritual Mother about the discordant lives that many people lead. Here, the elders are given a voice by a resonating horn section, while the tempo is kept afloat by a lively, polyrhythmic hop between the Roland TR-8, the MOOG Minitaur analogue bass synthesiser and percussion. Elsewhere, Kwaito-influenced ’Wathint’ Imbokodo‘ takes its title from another Nguni phrase which translates as ”You strike/touch a woman, you strike/touch a rock”. The off-beat ‘Out of This World ‘, meanwhile, is a buoyant hymn to Mother Earth, where Sibusile‘s MC-esque calls are flanked by Marabi-influenced walking piano motifs and the handclaps of a Roland TR-8.

“Le Nna Mfana” - meaning ‘me too, my man’ - is what happens when Nyabhingi drum riddims escape to the future. It spells freedom for the Black universal imagination, and pleads to African people worldwide to look beyond the daily shackles of Capitalism, chains imposed upon by systems not of their own construction. On the freewheeling ‘Tribute To Johnny Dyani’, IzangoMa hail the legendary Blue Notes bassist & Don Cherry-collaborator for his musicality but also for his efforts to promote emancipation as a member of a mixed race band under apartheid. The track also recognises the many creative SA communities which have fed into the band’s journey.

Propelled by an ARP Odyssey duophonic synthesiser, “Birds (Of A Feather)” is frantic, searching, surfing — a shroom trip laced with ones and zeros. It has neither beginning nor end, only a constant seeking — for truth, for satisfaction, for more. Sibulsile and Ash observe; “It recalls visions of ones who existed before time; the very First Nations of this land we call Southern Africa, with all its combinations and permutations, all its complexities laid bare for all to ‘ear”. Method is eschewed in favour of madness, and that’s just how the band digs it.

Monday, October 02, 2023

New music releases: Towner Galaher Organ Trio, Ben Cassara, Philip Lassiter & Candy Dulfer, and Marina Pacowski

Towner Galaher Organ Trio - Live

The newest album by drummer, composer, and bandleader is an homage to the great jazz ensembles that were especially popular in the 1950s and 60s. This is Galaher’s 4th album as a leader and follows Uptown! (2012), Courageous Hearts (2009), and Panorama (2007). Uptown! made it to the Top 10 on the JazzWeek radio chart, and All About Jazz said, “This five-piece aggregate seems to have a genuine connection that comes through in its playing; this makes Uptown! a delight to hear from start to finish.” Galaher is a protean drummer adept at a multitude of styles. He plays 10 different grooves on Live's 14 tracks, laying down a smorgasbord of rhythmic styles that range from boogaloo to straight-ahead swing to jazz waltz and beyond. Live was recorded during the Covid lockdown at a restaurant in Connecticut at a private event with a small number of family, friends and restaurant staff in attendance, but Galaher and the band played liked they were in front of a crowd. The set was not planned in advance, with Galaher calling the tunes. They recorded all 14 tracks in less than four hours. The Hammond B-3 organ could be found in almost every black church, and more than a few of the jazz masters started out playing gospel. 

Ben Cassara - What A Way To Go

What A Way To Go, the newest album by New York-based vocalist Ben Cassara, is an eclectic collection of songs culled from the Great American Songbook, gems by Dave Frishberg and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and four tasty originals by jazz pianist Ronny Whyte, who also produced the CD and plays piano on several compositions. Cassara is a mainstay on the New York City and New Jersey jazz scenes. . He performs regularly at clubs like Jazz at Kitano, the Metropolitan Room, Trumpets, and Shanghai Jazz. He also curates a long-running jazz series at Pangea, an East Village cabaret and jazz club. This is Cassara’s second CD and follows Sister Moon (2013). Critic George Harris said, "Want a fresh voice in singers with an XY chromosome? Give this guy Ben Cassara a try. His voice gives hints of Barry Manilow and Bob Dorough - a mid-toned tenor that sounds comfortable in his skin … Cassara sounds calm and collected on this cool collection of music, perfect for a night of pensive thoughts." New York is rife with great musicians, and Cassara brought on board a stellar cast of first-call accompanists . Eschewing vocal pyrotechnics, Cassara’s vocal style is urbane and conversational. His mentors were Carol Fredette, Roz Corral, and Marlene Ver Planck, jazz singers who are known for their ability to swing hard while telling stories with finesse and honesty … an approach that Cassara took to heart.

Philip Lassiter & Candy Dulfer - Purple

11x GRAMMY-award winning trumpeter & arranger, Philip Lassiter, has released "Purple," the aptly titled tribute to Prince featuring global saxophone sensation Candy Dulfer. The track is the lead single off of a forthcoming album recorded live in Amsterdam with a 14-piece ensemble and cast of special guests featured throughout. Lassiter first connected with Prince in 2010 when he auditioned to be his horn arranger/section leader and landed the gig performing with New Power Generation. Like many of the late genre-defying master’s collaborators, Lassiter was inspired by Prince’s work ethic and dedication to experimentation. With its Prince-like driving quarter note groove and syncopated guitar and bass line, Lassiter helms a 15-piece ensemble in the live recording that embodies the spirit of Prince. The punctuated, shout-like horn melodies trade with layered vocal harmonies before an asserted horn soli launches into rounds of deliberate solos performed by Jordy Kalfsvel on keyboards, Lassiter on trumpet, and capped off with a powerful, extended solo by Dulfer on alto saxophone. Though Lassiter and Dulfer never performed with Prince at the same time (she was in his band during the 2003-2005 Musicology era), the two connected when Lassiter relocated to The Netherlands two years ago and have been collaborating together ever since.

Marina Pacowski - Inner Urge

Born and raised in France, Marina Pacowski always dreamed of coming to America because of her fascination with the American music scene and her love of jazz. Now a mainstay on the Los Angeles jazz scene, Pacowski has recorded her debut jazz album, Inner Urge, with a Who’s Who of some of the finest jazz musicians in the United States. Although a superb pianist who has been honored with numerous awards, Pacowski chose to focus on her singing for this project. With the ear of a trained musician (and a uniquely individual vocal timbre), Pacowski is adept at vocal improvisation. Her complete command of the chord changes and highly developed sense of swing are apparent right from the opening number. Inner Urge is an eminent debut by a refreshing new voice on the American jazz scene. Marina Pacowski’s highly developed harmonic sense and feeling for time infuse her vocals with a musicality that you would typically associate with a skilled horn player.

Monika Herzig & Janiece Jaffe | "'Both Sides of Joni"

Both Sides of Joni is a reimagined set of Joni Mitchell's music arranged by pianist Monika Herzig, interpreted by award-winning vocalist Janiece Jaffe, and recorded with a group of renowned jazz musicians including Greg Ward on saxophone, Jeremy Allen on bass, Carolyn Dutton on violin, and Cassius Goens on drums with guest bassist Peter Kienle. 

The Both Sides of Joni project was the product of a period of soul searching during the Covid Summer of 2020. Vocalist Janiece Jaffe started listening closely to Joni Mitchell's music and lyrics with her jazz vocalist ears and found truth and wisdom that inspired her and that she wanted to share with the world to inspire others. She studied the words more deeply and got the urge to re-imagine them in jazz arrangements. "I could almost 'Hear' them!" Together with friend and collaborator Monika Herzig, they spent many summer days of 2020 in the barn with keyboard and masks working out arrangements and rediscovering Joni's music. In March 2021, the arrangements were premiered at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis to most enthusiastic response. Many audience members came together for the first time in over a year and the messages of overcoming challenges, endurance, rebellion, love, and regret rang deep. They decided to record the music with a group of outstanding musicians and with community support from a successful Kickstarter Campaign. Just days after the completion of the Master Recording, Janiece left this world unexpectedly after heart surgery. This album is her legacy and her dream and we are grateful for her musical gift to us to be celebrated throughout 2023 with extensive tours in the US and Europe featuring renowned New York vocalist Alexis Cole.

From the Liner Notes:

This album is, first and foremost, about relationships: between Janiece and Monika; between the stretch of time that gave rise to Joni’s songs and the ones we’re living through now; and, most of all, between Janiece and these lyrics. She sings them in a pure and transparent voice, sometimes overdubbing the harmonies she once only imagined, and she moves through a variety of moods: reflective on “Both Sides Now”; startlingly direct on “Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow”; with swinging aplomb on “My Old Man”; longingly, on “River,” her yearning teased out by Dutton’s violin; and, in the middle of “The Hissing of Summer Lawns,” seizing upon the word “darkness,” and then sings wordlessly, in the improvisational style she studied with Bobby McFerrin and Rhiannon, a master teacher, and leading the ensemble into freer terrain. She’s “hanging out with the jazzers,” just like she used to, just like Joni so famously and brilliantly did. And she’s revealing both sides of herself—the girl who heard Joni’s songs and wanted to make them her own, and the woman who now leans on them to, like the rest of us, try to make sense of it all. ~ Larry Blumenfeld 

Janiece Jaffe grew up in a musical family. Her mother was a preschool teacher and an opera singer and her father was a professor of classical music. As a child her parents facilitated 'Opera Nights' where singing was the mode of conversation at the dinner table!

As a performer, Janiece has worked in collaboration with many great artists, including Freddie Hubbard, Frank Vignola, Keter Betts, Dominic Spera and Al Cobine. She is featured in Scott Yanow's Jazz Singer: The Ultimate Guide.

The vocalist has recorded 11 albums and can be heard as a guest on more than 25 other recordings. During her career Janiece has written lyrics to the music of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Freddie Hubbard. She has also been a lyricist with composers Marcos Cavalcante (Standing on the Edge), Monika Herzig, David Ward Steinman and Curtis Cantwell Jackson. 

Janiece became a Reiki Master practitioner in 1999 and began exploring Sound Healing. She created three meditation CDs: The Lotus and the Rose, Heartones, and Fire in the Lotus. Janiece produced companion music for the book The Atlantean Legacy by Paula Bates with harpist Amy Camie. She also collaborated with Amy Camie in St. Louis on Soundscape Concerts, one of which was produced as a CD called Beyond Words Into the Soul. 

On November 23, 2022 in the early morning as Janiece was preparing for heart surgery she wrote and sent out these last words: “After finishing my morning prayer and feeling all of your love and support I am ready for what comes next! I want to let you know how much gratitude I feel for everyone’s songs and prayers and chanting and healing energy and love coming at me. May It come back to you all tenfold! Thank you so much! I’m ready! Love, Janiece”

The Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana declared December 12 Janiece Jaffe Day.

Monika Herzig’s career as a jazz pianist/composer spans three decades and dozens of releases, most recently with her all-star group Sheroes featuring the world’s leading female instrumentalists including Jamie Baum, Reut Regev, Leni Stern, Rosa Avila, Jennifer Vincent with guests Ingrid Jensen, Ada Rovatti, Akua Dixon, Lakecia Benjamin, and more. Her composition “Just Another Day in the Office“ is featured in the recent publication New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers (Berklee Press, 2022) compiled under the direction of Terri Lyne Carrington.

Monika is a DownBeat and JazzTimes contributor and served as the editor of Jazz Education in Research and Practice (JAZZ) as well as board member and head of the research committee for the Jazz Education Network (JEN). In 2019, Sheroes played the Jazz Tales Festival in Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt and toured many of Europe’s premiere jazz clubs, such as, Porgy & Bess (Vienna), Unterfahrt (Munich), Theaterhaus Stuttgart Jazztage, the Women in Jazz Festival (Halle) and also can be seen in Kay D. Ray’s documentary In Her Hands: Key Changes in Jazz, alongside their sister contemporary jazz stars, Anat Cohen, Ingrid Jensen, Sherrie Maricle, Grace Kelly among others. Groups under Herzig’s leadership have toured Germany, Italy, Japan and opened for acts such as Tower of Power, Sting and the Dixie Dregs. Herzig is the author of two critically acclaimed books; one with a brilliant forward by Quincy Jones: David Baker: A Legacy in Music (IU Press, 2011) and Chick Corea: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), which the Darmstadt Jazz Institute attests, “Herzig manages a perfect balance of musical analysis and context for the chosen recordings as well as Chick Corea’s career...easy to read, well-organized and motivates–which is still the highest achievement for music literature–for repeated listening.” Her co-edited volume Jazz and Gender was released in 2022 on Routledge. Since 2020, she is the host of the radio series and podcast Talking Jazz. Currently she serves as Professor of Artistic Research and Dean of Music Education at the Jam Music Lab University in Vienna, Austria.

New Collection Celebrates the Enduring Legacy of Savoy Records and the Revolutionary Bebop Era with The Birth of Bop

Craft Recordings celebrates the legacy of Savoy Records with an all-new collection that chronicles the groundbreaking era of bebop (or bop) music. An essential introduction to this vital period in jazz music, The Birth of Bop: The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection features 30 choice cuts from many of the genre’s pioneers, including Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Milt Jackson, Allen Eager, Fats Navarro and more. Spanning 1944 to 1949, these landmark recordings were instrumental in the development of modern jazz and found young artists exploring the boundaries of the genre at a time when swing music was the dominant sound and big bands ruled the airwaves.

Available to order here, The Birth of Bop is available in several formats, including a vinyl box set, featuring five 10-inch LPs, a 2-CD format and digital editions. Each track in the collection has been freshly restored and remastered by Joe Tarantino at Joe Tarantino Mastering, while physical formats include new in-depth liner notes by the GRAMMY®-winning writer and broadcaster Neil Tesser, plus vintage photos from the era.

For those seeking a deeper dive into the Savoy Records catalog, Craft’s new On Savoy digital collections highlight key recordings of pioneers, including Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Stan Getz, Don Byas, Art Pepper, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Dexter Gordon on the legendary jazz label. Each title can be streamed or downloaded here.

Bop first began to take shape in the early ’40s, developing in the clubs of New York City. This rebellious new sound was unlike anything anyone had heard before—and marked a significant departure from the predominant songs of the time. “The music inhabited small, flexible combos rather than the big-band behemoths of the Swing Era, and in place of rich, velvety harmonies, the boppers devised complex chords with a stark, thrilling edge,” explains Tesser, who adds that many of these musicians had begun their careers in swing bands, which gave them “something to push against.” Unlike the danceable jazz that was so popular at the time, boppers were revolutionizing the genre in a variety of ways, experimenting with melodies, rhythm and phrasing.

Emerging against the backdrop of World War II, bop was also very much a reflection of the era, notes Tesser. “In the early ’40s, the US’s expanding role in world affairs ratcheted up the pace of daily life: When America entered World War II, manufacturing, communications, and the whole business of living became faster and more furious. The world—especially the US, and specifically New York City—had caught a buzz, and the boppers picked up on it before almost anyone else.” This new way of life was mirrored in the break-neck pace of bop music, which was generally based on eighth notes, rather than quarter notes, making it double the speed of swing.

The early ’40s—specifically 1942 to 1944—also marked a nationwide recording ban, set in place by the Musician’s Union. “Unless you were spending time at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem—the . . . laboratory that hosted these after-hours experiments,” writes Tesser, “you’d have had little warning that this music existed until the first records appeared in 1945. Since few had witnessed the gestation period, it sounded to most people as if this music, like Aphrodite, had sprung full-blown from the head of Zeus.”

Established in 1942, Savoy Records would soon be at the forefront of this exciting new period in jazz music, thanks in large part to A&R man, producer, and promoter Teddy Reig. A passionate music fan, and a tireless hustler, Reig was a fixture at New York’s jazz clubs in the early ’40s, becoming friends with many of the era’s rising artists. As soon as the ban was lifted, he formed a partnership with the label. Over the next few years, he would bring many of these foundational bop artists to the label and serve as a producer on their sessions. The majority of the tracks that make up The Birth of Bop were helmed by Reig.

The musicians who pioneered bop music were part of an intimate circle, who often joined in on each other’s sessions. Leading the way at Minton’s were pianist Thelonious Monk, saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. They were frequently joined by bassists like Oscar Pettiford, Curly Russell and Gene Ramey, and such drummers as Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey and Max Roach. More sax players followed, including Dexter Gordon, Allen Eager, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Stan Getz, while trumpeters like Fats Navarro and Kenny Dorham followed in the steps of Gillespie. Other instrumentalists added additional textures to early bop, including vibraphonist Milt Jackson, trombonists J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and baritone saxophonist Leo Parker. Many of these groundbreaking artists are featured throughout many of the tracks on The Birth of Bop, while those influential recordings would pave the way for future jazz icons, including Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. 

Each track on The Birth of Bop chronicles the narrative of the movement—from Parker’s aforementioned “Romance Without Finance” to Stan Getz’s formative “Stan’s Mood,” recorded at the end of the ’40s. Other standout selections include J.J. Johnson’s “Mad Be Bop,” captured in 1946, and featuring Cecil Payne on alto saxophone, Bud Powell on piano, Leonard Gaskin on bass and Max Roach on drums. The trumpeter’s original tune borrows heavily from Coleman Hawkins’ “Spotlite” (which, in itself, is built off the chords of the standard “Just You, Just Me”). For decades, jazz musicians have regularly interspersed Johnson’s composition while performing “Spotlite.”

“Hollerin’ and Screamin’ (Fatso),” from Fats Navarro, also has an interesting story behind it. The recording—which features tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, pianist Al Haig, guitarist Huey Long, bassist Gene Ramey and drummer Denzil Best—was originally culled from a Davis-led session and released under his name. After Navarro died at the age of 26, however, the leadership was “rebranded” as a memorial to the beloved trumpeter.

Another highlight is “Dexter’s Minor Mad,” which marks the first session led by tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and one of several tracks of his included in this collection. Backed by Sadik Hakim on piano, Gene Ramey on bass and Eddie Nicholson on drums, Gordon was just 22 years old at the time of the 1945 recording. As Tesser points out, the horn player’s “sound and passion are unmistakable, and would form the template for virtually every bop tenorist to follow. His laconic phrasing would remain a hallmark throughout his career, as would his behind-the-beat (yet irresistible) rhythmic approach, which at this stage still bears some vestiges of his Swing Era predecessors.” 

The Don Byas-led “Byas a Drink” also bridges the gap between the Swing Era and bop, as the tenor saxophonist fronts a quintet featuring trumpeter Benny Harris, pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist John Levy and drummer Fred Radcliffe. Tesser writes that while Byas’ “phrasing remained largely tied to swing, he gradually incorporated the rhythmic characteristics of bop to create a ‘best of two worlds’ scenario. His playing belies the idea that some impassable gulf separated the exemplars of swing and the firebrands of bop.” The delightfully titled track, Tesser adds, is “an elegant composition based on the swing classic ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’; the melody line is pure bop, but the coda reflects the big floorshows performed by the big bands.”

There are also several selections by Milt Jackson, who transformed the vibraphone from a percussion instrument (as it was widely used in swing bands) into a lead instrument. One highlight is 1949’s “Hearing Bells,” in which Jackson leads a septet featuring trumpeter Bill Massey, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell, French horn player Julius Watkins, pianist Walter Bishop, Jr., bassist Nelson Boyd and drummer Roy Haynes. His second recording as a leader, the track offers a stunning example of Jackson’s lyricism on his instrument. Another standout tune is “Junior,” which, Tesser proclaims, “sounds closest to an idealized bop track.” 

As the decade turned and swing began to fall out of style, bebop would continue to develop, attracting younger artists along the way and ultimately giving way to further sonic exploration in the ’60s. Setting these changes in motion, however, were the revolutionary artists featured in The Birth of Bop. While many of their names endure in the canons of musical history, the impact of Savoy Records (and its fearless ambassador, Teddy Reig) cannot be understated. As Tesser concludes, “Looking through the personnel that fill the discs on The Birth of Bop, and seeing how many of them belong on the short list of those who brought bop into the world, it truly reveals the vitality and prescience of the Savoy artists roster.”

Héctor Lavoe - special reissue of 1975 solo debut, ‘La Voz’

Craft Latino celebrates the enduring legacy of singer and salsa icon Héctor Lavoe with a special reissue of his 1975 solo debut, La Voz. The Gold-certified album, which features Lavoe’s signature hit “Mi Gente” (plus such highlights as “El Todopoderoso,” “Rompe Saraguey” and “Paraiso de Dulzura”) is the release that launched a vibrant new chapter in the storied career of “El Cantante.” La Voz features AAA remastering, with lacquers cut from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. An Apple Red colored disc will be available exclusively at 

Perhaps the greatest interpreter of salsa music, singer Héctor Lavoe (1946–1993) was instrumental in popularizing the genre during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Known for his impeccably bright vocals, seamless phrasing and ad-libbed anecdotes, it’s no surprise that Lavoe earned the nickname “El Cantante” after his 1978 hit of the same name (penned for him by the great Rubén Blades). Born Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the singer relocated to New York City at 17, where he picked up his stage name and began performing in bands led by Roberto García, Kako and Fania Records owner Johnny Pacheco. It was through Pacheco that Lavoe met 16-year-old Willie Colón, with whom he would form one of Latin music’s most celebrated partnerships. Beginning in 1967, Lavoe appeared as a vocalist on 10 legendary studio albums with the Willie Colón Orchestra, including the boogaloo classic El Malo (1967), plus best-sellers like Cosa Nuestra (1970), Asalto Navideño (1971) and Lo Mato (1973).

By the mid-’70s, however, Colón had shifted his focus to production, giving Lavoe an opportunity to break out on his own. Salsa was reaching its peak popularity in the US, making it the perfect moment for the singer to carve out a spot as one of the genre’s biggest stars. Reuniting with members of Colón’s orchestra, Lavoe assembled a band of his own and enlisted his longtime collaborator to serve as producer and arranger on his debut. As a testament to the singer’s talents, the album was simply titled La Voz.

Among the standout tracks on La Voz is the Lavoe-penned “Paraíso de Dulzura,” as well as his collaboration with Colón, “El Todopoderoso,” which became an international hit. Lavoe also offered a modern take on Félix Chappottín’s “Rompe Saragüey,” featuring a dazzling piano solo by Mark “Markolino” Dimond. Perhaps the most famous track on the album, however, is its closer, “Mi Gente.” Written by Pacheco, the joyful Latino pride anthem would become one of Lavoe’s signature hits. Younger generations of listeners might also recognize the song for its use in the 2006 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Upon its release, La Voz was welcomed warmly by fans and critics alike—achieving a Gold Record certification from the RIAA and earning Lavoe awards for “Best Male Vocalist” and “Best Conjunto” from Latin New York magazine. Among more recent reflections on the album, All Music praised, “Lavoe sets himself far apart from all contemporaries by virtue of his angelic timbre… The experience created by La Voz is a warmth and refinement only achievable by the combination of two factors. The Fania label in its prime, and perhaps New York salsa’s most distinctive voice to date.”

In the years following La Voz, Lavoe would release nine more albums, including 1983’s Vigilante with Colón and the GRAMMY®-nominated Strikes Back in 1987. Lavoe was also a regular guest with the celebrated Fania All Stars, appearing on more than a dozen live and studio albums with the collective. Sadly, Lavoe’s career was cut short, amid a series of personal tragedies and struggles with his mental and physical health. Lavoe died in 1993 at the age of 46. In the years following his untimely passing, the influential artist and his extensive contributions to Latin music were honored in New York and Puerto Rico through street dedications, statues and murals. Lavoe’s life also inspired an off-Broadway play, a tribute album and two feature films, including the Marc Anthony/Jennifer Lopez-led El Cantante (2006). In 2000, Lavoe was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

New music releases: Alpacas Collective, Ted Falcon, Erobique, and Dario Margeli

Alpacas Collective - Gunkali

Belgian 11-piece global groove ensemble Alpacas Collective takes you on a trip from Lagos to Addis Ababa, from Augusta, Georgia to New Orleans, and from Delhi to sci-fi worlds far beyond our solar system, bringing it all back home in a unique set of original songs. The band draws inspiration from James Brown, Fela Kuti, Mulatu Astatke, The Meters, Sun Ra, Ravi Shankar, The Heliocentrics, …and many others. Like their great examples, the grooves are laced with cutting horn lines and rousing percussion breaks. Funk is the basis, flavored with afro, jazz, boogaloo, soul and eastern vibes. Alpacas Collective has shared the stage with renowned acts such as Mulatu Astatke, The Budos Band, Lefties Soul Connection, Cody Chesnutt, Quantic Soul Orchestra, The Poets and Rhythm and more. The band found their voice and soul on their well-received debut album Seven Wisdoms of Plutonia released in October 2022, a tasty blend of smells and musical spices that included 60s and 70s Ethiopian styles and compositions, afrobeat and US style funk. One year on, the ensemble is excited to release the second collection of Alpacas tunes. From the adventurous spaces of Plutonia, from where Alpacas Collective emerged, this gang of fanatic music lovers continue their trip through new places with new friends on their upcoming second album Big Words.

Ted Falcon - TÔ CHEGANDO-Almost There

When people think of Brazilian music, the first thing that comes to mind is bossa nova. But Ted Falcon, a jazz violinist, mandolinist and composer, fell in love with a different style of Brazilian music called “choro.” Falcon’s newest album, TÔ CHEGANDO-Almost There, comprises 14 original compositions that celebrate the happy, danceable, urban rhythms of choro music. Falcon plays both violin and mandolin on the album, which was recorded in São Paulo, Brazil, and Los Angeles with different bands. Falcon is not only a devotee of the music, but he also pushed its musical boundaries by introducing the violin to the mix of traditional choro instruments. He has become the premier choro violinist in the world. Although the word choro (pronounced shoru) means "cry" or "lament," the music is vibrant and cheerful. Considered the first urban popular music in Brazil, choro was born in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Often played at informal gatherings called “rodas de choro,“ choro is characterized by the virtuosity and improvisation of its participants. Falcon is a highly accomplished musician and composer, and the music on TÔ CHEGANDO is the best of two worlds. Choro is often labeled the “jazz of Brazil.” Improvisation is at the heart of choro, and its origin is a hybrid of African, European and American musical styles. While Falcon stays true to its rich roots, he pushes the envelope and opens the music to even wider influences.

Erobique - No.2

Carsten Meyer aka Erobique (born July 11, 1972 in Saerbeck, Westphalia) is a German composer, musician and entertainer who has been active for over 30 years both as a solo artist and as a member of various formations. Erobique became known above all for his solo concerts as a disco musician, which often flowed into impetuous dance parties and, since he has been around for 30 years, he has been able to attract a very heterogeneous & colorful audience from ages 6 to 60, with often two generations of a family attending concerts, and the average number of spectators in 2022 being between 1000 to 2000. His performances have included concerts for institutions such as the Goethe Institut as well as in non-European countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Israel, China (Shanghai). In addition, there have been and still are engagements as a composer and/or theater musician at numerous German and Swiss stages (Schauspielhaus Zurich, Residenztheater Munich, Schauspiel Hannover, Thalia Hamburg, Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Kampnagel Hamburg, Deutsches Theater Berlin and many others), including collaborations with Herbert Fritsch, Stefan Pucher, Studio Braun. In addition there were composition commissions from Haus der Kunst Munich (audio guide for the ‘Gilbert & George’ retrospective), and radio plays by national German radio stations WDR and SWR. As well as his solo work, Erobique has been active in various formations, such as International Pony (with DJ Koze and Cosmic DJ), the Hamburg Spinners, ex & Erobique, Songs for Joy (yearly project at the Gorki-Theater in Berlin with Jacques and Chris Dietermann), and others.

Dario Margeli - To Be Like Water

Dario Margeli releases a new guitar-led smooth jazz song, entitled "To Be Like Water." "To Be Like Water" benefits from jazz guitar solos by Ezequiel Angeleri. This recording fits perfectly with recordings by Norman Brown, Niles, Adam Hawley, and Chris Standring. Previously, Dario Margeli achieved significant Smooth Jazz radio airplay with the 2019 recording "Suffering is optional". The song was also added to two very important smooth jazz electric guitar Spotify playlists. This means that to this day the song is getting discovered by new listeners. It has stream counts approaching a hundred thousand when adding the different versions and youtube listens. Dario trained as a musician in the 1980's, however musicianship was left behind to pursue regular office jobs. In 2011 with the availability of digital recording software and social media, Dario took interest in music again and released his first single. He releases one song a year, as he still combines music with his office work. The music is often non-aggressive and inspired by meditation, Buddhism and self-improvement.

Sara Serpa / André Matos | "Night Birds"

Vocalist Sara Serpa and guitarist André Matos consolidate their partnership with a compelling and magnetic new album. Night Birds, available September 29, 2023 on Robalo Music, establishes Serpa and Matos’ gifts as a creative and an expansive duo in a program of contrasting beauty and darkness, with mesmerizing and textural pieces featuring Dov Manski, Sofia Jernberg, Okkyung Lee and João Pereira.

Seven years after their last duo album, vocalist Sara Serpa and guitarist André Matos return with Night Birds. Due out September 29, 2023 in CD and digital download on the Portuguese label Robalo Music, the duo’s third release captures and crystallizes their uncanny musical connection. Serpa is widely acclaimed as one of the premier vocalists of her generation and was crowned the 2020 Vocalist of the Year by NPR. Matos has been praised as “one of the kings of melody..." by the New York Music Daily. Together, their music has been described as “decidedly otherworldly and totally original” (The Classical Arts) and “a perfect musical union” (O Público).

A collection of original compositions, improvisations and a Bartok bagatelle, the dozen tracks on Night Birds reflect on the fast-paced societies of the modern world, questioning the consumption and exploitation of natural ecosystems. Serpa’s distinctive singing and Matos’ spectacular sonic landscapes are enhanced by original and creative artists in jazz and improvised music including Brooklyn-based pianist Dov Manski, South-Korean avant-garde cellist Okkyung Lee (John Zorn, Nels Cline, Chris Corsano, and Thurston Moore),  Ethiopian-Swedish experimental vocalist Sofia Jernberg (Fire! Orchestra, Mette Rasmussen), Portuguese up-and-coming drummer João Pereira, and on two tracks, Serpa and Matos’ child Lourenço. At turns magical, dazzling and calm, the duo’s unique sonic world draws on pure, contemplative sounds and takes a personal approach to melody and poetry. Their musical identity is informed by their Portuguese culture and the creative artistic environment of New York.

The duo’s previous albums, Primavera (2014) and All The Dreams (2016), produced close to the birth of their child, radiated with the excitement of experimentation and the joy of creative communion. Night Birds brings that child in as a collaborator and a participant in the music. “I really wanted to include his voice in this album,“ Serpa says, “before it changes in a few years. It has always been so inspiring to watch Lourenço being natural, spontaneous and present in our musical lives.” Family, Serpa’s composition, reveals multiple layers of voices, including Lourenço’s, intertwined with the guitar, bass and drums, in simple yet complex rhythmic parts.

Across the album’s twelve tracks, Serpa and Matos employ unusual, diverse approaches to the voice-guitar relationship. The voice often takes on a background role, creating textures, grooves or ambiances while the guitar defines the melody or freely improvises. Adding more voices, piano, synth and cello expands the duo’s sonic palette, resulting in immersive and captivating musical moments that transcend language and barriers.

More than just a musical achievement, Night Birds addresses relevant, timely thematic concerns. “Much of this music reveals reflections on what family means for us, as immigrants and as New Yorkers, how parenting has changed our lives and how horrified we are about the overconsumption of resources and the destruction of the natural world,” Serpa explains. “How do we nurture this precious and fragile microcosmos of watching a child grow while we witness our planet’s destruction? What will be left for him?” 

Exploring the interaction of electronic settings created by the guitar and synth with acoustic instruments such as the voice, cello and drums, the music of Night Birds creates a synthesis of traditional song forms and improvisation. Matos, whose compositions shine with lyricism, mood and atmosphere, plays electric and acoustic guitar on tracks like Counting or Bergman’s Island. “Both are textures that I live with in my musical mind,” Matos explains. “While the electric is still my main vehicle, the steel string acoustic guitar has been more present in recent years, exploring new possibilities.”

Genre-crossing contemporary singer and improviser Sofia Jernberg is featured on three tracks. Her singing vocabulary includes non-verbal vocalization, split tone singing, pitchless singing and distortion. Whether mirroring Serpa’s ethereal voice with a sustained accompaniment or contributing an inspiring intro for the track Underwater, Jernberg’s gifts add to the album’s layers of compelling complexity. “I have been listening to Sofia’s voice for a long time,” Serpa says. “I love her tone and her ability to create all these mysterious sounds with her voice. She’s truly inspiring.” 

Pioneer cellist and adventurous noise maker Okkyung Lee, who moves freely between artistic disciples and contingencies, demonstrates her highly distinctive sonic approach in a subtle and yet effective cascading solo in Degrowth and Lost Whale.

Throughout the album, Serpa and Matos employ the diverse talents of pianist Dov Manski, whose fluidity, vital counterpoint and lyricism bolster songs like From A Distance and Watching you Grow.  “Dov is a longtime friend and collaborator, " Matos says. “He brings an effective and polished sound while keeping an organic and dramatic feel with the piano and the synth.”

João Pereira (Mário Laginha, Jorge Rossy), a young Portuguese drummer and regular collaborator with the duo in Portugal, provides a spirited and grooving feel in tracks including Carlos, Family and Counting.

Night Birds is a testament to the ways in which Serpa and Matos have refined and developed their sound while exploring new dimensions of spontaneity. Their meaningful use of restraint and space in composition is clear on the intimate, direct Degrowth, a hypnotic musical call to reduce over-consumption and connect with our planet. “What if we changed our mindset?” asks Serpa. “Is material accumulation really what we need? Our way of life is destroying the planet, and we can’t seem to agree on what actions to take. I think that walking more and going outside is a great first step.” 

Night Birds closes with a concise and stunning interpretation of Bela Bartok's Bagatelle, Op.6: Lento. The otherworldly melody and harmonies have a haunting quality that lingers in the mind and ear well after the album ends.

New music releases: Glucklich VI – A Collection Of Brazilian Flavours From The Past & The Present Compiled by Rainer Truby, Diana Jenkins with Creative Funk, Daniel Ogren, and Bobby Caldwell

Glucklich VI – A Collection Of Brazilian Flavours From The Past & The Present Compiled by Rainer Truby 

A stunning set of Brazilian-styled cuts – presented here in the long-overdue 6th volume of this legendary series! Decades back, the Glucklich series taught us plenty about Brazilian grooves – especially the sort that weren't always recorded in Brazil, and were sometimes lost to the sands of time – especially as a few of these cuts appeared only on CD back in the day! And in the best Glucklich tradition, there's a few more contemporary cuts nestled in with the classics – making for a hell of of a set list that really lives up to the genius spirit of the series – on titles that include "Brasil Nativo" by Marcia Maria, "Brother Samba" by Midnight Gigolos, "Pe No Chao" by Grupo Ebano, "Come With Me To Rio" by Jon Lucien, "The Mystery Of Man (Truccy rmx)" by Sonzeira, "Mr Jenkins" by Guillermo Reuter, "Sob A Luz Do Sol" by A Bossa Eletrica, "Offering" by Jean Mar Jafet, "Hallo Hoppel" by Wutrio, "Aderico" by The Matheus Combo, and "Sambomambo" by Christian Knobel. ~ Dusty Groove.

Diane Jenkins with Creative Funk:  I'm A Woman – The Complete Singles

Diane Jenkins was one of a few singers who worked with the mighty Creative Funk ensemble in the 70s – and here, she steps out in a collection that brings together her rare singles for that group's label, all of which feature backings from Creative Funk themselves! The groove here is nicely wide-ranging – as Diane can deliver a mellow cut with a great deal of feeling, then step into a funkier number next – all with a voice that's got plenty of feeling, and which maybe sounds even better here in the indie, small label setting of the music than it would have were she snapped up by a bigger label! The set features both vocal and instrumental versions of "I Need You" – plus "Recycle", "Sweet Wine, Music, & My Imagination", "Anniversary", "Tow Away Zone", "I'm A Woman", and "Gee Baby What About You".  ~ Dusty Groove

Daniel Ogren - Fastingen 92

A record with a very vintage-styled cover, but a set that's contemporary overall – jazzy work from Daniel Ogren, who plays all the instruments pictured around him on the cover – mixed with some occasional vocals from Anna Ahnlund, plus live drums and keyboards that almost hit a clubby sort of vibe at times! The record's got a sound that's really hard to peg – not really right for our jazz section, or new grooves – but certainly not rock, and not really global – although global elements clearly influence some of the rhythms on the record too. Most tunes have a melody that warms things up out of the darker corners of the rhythms – and titles include "Picasso", "Levi", "Hjalmarsfjorden", "Idag", "April", "Oktober", and "Annalena (album version)". ~ Dusty Groove

Bobby Caldwell - Cat In The Hat (Reissue)

One of the greatest moments ever from Bobby Caldwell is his second album, Cat In The Hat, from 1980, is one of his greatest moments and another masterwork of soulful sophistication. The album occupies it's own place between genres – a touch of soul, the warmth of jazz, and a delivery that really helped Caldwell reach out to some big new audiences at the time. There's a cool, compressed feel to the record – but a quality that's still quite personal and never too slick – that rare balance that only a few of Bobby's contemporaries could ever match – and which is really hammered home here by the production and great songwriting. Instrumentation uses a warm blend of acoustic and electric elements that offset the vocals nicely – and titles include "Coming Down From Love", "Wrong Or Right", "You Promised Me", "I Don't Want To Lose Your Love", and the  eternal "Open Your Eyes", brilliantly sampled by J Dilla for Common's "The Light".

Saxophonist Marike van Dijk Presents STRANDED

Dutch saxophonist, composer and arranger Marike van Dijk has divided her time between New York, the Netherlands and Australia in recent years. Her previous album, The Stereography Project Featuring Jeff Taylor and Katell Keineg, and was released in 2018, her large ensemble recording, The Stereography Project, was released in 2015, and her debut was a quintet recording titled Patches Of Blue, released in 2010. Stranded marks van Dijk’s fourth recording to feature her compositions and her second album for Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records; released worldwide, September 22, 2023.

An important part of the concept for Stranded was van Dijk’s exploration of open structures. She explains, “I needed a group of open-minded musicians that would be into collaborating and improvising quite freely. There’s a lot of space for the musicians to play around with and I needed musicians who would be comfortable with that, because I really wanted to create an environment for these artists to freely reveal themselves. I tried to write a balance of open structures and also a few compositions with more defined forms and information. In my work I always draw from different musical genres, as I think many from my generation of musicians do, and I utilize collaboration and improvisation as a way to connect players and ideas.”

Van Dijk also needed an open mind, and as the album title, Stranded, hints at, the artist originally planned to spend a year to start her PhD in composition in Australia followed by travels to New York and Europe, and found herself marooned in subtropical Brisbane, the third city of Australia, during the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. Much of this music was composed and conceptualized during this time as part of her PhD, focused on collaborative practices and abstract composition techniques.

Commissioned by the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2020 as the Festival’s annual commission, van Dijk’s concept for Stranded developed over the following two years until its delayed premiere at the Festival in 2022. During this time van Dijk had to use her imagination to remember and feel some semblance of the joy of performing with her friends and collaborators, and connecting with each other and the audience. Van Dijk elaborated, “with this music I tried to stay as close as possible to what it feels like to be part of a live performance: the album was recorded in a live setting and produced to give listeners the sensation of sitting on stage, right there, with us.”

In terms of concept for the music and compositions, composing for this specific ensemble came to be central to Stranded. The musicians were chosen specifically for their musical personalities. Van Dijk said of this factor, “their personalities were a big influence on the whole process, not only during the performances, but during the composing process I was already imagining how the musicians would play the pieces and what that would sound like.”

A versatile musician, van Dijk has performed and toured with many ensembles; European Jazz Orchestra, Jazzmania Big Band, Konrad Koselleck Big Band, New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra, as well as numerous smaller groups. Prior to moving to Australia in 2019, van Dijk worked as a research assistant at the Antwerp Royal Conservatoire (Belgium) and was part of the saxophone faculty at the Institut fur Music in Osnabrück, Germany for several years. Additionally, she taught workshops and classes at Codarts Rotterdam, Groningen Conservatory, Royal conservatory the Hague and Amsterdam Conservatory.

Perhaps pianist/arranger Gil Goldstein puts it best when describing van Dijk’s music (specifically The Stereography Project), “van Dijk’s writing has an organic quality; balanced and seems to find ratios and combinations that are based in nature. I find her music very intuitive and feel that she has great honesty. This record will be just another step in a long career of composing.”

Saturday, September 30, 2023

New music releases: Gregory Porter, lophiile, Apollo Suns and Hiromi

Gregory Porter – Christmas Wish

Gregory Porter, with his customary class, elegance and sophistication, presents his new holiday album Christmas Wish – a cool yule selection of festive favorites as well as brand new songs written by the singer himself. Backed by his long-time band, produced by repeat collaborator Troy Miller in New York and London, with orchestral contributions recorded at Abbey Road, and featuring powerhouse guest vocalist, double Grammy-winning sensation Samara Joy, Gregory Porter’s seventh studio album is a loving tribute to his favourite time of year – and to great songwriters, singers and interpreters including Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Dinah Washington. Across its dozen tracks, Christmas Wish encompasses the saintly and the secular, the funky and the fun, the Great American Songbook and the best of Motown. With Christmas Wish, Gregory Porter has given us a whole new soundtrack to this most wonderful time of year. 

lophiile The Good Days Between

Multi-instrumentalist and producer lophiile releases The Good Days Between, a vibrant new collection that comes out via Bluewerks. The 8-track EP further solidifies lophiile’s reputation as a torchbearer for a new generation of producers melding jazz, hip-hop, and R&B sounds. The latest sonic adventure from lophiile is a musical diary of his time spent living in London, a heartfelt ode to the creative melancholy of the city's atmosphere, weather, and music. The rhythms, harmonies, and textures intertwine into a mosaic that pays tribute to an enchanting and somber muse. The Good Days Between marks lophiile’s first release since his 2019 EP To Forgive, which followed his work as a member of Radiant Children, a contemporary R&B trio who released their debut EP TRYIN' in 2018.

Apollo Suns – Departures

Departures, the debut LP from Winnipeg psychedelic jazz-funk collective Apollo Suns via Do Right! Music, finds the band evolving across new styles and moods, encompassing the shifting tides of the pandemic years. The band stayed busy then, writing over Zoom with midi-programmed instruments in a recording interface. When restrictions relaxed, they flew Juno award-winning producer Ben Kaplan (Bootsy Collins, Five Alarm Funk) to Winnipeg to record the new songs at No Fun Club over 10 days, re-igniting the chemistry of their high-energy live shows. Departures is a cinematic journey inspired as much by artists like Lettuce, Frank Zappa, Goblin, as film, TV and video game scores and soundtracks like those for The Warriors, Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Lupin III, and The Legend of Zelda. The band combines classic compositional techniques with synths and electronics, showcasing genre-melding finesse. Introducing strings, acoustic guitar, grand piano, and lap steel into the mix, Apollo Suns explore the visceral and heavy, the elegant and ethereal, epic house rock to New Orleans-y brass, proggy pathways, string-backed balladry, greasy stank-face funk and beyond, reflecting the many emotions of the pandemic’s unpredictable days.

Hiromi - Sonicwonderland

“Reminiscence” is the second IG track from Hirmoi’s upcoming album, Sonicwonderland and features vocalist Oli Rockberger. Hiromi announces Sonicwonderland, the internationally celebrated and GRAMMY-winning pianist and composer’s new album, out October 6 (Telarc/Concord).  Sonicwonderland represents a new musical adventure for the constantly evolving pianist and composer, who is a star in her native Japan. Recorded with a new quartet, called Hiromi’s Sonicwonder, the album features 9 new works with Hadrien Feraud (bass), Gene Coye (drums) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). Artist Quote: “In 2021, I wrote this piece called ‘Reminiscence’ and heard [Oli Rockberger] singing in my head. So I called him and I said, ‘I wrote this song and I’m hearing your voice. Would you like to co-write the lyrics?’ I thought the song would be perfectly fitting with the sound of this band, so we decided to record it on this album and I’m so happy with how it turned out.” - Hiromi. Hiromi's Sonicwonder band tours US in Oct (Seattle, Santa Cruz, Stanford, New York, Raleigh).


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