Friday, October 15, 2021

YORK | "The SoulJazz Experience Vol.1"

Throughout his career lasting several decades, German multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer YORK has been an in-demand sideman on saxophone and flute, live and in the studio for established heavyweights such as Randy Crawford, Phil Collins, Mousse T., Jazzkantine or Bahama Soul Club.

But time does not stand still, especially for creative minds! After all those years on the sidelines, new impulses made their way to the light, and a few sweaty as well as emotionally fulfilling months later, YORK is now launching his own longplayer: The Soul Jazz Experience Vol. 1.

On it, mastermind YORK enjoys his new creative freedom, as he functions equally as composer, arranger, producer – as well as performing musician, of course! YORK’s music is cool, danceable jazz with a touch of vintage soul and funk. He celebrates the swinging 60’s in a groovy way and transports the sounds of the vintage instruments he uses into the here and now. The album also features a number of top-class guest musicians, making The Soul Jazz Experience Vol. 1. a truly feel-good experience.

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” is a track that needs no introduction – or does it? It’s a jazzy-groovy version with latin inflections of the famed Rolling Stones tune. “The Days in Brazil” also breathes South American flair, and was inspired by memories of touring with Bahama Soul Club in Brazil. It is one of two tracks featuring renowned Portuguese jazz singer Guida de Palma, who also guests on the chilled out “E Nobi Do”, the perfect accompaniment to enjoying a delicious cocktail at the beach bar at sunset. In “Can You Feel The Heat” things go in a much jazzier direction, paying homage to the great pioneers of jazz – first and foremost Miles Davis, of course! And as a saxophonist, YORK also had to set a monument to his idols Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond – so the aptly-titled “CP & PD” pays homage to them.

On “Flamingo Girl” we find YORK‘s longtime co-musician Pat Appleton shining in her unique way, and again on she appears again on “Too Much Tension”, which is nowhere near as stressful as the title suggests, but rather comes across as loosely grooving before things get a little quieter on “Walz With Me”. Main single “With A Bit Kurkuma” features London-based guest Yane Singh and offers a wonderful cross-section of all the parameters that compose The Soul Jazz Experience Vol. 1. While “BSC Tribute” on the other hand is dedicated to Bahama Soul Club – with whom YORK played extensively. Things get avant-garde on “YSL & BB” – enriched with samples from Yves Saint Laurent and Brigitte Bardot, while “Move & Groove” is a cool finisher with its 60s movie atmospheres.

No doubt, one will probably hear a lot more from YORK, who has so much more to offer than the good team player skills of a sideman behind well-known faces of the scene!

Super db | "Ecoute Ca"

Super db is a 4-piece band from London whose sound is a distinctive mix of pop, disco, funk, rock and jazz. The band’s name plays on the positive, upbeat nature of their music, as well as encompassing the initials of each band member.

The lineup is composed of twin brothers J-M Sutcliffe (guitars & vocals) and J-P Sutcliffe (drums, vocals, keys & percussion), joined by Lorenzo Bassignani (bass) and Matt Dibble (keys, vocals, sax & clarinet). All 4 members are recognized  as some of the UK’s top musicians, most of them multi-instrumentalists offering more than just one musical contribution to their band recordings, including rotating lead vocalists.

J-M, J-P and Lorenzo all met while studying Jazz at Trinity College of Music in London. Matt also studied in London at Guildhall School of Music around the same time, but the four were introduced through a mutual friend and began working together for the first time on Matt’s solo album Around the Corner in 2013. Their recording and performance synergy was the catalyst for them to officially form Super db in 2014.

All four band members are proficient composers, not only writing songs for Super db, but individually for other projects too. J-P has released two solo albums and is also one half of the dance music duo Warcliffe. J-P and J-M have also released two albums as The Sutcliffe Brothers, exploring their passion for 80s rock and progressive rock. Bass player Lorenzo has played on numerous jazz and pop records, and has recently completed a MA in composition at Trinity College of Music. He is now working as a commercial music composer, providing music for TV shows on national Italian TV station Rai 3. Matt has released numerous solo albums, both in band format and as a solo pianist, as well as working and recording with Italian guitarist Fabio Zambelli.

Super db started to gather an underground following after the release of their debut album Death by Disco. Listeners were captured by the classic songs and sounds harking back to the late 70s and early 80s, reminiscent of the likes of Earth Wind & Fire, Prince, Daft Punk and others. Their song “The Best In Me” was selected to be featured on a Warner Music compilation album titled California Groove IV which was released in June 2018. Radio plays including from across the USA followed close behind.

This momentum and increased support for the band urged them to work on completing new music to present to the world officially for the first time, with the support of a promotional and marketing team. Single “Kool Funk” reached #2 on the UK soul chart in June and July 2020. It also achieved international radio play on numerous stations including BBC, Solar, Delite and Mi-Soul. Single “Open Line To Me” released in October 2020 was equally well-received, going on to be voted ‘People’s Choice Champion’ on BBC Radio Essex and other BBC local radio stations for a record four weeks on John Leech’s show.

The band released taster EP Listen To This in 2017, and have recently finished recording and mixing their second album Ecoute Ca with much anticipation from fans and media alike.

In May 2021, Super db sadly announced the untimely & sudden death of their much-loved founding member, Matt Dibble. In Matt’s honour, the remaining band members continue to be dedicated to sharing & promoting the music they made together and vitally shall maintain the positive vibes and lust for life that Matt always brought to the project and life in general. Ecoute Ca represents everything that 4 piece loved to create as a unit and its release is now as significant as ever.

PM Warson | "True Story"

PM Warson grew up in an English town in the staple suburban musical landscape of heavy rock, the ghost of New Wave, and the fading star of the indie boom of the Noughties. He found his own fit in the form of Rhythm & Blues from half a century before, saving up two summers straight for a Rickenbacker guitar, getting the taste for playing live with an archetypal teenage power trio.  After moving to London to study, he started to delve deeper into his musical vocabulary – Delta Blues, Americana, early jazz and rock’n’roll. Meanwhile, via the capital’s blues clubs and soul nights, he discovered a new setting for the music that had enticed him the first place.

A chance audition thrust him into full-time work as a touring musician, serving an apprenticeship, blissfully unqualified, alongside conservatoire-trained jazz musicians and session pros. Becoming more and more interested in production, ever-drawn to the Golden Era of record-making, Warson befriended the proprietors of Soup Studio, an all-analogue recording facility based in East London. He started moonlighting on production projects and learning the inner workings of a studio environment.

Without any wider ambition, Warson started cutting sides with a band of friends and acquaintances found along the way, evoking the R’n’B records of the ‘50s and ‘60s in approach rather than emulation. His first effort, the ramshackle “You Gotta Tell Me” became a de facto single, and after being urged to press a few copies to vinyl by a friend, it began to cause a few ripples on the local DJ scene. Meanwhile, a wild, off-the-cuff cover of “Hit The Road Jack” caught the attention of a London music agency, giving his line-up an outlet for playing live. This included house-band sets at London establishments such as the Blues Kitchen, Old Street Records and notably at the opening of the Mary Quant fashion exhibition at the V&A Museum.

His follow up “(Don’t) Hold Me Down”, served as his breakout. The blend of Brit-edged Garage R’n’B and Latin Soul, with a Girl-Group chorus that had developed as a key extension of his live sound, proved a winning formula for record collectors. The independent pressing sold out within a couple of days, and it began to spin at clubs from Toronto to Barcelona, its value briefly skyrocketing on collector site Discogs. The song was later picked up by Fred Perry to underscore their ‘Soul Boy’ short, further establishing PM Warson‘s presence on the UK soul scene.

Having teamed up with esteemed German label Légère Recordings in 2020, he released the organ-led “Every Day (Every Night)” on 45, backed by Ashford-Simpson-Armstead‘s classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, earning a write-up in Clash Magazine. The collaboration continues into 2021, with his debut LP “True Story”, out on April 23rd - a distillation of what’s come before and perhaps a hint of what’s to come. Already lauded by UK soul DJ laureate Craig Charles on his BBC Radio show, among his tips to be ‘Big for 2021’, it takes in the musical sensibilities absorbed over the course of time. Against a backdrop of club-honed rhythm tunes, there’s blues, jazz and swing, with lashings of girl-group pop and soul. There’s even a Dylan song in there, set against a New Orleans-styled lilt and call-and-response vocals à la The Raelettes. Entirely self-produced, but perhaps defined by collaboration, the record features stellar playing throughout from an extended combo. It was cut just in time, the final live tracking session last February, just before the global lockdowns started. It was finished in a very different world, with its considerable challenges, a few months later. It’s a testament to perseverance and clarity of vision, and perhaps the notion that truth, sometimes, is in the finding. 

The Bamboos | "Hard Up"

The album continues their long history of collaborations, with LA-based vocalist Joey Dosik looking towards the light on “It’s All Gonna Be O.K.” and Louisiana-born Durand Jones (of current deep soul faves Durand Jones & The Indications) anticipating when he can just go out and dance with his partner on “If Not Now (Then When)”. But even with guests of that calibre, Kylie Auldist is never outshone on a Bamboos album. Displaying an incredible range and richness with no need for showy vocal gymnastics, she can move from tenderness on torch song “I Just Heard You Leaving”, to carefree sweetness on “The Thing About You” to out-and-out power on “Tomorrow”. Recalling their Deep Funk origins the instrumentalists in the band (which include some of Melbourne’s finest jazz players) get to stretch out on New Orleans-flavoured instrumental “Upwey Funk”.

Overseas reactions to the album are some the strongest the band has received to date, with four star reviews in UK soul bibles Blues & Soul and Echoes, key music magazines in Italy and France – plus they are fast ascending the Triple A radio charts in the US with “If Not Now (Then When)” and “Hard Up”. The latter song also recently appeared in the new US TV series “Kenan”, starring Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson alongside Don Johnson. The band’s popularity in the US, UK and Europe has remained strong since the mid 2000’s when they were the first Australian soul band to get signed to a key overseas label and to tour.

Most of the album was recorded communally over a week at a sprawling country house just outside the (coincidentally named) town of Lancefield, north of Melbourne. The approach of making an album outside the recording studio, steeped in such legendary tales as The Rolling Stones at Villa Nellcôte or Radiohead’s ‘O.K Computer’ St Catherine’s Court sessions has made it the groups most collaborative yet, solidifying even more their seemingly telepathic musical interplay.

“We had always talked about getting out of town and locking ourselves up in an old house somewhere to make a record” explains Ferguson. “And it just seemed to be the right time to do it. Something different happens musically when everyone is together in the same place and in no hurry to go anywhere else…there’s a real focus. We were recording takes at 3am in the morning, experimenting with whole different approaches to songs, the horn section took over an empty barn to come up with their parts…all of the things you can imagine”.

The band have already managed to hit local stages twice in 2021, first with the full Melbourne Symphony Orchestra re-imagining their catalogue in the show ‘Symphonic Soul’ at the iconic Hamer Hall in March (which will be streamed soon their new MSO.Live platform) and then to a sold out Corner Hotel in April, which was viewed by fans all over the world on their first ever livestream (which is still available to watch for a few more weeks).

The Bamboos influence and impact on what would become the now world-famous Melbourne Soul scene is undeniable, blazing a path and inspiring so many locals to play, record and explore new ideas in Soul, Funk, Jazz and Beats. They sowed the seeds for Melbourne acts now getting worldwide attention such as Hiatus Kaiyote, 30/70 Collective & Allysha Joy, Kaiit, Emma Donovan & The Putbacks, Surprise Chef and even Chet Faker (who was included on the Soul Of Melbourne compilation Ferguson co-compiled in 2012).

As with all previous Bamboos albums, Hard Up was produced by band founder, lead guitarist and songwriter Lance Ferguson, alongside recording engineer/producer John Castle (Jack River, Vance Joy, Gretta Ray, Angie McMahon). Even after more than twenty years performing together The Bamboos once again manage to reinvigorate a classic sound, seamlessly incorporating contemporary influences to create something altogether brand new. Never a band to be hung up on any perceived ideas of authenticity of Soul music, they have managed to appeal to both purist fans of the genre as much as casual music fans by focusing on what’s important: songwriting, groove and powerful vocals.

Sly & Robbie remix Soul Sugar's cover of "I Want You" by Marvin Gaye

To celebrate the forthcoming release of their new album, Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk & Dub, Guillaume Metenier’s Soul Sugar collective has digitally reissued Sly and Robbie’s superb mixes of ‘I Want You’, a sensual reggae-soul cover of the Marvin Gaye classic that first appeared on vinyl back in 2018.

A timeless cover blessed with effortlessly soulful vocals courtesy of Jamaican native Leonardo Carmichael, ‘I Want You’ is a superb example of the collaborative methods of the Soul Sugar collective. The instruments and vocals were recorded in studios on different sides of the Atlantic (Robbie Shakespeare’s bass in Miami, Sly Dunbar’s drums and Carmichael’s vocals in Kingston, and Metenier’s organ and Thomas Naim’s guitar in Paris), with mixes being bounced from the Caribbean to Europe before being finished off at frequent collaborator Jahno’s studio in Clermont-Ferrand.

The results are quite simply exemplary. Sly and Robbie’s vocal mix is reminiscent of the legendary duo’s work during their golden period at Channel One studio in Kingston, Jamaica or the Compass Point studio in Nassau, the Bahamas, with Carmichael’s warming, Gaye-like lead vocal rising above Naim’s clipped guitar licks and Metenier’s tasteful keyboard lines. The accompanying Dub is naturally...  more

Gizelle Smith | "Revealing"

Born and raised in Manchester, with a multicultural upbringing steeped in soulful music, Gizelle was destined to follow in the footsteps of her father, Joe Smith, the former guitarist, musical director and songwriter for Motown stalwarts The Four Tops. She took up singing at a young age, and in 2009, cut her first album of gritty deep funk tunes with The Mighty Mocambos in Hamburg, Germany, followed by extensive touring throughout Europe. Her follow-up, Ruthless Day, was released nearly a decade later, also rooted in the sounds of soul ingrained in her musical DNA.

For her latest effort, Gizelle could have played it safe and recorded just another soul album. But in a tragic twist, the course of her future was altered forever by her father’s death in 2019, which prompted a total creative reset. “I was pretty much emotionless towards music in general and I had lost all sense of direction with my own artistry”, Gizelle says of her darkest hour. “My whole identity as a song-writer and musician vanished into the ether with my dad, like a cord had been severed”. Unable to focus on the material she had already been working on, she decided to start from scratch, “because regardless of what was happening in my life, an album needed to be written”. Hunkering down in New York City with her producer Steffen Wagner and her fiancé, bassist Joseph Sam, she embarked on a 10-day writing spree.

The nine tunes emerging from this session represent a unique combination of R&B and funk, but the singer doesn’t shy away from experimenting with pop and rock stylings. With her impressive yet restrainedly candid voice, laced with a combination of coolness and sensitivity that’s near impossible to mimic, Gizelle communicates authenticity, a completely fraught concept and one absolutely central to her art. In many ways, Revealing is a testament to her musical growth, personal freedom and maturity.

It also draws attention to her writing talents. When songwriters talk about life-altering experiences, they often do so in exaggerated tones. But Gizelle’s songs don’t come off overstated, they are grounded and relatable. Take opener “Agony Road” an almost therapeutic exercise in dealing with the seven stages of grief. Or try “Better Remember (They’re Controlling You)”, which addresses social conditioning. “Three Tiny Seeds” is a testament to self love and spiritual growth, and “The Girl Who Cried Slow” serves as an inspirational hymn for personal fulfillment. “Over the years, I feel like my lyrics especially have become more meaningful and they are particularly important on this album”, Gizelle says of her writing.

Viewed in the context of her evolving sound, Revealing is more of a logical continuation of Gizelle’s music, not a radical departure from her background in soul and funk. For connoisseurs of Aretha Franklin or Lyn Collins, there’s still plenty to love here, as long as you’re allowing Gizelle to take you with her on her new path. “I have such a plethora of beautiful influences, I just want to channel and express myself in any musical way I want, across musical landscapes that I choose”, she explains.

With Revealing, Gizelle Smith reveals herself. This is what freedom sounds like.

New album 'Love & Truth' by Alan Evans' alter ego Crushed Velvet & The Velveteers

Alan Evans, multi instrumentalist and co-founder of acclaimed US band Soulive releases powerful soul album Love & Truth as his alter ego Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers. Love & Truth evokes the classic 60s and 70s soul & funk of Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and NYC, blending the retro sound with a modern sensibility, strong songwriting and powerhouse vocals. The songs feature an all star line-up of acclaimed guest vocalists including Kim Dawson (Pimps of Joytime / Matador Soul Sounds), Saundra Williams (Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings / Saun & Starr), Lyle Divinsky (The Motet), Yanick (After Funk) and Brother GoodLove (Aztec Sun). Evans handles guitar, bass and drums with guests such as Darby Wolf & Neal Evans on keys and the horn section from the BT ALC Big Band.

The album opens with “Really Can’t Get Over You”, a feel-good slice of sunny uptempo soul, with catchy hooks and a singalong chorus, featuring the liquid soul voice of Yanik. While the powerful voice of Kim Dawson features on three songs: the gorgeous “You Are My Home” that oozes emotion, hard-driving “Keep On Fighting” and “Good Thang“, a 3 minute head bopping ‘funk classic’, previously released as a single on 7 inch vinyl & digital.

“Say Their Names Be The Change” featuring Lyle Divinsky of The Motet on vocals and “We Are Not Ok feat. Brother GoodLove” are hard hitting, gritty soul funk tracks with exquisite in the pocket grooves and passionate vocals. While “As Far As We Know” is a huge soul song, dripping with emotion and power that features vocal powerhouse Brother GoodLove. As does “Every Second of the Day”, a lush soul ballad featuring the fabulous vocal talent that is Saundra Williams backing vocalist for Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and later half of soul duo Saun & Starr on Daptone Records.

Love & Truth is an album of outstanding musicianship, powerhouse vocal performances but most of all classic songwriting that oozes authentic soul.

Ray Charles | "True Genius"

An amazing tribute to the music of Ray Charles – served up here in a special package of tracks from his own Tangerine and Crossover record labels – a fair bit of which haven't been on the market for many many years, and which are presented here with an unreleased live set from the 70s! The package is book-style – with a hardcover jacket, and notes and photos of Ray and his associates – but the real treasure is the music, as there's plenty of tracks here that we're normally only able to track down on vinyl, either on the old albums from the 60s and 70s, or on some of the obscure 45s that were issued on Tangerine too! And although Ray experimented with other artists on the label, the main focus here is on Ray's vocals and talents as a bandleader – although CD5 does feature some duets from later years too. The 6CD set features 99 tracks in all – including 9 tracks from a never-issued live date in Stockholm in 1972 – plus other titles that include "Our Suite", "Ring Of Fire (live)", "We Can Make It", "Laughin & Clownin, "Booty Butt", "Feel So Bad", "Something", "Every Saturday Night", "There'll Be No Peace Without All Men As One", "I've Got A Woman (live)", "Crying Time", "Cincinnati Kid", "Together Again", "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck", "No One", "Hide Nor Hair", "Please Say You're Fooling", "I Don't Need No Doctor", "Living For The City", "3/4 Of The Time", and lots lots more! ~ Dusty Groove

Eberhard Weber | "Once Upon a Time"

Once Upon A Time – Live in Avignon presents Eberhard Weber on a rare evening in southern France in the midst of an adventurous series of solo bass concerts in 1994. This particular concert took place as part of the Festival International De Contrebasse, organized by Barre Philips. Reviewing one of Eberhard’s solo events that year, the Financial Times called him “an exceptional bass player [who] can shine in all styles” and went on to claim, “it is hard to imagine that anyone else could play what Weber plays.” 

Throughout the years, the bassist indeed has proven time and time again of a particularly unique musical vision that can not only be traced back to his singular use of effects and his signature five-string bass hybrid, but also draws on his personal background. In a conversation with Bass Player Magazine in 1994, Eberhard explains, “When I was young, I envied all the American jazz players and wanted to play like them, without thinking too much about my roots – but they kept seeping into my music. Over the decades, I came to realize that I am a European. My family is European and I grew up listening to European classical music. I’m classically trained; that’s my background. So I’m not a jazz bassist – I play European improvised music!” This special act of embracing his own personal voice is among the things that separate the bassist from others. 

Much of the music performed on Once Upon A Time draws from Orchestra (1988) and Pendulum (1993), the two albums that preceded Eberhard’s 1994 tour. Both recordings dealt with the variety of sounds he could possibly create, only using the bass. While on the first of the two, Eberhard focused on music he would be able to recreate live, Pendulum saw the bassist using overdubs more frequently, explaining in the press release at the time: “More than ever I am interested in the end product, and for quite some time now I have been free from the need to prove that one person can do it all.” 

And yet, with Once Upon A Time Eberhard Weber does exactly that: by combining the harmonic breadth of Pendulum with the textural quality of Orchestra in a live situation, the bass player delivers a compelling demonstration of the musical possibilities with one single bass performed live. Small electronic manipulations support him in the process. At the time the Financial Times observed, “the five string contraption has no body but is played through an electronic ‘delay’, controlled by foot pedals. This gives Weber the ability to play a five-second sample, which repeats ad infinitum and onto which phrase after phrase can be pasted. In short, Weber improvises to his own accompaniment, setting down slavish rhythm, chords and harmonies, creating a live dialogue with himself.” 

Several pieces on the album benefit from loop-based accompaniment provided by the delay – “Trio for Bassoon and Bass” and “My Favorite Things” included. Both the multiple-subject-spanning Eberhard-original and the standard are interspersed with layered strumming patterns, chordal structures and steadily intensifying improvisations. Both pieces are new to the bassist’s recording catalogue. As the standard unfolds, its harmony altered by the consistent loop, Eberhard’s command over the music and his instrument becomes evident. On “Delirium” too, Eberhard uses a loop foundation for extensive explorations up and down the neck – a healthy share of overtone investigation included. Other performances are less reliant on effects and leave room for freer approaches to time and harmonic development. “Pendulum” reveals triad-based patterns, setting a reflective mood that “Silent for a While” and “Air” pick up, develop and transform with discerning linear movements across the strings. In contrast, “Ready Out There” concentrates around the bassist’s more physical instrumental prowess. 

Once Upon A Time Live in Avignon is filled with jewels from one of Eberhard Weber’s most prolific periods and captures one of the bass player’s especially successful solo concerts. The album was recorded by Gérard de Haro at the Théatre des Halles in Avignon, France on 9 August 1994 and mixed at Studios La Buissonne in May 2021. 

Pasquale Grasso | "Pasquale Plays Duke"

Guitarist PASQUALE GRASSO released Pasquale Plays Duke, which is available now on Sony Music Masterworks. Pasquale Plays Duke is the second of three albums being released in 2021-2022 and follows the April launch of Solo Ballads; making its debut alongside today’s album release is a new video for “Solitude,” featuring Samara Joy.

On this album Grasso introduces his working trio of bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla, and is joined by special guest vocalists Samara Joy and Sheila Jordan. The new release finds Grasso reimagining five Duke Ellington classics on solo guitar, alongside several collaborative tracks, performing some of Ellington’s most-cherished masterpieces including “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Cotton Tail,” with Joy and Jordan making appearances on “Solitude” and “Mood Indigo,” respectively.

Long before earning the endorsement of everyone from New Yorker magazine to living luminary guitarist Pat Metheny and recording a series of solo EPs and albums for Sony Music Masterworks, Grasso grew up in the quaint and quiet Italian town of Ariano Irpino. At six-years-old, Pasquale developed a bond with his guitar that ignited an unbelievable journey from the Italian countryside to international renown. 

After attending the Conservatory of Bologna, the U.S. Embassy enlisted Grasso as its Jazz Ambassador. He embedded himself in New York City’s jazz community through a standing gig with late saxophonist Charles Davis. Among many standout performances, he won the 2015 Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition and shared the stage with Pat Martino’s organ trio. In 2018, he appeared at the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., delivering a show-stopping homage to honor Pat Metheny who christened him “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life.” 

Signing to Sony Music Masterworks, Grasso kicked off his solo EP/album series in 2019 with Solo Standards, Vol. 1, Solo Ballads, Vol. 1, Solo Monk, and Solo Holiday. His momentum continued in 2020 with yet another string of solo releases Solo Bird, Solo Masterpieces, Solo Standards, and Solo Bud Powell, earning the praise of New Yorker magazine, “Pasquale Grasso can play guitar like ringing a bell.”

Grasso shows off his technique early on in the album, with the introduction of “It Don’t Mean a Thing” – watch the music video here. The silky, vintage guitar tone makes it sound like a Johnny Smith or Tal Farlow LP from the 1950s. “I've always loved the guitar sound from the '40s and '50s and I love the sound of classical guitar,” says Grasso.

The featured vocals of Samara Joy and Sheila Jordan add even more texture to the already vintage sound. Joy is only 21 and graduated this May from SUNY Purchase, thirty five miles north of her native Bronx. Immediately, the natural strength and richness of her voice grabs the listeners’ attention. Her feature on the track “Solitude” is another reassurance to these claims. A powerful yet soft sound blends with Grasso's beautiful scales, producing a sound reminiscent of a live performance from the great Ella Fitzgerald. 

Sheila Jordan is featured on “Mood Indigo.” Her decades-long experience in the jazz scene shines in her vocals throughout the track. Since the release of her 1962 Blue Note debut Portrait of Sheila, Jordan has become known as one of the most creative living jazz singers. She is one of the few vocalists who can improvise lyrics, which often rhyme, is a superb scat singer, and is also an emotional interpreter of ballads. During the track, the runs of Grasso’s guitar are matched by the impressive scatting of Jordan throughout the feature. It creates a back and forth battle before falling back into a final verse of soft vocals about feeling blue, hence the title “Mood Indigo.”

The classic jazz sound of Art Tatum, an inspiration of Grasso’s, stays present throughout the album. His influence is apparent in the transitional runs that play a major part in much of Grasso’s improvisations, and whole-tone scales are able to take us from one chord to the next throughout the album. Tracks such as “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Cotton Tail,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Day Dream,” carry the listener up and down a flurry of intense and elegant scales.

“Reflections in D”, the final track, slows the tempo so as to relax and wind down the album. The silky sound is still present, the tone being presented much to the name of the track, a reflection on everything heard in the prior twelve songs of Pasquale Plays Duke. All the same aspects are maintained, yet, this particular piece allows more space and time to experience Pasquale Grasso’s artistry.

Brasuka | "A Vida Com Paixão"

Over the past year and a half, music experienced a dark and dismal outlook of pandemic doom. But in demanding times, musicians keep us grounded. They call up the strong, beautiful parts of our spirits.

Welcome Brasuka, the hopeful and spirited ensemble that offers a healing outlook. Based in Dallas, the sextet’s compelling debut recording, A Vida Com Paixão, captures the joy and beauty of its translated name, A Life With Passion. Inspired by different styles of Brazilian music with spices of reggae, classical, jazz improvisation, folk-styled melodies, Uruguayan candombe, and splashes of pop, the six-member band, along with special guests, delivers a sublime album with every tune a pure delight of lyricism and percussive rhythms. It is released on trombonist Nick Finzer’s Outside in Music label.  

The 10 tracks, including 9 original songs, work together as a culturally diverse journey of a group formed a decade ago, originally as a Sergio Mendes tribute spearheaded by percussionist Ricardo Bozas and vocalist and current spokesperson, Rosana Eckert. “After many years of playing music by artists like Sergio Mendes and Ivan Lins, the band evolved. After a few personnel changes and some brainstorming, we shifted our focus to original music. We started writing songs together as a group and loved it.” says Eckert. 

Eckert likens the band to a collective. “There is no one leader. There are six leaders, and we’re all invested. The biggest challenge has been finding the time to rehearse and write, given that we all have so many other musical jobs and groups. But we believe in this band and devote ourselves to it, planning rehearsals weeks in advance. Rehearsals are often day-long events when we eat together, write, arrange, eat some more. We also split up into smaller groups for writing sessions.” she says.

Brasuka stands as a solid band with a firm undergirding influenced by their shared love of Brazilian music. The multi-ethnic ensemble features Mexican-American Eckert on vocals and keyboards, Uruguay-born Bozas on percussion and vocals, Cuba-born Denny Robinson on keys and vocals, Tom Burchill from South Dakota on acoustic and electric guitars and vocals, Dallas-born Brian Warthen on bass and percussion, and Puerto Rico native Jose Aponte on drums and vocals. Guests include co-producer Daniel Pardo on flutes and melodica, Drew Zaremba on flute and tenor sax, and Jeff Robbins on tenor saxophone. 

Written by Eckert especially for the band, the opening track, “Samba Jiji,” delivers with welcoming percussion and her captivating wordless vocals. “I think this song best represents the band. It’s got a cool and funky partido alto groove, it’s danceable, and like many of our songs, it has a big sing-along at the end.” she says. 

The ebullient “Road to Hermeto” was the first tune the group wrote all together. It was inspired by innovative Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal who often writes complex and whimsical melodies. The band channeled Hermeto’s style with harmonic twists and turns and exciting eighth-note rhythms. Other tunes are credited as Eckert/Bozas collaborations. The title track, “A Vida Com Paixão,” is a joyful and uplifting invitation with exuberant Portuguese vocals sailing over an infectious samba reggae. “Marakandombe,” sparks as a hybrid of two grooves: Uruguayan candombe and the Brazilian maracatu. There’s an interchange of gentle march-like majesty followed by a nod to rock with Burchill’s scorching guitar solo. On “Deusa Do Meu Carnaval,” dance is central to the theme of the song’s evolution, from a gentle samba sung by an admirer about a beautiful dancer to a rousing street carnival party with Pardo conjuring up flute and melodica joy. 

Eckert and Bozas also combine to shape the cheerful “Praia Felix” about the percussionist’s paradisal visit to Felix Beach in Ubatuba in the São Paulo state. “Ricardo wrote the melody and a lyric about his trip, and I added the chords as I imagined he heard them. He wanted to help people understand the story, so we sang in both Portuguese and English. And of course, there’s a big beach party at the end!” Eckert says.

Other songs include Eckert’s original “Reina’s Song” accompanied by Burchill on classical-styled acoustic guitar. It’s the most sobering moment on the album, inspired by Eckert’s aunt grieving the loss of her husband. “I had written the melody twenty years prior, and it finally found a home with Brasuka.” she says. 

Written and sung by Robinson, inspired by the biblical story of a fig tree, “La Higuera” goes on a shape-shifter trip. It opens with a candombe groove that develops into a quiet zone with Warthen’s mellowed bass solo. It then erupts into another signature Brasuka sing-along party, this time influenced by the keyboardist’s Cuban heritage. Aponte’s “Confundido,” meaning “confused,” also travels different roads, with a free and open start, a pensive and floating melody, and dynamic improvisation and interaction that highlight the band’s jazz roots. 

At the end of A Vida Com Paixao the band delightfully digs into the only cover of the album: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” arguably one of the Beatles’ most renditioned songs. It works perfectly with Brasuka’s rhythmic approach. “We’re trying to create happy music. We want to tell thoughtful and uplifting stories, get people dancing, and bring people together. Hopefully our passion comes through.” Eckert says. 

Marc Johnson | "Overpass"

With Overpass, recorded in Brazil in 2018, Marc Johnson makes a decisive and intriguing contribution to ECM's solo bass recordings. It is an album that takes note of that tradition - Johnson has said that Dave Holland's Emerald Tears was among the solo recordings that fired his imagination almost half a century ago - and builds upon it in a personal and imaginative way.

The Nebraska-born bassist first came to broader attention in the late 1970s as a member of Bill Evans's last trio where the tune "Nardis" became effectively a workshop for nightly discoveries about the bass's potential as a lead voice. The Miles Davis tune, long associated with Evans, is revisited here. As Johnson points out, "‘Nardis' is where solo bass explorations all started for me and this performance distills much of the conception and vocabulary I am using throughout this album." Alex North's "Love Theme from Spartacus", another tune that Evans liked to play, is featured, too, in an interpretation and arrangement that honours the form of the composition.

Johnson also tackles Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance", whose dancing pulses have long inspired improvisers, and presents five of his own pieces. Among them is "Samurai Fly", a recasting of "Samurai Hee-Haw", the Eastern-tinged Western tune that Marc previously recorded for ECM with his Bass Desires band – the highly influential quartet featuring the twinned guitars of Bill Frisell and John Scofield and Peter Erskine's drums- and with the John Abercrombie Trio. This version – one of the two tracks that deploys discreet overdubbing - is heavier than its predecessors, perhaps more Sumo than Samurai, Johnson wryly suggests, but still nimble and effective, and with a strong hint of bluegrass bass fiddle in its undercurrents.

Marc Johnson's music has long been open to influence from multiple sources, and "Whorled Whirled World", for instance, with its tessellated patterning and spinning, dancing energy alludes both to a kind of earthy, global music blueprint and the mesmeric qualities of minimalistic repetition. Pulsation and drive have strong roles throughout.

Of "And Strike Each Tuneful String" Johnson says," In the early 80s I made a conscious choice to try to bring something primal to my sound and conception of playing. I discovered a field recording made in the late 60s of musicians from Burundi. One or two tracks in particular from that recording caught my attention. The music was played on an instrument called an Inanga which is a hollowed out log strung with ox tendons for strings. The strings were plucked in various patterns and the earthy sound and repetitiveness was quite hypnotic. With a nod towards that reference, this piece is an improvisation and short reprise of ‘Prayer Beads' which appeared on the second Bass Desires album."

If Overpass addresses musical and personal history, it is also an improviser's in-the-moment response to events. Marc Johnson's journeys around the globe have sometimes led to meetings with remarkable instruments: in São Paulo he came across a prizewinning bass made by luthier Paulo Gomes that subsequently became his instrument of choice each time he was in the region. The sound of the bass itself with its full-bodied resonance has also been a determining factor for the nature of the music played. On "Yin and Yang" the improvisation takes off from harmonics produced by strumming all four strings of this bass. "The continuity was created by allowing the strings to decay until the next attack. I first recorded a long series of attacks and decays, and then improvised a melody and some bowed effects. This piece is the result."

Sweet Inspirations | "Let It Be Me – The Atlantic Recordings 1967 to 1970"

A fantastic run of music from a group who were key to the rising sound of soul music on Atlantic Records during the 60s – but who sometimes didn't always get their due! The Sweet Inspirations have roots in gospel – as the famous Drinkard Sisters – and they've also got a legacy that goes beyond these recordings, including later group sessions, and solo 70s fame by Cissy Houston of the group. But here, they're completely at their prime – known to bigger audiences for their background vocals behind Aretha Franklin and others, and working with a completely sublime blend of their gospel roots and newly righteous 60s soul modes – given superb accompaniment and production in a series of recordings done in New York, Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and Sigma Sound in Philly! This set features a huge amount of material – everything the girls recorded for Atlantic – the full albums Sweet Inspirations, Songs Of Inspiration, What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweets For My Sweet, and Sweet Sweet Soul – plus non-LP single tracks, and enough material for a 1970 bonus album too, most of it never issued at the time. The package is the best we've ever seen on the group – an instant classic in our book – and it features 66 tracks in all, plus a big booklet of notes. ~ Dusty Groove

Mary Wilson | Mary Wilson The Motown Anthology"

Singer, activist, author, fashion icon, actress, mother, grandmother, friend, trailblazer, legend, Supreme: Mary Wilson earned her place in music history.  She was the only original member of The Supremes in every incarnation of the groundbreaking group from beginning to end (1961 to 1977) but her story didn't end when The Supremes did.  Now, the late superstar's remarkable legacy of music is being collected for the very first time in a deluxe 2-CD set.  

Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to present Mary Wilson's The Motown Anthology.  This comprehensive overview of Wilson's Motown discography presents 38 songs, including a whopping 33 tracks only available physically on this collection.  It boasts nearly two dozen Supremes classics, deep cuts, and never-before-heard songs (most in stunning new mixes) from a host of songwriters including Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Deke Richards, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Thom Bell and Linda Creed, and others.  

In addition to the worldwide CD debut of the 1979 Mary Wilson album, The Motown Anthology premieres on CD solo tracks produced by the late Gus Dudgeon, the first-time-available album version of Mary's new single "Why Can't We All Get Along," and Eric Kupper's remix of "Red Hot."  The set has been produced by the team of Andrew Skurow, George Solomon, and Joe Marchese and mixed and mastered by Kevin Reeves.  Its 44-page booklet is stuffed with rare and previously unpublished color photos plus liner notes from Marchese, Skurow, and best-selling author Mark Bego.  The booklet also features exclusive tributes to Mary from such luminaries as Dionne Warwick, Darlene Love, Otis Williams, Duke Fakir, Martha Reeves, Claudette Robinson, Brian and Edward Holland, Rita Coolidge, Merry Clayton, Brenda Russell, Blinky Williams, and RuPaul.  Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has penned a special appreciation, as well, for this ultimate celebration of the late, great Supreme legend Mary Wilson.


Harold Mabern | "Mabern Plays Coltrane"

The late, great pianist Harold Mabern held a special reverence for John Coltrane. “He was very influential in my life and my playing, too,” Mabern once said. “After being around him and seeing what a great human being he was – man, I wish the whole world could have known John Coltrane.”

The December 3 release of Mabern Plays Coltrane via Smoke Sessions Records offers a glimpse of the love that Mabern felt for Trane’s immortal music. By the same token, though, the impassioned playing of the all-star sextet – Mabern, saxophonists Vincent Herring and Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth – also showcases the adoration that this group of younger musicians had for Mabern.

“Playing John Coltrane's music with Harold was like tapping into the source,” says Farnsworth. “He was like the vortex, and it all flowed through him. It was intense. Having Harold on the stage, given how much he loved John Coltrane, it elevated the spirit of the music tenfold.”

Mabern Plays Coltrane is culled from the final three-nights of a three-week residency at Smoke’s annual year ending John Coltrane Festival that started in 2017 ended with these performances that Mabern and the band played in January 2018. The resulting recordings also produced two earlier albums: The Iron Man, which shined a spotlight on Mabern the performer and interpreter and offered a glimpse into a typical evening’s performance and Mabern Plays Mabern, which commemorated Mabern’s gifts as a composer and followed his untimely death at age 83 on September 17, 2019.

Mabern Plays Coltrane is the album that was originally planned for those live recording sessions. Mabern had always played a key role in the festival since its inaugural edition in 2011. From the initial weeklong fest through its later three- and four-week incarnations, Mabern was the headliner for much of the annual run, an indication of both his appreciation for Coltrane as a forbear and mentor as well as his own vital role at Smoke.

“The word ‘family’ is thrown around loosely in the jazz community, but Harold was absolutely family for Smoke and always will be,” declares the club’s owner, Paul Stache. “It’s no exaggeration to say that he was one of the inspirations to open up the club in the first place.” Mabern played the venue’s opening night in 1999, and kicked off the Smoke Sessions label with the release of his 2014 album Right On Time, which featured Webber and Farnsworth.

That fervor is in vivid evidence throughout Mabern Plays Coltrane, from the pointed, McCoy Tyner-inflected swing of opener “Dahomey Dance” to the raucous, punchy run through “Straight Street” that closes the hour-long set. In between the band delves deep into favorites from throughout the iconic saxophonist’s career.

The horns all take a turn digging in after the familiar fanfare of “Blue Train,” with the leader’s relaxed but eloquent solo sweeping up after them. “Impressions” is taken at a blistering pace anchored by the virtuoso rhythm section, with Farnsworth propelling the tune with the acrobatic deftness of a master juggler. The band pares down to a quartet for a lovely rendition of “Dear Lord,” with Mabern weaving between gospel and classical influences during his breathtaking solo intro.

The band’s brisk, powerful “My Favorite Things” is a tour de force, with Mabern constantly transforming the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein theme, the two sax men trading bold statements and a show-stopping solo turn by Webber. The tender ballad “Naima” is turned into an up-tempo dance number with a Latin feel.

The stunning music on this set suffices to reveal Mabern’s brilliance at the keyboard as well as his immense respect for Coltrane. But Farnsworth goes even further, recalling that the pianist would turn down invitations to lunch during the festival – hours before a set was scheduled to begin – because he had to focus on that night’s music, a dedication that echoes Coltrane’s famously prodigious practice regimen.

Farnsworth recalls Mabern’s stories of the month-long stint that he played Birdland with singers like Betty Carter and Johnny Hartman, whose sets would alternate with Coltrane’s. “Harold would get there before the gig and talk to John or just listen to him practice,” the drummer relates. “He said Coltrane was the only person he ever met that he considered a real saint.”

“He loved to talk about Coltrane on the bandstand,” Stache continues. “Sometimes he would touch on the music and Coltrane’s impact on jazz, but more often he loved to just talk about Coltrane as a person. The phrase he always used was that John was ‘a great musician but an even more beautiful human being.’ Harold often described himself as a frustrated tenor player, and I think when you listen to his solos you hear a lot of Coltrane influence.”

“Harold loved doing the Coltrane festival,” Farnsworth says. “He was the one guy who played every single night and he took such pride in it. It was like he was saying, ‘I'm going to play strong every night, I'm going to play better each night, no one’s going to out-swing me, no one’s going to out-energy me, and no one’s going to out-charisma me.’ It was Harold Mabern time.”

"Mabern Plays Coltrane" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith, recorded live at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, NYC on January 5, 6 & 7 2018 and mastered to ½” analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.

Gabriele Poso | "Tamburo Infinito"

With endless Afro-latin percussion & drums patterns woven throughout ten tracks of tropical dance floor heaters, Italian multi-instrumentalist and master percussionist, Worldwide FM presenter and director of the Yoruba Soul Orchestra, Gabriele Poso is to release his seventh LP, Tamburo Infinito, via New York record label Wonderwheel Recordings. 

Recorded in Lecce in the south of Italy and almost entirely on his own (unlike previous productions), the undisputed star of the show is once again the drum and the percussion, the Tamburo Infinito (translates to Infinate Drum). Although born in Italy, Gabriele has always looked across the Atlantic for inspirations and rhythms, and this album is no different. This time his sonic adventures took him to the French West Indies and the French Caribbean island like Guadeloupe Martinique, “I’m in love with everything about the sound of their drums, it’s very unique warm and deep sound.”

“I put a lot of attention to the sound on this record, exploring new ways for me to record, through analog tape and different analog tools such as analog delay. That’s very much present in the whole album and gives a new direction to my sound with a psychedelic touch and a dancefloor attitude that is stronger than the previous album.”

The album kicks off with the hot & sticky Ritmo, setting the tone for the record with a kaleidoscope of tropical rhythms and influences. First single "La Bola" is jammed full of exultant horns and syncopated drum beats carried on the back of a driving, funky bassline. By the time the horns drop in on the aptly named "Party People" the carnival is in full swing over jubilant percussion and spaced out synths.

Gabriele Poso’s musical passion has taken him around the world, initially to Rome, then to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and most recently, Berlin. Between 1998 and 2001, Gabriele delved deep into the study of Afro-Cuban percussion, first at the “Timba” School Of Music in Rome, under the guidance of the most important representative of Afro-Cuban culture in Italy, Roberto “Mamey” Evangelista. Later in 2001, he moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend the “Universidad Interamericana De Puerto Rico” to continue his studies, finally culminating in a masterclass at “Escuela Nacional De Arte” in Havana, Cuba.

2008 saw the release of Poso’s debut solo album, From The Genuine World, released on Yoruba Records, Osunlade’s label, which sparked a career performing around Europe and the rest of the world. His second solo album, Roots of Soul arrived in 2012 on the German label INFRACom!, his third solo album entitled Invocation in 2014, on the German label Agogo Records with other full length efforts released on renowned British labels, Barely Breaking Even (Awakening - 2018) and Soundway Records (Batik - 2019), culminating in an impressively deep and diverse catalogue of solo work.

Céu To Release New Single "Chega Mais"

Brazilian singer Céu returns with a new single "Chega Mais" on Urban Jungle Records. This is the first single from her upcoming album Um Gosta de Sol, her first cover album that features 14 beautiful renditions of classic songs crafted by the Latin GRAMMY Award winner. 

Originally released in 1979 by Brazilian Rita Lee, "Chega Mais" was selected by Céu on the album that inaugurated the mythical singer's solo career. On this album, Rita deepened her musical relationship with her husband and co-writer Roberto de Carvalho and laid the foundation for what would become, in the following years, Brazilian Pop. 

"Rita Lee is one of our great feminist figures, the woman in Brazilian music who always stood up to the guys," says Céu. "She mastered all areas, ruled a city of São Paulo in perfect balance, where rock and Brazilian music mixed in a complete and perfect amalgamation. Rita is a hit maker and always worked with a lot of freedom, that became essential creative raw material. I inevitably felt the need to record one of her songs when I considered this album as a performer. It was the right time to do so.” 

Céu has been recording mostly her own compositions since her first album back in 2005, but she had long wanted to record an album solely as a singer, dating back to the early stages of her musical career; before she discovered herself as a songwriter. The project was anticipated due to the pandemic, a period that forced the world to recover and led the artist to reconnect with her own musical memory. 

The single "Chega Mais" was recorded with the participation of Pupillo (drums, percussion and music production), Hervé Salters (keyboards) from General Elektriks, Lucas Martins (bass), Céu (vocals and backing vocals) and Andreas Kisser (7-string acoustic guitar), guitarist of the metal band Sepultura, the official acoustic guitarist of the whole album. 

Produced by Pupillo, Um Gosto de Sol (A Taste of Sun), an album of 14 tracks, will be released in November 2021. The repertoire selection was made by Céu, Pupillo, Edgard Poças and Marcus Preto and will include covers of Brazilian and world music classics. 

John Patitucci and Andy James | "An Evening With John Patitucci & Andy James"

On An Evening with John Patitucci & Andy James, two gifted performers join forces to conjure an intimate evening of captivating music. At a time when jazz aficionados around the world have been starved for musical experiences, the album recreates the sultry atmosphere of a candlelight nightclub as some of the most revered musicians in modern jazz perform classic standards.

Due out November 5 via Le Coq Records, An Evening with John Patitucci & Andy James features nearly 90 minutes of scintillating music featuring an incomparable ensemble. In addition to James’ mesmerizing vocals and Patitucci’s bass mastery, the album boasts arrangements by piano great Bill Cunliffe for an ensemble that includes saxophonists Chris Potter and Rick Margitza, trumpeter Terell Stafford, guitarists Chico Pinheiro and Jake Langley, keyboardists John Beasley and Jon Cowherd, percussionist Alex Acuña, drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Marcus Gilmore and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, along with powerful horn and string sections.

“I wanted people to just sit back and enjoy a listening experience of serene pleasure,” declares James. “John and I tried to create something easy to listen to that would leave people feeling good afterwards. I recorded the album in anticipation that people wouldn’t something too complicated at this time we all find ourselves in.”

Jazz singing and Flamenco dance have been parallel passions throughout Andy James’ life. Flamenco took prominence during what she now refers to as “act one” of her artistic life. She became renowned as a world-class Flamenco dancer, enjoying a successful career dancing with husband and partner Piero Pata in Madrid.

For “act two,” James relocated to the U.S. and focused on her singing career, renewing collaborations with the great jazz musicians who had crossed her path while they traveled through Europe. She and Pata launched Le Coq Records, releasing a series of albums ranging in style from the elegance of the female jazz swing tradition to vintage R&B to the post-bop urgency of the classic Blue Note era. 

An estimable professional family has quickly found a home at the label, with Patitucci, Acuña and Cunliffe playing key roles on a number of releases and several musicians making recurring appearances from one recording to the next. On An Evening With…, Patitucci proves an ideal partner for James, bringing his revered tone and musical vision to the project and convening the ideal musicians for each piece.

“When choosing personnel for any project,” Patitucci explains, “I try to find the greatest musicians that I have longstanding relationships with, in order to have the opportunity to get more deeply into the music at hand.”

Over the course of a career lasting four decades, Patitucci has forged essential collaborations with some of the most acclaimed artists in jazz and beyond, most notably long-lasting partnerships with iconic saxophonist Wayne Shorter and the late Chick Corea. 

Speaking of James, Patitucci says, “Andy is a very generous and flexible collaborator. She has a great love for the Great American Songbook. When she sings, her phrasing is reminiscent of so many of the great singers that I grew up listening to. The style that she sings in provides the opportunity to write arrangements for larger orchestrations.”

James returns the compliment. “John is very important to my whole performance. Without John’s playing I would have been restricted in the way I could sing and approach every song in the album. John Patitucci brings a deep sound that allows me the freedom to sing with a lot of mood or feeling in my voice. He gives me a lot of space to create a meaningful performance.”

From the intoxicatingly lush opener “Autumn in New York,” with Patitucci’s robust bass matched by a fervent tenor solo by Potter, to the last-call balladry of “Angel Eyes” that closes the set, An Evening with John Patitucci & Andy James features countless classic songs along with a few surprises, including the smoldering James and Pata-penned love song “Burn for Love.”

As she did on her previous release, Tu Amor, James reaches into her Latin influences on “Besame Mucho.” In addition to a number of well-known jazz standards James stretches the American Songbook to encompass great pop and rock classics like The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”

The choices certainly inspire passionate playing from James and Patitucci’s guests, with standouts including Rick Margitza’s soaring solo on “Fire and Rain,” Terell Stafford’s heart-wrenching take on “Moonlight in Vermont,” and the soulful playing of Potter and John Beasley on the Gerry Goffin/Carole King favorite “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

“The songs came naturally,” James explains. “I just wanted to sing some beautiful songs. The mood I had in mind when choosing these songs was one of love – I just wanted people to find love with each other again after the era of Covid!”

Charged Particles | "Live at the Baked Potato!"

On their latest collaboration, Bay Area jazz trio Charged Particles joins forces with powerhouse Bay Area saxophonist Tod Dickow in a heartfelt tribute to iconic tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. Released on October 8 on Summit Records, the album was released concurrently with Brecker’s biography, Ode to a Tenor Titan by acclaimed author, Bill Milkowski. 

Staggering in its authenticity and collective desire by the participants to get it right, Live at the Baked Potato! is a fitting testament to the late tenor titan’s greatness. No less an authority than Randy Brecker has given his stamp of approval: “Everyone’s at the top of their Mike game here. I found myself pinching my arm to remind myself that Mike is sadly no longer with us,” Randy said.           

In tackling Michael Brecker’s imposing oeuvre, the band reveals the genius of his compositional prowess, a side of the multi-faceted musician that was often overshadowed by his legendary chops. Yet there is no attempt here to recreate Michael Brecker’s awesome technique — no transcriptions of his heroic solos, no slavish adherence to every nuance of his classic recordings. Instead, the Bay Area group successfully captures the essence of Michael’s spirit in their faithful renditions of his tunes spanning three decades, rendered with their own signature sound and approach.

The success of the group’s mission to honor Michael is due in no small part to the contributions of veteran San Francisco tenor saxophonist Tod Dickow, whose sheer force and fluent execution of some typically unconventional Breckerian lines seem to lift the entire band throughout this March 17, 2019, performance at the intimate Baked Potato in Los Angeles’ quaint Studio City neighborhood. “I certainly listened to enough of Mike’s music that it’s going to come out in my playing,” said Dickow, who delivers with passionate intensity on classic Brecker tunes like the hard-charging “Peep” (from Brecker’s third Impulse! album, 1990’s Now You See It…(Now You Don’t), “Arc of the Pendulum” (from 1999’s Time Is Of the Essence) and a chops-busting “The Mean Time” (from Michael’s 2007 swan song, Pilgrimage). “But it’s not really like I’ve ever outright tried to imitate him. I just know that some of the devices that he used have become a part of my playing. He’s a model of perfection, and I’ve always looked at his playing as something to strive for,” added Dickow. 

The core trio of drummer and founder Jon Krosnick, pianist Murray Low, and bassist Aaron Germain began working together around the Bay Area in 2011. After doing nearly a thousand gigs together as a trio, Krosnick floated the idea of adding a tenor saxophonist in order to do a full-fledged Michael Brecker tribute. “I’m always looking for new projects - something to change things up for us and our listeners, to keep our performances interesting,” said Krosnick. Keyboardist Low knew exactly who to recruit to stand in front of the band for this adventure: “There’s only one guy: Tod,” he said. “Tod has had a passion for getting it right and capturing the Brecker sound. In rehearsals, he guided us through ‘the Michael vision’ – he’s absorbed so much from his listening over the years. It’s really helped us with authenticity,” said Low. 

While Dickow’s muscular tenor prowess is a formidable presence throughout Live at the Baked Potato!, kudos must also be given to inventive keyboardist Low, whose nimble segueing from piano to organ to sampled sounds and assorted synths during the set (courtesy of some complicated splits on his keyboard allowing him to cover multiple parts at once) helped capture the richness of the original studio recordings by Brecker’s various bands. Germain’s seamless doubling from electric to upright bass provided the band with much-needed versatility to cover this wide swath of Brecker music. And special commendation goes to Charged Particles drummer Krosnick, who has been the driving force behind this band for nearly 30 years ago. “Mike’s music has been the soundtrack of my life,” he said. “This album is my way of saying thanks to him for so much happiness and inspiration over the years,” says Krosnick.

Ellis Hall | “Let’s Make An Arrangement”

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter Ellis Hall has released his newest album Let’s Make an Arrangement on Strokeland Records (Regime Music Group). The album marks Ellis’ first full-length release since 2005’s The Spirit Lingers On… And On.

Let’s Make An Arrangement was co-written by Stephen “Doc” Kupka of funk and soul pioneers, Tower of Power, and features songs from a variety of musical influences. As Hall was the lead vocalist for Tower of Power from 1984-1988, fans have been waiting for a collaboration like this for years. Says Kupka, “Ellis Hall is one of the all-time greats! He means the world to me, both personally and professionally, and I hope this project is the first of many to come."

“Working with Doc Kupka aka “The Funky Doctor” - has been way more than awesome. He is a true wordsmith and I'm honored to help bring these words and music to life. Now that is truly CHAKALAKA (Joyous)!!!,” said Ellis Hall.

While this is Ellis’ first album release since the early aughts, he’s kept very busy on a number of projects including staring in “The Gospel of Colonus,” for which he was nominated for an Ovation Theatre Award, a collaboration with Bootsy Collins on his  “Power of The One” release, a remake of Steve Winwood’s “Roll with It” with Jermaine Lockhart, a  soul interpretation of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” with singer Tata Vega, as well two international symphony shows he co-produced, “Ellis Hall Presents: Ray Charles, Motown and Beyond” and “Ellis Hall: Soul Unlimited.”

A songwriter, arranger, producer and educator, Hall is well known for his powerful 5-octave range. Across a career of 50-plus years and counting, Ellis has proven himself as an all-around A-List performer that has entertained audiences on five continents and shared stages with musical giants including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Patti LaBelle, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. His reputation of excellence earned Ellis the moniker, “The Ambassador of Soul.”

Hall has performed with most elite symphony orchestras worldwide including: His first being the Hollywood Bowl under the direction of his mentor Ray Charles. Since then, he has performed with prestigious 81-piece orchestras including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch conducting to playing with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and recently the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

He is now featured on the Batman: The Audio Adventures as the "Singing voice of Gotham City" on HBO Max.

Neo Jazz Quintet Nori To Release Self-Titled Album

Nori, the genre-bending Neo Jazz band has curated a collection of their favorite songs on their upcoming album. The self-titled release, NORI, showcases their diverse sound and pointed lyrics on the 10-song deep record due out December 3rd. The new album will be available on vinyl with two new singles to be released to streaming platforms along with the songs from previous albums.  

Nori is an Austin, TX based quintet and has been hailed “a five-person gift from Austin, TX” by Festival Peak. The band is comprised of talented professional musicians including Akina Adderley on vocals; Erik Telford on trumpet and alto horn; Nick Litterski on Fender Rhodes, piano, and prepared piano; Aaron Allen on acoustic bass; and Andy Beaudoin on drums and percussion. Together their music is aesthetically and deeply rooted in both American jazz and folk music traditions. The ensemble playfully weaves together a myriad of global influences with current and topical social commentary giving rise to a seamless synthesis of sound that is Nori. 

The new album transcends time with a collection of songs written from 2015 - 2021, but yet addresses important topical themes of identity, activism, racial tensions and racism, and love. The band curated the collection from their catalog along with some new material. Included are six songs from their first two albums World Anew and Bruise Blood and also “Tumbao,” a single released in 2017, along with the newly released single “I See You” out this past December. They also masterfully composed a new rendition of Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” The aptly self-titled new release is steeped in observations and personal plight and gracefully highlights the balance of story-telling traditions with wide-open improvisations that echo the transcendent tones of Nina Simone, Bill Frisell, John Coltrane, and Joni Mitchell. 

The album opens with a stunning and somber song “The Garden.” The lyrics were written by Akina and are a powerful metaphor for the life cycle of a black child. The song follows as he grows in the womb and transitions into the loving and nurturing arms of his mother – only to have life tragically cut short at the hands of a racist brute. The pointed new arrangement features special guests, the wonderful string trio, Leigh Wallenhaupt on violin, Leah Nelson on viola, and Rylie Harrod-Corral on cello. Another powerful standout is a cover of Nina Simone’s song “Four Women.” Nori says, “Nina Simone has been our guiding inspiration since the conception of the band. She’s an eclectic musician. She’s a master storyteller, and she’s a fierce activist. These are all things Nori aspires to be. We have been incorporating this song in our live set for a number of years and wanted to record it as a way to provide an exclamation mark at the end of the album!” This song is a dedication to Nina Simone. 

All the songs on the album were recorded by John Michael Landon at their home base studio, Estuary Recording in Austin. Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studio (New York, NY) mixed most of the songs with additional mixing by Erik Telford (“The Garden,” “I See You,” and “Four Women”). The new album was mastered for vinyl by Erik Telford.  

NORI will be released exclusively and for the first time on vinyl! Reflecting back on the new project, the band comments, “This is our first vinyl release. We wanted to create a document of our young history and make it available for physical release. In many ways, we consider ourselves “old souls,” so vinyl is the perfect format for the occasion.” It is due out on December 3rd. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Alchemy Sound Project | "Afrika Love"

Alchemy is defined as "a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination"(Oxford English Dictionary). It's hard to imagine a word that more aptly suits Alchemy Sound Project, a collective in which five esteemed composers and bandleaders - pianist Sumi Tonooka, woodwind players Salim Washington and Erica Lindsay, trumpeter Samantha Boshnack, and bassist David Arend - form a potent ensemble greater than the sum of its parts. A synergy that seems almost supernatural, especially given the far-flung home bases from which these artists converge, is evident throughout Afrika Love, the band's third album, via Artists Recording Collective.

Alchemy Sound Project formed in 2014, two years after the group's members met in Los Angeles at the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, where, over the course of a week, they learned to utilize Western classical music concepts and orchestration techniques. "We were five friends and colleagues who had all these similar connections," Tonooka recalls, "and I wanted us to be able to extend what we do together musically, instead of leaning on other projects or other commissions - to set up our own small chamber group to play and record. "What resulted is a diverse, eclectic group that makes powerful, original music meant to blur the boundaries between notated composition and improvisation.

Sessions for Afrika Love took place in January 2018 in Conshohocken, PA. But the album's title, borrowed from the composition that Washington contributed to the album, reflects the band's keen awareness that this recording arrives in the wake of one of the most tumultuous years in recent U.S. history - a pivotal period in which race relations and social justice protests have taken centerstage.

According to Tonooka, the band found the title" appropriate in terms of what's happened with the BlackLivesMatter movement, and with what the country still has to deal with in terms of conversations about racism and he aftermath of slavery, and the fact that we still haven't gotten it together to really heal, because no one seems to talk about it in a way that is healing." Seen in that light, the multi-gendered, multi-racial makeup o Alchemy Sound Project in itself offers an understated, buoyantly positive example of cooperation and mutual regard.

Craig Taborn | "Shadow Plays "

Ten years have passed since Craig Taborn’s Avenging Angel album was released, bringing strikingly fresh ideas to the solo piano idiom. “It reflects Mr Taborn’s galactically-broad interests,” said the New York Times, “along with his multifaceted technique,” while the Guardian saluted Craig’s “world of whispered, wide-spaced figures, ringing overtones, evaporating echoes and glowering contrapuntal cascades”. 

In the interim Taborn has appeared in ECM contexts large and small. We’ve heard him in his trio with Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver on Chants and in his Daylight Ghosts quartet with Chris Speed, Chris Lightcap and Dave King. He’s played piano duets with Vijay Iyer on The Transitory Poems, performed Ches Smith’s music on The Bell, contributed to Roscoe Mitchell’s AACM tribute Bells for the South Side, and to Chris Potter’s music for ensemble and strings on Imaginary Cities. Alongside all of these activities, the solo music has continued to gather strength.

 Over the last decade Taborn has refined and developed his approach, attaining new high ground with Shadow Plays. For Craig the recording is “part of the same continuum as Avenging Angel. Where that was a studio recording, this one is live, but that process of spontaneous composition goes onward.” The new album is a stunning live recital from the Mozart-Saal of the Wiener Konzerthaus, where the programme was headlined Avenging Angel II. In this fully improvised concert, Craig explores sounds and silences, swirling colours, densities and forms, creating new music with both poetic imagination and an iron grip on his material. His control of his craft as he unerringly creates narratives and structures from the hint of a revealed pattern, following where intuition and experience lead him, is extraordinary. 

“When you improvise,” Taborn told writer Adam Shatz, in a New York Times interview, “you’re observing and creating at the same time. To make the next move, you have to get really close to what’s going on.” 

“Free improvisation” can mean many things. For Taborn, in this context, this is not a matter of automatic writing or stream-of-consciousness self-expression but of keeping in focus both the larger frame of the concert and the concise statements shaped from the moment-to-moment detail of the music. “A lot of my interests revolve around trying to extend the boundaries you can create in…” Craig Taborn has noted. “Rather than simply free-flowing as I travel from Point A to Point B, I am really trying to construct and to organize the material as it emerges, in real time. And what is created in this way feels different to music using pre-composed elements.” 

Taborn is a great improviser in any context, and highly regarded for his capacity to get to the heart of the music, whatever the setting. In the solo work connections to ‘jazz’ are not always self-evident, but in the flux of the piece retrospectively called “Conspiracy of Things”, allusions to the history of the music from stride piano onwards seems to flash past at lightning speed. In all pieces, ideas are explored, at multiple levels. Emotions too – tenderness and fierceness co-exist in pieces thoughtfully titled “Discordia Concors” and “Concordia Discors,” concepts that reflect the notion of unity through diversity. “I name the pieces,” Taborn said in a recent interview with Bomb magazine, “after they are finished and in consideration of their programmatic position – in a way the titling is the final stage of composition. And I intend the titles as invitations to extend the musical experience into other areas.” The inclusiveness of his work – subtly informed by music and art of many traditions – invites new associations and open responses. 

Born in Detroit in 1970, Craig Taborn studied at the University of Michigan. He first came to wider attention in the groups of saxophonist James Carter. His first ECM appearance was with Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory on the album Nine To Get Ready (recorded 1997). 

Currently on the road in Europe with cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Ches Smith, Craig Taborn undertakes a solo piano tour in February 2022 with dates including Tampere, Finland (February 1), Live Lab, Helsinki (February 2), Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria, Oslo (February 3), Musikförening, Vanersborg, Sweden (February 4), Halmstad, Sweden (February 5), Fasching, Stockholm (February 6), Sendesaal, Bremen (February 7), Domicil, Dortmund (February 10), Birdland, Neuburg (February 11), Son d’hiver Festival, Paris (February 12) and Bimhuis, Amsterdam (February 13). More details at www.ecmrecords.com 

Craig Taborn’s Shadow Plays, produced by Manfred Eicher, was recorded live at the Wiener Konzerthaus on March 2, 2020.

Christian McBride & Inside Straight | "Live at the Village Vanguard"

Christian McBride & Inside Straight Live at the Village Vanguard is Christian McBride’s twelfth release with Mack Avenue Music Group. This recording can be thought of as a companion to the GRAMMY® Award-winning Christian McBride Trio Live at the Village Vanguard album released in 2015. Inside Straight is the quintet that inaugurated McBride’s collaboration with Mack Avenue Records (releasing Kind of Brown in 2009). Both live recordings of the bassist leading these two ensembles occurred in a consecutive two-week period in December of 2014 – a rare engagement offered to only the most venerated jazz artists by the most venerated jazz club in America.

There is no doubt that McBride is one of the most versatile musicians on the scene today. His artistry has been documented in recordings and performances with the widest possible range of musicians in the most varied settings and genres one might imagine. His collaborations have been as diverse as duets with the revered classical bassist Edgar Meyer and avant-garde composer and violinist Laurie Anderson; performances with iconic artists like Sting and James Brown; ensembles with his fellow native Philadelphian, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, of The Roots; not to mention a host of jazz masters from Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard to Pat Metheny and the late Chick Corea.

It was in fact this nomadic journey that provided the inspiration for McBride to return to leading a more conventional straight ahead acoustic jazz ensemble. So, in 2007 McBride recruited his former bandmate in Freddie Hubbard’s group, drummer Carl Allen, saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Eric Reed (who subsequently was replaced by Peter Martin) and an amazing young musical prodigy who had enrolled in McBride’s summer camp program Jazz at Aspen, Colorado, vibraphonist Warren Wolf. They played one week at the Village Vanguard with the intention of each musician returning to his other respective projects at the end of that engagement. But the entire week sold out. The proprietor of the Vanguard, Lorraine Gordon, who had very high standards and a reputation for not being easy to please, was ecstatic. Legendary A&R executive Bruce Lundvall, who had come down to hear the band after attending a Ron Carter concert at Carnegie Hall, sat down with McBride after the set and in discussion with the bassist reaffirmed that this ensemble was something special. Some six months later, McBride signed with Mack Avenue Records.

Although the Inside Straight band has made two prior studio recordings for Mack Avenue Records, Kind of Brown and People Music, the band has not, until now, released a live recording – the milieu in which this ensemble was originally created. Represented herein are compositions by three of the five band members. The album opens with a rip-roaring performance of Warren Wolf’s soulful tune “Sweet Bread” and later in the set includes his vibraphone feature “Gang Gang.” Alto and soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson contributes a paean to Maya Angelou. The remainder of the compositions are McBride’s; two of which similarly celebrate the work of jazz greats James Williams and Cedar Walton and provide fertile ground for the aforementioned accomplished pianist Peter Martin. The other two McBride tunes, “Fair Hope Theme” and “Stick and Move,” showcase the quintet engaged in powerfully deep swing with the rapidly shifting rhythmic and harmonic phrasing that kept audiences at the Village Vanguard on the edge of their seats.

November of 2021 marks the 64th anniversary of the very first live recording from the Village Vanguard made by Sonny Rollins. It is a high point in any musician’s career to have performed and become part of a commercial release that has been “recorded live at the Village Vanguard.” One need only listen to any of the legendary recordings made there ranging from Rollins and John Coltrane to Barbra Streisand to hear the magic those performances yield. Except for 2020, the Inside Straight quintet has played at the Village Vanguard every year since 2009. Finally, with Christian McBride & Inside Straight Live at the Village Vanguard, music fans the world over have a chance to hear what all the fuss is about.


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