Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Anders Koppel's Mulberry Street Symphony, feat. Benjamin Koppel, Scot Colley, Brian Blade, Martin Yates & Odense Symphony Orchestra

Prolific Danish composer Anders Koppel, whose distinguished career includes music for theatre, film, ballet and over 150 scores for various classical ensembles, pays homage to his fellow countryman, the famed photographer and social reformer Jacob Riis, on Mulberry Street Symphony. Riis, who emigrated from his native Denmark to America in 1870, exposed the poor living conditions of impoverished immigrants in his groundbreaking photojournalism book, “How the Other Half Lives.” Inspired by Riis’ compelling photographs, Koppel created Mulberry Street Symphony, an epic work in seven movements, each one based on a different Riis photo depicting tenement life in New York City during the 1880s. “The work is a eulogy to the life and dreams of these people,” said the composer.

Koppel’s symphony for jazz trio and orchestra (the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates) showcases the composer’s son, alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, as the main voice through all seven movements. The work is underscored by the world-class rhythm tandem of bassist Scott Colley, whose sideman credits include work with Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Carmen McRae and Andrew Hill, and drumming great Brian Blade, a longtime member of the Wayne Shorter Quintet who has also toured and recorded with Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. As Koppel noted of the flexible trio of Colley, Blade and his son Benjamin, “With their profound understanding of the music and their capacity for catching the moment, they melt effortlessly into the symphony orchestra and move the work to where the border between notation and improvising disappears.”

In capturing the essence of Riis’ striking photos in music, Koppel deftly integrates symphonic elements with jazz improvisation while also conjuring up a wide palette of colors and moods along the way. “The whole symphonic score is completely developed and notated, but I didn’t write that much for the trio,” he explained. “Great musicians have fantastic ears. And I wanted to take advantage of that by giving Brian, Scott and Benjamin the freedom that I knew that they could fill. And they interpreted my vision completely.”

Each of the seven movements of Mulberry Street Symphony is a dramatic piece that tells a story in sound. The cinematic opening track, “Stranded in the City,” conveys the sights and sensations of an immigrant’s arrival into New York City during the latter part of the 19th century. Benjamin Koppel commented on his father’s gift for capturing the extra-musical in his scores. “The way that he uses his music to describe feelings and stories and emotions and even actions is more like an abstract painter would paint a feeling. And because we know him so well, we know his intentions and we can hear his stories and we can relate to it all the way. And so that made this collaboration very easy and open for us to just go into exploring mode.”

As the expansive “Stranded in the City” develops, Benjamin’s alto sax alternately darts and soars to convey its shifting moods, from pensive apprehension to giddy optimism. Anders described the newly-arrived immigrant in Riis’ photo this way: “He’s a 19-year old boy in his best, maybe only suit, stranded on a staircase, in the corner, outside closed doors, hoping for food and lodging. Something happened to his eye. The pulsating sounds of the big city resound from the streets. The wondering, curious and shy look of his eye tell a story of arrival, isolation and will to survive.”

Equally cinematic, while also deftly straddling the through-composed and improvisational divide, are the gentle lullaby “Minding the Baby” and the frantic 20-minute “Tommy the Shoeshine Boy,” the latter featuring facile, Bird-like flights by Benjamin throughout, along with some ecstatic blowing over the more turbulent sections. The poignant and moody tone poem “Blind Man” is meant to portray the lonely figure in Riis’ compelling photo. As Koppel noted: “Always standing on the same spot, leaning slightly agains the lamppost at the corner, peddling his rubber-tipped pencils. The darkness in his gaze, the dignity of his posture.” The composer added, “I tried to convey a special character, a man who is very much himself, apart from society, in a sense. But then again, the music took on its own way.”

A dramatic “The Last Mulberry” is trudging, blues-tinged requiem for the last mulberry tree in Little Italy. As Koppel wrote: “A blues for the tree and for the time closing in. Still blooming every spring, its leaves became more and more sparse. In the end it was cut down.” The conversational playing between Benjamin Koppel, Scott Colley and Brian Blade enlivens this track as the orchestra swirls around the interactive trio.

The unabashedly swinging “Bandit’s Roost” is perhaps the most dynamic and freewheeling track of the set. With Colley and Blade setting the kinetic pulse, Benjamin wails with rare abandon and authority over the top of this up-tempo burner. Koppel described the Riis photo that inspired the invigorating music: “Young Italian mobsters posing underneath their mothers’ laundry hanging out to dry. Fragments of a popular song echo between the walls while plans are being made and energies collected, ready to burst.”

Mulberry Street Symphony closes on a comforting note with the hopeful hymn, “The New House,” based on a 1894 Riis photo of a new home for orphans and homeless children that he helped build on a green hill in the countryside. As Koppel noted: “The simplicity of the hymn reflects the hope and knowledge that lies behind this photo: things will change – and it matters what you do.” 

In the process of putting the music together for Mulberry Street Symphony, Koppel said, “I was inspired by the Riis photos but my aim was not to make a sort of programmatic piece. The music has its freedom always, as it should have. The music often has its own will. So my point of departure was the photographs, but then the music sometimes sort of took over.”

The significance of Koppel, born into a musical family in Copenhagen in 1947, now honoring the legacy of the Danish-American immigrant Riis at a time of increasing debate over the growing wave of refugees and immigrants around the world was not lost on the Danish composer. “In my family’s history there are these two immigrant stories: Firstly, my grandparents coming to Denmark in the beginning of the 20th century as Jewish immigrants from Poland. At that time, Poland was occupied by Russia and there were always pogroms on the Jews, so they fled to Denmark and made a living there. And secondly, my parents and my sisters were refugees from Hitler during World War II. When Germany occupied Denmark in 1940, they fled to Sweden. So the idea of being an immigrant has always been very present in my thinking. And these days, in this time of history, the whole issue of refugees that have no home and immigrants desperately trying to come into other countries is ever present. It’s a mess and it’s a tragedy. So that was another line of thinking in this new work.”

The son of classical composer and pianist Herman D. Koppel, Anders Koppel was a child singer in the Copenhagen Boys Choir and studied piano with his sister and father from the age of five. He also played the recorder and later clarinet and made several television and concert appearances as a youngster, including the first performance of his father’s Variations in 1962 at age 15. He took up the Hammond organ in 1966 and the following year founded with his brother Thomas the legendary Danish rock group The Savage Rose. The band toured Europe extensively from 1967 to 1974 and even made a Stateside appearance in 1969 at the Newport Jazz Festivalwhile also recording eight albums in studios located in London, New York, Los Angeles, Rome and Copenhagen. Koppel left the group in 1974 to make his first solo recordings, Valmuevejen with singer Otto Brandenburg, and Aftenlandet, a progressive instrumental album. In 1976 he cofounded with bassoonist-clarinetist Peter Bastian and percussionist Flemming Quist Møller the trendsetting world music trio Bazaar. The band played together for 37 years until 2013. 

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Koppel wrote music for 50 plays, eight modern large-scale ballets and more than 100 movies. Since 1997, he has devoted himself to composing for classical ensembles and has completed 150 scores to date — solo pieces, chamber music, orchestral and vocal works, an opera and 33 concertos for solo instrument with orchestra. His saxophonist son Benjamin has been a featured player in six of his concertos. Father and son have also been playing together in recent years in a highly interactive quartet setting with Colley and Blade.

In the process of composing Mulberry Street Symphony, Koppel said, “I thought about the relationships between America and my country, and all the fantastic music that has been brought to us from America that has in many ways changed our lives and inspired us endlessy. And then Jacob Riis ran through my mind because I knew his story. I had just seen an exhibition in Copenhagen of his photographs, which impressed me very deeply. And so there was another link between Denmark and America.” 

As a fully-realized work seeking to bridge the worlds of classical and modern jazz, Anders Koppel’s Mulberry Street Symphony is in the lineage of such successful orchestral works as Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige (1943), Miles Davis-Gil Evans’ Sketches of Spain(1960), Stan Getz’s Focus (1961) and the Claus Ogerman-Michael Brecker collaboration on Cityscape (1982). And like many of his past works, it brings together Koppel’s love of symphonic music and jazz improvisation in organic fashion. “I think that has been my language ever since I started writing scores,” he said. “I believe that the musical language that you have as a composer is a result of the life you have lived and the music you have studied and loved. My music has traces of all the music that I have been occupied with in my fairly long life — classical, jazz, Cuban music, Italian folk songs, Turkish music. There’s so much fantastic music that influenced me during my life and all of that is in the music too. It’s all combined in my language, I believe.”

Added Benjamin Koppel, “I think all his music is very much his own music. He has his totally own voice and his own direction, which is this borderland between classical and jazz or rhythmical music. And because he was a performer himself, he has always been able to write music that all the members of the symphony orchestra love to play. He was a clarinet wunderkind when he was a child and performed of a lot of my grandfather’s clarinet pieces when he was 10, 12, 14 years old. So he knows what it’s like to be a wind player, but he’s also an extraordinary Hammond organ player and pianist as well. So he knows the instruments and he knows the importance of having fun while playing but also being challenged by the music. So he makes sure that every voice in the symphony orchestra is swinging and melodic and important. That is very much a part of his sound and his personal approach. And I think that’s a line going through all this orchestral works.”

Music Releases: Galathea, Nonnomatteo, Markus Zahrl, Jason Nazary

Galathea - Afrique

‘Galathea’ is the new project by the DJ and producer Massimo Napoli, and the title of his first solo album. Borrowing the name from the homonymous Nereid from the Greek mythology, the album is a deep dive into dub, spiritual jazz and African surroundings. Over 12 tracks, the LP reveals a strong personality. Departing from club culture with particular emphasis on electronic dub, Galathea unfolds into many influences and styles, making it a unique listening experience. Mediterranean culture, Afro and cinematic melodies, jazz, spiritual echoes, and soothing beats lead the listener into a subliminal escape, where the fluidity and the convergence of genres freely progress into a dream-like journey. In ‘Afrique' the melody and the rhythmic Nigerian Afro-funk blend with dub tonalities into a subtle listening experience, enriched by Kadi Koulibaly's vocal performance.

Nonnomatteo - My One And Only Love

Italian guitarist Nonnomatteo returns with a new jazz release with 6 timeless “almost” standards.Trying to reconcile his work as an engineer and his passion for music, Italian composer, guitarist, and producer, Nonnomatteo (Matteo Rignanese), is releasing “My One And Only Love”. This is Nonnomatteo’s 3rd solo release and the first time he enters the world of jazz music. On “My One And Only Love”, Nonnomatteo presents his personal impressions of classic songs from iconic artists like Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius as well as reimagined timeless standards.With 5 all-original albums that goes from Folk to Black metal, since 10 years Nonnomatteo is the voice and guitar of the indie band “La figlia del dottore” with which he produced an album and 3 singles; along with this the Italian guitarist has produced records for independent artists at his own Merlino’s Studios and in 2015 he was awarded as best indie guitar by MEI (Italian Meeting of Independent Labels). All compositions have been recorded by Nonnomatteo with Vito Mancino on drums, Monique Hostanzo on Piano and  Mattia Verago on bass. 

Markus Zahrl - A World Of Bliss

On a roll since his multi-faceted 2020 EP Celtic Dance scored three Top Ten singles on SmoothJazz.com’s Listener Countdown Chart, Austrian saxophonist Markus Zahrl counters a troubled and anxiety filled world with a more hopeful, life celebrating vision – A World Of Bliss – on his full-length debut. The well-traveled arranger, composer and music educator, who studied at the Conservatory of Vienna as well as Berklee, tones down the exotica and global vibes to focus on hard-hitting pocket funk grooves and all sorts of melodic sax madness and whimsy. Zahrl wraps with a stunning ballad that showcases his dreamy, romantic side. ~ www.smoothjazz.com

Jason Nazary - Spring Collection

Brooklyn-based drummer/producer Jason Nazary (of Anteloper) makes his We Jazz Records debut with ‘Spring Collection’. The album sees Nazary crafting some deliciously sparkly solo cuts plus working long distance with choice collaborators Jaimie Branch, David Leon, Ramon Landolt, Matt Mitchell, Grey McMurray and Michael Coleman.This is essentially a collection of home recordings and the whole operation has an infectious feeling of immediacy to it. The result is improv adjacent electronic music, with modern production aesthetics transposed over spontaneous compositions.Second single 'Dust Moths' is a trio cut of sorts, featuring Jaimie Branch on trumpet and Matt Mitchell on the Arturia MicroFreak synthesizer. Jason says: ”That one feels really organic. There’s a feeling that happens when humans are playing polyrhythms together. This was a fun one to orchestrate. Matt was riffing on the whole thing, I played some drums to that and then added Jaimie’s parts on top of it all.” ‘Spring Collection’ is released by We Jazz Records. 

Yaniv Taubenhouse | "Hope"

Extraordinary times often produces extraordinary art. In the case of pianist Yaniv Taubenhouse, his new solo piano recording, Hope, was created during the onset of the global pandemic, in February 2020, against a backdrop of news about the virus spreading, coupled with anxiety and fear of the unknown, but also a survival instinct laced with hope. Hope (scheduled for release on Fresh Sound New Talent, February 18, 2022) acknowledges the great trials humanity has been through over the past two years, and offers optimism and beauty for today, and for whatever tomorrow may bring. This album speaks volumes of the resiliency, an unrelenting determination to create, and a deftness at improvising (on and off the bandstand), which Taubenhouse, and the jazz community at large, have displayed.

Hope also serves as another testament (this is his sixth album as a leader) to the fact that Taubenhouse is an accomplished trekker in the footsteps of the likes of Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Monk, Oscar Peterson and other piano giants. His educational pedigree is unassailable (having studied extensively with jazz and classical masters and earning a BFA from The New School), and he has been called upon to work with Ronald McClure, Anat Cohen, David Schnitter, Ari Hoenig, Roswell Rudd, Jorge Rossy, Orlando Le Fleming, George Coleman, Peter Bernstein, Ferenc Nemeth, Will Vinson, among many others. Taubenhouse has recorded and released three critically-acclaimed albums in the Moments In Trio series, a co-led album with vocalist Sarah Eden, and his debut trio album, Here From There, and has toured the world many times, performing at prestigious venues and festivals in numerous locales. 

Taubenhouse decided to follow up his latest trio recording with a format which enables him to tell you his story as an artist, as a pianist, as a person in this world, intimately, and from his heart. Hope, recorded on a gorgeous sounding Yamaha C7 piano at Knob Hill Studios (located in Northwest Arkansas and run by a dear friend of Taubenhouse, and incredible musician, Darren Novotny), is comprised of twelve “chapters” (original music and works by Kenny Wheeler, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini and Thelonious Monk), programmed to invite the listener deeply into the pianist’s insight, intention and truth. Taubenhouse explains that, “the album is ‘framed’ with a mini suite; Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three. Each of the three chapters has its own title but musically there is a direct correlation between them, both harmonically and melodically. The idea of spreading the three chapters throughout the program (tracks 1, 6 & 12) and not placing them one after the other comes out of the desire to present the entire program as a whole, as opposed to individual songs that just happen to appear next to each other on the same record. 

Solo piano has been a big part of Taubenhouse’s musical expression since he was a child. To record a solo piano album, you have to consider the entire evolution of the piano and those who developed a massive cannon of work by challenging and pushing the boundaries of the various keyboard instruments over centuries. “Playing solo piano connects me to the history and development of the instrument both musically and pianistically. No matter what style of music, when the piano is heard by itself, it functions as its own ensemble. Solo piano is an intimate and fascinating art form with infinite possibilities, and I am honored to offer you, the listener, Hope,” says Taubnenhouse.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Danilo Perez | "Crisalida”

GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist, composer and educator Danilo Pérez hopes to usher in a new era of enlightenment that will unite all of humanity with his epic new album, Crisálida, which in English translates to “chrysalis.” 

Incorporating multiple artistic disciplines that include works from Panamanian painter Olga Sinclair, Panamanian photographer Tito Herrera, and spoken word from his Chilean wife and saxophonist Patricia Zárate, Crisálida is a holistic inter-disciplinary package that invites listeners to reimagine a world in which we all create our own crisálida so that our individual light and humanity radiates regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. And, in turn, we nurture that prismatic iridescence to better care for the environment and human race. 

“I envision Crisálida as a protected space where we all come together, whether we’re addressing immigration issues, climate change, environmental justice, science, interconnecting different art forms,” Pérez explains. “We need to work together to build our new crisálida, which, to me, is the emotional, mental and physical state of protection in our early development.” 

Crisálida is composed of two engrossing suites on which he leads the Global Messengers, an intrepid new ensemble, consisting of alumni from Berklee College of Music’s Global Jazz Institute. Similar to Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra, which helped launched Pérez’s international career, the Global Messengers is a multicultural combo that features percussionist Tareq Rantisi (Palestine), laouto player Vasilis Kostas (Greece), violinist and vocalist Layth Sidiq (Iraq, Jordan), cellist Naseem Alatrash (Palestine) and singer Farayi Malek (United States). Guest appearing on several cuts are batá drummer Román Diaz (Cuba), Ney flutist Faris Ishaq (Palestine), Zárate (Chile), singer Eirini Tornesaki (Greece) and the Kalesma Children’s Choir of The Ark of the World (Kivotos tou Kosmou) (based in Greece). 

“These musicians are very interested in cultivating their gifts to become role models for the betterment of humanity. I love this openness of wanting to explore and connect,” says Pérez, who in addition to being the founder of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, is a UNESCO Artist for Peace, the Cultural Ambassador to the Republic of Panama, and the Founder and Artistic Director of the Panama Jazz Festival. 

“In the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, we talk a lot about finding new sounds through the blues and connecting to your roots – expanding the folkloric elements of where you come from,” he adds. “The Global Messengers are a new family that explores the power of music as a tool for inter-cultural dialogue.” 

With their intriguing, unconventional instrumentation (to jazz standards), the Global Messengers afford the music with an arabesque, “beyond category” quality that alludes to chamber music, cinematic score and, of course, the sparkling improvisation associated with jazz. The album’s four-part “La Muralla (Glass Walls) Suite” occupies the first half, while the four-part “Fronteras (Borders) Suite” concludes the program. 

The “La Muralla (Glass Walls) Suite” begins with the gorgeous “Rise from Love,” which features stunning vocals from Malek along with Kalesma Children’s Choir of The Ark of the World. Underneath the alluring strings and Pérez’s suspenseful piano improvisation and jabbing accompaniment is Diaz’s surging batá rhythms, symbolizing Africa’s arrival to the Western world and worldwide influence on music. 

On “Monopatia (Pathways),” Pérez initiates a suspenseful musical dialogue with Kostas before the rest of the band enters, establishing a 21st century universal blues that connects the dots between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean sonic imprints, African American sensibilities and Latin America’s rhythmic and melodic flourishes. The composition also showcases Zárate’s commanding spoken-word artistry as well as Tornesaki’s poignant singing. 

An increased sense of urgency arrives with “Calling for the Dawn” as Rantisi begins with an intricate percussion introduction, followed by a triumphant melody delivered by Malek and Sidiq. Pérez’s embroidered passages, hammering across the rumbling rhythmic bedrock, heighten the suspense, which is intermittingly interrupted by Malek’s asking, “Where are we going? Is it up or down?” “It’s a call to the divine,” Pérez explains of the composition. “It’s a warning that if we mess with nature and the environment, then we are responsible for what comes afterward.” 

“Muropatía” closes the “La Muralla (Glass Walls) Suite” as the strings animate a coruscating rhythm, based upon a folkloric Panamanian dance that Pérez discovered had very striking similarities of some of Palestine’s folkloric rhythms. Pérez’s hypnotic piano accompaniment anchor the interlocking polyrhythms, concocted by the strings, vocals and percussion. After he pecks a dramatic solo, Zárate enters the fold to deliver an incisive rap in Spanish. 

Pérez says that the “Fronteras (Borders) Suite” was based, in part, by a series of dreams, touching upon the emotional plight of immigration. It begins with the somber “Adrift,” which tells the story of a mother seeking to reunite with her daughter after being separated for 20 years. Malek wrote the evocative lyrics and articulates them splendidly as her voice soars across the arresting arrangement. 

The Global Messengers summon the universal blues again on “Al-Musafir Blues,” which deals with a Palestinian man trying to travel to the U.S. to study but gets stuck in the airport. Alatrash’s prowling cello rhythm conveys the sense of determination, while the violin and voice melody evoke the weariness that often comes with seeking better opportunities across international borders. 

“With ‘Al-Musafir Blues’ I wanted to find a connection and understanding to the blues from another perspective,” Pérez says. “We need to understand that the blues were created by African Americans – but also that its values and concepts can connect with other cultures. I’m trying to create this musical space where the blues can be the connector in which worldly sounds emerge.” 

A call-to-action arrives with “Kalesma (True Calling)” on which Pérez declares that the world is in a humanitarian crisis. Beginning with a faint violin melody that gives way to a plaintive laouto melody and vocals, the soul-stirring composition unfolds gradually, concluding in a haunting rhythmic and melodic recurring motif. 

The “Fronteras (Borders) Suite” ends with the energetic “Unknown Destination,” a composition that begins like a casual conversation as Pérez ricochets improvisational passages with the Global Messengers’ strings and vocals, underneath Rantisi’s percolating rhythms. The composition coalesces into a dynamic collective improvisation that’s as cohesive as it is capricious. 

History will reveal Crisálida as yet another one of Pérez’s crowning achievements. Now after four decades as a professional musician, some of which has been spent with the world-acclaimed Wayne Shorter Quartet and leading his own projects, Pérez has now achieved living legend status. Most recently, he won the prestigious 2021 Doris Duke Artist Award of $250,000. 

When asked to assess his career at this moment, Pérez responds: “I want to continue my journey of exploring this pathway of using the power of music to unite and humanize. I want to promote music that acts as a bridge and to inspire younger artists to continue the journey and leave something positive that other generations can draw upon.”

With the Global Messengers and Crisálida, Danilo Pérez is succeeding in that mission. 

Music Releases: Butch & Rhonda Coleman, Avishai Cohen, Gunter Asbeck, Abdullah Ibrahim

Butch & Rhonda Coleman Moment Of Your Time

A spiritually grounded husband and wife duo that recognizes music as a universal healer, Maryland based Butch & Rhonda Coleman create a fascinating dual sound around the plucky thump of his bass and her versatility as a sultry pop/R&B singer and jazz keyboardist. The title of their third album Moment Of Your Time doubles as an invitation to get to know them and their deft blend of old school soul-jazz, breezy and heartfelt balladry and buoyant urban-flavored Smooth Jazz. Adept at creating a variety of moods, the Colemans like to say that their music tells a story. Here, that’s paying homage to past influences like Bill Withers while making sure we’re hip to their eclectic, very contemporary sexy, funky flow. ~ www.smoothjazz.com 

Avishai Cohen - Two Roses

Avishai Cohen’s music is an intricate tapestry of global and historical influence. A master of Afro-Caribbean music, Cohen is equally affected by the melodies of Israeli folklore, and the complexity of their Sephardi, Ashkenazi, and Yemeni heritages- so much so that he reintroduced the traditional Ladino song “Morenika”. Avishai has also featured popular tunes from his native country of Israel, such as “Two Roses”, which lends its title to his upcoming album Two Roses. The title itself works as a metaphor for the album’s adept fusion of global sounds, jazz, and the symphonic world. Recorded with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Alexander Hanson, Two Roses is the outstanding result of years of patient craftsmanship.

Gunter Asbeck - Evolve

After years of serving as a sideman for the Smooth Jazz elite (Kirk Whalum, Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright, et al), versatile German bassist and vocalist Gunter Asbeck emerges as a compelling and eclectic singer/songwriter with his debut album Evolve. Though he cites his bass heroes as Marcus Miller and Nathan East, Asbeck eschews the concept of a bass heavy collection, choosing to keep his axe as a supporting rhythmic instrument on mostly vocal tunes that run the gamut from smooth romantic pop, and edgy, classic styled rockers to easy flowing urban jazz (on two songs with saxman Will Donato) and even country. One of the standout songs, a stunning inspirational ballad featuring Selina Albright, seems perfectly suited as a beacon of light in these challenging times. www.smoothjazz.com

Abdullah Ibrahim - Solotude

Beautiful solo work from pianist Abdullah Ibrahim – a player with a sound so rich and rhythmic, his sessions like this are often every bit as captivating as his trio and group recordings! There's a really special sort of poetry going on here – first in the way that Ibrahim brings out these unusual tones in the piano – a warmth that almost feels like a Fender Rhodes at times, even though the instrument is acoustic – secondly in the structure of the tunes, which are sometimes short and very poetic – packing a lot of meaning into just a very short space in sound! To balance that out, the record has many different selections – twenty in all – some older compositions reworked, some less familiar. Titles include "Sotho Blue", "District 6", "Tokai", "Blues For A Hip King", "In Tempo", "Dreamtime", "Nisa", "Mindiff", "Trieste My Love", and "Signal On The Hill". ~ Dusty Groove

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Noa & Gil Dor | "Afterallogy"

After 30 years of performances and recordings, Noa and guitarist Gil Dor release their first, and long awaited, true jazz album: Afterallogy

Noa and Gil have been working together for 30 years. They met in the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary music in Ramat Ha Sharon in 1989.  Gil was the co-founder of the school, the academic director and a highly respected musician and educator fluent in myriad styles but specializing in jazz. Noa was an aspiring 20 year old singer and songwriter, who had recently moved to Israel form the US, completed her military service in a Military Band, and came to Rimon in search of education and collaboration. She was immediately labeled a ”jazz singer” due to her proficiency in English, her natural improvisational abilities and her inbred connection to “The American Songbook”. Having been born in Israel to a Yemenite family, and raised in NY until age 17, Jazz is part of her identity, as natural as her Yemenite and Hebrew roots.

The duo’s first concert was in a jazz festival in Tel Aviv, Feb 8th, 1990, where they performed standard tunes with unorthodox arrangements, and some of Noa’s original compositions. That first night was an enormous success that set the stage for the incredible journey to come.

Their first international album was produced by Pat Metheny, one of the most highly respected jazz musicians in the world, but did not include standard tunes, rather focusing on Noa’s songwriting.

Over the years, Noa and Gil explored many different regions of music, wrote and performed hundreds of songs,  worked with ensembles ranging from acoustic trio to bass and drum quartet to symphony orchestra, explored and fused different styles, sounds and languages, always reaching for that unexplainable, unpredictable moment of magic every musician lives for.  It has always been impossible to categorize them.

Afterallogy is another step in their fascinating journey, where they have put the musical language they have developed and their past experience at the service of these great, classic jazz tunes, and added a few originals as well. 

The name, beyond paying homage to the greats that inspired them (Charlie Parkers “Ornithology”), is a statement about life and music, exacerbated by the Covid 10 crisis:

After all is said and done, after 30 years, after a pandemic which shattered, jolted and stripped the world bare, after thousands of kilometers travelled and many more thousands of notes played and sung, what remains?

A deep love and respect for great music and the greatness in music, a deep love for the humanity that is brought to life by it and elevated and illuminated in whoever experiences it.

A deep appreciation for the gift of friendship…for a unique partnership, for the power and resonance that brought and kept them together all these years.

And that curiosity and passion, that meticulous quest to unveil the deepest mysteries of music that drives them always onwards.

Afterallogy is the first part of a Noa and Gil’s jazz project. The are currently working on part 2, which will include their band and be more improvisational and experimental. 

Steve Slagle | "Ballads: Into The Heart Of It"

With saxophonist and composer Steve Slagle you can expect the unexpected. From his early days on the NYC scene which he joined in the mid-70s (almost instantly joining the fray at the highest level with the likes of Machito And His Afro-Cubans, Steve Kuhn, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Haden, The Mingus Big Band, Carla Bley, and many others), Slagle has always been an artist up for new challenges and horizons. This holds true even after more than twenty albums as a leader, and forty years of creating music on stages and in studios around the word with many of the finest musicians of this era. 

For artists, the impact of the sudden isolation and inability to work brought on by the global pandemic manifested itself in myriad ways, one of which was influencing many, including Steve Slagle, to create with a fervour. As Slagle stated, “In the worst of times, sometimes the best music comes out of you.” This past April-2021 Slagle released the critically-acclaimed, Nascentia, and hot on the heels of this album we have another testament to the superlative level of his creative output, a true first for Slagle in a stunning bouquet of ballads, Ballads: Into The Heart Of It, to be released on Panorama Records on February 18, 2022. The album features special guest Randy Brecker, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, drummer Jason Tiemann and Richard Sussman, who provides synth orchestrations and drum programming to great effect on three selections. 

Into The Heart Of It opens with Bill Evans and Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green,” and Slagle renders this iconic composition anew, wringing every bit of emotion from the melody with a minimalist approach. Accompanied by longtime friend and colleague Richard Sussman’s orchestrations and Okegwo, Slagle is completely exposed, his opening phrase a cry for humanity, a sonic prayer for the earth. Next up is Slagle’s take on Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s, “Le Sucrier Velours (The Queen’s Suite),” a gem from Duke’s oeuvre, originally released in ’76, and again on Live At The Whitney (recorded in ’72 and released in ’95, on Impulse!). We’re getting a clear picture now that this is no ordinary ballads album, and it was designed that way. “I really ruminated over this,” says Slagle, “and I find it interesting to take on the challenge of trying to maintain one mood or texture across an entire program. But I didn’t want this to be a traditional ballads record where everything sounds the same. And as much as I love many of them, I definitely wasn’t looking to recreate any of the classic ballads albums that I, and many people, grew up listening to. So, there are a number of originals here, and some classics. But I wouldn’t touch those classics if I wasn’t going to try things differently. At this point I can’t help but impart my own slant on the music we play.”

The album continues with Monk’s “Reflections,” and special guest Randy Brecker opens the tune with his famous burnished tone. Between Slagle and Brecker sharing the melody you can hear what many decades in the trenches truly sounds like – and listen to these guys on these changes – the crème de la crème . . . “My One And Only Love” is up next, and the framework designed by Slagle and Richard Sussman once again exposes Slagle, allowing him to establish a high level of intimacy with the melody, and allowing us, the listener, to share in this closeness and really hear what the saxophonist has to say about this iconic tune. Other highlights on the album include one of the prettiest melodies in the program, Slagle’s “The Heart Of It” (again featuring Randy Brecker), and Slagle’s take on Stevie Wonder’s “Kiss Lonely Goodbye.” This is a good time to mention the contributions of pianist Bruce Barth, who demonstrates on this track, and the entire album, why he is one of the most sought-after and respected artists to have ever touched a piano. On “Si, See” Slagle displays his mastery as a composer with a simple melodic line which conveys so much emotion and carries so much weight (the melody notes being, C, A, E, C, A) . . . how can a melody cause you to wonder about the world and ruminate about any number of other important topics . . . The album’s last three selections are, “If you Could See Me Now,” Slagle’s tribute to some very important women in his life with “The Four Margarets” (a truly lovely and compelling tone-poem by Slagle, polished, framed and ensconced in velvet by Sussman, and worth the price of admission on its own!), which was the first tune completed, and the catalyst for the rest of the album. After it all, Slagle drops the heated “Big Mac” as a bonus, making the final tally, “nine ballads and a burner.” Written with Randy Brecker in mind, and nodding to the important “Macs” in the leader’s musical life (i.e. McCoy Tyner, Andy McKee, Jackie McLean), it signals a new dawn on the horizon. Ever forward for Steve Slagle.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Leni Stern | "Dance"

Leni Stern was named one of the “50 Most Sensational Female Guitarists of All Time” in Guitar Player magazine’s 50th anniversary issue in 2017, with the publication aptly dubbing her “a genre-defying adventurer.” Leni’s example shines beyond just prowess on her instrument. The pursuit of her career across more than four decades has been in effect a political act – a practice in strength and defiance to be a woman and a bandleader, a female electric guitarist and a composer, an artist who produces her own albums and manages her own career. Moreover, in our current political climate, it is now more essential than ever to celebrate the immigrant experience that brought Leni to the U.S. from Germany and her African bandmates from Senegal and Argentina. Leni’s inspiration has long been the interconnectedness of music, history and our humanity. She says: “Music is one of the truest, most beautiful expressions of the human spirit, crossing borders, dissolving tribalism, binding us together – if we let it.

Leni has been on an evolutionary road over the past decade and a half, as she fused her long-honed contemporary jazz sound with a deeply felt exploration of West African styles. She has traveled and studied extensively in Mali and Senegal, performing with iconic singer-songwriter Salif Keita among other African notables. The Munich-bred New Yorker’s trans-Atlantic journeys have yielded a fresh, personal idiom, one where progressive virtuosity blends seamlessly with age-old folk traditions. Leni’s working trio – featuring bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye, both natives of Senegal – released the albums 3 in 2018 and Jelell in 2013, along with figuring into the expansive cast of her Dakar Suite of 2016. Now the trio has become a quartet with the addition of Argentina-bred keyboardist Leo Genovese, a highly regarded talent on the New York scene as both a leader and as a collaborator with the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Jack DeJohnette. Leni’s latest album – aptly titled 4, for showcasing this new quartet – draws on the crystalline guitar, irresistible grooves and multilingual songs that listeners know from her recent releases, with Genovese’s improvisational fire and hints of South American lyricism now added to the mix. In its four-star review, DownBeat marveled over the “joy” in Leni’s playing, adding: “If you love the wail of Youssou N’Dour and the jangle of Franco Luambo, but also have a soft spot for música popular brasileira, this crisply produced, infectiously melodic and rhythmically percolating album is for you.

Leni and her husband, fusion guitar star Mike Stern, helped stir up the vibrant scene at Greenwich Village club 55 Bar in the early ’80s. Her debut album as a leader, Clairvoyant (Passport, 1986), featured her alongside two jazz icons, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Paul Motian. After the 1987 follow-up for Passport, The Next Day, Leni made a string of albums for Enja and Lipstick: Secrets (1989), Closer to the Light (1990), Ten Songs (1992), Like One (1993) and Words (1995). She also recorded a guitar duo album co-billed with guitarist Wayne Krantz, Separate Cages (Alchemy, 1996). With 1997’s Black Guitar, a record that saw her exploring the role of singer-songwriter, Leni began producing her own albums. Over the next decade, she explored jazz-meets-pop territory, releasing albums via her own Leni Stern Recordings label, as she has done ever since. This period yielded Kindness of Strangers (2000), Finally, the Rain Has Come (2002), When Evening Falls (2004) and Love Comes Quietly (2006).

Leni performed at Mali’s Festival in the Desert in 2006, getting to know many of the native musicians on site in the Sahara Desert three hours outside Timbuktu. She began spending several months a year living and working in Mali and Senegal. These experiences led to a bold new era in her music, starting with the EP Alu Maye (Have You Heard) and album Africa, both released in 2007. Leni recorded the biggest parts of six albums at the studio owned by Salif Keita in Bamako, Mali. She also played in Keita’s band, as well as with star Senegalese singer-guitarist Baaba Maal, who brought her to perform at his Blues du Fleuve Festival. Kora master Toumani Diabaté offered tutelage in Mali, too, particularly about the traditional rhythms of Malian music and the rich orchestration that can be achieved with its of string instruments and percussion. Malian n’goni player Bassekou Kouyate and his wife, vocalist Ami Sacko, also became key mentors and collaborators.

Leni’s globe-trotting musical odyssey continued with the 2009 EP Spirit in the Water, which included songs formed by her travels in Mali, Senegal, Madagascar and India. The next year’s album – Sa Belle Belle Ba (“Very, Very Big Snake,” a title referencing ancient African religious ceremonies) – presented richly textured arrangements with electric guitar, bass and drums complemented by n’goni, kora, an assortment of West African percussion instruments and backing vocalists. Kouyate, Sacko and Diabaté all contributed performances. After employing the huge cast of Sa Belle Belle Ba, Leni stripped back the instrumentation to essentials for her next album, 2011’s Sabani, which was all written and recorded in Mali. Sabani featured her on guitar, n’goni and tiple (a 12-string acoustic Colombian instrument), plus Haruna Samake on n’goni and Mamadou Kone on calabash and talking drum. All About Jazz said: “Many musicians have ventured into Mali to tune into the legendary musical vibrations, but few if any have assimilated so far into the social fabric as Leni Stern. She has totally reinvented herself and her method of playing guitar to the point that it is a fresh creation.”

Leni recorded her next album – Smoke, No Fire (2012) – in Mali during a trying time for country: in the midst of a military coup d’etat. The support of her extended family of Malian friends and fellow musicians made it possible, against the odds. The review of Smoke, No Fire in All About Jazz noted that “there is definitely a harder edge in the delivery and significance of the vocals, with an aggressive leaning toward rap to underscore the message from the streets.” Malian rapper Woroferela Moden guested on the record, while Leni sang in a mix of English and the Bambara language. Young jazz star Esperanza Spalding added a bass track from New York. Then, with her 2014 album Jelell, Leni established her current trio with bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye, recording in Dakar, Senegal. The album title is an expression in the Wolof language that means “Seize the moment” or “Go for it,” which they did by digging deep into Senegalese rhythms. Among the other contributors to the recording sessions were the Seng Seng Faye Percussion Ensemble, made up of Faye’s five brothers on sabar drums.

With her ambitious album Dakar Suite of 2016, Leni created an hour’s worth of music recorded both in Dakar and New York, with orchestrated textures and one of the biggest lineups she had assembled to date – including the Mamadou Ba and Alioune Faye rhythm section, as well as the Seng Seng Faye group of percussionists and various top New York jazz players, plus various other instrumentalists and backing vocalists from Africa and the U.S. After the textural feats of Dakar Suite, Leni once again stripped things back with her 2018 album 3 – so titled for its focus on the sound of her trio with Mamadou Ba and Alioune Faye, plus a few New York guests. All About Jazz described the album as “bewitching” before concluding: “Over the years, Stern has paid homage to our musical ancestors while integrating the complexities of African music with the sensibilities of jazz. 3 is a powerful embodiment and exploration of African roots that takes it to another level and creates a sound, style and statement that is uniquely her own.”

As Leni’s muse has led her around the world, her curiosity and empathy enabled her to develop collaborative relationships with kindred spirits across cultures. She appeared in a 2013 documentary film, Last Song Before the War, about Mali’s Festival in the Desert, where she first made the connections with the West African musicians who have had such a profound effect on her life and music. Having teamed with Salif Keita and his band on multiple occasions in Africa, the singer pulled her onstage Stateside to play a solo during his Celebrate Brooklyn! concert in 2008. Two years later, she performed at Carnegie Hall with her original African mentors: Bassekou Kouyate and Ami Sacko. As the Washington Post has said, “Stern doesn’t collaborate with the West Africans so much as commune with them.” Leni also played the U.S. Cultural Ambassador tour of Nicaragua in 2014, and she was artist-in-residence at Nepal’s Jazzmandu: The Kathmandu Jazz Festival in 2015. And, of course, Leni has played top jazz clubs across the U.S., as well as diverse festivals in Europe. Her live performances and ever-prolific recording career have earned Leni Gibson’s Female Jazz Guitarist of the Year award five times.


Dr. Dave & The Housecall Band | "Carefree Revisited"

One could debate whether to call it a do-over or a mulligan, but contemporary jazz guitarist Dr. Dave calls it a revisit. The musician took his 2014 album, “Carefree,” and added his HouseCall Band to the tracks to reimagine the collection, which drops March 4 on Hatherill Records.

Dr. Dave felt that “Carefree” was missing something although he couldn’t quite put his finger on what that was until he recorded “Midnight Daydream” as a group project in 2018. Forming The HouseCall Band and adding the gifted ensemble’s unique skillsets and creative contributions to illumine the tracks, eight singles were successfully issued from “Midnight Daydream.”Dr

“For the first time in my career, there was a newness and excitement that paved the way for me to further develop the concept of The HouseCall Band. It dawned on me that it was that dynamic full-band vibe that was missing from ‘Carefree’ – especially that full-bodied horn section energy. By altering the arrangements - some subtly, some more dramatically, we added the vibrant HouseCall Band aesthetic to the mix,” said Dr. Dave, the project’s producer and co-writer of five songs on the album.

Realizing the firepower that he now had on call, Dr. Dave asked the band’s sax and flute player, John Rekevics, to craft fresh horn arrangements for the material that first appeared on “Carefree.”

“John added some amazing flute parts that didn’t exist before, which help further define the songs and enhance my guitar solos. He did an incredible job texturing the tracks with his alto, soprano, baritone and tenor sax,” said Dr. Dave.

There are other noticeable changes and additions. Added to the song list is a version of the Dave Brubeck classic “Take Five,” which on “Carefree Revisited” takes on late-night nuances etched by Dr. Dave’s cool-toned electric jazz guitar and is graced by Derek Cannon’s muted trumpet and sultry vocal embellishments from Stellita Porter and Jackie Bonaparte. Another revision was adding Ignacio “Nacho” Sobres’s vocal improvs and scats to a fun reggae-jazz version of  “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

The HouseCall Band is a collective comprised of bassist Cecil McBee Jr., keyboardists Kevin Flournoy, Larry Logan and Rob Whitlock; drummers Ronnie Stewart and Duncan Moore; percussionist Tony Aros, marimba player Bill Harris, and rhythm guitarists Hank Easton and Steve Wilcox along with the aforementioned Rekevics, Cannon, Porter, Bonaparte and Sobres.

Preceding “Carefree Revisited,” radio will be serviced “G.B. Style” as a single, which goes for playlist adds on January 24. Dr. Dave wrote the song with Whitlock and Flournoy in tribute to R&B-jazz crossover legend George Benson whom Dr. Dave cites as a primary influence ever since he heard the icon’s guitar solo on “This Masquerade,” with Benson’s “Breezin’” album serving as a jazz primer for the then young fretman.

Dr. Dave released his debut album, “I Like It Like That,” in 1994, which was produced by Carl Evans Jr. and featured the keyboardist’s band, Fattburger. Evans Jr. mentored Dr. Dave, teaching the guitarist how to produce records. Honing his sound through the years while steadily assembling his own nine-album catalogue as a solo artist and/or band leader, Dr. Dave has recorded with jazz stalwarts Freddie Hubbard, Ernie Watts, Ronnie Laws and Hubert Laws. He’s also opened concerts for Stanley Turrentine, Buddy Guy and Marion Meadows.

According to Dr. Dave, the events of the last couple of years played a role in the timing of “Carefree Revisited.”

“Looking at what’s happened in the world these past two years, perhaps there was a reason I waited to revisit ‘Carefree’ until now. Life is more stressful than ever, and the music on the album is my contribution to alleviating it for a little while for those who listen. Specifically, ‘Carefree Revisited’ is about making music people can enjoy as a way to get away from their troubles – and finally producing it the way it was always meant to be done.”

The Matt Gordy Jazz Tonite Sextet | "Be With Me"

Matt Gordy has travelled down a long and winding road to become one of the first-call jazz drummers in Los Angeles, and now, after a successful, 40-year career, he is releasing second CD as a leader, Be With Me. The album is a showcase for Gordy’s considerable talents as a drummer, arranger, and composer. Be With Me comprises six standards and four compositions by Gordy, who also arranged the album. The album opens with Topsy,” written by Eddie Durham and made famous by Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Gordy’s arrangement was inspired by Oscar Peterson’s version of the tune that appeared on his Oscar Peterson Plays Count Basie recording. Gordy dedicates “You and the Night and the Music” to the late pianist Mulgrew Miller. The tune opens with a solo bass playing the verse followed by a brief solo on the drums and then followed by the horns playing in unison before each soloist gets their turn to improvise. “Camouflage,” one of Gordy’s originals, has a swing/funk groove. “Spring Ahead,” which Gordy dedicates to Chick Corea, is a contrafact based on the late pianist’s classic composition “Spain.” Gordy wrote “Chloe” for his granddaughter’s 10th birthday. 

Gordy worked with Joni Mitchell in Boston on her Both Sides Now tour in 2001, and he composed the title track, “Be With Me,” based on the chord changes to “A Case of You” from Mitchell’s Blue album. The song features vocalist Sherry Williams singing lyrics written by Gordy’s good friend Gregg Arthur. Gordy dedicates Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” to McCoy Tyner. It was inspired by Tyner’s version on John Coltrane’s 1962 release, Coltrane. Gordy studied piano with Boston educator Charlie Banacos. Gordy used techniques that Banacos taught him on “My Shining Hour.” Oscar Peterson’s “Wheatland” is from his Canadiana Suite. Gordy re-imagines Peterson’s solo as short fragments that became a shout chorus for the horns. Gordy closes the album with the pop classic “Sunny,” written in 1963. The song again features vocalist Williams, whose performance on the tune Gordy says, “sounds like Sade meets Aretha.” Matt Gordy is one of the finest drummers in the country. He has honed his skills by playing across genres in some of the highest profile, most technically and artistically demanding venues and settings in the U.S. and around the world. Joined by his stellar musical compatriots, Be With Me is an exciting presentation of jazz playing and arranging at its best.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Bill King | Summerheat (Atlanta Sessions 1979)

Mid-1978 in Atlanta, Georgia, I was between sessions with southern soul singer Len Wade with my long-time Jamaican drummer and guitarist Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul and Wayne McGhie in town and hanging at our bungalow in Marietta, Georgia. Wade was pacing about, stretching out studio time. I realized that with time booked and still in play, Why not drop a few studio jams on tape? I grabbed a pen and pad and started writing chord patterns and basic themes. One by one, we recorded. I do this with two rhythm sections, one anchored by legendary NYC bassist Harvey Brooks of Miles Davis Bitches Brew and Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait, and Florida’s King of White Soul—Wayne Cochran’s drummer Kevin White also Pablo and Wayne. Nine tracks recorded over the two sessions. Out of these comes, the radio hit Summerheat featuring McGhie, King, Billy McPherson and Paul—string arrangements by Skip Lane.

While on tour with saxophonist John Klemmer a year earlier, we played the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and afterwards hit a jam session downtown. From that session, a memory of an illustrious saxophonist who embraced the best of southern soul and contemporary jazz, Billy McPherson. That memory sent me in search of this local hero and hiring for the recording.

Summers in Atlanta were a mix of excessive humidity, and temperatures hovered in the mid-nineties. Late at night, sweat drips from the leaves of magnolia trees. You could hear the incessant howling of cicadas view the rigid grip of the Kudzo vine wrap its massive tentacles across the landscape. Summerheat captures that life with its bracing reggae rhythms, lush strings, and melodic and harmonic inflection.

A note about the cover photo. Prior to Atlanta the players in photo were part of my house band at the El Mocambo in Toronto. Everton Paul, Wayne McGhie and Tommy Cosgrove played on these sessions. Kenny Baldwin down front was my long-time tenor man, and George Philip right introduced me to reggae.

Bill King – Keyboards

Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul - drums

Wayne McGhie – guitar

Anthony Holmes – bass

Billy McPherson – tenor sax

The Atlanta Strings arranged by Skip Lane

Engineered by Les Horn and Greg Webster. Axis Sound Recording

New Releases: Taru Alexander, Adrianne Duncan, Joelle Leandre, Enrico Rava

Taru Alexander - Echoes Of The Masters

Beautifully bold work from drummer Taru Alexander – a musician who was maybe getting some initial attention as the son of saxophonist Roland Alexander, but a player who really comes into his own with this fantastic record! The mighty Antoine Roney is in the group, sounding stronger than we've heard in years – really getting a lot of focus from the rhythms, which also feature this excellent work on bass from Rashaan Carter, who really knows how to match Taru's energy – alongside piano from James Hurt too. Hanka G sings on a version of Monk's "I Mean You" – and other titles include "Kojo Time", "Perisina", "Pinocchio", "Deception", and "Change Up". ~ Dusty Groove

Adrianne Duncan - Gemini

Each track on Gemini the new album from pianist, singer and composer Adrianne Duncan, is a mini-suite in its own right. Duncan draws upon her background in classical music and jazz to create her rich sonic palettes, while also being informed by such songwriter-poets as Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake. Her dense harmonies and often unconventional structures leave room for improvisation and melodic development, supporting quirky and intelligent lyrics that speak to her love of story and character. As a self-accompanying singer, inhabiting her original story-oriented lyrics with a resonant tone and a fresh and expressive spirit, she’s furthering a tradition that spans from Nat Cole, Shirley Horn and Andy Bey to Diana Krall and Dena DeRose. Her approach as a lyricist tends toward the literary, and her compositions have a cinematic sense of scope.  Duncan has performed and recorded with some of Los Angeles’ most noted musicians, including Otmaro Ruiz and Catina DeLuna on the Grammy-nominated Lado B Brazilian Project, with whom she toured Brazil on keyboards and vocals. She has played and sung on numerous recordings, including The Jazz Chamber with legendary multi-reedist Bennie Maupin, and also performs regularly with her seven-person vocal improvisation collective Fish To Birds.

Joelle Leandre - Joelle Leandre At Soulliac En Jazz

We never stop falling in love with the music of bassist Joelle Leandre – and although we've been listening to her records for many many years, we still always feel newly moved when we encounter music as great as this! The set features both a long live set of solo improvisations, recorded in a Church with a wonderfully echoey sound – and a few private after-set tracks too – both of which beautifully demonstrate that quality that always seems to set Leandre apart from the rest – a complete understanding of all the many properties of the acoustic bass, both bowed and plucked – delivered with a freewheeling sense of imagination, but also a quality that's very organic, almost sensual – so that her music has a tuneful quality at the core, even when quite free. The set features six selections from the concert, and two more after-set tracks too – both with a slightly different sonic quality, given the space. ~ Dusty Groove

Enrico Rava - Edizione Speciale

Enrico Rava, long a key figure in European jazz, has been a mentor for successive generations of Italian players. His celebratory Edizione Speciale, recorded live at the Middelheim Festival in Antwerp, brings together a team of young improvisers who play his music with fire and élan, accompanying his fountain of melodic ideas, while also taking advantage of the free space that the extensive musical forms open up. The group’s repertoire includes material from the trumpeter/flugelhornist’s early recording Enrico Rava Quartet (1978) and Wild Dance (2015), plus a rendition of “Once Upon a Summertime” – the English version of Michel Legrand’s “La valse des lilas” – as well as the universally known Cuban song “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás”.

Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum Vol. 2

New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based Lance Ferguson is a producer, songwriter, guitarist, DJ and recording artist.

He divides his time between leading Australia’s premier soul/funk outfit The Bamboos, releasing music with his other projects Menagarie, Rare Groove Spectrum, Machines Always Win and lending his production, songwriting and guitar skills to a multitude of artists.

He has produced 36 full-length albums and over 75 singles and remixes for labels including Atlantic, Universal, Warner, BMG, Sony, Tru Thoughts, Ubiquity, Inertia, Freestyle and his very own imprint Pacific Theatre.

Lance has been nominated for five Aria Awards and three APRA Music Awards.

In 2016 Ferguson‘s skills as a songwriter, lyricist and guitar riff-ologist achieved bonafide global recognition with the song “This Girl” by Kungs vs Cookin’ On 3 Burners. Reaching Top Five status in 29 countries around the world, the song went to Number One in 10 countries – achieving Diamond, Multi-Platinum, Platinum and Gold certification status in 11 countries including U.S.A, U.K, France and Germany. It has currently had 860,000,000 Spotify streams and 440,000,000 YouTube plays.

Lance has collaborated on musical projects with artists including Aloe Blacc, Tim Rogers, Alice Russell, Roy Ayers, Durand Jones, Quantic, Lyrics Born, just to name a few. His music has been included on over 200 different compilation albums and on high-rating TV shows including CSI NYC, Grey’s Anatomy, Homeland, Suits, NFL Sunday Morning, Neighbours. It also featured in major ad campaigns for brands like Westpac, BMW, Chase Manhattan, Miss Dior and in the soundtrack of feature films Crazy, Stupid Love (with Steve Carell), Good Hair (Chris Rock), and Adoration (Naomi Watts).

An accomplished guitarist, he has performed with artists/acts including; Ed Sheeran, Aloe Blacc, Syl Johnson, Eddie Bo, Joe Bataan and many more. His DJ sets and live shows have been heard around the globe at destinations including London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Barcelona, Madrid, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Berlin, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belgium, Ireland, Hong Kong, Shanghai and throughout Australia & New Zealand.


At The Room 427 by Koichi Matsukaze Trio feat Ryojiro Furusawa

The ninth album in BBE Music's J Jazz Masterclass Series presents ‘At the Room 427’ by Koichi Matsukaze Trio Featuring Ryojiro Furusawa, a rarely heard exemplar of post-modal power bop and free jazz.

Delivered by a trio playing with an intensity and energy that draws on classic Eric Dolphy and mid-era Coltrane but definitely with its own particular vibe, At the Room 427 is an exemplar of febrile improvised jazz that could only come from Japan.

This deluxe reissue sees a welcome return to the J Jazz Masterclass series for saxophonist Koichi Matsukaze. Originally issued in 1976 on the cult ALM label, At the Room 427 is the debut album from one of the most exciting and forward-thinking instrumentalists to emerge in the mid 1970s. Matsukaze's distinctively angular, deconstructive style adds an unpredictable quality to the session that is balanced by the muscular bass of Koichi Yamazaki and the kinetic drumming of Ryojiro Furusawa, who provides a sound footing for Matuskaze’s fiery solos and free-form chemistry.

The album opens with the epic Acoustic Chicken, a 20-minute tour de force of dynamic and explosive interplay. Featured on J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan volume 3 and written by Furusawa, Acoustic Chicken's strong melody lines and scorching sax finely mesh with the driving rhythm section. Furusawa’s Elvin Jones-like rolls and batteries of percussion are underpinned by Yamazaki’s driving and rounded bass.

At the Room 427 also includes a radical deconstruction of the Billie Holiday classic Lover Man and three more original compositions by Matsukaze. The album was recorded live in November 1975 before a small audience in – as the title states – Room 427, a classroom in Chuo University, the alma mater of both Matsukaze and Furusawa. However, despite the rudimentary surroundings, the recording by Yukio Kojima, founder of ALM, manages to give the listener the feeling of being in the room itself, up close to the band, bristling with an intense energy.

This reissue of a long-lost rarity of post-bop/free playing maintains the exceptionally high standard set by the previous releases in the BBE Music J Jazz Masterclass Series. As with all releases in the series, At the Room 427 comes with full reproduction artwork and extra sleeve notes, with artist interviews and biographies.

The J Jazz Masterclass Series is curated by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden for BBE Music. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

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, he 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, he 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, PM Warson released the organ-led “Every Day (Every Night)” on 45, backed by Ashford-Simpson-Armstead‘s classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, which earned 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.


David Benoit | " A Midnight Rendezvous"

Have you ever met an artist whose craft is merely an extension of who they are? The iconic pianist, composer, arranger, producer, film and TV scorer David Benoit, embodies this archetype. He is as cool, measured, engaging, soulful and sophisticated as one of his mellifluous solos in a flight of fancy. A Founding Father of Contemporary Jazz, rooted in the tradition of Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans, David Benoit started playing the piano as a child and has never looked back. “As long as I'm alive and well,” declares the Grammy nominated pianist, “I hope to write and perform as long as possible.” Unbound by categories and rules, the trailblazer has built an enviable four-decade career drawing inspiration from his vast influences which have included jazz, comics, film, Broadway, symphonies and more. From endearing fans with his magical soundtracks for the Peanuts television movies, to garnering over 20 chart-topping radio hits and scoring music for films produced by Clint Eastwood and Sally Field and soap opera themes like “All My Children,” David Benoit IS music. His free-spirited approach has allowed him to collaborate with such diverse artists as The Rippingtons, Faith Hill, David Sanborn and CeCe Winans, among numerous others. Benoit, who leads his own Pacific Vision Youth Symphony (the orchestra he founded in 2001) and who has collaborated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and Philippine Philharmonic, among others, fulfills a long-time dream on his new and highly anticipated new recording, A Midnight Rendezvous (February 18, 2022). Benoit records for the first time with a big band under his own leadership and is joined by numerous special guests including label-mates pianist Jeff Lorber and saxophonist Eric Marienthal. “The idea began when I was an artist in residence in Saratoga, CA and I was looking for something unique to do,” reflects Benoit who hosts the morning show on KKJZ in Long Beach, CA. “I decided to write a big band arrangement for my ‘Cabin Fever’ on the record. I initially started arranging on my computer but the greatest thrill was hearing the playback with the real players in the big band when the project progressed. Wow! It was one of the most exciting sessions I've done in many years.” 

A Midnight Rendezvous is a stellar ten-track foray into known and uncharted territory. In addition to Benoit’s first recording as a leader with a big band, he also reinvents Maren Morris’ smash hit “The Bones,” transports us to a California desert with Jeff Lorber, records for the first time with prolific bassist Roberto Valley (Peter White, Patti Austin, Boney James, Euge Groove, Kirk Whalum) and does a dazzling solo take on a Dave Koz gem. A Midnight Rendezvous opens with the alluring rhythmic groove of the album’s title track and first single. Benoit’s nimble and soulfully stated melody juxtaposed with Pat Kelley’s forward leaning guitar and the pulsating flow of bassist Roberto Vally with drummer John “JR” Robinson, instantly command your attention. Benoit explains, “‘Pioneer Town’ started as a short riff I played on piano. I then sent it to Jeff (Lorber) knowing that we have had great results in the past. He came up with the rest and the title, which refers to a place in the California desert. The recording was done live virtually, making it a real sign of the times.” Benoit’s memorable rendition of Maren Morris’ “The Bones,” is a pleasant surprise. The lyrics in the original version use a house as a metaphor for a relationship: “Baby, I know any storm we're facing / Will blow right over while we stay put / The house don't fall when the bones are good.” Benoit does a brilliant job turning this track into a riveting and emotional journey sans lyrics. “My manager Bud Harner brought me this song because he loved that hypnotic intro as did I,” explains the pianist. “I built my house and raised my daughter there and we all developed a close bond living in that house. We sold it recently, after my daughter June left for college, I downsized but not a day goes by where I don't still dream about it.”

 A Midnight Rendezvous also showcases the ethereal, impressionistic and appropriately titled “Floating,” featuring the gorgeous soprano of Justin Klunk, which shows off Benoit’s penchant for creating timeless melodies. “All I need is a good groove and I just start playing melodies on the piano and find something to connect with,” confesses Benoit. “I've always been very fortunate that melodies come easy for me.” Benoit co-wrote “The Long Journey Home” and the album’s title track with bassist Roberto Valley. A Midnight Rendezvous marks the first time that the duo has recorded with one another. “@Home” is a wistful and pensive beauty that features percussionist Luis Conte and saxophonist Justin Klunk while “You Make Me Smile” is a moving solo take on the Dave Koz hit. “When I toured with Dave,” shares Benoit, “I would mess around with that song at sound check. I always thought it be a nice piano piece because of its strong melodic nature.”

During the last three years, the pandemic has spurred a time of reflection, as the world has had to pivot in the ways that we live, work and communicate. Benoit shares, “I was able enjoy some quality family time since my daughter was home from college. I suddenly had lots of time on my hands to do all of the writing and arranging that I have always wanted to do for big band. Now I finally had the down time I needed to really focus and write new material for this new album.” A highlight on A Midnight Rendezvous is the rousing finale featuring three colossal and beautifully orchestrated big band tracks: “Generations,” “Waiting For Spring” and “Cabin Fever.” Benoit’s 12-piece powerhouse big band includes a blazing horn section that includes saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Sal Lozano, trumpeter Wayne Bergeron and trombonist Francisco Torres.

Born in Bakersfield, California, David Benoit grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles. He studied piano at age 13 with Marya Cressy Wright and continued his training with Abraham Fraser, who was the pianist for Arturo Toscaninni. He focused on theory and composition at El Camino College, studying orchestration with Donald Nelligan, and later took film-scoring classes taught by Donald Ray at UCLA. His education in music conducting began with Heiichiro Ohyama, assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and continued with Jan Robertson, head of the conducting department at UCLA. He began his career as a Musical Director and Conductor for singer Lainie Kazan in 1976 before moving on to similar roles with singer/actresses Ann Margaret and Connie Stevens. Benoit fell in love with jazz in 1965 after watching a Charlie Brown special on television and hearing the music of Vince Guaraldi. A pioneer and architect of contemporary jazz, highlights from David Benoit’s catalogue include the recordings Freedom at Midnight (1987), Waiting for Spring (1989), Shadows (1991), Letter to Evan (1992, a tribute to Bill Evans) and Here’s to You, Charlie Brown: Fifty Great Years (2000). Benoit has also recorded two albums with guitarist Russ Freeman: Benoit/Freeman Project (1994) and 2 (2004). His discography also includes the recording American Landscape (1997) and Orchestral Stories (2005), which featured his first piano concerto and symphonic work. Benoit’s 2012 CD Conversation garnered three Grammy nominations and 2 In Love (2015) joined him with vocalist Jane Monheit. Benoit’s film scores include The Stars Fell on Henrietta (1995), produced by Clint Eastwood, and The Christmas Tree, produced by Sally Field, which was voted ‘Best Score of 1996’ by Film Score Month. Benoit made his Shanachie debut in 2017 with So Nice, a collaboration with guitarist and lablemate Marc Antoine. David Benoit And Friends followed in 2019, uniting Benoit with labelmates Lindsey Webster, Marc Antoine and Vincent Ingala and longtime collaborators Peter While and Dave Koz, among others. A long-time guest educator with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, he received that organization’s Excellence in Music Award in 2001. In 2018, Benoit was given an honorary doctor’s degree in music from Five Towns College in New York.

Benoit concludes, “I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to record over 40 albums and this recording best represents where I'm at as a composer, arranger and pianist.” Although titled A Midnight Rendezvous, Benoit’s latest collection of timeless anthems promise to meet you where you are anytime you are ready.


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