Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Amaro Freitas announces new album Rasif with single 'Mantra'

In the sweltering North-Eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco lies the coastal city of Recife, where Amaro Freitas is pioneering the new sound of Brazilian jazz. For the prodigious young pianist, the spirit of his hometown runs deep. From the Afro-Brazilian maracatu born on the sugar plantations of slavery, to the high intensity carnival rhythms of frevo and baião, Amaro’s heavily percussive approach to jazz is as indebted to these Pernambuco traditions as it is to Coltrane, Parker and Monk.

As with many of the greats before him, Amaro began playing piano in church aged 12, under the instruction of his father, leader of the church band. As his natural talents became obvious, the young prodigy quickly outgrew his father’s instruction. He won a place at the prestigious Conservatório Pernambucano de Música but had to drop out as his family could not spare the money for the bus fare. Undeterred, Amaro gigged in bands at weddings and worked in a call centre to fund his tuition. The transformative moment came at age 15 when Amaro stumbled across a DVD of Chick Corea concert, “he completely blew my mind, I’d never seen anything like it but I knew that’s what I wanted to do with a piano”.

Despite not actually owning a piano, Amaro devoted himself to studying day and night – he would practice on imaginary keys in his bedroom until eventually striking a deal with a local restaurant to practice before opening hours. By the age of 22 Amaro was one of the most sought-after musicians in Recife and resident pianist at the legendary jazz bar Mingus. It was during this time he met and begun collaborating with bassist Jean Elton and the pair went in search of a drummer. “We kept hearing about this crazy kid who was playing in 7/8 or 6/4, we knew we had to meet him”. Hugo Medeiros joined, and the Amaro Freitas Trio was born.

Following his critically acclaimed debut album Sangue Negro (black blood), the title of his sophomore release Rasif is a colloquial spelling of Amaro’s home town. A love letter to his native northeast, Amaro explores its traditional rhythms through the jazz idiom, employing complex mathematical patterns reminiscent of some of the most challenging works by fellow Brazilian masters Hermeto Pascoal, Egberto Gismonti and Moacir Santos.

Preferring to see the piano as a though it were a drum with 88 unique tones, Amaro’s intelligence and emotion intertwine on every track. 

Anne Sajdera Celebrates Creative Renewal, Cross-Cultural Inspiration with "New Year"

Anne Sajdera New Year Anne Sajdera's remarkable acumen as both a pianist and a composer finds rejuvenation on New Year, set for November 2 release on her own Bijuri Records. The album hits close to home for Sajdera -- her ancestral home, that is, of the Czech Republic and its storied capital, Prague. A 2014 trip to Europe's "Golden City" was the catalyst for the album's creation.

Sajdera's journey wasn't planned as a musical one. While in Prague, however, she encountered trumpeter/flugelhornist Miroslav Hloucal and alto saxophonist Jan Fečo, who became her chief collaborators on New Year. In addition to supplementing her working San Francisco trio (bassist Gary Brown and drummer Deszon Claiborne) and other special guests with their sparkling instrumental work, Hloucal and Fečo brought in four of the album's nine tracks.

"What electrified me was the tremendous skill level," explains Sajdera (pronounced sazh-dair-uh). "I don't think there are many Czech jazz musicians who want to say, 'This is Czech jazz' the way Brazilian musicians would refer to 'Brazilian jazz.' They're influenced by the same players as we are." Indeed, New Year's music is firmly in the vein of acoustic post-bop: sophisticated, straight- ahead, and thoroughly swinging.

Even "It Depends on That," Fečo's stellar arrangement of a Roma folk song, feels perfectly at home in the 21st-century jazz repertoire with its deceptively jagged rhythms and sumptuous harmony. Likewise, Hloucal's trio of melodic delights -- "Pictures," "Butterfly Effect," and "Changeling" -- positively simmer in straight-ahead seasoning. In the case of the urgent, album-opening "Pictures," tenor sax luminary Bob Mintzer's vital, muscular work adds an extra ingredient to that seasoning.

Sajdera's five original compositions naturally provide the backbone of the album, and rival Hloucal and Fečo's contributions in their freshness and craftsmanship. Her haunting romantic ballad "Treasure" also highlights Sajdera's ambition: It doesn't include the Czech musicians, but does expand her trio to include flugelhornist Erik Jekabson, alto saxophonist Lyle Link, flutist Rita Thies, and violinist/cellist Joyce Lee. Link and Jekabson also appear on "Bright Lights," a bare-bones platform for improvisation that's both taut and joyful. The album also includes a live rendition of "Azul," the dreamy samba reggae title track to Sajdera's 2012 debut album, here balancing sensitivity with astonishing rhythmic assurance.
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1965 to a military family, Anne Sajdera grew up in San Diego. Piano lessons as a child led her to form a tight circle of musical friends who often gathered to play together. She maintained a steady diet of Chopin waltzes, Bach inventions, and Beethoven sonatas in her piano studies, but at the age of 13 became intrigued by Chick Corea's My Spanish Heart. After relocating to the Bay Area in 1985, she auditioned at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was accepted as a piano performance major, switching to a composition major at the end of her sophomore year.

Sajdera's investigation of jazz took off when she began a relationship with an accomplished jazz guitarist, with whom she was soon playing casuals. A class at Berkeley's Jazzschool with the great Brazilian pianist/composer Marcos Silva sparked her enduring passion for Brazilian music. Before long she was gigging around the Bay Area with her own band Pelo Mar, and as an original member of Bat Makumba.

Her debut album, 2012's Azul, also reflects this deep and abiding passion, mixing her ravishing original pieces with classic tunes by the Brazilian masters. It received a place on one of Jazziz magazine's 2012 Critics Polls and was named one of Latin Jazz Corner's Great Latin Jazz Albums that same year.

The six-year gap between Azul and New Year reflects Sajdera's ongoing evolution as an artist looking for new expressive avenues. "I was writing new music all along and I could see it was rapidly changing," she says. "By 2015, the Prague musicians' influence was coming in." Shortly thereafter, the musicians themselves came in, too, to join the music making. (Sajdera's next recording featuring this same ensemble has been awarded grant funding from Intermusic SF.)

Miroslav Hloucal It was in 2015, in the spirit of International Jazz Day, the project launched by Herbie Hancock in his role as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, that Jan Feco Sajdera began to connect the Czech jazz scene to the Bay Area scene. After she produced a pair of pilot concerts featuring sax virtuoso Karel Ruzička and organ maestro Ondre J, two Brooklyn-based musicians who originally hailed from the Czech Republic, the plan to collaborate in the studio with Jan and Miroslav began to take shape.

Anne Sajdera will be performing a series of CD release shows, all featuring Miroslav Hloucal (above left) and Jan Fečo (at right), in November: Fri. 11/2 Savanna Jazz, San Carlos (8pm); Sat. 11/3 Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland (8pm); Mon. 11/5 Luna's Café, Sacramento (7:30pm); Fri. 11/9 Café Pink House, Saratoga (7:30pm); Sat. 11/10 Hotel Healdsburg, Healdsburg (6:30pm). 

Guitarist North “2unes” Woodall with his new CD ‘Between The Lobes’ a blend of old school R&B and smooth jazz

Featured recently on The Jazz Network Worldwide: Legendary guitarist North “2unes” Woodall with his new CD ‘Between The Lobes’ and a sneak peek “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got” from the upcoming CD “Feel Good All Over” Early 2019.

North “2unes” Woodall is a self-taught musician who’s music moves ones soul and fills a heart with the kind of joy that only good music can bring. Having studied the styles of Ernie Isley, Santana, and Joe Walsh, among other R&B, funk, rock, and pop music artists. There is no wonder that with his hard work and determination, resulting in a music catalogue of musicality that will become evergreen. ‘Between the Lobes’ is just another extension of the myriad of styles “2unes” where he bridges the generation gap with his unique music blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop.

North became a staple on the Atlanta music scene upon relocating there sharing the stages with funk masters Lakeside, The Ohio Players, Roger Troutman and Zapp, Roy Ayers, Millie Jackson, Tom Browne, Will Downing, Jasmine Gant, Ryan Kilgore, Lin Roundtree, Gerald Veasley and opened up for Brian McKnight. He is highly entertaining with his tight arrangements, banging guitar solos and signature licks. His exceptional proficiency with the guitar quickly established appearances in venues from the Ritz Carlton to Wind-Down Wednesdays at Centennial Park.

“I work for the listener and my music is designed for them. It is important to me that I give them what they want.” Woodall went on to say that he defines his musical style as being like a gumbo. “I can’t be put into a box musically. I’m not one thing, but many things bringing people together from all sides of the music spectrum.”

“Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got” is a sneak peek to “2unes” upcoming CD project entitled “ Feel Good All Over”, anticipated early 2019.

“I found myself rockin’ in my chair upon listening to “2unes” music. It’s feel good music that makes you want to get up and dance and flow with his easy grooves and funky vibe” says Jaijai Jackson of The Jazz Network Worldwide’s NOT JUST JAZZ Movement.

North has recently teamed up with Eric Cohen of EC Music Agency, and looks forward to a fruitful association allowing for his music to be heard worldwide from all types of events from festivals, concerts, special events, fundraisers and community events.


"That's Right!," The Recording Debut of Trumpeter Brad Goode's Quintet Featuring Tenor Titan Ernie Watts

That's Right!, the recording debut of trumpeter Brad Goode's quintet featuring tenor titan Ernie Watts, documents the virtuosity and versatility of one of the tightest working bands on the contemporary jazz scene. Set for October 19 release by Origin Records, the album is a powerful showcase for Goode's ideal quintet as well as the soloing chops and writing skills of each of its members.

Watts and Goode first shared the front line in a concert at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where the trumpeter is an associate professor of jazz studies, in the early 2010s. "It was just one of those things," Goode recalls. "We played together for a little while, and then we looked at each other and said, 'Hey, you know what? This is good!' There's something that happens when the two of us start playing, and we've been making efforts to do what we can together ever since."

Also featured on the new CD are Canadian pianist Adrean Farrugia and Windy City veteran bassist Kelly Sill, both of whom have been playing with Goode since 2005. The unit's newest member, drummer Adam Nussbaum, joined in 2017. "I tell my students this: If you want to make the biggest change to the sound of your group, change the drummer," says Goode.

That's Right! contains three originals by Goode, one by each of the quintet's other members, and the standards "Blues in the Night" and "I Want to Talk About You." The final track, "Jug Ain't Gone," is a tribute to Gene "Jug" Ammons by the late Chicago jazz giant Von Freeman, Jug's high school classmate and one of Goode's mentors. It's a hard-swinging blues that's become something of a theme song for Goode. "Von and I used to play it at every gig but he only recorded it once," he explains. "I run a jam session with students every Monday night, and I make that the closing tune. It's just my way of keeping Von's tradition of the jam session alive -- and keeping Von's memory alive."

Born in 1963 in Chicago, Brad Goode took up the violin at age four, switched to guitar at eight and trumpet at 10. At 15, having moved to East Lansing, Michigan, he began learning the bass. Even when he decided to pursue music as a career, he couldn't settle on one instrument: He earned his B.M. in classical trumpet at the University of Kentucky, and an M.M. in classical bass at Chicago's DePaul University.

Goode's early career was a period of extended apprenticeship, as he performed with the bands of jazz legends Von Freeman, Eddie Harris, Ira Sullivan, Jack DeJohnette, and Curtis Fuller. He led the house band at the Green Mill in Chicago from 1986 until 1997, when he left Chicago to pursue college teaching. Since then, his musical career has been expansive. He works often in the areas of world music, experimental harmony, and fusion. He is in high demand as a lead trumpeter, traveling widely to perform and record with big bands and orchestras, and is recognized as a master teacher of brass technique. He currently tours as the featured soloist with West African drummer Paa Kow's Afro Fusion Orchestra.

Brad Goode In 1997, Goode joined the faculty at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. In 2004 he accepted a position in Boulder, Colorado, and the following year formed a new working band with Kelly Sill, whom he'd known since the mid-1980s. They were joined by pianist Adrean Farrugia, whom Goode had met at a jam session, and drummer Anthony Lee, one of his Cincinnati students who lived in New York.

The quartet stayed together for a decade, becoming a quintet with the addition of Watts in 2015. Lee's 2017 departure brought in Nussbaum on drums. Goode flew the band in to perform at the Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference in Dallas in January 2018. "I had them all there, and I thought we should do a recording," he says. "After the concert we spent two days at a studio in Dallas."

While That's Right! is his 18th album as a leader, Goode doesn't see it that way. "I think of this as a debut album by a new band," he says. "I feel this is a pretty special act. When Ernie and I do this together, people kind of freak out. So this album is a way to get that across to people who haven't seen it live yet -- that it's gonna be exciting." The quintet plans a series of dates in Spring and Summer 2019.

Brad Goode in performance: 10/13 w/ Paa Kow's Afro Fusion Orchestra, Dazzle, Denver; 10/20 Brad Goode Quartet at Jazz Association of Macon, GA (where he is 2018-19 Artist in Residence); 11/3 Utah International Trumpet Guild Presents Brad Goode; 11/9 Jazz Institute of Chicago Tribute to Von Freeman; 11/14 Brigham Young University (Idaho), in concert with BYU faculty trio; Every Monday -- Brad Goode Jam Session at Muse Performance Space, Lafayette, CO; 4/19-20/2019, Brad Goode Quintet Featuring Ernie Watts, Green Mill, Chicago. 

New Music Releases: Nicole Conte - Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS; Sachal Vasandani – Shadow Train; UNIFONY

Nicole Conte - Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

“Cosmic Forest” takes us on a spiritual journey through the musical universe of Musik Produktion Schwarzwald (Black Forest Music Production), the most important German jazz label of the 1960’s and 70’s. There are still little-known gems to discover within the MPS catalogue. Curated by Nicola Conte, Cosmic Forest is a compilation that highlights some of the most compelling “spiritual jazz” recordings from 1965 to 1975. Conte, a world-renowned Italian musician and producer, as well as a passionate DJ and record collector, is a connoisseur of European jazz with an astounding ability to dig a little deeper when it comes to arranging such a compilation. In this case, he concentrated on the spiritual highpoints of the MPS catalogue, highlighting both well-known and obscure musical treasures, while connecting disparate pieces through a personal common thread. The choice of individual titles and the flowing character of their arrangement lend the album a quality of timelessness, while showcasing the breadth of the entire “cosmic jazz collection” within the MPS archives.

Sachal Vasandani – Shadow Train  

GSI Records presents Shadow Train, the latest release from vocalist Sachal Vasandani. With equal parts virility and empathy, Vasandani provides a unique take on the album's collection of classic standards, which include Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away" and Bill Evans' "Very Early." Never stifled by tradition, Eric Harland (drums), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Nir Felder (guitar), Dayna Stephens (sax), and Reuben Rogers (bass), focus their collective energy to highlight the themes of Shadow Train with an open spirit. Vasandani and the ensemble weave romance and nuance throughout the record, simultaneously seducing and enlightening listeners. To be released on September 28th, Shadow Train is a showcase of phenomenal musicianship not to be missed. Sachal Vasandani is recognized for his singular voice with a tone and unique phrasing that mark him as one of the most compelling voices on the scene today. He has previously released four records as a leader, Eyes Wide Open (2007), We Move (2009), Hi-Fi (2011), and Slow Motion Miracles (2015). Vasandani has played around the world in many of the leading jazz venues, both with his own group and performing alongside jazz heavyweights including Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Milton Nascimento, Michael Feinstein, and many others. His original writing and singing on Gerald Clayton's Life Forum was nominated for a Grammy in 2013.

UNIFONY - UNIFONY: The Audiophile Spontaneity of Kindred Spirits Turns Fleeting Moments into Sweeping Cinematic Tracks

They would walk into the studio and coax a moment, a sound from the instruments. No through-composed scores, no plans, just the interaction of kindred spirits and vibrating metal and wood, wire and skin. This is the basic premise of UNIFONY. Improv-based, timbre-inspired, the collaborative project harnesses European indie songwriter and film composer Minco Eggersman and audiophile engineer and musical ingenue Theodoor Borger’s unique chemistry to conjure a soundscape for good, wildly talented music friends. The first album of the project (to be released Oct. 12, 2018) features the sometimes breathy, sometimes crystalline trumpet of ECM artist Mathias Eick, and the stellar mixing and mastering skills of Phil Brown (Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Talk Talk) and Bob Ludwig (Hendrix, McCartney, Queen, Daft Punk). The results are lush, enigmatic, touching the imagination and emotions without ever revealing the full story. They are ambient and cinematic, yet ultimately simple at their hearts, drawing inspiration from everything from post-rock like Talk Talk and contemporary classical compositions. Though the tracks are grounded in small moments of inspiration, they achieve well-developed form and bright sheen, thanks to friendship and technical prowess of the project’s contributors.

Guitarist Bobby Broom Introduces His New Group The Organi-Sation With Their Debut Recording "Soul Fingers"

Bobby Broom Soul Fingers Virtuoso Chicago-based guitarist Bobby Broom has always embraced the rhythm and blues core of jazz music. On Soul Fingers, his 12th album as a leader and first with his new trio Organi-Sation, Broom mines the rich repository of '60s and '70s pop music, offering inspired versions of hits by the Beatles, Procol Harum, Steely Dan, and Seals & Crofts, among others. Set for October 12 release by MRI Entertainment, the recording was produced by legendary drummer Steve Jordan.

Broom, a contemporary link to the illustrious lineage of jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, George Benson, and Pat Martino, is no stranger to covering standards and pop hits: On his 2001 release Stand! he delivered hard-bop versions of songs by artists such as the Turtles, the Mamas & the Papas, and Sly & The Family Stone. And the Deep Blue Organ Trio, which Broom co-led from 2000 to 2013, released Wonderful!, a collection of Stevie Wonder songs, in 2011. Three years later came Broom's My Shining Hour, a set of standards.

While developing Soul Fingers, Broom realized the ideas he was coming up with required the help of an outside producer. "The process was so different than other records I've done," he says. "I got more involved in its preproduction. I was hearing horns and a bunch of different textures, so at some point I said, 'I need help with this one.' I immediately thought of Steve because of the soul music sound I was feeling."

Broom and Jordan played together with Sonny Rollins once in the early '80s and again during 2005, when both were members of the saxophone colossus's band. "I thought he'd be perfect," says Broom, "although it was basically a daydream," referring to Jordan's busy schedule with the likes of John Mayer and Keith Richards. Nevertheless "I emailed him and it took him less than an hour to get back to me with, 'Let's go!'" In addition to producing and sharing arranging credits, Jordan plays drums on "Get Ready" and "Eyes of Faith," the sole Broom original whose gospel-tinged theme is embellished by a lush string arrangement.

Organist Ben Paterson and drummer Kobie Watkins join Broom in Organi-Sation, the core unit on the album and Broom's current band. During the three months the trio spent in 2014 opening for Steely Dan, they developed a musical synchronicity Broom found "a wonderful surprise. We really solidified our chemistry on that tour, so it was like a hand-in-glove kind of thing going into this session."

Soul Fingers opens with the Lennon/McCartney gem "Come Together" taken at a stepped-up tempo that Broom knew his trio-mates "would swing to death." Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" features the guitarist's 7/4 funk arrangement and his horn charts for saxophonist Ron Blake and trumpeter Chris Rogers. Other highlights include a shuffle-swing version of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" and a bossa nova-infused version of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on which the leader is joined by Brazilian acoustic guitarists Sergio Pires and Luciano Antonio. The 1966 Temptations hit "Get Ready" has an Afro-pop feel, while Broom's version of Procol Harum's 1967 baroque pop hit "Whiter Shade of Pale" simmers with soul.

Born in New York City in 1961, Bobby Broom cites hearing a Charles Earland album when he was 10 -- and later music by Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington, Jr. -- as inspiring his love of jazz. By 16, he had a regular gig with bebop pianist Al Haig and was invited by Sonny Rollins to go on tour. While he declined that offer, he did perform with Rollins at Carnegie Hall that same year. Within five years Broom had at last joined Rollins's touring band, ultimately spending two five-year stints with him.

Prior to joining Rollins, Broom signed with GRP Records and made his crossover jazz debut, 1981's Clean Sweep rather than join Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. After his 1984 follow-up Livin' for the Beat he could have had a career playing "smooth jazz" but instead moved to Chicago and concentrated on straight-ahead jazz. He continued with Rollins, joined Kenny Burrell's Jazz Guitar Band, worked briefly with Miles Davis and then Stanley Turrentine and his early idol Earland.

In the 1990s Broom formed the Bobby Broom Trio and the Deep Blue Organ Trio and recorded frequently with both units. He also made three quartet records (No Hype Blues, Waitin' and Waitin', and Modern Man) before deciding to focus on the guitar-bass-drums trio as his primary outlet, beginning in 2001 with Stand!

"Whether original, the music of the classic jazz idiom, or nostalgic pop," critic Neil Tesser has observed, "Broom's thoughtful lyricism, urban spirit and jazz pedigree have earned him one of the few truly recognizable styles among modern jazz guitarists."

Bobby Broom and his Organi-Sation will perform a CD release show at Space in Evanston, IL on Friday 10/5. Other dates will be announced in the coming months. 

MIGUEL ZENÓN: Yo Soy la Tradición is an ambitious concert-length work for string quartet and saxophone

With his eleventh release as a leader and fourth for Miel Music, saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón has produced a work of startling clarity, synthesizing and building upon Puerto Rican folkloric forms through his unmistakable, multilayered compositional approach.

Yo Soy la Tradición, commissioned by the David and Reva Logan Center for the Arts and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, is a collection of eight works for alto saxophone and string quartet which feature Zenón and the Chicago-based, internationally renowned Spektral Quartet. These chamber works reach far beyond the formula of a horn backed by strings, with the Spektral Quartet taking a central role in both driving and navigating the intricate compositional forms that are a trademark of the saxophonist's music.

Zenón set out to compose a series of chamber pieces taking both creative inspiration and formal patterning from his native Puerto Rico's cultural, religious, and musical traditions. The results are thrilling, and defy neat categorization with their emergent contemporary sensibility: structural beauty paired with emotional urgency.

The traditions Zenón takes as his points of departure include some he has explored in depth before such as Jíbaro, a major musical genre of rural Puerto Rico and the namesake of a groundbreaking album by Zenón in 2005. Other inspirations include traditions, both musical and not explicitly musical, that he had not studied in depth previously.

"My goal is to identify the elements that make each tradition unique," says Zenón. "If these elements are musical in nature, I'll extract them and use them as the main seed for a new piece of music-not trying to emulate the original, but using the original source as inspiration."

Another musical tradition informing Yo Soy la Tradición occurred as a result of Zenón's extensive preparation in string quartet writing. Although he has previously written music for string quartet on Awake, his fourth album released a decade ago, this new hour-long work led him to revisit works by the masters of the Western canon.

"I studied many chamber works from various periods," Zenón says, noting the collaborative aspect of working with Spektral as part of his compositional process. "As I was writing and revising, I was also able to integrate feedback from the members of the quartet, whom I would send sections and passages to."

In one sense, Yo Soy la Tradición is a culmination of Zenón's study of the cultural traditions of Puerto Rico. For over a decade, his regular trips to the country and his ongoing field research has granted him uncommon insight into the artistic resources afforded by the culture of the Island-in his words, a "seemingly endless well of information and inspiration," which is continually replenished by the families and communities who carry it forward as it evolves over generations.

The album begins with "Rosario," whose title references El Rosario Cantado, a tradition related to the Holy Rosary of the Catholic Church. The ceremonial quality to this opening of the suite-variations on a theme framed in variously contrapuntal and contrasting episodes which move between the lyrical and the animated-echoes the format of traditional rosarios, settings of the Rosary to music typically reserved for funerals and religious occasions. This accompaniment is passed down by musicians and has developed striking formal qualities due to the functional nature and specific context of the music.

"It's one of those things that's very folkloric, but can be very complex," says Zenón. "Some of those songs might have a bar of five beats followed by a bar of seven and a bar of three, because the composers and songwriters were trying to accommodate a lyric or a phrase within a specific harmonic sequence."

"Cadenas," a lively work that features the Spektral Quartet in expansive rhythmic layering, evokes the work of recent Minimalist composers while harkening to the origins of las cadenas, traditional Puerto Rican music that takes its name from a chain-like dance formation (cadenas means "chains"). With alternating passages of expressive verse statements and propulsive string interludes, "Cadenas" exemplifies Zenón's uncanny ability to juxtapose rhythmic complexity and melodic directness in honor of this tradition with deep roots in Spanish and African music.

In "Yumac," Zenón takes the listener on a suspenseful ride as the strings produce interwoven bursts of pizzicato while the composer improvises a delicate, virtuosic solo statement. Named after the town of Camuy (with the letters spelled backwards), where singer Germán Rosario originated this style in the mid-twentieth century, "Yumac" comes out of the Jíbaro tradition in its structural organization, but its jagged harmonies and breathtaking unison passages for violin and saxophone are unmistakably Zenón's.

"Milagrosa" begins with an unabashedly futuristic introduction, where nimble melodic shapes played by the strings filter through modern harmonies, before settling into a flowing feature for Zenón's elegant, melodic playing. The inspiration for the work comes from the religious practice of La Promesa-making a promise to a Catholic deity in return for a favor; specifically, the title refers to a promise made to La Virgen de La Milagrosa ("The Miraculous Virgin"), a traditional song upon whose foundations Zenón crafted an entirely new and vital work. The ending is perhaps worth the price of admission for the breathless, extended soli passage with saxophone and the entire Spektral Quartet in lockstep-a tour de force of melodic invention that sets the stage for an unadorned statement of a folkloric melody that is frequently related to "La Virgen de La Milagrosa."

Moving into an elegiac register, "Viejo" highlights Zenón's mastery of traditional musical expression, conveying emotional impact through the tonal shifts between major and minor. In this pensive movement, the saxophone is incorporated more as an ensemble voice as the string quartet moves into the spotlight. The majestic and dignified melodies in "Viejo" are fitting as an allusion to Aguinaldo Viejo, a genre of Jíbaro believed to be the tradition's oldest example, with a harmonic cadence traced by some historians to medieval times.
Harmony also provides the organizing principle for "Cadenza," a brooding exploration of two fundamental cadences found in Puerto Rican traditional music, La Cadenza Jíbara (from the same Aguinaldo Viejo in the preceding movement), and La Cadenza Andaluza, which suggests tinges of Flamenco, with Andaluza referring directly to Andalucía, Spain. The latter presents an opportunity that Zenón embraces with a clever, surprising coda of accented handclaps, which through aural sleight of hand slowly morphs back into a chorus of plucked strings before concluding.

The longest piece in the hour-long suite is "Promesa," which presents an imaginative rendering written from the same inspiration as "Milagrosa." In this case, it alludes to the most famous promesa of all: La Promesa de Reyes, in reference to the celebration of the Three Kings.  Beginning with a haunting, accompanied statement in the cello, the work cycles through repetitions of varied melodic elements whose even, steady elaboration reveals the patience underlying Zenón's approach-a cinematic sense of pacing that rewards the attentive listener.

Yo Soy la Tradición concludes with "Villalbeño," named after a variant of El Aguinaldo Jíbaro from the town of Villalba. With a self-assured sense of forward motion, the Spektral Quartet lays down a restrained but infectious groove over which Zenón holds forth; this builds until a sudden breakdown section, where a repeated figure gains momentum over shifting rhythmic subdivisions leading to the climactic ending.

In this momentous work, Zenón succeeds in finding common ground between various traditions-jazz, classical, and folk musics-while continuing to elevate, honor, and extend the cultural heritage of Puerto Rico as he has done over the course of his career. "Puerto Rican music is an integral part of who I am," Zenón writes, "and my ultimate goal as an artist would be to synthesize and express everything it means to me."

With Yo Soy la Tradición, Zenón has attained another milestone in his musical development, music that stands at both the intersection and forefront of the musical traditions that he has studied and now made his own.

Larry Goldings - Peter Bernstein - Bill Stewart Take to the musical playground with Toy Tunes

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart possess a special place within the rich history of organ trios; with their adventurous eclecticism, they progress beyond the bop-influenced soul jazz of the likes of Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and Shirley Scott and into their own singular musical realm. Larry Goldings has collaborated with the "who's who" of soul, pop and jazz, from Maceo Parker, Tracy Chapman, and James Taylor to Jim Hall, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, and Charlie Haden, and is in demand as a composer for film and TV. Peter Bernstein has been called "the most universally respected and admired jazz guitarist of his generation", and his work with such greats as Sonny Rollins, Jim Hall, Joshua Redman, and Brad Mehldau backs up the claim. Known for his melodicism and polyrhythmic complexity, Bill Stewart has played with Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, and, like Goldings, Maceo Parker, and has had a long-time collaboration with John Scofield. All three are recognized composers.

Toy Tunes marks the trio's twelfth album since their first release in 1991. It's their second recording with PIROUET. The press greeted their first PIROUET CD, 2014's Ramshackle Serenade, with "It doesn't get much better than this" (All About Jazz), and "Another memorable outing from one of current jazz's finest small groups" (JazzTimes). Goldings states that, "Our approach has never been dictated by the 'organ trio' format but rather by our individual personalities, our broad range of musical interests, our desire to be highly interactive, and to grow together as musicians."

Goldings' relaxed, lyrical Fagen was named for Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, whose records "introduced me to a whole new world of harmony and song structure."  Larry comments that Stewart's Don't Ever Call Me Again "possesses Bill's unmistakable combination of craftiness and wit." The piece sports a funky fusion feel, and the three keep the communication going as they converse with Stewart's talkative drums. Bernstein wrote the dreamy Lullaby For B for his oldest son. Goldings says it "unravels like a novella, and, due to its rich harmonies and unexpected structure, is a joy to play." The standard I'm In The Mood For Love is a variation on the arrangement Goldings wrote almost 25 years ago for the great Jim Hall.  "The three of us knew and loved Jim, and he inevitably pops into our consciousness when we play this." Goldings calls Carla Bley's And Now the Queen "a gem of a composition. I still can't fathom how she can say so much in four bars. Carla's pieces invite the interpreter to dive right in and explore. She gave us her own handwritten chart from which to work!" As for Toy Tune, Goldings says that improvising on Wayne Shorter's pieces "is akin to playing with a Rubik's Cube." The trio takes a slightly more relaxed stance than Shorter's original version, playing delightful games over the changes, with Stewart wailing over the fading riff at the end. Bernstein's Calm is a beautiful mood piece with a serene church-like quality, and with Maybe, Goldings recounts that, "When I was in elementary school my mom took me on a train from Boston to New York to see my first Broadway musical, Annie. Charles Strouse wrote the music, and his song Maybe has always stuck with me. With its timeless melody and shifting key centers, it seemed like a natural fit for us to interpret." Depth, lyricism, complexity - it's all here, as three of the strongest musical personalities of their generation, join hands to play music that is pure joy.

Blue Engine Records announces the release of UNA NOCHE CON RUBÉN BLADES from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis featuring Rubén Blades

Rubén Blades — the salsa giant and nine-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, actor, and activist — collaborated with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in 2014 for an extraordinary series of performances on the Jazz at Lincoln Center stage. On these very special style-straddling, Americas-spanning nights, the worlds of salsa and swing collided. Blue Engine Records today announced this historic concert, which the New York Times called "radically beautiful,” will be available as an album release entitled Una Noche con Rubén Blades on October 19, 2018.

Music-directed by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bassist Carlos Henriquez (called an “emerging master in the Latin jazz idiom” by DownBeat magazine), Una Noche con Rubén Blades features Blades, backed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, performing Blades’ own beloved compositions, including “Pedro Navaja,” “Patria,” and “El Cantante,” as well as swing-era standards like “Too Close for Comfort” and “Begin the Beguine.” 

“I’ve known Rubén Blades since I was two years old—or at least I feel like I have,” Henriquez says. “His albums—and the sound and the warmth they generated–filled my family’s apartment at 146th and Brook Avenue in the Bronx, and his music was one of my earliest influences.”

“Jazz is the story of taking old parts and building something new,” he continues. “When Rubén joined us for our performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, we did exactly that using the Great American Songbook and the Afro-Cuban rhythms that propel all the wonderful music that Rubén sang that evening. The music I arranged for Rubén Blades to perform with the Orchestra sounds like Panama, New Orleans, and New York all mixed into one. Those sounds form the heart of all our stories as musicians, and in combining them we reaffirmed that we’re all in this together.”

The first single from Una Noche con Rubén Blades, “Ban Ban Quere,” is available for streaming and download on all mass-market digital platforms today. The album is available for preorder on iTunes and Amazon. Preorders via Jazz at Lincoln Center’s webstore include a deluxe bundle featuring the CD and limited-edition maraca.

Percussion pilgrim Jim Roberts lays down beats, grooves & a call for peace on The Tao of Time

In 2006, percussionist, producer, and educator Jim Roberts takes to heart the words of activist  Jody Williams,  who started the International Campaign to Ban Landmines when she said, "if you’re involved in something and you want me to know about it, don’t come to me until you’ve done something about it,”

Roberts took the challenge. He devoted years to doing something, crafting The Tao of Time (release: October 26, 2018), a concept album as diverse and unexpected as his wide-ranging musical influences. Inspired by peace activists and other agents of change--the wonderful Peace Pilgrim’s words, for example, create a pivot in the album--The Tao of Time explores the nature of time, history, human experience, and how the past can but does not have to determine the future.

“As a drummer, people often expect you to just do drum pieces, not the kind of things I’m doing here. When I began working on this record, I had a bigger vision,” says Roberts. “But I knew that I couldn’t leave the drums out. Drums, time and language are synonymous. It’s all part of the process.”

Roberts’s bigger vision unfolds over the course of interlocking vignettes guided by raucous  time-traveling seafarers, Captain Time and his Craic crew; clever covers (Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” along with set of variations on its themes); and original pieces tackling war and peace, past and future, life and death, and the nature of the universe. Though Roberts urges listeners to engage with the darker side of existence on pieces like “Soul Power ” and “When Will Peace Come,” the destination is ultimately hopeful and forward looking, as the words and sounds ask us to be “All That We Can Be.”

Drummer-Composer Devin Gray reconvenes his Dirigo Rataplan band of master musicians for second album, Dirigo Rataplan II

Drummer-Composer Devin Gray reconvenes his Dirigo Rataplan band of master musicians - with Ellery Eskelin, Michael Formanek & Dave Ballou - for second album, Dirigo Rataplan II, due from Rataplan Records on Sept. 21

"A musician-drummer rather than a drummer-drummer, Gray is interested in making music that is deeply evocativeŠ shaped by a fizzing, often restless push-pull energy." - Jazzwise 

There are times when music lovers can just feel a talent coming into his or her own, when that artist is someone to catch onstage or on record at every opportunity. Drummer-composer Devin Gray has arrived at such a moment. The Brooklyn-based artist made his leader debut in 2012 with the Skirl Records release Dirigo Rataplan, which featured him fronting the eponymous band with tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, bassist Michael Formanek and trumpeter Dave Ballou, each a master improviser renowned far and wide among fans of creative music. Cadence magazine declared that initial disc to be "fantastic," while JazzTimes said that Gray's debut represented "the work of a young artist who knows who he is."

Now, after six years of intensive experience as a leader and sideman on both sides of the Atlantic, Gray has reconvened this all-star group for Dirigo Rataplan II, which will be released on CD, vinyl, digitally and for streaming via Rataplan Records on Sept. 21, 2018. Time Out New York has praised Gray's compositions for balancing "formal elasticity with a meticulous sense of pacing." The new album brims with more earworm melody, richly implied harmony and a loose-limbed sense of rhythm as something physical and flowing - as blood, as breath. Fans of jazz from Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill to Dave Holland and Craig Taborn will dig this organic mix of composition and improvisation, structure and freedom, atmosphere and dynamism.

About the evolution of Dirigo Rataplan and his writing for the band, Gray says: "I've become more at ease with following my natural artistic impulses. The experiences I've had over the past six years have been so inspiring - in the intense, ultra-energized New York jazz scene, of course, but also in Europe, where players in improvised music are so open to different genres and have this holistic approach to art and creativity. With Dirigo Rataplan II, there is more free improvisation in the music, but I also think the melodic fluidity between the composition and the improvisation is more seamless, with one flowing into the other in a way that I really like. This music is personal for me, but I want Mike, Ellery and Dave to do what it is they do, to maximize the pieces in the way that I know they can."

About working with Gray, Formanek says: "Devin has grown as a composer since that first quartet recording session in 2011, but most important, he has a much more evolved sense of who he is_ as a musician, and also of who we are in the band as improvisers. These instincts take time to develop, and it has been great to see that process unfold in both his playing and his composing. This music is free and open with a lot of room for improvisation, but the tunes also have an intrinsic rhythmic and melodic character to them, a color and energy. With the quartet having played together more now, the sessions for the new album felt even better."

For Gray, what is most vital about Formanek "is not just that his tone and sense of time are so incredible. It's also that he cares so much about doing whatever he can to ensure the quality of the music in front of him. He's a composer's improviser, in that way. I feel this total, unspoken trust with him." About Eskelin, Gray says: "Ellery sets the bar so high for improvisation. The fluidity of his solos, the intense forward motion - that's what New York musicians have more than anyone else." Regarding Ballou, the drummer adds: "I've known Dave's playing intimately since I was a kid. I don't think he has ever sounded better, with that beautiful tone and wide palette of expression. He brings a strong interpretive sense to my music in that he anticipates what I'm looking for, yet via his own sensibility. Working with cats like this, you don't have to worry about individualism - it's in everything they do. They bring what are just notes on a page to real life."

Reflecting further on Dirigo Rataplan II, Gray concludes: "I don't set out to make jazz records, per se. I set out to make music, period - to capture the moment, the contemporary feel of the music, hoping that it can reflect in some small way how we live now and what we all have to deal with as human beings in the world."
In addition to Dirigo Rataplan, Devin Gray leads the quartet Relative Resonance, featuring Chris Speed, Kris Davis and Chris Tordini. Reviewing that band's eponymous Skirl Records album, All About Jazz said: "The vitality of Relative Resonance can't be deniedŠ the music here literally sparkles with wit and resourcefulness." On record, Gray has also led his Cloudsounds trio (with Ingrid Laubrock and Corey Smythe) and his quartet Fashionable Pop Music (with Tordini, Jonathan Goldberger and Ryan Ferreira). He recently released a hard-grooving digital single fronting his quartet Meta Cache with Jeremy Viner, Elias Stemeseder and Kim Cass.
As a sideman, Gray has recorded recent albums as part of Nate Wooley's Argonautica sextet, trumpeter Daniel Levine's trio Knuckleball (with Marc Hannaford) and a trio led by pianist Santiago Leibson (with Drew Gress). Of late, the drummer has played with Dave Liebman and Tony Malaby, along with touring Europe at the head of a trio with Speed and Gress. Gray's recent collaborators also include Gerald Cleaver, Uri Caine, Andrea Parkins, Satoko Fuji, Richard Bonnet, Daniel Guggenheim, Marc Ducret, Frank Gratkowski, Jacob Anderskov, Eve Risser and Susana Santos Silva.

o Oct. 1 - Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME   

o Oct. 2 - University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
o  Oct. 3 - University of Maine, Augusta, ME  
o Oct. 4 - SPACE, Portland, ME
o Oct. 5 - Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT 
o Oct. 6 - An die Musik, Baltimore, MD
o Oct. 7 - The October Revolution Festival, Philadelphia, PA
o Dec. 1 - Greenwich Music House, NYC 
o Dec. 4 - Korzo, Brooklyn, NY 
o Dec. 6 - SMAK, Ghent, BE
o Dec. 7 - Vortex, London, UK
o Dec. 8 - AMR, Geneva, Switzerland     
o Dec. 9 - Geneva Conservatory of Music, Geneva   o Dec. 10 -Villa Irniger, Zurich, Switzerland                    

Swedish-born and longtime Boston resident bassist and composer Bruno Raberg is releasing his tenth CD as a leader, Tailwind

Swedish-born and longtime Boston resident bassist and composer Bruno Raberg is releasing his tenth CD as a leader, Tailwind. The music consists of mainly original compositions by Raberg along with interpretations of the jazz repertoire. Raberg says, "It's been a dream of mine for a long time to be able to play with both Bruce and Adam. Bruce and I used to play with the Boston based large ensemble, Orange Then Blue, and it's been really great to reconnect with him. Adam is a new acquaintance and the way he completes the trio is just amazing." The music on Tailwind moves freely from hard swinging to the more lyrical and atmospheric, always with heart and soul. 

Tailwind - for me this is the feeling of being gently pushed ahead, having my intentions and dreams amplified by a collective effort, in this case making music together as a group. When playing with great musicians such as Bruce and Adam I get the sense of being lifted and carried along; the music flowing effortlessly, yet deeply.

The embryo of the opening track was written between classes while teaching at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. I recorded it on my phone, e-mailed it to myself, and it came through as Message XII. This song was very much written for this trio with Bruce and Adam and was, like most of the songs on this CD, premiered during the recording sessions.

I've had a melodic fragment stuck in my head for years not knowing where it came from until I recently heard Eric Dolphy's "Outward Bound" and the composition "245". My Song for Dolphy came out of that melodic fragment.

A Closer Look is a ballad that was written for Melissa, my future wife, back in 1985. Bruce and I were sharing an apartment at the time and we used to play this song in those early days.

Le Candide II (and Le Candide I - bonus track) are two quite different takes of the same composition. For take two Adam suggested that we start with an explosion and work our way from there. Le Candide is one of my very first compositions and was written during my first year at the New England Conservatory. Bruce and I used to play it with Orange Then Blue, which included George Schuller, Adam Kolker, Matt Darriau, among others. It was with the encouragement of Bruce that I got to record both this and "A Closer Look". The song has a very strong sense of forward motion as well.

Paris Window was also written in part between classes while teaching at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. Being engulfed in this highly creative environment helps me to live in the moment. It was finished at home where I have a picture that I took of my wife Melissa sitting in a window in Paris.

I often drive by a small plot of conservation land in Belmont, MA called Lone Tree Hill. On this particular day I started hearing music that would go with that title.

Swedish trombonist Eje Thelin first introduced me to Jimmy Van Heusen's, Here's That Rainy Day, when playing in his group. It has stayed with me and I much enjoy listening to all the different interpretations of the song. This is my arrangement and I choose to play the melody with Arco bass since that's the closest I can get to the human voice without actually singing. The into vamp ended up being the foundation for an original, Rainy Day Farewell, which is the closer of this program.

Bruno Råberg is an internationally renowned bass player and composer and a mainstay on the Boston music scene. Since coming to the US from his native Sweden he has created 10 recordings as a leader, has appeared on more than 30 as a sideman, and has performed with numerous world-class artists, including Donny McCaslin, Chris Cheek, Kenny Werner, George Garzone, Bob Moses, Mick Goodrick, Ben Monder, Bruce Barth, Jim Black, Matt Wilson, Ted Poor and Mike Mainieri. Tours have taken Råberg throughout Europe, Scandinavia, USA, Japan, India, Africa, and Central America, and to jazz festivals such as Pori, Umbria, Monterey, Nancy, Bologna, Graz, Stockholm, Boston, and Cape Town. As an educator, Råberg stands out. He is a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he teaches in the prestigious Berklee Global Jazz Institute's Masters Program, lead by the legendary Danilo Perez. He has traveled to Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Japan and Costa Rica as a clinician and performer for Berklee.

Jazz pianist and composer Bruce Barth has been sharing his music with listeners the world over for more than two decades. Deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, his music reflects both the depth and breadth of his life and musical experiences.Barth arrived on the New York jazz scene in 1988, and soon joined the great tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine; their musical collaboration spanned a decade. Barth has since been a member of the Terence Blanchard Quintet, touring extensively, recording six CDs and numerous movie soundtracks including Spike Lee's, "Malcolm X". He has toured and recorded with Nat Adderley, Steve Wilson, Terell Stafford, David Sanchez, and has performed with James Moody, Tony Bennett, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Branford Marsalis, Art Farmer, John Patitucci and the Mingus Big Band.

Drummer, composer, and educator Adam Cruz was born in New York City and has been a vital creative force on the international jazz scene for the last three decades. He leads his own group, and regularly works with artists such as Tom Harrell, The Mingus Big Band, Joey Calderazzo, Chris Potter, Steve Wilson and Edward Simon. Cruz currently teaches at CCNY and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. The drummer first emerged professionally in the early 1990's, performing and recording extensively with saxophonist David Sanchez and the Charles Mingus Big Band. He toured with pianist Chick Corea with whom he recorded "Origin - A Week at the Blue Note". Since 2000 Cruz has been an integral part of renowned pianist Danilo Perez's trio alongside bassist Ben Street.


Jazz Master Harold Mabern Swings Through an Extraordinary Life in Music During One Memorable Night On Stage at Smoke

While it was captured over the course a single night, there’s a rich lifetime’s worth of music packed into The Iron Man: Live at Smoke. If it’s a slight overstatement to say that the album represents an autobiography in song, that’s only because 82-year-old jazz master Harold Mabern tells his story in every note that he plays. That’s as true of the melodies he’s been interpreting for more then half a century – as many of the tunes on The Iron Man are – as it is of the always inspired music that flows spontaneously from the great pianist’s fingers.

The Iron Man, due out November 23 via Smoke Sessions Records, was recorded on the final night of a remarkable three-week residency, an annual holiday tradition at the renowned New York City club. Most of that 2017/18 run was dedicated to the music of John Coltrane and featured a host of invited guests to the bandstand. For this magical final performance, however, Mabern and his gifted, longstanding quartet – tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, bassist John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth – went it alone, vigorously swinging through well-loved tunes from throughout Mabern’s storied career.

The night kicks off with the rollicking funk of “A Few Miles from Memphis,” the title track from Mabern’s 1968 leader debut. The piece harkens back to Mabern’s vital role as a pioneer of soul jazz alongside collaborators like the great trumpeter Lee Morgan. More importantly, though, it transports the pianist back to his roots in Memphis, Tennessee, where he became entranced by the great jazz and blues innovator Phineas Newborn Jr. The city’s legendary blues traditions took hold of a generation of young musicians; Mabern graduated from Manassas High School, whose alumni also include Charles Lloyd and future Mabern collaborators Booker Little, Frank Strozier, and George Coleman.

Many of those Memphians would reconvene in Chicago in the mid-'50s, which is where Mabern honed his hard bop grooves accompanying such powerhouse tenor titans as Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Clifford Jordan. By the end of the decade he had found his way to New York City, where he would soon be an in-demand sideman for many of the most notable leaders of that generation – including Lionel Hampton, Donald Byrd, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Williams, and Hank Mobley.

Mabern’s tender reading of Benny Golson’s immortal “I Remember Clifford” here, in a trio setting, recalls one of his first important gigs upon arriving in the Big Apple. He spent 18 months with The Jazztet, replacing McCoy Tyner in the influential band co-led by Golson and Art Farmer. The blistering “I Know That You Know” flashes forward to 1965, when Mabern recorded the tune with another hard bop trailblazer, saxophonist Sonny Stitt.

Mabern’s surprising rearrangement of “I Get a Kick Out of You,” meanwhile, is revived from last year’s To Love and Be Loved, an album which reunited him with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb – who Mabern had first played with half a century earlier in Miles Davis’ band. Mabern’s stint with the iconic trumpeter was brief, but came at a crucial time as Davis was experimenting with the line-up that would finally congeal into his Second Great Quintet. Two earlier veterans of Davis’s storied band – John Coltrane and Paul Chambers -- receive a nod with Trane’s classic “Mr. P.C.”

Mabern forged a more lasting bond with Lee Morgan, recording the classic album The Gigolo for Blue Note in 1965 and continuing to play with the trumpet innovator until the night of his tragic death at Slug’s Saloon in 1972. In the meantime, Mabern started recording under his own name, releasing four well-regarded albums for Prestige between 1968-70 whose line-ups included such brilliant improvisers as Morgan, Blue Mitchell, George Coleman, Bill Lee, Hubert Laws, and Idris Muhammad.

On those outings Mabern helped define the fusion of soul and jazz, including contemporary hits like Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” – a penchant echoed on the Smoke bandstand with the quartet’s lovely take on the Michael Jackson ballad “She’s Out of My Life.” He followed a similar route with Stanley Turrentine when he worked with the soulful saxophonist on the early-'70s albums The Sugar Man and Don’t Mess With Mister T.

“Nightlife in Tokyo” is the Mabern-penned title tune from Eric Alexander’s 2002 album, which featured Mabern and Farnsworth along with bassist Ron Carter. It’s one of countless collaborations between the two since Mabern became the saxophonist’s mentor at William Paterson University, where the pianist has been a member of the faculty since 1981.

While he and Alexander have shifted from teacher and student to a partnership that is one of the most meaningful between any saxophonist and pianist in jazz, that’s just one testament to Mabern’s profound influence as an educator, a contribution to jazz on par with that made through his music. The list of Mabern students who have gone on to make their mark include Farnsworth, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey, drummers Bill Stewart, Mark Guiliana and Johnathan Blake, and saxophonist Roxy Coss.

The Iron Man draws to a rousing conclusion with another title tune, this one from Mabern’s 1968 sophomore release “Rakin’ and Scrapin’,” which featured George Coleman and trumpet great Blue Mitchell on the frontline. He rerecorded the piece with Lee Morgan on 1970’s Live at the Lighthouse, though the fact that he’s kept his ears wide open in the intervening decades is revealed by the clever quote of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” that crops up unexpectedly in his solo.

Whether you listen to these two sets as representing a single special evening or 82 memorable years, there’s ample evidence that Harold Mabern deserves to be known as The Iron Man – a powerhouse player, a formative mentor, a revered survivor.

"The Iron Man: Live at Smoke" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith,
recorded live at Smoke Jazz Club, NYC on January 7, 2018 and mastered to ½” analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.

Harold Mabern · The Iron Man: Live at Smoke
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: November 23, 2018



On “Camelot,” the beautiful, sensual new single from Sy Smith’s critically acclaimed new album ‘Sometimes A Rose Will Grow in Concrete,’ the “Queen of Underground Soul” takes us on a heavenly, throwback-quiet-storm type of journey; inviting us to dream and fantasize along with her about the perfect love, “all in my mind.” The track, the third single from the collection following “Now and Later” and “Perspective,” will be serviced to Urban AC radio on September 24. 

Singles released earlier this year, “Now and Later” and “Perspective” became a popular tracks on smooth jazz and Urban AC radio outlets, including rotation spots on Sirius XM’s Adult R&B hits station Heart & Soul and Music Choice’s R&B Soul channel. The official video Sy shot for “Now and Later” scored over 35,000 views on YouTube/Facebook. “Perspective” currently has over 64,000 streams on Spotify with the live video performance getting over 60,000 views on YouTube/Facebook. 

The multi-talented singer/songwriter and performer has done two rounds of touring since the album’s release in February, starting with late winter-early spring performances in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York. This summer, she did shows in Oakland, Boston, Montclair, NJ, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago. “Camelot” has received rousing ovations everywhere, with audiences connecting deeply with the perfect romance and hopeful “love will come and find you” scenario. Invariably, they have risen to their feet as the song draws to its dramatic crescendo, with Sy, voice and emotions rising, singing the title over and over. 

“Whether one associates the word with King Arthur, the Broadway musical or the Kennedy era in American history, we all know that ‘Camelot’ is not a real place but a realm of a fairy tale,” Sy says. “The same goes for the character in the song. She’s experiencing a relationship that only exists in her mind. Yet it’s very real to her and plays out beautifully as she envisions it. In real life, the man she is singing to and about has no idea…but as I sing, ‘it wants to take flight.’
“When I perform the song,” she adds, “I introduce it by telling the story so that when I start singing, people know that I’m describing a dream – and the floating feeling of the music truly reflects that. In modern terms, I compare Camelot to a fictitious place like Wakanda from ‘Black Panther,’ and people get a kick out of it. There’s definitely a line she’s walking between a full on fantasy and making it real, and I have fun exploring that. When I sing the ‘la la la’ part, it’s me sort of snapping her - and the audience - back to reality.”   

Sy will be headlining more dates in support of “Camelot” and ‘Sometimes a Rose Will Grow In Concrete’ starting on September 30 in Austin, TX. Her current schedule includes November dates in NYC (11/2) and Annapolis, MD (11/20), a week on the Capital Jazz SuperCruise in January (17-24) and February shows in Baltimore (2/8) and at Blues Alley in Washington, DC (2/9-10).
Sy’s previous albums include The Syberspace Social, named one of the Top Albums of 2005 by The Boston Globe); 2007’s Psykosoul Plus, featuring stellar production from A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and The Roots’ James Poyser; and 2008’s Conflict, which included the charting radio singles “Fly Away With Me” and “The Art of You.”

An internationally acclaimed vocalist, Sy has toured and/or recorded with many legendary artists and musical greats, including Whitney Houston, Meshell Ndegeocello, Macy Gray, Chaka Khan and Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti. Her longtime association with bandleader Rickey Minor includes six seasons as a vocalist on “American Idol.” A part of trumpeter Chris Botti’s ensemble on and off since 2007, Sy appears on his current Great Performances special on PBS. She is also featured on three tracks of legendary bandleader Pete Escovedo’s new album ‘Back To The Bay,’ and is prominently featured in the video for “Let’s Stay Together,” which has over 2 millions views on YouTube/Facebook combined.  

“Camelot (live performance)” Youtube link: 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bob Baldwin takes on the Beatles with his new tribute project and launches a record-breaking recording featuring 10 soloists on one track

As we enter into the fall of 2018, pianist and keyboardist Bob Baldwin has unleashed several projects this year in celebrating his 30th year as an artist, and 10/1/18 will mark his 10th year on the air with his NewUrbanJazz Radio Network, which begun with a humble five stations in the NPR Radio chain. The show continues to grow with over 45 terrestrial stations and a listening base of over 500,000 listeners. The show can be consumed with a NewUrbanJazz app via your smartphone, or you can listen in from your desktop computer at work. Archived weekly shows appear on Soundcloud.

In 1988, his debut release I’ve got A Long Way To Go on Malaco Jazz announced to the world that he would continue to be a mainstay in the Contemporary/Smooth Jazz format. He now has over 25 discs released as a solo artist, having recorded some of them on 5 continents, including the countries of Brazil, the U.K., Dubai, and South Africa. His recent acquisitions of product from Shanachie includes Cool Breeze and The American Spirit, both of which are owned by his label, City Sketches Records, which launched in 1997.

“I anticipate that there was going to be some seismic shifts in the music business, so I anticipated what those changes would be”, says the native Mt. Vernonite. “When iTunes came to the party in the mid 2000’s, the message was to own your material, and that’s what I’ve been striving for since 2000. A lot of my peers didn’t answer the call, and now, most of them are playing catch-up. People are stealing the music, downloading less and streaming more…and most labels aren’t sharing all the revenues…less than 15% of industry revenues trickle down to the artists, while the labels clean up. I’m happy to say that I’m both the artist and the label, which is a huge advantage”. That Nostradamus-like prediction has enabled Baldwin to flood the market with music in 2018 without label interference.

So what way to further celebrate 30 years in the music business? By releasing even more music. His soon to be released Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road the Beatles featuring House groove singer CeCe Peniston, Smooth saxman Euge Groove, Flutist Ragan Whiteside and Washington DC vocalist Lori Williams.  His creatively arranged arrangements of classic tracks by Lennon, McCartney and the rest of the Abbey Road gang has been on the back burner for several years, but Baldwin had to time it perfectly to record and release the project in 2018.

Additionally, Baldwin has been working on a track that has evolved in history measures. His project by The Groove Pact featuring Marion Meadows and himself, entitled “Club Life” features a record ten soloists on one single 4:16 track, with solo appearances by Walter Beasley, Joey Sommerville, Ragan Whiteside, Oli Silk, U-Nam, Nils, Tom Browne and the aforementioned Baldwin and Meadows. The project has some proceeds to benefit the How Big Is Your Dream Foundation, which encourages young students to learn about music through performance seminars, based in the Atlanta, GA market.

Three re-mix projects with some new material are already in the works, beginning with the most popular disc, “Never Can Say Goodbye a Tribute to Michael Jackson (Remixed and Re-Mastered)”. The out-of-print recording which now sells on Amazon starting at an eye-popping $55.00 will now be re-released to ward off all rogue record retailers, released as a normally-priced disc.

A Mount Vernon, New York native who has become a longtime resident of Atlanta, Baldwin debuted in 1988 with “I’ve Got A Long Way to Go” and his 25 albums – eight of which climbed into the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Top 20 – are jazz, R&B and gospel outings. Over the years, he’s worked as a producer, songwriter and performer alongside George Benson, Gerald Albright, Euge Groove, Will Downing, Phil Perry, Pieces of a Dream, Paul Taylor, Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Chuck Loeb. Since 2008, he has hosted the nationally syndicated radio program “The NewUrbanJazz Lounge,” which attracts nearly 500,000 listeners weekly. His City Sketches, Inc. is the umbrella entity that houses a production and event planning company, the radio network and NewUrbanJazz Hats. Baldwin is also the author of a book about the music industry, “You Better Ask Somebody / Staying On Top of Your Career in the ‘Friggin’ Music Business.”

He now has recorded some of them on 5 continents, including the countries of Brazil, the U.K., Dubai, and South Africa.


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