Friday, February 28, 2014


The 75th Anniversary of Blue Note Records, the most-respected and longest-running Jazz label in the world, is being commemorated throughout 2014 and beyond with a broad range of special releases and events. Blue Note is pleased to announce a new vinyl reissue series of 100 essential remastered Jazz albums spanning both the classic and modern eras of the label. The series will launch on March 25 with five iconic LPs: Art Blakey Free For All, John Coltrane Blue Train, Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch, Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil, and Larry Young Unity. On the same date, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles will launch Blue Note Records: The Finest In Jazz, a one-of-a-kind exhibit offering visitors an in-depth look at the legendary record label. On the evening of March 25, the museum will host a special public event, “An Evening With Blue Note Records,” featuring a Q&A with Blue Note Records President Don Was.

“any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.”
Blue Note Records was founded on January 6, 1939, when a German immigrant and passionate Jazz fan named Alfred Lion produced his first recording session in New York City. Blue Note has gone on to represent The Finest In Jazz, tracing the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Fusion, and into Jazz’s numerous modern day incarnations under the leadership of Bruce Lundvall, who revived Blue Note in 1984, and the label’s current President, Don Was, who took the helm in 2012.

On March 25, The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles will unveil Blue Note Records: The Finest In Jazz. Located in the Mike Curb Gallery on the Museum’s fourth floor, this one-of-a-kind exhibit will offer visitors an in-depth look at the legendary record label through music, album artwork, photographs, artifacts, interviews and more.

On the evening of March 25, the museum will launch the exhibit with a special public event, “An Evening With Blue Note Records,” a Q&A with Blue Note President Don Was, hosted by the museum’s executive director, Bob Santelli, and the curator of the exhibit, Nwaka Onwusa, in the museum’s Clive Davis Theater. Tickets for the event are available for purchase on the GRAMMY Museum website:

Blue Note will commence an extensive 100-album vinyl reissue initiative on March 25 with the release of five classic titles (Art Blakey Free For All, John Coltrane Blue Train, Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch, Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil, and Larry Young Unity). The vinyl releases are set to continue monthly and will also include modern classics from Blue Note’s recent catalog such as Joe Lovano Quartets: Live At The Village Vanguard, Jason Moran Soundtrack To Human Motion, Terence Blanchard Flow, Medeski Martin & Wood Combustication, and Cassandra Wilson Traveling Miles. Click here for the full list of vinyl releases.

Blue Note President Don Was says, “Two years ago, we began remastering the jewels of the Blue Note catalog in hi-def resolutions of 96k and 192k. In order to develop a guiding artistic philosophy for this delicate endeavor, we donned our lab coats, ran dozens of sonic experiments and carefully referenced every generation of our reissues. Ultimately, we decided that our goal would be to protect the original intentions of the artists, producers and engineers who made these records and that, in the case of pre-digital-era albums, these intentions were best represented by the sound and feel of their first-edition vinyl releases. Working with a team of dedicated and groovy engineers, we found a sound that both captured the feel of the original records while maintaining the depth and transparency of the master tapes... the new remasters are really cool!

“While these new versions will become available in digital hi-def, CD and Mastered for iTunes formats, the allure of vinyl records is WAY too potent to ignore. This year, Blue Note - along with our friends at Universal Music Enterprises - is launching a major 75th Anniversary vinyl Initiative that is dedicated to the proposition that our catalog should be readily available at a low cost, featuring high quality pressings and authentic reproductions of Blue Note’s iconic packaging. Although this program begins in celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, our catalog runs so deep that we will faithfully be reissuing five albums a month for many years to come!”

On March 11, Blue Note/UMe will release a new 2CD collection of 22 stellar tracks spanning the label’s history, Best of Blue Note ICON, including Sidney Bechet Quintet/“Summertime,” Thelonious Monk/“’Round About Midnight,” John Coltrane/“Blue Train,” Sonny Clark/“Cool Struttin’,” Lee Morgan/“Sidewinder,” Wayne Shorter/“Speak No Evil,” Norah Jones/“Cold Cold Heart,” and more.

For Record Store Day in April, Blue Note will also reissue the label’s first two releases as limited edition 12” vinyl: Meade “Lux” Lewis “Melancholy”/”Solitude” (BN1) and Albert Ammons “Boogie Woogie Stomp”/”Boogie Woogie Blues” (BN2). Other catalog releases, including a 75-track digital bundle spanning Blue Note’s entire history, will be announced shortly.

Blue Note continues to maintain an incomparable roster of current talent, and 2014 brings new releases from Takuya Kuroda (Rising Son, February 18), Ambrose Akinmusire (the imagined savior is far easier to paint, March 11), Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band (Landmarks, April 29), as well as artists beyond Jazz such as Rosanne Cash (The River & The Thread, January 14) and Benmont Tench (You Should Be So Lucky, February 18). Additional new releases will soon be announced from Jason Moran, José James, Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas Soundprints Quintet, and two Blue Note legends: Bobby Hutcherson in a quartet with David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart, and Wayne Shorter whose return to Blue Note, Without A Net, figured prominently in several Best of 2013 lists.

May 11 – Jason Moran, who also serves as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC will present Blue Note At 75, The Concert. As the culminating event of a celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Blue Note Records, artists from the label’s present and past roster perform including Moran, Norah Jones, Wayne Shorter, and surprise special guests. Additional live events will be announced throughout the year.

Blue Note’s former President and current Chairman Emeritus Bruce Lundvall — who re-launched Blue Note in 1984 and presided over the label’s flourishing for over 25 years — recently released his biography Playing By Ear (written with author Dan Ouellette) through ArtistShare.

Blue Note has proved itself to be an innovator not only musically but also technologically, most notably with the 2012 release of our much-heralded Blue Note Spotify App which created a space within the popular streaming service to explore and discover music spanning the entire history of the label, as well as the Blue Note by Groovebug App which is available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users. Now Blue Note has introduced a fun Facebook App that allows fans to insert their own face into classic Blue Note covers. Choose between six cover artwork designs by influential designer Reid Miles and see how you would look on the cover of your own Blue Note record!

It took the joining of many natural forces to create and define one of the greatest Jazz labels there has ever been: Jazz-loving German immigrants on the run from Nazism (Alfred Lion & Francis Wolff), a New Jersey optometrist moonlighting as a recording engineer (Rudy Van Gelder), a classical music-loving commercial designer (Reid Miles), and slews of the most incredible musicians that have ever walked the earth (too many to name them all here). The elements that each brought to the table — impeccable A&R instincts, elegant and insightful photography, sterling sound quality, strikingly original cover artwork, and consistently transcendent music—were all essential to the label’s early success. Together they created a vivid Blue Note identity. The whole could not have existed without each of the parts.

Blue Note’s legendary catalog traces the entire history of the music from Hot Jazz, Boogie Woogie, and Swing, through Bebop, Hard Bop, Post Bop, Soul Jazz, Avant-Garde, Fusion, and on. The label’s stars from the early years form a true Who’s Who: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Grant Green, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Donald Byrd, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman.

After a brief dormancy from 1981-1984 during which producer/historian Michael Cuscuna kept the label’s legacy alive with a series of reissues on EMI, Blue Note returned reinvigorated by the leadership of Bruce Lundvall and has since established itself as the most respected Jazz label in the world. Blue Note is still home to some of the most prominent stars and cutting-edge innovators in Jazz today, and at the same time has broadened its horizons to include quality music in many genres.

Under Lundvall’s stewardship, Blue Note had its share of commercial successes from Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Us3, Medeski Martin & Wood, Norah Jones, Al Green, Anita Baker, Amos Lee, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis. The label also remained a haven for the most creative voices in Jazz including Ambrose Akinmusire, Patricia Barber, Brian Blade, Terence Blanchard, Don Byron, Kurt Elling, Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris, Charlie Hunter, Lionel Loueke, Joe Lovano, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Scofield, Jacky Terrasson, Chucho Valdes, and many more.

In 2011, veteran record producer and musician Don Was joined Blue Note as Chief Creative Officer and soon became President of the label with Lundvall continuing to provide guidance as Chairman Emeritus. With Was at the helm, Blue Note has renewed its dedication to Lion’s original vision that “any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.” In the 21st century Lion’s words still ring true and provide a blueprint that includes Robert Glasper Experiment’s visionary melding of Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hop and Elvis Costello’s funky collaboration with The Roots, as well as bringing the legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter back to the label where he made his early classic albums, and continuing to sign singular voices in Jazz such as saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and vocalist Gregory Porter. Blue Note Records is one of the flagship labels of the Capitol Music Group.

~ Blue Note



For her new album Heart of Memphis Robin McKelle immersed herself in the spirit of Memphis. The City is like a place of pilgrimage for any soul, blues, or rhythm and blues fan. Despite the time that has gone by and the museums being built in place of the legendary recording studios, the spirit of the city that, in its heyday, represented one of the best eras of American popular music has not disappeared. “I wanted to capture the Memphis sound in the recording process and the goal was to write the music and arrangements with that sound in mind.” says Robin McKelle.  Except of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Forgetting you”, Robin McKelle wrote eleven of the thirteen titles of Heart Of Memphis. “I really love writing,” she says. “It’s important to continue to create new sounds and push ourselves into unknown places. That’s what artists are put on this earth for, taking risks and chances. Memphis soul is different from the Motown sound because has more raw emotion and being in the south it’s also influenced by country music. It’s more ‘in your face’ than the Motown. I have a natural gritty sound or rasp in my voice so this sound suits me well.”  Together with her loyal Flytones and helped by her bass player and musical partner Derek Nievergelt, Robin McKelle created amazing and authentic soul music songs. ~ Okeh Records


The title's a bit obtuse, but it also really gets at the vibe of the record, too – a great progression of individualistic jazz – inspired by previous generations, but voiced in a really fresh way by this combo led by drummer Donald Edwards! The approach is more open and varied than usual for a session on the Criss Cross label – from the initial spiritual passage of "American Drum Call To Mama", to David Gilmore's guitar atmospherics on "Niecee", to the richness of the album's original compositions. Gilmore's sense of color and phrasing really balance wonderfully with the tenor of Walter Smith – and Orrin Evans' piano is at its most melodically complex as well. The record opens up in so many ways, but still also finds plenty of room to swing, too – on titles that include "The Dream", "Dock's House", "The Essential Passion", "Nightmare Of Fun", and "Culmination For Now". ~ Dusty Groove


Sparkling piano from Bruce Barth – set up nicely in a group that also features Steve Nelson on vibes and Terell Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn! Both players bring in some darker edges that round out the sound nicely – mixing with Barth's lyrical lines on keys, which dance magically to rhythmic accompaniment from Vincente Archer on bass and Montez Coleman on drums. Nelson's especially expressive here – and although he drops out for three of the album's ten tracks, he still really helps shape the overall vibe of the record. Titles include "Vamonos", "Moon Shadows", "Brasilia", "Daybreak", "Triste", "Tuesday's Blues", and "In The Still Of The Night". ~ Dusty Groove


Chart-topping musician, producer, songwriter, wine and jazz festival founder and artistic director Brian Culbertson can add vintner to his burgeoning resume. The recording artist behind 26 No. 1 hits and the star-studded Napa Valley Jazz Getaway is now pouring his new custom-crafted wine, “Culbertson” Pinot Noir by Reata Wines, which he personally blended with Jamieson Ranch Vineyards’ winemaker Nori Nakamura.  

Adorned with his name and signature piano keys on the label, Culbertson describes the wine that is available at Jamieson Ranch, on their website and at all the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway events this June as “a light, smooth and vibrant wine that will pair extremely well with lots of different types of food. This was the second time that I’ve blended a wine, but only the first to be released. Working with Nori from Jamieson Ranch Vineyards was very reassuring since he is such a seasoned winemaker. It was a lot of fun and I hope to continue this new ‘Culbertson’ label for years to come.”

“Culbertson” Pinot Noir will be flowing freely tonight at Jamieson Ranch at an exclusive tasting and performance by Culbertson to be attended by Napa Valley VIPs to launch the wine conceived as part of the long-term partnership between the winemaker and Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway that will take place for the third time June 11-15, 2014. The stellar marquee for this year’s Getaway boasts performances by Culbertson along with contemporary jazz, R&B and funk giants Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Ohio Players, Morris Day & The Time, Earl Klugh, Eric Benét, Mavis Staples, Average White Band, comedian Keenen Ivory Wayans and many more. Jamieson Ranch will host thousands of passionate wine and jazz aficionados that travel from all over the world for the festival when the June 14 & 15 concerts take place outdoors on their sprawling grounds.

“Working with Brian Culbertson and Napa Valley Jazz Getaway helps fulfill one cornerstone of the core vision of the Jamieson Ranch experience: to bring light into people's lives through music, art and film. Brian's music truly fills one's soul with light!” said Jamieson Ranch Vineyards President Bill Leigon.

Nakamura elaborated, “A few months back, we had the opportunity to host celebrated jazz musician and Napa Valley Jazz Getaway founder Brian Culbertson for a private blending session. I provided him with Pinot lots from different vineyards featuring various clones, and assisted him as he custom-crafted his own wine. The result is a beautiful 2012 Reata ‘Culbertson’ Pinot Noir, sourced from select Sonoma Coast vineyards. It was interesting to participate in this process with a musician, who approached the blending process much as I do as a winemaker: seeking harmony and balance with the selection of different ‘notes’ -blending components, in this case.”

“Culbertson” Pinot Noir is available by bottle, case and packaged with an autographed copy of Culbertson’s new CD, “Another Long Night Out,” and a pair of Riedel wine glasses decorated with the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway logo. To purchase the wine or for more information, please visit, or  


Forget what you think you know about Michael Lington. Now that he’s gone mainstream with his career and consciousness shifting new album Soul Appeal, he’s full steam ahead like no one’s ever heard him before, blazing a fresh, innovative road for himself with a freewheeling immersion into the heart of the 60’s and 70’s Memphis Soul vibe. From his 1997 self-titled breakthrough album through 2012’s star-studded Pure, the charismatic saxophonist has wowed and surprised his fans before. But he’s never had more fun, played more loose, solo’d more intensely or improvised this expansively.

All of the beloved saxophonist’s seven previous acclaimed albums, countless hit radio singles and hundreds of awe inspiring live performances over the past 15 years are now simply prelude to the fresh energy and live in the studio excitement he created at Los Angeles’ legendary Sunset Sound with veteran R&B/pop producer Barry Eastmond (Anita Baker, George Benson, Billy Ocean, Yolanda Adams), Engineer Ray Bardani (Luther Vandross, Beyonce, David Sanborn) and a handpicked group of his favorite musicians. These include a core pocket of Freddie Washington (bass) and Teddy Campbell (drums), organist Shedrick Mitchell, guitarists Paul Jackson, Jr., Ray Parker, Jr., Phil Hamilton and percussionist Lenny Castro. Eastmond contributes to the retro sound with Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and piano.

Soul Appeal features nine vibrant, hip and contemporary yet drenched-in-retro-cool originals (all co-written with Eastmond) and imaginative re-workings of the King Curtis classics “In The Pocket” and a blazing, horn section infused “Memphis Soul Stew.” The latter includes a playful rap by Campbell that approximates the way Curtis introduced each instrument into the mix on the original recording. Soul Appeal also includes two fresh vocal ballads with renowned Grammy nominated vocalists that take everyone back to the days when Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett reigned: “Gonna Love You Tonight” (featuring Kenny Lattimore) and “Leave Me You” (co-written and sung by Ryan Shaw).

The Eastmond/Lington instrumentals on Soul Appeal begin with the jamming and funky, classic Stax-flavored opening title track, whose swirl of vibrant sax melody, brooding organ and sizzling brass sets the stage for what Lington proudly calls “a different kind of ride.” He calls the infectious and bluesy, easy rolling “Taking Off” “the centerpiece of what we were trying to achieve, the twang of the Memphis vibe,” while as its title promises, “Uptown Groove” finds Lington soaring over organ and Rhodes in a brass fired landscape James Brown could groove in.

The silky and romantic “Manhattan Nights” blends Lington’s torchy sax lead with a weepy lead guitar line and solo by Phil Hamilton that’s reminiscent of the great Steve Cropper’s work. After another emotional and bluesy ballad, “Going Home,” Lington and company swing back up for the jaunty funk-shuffle “Double Down.” Soul Appeal wraps in a gorgeous stripped down, heart on the sleeve place, with the beautiful Eastmond-Lington piano-sax duet “Follow Your Heart.” This was recorded almost as a bonus track after the sessions wrapped and everyone else had gone home.

Many instrumental contemporary jazz artists tout their latest recording as “different” or “something unique” when it’s more or less a variation on their trademark thing. In the case of
Soul Appeal, Lington will let two legendary musical voices verify the reality that these sessions don’t just rattle that cage but joyfully transcend it. Lenny Castro, whose thousands of recording credits include Sanborn, The Jacksons, Eric Clapton, George Benson and Elton John, thanked the saxman after the sessions with the words, “My soul is so musically satisfied.”

The other legend paying Lington the ultimate compliment was Steve Perry of Journey, a friend of Eastmond who came to the studio to check out the first session and kept returning because he was so inspired by the recording as it unfolded. He became friends with Lington and regaled the musicians on their lunch breaks, singing Sam Cooke tunes. At one point Perry told the saxophonist, “Thanks for letting me hang out, You helped me get back my emotional compass.”

That’s the perfect term to describe the way Lington’s musical life was changed as a teenager, when his interest in the soul-influenced contemporary jazz by David Sanborn and Grover Washington, Jr. led him down a delightful rabbit hole of discovery into the heart of American soul music. He loved it all, from Jr. Walker and King Curtis to Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett. Up till that time, he was a straight arrow classical clarinet player playing in the Tivoli Boys Guard, a miniature queens guard and marching band comprised of kids 8-16.

“This was the music that made me want to play the sax, all of that American R&B and instrumental funk becoming part of my soul in my mid-teens,” he says. “I’m not trying to discount any of my other records because I like them all, but my approach here was fresh and very different than anything I had done before. When you enter a space like this, where you’re by design tracking with a live band for the first time instead of building tracks layer by layer, you don’t know what’s going to happen. What made this so magical was that I was there in the trenches with the band for the entire process, working out arrangements and parts as we went along. I wanted to just completely let go and let it flow all the way – which opened me up and liberated me as a player. The result might not be perfect in the conventional sense, but it’s not supposed to be. This record is all about feel and vibe.”

Lington, who became a U.S. citizen in 2008, has performed numerous times for the Danish royal family, including the wedding reception of Crown Prince Frederik, the country’s future king. In addition, the saxophonist have done extended stints as a special guest with many other musical superstars, including Barry Manilow, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford and Michael Bolton. On Bolton’s tour, he played more than 300 shows in over 50 countries. One of its many highlights was performing in London’s famed Royal Albert Hall and also performing and meeting former President Bill Clinton at a special show at the Kuwait embassy.

Lington also manages his own cigar company, Michael Lington Cigars (, and he recently launched Lington Wines (, his own boutique line of red and white wines out of Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. 


Libby York, like the very best of interpretive singers, has the gift of transforming a song into a personal anthem. On her new album, Memoir  (March 24, 2014, Libby York Music), she probes the lyrical content of a work to uncover inner connections to her own experience and state of being, finding individual relevance in a wide swath of standards she first heard on her parents' '78's from iconic composers including Cole Porter and George Gershwin to present day songsmith Donald Fagen. Her "memoir " may be fashioned from the pens of others, but the expressive fervor and creative brio is York's alone.

Applying this uncanny ability to bond with a song to celebrated vocal skills highlighted by a honeyed tone, light-as-a cloud swing and insightful phrasing, York delivers a masterwork that renews the life of familiar classics ("Thanks for the Memory," "Slow Boat To China," "I Was Doing Alright" and "How Long Has This Been Going On" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," among them) and alerts us to lesser known gems ("My Little Boat," "Put It There, Pal," "When In Rome" and Fagen's "Walk Between the Raindrops"). What Memoir may best display is the intimacy that can be palpably felt when a singer becomes one with a song. "You have to believe the lyric, " York states, "You have to be present in the story of the song."

While York's vocal skills are emphatically the main event, Memoir takes a page from the celebrated late period projects of Rosemary Clooney by placing York at the helm of a tight small jazz band stocked with A-list players. With cornetist Warren Vache (an integral Clooney collaborator, also featured on York's 2008 album, Here with You), pianist John DiMartino, guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Greg Sergo, York is among guaranteed purveyors of swing, musicians who virtually read her mind as she artfully navigates a tune. "I think of myself as a member of the band," Yorks says," I love listening to them play; the caliber of their musicianship is staggering."

York's further respect for her collaborators is evident in the spacious solo statements and featured roles that she offers. Vache's full-throated yet eminently lyrical horn lines enliven the majority of the songs, while DiMartino consistently cloaks York's vocals in just-right chords like a musical second shadow. Wind and Sergo meld, as the most buoyant of rhythm teams must; featured on three tracks, Malone (who wisely suggested "When In Rome" to York) offers the tasty guitar work that York fans, familiar with Malone's fine playing on Here with You, have come to expect of his contributions.

For sheer mirth though, nothing tops the vocal duets between York and Vache on "Put It There, Pal," the old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby zing fest, and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," the witty display of verbal disparity by the brothers Gershwin. York says "Put It There, Pal," on which she and Vache toss some good-natured low blows at each other, as "the most fun I've ever had in a recording studio" and you believe her. Performances such as these remind us that a sense of humor - along with the complimentary ability to infuse a lyric with cheer and to never oversell a witticism -- is among the most highly prized of gifts that a superior vocalist can possess.

Memoir also refers to York's wistful, but emphatically non-nostalgic, reflections on the music she grew up with, songs that she has now artfully rejuvenated. Although York has been performing jazz since 1980, her recording career did not come about overnight. She left Chicago in the early 70s to major in political science at American University in Washington, DC and opened a restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in 1974. She spent most of the 80s and early 90s in New York where she was coached by, among others, Abbey Lincoln, who "taught me about the truth and soul of a song," and collaborated with pianist Renee Rosnes.  She currently spends her time in Chicago, New York, Paris and Key West.

1998 saw the release of York's debut album, Blue Gardenia, followed, in 2004, by her breakthrough recording, Sunday in New York, which featured Renee Rosnes on piano and Count Basie alumni Frank Wess on tenor sax.  The album received an abundance of rave reviews including 4 stars in DownBeat magazine. York's third CD, 2008's Here With You -- with Russell Malone, Howard Alden, Warren Vache, Jon Burr and Vanderlei Pereira -- earned further acclaim, including praise from New York Times critic Nate Chinen who wrote: "Ms. York is a jazz singer of cool composure and artful subtlety, as she demonstrates on her fine new album, Here With You.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


In the course of his prolific career as a jazz journalist, writing for the Los Angeles Times, the Newark Star-Ledger, and Down Beat magazine, among many other publications, Zan Stewart established himself as one of the best in the business. He won a prestigious ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for his notes to an Eric Dolphy boxed set, and kept up a busy pace over a span of 35 years profiling major jazz musicians and annotating over two hundred albums.

On the side, however, Stewart pursued his own musical muse, playing tenor saxophone in jam session situations and as the leader of his own groups. By 2011 he had relocated from New Jersey to the Bay Area with the intention of becoming a full-time jazz musician. The release on March 25 of his first CD, "The Street Is Making Music," is the culmination of that goal, and it happens to coincide with Stewart’s 70th birthday.

“I had done my part as a jazz advocate, and I really didn’t want to write about other people anymore,” explains Stewart, who is now based in Richmond, near Berkeley. “So I decided to leave journalism, which can be so demanding. You can’t really think about anything else while you’re doing that. I enjoyed it, but after a while I just wanted to find out who I was as a musician.”

Featuring Stewart with his working band of pianist Keith Saunders, bassist Adam Gay, and drummer Ron Marabuto, the album contains uncompromising performances of three popular standards, one tune by Bud Powell, two by Charlie Parker, and five of Stewart’s own, including two different takes of his “Gals ’Round the ’Hood.” The whimsical CD title comes courtesy of a young former neighbor of Stewart’s in West Orange, New Jersey, for whom Zan’s practice sessions sounded like “the street is making music.”

Stewart’s impressive “Daddy’s Blue Song,” “Zansky,” and “Mobes’ Symphony”—in honor of his Boxer, namesake of his Mobo Dog label—take their place alongside “Love Letters,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” and Charlie Parker’s “Laird Baird” on the new disc. “I feel very grateful to be able to put tunes together that I like and other people like as well,” the saxophonist says of his compelling originals. “It’s a gift I didn’t really know I had until the last few years.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Alexander “Zan” Stewart studied classical clarinet between the ages of 6 and 10 with Ola Ebinger, who had once been Eric Dolphy’s teacher. Stewart took up alto saxophone after seeing Count Basie’s orchestra in 1960 and switched to tenor six years later while hanging out with musicians like Mike Morris, Steve Wolfe, and Tom Harrell in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.

In 1975, a year after graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Film Studies, he began writing about jazz for the Santa Barbara News & Review and moved to the L.A. Weekly four years later. His work at the Weekly attracted the attention of veteran Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather, who persuaded the paper to employ his talents in 1980.

After two decades at the Times, Stewart moved East to work as the staff jazz writer at the Newark Star-Ledger. He continued to play his horn, participating in jam sessions and leading his own groups in New Jersey and occasionally in New York City, including two appearances at Smalls Jazz Club. He also studied formally with altoist Jim Snidero and informally with trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and saxophonist Grant Stewart. In 2010, he decided to devote his energies to music rather than writing, and planned his move back to his native California.

The saxophonist, jazz critic Andrew Gilbert wrote on the Berkeleyside web site, “possesses a fat, rounded tone that owes more to Don Byas and Coleman Hawkins than latter day tenor icons like John Coltrane and Michael Brecker.” Stewart himself cites Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, Hank Mobley, Clifford Jordan, Noel Jewkes, Yusef Lateef, Harold Land, David “Fathead” Newman, and early Coltrane as primary influences.

With "The Street Is Making Music," Zan Stewart offers a document of his improbable and inspiring musical journey to date. “It is indeed gratifying to have finally fulfilled a longtime dream by recording this album, and revealing who I am as a musician,” he says. “And I am very excited to discover where this action leads and what comes next.”



Mindi Abair is one of the most dynamic performers on the music scene today.  In addition to her acclaimed solo work, she was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. More recently, Abair received a 2014 GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, four of the most pre-eminent saxophonists in contemporary music.  

In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Abair has made her mark on a broad stretch of the musical landscape that includes jazz, pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk and more. The powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist has made scores of friends along the way and earned the respect of top-shelf artists representing every one of the aforementioned genres.

Several of those friends join her on Wild Heart, her new album that includes guest performances by – and songwriting collaborations with – Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, Trombone Shorty, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and others. Produced by Abair and the illustrious Los Angeles production trio The Decoders (Adam Berg, Itai Shapira and Todd Simon), Wild Heart is set for release on May 27, 2014, on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group.

“I’ve had all these friends in rock ’n’ roll and pop for so many years. I’ve been a part of their music and careers, but I never quite knew how they could fit into my career.” Abair says. “I’ve worked hard to write songs that had more of an organic spirit about them – a little more rock and roll, a little more soul, and a lot more abandon.”

By enlisting colleagues in rock and pop circles in the making of Wild Heart, Abair has created something that stretches her beyond the contemporary instrumental groove that has characterized some of her earlier recordings.

Wild Heart is all that and more. The 11-song set opens with the upbeat “Amazing Game,” a track co-written by Abair and GRAMMY®-winning songwriter Jim Peterik, a pop/rock veteran who penned the Ides of March hit single “Vehicle” in 1970, and later Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” in 1982. “Amazing Game” also features swaggering horn lines courtesy of Trombone Shorty, the New Orleans native whose past alliances have included Lenny Kravitz and Aerosmith.

“Amazing Game” is the first of two songs on which Peterik and Abair share writing credits. The second is “Train,” a thumping track that showcases Abair’s powerful vocals alongside her solid saxophone work. “Jim and I have written so many songs together and I’ve recorded with The Ides of March and on his records. It’s an honor to put our songs on my record for the first time. We had such a blast writing them.”

The scorching instrumental “Kick Ass” features rock icon Joe Perry, guitarist and co-founder of Aerosmith. “I wrote this song with my friend Matthew Hager, and while we were demoing it I was fresh off the Aerosmith tour and picturing Joe Perry rocking the guitar part while walking down the runway towards 50,000 fans with the wind in his hair. I had to call him to see if he would play on it.” Perry heard the song and joined Mindi in the studio the next week to record it. “What a high to play back and forth in the studio with one of my favorite guitarists of all time. When Matthew heard it, he just about fell off his chair!”

“I’ll Be Your Home” is a swampy ballad that features Keb’ Mo’ in a vocal duet with Abair (Keb’ also plays guitar and tambourine on the track). Abair says, “Keb’ and I have been playing on each others records for many years. We started playing together in LA clubs when maybe eight people would come to see us. We were nobody at the time. So it’s been fun to watch his career take off in the years since and be a part of each other’s lives and music. He’s one of my favorite human beings and musicians, and he adds a lot of home to this song.”

“The Shakedown,” a throwback to the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll when the saxophone was an integral part of the sound, features guitarist and co-writer Waddy Wachtel, along with drummer Max Weinberg, the anchor of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band for nearly four decades. Abair established a connection with Weinberg shortly after the death of E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons in 2011. A few tour dates with Weinberg – including a benefit concert that included an appearance by Springsteen – played a huge role in the genesis of Wild Heart. “Max means every note he plays,” says Abair. “Playing Clarence Clemons’ parts with him and Bruce made me delve deeper inside myself – just go for broke and let everything out. I wanted that abandon for my record.”

The understated and slinky “Addicted to You” features keyboardist Booker T. Jones, leader of the highly influential Booker T. and the MGs, the de facto house band for the Stax label during their heyday in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. “Booker is such a hero of mine,” says Abair. “Here’s a guy who really invented a sound and changed the world. I wanted the chance to write with him – I just knew we could create magic. I knew we would write something meaningful, and this song absolutely haunts me.”

The set closes with “Just Say When,” a heartfelt ballad that harkens back to keyboardist and co-author Gregg Allman’s roots with the Allman Brothers. “It was actually Gregg’s idea to write something together,” says Abair. “I went to his house for three days to write with him, and we bonded so much and delved deep to come up with this song. I played with him last year and felt this electricity singing and playing with him. He’s all heart and vibe. What a gift to have him write, play and sing on this record.”

Wild Heart is, in many respects, Abair’s culmination of many years of collaborating in the studio and/or onstage with some of the most prominent figures in contemporary popular music. “People look at me a bit funny when they see the extreme diversity of artists I’ve toured or recorded with – Teena Marie, Aerosmith, Duran Duran, Lee Ritenour, Keb’ Mo’ and The Backstreet Boys. I always went with my heart, and it’s been quite an adventure musically. No title accurately described the music from this record to me, so I decided to title it after myself, a Wild Heart that’s had a great time letting go and letting this record take shape organically with people I love. I hope people have as much fun listening as I’ve had making this music.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Global superstar George Michael will release his first album in seven years when Symphonica, arrives in stores March 18th on Island Records in the U.S. The album, produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, and George Michael, was recorded during the wildly successful 2011-12 'Symphonica' tour of the UK and Europe.  The first single released to support the album will be the dramatic ballad "Let Her Down Easy."

A studio version of "Let Her Down Easy" is the subject of a provocative new video directed by Vaughan Arnell, one of the UK's most innovative music video directors. To view the "Let Her Down Easy" video, go to:

The universally acclaimed 'Symphonica' tour found George performing a selection of songs from a remarkable career which has spanned over 30 years, as well as covering some of his favorite songs.  Such beloved signatures as "A Different Corner," "Praying For Time" and "One More Try" blossom in their concert setting, alongside such intriguing gems as "John And Elvis Are Dead" and the gorgeous "Through."  George breathes new life into the swing era standard "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and the Oscar-nominated "Wild Is The Wind," popularized by a host of artists from Johnny Mathis to David Bowie.

The 'Symphonica' tour made history in September 2012 when George became the first contemporary pop artist to play the prestigious Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris.  A television special documenting that historic concert performance will air worldwide.  It will be seen in the U.S. on Sunday, April 13th on AXS TV at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT).

During a career which began in 1959, 14-time Grammy Award®-winner Phil Ramone produced legendary artists including Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Stevie Wonder, among many others.  Ramone and George Michael enjoyed a magical working relationship, prior to Symphonica they worked on George's 1999 album, Songs From The Last Century.  Symphonica was the final work of Phil Ramone, who died in March 2013, at age 79.

George Michael has been a pop music superstar for over 30 years.  He has sold over 115 million records from the earliest days of the much-loved Wham! in the 1980s, through a solo career which has transformed him from teen idol to icon, via a succession of superlative albums and groundbreaking tours.  After his 1987 debut solo album Faith sold over 25 million copies, George went on to craft a substantial body of work.  Along the way, he has worked with such greats as Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce.

1. Through (Live)
2. My Baby Just Cares For Me (Live)
3. A Different Corner (Live)
4. Praying For Time (Live)
5. Let Her Down Easy (Live)
6. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Live)
7. Feeling Good (Live)
8. John and Elvis Are Dead (Live)
9.  One More Try (Live)
10. Cowboys and Angels (Live)
11. Idol (Live)
12. Brother Can You Spare a Dime (Live)
13. Wild is the Wind (Live)
14. You've Changed (Live)
15. I Remember You (Live) - digital pre-order bonus track


Debut album, “Longing,” from the vocalist who found refuge in song after running from Communism and a heartbreaking marriage, will be released March 25.

As a child, Anna Danes escaped Communist Poland and as an adult, she found the strength to move on from an unhappy marriage. Both times, she found solace by singing. Love songs in particular soothed her dampened spirit while she idyllically longed for freedom and romance. Lacking support and encouragement for her artistic pursuits, Danes, armed with the Great American Songbook, found empowerment in a San Diego-area recording studio where she worked with producer Larry B. White, three-time Grammy-winning engineer-mixer Steve Churchyard and an ensemble of noted session players to record “Longing,” her debut album that will be released March 25 on DLG Recordings.

In the late 1970s, Danes fled Poland with her parents. After being turned away by Sweden, they immigrated to Ottawa, Canada where the young girl suddenly forced to learn English felt alone and isolated. She sang in a Polish church and it brought a sense of comfort and belonging. Flash forward: after giving up a successful law practice to move to California to be with her future husband, Danes found herself in a marriage that had lost its shine and stifled her creative endeavors. As her self-confidence began to wane, she rediscovered singing and started to come alive. The recording project was liberating and a life-altering experience, but in order to fully embrace the freedom she found in song, she had to dissolve the relationship for good. Perhaps the most emotionally-charged performance on “Longing” appears on the disc’s closing number, “I Wish You Love.” While recording the poignant farewell, tears streamed down Danes’ face as she sang, symbolically saying goodbye while wishing her now ex-husband love.

“Recording the album was monumental for my re-birth. I was so lost, living in a lonely marriage where ‘something was missing,’ but I am back now thanks to the music. Singing revived me and brought hope back into my heart,” said Danes, whose classic vocal timbre possesses warmth, fullness, familiarity and charm delivered in an easy manner with conversational phrasing. “I chose each and every song (for the album) that fit my style and voice, but subconsciously they show that I was missing love. I was ‘lost and lonely’ like (Antonio Carlos) Jobim says in ‘Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars Corcovado,’ which I recorded for the album.”

“Longing” showcases Danes in lush acoustic vocal jazz settings surrounded by White’s piano, upright bass (Bob Magnusson and Rob Thorsen), horns (John Rekevics and Scott Hecker), guitar (Mark Chosak), drums (Kevin Koch), percussion (Monette Marino) and the Heart Strings Quartet.  White freshly arranged ten standards including Jobim’s “Meditation,” Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me,” Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You” and more modern material such as George Harrison’s “Something” and Charles Fox & Norman Gimbel’s “Killing Me Softly.” The session includes a pair of originals, “Sweet Valentine” and “The Sun Won’t Shine Today,” composed by White with lyrics by Margaret White. 

With the sad days behind her, a radiant Danes appears glowingly on the cover of “Longing” gazing out at sea with a slight smile on her face. She is excited about the future again and what it may have in store. Living in North San Diego County with her young daughter, Danes exudes enthusiasm when discussing her unexpected new career as a jazz singer. She plans to continue singing - both on record and performing live – while keeping her heart open for love. For more information, please visit

Danes’ “Longing” contains the following songs:
“Splendor in the Grass”
“Sweet Valentine”
“Killing Me Softly”
“The Sun Won’t Shine Today”
“The Very Thought of You”
“La Vie En Rose”
“Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars Corcovado”
“It’s All Right With Me”
“Dream A Little Dream of Me”
“I Wish You Love”


Tuesday, February 25, 2014



Neneh Cherry's Blank Project is her first solo album in 16 years - a collaboration with RocketNumberNine, produced by Four Tet, and featuring a guest appearance by Robyn. While her energy and demeanor may not have changed since the days of Rip Rig + Panic, musically, Blank Project is a departure from anything Neneh has previously done and was initially written as a means of working through personal tragedy. What stands out upon first listen is the album's sparseness: loose drums and a few synthesizers are the only accompaniment to Neneh's wildly poetic, soul-flooded and raw vocals. Featuring combined elements of beat poetry, avant-electronica and beautiful vocal melodies, it's a record that uses simple ideas to create something entirely original. 
Neneh will perform at Rough Trade East in London on Tuesday evening 2/25, as well as a sold out London show at Concrete on Wednesday 2/26. ~ giantstep

A killer batch of 70s soul – all pulled from the vaults of Invictus/Hot Wax Records! The tunes here represent a great evolution of Detroit Soul in the second decade – a shift of the energy of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team away from Motown music, and into a headier realm with a host of new artists. Yet there's also a tight core of dancefloor grooving on most numbers – those tight rhythms mixed with impeccable production that the trio first brought to soul in the 60s. Some tunes here are familiar, others are nicely obscure – and really make for a nice sense of variety in the set – a list of titles that includes "Can't Get Enough Of You" by Tyrone Edwards, "Ace In The Hole" by Honey Cone, "Love & Liberty" by Laura Lee, "That's Love" by The Hi-Lite, "VIP" by Scherrie Payne, "Hey There Lonely Girl" by Ty Hunter, "Love Machine (part 1)" by McKinley Jackon & The Politicians, and "Frightened Girl" by The Silent Majority. ~ Dusty Groove


A real standout in the early solo years of Patti Labelle – and a great set that reunites the singer with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint – who'd previously worked some magic with Patti and the Labelle trio! Toussaint really grounds Patti's vocals wonderfully – giving them a solid footing that moves past the pop and disco of previous records, but which also doesn't just resort to New Orleans cliches, either. Either Toussaint or Labelle wrote most of the songs on the record – and together, they find a fresh batch of material that really helps establish the singers as one of the greatest female voices in soul. The whole album's a classic – well-balanced between mellow and upbeat numbers – and titles include "Find The Love", "Get Ready", "Give It Up", "Release", "I Don't Go Shopping", "Ain't That Enough", and "Don't Make Your Angel Cry". CD features a bonus track – "Release (The Tension) (12" disco mix)". ~ Dusty Groove


Blue Note Entertainment Group has announced a the Chick Corea Solo Piano at The Town Hall on Thursday, April 10, 2014, with one show at 8:00PM. Corea will perform in support of his forthcoming solo piano album, Portraits (set for release on Stretch/Concord Records in 2014). This New York performance is part of Corea's rare worldwide 2014 solo piano tour.

When the legendary artist Chick Corea recorded Piano Improvisations on the ECM label in 1971, he was the first jazz pianist of his era to release such a recording. This groundbreaking album literally opened the floodgates to a new genre of solo piano that continues strong today.

In 2014, Corea will release a new solo album and embark upon a world tour with a presentation that is as fresh and innovative as ever. With the simplest expression of his artistry - only 88 keys at his disposal - Corea reinvents himself for each show, exploring every inch of his musical world, with a perfect balance of in-the-moment improvisation, Corea-classics, jazz standards, classical renderings and the inimitable suite of "Children's Songs."

The album title, Portraits, derives from something Corea occasionally includes in his solo shows - when the spirit moves him. The artist asks for volunteers from the audience, sits them down one at a time next to the piano and proceeds to paint a musical "portrait" unique to each individual. It's uncanny how the personality of the person is captured in Corea's improvisations. His solo shows are a pure distillation of one of the most remarkable careers in jazz: moving and profound, in the pure Chick Corea spirit of play.

Corea's legendary career "is among the most kaleidoscopic in jazz," says The New York Times. That drive to explore has propelled collaborations with masters such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Gary Burton, has won him 20 GRAMMY® awards and a NEA Jazz Master fellowship, among many other accolades.


New York-based singer-songwriter Nicky Schrire has created a small oasis of intimacy with To The Spring, a six-song, digital-only EP to be released March 11th, 2014. The half-hour EP is the follow-up to Space and Time, Schrire's full-length release from last fall. That album, her second, saw Schrire juxtapose her own wistful, winsome originals with classics by Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, the Beatles and Massive Attack. To The Spring sees Schrire focus on her original songs, with rising-star pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Desmond White alongside. An All About Jazz review of Space and Time speaks to virtues that are equally as present on To The Spring, with the critic saying of Schrire's voice: "Think of Ivory soap: clean and unscented by anything artificial. It's genuine. The same can be said of her composing: She is not looking to show off with technical fireworks; she's showing grace, class and a certain élan."

Schrire produced and arranged To The Spring, along with composing all the music and lyrics. She wrote the six songs fairly quickly over the space of seven or so weeks, and then helmed a single after-hours recording session for them with Almazan and White. The entire process emphasized immediacy and spontaneity, as Schrire recalls: "We recorded all the songs in that one Sunday evening. The limited canvas we had in terms of time could've been restricting, but it was actually inspiring - we had to be incredibly focused, and we really had to react to each other with clarity of intention and execution. The experience reiterated that making a record isn't life or death - it's creating music, it's play. That sense of play was vital to making the songs come to life in the studio."

Trained as a jazz singer by some of the best (including Peter Eldridge and Theo Bleckmann), Schrire actually grew up playing saxophone in big bands. But her albums as a vocalist - including her debut, Freedom Flight, which All About Jazz called one of the best albums of 2012 - have seen her combining the virtues of both the jazz and singer-songwriter genres. "What I love most about jazz isn't a swinging groove or a bebop head - it's the improvisatory nature of the music and the taking of chances, particularly when you're collaborating and connecting with other musicians."

Schrire worked with Fabian Almazan on her previous release, Space and Time, which saw her alternating songs in duet with three different pianists (with Gerald Clayton and Gil Goldstein also on the record).

"I love the way Fabian interprets my songs," she says. "His musical influences really vary from mine.
He not only pushes me harmonically and rhythmically; he's naturally on guard for clichés and helps the music veer away from any sentimentality." As for Desmond White on bass, Schrire adds: "He has just released his own album that mixes jazz with singer-songwriter music so I knew we shared genre-blending tendencies. Des also realizes that less is more, which is a mantra I've taken to heart. And as a soloist, he has a great feel for melody, something that's always important to me."

The subjects of the songs on To The Spring range from missing someone on the road (inspired by a movie about Jeff Buckley) and the connection Schrire has with her father (and a William Carlos Williams poem) to the natural rhythm of life with four seasons in New York (as opposed to basically just summer and winter in the singer's native South Africa) and aspects of love (both romantic and humanistic). The songs fly by, yet the half-hour of music has resonance, too. "With just six songs, it's more like a novella than the novel of a full album - an EP might be ideal for these attention-challenged times," Schrire says with a smile. "A recording is always just a snapshot in time, but with it being my first release of all original songs, To The Spring also feels like the bravest thing I've done."

Nicky Schrire was born in London to South African parents and then raised in South Africa after age 5. She grew up with music-loving parents, with her father playing James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young records at home and rocking out to Blood, Sweat & Tears in the car. Her mother favored classical music from Mozart sonatas to Rachmaninoff concertos, and she bought her daughter VHS tapes of such musicals as The Sound of Music, Hello, Dolly! and My Fair Lady, which Schrire watched endlessly as a little girl. She started playing classical piano at age 8 and then tenor saxophone at 11. Hearing Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Verve Songbooks was a galvanizing experience as a preteen - and she listened to the album so much that she can sing even the instrumental fills and interludes to this day. At the University of Cape Town, instrumental studies were her initial emphasis, as she played tenor, baritone and soprano saxophones and clarinet in big bands - an experience that developed her arranger's ear. Eventually, though, Schrire focused on her love of singing, and she moved to New York to earn her Masters Degree at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Peter Eldridge, Theo Bleckmann and Dave Liebman.

Schrire has sang at venues from New York's 92nd Street Y, Kitano and 55 Bar to Scullers Jazz Club in Boston and the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, as well as clubs and concert halls in London, Dublin, Lithuania, Poland and her native South Africa. She has released two full-length albums, Freedom Flight (2012) and Space and Time (2013), as well as the upcoming EP, To The Spring. All About Jazz said of this singer: "In the crowded world of jazz vocals, it helps to have a distinctive voice or a distinctive repertoire. Schrire scores on both counts."

 To The Spring
1. "Traveler"
2. "Your Love"
3. "To The Spring"
4. "Fall Apart"
5. "Father"
6. "Give It Away"

All songs written and arranged by Nicky Schrire / Produced by Nicky Schrire / Recorded by Kahil Nayton at the Bunker Studio, Brooklyn / Mixed by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit, NY / Mastered by Nathan James at Vault Mastering, A 


A personal triumph for a gifted pianist, composer and arranger at a new peak of creativity, Ellen Rowe's Courage Music (February 23rd, PKO Records) is also renewed confirmation that inspired and vital jazz continues to spring from artistic outposts beyond those of a select handful of America's major cities.  Based in Ann Arbor, where she is Professor and Chair of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Rowe has performed with Kenny Wheeler, John Clayton and Tom Harrell, among others, and has also had her arrangements performed by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Frankfurt Jazz Orchestra and the BBC Jazz Orchestra, as well as by Bob Brookmeyer, Marian McPartland and the Diva big band. The fourth of Rowe's acclaimed recordings as a leader, Courage Music spotlights the dexterity of Rowe's longtime ensemble - augmented here by the trumpeter and flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen - as well as Rowe's skills as an adroit composer and arranger.

The album is expertly balanced by extended compositions that highlight Rowe's mastery of form and textural color with concise performances that reveal the inventiveness and fluidity of the leader's piano work and the invaluable contributions of guest trumpeter Jensen and the top notch local players who make up Rowe's quartet -- the saxophonist and clarinetist Andrew Bishop, the bassist Kurt Krahnke and the drummer Pete Siers. Rowe met Jensen (who also makes a key appearance on Rowe's 2009 Wishing Well album) at a Banff Jazz Workshop in 1990.  "There was even less opportunity for woman jazz musicians back then, " Rowe says, "We bonded there as players and friends, and over the years she has come to give classes at the University of Michigan. When it came to recording, I sensed that Ingrid would sound great with Andrew - and she does. Using two horns opened up sonic possibilities for me as a composer. With Courage Music, I've tried to investigate longer forms and to make use of my growing harmonic pallet. I love the sound that the group, with Ingrid, lends to my compositions. I can put the music in their hands and let it go."

Inspired by both personal achievements and the cherished memories of departed loved ones, Rowe's own compositions, including the romping "The Circle of Life," the ambitious two-part "Golindrinas de los Horcones/Summit Dog," the extended "ŠAnd Miles To Go" (featuring the University of Michigan's Chamber Jazz Ensemble), and the touching ballad "Gentle Spirit," (highlighting guest trombonist Paul Ferguson) form the album's core. Rowe also tips her hat to the jazz tradition with a heartfelt (if ingeniously reharmonized) rendition of the Cole Porter standard, "All of You" and "Leaves," an Ingrid Jensen composition that reworks the durable chestnut, "Autumn Leaves." No matter the origin of the compositions, what comes through most clearly in each performance is the selfless role that the leader takes.  Never overtly grabbing the spotlight with extended solos, Rowe allows the beauty and effortless swing of her succinct playing to make its own profound statement within the overall context of a work. Her distinctive abilities as a composer, arranger and bandleader remain ever in balance with that of her identity as an outstanding piano stylist.

Born in Connecticut, Rowe studied with famed pianist and pedagogue John Mehegan before entering Eastman School of Music where she continued studies with Bill Dobbins and Rayburn Wright. Rowe is now a Full Professor at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance and director of the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble. An avid athlete and sportswoman, Rowe has scaled Aconcagua, the 22,481-foot peak in the Argentine Andes, the highest mountain range in the Americas.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...