Thursday, July 03, 2014

Smoke Sessions Releases New Albums by Cyrus Chestnut, Orrin Evans and Eric Reed

Smoke Sessions Records, the new imprint of New York City's influential uptown club Smoke, releases new live recordings by a trio of three masterful jazz piano peers, Cyrus Chestnut, Orrin Evans, and Eric Reed. Smoke has a reputation among a number of pianists as "the place" in New York City and these recordings will only help to reinforce this claim. "Smoke is the best place musically to play in New York," says pianist David Hazeltine, who released an album on Smoke Sessions Records earlier this year. "It's very intimate and they get a great sound: it's studio quality with the added energy of a live audience." 


Cyrus Chestnut, the soulful straight-ahead piano master, releases his first live recording, captured in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience in the club's comfortably intimate setting. In addition, Chestnut boasts that Smoke's Steinway B is the best piano in the city. "It's just my ticket. We connect. It's warm and it's sharp at the same time with a lot of earth in it. I like clubs like the Jazz Standard or Smoke, where you can sit down at the piano and get down-home, because that's the kind of audience they attract."

Joining Cyrus are bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, two veterans of the John Hicks' trio. Together they take listeners on a musical odyssey that includes music by Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, and, of course, John Hicks like the album's penultimate masterpiece, "Naima's Love Song." Cyrus is one of the great piano voices of his generation as he proves again with this rewarding live debut. Midnight Melodies is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

Cyrus Chestnut · Midnight Melodies / Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: July 8, 2014


Orrin Evans - pianist, bandleader and musical catalyst - is a bona fide, jazz original. Brimming with music and ideas, Orrin's Liberation Blues debuts one of his most impressive projects yet, a new quintet lineup that includes Sean Jones, JD Allen, Luques Curtis, and Bill Stewart. It's a group wholly of Orrin's imagination that pairs established stars Sean Jones and JD Allen for the first time. It's also hard to miss Bill Stewart's presence. When planning for this project, Orrin recalls a conversation with his wife and main sounding board, "Let me do something that people wouldn't expect, somethin' that I wouldn't even expect," the pianist explains. " is the time for Bill Stewart!"

The recording, made live at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City, occurred immediately following the passing of Orrin's close friend and fellow Philadelphian, the bassist Dwayne Burno and is dedicated in his memory. The opening selections comprising the "Liberation Blues Suite" are also dedicated to Dwayne and feature two of his compositions. Orrin explains, "In my eyes, Burno is now a 'Free Man'... but with that freedom, we've lost a great man right here on earth. So, there's still a blues we feel missing our brother and friend." Simply put, the playing is inspired. The varied program with compositions by Paul Motian, Trudy Pitts, Miles Davis, and, of course, Orrin, concludes with a memorable surprise visit from Philadelphia vocalist Joanna Pascale on a impassioned version of "The Night has a Thousand Eyes." Liberation Blues is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

Orrin Evans · Liberation Blues / Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: August 12, 2014


When pianist Eric Reed decided he wanted to make a live record at Smoke Jazz Club, he didn't want to make a good record...he wanted to make a great one. "I could have got guys who play exactly what I want, but it wouldn't have been very interesting. It would have been good. It would have been swinging or it would have sounded nice, but there wouldn't have really been a spark. You don't just want it to sound good, you want it to be killing," states Reed. His Groovewise is that record. Though Reed is usually heard in trio, the new album features a quartet with Seamus Blake, Ben Williams, and Gregory Hutchinson and is the first recorded meeting of Reed and Hutchinson in over 15 years.

Inspired in front of a live audience, the creative energy flies off the bandstand. Groovewise opens with what was a spur-of-the-moment reading of Clifford Jordan's "Powerful Paul Robeson" for Jordan's wife, Sandy, who was in attendance and it closes with the extended title track "Groovewise." In between these solid bookends is a swinging program heavily influenced by the weight of loss. Eric celebrates the memories and music of Mulgrew Miller, Cedar Walton, and Marian McPartland with original compositions dedicated to them. His original title, "Until the Last Cat has Swung," makes the explicit point that the music is alive and well and will continue to be in the hands of new generations who are dedicated to the art form. Although Eric confesses that he'd like a few more years before he is responsible for being a "keeper of the flame," Groovewise makes the point that jazz is much better off that he already is. Groovewise is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

Eric Reed · Groovewise / Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: September 9, 2014
Several new titles for 2015 are already in production including recently recorded dates from Eddie Henderson (with Gary Bartz, George Cables, Doug Weiss, and Carl Allen) and Steve Turre (with Bruce Williams, Xavier Davis, Gerald Cannon, and Willie Jones III.) Henderson's set reimagines some of his heavily sampled '70s hits in an acoustic jazz context and includes an energized version of Miles' "Gingerbread Boy." Turre's program includes his highly original arrangements of Gershwin's "S'Wonderful" and Rodgers and Hart's "With a Song in my Heart," as well as moving originals like "Trayvon's Blues." Both recordings were made at the legendary analog studio Sear Sound in NYC. Look for these releases to arrive in early 2015.

All Smoke Sessions releases are produced using vintage techniques and audio paths - i.e.; Rupert Neve-designed mixing consoles (Amek-Angela), Studer mastering decks, and Manley tube equalization - in combination with modern high definition recording techniques. Label co-founder Paul Stache records the sessions and works closely to mix the dates with GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Roman Klun who then masters them. Each release features original photography by Jimmy Katz, as well as an original 2,000-word artist interview. The recently released limited edition 200-gram audiophile collection was mastered for vinyl by celebrated engineer Kevin Gray and includes a classic "tip-on style" gatefold record jacket. Smoke Sessions titles are handsomely packaged as an 8-panel CD-deluxe album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

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