Thursday, December 20, 2018


Reel to Real Recordings is proud to announce the label's co- inaugural release, Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966-1967), a scintillating set of previously unissued live recordings of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet featuring Cannonball's brother and cornetist Nat Adderley, pianist Joe Zawinul, bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Roy McCurdy recorded over the course of 4 nights between 1966 and 1967 at the legendary Penthouse jazz club in Seattle, Washington. This is the very same band that recorded the classic Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club" album on Capitol Records on October 20, 1966, and it captures the quintet in rare form at the height of their most powerful swingin'. 

Back in the spring of 2016, producer (and co-president of the acclaimed archival jazz label, Resonance Records) Zev Feldman met up with Canadian jazz impresario and saxophonist Cory Weeds for a series of shows at Frankie's jazz club in Vancouver centered around a series of historical releases on Resonance. It was during this time that the seed was planted of them starting a new label dedicated to finding and preserving important historical jazz recordings. Zev Feldman explains, "Cory was fascinated by the idea of unearthing previously unheard archival recordings by great jazz artists. There are so many great recordings out there that deserve to be heard and Cory wanted to offer up another home for them. When I mentioned to him in passing that I had come across some Cannonball Adderley tapes from the 1960s a while back, he was immediately interested in seeing how he could release them on what would become his new label venture, Reel to Real. To say he was excited by the prospect is a major understatement."

Cory Weeds says, "Cannonball Adderley's music has had a great impact on me as musician, not only as a saxophonist but as a frontman communicating with an audience. Swingin' in Seattle gives the listener a good idea of what it was like to be in the presence of this great musician at one of his shows. I'm so thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Zev's team to give this release the deluxe treatment it so deserves." 

The deluxe double-LP and CD packages for Swingin' in Seattle are beautifully designed by longtime Resonance Records designer Burton Yount, and include extensive booklets containing rare photos by Lee Tanner, Tom Copi and others. Music journalist and veteran liner note writer Bill Kopp contributes the featured essay placing Cannonball's music in historical context. Seattle radio DJ and the original engineer of the Penthouse, Jim Wilke, is interviewed by Seattle-based saxophonist and jazz writer Steve Griggs about what the scene was like at the Penthouse in the 1960s and about Cannonball's relationship to the club over the years. And rounding out the packages are words form Cannonball's widow and head of the Julian Adderley estate, Olga Adderley Chandler, and acclaimed saxophonist Vincent Herring.

Jazz collectors may already be familiar with the name Jim Wilke from two other recent archival recordings on Resonance Records - Groovin' Hard by The Three Sounds feat. Gene Harris and Smokin' in Seattleby Wes Montgomery & The Wynton Kelly Trio. Wilke had a front-row seat for countless shows at the Penthouse he captured between 1962-1968 for his radio broadcasts on KING- FM. He describes the Penthouse broadcasts as, "really old-school radio - live broadcasts on location. People heard great music played right as they listened in their cars and they'd come to the club to catch the second set." Cannonball Adderley played the Penthouse 8 times during the club's 6- year run, and was one of its most popular acts. 

For a glimpse into the personal side of Cannonball, Zev Feldman interviewed his widow, Olga Adderley Chandler, a former actress who was married to him from 1962-1975. Chandler describes Cannonball as, "Very intelligent. He had eclectic taste. And he was very articulate and very witty. And very sweet to be with." Drummer Roy McCurdy adds, "He was very smart. Not just about music but lots of different things. He had a big personality. His stage banter came from being an educator. He wanted the audience to be informed. He wanted to involve them."

Cory Weeds interviewed fellow saxophonist Vincent Herring, who has recorded with Nat Adderley's quintet and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, to shed light on what impact Cannonball has had the generations of saxophonists that came after him. Herring explains, "Cannonball could play something and it was so sophisticated for all of us jazz snobs, but at the same time, for the down-home folk, it felt just right."  

"A big part of my job is to find homes for important recordings such as these," says Zev Feldman at the close of his liner note essay. "Not everyone is up to the task of going through all the steps it takes, but I'm thankful to have found a passionate partner in Cory Weeds who shares my dedication and vision to do this important work the right way." 

Record Kicks announces the signing of Alexis Evans and the release of a new album by the French enfant prodige of Soul/R&B in 2019

Record Kicks is proud to announce the signing of Alexis Evans and the release of a new album by the French enfant prodige of Soul/R&B in 2019.

Heading from Bordeaux, the Anglo-French Alexis Evans is not a newcomer in the music scene. He discovered Afro-American music as a child and learnt to play guitar thanks to his father, an English musician. At the age of 17 he debuted with his first project “Jumping to the Westside”, with which he was awarded the “Cognac Blues Passion” prize and flew to the “International Blues Challenge” in Memphis, Tennessee.

Soon after in 2016 he exploded onto the French scene with “Girl Bait”, his astonishing debut album that hit the airwaves of FIP, France Bleu, and Jazz Radio amongst the others. Despite his young age Alexis Evans has already built a household name, touring extensively his country with explosive live sets at RDV Erdre Nantes, Rhino Jazz St-Etienne, Lyon Ninkasi, Club Nubia Paris, Festivals Relâche Bordeaux, Jazz à Vienne as well as Festivals in England, Estonia, Switzerland and Wales. 

Fans of James Hunter Six and Stax Records watch out, prepare yourselves for a contagious electric discharge.
"His guitar is full of sobriety and evocative power"
"An innovative music rich in swing to discover as quickly as possible" 
Jazz Radio

New Music Releases: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings; The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Naming & Blaming; Unit 3 Deep – Groove Theory

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings

All of Fitzgerald and Armstrong’s classic duets are in one place: Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings, a new 4CD and digital set available for the first time! The 75-track collection gathers their three timeless Verve Records albums – newly remastered versions of Ella and Louis, Ella and Louis Again, and Porgy and Bess – along with all of their Decca singles, live recordings from Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl, recorded as a warmup for Ella and Louis , plus several alternates and false starts from the Decca and Verve eras, illuminating their craft and good humor.
The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Naming & Blaming

Inspired by the infectious afro-beat music of Nigeria and its neighbors, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra delivers contemporary African funk to Australian dancefloors. This mammoth ensemble comprises musicians hand-picked among the finest in Melbourne’s music scene. The experience and creativity of these established musicians energize the group’s original compositions and the sound of the entire band is a force to be reckoned with. The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra’s powerful MCs and tribal rhythms are the modern- day ‘musical weapon’ that Fela Kuti conceived of. Their conscious lyrics and West African grooves are relevant today, while remaining faithful to the message of afro-beat. The group is the brainchild of Zvi Belling, Ethan Hill (aka DJ Manchild) and Tristan Ludowyk who are long- time friends and musical collaborators, each with vast and diverse musical backgrounds to draw upon. The band’s directors recently travelled to Africa to promote the new single and recorded with African hip hop stars Tumi (South Africa) and Modenine (Nigeria). These artists feature on the band’s self-released debut album from 2010 “Do Anything Go Anywhere”, which wass nominated for an Aria award for “best world music album”. The full-length was accompanied by a 12” vinyl release that sold out in record time

Unit 3 Deep – Groove Theory

Unit 3 Deep's debut release titled "Groove Theory" ...Jazz Roads - “It’s a bit like listening to the Return To Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra translated into 2018" “If the Headhunters and Parliament Funkadelic had a baby, Unit 3 Deep would be their love child" Unit 3 Deep is comprised of a uniquely talented trio and highly sought-after professional musicians: pianist, producer and songwriter Patrick Cooper; bassist, songwriter, arranger and producer David Dyson; and drummer and producer Duane Thomas. Although the trio has collaborated for years on varying musical circuits, they have been playing together as Unit 3 Deep since 2015. With each contributing their own musical prowess and vast experience, it’s not hard to comprehend why these three seasoned talents came together to bring what they call musical “gumbo” to life. The question is simply: Why did it take so long? "

John Raymond & Real Feels Document a Stellar 2018 With Real Feels Live Vol. 2, Recorded Live in Los Angeles

An aspect of the jazz music business that tends to be ignored is touring. There are only so many venues with budgets and a limited supply of booking agents. Artists who manage to find both are either popular sensations or lucky, especially in a country as vast and diverse as the United States. It takes a lot of motivation, courage and a devil-may-care attitude to set out solo on the road, and since 2016, rising star trumpeter/flugelhornist John Raymond has done just that with his trio Real Feels, self-booking an astonishing 100+ performances with the band over the past three years.

From the beginning, Raymond’s goal with Real Feels was to create a small, focused ensemble with a strong band dynamic and identity. Alongside guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan, the group has recorded three albums together, including 2018’s Joy Ride on Sunnyside Records. As they have done for previous records, Real Feels hit the road for an extended four-month, 40-date tour that allowed their material, along with the ensemble, to grow and refine itself. Raymond recorded a handful of their concerts, and chose the music from their performance at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, which is now being released as Real Feels Live Vol. 2 (January 18 via Sunnyside Records).

When Real Feels recorded Joy Ride, each track was in nascent form, some only having been played in rehearsals. By the end of the tour, which spanned across the United States and Asia at venues of all types and sizes -- with audiences of all description -- the songs began to develop new personas. Each song, in a sense, was born again from the road, which is showcased fully on Real Feels Live Vol. 2.

The album begins with Raymond’s “Follower,” a modern jazz-meets indie rock tune that features Raymond the entire way. The groove is a bit faster and has more of a “lived-in” feel than it's studio version original, making for a fitting opening statement to the album. The group’s cover of Bon Iver’s “Minnesota, WI” opens up for both Hekselman and Stranahan. Their development of the introduction along with Hekselman's solo showcase the full capacity of the band’s aural identity featuring more electronics, effects and looping. This can also be heard on the group’s rendition of the hymn “Be Still, My Soul.” The song notably begins with an expansive, ambient solo introduction from Raymond utilizing effects pedals and looping on his flugelhorn, an added aspect of his arsenal that is now an integral part of the band’s sound.

Hekselman’s plectral guitar musings set the stage for Raymond’s plainchant horn on the intro to the title track “Joy Ride,” done here as an expanded version of the original and featuring an extended drum solo by Stranahan. The album concludes with the group’s take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” a piece that remains as vital today as it was when originally conceived, and is done here in a heartrending rendition by a simpatico ensemble of sensitivity.

Raymond notes Real Feels Live Vol. 2 is, “the strongest, most cohesive statement this band has made yet.” Combined with the fact that he has become a model to many of his peers as to what a successful, DIY-bandleader should look like, the trajectory for Raymond and the group continues to reach higher and higher.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, John Raymond is making a name for himself as one of the most promising, genre-bending musicians in jazz today. With a singular voice as a trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer, Raymond is “steering jazz in the right direction” says DownBeat, by pushing its boundaries, seamlessly incorporating indie-rock, folk and electronic influences into his music. Something Else! Reviews states, “This is jazz, yes, but jazz with an open mind."

Raymond’s primary band Real Feels is a bass-less trio which includes rising stars Gilad Hekselman (guitar), Colin Stranahan (drums) and Raymond on flugelhorn. The group has released four albums together since 2016, all receiving high praise from Stereogum, The New York Times, DownBeat and JazzTimes among others. Their warm, lyrical melodies are complemented by an infusion of electronics and effects, giving the group a sound that is entirely accessible and relevant. Add to this the deep chemistry between the musicians, and it’s no surprise that Real Feels is one of the hottest new groups in jazz today.

John Raymond & Real Feels · Real Feels Live Vol. 2
Sunnyside Records · Release Date: January 18, 2018

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Sy Smith has a new release - a holiday mix aptly titled “Christmas In Syberspace

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Sy Smith surprises fans with a new release - a holiday mix aptly titled “Christmas In Syberspace”. As the project title suggests, Sy delves back into her electro-futuristic-soul roots with this endeavor; sonically reminding listeners of her underground roots (think of her 2005 release “The Syberspace Social”). Clocking in at just under 14 minutes, this ep is like a digital stocking stuffer - and Sy is giving the ep away for free on Bandcamp (but listeners can also purchase it at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and it’s available on all major streaming platforms after November 25, 2018).

For the production of “Christmas In Syberspace”, Sy tapped Nashville drummer/producer Isaac “Bam” Richardsonwhom she met… well… in syberspace.  “Isaac contacted me on Facebook about a year ago and told me he was a big fan of my work. He said he was a producer, just getting started and wanted to send me some tracks. I told him, maybe kinda bluntly, that I really wasn’t looking for tracks at that time, I was knee-deep into 'Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete' and to hit me up next year.  Well, he dropped me a message again this year, about two months ago. So I listened to his ideas and REALLY liked what I heard. I think after arranging and recording background vocals for John Legend’s ‘A Legendary Christmas’ album, I was inspired too! So, I recorded 'Christmas Time Is Here' to Isaac’s track, and then asked him if he’d be interested in doing a whole project with me!” Isaac and Sy tag-teamed this mini-album via the internet (the two have never met in person) - agreeing on songs, exchanging ideas and building on arrangements. “I really enjoyed working with Isaac. He’s got such a wonderful ear for core elements. He really colors with sound! This is his first R&B project, but I suspect that after hearing this, some of my fellow artists are gonna want get his info from me!”

“Christmas In Syberspace” features three holiday favorites dispersed with some creative interludes. After the “Hark! The Intro” sets the subdued mood for this holiday set, Isaac’s children anxiously tell him what gifts they hope to receive, then Sy’s familiar bell-tone soprano voice gently asserts Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here”. She capitalizes on this popular melody by staying true to it, but then Sy adds a soulful refrain encouraging listeners to take the spirit of the holiday with them all year long. After another sweet interlude, Sy boldly takes on “The Sound Of Music” classic “My Favorite Things”by reworking the lyrics to truly reflect on HER favorite things:
“Shoes with fat laces and oversized glasses
Watching my people rise up from the ashes
Sharing a smile with that guy on the train
These are a few of my favorite things…”

After another interlude reworks a popular holiday carol (all the interludes do this), this ep closes with a foot-stomping “Little Drummer Boy” which Sy arranged and co-produced, reminding us that she does this pretty well too (she wrote/produced her entire latest lp “Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete” to rave reviews and 3 SoulTracks nominations). Isaac Richardson shows off his strong and steady, pocket (his church roots coming through loud and clear) with the head-snapping live drums, and Virginian trumpet player Duane Smith (of Hampton’s The Fuzz Band) provides a tasty horn arrangement.

Sy will be touring for the rest of the year with Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti as a featured guest (as seen recently on his critically-acclaimed PBS special “Great Performances). Her tour dates with him include upcoming shows in Toronto, Boston and New York at the Blue Note for 14 nights. Sy will resume her solo dates in 2019 as a featured artist on the (already long sold out) Capital Jazz Supercruise! 

New Music Releases: Brian Newman - Showboat; Modern Romance – Rhythm Is My Lover; Setenta - We Latin Like That

Brian Newman - Showboat

Brian Newman, trumpeter, crooner and long-time bandleader for superstar Lady Gaga, has signed to Verve Records and will be releasing his debut solo album this fall. A true talent on trumpet, this release incorporates creative takes on rock classics as well as jazz standards. Brian has toured with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga and has collaborated with Jose Feliciano and Dierks Bentley. He's performed on Boardwalk Empire, NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center, MTV's Video Music Awards, The Tonight Show, Watch What Happens Live, Marc Jacobs fashion shows and in a national H&M commercial.

Modern Romance – Rhythm Is My Lover

Top 1980's Salsa Pop band Modern Romance release their first single since the 1980's on acclaimed indie label Nub Music. The band have sold millions of records worldwide and had a total of 15 UK and US Top 20 hits in the 1980's. They formed in 1981 and soon had their first hit record with "Everybody Salsa".  This was followed up with "Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey" which made the top ten singles chart in the UK, soon to be followed by "Nothing Ever Goes The Way You Plan".  The second part of this song, was remixed, renamed, and released as a single, reaching No.2 on the U.S. Billboard  dance charts as "Can You Move".  After another hit with "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" the band saw their highest UK chart position, with "Best Years Of Our Lives."  Three more hits followed, in 1983.  "High Life" was first, followed by "Don't Stop That Crazy Rhythm" and their last chart hit, the beautiful ballad, "Walking In The Rain" which was one of the biggest selling songs of 1983. Original member Andy Kyriacou continued with the band, and has just finished recording a new album for release in 2019 from which this single is taken.The album mixes their usual salsa rhythms with great pop songs and is set to help the band reach a new audience.

Setenta - We Latin Like That

They may be Latin, but they're also pretty darn funky – and also seem to have picked up the best Brazilian funk currents of the 70s – which they use here to turn out their best album to date! There's lots of echoes of the era of Tim Maia and Toni Tornado, but mixed with some slightly warmer currents that show their wider love of funky jazz modes – almost the tightness in conception of some of the best recent AOR-revival material, but with more of the energy of a funk group overall! Fantastic throughout, and unlike most other combos around – with cuts that include "Guajiro Bacan", "Time To Love", "Catch Me", "Neg Cimarron", "Boys & Girls", "Afro Blue Obatala", and "Confused".  ~ Dusty Groove

Guitarist and composer Chris Jentsch explores yesteryear through a jazz lens on his stirring new CD Topics in American History

On his new album, acclaimed guitarist and composer Chris Jentsch pairs his extraordinary skill at writing long form musical suites with his expertise in history. Jentsch earned a B.A. in history from Gettysburg College, but his approach to expressing his knowledge through music is anything but academic. Topics in American History (out November 30, 2018 on Blue Schist Records), featuring jazz interpretations of seven historical events and concepts, takes listeners on an emotionally exhilarating, compellingly thoughtful journey through selected corners of our nation's past. "In learning about music there is always the historical facet," says Jentsch. "Aspects of classical music, world music, jazz, and now even rock music have their backgrounds of decades or even centuries past. With the Topics project, for the first time, to express my present I have merged what I have learned from the chronicles of music with my general interest in American history."

The hour-long Topics, a result of a Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works commission, follows Jentsch's previous highly-acclaimed large ensemble works including Miami Suite, Brooklyn Suite, and Cycles Suite. The new CD is a live recording of the Topics premiere, presented on December 2, 2016 at ShapeShifter Lab in Jentsch's hometown of Brooklyn. Combining the immediacy and excitement of in-the-moment performance with Jentsch's masterful musical vision, the recording features Jentsch Group No Net's roster of extraordinary musicians: flutist Michel Gentile, clarinetist Michael McGinnis, saxophonist Jason Rigby, trumpeter David Smith, trombonist Brian Drye, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Jim Whitney, drummer Eric Halvorson, and conductor JC Sanford. 

Jentsch's large group music generally invokes contemporary improvisation with an eclectic mix of influences ranging from jazz to rock and world to classical, always striving for a careful balance between lyricism and dissonance, and a deliberate combination of complexity and simplicity. "1491," the CD's first track, brings us into Jentsch's vision with the ensemble producing airy, gently percussive bell and bird-like sounds that capture a Caribbean beach at the dawn of European entry. As the piece develops with a walking bass ostinato, interweaving horn lines, and plaintive, wandering flute, the sense of change to come is unmistakable. "Manifest Destiny" explores ideas about America's spread across North America with a harmonically rich expansiveness that gives the soloists plenty of room to stretch out and explore. An animated full band statement announces "Lincoln-Douglas Debates," which features raucous, spirited interplay between trumpet and trombone-the clear winner is the listener. "Tempest-Tost," which takes its title from an inscription on the Statue of Liberty, captures the weariness, hope, and awe of the huddled, yearning masses making their way through Ellis Island. It also offers poignant connections to the present day, drawing inspiration from Jentsch's sympathy for the plight of refugees and his gratitude for his own citizenship status. "Suburban Diaspora" delves into the idea that a shared cultural heritage exists among American middle class Baby Boomers who were raised in the burbs then migrated to urban and rural areas. With its tight cluster chords, fascinating harmonies, searching solos, and staggered entrances, the gripping "Dominos" evokes the dread and uncertainty of the Cold War and McCarthyism. The suite closes with "Meeting at Surratt's," an homage to Mary Surratt, the first woman executed by the United States government after Abraham Lincoln's assassins plotted their crime at her boarding house. From the opening march cadence of the snare drum to the powerful anthem-like build that follows, the piece is a fitting conclusion to a superior jazz suite. The band is in top form throughout, with notable solos from the horns, flute, piano, and bass. Jentsch's exemplary guitar playing presides over it all, with stunning effects, muscular lines, and consummate musicality.

Topics in American History by Christopher Jentsch and Jentsch Group No Net has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America's 2015 New Jazz Works Program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Chris Jentsch is a Brooklyn-based composer, bandleader, and guitarist working primarily in jazz and contemporary improvisational forms. Based in NYC since 1999, his main ensemble is Jentsch Group in its trio, quartet, nonet, or large configuration. As a composer he has been the recipient of grants, commissions, or fellowships from the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble, the Penfield Commission Project, American Composers Forum, the Composers Assistance Program of the American Music Center, New Music USA, Meet the Composer, New York State Council on the Arts, Ucross Foundation, the Commission Project, the New Music Collective, the Donald Knutson Memorial Faculty Development Fund, and Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works. As a bandleader and sideman Jentsch has worked with such diverse musical personalities as George Russell, John Cage, Maria Schneider, and Chris Wood. He appears as a guitarist on the CD John Cage, Volume 11. He is also featured in Scott Yanow's book The Great Jazz Guitarists. All About Jazz says, "Jentsch is more than just a seasoned musician; he's a composer who can convey his ideas on a grand scale." Of Brooklyn Suite, DownBeat said that Jentsch "created a contrasted and kaleidoscopic patchwork with marvelous melodies, splendid voicings, and a skillful use of dynamics." Jentsch has released five CDs as a leader: Media Event (1998); Miami Suite (1999); Brooklyn Suite (2007); and Cycles Suite (2009). Fractured Pop, a CD/DVD production featuring Jentsch's jazz quartet was released in 2017. Jentsch attended the Berklee College of Music and has liberal arts and jazz guitar degrees from Gettysburg College, the New England Conservatory, and the Eastman School of Music. He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Miami in 1999 and is published by the University of Northern Colorado Press, Advance Music, and Fleur de Son Records.

Jazz Legend McCoy Tyner Signs with ALG Brands

Brand Management Firm to Oversee Legacy Preservation and Personality Rights Opportunities for Band Leader and Virtuoso

ALG Brands ("ALG") has been tapped to represent jazz icon McCoy Tyner, it was announced today by ALG CEO Ashley Austin.

ALG will curate initiatives that expand awareness of Mr. Tyner's music and his storied career as a pianist, bandleader, artist and composer. ALG will collaborate with brand and media partners in the creation of officially authorized content and capsule projects, and leverage terrestrial, digital and social media channels to promote evergreen awareness across generations and musical genres.

"I'm very excited to be working with ALG and having them represent me," said McCoy Tyner. "With their experience in this field, I'm looking forward to continuing into a new phase of my career."

ALG CEO Ashley Austin continues, "McCoy Tyner is one of the most revered and influential figures in jazz music, and we look forward to creating exciting new campaigns and paths of discovery for future generations."

McCoy Tyner has been an active recording artist and touring musician for six decades and counting. In 1960 and at just 21 years of age, he joined saxophonist John Coltrane as a member of The John Coltrane Quartet, performing on numerous classics including "My Favorite Things," "A Love Supreme," and more. Tyner has worked alongside contemporaries including Quincy Jones, George Benson, Carlos Santana, Stanley Clarke and many others, and he has recorded and released nearly 80 albums as a featured artist, bandleader or musician.

Critically lauded and commercially successful on a global scale, McCoy Tyner has been the recipient of four Grammy Awards and a host of other honors in recognition of his talent and innovations. Tyner's complex yet effortless playing style and innate ability to perfectly complement fellow musicians makes him one of the most respected improvisational jazz musicians and bandleaders in history.

ALG Brands specializes in the management of intellectual property rights for entertainment brands, pop culture personalities and the estates of iconic musicians and entertainers. For more information.

Shout of Light: How Composer and Trumpet Master Etienne Charles Moves from Diabolic Resistance to Liberated Joy on Carnival: The Sound of a People, Vol I

Trinidad-born, Julliard-trained trumpet player and composer Etienne Charles was fascinated by Jab Molassie, the blue, fire-breathing carnival characters, and the people who become them for Carnival. He went to the village of Paramin on Carnival Monday, to watch them compete--only to dive in and start playing the biscuit tin along with them, getting himself splattered with blue paint.

“The men and women who play Jab Molassie are really down-to-earth people. Yet they transform into these demons, these vengeful spirits,” reflects Charles. “It replicates hell and suffering, and reminds us of our troubled past as a people, the atrocious acts perpetrated against us,” during slavery, when punishments included being boiled in molasses. Using the sights and sounds he and his team recorded in Paramin, Charles translated the fire-breathing intensity, the devious, infectious biscuit tin rhythms into an intellectually intriguing, funky piece.

This, and other encounters with the figures, beats, and people that power carnival inspired Charles to leap into an epic, profoundly rewarding project, Carnival: The Sound of a People. Volume One explores the past and present of carnival on his island homeland. Charles crafts original works reflecting the qualities of several key characters--the voluptuous Dame Lorraine, the noble Moko Jumbie--and the people who invoke them every year. He also unpacks the history of musical ensembles associated with the season. Tracing the evolution from bamboo percussion groups to steel band, Charles points out the defiant response to the banning of skin drums by British authorities in the 1880s. (the “Ordinance” that kicks off the “Black Echo” suite)

Using video as well as audio allowed Charles to engage powerfully with both musical elements and evocative visual moments, and he wove both into the pieces as he composed. “I went a lot deeper with this project. Each piece is differently composed, depending on the subject,” he notes. “I had time to pay attention to every detail.”

Though the results are deliciously nuanced, the pieces emerged with remarkable ease. “The music just came out. I’ve never had a project when the music came out this quickly. I got to work things out on the trumpet, on the drums, on the piano,” recalls Charles. I have all these different influences and sources to draw from and actual people I could “call,” members of his family and friends around the island.

Charles’ family, like many in Trinidad, had been intimately involved in carnival activities since he could remember. He had played in school carnival bands and was eventually drawn to the steel pan, playing with Phase II Pan Groove throughout his teens. He went on to gain a formal education in trumpet and in jazz, seriously engaging with African diaspora music around the Caribbean. He began to turn back to Carnival in his homeland, thinking hard about the many manifestations of parody, critique, rage, and joy carnival enabled.

Thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship, Charles traveled to communities across Trinidad & Tobago.  He spent time meeting, hanging out and playing with, and documenting the work of costume makers, musicians, dancers, and performers.

Most welcomed his curiosity and involvement, though the group that inspired “Black Echo IV: Iron” asked if he wanted to use recently recorded samples of their raucous, unforgettable instruments. “I told them I was recording people. If i used samples, it wouldn’t be connected to the ancestors,” says Charles. They eagerly agreed to do a session. “Once they jumped on board they told me about the melody that goes through the iron when they play it.” This melody forms the backbone of the piece, migrating from a field recording of the ensemble into an ingenious horn section.

For “Black Echo II: Tamboo” and “Black Echo III: Bamboo”, Charles translates the fuguing rhythmic lines and call-and-response vocals of bamboo percussion ensembles into a multifaceted bassline that picks up the rhythms and melodies they suggest. To capture the full feeling of the ensemble, he placed one mic in the center of the group and recorded the sounds that weave through the tracks. “It’s a sound most people have never heard, have never seen,” says Charles. “I came at it as if it were a first discovery. I wanted to get that wonder, the first time I heard that band. I asked myself what I would play if I didn’t know the culture, if I wasn’t part of the family.” Charles wrote the bass line, then harmony behind it and spaces for improvisation around it.

Though “Freedom” is the last track, Charles explains, “it’s very important. It’s the reintroduction of the skin drum. When it comes back, we can really celebrate freedom. From my study, carnival is a celebration of freedom and who we are. My aunt charged me with the task of figuring out a way to replicate the joy in carnival. It can be dark but in the end, it’s very bright. For me, the album moves from dark to light. Freedom is a shout of that light.”

Charles has taken that task very seriously, bringing back the tradition of big, bold brass bands that once held down major carnival parties. The tradition faded, as large ensembles are expensive, so Charles took matters into his own able hands and started We the People, a mas (carnival celebration) band. “I thought, I’m going to come on a truck with a brass band playing vintage calypso and soca,” he recounts with a smile. “We did it and people loved it. Carnival happens on the street, after all, and we’re taking it back to the basics, which is the music.”


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Celebrated Classical Artist Audrey DuBois Harris Releases “JOY TO THE WORLD! A Christmas Celebration”

World-renowned classical artist Audrey DuBois Harris released her first full-length holiday collection with JOY TO THE WORLD! A Christmas Celebration on Black Friday, November 23, 2018, on her imprint, Noble World Records. The album consists of ten Christmas favorites with one bonus track, all arranged and produced by DuBois Harris. Each song specifically celebrates the birth of Christ, with unique arrangements spanning Classical, Latin, Caribbean, Gospel, Americana, and more. Throughout, these holiday favorites are enlivened by DuBois Harris’ powerful soprano voice, which combines crystalline clarity with an impressive range and sinuous soulfulness. The result is a refreshingly new take on familiar holiday fare. JOY TO THE WORLD! A Christmas Celebration will be available on iTunes, and Amazon, and other digital music platforms worldwide.

“I wanted all the songs I chose to have a Christ-centered focus. That’s why I opened the CD with ‘Oh Come, Oh Come, Emanuel,’” explains DuBois Harris, a Juilliard graduate who has performed in operas and recitals in the U.S. and abroad. “The first word you hear is ‘Rejoice,’ which is the message of the album. I believe Christmas is about Christ, love, joy, giving, family, friends, and togetherness. Christ is the reason for the season.”

In addition to “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” the new collection includes a toe-tapping version of Handel’s “Joy To The World,” a country-tinged “Silent Night,” a Latin-tempo for “What Child is This,” a Caribbean lilt for “The First Noel,” conga drums on “Little Drummer Boy,” and church organ for “Jesus, The Light of The World,” which is dedicated in loving tribute to the memory of the late Aretha Franklin. DuBois Harris’ technique and gifts were on display for a broad TV viewing audience in August 2018, as she sang a heartfelt tribute at the Celebration of Life Homegoing Service for Aretha Franklin.

The album also features “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in A Manger/Be With Me Lord Jesus,” and “Silent Night.” Proving that talent runs in the family, DuBois Harris’ eight-year-old daughter, LeeAuna Harris, performs her original solo piano arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High” in addition to joining the band in the percussion section.

“People all over the world celebrate Christmas in many different ways,” says DuBois Harris. “For this project, I drew from my exposure to different cultures to represent an array of sounds and rhythms. I wanted to explore and weave these musical textures with the colors of my voice. I also wanted to pay honor to the late great Aretha Franklin with my version of ‘Jesus, The Light of The World.’ My hope is that this project will indeed bring peace and joy to the world during the Christmas season.”

“JOY TO THE WORLD! A Christmas Celebration” follows her five-song EP, God Bless America, which features the title track along with classic and contemporary compositions.

A native of Miami, Florida, DuBois Harris was raised in the Baptist church and educated at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where she received a full scholarship. Her consistent artistic excellence afforded her the privilege of being hand selected by The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, for her concerts: Aretha Franklin Presents: A Two Night Revival, Aretha Presents: GospelFest and Aretha Franklin Presents: The Gospel Legends. As a result, she performed at Franklin’s Homegoing Celebration in Detroit.

She has performed on several occasions as “The President’s Soloist,” [Barack Obama] singing the National Anthem, as well as at “Christmas at The White House;” she has performed both the American and Canadian national anthems for The U.S. Consulate General Montréal on many occasions. DuBois Harris has also performed many operatic roles in the U.S. and abroad, including Mimi in La Bohéme, the title role in Aïda, Micaëla in Carmen, Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, and Bess in Porgy & Bess.

Early in 2018, DuBois Harris joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson for a series of MLK50 events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights icon Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee. She also performed for the Equal Justice Initiative, headed by Bryan A. Stevenson. 

DuBois Harris’ debut album, Testimony, was released in 2012. A soaring collection of inspirational music and hope-filled hymns, Testimony was produced and recorded with Jerroll Lehman (producer/orchestrator) and Damien Sneed (pianist/co-arranger).

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The Prince Estate in Partnership with Legacy Recordings Announce First Wave of Physical Titles (CD/Vinyl) in Definitive Catalog Rerelease Project

The Prince Estate and Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, are pleased to announce the first round of physical titles set for release as part of the ongoing and definitive Prince catalog project first announced in August. Three essential full-length Prince albums, Musicology, 3121 and Planet Earth, will be available on CD and – for the first time ever – on vinyl beginning Friday, February 8, 2019. Each of the vinyl titles will be pressed on highly collectible, limited edition purple vinyl. In addition, the albums will be available in both CD/LP form alongside new exclusive merchandise corresponding to each album era via the Official Prince Store.
The physical release of Musicology (1CD and 2LPs), 3121 (1CD and 2LPs) and Planet Earth (1CD and 1LP) follow from the historic exclusive agreement inked between The Prince Estate and SME/Legacy in June 2018. In August 2018, 23 highly-collectible Prince catalog titles (many of them hard-to-find or out-of-print) and a newly curated anthology of 37 essential tracks compiled under the auspices of The Prince Estate, titled Prince Anthology: 1995-2010, were made available digitally across all major streaming services and digital service providers.

The album trilogy set for physical release February 8th celebrates a sustained period of renewed creative energy and commercial triumph in Prince's multi-faceted career. These three albums marked Prince's return to the top of the popular mainstream, a position he maintained while simultaneously pushing the envelope and breaking industry norms pertaining to marketing, distribution and live performance. Musicology (2004) resulted in two Grammy Awards – Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance ("Musicology") and Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male ("Call My Name") – and has been certified RIAA double platinum. Concurrently, Prince pioneered a cutting edge industry-first marketing and distribution strategy for the album, bundling a copy of the record as a gift to every fan who purchased a ticket to his monumental "Musicology Live 2004ever" tour, witnessed by over 1.47 million music lovers worldwide.

Released in 2006, 3121, Prince's 31st studio album, became his first record to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 and his first #1 album since 1989's Batman. For his follow-up studio album, 2007's Planet Earth, Prince innovated yet another bold marketing and distribution tactic, giving free copies of the album away in the UK via a partnership with the national newspaper The Mail on Sunday. Bucking conventional industry distribution strategy, the innovative partnership fueled Prince's epic 21-night run of sold out shows at London's O2 Arena (20,000 capacity), while back in the US Planet Earth debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200.

Prince's studio trilogy of Musicology, 3121, and Planet Earth presents the artist at a high point in his creative genius during the first decade of the 21st century. The 2004-2007 epoch gave us some of Prince's most iconic and indelible performances, including his unforgettable appearance with Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammys, his show-stopping induction at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame a month later, and his incandescent triumph at the Super Bowl in February 2007.

Complementing the music release campaign, The Prince Estate and Legacy continue efforts to unify the iconic artist's work on all digital services with the ongoing weekly release of Prince's official music videos. Reignited on November 2nd, the weekly video drops covering the 1995-2010 period build on a current available library of over 80 official music videos, with each week's selections drawing from specific catalog albums. This week's batch features the videos from Musicology (including the controversial "Cinnamon Girl" featuring actress Keisha Castle-Hughes), 3121 (including "Te Amo Corazón" directed by Selma Hayak), and Planet Earth (including "Chelsea Rogers" shot at London Fashion Week).

Watch all the videos here:

The lasting impact and influence of Prince continues to resonate across popular music and culture. This November, "Black-ish," the hit ABC-TV series, devoted its landmark 100th episode to a celebration of Prince and his music, while the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves recently announced that their entry into the league's popular City Edition would be Prince-inspired, realized through a collaborative effort between The Prince Estate, the Timberwolves and Nike.

The Prince Estate passionately presents Prince's life and work, and cultivates opportunities to further his legacy. As the singular, authoritative source on all things Prince, The Prince Estate inspires and educates fans, celebrates Prince in his totality, and stewards Prince's legacy into the future.

Two of Cuba’s Most Exciting and Innovative Artists Join Forces as Alfredo Rodriguez & Pedrito Martinez Release First Duo Album, Duologue

Painted in the broadest of strokes, the stories of Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez may seem similar: both started life in Havana, discovered their gifts and passions for music and headed to the States, where they melded the music of their homeland with a wide variety of influences, each in his own deeply personal way.

Zoom in a little, though, and the two paths differ considerably. Rodriguez was born into a musical family, his father a popular singer and TV host. A child prodigy, he studied classical piano at the prestigious Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán and Instituto Superior de Arte while playing popular music in his father’s orchestra by night. While performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006 he was discovered by his future mentor and producer, the legendary Quincy Jones.

Martinez, on the other hand, honed his craft on the streets of Havana, learning the deeply-rooted percussion and vocal style of Afro-Cuban folkloric and religious music. Nearly a decade Rodriguez’s senior, the master percussionist and vocalist arrived in the U.S. in 1998, was soon awarded First Place at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Afro-Latin Hand Drum Competition, and appeared in the documentary film, Calle 54. He then co-founded a Latin fusion group, Yerba Buena, with which he toured extensively and recorded several successful albums. Pedrito has performed or recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Chucho Valdés, and James Taylor. He has been leader of his own quartet since 2005 with a GRAMMY® Award-nominated album released in 2013 on Motéma Music. 

As a result of their differences, Rodriguez and Martinez share a natural chemistry that makes for a galvanizing musical experience when they come together. Their first duo outing, Duologue (due out February 1, 2019 and available for pre-order now via Mack Avenue Records), finds the pair exploring a range of moods and influences, from Cuban classics to collaborative original compositions to a number of unexpected favorites.

Despite their shared Cuban roots, Rodriguez and Martinez didn’t cross paths until both had moved to the States. The pianist caught a set by the always-thrilling Pedrito Martinez Group at a jazz festival and instantly knew he wanted to work with the percussionist. “There are times when you feel something and know that you want to collaborate with someone,” Rodriguez explains. “That was one of those occasions.”

The first opportunity for the two to team up came with the recording of Rodriguez’s second album for Mack Avenue, The Invasion Parade, on which Martinez’s stirring vocals and virtuosic percussion appear on two tracks. Busy schedules kept them on separate paths for the next several years, until they reconvened for a stint at New York City’s Jazz Standard and a short tour in early 2017, their first chance to test the waters as a duo.

Photo Credit: Anna Webber
“What makes this duo completely different is that I came from the folkloric side and Alfredo came from the classical side,” Martinez says. “You put those things together and you come out with an extraordinary and different sound. Alfredo has brilliant ideas when he’s composing and putting together melodies, and it was so easy to mix and absorb his ideas and vice versa. Each song has a different sound and history.”

Most of the original pieces on the album originated with Rodriguez, who would record rough demos on his phone, then send the files to Martinez to compose lyrics and rhythmic patterns. The tunes were further solidified in true collaboration between Rodriguez and Martinez during a weeklong rehearsal period in Los Angeles prior to recording, then polished by veteran producer Quincy Jones. The broad sweep of rhythmic frameworks Martinez brings to the original compositions reflects not only his Afro-Cuban roots but also the range of influences that have impacted him in NYC, whether it’s reggae, 1970s R&B, jazz or funk. 

“Every artist on the planet would be lucky to work with Quincy,” Martinez enthuses. “Just having his name on any record is like a trampoline: you don’t go step by step, but you automatically jump five steps up.”

Opener “Africa” stems from Rodriguez’s voracious fascination for rhythmic traditions from around the world. “If I’m listening to music from Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, or Cape Verde, I try to bring them into my world,” he says. “I try to transform those rhythms into something melodic, and that’s how a song like ‘Africa’ becomes reality.” For Pedrito the object in bringing the African rhythm scheme that defines the batá drumming he is steeped in is “to make people feel the tribal roots that my music comes from.” Those specific rhythms influenced Martinez to have his compositions express the notion that although both artists were born in Cuba, their history and heritage always points back to Africa.

“Estamos Llegando” provides a lush, lyrical testimony to the pair’s gift for conveying deep emotions, not just rhythmic excitement. The same can be said for the sweet, tender ballad “Cosas del Amor,” while the title track simmers with sharp, surging percussive energy. “I always wanted to be a drummer,” Rodriguez admits with a sheepish laugh. “So I love playing with great percussionists, and Pedrito is the best example when it comes to Cuban percussion. It really touches my heart.”

“Flor” introduces a more soulful, modern sound to the album, while “Jardín Soñador” offers a vivid, compelling narrative sweep. The classical elegance of Rodriguez’s upbringing shines through on “Mariposa,” which evokes sensitive accents from Martinez, before “Yo Volveré” concludes the album with a rousing fanfare.

While those new compositions are indicative of the vast range and flavor of the two artists’ music, their choice of cover songs is more surprising. The ideas stemmed from Rodriguez’s social media outreach, where he enjoys playing a variety of songs in the style of timba, the Cuban popular music that became a craze during Rodríguez’s formative years in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Hence the duo’s lively version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” – which shares its production credit with the Quincy Jones-helmed original – and their joyous take on the theme from the classic video game “Super Mario Bros 3.” More traditional is their bristling rendition of the Cuban classic “El Punto Cubano.”

“Since the beginning, my collaboration with Pedrito has been very exciting,” Rodriguez concludes. “Even though we come from different backgrounds, the energy we share, the passion for what we do, and the respect we have for each other has been beautiful.” Adds Martinez, “It was an amazing experience and a pleasure to work with Alfredo because he’s a great human being. The way he plays and the way he composes are unique and amazing.”

Alfredo Rodriquez & Pedrito Martinez · Duologue
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: February 1, 2019


Vocalist Annie Chen's sophomore recording Secret Treetop heralds the arrival of an innovative, sophisticated composer with globe-spanning musical influences

Vocalist and composer Annie Chen, born in Beijing and based in New York, is both musically and geographically international. As a child she studied classical piano but also fell in love with jazz. As an adult she became interested in traditional music from around the world. All of those influences emulsify into a unique style of Chen's own on her second album, Secret Treetop, released November 2, 2018 through Shanghai Audio&Video Ltd. Co.

"When you are standing at the top of the tree, you can see a much wider world," says Chen in explaining Secret Treetop's title. "It's just like that when you're making music: You need to see farther and open your mind and heart. Everything must be open."

The album adds additional layers of global music influence by way of Chen's octet, which features Polish guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, Japanese violinist Tomoko Omura and Canadian trumpeter David Smith alongside American jazz musicians Glenn Zaleski (piano), Alex LoRe (alto saxophone/flute), Mat Muntz (bass) and Jerad Lippi (drums).

Secret Treetop is not the beginning of Chen's journey into the wider world she mentions. Her debut recording, 2014's Pisces the Dreamer, was painted with a similar palette of world music influences. The sophomore release refreshes that palette with new sounds, many of them brought to Chen by new collaborators.

"I like to listen to a lot of different countries' traditional music," Chen says. "I have a lot of Turkish friends, and I studied with a Turkish percussionist. My guitarist [Sarnecki], who is also an arranger, is from Poland, and I was influenced a lot by the Eastern European traditional music he played for me: Polish, Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech."  Chen was also charmed by the Balkan a cappella choirs she encountered at Brooklyn's Zlatne Uste Golden Festival. They shaped her approach to the album's title track, which otherwise wears its East Asian influence on its sleeve. "I wanted to create the feeling of singing out in the open," she explains. "I'm standing on top of the tree, and I sing to the mountain."

The Turkish influence is most apparent in the whirling dervish violin and mixed-meter polyrhythms of the album-opening "Ozledim Seni" ("Miss You"). The lyrical content of the song is also evocative. "I created a scene of going back a thousand years ago to the Ottoman Empire," Chen says. "I heard so many stories from my friends about Turkish history. It's also about my Turkish friends coming to visit me, and how much I would miss them after I took them back to the airport."

Chen's interest in traditional music includes repertoire from her childhood, which she explores in a pair of folk songs: "Ao Bao Xiang Hui" from Mongolia, and "Gan Lan Shu" from Taiwan. Both, she says, are songs that everyone who surrounded her in China would have known-especially "Ao Bao Xiang Hui," a love song that's hundreds of years old. "I'm from the north of China," she says. "We encounter Mongolian cultural aspects a lot. Being from Beijing, I have lots of thoughts about this music." Of course, the Taiwanese "Gan Lan Shu" suggests that Chen is acquainted with the culture of southern China as well. It has a great deal of personal resonance both for Chen and for her New York audiences. "The lyric is talking about people leaving the country and traveling far away to chase their dreams; I find that very touching," she says. "When I perform, all the Chinese people in New York who hear it, they tear up."
Japan bears a subtler influence; it comes not so much from the island nation's music as from its cultural artifacts. "Majo Kiki in 12 Days" was inspired by the title character of the Japanese anime film Kiki's Delivery Service, who impressed Chen with a bravery and independence that's opposite to most portrayals of Asian women. "Mr. Wind-Up Bird, Strange Yearning" is a response to Haruki Murakami's famous novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Chen's tune is wordless, intended not to reflect the novel itself, but how she felt after reading it.

World literature also forms the basis for "Leaving Sonnet," in this case the titular poetic form which originated in Italy. "They have a very strict rhyme," Chen notes. "I thought, maybe I could use this concept in my music. Not in the lyrics, but I wrote very strict phrasing structures, and the polyrhythms are very strict as well. It caused some problems for the musicians-it was really hard!" she laughs.

Chen hopes that her many influences have blended insolubly on two songs inspired by her relationship with her boyfriend, guitarist Marius Duboule. "Orange Tears Lullaby" was written to soothe him as he underwent knee problems; the antibiotics turned his tears orange. The spare "My Ocean is Blue in White" draws on more symbolic colors to illustrate Chen's thoughts about love: "At weddings, everything is white because white is pure. But  love is not pure-sometimes you're suffering or sad. There's always some blue color in the white."

A digital-only bonus track, Chen's rendition of Nirvana's "All Apologies" presents yet another musical world into which she was plugged. "Nirvana is one of my favorite rock bands, and they influenced me when I was a teenager a lot," she explains. As always, however, Chen reframes the tunes on her own terms, with a radical rearrangement by herself and Sarnecki that culminates in fierce counterpoint between Smith and LoRe.

Annie Chen was born in Beijing, China. She was only four years old when she began studying classical piano at Central Conservatory of Music-and at that tender age was already practicing five to six hours a day. "The education is so strict," Chen says. "In China education is focused on being the best at all costs: 'You need to win. You need to win.' So every year I had to go to a lot of piano competitions."

As she labored at Mozart and Beethoven her father, a business translator and jazz lover, would bring her jazz CDs from his business trips to the United States. When she heard Sarah Vaughan, the teenaged Chen decided that her real desire was to be a jazz singer.

With jazz education hard to come by in China, Chen continued with her classical studies, earning a bachelor's degree from the Central Conservatory of Music. She then began working as a decidedly non-classical singer: She was lead vocalist in the bands Blues Driver, Big John and Black Hot Pisces, as well as the leader of the Soul Decree Funk Big Band, the only funk large ensemble in China.

She worked at venues such as Blue Note Beijing, East Shore Jazz Club, DDC, JiangHu, Guangzhou Xinghai Concert Hall and JZ Club Shanghai and Hangzhou, where she led her quintet over a three-month residency. She performed at major festivals across the country-including the Solana Summertime Festival, Chaoyang Music Festival, Beijing Nine-Gates Jazz Festival, CD Jazz Week, and the Shanghai International Jazz Festival.

In 2010, Chen came to New York City on an eight-month student visa, studying privately at Manhattan School of Music with vocalist Nancy Marano and doing occasional vocal gigs with pianists. At the end of the year, she returned to China, where she continued performing. In 2012, however, she returned to New York to pursue a master's degree at Queens College. She took vocal lessons with Charenee Wade, piano with David Berkman, arrangement and composition with Michael Philip Mossman, and improvisation with Antonio Hart.

In 2014, she recorded her first album, Pisces the Dreamer, with a sextet comprising some of her Queens College classmates. The album combined the influences of jazz, gospel-drenched soul, pop-rock and bossa nova, as well as European classical, Chinese and Middle Eastern music in seven original compositions by Chen and two standards.
The following year, Chen formed her octet, and began performing with them around New York City. She also began what would ultimately be a three-year process of composing for them, the results of which have now come together with Secret Treetops. "I don't know what kinds of things I can write in the future, but for now I'm very proud of these compositions," she says. "This is my milestone so far.


Arturo O’Farrill's Fandango at the Wall: A Soundtrack for The United States, Mexico and Beyond

From the barrage of “breaking news” alerts on the 24-hour news cycle to the incessant buzz and chirp of social media, there’s no shortage of reminders of the things that divide us: walls being built, lines being drawn, the notion of “difference” being wielded as a political weapon. This is more evident now than ever, with scenes of conflict at the U.S. border with Mexico. A peaceful march at the border turned into chaos when American border agents fired tear gas into a crowd composed of women and children. With the timely Fandango at the Wall project, Arturo O'Farrill and famed Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez have partnered with UNICEF to release a striking music video for their song "Line In The Sand." UNICEF's mission of providing emergency food and healthcare to children in countries in need aligns perfectly with the activism brought from Fandango at the Wall.

That’s what makes an artist like Arturo O’Farrill such an important voice for these times. As a pianist, composer, bandleader, educator, activist, and founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, O’Farrill has dedicated his life to not only crossing artificial borders but to erasing them in his wake. With his latest project, Fandango at the Wall, O’Farrill has created a stunningly ambitious and profoundly moving work that showcases the rich fruits that can grow from common ground.

Fandango at the Wall, released September 28 via Resilience Music Alliance, is the brainchild of O’Farrill and his longtime collaborator and GRAMMY® Award-winning producer, Kabir Sehgal. The project brings together brilliant voices from a variety of cultural and musical traditions to tear down a variety of walls that isolate us – physical, musical, or cultural. The piece was inspired by Jorge Francisco Castillo, a musician and retired librarian who has organized the Fandango Fronterizo Festival for the past decade. The annual event gathers son jarocho musicians on both sides of the border wall between Tijuana and San Diego for a celebratory jam session.

“I found that idea so touching and elegant in its activism,” O’Farrill recalls. “I held it inside my soul and spoke to everyone I could about my hope to join the Fandango Fronterizo and record at the border, bringing special guests and making it a true collaboration.”

O’Farrill’s esteemed Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Castillo’s son jarocho musicians came together at the border, joined by a more than 60 gifted musicians representing both sides of that divide as well as several of the countries targeted by President Trump’s travel ban: Broadway singer-actress Mandy Gonzalez (Hamilton, In the Heights); jazz greats Regina Carter (violin), Akua Dixon (cello), and Antonio Sanchez (drums); multi-talented Mexican violin trio The Villalobos Brothers; son jarocho greats Patricio Hidalgo, Ramón Gutiérrez Hernández, and Tacho Utréra; French-Chilean rapper-singer Ana Tijoux; Iraqi-American oud master Rahim AlHaj and his trio; Iranian sitar virtuoso Sahba Motallebi; and many others.

“Thinking about this awful, awful moment in history – not just American history but world history – I wanted to confront the darkness that has overcome all our lives,” O’Farrill says. “Faced with such stupidity and mediocrity, why not at least try to do something valuable? My first thought was to bring not just great artists but also people from marginalized nations. We understand that humanity and community are so much stronger than cultural constructs, physical walls, or geo-political borders. We saw this in action: we saw our people fall in love with their people and become one people.”

A bestselling author, investment banker, and military veteran, Sehgal helped transform O’Farrill’s long-held dream into a reality despite the logistical and political hurdles. Ultimately the project took on three forms: this astoundingly gorgeous album of music; a book on the history of the troubled U.S.-Mexico relationship with a foreword by renowned historian Douglas Brinkley and an afterword by former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; and an in-production documentary focusing on the lives of the son jarocho musicians.

“It falls upon private citizens and individuals to promote cross-border friendship and rapprochement," Sehgal writes in his liner notes. “And that is ultimately the goal of Fandango at the Wall: to bring the people of the United States and Mexico together through music. After all, we don’t just share a border but families and friends, histories and futures. Our countries are interconnected, and our fates are interlinked.”

“The most terrifying thing about being human is the fear of other people,” O’Farrill concludes. “Very few people have the freedom of spirit to embrace things they don't understand. So I really love the idea that Mexican families who enjoy jarocho music will be introduced to the virtuosity of Regina Carter, or that hardcore jazzheads will discover Patricio Hidalgo. I’m hoping that people will listen to this album and whether or not they understand the words or enjoy the music, they’ll take a moment to think about human beings that are not like them.”

“Fandango at the Wall is ultimately a project of convergence,” Sehgal writes. “I hope that as you listen to this music, you’ll hear the possibilities of what the relationship between the United States and Mexico can become. And that we as artists and activists continue to create the world in which we want to live.”


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