Thursday, September 20, 2018


Following the release of his critically acclaimed Spring album Eclipse, three-time GRAMMY® nominee Joey Alexander embarks on an exciting fall that includes the release of new music, some high-profile U.S. performances and the unveiling of three compelling in-studio videos from his Eclipse sessions. Alexander shares his musical voice via two unique new jazz releases evoking themes of Faith, Goodwill and Peace. All showcase different facets the 15-year-old’s expanding artistic depth and versatility.

Despite universally familiar traditions, Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated by each family and individual in their own personal style. On October 19, Alexander will unveil his own distinctive way to celebrate the holidays with his soulful and uplifting interpretations of the Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the beloved Gospel hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Alexander refers to the Christmas season as “simply the best time of year,” and as an artist who has routinely cited his faith as a central source of inspiration, the opportunity to record and release this music holds deep meaning for him. “My faith in Christ has helped keep me grounded,” says Alexander. “I chose ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus,’ because Christmas is really about our relationship with Jesus, above all the usual Christmas season traditions.” As Alexander first experienced this Gospel song on Aretha Franklin’s iconic 1972 recording, he comments that his new recording of the classic also doubles as a tribute to the Queen of Soul, who he has loved since childhood and considers a key influence.

Also in the spirit of creating music with deeper meaning, Alexander chose this year to participate in Legion of Peace, a jazz-based Children’s music album with musical profiles of eight of our the world’s greatest peacemakers, namely the Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Leymah Gbowee, Jimmy Carter, Jody Williams, Ralph Bunch, Wangari Maathai and Muhammad Yunus (who provides the spoken word introduction to Legion of Peace.) Written and sung by GRAMMY®-nominated children’s music artist Lori Henriques, Legion of Peace comes out on Motema on September 21 (to celebrate the U.N. International Day Of Peace) and also features fellow Motéma artists Pedrito Martinez and Oran Etkin.

Read the Legion of Peace Press Release By Clicking the Cover Above
“I became interested participating in Legion of Peace band after hearing the project’s goals to promote peace, hope, and justice,” reflects Alexander, who also included his own songs with similar inspiration titled “Peace” and “Faithful” on his Spring release, Eclipse. “I think musicians have to be a force for good in the world. I hope my music brings people together and touches them in many ways: encouraging them, bringing them joy and peace, and reaches them spiritually.” Alexander, who anchors Henriques’ quintet from the piano chair, also improvises four almost Ravelian solo-piano preludes on the project which reveal yet another side to his creativity.

June 2018, when Alexander turned 15, also marked the fourth year since he burst onto the New York jazz scene by performing at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2014 Gala at the Rose Theater in New York City. At the gala, then ten-year-old Joey Alexander performed his astonishing rendition of Monk’s ‘Round Midnight which inspired a spontaneous ovation from the astute audience, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the host Billy Crystal. After that momentous occasion, word spread quickly about the young family who had brought their extraordinary son to New York, so he would be able to progress further as an artist by ‘playing with the best musicians.’ What transpired next was one of the most rapidly ascendant careers ever seen in jazz. Now, four years, four releases and three GRAMMY® nominations later, the question of whether Alexander is the real deal, is no longer raised; the only question is, what will he do next? This year he returns to Rose Theater to perform with strings for the first time on October 19-20. “Joey Alexander with Strings” will showcase Alexander’s original compositions from Countdown and Eclipse, as well as perhaps some Monk and some spiritual offerings (collaborating with acclaimed composer/arranger Richard DeRosa on string arrangements).

Alexander also looks forward this fall to unveiling three never before seen in-studio videos from his Eclipse sessions this fall: a five camera shoot of the recording of his composition “Faithful,” featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman just released; a fascinating single camera video that witnesses the ‘birthing’ of the title-track “Eclipse” – a nine-minute opus of fiery creative improvisation recorded in reaction to the trio’s experience of the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse which took place on the first day of the sessions; and on Thanksgiving day, the in-studio video of Alexander’s soulful solo rendition of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” in honor of the 50th Anniversary that day of that beloved classic.

Alexander will close out his fall schedule with a return to SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium, December 13-16, where his trio will premiere new original compositions, Christmas songs and other surprises.

All in all it’s been a highly productive year for the young artist, who in addition to a packed U.S. performing schedule has been honored internationally with invitations to perform at special events for the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, The Asian Games in Jakarta, and for the 60th anniversary of relations between Indonesia and Japan taking place in Tokyo on September 25. The recording and release of Alexander’s video “Bali” - filmed in his homeland and set to his composition of the same name - was also a highlight of the year for the young artist, who has emerged not only as an astonishing young player, but as a developing composer of note and a particular favorite at Jazz Radio. (Eclipse, which included six original compositions, spent a nearly unprecedented nine weeks at #1 on JazzWeek Radio Chart). When asked what’s next, Alexander humbly responds: “As I play more of my original music, I enjoy and feel inspired to write even more.” It’s clear that the world can look forward more pleasing surprises from this dedicated young man.

Since coming to the United States in 2014, the response to Joey has been astonishing. The Bali-born 15-year old has experienced one of the most rapidly ascendant careers in jazz history. Since releasing his chart-topping albums, My Favorite Things (2015), Countdown (2016), Eclipse (2018), Joey has earned a combined three GRAMMY® Award nominations, making him the youngest jazz artist ever nominated for a GRAMMY® Award. His musical adroitness earned him appearances on the GRAMMY® Awards, The Today Show, CNN, as well as CBS 60 Minutes profile by Anderson Cooper, fueling a rare level of public notoriety for Joey as a jazz musician, both within the jazz community and among the public at large.
Tour Dates:
October 11: Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis, MN
October 12-13: Jazz Bistro, St Louis, MO
October 19-20: Rose Theater @ Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York, NY
November 4: Sonesta Resort, Hilton Head Island, SC
November 11: Cabot Theatre, Beverly, MA
December 13-16: Miner Auditorium, SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco, CA

New single "Cortando Bajito" by Spanish musician and singer/songwriter Gecko Turner (afro/latin/funk)

Gecko Turner (born Fernando Gabriel Echave Pelaez in 1966) is a Spanish musician and singer-songwriter whose sound throughout the years has embraced bossa nova, soul, funk, afro, reggae, jazz, samba, hip hop and electronica. Based near the border between Spain and Portugal, he has fronted several bands in his native country.

Turner grew up in Spain’s Extremadura region, learning English from the blues artists he loved. Having taught himself to play the guitar in his teens, Gecko Turner discovered jazz, finding a special affinity for the Afro-Cuban sounds of Dizzy Gillespie. He hitched all over Spain to follow Gillespie on tour, listening to bebop and reading Jack Kerouac. But he also soaked up London’s jazz scene and incorporated numerous styles such as Afro-beat, Cuban and Brazilian rhythms during his decades-long musical journey, creating a hybrid that was all his own and that journalists in Spain dubbed ‘Afromeño’.

During the last few years, Gecko Turner‘s songs have been included in over 70 compilations released all over the world, and have been used in several TV commercials and films. Also, his work as a producer led him to collaborate with such artists as Californian jazz and blues singer Brenda Boykin, and (recently deceased) flamenco singer Fernando Terremoto, recording for both of their albums; “Chocolate and Chili”, and “Terremoto”.

All of Gecko Turner‘s work has been published by Lovemonk Records, in cd or vinyl, from his 2003 breakthrough debut “Guadapasea!”, to his follow-up “Chandalismo Ilustrado” in 2006, “Manipulado” in 2008, “Gone Down South” in 2010 and highly acclaimed “That Place, By The Thing With The Cool Name” in 2015. In 2018 Turner and Lovemonk prepare to launch the artist’s latest album “Soniquete”, a collection of his greatest hits, previously unreleased gems and new songs, slated for release in the Fall, and anticipated by a radio-friendly edit of single “Un Limon En La Cabeza“.

The Balance Imbalance of Afinque: Dancing Through the Tensions and Intricate Realities that Unite Us with Zemog El Gallo Bueno on YoYouMeTú Volume 3

Zemog El Gallo Bueno is the philosopher’s psychedelic Latinotronic band. With multiple, branching roots and a lifetime of grappling with identity, the driving force behind the group Abraham Gomez-Delgado-Delgado has gathered musical kindred spirits back into a band for a raw, rhythmically stunning, dancefloor-ready, thinking person’s album.
 Nothing is as straightforward as you want to make it, Gomez-Delgado insists. But it can be a hell of a beautiful ride, as mapped out on YoYouMeTúTrilogy: Volume 3 (release November 9, 2018).
 “It can feel awkward to use the term Latinx or Latin or Latino, because you’re being grouped together with so many people. But you can’t say no to it, or things get taken away from communities. I wanted to walk close to the line of tradition and then do something that’s not necessarily predicted. To say, hey, we are individuals and have intricate realities like other humans,” Gomez-Delgado says. “We’re not all just like, ‘hey salsa, let’s party!’ I’m not your entertainment, nor am I here to be a jerk and not entertain you.” Gomez-Delgado and Zemog are here to get you to dance to your own humanity, as they grapple musically with theirs.
 Volume 3 presents a closing rally to a deep-going, wide-ranging trio of albums. The previous, Volume 2, was sparked by Gomez-Delgado’s struggle to rebuild his life while grappling with intense experiences of alienation and migration, Volume 3 revels in the joys of healing love and friendship and the three-chord song--a formula just as potent in Cuba and Puerto Rico as in garage rock (“Sexy Carnitas,” “Pianola”)--and in life’s moments, great (“Wedding Song,” “Delgados Feliz”) and small (“Quiero Correr,” about a really good jog in the park).
 Gomez-Delgado’s musings on “Balance Imbalance Dance” speak to the spirit of the whole album: “Without balance there is no imbalance. You need tension. You need to throw a wrench into things,” Gomez-Delgado reflects. “It’s not an opposite; it’s in balance. You zoom out to wanting utopia, and as hard as hard times can be, we need them to remind us of what is and what is important.”
 The texture and timbre of complex experience has always been important to Gomez-Delgado. His work strives to embrace all the contradictions and riches of his Puerto Rican-Peruvian heritage, his life as a young immigrant in a sometimes less-than-friendly environment, and his yearnings as a remarkably deft and sensitive musician. He longs to create the connection between people, onstage and off, that’s often called afinque in salsa music: that moment of meld when everyone sways as one.
 After a successful string of albums with his band--and many of his favorite bandmates continue to play with him--Gomez-Delgado found himself in a period of deep introspection that made it challenging to play music with others. Eventually, Gomez-Delgado found his way forward, moving all his favorite salsa elements to a single instrument that could be played by a single musician. “It coaxed me toward remembering how to play with others,” Gomez-Delgado recalls.
 That energy, once coupled with the excellent New York-based musicians in Zemog, burst into new intensity at a regular gig at Brooklyn music hub Barbès, where the band had a long-standing residency. Gomez-Delgado worked to keep the intensity present on Volume 3, keeping the live vibe on tracks like “Agua a Peso” and “Pianola.”
 This new-found sense of vibrant community lets Gomez-Delgado’s wonderfully vivid imagination run wild, vibrating with cha cha cha, salsa, guaracha, punk, funk, and pure idiosyncrasy. “I wanted this album to have a wide spectrum. That asks a lot of people. That’s not always fair or right, but sometimes you are reacting to what life is,” notes Gomez-Delgado. “I’m going to bring these things up in my music. I wanted to lay some heavy stuff down and if you can get through that, then we’ll have fun and a good conversation.”
 The heavy stuff springs from the political, no surprise for an artist like Gomez-Delgado in this day and age. “Americae,” with its Latin lyrics and its fantastic, all-over-the-place polyrhythms, cuts to the heart of the American dilemma of its cries for freedom and its basis in genocide and slavery. “This original and ‘invisible’ sin keeps coming up. Until we deal with it, it will keep coming back,” comments Gomez-Delgado.
 Yet Zemog never lets gloom dominate the conversation. “Motivate,” written with conga virtuoso Reinaldo DeJesus, urges movements and motions, with coils of low brass, inspiring percussion, and a dreamy guitar line that dares you to sit still. The lyrics ask us all to get the guts to up on the dancefloor, literally and figuratively, to step up and wake up, in an anthem that feels like Frank Zappa and Antibalas colliding with cumbia.
 With a similar floating sense of rhythm but a more stately sway, “YoYouMeTú” addresses identity dilemmas of a more intimate nature. The crisis of connection that we all face--that promises greater happiness if we learn to deal with it--can be resolved only by losing some of what we cling to and having faith in this vulnerability. “The lyrics use the words ‘afinque’ and ‘afincado,’ used in salsa starting in the 60-70s. They basically describe when the band is tight and becomes one, with the dancers in the room. You lose time, fully present but not in a stressful, ego-filled way. The band is swinging. That to me is the main thing of all of this,” explains Gomez-Delgado. “It’s hard to accept because anything that’s new is contradicting what you knew before. That tension takes an inner faith to move through.”

What happens on the dancefloor or in our tangled inner worlds blurs for Zemog, but that is where the pleasures of committed relationship (a moment celebrated with his wife Olia in “Wedding Song,” which they crafted for their big day) and family (“Delgados” includes a recording of Gomez-Delgado’s extended family singing together in Puerto Rico.) This is the place Gomez-Delgado fought so hard to reach, what he lays out in polychrome, shifting, quirky detail on the album. “I don’t care how cliche it is. It’s really about us and how we affirm each other’s existence. It’s the most basic thing, but I don’t care. The message still isn’t getting through, judging by our current climate. So it’s vital to say it and play it.”


Arturo O’Farrill - 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.

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, due out 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.”

What is most striking about the music of Fandango at the Wall is that for all of the anger, frustration and strife that fueled its creation, it is an intensely joyous celebration that exults in the universal language of music. That notion has become a cliché, but it’s one that O’Farrill has always thrived on making vividly and unpredictably real. Hence the surprising hybrid of approaches on display: not just a mélange of world musics, but virtuosic jazz and striking contemporary classical approaches.

“It’s not just geopolitical borders that offend me,” O’Farrill explains. “It’s also cultural construct borders – the idea that there’s a high music and a low music, a high culture and a low culture. The belief that folk music isn’t as impressive or as important as jazz, or that Middle Eastern music isn’t valid because it’s not born in America. I wanted to destroy these walls, and in fact I found out that the presence of borders and walls and constructs serves an incredible purpose – it unites us in opposition even more than it divides us.”

Another border torn down by Sehgal and O’Farrill was the one between the pristine conditions of the recording studio and the thrilling festivities of the Fandango Fronterizo. Fandango at the Wall flows seamlessly between both settings, with five sessions undertaken in recording studios and outdoors at a live session straddling the border with music freely crossing back and forth.

“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.”

JOE LOCKE Discovers His Lingua Franca On SUBTLE DISGUISE

For several years now vibraphonist, composer and bandleader Joe Locke has had two musical purposes: one, to speak in a vernacular which reaches people, and two, to continue challenging himself as a player, writer and arranger. In 2013 Locke released Lay Down My Heart (Blues & Ballads, Vol. 1), which dealt with the first directive. Then in 2015 he completed the astounding Love Is a Pendulum, a suite in 5 movements, which addressed the second. Now, on his newest release, Subtle Disguise (available on Origin Records, November 16, 2018), both of these impulses have been integrated into one recording. "For me, this album is the fruition of a long journey of self discovery as an artist, where I no longer see the different aspects of my musical personality as separate or at odds with one another. I have discovered my own lingua franca, connecting the seemingly disparate styles I enjoy playing," says Locke.

Subtle Disguise would not have come to actualization were it not for Locke's collaborators: Locke states that, "Raul Midón's contribution was essential to the project. His vast musical knowledge combined with his deep understanding of the Blues make him a unique artist. The same can be said of guitarist Adam Rogers; he dips into a lot of different stylistic territory on this album, and he's always brilliant, honest and deeply communicative. David Binney brings the fire, pure and simple. His contributions raise the bar on the tracks he graces. All three of these musicians are people I've been looking to work with for a long time. Having them together here made this project even more special for me," explained Locke. "Jim Ridl, Lorin Cohen and Samvel Sarkisyan, who form the core of this band, have been hugely important to the development of this project since its inception. Each a formidable musician in his own right, together they function as a tight-knit unit of kindred spirits. This is the quartet I have wanted for a long time. I'm grateful to them for their unflagging commitment to this music."

While some of the music on Subtle Disguise is personal in nature, there is a political thread that runs through much of the album. From Red Cloud, a paean to the great Oglala Sioux leader, to Blind Willie Johnson's spotlight on our youngest embattled citizens, Motherless Children, "It's obvious that on this recording I felt the need to address some wrongs, both historic and present", says Locke. Although Who Killed Davey Moore?, Bob Dylan's song about passing the buck, was written in 1963, Locke's composition Rogues of America speaks to a more current manifestation of callous indifference. Locke explains that the title song, "is about the masks we all wear, for various reasons. Many good souls feel the need to disguise their vulnerabilities, while others wear a smiling mask to hide a malevolent agenda. Whatever the reason, these disguises are hard to shed. The song is also so named because it's based on a disguised version of a Miles Davis song from the 1950s. Make Me Feel Like It's Raining is Locke's tribute to Bobby Hutcherson, who passed away in August, 2016. Locke elaborates, "Bobby was the bellwether of contemporary vibraphone. He was also my personal touchstone. Bobby was once asked in an interview what he wanted as a listener. He responded, 'Jerk me around! Jerk my soul around! Make me smile and laugh. Make me sad. Make me feel like it's raining.' His musical impact and the light of his humanity will be felt for a long time to come. Blondie Roundabout is a dedication to Locke's manager, Nadja von Massow, around whom there is a constant flow of creative traffic. Safe and Sound (At The Edge of the Milky Way) was inspired by a line spoken by Albert Finney in the film adaptation of Lyle Kessler's play, Orphans. "I like the paradox of all of us being safe and sound in such a precarious place in the universe", says Locke. A Little More Each Day, the vocal version of this song, serves as the album's closer, with Locke on piano, David Binney on alto and Alina Engibaryan interpreting the lyric beautifully.

More on Joe Locke: It bears repeating - Joe Locke is a musician's musician, an artist for the ages whose immense talent and uplifting spirit enhances every musical situation he graces. Locke is a man who has gathered no moss as he has evolved into a communicator, a conceptualist, a composer, and a modern virtuoso who defies categorization. He has worked in numerous formats, from small group to symphony orchestra, and with artists as diverse as Cecil Taylor and The Beastie Boys.
Derk Richardson said of Locke in The San Francisco Bay Guardian that, "not only has he mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz - but he has done so in a way that transcends mere technique and establishes him as a unique and adventurous musical voice." With more than thirty acclaimed recordings to his credit, it is no wonder The Times (London) proclaimed that, "there seems little doubt that Locke, with his ability to play cool and funky, heady and relaxed, is set to become the pre-eminent vibraphonist in jazz." In a four and a half star review in DownBeat Magazine, journalist Ken Micallef called Love Is a Pendulum, "a thematic work that embraces a cerebral vision and empowers it song after song," and elaborated that, "Love Is A Pendulum honors the listener's intelligence in artfully realized song-craft." And, Mike Hobart stated in The Financial Times that, "Joe Locke's clean lines, crystalline tone and shimmering vibrato recall the great US vibraphonists Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, but their fellow American boosts his technically assured modernism with emotional commitment and compositional flair." 

This sampling of praise is in no small part due to his recent solo projects, notably the three distinct albums he has released since 2011, which display his immense stylistic versatility and ability to create artistic depth in a variety of contexts: Signing (2012, the long awaited follow-up studio album of Live In Seattle), Wish Upon A Star (2012, Locke's first ever symphonic project, featuring Locke's Quartet with the Symphony Orchestra of Lincoln, Nebraska), and Lay Down My Heart (2013, jazz radio chart's #1 Blues & Ballads album). Locke's previous release, Love Is A Pendulum, was hailed as the most important work of his career. Other notable recordings in Locke's extensive discography (more than thirty albums as a leader) include, Four Walls of Freedom, a six movement suite featuring the late tenor saxophonist Bob Berg; Live in Seattle by The Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, which won the 2006 Ear Shot award for Concert of the Year, and his eloquent and vibrant quartet recording, Force Of Four. Not to mention his newest crowning achievement, Subtle Disguise (out on Origin, November 16, 2018).

Locke is a five-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association's "Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year" Award, has received the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Awards for Best Vibes Player and keeps topping critics and readers polls. In 2016 he was honoured with the induction into the Music Hall of Fame of his hometown Rochester, NY. He is an active clinician and educator in the United States and in Europe and has been the International Vibraphone Consultant at the Royal Academy Of Music, London, on a visiting basis since 2008, holding the title of Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy Of Music (Hon ARAM) since 2013. Joe is also on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in NYC.

Joe Locke endorses Malletech instruments, and Love Is A Pendulum was the first recording to feature the innovative OmegaVibe (also endorsed by Stefon Harris, Tony Miceli and Warren Wolf).

Joe Locke - Subtle Disguise
All compositions by Joe Locke, except "Who Killed Davey Moore?"-Bob Dylan, and "Motherless Children"-Blind Willie Johnson
1. Red Cloud 
2. Who Killed Davey Moore? 
3. Subtle Disguise 
4. Make Me Feel Like It's Raining 
5. Rogues of America 
6. Motherless Children 
7. Safe and Sound (At the Edge of the Milky Way) 
8. Blondie Roundabout 
9. A Little More Each Day


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Amaro Freitas announces new album Rasif with single 'Mantra'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole Conte - Cosmic Forest: The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

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

Sachal Vasandani – Shadow Train  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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