Friday, October 12, 2018

Modern Jazz + Avant-Pop + Opera! Saxophonist Daniel Bennett's "We Are the Orchestra"


Daniel Bennett's groundbreaking release "We Are the Orchestra" was conceived when Bennett arranged the musical score for "Whitman at the Whitney" at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The show was produced by the Hudson Guild Theater. In a bold departure from previous works, "We Are the Orchestra" features saxophonist Daniel Bennett in a rare duo performance with guitarist Mark Cocheo. All of the wind, string and percussion instruments were recorded and layered to create the sound of a large ensemble. This ambitious project features Bennett's "Avant-Pop" compositions and arrangements of opera themes by 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi. The music reveals the exceptional versatility of Bennett and Cocheo as they blend Jazz, Folk and Classical music with an infusion of offbeat humor.

The Boston Globe describes Daniel Bennett's music as "a mix of jazz, folk, and minimalism."  The New York saxophonist was recently voted 'Best New Jazz Artist' in Hot House Magazine (NYC). The Daniel Bennett Group has been featured in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, NPR, Indianapolis Public Radio, San Francisco Examiner, St. Louis Public Radio and the Village Voice. The Village Voice raves, "saxophonist Daniel Bennett makes hay with an airy approach that's buoyant enough to conjure notions of East African guitar riffs and Steve Reich's pastoral repetition."  Daniel Bennett studied saxophone at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston. Bennett has lived in New York City for over a decade. The Daniel Bennett Group performs regularly at the Blue Note and other prestigious venues throughout the world. In addition to leading his own band, Daniel Bennett performs in Broadway and Off-Broadway theater productions in New York City. Daniel Bennett currently plays woodwinds in 'Blank! The Musical,' the first fully improvised Off-Broadway musical to launch on a national stage. The New York Times calls the show, "Witty, Likable and Ludicrous!" Daniel Bennett's theatrical works have strongly influenced his eclectic sound and musical storytelling abilities as a bandleader.


West Coast Cool From LISA HILTON On New Release OASIS


An enticing oasis pulsing with West Coast cool energy is what the acclaimed pianist and award-winning composer Lisa Hilton has created with her new release, OASIS. Along with her trio mates, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., they have delivered on that promise with a new album that is at times tender, yet emotionally intelligent, and well-conceived. On OASIS, Hilton notes that the album title refers to a place of refuge, relief and a realization during the composing process that while she herself needed an antidote during these tumultuous times, others were seeking their own safe haven, or "oasis," as well.

The opening track, "Twists of Fate," surprises the senses with its cool laid back vibe laced with an energy related to the electricity of Thelonious Monk and Count Basie’s best excursions in bop, with Hilton leaving plenty of aural room while Curtis and Whitfield lay down some incredibly arresting rhythms. The trio then segues into the Horace Silver influenced, "Adventure Lands."

Compositions like the title track, "Oasis," "Watercolor World" and "Sunday Morning" showcase the trio’s collective ability to coalesce around an ethereal or, conversely, an ecstatic mood; at times with washes of free jazz and cascading notes fluttering. The classic George Gershwin tune, "Fascinating Rhythm," now travels in some new directions with the supple grooves of Curtis and Whitfield as well as yielding the melody under Hilton’s supple touch. This is a good companion to Hilton’s "Vapors & Shadows" as well as the lively "Just for Fun."

"Lazy Daisy" is a slow blues for a sunny afternoon, though here with an impish twist mixing bluesy tones against simpler melodic ideas. Latin rhythms weave in and out of Hilton’s compositions, and here are showcased on the fast paced "Sunshine States." The final track "Warm Summer Night" ends the album in a solo piano version awash in Americana.

Hilton continues to produce an album a year with what has been described by Midwest Record Recap as a “throbbing undercurrent of West Coast Cool.” The pianist's 21st release, OASIS, is meant to lift spirits as a positive and energizing force in our lives -- something the pianist and her trio have accomplished using traditional ideas in new and invigorating ways.
  
Hilton's blues inflected trans-genre or poly-genre style influences extend beyond jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Horace Silver and Duke Ellington, to include bluesman Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, minimalists like Steve Reich, current rockers Black Keys or modernists Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok. Hilton has performed at venues across the US from the legendary Carnegie Hall to Chicago’s historic Green Mill and is known her expressive technique at the piano as well as for her warmth and storytelling on stage. Originally from a small town on California's central coast, Hilton studied classical and twentieth century piano formally from the age of eight, where she was inspired by her great uncle, Willem Bloemendall, (1910-1937), a young Dutch piano virtuoso. In college though, due to the lack of creativity in the program, she became a music school drop out, switching majors and receiving a degree in art instead. Ever since becoming a professional musician, this background in the fine arts has well informed Hilton's composition process.

Committed to helping students who are often overlooked, for many years Hilton has regularly spent time to help blind students at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, The Junior Blind of America in Los Angeles, Camp Bloomfield for the Blind in California, or The Berklee College in Boston and their adaptive music lab for visually impaired musicians. "I enjoy extending help to those with physical disabilities - music should be for everyone," Hilton explains. OASIS will be the 21st album produced under her publishing arm, Lisa Hilton Music, and released on the Ruby Slippers Productions label. Hilton’s catalog of published compositions now totals well over 200 tracks.


"Soniquete: The Sensational Sound of Gecko Turner" by Spanish multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Gecko Turner


“Soniquete: The Sensational Sound Of Gecko Turner” features 13 classic cuts selected from his previous four long-players on Spanish label Lovemonk, plus a brand new track. The record includes heavyweight guests like the mighty UK vocalist Eska, Brazilian and flamenco percussionist Rubem Dantas and Cuban pianist Javier ‘Caramelo’ Masso.

Gecko Turner‘s artistry as vocalist, multi instrumentalist and arranger shines through a global melange of styles from West African disco to hot-stepping Caribbean descargas. There are sounds and textures of all persuasions – mini-moog, clavinet and mbira sit alongside the cajon and other Latin and Brazilian percussions, yet it’s the use of Gecko’s language that truly sets his songs apart; the way he twists words and sentences so they become one with the melodies.

Singing in English, Spanish and a tongue only Gecko is privvy to, where local slang, foreign lingo and ‘made up’ words poetically combine, his songs always come with a nudge and a wink. The way he records, writes, composes and produces everything results in something he calls “soniquete”, a word often used in flamenco to refer to the rhythm and sound. A case in point is the debut single and signature Gecko tune “Un Limón En La Cabeza”, originally released in 2003.

“Soniquete” is a snapshot of an artist who lives, works and plays with wild abandon, caring little for music industry norms or the big city, much preferring his Extremadura outpost by the Guadiana river. With a life philosophy learned from his experiences ‘on the road’, he absorbs jazz, global music and literature. With the help of a guitar or a piano, blistering sunshine, a wee dram and a puff of smoke, Gecko is an expert at turning inspiration into expression, clever word play and writing incredibly addictive songs.

The album release coincides with the vinyl represses of his previous albums “Guapapasea!” (2003) and “Chandalismo Ilustrado” (2006).

“Soniquete” out October 12th on CD / Digital download via Lovemonk Records.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

CERTAIN ELEMENTS – A NEW ALBUM BY KARLA HARRIS

Of Certain Elements, the third album from acclaimed jazz vocalist Karla Harris, it can be said that this is a place where lush contemporary comes alongside deft acoustic mainstream jazz to create the potent signature sound of this collection. Intriguingly mystical and invitingly earthy, with an aural quality all its own, the record’s tunes of varying feels – Latin, contemporary, swing, blues-inspired – showcase the velvety, dynamic range of Harris’ considerable talent to compelling effect.

Certain Elements follows up on Harris’ second release, Karla Harris Sings the Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook, released in 2015 on Summit Records and featuring jazz all-stars Tom Kennedy on bass, drummer Dave Weckl, saxophonist Bob Sheppard and pianist/arranger Ted Howe. Harris’ vocal versions of Brubeck classics proved to be an expertly executed and well-received homage showcasing the singer’s technical chops and interpretive ability. Of the record, jazz reviewer Thomas Cunniffe wrote, “She makes these seldom-heard lyrics come alive,” and Jazziz said, “The Brubecks would be pleased.”

Harris’ new recording demonstrates evolving artistry. She leans creatively into a fuller spectrum of her gifts on Certain Elements, teaming with acclaimed producer Trammell Starks to create tracks where her authenticity and emotive power come shining through. The record’s 12 tracks feature several originals penned by the vocalist, her first outing as a songwriter, and beautifully curated cover tunes, including the album’s first single, a contemporary jazz remake of the 1960s hit “Cherish.” Harris’ “Cherish” gets lush, romantic treatment, thoughtful rhythmic variation, and nuanced delivery of those longing lyrics. Released to contemporary jazz radio mid-September, it’s generating buzz quickly. The tune’s composer, Terry Kirkman, comments that it is a “beautiful surprise” for him, and that Harris’ “rich, warm, depth throughout her range is incredible … truly inspirational.”

“Cherish” was one of the last tracks produced for the collection, which unrolled organically over a period of years. “This project actually started in 2013 – I just didn’t know it at the time,” Harris says. It was then that she recorded in Portland, Oregon, her former home, a cover of the Peter Dello tune and Joe Cocker hit, “Do I Still Figure in Your Life,” at the suggestion of Latin percussionist and bandleader Bobby Torres, who toured with Cocker for years. Torres arranged the song for Harris’ voice, creating a stripped-down ballad version of the tune that packs an emotional punch. The track stayed tucked away following a move that took Harris to Atlanta.

Not too long after that move, she experienced a period of time she describes as “creatively intense, where the muses were kind.” Riding the wave, Harris wrote several songs, six of which are included on Certain Elements. From the poetic, transcendent title track to the whimsical wordplay of the swinging “When Michael;” from the grown-up sensuality of “Folds” to the story-based blues of “Interlude” and more, Harris’ songwriting shows a love for words and wrapping them into a lyric and a melody.

“From the moment they formed, I became committed to these songs, performed them on occasion at live shows to great response, and wanted to record them, simply to complete a creative process,” Harris says. However, after bringing her material to Starks, the vision grew along with the producer’s enthusiasm over what he was hearing from the singer/songwriter. He encouraged Harris to further build out the project, and set to arranging some of her originals.

Meanwhile, Harris pulled in covers of songs arranged for her over the years by close colleagues, including that 2013 track and another done by Torres, a sultry Latin version of the Legrand/Bergman tune, “The Way He Makes Me Feel.” Harris also includes a jazz-influenced take on the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me,” arranged by pianist Mark Simon, a close friend of Harris’ who passed away before he could finish tracking the tune. His brother, Chicago pianist Fred Simon, completed it for the recording.

The record honors other friendships made across Harris’ musical journey and features many more bright lights, from Portland, Seattle and Atlanta, including pianists Randy Porter, George Colligan, Kevin Bales, Dan Gaynor, Tyrone Jackson; bassists Sam Sims, Damian Erskine, Jeff Johnson, Neal Starkey; saxophonists Sam Skelton, Mace Hibbard; trumpeter Darren English; drummers Todd Strait, Marlon Patton, Lil’ John Roberts, Reinhardt Melz; percussionists Rafael Pereira, Bobby Torres, Carmelo Torres; guitarists Dan Baraszu, Chris Blackwell; and Trammell Starks on keyboards and programming.

“A dancing tendril on the edge of flame.”… It’s a lyric from the album’s first track, a Latin-infused tune of Harris’ called “Set Sophia Free” that carries a powerful message of awakening with its world-music, spiritual vibe. Like that dancing tendril, Harris is set to light a fire within jazz fans’ hearts 


L.J. Reynolds, Legendary Dramatics Frontman, Releases New Single, “You and Me Together, Forever”


L.J. Reynolds, frontman of dynamic R&B vocal group The Dramatics, releases the new single, “You and Me Together, Forever.” Written and produced by Reynolds, with string arrangements by Paul Riser, the single is climbing the Urban Adult Contemporary Radio chart. “You and Me Together, Forever” is released on Reynolds’ label, Motor City Hits/Crystal Rose Records, and will be featured on the forthcoming album You and Me, scheduled for release in February 2019. “You and Me Together, Forever” is available at digital retail outlets including iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, among others.

“‘You and Me Together, Forever’ is one of the best records that I’ve ever done,” says Reynolds, the legendary balladeer. “This song will take my fans and all listeners on a love journey to heaven. The song conjures spiritual feelings with heartfelt lyrics.”

Reynolds recently produced and directed the video of “You and Me Together, Forever” with his co-director, Diego Cruz through Reynolds’ company, Magnificent Productions. Reynolds video, “You and Me Together, Forever” is currently on Vevo and YouTube.

The single is the first taste of Reynolds’ forthcoming tenth solo project, You and Me. For the album he also recorded and produced a remake of a Marvin Gaye classic, which he has titled “Mercy, Mercy Me/Stop The War, Save The World (I Just Can’t Stop Dancing).” He also recorded a brand-new version of his ‘70s hit classic, “Key To The World,” now retitled “Giving All My Love, Key To The World,” that Reynolds rededicates to his lifelong fans.

Reynolds’ previous album, Get To This, featured the hit single “Come Get to This/Stepping Out Tonight,” which peaked at No. 24 on Mediabase’s Urban Adult Contemporary chart. Other chart-toppers include “Cheating on Me” and “You Sure Love to Ball,” each of which was released with a video.

Reynolds began to master his craft as the lead singer of the Relations, followed by Chocolate Syrup, before he burst onto the scene in 1972 as the new lead singer of The Dramatics. His cascade of hits and fan favorites includes the Top 10 single “Fell For You” (A Dramatic Experience, 1973), “And I Panicked” (Dramatically Yours, 1974), “Door To Your Heart” (The Dells vs. The Dramatics, 1974), “(I’m Going By) The Stars In Your Eyes,” “Me and Mrs. Jones” (The Dramatic Jackpot, 1975); “Just Shopping (Not Buying Anything),” (Drama V, 1975), “Be My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Over You,” (Joy Ride, 1976), “Do What You Wanna Do,” “Stop Your Weeping” (Do What You Wanna Do, 1978); “That’s My Favorite Song” (Any Time, Any Place, 1979), “It Ain’t Rainin’ (On Nobody’s House But Mine),” and “Be With The One You Love” (10 1/2, 1980), “Ain’t No Woman Like My Baby,” “Toast To The Fool,” as well as countless others.

Reynolds opened the door to the hearts of the masses with his first solo hit, “Key To The World,” in 1981. More than 35 years later, transcending time and cultures, “Key To The World” is embraced all over the world. Reynolds’ rendition of “Call Me” (Travelin’, 1982), previously recorded by Aretha Franklin, highlighted his ability to make a classic his own, while “Touchdown” (Lovin’ Man, 1984) climbed the charts and marked his growth as a multiple instrumentist as well as a singer and songwriter.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Reynolds, along with The Dramatics, collaborated with Snoop Dogg on “Doggy Dogg World” (1993) and “Ballin’ (2002). In 2008, Reynolds released his second Gospel album, The Message, collaborating creative forces with Grammy Award-winning producer Michael J. Powell. In 2011, Reynolds busted out with a new twist to his sizzling sound, this time reprising and embellishing upon a Marvin Gaye favorite with “Come Get To This/Stepping Out Tonight” (Get To This). Reynolds refined the production with a steppers’ flavor, and the track quickly became a dance favorite. His powerful vocal range was on display as he once again put his soulful signature on a classic.

Reynolds is currently promoting the new single and confirming dates for the upcoming concert tour. “I wrote this song [“You and Me Together, Forever”] so people can hear the melody and listen to the lyrics; and be able to say ‘that’s me, that’s the way I feel.”

For additional information on L.J. Reynolds and The Dramatics, please contact Motor City Hits at 248.579.6867 or Brian A. Spears at 702.361.1626.


Sound Underground Returns to Shatter Limitations of Acoustic Instruments on Power of Three


Entering their sixth year, chamber trio Sound Underground returns with their third release Power of Three. While their sophomore effort Quiet Spaces dwelled reflectively in the intimacy of their unconventional instrumentation – trumpet, alto saxophone and guitar – Power of Three strives to shatter the limitations of sonic possibility with these three acoustic instruments. Across 71 minutes of original music, the trio perseveres to turn new stones.

Sound Underground, made up of saxophonist David Leon, trumpeter Alec Aldred and guitarist Jonah Udall, hopes to reflect stories of life through each track on Power of Three. “The palate of sounds we hear on a daily basis, the things that often go by unnoticed, we try to include them all in the music in an effort to achieve a total experience of life through sound,” Leon explains.

Using a distinctive approach, the album was recorded live and without isolation, in a single session, which allowed no room for the trio’s natural intimacy to be compromised. “There’s a deep comfort in knowing each other as well as we do – the months we’ve spent on the road, the years living together,” Aldred muses. “We can constantly take risks, really put ourselves out there, fully knowing the other two will be right there with us no matter what.” Jonah adds, “We’re definitely a sum that’s greater than its parts.”

Within this deep cohesion, their raw transparency displays three compelling personalities that are as different as they are complementary. All three members are unique composers in their own right, with a share of credits on the album. But as Udall describes, “every piece really bears each of our stamp. The music often winds up sounding nothing like what we first brought in after rehearsing it together and making it our own.”

Power of Three begins with the stark jabs of its title track, that press forward with a relentlessly joyous momentum. It is the exemplary expression of their democratic approach to the trio, a kaleidoscope of three equal voices.
  
Leon’s “Sun Stealer” takes a dark turn, doling out exacting mixed meters that navigates with relaxed precision. This makes way for a trifecta of exploratory ventures into the acoustic possibilities of the guitar. “I’m fascinated with the physicality of it,” Udall confesses. “It’s really a percussion instrument, a complex string-drum, and when I look at it that way I never stop finding new sounds.”

Udall’s “Belltones” follows, blossoming into a harmonic palate, which Leon and Udall weave together under a heartfelt trumpet solo. “False Alarm” leaps back with sharp angles, beginning with interlocking horn flurries and traversing a surprising variety of terrain. It features solos from each member – a rubato guitar moment, a trumpet showcase, and ending with ambient saxophone sounds. “Its an anti-solo,” Leon quips. “I’m trying to blend into the noise that might have happened by accident if we hadn’t been there.” He continues, “sometimes I just want to sound like a lamppost.”

“Demon Dance” is a fiery tribute to the trio’s love of Bulgarian folk music, which became a shared passion when they toured Bulgaria in 2014 and 2015. The melody settles into a simmering alto solo in a traditional kopanitsa 11/16. This paves the way for the genuine sweetness of Aldred’s “Feet in the Ground,” which humorously deconstructs a simple melody with lively horn interplay.

“The Potentialist” begins in open improvisation and finds its way to a tiptoeing melody and solos by the horn men. Aldred’s “Restful Rapture” experiments with the trading of winding melodies between all three instruments, which suddenly downshifts into a heavy, guitar-driven anthem.

An infectious groove takes over on “Smile Back,” which finishes with a Baroque fugue. It leads into the album’s 11-minute saga “Slow to Anger, Rich in Kindness,” which journeys from angular pointillistic harmony through driving power chords into a Meshuggah-inspired bassline, and peaks with an encounter between Leon and the saxophone. He laughs, “Sometimes I like to sound like a blender, too.” And through it all, they can’t help but sound only like themselves.

After that, the album’s single true ballad, Leon’s “By Myself,” speaks a few statements of its powerful melody. Power of Three concludes with “Lodore” – Udall’s tribute to “the unassuming power of water” inspired by the Green River in his fatherland of Utah. Leon channels this power into a final saxophone eruption.
  
Based in New York City, Sound Underground is a compact trio with an expansive imagination. Their inquisitive approach is guided by words of wisdom from jazz legend Wayne Shorter: "You've got to go down in the basement and visit every note.” Hailed by JazzTimes as "an inimitable and profoundly special group sound,” saxophonist David Leon, trumpeter Alec Aldred and guitarist Jonah Udall draw on a broad array of influences – from Cool Jazz to 20th century chamber music, to Americana and Balkan folklore – to distill a unique and personal voice.

The trio’s music emanates the warmth of close friendships. They hail from far-flung corners of the United States - Udall is from Berkeley, California, Aldred from Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Leon from Miami, Florida - and formed in 2013 while living together in Miami, building the personal bonds that ground their strong musical connection. One can hear it in their performance, which is infused with the kind of trust that can only be built over years, on the bandstand and off.

Sound Underground has toured across 13 states on all sides of the U.S. They have appeared on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, as well as at four major international jazz festivals in Mexico, Bulgaria and Serbia. Their sophomore album Quiet Spaces was selected for Best of Fall 2016 lists by Jazziz Magazine and Bandcamp.com.

Sound Underground · Power of Three
Release Date: November 9, 2018



Vocalists MARK WINKLER and CHERYL BENTYNE have teamed up to record EASTERN STANDARD TIME


Vocalists Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne go together like champagne and caviar. They’ve teamed up to record EASTERN STANDARD TIME, a sophisticated project of songs culled from known standards and several less familiar pages of the Great American Songbook, as well as a couple of originals by Winkler. This is their second CD together. The first, WEST COAST COOL, was released in 2013 and received critical acclaim and went to #16 on the Jazzweek chart. 

For that project, Winkler and Bentyne chose tunes from the 1950s associated with the West Coast Cool sound. For EASTERN STANDARD TIME they reprise the concept, but this time present songs of East Coast lineage. They’ve  chosen songs that you would hear if you habituated jazz clubs in New York City back in the late 50s and early 60s. Although the CD comprises mainly duets, they each perform two solo pieces as well. EASTERN STANDARD TIME is a cool and cultivated project by two stellar vocalists who can transform whatever they sing into a statement of great emotional depth. Individually, Winkler and Bentyne are highly compelling performers. Together, they are musical powerhouses.



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