Thursday, January 17, 2019

New Music Releases: Itiberê Orquestra Família - Pedra do Espia; Brandi Wells – Still Love Him Anyway; Darren Rahn - Moxified

Itiberê Orquestra Família - Pedra do Espia

Itiberê Zwarg is an award-winning Brazilian bassist and the longest-serving member of Hermeto Pascoal’s ground-breaking ensemble ‘O Grupo’. Since their first meeting in 1977, the two have been closely collaborating to create a unique musical language: a genre-defying polyharmonic, polyrhythmic music, now widely studied by musicians and musicologists alike, known as ‘Universal Music’. Presenting Itiberê Orquestra Família's Pedra do Espia: an orchestra of twenty-nine of Rio de Janeiro’s most exceptionally talented young musicians, led by the indomitable Itiberê. Originally released in Brazil as a 2xCD in 2001, we're bringing this phenomenal album to vinyl for the first time, alongside a 2xCD and digital release.


Brandi Wells – Still Love Him Anyway

The vaults of Society Hill Records has graced us with new mixes of two stellar tracks, “Still Love Him Anyway” and “I Love You”, from the gone too soon vocalist, Brandi Wells. Wells, a native of Chester, PA, sang with Fat Larry's Band, Breeze, and Slick before embarking on a solo career. Her debut platter, “Watch Out” was released in 1981 on Fantasy Records and climbed to #37 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Sadly, Brandi passed away from breast cancer in March 2003, at the age of 47.





Darren Rahn - Moxified

Moxified is a sneak peek from Darren’s upcoming album currently in production. Rahn puts his best foot forward on this outing following a string of smash radio hits including the #1 Billboard hit and 2016 Smooth Jazz Network “Song of the Year”, D-Luxe, from his 5th solo album Sonic Boom.  Pulling out all the stops, Moxified delivers great energy and mojo with a cast of world-class musicians.  Rahn is featured on alto sax this time around while a live rhythm section provides the foundation for this groove infected jam.  Live horn section and a collection of real analog synth sounds top it all off, tickling the ear with serious sonic goodness.  Derived from the word “moxie” (mäk-sē), which means to have energy, pep, savvy, courage, determination and know-how, Moxified is true to it’s namesake delivering upbeat vibes to it’s listeners.





SOLILOQUY by piano legend ALAN PASQUA

Alan Pasqua is a piano legend who has performed and recorded with many of the top names in both jazz and pop. Pasqua was a member of The New Tony Williams Lifetime and appeared on the albums Believe It and Million Dollar Legs. He also performed with Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Dave Holland, Michael Brecker, Randy Becker, Joe Henderson, Stanley Clarke, Gary Burton, James Moody, Gary Peacock, Gary Bartz, Reggie Workman, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Sheila Jordan, and Joe Williams, to name just a few.  

In the pop world, Pasqua recorded two albums with Dylan (Bob Dylan at Budokan and Street-Legal), with John Fogerty on the album Eye of the Zombie, with Starship on the album No Protection, and with Allan Holdsworth on the album Sand. He was also the keyboardist for Carlos Santana on his albums Marathon, Zebop! and Havana Moon. 

Pasqua has also been the leader or co-leader on many critically acclaimed jazz recordings. In 2008, Pasqua joined forces with Peter Erskine and Dave Carpenter, arranging, co-producing and playing on the Grammy-nominated trio album Standards. His recent releases are Twin Bill, which features Pasqua playing the music of Bill Evans on two pianos, and Northern Lights features Pasqua’s original compositions exploring his roots in the classical, pop and jazz idioms.

Soliloquy, his newest project, was recorded in Pasqua’s Santa Monica studio on his Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano. The sound is exquisite and the performance invites the listener on an intimate personal journey. Included are nine of his favorite standards and one cover of a Bob Dylan song.


NYC Acoustic Duo Yagull's New Album “Yuna” - Marriage of Piano & Guitar - Cinematic, Lyrical, Truly Intimate Recording


Yagull represents an ethereal beauty that takes you on a transformative journey. Throughout the course of the band’s discography, Sasha Markovic and Kana Kamitsubo have smoothly blended the guitar and piano, respectively, to produce exquisite splendor in melody and mood. One feels the music of Yagull in a spiritual, emotional intensity that is rarely equaled. A metamorphosis occurs for the listener.

“Yuna,” the band's newest endeavor, was created and recorded over a period of two years. Apart from one track, Sasha and Kana are the only musicians on the album - a departure from previous efforts. It is a truly intimate recording for the couple, and this is immediately evident as the aural gorgeousness flows over the senses.

Says Sahash, “As a storyteller myself, I can attest that music is one of the great conduits for stories. Yagull has shared some personal tales within these compositions.”

“Muse” is especially meaningful for Yagull. The song grew out of Kana having to deal with the turbulent emotions associated with the experiences of two miscarriages over the period during which the album was recorded. Throughout this difficult time, Kana felt a presence of a spirit - a muse - inside of her. The plaintive, simple melodies on the track exhibit the sadness of what had happened, but they also morph into an optimistic strain of respect and honor for that muse.

The album's title song is closely related. “Yuna” would have been the name of the first - and then second - baby that the couple lost; hence, the muse's name is Yuna. This track is more joyful in its tribute to the muse, and the addition of a backing vocal elevates the music to a higher plane. To enhance the piece, Sasha and Kana decided to work with Ayumi Ueda, a member of Women of the World, after they heard her divine voice at a Carnegie Hall performance.

“101” is a bit of a departure for Yagull. While most of Kana's compositions are gentle and often jazzy, this one is more explosive. Kana admits that the song became a catharsis for her, as it evoked an image of herself as a young woman at a time when she underwent a traumatic event. If anything by Yagull on piano and acoustic guitar could be classified as “hard rock,” this might be it. It begins with surging piano arpeggios and then develops into aggressive rhythms when Sasha joins in. Dynamic stuff! The title came from Sasha, who often mischievously dubs Yagull's tunes with non sequiturs.

Finally, the band considers the song “Searching for the Moon” to be a gift, as the entire piece was composed within five minutes. They had been asked to “play something” during a photo shoot, and the tune was an improvisation. Bookending the album, the track offers a playful, yet mysterious melody that is simple in structure. It is perhaps the theme song for a dream.

“Yuna” is full of other sagas, both enigmatic and wonderful. Along with the inherent lyricism of Yagull's music, there is also the occasional bit of humor. If the band's rendition of Black Sabbath's “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” doesn't make you smile, nothing will.

So, sit back, open your ears and your mind, and allow the sinuous, endless beauty of Yagull to move you. It will be a profound journey, and you will come out on the other side… changed.



Saxophonist Isaac Edwards is inspired to “Begin Again”


Isaac Edwards finally reached a point in his life when he decided that he simply had to overcome past regrets in order pursue his dream. A newly married lawyer who litigated hundreds of cases by day during the four years he spent his nights and weekends writing, producing and recording his new album, the saxophonist will take a major step towards realizing his dream when “Begin Again” drops on February 22 on the Songs In My Pocket Music label. The disc mixed by hit saxman Darren Rahn will be preceded by the radio single, “Christina Christina,” an exotic Latin-singed seduction that goes for radio adds on January 14. 

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in saxophone and a master’s degree in jazz after studying alongside widely-accomplished saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Jeff Clayton, Edwards has flirted with being a jazz musician by releasing a couple of albums in the early 2000s. The gospel-jazz outing “Here” (2002) was nominated for a Vibe Award, the Canadian equivalent to the Dove Awards. Two years later, his sophomore release, “I’m On My Way,” featured a collaboration with Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum. Neither sets were promoted at radio as Edwards’ focus was on holding down his high-stress law position. But the fire inside never dimmed and in 2014, he wrote, recorded and released the new album’s title track as a single, earning most added honors at Billboard when it was serviced to radio. The theme of the song began Edwards’ creative journey that will only be complete when the album drops.        
“This album is about starting over and second chances. Being a jazz artist is something I've dreamed about ever since I was a teenager. I've had some successes along the way and had some regrets as well. With this record, I'm finally putting those regrets in the rear-view mirror. My hope is that listeners will feel inspired to leave the past in the past and renew their hope for a brighter future. Just like the dawn of a new day, each moment in our lives is another chance to do that thing we've been dreaming of doing. The thing that keeps us up at night, that we spend our days dreaming about while we are at work. The fire that can't be quenched; the drive we have deep inside. I believe that is what we need to be pursuing. That's what this record is for me: it's evidence that it's never too late to start over, try something new or become more today than we were yesterday,” said the San Diego-based Edwards, who has opened for multiple Grammy-winning Christian pop icons Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.    

“Begin Again” is an amalgam of sounds and contemporary styles. With jazz and pop instrumentals serving as the foundation of the ten tracker, Edwards’ palette offers vibrant shades of R&B, Latin, gospel and rock. The sessions were tracked with live drums, bass, guitar, piano, violin, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and flute. In addition to showcasing his lyrical sax work and gift for crafting infectious melodies, Edwards added keyboards, synth and drum programming. A ten-time Grammy winner as a member of Take 6, Joel Kibble graces the outing with his voice in a supporting role on “Love Will Find A Way” and as the lovestruck protagonist on the urban adult contemporary romancer “Just Like the First Time.” In the company of nine Edwards originals is an instrumental reading of Monica’s hit, “Angel Of Mine,” that bodes to be a chart-topper again in its new form. While most of the album is soulful midtempo grooves and energizing exercises, “Qui Vivra Verra” stands out in striking contrast for its stark beauty and poignant simplicity - a melancholy sax, piano and violin selection about the moment you realize a relationship has no future.

“This record is the most honest work I've created and recorded. I drew a lot from my own personal experiences. I wrote from what was within my heart. And I've long been acutely aware of the burning drive I've had to get this record out,” Edwards said.

 

New Music Releases: Wardell Piper - Thankful; Blue Magic – Your Spell Stayed On My Mind; Magela Herrera – Explicaciones


Wardell Piper - Thankful

Sexy Chanteuse and vocalist extraordinaire Wardell Piper is best-known for her disco era chart hits "Captain Boogie" and "Super Sweet.” After returning to the scene in late 2015 with “Spell,” her first full-length offering since her 1979 debut album was released on the legendary Midsong label, Piper is back again with “Thankful,” a track penned, produced and arranged by noted Philly Soul impresario Butch Ingram. In addition to the brand new “Thankful,” Wardell delivers an updated for 2019 version of her beloved classic “Super Sweet.”




Blue Magic – Your Spell Stayed On My Mind

Blue Magic, one of the very first vocal groups that helped define the classic Philadelphia Soul sound with hits like “Sideshow”, “Spell”, “What’s Come Over Me”, “Three Ring Circus” and “Stop to Start,” are back with a brand-new EP featuring two new songs (“Your Spell Stayed On My Mind” and “I Can Show You Love”) produced by legendary Philly Soul producer Butch Ingram, written by Johnny Ingram and backed by the Ingram Brothers band, who were equally instrumental in the development of the Philly Soul sound and recordings dating back to the 1970s.


Magela Herrera – Explicaciones

On her long awaited debut album Explicaciones, Cuban born vocalist, composer and flute virtuoso Magela Herrera not only makes it look effortless, but also creates loads of sensual, vibrant, rhythmically diverse fun as she leads an ensemble of top Miami musicians through an eclectic mix of originals, jazz and Latin standards and traditional favorites from her home country. Praised often for her unique background that includes Latin jazz, Euro jazz and classic Afro-Cuban traditions, Herrera developed her incredible instincts and keen musical chops from 2004 through 2011 as a member of Mezcla – one of Cuba’s leading jazz and fusion groups. In 2010, she was nominated for a Best of Latin Jazz Award from the magazine Jazz Corner for her flute improvisations on Mezcla’s album “I’ll See You in Cuba.“ Over the years, Herrera has also shared the stage with an extensive list of acclaimed international artists, and she also performed at the Oslo Jazz Festival, Oslo World Music Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Lunatos Festival (Toro) and at various jazz clubs and venues worldwide.


The Branford Marsalis Quartet Announce New Album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

The Branford Marsalis Quartet announce the release of their new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, on March 1 via OKeh Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks, and Marsalis Music. Available now for pre-order, the new album finds the celebrated ensemble at a new peak, addressing a kaleidoscope of moods with inspiration and group commitment. Included in today’s preorder is the new track, “Snake Hip Waltz” – listen here.

The quartet that saxophonist Branford Marsalis has led for the past three decades has always been a model of daring, no-apologies artistry, of ever-widening musical horizons and deepening collective identity. With likeminded support from pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis (each with 20 years of service to the group) and drummer Justin Faulkner (the “rookie” who has been aboard since 2009), the band has long been a model of how to sustain and enlarge a musical outlook that is both historically and stylistically inclusive. Successive recordings have revealed new plateaus, and The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, the band’s first since 2016’s acclaimed Upward Spiral with guest Kurt Elling and first pure quartet effort since 2012’s Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, captures a new emphasis on both how to express and how to document the music.

“Working with Kurt for a year and a half took me back to what I learned in hindsight from my gig with Sting,” Marsalis explains. “Working with a singer changes you in ways you don’t realize. When I started playing jazz after my background in R&B, all the possibilities I discovered led me to play solos that went on and on. Sting said, `No, you’ve got 45 seconds,’ which did more than just cause me to edit. It taught me to focus on the melodies, to get to the point.”

The gigs that followed Upward Spiral had a similar effect on the rest of the quartet. “The guys in the band hadn’t been in that position for a long time, either, and it totally changed how we play. We became tighter, because it was more about what we could do to support.” As a result, Marsalis realized that he could no longer be satisfied with the creative tension sparked when new material was confronted in the recording studio. “I still like the idea of having everyone bring in whatever they want to bring in when it’s time to record and seeing what we can develop,” he admits, “but we couldn’t just take the `jam session’ approach to recording anymore. We had to go out and work the music.”

So after an initial get-acquainted week of gigs and studio work at the Ellis Marsalis Center in New Orleans in October 2017, the band hit the road, probing and absorbing the new material as it toured the world. “In June,” says Marsalis, “when we had five days off in Melbourne, I asked the guys if they wanted to have fun or to work. We were ready to deal with the music.” In the Alexander Theatre at Monash University in Clayton, Australia, the band documented the seven latest additions to its already prodigious repertoire.

The result is as complete a picture as one can assemble of the Marsalis Quartet within the confines of an hour. As usual there is compositional input from the veteran members, with Revis supplying the surging “Dance of the Evil Toys” and more tensile yet equally dynamic “Nilaste,” while Calderazzo reinforces the lyrical compositional yin to his virtuosic keyboard yang in “Cianna” and “Conversation Among the Ruins.” In addition to the leader’s own “Life Filtering from the Water Flowers,” with one of his most deeply felt and keenly shaded tenor saxophone solos, there are two of the more challenging jazz jewels of the mid-seventies, Andrew Hill’s “Snake Hips Waltz” and Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup.”

Whether navigating the quirky three-bar phrases of Hill’s piece or the elegant composure of “Cianna,” the rambunctious mechanisms of “Evil Toys” or the haunting ruminations of “Life Filtering,” the quartet generates distinct and unerringly apt sonic profiles. “Sonny Rollins provided the template for playing each piece with a ton of vocabulary and how to use the sound of one’s instrument,” Marsalis notes. “With us, it’s all about sound and the power it has to create emotion. When you deal with sound, you don’t play the same thing twice in a row. You listen to each other, and every song is different.”

Other influences, ranging from European opera and African percussion ensembles to such saxophone beacons as Ben Webster, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, have shaped Marsalis’s command at non-verbal storytelling. “My approach in both writing and soloing is melodic and rhythmic, with harmony third,” he stresses. “We mold the harmony to the melody, where too many people let the harmony dictate. And we play in the cracks. I want to channel that vibe of all the great music I’ve heard, but to apply my own ideas.”

Marsalis still finds that the perfect vehicle for realizing his goals is his stellar working band. “Some musicians may need to work in different projects to create the illusion of sounding different by changing the context, whereas we are confident that we can adjust our group sound so we don’t have to change the context. What always appealed to me were the great bands, not just the great players who could start and stop at the same time. Staying together allows us to play adventurous, sophisticated music and sound good. Lack of familiarity leads to defensive playing, playing not to make a mistake. I like playing sophisticated music, and I couldn’t create this music with people I don’t know.”

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul confirms Branford Marsalis’s vision. It is sophisticated, adventurous and anything but defensive, and it captures a great band sounding better than ever.

Branford Marsalis Quartet
The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Tracklist:
1. Dance of the Evil Toys (Eric Revis)
2. Conversation Among the Ruins (Joey Calderazzo)
3. Snake Hip Waltz (Andrew Hill)
4. Cianna (Joey Calderazzo)
5. Nilaste (Eric Revis)
6. Life Filtering from the Water Flowers (Branford Marsalis)
7. The Windup (Keith Jarrett)

 


Grammy Award-winning Guitarist Norman Brown Set For New CD The Highest Act of Love


Norman Brown has sold over two-million albums and is a mainstay on the contemporary jazz charts. When the iconic and pioneering guitarist George Benson sings your praises you know you are a bad man! Benson has heralded the consummate hit-maker, Norman Brown, as one of the greatest guitarists around today. Like Benson, Brown effortlessly fuses the finer elements of jazz, R&B, pop and blues to create his own insatiable and instantly identifiable and soulful sound. Brown declares, "My blending and crossing of styles happens organically by allowing the content to reveal its elements. There are only two kinds of music -  'good and bad.'" Brown has made a career of churning out the 'good stuff' for over two decades.

 His unique elixir of urban contemporary jazz has allowed him to garner a devoted international following and an impressive career as a leader. He has also collaborated with the likes of Brian McKnight, Kirk Whalum, Miki Howard, Gerald Albright, Rick Braun, Dave Koz, Everette Harp andChanté Moore, to name a few.  JazzTimes Magazine touts, "Norman Brown is the culmination of Jimi Hendrix and George Benson with some Wes Montgomery thrown in." The Highest Act Of Love, Norman Brown's latest CD, is due out on Shanachie Entertainment on February 22, 2019, and has something for everyone (whether an R&B fan or a Jazz aficionado). Highlights include a beautiful collaboration with R&B legend Deniece Williams on her signature song "Free"" (from her gold-certified This Is Niecy album) and the bluesy guitar duet "Inside The Garden Of Peace And Love" with Paul Brown. Norman Brown's inspired latest CD proves that he is at his best and that his musical offering is truly one of the highest acts of love!


Master Organist Joey DeFrancesco to Release Adventurous New Album In The Key Of The Universe


As he’s made abundantly clear over the past 30 years, Joey DeFrancesco has plenty of soul. What most listeners probably haven’t spent much time pondering is that soul’s place in the universe. On his adventurous new album, In The Key Of The Universe, the master organist turns his musical attentions to his spiritual side, tapping into a strain of metaphysical jazz that’s fueled sonic searchers for more than half a century. Joey D calls upon disciples and missionaries of jazz to join him in paving the way to enlightenment.

In The Key Of The Universe, due out March 1 via Mack Avenue Records and available for pre-order now, arrives almost exactly 50 years after the release of Karma, the landmark album by legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. One of the primary exponents of spiritually-oriented jazz, Sanders makes three guest appearances on the album, including an update of his best-known track from Karma, the cosmically influential “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” Playing drums on that track was the great Billy Hart, who reunites with Sanders as well as DeFrancesco, with whom he’s worked several times over the years since joining the organist for his 1989 album Where WERE You?

Hart makes up part of the core band for In The Key Of The Universe along with percussion virtuoso Sammy Figueroa, another Where WERE You? alum who has played with almost literally everyone over the years, from Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins to David Bowie and Patti Smith to Mariah Carey and Diana Ross. The multi-talented saxophonist Troy Roberts, a frequent collaborator in recent years, shows off his skills on tenor, soprano, alto, and even the acoustic bass. At the center of it all is the always scintillating organ work of DeFrancesco, who retains his trademark robust swing and gritty funk while striking out in freer, more exploratory directions.

An artist who's always been deeply attuned to the full history of jazz and able to tap into it in innovative ways, DeFrancesco naturally feels a profound connection to the questing, devotional jazz of forebears from Sanders to John Coltrane to John McLaughlin. It may seem like a change in direction, but unexpected travels into new territory has been a central tenet of DeFrancesco’s music throughout his remarkable career.

“I pride myself on being a musical chameleon,” the organist explains. “There’s so much good music that it’s hard to stay in one place, at least for me. I love being able to go in any direction, and lately that’s sent my music in a more free jazz direction – but still with a groove.”

That adaptability is something that DeFrancesco also recognized in Pharoah Sanders, whose own work has long delved into myriad stylistic approaches. But for In The Key Of The Universe, DeFrancesco wanted the sax giant to tap into that spiritual vein that so memorably flows through his distinctive sound. “Pharoah is one of the go-to guys when it comes to that spiritual aspect of the music,” he says. “A lot of people do that kind of thing, but I like to go directly to the source, and he really is the source.”

In many ways an entire subgenre of consciousness-expanding jazz can be traced back to Karma and more specifically “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” the 32-minute epic that takes up almost the entire album. DeFrancesco’s rendition whittles the piece down to a relatively succinct 11 minutes, though without losing any of the original’s transcendent power, which DeFrancesco felt like a jolt in the studio.

“As soon as Pharoah picked up his horn and started playing that melody, my hair just stood straight up,” he recalls. “Then Billy started doing his thing with the mallets, wide open and free. Once it gets going it’s so hard to stop; you could listen to that vibe forever. It was almost an unexplainable feeling – absolutely a downright spiritual experience.”

Sanders also lends his singular tenor sound to the enthralling title track, on which he plays in tandem with Roberts, and to the more tender “And So It Is,” where he’s paired with DeFrancesco’s trumpet playing in addition to his cascading organ sound. All three tracks showcase Sanders’ unparalleled ability to be simultaneously raw and refined, mesmerizing and ferocious.

The rustling of Figueroa’s percussion paired with Roberts’ keening soprano usher in the album with DeFrancesco’s “Inner Being,” whose introspective opening gives way to a blissful groove. An Indian-inspired drone underlies “Vibrations In Blue,” where Hart’s hypnotic rhythms usher in the exotic, interlaced voices of Roberts and DeFrancesco. The buoyant “Awake And Blissed” follows, a rollicking mission statement highlighted by the leader’s fleet, jubilant keyboard runs. “It Swung Wide Open” picks up the pace even more for a blistering jaunt that shines the spotlight on Hart’s taut, stop-on-a-dime rhythmic control.

The band pares back to a trio for the lush “Soul Perspective,” which gives ample space to Roberts’ stirring, passionate tenor. That sound turns breathy and intensely moving on the absorbing ballad “A Path Through The Noise,” which derives its meditative atmosphere from the combination of DeFrancesco’s shimmering organ vibe and trumpet solo, Hart’s exquisite brushwork, and Figueroa’s crystalline accents. The album concludes with the touching, heartfelt bossa-tinged reflection “Easier To Be.”

“The direction in which my life is going always affects what I’m doing musically,” DeFrancesco says. “As I grow older, I find myself attracted to a more spiritual vibe. It’s always been that way, to some extent – especially playing music and going into the zone, which has to do with being in touch with the universe. It’s not about religion, it’s just a spiritual vibe that respects everything, in music and in life.”

Joey DeFrancesco Tour Dates:

February 1 / Arts and Technology Lecture Hall / Richardson, TX
February 2 / New Trier Jazz Festival / Winnetka, IL
February 7 / St. Cecilia Music Center / Grand Rapids, MI
February 8 / BLU Jazz+ / Akron, OH
February 9 / Bop Stop - The Music Settlement / Cleveland, OH
* February 27 / Jazz Standard / New York, NY *
February 28 - March 3 / Blues Alley / Washington, DC
March 8 - 9 / Sharp Concert Hall / Oklahoma, OK
** April 23 - 25 / The Chicago Theatre / Chicago, IL **
May 17 - 18 / Jazz at Lincoln Center / New York, NY

* NYC Record Release Show w/ Billy Hart & Troy Roberts
** w/ Van Morrison
Joey DeFrancesco · In The Key Of The Universe
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: March 1, 2019


Pianist Keiko Matsui's New CD Echo; w/guests Marcus Miller, Gretchen Parlato, Kirk Whalum, Robben Ford & Others


"'Spirit Dance' was originally born as a song to record with my family on the road (my band).  After the melody came to me, with the Brazilian flavor, I immediately thought of Gretchen Parlato who I had met on a cruise a few years ago. I was familiar with her use of voice as percussion, and the chorus section of this song seemed really made for her. Recording with her was a nice reunion, she couldn't have been nicer and more fun to work with.  We connected right off the bat, she totally got into the 'spirit' of the song and added such a fantastic element to it."-Keiko Matsui

A world citizen, Keiko Matsui's striking and transcendent melodies have long sought to create 'a oneness' and build bridges. Her sonic cultural exchange has reached the hearts and mind of fans throughout the world and have allowed the petite and poetically eloquent pianist to work alongside such icons as Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masekela and Bob James. A consummate artist, Keiko views each show and recording as a unique opportunity to connect with her audiences and for them to connect with one another. Anyone who has ever experienced one of her live shows knows that each set is an intimate invitation to become a part of her music. "We need to collectively go back and recall what connects us all...our spirits, hearts and our souls," explains Matsui who has lent her voice to raise awareness for such causes as The Daniel Pearl and the Susan G. Komen Foundations. On February 22, 2019 Keiko Matsui will release her 28th recording as leader Echo, continuing her inspired evolution.  A master storyteller, Keiko Matsui crafts passionate and emotive songs with lush harmonies and global rhythms to create timeless musical anthems. 


Monday, January 14, 2019

Real Gone Music Releases Johnny Mathis’ Long-Shelved I Love My Lady, Produced by CHIC’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards


Johnny Mathis was billed on his very first album as “A New Sound in Popular Song.” In the decades since that 1956 debut, the vocalist has always explored new avenues in pop from Latin music to Philly soul. But the most adventurous of Mathis’ 60-plus albums may be the one that got away…until now. In late 1980, Johnny teamed up with the white-hot CHIC production team of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, fresh off triumphant collaborations with artists including Sister Sledge and Diana Ross, for I Love My Lady. Mathis took his voice into new, uncharted territory on eight anthemic, club-ready tracks that pushed the envelope of rhythm and blues as they incorporated funk, jazz, disco, and dance rhythms. Despite the irresistible beats, incomparable vocals, and of-the-moment production, Columbia Records shelved I Love My Lady in 1981. Yet its legend only grew as the years passed. In 2006, house music duo The Shapeshifters even tantalizingly sampled a track from one song (“Love and Be Loved”) while the full track remained in the vault.

Finally, beginning in 2010, its songs began to trickle out on compilations, and in 2017, I Love My Lady was issued for the first time as part of a Mathis box set. Now, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to present the first-ever standalone compact disc of this remarkable album by two American treasures: Johnny Mathis and CHIC. For the occasion, we’ve commissioned all-new cover artwork, and Johnny has graciously sat down for an interview with The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese to reflect on the album’s creation. The deluxe booklet also features rare photos of Johnny, and Mike Piacentini has remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios. A lost album no more, the sleek I Love My Lady presents the eternal Voice of Romance out on the town in the early 1980s, with sensuality and soul going hand-in-hand. It’s Johnny Mathis as you’ve never heard him before.

Tracklist:
1. Fall in Love (I Want to)
2. It’s Alright to Love Me
3. Something to Sing About
4. I Love My Lady
5. Take Me
6. Judy
7. Stay with Me
8. Love and Be Loved



Wednesday, January 09, 2019

New Music Releases: Tony Adamo - Was Out Jazz Zone Mad; Nicole Willis & Banda Palomita -I Call Your Name; ElectroBluesSociety feat Boo Boo Davis - Evil

Tony Adamo - Was Out Jazz Zone Mad

This cat takes some old school spoken word and makes it fresh - with a clear eye on the Jazz greats and no apologies. Tony Adamo has led a storied life, from the Navy to radio to acting to putting up billboards. When he met up with Mic Gillette and Skip Mesquite from Tower Of Power, he began recording and found a new groove: Free flowing spoken word. Tony writes his words down, and then does his piece on stage or in the studio, and the words are not the same. He has teamed up with Mike Clark for his new record, WAS OUT JAZZ ZONE MAD, released this past September with a feature from Roger Smith. This is the poet as band member - sometimes singing, sometimes beat poet, sometimes a radio presenter, all in synch with the madness of the music. It's like a sport, where the ball can go anywhere and the players move in earnest. When it's right, it's nothing but graceful. WAS OUT JAZZ ZONE MAD pays tribute to the greats, to the players behind him, and to the art of improvisation.

Nicole Willis & Banda Palomita -I Call Your Name

When you've recorded a duet with Curtis Mayfield, been included in President Obama's re-election playlist on spotify, have music released on Universal, Warner, Sony BMG, Warp Records, Ubiquity, Light In The Attic and many more, there's not much left to prove. Yet following a career spanning over three decades, singer, songwriter and producer Nicole Willis continues to challenge herself. From the concept to the band line-up, from writing the music and lyrics to recording, editing and mixing, Miss Nicole was involved in all aspects at play in the making of her upcoming new album My Soul Sensation, a luscious collection of disco-tinged soul, jazz-funk, boogie & electro with new backing band Banda Palomita. The album is anticipated by first single "I Call Your Name", an infectious slice of electro-funk in which Nicole languidly addresses a lost love whose memory still haunts her.

ElectroBluesSociety feat Boo Boo Davis - Evil

For this recording ElectroBluesSociety went back to basics and teamed up with Mississippi blues man Boo Boo Davis. Together they revisited classic Chicago blues and recorded seven songs. These will all be released as singles during the coming months. Here is the fourth track from the recording session This time it’s another Howlin Wolf classic with a little 'electrofication'. KuvVer Records is a new sub label. Specially created to release refreshing cover versions of well known songs in any musical style.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Austin Based R&B Soul Singer Kelly Hafner Announces Release of Debut Studio Album "If it’s Love" Due February 22nd, 2019


Austin based R&B soul singer and songwriter Kelly Hafner is due to drop her debut studio album If it’s Love on February 22nd, 2019. Her show-stopping voice and unmistakably improvisational style keep listeners hooked from start to finish.  Echoing the traditions of her soul forebears like Etta James, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, and Amy Winehouse, If it’s Love tests the boundaries of neo-soul in a refreshing way while lyrically navigating the human experience through a young woman’s eyes in the 21st century.

Kelly Hafner is a Berklee College of Music graduate, and grew up in northern California. Upon graduation, she returned to the Bay Area and began writing and recording music in her bedroom.  She honed her live performance with a San Francisco-based live band, Fire, before moving to Austin. It is there she began her career as a solo artist and working on her new album. She met Sam Diaz, guitarist on the upcoming album, at the local Jazz club the Elephant Room where he was bartending. They immediately hit it off, Hafner recalls, “Sam was one of the first people who I could openly write and make words up on the spot with, after a week of hanging out we had written about five songs. We continue to write new songs together now, 2 years later.”

For Kelly Hafner, the forthcoming album explores themes focusing on human emotion and connections to oneself, life, God, and lovers. Hafner explains, “Lots of these songs came out of a time when I was feeling blue or experiencing the euphoria and/or heartache that comes with falling in and out of love. All of the songs were cathartic, helping me to move through life and release anything stuck in my mind.”

If It’s Love was recorded with a mix of Hafner’s Austin based band, Sam Diaz (Guitar) and Daniela Pennycook (Violin); and a bevy of talented studio musicians including the winner of Guitar Center’s nationwide DrumOff in 2010 – Isaias Gil, John Shelton (Lead and Rhythm Guitars), Mark Riddell (Bass), Derek Hames (Drums, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion, Background Vocals), Jimmy Moreland (Hammond Organ, Wurlitzer), Preston Smith (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Andre Hayward (Trombone), and Andrae Grant (Saxophone). They recorded at Edgewater Studios in Houston, produced by studio co-owner Derek Hames (The Drugstore Gypsies, National Park Radio, The Buffalo Ruckus), and engineered by studio co-owner John Shelton.

The new album takes a deep dive into a soulful journey that highlights the depth of Hafner’s voice. The 10 track deep album keeps you listening for more as Hafner’s voice takes you on a journey deep into Kelly Hafner’s heart with songs like the deep vintage vocal-driven title track and lead single “If it’s Love.” She comments, “It’s about having faith in trusting your gut, your intuition when it comes to the person you’re meant to be with, and the path to take in life. It’s half about falling in love and about going through life authentically and without doubt. No matter how hard it is to honestly reflect on where we’re at in the moment.” Hafner’s lyrics “Birds fly high, time moves slow, somehow they always know where to go” highlight this sentiment. The lead single is due to drop in January 2019.

Another highlight is “Things are changing,” a funky soul head-bobber that includes an eight-piece ensemble to accompany Hafner powerhouse vocals. For Kelly Hafner, “This song is about empowerment. It’s about accepting myself for who I am, a singer, and making lemonade out of lemons per say. It’s about a strong woman who has been through experiences that have brought her down, and taking inspiration from them to make something awesome rather than sitting around and crying about them.”

“Give Light” is a reggae tinged song that features the memorable sounds of the Mellotron and gives it the warm and fuzzy feelings of falling in love. Hafner says, “It’s about being accepted for who you are, and loving who you’re with unconditionally. It’s about helping the person you love instead of hurting them, because once you’re that close to someone they almost feel like they’re a part of you.” A few more standouts include, “Dreams” an inspirational ditty about going for what you want in life, “No time” is about being unsure if your love will be returned, “Keep On Hanging On” is about hard times, when you start to seek spiritual guidance in God, and knowing a good friend will always be there for you, and “Angel” came about during a dark time in Hafner’s life when she turned to meditation to find light through the darkness.

In the end, Hafner’s view of her own music is what gives it true soul.  She explains, “This release is for anyone who finds peace or happiness from listening to the songs, to express truth rather than perfection, to be an understanding force for people who need it, when they need it. There’s something special about communicating with people through sound, before even meeting them. That I think is magic.”

Kelly Hafner is poised to release If It’s Love on February 22nd, 2019 via her imprint Smokey Jazz Records with distribution through The Orchard. She will be touring in support of the new release next year. To catch all of her tour dates, follow her here or here: https://www.bandsintown.com/a/12973490

Track Listing: If It’s Love

“If It’s Love”
“Dreams”
“Keep On Hanging On”
“Things Are Changin’”
“Lifted”
“No Time”
“Summergirl”
“On My Mind”
“Give Light”
“Angel”



New Music Releases: Billy Robinson – Evolution’s Blend; Justin Morell – Concerto For Jazz Guitar And Orchestra; Something Blue – Maximum Enjoyment


Billy Robinson – Evolution’s Blend

A fantastic album from overlooked Canadian tenorist Billy Robinson – a hell of a player, and one who might have been huge if this album were issued on a regular label in the US – instead of as a project by Radio Canada up north! Robinson has a wonderful vision here – gently spiritual, but in a more straight ahead way – working in this relaxed soulful combo that really sparkles with piano from Pierre Leduc and guitar from Peter Leitch – the latter of whom is a chromatic genius, in the Sonny Greenwich school – and really finds a great way to illuminate the tunes! Robinson's tone dominates, but the album's also got rock-solid rhythms from Erroll Waters on bass and Jim Norman on drums – on original tunes that include "Quebec On My Mind", "Evolution's Blend", "The Family", "It's Raining Ashes", and "Homing". ~ Dusty Groove

Justin Morell – Concerto For Jazz Guitar And Orchestra

On Concerto For Jazz Guitar And Orchestra, three master musicians have joined forces to create a project of great beauty and depth. The music is composed by Justin Morell and presented with virtuosic performances by guitarist Adam Rogers and the Frost Concert Jazz Band under the direction of John Daversa. The Concerto For Jazz Guitar And Orchestra incorporates elements of concertos by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and also the great concertos of the Romantic period, while drawing on the musical languages of contemporary classical and jazz music. The Concerto is in three movements (fast, slow, fast). Although it uses the classical sonata form as the outline for two of its movements, it does require the soloist to improvise much more extensively than a work by Haydn or Mozart, and unlike classical concertos, it has moments of backbeat grooves, Brazilian rhythmic influences, and harmony that is typical of modern jazz or classical music.

Something Blue – Maximum Enjoyment

A record that definitely lives up to its promised title – as the whole thing brims over with excellent work from players you might know from other albums on the Posi-Tone label! The group name doesn't get at the heart of the sound, though – as there's a sharp, soulful focus to the music throughout – kind of a classic hardbop approach, but with maybe a more contemporary sense of freshness, especially on the solo voices – which is no surprise, given that the sextet features Nick Finzer on trombone, Alexa Tarantino on alto, Sam Dillon on tenor, Art Hirahara on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums! The album's also brimming over with original material – tunes composed by group members or their labelmates – with tracks that include "Coppertone", "Slick", "New Directions", "Why Aren't You Excited", "Breeze", "Vast", and "Overcooked". ~ Dusty Groove



Avant-Jazz Group The Oddyssey Quartet To Release Sophomore Album “We Are All Branches of the Same Tree”

Following up their debut of composed music “Suite for the End of the Earth,” “We Are All Branches of the Same Tree” is the second release from avant-jazz group the Oddyssey Quartet,  featuring twelve improvised pieces from four musicians who have only played together a handful of times but who share the common ancient language of music, bringing them together in a cohesion of intuitive conversation, and demonstrating in real time that we all really are branches of the same tree. Featuring former Albert Ayler Quintet bassist Bill Folwell, and former Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra saxophonist David Pate, with Jose Cochez on drums, and Rex Shepherd on guitar and prepared guitar.

“After recording 'Suite for the End of the Earth,' which consisted of composed music, and having only played together as a group a few times, we wanted to see what we would get playing totally free. There was such a good vibe in the room with the four of us that it made playing so easy, the ideas flowed, I could respond to the sounds around me and the natural ebb and flow of conversational music happened. For me it is a spiritual thing, experiencing a wordless connection to others, when the music comes together and reveals the common thread in all of us.” - Rex Shepherd


ROCKY DAWUNI ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM - BEATS OF ZION IS OUT MARCH 8, 2019 THROUGH SIX DEGREES DISTRIBUTION


Rocky Dawuni, the international music star, global ambassador and humanitarian activist, announces the release of his highly anticipated 7th studio album Beats of Zion, out March 8th, 2019 via Six Degrees Distribution. The thirteen-track set follows the GRAMMY nominated album Branches of the Same Tree, (“Best Reggae Album” in 2016) and expands Rocky’s “Afro Roots” sound to include the diversity of the Ghanaian music scene and its current global outreach.

Although Rocky’s music has had CNN naming him “Africa’s Top 10 global stars” and Ziggy Marley stating “Rocky’s music is creative inspiration that knows no boundaries,” it’s only one part of what drives his mass appeal. Dawuni’s eloquence, cultural diplomacy and passionate activism have led him to become a moving spokesperson for various global causes. Recently, Rocky was designated a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa at a beautiful concert at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya in August 2018 held during the Global Landscapes Forum with dignitaries from all over the world. This is on top of the social campaigns and activism he’s done including work with Product (RED), ONE, UNICEF, The Carter Center, Clean Cooking Alliance and the United Nations Foundation. Additionally, with UNESCO’s recent designation of Reggae music as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Rocky Dawuni represents one of the leading African global voices of Reggae.

Rocky’s travels around the world helped shape the new album Beats of Zion. He elaborates, “Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive. The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa.” He adds, “The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”

The album was recorded in the span of almost 2 years in various studios in Accra, Nairobi and Los Angeles. In LA, Rocky was gifted studio time at the legendary Village Studios that has recorded the most influential artists including Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, and Fleetwood Mac. Rocky ended up recording in the same studio room that Fleetwood Mac used and created the magic of the title track and “Wickedest Sound.” Rocky found out that Fleetwood Mac were one of the memorable American classic rock bands to visit Ghana in the 1970s making the experience more special and inspired the Ghanaian traditional highlife song “Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu” as a homage to his heritage. These 3 tracks recorded at Village Studios kicked off the entire album making process.

The title track and lead single “Beats of Zion” came out well from the Village Studios session, but was missing something on the drum tracking. Rocky states, “We traveled to Zanzibar for a concert shortly after the recording session. At the time, I was still wanting the full African tribal effect that I had imagined. On the eve of my concert at the amazing Sauti za Busara Festival, we saw Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi mount the stage and blow the minds of everyone in the audience. I turned to my manager; Cary Sullivan who was also watching and we thought the same – ‘these are the guys for Beats of Zion’ and so the story unfolded.” The lead single will also have an accompanying video due out early January. “Wickedest Sound” is another song that speaks volumes, featuring Ghanaian dancehall star Stonebwoy. The track combines elements of modern Afrobeats with Reggae music. With production paying homage to the organic recordings of classic Highlife music, it also combines a groove driven melodic approach with the traditional call and response style of singing.

“Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu” is a sprawling remake of the Highlife classic originally recorded by Ghanaian maestro K. Frimpong. This re-imagined version pays homage to Rocky’s Ghanaian legacy and he brought in an international cast of musicians from the US, Belize, Cuba, Ghana and Brazil to expand the traditional sound boundaries of this track. Ghanaian lyricist Sarkodie’srap melds current traditional pop elements to make this song an opus of sounds, harmonies and sweet melodies. “Let’s Go” fuses pop sensibilities, Reggae and the grooves of New Orleans to create a feel good anthem of forward mobility and positive vibrations. The hand claps add an organic Gospel feel to this exhilarating song. Other tracks that show more dimensions to the album include the Cumbia inspired dancehall track “Freedom Train” featuring Argentinian Dancehall star Alika and “Burn One” that is an homage to the social transformative power of the legalization of marijuana in the spheres of medicine, recreational use and as a primary tool for economic emancipation. There will be beautiful high quality videos coming out for many of the tracks on the album including “Elevation” which was shot on location in southern India. It is an inspirational groove filled with a message of hope and uses the traditional Rastafarian Nyabinghi sounds. “Champion Arise,” a track that easily fits into the current roots reggae revival sound, paints a spiritual picture with biblical imagery and inspirational lyrics about spiritual warfare for the upliftment of all people. The diversity and features found on the new album are in step with Rocky’s vision of constantly evolving the boundaries of his sounds and expanding its global palettes and reach.

In a time when divisive rhetoric is on the rise and the political climate prefers to build walls over bridges, Rocky’s album Beats of Zion is a refreshing message about global unity and a worldview of oneness. Rocky passionately states, “We live in a time when the elements of international morality need to be proclaimed as a guiding principle for how we engage and deal with each other, between individuals, between communities and among nations. It is a time for global mobilization for action on challenging socio-political issues like the environment and the refugee crisis. Beats of Zion is the drumbeat of war against apathy and re-energizing the forces of love and hope.” He concludes, “Beats of Zion is the rhythm of change beating from a distance and getting louder to awaken positive consciousness.”

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Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte redefine the organ trio on their third release -You Don't Know The Life


Over the last three decades, visionary keyboardist, producer and composer Jamie Saft has made a career out of reinvention. His genre-obliterating range is evidenced by the stunningly diverse innovators with whom he's collaborated - a list that includes John Zorn, Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, John Adams, Iggy Pop, Donovan, and The B-52s. Now, on his third RareNoise outing with avant-jazz greats Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte, Saft shifts his iconoclastic focus to the organ trio tradition. You Don't Know The Life finds the trio engaging in uniquely electrified explorations of original compositions, free improvisations, and generation-spanning standards.

"It's always such an honor and a pleasure to get to make music with masters like Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte." Saft says. "The sound of the Hammond organ really resonates with Steve's gorgeous sound and with Bobby's very unique tonal approach to the drums."

Saft, Swallow and Previte came together for the first time to record 2014's The New Standard, which featured a taste of Saft's Hammond work alongside his acoustic piano virtuosity. The session, at the keyboardist's own Potterville International Sound studio in Kingston, New York, was the first meeting for Saft and Swallow, though the bassist had worked with Previte for decades, and the drummer had given Saft some of his earliest opportunities. Their like-minded sense of adventure resulted in an instant, visceral chemistry, and the trio reconvened three years later for the all-piano date Loneliness Road, highlighted by three vocal contributions from punk icon Iggy Pop.

With You Don't Know The Life, they take another left turn into untraversed territory, leaving the acoustic piano behind to craft an organ-centered sound that is equal parts psychedelic soul, monolithic rock and definition-skirting jazz, fused together seamlessly in a unified voice that references the past as hints of profound memories or half-forgotten dreams while venturing fearlessly forward down shadowy, alluring hidden pathways.

While the trio is spearheaded by Saft, their music is undertaken with a truly collaborative spirit. The keyboardist initiates the material - in this case an eclectic blend of skeletal originals and Saft's singular take on what constitutes a standard. As he explains, "The term 'standards' to me covers a lot of ground: everything from traditional jazz standards, show tunes and great compositions from the jazz world, but also the popular music of my youth - ZZ Top, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder."

The pieces on You Don't Know The Life run the full expanse of that gamut. The album opens with a bona fide jazz classic, Bill Evans' "Re: Person I Knew." Ushered in by Previte's shuffling rhythm, Saft essays the tune on the Baldwin electric harpsichord. The rare but gorgeous sound has been used by such pop experimentalists as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and in Saft's hands immediately unsettles the listener with an unusual sound somewhere between Hammond organ and electric guitar.

"Ode to a Green Frisbee" is a typically eccentric offering from the pen of trombonist/composer Roswell Rudd, who had passed away just weeks before You Don't Know The Life was recorded. Rudd was a pivotal figure for both Saft and Swallow; the former had collaborated with him near the end of Rudd's life, while Swallow had worked with him decades earlier, playing Dixieland jazz and accompanying piano giant Herbie Nichols.

"Roswell occupied a very particular place in the music," Swallow recalls. "He had his own little room in the house, way up in the attic somewhere. He had a really singular voice but was deeply aware of the historical context of the music. So if Roswell's in the air, then that sense of the music's grand procession over a century or so is in the air too, and you have to play that."

The title track is a late-60s nugget by guitar wizard Billy Gibbons' pre-ZZ Top psychedelic blues band, Moving Sidewalks. "That is one of the essential, critical pieces of music that formed my musical identity," Saft lauds. " Billy Gibbons is a master of his instrument in the same way that these great jazz masters are. I wanted to find tunes that were soulful, important pieces of music to me that would also resonate with Steve and Bobby. 'You Don't Know The Life' creates this trance-like space that I thought it would be just a perfect vehicle for the trio."

The track is also a prime example of Previte's consummate and endlessly creative arranging skills, a role he's undertaken with the unspoken agreement of the trio. "I immediately hear arrangements when I have music in front of me to mold," Previte says. "Without it being discussed, we've come to a working relationship where Jamie brings in these tunes and I pipe in because I just can't help myself. I think it brings something different to his tunes and to a lot of the free playing that we do."

A sly and subversive "Moonlight in Vermont" starts off in unexpectedly traditional fashion, suitable in sound and rhythm for an elegant ballroom before Previte's disruptive rhythms begin to take on a mind of their own. A wistful read of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David classic "Alfie" ends the album on an unironically lovely note, run through with Swallow's lyrical bass melodies.

Swallow is particularly drawn to Saft's minimal compositions, which he praises for being provocative enough to fuel them to travel improvisational paths while leaving plenty of space for them to veer off in unexpected directions. "Jamie is the architect of the building that our music inhabits," the bassist says, "but what's most attractive to me is that it's possible to move fluidly in the music pretty much anywhere you want at any given time and it seems to work. Unlike many writers I know, Jamie brings his music to the table and then runs away. He really doesn't care if we just rip his songs to shreds and reassemble them - in fact, he's a willing accomplice in doing that."

A pair of tunes were created in that fashion on the new album: an avalanche of sound known as "The Cloak," and "Stable Manifold," a prismatic refraction of a classic Hammond B3 soul-jazz groover. You Don't Know The Life also features three freely improvised excursions, that reveal the trio's gift for conjuring compelling structures in the moment: the brooding sludge of "Dark Squares," the cinematic tent-revival soul of "Water From Breath," and the airy transcendence of "The Break of the Flat Land." Saft explains, "Steve and Bobby are at such a high level, you don't have to give them anything. We have a beautiful friendship between us, so that just spills right out like a conversation in our improvising."

This time out, that conversation took place in a different setting than the trio's past meetings. Always conceiving of a project from the production standpoint as well as from a musical perspective, Saft chose to alter the landscape in which the recording took place. Stepping outside of his own home studio, he opted for Sear Sound, one of the last great recording studios in Manhattan. Founded by the ground-breaking engineer Walter Sear, the room has hosted notable recordings by the likes of David Bowie, John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Björk, Lou Reed, Wayne Shorter, Steely Dan, John Zorn, and countless others.

"Sear Sound is one of the temples of producing music," Saft says. "Walter Sear was a master and an influence on thinking about how we capture music, and Sear Sound is one of the few rooms left where you can do that at the absolute highest level. Being in that room, you absolutely feel the history."

"The ghost of all the great music that's been played in that room over the years is definitely present," Swallow concurs. "It was kind of a shocking change in environment, and I think Jamie figured on that helping to move the center of the music a few feet off of where it had been before."

Throughout You Don't Know The Life, it's clear that some form of alchemy was achieved in the studio that day, whether as a result of the unparalleled artistry of the trio, the sum of each individual's voraciously searching personality, the spectral presence of the legendary voices who'd passed through Sear Sound before them - or, most likely, the combination of all of those uncommon factors.

Saft is quick to credit the limitless imaginations of his bandmates/mentors/collaborators for the enlivening spark that brings this vital music to such bold life. "Both of these guys have such a unique voice that when we improvise we redefine the parameters of what we do," he concludes. "Though they satisfy all the requirements of the particular musical situation, they never fall back on the obvious. Steve Swallow's mastery of lyrical soloing really stands out on this record. There's so much pure melody in his soloistic moments; you're hearing something from his deepest soul. Bobby Previte always strategizes something deeper than the obvious. He's a master of creating something new but tied to the history. That's why I'm so lucky to make records with these guys."

TRACKS
1. Re: Person I Know 
2. Dark Squares
3. Water From Breath
4. You Don't Know The Life
5. Ode To A Green Frisbee
6. The Cloak
7. Stable Manifold
8. The Break Of The Flat Land
9. Moonlight In Vermont
10. Alfie 

 

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