Tuesday, February 12, 2019

CHAKA KHAN release first new album in 12 years 'HELLO HAPPINESS"

The Queen of Funk Chaka Khan made a phenomenal return with her latest single ‘Like Sugar’. Initially launched as a limited edition release for Record Store Day, it earned airplay from Annie Mac, Nick Grimshaw, Pete Tong, Benji B, Danny Howard and Gilles Peterson before receiving a full release in the summer.

It immediately captured the imagination of fans with countless entries from all over the globe for her #LikeSugarChallenge and numerous bootleg remixes. The accompanying Kim Gehrig-directed video extended that love with two wins at the UK Music Video Awards, while live sets at Bestival and the Pitchfork Music Festival were widely heralded as highlights of the summer. The track has become one of the year’s biggest club anthems with support from Mark Ronson, The Magician, Horse Meat Disco, The Black Madonna and many more.

Now the 10-time Grammy Award winner continues the reemergence of the year with the news that her new album ‘Hello Happiness’ will be released on February 8th 2019 via Diary Records / Island Records, the new label formed by Major Lazer founder and Grammy-nominated producer Switch with artist/songwriter Sara Ruba Taylor.

‘Hello Happiness’ is an album which sets Chaka Khan’s timeless vocal to an empowering collection of songs with cutting-edge production. With an eye on the future and a respect for the past, Chaka Khan has delivered an album with the contemporary edge to entice newcomers to her world class talent and the quality to excite long-term fans.

That’s exactly what the title track and new single ‘Hello Happiness’ achieves. A tribute to the life-affirming power of music, it combines the sass of ‘I’m Every Woman’ with the invention of ‘I Feel For You’ while also feeling precisely in tune with the current zeitgeist.

It’s a trait that echoes throughout the album. The soaring ‘Like A Lady’ feels like Switch has been teleported back to the great late ‘70s New York disco scene, while Chaka rolls back the years with one of the most powerful performances of her career. That’s something she also demonstrates with the swaggering strut of the sultry R&B anthem ‘Too Hot’. ‘Isn’t That Enough’ and particularly ‘Don’t Cha Know’ find her embracing bold new elements to her sound, while the laidback, minimalist groove of ‘Ladylike’ gives her the space to prove that her vocal has clearly grown in stature over the years.

Chaka Khan first collaborated with Switch and Ruba Taylor as a potential featured artist on a different project. Inspired by the power of both her voice and personality, the duo suggested working on an original Chaka Khan album – something which she didn’t have in mind. But she was soon convinced when she heard some of Switch and Ruba Taylor’s songs, which coincidentally were influenced by Chaka Khan but written for their own project.

Chaka chose her favourites and stamped her identity all over them, with her inimitable vocal gift and dynamic energy taking each track to new heights. Switch and Ruba Taylor also provided the groundwork so that Chaka Khan could concentrate on making her first set since 2007’s ‘Funk This’.

Chaka Khan is one of the world’s most gifted and celebrated musicians. A songwriter, actor, author, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist, Chaka has influenced generations of recording artists. She has the rare ability to sing in multiple genres, including R&B, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music, jazz and classical. Throughout her legendary career, Chaka has released 22 albums and racked up 10 US #1 singles; seven RIAA certified gold singles; and ten RIAA certified gold and platinum albums. Her list of high profile fans and collaborators, past and present, includes Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Quincy Jones and Mary J. Blige.

After forty years in music, ‘Hello Happiness’ celebrates a lifetime in music and proves that Chaka Khan is as inspiring as ever.

First Wave of Artists Announced for the 65th Edition of the Newport Jazz Festival®

Powerful pianists, singing storytellers, swinging big bands, a beat scientist and some of the baddest ensembles on the jazz scene make up the First Wave of artists announced today for the 65th edition of the Newport Jazz Festival® presented by Natixis Investment Managers. Curated by Artistic Director Christian McBride, the Festival takes place August 2-4 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino.

The First Wave of artists includes Herbie Hancock, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Bad Plus, Buika, Terence Blanchard Featuring The E-Collective, Sons of Kemet, Makaya McCraven, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Ravi Coltrane/David Virelles, ELEW, Marcus Strickland Twi-Life featuring Smithsoneon, Christian Sands – 3 Piano Erroll Garner Tribute! featuring Helen Sung and Tadataka Unno, Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Sun Ra Arkestra, Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller’s Parlour Game, Joel Ross ‘Good Vibes,’ Tia Fuller’s “Diamond Cut,” Sammy Miller & The Congregation and Laurin Talese.

“We’re all excited about this year’s Festival, and this First Wave of artists is just a sample of the great musicians that will grace the four stages at Fort Adams,” said McBride. “From the return of the legendary Herbie Hancock and Marshall Allen leading the Sun Ra Arkestra to the debuts of beat scientist Makaya McCraven, dynamic vocalist Buika and Shabaka Hutchings and his band Sons of Kemet, the Festival has something for everyone. Remember, Friday is just as happening as Saturday and Sunday! Herbie Hancock, Corinne Bailey Rae and more will perform on Friday, so grab three-day tickets if possible.”

A breeding ground for the best and brightest shining stars since the Festival started 65 years ago in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival celebrates a bevy of award-winning artists, including 2019 GRAMMY Award winners Cécile McLorin Salvant (Best Jazz Vocal Album), Terence Blanchard (Best Instrumental Composition), Dafnis Prieto (Best Latin Jazz Album) and Spanish Harlem Jazz Orchestra (Best Tropical Latin Album).

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Rising Israeli Jazz Pianist/Composer Guy Mintus To Release Ambitious New Album on 2/15

New York-based, Israeli jazz pianist-composer Guy Mintus is set to issue a new trio album, Connecting the Dots, scheduled for worldwide release on February 15, 2019 on France's Jazz Family label.  Mintus is a learned, well-traveled and much honored musician.  His awards include the Prix du Public at the Montreux Jazz Festival's solo piano competition, two  ASCAP Foundation/ Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards and, in 2018, the ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award.  In addition, the Mintus Trio's debut album, A Home In Between, was selected as a DownBeat "editor's pick." DownBeat's Brian Zimmerman called Mintus "an artist of prodigious talent and boundless ambition.  In reviewing A Home in Between, All About Jazz said it is an "outstanding piano trio disc that heralds the arrival of a significant talent and a superb band." And New York Music Daily raved, "best trio album of 2017 by a mile, so far."

A descendant of Polish, Iraqi and Moroccan Jews, Mintus has made New York his home for the past six years and has taken his music to locales as varied as India, Turkey, Brazil, Canada and many European cities.  He has collaborated and/ or shared the stage with such artists as Jon Hendricks, Trilok Gurtu, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and ska-punk band Streetlight Manifesto.

The ambitious new Connecting the Dots collection touches on a broad variety of musical worlds and is a musical summation of Mintus's ethnic and musical heritage and his experiences and interests.  It wanders easily from the hard bop of Horace Silver's "Yeah!" to the floridity of "Little Italy," a Mintus original, to the carefree strut of another Mintus original, "Nothing New Under the Sun."  Most striking, perhaps, are the performances that evoke the exoticism and spirituality of Mintus's native Middle East.  A poem, "Hunt Music," by the mystical 13th Century Persian poet, Rumi, is given an inspired musical setting by Mintus, with an English translation of Rumi's words sung by Israeli vocalist Sivan Arbel.  An arrangement of the traditional Jewish High Holy Day prayer, "Avinu Malkeinu" features a haunting sax solo by jazz veteran Dave Liebman.  And, to celebrate his own Mizrahi Jewish heritage, Mintus performs (and sings) a Hebrew language hit associated with the late Israeli Yemenite singer, Zohar Argov. The other members of the Mintus Trio are bassist Dan Pappalardo and drummer Phillipe Lemm.

Aside from his work with the Trio, Mintus has been busy with an array of other projects.  He recently performed Gershwin's" Rhapsody in Blue" with the Bayerische Philharmonic and premiered his own full-length work, a piano concerto inspired by the journey of the Jews of Arab origins immigrating to Israel in its early days, for the Israeli Chamber Orchestra.  He has been commissioned to compose works by the American Composers Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the Jerusalem East & West Orchestra, In addition, he has contributed original music and piano interpretations to Fiddler, a forthcoming documentary about Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Emmy-nominee Max Lewkovicz. In the spring of 2019, Mintus will make his theater debut, starring as an aspiring young pianist in a new musical at Tel Aviv's Carmeri Theater.


Chicago’s Bassel & The Supernaturals just released their new single “Calculated Love” and premiered it over at Glide Magazine, which stated “Calculated Love kicks off with a sharp bluesy guitar solo before bursting into a funky disco groove. Bassel Almadani lays his silky smooth and extra suave vocals over harmonic background singers and feisty guitar and brass grooves. The music brings to mind retro acts like Earth, Wind & Fire alongside more modern groovers like Jamiroquai, making for a song that preaches love and invites the listener to grab a partner and hit the dance floor.”

“Calculated Love” is the first song to be revealed from Bassel’s highly anticipated new album Smoke & Mirrors, set for release in May, 2019. The album continues the band’s message of  a “Syrian heart, Chicago soul,” but also dismantles the myth of glamour, glitz and fame that people commonly perceive of entertainers.
“Calculated Love” is the perfect tune for this upcoming Valentine’s Day with its upbeat catchy groove that celebrates love for what it is. Bassel explains, “Calculated Love is about everyday real love - watching movies with sweat pants on, eating pizza, exchanging memes... it sets a different tone for meaningful love by contradicting the Hollywood romance we all seem to be chasing after.”

Bassel & The Supernaturals combines funk and soul with captivating lyrics about love, loss, and a war in Syria that has affected Bassel Almadani’s family along with 10,000,000 others. The soulful Syrian-American vocalist and his ensemble broke out with their 2017 release Elements, which earned them critical praise from Noisey, Huffington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Now This, PRI The World, Paste, and more. Bassel also donated over 20% of their merchandise proceeds to humanitarian relief through the Karam Foundation during their campaign. It also landed the band at SXSW’s 2017 “ContraBand: #MusicUnites” showcase featuring musicians from countries affected by the U.S. travel ban. A fantastic showcase that sent the message that music transcends borders to unite rather than divide.

Catch Bassel & The Supernaturals as they embark on their 2019 national tour.
2/08 @ Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
2/15 @ Knickerbocker Saloon – Lafayette, IN
2/22 @ Rare Bird Brewpub – Traverse City, MI
2/23 @ The Brass Rail – Fort Wayne, IN
2/26 @ Stone Arch Brewpub – Appleton, WI
2/28 @ MOTR Pub – Cincinnati, OH
3/01 @ HI-FI Indy – Indianapolis, IN
3/02 @ Blind Bob’s – Dayton, OH
3/07 @ Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church – Overland Park, KS
3/08 @ The Washington – Burlington, IA
3/09 @ Racoon Motel – Davenport, IA
3/10 @ Zoo Bar – Lincoln, NE
3/12 @ Three Links Deep Ellum – Dallas, TX
3/16 @ Kings Live Music – Conway, AR
3/28 @ Vangarde Arts – Sioux City, IA
3/29 @ First UMC – Lexington, NE
4/02 @ The Dip – Redding, CA
4/03 @ Lagunitas Petaluma TapRoom – Petaluma, CA
4/04 @ Peppermill Reno – Reno, NV
4/05 @ Peppermill Reno – Reno, NV
4/06 @ Peppermill Reno – Reno, NV
4/07 @ McMenamins White Eagle Saloon – Portland, OR
4/08 @ Sam Bond's Foundry – Eugene, OR
4/10 @ Torch Club – Sacramento, CA
4/11 @ Smoked Out Soul – San Francisco, CA
4/13 @ Seven Grand – San Diego, CA
4/14 @ Melrose Trading Post – Los Angeles, CA
4/14 @ Love Song Bar – Los Angeles, CA
4/16 @ Yucca Tap Room – Tempe, AZ
4/18 @ Taos Mesa Brewing – El Prado, NM
4/19 @ Fassler Hall – Tulsa, OK
4/20 @ Deli – Norman, OK
5/17 @ North Central College – Naperville, IL
5/31 @ Constellation – Chicago, IL [Album Release Party]
7/11 @ Music in the Park 2019 – Mackinac Island, MI

New Release on Red Piano Records: Wild Man Conspiracy & Chris Cheek Live At The Bimhuis

Brooklyn-based Red Piano Records have announced the release of Live at the Bimhuis from Amsterdam based Indie jazz trio Wild Man Conspiracy and Brooklyn based tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek.  This third album of Wild Man Conspiracy on Red Piano Records features the group with special guest Chris Cheek in an exciting live setting.  The CD was recorded at the group's March 23, 2018 performance at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, one of the most beautiful venues for jazz in the world. Wild Man Conspiracy and Chris Cheek play eight original compositions on this album.

St. Louis born Chris Cheek is one of the most sought after saxophonists in the jazz world today, having played in the groups of legendary artists such as Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Steve Swallow and Bill Frisell. As a leader he has performed with the likes of Jorge Rossy, Brad Mehldau, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. His recordings have received rave reviews and been praised widely, becoming favorites among fellow musicians and listeners alike. He is also co-leader of the bands Rudder and The Bloomdaddies. Cheek's music encompasses a wide vista, firmly rooted in the jazz tradition with a foot towards the unknown. As Steve Swallow and Carla Bley put it, "On the one hand, he's the very embodiment of gentle, graceful lyricism. But he's unable to resist the urge to subvert. He's a master of the sucker punch; just when he's convinced you that things couldn't be sweeter, he'll play something that jolts you right back to real life, something as direct and succinct as an uppercut. Do not trust this man! Listen at your peril."  His flexible, dynamic sound, along with his adaptability and inventiveness makes him a perfect fit for the sound of Wild Man Conspiracy.

1. Strawberry Jam - Strawberry Jam was written for a friend who likes those tiny sweet fruits, and who also listens to Jazz and Pop music. Chris tried to find something that could be enjoyed at breakfast or while driving on the open highway. Perfect for a nice jam too.

2. The Other - This cinematic and storytelling piece is more like a suite dedicated to 'the other'. There's a lot of discussion about 'the other' nowadays, but isn't it so? The other, that's you!

3. Parcelas Desiguales - A contemplation about the fact that few people in the world have a lot - and a lot of people in the world have almost nothing. "Unequal parts" is about this human failure.

4. Volver - After a great tour with Wild Man Conspiracy in Catalunya, "we wanted to return to Spain as soon as possible." A tune full of desire and melancholy, with a glimpse of the stunning Spanish actress, Penelope Cruz.

5. Victor - This tune isn't about the Russian president, Victor Putin, because his name is Vladimir. No one knows who this guy Victor is and unfortunately, Guillermo isn't planning to divulge the secret of this mysterious man.

6. Blues Cruise - Writing Blues Cruise was Cheek's way of exploring the experience of being on the open seas and playing music on a ship. The symmetrical part of the tune originates from working with the reciprocal or mirror harmony and melody of the original idea. Cheek likes to think of it as hearing the same thing above and reflected below the horizon of the water's surface.

7. The Adventures of Evil Pancake and Friends - A critic once said: The aliens seem to have landed in the head of Celano whom thankfully used their influence for he has created a new science. This tune is proof of that once more. Dali meets Monk meets Celano.

8. No More Tango - It takes two to tango. This tune shows what happens when the other isn't around. After all, dancing the tango can't save a relationship.

Recorded March 23, 2018 live at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam by Philip ten Brink
Mixed: Dirk Hooglandt and Wild Man Conspiracy / Mastering: Q Point - Peter Brussee. Photography: Tjerk Laan / Artwork: Macarena Baggiani

Previously Unheard Music from the Revered, Adventurous Duo of Vocalist Jeanne Lee and Pianist Ran Blake

The Newest Sound You Never Heard collects nearly two hours of stunning recordings from 1966 and 1967, featuring daring explorations of compositions by Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, The Beatles, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, and others

In 1961, two musicians who'd met as Bard College classmates entered the studio to record their mutual debut album. Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake emerged with The Newest Sound Around, an iconic pairing of voice and piano that was simultaneously intimate and adventurous, stark yet boundless, intensely focused but warmly embracing. Lee and Blake would continue to tour together sporadically through the 1960s, but fans had to wait nearly three decades for a follow-up release, You Stepped Out of a Dream, in 1989. Their lifelong friendship and collaboration came to a close with Lee's death in 2000.

Miraculously, The Newest Sound You Never Heard now doubles the material available from this unparalleled duo. The double album was released January 25, 2019, just a few days before Lee would have celebrated her 80th birthday, via A-Side Records in conjunction with the Ran Blake Foundation and New England Conservatory, where Blake has taught for more than 50 years, and under the generous umbrella of VRT-Archive and their employees who were very kind in allowing this material to come out. The Newest Sound You Never Heard collects nearly two hours of previously unheard material recorded in Europe in 1966 and 1967.

These soul-stirring performances sound wholly unique, profoundly moving and thrillingly immediate despite having been captured more than half a century ago. Dominique Eade, another supremely gifted singer and NEC faculty member with whom Blake has enjoyed a fruitful collaboration, writes in her liner notes that, "Hearing these recordings after knowing their previous work so well creates a sensation similar to that of dreaming you have found an extra room in your house: It is at once familiar and otherworldly."

Recorded by the late Belgian composer, producer and Jazz Middelheim festival founder Elias Gistelinck, The Newest Sound You Never Heard was captured at the studios of Belgian radio and television station VRT (then BRT - Belgium Radio and Television) and at a live performance in Brussels. The tapes remained in the VRT archives for nearly 40 years until being rediscovered. Their existence was brought to Blake's attention Eli Kessler, at that time a student drummer at NEC who learned of them while in Brussels. From there, Blake and A-Side founder Aaron Hartley licensed the material for this breathtaking release.

The Newest Sound You Never Heard finds Lee and Blake venturing through a wide range of repertoire, from American Songbook standards to jazz classics by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker, through more experimental fare by Ornette Coleman, Julian Priester and Abbey Lincoln to then-contemporary pop hits by The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Each piece becomes a thorough reimagining of the source material, often startling in its crystalline beauty and bold unpredictability. The musicians are unafraid to revel in fraught silences or veer off the expected pathways into unfamiliar territory.

"There is no one like Jeanne Lee in the world," declares Blake. "She was the most incredible human being: her sage wisdom, her charm, her wittiness, her humor, her feelings for humanity and her kindness to everybody in the world. She was such a vibrant personality and, of course, what a voice. I felt she'd be in my life till the very end."

Sadly that was not to be the case, but in her deeply-felt and probing duets with Blake, Lee left behind a rich and searching legacy. A fearless experimentalist with a wide-ranging tone, she collaborated with a host of innovative voices including Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron, Marion Brown, John Cage and Gunter Hampel. She also contributed to Carla Bley's masterpiece, Elevator Over the Hill.

Lee and Blake met as freshmen at Bard in 1956. They bonded over their shared love for Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk; Lee had grown up in the Bronx, next door to Monk's sister-in-law, Skippy. Like their revered debut, which opened with a version of "Blue Monk," The Newest Sound You Never Heard begins with a Monk composition - in this case, a mysterious and enchanting take on "Misterioso" with words taken from a poem by Gertrude Stein.

The album wends its way through a variety of moods, from the wistful "On Green Dolphin Street" to a rambunctious "A Hard Day's Night;" the playful tug-of-war of the nonsensical "Ja-Da" to an ominously urgent  "Something's Coming;" the foreboding moan of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" to the stunningly aching rendition of "The Man I Love," constantly threatening to get lost in love's reverie.

"The sound just came to us," Blake says in regards to finding their distinctive take on each song. "I wanted to grow in her direction and she would listen to me. We worked on repertoire, phrasing, dark colors, modulation, themes, plots, characters - but the sound took care of itself."

Both Lee and Blake also take a few solo turns: Lee stuns with her sensuous a cappella version of "Billie's Blues," capturing the song's (and Billie Holiday's) complicated whirl of emotions, defiant yet desirous, steely and vulnerable. Blake essays a knotty exploration of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," an alternately hushed and thunderous run through "God's Image," and a pair of originals - the cinematic "Smoke After Smoke" and the abstract "The Frog, the Fountain, and Aunt Jane."

That sound, writes pianist (and former NEC colleague) Danilo Pérez in his liner notes, takes listeners on "a journey full of beauty and unexpected turns. Their music is a playground for the ear and a trip to incredible places for all souls alike. They may play a song, or they may choose to play the philosophy of the song."

This welcome release is a treasure trove of unexpected delights and mesmerizing storytelling. Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake are both masters of interiorizing and excavating the emotions of a song, and The Newest Sound You Never Heard provides ample evidence of their evocative chemistry and heartfelt relationship. Blake's hope is that Lee "finds her place up there in the history, not just as a singer but as a fabulous musician and innovator." A place where he also belongs by her side, a fact of which these stellar recordings leave absolutely no doubt.

Ran Blake
In a career that now spans nearly six decades, pianist Ran Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator. With a characteristic mix of spontaneous solos, modern classical tonalities, the great American blues and gospel traditions, and themes from classic Film Noir, Blake's singular sound has earned a dedicated following all over the world. His dual musical legacy includes more than 40 albums on some of the world's finest jazz labels, as well as more than 50 years as a groundbreaking educator at Boston's New England Conservatory.

Ulysses Owens Jr. Explores the Songbooks of Three Female Icons of the Turbulent 1960s with Songs of Freedom

Owens Enlists Acclaimed Jazz Vocalists to Convey Reimagined Works of Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell

In the most trying of times, it can be reassuring to listen back to the voices who’ve carried us through similar struggles. On his stirring new album Songs of Freedom, GRAMMY® Award-nominated drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. explores the songbooks of three female icons of the turbulent 1960s: Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell. To convey the profound emotions of these powerful singer-songwriters, Owens has enlisted René Marie, Theo Bleckmann, and Alicia Olatuja, three of today’s most acclaimed jazz vocalists, along with rising star Joanna Majoko.

Songs of Freedom (available for streaming and physical pre-order now; album available March 15 via Resilience Music Alliance) was originally premiered in September 2016 as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center celebration of “100 Years of Song.” The program culls inspiring songs from the three icons catalogues expressing the value of and struggle for freedom in America. The repertoire ranges from Mitchell’s soaring evocation of love’s complexity, “Both Sides Now,” to Simone’s acid takedown of the Civil Rights era South, “Mississippi Goddam,” to Lincoln’s rousing protest songs from Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite.”

Owens devised the idea for Songs of Freedom when he was approached by Jason Olaine, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s director of programming and touring, to take part in their century-spanning program, with the notion of taking on the period from the 1960s to the present day – a daunting proposition. “I realized that it would either end up a hodgepodge of random songs,” Owens says, “or I could find a defining moment that has influenced everything since.”

The core idea for Owens’ program came from the distressing headlines of the day. “At that time,” he recalls, “social media was blowing up every day with news of police brutality, videos of black men being killed by the cops. So, I thought back to the ‘60s, which seemed like a mirror image of today, and I asked, ‘Who were the figures that were on the front line then?’ I immediately thought about Nina and Abbey, and then I realized Joni would bring more of a love element to this fight.”

Owens quickly grasped that he’d need an equally diverse and versatile cast of modern-day vocalists to capture the full scope of these legendary artists’ visions. The first name that came to mind was Olatuja, a close collaborator who’d recently garnered acclaim for her solo with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Her rendition of “Both Sides Now” vividly captures the sensation of floating dreamily amidst the clouds. She brings a heart-rending vulnerability to Bernard Ighner’s “Everything Must Change,” accompanied by David Rosenthal’s tender acoustic guitar, and a gospel-rooted soulfulness to Andy Stroud’s “Be My Husband,” both songs performed memorably by Simone.

Bleckmann hails from a more experimental end of the sonic spectrum, here employing his layered, wordless vocals to transcendent spiritual effect on “Balm in Gilead.” He offers a supple, nuanced reading of Mitchell’s “Borderline” and a sly take on Simone’s reggae-infused version of Randy Newman’s “Baltimore.” Owens describes Bleckmann as “a very adventurous singer pushing all these boundaries musically, but beneath all of that stuff is this beautiful voice and an incredible spirit.”

To complete the initial trio of singers, Owens wanted someone who could bring the gravitas of another generation as well as the rich experience of having lived through the period under examination. Marie provides that voice of wry wisdom and bold strength, whether on the raucous “Driva’ Man” from the “Freedom Now Suite” or on Simone’s infamously virulent “Mississippi Goddam.” As Owens says, “Rene lived through a lot of what we’re talking about in this program. We really needed that weightier spirit, that godmother figure who had a deeper connection to the history.”

Majoko brings her own rich palette to the invigorating “Freedom Day,” written by Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr. Born to German and Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada, Majoko has worked with David Clayton-Thomas and Jane Bunnett, and been a frequent guest when Owens has presented Songs of Freedom live.

Owens’ stellar band gets its own turn in the spotlight on the closing piece, the classic spiritual “Oh Freedom.” Pianist Allyn Johnson is right at home with such material; the Washington D.C. native leads an ensemble called Divine Order dedicated to fusing jazz, gospel and classical music. Guitarist Rosenthal has long worked with Owens in Olatuja’s band, as well as performing with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Bilal and others. Bassist Reuben Rogers, well known for his work with Charles Lloyd, Joshua Redman and Aaron Goldberg, is one of Owens’ closest compatriots. “I try not to do anything without Reuben Rogers,” the drummer says. “He’s my big brother and really anchors me musically.”

Owens’ virtuosity and imagination are fully on display in his brief interludes, in which he plays duet with the words of the great singers to whom he pays tribute on Songs of Freedom. On “Nina,” “Joni,” and “Abbey,” he paints vibrant percussive portraits of each of these icons through the rhythms of their own words, drawn from interviews and poetry.

While Songs of Freedom looks back more than 50 years, Ulysses Owens Jr. is most concerned with how it touches audiences today. “Art has the ability to help you bide the time and get through,” he says. “Nina, Abbey and Joni were doing that while living in even crazier times. Art lets us say, ‘Ok, I can’t change anything, but here’s some people expressing exactly what I feel and the kind of agreement and resolve I hope our nation can come to, so it gives me some solace and comfort – which then gives me the ability to get through the tribulation. My ultimate goal with Songs of Freedom is to unite people.”

About Ulysses Owens Jr.: Owens himself is one of the most sought-after drummers of his generation. From GRAMMY® Award-winning performances with Christian McBride’s acclaimed trio and Big Band to world tours with Kurt Elling and Joey Alexander, Owens’ artistic command of percussion has earned him positions in some of the most successful jazz ensembles of the 21st Century. Owens’ reverence for tradition distinctly manifests in his straight-away playing style, but it is the versatility of his talent— his unique ability to manipulate texture and create penetrating musical shapes— that attracts the attention of jazz’s heavy hitters. His performance catalog includes collaborations with Nicholas Payton, Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, Dianne Schurr, Renee Fleming and Mulgrew Miller, just to name a few.

Ulysses Owens Jr. · Songs of Freedom
Resilience Music Alliance · Release Date: March 15, 2019


Jazz Saxophonist and Grammy Nominee Tia Fuller Featured in National Multimedia J.Jill Campaign

First-time Grammy nominee and jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has formed an exciting new brand partnership with J.Jill, the national omnichannel retailer of women’s clothing, accessories and footwear. Showcasing the brand’s stylish line of jeans, the Rhythm In Blues campaign features notable women in music who embody the brand’s easy relaxed, inspired style. With her image appearing across J.Jill’s online shopping platform, catalog, media ads, billboards, and signage in more than 270 retail outlets, Fuller dazzles in her role as a fashion influencer for women of style.

The spotlight is well-deserved. A dynamic performer and engaging personality, Fuller keeps up a full schedule as a touring and studio musician, composer, and music educator. With her fifth album with her quartet, Diamond Cut, nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards, set for February 10 in Los Angeles, she could become only the second woman in history to win this category.

“The most important thing for me is to be able to give back what has been given to me and to essentially be a light for others, whether it be on stage playing my saxophone or standing in front of a classroom inspiring my students,” says Fuller in a video highlight from the campaign, wearing an easygoing ensemble featuring J.Jill’s Authentic Fit slim-leg jeans.

A native of Denver, Colorado, Fuller has been performing on public stages since she was a teen. With impeccable training – she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Music from Spelman College and summa cum laude with an MA in Jazz Pedagogy and Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder – she’s worked with a who’s who of jazz and popular music artists, including Esperanza Spalding, Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington, and the late Nancy Wilson and Geri Allen.

Fuller was catapulted into the spotlight when she was handpicked by global superstar Beyoncé to tour as part of her all-female band in 2006. As a result, Fuller played – and danced – through two worldwide tours: the Beyoncé Experience and I Am Sasha Fierce. In addition, while performing on the Sasha Fierce trek, the band was also working on the I Am … Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas, a live telecast. She has been a featured performer with Beyoncé at venues around the world, on television, and on videos.

Currently, Fuller serves as a full-time Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, sharing the extensive practical knowledge and rigorous training techniques she has amassed during her career.

In addition to Fuller, J.Jill’s Rhythm In Blues campaign features jazz violinist Regina Carter, Grammy-winning mezzo soprano Kelley O’Connor, rock guitarist Gretchen Menn, concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and others.

For more about Tia Fuller, go to www.tiafuller.com. For more about J.Jill’s Rhythm In Blues campaign, go to jjill.com.

Marvin Gaye's Never-Released 1972 Tamla/Motown Album, 'You're The Man,' Set For Global Release On March 29

Music Legend's Shelved Follow-Up to 'What's Going On' Makes 2LP Vinyl & Digital Debut Celebrating Marvin Gaye's 80th Birthday on April 2

In celebration of Marvin Gaye's 80th birthday on April 2, Motown/UMe will release his never-issued 1972 Tamla/Motown album, You're The Man, in 2LP gatefold vinyl and digital editions on March 29. You're The Man features all of Gaye's solo and non-soundtrack recordings from 1972, with most of the album's tracks making their vinyl release debuts.

In 1972, Marvin Gaye was on top: or so it seemed. "What's Going On," "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," the three singles from his universally acclaimed album What's Going On, had each hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart (since renamed Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) and Top 10 Pop the year before. His new single, "You're The Man" – a percolating, sarcastic riff on political non-action issued as the U.S. presidential campaign was kicking off – reached No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart. He saw Motown schedule a You're The Man album (catalog number Tamla 316). But when the lead single didn't cross over Pop, stalling at No. 50, Marvin retreated. Ambivalent about recording, stubborn about moving to Los Angeles with Berry Gordy and Motown, Marvin by his actions proclaimed no more new Marvin Gaye music.

Or so it seemed.

In this singular and transitional year for the late music legend, Gaye recorded more than an album's worth of music in Detroit and L.A. He produced himself, creating a suite of aching ballads; he worked with songwriters-becoming-producers Willie Hutch, then known mainly for the Jackson 5 smash "I'll Be There," but soon to be lauded for his film scores to The Mack and Foxy Brown; and with Pam Sawyer and Gloria Jones, whose "Piece of Clay" for Marvin decades later became a smash in the 1995 film Phenomenon. He cut two sought-after tracks with Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell, half of the hit-making machine behind the Jackson 5; he got together with Hal Davis, who was preparing a Marvin Gaye-Diana Ross album, to cut another topical gem, "The World Is Rated X." And Marvin funnelled his anger over the Vietnam War, and his brother's experiences there, into a sequel of sorts to "What's Going On," the poetic holiday ballad, "I Want To Come Home For Christmas." He even re-cut "You're The Man" as an eerie funk jam, perhaps for the LP as a bookend to the single.

None of these tracks or any other on the LP, except the single, were issued at the time.

Three tracks from the album are newly mixed by SaLaAM ReMi, the songwriter and producer long associated with Nas, the Fugees, and Amy Winehouse: "My Last Chance," "Symphony," and "I'd Give My Life For You." Also included is the rare, long LP version of Gaye's cancelled 1972 Christmas single, plus an unreleased vault mix of its instrumental B-side. Over the years, songs from You're The Man have been included on several CD releases but 15 of the album's 17 tracks have not been released on vinyl until now.

You're The Man's 2LP vinyl edition includes new liner notes by Marvin Gaye biographer David Ritz. In his essay, Ritz delves into Gaye's deeply personal internal conflict as a source of creative vigor and emotional burden as he experienced What's Going On's massive success and all that came with it. "Now I could do what I wanted," Gaye told Ritz in an interview that first appeared in Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. "For most people that would be a blessing. But for me the thought was heavy. They said I'd reached the top, and that scared me because Mother used to say, 'First ripe, first rotten.' When you're at the top there's nowhere to go but down. No, I needed to keep going up – raising my consciousness – or I'd fall back on my behind. When would the war stop? That's what I wanted to know – the war inside my soul."

Despite his inner turmoil, that same year Gaye recorded a duets album with Diana Ross, and he accepted an offer to write what became his landmark Trouble Man film score. A year later, he released Let's Get It On, the biggest hit of his career.

In addition to You're The Man, Motown/UMe will release a new expanded edition of Marvin Gaye's 1965 album, A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole, digitally on March 15. Honoring what would have been Cole's 100th birthday, the album's original mono mix makes its digital debut with the new edition, which also adds more than a dozen bonus tracks, including six alternate takes from the studio sessions.

Marvin Gaye: You're The Man [2LP vinyl]

Side 1
Produced by Marvin Gaye (1), Hal Davis (2), Gloria Jones and Pamela Sawyer (3), Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell (4)
1. You're The Man  5:45
2. The World Is Rated X  3:50
3. Piece of Clay  5:10
4. Where Are We Going?  3:53

Side 2
Produced by Willie Hutch
1. I'm Gonna Give You Respect  2:55
2. Try It, You'll Like It  3:55
3. You Are That Special One  3:35
4. We Can Make It Baby  3:20

Side 3
Produced by Marvin Gaye except *Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell
Mixes for tracks 1-3, by SaLaAM ReMi, and track 5, by Art Stewart, are previously unreleased.
1. My Last Chance 3:40
2. Symphony  2:52
3. I'd Give My Life For You  3:31
4. Woman of the World*  3:30
5. Christmas In the City (instrumental)  3:48

Side 4
Produced by Marvin Gaye
1. You're The Man Version 2  4:40
2. I Want to Come Home For Christmas  4:48
3. I'm Going Home (Move)  4:38
4. Checking Out (Double Clutch)  4:50


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