Thursday, March 28, 2019

Professor Longhair Live On The Queen Mary I Reissue of 1975 Performance

Originally released in 1978 on Harvest Records, Professor Longhair's Live on the Queen Mary documents a legendary performance from the Venus and Mars album release party thrown by Paul and Linda McCartney and Wings in 1975. 

Live on the Queen Mary was recorded March 24, 1975 on its titular cruise ship, while docked in Long Beach, California. Highlights include the rollicking "Mess Around," the standards "Stagger Lee," "Everyday I Have the Blues," "I'm Movin' On," and Professor Longhair's own hits "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" and "Tipitina" about which Hugh Laurie writes, "Because that live version of Tipitina, oh sweet Lord. If the record had nothing else on it, it would still be a treasure beyond price."

Professor Longhair a/k/a Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd (December 19, 1918 – January 30, 1980) was a New Orleans blues singer and pianist. He was active in two distinct periods, first in the heyday of early rhythm and blues and later on during the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz surrounding the beginnings of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Professor Longhair's influence was crucial to many of his fellow New Orleans musical legends, such as Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, all of whom were touched by his rumba, mambo, and calypso piano based blues sound.

Live On The Queen Mary will be re-released April 5 via Harvest / MPL across digital platforms, on CD and on newly remastered 180gram vinyl LP. The album will feature a foreword by Hugh Laurie, as will the limited edition "Long Live Fess" deluxe, which will also feature the 180gram LP, the double A-Side 7" Single "Tipitina"/" Mess Around," and more. Track listings for the various formats are as follows:

Tell Me Pretty Baby
Mess Around
Everyday I Have The Blues
I'm Movin' On
Mardi Gras In New Orleans
Cry To Me


Recorded live at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on January 21, 1956, Ella At The Shrine captures Ella Fitzgerald at the beginning of her career renaissance, just weeks after becoming the first signing to Norman Granz's newly-created Verve Records. The brief but thrilling set, which was part of Granz's historic Jazz At The Philharmonic concert series, was only recently discovered after more than 60 years of languishing in Verve's vaults. Thought to be Verve's first live recording, Ella At The Shrine is available today via Verve/UMe as a single LP on standard weight black vinyl. It will be available for digital download and streaming for the first time next Friday, March 1. This wide release follows a limited edition yellow vinyl version released in November 2018 as part of Record Store Day's Black Friday. 

Ella At the Shrine contains the sweet taste of a new and shining era for Ella as she becomes the crown jewel of Verve Records. Fitzgerald delivers a rousing seven-song set, which most notably includes an early version of George and Ira Gershwin's "'S Wonderful," three years before she would perfect the song on her monumental 1959 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book and cause Ira Gershwin to famously remark: "I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them." Ella At the Shrine showcases The First Lady of Song just weeks before she'd go on to record her breakthrough album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book. Other tunes performed this evening include the bluesy "Cry Me A River," the rhythmic "Lullaby of Birdland," the swinging "Joe Williams's Blues" and "Air Mail Special," a bouncy number featuring Fitzgerald's famed scatting skills. The album includes liner notes by jazz broadcaster and educator, Phil Schaap, who discovered this recording in an undocumented area in Verve's vault where it sat untouched for more than six decades.

In celebration of Fitzgerald's centennial in 2017, Verve debuted the previously unreleased Ella at Zardi's: an acclaimed live album that was recorded during her two-week stint at the nightclub in Hollywood. This recording, which earned Fitzgerald her first No. 1 on the Jazz Album Chart and her second No. 1 on the Traditional Jazz Albums Chart, was initially thought to be both the label's and Fitzgerald's first live album for Verve. Remarkably, Granz recorded and emceed Ella at the Shrine 10 days prior, announcing on the LP, as Fitzgerald is leaving the stage and the crowd roars for more, that "Ella has to get back to Zardi's." Due to the closeness in timeframe, it is easy to assume she is backed by the same musicians who played on Ella at Zardi's: Don Abney, piano; Vernon Alley or Joe Mondragon, bass; Frank Capp Drums.
Fitzgerald's unwaning influence and remarkable legacy remains as strong as ever and her music continues to be honored and celebrated long after her passing. Most recently, the Recording Academy inducted her landmark 1959 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books into the 2019's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame®, just ahead of its 60th anniversary. With a goal of "preserving and celebrating timeless recordings," the inductions are for recordings at least 25 years old that exhibit qualitative or historical significance. Fitzgerald's album was one of 25 new titles inducted this year alongside recordings from: Aerosmith, Dolly Parton, Fats Domino, Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Tom Petty. "We're honored to add these masterpieces to our growing catalog and are delighted to celebrate the impact they've had on our musical, social, and cultural history," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books is her third song book to join the illustrious GRAMMY Hall Of Fame®, joining Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers & Hart Song Book as well as several other albums and songs. In its recent appreciation of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Gershwin Song Book, the Wall Street Journal asserted: "Fitzgerald's most ambitious album and one of her crowning achievements, this songbook is a matchless treasure."

Vocalist Douyé Embraces the African Roots That Underlie American Jazz, Brazilian Samba, and Bossa Nova with New Album, Quatro (Bossa Nova Deluxe)

Ever since its creation nearly 60 years ago, bossa nova has been celebrated as a lyrical fusion of American jazz and Brazilian samba. The family tree of both of those musics, however, can be followed back to their African roots. With her gorgeous new album Quatro (Bossa Nova Deluxe), the Nigerian-born, Los Angeles-based vocalist Douyé brings the conversation full circle, instilling an extra helping of African rhythm and electricity into the tropical cool of bossa classics by Antonio Carlos Jobim along with reimagined jazz standards.

For Quatro (Bossa Nova Deluxe), due out April 5, 2019 via Rhombus Records, Douyé enlisted the talents of several renowned arranger/musicians, each of whom provided unique but equally stunning settings to showcase her entrancing voice. All of them converge through the singer’s unique vision, which filters their diverse approaches through a distinctly personal perspective.

“I didn't want to make a typical bossa nova album like I’ve heard ten trillion times before,” she says. “I wanted to add my own thing to it: my own identity, my own sound, my own style. The true essence of this project is my African heritage. As an artist, part of my duty is to infuse my heritage and identity into my music.”

Jazz and bossa nova are as much part of Douyé’s musical upbringing as the music of her Nigerian home, making the blend a perfect fit. She grew up surrounded by the sounds of her father’s extensive jazz collection, which ran the gamut of genres and styles. “Bossa nova is a sound that I’ve lived with from childhood on,” she recalls. “My dad would play all kinds of jazz from African jazz like Fela Kuti to more traditional American and European jazz to Latin and Brazilian jazz.”

Douyé repaid her father for his profound influence with her last album, Daddy Said So, and honors him in the context of her latest endeavor through a simmering Latin jazz take on the Horace Silver favorite “Song For My Father.” She’d begun writing her own music as a child, singing in church choirs as well as mimicking her father’s albums. As she split her time between Lagos and England throughout her youth, Douyé dreamed of pursuing her passion for music in the States.

She eventually moved to L.A. to study at the Musicians Institute as a vocal major. While there she met and formed a musical partnership with songwriter Terry Shaddick, best known for composing the massive hit “Physical” for Olivia Newton-John. Together the two penned all of the original music for her first two albums, Journey and So In Love, and they’ve continued to maintain a close artistic relationship as Douyé has moved away from soul and R&B and into jazz.

It took a visit to the Brazilian state of Bahia, with its heavy concentration of people and customs of African descent, to inspire her to craft her own take on the bossa tradition. “I remember going to Bahia and seeing that these people looked like me,” she says. “That made me realize that I can marry this African sound with the bossa nova. I didn't want the album to be just cool jazz, where you sit back and go to sleep – I wanted it to have a little bit more rhythm and energy to it.”

The versatile pianist John di Martino (Jon Hendricks, Pat Martino) offers thrilling interpretations of several songs (including the aforementioned “Song For My Father”) for an all-star combo that includes Brazilian drum great Duduka Da Fonseca, bassist and longtime Mingus Big Band music director Boris Kozlov, and Weather Report/Ahmad Jamal percussionist Manolo Badrena. His contributions are highlighted by a swooning version of Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Jed Levy’s flute weaves around Douyé’s vocal on “Summer Samba (So Nice).”

The album receives a big band jolt from the charts of drummer Zack O’Farrill, who Douyé refers to as “my Nelson Riddle.” The two had worked together on Daddy Said So and forged a collaboration that the singer likens to that between Frank Sinatra and his most acclaimed arranging partner. “We’re very close,” she says. “He understands me perfectly and knows how to capture what I’m trying to do.” O’Farrill’s efforts include a thrilling “Agua De Beber” that spotlights the deft trumpet playing of David Adewumi, a pulsing take on Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream,” and a vivid elaboration of Jobim’s “One Note Samba” propelled by the arranger’s intricate rhythms. Bassist Phil Small also provides a sultry rendition of “Lover Man” for the large ensemble.

Hailing from Brazil, guitarist Angelo Metz contributes four Jobim classics that most closely adhere to the bossa form, including “Triste,” “Corcovado,” “Wave,” and the immortal “Girl From Ipanema.” His formidable quartet includes renowned Venezuelan pianist Otmaro Ruiz and Colombian-born saxophonist/flutist Justo Almario, who enjoyed a long association with Mongo Santamaria. Drummer Evan Hyde brings a laid-back swing feel to “Watch What Happens;” pianist Mike Eckroth adds a lush “Once I Loved” featuring a heartbreaking flugelhorn solo by Freddie Hendrix; Brazilian guitarists Marcel Camargo and Romero Lumbarbo pair with the singer for intimate versions of “Desafinado” and “Dindi,” respectively.

Quatro is the Portuguese word for “four” – a reference to Douyé’s birthday, January 4, which she’ll celebrate slightly belatedly with the release of this heartfelt new album. It’s more of a gift for listeners, though: a lush and soulful excursion for jazz lovers, a delectable new twist for aficionados of bossa nova.

Douyé · Quatro (Bossa Nova Deluxe)
Rhombus Records · Release Date: April 5, 2019


"'The Messenger' is a testament to Croker’s firm standing within the realm of jazz and shows that his upcoming album will undoubtedly be one to remember." – EARMILK

Trumpeter, producer, arranger, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist THEO CROKER today debuts “The Messenger,” the newest track off his forthcoming full-length album, Star People Nation (Masterworks), due out later this year. Featuring jazz pianist ELEW, “The Messenger” pairs a smoky blues piano with a traditional swing rhythm, locking into the pocket and showcasing Croker’s musical mastery – listen here. The track has already garnered critical acclaim, with EARMILK calling it "a testament to Croker’s firm standing within the realm of jazz and shows that his upcoming album will undoubtedly be one to remember."

The follow-up to January’s release of Star People Nation lead track “Subconscious Flirtations and Titillations,” “The Messenger” is yet another example of the versatility explored throughout the entirety of Croker’s forthcoming album. Star People Nation is the musician’s most personal project yet, something Croker describes as an intimate exploration of “the everyday rituals of blackness.” A translation of his personal, spiritual and creative experience, Star People Nation is a self-reflective collection of provocative, powerfully passionate and boundary-busting compositions that speak to our greater, shared human existence.

As the grandson of the late venerable trumpeter Doc Cheatham, and former student of legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, trumpeter, composer, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Theo Croker naturally follows an internal need to compose. Learning to play the trumpet at age 11 after hearing Cheatham play in New York City, by his teens Croker was studying music formally at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville followed by the Music Conservatory at Oberlin College. Launching his career with seven years spent in Shanghai, Croker first introduced his singular style in 2014 on the Dee Dee Bridgewater-assisted AfroPhysicist. His 2016 follow-up, Escape Velocity, marked a watershed moment for the artist, with the Wall Street Journal extolling the album as “timeless and of-the-moment.” Croker has also lent his talents to the world of hip hop, with rap superstar J. Cole’s platinum-certified No. 1 opus 4 Your Eyez Only, with Croker acting as trumpet arranger and performer on multiple tracks. GRAMMY® Award-winning rapper Common also sought out Croker for his critically-acclaimed album Black America Again.


Tue, March 5 | Clermont-Ferrand, France | La Cooperative de Mai
Fri, March 8 | Faches-Thumesnil, France | Centre Musical Les Arcades
Sat, March 9 | Minden, Germany | Jazz Club Minden
Mon, March 11 | Berlin, Germany | Gretchen
Wed, March 13 | Vienna, Austria | Porgy & Bess
Thu, March 14 | Clermont-Ferrand, France | La Cooperative de Mai
Fri, March 15 | Friedrichshafen, Germany | Kulturufer Friedrichshafen
Sat, March 16 | Brno, Czech Republic | Jazz Fest Brno
Wed, March 20 | Paris, France | New Morning
Fri, March 22 | Caen, France | Théâtre
Sun, March 24 | St. Moritz, Switzerland | Festival De Jazz St. Moritz (Pre-Show)
Thu, May 9 | Norfolk, VA | Virginia Arts Festival
Fri, May 10 | Germantown, MD | BlackRock Center for the Arts
Sat, May 11 | Washington, D.C. | The Arc
Weds, May 22 - Sun, May 26 | San Francisco, CA | Black Cat
Thu, June 13 - Sun, June 16 | New York, NY | Jazz Standard

Sean Noonan's Tan Man's Hat, the second release by his harmolodic jazz-rock ensemble Pavees Dance

A drummer and composer whose music enthusiastically defies category, Sean Noonan prefers the title "Rhythmic Storyteller" - an apt description for a modern-day sonic griot who spins imaginative yarns in the ancient tradition of wandering minstrels while weaving captivating narrative tapestries via his unique polyrhythmic language. On Tan Man's Hat, the second release by his harmolodic jazz-rock ensemble Pavees Dance, Noonan draws inspiration from the soul to the stars with his stunningly adventurous collaborators: original Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma (Ornette Coleman's Prime Time), guitarist Ava Mendoza (Unnatural Ways) and keyboardist Alex Marcelo (Yusef Lateef).

Tan Man's Hat confronts the listener with a vibrant, shocking swirl of sound, a dauntless tempest of varied influences: prog rock and avant-garde classical create sparks from clashes with harmolodic improvisation and African folk traditions, with jolting infusions of psychedelia and campfire tales. The band also thrives on its blend of generations, with experimental elders Mooney and Tacuma passing a still-blazing torch to their cutting-edge compatriots.

While Noonan's "wandering folk" approach to collecting the stories of diverse cultural traditions spans the globe, the name of Pavees Dance is rooted in his own Irish heritage. Pavees are members of the Emerald Isle's nomadic ethnic minority, traditionally occupied as traveling tinkers and craftsmen, skilled at crafting items from available materials - a gift shared by Noonan, whose distinctive compositions are a patchwork of eclectic inspirations made new and vital in his deft hands.

"Pavees is the Irish word for a traveling musician and tinker, a sort of gypsy who collects and creates things," Noonan explains. "That fits in perfectly with the wandering storyteller concept I've been developing throughout my work, merging West African and Irish storytelling traditions. The name Pavees Dance really embodies that."
The music of Pavees Dance is enlivened by the inventive lyrics of singer, poet and visual artist Malcolm Mooney, founding vocalist for the iconic krautrock band Can. In collaboration with Noonan, he works with lyrics the way that a jazz musician uses their instrument, using written material as a leaping-off point for improvisatory flights. "Malcolm develops or adapts lyrics on the spot," Noonan explains. "I gave him a road map for each of the songs and then let him do his thing. He shaped his own stories from the ideas that I gave him, which was a really meaningful way for me to develop as a lyricist and to evolve myself artistically."

In essence, Mooney's spontaneous approach to reinventing his own lyrics has strong parallels with Ornette Coleman's ground-breaking harmolodic system, which bass virtuoso Jamaaladeen Tacuma knows first-hand from his time in the legendary saxophonist's electric Prime Time band. "Being a drummer, the bass player is like my dance partner," Noonan says. "This music is heavily based on the drum and bass relationship, so Jamaaladeen's voice is a dominant aspect in my instrumental writing, which is always heavily influence by harmolodic theory."

There's Always the Night, Pavees Dance's 2014 debut release, featured a quartet version of the band featuring Mooney, Tacuma, and guitarist Aram Bajakian. The latter's relocation to Vancouver allowed for a reimagining of the band, with California experimentalist Ava Mendoza (who has worked with the likes of Nels Cline, Fred Frith, Mike Watt and Ikue Mori) to take over on guitar while Marcelo, a longtime collaborator dating back to Noonan's notorious punk/jazz band The HUB, to expand the sound with his singular approach to the keyboards.

"I really wanted to keep the element of electric guitar in the music, because the loudness and the extremeness of what you can do with that instrument really fits Malcolm's voice," Noonan says. "But I was writing these intricate through-composed works using tone rows and concepts like that, so adding Alex allowed me to include the elaborate countermelodies and harmonies that I was hearing in my head."

The complexity of the music becomes a vibrant setting for the far-reaching stories told throughout Tan Man's Hat. The album opens with "Boldly Going," which takes the aspirational opening message from Star Trek to envision a journey beyond the stars on Starship Earth, an alluring vision given the increasingly tumultuous nature of life on the home planet.

Science fiction has always provided a fertile ground for address real-life issues by way of fantastical metaphors. Sharing that aspect with "Boldly Going," "Martian Refugee" takes on the idea of how to welcome outsiders via an interplanetary twist, accompanied by a playfully skewed angular groove. While Noonan has never viewed his work as a vehicle for "protest music," the addition of Mooney added a healthy dose of socio-political commentary to the heady mix.

"You can never really escape from the things that are going on in the environment around you," Noonan allows. "I would often try to ignore those things in my music; I wanted to take people's minds off the reality of what's happening in the world and away from the divisions that separate us. For this project, though, it made sense to explore that territory for the first time. Malcolm is an African-American who came up in the 1960s and '70s, and he has very outspoken positions about equality and discrimination. Being blunt and saying exactly how he feels is just something that comes naturally to him."

"Tell Me" expresses that bluntness with an invigorating urgency, with Mooney spitting acid-tinged rebuttals to political and media falsehoods and the military-industrial complex over a full-throttle pulse. Not every song has such hot-button origins, however. The churning rock aggression of "Girl from Another World" offers a more straightforward alien encounter tale, while the playful "Turn Me Over" is a slice of avant-garde vaudeville, a fairy story about a genie unleashed from the grooves of a vinyl record.

The ferocious "Gravity and the Grave" is a true collaboration between the two lyricists' minds, with Mooney taking a song Noonan penned about the grave and adding the notion of gravity, providing a tension between the rarefied air of dreams and the grounding fatality of death. A similar acceptance of the cyclical nature of existence lies at the heart of the serrated musings of "The End of the Inevitable." Co-written with Günter Janovsky (as is "Girl from Another World"), "Winter Inside" closes the album on a note of romantic melancholy, filled with vivid imagery more evocative than explanatory.

Where the bulk of Tan Man's Hat consists of freshly-written lyrics, the words to the title song actually date back nearly a half century to Mooney's time in Can. The band recorded a demo version of the song at that time, but it's never been released; Noonan composed new music, transforming the piece into a wistful, gradually accelerating ramshackle blues.

Sean Noonan first came to the public's attention as the drummer of the punk/jazz trio The HUB in the late '90s, quickly integrating himself into the famed Knitting Factory scene.  His path was diverted four years later when a near-fatal car wreck in Italy led to a long period of recovery and a dedication to combining his two musical loves: jazz and African rhythms. The ensuing sonic wanderlust fueled a 2008 trek to Bamako, Mali, to gain a first-hand experience of West African griot traditions alongside Malian singer/guitarist Abdoulaye Diabaté. That trip culminated in the multi-cultural album Boxing Dreams, one manifestation of Noonan's amorphous Afro-Celtic project Brewed By Noon.

The treasures that he finds along the paths of his story-collecting travels are filtered through his distinctive vision to become the unpredictable and far-ranging sounds of Noonan's wide-spectrum music, which combines the eloquence of an Irish bard, the narrative rhythms of Samuel Beckett, and the raw physicality of a street-smart boxer.

That nomadic muse has led Noonan in a wealth of unexpected directions, resulting in an explosion of dynamic releases and projects spanning more than 20 albums, most recently on The Aqua Diva, the latest manifestation of the jazz-meets-Scheherazade fantasies created by his trio Memorable Sticks. In 2018, he premiered his 13-piece Rock Opera Zappanation, at the International Festival "Ai Confini tra Sardegna e Jazz" in Sardinia. The piece, dedicated to Frank Zappa and Edgard Varèse, reflects Noonan's affinity for two composers who share his tendencies toward absurdist.

1. Boldly Going
2. Gravity and the Grave
3. Tell Me
4. Martian Refugee
5. Turn Me Over
6. Tan Man's Hat
7. The End of the Inevitable
8. Girl from another World
9. Winter Inside   

Produced by Sean Noonan and Guenter Janovsky.   
All music composed by Sean Noonan (except track 8 composed by Guenter Janovsky and arranged by Sean Noonan).
Lyrics by Malcolm Mooney and Sean Noonan on tracks 1, 4, 5.
Lyrics by Malcolm Mooney on tracks 2, 3, 6, 7.
Lyrics by Malcolm Mooney and Guenter Janovsky on tracks 8, 9.
Recorded August 8-9, 2018 at Atlantic Sound Studios, Brooklyn NY. 
Diko Shoturma, Michal Kupicz: mixing, mastering.
Executive Producer for RareNoiseRecords: Giacomo Bruzzo 

Pianist BRANDON GOLDBERG releases debut album LET'S PLAY

"When Brandon plays the piano people become delighted with his music, not just jazz appreciators but people, folks. He is a people's champion. I know, because I have seen him and heard him on several occasions-always knocking out the crowd." - Pianist and Composer Monty Alexander
What you experience when hearing pianist Brandon Goldberg (who turned thirteen in early 2019) on his debut album, Let's Play!, is a refined gift, sculpted by years in the woodshed, inspired by pianists recognized by one name, Monk, McCoy, Chick, Bud and others, imbued with a pure love and joy for this music and nurtured by a supportive family - all fortified by the Florida sun!

What one hears frequently when talking about the young Mr. Goldberg, is, "he plays sooo great . . . for any age! . . .". In fact Wendy Oxenhorn (head of the Jazz Foundation of America) stated that, "Brandon's phrasing and his bigger-than-life -genius makes it hard to believe he is only 13. When he was 10 and performed at our Apollo concert, I went on stage after and asked to see his drivers license because after hearing him play and speak, I thought he had to be 44! Brandon is an old soul who will keep this music alive in the new world." And, the legendary pianist Monty Alexander added emphatically that, "this is a masterful performance for this twelve year old, and not because he's a twelve year old but because he's Brandon. Along with all of the cleverness, the sophistication and the tasteful choices, this young man is swinging-swinging hard. Brandon is as affecting as any other new artists appearing on the scene today. I am a fan."

Equal parts hard work, talent (an other-worldly talent!) and passion are the ingredients for success, and precisely what you have in Goldberg. "I started playing the piano to play the songs I liked in preschool," he explains, "and my grandma introduced me to a lot of music - Andrea Bocelli at first, then Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, which led me to check out Tony Bennett with Bill Evans." Classical studies followed and by age eight Goldberg was studying at The University of Miami and the Litchfield Jazz Camp & Festival. Along the way Goldberg also studied formally and informally with Matt Wilson, Avery Sharpe, Paul Bollenback, Ira Sullivan, Shelly Berg, Chuck Bergeron and Don Braden. He went on to make appearances on the Harrick Connick Jr. show, "Little Big Shots" with Steve Harvey, sitting in with the aforementioned Monty Alexander at Jazz @ Lincoln Center, a performance at several Tedx Talks, and performing Haydn's Piano Concerto No. 11 with the South Florida Youth Symphony. Regarding Florida, Goldberg follows in the footsteps of many other prominent jazz musicians the Sunshine State has produced, including Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Archie Shepp, Junior Cook, Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan and Marcus and E.J. Strickland. 

In conceptualizing Let's Play! Goldberg took great care in the selection of music, and his band. "I really love this band. I've got a special connection with both Ben Wolfe (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums) and I'm so honored to be able to call them my friends and sidemen. Dan Miller, who I met at All County Honors Band in Miami, introduced me to Ben when I was starting to put together a band for my record. Ben and I got along immediately. He helped me put the rest of the group together and suggested using Donald on the record (who then nine-year-old Goldberg had played with while sitting in with the Mingus Big Band), and I'm so glad he did. Then, we reached out to Marcus Strickland to play on a few tracks - I was so excited when he said yes! I am so happy to have these incredible musicians on my debut album and I really feel like we all have a special connection on and off the bandstand. I call Ben every two or three days and we talk on the phone for a good half hour. He's always there to help me out with any questions I have musically and he's a really great guy to talk to. I am really into drums and cymbals and that kind of stuff so every time I hang out with Donald I get to geek-out with him. It's such a fun group to play with and I hope you can hear our excitement in the music."

Brandon elaborated on the band's repertoire, "Back in January 2018 as the recording process continued, I started to really hear our sound as a trio. I had checked out Ben and Donald's records before the recording to know what this trio would sound like and I chose tunes and picked music based on their sounds, and then we figured out, together, what works and what doesn't. I've got a pretty simple way of picking my set lists; I want to play what I would go out and hear as a listener. I want to hear original music along with their interpretation of standards. There is some amazing music out there with all these complex time signatures with these obscure melodies, but I just want to hear and play some music that feels good, meaning music for the heart, not just for the brain. As a trio, we definitely play a few complex charts with constantly changing time signatures, but at the end of the day, they still feel pretty good, and somebody can listen to our music and enjoy themselves without necessarily having to be in a specific state of mind. The music on 'Let's Play!' reflects and represents what I consider to be my path; being part of a community of musicians bringing our voices to the music, and giving it a new life."

Let's Play! (available worldwide on April 12) is the premiere album from an energetic, swinging new force on the piano, with a hopeful and happy side note that he happens to be thirteen! Hopeful and happy, because this means we have decades of new music to look forward to from this young artist.
More on the music on Let's Play! with Brandon Goldberg (and with excerpts from the album's liner notes by Bob Blumenthal):
"I knew going in that I wanted to do all of the writing and arranging," Goldberg says. "This was my first chance to put my spin on the music, to display my voice." He has succeeded in a variety of ways, none more striking than his approach to the music of Thelonious Monk. "The more I check out Monk, the more I understand," he notes, and proves the point in two performances that are Monkian in the best sense. On "Well, You Needn't," he avoids the common and frequently overused strategy of reharmonizing familiar material, choosing instead to re-accent the Monk classic in a manner that reveals rhythmic lessons learned. The Goldberg-composed contrafact, "You Mean Me," one of two quartet tracks that displays exactly why Strickland's star has been in ascent for many years now, is rhythmically-reminiscent of "I Mean You" and filters the standard through Goldberg's fertile imagination. The result? A funky, down-home blues that the band has a blast with. "I realized that I should do to one of Monk's tunes what he did to jazz," Goldberg explains.

The other original compositions, "The Understream" (with Goldberg on piano and keyboards, plus Edwards in a featured role) and "McCoy," show other dimensions of the budding composer. "I've always written music, but `McCoy,' the oldest piece of mine on the album, is the first thing I really felt proud playing," he notes. The piece was inspired when Goldberg presented McCoy Tyner with an award at a Jazz Foundation of America event, and then heard Tyner play a typically dynamic version of "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit." That piece is recalled in this performance, together with a bass introduction by Wolfe that captures the spirit of Tyner's longtime Coltrane Quartet partner Jimmy Garrison.

Other highlights on Let's Play! include his solo reading of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood", complete with the bold introductory figure that the composer employed in his 1962 encounter with John Coltrane. It frankly puts most other versions to shame in terms of both technique and conception. "No one plays `In a Sentimental Mood' like Coltrane and Ellington played it," Goldberg emphasizes, "and the decision to build a performance off that introductory figure came to me in the moment when I performed in an Ellington concert." He also offers up a lovely version of Ellington and Tizol's "Caravan", with the melody in A section voiced over a tension-building chordal vamp, and an introspective solo from Goldberg on Fender Rhodes. Many jazz musicians have tapped Lennon-McCartney for gems such as "Blackbird", and Goldberg's garden-fresh arrangement is just pure soul food for the ears - put it on repeat and enjoy!

Trombonist Nick Grinder Releases His Second Album 'Farallon"

The Farallon Islands lie just 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, but seem like another world entirely. Its rocky shores are off-limits to humans (outside of a handful of biologists), reserved instead for a rich variety of seabirds and marine mammals.
Growing up in the Bay Area, the trombonist/composer Nick Grinder felt a deep attachment to the islands. Farallones were a constant presence to Bay Area residents, a far-off landscape always on the horizon, ever present but just out of reach. On his second album as a leader, Farallon [out February 22 via Outside In Music], Grinder reflects on the sense of place and reminder of home offered by even such an inaccessible locale.

"When you grow up in a place, you have these markers that end up having a special meaning and feeling that sneaks in and helps to define who we are," Grinder says. "If you grow up in a city, it's the streets that you walk on every day or the route you drive to work - inconsequential things that you don't even think about until you move away. The Farallon Islands were a backdrop to my youth in the Bay Area. And I feel that music is like that, in a way: it has a visceral impact that can follow you throughout your life."

On Farallon, Grinder offers a set of new compositions (and one Thelonious Monk classic) that evoke the sentiments that he derives from his own favorite music. While decidedly modern in approach, the album hews closely to simple (though not simplistic) melodies and warm, welcoming emotions. To achieve the necessary depth of feeling, Grinder assembled a stand-out band of close collaborators: guitarist Juanma Trujillo, saxophonist Ethan Helm, bassist Walter Stinson, and drummer Matt Honor.
Venezuela native Trujillo was a classmate of Grinder's at Cal State Northridge. The two founded the quintet Long Range, whose live show was documented on the digital-only release Live at the Blue Whale in 2014. Helm, a fellow Californian and gifted composer in his own right, frequently calls on Grinder for his own projects. Stinson and Honor had previously worked together in the band of saxophonist Kevin Sun; Stinson also works regularly with trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, while Honor took part with Grinder in a short-lived sextet called Mend.

With these musicians, Grinder navigates the tricky straits between complexity and virtuosity, a difficult balance that he strives to maintain. While his compositions provide plenty of material to inspire improvisational flights, they are focused with an emotional directness that Grinder hopes will speak to listeners' hearts and their heads. "I'm trying to open myself up from the intellectual way that I began to think about music while studying it in school," he says.

One major inspiration for that approach has been the iconic Thelonious Monk, whose "Reflections" closes Farallon, with Grinder showcasing his own agility at fluidly expressing a melody on the trombone. "As a composer and as a musician," Grinder says, "Monk did things the way that he heard them. Sometimes it was complex and sometimes it was simple, but it was almost like he didn't think about any of that. He writes tunes that are so lush, especially his ballads, but then his style of playing is so stripped down and unique, and I love that juxtaposition. Everyone wants to write the perfect song, and "Reflections" is an example of something that I think achieves that."

Another touchstone for Grinder's accessible approach has been his work in pop music and Broadway shows. He's recorded with pop superstar Lorde, done arrangements for St. Vincent, and performed or recorded with everyone from DMX to Patti LaBelle to Lin-Manuel Miranda. "I like the fact that pop music can deliver a silver bullet right to the heart of the audience," he says. "The caveat is that it's not always as deep as things that can take more time to delve into, so I really try to bridge that gap."

Opener "New and Happy," with its joyful yet intricate counter-melodies, is a shining example - as well as a rebuke to his girlfriend's lament that Grinder's music was tending a bit too much to the somber side. "Potential" opens with an improvised chorale by Grinder and Helm before the remainder of the band enters for the expressive melody, poignant and memorable. "5 Steps" erupts at a brisk pace that compels a lively group improvisation, while "Belly Up" takes a brooding cast.

A mournful solo lament by Grinder initiates the stirring "Inaction," inspired by the killing of Trayvon Martin and sadly still an apt title for the issues of gun violence and police brutality. The steely "Deciduous" deals with the culture shock of moving from the evergreen west to the east coast, where the stark sight of leafless trees against overcast skies is commonplace. "Staged," with Trujillo's plangent twang, offers an American accent, while the title piece gorgeously evokes the distant beauty of the Islands, once the domain of Kodiak fur traders and now a serene bird sanctuary.

"I feel a connection between the familiar sense of place, music that sounds good, and art that feels good," Grinder concludes. "I tried to follow that instinct to make music that's simple but meaningful."

Hailed by Slide Hampton as "an important future voice in jazz trombone" and "the best blend of saxophone-like technique with the expressive nuances of the trombone" by Alan Ferber, Nick Grinder began playing professionally at age 15 in the California Bay Area. The only child of two San Francisco artists - a former ballet dancer and a visual effects engineer - he studied at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles with Bob McChesney, and pursued his master's degree at NYU. Grinder works as a sideman and leader in a number of diverse projects, including the big bands of Alan Ferber, Darcy James Argue, Arturo O'Farrill, John Daversa, Bobby Sanabria, and the Mambo Legends Orchestra, as well as with Wycliffe Gordon, Jimmy Owens, Ralph Alessi, Donny McCaslin, Marcus Printup and many others. He is also very active in the commercial world, where he has played in the pit orchestras of nearly two dozen Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and has performed and/or recorded with artists such as Lorde, Lin-Manuel Miranda, St Vincent, Patti LaBelle, DMX, and Deltron 3030. He released his leader debut, Ten Minutes, in 2014.

Patrice Jegou’s “IF IT AIN’T LOVE,” featuring the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Take 6, Tata Vega, and more…

PATRICE JÉGOU (pronounced Zhay-goo) is a singer’s singer. Her sumptuous, velvety, and technically flawless voice embraces you like a warm blanket on a cold night. Her new CD, IF IT AIN’T LOVE, is a musically diverse album of jazz and pop tunes that encompasses big band and huge orchestral arrangements, power ballads, and a cappella  adaptations. Jégou, a Canadian-born, classically trained mezzo-soprano, is an ex-figure skater who took up singing at the suggestion of a cast-mate who heard her amazing singing voice during an ice-skating show in Mexico. Years of study culminated in a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. 

Jégou recruited some of the world’s top arrangers for the recording, including: JORGE CALANDRELLI (arranger for Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett), JOHN CLAYTON, and MARK KIBBLE of TAKE 6. To round it out, she enlisted heavyweights DAVID PAICH of Toto (writer of such hits as “Rosanna” and “Africa,” and son of legendary arranger Marty Paich), and celebrated L.A. studio pianist MIKE LANG. Jégou can really swing, as she so clearly demonstrates on her collaborations with the inimitable CLAYTON-HAMILTON JAZZ ORCHESTRA. 

On tunes like “Waltz for Debby” and “Estate,” both of which were arranged by Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated Calandrelli, Jégou takes a thoughtful and sensitive approach to the lyrics. But she can also get her groove on, and we hear that in the funky Allen Toussaint tune “Yes We Can, Can.” In this track, arranged by Paich, Jégou sings a duet with gospel diva TÀTA VEGA. But whether she’s swinging, feeling the groove, or interpreting an intimate ballad like “It Might Be You,” she clearly captures the heart and soul of a song, no matter the genre.

IF IT AIN’T LOVE was recorded at the famed Capitol Studios and United Recording, in Los Angeles. Jégou was elated when two titans of the music industry agreed to come on board: legendary recording engineers DON MURRAY and AL SCHMITT. And the results are impressive.

Lover Come Back to Me (a cappella) (feat. Mark Kibble and Alvin Chea)
Jersey Bounce (feat. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) 
Baubles, Bangles, and Beads 
Yes We Can, Can (feat. Táta Vega)
I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today 
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (feat. Take 6)
If It Ain’t Love (feat. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra)  
Estate (Summer) (feat. Larry Koonse)  
Lover Come Back to Me (feat. Mark Kibble)
Waltz for Debby  
Losing You 
Just Squeeze Me (feat. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) 
Where Do You Start? 
Remembrances (In Memory of Stan Getz) (feat. Javier Almaráz) 0
Please Send Me Someone to Love (feat. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) 
It Might Be You  

New Releases: Brendan Rothwell - Sentiment; Luca - Lions; The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman - Open Road

Brendan Rothwell - Sentiment

UK born, Calgary-based bassist Brendan Rothwell traces his love of the instrument and its intense soul possibilities to hearing the legendary Marcus Miller play on Miles Davis’ 80’s classic TUTU. On the heels of a debut that charted both in the U.S and Canada, his latest album SENTIMENT, is an eclectic, deeply rhythmic sonic experience. He includes several picture perfect, frothy funk, Smooth Jazz tracks, but the collection’s deeper pleasures expand the emotional palette into neo-soul, jazz fusion and even ambient territory. Reminiscent of the most genre-transcendent works of Miller, Brian Bromberg and Stanley Clarke, these songs are meditative masterpieces, taking him to contemplative realms of expression rich with mood and immersive atmospheres.  ~

Luca - Lions

Influenced by the laid-back neo-soul of D'Angelo, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and Anderson .paak, and the expressive lyricism of Joni Mitchell, Kendrick Lamar, and Elliot Smith, Lions is the culmination of a childhood of musical discovery. Written, recorded, and co-produced by Luca (vocals/keyboards), backed by seasoned session musicians Jordan Scannella (bass), Sean Dixon (drums), and Josh Dion (synth bass/drums), and joined by a horn section of rising jazz musicians Zaq Davis and James Haddad (both trumpet), all at the helm of prolific producer and engineer David Lawrence Goldman, Lions is an immersive musical calendar, with each song dedicated to a month of the year. Luca, a jazz pianist and singer-songwriter from NYC, is only 18 but musically an old soul. Inspired by the great concept records of the 1970s, he creates a vivid sonic landscape for each season, in which songs live and breathe. From "Spring Again," a vibrant homage to the synth-rich funk of Stevie Wonder, to "Saint Sulpice," a passionate plea for honest love inspired by a choral concert in a church in Paris, the album is a window into a year in Luca's life. Like the passage of time, Lions is cyclical, beginning where it ends; more importantly, it's music that we can all get down to.

The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman - Open Road

A few years ago, as his ever-evolving ensemble capped three decades as an innovative force in contemporary jazz, Rippingtons founder Russ Freeman whimsically stated, “When I started the band, I never imagined it would last more than the release of one album, let alone 30 years!” The title of The Ripps’ sonically and rhythmically eclectic album OPEN ROAD speaks to the composer, guitarist and keyboardist’s freshly expansive mindset. He juxtaposes silky, lighthearted tunes that recall the group’s early heyday with progressive excursions that showcase his penchant for musical off-roading. While keeping his trademark melodic flow, Freeman includes bold symphonic textures, scorching jazz-rock fusion and a universe of transcendent sonic vibes and effects, including wild African drums (courtesy of Dave Karasony) and otherworldly George Duke-esque synth runs.  ~

Bassist Moppa Elliott Releases Triple Album Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band

Hot Cup Records is proud to present Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band, the triple-album release by bassist/composer/arranger Moppa Elliott. Featuring three drastically contrasting ensembles, this project displays Elliott's talents as a composer, bandleader, and artist who is willing to constantly challenge his audience - and himself.
The bands featured on these albums include jazz band Advancing on a Wild Pitch (Elliott, Sam Kulik, Charles Evans, Danny Fox, Christian Coleman), rock band Unspeakable Garbage (Elliott, Jon Irabagon, Nick Millevoi, Ron Stabinsky, Dan Monaghan), and dance band Acceleration Due to Gravity (Elliott, George Burton, Mike Pride, Nate Wooley, Dave Taylor, Matt Nelson, Bryan Murray, Dr. Kyle Saulnier, Ava Mendoza).  Each of these ensembles presents a different side of Elliott's musical personality and diverse array of influences which have lurked beneath the surface of his work with MOPDtK, but are given full voice on these recordings.  All of the music is united both through Elliott's foundational bass playing and his penchant for manipulating and subverting traditional song forms, melodies, and harmonies.

Each composition or arrangement is named after a town in Pennsylvania, as has been the case with Elliott's titles since 2004, and each band is named after the theme around which it was built.  Elliott's previous release as a leader was 2016's solo double-bass album Still, Up in the Air.  He founded the label Hot Cup Records in 2001, has led the ensemble "Mostly Other People Do the Killing" since he created it in 2003, and has taught choir, orchestra, music theory, and music history to high school students in the greater NY area since 2004.

On these three recordings, Elliott explores aspects of his musical personality that have not yet been fully documented.  Having grown up in a household where Cecil Taylor, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Igor Stravinsky, and Steve Reich were all in heavy rotation on the family turntable, Elliott developed an interest in many styles of music, encountering rock and roll through the popular culture of his childhood, and hip-hop while a student at the Oberlin Conservatory.  In addition to the music presented on these recordings, Elliott performs new music with the "Relache Ensemble" in Philadelphia, serves as principal bassist of the Litha Symphony in Chelsea, NYC, and continues to lead the jazz ensemble "Mostly Other People Do the Killing."

Advancing on a Wild Pitch is comprised of musicians who all resided in Astoria, Queens (pianist Danny Fox has foolishly relocated to Brooklyn) and are avid baseball fans.  The five members have known each other since the mid-2000s, but the quintet was formed in 2016 to explore some of Elliott's compositions from MOPDtK in another context.  Rather than disassembling Elliott's tunes in the manner of MOPDtK, AWP approaches the compositions from the perspective of the classic jazz era of the early 1960s.  Some of the tunes are reimagined versions of pages from the MOPDtK book, while others, such as "Slab" never fit the aesthetic of Elliott's earlier ensembles.

Unspeakable Garbage allows Elliott and his jazz-trained bandmates to explore the sound world and musical vocabulary of 1980s rock and roll, a style that all the members love dearly and has had a profound influence on their musicianship. In the early 2000s, Jon Irabagon briefly led a band called "Starship's Journey: A Tribute to the Music of the 80s" in which the ensemble would perform cover versions of pop tunes and play all of the instrumental solos in unison.  Elliott composed the music for this band in the aftermath of a difficult breakup, and the cathartic nature of the music is plain to hear.  UG performs "instrumental van Halen" or "Def Leppard with no singing" or "Aerosmith with more chords" or "Pat Benatar singing a TV sitcom theme."

Acceleration Due to Gravity is the result of the 18-year friendship between pianist George Burton and Moppa Elliott.  The two met at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, a sadly defunct state-funded arts program that they both attended and subsequently taught at.  Given their differences in approach, Elliott formed ADtG to be the type of ensemble in which they could both thrive, and the influence of drummer Mike Pride, a longtime collaborator, contributed to the aesthetic.

The music is based on Elliott's idea of "dance music" in its many modern forms.  From jump blues to hip-hop, American dance music has revolved around grooves and their myriad possibilities.  Each composition is based on a musical cycle or loop that never repeats itself, exactly.  The model for these compositions was modern hip-hop, R&B, and dance music production in which the music relies heavily on "loops."  Rather than repeat the same rhythms or musical elements exactly, they change subtly very often. The soloists take turns offering 'verses" or "bars" and there is deliberately little material that could be considered a primary melody, "head," or "hook."

Catherine Russell's Alone Together Receives Critical Acclaim, Rises on Charts

Catherine Russell's seventh studio album as a leader, Alone Together (released March 1 on Dot Time Records), is another step in the career of the versatile and timeless vocalist. Alone Together was the most added album in the first week of release on JazzWeek charts and became their #1 jazz album (now two weeks in a row); additionally, it debuted at #6 on the Billboard jazz charts, hit #1 best selling new vocal jazz release on Amazon, and "Is You Or Is You Ain't My Baby" hit #2 on the iTunes jazz songs chart. The momentum will continue with Russell's appearance in the upcoming feature film Bolden, as well as a run of dates with Steely Dan in the Spring and Fall, and some new performances added to her ongoing international tour (check tour schedule below for updated itinerary).

Drawing on composers and lyricists of The Great American Songbook—Irving Berlin, Eddie de Lange and Jimmy Van Heusen—along with songwriters from the Swing and Rhythm & Blues eras—Nat Cole, Louis Jordan, and Al Dubin and Harry Warren—Russell invigorates their creations on Alone Together. At the center is Russell’s voice, and while comparisons to Ella, Billie, Sarah, and Dinah abound—while flattering—she has a sound all her own.

In theaters on May 3, Russell will appear in the upcoming feature film, Bolden: a drama directed by Dan Pritzker, with music by Wynton Marsalis. The movie imagines the life of trumpeter Buddy Bolden, and the birth of jazz in New Orleans. The soundtrack album will be released on April 19 via Jazz at Lincoln Center's Blue Engine Records. Considering her pedigree (Her father, Luis Russell, and her mother, Carline Ray, were both pioneers of early jazz), it’s no surprise that Russell was cast to portray Lalique Lill, a madame who sings bordello blues. In addition to her singing and acting cameo in the film, she contributes vocals to the soundtrack album.

As noted on the Bolden website, “the birth of jazz was the birth of American popular culture, influencing everything that followed, from Louis Armstrong to Jimi Hendrix...Bolden is where it all began.” Catherine Russell embodies that continuum; a vocalist who curates material from the turn of the century to the present, who has recorded with David Bowie and been a member of his last touring band, and who as a child hung out with her parents at Louis Armstrong’s home.

THE GUMPTION, New Album by Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize-nominated Canadian Soul Star TANIKA CHARLES

Produced by a stable of some of Canada’s finest musical minds including DJ Kemo (The Rascalz, Kardinal Offishall), Chin Injeti (DJ Khalil, Eminem, Drake) and Daniel Lee (Hooded Fang, Phedre), Record Kicks proudly presents “The Gumption” the awaited new album by Canadian soul star Tanika Charles that will  hit  the  streets worldwide on May 10.

“What gave you the gumption?” Tanika Charles rhetorically asks during the introductory notes of her sophomore album appropriately titled The Gumption. While the apprehensive lover at the receiving end of that inquisition should feel slighted by the remark, it also alludes to the assuredness Tanika has gained since the release of her Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize-nominated debut Soul Run. The Gumption picks up where Soul Run left off, continuing her tradition of marrying classic soul with modern production styles. Across a dozen songs spanning 38 minutes, Tanika addresses moments of vulnerability, vindication, uncertain love, forbidden fruit and the state of the world today. “It’s a little more mature. It’s not feeling

guilty about being up front, not being afraid to address situations that aren’t comfortable for me. I’m comfortable in my skin now in a way I never was before. The overall theme is growth. I feel the music reflects that, and my words reflects that. Even the album cover tries to convey the feeling too. I’m not putting up with unnecessary nonsense anymore.”

Predominately guitar-driven mid-tempo soul, with a handful of dance floor friendly tunes and some psychedelic leanings, The Gumption was indirectly influenced by the likes of Alabama Shakes, The Supremes, Khruangbin, D’Angelo, and Moses Sumney. It is sonically moody at times, but with consistent silver-lining arcs. “I’ve grown up and learned to deal with situations significantly better. We have a tendency to hold back our innermost feelings for fear of hurting others. Even when we’re happy we worry about over-sharing, as if joy is a competition you don’t want to gloat about.”

The success of Soul Run propelled Tanika in front of new audiences far and wide, with extensive touring in North America and Europe. “I’ve been touring, experiencing new places and meeting new people. And in that time also worked on completing this album”. While criss-crossing Canada with festival appearances on both the east and west coasts, Tanika also embarked upon four overseas tours for a combined 45 European shows within a one year period. This included performances at the prestigious Trans Musicales Festival in France,   the Lärz, Germany Fusion Festival, Mostly Funk & Soul and Jazz Festival in UK, the Holy Groove Festival in Switzerland, and the Canarias Jazz Festival in Spain.

Polly Gibbons, singer of jazz, blues, and soul, called a "once-in-a-generation talent," releases first live album, recorded at Power Station in New York

Resonance Records discovery Polly Gibbons, a British-born star on the rise, has a sound and style that give off sparks. It's raw, raspy, and full of heat; it sputters and growls, carves out funky grooves, and wails into the skies. All I Can Do, her third Resonance release, the label's founder George Klabin, places Gibbons in front of an audience, where she's at her most explosive.

Recorded before an invited crowd at Power Station, the New York studio where Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Sting made renowned albums, All I Can Do teams Gibbons with a smoldering quintet: pianist and arranger James Pearson (musical director at the legendary Ronnie Scott's in London); organist Shedrick Mitchell (who played for nine years with Whitney Houston); guitarist Paul Bollenback; bassist Richie Goods; and drummer Mark McLean. Guest pianist and arranger Tamir Hendelman is a first-call musician in Los Angeles, a first-call accompanist in Los Angeles; he can be heard on the CD and DVD of One Night Only: Barbra Streisand and Quartet at the Village Vanguard.

On All I Can Do, Gibbons roams the musical map while staying grounded in jazz, her home base. She finds the common thread in songs by Horace Silver, Prince, AND Al Jarreau. She borrows tunes from her idols-Nina Simone, Chet Baker, Donny Hathaway-and makes them her own. As Jon Sobel wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "I hear echoes of Ella, Lena, Aretha, even Janis. But Gibbons is a full-blown phenomenon of her own."

The performance took place in 2018, an important year for her. That summer, Birdland, New York's premier jazz club, gave Gibbons a residency. She opened for Boz Scaggs at the Montreal Jazz Festival and played the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival alongside Gregory Porter, Marcus Miller, and Tootie Heath. Gibbons performed regularly at Ronnie Scott's, her London headquarters. Her previous album on Resonance, Is It Me ...?, earned raves. Wrote John Fordham of The Guardian: "Gibbons has proven herself a versatile artist who can switch from an emotionally subtle Cleo Laine-like purr to a soul-gospel wail in a blink, and she has a growing authority as a co-composer with James Pearson ... Polly Gibbons is unmistakably a class act, getting classier fast."

A farmer's daughter, Gibbons grew up with her six siblings in Framlingham, a small market town in Suffolk, England. Early on she learned the meaning of the blues: "I've got super-loving parents, but I was very bullied at school, and there was quite a lot of illness in my family." At thirteen she heard her first Billie Holiday record. It led her on a chase to explore other black American musical greats: Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk. The "history and complexity and pain and anger and joy in that music," she says, "made me very excited and touched me."

In 2006, before she had released her first album, the BBC Jazz Awards nominated her in its "Rising Star" category. A few years later Gibbons was singing at Ronnie's in front of Van Morrison, who lauded her "great voice." The great arranger/composer Johnny Mandel-who has written for Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley Horn-would later comment: "They don't come along very often, but this one's a star." Gibbons went on to open for George Benson and Gladys Knight in their U.K. tours, and (with Pearson) to score first place in the Indie International Songwriting Contest for their song "Midnight Prayer." Peter Quinn of Jazzwise proclaimed her "a truly exceptional, once-in-a-generation talent, possessing a voice of such sizzling intensity and raw emotion you could fry an egg on it."   

Her 2015 debut album on Resonance, Many Faces of Love, established Polly as one of the freshest jazz voices to hit the U.S. in years. All I Can Do shows her continued growth. Her version of the Horace Silver gospel tune "Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself" mixes funk, scatting, and churchy organ and piano; Polly sings as fervently as a preacher in the pulpit. Jazz divas love to emote their way through "Everything Must Change," but Polly transmits its hard-earned lessons quietly. On a tip from Klabin, Polly sings a rollicking cover of a Della Reese showstopper, "Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues." She and Pearson wrote "All I Can Do Is Sing the Blues" in response to "the bad things in life," most of them stemming from current political mayhem on both sides of the pond.
Following the death of Prince, Gibbons was moved to sing "Nothing Compares 2 U," his great ballad of lost love, in a spare and mournful setting, "just Shedrick and James laying it down." "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl," the unashamedly naughty Bessie Smith blues, never fails to thrill Gibbons's audiences. Pearson takes it to church with an arrangement inspired by Mahalia Jackson records; Tamir Hendelman channels every style Gibbons loves into a panoramic solo.

All I Can Do reveals a young woman who, musically and expressively, is wise beyond her years.

1. Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself (5:08)
2. Good Hands Tonight (6:28)
3. Beautiful Things (4:21)
4. If You Had the Chance (5:21)
5. Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues (6:36)
6. Anything Goes (4:30)
7. This Is Always (5:39)
8. All I Can Do (5:03)
9. Everything Must Change (7:23)
10. I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So (5:48)
11. Nothing Compares 2 U (6:24)
12. I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl (5:20)


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