Friday, May 31, 2019

Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen present "Dark Cyan"

Helsinki jazz scene mainstays Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen present a strong body of work on their new LP which updates the sound of an acoustic sax+drums combo in a highly inspiring way.

'Dark Cyan' is their new single, following 7" 'Dark Magenta / Zomp'.

Lassy plays sax, Mäkynen plays drums and handles production duties. Consisting of 13 focused tracks each clocking in at around three minutes, the album's sound ranges from spiritual-tinged free playing all the way to delicious 4/4 groove hard-hitters, showcasing producer "Teddy Rok" Mäkynen's love for electronic music. That being said, the sound here is that of an acoustic jazz band, placed left of the timeline and thinking ahead of what this instrumentation could achieve. The overall sound is warm and inviting, with the various delicious details inspiring repeated listening.

‘Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen’ is their first LP as a duo, but actually crowns years of collaboration between them - The Five Corners Quintet, Teddy Rok Seven, Jo Stance, Timo Lassy Band: the two friends have been playing together and experimented different forms of collaboration for more than a decade now.

Mäkynen has in fact produced a lot of Lassy’s work, including his first album ‘The Soul & Jazz of Timo Lassy’ in 2007, which features Timo's most successful track so far, ‘African Rumble’.

As far as the term "award-winning" goes, here we have two of the latest "Finnish jazz album of the year" winners joining forces and doing what they do best.

Both Lassy and Mäkynen are tried and tested stars of the vibrant Finnish jazz scene, and artists who have time and again proven to be highly inventive when moving forward.

‘Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen’ adds a significant new chapter to their collaboration, and presents a new formation which will surely be a force to be reckoned with on the live circuit.

New Music Releases: Patrice Rushen - Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984; Major Harris – I Love You; Alexa Tarantino - Winds Of Change

Patrice Rushen - Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984

Coming this summer! Strut present a brand new retrospective of an icon of 1970s and ‘80s soul, jazz and disco, Patrice Rushen, covering her peerless 6-year career with Elektra / Asylum from 1978 to 1984. ‘'Remind Me’ features all of Patrice Rushen’s chart singles, 12” versions and popular sample sources on one album for the first time. Formats included a 3LP set and CD fully remastered by The Carvery from the original tapes. Both formats include an exclusive new interview with Patrice Rushen and rare photos. It's out 19th July 2019. Early classics like ‘Music Of The Earth’ and ‘Let’s Sing A Song Of Love’ were among Patrice’s first as a lead vocalist before her ‘Pizzazz’ album landed in 1979, featuring the unique disco of ‘Haven’t You Heard’ and one of her greatest ballads, ‘Settle For My Love’. Slick dancefloor anthem ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and the ‘Posh’ album in 1980 led to her landmark album ‘Straight From The Heart’ two years later: including international hit 'Forget Me Nots'. Patrice’s final album for Elektra, ‘Now’ kept the bar high with sparse, synth-led songs including ‘Feel So Real’ and ‘To Each His Own’. It concluded a golden era creatively for Patrice which remains revered by soul and disco aficionados the world over.

Major Harris – I Love You

Best known for his 1975 smash “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” which topped the Billboard R&B Chart, Major Harris enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Here, Harris is backed by the members of the group INGRAM. All recorded before his untimely passing in 2012. Major Harris is associated with the Philadelphia soul sound and the Delfonics (early 1970s–1974). His biggest hit as a solo artist was the sultry 1975 single "Love Won't Let Me Wait." which peaked at #5 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and #37 in the UK Top 50 in September 1975. Written by Bobby Eli and Vinnie Barrett, "Love Won't Let Me Wait" was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. on 25 June 1975.

Alexa Tarantino - Winds Of Change

Everyone is encouraged to enjoy a breath of fresh air when woodwind virtuoso Alexa Tarantino boldly embarks on an exploration of the "Winds of Change, her first record with Posi-Tone. With strong rhythmic and harmonic concepts and unstoppably gentle melodic sensibility, Tarantino skillfully conducts listeners through an exciting presentation of her carefully crafted arrangements and original compositions. Tarantino plays a combination of saxophones and flute on the record to make bold statements of stunning musicianship alongside the superstar accompaniment of pianist Christian Sands, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Rudy Royston. Whether one is already familiar with the music of Alexa Tarantino or discovering her for the first time, "Winds of Change" surely succeeds in delivering bright moments of straight forward musical delight while demonstrating that Alexa Tarantino is indeed a rising star for jazz fans to keep their eyes fixed upon for years to come.

Hackney Colliery Band set to release new album 'Collaborations: Volume One'

Currently celebrating their 10th anniversary, the album features collaborations with Mulatu Astatke, James Taylor, Angélique Kidjo, Roundhouse Choir, Dennis Rollins, Pete Wareham, Bugge Wesseltoft + more…

New single ‘Crushing Lactic’ combines HCB’s trademark hard-hitting horn-lead intensity with heavy, shifting grooves more commonly found in post-rock. Hardly surprising given that the track came about when the band invited composer, Eno collaborator and one third of experimental rock band Three Trapped Tigers Tom Rogerson to compose a track for them. The result is an ever-shifting sonic landscape which brings the band’s virtuosic playing to the fore, particularly the polymetric drumming of Olly Blackman and Luke Christie, and fiery trumpet playing of Steve Pretty and Miguel Gorodi. 

The flip side is the band’s second collaboration with legendary Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, ‘Derashe’. Taking its name from an Ethiopian tribe, the track was suggested to the band by Mulatu himself; the Derashi tribe are known for creating incredible layered, dense music from tribal proto-brass instruments, so Mulatu was keen to bring out the connections between this ancient sound and that of HCB. With Mulatu and Ethiopian music a key influence on the band’s sound since day one, there is a wonderful sense of synchronicity that they should be releasing this ten years almost to the day since their very first gig. 

Since the release of Hackney Colliery Band’s eponymous debut album in 2011, the East London collective have blown their way into the public consciousness with their genre-bending combination of brass, reeds, percussion and electronics, firmly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting live bands in the UK. 

Performing at numerous venues, festivals and clubs around the world, including a recent sold-out show at the Scala as part of the London Jazz Festival, Hackney Colliery Band have been busy in the studio, developing a more mature and polished sound, and are pleased to announce the release of new album ‘Collaborations: Volume One’ - their first new material since the critically-acclaimed ‘Sharpener’ in 2016. 

It’s already been an incredible journey for this talented group of musicians. From playing a 45-minute set at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics and sets at the MOBO, Brit and Mercury Awards to live sessions on BBC Two, BBC Radio 2, Jazz FM and worldwide airplay from many more, from collaborations with the likes of Amy Winehouse and Madness to selling out venues across London including KOKO and The Forum, to a European tour, Hackney Colliery Band have not stopped.


Norwegian Jazz-Rock Power Quartet Red Kite

Concocting a head-rush tempest of swirling psychedelia, heavy rock crunch, prog virtuosity and free-jazz experimentation, Norwegian jazz-rock power quartet Red Kite releases its highly anticipated self-titled debut June 28, 2019 via RareNoiseRecords. The exploratory and electrifying supergroup features members of some of Norway's best-known prog outfits, including Elephant9, Shining, Bushman's Revenge and Grand General.

Red Kite brings together guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, bassist Trond Frønes, keyboardist Bernt André Moen and drummer Torstein Lofthus, four incredible musicians able to navigate complex prog-jazz architecture with both risk-taking, improvisatory jazz spirit and a brain-rattling hard rock intensity.

"We all grew up listening rock and heavy music," says Lofthus, "but later discovered jazz, prog and all kinds of other great stuff along the way. It's all just music to us, to the point where it all just melts together into one big organic stew now."

That stew offers the listener a hearty, churning cauldron of sound to taste from over the course of the band's stunning debut, Red Kite. The album's 40 densely layered minutes comprise four expansive original compositions by guitarist Hermansen, each offering a vast, intriguing but wide-open terrain for the band to traverse. In addition, the quartet delves into Alice Coltrane's "Ptah, the El Daoud," the title track from the pianist/harpist's classic 1970 Impulse! album, honing the original's spiritual transcendence to a keen, serrated edge.  

Lofthus and Hermansen met while both were members of the long-running Norwegian hard rock band Shining. The drummer was a founding member in the group's early days as an acoustic jazz quartet; Hermansen joined a decade into the influential ensemble's history, as it was veering further into avant-garde metal sounds on albums like Grindstone and Blackjazz.

Both were familiar with Frønes' distinctive powerhouse style from his work in the rock band Cadillac; Hermansen went on to work with him in the progressive jazz fusion quintet Grand General. When the bassist left his home base of Trondheim for the capital city, Oslo, the three were, according to Lofthus, "all just looking for an excuse to jam." The results, he recalls, were "too much fun not to repeat at a later date."

Lofthus and Hermansen had each already established a thrilling trio on their own since leaving Shining: Lofthus formed the acclaimed Elephant9 with keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and bassist Nikolai Eilertsen, while Hermansen led the explosive Bushman's Revenge with bassist Rune Nergaard and drummer Gard Nilssen. To differentiate from these bands as well as offer even more possibilities as this exciting jam session gelled into a working band, it was decided to expand the line-up with a fourth member.

The instant choice was Moen, who had played alongside Lofthus and Hermansen on Shining's Blackjazz and its live follow-up. With the membership in place, the four members stole as much time as possible from their other diverse projects to explore together in rehearsal spaces and on festival stages, and together forged a sharply focused group identity. The results can be heard in their dizzying glory on Red Kite.

"The story of the album, for us at least, is discovering and cementing our own sound," Hermansen explains. "It's been about finding out what sets us apart from our groups, accentuating our own eccentricities, and doing so naturally. That's been our journey as musicians, at least; for the audience we've tried to put together a set, a musical journey that makes sense on its own terms."

That journey launches with the atmospheric introduction to Alice Coltrane's "Ptah, the El Daoud," one of the first tunes Red Kite ever jammed on together. While Moen eventually lurches into the familiar bass line (memorably played on the original by the legendary Ron Carter), Coltrane's spiritual march here becomes an aggressive steamroller of sound, trading the original's spiritual musings for exhilarating vigor.

The remainder of the album was penned by Hermansen, though all four members are also composers, and the guitarist's skeletal themes serve more as instigations for group investigation. "The compositions are just jumping off points for the band," Hermansen says. "We just need a starting point, so we're just looking for ideas that are articulated enough and to the point without getting in the way. They could have been anybody's;"

Each of the pieces is given a provocative title, beginning with the mixed message of "13 Enemas For Good Luck." As Hermansen says, "Naming such a thing as abstract instrumental music is, on its face, kind of an absurd notion to begin with. So one might as well underscore the absurdity of it. A few words are generally needed and you might as well choose them carefully, even if it might be a joke. If something can work on more than one level, then that's a good thing."

The piece itself, with its grinding momentum and roiling rhythm, is anything but a joke. Hermansen's howling guitar echoes in the vastness, gradually swelling in potency until bursting into the monolithic melody. The intensity continues to build until it fragments into shrapnel-like outbursts. The album's shortest piece, "Flew a Little Bullfinch Through the Window," is also its most relaxed, though hardly the delicate lilt the title might suggest. It's built instead on an elusive groove, with Hermansen and Moen tracing filigreed lines away from the rotating rhythm.
Anyone hypnotized into a lull by that song's relative gentleness will be shocked awake by the incendiary jazz-rock volatility of "Focus on Insanity," a play on the title of the Ornette Coleman classic from The Shape of Jazz to Come. The title change is apt for the tune's derangement of Coleman's Harmolodic excursions. The album draws to a mesmerizing close with "You Don't Know, You Don't Know," its philosophical ambiguity vividly expressed through a haze of narcotized psychedelia.

The release of Red Kite's self-titled debut is cause for celebration among those with a taste for the adventurous and extreme. It's a delirious set that fluidly elides genre boundaries with staggering vibrancy and galvanizing imagination.


The Jamie Saft Quartet - Hidden Corners

Due out June 28, 2019 via RareNoiseRecords, Hidden Corners is the latest manifestation of Saft's ceaselessly adventurous musical spirit, one that has allowed him to veer across genres with a staggering list of collaborators- a list that includes John Zorn, Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, John Adams, Iggy Pop, Donovan, and The B-52s. This new quartet focuses his intrepid imagination on the realm of the cosmic and consciousness, with results that are mind-expanding as well as sonically exhilarating.

"Hamid Drake, Brad Jones, and Dave Liebman are each masters of conjuring mystical states through music," Saft enthuses. "The re-arrangement of notes, tones, sounds, textures, timbres - each musician here has the power to transport the listener to higher realms through the music."

As elusive and strange as it is by definition, the mystical plane is hardly unfamiliar territory for any of these musicians. Liebman enjoyed formative experiences with such pioneers of the audacious as Elvin Jones and Miles Davis and has delved deeply into the work of John Coltrane, while his seeking nature is revealed through the names of his own bands, Quest and Expansions.

In addition to his work with such inventive jazz giants as Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp and Alice Coltrane, Drake has long meshed his musical and spiritual lives. His lifelong study of the Chinese martial art and health exercise T'ai chi ch'uan has long informed his music, which has connected with his thorough investigations of rhythmic traditions from around the world, bringing him together with deep-rooted musical thinkers from master Gnawa musicians from Morocco to blues icons from his hometown of Chicago.

Jones, too, has collaborated with many of the most innovative minds in modern music, including Ornette Coleman, John Zorn, Muhal Richard Abrams, Elvin Jones, Dave Douglas and The Jazz Passengers, with an eclectic resume that includes work with everyone from Elvis Costello to Sheryl Crow to David Byrne. He's traversed similar terrain in league with Saft in the past as part of the keyboardist's spiritual jazz/roots reggae group New Zion Trio. 

That trio is just one manifestation of Saft's enduring love for spiritual jazz, which is one thread that has woven throughout the rich tapestry of his multifarious career. He counts albums like Alice Coltrane's Ptah, the El Daoud and Pharoah Sanders' Thembi among his most profound influences; the title track of Thembi was a regular part of the repertoire of his high school jazz band, in fact.

"I've been fascinated and inspired by the Spiritual Jazz path for years," he explains. "Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler - all of these artists seek ecstatic states of consciousness in the music. These transcendent experiences can be traced through art, music, spirituality, exercise and meditation. Jewish Mysticism considers these same paths."

In his liner notes, the Brooklyn-based rapper and producer Eden Pearlstein - better known as ePHRYME - cites the Sefer Yetzirah, "an ancient Kabbalistic text of unknown authorship" that explores the connections of music and numerology through the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. "Invoking practical methods of vibrational magic found in the Sefer Yetzirah," ePHRYME writes, "Jamie Saft and his esteemed collaborators take us on a multi-dimensional journey through the 231 Permutational Gates, allowing us passage through the Four Worlds by entrusting us with the Seven Sets of Double Keys, and inspiring us to Turn at Every Moment by revealing the Hidden Corners of Consciousness and Creative Potential concealed within."

Saft makes the connection between this source of inspiration and those jazz icons who've come before: "A critical element of this is Gematria, the mystical aspects of numerology. In Kabbalah, letters have numerical values - mystical numerical values. John Coltrane explored these mystical states within his arrangements of numbers and musical geometry. All of these paths converge at any number of points."

The session that became Hidden Corners was initially planned to be the latest recording of the New Zion Trio, in this incarnation comprising Jones and Drake. Having crossed paths at countless festivals over the years, Saft invited the drummer to join the band for recent dates, including the 2018 Tampere Festival in Finland. "Hamid is a legend of improvised music," Saft says. "Yet he has an incredibly broad range of musical and life experiences beyond jazz and improvised music. He'ss worked in every possible style and situation in music, and he comes from New Orleans, where much great American Roots music comes from. This range of experience and breadth of musical knowledge is rare and unique."

The universe interceded, however, when Saft was enlisted to perform a concert of John Coltrane's late works with Liebman as the featured saxophonist. "We quickly struck up a friendship and a musical connection," Saft recalls.

"When Liebman plays there is the greatest depth in every facet of his playing. His sound on his instruments, his tone, is otherworldly. Lieb has a true mastery of harmonic concepts at the very highest level. Suddenly I saw a possibility to connect all these masters together."

The long histories and interwoven network of associations that Liebman and Drake share - which most recently converged in their trio with master percussionist Adam Rudolph on the RareNoise release Chi - was among the influences that Saft drew upon for the music of Hidden Corners. "Historic associations are important when considering Dave Liebman and Hamid Drake," he says. "Musicians at this level believe in and understand the transformative powers of music and specifically improvised musical paths. There is a high level of trust at work here- in the process, in our mutual abilities, and in the respect and love we have for each other. So the music is merely a vehicle to continue this conversation amongst ourselves. But always with the goal of creating music that heals the listener. That makes us all feel better."

The healing intention of Saft's compositions is evident from the outset, with the transporting opening moments of "Positive Way," a brief meditative introduction that sets the stage for Jones' singing, soulful bass melody. The blissful and the combustible meet with the entrance of Liebman's piercing, muscular tenor. The tumultuous "Seven Are Double" follows, before Liebman switches to his soaring, diving soprano for "Yesternight," which seems to float atop Drake's ethereal rhythms and Saft's crepuscular chords.

The pianist crafts an air of mystery for "231 Gates," an elusive and shadow-shrouded piece that Liebman investigates with his probing, questioning flute. Jones' achingly bowed bass combine with the shimmering curtain of Saft's piano to cast the spell of "Turn at Every Moment," while the album's title track feels redemptive and prayerful. With Saft evoking Alice Coltrane's harp by strumming the strings inside his piano, "The Anteroom" fully conjures the liminal space suggested by its title, with delicate, pointillistic echoes rippling through the quartet. "Landrace" closes the album on a powerful note, its surging rhythm propelling Saft and Liebman into fierce ecstasies.

As these descriptions suggest, it's ultimately the interactions between these four distinctive voices that makes the music of Hidden Corners so majestic and transformative. "In the end," Saft says, "it's strong personal relationships that make a session like this work. We are all close friends and colleagues. There is great love and respect all around. These personal relationships make the process of creating music together easy and fulfilling."

The "Positive Way" mentioned in the title of the first piece is one key to the music's intent, Saft concludes - the proper mindset, perhaps, for discovering those Hidden Corners where beauty is created. "I'm always trying to make a record that I myself would enjoy listening to. When I'm able to make music with masters at this level, positivity and clarity of purpose are both just always right there in each moment. We follow the path of positivity in the music."


Boston Favorite and Berklee Professor Yoko Miwa Releases Her Definitive Piano-Trio Album Keep Talkin'

Keep Talkin', the new trio album by Japanese-born, Boston-based Yoko Miwa, documents a pianist and composer operating at the peak of her powers. While maintaining her undeniable signature, Miwa's musicianship evokes the harmonic finesse and rhythmic brilliance of key influences like Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson. Her expansive, versatile writing presents both a remarkable ear for melody and an earthy, intuitive feel for groove. And as an arranger and interpreter, Miwa showcases her fantastic knack for programming: From jazz standards to Brazilian music to unsung gems by pop and folk heroes, each of her selections is definitively remade in her image while retaining its core charms.

In the end, those delights coalesce around Miwa the bandleader, who helms gifted players including her husband, the drummer Scott Goulding, and the bassists Will Slater and Brad Barrett with intelligence and dexterity. Or as the Boston Globe said of the Miwa Trio's previous album, 2017's Pathways-which hit No. 6 on the JazzWeek chart-her music is "bright and accessible. Š Miwa's technical chops are evident, yet she's anything but showy; she prizes space in her sound, and leaves room for the deep interplay her group has honed over the years."

But excellent jazz piano trios are made rather than born, and Keep Talkin' tells that story as well. A professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Miwa is a rare educator who seems to log just as much bandstand time as she does classroom hours. Over the last two decades, Miwa and her cohorts have worked constantly, mostly in one of America's great jazz towns. In the elastic, buoyant communication within Keep Talkin', you can hear the hard-earned lessons of all those gigs together-the unplanned set lists and loose, fun hangs of Boston-area spots like the Mad Monkfish, Les Zygomates and the recently, sadly shuttered Ryles Jazz Club, as well as dates for deep-listening audiences at premier rooms like Scullers, Regattabar, the Blue Note in New York and Blues Alley in D.C. To put it more directly, the material, arrangements and musical conversations on Keep Talkin' have undergone the intensive testing and refinement that can only come with playing for audiences.

"I love that we have the steady gigs," Miwa says. "We understand each other, we get familiar with the songs, and we can see the audience's reaction when we play a new song." Ensuring that listeners are both intellectually challenged and joyfully engaged is a forgotten art in jazz these days, but the Yoko Miwa Trio and Keep Talkin' strike an inspired balance between head and heart.
Keep Talkin' gets an auspicious, hard-grooving start with its title track, a Miwa original and live-set staple that evokes the boogaloo jazz of your favorite '60s Blue Note LPs. Miwa and company then pay homage to Thelonious Monk, with an "In Walked Bud" that highlights Miwa's philosophy of reverent reinvention; in robust, woody tones, bassist Slater carries much of the melody. A Miwa original follows, "Secret Rendezvous," an exercise in the kind of tuneful mainstream jazz-piano mastery that garners repeat spins on jazz radio. Next is one of Miwa's early compositions, her swinging, romantic "Sunset Lane," which underscores her profound appreciation for Bill Evans.

Miwa's take on Charles Mingus' "Boogie Stop Shuffle," where the smoking, roiling frontline horns of the Mingus Ah Um recording are distilled into Miwa's two hands, offers a clinic in creative piano-trio arrangement. To honor her long-running love for the Lennon-McCartney songbook, Miwa arranges two gorgeous yet still underrated songs off the Beatles' Abbey Road-"Golden Slumbers" and "You Never Give Me Your Money." Her search for new music to interpret never ends, Miwa says, though many songs simply aren't effective in a jazz piano-trio context. These two heartrending melodies, however, took beautifully to jazz arranging and became live favorites, leading to many requests for a recording. Miwa and Slater share athletic unison lines on the inquisitive "Tone Portrait." A passionate devotee of Brazilian music, especially the late vocal legend Elis Regina, Miwa heard the Los Hermanos song "Casa Pre-Fabricada" in a version by Regina's daughter, the singer Maria Rita, and became enamored of its whimsy and graceful contours.

On "Conversation," Miwa turns a Joni Mitchell deep cut into a tour de force for gospel-tinged chording and ebullient, pastoral improvisation. (No surprise: It's the most Jarrett-esque performance on the album.) Rounding out the disc are two more Miwa compositions. "If You're Blue," a Monk-ish theme, features Miwa's original melody atop the changes to Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz." "Sunshine Follows the Rain," recorded during the sessions that became Pathways, began as a shorter piece she crafted for an independent film score. Bittersweet and rhapsodic, Miwa's performance is impeccably complemented by Goulding's sensitive brushwork and the beautifully lyrical arco bass playing of Brad Barrett, in his lone performance on the album.

Born in Kobe, Japan, Miwa was trained classically and didn't become immersed in jazz until she began studying with Minoru Ozone, the late keyboardist, educator and club owner, and the father of pianist Makoto Ozone. Miwa describes the elder Ozone as an "old-school" teacher who instilled in her the importance of playing by ear and absorbing jazz's language by listening and transcribing. She was employed as an accompanist and piano instructor at his music school, and a waitress at his popular jazz club-where she cut her teeth performing, sometimes off the cuff at Ozone's request. Tragedy struck Kobe in 1995 with the Great Hanshin earthquake, which leveled both Ozone's school and club. "That was the scariest thing to happen in my life," Miwa says. "But I realized that we were very lucky to be alive. A lot of people lost their lives, lost their houses and families." She enrolled at the Koyo Conservatory of Music, a Berklee affiliate school, and, on a whim, auditioned for a full scholarship prize at the flagship school in Boston. To her astonishment, Miwa won first prize-but even then, she needed convincing from her peers to make the trek.

Once in Boston in 1997, she fell in love with the city and dug into her jazz education. "I was the last one to leave a practice room every night at 2 a.m.," she recalls. "I was just so excited to meet great musicians-my teachers and fellow students-from all over the world. I felt like my world just changed." Throughout her years at Berklee, as a student and, later, as an accompanist and a Professor in the Piano Department, she has achieved many personal and creative breakthroughs. She met her husband, Goulding, in a class; in fact, their meet-cute involves a duo performance. As a staff accompanist with plenty of previous experience backing singers, she worked in master classes with the late vocal great Kevin Mahogany, who asked her to gig with him later on. "He was always very nice to me," Miwa recalls. "He wrote me before he passed away: You are always one of my favorite pianists."

A Yamaha Piano Artist, Miwa has performed and/or recorded with other luminaries as well, among them Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Arturo Sandoval, Sheila Jordan, Slide Hampton, George Garzone, Jon Faddis, Jerry Bergonzi, Johnathan Blake and John Lockwood. As a leader she has recorded seven previous albums, including her acclaimed Japanese debut for JVC Victor Entertainment, 2012's Act Naturally, which was promoted with a concert tour of Japan. Other career highlights include a spot in the Jazz at Lincoln Center program "Marian McPartland & Friends," part of the Coca-Cola Generations in Jazz Festival, and a performance in Lincoln Center's annual Jazz and Leadership Workshop for the National Urban League's Youth Summit. She has also acted as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Consider Keep Talkin' the culmination of Miwa's thriving jazz-life-in-progress-her still-evolving work as a player and composer, her relentless search for new songs and her tireless live-performance ethic, which has allowed her and her band to entertain generations of jazz fans. "I hope people will see who I am as a musician and a pianist on this album," she says.

Innovative Third Stream Pianists Claire Ritter and Ran Blake Celebrate Thelonious Monk's 100th Birthday on First Duo Outing

The mere fact that two such innovative and inventive pianists as Claire Ritter and Ran Blake weave their singular voices together so beautifully would suffice to make this stellar recording a very special occasion. But the stunning performance captured on Eclipse Orange (from Zoning Recordings), recorded live at Queens University in Ritter's native North Carolina, celebrates a number of other landmarks, all of which flow into the music's transcendent tapestry.

First and foremost, the October 2017 concert honored the 100th birthday of fellow North Carolina native Thelonious Monk, a key influence for both Blake and Ritter. It also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the North Carolina Arts Council, making the performance a living testimony to the important work being done by the organization in supporting the state's vibrant arts and culture scene. Eclipse Orange was sponsored by a Charlotte Arts & Science Council artist grant funded via the state arts council. Informally, but crucially, the evening marks the latest flowering of the three- decade collaboration between the two pianists, one that has evolved from mentorship to collaboration. If that weren't enough, add in homages to trailblazing female painters, the influence of the legendary Mary Lou Williams, and the thrill of newly-forged partnerships, as represented by the appearance of Australian-born saxophonist Kent O'Doherty.

"This performance was a very special, once in a lifetime opportunity, to say the least," Ritter says. "It was a unique opportunity to not only record my first two-piano performance album, but to do it with my mentor and at Queens University, where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in classical piano. To be able to share all of that with my own students and a hometown audience really brought everything full circle."

The two pianists actually met in 1981, when Ritter arrived in Boston to study at New England Conservatory, where Blake has now taught for more than 50 years. Ritter later joined him on the faculty of the Department of Contemporary Improvisation (formerly the Third Stream Department founded by Gunther Schuller), where she taught a contemporary songwriting class in the 1990s. But Ritter dates their collaboration as peers to 1988, when Blake was a guest on her debut album In Between. "Ran is a great motivator and stimulator of the imagination," Ritter says. "His genius lies in his harmonic structures, in recomposing any kind of piece in any kind of idiom. He stimulated the composer in me, bringing out a lot of color, unpredictability and ways of thinking about melodic phrasing in more interesting ways by encouraging me to listen to a very wide range of different types of music."

Blake begins the concert by navigating his own circuitous path through three of his former student's compositions. All three of Ritter's eloquent pieces are title tracks from her catalogue, beginning with the present album: "Eclipse Orange" flows into "Waltzing the Splendor," then ends with the aforementioned "In Between," thus spanning her 30-year recording career in just over four minutes.

Ritter joins Blake for the first Thelonious Monk composition on the program, "Blue Monk" (later followed by "I Mean You" with Kent O'Doherty). The iconic pianist is also the inspiration behind pieces by both composers: Ritter dedicates her tunes "Blue Grits," "Cool Digs," "HighTop Sneakers" and "Integrity" to Monk, while Blake's "Short Life of Barbara Monk" pays tribute to the jazz legend's late daughter. Mary Lou Williams, another former teacher, receives a nod in Ritter's newly composed Monk-like "Backbone."

Monk's spirit hovers over the entirety of the proceedings, however, and not just due to the occasion of his centenary. "Ran and I have certainly both been very influenced by Monk," Ritter explains. "His love of space has been incorporated into my compositional language. I also love his unique phrasing and his angular, unusual intervals. To me, his work is the most original of any jazz composer."

The dramatic theme of Ritter's title track returns for a full duo outing. "Eclipse Orange" was originally composed following the solar eclipse of 2014, while this two-piano version was created in the wake of the summer 2017 eclipse. Nature is a strong source of inspiration for Ritter, as on "Emerald & the Breeze," which reflects on the Makah Indian Reservation of Cape Flattery on the far Northwest point of the Washington coast.

Several of Ritter's works draw inspiration from other women's interpretation of beauty through visual art: her new piece "Karma Waltz" was inspired by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva's painting "La Scala - The Eyes," while "Waltzing the Splendor" interprets Georgia O'Keefe's "Orange and Red Streak." Blake's solo "Improvisation of Selma" carries that theme into a spontaneous reaction to Barbara Pennington's "Selma," a painting in the collection of Charlotte's Mint Museum.

"I think of paintings as windows to the soul," Ritter says. "The artistic vision of these masters is definitely an inspiration, leading us to embrace the moment of creativity on a higher level through sound and color and combining the two."

Melbourne-born saxophonist Kent O'Doherty during his recent visit to Charlotte in 2017, reached out to Ritter as one of the local jazz community's leading lights. Their lively duo jaunts through Ritter's "Blue Grits", "HighTop Sneakers", and "Cool Digs" reveal an instant spark for this newly-minted collaboration. Blake also brings his unparalleled artistry to the transformation of several standards, including "Summertime" (a propos for this excursion into the south), Hubert Powell's "There's Been a Change," and a medley of Brazilian favorites by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Ary Barroso. Ritter rejoins him for the classic "Over the Rainbow" before closing the evening with her own Monk-inspired "Integrity."

Whether exploring the paths forged by foundational jazz composers, her own mentors or gifted artists in other media, Ritter recognizes and is galvanized by a kindred spirit. "In the work of all of these masters, I find an equivalent independent artistic vision, which symbolizes unique personal experiences and transforms them into many abstract forms of expression." The same is undoubtedly true of Ritter and Blake, two artists of the piano who transform their inspirations in myriad dazzling forms throughout Eclipse Orange.

The music of Charlotte, North Carolina-based composer/pianist/educator Claire Ritter is regarded among "the most successful Third Stream synthesis of jazz & classical musics" by author Ed Hazell. Ritter is the author of over 200 compositions which have been performed at festivals, concert halls, and museums in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Her discography includes 12 CD/DVD recordings on her own Zoning Recordings imprint. In 2017, Ritter was the recipient of an artist grant awarded by the North Carolina Arts & Science Council, her fourth. She has also received a NC Arts Council Jazz Composer Fellowship. Beginning with the great Mary Lou Williams at Duke University in the 1970s, Ritter has studied, worked, performed andrecorded with some of the music's most revered artists including over a decade with MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Ran Blake at New England Conservatory in Boston.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

NEW MUSIC RELEASES: George Benson – Walking To New Orleans; King Curtis - Soul Of King Curtis; Johnny Mathis – The Heart Of A Woman / Feelings

George Benson – Walking To New Orleans

Guitar legend George Benson pays tribute to the music of New Orleans – and also hearkens back to his earliest years in R&B, before he rose to jazz fame in the 60s! George sings as much as he plays guitar here – working in a tight combo that's heavy on soul styles – and most tunes are remakes of Nola classics, mixed with some other Chuck Berry songs, done in a more contemporary mode. The set's a fair bit grittier than most of Benson's recent recordings, and also has a tight horn section too – on titles that include "You Can't Catch Me", "Ain't That A Shame", "Blue Monday", "How You've Changed", "Walking To New Orleans", "I Hear You Knocking", and "Havana Moon".  ~ Dusty Groove

King Curtis - Soul Of King Curtis

Searing sax instrumentals from the great King Curtis – plus a lot more too – as this package not only brings together the King's records as a leader for Enjoy Records, but also digs up lots of performances as a sideman for that famous Harlem record label too! The grooves here are raw and ready, nice and tight, and done with a nitty gritty style that might have been funk if the cuts were recorded a few years later – but which definitely had a bit influence on countless soul instrumental modes to come, both in the rhythms and in King's wicked lead work on saxophone! The package features some of the best instrumental singles that Curtis cut for Enjoy Records, from his Soul Twist album and other singles – and CD2 also features material that Curtis cut for Enjoy as a soloist on records for other artists! CD1 features 18 tracks that include "Soul Twist", "Twisting Time", "The Monkey Shout", "Hot Potato", "Midnight Blue", "Beatnick Hoedown", "King Neptune's Guitar", "Wobble Twist", "What'd I Say (parts 1 & 2)", and "Big Dipper". CD2 features tracks that include "Our Love Will Never End" by The Avons, "I'm Gonna Catch You" by Curtis Carrington, "Madisonville USA (parts 1 & 2)" by The Strolls, "Chicken Scratch" by The Commandos, "I'll Be There" by Melvin Daniels, "Juicy Fruit" by Rudy Greene, "Fine Little Girl" by The Arcades, "Woman Woman Woman" by Sparks Of Rhythm, and "Korea Korea" by Bob Kent. ~Dusty Groove

Johnny Mathis – The Heart Of A Woman / Feelings

During the 1974 holiday season, Johnny Mathis could be heard at cosmetics counters nationwide. His song “The Heart of a Woman” was the theme for Helena Rubinstein’s Courant perfume and the title track of his latest LP. Now, The Heart of a Woman is finally coming to standalone CD in a deluxe, double-disc expanded edition from Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records, paired with 1975’s Feelings. The Heart of a Woman was more than a perfume tie-in, however. Johnny teamed with Motown’s legendary producer Johnny Bristol and arranger Paul Rise—plus session players like Dennis Coffey and Ray Parker, Jr.—for a set filled with Bristol originals which would inspire subsequent recordings from artists such as Boz Scaggs and Tom Jones. In addition to the title tune by Broadway’s Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (Bye Bye Birdie), the album also features a sensual cover of the Roberta Flack chart-topper “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and perhaps surprisingly, Johnny’s rendition of “Wendy” from the blaxploitation film Three the Hard Way! Feelings, produced by Jack Gold, notably introduced Mathis’ evocative version of Albert Hammond and Hal David’s “99 Miles from L.A.,” a song which the vocalist still performs in concert today. It also boasts David and Henry Mancini’s “The Greatest Gift” from The Return of the Pink Panther, and smooth interpretations of the standout ballad “What Did for Love” from A Chorus Line, Melissa Manchester’s enchanting “Midnight Blue,” and Neil Sedaka’s “Solitaire.” Nine fascinating period bonus tracks are included on this 2-CD set including two tracks produced by composer Roger Nichols and a rare session reuniting Johnny with producer-songwriter Jerry Fuller. Joe Marchese’s new liner notes draw on interviews with Mathis and Fuller, and Mike Piacentini has remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios. This set of amorous favorites from The Voice of Romance promises to go straight to the Heart.


Philip Bailey, the brilliant falsetto voice behind Earth, Wind & Fire, is an American music legend. The 8-time Grammy Award winning recording artist, songwriter and producer has influenced music artists and a popular culture over the past five decades. Growing up in Denver, Colorado Bailey listened to R&B, gospel, rock and pop alongside what he refers to as real jazz: Miles, Coltrane, Art Blakey, immortal jazz singers like Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and Dinah Washington.

Love Will Find a Way, Bailey’s newest solo album on Verve Records (June 21) is a continuation of his musical exploration and another step in his solo career. The album features trusted friends like bassist Christian McBride, iconic jazz pianist Chick Corea and drum legend Steve Gadd. Bailey also tapped several of the brightest contemporary lights in jazz, R&B, pop and more as collaborators: keyboardist Robert Glasper, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, rapper, musician and producer, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, singer-songwriter Bilal, singer-saxophonist Casey Benjamin, guitarist Lionel Loueke, drummer Kendrick Scott and bassist Derrick Hodge, among others.

Bailey says the album, “There was a flow to the project that was reminiscent of back in the day, when we used to do those records with the Fire and we had what I call our A-team. This record is opening up real vivid possibilities of where I’m going from here. I see a runway that will allow me to build on this vision.”

On Love Will Find a Way, Bailey proves that the atmosphere and ideas that made Earth Wind & Fire possible—a respect for genuine musicianship, a conviction that all music matters—are alive and well in 2019.

“It was a mutual admiration society—for real,” says Bailey, 67 At the same time, Bailey was struck by the sheer newness he heard around him: “Artists like Robert and Kamasi and Christian, they embrace the nuances of jazz and its historical value, but they’ve really infused the game with new possibilities. And I’ve been the recipient of infusion.”

Above and beyond its genre-bending, cross-generational musical synthesis, Love Will Find a Way also addresses these troubled and divisive times. In Bailey’s poignant interpretations of songs like Curtis Mayfield’s “Billy Jack” and “We’re a Winner” and the Abbey Lincoln/Max Roach-associated “Long as You’re Living,” he addresses pertinent themes of social justice and self-empowerment. At its core, rather than becoming mired in politics, Bailey’s message is one of optimism for all humanity. “That’s in keeping with my philosophy and Earth Wind & Fire’s philosophy,” he says. “It was something that is a continual thread of what we’ve done over our almost 50-year career. So that’s just staying true to who I am.”

Love Will Find a Way came together over a two-year period, and was initiated after Bailey started becoming aware of this forward-looking, all-embracing jazz generation. “I’d heard Rob Glasper was giving jazz a facelift,” Bailey says, and after attending the keyboardist’s live show, he was sold. Not only was the music hot and progressive, but the crowd was hip, diverse, youthful and passionate. Bailey quickly brought Glasper on board to play on and produce some tracks, and he became invaluable to the singer in recruiting musicians and other decisions. But Bailey also continued with his own research. At Jazz Fest in New Orleans, he made a point of catching Kamasi Washington’s set and had a small-world moment. “Lo and behold, he introduced his father, [the woodwinds player Rickey Washington]. Me and Rickey had known each other for years!” Bailey recalls, chuckling. “We went to the same church! Kamasi went to bible school with my kids.” A who’s who of musicians, producers and arrangers became involved over time, including keyboardist-arranger Herman Jackson, vocal producer Harvey Mason Jr., jazz-piano stalwart Kenny Barron, drummer Teddy Campbell and Bailey’s wife, vocalist Valerie Bailey, to name just a few.

The album kicks off with a West African-tinged take on Mayfield’s “Billy Jack,” a perfect opportunity for Bailey to pay homage to perhaps his greatest falsetto influence. Bailey and Corea look back to the heyday of jazz fusion with a sweetly grooving rendition of the Return to Forever classic “You’re Everything.” Bilal provides gorgeous vocal backing for Bailey on Mayfield’s “We’re a Winner,” before Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, on plangent trumpet, and, laying down a tribal beat on drums, highlight the mostly instrumental “Stairway to the Stars.” On “Brooklyn Blues,” Bailey uses his Kalimba to create a meditative ambiance atop simmering 21st-century jazz rhythms. Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” is reinvented here as an atmospheric slow jam, with spoken word by Bailey. “Just to Keep You Satisfied” is a beautifully reverent tribute to Bailey’s idol Marvin Gaye. Kamasi Washington’s robust tenor saxophone is an impeccable match for the ’70s-tinted spiritual vibe of “Sacred Sounds.” On the title track, Pharoah Sanders’ “Love Will Find a Way,” Bailey’s falsetto finds a sublime complement in Casey Benjamin’s saxophone and Vocoder. And he looks to famed bassist and collaborator Christian McBride to properly funk up “Long As Your Living.”

McBride says of Bailey and the Earth, Wind & Fire legacy, “I can’t think of any other group that did such a masterful job at combining all these different elements of jazz, the avant-garde, African music, Brazilian music, funk and rock.”

Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson continue to carry the torch for the group’s late founder, Maurice White, at packed halls and amphitheaters around the world. The group thrives today as Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award winners, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and one of the best-selling bands in the history of recorded music.

Away from Earth Wind & Fire, Bailey has also found tremendous success. His 1984 duet with Phil Collins, “Easy Lover,” became a worldwide No. 1 smash, and he’s recorded acclaimed albums in gospel and jazz. In the latter genre, Bailey released Dreams in 1999 and Soul on Jazz in 2002, in addition to collaborations with Stanley Turrentine, Dianne Reeves, Fourplay, George Duke and Stanley Clarke, Nancy Wilson and others. Still, nothing has compared to Love Will Find a Way. 

New Music Releases: Airto – Natural Feelings; Dave Douglas – Devotion; Johnny Mathis – Killing Me Softly With Her Song / When Will I See You Again

Airto – Natural Feelings 

First vinyl reissue in over 45 years for a long-lost, pivotal jazz fusion record! This album, originally released in 1970 on the thinly-distributed Skye label, marks Airto's debut as a bandleader and captures the percussionist right at the time he recorded Bitches Brew with Miles Davis, and right before he joined Weather Report for their first album. Indeed, the line-up on this album reflects the fact that Airto had one foot in the NYC jazz scene and one foot in his native Brazil, as bassist Ron Carter joins Airto's countrymen Sivuca and Hermeto Pascoal, along with Airto's wife Flora Purim. The music's a fascinating blend of jazz-funk-fusion and Brazilian tropes, here presented on 180-gram black vinyl, housed inside the original wild, Hieronymus Bosch album art. Limited to 500 copies

Dave Douglas – Devotion

A pretty dynamic little album from trumpeter Dave Douglas – but maybe one that comes as no surprise, given that the trio features piano from Uri Caine and drums from Andrew Cyrille! In a stretch where Dave's given us some great albums with higher concepts and different ideas, this one comes in like a bullet to really get things back to basics – reminding us that in the right sort of setting, Douglas can be an incredibly powerful, incredibly free-voiced musician – especially when driven on by forces as great as Caine's piano and the drums and percussion of Cyrille! Uri is pretty wonderful, too – and again, the set's a great reminder of what he can do when he's set loose, and maybe in a less structured setting – or maybe it's just the always-amazing work of Cyrille that's got both of the other musicians really upping their game. Titles include "D'Andrea", "Francis Of Anthony", "Prefontaine", "Rose & Thorn", "We Pray", "Devotion", "False Allegiances", "Pacific", and "Curly".  ~ Dusty Groove

Johnny Mathis – Killing Me Softly With Her Song  / When Will I See You Again 

As Johnny Mathis plays to packed houses across the country on his acclaimed The Voice of Romance Tour, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records continue their series of deluxe reissues from the superstar artist with a new two-for-one CD debuting two albums on standalone CD. 1973’s Killing Me Softly with Her Song and 1975’s When Will I See You Again both spotlight Mathis’ silky interpretations of the day’s greatest hits. Killing Me Softly with Her Song was his final full-length album collaboration with songwriter-producer Jerry Fuller (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, The Knickerbockers) and premiered Fuller’s “Show and Tell,” a top 40 AC hit for Johnny which singer Al Wilson subsequently took to the top of the U.S. Pop chart. It also boasts classic songs from Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble, and Linda Creed (The Stylistics’ “Break Up to Make Up”), Don McLean (“And I Love You So”), Stevie Wonder (“You Are the Sunshine of My Life”), David Gates (“Aubrey”), and Joe Raposo (Carpenters’ “Sing”) – adding up to one of Johnny’s most eclectic long-players. 1975’s When Will I See You Again took its title from Gamble and Leon Huff’s hit for Philadelphia’s Three Degrees, and featured another tribute to the Philly sound with Bell and Creed’s beautiful “You’re as Right as Rain.” Johnny brought Mathis magic to the Barry Manilow smash “Mandy,” Neil Sedaka’s buoyant “Laughter in the Rain,” Marvin Hamlisch’s Oscar-winning “The Way We Were,” The Sherman Brothers’ “The Things I Might Have Been,” and three tracks from the pen of Paul Williams. This two-for-one disc boasts liner notes by The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese with fresh quotes from Johnny Mathis and Jerry Fuller. Mike Piacentini has remastered at Sony’s Battery Studios. It all adds up to a release that’s right as rain.

New Music Releases: Martin Freeman & Eddie Piller Present Soul On The Corner; Noah Preminger – After Life; Cleopatra Jones Soundtrack

Martin Freeman & Eddie Piller Present Soul On The Corner (Various Artists)  

Two dapper British gents on the cover, but the album's filled with classic American soul – really great cuts from back in the day, served up in an array of well-chosen tracks that really go past the obvious! Both Martin Freeman and Eddie Piller (of Acid Jazz fame) put the set together – but the real stars here are the classic singers and groups who make the music so great – and who together represent a much hipper, more sophisticated version of classic soul than the usual hits or oldies collection! A number of cuts here are quite rare, and others are a mix of unusual songs by bigger names – mixed with just a few tracks from leftfield to keep things interesting. Titles include "Just To Be With You" by Bobby Dukes, "Finally Made It Home" by Arnold Blair, "You & I" by Goodie, "How Could You Break My Heart" by Bobby Womack, "Lucky To Be Loved By You" by Willie Hutch, "Now That I Have You" by Tommy McGee, "Thirty One" by Laville, "Oooh Baby" by Pamoja, "I'm Goin Left" by Syreeta, "Shoes" by Brook Benton, "I Like The Things About Me That I Once Despised" by Wayne Davis, "Lucky" by Lewis Taylor, "Fan The Fire" by Earth Wind & Fire, "Daylight" by Georgie Fame, "A Raggedy Ride" by Barbara Acklin, and "Hit & Run Love" by Tommie Young. ~ Dusty Groove

Noah Preminger – After Life

An album of subtle majesty from tenorist Noah Preminger – done with a sound that builds and flows wonderfully – partly from the guitar work of Max Light, who may well be the lynchpin of the quintet! The switch of guitar for piano gives the whole thing a different vibe – as Light's playing has this strong sense of glow – which resonates between the bass of Kim Cass and drums of Rudy Royston, to illuminate the strong trumpet of Jason Palmer next to Preminger's tenor – both players with a measured sense of blowing that comes of beautifully in the album's original compositions by Noah. Titles include "World Of Twelve Faces", "World Of Growth", "Senseless World", "Hovering World", "World Of Hunger", and "Island World". ~ Dusty Groove

Cleopatra Jones Soundtrack (Various Artists) (1973)

One of the great Blaxploitationfilm scores of the ‘70s, finally back on vinyl where it belongs! This 1973 feature introduced one of the great characters in the whole genre, starring the indomitable, six-foot-two Tamara Dobson as Cleopatra Jones, a taller, hipper, and blacker James Bond. In this film, she thwarts a lesbian L.A. drug lord as played by Shelley Winters, all accompanied by the musical efforts of what is pretty much a ‘70s soul/jazz/funk dream team. On vocals, you had the leading male and female lights of the Spring label, the great Joe Simon (performing the hit title theme) and Millie Jackson . And on the instrumental side, jazz trombone giant J. J. Johnson (in collaboration with the underrated Carl Brandt of Mod Squad score fame). The result: a prime example of the symphonic funk that became the siren song for Blaxploitation soundtracks throughout the ‘70s. For its first domestic vinyl reissue, we’ve pressed up just 700 copies in red and blue starburst vinyl, with original artwork intact...oh so tasty!


2019 marks the 70thanniversaryof Prestige Records, one of the most revered jazz labels in the world. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Prestige was at the forefront of modern jazz, releasing sessions from some of the most influential names in music, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, and Sonny Rollins. To honor the history of this pioneering label and its exceptional output, Craft Recordingswill release a variety of content throughout the year, including deluxe box sets and vinyl reissues, as well as video content and curated playlists.

Kicking off the campaign is a new box set, Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings(5-CD & digital formats available now, and 8-LP out on April 26th), which chronicles the saxophonist’s breakout year. Featuring all 37 tracks Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for Prestige in those twelve months, Coltrane ’58captures the artist in creative high gear—developing the signature improvisational style that journalist Ira Gitler famously dubbed “sheets of sound.” The newly remastered release includes extensive liner notes from GRAMMY® Award-winning music historian Ashley Kahn, plus images of rare ephemera and historical photographs of the saxophonist and his collaborators.

A newly curated playlist, Prestige 70: Jazz Classics, has also just launched.Currently streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and YouTube (click here to listen), the playlist features a handpicked selection of 70 classic tracks from the label. With titles from the likes of Kenny Burrell, Rusty Bryant, Red Garland, and Coleman Hawkins, as well as iconic takes from John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk, the collection showcases not only the timeless appeal of Prestige’s music, but also the importance of its catalog to the development of modern music.
Throughout 2019, Craft will take a deeper look at the label’s history and incredible roster of talent through special video content and additional playlists. Contests, as well as additional releases, will be announced later in the year.
April also marks Jazz Appreciation Month, whose 2019 theme is “Jazz Beyond Borders.” Many artists under Prestige could not be more fitting to this subject. John Coltrane, a self-declared humanist, not only gained fame around the world with his music (his well-documented 1966 Japanese tour proves just how far-reaching his influence was) but also strove to break boundaries at home, during the height of the civil rights movement. Sonny Rollins, too, crossed a variety of borders. A strong follower of Eastern philosophies, Rollins tackled issues of racial inequality head-on, yet peacefully, through his recordings. Musically, Rollins has not only performed with some of the biggest names in his own genre, but he also crossed over into pop and rock territory, performing with artists like the Rolling Stones, and bringing a variety of musical influences into his own compositions. Both artists, along with countless others on the label’s roster, continue to garner new generations of fans around the world.

Founded in 1949 by producer Bob Weinstock, Prestige was on the cutting-edge of jazz, helping to usher in the eras of bop, hard-bop and soul jazz in the ’50s, while later branching out into free jazz and fusion through the ’60s. Over the next two decades, Prestige would develop the careers of some of the biggest names in jazz, and release hundreds of albums, many of which were recorded in the Hackensack, NJ studio of renowned engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Notable titles include Miles, Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’ and Steamin’from the Miles Davis Quintet, Etta Jones’ Don’t Go to Strangers, the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Django, Eric Dolphy’s Out There,and Sonny Rollins’ career-defining 1956 LP, Saxophone Colossus (as well as Tenor Madness, whose title track was recently inducted into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame and is the only known duet recording by Rollins and John Coltrane). Soul jazz classics such as Charles Kynard’s Afro-Disiac, Gene Ammons’ Boss Tenorand Charles Earland’s Black Talk! round out the latter decade of the label under Weinstock.

In the early ’70s, Prestige was sold to Fantasy Records (home to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Vince Guaraldi), which itself became part of the Concord music family in 2004. The imprint still holds a vibrant presence today with carefully curated reissues from the catalog label at Concord, Craft Recordings. "Some of the most influential artists and significant recordings in the history of jazz are on the Prestige label," says Sig Sigworth, President of Craft Recordings. "It's a tremendous honor for Craft Recordings to be the stewards of that timeless musical legacy."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

New Music Releases: Nicole Willis & Banda Palomita - My Soul Sensation; Re:Funk – Borderline; Eric Boss - Bad Luck

Nicole Willis & Banda Palomita - My Soul Sensation

From the concept to the band line-up, from writing the music and lyrics to recording, editing and mixing, US singer-songwriter Nicole Willis was involved in all aspects at play in the making of her new album My Soul Sensation, a luscious collection of disco-tinged soul, jazz-funk, boogie & electro with new backing band Banda Palomita. Though fans of Miss Willis' work with The Soul Investigators may be surprised by the direction My Soul Sensation takes in terms of sonic landscapes, those who are familiar with Nicole's collaborations with Jimi Tenor, Bosq or Mr. Comicstore will see this album as a natural extension. From the reggae-flavored midtempo vibes of opener "Save It", the cosmic disco-jazz rhythms of "Free", or the afro-boogie sultriness of the titletrack with Jimi Tenor on sax, My Soul Sensation sees Banda Palomita spin a tight groove over which Nicole Willis flexes her vocal muscles with ease, clearly comfortable with the creative control and freedom her current position affords her.

Re:Funk – Borderline

After three intense years spent honoring the godfather of soul and playing on prestigious stages such as Montreaux Jazz Festival, Locarno Film Festival & Jazz Ascona, Lugano's finest funk & soul outfit Re:Funk launch "BorderLine", their debut album composed entirely of original compositions. "BorderLine" is the result of the band's stylistic and compositional exploration of its influences: from the soul and classic R&B of the 60s to the energetic T.O.P-style funk of the 70s (with a 6-element brass section). The result is a warm and scratchy sound that becomes the band's distinctive trait as it pervades all 10 tracks of the album. The full-length is further enriched by the presence of famed sax player Pee Wee Ellis in instrumental "Hot'n Sweat" and the powerful and harmonious voice of Swiss soul singer Ira May in the duet "Let Her Lead". "BorderLine" is a journey into the vast and wonderful world of soul through the eyes and ears of this Swiss-Italian powerhouse, literally born on the southern border of the Alps. This album is the synthesis of the various heads that make up the core of the band and you can be sure it is just a taste of what's to come!

Eric Boss - Bad Luck

DJ, producer, singer-songwriter, one-half of world-touring soul duo Myron & E (Stones Throw), founder of boogie outfit The Pendletons (Bastard Jazz), part of electro-funk duo Lucid Paradise, and an endless string of collabos means Eric Boss knows his way around a good song. With his previous two solo singles (2016's soul ballad "The Turning Point" and uptempo groover "Closer To The Spirit" from 2017) having sold out in record time, this multi-faceted artist is now ready to give the world a taste of his upcoming new album with first single "Bad Luck", a head-nodding funk-soul number led by crunchy drums and a badass bass line over which Eric's cool delivery flows smooth and silky. The track is out in anticipation of his solo debut "A Modern Love", an effervescent collection of raw funk, sweet soul, west coast vibes and classic hip hop dropping on May 10th on LP & Digital via Légère Recordings / Mocambo Records / Fat Beats.


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