Thursday, August 22, 2019

First Time Release Of Album By John Coltrane And His All-Star classic Quartet Mastered From Original Analog Tapes

'Blue World' Debuts September 27 in CD, Vinyl LP and Digital Editions

In 1964, John Coltrane and his Classic Quartet went into Van Gelder Studios and, in an unprecedented move for Coltrane, recorded new versions of some of his most famous works. This never-before-heard recording, Blue World, will be released on September 27 in CD, vinyl LP and digital editions via Impulse!/UMe.

Watch accompanying visuals to the title track "Blue World":

Early in 1964, the year he recorded A Love Supreme, Coltrane was approached by a Quebecois filmmaker, Gilles Groulx. Groulx was planning his film Le chat dans le sac, a love story set in Montreal with political undertones. A die-hard Coltrane fan, Groulx was fixated on having Coltrane record a soundtrack for his film. Groulx approached Coltrane via a personal connection with bassist Jimmy Garrison, and amazingly, Coltrane agreed.

So right between the recording sessions for Crescent and A Love Supreme in June of '64, John Coltrane brought Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner into Van Gelder Studios to do something virtually unprecedented in Coltrane world: revisit and record earlier works.

Gilles Groulx was at Van Gelder, watching the session, listening.  It's unclear how much creative input the filmmaker had, and how much conversation happened between him and Coltrane, that yielded this rare kind of session. Recorded on 1/4" analog mono tape, the session was mixed by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studios on June 24, 1964. Groulx took the master to Canada to use in his film, although he only included ten minutes of the 37-minute recording.

Blue World has been mastered from its original analog tape by Kevin Reeves at Universal Music Mastering in New York. The new vinyl edition's lacquers were cut by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios.

Blue World reveals Coltrane's personal progress, as well as the interactive consistency and sonic details the Classic Quartet had firmly established as their collective signature by 1964. This signature was so assured and dramatic, so buoyant and different from the sound Coltrane had delivered before. And it is significant that this recording session – whatever the ultimate driving force was – happened in between two of Coltrane's most expansive, spiritually transcendent records that would set the tone for the rest of his musical career. 

Blue World follows on the heels of last year's global success Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, a studio album recorded in 1963 that revealed new compositions from Coltrane and the Classic Quartet at their peak. Both Directions landed Coltrane at #21 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, his highest debut ever. The record easily topped jazz charts around the world and put Coltrane in the Top 20 on Overall Charts in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Austria, Italy and more. Global sales to date for Both Directions has exceeded a quarter of a million albums sold worldwide.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bixler, Boccato, Cowherd and Sturm: In The Face of Chaos

The Debut Recording From Bixler, Boccato, Cowherd and Sturm: In The Face of Chaos

In the Face of Chaos represents an artistic reemergence for alto saxophonist and composer David Bixler. A traumatic brain injury suffered by his youngest son necessitated a shift in Bixler's priorities for much of the last decade-a period in which his family devoted much of its energy to the circumstances of its youngest member. However, this past year Bixler made a conscious decision to re-enter the realm of creative music, but with a perspective gracefully changed and informed by his family's circumstances. In the Face of Chaos is his first recording in five years, and the debut from his newly formed band, Bixler, Boccato, Cowherd and Sturm.

On In the Face of Chaos Bixler presents six new compositions and an arrangement of the spiritual "Give Me Jesus." For this recording Bixler has assembled a band that understands the nuance and power of the message this music was intended to convey. Pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Ike Sturm and percussionist Rogerio Boccato, sensitively interpret Bixler's compositions, creating music that is both challenging and subtle, and perhaps most importantly, has no fear of embracing beauty.

The recording begins with the title track, In the Face of Chaos, whose melody embodies a calm as it makes it way above, under, and through a constantly shifting harmonic infrastructure. The rhythm section creates a diaphanous texture that allows Bixler to demonstrate to the listener his response to the chaos that surrounds him. Nofomomofo, whose title that takes a playful jab at the overused acronym, is a call to arms, moving forward purposefully without a question of veering from intended purpose. The alto solo beings patiently, and builds until yielding the floor to Cowherd, whose solo demonstrates his exceptional rhythmic creativity. Bassist Ike Sturm solos next, before extending an invitation Boccato to join him in conversation. Return speaks of a return to purpose as well as a physical move back to NYC. It first presents itself as a bolero, before becoming more rhythmically malleable with each of the subsequent iterations of the melody. It ends with a 7/4 vamp, which at first listen appears to be a non-sequitur until it is realized that its purpose is to serve as a bridge to the next selection, Hope. An inspired tune with a singing melody, Hope is the antidote to the chaos that attacks, but doesn't conquer. Cowherd's three choruses on this selection bear a listen. 

The next composition, Deep Trust, is a through-composed chamber piece that takes the listener on a journey of thought and soul. The composition makes use of a subtle silence that is an integral part of a melody. A 12/8 Afro-Cuban groove begins a long, slow burn that climaxes with Bixler giving the listener an aperture into his soul. Following this emotional intensity, the waltz Leap cleanses the palette with its playful melody and energetic solos. The event ends with Bixler's' take on the spiritual Give me Jesus. This version moves a little quicker than usual and its beautiful melody is set in three different harmonic settings. Well-constructed and soulful solos are contributed by all.

In the Face of Chaos is the first of two recently completed recordings; another recording, Blended Lineage, which features a nonet, including among others, pianist Cowherd, and trumpet player, Mike Rodriguez, is awaiting release.These two recordings along with LINER NOTES with David Bixler, a new podcast available on iTunes and Google Play, collectively represent the declaration of a repurposed take on his life as a musician.

Sebastian Greschuk - Paisaje

Sebastian Greschuk’s sound is often reminiscent of Clifford Brown’s smooth funkiness and Chet Baker’s coolness throughout. 

He recalls some of his more important influencers as Ambrose Akinmusire, Aaron Parks, Phillip Dizack and Walter Smith III as a few nods to giants. His overall composition takes influence from the cool era mixed with slightly dark ostinato-based grooves, highly popular in Buenos Aires jazz.

Greschuk’s sound is often reminiscent of Clifford Brown’s funkiness and Chet Baker’s coolness throughout. He recalls some of his more important influencers as Ambrose Akinmusire, Aaron Parks, Phillip Dizack and Walter Smith III as a few nods to the giants. His overall composition takes influence from the cool era mixed with slightly dark ostinato-based grooves.

Never disappointing is the dexterity of bassist Urquiza’s upper register playing. His playing on the record lends us the “wow” factor of facility in playing jazz music.
A danceable darkness takes over the opening track as Boccanera begins is adventuresome solo. ‘La Espera’ immediately lifts off in a bouncy shared melody before “settling down” into a cool ostinato and now gently accompanied what was piano and is now Fender Rhodes. The evidence of Brad Meldhau’s influence can be recalled during the return to piano during Boccanera’s solo.

The laid backness of ‘Moñongo-Cherry’ gives us a view into ohowur connected these four musicians are listening in heavily during the ballad-esque, open textured tune, with  trading solos every few phrases and ending in a frenzy melody shared by trumpet and Rhodes.
During the 2018 Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival, they were able to present this music ahead of hitting the studio.

About the tracks:
Lluvia Eterna:
The first track of the album begins with a collective improvisation as an introduction in which the instruments interact with sonic textures that oscillate like those of a storm, this introduction is not only the theme but also the disc and in this way immerses us in the Landscape. The collective improvisation gradually disappears giving place to a piano ostinato on which later it is constructed with a "feel" quite "rocker" and an angular melody of trumpet with influences of Ambrose Akinmusire that decant into a single harmonically simple but that alternates measures of 6/4 and 4/4. At the end of the trumpet solo there is a brief melodic interlude that gives rise to a metric modulation that accelerates the tempo and from which emerges a piano solo by Nicolás Boccanera on 7/8 with an aggressive character due to the intensity of the rhythm section until it ends abruptly to resume the initial ostinato and repeat the melody that this time uses the interlude in a repetitive way to end the song.
La Espera:
After a brief energetic introduction a vamp starts on a key in 11/4 influenced by the drummer Eric Harland of which a trumpet melody appears, at this moment Nicolás Boccanera leaves the pineapple and starts using a Fender Rhodes creating a new timbral proposal and immersing ourselves in a minimalist atmosphere from the melodic and harmonic aspect, but with a pronounced rhythmic intensity that gives rise to a trumpet solo on this ground on which synthesizers are added product of a post production. The trumpet solo is preceded by a single of Rhodes on this same environment that gradually disarms until Nicolás returns to the piano to star in a rubato cadence that is connected with the harmony of the introduction, this section is used for the development of the only piano and later after the reappearance of the melodic line of the introduction of the trompeta the subject begins to vanish in the initial vamp of the subject with brief commentaries and a somewhat "free" interaction.

It is a theme with a format similar to a standard Jazz with an "afro" feel that oscillates between ¾ and 6/8 with a "turnaround" equal to the traditional song "Lady Bird". The melodic protagonist in this case is the flugelhorn bringing warmth to the melodic line that later becomes a dramatic interlude with a present line of double bass by Sebastián de Urquiza influenced by the theme "The Water's Edge" by Tom Harrell, who again opts for the initial form to lead to solos flugelhorn and piano. After the solos the subject resumes, but this time to give place to a vamp on which there is a solo of battery of Matías Crouzeilles like final episode.

It is one of the first songs composed especially for the group. It begins with an ostinato of piano in 5/4 that is sustained during all the first section of the subject to which the battery is added and a line of contrabass with a melodic lattice that soon is fused with the melody of the trumpet, this episode connects with the next section of the song that is in 7/4 with a descending harmonic cadence that in turn is an interlude prior to the trumpet solo that is developed on the first section of the song. The intention during the development of the solo is of an ascending dynamics that in its highest point decant again in the interlude, where in turn the solo continues to then give place to a single contrabass on the initial section without returning to the interlude gives foot to the ostinato and to the melody of the subject. As a final episode the theme is bouncing in the interlude this time for a short piano solo that will lead to some "trades" between the trumpet and the piano with character of ascending intensity until finishing.

Tabula Rasa:
It is the oldest compound song on the album and making it part of this album had a significant meaning. It is based harmonically on a constant structure influenced by the theme "Scene" by Tom Harrell and although it is built in ¾ in a part of the form it has a 2/4 time signature. The theme has a melodic character interpreted by the flugelhorn of long notes that are connected with the chords generating a new sense with each chord that appears. It could be said that it is the ballad of the record that has a flugelhorn solo and a double bass virtuoso of Sebastián de Urquiza.

The theme begins with an introduction of Double Bass by Sebastián de Urquiza that is building the groove of this theme that is an "Up Tempo" harmonically influenced by compositions by Woody Shaw and Horace Silver and with a great rhythmic complexity that varies between bars of 4 / 4 and 7/4 while in section B of the theme in 3/4 alternates with a 4/4 time signature. In this labyrinthine but at the same time fluid context, only Rhodes, Trumpet and Double bass are developed.

Moñongo - Cherry:
This is the youngest songs on the album, it starts with a trumpet introduction until at one point the melody of the song is mentioned and the double bass is added to start with the head in the whole band. It is a slow subject and has an extensive form that leads us through different situations and that later has solos of Rhodes, Trumpet and Contrabass that alternate as if they were "trades" to quote a part of the theme to continue with a completely different section and much faster but that has to do harmonically with something that happens previously in the subject. This new section begins only with the rhodes and then the double bass and drums are added floating on this new form until it consolidates a groove in ⅝ on which the trumpet will then make a melody. The theme clearly has two very different moods and in part this is why the title of the theme is two names.
Greschuk was born in Santa Fe, Argentina, about 300 miles northwest of Buenos Aires where he started playing trumpet at the age of 9, studying classical music at the School of Music No. 9901 and with “The Children and Youth Orchestra” of Santa Fe. He was turning to jazz as a major influence and after a masterclass with USA trombonist Conrad Herwig, he was hooked!


Harlem Stage Announces 2019 Fall Season Presenting Visionary Artists of Color

Celebrating the Centennial of the Harlem Renaissance and the Inspirational Legacy of Jazz Luminary, Sun Ra and Afrofuturism 

Featuring the First Annual Harlem Doc Festival,  Nona Hendryx, Maimouna Youssef aka MuMu Fresh and Much More

Harlem Stage, the legendary uptown venue that for over 35 years has promoted the creative legacy of Harlem and artists of color from around the corner and across the globe, is proud to present its Fall 2019 seasons of performances. The season is curated by Monique Martin, Director of Programming for Harlem Stage, and will celebrate the centennial legacy of the Harlem Renaissance. The season also welcomes legendary rock goddess, Nona Hendryx, as the Artistic Director for Harlem Stage's new yearlong initiative focusing on Sun Ra and Afrofuturism. The initiative will present performances that interweave music, technology, talks/conversations/humanities,  literature and dance to celebrate the legacy of visionary and pioneer of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra, along with the contributions of the countless artists he has inspired. Through these two powerful themes, which will carry into the 2020 season, Harlem Stage will reflect on and celebrate the past, present and artistic future of Harlem and explore how the Harlem Renaissance continues to be a rich source of inspiration across the globe while Afrofuturism continues to push the boundaries of our artistic imagination. 

Harlem Stage’s 2019 fall season will feature a variety of performances, across a range of artistic genres, offering audiences the chance to experience legendary performers, as well as rising stars. 

Two powerful discussions will be presented as part of Harlem Stage’s discussion series, Dive Deeper. On August 15th, in advance of the fall season and ahead of the 50thAnniversary of the Harlem Cultural Festival (aka Black Woodstock) concert by SummerStage in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem Stage brings together notable social activist and MC, Talib Kweli, acclaimed musician, Igmar Thomas (Leader of the Revive Big Band,Lauryn Hill), GRAMMY Award Winning Trumpeter and Vocalist Keyon Harrold (Common, Jay-Z), legendary percussionist Juma Sultan (Jimi Hendrix’s former percussionist), Toni Blackman (Actress, Writer, Hip-Hop Ambassador to the U.S. State Department) and others for a unique dialogue about art and activism. On October 17th, artists MuMu Freshand Jason ‘Timbuktu’ Diakité will discuss the impact of Hip-Hop culture and music around the world.

New this season is The Cosmic Synthesis of Sun Ra and Afrofuturism Series, a yearlong celebration of the spiritual, sonic and social impact of the Sun Ra’s work curated by Artistic Director of the series, Nona Hendryx with Craig Harris as Musical Director and Composer. The series is commissioned and presented through Harlem Stage’s WaterWorks commissioning program.The first event in the series, Order of Chaos, will kick off the 2019 fall season on September 20thwith a night of Afrofuturistic films and music. Film screenings are curated by filmmakers Craig T. Williams and Celia C. Peters, who will lead a post screening conversation that will examine and celebrate the genre that is flipping the script on Black narratives. Audiences can enjoy screenings of "Prototype," where a programmer conducts a painful empathy test on lifelike androids in an attempt to win her mother's approval, and “ROXË15,” which focuses on Roxë Jones, a virtual reality programmer in a stark, near-future New York City. Hell-bent on a getting to a better life, she bets her future on technology. The evening culminates with a performance featuring rock goddess and futurist, Nona Hendryx, and Darian Dauchan of The Brobot Johnson Experience. For the next performance in the series, in partnership with the Park Avenue Armory, Nona Hendryx joins Theaster Gates, and other special guests fora special tribute to Grace Jones. For the final event in the series this season, Nona Hendryx, Moor Mother and Black Quantum Futurist, will offer Afrofuturistic musical performances.

Also new this season, Harlem Stage presents the first annual Harlem Doc Fest, in partnership with The Documentary Forum at The City College of New York, Maysles Documentary Center, New York Latino Film Festival and Third World Newsreel. Harlem Stage is proud to host the opening of this dynamic new documentary film festival with a screening, conversation and reception on November 15th. The Harlem Doc Fest will explore the cultural richness and history of Harlem along with critical issues impacting the community. This weekend-long curated festival of feature and short documentary films will present screenings throughout Harlem and include conversations with filmmakers, actors and scholars. The film selection is forthcoming.

Harlem Stage will also present two nights of live radio plays on November 21stand 22nd. The Renaissance EP: A Theatrical Mixtape, created by Harlem Stage’s Director of Programming Monique Martin and curated by playwright/actor NSangou Njikam (author of  Synching Ink), explores the impact and resonance of the Harlem Renaissance after 100 years. Combining music, theatre and imaginative Foley i.e. beat boxer, The Renaissance EP takes you on an anthropological excavation through time and space to explore the power and legacyof a neighborhood that has been described as the epicenter of Black Culture and the Radical Black Imagination.

Musical highlights include two evenings of performances from GRAMMY nominee Maimouna Youssef aka MuMu Fresh. For the first evening, MuMu Fresh offers a healing concert that pays tribute to her rich heritage and ancestors by using tones that correspond to chakras and a range of soothing instruments. For the second evening,this powerhouse lyricist and MC performs material from her recently recorded album, produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The PLAYlist titled, "The Healing." 

Carnegie Hall Citywide and Harlem Stage present The Baylor Project, which consists of two-time GRAMMY nominated husband-and-wife vocalist team Jean Baylor and drummer Marcus Baylor. Deeply rooted in jazz, Jean has performed with such stars as Marcus Miller and Buster Williams, while Marcus is a former member of the legendary Yellowjackets—their eclectic musical style is also steeped in gospel, blues, and soul.
In a special evening celebrating the Harlem Renaissance, with  Check your Invite! A Renaissance Rent Party Remix, Actor/Playwright/Storyteller Daniel Carlton will examine the hundreds of colorful parties that beloved Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes was invited to. Carlton will create a world from archival historical invitations to dramatize Harlem history from the 1920's - 1960’s using the settings of the various parties, and the audience will be invited to wait for Langston Hughes to arrive, as they meet the party hosts and other guests. The evening culminates in a party with Harlem’s DJ NessDigital spinning classic jazz and soul from bebop to hip hop, soul and funk.

Closing out the season, catch rising jazz vocalist Brianna Thomas and her band Fa-La-La-La Funk! as they bring the funk to classic holiday tunes we know and love with a blend of jazz, R&B, and gospel. The concert will be peppered with songs from Brianna’s eagerly anticipated sophomore album ‘Everybody Knows.”

“Sun Ra, Afrofuturism, and the Harlem Renaissance can be seen as points along a temporal spectrum. Those points can be located in space through the programs of Harlem Stage. These seemingly disparate artistic movements are connected as manifestations of intense and impactful creative energy by artists of color. In exploring both of these movements and the artists who galvanized them, we learn about their achievements, their failures and their intentions,” said Patricia Cruz, Executive Director of Harlem Stage.

Monique Martin, Director of Programming,said “This season at Harlem Stage, we are reflecting on the past while looking towards the future. Our performances celebrate the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, while discovering pathways to create a better future. Afrofuturism is the ticket to reimagining Black identity, and performances this season will examine what exactly that looks, sounds and feels like.”

Nona Hendryx, Artistic Director for Afrofuturism, said “Afrofuturism is Afropresent and Afropast, it is not only fiction, it is not only science, it is a future created in the mind, projected and seen through the lens of the African diaspora, it is part Science Fiction and Fact.  In my role as the Artistic Director of The Harlem Stage 2019 to 2020 exploration of Afrofuturism, I will lead the curation of a year long program.  The programs will include Music, Technology, Literature, Film and Dance events celebrating the magical and fantastical world of Sun Ra ‘Space Is The Place” and his long line of disciples; from George Clinton to Janelle Monae; collapsing time; past, present and future, space and place, inner and outer worlds, traveling to Stars, Quasars, Suns, Moons and delving into Black Holes.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Rebekah Victoria - Songs of the Decades

Jazz vocalist Rebekah Victoria mines 20th century songs for 21st century sounds and meaning on Songs of the Decades, her new recording

Victoria collaborates with acclaimed trombonist, composer-arranger and bandleader Wayne Wallace and an assemblage of two-dozen musicians (including guest vocalist Kenny Washington) for a panorama of songs from each decade of the 20th century

As a jazz singer, Rebekah Victoria's performance repertoire tends to come overwhelmingly from the era of the Great American Songbook: the 1920s, '30s and '40s. As she was preparing to record her second album, however, Victoria was inspired to widen her musical perspective in terms of both time periods and popular styles. Songs of the Decades, her investigation of the music from each decade of the twentieth century, was released through Patois Records.

If the album is retrospective, though, it is the furthest thing from nostalgic. "I wanted to make these songs different- I wanted them to sound very new and fresh," says Victoria, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. "The idea was to make them as much fun to listen to now as they were in their day, when they were big hits. For the people that really know these songs, they'll get a kick out of the differences."

She also had another, more serious priority for assembling Songs of the Decades. "There's a theme running through the songs," she says. "In one way or another, most of them connect to the #MeToo movement that's happening today. I wanted the album to speak to that." In other words, Victoria combed through the music of the past and found that it was not only still fun, but still relevant.

Wayne Wallace, the Grammy-nominated trombonist, composer-arranger, and bandleader who is also the head of Patois Records, acted as Victoria's partner for the album. He co-produced it, wrote all of its arrangements-often incorporating elements of Latin jazz, his specialty-and assembled its superlative cast of 24 musicians, including improvising vocalist Kenny Washington, Wallace's bandmates from his own various projects, and a string quintet that features members of the San Francisco Symphony.

"I was so happy with how it all turned out," Victoria says. "Wayne's arrangements really captured the freshness I wanted, and the musicians he chose were just fantastic. It was a great experience overall."

Songs of the Decades does not present its selections in chronological order; Victoria and Wallace sought to create a flow that would emphasize the variety of the material and the versatility of the singer. That said, the album opens with its oldest tune. "Some of These Days," written in 1910, has a cavalier quality that Victoria injects with sultriness. But its solo section also suggests a subtle, sobering edge, a warning of the consequences of disrespect.

The consequences of disrespect are front-and-center of "These Boots Are Made for Walking," and there's no subtlety about it. The album's '60s episode gets a down-and-dirty treatment, with earthy Hammond organ and guitar (courtesy of Frank Martin and Rick Vandivier, respectively) and soulful horn charts that drive home Victoria's taunting vocal.
"After You've Gone" is perhaps the recording's most recognizable jazz standard, and the musicians tackle it as such. The 1918 Layton-Creamer classic here becomes a breezy swinger and affirmation of the singer's self-worth, augmented by Mary Fettig's jaunty clarinet solo and Victoria's supremely confident phrasing and time feel.

Though it's probably best known through Joni Mitchell's version two decades later, "Twisted" began life in 1952 as an Annie Ross vocalese riff on a Wardell Gray blues solo. Its (title-appropriate) twists and turns give Wallace a place to put his finest and most elaborate Latin-jazz flourishes, including a double-barreled solo chorus from the trombonist. (Wallace and Kenny Washington also provide the spoken-word responses to Victoria's sung lines.)

There's also a trace of a Latin accent on "The Song Is You," written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II for a 1932 musical. More than that, however, it takes on a bebop sensibility in Victoria and Wallace's hands. The singer drops a delivery with echoes of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, with solos by Fettig (now on alto sax) and pianist Joe Gilman that are steeped in delectable modern jazz language.

Victoria singles out "Un-Break My Heart" as a particularly challenging tune for the purposes of this album. It's not because of any technical hurdles, but because the 1996 Toni Braxton hit (written by Diane Warren) is Songs of the Decades' most recent selection, and therefore its most familiar. "That's a pop song that everyone knows," she says. "Finding a way to refresh that one was difficult, but that's part of the fun of this album." Ultimately, the song receives a subtle reharmonization and bossa nova beat, with a guitar solo from Vandivier that's also inspired by Brazilian music-and a sly interpolation of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart."

"Whispering" was an iconic hit song of the 1920s. But here it gets thoroughly lifted out of that time with a sexy mambo setting, a vocalese verse from Victoria (decidedly divergent from the album's feminist theme), and an expansive scat solo from Kenny Washington-not to mention a modulation (also in vocalese) to "Groovin' High," Dizzy Gillespie's revolutionary bebop contrafact of the tune.

A gentle Afro-Caribbean percussion treatment greets Carole King's "It's Too Late," representing the 1970s. While it's drummer Colin Douglas and percussionist Michael Spiro who shape the performance, they're assisted by beautiful solos from Vandivier and pianist Murray Low, as well as a delivery from Victoria that takes Billie Holiday-like liberties with its contours.

Like "Whispering," Sy Oliver and Sid Garris's "Opus One" (from 1943) declines to engage with Victoria's theme of women's independence and empowerment. "This one's just for fun," she says. True to her word, it concerns itself with timeless, danceable swing, heightening the effect by becoming a cleverly plotted medley with Charlie Shavers's 1938 jazz standard "Undecided."

Songs of the Decades closes with its 1980s installment: "I Hope I Never," a tune by the New Zealand new wave band Split Enz (the only non-American song on the album). Here Wallace deploys the string quintet, which adds piquant emotional release (and a surprising solo from violinist Eugene Chuklov) to Victoria's remarkably restrained soprano.

Rebekah Victoria grew up in her family-owned nightclub in Los Altos, California, singing with her father's Greek band. While she chose to get her college degree in business, she also took formal singing lessons and theater classes, learning both classical and Broadway singing techniques. She took a job as a real estate broker but supplemented her income with musical theater and even jobs as a singing waitress.

After raising her daughter to adulthood, Victoria began to engage her after-hours singing career more seriously. Deciding that her heart-and vocal range-really belonged to jazz, she formed a band called Jazzkwest and began performing regularly in clubs and other venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, attracting a following that eventually enabled her to record her debut album, #OldFashionedTwitterTwit, in 2016. While the retirement of her key collaborator in Jazzkwest presented a challenge, Victoria soon had a tete-a-tete with San Francisco jazz maven Sheryl Lynn Thomas-who connected her with Wayne Wallace, beginning the two-year task of creating Songs of the Decades.

"It's been a really great process," Victoria says. "I hope it continues on to the next one."

Lafayette Gilchrist's album Dark Matter

Pianist Lafayette Gilchrist Brings Together a Universe of Sound on Dark Matter,
His Second Solo Album

On his second solo recording, Dark Matter, Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist muses on the elusive and mysterious matter that ties the universe together. It's not hard to imagine why the subject might hold such fascination for Gilchrist, whose work thrives on making surprising connections between styles and influences, boldly veering from piledriver funk to piquant stride, vigorous swing to hip-hop swagger, contemplative abstraction to deep-bottom grooves drawn from the boisterous go-go scene in nearby Washington D.C.

Released on July 19, 2019 via Creative Differences/Lafayette Gilchrist Music, Dark Matter was recorded live in front of a rapt, intimate crowd at the University of Baltimore's Wright Theater by acclaimed hip-hop producer Wendel Patrick (also known as classical and jazz pianist Kevin Gift). Over the course of the set's eleven original tunes, Gilchrist cycles through a wide range of moods and ideas, from deeply personal meditations to socially conscious outcries. Like dark matter itself, the connective tissue is sensed more than seen, tied together by the pianist's singular voice and restless imagination.

"Dark matter is the thing that keeps everything from drifting apart," says Gilchrist, whose intellectual curiosity seems as far-reaching and unquenchable as his musical tastes. "Dark matter permeates everything. It's difficult to get one's head around, but the aspect of it that fascinated me was it being this invisible force that holds the universe together. That came to mind because the tunes on the album are so different one from the other that I felt the title suggested a binding of a kind - a desire for the listener to hear it all as one sound."

That fusion of inspirations is something that Gilchrist has done throughout his career. Perhaps it was the fact that he'd grown up listening to music long before he ever touched an instrument. It wasn't until the summer before college, when he wandered into an empty recital hall and sat down at the keys on a whim, that he ever touched a piano. "It sounds like a fairy tale," he recalls, "but it's the truth: I wandered into the recital hall and saw this 9-foot Steinway grand piano on the stage. Nobody was around and it wasn't locked up, so I stepped on the sustain pedal and started playing sounds. When I came off the pedal the sounds disappeared, and that's how it started."

Much has been made of the hip-hop influences in Gilchrist's music, especially in the broad-shouldered swing of his horn-heavy ensemble New Volcanoes, but the references are far from intentional. Again calling to mind the pervasiveness of dark matter, the music's sound was simply something he absorbed during his formative years in Baltimore. More crucial to his characteristic approach is the vibrant sound of go-go, the distinctive blend of funk, R&B, jazz and old school hip-hop that is unique to Baltimore-D.C. area stages, though Gilchrist didn't realize how uncommon that experience was until he'd left home.

"I never remember having a conversation with anybody about go-go being our hometown music," he says. "That music was so omnipresent in our upbringing, that I almost took it for granted. It was always just, 'Did you check out Trouble Funk or Rare Essence or Little Benny and the Masters at the Coliseum or the Kaywood?' It didn't occur to me until later that we were one of the last places in the country where you'd dance to popular contemporary music played by live instruments."

While he didn't realize it at the time, jazz crept into Gilchrist's consciousness via the go-go scene, albeit combined with go-go's distinctive rhythmic feel. Chuck Brown, one of the genre's founding fathers, would reimagine jazz standards like "Harlem Nocturne" or "It Don't Mean a Thing" with the muscular go-go beat. "That go-go thing was so ingrained in me that when I heard the original Earl Bostic version of 'Harlem Nocturne,' it discombobulated me. I came to understand it later, but that internal pocket never left me. It informed me before I learned music and it still informs me."

It's there from the outset of Dark Matter, whose opening tune, "For the Go-Go," pays explicit homage to the music. But it's also there underlying the tender nostalgia of "Child's Play," a wistful remembrance of growing up surrounded by towering adults and nothing but time on your hands to have fun and most likely get into some sort of trouble. The pianist's sense of wonder at the universe is evident in the title track, which gleefully plays on evolving variations of its main theme. Scientific curiosity also lies at the heart of "Old Whale Bones," a vivid pastoral inspired by archaeological digs.

While most of the pieces on Dark Matter are newly composed for the date, "Spontaneous Combustion" reprises an older tune that remains unfortunately, stubbornly relevant. It ponders the small incidents that can set off social change, bearing echoes of protest music past. "The thing that always fascinates me about history is that you never know what will set it off," Gilchrist says. "The issue may be big, but the spark for an uprising, a revolt, or a revolution could be something small and petty." Hope for just such an instigating incident rings out in "Blues for Our Marches to End," which was written following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri in reaction to the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Between the two comes "And You Know This," a song that merges the ska sound of bands like The Skatalites with the funky New Orleans blues of piano men like Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint. Gilchrist fell in love with the Crescent City's musical soul during a fundraiser at the legendary Tipitina's produced by The Wire writer David Simon, an outspoken Baltimorean who has used Gilchrist's music in his shows, including Treme and The Deuce. Another life-changing experience came via Gilchrist's mother, a now-retired employee of the Federal Aviation Administration. Through her, he had the opportunity to perform for veteran members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the heroic African-American WWII fighter pilots. The profound experience inspired Gilchrist to compose "Black Flight."

Turning from the vast outward to the deep inward, "The Love Bind" spins a tale of heartbreak that feels soaked in tears but also a caustic humor. That same sardonic wit runs through "Happy Birthday Sucker," a sly, self-deprecatory celebration written after a brief plunge into self-pity. "Greetings" ironically closes the album with an elliptical send-off.

2018 Baker Artist Award winner Lafayette Gilchrist leads the genre-defying ensembles the New Volcanoes and the Sonic Trip Masters All Stars. Along with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Eric Kennedy, he's a member of the adventurous collective trio Inside Out. In 2017, Gilchrist was named a  Local Legend by Baltimore Magazine, while Baltimore City Paper named Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes as "Best Band." While steadily leading his Baltimore-based ensembles with a progressive stream of new music, Gilchrist toured with David Murray in his octet and quartets for 13 years. He has performed with such notable artists as Cassandra Wilson, Macy Gray, Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, Orrin Evans, Paul Dunmall, Hamid Drake, William Parker, and many more. His compositions have graced the soundtracks of David Simon's acclaimed series The Wire, The Deuce, and Treme.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pianist Ahmad Jamal Releases Ballades

Legendary Pianist Ahmad Jamal Releases Gorgeous, Ruminative Solo Album Alongside a Stunning Showcase for his Protégé, Azerbaijani Pianist Shahin Novrasli
At the age of 89, Ahmad Jamal is one of the most iconic names in jazz, renowned the world over for the peerless elegance and profound expression of his playing. It may be hard to imagine his stellar seven-decade career ever being replicated, though Jamal himself has done his part to nurture and encourage a new generation of artists. His latest protégé is the incredibly gifted Azerbaijani pianist Shahin Novrasli, whose dazzling music promises to carry forth the torch long maintained by Jamal’s genius.

On September 13, 2019, Jazz Village [PIAS] will proudly release two new albums that represent the inheritance passed on from masters like Ahmad Jamal to rising stars like Shahin Novrasli (shah-heen no-vrah-slee). The stunning Ballades is a rare solo outing for Jamal, an intimate set of career-spanning interpretations supplemented by three dialogues with longtime bassist James Cammack. At the same time, Novrasli’s From Baku to New York City traces the younger pianist’s remarkable journey from the former Soviet republic to the jazz mecca he now calls home, pairing, Novrasli with Jamal’s trio mates, Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley.

“I have known and listened to all the great pianists, known and unknown,” Jamal says. “Shahin is no exception to the rules governing great players. In my opinion, he will be making an indelible impression on the music world with his touch, technique, and composition skills… He joins the list of extraordinary pianists that I have admired and followed over the many years of being a part of the music world.”

For his part, Novrasli sings the praises of his mentor, and credits him as lending his impeccable taste to every aspect of From Baku to New York City. “Mr. Jamal suggested a number of things for me to listen to and absorb, he listened to my pieces and suggested sounds and interpretations. He was personally present at the recordings. He was the heart and the life of the outcome, the mastermind behind it all.”

Novrasli recalls the experience of hearing Jamal play unaccompanied in his own house, sitting down at the piano for an impromptu rendition of the classic “It Could Happen To You.” As the younger pianist recalls, “I [realized] how something simple you have heard a million times over can sound so different and alive when you hear it from the hands of a legend.”

With Ballades, listeners across the globe can now share in that breathtaking experience as Jamal essays seven compositions alone at the keyboard. The album opens with the title track from the pianist’s 2017 album Marseille, a love letter to the spectacular city in southern France. Jamal is joined by the understated but emotionally resonant bass accompaniment of Cammack, who he praises as “part of the historic and elite group of bassists I have had the good fortune of performing with for decades. [James] is an extension of my left hand and his hearing is quite amazing.”
The present moment is captured in “Because I Love You,” an achingly gorgeous piece composed at the very moment of its recording, a testament to Jamal’s continued ability to spontaneously conjure enduring melodies.

The album also reaches back into Jamal’s past, most notably for a new version of “Poinciana,” the tune most indelibly linked to his name. As he did on the beloved trio version from 1958’s At the Pershing: But Not For Me, Jamal reimagines the timeless song once again, unfolding delicate layers of sublime lyricism. His meditation on “I Should Care” is playfully tender, while the original “Land of Dreams” is a gossamer lullaby with the shifts in mood of a nocturnal fantasia. Not a word needs to be sung in order for Jamal to express the wistful yearning of the standard “What’s New?”

Cammack makes his return to dance a graceful duet with Jamal on the Jimmy Dorsey hit “So Rare,” before Jamal resumes the spotlight for an artful rumination on the oft-recorded “Whispering.” The bassist makes his final appearance on a medley pairing the Rodgers and Hart classic “Spring Is Here” with Bill Evans’ “Your Story.” Jamal ends the album with a shimmering take on Johnny Mandel and Johnny Mercer’s “Emily.”

Jamal’s eclectic but unerring taste for material also graces Novrasli’s album. From the opening take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” through the Michael Jackson ballad “She’s Out of My Life” and a blistering race through Dizzy Gillespie’s raucous “Salt Peanuts,” each piece showcases another facet of the Azerbaijani pianist’s prolific talent. Novrasli’s own compositions prove an ideal complement to these wide-ranging classics.

Novrasli selected the material in partnership with Jamal, leading to a fleet, thrillingly swinging take on Thelonious Monk’s perennial “52nd Street Theme” and the heartrending ballad “Night Song,” written for Sammy Davis Jr. as part of the Broadway musical “Golden Boy.” Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight” is another proving ground for jazz pianists, here rendered with a jaunty electricity.

Though no life can be entirely captured in nine songs, the title From Baku to New York City nonetheless suggests a kind of musical autobiography for Novrasli. As he explains, “This particular album is my most cherished work to date, and the journey of these particular themes and compositions coming together reflects my journey as a jazz musician and artist so far. This is not just my best work to date; these songs capture my favorite flavors of Azerbaijan along with my first impressions of New York's night life and the inspiration I’ve always felt from American jazz. All of those influences traveled with me to my beloved Paris, where this album was born and recorded.”

Two of Novrasli’s originals harken back to his roots: the intricate “Memories,” which he performs solo, and the elegiac “Cry of Bulchura,” are variations on themes by Azerbaijani composers Uzeir Hajibayov (known as the father of Azerbaijani classical music and opera) and Vagif Mustafazadeh (a pianist who fused jazz with the Azerbaijani folk music mugham). The up-tempo “Shahin’s Day” captures the pianist’s elation at his life in jazz.
Ahmad Jamal · Ballades
Shahin Novrasli · From Baku to New York City
Jazz Village [PIAS] · Release Date: September 13, 2019

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Mark Winkler’s “I’m With You: Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup”

A popular and prolific songwriter, recording artist and globally renowned performer, Mark Winkler has developed an enduring affinity for the great Bobby Troup. While perhaps best known for his spirited standard “Route 66,” the legendary singer, pianist, tunesmith and master lyricist left behind a deep and wild treasure trove of quirky/playful and heartfelt/melancholy songs from which Winkler has gotten his kicks since releasing Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup in 2003. 

Having recently discovered new overlooked gems in the Troup canon, the singer pays homage to his kindred spirit once again on his latest album I’M WITH YOU. The 12-track collection is a unique gathering of freshly re-imagined Troup songs. This project came about when Troup’s two daughters, Ronne and Cynnie, and Ronne’s husband Bob Bayles, gifted Winkler with a box of Troup’s personal sheet music and eight CDs of Troup tunes. 

“It’s as easy as pie for me to sing Bobby Troup songs,” Winkler says. “Once I choose the tunes I want to create new arrangements for, I approach the songs very easily. I feel like I understand him. We’ve got things in common. He swings and I love to swing. He’s funny, clever and whimsical, yet could also write and sing the blues. As a songwriter, I am always aspiring to achieve that same range of emotions.” Longtime Winkler fans will feel the familiar coolness with his vibrant takes on these gems.

David Benoit And Friends

It would be hard to write the book on Contemporary Jazz without a few chapters on David Benoit. The multi-Grammy nominated and chart-topping piano wizard has enjoyed more than a four-decade career taking chances and following his own intuition. “I look at the big picture and try not to get caught up in the minor details,” reveals the pianist. 

Unbound by categories and rules, the trailblazer has built an enviable career drawing inspiration from his vast influences which have included jazz, comics, film, Broadway and symphonies, to cite a few. David Benoit’s free-spirited approach has allowed him to collaborate with such diverse artists as The Rippingtons, Faith Hill, David Sanborn and CeCe Winans. Few artists can say they have performed solo piano for “Peanuts” television movies and specials for over two decades but Benoit has. 

He also lent his chops in 2015 to the long awaited 3-D animated adaptation of the beloved Charles M. Schulz comic strip.  On August 23, 2019, Shanachie Entertainment will release David Benoit’s 36th recording as a leader and his first solo effort for the label. David Benoit And Friends is an exhilarating escapade of shifting moods, uplifting anthems, virtuosic playing and synergetic interplay that magnifies Benoit’s depth and vision as an artist. From original compositions and tributes to guitar maestro Kenny Burrell and NY Times Best Seller crime novelist Dean Koontz to covers by Irving Berlin, Coldplay and Portugal The Man, Benoit is nothing short of inspiring. “It comes from a very unconventional background on music,” shares the Los Angeles based pianist. “My influences were all over the place from Leonard Bernstein to The Doors.” 

David Benoit And Friends is produced by drummer Bud Harner who has produced and worked with everyone from George Benson and Barry Manilow, to Jeff Lorber to Keiko Matsui, Lindsey Webster and Lalah Hathaway. David Benoit fell in love with jazz Benoit also currently hosts a morning radio show on KKJZ 88.1 FM in Long Beach, CA. In 2018, Benoit was given an honorary doctor’s degree in music from Five Towns College in New York.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Also due from Omnivore on October 4: Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz

It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers, a collection of 23 songs by Fred Rogers — beloved host of the landmark children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — will be released by Omnivore Recordings on October 4, 2019. The album, which is backed by long-time collaborator and pianist Johnny Costa, Carl McViker on bass, and percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne, features classics like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “You Are Special,” and the title track, plus five previously unissued tracks, including the show’s original closer, “Tomorrow.”

The CD packaging contains photos, an introductory note from Academy Award®- and GRAMMY®-winning director Morgan Neville, and an essay by Robert Bianco, long-time TV writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and former USA Today TV critic.

Produced at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh and premiering on national public television more than five decades ago, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has long been a part of the lives of countless kids and adults who experienced and learned from Fred Rogers’ timeless wisdom. While the series’ staying power never lapsed, Neville’s acclaimed 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor reawakened the public’s love for Mister Rogers, and introduced a new generation to him. With the upcoming November release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (starring Tom Hanks as Rogers), the cherished host and his Neighborhood will once again be front and center in the hearts, minds, and ears of everyone.

Rogers found his perfect accompanist in Costa. The performances, flourishes, and embellishments that Costa and the band made during the show (all performed live) not only enhanced the experience, but also taught viewers about jazz.

In 1986, Rogers, Costa, McViker, and Rawsthorne teamed for the last record from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Records: Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz. The band takes an instrumental journey through 13 of Rogers’ songs, retaining their original compositional intent, while breathing new life into them. The release has been out of print for decades, fetching top dollar from collectors. It returns for the first time on CD and Digital.

Director Neville contributes an introduction in the packaging, while Musoscribe’s Bill Kopp traces Costa’s history and work on the program in an informative essay.

Track listings:

It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers
1. Today Is A Very Special Day*
2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
3. I Think I’m Going To Like Today*
4. Look And Listen
5. Be Brave, Be Strong
6. Then Your Heart Is Full Of Love
7. Pretending
8. You Can Never Go Down The Drain 9. I Like To Take My Time
10. Sometimes People Are Good
11. You Are Special
12. I’m Looking For A Friend*
13. Some Things I Don’t Understand
14. The Clown In Me
15. It’s The Style To
16. Wear A Smile
17. I’m Taking Care Of You
18. It’s You I Like
19. Once Upon Each Lovely Day* Wishes Don’t Make
20. Things Come True
21. You’re Growing
22. Tree Tree Tree
23. It’s Such A Good Feeling Tomorrow*
* Previously Unissued

Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz
1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
2. You Are Special
3. It’s You I Like
4. Sometimes People Are Good/Children Can Medley
5. What Do You Do?
6. I Like To Take My Time
7. Everybody’s Fancy
8. Please Don’t Think It’s Funny
9. Something To Do While We’re Waiting
10. Many Ways To Say I Love You
11. Then Your Heart Is Full Of Love
12. Did You Know?
13. It’s Such A Good Feeling

Mister Rogers trailer:

Pasquale Grasso -- Solo Ballads Vol. 1 Melds Bebop and Classical Technique

Sony Masterworks has announced the  release the second installment of guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso's digital EP series: Solo Ballads Vol. 1. The latest offering displays Grasso channeling the easygoing gait of stride piano on a collection of ballads close to his heart.

Grasso’s new digital only EP series – which began with Solo Standards Vol. 1 on June 28 – showcases him in the solo guitar format, where his intensive studies of both the masters of bebop and classical guitar technique meld into a signature mastery that is, remarkably, at once unprecedented and evocative. The approach of the releases echoes the changing landscape in the industry, allowing a prolific recording artist to release a multitude of material over the course of an extended period of time.

"Although there are significant drawbacks to the music industry's shift toward streaming, there are also great opportunities,” says producer, manager and Sony Masterworks A&R Consultant Matt Pierson. “When an artist’s creative impulses are very active, it’s possible to record and release material in a more progressive way, feeding listeners music on a much more consistent basis. In the case of Pasquale, since he’s such a brilliant solo player with so much repertoire already under his fingers, we cut 50 extraordinary tracks. Since I find his playing to be very addictive, my hope is that when people get hip to him, they’ll also get hooked, and we can deliver a flow of a variety of material over the course of a year."

But whom does it evoke? After a surface listen, Joe Pass and his essential Virtuoso LPs might come to mind. Now listen again. The sparkling, immaculately balanced tone; the tasteful tinges of stride and boogie-woogie rhythm; the stunning single-note lines that connect his equally striking use of chordal harmony—for Grasso, great solo arranging equals Art Tatum.

Many serious guitar heads have been hip to Grasso for a while now and are aware of his jaw-dropping online performance videos, his beautiful custom instrument – built in France by Trenier Guitars – and his early career triumphs. In 2015, he won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, taking home a $5,000 prize and performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Last year at D.C.’s Kennedy Center, as part of the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, Grasso participated in a special performance to honor Pat Metheny, alongside his guitar-wunderkind peers Camila Meza, Gilad Hekselman, Dan Wilson, and Nir Felder.

His Sony Masterworks EPs showcase his sweeping abilities in the most intimate possible setting. Here you can experience his lifetime of listening and of challenging himself to transcend a bar set by Art Tatum so many decades ago. Solo Monk – the next release in the EP series – will be available on October 11, the day after Monk’s 102nd birthday. Additional EPs are slated for future release, including Pasquale exploring the works of Duke Ellington, Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. 

It was the kind of endorsement most rising guitarists can only dream of, and then some. In his interview for Vintage Guitar magazine’s February 2016 cover story, Pat Metheny was asked to name some younger musicians who’d impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso,” said the jazz-guitar icon and NEA Jazz Master. “This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult.

“Mostly what I hear now are guitar players who sound a little bit like me mixed with a little bit of [John Scofield] and a little bit of [Bill Frisell],” he continued. “What’s interesting about Pasquale is that he doesn’t sound anything like that at all. In a way, it is a little bit of a throwback, because his model—which is an incredible model to have—is Bud Powell. He has somehow captured the essence of that language from piano onto guitar in a way that almost nobody has ever addressed. He’s the most significant new guy I’ve heard in many, many years.”

As he’s done with many rising jazz stars, Metheny later invited Grasso over to his New York home to jam and share some wisdom. He’s since become a generous presence in Grasso’s life, and his assessment of Grasso’s playing is—no surprise—spot-on.

Born in Italy and now based in New York City, the 30-year-old guitarist has developed an astounding technique and concept informed not by jazz guitarists so much as by bebop pioneers like Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the classical-guitar tradition.

These days, Grasso teaches and maintains a packed gig schedule around New York, including frequent solo performances at the popular Greenwich Village haunt Mezzrow, where a regular Monday-night gig allowed him to develop his solo-arranging skillset. Not that Grasso thinks his work is done. “All [of the musicians I love are] inspiration for me to get new ideas and form my style, because it’s still growing,” Pasquale says. “And it’s gonna be growing until the day I die.”

Friday, August 16, 2019


Austin based R&B soul singer and songwriter Kelly Hafner is set to embark on aUS tour this August! She is touring in support of her new album If It's Love. Her show-stopping voice and unmistakably improvisational style keep listeners hooked from start to finish.  Echoing the traditions of her soul forebears like Etta James, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, and Amy Winehouse, If It's Love tests the boundaries of neo-soul in a refreshing way.

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

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

Upcoming Shows:
AUG 17 - Austin, TX - Stubbs BBQ
AUG 23 - Austin, TX - The Sahara Lounge
AUG 30 - Tulsa, OK - Whittier Bar
AUG 31 - Pittsburg, KS - TJ Lelands
SEP 03 - Denver, CO - Lion's Lair
SEP 05 - Laramie, WY - Coal Creek Coffee Company Uptown
SEP 07 - Salt Lake City, UT - Hotel RL Salt Lake City
SEP 09 - Forest Knolls, CA - Papermill Creek Saloon
SEP 10 - SF, CA - Simple Pleasures Cafe
SEP 11 - Palm Desert, CA - Desert Fox Bar
SEP 12 - Paso Robles, CA - The Pour House
SEP 14 - Tucson, AZ - Saguaro Corners Restaurant & Bar
SEP 15 - Bisbee, AZ - The Quarry

Christine Correa & Ran Blake: Jazz at the Kitano Hotel - NYC August 16 & 17, 2019

Christine Correa and Ran Blake return to Jazz at Kitano for another wonderful pair of evenings hosted by jazz manager and enthusiast Gino Moratti. Correa and Blake are very excited to share material from their up and coming release, When Soft Rain Falls a dedication to Billie Holiday, and revisiting some material from their latest album, Streaming, plus new music 
Friday August 16th and Saturday August 17th 2019 -Two sets each night at 8 & 10:00 PM / Jazz at Kitano Hotel / 66 Park Ave 
New York, NY 10016  

Lady in Satin was Billie Holiday's penultimate recording released in 1959, the year of her death. Although the repertoire is derived from the Great American Songbook, Lady in Satin is unlike any of Holiday's previous recordings as she specifically chose to be accompanied by the lush orchestral arrangements of Ray Ellis and personally hand picked each song based on its lyrics. 

Brooklyn-based Red Piano Records is proud to announce the release of When Soft Rain Falls . . . featuring pianist Ran Blake and vocalist Christine Correa paying tribute to the great Billie Holiday, 60-some years after the release of her Lady in Satin recording. 

In contrast to the grand orchestral arrangements of the original album, Correa and Blake interpret the music in a intimate duo settng. Holiday holds a special place in the hearts and souls of these artists; a place where her music, her sound and her aesthetic resonates deeply. On When Soft Rain Falls  . . ., Correa is able to capture the raw emotion, drama and the intimacy that is associated with Holiday; the way she bends and slurs her notes, her rhythmic phrasing and the liberty she takes in interpreting these songs. All the songs from Lady In Satin are re-imagined, and in addition to the twelve songs from the Holiday album, Correa and Blake include "The Day Lady Died," a Blake composition that has the great Frank O'Hara poem superimposed over it, as well as solo piano versions of "Big Stuff," "Practice Makes Perfect," and a solo voice version of "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone". 

Ran Blake has created a unique niche as an artist in improvised music. He has incorporated and synthesized several divergent styles and influences into a single innovative and cohesive style of his own, ranking him among the geniuses of the genre. On When Soft Rain Falls . . ., their sixth release together over a 40-year friendship, Blake and Correa reach new heights in terms of artistry, vision and expressiveness.
More on Ran Blake and Christine Correa:
In a career that now spans five decades, pianist Ran Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator. With a characteristic mix of spontaneous solos, modern classical tonalities, the great American blues and gospel traditions and themes from classic Film Noir, Blake's singular sound has earned him a dedicated following around the world. In the tradition of two of his idols, Ellington and Monk, Blake has incorporated and synthesized several otherwise divergent styles and influences into a single innovative and cohesive style of his own, ranking him among the geniuses of the genre. Ran Blake is a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" grant. He was the founder and long-time chairperson of the Third Stream Department (currently called Contemporary Improvisation Department) at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA.

Christine Correa, originally from Bombay, India, has been involved in a variety of improvisational contexts and is currently on the faculty of The Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program at Columbia University in New York City.  She has been widely recognized as a leading interpreter of the works of a range of modern American and European poets as set to music by some of today's most innovative jazz composers, such as Frank Carlberg, Nicholas Urie, Sam Sadigursky and Steve Grover, among others. Correa has also recorded and/or performed with artists such as Steve Lacy and John LaPorta and appeared at numerous festivals, concert halls and clubs in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America and India.  Correa is a long-time resident of Brooklyn, NY.


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