Thursday, October 31, 2019

New Music Releases: Booker T Jones, Tom Grant / Phil Baker, Club des Belugas

Booker T Jones – Note By Note

In an emotional musical journey, Booker T explores new takes on the songs that make up the fabric of his musical identity. Largely mirroring the chapter titles from his forthcoming memoir Time is Tight, the album titled Note by Note serves as a musical companion. STAX staples like Cause I Love You and These Arms of Mine are woven into defining musical moments from Booker's journey after STAX, when he produced and recorded with artists as diverse as Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana. Booker T & the M.G.'s fans will enjoy a new ending to the song Time is Tight, a Romanesque coda that has been played live yet never recorded. The album culminates with new original music, highlighting the soaring guitar and vocals of Booker's son and collaborator Teddy Jones. Booker T is a 4 time GRAMMY Award winner (including the Lifetime Achievement Award), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, and arguably the most famous Hammond B3 player in history.

Tom Grant / Phil Baker - Blue Sapphire

''Blue Sapphire'' is the musical collaboration between Pianist Tom Grant and Bassist Phil Baker. The album showcases the stunning excellence of these two celebrated artists. ''Blue Sapphire'' is a collection of songs written by Grant and Baker. The 15 original tracks trace an alluring path from smooth jazz to bossa nova, to R&B funk, with ambient passages along the way. Drawing upon their deep history in the industry, Grant and Baker assembled an all-star lineup of the best musicians in the Northwest including Nu-Shooz' lead singer Valerie Day, R&B/pop singer Jarrod Lawson, and Jazz Grammy finalist Randy Porter to record on the album. ''Tom's sound has an elegance and clarity that is the hallmark of his playing.'' ~ Jeff Lorber, Grammy winning Jazz Artist.

Club des Belugas – Strange Things Beyond The Sunny Side

Club des Belugas is coming of age! This is their 18th year and their 11th Studio Album called "Strange Things Beyond The Sunny Side" Almost 2 years in the making, this much anticipated release does not disappoint. Club des Belugas has used firm favorite vocals from Maya Fadeeva, Anna-Luca, Antoine Villoutreix, Ashley Slater, and Iain Mackenzie. They combine their talents to make an amazing and sophisticated modern classic Nujazz masterpiece. Perfect for the bars and cool clubs of the world or for just chilling at home. For sure you will hear this album on your favorite radio stations this coming autumn, if not get requesting, it s a must listen to. Club des Belugas is the leading Nujazz band in Europe, setting standards that the competition envy.

New Music Releases: Van Morrison, Peter Lemer Quintet, Devin Morrison

Van Morrison – Three Chords And The Truth

Van Morrison returns with his sixth album in just four years, Three Chords And The Truth. Fourteen new original compositions effortlessly encapsulate Van Morrison's sound and talents as one of our generation's most celebrated songwriters. Produced & written by Van Morrison (except If We Wait for Mountains, co-written with Don Black). Features include legendary guitarist Jay Berliner and a duet with The Righteous Brothers' Bill Medley. CD/vinyl available 10/25 via Exile/Caroline International.

Peter Lemer Quintet- Son Of Local Color: Live At Pizza Express Soho 

It's been many years since we last heard from pianist Peter Lemer – the British musician who gave the world a wonderful album on ESP Records in the late 60s, and who finally returns to the fold to share his music again! For the album, which is a 50 year follow-up to the original Local Colour date, Lemer reunites some of his original musicians with a slightly shifted cast – all working with a quality that resonates surprisingly well with the original material, and which may well take some of his group mates back to territory they haven't explored in years! Lemer plays piano – with John Surman on baritone and soprano, Alan Skidmore on tenor, Tony Reeves on bass and Jon Hiseman on drums – on titles that include "Impressions", "Big Dick", "URH", "Cuidad Enahenado", and "Flowville" – plus a version of the Carla Bley classic "Ictus". ~ Dusty Groove

Devin Morrison - Bussin'

A great debut from soul singer Devin Morrison – an artist who brings a strong nod here to mainstream soul of a few decades back – while also opening the door for some great collaborative talents from the underground! Devin wrote and produced the whole set – with an ear that balances hip hop inspiration in the rhythms with warmer soul modes in the lyrics – a bit like that 90s moment when quiet storm found a way to boom on the streets – and given Morrison's skill in the studio, we'll bet we'll be hearing plenty from him in years to come – maybe even at a much higher point in the mainstream soul spectrum. Guests include Joyce Wrice, Daz Dillinger, Lakksmable, Dah-Vi, and KING – and titles include "Be Aiight", "The Call", "It's Time", "With You", "Guaranteed", "The Struggle Iz Real", "Fairytale", "Love Yourself", and the title track "Bussin" – which, incidentally, is Florida slang for "tasty" – and not a reference to the big urban problem of the 70s. ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Wynton Marsalis, Jon Batiste, Michael Kiwanuka

Wynton Marsalis & Others - Motherless Brooklyn: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

A really beautiful soundtrack from Wynton Marsalis – but one that has an unusual genesis too! The core theme of the film was composed by Thom Yorke of Radiohead – who sings on one very short, spare take on the melody – which is then expanded by Wynton's trumpet into a number of other variations, and some of Marsalis' own songs too – with help from Isaiah Thompson on piano, Jerry Weldon on tenor, Ted Nash on alto, and both Joe Farnsworth and Willie Jones III on drums. Titles include "Blues Walk", "Motherless Brooklyn Theme", "On A Misty Night", "Delilah", "Jump Monk", "Daily Battles", and "Woman In Blue" – and the CD also features two vintage cuts – "Round Midnight" by Babs Gonzales, and "Relaxing With Lee" by Charlie Parker.  ~ Dusty Groove

Jon Batiste - Chronology Of A Dream: Live At The Village Vanguard

Jon Batiste is fantastic here – way more so than we normally give him credit for, and maybe even sharper in a live setting than in the studio! The group works with a mix of jazz, funk, and soul – but very different than Jon's band on TV, as there's deeper, richer elements going on – both in the general colors of the instruments, and in the way that the solos soar out and really give the songs some emotion. The lineup features tenor, alto, trumpet, and lots of nice bottom currents on the rhythms – sometimes funky, sometimes more lyrical – all topped with great piano lines from Batiste, who also sings a bit too. Much of the phrasing and flavor is more modern than some of his other albums – and titles include "Blacck", "Prince", "Pwwr", "Birthe", "Kenner", "Story", "Ordr", and "Higher". ~ Dusty Groove

Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka works in a genre that's all his own – definitely soulful, but wrapped around so many other influences too – all with this proud, positive vibe that's gotten the singer a lot more ears than we might have expected just a few short years ago! The record's got plenty of appeal to any fan of soul music, but Kiwanuka also has a strong potential to reach out and cross over to other audiences too – and the Danger Mouse production on the album only serves to intensify all the best qualities of the music even further – on titles that include "Piano Joint", "Rolling", "I've Been Dazed", "You Ain't The Problem", "Final Days", "Living In Denial", "Hero", and "Solid Ground". ~ Dusty Groove

A timely album by Rainforest Band with a timeless message

Marking the 30th anniversary of the visionary album that Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and keyboardist Merl Saunders recorded to call attention to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest was planned long before “the lungs of the planet” caught fire this past summer. Saunders’ son, bassist Tony Saunders, who toured for a year with his father and Garcia to perform music from “Blues From The Rainforest – A Musical Suite,” continues the vital mission by helming Rainforest Band (, which released “Peace To The Planet” on October 25. Continuing partnerships that began with the original album, a portion of the proceeds from “Peace To The Planet” album sales will go to The Jerry Garcia Foundation and Rainforest Action Network.  
While Garcia and Merl Saunders branded “Blues From The Rainforest – A Musical Suite” as “environmental earth music,” “Peace To The Planet,” featuring Tony Saunders, guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black and keyboardist Sylvester Burks, is rooted in contemporary jazz, R&B and gospel music. Joining the trio on the album to spread the message of preservation in the face of the global climate crisis are Billboard chart-topping saxophonist Jeff Ryan, noted keyboardist Gail Jhonson, drummer Austin White and percussionist Maquinto Brasil. Black produced the collection comprised of a dozen songs written by the three band members who are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The celebrate the record release and to raise funds for the two nonprofit partners, Rainforest Band will perform at Terrapin Crossroads Grate Room in San Rafael on November 1 with special guests Grammy winner Narada Michael Walden, percussionist Juan Escoveda and saxophonist Angelo Luster along with Johnson and Brasil. Garcia’s wife and daughter, Manasha and Keelin Garcia, who manage The Jerry Garcia Foundation and have collaborated with Tony Saunders on multiple projects over the years, will be present to lend their support.

Lisa Addeo Invites Music Lovers to 'Listen to This,' One of the Biggest Smooth Jazz Hits in America, According to Billboard

Fast-emerging pianist/composer and vocalist Lisa Addeo invites music lovers to Listen to This, with guest performances by Adam Hawley, Nils, Jeff Ryan, Johnny Britt and Steve Cole. The new collection of Lisa's originals brings an infusion of bright, infectious melodies, dynamic improvisation and relentless grooves. The title track is now being heard on almost 100 stations, including SiriusXM Watercolors and The Smooth Jazz channel on Music Choice.

Don Was, President of Blue Note Records, says, "Lisa did a great job on her new album. It fits in really well with the most successful albums in the smooth jazz field. My compliments."

Hey smooth jazz fans, listen up. Better yet, Listen to This. The title of Lisa Addeo's new album says it all. A soulful invitation to a fresh new vibe, the highly anticipated Listen To This is now available from all major digital retailers, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and more.

The 15-track collection of 10 instrumental and 5 vocal performances provides a powerful showcase of Lisa's range of talents as a composer and musician.

"Listen to This balances the canon of work I've already done," Lisa says, "I've always loved writing melodies and combining them with infectious beats. It's exciting to me, plus collaborating with these amazing musicians is a dream come true. This album is definitely a current snapshot of who I am as an artist, performer and lover of rhythmic grooves."

"If the songs got me dancin', I knew they were 'keepers,'" says Lisa. Other songs conjure up a feeling of romance or allude to sensual longings. One of these, 'She Closed Her Eyes in Paris', is about two lovers who are so lost in each other, they ignore the glorious sights around them."

"I am fulfilled when my fans are inspired by my music. I am hoping, as people hear Listen To This, they feel my passion for life and sense my desire to connect with them."

Listen To This is available now everywhere.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New Christmas Music Releases: Dionne Warwick; Bing Crosby; Diana Ross

Dionne Warwick – Voices Of Christmas

Enjoying a year of achievements from earning the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award to having a Top 3 album with "She's Back", the legendary Dionne Warwick will release her latest record, "The Voices of Christmas," this fall. Currently signed with S-Curve/BMG Records, Dionne's holiday album features duets with a wide range of artists, such as the Oak Ridge Boys, Michael McDonald, Dianne Reeves, Boyz II Men's Wayna Morris, sister duo Chloe X Halle, Aloe Blacc and Johnny Mathis. "The Voices of Christmas" is produced by Damon Elliott, known for his works with Destiny's Child, Pink and Christina Aguilera. He is also one of Dionne's sons, who worked on both of her "Dionne Sings Dionne" and "She's Back" albums. “Every song, I felt, suited my duet partner. That’s why it’s called The Voices of Christmas,” the eight-time Grammy winner tells Billboard. “Each of the songs felt suited to each one of the people I was singing with and that’s how we chose them. That’s the approach I wanted to take, and I wanted to do arrangements of the song to suit that particular person as well.”

Bing Crosby – Bing At Christmas

Bing's is the voice that is completely synonymous with Christmas. Now, Bing's utterly distinctive original vocals are set to newly-recorded orchestral arrangements, performed by the UK's most prestigious orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra, on an album that breathes new life into the best Christmas songs in existence. The new album gives the world the chance to hear these beloved tracks totally transformed, with today's technical advances. Produced by Nick Patrick, who was behind the hugely successful Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly orchestral albums, Bing at Christmas boasts a unique sound and warmth that sets it apart from past Bing Crosby releases. The album features exquisite arrangements of 'Winter Wonderland,' 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas,' 'The Christmas Song,' and 'Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy,' on which David Bowie joins in a duet recorded in September 1977, just a month before Bing died.

Diana Ross - Wonderful Christmas Time

The spirit and sound of the iconic angelic voice of Diana Ross rings bright again this holiday season with the vinyl reissue of her classic Wonderful Christmas Time. The 20-track collection is available for the first time in two physical configurations, a standard black 2LP, a limited-edition translucent red 2LP. Wonderful Christmas Time is also available on CD and all major digital platforms from Ross Records/UMe. The album features covers of standards, from "Sleigh Ride" to "White Christmas," to more recent season favorites from Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" to Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." Ms. Ross is also accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra on five stunning recordings: "Sleigh Ride / Jingle Bells," "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," "Go Tell It On The Mountain," "The First Noël," and "I Heard The Bells." Wonderful Christmas Time. was personally curated by executive producer, Ms. Ross.

Chloe Perrier & The French Heart Jazz Band - Petite Fleur

A true musical citizen of the world, French born, NYC based vocalist Chloe Perrier has one goal every time she and her French Heart Jazz Band take the stage at clubs throughout Manhattan - to make people happy and transport them away from the chaos and stress of life in the modern world. Drawing from such influences as Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Blossom Dearie, the singer uses her velvety voice, spellbinding style and charming accent to transform any room she plays into a realm harkening back to the golden age of jazz.

Holding court onstage these past three years at venues as Club Bonafide, Cornelia Street Café and the McKittrick Hotel, Chloe and her “dream team” of musicians dive deep into a repertoire of French “chansons” and American jazz standards from the jazz age, taking their audiences on a journey back in time for a soul transportive experience she playfully describes as “Gatsby in Paris.” The idea sparked in 2016, when the Consulate General of France invited her to put together a “Gatsby themed soirée” to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its residence on Fifth Avenue. Chloe eventually built an entire show around the concept.

Now, with her new album Petite Fleur, released and distributed worldwide by the independent label Jazzheads, Chloe brings her alluring Parisian charm beyond the Big Apple for the first time. The October 22nd drop of the album will be celebrated with a party and performance at The Cutting Room, and prior to that, the album's lead single “Comes Love” and its music video -- created by Chloe and Los Angeles based cinematographer Jesse Green -- will premiere on September 13th. Simultaneously, Chloe and the French Heart Jazz Band will be performing at the Sunset-Sunside jazz club in Paris.

Before moving to New York from Paris six years ago to develop her career as a singer and actress, Chloe had already visited the city, working on an arts-related documentary. While she was gathering footage of the daily lives of New York based artists, she met guitarist Akira Ishiguro, who later introduced her to drummer Rodrigo Recabarren: the chemistry was immediate and she launched her first trio – which ultimately evolved into the French Heart Jazz band, when upright bassist Jim Robertson was added to the band.

Petite Fleur features soulful, lyrical and swinging performances by the original quartet, joined memorably for this project by special guests clarinetist Jon Hunt and - adding touches of magical retro-romance – violinist Caroline Bugala. The 12-track collection was produced by Chloe and recorded at the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Queens by Grammy-winning sound engineer Max Ross from System Two.

Drawn from favorites among the band’s ever-expanding repertoire, Petite Fleur includes two of French songwriter Charles Trenet's greatest hits, “Menilmontant” and “Que reste-t-il de nos amours”; a tribute to American jazz vocalist Helen Merrill’s seductive and whimsical “Lorsque tu m’embrasses (Just Squeeze Me)”; George Shearing's Ella Fitzgerald popularized sexy swinger “Lullaby of Birdland”; the sensual “J’ai deux amours” originally written for Josephine Baker in 1930; an unexpected high energy take on Edith Piaf's classic “La Vie En Rose”; the briskly paced “Je voudrais en savoir d’avantage” made famous by 1930s bandleader Ray Ventura, which lends itself to Chloe’s quick, rhythmic phrasing; and of course, the “hidden” title track “Petite Fleur,” by the great Sidney Bechet, recorded by Chloe in honor of her grandfather's favorite song.

The album’s tracks in English include a classic of the Django Reinhardt repertoire, the spirited call and response tune “Coquette”; “Guilty,” one of Al Bowlly's signature songs, previously included in the soundtrack of popular French film Amélie; and the bolero-mambo classic “Sway,” given a touch of international class and sass via Chloe’s French accent.   

“What I love about this period from the 1920s to the ‘40s is that the music is really happy, and it brings people great joy when I sing it,” says the singer. “This is an atmosphere I love to communicate to my audiences. Coeur de Francaise, my first album that I recorded in France before moving to New York, was more romantic and melancholic, based on songs from the 60s through the 90s. Petite Fleur is about love and its sound is decidedly more joyful and upbeat."

“The times we live in are pretty dark,” she adds, “and I like the opportunity to take people away from their problems and help them stay positive, even if just for an hour. People tell me at the end of the show that they feel like they’re in Paris in the 30s. The challenge is to keep those who have seen the show multiple times engaged, so I am always YouTube hopping or buying old vinyls in search of unique jazz standards and French chansons from that era."

Born in the French Alps, Chloe started ballet dancing and playing the violin at a young age. At age ten she moved to Paris where she started acting and singing, and by age thirteen she was already working professionally in the entertainment industry. After a well-received first concert at “Le Reservoir” -- thrown together on a dare, after a bet with famous actor and comedian Mouss Diouf -- she began focusing on music, studying vocal jazz with Sara Lazarus as well as composition and piano with Joe Makholm for three years at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris. During this time, Chloe started to compose her first songs. Furthering her education, Chloe participated in various workshops with prominent French and American musicians. 

After years of performing in France and releasing her successful first album, she decided “to follow her dream and dive into the wonderful world of NYC Jazz." "Barely speaking English, I moved to the Big Apple with my artist visa and my microphone. During my time here, I’ve been able to meet and work with wonderful musicians from all around the world including my dream team, which I call my brothers from another mother. After playing all over the city that doesn’t sleep, I created a new band with them called the French Heart Jazz Band.”

 Nowadays Chloe performs with these and other musicians in different formats, from duet to septet, in several locations and clubs both in Paris and in NYC -- at the Zinc Bar, The Iridium, Feinstein's/54 Below, Winter Cabaret festival, Summer Cabaret Festival, Vintage Train Swing Festival, Why Not jazz club, Cornelia Street Cafe, Club Bonafide,The Manderley and Gallow Green at The Mc Kittrick Hotel (Home of the famous show Sleep No More), The Top of the Standard, The Plaza, Lotte New York Palace, The Beekman Hotel, the Flatiron Room and Fine & Rare and more. The singer has also performed live on radio and TV shows like “Jazzbox” on Radio Aligre, “La bande Passante” on RFI, Bastille TV, and “Telematin” France 2.

“As a little girl growing up in France,” Chloe says, “I fell in love with music and I was listening to old records of Claude Nougaro, Serge Gainsbourg and the musical for kids ‘Emilie Jolie’ all the time. All these years later, it’s a wonderful pleasure to sing for people and provide a type of musical therapy for others the way my favorite music has always been an uplifting and healing force in my life. Club Bonafide where I have a residency and other clubs has been a wonderful ‘laboratory’ for me and my band to try out new material and develop arrangements and a repertoire that helps lift everybody’s mood. Together, we capture a vintage feeling with a modern twist – and were able to take that into the studio and, with Max Ross’ help, make some real magic!”

Down In Jamaica: 40 Years Of VP Records

Down In Jamaica: 40 Years Of VP Records is the definitive anthology of the company that helped bring reggae and dancehall to the world.

Released on October 25, 2019, Down In Jamaica: 40 Years of VP Records is a 94-track, multi-format limited edition (2,000 run) box set with a 24-page booklet and art cards detailing the hits, the rarities, and the history of the world’s largest reggae label.

Featuring 101 different artists, Down In Jamaica tells the story in detail through a chronological survey of the key records that helped define the company, from early singles on obscure sublabels (Roots From The Yard, Jah Guidance, and Love) to the well-known VP Records brand that brought Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, and others into the international mainstream.

Curated by DJ, writer, and VP Records Director of Catalog Development Carter Van Pelt, the set contains four 7-inch singles, four 12-inch singles, and four CDs, the first configuration of its kind for a box set package. The CDs include the chronology of hit songs, and the vinyl pieces bring back rare titles long out of print. The initial release is in the physical format only, with a digital release of the CD portion of the set on all streaming platforms in late November.

The singles format was the dominant vehicle for Jamaican music from its inception, and the collection tells the company’s story almost entirely from singles, taking its name from Red Fox and Naturalee’s 1989 hit.

“The goal is to tell the story of a continually owned and operated family business at the heart of the global growth of reggae, dancehall, and Caribbean music” said Van Pelt. “As a distributor and manufacturer, the company has brought some of reggae and dancehall’s most recognizable hits to the public over 40 years. This set ties that story together with some lost treasures in the form of vinyl rarities.”

Founded by Vincent and Patricia Chin as the US distribution arm of Randy’s Records from Kingston, Jamaica, Randy’s had been at the center of the Jamaican music industry since its inception. The VP chapter began in New York as reggae was on the verge of a major transition from Bob Marley’s era to the dancehall era of Yellowman, Chaka Demus, Shabba Ranks, Ninja Man, Beenie Man, and Bounty Killer.

Highlights from the set include Sean Paul & Sasha’s “I’m Still In Love With You,” Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go,” Beenie Man’s “Who Am I” and classics from Yellowman, Barrington Levy, Gregory Isaacs, and Dennis Brown and dozens of others. The vinyl selections include rare sides by Echo Minott, Freddie McKay, Junior Reid, Tenor Saw, and others, most available for the first time since their original pressings.

“We’re excited about the box set and the re-telling of our story,” said Randy Chin, President of VP Records, “It’s a great way to complete our 40th anniversary celebrations.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

New Music Releases: Kirk Whalum; Tertio; Jukka Eskola Soul Trio

Kirk Whalum – Humanité

Grammy® Award Winner and Global Recording Artist Kirk Whalum just released his new album Humanité on Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group. Humanité is unlike any album Kirk has ever made – the sonic synergistic result of encounters made and relationships formed onstage and off with top emerging artists and Top 5 recording artists from around the world. The album was produced by Kirk and his longtime friend and producer, the British jazz trumpeter and session musician James McMillan. Over a period of three months in 2018, Kirk and James recorded the soul-drenched, emotional and highly melodic tracks in locations ranging from studios in Jakarta, Tokyo, Paris, Nairobi, Johannesburg, to hotel rooms, office buildings and even Kirk’s living room in his hometown, Memphis, Tenn. Collaborators on the album include Japan's jazz pianist Keiko Matsui; the young bass phenomenon Barry Likumahuwa, gifted singer/songwriter Grace Sahertian and global pop star singer/actor Afgan, all hailing from Indonesia; soulful singer/jazz guitarist Andréa Lisa from New Zealand; superstar vocalist/guitarist Zahara from South Africa; Kasiva Mutwa of Nairobi; bassist supreme Marcus Miller, and Liane Carroll, long considered by cognoscenti to be the UK’s premier female jazz voice.

Tertio – La minge ligne (The Thin Line)

“La mince ligne” (The Thin Line) is the second effort of Montreal’s based jazz-rock quintet Tertio. As much loyal to its jazz-jock roots, the band expands its musical territories, sometimes in the modern jazz idioma, and even in a country-folk composition, without losing its own musical identity and lyricism. This second album confirms Tertio as one of Canada’s most promising band, by featuring the abilities of its wonderful musicians, composer and improvisers. On this release, the group returns  with a more elaborate work in which we find the sound characteristic of the group, but yet venturing into new musical flights. The album was mixed by Simon l'Esperance and mastered by Richard Addison of Trillium sound. The album was officially released under the MCM Records label on October 18, 2019.

Jukka Eskola Soul Trio — Steamy

An excellent group, and one with a really great concept – a fresh take on a format that was big in the 60s soul jazz scene, but spun out in a very unique way – both in terms of instrumentation, and in terms of the groove! Trumpeter Jukka Eskola heads the trio, which also features Hammond from Mikko Heleva and drums from Toppo Makynen – a mode that was more famously used in tenor/organ combos, like the match of Don Patterson and Sonny Stitt on Prestige Records – but which has never been found in this format before! The trumpet turns out to be a great sound in the frontline, and is given some changed-up rhythms here to work with – not straight soul jazz or funk, and instead a mixture of complicated elements that move the tunes throughout a great range of grooves and colors – really showing all the wonderful sounds that Jukka's been capable of giving us over the years. Titles include "Stick Of A Branch", "Jongo Street", "Tiny B", "Old Stories", "Smash", "Five On Three", and "Steamy". ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Omar; Jaimie Branch; Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller

Omar – The Anthology

After his triumphant return to perform shows in America after a long break - we and Omar are really looking forward to his career spanning 'The Anthology' collection. Omar Lyefook MBE is without doubt, one of the greatest soul music talents the United Kingdom has produced in the last 40 years. If anyone has doubts about that, then they might want to consider the list of legendary artists who happily line up to collaborate with him musically, or simply sing his praises - from Stevie Wonder, the late Leon Ware, Erykah Badu, Common, through to Carleen Anderson, D'Angelo, and Soul II Soul's Caron Wheeler, Angie Stone and U.K. artists Courtney Pine, Rodney P, Kele LeRoc, Natasha Watts and Estelle, all appreciate his truly original and unique voice, musicianship and songwriting talent. This collection features many of his classic collaborations, from his evergreen worldwide anthem There's Nothing Like This, It's So, the dancefloor destroying banger inspired by the amalgam of sounds Omar heard at The Notting Hill Carnival. Also included are lesser known, slept on tracks from across his long career - and the exclusive, previously unheard tracks Pass It On ft Terri Walker and Long Time Coming.

Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die 2: Bird Dogs Of Paradise

A really fantastic album from Jaimie Branch – one that's even more powerful than the first Fly Or Die set – which is saying a heck of a lot, given that that record hit most of us with a pretty hard punch! The sound is even more groundbreaking than before – moving well beyond jazz, although there's plenty of that in the mix too – to reflect Branch's connection to so many different musical communities in the contemporary scene! Jaimie brings a lot of anger and frustration at the current political situation into the music – a great reminder that with the right focus, jazz can be used for so many different cultural aims – especially when handled this well, in a lineup that features Jaimie on trumpet, electronics, and a bit of voice – with Lester St Louis on cello and percussion, Jason Ajemian on bass and percussion, and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira, and xylophone. The record also features guest work from Ben Lamar Gay and Marvin Tate on voice, Matt Schneider on 12 string guitar, and Dan Bitney on percussion and synth – and titles include "Prayer For Amerikkka (parts 1 & 2)", "Lesterlude", "Love Song", "Simple Silver Surfer", "Bird Dogs Of Paradise", "Nuevo Roquero Estereo", and "Twentey Three N Me Jupiter Redux". ~ Dusty Groove

Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller - Art Of Piano Duo: Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller Live (3CD set)

A trio of live performances from the duo of Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller – all concerts featuring just the two pianists working alongside each other, in a mode that has both players stretching out beautifully! There's no other instrumentation at all – no bass, drums, or horns – so Barron and Miller also trade back and forth with rhythmic lines while the other is flying freer on a solo – all a wonderful demonstration of their genius at the keys! The set features performances from three different shows, one in 2005, two in 2011 – and there's a few solo numbers along the way too. Titles include "Joy Spring", "Yardbird Suite", "It Could Happen To You", "Never Let Me Go", "Stars Fell On Alabama", "I Mean You", "Blue Monk", "Have You Met Miss Jones", "I Got It Bad & That Ain't Good", "When Lights Are Low", "The Very Thought Of You", and "Song For Abdullah". ~ Dusty Groove

Monday, October 28, 2019

New Music Releases: One Way featuring Al Hudson; Andrea Bocelli; Joe Hurworth

One Way featuring Al Hudson - New Old School

The title definitely gets it right – because the album's a new one from the legendary One Way, but definitely holds on to the sound of their old school classics! As you can guess from the cover, Al Hudson's still at the helm – working with an evolved version of the group that includes some younger musicians and a few contemporary touches – but all shaped towards that great blend of groovers and midtempo numbers that One Way brought to their wonderful albums on MCA at the start of the 80s! And yes, the costumes may look a bit dated on the front cover, but the production and sound aren't at all – thanks in part to a shifting lineup of singers that includes Hudson, Jeanette Jackson, Dave Roberson Jr, and Candyce Grey. Titles include "Heat It Up", "Let's Dance", "Don't Kno What Cha Missin", "Hard To Walk Away", "Doin It Like This", "We Won't Stop", "I Wonder If She Knows", "I Want Your Luv", "U Liked To My Mama", "Hold On To U", and "Old School Funk Tonite". ~ Dusty Groove

Andrea Bocelli - Si Forever: The Diamond Edition

Following over 1 million album sales of his No. 1 album Sí worldwide, Golden Globe-winning operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli will release Si Forever: The Diamond Edition, an extended special edition of his million selling No. 1 album Si, featuring brand new duets with Ellie Goulding and Jennifer Garner, on 8 November. The first of these newly-recorded duets, ‘Return To Love’, released 3 October, features BRIT Award-winning, Grammy-nominated British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding. Andrea Bocelli noted, “Ellie Goulding is the perfect singer for this track. She has a beautiful voice which I loved right away.” Three brand new solo tracks from Andrea Bocelli are also included on Si Forever: The Diamond Edition. ‘Alla Gioia’ was recorded to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, ‘Ragazzo Mio’ is based on the traditional Irish tune ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Il Mare Calmo Della Sera’ is the song that first brought Andrea to prominence 25 years ago at the Sanremo Music Festival.

Joe Hurworth - Following Your Heart

Truly embodying the concept of “old musical soul” at the ripe age of 23, multi-talented UK based singer songwriter Joe Hurworth beautifully blends old school, big production R&B with graceful low-key acoustic sensibilities on his second EP Following Your Heart. Everything starts with his thoughtful, sensitive songwriting and a supple, emotive voice that draws as much inspiration from legends like Al Green and Michael McDonald as it does from contemporary greats Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. A passionate storyteller who weaves his tales in a multitude of styles, Hurworth is aces as producer as well, bringing lively funk grooves, sizzling brass accents and even hypnotic dance grooves. 

Musician and Composer Damien Sneed Presents ‘A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul’ at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola Tonight, Monday, October 28

Musician and composer Damien Sneed pays homage to his mentor Aretha Franklin tonight, Monday Nights with WBGO: “Damien Sneed Presents A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul” Monday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, located in Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Broadway at 60th Street, New York City.

The multiple genre recording artist and instrumentalist is part of Dizzy’s Club October lineup of tributes to jazz icons and music legends and WBGO Monday Nights series, which features talented new artists, hosted by WBGO announcer Nicole Sweeney.

“During the last four years of Ms. Franklin’s life, I shared a special relationship with her as a band member,” says Sneed. “She originally reached out to me to teach her private lessons in classical piano, but a few months later she asked me to start traveling with her band doing background vocals, organ and piano after she requested that I send an audition recording of me playing and singing ‘I Say A Little Prayer For You’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’”

“I never had the opportunity to sing background,” Sneed continues. “But little did I know that I would learn so much from her and receive such a large amount of impartation about life, her experiences working with the Jazz legends of her youth and my responsibility to carry the baton for my generation and those coming after me. I miss Ms. Franklin more and more with each day. When the world lost her, we lost a giant, a monogenēs that God only blesses the Earth with every few hundred years.”

Joining Sneed on stage for tonight’s tribute are Chenee Campbell (vocalist), Matia Celeste Washington (vocalist), Markita Knight (vocalist), Alicia Peters-Jordan (vocalist), Joel Tate (drums), John Matthew Clark (bass), David Daniels (lead guitar), Marquéz Cassidy (organ), Jonathan Shillingford (trumpet), Markus Howell (alto saxophone and flute) and Jack Kotze (trombone and horn arrangements). As music director Sneed will bring the audience fresh renditions of some of Franklin’s classic tunes including “Respect,” “Knew You Were Waiting,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Precious Memories,” “Think,” “Until You Come Back To Me,” “Daydreaming,” “Freeway,” “Natural Woman,” and others. Both sets of “Damien Sneed Presents A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul” will be available via Livestream at

In January 2020, Sneed will kick off his 40+-City North American tour, “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at Joe’s Pub in New York, NY, and will make stops at concert halls and universities in the U.S. and Canada. The two-month tour will conclude on Friday, March 13, 2020, at Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center in Kent, WA. 

Sneed has worked with jazz, classical, pop, and R&B with legends including the late Jessye Norman, which he recently was the musical director for her funeral service, and will be featured on Norman’s forthcoming and final recording, Bound For The Promised Land on Albany Records on November 2, 2019. He also worked with Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Ashford & Simpson, Lawrence Brownlee, and many others.

Sneed recently joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches graduate-level courses in conducting, African American Music History, a singer/songwriter ensemble, a gospel music ensemble, and private lessons in piano, voice, and composition.


Bassist Jeff Denson releases "Between Two Worlds" featuring Romain Pilon & Brian Blade

Denson’s trio recording features a collaboration with French guitarist Romain Pilon and celebrated U.S. drummer Brian Blade, available October 25, 2019 via Ridgeway Records.
Between Two Worlds features ten original compositions: five each by Denson and Pilon, most of them written especially for this album. The music’s sound is consistent across the album: complex but highly expressive post-bop, guitar-trio jazz. Yet for the most part, it’s apparent at a glance which composer wrote which tune. Pilon’s titles are in French (“Sucrée,” “En Trois Temps,” “Azur,” “Génération”); “Madrid,” whose language is neither of the above, is also by Pilon. “Song of a Solitary Crow,” “Nostalgic Farewell,” “Listen Up,” “Lost and Found” and “Between Two Worlds” are Denson’s. 

The album’s title has poetic dimensions. “As musicians we float between two worlds,” writes Denson in the album’s liner notes. “One, a physical plane and the other a powerful reality that can only be found with the most open of ears, hearts and minds.”

Part of that intuitive reality is the chemistry between the three musicians, which all of them agreed was strong. “Romain is inspiring, his playing and compositions,” Blade says. “And Jeff as well. Who they are comes through in the music, and the joy.” 

“Playing music with Jeff and Brian was like discovering new paths to creativity,” Pilon adds. “I felt like everything was possible. I just had to keep my ears open.”

“It’s one thing to make everything work and have everybody sound good, but there’s an unexplainable magic that can happen between players,” Denson finishes. “That was very clearly there for us. It was a totally magical, exciting experience to do this trio album.” 

Internationally renowned bassist, vocalist, composer, and educator Jeff Denson was born on December 20, 1976 in Arlington, Virginia, and grew up in the Washington, DC area.  He began playing alto saxophone in the third grade, switching in high school to bass and vocals. He studied at Virginia Commonwealth University and Northern Virginia Community College, all the while freelancing heavily on the DC jazz scene, before transferring to Boston’s Berklee College of Music to complete his degree. At Berklee, Denson co-founded the trio Minsarah, touring and recording with the band for fifteen years and becoming the accompanist for the legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz for over twelve years. In the meantime, Denson completed a master’s degree at Florida State University and a DMA at the University of California at San Diego.

Denson relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 to become a professor at the California Jazz Conservatory where he now serves as Dean of Instruction.  He released his first solo project, Secret World, in 2012 and has earned wide critical acclaim for his performances and recordings. DownBeat Magazine has cited Denson’s “considerable gifts as an improviser, interpreter and sonic trailblazer..." earning him a spot on the DownBeat International Critics Poll.  Germany’s Jazz Podium Magazine noted that “Denson is breaking new ground…(he is) one of the leading bassists of contemporary jazz.” Denson has released fourteen albums as a leader or co-leader and performs in some 60 concerts annually with his own groups as well as with the San Francisco String Trio (Denson, guitarist Mimi Fox and violinist Mads Tolling), among others. 

He also spearheads Ridgeway Arts, a nonprofit designed to enhance and fortify the Bay Area scene with educational initiatives, concert presentations and recordings released on Denson’s Ridgeway Records label. In addition to Between Two Worlds, Denson released Jeff Denson Live, a digital album, in May 2019. 

Romain Pilon
Described by Jazzwise as "a brilliant improviser," French guitarist and composer Romain Pilon has, over the years, earned a solid reputation among the jazz guitar world. He started playing guitar at age 10, exploring all kinds of music throughout high school and eventually going to Conservatory in his native France before gaining a scholarship from the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. After his US sojourn (where his won three awards and was chosen with his group to open for Pat Metheny out of 1,000 guitar students) he lived between Paris and NYC, performing with some of the world’s greatest improvising musicians.

Romain has recorded three albums as a co-leader and four as a leader: NY3, Colorfield, The Magic Eye, and most recently, Copper. His talent both as an improviser and composer has earned him kudos in the international press as one of the standout musicians currently living in Paris. Jazz journalist and curator Vincent Bessieres wrote: "Romain is a guitarist whose flow of imagination sets high standards, and whose guitar tone is one of the most elegant around…" Jazz Podium (Germany) calls him "a wonder of taste and style." His ability to play all forms of jazz, from swing and bebop to modern and avant-garde, makes him an in-demand sideman.  Recent performances have included tours as a leader in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the US in clubs and festivals such King’s Place (London), Duc des Lombards (Paris), Crescent Jazz Festival, Malta Jazz Festival (Malta), Jazz Station (Belgium),Saint Omer Jazz Festival, Vitoria Jazz Festival (Spain), La Londe Jazz Festival, and many more.

Besides his career as a performing musician, Pilon is a renowned pedagogue. He has given masterclasses in France, the US, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Japan, Germany, and Malta. In 2016 he started a series of “Mini Lessons" videos on YouTube. With over 200,000 views on the playlist and close to 7,000 downloads of pdfs from all over the world, it has been a big success. Over the years he has taught over 200 private students, many of them now renowned musicians in their own right. 

Brian Blade
Brian Blade was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. The first music he experienced was the Gospel and songs of praise at the Zion Baptist Church where his father, Brady L. Blade, Sr., has been Pastor since 1961. In elementary school, music appreciation classes were an important part of his development, and at age nine he began playing the violin. Inspired by his older brother, Brady L. Blade, Jr., who had been the drummer at Zion Baptist Church, Brian shifted his focus to the drums throughout middle and high school. During high school, while studying with Dorsey Summerfield, Jr., Brian began listening to the music of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Elvin Jones and Joni Mitchell. In 1988, at the age of eighteen, he moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola University. Over the next five years, he was able to study and play with most of the master musicians living in New Orleans, including John Vidacovich, Ellis Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, Bill Huntington, Mike Pellera, John Mahoney, George French, Emile Vinette, Germaine Bazzle, David Lee, Jr., Alvin Red Tyler, Tony Dagradi and Harold Battiste.

In 1997, Brian Blade formed The Fellowship Band with pianist Jon Cowherd. The band members are bassist Chris Thomas and saxophonists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler. The Fellowship Band released their self-titled debut album in 1998, Perceptual in 2000, Season of Changes in 2008, Landmarks in 2014 and Body and Shadow in 2017, all on Blue Note Records. While continuing to work with The Fellowship Band, Blade has been a member of the Wayne Shorter quartet since 2000. He has recorded with Daniel Lanois, Joni Mitchell, Kenny Garrett, Ellis Marsalis, Marianne Faithfull, Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan. In 2009, Blade released his first album as a singer-songwriter, Mama Rosa, featuring songs dedicated to his grandmother and family, written from experiences about his life so far. The album features Daniel Lanois, vocalist Kelly Jones, bassist Chris Thomas, guitarist Goffrey Moore and pianists Aaron Embry and Jon Cowherd.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

REZ ABBASI: A THROW OF DICE by The Silent Ensemble

Comprehending the vastness of music’s evolution over almost a century, even in terms of jazz and world music alone, can be pretty mind-blowing – yet New York-based guitarist/composer Rez Abbasi spans that arc with an original release of quintet music based on A Throw of Dice (A Romance of India), a vintage black-and-white Indian-German silent film from 1929.

His new album A Throw of Dice is Abbasi’s 13th release and his first film score. It features his group The Silent Ensemble with saxophonist/flutist Pawan Benjamin, bassist/cellist Jennifer Vincent, Carnatic percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy and drummer Jake Goldbas. The project was commissioned in 2017 by David Spelman, curator of the celebrated New York Guitar Festival. Following an Abbasi trio performance at WNYC’s Green Space, hosted by veteran radio DJ John Schaefer, Spelman quickly recognized the eclecticism and power in Abbasi’s music and what his broad musical range could bring to a larger concept. “The idea was to write a new score for the historic 74-minute film A Throw of Dice, and to perform it live at Brookfield Place in Manhattan and The Krannert Center in Illinois,” explains Rez. “The film is simply amazing – the last and widely regarded as the best in a trilogy made by German director Frank Osten – shot in dramatic locations within Rajasthan with ‘jungle’ animals and a cast of thousands.” The tale is based on an episode from The Mahābhārata, one of two epic Sanskrit tales of India from 8th century B.C.E. that retains its relevancy in our times.  The moral and philosophical story of love and manipulation plays out in a very human fashion, and delivers an important message that greed ultimately can never win.

Inspired by ragas and Indian rhythms, Abbasi has created a sequence of richly aromatic soundscapes which, importantly, reflect his own jazz, western classical and rock music personality. This began as a musical narrative – a through-composed “collaboration with Indian and cinematography history” with both scored and improvisatory responses to on-screen action. Yet away from the visuals it’s a striking creation, integrated and brought to life by each member playing multiple instruments; standard jazz instrumentation augmented by sitar-guitar, cello, bansuri flute, ghatam, mridangam and kanjira. As Rez states, “It was imperative to have a versatile group in order to mirror the flow of the film. With these textural possibilities, I felt I had the flexibility to keep the music aligned with whatever emotional content the film presented.”

The episodic mystery of Abbasi’s music is compelling, as gentle acoustic guitar and flute melodies shift into atmospheric percussion and sitar-guitar is bolstered by the jazz vibrancy of sax riffs and heavy grooves. Blissful moments of beauty abound, from the echoic tenor soloing in ‘Amulet and Dagger’ to the calming flute, guitar and cello tranquility of ‘Seven Days.’ In contrast come the dancing jazz and rock motifs of ‘Jugglers’ and ‘Moving Forward,’ while Abbasi’s extemporary prowess shines through in sumptuous ‘Wedding Preparation,’ complete with gloriously mesmeric exchanges between electric guitar and soprano saxophone.

“This album is quite different from anything else I’ve done – something I would not have created had it not been for the film’s guidance, which is so pleasing,” enthuses Rez. “Engaging with the characters’ emotional and psychological content the visuals, along with other stimuli, galvanized my ideas. However, as subservient as I was to the film, knowing that the music was going to be released separately made it important to create an engaging listening experience that would be strong on its own. The added bonus is, as a performance piece the pockets of improvisation allow it to evolve every time.”

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is an artist who continually pushes boundaries in meaningful ways. Born in Karachi, Pakistan and raised in Southern California since age four, he studied jazz and classical music at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music, supplemented by a pilgrimage in India under the guidance of master percussionist Ustad Alla Rakha. Abbasi’s music is a vivid synthesis of all the above stated influences and genres. Voted #1 “Rising-Star Guitarist” in 2013’s DownBeat Critics Poll and subsequently placed in the "Top-Ten Guitarists" alongside luminaries Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, Abbasi has become one of the most original voices on the current scene. Making New York home for the past 25 years, the guitarist’s unique playing and composing can be heard on his now thirteen albums. Garnering multiple awards and composition commissions, Rez Abbasi continues to find creative ways to enrich diverse audiences with his musical projects.

Contemporary Guitarist and co-creator of the Imrat guitar Todd Mosby releases fifth album: ‘Open Waters'

Produced by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, and with a sound described as "an album to daydream to", Open Waters finds Mosby once again embarking on a creative journey navigating through elements of Jazz, New Age, Folk and Indian music. "Open Waters is one of the best project I have been involved with…Todd Mosby is the most unique sounding guitarist I have ever worked with, nobody does what he does…" - Will Ackerman

"This album crosses the full spectrum of the music I have performed and know intimately...from Indian Rag to traditional Jazz to the The Police.  It's a concept album based upon the story of Atlantis (Plato's story about the destruction of the ancient civilization), and what survivors may have felt as they escaped from the deluge in ships heading westward." - Todd Mosby

Coming from a family of inventors (he is the co-inventor of the Imrat guitar along with Kim Schwartz and Imrat Khan), Mosby's early musical DNA was formed from his love of Bluegrass and Folk music, which eventually expanded into Fusion and Jazz.  While a college student, Mosby began studying Indian music (namely classical North Indian music), which led to the genre's incorporation into his music, and sparked the creation of the Imrat guitar [a 20 stringed hybrid sitar guitar musical bridge instrument that allows Western musicians to access Eastern melodies and Eastern musicians to access Western harmonies for the first time]. After 13 years of study with Imrat Khan, Mosby became the only guitarist ever admitted into the Imdhad Khani Gharana, India's most prestigious family of musicians.  "This instrument [Imrat guitar] sounds better than a guitar and sounds better than a sitar…it is an instrument for the 21st century." - Imrat Khan

With more than several accolades and collaborations during his very active career, Mosby has either shared the stage with, or opened up for such luminaries as Michael Manring, Imrat Khan, Foreplay, Spyro Gyra, and several others. He has performed around the world including, Kravis Center (West Palm Beach, FL), The Harris Center (Modesto, CA), Soka University (Aliso Vieja, CA), and many others.

Speaking again on the conceptual nature of the project, Mosby says: This (the Atlantis reference above) is what I consider an archetype model as well for anyone journeying from one country to another, one city to another or even leaving planet earth to journey into interstellar space for colonization on new worlds.  My mission as an artist is to connect with audiences at the spiritual, emotional and physical levels and as such, change lives."


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Guitarist Pasquale Grasso Explores the Music of Thelonious Monk

Sony Masterworks is proud to release the third installment of guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso's digital only EP series: Solo Monk. The series – which began with Solo Standards, Vol. 1 and Solo Ballads, Vol. 1 earlier this year – 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.

As with most of his musical passions, Grasso became a Monk convert while still a child, after his father played him a record—in this case The Unique Thelonious Monk, a 1956 trio session featuring Oscar Pettiford and Art Blakey. Monk’s playing—the bluesy, propulsive architecture of his solos, the percussive stomp of his chording—reminded the young guitarist of one of his biggest heroes (and rare six-string influences), Charlie Christian. Since then, Grasso has found in Monk’s music an endless store of harmonic and rhythmic challenges, which he’s more than happy to meet here on “Epistrophy,” “’Round Midnight,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Criss Cross” and “Off Minor.” “There isn’t a lot more to say,” Grasso admits, chuckling. “It’s just genius music.”

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. 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.”

Solo Standards Vol. 1 – Available Digitally Now (Released June 28, 2019)
This collection of some of Grasso’s best-loved standards kicks off with “Just One of Those Things,” a tune he felt compelled to tackle after hearing Bud Powell’s dauntless solo rendition. “This Time the Dream’s on Me” is one of the first standards Grasso ever learned, after hearing it on a live recording featuring Powell and Charlie Parker; it was also the go-to show opener for the bands he co-led with his brother, alto saxophonist Luigi Grasso, while growing up in Italy. Pasquale chose “All the Things You Are” so that listeners might be able to gauge his trademarks on this most standard of jazz standards, and because it’s one of his brother’s favorite tunes (and, of course, for Charlie Parker). “Dancing in the Dark” finds inspiration in Art Tatum’s sterling solo version. “Tea for Two” is a nod to both Tatum and Barry Harris, who uses the number as a staple of his concert repertoire.

Solo Ballads Vol. 1 – Available Digitally Now (Released August 16, 2019)
“The way I approach ballads,” Grasso explains, “is I try to learn the story of the song with the lyrics, even if I don’t remember all of the lyrics, because English isn’t my first language.” After that, the virtuoso says, he simply tries to relax and tinge his performance with the easygoing gait of stride piano. Here Grasso takes on “Body and Soul,” one of his father’s favorites and a tune he first remembers hearing as performed by Dexter Gordon in the film ‘Round Midnight; the Art Tatum tributes “These Foolish Things” and “Over the Rainbow”; the deceptively demanding “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”; and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” yet another eulogy of sorts for his hero Bud Powell, who recorded a heartrending trio version in the mid-’50s.

Solo Monk – Available Digitally Now
As with most of his musical passions, Grasso became a Monk convert while still a child, after his father played him a record—in this case The Unique Thelonious Monk, a 1956 trio session featuring Oscar Pettiford and Art Blakey. Monk’s playing—the bluesy, propulsive architecture of his solos, the percussive stomp of his comping—reminded the young guitarist of one of his biggest heroes (and rare six-string influences), Charlie Christian. Since then, Grasso has found in Monk’s music an endless store of harmonic and rhythmic challenges, which he’s more than happy to meet here on “Epistrophy,” “’Round Midnight,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Criss Cross” and “Off Minor.” “There isn’t a lot more to say,” Grasso admits, chuckling. “It’s just genius music.”


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