Friday, January 31, 2020

New Music Releases: Gerardo Frisina & Toco, Diego Frabetti, Fabrizio Bosso & Spiritual Trio

Gerardo Frisina & Toco - Gerardo Frisina Meets Toco EP

Two great Schema Records talents come together here in one sweet EP – the bossa-inspired vocals and acoustic guitar of Toco, mixed with the Latin-styled rhythms of Gerardo Frisina! The set begins with the long, lively "Tia Na Hora" – starting first with vocals from Toco, then really stretching out in the kind of long, percussive, clubby vibe that Frisina does so well – especially when extended out into an instrumental mix that has a cool mellow moment in the middle! "Craque" follows on the flipside – again in a different instrumental version than the main one – and both cuts feature piano from Vitor Araujo, and some mighty nice flute from Gilberto Acursio! ~ Dusty Groove

Diego Frabetti - Interno 41

We'll be honest in saying that we'd never heard the music of trumpeter Diego Frabetti before this album, and only picked it up because it features Fender Rhodes from Danny Grissett – but after the first few notes, we were in love right away – and really love the sound of both Frabetti and his group on the session! Grissett is a key part of the set, and also plays some great acoustic piano as well – and the combo also features Barend Middelhof on tenor, Davide Brillante on guitar, Stefano Senni on bass, and Nicola Angelucci on drums – again, all players who are new to us, and who work together beautifully here with a strong sense of cohesion that really comes through in the colors of the sound! Frabetti's got a voice that's right on the money, and never overdone – and the balance of trumpet, tenor, guitar, and keyboards is wonderful throughout – on titles that include "Maestro Up Tempo", "Melamia", "Stessi Occhi", "Ciclico", "Piogge", and "Interno 41". ~ Dusty Groove

Fabrizio Bosso & Spiritual Trio - Someday

A very groovy record from Italian trumpet legend Fabrizo Bosso – one that features a group referred to as his Spiritual Trio, but a combo that's maybe got more of a soul jazz vibe overall – as the lineup features Alberto Marsico on organ and Alessandro Mnetto on drums! The spare format is great – open in ways that always seem to bring out the best phrasing in Bosso's horn, but with just the right moments of groove that have the trumpet and organ dancing together nicely – almost a newly-conceived variation on the the older 60s pairing of tenor and Hammond! Mario Biondi provides guest vocals on a remake of the Donny Hathaway tune "Someday We'll All Be Free" – and other instrumental tunes include "Sermonette", "Cold Duck Time", "Bernie's Toon", "I Shall Wear A Crown", "Forward", "A Lullaby", and "Say It Loud". ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Bobby Sparks II; Eunhye Jeong; Dave Soldier

Bobby Sparks II - Schizophrenia – The Yang Project

A super cosmic mix of jazz, funk, and soul – served up by keyboardist Bobby Sparks, who plays host to a huge array of guest musicians and singers! In a way, there's a vibe here that almost recreates the spirit of George Clinton's P-Funk – especially the way that Sparks can be such a strong leader, but a generous one too – really giving space to everyone who steps into the mix as the double-length album rolls on – with nice mood changes from track to track, and a very powerful vision that really ties the whole thing together! Up-and-coming talents rub shoulders here with heavyweights like Roy Hargrove, Marcus Miller, Lucky Peterson, and Frank McComb – and titles include "The Comanches Are Coming", "So Fine", "I Miss U", "All Mine", "Let's Take A Journey", "Lio Is Weird As Hell", "Stono River", "Schizophrenia", and "We Play What We Want". ~ Dusty Groove

Eunhye Jeong - The Colliding Beings

Boston-based pianist, composer and improviser Eunhye Jeong has performed with some prominent avant-garde musicians such as Wadada Leo Smith, who is also her mentor (Firehouse 12, CT), Okkyung Lee (Spectrum, NY), etc. She performed in venues such as Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, UN Headquarter, numerous universities such as Harvard, Boston College, etc. She is an alumna of Berklee College of Music and Banff International Jazz and Creative Workshop directed by Vijay Iyer. This new exciting live recording is Eunhye Jeong’s fourth record as a leader or co-leader, of her latest concert Chi-Da, the free improvisation project that encourages colliding worlds of different performers and aims to achieve the harmony through the independency of each musician involved in the act. Following her previous Chi-Da album of her solo piano works, the music displays formidable pianistic approach nuancing Cecil Taylor, his percussive approach in particular. But it also goes beyond the abstractness that free improvisation often brings about by storytelling with social commentary on historical events. This album features internationally acclaimed Pansori master Il-dong Bae, who is known not only as a true “traditionalist” who inherited national intangible asset no. 5, strictly following go-je, the ancient style, but also the one who is most open to experimental collaborations with highly regarded contemporaneous musicians around the globe. His collaborators include bassist Mark Dresser, drummer Simon Barker among others.

Dave Soldier - Zajal

Zajal, renowned Downtown composer and instrumentalist Dave Soldier explores the beginning of popular song and locates it 1000 years ago at the intersection of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures in southern Spain. Zajal, along with muwashaha, were the lyrics of medieval Andalusia. While many are still sung today (notably in Lebanon), their offspring are everywhere. On a trip to Spain in 2004, Soldier read about the Andalusian caliphate, when the Muslim, Christian and Jewish com- munities not only coexisted, but co-created much of the world we inhabit today. Together, they produced the novel, cowboy culture, the guitar, the dance suite, the Kabbalah, Maimonides and ibn Arabi and the discovery of the New World. And modern song: the zajal and muwashaha introduced the verse and chorus that are the backbone of popular music. Imitation of Andalusia's singing oud players begat the troubadours and the figure of the wandering poet and singer in its myriad incarnations, from Villon to Joni Mitchell.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Guitarist Lawson Rollins marks 20th anniversary by dropping “True North”

Jazziz names the album one of “10 Albums You Need to Know” as the first single, “Bluewave Bossanova,” is added out of the box to the SiriusXM Watercolors playlist.

Undeniably different, invitingly familiar and as masterful as ever, guitarist Lawson Rollins heads “True North” on his tenth album, a collection that commemorates the Billboard chart-topper’s 20th anniversary as a recording artist. Jazziz magazine named the Infinita Records release that dropped last Friday one of the “10 Albums You Need to Know.” With the influential SiriusXM’s Watercolors leading the charge, radio programmers are welcoming the new release by adding the first single, “Bluewave Bossanova,” to playlists out of the box, favoring a radio edit featuring Mary Fettig’s soprano sax caress. 

“True North” is the first album that Rollins composed, produced and recorded all the guitar parts on his own. He relies upon his mesmerizing classical fingerstyle guitar play to forge a unique path incorporating contemporary jazz, world music, Latin and New Age, making records that convey exotic travel, exhilarating adventure and quixotic escape. “True North” continues the quest yet it’s easy to observe a variety of new dimensions spawned from a recent spate of assorted music and film projects.  

Named by Guitar Player magazine as one of the “50 Transcedent Acoustic Guitarists” of all-time, the San Francisco-based Rollins curated a collection of his best (“Airwaves: The Greatest Hits”), experimented on “Dark Matter: Music for Film”; scored his first film, “Stay Out Stay Alive,” a multiple award winner and consistent film festival favorite that opened last November (Rollins also served as the movie’s executive producer); and collaborated on a single (“And If You Will Come With Me”) with Israeli superstar singer Idan Raichel. Rollins couldn’t help but be impacted artistically from this diversely prolific period when it came to crafting “True North.” The works expanded his sonic palette with Rollins adding electric and slide guitars, steel string guitar and interesting synthesizer textures alongside his signature classical Spanish nylon string acoustic guitar rhythms and rich melodic expressions. 
Renowned for dispensing dazzling acoustic guitar arpeggios, scales and harmonies at astonishing speed (showcased in YouTube videos that have received over 10 million views), “True North” exhibits sharper focus, self-control and command as he “stays on course” instead of wandering off on prolonged improvisational excursions. The tone of the lead guitar emotes new warmth and purity. Even the album art, consisting of sundrenched images taken on the Outer Banks (North Carolina) where Rollins spends a lot of time each year, is filled with light and soft pastels unlike earlier images. 

Rollins’ “True North” traveling mates are drummer and percussionist Dave Bryant, bassist Dan Feiszli, violinist Mads Tolling and Stephen Duros who plays additional keyboards and electric guitar on the album’s “With the Wind,” an eclectic and extravagant track unlike any ever recorded by the artist.

New Music Releases: Robert Glasper; Kuzu; DJ Muro

Robert Glasper - F**k Yo Feelings

Easily the most powerful album cover and title to date from the mighty Robert Glasper – an artist who's evolved so much in recent years, he's shifted from the world of conventional jazz to the role of an elder statesman in funk, soul, and hip hop as well! This album's got all of those sides of Glasper firmly in place, thanks to a wide array of guests – but there's also that warm, core groove that we've always loved from Robert's keyboard work – that magical flow that set him apart from the pack, and which continues to shape the sound of a generation. With the guest singers and artists, the record rivals the vibe of Glasper's Black Radio projects – and is even billed as a Black Radio Production on the front – with a lineup that includes Yasiin Bey, Herbie Hancock, Bilal, Denzel Curry, Andra Day, Song Bird, Queen Sheba, Affion Crockett, Buddy, Mick Jenkins, James Poyser, Bridget Kelly, and others – on titles that include "I Want You", "Aah Whot", "All I Do", "Liquid Swords", "In Case You Forgot", "F*ck Yo Feelings", "Let Me In", "Gone", "This Changes Everything", and "Endangered Black Woman". ~ Dusty Groove

Kuzu (Dave Rempis/Taqshi Dorji/Tyler Damon) - Purple Dark Opal

A tremendous single improvisation by this very hip trio – Taqshi Dorji on guitar, Tyler Damon on drums, and Dave Rempis on alto, tenor, and baritone sax! The drums have this very resonant quality at times – almost acting with elements that make up for the lack of a bass at times – while the guitar moves through more abstract sonic textures that are maybe some of the sharpest elements in the set – as Rempis blows with a beautifully soulful vibe, and really helps balance the sound, and ground the whole thing with his amazing, never-ending sense of imagination! The set features the 55-minute piece "To The Quick" – recorded live at Sugar Maple in Milwaukee. ~ Dusty Groove

Muro King Of Diggin – Diggin' Brunswick

DJ Muro mixes it up with the catalog of legendary soul label Brunswick Records – really digging deep into output of the mighty imprint – to come up with a wicked pastiche of funky tunes that includes bits of 40 tracks in all! The mix is more complicated than some of Muro's other outings – and while he still leaves in the best core of each tune, he also weaves them together in a wonderful way that draws definite strands together in Brunswick production, instrumentation, and songwriting – a wonderful tribute to the Chicago soul genius that flourished on the label at the end of the 60s and start of the 70s. The package features way too many snippets to mention here – but includes work from Ginji James, The Lost Generation, Tyron Davis, Bohannon, Lost Generation, Gregory James Edition, Fred Hughes, The Chi-Lites, Erma Franklin, The Eliminators, Exit 9, Gene Chandler, The Directions, Barbara Acklin, Young Holt Unlimited, and many more! ~ Dusty Groove

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Chrisitian McBride - The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons

Highlights Civil Rights Icons Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Muhammad Ali, as well as Barack Obama, Through the Voices of Sonia Sanchez, Wendell Pierce, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Dion Graham

In the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement achieved its greatest moments, gifted bassist and composer Christian McBride was not yet born. As a child in the 1970s, he learned the history of the movement in school, but due to a quirk of fate – his grandmother’s fortunate propensity for saving old things – he found another source of information that spoke to him on a more emotionally accessible level than history books.

“When I was a kid, I used to spend hours looking at old copies of Ebony and Jet magazines that my grandmother saved,” he says. “To read contemporaneous writings by black writers about events and people who were my history – our history – that was absolutely fascinating to me. It was the greatest gift my grandmother could have given to me.”

That gift played a major role in the creation of The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons, McBride’s stunning masterpiece about “the struggle,” which is now a 20 year-long, continuously evolving project. The work combines elements of jazz, gospel, big band, swing, symphony, theater and dramatic spoken word, in a clear-eyed yet optimistic look at where our society has come from and where it is hopefully headed.

Born in Philadelphia, McBride was a gifted musical prodigy who soaked up influences from every direction. At the tender age of 17, he was recruited by saxophonist Bobby Watson to join his group, Horizon. During the 1990s, he proceeded to work with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea as well as major pop and rock stars like Sting, Paul McCartney, James Brown and Celine Dion. His abilities were also coveted by the classical music world, including opera legends Kathleen Battle and Renee Fleming.

In 1998, a musical commission from the Portland (Maine) Arts Society set in motion what would eventually become a major part of his life’s work. The only stipulation for the commission was that it had to include a choir. “At that time, I called it a musical portrait of the Civil Rights Movement,” Christian says. “I thought about those times and decided that rather than try to write a history of the movement, I wanted to evoke its spirit and feeling.”

Written for just a quartet and gospel choir, that original version of The Movement Revisited gave only a hint of what the piece would eventually become. In 2008, the L.A. Philharmonic asked if he would like to remake it as a far bigger version for their upcoming season.

The Movement Revisited grew into a sweeping four-part suite for big jazz band, small jazz group, gospel choir and four narrators who convey the pain and pathos, euphoria, joy and ultimately hope of the struggle through the words and writings of four iconic figures, not only of the movement, but America: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.

“The movement was obviously much bigger than the four historic figures I included,” Christian notes. “But these four icons are people that touched me deeply, therefore I decided to put the tagline “A Musical Portrait of Four Icons” as opposed to calling it a portrait of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In 2008, the new version of The Movement Revisited premiered to universal acclaim in a celebrated performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. A few months later, Barack Obama was elected President and McBride was asked by the Detroit Jazz Festival to perform The Movement Revisited again, this time at Detroit’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Detroit Jazz Festival asked him to expand the suite to include President Obama, which led to the creation of a fifth and final section of the suite, “Apotheosis, November 4th, 2008,” in which the icons quote Obama’s victory speech.

When time came to record The Movement Revisited for the album release, McBride began the all-important casting of four narrators who needed to possess the empathy, humor and gravitas to bring the words of these civil rights legends to life, especially for a new, younger audience.

For the voice of Rosa Parks, he made what some may have thought an unexpected voice by casting a non-actor – Sonia Sanchez, the great poet, author and artist. “She’s so majestic,” says McBride. “Sonia is one of our greatest voices. She was part of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and early 70s.” To portray Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he turned to the great character actor Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme), who possessed the stirring presence and ringing tones necessary for the role. Two other great actors, Vondie Curtis-Hall (Chicago Hope, Daredevil) and Dion Graham (Malcolm X, The Wire) were recruited by McBride to play Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, respectively. Both do a remarkable job of channeling the passion, fury and in Ali’s case, his razor-sharp humor.

It might seem the divided times in which we find ourselves right now are crying out for the album release of a work such as The Movement Revisited, and for Christian McBride the evolution of the piece has come to fruition at just the right moment.

“If you look at history, there were a number of artists who dedicated their music to what was going on in terms of the struggle,” McBride says. “In many ways, there are some new battles we’re fighting, but I feel that these new battles fall under the umbrella of equality, fairness and human rights – and that’s an old battle.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Pianist Satoko Fujii and Bassist Joe Fonda Release Their Latest Album "Four"

No one could have predicted that when pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and bassist-composer Joe Fonda first performed together in 2015, the duo would develop into the major collaboration it has become. And yet, four years down the road, they have toured extensively and released three CDs, all of which received rapturous critical praise. Now they present their fourth album, Four (Long Song Records, November 8, 2019), recorded in Japan with special guest trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. The inspiration that Fujii and Fonda draw from each other and the creative freedom they feel when they work together has kept their duo growing and deepening. This new release holds plenty of surprises. 

“Satoko and I have created a strong body of work in a very short time of performing together as a duo and as a trio with Natsuki Tamura,” Fonda says of his work with the Japanese pianist. “The thing I love so much about playing with Satoko, and the lesson she imparts to me on every concert is, to play music without the ego being part of the process. Satoko plays from the love of music. She is selfless and leaves her ego at home when she comes to play. What a priceless lesson I receive each and every time we perform.”

For her part, Fujii also finds the duo’s music liberating. “While we often don’t notice, we really are tied up and hindered by many things. It is not easy to be truly free and not be affected by these things,” she says. “Joe is a musician who can release himself from these influences. When I play with him, I feel I also can be released from these invisible ropes and begin to find that freedom.” 

The freedom and selflessness that Fonda and Fujii cite are evident from the opening moments of the album. They remain strong individuals, but they each subsume themselves to the music they are making in the moment. They are both generous musical partners, and on “Painted by Moonlight,” each uses space judiciously to leave room for the other to contribute. “Diamonds in the Rough” features some high-level melodic counterpoint between them, with one voice coexisting equally with the other. In contrast, “Cannot Do More Than That” finds them engaged in a call and response dialogue, taking turns advancing the piece, developing the last thing played, and handing it back. While the music becomes abstract and quite complex on “The Wind as it Bends,” they make eloquent music with the simplest of materials on the contemplative “Gift from Billy,” on which Fonda plays wood flute. 

When Tamura joins on the final two pieces, the trio displays with the same balance of voices and sonic resourcefulness as the duo. The wide-ranging “Stars in Complete Darkness” evolves from its lyrical opening to pure sound explorations and back over the course of more than 20 minutes. The beautifully sustained group improvisation is highlighted by some of Fujii’s most probing playing. She consistently moves in unexpected directions as one note or a single chord deflects her line along a new trajectory. Elsewhere during the performance, Tamura’s wide sonic palette and Fujii’s delicate and colorful playing inside the piano, coupled with Fonda’s rich arco drones yields gorgeous sonic tone poems. The concluding “We Meet as Three” is an elaborate conversation among three of the most inventive musicians at work in improvised music today. 

Joe Fonda “is a serious seeker of new musical horizons,” according to the Boston Phoenix. From 1984 to 1999, he was the bassist with composer-improviser and NEA Jazz Master Anthony Braxton. Fonda also has been an integral member of several cooperative bands, including the Fonda-Stevens Group with Michael Jefry Stevens, Herb Robertson, and Harvey Sorgen; Conference Call, with Gebhard Ullmann, Stevens, and George Schuller; the Fab Trio with Barry Altschul and Billy Bang; and the Nu Band with Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, and Lou Grassi. He is currently a member of The 3dom Factor, Alschul’s trio with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, and guitarist Michael Musillami’s trio, among others. He has led some truly unique ensembles of his own including From the Source, which features four instrumentalists, a tap dancer, and a body healer/vocalist; and Bottoms Out, a sextet with Gerry Hemingway, Joe Daley, Michael Rabinowitz, Claire Daly, and Gebhard Ullmann. He has released twelve recordings under his own name. 

Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She’s “a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and folk music into an innovative style instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific band leader and recording artist, she celebrated her 60th birthday in 2018 by releasing one album a month from bands old and new, from solo to large ensemble. Franz A. Matzner in All About Jazz likened the twelve albums to “an ecosystem of independently thriving organisms linked by the shared soil of Fujii's artistic heritage and shaped by the forces of her creativity.” 

Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Her ongoing duet project with husband Natsuki Tamura released their sixth recording, Kisaragi, in 2017. “The duo's commitment to producing new sounds based on fresh ideas is second only to their musicianship,” says Karl Ackermann in All About Jazz. Aspiration, a CD by an ad hoc quartet featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura, and Ikue Mori, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. “Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration,” writes S. Victor Aaron in Something Else. As the leader of no less than five orchestras in the U.S., Germany, and Japan (two of which, Berlin and Tokyo, released new CDs in 2018), Fujii has also established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, “the Ellington of free jazz.”

Monday, January 27, 2020

New Music Releases: Chris Standring; Muriel Grossmann; Afrodyssey Orchestra

Chris Standring – Real Life

One of contemporary urban jazz’s most prolific hitmakers since the late 90s with 13 Billboard Top 10 singles and 6 #1s, Chris Standring takes the opportunity on his 13th solo album to acknowledge the sometimes-harsh twists and turns of Real Life. Yet rather than give into circumstances beyond his control, the British born, L.A. based guitarist offers a truly uplifting way forward on this joyful soul-jazz infused retro-flavoured set. Includes: Is There A Doctor In The House?; Out Of The Blue; Whatever She Wants; In Other Words; Shake You Up; What Goes Around; Living The Poetry; Another Train; Tell Me A Bedtime Story; This Mess Is A Place; and Prelude From Bach Cello Suite 1.

Muriel Grossmann - Reverence

Tremendous sounds from Muriel Grossmann – a saxophonist who's fast becoming one of our favorite on the planet! As with Muriel's previous records, there's a strongly spiritual vibe going on here – but there's also a difference, too – as the group's expanded to a quintet, with the addition of the organ of Llorenc Barcelo next to the familiar trio of Radomir Milokovic on guitar, Gina Schwarz on bass, and Uros Stamenkovic on drums! The rhythms of the combo are every bit as wonderful as Muriel's soaring, searching solos – very modal, but also with deeper rootsy currents too – often mixed with sounds from the organ that are unlike anything you'd hear in a more conventional Hammond setting, which further creates this exotic, otherworldly vibe to the whole record. Grossmann blows soprano, alto, and tenor – and all titles are originals, and include "Chase", "Tribu", "Okan Ti Aye", "Morning", "Afrika Mahala", and "Water Bowl". ~ Dusty Groove

Afrodyssey Orchestra - Under The Sun

Great diaspora sounds from Afrodyssey Orchestra – a group who bring so much more to their music than most of their contemporaries – in ways that both tap into their native cultural history in Greece, and really open up some of the deeper jazz currents of their songs! Instrumentation includes the percussion elements you might expect – but we're even more captivated by the work on keyboards and tenor – which really sparkle throughout, and which make the record often feel like some futurist fusion reimagining of Afro Funk inspirations – with a nice lean sound that's more small combo than "orchestra"! Titles include "One For Ry", "Under The Sun", "Sisters & Brothers", "Three Tigers & Three Baby Tigers", "Soil Festivities", and "Mama Africa". ~ Dusty Groove

Sunday, January 26, 2020

New Music Releases: Alex Puddu, Jeff Parker, Jim Snidero

Alex Puddu - Discotheque

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Alex Puddu is coming back with his brand new album “Discotheque”. Recorded between Copenhagen (at Panalama and Sexy Lady Studios) and New York (Soundwork Recording Studios), it consists of a strong set of soulful and melodic tracks with a tight production that brings you back to the late ’70s and early ’80s jazz-funk and boogie music scene.The album opens up with three singles in a row: “You Are My Fire”, “Be My Lover” and the UK radio station airplay hit “Don’t Hold Back”, all of them co-written with and featuring Gene Robinson Jr., lead vocalist of the legendary Philadelphia R&B/funk band Breakwater. Other remarkable special guests on vocals are Duane Hobson, on the jazz-funk finest “Back Against The Wall” and the disco-groove “Saturday Night”, and the young Danish vocalist Sawa on the sweet soul-reggae ballad “Release The Catch”. The Album contains also some great instrumental tracks, like the title-track that sees Alex Puddu behind the drumkit once again, the sexy-exploitation “Love Affair”, “Fight Together”, “Nightflight” and “Blue Lines”. Two of today’s coolest bassists also played on “Discotheque”: Paul Westwood, who worked with David Bowie, Nick Kershaw, Elton John and Italian iconic artist Lucio Battisti on the 1978 pop soul masterpiece “Una Donna Per Amico”, and Bob Callero, most known for his activity with Italian ’70s prog bands – Franco Battiato’s Osage Tribe, Duello Madre, Il volo – and pop artists – Lucio Battisti, Loredana Berté.

Jeff Parker — Suite For Max Brown

Mindblowing music from Jeff Parker – sounds that we always knew were part of his core, but which have maybe taken most of his career to emerge! This album follows beautifully from Jeff's previous album for International Anthem – and like that one, it's an explosion of new and old ideas at once – jazz elements with soul currents, all put together with a complexity that lives up to Parker's long legacy in music, but which also has an organic appeal that makes the whole thing come together with effortless ease! There's plenty of sophistication in the sound, but it also sneaks in with lots of grooves that Jeff never had before – including some funky currents that come from Parker's work on keyboards, drums, and samples in addition to his usual guitar – and added drums from Jamire Williams and Makaya McCraven. Titles include "Lydian Etc", "Build A Nest", "Del Rio", "3 For L", "Fusion Swirl", "After The Rain", and "Max Brown". ~ Dusty Groove

Jim Snidero - Project K

The Project K here is a reference to Korea – a culture that saxophonist Jim Snidero has been engaging with for the past few decades, and which takes a very strong form here in his music! The album is one of Snidero's most compelling in years – and features a group that's already great on its own – with Dave Douglas on trumpet, Linda Oh on bass, Orrin Evans on piano, and Rudy Royston on drums – who are then joined by Do Yeon Kim on gayageum – a stringed instrument with older Korean roots, which is inflected into the core jazz proceedings of the group in really amazing ways! Snidero blows alto with a really seductive, soulful vibe – and the match of his edge and the older currents of the gayageum is really amazing – as the whole group stretches out on long tunes that include "Han", "Jeju", "Seoulful", and "Jenga". ~ Dusty Groove

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Laura Nyro More Than a New Discovery LP

Seldom has the title of a debut album been more apt than the one that graced Laura Nyro's 1967 release, More Than a New Discovery. This was not the mere first foray of a budding talent. Instead, More Than a New Discovery introduced a fully-realized, remarkably mature (at the age of 19!) singer-songwriter whose singular fusion of pop, jazz, R&B, soul, Broadway, and folk sounds created some of the most beloved songs in modern popular music. 

Now, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to reissue, for the first time ever on vinyl (and in homage to Laura's favorite color), More Than a New Discovery in a limited violet vinyl edition limited to 1250 copies. Which, ordinarily, would be news enough! But there's more to the story. First of all, More Than a New Discovery, originally released on Verve Folkways in 1967, premiered the songs that Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat and Tears, and The 5th Dimension would all take up the charts, including 'Stoney End,' 'And When I Die,' 'Blowin' Away,' and perhaps the most famous song Nyro ever wrote, 'Wedding Bell Blues.' But both the Verve Forecast and, later, Columbia labels reissued this record as The First Songs with new artwork, a different song order and added reverb. 

This limited edition restores the original cover art and album sequence, and, even better, offers the incredibly rare, dedicated mono mix'according to Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Laura's preferred mode of audio reproduction' from the very first version of the album as remastered from the original tapes by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios, with lacquer cutting by Clint Holley at Well Made Music. And, we have added an insert featuring photos and notes by The Second Disc's Joe Marchese that place the record in context of Nyro's remarkable career. One of the most momentous vinyl reissues in many a moon!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Brian Simpson & Steve Oliver Are A Winning Combination On "Unified"

On Unified Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver enlist help from bassist Alex Al, drummer Eric Valentine and percussionist Ramon Yslas. The CD opens with the inviting, spicy and funky title track and album’s first single. Simpson and Oliver set the perfect mood to take you for a spin on the dance floor with a righteous combination of sophistication and soul. The exquisite “The Road Never Ends” travels a euphoric path with its shifting and pulsating rhythms, sailing melodies and harmonic twists. A few tracks on Unified lean towards Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver’s affinity for EDM. “Our original vision for the CD was more of an electronic music concept, but as it is evolved it moved more into a Contemporary Jazz project.” Two of the tracks that showcase this vibe are the hypnotic “What The Wind Knows,” and the ethereal “Last Summer.” “I am a big fan of electronic music and I like the combination of great rhythms and melodies with acoustic instruments and electronic sounds,” shares Oliver who is a fan of both Art of Noise and Dzihan & Kamien. Label-mate and trumpeter Rick Braun joins Simpson and Oliver on the bluesy swinger “Fired Up,” while the tender “Like No Other” will have you singing its sweet and ear-catching melody in no time.

“There is a tremendous amount of respect between us,” confides Brian Simpson. “Our greatest asset is that we complement one another. Our strengths are different and that is what makes these compositions come to life in such an original way...a way that neither of us could recreate individually.” Simpson and Oliver’s chemistry is brilliantly illuminated on the track “The Way Home.” Their joie de vivre is wrapped in every note and the tracks uplifting and triumphant flow. Perfection! “Celestial Body” is a sensual R&B laced track while “Café Du Monde” draws inspiration from the Crescent City. Simpson explains, “This song made me envision a cafe setting and Café Du Monde is a place I’ve enjoyed on my visits to New Orleans.” Unified closes with two striking ballads; “A Distant Love” and “And Then You Loved Me.” Oliver shares of the latter, “We wrote this song at Brian’s studio in one day. We recorded it playing live together with just piano, nylon guitar, and acoustic Bass. It’s one of my favorites.”

Hailing from Gurnee, Illinois and based in Los Angeles, Brian Simpson always knew music would play center stage in his life. “Our house was filled with music. My older brother and sister both played instruments, and my brother's rock band rehearsed in our living room every weekend,” shares the keyboardist whose father introduced him to jazz. Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” In 2007 Simpson released Above the Clouds, featuring the hits “What Cha Gonna Do?” and “Juicy.” After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Simpson relocated to Los Angeles where he quickly immersed himself in the local jazz scene, playing alongside everyone from saxophonists Everette Harp and Boney James to guitarist Norman Brown. Simpson would go on to tour the world with pop divas Teena Marie, Sheena Easton and Janet Jackson. In January, 1991 he co-wrote the #1 Pop hit “The First Time” by Surface, which conquered both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts.  Simpson who has been musical director for Dave Koz for close to 20 years has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, George Howard, Billy Cobham, and Gerald Albright. In 2010 Simpson released South Beach whose title track snagged a #1 slot on the charts. Just What You Need followed in 2013 featuring the Antônio Carlos Jobim/ Vinicius de Moraes classic “The Girl From Ipanema” which hit #1 on the charts and “Emerald City,” a Top 3 hit. 2015’s Out Of A Dream featured the Top Ten single “Skywatcher.” 2016 saw the release of Persuasion which featured the Top 10 single “Wonderland” and Something About You in 2018 featuring the smash single “Morning Samba.”

“I knew from birth that I wanted to play and create music. My earliest memory was in the crib and wanting to climb out and get closer to the stereo to turn it up,” reflects Steve Oliver. With a career spanning over two decades and multiple #1 hits (including “High Noon,” “Fun In The Sun” and “Global Kiss), Oliver has been a first-call producer and writer for many of his contemporaries on the Contemporary Jazz scene. His recording debut came in 1999 with the release of First View, which was followed by Positive Energy in 2002. The album spawned three hit singles and garnered the guitarist a Debut Artist of the Year award from Smooth Jazz News. In 2004, Spyro Gyra keyboardist Tom Schuman produced Oliver's third album, 3-D which featured Harvey Mason and Eric Marienthal, among others. 2006 saw the release of two recording sessions from Oliver, Radiant and the Christmas recording Snowfall. The experience of Steve Oliver’s exhilarating live performance at the State Theatre in Modesto, CA, along with behind the scenes footage is harnessed on the 2008 two-disc CD/DVD set One Night Live. Oliver’s fifth studio recording, Global Kiss (2010) showcases his vocal chops on three tracks and highlights the singles “Fun In The Sun,” “Ba Aye” and “Angel Amore.” 2012 saw the release of World Citizen and the compilation Best Of So Far followed in 2014. Steve Oliver recorded his long-awaited and first all-vocal project in 2016, Pictures & Frames, at the famed Capitol Studios along with the all-star rhythm section of bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Steve Oliver’s most recent solo recording is Illuminate (2018) and features all originals alongside saxophonist Nelson Rangell, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Joel Taylor.

At a time where human interaction is being replaced by screen time and people seem to be more focused on our differences rather than our commonalities, it is refreshing to experience something that speaks to the soul. Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver’s Unified is a refreshing journey to a happy place. Simpson concludes, “Music has the unparalleled ability make a profound difference in all of our lives.” Oliver adds, “I sure love this album even after writing it and listening to it a thousand times. I never tire of it and hope people will feel the same!!!”

Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra Releases Jazz Party

For the better part of a decade, acclaimed trombonist, producer and composer Delfeayo Marsalis has spent Wednesday nights at the helm of his sprawling Uptown Jazz Orchestra’s residency at Snug Harbor in New Orleans. With Jazz Party, Marsalis’ seventh album as a leader, he delivers an original composition-heavy set of music that showcases the same exuberant energy of those shows, complete with modernized twists on New Orleans songbook gems and musical traditions, and swinging, groove-infused homages to the contributions of modern jazz masters.

Spiked with the NEA Jazz Master’s wry wit and visionary production acumen, Jazz Party sees Marsalis – along with Roger Lewis, Terrance Taplin, Khari Lee,  and more of the Crescent City’s finest musicians – making a strong musical case for the notion modern New Orleans jazz can and should be as celebratory in nature as it is cerebral in execution. 

“Music, like all art, should have some type of contemporary relevance,” Marsalis says, joking that his decision to call 2016’s UJO recording premiere Make America Great Again missed fulfilling its “comedic relief potential” by “a few votes” in the 2016 election. 

“Jazz, the indigenous American music, is a music of celebration and optimism,” he continues. “The Uptown Jazz Orchestra is such a fun band that I wanted to capture its uniqueness. The idea was to keep the wide variety of styles that we play but to really capture the joy that is a central trademark of the band.” 

Recorded in February and May 2019 at New Orleans’ Esplanade Studios with the help of Marsalis’ longtime production partner Patrick Smith (and without the so-called “dreaded bass direct”), Jazz Party opens with a laidback and languorous title track that brings “The Voice” alum Tonya Boyd-Cannon’s gospel roots in touch with the band’s preternatural sense of groove. 

The Dirty Dozen’s Roger Lewis, an original member of the UJO, contributes another album highlight with his burning “Blackbird Special” solo as the band delivers a perfect balance of wiggle, funk and propulsive motion that urges its way forward, second line-style. 

The breezy “Seventh Ward Boogaloo” shifts gears to highlight the lasting influence of musicians who have historically called that neighborhood home, from Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet to Lee Dorsey and Allen Toussaint.

Another standout, the Marsalis original “Raid on the Mingus House Party,” turns up the tension with a dramatic horn section performance that kicks off the narrative arc implied by the title before Ryan Hanseler’s gorgeously restrained piano work guides the melody away from the proverbial cliff’s edge. According to Marsalis, it was inspired by “aspects of the current social climate in America” that seem to be continually “heightened by extreme political negativity, mass shootings and racial community divisions.” When all ten of the tune’s moving melodic parts get resolved, the music reminds us that, as Marsalis puts it, “love for humanity” really can “reign victorious” even in the most troubled and confusing times. 

The album begins and ends its second half with two takes on “Mboya’s Midnight Cocktail,” delivering the kind of funny bar banter one might overhear between sets during a UJO performance at Snug Harbor. 

Between the first incarnation and its final reprise, the orchestra serves up a hilarious riff on its hometown’s hyper-local obsessions (“I’m so New Orleans I remember when crawfish was $1.27 a pound,” Dr. Brice Miller raps on “So New Orleans”); the Scott Johnson centric jump blues meets “modern tonality” flavored “Irish Whiskey Blues” and an anthemic rendition of the Soul Rebels’ “Let Your Mind Be Free,” plus funk-laced tributes to Roy Hargrove (“Dr. Hardgroove”) and New Orleans’ cultural connections to the Caribbean (“Caribbean Second Line”). 

Jazz Party offers a deftly varied look at the role of joy, humor and straight-up fun in jazz, an artform Marsalis points out in his liner notes was created by a group of people seeking to “define life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in a “psychological vacuum” necessitated by the systematic denial of their own human rights. That one band can so compellingly reflect the many nuances embedded in that fundamental cultural concept is a major artistic achievement in itself. 

Over the course of his prolific career, trombonist, composer, producer, educator and NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalishas been hailed as one of the “most imaginative...trombonists of his generation,” a title that reflects decades of musical exploration, preparation and risk-taking, much of which began during his childhood in New Orleans, where his father, Ellis Marsalis, introduced him to jazz in the family home. Eventually, Delfeayo says, he “gravitated toward the trombone,” which felt like “an extension of my personality.” He was simultaneously developing his ear for music production after his brothers, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, piqued his interest in the process, which he continued to develop while producing their demo tapes and interning at Allen Toussaint’s Sea Saint Studio. He’s gone on to produce more than 100 recordings for artists including his brothers, his father, Spike Lee, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and others. An exceptional trombonist, Delfeayo has toured internationally with bands led by Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Abdullah Ibrahim, Max Roach and Elvin Jones, as well as his own groups. 

Jazz Party, the trombonist’s second studio album with his 10-plus-year-old Uptown Jazz Orchestra, comes on the heels of 2017’s live album, Kalamazoo, and 2016’s UJO studio recording debut, Make America Great Again!, which uses the orchestra’s stylistic fluidity to fuse its hometown sound and musical history with songs associated with American patriotism. Other highlights in his discography include The Last Southern Gentlemen (2014), his first album-length collaboration with his father and 2010’s stunning Sweet Thunder, a fresh octet reimagination of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s suite of the same name. Pontius Pilate’s Decision (1992), his dramatic musical take on biblical tales, remains a standout. 

Delfeayo recently served as Music Producer for the film “Bolden!,” a mythical account of the life of Buddy Bolden, and has worked extensively in arts education. He holds a master’s degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville and an honorary doctorate from New England College. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Pianist Satoko Fujii and Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida Reunite for New Duet Album Baikamo

Fifteen years after their last recording together, pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and drummer Taysuya Yoshida reignite the burning intensity of their Toh-Kichi duet project on Baikamo (December 13, 2019 via Libra). Merging art-rock muscle with free jazz and contemporary classical abstractions, Fujii and Yoshida make music that is both gleefully playful and in-your-face energetic.

“As Toh-Kichi, Tatsuya and I played together even after our last album, Erans, came out in 2004, but not regularly,” Fujii says. “This time, we were asked by an organizer to play a concert in Hiroshima. We wanted to play some new repertoire, so we both composed new pieces for Toh-Kichi. We made a short tour after Hiroshima and we decided to record our new compositions since we had so much fun playing together again!”

And really, for all its avant-garde trappings, Toh-Kichi is a lot of fun. Fujii and Yoshida egg one another on, daring each other to take chances and rising to the occasion every time. The music may zig and zag in many directions, melodies may explode into pure sound or clashing dissonance, but it is all a high-spirited good time, an excess of joie de vivre. For instance, Yoshida’s “Aspherical Dance,” a melodic framework that suggests areas in which to improvise without limiting options, brims with exuberant energy and even the dissonant tornados of piano notes and percussion aren’t menacing, but more like outbursts of pure joy. On Fujii’s “Baikamo,” Yoshida’s unexpected stops and starts create an asymmetric landscape over which Fujii bubbles and flows with rippling phrases buoyed by percussive chords. Sparks fly on Yoshida’s “Climber’s High” as Fujii, playing the piano like 88 tuned drums, and Yoshida, unleashing rapid fire melodic rhythms, clash and interact. “Ice Age” is one of the most evocative tone poems Fujii has ever recorded, featuring eerie vocalizing from both Yoshida and Fujii, as she elicities otherworldly drones and sparkling plucked notes from inside the piano. 
In addition to debuting their new compositions, Fujii and Yoshida also engage in eight free improvisations, each one distinctive and daring. On “Ajhisakdafitch” (Yoshida gave each improv its unique title), Fujii creates unusual timbres on prepared piano, which Yoshida matches with his own colorful responses. They shadow one another in an amazing display of their intuitive connection. “Ovgwebkwum” grows slowly out of strange rattles and hums, as if they are not sure where they’re going, but they are enjoying the journey. “Zpajigemfluxss” overflows with energy. They pick up ideas from one another, then blow them apart, start from a new antic rhythmic melody and bat it around between them.
“I think he is musically very unique,” Fujii says of Yoshida. “He has his own voice and he has no hesitation about making music with his own thoughts and feelings. I believe that is the most important thing for a musician to do. I always respect creators who follow their own voices and don’t imitate others.”
Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida has been called the “indisputable master drummer of the Japanese underground” and a “rhythm section gone ballistic.” Best known as a founding member of the progressive-rock drums + bass duo, The Ruins, he has also been a member of influential zeuhl bands such as Koenjihyakkei, Akaten, and Korekyojinn. In addition to being an occasional member of John Zorn’s legendary jazzcore band PainKiller, he has collaborated with other notable experimentalists such as Fred Frith, Derek Bailey, Keiji Haino, Otomo Yoshihide, and Richard Pinhas, among many others. Yoshida also tours and records extensively as a solo artist.
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She’s “a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and folk music into an innovative style instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific band leader and recording artist, she celebrated her 60th birthday in 2018 by releasing one album a month from bands old and new, from solo to large ensemble. Franz A. Matzner in All About Jazz likened the twelve albums to “an ecosystem of independently thriving organisms linked by the shared soil of Fujii's artistic heritage and shaped by the forces of her creativity.”
Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Her ongoing duet project with husband Natsuki Tamura released their sixth recording, Kisaragi, in 2017. “The duo's commitment to producing new sounds based on fresh ideas is second only to their musicianship,” says Karl Ackermann in All About Jazz. Aspiration, a CD by an ad hoc quartet featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura, and Ikue Mori, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. “Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration,” writes S. Victor Aaron in Something Else. As the leader of no less than five orchestras in the U.S., Germany, and Japan (two of which, Berlin and Tokyo, released new CDs in 2018), Fujii has also established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, “the Ellington of free jazz.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

New Music Releases: The Music Of Wayne Shorter: Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchester; Aretha Franklin; Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon

The Music Of Wayne Shorter: Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestera With Wynton Marsalis

The Music of Wayne Shorter will be Blue Engine Records’ initial physical album release of 2020. The CD, recorded live at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2015, features the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis alongside 11-time Grammy Award  (including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy) winner Wayne Shorter performing. Each of the album’s 10 songs—which include “Yes or No,” “Endangered Species,” and “Teru”—is a classic Shorter composition given an invigorating new arrangement by a JLCO member. Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director, says, "Wayne Shorter is at the highest level of our music—you can’t get any higher than him. Everybody strives to have a personal sound: Wayne’s sound is definitive.”

Aretha Franklin - Atlantic Singles 1968 (4 X 7 inch box set) (2019 Black Friday Release)

The cover may look a bit scientific – but the music is plenty soulful throughout – a package that brings together four key singles from that momentous musical year of 1968 – a time when Aretha Franklin was really finding her sound at Atlantic Records! The music here represents Aretha really stretching out from the earlier years – not just in the deep soul modes that would forever put her on the map – but also with some sophisticated touches that would forever earn her a place as the first lady of soul – as you'll hear on titles that include "My Song", "See Saw", "I Say A Little Prayer", "Since You've Been Gone", "Ain't No Way", "Think", "You Send Me", and "The House That Jack Built". Great design, too – a book-style cover, with the singles in the pages!  ~ Dusty Groove

Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon - Goshu Ondo Suite

One of the most beautiful albums we've ever heard from pianist Eri Yamamoto – in large part because of the presence of the Choral Cameleon vocal group! The mix of piano and voice is wonderful – haunting and powerful, in a way that reminds us of some of the best Vince Guaraldi experiments of this type – but with a sharper edge, as you might guess from the piano of Yamamoto – and support from David Ambrosio on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums! Sometimes the voices rise high and proud – as in a Max Roach jazz-with-voices album – other times they drift dreamily, providing more of a subtle ascendant current to the lines of the piano. Either way is great to our ears – a really wonderful record – and tracks feature the long "Goshu Ondo Suite", plus "Echo Of Echo". ~ Dusty Groove

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Trumpeter John Vanore & Pianist Ron Thomas to Release Long-Lost Duo Recordings as Primary Colors

In the small, elite group of performing musicians better known as composers, arrangers and bandleaders, the trumpeter John Vanore has carved out a uniquely brilliant niche. Vanore, who was still a teenager when his life’s mission was made clear after he heard the great Oliver Nelson, is best known for helming Abstract Truth, an innovative, long-running ensemble combining the flexibility of a combo with the might of a big band. Over the past four decades, he’s earned the kind of gushing press rare for any jazz artist—much less one who directs an unconventional little-big-band. “Vanore’s touch with ensemble texture and color, and his sense of narrative timing, recall Gil Evans,” wrote Stereophile, before going on to call Vanore’s Easter Island Suite “a musical portrait of wonder.” JazzTimes has chosen hosannas like “hauntingly beautiful,” “well crafted,” “stirring orchestration” and “edgy.”

Now, after so much acclaim for his signature ensemble, Vanore is releasing Primary Colors, a compelling collection of seven sonic adventures that he recorded with the keyboardist and composer Ron Thomas in 1984 and ’85. Captured just outside the musicians’ native Philadelphia, these duo-logues provide a fascinating snapshot of both Vanore’s career and improvised music in the midst of an underrated era when so much about jazz was in flux—the music’s aesthetics, its culture, even its technology. As a showcase for Vanore the masterful trumpeter—a veteran of Woody Herman’s hard-touring band, and a devoted pupil of John Coltrane’s Philly-based mentor, guitarist Dennis Sandole—Primary Colors is at once a stunning time-capsule piece and a harbinger of more elastic, more compact and increasingly player-centric Vanore music to come.

Thomas was a sophisticated user of the (at the time) cutting-edge Yamaha DX7 synth, whose idiosyncratic sounds are the stuff electronic musicians and hip-hop producers continue to seek out. Those timbres, like the rest of Primary Colors, are an emblem of a golden pocket on jazz’s timeline when improvisation, pop, R&B and jazz-rock coalesced in wild and wonderful ways. “There was a lot going on,” Vanore says today with a chuckle, looking back on the heady period that bore Primary Colors. “There were really a lot of things converging.” 

For years he’d been a first-call trumpeter on live shows and studio dates, but those opportunities were starting to slow down, waylaid by the discotheque and the increasing computerization of music production. Suddenly Vanore had time and energy to spare, and he channeled the surplus into Abstract Truth and his snowballing interest in large-ensemble writing and direction. Galvanized by Nelson’s vibrant orchestrations, Vanore architected an unusually brass-focused lineup of horns, plus a rhythm section that achieved fresh colorations by swapping out piano for guitar. 

Thomas, however, had no problem bringing a bold new palette into Vanore’s fold. A visionary player with whom the trumpeter had gigged around town, Thomas crafted lyrical improvisations with an orchestrator’s attention to the structure of his lines—he was, after all, a direct pupil of Stockhausen as well as a lifelong disciple of Bill Evans and Miles. Vanore shared similar sensibilities, and the two friends began joining up to play exploratory duets. The setting was a rehearsal room at Widener University, Vanore’s alma mater and the institution where he made his career as an educator. Vanore was gradually outfitting the room with recording equipment, and Terry Hoffman, the trumpeter’s gifted and knowledgeable go-to engineer, played producer, refining the music’s textures by facilitating overdubs and judiciously applying then-state-of-the-art delay and reverb units. Hoffman “mixed at will,” Vanore writes in his liner notes, “creating the cinematic sound environment appropriate for the pieces to realize their emotional impact.” Vanore recovered most of the music when he was reorganizing his basement in the summer of 2019 and came across some old cassettes. He completed the extensive necessary audio restoration in his home studio.     

The sessions’ only real protocol was a willingness to experiment, in the way of sound, song form and more. “We weren’t approaching this stuff like head/solos/head,” Vanore recalls. “Our approach was more compositional.” Spontaneity was also paramount, and while there may be multiple overdubbed layers at various points, a single-take ethic was honored throughout the informal sessions. In the end, the reason Primary Colors sounds so extraordinary—daring in its sonics yet intimate and empathetic in its interplay—is that it was never supposed to be a commercial release to begin with. 

The seven tracks that make up this eavesdropped gem are distinctive environments with their own otherworldly charms. Thomas’ “Final Dawn” features Vanore’s thoughtful, singing flugelhorn lines atop elegiac piano. On the DX7, Thomas overdubs fleet, watery organ-sounding choruses. He also adds a percussive element via small cymbals and tiny drumsticks, which Vanore recalls as being “almost like chopsticks.” Through Hoffman’s close mic placement and a dollop of reverb, the metal has a crisp, potent presence. 

“Lady,” the Lionel Richie-penned smash, is reinvented as the kind of ethereal tour de force you might expect to hear on an unsung classic from ECM’s thrilling early years. Vanore first dug the melody while working a commercial gig. Soaked through with overdubs, he says, “it became a tapestry of sound with the trumpet, flugelhorn and piano making interactive comments in and around the melody.” “Yesterdays” and “A Time for Love” underscore the duo’s imaginative and seemingly telepathic way with standard repertoire. 

“Origins of Rude” arrives like a thunderbolt of crude funk. Vanore had Thomas play a beyond-funky 7/4 bassline on Fender Rhodes, which became an analog tape-loop foundation for one-take multi-tracks. The trumpeter plays blasts and bleats reflecting the rough-and-tumble phrasing of electric Miles, as Thomas offers zany stabs of DX7, conjuring up B-movie soundtracks as well as the avant-garde wing of ’80s fusion and funk. Vanore’s overdubbed snare hits provide an off-kilter kind of thrust and momentum. The tune’s title reflects its status as a sketch or seed for “Rude,” a fleshed-out work that would appear on Abstract Truth’s 2010 album, Curiosity. Even on an album filled with sounds that are so dated they’ve become strikingly fresh, “Origins of Rude” stands out as supremely evocative. When Tarantino needs score for a bar scene in a cyberpunk blaxploitation flick, this delightfully weird cut should be it. Vanore and Thomas find their way back to more elegant fare with the former’s “Return,” a gorgeous conversation between flugelhorn and Rhodes, and a creative take on “Secret Love.” With Thomas’ quirky DX7 timbres and swinging cymbals, the latter track approaches the energy and muscle of a combo at full mid-to-uptempo tilt.  

Primary Colors also provides Vanore with an opportunity to counter the very good predicament he’s created for himself. After so many extolled sessions in which his writing and arranging have defined his identity, and his playing has been tastefully submerged in his ensemble’s hues, it’s a pleasure to hear him just open up and blow again. His fluid virtuosity will remind listeners of his lifelong devotion to Miles, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer and other greats. His playing also highlights his post-collegiate months on the road with Woody Herman, and his extensive studies under Philadelphia guitarist Dennis Sandole, a mentor to John Coltrane. Vanore is an “intriguing trumpeter [who] pushes expressive possibilities,” DownBeat wrote in one article; in another, the jazz bible praised Vanore’s strength as a player and his “pristine melodic sense.” 

Ultimately, Primary Colors points a way forward. “I want my next project to be more oriented to improvisational playing,” Vanore says, “rather than subordinating that side of myself.” 

The pivotal moment in trumpeter, composer, producer and bandleader John Vanore’s career occurred while he was attending a summer program directed by Oliver Nelson, among the most significant player-composer-arrangers in jazz history. Nelson’s singular identity was so inspirational that Vanore made his decision to pursue music right then and there. To realize this goal, Vanore went on to study with Philadelphia-based guitarist Dennis Sandole, a mentor to John Coltrane, which further instilled in the young musician the importance of creating a distinctive musical personality as a composer and an improvising soloist. 

After graduating from Pennsylvania’s Widener University—where Vanore would later have a long and celebrated career as an educator—he joined the legendary Woody Herman band. That experience led to Vanore combining small-group intimacy with the firepower of the big band in his own unique large ensemble, Abstract Truth. Touting an extraordinary brass-heavy lineup, Abstract Truth has released six critically lauded albums, the most recent being Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson, an imaginative homage to Vanore’s foremost hero.   

Ron Thomas is recognized for the scope and breadth of his influences and interests. He attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied composition with Vittorio Giannini, Nicolas Flagello and Ludmila Ulehla. During that time, he also studied privately with M. William Karlins and later with Karlheinz Stockhausen at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Heavily influenced by the music of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, Ron continued his studies in composition with Stefan Wolpe and Raoul Pleskow at C.W. Post College, Long Island University, where he received his master’s. The years since have been an extended elaboration upon these foundational elements through composing, jazz performance, recording, teaching and writing about music.


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