Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Key Elements "Key Elements"

Sonar Kollektiv has been waiting for it anxiously: Key Elements‘ debut album leads Jazz music into the new decade down-the-line. The music Key Elements create is fresh, merciless and ruthless and has always the finger on the pulse of the time. The album‘s eight tracks are all far away from Broken Beat nostalgia or Beat-making nerdism, they breathe inspiration from the young, thriving British jazz scene. Key Element‘s initiator, DJ and producer Marian Tone, built up a reputation in the Berlin hip hop, soul and jazz scene over the years (also as a co-founder of Beatkollektiv). With all of his compositions you always feel this heritage and his love and passion for hiphop. But the other two allys within «Key Elements», drummer Waldi and the keyboard or bass player Jim Dunloop made their contribution with compositions and ideas as well. An album which was initially designed to be a mere solo project became an effort of a trio over the years being inherently consistent.

Already the opening track «Mike Needs Sugar» shows the direction this album will take us: To the land of the good groove. It‘s here where the three thoroughbred musicians feel on top of the world obviously and deliver one luscious track after the other. From the cheerful «Morning Boom» to the kinda furtively laid back «Impossible» and the final «Funky Dave», which could be on an Italian soundtrack from the 70‘s every single tone and note from «Key Elements» is great fun. Especially because even when you listen to it a second, third or fourth time you will discover new nuances and niceties again and again. As is right and proper for really good jazz album. 

Berlin based DJ and producer Marian Tone came up with the name «Key Elements» long before forming the trio that now puts forward a promising album on Sonar Kollektiv. After the release of two EPs («EP One» and «Beats vs. Bad Karma» both on Dooinit Music) the expertly and sought-after DJ with a background in Hiphop, Soul and Jazz consequently ventured to record his debut album. Marian’s idea was to produce music that sounds organically abandoning the use of samples completely but only focusing on own compositions. But things didn’t turn out as planned at all.

Some years ago Marians’ brother Markus, introduced him to the drummer Waldi who already in the 90’s cut a dash locally with his two-man-drummer-live project «Analogue Freestyle». That’s how Marius and Waldi arranged for an initial mutual session. During which Waldi laid drums over the beats that were destined for Marian’s upcoming album «Key Elements». Both were mutually impressed by the outcome to the extend that they decided to record some tracks and to form a band. Suddenly the solo project «Key Elements» had turned into a group. In early 2019 the group was completed by including the befriended keyboard player Jim Dunloop. The highly gifted piano virtuoso is working as a producer for quite some time now and for instance has released his debut album «Opus 76BPM» on BBE. On «Key Elements» you can hear him on bass though. He contributed some of his own compositions as well. In the following months the eight songs in total were recorded in different studios in Berlin (f.e. the Butterama Music Recording Studio or the SB Drums-Studio run by Sascha Bachmann). They already had the chance to set the house on fire with their up-to-now unreleased material at several locations, f.e. at the Badehaus next to J. Lamotta & Blue Lab Beats, at Klunkerkranich in Neukölln, at the XJAZZ Festival, at the Fete De La Hip Hop and at the Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM Party in the Kreuzberg Club Gretchen as a part of the Steve Reid Foundation.

«Key Elements» have created exactly what Sonar Kollektiv was waiting for: No-holds-barred modern sounding Jazz far away from Broken Beat nostalgia or Beatmaking nerdism. Of course you can hear Marian Tone’s love for hiphop in all of the eight tracks, but similar to the young and dynamic UK jazz secene this love is transported into a new free form. Laid-back and positive melodies invite to listen carefully to the music which surprises again and again: Different time signatures, infuriating arrangements and tempo changes give the album some sense of complexity without being complicated. Even though Marian Tone is the key element of «Key Elements» you notice quickly that here three musicians interchange on equal terms and have the time of their life!

Robin McKelle / Alterations

Vocalist Robin McKelle delves into the catalogue of some of the most celebrated women of song, interpreting these masterworks through the lens of the jazz idiom.  On Alterations, McKelle follows in a long tradition of female song interpreters, lending her sultry vocal stylings to classics by a diverse list of female innovators including Dolly Parton, Sade, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Janis Joplin, Carol King, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, and Lana Del Ray.  McKelle is joined on this release by a group of consummate musicians including co-producer, pianist and arranger Shedrick Mitchell, acoustic and electric bassist Richie Goods, drummer Charles Haynes, guitarist Nir Felder. 

In addition, esteemed saxophonist Keith Loftis is featured on McKelle's sole original composition on this release, "Head High"; and renowned trumpeter Marquis Hill is featured on Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die".  The first single from Alterations, McKelle's rendition of Sade's "No Ordinary Love", will be released in late January. Alterations will be released on Doxie Records and distributed and marketed by the Orchard.

In the making of the album, most of McKelle's vocal tracks used on this final recording were takes she sang live with the band.  On the recording process, McKelle notes "The energy and connection with the musicians was so powerful. They lifted me up and made it feel effortless. I've never felt so confident in the studio."  The energy and connection of the album overall is palpable; stunning interplay is displayed throughout each track. Shedrick Mitchell was responsible for translating McKelle's visions for each of these tracks into arrangements for this prodigious grouping of musicians to perform.  McKelle notes "Mitchell really understood my vision and did a fabulous job helping to make the arrangements come alive. We fused jazz, soul, r&b, blues and rock all while keeping a continuity in the music."

The album begins with McKelle's re-imagining of Winehouse's "Back to Black".  A gentle latin rhythm drives this track forward; Mckelle's voice soars over Mitchell's masterful accompaniment.  The album continues with McKelle's soulful take on Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", the band uses this song as a vehicle to explore the reflective lyrics with a wonderful, moody reharmonization.  Guitarist Nir Felder takes a stellar solo over these changes. The album proceeds with McKelle's original composition "Head High", the artist's tribute to the female singers and writers who came before her. "It's about the power that the female singer has. To move people with her lyric and song. To be fearless. To touch people's emotions. To make change" notes McKelle.  Consummate saxophonist Keith Loftis is featured on this track.

McKelle's delivers a spirited, bluesy rendition of Dolly Parton's classic "Jolene", a celebration of the lyrics in a  decidedly different context than the original 1974 release by Parton which earned her a GRAMMY® for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.  "No Ordinary Love" is McKelle's rendition of Sade's classic R&B composition.  McKelle's fiery latin-tinged arrangement of this song emphasizes the ensemble's fantastic sense of dynamics and interplay.  McKelle's voice ignites the track and is met with an impassioned solo from Felder. The album ends with a duo performance of Carole King's classic "You've Got a Friend".  McKelle and Mitchell converse over King's lyrics, delivering the song's tenderness with her signature warmth and strength.

The songs on Alterations are diverse in tone and mood. The desperation of Del Ray's "Born to Die"; The exuberance of Parton's "Jolene".  McKelle transitions seamlessly between the emotions of every song. And makes each one her own.  To McKelle, alteration is all. As the artist notes "when you create change, you create space for something to shift in the world and in yourself.  As an artist. And as a human. And that is a change for the good."

Jesse Royal - Natty Pablo

Jesse Royal, “one of Jamaica’s most important and charismatic new stars” (Noisey), is set to drop his new single “Natty Pablo” from his highly anticipated sophomore release. The single was released on Easy Star Records. 

“Natty Pablo” is inspired by the many layers of Rastafarianism and the criticism it faced from the general public over the years, only to have come full circle with many of those same critics now following many of the lifestyle choices that Rastas have been advocating for years, from veganism to marijuana usage to spirituality and beyond. Jesse elaborates, “The reality is that many Rasta have helped steer people in the right way with what they have received from Creation, helping in the advancement of the nation. It has nothing to do with illegalities or physical warfare. It’s all about good people who are sometimes nameless who have little or nothing but do so much.” Jesse uses imagery conjuring the Narcos (such as Pablo Escobar) to show how the public may view Rastas as criminals, but the reality he is showing – and that he lives by – is that Rastas are giving back to their communities in abundance. Rastas “ain’t nothing like the Narcos….” They are “smuggling the truth / giving to the destitute.” 

Jesse Royal broke out in 2014 with the runaway success of the single “Modern Day Judas,” and solidified his position at the forefront of the genre in 2017 with his debut full-length Lily of da Valley (Easy Star Records). That album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart and impressively hit #131 on the Billboard “New Album Top 200” chart and #36 on the “independent albums chart.” 

Jesse Royal is continuing to establish himself and his unique brand of reggae music across the world. Keeping the genre alive is Jesse Royal’s mission as he continues on the legacy of the late greats Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jacob Miller, to name a few, even as he begins to push the boundaries of his own artistry. Following Lily of da Valley’s release, he has toured around the world continuously, becoming a fixture at festivals and with his own headline tours, especially in the US and Europe.

During his career, Jesse has already been featured in Vogue magazine, has made a Vice TV appearance, garnered a #1 Jamaican single, and accumulated over 8 million views on a single video. Royal’s ambition is to bring his music and vision to a worldwide reggae audience and beyond. Alongside the successful career launches of his friends and peers - including Protoje, Chronixx, Jah 9, Kabaka Pyramid, Mortimer, and others - Jesse has helped spearhead a popular return to conscious lyrics and messages in modern reggae.

Brian Andres Debuts New Trio Latino Project On "Mayan Suite"

Drummer Brian Andres unleashes an electrifying new project with the release of Mayan Suite, the inaugural recording of his Trio Latino, on Bacalao Records. Though it finds Andres stepping back from his longtime leadership of the eight-piece Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel, the new trio (featuring pianist Christian Tumalan and bassist Aaron Germain) shows itself to be every bit as musically rich as the larger ensemble. What's more, the album's striking originals and zesty interpretations find the band equaling that richness with audacity. 

Indeed, Andres created the trio in the hope of finding just such an emboldened style. With fewer voices, he says, "There's much more space to explore, for creative expression, and with that freedom there's greater responsibilities for all three of us." 

In fact, Tumalan and Germain fulfill both their freedom and their responsibility in supplying all of Mayan Suite's original compositions. The pianist brings three -- including the title track, a five-part series of hard-grooving miniatures that packs fully realized statements as well as satisfying improvisations into a remarkable seven-and-a-half-minute journey. Yet Tumalan shows no less ambition in the adrenaline rush of "Viento Solar" or the wistful tenderness of "Si Tu Vez." Germain, meanwhile, presents dazzling, dancing Latin syncopation on "Escucha" and a light-stepping aura of mystery on "Higashi Nakano."  

That is not, however, to understate the merit of the musicians' playing. Andres, Tumalan, and Germain balance their considerable chops with invention and eloquence, whether on the thrilling originals or the fiery renditions of Chick Corea's "Got a Match?" and the standard "On Green Dolphin Street." It's not happenstance that all three are rhythm players: Trio Latino's prowess on Mayan Suite, collectively and as soloists, comes in the service of irresistibly kinetic grooves drawn from the Afro-Latin jazz canon. 

"Whether it's bomba or mambo, whether there's a hand drummer or not, those rhythms are represented," Andres says. "Aaron and Christian are steeped in those traditions. One of the things about this trio, I wanted us individually to have a voice of our own." Of that, Mayan Suite leaves no doubt. 

Brian Andres Brian Andres was born Nov. 7, 1968 in Cincinnati, Ohio to musical parents: His father played woodwinds, his mother piano and vocals. The younger Andres naturally followed their example, taking up the drums at the age of nine. He continued through high school and into the College-Conservatory of Music before beginning his most intensive education, playing the blues with Cincinnati Slim and the Headhunters. It was the first of many gigs, in many styles. 

Yet it was while hearing someone else's band -- a salsa band -- that Andres's life was changed. The neck- and shoulder-twisting polyrhythms took him over completely; he immediately formed his own Latin jazz outfit and began consuming the grooves wherever and whenever he could. He was particularly drawn to the concentration of musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of whom, Paul van Wageningen, was so friendly and inspiring that Andres soon made the move to Northern California himself. 

It was there that Andres found his groove, so to speak. He jelled with Latin musicians of all stripes, found work in multiple projects, and fronted his own Afro-Latin Jazz Cartel -- with whom he recorded his first album, Drummers Speak, in 2007. 

He has continued at the head of the octet for over a decade: they have received critical acclaim, recorded two more albums (San Francisco, 2013; This Could Be That, 2016), and worked with the cream of the crop of Latin jazz talent in the Bay Area. The Cartel's rhythm section -- the nerve center of the band -- comprises Andres's Trio Latino. The smaller ensemble has taken on a life of its own, one which Andres has now documented with the recording of Mayan Suite. 

"Covid-19 and the resulting Shelter in Place order has made life very difficult for everyone," says Andres. "Many musicians, myself included, feel a profound sadness during this time, because we are deprived of our most cherished activity -- performing for an audience. Thankfully we can still connect with our instrument alone, in study and practice, which keeps the spirits up, but there is no substitute for performing. Because of this, Trio Latino is looking to do a live online performance sometime soon. We are working out the details now to be able to provide the best presentation possible." 

Bill Warfield Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra - Smile

Trumpeter Bill Warfield's Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra lives up to its name on Smile, the little big band's second album, set for a June 5 release on Planet Arts Records. The 12-piece ensemble locates and unleashes grooves from a pair of Warfield originals and several R&B and fusion classics, as well as a few more unlikely sources. They have some major league help: keyboardist and longtime David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer and esteemed tenor saxophonist "Blue" Lou Marini take seats in the HKFO alongside Warfield and his regulars, including trumpeter John Eckert, bassist Steve Count, drummer Scott Neumann,and vocalist Jane Stuart. 

Smile's title refers naturally to the iconic Charlie Chaplin standard, which bookends the album in two versions (vocal and instrumental). Yet it also serves as a succinct description of the overall recording: an array of one joyful, kinetic performance after another, which gave the musicians of the HKFO as much delight to play as it does for the listener to hear. "We had so much fun making this album, and I think it sounds it," says Warfield, who arranged all 12 tracks. "For me, that's what it's all about."

Half of the fun is in guessing how the band might repackage the rhythms on Smile -- especially its less obviously groove-ready tunes. Indeed, surprises abound in their treatments of country classic "Ode to Billie Joe," featuring a soul-drenched Stuart vocal; beloved Muppet anthem "The Rainbow Connection," here a powerful jazz waltz with guest singer Carolyn Leonhart taking a tender turn; and "Theme from Law & Order," which becomes a hilarious mash-up with John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." 

Neither, though, do Warfield and company take the predictable routes on the Weather Report staple "Cucumber Slumber," Booker T. & the MGs' Southern soul linchpin "Hip-Hug-Her," or the Gladys Knight smash "I've Got to Use My Imagination." In each case, Warfield's arrangements find resourceful new ways to turn up the heat. "I approach these songs from a different standpoint," he explains. "with a deep understanding of what goes into making commercial music, but with a jazz sensibility." His charts are ably augmented with hard-charging, rewarding solos by the likes of guitarist Matt Chertoff, alto saxophonist Andrew Gould, and bari man Matt Hong as well as Shaffer, Marini, Eckert, and Warfield himself. 
Bill Warfield Bill Warfield was born March 2, 1952 in Owings Mill, Maryland, just outside Baltimore. While his was a musical family (his father played guitar and sang, and both parents played piano), it had no hi-fi record player until Bill himself brought one home in eighth grade. He quickly became enamored with the trumpet sounds he was hearing on contemporary records and radio, taking up the instrument himself. He was soon good enough to join the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra and to study at the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory School. 

A serious car crash when he was 18 -- one of two such accidents that would nearly end his musical career before it began -- scuttled his plans to join the U.S. Air Force jazz ensemble. Warfield instead attended Maryland's Towson State College (now Towson University), studying with Ray Moore and Hank Levy before leaving school to become a full-time musician in the Baltimore area, including directorship of the City of Baltimore's Port City Jazz Ensemble. 

Moving to New York in 1980, Warfield quickly busied himself on the music scene: He toured with Paul Anka, joined the Bill Kirchner Nonet and the Musicians of Brooklyn Initiative (MOBI), subbed in the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and formed his own band. In the meantime, he completed his academic studies at Manhattan School of Music (where he went on to earn a Master's in music), then took a job on Wall Street before returning in 1990 with his debut big band album, New York City Jazz.  

From there, Warfield's career kicked into high gear. A string of successful big band engagements and albums followed, as did stints with Ornette Coleman, Mari Okubo, and Dave Stryker. He also became director of the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra. The Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra premiered in 2015 with Mercy, Mercy, Mercy; Smile is the little big band's follow-up. 

"I look at the world around me and I'm often baffled, shocked, even frightened by what I see," says Warfield. "No matter what I face, I still search for the spiritual strength, the peace to reflect. I am certainly no stranger to adversity, and realize that no matter how difficult a situation I find myself in, that this too shall pass. Confident in this knowledge, while I'm waiting, it just seems easier to smile."  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jneiro Jarel's new single "Banana Peel (Feat. Masauko Chipembere)"

In 2018 Far Out Recordings signed a record deal with Brooklyn born, nomadic producer Jneiro Jarel. Having just put the finishing touches to the recordings, Jarel suffered an ischemic stroke while living and working in Costa Rica and his wife Indigo was forced to set up a crowd fund to cover special medical transport back to the states to receive treatment. 

The release was put on hold, but thanks to the generosity of friends and fans around the world, Jarel was able to get the care he needed and is now on the long road to recovery. We’re overjoyed to finally announce Jneiro Jarel’s new single "Banana Peel (Cáscara de plátano) featuring Masauko Chipembere" is out today on all digital platforms.

Throughout a career that has spanned over twenty years and seen collaborations with MF DOOM, Thom Yorke, Damon Albarn, BadBadNotGood, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Kimbra and Khujo Goodie (Dungeon Family), Jneiro Jarel’s consistently distinctive, forward thinking productions, as well as his love for the music of Brazil, made his partnership with Far Out a perfect fit.

Recorded between New York, New Orleans, Miami and Costa Rica, Jarel's forthcoming album After A Thousand Years features legendary multi-instrumentalist Bill Summers, famed for his work with Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Eddie Henderson. The album also features Malawian-American guitarist Masauko Chipembere who has worked with the likes of RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and Ladybug Mecca from Digable Planets.

On lead single “Banana Peel”, Jarel’s outernational perspective makes for a track that is almost impossible to place geographically: you can hear the swing of Jarel’s native New Orleans jazz, the vibrance of Costa Rican rainforests as well as the influence of Jarel’s vast collection of Brazilian records.

DW3 releases self-titled album "DW3"

Since 2003, brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and close family friend Damon Reel have set the high energy mood on cruises (Smooth Jazz Cruise, Dave Koz Cruise, Soul Train Cruise & 80’s), at jazz festivals, showrooms and clubs, including hundreds of performances at their longtime home base of Spaghettini in Seal Beach, CA. They also played a key role on Dave Koz and Friends’ Grammy nominated Summer Horns project.

With four Billboard charting hits – including “I Got You” (featuring Gerald Albright) and “Let the Music,” “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “California Dreamin’” from their hit 2013 & 2015 albums On the Floor & Vintage Truth – DW3 have also established themselves as a popular national recording group. The three chose to self-title their latest Woodward Avenue Records recording to reflect the culmination of their steady and inspiring evolution from ultimate, first call party band to multi-faceted artists, songwriters and producers fulfilling their own singular musical vision.

While their previous albums were produced by greats like Paul Brown (On the Floor, 2013) and the late Ricky Lawson (Vintage Truth), DW3 marks a major breakthrough as the first time Eric (vocals, keyboards), Billy (vocals, percussion) and Damon (vocals, engineering, editor) have helmed an entire project themselves. Since the release of Vintage Truth, the group has spent their rare down time from the stage building their own state of the art recording studio (complete with rehearsal space and a listening room) in El Monte, CA with the help of the Rico Caudillo, owner of ESS Labs, a prominent headphone and speaker company DW3 endorses.

To help them flesh out their vision, they invited high-octane urban jazz power to the mix with guest saxmen Boney James, Richard Elliot and Eric Darius and some of the world’s biggest studio guns. These include Bryant Siono (bass, guitar), Steve Carias (bass, keys, drum programming), Charles Streeter (drums), Carnell Harrell (keyboards), Rick Marcel (guitar), Brandon Brown (bass), Bobby Avila (harmonica, guitar, bass) and the three piece C-town Horns. Siono, Carias, Streeter and Harrell also served as co-writers and/or co-producers. The project also features a guest lead vocal by R&B Soulstress Rebecca Jade. Along with Rocky Padilla, co- producer of “Straight from the Heart” and Eric’s son Eric Mondragon, Jr. co-engineering.

“We’re really excited about this album,” Damon says. “It took a lot of hard work and perseverance to get this amazing studio up and running and dive into the process. We’re grateful for everyone who worked with us to get us to this point. After years of being known just as a “Party Band” On the Floor was our intro to the Smooth Jazz world and earned us a lot of respect from that community. Ricky’s production on Vintage Truth took us to the next level, and now we’re able to take our artistry even further as writers, producers and arrangers.”

“Sonically, our concept was to capture the same types of vibes we convey onstage,” Billy adds. “We’re a high energy live ensemble that also love lush, sensual ballads, and we kept that in mind when we were recording these new songs. We’ve had a lot of success with covers, and when we do our cover tunes, we’re all about the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, and our original material captures those eras with a fresh flavor. The album’s got a lot of grooving dance beats with some cool, smooth stuff in there to create the perfect balance. Our challenge was to integrate our old style with a fresh new sound and contemporary melodies. We still love doing classic songs, but the whole point of composing is to draw from those influences to move forward creating our own unique flow.”

The set list for DW3 offers a perfectly artful balance between smooth, seductive ballads and up- tempo dance/funk jams. If you’re in the late night, slow swaying candlelight zone, the band’s got your number with the silky and sensual, blues tinged ballad “Like There’s No Tomorrow” (featuring Rebecca Jade) the hypnotic, slow simmering “Your Body” (featuring a silky solo by Boney James), the sexy and sultry “Groove With You” (also spotlighting Jade), and two compelling versions of DW3’s re-imagined Con Funk Shun classic “Straight from the Heart” – the second a stripped down, nearly a capella version featuring DW3’s sparkling vocal harmonies and the passionate sax intensity of Eric Darius. When you’re ready to groove, hit the 80’s spiced, synth-funk driven “Now That I’ve Found You,” the spirited, high octane party anthem “Let’s Have Fun Tonight” (featuring Richard Elliot on sax and EWI), and “Never Gonna Stop,” which Billy calls the band’s “El DeBarge meets Michael Jackson with a new hip, fun flavor to it.”

Hailing from East L.A, California and growing up in the Los Angeles areas of El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, Eric and Billy began their musical careers in high school by playing club dates with their parents; their father is a bass player, and he and their mom are singers. DW3, an outgrowth of that original family band, which took the Mondragon’s sound and professionalism to the next level, has been an evolving collective of musicians since then. Damon, born in South Central L.A, also had musical influences by his parents. His mother and father have been playing and singing in the church for over 40 years. The core (Down With 3) members since 2003 are Eric, Billy and Damon. They became an integral part of the contemporary Urban Jazz scene in 2004 when they played on the first Warren Hill Smooth Jazz Cruise and were subsequently booked as resident performers at Spaghettini. Their first independent album release was Live at Spaghettini (2006), which they followed in 2008 with Life, Love and Music.

While performing everywhere from the Newport Hyatt Jazz Festival, Mallorca Jazz Festival Brian Culbertson’s Napa Valley Jazz Getaway to Bagdad, Iraq for the US troops. DW3 has expanded their harmonic horizons performing with and singing background for numerous jazz and R&B legends and popular contemporary artists including, Marcus Miller, Brenda Russell, Patti Austin, Bobby Caldwell, Sheila E, Jonathan Butler, Jody Watley, Brian McKnight, David Pack, Evelyn “Champagne” King and the late great George Duke.
“We are so blessed to have worked with so many incredible artists and musicians over the years,” Damon says, “and that continues on our new album with Boney, Richard, Eric, J. Lo’s drummer and bass player and guitarist who have played with The Jacksons, Kool & The Gang and many others. The three of us are particularly proud of this new album because it was a homegrown effort, with all songs joining together to form a cohesive vision while also having its own thing.”

Billy adds, “I love all the different styles we’ve got. Sometimes when you listen to full albums, you’re hearing the same thing over and over, but here, we’re still interested from one song to the next. It’s definitely not the same old thing. Echoing his band mates, Eric says, “That’s why we wanted so much variety and chose only the best of all the songs we had. We wanted to keep everyone as excited listening to it as we were recording it. So many artists these days only release individual tracks or EPs with streaming in mind, but we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to provide full length CDs to our fans and totally embrace the old school charm of a full-on album project.”

Bassist Anne Mette Iversen Releases "Racing a Butterfly"

What attracts us to certain artists? What compelling qualities do they posses that enthrall and delight us? Is it virtuosity, creativity or longevity? Or could it be a stark, endearing humanness inherent in their music? Perhaps a feeling of self-knowledge and self-assurance that rings true in every note of every composition. For many fans of bassist/composer/bandleader Anne Mette Iversen it is all of the above, and they should be quite pleased at the announcement of her stunning new recording, Racing a Butterfly, featuring her Quartet +1, Iversen’s longest running group, with John Ellis (tenor saxophone), Peter Dahlgren (trombone), Danny Grissett (piano), Iversen (bass) and Otis Brown III (drums & cymbals).

Iversen explains that, “the title track on this album was inspired by a literal race with a butterfly I had during a run one summer morning in Provence, France. Running along the lavender fields on a dirt road, while the temperature was quickly rising, a colorful butterfly came out of the wild flowers that grow on the roadside; having apparently decided to keep me company. We stayed side by side for a moment and then it started to play. It flew ahead, dropped back, caught up with me again, spun circles, twisted and turned in a kind of a dance. This went on for a surprising long while until the butterfly finally took off. It was the fun, the enjoyment, the playfulness and lightness that was so beautiful and which nature displayed so naturally, that made me feel that I really ought to celebrate those sides of life more than I have previously done in my music. So, I set out to write new music that reflected this experience, and aimed for lightness and playfulness in its overall attitude, and that became the inspiration for Racing a Butterfly.”

Established in NYC in 2002, the musical relationship and the improvisational rapport of The Anne Mette Iversen Quartet + 1 has developed to the point where mere words start to fail you in describing them. The band, sinking their teeth (not to mention their hearts and souls) into nine new Iversen gems, is clearly engaged in the fun, the enjoyment, the playfulness and the lightness that can only come when you are utterly comfortable on your instrument, and in the situation you’re playing music in (the group’s longevity is clearly one of the major factors). Having out-and-out faith in the bandleader/composer’s vision doesn’t hurt either, and that is clearly the case here.

Artists reach audiences with emotions conjured up from the sounds they produce. Through this emotional bond, art and music can be a great way to reach people that we otherwise may not reach through other means. Iversen and her band have much to say about the climate, the future of human life on earth, the many horrible political situations around the world, and they wish to bring about contemplation, introspection, and joy in their audiences. “I hope that the playfulness and the fun of Racing a Butterfly will make people want to listen, at length, from the get go. Regardless of how little time anyone has or the current speed of life and society, to have a deep experience and connect to essential emotions, you have to allow yourself ample time. Real experiences require contemplation and much more than the thirty seconds that most digital platforms allow for a preview. To grow, one must invest oneself!,” proclaimed Iversen. 

Later in the process of the album production Iversen discovered a poem titled “Tour de France” by the German poet Günter Grass, which also speaks of butterflies: 

When the leading bunch                  
were overtaken
by a Brimstone butterfly
many cyclists gave up the race
- from Ausgefragt (Questioned Out), 1967

"The poem started another run of thoughts about my experience of the race with the butterfly,” said Iversen. "I imagined the front group biking up the Champs-Élysées on the last day of the Tour de France, watching one rider after another dropping out, demoralized by the butterfly besting them. However, maybe the riders are not demoralized at all. Perhaps they all have a realization that there are more important things in life than a race up the Champs-Élysées. Or maybe they suddenly become aware of the limitations of human life, the impermanence of it all . . . or maybe they are simply stricken by the wonder of nature as it manifests itself in a butterfly that wins the last race of the Tour de France! In the contrast that arises between nature and the comic figure of man speeding up an asphalt road on a bike, having trained and prepared his whole life for this race, he begins to connect and have perspectives of our human existence on a deeper level. Well, however you may think of this poem, I think it offers us a brilliant example of how to approach fundamental and important questions with lightness, playfulness and humor.” 

And that is exactly what this album is aiming to do; bring you in on a joyful note, and while preserving the playful attitude and atmosphere, reveal the deeper emotions that the composer and the musicians have transferred into the music.

Racing a Butterfly was recorded on November 5 & 6, 2018 by Thomas Vang at The Village Recording , Copenhagen, Denmark. Mixed and mastered June & November 2019 by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studio, NYC. All compositions by Anne Mette Iversen.  

More about Anne Mette Iversen: Danish bassist Anne Mette Iversen arrived in New York City in 1998, where she produced much of her contemporary work, using the organic staccato beats of her adopted city as inspiration. In the summer of 2012 she relocated to Berlin, which provides other outlets for jazz musicians and new opportunities. Ms. Iversen has eleven recordings available as a bandleader, including one as composer and artistic director for the Norrbotten Big Band.

Iversen tours regularly in Europe and the U.S., with performances at esteemed clubs and festivals. She leads her long running jazz quartet, Anne Mette Iversen Quartet, which in recent years has evolved into a quintet, Anne Mette Iversen Quartet + 1, the Berlin based group Ternion Quartet, Double Life – a collaboration with her jazz quartet + 1 and 4Corners string quartet, and the Poetry of Earth project.

Iversen has worked extensively as a sideman and performed with world-class musicians in and out of New York City and Berlin. She has curated and performed for the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington DC and for The Danish Consulate General in NYC. 
For 2016 Ms. Iversen was Composer in Residence for Norrbotten Big Band. 

Ms. Iversen holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz Performance from The New School, NYC, and is a former classical piano major at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Denmark. She is a current member of the musician’s organization, Brooklyn Jazz Underground, and co-owner of the label, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records.

In the area of education is Ms. Iversen is equally impressive, currently Professor of Jazz Composition and Arrangement at the Institute for Music at Osnabrück University for Applied Sciences, and was previously docent at the Film University Konrad Wolf in Babelsberg, in the Sound department.

Ms. Iversen is considered an important voice as a composer, leading the way for modern, contemporary jazz composition. Whether composing for small groups, big bands or crossover ensembles, her unique and personal voice shines through. The artist has, with great success and critical acclaim, integrated jazz and classical musicians, and while the majority of her works are within the jazz realm, she also composes in the classical realm. Iversen also performs as guest composer/guest conductor for various big bands.

Jakob Magnusson - High North

Keyboardist drops a jazz-funk set from “High North” on Friday / The Icelandic artist teams up with GRAMMY winner Paul Brown for a new EP 

Observing the global pandemic from his relatively unscathed northern perch in Iceland, keyboardist Jakob Magnusson follows developments on the virus and its economic impact closely. With less than a dozen deaths directly attributed to coronavirus in this Nordic nation, the jazz-funk artist is focused on dropping his “High North” EP on Friday on the Woodward Avenue Records label. As some astute observers believe that Iceland is in one of the strongest positions to recover and rebound swiftly from the worldwide challenges, Magnusson exudes a sense of national pride, which inspired the title to the five song-set he wrote with two-time GRAMMY-winning producer-guitarist Paul Brown.

"Indeed, the title ‘High North’ refers to my Icelandic origins. I come from what used to be considered the outskirts of the habitable world. Iceland used to be seen as a very remote, cold little island somewhere between Moscow and Washington, but thanks to international aviation, telecommunications and social media, it is now more and more seen as the most ideal and desirable location in the whole world. Living here gives you a different set of values and the musical life in Iceland has for years been blessed by free musical education for all, the presence of American radio and television networks, and some great American musicians and producers like Paul Brown who have been coming here for years to play and produce local talent. I´ve certainly benefitted from this," said Magnusson, who has also released recordings under the name Jack Magnet. 

“High North” was created as an international collaboration between the Reykjavik-based Magnusson and the Los Angeles-based Brown utilizing musicians from both countries. Flugelhorn player Snorri Sigurdsson, trumpeter Ari Bragi Karason and vocalist Ragnhildur Gisladottir are among the Icelandic musicians contributing to the collection with most of the grooves anchored by the Icelandic rhythm section formed by bassist Johann Asmundsson and drummer Thor Thorvaldsson.  

"We were lucky to have one of the world´s foremost bass players here to lay the foundations with us, jazz-funk maverick Johann Asmundsson, who has provided some of the key elements to the sound of renowned groove-jazzers Mezzoforte,” said Magnusson, who went on to reveal the inspiration for the EP opener, “Karlsson’s Arrival,” a toss around the musical horn that affords each player the moment to shine by offering clever retorts in response to Magnusson’s deft keyboard calls.

“One of the songs on the EP is aptly named ‘Karlsson´s Arrival’ due to the fact that Mezzoforte guitarist Fridrik Karlsson volunteered to come to the studio and lend his magic guitar touch to some of the tracks together with his longtime American friend, Paul Brown, with whom he has frequently performed in Iceland and London.”

Among the other American players are horn men Greg Vail and Lee Thornburg, percussionist Lenny Castro, keyboardist-drummer-songwriter Lew Laing, and Billboard chart-topping saxophonist Jeff Ryan, who was featured soloing on the EP’s “Hook, Line & Sinker,” which dropped in 2018, Ryan’s breakthrough year. Cowriting the energizing jam with Magnusson and Brown was British hitmaker Chris Standring.   

Serviced to radio and set to begin collecting playlist adds on Monday (May 11) is “Caption This,” a retro cool vibe that opens with a slick 1970s guitar riff from Brown that churns away in the background as Magnusson dispenses soulful keyboards throughout the cut. While citing the song’s message, Magnusson offers the track as a state of the union on the future of the contemporary jazz-funk genre.

‘Caption This’ refers to playing within certain musical concepts and commenting on them with our own rather personal musical phrasings - mostly short and sharp. It means creating your own musical phrases as a response to a given musical setting. In this case, we are referring to the rephrasing and repositioning of a friendly retrospective genre that now may have been granted a new lease on life.”

Magnusson & Company playfully embark on the quirky “Reykjavik Romp.” One of the most interesting EP credits is credited to Thor Thorvaldsson and Einar Scheving on the haunting “Next To You,” an atmospheric number showcasing Magnusson’s nimble keyboard explorations. 

"We spice up our rhythms with local human elements like Polar Beat. The Icelandic Polar Beat involves some mouth & body percussion,” Magnusson explains.

Magnusson is considered one of Iceland’s most original musical exports and a Rhodes keyboard master. He has amassed a versatile body of recordings that include collaborations with jazz royalty (Stanley Clarke, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Scott and Richard Elliot) as well as pop superstars (Elton John and Phil Collins). A dynamic multimedia personality who served as a celebrity judge on “Iceland’s Got Talent,” Magnusson starred in and produced Iceland’s biggest box office success, “Með allt á hreinu (On Top).”

Monday, July 27, 2020

Afro-Transcendentalist Laraaji releasing announces new album Sun Piano

Sun Piano finds Afro-Transcendentalist, Laraaji, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to return to his first instrument, learnt whilst growing up in 1950s New Jersey. A departure from his FX-soaked cosmic zither jams, these elegant miniatures nevertheless reveal enough personality and inner light to be clearly identifiable as 'Laraaji Music'. Recorded in a Brooklyn Church by Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs, Mary Lattimore). Sun Piano is being released by All Saints Records on July 17. 

This release is the latest step in something of a late career renaissance for the New York City based musician and mystic. He first came to public attention in the late 1970s via his entry in the legendary Brian Eno-produced Ambient series of albums, Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance. In the last few years his music has been re-discovered by a whole new generation of fans via re-issues from the likes of the Numero Group, Light In The Attic and Leaving Records; new collaborations with underground musicians Dallas Acid and Sun Araw; a revitalised live presence that has seen him share concert stages worldwide with the likes of Solange and Jonathan Wilson; and a wide amount of media coverage: from discussing his love of orange clothes in Vogue, to demonstrating the benefits of transcendental music on BBC4 or performing a coveted NPR tiny desk concert . This latest musical side step introduces a new chapter to the story of a much-loved cult icon. 

The first release in a trilogy tracked at the same session. A companion LP, Moon Piano, and an extended EP of piano/autoharp duets will follow later in 2020. 

Laraaji is a musician, mystic and laughter meditation practitioner based in New York City. Steeped in music from an early age, he grew up playing gospel and church music in 1950s New Jersey and listening to R&B and jazz on the radio. To begin with he would imitate his favourite piano players, such as Fats Domino, Errol Garner, Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson, before moving onto writing his own choral and doo-wop pieces whilst still in high school. From 1962 to 1964, he attended the groundbreaking Howard University in Washington DC where he studied music theory and composition with a piano major, and he met Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway and Bobby Timmons. At college he took a left turn into comedy, which led him to the nightclub stand-up circuit in New York City. During this period he compered at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, warming up for artists such as Barry White and Roberta Flack, appeared in a theatre production alongside a young Morgan Freeman, and had a bit part in cult film Putney Swope wih Antonio Fargas. 

By the early-70s he was working at the Aquarius Coffee Shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and playing Fender Rhodes electric piano in a fusion band, The Winds Of Change. In the mid-70s a spiritual awakening led him to trade his guitar in for an autoharp, and he began to play more freeform, cosmically inclined improvisations on the streets of New York City. Brian Eno saw him playing one night in Washington Square Park and invited him to record an album for his seminal Ambient series (Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance, released 1980). 

In the 80s Laraaji self-released a prolific series of experimental home-recorded cassette albums which were sold on the street, in psychic bookstores and new age 'head shops'. An early proponent of the DIY tape underground that is still thriving today amongst artists working in noise, synth, drone and other left-of-the-dial genres, this period of Laraaji's music has been extensively reissued in the past few years by labels such as Leaving Records, Light In The Attic and Numero Group, and is a treasure trove of tape manipulated harp jams and space age soul hymns. 

In the late-80s he made the much-loved Flow Goes The Universe album for All Saints Records (produced by Michael Brook) and contributed sound system style chants to an album by Japanese dub reggae outfit Audio Active. More recently he has appeared on recordings with Pharoah Sanders, Bill Laswell and Jonathan Wilson, and released collaborative albums with a younger generation of artists including Blues Control, Sun Araw and Dallas Acid. Appreciation of his music has reached new heights in the past few years resulting in international touring and the patronage of visual artists such as Grace Wales Bonner. His most recent albums for All Saints were the related duo of Bring On The Sun and Sun Gong, produced by Carlos Niño. This also led to the remix set Sun Transformations, featuring re-interpretations of his work by contemporary beatmakers such as the late Ras G, DNTEL, Flako, Photay, and his lifelong friend, disco legend Larry Mizell.   

Sun Piano opens up a new chapter in Laraaji's musical history; both completing a circle that began in his childhood, and revealing a whole new side to his sound to longtime listeners, showing off a different side of his instrumental accomplishments, and an innate ability toward spontaneous composition that has been honed over many years.

Chick Corea - Plays


On Plays, due out August 28, 2020 via Concord Jazz, Corea engages audiences with surprising pairings of his favorite influences as well as spontaneous improvisations and his own sterling compositions on an intimate, captivating live collection

“Solo piano is lonely,” says Chick Corea, though the legendary pianist is in good company throughout the solo performances captured on this captivating new double album. On Plays, set for release on August 28, 2020 via Concord Jazz, Corea engages with several of his favorite composers, representing a wide swath of musical history – as well as with enthusiastic audiences in concert halls across Europe and the U.S., who become integral collaborators in these spirited renditions. 

While Corea’s solo explorations are as exploratory and inventive as ever, the tone on Plays is decidedly communal. That comes from the jazz great’s warm and witty dialogues with his audience, but also from the way he makes connections with the iconic composers whose work he celebrates. He also places these composers in conversation with one another, pairing favorite pieces in such a way that surprising commonalities are revealed that bridge styles, genres and eras from Mozart to the moment at hand.

“I’m part of a lineage,” Corea explains. “The thing that I do is similar to what Monk did, to what Bill Evans and Duke Ellington did, and moving back into another era of music, what Bach and Mozart and Beethoven did. These were all pianists who were composers at heart, who gathered their own musicians together to play. I feel so proud to be a part of that tradition.”
The composers featured on Plays represent the wide spectrum of Corea’s keyboard influences. He delves far back into the classical repertoire for pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Domenico Scarlatti, Alexander Scriabin and Frédéric Chopin that alone represent 300 years of musical history. His formative jazz influences include Bill Evans and, of course, Thelonious Monk, with the bossa nova beauty of Antônio Carlos Jobim adding the always-important Latin tinges that have long accented Corea’s music. The Great American Songbook offers the Gershwins and Jerome Kern, while Stevie Wonder appears to hint at a more modern pop sensibility.

As familiar as many of these compositions are – Corea includes well-traveled classics from “Desafinado” to “Yesterdays” to “Trinkle Tinkle” and “Pastime Paradise” – stunning new discoveries are sparked by Corea’s unexpected pairings. Like a fine wine matched with a complementary gourmet meal, subtle nuances emerge when a Mozart sonata is set alongside a Gershwin standard, or Bill Evans’ wistful “Waltz for Debby” meets a timeless Jobim melody.

“When I first played a Scarlatti sonata in front of my jazz audience, it broadened the whole scope of what I was presenting,” he says. “To me it fit so well, but I found that, to audiences, it was a little unusual for me to put together a Mozart piece with a Gershwin tune. What do Mozart and Gershwin have to do with one another? That’s up to you as a listener, but they’re analogous to me.”

One last composer who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as these giants is Chick Corea himself. He reprises his piece “The Yellow Nimbus,” in tribute to his close friend and collaborator, the late flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucía; the two originally recorded the tune as a duet on Corea’s 1982 album Touchstone.

The set closes with eight selections from Corea’s book of “Children’s Songs” Corea first recorded the full 20-piece collection for ECM in 1984. These miniatures were written in the spirit of freedom and creativity inherent in the imagination of a young child – another way by which the sense of “play” enriches Corea’s music. “Children are free-spirited and joyful,” the composer says. “They’re still finding out about life, so they’re wide open and very communicative with their surroundings and other people. I tried to capture that sensation with the Children’s Songs.”

Plays, naturally, is rich with Corea’s unparalleled piano mastery, the latest thrilling evolution in a storied career that’s lasted more than half a century. But it also offers the rare opportunity to watch the composer at work: on a pair of “Portraits,” Corea spontaneously paints tone poems of a pair of audience volunteers. The exercise has its origins in a childhood game played by the pianist and his cousins at family gatherings. In its more refined form, the composer finds inspiration in the visages of his subjects for the lovely, elegant “Henrietta” and the sly, robust “Chris.”

Audience members help shape the music in an even more direct way on a pair of spontaneously improvised duets. Corea never knows who might turn up when he asks for volunteers to join him on the bench – he’s had mystified four-year-olds and competent middle-aged amateurs. The two duets on Plays include a pair of ringers: the conservatory-trained French classical pianist Charles Heisser, and the French-Israeli jazz pianist Yaron Herman, who has released albums on Blue Note and Decca Records. When they were chosen for these brief duets, however, both were simply audience members.

“I didn't know they were pros,” Corea laughs. “But it’s always a lot of fun when I invite pianists to come up on stage to improvise with me.”

“Fun” is the operative word for Corea, no matter how serious the music he conceives. That is a second meaning inherent in the title Plays, which hints at the playful mood of the recordings. “The piano was a toy to me until I found out that it could be a tool for me to improvise, write and create things,” he says. “But it’s still a toy. Trios were my first love, so when I play solo piano I like to get out on stage and have some fun.”

A congenial host, Corea also makes sure that his audience has a good time as well. Almost as important as the music on Plays are his dialogues with the crowds, who take on a personality of their own. “I personally find it necessary to talk to the audience a lot,” Corea says. “Especially when I’m playing solo, it feels uncomfortable to just sit up on stage, play and nod at them. I like people to feel like they’re in my living room and we’re hanging out.”

Marcin Wasilewski Trio & Joe Lovano - Arctic Riff

The first-time creative teaming of Poland’s Marcin Wasilewski Trio and US tenorist Joe Lovano brings forth special music of concentrated, deep feeling, in which lyricism and strength seem ideally balanced. The alliance plays tunes by Wasilewski and by Lovano, as well as Carla Bley’s classic “Vashkar,” plus collective improvisations with strong input from all four players. Produced by Manfred Eicher, Arctic Riff was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the south of France in August 2019.

The album opens with Wasilewski’s rubato ballad “Glimmer of Hope” which, the composer explains, is “based mainly on one motive moving through some tonalities. I was very curious to hear how it would sound with Joe’s tone.” The piano gently prepares for the saxophone’s entry, and Lovano’s very first phrase – underpinned by Michal Miskiewicz’s soulful brushwork – establishes the sensitive atmosphere of intense listening that characterizes the session. 

Carla Bley’s “Vashkar” follows, a tune interpreted in many different ways over the last half-century. Wasilewski, who first heard it on the album Footloose by the Paul Bley Trio with Steve Swallow and Pete LaRoca, finds new possibilities inside the world that Carla Bley's theme opens up: “I really like Carla’s compositions, and I wanted to play 'Vashkar'’s beautiful melody with Joe.” Lovano bears down authoritatively on that melody before the Polish trio unravel some of its implications. The tenorist had performed Carla Bley’s music as a member of her band in 1983 and, in 1986, with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, but the present recording marks a first encounter as player with “Vashkar.” 

“Cadenza” is the first, and at nine minutes the longest, of the collective pieces shaped in the moment on Arctic Riff. “On each of our recordings we’ve tried to explore musical areas that we haven’t documented before. There was no preconceived plan at all for the improvised pieces, but just as we were concluding a musical statement together on ‘Cadenza,’ I had the feeling that it might be good to take it a little further. In that second, I heard Manfred saying through the headphones, ‘Marcin, please continue.’ That was a special moment, and helped to make the whole thing, spontaneously, a better piece of art.”

Wasilewski’s elegant ballad “Fading Sorrow” finds ways to keep the music fresh inside the song format. Slawomir Kurkiewicz’s bass feature here, soloing against Wasilewski's subtle chording and discreet drums, is a highlight. Kurkiewicz is also to the fore in the free piece “Arco” which, as its title implies, takes off from his bowed bass entry. “Free improvisation is a very rewarding experience based on mutual trust and openness,” says Kurkiewicz. “As a working trio we’ve played freely many times and It was so touching to see Joe jumping right in there with such directness and clarity. It is great to hear his voice in such a context.” Lovano’s strengths as a player include his enthusiastic capacity to embrace all the things that jazz has been, including its traditional, modern and experimental expressions.
Lovano's sly, jaunty tenor sets up “Stray Cat Walk,” soon joined on its nocturnal prowl by Kurkiewicz's bass and Miskiewicz’s drums. Miskiewicz: “The beauty of Joe’s melodies and his amazing rhythmical flow encourage you as a musician to be more creative and spontaneous.”

“L’amour fou” is a piece Wasilewski wrote to showcase Lovano’s skills in a fast tempo context; the working title was “Crazy for Lovo.” The tune’s author has a bright sparkling solo here, too, after which Lovano takes flight, buoyed by the spirited rhythm section, and Miskiewicz also has a brief, adroit solo.

“A Glimpse” is a kaleidoscopic free miniature of shifting focus, highly alert throughout. Miskiewicz: “From my point of view it's necessary to be deeply concentrated on each single note, and to predict somehow what may happen in the next second, few seconds or sometimes imagine the whole sequence.”

A second version of “Vashkar” grants more of the solo space to Lovano. Lovano: “’Vashkar’ is a beautiful, expressive piece of music. Each of the two versions has its own feeling, structure and exploration. I’m glad Manfred decided to include both takes. Carla’s music is inspired and inspiring – and I would say the same for the music we created on Arctic Riff.”
Lovano wrote “On the Other Side” for the session, “as a contrast to Marcin’s compositions.” It’s a swinging free flowing piece with a specific sequence of events to be followed: “The drums set up the theme which is a question-and-answer exchange between the tenor and drums and the piano trio. A piano and drums duo follows, then adding bass into a trio moment without piano. Piano then re-enters, leading to the final theme with embellishments. The outcome was just what I was hoping for. “

And, finally, there is Wasilewski's “Old Hat,” a moving ballad in classic jazz style, with tender solos from both Wasilewski and Lovano, its title referencing both the nostalgic flair of the piece and Joe’s penchant for vintage headgear.

The Wasilewski Trio’s members have been playing together since high school days in Koszalin, Poland; the present line-up was established in 1993. Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz first recorded for ECM as members of Tomasz Stanko’s quartet on the album Soul of Things in 2001, soon followed by Suspended Night and Lontano. Previous ECM albums in trio format are Trio (2004), January (2007), Faithful(2011), and Live (recorded 2016, released in 2018). For Spark of Life (2014), the trio was joined by Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder. Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz also appear on Norwegian guitarist Jacob Young’s album Forever Young (2013).

Joe Lovano made his ECM debut in 1981 with Paul Motian’s Psalm. Further recordings with the Motian/Lovano/Frisell are It Should have Happened A Long Time Ago, I Have The Room Above Her, and Time And Time Again. Lovano has also recorded for ECM with John Abercrombie (Open Land, Within A Song), Marc Johnson (Shades of Jade, Swept Away), and Steve Kuhn (Mostly Coltrane). 2019 saw the release of two critically-acclaimed recordings with Lovano – Trio Tapestry, introducing Joe’s trio with Marilyn Crispell and Carmen Castaldi, and Roma, a live album with Enrico Rava, Giovanni Guidi, Dezron Douglas and Gerald Cleaver.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Randy Brecker & Eric Marienthal - Double Dealin’

Multi Grammy Award-Winners Randy Brecker & Eric Marienthal Join Forces For Some Double Dealin’ On Shanachie Entertainment Debut Out 9/11 Offering A Soulfully Inspiring Album In Spades  

What do you get when you pair two visionaries who happen to be kindred spirits? You get an ace in the hole! Multi Grammy award-winners trumpeter/flugelhornist Randy Brecker and saxophonist Eric Marienthal and deliver ten thrilling originals on their anticipated Shanachie Entertainment debut Double Dealin’ out September 11, 2020. It’s all aboveboard on Double Dealin’ as Brecker and Marienthal opt not to follow suit but rather let the spirit of the moment be their guide as they draw some wild cards and the blur boundaries between traditional and contemporary jazz. Randy Brecker, who was a key player in numerous ground-breaking fusion bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears and Larry Coryell’s The Eleventh House, states “Duke Ellington said ‘There are only two kinds of music, good and bad' and we both love the latter!” Double Dealin’ marks Brecker and Marienthal’s first co-led recording. Danny Weiss, Shanachie Entertainment VP Of Jazz A&R says, “This album is a rarity - funky and brilliant at the same time. One plus one equals five with these two jazz giants.”

Brecker and Marienthal have built careers being musician’s musicians. Randy Brecker has remained at the forefront of creative music for over six decades collaborating with everyone from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, The Brecker Brothers (with his late tenor titan brother, Michael Brecker), Bruce Springsteen, Parliament/Funkadelic and Steely Dan. Saxophonist Eric Marienthal’s equally impressive career has allowed him to captivate audiences alongside everyone from Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, Patti Austin, Lee Ritenour, Elton John, Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder, among others. Longtime comrades on and off the stage, Marienthal and Brecker credit one thing for bringing them together. “Pizza” exclaims Brecker who won a Grammy this year for his album with the NDR Big Band. Laughing he adds, “We dig each other's playing and personalities. We also like each other’s families. Eric and I have played together many times throughout the years with different ensembles including Jeff Lorber, The GRP Big Band and always 'clicked' as a section, so we were long overdue in doing a project together.” Marienthel adds, “Yes, definitely pizza! Besides being one of the world’s great musicians and trumpet players, Randy is a very open and cool guy. Getting to play with Randy is like getting to make a pizza with Mario Batali! You just know that no matter what you do it’s going to end up being great.”         
Bringing Double Dealin’ to fruition was a bi-coastal affair as both musicians created from their own home based studios with Brecker in Long Island and Marienthal in Los Angeles. The duo sent files back and forth to one another and Brecker even admits that his attire for some of the session was PJs. “When the pandemic hit the mixing phase was about to begin,” recalls Marienthal who is the musical director of both the Blue Note At Sea Cruise and The Smooth Jazz Cruise. “I have to say it was a welcome distraction to deep dive into this music.” Double Dealin’ unites the dynamic duo with keyboardist and producer George Whitty, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl. “George Whitty is one of the very best musicians and record producers out there,” comments Marienthal. “Dave Weckl and John Patitucci are longtime bandmates of mine with the Chick Corea Elektric Band and good friends. Their playing on this record is exceptional and really put the icing on the cake!”

The thrilling ten-track album opens with the first single and title track. All bets are off as Brecker and Marienthal get down to business on this funky and free wheeling ditty that sets the tone for the joyous excursion ahead. The composition “Three Deuces,” takes us out for a bluesy cruise while “Fast Lane” shift gears for a high-octane affair propelled by Dave Weckl’s driving rhythms. Double Dealin’ also features tender moments like the gorgeous ballad “Mine The Fire,” penned by Marienthal and Whitty in memory of guitarist and friend Chuck Loeb. “Chuck was one of my closest friends,” reflects Marienthal, who appears on Loeb’s last two Shanachie recordings Bridges (Co-led by Marienthal) and Unspoken. In 2018, Marienthal organized and played a star-studded memorial concert at the Berks Jazz Fest for Loeb that featured Brecker among numerous others. Brecker who has long had an affinity for Brazilian music offers “Sambop,” where Samba rhythms and Bebop harmonies joyously collide. Brecker’s no-holds barred track “You Ga (Ta Give It),” is a delight as he and Marienthal create maximum firepower from the opening note to the exhilarating end. Eric Marienthal and George Whitty’s intriguing and intensely beautiful “True North” lends itself to some memorable interplay and soloing including that of bassist John Patitucci. It’s all about the groove on “The Hipster,” while the meandering and percussive “Jetlagged” takes us down a totally different path. Double Dealin’ comes to a finale with “Habañero,” which lives up to its name offering the perfect combination of hot and cool that leaves you wanting more.

Randy Brecker concludes, “Double Dealin’ is uplifting and filled with great vibes and fun beats. I hope it takes everyone's mind off our current problems and I hope people just groove with it and forget about everything else for a while!” Eric Marienthal adds, “This record has a particularly uplifting feel which is a good thing for the times we’re in right now. I know I feel better when I listen to it!”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Tribute to Alvin Fielder, Live at Vision Festival XXIV

Pianist Joel Futterman and saxophonist Kidd Jordan salute a fallen comrade on Tribute to Alvin Fielder, an energized and eclectic free improvisation. Joined by bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake, their performance was recorded live at the Brooklyn club Roulette during the 2019 Vision Festival in New York. It includes 45 minutes of continuous—and continuously shifting—music. 

Futterman and Jordan were longtime friends and collaborators of Fielder, an explorative drummer and founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) who passed away in January of 2019. Parker previously worked with the trio on Jordan’s 1999 New Orleans Festival Suite. With Drake taking the kit, the musicians ably evoke Fielder’s loose, omnivorous approach to rhythm and time and run the gamut of the jazz lineage. From New Orleans tradition to bop to free form, Tribute to Alvin Fielder also pays tribute to the music Fielder loved. 

Although the quartet’s improvisation consistently changes shape and approach, it doesn’t easily break down into sections. The twists and turns are organic, each idea a logical extension of the preceding one. Hard-driving paroxysm evolves into earthy spiritual jazz, evolves into inquisitive solo bass. Time compresses, expands, and vanishes all together. Within those developments, however, are moments of complete spontaneity, whether in Futterman’s quote of Thelonious Monk’s “Crepuscule with Nellie” ten minutes into the proceedings, or Jordan and Parker’s ghostly moans in the closing moments. 

Still, there are constants in the music. They lie in Parker and Drake’s simmering rhythmic lines—which for all their varying forms and directions, never relent even for an instant—and in the raw intensity of the performance. Fielder’s friends and fellow artists grieve his loss, yet also summon the powers of their imaginations to create sublime, in-the-moment music. Which is surely the best possible eulogy. Sad though his physical departure (as his onetime employer Sun Ra would say) may be, Tribute to Alvin Fielder makes clear that the creative spirits that inspired and animated the drummer’s 83 years not only live on but thrive. Indeed, they show no sign of fading anytime soon. 


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