Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Karuna Trio – Imaginary Archipelago

The three visionary musicians that make up the Karuna Trio – master percussionists Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Ralph M. Jones – have each forged a singular voice by culling inspirations that span the globe and reach back through musical and cultural histories. On their second album as a trio, Imaginary Archipelago, the group’s improvisatory explorations take them into an undiscovered country of sonic invention. These strikingly original pieces imagine an isolated island chain where musical traditions have evolved untouched by the rest of the world.

sed May 1, 2020 via Rudolph’s Meta Records label, Imaginary Archipelago is a breathtaking set of non-idiomatic, spontaneous compositions that brings vivid new meaning to the bridging of “ancient” and “future” musical concepts: the influence of ancient traditions, real and imagined, imbuing the utterly modern technology and techniques. Recorded at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT, the original improvisations reflect a profound chemistry developed through collaborations that have lasted and deepened for decades yet constantly reveal new and surprising discoveries. Rudolph’s inventive post-production then sculpts that source material into evocative soundscapes that illustrate the journey of discovery that he describes in his liner notes.

This bold, experimental approach is an undercurrent that runs throughout Rudolph’s diverse career, as well as that of his trio mates. Imaginary Archipelago arrives on the heels of the percussionist’s most ambitious and acclaimed release to date: Ragmala: A Garden of Ragas, which paired his Go: Organic Orchestra with the Indian classical musicians of Brooklyn Raga Massive. DownBeat called the album “a gorgeously complex tapestry of sounds, hues and sensations,” WBGO hailed it as “innovative [and] boundary pushing,” All Music called it “a major work,” and Jazzwise Magazine called it “a stunning journey into the unknown.”

Imaginary Archipelago is a far more intimate affair, though no less innovatory. “With every record I make I try to do something that I’ve never done before,” says Rudolph. “I’ve always studied music from all over the world, so I had the idea of inventing some music that was previously undiscovered, which represents the idea that the creative endeavor itself is about discovering and uncovering something new.”

The close personal and musical relationship between Rudolph and Drake dates back to 1969, when the two met in a downtown Chicago drum shop at the age of 14. In the decades since they’re worked together with such greats as Don Cherry, Fred Anderson, Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman and Hassan Hakmoun as well as in each other’s ensembles. Both play an array of percussion instruments, allowing for a multitude of sounds each more surprising than the last. Together they share a remarkable chemistry. “Hamid and I think like one,” Rudolph says. “It’s almost uncanny at times. We’re always listening and orchestrating with each other in a way that’s incredibly free.”

Rudolph met Jones in 1974 at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, where they performed together in groups led by Kenne Cox and Charles Moore; with Moore they went on to co-found the Eternal Wind quartet that Rudolph has called, in much the same spirit as the Karuna Trio, “an ongoing research and development music laboratory.” Rudolph compares Jones to classic melodicists like Lester Young and Ben Webster: brilliant and bold improvisers who achieved stunning ends through elegant, understated means. “Ralph is a master orchestrator, harkening back to the tradition of soloing by generating gorgeous melodies. Ralph is always thinking about singing when he plays.”

In its compellingly original sound, Karuna blurs countless boundaries: between ancient and modern, organic and electronic, live improvisation and post-production. In his role as producer, Rudolph follows in the tradition of such formative influences as Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – artists and albums that used the studio as an instrument. In his role as conductor of the Go: Organic Orchestra, Rudolph utilizes the ensemble much in the same way that he plays his battery of hand drums; on Imaginary Archipelago he expands that concept to his processing and editing of the raw materials of the initial performance.

The use of electronics is nothing new to Rudolph, who began experimenting with early Moog and Buchla synthesizers during his days as a student in the groundbreaking electronic music program at Oberlin College. He delved deeper in the late 1980s through his partnership with trumpeter Jon Hassell, which found them working with legendary producer Brian Eno. More recently he has incorporated live electronic processing into his performances.

“To me, the most avant-garde music is the music of the Ba-Benzélé people of the Ituri forest,” he says, “because their music is so far from the materialism of music and so close to nature. A Ba-Benzélé can pick up a bamboo piece, saw it off, blow over its top and make music. I approach electronics and post-production in that same spirit of organic exploration.”

With the Karuna Trio, Adam Rudolph, Hamid Drake and Ralph M. Jones bring their unique and evolved rhythmic and sonic languages to the fore, reaching to inspire audiences through spirited dialogue. Called “a pioneer in world music” by the New York Times, Rudolph leads a number of innovative ensembles including the Go: Organic Orchestra, Moving Pictures, and Hu Vibrational and has worked with such masters as Yusef Lateef, Don Cherry, Sam Rivers, Pharoah Sanders, Jon Hassell and Wadada Leo Smith. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian and African percussion into his expansive jazz language, Drake has collaborated with a wide variety of legendary artists including Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Fred Anderson and David Murray. Jones’ career has seen him sharing the stage and the studio with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Wadada Leo Smith, Yusef Lateef and the MC5. The three have shared histories that stretch back five decades, including collaborations in Moving Pictures and the Eternal Wind quartet.

New Music Releases: Steve Arrington, Horizons Jazz Orchestra, Mon David & Josh Nelson

Steve Arrington – Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions 

After a 7-year hiatus, funk legend Steve Arrington returns with his uplifting and soulful new album ‘Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions’, with artists including Mndsgn, Knxwledge and Jerry Paper on production. The album portrays his diversity of influences, which sees Arrington drawing on funk, soul, jazz, electronic and R&B. Steve Arrington is known for his innovative vocals on classics including ‘Watching You’ and ‘Just A Touch of Love’, with Slave, as well as his solo work with tracks including ‘Dancin’ in the Key of Life’, ‘Weak at the Knees’ and ‘Nobody Can Be You’. His music has greatly influenced the hip hop generation, having been sampled by Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharrell, 50 Cent, 2Pac, De La Soul, Snoop Dogg and many more. ‘Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions’ is Steve Arrington’s first solo album since 2009’s ‘Pure Thang’.

Horizons Jazz Orchestra – The Brite Side

Horizons Jazz Orchestra is a swinging big band comprising some of the finest musicians in South Florida. They are now releasing their debut CD, The Brite Side. On The Brite Side, the Orchestra plays the music of Lee Harris, a baritone sax player, composer, arranger, and bandleader who worked along the East Coast. Harris and trumpeter Dennis Noday, an alumnus of the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson bands, co-founded and co-led SUPERBAND, a big band that mainly performed Harris’ original compositions and arrangements. Harris passed away before the album was completed, and since some of the original musicians had moved onto other projects, executive producer Jeannette C. Piña and musical director Michael Balogh decided to rebrand and changed the name to Horizons Jazz Orchestra. The band’s music is lush, melodic, and very approachable. It doesn’t try be avant-garde; rather, it has a dance-able, crowd pleasing appeal. With sterling musicianship, exciting arrangements, and some rarely heard compositions that could have been taken right out of the Great American Songbook, The Brite Side is a loving tribute to Lee Harris, an unheralded but much appreciated composer and arranger in the jazz world.

Mon David & John Nelson - DNA

Mon David (pronounced moan da-VID) had a successful career as a touring drummer and singer in the Philippines, recording and performing mostly pop music with popular groups that toured around the world. But the vocalist, composer, arranger, and musician decided to fulfill his dreams to pursue a career as a jazz vocalist, so he brought his family from the Philippines to the U.S. in 2007 and has since become a popular mainstay on the Southern California music scene. David is now releasing DNA, his fourth U.S. release. The album, which is a program of mostly standards, is a duo project featuring Josh Nelson, the highly respected pianist, composer, and arranger, who has performed with some of the top names in jazz. Mon David sings straight from the heart. He is emotive without being cliched or pedantic. A trained instrumentalist as well as a vocalist with a wide range and excellent vocal control, his singing is endlessly improvisational and creative. His collaboration with Josh Nelson on DNA demonstrates that an entire symphony of sounds can be created by two seasoned, master musicians.


Craft Latino, the Latin division of Craft Recordings, is proud to present a 50th anniversary vinyl reissue of Barretto Power, out October 23rd. The album will also be released in hi-res 96/24 and 192/24 digital formats for the first time. Available for pre-order today, this album is the first in a string of genre-defining Afro-Caribbean masterpieces released by the conga drummer and bandleader Ray Barretto during the first half of the ’70s.

A member of the Fania All-Stars and a prodigious conguero who never allowed his technical chops to overshadow the funky groove of his orchestra, Barretto is one of the key artists in the history of both the Fania label and the New York salsa explosion. Born in New York of Puerto Rican roots, Barretto began his career as a young conga player, performing with some of the best jazzmen of his day, from Charlie Parker and Gene Ammons to Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Burrell. Barretto’s accomplishments as a jazz and Latin musician were extensive – per Jazz Profiles from NPR, “Barretto is credited for being the first U.S.-born percussionist to integrate the African-based conga drum into jazz. This fact has designated him as one of the early ‘crossover’ artists in jazz – skillfully balancing his Latin leanings and his love for bebop throughout a long and successful career.” In the late ’60s however, he launched his career as a visionary bandleader with an intriguing fusion of Latin Soul, boogaloo, traditional Afro-Cuban dance formats and a dash of Latin jazz. Just as the boogaloo movement was losing steam, Barretto found his true calling in the more rugged soundscapes of the emerging salsa movement.

Released in 1970 – a momentous year for tropical music – Barretto Power is the first in a series of iconic LPs that signal the bandleader’s coming of age, as he crystallized the specific sound – nimble, tight and funky – that he remains most closely associated with. There are a couple of socially conscious Latin Soul-flavored numbers in Barretto Power – the lyrics on the infectious “Right On” and closing jam “Power” are as timely today as when they were written 50 years ago – but most of the material here brims with salsa frenzy, boasting a tightly knit band of seasoned musicians like Orestes Vilató on timbales and a young Andy González on bass. Standout cuts include the timeless mega-hit “Quítate La Máscara,” which confirms Adalberto Santiago as one of the most talented Afro-Caribbean singers of his era, and the fast and furious “De Qué Te Quejas Tú,” by legendary Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso. Written by Barretto himself, opening cut “Oye La Noticia” includes a transcendental piano solo by Louie Cruz and lyrics condemning envy and jealousy among artists – one of Barretto’s favorite topics.

Barretto would go on to record a number of definitive salsa albums during the ’70s: The Message (1971), Qué Viva La Música (1972) and Indestructible (1973), to name a few. Barretto Power, however, remains particularly enchanting because it signals the starting point of his creative apex. In later decades, he would react to the fall of the salsa era by switching gears and recording in the Latin jazz genre. But until the end of his life in 2006, the emotion was palpable in his voice whenever he remembered his classic salsa days.

This new edition of Barretto Power boasts all-analog mastering by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and marks the first vinyl reissue since its original release. The 180-gram vinyl has been manufactured at Memphis Record Pressing.

Papa Rosko self-titled album features Toots & The Maytals, Gyptian, and Third World lead singer AJ Brown

Introducing the multi-genre recording and performing artist Papa Rosko, who will be releasing his self-titled debut album on October 16, 2020. Papa Rosko pulls together a wide spectrum of genres on his debut album, fusing elements of rock, pop, alternative, Latin, and country music into a seamless reggae sound.

The self-titled album was recorded over the course of two and half years between studios in South Florida and Kingston, Jamaica. The results are an impressive album filled with original songs and a pair of country-reggae fusion covers featuring reggae and dancehall legends. The album kicks off with Papa Rosko’s take on the classic Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues,” featuring Toots Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals as special guest vocalist (Toots famously wrote his own prison song “54-46 That’s My Number,” which gets a shout out at the end of the song here.) Another cover on the album is of the timeless song “When You Say Nothing At All,” featuring Jamaican dancehall star Gyptian as guest vocalist. The song has been an international hit for three different artists (Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ronan Keating) spanning three different decades. The iconic tune has always been done as a slow love ballad, but Papa Rosko brings his unique style to it, picking up the tempo and immersing it in an island vibe. Add in Gyptian’s vocal stylings and this song is poised for prevalence into a new decade. The forthcoming music video fully encapsulates the uplifting vibe with Gyptian playing a starring role.

Third World lead vocalist AJ Brown is featured on the cover of Third World’s beautiful, hopeful song “You’re Not the Only One.” Tracks were recorded remotely at home studios during the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown. AJ and Third World were fully behind the project due to the positivity of the accompanying video as Papa Rosko tried to provide hope and comfort to those home alone during the lockdown.

South Florida based Papa Rosko founded and fronted the band Voodoo Possum, based in Nashville, TN, playing country covers reggae-style in the honky-tonks and BBQ joints of Music City, in dive bars and music festivals in South Florida, and even the Austin Reggae Festival, where they shared the stage with Bunny Wailer, The Skatalites and Katchafire. While this mash-up of styles is a rarity, there is actually a long history of Jamaicans’ love of country music, dating back to the ‘60s, and some dancehall artists, including Beenie Man, had hit singles in the 90s that were essentially country songs. While he enjoyed the quirkiness of playing country-reggae fusion, Papa Rosko was getting stage time and finding the right sound and players for his true passion: writing, composing, recording, and performing meaningful original songs in multiple genres that connect with the broadest of audiences.

On the album, Papa Rosko showcases his diverse range of original compositions, all with narratives that speak to the times. For example, “Tranquilo’s” Latin elements and irresistibly catchy hook make it standout. Is he singing about a woman or marijuana? You be the judge. “1984” has no shortage of thrilling moments either. According to Papa Rosko, the track was inspired by the classic George Orwell novel. “The song is focused on how close we are, and how much closer we are getting, to the dystopian reality of 1984. It’s just coming several decades later, but it’s coming. Big Brother is watching us.” On “NooZies” the message is aimed at the self-important, lazy, profit-driven news media, which Papa Rosko sums up as, “Don Henley’s ‘Dirty Laundry’ if 311 wrote and performed it (and added a hot horn section).”

On his debut album, Papa Rosko delivers a heartfelt genre-bending body of work, strongly rooted in reggae, that is timely and relevant. Papa Rosko is out October 16th.


Having love and appreciation for the masters among us, and those of yesteryear, coupled with a deep exploration of the language and customs of such mastery is essential. You must come to the table with erudition, and bassist/composer Michael Feinberg is among the most erudite artists active on the scene today. On From Where We Came – the new recording, his seventh as a leader (and his debut for SteepleChase), Feinberg displays a set of compositions that enlighten his musical ancestry, and essentially, from where he came. The artist suggests as much in the album’s title, and in naming each of the compositions after a city, one could infer that he’s lived many places and moved around quite a bit. 

But there’s much beneath the surface of the song titles. Feinberg has never lived in any of these cities. They are, in fact, the hometowns of his personal heroes; the artists and athletes whose examples have inspired him, and Feinberg has turned them into impressionistic lenses on his predecessors’ lives. 

“Each location is the birthplace of a historical figure meaningful to me,” he explains. “But for each of these figures, I became inspired more by the time and place than by the individual person. So the songs are not so much about these people, but rather about the environment where they grew up.” From Where We Came really catalogs from whom Feinberg’s music came, by focusing on his sense of the settings in which these extraordinary individuals came of age. 

On the subject of extraordinary individuals, From Where We Came features a superbly balanced cross-generational ensemble, including Dave Liebman, designated an NEA Jazz Master in 2011, and a veteran of bands led by Elvin Jones and Miles Davis. Liebman also played a crucial (and arguably the leading) role in establishing the soprano sax as a stand-alone voice. His early recordings opened the door to an almost indescribable lifetime of jazz performance, education, and mentorship; the more than 500 albums on which he has appeared (about half of them as leader or co-leader) attest to his indefatigable vitality as an improvising artist. 

At 34, less than half Liebman’s age, Noah Preminger ranks among the most accomplished artists on the scene today, admired for not only his technique but also the soulful immediacy of his message. Gary Versace’s puckish imagination and unbounded creativity have placed him among modern music’s deservedly busiest keyboardists (on organ as well as piano) – a jazz whirlwind sought out by such leaders as Maria Schneider, Matt Wilson, Kurt Elling, and the late Lee Konitz. And drummer Ian Froman, a widely respected professor of percussion at Berklee College of Music, brings thunderous gravitas to the endeavor, and something more: like Liebman, he has a visceral connection to Elvin Jones, with whom he studied directly.

That shared lineage is neither coincidental nor incidental to this band, which originated in 2010 as a group performing cover versions of Jones’ repertoire. A couple years later, Feinberg gave this band a name: the Elvin Jones Project. As he added his own compositions to the book, “Elvin Jones” eventually disappeared from the name of the band. But the legendary drummer’s influence never vanished from the band’s concept, and it roars into view here – the first of Feinberg’s albums to feature Liebman, whose contributions recall his tenure in Jones’ two-and three-saxophone bands of the early 1970s. 

“Elvin is one of the most essential people in my musical life.” Feinberg proudly admits, “It all stems from those classic John Coltrane Quartet albums, but also his records with Larry Young, Wayne Shorter, so many others. And Elvin’s [1982] album Earth Jones – wow that’s one of those records that kind of makes you turn left! Elvin’s records introduced me to the other saxophonists in his band, Steve Grossman, Joe Farrell – but now those bands are totally lost. I don’t hear others referencing them at all. ”Feinberg’s fascination with those albums, and with Jones’ patented beat – that swaggering, deceptively relaxed lope that launched a thousand fiery solos – impelled him to resurrect their spirit for the current era. 

But that’s not the beat you hear at the start of Pontiac, named for Jones’ Michigan birthplace. In keeping with Feinberg’s desire to capture the milieu that shaped his heroes, Pontiac pops along with a peppy swing that emerged from bebop – the music that Elvin’s brother Hank had performed on piano with Charlie Parker, and that Elvin and his other brother, Thad, would have heard on the nearby Detroit scene of the 1940s. Not until the solos unfurl does Froman incorporate elements of Elvin’s signature sound, most winningly when the band drops out and he and Liebman work as a duo. 

Tryon, North Carolina, honors Nina Simone, born there in 1933. When Feinberg first encountered her music, “I was unaware of her life story, which reminded me a lot of Ron Carter, another musician who wanted to enter the classical world but was denied because of skin color. I took so much inspiration from her. I teach a course that deals with protest music, and we use her song Mississippi Goddam – for me that’s one of the great pieces of American music, ever. You really feel her pain. And that’s what we try to do as musicians – express our point of view and communicate to as many people as possible.” A free-form elegy, it evokes the painful no-man’s-land inhabited by Simone during much of her career.       

Another North Carolina town, Hamlet, is the birthplace of Coltrane, who lived there through his high-school years (and whose immeasurable impact on modern music needs no delineation here). Coltrane’s early champion, Miles Davis, remains the most famous musician to come out of East St. Louis, but it is also where trumpeter Russell Gunn and drummer Terreon Gully grew up. Both of them now live in Atlanta, Feinberg’s hometown, and during high school he had the opportunity to see them perform on a weekly basis. (While still a teenager, he even played in Gunn’s band for a short while.) They’re the ones Feinberg honors here, with a gritty melody that follows the gentle cry of his a cappella introduction. 

The music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has earned international praise for his film scoring, prompted Feinberg to write Tokyo. “I first heard his work in the film Furyo” – released in the U.S. under the title Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – “and I still get goose bumps thinking about it. Then I discovered some of his solo piano work, and his prog band, and the music he wrote for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He is one of my favorite contemporary composers.” In Nogales, the Arizona town where Charles Mingus was born in 1922, the composition channels the towering muscularity of Mingus’ music, along with the heartbreaking tenderness that always hovered nearby. Feinberg may not have meant to evoke the monumental bassist directly, but his opening cadenza does that all the same. 

While these musicians take no back seat in Feinberg’s life, the athletes he admires definitely jockey for position. Thus we have Louisville, birthplace of Muhammad Ali and a piece that, says Feinberg, “actually does express some of his bravado and bombast, in that the composition is very open and allows for a lot of dynamics. That describes Ali, who went to jail and suspended his career to protest the Vietnam War.” (Feinberg, who has trained in boxing and martial arts, sees a parallel between the sweet science and jazz, “in terms of having a game plan but knowing that once you get into the ring, anything can happen.”) 

And Cairo – not the one in Egypt, or Illinois (or nearly a dozen other states) – refers to the Georgia birthplace of Jackie Robinson, the electrifying second baseman who integrated major-league baseball in the 1940s. Feinberg says, “Coming from Georgia, as I do, he’s a hometown hero – not the first black ballplayer, but someone who had to have the character to stand up to everything he endured.” The fact that Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, where Feinberg now lives? Icing on the cake. 

You have to know where you came from to understand where you are. And knowing where you are can help you decide where you go next. Hearing Feinberg and esteemed company clear the first of these hurdles, we should all keep an ear out for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

New Music Releases: Freda Payne, Kellee Patterson, Ron Miles

Freda Payne - Contact

Freda Payne is the high-class soul hit maker who brought us the blockbuster track ‘Band Of Gold’. Contact is her second album for Invictus/Hotwax Records and the follow-up to the huge success of ‘Band of Gold’, released by the legendary Holland- Dozier- Hollands then newly launched record label after they left Motown. Seen as a pinnacle in 70’s production style by the legendary producers, highlights include the anti-war protest song ‘Bring The Boys Home’ and the singles ‘Cherish What Is Dear to You (While It’s Near to You)’, ‘You Brought the Joy’ and ‘ The Road We Didn’t Take’. Other titles include: ‘I'm Not Getting Any Better’, ‘Suddenly It's Yesterday’, ‘You've Got To Love Somebody (Let It Be Me)’, ‘Prelude’, ‘Odds And Ends’, ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’, and ‘Mama's Gone’. This 1971 album is reissued on classic black vinyl with original artwork and printed inner sleeve. 

Kellee Patterson - Maiden Voyage (Remastered Edition) 

As purportedly the first Black-owned jazz imprint since the '20s, the Black Jazz label had its roots in the Black Power movement of the late '60s and early '70s. But not every album on the label had a social message. Kellee Patterson's Maiden Voyage was simply an extremely tasteful, mellow jazz vocal album, recorded with the top-notch sidemen that characterized Black Jazz sessions. Patterson first gained fame as the first Black woman (entered under her real name Pat Patterson) to win the Miss Indiana contest, culminating in a performance of 'My Funny Valentine' at the Miss America pageant. Her success led to some acting gigs (the TV shows The Streets of San Francisco and The Dukes of Hazzard, and the movie Demolition Man), a brief brush with Hollywood fame (she was briefly linked romantically to talk show host Johnny Carson), and her signing with Gene Russell for her recording debut on Black Jazz (Russell went on to produce subsequent LPs for Patterson on the Shadybrook label). 1973's Maiden Voyage is highlighted by a beautiful vocal performance by Patterson of Herbie Hancock's title tune, backed with such premium players as long-time George Duke sideman John Heard on acoustic bass and Ray Charles touring band member George Harper on flute. Our Real Gone reissue is remastered for CD by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision, and features new liner notes by Pat Thomas, author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975. An essential, though uncharacteristic, entry in the Black Jazz catalog!

Ron Miles – Rainbow Sign

Cornetist Ron Miles will make his Blue Note debut on Oct. 9 with Rainbow Sign, the deeply affecting follow-up to his widely acclaimed 2017 album I Am A Man, which reconvenes the same remarkable band featuring pianist Jason Moran, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Thomas Morgan & drummer Brian Blade. The album is a set of nine new original Miles compositions including the striking first single “Queen of the South,” a piece Miles says was informed by Ethiopian pop, which is available to stream or download now. Rainbow Sign can be pre-ordered on vinyl, CD, or download.

New Music Releases: Tony Allen, Sly5thAve, Alex Puddu


Tony Allen - The Source

One of the coolest records in years from the legendary Tony Allen – and that's saying a lot, given that his legacy includes famous work as a drummer with Fela Kuti, and a much more recent run of very experimental recordings! This set has Tony soaring out on Blue Note – and working with more of the jazz currents you'd expect from the label – while still, in the Allen legacy, really going for something fresh and unique – as spontaneously creative as it is outright funky! There's definitely some Afro Funk rhythms on the album, but there's also a fuller brace of horns, dedicated to painting sound in rich colors and tones – alongside riffing guitar, organ and keyboard lines, and Tony's own mighty drums – which keep things moving in a straight ahead way, while also filling in the rhythms with wonderfully complicated bits too. The album's as rich and beautiful as you might hope – with titles that include "Cool Cats", "On Fire", "Wolf Eats Wolf", "Life Is Beautiful", "Ewajo", "Moody Boy", "Bad Roads", and "Woro Dance". ~ Dusty Groove

Sly5thAve - What It Is

Sly5thAve is deeper and more soulful than ever before – really stepping past his initial role as a creative beat-maker, and emerging here more as a fully-formed producer with a strong ear for his overall sound! The tunes here are a mix of instrumental and vocal numbers – woven together in a great tapestry that showcases the hippest sides of the contemporary soul spectrum – as Sly gets guest help from Denitia, Marlon Craft, Thalma De Freitas, Sene, Melissa McMillan, and others – really bringing a lot of different flavors to the mix, while the maestro keeps it all together with a very unified vibe! In a world of quickie songdrops and long-distance internet productions, a record like this restores our faith in the way forward – thanks to tracks that include "The Night", "Expatria", "C-Side", "What It Is", "Daddy Warbucks", "Boulevards", "With You", "More Or Less", and "Right Here". ~ Dusty Groove

Alex Puddu - All I Want Is Your Love

The beginning of 2020 has seen the release of the new Alex Puddu full- length album 'Discotheque', 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. Apart from the 10 tracks of the official album, some extra material had been produced, and 'All I Want Is Your Love' is a previously unreleased track coming straight from those recording sessions. The song was originally written by Alex Puddu, and features the American singer Rodney Stith, who also wrote the lyrics. A talented soul vocalist from Petersburg (Virginia, USA), Stith's style reminds of Bobby Womack and The Temptations’ David Ruffin.  'All I Want Is Your Love' is an uptempo R&B ballad with a strong hook-line and catchy chorus, and we felt it was great enough to deserve a special 7-inch release. As a B-side, you’ll find the full version of 'Don’t Hold Back', the album's lead single, that became a hit especially among UK radio stations.

New Music Releases - Doug Carn feat Jean Carn, Butcher Brown, Paul Simpson Ubiquity

Doug Carn Featuring Jean Carn - Spirit of the New Land 

Of all the artists who recorded for the Black Jazz label, keyboardist and composer Doug Carn was the most prolific, releasing four albums for the imprint. 1972's Spirit of the New Land was his second Black Jazz release, but the first one (of two) to co-feature his wife, vocalist Jean Carn, in the album title; we've chosen to lead with this record from Carn's catalog not only because it's the most collectible of the bunch, but also because it showcases his innovative approach of adding lyrics to jazz standards. Thus, both Miles Davis' 'Blue in Green' and Lee Morgan's 'Search for the New Land' are blessed with spellbinding vocals from Jean Carn set to her husband's words, while Doug Carn originals like 'Arise and Shine' and 'My Spirit' soar with spiritual fervor on the wings of his wife's five-octave range. Along for the ride are a stellar cast of players, including trumpeter Charles Tolliver, co-founder of the Strata-East label; saxophonist George Harper, who played with Herbie Hancock and Jimmy Smith among others; trombonist Garnett Brown, who appears on albums by Roland Kirk, Albert Ayler, and Art Blakey among his hundreds of album credits; tuba player Earl McIntyre, whose discography spans from Carla Bley to the Band; and drummer Alphonse Mouzon, founding member of Weather Report. Produced for reissue by Real Gone's own Gordon Anderson and noted jazz archivist Zev Feldman, and remastered by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision, this beautiful, uplifting album comes with a special surprise: liner notes by Pat Thomas, author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, that feature excerpts from a freewheeling interview recently conducted with Doug Carn himself!

Butcher Brown - #KingButch

Fantastically jamming genius from Butcher Brown – a contemporary funk combo, but one with a sound that owes nothing to anyone else! These guys aren't retro, or any kind of jamband offshoot – and instead, they rework vintage instrumentation with a very fresh feel of their own – a groove that's been well-nurtured on previous releases, and which really explodes here – heavy with Fender Rhodes, bass, guitar, and drums – and getting occasional vocals touches from Tennishu, who also blows trumpet and tenor! There's maybe a bit more vocals than before, but they're right on the money, and perfect for the sound – on cuts that include "1992", "Broad Rock", "Cabbage", "#KingButch", "Gun In My Mouth", "Hopscotch", "Tidal Wave", "For The City", "IDK", and "Love Lock". ~ Dusty Groove

Paul Simpson Ubiquity - Don't Talk – Press Play

Great grooves from Paul Simpson – music that mixes a strong influence from classic soul with some of the best touches of contemporary club – all served up in a blend that's mighty nice throughout! Paul's got some great help on the record – which features work from Nando Griffiths, Diplomats Of Soul, Byron Stingily, Kenny Bobien, Jennifer Holiday, and many others – but it's clear that it's his own sense of soul that really holds the whole thing together – blending together his own instrumentation with contributions from a few funk and soul studio giants. Titles include "Tom's Theme", "Baby 2Nite", "I Like It When", "We Are The Ones (2019 gospel mix)", and "Motions" – plus nice takes on "Running Away" and "Girl You Need A Change Of Mind". CD also features bonus mixes – "Free Yourself (2019 musical freedom mix)" with Adeva, "Walk Away From Love (2019 found Philly mix)" with Anthony White, and "We Are The Ones (2019 lost Philly mix)". ~ Dusty Groove 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Live jazz from Brazil with love from pianist Ricardo Bacelar

The sounds of Brazil are alive and well despite the menacing coronavirus causing havoc throughout the South American country and the world. Music lovers missing the magic of live music can indulge safely with last Friday’s arrival of “Ricardo Bacelar: Live in Rio (Ao Vivo No Rio)” from Bacelar Productions. Recorded during a 2018 concert held at The Blue Note in Rio, the contemporary jazz pianist and his five-piece band harness the unique energy, power, warmth and spontaneity that can only be experienced in a live concert setting.

The 11-song “Live in Rio” set list includes tunes penned by Brazilian icons Milton Nascimento, Tom Jobim, Gilberto Gil and Flora Purim along with American jazz greats Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea. The album also contains an original composition penned by Bacelar and Cesar Lemos (Ricky Martin, Paulina Rubio) titled “Sernambetiba, 1992.”

During this period of dramatic change impacting the planet, Bacelar chose to release a version of the Nascimento classic “Nothing Will Be As It Was (Nada Sera Como Antes)” as the first single from “Live in Rio.” It is presented as a duet sung in Portuguese by Bacelar and Brazilian vocalist-pianist Delia Fischer.

Prior to COVID-19, Bacelar planned to work on an album of new material this spring, but early in quaratine, he sensed that it would be quite a while before people would be able to hear live jazz again. He decided to release the live collection this summer, which he originally envisioned isssuing in the next year or two. The performance was recorded during a concert tied to the release of his “Sebastiana” album.

Bacelar’s band on “Live in Rio” consists of guitarist João Castilho, saxophonist-flutist Danilo Sina, double bassist Alexandre Katatau, drummer Renato Endrigo and percussionist André Siqueira. 

As radio programmers in the US add tracks from the new collection to their playlists, Bacelar’s team is plotting the Japanese release of the live album receiving favorable reviews here and abroad. “Ricardo Bacelar: Live in Rio” was featured in Jazziz’s “The Week in Jazz” column. 

The concert that became “Ricardo Bacelar: Live in Rio” was also filmed. 

Guitarist Lawson Rollins’ imaginative “With the Wind” from the 'True North" album

The winds of change are upon us and while possessing the power of destruction, wind can also purify, refresh and foster renewal. It’s the latter that world music guitarist Lawson Rollins had in mind when composing “With the Wind,” the second single from the recently released “True North” album, a collection that the Billboard chart-topper wrote and produced marking his 20th anniversary as a recording artist. 

“‘With the Wind’ is an expression of energetic joyfulness. The song emerged out of improvisation - as songs often do for me - so the inspiration was spontaneous and enigmatic as the music flowed naturally, like the steady force of the wind,” said the San Francisco-based Rollins who was named by Guitar Player magazine as one of the “50 Transcedent Acoustic Guitarists” of all-time.

“With the Wind” follows the success of the album’s first single, “Bluewave Bossanova,” which went to No. 1 on the chart, Top 10 on the Mediabase and Groove Jazz Music charts, and Top 30 on the Billboard and Radiowave Monitor charts. Opening with tribal percussion beats, “With the Wind” takes off on an exuberant flight. Rollins crafts whirling gusts of masterful acoustic guitar delivered at alacritous speed and technical brilliance, searing electric guitar accents and snappy beats at cadences that vacillate between a cascading and careening thrill ride mixed with deliberate and dramatic pauses seemingly to allow the listener the opportunity to catch their breath. The track is an eclectic escapade unlike any other recorded by Rollins, who was accompanied by Stephen Duros (additional keyboards and electric guitar), Dan Feiszli (bass) and Dave Bryant (drums and percussion).

Named by Jazziz magazine as one of the “10 Albums You Need to Know,” “True North” displays familiar Rollins’ hallmarks while introducing new and different elements. His prodigious fingerstyle guitar work remains the focal point of the tracks that stylistically serve a melange of contemporary jazz, world music, Latin and New Age sounds. On this outing, Rollins expands his repertoire by playing electric and slide guitars and steel string guitar alongside his signature classical Spanish nylon string acoustic guitar. He also adds textured synthesizer swatches. Known for embarking on lengthy improvisational explorations, Rollins keeps the tracks tightly focused on “True North,” exhibiting discipline and control.

Exotic travel and exhilarating adventure have long been Rollins’ primary thematic subjects, however, as pictured on the album cover and accompanying photography in the CD packaging, “True North” derives much of it’s geographic inspiration from a more familiar locale: Rollins’ favorite vacation spot on the Outer Banks in his home state of North Carolina.  


Jazz singer-songwriter Yola Nash is an unstoppable force when “Touched By Love”

Growing up stifled by the communist regime in Poland and an abusive, alcoholic father, Yola Nash found solace by escaping into music where she feels safe and protected. With her personal experiences in love serving as muse for her songs that paint the complete color palate of human emotions, Nash’s “Touched By Love” dropped on Wednesday. It’s the jazz singer-songwriter’s second album, an intimate six-song acoustic set that she produced with GRAMMY winning jazz pianist Edsel Gomez (Dee Dee Bridgewater) serving as musical director. The multimedia artist who hosts the celebrity driven “The Yola Nash Show” on New York City’s WABC Radio wrote lyrics for the album. 

Nash began writing for “Touched By Love” five years ago. Having released her debut disc (“Another Girl”) over ten years ago, spawning the Billboard No. 1 most added adult contemporary single “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” she struggled to find her sound and direction for her sophomore outing. She turned to composers Dr. Graham Keir (guitar) and Dr. Octavio Vazquez (piano) to help create and develop her musical vision. Gomez tailored warm, elegant instrumental soundscapes around the award-winning jazz chanteuse’s sensual, breathy vocals that emit longing, fragility, heartache, hope and bliss, guiding Nash to cozy acoustic jazz settings. GRAMMY-winning percussionist Luisito Quintero (Chick Corea) and bassist Dave Baron (Herbie Hancock) anchor the rhythmic grooves while GRAMMY nominated accordionist Alex Meixner adds vital ambiance that fosters organic Polish-European accents, making “Touched By Love” a multicultural listening experience.   

At the heart of the album is Nash’s heart that somehow manages to beat with her strong optimistic spirit and the vibration of hope despite her often-pained subject matters and difficult past. She’s come a long way, facing and triumphing over adversity in the process, and living to sing about it.    

“The songs were inspired by my life, beautiful love and longing for it, or tremendous pain, betrayal, burning questions or just hunger for hope. All of those powerful emotions that needed to be shared and expressed. The world needs more love, hope and the spirit of never ever giving up. I’m here as living proof that bad times always pass and good things always prevail,” said Nash who arrived in New York City over 15 years ago, not knowing any English or anyone or having any place to go, with only the $1,000 that she borrowed from her late mother, Danusia, to whom the album is dedicated. 

The lone song on “Touched By Love” not penned by Nash is “Dance With Me,” a cabaret-like track that she describes as “musical exploration.” It sets a theatric poem by award-winning poet and film director Fella Cederbaum to music written by the author. 

The “Touched By Love” recording sessions began before the COVID-19 quarantine with the goal of a spring album release, but then came the New York-New Jersey lockdowns, which halted the project’s initial momentum. 

“During the first editing-mixing session, we found out we were going to be in quarantine and that completely shut down our production process. It took months to finally get back to the studios to finish the album. It was such relief to go back, but it meant nonstop chasing the clock. I jumped into the studio and in one six-hour session, I recorded all my vocals for the album. We didn’t have the luxury of taking many takes and spending days in the studio on it,” said the resilient and determined Nash who performed at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. 

Highlights of Nash’s performance career include singing for Pope John Paul II and becoming the first Polish American to perform and record with the GRAMMY-winning Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and its director, multiple GRAMMY-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. On the radio, Nash has been interviewing A-list celebrities, world changers, spiritual leaders and inspirational speakers in the Big Apple for nearly 15 years, inspiring her audiences around the globe to live a happier, more fulfilling life. An artist in other media who studied fine arts, she’s a Guinness Book world record holder for creating the original key art for the largest theater poster in the world for the renowned new play “Anne Frank,” which took eight professional mountain climbers to hang. Indeed, Nash is an unstoppable force who thinks and acts big.    

“I’m creating my purposeful path every day with my determination. I hope my story and my music will inspire people to be stronger and dream big, especially now during these challenging times, so they can find a creative way through the impossible waters and the impossible becomes possible,” said Nash. 

“It’s a dream come true to finally put out my new album. I’m also excited because I found my signature sound that I’ve been looking for my entire life. Although it’s my second album, this one feels like I’m going in the right direction. I feel I’m being touched by love through this music, the people who came along to support it and the amazing musicians who brought their sensibilities to make it happen. ‘Touched By Love’ expresses what I felt and feel in my heart. After all the hardship, major challenges, obstacles and pain, I never lost hope. The album is not just a music project; it’s a miracle to me. It’s a voice of hope, a chance and a voice of strength that expresses my life’s motto: ‘Never ever give up on your dreams!’”

New Music Releases: Stanley Turrentine, Gerardo Frisina, Cathlene Pineda

Stanley Turrentine - That's Where It's At (180 gram pressing)

Where it's at with Stanley Turrentine – circa 1962 – a time when the tenorist was really hitting on all burners and turning out some tremendous work for Blue Note! The album's got Stan working with a special guest – a rare Blue Note appearance from pianist Les McCann, who's also at the height of his early career here – and really brings great energy to a quartet that also includes Herbie Lewis on bass and Otis Finch on drums. Les' piano has a nice bit – and really makes for a great groove alongside Stan's round, warm, raspy tone – a righteous sort of energy that drives the record strongly, in ways that are different than some of Turrentine's other sessions of the time. The whole thing's a cooker – and titles include "Pia", "Smile, Stacey", "Dorene Don't Cry I", and "Light Blue".(Part of the Blue Note Tone Poet series).  ~ Dusty Groove

Gerardo Frisina – Moving Ahead 

“Moving Ahead” by Gerardo Frisina is a double LP worth of new material that gathers together the various sounds that have characterized his entire production. A multiform album whose stylistic components are easily identifiable (Latin jazz, nu-jazz, Afro-Cuban, dub, electronic music) but that transcends any possible classification as a whole. As the title suggests, “Moving Ahead” is the mature continuation of a 20-year long solo career that once again demonstrates how Gerardo’s creativity still manifests itself today at very high levels. Available as a 2LP-set and as a digipack CD with the exclusive bonus track “Mwanga”.

Cathlene Pineda – Rainbow Baby

Rainbow Baby, the third and most personal recording as a leader by jazz pianist and composer Cathlene Pineda, is an impressionist rendering of four years of motherhood, pregnancy, loss, and, ultimately, love. It is a personal tale with a universal theme. Pineda is a classically trained pianist with a master’s degree in jazz piano and composition from CalArts. She is part of the Southern California jazz scene and has worked with many talented artists, like Charlie Haden, Bobby Bradford, Art Lande, Wadada Leo Smith, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Kris Tiner, Vinny Golia, and Joe LaBarbera. RAINBOW BABY is a narrative exploring the joy of birth, the sadness of two miscarriages, and the anxiety of illness in the family, experiences which gave Pineda new perspectives on life and a deeper sense of empathy, which she translated into music. Cathlene Pineda’s playing and composing are technically astute and emotionally gratifying. She is able to weave intricate patterns without overwhelming the songs with needless complexity. She writes and plays from her heart and head, which makes Rainbow Baby a completely fulfilling musical experience.

New Music Releases: Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah, Mr President, Walter Bishop Jr

Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah - Axiom – Live At The Blue Note

A fantastic chapter in the continuing evolution of trumpeter Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah – a set recorded at the Blue Note in New York, just days before the city had to shut down in 2020 – and a record that maybe carries with it some of the urgency of that moment! Scott's studio records in recent years have really blown us away – but it's maybe even more amazing here to hear him working with the group in this frenzy of colors, tones, and rhythms! In addition to conventional trumpet, Christian blows a reverse flugelhorn, which has an amazing sound – and his group features really intense work on drums from Cory Fonville, whose efforts on the kit seem to set everyone else on fire – a lineup taht features Lawrence Fields on piano and Rhodes, Kris Funn on bass, Weedie Braimah on percussion, and Elena Pinderhughes on flute. The music is tremendous – full of power, life, and message – on titles that include "Diaspora", "The Last Chieftain", "X Adjuah", "Huntress", "Incarnation", "Songs She Never Heard", "Guinnevere", and "Sunrise In Beijing". ~ Dusty Groove

Mr President - One Night

Maybe the best work so far from Mr President – one of our favorite projects from the tireless French producer Bruno "Patchworks" Hovart! The set begins with a groove that would be right at home on some late 70s funky jazz playlist – kind of Roy Ayers or Kudu Records – then moves through a range of great cuts that really hold onto a vintage vibe, but with all the best sorts of underground modes that Bruno always brings to his work! Vocals shift from track to track – and include contributions from Hawa, Cindy Pooch, Celia Kameni, and Sabba MG – but the whole thing has a wonderfully unified vibe – warm, soulful, jazzy, and very very groovy. Titles include "Teasing Me So Bad", "Tears Keep On Falling", "Gabriel", "The Time Is Now", "Plenty Loads Of Loving", and "One Night". ~ Dusty Groove

Walter Bishop Jr. - Coral Keys (Remastered Edition)

The first release on Black Jazz was by pianist and label producer Gene Russell; for the label's second release, Russell chose another piano man of impeccable taste, Walter Bishop, Jr. But while much of Russell's record consisted of songs composed by others, Bishop's record features all originals, most notably 'Soul Turn Around,' a groover that later turned up on Freddie Hubbard's 1969 LP A Soul Experiment. Bishop had helmed several releases before this one, including dates with John Coltrane bassist Jimmy Garrison and Miles Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb among others, so it's not surprising he assembled a heavy hitting line-up for Coral Keys, including Woody Shaw on trumpet, Reggie Jackson on bass, Idris Muhammad on drums, and Harold Vick on flute, tenor, and soprano sax. Think Herbie Hancock's '60s Blue Note recordings gently polished with a soul jazz sheen; this is some tasty stuff that's been hard to find for way too long. Remastered by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision, this long-awaited release includes notes by Pat Thomas, author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, which place both the Black Jazz label and this album in a broader musical and societal context. Produced for reissue by Real Gone Music's own Gordon Anderson and decorated jazz archivist Zev Feldman.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Maria Schneider - Data Lords

Data Lords is a new double-album by Grammy Award-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider. Inspired by conflicting relationships between the digital and natural worlds, the recording features Schneider’s acclaimed orchestra of 18 world-class musicians.

“No one can deny the great impact that the data-hungry digital world has had on our lives. As big data companies clamor for our attention, I know that I’m not alone in struggling to find space – to keep connected with my inner world, the natural world, and just the simpler things in life,” says Schneider. “Just as I feel myself ping ponging between a digital world and the real world, the same dichotomy is showing up in my music. In order to truly represent my creative output from the last few years, it felt natural to make a two-album release reflecting these two polar extremes.”

The music on the first CD has at its core, electric guitar (played by Ben Monder). The title track “Data Lords” was the first to be written and was commissioned by the Library of Congress Da Capo Fund, with support from the Reva and David Logan Foundation. Four more titles – “A World Lost,” “Don’t Be Evil,” “CQ CQ, Is Anybody There?” and “Sputnik” – complete the first volume, all of which evoke different aspects of our world under the control of the data lords.

“A World Lost” longs for a simpler time when we were all more connected to the earth and each other. Its mournful sound comes through the dark tones of Ben Monder (guitar) and Rich Perry (tenor). “Don’t Be Evil” was commissioned directly through ArtistShare by David & Ginger Komar and was premiered at the Newport Jazz Festival on August 6th, 2017. This piece musically mocks Google for their absurd inspirational motto, where from the beginning, they set their ethical standards at rock bottom. Powerful solos are delivered by Jay Anderson (bass), Ben Monder (guitar), Ryan Keberle (trombone), and Frank Kimbrough (piano).

“CQ CQ, Is Anybody There?” looks back at ham radio and Morse code (the first electronic binary language) used to communicate around the world. Schneider points out that ham radio, unlike the internet, includes accountability, a code of ethics and no commercialism. All of Schneider’s rhythms in this piece spell out Morse code messages like power, greed, SOS and CQ (is anybody there). Donny McCaslin’s tenor rises out of a world of Morse/ham chatter as a human voice looking for connection, but what he encounters is artificial intelligence in the form of Greg Gisbert’s electrified trumpet.

“Sputnik” evokes the feeling of outer space and our thousands of satellites orbiting the earth now launched by corporations in a new kind of space race. In “Sputnik” Schneider imagines a massive digital exoskeleton orbiting the earth. Its short theme rises up in variation, evoking everything from the quiet cosmos to something almost Wagnerian in power, and throughout Scott Robinson’s baritone evokes his vision of space. “Data Lords” looks at the moment of singularity where artificial intelligence becomes more intelligent than humans. This intense and powerful piece follows Stephen Hawking’s dark prediction of AI choosing to turn on us and destroy us. Soloists are Mike Rodriguez (electrified trumpet) and Dave Pietro (alto).

Schneider writes, “I can’t imagine I’m alone in often feeling desperate to get away from every device bombarding me with endless chatter, endless things – endless demands. Shutting it all down and encountering space and silence, I easily find myself again drawn to nature, people, silence, books, poetry, art, the earth and sky. From those encounters came all of the inspirations below.

“Sanzenin” is inspired by magical and meditative temple gardens, hundreds of years old, north of Kyoto, Japan. In this piece, Gary Versace (accordion) wanders through these playful gardens. “Stone Song” makes musical use of ceramicist Jack Troy’s whimsical ishi no sasayaki (secret voice in the stone) pottery to imagine the world of a little stone waiting to be bumped, kicked or rolled, only to wait years or centuries to be moved again. Utilizing the most space of any piece probably ever written by Schneider, “Stone Song” showcases the brilliant art of listening in this great orchestra. Steve Wilson is featured on soprano with masterful collaboration by Gary Versace (accordion), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). “Look Up” show off the facility and brilliance of Marshall Gilkes on trombone in the form of a piece that harmonically feels as if it’s rising. It reminds us to turn our gaze to the sky, the world and each other. “Braided Together” featuring Dave Pietro (alto), is filled with space, and simplicity and is based on poetry by Ted Kooser. “Bluebird” was co-commissioned by The Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, and The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State University for its premiere in April 2016. It is named after one of Schneider’s favorite birds, and the piece soars through many keys and moods and features distinctly contrasting solos by Steve Wilson (alto) and Gary Versace (accordion). “The Sun Waited for Me,” is chorale-like and features Donny McCaslin on tenor, with its lyrical melody played by Marshall Gilkes on trombone. Based on another Kooser poem, the piece reminds us that each day there is an expansive world awaiting our attention if we stop and invite it into our lives.

The Maria Schneider Orchestra spent four days in the studio making Data Lords. Engineered by Brian Montgomery, who also recorded Schneider’s Grammy Award-winning 2015 release The Thompson Fields, Data Lords features the extraordinary artistry of Schneider’s orchestra that was first recorded in 1992. The band includes reedists Steve Wilson, Dave Pietro, Rich Perry, Donny McCaslin and Scott Robinson; trumpeters Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Nadje Nordhuis and Mike Rodriguez; trombonists Keith O’Quinn, Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes and George Flynn; accordionist Gary Versace, guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Johnathan Blake.

Data Lords is being made, funded and documented through ArtistShare, the world’s first crowd-funding internet platform, which Schneider first used in 2003. This is her fifth ArtistShare album. Since the making of her last album, The Thompson Fields, Schneider has worked with David Bowie on a collaboration titled “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime),” and in 2019 was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor in jazz. In 2020, her album, Concert in the Garden, was put in the National Recording Registry, and Schneider was also elected into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In recent years, Schneider has been increasingly outspoken about Google and big data companies, writing articles and white papers, appearing on Copyright Office roundtables and testifying before Congress. “Musicians have been the canary in the coal mine,” Schneider says. “We were the first to be used and traded for data.”

Joe Farnsworth – Time To Swing w/Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Barron & Peter Washington

Showtime. The crack of a stick, signaling the downbeat and instigating that magical moment when years of practice, weeks of preparation and hours of gathering and waiting all transform into the alchemy of music. It’s that elusive feeling that Joe Farnsworth set out to capture on his latest release, Time To Swing. Led by one of the premiere straight-ahead drummers of his generation, the resulting music is an hour of joyful freedom, heartfelt emotion and electrifying communion. But it only results from the perfect combination of personalities, voices, tunes and feeling.

In the case of Time To Swing, due out September 18 via Smoke Sessions Records, the clock started ticking when Farnsworth invited jazz giant Wynton Marsalis to join him, legendary pianist Kenny Barron, and in-demand bassist Peter Washington for a once-in-a-lifetime recording. Farnsworth’s confidence stems not only from his growing recognition as one of the premiere straight-ahead drummers of his generation, but from wide-ranging experiences with some of the greatest artists working today.

You could dial the hands of time back to 1985, as the drummer was preparing to enter his senior year of high school and had his life changed by the release of Marsalis’ seminal Black Codes (From the Underground). “Suddenly you’ve got a whole new style of playing,” Farnsworth recalls. “I was young, but it felt like something new and modern was happening.”

Nearly two decades later, after building an impressive resume with legends such as Benny Golson, George Coleman, Curtis Fuller, Horace Silver, Cecil Payne, Harold Mabern, as well as Diana Krall, Farnsworth received the call from Marsalis that would result in the acclaimed Blue Note album Live at the House of Tribes, a date that the New York Times hailed as “fully alive and afire with ideas.”

The collaboration was the result of the kind of unconventional thinking that has made Marsalis the icon that he’s become in the jazz world. As Farnsworth recalls, “Wynton had been trying to scope me out a bit. The way he told it, a lot of guys were saying that I couldn't play, that I was nothing – and he heard that so many times that he realized I must be playing well because it sounded like jealousy!”

The two continued to pursue separate paths from there, reconnecting from time to time under Marsalis’s auspices at the helm of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Most recently, Farnsworth joined the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a late-2018 tribute to Thelonious Monk, followed by the drummer being enlisted for the trumpeter’s stellar quintet to record the soundtrack for Edward Norton’s film Motherless Brooklyn. The time (to swing) was finally right, Farnsworth decided, to invite Marsalis to participate in a project of his own.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment since Live at the House of Tribes,” Farnsworth says. “I was a little hesitant to ask him because he’s so busy, but when you’re coming from the truth, you have nothing to worry about. And, he immediately said yes.”

Marsalis joins the band for the first four of the ten tracks on Time To Swing, vividly displaying the emotive virtuosity, bold tone and impeccable sense of swing that are his trademarks. “The way Wynton plays the trumpet is the way I want to play the ride cymbal,” Farnsworth marvels. “It’s pure joy. Playing time with him just hits to the core of me. His phrasing, his rhythm; that feeling’s never gone away. It actually got stronger over the last 20 years because I feel more confident and he’s only gotten better.”

The album opens with Farnsworth’s original composition “The Good Shepherd.” The title is in a sense a nod to Marsalis, but also to the many elders who have shared their experiences and wisdom with Farnsworth over the years. In the lead-up to the album’s release a few of those mentors have been lost, including Jimmy Cobb, Harold

Mabern and Larry Willis. “The story of the Good Shepherd is from the Bible, which is dear to my heart,” Farnsworth explains. “It’s about a guy that is lost and gets saved, and I’ve experienced that in my life. And I’ve been helped by all these great people who were leading us young guys. Wynton personifies that to me, a leader that chooses to help other people.”

Marsalis’ brisk “Hesitation” was originally recorded on the trumpeter’s self-titled debut in 1982, and here gives his muted horn a fleet, agile workout, propelled by Washington’s nimble bass and Farnsworth’s propulsive beat, which are rapturous well before Barron makes his belated entrance with a barrage of sharp-elbowed jabs. The pianist’s lush chords set the tone for a gorgeous rendition of “Darn That Dream,” the nocturnal atmosphere airily suggested by Farnsworth’s brushwork, delicately floating beneath Marsalis’ heart-wrenching lyricism. The mood turns raucous with the tent revival vibe of the spiritual “Down By the Riverside.”

Farnsworth bridges the quartet and trio sections of the set with a magnificent solo piece “One for Jimmy Cobb,” dedicated to the legendary drummer of Kind of Blue and beyond, who passed away in May. “As rock solid as Jimmy Cobb was playing time, he was exactly the same as a human being,” praises Farnsworth, who relished the time he got to spend in the great drummer’s presence. “He was extraordinary on and off the bandstand, and I always felt like a kid when I was around him.”

The ensuing trio section of Time to Swing is a 5-song masterpiece in its own right. Farnsworth is renowned for his work in the classic piano trios of Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Harold Mabern among others. Now the great pianist Kenny Barron can be added to that roster. “As a leader, I like to work with the best musicians and simply put them in the best position to do their thing,” Farnsworth explains. “I want them to be able to be as free as possible, because that allows me to be as free as possible. When you work with someone like Kenny Barron, all you really want to do is put them in the best light possible.”

The first of these five pieces is, in fact, a Barron composition, the bracing “Lemuria” reprised from the pianist’s 1991 album Lemuria-Seascape. It features Farnsworth’s most ferocious playing on the date, more than matched by Barron’s powerhouse attack. The drummer heard Barron toying with Billy Strayhorn’s classic “Prelude to a Kiss” with a Bossa twist while warming up at the date, and quickly added the offbeat arrangement to the repertoire.

“Monk’s Dream” is one of the towering pianist’s prickliest compositions and is rendered here with a playful yet pointed buoyancy. Washington’s enveloping, radiant tone illuminates Duke Ellington’s beautiful “The Star-Crossed Lovers,” and the session ends with the carefree celebration of “Time Was,” with Farnsworth’s jaunty uplift sure to leave listeners smiling.

With Time To Swing, Farnsworth does exactly that – not only bringing the invigorating feel that he invariably does to any piece of music, but also providing the time for some of modern jazz’s absolute best to work out, driven by the rush of his remarkable rhythms. As renowned drummer Billy Hart comments in his liner notes, “This whole record is happy,” and audiences will want to make their own time to revel in it.

John Beasley | "MONK’estra Plays John Beasley"

The music of Thelonious Monk has provided a rich fount of inspiration for generations of jazz musicians, its daunting wit and impish intricacies offering endless fodder for exploration and interpretation. Over the course of two albums, bandleader, composer, and arranger John Beasley has reimagined Monk’s iconic compositions through the vehicle of his inventive, versatile MONK’estra –- a big band able to deftly navigate the legend’s angular eccentricities with a staggering variety of perspectives from boisterous swing to raucous funk to Afro-Cuban explosiveness.

The results speak for themselves: both MONK’estra, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 garnered a pair of GRAMMY® Award nominations apiece alongside widespread critical acclaim. Keeping in line with its namesake’s unpredictable nature, the MONK’estra veers off in new directions on its stunning third album, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley, due out August 21, 2020 via Mack Avenue Records. As the title implies, this time out the band shifts focus to its fearless leader’s own estimable compositions and piano playing, alongside a quartet of Monk classics and a tune apiece by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

MONK’estra Plays John Beasley brings the keyboardist full circle in more ways than one. While the two preceding albums focused more on Beasley’s arranging talent, he’s featured playing the piano on every track. Additionally, besides casting the lens of his brilliant ensemble on his own music for the first time, the album also reunites Beasley with several now-formidable artists with whom he performed with in his formative years nearly three decades ago.

Reconfiguring the MONK’estra into a number of smaller combinations, Beasley brings together such peers and mentors as bassist John Patitucci and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, his bandmates in the early 90s quartet Audio Mind and Patitucci’s bands; organ great Joey DeFrancesco, whose footsteps he followed into the Miles Davis band in 1989; and legendary flutist Hubert Laws, who hired a 20-year old Beasley and Patitucci to play Carnegie Hall.

Despite the diversified repertoire and lineups, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley is very much a MONK’estra album. The name of the band, Beasley explains, is less about the name on its sheet music than about the spirit it embodies.

“The band takes its mission from Monk’s boldness, courage and experimentation,” he says. “Monk was always willing to let go, let whatever happens happen and make music out of that, while maintaining his unique sense of groove.”

As he’s demonstrated throughout his framing of Monk’s tunes as well as his work for film and television, Beasley has a unique gift for portraiture in music. Each of his compositions on the album offers a snapshot of one of his personal or musical influences, beginning with the opening track, “Steve-O.” Featuring the full 16-piece MONK’estra, the dizzying and playful piece is a glimpse into the eclectic imagination of saxophonist Steve Tavaglione, the fourth member of Audio Mind.

The tender “Song for Dub” was penned for Beasley’s uncle, a World War II veteran who struggled (with ultimate success) with alcoholism after his return from the battlefield. This ballad rendition showcases the MONK’estra at its most lush and beautiful.

The band slims down to a septet for a pair of tributes to legendary musicians who’ve passed on: “Sam Rivers,” a jauntily angular piece inspired by the great saxophonist’s Blue Note albums; and “Masekela,” honoring the iconic South African trumpeter and activist who Beasley got to know through their collaborations at International Jazz Day performances in recent years. Patitucci and Colaiuta form the core of the rhythm section for this lineup, as they do on the quintet piece “Implication,” a Beasley original that bridges the influence of Monk with North African traditions.

Patitucci, Colaiuta and Beasley go it alone with the trio piece “Be.YOU.tiful,” which the pianist wrote inspired by a conversation Beasley had with Patitucci regarding the legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Beasley describes working together again with his old friends as slipping into comfortable old habits, energized by the evolution of intervening years and collaborations.

The MONK’estra returns to its main inspiration for four tracks: “Monk’s Mood” is rendered with a thoroughly contemporary feel, its familiar melody refreshed by the distinctive sound of Grégoire Maret’s virtuosic harmonica; Maret also enlivens the Horace Silver-inspired hard bop of Beasley’s “Five Spot,” a quintet piece rounded out by MONK’estra mainstays Bob Sheppard, Benjamin Shepherd and Terreon Gully.

Joey DeFrancesco’s unmistakable organ sound graces Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning,” while Hubert Laws’ flute is the perfect fit for Beasley’s seductive, soulful arrangement of “Locomotive.” The inclusion of “Off Minor,” transformed with a Roots-inspired hip-hop vibe, was inspired by Beasley’s mentor Freddie Hubbard, who often included the tune in his own sets.

Finally, Beasley gives the MONK’estra treatment to pieces by two of Monk’s companions in the jazz pantheon: Bird’s “Donna Lee” percolates with an Afro-Cuban groove and a nod to Jaco Pastorius’ version of the tune, while Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” ends the album on a spiritual note, with classical baritone Jubilant Sykes intoning Ellington’s plea for peace and guidance in a stirring performance responding to the country’s sadly still-relevant racial divisiveness. “We are living through times when misinformation and blatant hate are given platforms,” Beasley says “And, Covid-19 created an even more hyper anxiety-fueled world, so it’s important to create music that can provide a respite and also be humanizing.”

MONK’estra Plays John Beasley is the latest reinvention in a career full of them. Beasley worked with iconic trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis while still in his 20s and has gone on to play with such greats as Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan, Chaka Khan and Christian McBride. He serves as Music Director for the Herbie Hancock institute’s globe-spanning International Jazz Day concerts while touring the world with the

MONK’estra. In addition, he has worked extensively in film and television, primarily on the soundtracks of noted composer Thomas Newman, including the James Bond hits Spectre and Skyfall. Along the way, Beasley has garnered five GRAMMY® Award nominations and an Emmy® Award.


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