Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Jazz Is Dead’s Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad team up with Doug Carn for "Doug Carn JID005"

As and innovators of 70s spiritual, progressive, funk, and jazz, Doug Carn has always flown a little under the radar. He has long plied his trade with patience and dedication, releasing absolutely stunning albums that are cherished by cognoscenti but lesser known even to the jazz mainstream, even as his influence can be detected among his colleagues. On December 11, Jazz Is Dead released their new album: Doug Carn JID005.

Carn's newest project, his entry in the Jazz Is Dead album series helmed by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, takes his unique and timeless art and places it within the context of a musical culture that has always taken cues from his ‘70s classics. There's no mistaking the musical mind that created legendary albums like Infant Eyes and Adam's Apple, but the encounter of that with the distinctive jazz-hip hop-funk-noir that is the Younge/Muhammad/JID trademark creates something worthy of comparison to Carn's past work but which could only have been made right now.

Emerging out of Florida at the end of the ‘60s he made his debut on record as perhaps the key member of the Black Jazz roster, releasing four albums for the label between 1971-75 that stand as all-time classics of Black Consciousness expressed through jazz. A key aspect of the success of these albums was the haunting and powerful vocal contributions of his then-wife Jean Carn, whose five-octave vocal range made for memorable renditions of classics like “Peace” (Horace Silver), “Little B’s Poem” (Bobby Hutcherson), “Blue And Green” (Miles Davis) and Doug’s own “Power And Glory.”

Carn’s own luminous work on acoustic and electric piano on all these albums placed him firmly in the realm of contemporaries like Lonnie Liston Smith, Herbie Hancock and George Duke and they were elevated even further by the exquisite sideman work of a number of luminaries including Olu Dara (aka Nas Sr.), Charles Tolliver, Alphonse Mouzon and legendary Cannonball Adderley bassist Walter Booker among others. Following this classic era, Doug and Jean continued to chart their own paths separately, Jean as a solo R&B star with a number of successful albums and singles for Philadelphia International Records and Doug as the same brilliant and creatively restless spiritual-jazz avatar he’s always been. Happily, for the last decade Doug and Jean’s orbits have intersected anew, and they can often be found performing together once again.

“I was barely a year old when Doug Carn released Infant Eyes. To me the album is an expedition of warmth, hope, majesty and pride, where you cross the bridge of venerable wonders on supernatural tones of innovation,” says Shaheed Muhammad. “If you grew up in the ‘70s then you know exactly how consequential his art is. There are so many levels to this and time is never enough to unfold it, but Adrian and I were blessed to spend a twinkle of time with the honorable Doug Carn. We recorded an album that bridges to dimensions seemingly familiar but yet uncharted and raw.”

One can detect nods to musical motifs by Carn's jazz peers that have served as frequent sample fodder, but his compositional and improvisational integrity remain indisputable throughout. A track like "Desert Rain" (the first project's single) effortlessly evokes cinematic images that could take place on a desert plain just as easily as on an urban side street. A recurring bass motif is soon joined by drums and Carn’s distinctive organ on the beautiful track: a relaxed, lyrical theme which seems to take the vibe associated with ‘70s Black musicians'-collective loft-jazz scenes and combine it with a funky street edge. The organ and horns deftly interact with and dance around each other in harmonically creative ways while being kept tethered to solid ground by the gentle yet unwavering support of the Rhodes, bass and drums.

"Nunca Um Malandro" displays a facility with the Brazilian forms that captivated his generation of musicians just as they've also captivated Shaheed Muhammad and Younge’s, and would fit in snugly on the albums by Marcos Valle, João Donato or Azymuth from this series. All of the things that have made Doug Carn's name one that has been spoken for years in reverent tones are plainly in evidence on this triumphant new work.

"Lions Walk" is taken at a tempo and groove reminiscent of the best of Prestige Records' jazz-funk era and its 4:19 duration sounds like it was plucked from the middle of a heated solo-jam section from a 10-minute workout on one of those records. The interplay here, once again, serves as a reminder of the glorious results achieved when musicians are listening to and reacting to one another in the moment.

Reflecting on Carn’s legacy and the opportunity to collaborate, Younge reminds us: “Doug Carn reigns as one of the greatest jazz organists of all time. Doug Carn JID005 is a testament to his continued legacy and funky contributions to jazz.”

New Music Releases: Fred Van Hove & Peter Brotzmann, Terje Rypdal, Jahari Massamba Unit (Madlib & Karriem Riggins)

Fred Van Hove & Peter Brotzmann | "Front To Front"

Two improvising giants, still very much at the top of their game – and making music that almost has the same intensity as their groundbreaking work from decades back! We've heard often from Peter Brotzmann in recent years, so Fred Van Hove may be the biggest surprise here – as he can really set fire on the piano, at a level that you'd never expect from his image on the cover – matching the robust energy of Brotzmann's continued magnificence on saxes – a fire that never seems to dim at all, and which is really burning strongly here in the company of his old musical partner, in ways that are different than some of his collaborations with younger improvisers. The set was recorded live at the Summer Bummer Festival in 2019 – and titles include "Terms & Conditions", "Nervous Pudding", "Quite A Package", and "Front To Front". ~ Dusty Groove

Terje Rypdal | "Conspiracy"

Mindblowing sounds from guitarist Terje Rypdal – one of the most unique players of the 70s, and still very much at the top of his game all these many years later – even after generations have tried to copy his style! The set is a great reminder that the mixture of Rypdal and ECM is a match made in heaven – as the guitarist has a sound that's full of the kind of atmospherics that the label loves to spin out with its trademark production, but also keeps more than enough of his own identity here – never falling into easy modes or soundscape cliches – and always knowing when to step up front sonically when that seems about to happen. Other players include Stale Storlokken on keyboards, Endre Hareide Hallre on Fender and fretless bass, and Pal Thowsen on percussion and drums – on the titles "Dawn", "By His Lonesome", "Conspiracy", "What Was I Thinking", and "As If The Ghost Was Me". ~ Dusty Groove

Jahari Massamba Unit (Madlib & Karriem Riggins) | "Pardon My French"

A tremendous collaboration between Madlib and drummer Karriem Riggins – both artists who are great enough on their own, but who really hit some new territory in this funky instrumental project! Riggins plays live drums, and Madlib throws in all this other instrumentation that really changes things up – bits of keyboards, flute, trumpet, and a whole heck of a lot more – but not used in ways that are conventional – as they more have that quality of sonically peppering the grooves, as you'd hear in Madlib's other production modes – but with a very different flavor here! There's a huge amount going on – all these little sounds and touches that are great – n titles that include "Les Jardins Esmeraldins", "Etude Montrachet", "Le Feu", "La Closerie", "Hommage A La Vielle Garde", "Merde", and "Deux Fakes Jayers". ~ Dusty Groove

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New Music Releases: Doug Webb, Lionel Loueke, Joel Ross

Doug Webb | "Apples & Oranges"

Forget the cover, which is maybe a bit too sweet for our taste – and instead imagine some sort of vintage Prestige Records soul jazz image on the front – because the set's a tremendous batch of tenor and organ numbers throughout! Tenorist Doug Webb has recorded with Hammond organ before, but there's definitely something about this record that's a real cut above – maybe the way the group is balanced, as it's just a trio with Brian Charette on organ and Andy Sanesi on drums – a lineup that's fluid, very open, and which draws as much from Charette's work on the bass pedals as it does on the keys – beautifully balanced with this really strong current of soul! Webb's sense of imagination and expression are set more free here than ever before – stretching out on these original tracks that allow all players to really be their best – titles that include "Coruba", "Alexico", "Monkey Face", "Forethought", "For Steve", and "Apples & Oranges" – plus nice versions of "Estate" and "How Can I Be Sure". ~ Dusty Groove

Lionel Loueke | "HH"

Some of the most beautiful music we've ever heard from Lionel Loueke – a set that's mostly just solo guitar, with a bit of vocalization thrown in for good measure – and which has a style that's almost more compelling than some of Lionel's work in a larger format! Loueke doesn't really sing so much as he makes vocalized expressions at moments along with the guitar – sometimes with lyrics, sometimes more in a scat-based mode – and sometimes with a quality that's almost percussive, and which resonates strongly with his work on the strings! The HH title is a reference to Herbie Hancock – and most of the tunes here are classics from the Herbie songbook, but completely redone in a very unique way – on selections that include "Tell Me A Bedtime Story", "Cantaloupe Island", "Hang Up Your Hang Ups", "Watermelon Man", "Speak Like A Child", "Rockit", "One Finger Snap", and "Voyage Maiden".  ~ Dusty Groove

Joel Ross | "Who Are You"

Beautiful work from vibist Joel Ross – a player who's just starting to blossom as a leader, and who's clearly on the right path! The sound is wonderfully rich – not just vibes from Ross, but especially nice work from bassist Kanoa Mendenhall, who's a really key part of the sound here – blended with warm piano lines from Jeremy Corren, subtle drums from Jeremy Dutton, and alto from Immanuel Wilkins – all players who seem instantly linked together in their sense of sound, and who work with Joel to make the kind of record that should really get him the attention he deserves! There's this slow-burning majesty to the record – both in composition and performance – a sound that's sophisticated, but very organic – and a very different setting for the use of vibes in jazz. Brandee Younger plays harp on a few tracks too – another plus in our book – and titles include "Vartha", "Marsheland", "Waiting On A Solemn Reminiscence", "Home", "More", "Calling", "King's Loop", and "Dream". ~ Dusty Groove

Amy Winehouse Collection (Frank/Back To Black/Lioness/Live In London/Rarities)

Way more than just a box set of the key albums from the all-too-short career of Amy Winehouse – as this massive package also features a wealth of rarities and live tracks – some making their CD debut in this limited collection! The set leads off with Frank – the stunning debut from UK soul singer Amy Winehouse – a vocalist with a sound that's instantly captivating, and which will be with us for years! Amy's clearly cut her chops in jazz, but also has a laidback and soulful personality – easily shifting between modes for the right mood of each song, without any of the pretensions that would ruin an album like this. The backings have a proud stepping feel that fits well with tunes like "In My Bed", "What Is It About Men", "F*ck Me Pumps", and "You Sent Me Flying" – really keeping Amy's spirit fresh throughout the whole set! 

Next is Back to Black – an incredible album from Amy Winehouse – even way better than her fantastic debut! Although a contemporary soul album, this one's steeped in tradition – soul styles that run the gamut from Detroit down to Kingston, and which are carried off here with a rougher, sharper-edged sound than before! The instrumentation on here is really mindblowing – almost at a Motown level, with isolated instruments really crackling out from the fuller backings – all set to rhythms that snap and bounce, and are almost a bit funky at times. Credit is definitely due to producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi – but Amy's vocals are really tremendous too – classic, but really personal and fresh! Titles include "Rehab", "Just Friends", "Back To Black", "Love Is A Losing Game", "He Can Only Hold Her", "Some Unholy War", and "Me & Mr Jones". 

Next is Lioness Hidden Treasures – a (sadly) posthumous release from Amy Winehouse – a voice we loved for a couple good years before knowing how troubled she was in real life and now lament the loss of – and this set, largely put together by producer Salaam Remi turned out surprisingly well! It'd be pretty easy to bow to cynicism, but for our money, there's more than enough strong stuff here. It features production by Remi, plus Mark Ronson on a couple tracks, and it's a mix of styles that ably demonstrate Amy's depth as an interpreter. There's some great, kinda late night jazzy soul numbers, classic level 60s R&B and thoroughly modern hip hop soul – all with strong vocal performances from Amy. Includes "Our Day Will Come", "Between The Cheats", "Tears Dry (Original Version)", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (2011)", "Like Smoke" feat Nas (and some eerily timely lyricism, as of this album's release date), "Valerie ('68 Version)", "Half Time", "The Girl From Ipanema", "Half Time", "Body & Soul" with Tony Bennett, "A Song For You" and more. Next is the 2LP set Live In London – the vinyl debut of material from the DVD of the same name – with titles that include "Just Friends", "Cherry", "Back To Black", "Wake Up Alone", "Tears Dry On Their Own", "He Can Only Hold Her/Doo Wop (That Thing)", "Valerie", "Rehab", "Me & Mr Jones", "Monkey Man" and more. 

Last is the album Remixes – which features the CD debut of 15 tracks – material from Frank and Back To Black – remixed by MJ Cole, Al Usher, Skeewiff, Truth & Soul, Ghostface, Hot Chip, and others.  ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Gorden Campbell, Eric Byak & Quantum Energy, Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Gorden Campbell | "Conversations"

A wonderful debut from Gorden Campbell – an underground soul singer on the contemporary LA scene, and one who works here with some of the same collaborative power as the jazz musicians in the city in recent years! Gorden claims inspiration from Terrace Martin, who's on the set, in a lineup that also includes Kamasi Washington – but apart from the bigger names, the whole thing is really an overall effort from everyone involved – great musicians who help shift the vibe with each track, but keep things unified over the strong vocals and message-minded music that Campbell lays down – tunes that include "Too Many Lost", "One Mind", "6 In The Mornin", "Play Somethin", "Initiate", "Song In 6", "Wherever", and "Purify Me". ~ Dusty Groove

Eric Byak & Quantum Energy | "Lagunua Breeze"

Celebrated guitarist, Eric Byak, created his latest single “Laguna Breeze” live in front of the art crowd in Laguna Beach, California at the world famous “Pageant of the Masters”. The single is seasoned with Grammy Award Winning percussionist MB Gordy. Nathan East and Ricky Lawson are also featured guest artists on the Byak’s forthcoming album. Eric’s guitar work has been described as seductive, sensuous, exotic, intertwining classic jazz, breezy funk and Brazilian rhythms. Celebrated in the Los Angeles music scene, Eric’s work on the hit TV show “This is Us” has been hailed as “inspiringly beautiful” (Paul Andersen, Glendale News Press) and “gorgeous...with grace [and] a bit of grittiness” (LA Jazz Scene, Myna Daniels).

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad | "Run This Town"

Not everyone loved the movie, but Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad did a really great job with the soundtrack – using a style that's a more stripped-down approach to some of the funkier styles they've used in other films – often with more of a focus on percussion, and an insolated element in the mix too! The whole thing's a great shift from the usual for the duo – who manage to evoke some deeper colors here, while still staying very far from conventional soundtrack material – a bit less of the sense of doom that sometimes graces their scoring, but still a gentle sort of majesty overall. Titles include "The Meeting", "Buy The Tape", "Speech", "Graduation", "End Theme", "Driving", "Laundry Alternate", "Wake Up", "Termination", and "File Corrupted". ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Jamie Cullum, Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, Setenta

Jamie Cullum | "Pianoman At Christmas"

A really fantastic record from Jamie Cullum – a great singer on his own, but one whose voice is especially well-tuned to Holiday material like this! The set's one of those once in a blue moon Christmas records – not a batch of overdone standards, but instead all new material by the man himself – really fresh tunes that not only open up our December listening, but which also ensure that the record will be a Christmas classic in years to come! The backings are great – jazzy, but with the warmth of a fire after a Holiday dinner – and we might actually say that the whole thing has Jamie finding a focus for his talents that hasn't been this strong in years. Titles include "The Jolly Fat Man", "Hang Your Lights", "It's Christmas", "Turn On The Lights", "Christmas Caught Me Crying", "The Pianoman At Christmas", and "So Many Santas". ~ Dusty Groove

Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra | "Dimensional Stardust"

One of the most ambitious albums ever from Rob Mazurek – and a set that really continues the legacy of community building and world healing that's become such an important part of his music! Rob's a player who was great at the start – a hell of a trumpeter, and a great experimentalist with electronics – but in recent years, he's matured to become a real messenger for the farther, future reaches of jazz – with an energy that makes a collaborative project like this come off in a way that might never have occurred in the hands of any other musician! Mazurek is at the head – director, composer, arranger, and instrumentalist too – and the large lineup is filled with heavyweights from the Chicago scene that Rob helped shape over the past few decades – plus others as well – players who include Damon Locks on voice and electronics, Nicole Mitchell on flutes, Tomeka Reid on cello, Joel Ross on vibes, Jaimi Branch on trumpet, Jeff Parker on guitar, Ingebrigit Haker Flate on bass, and Chad Taylor, John Herndon, and Mikel Patrick Avery on a variety of drums and percussion. There's a richness here that tops other Exploding Star Orchestra performances – and more of a focus, too – so that the whole thing comes together as even more than the sum of its mighty parts, as one of the best International Anthem releases to date. Titles include "Galaxy 1000", "Parable Of Inclusion", "Autumn Pleiades", "Minerals Bionic Stereo", "Dimensional Stardust", "Abstract Dark Energy", and "The Careening Prism Within". ~ Dusty Groove

Setenta | "Materia Negra"

Excellent work from Setenta – a Parisian combo who work with a great blend of Latin roots and funk – served up with lots of percussion at the core, topped with Fender Rhodes and other keyboards from jazz genius Florian Pellissier! The acoustic percussion and electric keys are perfectly balanced – as you might find on a mid 70s album from Mongo Santamaria, but with a different flavor too – given that these guys explore some Afro roots in their music as well, which creates shifting patterns of rhythms throughout the set. Most tracks have vocals, and titles include "If We Ever Get There", "Permiso", "Mecanica Bestial", "DIA (parts 1 & 2)", "Materia Negra", and "Llego El Malo". ~ Dusty Groove

Myles Sanko | "Memories Of Love"

“Memories Of Love” is the fourth full length album by soul singer & songwriter Myles Sanko following the acclaimed “Born In Black & White” (2013), “Forever Dreaming” (2014) and “Just Being Me” (2016). In ten stylishly recorded and arranged new songs “Memories Of Love” Myles Sanko captures the uplifting spirit from his numerous outstanding stage performances on the European jazz festival & club circuit of the last few years and transforms them into a stunning collection of modern soul music.

“This album is my most personal album yet”, says Myles Sanko. “Each song is a memory of love, a story of love, good or bad, happy or sad. Love is not always as we picture it in fairy tales but a work in progress for as long as we choose to love. Over the years I have written love songs and most of them have some reality in them but also a lot of fiction. Maybe this was because I wasn’t truly ready to share that part of me in a way that I am defiantly more comfortable doing now. I’d say becoming a father has changed my outlook and made me a little more brave and accepting of myself”. One of the main reasons for the positive balance in sound and spirit of “Memories Of Love” are the musicians. Myles Sanko recorded the album together with the same band he was touring with over the last eight years. He produced it himself and co-wrote most music with long time bandmate Tom O’Grady (Resolution 88).

Tara Minton | "Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid"

Sought-after by Björk, Tom Walker, Disney and more, Australian-born, London-based singer and jazz harpist Tara Minton has written and recorded an extraordinary record inspired by the mythology of mermaids.

With artwork by painter and musician Blanche Ellis, ‘Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid’ will be released as a limited-edition CD and vinyl, with only 500 copies of the former and 250 copies of the latter.

Leaving Australia (where she “felt like a fish out of water”) at the age of 25, Tara bought a one-way ticket to London and “created a world that reflected who I was a lot more than the one I was born to”. Classically trained, and with a master’s degree in jazz performance from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, that ‘world’ is one in which Tara has enjoyed both a rich and varied career as a session musician and seen her own bold, artistic interests blossom.

As likely to be seen on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge and The One Show as she is on stage at Hampstead Jazz Club, the 606 Club and the Bishopsgate Institute, Tara’s varied guest appearances and collaborations have seen her performing the iconic Alice Coltrane album ‘Journey in Satchidananda’ in London, with Miranda Mulholland on her Juno Award nominated album ‘By Appointment Or Chance’ or performing in many of Europe's most prestigious venues with her band.

Following ‘The Tides of Love’ in 2016, Tara has once again set her gaze upon the sea, this time exploring mermaid mythology. Collecting stories from around the globe of mermaid folklore, she has woven tales of womanhood, morality, sustainability, the impact climate change is having on our oceans’ ecosystems, and our historical relationship with the sea.

“Mermaid mythology is special because it’s old tales of women taking their lives into their own hands. They were all born into circumstances that didn’t suit them, so they grew legs. They decide ‘this is not for me! I’m in control of my own life’, which was very rare for mythology in a time when women were often oppressed or forced to live within the circumstances presented to them”.

Tara also has the perspective of being born in the climate change hotbed of Australia, “It’s hellish down there a lot of the time. The recent fires… the bleaching of the coral reefs… that really hits me. The mermaid seemed like a good way to draw people in and to talk about something that can be quite confrontational”.

Featuring some of the UK’s most talented jazz musicians - Phil Merriman, Ed Babar, Dave Ingamells and Tommaso Starace -, and produced by John Merriman, ‘Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid’ is a remarkable collection that reveals Tara as a brave and fascinating songwriter, musician and singer.

The striking artwork is created by the artist Blanche Ellis. “It’s not helpful to have mermaids presented as they usually are in pop culture, and Blanche and I discussed how we wanted to portray not just the exploitation of women and the exploitation of the oceans, but also the ways in which we exploit ourselves, and the complicated relationships with our environment and other people” Tara explains.

Tara will play select live dates in 2020, adhering to government social distancing guidelines. Further information and date announcements can be accessed via Tara’s website here:

Chris Parker & Kelley Hurt release "Jubilate" from the 'No Tears Suite'

In September 1957, 61 years after the “separate but equal” ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson, in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine Black high school students finally broke through the threshold of Little Rock Central High School after a month of facing protestors and blockades by the Arkansas National Guard. No Tears Suite, composed by Arkansas-native and music teacher Christopher Parker and his wife, jazz vocalist Kelley Hurt, was initially written to commemorate and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine’s historic enrollment and their continued courage and fortitude, which has inspired every generation thereafter.

When the piece premiered in September 2017, the group of Grammy award-winning drummer Brian Blade, bassist Bill Huntington, trumpeter Marc Franklin, and saxophonists Bobby LaVell (tenor) and Chad Fowler (alto) was so successful in communicating Hurt and Parker’s vision, that the composers began to explore how they could continue to expand the No Tears Suite. Their solution manifested itself in a new collaboration with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, with the incomparable, Grammy-nominated arranger, composer, and bassist Rufus Reid penning the orchestral arrangements, flawlessly infusing the sweeping grandeur of the ASO’s 16-piece ensemble into the No Tears Suite—the live orchestral version of the suite that premiered in March 2019 in Little Rock, will be available as a free streaming-only bonus album on the same day that the studio version is released (by CD and digitally) from the Arkansas based label, Mahakala Music.

Largely inspired and informed by the memoir Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, a member of the Little Rock Nine, the music of No Tears Suite reflects the resilience of those students as they ascended the steps of Central High School in 1957 and shifted the course of American history. The tension of inequality and oppression felt by these students is felt on “Roll Call,” as Hurt details the lives of those involved Little Rock Nine and others involved in Arkansas’, and America’s, educational integration over an unsettled and lamenting pool of instrumentation. But ultimately, No Tears Suite emphasizes emotions of power and joy, highlighting the significant progress and lasting brightness the Little Rock Nine brought to Arkansas and the country. “Jubilate” bounces and uplifts, and “Don’t Cry (Warrior’s Song)” struts with a confidence and strength—similar to Mingus’ composition on the same subject matter, “Fables of Faubus,"—Hurt sings words of grit and motivation over the soulful swing: “Beaten, bruised, yeah you refused / there are no cowards here.”

No Tears Suite never loses sight of the astounding humanity of the nine students that prompted the piece in the first place. In speaking on the development of the music, Parker said, “We just wanted to put the spotlight on those kids… how can anyone not be proud of those kids?”

Written by members of the Little Rock community, for the Little Rock-based literary magazine, Oxford American, about a pivotal moment in the city's civil rights history, No Tears Suite is the result of and a testament to a community that believes in celebration, perseverance, and growth, and serves as an enduring reminder of the progress made and the progress still required.

Eric Reed | "For Such a Time As This"

For more than three decades as one of the most influential and beloved jazz musicians, Eric Reed has recorded close to 30 accomplished leader albums showcasing his virtuosic chops, intellectual clarity, unwavering will to swing, and ability to refract and coalesce a wide range of musical, spiritual, and personal influences into a single stream of consciousness. Perhaps the most personal of them all is For Such A Time As This (Smoke Sessions), the remarkable release on which the veteran pianist transcends the high bar he’s established for himself.

An important part of this story dates to 2008, when, after two decades in the jazz epicenter of New York City, Reed relocated to Los Angeles, his home as an adolescent and teenager, where he reintegrated into the local scene. It was there in mid-March, when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a city-wide shutdown, that Reed began to conceive For Such A Time As This to be recorded in L.A. with local musicians. At the end of June, he was ready and assembled a gifted, young quartet in the studio, adhering to full physical distancing and masking protocols, with remote production by Paul Stache. The end result is Reed’s cogent, impassioned response to the dystopic “new normal” of recording during COVID.

“These are great musicians, each with some quality that I wanted to utilize,” Reed says of the personnel. “My generation came up under mentorship and apprenticeship – from Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry, who all believed in hiring young people. That’s where I come from, I’ve come by it honestly, and it’s something that I believe in doing.”

He met drum virtuoso Kevin Kanner several years ago though pianist Gerald Clayton, and Australia-born bassist Alex Boneham at a jam session Kanner runs at an L.A. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Chris Lewis – “a laid-back, quiet dude who turns into a killer when he puts that horn in his mouth” – initially came to Reed’s attention during a master class at Temple University, where Lewis studied with Jazz department head Terell Stafford, and woodwind masters Dick Oatts and Tim Warfield.

Assembled for the session, the band nonetheless displays the chemistry of a unit of long standing throughout the program. “Alex and Kevin breathe together,” Reed says. “Alex has an intense bass pulse that keeps you on your toes, and gives an edge, an urgency to the pieces with some tempo.”

That stated urgency infuses the first two quartet numbers, “Western Rebellion” and “Thelonigus (For Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus),” both Reed originals. The former is an affirmative line depicting the feeling and vibration of L.A.; the title signifies on a group led during the 1970s by master pianist-composer Cedar Walton, to whom Reed paid tribute on his previous Smoke Sessions outing Everybody Gets The Blues. “Thelonigus” layers Monkishly capacious intervals with a motif reminiscent of Mingus’ “Peggy’s Blue Skylight.”

“It stems from an experience at the beginning of the pandemic, when they were telling everyone to keep six feet of distance,” Reed relates. “I was walking down the street, and a couple was walking towards me, and these folks almost jumped in the bushes to avoid being too close to me. The wide intervals symbolize people jumping away from each other, which is counter-intuitive to human behavior.”

A solemn, contemplative quality infuses “Walltz,” a tribute to the late trumpeter Wallace Roney (one of the first Jazz casualties of COVID-19), whom Reed met during his late teens and played with periodically over the years, most notably during a memorable week at Catalina Bar & Grill after his return to Los Angeles.

Reed projects a similarly reflective feel on “Paradox Peace,” the solo piano vignette that opens the recital. Reed traces its gestation to a Sunday night drive through normally teeming Los Angeles streets, now completely devoid of pedestrians and drivers. “To witness this calm and quiet was the most beautiful and scariest thing I’d ever witnessed,” he says. “It was so peaceful, but when I thought about the reason why, it made me sad — that’s the paradox.”

He also offers fresh readings of old chestnuts “Stella By Starlight,” rendered with impressionistic emotion, and “It’s You Or No One,” which receives a crisp, vertiginous trio reading (piano-bass-drums). There’s also a swinging,harmonically erudite exploration (tenor sax-piano-bass) of “Bebophobia,” an ingenious “Cherokee” contrafact with the idiomatic aura of an undiscovered original line that the iconic bebop tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards (who hired teenaged Reed for more than a few Los Angeles gigs during the 1980s) might have played during bebop’s glory days.

“I’ve played a lot of standards, and I wanted to revisit some of them,” says Reed, adding that he’d responded to the enforced downtime with a resolution “to practice all day long.” “What you do with them will make it fresh, current and contemporary. ‘It’s You Or No One’ and ‘Cherokee’ contain several key modulations; playing them through all 12 keys facilitates playing ideas over chords and chord changes.”

As has been his frequent custom during the last 15 years, Reed – whose father pastored a Baptist church in Philadelphia and Los Angeles – presents a gospel section, referencing early roots to address portentous present-day realities. In response to the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the protesting and rioting that ensued in the face of racial injustice, Reed explains, “The messages of ‘We Shall Overcome,’ ‘Come Sunday,’ and the ebullient ‘Hymn of Faith’ go hand in hand.” His original composition “Make Me Better,” sung by the soulful Henry Jackson, “puts a fine point on everything I’m hoping and wishing for –that I will be made better by this experience, and that I will encourage other people to be better as well.”

Towards that aspiration, For Such A Time As This concludes affirmatively with a rousing blues (“The Break”), an impromptu line born out of the first session Eric played with musicians since the quarantine.

“This record is the first I’ve done framed by this kind of specific circumstance,” Reed concludes. “But even though we had to do it with these pandemic restrictions, it seemed normal because we were in the recording studio, where there’s no audience anyway. It’s the circumstances surrounding the creativity that were so different. All of that had an impact on the music.”

For Such a Time as This" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith and recorded live at Tritone Recording Studio, Glendale, California at 96KHz/24bit. It was mixed to ½" analog tape using a Studer mastering deck by Christopher Allen in New York City.

Noah Haidu | "Doctone"

Noah Haidu has etched out an uncompromising identity as a pianist and composer by balancing cutting edge songwriting with stirring improvisations. On his new Sunnyside release Doctone, Haidu reaches a new level of self-expression while exploring the work of one of his major influences, the late Kenny Kirkland. As Noah writes in the liner notes: “Doctone is the first recording dedicated entirely to Kirkland’s original music. I view Kenny as the most unique composer and pianist of his generation. Because he died young and avoided the spotlight, his brilliant compositions have been overlooked for too long.”

Doctone is a multimedia project which includes a recording of Kirkland’s music, as well as an original book by Haidu and a film directed by Jeffrey Chuang. The documentary about Kenny’s life and his contribution to music was released on what would have been his 65th birthday, September 28, 2020.

When Haidu went into the studio in the summer of 2019 to record an album of music by Kirkland he set aside most of his preconceptions about making records. “I typically set out to build a cohesive statement with each album so that the pieces fit together like chapters in a book. This project was different. I didn’t work through the repertoire on many gigs or do a lot of rehearsing, though I’ve always been moved by these songs. The result was that in the studio I had a visceral response to material that was fresh and emotionally compelling. Kenny was known as Doctone by his close friends. I never got to know Kenny, but after working on this project I sometimes feel as though I did.”

Haidu’s choices of collaborators added perspective to this passion project. Billy Hart is a relentlessly creative and vital drummer who both Haidu and Kirkland worked with early on in their development. Bassist Todd Coolman propels the band forward with a fluid, effervescent beat; tenorist Gary Thomas brings his remarkable language to Kirkland’s compositions; while contributions by saxophonist Jon Irabagon and percussionist Daniel Sadownick stretch the tonal palette. The masterful yet gritty alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson seems to “breathe” the music rather than play it.

Haidu’s connection with Kirkland goes back to Noah’s youth when Kirkland turned pop music on its head playing jazz solos and keyboard grooves in Sting’s early “post-Police” tours. Over the years, Haidu has mined many of the raw musical elements which caught his ear in those early days. Regarding Kirkland’s influence, Noah says: “The greatest lesson I take from him is a certain ‘devil may care’ attitude to performance: once you have enough vocabulary and genres to draw on you just go for it and see where the inspiration leads.”

Haidu recorded Doctone at a point of peak creativity. His extended six-part suite Infinite Distances received 4.5 stars from DownBeat Magazine and made that publication’s “Best Albums of the Year” issue in 2018. Perhaps as a reaction to his father passing away a few days before Infinite Distances was released, Haidu has since found new avenues of expression during his performances. Haidu says of his evolution: “Although these days as a composer I gravitate towards long-form, through-composed pieces, as a performer I feel an urgency to express musical ideas and emotions spontaneously, so that changes the repertoire. I don’t often play my most complex pieces in public.”

In early 2019 Haidu toured with a new band featuring Hart and Coolman and the inception of this trio gave Haidu the opportunity to present a fresh repertoire centered around Kirkland’s original compositions. Hart had a strong connection with the music. Kenny had been on his first two recording dates as a leader and they had played together during the 1970’s on various fusion, Afro-Latin, and avant-garde projects.

By summer 2019 the band decided to record nine of Kenny’s songs over a couple of days. The sessions were documented on video, and the musicians talked throughout about their relationship to Kenny and his music. Hart recalled the origins of some of the pieces and shared that he was having an “emotional reaction” to recording the music. Steve Wilson talked about the inspiration he felt when first hearing Kirkland with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet in the early 1980’s and how that band had inspired him and his contemporaries.

The album opens with a spontaneous yet lyrical free improvisation from Haidu and Hart: “Those were the first notes we played when we sat down in the studio. The opener captures a certain reverential melancholy that we were feeling about recording music by Kenny.” Noah later titled the piece “The Doctor of Tone” in reference to Kirkland’s nickname. “Midnight Silence” offers a slow rendering of Kirkland’s dense yet gorgeous harmonies, sliding into new tempos and time signatures for Haidu’s solo and Wilson’s excursions. The brooding theme “Blasphemy” follows. Unlike Kirkland’s concise original recordings these versions feature improvisations which build to wailing explorations as the band reaches peak after peak. Kirkland’s two most well-known pieces are also included. The sinewy melody of “Steepian Faith” is treated with a funky odd-metered counter-point before finding its way back into the deeply joyful groove suggested by the original. The haunting “Dienda” is initially given an extended “out of time” exploration by Haidu, Hart, and Coolman before introducing the pulse and finally ending in a gospel-tinged 3/4 chorus. Gary Thomas’s unique melodic language and Haidu’s fiery soloing are heard on “Mr J.C.” “Tonality of Atonement” is a multi-directional trio statement, inspired by Hart’s initial encounters with Kirkland on the 70’s avant-garde scene. “Chambers of Tain” and “Fuschia” feature some of Kirkland’s most adventurous rhythmic ideas while “Chance,” first recorded by Kirkland and Hart on Hart’s 1984 album Oshumare, serves as a moody set closer.

Looking back on Kirkland’s impact, Haidu says “Kenny bridged so many musical worlds: Blues, R&B, fusion, modern jazz, and 20th century classical.” After Kirkland’s passing in 1998 Noah began collecting recordings and interviews to learn more about the pianist. In 2007 when he sat down with Branford Marsalis to talk at length about Kirkland’s life and music, the conversation left him eager to know more about Kenny. “I researched every article I could find and I started writing an unofficial biography without any particular plan to publish it. Although he was at the very top of his profession, Kenny wasn’t interested in fame. He didn’t record as a leader until his mid-30’s and he wasn’t motivated to become a big star. I can definitely relate to that.” 

At age 19 Haidu had studied at Rutgers University for about a year with the great pianist Kenny Barron. But Noah was soon skipping classes to sit in at jazz clubs in Barron’s hometown of Philadelphia. After his second year, Haidu left college and moved to Brooklyn to devote all his time to practicing and gigging with artists such as Essiet Essiet, Duane Eubanks, Walter Perkins, Melvin Sparks, Jeanie Bryson, and Norman Connors. After the debut of his first album Slipstream, All About Jazz said of Noah “the cat can play his butt off.”

In 2011 Haidu was called a “rising star” in JazzTimes and “an important new talent” in Jazzwise magazine. His subsequent albums and sideman work have seen him collaborating with Ambrose Akinmusire, Mike Stern, Buster Williams, Jeremy Pelt, Sharel Cassity, and Mark Whitfield Jr. After a 2015 MOCA concert his music was music dubbed “vibrant and adventurous” in the Miami Herald. New York Times writer Giovanni Russonello called him “an artist of focus and vision.” In 2017 DownBeat Magazine featured Haidu in an article entitled “Subversive Soul” and singled him out as an “assertive pianist and innovative composer.” In addition, DownBeat gave his suite Infinite Distances 4.5 stars and chose it as a 2017 Best Album of the Year.

New Music Releases: Feiertag, Ada Bird Wolfe & Jamieson Trotter, Menagerie

Feiertag | La Parisienne

The last few months must have been the most exciting of Joris Feiertag’s career so far. Even though the dutch drummer has been releasing music since 2015 (f.e. on Kraak & Smaak’s label «Boogie Angst»), his proper debut album will finally see the light the day within the next year. This upcoming oeuvre has been long awaited by his numerous fans worldwide - almost as much as it has been for Feiertag himself. Fortunately for all parties involved, the artist still managed to hold us over with a steady stream of quality music in the meantime (f.e. the two EPs «Severance» and «Heal» – both on Sonar Kollektiv). To that end, the musician and producer extraordinaire now rations us yet another one-off treat: «La Parisienne» is a spheric modern jazz funk track, reminiscent of the glorious days of 70s library music while forging links to the aesthetics of Early Sounds Recordings in Napoli or Mildlife in Melbourne. Although this release was initially planned as a one song single, the two minute piece of bliss in the form of «Saviour» was added as the two songs compliment each other so perfectly. And with that, Sonar Kollektiv have tied up a fabulous double package..

Ada Bird Wolfe & Jamieson Trotter | He & Me

He & Me, the newest project by singer and lyricist Ada Bird Wolfe, is a duo album featuring the esteemed pianist and arranger Jamieson Trotter performing jazz standards and original tunes. He & Me follows Wolfe’s 2018 release, Birdie, named one of the top 10 albums of 2018 by C. Michael Bailey in All About Jazz. Dick Metcalf of Contemporary Fusion Reviews called Birdie "a superb jazz vocal adventure." And Dodie Miller-Gould of Lemonwire said: "Birdie is a joyous compilation of songs that shows off the singer’s vocal range and scope of moods." Wolfe has a rich, alto voice with a warm, intimate timbre. She eschews melisma and vocal gymnastics to tell her stories through inventive phrasing and subtle variations on melody. Trotter is a first-call accompanist for vocalists who are serious about their craft. He possesses an expansive musical vocabulary and the ability to listen closely and react with his own imaginative turns of phrase. He and Me provides a glimpse into the creative process of two musicians whose tastes and aesthetics are completely in synch. They build tunes organically by listening closely to one another and weaving tapestries of sound that create new and unexpected aural images.

Menagerie | Many Worlds

Australian 9-piece Spiritual Jazz group Menagerie announce their highly anticipated third album "Many Worlds" on esteemed U.K label Freestyle Records. Menagerie is the Melbourne-based jazz ensemble founded by producer, songwriter, guitarist, DJ and recording artist Lance Ferguson, also the driving force behind The Bamboos, Lanu, Rare Groove Spectrum and Machines Always Win. Menagerie‘s debut album "They Shall Inherit" saw the light of day in 2012 via label Tru Thoughts and 2018 saw the release of "The Arrow Of Time" on Freestyle. Two years on from their last full-length album, Menagerie are back with "Free Thing", the first single from their upcoming album that sees the band leaning heavily into the spiritual side of their sound. The hypnotic spoken word-poem is evocative of The Last Poets, an earthy yet futuristic meditation on the universal theme of freedom itself, set to a backdrop of insistent percussion, double bass and brooding piano voicings.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler finds “Tranquility” in a new old guitar

The suggestion came from two-time GRAMMY winner Paul Brown who has produced dozens of No. 1 hits. When contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler entered Brown’s Funky Joint studio near Los Angeles to begin tracking, Brown, also a guitarist, recommended that Sabler swap out his trusty guitar in favor of Brown’s vintage Gibson Johnny Smith model. The electric guitar that has innate acoustic qualities and balances tone and sustain gave Sabler an entirely new sound, which he used to create his eighth album, “Tranquility,” dropping January 29 on New Vista Records.

“The guitar’s sound is a sonic departure from anything I had previously recorded and this resulted in a successful single release, ‘Keep Pushin’.’ My fascination with the expressive tone of this instrument and my comfort in playing it led me to acquire my own, a vintage ‘67 beauty,” said the Nashville-based Sabler.

The guitar recommendation was the second time Sabler heeded Brown’s counsel. The first came last December when Brown was in Nashville to perform. Sabler came to the gig to hang with Brown. It was then that Brown offered to produce Sabler’s next record.

“I was both surprised and delighted that he offered to produce for me. Without hesitation, I seized the opportunity. We started collaborating immediately and two months later, we sat down to record at his studio in LA,” said Sabler.  

A year earlier, Sabler wrote and released “In The Light” as a standalone single, which spent three weeks at No. 1 at WAVE.FM in Sabler’s homeland, Canada. The guitar player was encouraged and decided to reinvest the residuals he received from all the airplay into recording a new album, his first since 2014’s Brazilian jazz outing “Jobim Tribute.” Sabler and Brown cowrote eight songs for “Tranquility,” collaborating with hitmaker Lew Laing (“Keep Pushin’” and “Where Has She Gone”), Jeff Carruthers (“Easy Moves”) and Shane Theriot, the latter with whom they cowrote the single slated to go for playlist adds on January 18 titled “Crescent City Strut.”

“Paul and I collaborated with Shane Theriot on several compositions that are among my favorites on the project. Shane’s New Orleans heritage and his work with Hall & Oates brought a vibe to these songs that really inspired my playing,” said Sabler.

Sabler and Brown revisited “In The Light” on the disc with Sabler recording new guitar parts for the debut single as well as for the album’s lone remake, “Sunrise,” a George Benson original that Brown masterfully illumined with Lee Thornburg’s trumpet and trombone. 

Speaking of Benson, Sabler references the contemporary jazz crossover legend when discussing how much the choice of guitar impacted the sound of the “Tranquility” album.

“The title track really exemplifies the beauty of this exceptional guitar that was the instrument of choice for George Benson’s classic ‘Breezin’.’ The song title ‘Tranquility’ is so fitting because I can virtually escape to that destination when I listen to this song,” said Sabler.  

Sabler and Brown tracked a pair of tunes last February prior to the coronavirus quarantine, including “Keep Pushin’,” which dropped as a single in May. Work on “Tranquility” had to be put on hold until July. When they resumed, Sabler recorded his guitar parts in Nashville after Brown crafted the tracks in Los Angeles utilizing a cast of ace studio musicians such as the deep pocketed rhythm section comprised of bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Gorden Campbell and percussionist Lenny Castro. Bolstered by crackling horn work from Thornburg and saxophonist Greg Vail, the album was completed in September.    

“Tranquility” is a melody-rich, contemporary jazz listening experience. The set consists of vibrant harmonies, funky R&B grooves and sophisticated instrumental pop. Sabler’s deft and soulful electric guitar occasionally yields to his more sensitive nylon-stringed guitar, including on the eloquent beauty “Esselle’s Dance,” which Sabler says “is as beautiful as anything I have ever recorded.” 

“It was such a great experience to have Paul produce the album and I was extremely comfortable with his direction and guidance. Without a doubt, this is a landmark recording for me, and I am so excited and pleased to share this music.”

Keyboardist Patrick Bradley Releases "Exhale"

Like most things in 2020, the concept of contemporary jazz keyboardist Patrick Bradley’s fifth album slated for release on January 15 took a dramatic turn when the pandemic hit and racial strife erupted. Although ideas for the eleven-song set were already sketched out, when he and producer Darren Rahn wrote the uplifting title track, “Exhale,” which drops as a single on January 4 on the Patrick’s Song Factory label, the composition seemed to encapsulate exactly what Bradley was feeling and believes that we are all in need of: expel the fear, worry and division gripping the nation and inhale unifying hope and peace.

“It’s kind of a musical release from all the tension and difficulty of 2020. I thought the album title was going to be ‘Providence’ until we wrote ‘Exhale.’ That became the clear title track of the album. It also played into where I was at mentally with 2020, which has been a pretty rough year for everybody. Knowing I was going to release (the album) in January, it seemed perfect to call it ‘Exhale.’ That’s the motif of the album and all the songs are kind of in that vein. I want to inspire, help and bring hope,” said Bradley, whose last album, “Intangible,” scored two Billboard top 10 singles – “Tailwind” (No. 5) and “Dear Friend” (No. 8) - and the title track was a top 20 single. 

Bradley recorded “Exhale” during quarantine without ever being in the studio with Rahn, who produced nine tracks for the project, or GRAMMY winner Jeff Lorber, who produced a pair of tunes. After recording three albums produced entirely by Lorber, Bradley felt the need for change as he enters the next phase in his recording career. Both Lorber and a friend, sax sensation Dave Koz, recommended Rahn.

“It’s always different when you enter a new situation not knowing if it’s going to work, but with Darren, things fit together perfectly both as a producer and a songwriting partner. I brought the bones and DNA of the songs into the project, but Darren’s creative input really helped get the songs to where they are now,” said Bradley. 

For the faith-rooted keyboardist, the majority of songs have a spiritual connection. While the entire album is instrumental, Bradley’s messages are intentional. He wrote “Reinvention” prior to the pandemic, but the purpose of the song was galvanized by the impact of COVID-19 along with the civil protests.

“I was at a point where – pre-pandemic but came to light during the pandemic – I was blown away where the country was, where people were and how, even my friends - close friends and acquaintances - saw things around the country so completely different than one another. That, coupled with all the racial unrest, made me question what my role is in this. What do I do? How do I become a better person in this situation? How do I help lead and change what I can change? I don’t want to just sit back and do nothing. It was one of those moments like ‘Reinvention, man. Boy, could I use one.’ The world and everybody individually as well. We could all get into a different space,” said Bradley, who also serves as Regional President of the Southern Pacific Region of Whole Foods Market.

Bradley embarked on this recording project with a clear vision and an intentional mindset.  

“I had a specific goal and strategy in mind. Every song is really intentional; every note is really intentional. I definitely wanted to explore a bit more, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure that I had four or five songs that were easily accessible for a larger audience. The other side of it is, I wanted the rest of it to be more exploration – more fusion and rock, where my real inspiration comes from. If you listen to the album in sequence, it actually goes that way. It starts off with a lot of accessibility and as it progresses, it gets into more of the progressive, jazz fusion-type songs. I was probably more intentional on this album than any other album as far as how it plays.”

The “Exhale” album is a contemporary jazz amalgam constructed of jazz fusion, rock, R&B, blues, funk and pop. The melodies are lush and indelible, fragrantly blossoming amidst soulful grooves. The fusion excursions stretch beyond and across borders. The production deftly melds the warm organics of live instrumentation and the modernity of synthesized sonics. The musicianship throughout is top shelf. With Bradley playing piano, organ, keyboards and synths, he was accompanied by Rahn (saxophone, keyboards, synths & programming), Lorber (keyboards, synth bass & guitar), guitarist Michael Thompson, horn player and arranger David Mann, bassist Mel Brown, percussionist Christian Teele, and drummers Tarell Martin, Gary Novak and Dave Weckl. Rahn, chart-topping trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Allen Hinds are featured as soloists.

Bradley hopes that listeners will discover “Exhale” and be receptive to feeling and receiving his musical messages as we put 2020 behind us and start fresh.

“I know we’re going to get through this. It might be different on the other side and I don’t know what it’s going to look like next year,” said Bradley, who debuted in 2007 with the album “Come Rain or Shine.”

“This is a special project and I’m hoping people get that when they listen to it because it’s almost like there’s some of my DNA in there. I’m hoping people really get the sense of hope and peace that’s in this thing. We all need it. We’ve all had a hard year – whether it’s COVID fatigue, political fatigue or whatever. I’m hoping people will listen to the album and it will give them some sort of release, a sense of hope, and that somehow it’s inspirational.”

"Exhale,” his fifth contemporary jazz album produced by hitmaker Darren Rahn and GRAMMY winner Jeff Lorber, drops January 15.

Soul-jazz flutist Ragan Whiteside is Billboard’s top female artist for the second consecutive year

For the second consecutive year, soul-jazz flutist Ragan Whiteside is Billboard’s top female smooth jazz songs artist of the year. In the male-dominated genre in which only three females made it into the year-end top 10, Whiteside, powered by singles from her aptly titled new EP, “Five Up Top,” came in at No. 5 for 2020. Last year, the Atlanta-based musician-songwriter checked in at No. 3.

“I am incredibly thankful to be included. I hope it helps open doors for other female artists. I'm always grateful for any success, but this year even more so since the world was turned upside down. Everything was ten times harder, but we managed to pull through,” said Whiteside, who has a string of six consecutive Billboard top 10 singles.

On Billboard’s year-end chart, Whiteside single, “JJ’s Strut,” paraded into the No. 35 position. The joyous number inspired by her daughter’s moxie peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart and went No. 1 on the MediaBase chart. Whiteside is the only female to appear in Billboard’s year-end top 10 songs, which she did in a guest starring role on emerging trumpeter Willie Bradley’s “It’s On Now,” the No. 3 song for 2020. Bradley is featured on Whiteside’s “JJ’s Strut.” 

“Willie is a cool dude and I enjoyed working with him and producer-songwriter Jeff Canady on ‘It's On Now.’ Willie has been grinding for a long time and I'm happy he has been able to breakthrough this year,” said Whiteside.

Whiteside’s consistent success is all the more impressive in that she is the lone flute player on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs Artists chart and the only flutist with a single to make the top 40 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart. The conservatory-trained Whiteside said, “There was a time when the flute wasn't heard at all in smooth jazz, so it's exciting to see a shift in the landscape that allows flautists to flourish.” 

Whiteside cowrote four new songs for her fifth collection, “Five Up Top,” collaborating with her producers, influential soul-jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson (Celine Dion, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore). Other singles from the EP to make the Billboard top 10 are the backyard barbecue-flavored joint “Jam It,” which went to No. 2 and reigned in the No. 1 position at MediaBase for five weeks, and a soulful contemporary jazz-R&B take on the Little River Band pop-rock hit, “Reminiscing,” which climbed to No. 8.  

Although Whiteside entered the year with the goal of releasing a full-length album, the coronavirus had the final say and the flautist settled for dropping the five-song EP last month. Whiteside finds hope and is energized by the connection between the EP title, “Five Up Top,” and being Billboard’s No. 5 artist for 2020.

“I've heard that the number five signifies freedom and creativity. Hopefully, this is a sign of huge musical growth in the coming year!”

Mark Harvey Group - A Rite for All Souls

Trumpeter, composer and bandleader Mark Harvey has been an uncompromising explorer of new sonic territories for decades. He has performed in David Douglas’s Festival of New Trumpet Music; appeared at the Knitting Factory, the Village Gate, the Public Theater, Roulette, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and the Baja State Theater (Mexico) among others; and shared the stage with Jaki Byard, Geri Allen, Ricky Ford and other luminaries. As a concert producer, he nurtured the early careers of notables like pianist James Williams, vibist Walt Dickerson and saxophonist Marion Brown. Among Harvey’s 200 works are pieces written for and premiered with jazz legends Joe Lovano, Sheila Jordan, Steve Turre, Jimmy Giuffre, and Ran Blake. Harvey is founder and music director of the internationally acclaimed Aardvark Jazz Orchestra now in its 48th season.

His early quartet, The Mark Harvey Group, featuring woodwind player Peter H. Bloom and percussionists Craig Ellis and Michael Standish, takes listeners on an epic journey of discovery in A Rite for All Souls (available July 17, 2020 via Americas Musicworks). The album reaches across nearly 50 years from a time of great social turbulence in the US to deliver a message of protest, compassion, and healing that resonates today.

The fully improvised 90-minute concert encompasses serenity and turmoil, ravishing sounds and silence, poetry and melody. Harvey discovered the reel-to-reel tapes in his basement, and when he and Bloom listened to them for the first time in five decades, “We knew this was something special that deserved to be heard,” Harvey says. The exquisite monaural recording has been digitally remastered for release in a 2-CD set, available at

A Rite for All Souls was performed October 31, 1971, at Boston’s Old West Church, where Harvey, a Methodist minister, was pursuing a jazz ministry modeled on the work of his mentor John Garcia Gensel at Saint Peter’s in Manhattan.

The Mark Harvey Group was mourning, protesting, and commemorating the tragic losses of the Vietnam War, and the lives lost or threatened by poverty, discrimination, and inequality. Their music was a celebration and meditation, honoring souls departed and souls surviving during that turbulent time in American culture. “Today, we find ourselves in another dark and tumultuous time,” says Harvey. “A Rite for All Souls speaks for all of us, as we share sorrow, anguish and compassion. Then, as now, we search for spiritual healing and the rediscovery of a common humanity.”

A Rite for All Souls is a powerful statement of the group’s aesthetic vision, captured in the phrase “aural theatre.” Lit by candles, the chancel of the Old West Church (the concert “stage”) was crowded with exotic percussion instruments and “found” sound-making devices, arranged in sculptural form. Two enormous tarot cards—The Tower and The Moon—were positioned on stage. “We thought of our performance space as a conceptual installation,” Bloom says. As the concert unfolded, the musicians moved throughout the space. At one point, they left the room, and returned wearing monk’s robes and playing organ pipes.

As always, the group performed without score or musical notation. Bloom says, “When it came to the Rite, our intention was to explore particular artistic, social and spiritual territory. We chose four poems to recite as landmarks during the performance. But there weren’t specific cues, so it all developed very organically.”

The concert’s ritualistic opening, “Invocation,” begins with soft tones of mysterious identity, played on flute, a length of pipe, and a saxophone mouthpiece. Craig Ellis’ melodic trap drum solo ushers in Bloom’s tenor, with his big, embracing sound. A conversational exchange between Harvey and Bloom sets the stage for Ellis’s recitation of Gary Snyder’s, “Spel Against Demons,” that concludes with the foursome chanting in Sanskrit and leaving the stage. They return in their monk’s robes blowing organ pipes for “Fanfare.” A dialog between tenor and trumpet introduces Standish reading William Butler Yeats’ apocalyptic “The Second Coming.” Bloom’s tenor solo spirals in a widening gyre to a burning climax. Then Harvey’s trumpet solo offers contrasting intensity with benevolent lyricism, a broad yet distinctive tonal palette, and judicious use of silence as a frame for his phrases and tones.

The ensemble creates the dramatic arc of the performance through a dialectic between group and individual passages, the ebbing and flowing in the dynamics and density of the music, and the interplay of timbres, rhythm, and melody. You can hear the operatic tension on the second disc as the muted dynamics and textures of the group set up Ellis to read his poem, “Napalm: Rice Paper.” A sorrowful, compassionate response by Bloom on soprano and Harvey on French horn follows, until the accumulated outrage of the poem seems to erupt in a lengthy, powerful percussion duet.

Throughout the performance, percussionists Ellis and Standish collaborate with finesse. From Ellis, we hear range and depth: propulsive grooves, sonic explosions, and subtle use of space. Standish’s concise and nuanced work on small percussion instruments provides elegant punctuations, ever-suited to the moment. “Michael invariably delivered le son juste,” Bloom observes.

“A Rite for All Souls has powerful relevance today,” Harvey says. “We live in tumultuous times, and, as Albert Ayler said, music is the healing force of the universe. There are moments that are turbulent, and the music reflects that, but overall we were trying to point in a direction toward progress and healing.”

Trumpeter, composer, educator, minister, and jazz community activist Mark Harvey has been a force in the Boston jazz scene and beyond for 50 years. Between 1970 and 1983, he worked on behalf of the Boston jazz community as the founder and director of the nonprofit Jazz Coalition, the Jazz Celebrations concert series, the Jazz All Nite Concerts, and Boston Jazz Week festivals, all of which presented both resident and visiting artists. In 1973, he founded The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, which he continues to lead as music director, principal composer and arranger. The band opens its 48th season this fall. The orchestra, which Jazz Podium called “one of the best jazz ensembles in the world,” has released 16 CDs, including 10 discs on Leo Records. As a trumpeter, Harvey has recorded with George Russell and Baird Hersey, and has appeared with Gil Evans, Claudio Roditi, Howard McGhee, Sam Rivers, Kenny Dorham, and many others. The Jazz Journalists Association named him a Boston Jazz Hero in 2015, and in 2019 Jazz Boston honored him with the Roy Haynes Award for “exceptional contributions to jazz and the jazz community.” Harvey is also music director of Kate Matson’s FiLmprov.

Peter H. Bloom has performed widely across multiple genres in a career spanning five decades. He has performed with Mark Harvey since 1969 and been a member of The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1976. In addition, he has performed with the Makrokosmos Orchestra, is a founding member of the jazz and tap ensemble, the Modernistics, has played with FiLmprov since its creation in 1996, and has led his own jazz groups for decades. Jazz Improv praised his “exquisite melody…the improvisations growing organically out of the theme.” As a recitalist and chamber musician, Bloom has toured the world with Ensemble Aubade, Fortunato Ensemble, Ensemble Chaconne, the Henning Ensemble, and other groups. Composers such as Elliott Schwartz, Richard Cornell, Elizabeth Vercoe, Narong Prangcharoen, Edward Jacobs, Karl Henning, Pamela Marshall, and Richard Nelson have written for him. His discography includes 47 recordings on labels including Sony Classical, Navona, Dorian, Leo Records, 9Winds, and many others.

Sonny Rollins in Holland: The 1967 Studio & Live Recordings

Independent jazz label Resonance Records will continue its ongoing tradition of releasing previously unissued archival recordings as limited-edition Record Store Day exclusives with a stellar new three-LP collection of historic Sonny Rollins performances, Rollins in Holland: The 1967 Studio & Live Recordings.

Featuring more than two hours of music, this stunning collection, drawn from tenor saxophone master Rollins’s Netherlands tour of May 1967.

Resonance co-president Zev Feldman, known within the industry as “the Jazz Detective,” says of the forthcoming release, “The music on Rollins in Holland is extraordinary. Rollins fans will rejoice when they hear the news of this discovery. These performances follow an important time in his life, and he brought those experiences along with him to make this incredible music.”

In a new interview with Feldman included in the set, the 89-year-old Rollins says, “I’m so happy that Resonance is putting it out because it really represents a take-no-prisoners type of music. That’s sort of what I was doing around that period of time; that was sort of Sonny Rollins then—a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am approach. It was very much me. And I loved it and I loved playing with those guys.”

The music heard on the Resonance album is drawn from a little-documented period in Rollins’s career. The musician’s 1966 Impulse! album East Broadway Run Down was his final record date before a studio hiatus that lasted until 1972. In 1969, mirroring a celebrated public exit of a decade earlier, he began a two-year sabbatical from live performing.

Rollins in Holland captures the then 36-year-old jazz titan in full flight, in total command of his horn at the height of his great improvisational powers. He is heard fronting a trio, the same demanding instrumental format that produced some of the early triumphs of his long career: the live A Night at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1957) and the studio dates Way Out West (Contemporary, 1957) and Freedom Suite (Riverside, 1958).

During his brief but busy 1967 stay in the Netherlands, the saxophonist was supported by two of the nation’s top young players, bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. The pair had together supported such visiting

American jazzmen as Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery, and Clark Terry, among others. Jacobs was a celebrated straight-ahead accompanist, while Bennink had developed a reputation as an avant-garde lion, having backed Eric Dolphy on 1964’s Last Date. The pair jelled magnificently behind their celebrated leader.

Rollins in Holland brings together material drawn from three separate appearances by the trio: a freewheeling May 3 concert at the Arnhem Academy of Visual Arts, at which Rollins stretched out in expansive performances that sometimes topped the 20-minute mark; a four-song May 5 morning studio session at the VARA Studio in Hilversum, where Dolphy and Albert Ayler had also cut unforgettable dates; and two live shots captured during the band’s stand that evening on “Jazz met Jacobs,” a half-hour national NCRV TV show presented from the Go-Go Club in Loosdrecht and hosted by bassist Jacobs’s pianist brother Pim and his wife, singer Rita Reys.

In his essay for the collection, Dutch jazz journalist, producer, and researcher Frank Jochemsen notes that while recordings of the Arnhem show (presented here with carefully restored sound) had been passed hand-to-hand by Dutch jazz buffs over the years, the rest of the music was only recently unearthed.

In 2017, the four stereo tracks from VARA Studio were discovered by Jochemsen, and they were authenticated by Ruud Jacobs and Han Bennink as they were being digitized for the Dutch Jazz Archive (NJA). In 2019, Jochemsen also discovered the audio from the “Jazz met Jacobs” appearance in the Dutch Jazz Archive, along with a unique set of photos shot at the sound check and live broadcast of this lost TV show.

Jochemsen says, “I find it an exciting idea that so much has been recovered and documented from this modest tour and that the music is indeed of such high quality. Even more sensational is the fact that the whole world can listen to it now. The great Sonny Rollins at his best, accompanied by a great rhythm tandem, which makes me, as a Dutchman, extra proud.”

An extensive overview of Rollins’s Holland trek is supplied by jazz journalist Aidan Levy, whose biography of the saxophonist will be published by Da Capo Books. Levy says, “Rollins in Holland is a resounding, still-urgent argument for jazz as a universal art form, transcending time, place and race. This is jazz at its most international and interdependent, with no boundaries or borders.”

Rollins in Holland also includes an in-depth interview by Levy with Han Bennink and Ruud Jacobs, conducted a year before Jacobs’s death from cancer in July 2019. In it, the late bass virtuoso recalled the experience of playing with the American legend as “something spiritual. [There was] a very special atmosphere on the stage where I felt I could do anything.”

The opportunity to bring Rollins’s exceptional Netherlands performances to the public for the first time has proven a special moment for Resonance, Feldman says: “Working with Mr. Rollins has been the experience of a lifetime, and I’m so grateful that he has put his trust in Resonance and our team to bring forth this newly unearthed, previously undocumented chapter in his career.”


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