Thursday, March 25, 2021

True Loves to Release Horn-Fueled "First Impression"

"First Impression” by the True Loves showcases their signature dirty guitar, in-your-face-drumming and powerhouse horn section. As one of Seattle’s beloved premiere funk and soul acts, the track is a testament to the finesse of an ensemble of veteran musicians coming together and writing music in a group setting. The song started out as the rhythm section jamming on a groove at rehearsal one night. The horns, just hanging out and enjoying the music, eventually joined in with a more simple version of what would become the crisp and punchy melody you hear now. “First Impression” displays the harder funk side of their catalog in the vein of iconic horn-fueled acts such as Tower of Power, Chicago and Parliament. Guitarist Jimmy James and tenor saxophonist Gordon Brown are the featured soloists and as the song reaches the apex of the horn a capella soli, percussionist Iván Galvéz simmers the vibe down with a timbale feature to fade the song out. The track is the second single off of the band’s forthcoming second full-length album ‘Sunday Afternoon’ being released by Color Red on May 28, 2021.

The band formed out of a jam session in 2014 between three of the city’s most sought after rhythm section players of James, Moore, and DeGraw that later blossomed into a global force with the expansion of the star-studded horn section. Even before their first release, they appeared at Sasquatch and Doe Bay festivals with their prior vocalist Grace Love, who has become a standout voice coming out of the Seattle music scene. The group released their debut instrumental LP Famous Last Words in 2017. In 2018, the group released the  “Dapper Derp/Kabuki” 45 on WeCoast Records and followed it up by the “Famous Last Words/Mary Pop Poppins” 45 on Colemine Records in 2019. Sunday Afternoon will be the band’s second full-length LP effort that will fit seamlessly into the Color Red catalog alongside other acts on the Eddie Roberts imprint that include The New Mastersounds, WRD (Robert Walter, Eddie Roberts, Adam Deitch), Polyrhythmics, and more. 

Prior to the pandemic, the group was slated to perform High Sierra Music Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, and Doe Bay Fest. Those plays have been rescheduled for 2021 and the group will be announcing rescheduled performances in the coming months. 

Joe Lovano | "Garden of Expression"

The debut album of Joe Lovano’s Trio Tapestry was one of 2019’s most talked-about releases. This musical concept is taken to the next level on its second album, Garden of Expression, a recording distinguished by its intense focus.

Lovano, a saxophonist whose reach extends across the history of modern jazz and beyond, plays with exceptional sensitivity in Trio Tapestry. The music he writes for this group—tenderly melodic or declamatory, harmonically open, rhythmically free, and spiritually involving—encourages subtle and differentiated responses from his creative partners, creating interactions in which Lovano describes as “magical.” Carmen Castaldi’s space-conscious approach to drumming further refines an improvisational understanding that he and Lovano have shared since the early 1970s. The trio is also an inspired context for Marilyn Crispell’s solos, counter melodies, and improvisational embellishments. Her feeling for sound-color helps the chamber music character of the group bloom. 

A steady artistic growth can be charted between the first and second Trio Tapestry albums. For Lovano, “Seeds of Change” was a key piece in terms of approach on the trio’s debut album. The open form itself is at once a blues, a ballad, and a chamber music composition. With a feel and a flow that was special, leading directly to the title piece of Garden of Expression, the seeds having taken root. “Between the two albums we have an amazing repertoire now,” says Lovano. 

This new album also benefits from its recording at Lugano Switzerland’s Auditorio Stelio Molo SRI studio with highly responsive acoustics, with the details of the music optimally realized in Manfred Eichner’s production. The trio recorded in the studio on their second European tour in November 2019 after they’d performed a concert in the studio the evening before. “Having given a full performance there, we were very comfortable with the room,” noted Lovano. “The tone there, and the sound and the feeling in that space, built to be a recital room, is amazing. We played forte and really felt it. We played at pianissimo volume, and you heard the music vibrating in the room. And that created a real spiritual delivery on each composition, as we allowed the music to unfold.” 

Lovano describes the organic evolution of the trio as an unforced, natural process. As with Trio Tapestry’s debut album, all the music on Garden of Expression was written by Lovano. “Each of the pieces is a song of expression where rhythm doesn’t dictate the flow. This is not a band that starts from the beat. The momentum is in the melody and the harmonic sequence, and rhythm evolves within each piece in a very free flowing manner.” Lovano draws parallels between the present trio and the music he made, over a period of 30 years, in Paul Motian’s trio with Bill Frisell. “We developed a way of playing and communicating. The pieces would change night after night, as Paul gave us permission to create the music within the music. That study, that conception, has provided a foundation in my own playing and writing up to the newest work with Trio Tapestry.”

The fresh music of Trio Tapestry draws upon a long history of friendships and collaboration. Lovano and Crispell met in the mid-1980s as part of Anthony Braxton’s group. After Lovano jammed with Crispell’s trio with Paul Motian and Mark Helias at New York’s Village Vanguard, they went on to play concerts as a quartet. The potential for further development was evident to both Lovano and Crispell.

Castaldi’s association goes back to their teenage years in Cleveland. “Carmen’s one of my oldest and closest friends. We grew up together, played in bands together, went to Berklee at the same time and shared lots of the same musical experiences.” These included the revelation of hearing Keith Jarrett’s band with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian at the Jazz Workshop in Boston in 1972, a powerful, formative influence for both musicians.

“Our very first concert was without any themes or songs. It was about exploring how we might play together – and the music opened up in such a beautiful way,” says Lovano of the moment when he finally came together with Crispell and Castaldi as a trio and played totally improvised music. “I sent a tape of this to Manfred Eicher, who was very encouraging.” Lovano then set about writing a program of music to follow up the implications of those improvisations. He shaped pieces that might best display the unique qualities of the trio’s “peaceful, non-aggressive delivery,” while also refining a technique he had first broached on his album Tones, Shapes and Colors—playing saxophone and gongs simultaneously. The slowly blossoming resonance of the gongs has become one of the signature sounds of the trio, with overtones shading into silence. “These two recordings—Trio Tapestry and Garden of Expression—are the only albums I’m on that include real moments of silence from the whole group,” claims Lovano.

Providing a lot of deep listening, it is possible to digest Garden of Expression as a non-denominational spiritual album. Starting out with the quiet “Chapel Song,” which reflects upon Lovano’s experience in a Viennese church as he listened to the distant strains of an organ. It progresses through “Sacred Chant” which has some of the yearning quality of a Coltrane ballad, before concluding with “Zen Like,” where the gongs summon the trio to concentrated meditation. But there are also secular influences at work. Lovano spent the summer of 2019 on tour with Diana Krall and “West of the Moon” here is a response to playing “East of the Sun” night after night with the singer. “It doesn’t sound anything like ‘East of the Sun,’” he stresses, “but that was the inspiration. A lot of these new pieces, in fact, were written on the road.”

New Music Releases: Dr. Lonnie Smith, El Michels Affair, Jon Batiste

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Breathe

Great work from Lonnie Smith – one of the few Hammond heroes from the past who's continued to give us fresh-sounding music over the years! Lonnie's been reinvigorated after returning to Blue Note – and this tight little set follows all the growth he's experienced at the label – organ lines that soar nicely, with a complexity that Smith never had in his early years – given strong rhythmic support from Johnathan Blake on drums and Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar! The middle core of the album is live – recorded at the Jazz Standard – and features work from John Ellis on trumpet, Jason Marshall on baritone, Robin Eubanks on trombone, and Sean Jones on trumpet – on titles that include "Bright Eyes", "Pilgrimage", "Two Damn Hot", "Track 9", and "World Weeps". The set also features two covers – both with surprising vocals from Iggy Pop – a nice take on the Timmy Thomas tune "Why Can't We Live Together", and a version of "Sunshine Superman".  ~ Dusty Groove

El Michels Affair - Yeti Season 

A new and amazing chapter in the always-evolving sound of this wonderful funk ensemble – a set that holds onto all the unusual elements of previous records, but also brings in some beautiful vocals from singer Piya Malik on a number of tracks! Malik really fleshes out the sound on the numbers she handles – and the overall style is very hard to pin down – a globe's worth of influences, as El Michels blend together post-Wu Tang, post-Ethiopiques, post-Arabesk modes – yet all infused with a classic sense of funk that's not only very faithful to the 70s, but also has a cinematic sense of majesty! The blend is great – and Piya really helps open up the sound on the album's vocal tracks – served up in a mix of titles that include "Dhuaan", "Lesson Learned", "Murkit Gem", "Fazed Out", "Ala Vida", "Unathi", "Last Blast", "Zaharila", and "Silver Lining". ~ Dusty Groove

Jon Batiste - We Are

Jon Batiste is looking mighty righteous on the cover, and he's sounding mighty righteous within – imbued with a new spirit of consciousness from the events of 2020, which brings a whole new sort of focus to his music – and makes for an album that's every bit a soul set as it is a jazz record! Jon sings on every track, with this raspy power that pushes the rest of the music forward very strongly – igniting the proceedings with the kind of fire you'd hope for, given the album's dedication to "the dreamers, seers, griots, and truth tellers who refuse to let us fully descend into madness". Batiste can definitely add himself to that list – as can guests who include Zadie Smith, Hot 8 Brass Band, PJ Morton, and Trombone Shorty – on titles that include "Cry", "Boy Hood", "Movement 11", "Show Me The Way", "We Are", "Tell The Truth", "Sing", "Until", "Mavis", and "Whatchutalkinbout". ~ Dusty Groove

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin’ 1965-1976

Light In The Attic Records is proud to present Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin’ 1965–1976. The definitive new collection surveys Sinatra’s most prolific period over 1965–1976, including her revered collaborations with Lee Hazlewood, over 23 tracks.

Remastered from the original analog tapes by GRAMMY®–nominated engineer John Baldwin, the collection is complemented by liner notes penned by Amanda Petrusich (author and music critic at The New Yorker), featuring insightful new interviews with Sinatra, as well as a Q&A with archivist and GRAMMY®–nominated reissue co-producer, Hunter Lea. The CD edition comes housed in a 7”x7” hardcover book (featuring 64–pages) and the two-disc vinyl set is presented in a gatefold jacket (featuring a 24–page booklet).

Nancy’s performance of the Lee Hazlewood–penned song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” was a huge hit in 1966 and became her signature tune. The pair began a three year run of successful albums, duets, and singles including “Sugar Town,” “Some Velvet Morning,” “Summer Wine,” “Sand,” “Jackson,” and the title track to the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice.”

Start Walkin’ explores Nancy’s recordings with Lee, her inspired collaborations with songwriter Mac Davis (“Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham”), producer Lenny Waronker (“Hook and Ladder”), and the “should’ve been hit” song with arranger/producer Billy Strange (“How Are Things In California.”)

Over the years, she has been cited as an influence by countless artists, including Sonic Youth, Morrissey, Calexico, U2, and Lana Del Rey. Her haunting song “Bang, Bang” gained a new legion of fans when it appeared in the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film, Kill Bill Volume 1.back catalogue, including her 1966 debut, Boots, her first record with Hazlewood, 1968’s Nancy & Lee, and the follow-up, 1972’s Nancy & Lee Again. Newly-remastered, these will be made available on both vinyl and CD.

Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin’ 1965-1976 deluxe CD

  • Bang Bang
  • These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
  • Sugar Town
  • So Long Babe
  • How Does That Grab You, Darlin’
  • Friday’s Child
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Summer Wine
  • Some Velvet Morning
  • Lightning’s Girl
  • Sand
  • Lady Bird
  • Jackson
  • Happy
  • How Are Things in California
  • Hook and Ladder
  • Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham
  • Paris Summer
  • Arkansas Coal
  • Down From Dover
  • Kind Of A Woman
  • Machine Gun Kelly
  • (L’été Indien) Indian Summer

New Music Releases: Sun Tone, MyLow, Cameron Graves

Sun Tone

Sun Tone started as random musings on a laptop from Ryan Gambrell. Taking notes from classic hip hop producers, Gambrell began shaping his own sound with jazz guitar melodies, funky bass lines, and soulful organ pads on top of boom-bap beats. The project’s debut EP finds Gambrell calling upon his arsenal of collaborators in former reggae and afrobeat projects to help him bring his musings to life. As a producer, Gambrell has worked with fellow Color Red artists Sydney, Australia’s black bird hum mixing their latest release “My Side” and producing a b-side dub. He also tracked ATOMGA’s 2014 debut EP. His bloodlines in both performance and production work are displayed in Sun Tone. The collection of songs draws in influences ranging from mellow instrumental psychedelic acts like Khruangbin and El Michaels Affairs as well as lush guitar work along the lineage of Grant Green and George Benson. The end result is a distinct blend of cinematic soul music. The group will continue to collaborate with Color Red and work with Eddie Roberts to record follow up tracks in 2021.

MyLow - Voyager

Again, the good noses at the Berlin-based label Sonar Kollektiv unearth yet another quality talent in the form of a young, dutch producer called Mylow. «Voyager», the EP at hand (his second release, by the way) sounds like an aged jazz pianist has his finger on the pulse of the times once again. However, it is exactly the other way around! Mylow, né Milo Tomasovic, studies Electronic Music at Rockacademy in Tilburg and collects old jazz and soul records, which he also DJs with regularity to transport the musical heritage of his idols into the here and now. It will remain a mystery though how Mylow has come up with all these audacious sounds, noises and melodies which assemble the four tracks of this EP into a little masterpiece. The title track «Voyager» moves from a spheric ambient track slowly and cautiously towards a weird downtempo piece spiked with remote tribal chants. The same applies to «I Do», which only really picks up pace in the last minute but then radiates magic in every direction. The only thing this EP lacks, are four more songs in the same fashion. If we are lucky, we will get them very soon.

Cameron Graves - Seven 

A set that's maybe a bit more searing than earlier records from Cameron Graves – more full-on fusion at times, although still with some of the spacier elements we liked from before – yet definitely driven at points with the kind of energy that recalls the George Duke/Stanley Clarke experiments of the 70s! The rhythms at the core are really on fire – drums from Mike Mitchell and bass from Max Gerl – and the guitar of Colin Cook often matches the bold lines of Graves on piano and keyboards. Kamasi Washington guests on two tracks, Graves sings on one other cut – and titles include "Red", "Super Universes", "Sons Of Creation", "The Life Carriers", "Sacred Spheres", "Master Spirits", and "Eternal Paradise".  ~ Dusty Groove


In 1964, drummer/composer Max Roach convinced Atlantic Records to record him with producer Nusuhi Ertegun at the helm. Sessions were held in December of 1964 and the resulting album, The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan, was released three months later. Atlantic invited Ali to record again in August and September of 1965, but before mixing sessions could turn the recorded material into a releasable album, Ali had become incarcerated on a narcotics possession. Atlantic shelved the album. Thirteen years later, that tape went up in flames in an Atlantic Records warehouse in Long Branch, N.J. For years a rumor circulated, that a copy of the sessions had been made, but attempts to locate it never turned up a source ... until recently.

Omnivore Recordings is proud to present this long-thought lost piece of jazz history, restored and mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer Michael Graves from a tape copy of long-lost reference acetates of the sessions, and with notes from producer Alan Sukoenig and author/pianist Lewis Porter. Street date for the package, titled Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album, and available on CD and Digital, is March 5, 2021.

The project, co-produced by Sukoenig and Grammy Award-nominated producer Patrick Milligan, and Grammy Award-winning producer Cheryl Pawelski, features the seven surviving tracks from the album sessions along with three surviving alternate takes. Packaging includes photos from December of 1964 by notable photographer Larry Fink, who refers to Ali as “the Prokofiev of jazz.”

Personnel on the August 23 and September 7, 1965 sessions that took place at Atlantic Studios in New York City were Hasaan, piano; Pope, tenor sax; Art Davis, bass; and Kalil Madi, drums. All are profiled in the liner notes.

From the liner notes: “The pianist, Hasaan Ibn Ali, whom saxophonist Odean Pope calls ‘the most advanced player to ever develop [in Philadelphia],’ had practiced intensively with John Coltrane in the early 1950s and is thought, by Pope and others, to have been the influence behind Coltrane’s so-called sheets of sound as well as the harmonic approach that underlay Coltrane’s breakthrough Giant Steps, and also, with Earl Bostic, one of the two role models behind Coltrane’s strict work ethic. Yet he was rarely employed, even by musicians who respected his playing and his knowledge, thus leaving him with little chance to develop an audience. When he sat down at the piano at the Woodbine, an after-hours club in Philadelphia, all the horn players would leave the stand for they were unable to play with him, so unfamiliar were his harmonic concepts.”

Le Coq Records | "The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1"

Promising a catalogue of “honest jazz,” newly launched label Le Coq Records rings in the new year with its inaugural release, Le Coq Records Presents The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1. A thrilling overview of the imprint’s virtuosic spirit and guiding philosophy, the album, released on January 8, 2021, is the rare all-star project that truly lives up to the name.

In a short time, Le Coq has assembled a family of stellar musicians who converge in myriad combinations on The Le Coq Jazz All Stars, exploring a wide variety of styles and approaches. The names are well known, and some have crossed paths briefly during the course of their notable careers, but these recordings surprisingly mark the first time that many of them have worked extensively together.

The results are a rare treat for modern jazz aficionados, especially given the versatility and range of the well-known musicians who comprise the album’s line-up: keyboardists Bill Cunliffe and John Beasley; bassists John Patitucci and Chris Colangelo; drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Joe LaBarbera; percussionist Alex Acuña; trumpeters Terell Stafford and Wayne Bergeron; saxophonists Rick Margitza and Ralph Moore; guitarist Jake Langley and vocalist Andy James, among others.

“Touring around the world as a Flamenco dancer, I got to know and perform with so many great jazz artists,” explains founder Piero Pata. “So when we started Le Coq, I focused on gathering together these incredible musicians. This album is a way to introduce the label through the vision of these artists who audiences know and who have been pushing the music forward for a lifetime.”

The material on this initial release ranges from absorbing original tunes to reinterpreted classics like “Caravan” and “Afro Blue.” It’s a cohesive single album that nonetheless showcases the stunning artistic breadth and impeccable musicianship for which the label strives.

“The album came together rather organically,” says Cunliffe, who has taken on a role akin to that of a house arranger at the label and who served as an informal music director for the Le Coq Jazz All Stars. “I’m very fortunate to have a producer in Piero who is also an artist himself. He’s all about the music, which is a quality that he shares with all the great jazz producers. As an artist, Piero knows good from bad and he gives me the freedom to do what I need to do. No one can ask for a better producer than that.”

An Italian-Australian native, Pata forged his ear for honest jazz through a lifetime in music and the performing arts. He began studying piano at the age of four under the mentorship of Isador Goodman, pianist for the world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Pata also sang in the youth chorus at the famed Sydney Opera. He went on to become a gifted ballet dancer and solidified his technique with Ballet St. Petersburg’s Borris Romanoff and Company, later moving on to The Australian Ballet and touring with many of the world’s top companies and performers. Pata started his producing career in Spain, germinating out of live performances with great Flamenco players and dancers.

While the Jazz All Stars seems like a once in a lifetime congregation of modern jazz greats, it also hints at future releases by many of these artists in Le Coq’s not-too-distant future. Already in the pipeline for the early months of 2021 are new releases from Andy James, Rick Margitza, and a new trio bringing together Cunliffe, John Patitucci and Vinnie Colaiuta, with many more to follow.

Ushered in by Acuña’s always-captivating percussion, the album opens with John Beasley’s “Theme for FLOTUS.” Dedicated to former First Lady and jazz fan Michelle Obama, the piece was written as the closing theme for “Jazz at the White House,” the televised all-star performance held on International Jazz Day in 2016. Cunliffe provided the insistent big band chart “Tu Wero Niu,” an ode to resilience named after a Maori expression meaning “the ultimate challenge” and written following a turbulent flight to New Zealand.

A veteran of the Joey DeFrancesco Trio, guitarist Jake Langley brings a classic soul-jazz vibe to “Log Jammin’,” a simmering groove with Beasley on Fender Rhodes that conjures the spirit of a smoky old-school bar with a raucous jazz combo in the corner. Cunliffe’s deft hand at arranging is spotlighted on his own “There You Go,” a rich, celebratory tune that weaves nine players into an orchestral magnitude. The ensemble then pares down to the duo of Patitucci and Acuña, who engage in a lively dialogue via Mongo Santamaria’s timeless “Afro Blue.”

Vocalist Andy James makes a guest appearance on another familiar classic, Duke Ellington’s oft-reprised “Caravan.” Cunliffe’s arrangement is an energetic modern reimagining, a tantalizing glimpse at what’s to come in James’ upcoming release Tu Amor. More Ellington follows with Cunliffe’s big band arrangement of the percolating “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” Finally, Margitza’s breathy, soulful tenor takes the lead on a wistful quintet version of the Al Jolson standard “Avalon,” closing the album on a note of yearning – perhaps for more of what these brilliant musicians have in store.

Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott Release New Album Songs Of Comfort And Hope

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott's newest collaboration, Songs of Comfort and Hope, is available now on Sony Classical.  A new performance video for "Ol' Man River" accompanies today's release – watch here.  Songs of Comfort and Hope is inspired by the series of recorded-at-home musical offerings that Ma began sharing in the first days of the COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. Throughout the spring and summer, Yo-Yo Ma's #SongsofComfort grew from a self-shot video of Antonín Dvořák's "Goin' Home" into a worldwide effort that has reached more than 20 million people.

Ma and Stott mark the next chapter in the project with this new album, offering consolation and connection in the face of fear and isolation. The album includes 21 new recordings, which span modern arrangements of traditional folk tunes, canonical pop songs, jazz standards, and mainstays from the western classical repertoire. "Songs are little time capsules of emotions: they can contain long-lost dreams and desires, and feelings of great spirit, optimism, and unity," Ma and Stott write of Songs of Comfort and Hope.

"What the pandemic has crystallized in my mind is that we need music because it helps us to get to very specific states of mind," Ma told The New York Times Magazine. "It's not like, 'Listen to my music; it will help.' But rather, everybody wants to get to certain states of mind during the day, during the cycle of the season. And during a pandemic, with the alienation of not having social contact, music is also that physical force. It's energy. Then you get to more complex things, like how certain songs elicit memory. ...We need music to make us feel at equilibrium through hard times and good times."

"Songs bring a sense of community, identity, and purpose, crossing boundaries and binding us together in thanks, consolation, and encouragement. It had long been our wish to explore this medium further, but we could never have imagined that the catalyst would be a pandemic that fundamentally rearranged our ways of living. This is music that tells stories, that marks occasions private and public, that gives voice to celebrations, remembrances, and all of life's mysteries. These are songs that pay tribute to musical champions of social justice — like Paul Robeson and Violeta Parra — and to the troubadours of our joy, imagination, and sorrow — like Francis Poulenc, Wu Tong, and Benjamin Britten."

Among the new takes on old favorites are Pulitzer Prize® winner Caroline Shaw's artful and eloquently arranged "Shenandoah"; Australian composer Harry Sdraulig's "Fantasia on Waltzing Matilda"; pianist Stephen Hough's lush arrangement of "Scarborough Fair", and two-time Academy® Award-nominated icon Jorge Calandrelli's re-imagining of a pair of songbook treasures: "We'll Meet Again" by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, and Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida." In addition to the recorded album, the duo released a video of "Over the Rainbow" filmed by the sea north of Boston.

Earlier in the year, Ma was featured in the 2020 edition of TIME 100, in recognition of the #SongsOfComfort project's message and reach. "More than an extraordinary artist and a true musical genius, Yo-Yo Ma is proof of love and life," writes Stevie Wonder for TIME. "His gift to us is his music wrapped in a blanket of kind understanding that transcends all boundaries: ethnic, geographic, political, class and genre. The sounds he brings through his cello teach us to listen, feel, care and act. His music takes us to a safe place and then inspires us to do the good and right that he knows is in the heart of humankind... Every time he shares his music, it is a master class in love."

"Part of what gives comfort is actually people working together and collaborating," Ma told TIME as part of the "TIME 100 Talks" series. "If you like something, it's in your ear, it's in your head: you own it. It's the ultimate bridge-builder."

Ma and Stott's recording partnership began in 1985, and includes Soul of the Tango and Obrigado Brazil, each of which garnered a GRAMMY® Award for "Best Classical Crossover Album." Most recently, in 2015, they released the critically acclaimed Songs from the Arc of Life, of which NPR wrote, "Over those many years, they've developed a wonderfully warm and mutually responsive musical partnership that has blossomed in performances that are both generous and incisive."

Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott share the warmth of decades of music making again with Songs of Comfort and Hope, offering audiences new paths into treasured musical memories and a few notes of hope for a better future.

New Music Releases: SunDub, The Comet is Coming ft. Joshua Idehen, Hendrik Meurkens

SunDub - Ain't Nobody

On the heels of their summertime dub EP release, Brooklyn-based band SunDub now brings you “Ain’t Nobody,” the celebrated funk/soul classic, first released in 1983 by Rufus and Chaka Khan. SunDub, fronted by lead singer Joanna Teters, redresses this classic, giving it a perfectly fitting reggae makeover you didn’t know it needed. Teters pays homage to the original with her own powerhouse vocals, while the band serves up a heavy rocking, reverb-drenched groove, highlighting the song's iconic essence. The track, which features Sidney Mills (Steel Pulse) on organ, as well production and mixing credits, represents an evolution in the SunDub sound and provides an exciting glimpse into the future. “Ain’t Nobody” was recorded at The Creamery Studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn before the sweeping COVID shutdowns that paralyzed New York City last year. 

The Comet is Coming ft. Joshua Idehen - Imminent

This is the follow-up to the band’s globally successful 2019 projects Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery and The Afterlife with two new pulsating singles and a music video. “Imminent,” featuring Joshua Idehen was previously released only in physical format as an exclusive RSD Black Friday 12” vinyl, with a DJ Noss remix of the standout track “Super Zodiac” on Side B. Last week, Impulse! Records digitally released the pair of roaring singles and can be streamed here. Released today is the fast-paced, gritty lyric video for “Imminent” directed by the trio’s frequent collaborator Jordan Copeland (Tentacle Films Production). Copeland set out to produce and direct the “Imminent” video as a cosmic collage of performances with Joshua Idehen’s profound lyrics layered in. Unable to travel due to Covid restrictions, Jordan Copeland was remarkably able to remotely direct Joshua Idehen’s incendiary performance in Sweden from his studio in East London. The result is a vibrant, gritty, lyric video that perfectly matches the blistering intensity of the track.

Hendrik Meurkens - Manhattan Samba

Manhattan Samba is a samba jazz journey that introduces some new compositions of mine, revisits a few trusted older ones and features songs by the Brazilian masters Ivan Lins, Toninho Horta and of course Mestre Tom Jobim. The band consists of the fantastic Helio Alves on piano; two great bass players, Gustavo Amarante and Fernando Huergo; and on drums the legendary Portinho, who is one of the founding fathers of samba jazz drumming in the US. Portinho came over here many moons ago and generations of young drummers learned from him, his relentless groove drives the album. Add Helio’s burning solos and the solid swing of Gustavo and Fernando and you have a killer samba jazz rhythm section. Can’t fail with these masters. ~ Hendrik Meurkens

Ryan Dugré Releases "Foxglove" Single, Announces Three Rivers LP

Written in January of 2019 during a song-a-day exercise, the instrumental pieces on Three Rivers produce a captivating calmness with shadowy undertones, melodically tending towards introspection. Guitar is at the forefront supported by piano and synth, strings, and sparse percussion. Elements of film music, pastoral jazz, and Americana create a meditative mood which is enhanced by the underlying pulse of each song. This is music that rewards patient, active listening.

As part of the songwriting exercise that produced Three Rivers, Dugré churned out a new piece of music each day. The purpose was to build a routine of writing and creativity. The only rule was to submit something daily — an improvisation, loose sketch, or fully orchestrated piece. Everything counts.

The benefit of this deliberately fast pace is that it leaves little time for second-guessing. By forcing you to commit to an idea quickly, this method eliminates overthinking and presents a more honest depiction of the original thought. This is also the challenge — at the end of the day, you must live with your output, and allow yourself to be vulnerable as your colleagues listen to your work.

Using a barely functioning laptop and one microphone, Dugré embraced the limitations of this process. “My usual approach to writing is to methodically work out a solo guitar arrangement; melody, harmony, and bass all intertwined and performed simultaneously,” he says. “It takes a week or so to get it right.” This time, he started with a rhythm part on guitar or piano, and then added melody after. For many of the pieces he imagined someone singing the melody, and tried to get close to creating that with slide guitar, piano, or synth.

Dugré came away with a batch of new song ideas and spent the following months finishing the arrangements at his home studio. These songs were then re-recorded in October 2019 in Brooklyn at Trout Recording with engineer Adam Sachs. Three Rivers features string arrangements from Ian Mcllelan Davis (Relatives), and contributions from Brett Lanier (The Barr Brothers), Sean Mullins (Wilder Maker), Adam Dotson (Slavic Soul Party), and Will Graefe (Okkervil River, Star Rover), who co-wrote Shining. The album was mixed by Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Sam Amidon).

Ryan Dugré is a New York based multi-instrumentalist and composer from Holyoke, MA. Since graduating from New England Conservatory in 2007 he has been an active freelancer, having performed and/or recorded with Rubblebucket, Joan Wasser, Eleanor Friedberger, Cass Mccombs, Landlady, Jesse Harris, Ran Blake, and many others. Ryan has performed internationally at festivals including Le Festival d’été de Québec, Bonnaroo, Haldern Pop Fest, as well as NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series and BBC 6 Radio with Marc Riley. He has been a featured guest artist at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Eliot Fisk's Boston GuitarFest at New England Conservatory of Music. Three Rivers, out on 11A records, marks his third solo release. His second record The Humors, mixed by Sam Owens (Sam Evian), was named best album of the month in March 2019 by Paste Magazine.

The JCA Orchestra Live at the BPC

The JCA Orchestra Live at the BPC is a dazzling and diverse album showcasing four master jazz composers working at the top of their game. Since 1985, the Boston-based Jazz Composers Alliance has presented creative, cutting-edge work by member composers both in concert and on recordings. The group’s eleventh album, recorded live at the Berklee Performance Center, presents an eclectic mix of six works by David Harris, Darrell Katz, Bob Pilkington and Mimi Rabson. The rich and varied program draws on a wide range of sources and inspirations from poetry to Thai folk music to James Bond movie theme music. “That balance of pieces is just how it naturally comes out,” says JCA cofounder Katz, “Everyone comes from such different places musically that there’s always a good mix.”   

Composer-violinist Mimi Rabson’s “Romanople” unfolds against a sprawling historical backdrop, but it’s a disciplined, tightly constructed and emotionally rich work. The piece alludes to a time when the Roman Empire had two capitals—Rome and Constantinople—that had little in common culturally. A modest but tuneful, odd-metered folk song from the Turkish metropolis makes its initial appearance then travels to Rome where it’s transformed by a brass band and then subjected to the horrors of war. But the melody endures and dances off, a sign of hope for the future. Helen Sherrah-Davies’ folk-tinged violin, a celebratory Phil Scarff on clarinet, and Junko Fujiwara’s mournful cello solo highlight a composition in which a melody, set off and transformed by the orchestration, provides strong continuity in the midst of change. 

Composer-trombonist Bob Pilkington’s “The Sixth Snake” began life in a dramatically different form as an assignment from one of his teachers, composer-trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. It was a rather dissonant piece based on a number sequence. Several years later Pilkington wondered if he could take the number sequence in the opposite direction and come up with a completely new, consonant piece. “I like to play around with ideas and build a piece,” Pilkington says. “I’m a noodler by nature.” Of course, he takes his “noodled” ideas and shapes them into a compelling, finished composition. This piece, commemorating his 60th birthday, is shot through with changing tone colors and textures, moody melodies, and highlighted by a celebratory trombone solo from the composer. It’s varied and complex, but each new development sounds logical and organic. 

David Harris’ infectiously grooving cultural mash up, “The Latest,” proposes a melding of the McCoy Tyner big band that recorded Fly with the Wind with traditional Thai music. “There’s no traditional melody in the composition, which is built using a pentatonic scale,” Harris explains. “But I liked the way Thai music develops by taking a repeated melody and adding new phrases and textures to it. That’s how I developed my piece.” Baritone saxophonist Melanie Howell Brooks and guitarist Norm Zocher keep the excitement and momentum going in their solos. 

Harris’ other contribution to the album, “Yellow, Orange, Blue,” is quite different. Using a combination of notation and unwritten gestures and cues, Harris and the orchestra shape a performance of the three-part composition that’s unique to the moment. There are multiple textures, dissonance and consonance, groove, and directed group improvisations, much of it organized and created spontaneously by Harris and the band. “It’s real improvisation on a group scale,” Harris says, “and I just think it’s thrilling, even better than taking a solo as an individual.” 

Katz reworks his setting of poet Paula Tatarunis’ “A Wallflower in the Amazon,” the title track of his 2010 JCAO album, to accommodate additional strings in the concert orchestra. The poem, evoking a bookish, but intrepid, narrator’s trip to a rainforest, is wry, modest, and full of wonder, and Katz’s prowess at composing for voice brings out all the nuances of the language. “I am always trying to make the melody and words be unified,” Katz says. “I am very much trying to put the poetry across, always looking for what seems like a good fit. I really want the listener to pay attention to the words, and I want the music to help them.” The composition also opens up to provide a setting for several of the band’s stellar soloists, including Jerry Sabatini’s sparkling trumpet and strong statements from saxophonists Lihi Haruvi, Phil Scarff and Rick Stone. Singer Rebecca Shrimpton not only interprets Katz’s score and Tatarunis’ words vividly, but also improvises her own melody to the words in a free improvisation section near the end of the piece.  

The album concludes on an up note with “Super Eyes-Private Heroes,” Rabson’s tribute to the sound tracks of espionage and super-hero movies. Think James Bond films or The Incredibles, she says, singling out a couple of her genre favorites. Soloists Melanie Howell Brooks, Helen Sherrah-Davies, and David Harris are the heroes who swoop in to save the day. It’s a fun, bright composition in keeping with its pop culture inspirations, but Rabson’s use of contrast, texture, and a unifying melodic thread indicate her artistic control of the material.  

“Recording live is really different than recording in the studio,” Katz says. “There’s a more focused energy and a sense of urgency, and a real feeling of a community working together, and on that night, from the audience. There’s no chance to go back and correct mistakes, everything is in the moment, but it’s really about the excitement of being on stage.”

John Finbury's "Quatro" features John Pattitucci, Antonio Sanchez and more

John Finbury's new album "QUATRO" premieres new music with broad Latin American and Spanish influences, mixed and matched in an unorthodox fashion.

Alternating vocal and instrumental tracks, the album was produced by Latin Grammy winner Emilio D. Miler, and features Magos Herrera on vocals, Chano Domínguez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Antonio Sánchez on drums.

Recorded over two sessions in New York in 2019, "Quatro" is both a celebration of cultural diversity and immigration, and a condemnation of those who seek restriction based upon prejudice.

The album opener, "Llegará El Día" ("The Day Will Come"), is a "Freedom Song" and a fierce assertion of the album's concept, with influences of Peruvian Festejo and Mexican Huapango. The lyrics, penned by producer D. Miler, knit a poetic landscape with references to Mexican iconography and to someone, unnamed, who will soon disappear.

The pianist offers a solo cadenza to present the first instrumental, "Independence Day", Finbury's take on Spanish Flamenco, specifically Bulería. With John Patitucci on electric bass, the trio flies high, with Chano taking more solo spots throughout the song.

"La Madre De Todos Los Errores" ("The Mother Of All Mistakes") features an intricate melody delivered with passion by Magos, which develops over a driving bass ostinato. The lyrics, written by Roxana Amed, are directed at someone whose assumptions and narcissism overlook the beauty that lies in the details which shape identity.

"All The Way To The End", featuring lyrics by Patty Brayden, is a sultry Son-Bolero dance around the pledge of eternal love, sung in English with Spanish Flamenco ornaments. Chano Dominguez's solo enters, piercing and playful, becoming the other ‘tease' in this conversation. When the song appears to be over, a final section emerges featuring a melancholic vocalise in exquisite interplay with the band.

A solo acoustic bass cadenza resolves into an a capella vocal, and so "Comenzar" ("To Begin (again)" ) is born. With lyrics penned by Magos Herrera herself, the song is a homage to our capacity to reinvent ourselves and find new beginnings within the same story. The music displays influences of Argentine Zamba, and other folkloric music from the Andes that share similar rhythms.

Reminiscent of old school dance halls "Salón Jardín" ("Garden Ballroom"), is the trios's take on a slow Bolero, fertile territory for an outstanding acoustic bass solo by John Patitucci. Chano Domínguez's reprise of the melody is so personal that it feels like a solo in its own right.

Antonio Sánchez's solo cadenza at the beginning of "Romp" feels like a disruption of the smooth tone set by the previous track… and it isn't the last one!

A clave-based, New Orleans Second Line groove takes shape, a musical reminder that the South of the United States was once part of the same melting pot as the Spanish Antilles. "Romp" is the jam after the party, when musicians and a few lucky guests blend together in a celebration of togetherness.

John Finbury redefines his being American, not just as a native of the United States, but as a citizen of the Americas. His music on QUATRO often defies strict stylistic classifications, and finds unity in organic, intense renditions by a world-class band.

Make no mistake: "Quatro" is a political statement; a musical and poetic expression of freedom and the power of collaboration to contradict the fiction that those who are different should remain apart.

Though written and recorded before the world was stunned by a pandemic that has hindered our ability to gather and celebrate, "Quatro" presents a musical meeting place that strives to bridge that distance, and convey the certainty that we are better together.

New Recording from David Bixler's Trio Incognito Featuring Gregg August & Fabio Rojas - Inside The Grief

By David Bixler:

Living through the trifecta of 2020: COVID-19, systemic racism, and the presidential election. Inside the Grief is a product of these strange times in which we are living. The pandemic has changed all aspects of our lives; family, education, and work; society has been upended by an invisible virus.

The murder of George Floyd was both violent and polarizing. His murder functioned as the tipping point where American society was forced to deal with the systemic racism entrenched in this country. From my perspective, it seemed that certain attitudes that had been ignored or buried in various societal groups exploded into the forefront of our national consciousness. For the positive, this convinced a large portion of our society of the necessity for change. However, there remains a large portion of our society who clings to lies and hate. This reality affects all of us whatever each personal view may be. The election of 2020 has been the most contested election I have experienced in my lifetime where the very core of democracy in our country has been called into question. The distress and distrust resulting from the behavior of government leaders has created an even deeper chasm between opposing sides in society, a chasm that is confusing and frightening. I find myself asking how we as a group of people will ever recover. 

Back in May, after two months of not creating music in my community, I ventured to the backyard of a friend for a session, then to Riverside Park as well as other parks throughout the city. At first, it felt slightly uncomfortable, but it soon became the norm. In August, I reached out to the Soapbox Gallery, an art gallery in Brooklyn, where a release gig for a previous project, Blended Lineage, had been canceled due to the pandemic. I heard that they had started to present live streams, and I discussed with the proprietor, Jimmy Greenfield, the possibility of bringing in a trio-a group whose size he was comfortable hosting in his space. Initially, it felt strange doing a live stream performance. Four people in the audience (though I have had more than one gig with an audience of that size!), sparce audience feedback, and yet it was thrilling to be creating music with friends. After we had secured a date for the next month for which I wrote new material, we recorded this music shortly after the gig. 

The first track is a fusion of two pieces bridged by a percussion solo. The first of the two is a blues and its name comes from a phrase my son used to say during his recovery from major brain surgery when his language center was being relocated to a healthy part of his brain. As he struggled to find words to communicate, the phrase What Does it Care? was used to convey what does it matter? I Spy is a melody with a suggestion of a tonal center. It is from a series of tunes I have written based on the Beatitudes. Like Shosti has a tango vibe and was written about 15 years ago. It is a nod to the Coltrane tune Like Sonny, which is based on something that Trane had heard Sonny Rollins play. However, in this case the melodic motif comes from one of Shostakovich’s string quartets. 389 is a medium tempo swinger whose title signifies the only number my afore mentioned son could remember immediately after his surgery. The title track, Inside the Grief, consists of two contrasting themes. The opening figure is in your face and punctuated with uncertain silences which contrasts with a second theme that floats freely over the bass and drums. Balm, with its swing and blues vibe, comes from the set of music based on the Beatitudes, and is a song composed for the hope of promised comfort and healing. The set closes with Vote! which was named by my father. He heard the tune on the live stream while it was untitled, and after the gig told me that he heard someone saying “vote, vote, vote, vote” while we played the tune’s opening. The election was on everyone’s mind in September and the title stuck. 

The emphasis on my earlier recordings has been equally divided between the writing and the improvisation. But on this recording the focus is tilted toward the playing. This year has illustrated how vulnerable we are and how fragile life is; I hope that this vulnerability is conveyed in the music.

Laura Benanti Makes Major Label Debut with New Self-Titled Album

Sony Music Masterworks, the 11-track album features the versatile artist performing a mix of covers both classic and contemporary, breathing new spirit into everything from modern pop songs to jazz-influenced ballads.

"I hope the album becomes a part of someone's own canon," says Laura Benanti of her major label debut album. "You could put it on at a dinner party or listen to it in the bath. It could speak to so many different possible moments. Across the board, the record really fulfills my desire for musical outreach. I tried to showcase some really great playing-and hopefully singing."

With her self-titled full-length debut, Laura Benanti constructs a diverse and dynamic solo statement, working alongside award-winning producer Matt Pierson (Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman, Pat Metheny, Jane Monheit), arranger Gil Goldstein and a bevy of seasoned musicians on the album. Through and through, the process highlighted every side of Laura's voice. 

"We definitely talked about the songs as characters," she explains. "As an actor, I'm used to becoming and embodying other people. So, it was important for me to play the role each song required. I drew on different shades of my voice and personality to tell different stories.

The first story comes to life on the album's lead single, a cover of the Jonas Brothers' "Sucker" released earlier this year.  Above swinging piano, electric guitar, and finger-snaps, she transports Jonas Brothers' comeback smash to a smoky thirties jazz haunt with sultry and sizzling soul.  Laura paired the release of the track with an accompanying music video featuring workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis as part of a moving tribute celebrating family and essential workers – watch here.  Proceeds from the track benefit FoodCorps-an organization which ensures kids who rely on school food get fed during the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Laura transforms Selena Gomez's "Lose You To Love Me" into a bold ballad backed by resounding strings and a powerhouse vocal performance.  "When I heard Gil's arrangement, I was so moved by it," she recalls. "I was able to personalize the story for myself. I can hear the evocative nature of that memory in my voice, and I hope other people feel the same way."  She drew inspiration from Rosemary Clooney's version of "Don't Worry ‘Bout Me" to track her own tender take and carefully chose "The Party's Over" from the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing as a gorgeous denouement to the album.  Elsewhere, accordion pipes through her reimagining of Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk," which she relates to as devilishly conjuring "my twenties when I got in some trouble." She also delivers a "fun interpretation of the anti-love song" by flipping Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" on its head.

Maintaining a lifelong commitment to the arts, the singer also recently created an empowering campaign titled #SunshineSongs, which invited students whose school musical productions were canceled this year due to the pandemic to share videos of the performances they were not able to give, on social platforms. As chronicled by Good Morning America, she generated 4 million impressions and received over 10,000 submissions, attracting celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jennifer Garner to join the campaign. Additionally, she invited students to contribute songs to her free "Sunshine Concerts" for senior living communities and children's hospitals. The campaign's success further grabbed the attention of HBO Max who recently partnered with Benanti to release a musical documentary special featuring students from across the country entitled Homeschool Musical: Class Of 2020, set to release this fall.

In the midst of an illustrious career spanning Broadway, film, and television, Tony® Award-winning actress, singer, author, and activist Laura Benanti now brings a longstanding dream to life as she gears up to release new solo music with Sony Music Masterworks.  With Broadway credits ranging from the My Fair Lady revival and Steve Martin's Meteor Shower to She Loves Me, Laura garnered a Tony® Award in the category of "Best Featured Actress in a Musical" for the 2008 production of Gypsy-among five career nominations to date. Meanwhile, her performance in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown would be honored with the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for "Best Featured Actress in a Musical." Simultaneously, she enchanted audiences on the small screen, appearing on Younger, Supergirl, Nashville, The Good Wife, Nurse Jackie, and more in addition to films including WORTH and the upcoming Here Today.  Laura recently released a book for moms entitled "M is for MAMA (and also Merlot): A Modern Mom's ABCs" available now on Amazon.


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