Friday, May 28, 2021

Female Blues Duo Soulful Femme Release First Full-Length Album, Featuring Blues Greats

What happens when you combine a classically trained voice coach and vocal dynamo with a three-time Best Blues Guitarist Award winner, both with extensive studio and performing histories? The answer is simple: You get Soulful Femme. The pairing of Stevee Wellons (vocals) and Cheryl Rinovato (guitars) first performed together for a blues challenge competition (which they won!) Now, after two successful single releases, the Pittsburgh-based blues, funk, jazz duo are releasing their first full-length project.

On June 4th, 2021, Soulful Femme will release a 12-track album, "It Is Well With My Soul." Guests on the album include renowned blues guitarist and son of Luther, Bernard Allison; blues singer and virtuosa guitarist, Joanna Connor; and singer-songwriter, Mark Byars.

"It Is Well With My Soul" was produced, mixed and mastered by veteran Pittsburgh musician, Rick Witkowski at Studio L. The album was co-produced by Cheryl Rinovato and Mark Byars, with additional production by Lee Marks (track 4, "Trouble").

Vocalist Stephanie Wellons, aka Stevee Wellons, has been performing in the tri-state area for the last 25 years and is known for her high-energy stage presence and performance. Stevee has performed with numerous area bands and currently teaches and coaches voice at numerous CCAC college campuses in the area. Formerly, she taught at the prestigious Afro-American Institute (AAMI), in the Homewood Area of Pittsburgh. An experienced recording artist as well, Stevee has recorded in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and Baltimore. Stevee Wellons Band won the 2015 Blues Society of Western PA's Blues Challenge and represented Western PA at the 2016 International Blues Challenge.​

Studying Applied Music with a 2nd major in Arranging and Composition at famed Berklee College of Music, Cheryl Rinovato began her musical career as a studio musician throughout New England. Since moving to Pittsburgh, Cheryl has pursued her musical career as a professional musician for numerous area bands and has done extensive studio work. Cheryl has also been the recipient of the prestigious Jim Weber Award, given to blues guitarist of the year, three times; in 2012, 2013 and 2015. She is a Delaney (out of Austin, TX) endorsed guitarist with 2 signature guitar models.

Stevee and Cheryl have performed with: Shemekia Copeland, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish, Tas Cru, Miller & the Other Sinners, Joann Shaw Taylor, Tommy Castro and Mike Zito.

The Needle And The Groove by Hyson Green

Hyson Green are two brothers from the East Midlands. Not exactly the most glamorous place to be brought up and we were too young to have gone to the infamous Dungeon Club in Nottingham but are heavily influenced by many who appeared there in its heyday. The songs on the new album hark back to that time – the time of blue eyed English soul. No Spotify, no iTunes, no CD's just a cheap record player or, in the posh room, maybe a radiogram with the ubiquitous Max Bygraves or James Last LP of your mum and dad's.

It's the time when you could put multiple singles on and pretend you were a DJ or at the local youth club. Dancing with your mates hoping you'll be able to get enough nerve to ask that particular girl for s dance and, if you're really lucky, a kiss and a cuddle at the end of the evening. It's the sound of our youth mixed with the wisdom of age.

The Needle And The Groove is our new album out now on Nub Records which follows on from our last, well received Lost In The World album. This time we’ve added a few friends - bluesman Corey Stevens and avant-pop singer Korilynn join us - and we remain influenced by The Staples, Marvin, Boz Scaggs, Bobby Womack, Jess Roden, and Robert Palmer amongst others. Recently we’ve been working with our friends at Silver Moon and their remixes of songs from the new album have been going down a storm – check out David Holmes radio show to hear what he thinks of this great partnership.

Hyson Green make music for grownups. Its about relationships, it’s about looking back with joy and looking forwards with hope, knowing that sometimes things don’t work out quite as you plan them.

In these difficult times we now live in what we need now is some uplifting old style new rhythm and blues. Welcome to today. Welcome to yesterday. Welcome to the future. Get lost in this music. Get lost in this world. Put the Needle on the Groove! And welcome to the world of Hyson Green.

New Music Releases: Jacqui Naylor, Mike LeDonne, Dave Holland / Kevin Eubanks / Obed Calvaire

Jacqui Naylor - The Long Game

The Long Game is the 11th album from celebrated vocalist Jacqui Naylor. Known for her ability to seamlessly weave genres and styles from different eras, Naylor creates a meaningful collection of love songs, replete with R&B inspired original compositions, Latin imbued jazz standards and sensitively crafted rock anthems. Naylor gained attention with an arranging technique she coined “acoustic smashing,” where she sings the lyrics and melody of a jazz standard over the groove of a well-known rock song or vice versa. “Acoustic smashing marks a turning point in her career,” writes The Wall Street Journal. On The Long Game, she uses the technique on “Fix You” from Coldplay while the band plays a Miles Davis-inspired “It Never Entered My Mind.” “Naylor has the chops and sensitivity to pull this off,” writes New York Magazine. The musicianship and camaraderie of Naylor and longtime bandmates shine brightly throughout this thoughtfully produced album.

Mike LeDonne - It's All Your Fault

One of the coolest, grooviest settings for the Hammond of Mike LeDonne that we've heard in years – a set that mostly features him working with a larger ensemble, at a level that brings back some of the great 60s sessions from Jimmy Smith and Oliver Nelson! Yet given Mike's touch on the keys, and the more contemporary mode of the groove, there's a nicely different vibe here – not just retro jazz organ with big band, but a new chapter in the book – balanced here with work from LeDonne's Groover Quartet – which features work from Eric Alexander on tenor, Peter Bernstein on guitar, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. All three of those players are also in the larger group – and if you're keeping track, the set features five big band numbers, and three quartet tunes. Titles include "Matador", "It's All Your Fault", "Bags & Brown", "Blues For Jed", "Rock With You", and "Party Time". ~ Dusty Groove

Dave Holland / Kevin Eubanks / Obed Calvaire - Another Land

Guitar, bass, and drums – coming together here on a set that lives up to the strong legacy of creative music we've come to expect from the legendary Dave Holland! Holland plays both electric and acoustic versions of his instrument – which makes for a nice shift in the way he interacts with the guitar of Kevin Eubanks – different sorts of sonorous interplay between the strings, given different sorts of emphasis by the drums of Obed Calvaire! Many tracks seem to have Holland leading the action out front, then opening the door to the contributions of the other two – but the album certainly feels like a group effort throughout, with nicely triangulated energy on tunes that include "Grave Walker", "20 20", "Quiet Fire", "Mashup", "The Village", "Another Land", "Gentle Warrior", and "Passing Time". ~ Dusty Groove

Billy Cobham Feat. Novecento – Interactive (Louie Vega Remixes)

Since the release of the first volume in 2019, we knew we couldn’t stop there. In 2021 we are even more excited to present the ‘Drum’n Voice Remixed 2’ album by the legend Billy Cobham in collaboration with Italian producers and composers Nicolosi / Novecento. As a taster to the album we are very happy to be releasing an EP containing remixes of ‘Interactive’ from the legend Louie Vega.

Acclaimed as jazz-rock fusion’s greatest drummer, Billy Cobham has dedicated his whole life to musical exploration and creative expression. Born in Panama, he has been surrounded by music. His father was a pianist, his mother was a singer and Billy started playing drums at four years old. Throughout his career he has collaborated with artists like Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Airto Moreira, George Benson and appeared on over 300 recordings, including icons like Peter Gabriel, Quincy Jones, Jack Bruce, Bob Weir, and James Brown, and to date, has produced and released more than forty albums as a leader. The first album ‘Spectrum’ is a masterpiece and still considered a reference album today.

Billy and Nicolosi composed so many songs of the highest quality and class that we immediately wanted to get to work preparing a second volume of remixes. We are really happy to present the Louie Vega remixes of ‘Interactive’ in the run up to ‘Drum’N Voice Remixed 2’ collection that’s set for a release later in the year.

‘Little’ Louie Vega does not need any introduction. One half of the Masters At Work (that are back now after a long time with their new single), he is one of the most important House Music duo of the last 30 years, even receiving a nomination in the last Grammy Awards. With the collaboration of Josh Milan (aka Honeycomb and former one half of Blaze) at the keyboards, these incredible remixes of ‘Interactive’ make track shine thanks to a powerful blend of funky cosmic disco and a perfect killer groove that makes us dance on Brian Auger’s magnificent hammond improvisation. ~

Roy Hargrove / Mulgrew Miller "In Harmony" – 2-LP Record Store Day exclusive

Resonance Records, the award-winning label home of acclaimed archival releases by Nat King Cole, Bob James, Charles Lloyd, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and more, is thrilled to announce the release of In Harmony, a stunning set of live performances by Roy Hargrove on trumpet and Mulgrew Miller on piano, available on July 17, 2021 for Record Store Day. In Harmony provides a rare glimpse of these two now departed and dearly missed greats, united in song and improvisational mastery in front of audiences at Merkin Hall in New York City (January 15, 2006) and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania (November 9, 2007). 

Co-produced by Zev Feldman and Larry Clothier with executive producer George Klabin, In Harmony is the first posthumous Hargrove release since the trumpeter’s untimely passing on November 2, 2018 at age 49. Aida Brandes-Hargrove, President of Roy Hargrove Legacy, said: “Roy’s daughter Kamala and I are excited to collaborate with Resonance and to get this great new album out to Roy’s many fans.” 

Miller passed away on May 29, 2013 at age 57. With In Harmony, we are back in the musical company of these two greats for a short but precious time. And though the settings heard here were ticketed concerts, the vibe unfolds exactly as it might have back in the day at Bradley’s, when Hargrove was first coming up in the late ’80s and Miller loomed large from his associations with Art Blakey, Tony Williams and others. Acclaimed jazz journalist Ted Panken, in his extensive booklet essay for In Harmony, evokes that scene, and its central importance to Hargrove’s development, in vivid detail. 

Hargrove told Panken, “Bradley’s was like going to school. It was like your masters. You go in there, and you’re playing, and there’s Freddie Hubbard at the bar! What do you do? Everything I’m playing right now I owe to that whole scene.” 

Hargrove hailed from Texas, Miller from Mississippi. Each of them drank deep from the Black music traditions of their respective regions, absorbing lessons from family, the church, and blues and soul artists long before they became immersed in the language of their jazz forebears. In Harmony finds the two alluding to those great jazz legacies in many ways, from song choices to improvisational flourishes to off-the-cuff yet impeccably placed arranging details. 

We hear Hargrove calling out to Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Blue Mitchell, and more. Yet he plays from the perspective of a prescient bandleader who burst through genre boundaries collaborating with leading lights of hip-hop, neo-soul and Afro-Cuban music, laying the groundwork for such next-generation trumpeters as Keyon Harrold and Theo Croker (both of whom are quoted in the booklet as well). 

Miller, as Panken observes, had his own “fluid personal argot,” even as he drew on influences from Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett to Woody Shaw. “His concept drew on piano-as-orchestra signposts like Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal and Erroll Garner, the ‘blowing piano’ of Bud Powell, the disjunctive syncopations and voicings of Thelonious Monk, and the melodic ingenuity of gurus like Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Cedar Walton,” Panken adds. 

It’s all there, in the bright tempos of “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “Invitation,” the majestic balladry of “I Remember Clifford” and “Never Let Me Go,” or the funk of “Fungii Mama,” where one can practically hear Al Foster’s signature drum groove from the Blue Mitchell original. Which brings us to another key Panken observation: In Harmony is the only recording in Hargrove’s entire discography not to feature a drummer. Miller, for his part, has one solo album and a scant few duos in his catalog, making In Harmony an even more significant addition to the historical record. 

“From the very first time I heard these recordings, I was immediately taken by the sheer virtuosity of these two masters’ ability to mesh with each other,” says Resonance Records Co-President and Co-Producer of In Harmony Zev Feldman. “They’re playing their hearts out. I personally find these to be some of the most daring and beautiful interpretations of classic jazz repertoire I’ve heard. It’s an honor for Resonance to be able to collaborate with the families of Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller to bring this music to their many fans, and we thank them for the opportunity.” 

Resonance Records is a multi-GRAMMY® Award-winning label (most recently for John Coltrane’s Offering: Live at Temple University for “Best Album Notes”) that prides itself in creating beautifully designed, informative packaging to accompany previously unreleased recordings by the jazz icons who grace Resonance’s catalog. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Resonance Records is a division of Rising Jazz Stars, Inc. a California 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation created to discover the next jazz stars and advance the cause of jazz. Current Resonance Artists include Aubrey Logan, Polly Gibbons, Eddie Daniels, Christian Howes, and Donald Vega.

Contemporary Jazz Artist Ragan Whiteside Releases “Off the Cuff” Single

Flute-playing soul-jazz phenomenon Ragan Whiteside releases a brand-new single titled “Off The Cuff” on the Randis Music label. The flirty new groove, co-written by Whiteside with her husband, noted producer Dennis Johnson, and veteran producer and keyboardist Bob Baldwin, is from her yet-to-be-titled 2022 album. “Off The Cuff” is available on all digital download and streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Tidal, Deezer, YouTube, Pandora, and more. 

“Off The Cuff” is set to add to Whiteside’s streak of six previous Billboard Top 10 singles, including “JJ’s Strut,” “Reminiscing,” “Jam It,” “Early Arrival,” “See You At The Get Down,” and the Billboard No. 1 “Corey’s Bop.” The instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist was also a finalist for the Smooth Jazz Network’s Artist of the Year, and for two consecutive years, she remained in the Top 5 in Billboard’s Top Smooth Jazz Songs Year-End chart issue – the only woman to rise into the year-end Top 5 in the male-dominated world of jazz. Whiteside has released five previous albums, including the 2020 five-track EP Five Up Top, 2017’s Treblemaker, 2014’s Quantum Drive, 2012’s Evolve, and 2007’s Class Axe. 

The track earned its “Off the Cuff” title because of how quickly it came together. “Dennis had a track that he had written for someone else, and had shelved it for whatever reason,” says Whiteside. “The original version of it was not my style, but when I heard it, I thought, ‘this has a lot of potential, and I think that we can make it my style.’ I started playing a melody on top of it, and Dennis changed the groove to match my melody, and the song just kind of flew. It just seemed to write itself.” 

While Whiteside has made her mark fusing inspired flute melodies and breathtaking solos with hip upbeat grooves, her rigorous musical training prepared her to play in the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world. Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Whiteside got her first taste of music in elementary school, playing drums, piano, and violin before a desire to be in the marching band put the flute in her hand. While still in high school she was mentored by members of the National Association of Negro Musicians, participated and ultimately won the NAACP’s ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) competitions for young people, and go on to the Cleveland Conservatory of Music before transferring to the highly competitive HARID Conservatory in Florida. 

After graduation, she attended a show at a local jazz club and had an epiphany: “I was sitting up front and I said, ‘Oh my God. This is what I want to do.’” Right then and there, she introduced herself to keyboardist and producer Bob Baldwin, who was a headliner at the show and asked him for advice. Baldwin became a mentor and ultimately introduced her to Dennis Johnson, who owned a recording studio. Johnson and Baldwin have since become Whiteside’s frequent songwriting collaborators. 

Whiteside credits the inspiration and influence of such flute masters as Hubert Laws, the late Dave Valentin, and Jean-Pierre Rampal on her artistry. By blazing her trail in instrumental jazz, the Atlanta-based mother of two is bringing a new appreciation to the flute. In the fall of 2020, she added yet another highlight to her résumé when she began hosting her own Saturday morning radio show on Atlanta’s WCLK 91.9 FM. 

With a fresh approach and boundless creativity, Ragan Whiteside continues to delight fans of soul-jazz instrumentals. Fans can expect more single releases through the end of the year, with a brand-new full-length project in 2022.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Madeleine Peyroux announces deluxe reissue of 'Careless Love' and world tour

Craft Recordings announces the deluxe reissue of Madeleine Peyroux’s best-selling 2004 album, Careless Love. Set for release on August 27th and available for pre-order today, the collection includes the acclaimed, original album, plus a previously unreleased live set, captured in its entirety in 2005 at Spain’s Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gasteiz. Careless Love will be available digitally, as a 2-CD set, and on 180-gram vinyl as a 3-LP set, housed in a triple gatefold jacket. Both physical editions include recently-unearthed photos, captured during Careless Love’s original release, plus new liner notes from the GRAMMY® Award-winning journalist Ashley Kahn, who recently spoke to Peyroux about the making of the album and her triumphant performance in Spain. In addition to the widely available standard 3-LP edition, a limited pressing on translucent vinyl with black and gold marble will be available exclusively via the official Madeleine Peyroux or Craft Recordings webstores (1,000 available worldwide). 

Additionally, to celebrate the reissue, Madeleine Peyroux is scheduled to return to the road on an extensive Careless Love Forever world tour, kicking off September 9th at The Egg in Albany, NY. The tour represents the first time Peyroux will play the beloved album front-to-back, with dates to continue through August 2022 and more global announcements coming soon. See below for the initial leg of U.S. dates and visit for ticket information. 

Released eight years after her debut, Careless Love marked a new chapter for the then-30-year-old Peyroux. Born in Athens, GA to bohemian parents, Peyroux spent her teenage years in Paris, where she found herself entranced by the city’s busking musicians. By 15, the precocious singer was performing alongside them in the city’s Latin Quarter and soon dropped out of high school to tour Europe full-time. When she returned to the States in her 20s, Peyroux settled in New York, where she was discovered —and promptly signed—by Atlantic Records’ Yves Beauvais, who co-produced her 1996 debut, Dreamland. 

Immediately, Peyroux caught the attention of the music world, drawing comparisons to one of the greatest jazz vocalists in history, Billie Holiday. Yet, amid a whirlwind of buzz and critical acclaim, the young artist withdrew from the spotlight. 

“When I came back to New York to make that first album I was like a deer in the headlights,” Peyroux tells Kahn. “It was my first time in a studio, my first time back in America. Then 9/11 happened. Then George W. got re-elected. It was like the world was going crazy. After Dreamland I had signed with Sony and I was trying to make my second record. I was broke and I didn’t know what I was going to do next.” 

In addition to undergoing vocal cord surgery, the young artist entered a period of exploration—one in which she literally and figuratively found her voice. She set out across America to reconnect with her home country, but she also spent a lot of that time in self-reflection. “I put a lot of thought into what my career means,” Peyroux recalls, “what making a record and the follow-up tour represents—the kind of music I wanted to do and the amount of work that is involved.” 

By 2004, she was ready to return to the studio. Peyroux signed a contract with Rounder Records and was introduced to Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Shawn Colvin), a legendary producer with whom she would form a long-lasting creative partnership. Klein’s sonically diverse background would also prove to be the perfect match for the singer-songwriter. 

While Peyroux was introduced as a jazz artist, her influences spanned far beyond one genre—and the compositions selected for Careless Love showcased this versatility. From inspired interpretations of songs by Elliot Smith (“Between the Bars”), Leonard Cohen (“Dance Me to the End of Love”), and Hank Williams (“Weary Blues”), to more traditional fare made famous by Bessie Smith (“Don’t Cry Baby”), Billie Holiday (“No More,” “I’ll Look Around”), and Josephine Baker (“J’ai Deux Amours”), Careless Love offered something for every music fan. 

In the studio, Peyroux was joined by a talented line-up of session musicians, including guitarist Dean Parks, keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist David Piltch, trumpeter Lee Thornburg, and drummers Jay Bellerose and Scott Amendola. The laid-back Los Angeles sessions afforded the artist plenty of time to experiment and improvise with her fellow musicians. 

Kahn writes, “Peyroux herself is in top, mature form on Careless Love—an apotheosis of that hushed, one-to-one affect she inherited from the likes of Billie Holiday, a stylistic bequest. By 2004, her way of conveying confessional expression was truly her own. She had developed an updated rhythmic pliability and an emotional depth that could explore the complexities lying beneath the surface of the songs.” 

The album also included one original song, co-written by Jesse Harris (Norah Jones, Melody Gardot), “Don’t Wait Too Long.” The lilting, jazz-infused tune, in which Peyroux croons “If you think that time will change your ways/Don't wait too long” could have certainly served as a personal anthem. It also became her signature hit. Released as a single, the song pushed Peyroux into the mainstream—topping the Jazz charts and appearing in soundtracks, TV shows, and national commercials. 

Careless Love was a commercial and critical success as well, cementing Peyroux’s return to the industry. In the US, the album sold more than 500,000 copies in its first year—hitting No.2 on Billboard’s Jazz chart and, eventually, earning a platinum certification. Rivaling the sales of a pop record, the album was also a bestseller abroad, landing in the Top Ten in the UK, and earning Gold and Platinum certifications in Europe, South America, and China. 

All About Jazz hailed Careless Love as “a moody, haunting masterpiece” and “a whale of a record. Peyroux’s voice is amazing—grainy, intimate, and unaffected.” No Depression noted that “a more self-defined Peyroux sound emerges—smooth, circling around midrange notes, energized, and built on her own smart reading of the lyric, not anyone else’s patterns.” The Guardian praised its “classily produced and coolly graceful set,” as well as its “intelligent choice of terrific songs.” 

For the next year, Peyroux spent much of her time on the road in support of Careless Love, recording the majority of her shows from the soundboard. Among these dates is a standout set from Spain’s Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, captured by Basque Public Radio on July 15, 2005. “You can hear how much fun we’re having, and the people sound really happy,” Peyroux reflects in the liner notes. “I think I was pretty nervous, playing in such a prestigious festival in one of these daunting, historic-looking places that was so large. At the time, a venue holding 2000 was a lot for me.” 

In addition to material from Careless Love, the set also includes a rousing performance of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” originally made famous by Patsy Cline and featured on Dreamland, plus a fantastic rendition of the Burton Lane/Frank Loesser pop standard, “I Hear Music.” 

Peyroux adds, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am that we found this recording. For me, it represents the way I understood these songs at that time, how I was making music when I made Careless Love. It’s been more than fifteen years since that record came out, and I don’t think I’ve done a single concert that didn’t include at least two or three songs from it, and sometimes more. I think I’ve sung ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ at every show. It’s part of me now.” 

16 years later, Peyroux continues to record, perform, and challenge the confines of jazz through such albums as Half the Perfect World (2006), Standing on the Rooftop (2011), and The Blue Room (2013). In 2014, she released a career retrospective, Keep Me in Your Heart for a While: Best of Madeleine Peyroux, while in 2016, she released her eighth studio album and latest collaboration with Larry Klein, Anthem. 

2021 U.S. tour dates - Careless Love Forever world tour:

September 9 – Albany, NY at The Egg (with Joan Osborne)

September 10 – Northampton, MA at Academy of Music (with Joan Osborne)

September 11 – Alexandria, VA at The Birchmere

September 12 – Annapolis, MD at Rams Head Live On Stage

September 16 – Glenside, PA at Keswick Theatre (with Joan Osborne)

September 17 – Boston, MA at Berklee Performance Center (with Joan Osborne)

September 18 – New York, NY at Concert Hall Society for Ethical Culture (with Joan Osborne)

September 19 – New London, CT at The Garde Arts Center (with Joan Osborne)

September 21 – Harrisburg, PA at Whitaker Center (with Paula Cole)

September 22 – McKees Rocks, PA at Roxian Theatre (with Joan Osborne)

September 24 – Tiffin, OH at The Ritz Theatre

September 25 – Dekalb, IL at Egyptian Theatre (with Paula Cole)

September 26 – Chicago, IL at Old Town School of Folk Music

September 27 – Minneapolis, MN at Venue TBA (with Paula Cole)

September 29 – Omaha, NW at Center for the Arts

September 30 – Kansas City, MO at Helzberg Hall / Kauffmann Center (with Paula Cole)

October 1 – Nashville, TN at Venue TBA (with Paula Cole)

October 2 – Atlanta, GA at Variety Playhouse (with Paula Cole)

October 4 – Hoover, AL at The Library Theatre

October 5 – Hoover, AL at The Library Theatre

October 7 – Eugene, OR at Jaqua Concert Hall

October 8 – Seattle, WA at Benaroya Hall (with Paula Cole)

October 9 – Portland, OR at Revolution Hall

October 10 – Spokane, WA at Bing Crosby Theatre

October 13 – Santa Cruz, CA at Kuumba Jazz Center (with Paula Cole)

October 14 – Rohnert Park, CA at The Green Music Center (with Paula Cole)

October 15 – Berkeley, CA at Freight & Salvage (with Paula Cole)

October 16 – Beverly Hills, CA at Saban Theatre (with Paula Cole)

Solo Album Debut by New Orleans Based Pianist: Oscar Rossignoli

Oscar Rossignoli announces the release of; INERTIA, a collection of original compositions and improvisations from the Honduran born, New Orleans based pianist. This is Rossignoli's first recording as leader, and is also his first solo piano project, showcasing his long relationship with the instrument, as well as his process of discovery through improvisation. 

Oscar Rossignoli's musical versatily is evident on INERTIA. Recorded in October 2020, amid the uncertainty felt in New Orleans during the pandemic, the set contains original compositions, spontaneous improvisations, and a Honduran traditional song, exploring and combining Rossignoli's coexisting worlds:

"Pendulum", "Vámonos!", "Preludio For Chick", and "Perpetual Motion" were improvisations that happened spontaneously at the recording session; "Endless Fall", "Siempre", and "Long Story Short" are compositions written in the jazz tradition but that have a heavy emphasis on Latin rhythms; "Nocturno" and "Tableau" were through-composed pieces conceived in the western/classical style, reminiscent of composers such as Chopin and Rachmaninoff. 

Oscar Rossignoli has collaborated with artists including; Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Joe Dyson, and Shannon Powell, among others, as well as new music composers; Brad Walker and James Singleton. As a resident of New Orleans for the past seven years, Rossignoli has also formed alliances with local treasures such as John Boutté and Don Vappie. Rossignoli is also a founder of the trio EXTENDED, whose third album of original works is due for release later this year.  

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Scatman Crothers - Groovin' with...Scatman

Benjamin Sherman ‘Scatman’ Crothers (1910-1986) was a true star of the stage, film, and television. He first started performing in clubs as a singer and drummer in his teens, and wound up performing on Chicago’s speak-easy circuit in the latter part of the ‘Roaring 20’s.’ In 1931, Crothers found himself hosting his own radio show on WFMK in Dayton, Ohio, where he became well known for scatting over instrumental tracks on the air. Billing himself as ‘Scat Man’, he formed his own trio, Scat Man and His Cats, and toured the South extensively. In 1934, he performed at the world famous Cotton Club for the first time, and in 1935 he made his first appearance on film in a short called Symphony In Black featuring Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. He would go on to act in 45 more motion pictures, including The Shining, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bronco Billy, Aristocats, The Shootist, Silver Streak, The Lady Sings The Blues, Scavenger Hunt, and Transformers: The Movie.

In 1943, Scatman moved to Hollywood, California, and in 1948 became one of the first African Americans to land a recurring role on a network TV show: Paramount’s Dixie Showboat. Over the next three decades, Scatman appeared in hundreds of TV programs. Crothers was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Blvd. Walk of Fame, located in front of the famed Egyptian Theater.

In 1975, after thirty years of recording for labels like RCA, Capitol, Decca, and Motown,  Crothers met record producer/composer Andrew A. Melzer. Together, they recorded a collection of songs that are finally being released today by Panda Digital. Groovin’ with… Scatman captures Crothers in his element alongside studio veterans and jazz legends like Ray Brown and Victor Feldman. This colourful and entertaining album includes beautiful pop standards like You’re Pretty, a couple of comedic dance numbers, and even a tribute to a character he played on NBC’s Chico and The Man (Louie is Your Garbage Man.)

Groovin' with... Scatman will be released June 18, 2021 by Panda Digital.

Tony Momrelle, Paul Edis & Jamie McCredie added to Cadogan Hall 5th June 2021 Jazz On A Summer’s Evening concert line-up

Hosted by Jazz FM’s Nigel Williams, Jazz On A Summer’s Evening will take place at London’s Cadogan Hall on Saturday 5th June in front of a socially distanced audience. Today it has been announced a further three musicians, Tony Momrelle, Paul Edis and Jamie McCredie will join the exciting line up of brilliant artists. For those who can’t be there, this very special show will also be streamed live around the world, mixing a perfect summer cocktail of classic jazz.

Vocalist Tony Momrelle, ‘brilliant young pianist’* Paul Edis, guitarist Jamie McCredie, harpist and singer Tara Minton, rising star singer/songwriter Jo Harrop, “Queen of lovers rock” Caroll Thompson and soul man Paul Lee will be supported by a stellar cast of Britain’s most in-demand musicians.       

Jazz FM will broadcast the concert shortly after the event available in the UK on digital radio, smart speaker, on DTV and on the app. 

Full line up:

Tony Momrelle

Tony is one of the UK’s most significant and exciting soulful singer-songwriters and has toured with some of the greatest artists in the world: Incognito, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Sade, Gary Barlow, Andrea Bocelli, Gwen Stefani, Robert Palmer, Gospel music group Seven and many more.

Paul Edis

One of the leading creative musicians in the UK today. As a performer, composer and educator, he has built a reputation for consistently delivering new and original ideas, seeking to innovate within his work whilst always paying respect to both the Jazz and Classical music traditions. In whatever genre or musical context he inhabits, Paul is passionate about melody and expression.

Jamie McCredie

One of the busiest touring & session guitar players in the U.K, Jamie McCredie has played on countless film and T.V. dates all around the world, while playing/recording with a host of household name artists such as; Will Young, Robbie Williams, Joss Stone, Beverly Knight, Tokio Myers, Kid Creole, Roisin Murphy, Don Was, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, Jools Holland, Melody Gardot, the X-Factor final, and Britain’s Got Talent – to name only a small selection.

Tara Minton

Having cut her teeth working with everyone from Melbourne Opera to Björk, Australian-born singer and jazz harpist, Tara Minton, is the missing link between Joni Mitchell and Dorothy Ashby. She has just released the critically acclaimed Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid, an astonishingly adventurous impressionistic dreamscape of an album.

Jo Harrop

Jo Harrop is one of the brightest new stars in the jazz universe. Described by BBC 6 Music’s Iggy Pop as “a very fine jazz singer,” she has a velvety voice that can melt the stoniest of hearts. Having received a raft of rapturous reviews for 2020’s Weathering The Storm album, recorded with Jamie McCredie, Jo is preparing to release her debut solo album this autumn.

Carroll Thompson

Known the world over as The Queen Of Lover’s Rock, Carroll Thompson first burst into the spotlight 40 years ago with her ground-breaking million-selling debut album, Hopelessly In Love. Having worked with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson, Thompson is one of the most unmistakable voices in music. She will be showcasing songs from her forthcoming Where Did Our Lovers Go, a celebration of her lifelong love of jazz.

Paul Lee

Perhaps best known for his unforgettable performance of Stand By Me at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Paul Lee’s deliciously soothing gospel tones are the perfect tonic for these difficult times.

Featured Musicians: Alex Webb (MD and Piano), Phil Merriman (piano), Paul Edis (piano), Ciyo Brown (guitar), Tommaso Starace (saxophone), Freddie Gavita (trumpet), Ed Babar (double bass), David Ingamells (drums) all accompanied by the Amika String Quartet.

African-jazz saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa releases "Dance Again"

As COVID-19 raged last summer and tension soared in the wake of the civil unrest that erupted after the death of George Floyd that occurred miles from his home, saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa was at work on his first major US release that he envisioned lifting spirits by uniting the world in dance. The Ugandan-born artist felt that to confront global issues - a pandemic and systemic racism – it would take a global response. Katumwa assembled a collective of African, American and Latin musicians to help craft “Dance Again,” the global jazz album dropping July 9 from Beyond Music. The festive African beat title track led by Katumwa’s agile soprano sax goes for playlist adds as a single on Monday.

Katumwa wrote or co-wrote all ten songs on “Dance Again,” each of which is brimful of joyous light and sunny optimism. Fellow saxophonist Darren Rahn, a multiple GRAMMY nominee who has produced more than 25 No. 1 singles, produced six tracks for the set, and Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley produced three. Rwandan producer Marc Kibamba helmed “The Sun Will Shine Again,” a jubilant African rhythmic groove illumined by a vocal chorus.             

“During the scary times of the pandemic and when people took to the streets in anger to protest, I often wondered whether we’ll ever dance again in unity. It had become a very strange thought. ‘Dance Again’ is an answer to share positivity and contribute to the healing process that we all need right now. It’s music with the purpose to help us as we recover, which I believe is one of the purposes of music,” said Katumwa.

The seeds for “Dance Again” were first planted a couple years ago when Katumwa wrote and recorded “Home Away” with Rahn, a sweetly melodic composition that referred to Katumwa’s quest to find an artistic balance between making commercial instrumental music in America while remaining true to his African roots. Last year, Katumwa and Rahn collaborated on the radiant “Smile On,” which was issued as a single last May. 

“When we dropped ‘Smile On,’ it was to add positivity, to use music to bring light to the world in our dark times. It’s a reminder that no matter what challenges life brings, we can always use our ability to smile as a resource to uplift and encourage,” said Katumwa of the single that earned most added status at Billboard for three consecutive weeks.

Coronavirus restrictions forced Katumwa and his collaborators to write and record remotely. But that didn’t dampen his excitement about recording with sax superstar Dave Koz.

“The format and nature of the recording process was very interesting, working remotely throughout the entire process. The highlight for me through the many special moments of working with Darren and Adam in the process was my longtime idol, Dave Koz, agreeing to be featured on the album. His alto sax work on the Afropop fusion track ‘Nsiima’ was magical. Nsiima means grateful and for me, that sums up my musical journey thus far along with being grateful for the opportunity to record with my idol. Looking at the bigger picture, I’m grateful to be making it through the pandemic alive,” said Katumwa.

Katumwa released numerous gospel-flavored recordings in Africa in the early 2000s. His 2006 release, “Sinza,” was his first as a mixologist serving a blend of African and contemporary jazz. The saxman’s 2016 disc, “This Is Me,” received international airplay and included a mix by Rahn on the cut “Pamojja,” which was the first time they teamed up. “Dance Again” is Katumwa’s first collection recorded specifically with the US market in mind.      


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Deniz Cuylan | "No Such Thing As Free Will"

The memory is distant but distinct: Deniz Cuylan, five years old, early 1980s, at home in Istanbul, Turkey, listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on his parents' turntable. Those regal opening notes arise from nowhere and the music is instantly as real as daylight, refracting his imagination into a spectrum of unfamiliar sensations: grandeur, urgency, beauty, sorrow. Communion. 

He plays the Fifth over and over and over, perceiving the orchestra as a single instrument. It speaks to him in a language beyond words. This is it! This is the thing! The boy feels a feeling—like mystery combined with certainty—that cracks him wide open.  

Thirty-five years later, Cuylan is still chasing that feeling. The composer and multi-instrumentalist is older and wiser now but remains convinced that music is the most lucid articulation of the enduring contradictions of the human condition.

The bulk of Free Will is built from classical guitar. This was Cuylan's very first instrument, which he learned to play at Lycée Saint-Joseph, the French high school he attended in Istanbul. Since that time his career and collaborations have taken him all over the world. He's lived and worked in Stockholm and New York City and toured the US and Europe with bands he fronted throughout the '00s. His post-jazz trio Maya played the Athens Biennale and wrote original music for fashion shows in Moscow and Dusseldorf. His electronic duo Portecho left revelers weeping on the dance floor and was hailed as a "fast rising band with a radiant future" by The New York Times. His world music ensemble Norrda comprised instrumentation from a half-dozen locales and played major festival stages across Europe and Turkey. All told he's released 10 albums spanning instrumentation, genres and continents. Cuylan's compositional genius is the common thead. 

Along the way Cuylan hosted his own freeform radio show on Istanbul's indie station Acik Radyo 94.9 for five years, worked as an editor at Turkish lifestyle magazine Bant, collaborated with illustrator Sadi Guran to publish the book/album Netame, produced a live album for Beck's sax player David Brown and composed music for megabrands like Nike, Lancome and Beats By Dre. 

In 2015 Cuylan relocated to Los Angeles to concentrate on film scoring. He's since worked on Netflix series Rise of Empires: Ottoman, the Emmy-nominated Mars Generation and El Chapo as well as Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize nominee Oh Lucy! and Janicza Bravo’s Rotterdam International Film Festival Big Screen Award nominee Lemon. In 2018 he co-wrote and scored his first feature, Av:The Hunt, one of the first Turkish movies acquired by Netflix International. That same year he and longtime partner Brian Bender began the production unit Bright and Guilty, which has been releasing cinematic, trip-hop-tinged singles on Jose James' Rainbow Blonde label. 

It was in LA that Cuylan stumbled onto the inspiration for his first solo album when he came across a Santos model classical guitar built by Pasadena-born, Paris-dwelling luthier Thomas Norwood at Guitar Salon International in Santa Monica. At first he couldn't bring himself to shell out the money for such a treasure, but eventually he decided that it was meant to be. His first studio forays with the Santos were frustrating, as if the guitar wouldn't accept his songwriting. Rather than forcing himself on it, Cuylan opened himself to the instrument, letting the Santos reveal its secrets to him. The result is a collaboration of the kind Cuylan seeks in all his projects, albeit this time with an inanimate object. 

One must clear their mind before they can fill it; "Clearing" opens the album as an aural palate cleanser. Without lyrics to guide the listener, song titles like "Purple Plains of Utopia" and "She Was Always Here" provide a sliver of narrative to these instrumental compositions, which include subtle accompaniment by Bender on cello and Cuylan himself on clarinet and piano. Closing the album, the title track packages all of the album's components into a delicately shifting finale, quiet, evocative, energizing, mesmerizing. 

And about the title? It too contains layers of depth. Cuylan explains: 

"My primary issue is heartbreak—the inherent, abstract heartbreak we all have. We're separated from something fundamental, and we're constantly disappointed in other people and in ourselves because of our separation. For religious people it might be separation from god. For secular people, separation from the womb. We feel like we're in control of our decisions, but it's actually heartbreak that compels the actions that we take in life."

No Such Thing as Free Will is perhaps an inversion o Beethoven's Fifth. It whispers where the other sings, suggesting communion with something greater rather than stating it outright. Yet somehow the feeling is there. 

~ Jonathan Zwickel

Jazz Aspen Snowmass' 30th Anniversary | June 18 – September 7, 2021

Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ 30th anniversary unfolds against a backdrop of growing optimism about what the summer of 2021 will look like for live music performances.  

JAS plans to present its full summer season of small venue concerts, focused on safe and distanced in-person “live” performances starting the weekend of June 18-20 (Food & Wine time historically), followed immediately by the June JAS Experience June 24-27 and the JAS Café summer season of July/August performances. 

“We are closely monitoring the evolving health guidelines and protocols emerging in our industry both nationally and internationally,” stated JAS President & CEO Jim Horowitz. “We are confident that we will be able to safely manage the crowds at all our smaller venues hosting JAS June and summer JAS Café performances. We expect thrills, tears and frequent enthusiastic applause after the long forced silence of live music during COVID-19’s rampage.”

With many national large outdoor festivals being re-scheduled from 2020 to mid-summer & early fall 2021 (including three major US festivals in addition to JAS over Labor Day weekend led by Bonnaroo which went on sale April 1st), JAS is optimistic its annual season closing festival over Labor Day weekend will take place based on Pitkin County Health guidelines at the time. JAS plans to announce its final line-up of Artists for the event in June.  

Also this summer, JAS’ flagship all-scholarship JAS Academy in collaboration with Frost School of Music at the University of Miami will expand from two to four weeks, adding a “Small Combo” Sessions segment from July 11–25 to complement its “Big Band” Sessions July 26–August 7, led under the direction of GRAMMY® Award-winning bassist, Christian McBride.

Summer Highlights:

The June Experience will include a total of eight performance venues. General admission passes include shows at The Little Nell, Here House at Local Coffee, Belly Up, and the Wheeler Opera House. Patron/VIP pass holders will enjoy music at The Velvet Buck at the St. Regis, rooftop at the Aspen Art Museum, and at the Durant St. Patron Tent located at the ice rink. Additional single ticket performances will take place at the Hotel Jerome for the first time since 1991. 

The majority of the June Experience line-up includes artists who were originally scheduled to perform in June 2020. The summer JAS Café series also hosts many favorite JAS artists originally scheduled to perform in 2020.

“Our over-riding theme for 2021 is celebrating our musical roots. Hence, the artistic program is filled with Artists who have a long history with the family of JAS, having performed numerous times to great audience acclaim through the years, while also sprinkling the program with numerous artist debuts. At the same time, JAS shines a particular light in its June & JAS Café season on the Roots of American popular music …. Gospel, Blues & Early Jazz which emerged after the Civil War and laid the foundation for the explosion of American popular music and recording in the 20th Century,” said Horowitz.

Among the highlights of the June Experience: 

Featured as part of the Patron/VIP program: dazzling 8-time GRAMMY® Award-winning a cappella vocal sextet Take 6 (Durant St. Patron Tent, June 25); the explosive sounds fusing jazz with reggae rhythms of Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express (AAM, June 25); multiple GRAMMY® winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (Velvet Buck, June 25); and the swinging & sultry NYC jazz vocalist Carolyn Leonhart (Velvet Buck, June 27).

Included in both the Patron/VIP and general admission programs: Denver’s beloved funk outfit The Motet (Belly Up, June 25/Durant St. Patron Tent, June 26); the classic '70s sound (featuring all original arrangements sanctioned by the Estate) of The Family Stone (Durant St. Patron Tent, June 25, Belly Up, June 26); high energy swinging trad-jazz dripping with humor & theatre from the wildly popular Sammy Miller & the Congregation (Belly Up, June 26; Durant St. Patron Tent Sunday Brunch Shows, June 27); and the legendary, multi-winning W.C. Handy Blues award winning vocalist, Ms. Bettye Lavette, in her JAS debut (Wheeler Opera House, June 25, Velvet Buck, June 26); and from New Orleans Tuba Skinny, a wildly inventive former street band who meld early trad jazz with Dixieland, drums, folk and more ( AAM, June 24 & Wheeler Opera House, June 27).

Additional highlights for general admission pass holders include: brilliant solo guitar and mouth percussion from Brazilian Badi Assad (Here House, June 25-26); stunning flamenco guitar from Juanito Pascual (Here House, June 27); and a soul-stirring pair of deeply soulful and funky Hammond B-3 Organ Quartets Delvon Lamarr and Jamison Ross (The Little Nell, June 25-27) each bringing their smokin’ B-3 Trio’s plus special guests on guitar.  

At the Hotel Jerome Ballroom on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26 a blistering New Orleans Revue featuring Dumpstaphunk with bassist George Porter, Jr. and the legendary pianist/vocalist Jon Cleary will be available on a single ticket basis, not included in the Experience passes. Ticket options include an early dinner show, featuring a 3-course New Orleans inspired dinner provided by the Hotel Jerome and a late show music only option.

Among the highlights of the JAS Café Series: 

A special weekend opening the summer season will be announced soon taking place over the former Food & Wine Classic dates (June 18-19); urbane jazz vocalist & saxophonist Curtis Stigers (July 9); legendary jazz-fusion pioneers The Yellowjackets who performed at the Benedict Music Tent on the opening weekend of Jazz Aspen June 1991 (July 10); jazz pianist and Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg & Friends (July 23); Caribbean Carnivale sounds of jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles & Creole Soul (July 24); JAS Academy Artistic Director and multi-Grammy winning bassist Christian McBride & Tip City (Aug. 5); the premier male jazz vocalist of his generation, Kurt Elling, in his long overdue JAS Café debut (Aug. 6); the return of a favorite JAS vocalist, Catherine Russell, in a Blues focused program paying tribute to early blues pioneers like Bessie Smith (Aug. 13); and another JAS debut, the wildly creative fusion of jazz, African rhythms & bluegrass sounds of Pascal Bokar’s Afro Blue Grazz Band (Aug. 15). Additional JAS Café shows will be announced at a later date.   

Bassist Almog Sharvit Releases 'Get Up Or Cry' (feat. O'Farrill, Seabrook, Gilad, König)

Innovative composer and bassist Almog Sharvit announces the release of his debut album as a leader, Get Up Or Cry, on May 28, 2021, via Unit Records. Together with his band members Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Brandon Seabrook (guitar & banjo), Micha Gilad (piano, keys, synths) and Lukas König (drums), Sharvit creates a startingly imaginative record. Get Up Or Cry signals the arrival of a fresh, significant New York artist. It’s an album that appeals to both jazz purists and neophytes, a crossover record that stuns any casual listener.

Sharvit, a 28-year-old conservatory-trained musician, born and raised in Israel and based in Brooklyn, creates surreal, maximalist compositions that combine both acoustic and electronic textures. In New York, he has established himself as a creative force; his jazz trio Kadawa has received accolades from the New York Times, Indie Current and Vancouver Sun, among others. Sharvit has also toured internationally with various acts across 12 countries, and performed at storied venues including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Detroit Jazz Festival, the Blue Note, Jerusalem Jazz Festival, and many more.

Get Up Or Cry reflects genre-pushing creativity, textural innovation, and a striking balance between form and freedom. The album blurs electronic music, psychedelic rock, bluegrass, 20th-century classical music, and of course, jazz, into dizzyingly beautiful, wholly unique songs. Sharvit composed, arranged, and produced every single track – the only additional writing credit belongs to one Vladimir Nabokov, whose poetry serves as the lyrics to the eponymous track “Get Up Or Cry.“

“I intended to create an album that you can turn to when you feel joy and sorrow at the same time,” says Sharvit. “I wanted to make an album that is beautiful in an odd way, a space where humor interacts with moving, complex, and crazy songs. They express how we all feel sometimes – overwhelmed with information, short on focus, caffeinated as hell, but at the same time having moments of joy, intimacy, sadness, and freedom.”

Get Up Or Cry was recorded in a single day at Wonderpark Studios in Brooklyn. In post-production, Sharvit applied experimental techniques usually found in pop and electronic music to the songs – the record features filter sweeps, heavy distortion and compression, and creative automation and panning that he gladly says “will knock the dust off your stereo.”by Vladimir Nabokov.

Benito Gonzlez | "Sing to the World"

With propulsive pulse and Afro-Latin percussive drive, Benito Gonzalez places rhythm at the core of his exhilarating new album, Sing to the World, set for a May 14 release. All of the ten songs on his fifth album, and first released on the St. Petersburg, Russia label Rainy Days Records, combine to create a sense of wonder and enchantment as Gonzalez takes a stellar step into the future of his jazz journey. He’s assembled an impressive team of collaborators, including Christian McBride, Essiet Okon Essiet, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Nicholas Payton as well as rising stars Russian drummer Sasha Mashin, trumpeter Josh Evans and saxophonist Makar Kashitsyn.

Sing to The World is a musical exploration into the concept of freedom that recognizes the dignity of us all as individuals. Music is the most powerful tool we have to make a change in the world, uniting as one outside of cultural or religious differences. We are living in a world where all are searching for freedom because its inherently valuable role in human progress. Sing to the World is about this universal search for freedom, about being present, being aware, and trying to allow the moment to come to us. 

The title track of Sing to the World, with its harmonic invention and pianistic power, is influenced by two McCoy Tyner tunes, “Fly with the Wind” and “Song of the New World.” “McCoy played with so much energy and with such a depth of harmony. If you hear that kind of harmony, you can push the music to its limit. It’s open to infinity. That’s my concept for the whole album—play with openness and trust. That’s what I want to give to the world,” says Gonzalez.  

As for enlisting jazz powerhouses in the new album, Gonzalez says McBride and Watts embrace the rhythmic core. “They hear the way I perceive the music. They understand where I’m coming from and execute brilliantly. I like strong beats rooted in Africa which is where my father’s ancestors came from. I like it when people dance to this music. Tain and Christian come from the same place. You can hear the dance beats when they play,” says Gonzalez. "The African sensibility and relationship with the drums has usually permeated the best of jazz and American music. Benito embraces that language as part of his commitment to the spiritual, healing part of the music. As a drummer, it's really fun to play with and bounce off of, in order to get to a vibration that's vital and always in style." explains Watts. 

As for bringing Payton on board, Gonzalez says, “Nicholas is the best trumpet player today, and I thought he would be a great addition for my album giving his direction in the music,” says Gonzalez.  

Highlights on Sing to the World include Gonzalez’s dazzle of keys on “Sounds of Freedom” which he says is inspired by “the troubling situations in our world today. People are looking for freedom in places like my home Venezuela, in Russia, the U.S. People are searching, fighting for freedom,” says Gonzalez. 

Others include “Views of the Blues,” an energized outing inspired by Coltrane’s open-sound sensibility of playing the blues, and the moving, lyrical “Offering,” featuring a terrific McBride solo. “When I was seven years old in Venezuela, I played the organ at church. I was playing beautiful melodies. This song is based on that. It’s not a hymn but a reminder of the hymns I played as a kid. It’s a story. It’s my interpretation of that period in my life,” says Gonzalez. 

In addition to his slow-to-upbeat originals, Gonzalez adds to the set list two compositions that have never been recorded by their composers: Roy Hargrove’s soulful “Father” and Jeff “Tain” Watt’s beauty “412.” Benito singles out “Father” as one of his favorite songs on the album. “It’s about my personal relationship to Roy. In 2006, we attended jam sessions every Thursday night. He sat down at the piano one night and taught me the changes to this song. We played it often, but he never recorded it” he says.  

As for the Tain tune, Gonzalez learned it when the two were both teaching summer jazz camp at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC ). "Having known Benito for years, it's been a pleasure to witness both his growth, and his love and respect for the music in notes and spirit. His seriousness and focus were apparent years ago in the young man I'd chat with during trips; always friendly and seeking, never pushy. I'm proud to see him today as a bright light and leader in the music" says Watts. “I was messing around on the piano one day, and Tain gave me the chart. I’ve always loved this ballad. He’s played it on occasion but never recorded it,” says Gonzalez about “412.” 

What’s impressive about Gonzalez is that he’s not willing to sit still for too long. He’s already got future projects in mind. Recently named a Steinway & Sons artist in 2020, emerging piano talent Benito Gonzalez continues to reveals himself as an inspired and versatile artist on his fifth album, Sing to the World. 

Benito Gonzalez was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela to folk musician parents who played traditional Venezuelan music. It became embedded in their son’s rhythmic sensibility. As a youngster Gonzalez played the guitar, drums and organ at church. It wasn’t until someone gave him a cassette of John Coltrane’s Afro Blue that he discovered Tyner and decided to become a pianist. “I knew I couldn’t play like that, but I identified with him. I started studying hard. I went to college, but I quit because of the music. I practiced for endless hours—10 to 12 hours a day,” says Gonzales.

When Gonzalez moved from his hometown to the national capital Caracas, he tuned into the only local radio station for jazz and discovered the music of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, among others. But he also plunged into his country’s unique music styles. He played with master musicians like Jose Velasquez who was the bass player for the legendary pianist Aldemaro Romero—who contributing to increased visibility of innovative Venezuelan music on the international scene with the onda nueva (new wave) rhythm derived from joropo and bossa nova. 

Gonzalez made his way to U.S. by a serendipitous route when an American cultural ambassador caught one of his trio gigs and later invited him to come to Washington, D.C. to play shows with Ghanaian master drummer Okyerema Asante that led to a recording. “After my first six months here, I decided to stay in this country to learn the music right. I was seeing shows by McCoy, Bruce Barth and Gonzalo Rubalcaba and others and falling in love with jazz on a whole new level,” Gonzalez says. 

Gonzalez went on to play with Jackie McLean in 2003, then joined Kenny Garrett’s quartet for seven years until 2013—during which time he garnered two GRAMMY®-Award band nominations for the saxophonist’s albums Seeds from the Underground and Pushing the World Away. During this time Gonzalez started recording his own albums, including Starting Point (2004) and Circles (2010), then continuing his solo career with Dream Rhapsody (2015) with Slavic flutist/vocalist Sisa Michalidesová, and the Tyner project Passion Reverence Transcendence (2018). After his stint with Garrett, he played with saxophonist Azar Lawrence’s band then in 2019 was enlisted by saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders to be his pianist/musical director.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

New Music Releases: Craig Charles Trunk Of Funk, Future Bubblers 4.0, Orgone

Craig Charles Trunk Of Funk Vol 1

A smoking set of funk and soul put together by Craig Charles – once an actor, now a long-running DJ on the BBC – where his ear for a tune has made him almost as important as John Peel and Gilles Peterson! Craig's got a wide-ranging appreciation for all things funky – which comes through here, in a blend of tracks that is both classic and contemporary – rare cuts from the past, and some overlooked gems from the present – but all with a continued love of the elements that make 60s and 70s soul so great! Tracks include "Boogie Down" by Roy Ayers, "Hold My Hand" by Laneous, "Soul A Go Go" by Soul Messin Allstars, "Superfly (Sam Redmore's Trunk Of Funk edit)" by Amp Fiddler, "Medicated Goo" by PP Arnold, "African Rhythms (Trunk Of Funk edit)" by Oneness Of Juju, "Forget Me Nots (7" single mix)" by Patrice Rushen, "Beggin" by Magnus Carlson, "People Get Ready" by James Taylor Quartet, "Give Me The Night" by Juan Laya & Jorge Montiel, "Take A Shot" by The Fantastics, "Clap Hands" by Honeyfeet, "Telling You Lies" by Alex Opal, "The Only Difference" by Beatchild & The Slakedliqs, "Hangin On" by Monophonics, and "Pata Pata" by Miriam Makeba. ~ 

Future Bubblers 4.0

Gilles Peterson presents the future of music from his very well-regarded perspective – served up here on eight tracks from some real up-and-coming talents on the London underground – working in a blend of modes that's very much in the best Brownswood Records spirit! The tracks move between contemporary soul, hip hop, jazz, and funky modes – but as with most of the work in the great Bubblers series, they tend to open new doors in sound along the way – music that's not easy to define and categorize, and we mean that in the best way possible. Titles include "Scatty Brain Dump" by Kin Kai, "If I" by HMD, "My Darling Spaceship" by Quko, "Slow One" by Forest Law, "Slow" by Kiddus, "Slow Things Down" by Iman Houssein, "NHH" by An Alien Called Harmony, and "When The Horns Come In" by Lazy H. ~

Orgone - Connection

Connection is the new ten song LP from Los Angeles powerhouse Orgone featuring collaborations with Cyril Neville, Kelly Finnigan, Pimps of Joytime, and more. The album is the inaugural release on 3 Palm Records, distributed by Colemine Records and Secretly Distribution. A spiritual follow up to fan favorite Bacano, Connection is gritty, lean, and tight soul and funk at its best. It explores the invisible threads that bind us all, spiritually, emotionally, and artistically. Much like the collage that adorns the cover, this hard hitting collection of songs illuminates the essence of Orgone: a musical pastiche of different vocalists, heavy riffs, vintage production, and a core rhythm section that never disappoints. The synergy created in these songs demonstrates that the whole is truly greater than the sum of all the individual parts and players. This is the tenth studio album from Orgone (they’ve previously released albums with Ubiquity, Sanachie, and Colemine Records). Other career highlights include: heavy touring with the likes of Al Green, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, and Galactic; fest appearances at Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Jam Cruise; placements on ABC’s Modern Family, film, and commercials; serving as the backing band for Grammy winning hits like Cee Lo’s “Fool For You” and songs from Alicia Keys, Jazmine Sullivan and more. ~


Steven Bernstein | "Community Music"

Steven Bernstein, the beloved virtuoso trumpeter, arranger, bandleader and composer, has announced 'Community Music,' a four volume series that presents one album every three months over the course of a year via independent record label, Royal Potato Family. Indeed, community is the essence of these recordings, made over four days in 2020 and featuring an ensemble of musicians who have been both integral to the NYC creative music scene and co-collaborators with Bernstein for the last 30 years. A superlative quartet of records each showcasing a different facet of this remarkable, one-of-a-kind maestro, the first edition, 'Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1)' is a collection of incantatory originals, to be issued September 3, 2021; the aptly titled 'Good Time Music (Community Music, Vol. 2)' with singer Catherine Russell follows on January 7, 2022; 'Manifesto of Henry-isms (Community Music, Vol. 3)' comprised by re-imaginings of Bernstein's inspired arrangements for the brilliant New Orleans pianist Henry Butler & The Hot 9 with guests John Medeski and Arturo O’Farrill is out May 6, 2022; and 'Popular Culture (Community Music, Vol. 4),' a set of Bernstein-ian takes on The Grateful Dead, Charles Mingus, The Beatles and others, concludes the series on September 2, 2022. The 'Community Music' series is being introduced with a four song sampler out today (listen/share) across all streaming platforms. Vinyl pre-order for all four albums is also now available on Bandcamp.   

Why release four records in one year? Steven Bernstein's answer is succinct and definitive: "Because why not?" The initial spark for 'Community Music' might have come when Henry Butler passed in 2018 and then Bernstein's mother the following year.  Understandably, Bernstein began to consider his own mortality—and his musical legacy.  "I thought, 'While I'm still on the planet, I need to start documenting my arrangements,'" he says.  He won a Shifting Foundation grant (previous recipients include Bill Frisell, Craig Taborn and John Zorn) to do just that: document as many of his unrecorded and sometimes even unperformed arrangements as possible.   

The band gathered at a Brooklyn studio in January 2020.  Every day, Bernstein made sure to lay out a nice spread—a band, like an army, travels on its stomach—and the old friends would nosh and shoot the breeze for a while, then get down to work.  They'd rehearse each tune for 45 minutes or so, then do two takes with no Protools fixes, no Autotune and no overdubs.  "All the musicians are reacting to each other in real time, so you can't use any of those tricks," Bernstein says.  "So this is exactly what happened: it's the music we played."   

The 'Community Music' sessions are organic music played by gifted musicians with both solid roots in tradition and a zest for invention. "Deep down, it's the Ray Charles horns, the Duke Ellington horns," says Bernstein. One of the great achievements of these fascinating records is to catapult those quintessential sounds into the 21st century.   

It's called 'Community Music' because the musicians of the Millennial Territory Orchestra and The Hot 9 have been working with each other in various combinations for decades, with Bernstein at the center of it all.  Bernstein has known pianist Arturo O'Farrill for well over 30 years and drummer Ben Perowsky for nearly 40; he's been playing music with saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum since they were twelve years old. And he's known everyone else in the band for at least 25 years, starting when Bernstein moved from Berkeley to New York City in 1979 and soon found himself in the thick of the golden age of the downtown jazz scene, much of it centering around John Lurie & The Lounge Lizards, a band he eventually joined.   

When musicians work with each other for that long, they develop what's often called telepathy but is really trust, a key concept in Bernstein's musical philosophy.  'Community Music' might be four separate albums, but it's also just one episode of a musical conversation that's been going on for decades. "The reason all this music even exists is the honest communication we've developed over the years," Bernstein says. "And not only are these people excellent musicians, they're distinctive players.  Those arrangements are written for the specific people who are playing them, and that's why it sounds the way it does."

The 'Community Music' sessions incorporate the past into the present, making music that's a new kind of timeless. "Levon Helm's not here, and Henry Butler's not here, and Hal Willner's not here, and Roswell Rudd's not here, and Lou Reed's not here," says Bernstein.  "So I'm carrying forward all the stuff I learned from them—but through me, the way I look at it.  Hal used to say, as our favorite musicians were passing, 'It's up to us now — we need to make the music with the same intent as our heroes.  We have to be our own heroes now.'"   

The Millennial Territory Orchestra community are heroes in that sense but also in the way they've come together to make this essentially joyous music even in the face of misfortune.  It's the spirit of the New Orleans second line, alchemizing sorrow into a celebration of life.  "These records really aren't all about my loss," Bernstein says, "but that's also what's bonded this community in an even stronger way because those experiences have given us an even greater awareness of how sacred life is.  You hear that in all of this music, whether it's a happy song or a sad song, you can hear the reverence we all have for life.  We don't take these opportunities to play music together lightly."  And you can hear that loud and clear on every note of every tune of the four volume 'Community Music' series.  Listen and be uplifted.

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble

Everyone's got a "we made an album during the pandemic" story, but how many bands did it between Finland, Benin and Portugal while also teaching far-flung band members how to use the technology on the fly?

In 2009 Finnish guitarist Janne Halonen travelled to Benin, West Africa, to study the rhythms of Voodoo. He became friends with a master percussionist/singer, Noël Saïzonou, and the idea of a band planted. In the planning for their 5th album, neither of them thought Helsinki-based Janne would ever be spending long hours teaching Benin-based Noël how to use entirely unfamiliar recording software by sharing his screen over Zoom, but you know... pandemic.

Get ready for a mix West African Voodoo traditions, Afrobeat, Jazz, Soul, and conscious Hip-Hop, with all songs being sung in Saïzonou’s native Goun language. HCE5 drops May 21 2021 and we've got a sneak peek single for you, “Min He Mon Ébgé – The One Who Sees Today” (available across all streaming platforms worldwide on May 7th, 2021). The single, which will also be the first track on the new album, imparts the message that it’s important to take care of one’s craft and general well-being, since nobody knows what tomorrow brings. 

Contemporary jazz saxophonist Matt Willard discovers a tropical sound in an unlikely locale: Nashville

While Nashville is primarily known as a launch pad for country music careers, Music City also has a burgeoning jazz scene. Trekking south from his Virginia home, saxophonist Matt Willard entered a Nashville recording studio with some of the city’s finest contemporary jazz musicians to record his debut single, “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Willard wrote the single that just dropped on the Creative Soul Jazz imprint and produced it with the label’s Eric Copeland and Sunset Blvd. Studio’s Steve Dady. The exotic track showcasing the tenor saxman’s impassioned play is the first in a series of singles and accompanying videos that will precede Willard’s first album that is expected to drop by the end of the year.

A staccato Latin rhythm constructed by drummer Steve Brewster and bassist Jacob Lowery is the pedestal for the lush melodies of “Por la Orrilla del Mar.” Guitarist Dave Cleveland adds to the harmony while keyboardist Jason Webb shines when trading solos with Willard, who’s deft saxplay runs the gamut of emotion: from intense, raw and emotional to restrained, poised and harnessed. A horn section underscores and illumines Willard’s saxophone excursions.

Willard struggled to come up with a title for the single that has Caribbean nuances and conjures up soothing beach scenes. He felt it needed a Spanish title, but since he doesn’t speak the language, he turned to family members for help.

“After spending many hours trying to come up with the perfect song title, the idea to ask my uncle popped into my head. He speaks fluent Spanish along with many other languages. I sent him the track, and he and my aunt picked up on the Latin feel to the song, and ultimately, they came up with ‘Por la Orrilla Del Mar.’ It means ‘by the sea shore.’”  

Willard’s soulful and inspired sound meshes perfectly with the ethos of Copeland’s label. Creative Soul Jazz is a purveyor of improvisational jazz that they describe as “different and has spiritual roots.”

“As a label and production company, our mission is to use our God-given talents to show the beauty, the intensity, the passion and the spiritual effect of jazz. Our souls are rooted firmly in the freedom and pure art form of jazz,” said Copeland.                            

Willard began playing baritone sax in sixth grade and switched to tenor after graduating high school. Having played in jazz ensembles as well as his school’s marching band, he landed professional gigs playing at restaurants, special events and weddings. Willard tested the waters by issuing several recording projects locally, but teaming up with Dady, Copeland and Creative Soul Jazz is about taking his craft to the national level. “Por la Orrilla del Mar” offers a promising glimpse of what’s to come from this artist.   

Willard said, “I had a blast recording in Nashville and cannot wait to see everyone’s reaction to the music as we release it. I hope that these songs touch as many lives as possible like they did mine when writing them. I am truly blessed to have a great team working with me to write and produce this record. Collaborating with Nashville session players is an amazing experience. The entire production team has knocked it out of the park. The album is going to be great!”


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