Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Joe McPhee, Michael Marcus, Jay Rosen, Warren Smith | Blue Reality Quartet!

In 2018, jazz musician extraordinaire Michael Marcus got an invite to bring his duo with drummer Jay Rosen to the Austrian venue Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf. And when he arrived, the promoter of their show sprung a novel idea on them: performing their set with fellow reedsman Joe McPhee and another drummer. “It was a great concept,” Marcus remembers. “And the chemistry was really good.”

So much so that Marcus wanted to capture the sound of this unusual group—two horns and two percussionists improvising without a bass player or a piano or any other chordal instruments—on record. But with the drummer they played with in Austria unavailable to travel, Marcus, Rosen, and McPhee called on their friend and collaborator Warren Smith. And the Blue Reality Quartet was born. 

The name of this project has a little history behind it and multiple layers of meaning. 20 years ago, Marcus and Rosen recorded an album called Blue Reality as part of a trio with bassist Tarus Matteen. It was another one of those magical sessions with the right mix of players and energy that Marcus always wanted to revisit. But with Mateen busy working alongside pianist Jason Moran, that reunion has been put on the back burner. 

At the same time, Marcus wanted to use the name of this group to acknowledge the time and circumstances in which the album was recorded. As the front cover should tell you - pictures of each player, their faces covered by a mask, the four men met up in a New York studio in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic. So Blue Reality is a nod to a terrible time in our collective history that had an incalculable impact on the music industry and resulted in the deaths of thousands of people worldwide. 

While all of that was weighing on the four musicians last November when they entered New York’s East Side Studios, the feeling of listening to the Blue Reality Quartet is one of catharsis. Beginning with the meditative and gorgeous “Love Exists Everywhere,” the album moves through various moods and modes. 

“Bluer Than Blue” is a joyous tangle with McPhee and Marcus, playing tenor sax and bass clarinet respectively, spiraling around one other while Smith interjects with pointed hits of the vibes and Rosen dances through it all with a freeform fervor. The rollicking “East Side Dilemma” allows the two horn players and two drummers to square off with dueling solos and interlocked rhythms. And the languid “Warren’s Theme” is a perfect showcase for Smith’s vibes playing, accompanied perfectly by Marcus on bass flute and Rosen’s well placed percussion jangles and splashes. 

Throughout, the quartet switches up instrumentation, allowing them to set different tones for each track and to show off their acumen as players and artists. “It’s like being a painter,” Marcus says. “We just wanted some different colors.”

What is also clear in listening to the first Blue Reality Quartet album is that these four men were obviously inspired by one another to experiment and push their personal limits as players and improvisers. And to hear Marcus tell it, the chemistry that this group had was so potent that they’re all ready to get back together for another hit. “I think there’s a real mutual love within the group,” he says. “I think there’s a real potential there. It’s really special and really unique and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it out there.” We couldn’t agree more. 

-Robert Ham

Detroit Jazz Festival Plans for In-Person Audiences

The Detroit Jazz Festival presented by Rocket Mortgage, the world’s largest (and best) free jazz festival in the world, today unveiled plans for a return to in-person audiences at the annual Labor Day weekend event. The plans call for limited COVID-19 safety precautions and a revised festival footprint including three stages located in the downtown Hart Plaza and Campus Martius areas. 

The revised footprint allows for more open space and social distancing amongst audiences. Other safety precautions include signage placed throughout the festival to encourage health and safety practices, more video screens to help spread out crowds during performances, cashless payment at vendor booths, and hand sanitizing stations placed throughout the downtown footprint.

“We are thrilled to bring back in-person live audiences to the Detroit Jazz Festival,” said Chris Collins, president and artistic director, Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation. “With the strong support of city officials, we devised a festival plan that incorporates safety measures and acknowledges the ongoing concerns some jazz patrons may have for attending outdoor events during the pandemic,” said Collins. “Overall, nothing beats the experience of live, in-person jazz performances at our stages and we look forward to showcasing the exciting artistry, dynamism and diversity of our artists delivering true jazz to our audiences.”

Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture, thanked festival officials for working with the City to ensure a safe environment for live music.  

"This is the best news for music, for Detroit and for a national and global audience that came to a virtual festival a million strong last year," Riley said. "But it's time to add live music, so for those fans who have been calling asking whether they can come home or come visit or come to stay a while, the answer is a safe yes! And we at the City hope that residents and visitors will get vaccinated so we can keep the progress going and bring back even more live music. The pandemic is not over, but it could be. Let's keep pushing!"

In its 42nd year, the Detroit Jazz Festival begins on Friday, September 3 and runs through Monday, September 6. This year’s Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater will headline multiple performances during the festival including an opening set with protégé group, the Woodshed Network Ladies, and a closing night performance with her all-female big band. Other highlights include performances from Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter, Keyon Harrold, Omar Sosa and the Havana-Detroit Jazz Project; and Kurt Elling’s Big Blind.

The Detroit Jazz Festival is free to the public. 

Also returning this year is “Detroit JAZZ Fest LIVE!” For just $20, Festival attendees and out-of-towners unable to make it to the Festival can livestream performances from all stages, all four days via their smartphone, tablet or desktop. Additionally, the livestreaming services features select performances throughout the year from the Foundation’s year-round initiatives, Festival schedules, maps and more. Register for the livestream at https://live.detroitjazzfest.org.  

Under the leadership of President and Artistic Director Chris Collins, the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that presents jazz and educational workshops throughout the year. The Foundation produces the Detroit Jazz Festival, which is the signature event for the Foundation and the largest free jazz festival in the world. The Festival is also a major tourist attraction for the City of Detroit, with 26 percent of its audience coming from out of state. For more information, visit detroitjazzfest.org. 

The Foundation receives grant funding from the Kresge Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Arts Midwest, D’Addario Foundation and Carolyn Wanzo and the Purify Wanzo CTAA Endowment at Wayne State University. Hundreds of individuals also contribute to the Festival through membership and donations. 

Major corporate partners include presenting sponsor, Rocket Mortgage, DTE Foundation, MGM Grand Detroit, Michigan Hispanic Collaborative, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Bingham Legal Group, Central Michigan University and George Johnson & Company. 

Media partners include Fox 2 Detroit, WJR Newstalk 760 AM, WEMU-FM, DownBeat, JazzTimes, WDET-FM 101.9, WRCJ 90.9 FM and Detroit Public Television.

Sarah Wilson | Kaleidoscope

At its best music is an act of generosity that flows from creative camaraderie. Slated for release on July 16, 2021 via Brass Tonic Records, Sarah Wilson’s third album Kaleidoscope results from that kind of rarified communion. The San Francisco Bay Area trumpeter, vocalist, and composer wrote and recorded the music in a spirit of gratitude inspired by some of the key figures in her creative life. She’s joined by a nonpareil cast of improvisers, including pianist Myra Melford, drummer Matt Wilson, violinist Charles Burnham, bassist Jerome Harris, and guitarist John Schott. 

While deeply shaped by jazz, Wilson’s music owes as much to avant pop, Afro-Latin grooves and indie rock as the post-bop continuum. Evidencing her profound gift for musical storytelling, Kaleidoscope reflects Wilson’s background composing scores for puppet shows and theatrical productions. Not every piece is dedicated to a mentor or creative beacon, “but this record is about the people who have supported me,” says Wilson, who like so many musicians has gone more than a year without performing. “At a time when putting out an album is a minor miracle, this is music about buoying each other up.”

As the name implies, Kaleidoscope embraces multiple views, approaches and personalities. The album opens with “Aspiration,” a gently descending melody that seems to defy gravity as Burnham’s violin doubles Wilson’s gleaming horn. Dedicated to Renee Baldocchi, who was Director of Public Programs at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, the piece was inspired by the Aaron Douglas painting that provided the creative blueprint for Wilson’s score for “Off the Walls,” the aerial dance production that concluded her fellowship at the de Young. If “Aspiration” serves as the album’s benediction, “Presence” is a joyous, calypso-tinged tune that announces that the celebration is underway. Written for Carla Bley, the piece was inspired by “Major,” the opening track on her 1999 album of duets with bassist and partner Steve Swallow, Are We There Yet?

Wilson’s winsome song “Young Woman” features her beguiling vocals and evocative lyrics. It’s one of several pieces inspired by Myra Melford, a close friend and mentor. The quietly majestic “With Grace” is another piece written with Melford in mind. Composed while Wilson was on a Djerassi artist residency, the melody conjures the rugged California coast south of San Francisco. She was listening to Melford’s music in a very different setting, the possibly haunted 19th century resort Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa, when she wrote “Night Still,” a mysterious theme that features Burnham’s achingly beautiful violin. 

“It wasn’t long after I heard about Myra in the early 1990s that she became my hero,” Wilson says. “She was such an inspiration. I loved her composing and I had a few lessons with her studying Threadgill’s technique. We’d go on walks in Prospect Park. But I had quit the trumpet and was hardly playing at all. She said ‘You have to play your music. This needs to be performed as concert music.’ I’m not sure if I would have had the strength without her support. That was so important.”

Another essential supporter and music mentor was Paul Caputo, and Wilson dedicates the bright, delicately filigreed tune “Color” to the widely esteemed Schoenberg scholar. The piece features Schott, a brilliant guitarist who has created a vast array of music outside of the near-legendary Grammy-nominated post-bop/funk band T.J. Kirk. He also contributes a tightly coiled, stinging solo on the title track, which Wilson dedicated to Peck Allmond, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, key collaborators during her New York years. She brings luminous intensity to her vocal rendition of M. Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile,” and closes the album with “Go,” a celebratory Cuban-inflected tribute to Laurie Frink, the late, legendary trumpeter and brass teacher. 

A project many years in the making, Kaleidoscope is a creative dispatch from an artist on an unlikely path. A lapsed high school trumpet player, Wilson didn't come to music through the usual channels. As an undergraduate anthropology major at the University of California, Berkeley, Wilson took a strong interest in theater. A visiting artist from Vermont's globe-trotting Bread and Puppet Theater inspired her to move east to work on their spectacular giant-puppet productions after graduation. She spent two years as a member of the troupe as her responsibilities expanded to encompass conducting, arranging and performing music for their shows. In 1993, she moved to New York City to concentrate on music, studying with trumpeters John McNeil and Laurie Frink.

Through her affiliation with Bread and Puppet Theater she soon found herself musical director and composer of Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Festival's annual puppet program. "At the time, I didn't really have any formal training or experience composing," Wilson says. "I didn't know much harmony, so I would just write these melodic bass lines and layer contrapuntal melodies on top of them. I was really into Afro-Cuban music and Henry Threadgill and Steve Coleman, so everything had a really strong rhythmic base, sometimes with odd meters. I've formally studied music since then, but my basic composing approach hasn't changed much."

Wilson absorbed other sources of inspiration from the eclectic downtown New York new music scene of the 1990s, while connecting with plenty of open-minded musicians. "I was fortunate to find these amazing musicians, like Kenny Wollesen, Peck Allmond, Tony Scherr, and others who liked my work precisely because it was different and original."

To further blur stylistic boundaries, Wilson began singing and writing her own songs in 2000. "My mom died that year, and I gave up the trumpet,” she says. “I listened to the radio a lot and I started writing songs. It was distracting, soothing as I was dealing with this terrible loss in my life.” She introduced the new material at Performance Space 122, realizing afterwards “that singing gave me this intimate connection with the audience and I felt relaxed doing it,” Wilson says. “It is another avenue for my music to travel down.”

She released her first album, Music for an Imaginary Play (Evander Music), in 2006, earning sterling reviews with her picaresque compositions. Featuring Wilson on trumpet and vocals, Peck Allmond on tenor sax, Steve Cardenas on electric guitar, Jerome Harris on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the project was drawn directly from her many years of writing music for puppet theater.

She followed up with 2010’s Trapeze Project (Brass Tonic Records), an album inspired by a sense of dislocation and freedom after moving from New York to the Bay Area in 2005. Drawing on a far-flung array of sounds from Balkan and Persian folk music to New Orleans jazz, marching bands, blues, and pop music, she developed tunes that sounded utterly personal and unmoored to prevailing jazz fashions. Once again she convened an inimitable cast, including Melford, Harris, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and drummer Scott Amendola. 

Wilson has spent the past decade developing programs for a variety of museums and institutions. Her latest project is a music production for The Tenderloin Museum. Collaborating with Larkin Street Youth Services, a long-standing non-profit organization serving homeless youth based in one of San Francisco’s most poverty-stricken, challenged neighborhoods, “Tenderloin Voices” brings their stories to life through writing workshops and musical performance.

The music on Kaleidoscope was created with support from the de Young Museum Artist Fellows program with commission funding from Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Zellerbach Family Foundation and many generous donors. At a time when the music scene is facing an unprecedented crisis, Wilson offers a candle in the darkness. “The theme of this music is that it makes me happy,” she says. That’s a view that works from any angle. 


Soul-jazz saxophonist Isaac Edwards’ “On The Town” is on the Billboard chart

After nearly twenty years as a recording artist plus four months of persistence, patience and promotional pushing from his new record label, soul-jazz saxophonist Isaac Edwards has hit the Billboard singles charts for the first time. Released in early February, “On The Town” finally debuted on the Billboard chart last week at No. 24. The funky R&B instrumental, Isaac’s first single after inking with Next Paradigm Records, was written by the saxman and produced by label head, Jacob Webb, who has produced several Billboard chart toppers.

As the world emerges from coronavirus restrictions, the marketplace - and the Billboard charts – have become quite crowded with new releases, especially from marquee artists, which makes Edwards’ chart debut that much more of an accomplishment.

“It has been a huge battle at radio this year with just about every A-lister releasing a track, sometimes more. Due to COVID, most of the artists were at home, not touring, and presumedly finishing their tracks, and now they're releasing them. To give you an idea of how hard it has been to hit the Billboard charts this year, this is our 19th week promoting the single at radio! It took this long to debut on Billboard, but we never gave up! It is rare for a single to take this long to hit the charts and there were lots of moments when we thought that we weren't going to make it, but we did. Now we are on the chart with a bunch of A-listers,” said an excited Isaac. 

“On The Town” features Isaac’s alto saxophone engaging in a discourse with Randall Haywood’s flugelhorn. The groove is anchored by drummer Kevin Bowden and Webb’s rubbery basslines with melodies added by Webb’s keyboards and programming along with Sonny Dumarsais’ piercing electric guitar riffs. COVID precautions and geographic distance required that all of the tracks except for sax to be recorded at Webb’s New York studio compound while the saxophone tracks were laid down in a vocal booth set up in Edwards’ San Diego home.      

Edwards has released three albums since the early 2000s, juggling his desire to be a jazz musician with busy days in court as a litigation attorney. His recording projects have incorporated jazz, R&B, pop, rock and gospel, and have included collaborations with GRAMMY-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, multiple GRAMMY nominee Darren Rahn, and Joel Kibble, a 10-time GRAMMY-winning member of Take 6. Edwards’ 2002 gospel-jazz album, “Here,” was nominated for a Vibe Award, Canada’s Dove Awards equivalent. He studied under the tutelage of noted saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Jeff Clayton and has opened concerts for multiple GRAMMY winners Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. 

Last July, Edwards dropped the independent single, “Bird Rock,” which not only garnered national airplay from SiriusXM’s Watercolors, but captured Webb’s attention, leading to the recording pact with Next Paradigm.   

“The title for ‘On The Town’ came to me during the recording process. I had just signed the record deal and it made me think that I had really stepped up my game. I have released albums and singles before, but this is the first time I had a label behind me. I guess you could say that it made me feel like I was really on the music scene, or ‘on the town,’” said Edwards.

Clarinetist-Vocalist Kristen Mather de Andrade releases her debut global music album, “Clarão”

How the principal clarinetist and soloist from West Point’s Army Special Band decided to make her debut recording an authentic Brazilian album on which she plays and sings in Portuguese in jazz big band settings is a story centered on love more than a decade in the making. There is also an Olympic connection to the release of Kristen Mather de Andrade’s global music offering “Clarão,” which drops July 23, the same day as the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics. 

Mather de Andrade was enamored by Brazilian music at a young age, and her affinity rose to the next level when she met and married a Brazilian man in 2011. Desiring to immerse herself in the culture, the classically trained clarinetist and saxophonist began learning songs in Portuguese in order to learn the language. She started playing choros, classic instrumental Brazilian pop music dating back a century ago, finding that the style suits the clarinet. To celebrate the 2016 Rio Olympic athletes, Mather de Andrade performed a handful of tunes live on the West Point Band Facebook page. The enthusiastic response even garnered coverage from the Brazilian media. The seeds were planted and have blossomed into “Clarão,” which means “flash of light.” Teaming with producer Sergio Krakowski helped bring this passion project together.

“I wanted to show the diversity of Brazil in the music selections on this album. I learned so much from the music producer, Sergio Krakowski, who really helped me dig deeper into the styles that I was already familiar with and find some music that was really interesting and would flatter the band. I wanted to showcase music beyond Bossa Nova and bring attention to some amazing styles and composers that I have found so inspiring,” said Mather de Andrade, a Youngstown, Ohio native now based just outside of New York City.

With Krakowski’s assistance, Mather de Andrade gathered several Brazilian musicians to accompany her and selected the repertoire. Half of “Clarão” is comprised of instrumental covers, three of which are performed big band-style and were made famous by Brazilian clarinetists. The album includes four original songs penned by Brazilian singer-songwriter Roque Ferriera, tunes that showcase Mather de Andrade’s silken, yearnful voice singing sublimely in Portuguese. Krakaowski relied upon genuine Brazilian instrumentation from Vitor Gonçalves (accordion), Cesar Garabini (violão) and Eduardo Belo (bass) while playing pandeiro himself. A lively four-piece horn section adds luster to the ten-track album brimful of exuberance, lush harmonies and masterful musicianship.

The recording process began two summers ago with Mather de Andrade recording live with the horns and rhythm section. She recorded her vocals just prior to the coronavirus quarantine, which delayed the project’s completion and forced some additional accordion and pandeiro tracks to be added remotely. Mather de Andrade describes “Clarão” as a multicultural offering.

“What I like about the album is the uniquely ‘New York’ experience: the horns are all American, the rhythm section is all Brazilian, and the arrangers are American and Brazilian. We had a French guitarist - the studio owner was Italian - there were a ton of languages flying around the sessions. It was a great combination of talents to create a sound that I have come away thinking is just as much ‘New York’ as it is Brazilian,” said Mather de Andrade of the global music record quilted together from swatches of Brazilian music, jazz and classical.

Preceding the album release, an animated video for the song “Guelê Guelê” created by the record’s bassist, Belo, will be released on June 25. The tune is one of the originals composed by Ferriera. Mather de Andrade said, “Roque Ferreira is a major composer from the North East of Brazil in the style of Bahian Samba. His style is very evocative and creates vivid imagery, which lent itself to an animated video treatment.”

To launch the album, Mather de Andrade will perform selections from “Clarão” on August 8 at 6pm ET accompanied by several of the musicians who performed on the album during a special livestream event broadcast from Studio 42 Brooklyn using Stretto.live, a new interactive visual platform that enables audiences to work together to control certain aspects of a performance in real time and provide the performer with visual feedback they can see and react to while performing.

Mather de Andrade has been with the West Point Band since 2007. She also plays with, co-founded and serves as artistic director for the New York City-area ensemble Vent Nouveau, which performs and records music for woodwinds and brass, as well as the mixed instrument group Quintette 7. Mather de Andrade has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and The Kennedy Center. Equally important to the artist, she uses music to unify and breakdown barriers culminating in performances in countless schools, veterans’ homes, and three prisons. Mather de Andrade has taught master classes and professional clinics at universities and conservatories, and presently serves on staff at Manhatanville College. For more information, please visit https://kristenmather.com.  


Friday, June 11, 2021

Stephan Micus | "Winter's End"

The Japanese poem accompanying Winter’s End, Stephan Micus’ 24th solo album for ECM, seems like a metaphor for his music. He chuckles at the suggestion, as he thinks of the hours and hours working with dozens of different instruments, which he builds up layer upon layer in his studio. “For a musician or an artist, it’s very important to keep your childlike nature,” he says. “Of course, it’s more fun to walk in deep snow than on an asphalt road. This is something I try to keep in mind in daily life.”

The range of instruments on this album is one of the most extensive in Stephan Micus’ catalogue with eleven instruments from ten countries: Mozambique, Gambia, Central Africa, Egypt, Japan, Bali, Xinjiang, Tibet, Peru and the USA. Most important, there are two instruments that he’s never used before. One is recently acquired from Mozambique; the other has been sitting on a shelf awaiting its turn for 40 years. 

It’s the chikulo that opens Winter’s End and defines its character, appearing on seven of its twelve tracks. Amongst the musical glories of Mozambique are the large timbila bands of the Chopi people. The timbila is a xylophone with wooden keys and gourd resonators hanging beneath. A timbila orchestra has several instruments of different sizes. Because he prefers to walk in the snow, Micus has just selected the bass instrument with only four notes, which gives a buzzing rhythmic support to the ensemble. 

“I had heard about the timbila orchestras and seen some instruments. As it was a place I had never visited, I wanted to go. The higher instruments demand virtuoso playing and in this life, I would never be able to master that. But I’m also attracted to low instruments and when they showed me the chikulo its possibilities seemed very open.” In fact, the chikulo is rarely used these days in timbila bands as it’s so large and difficult to transport. Micus never saw one actually being used in an orchestra, but only demonstrated in a museum. He commissioned his own from timbila player and maker Eduardo Durão. 

It is the woody tone and buzzing sound of the chikulo that opens the album, but most of the time Micus uses it without the buzzing membranes to create a cleaner sound. Alongside three chikulo on “Autumn Hymn", the opening track is a Japanese nohkan flute, traditionally used in Noh theatre. While the chikulo has an earthy sound, the nohkan seems heavenly and there is a natural earth and sky harmony.

The other instrument Micus is using for the first time is the tongue drum. He made it himself 40 years ago, sawing tongue-shaped pieces in the top of a wooden box following examples in Central Africa. “Back then, I played it several times in concerts and sang a single vocal line, but I was never quite satisfied with it. However, from the moment I combined it with the chikulo and added more voices, the two tongue drum pieces finally felt complete. I often have instruments for a long time before I manage to incorporate them in a composition - and if after 40 years one of them finds its moment it’s a very nice thing.” With the voices (singing an invented language) accompanied by percussive sounds from the tongue drum and chikulo, “The Longing of the Migrant Birds” and “Sun Dance” have something of the savannah about them.

“For me the beautiful thing about music is that it’s beyond words and beyond any message in words,” says Micus, but having created the album with its other textures of bowed and plucked strings, thumb piano, flutes and cymbals he created a kind of narrative out of the titles. 

“I got this idea about migrant birds. A journey from Europe to Africa when winter is coming. In the third track I feel a kind of longing to travel and with the 4th track, “Baobab Dance” we have arrived in Africa.” Where we are at the end is ambiguous. As so often in Micus’ music, Winter’s End has a symmetrical structure, and the title “Winter Hymn” perhaps suggests a return. But winter is present in Africa too. 

One of the remarkable things about Micus is the way he uses the sounds of the world as an inspiration and brings them together in unique and pioneering combinations. “To bring instruments together for the first time is fascinating. It’s like going to places where nobody has been. Surprisingly you can take these instruments from all over the world and they sound in harmony. It’s a beautiful message when sadly we humans haven’t got to that point.”

Kevin Hays, Ben Street, Billy Hart | "All Things Are"

On All Things Are, Hart decisively imprints his personality on the flow. “It seemed like Billy was playing with Kevin like a singer, which inspired me to think of Kevin that way and guided everything,” Street says, perhaps thinking of Hays’ mid-career choice to showcase his considerable singer-songwriter chops on albums like the eponymous trio recital New Day (2015), the Hays-Lionel Loueke duo Hope (2017), and a duo with vocalist Chiara Izzi titled Across the Sea (2019).

Street continues: “Playing next to Billy, there’s a feeling that he’s searching again and again for this thing he already knows, that could be out of reach but is worth reaching for. This beautiful human drive is inspiring. It takes you out of the mundane self-judgment process of ‘am I playing well or not?’”

Hays concurs. “Every time I’ve played with Billy, it sounds like everything is freshly minted in that moment, even though, of course, there’s such history behind it,” he says. “He’s constantly listening and responding to you; there’s a tremendous amount of conversation going on.”

Hart regards All Things Are as an opportunity “to play with two of my favorite players.” He describes Street as “unique – my epitome of a contemporary bassist; what he takes as normal, I think is extraordinary.” He continues: “I love the way Kevin plays. I played with Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner and Richie Beirach, and I don’t use the word ‘love’ lightly. Kevin reharmonizes on that level, and I love his touch.”

Consider Hart’s remarks as you absorb Hays’ ingenious melodic formulations on the contrafacts “Unscrappulous” (“Scrapple from the Apple”), “All Things Are” (“All the Things You Are”) and “Twilight” (“Stella by Starlight”); or the lovely melody and beautiful chord changes of “Elegia” (which debuted on Modern Music, Hays’ two-piano recital with old friend Brad Mehldau) and “Sweet Caroline.”

Then consider how “the sound of surprise” suffuses this iteration of “New Day,” the anthemic leadoff track. “After we finish the head, we’re suddenly in outer space,” Hays says. “Ben somehow knew it was time to go somewhere else, and he stopped playing, then Billy took it – and we were off. I wouldn’t have expected it to go completely left. But at that moment, BOOM, this ‘big bang’ happened, and we now had to evolve.”

That telepathic interplay, which these exemplary improvisers perhaps might have regarded as their quotidian norm before COVID, resonated deeply after months-long pandemic-imposed isolation. “I’ve been practicing more than maybe ever, which I enjoy – but it’s me alone at home,” Hays says. “Perhaps I’ve improved, but I’d also fallen out of practice of playing with other musicians. For this date, I was excited to interact with other musicians again, that it wasn’t just me and my own musical thoughts.

“This is the way I like to play. As someone who loves improvisation, I do my best to not repeat myself. I like the unplanned and I tend not to be directive – these musicians already have a direction, which tends to be open. This isn’t a free trio; we’re not playing free jazz. But we’re playing with the tabula rasa spirit, with as little as possible figured out other than the bare bones.”

Haitian Vodou and jazz meet on Ches Smith's remarkable Path of Seven Colors

Like most great art forms, jazz developed by combining previously distinct, disparate elements into something new. The musicians of We All Break follow in this tradition on their new release, Path of Seven Colors, available June 11, 2021 via Pyroclastic Records. The album, with its remarkable merging of traditional Haitian Vodou music and au courant composition and improvisation, offers eight evolutionary/revolutionary tracks performed by a collaborative octet of world-class musicians.

The brainchild of drummer/composer Ches Smith, We All Break features pianist Matt Mitchell,  saxophonist Miguel Zenón, rising-star bassist Nick Dunston, vocalist Sirene Dantor Rene, and master drummers Daniel Brevil, Markus Schwartz and Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene.

The release features deluxe packaging including two extensive booklets with photos, track-by-track narratives, and lyrics in Haitian Creole and English; it also includes a bonus disc of the 2015 eponymous recording by the original quartet (Smith, Mitchell, Brevil, and Schwartz). In addition, the ensemble’s music and collaborative process are highlighted by a 50-minute film “We All Break,” available on the release date via the websites of Pyroclastic, Smith, and award-winning filmmaker Mimi Chakarova.

While the band’s first album featured a quartet of three drummers with piano (and occasional vocals), the new recording uses an octet to orchestrate the material and greatly expands the vocal dimension, pushing the band into new terrain. “There is no existing model marrying traditional Haitian songs with original instrumental compositions and contemporary improvisation in this way,” says Smith. “We just had to keep trying things, in the spirit of experimentation, until the balance was right and we’d created our own mold.”

Smith’s dedication to Haitian Vodou began more than twenty years ago. “My attraction was instant and strong,” he says. “In 2000 I got called to accompany a Haitian dance class. I was captivated, likely because things central in the various musics I play – polyrhythm, polytonality, improvisation, extended timbral awareness, tension and release, channeled aggression and power, and most vitally surprise – I found again, and anew, in this traditional form.”

His compositional vision aimed to incorporate and transform elements of this tradition. “I wanted these elements – lead/chorus song structure, polytonal relations among singers and drums, conversations between the drums, and kase (‘breaks’) – at the center of each piece,” he says. “A traditional rhythm would be the foundation of each composition, while that rhythm’s spiritual, political, and visual associations could function as deep wells of information and feeling, levering the work into a new dimension.”

Pianist Mitchell’s melodic and harmonic sense, improvisational talents, and keen sense of rhythm made him a natural for the band. Smith also enlisted his master-teachers, Brevil and Schwartz. “I knew they would tell me straight whether this project was flying or not,” says Smith. He also brought in Jean-Guy Fanfan Rene, co-leader with Sirene Dantor Rene of Vodou-activism group Fanmi Asòtò. Smith also had an idea to pile-drive the bottom end, bringing in Nick Dunston:  “I pictured a broad, taut, multi-colored tapestry dense with rhythmic detail in the low range of the music. This sound would include the contrabass for its harmonic and time-keeping roles, but also to function, slyly, as a fifth drummer.”  Serendipitously, Ches played a gig with alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who expressed an interest in Haitian drumming. Smith says, “His playing on his own records, and his stunning compositions, told me he would be another force to push the music forward.” The final addition to the octet arose from Brevil’s suggestion to add a female voice. Enter Sirene Dantor Rene. “She sings with supreme conviction,” says Smith, “using traditional inflections in a voice wholly hers.”

Brevil began finding traditional Vodou songs, melodies and lyrics to nestle within Smith’s instrumental compositions. “Daniel composed many of the songs himself,” says Smith, “and fervently searched for others in the tradition, coming back with a multi-authored body of work. His curation brought up questions about the distinction between ‘traditional’ and ‘original.’ I once read that new songs may be created in a particular Vodou house and enter the tradition in that fashion. Perhaps this was happening before my eyes with Daniel’s original songs.”

The result is a triumphant, pioneering ascent, tracked and mixed beautifully by the legendary Ron Saint Germain. The band rehearsed and recorded for a week in February 2020 amidst mutual respect, focus, excitement, and a commitment to going all in on their trailblazing collaboration. Says Smith, “An almost uncanny feeling accompanied us the whole time. If I may be allowed a bit of speculation: if in Vodou the invisible becomes visible, here, perhaps, the inaudible becomes audible.”

Pianist-composer Kris Davis founded Pyroclastic Records in 2016 to serve the release of her acclaimed recordings Duopoly and Octopus (with Craig Taborn) with the goal of growing the label into a thriving platform to serve cutting-edge artists. In 2019, Davis launched a nonprofit to support those artists whose expression flourishes beyond the commercial sphere. By supporting their creative efforts, Pyroclastic empowers emerging and established artists — including those on its 2021 roster: Benoit Delbecq, The Weight of Light (Feb 12th); Mary Halvorson/Sylvie Courvoisier Duo (Fall 2021); and Sara Schoenbeck (Fall 2021) — to continue challenging conventional genre-labeling within their fields. Pyroclastic also seeks to galvanize and grow a creative community, providing opportunities, supporting diversity and expanding the audience for noncommercial art.  

Carbon offsets to neutralize the carbon emissions associated with the production and distribution of Pyroclastic recordings are purchased through carbonfund.org.


“The title of my new recording was purely inspired by the events of the past year and a half,” reflects acclaimed pianist, composer and producer Brian Simpson. “My family and loved ones became more important to me than ever. The pandemic brought all that matters into focus.” On June 25, 2021, Shanachie Entertainment will release a milestone recording from Simpson, his tenth recording as a leader. Known for his ability to sculpt timeless love songs, soulful party anthems and breath-taking melodies, Simpson delivers all this and more on his new album All That Matters. From penning the #1 hit “The First Time” for R&B group Surface to touring with Janet Jackson, George Duke and Dave Koz, Simpson’s golden touch has long made him one of the go-to guys in the industry.

All That Matters is an amalgamation of influences that are close to Brain Simpson’s heart: Jazz, R&B, Funk and Soul. It’s a joyous celebration of life and a shining demonstration of Simpson’s ongoing quest for the ultimate sound. “I will forever be in search of the perfect song, with the perfect melody, perfectly performed,” confesses the pianist. The recording process for All That Matters was dramatically different for Simpson. The absence of touring during the pandemic afforded Simpson the opportunity to focus solely on recording. He eagerly jumped into the project and surrounded himself by friends to foster the compositional process; guitarist and labelmate Steve Oliver and keyboardists Nicholas Cole and Oliver Wendell. The musicians collaborated remotely at first, and were later able to join forces in person. As the album progressed Simpson also enlisted saxophonists Najee and Steve Alanis, trumpeter Ron King, drummers Michael White and Tony Moore, bassists Dwayne “Smitty” Smith and Roberto Vally, percussionist Brain Kilgore and guitarists Ray Fuller and Yarone Levy.

All That Matters opens with the jubilant original “So Many Ways." The melody is always king,” declares Simpson, who aptly makes his point on the stunning melodic gem and the album’s first single propelled by the rhythmic fuel of Michael White and Brian Kilgore. The seductive and alluring "What I'm Waiting For" follows featuring saxophonist Steve Alanis, while Najee is showcased on the dazzling and enchanting "Mystical." Simpson’s piano and Najee’s flute delightfully trade choruses to beautiful effect creating a high point on the album. The tranquil and free-flowing “Sunlit Sea" demonstrates Simpson's unparalleled ability to craft timeless impressionistic melodies. All That Matters also features the hypnotic flow of “Soft Touch” and the Latin-tinged sizzler “Bonita,” featuring sublime guitar work from Yarone Levy. 

Brian Simpson has a way of making the piano sing as evidenced by his cascading piano runs, emotive phrasing and gentle touch on Oliver Wendell’s “When I Found You.” Simpson either wrote or co-wrote all the songs with the exception of this track. “I have been compelled to compose and record music for as long as I can remember. Of all the parts of my craft, the songwriting aspect is what I work hardest at. I am constantly pushing to achieve the best melodies. When I’m uncertain about some melodic aspect of a song, I’m not afraid to ask for help from a co-writer. It’s the song that matters most,” says the pianist. 

The trippy and dance inducing “Whisper to Me” offers another winning moment on All That Matters while “Daybreak” keeps the dance floor a hot with this romantic and yet breezy number. The album concludes with the gorgeous and memorable track “All That Matters,” reminding us of the dear and irreplaceable things in life.

Music has always been a centerpiece in Brian Simpson’s life. The Illinois native credits his late father for helping him develop an appreciation of music and Jazz in particular. “He taught me to enjoy the beauty of a great Jazz solo and how to discern the musicians with great phrasing. My dad listened with such a keen ear.” After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Simpson relocated to Los Angeles where he quickly immersed himself in the local jazz scene. Late night jazz sessions found him playing alongside everyone from saxophonists Everette Harp and Boney James to guitarist Norman Brown. The free-spirited musician soon found himself taking a temporary leave of absence from the Jazz scene, touring the world with pop divas Teena Marie, Sheena Easton and Janet Jackson. His foray into the Pop world didn’t end there. In January 1991 he co-wrote the #1 hit “The First Time” by Surface, which conquered both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. With one foot in the Pop world and the other in Jazz, “I’m following in the footsteps of those who laid the foundation of contemporary jazz music,” says Simpson. “Fusing Jazz and R&B is just what Contemporary Jazz is all about.” Simpson has toured with some of the greats of recent Jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum, Dave Koz and Gerald Albright. Brian has been the musical director for several all star Jazz events and international Jazz festivals. Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist was in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” The title track proved instantly and joyfully prophetic, as it hit #1 on the Radio & Records Smooth Jazz Airplay chart and remained in the Top 5 for four months. In 2007 Simpson released Above The Clouds, which delivered the memorable radio hits “What Cha Gonna Do?” (Top 10) and “Juicy” (Top 15). In 2010 Simpson released South Beach and the album’s title track snagged a #1 slot on the charts. Just What You Need followed in 2013 featuring the Antônio Carlos Jobim/ Vinicius de Moraes classic “The Girl From Ipanema” which hit #1 on the charts and “Emerald City,” a top 3 hit. 2015’s Out Of A Dream showcased the Top Ten single “Skywatcher,” and the album Persuasion followed in 2016, uniting Simpson with Peter White and Boney James. Something About You was released the following year highlighting the Top 5 single “Morning Samba.” Brian Simpson joined forces in 2021 with Steve Oliver for the dynamic collaboration Unified. The title track was a Top Ten hit at radio.

With the release of All That Matters, Brian Simpson concludes, “I have the greatest job in the world. I simply love the fact that there are people out there in the world getting good feelings from my music. I never take for granted how fortunate I am.” 


Double-Grammy-winning jazz pianist/composer Alan Broadbent (Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Pat Metheny) and multi-award-winning vocalist/lyricist Georgia Mancio (Kate Williams, ReVoice! Festival, Ian Shaw), cement their internationally acclaimed reputation as “one of the most formidable songwriting partnerships of the 21st century” (Jazz Views) with a new album, Quiet Is The Star, and the publication of The Songs Of Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio – a book of their 33 originals.

Quiet Is The Star spotlights the purity and parity of the duo setting, in nine co-written songs exploring the ties we weave in life: sisterly, maternal, romantic, universal. One voice, one piano, one dialogue. Georgia’s deeply nuanced singing (“sublime, clarity and poise personified, intimate yet dynamic”, Jazzwise) is embraced by Alan’s rhapsodic solo piano, indicating the breadth of his musicianship, from accompanist to Big Band/orchestral leader.

Recorded in late 2019, Quiet Is The Star follows their first album of originals, Songbook (2017) – described as “pure perfection” by JazzWax – and re-unites with producer Andrew Cleyndert and artist Simon Manfield, whose bespoke watercolours perfectly accompany the subtle variations of mood.

The deepening personal resonance in both the songwriting and performances is palpable as is the flow between them. Let Me Whisper To Your Heart, for instance, was inspired by a letter left to Georgia by her late mother; All My Life a tender dedication to her sister and When You’re Gone From Me, initially conceived by Alan at just 16 years old, now finally complete with this most poignant lyric, 55 years later.

Where there are silhouettes of associations lost (I Can See You Passing By, Night After Night), there are others waiting to be found (If My Heart Should Love Again, If I Think Of You). Even the touching Tell The River, dedicated to Sandra Bland (one of many Black Americans devastatingly killed by police authorities), is defiantly and gracefully countered by its message of peace and solidarity. And the elegiac title track, Quiet Is The Star, aptly reminds us of the fragility of human existence: “we’re only travelling, from first to last”.

Alan and Georgia began performing together in 2013, touring Europe and the US for six consecutive years in duo and quartet, with performances including world renowned jazz clubs in their respective home cities: Dizzy’s (Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York) and Ronnie Scott’s (London). In 2014, Alan invited Georgia to write a lyric for The Long Goodbye, his composition for Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. This became The Last Goodbye, immediately revealing their chemistry and the fortuitous start of their songwriting partnership.

They have now written 33 songs together, over these last seven years, published now in their new book: The Songs Of Alan Broadbent & Georgia Mancio. Available in both digital and physical formats (wire-bound to stay open!), this 94-page volume is presented with the elegance and expanse of an art book, with clear lead sheets (in standard female keys), Simon Manfield’s evocative artwork from both their albums (Songbook and Quiet Is The Star), photos and song by song descriptions.

From the profound poetry of ballads, waltzes and bossa novas to the linguistic and melodic joy and gymnastics of bop and samba; through journeys and resting places, childhood and old age, community and solitude: their collection displays an astonishing conviction and consistency, already praised and performed by artists Sheila Jordan, Janis Siegel, Tierney Sutton, Claire Martin, John Proulx, Judy Wexler and Norma Winstone.

Both album and book showcase the enduring strength and magic of this transatlantic team. Alan’s sophisticated melodies find their perfect match in Georgia’s superbly crafted lyrics of both beauty and bite, undeniably setting the new standards of the future: “surely worth waiting 50 years for” (Arts Desk).

Mandy Barnett Releases Tribute To Billie Holiday | "Every Star Above"

Celebrated torch singer Mandy Barnett, critically lauded as one of the most talented vocalists in contemporary music and often referred to as "the Judy Garland of our time," releases her 8th studio album, Every Star Above. Barnett makes her grand entrance into the world of The Great American Songbook in celebration of one of the most influential albums in history, Lady in Satin, by one of the most iconic artists of all time, Billie Holiday. Recorded with a 60-piece orchestra, Every Star Above delivers lush and sparkling selections from Holiday's personally curated 1958 "Satin" track list, as interpreted by Barnett and legendary jazz maestro and arranger Sammy Nestico (Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Bublé, Barbra Streisand), whose recent passing at age 96 distinguishes the album as his final work.

"Billie Holiday is among the artists I was introduced to as a young girl. And in my early twenties, Lady in Satin deeply affected me; it inspired me to become a torch singer," said Barnett. "Holiday was a fearless trailblazer whose unique vocals and phrasing on the album drip with the weight of her experiences, like she's lived the lyrics and felt the joys, the hardships, the love, and the loss - all of the ups-and-downs of life that great songs and great singers convey. Holiday revealed her heart and soul every time she sang, and she inspired me to do exactly that throughout my career."

Says Melody Place President, Fred Mollin, "Having the opportunity to make this album is a dream come true. Mandy was the perfect singer to take this on. Sammy was the perfect arranger to make it beyond the dream."

Recorded in the fall of 2019, Every Star Above was produced by Mollin (Johnny Mathis, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Webb) and engineered by Bill Schnee (Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Streisand).

Featuring classics such as "For All We Know," "The End of a Love Affair," "I'm a Fool to Want You," and "But Beautiful," all originally recorded by such icons as Sinatra, Margaret Whiting, and Dinah Washington, Every Star Above showcases the true range and depth of Barnett's sultry, silky voice. She delves into the songs with a keen interpretive sense, striking their emotional cores and rendering powerhouse performances through what the Los Angeles Times calls her "pipes of steel."

Called the "Nashville Sound Chanteuse" (Music Row) and "the Judy Garland of our time" (American Songwriter), Mandy Barnett has built a reputation for her commanding voice and unwavering devotion to classic country, R&B, and popular standards. Well known for originating the title role in one of the first "jukebox" musicals, "Always… Patsy Cline" at the legendary Ryman Auditorium, Barnett has enchanted listeners around the globe with her world-class vocals and musical chameleon qualities. A Tennessee Music Pathways historical marker in Barnett's Tennessee hometown honors her contributions in making Tennessee the "Soundtrack of America."  Barnett's music has been featured on motion picture and television soundtracks and compilation albums including the forthcoming Gershwin collection from Great American Songbook Ambassador, Michael Feinstein.  A frequent Grand Ole Opry guest, Barnett has performed at some of the most esteemed music venues in the U.S. and internationally.

Dan Siegel | "Faraway Place"

While the coronavirus wreaked havoc to a deadly extreme, the pandemic era with its heightened quarantine measures proved to swing a double-edge sword for musicians. Many were silenced, suffering the liability of limited-to-no opportunities to perform. But on the other hand, the disease aroused many to be creative in their artistic expression. Veteran contemporary jazz pianist and keyboardist Dan Siegel took that difficult challenge during the social distancing desert to remotely assemble a group to deliver his eclectic album Faraway Place on his DSM label. It’s comprised of 11 originals that range from straight-up lyrical beauties to accordion-tinged grooves, to a baroque-like number with strings and horns. Remarkably, this is Siegel’s 22nd recording as a leader.

“This is a different kind of album because of the pandemic,” says the Irvine, California-based composer and bandleader. “After writing the music in isolation, everything, with a few exceptions, was recorded separately by musicians in their home studios.” says Siegel. All of the tracks were demoed and developed rhythmically by drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd at East West Studios in LA. “Those were the only sessions that I was present at,” Siegel says. “They set the music into motion with their drums. Then I sent what they did to the musicians I wanted to use and asked them to lay their parts down. What they sent back was so musical and really well-played. It only required a few modifications. I also went into the studio to record piano, and I rented an accordion for four tunes. I used contrast on the arrangements. They started sparse but then built with layers in the mix, always keeping in mind the song underneath it all. The way I see it is that I’m a composer first and I perform piano second” says Siegel.

Also joining Siegel on the album are saxophonist Eric Marienthal, trumpeter/trombonist Lee Thornburg, guitarist Allen Hinds, acoustic bassist Brian Bromberg, electric bassists Abraham Laboriel and Dwyane “Smitty” Smith, percussionist Lenny Castro, and on two tracks Brazilian vocalist Rogerio Jardim. 

The recording of Faraway Place was arduous at stretches. The genesis of the title track speaks volumes on the omnipresent ordeal. “It was all about being in a faraway place removed from reality,” Siegel says. “It’s been a pretty tough year and a half. There were times when I thought about leaving planet earth to escape all the nonsense and craziness and then to top it off, the pandemic” says Siegel. The tune started out as an improvisation that he played into his recorder as he was walking. It opens on a reflective note then moves into a swing. He transcribed it and handed it off to Colaiuta. “Vinnie got the essence of the song on the first take. How did he know where this song was going? I was so moved. It was as if he knew this tune his entire life. I asked him about the details he played into the song and he said, ‘Sometimes the music tells me what to play.’ This is my favorite tune on the album. It’s so spontaneous” Siegel says.

Faraway Place is something of a trilogy. There are songs that are more accessible, Siegel says. The lead-off tune “Old School,” started out with a soulful Ramsey Lewis vibe twisted together with Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” hit that he made into a lyrical tune with his piano bathed in a horn wash. ”I went for a retro sound that takes left turns harmonically,” he says. His original concept for the catchy number “Tried and True” came from his love for Steely Dan. “I’d had been walking a lot and was listening to Steely Dan on Spotify,” he says noting that’s not recognizable in the tune that has its own beat and hooks. The grooved “Curves Ahead” speeds with a backbeat dance-floor spin that is nonetheless “a classic example of high-calories harmony.” He adds that Lenny Castro improvised a cowbell stroke on every quarter note to fully color the piece. “Looking Up” has an indelible melody that accentuates a degree of happiness in life.

The second part of the album has a more straight-ahead jazz tone, similar to his past recordings. “These tunes started out ECM-like with more of a groove,” he says, then cites four songs: the organ-fueled “Tried and True,” the accordion-tinted “Something You Said,” the sweet “Bluebird” with Jardim taking a soaring flight of wordless vocals, and the end song, “Once Again,” that moves from relaxed percussion to playful piano runs. 

The third tier of the trilogy features two songs that bring a unique vitality to Faraway Place—something that Siegel admits won’t be commercial radio-friendly but certainly may turn heads and opens ears. “Some Time Ago” is supported by Hinds’ strummed guitar and Siegel’s accordion flavors that fully opens with a hymn choir (Siegel, Hinds and Tom McCauley). “It certainly is an out-there tune like a chapter in a book of poetry,” Siegel says. “Your Smile” was an unnamed composition that Siegel was struggling to complete. “Originally it sounded like Vivaldi,” he says. “It was piano, guitar and bass with every bar and every beat different. It was hard to play with its shifting tonalities. But then my engineer reminded me that I had been thinking of orchestrating the tune.” Siegel wrote parts for strings (violin and cello) and horns (English horn and bassoon). Then Jardim added in wordless vocals. The baroque quality of the performance makes it a wonderful standout. “I titled it ‘Your Smile’ based on Rogerio’s voice reminding me of someone smiling when the sun comes out.” Siegel says.

With all the distractions and isolation, Dan Siegel acknowledges that Faraway Place was difficult to finish. “I questioned myself, yet I felt a burden of the times. I kept writing, working on music from different angles, creating what I didn’t even know what it was. But I knew I needed to get this music out, even with those tunes that come from left field. I got through it all, even though it wasn’t easy, and I’m pleased with what we came up with.” Siegel says.

Renee Rosnes | "Kinds of Love"

This strange last year has been a time of reflection and contemplation for many of us, cut off from the people and the things that we love. Pianist and composer Renee Rosnes has emerged with a reinvigorated appreciation for the many different shapes that love can take. Her breathtaking new recording, Kinds of Love, is both a celebration of and a meditation on the myriad forms it’s taken in her own life – romantic love, love of family, of nature, of the arts and of close relationships she’s forged with many of her fellow musicians (including the critically acclaimed ARTEMIS, the international all-star group of which Rosnes serves as musical director).

Due out September 3 via Smoke Sessions Records, Kinds of Love is in itself a manifestation of a few of those ideas. The staggering all-star quintet that Rosnes assembled for the occasion – saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Carl Allen, and percussionist Rogério Boccato – represent a deep web of friendships and collaborations stretching back decades in some cases. And for many of them, the recording date marked one of their first times back in a studio after the long dry spell of 2020. Rosnes seized the opportunity to craft a full album’s worth of new compositions, conceived with these particular voices, and their singular combination, in mind.

“I’ve tried to look at the pandemic as a gift of time, and the knowledge that I would soon be recording with my friends inspired much of the music,” Rosnes says. “It was thrilling to experience the humanity of making music again in the moment. Each of these musicians are profound, humble virtuosos and, on a human level, enlightened spirits.”

For Rosnes, Potter and McBride, Kinds of Love is a reunion of sorts; the three last recorded together on Rosnes’ acclaimed 1997 Blue Note release As We Are Now. The new album marks Potter’s fifth recording with Rosnes, including 1995’s Ancestors, Life on Earth (2002), and the 2018 Smoke Sessions release Beloved of the Sky. While she’s performed with Allen many times over the years, she was thrilled to have him join her on this project. Boccato is the pianist’s most recent acquaintance, a meeting facilitated by their shared experience with the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene.

“We are longtime friends who share a lot of history and camaraderie,” Rosnes says. “Having an unusual amount of quietude to work kept me creatively motivated during the past year. As I composed, I thought about each musician’s essence, and was truly inspired by all the possibilities.”

The love of family and the finer things are showcased on the album’s vibrant cover photo. Rosnes is seated on a raffia-upholstered club chair created by her nephew Aaron Aujla, the celebrated designer and co- founder of Green River Project. She’s also wearing a one-of-a-kind garment made from antique textiles, created by the award-winning Menswear designer and founder of BODE, Emily Adams Bode, who is Aaron’s fiancée.

The respect and love that these five musicians feel for one another and for the act of making music together is abundantly, joyously clear throughout Kinds of Love; just witness the boisterous groove laid down by McBride, Allen and Boccato on the fervid opener, “Silk,” or the playful back-and-forth between Rosnes and Potter on “The Golden Triangle.” The latter was named in honor of the Village Vanguard, whose iconic stage has seen its fair share of such vivid interplay.

“Silk” is a dedication to the pianist and composer Donald Brown, with whom Allen worked for a number of years. Rosnes’ longstanding fondness for Brown’s work is evident in the fact that she recorded his piece “Playground for the Birds” on her 1990 self-titled leader debut. “Donald’s music is extremely lyrical and harmonically complex but at the heart of it is always the dance of the drums,” Rosnes points out. “Carl, Christian and Rogério’s hookup drove the band from beginning to end.”

But fittingly given the album’s title, that infectious exuberance is far from the only mood explored on this rich album. The past year has also brought troubling aspects of modern life into stark relief, and Rosnes has spent her fair share of time pondering those unresolved issues. The fact that many of them are deeply rooted in people’s inability to recognize, honor or respect other kinds of love influenced her as well.

The title track aches with a fragile beauty illuminated by Allen’s cloud-like brushes and Boccato’s shimmering percussive touches; “Evermore,” which began as an improvisation on a Bach Sarabande, is an elegiac, graceful ballad as intimate as a silent prayer.

Passionately introduced by Boccato’s deft percussion, “Life Does Not Wait (A Vida Não Espera)” ponders the fleeting nature of life with an elegant pas de deux between Rosnes’ piano and Potter’s flute. And “Blessings in a Year of Exile” tenderly expresses the gratitude for what we have in light of the things so many have lost.

Love of nature has been a key element in much of Rosnes’ music, and the pandemic afforded her the opportunity to reaffirm her reverence for the flora and fauna surrounding her home. “In Time Like Air” is one result, inspired by the song of a persistent yet stubbornly unidentifiable bird that became a frequent visitor to her backyard. The Brazilian-hued piece also marks the first time that Rosnes has recorded on Fender Rhodes and on vocals, as she intones the wordless melody with Boccato.

“Passing Jupiter” moves from the earthbound to the cosmic, launching off from a phrase that Lester Young played on his 1957 Newport Jazz Festival performance of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” The celebratory mood returns on “Swoop,” with musical ideas bandied back and forth between the players like a bouncing ball. “It was a great feeling to be able to make music in the moment again,” describes Rosnes. “I think this recording reflects an explosion of creativity. You can feel the energy of our connectedness, and I think maybe there was an extra spark of love in the music too.” 

Kenny Garrett | "Sounds from the Ancestors"

Kenny Garrett’s latest release, Sounds from the Ancestors, is a multi-faceted album. The music, however, doesn’t lodge inside the tight confines of the jazz idiom, which is not surprising considering the alto saxophonist and composer acknowledges the likes of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye as significant touchstones. Similar to how Miles Davis’ seminal LP, On the Corner, subverted its main guiding lights – James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone – then crafted its own unique, polyrhythmic, groove-laden, improv-heavy universe, Sounds from the Ancestors occupies its own space with intellectual clarity, sonic ingenuity and emotional heft. 

“Sounds from the Ancestors examines the roots of West African music in the framework of jazz, gospel, Motown, hip-hop, and all other genres that have descended from jùjú and Yoruban music,” explains Garrett. “It’s crucial to acknowledge the ancestral roots in the sounds we’ve inhabited under the aesthetics of Western music.” 

Indeed, Sounds from the Ancestors reflects the rich jazz, R&B and gospel history of his hometown of Detroit. More important though, it also reverberates with a modern cosmopolitan vibrancy – notably the inclusion of music coming out of France, Cuba, Nigeria and Guadeloupe. 

“The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up – sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, ‘A Love Supreme;’ Aretha Franklin, ‘Amazing Grace;’ Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On;’ and the spiritual side of the church,” Garrett explains. “When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.” 

The core ensemble for Sounds from the Ancestors consists of musicians that Garrett has recorded and toured with in recent past – pianist Vernell Brown, Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner and percussionist Rudy Bird. The album also features guest appearances from drummer Lenny White, pianist and organist Johnny Mercier, trumpeter Maurice Brown, conguero Pedrito Martinez, batá percussionist Dreiser Durruthy and singers Dwight Trible, Jean Baylor, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony and Sheherazade Holman. And on a couple of cuts, Garrett extends his instrumental palette by playing piano and singing. 

“It’s Time to Come Home,” a sauntering yet evocative Afro-Cuban modern jazz original, kicks off the album. Garrett’s melodic passages, marked by capricious turns and pecking accents, signals a “call to action” for kids around the world to come home after playing outside all day. While Garrett originally composed the song in 2019, this incarnation reflects his experiences playing with iconic Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés. 

Garrett then pays tribute to the late, great trumpeter and composer Roy Hargrove with the dynamic “Hargrove,” a bracing original that evokes the namesake’s mastery of reconciling hard-bop’s intricate harmonic and interactive verve with late-20th century hypnotic R&B grooves and hip-hop bounce. The song also slyly references John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which accentuates both the earthy and spiritual nature of Hargrove’s music and Garrett’s saxophone virtuosity. “What I respected about [Hargrove] is that he was borrowing from all the different genres, different experiences and bringing it to the table,” Garrett says. “And that's what I did on this track.” 

Traces of the Black American church also surge through “When the Days Were Different,” a warm mid-tempo original with a melody that faintly recalls Sounds of Blackness’ 1991 gospel classic, “Optimistic.” “The idea was to take it back to the church,” Garrett explains. “[The song] reminds me of being at a gathering with family and friends having a good time eating, drinking and spending quality time together.” 

On the rhythmically intrepid “For Art’s Sake,” Garrett pays homage to two legendary drummers – Art Blakey and Tony Allen. Bruner concocts a stuttering rhythm that alludes to both modern jazz and Nigerian Afrobeat, while Bird adds polyrhythmic fire with his circular conga patterns. On top, Garrett issues one of his patented searing melodies that twists and swirls as the propulsion slowly gains momentum. 

Drums and percussion are again highlighted vividly on the swift “What Was That?” and “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs.” The former finds Garrett in quintessential form as he navigates through a thicket of torrential polyrhythms and a jolting harmonic bed with the steely determination and dexterity associated with Coltrane and Jackie McLean. The latter is a magnificent two-part masterpiece that integrates martial beats, Guadeloupean rhythms and a haunting cyclical motif on which Garrett crafts pirouetting improvisations that dazzle with their initial lithe grace and increasing urgent wails. Garrett explains that “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs” is a tribute to the legion of jazz musicians who fought to keep the music alive. “They’re the first ones to get hit and shot at in the line of fire on the fields of justice. ‘Soldats des Champs’ is also a tribute to the Haitian soldiers who fought against the French during the Haitian Revolution.”  

The leader’s love for Afro-Cuban jazz returns on the dramatic title track, which begins with Garrett playing a slow melancholy melody on the piano before the music gives way to a soul-stirring excursion, filled with passionate vocal cries from Trible and moving Yoruban lyrics from Pedrito, paying respect to Orunmila, the deity of wisdom. “[The song] is about remembering the spirit of the sounds of our ancestors – the sounds from their church services, the prayers they recited, the songs they sang in the fields, the African drums that they played and the Yoruban chants,” Garrett says. The album closes as it opened with “It’s Time to Come Home;” this time Garrett uses his saxophone as a rhythmic instrument to have a conversation with the percussionist without the vocal accompaniment. 

With his illustrious career that includes hallmark stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as well as a heralded career as a solo artist that began more than 30 years ago, Garrett is easily recognized as one of modern jazz’s brightest and most influential living masters. And with the marvelous Sounds from the Ancestors, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Garrett shows no signs of resting on his laurels.

Alice Coltrane "Kirtan: Turiya Sings"

Alice Coltrane is the undeniable godmother of spiritual jazz and an acknowledged influence on everyone from Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington to Solange and Radiohead. 

Kirtan: Turiya Sings features Alice Coltrane at peak spirituality and is presented in this arrangement for the first time in any format. Turyia Sings was originally released in 1982 on cassette as a collection of devotional songs including vocals, organ, strings, and synthesizers available only at Alice’s Sai Anantam Ashram. Kirtan: Turiya Sings features a sparser arrangement of organ and chanting, produced by Ravi Coltrane.This is intentional, devotional music created with the purpose of connecting to a higher power. The pared back arrangements on this new release are enchantingly haunting and encourage the listener to reach a meditative headspace so as to channel connectiveness to a greater spirit.

The perfect introduction to Alice Coltrane for listeners interested in music for mediation and personal wellness.

“Turiya” is short for Alice’s full Sanskrit name Turiyasangitananda. “Kirtan” means “narrating, reciting, telling, describing, of an idea of story”.


“I’m incredibly lucky to spend my time doing something that I love. When you are doing things that you enjoy, it is easy to spread those good vibes around,” shares Jeff Lorber. The down to earth and humble trailblazing Grammy-winning pianist, composer and producer has built an impressive four-decade career, transcending musical boundaries and honing his own uniquely identifiable sound. A groundbreaking Fender Rhodes pioneer along with Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Bob James, Lorber is also one of the most in-demand producers in Contemporary Jazz. Maintaining a busy schedule during the pandemic this past year, Lorber worked on projects with Herb Alpert, Richard Elliot, Norman Brown and Alexander Zonjic, just to name a few. “While working on all of these projects,” explains Jeff, “I was sending my manager Bud Harner stuff that I was writing and he was particularly enthusiastic when I sent him my now new single “Back Room” in demo form. His reaction really inspired me to want to focus on making my own record.” July 2, 2021 Jeff Lorber continues to affirm why he is a magnetic force of nature with the release of the anticipated Space-Time. In selecting an album title, Jeff Lorber alludes to his affinity for science and physics. With all the recent chatter about Government confirmed UFO sightings and potential extra terrestrial life, Lorber muses, “If there are aliens, they are probably watching I Love Lucy right now and maybe jamming to early Miles Davis and John Coltrane or listening to some Sun Ra!”

Space-Time is a supersonic odyssey with longtime Jeff Lorber Fusion trio-mates drummer Gary Novak (who has worked with everyone from George Benson to Chick Corea) and bassist/Yellowjackets founding member Jimmy Haslip. “I first met Jimmy and we worked together in the early 80s but we really started working closely in 2010 after a tour we did together in Russia,” recalls Lorber. “He’s a good partner to have and he keeps the big picture in mind, when I sometimes tend to be more detail oriented about things. Gary became part of the core rhythm section around 2010. He’s a good friend and good hang. We have a lot of fun together besides making music.” The album also enlists some help from flutist Hubert Laws, guitarists Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Landau and Robben Ford, saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Dave Mann, Gary Meek and Gerald Albright (who actually plays electric bass on a track). Space-Time showcases new and original material including a track that was penned for Jeff’s friend and towering piano giant Chick Corea, shortly after his passing. 

Jeff Lorber Fusion maps out all of the celestial coordinates on Space-Time, offering a wondrous galaxy of sonic delight.  Lorber and company manage to create a sound and feel throughout the album that captures the essence and vibe of a live show. “All the musicians are experienced studio musicians and that’s something that studio players always aim for. The idea is to make it sound natural, grooving and relaxed and to capture the sound of playing for a live audience even though the audience isn’t physically there.” While most of the band completed the album from their own remote studio locations, Lorber and Gary Novak did have the opportunity to record together in the same studio. “Over the last number of years most of us have gotten used to tracking at home,” explains Jeff. “So from that standpoint it wasn’t that different from a normal record. One thing that was different, however was the absence of live touring, I was able to really focus on the record and this album benefitted positively from that.”

In 2018, Jeff Lorber Fusion scored their first Grammy win with the recording Prototype. Lorber reflects, “Winning a Grammy was a thrill, especially after not winning after the last six nominations. It felt very different to hear my name rather than somebody else’s after ‘the winner is…!” Jeff Lorber Fusion came to life in the 70s when the pianist attended Berklee College of Music. A true clinician, Lorber has made it a point to study the long line of modern jazz pianists since 1945. “Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea have been major influences but I had to go back and try to figure out who they listened to and were inspired by,” says Lorber. “Some of these icons that come to mind are Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Bud Powell.” He adds, “I also can’t forget all of the pianists who played with Miles Davis such as Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan and Horace Silver.” Growing up in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania offered great inspiration for Jeff Lorber. “There were a lot of home grown record labels like Cameo Parkway and Philadelphia International (Gamble and Huff) not to mention tons of home grown talent and the Dick Clark show originated from there too.” 

In 1977 Jeff Lorber Fusion released their self-titled debut. Their 1980 album Wizard Island made the introduction of a then little known Kenny G. The ensemble quickly gained traction and became one of the most popular jazz acts, touring nonstop. In 1982 Lorber made his solo debut with It’s A Fact. He scored his first Grammy nomination in 1985 for his radio hit “Pacific Coast Highway” from his album Step By Step. In the 90s Lorber released a successful string of projects including West Side Stories (1994), State of Grace (1996) and Midnight (1998). During this time Lorber also stayed busy producing Michael Franks, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright and Rick Braun, among others. The prolific pianist continued to add to his accolades with his shining recordings Kickin’ It (2001), Philly Style (2003), Flipside (2005), He Had A Hat (2007, Grammy nominated) and Heard That (2008), Now Is The Time (2010, Grammy nominated), Galaxy (2012, Grammy nominated) Hacienda (2013, Grammy nominated) and Step It Up (2015). Lorber made his first recordings for Shanachie as a member of Jazz Funk Soul with the late revered guitarist Chuck Loeb and saxophonist Everette Harp on the albums Jazz Funk Soul and the Grammy nominated More Serious Business. 

Jeff Lorber has endured his own battle with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and has made it a mission to work with the PKD Foundation to raise awareness. “I was very lucky that my wife donated her kidney,” shares the pianist. “I’m very grateful for that. My sister had a transplant a couple years ago and she is doing well also. There are some solutions that are being worked on but like many genetic based diseases it could be a long time before there is significant progress. People should know that there are 800,000 people in the US with PKD and two million worldwide. It’s a huge problem that unfortunately doesn’t get a lot of publicity.” 

With the release of Space-Time, Jeff Lorber continues to demonstrate that his inspiration to push his music forward is as energized as it ever was. He concludes, “Just being alive at this time with everything that’s going on and all of the developments in music technology, keeps me busy and on my toes!”


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