Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Kenny G | "New Standards"

World-renowned and Grammy-Award winning saxophonist Kenny G, will release his first new album in six-years titled New Standards.  Out December 3rd through Concord Records (with 2-LP set for release on February 11, 2022) the 11-song collection of original compositions takes inspiration from the Jazz Ballads of the 50’s and 60’s.  

“For this album, I wanted to try to recreate those ‘sounds’ but do it my own way, which for me meant that I would have to compose the songs myself. So I set out to compose and perform songs that capture the ‘heart and soul’ of those beloved Jazz Standards and to record them “my way”. It was a wonderful (and painstaking) labor of love and I’m super proud of the end result.”

In support of New Standards, Kenny will return to the road beginning December 2nd with his upcoming “The Miracles Holiday & Hits Tour 2021,” which will open in Waukegan, IL at the Genesee Theatre. Promising to bring Kenny’s signature brand of jazz to the live stage, the multi-city trek will hit a number of major US markets including Nashville, St. Louis, Detroit, and Boston.  

HBO will release the documentary LISTENING TO KENNY G in early December as part of the Music Box series created by Bill Simmons.

Pedway | "Vitalic"

Pedway is a freely improvising alto saxophone, bass, and drums trio featuring Caroline Davis, Matthew Golombisky, and Quin Kirchner. Born in Chicago in 2006 out of a collective love of creating new music in the moment, Pedway explores grooves, varying time signatures, and tonalities completely improvised, but always striving to create a song/tune-like aurora of the piece. Often one or two members start playing while the others follow suit, all while serving the direction of the music.

Caroline, Matthew, and Quin have a long history of playing with one another in various groups, such as Golombisky’s large chamber ensemble, Tomorrow Music Orchestra, electric “punk jazz” collaborative, Zing!, and various ensembles in Chicago. 

The stage was set when Matthew moved to New Orleans after finishing his undergraduate in North Carolina. There, in 2001, he met Quin and the two became inseparable, forming several groups of original music and exploring new ideas, including their freely improvised quartet, QMRplus (who played a week’s worth of shows in Chicago just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina). After Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, both decided to complete studies elsewhere. Matthew transferred to Northwestern in Chicago, finishing a Masters Degree in Composition, and Quin headed to Manhattan School of Music. During Matthew’s time at Northwestern, though studying “classical music composition”, he was curious about what the jazz program was like and spied on the Friday afternoon jam session. The cats were great, but one person that immediately caught his ear and had him saying, “I have GOT to play with her!” was Caroline Davis’ playing. He approached Caroline after the session and they learned they had a similar love of the free/improvised music scene in Chicago, mentioning Tim Daisy, Ken Vandermark,  and Dave Rempis. Caroline and Matthew immediately began playing in a couple of ensembles together. 

When Quin returned to his hometown of Chicago, more specifically Oak Park, the three started playing in Tomorrow Music Orchestra and Zing!. Later in 2006, they decided to start a brand new project that didn’t require charts, rehearsals, or limitations on what could enter the stage at any given moment. Pedway was born. 

Pedway released an EP, Jar Cell Dirge in 2006; a full-length album, recorded live, Subventure in 2008; and a studio album Passion Ball in 2013. This current record, Vitalic, is set to be released November 2nd, 2021 in digital and vinyl formats. Recorded live in Chicago in two prominent venues in 2017 (The Whistler and Cafe Mustache), the improvised pieces on the album blend their lively raucous sounds, alongside melodic sways and pop-like repeating chordal patterns. Chicago’s live-music recording icon, Dave Zuchowski (Ken Vandermark, Tim Daisy, Dave Rempis, Carol Genetti, Nick Mazzarella), recorded Vitalic with studio-like quality.

G'emma | "Types Of Water"

With the Berlin-based singer G‘emma, a true star is shining in the German soul sky. Just last fall, Emilie Nguimba began studying jazz singing at the Osnabrück University. However, the singer, pianist and producer has been following her own musical path since her earliest childhood when she started taking guitar, piano and vocal lessons. At the age of 15, she finally wrote her first compositions and by 2019 her first single («Roundabout») with accompanying video was released.

In the same year, G‘emma moved to Freiburg, where she met the two producers and musicians Quintin Copper and Dowakee, who soon come to her aid. One produces her second single «Comfort Zone», the other introduces her to his record label Sonar Kollektiv.

«Types Of Water», recorded between Freiburg and Tübingen together with Quintin Copper and Dowakee, has a very direct reference to current hip-hop and neo-soul. Hence G‘emma counts Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse among her most important musical influences. The six tracks of the EP are so different and varied that every facet of the G‘emma musical universe comes to bear.

During the Corona summer of 2020, G‘emma often played mini-concerts in the gardens of friends and acquaintances in Freiburg to alleviate their longing for live music. «Types Of Water» makes this intimate feeling accessible to a wider audience. Most probably you will see G‘emma on much bigger stages very soon anyway because Germany has been waiting for such a voice for a long time!

Benny Barksdale, Jr. | "the Heart & Soul of Benny Barksdale, Jr."

Benny Barksdale, Jr. began his love affair with the saxophone in his native Baltimore, Maryland - studying music since he was a young lad, prompted by his drummer father. He advanced from his Douglas High School band to various groups in the area, eventually forming his own band, which was put on hold when he enlisted in the US Army. Upon his return home from a tour of duty in Vietnam, he was enlisted by Philly soul icons The Dells, which led to extensive studio work as his reputation as a gifted, reliable sax man grew. Over the years he has performed with the late Grover Washington, Jr., Evelyn "Champagne" King, Gloria Gaynor, Phyllis Hyman, jazz organist Jimmy McGriff, The Crests, The Manhattans, Gary U.S. Bonds and others. His association with the renowned "Chops Horns" led him to tour with Alicia Keys, leading to his appearance on the 2002 Grammy Awards Show and his inclusion on Alicia Keys' hit album, Songs In A Minor - Collector's Edition, released in 2011. 

Now a resident of New Jersey, he has frequently worked on legendary Philly Soul producer Butch Ingram's recording sessions which led to Benny being featured on many Society Hill sessions and his own full length Christmas album, plus a live archival release featuring Grover Washington, Jr. Benny has recently penned a tune that is close to his heart, inspired by his love for his wife Fran and her unwavering support of his musical endeavors. The resulting track, "Fran's Theme," is a lush romantic ballad that is mostly instrumental with a few vocal flourishes provided by Benny with background vocals supplied by the impeccable Ingram Brothers. With legendary Philly Soul producer Butch Ingram at the helm and Benny's saxophone front and center, instrumental backing is provided by the Ingram Brothers band with added guests Gary Nelson on guitar and Charles "Clef" Lundy on keyboards. As Benny says: "This is a song dedicated to my wife, Fran, who has been behind me in fulfilling all of my musical ambitions. 

John Armato | "The Drummer Loves Ballads" w/Houston Person

Legendary jazz cornetist Warren Vaché and tenor soul master Houston Person are grand marshals of a parade of guest artists appearing on John Armato's debut album, "The Drummer Loves Ballads." They are featured in a duet on the classic "Don't Worry 'bout Me" by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler.

The pair is known for their duets. Person appeared on Vaché's "Horn of Plenty" (Muse, 1993) and Vaché returned the favor on Person's "So Nice" (HighNote, 2011) and "Rain or Shine" (HighNote, 2017).

With more than 75 albums as leader and countless more as sideman, Person has come to define the term "soul jazz" with his lush, spare and heartfelt approach to the tenor saxophone. With nearly three dozen dates as leader and innumerable more as sideman, Vaché is a supremely accomplished and versatile cornet (and trumpet and flugelhorn) artist consistently in demand for his burnished tone, lyrical style, and intelligent improvisations.

"A highlight of my years in New York was the many Sundays tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred invited me to sit in at his jazz brunch at Café Loup," said Armato. "Occasionally he called me for other gigs, including a couple with Warren, which made me swoon. I hadn't worked with Houston before, but the night I heard him live at the Iridium was like sitting in front of a warm fireplace on a cold evening. When I decided to record "Don't Worry 'bout Me," I immediately thought of them both."

A decade had passed since those experiences, though, so Armato asked his friend, the singer Anne Phillips, former wife of the late Bob Kindred, if she could help connect the dots to Houston and Warren. She said yes. "And lucky for jazz fans everywhere, so did they," said Armato.

"The Drummer Loves Ballads" was designed to be a new soundtrack for lazy Sunday afternoons, romantic evenings, and melancholy midnights, but it plays like a long-lost jazz favorite. Ballads define the playlist but vary in style and mood, ranging from intimate quartet settings to sweeping orchestral arrangements (by Paul Roberts).

Other featured artists include German jazz violist Steffen Drabek; vocalists Ron Gutierrez, Lisa Henry, Lucy Wijnands, and the late Molly Hammer; woodwind artists Brett Jackson, Doug Talley and Lynn Zimmer; and the late Jeff Lisenby on accordion. Vaché also does a solo turn on the album's opener, "Dreamsville," by Henry Mancini.

The album was produced by John Cushon with primary recording by Justin Wilson (Pete Milrose handled the console for the Person/Vaché session), mixing by Howie Lindeman, and mastering by Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound. It features Armato on drums with Wayne Hawkins on piano, Gerald Spaits on bass, and Rod Fleeman on guitar.

"The Drummer Loves Ballads" is available at the album website, Amazon, and major music platforms.

Grover Washington Jr. | "In The Name Of Love – The Elektra Years 1979 to 1984"

A great run of music from Grover Washington Jr – five full albums, plus lots of bonus tracks too! First up is Paradise – one of those records you see so much it's easy to forget how great it is! Grover's a real genius with the sax on this record – taking a "less is more" cue from Stanley Turrentine's 70s work, and toning down his playing to an even tighter style than on the Kudu albums of earlier years, to a level of ultimate economy that really leaves us breathless. Grover hits a rarified level here that we'd only reserve for a small few – like Steely Dan or The Crusaders, both groups who teeter on the same brink, and make it work perfectly. Titles include "Asia's Theme", "Tell Me About It Now", "Feel It Comin", "Icey", and "The Answer In Your Eyes". 

Winelight is a smooth smooth classic from Grover Washington Jr – a set that has a classy image on the cover, and a classic groove within – a completely sublime blend of jazz, soul, and funk, all given the sort of masterful finish that you might have found on the best records by The Crusaders at the time! The difference, though, is that Washington's the lead soloist throughout – crafting some especially nice lines on his trademark soprano sax – which he used in ways that made him one of the most important mainstream jazz artists of his time – and one of the few to really open the doors of the music to folks who might not have been listening otherwise. Grover's sense of space and timing is wonderful throughout – and titles include the classic debut with Bill Withers on "Just The Two Of Us" –plus "Winelight", "Let It Flow", "In The Name Of Love", "Take Me There", and "Make Me A Memory (Sad Samba)". 

On Come Morning, Grover Washington blows over some great arrangements from William Eaton – full, but lean too – and with the same sort of slinky groove that always worked best for Grover back at Kudu Records! The sound is tight, but never too slick – that magically soulful approach that always made Grover a real standout from his contemporaries – one of the few cats who could smooth out jazz without ever losing its soul – thanks to lots of well-crafted lead lines on soprano sax! Titles include "East River Drive", "Jamming", "Little Black Samba", "Be Mine", and "Reaching Out". 

Best Is Yet To Come is a set that strongly continues the special spirit that Grover Washington brought to his music during the Elektra Records years – as one of the few artists who really found a way to move forward from the style of 70s jazz funk, but not fall into some of the smoother jazz cliches that were about to envelop his contemporaries! Part of the strength of the record lies in Grover's strongly soul-based sense of timing – allowing for just the right amount of space between the notes to remind you that you're listening to a jazz soloist first and foremost, even when a guest like Patti Labelle might step in for a bit of vocals. Titles include "Brazilian Memories", "Mixty Motions", "Can You Dig It", "I'll Be With You", "Things Are Getting Better", and "The Best Is Yet To Come". 

Inside Moves has Washington soaring to the skies on soprano sax – as expressive a voice on the record as any soul singer might be – and maybe even more so on the few spots that do include vocals. Jon Lucien sings a bit on the record – and if you read these pages, you know how much we love him – but Grover's still the giant here, with a sense of timing and phrasing that few of his contemporaries could ever hope to match in a setting like this. Titles include "Jet Stream", "Sassy Stew", "Dawn Song", "Inside Moves", "Watching You Watching Me", and "Secret Stew". 5CD set features 19 more bonus tracks – all the single edits of songs from the albums!  ~ Dusty Groove

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

New Music Releases: Gary Meek, Manfredo Fest, Dave McMurray, James Francies

Gary Meek - Monterey Groove

With opportunities for live performance and studio work suddenly non-existent due to the pandemic, saxophonist/keyboardist Gary Meek decided to introduce the world to his stellar new band while revisiting a number of original compositions from his rich catalog. The project soon grew beyond his core quartet, which features  guitarist/producer Michael Lent (Barry Manilow, Jeffrey Osborne). along with bassist Robert Wider and drummer Skylar Campbell. With the album by necessity being recorded remotely, opportunities arose for guest appearances by some of Meek’s long-term collaborators, including drummer Dave Weckl, vocalist Flora Purim and percussionist Airto Moreira. The result is the vibrant Monterey Groove, a stunning set of modern fusion that both celebrates the musicianship to be discovered in the Northern California beachside community and draws inspiration from the area’s natural beauty and welcoming population. The album, via Autumn Hill Records, includes tunes from throughout Meek’s 30-year career as a leader, along with songs written to showcase collaborators new and old.

Manfredo Fest - Brazilian Dorian Dream

Manfredo Fest's 1976 turbo-powered, intergalactic elevator ride returns! Legally blind from birth, Brazilian keyboard player, composer and bandleader learnt to read music in braille and began studying classical music at a young age. By 17 Fest had fallen in love with jazz before becoming swept up in Rio’s emergent bossa nova movement in the sixties. Moving to the States in 1967 where he would go on to work with fellow countryman Sergio Mendes, Fest recorded and self-released Brazilian Dorian Dream in 1976, enlisting Thomas Kini (bass), Alejo Poveda (drums, percussion) and Roberta Davis (vocals). 

Dave McMurray - Grateful Deadication

Saxophonist Dave McMurray’s new album Grateful Deadication takes his gritty, soulful Detroit sound and reimagines the songs of the Grateful Dead with an album as vibrant as it is unexpected. McMurray talks about the new album on the latest episode of “First Look” with Don Was. Watch the video for a transcendent version of “Loser” featuring Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir alongside Bettye LaVette and Weir’s Wolf Bros bandmates Was, Jay Lane, Jeff Chimenti, and Greg Leisz. McMurray will be touring across the U.S. over the coming months, visit davemcmurray.com to see where he’ll be.

James Francies - Purest Form

James Francies has released his 2nd Blue Note album Purest Form, an expansive opus which finds the pianist, producer, and composer accessing intimate chambers of his artistry across 14 tracks that interpret love, grief, frailty, and fortitude. The album’s core trio of Francies, bassist Burniss Travis, and drummer Jeremy Dutton are joined throughout by alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, guitarist Mike Moreno, and vocalists Elliott Skinner, Peyton, and Bilal. Watch Francies discuss Purest Form on the latest episode of “First Look” with Don Was.

New Music Releases: Ben Lamar Gay, Boom.Diwan feat. Nduzuzo Makhathini, Roscoe Mitchell, Louis Hayes

Ben Lamar Gay - Open Arms To Open Us

Ben Lamar Gay might well be one of the most creatively intense artists on the International Anthem label – and that's saying a lot, given all of the groundbreaking talents who've come to record for the company in recent years! And while Ben's previous record was completely mindblowing, this set really pushes things over the top – and has the artist at the helm of a large assemblage of musicians who provide all these different sonic elements to augment the intensity of his vision – as the leader handles cornet, organ, and a host of other instruments – while singing on most cuts, but in a way that's majestic and very much his own – neither soul, nor jazz – at least in familiar ways. The lineup features voices of many others – and instrumentation that includes Tomeka Reid on cello, Matthew Davis on trombone, Johanna Brock on viola, and Rob Frye on flute – mixed with spoken and sung passages from a number of others, including Angel Bat Dawid. Incredibly beautiful throughout – with titles that include "Hood Rich Happy", "I Once Carried A Blossom", "Slightly Before The Dawn", "Be Loving Me Some Of You", "We Gon Win", "S'Phisticated Lady", "In Tongues & Droves", and "Touch Don't Scroll". ~ Dusty Groove

Boom.Diwan feat. Nduzuzo Makhathini - Minarets

Led by Abu Dhabi-based musician/applied-ethnomusicologist Ghazi Al-Mulaifi, Boom.Diwan is a collaborative jazz ensemble  inspired by the cosmopolitan Kuwaiti pearl diving music of the Indian Ocean trade. Commissioned, premiered, and mixed as a virtual performance by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi for the 2021 Barzakh festival, Minarets is the result of a collaboration between Boom.Diwan and featured pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (Blue Note). A three-movement suite, the record is the outcome of a series of intimate, trusting, and vulnerable conversations between Ghazi Al-Mulaifi and Nduduzo Makathini.

Roscoe Mitchell - Dots: Pieces For Percussion & Woodwinds

A really great blend of two different sides of the genius Roscoe Mitchell – his ear for composition, and his strong legacy of solo performance too! The "Pieces" in the title of the set might make you think that Roscoe is delivering one of his ensemble creations from more recent years – but the performance on the record is very much a step back to his early work on the late 60s and 70s – those moments when Mitchell was often at his best exploring sonic space on his own – as he does here on a variety of woodwind and percussion instruments, used in varying ways throughout the recording! Titles include "Glide & Run", "Skip", "Hey", "Light Green", "Vast Horizons", "Let's Go There", "Moving Bell", "Click", and "Now The Color Blue". ~ Dusty Groove

Louis Hayes - Crisis

The great Louis Hayes has been giving us incredible records for decades – and this recent set still has the drummer very much at the top of his game – working with a soulful conception that few folks can match, and really getting the best out of the wonderful group he's got on the set! The lineup is fantastic – Steve Nelson on vibes, Abraham Burton on tenor, David Hazeltine on piano, and Dezron Douglas on bass – all artists we love in other settings, but who seem to sparkle even more strongly here under the guidance of Hayes! Camille Thurman sings on two cuts – "Where Are You" and "I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over" – but the real strength of the album comes from the many instrumental tracks, on titles that include "Crisis", "Arab Arab", "Desert Moonlight", "Creeping Crud", "Roses Poses", and "Oxygen". ~ Dusty Groove

Ilmiliekki Quartet | "Ilmiliekki Quartet"

Ilmiliekki Quartet from Helsinki return with their new self-titled album on We Jazz Records on 11 February 2022.

The group, including Verneri Pohjola (trumpet), Tuomo Prättälä (piano), Antti Lötjönen (bass) and Olavi Louhivuori (drums) is a mainstay in the Finnish scene and the band has been steadily developing their sound for nearly two decades now. It could be said that the group's musicians, each of them a notable solo artist in these days, has grown with and through performing together with this regularly working quartet. Ilmiliekki Quartet's music has a song-like melodic quality, which pairs naturally with their open-minded search for new musical landscapes.

As testament of Ilmiliekki Quartet being a Band with a capital B, the songs on the new album come from each of the four members. As in their 2019’s ‘Land of Real Men’, the band also borrows a tune for a loving rendition, this time tackling ‘Aila’ by the Finnish dream pop group Karina.

All in all, there's a deep, moody element to the music, yet at the same time, their sound flows with remarkable ease and lightness of touch. This brings out a wide range of colours in their music, which is easy to fall in love with.

MPS Records Releases Monty Alexander, Nicola Conte, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band and Volker Kriegel & The Singers Unlimited

Jazz fans and vinyl record collectors have been treated to a bevy of album reissues from the historic MPS Records catalogue since last summer, making hard-to-find collections by seminal jazz figures available again, some for the first time on vinyl and CD. On Friday, Germany’s first jazz label reissued five more albums, making the total 41 albums reissued since June in North America via Edel Germany in partnership with Bob Frank Entertainment. Friday’s haul includes albums by Monty Alexander, Nicola Conte, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band and Volker Kriegel reissued in time for holiday gifting along with The Singers Unlimited’s evergreen “Christmas” album.

Alexander’s first ever MPS release, 1971’s “Here Comes The Sun,” launched a fruitful

decadelong chapter in the Jamaica-born pianist’s prolific recording career that spanned a dozen albums for the label. Influenced by labelmate Oscar Peterson, Alexander incorporated sounds from his homeland -reggae, Caribbean, Calypso and blues – into his swinging jazz and bop. Titled for Alexander’s boogeying, Latin-tinged rendition of The Beatles’ classic, “Here Comes The Sun” placed the piano man in a quartet setting accompanied by bassist Eugene Wright, drummer Duffy Jackson and calypso percussionist Montego Joe. Alexander talks about making the album and the artistic freedom he enjoyed at MPS in this video: https://youtu.be/IWcWPsyt4Ow.

Italian DJ, producer, musician and composer Conte did a deep dive into the MPS archives

to curate a collection of “spiritual jazz,” piecing together swatches of music recorded between 1965-1975. “Cosmic Forest” is an imaginative, genre-defying double vinyl LP and CD that spans an enormous palette of sounds, cultures and styles. Conte deftly threads strands of rhythmic acid jazz through sonic tapestries fusing bossa nova and samba grooves, Bollywood dramatics and classic Italian film score theatrics.

A modern and timeless big band that was an intercontinental affair, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band made sensuous and bluesy music that swung. The 17-piece orchestra with principals from Europe and the United States played urbane arrangements crafted by Boland’s skillful hand. Labelmate and vibraphone great Dave Pike is among the

featured soloists on “All Smiles,” comprised of a set list that includes standards by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

All Music says Kriegel’s “Spectrum” “holds up generations later as a true jazz-rock classic.” A prodigious guitar player who played electric and acoustic guitar and sitar on this 1971 release made up of seven of his own compositions, the alchemist audaciously bounded through jazz, rock and world music terrain on his recordings. Emerging on the German jazz-rock scene as a teenager, Kriegel gained notoriety as a member of Dave Pike Set, which led to landing his own recording pact with MPS. “Spectrum” was his sophomore outing.

Led by Gene Puerling, the influential vocal

group The Singers Unlimited was discovered by Peterson who introduced the a cappella quartet to MPS. The outfit would go on to release fifteen albums on the imprint. 1972’s “Christmas” unwraps a treasure trove of seasonal chestnuts along with seven originals showcasing the group’s hallmark vocal harmonies.

Founded in 1968 by Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, MPS was the recording home for legendary artists including Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, The Count Basie Orchestra and George Duke. 

Joaquin Muro | "Contracara"

After releasing his first album as a leader, Joaquin Muro quickly returns with his second work: Contracara. It is presented as a B-side of his first album, Oxímoron. Recorded in the same session as the latter, the album has its roots in the free improvisation meetings Joaquin had with his friend and colleague Camila Nebbia (with a musical bond that goes back many years, having shared important projects such as the Juan Izkierdo Grupo and Richard Nant's La Big Nant) during the 2020 lockdown in Buenos Aires. Invited to record on one track of the first work, the original idea was to record two free improvisations that would serve as separators of the album's tracks. Having plenty of time in the studio, these sonic experimentations resulted in 7 tracks (3 as a duo and 4 with the full band) that ended up spontaneously becoming the material for a second album. 

The music of Contracara is presented as the complementary opposite of the music of Oxímoron, a very arranged album, with a lot of written passages and a high presence of counterpoint and irregular metrics as main compositional resources. In this case, the common thread of the album is free and spontaneous improvisation, a field in which Joaquin feels very comfortable and which is also a faithful reflection of his profile as an artist.

The soundscapes of Contracara, although very abstract, reflect images and moods representative of the uncertainty that was experienced both emotionally and artistically during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is an album of a dark and melancholic character, with some flashes of luminosity, and all the strength of spontaneous creation.

Finally, the title of this album has its origin in the concept of complementary opposition, being the music conceptually contrary to that of the first work but equally representative of the artist, it is presented as the other side of the same coin.       

Although the music of each track has its own character, the key element that defines this album is the concept of free improvisation and spontaneous creation.

The first track, Brugmansia Arborea (scientific name of the flower popularly known as floripondio) is a duet between Camila and Joaquin in which they explore from the timbre, with a wide use of extended techniques and with a quite psychedelic aesthetic, which could be framed within noise.

Then follows Sonar (la oscuridad del lecho marino), a track of dark character, whose title has its origin in the first notes of the piano, that refer to the sonority that emits a sonar device and that then develops slowly to show, from the abstraction, diverse imaginary landscapes of the marine bottom, lost objects of shipwrecks, shoals of fish and subaquatic mountain ranges.  Nadie nos baila lo quitado is perhaps the most accessible track on the album, a frenetic uptempo.

Villa Pueyrredon is the second duet between Joaquin and Camila, which in opposition to the first one, here the exploration happens from the melody, to reflect landscapes of the neighborhood of which they were neighbors and even in which they developed meetings of improvisation to duet in the street.

Astenia is an introspective track, which refers to a journey through the subconscious and its depths, with an exploration also from the timbre, but now at a group level.\

Passive Aggressive has a very obvious title and perhaps the most graphic and representative of all the tracks. The idea of this improvisation was that while Joaquin and Camila improvised as a duet, the rhythm section would intervene in an aggressive way, entering and then leaving again.

Bruxismo is the last duet and theme of the album, a short and intense track, whose title comes from the first notes, which refer to the sound of teeth clashing and scraping.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Jeff Hamilton | "Merry & Bright"

Revered jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton reunites with his trio, featuring bassist Jon Hamar and pianist Tamir Hendelman, for Merry & Bright, a recording of Hamilton’s favorite Christmas tunes. The album will be released November 19, 2021 via Capri Records. “I’ve always enjoyed holiday music and have been planning on doing a Christmas project for many years. I finally did it during the pandemic and got my trio into the studio to record it direct to 2 track, like I used to. We were very happy with the outcome. We put together these arrangements and got the recording done in only a few hours.”

The tunes were selected from Hamilton’s memories growing up in a family where everyone gathered around the piano and sang Christmas tunes in four-part harmony. It was a time when Andy Williams’ version of “It’s the Holiday Season” was on the radio and turntables were everywhere in America. Two of the pieces, “Caroling Caroling” and “Bright, Bright the Holly Berries” he learned from The Singers Unlimited, whose textured vocal harmonies were reminiscent of Hamilton’s evenings singing with the family.

Hamar and Hendelman open “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the spirit of the original, somewhat melancholy version sung by Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Of course, Frank Sinatra’s version is one best remembered, as well as Mel Tormé’s, who wrote a beautiful new verse for the tune.

The traditional piece “O Tannenbaum” is played thoughtfully by Tamir. “Santa Baby” was a bit of a naughty song when Eartha Kitt sang it in 1953. Her version is still the most popular even though it was later covered by Michael Bublé, and most recently Ariana Grande.

Many people may not know it was Gene Autry who wrote and first performed “Here Comes Santa Claus.” The up-tempo Brazilian version delivered by Hamilton’s trio is sure to become a classic.

From Hamilton’s trademark brush stylings on “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” to his down-home treatments of “It’s The Holiday Season” and “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” these tunes were arranged to be listened to year-round.  

“We hope people enjoy listening to these tunes as much as we enjoyed putting the recording together,” says Hamilton. “There’s a combination of all the things we do that has become the trio’s signature style and what it’s known for.”

Kirk Whalum | How Does Christmas Sound?

When we think of Christmas, sometimes it’s the sights that come to mind: the multi-colored lights framing the windows of neighbors’ houses, the line of eager children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap, the Nativity scene on the lawn at the local church. Or maybe it’s the smells that arise first: fresh-baked gingerbread, pine needles, a turkey dinner in the oven. 

On his new album for Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group, GRAMMY® Award-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum asks How Does Christmas Sound? On his second holiday-themed album, Whalum doesn’t answer that question in the expected way – revisiting the most familiar carols, the ones that have already worn out their welcome most years by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. Instead, he finds a more spiritual, introspective sound for Christmas, one that acknowledges the melancholy that often accompanies the Yuletide and the faith that is so central to his own celebrations. 

“You can talk about the sights and the smells, but to me it's always a sound that takes me to the true meaning of Christmas,” Whalum explains. “Even in April, I will put on Nat King Cole’s Christmas record and it brings me peace.” 

How Does Christmas Sound? follows Whalum’s previous holiday album, 2001’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated The Christmas Message. Over the last decade he’s regularly celebrated the season with his annual “A Gospel According to Jazz Christmas” Tour. So, it only made sense to revisit the Christmas canon with a renewed perspective, especially following a season when many families spent the holiday apart during the pandemic. 

“We had to sit out a Christmas,” Whalum says. “I realized during the pandemic that Christmas means more to me now than it ever did. Like my faith, Christmas is axiomatic to my life, and I have evolved spiritually in so many ways.” 

To reflect that profound evolution, Whalum reconvened with producer/trumpeter James McMillan, with whom he also worked on his monumental 2019 album Humanité, also on Artistry Music. The two share a friendship dating back much further, however, to their days touring in the horn section for the British pop duo Everything but the Girl. Their close relationship, as well as their experiences conceiving the globe-spanning Humanité, made McMillan the ideal collaborator for this latest endeavor, so Whalum returned to the producer’s studio in the seaside English hamlet of Hastings. 

“One of the main points we made with Humanité was the fact that there's so much life and culture and beauty that exists outside of your world. I'd like to say that life can be about getting to know some of it. So, James had the idea to bring to light all of these more obscure Christmas songs. It gave us a great opportunity to unearth these jewels of Christmas songs that exist outside of the American mainstream.” 

Those unexpected selections include the hymns “A Babe is Born” and “Es Ist Ein Ros Gesprungen” and the Contemporary Christian song “Thorns in the Straw.” Originally written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Graham Kendrick, the latter is here reimagined with a bright jazz feel and vocals by the saxophonist’s brother, singer Kevin Whalum.

Family is central to the album as a whole, as it always has been throughout Whalum’s career. On the album’s title track, one of two new songs penned by Whalum for the occasion, the saxophonist’s nephew, actor/singer Kortland Whalum, is the featured vocalist, while his son Kyle Whalum handles bass duties. 

“My discography is always about family, and this record is no different,” Whalum says. “Whenever I record music, I'd be crazy not to use my son who plays with Kelly Clarkson, my nephew who is out doing Broadway shows and my other nephew who plays with Bruno Mars.” (Whalum’s nephew, trombonist Kameron Whalum, is in fact so busy with his Bruno Mars duties that he was unable to participate in How Does Christmas Sound? but he’s a frequent guest on his uncle’s projects.) 

Not all of the songs that make up How Does Christmas Sound? are quite so arcane. The second track is perhaps the album’s most unexpected, a forlorn treatment of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” which has become the iconic Christmas song of its generation. Whalum’s reverently slow version becomes a song of faith, directed to the saxophonist’s savior rather than a Yuletide lover. 

“I probably would never have recorded that song, though it’s apparently the most popular Christmas song since ‘Joy to the World,’” Whalum admits. “My daughter convinced me, and James agreed that there was gold to be found in the song. When you slow it down it makes one consider the materialism and expectations around Christmastime that end up leaving people feeling empty and disappointed sometimes. So, in essence I'm saying to Christ, ‘You do the things that I need and fulfill my greatest dreams, so that as a gift is more than sufficient.’ It just so happens that because of that great gift, I also have these other gifts, like my wife and my family.” 

Whalum’s crooning tenor finds an intimate moment amidst all the year-end festivities on a wistful “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” aided by Mark Edwards’ sensitive piano and Marcus Finnie’s whispering brushwork on the drums. He switches to flute for an updated “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and is joined by rising R&B star Chantae Cann on the Contemporary Christian favorite “Mary Did You Know?” which has been recorded by everyone from Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd to Cee-Lo Green, Pentatonix to Dolly Parton. 

Whalum’s second original, with lyrics by Nashville singer-songwriter Benita Hill, is the romantic ode “Seven,” with lead vocals by Kevin Whalum backed by the rich harmonies of Take 6. “What guy or girl wouldn't want to have someone write a song about them as the seventh wonder of the world?” Whalum muses. “It’s the perfect Christmas present.” 

Conceived in Whalum’s home studio, his unique take on “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a solo tour-de-force layering soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones with percussion generated by the hammering of saxophone keys, all deftly performed by Whalum himself with accompaniments by Edwards and McMillan. The album concludes with an impassioned rendering of “In the Bleak Midwinter” given silken texture by the guitar playing of Mark Jaimes. 

More than just another merry round of caroling, How Does Christmas Sound? is Whalum’s attempt at offering a moment of soul-searching for Christmas revelers and a balm for those whose holidays don’t shine as brightly.  

“In Christendom we have this beautiful hymn, ‘There's a Balm in Gilead,’ which says, ‘to heal the sin-sick soul, to make the wounded whole,’” Whalum shares. “I wanted to make it a point to ask how does Christmas sound when your heart is sad, when you feel anything but joy? I'm hoping that it impacts people in that way, that it reminds listeners that God is thinking about them.”

Lance Ellington | "Happy!"

The acclaimed recording artist and entertainer Lance Ellington releases his debut album Happy! on Silva Screen Records on November 19th. Creating a lush space for Lance's velvety voice to explore a range of timbres and emotions, Happy! brings an updated, effervescent sound of jazz standards to 2021.

Produced by Evan Jolly and Rick Clark, Happy! is a solid and exuberant jazz album. From Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's opener Feeling Good, Herman Hupfeld's As Time Goes By to Pharrell Williams's Happy, and Arthur Kent's Bring Me Sunshine, featuring Strictly Come Dancing's star Anton Du Beke, Happy! is an album of feel-good classics offering both nostalgia and excitement of being in the now. Lance comments "I am so thankful to be doing something that I have a burning passion for... day in and day out... and that truly makes me Happy!! …Not only being in the world-famous Abbey Road Studios but listening to some of the best musicians in the world is something that is hard to beat!"

Over the years, Lance Ellington has worked with some of the top international artists and orchestras, including Tina Turner, Robbie Williams, Sting, George Michael, Susan Boyle, conductor Carl Davis, the Royal Philharmonic, Malaysian and Prague Symphony Orchestras. Since 2005, Lance has been regularly appearing as a vocalist on BBC's live series 'Strictly Come Dancing', electrifying the podium with his renditions of big ballads and swing numbers, including GANGNAM Style in Korean!

Lance is the son of the late, great 50s bandleader and jazz singer Ray Ellington in whose honor he created the show Ellington Sings Ellington. He toured the UK with his 8-piece band, blending the music of his father, with the Duke Ellington sound and some of his own original compositions. He also appeared as his father in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, alongside Charlize Theron and Geoffrey Rush.

Steven Bernstein's MTO w/ Catherine Russell | "Good Time Music (Community Music, V2)"

Good Time Music is the second edition from Steven Bernstein's four volume "Community Music" series. Set for release January 7, 2022 on Royal Potato Family, the collection features special guest vocalist Catherine Russell on six joyous Bernstein arrangements of feel-good classics by Percy Mayfield, Allen Toussaint, Bessie Smith, WC Handy, Earl King and Professor Longhair.

"Good Time Music is a continuation of the music I was making with Levon Helm, with roots in Ray Charles, New Orleans, and the blues," Bernstein says, "but refracted through my own musical prism, the particular language of the MTO and Catherine Russell's magnificent voice."

Bernstein and Russell met in 2008 when Russell did a show at one of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble's at his barn in Woodstock; later, she recorded her acclaimed album Sentimental Streak there, with Bernstein playing and arranging horns. Russell became a regular at the Ramble and cut the Harry Nilsson tune "Poli High" with Bernstein's band Sexmob the following year, followed by a few New York shows with the MTO.  She became part of the community.

The album's title comes from Lou Reed, who had just seen Helm's triumphant 2007 show at New York's Beacon Theatre.  Bernstein was in the band and recalls that "the audience went crazy." Reed's summation was a bit more subdued: "Oh, you know," he told his friend Hal Willner, "it was good time music."

"When Hal told me that story, I thought it was a put-down," says Bernstein. "But later I learned that Lou loved good time music—the kind where you just tap your foot and nod your head with a smile on your face—because he knew how important that is in the world.  And with Levon, I learned how beautiful it was to play that kind of music.  I thought it would be great to make a record of good time music.  So here it is."

Good Time Music draws on the feeling that Helm brought to the audiences at the Midnight Rambles, not to mention Bernstein's experience touring with Little Feat. And apropos to a theme that runs through all four "Community Music" volumes, there's that sense of music as healing. "It's always healing to play good time music—even if you haven't experienced loss," explains Bernstein. "Playing good time music feels good: the band feels good, the audience feels good, everything feels good."

"Yes We Can" is the very embodiment of good time music, and in the MTO's hands, with Russell leading the charge, it builds and starts to cook. It's the kind of collective journey that something only experienced musicians can conjure. "That's capturing lightning in a bottle," Bernstein says. "And it takes a lot of trust to get there." And listen to Ben Perowsky's drumming there—the guy is on fire."

Most of these tunes happen to be written by residents of New Orleans: Percy Mayfield ("River's Invitation"), Earl King ("Come On"), Allen Toussaint ("Yes We Can") and Professor Longhair ("Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand").  New Orleans music runs deep in Bernstein's bones: he's worked extensively not just with Henry Butler but with Allen Toussaint and Dr. John; he was originally taught trumpet in the style of Louis Armstrong, and, like Satchmo, he funnels his charisma and sense of humor into a stage presence that's as entertaining as it is commanding.

Which is just one connection to Catherine Russell: her father Luis Russell was Louis Armstrong's musical director in the '30s and early '40s; he also played with another New Orleans jazz originator, King Oliver.  (Russell's mother Carline Ray, a Juilliard grad, was a hotshot session bassist, sang in choruses conducted by Leonard Bernstein and played with the famed International Sweethearts of Rhythm.)

Russell sang backup with Steely Dan and David Bowie for years, as well as other blue chip artists such as Paul Simon, Madonna and Al Green before stepping out on her own as an acclaimed solo artist, recording seven albums and winning two Grammy nominations. Russell, a consummate professional, sang her vocals live with the band. "She's just the best," Bernstein says. "She's got a perfect mixture of science and intuition. She's an excellent musician: listen to her rhythm, every note she sings, it's perfect. There is no one else like her."

Why release four records at once?  Steven Bernstein's answer is succinct and definitive: "Because why not?"  The beloved virtuoso trumpeter, arranger, bandleader and composer has captured a typically superlative quartet of records under the rubric of "Community Music": Tinctures in Time, a collection of incantatory originals; the aptly titled Good Time Music with singer Catherine Russell; Manifesto of Henry-isms, re-imaginings of Bernstein's inspired arrangements for the brilliant New Orleans pianist Henry Butler & The Hot 9; and Popular Culture, a set of Bernstein-ian takes on The Grateful Dead, Charles Mingus, The Beatles and others.

All four records were played by essentially the same band, the Millennial Territory Orchestra—with the line-up slightly morphing into The Hot 9 for Henry-isms—in just four days, showcasing four different facets of this remarkable, one-of-a-kind maestro.

"Community Music" might have begun 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 and no Autotune.  "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."

It's called "Community Music" because the musicians of the MTO 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 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's not here, and Henry'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 "Community Music" sessions. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Matthias Lindermayr Trio | "Triptych"

Munich’s Matthias Lindermayr is one of Germany’s leading jazz trumpet players, renowned for his stunning solos and ability to cross genres. Having recently signed to Squama Recordings, he is set to release new album ‘Triptych’ on the 5th November, a mesmerizing body of work that has rich, magnetic power.

Having previously released two critically acclaimed albums with his quintet – ‘Lang Lang’ (2015) and ‘New Born’ (2018) – Lindermayr is joined by Philipp Schiepek (acoustic guitar) and Simon Popp (percussion) for ‘Triptych’, allowing him more freedom on his instrument. “In my previous bands, I always had the feeling that my strengths on the trumpet didn't always come into their own. In this line-up, there is finally a lot of room for me. Even quiet, nuanced things don't get lost in the hustle and bustle, and even when things get wilder we are at a dynamic level where the trumpet doesn't have to scream.”

With Lindermayr’s beguiling trumpet taking centre stage, the trio succeeds in creating a compelling sound palette deeply rooted in acoustic music and jazz. From the gentle rumblings of ‘Sanctuary’ where Lindermayr’s relaxed trumpet tones sit snug in the ear to the powerful, penertrating notes of ‘Triptych’ and the melancholic inflections of ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Lola’, the Matthias Lindermayr Trio seek to create a deep tension in their compositions. “I wanted to write simple melodies that my fellow musicians could play immediately, so that they could concentrate even more on sound and interplay when rehearsing and recording. The other half of the pieces were two-part compositions that I had written for a duo formation, but whose character demanded a different instrumentation.”

Lindermayr is pleased to share new single ‘Lola’ (out now). “Lola is maybe the most soulful and quiet song on my upcoming record. Unlike my other tunes, it’s composed on guitar as a reference to past days, when I was writing Indie Pop Music. The name Lola is referring to my, back then, unnamed and unborn second daughter.”

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Hasaan Ibn Ali's 'Retrospect In Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings'

Pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali (1931-80) was a local Philadelphia player who had an impact on John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and many others. He took the larger jazz world by storm in 1965 when The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan was released on Atlantic Records. The label was so impressed, they set him up to record his own album later that year, but it was never mixed or released. Thirteen years later, the tapes went up in flames in a New Jersey warehouse. While the recordings were thought lost forever, copies were believed to exist. And they did! Once located, the audio was restored and released earlier this year as Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album. It has become one of the most critically acclaimed jazz albums of the year. 

But Ibn Ali’s story has a side not documented on either of those previous releases. Alan Sukoenig and saxophonist David Shrier were students at the University of Pennsylvania in 1962, when Shrier told Sukoenig about an incredible pianist he had just heard at a club. It wasn’t long before the three became friends. Over the next three years, Shrier and Sukoenig captured their soon-to-be-legendary friend on tape, playing standards and some originals.  

The best of these tapes are now collected on Retrospect in Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings, due out November 19, 2021 from Omnivore Recordings on CD and Digital. Produced by the team of Sukoenig, Lewis Porter, and Grammy®-winner Cheryl Pawelski, the two-CD/Digital set also features restoration and mastering by Grammy®-winner Michael Graves, essays by Sukoenig, Porter, and pianist Matthew Shipp, and previously unseen photos taken by Sukoenig. A four-LP vinyl version is due in 2022.  

These 21 tracks reveal the intimate side of Hasaan Ibn Ali, with poetic, imaginative, even breathtaking performances that the world hasn’t known existed. And for the first time, hear the unique magic of the artist playing standards. 

According to co-producer Sukoenig: “This release by Omnivore is the fulfillment of a 55-year dream. Over the history of jazz, there have been many fine musicians, but far fewer wondrous ones. Hasaan Ibn Ali is in that class. I've been listening to these solo improvisations for over half a century. Not only haven't they paled, the best of them have, if anything, become even more impressive. That’s exceedingly rare for improvised music, created in the moment for the moment. I’m so happy that I can finally share Hasaan’s solo recordings with the world.”

QUINTETO ASTOR PIAZZOLLA Launches First Major U.S. Tour, Celebrating 100 Years of Piazzolla

New Tango composer, player, and bandleader Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) left a challenging legacy.

His music is a lived-in mix of traditional tango, classical music, jazz, and even elements of popular styles such as Neapolitan song and klezmer. It can be lyrical, elegant - and coarse. It might sound logically designed, yet push forward with the bad disposition of street brawler. This music is a Piazzolla self-portrait in motion, constantly remade and reframed; a biography told in winks and nods, fleeting phrases, and unexpected turns.

His New Tango attracted admirers and collaborators from distant regions of the music universe, including classical luminaries such as Yo-Yo Ma, Mstislav Rostropovich, Gidon Kremer, and the Kronos Quartet; jazz masters such as Gerry Mulligan, Phil Woods, Gil Evans, Al DiMeola, and Gary Burton, and even dance music diva Grace Jones, who turned one of his pieces into a club hit.

To play this music, instrumental virtuosity is essential — but not enough. Piazzolla’s New Tango also demands a certain attitude, commitment, fearlessness, and an undefinable quality in the playing that he called roña, grime - the perfection of the imperfect.

For the Quinteto Astor Piazzolla, the repertory ensemble of the Astor Piazzolla Foundation, the nightly challenge is not all on the music stand, but conjuring that spirit in the music.

Now on a tour of the United States, Celebrating 100 Years of Piazzolla, November 4 to 21, the group comprises tangueros and academics, classical and jazz musicians.They all know and speak in various musical languages. They are, in a word, Piazzolla musicians: Pablo Mainetti, bandoneón; Bárbara Varassi Peg, piano; Serdar Geldymuradov, violin; Armando de La Vega, guitar; Daniel Falasca, double bass; and Julián Vat, musical director.

“I am still amazed by Piazzolla’s music, and the more I hear it, the more I marvel at the genius of his synthesis,” says Vat, who has performed, arranged, and directed many performances of Piazzolla’s music in a variety of settings. “What he does with a small group of notes are great works of engineering and wisdom and talent. And it’s music with a big heart.”

Mainetti is one of his generation’s top players of the bandoneon, the expressive, melancholy-sounding button squeezebox that embodies the sound of tango. But he is also a composer, arranger, and bandleader in his own right. From the beginning, he says, the idea was to find the right balance to their interpretations: being exactingly true to the music without turning them into museum artifacts. “I had some versions of these pieces as a reference, but I quickly stopped listening to them so as not to end up parroting them.” Besides, he realized long ago, after spending time transcribing Piazzolla’s music, that "the notes on the paper and what he played on the records were two very different things."

He calls Piazzolla "a brilliant improviser," and points out that he left much room in the music for interpretation.

"When you mention 'improvisation,' most people think of jazz, but there are many ways of improvising,” says Mainetti. “You can improvise in this music – but in Piazzolla’s language.”  ~ © Mauricio Velez

Piazzolla was a master of the bandoneon -- but arguably, his great instrument was the quintet.

He organized his first quintet in 1960. Quinteto Astor Piazzolla featured bandoneon, violin, acoustic bass, piano, and electric guitar. It suggested a hybrid of a jazz band, a chamber music group, and a small tango orchestra and proved to be both nimble and powerful.

It was an outfit that raised eyebrows early on. For starters, a quintet brought to mind a jazz group, not your typical tango band -- and the inclusion of an electric guitar peeved tango traditionalists to no end.

Piazzolla led two major quintets, one from 1960 to 1971, the second from 1978 to 1988. Working with a steady group of musicians, even accounting for a few changes along the way, allowed Piazzolla to take chances in his music and write for specific players, not just instruments.

In fact, Mainetti credits much of the energy in Piazzolla’s music to “the great complicity with his musicians in the quintets, especially the second quintet. And that is something that also happens in this quintet. This is a fantastic group. And when we are going for it, it’s a great feeling to know that they are like a net and that if you do one pirouette too many and you find yourself heading down, face first, they will catch you.”

This Quinteto Astor Piazzolla, named in tribute to the original group, was organized in 1998. It was a request to Vat from Laura Escalada Piazzolla, the composer’s widow and president of The Astor Piazzolla Foundation. Since, the Quinteto has released four albums (including Revolucionario, winner of the 2019 Latin GRAMMY ® for Best Tango Recording) and has toured the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Operation Tango, the new album being released on November 5, via E54 Music, marks a departure from the group’s previous efforts. The repertoire comprises pieces not written originally by Piazzolla for a quintet now arranged for this ensemble. The titles include “Tango Ballet,” an early Piazzolla piece for a film; “Tocata Rea,” and “Fuga y Misterio” from Piazzolla’s “little opera” Maria de Buenos Aires; and “Los Sueños,” from the soundtrack of the film Sur, and the choices stay true to one of Quinteto’s goals.

The idea is not just to focus on Piazzolla’s classics, says Vat. “Part of our mission is putting the spotlight on lesser-known pieces that we believe deserve to be heard.” 

Eric Wyatt | "A Song Of Hope"

As the follow-up to his 2019 release The Golden Rule: For Sonny, Eric Wyatt’s A Song of Hope is vastly different in both tone and intent. Where the former was a tour de force, a tribute to Sonny Rollins and a straight-ahead blast of bop, Wyatt’s new record is more adventurous, colorful, unpredictable, and wide-ranging. Both are beautiful, for some of the same—but also different—reasons. 

Wyatt says that his heightened performance on A Song of Hope is a response to being in Covid lockdown. “I think the energy you hear on this recording came from the fact that I hadn’t played out in so long, so I was really pushing the music. I didn’t play any gigs at all from February until July, when Spike Wilner gave me a gig at Smalls, one of those short one-hour sets. And then Mike Boone called me to play at a new club in Philly just a week before my record date. I did that gig on a Friday, and the next Thursday I was at Van Gelder Studios.”

A Song of Hope resonates like a team effort and serves as a healing balm for stressful times.  On songs like “Fur Live” and McCoy Tyner’s “Contemplation,” Wyatt, along with drum legend Jeff “Tain” Watts, together lay it all on the table. Bassist Eric Wheeler’s generous tones and agile lines keep things grounded, while Donald Vega’s keys bring freshness in his comping and excitement in his solos. 

As always, Watts underscores everything with tremendous dexterity. His presence elevates Wyatt, so much so that the duo’s playing suggests shades of a Coltrane/Elvin Jones tandem. Trumpeters Theo Croker and Chris Lowery, trombonist Clifton Anderson, and percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell all contribute healthy doses of talent and taste. Elsewhere, as on the Breonna Taylor requiem “Say Her Name,” the lights dim, and the contrast is luminous. On Wyatt’s soulful take on Sting’s “Fragile,” with Wyatt on soprano sax, he invites singer Samara Joy, the 21-year-old winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, to chime in, and she does so with drama and elegance. 

Recorded in a single session at Van Gelder’s historic Englewood Cliffs studio, A Song of Hope brings all the brio you’d expect from Wyatt and more. His intent to shine beaming rays of optimism across what was then a barren musical landscape is noble, fulfilling. In accomplishing that intention, the man and his saxophone embrace new ideas, expand the band’s musical boundaries, and create a vast and gratifying journey for the listener to enjoy. “When I listen back to this work, I’m amazed that we got it done,” he says. “But I wanted to give a message that we need to be hopeful, and music does have that quality in it. You know, you play a song, maybe you get a little smile from it. And if it does that for somebody, then I feel like I made a statement.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Jay Nemor | "Electrified Alive"

Looks like we are hittin’ a milestone here. A little background has to be provided though, in order everyone to fully understand why it took us that long to put out this Album, which was already announced at the dawn of 2020. The ELECTRIFIED project started almost 2 (TWO) years ago, with the first vocal takes recorded a few days ahead of Cannonball Weekender in November 2019. Everything seemed fine and in good working order so the release date was planned and announced for june 2020. All self financed, self conceived and self realised in that style that’s a point of distinction of our small group of labels. Then the CVD damn thing kicked in. “So What?” some of you would be very entitled to ask. And, believe me, I’d be on the very same #sowhat lines as you, only that each member of our team reacted to the shitstorm in his very different and individual way. While folks all over the world were confined home setting up new ventures, creating new labels and dedicating themselves to something productive not to get psychologically annihilated by the media induced fear, our project was totally disrupted instead. It took the first wave to fade away to gather our stuff together and movin’ the production forward. Anyway, whatever the reasons, the album came ready and mixed by march 2021. So here we are. Further than the two acclaimed singles “Break Free” and “Sitting On Top Of The World, the tracklist includes 6 completely new songs, a smashing cover of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” and the rearrangement of the two classics “There Are No Winners” and “Mother Got A Way”. The style goes from modern funk experimentation to a more classic soul and a groovy electronic ender foreseeing the future of this beautiful music. 

Jay himself has written these beautiful lines to address the need of moving forward, whatever the circumstances:

“My brother (not by blood but love) said to me once ,”Jay, mi brethren, over di years I’ve known you, me come tuh realize dat you are a wealthy man. It amazes me, di wealth you’ve acquired in such a short life.” It took me a quick moment to follow…. I must admit, I have been truly blessed throughout my life. The spirits have indeed shown me favour. I am also well aware that I can’t take full credit for the adventures, accomplishments and progression I have experienced in my lifetime. As I take account, there’s always been a person(s) at every pivotal moment in my life that has been there to lend a hand in some form or another. Whether it was that time I was heartbroken, homeless, hitting that game winning shot, releasing my first album or stepping onto the theatre stage for the first time, I know without a doubt the spirits sent someone my way. I can and do however take credit for my unpredictable yet calculated zeal and willingness to change directions, try new things. That being said, I have come to the realization that I should never under any circumstance take anything nor anyone for granted, which leads me to express my utmost gratitude to each of you. Even if today is the first time you’ve come to hear the name Jason “Jay” Nemor Harden, thank you for taking the time to read these words. FORWARD MOTION… ~ firstexperiencerecords.com

Dizzy Gillespie & The United Nations Orchestra | "Live At The Royal Festival Hall, London"

Later live work from Dizzy Gillespie – working in London here with a very hip ensemble! We're not entirely sure of the date, but given the skinny ties on a few of the players, we're guessing it's from that 80s stretch when Dizzy was still going strong – working in a great mix of Latin and bop modes that's always kept fresh through his creative energies! Slide Hampton's on trombone – and also wrote most of the arrangements – and other players include Arturo Sandoval on trumpet, Paquito D'Rivera on reeds, James Moody on sax and flute, Airto on percussion, and Danilo Perez on vocals – and Flora Purim also joins the group on vocals for a few numbers. Titles include "Kush", "Tanga", "Dizzy Shells", "Night In Tunisia", "Tin Tin Deo", "Seresta", and "Samba For Carmen". ~ Dusty Groove

Joni Mitchell | "Archives Vol 2 – The Reprise Years 1968 to 1971"

An amazing dip into the archives of Joni Mitchell – one that features the Reprise Records label in the title, but which features all unissued material recorded at the same time as her bigger classics for Reprise! There's a wonderful blend of material here – some live tracks, some demo cuts, and some really unusual recordings that even include a few apartment tracks – all brought together in a lovely box that includes archival photos, ephemera, and a 40 page booklet of notes! The set features a 22 track Live At Carnegie Hall set from 1969, a 23 track BBC In Concert recording from 1970 (with duets with James Taylor), and a 23 track Live At Le Hibou Coffee House in 1968 – plus material from sessions for Song To A Seagull, Clouds, Blue, and Ladies Of The Canyon. There's also 4 songs and an interview from the Dick Cavett Show, 3 tracks for BBC Top Gear with the backing of John Cameron, material recorded at Jane Lurie's apartment and at Mitchell's own home, and even more live cuts too. 122 tracks in all – and a fantastic look at Joni Mitchell during her key creative years! ~ Dusty Groove


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