Monday, January 31, 2022

Marcin Wasilewski | "En attendant"

"Their years together have resulted in an ensemble with an utterly symbiotic creative flow," observed Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times, when the Marcin Wasilewski Trio was first making its presence felt on the international jazz scene. The improvisational communication among the players has continued to deepen with the years, along with their range of creative options. En attendant pays testimony to the musicians' far-reaching imagination and to the ways in which the group's lucid musical language can integrate influence from disparate sources. 

Recorded just prior to their Arctic Riff collaboration with Joe Lovano, En attendant finds Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz in thoughtful, exploratory mood. The multifaceted Polish group illuminates a characteristically wide span of music, the scope extending from Bach to group improvisation. On En attendant, collectively created pieces are juxtaposed with Wasilewski's malleable "Glimmer of Hope", Carla Bley's timeless "Vashkar", The Doors' hypnotic "Riders on the Storm" and a selection from Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, transformed in the context. Fluidity is the hallmark, allied to the deep listening made possible by more than a quarter-century of collaborative music-making.

The tripartite "In Motion" offers the most thorough account yet of the trio's capacity for finding forms in the moment, shaping and developing musical structures with a running sense of architectural proportion. "In Motion Part I" gives way to Variation 25 from the Goldberg Variations, a reminder that all roads lead to Bach, eventually. The trio's take on the minor key aria gently probes its atmosphere of dark passion and encircles its exquisite melody. 

Paul Bley's Footloose! recording of 1963 was where many musicians first learned about Carla Bley as a composer. As Marcin Wasilewski recently noted it "opened the gates to something undiscovered", including the inexhaustible mysteries of tunes like "Vashkar," which has become one of the pieces the trio likes to revisit, always finding something new inside it.

Pop and rock cover versions have also long been part of the trio's story. Earlier recordings have found the group re-contextualising Björk's "Hyperballad", Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls", the Police's "Message in a Bottle" and more. The Doors' iconic "Riders on the Storm" now joins the list, in a subtly unconventional arrangement. While the rhythmic feel here hews to a bubbling groove close to the original, bassist Slawomir Kurkewicz is to the fore for much of the tune, soloing inside the form, while Wasilewski mines the harmonies. 

Marcin's rubato ballad "Glimmer of Hope" moves like the waves, floating its glistening motive through changing tonalities over Michal Miskiewicz's detailed cymbals and drums.

Recorded at Studios La Buissonne in August 2019. 

Petter Asbjørnsen, Petter Asbjørnsen & Federico Isasti | "Hello Cacus! Happy Thief"

During a residency in New York, September 2018, Argentinian drummer Federico Isasti and Norwegian bassist Petter Asbjørnsen met and developed a spontaneous musical connection. As part of the SIM workshop (led by Ralph Alessi), Petter and Federico played together a wide range of compositions with musicians within different ensemble settings. That initial musical connection and the shared way of conceiving composed music with improvisation as the founding core led to the idea of working together in the future. Just a few days later, fate would have it that they also met the Austrian pianist Petter Asbjørnsen, a musician that Federico and Petter already admired for his work with Jim Black and Nels Cline, among others, and his fresh approach to improvised music. For all these reasons, they decided they would have to record an album before they disappeared to different corners of the world. 

The following days were spent intensively composing and exploring musical concepts and material to play in a piano trio setting. The central pieces of these explorations were a polished work of rhythm and a subtle approach to harmonies. As a result of that work, the musicians arrived at Happy Thief. Both the names of the album and the trio (Hello Cacus!) were chosen after a sour experience. Just a few weeks after the recording, Petter was back in Europe where his personal bag was stolen, containing the hard drive with the original copy of the album’s recording session. Fortunately the recordings were still stored on sound technician Luis Bacqué’s hard-drive in his studio in New Jersey, where the album was recorded. On the one hand, Hello Cacus! references to the fire-breathing roman god Cacus, son of Vulcan, killer of innocents and perpetrator of all kinds of crimes. On the other hand, Happy Thief is a plain citation to that man that almost made this album impossible to be released.

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart | "Perpetual Pendulum"

Perpetual motion has been dismissed as an impossibility by scientists, but perhaps they should check in with organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart. The trio has been creating vigorously swinging music together for more than 30 years and show no signs of slowing down. That’s not quite an eternity – though in jazz terms, it might as well be. 

The longevity of the musical hook-up between Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart was the inspiration behind Bernstein’s “Perpetual Pendulum,” one of the scintillating new tunes on Perpetual Pendulum, the trio’s new album together. Due out March 25, 2022 from Smoke Sessions Records, the date combines the bandmates’ originals with fresh takes on jazz classics by what is surely the longest-lasting organ trio in modern jazz. 

“Thirty-plus years is definitely a milestone,” Bernstein says. “Especially when you consider it in light of jazz history; it’s trippy to think about, but that's equivalent to keeping a band together from 1940 to 1970. If you think about how short a time so many of our musical heroes were even active, let alone have a group together – I mean, the classic Coltrane quartet was only together for about four years. So it is pretty significant.” 

Perpetual Pendulum was recorded last July at New York’s Sear Sound, a studio with which the trio shares a storied history dating back to their second outing together, 1992’s Light Blue. The session marked the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut, Goldings’ 1991 album The Intimacy of the Blues.

 But their history stretches back even earlier. Goldings and Bernstein had met while still in high school, when both attended the Eastman School of Music’s summer jazz program. The guitarist met Stewart two years later when both were enrolled at William Paterson University, and the drummer and organist hooked up for the first time at a New School session. When Goldings and Bernstein established their spot on the weekly Augie’s calendar, they tried a few drummers before clicking with Stewart and establishing a collective voice that’s endured through three extremely busy solo careers and Goldings’ move to the west coast. 

“We all really dig each other, and that's probably the most important thing,” Goldings says in an attempt to explain the trio’s indefinable chemistry. There’s a lot of crossover in what we like to play and listen to, and our individual visions of jazz tend to align. It’s hard to say, because we never really discuss it; we just try to make good records. We came up together.” 

The origin of their trio makes the release of Perpetual Pendulum on Smoke Sessions particularly significant. Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, the label’s parent venue, was opened on the former site of Augie’s Jazz Bar, where Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart established their rapport on a regular Thursday night gig beginning in 1989. 

“It was a dive,” Goldings remembers. “It was a hole in the wall. Our weekly night there was the reason why I started playing the organ: the kinds of little places where we could get gigs frequently didn't have pianos. At Augies, we literally passed the basket to get paid… But between there and the Village Gate, we amassed a local fan base. So, it is significant that we’re releasing this album with Smoke. That room is hallowed… grease.” 

Perhaps that grease was part of the magic, as it can still be heard in the trio’s gut-level playing on the title track, Perpetual Pendulum – check out the stick-to-the-ribs groove on “Prelude,” Golding’s bluesification of George Gershwin’s Prelude #2. Or the slick venom they bring to Stewart’s self-explanatory political hit piece, “FU Donald.” 

Stewart originally recorded the latter tune on his 2018 album Band Menu, with a trio featuring Walter Smith III and Larry Grenadier. He knew it would make a perfect fit with his lifelong collaborators, however. “I don't think I've ever actually written anything specifically for this trio, to be honest,” Stewart admits. “I just know the way Pete and Larry play, so I just bring things in and see what works.” 

Bernstein concurs. “I know whatever I write, these guys can play it. Harmonically, Larry will be totally inside whatever I might be hearing, and Bill makes every band sound like a band. I don't have to worry about writing with these guys in mind. They've informed my whole sound, so they’re always a reference point in whatever I write.” 

The guitarist contributed two pieces to the album. The trio reprises his “Little Green Men,” which they originally recorded on Light Blue, in a ferociously swinging version. The aforementioned “Perpetual Pendulum” is a new piece, taken at a smoldering lope that prompts slow-burn solos from both the composer and Goldings. The organist’s “Let’s Get Lots” is a tune as witty and playful as the wordplay in its title. Stewart’s second composition is “Lurkers,” a quietly forceful piece highlighted by the avalanching intensity of Goldings’ solo. 

Both John Lewis’ “Django” and Wayne Shorter’s “United” have been longtime staples of the trio’s live sets. Originally recorded by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1961, “United” is driven by a forceful propulsion that eventually erupts into a taut bout of trading between Stewart and his bandmates. A trademark of the Modern Jazz Quartet, “Django” opens with an elegant solo turn by Bernstein, perhaps keeping the tune’s namesake, Django Reinhardt, in his mind’s eye. Goldings enters with lush, blossoming chords before effortlessly pivoting into a swaggering swing. 

Despite the trio’s mutual love of classic standards, “Come Rain or Come Shine” is one perennial that they’d never tackled onstage. An impromptu warm-up led to its welcome inclusion on the album, a bright moment that showcases the old friends’ warm, easy camaraderie. Gary Bartz’s “Libra” is another new addition to the repertoire, ignited by Stewart’s steamroller rhythms and featuring absolutely blistering solos by all three. Duke Ellington’s “Reflections in D” is the polar opposite – airy, elegant and tender, floating on the waves of Stewart’s shimmering brushwork. 

If it’s challenging to imagine a band with the kind of longevity that Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart share, it’s even more rare to find one maintaining this brilliant level of musicianship and chemistry. Its value isn’t lost on the trio, as Bernstein concludes. 

“I think we all share a pure feeling of gratitude,” he says. “With these cats, I feel pressured to play my best because they’ve heard everything I can do. At the same time, I feel comfortable trying anything with them because I know whatever I do, they're going to hold it together. We’ve all grown through our individual experiences, but we always come back to this. And it's only getting better.”

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Dick Aven Band | "Spin So Long"

Here's some killer Soul vibes from Alabama's brilliant Dick Aven who's toured with The Four Tops, The O'Jay's and The Temptations and is influenced by the likes of Sun Ra & Coltrane to name just a few. His stunning new album 'Spin So Long' is all killer no filler and features a man at the top of his game, doing what he does best, playing beautifully original Alt Soul/Jazz/Blues numbers to perfection. Dick Aven is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist studio musician and a touring saxophonist who currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Dick has been making music since he could reach the keys of his mother’s piano. 

His first influences include the Moody Blues, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Elton John, Hank Williams and many others. In his teens he developed an interest in jazz music and was especially influenced by John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Sun Ra and Miles Davis to name a few. As a composer he has been described as a ‘troublemaking progressive’, drawing from those jazz and 1970’s rock influences. Out of the studio he has been utilized as a proficient and reliable sideman. In the late 1980’s he quit his touring gig as the saxophone soloist for Soul artist Peabo Bryson to secure a record deal as half of a Folk-Pop guitar and harmony singing duo called The Cages. 

After that era he became a solo artist and has been steadily honing his craft as a home recording artist, hired studio musician, and road warrior sideman. He has been touring with Outlaw Country artist Jamey Johnson for the past few years as a baritone saxophonist as well as playing saxes in horn sections with The Tuscaloosa Horns, The Temptations, The O’Jays, The Four Tops, and recently tenor sax with The Big Band of Brothers (an Allman Brothers tribute Big Band album). He currently has four albums of original music available on all major music platforms. His last album was a late 2020 release called It All Started in The Garden. The single from that album, No Clue was aired on radio stations internationally. 

His new album, Spin So Long is available as of December 2, 2021. This album features Dick’s songwriting, singing, multi-instrumental arranging skills and stylized tenor saxophone soloing on a set of songs and videos which might be described as Alternative Soul or Modern American Blues based Rock.

Funktastic Players | "Full Circle"

Led by a smooth lead saxophone and a distinct funky 80’s style, Funktastic Players bring with their enriching musical compositions a unique blend of diverse genres. The group’s stirring new album titled, “Full Circle”, presents listeners with an exciting contemporary take on Jazz, on the Funk end of the spectrum.

Comprising of a range of stunning singles, “Full Circle” includes the tracks, “Run Away from You”, “Summer Winds”, “In My Heart”, among others that provide a stunning and memorable soundscape. Be it Hip Hop elements or instrumentation which is high energy and evoking old-school nostalgia, “Full Circle” is a happening voyage through Jazz.

Denoted by a fun and joyous vibe, Funktastic Players’ newest album is the perfect blend of contemporary Jazz and Old-School Funk. The new album released for listeners on December 1st, 2021, and includes the prowess of lead saxophone player, Marcus H Mitchell. Meanwhile, Kevin Croom and the band’s lead powerhouse, David Williams cover keyboards, and Adrian Norton showcases his unique talents on the bass.

“We are the perfect blend of Gerald Albright and Tribe called Quest. Our music is great for date nights and long summer drives. Our music is real feel-good toe tapping jazz…upbeat and danceable,” says the group regarding their music.

With a driving goal to grow a formidable fan base, Funktastic Players are hoping to become a phenomenon amidst other rising players in Jazz, creating for themselves a distinct persona. Building a brand and a catalog of tunes that people know, respect and pay top dollar to see performed is the key goal of David Williams and the Funktastic Players.

David Williams started out his musical career as an MC/DJ during the iconic era of Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Grandmaster Flash. Having spent many of his early years producing rap acts, like all producers from the era, Williams sampled soul, jazz, and funk records from the 70s.

However, his unique musical trajectory was inked by his evolving and growing style and character. With a thirst to re-create his own original soul music, David Williams went beyond just sampling musical compositions. As the years passed by, the talented artist found himself finally free to do the music he always wanted to do and just the way he had in mind. Having worked in the industry his entire adult life for various independent record labels, David Williams was able to understand the driving mantra of “brand before the band”. With the Funktastic Players’ band, Williams is focusing on constructing an immortalized brand image both nationally and internationally. The group released their first CD, ‘Generations’ six years ago and are only moving onwards and upwards.

New single by Australian jazz-funk ensemble Kerbside Collection (jazz-funk / cinematic)

Kerbside Collection is an instrumental dusty jazz-funk and rare groove ensemble from the inner suburbs of Australia’s 3rd largest city on the mid north coast – Sunny Brisbane QLD. The band plays good time jazz, funk and traditional rare groove for listening or dancing.

The band’s sound harks back to the ’60s and ’70s Californian West Coast music of artists such as Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Chico Hamilton, Joe Sample and The Crusaders, whilst tipping its’ hat to today’s contemporaries keeping the ‘feel’ alive (Soulive, Bobby Hughes, James Taylor, Eddie Roberts & The New Mastersounds, Stance Brothers, Frootful, The Matson 2 etc).

Kerbside Collection have supported and helped warm stages for Osaka Monaurail (Japan), The Kashmere Stage Band (US), Cookin’ on 3 Burners (Melb), The Cactus Channel (Melb), The Seven Ups (Melb), The Melodics (Melb), Jess Harlen &Plutonic (Melb), headlined ‘Home Fest’ in 2011 and 2012, Broadbeach Jazz Festival, Swell Festival, Fish Lane Festival, and their own mini funk/soul/motown revue presentation ‘The Good Foot’ with showcases in Brisbane and the GC.

After releasing their debut 45 – a gritty ‘b boy’ version of Dizzy Gillespie‘s “Night in Tunisia”, with “Jelly Belly”, a snappy jazz funk kicker on the B-side in 2011 , the ensemble then connected with German Légère Recordings to drop their debut album Mind The Curb in May of 2013, which was recorded with Jake Mason of Aussie funk stars Cookin on 3 Burners. Eight songs were recorded/mixed/pre-mastered in four days, on vintage, analogue gear and onto warm tape. The songs were tracked the old classic way – all members in one room playing together, with instruments bleeding into other instrument mics and amps (and no ‘click’!) to capture a full and lively sound from the players.

Mind The Curb – Remixed & Reworked was released late 2014 featuring a variety of remixes, reworks and reinterpretations including by Renegades Of Jazz (Agogo Records), Ennio Styles (RRR / Worldwide fm), and Blunted Stylus. The album went on to receive global support from the likes of Gilles Peterson (UK), Danny Krivit (US), Dom Servini (UK), Diesler (UK), Lance Ferguson, Mike Gurrieri, and more.

Their follow up record Trash or Treasure came out in 2015 and contains hints of library jazz music with lush tones from added instrumentation like vibraphone, sitar and brass that blends into their dusty 60’s inspired West Coast jazz funk and gritty grooves sounds. Engineered with Hopestreet Recording’s Bob Knob and featuring guests from The Cactus Channel, The Bombay Royale, The Putbacks and Brazil, the album contains 13 originals plus one cover of the legendary 70’s CTI records Freddie Hubbard classic “Red Clay”. A record in full trim.

Trash or Treasure Remixed was released November 2016 with re-works and reinterpretations of the album tracks from 90% local Aussie beat-smiths and artists including Sampology, Street Rat, Renegades Of Jazz, JNBO, Two Dee, Paprika and more, receiving support from the likes of the Jazzanova crew, Bradley Zero (Rhythm Section/UK), and Ennio Styles.

Third album Smoke Signals was released at the end of 2018 and contained extra instrumentation, including baritone sax and flute, subtle flourishes of early 70’s analogue / electric jazz grooves, a funky reggae bubbler, and a version of a Bob James‘ jaz-funk classic! Smoke Signals Remixed followed with a full album package containing reworks of the originals from remixers such as Grant Phabao (Paris DJs), Chikashi Nishiwaki (Japan), Horatio Luna (La Sape / 30/70), Blunted Stylus, Sabrosa and more.

Fourth studio album Round The Corner (written and recorded during the last 12-18 months of the recent 2020/2021 cv-19 pandemic) is their most ambitious offering yet, and is set for release in early 2022.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Peggy Duquesnel | "Piano For My Soul"

When the volume of the chaotic world becomes too loud as it did at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peggy Duquesnel escapes by sitting quietly at her piano. There, she sets her nimble fingers free to dance gracefully atop the keys, inevitably finding their way into her musical comfort zone. Soothed with soul bared, Duquesnel’s piano emotes a hybrid of classical music and inspirational hymns. These intimate, meditative sessions spawned “Piano for My Soul,” Duquesnel’s sixteenth album, releasing April 8 on her JoySpring Music imprint.

“I recorded a lot of the album during the lockdown and was happy to have the extra time to work in my studio. Many of the arrangements on ‘Piano for My Soul’ were inspired by my classical background. They also incorporate my gift of combining a hymn with a classical theme to create a new and moving piece of music. A light bulb or divine inspiration sometimes comes upon me when I’m practicing, and I get new ideas on bringing two different music pieces together,” said Duquesnel, who produced and arranged the music on the album.

“Piano for My Soul” is presented in two sections clocking in at a generous 71 minutes of music. The first section consists of piano orchestrations with Alan Broadbent, Billy Martin, Andre Mayeux and the late Steve Hall on works composed by Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky blended imaginatively with hymns and songs of faith, including several presented as duets between piano and organist Andre Mayeux (“Cristo Redentor,” “Were You There?” and “Precious Lord Take My Hand”), piano and cellist Melissa Hasin (Bach Prelude in C/“The Lord’s Prayer”), and piano duets featuring Hall (“Holy God We Praise Thy Name”/“Sous le dome epais – Delibes” and “You Are My Hiding Place”/“Swan Lake” – Tchaikovsky). The second section is comprised of solo piano numbers.

Duquesnel shares her artistic muse as multisensory experiences. Each selection on “Piano for My Soul” will be accompanied by the release of a nature video created in partnership between Duquesnel and Gary Hanson of CreationScapes. This is Duquesnel’s sixth consecutive album project that includes the release of nature videos crafted with Hanson.

Recording “Cristo Redentor” came from when Duquesnel watched the Disney-Pixar animated feature “Soul.” 

“Since the movie highlighted the life of a jazz musician, I thought it would be fun to see if there was an appropriate song in the movie to add to my album. ‘Cristo Redentor’ was one of the songs the band played in the jazz club in the movie. I had played that standard by Duke Pearson many years ago on jazz club gigs. Being a jazz pianist, it was fun to play and record this standard. I also asked my graphic artist to use the movie’s vibrant look for the album cover artwork,” said Duquesnel.

Duquesnel is an educator, a role that she will carry out through “Piano for My Soul” by releasing piano tutorial videos for several of the album’s selections. She is making her sheet music arrangements from the album available through the JoySpring Music website.

To help launch “Piano for My Soul,” Duquesnel has issued singles monthly along with nature videos since last October when she dropped “Be Still My Soul”/“Finlandia.” She released “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”/Bach 2-part Invention #13 in November; “A Lullaby,” an original composition inspired by the birth of her grandson, in December; and “Take My Life, and Let it Be” last Friday.

Duquesnel will preview the album at a concert that will take place at her church, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Los Alamitos, on March 16.

Based in Long Beach, Calif., Duquesnel’s diverse career spans serving as a pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger, producer, record label owner, and a professor of jazz studies at Concordia University. From recording jazz, pop, inspirational and classical collections to playing at NHL, MLB and Paralympics games, Duquesnel has performed and/or recorded with an array of luminaries such as Broadbent, Dionne Warwick, Henry Mancini, Pat Boone, Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Rick Braun, Jeff Hamilton and John Patitucci. Duquesnel is a creative and devout musician who uses her musical ministry as an offering. For more information, please visit

Club d’Elf | "You Never Know"

Boston-based world-dub-jazz collective Club d’Elf returns with their third studio full-length, You Never Know, scheduled for release on April 1. A thick, vibrant double album, its ten tracks are the sound of musicians in full improvisational flight. The collection's first single and its accompanying video "Dervish Dance" is available today across all streaming outlets (listen/watch/share). In support of You Never Know, Club d'Elf has also announced seven album release performances in the northeast. Tickets are on-sale now.

For Mike Rivard, head Elf and sole constant member over the collective's 24 year run, the meaning of You Never Know runs deeper than just the chase of an alchemic group-mind. A few years back, while tracking spiritual insight in the deep-Amazon, Rivard began experiencing terrifying heart palpitations, breathing difficulties and paralyzing anxiety. Initially, he assumed the symptoms were part of his awakening process, but it quickly became clear something else was at work. Back home in Boston, Rivard was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, likely caused by a blood clot which developed during one of his long flights to Peru. A lifelong devotee of Eastern and holistic medicine, Rivard found himself mired in the sterility and sluggishness of the American healthcare system, struggling with PTSD and cloaked in a severe depression. His life skidded to a halt. 

"A lot of people find out about having a pulmonary embolism by dying," Rivard says. "After the trauma in the jungle as I slipped further and further into the darkness, one of the scariest parts was how things I loved lost all meaning, the pleasure just drained away. It was this sense of sliding into an alternate universe of shadow."

Change, and eventually redemption came via the unifying force of gnawa, a North African trance music known for causing time to melt as players and listeners enter into a liminal space of eternity and possibility. Rivard had long been inspired by gnawa, having purchased his first sintir, a three-stringed bass lute, in 2000. Now, however, he decided to rigorously apply himself to learning the traditions of the music, studying the form and phrases, memorizing note-perfect plays through Moroccan numbers and using its promise of transcendence via repetition to chisel away at the darkness enveloping him. Unlearning his jazz background, he put his attention towards absorbing traditional trance approaches to the music.

"Trance music provides a portal into the eternal, the timeless realm," Rivard continues. "Whether it's Fela Kuti, James Brown, Talking Heads' Remain in Light or gnawa, the key element is repetition. What makes conveying the true essence of trance music challenging in this age of short attention spans and eyes glued to devices is that it happens over time, when the brain settles into a slower frequency. Learning to do that as a musician, for me at least, has meant confronting issues such as 'Who am I? What is my place in the universe? And what is eternal?'”

As the depression parted, Rivard (playing bass and sintir) gathered fellow Club d’Elf collaborators Dean Johnston (drums), DJ Mister Rourke (turntables), Paul Schultheis and John Medeski (vintage analog keyboards), Casablanca-native Brahim Fribgane (oud, vocals and percussion) and guitarists Duke Levine, David Fiuczynski and Kevin Barry, and began recording the album to analog tape with minimal overdubs.

The resulting You Never Know offers gnawa refracted through a prism of contemporary psychedelia—Morocco turned technicolor. Over an hour and 15 minutes, the record unfurls upon kaleidoscopic clouds of spiced smoke, shifting from chopped dub-jazz through trance epics that reimagine Boston as a city of bazaars.

From the loping jazz-funk crawl of "Boney Oscar Stomp" through "Now Open Your Eyes," the dawn-light ballad which acts as the emotional center of the album, the band fires forward, shifting on a dime from slabs of solarized riffing to droning African rhythms. On "Dark Fish" they shoot electric-fusion jazz through with turntablism breaks, while "Golden Hour" rides swells of organ into an eternal sunset.

Half of the album consists of originals inspired by Rivard’s experience and the sounds that saved him, and half covers of influences which have shaped the band’s musical universe: Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Joe Zawinul, Nass El Ghiwane, as well as, gnawa and Sufi folk songs.

On the Miles/Zawinul "In A Silent Way / It’s About That Time," the band flavors the original's sublime ambience with a chugging Moroccan chaabi rhythm, culminating in a storm of fretwork from Fiuczynski. Sufi traditional "Dervish Dance" slips pools of deep bass and psychedelic crackle beneath Fribgane’s oud soloing. And on the album’s longest track—an 11-minute take of Zappa's "King Kong"—the band fire on all cylinders, blending classic rock with chaabi shuffle, dubbed out and deepened, shifting from hand drum breakdowns through crests of organ-steeped funk.

In the studio, Rivard ceded the spotlight to the collective, allowing for free-play and improvisational dexterity. Through it all rides the trance, pulsing, calming, poking open the mystic truths which may just offer us all the hope of brighter days ahead.

"It's kind of like driving a tour bus and stopping at various interesting destinations, pulling the bus over and letting everyone off, and then it's up to them, the musicians, to find their way into the experience, to create the music together, in the moment," Rivard concludes. "Every voice is heard, is equally important, and can drive the music into places that I never would have envisioned of on my own. That's what really excites me—when I let go of the reins and the collective energy of the ensemble reaches a sort of hive mind state, and the spirits guide us."


Blues For A Billion Stars inspired by the classic blue-note sound of Horace Silver, Art Blakey & Coltrane. In my teenage years, learning double bass, those iconic mid tempo tunes were perfect for getting to grips with jazz chord changes. I’m still drawn to the ‘heads’ of the those tunes on tenor sax & trumpet, initially in unison before peeling off into harmony, & this was something I started to explore in an AJE writing session. The premise for BFABS was what would happen if, say, Charles Stepney (Rotary Connection, Terry Callier, EW&F) was to arrange & produce Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man.

The original chords were pretty close to a classic blues progression but morphed into basically one chord with a turnaround at the end, it felt very jazzy for an AJE piece due to it’s swung groove & horns. In searching for more atmospheric ideas the outro took shape, a stark contrast to the Blue-Note vibe & an interesting twist, creating almost 2 tracks in 1. This gave rise to the title, a juxtaposition of something as raw & rootsy as the blues, with the biggest beautiful other-worldly & cinematic expanse of the solar system. The title then further influenced the direction of the track demanding a bigger & more expansive sound, utilising strings over the sax/trumpet section & an epic end section. 

The long version is slower in tempo & features the full AJE instrumental palette of live sessions. The atmospheric intro is allowed to build & features a Middle Eastern duduk which is doubled by pedal steel. The main version, meanwhile, grabs parts of live performances & rebuilds them with a combination of live loops & drum programming.

Friday, January 28, 2022

New Music Releases: Matt Bianco, Luke Stewart's Silt Trio, William Hooker, William Parker

Matt Bianco - Remixes And Rarities

Remixes And Rarities celebrates the expansive sound of Matt Bianco featuring a selection of recordings from across their first four studio albums: ‘Who’s Side Are You On?’ (1984), ‘Matt Bianco’ (1986), ‘Indigo’ (1988), and ‘Samba In Your Casa’ (1990).Containing remixes of the band’s many singles including the highly sought after Steve Anderson remix of ‘Half A Minute’, never released commercially until now. Among the rarities is a previously unreleased version of ‘You’re The Rhythm’ featuring the spectacularly soulful Kym Mazelle, the First Lady Of House Music, on lead vocals; and the original version of ‘Blame It On That Girl’. An essential companion piece to the deluxe editions of ‘Who’s Side Are You On’, ‘Matt Bianco’, and ‘Indigo’, each of which have been released on the Cherry Pop label and have sold extremely well. Inlcudes a 20-page booklet containing comprehensive credits and a fully illustrated discography. Remastered from the original master tapes stored in the Warner archives. Also available: ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ (Deluxe Edition) ‘Matt Bianco’ (Deluxe Edition) ‘Indigo’ (Deluxe Edition)

Luke Stewart's Silt Trio - Bottom

Bassist Luke Stewart is fast becoming one of our favorite talents on his instrument in recent years – an artist who first grabbed our ears with his work in Irreversible Entanglements, but who seems even better suited to stand out front as a leader! The performance of the trio here is wonderful – complex, but organic – very rhythmic, but also never tied to the groove – maybe a bit in the spirit of the UK group Ill Considered at times, but with a direction that's very much its own! In addition to Stewart on bass, the always-amazing Chad Taylor is on drums – really given the space here to remind us how brilliant he can be – and the group also features Brian Settles on tenor, carving out these really beautiful lines over the top. Titles include "Roots", "Angles", "Reminiscence", "Circles", and "Dream House". ~ Dusty Groove

William Hooker - Big Moon

Maybe one of the most beautiful albums we've heard from William Hooker in years – and a set that has so much more to offer than just his work on drums! There's certainly some of the freer, more improvised moments on the record that you'd expect from Hooker – but there's also these wonderfully tuneful passages, too – work that draws from all sorts of warmly crafted sounds from other group members – a lineup that features Mara Rosenbloom and Mark Hennen on piano, Jimmy Lopez on percussion, Charles Compo on flute, Stephen Gauci and Sarah Manning on saxes, and Jal Rohm Parker Wells on bass. There's also a bit of electronics from Theo Woodward – an element that's used sparingly, but in really great ways – and at the core, Hooker is still very much in charge of the proceedings, as you can feel when he really gets going on the kit. Titles include "Right Speech", "Ring Pass Not", "Seven Rays", "Major Planetary Centres", "Sequence Of The Form", and "Synthesis Of Understanding". ~ Dusty Groove

William Parker - Painter's Winter

William Parker's given us some tremendous music over the years, but this album may be one of our favorites of the bunch – as the set's got this back-to-basics approach that has Parker working in trio formation with Hamid Drake on drums and Daniel Carter on reeds – all with this effortless sense of fluid spontaneity that comes through right from the very first note! The interplay between the musicians is fantastic – free, but always very soulful and directed too – and Carter shifts between trumpet, alto, tenor, clarinet, and flute – making these really magical sounds that are sometimes echoed by Parker on trombonium and shakuhachi. The whole album's brilliant – and features the long songs "Happiness", "Painted Scarf", "Groove 77", and "Painter's Winter". ~ Dusty Groove

Black Flower | "Magma"

Five-piece hybrid jazz outfit Black Flower have released ‘Magma’, the second single taken from the band’s forthcoming album of the same name released 28th January via Sdban Ultra. “We present this latest single as a metaphor for what is to come - moments in time when music comes to the surface taking a concrete form, shared and used to amplify the beauty of life. Being the title track of the upcoming album it reflects a boiling, churning, silent energy. It is the core, the source. It is a state between solid and liquid and represents ancient energy and new potential. The track. An arching melody from the cornet gives way to an eruptive solo on baritone sax.” 

Black Flower is a band at the peak of their creative powers. Having received glowing praise for the 2019 album ‘Future Flora’ from Mojo, Songlines, BBC Radio 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 3’s Music Planet, Worldwide FM and Jazz FM among others, forthcoming album ‘Magma’ sees Black Flower embrace new synth and organ sounds from the band’s most recent recruit, Karel Cuelenaere. Piloted by Brussels-based saxophonist/flutist/composer Nathan Daems (Echoes of Zoo, Dijf Sanders), the quintet is a vibrant, hypnotic mix of Ethio jazz, afrobeat, psychedelia and oriental influences, inspired by Mulatu Astatke, Fela Kuti and varied western musical traditions.

Across ‘Magma’, Cuelenaere’s influence can be heard from the outset – his keys adding a swirling, mischievousness to album opener and title track ‘Magma’. Elsewhere, the shuffling drum patterns and flighty, flute-propelled ‘O Fogo’ are rich in texture and flow. Driving rhythms and Eastern influenced melodies serve as a rich source of pleasure that, like magma, become real and solid when finding its way to the surface. It’s the perfect metaphor for this album’s creational process. The pulsating, trance-inducing ‘Deep Dive Down’ continues the joyous process while singer-songwriter Meskerem Mees (winner of The Montreux Jazz Talent Award 2021) adds, her clear-as-spring-water vocals to the celestial ‘Morning in the Jungle’.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Tom Browne: Brother, Brother – The GRP / Arista Anthology

SoulMusic Records is very proud to present “Brother, Brother: The GRP/Arista Anthology,” a musically superb anthology by renowned trumpeter, musician and songwriter Tom Browne, covering his five-year tenure (1979-1984), firstly with GRP Records then with Arista Records.

From Jamaica, Queens, NY, Tom grew up in a creatively-fertile environment among other budding musicians including drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Marcus Miller, keyboardist Bernard Wright, drummer Lenny White and songwriter/musician Lesette Wilson. After being courted by several labels, Tom opted to sign with the then-fledgling GRP label, created by top jazz production team of Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

Following the critically-acclaimed “Browne Sugar” LP, Tom experienced his biggest commercial breakthrough with 1980’s “Love Approach” which included the massive global hit, the now-timeless funk groove, ‘Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.)’, a No. 1 R&B US hit. This 29-track, 2-CD set also includes two 1991 remixes of the classic cut by the UK’s Driza Bone.

Tom’s third album, “Magic” kept the momentum going with charted hits, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Thighs High (Grip Your Hips And Move)’ and ‘Fungi Mama/Bebopafunkadiscolypo’, are all featured here along with later hits, ‘Bye Gones’, ‘Rockin’ Radio’ (produced by Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun), ‘Cruisin’’, and ‘Secret Fantasy’ (featuring Siedah Garrett).

With key cuts from each of his four GRP and two Arista albums, this stellar anthology is remastered by Donald Cleveland and includes notes by renowned US writer Kevin Goins with quotes from Tom himself, Marcus Miller and Lesette Wilson and comments by the late Larry Rosen.

Vicente Hansen Atria and Mat Muntz | "The Vex Collection"

Imagining alternate pasts, presents, and futures, The Vex Collection uses unheard-of combinations of traditional instruments, newly devised musical contraptions, and a philosophy of mad-scientific experimentation in their exploration of uncharted sonic space. Led by composer-performers Vicente Hansen Atria (drums, gongs, electronics) and Mat Muntz (bass, Croatian bagpipe, homemade woodwinds), their self-titled debut features avant-garde highland bagpiper Matthew Welch and Korean woodwind virtuoso gamin, who contribute their unique abilities and conceptions to an intricate whirlwind of sound. 

The project grew from Mat and Vicente’s shared fascination with the double reed, an ancient musical technology developed by virtually every culture on Earth in order to produce loud, brilliant, and beautifully intense sounds. In their collaboration with Welch and gamin, they found surprising affinities between the musical worlds of Scotland and Korea, both of which feature double reed instruments as central cultural icons. On The Vex Collection, the striking presences of these traditional instruments are not softened or altered so as to better blend with one another; they are allowed to clash thunderously in one moment and synthesize miraculously in the next, imagining some forgotten past where these sounds could have emerged as part of an organic folk tradition. The addition of new, experimental instruments into the mix extends this history into a speculative future: one in which the primacy of the double reed never waned, and the most compelling sounds of the 21st century - distorted guitars, aggressive synthesizers, detailed microtonality - are produced via breath and vibrating blades rather than circuitry. 

This volatile energy is directed and shaped from below by the rhythm section chemistry of Muntz and Hansen Atria. Longtime collaborators in the New York jazz scene, the pair guide the band with precision and propulsion through prog-rock rhythmic minefields, hypnotic grooves, and improvised explorations. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

2CELLOS | "Dedictated"

Having racked up a billion-plus audio streams, countless sold-out concerts, and millions of fans across the globe in their ten years together as 2CELLOS, the Croatian duo of Luka Šulić and HAUSER today release their sixth full-length album Dedicated via Sony Masterworks. Celebrating the group's momentous 10-year-anniversary, the album's namesake is an apt nod to 2CELLOS' dedication to their fans, the instrument, and their signature playing style. In support of the new album, the duo will make their long-awaited return to the stage for their 2022 Dedicated World Tour, their final tour together as 2CELLOS. Kicking off March 2022 in the U.S., 2CELLOS will make stops at iconic venues including New York's Barclays Center (April 3) and Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl (April 15) – full tour dates and ticketing information can be found HERE.

Of "Sweet Child O' Mine," 2CELLOS say: "It's one of those classic legendary songs, so we had to do it! We'd been thinking about recording it for a long time. It's our typical 2CELLOS style-rock ‘n' roll on the cello. It's how we started, and it's what we came back to now. I don't know why it took us this long, but we're happy we finally did it!"

Following a brief hiatus for 2CELLOS, which found both Luka and HAUSER using the opportunity to build on their accomplishments by each releasing solo albums, the duo linked up again in the studio amidst the 2020 global pandemic to reimagine the pop anthems and timeless rock staples that encompass the ten tracks on Dedicated. The arrangement process relied on a combination of gut instinct and intense study, practice, and transposition as the duo recharged instantly recognizable by everyone from Billie Eilish to Guns N' Roses. 

2CELLOS explore a diverse catalog with their signature boundary-breaking playing style on Dedicated.  The collection includes their take on everything from classic pop hits ("bad guy" by Billie Eilish, "Shallow" by Lady Gaga, "Halo" by Beyonce) to hard-hitting rock songs ("Livin' on a Prayer," by Bon Jovi, "Cryin'" by Aerosmith, "Demons" by Imagine Dragons, "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses, "Wherever I Go" by OneRepublic) to celebrated classics ("Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel) for a one-of-a-kind listening experience.  Complete track list below.

"When you listen to us, we hope you realize the cello is a versatile and diverse instrument capable of playing the hardest rock, the softest ballad, and the most contemporary of music," 2CELLOS note. "It moves you in a way that's equally powerful. It has a whole palette of emotions, ups, and downs. We're trying to give you an experience you can't get anywhere else."

2CELLOS is the eclectic, international sensation comprised of two classically trained cellists who reached video viral fame on YouTube from their 2011 rendition of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." The pair, Luka Šulić and HAUSER, have since created a name for themselves with their electric and dynamic playing style. Together, 2CELLOS have amassed a staggering 1.3 billion YouTube views, 5.5 million YouTube subscribers, 1 billion streams, and have sold nearly 1 million tickets. 2CELLOS have taken the cello to unimagined heights as their signature style breaks down the boundaries between genres of music, from classical and film music, to pop and rock. Known for their electric live performances, 2CELLOS have sold out shows across the globe at historic venues including New York City's Radio City Music Hall, London's Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House. The duo has performed alongside musical greats Steven Tyler, Andrea Bocelli, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age and George Michael, to name a few, and was hand-picked by Sir Elton John to perform both as an opener as well as part of the iconic singer's live band. 2CELLOS are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and are working hard to continue reaching new stratospheres. 

New Music Releases: Isaac Norris, Moonchild, Chancha Via Circuito & Luvi Torres, Swatkins

Isaac Norris - No Shade

It’s not often that you hear a saxophonist described as jovial, but it totally fits the cheery, uplifting, groove-intensive vibe, and free-flowing horn style of Isaac Norris! He follows his 2020 breakthrough hit, “Rise and Shine” (nearly 170,000 Spotify streams to date), with a similarly buoyant, funky, and dynamic new single, “No Shade.” Co-written and produced by keyboardist Marco Montoya and drummer/percussionist Kevin Lewis (aka The Smooth Jazz Alley), Norris plays it sly and smooth over a tight, funky rhythm section, and then amps up the emotional intensity with sizzling horn textures, punchy high notes, and adventurous runs. 100% smooth sunshine! ~

Moonchild - Starfruit

Starfruit’ is the fifth album from LA-trio Moonchild (Amber Navran, Andris Mattson, and Max Bryk). The result of ten years spent working and growing together, ‘Starfruit’ showcases the respect, musical understanding, and love the trio have, both for each other and for the noteworthy list of collaborators featured on the album. Bringing a host of beautiful melodies and personal lyrics, ‘Starfruit’ beholds offerings from Lalah Hathaway, Alex Isley, Tank and The Bangas, Rapsody, Ill Camille, Mumu Fresh, Chantae Cann and Josh Johnson. Alongside the LP’s extensive list of featured artists, the release sees Moonchild experimenting with new synths and sounds. While still rooted in their trademark tones, these textures and sound palettes elevate ‘Starfruit’ to new and impressive Moonchild musical territory. Their first release featuring collaborations, Moonchild take the opportunity on ‘Starfruit’ to work with a number of acclaimed Black female musicians. Each providing their own ‘goosebump’ moment to ‘Starfruit’, the eclectic mix of vocals and lyrics set to the backdrop of Moonchild’s musical synergy and understanding makes for something spellbinding.

Chancha Via Circuito & Luvi Torres - Ceremonia

Ceremonia (“Ceremony”) is the first collaborative release between singer songwriter Luvi Torres, and producer Chancha Vía Circuito. Combining exceptional voicework with powerful creative rhythms typical of Chancha, the lyrics include mantras Luvi uses in their therapeutic exercises, thereby immersing us in a healing musical world. Taken as a whole, the album’s four tracks, Abro (“I Open”), Creo (“I Believe” or “I Create”), Sano (“I Heal”), Amo (“I Love”) encourage sensitive receptivity. Luvi’s vocals are enveloped by lush ambient dub. Chancha’s rhythms and vibrations create a comforting and calming soundscape that invites a sense of timelessness and expansion. At times Ceremonia spirals hypnotically, blurring the distinction between inner and outer worlds. This music calls for attentive listening and encourages active individual and collective reinvention.

Swatkins - Gotta Give It Away (If Your Gonna Keep It)

While routing through Denver in January 2019, Swatkins and his all-star lineup were invited into Color Red Studios to lay down a track. Swatkins had the freshly half-baked track in his mind and showed the group his late-night demo, which elicited grunts of approval. From there, the band members crafted the rhythm tracks together in a ground-up collaborative effort. Michelangelo Carubba incessantly wore metronomic headphones throughout the day to lock in the pocket on drums. Andre Zapata translated the demo’s Moog bassline flawlessly on the low end. Craig Brodhead displayed effortless chemistry interlocking his phased rhythm guitar with Swatkins’ wah clavinet. Michael Elson added icing on the cake, lacing the track with a shimmering layer of gospel organ. Swatkins and More Masa honed goosebump-inducing vocals on the spot as the rhythm section recorded live. After tracking at Color Red, the tune was sent to the horn-led group The Huntertones for Jon Lampley (trumpet), Chris Ott (trombone), and Dan White (saxophones) to lay down some funky swagger while Jans Ingber (formerly of The Motet) peppered it up with percussion and Swatkins locked it down with a Moog solo over the bridge and his signature talkbox stylings on the outro

Tyler Mitchell featuring Marshall Allen | "Dancing Shadows"

Tyler Mitchell and Marshall Allen go way back — and way out. Having worked together in the Sun Ra Arkestra in the mid 1980s, the two resumed their partnership again over the past decade, with Mitchell  rejoining the Arkestra after exploring other paths. That group carries on the Sun Ra name today under the direction of Allen, now 97, yet what they have in common goes far beyond the music of one man. Inspired by their former boss, the two are finding new common ground, cross-pollinating their experiences with both free and arranged jazz, and harvesting a new album in the process, Dancing Shadows. 

Joining Mitchell and Allen on the new Mahakala Music release are Chris Hemmingway (tenor sax), Nicoletta Manzini (alto sax), Wayne Smith (drums) and Elson Nascimento (percussion), and the sextet can deliver both horn arrangements and free passages with aplomb. In so doing, the album fulfills a vision that Mitchell has had for years.

Having studied bass with Donald Rafael Garrett (John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Rahsaan Roland Kirk) and Malachi Favors (Art Ensemble of Chicago), Mitchell has always straddled the worlds of conventional and avant garde jazz. He was still in his mid-twenties when he made the jump from his native Chicago to New York and landed a gig with the Arkestra in 1985. While his restless nature soon took him elsewhere, he can be heard on two Sun Ra albums from that period. “Reflections in Blue and Hours After, we recorded both of those at the same time,” Mitchell recalls. “Sun Ra was doing a lot of standards and Fletcher Henderson arrangements.” Even then, he was exploring the possibilities of combining free jazz with less chaotic settings. 

Indeed, Mitchell distinguished himself as one of the nation's premiere hard bop bassists in the years that followed. By 1988, he was adding his distinctive fat sound to Art Taylor's Wailers, and later he worked with Jon Hendricks, Shirley Horn, and George Coleman. By the turn of the century, “I went down to Mexico, Cuba and Central America for about ten years. And when I came back in 2010, 2011, I joined the Arkestra with Marshall. And Marshall's just such a great player. So I said, 'You've got to do a project with me one day!' I was just waiting for this moment to come. Oh man, it's beautiful, man! Everything just came so natural with Marshall. He's a master, man. He's from before be bop; he's from the swing era, you know?”

In fact, almost a century of music-making has given Allen an insight into nearly every facet of jazz. Leaving his native Louisville, Kentucky during World War II, he played clarinet and alto saxophone with the U.S. Army's 17th Division Special Service Band, spent the late '40s working with James Moody, then studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music. By 1951, Allen had returned to the U.S. and  in 1958 joined Sun Ra's Arkestra, with whom he's been associated ever since. With James Spaulding initially being Ra's main alto player, Allen was encouraged to cultivate other talents over the years, including flute, oboe, piccolo, and EVI (a brass- and wind-based controller for synthesizer). Moreover, the Arkestra was the perfect ensemble for Allen to perfect his expressive, non-chordal approach, full of howls and birdsongs. 

Nowadays, when Allen leads the Arkestra, Mitchell says he “covers all the different styles in jazz when we do a concert. It's not just swing, it's not just free. It covers a little bit of everything. We mix it all up, with some free stuff and old Fletcher Henderson stuff, to rhythmic songs with different kinds of layers. That's why this record has got a little bit of everything.”

The compositions of Sun Ra himself are the perfect vehicle for this eclecticism, especially those from the earliest years of the Arkestra, and the album includes “Interstellar Low Ways,” “Angels & Demons at Play,” “Dancing Shadows,” “Carefree,” “Enlightenment” and “A Call for All Demons.” Yet this is no slavish reproduction. As Mitchell points out, “Marshall was on all those records back in the day. But he chose not to sit and play the same arrangements. He preferred to put something fresh on top. A new line. He didn't want to just do his line again, like back in the '50s. He wanted to create on the spot.”

The set is rounded out with a Thelonious Monk tune, “Skippy,” two by the alto player Manzini and three by Mitchell himself. His contributions spring directly from his impressions of his fellow players. “Nico” and “Nico Revisited” refer to Manzini's nickname. “We did a couple of takes on the song, and they were so similar, yet so different. That's why I called the other one 'revisited',” says Mitchell. His third was inspired by Allen, but actually begins with only Mitchell's bass.

“I had him directing me,” says Mitchell. “He directed me so I could go off into it. 'Marshall the Deputy' is the title  —  that's what Sun Ra used to call him. It was a play on words: You've got the marshall and you've got the deputy. In fact there's a song called 'Deputy Motel' that he wrote for Marshall.”

All in all, Mitchell is pleased with the ensemble, which he put together with a particular kind of freedom in mind. “I thought the voicings from the horns would do all the chords I needed,” he reflects. “Sometimes a piano can really lock a person in, you know? It locks you up where you can't get out and be free. But when the piano and guitar are gone, I can play a lot of different notes. A lot of different things that ordinarily would clash with the piano.”

Mitchell was especially keen to try some of the Sun Ra tunes with a smaller band than the Arkestra. “The tenor player, Chris Hemmingway, joined the band just recently, and he turned out to be really good. Nicoletta is one of Marshall's proteges. She put a lot of arrangements together, and put in a lot of stuff to make it really happening. The horns kept things from really sounding too out there. The way they blew around the music really kept a cohesiveness around each song, where it wasn't just a soloist blowing. The shape of the song was always there.  And then the drummer and the percussionist both play with the Sun Ra band, so they knew the music I wanted to do. It really paid to have somebody who knew the songs. I just did them a little different.”

And then there was Allen. “Marshall will improvise on the spot. And if a song's too nice and neat and clean and all too perfect, he'll come and just mess it all up. You don't want it to be all too perfect. He likes to have the chaos. Because he believes there are no wrong notes, you know?  His philosophy is, you play one note, you make a mistake, and then say something right. Then make another mistake. Say something wrong. He hears the song like that. 'Play something wrong! Now play something right! Now play something wrong!'  I just let Marshall do his thing. Everybody else had special things they had to play, arrangements to follow, but Marshall, I just let him do what he does. I really had no instructions for him except to direct us. We do a lot of free stuff, and use a lot of space chords and all that. I need him to direct us. Other than that, I just want him to fill in all the right places, and put his signature on it.”

The final product is the perfect synthesis of freedom and constraint, hard bop and pure sonic texture. The listener is never lulled into complacency. And this goes for Mitchell himself: “Each song's got a different vibe,” he says, “and I still listen to the music. I usually don't like to listen to what I've done. I don't like to keep hearing myself. But this particular record really holds my attention.” 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Ed Neumeister | What Have I Done?"

Composed and arranged by Ed Neumeister, the new album, What Have I Done?, is the latest offering from an artist who has been at the forefront of creative music for more than forty years.

 Neumeister has said that it is his mission in life to create thought-provoking music for curious ears; music that challenges and inspires. Through composing, performing, improvising and teaching, Neumeister has always explored the possibilities, pushing and expanding the envelope in the process. His output is inclined to bring about a torrent of the creative juices, in himself, his band-mates and his audiences. That is certainly the case with his latest offering, What Have I Done? Listening to the album one might be aware that there is a strong unimpeded connection between Neumeister’s heart, soul and brain, the composer’s pen and the trombone – his ability to express ideas, convey emotion and “speak” with his bandmates and to us, the listener, through his music, is unrivaled in today’s creative music landscape. 

The extensiveness and profundity of Neumeister’s experience informs every note he composes and plays. The strain of musicianship, technique and inventiveness heard from Neumeister on What Have I Done? has remarkably deep roots, stretching back to the earliest days of being a teenage, professional musician in the Bay Area, featured in high level marching bands, collaborating with Jerry Garcia, backing up the likes of Chuck Berry, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, embarking on a creative sojourn to Amsterdam, winning the first trombone chair with the Sacramento Symphony, and numerous other gigs, finally arriving in NYC in 1980 where he quickly became a “first-call” for Lionel Hampton, The Duke Ellington Orchestra (in which he played the trombone book made famous by Joe ‘Tricky Sam” Nanton), the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (alongside Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett and Tom Harrell), a stint with Buddy Rich, and many others. Neumeister has basically “worked with everyone,” as they say, including a forty year musical relationship with Joe Lovano (currently a member of his Nonet), Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Band, the aforementioned Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, which became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra after Lewis’ passing (Neumeister’s arrangement of “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” on the album To You: A Tribute To Mel Lewis, was nominated for a Grammy Award), and many others. On top of all this, he has been leading his own ensembles throughout his entire career, and they have served as vehicles for his prolific output as a composer.

Ed Neumeister has composed every day for the past thirty years, a beautiful habit that began when Neumeister was a member of the first BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in 1987 with Manny Albam and Bob Brookmeyer. It was during this time that the artist morphed from a trombonist who composes, to a composer whose main instrument is the trombone.” On What Have I Done? we are treated to eight new Neumeister compositions, interspersed with “Pickled Ginger”, six amuse-bouches by members of the quartet that offer brief interludes in between the compositions. The recording took place after Neumeister moved back to New York City following a seventeen year stint as a Professor at the University of the Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, and several years in Los Angeles, orchestrating for films such as Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Sherlock Holmes. 

Dealing with the composer’s notation can be quite an undertaking. For pianist Gary Versace, he was more than prepared in the studio as he could count on ten years of experience with Neumeister in a trio setting with vocalist Jay Clayton, as well as playing with Neumeister’s Jazz Orchestra on occasion. “Gary and I spent two or three weeks conversing about the music, and I told him that this not a blowing record, but rather a recording of compositions which incorporates improvisation”, explains Neumeister. “The way I notate this music . . . I have this big picture in mind, so I’m not really writing a piano part, but rather an orchestral part. It becomes Gary’s job, in consultation with me, to decide what to play and what to leave out, because it would be impossible to play everything that’s written. The idea behind this is that we can then decide, do we double the melody or bass line, or not? Should there be comping or fills in between phrases, or not? For example. Once Gary got a handle on it, he was able to play what he wanted, but still coming from the material of the composition. He was judicious about respecting what I wrote, while simultaneously able to contribute his unique voice.” 

Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey have played together in many situations and in bands led by the likes of Tim Berne, Tony Malaby, Ingrid Laubrock and Rainey’s own Obbligato Quintet, and their ‘hookup” is on full display on What Have I Done? Gress was also a member of Neumeister’s earlier quartet (with John Hollenbeck and the late Fritz Pauer on piano). Neumeister and Rainey have the deepest history together, going all the way back to their early days in the Bay Area where they played all manner of gigs, to their move to NYC in the early 80s, and their subsequent loft-hopping nights, playing informal sessions on that historic scene.   

What Have I Done? opens with a compelling waltz, “Riverwalk,” that serves as a tribute to the legendary Chick Corea (who passed away in February, 2021), and was inspired by Neumeister’s daily walks along the Passaic River. “Acclimation Park” follows, and is a nod to a favorite jogging path in Sáo Paulo. Naturally, it has a Samba feel, and “it’s traditional in terms of the harmony, and the four bar phrases, but it’s got some strange melody notes, and altered chords that aren’t so frequently altered,” explains Neumeister. Neumeister has a gift for taking melodic material to refreshingly new places, as is the case with “Gratitude.” Neumeister elaborates, “there is often what look like chord changes in my compositions, but I don’t think of them as chord changes anymore, but rather as harmonic reference.” Other highlights on the album include “Ridgewood,” named for the Queens neighborhood where it was written. It grooves like crazy, despite the odd time signatures employed (9/8, 17/16, 5/8 & 11/16), a testament to the incredible talent these gentlemen possess. Neumeister composed “Renate” for a dear, departed friend from Switzerland. “It’s sing-songy in nature, but harmonically far away from II V I. It’s built on a pattern in 10/4, two bars of 3 with one bar of 4, with a swing feel, reminiscent of Elvin Jones,” said Neumeister. The title track is a question every human being has asked himself/herself at one time or another, and for Neumeister ‘What Have I Done?’ relates to the end of a marriage, the beginning of a new relationship, and the offering of a profound recording that builds upon an extensive catalogue of recordings, and showcases a composer and trombonist in a perpetual state of evolution.

Tower of Power Celebrates 50th Anniversary Release, 50 Years of Funk & Soul: Live at the Fox Theater – Oakland, CA – June 2018, with Nationwide Spring Tour

Tower of Power, legendary Bay Area funk band, announces today their initial details surrounding a late winter / early spring 2022 tour; one that will dip them down into Florida and select Northeastern markets for the first time since the onset of Covid in 2020. The band was last on the road in the fall of 2021 but hasn’t paid a true visit to Florida or the Northeast since before 2020. With this tour, spanning over 15 cities, Tower of Power returns to some of their favorite markets to bring their much needed inimitable blend of soul, funk, rock, R&B, and jazz to rejuvenate fans both old and new. 

The band, whose timeless classics such as “What Is Hip?” “So Very Hard to Go,” “You’re Still A Young Man,” and many more, have truly withstood the test of time. In 2018, Tower of Power got together for two memorable evenings in Oakland, the city that started it all, to celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary with a few thousand friends, family and fans. The window-rattling grooves and raucous party spirit of ToP has been a balm for the soul throughout the band’s half-century existence, but the release of 50 Years of Funk & Soul: Live at the Fox Theater – Oakland, CA – June 2018 couldn’t have come at a better time.  

Now, the legendary soul-funk-R&B group is set to return to the road with the first major tour since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning in February, they'll visit over 20 markets in nearly a dozen states to celebrate the release of their recent album in commemoration of their 50th anniversary.

Available now from Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group, the high-spirited live album and video offers a reminder of the communal joys of the live music experience, something that’s been sorely missed over this staggering pandemic year. Released as a 3-LP set, a 2-CD/DVD combo, a standalone DVD, as well as digitally, 50 Years of Funk & Soul is the next best thing to hearing these brilliant musicians in person. Fittingly for such a special occasion, Tower of Power went all out for these hometown shows, supplementing the core 10-piece band and its iconic horn section with additional horns and a string section.  

Bandleader and saxophonist Emilio Castillo also invited back a few elite ToP alumni, including saxophonist Lenny Pickett (musical director of the Saturday Night Live band); keyboardist Chester Thompson (Santana); guitarist Bruce Conte and former vocalist Ray Greene, who shows off his trombone prowess. They join the renowned modern line-up of the band, featuring co-founder Stephen “Doc” Kupka on baritone sax, longtime drummer David Garibaldi, and lead vocalist Marcus Scott. Adding a bittersweet tinge is the presence of founding bassist Francis “Rocco” Prestia, who passed away in September 2020. 

“People come up to me all the time and say, ‘Wow man, 50 years! We can't believe it,’” laughs Castillo. “You can't believe it? I'm the one that can't believe it. We've been through a lot of ups and downs and learned a lot along the way. We've affected a lot of people's lives and done a lot of work that we're very proud of. The band has a real family atmosphere. It's been very rewarding.”

Castillo was only 17 years old when he met Kupka and started to assemble the band that would become Tower of Power. “I had no vision at all,” he recalls now. “I just loved playing soul music. My idols were a local band called The Spyders and they had gigged in Sacramento. I thought, ‘Man, if I could just get to Sacramento that would be it.’ That's literally how small my vision was.”

The band has long since surpassed Castillo’s admittedly modest aspirations, traveling the world, enjoying hit singles on their own and backing some of the most legendary artists of the last 50 years – a list that includes Otis Redding, Elton John, Santana, the Grateful Dead, John Lee Hooker, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, and countless others. In the process they’ve defined an “Oakland soul” sound as instantly recognizable as those from Castillo’s hometown, Detroit, as well as inspirations like Memphis and Philadelphia. 

50th Anniversary Release, 50 Years of Funk & Soul:

Live at the Fox Theater – Oakland, CA – June 2018, with Nationwide Spring Tour

Upcoming Tower of Power U.S. Tour Dates

February 11 & 12 | Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa | Stateline, NV

February 15 | Ponte Vedra Concert Call | Ponte Vedra, FL

February 17 | Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre | Clearwater, FL

February 19 | Parker Playhouse | Ft. Lauderdale, FL

February 20 | The Plaza Live | Orlando, FL

February 22 | Variety Playhouse | Atlanta, GA

March 3 | Tupelo Music Hall | Derry, NH

March 4 | Plymouth Memorial Hall | Plymouth, MA

March 5 | Chevalier Theater | Medford, MA

March 7 | Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts | Harrisburg, PA

March 9 | Community Arts Center | Williamsport, PA

March 10 | The Ridgefield Playhouse | Ridgefield, CT

March 11 | The Warehouse at FTC | Fairfield, CT

March 14 & 15 | Sony Hall | New York, NY

March 17 | MGM Northfield Park | Northfield, OH

March 19 | Lindenwood Theater | Saint Charles, MO

April 23 | Soundstage at Graceland | Memphis, TN

New Releases: Eric Goletz, Soul Sugar, Bernie Senensky, Jami Templeton

Eric Goletz - A New Light

Virtuoso trombonist Eric Goletz is releasing A New Light, his second CD as a leader. After a 30-year career as a studio musician and first-call horn player in New York City, Goletz released his debut CD, Into the Night, in March of 2021. Brimming with ideas and unstoppable energy, Goletz started working on A New Light before his previous project was officially released. And like his previous release, A New Light is an exciting, eclectic mix of musical styles that creates an infectious pastiche of sounds and textures. Goletz’s multifarious background, experiences, and taste imbues his compositions and arrangements with a joie de vie enriched by his stellar musicianship. Goletz says, “I think of music as having endless possibilities. It’s a journey where you can never be absolutely sure where it will lead. Although my background is in jazz and classical music, I spend much time listening to other forms of music such pop, rock, Country, Motown, funk, Latin, and even Heavy Metal. There’s always something new to learn, and I try to keep an open mind to the simple joy of listening to music.” Goletz’s arrangements are unique. With his solid chops as a musician and decades of working as a composer and arranger in a wide variety of musical venues and situations, it’s no wonder that his music is overflowing with a macrocosm of ideas. You can almost feel his rush of joy as he picks up his pen to get it all on paper.

Soul Sugar - Excursions in Dub

Released exclusively in Japan for Record Store Day through the HMV record shop under license from Gee Recordings, new album Excursions in Dub is now available on all digital platforms and you can still order the vinyl from Japan and from very few European outlets including the band’s Bandcamp. Soul Sugar’s cast list of contributing musicians to the original and dub album includes Sly & Robbie, Blundetto, Lone Ark, Slikk Tim, Thomas Naim, Jahno, Grant Phabao and honey-voiced soul singer Leo Carmichael. Metenier also stars as a musician, providing lively and ear-catching organ solos under his now familiar Booker Gee alias. The dub album features heavy dub versions in the roots tradition of the eight tracks of the original full-length along with two unreleased tracks, a cover of Jackie Mittoo‘s “Peace Treaty” and “Pablo Dub” in combination with Blundetto & Booker Gee. The dub mixes were expertly handcrafted in their own respective studios by engineers extraordinaire Roberto Sanchez aka Lone Ark, Blundetto & Blackjoy, Jahno, and Guillaume Metenier aka Booker Gee. Expect analog roots and modern sounds designed for heavy sound systems or your home hi-fi  …highest level of cool for impeccable taste, grab it and chill!.

Bernie Senensky Quartet / Quintet - Don't Look Back

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1944, pianist Bernie Senensky has been a stalwart member of the Canadian and international jazz scenes for over 50 years. He has toured with a multitude of his own ensembles over the years, and has played with a diverse array of internationally celebrated jazz artists, from Chet Baker to Moe Koffman, and from Elvin Jones to Pharoah Sanders (to name but a few). Senensky continues to play and tour extensively. Despite his kind and soft-spoken personality, his assertive keyboard style and consummate melodicism has ensconced him as a lynchpin of the current jazz scene. Senensky fits smack dab in the middle of the hard bop tradition. For those looking for a delightful romp through some new tunes in the style of the masters, you could do worse than to try out the Bernie Senensky Quintet. Bernie's style sparkles with a lightness and playfulness that makes his solos so easy and fun to listen to. You don't have to reach for anything; it’s all there.

Jami Templeton - The Shape Of My Heart

“This record brought me back to life. After living through a long battle with chronic lyme disease, and subsequently covid, a dear friend suggested I return to my first love of singing, and to the genre I held so sacred, I was almost afraid to touch it.” Shortly after returning to Los Angeles in 2021, vocalist Jami Templeton met the musicians who would become her band. After running through dozens of her favourite songs with producer and pianist Andy Langham, Templeton settled on a book of music that helped tell the story she had to tell. Having spent much of her singing life in the world of big, bold arias, Templeton had reached a softer musical phase. Every piece on this album holds a special meaning for Templeton. Each song, carefully selected  from the American songbook, reflects a sliver of time in her life: treasured moments of love, mischief, and heartbreak. The Shape of My Heart will be released worldwide on Friday, February 4th 2022.


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