Monday, February 28, 2022

New Music Releases: Avataar, The Heavyweights Brass Band, Beth McKenna, Montreal Jazz Trio

Avataar - Worldview

Avataar is an award-winning world-jazz group featuring a cohort of some of Toronto’s finest jazz, world, funk, and pop musicians. The music is inspired by the deep musical traditions of India, Africa and Brazil, and is rooted within the framework of modern jazz. In an innovative marriage of ancient and modern, driving grooves intersect with cinematic atmospheres and soaring melodies, creating a fresh sonic experience.The music in Worldview represents a logical artistic evolution for its leader, Sundar Viswanathan. The album is a musical commentary on the state of our world, on the pandemic, and on the inability of our leaders to lead with integrity, honesty, and compassion. While the actions of our leaders affected so many, some of the songs started as gut responses to the treatment of children, our most valuable and vulnerable citizens, and act as vehicles of catharsis for the composer. Song Song explores ideas of childhood nostalgia and memory, and the homesickness and saudade one feels when trying to recollect that song that’s just out of  our memory’s reach. Little Kurdi (for Alan Kurdi) is a lament and memorial for three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, who washed up on an Italian shore, a victim of human trafficking; and Innocents (12/14/12) is a dedication to all those who were murdered in Sandy Hook in 2012, tragic victims of gun violence. Together these pieces comment on the honesty and fragility of children faced by a world of uncertainty and confusion created by adults.

The Heavyweights Brass Band - Stir Crazy

They won’t be contained! Drenched in energy, passion, and feeling, The Heavyweights Brass Band bursts forth with their latest outing Stir Crazy! Their fourth full-length album, Stir Crazy, features the high intensity New Orleans-style brass playing and virtuosity that has been a staple of the band since its inception. Put that alongside soulful and reflective grooves on tracks like Feel Like Makin’ Love and Black Hole Sun and you’ve got a smorgasbord of musical flavour. The album is punctuated by the tasteful use of studio production techniques that add even more depth to this remarkable creative statement. This is the kind of album you turn up, put on repeat, and then lose all sense of the passage of time! The Heavyweights Brass Band is known for their collaborative efforts, and Stir Crazy is no different with Joel Visentin of JV’s Boogaloo Squad joining the band on organ for Sweet Pauly’s Boogaloo and Rehab. Recorded during a marathon three-day session at Union Sound Station from March 12 -14, 2020, Stir Crazy is a demonstration of the Heavyweights at the height of their powers, captured just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the live music world into hibernation.

Beth McKenna - Beyond Here

Born in Nova Scotia and a Montrealer since 2008, Beth McKenna is one of Montreal’s most versatile saxophonists, bandleaders, and composers. A Prix Opus Laureate (Concert of the Year – Jazz/World Music) and a 2-time finalist for Revelations Radio-Canada (Jazz), Beth has studied with a wide range of jazz music’s top voices, including Christine Jensen, Darcy James Argue, Jim McNeely, Rémi Bolduc, John Roney, and Chet Doxas. Written almost entirely prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenna’s new album Beyond Here was inspired by the impact we as humans have on the world around us. From conflict and climate change, to the fusion of North American culture with global influences, Beyond Here is pure energy from start-to-finish, pushing a sense of urgency to reflect on where we stand with our planet, and how our actions can echo far beyond the present. This album mixes a wide range of influences: from Pat Metheny to Brad Mehldau, Snarky Puppy to Jacob Collier, and from Pink Floyd to the Brian Blade Fellowship. As a composer, McKenna writes with plenty of room for improvisation and spontaneous musical conversation, with a diverse pallet of colours and shifting rhythmic textures in each piece. As the album weaves from darker to more upbeat moments, McKenna’s unique through-composed approach to writing breaks through traditional jazz forms, creating a strong narrative that runs through the album from start to finish.

Montreal Jazz Trio - Montreal Jazz Trio

Montreal Jazz Trio’s self-titled recording is modern jazz piano trio playing at its finest. This exciting new album was recorded in November of 2020 at the storied recording studio Boutique de Son in Pointe Claire, Quebec, and is being released by the Montréal label ODD SOUND. The group features three of Montreal’s finest musicians: Steve Amirault on piano, Adrian Vedady on acoustic bass, and Jim Doxas on drums. This recording was self-produced by the trio and mixed by Doxas. This nine track record is a mix of memorable originals and deft arrangements of well known jazz standards. Amirault is the main contributor with four originals, including the contrafacts All Those Lovely Things (based on Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are) and Nowhere (based on the famous standard Out Of Nowhere), both of which showcase his singular approach to harmony. Highlights include arrangements of the classics Takin’ a Chance on Love and Take the “A” Train, as well as Wray, Vedady’s swinging tribute to the late great Canadian jazz pianist Wray Downes. Amirault’s stirring composition Empathy serves as a call for peace during turbulent times. This music is fresh, swinging, creative, and innovative.   


From March 3-19, some of today's rising stars in jazz music will perform Songs We Love, a journey through the first 50 years of jazz song, in performing arts centers and concert halls in the U.S. Under the musical direction of Riley Mulherkar, 3 guest vocalists will join an all-star band made up of New York’s rising stars. Combining their distinct talents, the group will sing their way through four decades of music, beginning with the early blues and jazz of the 1920s and ending in the early 1950s. Iconic singers to be explored include Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. 

The Songs We Love tour kicks off in March with nine-shows throughout the north, east coast and south. Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents – SONGS WE LOVE: 50 Years of Jazz Song features Riley Mulherkar as Musical Director, with Vuyo Sotashe, Brianna Thomas and Shenel Johns on vocals with Julian Lee, Mariel Bildsten, Mathis Picard, Barry Stephenson and TJ Reddick.

Songs We Love was first presented as the 2016 Season Opener at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. For over three decades, Jazz at Lincoln Center has been a leading advocate for jazz, culture, and arts education globally. Under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, and with the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and guest artists spanning genres and generations, JALC produces thousands of performance, education, and broadcast events each season in its home in New York City, and around the world for people of all ages.

The JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER PRESENTS touring initiative provides a new opportunity to present great jazz programming, featuring up-and-coming musicians who have been identified as rising stars by JALC. The initiative also allows for expansion of the mission of JALC “to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education, and advocacy.”

Riley Mulherkar has been recognized as a “smart young trumpet player” by The New York Times and praised by The Wall Street Journal as a “youngster to keep an eye on.” Riley is a founding member of The Westerlies, a new music brass quartet that creates the rarest of hybrids: music that is both “folk-like and composerly, lovely and intellectually rigorous” (NPR Music). Riley works with a number of leading artists of our time, including Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Alan Cumming, and Anna Deavere Smith. Born and raised in Seattle, Riley moved to New York to study at The Juilliard School, and received the Knowles Prize for Jazz and the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding achievement and leadership in music. In 2011, Riley was named a “rising jazz artist” by Wynton Marsalis in JET magazine, and in 2014 was the first recipient of the Laurie Frink Career Grant at the Festival of New Trumpet Music. Riley is actively engaged in educational outreach, founding the music program at START Osceola, directing the Summer Advanced Institute at Seattle JazzEd, and serving as an ambassador for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Jazz for Young People” program in New York and St. Louis. All of this experience and accolades position him as the perfect musical director for Songs We Love.

Vocalists on tour include the fast rising young South African jazz vocalist Vuyo Sotashe, who moved to NYC in 2013 after being awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to pursue Master of Music at William Paterson University. Since then, he has gone to win numerous awards including first prize at the very first Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocal Competition in 2014, and more recently, he won the Audience prize award and placed second over-all at the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in 2015. Brianna Thomas is another vocalist making waves and has been described by The NY Times stating, “Ms. Thomas has a strong voice and a big range, descended from Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter and routed through Dianne Reeves, with clarity and confidence and a little dirt.” Rounding out the vocalists with a voice that embodies grace and passion and a personal style that sways effortlessly from jazz to R&B to gospel is Shenel Johns, who has emerged as one of the shining stars of her generation.

Accompanying Riley Mulherkar and the three guest vocalists is Julian Lee, who quickly established himself as one of the most sought after and versatile saxophonists of his generation. He is the recipient of the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award from Jazz At Lincoln Center, and has performed both internationally and nationally with a wide array of critically acclaimed artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, and Jon Batiste. Also joining is Mariel Bildsten on trombone, known as the lead trombonist in Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and tours internationally with the rock band Brass Against. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City, O2 Arena, Birdland Jazz Club, the Apollo Theater, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Caramoor Jazz Festival, Smalls Jazz Club, and Smoke Jazz Club, among other venues. On piano is French-Malagasy pianist Mathis Picard who recently released his new album Live At The Museum, showcasing his diverse talent. Considered one of the most sought-after bassists on the scene today, Barry Stephenson also joins the tour with his raw talent. On drums is TJ Reddick, already a world traveler, who has performed in many countries including France, Brazil and Belize. TJ is an energetic musician ready to light up any stage. Together these musicians bring a young dynamic vibe to each performance that you won’t want to miss.

Select markets will also include "Let Freedom Swing" educational shows. Let Freedom Swing brings outstanding jazz artists and performances to community audiences. Inspired by conversations between former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Let Freedom Swing includes three jazz concerts: Jazz and Democracy, Jazz and the Great Migration, and Jazz and Civil Rights. Since 2013, Let Freedom Swing has reached nearly half a million students in over 3,000 concerts around the world. 

Tour Dates

March 03 @ Arts Commons – Jack Singer Concert Hall – Calgary, AB 

March 06 @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts – Scottsdale, AZ * 

March 09 @ Lyric Theatre – Stuart, FL 

March 10 @ Tribby Arts Center – Fort Myers, FL

March 11 @ Christensen Performance Hall – Sanibel, FL 

March 12 @ South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center – Miami, FL 

March 15 @ Newberry Opera House – Newberry, SC 

March 18 @ SUNY Potsdam – Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall – Potsdam, NY 

March 19 @ The Paramount Theatre – Rutland, VT 

*Let Freedom Swing (March 07 Educational Show)

Jhelisa | "7 Keys V.1 & V.2"

The incomparable Jhelisa releases 7 Keys V.1 & V.2 on Dorado Records. It is an adventurous concept album, based on ancient eastern music, balanced with contemporary sounds, where all 7 keys of the musical scale and sonic frequencies align with each of the chakras.  This cosmic collection features tensions and dissonances as much for connection, reflection and spiritual balance, as for lovers of ambient beats and electronica.

The first single to be taken from the album, Solar Plexus E 320Hz, is a soul-opening opus of radiating frequencies that resonates at a frequency of 320 Hz, the same as that of the body’s solar plexus chakra. The result is a soundscape that is drenched in Jhelisa’s subtle and exquisite vocal power, dissolving into a warm gong bath of sound.  

The mesmerising new video Atmospheria is the wholly absorbing and striking visual representation of 7 Keys. Combining three of the album’s musical pieces – Solar Plexus, The Root and 8N All - the stunning, abstract video features dancers, yogis and Jhelisa, with her mother as the peaceful, great, old sage, in kaleidoscopic, psychedelic form. 

Celebrated as much as an enigmatic, musical maverick, as an outrageously gifted vocalist and songwriter, Jhelisa Anderson was the name to know in the 1990’s.  Her thrillingly daring music – a mix of trip-hop, jazz, avant-garde, gospel and soul - was underpinned by a glorious, deeply seductive voice, remarkable in its intensity and spiritual force.

The Mississippi-born singer based herself in London in the 90’s signing with independent label Dorado Records who offered her complete creative freedom and released and her first two albums - 1994’s Galactica Rush and 1997’s Language Electric to huge critical acclaim.

New-age ideology has peppered much of Jhelisa’s musical output, so a concept album based on her research into the use of sacred drone tones in ancient Eastern music comes as no surprise. Now, in the run up to the label’s 30-year anniversary, Dorado reunites with Jhelisa to present 7 Keys V.1 & V.2, a deeply resonant body of work based around sustained long notes that weave around grounding heartbeat drums and circular, meditative sounds.  Jhelisa’s extraordinary vocal ability makes these explorations especially powerful. It’s a record with a broad audience, from spiritual listeners who’ll immediately recognise the music’s deep harmonic intention, as well as fans of ambient electronica sounds. With Jhelisa’s unadorned voice at the heart of the sonic journey, 7 Keys is universal music for everyone.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Chris Standring announces March shows at Pizza Express Jazz Club to launch release of Wonderful World on vinyl

Guitarist Chris Standring has announced the long-awaited vinyl release of Wonderful World, the stunning new album by jazz guitarist, Chris Standring, which will be played in the intimate setting of Pizza Express – Holborn on 3rd March (8pm), 4th March (8pm) and 5th March (6.30pm and 9.30pm).

Backed by his drum-tight quartet, he will be performing a selection of songs from Wonderful World alongside some much-loved classics from his extensive back catalogue. Former Incognito frontman, Tony Momrelle will be appearing as special guest for all four shows.

“My kind of jazz music undoubtedly works best in an intimate setting, and it doesn’t get much more intimate than Pizza Express – Holborn,” Standring explains. “I haven’t played a club show in London for many years, so I’m incredibly excited.

“It was so important for me to release Wonderful World on vinyl because it is undoubtedly the best format to listen to jazz. Streaming is great, but there’s a palpable pleasure that you can only get when the needle hits the record and you immerse yourself in the warm glow of the music.”

In an illustrious career that stretches back over the last 25 years, Chris Standring has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most virtuosic jazz guitarists. Whilst he has enjoyed huge commercial success in contemporary jazz, Wonderful World is the record he was destined to make from the very moment he first picked up a guitar.

“I’ve had an affinity for strings for as long as I can remember. The idea of doing an album of Great American Songbook standards with a trio and orchestra came to me a few years ago, but the ambition and the huge expense kept the project on the back burner. When Covid hit, I had no gigs in the diary, so with time on my hands, I started to seriously study the art of writing for strings.”

After cutting a demo at his studio in Los Angeles, Standring approached Geoff Gascoyne to write the sublime string arrangements, leaving him free to focus on playing the guitar. His fantasy finally came to fruition when he enlisted some of the world’s best jazz musicians and recorded the orchestra live in Studio Two at Abbey Road.

“I then called up the finest musicians I knew – Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Harvey Mason, Darek Oleszkiewicz, David Karasony and Chuck Berghofer. In March 2021, we recorded the orchestra in Studio Two at Abbey Road – the final piece of this jigsaw. When everything came together, it sounded spellbinding. From beginning to end, it really has been a dream come true.”

Wonderful World, his 13th studio album, finds Standring at the very peak of his powers. With the help of some of the world’s best jazz players, he manages to breathe fresh life into these magical, ageless songs, somehow making them sound both old and new at the same time. Although you can hear echoes of George Benson, Grant Green and Pat Martino in his deceptively simple style, Chris Standring’s sound is unmistakable.

Wonderful World will be released on CD and Limited Edition Heavyweight 180g vinyl on Ultimate Vibe / Lateralize Records - 3rd March 2022.

The Inaugural Jazz Music Awards Announces Online Submissions for its Global Awards Ceremony in October 2022

The inaugural Jazz Music Awards: Celebrating the Spirit of Jazz, today announced the online submissions for the global awards show, which opened on Tuesday, February 1, 2022, and will run through Saturday, April 30, 2022. The Jazz Music Awards is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit subsidiary of WCLK Jazz 91.9. The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 22, 2022, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, GA. For more information visit

The Jazz Music Awards will recognize a broad spectrum of creators within the national and international jazz world, from mainstream and contemporary musicians, vocalists, and big bands, to composers, individual songs, and full-length albums. The eligibility period for the 2022 awards ceremony started on April 1, 2021, and will run through March 31, 2022. The award categories are as follows: Best Mainstream Artist; Best Contemporary Artist; Best Duo, Group or Big Band; Best New Artist (Contemporary or Mainstream); Best Jazz Vocalist; Best International Artist (Contemporary or Mainstream); Best Mainstream Album; Best Contemporary Album; and Song of the Year (Fan Vote).

The JMA Executive Committee will pool two balanced groups of voters for each voting round. Voters will consist of creators and industry leaders, including recording artists, musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, and composers, as well as educators, record label executives, concert promoters, radio personalities, radio executives, and journalists.

The Jazz Music Awards will also present three Awards of Distinction, including the Innovator Award, Composer Award, and Educator Award. The nominees and winners will be chosen by a specially selected craft committee with expertise in the field. For the Legacy Award, nominees and a winner will be selected by the WCLK Jazz 91.9 Executive Committee. (Specialized awards are not open for public submission).

"The Strings of São Domingos" by The Ano Nobo Quartet

In 1989, as the Berlin Wall collapsed in front of the world’s eyes, a burly soldier from Cabo Verde stood on the East German side. Nicknamed “El Bruto” or “The Brute” because of his “brutally” good prowess on the guitar, Pascoal watched the end of an era in full uniform, the ever dutiful soldier. As a member of the FARP, the armed wing of Cabo Verde’s independence struggle, which was backed by the Soviet Union, Pascoal was dispatched the world over—from Cuba to Crimea to East Berlin.

Being stationed in Cuba gave him access to a world of guitar music. His stints in the Caribbean and the Crimean Peninsula were alongside soldiers from elsewhere in Lusophone Africa and the former colonized world. Not required on the battlefield, these military postings became cultural gatherings and, quite simply, jam sessions, where sounds and techniques were exchanged.

Today, along with fellow guitar maestros, Fany, Nono, and Afrikanu, Pascoal leads The Ano Nobo Quartet, named after Cabo Verde’s most legendary composer, Ano Nobo, Pascoal’s mentor and father to the rest of the group. Till today, Ano Nobo’s face graces murals across the archipelago.

Ostinato Records has delved deep into the sound of this cluster of 11 islands floating 400 miles off the West African coast. Critically acclaimed compilations like Synthesize the Soul, Leite Quente Funaná, and Pour Me A Grog provided three chapters of Cabo Verde’s story: 1980s synthesizer dance music, the 1990s diasporan sound in Europe, and the accordion heavy Funaná sound, all born in the same island of Santiago. 

But the Covid-19 pandemic called for a departure in the fourth chapter. A different story needed telling. Pascoal is a soldier, able to weather hardship, adapt, and maintain a clear-eyed focus. In short, the man to lead a pandemic-era recording that demanded a shorter recording period to lessen the chance of transmission along with abrupt restrictions and limitations on gatherings and recording locations.

The Strings of São Domingos is not only a tribute to Koladera, or Coladeira, a guitar-driven, subtly rhythmic sound of a lighter spirit, but to Pascoal’s rich life history shaped by the Cold War and the legacy of Ano Nobo. But these tracks aren’t your traditional Koladera, the original recipe first cooked up in the island of Fogo and popularized by Cesaria Evora. 

The Ano Nobo Quartet’s Koladera is a global story with Cabo Verde at its center, a creole melting pot in the middle of the Atlantic attracting the best from four continents: hypnotic, haunting Koladera guitars inflected with twangs of Salsa Cubano, Spanish Flamenco, Brazilian Samba Canção, Jamaican Reggae, Argentine Tango, Mozambican Marrabenta, and finished with a dash of Black American Blues. It’s all here. Pascoal even picked up a few notes from a group of Chinese guitarists—a traditional instrument in China resembles the cavaquinho—who arrived on a socialist cultural exchange in Cabo Verde. Absent percussion, the quartet’s sound still drips with rhythm.

This album was recorded in three locations on Santiago Island: in Pascoal’s home in São Domingos, the small hometown of Ano Nobo that sits amid the cascading hills of the countryside; in a secluded, remote recording space in the north of the island; and near Santiago’s northern beach cove without any electricity. Each location used a mobile recording studio equipped with different mics placed near and far to capture both the Spanish and Chinese-made guitars and the natural environment that shapes the saudade, a melancholic longing, of Koladera. Each space has its own atmosphere heard in the interludes.

The maiden voyage of our new Ostinato Acoustics series, The Ano Nobo Quartet confirms humanity is at its finest when we break life down to its essential parts and fundamental simplicity. A sound and approach cast from the depths of personal and world history that obliges us to seek humbler ways in the years ahead and hold the delicate yet sharp, serene yet swaying strings of São Domingos as the soundtrack to exit a brutal time, guided by brutally good music from brutally good guitarists.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Koma Saxo - Koma Saxo Live

Koma Saxo, the explosive quintet led by Berlin-based Swedish bassist/producer Petter Eldh, returns on We Jazz Records with their new album, cut live at We Jazz Festival in Helsinki, December 2019. 

Whereas their lauded debut was a triumph of remapping the goal posts for an acoustic jazz combo for the 2020's, ‘LIVE' takes you right to the heart of the actual ensemble sound, with 5 musicians tearing the place down, no post production. 

From the fiery opening sequence kicking off with "Euro Koma", on to the much calmer beauty of "Waltz Me, Waltz Me Baby, All Night Long" and the first single "Fiskeskärsmelodin", the 8-song set is pure fire, never failing to convey the extraordinary intensity of the group: Eldh on bass, Otis Sandsjö (Y-OTIS), Jonas Kullhammar and Mikko Innanen on saxes, and Christian Lillinger on drums.

An excerpt of liner notes by Peter Margasak:

"When I first saw Petter Eldh's quintet Koma Saxo in Berlin in September of 2019 I was floored. The raw, sprinting energy of the band was both infectious and astonishing, but what I most remember was a sense of cognitive dissonance. Was this the same combo that recorded a fantastic eponymous 2019 studio album that represented one of the most convincing, pleasurable, and driving hybrid's of searing post-bop and the production ethos of hip-hop? There have been endless stabs by producers trying to remap the machinations of an organic, all-acoustic jazz band with electronic post-production, but Eldh, channeling a sonic language heavily informed by J Dilla, nailed it in a way I'd never experienced before.

Having the trust of his three imaginative, high-octane saxophonists—Jonas Kullhammar, Otis Sandsjö, and Mikko Innanen—he used their grainy sound as raw material, smudging and smearing it like a painter creating new hues on a palette, and then extending, editing, and powering it up within the imperturbable grooves meted out by he and drummer Christian Lillinger.

He didn't really alter the essential core of the band's performances. There's no question that a seriously burning quintet had laid the tracks down, even if the performances reflected the kind of concision many jazz groups adapt for a studio endeavor. But the way his jacked-up bass lines and Lillinger's impossibly peripatetic, stuttering rhythms buffeted the massed saxophones elevated Koma Saxo to plane all its own, and I repeatedly returned to that place—half the time trying to figure out what the hell Eldh had done, and the other half lost in giddy ecstasy.

The live show, on the other hand, featured the band without any production tricks. Its soaring, pithy repertoire came alive in a different way, and this excellent live recording from the 2019 We Jazz Festival, has reminded me of how fun and visceral that experience was."

Gabriel Evans | "Global Entry"

New York saxophonist Gabriel Evan’s sophomore album Global Entry is a playful, skillful exploration of pre-war jazz, early chamber jazz, and bug music. Inspired by the classical-tinged sound of the John Kirby Sextet - one of the most celebrated bands on 52nd St. in the 1930’s - the Gabriel Evan Orchestra takes you on musical trip around the world. While bringing a fresh spin on traditional jazz classics, incorporating 1930s Cuban music and even mid-century exotica, Global Entry maintains the Kirby tradition of arranging classical music for jazz band.

A carefully constructed arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers opens the record, paying homage to the arranging style of trumpeter Charlie Shavers, reimagining the languid waltz into a fun, hot swing number, suitable for a Looney Tunes Nutcracker tribute. As a matter of fact, most of this record is suitable cartoon accompaniment - so much so, that GEO’s first two singles, Rumba Azul and Arabian Nightmare are released as cartoon music videos (Waikiki Wabbit [1943] & Chicken a la King [1937] respectively). Both Rumba Azul and album closer  Rumba Tambah are timeless classics from the Lecuona Cuban Boys, one of the most famous early Caribbean ensembles.

Arabian Nightmare - one of three Charlie Shavers arrangements on the record - is a brilliant take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, echoing the haunting Dorian theme of the classic work before springing into swing. Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes is a hip pre-bop arrangement of a 1616 classic by English playwright Ben Jonson. Effervescent Blues, a Shavers original, is a slow swinger with standout solos from Joe Goldberg (clar.), John Zarsky (tmp.) and “Big” Joe Kennedy (p), before a horn soli brings it on home.

The jazz capitol New York City is well represented by Duke Ellington’s red hot Jubilee Stomp, as well as two NYC inspired Evan originals: Negotiations of South Williamsburg, a klezmer rollercoaster featuring clarinetist Joe Goldberg shredding and wailing; and South 5th Street, written while Evan lived in South Williamsburg - a high-energy, pseudo-Broadway show tune, with a stomping 2 & 4 heartbeat. Global Entry is a brilliant tribute to the “biggest little band in the land,” as Kirby’s band was often called.

Nate Mercereau "Sundays"

Listening to Nate Mercereau’s music feels like staring down a kaleidoscope. The songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist surveys the fractured borders between sounds, and celebrates the beautiful moments where they collide. And when he’s not making his own music, he’s looking at the world of pop through his prismatic perspective—he’s produced or played on records by Jay-Z, Shawn Mendes, Lizzo, and The Weeknd, just to name a few. Moreover, Mercereau has learned that no matter what sounds he’s working with he needs to lean in close, to focus on the details. “When you keep zooming in on something, it keeps getting more detailed,” says the Los Angeles-based artist. “It’s like there’s worlds within that world.” His album, SUNDAYS, embodies that as he dives headlong into a mystical, rich vein of sonic worlds, each song more intricate and intimate than the last.

SUNDAYS developed out of what Mercereau calls “spontaneous composition”—weekly delves into his psyche via live-streamed performance. The sets were built in fluid collaboration with a series of percussive improvisations dreamt up by Carlos Niño, a forward-thinking producer, instrumentalist, and staple of L.A.’s experimental scene. Due to its open beginnings, SUNDAYS is both free of form and packed with complexity —at any given moment it can feel airy, dusty, serene, or fiercely passionate. The ten tracks don’t seem like traditionally structured songs. They’re human, emotional, and alive. “Everything I’m doing is about getting breath out of my body,” Mercereau says. “It really feels elemental.”

SUNDAYS began less as an album and more as a space to process the world. Over the course of 2020, Mercereau began a weekly Sunday livestream series. “That day of the week is particularly charged for me for many reasons,” he says. “It’s the end of a week, and the beginning of something else, and there’s just always something that happens that day emotionally if I can tune into it.” Niño would send a long-form improvisation before the set, then Mercereau would play and create along with it in real-time, creating a palpable sense of live interaction. As Mercereau explains, “There were so many moments where it felt like borderline psychic communication happening between us, even though we made many of our parts at different times.” The weekly sessions lasted from April to December. By the end, Mercereau knew he had an album on his hands, and began whittling it into a cohesive shape.

To expand the sound, he brought Jamire Williams (drums, Jeff Parker band) and Josh Johnson (alto sax, Chicago Underground Quartet, Leon Bridges) over to Lucy’s Meat Market in L.A. to improvise with his edits. “They were able to get immediately inside and spoke the exact language we were creating,” Mercereau says. What came together was a snapshot of the artist in the moment, a place in time and self. “I’m constantly getting closer to what is meaningful to me, and that’s also constantly changing,” he says. “It’s this broad thing that’s getting more specific, but in that specificity, there’s so much endless detail.”

While Mercereau continues to grow the expanse of what he can do, the real excitement comes from where he might go next. “Instead of trying on what’s already out there, I feel like I’m trying on things that don’t exist,” he says. In that way, SUNDAYS is a springboard to other worlds.

How So Records is a partnership with Ricky Reed’s Nice Life Recording Company, a venture Mercereau describes as “a record label for seekers. We are presenting music that is looking for something new, out of its audience and out of its creators. We are bound not by genre, only radical creativity. High level music for high level listening.”

Friday, February 25, 2022

New Music Releases: Kim Scott, Jim Allchin, Susan Krebs With Mixed Emotions, UMA

Kim Scott - Shine!

Over her prolific past decade, one of Kim Scott’s greatest contributions to Smooth Jazz is, along with compatriots Althea Rene and Ragan Whiteside, helping bring the majestic, magical sounds of the flute back to the forefront. On the heels of the trio’s vibrant reimagining of “I’m Every Woman,” Scott follows her #1 Billboard album Free To Be with Shine!, a beautifully diverse set showcasing her sensual, otherworldly melodic vibe throughout, with mood swings ranging from deliriously funky and whimsically tropical to meditative and romantic. True to the title, she simmers and blazes in the spotlight, sharing the Shine! with a batch of genre all-stars including Greg Manning, Jonathan Butler, Adam Hawley, Blake Aaron, and Eric Essix to further illuminate many of these infectious tracks – including classics from Herbie Hancock and Kirk Franklin. ~

Jim Allchin - Costa Azul

As a master computer scientist, Jim Allchin helped create and grow the server business which is one of Microsoft’s largest enterprises. When not impacting the world with his networking, languages and operating systems innovations, he was writing incredible music. He charted #1 often on the Roots and Blues charts - and now, on his latest album Costa Azul, co-produced with Grammy nominee Yaron Fuchs, he’s created another winner. It’s fresh, sensual with an intoxicating blend of Latin-tinged Smooth Jazz influenced by the classic rhythms of the son montuno, mambo, guajira, bolero and flamenco. Also passionate about his work with education in African countries, Allchin conceived the album during personal reflection time during COVID, when he began listening anew to songs he penned while on his travels. ~

Susan Krebs With Mixed Emotions - Daybreak

Daybreak is the eighth album by vocalist Susan Krebs. JazzTimes has called her “A jazz singer steeped in experience with a “no fear” soul.” The impetus for this album grew out the pandemic. Living alone, cut off from friends, she was longing for connection. She especially missed being in the creative zone with her longtime musical comrades. She felt a deep need to make music. She booked a band of dear pals and commissioned three fine arrangers. Krebs chose tunes that had long lingered in her muse’s ear as well as tunes she newly discovered. She began working on this album in September 2020 and completed it in June of 2021. It was created through the wonders of remote recording as well as one fully-vaxxed live studio session. Although much of the album was recorded remotely, it has a remarkable sense of immediacy and intimacy. Focusing on this project gave Krebs relief from her isolation and returned her to a sense of well-being.  Making music collaboratively was a balm for everyone involved.

UMA - Wishing Well

The name UMA comes from the South Estonian Seto dialect and means ‘own.' Both musicians - Alexei Saks + Robert Jürjendal are classically trained and mix purely produced sound with live electronics, creating a meditative float somewhere between new age, ambient, electronica and the subtle, cool tones of ECM-style jazz. "Recording was like a cozy home concert, performed in peace and calm for your best friends, for people you appreciate and share with your life values." UMA is the common project of two Estonian musicians – guitarist Robert Jürjendal and trumpet/corno da caccia player Aleksei Saks – who came together at the beginning of 2007.

Featured Releases: Richard Brown, Tony Saunders, 3rd Force, Misz The Groove Producer

Richard Brown - Stars In My Eyes

Fans digging on Richard Brown’s sweetly whimsical, pop/rock influenced debut Smooth Jazz single “Stars in My Eyes” should count themselves grateful that the multi-talented musician switched early on from violin and guitar to mastering the flute these past 48 years! Inspired by an infatuation with another artist/dancer, it’s his breakout as a solo artist after years of leading Distilled Butter, one of Atlanta’s premier party and event bands specializing in R&B and contemporary jazz. The ultra-melodic song gets its easy flowing pocket groove from veteran Emmy Award winning bassist Tony Saunders, whose atmosphere rich production takes the track to the next level. Just as the song is breezing along, Distilled Butter’s guitarist Tremaine Young bursts in and rocks it with a sizzling solo leaving listeners with stars in their ears as well! ~

Tony Saunders - All About Love

Ten years ago, when Tony Saunders titled his 2011 debut album Romancing The Bass, the two-time Emmy winning Bay Area hyphenate (musician/composer/arranger/producer) set in motion an intoxicating, free-flowing torrent of snappy, grooving and sensual low-end vibes. The ever-percolating adventure culminates now on his Baja/TSR debut with the dynamic, emotionally resonant All About Love. It’s a generous 14-track slate of picture-perfect, pocket funk and steamy/sultry originals and re-imaginings (of classics by The Whispers and Burt Bachararch) that are bass driven but created in collaboration with an all-star array of genre greats – including Gail Jhonson, Blake Aaron, Paul Jackson, Jr., Greg Manning, Jazmin Ghent and Adam Hawley. Saunders has a blast taking us on what he dubs a “joyful ride on the Smooth Jazz rollercoaster". ~

3rd Force - 3rd Force

Thanks to a new deal the classic Smooth Jazz, global music and electronica trio 3rd Force struck with eclectic label Pine Hill Records, the trio – multi-instrumentalists William Aura, Craig Dobbin and Alain Eskinasi – will introduce their vibrant catalog to a whole new generation on limited edition, high quality 12” multi-colored vinyl for the first time, packaged with a printed inner sleeve and download card. The series launches with their self-titled 1994 debut, an easy grooving, exotica-tinged slice of vintage genre vibes featuring guests Craig Chaquico (guitar), Gary Herbig (sax), Jeff Elliot (trumpet) and Richard Tibbitts (flute). ~

Misz The Groove Producer - GirlPlay

The title says it all. GirlPlay the latest stylistically eclectic (pop, jazz, R&B, electronica), supremely funkified album by keyboardist, drummer, composer, producer and arranger Misz The Groove Producer (Mary Stewart) is by and all about girl power. More than just a clever concept, GirlPlay is also a dynamic new band of Pacific Northwest powerhouse talents featuring two formidable saxophonists, Jessica Lurie (who also plays flute) and Kate Olson and electric violinist and electric guitarist Pamela Benton – all of whom receive ample lead spotlights.  ~

New single 'Stay Firm' by Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks (soul / funk)

Considered the new diva of European soul, singer Shirley Davis teamed up with The Silverbacks, the flagship band of Spanish label  Tucxone Records, to create one of the most exciting outfits of the contemporary scene.

Born in London to Jamaican parents, Shirley moved to Australia when she married at 16 and stayed there for many years. She joined the Grand WaZoo band and became a singer for Wilson Pickett, maintained a close friendship with the great Marva Withney, and recorded a single with the spectacular Japanese band Osaka Monaurail. She collaborated with various record labels, most notably on the dance single “I Want to Live” by Deepface, which reached number 1 on the Australian charts.

Shortly after returning to Europe, Shirley was encouraged to keep singing by none other than the late and great Sharon Jones, who invited her on stage at one of her shows with The Dap-Kings in Madrid, where Tucxone Records were in attendance. Shirley captivated the audience and Tucxone, who immediately got in touch to invite her to record an album with The Silverbacks the old-fashioned, analog way, in the manner of legendary labels such as Stax Records. The rest is history.

In March 2016 Shirley started leading The Silverbacks, making their debut on the international soul scene with their first album Black Rose. This award-winning full-length not only inspired critics worldwide, but also colleagues such as Lee Fields, who publicly commended it. Black Rose is pure soul with a touch of afrobeat, and earned Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks the title of “Best New International Artist” at the Pop-Eye Awards in 2016.

In April 2018 Shirley & The Silverbacks released their 2nd album Wishes & Wants, with melodies and rhythms sounding stronger than ever before – a colourful blend of exotic soul and funk, both light and heavy, that firmly put the band on the international map as an act to look out for. While their first album may have hinted that Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks deserve a spot among the contemporary soul and funk greats, Wishes & Wants proves that they deserve to stay.

With 2 albums under their belt, excellent reviews, and tours throughout Europe, Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks are primed to become the next big soul sensation. Keep On Keeping On is the promising title of the new 3rd album by this exciting outfit, once again evoking the golden years of Chicago soul music. Scheduled for release in March 2022 on the band’s new home, Spanish label Lovemonk Records, it is sure to make this band the international household name they so rightly deserve to be.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

New single "Elephant Head" by Alan Evans Trio (cinematic funk / psych)

There is something undeniably special when a band of three clicks. Some would say finding three good musicians playing music together isn’t a hard task. Finding seasoned artists who can make a trio sound like a band twice their size though, well that’s special. Founded by Soulive member, writer and drummer of over 15 years Alan Evans, the Alan Evans Trio, aka Ae3, is a power soul organ trio consisting of Alan Evans, Danny Mayer (Eric Krasno Band) and Kris Yunker (Jen Durkin and the Business) and is undeniably special.

Evans, Mayer and Yunker have spent years individually and collectively touring the world bringing the soulful music they love to a captive audience. Each of these musicians are true artists who have bold and confident voices yet they create one massive sound together that is truly their own.

The trio’s sound proves hard-driving and groovy with deep, funky melodies and powerful, rhythmic counterplay. Ae3 opens a window into another side – an emotional introspection, as dark as it is powerful. Their passionate progressions emanate an electrified, smoky, 70s-era CTI Records zeitgeist. Mention the name Alan Evans to a room full of music lovers, and you will get a consensus nod at one of the most celebrated and tenacious drummers in the jazz, funk, and soul scene. A producer, recording engineer, guitarist, percussionist, vocalist and writer, Alan‘s repertoire of skills have been perfected with more than a decade of dedication.

As Ae3, the outfit has four albums under their belt: their debut Drop Hop was released on Royal Family Records in 2012, while sophomore full-length Merkaba landed in 2013. But it wasn’t until 5 years later, in 2019, that we got The Wild Root, released on Alan Evans‘ own imprint Vintage League Music, which was soon followed by Elephant Head in 2021.

Hamburg Spinners | "Klar Zur Wende"

Welcome to the Hamburg of the Hamburg Spinners! This is not the boring giant village we all know. It looks something like this: one half a Soho/London scene from the early 1950s, the other half a Broadway/NYC pedestrian scene circa 1961.

A city like in a comic strip, but in black and white. Adults wearing Macintosh raincoats and smoking, everyone is over 21. There’s music in a restaurant on Pinnasberg, right in front of the harbor: driving, swinging R&B, hard, but also melodic. Keeping a straight face and wearing sunglasses even though it is night, a group of existentialist students from the local art school gather around a pinball machine. Members of the British Occupation Forces sit at the bar, smoking their beloved Senior Service cigarettes. That smells like trouble!

They’re all here to listen to a new beat. On the small stage with a mighty Hammond B3: Carsten M. & The HGs, insiders know them as the Hamburg Spinners! Organ, guitar, bass and drums: the foursome doesn’t need to make an effort to be cool and hot at the same time. The Exis and the British agree. In front of the stage, on the tiny dance floor, Eddie Constantine and Elke Sommer twist, strut, shake and dance the blues.

Wouldn’t that be a perfect setting for the Hamburg Spinners‘ sound? But their debut album “Skorpion Im Stifel” does not only fit into this magical monochromatic world. Carsten ‘Erobique’ Meyer (Hammond B3), Dennis Rux (guitar), David Nesselhauf (bass) and Lucas Kochbeck (drums) managed to write the score for our favorite film that is yet to be shot (set in New York, shot in Spain and in the Bavaria Studios, an Italian-German co-production) as well as the perfect background music for an exciting game of Rummy Cup between your own four walls. Friends of the Remo Four, Ennio Morricone, Jimmy Smith and Stax Records will be spinning on the turntables as they prepare to go out into a crackling Friday night, snap one last look in the mirror and think: “I look good! And if one or the other Hamburg Spinners song is playing in the discotheque later, I’ll see you out on the floor!”

Eddie and Elke leave the bar at dawn. Through the fog, you can make out the soon to be iconic Köhlbrand Bridge, which is still under construction. From the fish market, a sleepy young man walks towards them with a pig on a dog leash. A ‘Hamburg-Süd’ cargo ship arriving from Baltimore slowly moves into the port, with a big box packed with the latest 7inch vinyl singles from distant America on board. A drunken night owl leans against a lantern and thinks: “Is that a scorpion in my boots? Would make a change!”.

Hamburg Spinners‘ debut album “Skorpion Im Stiefel” was recorded live and on analogue equipment at Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Studios in Hamburg and produced by Dennis Rux. Expect to swing, sway and get carried away by the band’s groovin’ sound!

Kerbside Collection drop the title track of their upcoming album (jazz-funk)

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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Mighty Mocambos are back with new 45 'The Take Off' (funk/breaks)

The Mighty Mocambos and their many incarnations have released dozens of 45s and several albums on their own imprint Mocambo Records and other labels such as Kay Dee, Big Crown, Truth & Soul, Tramp, Légère and Favorite Recordings, to name a few. They have collaborated with musical legends such as hiphop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, soul star Lee Fields, German composer Peter Thomas or master producer Kenny Dope, put new talent like Gizelle Smith and Caroline Lacaze on the map, brought Caribbean steel drums to funk clubs with their alter ego Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, and have toured through all civilized parts of the continent and beyond for the better part of the last years.

If their debut album “This Is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos” from 2009 presented them as the backing band of soul siren Gizelle Smith, follow-up “The Future Is Here” in 2011 put them firmly on the map as their own distinct and self-sustained entity, exploring new collaborations with guest vocalists and providing the blueprint for what would become their modus operandi. By third album “Showdown“ from 2015 The Mighty Mocambos had cemented their standing and reputation as one of the recognizable and exciting funk bands out there.

Fourth album “2066“ was released in October 2019 and sets yet another cornerstone in their prolific career as a globally active instrumental funk outfit. While maintaining their organic approach of recording real musicians live on tape, the group has refined their trademark sound with a dramatic edge, a hard hitting production and ventures into less obvious musical territories, with a diverse list of special guests ranging from German film composer icon Peter Thomas to hip hop pioneer Ice-T, up and coming MC JSwiss and the golden girl of funk Gizelle Smith.

Their unique style and trademark sound are loved by peers, fans and critics alike and distinguishes them from mere retro-copycat-acts as well as overproduced plastic soul. The Mighty Mocambos continue to deliver their brand of funk with blazing horns, soulful guitars, driving drums and basslines combined with an extra bit of quirkiness. When not producing records for one of their many incarnations and collaborations, the band is touring steadily, witnesses of their concerts will tell you about the musicality, passion, energy, humor and joy that the band loves to bring to the stage and people.

Paul Edis announces vinyl launch show for 'The Still Point of the Turning World'

Lateralize Records has announced the long-awaited vinyl release of The Still Point Of The Turning World, the mesmerising new album by British jazz pianist, Paul Edis. The album will be performed in its entirety in a special concert at London’s beautiful Hampstead Parish Church on 1st March.

The second half of the show will feature the premiere of Awakening, a multi-movement work that combines jazz and classical influences and features Adam King (double bass), Matt Home (drums) and the Estilo String Quartet.

Nobody sounds quite like Paul Edis or transports you to the places he travels to with his ethereal music. Simultaneously soothing and stirring, rapturous yet relaxed, at times the melodies almost appear to become subservient to the mood on this dreamlike album.

“There’s a certain meditative quality to The Still Point Of The Turning World,” Edis explains. “Compositions like Start Over, Dig Deep and The Way You Make Me Feel are a mixture of reflection, sadness and love. There’s been so much sadness and loss around whilst working on this record, it’s hardly surprising that it sounds so reflective. When I write, the process often starts with a kind of mood that’s almost a meditation in itself.”

After releasing a string of critically acclaimed independent albums, he signed with London-based Lateralize Records and spent a year composing the music for The Still Point Of The Turning World. With a distinctive style that effortlessly blurs the boundaries between Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau and Claude Debussy, Edis is undoubtedly one of the finest British jazz artists to emerge over the last decade.

“The more accomplished you are as a musician, the more you realise that chops and technical demonstrations don’t necessarily say that much. I’m always trying to find the most elegant, simple message in the music. Simple is not the same as simplistic. Picasso could paint incredible things, but he didn’t need to use his technical ability to articulate his emotions. I’ve always tried to get to the emotional essence of the music, but it feels like something new and exciting has happened with this record.”

The Still Point Of The Turning World is an achingly beautiful, impressionistic album that washes over you like a wave of emotion and wells up from places Wordsworth deemed ‘too deep for tears.’

The Still Point Of The Turning World will be released on CD and Limited Edition Heavyweight 180g vinyl on Lateralize Records on 1st March 2022.


Mark Turner Quartet | "Return from the Stars"

Mark Turner has been a frequent and significant presence on ECM recordings of the last dozen years, bringing his saxophone artistry and his musical commitment to recordings with Enrico Rava, the Billy Hart Quartet, the cooperative Fly trio (with Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier), Stefano Bollani and, most recently, Ethan Iverson, on the duo recording Temporary Kings. Albums under Turner’s leadership, however, have been rare and Return from the Stars is the first ECM recording to feature his quartet since 2014’s Lathe of Heaven. 

Turner’s writing for his group on Return from the Stars gives the players plenty of space in which to move, on an album both exhilarating and thoughtful in its arc of expression. Solos flow organically out of the arrangements and, beneath the dazzling interplay of Turner’s tenor and Jason Palmer’s trumpet, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jonathan Pinson often roam freely. The absence of a chordal instrument keeps the conversational possibilities in the music wide open, as the compositions modulate between the meticulously structured and the loosely guided. Mark Turner puts a lot of faith in intuition and the shared artistic goals of an ensemble, and cherishes the narrative tension arising from the juxtaposition of freedom and responsibility: 

“My process in writing is that I write for the people playing,” he says. “I don’t like to say a lot to them about the compositions. I like to write a piece of music and know that the people I’ve chosen are going to play it, basically, the way they play. I’d rather they find themselves in the music. The tunes are written in such a way that each musician has a choice in terms of how they take care of what they’re supposed to be doing. There are parts written for the horns. Not so much is written for the rhythm section, except for a few ‘hits’ and maybe time changes in sections. I just give guidelines about how the section should feel and then I let bass and drums figure out how to do it. Whatever makes the rhythm section sound good, that’s what we do. Then, the horns will play on top of that. “ 

Bassist Joe Martin is the sole musician retained from the Lathe of Heaven line-up. He’s been playing with Turner in diverse contexts since 1995. And, as he outlined it to Music & Literature magazine: “I always feel, playing with Mark I have to play as well as possible and raise the bar. In the quartet, because there isn’t a piano or guitar player to fill a certain harmonic space for everybody, I’m more probably more conscious of my note choices. Just one single note choice changes everything, suggesting tonality, harmony.” 

Turner met dynamic drummer Jonathan Pinson while playing with Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman’s group. Pinson’s CV begins at a high level: he dived into the music at the deep end, touring with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Greg Osby while still in his early twenties. His résumé also includes work with Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dave Liebman and many others. Pinson makes his ECM debut with Return from the Stars, as does trumpeter Jason Palmer.


Palmer and Mark Turner first encountered each other as sidemen in bands a decade ago. Mark subsequently played in projects led by the trumpeter, also recording in some of his projects (Places, Rhyme and Reason and The Concert). He singles out Palmer’s “willingness to go into zones unknown to him” among his outstanding qualities. The two of them share an encyclopaedic knowledge of the music. The Boston Phoenix has said of Palmer that he “builds fire with his secure tone and the cool deliberation of his solos”. The same could be said of Turner, who, according to National Public Radio, “has an innovative sonic signature, a certain floating chromaticism, rhythmic mindfulness and lightness of tone, filled with subtleties.” 

Return from the Stars takes its title from Stanisław Lem’s science fiction novel in which an astronaut returns from an exploratory space mission to find life on earth greatly changed, and his own values out of step with those of a conformist, risk-averse society. Turner’s sci-fi enthusiasms are well known, and some observers have perceived a kind of idiomatic ‘time travelling’ quality in his work: The Guardian described his ECM quartet album Lathe of Heaven (named after an Ursula K. Le Guin story) as “sounding like Birth of the Cool floated over a 21st-century rhythmic concept.” Deep study of a range of jazz masters has informed his style, his expressivity on the full range of the tenor saxophone, and the scope of his writing, which brings the music forward while being acutely aware of its history. 

Return from the Stars was recorded at New York’s Sear Sound Studio and mixed at Studios La Buissonne, in Southern France. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Alea's New Album "Alborotá"

Alea, the Colombian born/Bronx based singer songwriter has releasing her new album Alborotá. Alea’s vision spans ten diverse tracks that breaks the traditional Latin music mold. The album uniquely blends Latin folklore inspired by cumbia, porro, currulao and huapango with pop, afro and savory Latin grooves filtered through her personal lens of strength, feminism, and perseverance. She explains, “I decided that I couldn’t let other people and the environment dictate my freedom, who I chose to love and how I decided to speak about my truths. My music became a reflection of that. To be bold, fierce and unapologetic.” Alea has been releasing singles and music videos from the album for the past two years with “Échale Sal” being hailed as one of NPR Alt.Latino’s favorite songs of 2020. Now she is ready to release her full album rooted in female and Latinx empowerment. 

The album title Alborotá is deeply personal to Alea. Alborotado(a) translates directly to rowdy, riotous, loud, disorderly; and in most of Latin America it means being too much, too different, too sexual. Alea elaborates, “I was called an alborotada growing up by my family and friends because I was extremely driven by creativity and imagination. I fought hard to keep true to this nature, but this judgment took a toll on me as a I got older, and I started to believe that I was the problem. My body was the problem, my womanhood was the problem.” She adds, “I decided it was time to redefine this word, to give it a new meaning in my life and use it as a flag that represented being free, different, independent, out spoken, equal, feminist. I named the album Alborotá because it defines who I am now and what I wish to share with others, this inner fire of strength and overcoming difficulties that liberates you and celebrates you in every way.” 

Alea produced the entire album with Sinuhé Padilla Isunza at Jarana Records. Taking from his background of Mexican, Brazilian and Flamenco music, Sinuhé set the tone of the album with an organic and authentic vibe created with only acoustic instrumentation; a rarity in these digital times. The album shines with the help of Alea’s friends and collaborators including Latin GRAMMY winning artists Felipe Fournier (vibraphone on Échale Sal), Luisa Bastidas (violin on Alborotá) and Jackie Coleman (trumpet on No Me Apaga Nadie) of Flor de Toloache, and Latin GRAMMY nominee Sonia De Los Santos (vocals on Tú, Solo Tú). Alea adds, “Among them we also featured world class artists like Renee Goust, Elena Moon Park, Jaime Ospina, Miche Molina, George Sáenz, Juan Ruiz and Kika Parra. Our rhythm, our lock and groove was set by the incredible Franco Pinna on drums. We also had the help and ears of friends like Kamilo Kratc, Nacho Molina and Luis F. Herrera, who listened to mixes and gave us feedback. All arrangements were written by Sinuhé Padilla-Isunza and myself. The entire album was mastered by GRAMMY winner, Luis F. Herrera.”

The results of recording over the past years have yielded an album that Alea is really proud of, and rightfully so. Alea has been sharing singles and music videos in real time, which showcases the diversity and vision of each track. The album kicks off with “Échale Sal,” which Alea describes “…talks about what each of us contributes to our communities, what we bring that makes us unique and that becomes the engine of a conglomerate like New York, Medellín or Bogotá. It is the struggle and the hope that unites us and makes us essential….This song reminds me of everything we’ve done to survive and find dignity in a place where we are called immigrants.” 

Alea concludes, “I wanted to write an album that spoke about my roots as a Colombian afro-indigenous woman. So this was also an exploration of identity, one that I wasn’t close with until I moved far away and somehow labels became a permanent part of who I was. I had to honor these roots because it felt like a calling. Many dreams of spiritual encounters and re-signifying the pain of being a Latin American woman taught to be silent. With this album we explored realms of music from cumbia to currulao, from a huapango to a vallenato, from folkloric rap to ranchera music; we were bold and authentic. I’m really proud of this work. It was not an easy road, but we did it!”

Danny Mayer Pays Tribute to Lee "Scratch" Perry in "Upsetter"

Over quarantine, Danny Mayer  (Eric Krasno Band, Alan Evans Trio) self-produced his first solo album utilizing the downtime to learn how to record from home. During that time, he penned "Upsetter," a tribute to one of his primary influences Lee "Scratch" Perry. On August 29th, 2021, the reggae/dub icon passed away and Mayer and while the track was written prior, Mayer and his label Color Red agreed to escalate the release day to honor Perry and the influence he had on musicians and producers across the world. 

The deep psychedelic dub track was composed last year as Mayer cited Perry as being the sole production influence on his entire upcoming album Beginner's Mind.  "Upsetter’s" solid foundation is another drum loop sent to him by Colin Jalbert. Mayer then dubbed it out and added heavy bass lines to create a spacious & psychedelic dub reggae track plentiful with space echoes, ringing guitar chords, hypnotic vamps, & soulful filtered guitar leads floating on top. 

On Perry's influence on the track and Mayer's career at large, he pens the following:

"Not only is Lee Scratch Perry (aka The Upsetter) a huge influence on me musically, to me, he represented total freedom in action. Unrestricted, wide open, wild, & sometimes scary freedom. He didn’t follow any rules, in music or in life. In fact, he showed the world that true creativity, & artistic pursuits in general, have no rules or boundaries, & can be completely original. 

As a kid, when I was first discovering Reggae music, I watched a Bob Marley documentary, & the footage that stuck with me the most was of Scratch & his band The Upsetters in his small, seemingly rag tag, studio in Jamaica. He was so animated & free in his body. Seeing him dancing around his own Black Arc Studio so wildly, twisting knobs like a mad man, speaking gibberish, & smoking herb, all in what seemed like fast forward or sped up film… but he was the only one moving that fast & it blew my mind. His whole energy. I loved him immediately. I loved his influence on some of my all time favorite music & musicians immediately. 

As of now, his music, & a lot of the albums he produced are still some of my daily go-to, good vibe setting, albums. So in recording & producing my first album, the only game plan going into it I really had was that, no matter the style of the track was, I wanted the whole album to be “dubbed out” like Scratch would have done. I was so sad to learn of his passing & so grateful to be influenced by such a spirited & groundbreaking human being!"

Vana Liya releases new album "Little Kahuna"

The daughter of immigrants from Guyana, genre-defying pop reggae and dancehall artist Vana Liya made a serendipitous recent arrival on the national music scene in recent years after several of her covers of popular reggae songs went viral, gaining her the support and encouragement of top reggae artists and eventually leading to a record deal with L.A.-based LAW Records as their first-ever female solo artist. 

As a young female artist of color in the heavily male-dominated world of reggae and dancehall, Vana has quickly earned a rare respect and a reputation among many of her well-established musical peers as a solid collaborator who always brings a fresh take and positive energy to the mix with her distinct yet not easily classifiable “island” vibe. 

With two such collaborations (“Come Away” featuring Half Pint and “Round n Round” featuring Pepper) released as singles and reaching 508k cumulative Spotify streams in just the last few months, Vana has demonstrated an affinity for bridging the future sounds of an evolving mixed-genre with the iconic roots that have influenced her — while also foreshadowing the broad stylistic eclecticism and bold subject matter that can be expected on her debut album Little Kahuna (out on LAW Records).  

Produced by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and Stick Figure member Johnny Cosmic, the album, in its entirety, pays homage to LAW’s free spirit of collaboration between major and emerging artists. Yet, while previous singles released earlier this Spring carried heavy hitting artist-features, Vana’s third single to drop this year, “Gold” follows on that hype-wave of momentum while celebrating a deeply personal renaissance she has been undergoing in her evolution as an artist.

The album’s eighth track and second single “Round n Round” featuring iconic American reggae rock legends Pepper, relates another pivotal moment in the coming of age of an artist, as Vana sings about that mystifying mix of loneliness and wanderlust familiar to the timeless wayfaring traveler and roving artists who stray far from home to follow their muse across the globe.

The track features Vana’s raw, sweet, and ethereal vocals cascading over a meandering electronic reggae groove, and paired with Pepper frontman Kaleo Wassman’s iconically bold lyrical delivery. For Vana, having a Pepper feature on the track was a no-brainer, especially considering the song’s subject matter and the fact that Pepper’s music was instrumental in helping her overcome anxiety as a teenager.

“I remember one time when I was driving,” reflects Vana, “I heard Pepper’s ‘Sitting on the Curb’ and was like, ‘This is a really happy song so next time I have an anxiety attack, I’m gonna listen to this song.’ And that’s literally how I got over the anxiety. I just put the headphones on and play it over and over and over again. This feature is such a big deal to me because Pepper is such a big part of me …and the fact that that song was about touring and feeling okay when you’re not okay kind of made for the perfect storm. As soon as I wrote it, I just heard Kaleo’s voice on the song. He did his little soft thing and then he did his hard Pepper thing where he raps, so I feel like I got the best of both worlds with his feature!”

While much of her work falls into the reggae category, Vana asserts she is not a straight-up reggae artist. For example, on the album’s 6th track and its first single released earlier this Spring “Come Away” featuring Jamaican dancehall and reggae legend Half Pint, she was successful in demonstrating an authentic stylistic eclecticism by creating a track that has a reggae basis but is, in essence,  more of a heavy pop-reggae tune that even manifests elements of trance.

While youthful and chill with a danceable downtempo groove, “Come Away” showcases Vana’s versatility to create beyond the bounds of genre, both in terms of music and subject matter, as the track’s ominous lyrics conjure poetic and uneasy scenes of the strange times we’re living in, characterized by new forms of racial violence and political injustice

“Come Away” had originally been constructed by Vana and Johnny as a reggae-pop club track before Half Pint was asked to collaborate on it. Yet when Half Pint sent the stems with a section of the vocals back with the lyrical tagline ‘come away from the land of the sinking sands,’ Vana was so blown away by those foreboding words, almost premonitory of the racial and political strife yet to come in 2020, that she decided to scrap everything she’d written and go with the more heavy-hitting, politically relevant storyline.


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