Thursday, April 28, 2022

Keith Oxman | "This One’s For Joey"

When acclaimed tenor saxophonist and educator Keith Oxman learned that one of his former students, bassist Joey Pearlman, had passed away in February 2021 at the age of 24, Oxman decided to create a recording paying tribute to the brilliant young man who’d already earned a place on the New York scene. The result is This One’s for Joey, out April 15, 2022 via Capri Records.

This One’s for Joey features Oxman’s quartet with pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Mark Simon and drummer Todd Reid, as well as Joey and his twin brother Stevie on the Coltrane standard “John Paul Jones,” recorded when the twins were 17. 

The album also features Joey’s composition “Garden Song,” written when he was Oxman’s student at Denver’s East High School. (Other jazz greats who’ve graduated from the school are the late trumpeter/cornetist Ron Miles, guitarist Bill Frisell, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and, in the early 1900s, bandleader Paul Whiteman.)

A highlight of the album is the Coltrane standard “John Paul Jones” featuring Oxman with bassist Joey and his twin brother Stevie on drums, recorded in June 2014 when the twins were 17. The album also features Joey’s composition “Garden Song,” written when he was in high school. Oxman says about this tune, ”Joey’s writing has great emotional depth and brilliance, no matter where the piece falls on a spectrum of relative complexity.”

Oxman penned the title track as well as six others. Jeff Jenkins, another of the twins’ teachers as a member of the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA), wrote “Waltz for Joey” as well as “Kahlid,” a piece he composed for organist Larry Young. The remaining tunes are Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman’s “Blame it on My Youth,” famously recorded by both Nat Cole and later Chet Baker, and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” the David Mann piece used as the title track from Frank Sinatra’s 1955 classic album. Performing are Oxman’s quartet with pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Mark Simon and drummer Todd Reid.

“After thirty years of teaching music, I can count a handful of accomplished students who were destined to accomplish great feats. Notable among those students was the brilliant bassist Joey Pearlman, whose music and personality brightened every day for us at East High School,” says Oxman. “Joey was taken from this world too soon. His presence brought joy to our music room as he challenged us with his brilliant compositions and performances. Joey’s musical influence on his classmates, as well as his one-of-a-kind sense of humor, had an undeniable and positive influence on what was really most important in our program: Human and musical interaction.”

Denver has a close-knit jazz scene and it’s because of that comradery this recording was made,” said Thomas Burns of Capri Records. “Most involved contributed their time and some their money to make this a reality.”

Other alumni of East High School include the late trumpeter/cornetist Ron Miles, guitarist Bill Frisell, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves and, in the early 1900s, bandleader Paul Whiteman. 

Chris Standring | "Simple Things"

Sometimes it takes a potentially life-altering event to make you stop and re-evaluate what is truly important to you. In March 2021, guitarist, composer, and arranger Chris Standring found himself in the emergency room after experiencing chest pains.  He was having a heart attack. On his newest release, Simple Things, Standring reflects on his recent experience and his new and intimate awareness of the fragility of life. Standring relates, “We have all heard cliches like ‘who knows what tomorrow may bring’ and ‘don't forget to stop and smell the roses,’ but we usually don’t take those old aphorisms to heart. To suddenly come face to face with my own mortality made me think about what is really important to me and how I want to live out my third act. Ultimately the answer came down to a just few basic things -- spending time with loved ones, being present in the moment, and doing things with joy. Indeed, the theme of this album is joy, positivity, hope, and, because I'm a sucker for a beautiful melody, a little sadness as well.” Standring is one of the most prolific and successful artists on the contemporary urban jazz scene. 

Simple Things is his 14th release as a leader and follows his 2021 large ensemble album, Wonderful World, of which critic Travis Rogers said, “Wonderful World propels Chris Standring’s reputation—indeed, fame—as masterful guitar artist and savvy arranger. Standring’s ability to pare down standards and classics, while never losing the lush quality of the orchestra, is brilliant. Whether it is his composing, his arranging, or his performing, Chris Standring is deserving of careful attention.” Standring is a superb guitarist and composer with an innate feel for funky, bluesy jazz. For him, music should be emotionally authentic rather than an intellectual exercise or a demonstration of a musician’s proficiency. As Standring says, he is a sucker for a beautiful melody, which is quite apparent on Simple Things, an album with a lot of heart.

Album Personnel: CHRIS STANDRING  guitar, keyboards, programming / ANDRE BERRY bass / CHRIS COLEMAN drums / RODNEY LEE keyboards (6,10) / GARY MEEK sax  (10) / KEVIN AXT bass (4) / Produced & Arranged by CHRIS STANDRING   

Tracks: 1. SHADOW OF DOUBT  4:32 / 2. THANK YOU BOOTSY  4:49 / 3. CHANGE THE WORLD  3:34 / 4. A THOUSAND WORDS  5:36 / 5. FACE TO FACE  4:39 / 6. AIN'T NUTHIN' BUT A THING  4:44 / 7. THE GIST OF YOU  4:09 / 8. NO TWO WAYS  4:35 / 9. TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT  4:02 / 10. DONT GET ME STARTED  5:11 / 11. AND THE SHOW GOES ON  4:12

2023 Soul Train Cruise w/George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Deniece Williams, and many others

The Soul Train Cruise announces its 10th Anniversary Voyage, bringing back some of the most beloved artists who have sailed on the annual cruise over the past decade along with some who will be joining the cruise for the first time ever, including superstars Babyface and George Benson.  The 2023 Soul Train Cruise will take place from January 29 through February 5, 2023, departing from Ft. Lauderdale for Grand Turk, San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Half Moon Cay aboard the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam. 

“This will be the 10th year I’ve spent surrounded by the Soul Train family for an incredible week of the greatest music, artists and fans,” says Cruise Host Tony Cornelius. “I’m ready for 10 more! When we launched the first sailing back in 2013, we knew this was a special way to honor and carry on Soul Train’s legacy. I’m so grateful that the fans have come aboard to celebrate the hippest cruise at sea.” 

“The unparalleled star power aboard every Soul Train Cruise over the past 10 years is a testament to the special place that Soul Train holds in the hearts of artists from across multiple generations,” adds Alan Rubens, StarVista LIVE Senior Vice President of Entertainment and Executive Producer of the Soul Train Cruise. “The lineup for the 2023 sailing represents that incredible past while looking toward an even bigger future. And our guests share that love for the iconic show, bringing the spirit and excitement of Soul Train to life every time we sail. It’s powerful and joyful and like nothing else.” 

Artists confirmed for the voyage include Babyface and George Benson, The Commodores, The Spinners, Peabo Bryson, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Midnight Star, Deniece Williams, Zapp Band,  Al McKay Allstars, One Way featuring Al Hudson, Sounds of Blackness, Al “Lil Fats” Jackson, The Honey Cone, Purple Reign – The Prince Tribute Show, The Urban Guerilla Orchestra, Cruise Host Tony Cornelius, Original Soul Train Dancers, comedians who will perform in The Soul Train Cruise Comedy Club and more. 

Guests aboard the 2023 Soul Train Cruise will experience seven days of Love, Peace, Soul, and nonstop celebration on the high seas, spending their days and nights with the stars during more than 50 live performances and over 25 celebrity interactive events. This vacation of a lifetime includes parties at the pool, gospel events, live interviews with icons and legends, Q&A sessions, dance classes with the original Soul Train dancers, wine tasting, costume parties and so much more. 

The cruise will take place aboard the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam. Holland America is consistently voted the highest-rated premium cruise line in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Readers’ Choice Awards” and the “World’s Best” by Travel + Leisure. The ship features 11 passenger decks, premier dining options, lounges surrounded by panoramic views, the popular Greenhouse spa and salon with hydro pool as well as the award-winning fitness center. For the ultimate in comfort, spacious staterooms average 25% larger and private verandahs average 50% larger than typical ships. 

Cabin prices start at just $1,990 per person and include access to all of the major concerts, gourmet meals and daily events with the superstars.  Further information is available at or by calling 844-266-7685. 

Created by Don Cornelius, Soul Train has been an integral part of popular culture since its debut in 1970 and continues to be a vital force in entertainment with its all-star Soul Train Awards. Best remembered for its indelible cultural impact across music, dance and fashion, Soul Train is also one of the most successful shows ever created, holding the record for longest, first-run, nationally syndicated television show.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

New Music: Jay Yoo / Mark Kazakevich, Joe Tatton Trio, Clinton Fearon, Michael Lemmo

Jay Yoo / Mark Kazakevich - Dual Unity

Dual Unity is a project where Jay and Mark explore extensive jazz harmony and creativity in a duo setting. Their debut album, 'Dual Unity' (2022), with the same name as the group, is an interactive piano and guitar jazz duo record, heavily influenced by Brazilian music and contemporary jazz. It features mostly original compositions, in addition to their own take on a classic instrumental swing standard, Voyage (K. Barron) as well as two Brazilian compositions, Insensatez (A.C. Jobim) and Quero Não (T. Maria). The album was recorded with both instruments in one large studio room, rather than in separate booths, in order to capture the intimate ambiance of a live performance. The project was inspired by the great guitar and piano duos past and present, including the likes of Bill Evans and Jim Hall, and Bill Frisell and Fred Hersch.The album will be officially released on Friday, May 13th on all streaming platforms, and we will have a release show at the Jazz Bistro, Toronto, at 8pm on Tuesday, May 31st, with special guests Jon Chapman on bass and Patrick Smith on saxophone. 

Joe Tatton Trio - Big Fish

Big Fish, the new album from the Joe Tatton Trio, is in large part a tribute to the legendary, late bluesman from Mississippi Mose Allison. Joe’s excellent piano skills allow him to imbibe the songs with that same ironic and humorous view of life as Allison, but updated to the 21st century.Joe Tatton is a pianist, organist, singer & songwriter who emerged from the diverse Leeds music scene around 2001, playing up and down the UK’s jazz, funk and soul clubs. He is a current member of famed quartet The New Mastersounds and has been playing with them for over 16 years. As part of NMS, Joe has recorded over a dozen albums and many singles, playing organ, piano and keyboard. During this time he has toured 8-9 months a year with the band, mainly in the USA but also across Europe and Japan too. Prior to this, Joe held down the keyboard role with UK jazz-funk kings The Haggis Horns, appearing on their first two albums Hot Damn! and Keep On Movin’. He’s also featured on piano and keyboards on the worldwide hit single “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. Over the years Joe Tatton has played live sets with Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley as well as Art Neville, George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters. He’s always maintained his own trio under his own name as a side project, releasing singles and EPs via ATA Records (UK) and Color Red Music (USA).

Clinton Fearon - Breaking News

Clinton Fearon unveils a second single from his upcoming album! "Trod On" is a ballad in the land of love and positivity, honed to perfection on reggae rhythms. The new single is out now and available everywhere you stream music. With the new song, Clinton Fearon beams with positivity and blows a wind of hope and wisdom on whoever will listen. "Trod On" reflects the reggae pioneer's benevolence such that softens our daily life with his lyrics and his music. Always in the company his backing band, Riddim Source is composed of Xavier 'Kubix' Bègue on guitar, Julien 'Manjul' Souletie on backing vocals and percussion, Simon 'Saymon' Coutant on drums, Thomas 'Mato' Cirade on bass, and Muctaru Wurie on keyboards. Clinton Fearon accompanies the release of the single "Trod On" with a live session. The musical performance plunges us into the heart of the raw talent of these musicians who are in perfect osmosis with the awesome vocal power of Clinton Fearon. Watch here:

Michael Lemmo - Blue Comet

While keeping his ultra-cool day job at Norm’s Rare Guitars in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley – from where his YouTube streaming show “Guitar of the Day” reaches over 500,000 subscribers – singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Lemmo takes a powerful, stylistically expansive double-fisted approach to the official launches of his recording career with BLUE COMET. Produced by Paul Brown, the album boldly showcases two unique sides of his ever-evolving artistry. On the instrumental side, the guy whose influences range from George Benson to Eddie Van Halen shares his crackling, muscular, super rhythmic and melodic rock edged contemporary jazz fire. He intersperses these tracks with showcases of his singing and songwriting artistry that reveal a vocal artist of extraordinary sensitivity and soulful depth. All of this bodes well for an incredible career in Smooth Jazz and beyond!

Ciyo Brown | "Can We Pretend"

Born in Jamaica, Ciyo arrived in England at the age of eight months old. Though a high academic achiever qualifying as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and specialising in the area of Housing Law, music has always been a dedicated and professionally nurtured constant in Ciyo’s journey through life. Ciyo is also a University Lecturer in Law and a range of other academic subjects and also provides private guitar tuition.

From early beginnings Ciyo was taught to play the guitar at the age of nine by his late father Lorenzo Alexander Brown after which he studied Classical guitar for a short period. Throughout his illustrious career, Ciyo has participated in several different aspects of music to include theatre musicals, educational seminars and workshops, studio recordings and live performances. Ciyo’s career continues to take very interesting turns and he has increasing been asked to appear in musical settings in popular television series. This development has seen him appear in ‘Landscapers’ alongside Olivia Coleman, the period drama ‘Sanditon’ with the likes of Rose Williams, Crystal Clarke, Kris Marshall, Anne Reid, Jack Fox, Charlotte Spencer and Leo Suter, ‘A spy among friends’ alongside Damian Lewis and a live television performance on ‘The last leg’ alongside Alex Brooker, Josh Widdicombe and Adam Hills.

He has worked alongside a parade of internationally acclaimed artists. These have included Meli’sa Morgan, Glen Jones, Mica Paris, Melba Moore, Shirley Jones, Jean Carne, China Moses, YolanDa Brown, Omar, Linda Lewis, Tony Momrelle, Tara Minton, Jo Harrop, Judy Jackson, Imaani, Suggs, Caron Wheeler, Pauline Catlin-Reid (Shezzie), Soul II Soul, Jazz vocal sensation Vimala Rowe, Ann Nesby (Sounds of Blackness), Ruby Turner, Royal Wedding vocalist Paul Lee, Annie Lennox, Damian Flood, Leo Richardson, Alex Webb, Jason Rebello, Soca Queen Alison Hinds, Jazz Warriors, Tomorrow’s Warriors, Paul Weller, Talvin Singh, LCGC, East London Gospel Choir, Chevelle Franklin, Andy Hamilton, Chakademus and Pliers, The I-Threes – Marcia Griffith, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley, Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, Urban Soul Orchestra, Alex Wilson, Sonny Okusons, internationally acclaimed jazz guitarists Jim Mullen, Martin Taylor, Giorgio Serci, Nigel Price, Dave Cliff, Femi Temowo, legendary James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, Sly and Robbie, Freddie McGregor, Little Roy, Horace Andy, Steel Pulse and Carleen Anderson. Ciyo has also been appointed as Musical Director for a range or coveted artists to include the likes of Ronnie Laws, Billy Paul, Loose Ends, Hil St Soul, Johnny Clarke, Greg Kofi-Brown of Osibisa fame and Ann Nesby of Sounds of Blackness fame.

An in-demand musicians’ musician, Ciyo’s ongoing collaborative works cover a range of genres. His talent has enhanced iconic popular music alongside artists such as Roachford, Raghav, Shara Nelson, Soweto Kinch, to the ‘new psychedelia’ Brit-pop/folk influenced music of Bishi. Ciyo’s Jazz guitar contributions are also present in the genres of reggae and lover’s rock and can be found in his live and recorded work with many artists including John Holt, Carroll Thompson, Janet Kay, JC Lodge, Errol Dunkley, The Original Aces, Ken Boothe, Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, Victor Romero-Evans, Ginger Williams, Christine McNab, Paul Dawkins, tradition, Bob Andy, Legendary Jamaican guitarist Earl ‘Chinna Smith’, Barry Biggs, Laurel Aitkin, Dennis Bovell, Cornell Campbell, Kiddus-I, Prince Jazzbo, Lorna ‘Sutara’ Gayle, Pam Hall, Jimmy Lindsay, Earl 16, Lukie D, Bushman, Susan Cadogan, Lorna Bennett, Kofi, Caron Wheeler, Pauline Catlin-Reid, Aleighcia Scott, Winston Reedy, Christopher Ellis and internationally acclaimed vocalist Luciano. Ciyo is credited as being THE first musician to perform Reggae at the Jazz Café, The Hideaway, The Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street, The Hampstead Jazz Club and The Boisdale of Canary Wharf.

Ciyo has toured with Courtney Pine, Byron Wallen, Ronnie Laws, Jean Toussaint, Maxi Priest, Beres Hammond, Horace Andy, Cleveland Watkiss, Steel Pulse, Alex Webb’s Café Society Swing All Stars and a host of others to include Royalty in Lady Gabriella Windsor. He counts quality time spent with George Benson, Phil Upchurch, Martin Taylor and Joe Pass as being amongst his most inspiring experiences.

Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci | "Twenty Twenty 2"

Celebrating a fortieth anniversary is a big deal, especially when it comes to the longevity of a band so, when the novel coronavirus forced contemporary jazz group Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci to abandon their concert tour midflight in March 2020, Minucci retreated to his New York City home studio and began work writing, producing and recording an album to commemorate the outfit’s milestone occasion. “Twenty Twenty 2” was released on April 22.

Minucci, a three-time Emmy-winning and Grammy nominated guitarist-composer-producer-arranger, teamed with Hungarian percussionist George Jinda to form Special EFX in 1982, a bountiful partnership that ushered the band to the top of the charts, saw them embark on extensive concert tours with stops at some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world, and crafted a distinctive brand of music that incorporates jazz, rock, fusion, blues, pop and world music. Although Jinda died in 2001, the release of “Twenty Twenty 2” celebrates the enduring legacy of what he and Minucci built together that continues to thrive today via the guitarist’s fervent vision and creative force.

“Twenty Twenty 2” consists of eleven new Minucci compositions, most of which were written during the first year of the pandemic. The album includes two reimagined songs from Minucci’s catalogue that were expanded and given new twists. “Everything & Anything,” a refresh of “Anything & Everything” penned thirty years ago, now features a sweet and soulful saxophone solo by Grammy winner Eric Marienthal. Over seven minutes long and recorded live at the SiriusXM studio prior to the lockdown, “Ballerina Dreams” is a sprawling 1989 piece that frees Minucci’s guitar to plier and pirouette with passion and grace. A nearly nine-minute remake of The Allman Brothers Band’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” is given the Special EFX gloss and serves as the album’s surprise opener.

Minucci and his extended band - seventeen musicians perform on “Twenty Twenty 2” in addition to the guitarist – broke from standard Special EFX recording practices.

“Special EFX has traditionally been a live-in-the-studio band for most of its years. But because of the world health crisis, that option wasn’t available. So, as many artists also experienced recently, the music was sometimes recorded one part, one musician at a time. This was a new experience for me,” said Minucci who acknowledged that “Ballerina Dreams” and the playful, handclapping Irish romp “Ceili Music” are exceptions that were recorded live.

“Twenty Twenty 2” showcases Minucci on acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, synths, beats, shaker and vocals. Making appearances on the album are keyboardists Lao Tizer, Jay Rowe and Oli Silk; saxophonists Marienthal, Nelson Rangell and Richie Cannata; violinist Antoine Silverman; trumpeter Lin Rountree; bassists Jerry Brooks, Ric Fierabracci, Dave Anderson and Gianluca Minucci; drummers Joel Rosenblatt, Lionel Cordew and John Favicchia; and percussionist Mino Cinélu.

In writing music for the album, Minucci found inspiration everywhere: on meditative beach walks (“Words Left Unsaid”); in mellow moments of reflection (“Slow Hands”); sifting through his record collection to listen to some of his favorite big-band sounding fusion groups (“Showboat”); solitude and seclusion (“Folks Like Us”); admiring the productions and arrangements of global pop artists like

Zedd and Max Martin (“Novembers Child”); and from watching espionage and terrorism playout on a television series (“Homeland”).

“I once read that composing is like an energy wave passing through one’s body: first from above, through the mind, then through the body, and finally out the hand, off into the world for all to share. I still feel that same excitement about music that I experienced as a child, more than ever perhaps,” said Minucci who has written music for television (“The Guiding Light,” “Dancing With The Stars,” “American Idol” and the “Good Morning America” theme), movies (“Bowfinger,” “Legally Blonde,” “Snake Eyes” and “Panic”), radio (Bloomberg Radio theme), and theater (live productions of “Peter Pan,” “Dora the Explorer” and “Thomas the Tank Engine”).

Special EFX featuring Minucci recently launched their 2022 concert itinerary with shows in Minneapolis and Denver to set the stage for “Twenty Twenty 2.” The band has dates booked through October and includes Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival (April 2, 3 and 10), Winter Park Jazz Festival (July 16) and the Vail Jazz Festival (July 17). Special EFX will be in Houston, TX (Sugar’s Cajun Cuisine) the day “Twenty Twenty 2” streets and at Southern California hotspot Spaghettini the following night.

“My hope is that music lovers will listen to ‘Twenty Twenty 2’ from top to bottom, as is, in the order I chose to sequence it in - kind of like how we all did back in the day, before streaming and websites,” said Minucci who earlier this year released the solo acoustic guitar album, “Someone’s Singing.”

“Twenty Twenty 2” contains the following songs:

“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”

“Gonna Be Alright”

“Slow Hands”


“Folks Like Us”

“Ceili Music”

“Everything & Anything”

“Novembers Child”


“Ballerina Dreams”

“I’m Leaving You”



“Words Left Unsaid”

Catch Special EFX featuring Chieli Minucci on tour in 2022:

March 31 Annapolis, MD Ramshead Tavern

April 1 Richmond, VA The Tin Pan

April 2 Reading, PA Berks Jazz Festival Midnight Jam

April 3 Reading, PA Berks Jazz Festival

April 10 Reading, PA Berks Jazz Festival/Friends of Nick Colionne

April 22 Houston, TX Sugar’s Cajun Cuisine

April 23 Los Angeles, CA Spaghettini

April 29 & 30 Tarrytown, NY Jazz Forum Arts

May 6 Baltimore, MD Montpelier Arts Center

June 5 Saratoga Springs, NY Caffe Lena

June 12 San Diego, CA San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival

June 17 Birmingham, AL Steel City Jazz Festival

June 18 & 19 Atlanta, GA Velvet Note

July 16 Denver, CO Winter Park Jazz Festival

July 22 Pittsburgh, PA Allegheny County Sound Park Bandshell

July 23 Augusta, GA Capture the Rhythm Art and Jazz Series

August 6 Portland, OR Vanport Jazz Festival

August 25 Branford, CT Branford Town Green

October 28 Miami, FL Miami Smooth Jazz Festival

October 29 Charlotte, NC Middle C Jazz

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

J. Peter Schwalm & Stephan Thelen | "Transneptunian Planets"

The demotion of Pluto remains a topic of controversy more than a decade and a half later, but the now dwarf planet is hardly alone way out on the fringes of our Solar System. On their first collaboration, Transneptunian Planets, electro-acoustic composer J. Peter Schwalm and guitarist, composer, and mathematician Stephan Thelen journey beyond the beyond to draw inspiration from the outer limits of the cosmos.

Transneptunian Planets further evolves the already innovative body of work that both Schwalm and Thelen have created for the label. Schwalm’s relationship with RareNoise began in 2016 with the release of his entrancing album The Beauty of Disaster, followed by the sound sculptures of 2018’s How We Fall and continued through collaborations with electro-jazz trio Chat Noir, Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen and guitarist Markus Reuter.

Thelen first came to RareNoise in 2018 with Vortex, which combined his minimalist quartet Sonar with the expansive guitarist David Torn. Two more meetings, Tranceportation Volume 1 and Volume 2, followed over the next two years. Under his own name, Thelen released World Dialogue in late 2020, collecting a decade’s worth of his contemporary classical compositions performed by the renowned Kronos Quartet and Al Pari Quartet.

Transneptunian Planets was built on a back and forth communication between the two composers, with each given complete freedom to build on, transform or mutate the other’s contribution. The music is also enriched by contributions from Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset and British bassist Tim Harries, both regular collaborators of Schwalm’s, and Swiss drummer Manuel Pasquinelli, Thelen’s bandmate in Sonar.

The instigation for the collaboration came from RareNoise founder Giacomo Bruzzo, who suggested that Schwalm and Thelen might discover some fertile common ground. “I think the idea was that we could combine my 'architectural' way of using polyrhythms with J. Peter's dystopian soundworlds,” explains Thelen. A meeting over coffee was soon arranged in Schwalm’s native Frankfurt, where Thelen visits often.

“We immediately connected on many levels,” Thelen says. Adds Schwalm, “We actually already developed the first ideas during that conversation. Stephan was very open and also very goal oriented. I had suggested that we give each other creative space and ‘permission’ to dismantle each other's contributions, and also not to fall into grids that we both might already have been in.”

Plans were made to enter the studio together in May 2021, but like so many other notions over the past couple of years, the idea was disrupted by the pandemic. Transneptunian Planets was thus crafted with files sent over the internet. The communication began with the piece now known as “Haumea,” initiated by Thelen, with synth tracks added by Schwalm, and so on, eventually resulting in the mysterious and mesmerizing form the piece finally assumed. 

“It was important for both of us to put together two opposite musical worlds and to use the first ideas and subsequent results as further inspiration for further material,” says Schwalm. “We needed to keep all channels open mentally so that something could come about that neither of us have done before… It was important to both of us that we didn't get stuck in one key and that the freedom of the artist should be the top priority.”

That attempt was ultimately successful, as Thelen points out. “This album turned out to be very unique, different from anything that J. Peter or I have done before – or anyone else for that matter. And yet, you can clearly hear our individual voices.”

The same applies to the guest contributors, each of whom adds their singular voice to the mix. Aarset in particular adds strange and heady elements to the already densely layered mix. “Eivind's playing is so expressive,” lauds Thelen. “I find it fascinating how strong the emotional impact of his glitchy and distorted sounds can be.” Schwalm continues, “Like a solo singer, he flew over the basic structures of Stephan and I in a way I had never experienced before. He's the element that was needed to give this project even more craziness.”

All of the tracks are named for celestial objects drifting out past the eighth planet. The convention began when Schwalm contributed the basic tracks for album closer “Eris” and “Sedna” with those titles, which Thelen rushed to look up. “I found out that they are both names for objects of the Solar System beyond Neptune (like the former planet Pluto) and had the idea that we could name the pieces according to these 'Transneptunian Planets',” the guitarist explains. “J. Peter immediately liked the idea because a faraway, mysterious and unknown planet was the perfect analogy for every piece that we had created together.” 

That’s true from the opening moments of “Pluto,” where a grinding industrial rhythm is soon enshrouded by ethereal atmospherics, evocative guitar patterns and mechanical eruptions. Harries and Pasquinelli lock into a steamroller groove that carries the listener through the track with the implacable momentum of a conveyor belt. “MakeMake” is punctuated by volcanic eruptions and cyborg vocal incantations, while “Quaoar” time travels between the tribal past and the interstellar future. “GongGong” takes that notion into a primeval techno/trance feel, while “Orcus” drifts free of gravity in a dub-inspired ether.

Like Pluto, the Transneptunian Planets may not technically be planets – but does it really matter how you define these massive, majestic objects, further from us than we can imagine but still linked to a region of the universe that we consider home. The same can be said for the music made by J. Peter Schwalm and Stephan Thelen – intimate and vast, alien yet enticing, foreboding yet endlessly inviting for the exploratory listener.

Florian Hoefner Trio | "Desert Bloom"

With striking new compositions and inspired arrangements, Hoefner’s hallmark lyricism and knack for suspenseful dramaturgy are on full display. With “Desert Bloom,” it is clear that Hoefner has taken complete advantage of the opportunity to deepen and strengthen his compositional craft. The result is an exceptional new album.

Of his process creating “Desert Bloom,” Hoefner writes:

“The open space provided by the pandemic facilitated weeks of uninterrupted composition time, allowing me to experiment with new approaches. I was inspired by post-minimalist composers such as Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and Philip Glass, and dove into exploring repetitive structures, pedal points, and drones in my own writing. These devices also helped me to capture my experience during the early days of the pandemic, which was dominated by the contrast between an unruly and dramatic outside world and a much quieter personal world.” 

A calling card of the German-born, New York-trained, Canadian pianist/composer is his ability to give his music a strong shape and storyline, something that critics have recognized: “It is the essence of flow, as clear as a stream rushing by and equally invigorating.” (New York City Jazz Record). In “Desert Bloom,” there is a particular alchemy at work: Hoefner’s music can be formally complex and has the kind of structural integrity that comes from a highly developed and careful craft, with far more attention to this than would normally be the case for a jazz piano trio. And yet, invariably, there is an emotional immediacy and appeal to it. In these 9 new tracks – 7 originals and 2 inventive arrangements - the compelling storytelling shines through. 

The title of the album, “Desert Bloom,” refers to an extraordinary phenomenon which occurs in nature, and which resonated strongly with Hoefner: 

“I watched a documentary on water and was blown away by the footage of a desert bloom in Chile’s Atacama Desert – the driest place on earth. In some parts of the desert, rain doesn’t fall for up to 10 years. But then, when the rain does come, the colours explode. After staying dormant in the ground for years, protected underneath the hot and dry desert floor, the seeds of wildflowers suddenly germinate after heavy rainfall, turning the desert into a flower garden within days [..] This is what it has felt like to be a musician over the last two years. Waiting and waiting for the bloom.” 

That period of ‘waiting for the bloom’ – for the trio to be reunited – lasted almost a year and a half. Most of the music for the new album had already been written by the end of the first pandemic lockdown, but it took until August 2021 before the three players could gather in the same place (Hoefner lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, more than 1300 miles from Toronto where the other two musicians are based.)   

Hoefner has found a leaner and more direct form of expression here. “The minimalists have made me want to think about the importance of every single note, about shapes and intervals…” There is also a constantly shifting balance of the roles in the trio, and an openness to new sounds, such as a bass variant of the folk fiddle “chopping” technique with the bow from bassist Andrew Downing. Of drummer Nick Fraser’s contribution to this album, Hoefner says: “Nick is such a creative player with a huge dynamic range from the most filigree work to really hitting the kit hard.” These contrasts are captured superbly on this recording. Throughout, remarkable interplay between the three musicians attests to their unparalleled rapport. 

This is jazz piano trio playing at an astonishing level. Hoefner, Downing, and Fraser grab the listener's attention as they create and link a myriad of moods. There is a palpable expressive immediacy in their exploration of emotional extremes. Hoefner’s craft has never been stronger. With every listen, more and more of the album’s wealth of compositional subtleties emerge.

Florian Hoefner has had a unique trajectory through music, which may to some extent explain a capacity, noted by critics, to keep revealing new and unexpected facets of his artistry. Born in Bavaria, his talents were singled out at an early age. He held the piano chair in Germany’s national youth jazz orchestra (BuJazzO). Then followed studies in Berlin with Hubert Nuss and Kurt Rosenwinkel, a time during which he also started to tour extensively with his own bands. A Fulbright Scholarship brought him to New York City for studies with Jason Moran, a mentor who, according to Hoefner, inspired him “by showing that it is possible to find one’s own artistic horizons while connecting to tradition.” 

Moving to Canada in 2014, there has been a consistent flow of awards for his work as both pianist and composer. “Luminosity" (Origin, 2017), a quartet album with Seamus Blake, was nominated as Jazz Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards 2017. The Group also received the Stingray Rising Star Award from the Montréal Jazz Festival. “First Spring,” (Alma Records, 2019) was nominated for a 2021 Juno in the category Jazz Album of the Year: Group, and also won the prizes for both “Instrumental Recording of the Year” and “Jazz Recording of the Year” at the 2020 East Coast Music Awards. Hoefner has also been a two-time winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award.

Michael Sarian | "After The Rain"

As New York City was reawakening after a year of lockdown, spring was in full bloom, and a sense of renewal was in the air. Familiar sounds, which had remained distant for so long, were again within ear's reach and working their way back to day-to-day life, ever so cautiously. 

Trumpeter/composer Michael Sarian explains, “throughout 2020 and well into 2021, making music in our homes became a daily ritual, new habits and routines had been built, and with those, new musical ideas came to life within the City's silence. And so, combining these new practices with sounds that inspired hope birthed this new album, After the Rain: Impressions on Daily Sounds and Field Recordings During a Moment of Rebirth and Awakening.

After the Rain is comprised of seven tracks of freely improvised trumpet, flugelhorn, FX and Fender Rhodes over familiar yet unexpectedly new sounds created entirely by Michael Sarian: traveling once again on the NYC Subway system, conversations at a local bar, grilling with family and friends, playing trumpet duets with a student, splashing in the waves at the waterfront, the sound of a light rain in the morning. 

The music on After the Rain offers us, the listener, an unfiltered gaze into Sarian’s life, his humanity, and his consciousness. He paints abstract images of being a working artist in NYC through sound. A sound that beckons, at once powerful and fragile, but always compelling. He is able, as a trumpeter, to tell the story of the human condition, and through flesh, metal, breath and spit we can hear everything from the quotidian to the miraculous; we can hear his declaration as an artist who has something compelling and beautiful to add to the world.  

After the Rain – Track listing: 1. Paper Cranes, 2. Coney Island Bound, 3. Liquid Tempo, 4. That's More Common in Uruguay, 5. I'll Get There, I'll Get There, 6. Silent Waves, 7. Most New Yorkers 

Born in Toronto and raised in Buenos Aires, Michael relocated to New York City in 2012, where he studied with Laurie Frink, Alan Ferber, Brad Shepik, Ralph Alessi and Mike Rodriguez. Sarian has performed at some of the most iconic international stages, including the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Getxo Blues Festival in Spain, Teatro Colón in Argentina, and at some of New York City's most beloved venues such as the Blue Note Jazz Club, Jazz at Lincoln Center, BRIC JazzFest, The Beacon Theater, and Central Park SummerStage. He has appeared on WNYC's Soundcheck with John Schaefer, NPR's World Cafe, and many more.

Sarian's artistic output is as diverse as his background: his second quartet album (following up 2020’s New Aurora) is set for release in 2022 with ears&eyes Records, he has released several duet recordings with pianist Matthew Putman on 577 Records, electronic avant-garde music with Barcelona based pianist Olec Mün on piano and coffee records (with a second set for release in 2022), and several albums with his septet Michael Sarian & The Chabones, most recently LEÓN in 2018 with ZOHO Music. He also performs regularly with his big band, Michael Sarian & The Big Chabones, is a stable member of The NYChillharmonic, the Bette Smith band, among other collaborations and projects. In 2020, Sarian was a semifinalist at the prestigious DC JazzPrix, and a Performer-Composer in Residence at Westben Centre for Connection & Creativity. He is currently artist in residence at Culture Lab LIC for the spring/summer 2022 season. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

International Jazz Day 2022, a Call for Global Peace and Unity

Global Concert from the United Nations in New York to be hosted by Herbie Hancock, feature Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, David Sanborn, Hiromi, Ravi Coltrane, Terri Lyne Carrington, Lizz Wright and others

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock today announced the program for the 2022 celebration of International Jazz Day, with events taking place in more than 180 countries.

A spectacular All-Star Global Concert will be staged in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York, emphasizing the importance of jazz as a means of achieving unity and peace through dialogue and diplomacy. With Herbie Hancock serving as Host and Artistic Director and John Beasley as Musical Director, the program is set to feature some of the world's most accomplished jazz and world music artists. Full cast listing and bios are available here.

This concert will be webcast worldwide at 5 pm EDT/2 pm PDT/11 pm CET on,,, YouTube, Facebook, UN Web TV and US State Department outlets.

"Jazz carries a universal message with the power to strengthen dialogue, our understanding of each other, and our mutual respect. As the world is affected by multiple crises and conflicts, this international day highlights how much music and culture can contribute to peace," said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

"With conflict and division in many parts of the world, it is my hope that, through the universal language of jazz, our celebration this year can inspire people of all nations to heal, to hope and to work together to foster peace," said Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock, who co-chairs International Jazz Day with the Director-General.

In the lead-up to the 2022 All-Star Global Concert, a series of free, online education programs will be presented via,, YouTube and Facebook, featuring renowned jazz artists Terri Lyne Carrington, Oran Etkin, Danny Grissett, Arturo O'Farrill, Dan Tepfer and others, with collaboration from the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, the JAM Music Lab University (Vienna) and JZ Music Group (Shanghai), among other organizations.

The worldwide program for International Jazz Day 2022 also includes an extraordinary array of programming, with concerts and performance-based initiatives complemented by diverse social outreach and educational activities. Partners from Central Africa to Korea to Chile to Newark, New Jersey have planned thousands of events taking place on and around April 30.

Major support for International Jazz Day is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Air transportation and additional support for artists and educators is provided by United Airlines, the airline partner of International Jazz Day.

Established by UNESCO in 2011 at Hancock's initiative, and recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, International Jazz Day brings together countries and communities worldwide every 30 April. The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz is UNESCO's partner in the organization and promotion of International Jazz Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Milen Kirov | "Spatium"

Pianist Milen Kirov finds the perfect formula with the June 3 release of Spatium on Independent Creative Sound and Music (ICSM) Records. A solo piano performance of 13 originals, the album is precisely the melting pot of styles that has long been the focus of the multi-dimensional Kirov’s creative journey. 

“My goal is to find the meeting point of three traditions: Western classical music, American jazz and blues, and Bulgarian traditional music,” the native Bulgarian pianist says. “There is no higher compliment for me than to be told these sounds merge together seamlessly in my playing.” 

Let the high compliments commence, then. Kirov not only strikes the delicate balance he seeks, but does so with such ease and aplomb that the three traditions sound as if they have always belonged together. For evidence, look no further than Spatium’s opening one-two punch, “Back to Bulgaria” and “Bulgarian Stride.” The former combines Bulgarian folk melody and classical precision with jazz’s rhythmic nuance and improvised playfulness, while the latter matches the stride piano tradition to the detailed latticework of Eastern European musics. “Thracian Blues” also sums up Kirov’s aesthetic, playing two pianos (one prepared and sounding like a guitar) to generate down-home blues lines, Bulgaria’s distinctive odd-meter dance rhythms, and bravura classical passages.

In addition, Kirov performs Brahms-inspired four “Intermezzos” that are also infused with Bulgarian folk rhythms and jazz harmonies and improvisation. One of these, however, is fully notated—as are two other tracks on the album (“Pharos” and “The Shepherd and the Mountain”). The pianist offsets these with two thoroughly improvised pieces (“For Grandma” and “Time”), showing that his fluency in the jazz tradition is equal to those of the conservatory and his homeland. 

Not to be overlooked is the album’s gorgeous sound. Now based in Los Angeles, Kirov nevertheless traveled to the city of Radom, in central Poland, to record Spatium in the glorious acoustics of the Kryzstof Penderecki Concert Hall. Capturing the tenderness, nuance, and resonance of every note Kirov plays, the album’s pristine sonics reinforce the perfection of the pianist’s delicate musical balance.

Milen Kirov was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria on February 6, 1977, the scion of an esteemed musical family. His mother plays the tambura and sings; his father is a virtuoso of the gadulka, a traditional Bulgarian fiddle, as well as an accomplished musical academic. Milen was only four when he entered the family business, studying the piano and working on ear training until by the age of eight he could accompany his father and his friends and colleagues in the family home. 

Thus grounding in Bulgarian traditional music, Milen turned to a formal classical education, graduating from both the High School of Music and Plovdiv’s highly regarded Academy of Music, Dance, and Fine Arts. Along the way, however, he discovered American music: blues, jazz, rock, and pop, all of which gained currency in Eastern Europe after the Iron Curtain fell in 1989. These idioms impressed Milen enough that he sought out an American musical education. 

Enrolling first in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (where he received a full scholarship), Kirov later transferred to the more experimentally minded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he studied with David Rosenboom and Vicki Ray, earning a BFA and a Doctor of Musical Arts there as well as a Master’s in composition from Cal State Northridge. 

Kirov was then able to find a niche for himself in the busy music scene of Los Angeles. Along with his professorship at Los Angeles City College, he performs and records in a variety of contexts, including a number of film scores; classical piano pieces; his Balkan funk ensemble, Orkestar MÉZÉ; and his world-jazz trio Bulgarian Moonshine Co. 

The pianist cites a deep connection to Milcho Leviev, a jazz great from his hometown of Plovdiv who paved the way from Eastern Europe to Los Angeles. “I feel a strong kinship with Milcho,” says Kirov, who knew him from an early age but didn’t see him perform until Leviev returned to Bulgaria in the early 1990s. “It was as though he was speaking to me, validating what I was doing. It was through his playing that I recognized that jazz combined with Bulgarian folk and other traditional sounds could be good music and legitimate.” 

Milen Kirov will be performing a CD release show (solo piano) at Sam First Bar, Los Angeles, on Friday 6/3 (7:30 & 9:00pm).

Photography: Rumen Kurtev

Milen Kirov "Spatium" EPK


The debut of the Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley marks the first Blue Note Jazz Festival presented as an outdoor, multi-day and multi-stage event. The especially intimate festival, with limited capacity, will feature top-tier talent at the historic Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, CA on July 30 and 31.

Grammy Award-winning multi-genre pianist, songwriter, and producer Robert Glasper serves as the Festival's Artist-In-Residence. Glasper's set, hosted by comedian Dave Chappelle, includes performances by special guests Erykah Badu, Ledisi, D Smoke, Terrace Martin, and BJ the Chicago Kid.

"The idea for the Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley came out of Robert Glasper's month longresidency at the Blue Note New York, held each October and dubbed Robtober," says Blue Note Entertainment Group President Steven Bensusan. "Glasper curates a month of shows and collaborations spanning across the genres of jazz, R&B, hip hop, soul and comedy resulting in impromptu performances by celebrities and unannounced special guests. It is our plan to create an outdoor festival style version of Robtober in the spirit of a traditional jazz festival featuring spontaneous collaborations and once in a lifetime improvised performances."

The two-day, three-stage festival will feature performances by Maxwell, yasiin bey & Talib Kweli reuniting as Black Star, Thundercat, Maurice "Mobetta" Brown featuring Anderson.Paak, Flying Lotus, The Soul Rebels featuring GZA & Talib Kweli, Corinne Bailey Rae, Emily King, Keyon Harrold, Domi & JD Beck, Phony PPL, Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott), Derrick Hodge, Th1rt3en (Pharoahe Monch, Daru Jones & Marcus Machado), Butcher Brown, Isaiah Sharkey, and Fredéric Yonnet. Honoring the festival's spirit of collaboration, artists will sit-in on each other's sets. 

"I can't wait to hold a festival with some of my favorite artists along with my boy Dave Chappelle in Napa," says Glasper. "On a vineyard with music and wine?! It's going down! Come drink some wine with us!"

Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley will also host a funk-filled after party for attendees on Saturday night, featuring two seasoned crate diggers, the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown aka Erykah Badu plus special surprise guests.

"We're honored to present a tastefully curated festival, gathering remarkable and culturally important artists with Robert Glasper as the cornerstone and helm," says Director of Programming and Talent Buyer Alex Kurland. "The programming mirrors the extraordinary depth of Robert's artistry, style and collaborative range, and is in the spirit of his annual residency at the iconic Blue Note New York. Just like at Blue Note, this festival reflects our tradition for bringing the highest caliber of artistry and star power to small-scale settings for a most intimate, high quality experience. Expect the unexpected with spontaneous special moments, and with Dave Chappelle in the house, this festival is bound to be historic."

The Napa Valley outdoor weekend event represents a new audience experience for Blue Note fans by combining a more traditional festival style event with the local wine culture of Napa Valley. The weekend will include food by renowned area restaurants, wine tasting experiences and other VIP add-ons. Two-day passes, priced at $385 for General Admission and $850 for VIP can be purchased at

During the pandemic Blue Note Napa, operating in the Valley for six years, partnered with Charles Krug Winery to present nearly 40 successful outdoor summer concerts at a time when few were offered. Charles Krug Winery, established in 1861 as the Napa Valley's first winery, is remarkable for its historical significance and character. Blue Note Napa's successful partnership with the winery demonstrated that Charles Krug was a natural fit as the venue for the upcoming festival, which will now use the Winery's entire grounds for the July event.

Blue Note continues to present its popular annual Blue Note Jazz Festival, New York with an array of shows throughout the month of June at venues throughout New York City. A new Miami Beach pop-up festival is also planned across two weeks in June at the city's North Beach Bandshell.

Founded in 1981, Blue Note Entertainment Group is a multi-faceted entertainment company that owns, operates, licenses and/or programs Blue Note Jazz Clubs worldwide, including New York, NY; Tokyo, Japan; Milan, Italy; Waikiki, Hawaii; Beijing & Shanghai, China; Napa, California; and Rio de Janeiro & São Paulo, Brazil. The company also owns and operates Sony Hall. Blue Note Entertainment Group presents shows outside of its club network. Blue Note Entertainment Group partners with Blue Note Records and Jazz Cruises to present Blue Note at Sea. The annual Blue Note Jazz Festival was established in 2011 and has since grown to become the largest jazz festival in New York City each June. Subsidiaries of Blue Note Entertainment Group include the GRAMMY®-nominated record label Half Note Records, whose catalog includes over 50 titles recorded live at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club, as well as Blue Note Travel and Management Group.

New Music: Toots Thielemans with Rob Franken, Giuseppe Paradiso & Meridian 71, Amanda Whiting, OK:KO

Toots Thielemans with Rob FrankenToots Thielemans Meets Rob Franken – The Studio Sessions 1973 to 1983 (3CD set)

A treasure trove of barely-heard music from two of the most unique players on the European scene of the 70s – Fender Rhodes giant Rob Franken, and harmonica jazz maestro Toots Thielemans – two players who sound better here in the company of each other than they do on their own! Thielemans had been making music for many years before these sessions – but as the 70s hit, the electric piano really opened up new colors and tones in his instrument – heard most famously on his performances with Quincy Jones, and some of his soundtrack material – but actually even more amazing here alongside Franken – as the combination of chromatic harmonica and Fender Rhodes is completely sublime! The tracks were recorded as part of a series of sound library sessions that Rob organized – titled Functional Music – and the huge set features material from a number of different sessions done under that aegis. CD1 features 20 tracks under the heading of Nature Boy from 1981 and 1982 – with Franken on Rhodes, Toots on harmonica, Theo De Jong on bass, and Bruno Castellucci on drums. CD2 is titled Absorbed Love – and features six tracks from 1978 with Toots and Franken – and James Leary on bass, Eddie Marshall on drums, and tenor and flute on a few cuts from the great Ferdinand Povel – followed by fifteen more titles from 1974 with a different Thielemans/Franken lineup that features Joop Scholten on guitar, Wim Essed on bass, and Peter Ypma on drums. CD3 is titled Together, from 1973 – and mostly features Thielemans on guitar and harmonica, Franken on Fender Rhodes, Rob Langereis on bass, and Eric Ineke on drums. 59 tracks in all – and a detailed book of notes! ~ Dusty Groove

Giuseppe Paradiso & Meridian 71Parallel Dimensions

After the success of their early 2020 album Metropolitan Sketches (and subsequent floor falling out from under them, thanks Covid) Giuseppe Paradiso & Meridian 71 teamed up with Ubuntu Music to bring us "Parallel Dimensions". Blending music genres that range from jazz and improvised music to Mediterranean and West African styles, "Parallel Dimensions" features Giuseppe on drums, percussion, electronics & vocals; Mark Zaleski on alto & soprano sax/clarinet; Utar Artun on piano & keys; Phil Sargent on electric guitar; James Hazlewood-Dale on upright, electric and fretless bass; and Malick Ngom on West African sabar drums, percussion and vocals. Check out the Tony Allen-inspired track 'Tony' and go from there!

Amanda Whiting - Where Would We Be (Single)

Welsh harpist Amanda Whiting returns on Jazzman Records following on from her successful debut album ’After Dark’ (2021). ‘Lost in abstraction’ was written during a  period of the unknown when Whiting, like most, explored her own sense of self.  The world  paused, with no timeframe, and the fragility of  life was laid bare. A time when humanity was left searching for purpose. Freedom and the dependable structures of familiarity were dissolved in most aspects of life. But music stayed constant. Creativity kept weaving its thread, connecting music and its makers in an indissoluble bond. The album explores the questions and realisations whilst confined. The spiritual findings, the playful curiousness and the reflective moments of loss. Whiting’s writing indulges the listener with the spiritual ethereal washes of sound demanded of the harp, whilst also embracing her influences across many genres. Classically trained, her roots are evident.  But with an emotionally charged energy and spiritual questioning, a new  soundscape of modernity has emerged. So often associated with Ashby and Coltrane, the harp finds itself in the hands of a new voice which tells the story of a period of time where the world was unified in reflection. 'Where Would We Be' is the first single taken from the album.

OK:KO - Liesu

Helsinki quartet OK:KO releases their third album ‘Liesu’ with We Jazz Records on 15 April. The band, led by drummer/composer Okko Saastamoinen and including saxophonist Jarno Tikka, pianist Toomas Keski-Säntti and bassist Mikael Saastamoinen (of Superpostion & Linda Fredriksson ‘Juniper') is a scene favourite in Finland and has recently garnered some international attention with their melodic, dynamic and original approach. The OK:KO sound is adventurous yet accessible, and contemporary yet rooted in the lineage of acoustic small group jazz. When listening to OK:KO, you can feel that their influences also come from out of the musical realm. After all, isn't this just how it should be? Making music from your own life. Here, you can tell that the landscape of rural Finland, its poetic, at times even melancholy beauty, is ever present. It’s a folk song country. But don't be fooled, these guys are powerful jazz quartet the music  starts when the first note hits, and onwards from there, we're in for a wild ride. Whether punchy like on ‘Anima’, solemn like on ‘Arvo', or just trekking out there on a skiing lane of their own like on ‘Vanhatie', what you'll get is pure OK:KO. Melodic, interactive, honest and forward-reaching contemporary jazz music. That is something we appreciate – a lot! Hailing from the Ostrobothnian small town of Haapavesi, Finland, Okko Saastamoinen (born 1995) was bitten by a jazz bug when The Five Corners Quintet performed in the nearby town Oulainen in 2008. Saastamoinen studies jazz at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy and despite his young age, he has been heard in top ensembles in Finland both on drums and on the vibraphone. Saastamoinen is the leader of OK:KO, a quartet bringing fulfilling his melodic vision of jazz with the aid some of the best young musicians working in the scene at the moment. ‘Liesu’, released by We Jazz Records in April 2022, is the third OK:KO album to date

Friday, April 22, 2022

Bob Marley & The Chineke! Orchestra

Released by Island Records/UMe on May 27, Bob Marley & The Chineke! Orchestra reimagines some of Bob Marley's greatest songs with contemporary classical orchestration from the globally esteemed Chineke! Orchestra. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios and produced by Nick Patrick (If I Can Dream, Elvis Presley and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, True Love Ways, Buddy Holly and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), reimagined tracks include "Satisfy My Soul," "Exodus," "Is This Love," "Redemption Song," "Get Up, Stand Up," plus "One Love/People Get Ready," which was scheduled for release as a lead track on March 25. 

The genesis of the idea for Bob Marley & The Chineke! Orchestra came via the acclaimed cellist and 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kenneh-Mason OBE. Although now a full-time solo artist and no longer an active Chineke! member, it was Kenneh-Mason's pioneering and original arrangements of Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" and "Redemption Song" that initially captured the attention and appreciation of Tuff Gong and the Bob Marley estate. So the Chineke! musical journey, via Abbey Road Studios, had begun.

Chineke! founder Chi-Chi Nwanoku OBE explains, "As a purely trained classical musician, the idea of being involved in a musical collaboration with the legendary Bob Marley was truly mind-blowing. I ardently believe that all genres of music should be open to absolutely everyone, so it was wonderful for Chineke! to be able to bring new orchestrations to these iconic tracks."

Bob Marley & The Chineke! Orchestra tracklist:


Stir It Up

One Love/People Get Ready

Get Up, Stand Up

Is This Love

Redemption Song

Top Rankin'

Satisfy My Soul

I Shot The Sheriff

Turn Your Lights Down Low

The Chineke! Orchestra was founded in 2015 by music professor and double bassist Chi-Chi Nwanoku OBE. Under the motto of "championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music," the ensemble made their debut performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's Southbank Centre in September 2015, and they are now the resident orchestra there.

Tirelessly working to create opportunities for established and up-and-coming ethnically diverse musicians and nurturing new talent by providing role models and celebrating diversity in classical music, Chineke! was honored at the 30th anniversary of The Royal Philharmonic Society RPS Awards with the inaugural 'Gamechanger' Award in 2019. Chineke! continue to be covered extensively by national and international press and broadcast media, most recently by The Times (UK) and The New York Times.

Bob Marley remains one of the 20th century's most important and influential entertainment icons. He has the second-highest social media following of any posthumous celebrity. His Facebook page draws more than 70 million fans, ranking it in the Top 20 Facebook pages and Top 10 among celebrity pages. In addition, LEGEND is the 17th best-selling album of all time in the UK, having spent 1019 consecutive weeks on UK Official Album Chart.


The legacy of Frank Sinatra – one of the world's most enduring singers – includes a studio album no one anticipated: Watertown. Recorded in 1969 and released in 1970, the concept of Watertown unfolds as a personal tragedy about a working man with children whose wife suddenly leaves him. Sinatra's performance elicits sadness, defeat and forlornness. Ultimately, as Sinatra so wonderfully expresses, it's also a story about one man's resilience.  

On June 3, Frank Sinatra Enterprises and UMe present Watertown, newly mixed and remastered from the original Reprise session tapes resulting in superior sound quality. The original album sequence will be available on vinyl, while the CD and digital editions will feature eight bonus tracks, including alternate takes from the recording sessions, two radio ads and "Lady Day," which was not part of the Watertown concept. Charles Pignone produced the updated edition from the new mixes created by longtime Sinatra engineer Larry Walsh – the team behind recent FSE/UMe releases Sings for Only the Lonely and Nice 'N' Easy. 

Now appreciated as a masterpiece of drama and heartbreak, Watertown will also feature, in addition to a recreation of the original packaging, new liner notes, a track-by-track breakdown from songwriter and album producer Bob Gaudio, quotes from Sinatra, plus essays by Frankie Valli, co-writer Jake Holmes, among others who were involved in the original project. Siriusly Sinatra (SiriusXM Ch. 71) will air an exclusive Watertown special in May.

Upon Watertown's release, fans and critics alike simply weren't prepared for such a radical stylistic departure from Sinatra. But the album has shown resilience: Despite the initial lukewarm response, in the decades since the album has had a re-evaluation and, in 2007, The Guardian declared Watertown "one of [Sinatra's] greatest masterpieces" and in 2015, The Observer noted that "it made some sense that Sinatra would attempt a story-driven concept album, considering he had helped pioneer the thematic concept LP in the 1950s. But on Watertown, Sinatra did something truly risky: he told an entire album-length story from the point of view of [a] character that is most definitely not Frank Sinatra." Gaudio's essay explains that Sinatra, with a level of empathy only he could achieve, was "reaching down into a man's soul and feeling his pain and still finding hope."

FRANK SINATRA — WATERTOWN (NEW MIX) [LP]: Side 1: Watertown; Goodbye (She Quietly Says); For A While; Michael & Peter; I Would Be In Love (Anyway). Side 2: Elizabeth; What A Funny Girl (You Used To Be); What's Now Is Now; She Says; The Train

FRANK SINATRA — WATERTOWN: EXPANDED EDITION [CD/DIGITAL]: Watertown; Goodbye (She Quietly Says); For A While; Michael & Peter; I Would Be In Love (Anyway); Elizabeth; What A Funny Girl (You Used To Be); What's Now Is Now; She Says; The Train; Lady Day*; Lady Day (11/7/69)*; Watertown (Session Take)*; Goodbye (Session Take)*; The Train (Session Take)*; Lady Day (11/7/69) (Session Take)*; 1970 Reprise Radio Promo #1*; 1970 Reprise Radio Promo #2*

*Bonus Tracks

Throughout his seven-decade career, Frank Sinatra performed on more than 1,400 recordings and was awarded 31 gold, nine platinum, three double platinum, and one triple platinum album by the Recording Industry Association of America. The three-time Oscar® winner also appeared in more than 60 films and produced eight motion pictures. 

Sinatra was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Recording Academy, The Screen Actors Guild and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Frank Sinatra demonstrated a remarkable ability to appeal to every generation and continues to do so; his artistry still influences many of today's music superstars. He remains a legend and an inspiration around the world for his contributions to culture and the arts.


UMe, Island Records, and BBC announce the release of Live at Glastonbury 2007 – the iconic performance of Amy Winehouse's Pyramid Stage set at Glastonbury 2007, coming to vinyl for the very first time on Friday, June 3rd.

Showcasing the inimitable artistry of one of the UK's most gifted and accomplished singers of all time, this emotionally charged live set will be released as a 2LP on black vinyl, with an exclusive crystal clear edition available HERE. The 2007 performance on the festival's legendary Pyramid Stage, 15 years ago this summer, was Amy's second Glastonbury appearance and a performance that saw the world completely fall in love with her music. As well as a second set later that same day on the Jazz World Stage, Amy returned the following year to perform again on the Pyramid stage, cementing herself firmly in the canon of great Glastonbury performances.

Live at Glastonbury 2007 is an unmissable dive back into the memory of Amy's 2007 set, including the singer's trademark irreverent soundbites in between songs, to the huge love she received from her enthralled audience - despite the changeable weather that year! This performance featured timeless crowd-pleasers from the award-winning Back To Black album, including "Tears Dry On Their Own," "Rehab," and "You Know I'm No Good," as well as early soul classics like "Monkey Man."

The artwork for this must-have release includes a recollection of the performance from Glastonbury co-organizer Emily Eavis, who commented, "Amy Winehouse was a Glastonbury-goer through and through. She either came and played or, when she wasn't working, came and camped. She played in the blistering heat and the heavy rain, and there were so many magical moments to her performances."

Tracklisting:  Side A: Addicted; Just Friends; Tears Dry On Their Own; He Can Only Hold Her. Side B: Cherry; Back To Black; Wake Up Alone; Love Is A Losing Game. Side C: Fuck Me Pumps; Cupid;  Hey Little Rich Girl; Monkey Man. Side D: You Know I'm Know Good; Rehab; Me & Mr Jones; Valerie.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell & Astro will release their new album Unprecedented

UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell & Astro will release their new album Unprecedented, June 17 via UMe. The album will be released as a black 2LP, a limited-edition white-color 2LP, 1CD, limited-edition cassette as well as digitally. All formats include their new single "Sufferer", which Ali has dedicated to his beloved friend and bandmate of over four decades, Astro, who tragically passed away last November.

UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell & Astro will release their new album Unprecedented, on June 17 via UMe. The album will be released as a black 2LP, a limited-edition white-color 2LP, 1CD, limited-edition cassette as well as digitally.

'"Sufferer,' is a song that Astro and I have always loved, from the brilliant Kingstonians," comments Ali. "Astro was so proud of our version of this song, as am I. It's the first track off our new studio album Unprecedented which will be out in the summer. This song is more poignant and special than I ever realized after Astro heartbreakingly passed away after recording this album. We want to keep his memory alive through his music and this song and album."

In addition to touring across Europe in 2022, the legendary British reggae-pop group has announced three tour dates in North America beginning May 12 in Las Vegas, NV. 

UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey's most recent album, 2018's A Real Labour Of Love, debuted at No.2 on the UK album chart, only dropping one place a week later to No.3, and the album spent a month in the Top 10. UB40 topped the UK singles chart on three occasions and sold 70 million records as they took their smooth yet rootsy musical blend to all corners of the globe. Between 1983 and 1998 the group produced three Labour Of Love albums, bringing hits such as Eric Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby", Lord Creator's "Kingston Town" and Johnny Osbourne's "Come Back Darling" to a new, global audience. They also topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with their reggae covers of "Red Red Wine" and "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" and had a further UK No.1 with their cover of "I Got You Babe" with Chrissie Hynde.


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