Thursday, June 30, 2022

Horace Andy | "Midnight Rocker"

Adrian Sherwood has spent a long time realising his dream of making an album with legendary Jamaican vocalist Horace Andy, beloved by reggae fans worldwide for his classic 70s and 80s tracks for labels such as Studio One and Wackies such as "Skylarking" and "Money Money", and boasting proper crossover appeal in modern times via his frequent contributions to Massive Attack, being a mainstay of their touring line-up and singing on all of their studio albums to date.  

Midnight Rocker has been approached in a similar fashion to the late-career quality that Sherwood coaxed out of Lee "Scratch" Perry with the Rainford and Heavy Rain albums, assembling a crack team of players and spending many months perfecting performance, arrangements and mixing. The result is 11 remarkable tracks that sparkle with superb musicianship, carefully crafted production and some truly beautiful vocals from Andy.  

As well as revisiting some Horace Andy classics like "Mr Bassie", "Materialist" and "This Must Be Hell" with fresh production, the album also features brand new material penned by LSK, Jeb Loy Nichols, George Oban and Adrian Sherwood. The pair have also versioned a much-loved early single by the group that Andy is most associated with, Massive Attack, although Shara Nelson took the lead on the original “Safe From Harm” and here Horace steps up to the mic. Interestingly, Shara Nelson recorded with Adrian Sherwood several years before the inception of Massive Attack, and 1983’s lost street-soul classic “Aiming At Your Heart” could arguably be cited as a blueprint for the later group’s sound.  

The backing band on this album features the cream of On-U Sound players, including contributions from Gaudi, Skip McDonald, George Oban, Crucial Tony, the Ital Horns, and the late, great Style Scott. 

Like Rainford, Midnight Rocker will be followed by a full companion LP of dub versions, which is not completed yet but will hopefully come out later on in 2022. 

Horace Andy Live dates:

22/04/2022: Querbeat Festival - Unterwaldhausen, Germany

29/04/2022: ‘Pay It All Back Revisited’ - Marble Factory, Bristol

30/04/2022: ‘Pay It All Back Revisited’ - 02 Forum Kentish Town, London

12/06/2022: David Rodigan’s Outlook Orchestra - Kenwood House, London

Horace Andy was born as Horace Hinds on February 19, 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica. Andy, also known as "Sleepy," has become an enduring voice on the Jamaican music scene. His signature early 1970s hit, "Skylarking," defined his ability to deliver songs of black determination and social commentary, but he could equally deliver songs of love.  

Andy worked with producer George "Phil" Pratt on his first single, "This Is a Black Man's Country," in 1967. His cousin, Justin Hinds, was starting to enjoy some success at that time, but Andy would not gain notice until working with noted Jamaican producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd in 1970. "Got To Be Sure” became his first release for Studio One, Dodd's studio. Dodd gave him the stage name of Horace Andy - a reference to popular singer Bob Andy. With Dodd, Andy went on to record "See A Man's Face," the well-received "Mr. Bassie" and the breakthrough hit "Skylarking," among other songs. "Skylarking," which encouraged wayward youth to clean up their act, was released as a single and topped the Jamaican record charts, becoming a signature tune for Andy. 

Although American R&B singers were Andy's early influences, he also comments: “I wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix, to play the guitar like him! I didn't see myself as having a great voice. I didn't know I'd be a great singer." 

Andy has consistently recorded and performed around the world, and has remained relevant in reggae subgenres such as roots reggae, rock steady, lover's rock and dancehall, recording with some of the all time great reggae producers including Bunny “Striker” Lee, Niney Holness, Tapper Zukie, Lloyd Barnes and Steely & Clevie. 

In 1990, he was discovered by the Bristol based trip-hop band Massive Attack, who cited Andy's work as a major influence. He recorded the song "One Love" for their 1991 debut album ‘Blue Lines’, and the band's popularity exposed Andy to a younger generation of fans, many of whom continue to seek out his earlier work. After Massive Attack launched their own label, Melankolic, they released Skylarking, a compilation of Andy's career hits. Andy is the only singer of Massive Attack's rotating group of guest artists to appear on each one of the band's albums. He also appeared on the British group Dub Pistols' 2001 album ‘Six Million Ways to Live’, and on the Easy Star All-Stars' 2006 Radiohead tribute ‘Radiodread’. 

More about Adrian Sherwood: 

“Someone once described me as just a fan who’d got his hands on a mixing desk, They were probably trying to be nasty, but I took it as a compliment – that’s exactly what I am!” 

For over 40 years now, forward-thinking sound scientist and mixologist Adrian Sherwood has been dubbing it up, keeping the faith when others have fallen away and blowing minds and speakers alike. 

Producer, remixer, and proprietor of the British dub collective/record label On-U Sound, Adrian Sherwood has long been regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists in contemporary dance and modern reggae music. His talent for creating musical space, suspense, sensations and textures have enabled him to pioneer a distinctive fusion of dub, rock, reggae and dance that challenges tradition not only in roots circles, but also in the pop world at large. 

“I’d rather try and create a niche amongst like-minded people, and create our own little market place be that 5, 50 or 500,000 sales and also be true to our principles of making things, and to your own spirit that you put into the work.” 

Born in 1958, Sherwood first surfaced during the mid ’70s and formed On-U Sound in 1981. While the On-U Sound crew’s original focus was on live performances, the emphasis soon switched to making records and Sherwood began mixing and matching lineups, resulting in new acts including New Age Steppers, African Head Charge, Mark Stewart & Maffia, and Doctor Pablo & the Dub Syndicate. 

All of these early records, according to Rock: The Rough Guide were “phenomenal, generally bass-heavy with outlandish dubbing from Sherwood, who worked the mixing desk as an instrument in itself.” 

Long influential and innovative on the UK reggae scene, Sherwood’s distinctive production style soon began attracting interest from acts outside of the dub community and by the early-’80s Sherwood was among the most visible producers and remixers around, working on tracks for artists as varied as Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Einsturzende Neubaten, Simply Red, the Woodentops, and Ministry. He became increasingly involved in industrial music as the decade wore on, producing tracks for Cabaret Voltaire, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, and Nine Inch Nails, and although On-U Sound continued to reflect its leader’s eclectic tastes, the label remained a top reggae outlet. 

In 2003 he launched his solo artist career with Never Trust a Hippy, which was followed in 2006 by Becoming a Cliché. Both were released by On-U in conjunction with the Real World label. 

Still one of the most sought-after producers in the contemporary music industry, Adrian Sherwood and his progressive style and interest in developing new ideas continue to propel On-U Sound’s ongoing success. In 2012 he issued his third solo album Survival & Resistance, and began an ongoing collaboration with Bristol-based dubstep don Pinch. This brought two different generations of bass together and in 2015 the pair released their debut album Late Night Endless. Behind the mixing desk he has been working with the likes of Spoon, Roots Manuva and Nisennenmondai; and delivered remixes of Halsey, Congo Natty and Django Django. His production and remix works has also begun to be anthologised by On-U Sound with the critically acclaimed Sherwood At The Controls series. 

“Music is lovely because it stimulates people, superficial music doesn’t. If you make something that you put your heart and soul into and really try to push it so it leaps out the speakers at you, and if there’s a good feel to it, then you’ve achieved something.”

Al Foster | "Reflections"

Approaching 80 years of age is occasion enough for anyone to take a moment and look back on a life well lived. For revered drummer Al Foster, those eight decades have been more memorable than most, filled with exhilarating sounds and encounters with some of the music’s most iconic figures. On Reflections, his second album for Smoke Sessions Records, Foster revisits the work of several of his legendary peers alongside an inspiring quintet of all-stars: Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Kevin Hays on piano and keyboards, and Vicente Archer on bass.

Due out August 26, Reflections finds Foster – as ever – playing at rarefied levels of chops, creativity and musicality. Throughout the session he propels this supremely talented unit through fresh, vital treatments of well-known and less-traveled numbers by iconic legends Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, and McCoy Tyner, all of whom regarded Foster as their first-call drummer for long portions of his celebrated career – at times competing for his services. Band members Payton, Potter and Hays contribute a tune apiece, while Foster penned three well-wrought songs, including two homages to Thelonious Monk that bookend the program.

The follow-up to his well-received 2019 Smoke Sessions debut, Inspirations & Dedications, is Foster’s fifth leader recording and, as even the notoriously self-critical drummer surprisingly says, “It is my best record as a leader.” Bringing together the influences he gleaned and experiences he shared with his idols and peers with the rejuvenating energy of this younger cohort of brilliant players, the humble Foster takes well-deserved pride in his accomplishments.

“As I’m aging, I can’t believe all the things I’ve been able to do,” Foster says. “I've been blessed, and I'm so proud of the things I’ve done with really great musicians. I don’t play like my idols, though I loved every one of them and I hear them in me. When I was coming up, I was trying to play like Art Taylor and my solos were like Max Roach. When I heard Tony Williams, and then Joe Chambers and Jack DeJohnette, I said to myself, ‘What about me? How come I don’t hear my own stuff?’ I wanted so badly to find Al Foster. I prayed for it. I believe in God, and I think he gave it to me. To this day he’s giving me new ideas and new little tricks.”

Reflections opens and closes with Foster’s tributes to the great Thelonious Monk, one of his primary heroes (His third original, “Anastasia,” is an ode to his eldest granddaughter). Foster first had an opportunity to work with the formidable pianist, during a couple of weeks in 1969 at Manhattan’s Village Gate, but his imprimatur remained on the drummer’s music. “Most of my tunes have some Monk in them,” Foster says. “It’s not the notes. It’s some of his accents. It isn’t deliberate but when I sit at the piano, it just happens that way. I worship Monk and I miss him dearly. He was a sweetheart. A really strange character...oh my God. But that's who he was. That's why he wrote the way he wrote – different than anybody. I fell in love with him at a young age.”

Shortly after his time with Monk followed his initial gig – the first of hundreds until the latter 1990s – with Sonny Rollins, at the Village Vanguard opposite Tony Williams’ just formed Lifetime band. He also teamed with Rollins in 1978, on a tour and recording with the Milestone All-Stars, which included McCoy Tyner, who subsequently would tour and record with Foster regularly until the early 2000s. Foster tips his hat to both former employers on Reflections – Rollins with the saxophone colossus’ classic “Pent-Up House” and Tyner with “Blues on the Corner” from the immortal 1967 Blue Note album The Real McCoy.

“I fell in love with Sonny Rollins from his albums with Max Roach,” Foster recalls. “He played so lyrically on those records. It was like he was having a conversation through his solos. What a super genius he is.”

Foster’s recollections of Tyner are more poignant, inflected by his last encounter with the master pianist before his passing in March 2020. The two crossed paths at Smoke during a tribute concert led by pianist Mike LeDonne. “I didn’t know it was going to be the last time I saw him,” Foster says. “He said, ‘Oh, Al, we did so much together, man!’ It brought tears to my eyes because his voice wasn’t very clear. I had to put my ear close to him. But he was a beautiful human being.”

The drummer met Joe Henderson, whose “Punjab” he takes on here, not long after the tenor giant hit New York in 1962. In the 1980s, Foster was the drummer on Henderson’s influential album The State of the Tenor, Vols.1 & 2 with Ron Carter and the association continued full bore during the 1990s on long trio tours with bassists Charlie Haden and Dave Holland and classic albums like So Near, So Far and The Joe Henderson Big Band. Herbie Hancock’s “Alone and I” nods to Foster’s many years recording and touring with the great pianist. “I’ve been all over the world with Herbie, and he’s another beautiful human being.”

And then there’s Miles. Foster first encountered the notorious trumpet icon as a teenager at Birdland and Minton’s, later becoming Miles’ drummer-of-choice on various plugged-in, backbeat-oriented bands from late 1972 until midway through the 1980s. “I never really played jazz with Miles,” says Foster, who regards Davis as the best friend he’d ever had. “Miles had his demons, but I loved him more than my father.”

For all the praise he heaps upon his past collaborators, Foster is equally generous in discussing his modern-day personnel. He describes Potter – a member of Foster’s mid-’90s band and a participant on his 1995 album Brandyn, not long after Foster and Hays played on the saxophonist’s second album, Sundiata – as “genius level, with his own way of playing, his own style – one of the best people around on tenor that I know.” Potter also contributed the probing “Open Plans” to the proceedings. Foster is similarly enthusiastic about Hays, saying “he is my favorite pianist” and notes the “distinctive harmonic concept and great voicings” of this frequent collaborator of long standing who based his “Beat,” which he wrote for the occasion, on Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice.” And finally Foster celebrates the promethean Payton for his “tastefulness and great chops” and for his harmonically intriguing, spacey-funky, “Bitches Brew-ish” tune, “Six.”

It’s hard to overstate Foster’s contribution to the musical production of the aforementioned giants – as well as that of artists like Bobby Hutcherson, Stan Getz, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Blue Mitchell, Joe Lovano and John Scofield, as a short list – who have defined the mainstem tributaries along which jazz has traveled during his 60 years as a professional. But as much as Foster likes to wax nostalgic about the past, it’s also evident on every note of this 68-minute gem that he’s fully committed to living in the moment and playing in the here and now.

Cumbiamuffin | "Cumbiamuffin"

It was only a matter of time before cumbia hit Australia. After humbly coming to life on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, this rhythm—and everything it represents: its multi-ethnicity, its danceable pulse, its resilience—snaked its way up the mountains to reach Colombia’s urban capitals, Bogotá and Medellín, who transmitted the signal to Mexico, Peru, Argentina... Cumbia travelled, and wherever it landed it took hold; Charles Mingus got his fill in the 70s, Mexicans brought it across the US border in the 80s, Joe Strummer couldn’t get enough of it in the 90s; and wherever it landed, it has shown its flexibility, its ability to adapt to new environments.

Cumbiamuffin are the perfect example of what happens when cumbia arrives in a completely different continent. Since forming in 2010, they have become Australia’s premier large format cumbia orchestra, offering a twist on the genre that no one saw coming. They take their inspiration from cumbia’s brass band traditions, when the genre was adopted by orchestras in the 1940s, the start of its golden age, but they do not stop there. They also look further afield, to the big bands of Mexico and Peru, and even to the Caribbean, which is how their name came about. Cumbiamuffin represents the contraction of two musical styles that the group seamlessly bring together in one big, vibrant, joyous experience: cumbia and raggamuffin reggae. This is a group that can inject even more life into a bona fide Colombian classic like Lucho Bermudez’s “Salsipuedes,” take a Greek club version of a Mexican banda track written by an Argentine accordionist and come up with the cohesively international “Ritmo de Sinaloa,” and then there’s that unmistakable ragga skank all over “La Promesa,” with “La Cabezona” being an instrumental descarga that has no right to rumble so low, designed with dance halls and sound systems in mind.

Armed with the collective energy of two authentic Colombian vocalists, a seriously massive brass section, heavy bass, funky guitar, salsa piano and equally authentic percussion, the 15-piece band combines elements of reggae, dancehall and roots from the Colombian Caribbean in a deft mix that is both retro and futuristic, authentically traditional and yet also experimental. Put together by a collective of Colombian and Australian musicians, the project has the common vision of introducing the purest sounds of the golden era of orchestrated cumbia to Australian audiences, but with a little something more added to the formula to keep things fresh.

Having triumphantly conquered their home country’s competitive music scene with sold out shows at numerous festivals and well-known venues all over Down Under, Cumbiamuffin are poised to break out to a global audience with their debut self-titled LP.

Cumbiamuffin will be joint released by Peace & Rhythm, Hyperopia Records and, Sounds and Colours on 1st July 2022

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hidden Waters: Strange & Sublime Sounds of Rio de Janeiro

Over four sides of vinyl, Hidden Waters: Strange & Sublime Sounds of Rio de Janeiro charts a surge of creativity and camaraderie born from Rio’s underground that's now firmly making its way into the national consciousness. This 23-track compilation documents a landmark moment in popular Brazilian music, deep-diving into a wellspring of vibrant and vanguard sounds. Spotlighting the last decade’s most defining releases, as well as giving a platform to upcoming artists, unreleased material and left-field experimentation, the compilation collects and canonises a vital pool of talent which is reshaping the sound of Brazilian music.

Hidden Waters features such musicians as seminal scene mainstays Negro Leo, Ava Rocha and Kassin, Brazilian jazz upstart Antônio Neves, critically-lauded avant-pop trailblazer Thiago Nassif, breakthrough artists Ana Frango Elétrico and Letrux, lo-fi psych rocker Lê Almeida, and sonic explorer Cadú Tenorio, as well as revelatory new voices Raquel Dimantas and ROSABEGE, among many others. 

The music on Hidden Waters is unequivocally Brazilian, swelling with samba, bossa nova, funk and jazz. But it’s the album’s blend - from sunny psychedelia to dusky synth pop, via experimental electronics and euphoric disco - that marks the compilation as the sound of modern, multicultural Rio. Fans of Brazil’s fertile sixties and seventies will spot the antecedents in Tropicália. Not only in the experimentation but also through the music’s similar political context: back then it was Brazil’s military dictatorship, now it’s Bolsonaro’s censorious premiership. This is a group of musicians writing a colourful chapter within Brazil’s musical history.

This comprehensive compilation comes with album artwork designed by Rio music’s leading album artwork designer, Caio Paiva. It features essays by professor and music critic Bernardo Oliveira and music journalist Leonardo Lichote, plus extensive notes on each track by the artists themselves.

Sounds and Colours have launched a vinyl fundraising campaign for Hidden Waters: Strange & Sublime Sounds of Rio de Janeiro via Bandcamp Vinyl. 

Michael d’Addio | "With Michael After Hours"

In today’s world of music that so often reflects jangled nerves, chaotic events, raging pandemics, fractured relationships, and fearful apprehensions, Michael d’Addio’s new musical venture into the world of smooth Jazz, titled ‘With Michael After Hours’ just hits different. This album embraces fans like the calm, welcoming embrace of an old friend.

The amazing story behind the extraordinary new album ‘With Michael After Hours’ takes place in a small town at 8,000 feet on the upslope of a 17,000 foot volcano in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador in South America: an 80 year-old, expat American retiree with an equally-extraordinary background had been living there for nearly 14 years when the COVID pandemic came calling. To Michael d’Addio, the problems caused by the pandemic were only the latest in a steady flow of turbulent and chaotic events plaguing the world for decades.

From a life-long habit of relaxing with chill-out music at the end of a stressful day, Michael decided to share this with other like-minded folks. By drawing on his lifetime of singing and his 30 years of production experience in the Hollywood film business, he gathered together an orchestra of 18 local, very talented musicians and, despite the formidable obstacles presented by COVID quarantine observances, went into the town’s professional recording studio, one musician at-a-time and, over the next year and a half, put together ‘With Michael After Hours‘ — an easy-listening, smooth jazz cornucopia of ‘standards’ from the heyday of ‘The Great American Songbook‘. All the album’s songs are beautiful tributes to the likes of Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Nancy Wilson, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone and the whole tribe.

Michael d’Addio is an extremely talented singer who primarily sings in the sphere of jazz music. To Michael d’Addio, the human voice is an unflinching mirror that reflects every thought, emotion and feeling a person has ever experienced. In his case, Michael d’Addio strongly feels like his life has been like a checkerboard, with each square representing a different path pursued, a different lifestyle and vocation, allowing him to learn a lot of things along the way.

Michael d’Addio’s venture into music started from very early on – he likes to cheerfully remind his fans that he was into music since ‘day 1’. From as early as when he was three years old, Michael d’Addio remembers music and singing. He would particularly be amused by the songs on the radio. Now, in 2022, his latest album ‘With Michael After Hours’ is on its way to be heard across the country via the radio!

Mark Etheredge | "Love Planet"

That pianist Mark Etheredge appears smiling on the cover of his new contemporary jazz album, “Love Planet,” offering roses – his songs – to the world is a triumphant story of resilience. Since the title track of his last album, 2016’s “Connected,” landed him at No. 6 on the Billboard singles chart, the keyboardist slipped into the abyss of alcoholism, going bankrupt and losing his West Hollywood home, which forced a move back to the Bay Area where he slept on a friend’s couch and watched his mother slowly slip away before she finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease last year.    

As “Love Planet” readies for its August 12 release on Vipaka Records, the now clear-eyed Etheredge is back living in his own West Hollywood place, clean and sober for fourteen months, living one day at a time with hope restored. During the tumultuous years, Etheredge found strength and creative expression by retreating to his keyboard to compose music. Reteaming with “Connected” producer and two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown, Etheredge recorded and released two singles, “Resonance” (2019) and “You & M e& We” (2020), both of which appear on “Love Planet” alongside eight new songs.

Last month, Etheredge finished recording the inspired new set consisting of spirited jazz instrumentals, soulful R&B grooves, iridescent pop melodies and festive Latin rhythms, with Brown at the controls. A vibrant homerun hook powers the title track, which will begin collecting playlist adds on July 18.

“‘Love Planet’ is about love for each other, as well as self-love. I was taught growing up that everyone is born with a sense of goodness, and I still believe it’s true. And that goodness is totally inclusive. With all the craziness on this planet, it’s easy to lose sight of that. These days, I wake up asking, ‘What can I do to be more loving today?’” said Etheredge.

On “Untethered,” he celebrates his newfound sobriety, with his pliable piano passages getting a boost from chart-topper Steve Oliver, who issues placid nylon-stinged guitar licks.

“I literally drank my money away. During the pandemic, I finally accepted that I had a problem with alcohol. I got help. This song expresses my gratitude and joy to be free, one day at a time,” said Etheredge, who later on the album echoes the sentiment with “Elated.”

Tenor saxophonist Greg Vail adds fullness to “Groove City,” a cut inspired by the diversity, energy and the rhythms of urban life. The Latin-singed “Saucy” is spiced by full-throated horn section tracks performed by Vail (tenor and baritone saxes) and Ron King (trumpet, flugelhorn, horn arrangement), and scorching electric guitar riffs played by Brown and Shane Theriot. Etheredge ruminates on trust and the role love plays in the face of adversity on “We’ll Make It Through.”

“This one is about trust, hanging on. Sometimes, life brings along a bumpy ride. Trust that together with love, we’ll make it through,” said the keyboardist who is accompanied on the album by guitarist Jay Gore, bassist Roberto Vally, drummers Joel Taylor and Gorden Campbell, and percussionists Lenny Castro and Richie Gajate Garcia. 

The penetrating piano melodies on “Resonance” explore human connection and attunement. “I think as humans, we all have opportunities to resonate with each other - to be in tune and find peace with each other - if we want it enough,” said Etheredge who amiably shares the spotlight with Brown’s bluesy guitar statements.

Watching the war, unnecessary death and destruction in Ukraine on television stirred Etheredge to pen the contemplative and compassionate plea for “Peace.” Brown is called upon to help illumine “You & Me & We,” a lush piano and guitar romp pondering unity.

“How can we coexist peacefully with one another? Perhaps if ‘you and me’ think not just about one or the other’s wants or needs, but consider a third way, “us,” focusing on our shared interests that benefit us both. Can we be kind? Can we practice compassion and justice? Can we be loving? Can we be respectful of one another?” Etheredge poses.

Etheredge offers “Golden Hour” in fond remembrance of his mother, who used the term for the times she took a nap when he was a child. Like “Saucy” and “Elated,” the album closer benefits from Theriot’s skilled rhythm guitar textures. 

Etheredge grew up near San Francisco in Sunnyvale and although his mother was a music school teacher and choir director, he’s primarily a self-taught pianist. His groups have opened for David Benoit, Bobby McFerrin, Sergio Mendes, Tuck & Patti, Betty Carter and Sheila Jordan, among others. This year, Etheredge was the featured soloist on singles released by Vally (“On The Down Low”) and guitarist Mark Carter’s “Swingtown.” 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Honolulu Jazz Quartet | "Straight Ahead"

The Honolulu Jazz Quartet was formed by bassist John Kolivas, at the urging of his musician mother Dolly, just a few months before September 11, 2001.  The group marked its 20th anniversary in the throes of the worldwide pandemic.  That this milestone achievement by Hawaii’s most enduring jazz combo is framed by the two most tumultuous, world-changing events of this century is emblematic of how we have all survived in these challenging times: by moving forward, straight ahead. Indeed, it is the very essence of improvisational jazz to constantly flow, or sometimes push, forward through the chord changes of a song, always in search of reaching new musical heights, or playing something no one has ever heard before.

This album, the group’s fourth, is a celebration of their perpetual movement forward, straight ahead, through two decades of trials and triumphs. It is also a harbinger the musical adventures that await them as they embark – straight ahead – into their third decade.

One of the secrets to the group’s longevity is that they are a musical democracy. Although Kolivas is HJQ’s founder, the quartet has no front-man in the traditional sense (i.e., the John Contrane Quartet). The front-man has always been the sound the group makes together. Every time they perform, four distinctive, highly individualistic musicians come together to create one sound, a sound that is far greater than the sum of its parts. 

When hearing John Kolivas strike a note on his bass, a soft, warm feeling shoots up your spine and radiates to your face. His playing lays down a bottom so solid a herd of elephants could dance over it.

Saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama channels the all-time great artists on his instrument – Lester Young, Ben Webster, John Coltrane, and Wilton Felder. But he has a distinctive voice of his own and is a thinking man’s horn player.

Pianist Dan Del Negro hails from the South Side of Chicago and brings a funk sensibility to the group. But Dan can play anything: from musical theatre; to be-bop; to spacey Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner chords; to Funkadelic, to classical, and all points in between.

When drummer Noel Okimoto took over as the group’s percussionist (replacing Von Baron after his move to Japan), everyone knew that the Honolulu Jazz Quartet had come of age.  Noel’s Hawauu-jazz legacy, from his days with the legendary Gabe Baltazar and with the Betty Loo Taylor trio backing up the incomparable Jimmy Borges, brings a maturity, precision, and power to the Honolulu Jazz Quartet that has taken the group up a whole new level. 

U-Nam & California Funk Machine | "Volume 2"

Already back, and this time with a focus completely on the greatest funk of the eighties, comes Volume 2 of the genre defining series California Funk Machine which will be released on July 22nd, 2022 on the Skytown Records label. Indeed, much like Volume 1, the driving force behind the project is none other than Billboard chart topping artist, Platinum producer and multi instrumentalist Emmanuel “U-Nam” Abiteboul who, since moving to Los Angeles from his native Paris, France in 2008, his built a reputation for knowing funk like no one else knows funk. 

California Funk Machine Volume 2 is not just a collection of music, it is a concept, a style, a coming together of like minded musical brethren to breath new life into some of the hottest funk, disco, soul and jazz funk classics of that golden age otherwise known as the eighties. U-Nam’s contribution to California Funk Machine Volume 2 reaches far and wide. As well as arranging both horns and strings, U-Nam also produces and arranges the entire album. In fact his own prodigious input extends not only to lead and rhythm guitars, talk box, vocoder, bass, Moog bass, Rhodes, clavinet, synth guitar, keyboards, drums, horn programming and editing but also lead and background vocals. 

This is particularly so with a bang on interpretation of the Kool & The Gang blockbuster “Be My Lady” and a wonderful rendition of Dayton’s 1983 hit “Sound Of Music” which has Bill Steinway (The Crusaders) on keys, Billboard chart topping artist Bob Baldwin on piano, long time collaborator Tim Owens on background vocals and a sensational performance on drums from Jorel JFLY Flynn (Bobby Brown, Peabo Bryson). Staying with 1983 U-Nam digs deep for true funk gold and comes up with George Duke’s “Reach Out”, which finds Franck Sitbon emulating the great man on keys. When keyboard duties pass to Kim Hansen (Patti Austin) the result is “Can’t Get Over You” that can be found on the Maze long-player from 1989, “Silky Soul”. It proves to be the perfect showcase for Denis Benarrosh on percussion, Michael White (Maze, George Benson, Whitney Houston) on drums and, of course, U-Nam to conjure up something really special. White soon returns, this time in the company of bass player “Ready” Freddie Washington, for the Patrice Rushen song “Number One”. It first appeared on Rushen’s 1983 recording “Straight From The Heart” on which yes, you guessed it, Washington played bass. Not only does this latest appearance complete a circle that began to turn almost thirty years ago it is also a delicious reminder that Rushen played on U-Nam’s ambitious homage to the great George Benson, the world-acclaimed “Weekend In LA – A Tribute To George Benson”. 

All of this places U-Nam front back and center of an enterprise that includes a plethora of outstanding supporting artists. Take for example ex Stevie Wonder and Prince songstress Marva King who takes the lead on Jesse Johnson’s 1986 smash “Crazay” or vocalist Tony Tatum who gets the job done with another gem from 1986, Midnight Star’s "Midas Touch”. Of course when the conversation turns to funk the name of Earth Wind & Fire is never too far away. Volume 1 included two of the band’s timeless tunes and now U-Nam has come up with the seminal “Let’s Groove” from the 1981 EW&F release “Raise”. With Kim Chandler on vocals plus Larry Salzmann on percussion this is a number designed to rejuvenate even the most tired of dancing feet and is in the good company of the often overlooked but hugely powerful Congress’ “You Gotta Get It” that is the perfect fit with U-Nam’s hard driving guitar. The advanced single from Volume 2 that has been serviced to radio is a tasty interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s 1983 blockbuster “Rockit", a track that at the time was characterized by its distinctive scratch style, which came courtesy of DJ Grand Mixer DXT.

Here U-Nam calls on LA based DJ, composer, music producer, remixer, and sound designer DJ Puzzle to retain that same vibe. It complements to perfection his own ultra funky trademark guitar and in doing so makes the impossible a reality by rendering it even more funky than the high octane original. The CFM line-up is completed by The California Funk Machine Orchestra that comprises Maria Grig on violin and viola plus Lyudmila Kadyrbaeva on cello and the California Funk Machine Horns that come courtesy of Joabe Reis on trombone and Christian Martinez on trumpet and flugelhorn. With real strings and real horns California Funk Machine Volume 2 is the real funk deal and, for the legions of funkateers out there, it will bring the memories flooding back. For those discovering old school funk for the very first time this is a tremendous place from which to blast off with U-Nam into his very own funkosphere. The message from U-Nam is clear - “May The Funk Be With U”.

New Music: Brad Shepik, Dan Olivo, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Ricardo Bomba

Brad Shepik - Human Activity Suite Part 2 - Code Red

Brad Shepik, among the most versatile and distinctive guitarists of his generation, has performed and/or recorded with such artists as Joey Baron, Bob Brookmeyer, Dave Douglas, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley and Paul Motian and is equally acclaimed his work in several bands performing various styles of world-jazz, including Pachora, Simon Shaheen, Tridruga, the Paradox Trio, Yuri Yunakov’s Bulgarian Wedding Band, and the Commuters. Human Activity Suite Part 2 – Code Red is a ten movement meditation on the degree to which the danger to the planet has increased over the past fifteen years and the disastrous effects on local populations around the world. It is also a response to Shepik's 2007 composition Human Activity Suite which was organized around the seven continents and the global effects of human activity on climate. By the summer of 2021 and the IPCC report on Climate Change it has become clear that the effects of climate change will increase in severity and continue to be felt by everyone in every corner of the world. This new suite Human Activity Part 2- Code Red will focus on local effects of climate change and will aim to inspire people to take action locally within their community to both preserve local ecosystems and adapt in a sustainable way for future generations. The piece features an ensemble of five musicians who are are improvisors and multi-instrumentalists (guitar, tambura, saz, violin, piano, bass and percussion).

Dan Olivo - Day By Day

Singer and actor Dan Olivo is a regular on the Southern California jazz scene. He performs with his combo at such high-end venues as The Bar Nineteen12 at The Beverly Hills Hotel, The Ritz Carlton at Corona Del Mar and Rancho Mirage, The Riviera Hotel, and the Frank Sinatra House in Palm Springs. For his debut album, Day By Day, Olivo wanted to blend his sophisticated, elegant sound with the feel of a big band recording but performed by a smaller combo. Day By Day contains a mix of styles, from pop songs, like “This Guy’s in Love with You,” featuring Joe Bagg on organ, to bluesy rock including Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking.” Some songs go back a long way. "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?" was written in 1924 by a vaudeville comedy duo, while "It's Only a Paper Moon," written in 1932 for an unsuccessful Broadway play called The Great Magoo, features vocals by Medeiros and Cibelli. "It Had to Be You" was composed in 1924 by Isham Jones with lyrics by Gus Kahn. Other songs are straight out of the Great American Songbook, including the title track “Day by Day,” “Sway,” “Time After Time,” “All the Way,” and “More,” which was the theme song from the movie Mondo Cane. “L.O.V.E.” has not been recorded by many singers. It was written in 1965 and appeared on Nat “King” Cole’s last album of the same name. Because Harry Connick, Jr. has been such an important influence on Olivo, he recorded Connick’s “Come by Me,” as an homage to the singer and bandleader. Olivo knows how to swing and delivers the lyrics with clear enunciation and a lot of feeling. His training in stagecraft allows him to tell the story of a song directly and honestly, much like the crooners he so admires. The musicians on this album put forth a superb performance and successfully created the deep, rich big band sound that Olivo envisioned for his debut.

The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Cristian Măcelaru - Blues Symphony (Wynton Marsalis's second symphony)

Blue Engine Records releases the first recording of Blues Symphony (Symphony No. 2), an innovative and colossal work from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wynton Marsalis. In the hands of The Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of celebrated conductor Cristian Măcelaru, Blues Symphony (Marsalis's second symphony) takes the 12-bar blues and explodes it into a lyrical, kaleidoscopic history of American music. Blues Symphony (Symphony No. 2) is available globally on all digital platforms from Blue Engine Records. The symphony's seven movements are each infused with different influences—a ragtime stomp here, a habanera rhythm there—and, collectively, they take listeners on a sonic journey through America’s revolutionary era, the early beginnings of jazz in New Orleans, and even a big city soundscape that serves as a nod to the Great Migration.  This 2019 performance, recorded live in Verizon Hall at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, builds upon the legacies of Scott Joplin, James P. Johnson, George Gershwin, and other American masters, demonstrating the genius and breadth of Marsalis's imagination. “The blues helps you remember back before the troubles on hand and in mind,” says Marsalis, “and they carry you on the wings of angels to a timeless higher ground.” With the exquisite palette provided by The Philadelphia Orchestra, Blues Symphony (Symphony No. 2) is a triumphant ode to the power of the blues and the scope of America's musical heritage.

Ricardo Bomba - Eu Sei / Flutando

Far Out Recordings releases two previously unreleased tracks of glorious Brazilian sunshine music. Written and recorded in 1978 by pianist, composer, sound engineer, studio owner and former amateur skateboarding champion Ricardo Bomba, ‘Eu Sei’ and ‘Flutuando’ were almost doomed to total obscurity when the master tapes were binned following a ruthless studio clear out. Luckily Bomba kept a cassette tape copy from which Far Out has remastered the release for 7” vinyl/ digital. Throughout a varied career, which included a four year stint as bandleader of Jorge Ben’s live show (78-82),  Ricardo Bomba had a string of idiosyncratic, underground pop hits throughout the 80s, including ‘Você Vai Se Lembrar’ which recently featured on Soundway’s Onda De Amor (Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were 1984-94) compilation, as well as his then award-winning, now obscure solo album Ultralight (1988). 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Eucalyptus | "Moves"

Toronto-based octet Eucalyptus has been steadily gathering a devoted cult following since the release of their debut 10” Eeeeeuuucaaaaaaallyyypppptus in 2012. Led by acclaimed saxophonist and composer Brodie West, the band's languid, kaleidoscopic jazz is very much a collective endeavour, the product of an internal network of improvisational synergy they've built over more than a decade together.

Moves is their sixth release, and somewhat of a milestone. In addition to it being the octet's most psychedelic and arrestingly soulful release thus far, it's also their longest—their first, in fact, to cross into bonafide full-length territory. They're marking the occasion by joining the roster of Toronto favourite Telephone Explosion Records.

Touted as “innately personal” by DownBeat Magazine, Brodie West's unique vision has been nourished by a bafflingly diverse array of sources. Meeting the legendary Dutch drummer Han Bennink in 2000 at age 24 not only sparked an ongoing creative partnership (including two records), but also led him in a number of other fruitful directions. Bennink was the connection to exploratory punks The Ex, who brought West aboard for their collaboration with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, which produced recordings and tours worldwide.

Where the Brodie West Quintet (Astral Spirits, Ansible Editions) trades in clever jazz asymmetry and his duo Ways is a stark and focussed exploration of rhythm, Eucalyptus is where this eclecticism is most audible. The band simmers with polyrhythmic percussion, laid-back jazz sweetness, various strains of psychedelic wonk, and subtle tropical aromas from dub on “Rose Manor,” named after the retirement home of his musical grandmother Lorna (ever a source of inspiration for West) to Bossa Nova, as heard on “It's In A Move.” Its streaks of free-form bedlam and pure sonic texture keep listeners poised for perplexity and cheerful volatility.  

Moves manages to approximate the playful, intoxicating warmth the band conjures in their beloved local live appearances. Eucalyptus has made a tradition out of mounting month-long residencies at Hirut, a cozy east-end eatery that serves delicious Ethiopian cuisine. Hirut even gets a nod in the credits. Perhaps it's because this record's subtle whimsy and inviting disarray draws so much from the spirit of those evenings.

A large part of this odd concoction's success comes down to West's co-conspirators, a veritable who's who of Toronto's underground music community. Trumpet player Nicole Rampersaud, who has since relocated to Fredericton, New Brunswick, has sculpted her unique tone as composer-in-residence at Halifax's EVERYSEEKER Festival and in collaborations with the likes of Rakalam Bob Moses, Anthony Braxton, Joe Morris and Telephone Explosion's own Joseph Shabason. Ryan Driver (clavinet) has cut a series of gorgeous song records for Tin Angel Records, and collaborated with Eric Chenaux (Constellation) in various projects, while leading a number of his own imaginative outfits. Michael Smith (bass) plays with Toronto psychonauts the Cosmic Range and has toured and recorded with MV+EE, Sandro Perri plus countless others. Fellow Perri collaborator, percussionist Blake Howard brings the palpable joy of his playing to collaborations with Marker Starling, Little Annie, and the surrealist mischief of GUH. 2021 saw Nick Fraser (drums) leading a disc on Hat-Hut's Ezzthetics imprint. It follows a string of other celebrated recordings with international out-jazz heavyweights like Tony Malaby and Kris Davis for Clean Feed, Astral Spirits and more. In addition to pursuing his delicate solo song work, drummer Evan Cartwright plays in both of West's other projects, and has performed and recorded with Tasseomancy, The Weather Station, US Girls, Badge Époque and Andy Shauf.

Another exciting development unveiled on Moves is the presence of guitarist Kurt Newman, who replaces longtime member Alex Lukashevsky. Newman's whirling treatments and colorful array of tones figure prominently into the ensemble's new and disorienting sound. Newman was the co-founder of premiere Austin improv festival No Idea alongside Chris Cogburn. A ceaseless collaborator who's worked with the likes of Sarah Hennies, Tetuzi Akiyama, Mats Gustafsson, he also leads his own projects such as Country Phasers and the Nashville Minimalism Unit.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Release Series Of Archival Recordings

Like most musicians in 2020, Reed Mathis found himself with time on his hands being that all of his tours and session work had been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Never one to idle, Reed turned attention to his archives, dusting off countless hours of audio from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, the Tulsa, OK-based band that he helped found and performed with for nearly 15 years. First and foremost among his discoveries was 'Winterwood'—Mathis' final studio recording with JFJO. The album was never officially released seeing as he departed the band shortly after its completion in 2008. And so the downtime gave Mathis the impetus to remix the sessions, which had been lying dormant for 12 years. In addition, Reed combed through countless hours of JFJO live recordings, compiling four new live albums from what many fans consider the band's golden years: 2005-2008. Once completed, Mathis would enlist his friends at record label, Royal Potato Family, to help release this treasure trove of vintage JFJO. 

To commemorate the release of 'Winterwood' and the four live albums, Reed Mathis created a homespun documentary short film with archival photos, band posters, original cover art and much more to explain the origins and evolution of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. The video traces the band’s origins back to Tulsa, OK in 1994 when many of the members were still only teenagers to the late '90s and early aughts. At the time, the musicians were literally living in a van and performing up to 300 shows a year. Mathis' narration explains that during JFJO's myriad metamorphoses from a seven-piece group to a trio and the changeover of five different drummers, the two staple players for 15 years had been both himself and keyboardist Brian Haas. In 2008, Mathis left the band leaving Haas as the remaining original member.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's music has never been easy to describe. Underground cult faves who were at home at both jam festivals and European jazz clubs, the group delighted experimental music enthusiasts despite never quite fitting into any musical genre. U.S. jazz purists would frequently dismiss them as a jam-band, do in no small part to the crystals, yerba mate and cannabis that fueled their vision. However, with free-form improvisation at their core, while often interpreting the popular songs of their time through instrumental arrangements, JFJO was jazz in the purest sense. Though the players were serious, the music was often playful, creative and spontaneous. Like the second half of their moniker Jazz Odyssey (a nod to Spinal Tap) implies, a listener might hear elements of traditional jazz, funk, punk, hip-hop, psych rock, ambient electronica and avant-garde soundscapes.

The four new live albums each has its own theme, all with Brian Haas on keys and Reed Mathis on bass. The first three feature Jason Smart on drums. ‘The Spark That Bled,’ recorded in 2005, focuses on songs and songwriting, with expansive instrumental versions of songs by The Flaming Lips, Bjork and John Coltrane among others, as well as, three originals. 'Nine Improvisations' contains nine show-opening improvisations from 2005. During this period, JFJO opened every show with a totally improvised sonic exploration from the deep end of their subconscious minds. 'Speak No Evil' contains graceful acoustic live recordings primarily drawn from the trio's 2006 European tours, including a mix of jazz standards and original compositions. 'Lil' Tae Rides Again' finds Smart exiting the band and guitarist Pete Tomshany and drummer Josh Raymer joining the fold on the tour in support of JFJO's 2008 electronic concept album about middle school, sculpted by eccentric electronic music futurist Tae Meyulks. The tracks presented here mash up multiple recorded performances from throughout the tour into a complete version of each song. And, finally, 'Winterwood,' features Mathis, Haas and Raymer. The studio album features multiple layers with Haas on solo acoustic piano initiating each song’s melodic theme and the band later overdubbing additional parts in full electric mode on top. As each instrumental part was layered into the recording, the player performing tracking his parts was conducted by another member in a truly collaborative process. Mathis would pour over the album in post production, sneaking in additional nuances and gems.

In the last decade, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has released released a handful of albums with Brian Haas, Josh Raymer and Chris Combs on guitar and lap steel. Haas has released two duo albums with drummer Matt Chamberlain and performs with Nolatet and Mike Dillon among others. Since leaving JFJO, Mathis has produced two albums and a handful of singles featuring his arrangements of Beethoven and toured with his ensemble called Electric Beethoven. He is also plays with Billy & The Kids, a project spearheaded by drummer Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead.

Tony Williams | "Play Or Die"

M.I.G. Music GmbH, an independent multi-genre recording label based in Hanover, Germany is set to release on July 22 on all digital platforms and CD (and a limited vinyl edition to be released in late 2022), an auspicious rare studio recording from the late legendary drummer Tony Williams while the imposing bandleader was on tour more than four decades ago. 

It’s 1980 and Tony Williams, perhaps best known for his seven-year stint with Miles Davis’ 1960s Quintet, before creating fusion with his impossibly brilliant 1969 album, Emergency! followed six years later by the equally influential Believe It, is somewhere in Europe on tour with a band of his choosing that is slowly disintegrating. 

The previous year, Williams recorded the genre-smashing The Joy of Flying that featured a star-studded cast which included a concert on July 27, 1978, at Japan's Denen Coliseum, billed as “The Tony Williams All Stars.” The album planted yet another jewel in the crown of Williams, who as a luminous 17-year-old drummer had set the jazz world ablaze with Miles Davis’s Quintet and his own Blue Note debut albums, Life Time (1964) and Spring (1966). 

Recordings with Eric Dolphy (Out to Lunch), Jackie McLean (One Step Beyond) and Grachan Moncur III (Evolution) further established the precociousness and power of a young Bostonian who would become one of the greatest and most influential jazz drummers of all time. With fusion, Williams originated a controversial genre that never met its creator’s own demanding expectations, and for whom it took years to receive due credit. 

But in Europe, on tour with a band that included keyboard player Tom Grant (on recommendation from Jeff Lorber), another keyboardist Bruce Harris and guitarist Todd Carver, the mercurial Williams is in a funk and the band’s sell by date is long past due. 

“I suggested we get bassist/keyboardist Patrick O’Hearn,” recalled Grant, who toured with Williams for two years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. “We played with Patrick and Tony just killed it. As soon as he started playing, it was like we’d taken off in a spaceship. The power of his playing, it was so physically incredible.” 

On May 30 and 31 of 1980, Williams, Grant and O’Hearn, who had previously worked with Frank Zappa and would co-found the new wave band Missing Persons the following year, entered Tonstudio Zuckerfabrik, Stuttgart (Germany), to record five original tracks that comprised Play or Die, a vinyl album limited to 500 pressings that probably never saw the light of day beyond its German borders. Recorded in two days and mixed in the studio with co-producer Peter Schnyder, the trio was soon back on the road, the album lost to history. Williams died from a heart attack following a gall bladder surgery in 1997. 

In cooperation with Williams’ widow, Colleen Williams, and produced by M.I.G. Music GmbH, Play or Die finally receives the release it deserved in 1980, not long before the direction of jazz changed, not long before the direction of jazz changed to follow Young Lions’ fashion, and Williams led his great band that recorded six albums for Blue Note. 

With digital remastering performed by Johannes Scheibenreif, a renown mastering engineer from Vienna, Play or Die is reborn as a jazz power trio onslaught, with touches of rock grandeur and new wave fashion shaped by Williams, a time-traveling pioneer whose voice speaks today as forever fresh, innovative, and restless. The original master, not the re-release, was cut at SST Brüggemann in Frankfurt in 1980.  

Ominous synthesizer and mushroom cloud-leveling ride cymbal open “The Big Man,” which recalls nothing less than Weather Report’s Mr. Gone, Williams’ pulse adorned with blazing single-stroke power rolls and measured explosions, over which Grant wails analog synth notes and Williams injects cathartic tom flurry bombs and tactful crash cymbal bruises. Williams swings a steady, low-down beat like hipsters skulking to unknown destinations. A broad wide view over a featureless plain, Mad Max envisioning the future.

A flurry of tightly tuned, non-resonant, undulating tom tom rolls and clashing bass drum and cymbal crashes introduce “Beach Ball Tango,” which quickly takes off in pure Missing Persons-like new wave fashion. Williams’ power and grandeur drive the 18th-note pummeling fury over which Grant and O’Hearn layer serene melodies and soaring solos. Williams takes over at midpoint, detonating his kit with controlled, metric-modulating/samba fury, Grant responding with salvos of energetic Rhodes piano improvisation. This is take-no-prisoners jazz-rock suffused with delicate melodies and manic solos. “BBT” ends with Williams’ unaccompanied drum solo, leaving nothing in its wake but scorched earth.

“Jam Tune” sounds like a breather, Williams driving his floor tom with mounted toms, a gleeful, time-changing rhythmic tattoo with angular bass and subliminal synths. Williams massages his rims on “Para Oriente,” slashing his hi-hats as Grant punctuates first his Rhodes, then his analog synths. The track eventually goes swing, Williams’ majesty on the ride cymbal sheer beauty. “Para Oriente” is a breathy, textural moment that wouldn’t be out of place on Jeff Beck’s classic Wired, Billy Cobham’s Spectrum or Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Trident Sessions. If Play or Die had received wider distribution and press, it would be a classic on par with those historical fusion phantasms.

The album closes with “There Comes a Time,” which swings lightly and delicately but savagely and directly, as only Williams could. His vocal here adds a bittersweet note to Play or Die, a phrase that encompassed Williams’ life. Williams’ music was like his life, played for all it was worth.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Kolohe Kai | "Hazel Eyes"

Island Reggae sensation Kolohe Kai is due to release his highly-anticipated studio album “Hazel Eyes” on June 3rd. Kicking off the summer, Kolohe Kai delivers a surf friendly, heavy-in-love, piece of art. Along with the album, Kolohe Kai is proud to announce his upcoming “Hazel Eyes” Tour in September 2022. 

Years in the making, “Hazel Eyes” captures Kolohe Kai’s emergence in life. The album is inspired by his life passions. He explains, “From the ocean with its soothing power, to the faith that anchors my soul. From my intense desire to help others feel beautiful, to my vows to the greatest wife in the world. This album represents all of me. Every crevice of my heart was emptied into these lyrics. The journey of these past few years has been a hike to remember, filled with important lessons. I hope it inspires anyone listening to grab hold of true love and happiness.”

In addition to the ten original tracks, for the first time ever Kolohe Kai includes on the album one cover song, a reggae rendition of Stevie Wonder’s classic Isn’t She Lovely. The album includes previously released hits such as island reggae/pop track Catching Lightning and HIRIE-assisted Feel The Sunshine. “Hazel Eyes” features a well-balanced range of moods. There are heavier tracks like Circus Slave, inspired by the struggle of being an entertainer; and Always By My Side which Kolohe Kai wrote after his 2016 car accident. The album also encapsulates more light-hearted tunes like Blame it on the Waves and Gravity. The heart of the album comes from its title track, Kolohe Kai’s most personal love song ever written, dedicated to his wife.

“Hazel Eyes” was recorded with multiple producers at different studios, all of whom Kolohe Kai has worked with before. Each producer was carefully selected to deliver a sound unique to the songs in which they worked on. The producers on the album include Imua Garza, Kapena De Lima, Noah Cronin, and Brian Kierulf. Kolohe Kai explains, “All of these producers played a huge role in my fourth album, “Summer To Winter” so I knew that I could trust them to deliver a certain sound I wanted for each song.”

For years Kolohe Kai has made music to uplift others and bring positivity to the world. His latest release from the album I think You’re Beautiful encompasses an empowering anti-bullying message. Along with the song, Kolohe Kai launched an anti-bullying campaign visiting schools to promote inner-beauty and kindness. He has also partnered with Hawaii’s Dept of Health, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division, for Children’s Mental Health Acceptance Month.

Kolohe Kai is excited to unveil his highly-anticipated album “Hazel Eyes” on June 3rd. He concludes, “I hope that people enjoy this new album and draw the much needed joy and comfort from its lyrics. We’ve been through a lot as a people and a community. The past couple years were not easy and so it is my heartfelt desire that this album brings happiness to everyone.” Kolohe Kai will be touring in celebration of the new album in September. 

Rokia Koné - Jacknife Lee : BAMANAN

It’s a voice that soars – pure, clear and true — above bass and synths, traditional percussion and infectious Mande guitar grooves. A stop-you-in-your-tracks voice instantly familiar to anyone in Mali, West Africa: Rokia Koné, aka the Rose of Bamako.

One of Mali’s most beloved and dynamic artists, Koné is a force to be reckoned with. Her captivating performances in the city’s local maquis clubs very often last for hours, as Koné runs the gamut of emotion from joy to despair, fury to tenderness, wielding that astounding voice with grace and power. For her debut album, Koné might have been content with showing off that soulful instrument on a traditional repertoire of songs.

Instead she’s teamed with Irish-born, California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee — and reimagined the Malian sound in ways leftfield and ground breaking.

Welcome, then, BAMANAN, a collaboration that connects the great ancient kingdoms of Mali and the bustling modern street life of its capital, Bamako to a remote recording studio nestled within California’s Topanga Canyon. That bridges deep tradition and forward-facing innovation.

Jacknife Lee is the acclaimed producer of bands including U2, R.E.M and The Killers, and has earned Grammy recognition for his work on Taylor Swift’s multi-million selling Red. Stadium-sized soundscapes are his speciality. Yet BAMANAN finds Lee upholding the stark beauty of Rokia’s voice with subtlety and sensitivity. Every nuance and breath is heard, each inflection and melismatic improvisation carefully preserved.

Koné’s musical journey began as a young child in the courtyard of her home in Dioro near Ségou, the cradle of the great Bamana Empire.

“I would mostly sing my grandmother’s songs,” she says. “My uncles and aunts on both sides of my family were also singers. I was always surrounded by music.”

The young Rokia headed to Bamako, becoming a backing singer for Alia Coulibaly, one of Mali’s biggest stars, then quickly earned top billing as a solo artist in her own right. In 2016 she caught the attention of Valérie Malot, founder of renowned French booking agency 3D Family, who invited her to join feminist supergroup (and later, Real World Records signings) Les Amazones d’Afrique and make her debut on an international stage. They collaborated on several songs for the band’s first album, sparking a close creative relationship.

“Rokia’s music is based in improvisation,” says Malot. “It’s very instinctive and passionate. She gives everything when she sings. But in order to do this, she has to make herself vulnerable, and that demands trust. Eventually, we found a great way of working together, and she wanted me to help her make a record of her own that could appeal to audiences beyond Mali.”

BAMANAN, long gestating, was born out of unexpected circumstances and seized opportunities: a recording studio becoming vacant in Bamako. A free stop-over day in Paris while on tour with Les Amazones d’Afrique. A jam during a band rehearsal in Mallorca. A pandemic.

“We knew early on that magic had been captured,” Malot recalls, “But then I was busy working on Les Amazones d’Afrique’s second album and tour and Rokia had her own commitments in Mali. Life got in the way, progress halted.”

Then came 2020’s enforced period of isolation and reflection. Locked down in her apartment in Portugal, Malot uncovered a hard drive marked ‘ROKIA’. Finally, the time is right.

Some 4000 miles west, amid the trees of Topanga Canyon, north of Santa Monica, Jacknife Lee had an empty diary and an urge to create. Having recently completed a role as a judge on a remix contest sponsored by Real World Records and audio hardware company Universal Audio, he found himself mesmerised by Les Amazones d’Afrique — more specifically, by a Mande guitar part amidst the remix pack for their song ‘Love’.

“I really wanted to find out more about the guitarist so Real World put me in touch with Valérie,” says Lee. “She told me his name was Salif, and that he played lead for a Malian singer called Rokia Koné. Then she told me they had started an album but needed help to finish it.”

Lee freely admits he was floored by Konés voice on ‘Anw Tile’, the first track he heard, after which he began picking apart the sessions he was sent. Isolating a drum part, looping a guitar, laying down some synth pads: “I’m thinking, damn, I have no idea how to approach this, but I kind of know where I’m going. I love that naiveté. It really allows me to create something good.”

Working on Koné’s music dovetailed with a change in attitude for Lee. A few years previously he’d taught music to teenagers whose enthusiasm around the machinations of Nineties hip-hop got him thinking about his own youth — when he was excited by the mystery of music making.

“I realised I had been lost for years,” he says. “I had been making bad decisions about the work I was doing. My motivation had been wrong. So I fell in love with music all over again, started frequenting record stores, seeking out new sounds.

“I wanted to switch from being the person who had the most amount of knowledge in the room to the one saying ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing but let’s just see what happens.’”

The opportunity to work on Rokia’s album met all of the criteria. “It actually felt like the thing I had always wished to do,” he says.

No matter that pandemic-related travel restrictions ruled out direct contact: “This process afforded Rokia and her musicians the freedom to create without being bothered by my presence, and I was allowed space to experiment. My biggest breakthroughs happen when the musicians aren’t there,” he says. “It’s how I prefer to work these days.”

At its heart, BAMANAN is a tribute to the Bambara of southern Mali, to their language, culture and the practices. Koné takes inspiration from the tradition of the hereditary griots, the praise singers vital to the fabric of Malian society. “It is the role of the griot to perpetuate the tradition,” says Koné. “To remind us of our origins, our culture.”

Rokia invokes her ancestors on a nostalgic, hugely dramatic trilogy of songs — ‘Anw Tile’, ‘Bambougou N’tji’ and ‘Soyi N’galanba’ – that praise the great kings of Segou’s past. In ‘Mansa Soyari’, a song she composed for Les Amazones d’Afrique, Koné opts to replace the male heroes of Mali’s history with female heroines including singers Ramata Diakité and Fanta Damba — singers who

through their music were a source of inspiration and guidance to the women and children of their society, including Rokia herself.

“The advice I give to women and children in my songs is that there is always hope,” she says. “Nothing is impossible. I tell them not to feel rejected or forgotten by society.”

This message is clear on ‘Mayougouba’, a song that summons women and girls to the dancefloor:

“Move, dance,” she sings. “You’re perfect as you are.”

On ‘Shezita’, ‘Kurunba’ and ‘Dunden’, Rokia warns of enemies close to home (think disrespectful husbands, jealous co-wives, gossipers and haters), preaching resilience in the face of adversity. Elsewhere, she holds the classic griot role as a bearer of advice and wisdom on the song ‘Bi Ye Tulonba Ye’. “The situation in Mali is very difficult right now. But other countries have their conflict too. The message of this song calls for us to end to all wars and disputes and come together for a great party.”

The album’s most reflective moment comes on the beautiful ‘N’yanyan’, which finds Koné accompanied solely by electric piano. The vocals were recorded in Bamako on 18th August 2020, the night of a coup d’état that marked another period of instability for Mali, a country troubled by severe political upheaval for almost a decade. Koné delivered a profound vocal performance in a single take, just before the power was shut down and a curfew imposed on the city.

“I sing ’N’yanyan’ for all human beings, to tell them that we are in the middle ground and all this will end one day. This difficulty is only a moment in time, and all things will pass.”

In Jacknife Lee, Rokia Koné found a musical soulmate, a collaborator who helped unlock her songs with exquisite, timeless arrangements.

“I love the new palette of colours,” says Koné, the next great voice of West Africa. “We’ve made something fresh. Something that stands out.”

Compro Oro | "Buy The Dip"

Ghent based psychedelic collective Compro Oro are set to release new album ‘Buy The Dip’ on the 2nd September via the groove-obsessed Sdban Ultra label. Having received critical acclaim for their 2020 album ‘Simurg’ – a collaboration with Murat Ertel, co-founder and frontman of Istanbul's cult psychedelic folk band BaBa ZuLa and his singer partner Esma Ertel – the band’s fifth album is less ethno- and more techno-logy, both on a musical and conceptual level.

With tastemaker fans including BBC 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson and Stuart Maconie alongside Jazz FM’s Jez Nelson, the band’s spontaneous quest for psychedelic sounds and jazz grooves has not stopped expanding since their formation in 2014.

After imaginative musical trips to Havana, Mogadishu and Istanbul for previous releases, Compro Oro went looking for sounds and inspirations from other corners of the globe for ‘Buy The Dip’. Synthesizers and electronic effects spice up Compro Oro’s distinctive musical marriage of vibraphones, electric guitars, jazzfunk rhythms, exotic percussions and dubby bass patterns. Band leader and composer Wim Segers created these new compositions often on piano or vibes in a more analogue way, leaving enough room for his band mates to colour each track when fine tuning the song.

Ahead of the album release, Compro Oro are pleased to share the video for a live studio recording on new single ‘The Lower 9th’, taking you into a deeply meditative state! 

Compro Oro released their first album ‘Transatlantic’ in 2015, an ode to jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader, an icon of the 1950’s Latin jazz movement. The release received critical acclaim back home, lauded in the press as a drunken mix of Buena Vista Social Club and guitarist Marc Ribot’s, Cubanos Postizos. Subsequent live shows have been called a celebration for the hips, the ear and the soul. 2017 saw the release of ‘Bombarda’, a bold EP that sailed South and East of Cuba, incorporating different ethnic rhythms and melodies in elaborate jams. No palm trees and cocktails in Havana this time, but instead dingy basements and LSD in West African cities. The critically acclaimed ‘Suburban Exotica’ followed in 2019 with ‘Simurg’, released in 2020, earning the band global success.


Saturday, June 25, 2022

ATA Early Works Vol. 2 : Music From The Archives

2020 was a difficult time for everybody. For those lucky enough not to be touched by tragedy during the pandemic, the lockdown certainly created a space and time to crack open a book or gorge yourself with music. 

Some decided to complicate their lives further with gargantuan tasks, tasks so big they only really existed in concept: that was the case of Neil Innes of ATA. He decided to kill the studio he had spent 14-years building, immerge in a fresh start and renovate it. 

Once the studio began to take shape again and Neil was finally able to take a breath he began rooting through the label’s archives, pulling out early recordings from the old studio. 

In the opening track “Bus Stop Boogie”, The Harmony Society hits with a powerful flute hook-up mantra, advocating the importance of public transport for punctual sexual liaisons. Then comes a precious opportunity to finally own “Bang Bang Boogaloo” by the Joe Tatton Trio on vinyl, a stone-cold latin mover that only came out on 7” and now changes hands for serious money. 

Studio favorites Ivan Von Engleberger’s Asteroid follow with “Lunartics”, a moody and breathy psychedelic warning to be aware of the moon, but the chills will go away soon with “Secret Universe” by Earl Dawkins & The Lewis Express, a slamming up-tempo guitar driven jazz track, rich in 70’s grooves and built to get hips twitching.

The Magnificent Tape Band make their first appearance in the compilation with their cinematic instrumental “Heading Towards Catastrophe” and will have you ascend to utter contemplation with the pastoral and choral “When I Saw Your Face”.

The Disarrays are present in two tracks: the wonderful and catchy funk earworm “Help Me” and “Anaesthetise Me”, a mid-tempo vibe in the vein of Betty Davis, both served hot by Fuzzy Jones’ powerful voice, of which there’s also a radio edit rounding off the compilation.

“The Hardest Day” by Mandatory Eight got a real sting in its tail. Starting off as a nice bright, breezy chugger, it descends into dark driving funk, insistent and edgy.

Going back to chilling and disturbing feelings we have The Sorcerers but…surprise! Despite their name the mood is completely different, Arabic-inspired “In Pursuit Of Shai Hulud” is a direct flight to Maghreb.

With ATA’s Early Works Vol.2 we have the confirmation that even old music can be perfect to celebrate a new dawn.

Glenn Dickson | "Wider Than The Sky"

Clarinetist Glenn Dickson, who has made waves with his bands Naftule's Dream and Shirim on John Zorn's Tzadik label, releases his first solo album Wider Than the Sky (NDR 104) on July 8, 2022. A lush and otherworldly album of solo clarinet with electronics, the music breaks new ground for Dickson, who is best known for his edgy klezmer-tinged improvisations and compositions as well as his traditional klezmer playing. Wider Than the Sky transfers those influences into calm, deep musical waters, where he weaves moody and hypnotic soundscapes blending the warm sounds of the clarinet with live digital processing.

Dickson started creating solo clarinet with electronics in the early 2000's, performing sporadically through the years when his schedule allowed, then rebooting his focus on the project in 2019.  The process grew more fruitful and essential during the pandemic when Dickson sustained his musical life by live streaming weekly “Dreams & Meditations” performances from his home for the better part of a year, culminating in the recording of this album.

Drawing on the work of guitarist Robert Fripp and flutist Paul Horn which he enjoyed as a teenager, as well as the improvisations of Greek and klezmer clarinetists, Dickson intertwines gentle whispers into orchestral layers of clarinet with long streams of melody, poignant monologues, and elegant counterpoints.  The clarinet’s silky tone, unusually wide pitch range, and expansive sonic palette infuse the music with resounding emotional resonance and the fascination of a journey into unknown territory.

In order to capture the process and energy of Dickson’s live performances, the album is culled from two studio sessions with all sounds created and manipulated in real time, no overdubbing or added sounds, using only the clarinet and a delay device.  While using technology built on repetition and stasis, Dickson keeps the pieces constantly changing and evolving, fading out one idea while introducing another, simultaneously overlaying solos which develop and intensify, then retreat and recede with motivic integrity and compositional logic.

On "Introit," Glenn's klezmer and Greek music experience shine through on an emotional soliloquy over a microtonal drone, calling to mind a Jewish doina or Greek miroloi. The track unfolds like a purging of the spirits from which the rest of the album flows.  "Closer to the Fire" finds warmth in an ever-evolving sonic foundation smoldering like a bed of coals beneath a long and gracious melodic development.  "Gentle Touch" follows with serene counterpoints underlying a seemingly endless melody.

"Memories Lost" takes the music into territory more searching and mysterious as Eastern influences reemerge in alluring modal explorations.  After a short "doina," the music gradually picks up with an undulating rhythmic underpinning and gives in to nostalgic probing of a forgotten past.  Remarkable for its persistent development of the theme in the solo, accompaniment, and coda, the piece conjures images of floating off in space to the sound of a celestial orchestra.

With its layered tremolos and glisses "Pursuing Winds" elicits a spooky urgency topped off by a lonely melodic cry.  Dickson displays symphonic precision as he brings in contrasting ideas which fit together yet remained distinct in the raging storm.

"Brave Shines the Sun" interlaces glistening bubbles of accompaniment with a placid melody culminating in a coda that develops into one of the album's best solo excursions. 

The album concludes with the restful title track, "Wider Than The Sky," uniting serene hymn-like textures, folksy melodies, and the ethereal yearning that serves as an underpinning for the whole album.

As bandleader and clarinetist with Naftule's Dream and Shirim, Glenn Dickson has recorded albums for Tzadik, Innova, Rykodisc and Newport Classics, played major jazz festivals in North America & Europe (Montreal, Berlin, New York, etc.), with the Philly Pops, and on Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet movie soundtracks.  He has created award-winning collaborations with Maurice Sendak ("Pincus & the Pig") and NPR's Ellen Kushner ("The Golden Dreydl").  As a composer he has received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant and has had his works performed and recorded by artists in Europe and the USA, as well as used by Woody Allen.  He studied harmony, counterpoint, microtones and all things musical with the legendary composer, educator, improvisor and reedman Joe Maneri, and performed with him and violinist/violist Mat Maneri in his microtonal jazz septet.  Dickson has toured and recorded with the eclectic rock band Hypnotic Clambake and the Greek bands Revma and Taximi.  He has performed his solo clarinet with electronics in the Boston area, as well as for the American Festival of Microtonal Music in New York.

Wider Than the Sky is available July 8, on Bandcamp and major streaming services.


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