Friday, September 30, 2022

Timo Vollbrecht | "Givers & Takers"

FLY MAGIC is saxophonist-composer, bandleader, and scholar Timo Vollbrecht’s longstanding signature ensemble. A genre-exploding unit with a bold sense of creativity and intent. After two acclaimed records and performances in over 30 countries, their third album, Givers & Takers, marks a new chapter: It conjures acoustic delicateness with otherworldly electronic soundscapes of orchestral width. Recorded in the studio while on a 12-date-tour, it captures the unique chemistry the four musicians developed on the road while using the stage as their laboratory.

Originally from Germany and based out of New York, Timo Vollbrecht is a celebrated creative force on the Brooklyn music scene who fuses jazz with post-rock, electronics, and instrumental songwriting. Described as a “luminously-fine bandleader” by the NYC Jazz Record, he has performed at landmark stages like the Village Vanguard. He is also the new Director of Jazz Studies at Brown University. Together with Keisuke Matsuno (guitar), Elias Stemeseder (piano & synthesizers), and Dayeon Seok (drums), he formed a band with no bassist. Instead, Stemeseder - who just led his residency at John Zorn’s iconic Stone venue - plays synth-bass while his other hand operates other keys.

Thematically, Givers & Takers refers to Timo’s underlying sense of community through music: “Music is first and foremost a social praxis,” he states, “It is about human connection and the lived experience of people feeling together and inspiring one another. These surrounding social aspects traditionally deemed as ‘extra-musical’ are actually not extra-musical at all - they form an essential part of the music’s most inner fabric.” The album emerges from this place of human interactivity. It features four musically synergetic friends of diverse backgrounds entering into an improvisational dialog marked by mutual trust. Giving and Taking is a natural part of this process. The fact that Givers & Takers is also the name of their favorite bar in Brooklyn underpins the importance that Timo and his bandmates assign to the quotidian gathering. “It is emblematic for what it means for us to be part of a scene.”

It follows that Timo’s pieces for this album celebrate the big and small gestures of everyday life. The opener Pau is named after his first-born child and features the band’s tender, improvisational interplay. In contrast, Happy Happy exudes high energy and “is my intent to write a happy tune,” Timo explains, “juxtaposed with destructive elements to make for an epic ending.” Brighton Blues refers to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. This modern blues highlights the artists' approach to fresh ideas in connection to their tradition-informed identity. Art is Live is a suite that borrows its name from a concert series set up by friends to keep the arts community alive during the pandemic lockdowns. Three movements express the experience amidst an uncertain future during that time: I. Solidarity, II. Solitude, and III. Agency, with the latter being a nod to the roaring Black Lives Matter movement and music as a force for change.

With Givers & Takers, Timo Vollbrecht is presenting his vision of a band that is truly original, avoids easy categorization, and blends acoustic and electronic sounds enveloped in intricate song forms.


Sep 23 - “PAU”

"Pau“ is the first single from NYC-based saxophonist Timo Vollbrecht’s newest album “Givers & Takers.“ Named after his first-born child, this deeply personal piece features the tender, improvisational interplay of his band FLY MAGIC. Warm-timbred, melodic, atmospheric, and unpretentious - in this song, sound travels and expands gradually, tapping into the vastness of space.

Oct 07 - “HAPPY HAPPY”

“Happy Happy” showcases the mesmerizing energy of saxophonist Timo Vollbrecht’s quartet FLY MAGIC. With bright harmony and a dazzling pulse, this up-beat tune fuses adventurous jazz with otherworldly soundscapes that eventually take over to make for an epic ending.

Feels Like Home: Songs from the Sonoran Borderlands—Linda Ronstadt’s Musical Odyssey

On September 30th, Putumayo will release Feels Like Home: Songs from the Sonoran Borderlands—Linda Ronstadt’s Musical Odyssey, a musical accompaniment to the acclaimed singer’s new book, Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands, published by Heyday Books. The musical collection was co-curated by Ronstadt and Putumayo founder Dan Storper and includes influential songs from her childhood and career, as well as several of her own interpretations of classic Mexican songs. Participating artists include legends and musical explorers Lalo Guerrero, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Taj Mahal and David Hidalgo. The CD package will include an album download card and informative booklet with an introduction by Linda. The album will also be available for download and streaming on major platforms.

The featured songs on the musical collection are an excellent companion and illustrate the influences that helped mold Linda Ronstadt into the artist she became. Lalo Guerrero, known as the “father of Chicano Music” would often visit his good friend, Linda’s father, Gilbert, early in Linda’s life, teaching her and her siblings' traditional Mexican songs. Here, in collaboration with Ry Cooder, Guerrero sings “Barrio Viejo,” a poignant song he wrote about the loss of old neighborhoods and ways of life.

For Ronstadt, her home has always been a place of creativity and she is joined by her brothers, Peter and Mike, to sing the lovelorn “El Sueño.” Roots music revivalists Los Cenzontles follow with the Mexican folk song, “Palomas Que Andan Volando” (Pigeons That Are Flying). The ever-musical Ronstadt family continues to shine with “Canadian Moon,” a previously unreleased version by Ronstadt family members known as P.D. Ronstadt & The Co.

The underlying story Ronstadt expresses in her book and this collection is illustrated in several of the featured songs. The Sonoran region was long home to Indigenous people, Mexicans and Southwesterners who lived and worked in close proximity. Several songs demonstrate the importance of cultural openness and acceptance rather than living in fear of our neighbors to the South. “Across the Border” is both a love song and a voyage of escape by Linda Ronstadt with Emmylou Harris. Their rendition of this Bruce Springsteen composition features another legend, Neil Young, on harmonica. Jackson Browne’s “The Dreamer” featuring Los Cenzontles, tells a sobering story of a family divided by the border and unjust immigration laws. Los Cenzontles return with “Naninan Upirin,” sung in the indigenous language P’urhépecha and showcasing the distinct folk music tradition of this ancient people and their culture.

The sweetly melancholic Appalachian folk song “I Never Will Marry,” performed by Linda Ronstadt with Dolly Parton, fits in well with the broken-hearted Mexican ballads that accompany it. After a sweeping tour of the music of Mexico and the borderlands which inspired her, “Piel Canela” sees Linda and her band interpreting another Latin musical style that was ever-present in her childhood home: Cuban mambo. The collection concludes with a final offering from Los Cenzontles, joined by David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos) and folk and blues icon Taj Mahal, who perform “Voy Caminando” about a young migrant’s journey towards his dream.

Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands is a fascinating memoir of Linda’s growing up in the culturally rich Sonoran borderlands of the Southwest. Together, the book and this album evoke the magical panorama of the Sonoran desert and offer a personal tour of the memories and music of the region where Linda Ronstadt came of age. The book, written by Ronstadt and Lawrence Downes with photographs by Bill Steen, can be found at fine bookstores everywhere, online and by visiting

The full tracklist for Feels Like Home: Songs from the Sonoran Borderlands—Linda Ronstadt’s Musical Odyssey is:

  • Ry Cooder with Lalo Guerrero – Barrio Viejo
  • Linda Ronstadt – El Sueño
  • Los Cenzontles – Palomas Que Andan Volando
  • D. Ronstadt & The Co. – Canadian Moon (New version)
  • Linda Ronstadt with Emmylou Harris – Across the Border
  • Jackson Browne with Los Cenzontles – The Dreamer
  • Los Cenzontles with David Hidalgo – Naninan Upirin
  • Linda Ronstadt with Dolly Parton – I Never Will Marry
  • Linda Ronstadt – Piel Canela
  • Los Cenzontles – Voy Caminando

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Richard Smith | "Groove Assets"

Contemporary jazz guitarist Richard Smith continues the legacy of groove. The new single, “Groove Assets,” which goes for playlist adds on October 3, was produced by his former student, hitmaker Adam Hawley.

Whether he’s teaching at USC’s Thornton School of Music or abroad in such diverse locations as Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Manila, London, Oslo, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Palermo, Rome or Bueno Aires, contemporary jazz guitarist Richard Smith gets asked about playing in the groove. So much so that the globetrotter thinks that playing in the pocket may be America’s greatest cultural export musically. Recorded in London, Amsterdam and Los Angeles, Smith’s new single, “Groove Assets,” captures that soulful sound with the aid of one of his former students, multi-time Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley, who produced and cowrote the song with his former professor.

"I've found that no matter where I go in the world, I hear American popular music - R&B, hip hop, soul and jazz - coming out of restaurants, bars, cars and classrooms as much or more as the indigenous music. The minute I come back to the States and fire up my Los Angeles band, it hits me: the groove, lock, pocket, and soulfulness that is embedded so deeply in our American music culture. When I teach or give masterclasses abroad, they want to know about what ‘playing in the pocket’ is, as if it is a mysterious, elusive phenomenon. And it IS a cultural phenomenon that comes out of our deep and diverse musical heritage. So, I have developed a lot of classes around that, sort of a how to lock-it-up and groove. I say that one of the best musical ‘assets’ that they can have is groove assets,” said Smith about his inspiration for the single.

“Groove Assets” has a certain laid back, chill quality to the midtempo groove fronted by Smith’s cool electric jazz guitar licks, which are embellished by Hawley’s rhythm guitar harmonies. Bolted to a taut rhythmic pocket crafted by drummer Eric Valentine and bassist Mel Brown, the song’s cowriter Tico Pierhagen adds keyboard melodies. Trumpeter Michael Stever architects the lush horn arrangements that form a proscenium around the R&B groove.

Smith has been traveling internationally since he was seven and for most of the last twenty years, he’s taught and performed each year in Europe. The guitarist has served as a visiting professor of contemporary jazz and popular music at major music conservatories and academies all over the world, which he’s been doing since he was in his twenties. He was one of the youngest tenured professors at USC’s Thornton School of Music where he created the world’s first doctorate program in contemporary guitar. That’s where he first connected with Hawley, whom he calls a “success story.” 

Shortly after the pandemic hit in 2020, Smith was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. To divert his mind, he reached out to Hawley to help him write and produce a few singles. “Groove Asset” is their third collaboration.

“The first two songs (“Let’s Roll” and “Soul Share”) we did together were hits, and it feels like we are onto another one with 'Groove Assets'. There is no greater pleasure or prouder moment in a jazz professor's life than the act of hiring a former student for the incredibly important job of producing a single. I am a very lucky, proud soul indeed,” beamed Smith, whose cancer is in complete remission.

"We train jazz and rock stars. I am super proud of all our students who have gone on to play with Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Gwen Stefani, Marc Anthony, Thundercat, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Jason Mraz, Elton John, Madonna, Bono, Maroon 5, Jennifer Lopez, John Mayer, and on hit television programs ‘American Idol’ and ‘Glee’ to name a few." 

Smith was a student at USC when he attended the last masterclass given by Spanish classical guitar great Andre Segovia, which had a lasting impact.

“The Maestro said many profound things, but the one that really stuck with me and guided my life was ‘When you teach, you learn twice.’ That, and the fact that my mother, father, cousins, aunts and uncles were all professors at schools like Oxford, MIT, Oberlin, Tufts, Hong Kong, UCLA, Michigan and Liverpool guided me toward university life as my recording and performing career grew. It has all been something of a mission,” said Smith who plans to perform next summer in England, Holland, Greece and Italy.

“Our (America’s) jazz and popular music are our greatest cultural export, and I am proud to be an ambassador for that.”

Closer to home, Smith will be a featured performer alongside Greg Adams and East Bay Soul at the Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival on October 22.

Surya Botofasina | "Everyone’s Children"

Everyone’s Children is the stunning debut album of spiritual avant-garde music from keyboardist and composer Surya Botofasina, out on Spiritmuse Records. The record combines deep jazz excursions with expansive synth passages and intimate piano turns to create a hypnotic, meditative and devotionally expressive suite that soothes, enriches and uplifts the soul.

Botofasina’s upbringing at the Sai Anantam Ashram in the Southern Californian hills involved daily bhajans (traditional Hindu devotional songs) led by legendary jazz harpist and pianist Alice Coltrane. Her musical and religious teachings continue to have a profound effect on the keyboardist, whose career has since gone on to take in acting stints in the TV series Vinyl and Boardwalk Empire alongside a diverse range of musical collaborations with the likes of Reggie Workman, Joey Bada$$, Gangstarr’s GURU, Amel Larrieux, N’Dea Davenport, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. His work as the Music Director of the Sai Anantam Ashram Singers has seen him tour internationally honouring Swamini Turiyasangitananda Alice Coltrane’s devotional music. “The way I play the piano is not the way my friends play the piano” he says. “It forced me to find the place I truly dwell in - the place between the hip hop and jazz, but based in meditative and long form expressions of my spirit.”

Botofasina’s renown has enabled him to enlist a supremely talented, cross generational group of musicians for the project including major LA mainstays such as multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Carlos Niño –– who also produced the album –– jazz singer Dwight Trible, and indie folk vocalist Mia Doi Todd. Brilliantly gifted guitarist Nate Mercereau, saxophonist Pablo Calogero, and drummer Efa Etoroma Jr., round out the guest collaborators alongside Botofasina’s mother, the harpist Radha Botofasina, a key musical disciple of Alice Coltrane’s during her Ashram years and a hugely formative influence on the keyboardist.

Ten years in consideration, the album’s genesis lay in Botofasina and Niño’s long-running creative partnership. The pair first linked up through Niño’s Build An Ark jazz ensemble, by the recommendation of Atwood-Ferguson, in 2011 and –– after Niño suggested recording a Surya-lead project, the idea began to solidify with a series of collaborative concerts in 2018 (still on-going,) that engendered a deep musical bond. Recorded by Jesse Peterson in 3 joyous sessions last year in Glendale, California, the results are grounded in the ashram music that Botofasina grew up with and present his own unique jazz-influenced take on devotional sounds.

That vision achieves heady form in the shape of album opener "Surya Meditation", an epic twenty-seven-minute duet with Niño built around Botofasina’s assorted keyboard textures. Synths hum hypnotically, softly patter like raindrops or drift by like clouds on a hazy summer’s day. Niño’s subtle percussive accompaniment offers a gentle sense of otherworldliness throughout a contemplative, meditative and stunningly beautiful piece that offers feelings akin to floating gently across water. “I knew when it was happening that it would be the focal point, the opus, the centre of this project” says Niño of the recording.

The solo piano piece "I Love Dew, Sophie" melds jazz and classical keyboard notes in warm-toned clusters before the ecstatic spiritual jazz excursion "Beloved California Temple" opens things out into a group setting. Here, Botofasina’s hypnotic piano motifs and Niño’s expressive percussion are joined by Pablo Calogero’s breathy saxophone lines, before Dwight Trible’s dramatic wordless vocals bring things to a rapturous climax to the accompaniment of Efa Etoroma Jr.’s crashing drum crescendos, with the harmonic brilliance of Nate Mercereau’s guitar synth fortifying the whole.

The title track, "Everyone's Children" follows. Featuring Mia Doi Todd –– whose pregnancy at the time of the recording inspired its name –– the track blends her dreamlike singing with the buzzing swoop and swirl of a synthesizer –– a recognizable throwback to the Sai Anantam Ashram devotional sound –– alongside gentle piano runs. Begun in reflective mode, "Sun Of Keshava"’s synthesizer textures build in warmth towards a denouement of radiant keyboard notes that recall the beauty of a summer sunrise.

The cascading "Waves For Margie" features gentle harp textures and vocals from Radha Botofasina. The album ends with a reprise of it’s centerpiece "Surya Meditation", in a shortened and powerful edit that comes accompanied by the potent spoken reminiscences of Swamini Satsang. It’s return marks the closing of an extraordinary musical circle whose singular blend of improvisatory and devotional music defies easy categorization. The warmly reflective solo synth piece for Meghan Jahnavi* was added with the intention to promote mental health and wellness initiatives. “That is specifically what Dew Sophie's and Meghan's pieces are composed for,” Surya reflects. “Their imperative nature and importance to me cannot be overstated. I, and we, are in a place where uplifting our spirits to wellness is the most crucial part of many aspects of human existence.”

Dedicated to the formative influences in Surya Botofasina’s life; his mother, grandmother and Alice Coltrane, his debut album is imbued with a wide-eyed sense of discovery. He explains: “Each piece feels like an inaugural experience in the most spiritually youthful way. Many musicians have many albums - but there is only one first. The Divine energy of a new life is within every second of the music.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

New Music: Honey & The Bees, Little Beaver, Too Slow To Disco 4, Alina Bzhezhinska Hip Harp Collective

Honey & The Bees - Love

One of the great, lost albums of Philly Soul! And we mean really lost…Real Gone Music had to go to Italy and pay close to 500 euros to snag a copy for artwork. Jean Davis, Gwen Oliver, and Cassandra Wooten were known as The Yum-Yums when they auditioned for Arctic label founder Jimmy Bishop, who re-christened them as Honey and the Bees and added Nadine Felder to the line-up as lead vocalist. After Arctic folded, they moved to the Jubilee imprint Josie, where they recorded this 1970 gem. With a name like Honey and the Bees, it’ll come as no surprise that Love is pure, sweet soul, and it's the Philly Sound through and through, with arrangements by greats like Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, and Bobby Martin. The medley of Teddy Randazzo tunes culminating in a gorgeous rendition of the Royalettes hit “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” is the highlight, but the whole record is pure magic, so good that we enlisted Mike Milchner of Sonic Vision to remaster it for vinyl to ensure that every note breathes and sings. First ever LP reissue, pressed in honey colored vinyl limited to 2000 copies.

Little Beaver - Party Down

Willie Hale a.k.a. Little Beaver (so dubbed as a child because of his prominent front teeth) was one of the extraordinarily talented musicians Henry Stone assembled at his Hialeah, FL-based T.K. Records label and its assorted imprints. Among the artists who recorded for Stone were K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Timmy Thomas, Gwen McCrae, Betty Wright, and Benny Latimore…and backing them on a lot of those records was Hale, laying down mellow ‘n’ funky, jazz-influenced licks on his hollow-body Gibson. Hale’s talent was so distinctive that when Stone finally let Hale step out of the studio shadows to record his own album on the Cat imprint, the effects were immediate and long-lasting. Featuring contributions from Thomas, Wright, Latimore, and Jaco Pastorius (under the name Nelson “Jocko” Padron), 1974’s Party Down scored a #2 hit with its title track and has been repeatedly sampled by latter-day rap artists ranging from People Under the Stairs to Jay Z. himself (the “Party Life” track on his American Gangster album). Our Real Gone reissue of this nonstop groove-athon features a fresh remastering by Mike Milchner at SonicVision.

Too Slow To Disco 4 (Various)

A really wonderful entry in this long-running series – one that really digs deep to go way past the obvious – and continued a journey into mellow-stepping music that moves much farther than we ever could have expected! If you know the other volumes, you'll know that the set looks at the more soulful side of the spectrum in the world of AOR – well-crafted cuts that groove along in a mellow sort of way – but which also aren't too commercial or pop-oriented too – work that was often cut with the best talents of the bigger labels, but never got much exposure at the time – which makes the pleasure of discovery here all that much greater. Titles include "Magic Song" by Jeannine Otis & Heikki Sarmanto, "Nothin To It" by Pleasure, "Groovy Times" by Alan Price, "Stay The Night" by Faragher Brothers, "Stay" by Severin Browne, "Generalities" by Marc Jordan, "Music In Me" by Stephen Encinas, "Tell Me The Reasons Why" by Max Leake, "Open Up" by James Felix, "Fall In Love In Outer Space" by Prime Time Band, "Mystery Girl" by The Dukes, "Now That I Need You" by Peter Skellern, and "Altogether Alone" by Hirth Martinez. ~ Dusty Groove

Alina Bzhezhinska Hip Harp Collective - Reflections

When we hear the phrase "hip harp", we think of the magnificent music that Dorothy Ashby cut for Cadet/Concept records at the end of the 60s – and when you hear this set, that's what you'll think of too – and we mean that in the best way possible! The set begins with a great reworking of Ashby's classic "Soul Vibrations – with the jazzy harp of Alina Bzhezhinska in the lead – but as the record moves on, the group really also find their own sound and style – maybe more of a jazz combo than you'd hear on some of Ashby's records – with great work from Tony Kofi on saxes and Jay Phelps on trumpet – both of whom really widen the scope of the sound! Vmala Rowe provides a bit of vocals – and titles include "Soul Vibrations", "Afro Blue", "Paris Sur Le Toit", "Meditation", "Fire", "For Carrol", and "Reflections". ~ Dusty Groove

Basher | "Doubles"

Doubles is the new album by New Orleans-based Basher, led by nationally-recognized composer and saxophonist Byron Asher. While previously recording primarily in the contemporary jazz idiom, this collection expands his sonic palette, incorporating glittering synth textures, driving soulful grooves and expansive, creative improvisation. Defying genre, these songs land somewhere between instrumental pop, art rock, and improvised music with a distinctly New Orleans vibe.

Within their hometown creative music scene, they’ve became blithely known as a “free jazz party band.” While in high school, some buddies gave Asher the nickname Basher against his wishes, it quickly became his primary name. At the time, he felt that the unwanted moniker only contributed to his general unpopularity as an “art nerd” and “smart kid.” The name of this band is a reclamation of that time in his life. And the name came first –– the music heard on this recording is his interpretation of what a band named Basher should probably sound like.

In the band, he is joined by internationally-acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and saxophonist Aurora Nealand (Tim Berne, John Hollenbeck), synthesist and pianist Daniel Meinecke (Quiana Lynell), and a two-drum set Cajun percussion section made up of Lafayette, LA native Brad Webb (Extended) and Lafayette, LA-based Zach Rhea.

The album title Doubles at once references the metaphysical duality of our collective reality and a popular Trinidadian street food. But ultimately, it’s about the doubled instrumentation across the ensemble – 2 saxophones, 2 drum sets and 2 (or more!) synths.

According to Asher, "The artwork for this release is a photograph of two near twins on Mardi Gras Day 1979, taken by NYC-based and internationally renowned street photographer Harvey Stein. For those who have experienced this special day in the Louisiana calendar, the parallel between the music here, especially the jubilant 'Carnival 2019,' and the image of these doubling revelers is clear. For those who have not, perhaps it's time to mark your calendar for the final day before Lent and come visit."

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Gilles Peterson & Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick’s STR4TA Announce Next Album 'STR4TASFEAR'

STR4TA announces next album STR4TASFEAR, out 11th November via Brownswood Recordings. The announcement comes with the release of the first single from the album ‘Turn Me Around’. 

Gilles Peterson and Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick’s sophomore STR4TA album is a sumptuous mixture of twanging basslines, spacey synth melodies, clicking beats and wispy, ethereal voices that sit perfectly in the brand new music world it’s part of. Inspired by the ground-breaking chapter in the story of homegrown music; Brit-funk; and encapsulating the formative years of both Gilles and Bluey; new album ‘STR4TASFEAR’ will be released on digital, CD & 12” LP formats with special edition white 12” LP.

Gilles says: “STR4TASFEAR is a continuation from our first project, celebrating the ground breaking Brit-Funk era of the late 70s/ early 80s while continuing the story with the rise of the drum machine; paying homage to the Acid Jazz and Electro Soul that followed and the evolution that inspired club culture and new Jazz of recent times. For me it’s a record of parallels, not only in music but a lot of the issues we are experiencing today began in that Brit-Funk era. The parallels in the political landscape of that time and today are poignant and the moment of overall change we are living in is reflected in this record. Bluey is a significant executer of exhibiting the important social questions through music from a Black British perspective and it’s an honour to work with him.”

For this new set, they’ve got a few like-minded souls along to join the party to connect legacy with a new generation of innovators making waves in the music scene. As a core concept of the album, nostalgic reflection meets a pivotal desire to celebrate the present moment, expressed through key features on the record. Namely, multi-talented neo soul Godfather Omar, who in a shock plot twist, was enlisted to lay down his intricate wonky synth basslines on ‘Why Must You Fly’. The legacy family collaborations ensue with celebrated vocalist, Valerie Etienne, on ‘Find Your Bounce’ co-written by Rob Gallagher (Galliano, Talkin’ Loud) emulating Brit funk’s first bounce.

Extending the family, catapulting STR4TA to a cosmic contemporary plane, is free-spirited musical polymath, Emma-Jean Thackray laying down her refreshing, vocals and production acumen on ‘Lazy Days’. Also welcomed into the fold and garnering the admiration of Gilles and Bluey over his illustrious career, is Floridian trumpeter/vocalist Theo Croker, who encapsulates the innovation of future jazz with the soulfulness of a bygone era on ‘Soothsayer’ and ‘To Be As One’. Representing the dynamic US influence from the birth of Brit-funk and the new wave of multifaceted, jazz-trained artists exploring unchartered soundscapes. Plus Brighton duo Anushka, jump on ‘Bad Weather’, whose melting electronica sound gleefully displays its roots from that aforementioned era.

The epicentre of 'STR4TASFEAR’ still remains the ‘meeting of minds’ and treasured friendship between the band’s founders, a solid production duo whose clearly defined roles compliment and inspire each other. Gilles Peterson as executive producer, sonically enriching the production process with his extensive and encyclopaedic knowledge from Brit-funk and Electro-soul of the late 70s/ early 80s to ushering in a new wave of musicians over his considerably lengthy career as a DJ, label owner and broadcaster. With highly acclaimed musician and producer Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick feeding the creative flow. Alongside the invaluable contribution of Mo Hausler, who was instrumental in adding to the soundscape of the album. The vision is completed by the magic touch of legendary keys/piano player Peter Hinds (Atmosfear, Light of The World, Incognito), appearing throughout the record, and is at the pinnacle of paying homage to the incredible pioneering work of bands such as SunPalace & Freeez, paving the way of UK electro soul for artists like Total Contrast & Stephen Dante (produced by Bluey in the mid 80s). This sound is now being emulated by contemporary producers like Dâm-Funk, Zopelar & SpaceGhost to name a few. 

STR4TA is the new wave jazz funk project pioneered by DJ, broadcaster, producer and record label owner Gilles Peterson and legendary musician and Brit-funk steward Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick of Incognito, Freeez and Light of the World. Long-time friends and collaborators, STR4TA sees them mine new musical possibilities inspired by a shared formative era. Their debut album ‘Aspects’ was released in March 2021 to a rapturous reception, and was the first material that Maunick and Peterson have released together in over a decade. With standout tracks ‘We Like It’ achieving over 1 million streams on Spotify, ‘Rhythm In Your Mind’ exceeding 12 weeks on Jazz FM’s playlist, and a remix EP featuring Melé, Dave Lee, Greg Wilson,  Dave Aju & more released at the end of 2021. Heavily supported by BBC 6Music, The Guardian, Wax Poetics, The Vinyl Factory, Crack, CLASH, Télérama (FR), Radio Nova (FR), KCRW (US), Rolling Stones Italy & Japan. STR4TA have performed electrifying live shows at We Out Here (UK), Primavera Sound (Spain) and headline show at The Jazz Cafe, London.

STR4TA’s second studio album 'STR4TASFEAR' is released on digital, CD & 12" LP formats with a special edition white 12" LP on 11th November 2022 via Brownswood Recordings.

Patrick Shiroishi and Mark Kimbrell | "Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother"

Patrick Shiroishi and Mark Kimbrell are Oort Smog, intense prog jazz duo. Oort Smog carries the torch of the saxophone and drums duo tradition, beginning in early formations such as John Coltrane and Rashied Ali and continuing through the years via Anthony Braxton and Andrew Cyrille, Sax Ruins, and Dead Neanderthals. As Oort Smog, Mark Kimbrell and Patrick Shiroishi combine elements of brutal prog (both are members of Upsilon Acrux) and free improvisation on their latest release, a long form composition powerfully titled Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother.

“Oort Smog is a duo to the core. Patrick and I lean on each other, pull each other out of our comfort zones, and push each other forward.,” Kimbrell says. “All of that is essential to our process and the music itself.” Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother is the band’s second offering, continuing the complexities of their first record, a hybrid of tightly arranged changes and free jazz improvisation. Daniel Zaidenstadt returns as engineer to help sculpt the sonics, blending and fully utilizing the space of Human Resources to its fullest potential. “When we first started Oort Smog, I was extremely nervous to play with Mark … he is such a powerhouse and technician of the drums,” reflects Shiroishi. “Primarily my idea of playing with guitar pedals and amp was to be able to compete with Mark’s dynamics. Now, almost a decade in, this band has allowed me to experiment not only with effects, but to try new things, write new things, and reach for new things.”

Written over the course of eighteen months and recorded during the pandemic and the explosion of demonstrations around the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Oort Smog drew from a number of influences to create their own sound, one of urgency, heaviness and hope. “We wanted this second record to include a lot of things but still be a cohesive piece of music, and I truly believe we accomplished that,” Shiroishi says. “The extracts we chose are from two sections of the piece that highlight the fluidity and tightness we’ve been able to build through the past eight years. We named the piece after we finished recording it with Daniel and it is a direct, oppositional response to the racial injustice that infects this country." 

Patrick Shiroishi is a Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Los Angeles who is perhaps best known for his extensive and incredibly intense work with the saxophone. Over the last decade he has established himself as one of the premier improvising musicians in Los Angeles, playing solo and in numerous collaborative projects with Claire Rousay, Angel Deradoorian, Ted Byrnes, Luke Stewart, Fuubutsushi, Jessica Ackerley, and many more. Shiroishi is a foundational player in Los Angeles's vast musical expanse, and has over the past few years made a name for himself globally as one of the most creative and prolific living saxophonists.

Mark Kimbrell is a Los Angeles-based drummer, known for his high-energy propulsive drumming style. After a two-year study of commercial music at Musicians Institute, Mark abandoned the pursuit of the mainstream in favor of more esoteric forms, immersing in the fertile creativia of Los Angeles DIY music. This led to a stint in Upsilon Acrux, alongside fellow drummer Dylan Fujioka and saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi, with whom he formed Oort Smog in 2014. “As long as I’ve been conscious, I’ve known that I was a drummer," Kimbrell says. "Though my extended family is extremely musical, my parents were not. When I got to be a teenager and finally had the opportunity to become a drummer, I realized that I didn’t know shit about music. I didn’t know shit about sound. Nothing. The rest of the story is just relentlessly trying to catch up.”

Monday, September 26, 2022

“Sound Alchemist” Myron McKinley mixes up an audacious jazz and neo soul collection

Keyboardist Myron McKinley has a clear vision for his own creative expression, but perhaps more importantly, he has a clear vision for providing a necessary impetus to shatter the boundaries and stimulate the evolution of jazz. Dropping October 28 on the Dark Elf Music label, the ten-song “Sound Alchemist” is a learned thesis of sonic exploration and experimentation written and produced by McKinley as a mélange of contemporary, straight-ahead and fusion jazz; hip hop, R&B and soul; and multicultural nuance.

While the music industry continues to shift towards singles as singular musical statements, McKinley prefers taking listeners on a complete journey via an album. “Sound Alchemist” does just that. Deftly, he offers enough of the familiar allure, such as recording The Carpenter’s “Close to You,” Sting’s “La Belle Dame San Regrets,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Imagination,” and Drake and Jhene Aiko’s “From Time,” but he reinvents each one - sometimes radically - making you forget the source material.

McKinley’s own compositions are just as far-reaching and ambitious, challenging jazz to grow and listeners to open their minds. He offers “Will You” as a tribute to Nat King Cole, who long before he was known for seducing and charming with his elegant and silky voice, he was a remarkably dexterous pianist. Another track on which McKinley performs all the instruments is “Matrix,” a wildly adventurous instrumental rooted in elements that are seemingly polar opposites: bebop and European electronic club music. In the company of guitarist Morris O’Connor and trombonist Reggie Young, the keyboardist stretches out even further on “Crowded Club,” referencing early 1970s funk and jazz fusion hybrids created by The Headhunters and Herbie Hancock. McKinley fuses straight-ahead jazz, hip hop beats and electronic dance music on “Let’s Just See,” the result of which is a vividly ingenious recording. Sensual and somber elements spawn “Remembering You.”

An all-star lineup illumines the centerpiece selection “Tunisian Morning.” Grammy-winning saxophonist Gerald Albright solos amidst fellow saxman Gary Bias, bassist Reggie Hamilton and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

“I got the chance to play at Nelson Mandela’s birthday party and while we were there celebrating, I heard all these different types of rhythms. I thought it was amazing. So, I kind of took a Bob James approach to the melody but using the rhythm that I heard over there and then had everybody play on it. I was blessed to have all those musicians play on it. They had so much fun doing it. I literally had to stop Munyungo from adding more tracks. He wanted to do more, but he had filled it up so much that you don’t even notice that there’s no drums on the track,” said McKinley.

Visuals are an important aspect to McKinley’s approach for “Sound Alchemist” thus three videos were created with a fourth in the planning stages. On the auspicious date of September 21, McKinley’s tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire drops and his “Imagination” video is quite personal. For the past twenty years, McKinley has toured with the legendary band, serving as their musical director for the last dozen years. The group’s energizing bass player Verdine White plays on the track featuring falsetto singer Danny McClain. The video consists of McKinley’s photos from two decades of touring the globe with EWF.

The “Let’s Just See” video arrives October 5. The clip depicts the real-life story behind the song.

McKinley explains, “I was in New York City, and it is just so loud. I was trying to practice and then kept getting distracted by the noise. Finally, I decided to go hang out at the club and I brought a melodica. I went in there and the DJ was playing. He gave me a mic and I started playing melodica there with him. It turned out really cool. Everybody was enjoying it and I had a lot of fun. The DJ played a bunch of different stuff and we just fooled around, and it became a thing for about a good hour. For the video, I had to write a script and time everything. It was the first I’ve ever done anything like it. I had to write the timeline and tell the animator what is supposed to happen in each cartoon. We had a lot of fun creating that.”

The animated video for “From Time” is slated to hit October 21. What drew McKinley to the song was the lyric “I love me enough for the both of us,” which is sung in dreamlike voice by Denaine Jones.

“I think that statement is going to resonate with any man because that means you’re not going to have to supplement for her what she’s supposed to have already. When I heard the song, I fell in love with what she’s saying. For the video, I was thinking how a lot of people play music and do other things while they’re messaging people. I thought it would be nice to have her texting a guy about how she feels. ‘I love me enough for the both of us.’ You see her sitting up against the wall in New York, texting during the solo and at the end. I thought it was an interesting journey to add a lot of feeling to it,” explained McKinley, who will perform music from “Sound Alchemist” at Denver’s Soiled Dove Underground on October 22.

Los Angeles native McKinley studied classical and jazz piano, including under the tutelage of Grammy-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. But hip hop’s influence in his works is just as prevalent as jazz and classical.

“I grew up in the hip hop era. I was listening to A Tribe Called Quest and Oscar Peterson on the same radio station. I loved all of those. When you come up like that, it’s still a part of you, even though you have classical and jazz. It still becomes a part of your DNA musically. I think ‘Sound Alchemist’ shows a lot of that. You can hear church aspects, classical aspects, jazz aspects and it also shows hip hop aspects.”

In addition to his long-time duties with Earth, Wind & Fire, McKinley has toured with Whitney Houston, Kenny Lattimore, Stanley Clarke, En Vogue and Shai. He has written, cowrote or produced songs for EWF, Clarke, Doc Powell, Silk, Vesta, Cherokee and Howard Hewett. He’s also composed music for film and television scores, contributing to “Soul Food,” “Romeo Must Die,” “The Best Man,” “Think Like A Man,” “Shaft,” and “The Godfather of Harlem” among many others. But jazz is home, so McKinley makes time to perform with his own straight-ahead jazz trio.  

McKinley’s bold spirit and intrepid scope heard throughout “Sound Alchemist” are purposely sprawling, purposely edgy, purposely youthful and vibrant, and purposely inclusive. That’s where he believes jazz needs to go in order to thrive again in relevancy.

“I don’t think musically right now the boundaries are being pushed. I could have easily done (recorded) something else and directed it towards a certain genre and left it there without pushing, but musically, to really make things grow, it takes adventurers to push the genre.”

The Jon Cowherd Trio's Pride and Joy, Featuring Bassist John Patitucci and Drummer Brian Blade

Le Coq Records continues its exploration of the boundless piano trio setting with The Jon Cowherd Trio’s Pride and Joy, an exemplary session featuring three of the most imaginative, sensitive and wide-ranging artists in modern jazz: pianist Cowherd, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. They’re joined on three tracks by saxophonist Chris Potter and percussionist Alex Acuña. 

Pride and Joy follows in the spirit of its critically acclaimed 2021 predecessor, which teamed Patitucci with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and pianist Bill Cunliffe. In its laudatory review, JazzTimes exclaimed that Vol. 1 “showcases the kind of magic that erupts when the right high-level players come together at the right time for an impromptu romp on the right material.” 

Much the same can be said for this vibrant sequel, though where Cunliffe, Patitucci and Colaiuta were convening as a trio for the first time on that date (despite a long-shared history in various settings and combinations), Pride and Joy reunites a trio with deep roots together. 

Cowherd and Blade have shared a close relationship for more than 25 years, ever since their college days at New Orleans’ Loyola University. The two co-founded the Grammy-nominated Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, one of the most revered ensembles in contemporary music. It was through Blade that Cowherd met Patitucci, the drummer’s bandmate in the Wayne Shorter Quartet. 

The trio embarked on several tours of Europe and the States around the turn of the millennium, then joined with guitarist Bill Frisell to record Cowherd’s 2013 leader debut for Blue Note Records, Mercy. 

The new album is thus a reunion of old friends in spirited musical conversation. It comes at a time of great change for Cowherd, obliquely referenced in the album title as well as its evocative cover art. Pride and Joy first and foremost refers to the pianist’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Sofiane. 

In addition to the expansion of his family, Cowherd has relocated from New York City, where he’s lived and worked for nearly three decades, to Grand Junction, Colorado. The album’s cover is a view of the family’s new backyard and the arid, rocky desert landscape that it looks out upon, a far cry from the cramped, bustling metropolitan landscape of NYC. Poetically, the toy ladder seems to suggest an ascent into the unknown with a touch of childlike wonder and whimsy. 

“It's beautiful here,” Cowherd says, while admitting that the change of environs will take some time to get used to. “We’re in the middle of reddish brown mesas and mountains, and it's just gorgeous. It's a great place to relax.” 

Not that he’s done much of that lately. In recent months Cowherd has logged considerable road miles on tour with guitar great John Scofield’s new band Yankee Go Home as well as with Blade and the Fellowship Band, both of whom have new albums planned for the near future. 

Album opener “Grand Mesa” offers the perfect soundtrack to the vista that Cowherd now calls home. The soaring piece reflects the vast open spaces and alluring horizons, especially with the roiling undercurrent of Acuña’s percussion and Chris Potter’s venturesome tenor playing. The move is also referenced in “The Colorado Experiment,” a more acute-angled composition for the trio. 

The latter bears some influence from the late, great Chick Corea, whose 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was an object of intense study for Cowherd during the pandemic. Corea is also the inspiration – along with one of his own primary influences, Thelonious Monk – for Patitucci’s lively composition “Chickmonk,” a salute to Patitucci’s longtime boss in both his Akoustic and Elektric Bands. 

The tender “Little Scorpio” refers to Cowherd’s daughter, also the inspiration for the album’s lyrical title track. “Sofiane is a Scorpio and a fiery redhead,” the pianist explains. “When I wrote that music, I felt there was something kind of childlike and loving about it, so I dedicated it to her.” 

“Honest Man” is another dedication, this one for one of Cowherd’s most formative teachers, Marsalis family patriarch Ellis Marsalis, who passed away in April 2020 of complications from COVID-19. The piece was a commission from the Jazz Coalition, an organization formed by industry professionals, musicians and supporters to provide assistance to artists suffering during the lockdown. 

“Ellis Marsalis was my first jazz teacher,” Cowherd explains. “He was very serious about jazz and the definition of jazz, and he set me straight. He was always a very straight shooter and he gave me a lot of criticism that I needed to hear. So, I wrote this song thinking about his honesty and directness.” 

“Plainfield” shifts the landscape back to the less picturesque east coast, namely the New Jersey hometown of piano icon Bill Evans, whose influence is evident on the introspective tune, which doubles Cowherd’s incisive pianism with Hammond organ atmospherics. The album ends with Cowherd alone at the piano on “Quilt City Blues,” a gospel-inflected piece written for him by Brian Blade. The title refers to Cowherd’s hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, which proudly proclaims itself the “Quilt Capital of the World.” 

Pride and Joy is the latest addition to Le Coq Records’ rapidly growing catalogue of essential jazz releases. Cowherd, Patitucci and Blade have all become integral members of the Le Coq family, contributing as players and/or arrangers to many of the label’s recent offerings. The aptly named Pride and Joy gives the trio a welcome opportunity to step into the spotlight and exemplify both of those emotions.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

New Music: Nica Carrington, Jocelyn Gould, Record Kicks Breaks and Beats Vol. 2, Telmo Fernandez & The Latin Soul Beat

Nica Carrington - Times Like These

It took a worldwide epidemic to make vocalist Nica Carrington fully realize that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Although she has been singing and studying voice since she was a young child, her shyness made her feel more comfortable singing in choirs surrounded by others rather than stepping into the spotlight as a solo performer. But now with the release of her debut album, Times Like These, audiences will get to appreciate her smokey, warm voice and soulful interpretations of great American standards. For her debut album, Carrington chose songs from the Great American Songbook that she learned about from her father’s record collection. Says Carrington, “I’ve always admired the composers and lyricists of the great standards. Their songs are timeless and I wanted to stay true to them, but I also wanted to present them with my own more contemporary style. The album is also an homage to my father. He passed away a couple of years ago, but his influence on me is indelible, and I needed to channel my feelings through music.” While this is Carrington’s debut recording, her personality shines through, and she sings with the assuredness and vocal savvy that elevates Times Like These from being merely another recording of great American standards to an eloquent personal statement sung with a very contemporary edge. Nica is accompanied by top west coast trio of John Proulx (piano, arr., producer), Chuck Berghofer (bs) & Joe LaBarbera (dr).

Jocelyn Gould – Golden Hour

Golden Hour is guitarist Jocelyn Gould’s sophomore album. A follow up to her 2020 Juno-winning debut Elegant Traveler, Golden Hour further explores her musical character and personal development. It showcases her virtuosic guitar playing and dynamic compositions, and introduces her voice, which is featured on several tracks. Golden Hour features six original compositions and four American songbook standards. The album is steeped in traditional jazz guitar history, paying homage to guitar greats such as Wes Montgomery on Willow Weep for Me and the solo guitar style of Joe Pass on Sweet Lorraine. Her original compositions range from swinging straight ahead blues (Bright Note) to contemporary jazz compositions that include vamps and Coltrane changes (Gemini). She lends her voice to three tracks: Horizons, Serendipity, and A Cottage for Sale. Gould is joined by a group of internationally acclaimed musicians, including world renowned bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Quincy Davis, and pianist Will Bonness. This ensemble follows in the footsteps of many  of the classic guitar quartet records inspired Gould. She rounds out the group with Monk Competition winning saxophonist Jon Gordon on three tracks. When you listen to Golden Hour, you will hear swing, blues, memorable melodies, and Jocelyn’s signature rich, natural guitar sound.

Record Kicks Breaks and Beats Vol. 2 (Various Artists)

Record Kicks is proud to present the new compilation "Breaks and Beats Vol.2", released Friday July 1st on all digital platforms. "At Record Kicks we live for funky breaks and hot instrumentals, we have a reputation for that, with our catalogue being sampled by quite a few rap superstars such as Jay-Z, Tyler The Creator and Dr. Dre. With volume 2 of "Record Kicks Breaks and Beats", the new instalment of our digital compilation series, we've dug again into our funky vaults to bring you a new selection of the some of hottest instrumental tracks of the catalogue. Expect 12 tracks full of exclusive killer breaks and infectious beats brought to you by the very best of our roster. Featuring The Diasonics, Calibro 35, Third Coast Kings, Hannah Williams & The Affirmations, Baby Charles, Tanika Charles and many more! 12 hard hitting instrumental tracks yet to be sampled, you dig it!? Side by side with similar outfits like Daptone, Truth And Soul or Timmion, under its motto "The explosive sound from Today's scene", Milan-based independent label Record Kicks has been pitching the contemporary funk & soul scene since 2003. With over 200 releases under the belt, RK has released bands from all over the globe and earned the support of VIP fans such as Kenny Dope, Jamie Cullum, Craig Charles and, last but not least, Jay-Z, thanks to whom the label received a Grammy nomination for HOV's use of Hannah Williams' "Late Nights And Heartbreak" as backdrop for his "4:44" in 2018."

Telmo Fernandez & The Latin Soul Beat - Cuchifrito Pa' Los Pollos

Telmo Fernandez is a Spanish guitarist/composer/arranger with an eclectic style and broad musical taste in music. His own work goes from the classic jazz guitar-organ-drums trio to larger ensembles and covers genres such as Latin music, rhythm & blues, straight ahead jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop and Afro Cuban music. Deeply rooted in the sounds of the 1970s, he adds a contemporary flavor of his own to his music. His influences include legendary guitarists like Grant Green and Wes Montgomery to iconic artists such as Roy Ayers, Mongo Santamaría, Albert King, James Brown, Elio Revé, and Pacho Alonso. After a 5 year hiatus in his career, he comes back strong to the scene with three new albums. The first one is “El Maldecido”, a large ensemble featuring some of the most acclaimed Cuban musicians in the Spanish scene today (Yuvisney Aguilar, Jorge Vistel, Harold Rey, Yarel Hernandez). The album revisits the "Salsa Brava" and "Afro-Cuban" music of the 1970s through eleven tracks composed and arranged by Telmo. A deep and personal homage to this music genre and his Antillean ancestors. The album is out in will come out in October 2022.

The Pat Petrillo Big Rhythm Band | "The Power Stations Sessions"

World-renowned drummer Pat Petrillo showcases the vast spectrum of contemporary groove music on the second album by his explosive Big Rhythm Band. Due out October 7, 2022 via Autumn Hill Records, Petrillo’s jubilant The Power Station Sessions runs the gamut from New Orleans R&B, to blues, and funk– though this Jersey boy inevitably lends a distinctive East Coast swagger to the whole affair. 

Pat Petrillo has long been recognized as one of the most versatile and prolific drummers on the scene. He has worked with a wide array of artists from diverse genres, including Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor, Chieli Minucci, and Ed Hamilton as well as numerous Broadway shows, from A Chorus Line, to Newsies, to the national tour of Dreamgirls. 

As keeper of the groove, Pat draws on the full range of those experiences on the eclectic but always propulsive The Power Station Sessions. His visceral, instinctive, and deep-rooted style of drumming is infectious on this outing. It also features an all-star collection of guest artists who bring their own unique authenticity to the proceedings: guitarists Nile Rodgers (Chic), Felicia Collins (Late Show with David Letterman) and Oz Noy (Chris Botti, Mike Stern); Blues Traveler frontman John Popper; saxophonist and Saturday Night Live bandleader Lenny Pickett; and famed singer-songwriter Glen Burtnik (Styx). The band also features versatile keyboardist David Cook, bassist Scott Ambush (Spyro Gyra), trumpeter Steve Jankowski (who also did wind arrangements), Tom Timko on saxes, and Plinky Giglio with additional production, B3 Organ, and mixing. 

“Although it’s a Contemporary Instrumental record, I would almost call this an Americana record,” says Petrillo. Although that term is usually associated with country and folk music traditions, the drummer has a more continent-spanning definition of the genre. 

“The Power Station Sessions is a potpourri of truly American groove styles. These songs are built on rhythms from around the country, from New Orleans Mardi Gras to R&B, funk, blues, rock, and soul. I have a lot of influences, and they are reflected on each track. But it's also got a real distinctive New York/New Jersey edge. For drummers especially, it’s a real treat. It smacks you in face with flavor from the start. It sort of defies categories.” 

The follow-up to the Big Rhythm Band’s widely acclaimed debut, The Abbey Road Sessions, Petrillo’s latest was captured in another iconic recording studio, the Power Station. Where its predecessor collected funky, horn-driven arrangements of classic Beatles songs, recorded in the famed Studio 2 at Abbey Road, The Power Station Sessions stays closer to home at the converted Hell’s Kitchen power plant synonymous with 1970s hitmakers. 

Everyone from Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Bon Jovi, to Madonna, Paul Simon, Steps Ahead, Chic, David Bowie and Lady Gaga (the list could go on) has recorded at the Power Station – including the supergroup that borrowed its name. While the space changed hands in the late ’90s and was rechristened as Avatar Studios, it recently reopened as the Power Station under the auspices of Berklee College of Music. 

“Some of my favorite records over the years were cut there,” Petrillo says. “The studio has a lot to do with the vibe of a record. It’s the incubator of the sound. The wood that it’s built with, the flooring, the soaring ceilings, the sound absorption all come together to create the quality of that sound. The room is everything…and this studio has some serious mojo!” 

Add to the mix veteran engineer Roy Hendrickson, who has his own history with the Power Station, and you have a session that bristles with vintage NYC attitude while sounding utterly contemporary. Witness the bravado shuffle of Petrillo’s arrangement on Billy Joel’s “Big Man on Mulberry Street,” boasting a groove so wide it would fill that Manhattan thoroughfare. He learned from longtime Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto that the original song was laid down at the Power Station – and Hendrickson was an assistant on the session. “I loved Liberty’s playing on that record, and I just wanted to do it justice, and in the same room!”. 

The album opens with Petrillo’s funky “48th Street,” the perfect vehicle for Chic mastermind and guitar wizard Nile Rodgers. It’s the debut single that is sure to light up the airwaves. “Between the music stores, record shops and the recording studios, 48th Street was where music lived,” the drummer explains. “It’s an homage to that old school 70’s New York City vibe that I wanted to recapture, and I had Nile Rodgers in mind from the minute I wrote this track.” Long time keyboard veteran Chris Fischer also helped arrange the track. 

Oz Noy’s virtuoso guitar work weaves elegantly through a revamped, swing funk version of the iconic “Black Cow” by Steely Dan, while Petrillo also takes the spotlight with a one take drum solo on a great arrangement of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Runnin’.” Stevie Wonder’s classic “Knocks Me Off My Feet” is given a gorgeous ballad treatment, graced by Tom Timko’s wistful soprano saxophone. 

Petrillo’s other original compositions for the album reflect some of his greatest passions. The tense “Global Warming” confronts the accelerating climate crisis by way of reworked compositions by the drummer’s longtime collaborator, late Philadelphia keyboardist Dave Falciani. “Asbury Daze” takes it a bit easier, capturing the sun-drenched whirl of the Jersey Shore, with its powerful horn riffs reminiscent of The Asbury Jukes, with the help of Felicia Collins’ breezy, melodic fretwork and Jersey native John Popper’s thrilling harmonica solo. “I wanted to take the listeners down the shore, smell the boards, the sausage and peppers, and have fun,” he quipped. 

“I have to include a Beatles song on any record that I do,” Petrillo insists. “I’m a huge Beatles aficionado and a Ringo fan since I was young.” The Big Rhythm Band’s pugilistic and rockin’ rendition of “It Won’t Be Long” features regular Petrillo collaborator Glen Burtnik on vocals, as well as Popper. The album ends where American music begins, in New Orleans with the Mardi Gras Indian chant “Hey, Pocky Way,” best known for The Meters’ immortal version (explicitly referenced during B.D. Lenz’s slide guitar solo). 

At the root of it all is Pat Petrillo’s trademark groove, electrifying enough to light up the Power Station itself. In addition to being an in-demand live and session drummer, he’s also an esteemed educator who has created popular instructional videos for Hudson Music, and the Drumeo website. Petrillo endorses Ludwig Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Evans Drumheads, Vic Firth Drumsticks, and Earthworks Microphones. 

The Power Station Sessions record release show is scheduled for Sunday, October 9th at 3:00 PM at The Cutting Room, 44 East 32nd St, New York, NY.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Snarky Puppy | "Empire Central"

Four-time Grammy-winning, genre-defying musical collective Snarky Puppy debut the new single ‘Bet’ from their highly anticipated forthcoming album Empire Central, due September 30 via the band’s own GroundUP Music imprint.

Bass player and bandleader Michael League notes that, “dedicated to Dallas icon RC Williams (musical director for Erykah Badu and bandleader of RC & Tha Gritz), ‘Bet’ moves through a mixture of styles: church, soul and even Brazilian Funk”. 

Recorded over the course of eight nights in front of a live-in-studio audience at Dallas’ Deep Ellum Art Company, Empire Central consists of 16 all-new tracks heavily influenced by and paying homage to the city that gave birth to the group after they formed while studying in the fabled jazz program at the University of North Texas. The record also features the last recorded performance of ’80s funk pioneer and Snarky Puppy’s musical Godfather Bernard Wright, who passed away tragically at age 58 shortly after the Empire Central recording sessions.  

Snarky Puppy premiered tracks from the album at Glastonbury and the band will return to the UK this autumn for 4 shows as part of their world tour:

  • Oct 4, 2022 - O2 Academy, Glasgow, UK
  • Oct 5, 2022 - O2 Academy, Bristol, UK
  • Oct 6, 2022 - O2 Apollo, Manchester, UKB
  • Oct 7, 2022 - OVO Arena Wembley, London, UK 

“Snarky Puppy have been religiously unclassifiable; on their nearly dozen live or studio records, they’ve incorporated jazz, funk, and elements of world music and fusion. The Grammys they’ve collected—Best R&B Performance in 2013, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in 2015 and 2016, the latter for Culcha Vulcha—are themselves an indication of how wide-ranging their sound is.”—Rolling Stone 

With a lineup consisting of three guitarists, four keyboardists, two brass, two reeds, a violinist, multiple percussionists and drummers and bandleader Michael League on bass, Empire Central expands upon the collective’s wide array of influences including blues, hard rock, classic soul, modern gospel, funk, new tech, fusion and jazz. In reviewing the first of the band’s eight Deep Ellum performances from which the record was culled, the Dallas Morning News raves that “in classic Snarky Puppy fashion, the new tunes zigzagged with laser precision between jazz, funk and wigged-out prog-rock”. 

“Snarky Puppy has always been a band that prioritizes the sound of the music,” notes League. “On this record there was some collaboration in the writing process but when a song goes to the band and the players start making suggestions or changing things our collective feeling really comes through. The songs ended up being a lot more direct and funkier than those on our previous records. I think it reflects the many moods of the city’s scene”. 

“Maybe you didn’t notice, but this is Snarky Puppy’s world, and the rest of us only live in it.”—The New York Times

A musical collective featuring as many as 25 members in regular rotation, Snarky Puppy was formed by bassist and primary composer Michael League in 2004, starting inconspicuously enough as a group of college friends at the University of North Texas’ Jazz Studies program. The group has won four Grammy Awards (Best R&B Performance in 2014 and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in 2016, 2017 and 2021) and its members each maintain busy schedules as sidemen (with such artists as Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo), producers (for Kirk Franklin, David Crosby and Salif Keïta) and solo artists (many of whom are on the band’s independent label, GroundUP Music).

At its core, the band represents the convergence of both black and white American music culture with various accents from around the world. Japan, Argentina, Canada and the United Kingdom all have representation in the group’s membership. But more than the cultural diversity of the individual players, the defining characteristic of Snarky Puppy’s music is the joy of performing together in the perpetual push to grow creatively.

Enrico Rava and Fred Hersch | "The Song Is You"

The Song Is You documents the inspired meeting of two master improvisers. Italian trumpeter and flugelhornist Enrico Rava and US pianist Fred Hersch share a love of the music’s history and together explore standards including Jerome Kern’s “The Song Is You," Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” and “’Round Midnight," Jobim’s “Retrato em Branco e Preto," and George Bassman’s “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You." They also play their own tunes, Fred’s “Child’s Song” and Enrico’s “The Trial," and create music freely together. It’s a subtle and far-reaching performance: when jazz reaches this level of understanding and interplay, a performance becomes less about the material – however distinguished it may be - than what the interpreter brings to it. Rava and Hersch bring vast experience and a finely honed sense of jazz improvisation as a storyteller’s art. 

Enrico Rava has recorded for ECM since the 1970s, beginning with The Pilgrim and the Stars, now regarded as a modern jazz classic. The Song Is You is Fred Hersch’s first for the label, following albums as a leader with Nonesuch, Palmetto, Sunnyside and others. Throughout his long career as a player, Hersch has returned very often, to duo instrumentation. In his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly Hersch reflects upon his preference for the format: “The duo suited my ability to use the entire keyboard to do multiple things at once. It also let me orchestrate the music instead of just playing block chords with the left hand... I indulged my love of spontaneous counterpoint – two or more independent melodic lines going on simultaneously. I can go from roaring loud to pianissimo instantly. It’s collaborative and also intimate. You have to be compatible but also different enough for each musician to offer something unique.” (Enrico’s discography also includes some notable duos, including The Third Man with Stefano Bollani). 

The November 2021 recording of The Song Is You followed just a handful of Italian dates earlier that year. But from first of these it was evident that something special was happening. Fred Hersch: “One of the things that I really liked from the beginning was that Enrico doesn’t feel like he has to be soloing. It’s not as clearly defined. We make things together,” Fred told interviewer Nicola Ferrauto. “He lets me get in there and push him a little bit. Other times I might give him a lot of space. The best duo partnerships are the ones where you don’t have to talk about it too much. You just play. And I’m getting the feeling this is going to be a long partnership. It’s really very simpatico, and Enrico’s a great master.”

Born in Trieste in 1939, and growing up in Turin, Enrico Rava came early to jazz, inspired by Miles Davis and Chet Baker among others. Active in the international free jazz milieu of the 1960s, he contributed to historically important recordings including Steve Lacy’s The Forest and the Zoo, Carla Bley’s Escalator Over the Hill and Manfred Schoof’s European Echoes. From the outset it was clear however that Rava’s concept of musical freedom would always embrace lyricism as one of its key components and this has been a constant though all his artistic adventures. Now acknowledged as the most important representative of Italian jazz, Enrico Rava has been the recipient of many awards including the Jazzpar, Europe’s biggest prize for jazz musicians. In 2011 Rava published the book Incontri con musicisti straordinari, with reflections on fifty years of music-making. 

Recent ECM releases with Enrico Rava have included two live albums: Roma, a collaboration with Joe Lovano, and Editione Speziale; both albums also feature pianist Giovanni Guidi, one of many younger players who consider Enrico a mentor.

Fred Hersch was born in Cincinnati in 1955, and studied at the New England Conservatory with teachers including Jaki Byard and Joe Maneri. In 1977, he moved to New York, where he soon found work with Art Farmer, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz and others. His first recording as a leader, 1984’s Horizons, introduced his trio with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron, and established Hersch as an independent and original voice on the piano. His affinity for duo playing has led to collaborations with Anat Cohen, Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, Chris Potter, Avishai Cohen and Miguel Zenon. His solo playing is widely celebrated: in 2006 he became the first artist to play a week-long engagement as solo pianist at New York’s Village Vanguard. 

Hersch has also been acclaimed for his compositions, including Leaves of Grass, his 2003 settings of Walt Whitman’s poetry, the 2010 multimedia project My Coma Dreams, and his Variations on a Folksong, which was premiered by Igor Levit at Carnegie Hall in January 2022. Fred Hersch’s memoir Good Things Happen Slowly was voted Book of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, one of many awards the pianist has received.

The Song Is You was recorded at Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in November 2021, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Ezra Feinberg, Robbie Lee & John Thayer New Self-Titled Cosmic Ambient/Improvisation LP - Earth Room

Earth Room is the self-titled debut of a new band making music in the spirit of electric-era Miles Davis, classic German space rock, and the “fourth world” studio experiments of Jon Hassell. The band is composed of three veterans of adventurous music in NYC: Robbie Lee on woodwinds and electronics, John Thayer on percussion and synthesizers, and Ezra Feinberg on acoustic and electric guitars. 

In early 2019 Ezra was asked to play a two hour set for a night called “Planetarium” at the Bushwick club Nowadays, where, instead of dancing, one Thursday each month people came to lie on beanbags. Lacking two hours worth of solo material, he asked John and Robbie to join him. The show featured wide-ranging improvisation, deep-color drones, and instrumental freak-outs, and left the bean-bagers beatific. A band was born. 

The three musicians got together throughout 2019 and pre-pandemic 2020, recording during off hours at Thump Studios where John is the in-house engineer. After the pandemic hit they got to work combing through these sessions, finding the juicy bits, seeing what worked, cutting the fat, peeling the onion, and tying the room together until there were no more overdubs or edits needed.

The process occasionally included yoking one jam from one particular day on top of another from a different day, as on the elegiac opener “Bridges of Waves,” in which primitive synthesizers are fused with Robbie and John’s ecstatic drums and flute. The second track, “Within the Field,” is a study in percussive textures, and, with Robbie’s catchy melody and Ezra’s Can-like bass line, comes closest to a pop tune on the record. “Sound on Sound (Bass Clarinet)” is just that: Robbie improvising as John worked the sound-on-sound tape machine, fragmenting and recombining the melodies in real time. The name Earth Room comes from “The New York Earth Room,” the famous 1977 experiment by the NYC artist Walter De Maria, in which soil was laid down in a loft gallery at 141 Wooster St in Soho. It has been maintained there ever since. 

Robbie Lee has collaborated with Mary Halverson, Josef Van Wissum, Che Chen, Brian Chase and, most recently, on “Wind Bells Falls,” an acclaimed album of celeste and tape manipulation with the renowned composer Lea Bertucci. He has received numerous accolades, including in The Wire, Pitchfork, the New York Times, and Downbeat.

John Thayer produced the Earth Room album as well as countless others, and has collaborated with Daniel Carter, Zeena Perkins, Sunwatchers, Yai, and the last two releases by Arp, both for Mexican Summer, as well as his ambient compositions and field recordings under his own name. Thayer is also the in-house engineer for Thump Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Ezra Feinberg was the founding member of the San Francisco psychedelic rock collective Citay, releasing albums on Important Records and Dead Oceans throughout the 2000s. After relocating to NYC, he issued his first solo record, Pentimento and Others, on his imprint Related States as well as its follow-up, Recumbent Speech. Feinberg’s releases have garnered glowing reviews in Pitchfork, The Wire, Aquarium Drunkard, Paste, and The Fader. 

15th Annual Angel City Jazz Festival Announces Final 2022 Lineup

Luciana Souza & Vince Mendoza
This year’s fall event will host over a dozen concerts featuring live performances by Luciana Souza and Vince Mendoza: Storytellers with big band, Marquis Hill, John Escreet's Seismic Shift, David Murray Trio, Jonathan Pinson’s Boom Clap, ROVA, Battle Trance, Ben Wendel High Heart, Daniel Rotem's Wise One, Myra Melford’s Fire & Water Quintet, Nicole McCabe’s Septet, Devin Daniels' Quartet and Zoh Amba's Quartet.

Jazz never stands still. Like improvisation, it’s constantly evolving and reinventing itself. While some festivals focus with a nostalgic lens, Angel City unapologetically looks forward to encouraging and embracing metamorphosis of the genre. While providing a cradle to 1960s innovators Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Charles Lloyd, Los Angeles never consistently hosted a festival dedicated to post-traditional improvisation until innovator Rocco Somazzi founded The Angel City Jazz Festival in 2008. The festival has helped establish LA as a jazz destination through 15 years of affordable and accessible live concerts throughout the city featuring artists such as Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp, Bennie Maupin, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, Ravi Coltrane, Nels Cline, Tigran Hamasyan, Rudresh Mahanthappa and many others. 

The festival kicks off Friday, October 21 at The Ford in Hollywood with soulful Grammy-award winning vocalist Luciana Souza presenting a new arrangement of Brazilian classics by Vince Mendoza for a big band that includes many LA luminaries such as Peter Erskine, Alex Acuna, Bob Mintzer and Bob Sheppard.

The excitement continues on Saturday October 22 with a double bill featuring dynamic trumpeter Marquis Hill with Jahari Stampley, Joshua Griffin and Jeremiah Collier, followed by the CD-release party for Seismic Shift featuring the LA-based power trio of John Escreet, Eric Revis and Damion Reid. The opening weekend closes with a rare appearance by legendary sax man and PAPA alumnus David Murray with drummer Malachi Whitson and bassist Roberto Miranda at The World Stage in LA’s own Africa Town on October 23.

The following weekend, Friday, October 28, ACJ partners with LACMA to present a free concert featuring LA-based drummer Jonathan Pinson’s Boom Clap. On Saturday, October 29, two of the world’s preeminent sax quartets, ROVA from the Bay Area and Battle Trance from NYC will share the stage at 2220 Arts + Archives. On Sunday, October 30, Ben Wendel will perform material from his High Heart release at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre with an all-star band featuring Fabian Almazan, Harish Raghavan, Nate Wood and Michael Mayo. On the same night, Daniel Rotem will present a set dedicated to John Coltrane featuring Billy Childs, Darek Oles and Joe LaBarbera.

The festival’s penultimate event will see the highly anticipated new ensemble helmed by keyboard virtuoso Myra Melford with Mary Halvorson, Tomeka Reid, Lesley Mok and Ingrid Laubrock perform at Colburn’s Thayer Hall in DTLA. Opening the night is the Nicole McCabe Septet premiering a new piece commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society.

The festival will conclude on November 5 with a performance by NYC-based rising star Zoh Amba, leading a quartet featuring Tashi Dorji, Dylan Fujioka and Mark Dresser. Saxophonist Devin Daniels opens the evening with his quartet that includes pianist Jamael Dean, bassist Logan Kane and drummer Benjamin Ring. 


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