Monday, October 31, 2022

New Music Release: Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble, Alfa Mist, Malik Alston, Ghost Funk Orchestra

Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble - Le Le 

Recorded in the 1980's and snapped up upon arrival in Europe by the Soho Boho's, Acid Jazzuals,Cuboppers, Jazz Massivists and Mojo Jazzmuziker, "Le-Le" by The Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble is a unique one off Spiritual Soul-Jazz outing with Avant Garde touches and more than a hint of Afro-Cuban Orientalism. The percussion drenched title track has that special Worldwide Sound and the Cool Jazz Get Down Groove of "Wet Walnuts and Whipped Cream" is a DJ's delight, whether played over the Airwaves or to a crowded Dancefloor. An adventurous jazz outfit that has been playing around Philadelphia since its formation in 1979. The Ensemble was founded by Warren Oree, an acoustic bassist, producer and composer who continues to lead the band. Eclectic and far from predictable, on this album the Ensemble has embraced a variety of acoustic and electric jazz styles combining them with African and Middle Eastern influences and mixed together with the "New Thing" have managed to make a timeless underground classic.

Alfa Mist - Antiphon

Alfa Mist is a UK musician, producer and composer born in Newham, London. One of the members of Are We Live, a creative quartet that also includes Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei and Barney Artist. On his latest album for UK label Sekito titled Bring Backs, he goes back to his roots of his beat-making past on the streets of East London, as well as incorporating his jazz influences. From the smoky jazz bar loops of opener 'Keep On' to the uplifting urban blues of 'Breath' (feat Kaya Thomas-Dyke) to the sunny metro beats of 'Brian' - the LP is the most detailed exploration of his upbringing in musical form.

Malik Alston - Outside Of The Box

A wonderfully collaborative project from Malik Alston – a set that takes the wealth of great energy he's been bringing to the Detroit scene, and spreads it around with help from a range of musicians and singers! Each cut has a nicely different personality – as the set moves between jazz, soul, and contemporary club – with every track at the top of the game, and delivering more as an EP than most full length sets of this nature! "5th Element" features great sax work from Dave McMurray, Maurissa Rose brings in soulful vocals on "What God Has For Me (just one stomp rmx)", there's a great batch of Latin elements from the Linwood Ensemble on "Tie It Up (Malik's Latin sunrise rmx)", and the set begins with the soaring "Badeya (Pirahnahead's p'mix)". ~ Dusty Groove

Ghost Funk Orchestra - New Kind Of Love

A new kind of love, and a new kind of groove from Ghost Funk Orchestra – one that's deeper than ever before, even though the group is really just the efforts of producer/instrumentalist Seth Applebaum! Yet this time around, he's also got some great female vocals at a few points – bringing a soulful focus to the energy that spins out at other points in a more instrumental mode – funky but moody at the same time, with a richness in sonic territory that takes the whole thing way past the early funky 45s that first bore the Ghost Funk name. Titles include "A Song For Pearl", "Bluebell", "Rooted", "Quiet Places", "Scatter", "Why", Your Man's No Good", and "A New Kind Of Love (parts 1 & 2)". ~ Dusty Groove

New Music Releases: Louie Vega, Various Artists - Liguria Transatlantica - Bossa Figgeu, Kenny Lynch, Robin Jones & His Quintet

Louie Vega - Joy Universal / Igobolo (2LP)

Louie Vega is launching a trio of Double Pack 12” releases that includes special unreleased versions of select titles from the Expansions In The NYC album project. Each package also features unique customized art by celebrated artist Andrew Thiele who also created the art for the album package as well. Joy Universal and Igobolo (Feelin’ Love) spotlight the profoundly soulful and musical energy that emerges when Louie collaborates with two of the stars of the House Music community namely Josh Milan and Joe Claussell. Tracks include; Joy Universal featuring Two Soul Fusion; Iglobolo (Feelin' Love) featuring Joaquin 'Joe' Claussell (Sacred Rhythm Tones Full Version;  Iglobolo (Feelin' Love) featuring Joaquin 'Joe' Claussell (Expansions NYC Dub); Joy Universal featuring Two Soul Fusion (Axel Tosca Piano Demo Ruff); Joy Universal featuring Two Soul Fusion (Joy Beats); and Iglobolo (Feelin' Love) featuring Joaquin 'Joe' Claussell (Joe & Loui's Mood Dub).

Various Artists - Liguria Transatlantica - Bossa Figgeu

"South American Jazz & Bossanova flavours from 60s & 70s in Liguria, north west Italy. As you might notice after the first listening, surprisingly, the melody sounds very similar to Brazilian Portuguese and the instrumental tracks have a distinctive touch of South American Jazz. Nonetheless, the sound landscape clearly reflects the Italian libraries of the time. This mingling was possible because at the time of the discoveries of the New World, due to commercial and cultural interconnections, the local Ligurian language was influenced by new stimuli from the new territories and vice-versa. Moreover, since the end of the Nineteenth Century, there has been a strong migration of Italians to South America, similar in numbers to the migration of Italians to North America, but less known because less represented in films or narrative."

Kenny Lynch - Half The Day Is Gone And We Haven't Earned A Penny 

Kenny Lynch was a popular singer, songwriter, actor and all-round entertainer. A self-styled “black cockney”, Kenny was one of the few people of Caribbean origin prominent in the British entertainment industry during the ‘60s and ‘70s. During his musical career, Kenny released a number of Top 10 singles, including a version of ‘Up on the Roof’ (1962), competing with the original by the Drifters. He composed and co-wrote songs recorded by Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, the Drifters and the Everly Brothers. He also worked briefly as a songwriter at the Brill Building in New York. While probably best known as a prolific Pop Crooner during the earlier part of his acting and musical career, we must not forget his stomping disco success of the early eighties, released under British-borne Satril Records. “Half The Day’s Gone, and We Haven’t Earne’d a Penny” was a milestone moment for British Disco. Produced by Kenny himself at Satril Studios, London 1983, this record still encompasses that organic late-70s disco sound, with true instrumentation and minimalist electronic synth elements. This is the album’s first ever repress since 1983 and has been remastered in high-definition from the original analogue tapes. Pressed on heavyweight 180g vinyl, this is one not to be missed. 

Robin Jones And His Quintet - Denga

Often affectionately referred to as the "Godfather of British Latin music" Robin Jones was truly one of the great performers on the international Latin scene. Denga, his first recording from 1971 is a scintillating fusion of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazillian rhythms laden with heavy Fender Rhodes sounds and no less than three Afro-Latin Percussionists. The hard-to-find album has now been reissued by legendary London jazz DJ Paul Murphy's Jazz Room Records imprint. It should be an essential purchase for anyone who loves Latin jazz. Feature's Robin's personal favorites including "Goodbye Batucada" which rightfully lays claim to be the first Brazilian Jazz Samba tune recorded in the UK and the Worldwide Sound standard setters "Denga" and "Africa Revisited".

Sunday, October 30, 2022

New Music Releases: Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias, Robohands, Jim Adkins, Amanda Whiting

Jane Ira Bloom & Mark Helias - See Our Way

The sax/ bass duo of soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias has deepened on their latest digital release See Our Way now available on Bandcamp on Radiolegs Records (RL023). Thirteen mind-bending improvised duets performed by two masterful jazz improvisers who know how to coax composition out of the air and then some. From breathtaking ballads like “Folks Sing” and “As Close As It Gets, to hard driving tempos like “Cut to the Chase” and “Hard Science,” to the space chasing adventures of “Laser Plane” and “Time Shear,” these musicians have no boundaries to their multi-dimensional creativity. The beauty and adventure of their acoustic sound together is mesmerizing from the start of each song. Their sound is both warm and electric with a depth that is hard to describe. The tracks were recorded from February 2021 through January 2022 and exquisitely mixed and mastered by Helias. Following on the heels of their critically acclaimed 2021 release Some Kind of Tomorrow, Bloom & Helias have brought their listeners ever deeper into their musical universe. Sound and silence are equal partners in their music so they have divided their setlist into three “Multiverses” for listeners to savor in short sections with space in between for breath and reflection. Listen in your own time and enjoy these duo tracks from two seasoned improvisors who love to play music by jumping off the high board. It’s magical, it’s exhilarating, and out of this world. Hear and See Our Way.

Robohands – Giallo 

Robohands, aka Andy Baxter, joins the Bastard Jazz family with a new EP titled “Giallo.” Partly inspired by Italian Giallo (meaning “yellow”) film soundtracks of the late 70s and 80s, as well as the experimental sounds of pioneering krautrock bands like Tangerine Dream and NEU! Armed with an old Juno 60 synthesizer, Andy wrote, recorded, and mixed all the parts himself, including the live drums, adding in multiple layers of effects. Spread across 8 tracks, “Giallo” spans atmospheric meditations (“Giallo;” “Claws;” “Relax”) to jazzy improvisational explorations (“Fear”), interwoven with brief solo instrumental tapestries (“Horror;” “Float By Like Clouds;” “For the Different”). There is an elegant cinematic quality to the EP, further refined by Robohands’ production prowess and technical chops. “Giallo” builds on the Robohands sound, taking it in an exciting, more experimental direction. “Giallo” is out on Jim 

Jim Adkins – Soul Expression

In a recent interview connected with the release of Jim Adkins’ latest album Soul Expresion, the versatile veteran guitarist said it all about his multi-faceted artistry when he talked about the inspiration for the title, “It all comes from within as an expression of my soul.” Nearly 25 years into his award-winning, regularly charting recording career, the Grammy nominated musician is still mixing up a non-stop, cool swirl of varying vibes and energies centered on his alternately crisp/crackling and sensually fluid lines. Complementing a batch of high-spirited originals with a bluesy, slow burning twist on an Ed Sheeran classic, Adkins brings his jazzy hipster magic to tracks that rock, jazz, immerse us in mystical romance and take us to balmy tropical climes. -

Amanda Whiting - Lost In Abstraction

Jazz harpist Amanda Whiting offers up a nicely changed-up sound here – on a record that begins with a lean trio approach, the adds in work from Chip Wickham on alto and flute on a few tracks too! There's a vibe to the record that's maybe more introspective than before, and very personal – as if Whiting is really figuring out what she can offer to the world of jazz on her instrument, taking up different territory than legends who've preceded her, like Alice Coltrane or Dorothy Ashby – as she works alongside spacious accompaniment from Aidan Thorne on bass and Jon Reynolds on drums. Percussionist Baldo Verdu joins the group on half the album's tracks too – and titles include "Venus Fly Trap", "Discarded", "Up There", "Where Would We Be", "Too Much", "Temptation", "Abstraction", "Lost", and "Suspended". ~  Dusty Groove

Franco Ambrosetti's Strings Album NORA To Be Released In Immersive Sound Format

In a career spanning six decades and nearly 40 albums as a leader or co-leader, revered Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti has finally realized his dream project. Anchored by a core of world-class musicians (guitarist John Scofield, bassist Scott Colley, pianist Uri Caine, drummer Peter Erskine) and featuring a 22-piece string orchestra conducted by Grammy-winning pianist-arranger Alan Broadbent, Ambrosetti’s Nora is his answer to Charlie Parker with Strings and Clifford Brown with Strings, both cherished albums from his youth.

New 3D sound technology will offer listeners a new sonic experience when they cue up Nora. As producer Jeff Levenson noted, “It’s felt, nuances and all. The effect had me sitting on the stage of Carnegie Hall, the musicians wrapped around me 270 degrees.” That immersive listening experience only heightens the depth of elegance and romance felt throughout Nora, which also harkens back to the lush Sinatra-Jenkins collaborations from yesterday, with Franco being cast as the crooner of choice, caressing each note with uncanny feeling coming through his flugelhorn. “When you’re in your 20s, you want to play as fast as you can and as high as you can, like Clifford,” said the 80-year-old Swiss jazz icon. “But somewhere after turning 50, then you concentrate on more important things and you try to say something with just a few notes, but the right ones, like Miles Davis did. Miles is the inspiration for every trumpet in their later age.”

Ambrosetti conveys rare passion behind every note he blows on Nora, delivering in typically elegant fashion on a program of romantic ballads and melodic gems. In this relaxed environment, it’s hard not to be caught up in the majestic sweep of Broadbent’s sumptuous strings or Franco’s golden-toned flugelhorn. Simple and direct yet brimming with romance, Nora casts the same kind of spell on listeners as Charlie Parker with Strings did on the young Swiss trumpeter when he first heard that pivotal album as a teenager. “My father had all of Bird’s records,” Franco said of his alto sax-playing father Flavio, a pioneering figure on the 1940s European jazz scene. “In fact, he was embraced by Parker at the 1949 Festival International de Jazz in Paris, the first time that bebop musicians played in Europe. My father was playing there in a quintet led by Swiss trumpeter Hazy Osterwald. They were in the official program. After the concert, all the musicians went to one of the nightclubs in Paris to jam and my father was on stage playing ‘Lover Man.’ Charlie Parker was sitting in the audience of the club and he stood up after my father played and went up embraced him and said, ‘Yeah. Good, man.’  I wish it would happen to me, right? Charlie Parker was the father of all of us.”

Rather than emulating Bird in full flight, Ambrosetti mines something more subdued and luxurious on Nora. From his stirring opener, “Nora’s Theme,” a composition he had originally written as the main theme for a 1997 theater production of Ibsen’s House of Dolls thathis wife Silli starred in, to the poignant closer, a faithful reading of John Coltrane’s sublime ballad, “After the Rain,” Franco channels a lifetime of expression into a few well-placed notes, while the strings provide gently affecting touches along the way. “When you have so much support from strings, I don’t think it’s wise to add too much,” he explained. “So you try to be essential, playing only the most important things that come into your mind. It’s what in German is called ‘speichern,’ or ‘saving notes,’ where you’re trying to do only what you feel in that very moment.”

George Gruntz’s romantic “Morning Song of a Spring Flower,” a tune that Ambrosetti played often as a member of the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band from 1972 to 1991, features the first contribution from guest guitarist John Scofield, who brings his highly expressive string-bending prowess to bear in subtle yet meaningful ways. On the Miles Davis’ classic, “All Blues,” Colley underscores the proceedings with the familiar Ron Carter bass line while the strings sound the familiar refrain. Franco plays the melody with tasty restraint before heading into a stellar solo that generates some sparks along the way. “The string ensemble gets a chance to shine on this number,” said Broadbent. “You have to be very careful writing jazz phrases for strings, but here I think they swing as hard as you can get.”

There’s a genuine sense of longing in Franco’s intimate flugelhorn cries on Victor Feldman’s “Falling in Love,” fueled by Broadbent’s tender string orchestration. Caine adds a delicate piano solo to the graceful proceedings. On a haunting rendition of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves,” underscored by Broadbent’s Gordon Jenkins-ish strings, Ambrosetti opens with muted flugelhorn before switching to open blowing and delivering this melancholy gem with a touch of class. His “Sweet Journey” is given a mellow treatment with lush strings along with some understated piano accompaniment and sparse soloing from Caine. Their interpretation of John Dankworth’s romantic “It Happens Quickly” unfolds softly and gently. Franco’s warm flugelhorn conveys a quiet sense of rapture as it blends with Broadbent’s luxurious, swirling strings. Scheduled for a Sept. 30th release on Enja Records, Nora may be the high-water mark in his illustrious career.

Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti has maintained an active career since debuting as a leader in 1965 with A Jazz Portrait of Franco Ambrosetti. Born on December 10, 1941 in Lugano, the son of a prominent bebop alto sax player on the European jazz scene, he studied classical piano from the age of nine, eventually picking up trumpet at age 17. In 1966, at age 24, he won a prestigious international jazz competition in Vienna directed by renowned pianist Friedrich Gulda. The following year, he played his first concert in the United States, performing with the Flavio Ambrosetti All-Stars at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival. He led his own groups through the ‘70s while also touring with the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, he performed throughout Europe while recording most of his projects in New York City with such esteemed sidemen as pianists Hal Galper, Tommy Flanagan, Geri Allen, Kenny Barron and Kenny Kirkland, saxophonists Phil Woods, Michael Brecker, Steve Coleman and Seamus Blake, bassists Dave Holland, Buster Williams and Michael Formanek, drummers Billy Hart, Victor Lewis and Billy Drummond. Over the past decade he has also recorded with saxophonist Greg Osby, guitarist John Scofield, pianist Uri Caine, bassist Scott Colley, drummers Jack DeJohnette, Terri Lyne Carrington and Peter Erskine and fellow trumpeter and longtime friend Randy Brecker. In 2018, Ambrosetti received the Swiss Jazz Award presented at the Jazz Ascona Festival in Switzerland in recognition of his life in music.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Sara Gazarak – Vanity

Vocalist Sara Gazarek announces the release of a new EP, Vanity, a postcard to her fans (old and new), her friends, and to her old self! We witnessed a rebirth and a revelation with her critically-acclaimed, double Grammy-nominated album, Thirsty Ghost, and one could have imagined that, with this artistic achievement, Gazarek had reached some sort of creative zenith . . . but there’s more . . .

Vanity serves as a “hello” from the road this artist has been travelling since the release of Thirsty Ghost; a journey of growth, exploration and lessons. Vanity gives us a Sara Gazarek with fear taken off the table, and replaced by truth, compassion, and an acknowledgement of the artist she has become over the last three years. An artist that definitely does not value beauty over expression, or value safety and consistency over communication and freedom. “I pushed myself to explore deeper and more sustainable tools in my instrument through weekly private voice lessons with master musician/vocalist and Somatic Voice Work instructor, Theo Bleckmann. I had the time and space to explore these investigations, musically and vocally, and this has fundamentally and forever changed my perspective and approach as a jazz musician and a singer,” said Gazarek.  

 On Vanity we have another first from Gazarek with her premiere original composition, “We Have Not Long To Love,” set to a poem by Tennessee Williams, with horns orchestrated by Alan Ferber. The song is, “meant to amplify the importance of taking every moment for the miracle that is,” said Gazarek. On her leap into composing, she added, “while reevaluating my artistic value systems I had to challenge the notion that risk-taking and ‘the pursuit of the truth over the perfect’ wasn’t in alignment with the old narrative that I didn’t have the skills to write a song. So I pushed myself to compose, thinking about colors and shapes, emotional textures and storytelling, much in the way that I do when I write a lyric. I wanted to capture the yin and yang of every day love and life, and the movement, modulations, and meditative repetition that can become more of an undercurrent than a miracle if we let it. And, while what resulted is by no means perfect, it is the truth – for me.” 

Sara Gazarek has never been an artist preoccupied with genre; she just loves good songs that ring true to her. Through her catalog, and in performance, we can hear her exploring songs that were written anywhere from last year, to the early part of the twentieth century, and everything in between. The collection of songs on Vanity follow suit, with material from a wildly diverse group of artists, including Sarah Vaughan, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Fiona Apple. The fairly obscure title track (arranged by Alan Ferber), originally covered by the great Sarah Vaughan, is a statement of what people likely view Gazarek’s persona to be, based on her past, vs the person and artist she has now become. Gazarek explains, “I’ve wanted to put a song to the shift that I’ve experienced over the last ten years, the space I’ve finally stepped into, and the need to document that in a way that showcases the unexpected and the unconventional.” Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine,” arranged by Geoff Keezer, with horn orchestrations by Alan Ferber, is utilized by Gazarek as a statement on women’s rights and how, “in the jazz community, fighting for equality has been an important journey for me and for my students,” states Gazarek. “Something Good” (from The Sound of Music), arranged by Stu Mindeman, is a deeply personal love letter to Gazarek’s mother. The artist explains, this song is, “typically associated with romantic love and dancing in a gazebo, but years ago, Julie Andrews agreed that she and my mother look alike, and I’ve wanted to sing a love song to my mother since her almost catastrophic car accident a few years ago (and I penned an extra verse just for her!).”   

Gazarek assembled an amazing group of artists to bring Vanity to life, including arrangers Geoff Keezer, Stu Mindeman and Alan Ferber, along with pianist Miro Sprague (Karrin Allyson, Dominique Eade), first call West Coast bassist Alex Boneham (Billy Childs, Eric Reed), drummer Christian Euman (Jacob Collier, Kurt Elling), guitarist Brad Alen Williams (Nate Smith, Brittany Howard), and the horn section of trumpeter Michael Stever (Steve Miller, Brian Culbertson), the aforementioned trombonist/arranger/orchestrator Alan Ferber (Paul Simon, Cynthia Erivo), alto saxophonist Lenard Simpson (Billy Childs, Kurt Elling), tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem (Herbie Hancock, Jeff Parker), and baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder (Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra). “They all have such command over their craft, and having Alan orchestrate for a larger ensemble brought things to another level. The experiences I wanted to capture are on a wider spectrum than Thirsty Ghost, so it only made sense to encapsulate that with a broader instrumentation. The band is comprised of deeply beloved, long-time friends and master musicians; but at the end of the day, I am grateful to have had their contributions in movement and air, and gifting me the space and opportunity to fly free, in return,” said Gazarek.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Ramsey Lewis | "The Beatles Songbook"

Ramsey Lewis Celebrates the Music of the Fab Four with Posthumous CD "The Beatles Songbook," His First Solo Piano Recording, Due Jan. 6

The late, legendary pianist Ramsey Lewis offers an intimate, familiar affair with his solo piano recording The Beatles Songbook: The Saturday Salon Series, Volume One, to be released January 6 on Steele Records. This selection of tunes by the iconic songwriting duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, approved for release by Lewis, is also a surprising DIY project, created during livestreamed sessions in Lewis’s own Chicago home.

Lewis, of course, is no stranger to covering of postwar pop music. He had a smash 1965 hit with his cover of Dobie Gray’s “The In Crowd,” which he followed up with a successful version of “Hang on Sloopy.” He has even assayed the Beatles’ catalog before, scoring a minor hit with “A Hard Day’s Night” and even releasing Mother Nature’s Son, an homage to the Beatles’ White Album, in 1968.

He was a latecomer, however, to unaccompanied piano performance. Until recent years, Lewis had almost never performed as a soloist. But the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to perform any other way, and during the lockdowns Lewis initiated a series of monthly webcasts called “The Saturday Salon.” Always an artist with a populist touch, Lewis included the Beatles’ songs in his webcasts because it was music that, like his own, had demonstrated universal appeal.

“They have a catalog of songs that can stand up as standards that are fun to play and fun to solo on,” he said. “Their music has been recorded by symphonies and orchestras, rock bands, jazz bands. I don’t know any other pop act whose music has been recorded across the board like this.”

Even with their exhaustive coverage, Lewis is able to unlock new secrets and breathe new life into the tunes. His “And I Love Her” explores the possibilities of both the song’s harmonies and its famous four-note riff. “Rocky Raccoon” gets a beautiful reharmonization. Lewis plays up the gospel roots of “Hey Jude,” and in the ballads “Blackbird” and “Golden Slumbers” he finds previously unknown reservoirs of the blues.

Lifted directly from the 2020 livestream audio, The Beatles Songbook sounds like the home recording it is. But that sound is a feature, not a bug: It amplifies the intimacy of the performance, as if we were hearing a message from a friend, and reminds us that to the end, Lewis was able to work in any circumstances and create great art.

Ramsey Lewis was born May 27, 1935 in Chicago. He began playing piano at the age of four, learning classical from teachers, gospel from the church, and jazz from his father’s record collection. Through Wells High School and into Chicago Musical College he intended to become a concert classical pianist, but fate intervened: While working at a record store, Lewis met bassist Eldee Young and drummer Red Holt, fellow jazz lovers who joined with him to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

In 1965, after a decade of working together both on bandstands and on Leonard and Phil Chess’s Argo Records, Lewis and the trio achieved a surprise top 10 pop hit with their version of “The In Crowd,” recorded live in Washington DC. The record made Lewis a star, which he compounded with subsequent hits “Hang on Sloopy,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Wade in the Water.” After the trio disbanded, Lewis carried on with new ensembles and continued pursuing pop-jazz success, surfacing on the pop charts again with members of Earth, Wind & Fire on 1974’s Sun Goddess. His popular success continued into the 1980s and ‘90s, when he formed the popular crossover group Urban Knights.

In the 21st century, Lewis became a revered elder statesman of jazz, finding a career renaissance as a composer, broadcaster, educator, and artistic director of the Ravinia Jazz Festival. Lewis was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters fellowship in 2007. He spent his final year working with journalist Aaron Cohen on his memoir, Gentleman of Jazz (to be published May 2023 by Blackstone Publishing,) before passing away at his Chicago home on September 12, 2022.

Chad Fowler, Zoh Amba, Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Steve Hirsh - Alien Skin

On the last afternoon of Arts for Arts’ iconic Vision Festival in 2021, I found myself standing next to pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Andrew Cyrille as William Parker’s closing group took the stage. Matthew and I were casually chatting as the stage filled with what would ultimately be the largest group of the festival that year.  The music started and the bandstand spouted fire from beneath as it lifted off toward the stars.  Every person in the venue floated in space together through almost an hour of spiritual, emotional, cathartic joy. It was music so raw and frenetic that, had I had a horn with me, It would have been difficult to fight the urge to join them uninvited.

Steve and I had already been planning a couple of studio dates later that year in Brooklyn at Jim Clouse’s Park West Studios.  After hearing this music, I wanted to recreate the feeling I got from listening to it.  The visceral experience.  Not the sound.  I can’t remember what it sounded like.  That wasn’t the point.  So as Steve and I started planning for our upcoming session, we set out to put together a group to generate that same kind of energy: The group: Zoh Amba (who had played on William’s Vision set), Ivo Perelman (who we asked at the last minute to come by for a day and he ended up on both days of the recording), Matthew Shipp, William, Steve, and me.

This was the first and probably last time this group of musicians will have ever come together in this configuration. As is our custom, we didn’t discuss much about what the music would be before Jim Clouse started recording. This record documents our second full day together, presented in order. From soulful balladry to demented rock music to an otherworldly march, the musical tension is palpable throughout. As is, I think, the pure joy of creation that animated our time together. - Chad Fowler

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Takuya Kuroda | ¨Midnight Crisp¨

Takuya Kuroda is a highly respected trumpeter and arranger born in Kobe, Japan and based in New York City. ’Midnight Crisp’ is Takuya’s seventh studio album, entirely self-produced and following 2020’s highly acclaimed ’Fly Moon Die Soon’, also released on UK label First Word (winner of the Worldwide Award’s Label of the Year in 2019). Consisting of six new tracks, this once again sees Takuya displaying his unique hybrid sound, blending soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion and hip hop.

After following the footsteps of his trombonist brother playing in big bands, he relocated to New York to study jazz & contemporary music at The New School in Union Square; a course he graduated from in the mid-noughties. It was here that Takuya met vocalist José James, with whom he worked on the 'Blackmagic' and 'No Beginning No End' projects. 

Following graduation, Takuya established himself further in the NYC jazz scene, performing with the likes of Akoya Afrobeat and in recent years with DJ Premier's BADDER band. Premier said "The BADDER Band project was put together by my manager, and an agent I've known since the beginning of my Gang Starr career. He said, 'What if you put a band together that revolved around a trumpet player from Japan named Takuya Kuroda? He's got a hip-hop perspective and respect in the jazz field…" 

Takuya Kuroda is already incredibly prolific, releasing six albums in the past decade and fortifying a solid reputation in the global jazz scene. 2011 saw the release of Takuya's independently-produced debut album, 'Edge', followed by 'Bitter and High' the following year and 'Six Aces' on P-Vine in 2013. Takuya was signed to the legendary Blue Note Records in 2014 for his album 'Rising Son', as well as appearing on their 2019 cover versions project, 'Blue Note Voyage'. He released his 5th album 'Zigzagger' on Concord in 2016, which also featured Antibalas on a reimagining of the Donald Byrd classic 'Think Twice'.

His last album was the afore-mentioned ‘Fly Moon Die Soon’ on First Word, which received plays and support from the likes of Pitchfork, Earmilk, Bandcamp Weekly, Worldwide FM, All About Jazz, Apple Music, Tidal, Stereogum, Treble, Brooklyn Vegan, FIP (France), Tony Minvielle, Jazz FM, Huey Morgan (BBC 6 Music), BBC Radio 3, Novena Carmel, KCRW and tons more DJs, tastemakers, selectors, radio stations, bloggers & magazines.

Dan Weiss Trio | "Dedication"

Drummer, composer and tabla player Dan Weiss has long been acclaimed as a startlingly original voice in modern jazz, stretching the music’s boundaries into the realms of contemporary classical, extreme metal, Indian music and progressive rock. But Weiss himself has never failed to acknowledge his wide-ranging influences and the jazz tradition in which his music remains rooted. Through his original music Weiss has often paid homage to his forebears and inspirations, whether adapting phrases from iconic jazz drummers into visionary new compositions on his 2016 large ensemble outing Sixteen or merging metal and new music influences through the lens of David Lynch’s disturbing surrealism with his bracing quintet Starebaby.

With his latest album, Dedication (due out November 11 via Cygnus Recordings), Weiss pays explicit homage to nine of his most vital inspirations, from musical and cinematic masters to loved ones and close collaborators. The album returns the drummer to his longstanding trio with pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Thomas Morgan. Dedication marks the trio’s fourth recording in 22 years together, and the breathtaking virtuosity and scintillating chemistry on display throughout the recording are testament to that longevity.

“I like to think of myself as someone who is coming out of the tradition but trying to push it forward,” Weiss explains. “So the piano trio is ideal because it’s such a traditional setting, but it allows for so much exploration and freedom. And when you share a long history like I have with Jacob and Thomas, you explore things together, you hit on things together, you try things out together, so the seeds of what we’re doing now were planted 20 years ago and have continued to develop since then. It feels natural to always come back to it.”

Sacks is not only a key voice on the album but one of its honorees. The alluringly jagged “For Jacob” builds upon the “angular yet melodic lines” that Weiss has engaged with since the two started playing together at college in 1995. In his liner notes, Weiss writes that Sacks’ playing is “deeply steeped in the tradition of the great jazz pianists from Teddy Wilson to Cecil Taylor,” and an era-defying blend of groove, melodicism and abstraction combine as in a vibrant collage in the raucous piece.

Even more personal are two dedications to close family members. The lovely “For Vivienne” was written for Weiss’s young daughter, six years old as of this September, while the stark and tender “For Grandma May” is an elegy for the composer’s beloved grandmother, who passed away in late 2021. Both pieces are heavily laden with deep emotion – “For Vivienne” the wonder and joy of experiencing life through a child’s experiences, “For Grandma May” the grace of a life well lived and the loving grief of loss – which Sacks and Morgan convey beautifully through their sterling musicianship and the trio’s decades-long relationship. An outlier among the honorifics is “For George Floyd,” a rare but imperative instance of social and political expression in Weiss’s music. The composer was as galvanized as many in this country by Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in May of 2020, and the piece movingly captures the tumult and rage that rippled through the already beleaguered population in its aftermath.

The remaining tunes are dedicated to singular artists who have helped shape Weiss’s voice and philosophy in some form. The propulsive “For Tim Smith” goes out to the late founder of the British post-punk band Cardiacs, who died in July 2020. The dedication came after the fact in this case, as Weiss realized that the song’s chord sequence, rife with major chords, could only be an unconscious influence from one of Weiss’s favorite bands. The deceptively simple “For Bacharach,” with its lyrical melody and pop ballad pulse, draws on songsmith Burt Bacharach’s sophisticated use of eccentric phrase structures in popular music. Weiss cites the single “Promises, Promises” (made famous by Dionne Warwick) and Painted From Memory, Bacharach’s magisterial collaboration with Elvis Costello, as particular touchstones.

The demanding “For Nancarrow” takes its rhythmic intricacy in part from composer Conlon Nancarrow’s staggeringly complex Studies for Player Piano, which, Weiss writes, “redefined the way I thought about metric modulation.” The drummer calls Elvin Jones “my favorite drummer,” adding the caveat “at present” as a nod to his own restless, ever-shifting imagination, in the notes to “For Elvin,” his ode to the iconic drummer of the classic John Coltrane Quartet. The challenging piece builds on an eight-measure phrase from Coltrane’s “One Up, One Down” as captured on Live at the Half Note.

“That phrase totally blew me away for a number of reasons,” Weiss recalls. “The architecture of the bass drum and the snare drum line is amazing and his choice of accents and spacing within the line are really special and unique to Elvin. In tabla music there’s a step in between single and double tempo which is called dergun, so I took that approach with Elvin's initial line and based everything around that.”

The influential Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is another favorite, and Weiss’s dedication is infused with the spirituality and atmosphere of films like Mirror and Solaris. “I was thinking about the spiritual aspect of his work and the serenity I feel when I watch his movies,” Weiss describes. “There’s so much tranquility and beauty in each shot of his films. There's nothing wasted, nothing superfluous. So in that spirit I tried to make each note count.”

That striving to place heart and soul into each and every drumbeat speaks to another meaning for the album’s title. Dedication is also a guiding principle for Weiss, who aims to commit fully to those things most important to him, whether family, personal growth or music. It’s a tenet that makes the music of Dedication so compelling and profound.

Two-time Shifting Foundation grantee Dan Weiss has been hailed as one of the top five drummers in jazz by The New York Times. His innovative drumming and forward-thinking compositions have been pushing musical limits for decades. Weiss's intense study of jazz, classical Indian, contemporary classical, West African, and metal sets a musical platform that creates a sound that transcends conventional style or genre. Weiss has studied tabla under Samir Chatterjee for 25 years. His trio with Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan released three previous records (Now Yes When, Timshel, and Utica Box) and he also leads a unique 16-piece large ensemble that features some of NYC’s most gifted musicians including Miguel Zenón and Jen Shyu. In 2021 Weiss and Miles Okazaki released a double album of their drum and guitar compositions on their own record label called Cygnus Recordings. Weiss’s latest project, Starebaby, blends metallic jazz, prog and post rock that melds deep sophistication with visceral impact. As a sideman, Weiss has played/toured with Lee Konitz, Chris Potter, Sylvie Courvoisier, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Linda May Han Oh, John Zorn, and many others.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Manhattan Transfer | "Fifty"

Collectively 10-time GRAMMY® Award-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new studio album, aptly titled Fifty. The set was physically released October 21, via Craft Recordings. The group recently embarked on their final global tour, celebrating their legacy and the new album. The cross-continental run includes a special performance on November 3 in Los Angeles at the GRAMMY® Museum as well as additional stops across the US, Europe, UK, Japan and Australasia, with dates continuing through 2023. An initial list of shows can be found here, with more dates to be announced shortly.

The album's 10-track set finds the best-selling act partnering with Germany's renowned WDR Funkhausorchester Köln (WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne), plus symphony arrangers including GRAMMY® Award winners Jorge Calandreli and Vince Mendoza, as well as vocal arrangers including Amanda Taylor of säje, to revisit their biggest hits from throughout the decades. In addition to new arrangements of "Chanson D'Amour," "Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone" and "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul," Fifty features two timeless classics: George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" (recorded for the first time by the group) and The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," which can be viewed here. Rounding out the album are brand-new liner notes from co-founder Alan Paul, who reflects on The Manhattan Transfer's enduring career and matchless accomplishments.

"After FIFTY years of creating and singing harmony, we would like to celebrate with our upcoming release—aptly named FIFTY—and acknowledge all the joy you have brought us on our musical journey as we begin our 50th Anniversary & Final World Tour. We look forward to seeing you!"

Stanley Clarke, Stewart Copeland, and Deborah Holland Reunite as Animal Logic After 31 Years

In 1987, legendary jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland, and singer-songwriter Deborah Holland surprised the world when they emerged as Animal Logic. Was it going to be a jazz-rock or punk-pop project? It turned out to be neither. Instead, they released two albums, 1989’s “Animal Logic” and 1991’s “Animal Logic II,” focused on smart, confident pop, deep grooves, and Holland’s soaring vocals.

The group was inextricably linked to Copeland’s Police history, having originally signed to his brother and Police manager Miles Copeland’s revered I.R.S. Records. In fact, Animal Logic’s first album cover was originally conceived for a Police greatest hits album.

The debut record resulted in a hit single in the US, Canada, and UK titled “Spy in the House of Love.” Further key singles included “As Soon As the Sun Goes Down” and “Rose Colored Glasses.” The group went on a single world tour in 1989, in addition to performing on Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show, and on MTV.

The group broke up shortly after the release of “Animal Logic II” due to Clarke and Copeland’s prolific soundtrack and solo work commitments. Copeland and Clarke would also go on to reform their most famous groups, with Police and Return to Forever reunions in subsequent years. Holland transitioned into a successful solo career, resulting in six solo albums, including 2020’s “Fine, Thank You!” which featured Copeland on four tracks.

All three stayed in touch across the decades. The trio first rekindled their working relationship in 2013 when they joined forces to perform as part of Copeland’s Sacred Grove YouTube series.

Between 2013 and 2022, the band shared ideas and files, resulting in the two new tracks, “Can You Tell Me” and “Ordinary,” which capture the quintessential, timeless Animal Logic approach.

“Can You Tell Me” combines classic West Coast songwriting, American folk-rock influences, and Clarke and Copeland’s rhythmic signatures. It explores the need for people to move on instead of wallowing in misery when faced with untenable circumstances. The track also features Howard Levy on harmonica, from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

“Ordinary” is a kinetic, upbeat rocker with lyrics focusing on the myriad upheavals the world is facing and trying to keep one’s head together despite it all. It includes sophisticated vocal harmonies, addictive hooks, and would have been very much at home on Animal Logic’s debut record.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club Features NEA Jazz Master & Legendary Saxophonist, Composer & Bandleader CHARLES LLOYD and his Acclaimed Trio on Thursday November 10

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club Features NEA Jazz Master & Legendary Saxophonist, Composer & Bandleader Charles Lloyd and his Acclaimed Trio on Thursday November 10 at 7:30 P.M. Charles Lloyd is the 2021 Downbeat Critic's Poll "Saxophonist of the Year" and his group won the 2021 Downbeat Critic's Poll "Jazz Group of the Year."

NEA Jazz Master & Legendary Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, now in his eighth decade, has never sounded better. The depth of his sound reflects a lifetime of experience. His concerts and recordings are events of pristine beauty and elegance, full of intensely felt emotion and passion that touches deep inside the heart. This is not entertainment, but the powerful uncorrupted expression of beauty through music.

Charles Lloyd was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 15, 1938 and was given his first saxophone at the age of 9. He was riveted to 1940's radio broadcasts by Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. As a teenager Lloyd played jazz with saxophonist George Coleman and was a sideman for blues greats Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King.

Classical music also exerted a strong pull on the young Lloyd. In 1956 he left Memphis for Los Angeles to earn a degree in music at USC where he studied with Halsey Stevens, a foremost Bartok authority. While his days were spent in academia, Lloyd spent nights getting educated on the job in L.A.'s jazz clubs, playing with Ornette Coleman, Billy Higgins, Scott La Faro, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and other leading west coast jazz artists. He also was a member of the Gerald Wilson big band.

In 1960, Lloyd was invited to become music director of Chico Hamilton's group when Dolphy left to join Charles Mingus's band. The Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo and bassist Albert "Sparky" Stinson soon joined Lloyd in the band. Lloyd joined the Cannonball Adderley Sextet in 1964, and performed alongside Nat Adderley, Joe Zawinul, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes.

In 1964, Lloyd signed with CBS Records and began to record as a leader. His Columbia recordings, 'Discovery' (1964), and 'Of Course, Of Course' (1965), featured sidemen including Roy Haynes and Tony Williams on drums, Richard Davis and Ron Carter on bass, Gabor Szabo on guitar and Don Friedman on piano, and led to his being voted Downbeat Magazine's "New Star."

In 1965, Lloyd formed his own quartet, a brilliant ensemble that introduced the jazz world to the talents of pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee. Their first release together was a studio recording, 'Dream Weaver', followed by 'Forest Flower: Live at Monterey' (1966). 'Forest Flower' made history as one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies, and the album's firsts continued as it became a stunning crossover success that appealed to popular mass market audiences and gained heavy airplay on FM radio.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet was the first jazz group to appear at the famed Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and other rock palaces and shared billing with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Cream, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. In 1967, Charles Lloyd was voted "Jazz Artist of the Year" by Downbeat Magazine, and the Quartet was invited to tour the world.

At the height of his career in 1970, Lloyd disbanded the quartet and dropped from sight, withdrawing to pursue an inner journey in Big Sur, the wild haven that had previously attracted other artists and seekers including Robinson Jeffers, Langston Hughes, Henry Miller, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Jean Varda and Jamie DeAngulo. Despite recording several albums during the 1970s and occasionally appearing as a sideman with various rock groups, he practically disappeared from the jazz scene. During the 1970s Lloyd played extensively with The Beach Boys both on their studio recordings and as a member of their touring band.

It wasn't until 1981 that Lloyd moved to break a decade of silence in the jazz world when a remarkable 18-year-old French pianist, Michel Petrucciani, arrived in Big Sur. Lloyd was compelled to help introduce this gifted artist to the world. This led to U.S., European and Japanese tours in 1982 and 1983 with Petrucciani on piano, Palle Danielsson on bass and drummer Son Ship Theus. British jazz critic Brian Case called Lloyd's return "one of the events of the 1980s."

Lloyd made his first recording for ECM Records, 'Fish Out of Water' in 1989. More than thirty years later he is still with the label, and still in search of the "sound" and the truth. From 1989, Lloyd toured actively and recorded for the ECM label. Noteworthy albums include 'Canto', 'Voice In The Night', 'The Water Is Wide', featuring Brad Mehldau, John Abercrombie, Larry Grenadier and Billy Higgins, 'Lift Every Voice', (featuring Geri Allen), and the live 'Rabo de Nube' with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland. 'Rabo de Nube', captured "live" at its inception, was voted #1 recording for the 2008 Jazz Times Reader's and Critic's Poll. 'Mirror' (2010) has already been called a "Charles Lloyd classic."

At 84, Lloyd remains a vital and creative force in the world of music and arts.

New Music Releases: Webster Lewis, Lee Fields, The Shapeshifters, Sun Ra Arkestra

Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion – The Epic Anthology 1976-1981

For the first time on CD and LP, an anthology celebrating the work of composer, arranger, producer and pianist Webster Lewis from his time at Epic Records. The era of 1976-1981 is one of polished, luxurious jazz funk and soul, defined by Webster across his four albums at Epic supported by an array of guest musicians, lush string sections and often uncredited singers. This collection contains the artist’s signature tracks “Barbara Ann”, “Give Me Some Emotion”, “El Bobo” and recently uncovered gems from the vaults “Reach Out”, “Boston” and “Japanese Umbrella”. The CD features an exclusive essay written by Will Fox with unique insights from the legendary DJ Patrick Forge. The recently discovered recordings appear on vinyl for the first time on the LP edition.

Lee Fields – Sentimental Fool 

In early 2022, Lee reunited with Daptone Records and producer Gabriel Roth to record Sentimental Fool, a deep, blues-tinged, wholly-conceived soul album. From his first line to his final plaintive lyric, the beauty, power, and raw humanity of Leeʼs voice is on full display here; the culmination of an astounding career that has seemed to defy gravity, rising to only greater and greater heights. It was ever since the 1960’s, when he was a teenager in North Carolina sweating it out on juke joint stages, crumpled dollars hailing at his feet. It continues now that the living legend is in his late sixties, ushering in the most successful and fruitful period of his career. Like any living legend worth their salt, Fields has suffered despair, obscurity, defeat. Although he now tours stages around the world, and although he helped fellow soul legends like Sharon Jones (who was once Fields’ backup singer) and Charles Bradley (whom Fields took on his first tour) get their first break, he did not always have this position. There were years—they were known as “the 1980’s”—when Fields nearly gave up. His success these days, then has a bittersweet tinge: His dear friends Bradley and Jones have both passed, leaving Fields to outlive them and carry their legacy forth. With all these years, and all this life, comes a sort of divine wisdom, and Fields has it in spades. “I am a sinner, just like everybody else,” he says gravely. He is no “holier—than—thou guy,” he adds. He just believes in people’s ability to love and be loved, and he understands that music is the divine bridge to these places.

The Shapeshifters – Let Loose

From an aspiring b-boy to working with luminaries Billy Porter, Joss Stone, Kimberly Davis and Teni Tinks, The Shapeshifters, Simon Marlin announces the release of his brand-new studio album “Let Loose”. Wrapped in a defining optimistic mood and colourful palette, “Let Loose” plays with the friction between musical persona and influence, delivering a masterclass in Simon’s flourishing depth of integrity as a producer and admiration to those that exert their enduring influence upon him. “I’m a facilitator of talent. I’m blessed that over the years I’ve managed to put a team of people together – as a producer, that’s what I do, very much in the old school sense like a Quincy Jones or Gamble & Huff, they’re the guys I try to emulate – and make something magic out of nothing, but do it in a contemporary way. That’s what really floats my boat, and that’s what this whole project is about.” Simon Marlin – The Shapeshifters. Across the latest and long-awaited studio album “Let Loose” The Shapeshifters pledge rhythmic allegiance to the golden era disco records and their spellbinding qualities; embracing the tension often found between tradition and future to craft a euphoric, certifiable body of work presented to the devoted audience he deserves. The Shapeshifters exemplify a scene in rude health one that is now switching on an ever-younger fan base, and with Marlin being the beating heart of it it’s easy to see why The Shapeshifters are more in demand in the clubs than ever. The twelve-track album is illuminated with vocal collaborations including the recently released and debut collaboration with the Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning Billy Porter. Layers of rushing strings, flares of brass and hedonistic grooves provide refreshing dancefloor power dynamics and deliver a liberating, triumphant and inherently uplifting record. Taking an impeccably smooth course through disco-infused house, The Shapeshifters continue the rich relationship with Glitterbox and its record label; one that has yielded instant classics that epitomise the label’s ethos for preserving disco’s mission to uplift and empower.

Sun Ra Arkestra - Living Sky 

Really fantastic work from the continuing version of Sun Ra's Arkestra led by Marshall Allen – and an album of rich sophistication that definitely shows the mature version of the group really finding their own sense of voice and spirit! There's a laidback take to the music that partly recalls some of the modes that the Arkestra had in their earlier days, when they were exploring some exotica currents mixed with more avant jazz inclinations – although the expression of the sound here is more focused and majestic, with slight string touches blending in with instrumentation of a more jazz-based mode – handled by Marshall Allen on alto and kora, Knoel Scott on tenor and baritone, Michael Ray and Cecil Brooks on trumpets, Dave Davis on trombone, Farid Barron on piano, Dave Hotep on guitar, and Tara Middleton on some mighty nice flute and violin. There's a richness to the sound that comes from all the other players involved in the proceedings – and titles include "Day Of The Living Sky", "Firefly", "Wish Upon A Star", "Chopin", "Marshall's Groove", and "Somebody Else's Idea". ~ Dusty Groove

Monday, October 24, 2022

New Music Releases: Grachan Moncur III, Andrew Hill, Harold Vick, Bobby Hutcherson

Grachan Moncur III - Evolution LP (Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series)

Though he first appeared on Herbie Hancock’s 1963 album My Point of View, trombonist Grachan Moncur III’s first true Blue Note introduction would come on two albums by saxophonist Jackie McLean that were recorded later that year: One Step Beyond and Destination… Out! These two great inside-out sessions presented a spacious new sound that moved fluidly between avant-garde and post-bop territory with McLean featuring Moncur’s singular compositions. Several months later Moncur returned to Van Gelder Studio to record his own remarkable debut album Evolution, which remains a marvel of the Blue Note catalog. For the date the trombonist assembled an exceptional ensemble that returned several musicians including McLean, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, and drummer Tony Williams, with the addition of Lee Morgan on trumpet and Bob Cranshaw on bass. The band delivers dynamic performances of four expansive original pieces by Moncur: “Air Raid,” “Evolution,” “The Coaster,” and “Monk In Wonderland.” This Blue Note Classic Vinyl Edition is stereo, all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal.

Andrew Hill - Point of Departure LP (Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series)

In Andrew Hill, Alfred Lion believed he had found another pianist and composer who had as unique and important a voice as Thelonious Monk. Hill debuted on Blue Note in 1963 with a staggering burst of creativity that produced four classic albums—Black Fire, Smoke Stack, Judgment!, and his masterpiece Point of Departure—over a period of just five months. Recorded in March 1964, Point of Departure expanded Hill’s palette with a 6-piece ensemble of diverse players that included the remarkable frontline of Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, and Kenny Dorham on trumpet, along with Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums. The robust sextet delivered thrilling performances of Hill’s extraordinary compositions including “Refuge,” “New Monastery,” “Flight 19,” and “Dedication.” This Blue Note Classic Vinyl Edition is stereo, all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal.

Harold Vick - Steppin' Out (Blue Note Tone Poet Series)

Tenor saxophonist Harold Vick was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and played with R&B bands coming up before working as a sideman with soul jazz organ greats including Jack McDuff and Big John Patton. Vick made his first Blue Note appearance in April 1963 on Patton’s Along Came John, and a month later Alfred Lion brought the saxophonist back into the studio to record his own debut as a leader, the underrated soul jazz gem Steppin’ Out. For the session Vick assembled the same band with Patton on organ, Grant Green on guitar, Ben Dixon on drums, and added Blue Mitchell on trumpet. The record finds its groove from the very first soul drenched notes of the opener “Our Miss Brooks” and stays firmly in the pocket throughout this 6-song set including the hard-charging “Trimmed In Blue,” a deeply felt rendition of the ballad “Laura,” the swaggering minor blues “Vicksville,” and the buoyant title track which closes the album. 

Bobby Hutcherson - Stick Up (Blue Note Tone Poet Series)

Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson had a profound influence over the sound of Blue Note Records in the 1960s, with his distinctive vibes elevating a wide range of all-time classics from Grant Green Idle Moments to Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch. His fifth Blue Note session as a leader, 1966’s album Stick-Up! found Hutcherson in the company of a new band line-up with Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Herbie Lewis on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. The versatile quintet covers a vast expanse of post-bop territory on this excellent six-song set which opens with a spirited romp through Ornette Coleman’s “Una Muy Bonita.” Five Hutcherson originals follow including the hard driving “8/4 Beat,” the dreamy ballad “Summer Nights,” and the expansive “Verse.”


Here It Is: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen

“Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” says producer Larry Klein. “He was possibly the wisest and funniest friend that I had, and someone that I enjoyed, immensely, in every way. After he passed away, I found myself frequently covering his songs with other artists that I was working with. One reason, of course, is that the songs are so good—in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever—but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”

So Klein decided to assemble an album’s worth of Cohen songs, matching an extraordinary line-up of guest vocalists from different genres with an equally impressive group of jazz-based musicians—or, as he puts it, “a group of the most prescient and forward-looking musicians in the jazz world.” The resulting collection, Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, is ultimately reminiscent of the concept that guided his production of Herbie Hancock’s 2007 album River: The Joni Letters, which won the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year (and on which one of the featured singers was, in fact, Leonard Cohen).

Bringing in artists such as Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Gregory Porter, Sarah McLachlan, Luciana Souza, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, Mavis Staples, David Gray, and Nathaniel Rateli­ff to collaborate with the core band— guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Nate Smith with additional contributions from Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar and Larry Goldings on organ—Klein set out to create a more “conversational” musical setting for Cohen’s lyrics. “What I was endeavoring to do was to not get in the way of the poetry,” he says, “because that was something that bothered Leonard about a lot of the covers that were done of his music, and even with his own versions of the songs. So I was approaching it with the musicians in a way that hopefully served as more of an underscore, more cinematically, and not something that would obscure or in any way take attention away from the poems.”

The album’s 12 tracks offer a stunning range of Cohen’s compositions, with songs drawn from his beloved 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen (“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”) all the way up to selections from his final album, You Want It Darker, released just days before his death in 2016. The set covers some of his best-known classics (“Suzanne,” “Famous Blue Raincoat”) and less familiar deep cuts, all given new life through thoughtful and unexpected arrangements and performances. To add to the challenge, the album was recorded during lockdown, with voices laid down in studios from England to Chicago, Canada to Miami.

The ambitious project is just the latest achievement in Klein’s remarkable career. The producer/musician/songwriter/composer is a four-time GRAMMY winner and ten-time nominee. He has produced albums including Turbulent Indigo by Joni Mitchell and Tracy Chapman’s Our Bright Future; played bass with greats from Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter to Don Henley and Lindsay Buckingham, and written songs with such giants as Warren Zevon and Bonnie Raitt.

In assembling the line-up for Here It Is, Klein went to some singers with song suggestions, while others offered ideas of their own. “One of the most important things in the process is to find songs that the singers are passionately attached to,” he says. He points to Gabriel’s performance of the album’s title track—a relatively obscure selection from Cohen’s 2001 Ten New Songs album—as an especially satisfying combination.

“When I sent the song to him, he just glommed on to it,” says Klein, noting that Gabriel is someone with whom he has toured and recorded. “We immediately agreed that the approach would need to be very, very restrained, and what he did with it vocally was exactly what I had thought would suit interpreting the song—singing it as softly as humanly possible, almost like he’s speaking it into the listener’s ear.”

Of course, though the primary intent was to serve Cohen’s magnificent lyrics, Klein’s take on the material also inevitably highlights the songwriter’s often overlooked musicality. (“When people talk about Leonard,” Bob Dylan once said, “they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius.”)

“I always loved the simplicity of his musical approach,” Klein says. “The songs were in a way naive, or at least they gave the sense of a naivety. Leonard had a great sense of humor, and at times, his way of approaching his songs had a certain kind of perverse humor to it. I felt like there was some territory to be explored by looking at the songs through a looking glass, with that kind of skewed and almost humorous aspect to it.”

The melodic power of Cohen’s work comes out most strikingly in two instrumental recordings on Here It Is—“Avalanche,” led by Wilkins, and “Bird on the Wire,” featuring Frisell. “I love the intensity in the way ‘Avalanche’ turned out,” says Klein. “The lack of virtuosic jazz musicianship suited the lyric and puts it across in a way that feels appropriate. ‘Bird on the Wire’ felt like something that had to be on the record, and I had considered a number of different ideas, but nothing came together that felt right. Bill has such a beautiful, understated lyricism to his playing that just having him interpret that simple melody would be something touching. I feel like we got at something special with that.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the hardest song for Klein to cast was “Hallelujah,” Cohen’s best-known composition, which has become nothing less than a global anthem—its story was even the subject of both a recent book and a documentary. What’s left to do with a modern standard that has been recorded for hundreds of different renditions? “I thought about having a poet reciting above a track or in combination with one other instrument or something,” says Klein. “But in talking to Sarah McLachlan, I just sensed something. There was a passion there and a hunger to sing the song. She sang it as if her life depended on it, and there’s an elegant commitment to the song that that I think is lacking in a lot of the versions that I’ve heard.”

Klein didn’t always speak to the album’s contributors about what exactly Leonard Cohen meant to them, but he felt their reverence for this master of his form. “I think they all share my feeling that in the realm that Leonard was working in, he was the man, he was the guy, and that he got at something that was so powerful and elegantly ironic,” he says. “I got a sense of profound kindred respect and admiration from all of them.

“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” he continues. “I hope that this musical language that we developed together, the context that we put these things in, makes the songs connect with people in a new way.” ~ Blue Note

Sunday, October 23, 2022


Norah Jones has released I Dream Of Christmas (Deluxe), a newly expanded 24-track edition of the singer, songwriter, and pianist’s beloved 2021 holiday album, a delightful and comforting collection of timeless seasonal favorites and affecting originals. The Deluxe edition features 11 additional songs including bonus tracks and live performances, as well as a brand-new studio recording of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I Dream Of Christmas (Deluxe) is out now on 2-LP black, gold, or red vinyl, CD, and digital formats.

“When I was trying to figure out which direction to take, the original songs started popping in my head,” Norah explained. “They were all about trying to find the joys of Christmas, catching that spark, that feeling of love and inclusion that I was longing for during the rest of the year. Then there are all the classics that have that special nostalgia that can hit you no matter who or where you are in life. It was hard to narrow down, but I picked favorite classics that I knew I could make my own.”

The album’s release last year found Norah performing songs including her original “Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones),” the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” everywhere from Rockefeller Center to the White House and Disneyland to the top of the Empire State Building. In fact, five of the additional tracks included on the Deluxe edition were taken from that remarkable live performance atop the iconic New York City skyscraper where Norah was joined by bassist Gus Seyffert, drummer Brian Blade, and vocalist Sasha Dobson.

The original studio album was produced by Leon Michels and features an excellent cast of musicians including Blade on drums, Tony Scherr and Nick Movshon on bass, Russ Pahl on pedal steel guitar, Marika Hughes on cello, Dave Guy on trumpet, Raymond Mason on trombone, and Michels on saxophone, flute, percussion, and more.

The track listing for I Dream Of Christmas (Deluxe) is as follows:

  • Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)
  • Christmas Don’t Be Late
  • Christmas Glow
  • White Christmas
  • Christmastime
  • Blue Christmas
  • It’s Only Christmas Once A Year
  • You’re Not Alone
  • Winter Wonderland
  • A Holiday With You
  • Run Rudolph Run
  • Christmas Time Is Here
  • What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  • Last Month Of the Year
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • The Christmas Waltz
  • O Holy Night
  • I Dream Of Christmas
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Christmas in My Soul / Christmastime (Live From The Empire State Building)
  • Run Rudolph Run (Live From The Empire State Building)
  • Blue Christmas (Live From The Empire State Building)
  • You’re Not Alone (Live From The Empire State Building)
  • Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones) (Live From The Empire State Building)
~ Blue Note


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