Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Southern Avenue | "That's All"

Memphis-based GRAMMY nominee Southern Avenue have released their rendition of the 1983 Genesis classic, “That’s All.” The now 6-piece blues-soul act lays out their funky, groovy imprint of the track that will be come out via Color Red, record label and music platform founded by Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds. The group will be celebrating the release with a performance at Salvage Station in Asheville, North Carolina on the day of its release on 11/11.

While on tour in the UK, Israeli-born guitarist, Ori Naftaly played his bandmates some of his favorite music from UK-based artists that he grew up on. He went deep playing the first three Genesis albums back-to-back and the band went further down the rabbit hole by watching a documentary on the group. Vocalist Tierinii Jackson had always been a fan of Phil Collins and when it came time for the band to vet songs to cover, Nalfaty suggested an 80s-era Genesis hit. Southern Avenue takes the already groovy pop-rock song and gives it a soulful spin with controlled command in the studio that translates into an electrifying banger at live shows driven by luscious vocal harmonies and vintage organ and guitar tones.

Honoring the southern soul legacy with a 21st-century sensibility, the band shows no signs of slowing down after their 2020 GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. The group maintains an active tour schedule around the globe, earning slots at coveted festivals including Bonaroo and Austin City Limits, and supporting prominent acts such as Sheryl Crow, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jason Mraz, Los Lobos, JJ Grey & Mofro, and more.

The band will close out 2022 with a four-show run in The Netherlands in early December which culminates with a headlining performance at the Basel Blues Festival in Switzerland on December 20th. Southern Avenue will return to the US with a pair of New Years weekend shows in Colorado at Schmiggity’s (Steamboat Springs) on December 29th and Center for the Arts Crested Butte on December 31st (a themed event, dubbed “A Funkified Formal Affair”). Southern Avenue has already announced several major international events in 2023 including the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and the Bluesfest Byron Bay (Australia).

Memphis-based, GRAMMY®-nominated Southern Avenue inked their first record deal with legendary Stax Records in 2016. The first Memphis band signed to Stax in over 40 years, their self-titled debut was an immediate phenomenon, reaching #1 on iTunes’ “Top Blues Albums” chart before being honored with the 2018 Blues Music Award for “Best Emerging Artist Album.” 2019’s KEEP ON proved an even greater success, debuting among the top 5 on Billboard’s “Top Blues Albums” chart amidst worldwide critical acclaim, ultimately earning Southern Avenue their first GRAMMY® Award nomination, for “Best Contemporary Blues Album”.  Southern Avenue’s 2021 full-length LP, Be The Love You Want, was released on Renew Records/BMG. Produced by Multi-GRAMMY® winner Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Susan Tedeschi, Deer Tick), American Songwriter called it “A potent soul force!” and No Depression proclaimed it’s “one of the most listenable, and danceable, records of the year.” 

In addition to the early success that the band has had with their recordings, they have also found a home on the road. The band has performed in 15 countries on three continents and averages over 150 shows in a typical year, making the group one of the most sought-after live performance experiences.  Their high-energy shows have captivated audiences around the globe, making this eclectic group a must-see at venues and festivals alike. 


New Music Releases: RJ Leblanc, Dan McCarthy, Saku Mantere, Eva Cassidy

RJ LeBlanc – Heyday

Bassist RJ LeBlanc has been a fixture of the Montreal jazz scene for 15 years, and is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon. In fact, he’s more active than ever, working with a wide variety of artists in a number of different styles, including the free jazz of Jean-Michel Pilc, the polished smooth jazz of Carol Welsman, and extensive work on the road with iconic Montreal rock bands like The Dears. Since 2005, LeBlanc has played on over 50 studio recordings, and has toured throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. A dedicated educator, LeBlanc is currently on faculty at McGill University. Heyday – LeBlanc’s 4th album as a leader – is his most ambitious project yet. The album represents a tapestry of the influences that have shaped his compositional process and improvisational style, from Nirvana to Caetano Veloso, and from Skrillex to Weather Report, with modern jazz as the underlying thread throughout. The eight songs featured on this album are a study in contrasts: Childlike and Into the Sun are reminiscent of the 90’s rock LeBlanc was raised on, while Saturnales is an ode to Weather Report co-leader Joe Zawinul; Casa Perdida and Heyday are features for vocalist Erika Angell, who brings to these pieces a vocal quality reminiscent of the great Patti Smith; Flamme and EZ Drummer are groove-based pieces that hint at R&B and dubstep; Chanson pour Marguerite is directly inspired by the ballad artistry of Paul Simon. 

Dan McCarthy’s Songs of the Doomed: Some Jaded Atavistic Freakout

Dan McCarthy’s Songs of the Doomed: Some Jaded, Atavistic Freakout is an album of music inspired by the writing of political journalist and general dingbat Hunter S. Thompson. A lot of the jangled madness that makes up this band’s repertoire comes from a new compositional style created specifically for this band called the ‘Gonzo Cypher’. The cypher allows you to take a word, phrase, or even paragraph of Hunter’s writing, submit it to the cypher, and what you are left with is a weird and likely obnoxious ‘tone row’, which is then used to compose the music – serial music rules apply. The sound of the band is inspired by the Gary Burton Quintet from the 1970s on ECM Records, which was weird in its own right. It featured Burton on vibes, along with two guitarists (Metheny and Goodrick), bass (Steve Swallow), and drums (Bob Moses). This mess of chordal instruments allows for the creation of thick tapestries of sound, and also allows the band to get weird and intense, not unlike The Grateful Dead or Jimi Hendrix. Perhaps Songs of the Doomed will achieve fame equal to those artists...Or maybe not. But, the uniqueness of this project leads me to believe that audiences everywhere will clammer for more. To quote the Canadian jazz legend Don Thomspon: “(Songs of the Doomed) is killing on every level… I think you’re really onto something. It’s not like anything I’ve heard before.” So grab a pint of whiskey, settle in, and let the vibes (no pun intended) wash over you. Once the initial waves of fear and loathing pass, you’ll probably really dig it. 

Saku Mantere – Upon First Impression

Upon First Impression is Finnish born, Montreal based vocalist Saku Mantere’s debut album. The music was composed and recorded in both Finland and Canada with a cast of some of the finest musicians from both countries. A masterful work about heartbreak and a life divided between two places, it’s an album that needed time for the fermentation process to mature. Through this difficult, split reality, Mantere surrounded himself with dedicated collaborators that held his vision and worked together as a tight-knit family to create a unified, inspired work. The path to making this album has been curvy, laced with unexpected turns and hidden side-roads. In a world that idolizes speed and immediate satisfaction, Mantere moves at his own pace with care and attention to detail. This album benefits greatly from repeated listening and a deep-dive into the lyrical and musical riches it holds. Mantere’s heart – perfectly imperfect – pulses through every note, every word and every sound on this album. He has managed to transform (as many great artists have done before him) a broken love into a work of art, carefully crafted, well thought-out, vibrating with authenticity and vulnerability.

Eva Cassidy & The London Symphony Orchestra - Songbird

Eva Cassidy’s classic Songbird has been given a stunning, spine-tingling makeover. As achingly intimate as the original, now with widescreen grandeur courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra, the new version offers a fresh take on a song adored around the world. Originally released in 1998, two years after Eva’s tragic death at the age of just 33, the title track from her six-million-selling breakthrough album boasts new arrangements by the classical composer Christopher Willis (The Twilight Saga, X-Men, The Death of Stalin) and vocals beautifully restored and enhanced using newly available A.I. technology (similar processes to those used in last year’s ground-breaking The Beatles: Get Back film and recent Revolver album reissue). The London Symphony Orchestra’s stately, immersive accompaniment elevates a song which became an instant Christmas staple when it appeared in the Richard Curtis blockbuster Love Actually in 2003 to spectacular new heights. Incredibly, Eva sounds as present and hypnotic within the sweeping orchestration as she did on her original acoustic take on the Fleetwood Mac favourite which she made entirely her own. “The wonderful, resonant truth about this song is that Eva is the Songbird, singing naturally from the heart – no ego,” says Christopher Willis. “The goal with the orchestral version was to complement her pure vocal essence with a simple, yet broader instrumental arrangement – a lush musical landscape with Eva's voice at the centre.” Songbird serves as the lead single from I Can Only Be Me, Eva’s landmark new collaborative album with the London Symphony Orchestra, which will be released in February on what would have been the singer’s 60th birthday. It is the latest chapter in a remarkable, posthumous career that has turned Eva into a household name with sales of more than twelve million albums, a plethora of famous fans including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Adele and Songbird’s writer Christine McVie and seen her songs feature in countless films and TV shows.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Matt Cooper | "A New Beginning"

Matt Cooper, recording again as Outside, makes a surprise return following a 20-year creative hiatus to release stunningly beautiful four-track EP ‘A New Beginning’, which comes out today on Dorado Records.

Studio mastermind and prodigiously gifted multi-instrumentalist, writer and arranger Matt Cooper, aka Outside, has been a creative powerhouse from the time he founded Outside in 1993, to now where he has been Musical Director of Incognito and collaborated on the STR4TA project with Incognito’s Bluey and Gilles Peterson as co-writer, producer, and performer on four new tracks from the forthcoming album, including current STR4TA track ‘Lazy Days’ featuring Emma-Jean Thackray.

Outside releases this four-track EP of cinematic, jazz electronica, ahead of forthcoming sixth studio album ‘Almost Out’ which will be released in Spring 2023. ‘A New Beginning’ sees Cooper playing his first instrument, drums, as well as keyboards and most of the instruments. The music was recorded and completed between the 2020 lockdown and creatively assisted and co-produced with Valentina Pahor, in London and Portugal.

The new EP juxtaposes the percussive and the melancholy to hauntingly beautiful effect, drawing on 20 years in the company of soul and jazz legends, and adding a dash of Philip Glass and Steve Reich minimalism. Writing and playing solo, as he first did in 1993, Cooper has come full circle to showcase his unique musical sensibility once again as Outside.

The result is a work of clean lines and pared-down elegance across four tracks. Opening track ‘A New Beginning’ sees slick downtempo beats and keys meet Lo-Fi vibes and basslines with seamless touches of jazz instrumentation. ‘Searching, Finding’ is a minimalist glitchy, electronic soundscape that acts as a backdrop to the hauntingly emotive slide guitar of Francesco Sales and Cooper’s lush keys. ‘Navigating’ is a cinematic feast for the ears, with a deeply yearning, searching groove, and ‘Flying High’ closes the EP and is a soaring, exhilarating, yet minimal sonic spectacle that sees Cooper play his finest syncopated and off-beat drums to take the listener home.

‘I’ve evolved the mixture of modern and retro,’ Cooper says. ‘That’s the Outside sound.’

Matt Cooper was a key figure in the music revolution that rebooted jazz with digital beats in 1990s London. Recorded under the name Outside, his 1993 debut album ‘Almost In’ marked him out when it was released on experimental label Dorado — a contemporary of Talkin’ Loud, Acid Jazz, Mo’Wax and Ninja Tune that was founded by Ollie Buckwell and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. ‘I wanted to make quality records that would stand the test of time,’ says Buckwell. ‘and I was blown away by Matt’s talent.’          

Mixmag pronounced its second album ‘The Rough & the Smooth’ "the best record of the last two years", Outside released three further albums: ‘Discoveries’ (1997), ‘Suspicious’ (1998) and ‘Out of the Dark’ (2001). Cooper joined cult UK soul act Incognito as musical director and went onto work as MD and instrumentalist for legendary artists including: Chaka Khan; Jocelyn Brown; Whitney Houston; David Sylvian; Paul Weller; Terry Callier; Leon Ware; Marlene Shaw; Freddie Hubbard, and Ronnie Laws.

Jakob Bro / Joe Lovano | "Once Around the Room - A Tribute to Paul Motian"

A deeply felt and utterly original homage to a common inspiration and beloved colleague – the late, great drummer-composer Paul Motian – Once Around the Room is also the first album co-led by the Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and US saxophonist Joe Lovano. Bro conceived of a special band for the project, convening what Lovano calls “a mini orchestra” for the Copenhagen studio session, which took place 10 years to the date since Motian died in 2011, at age 80. The textured septet features three bassists (Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan each on double-bass, plus Anders Christensen on bass guitar) and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy), all players who have worked together in various combinations as well as recorded for the label in recent years. Along with two Motian-influenced originals each by Bro and Lovano, Once Around the Room includes a group improvisation and an especially dynamic rendition of a vintage Motian composition: “Drum Music.” The previous ECM work by both of the co-leaders has been widely praised, with The New Yorker declaring that “Lovano can render a musical phrase into a poem”, and DownBeat noting that “Bro’s guitar is luminous… his music both hypnotic and dramatic.”

Lovano – who toured and recorded in Motian’s peerless trio with guitarist Bill Frisell for three decades (1981-2011) – explains the new album’s title: “Paul would jog most every day around the reservoir in New York City’s Central Park, and he had a tune referencing that ritual called ‘Once Around the Park.’ And for our Copenhagen recording, we were all gathered together in a sort of circular situation in the studio, so it felt like we were going around the room as we played the pieces and took solos.” Musing on what he learned from working so intimately with Motian, Lovano added: “What I think about every time I’m on the bandstand or in the studio is something I really gleaned from Paul: that music should be about deep breathing and close listening. You should lead and follow at the same time, share the space and let the music carry you. It’s not about demonstrating your instrumental virtuosity as much as it’s about the art of improvising, being in the moment and really present with the music. “

Bro, who made his ECM debut on Motian’s Garden of Eden album, says: “What I loved so much about Paul’s music was its aesthetic sensibility, both in the way that he played and the way that he composed. Whether he was playing his own music or standards, it was always clear that it was Paul Motian. The way he put people together and organized his bands was also inspiring. Most personally, the harmonic universe of Paul’s compositions was vital in my search for something individual in my own song writing. Gradually, I moved from my tunes being directly related to Paul’s to where I could connect his influence and ideas to more of a Nordic tone. I started relating to the music of my childhood, whether it was psalms or folk tunes, and began building bridges between the worlds of my various influences. Paul’s inspiration helped lead me to develop my own voice.”

Bro first worked with Lovano in 2009, when the saxophonist joined the guitarist’s trio with Anders Christensen and drummer Jakob Høyer for a three-night stand at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. “I had been fascinated with Joe for as long as I remember: his sound, his rhythmic feel, his sense of expression,” Bro explains. “I always hear the deep history of jazz in Joe’s playing. But at the same time, he has his own tone and approach to music. His world of harmony points forward, too.” Lovano returns the compliment, referencing the younger guitarist’s sound – the harmonic shimmers, tolling lines and looped atmospherics. “Jakob is in many ways a great disciple of Bill Frisell, but he has his own vision of music and of life,” the saxophonist says. “He’s not ‘a lead guitar player,’ as such – although he can definitely go there. His thing is more of an orchestral sound, very creative. And he really was instrumental in the conception of this album.”

Lovano’s compositions for Once Around the Room include the twelve-tone, drone-laced piece “As It Should Be” (whose title nods obliquely to “It Should’ve Happened a Long Time Ago,” the classic title track to the Motian/Lovano/Frisell trio’s first album, released by ECM in 1985). That tune, and Lovano’s evocative tribute “For the Love of Paul,” both make excellent use of roiling double drums to heighten the ensemble dynamism; the piece also includes some of Lovano’s most affecting playing on the album, plus a pealing solo by Bro. The guitarist wrote the balladic “Song To An Old Friend” (with Lovano carrying most of the melody), as well as the folk-like “Pause,” where Bro’s intimate playing weaves within the undertow of basses. “Sound Creation,” the group improvisation arranged from an initial idea by the saxophonist, explores the ensemble’s orchestral sound in an atmospheric way, with all the interwoven melodies invented in the moment (and Lovano trading his tenor sax midway to add a line on tarogato, his Eastern European reed instrument).

For the album’s lone Motian composition, “Drum Music,” Baron and Rossy feature both alone and together; the performance also includes one of Bro’s grittiest solos on record, which Lovano matches with a squalling solo of his own. “ ‘Drum Music’ was something of a theme tune for Paul’s trio with me and Bill,” the saxophonist says. “We would usually play it at the end of a set, sometimes just the theme and sometimes leaping off from it. On this record, we really dig into it! It’s a powerful piece of music.”

Reflecting on the session for Once Around the Room, Bro concludes: “Given the number of musicians in the group and everybody’s busy schedule, what are the odds, finally agreeing of on a date that we could all do and then it happens to be same date as Paul left us? It was miraculous that everyone made it to Copenhagen in the era of Covid – Joe flew in from Paris, Larry from London, Thomas from New York, Jorge from Switzerland and Joey from Berlin, joining me and Anders here. It felt almost surreal when we were all gathered and ready to record – and yet there was such a warm and open atmosphere in the studio. We all had a connection with Paul, and it felt like he was in the room with us somehow.”

Once Around The Room was recorded in Copenhagen at The Village Recording studio in November 2021. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Dukes Of Roots and Natiruts | "Try Happy"

Dukes Of Roots is proud to announce the newest single "Try Happy" with Natiruts. The new song, produced by Sean “YoungPow” Diedrick and executive produced by Rod Walkey, was the first written and recorded for the upcoming Dukes Of Roots project. It was later revisited by LionChld to include the Brazilian reggae roots band and Latin GRAMMY nominated, Natiruts. “Try Happy” is an uplifting tune about getting happy! It is the type of song that can lift low spirits, encouraging one to look on the bright side and lean into the happiness and blessings around you. The single is due out December 2 on all streaming platforms via Migration Records x YoungPow Productions.

Dukes Of Roots spent some time in Brazil working with Natiruts on “Try Happy.” Reflecting back, they comment, "Alexandre has been so much fun to work with. He is an incredible talent and such a kind person. We had many laughs on the beach days in Brazil leading up to the recording session. The Natiruts studio and engineers made the recording session easy and professional. We hope to be back again someday soon to do more work together." 

A music video for the single, directed by Kieran Khan, and filmed in Jamaica and Brazil, will be dropped soon as well.  

This is the second single release from the Dukes Of Roots’ forthcoming album due out next year. “Try Happy” follows their cover of the acclaimed song “Pressure Drop.” “Pressure Drop” is a tribute to friendship, roots music and Toots Hibbert, featuring the legendary Tarrus Riley. The live performance video recently premiered with Reggaeville, watch here: https://youtu.be/57nJx3Jco54

Although Dukes Of Roots is a new movement, it’s comprised of well-known musicians and artists who’ve come together to celebrate roots reggae music! With Mermans Mosengo on vocals, the Congolese singer has performed all over the world with the arts organization Playing For Change and a variety of other bands. Joined with George “Fully” Fullwood on bass, the Jamaican musician is regarded as one of the most prolific bass players in the scene having worked with greats like Toots Hibbert, Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh - to name a few. Courtney Diedrick on drums is also from Jamaica, and is a Grammy-award winning musician whose credits, like his bandmates, are prolific and include Damian and Stephen Marley, Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart – to name a few. Sean Diedrick on production and keys, is a Grammy-award winning producer from Jamaica who has been producing for legendary artists like Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, Sean Paul, Shaggy and Popcaan for years. And T Rod on guitar also composes and writes lyrics for the band – together they are: Dukes of Roots!


Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis - Cookin’ With Jaws and the Queen: The Legendary Prestige Cookbook Albums

Craft Recordings celebrates the centennial of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis with a brand-new, four-album collection, featuring the tenor saxophonist’s incendiary 1958 Cookbook albums with organist Shirley Scott. Set for release on February 3rd, 2023 in 180-gram vinyl 4-LP, 4-CD, and digital configurations, Cookin’ with Jaws and the Queen: The Legendary Prestige Cookbook Albums compiles four classic soul-jazz albums: Cookbook, Vol. 1, Cookbook, Vol. 2, Cookbook, Vol. 3, and Smokin’, all of which were recorded in stereo by the celebrated engineer, Rudy Van Gelder.

Cookin’ With Jaws and The Queen has been newly remastered from the original analog tapes by the GRAMMY®-winning engineer, Bernie Grundman. Produced by Nick Phillips, the all-analog 4-LP edition, limited to 5,000 copies worldwide, is pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI, while each LP is individually housed in a tip-on jacket, featuring the original Prestige Records album artwork. The 4-CD and digital editions feature three bonus tracks that were recorded in the 1958 sessions but didn’t appear on the original LP releases: “Avalon,” “Willow Weep For Me,” and an alternate take of “But Beautiful.” Rounding out the vinyl and CD packages is a deluxe booklet featuring recording session photos and offering new, in-depth liner notes by jazz journalist Willard Jenkins, who serves as the artistic director for the DC Jazzfest.

When tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Hammond B-3 organist Shirley Scott entered Rudy Van Gelder’s hallowed Hackensack, NJ studio in 1958, it was clear that something special was about to take place. For roughly three years, Scott and Davis had been at the forefront of the soul-jazz sound, setting the gold standard for the tenor sax/organ combo. At 36, “Lockjaw” (also known as “Jaws”), was already a veteran of the New York City jazz scene, having spent much of the 1940s playing in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, and Cootie Williams. But the horn player was also a stylistic chameleon, who straddled the line between the classic big band era and the emerging sounds of hard bop.

24-year-old Shirley Scott, meanwhile, was a rising talent from Philadelphia, who stood out as one of the few female musicians in the male-dominated world of jazz. Scott, who would soon become known as the “Queen of the Organ,” formed a creative partnership with Davis in 1955, and made her earliest recordings alongside the horn player. By 1958, they were a well-oiled duo. In his liner notes, Jenkins underscores this magical pairing with a quote from saxophonist James Carter: “Every successful artistic partnership has members that truly work together in simpatico towards a common goal, which in this case is groovin’ and swingin’ their listening audience beyond good health! [Scott] never fails…to provide the perfect underpinning for Lockjaw to either soar above or to dig into to achieve the ultimate goal of a great musical encounter every time. Lockjaw really listens to Shirley and takes his cues particularly on ballads, but she’ll put some gentle, intense fire under him on up tempos and inspire the best out of Lockjaw.” Jenkins adds, “This is classic Black vernacular jazz.”

Accompanying Davis and Scott in the studio was multi-reedist Jerome Richardson, who played the flute, baritone sax, and tenor sax. Bassist George Duvivier and drummer Arthur Edgehill rounded out the talented lineup. The sessions, which took place on June 20, September 12, and December 5, 1958, were captured by a 34-year-old Rudy Van Gelder at his Hackensack studio, while Prestige Records’ Bob Weinstock and Esmond Edwards served as producers.

The repertoire that comprises four albums’ worth of material is a delicious combination of Davis-Scott originals and jazz standards. The Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Cookbook, Vol. 1, originally released in June 1958, features several highlights, including the bluesy radio hit, “In the Kitchen.” Clocking in at just under 13 minutes, the mid-tempo, Johnny Hodges-penned track offers plenty of time for each musician to showcase their talents. Ballad “But Beautiful,” is another standout track which, Jenkins notes, is bolstered by “Lockjaw’s opulently expressive tone…[and] his beautifully legato, conversational solo.” Scott’s solo, he adds, is “soul personified in the keys.”

The momentum continues with The Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Cookbook, Vol. 2, released in December 1958, which features interpretations of the Hoagy Carmichael-Mitchell Parish standard, “Stardust,” as well as originals like “Skillet” and opener “The Rev.” The latter piece, as the title conveys, features an expressive, conversational delivery between the musicians, as if between a preacher and his parishioners.

Cookbook, Vol. 3, which dropped in 1960, features such highlights as the George and Ira Gershwin classic, “Strike Up the Band,” the Shirley Scott original “The Goose Hangs High,” and the reflective “My Old Flame,” which Jenkins remarks, “elicits the kind of wistful posture from Jaws that one might expect from the lament of a love lost, befitting its title. Ms. Scott enters as if embodying that lost love’s farewell—‘See ya later, baby.’”

The collection concludes with Smokin’, an album that is also culled from the 1958 sessions but was originally released in 1964. The confident set finds the group jamming on originals like “Smoke This,” “High Fry,” and the self-titled “Jaws,” as well as such classics as Johnny Burke-Arthur Johnston’s “Pennies from Heaven,” Edgar Sampson’s “Blue Lou,” and the George Forrest-Robert Wight tune, “It’s a Blue World.” The latter two tracks, Jenkins notes, exemplify Davis’ unorthodox approach to balladry. “Jaws consistently displays a slightly vigorous attitude towards ballads, rarely actually luxuriating in the moment. His balladic immersion is more that of someone who’s got places to go, people to see, food to cook; nonetheless his reverence for a good ballad is no less than his peers, it’s just that he constantly sounds ready for a more purposeful stroll rather than a casual linger.”

Davis and Scott certainly did have plenty to accomplish, following these phenomenal sessions. The two musicians would continue to collaborate through the end of the decade, recording such albums as Jaws in Orbit, Bacalao (both released in 1959), and Misty (1963). Yet, despite the popularity of their work together, the artists went their separate ways, with Davis moving away entirely from the organ/tenor sound that he and Scott made famous. Scott soon joined forces with her husband, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and recorded dozens of sessions as a leader during her lengthy career. Davis, meanwhile, would continue to toe the line between small group soul-jazz and the classic sounds of big bands, working with the likes of Count Basie, Kenny Clarke, Gene Ammons, and Johnny Griffin—with whom he’d record multiple “Tough Tenors” albums. But those five years that Davis and Scott worked together were instrumental in shaping the sound of soul-jazz—and these four delectable albums endure as some of their best work.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of John Lee Hooker’s Burnin’ With Expanded and Remastered Reissues

Craft Recordings celebrates the 60th anniversary of John Lee Hooker’s electrifying blues album, Burnin’, with several special reissues. Set for release on February 24, 2023,the album includes the original recording of Hooker’s highly-influential signature hit, “Boom Boom,” and features members of the legendary Funk Brothers (Motown Records’ celebrated house band).  Newly remastered from the original analog tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, Burnin’ will be available in several formats. A 180-gram vinyl LP features a stereo mix of the album, as it was first released in 1962, while a tip-on jacket, which replicates Vee-Jay Records’ original designs, rounds out the package. In addition to a wide release on classic black vinyl, fans can also find the album in a variety of limited edition color pressings, including Flame Orange vinyl (via Barnes and Noble), Translucent Red vinyl (via Independent Record Stores), and Fuego Blend vinyl (available exclusively via JohnLeeHooker.com, along with a brand new official T-shirt featuring the iconic album artwork).

Expanded CD and digital editions offer both mono and stereo mixes of the album, plus a previously-unreleased alternate take of the song “Thelma,” captured during Hooker’s November 1961 session. The CD also includes new liner notes by the GRAMMY®-nominated journalist and music historian, Bill Dahl. Digital configurations include standard and hi-res, 192/24 and 96/24. Fans can preview the new Mono mixes with the advance two-track single “Boom Boom (Mono and Stereo)” which is available to stream or download today.

Known fondly as “King of the Boogie,” John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was one of the most important blues artists of all time, whose work had a significant impact on modern music. Born in Mississippi to a family of sharecroppers, Hooker learned how to play the guitar at a young age, picking up his distinctive technique from his stepfather. In his 20s, he relocated to Detroit, where he spent his days as a janitor in an auto factory and his nights pursuing a career as a musician. He scored his first No.1 R&B hit with one of his earliest recordings, 1948’s “Boogie Chillen,” followed by singles like “Hobo Blues,” “Crawlin’ King Snake,” and “I’m in the Mood,” all of which landed in the R&B Top Ten. But these recordings typically featured a simple set-up: just Hooker alone in the studio, accompanying himself on guitar and keeping the beat with his foot. By the turn of the ‘60s, when Hooker signed to Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records, his sessions began to expand—initially with a second guitarist or a harmonica player (as heard in albums like Travelin’ and The Folklore of John Lee Hooker). Burnin’, however, was a stylistic departure that would not only bring the bluesman a new generation of fans, but would also change the course of his career.

Recorded in just one day in November 1961, Burnin’ paired Hooker with a full, electric band for the first time on record, with six of the most talented musicians of the era—all of whom served as members of Motown Records’ house players. Joining Hooker was keyboardist Joe Hunter, bassist James Jamerson, guitarist Larry Veeder, and drummer Benny Benjamin. A horn section, featuring saxophonist Hank Crosby and baritone saxophonist Andrew “Mike” Terry, added additional textures to the songs. These men, who soon came to be known as the Funk Brothers, would appear on the biggest hits of the decade, backing sessions by the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, the Temptations, and Stevie Wonder.

The material that the group covered that day—predominantly originals by Hooker—was also incredibly strong. Among them was “Boom Boom,” considered to be one of the most important songs in recorded music. With its catchy riffs, airtight rhythms, and utterly cool vocals, the song would become Hooker’s signature hit and an instant blues standard. But the recording was an outlier for the bluesman, as Bill Dahl explains in his liner notes. “Hooker had a rare gift for improvising songs in the studio, sometimes incorporating lyrics from other sources and seldom playing anything the same way from one take to the next. It was an impromptu mindset that often left his sidemen in the unenviable position of either sinking or swimming. But he happened to have a song in mind for this date.’” Dahl continues, “The tension between the stop-time vocal passages in ‘Boom Boom’ and the release whenever the band broke into a straight-ahead jumping rhythm was a fresh development in Hooker’s massive songbook. Arrangements this concisely conceived weren’t John Lee’s primary strength, but he was proving surprisingly open to updating his sound more than a decade into his recording career.”

Released as a single by Vee-Jay in the spring of  1962, “Boom Boom” became Hooker’s biggest hit in more than a decade, spending eight weeks on Billboard’s R&B chart and peaking at No.16 by the summer. It was also one of only two songs by the blues star to break the Billboard Hot 100, landing at No.60. 30 years later, in 1992, the timeless song entered the UK pop charts’ Top 20 (thanks to an appearance in a commercial for Lee Jeans). Music critic Charles Shaar Murray, meanwhile, proclaimed it to be “the greatest pop song [Hooker] ever wrote.”

While “Boom Boom,” which opens the record, was the only charting single off Burnin’, the album offers a trove of standout performances and stellar songwriting. Among the highlights is the swinging—and slightly foreboding—“Thelma,” in which Hooker assures his cheating lover that he forgives her. His increasingly frenzied vocals, however, tell another story. Equally charged is the spoken word “Drug Store Woman,” in which the artist tells his woman (in his signature drawl) to stay home, rather than buy beauty products and stockings at the store. The mournful “Blues Before Sunrise,” written by Leroy Carr, finds Hooker delivering a particularly stirring and emotional performance.

On the other end of the spectrum is “Let’s Make It,” a sprightly, passionate tune based on just one single chord. Hunter and Terry shine particularly brightly, as they drive the momentum of the seductive track. Additionally, Dahl calls attention to “Keep Your Hands To Yourself,” arguing that the song is “the most unusual item [on the album], which opens with the unmistakable riff from the Champs’ ‘58 rock and roll instrumental smash ‘Tequila.’ Unlikely though it seems, that repeating riff, seemingly detached from the blues milieu, made a perfect backdrop for Hooker to threaten any would-be suitors crazy enough to romance his lady.”

While Hooker maintained a prolific output during this period, it’s safe to say that Burnin’, released in March 1962, was a coveted record for countless aspiring rock musicians. Across the Atlantic, bands like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds borrowed heavily from Hooker’s sound, while The Animals scored a hit with their own rendition of “Boom Boom” in 1964. As the decade continued, Hooker’s star only grew. Embraced by the counterculture scene, Hooker regularly shared the stage with many of the biggest folk and rock acts of the day and performed at a number of major festivals. Decades later, “Boom Boom” would be inducted into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame, the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame, and would rank on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” list.

Throughout the latter half of the century, Hooker maintained a steady pace of studio work, collaborations, and live shows. At 72, he released the biggest album of his career, The Healer, which earned him his first GRAMMY® Award, and sold more than a million copies. He found continued success with albums like Boom Boom and Chill Out in his final decade. Among his many honors, Hooker was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was celebrated with a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Hooker was also a recipient of the highly prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts—the highest honor that can be bestowed upon those in the folk and traditional arts by the US government. Today, Hooker’s legacy lives on through his extensive catalog of recordings, as well as through the many artists whose music he inspired. His work can be heard frequently in films and TV shows, while many of his songs have found a second life through sampling by hip-hop and electronic music’s biggest acts.

New Music Releases: Ezra Collective, Wade C. Long, Houston Person, Ural Thomas & The Pain

Ezra Collective - Where I'm Meant To Be

Ezra Collective are a group who've been burning up the British scene so much in recent years, they've barely had time to give us a full length album – a situation that's more than corrected by this well-done set! The combo are often tied to some of the best jazz experiments in London of the past decade or so, but in the true fashion of that city's culture, they manage to weave together other strands of music besides jazz – plenty of post-colonial touches from Afro Funk, dub, and even hip hop – while also standing strong with the strength of jazz-based playing to set them apart from so many other groups who just jumble together influences and spill them out in the studio. There's a rock-solid quality to the overall presentation here – a really unified records that moves through tracks that include "Victory Dance", "Live Strong", "Ego Killah", "Togetherness", "No Confusion", "Never The Same Again", "Love In Outer Space", "Belonging", and "Welcome To My World" – plus a few words from Steve McQueen! ~ Dusty Groove

Wade C. Long - A Long Story

Vocalist-keyboardist-producer Wade C. Long has A LONG STORY to tell, and he's invited some of his most musically talented friends along to help turn the pages. Following the release of its lead single "Electricity" earlier this year, A Long Story arrives on streaming and retail outlets January 6, 2023. The new album is Wade's sophomore LP and it includes a duet with the iconic songstress Hil St. Soul. "Celebrate You," a danceable piece with all the makings of a classic love anthem will be released as a single in February, just in time for Valentine's Day. Another single, "Trin's Jam," is an Acid Jazz gem featuring Billboard Smooth Jazz chart-topping bassist Christian de Mesones. Wade also teams up with frequent collaborators, rapper Jaeigh Sherwood, and guitarist Andres Coca for the dance club-friendly "Take You Out." A Long Story is a brilliant mix of head-nodding grooves, sultry ballads, and thought-provoking culturally conscious tunes reminiscent of an era gone by. 

Houston Person - Reminiscing At Rudy's

Tenor giant Houston Person cut many albums over the years at the legendary studios of Rudy Van Gelder – and here, even though Rudy's passed on, Houston's in a very comfortable setting – blowing these wonderfully easygoing-lines on the tenor, with the kind of backing that always seems to have him at his simple, unadorned best! The group's a quintet – with Russell Malone on guitar, Larry Fuller on piano, Matthew Parrish on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums – the latter of whom takes a surprisingly great vocal turn on the tune "Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You" – then leaves Person and the other instrumentalists to do all the "singing" on other tracks – soloing nicely on "Reminiscing At Rudy's", "At Long Last Love", "Again", "Moon River", "I'll Let You Know", and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder". ~ Dusty Groove

Ural Thomas & The Pain - Dancing Dimensions

It's been many years since Ural Thomas recorded his first soul single – and if anything, the passage of time has only made his voice sound even more wonderful – with a contemporary richness that we never would have heard back at the start! The set's not the first "comeback" album that Ural has cut with his younger group, The Pain – but it may well be the one that pushes him over the top, and gets the singer the sort of newfound global attention he finally deserves after all these years! Titles include "Heaven", "Gimme Some Ice Cream", "Second Dimension", "Apple Pie", "Ol Safiya", "El Ey Em Eh", "Do You Remember The Times", "Hung Up On My Dream", and "My Favorite Song". ~ Dusty Groove

Friday, November 18, 2022

Chance Howard featuring Candy Dulfer | "Buy Me Love"

After surviving a horrific car wreck three years ago, Grammy-winning singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Chance Howard is not only grateful to be alive, but thankful to be releasing new music despite still being confined to living in a rehab facility where he is learning how to walk again. Teaming with his longtime collaborator and dear friend, saxophone star Candy Dulfer, Howard just dropped a smooth and soulful R&B reimagination of The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” that he retitled “Buy Me Love.”

Exhausted from playing shows in the same week with Brian Culbertson in Chicago, Marcus Miller in Los Angeles and Dulfer in Minneapolis where Howard is based, the musician known for performing and/or recording with Prince, Morris Day and The Time, Nikka Costa, Karyn White, Alexander O’Neal, Chaka Khan, LL Cool J, Notorious B.I.G., George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Gladys Knight and Michael Bolton fell asleep at the wheel, crashing into the median. His injuries included spinal cord damage, a severed aorta and breaking twelve ribs. The doctors expect Howard to walk again but they didn’t tell him how arduous the recovery process would be nor how long it would take. Howard is expected to remain an inpatient rehab resident for another year.

Unable to tour and work producing, writing and performing, Howard has been without an income amidst skyrocketing medical and rehabilitation costs and canceled health insurance policies. Some of his high-profile friends have come to his aid as well as The Smooth Jazz Cruise community. Dulfer and fellow sax sensation Dave Koz led the charge through GoFundMe. All proceeds from the sale of “Buy Me Love” will go directly to Howard’s medical bills.

“This has been the biggest struggle I’ve ever had to undertake. But I know that with my faith in God, and a lot of love from my friends, I’ll be able to get back up on that stage again, doing what I love to do,” said Howard who is still confined to a wheelchair.

“Since the accident, I’ve been doing more and more strength building, but there’s also a lot of other bumps along this road that I’m going to have to get over. I’m definitely sure I’m going to make it through this because I believe in the power of God, and I also believe in myself,” said Howard, a Grammy winner for his work on Prince’s “Musicology” album. 

Howard recorded “Buy Me Love” prior to the accident. While on tour with Dulfer in Amsterdam, Howard and Dulfer performed an impromptu version of “Buy Me Love” during an informal nightclub jam session. After the gig, a married couple approached Howard. While they were unable to speak English, they clearly loved the rendition. Days after the show, the husband unexpectedly passed away. His wife tracked down Howard and asked if he could record the song to be played at her husband’s memorial service. Howard sings and plays all the instruments on the track except for Dulfer’s sax. That recording is now widely available as a digital single from Apple Music and other streaming services.    

The thought of making new music and launching new ventures sustains Howard as he grinds away each day at physical therapy. He envisions recording an album featuring an all-star cast performing songs that he writes and produces; producing an entire album by Dulfer; and launching his own podcast called Chance’s Boom Boom Room (fans of The Smooth Jazz Cruise will understand the reference).

“A big dream of mine is to have a concert hall named Chance’s Boom Boom Room. I want it to be a part of the community that gives back by having two shows a night by a different artist almost every night as well as a venue that provides music lessons for kids, food and clothing drives for those in need, and other efforts that benefit the community,” said Howard, who considers himself to be a giver, which make his circumstances that rendered him dependent upon the assistance and generosity of others so humbling.  

“With the holidays coming around, I’m most thankful for being alive. I’m still a work in progress but that’s okay. Progress is just another word for ‘getting better.’ And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I may not have walked in here (the rehab facility), but I’ll be damned if I don’t walk out this MF!”

To make a donation to Howard’s GoFundMe this holiday season, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-support-of-chance-howard.

Tomer Cohen | "Not The Same River"

A new face on the New York jazz scene, 25-year-old guitarist-composer Tomer Cohen makes his auspicious debut as a leader with Not the Same River, an album that resonates with the same kind of startling originality as Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life registered 46 years ago. 

The album title, Cohen explained, relates to an expression by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. “That’s the sentence that encompasses all the compositions on the album,” he said. “We are constantly in motion, we’re always changing, and we just need to accept that.” 

Accompanied by the highly interactive rhythm tandem of drummer Obed Calvaire (a ubiquitous figure on the NYC scene and currently a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis) and stalwart bassist Matt Penman (formerly with the SFJAZZ Collective and sideman on over 100 recordings), Cohen demonstrates his unique fingerstyle-and-pick technique on eight thoughtful compositions that reflect his pastoral upbringing, from age 4 to 21, on a kibbutz in Israel. “The kibbutz is located in the countryside and has a strong sense of community,” he recalled. “I used to play outside with my guitar, watching the fields and the blue sky. I believe some of that vibe is reflected in some of the tunes on this record.”  

From the wistful title track to the odd-metered, Middle Eastern flavored “Connecting Dots,” the meditative “Hithadshut (Regeneration)” and the intricate, briskly moving “Empty?,” Cohen distinguishes himself as a fresh new voice through his affecting compositions and considerable six-string skills. Other tunes like “Pastures” and “Sunrise” show his unique ability to evoke a sense of place in a composition, while the energized groover “Probably More than Two” and the sublime ballad “First Laps” each harken back to more personal memories for the composer. The extraordinarily sensitive and complimentary playing of Calvaire and Penman throughout Not the Same River only serves to elevate the proceedings from track to track. 

Cohen’s wholly intuitive technique of playing single notes with a pick between his thumb and forefinger while simultaneously chording and playing counterpoint with his three remaining fingers allows him to run glistening arpeggios and beautiful melody lines while comping for himself. This process is particularly evident on challenging pieces like “Pastures,” “Connecting Dots” and “Sunrise.” As he explained, “I’ve never actually studied fingerstyle playing, but I have tried to develop my own thing based on whatever I wanted to hear. Sometimes I want to hear two parts together, which you can do as a fingerstyle player.” 

Cohen began playing guitar on the kibbutz in seventh grade, but it wasn’t jazz that he was interested in then. "Back in the day, I had friends that played guitar and they first taught me how to play Metallica and Led Zeppelin. I was really intrigued by it.” It was in a three-year high school music program that he was introduced to some theoretical and historical studies as well as jazz appreciation. 

“During that time, my awareness of music just grew,” he recalled. “And every time I was fed with more information, my love for music would grow. I didn’t know exactly how to play jazz back then because I was coming from a rock-ish background. But that’s when I began listening to it, analyzing it and understanding the language behind it, which was so fascinating to me. I had a band and we played shows in school and festivals. By 11th grade, I knew that I had something to say with music. At that point I thought, ‘OK, that’s the thing that I want to do with my life.’ And it all began with a fascination and love for seeing the music coming out of my hands. It’s unbelievable still.” 

After he graduated from high school, Cohen did his required three years in the Israeli army while continuing to study music. “During my time in the Army, I’ve spent two years in the Israeli Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. There I studied jazz by the book and I really dug into it, practicing five or six hours a day for almost two years straight. I don’t think I missed a day. That program really opened me up for jazz.” 

The first jazz guitarist that he ever studied was Charlie Christian, quickly followed by the likes of Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino and Jimmy Raney. “And then I turned to more modern players like Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell,” he recalled. “I think you can always hear their influence in my playing.” At the same time, Cohen was intrigued by the complex lines of bebop icons like Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie as well as sax titans Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. “I would transcribe every one of their solos that I could find,” he continued. “Every week I would transcribe a different solo and then play it until I could make it.” 

Cohen ultimately received a two-year scholarship to The New School in New York, where he studied with drummers Ari Hoenig and Mark Guiliana as well as trumpeter and fellow Israeli Avishai Cohen. In addition to his exposure to these seasoned players on the scene, Tomer mentioned that just the prospect of living in New York City has elevated his art. “I saw that there are so many talented musicians in NYC that I understood that I have to be myself to become a unique one. Having good technique and a good time-feel is not enough. Exploring the music that I want to hear from my heart is the key for making unique music.” 

Tomer chose an unorthodox path in launching his career, starting immediately as a leader. As he explained, “I felt that the music was right and I was ready to start this journey, so after I’ve graduated, I started to plan the recording of my debut album.” Regarding his choice of rhythm tandem on Not the Same River, he said, “I knew Obed and Matt a bit from the scene, and I could hear them playing my music. Matt and Obed are unbelievable players, super-musical and always in-the-moment. So, in this trio, each one of us is an individual. Everything is really detailed, while everybody has an equal voice in the music. They’re not just giving me the space to solo, we all solo together. It feels very organic.” 

He points to the tune “Pastures” as one example of offering a sense of place on the record. “I’m trying to get the listener to see the place where I wrote the song,” he explained. “And in the studio, I described to Obed and Matt the picture of the place to understand the vibe for this composition. Basically, I’m saying to the listener: ‘Close your eyes and imagine that you’re sitting on a high hill. You see the green fields and you can see the wind move them like the waves in the sea. Above you only cloudless blue skies. Far back you can see two rivers, one is a bit bigger than the other. On your right you see a green forest with some white birds flying above the trees.’ That’s the image I’m trying to convey in that piece. That’s exactly what I was trying to do on this record, trying to connect some stories, images and life philosophies that I have into one thing.” 

Cohen added, “I think the record is quite a unique combination of some folk, Israeli music and jazz. I think we combine it in such a way that it’s not a defined thing. We’re all jazz players playing on the record but it’s not necessarily a traditional jazz guitar trio record. And that’s what I was going for. I wanted to make my own sound.” And he succeeds in grand fashion on this auspicious debut.

"Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes" Soundtrack

Six years in the making, the documentary film of the most comprehensive look into the life of jazz bassist Ron Carter arrived on October 21. Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes was produced and directed by the renowned producer/director Peter Schnall, a seven-time Emmy Award and Peabody Award winner. 

Schnall reveals poignant and joyful details of the jazz maestro’s life, from his early years as a cello student in high school through his years in the Miles Davis Quintet of the ‘60s and into his vital solo career that continues to expand. In addition to the television broadcast premiere, the exclusive soundtrack of never-before heard Carter performances were released on CD on October 21 by Freiburg, Germany-based IN+OUT Records, which also releases the soundtrack on double vinyl today. The 2-LP version includes ''Nearly," a bonus song not on the CD that features Carter's touring band: pianist Renee Rosnes, saxophonist Jimmy Greene and drummer Payton Crossley.

The album includes a live performance filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival of Carter’s classic original “Soft Winds,” and an impromptu bass duet of “Willow Weep for Me” with Christian McBride at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. There are also tunes from two New York Blue Note club sessions with Bill Frisell on “My Man’s Gone Now” and a first-time recording with fellow bassist Stanley Clarke on “Bag’s Groove.” The most rewarding recording comes when Carter meets up with Jon Batiste at the Power Station studio for a conversation and ultimately a song: “Sweet Lorraine.”

Toward the end of the production, Schnall had thought of reviewing Carter’s history, but then decided to have someone else on screen. He invited Batiste who was once a student of the elder while he attended Juilliard. What better choice than to have two of music’s most prominent artists talk together? The session lasted two hours. “My hope was that the two would play together,” says Schnall. “When Ron showed up with his bass, I knew that something was going to happen.”

Schnall admits that he didn’t grow up as a jazz aficionado. His introduction to Carter came from his friend John Matera, a jazz enthusiast, who had invited him to see the bassist perform at the Blue Note in the West Village. “Towering over his bass, Ron played with a sensitivity that commanded attention,” Schnall writes in the recording liner notes. “I was mesmerized. When the show ended, my friend John told me we had just witnessed the greatest living bass player. He wondered why a documentary had never been produced on Ron’s 60-year career. Half-joking, I said, maybe now’s the time.”

So began Schnall’s long journey interviewing Carter at his house, on the road, in the studio to fully understand the 85-year-old’s majestic life story, with Jonathan Zalben serving the valuable role as the film’s musical supervisor. He started out by writing a letter to Carter and then visiting him at home. “It was the most wonderful and interesting and surprising conversation. We chatted for two hours, not so much about music, but about life. That was to be the beginning of an extraordinary journey together.”

If Schnall hadn’t been steeped in jazz before, he certainly gained a depth of appreciation from Carter as well as from the other great jazz musicians he interviewed, ranging from Herbie Hancock to Sonny Rollins.

As for getting the documentary out to the public, Schnall first pitched the story to PBS. “They immediately said ‘yes’ to the project, they were very excited about the Ron Carter story,” he says. “Later, when we presented PBS with our 90-minute rough cut, they asked if we could extend the show to two hours. That doesn’t happen too often.”

The same enthusiasm held true with IN+OUT Records. “The soundtrack was produced in less than three months,” Schnall says. “It’s an important compilation, as the tracks represent the breadth and scope of the music Mr. Carter has been performing throughout his career.”

Hil St Soul | "Back In Love"

When a singer covers a song already definitively recorded by the likes of The Isley Brothers and Whitney Houston, there is skepticism; surely it could only fail to match the heights of hit renditions by two legendary artists. But UK-based singer Hil St. Soul’s rendition of “For The Love of You” became a Top 20 urban ac radio hit on the strength of tonal beauty and evocative phrasing—the mark of a great singer. That hit and follow-up original singles won Hil St. Soul a devoted cult following with her deft melding of classic soul and contemporary production. With a luminous single, “A Feeling So Beautiful,” leading the way, Hil St. Soul now returns with “Back In Love,” her first album in a decade, released November 18th on Shanachie Entertainment. The new album may be Hil St. Soul’s best yet and resonates at a time when neo-soul is resurgent with a new generation of artists ranging from H.E.R. and SZA to Lucky Daye, Anderson .Paak and SIR. 

Considering the rapturous response to her first four albums, the natural question is what took Hil St. Soul so long to deliver the fifth? Hilary Mwelwa (pronounced Mwel-wah), the woman who is Hil St. Soul, says it was all about the right inspiration. “I took a break from recording as I was searching for some greater musical inspiration,,” she confides. “I spent a year in my homeland (Zambia) collaborating with talented local musicians and curating some live shows. When I returned to the UK I got a call from Steve Ripley of Soulfood Music UK and he said the manager for Noel Gourdin was re-mixing a song for the UK market and they were looking for a UK songstress to feature. The end result was a duet called “No Worries.” That was the catalyst that got me back to recording again. Over a period of time I delved into a different creative side of music by doing some soulful house projects. That opened up my creative juices and resulted in several featured collaborations that allowed me to express myself in a different way.”Over a period of nearly three years Hilary collaborated with producers Regi Myrix (Noel Gourdin, Lina) and Lorenzo Johnson (Ledisi, Calvin Richardson) as well as Prince Damon (Dwele) and released several singles, including the instant classic “One Life.” "The evolution of Back In Love was a very organic process," Hilary relates, “I recorded new songs over a period of time and before I knew it I had a collection of songs. My collaboration with Regi Myrix on ‘One Life’ was a defining moment when it hit the airwaves as it reconnected me with my audience. The love I got for that track kick started everything.”

Back In Love is one of those increasingly rare creations these days, a true album with every track a strong contribution. All of the tracks are originals except “Heaven Must Be Like This,” a vibey reinvention of an Ohio Players ballad produced by Damons. With the rest of the tracks produced by Myrix or Johnson, the album has a unified sound that delivers Hil St. Soul’s trademark combination of classic soul singing with production that blends contemporary and retro elements.

“I was brought up on old school soul music,” Hilary notes, “so I tend to gravitate towards productions that have a sprinkle of the old school flavor and my subject matter adds the contemporary aspect to the record, all based on what I observe in my surroundings and experiences I’m living through myself or through others around me.” Back In Love ranges from atmospheric mid-tempos such as the current single “A Feeling So Beautiful” to the uptempo dance groove of “Party On” and the heartfelt balladry of “King” and “In My Groove.” Noel Gourdin duets with Hilary on two cuts, “Blessed” and “Amazing.” One track, “Sweet Heaven” is acoustic with Hilary singing backed just by acoustic guitar and backing vocals.

Hilary Mwelwa was born in Lusaka, Zambia but moved to London at the age of five with her family. As a child she was inspired musically by her father’s musical taste, which ranged form Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to traditional African music. But as she grew older she was inspired by everything from the Eurythmics and Blondie to Jill Scott, Eric Benet and D’Angelo. Intending to go into a scientific career, she graduated from London’s Westminster University with a degree in biological sciences. But during her college years she wanted to explore her musical interests and took a year off to pursue music more seriously, recording her first demos. She began a collaboration with Victor Redwood-Sawyer under the name Hil St. Soul and her first album Soul Organic was released by Dome Records in the UK in 1999, with her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back To Me” picking up airplay on U.S. smooth jazz stations. Hil St. Soul’s second album, Copasetik and Cool was released in the UK on Gut Records but was released in the States by Shanachie Entertainment in 2002, yielding a Top 20 urban ac hit and Top 10 smooth jazz radio hit with a sparkling version of “For The Love of You.” Signed directly to Shanachie, Hil St. Soul’s next album Souldified featured a duet with Dwele on “Baby Come Over” and a Top 20 urban ac hit with “Goodbye.” The opening track “Hey Boy” was so loved by syndicated radio personality Michael Baisden that Hilary recorded a short “drop” version especially for him. A fourth album Black Rose followed with Hilary branching out with various producers.

All in all, with Back In Love, the high expectations of Hil St. Soul’s fans who have been spoiled by the consistent high quality of her work will not be disappointed. "This album represents a turning point in my life, “Hillary confesses. “It represents LOVE. My love of life and music. It’s a love letter to my listeners that have been with me on my musical journey. I’ve been making music for 20-odd years and to have taken time out, come back and pick up where I left off is just amazing…to still have an audience and the support of radio is incredible. I’m just thankful that I’m still in a position where I can share my artistry.”

Garrett Saracho | "En Medio"

In 1973, Garrett Saracho was a promising, up-and-coming Chicano jazz musician from Los Angeles having just released his hotly-tipped debut album, En Medio (as Gary Saracho) on Impulse! Records, representing what the New York Times called the label's "West Coast contingent." Despite receiving a five-star review from DownBeat magazine, the authority on all things jazz, which led to friend Herbie Hancock calling and congratulating him on the perfect review, praise from Wayne Shorter, and interest from radio stations, a cosmic confluence of unfortunate events – an oil embargo in the Middle East, changing label leadership, slashed budgets – led to the record not receiving the promotion and ultimately not gaining the traction it so deserved at the time.

For the first time since its original 1973 release, Garrett Saracho’s lost-to-time and underappreciated classic, "En Medio," a heady fusion of spiritual jazz, funk and Latin rock, will be released on vinyl via Impulse!/UMe ahead of its 50th anniversary next year, exclusively for Record Store Day Black Friday.

Disappointed and disillusioned, the composer and keyboardist, one of the most exciting young musicians in L.A.'s fertile jazz underground, stepped away from music and left his Fender Rhodes behind to return to school. He would go on to have a successful and rewarding career in the film industry, first as a carpenter, later as an editor for several blockbuster films, more recently as a screenwriter and filmmaker. He'd eventually return to music years later, touring with the legendary Native American rock band Redbone, fronted by his cousins Pat and Lolly Vegas, and continue to quietly make music in his studio. In recent years, Saracho's work has found renewed interest from a new generation of fans, with the long out-of-print and unavailable on streaming platforms En Medio being rediscovered by those in the know and the crate digger community.

Now for the first time since its original 1973 release, Saracho's lost-to-time and underappreciated classic, En Medio, a heady fusion of spiritual jazz, funk and Latin rock, will be released on vinyl via Impulse!/UMe ahead of its 50th anniversary next year, exclusively for Record Store Day Black Friday Limited to 3500 copies worldwide, the LP, which has been mastered from the original tapes, will be available to purchase on Friday, November 25th at participating indie record stores as an "RSD First" release. Visit RecordStoreDay.com for more information.

As far as debut records go, En Medio is lightning in a bottle. A singular statement recorded in one weekend in May 1973 at The Village Recorder in West L.A., with a host of musicians with varying levels of association to the Union of God's Musicians and Artist Ascension (UGMAA), a network of largely African American jazz musicians organized by Horace Tapscott that acted as a community resource, linking musicians together and helping them find work. This included Roberto Miranda, bassist in the Herbie Baker Quintet and longtime mainstay in Tapscott's Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (PAPA), and Owen Marshall, a Compton-based arranger and multi-instrumentalist who had previously worked for Lee Morgan.

After spending nearly fifty years away from the music industry, Saracho's musical journey has gained a second wind and in addition to the long overdue reissue of En Medio he was recently recruited by the influential jazz collective Jazz Is Dead to make his return to jazz on their latest exciting collaboration. Available now, Garrett Saracho JID015 sees Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge performing a collection of shapeshifting tunes with Saracho that hop from one style or tempo to another with shocking ease. Blending together Latin soul and psychedelic rock influences alongside his enduring love for jazz, the album is a tribute to the enduring ties and cultural dialogues between genres, and to the perseverance of a musician who once stood on the precipice of stardom, now receiving his long overdue acclaim. Early reviews for the record have critics raving, with Mojo awarding the album four stars and declaring it "arguably Jazz Is Dead's best LP yet," and hailing the music as "sounding like a David Axelrod-meets-Gil Evans mash-up as imagined by Cal Tjader, the LP consists of eight ensemble pieces, ranging from edgy soundscapes (Altitude) and filmic tone poems (The Gardens) to percolating Chicano grooves (El Cambio Es Necesario)."

With an incredible new album and a long-lost gem returning, Garrett Saracho is finally getting his due, five decades later.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Andreas Vollenweider | "Slow Flow & Dancer"

This time Andreas Vollenweider has grouped his music according to atmosphere and character: Slow Flow is a collection of pieces with a relaxed, flowing feel, while Dancer is full of movement and rhythm.

All 11 songs on Slow Flow and Dancer were created between 2010 and 2021 in collaboration with British producer Andy Wright (Eurythmics, Simply Red, Jeff Beck, Simple Minds, among many others). The two were supported in their creative process by Vollenweider's talented circle of friends, who laid the foundation for the songs:

Walter Keiser (drums), Andi Pupato (percussion), Daniel Kueffer (bass clarinet), Oliver Keller (guitars) and the young Swiss rapper and beat boxer Steff La Cheffe, a.k.a. Stefanie Peter.

The music of Dancer also reflects Vollenweider's connection with Africa. The South African vocal harmony band Africapella and singer Ayanda Nhlangothi embody this connection, which began back in the early 1980s. At that time, the black community of South Africa adopted Vollenweider’s music as their own folk music. During the bitter struggle for an end to the inhuman apartheid regime, Andreas' songs were sung by the masses in the streets to express the strong will for peaceful change.

The London Session Orchestra, consisting of musicians from the Royal Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of James McWilliam, filled out the sound. Renowned British producer and arranger Peter Vettese is responsible for most of the orchestration. The brass elements were recorded by the experienced studio musicians of the London Horns.

The recordings took place at Andreas' Lakeside Studios in Switzerland, as well as at SABC Studios in Johannesburg, South Africa, and finally at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. Andy Wright's long-time sound engineer Gavin Goldberg has set new sonic standards for Vollenweider's music with his work, and is able to delight even the most discerning audiophiles with a punchy yet transparent, dynamic soundscape. Mastering guru Tony Cousins at Metropolis Studios put the finishing touches on the sound.

For Andreas, the last album Quiet Places with its contemplative, peaceful music forms a unit with Slow Flow & Dancer.  The three types of music complement one another and offer sound experiences for different moods and needs:

• Quiet Places: soulful, intimate, introspective

• Slow Flow: relaxing, like a leisurely walk in the park

• Dancer: an invitation to move and physically experience the music

Slow Flow & Dancer has had to wait a long time to be released to the world, not least because of Covid19, which also interfered massively with the plans of Andreas and his fellow musicians. All the more reason for Andreas Vollenweider & Friends to finally be able to present this album to you.


In 2022, Michel Legrand would have turned 90 (February 25). Composer, conductor, pianist, singer, stage director: Michel broke down the barriers between jazz, symphonic music, musical comedy and popular music. A musical legend, three times Oscar winner, Legrand left a prolific body of work, with themes that have taken hold in the collective memory for several decades. "Legrand (re)imagined" is an elegant and contemporary tribute to the late prolific composer Michel Legrand by the world's finest composers and pianists.

If Michel Legrand’s discography had a birth certificate, it would be the album I Love Paris, the record he made in 1954. And ever since that day, the composer made a point of respecting orders to the letter... while freeing himself from any obligation to them. « That project, » he said, « was one where I tried to inject something daring, and pulverise those routine instrumental discs by imagining each title with a colour of its own. Nadia Boulanger used to say, ‘the stronger the constraint, the more freedom you have’! » In Legrand’s first lifetime as an arranger, he developed that method with iconoclastic new readings of standards written by Cole Porter, George Gershwin or Thelonious Monk. Today, seven whole decades later, Michel Legrand may well have flown away, but his work remains: an immense, abundant opus that shows the way for new generations, like a lighthouse beaming in the dark. Michel chose not to make choices, particularly between the different cultures that made up his personal DNA: music that was baroque, romantic or Impressionist, modern jazz, or pop. Michel Legrand was the composer who represented synthesis, the missing link between Bach and Miles Davis. His modernity remains intact, illuminating his desires for curious blends, superimposition, and fusion. It also shines out in his condemnation of any established order. Michel used to say, « To me, a beautiful bossa nova is just as important as some of Wagner’s pieces.

And so we come to Legrand (re)imagined, which invites a galaxy of today’s artists to make the great Legrand’s world their own, sharing the same freedom with which Michel treated his own great elders. The artists here are Chad Lawson, Akira Kosemura, Luca D’Alberto or Alban Claudin, and they come from the United States, Japan, Italy or France. Michel Legrand never had time to know them, but every one of them, at various moments in their lives, encountered the music written by Legrand. Here, these artists had a simple mission: « Listen to your heart, choose a work that is Legrandesque... and give it a new reading that’s unlike any other. » All the artists are pianists, but sometimes they opted to slightly arrange their choice, and sometimes they produced a solo piano version. The only common denominator is that all the pieces they chose were 100% born in films, from the “Nouvelle Vague” years (Cle´o from 5 to 7, the Demy films) to Michel’s Hollywood period (The Thomas Crown Affair, Summer of ’42 and Yentl, three Oscar-winning scores.) When you listen to Legrand (re)imagined, you can hear the tracks unfolding with grace and balance, like as many acrobats: each title is legible, identifiable and, at the same time, the subjectivity in each artist takes them into a brand-new elsewhere. Take Lambert in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for example, and Elliott Jacque´s in Yentl. They re-phrase the melodies while steering their lyricism towards a level ambience that wraps the listener inside it. Akira Kosemura substitutes the original euphoria found in Toujours, jamais with “inner” feelings taken at a slowed-down tempo that is introspective, brushing the surface with melancholy. And while Stephan Moccio makes the ballad Brian’s Song crackle with revitalised energy, Gonzales drifts weightlessly across Summer of ’42 in the wake of the great Bill Evans.

There is an objective paradox behind this adventure: to reduce the music of a composer – a man whose lush arrangements are worshipped by many – to a couple of lines. Yet this was also a way to renew our acquaintance with compositions that we thought we knew by heart... and here they take on a new sparkle, the kind that occurs when you peel away the skin. As Lalo Schifrin observed to Stravinsky in Los Angeles, after discovering the Rite of Spring reduced for two pianos, « ... a magnificent woman wearing all her finery and jewels. But she’s even more beautiful naked! » That image is confirmed by Legrand (re)imagined: outlines and minimalism also suit the musical father of the Umbrellas. Since Michel Legrand himself worked on developing his melodies at the piano, this is almost a return to the foundational stage of composition, but it takes place in the light of artists whose vocations he sometimes contributed to shape. To that one can add the enthusiastic testimony of a filmmaker, musician and music-buff whose life, if not his whole destiny, Michel Legrand turned upside down. His name is Damien Chazelle, whose La La Land came as a tribute to Michel. According to Chazelle, « Legrand is a natural son of Rameau and Debussy... but he was born in Harlem. His soul is white and black, and he’s as baroque and impressionistic as the blues. That me´tissage is precisely what touches the most intimate part of me. » Michel Legrand is here, alive, contemporary, and at the forefront of the present. It’s now your turn to (re)imagine him. ~ Stéphane Lerouge


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