Friday, December 23, 2022

New Music Releases: Matt Greenwood, Holly Burke, Bill Runge & Linda Lee Thomas, Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, RJ LeBlanc

Matt Greenwood – Atlas

Originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, guitarist and composer Matt Greenwood is carving out a new sound in Toronto’s Jazz scene with his debut album Atlas. With a diverse musical upbringing, including performances as a teenager with Zimbabwean legends such as Oliver Mtukudzi and Forward Kwenda, Greenwood’s music is unhindered by geographical genre confines. The cinematic musical world of Atlas combines jazz improvisation with modern production aesthetics and a compositional approach that borders on contemporary classical music. The album consists entirely of Greenwood’s original compositions, brought to life by multiple combinations of musicians including Juno Award winning upright bassist Mike Downes, renowned drummer Mark Kelso and a long list of innovative up-and-coming Toronto and Montreal based musicians: Joshua Stanberry, Dhaivat Jani, Matt McCormack, Matt Dicker, Peter Holbrook, James Griffith, and Steve Carson. While most of the music was recorded live off the floor in studio, many of the tracks are augmented by an otherworldly landscape of overdubbed atmospheric guitar textures. Greenwood mixed the album himself to allow for a unique workflow where the lines could blur between composition, arrangement, and post-production. The main tracking sessions were engineered by Matthew Manifould and the album was mastered by Reuben Ghose. 

Holly Burke, Bill Runge & Linda Lee Thomas - Dreamride

In 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and after a five year struggle with post-concussion syndrome, composer Holly Burke finally found herself back at the piano, improvising again. Her muse had returned. Re-invigorated, Burke shared a few new themes and unfinished compositions with musician and composer Bill Runge – a long time collaborator of Burke’s, now side-lined by the pandemic. Runge was deeply moved by the incredible beauty of these musical vignettes. Together, they began painstakingly crafting the compositions, sometimes doing as many as two dozen drafts until they were happy with the results. Their collaboration yielded twenty new pieces of music. Having decided to record this new music, they could think of no better pianist for the job than the great Linda Lee Thomas, the principal pianist with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra since 1972 and member of the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame.This collection draws from a variety of musical settings, including jazz, pop, tango, and various classical styles. It’s a fascinating and enticing body of work, with each piece akin to a miniature tone poem

Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra: Voices – A Musical Heritage

Voices – A Musical Heritage is the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s sixth release since their inception in 1997. This album is a collection of commissions from eight jazz composers meant to reflect some of Manitoba’s musical heritage: First Nations, Metis, Ukrainian, Jewish, Chilean, Brazilian, Nigerian and Icelandic. Beginning with The Parallel Steppes, John Stetch’s creative three movement suite reimagines Ukrainian folk songs using chorale textures, fugue-like sections and exciting up-tempo swing. Throughout the album, the WJO weaves its way through the imaginations of each composer: an homage to Victor Jara in Rodrigo Muñoz’s Homenaje; an exploration of the ancient pentatonic scale in Jeff Presslaff’s The Living Mind; a celebration of community with Henry Onwuchekwa’s Oriri; sweeping, icy landscapes and folk music in Richard Gillis’s Shadows; Marco Castillo’s plea for protecting our Earth in Choro para Amazônia; the magical northern skies in Andrew Belfour’s Ishpiming; and the driving, relentless pursuit of Michelle Gregoire’s The Bison Hunt.

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. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Fred Hersch & esperanza spalding | Alive at the Village Vanguard

Pianist and composer Fred Hersch and vocalist, bassist, and/songwriter esperanza spalding (stylized in all lower case) can both be counted among the most acclaimed and inventive artists in modern jazz. The Village Vanguard is the music’s most revered venue, having played host to countless legendary musicians and beloved live recordings. The duo and the club converge for a magical performance on Alive at the Village Vanguard, a rare opportunity for listeners to enjoy the singular and thrilling collaboration between two marquee jazz artists at the top of their game.

Due out January 6, 2023 via Palmetto Records, Alive at the Village Vanguard showcases the astonishing chemistry shared by these two master musicians, who bring out distinctive aspects in each other’s playing. Hersch and spalding have convened for only a handful of New York City performances since their first meeting in 2013 during the pianist’s annual duo series at the Jazz Standard. In that limited time the pair has developed a wholly personal approach, not only in the annals of piano-voice duets but in their own already highly individual practices. Taking the stage with no set arrangements and only a vague sense of the repertoire they’ll explore, the dauntless pair delights in playing without a safety net.

“This recording sounds like you’re in the best seat in the Vanguard for a very live experience,” says Hersch. “You can really feel the vitality of the room, of the audience, and of our interplay. We decided on the word Alive for the album title as you can really feel the intimacy and energy of the performances.”

Alive at the Village Vanguard marks Hersch’s sixth recording from the storied club, where he’s been invited to headline three weeks annually for many years. The album also vividly spotlights Hersch’s stunning sensitivity and engagement as a duo partner; in recent years he’s worked in a similar setting with such incredible musicians as guitarists Julian Lage and Bill Frisell, clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and trumpet maestro Enrico Rava. 

Hersch and spalding will celebrate the album’s release with a return to the Village Vanguard for a weeklong engagement beginning on January 10. That will be followed by a three-week U.S. tour.

“Playing with Fred feels like we’re in a sandbox,” spalding says. “He takes his devotion to the music as serious as life and death, but once we start playing, it’s just fun. I like to live on the edge in my music, but I find myself trying things that I usually wouldn’t when I play with him, finding new spaces to explore in the realm of improvised lyrics.”

Always a determined original in her own projects, spalding rarely sings standards, and her approach here is unique to her partnership with Hersch. She’s revealed on this outing as not just a phenomenal scat singer but a charming and imaginative improvisational storyteller. The Gershwins’ “But Not For Me” becomes a witty, poetic extemporization on the lyric itself, examining the changes in language represented by the original’s sometimes archaic terminology. Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup’s chauvinistic ditty “Girl Talk” comes under barbed scrutiny from not only a feminist but also an eco-conscious perspective.

“I don’t think anybody’s heard esperanza sing like this,” Hersch says. “She’s a fearless vocalist, and is one of the biggest talents I know. She’s got a huge reach in her intellectual knowledge and is a big thinker in both her projects and in her outlook.”

Hersch’s preternatural reflexes, profound emotional expressiveness and unparalleled gift for interpreting and reimagining repertoire with each new performance are on mesmerizing display throughout the album. His “Dream of Monk” has been a staple of the duo’s sets since the beginning. With lyrics penned by the pianist himself, the tune is a dedication to one of the pianist’s most indelible influences, whose own “Evidence” shows why Hersch is such a revered interpreter of the Monk canon. “Little Suede Shoes” transforms another bop-era classic, spinning a playful update on the Charlie Parker calypso.

“Some Other Time” is a Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne song, less well known than the Leonard Bernstein classic of the same name but a favorite of Hersch, who weaves an elegant and vivid tapestry during his mesmerizing solo. Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” is launched by spalding’s unconventional scatting, which she eventually uses to engage in a nimble dance with Hersch’s propulsive piano. The album closes with Hersch’s best-known composition, “A Wish (Valentine),” with magnificent lyrics by Norma Winstone.

Though it’s hard to believe given the buoyant spirits and playful interaction of the performances, both spalding and Hersch were working through pain on the October 2018 weekend that this music was recorded. Although the stint ended on a celebratory note with the occasion of Hersch’s 63rd birthday, he was also scheduled to enter the hospital the very next day for hip replacement surgery. “I was in a lot of pain and walking with a crutch,” he recalls. “Just getting down the famous stairs to the Vanguard was an ordeal, but once the music started the pain disappeared completely.”

spalding, meanwhile, was struggling with family issues while juggling an intense schedule that included writing an opera with the master composer Wayne Shorter and beginning a teaching position at Harvard University. “I was going through a very difficult time in my life,” she admits. “I was miserable every day when I got to the Vanguard, so I had to decide to plug into the capacity for this music to heal. I wanted to emanate something positive even though I was feeling so horrible. Neither of us were feeling well in our lives outside of the music, so the stage of the Vanguard became an alchemizing place for both of us, and I think you can feel that in the music.”

Fred Hersch - A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is an influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades. A fifteen-time Grammy nominee, Hersch has long set the standard for expressive interpretation and inventive creativity. A revered improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist, Hersch has been proclaimed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, “an elegant force of musical invention” by The L.A. Times, and “a living legend” by The New Yorker. For decades Hersch has been firmly entrenched as one of the most acclaimed and captivating pianists in modern jazz, whether through his exquisite solo performances, as the leader of one of jazz’s era-defining trios, or in eloquent dialogue with his deeply attuned duo partners. His brilliant 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, was named one of 2017’s Five Best Memoirs by the Washington Post and The New York Times.

esperanza spalding - Five-time Grammy Award-winning visionary esperanza spalding aims to ignite and portray various hues of vital human energies through composition, singing, bass playing and live performance. A lover of all music, especially improvisation-based musics emerging from black American culture, spalding’s musical aesthetic is prismatic. With projects like Radio Music Society, Chamber Music Society, Emily’s D+ Evolution and 12 Little Spells, she has inventively combined and reimagined influences from jazz, funk, rock, musical theater and beyond. She has taught at Berklee College of Music and Harvard University, founded the Songwrights Apothecary Lab, and wrote the opera ...(Iphigenia) in collaboration with Wayne Shorter.

Pianist-composer Satoko Fujii Celebrates 100 Albums as a Leader with Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams

For Hyaku: One Hundred Dreams, pianist and composer Satoko Fujii’s 100th album as a leader, she assembled a one-of-a-kind, all-star band. Trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Natsuki Tamura, tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, electronics artist Ikue Mori, bassist Brandon Lopez, and drummers Tom Rainey and Chris Corsano join Fujii to perform “One Hundred Dreams,” an ambitious new composition celebrating a milestone very few musicians ever reach. As sprawling and all-encompassing as Fujii’s own prolific career, it is Fujii at her most imaginative and wide-ranging.

Fujii has always had a knack for celebrating career landmarks in style. In 2008, she marked her 50th birthday year by releasing a half dozen CDs. A decade later, she doubled that output, releasing a new CD each month for a year in celebration of her 60th birthday. Franz A. Matzner in All About Jazz likened the twelve albums to “an ecosystem of independently thriving organisms linked by the shared soil of Fujii's artistic heritage and shaped by the forces of her creativity.” It’s no wonder that this artist with such a highly developed sense of occasion should make a splash for CD number 100. 

Since Something About Water with pianist Paul Bley, her 1996 recording debut as a leader, Fujii has released albums under her own name with a stunning range of bands. Among them are seven CDs with a trio featuring bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black; five albums by her electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins; eight solo CDs; and eight duets with her husband and creative partner, Natsuki Tamura. Fully one-fifth of her recorded output–more than 20 albums–feature her compositions for large ensemble.

Fujii says each of her CDs is “a dream come true.” On Hyaku (the Japanese word for “100”), she presents yet another of her beguiling visions—the wide-ranging “One Hundred Dreams,” a composition embracing swinging jazz, avant-rock, chamber jazz, and collective improvisation, that’s a prime example of Fujii’s unclassifiable music making at its peak.

Fujii treats her bandmembers as equal contributors to the composition and gives them generous solo time. Schoenbeck’s unaccompanied solo displays a lovely sense of melody and a unique vocabulary of colors and textures. The drummers engage in a duet that is not so much a dialogue as a joint statement. Wadada Leo Smith offers up a small jewel of subtle sound manipulation and structural discipline. Bassist Lopez, also a master of extended techniques, elicits new sounds from his instrument, and his low tones create considerable heft and presence. In her solo spot, Ingrid Laubrock feeds off the energy of Lopez and the drummers, coaxing short phrases into a long flowing statement that weaves in and out of the rhythmic network of her accompanists. Mori organizes her distinctive electronic sounds into incidents that possess all the drama and feeling of melody, even though there rarely is one. Tamura’s solo combines absurdly comic sounds and bop-inflected lines into serious music that isn’t self-serious.

As composer and conductor, Fujii is always listening carefully and guiding and shaping the performance. She cues in closely voiced ensemble chords that well up around Schoenbeck and buoy her skyward toward the end of her solo. The band punctuates the drum duet, driving the music to an exciting climactic burst. She fashioned a colorful backdrop for Smith that complements his mastery of sound, silence, and instrumental color. She brings in the band to punctuate Laubrock’s solo, but soon the short bursts of notes expand into a jubilant collective improvisation. She has also penned some bristling themes full of surprising twists and turns. She brings in a snaky, swinging melody that draws the band together after an extended passage in which she deconstructs the ensemble into smaller units. And the entire band pitches in on a rocking theme that brings everything to a celebratory ending. 

Pianist and composer Satoko Fujii, “an improviser of rumbling intensity and generous restraint” (Giovanni Russonello, New York Times), is one of the most original voices in jazz today. “Fujii’s music troubles the divide between abstraction and realism,” Russonello continues. “Plucking or scraping the strings of the piano; covering them up as she strikes the keys…. All of this amounts to abstract expressionism, in musical form. But it’s equaled by her rich sense of simplicity, sprung from the feeling that she is simply converting the riches of the world around her into music.”

For more than 25 years, she has created a unique, personal music that spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical, rock, and traditional Japanese music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific composer for ensembles of all sizes and a performer who has appeared around the world, she was the recipient of a 2020 Instant Award in Improvised Music, in recognition of her “artistic intelligence, independence, and integrity.”

New Music Releases: Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Francisco Mela with Cooper-Moore & William Parker, Fabiano Do Nascimento & Itibere Collective

Oscar Peterson - Hymn To Freedom

Over the course of the last century and beyond, there have been few songs that have stood the test of time and continue to inspire hope in times of adversity. Marking the 60th anniversary of the recording and composition of Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom” (from his seminal album Night Train), Two Lions Records (released by Mack Avenue) has enlisted pianist Benny Green (Peterson’s protégé), bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton to pay homage to the composition while honoring the journey the song has taken as the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, its performance on the United States Capitol steps during President Obama’s first inauguration and its performance by choirs worldwide 60 years after its inception. "What makes this one piece of music so special, so beloved? Perhaps its simplicity," reflects  Kelly Peterson (Two Lions Records). "It is a melody that reaches deeply into our cores and touches us all on a profound emotional level. This hymn carries with it the universal human longing for peace, love, and freedom. Its message and its melody are timeless. This is why today we are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the day Oscar Peterson composed 'Hymn to Freedom' with a new recording."

Benny Carter with André Previn, Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and Ben Webster  - Jazz Giant

In May, Craft Recordings launched the Acoustic Sounds Series, which celebrates 70 years of Contemporary Records and highlights gems from legendary jazz label's extraordinary catalog and featuring artists who both defined and expanded the sound of West Coast jazz. Following reissues of Art Pepper’s +Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics and Barney Kessel's The Poll Winners, Craft releases Benny Carter's Jazz Giant on vinyl today. Jazz Giant features performances by André Previn, Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and Ben Webster amongst others. First released in 1958 and recorded by legendary engineer Roy DuNann, this new edition features all-analog mastering from the original tapes by Bernie Grundman. The record is pressed on 180-gram vinyl at QRP and presented in a Stoughton Old Style Tip-On Jacket. The Acoustic Sounds Series continues on February 24, 2023 with the release of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, the altoist’s auspicious 1957 Contemporary debut pairing him with pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, three-fifths of Miles Davis’ nonpareil quintet. The sixth album in the series is the September 15, 2023 release of Shelly Manne’s hugely popular 1956 trio session My Fair Lady with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and pianist André Previn, paved the way for hundreds of jazz albums dedicated to Broadway shows. 

Francisco Mela with Cooper-Moore & William Parker - Music Frees Our Souls Vol 2

There's a nice variation here to the previous album from Francisco Mela with this title – and that difference is pianist Cooper-Moore, who steps into the place that Matthew Shipp held in the previous trio – and brings all sorts of wonderful sounds and flavors into play! Mela's a great leader for the set – as his approach to the drums is as open and elliptical as the bass of William Parker and the piano of Cooper-Moore – who really has a way of circling around these sonic passages in a great way – almost slowly winding up, and pulling Parker and Mela along with him – then generating sparks that allows all three players to bristle with energy in all sorts of different directions. The set features two long tracks – "Musical Literacy" and "Mental Scenario". ~ Dusty Groove

Fabiano Do Nascimento & Itibere Collective - Rio Bonito

A wonderful record – one that takes off from the spare sound of earlier albums by guitarist Fabiano Do Nascimento, and adds in some smaller group instrumentation that really sends things over the top! Fabiano's still got all the amazing touches on his instrument – played at a level that's in a legacy of Brazilian acoustic right up there with Baden Powell or Luiz Bonfa – mixed this time around with a shifting palette of instrumentation that includes percussion, flutes, violin, cello, and tenor – all elements used in ways that are still spare, yet shade the music in wonderfully! While we've loved Fabiano's airy explorations in the past, we love him even more here – as the album's as full of color and scope as you'd guess from the image on the cover, or its evocative reference to Rio Bonito – on titles that include "Strings For My Guitar", "Coletivo Universal", "Kaleidoscope", "Retratos", "Theme In C", and "Emotivo". ~ Dusty Groove

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

New Music Releases: Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks; Luxury Soul 2023; Ava Cherry; Noah Preminger Trio

Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks - Keep On Keepin' On

Shirley Davis is centered, feet firmly planted and gazing right on into the future. The powerful soul singer takes no prisoners and holds no regrets on her third album, Keep On Keepin’ On. As Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks, Davis harnesses the power of soul mothers past as well as her own history to deliver a record that rollicks from soul serenade to rocking ballad, then brings it on home with hard stepping soul. Keep On Keepin’ On embodies the best of the modern soul tradition, while showcasing a unique voice in its growing canon. Conjuring classic soul and funk sounds of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as the mighty Sharon Jones – whose last words to Davis provide the album title — Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks’ latest is a highly personal tale of empowerment and self-realization, served up without losing an ounce of grooviness.

Luxury Soul 2023 – Various Artists

The UK’s No.1 independent soul label Expansion Records commences each year with the label’s most anticipated collection, “Luxury Soul”. The success of the series comes down to the quality of tracks sourced from independent soul music artists, often unsigned or with recordings previously unissued or on limited release elsewhere. Included on this unique collection are exclusives by Kloud 9 and Kenya feat. Noel Gourdin, first time on CD releases by Output/Input (Chaka Khan’s touring band), Julian Jonah, We Are One X-Perience, Royalty Duo, Brian Power, Lisa Dietrich, Alton McClain Scarborough, and others, including tracks previously No.1 or Top 10 in UK Soul Chart. 35 tracks in total, together at an amazing price. Release to coincide with the 20th Anniversary Luxury Soul Weekender in January 2023 and includes tracks by three artists performing live at the event.

Ava Cherry - Love Shines So Bright

Ava Cherry is a singer and model. Her breakthrough as an artist began in 1972 when she met David Bowie in New York City while Bowie was touring for 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars'. It began with a period of personal and artistic collaboration that heavily influenced the 'Young Americans' 'blue-eyed soul' era of Bowie. Following this, she struck out as a solo artist and background singer for musicians such as Luther Vandross and Chaka Khan. Ava Cherry's solo career has been long-running, with her first album 'Ripe!!!' released in 1980. Her solo work, known for its disco influence, has received a lot positive critical reception. Ava Cherry is still a recording artist and seems to not age at all. She sounds great, has incredible work ethics and has not lost any charisma as a person, singer and model. 'Love Shines So Bright' is a collaboration with writer and producer Rob Hardt and David A. Tobin. This exclusive production marks a new phase and brings along a modern Soul tune with a vintage touch. It will shine bright on all platforms and will become a sparkling diamond in every DJ set and playlist. ~

Noah Preminger Trio - Sky Continuous

With Sky Continuous, Downbeat Critics Poll Winner 2022 (Rising Star Alto Sax) Noah Preminger, presents his 3rd album as a leader for Criss Cross. Sky Continuous is an exceptionally compelling trio recital with bass virtuoso Kim Cass, who has performed on 10 of Preminger's 11 prior albums (including Criss Cross releases Genuinity and After Life) and drumset Bill Stewart, who had never before shared a bandstand with Preminger. The music, which includes eight Preminger originals, is logically structured but adventurous and open - ended. The Album was recorded November 9, 2021 at the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in NY. Recording engineer Mike Marciano also did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two in NY.

Ann Hampton Callaway Pays Homage to Peggy Lee on "Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration!"

With her artist legacy series, pop/jazz vocalist and songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway paid homage to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan on two critically-acclaimed CDs while staying true to her artistic aesthetic. Callaway continues that series with Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration!, which highlights the songwriting talents of Lee, who wrote or co-wrote over 270 songs in her lifetime, and features two of Lee’s compositions that have never before been recorded. One, a poem written by Lee titled “Clair De Lune,” Callaway composed music for; the other, a premiere of “The Other Part of Me,” a song written by Lee and Paul Horner for the 1983 autobiographical Broadway musical, Peg. Featured on two tracks is special guest John Pizzarelli, another connection to Lee, whose favorite guitar player, after her husband, Dave Barbour, was John's father, Bucky Pizzarelli.

The recording came on the heels of Callaway’s show, Fever: The Peggy Lee Century, a 100th birthday celebration of the singer at the New York City supper club 54 Below for which she just received a BroadwayWorld nomination for Best Celebrity Show.

Callaway comes from an artistic background—her parents were John Callaway, a legendary TV and radio journalist, and Shirley Callaway, a pianist, performer and revered voice teacher. She writes in her liner notes: “I like to say I was raised on milk and 'Fever' because Peggy's iconic hit came out the year I was born and pulsed through our little Chicago walk-up like a welcoming heartbeat." Lee's many records were spinning on her parent's turntable, sparking Callaway's lifelong love of the pop/jazz icon.

As Callaway matured, she especially appreciated how Lee's less-is-more approach to her singing lent her songs beauty, mystery and vulnerability. And, when she discovered what a brilliant and prolific songwriter Lee was, she became an even more defining inspiration to her.

Curious and genetically-inclined to do her research like her father, who “knew more about the people he interviewed than the people themselves,” according to Callaway, she was inspired to explore beyond Lee’s world-facing persona and the hit songs such as “Fever.” She was also fortunate to have access to the deeply personal stories behind the music through her friendship with Holly Foster Wells, sole granddaughter of Peggy Lee and administrator for the estate.

Their friendship led to the enviable once-in-a-lifetime creative opportunity for Callaway, bestowed upon her by Wells, resulting in the recording debut of the two new Lee works, hidden gems entrusted by Wells to Callaway, that make this legacy project unique.

“Clair De Lune,” Wells says, was inspired by Lee’s fascination with the love affair between French composer Claude Debussy and a woman named Gabrielle "Gaby" DuPont. So intrigued, she even optioned the rights to a book that detailed it, wrote a screenplay and painted a picture of Gaby. “That screenplay meant so much to her,” Wells says. “I know that having the poem become a song would make my grandmother so happy.”

Lee wrote the lyric for “The Other Part of Me" for her late, estranged husband and father of her only child, Dave Barbour. According to Wells, her grandfather was the love of Lee’s life, but due to his alcoholism, they divorced. Just as they were contemplating getting back together, he suddenly died.

On being the first person to record Peggy’s homage to Barbour, Callaway says, ”What an honor to bring this magnificent love song into the world where it belongs. The love between Peggy and Dave can now be more fully immortalized.”

Callaway and Lee share several traits: both are songwriters, superb vocalists, mesmerizing storytellers and fearless. “They both have a way of really captivating an audience and casting a spell,” says Wells, who went on the road with her grandmother starting at six years old. “Ann has an incredible instrument and she is also a sensitive human being and performer. They are both spiritual people and that comes through their music.”

“Fever” kicks the album off with the stellar band she’s assembled, laying down a deep groove with an added piano track. Originally a simpler blues song that Lee wrote two additional verses to, Callaway didn’t want to “stray too far” from the original version, but added additional lyrics of her own, telling the story of the Lee-Barbour love affair. The affair plays a large role in the Peggy Lee live show and she felt strongly about referencing it in her version of the song.

Callaway says “Black Coffee" is one of the “greatest torch songs ever written.” Lee’s understated approach to singing was something she appreciated, and while many singers lean into the sexy reading of this song, Callaway opts for expressing the torment of being betrayed by one’s love instead.

“I Don’t Know Enough About You,” was the first song that Lee and Barbour wrote after Barbour was fired from Benny Goodman's band for "consorting with the girl singer," and Lee subsequently resigned. So, they left and started writing their own songs. “It’s A Good Day,” was also written by the husband-wife team in the “After Benny Time” as Callaway calls it. Callaway makes a medley of that with “This is a Very Special Day,” written by Lee for the 1953 film, The Jazz Singer. She wove the songs together to acknowledge what she regards as Lee's superpower through a challenging life—optimism.

Lee recorded “Till There Was You” on what Callaway calls her “second concept album,” Latin ala Lee!, and includes it on the album as a bossa nova simply because she felt it "expressed the feeling of the lyric describing love’s awakening and how it beautifully transforms the way we see the world."

The Kern/Hammerstein ballad “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” arranged here by pianist Ted Rosenthal, is where Callaway echoes Lee’s heartbreak and disillusionment in her 1957 recording of the song on "The Man I Love" because her marriage and idyllic life have come apart. “You can hear the sadness in her voice,” says Callaway, who approached it from a contrarian reading, “putting higher stakes in the song” by becoming someone whose dream doesn’t come true.”

“Johnny Guitar” is a Victor Young-Peggy Lee collaboration written for the 1953 film of the same name, starring Joan Crawford. Callaway includes this melancholy and beautiful ballad as an homage to Barbour— Lee’s “Johnny” in real life.

“Sing a Rainbow” began as a note scribbled by Arthur Hamilton on a card tucked into flowers he sent Lee before a show. She called him afterward and told him what a beautiful title for a song and that he should write it. He did eventually when he wrote two compositions for the 1955 film, Pete Kelley’s Blues, which garnered Lee an Oscar-nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and featured a guest appearance by Ella Fitzgerald. Callaway believes that Lee’s heartbreaking performance of the song earned her the nomination, which she recreates in her live shows. “I love that he actually ended up writing that song as she suggested and that it made such an impact,” Callaway concludes.

With these 14 spellbinding tracks on Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration, Callaway provides a deeper look into the prodigious songwriting talent of Lee, who some regard as the first female singer-songwriter, burnishing her legacy as a trailblazer for women in the music business.

“To me, Ann is helping to finish some of the work that my grandmother started,” Wells says. “She chose all of the songs for the album, and I think my grandmother would love how Ann focused so much on her songwriting, something she was very proud of."

2022-23 Tour Dates

  • 12/10/2022 South Orange Performing Arts Center South Orange, NJ "Ann Hampton Callaway & Liz Callaway - Broadway the Calla-way!"
  • 12/16-18/2022 Orchestra Iowa Paramount Theatre Cedar Rapids, IA "Ann Hampton Callaway - Holiday Spectacular w/ Orchestra Iowa Pops II"
  • 1/6-13/2023 The Jazz Cruise 2023 Fort Lauderdale, FL "The Ann Hampton Callaway Trio"
  • 1/15/2023 54 Below New York, NY "Ann Hampton Callaway - "Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration! & "Ann Hampton Callaway Sings The 70's" - APAP Showcase
  • 1/20/2023 Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts Wickenburg, AZ "Ann Hampton Callaway - The Linda Ronstadt Songbook"
  • 2/18/2023 Sacred Heart University Community Theatre Fairfield, CT "Ann Hampton Callaway & Liz Callaway - Broadway the Calla-way!"
  • 2/4/23 Fort Wayne Philharmonic Center Fort Wayne, IN "Ann Hampton Callaway - The Streisand Songbook"
  • 2/24/23 The Purple Room Palm Springs, CA "Ann Hampton Callaway - Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration"
  • 3/2-4/2023 54 Below New York, NY "Ann Hampton Callaway & Amanda McBroom: Divalicious" 
  • 4/7/2023 The Music Room Cape Cod West Yarmouth, MA "Ann Hampton Callaway - "Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration!"
  • 6/9-11/2023 Seattle Symphony Seattle, WA "Ann Hampton Callaway w/ Seattle Symphony - The Linda Ronstadt Songbook

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club Features GRAMMY® Award-Winning NEW ORLEANS JAZZ ORCHESTRA with 3x-GRAMMY® Award Nominated Jazz Vocalist JAZZMEIA HORN

GRAMMY® Award-Winning NEW ORLEANS JAZZ ORCHESTRA Featuring 3x-GRAMMY® Award Nomination Jazz Vocalist JAZZMEIA HORN perform at Jazz & Blues Club on Friday January 20 at 7 & 9:30 P.M. 

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra was formed in 2002 and was designed to celebrate and fortify the American Jazz portfolio while providing infrastructure for developing the New Orleans Jazz Industry. Led by GRAMMY® Award-Winner Adonis Rose, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra band has an ever-increasing repertoire that exemplifies the influence of Jazz as the grandfather of all modern American music.

3x GRAMMY® Award Nominated Jazz Vocalist JAZZMEIA HORN, who is the Winner of both the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, joins the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in their return to Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club.

Horn's most recent GRAMMY® Award Nomination was in 2021 for her album Dear Love. Garnering praise from critics and fans alike Dear Love is a recording that brims with the combination of her assured delivery and spoken world segments, deft arrangements, and fiery musical ideas. In 2018, Jazzmeia Horn was Nominated for a GRAMMY® Award ("Best Jazz Vocal Album") for her album A Social Call. Horn was Nominated for another GRAMMY® Award ("Best Jazz Vocal Album") in 2020 for her album Love & Liberation.

"We are very excited to have the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra return for a Special Performance at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club with outstanding jazz vocalist Jazzmeia Horn," said Suzanne Bresette, Managing Director of Programming at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club. "We have been working with Artistic Director Adonis Rose to bring New Orleans Jazz Orchestra back to Jimmy's since their first wonderful performance in early 2022. Their return with brilliant singer Jazzmeia Horn will make for another phenomenal night of Jazz music — and a rare, one-of-a-kind experience for jazz music enthusiasts at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club!"

Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club's 2022 Schedule of Shows included 9 NEA Jazz Masters, 52 GRAMMY® Award-Winning Artists, 46 Blues Music Award-Winners, and a comprehensive list of talented musicians with 575+ GRAMMY® Award Nominations amongst them. Tickets for the NEW ORLEANS JAZZ ORCHESTRA with JAZZMEIA HORN at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club on Friday January 20 at 7 & 9:30 P.M., as well as the current list of 2022 & 2023 shows, can be found on Ticketmaster and Jimmy's Online Event Calendar at:

Pleasure’s Joyous Returns to Vinyl Exclusively Through Jazz Dispensary’s Coveted Top Shelf Series

Jazz Dispensary proudly announces the latest release in its acclaimed Top Shelf Series, Pleasure’s long out-of-print classic Joyous. Produced by Wayne Henderson (The Jazz Crusaders), the 1977 album delivers instant party vibes, thanks to a lively blend of soul, funk, disco and jazz. As with every title in the album-centric Top Shelf Series—which reissues the highest-quality, hand-picked rarities (all culled from Craft Recordings’ vaults)—Joyous has been cut from the original analog tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on audiophile-quality 180-gram vinyl at RTI. The LP is housed in a tip-on jacket, featuring faithfully reproduced original designs.

Ahead of the holidays, Jazz Dispensary is also adding a groovy new colorway to its popular “Catnip” T-shirt. Perfect for all jazz cats, the design (now available in Granite or Ivory) features an original illustration by Favorite Vegetable. The Jazz Dispensary store also includes a variety of exclusive gifts, including a logo T-shirt and crewneck, a corduroy logo hat, a zeotropic slipmat from record animator Drew Tetz and a variety of bumper stickers, in addition to a curated selection of vinyl LPs.

Hailing from Portland, OR, Pleasure formed in 1972, blending the talents of two local acts: The Franchise (featuring drummer Bruce Carter, guitarist Marlon “The Magician” McClain and bassist Nathaniel Phillips) and The Soul Masters (keyboardists/brothers Donald and Michael Hepburn, saxophonist Dennis Springer, trombonist/guitarist Dan Brewster, vocalist Sherman Davis and percussionist Bruce Smith). Soon, the nonet’s electric fusion of soul, jazz and funk caught the ears of Jazz Crusaders co-founder and trombonist Wayne Henderson. Under Henderson’s wing, Pleasure signed to Fantasy Records (home to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Vince Guaraldi), where the soul jazz star would produce four of the band’s albums, including their 1975 debut, Dust Yourself Off, 1976’s Accept No Substitutes and 1977’s Joyous.

After spending months on the road, opening for the era’s hottest R&B acts (including Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, War, Natalie Cole, Bill Withers and B.B. King), the members of Pleasure were primed to deliver their most confident album yet. The result was Joyous, which offered a perfect, genre-bending example of their self-declared “360 degrees of music.” Marking the band’s final album with its original line-up, Joyous allowed each member of the group to shine—particularly when it came to songwriting. Among the highlights is the McClain-penned party anthem “Dance to the Music,” Brewster’s pop-forward “Let Me Be the One” and Michael Hepburn’s enduring hit “Joyous.” The title track, which opens the album, offers a six-and-a-half-minute-long funk-fueled jam that feels right at home on a disco floor. The song became the group’s first Top 40 hit on the R&B charts, helping to propel Joyous to No.34 on Billboard’s Top Soul Albums chart and No.113 on the overall album chart (Pleasure’s highest position at that point in their career). The album also featured a handful of chilled-out delights, including Donald Hepburn’s sultry “Sassafras Girl” and Nathaniel Phillips’ smooth-as-silk ballad “Tune In.” Dan Brewster’s “Only You,” meanwhile, delivers a soulful, socially conscious message.

Since its release, Joyous has only grown in its popularity and has become a sought-after favorite of DJs. Reflecting on the album, AllMusic called it “a classic that underscores Pleasure’s risk-taking nature.” The UK-based Soul and Jazz and Funk hailed it as “a must-own [LP] for jazz-funk enthusiasts,” while Soulstrut praised Joyous as “the apex of [Pleasure’s] sophisticated, matured sound.” Over the decades, several of the songs on Joyous have found new lives through samples—particularly the title track, which has appeared in releases by Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Sugarhill Gang and Daft Punk, among many others. “Let Me Be the One,” meanwhile, was also sampled in tracks by the likes of Public Enemy and Ultramagnetic MCs.

New Music Releases: It Hurts So Good; Matthew Halsall; Avram Fefer Quartet; Monday Michiru

It Hurts So Good – Various Artists

It doesn’t always hurt to hurt…Soul 4 Real’s first venture into the albums market is as compellingly essential as the label’s impressive singles catalogue. Its 11 tracks explore every lonely street and losers avenue that soul music has walked down since the early 60s, tempering essays of heartbreak and love lost with the occasional glimpse of positivity and happiness. “It Hurts So Good” is very much in the tradition of those great 60s soul compilations where diverse strands of black American music sat side-by-side with each other, and still formed a satisfying listening experience despite their apparent disparity because, in the final analysis, the music mattered most. This album showcases just under a dozen goodies by some very big names in soul. It may well be that one or two of the tracks might be less than familiar to you, but you will know the artists – and you will know, too, that they will never let you down. Originally unissued tracks by James & Bobby Purify and Walter Jackson blend seamlessly with early essentials from Aretha Franklin, Willie Hutch and the Main Ingredient (as the Insiders). Soul 4 Real has delved into the deeper parts of discographies of legendary artists like Marvin Gaye, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight & The Pips and Esther Phillips to bring you songs and performances that are every bit as unforgettable as those that forged their reputations. And if you remain unmoved after experiencing the stellar offerings from the Soul Children and Lou Courtney, it may well be that you didn’t have a soul to begin with. In the song that gives this collection its title, the great Prince Phillip Mitchell wrote “it ain’t no good unless it hurts a little bit”. It’s true, and the ‘Hurt’ here really IS ‘So Good’…and then some…

Matthew Halsall - Changing Earth

Four sublime tracks from trumpeter Matthew Halsall – all of which work together to give this EP release all the spiritual power of his full length albums! Halsall has a sense of majesty here that's undeniable – the continuing evolution of that style that's grabbed us strongly for over a decade, mixed here with flute and saxes from Matt Cliffe, Harp from Maddie Herbert, piano from Liviu Gheorghe, bass from Gavin Barras, drums from Alan Taylor, and percussion from Jack McCarthy. The harp and flute are especially nice, and the work has a style that's meditative, but modal too – really moving forward with some great gentle grooves – on titles that include "Yogic Flying", "Upper Space", "Positive Activity", and "Changing Earth". ~ Dusty Groove

Avram Fefer Quartet w/Marc Ribot, Eric Revis, Chad Tahylor - Juba Lee

Guitarist Marc Ribot again joins the group of reedman Avram Fefer – a match that really seems to be a highlight in the recent careers of both musicians! Ribot's work in the group is maybe the most focused and meaningful we've heard from him in years – a really back-to-basics return to the strength of his sense of tone and timing – which also really seems to bring out a lot on Fefer too, especially when he hits these straight, soulful lines that come across with a richness that seems distinct from other projects. The rest of the group features the great Chad Taylor on drums – always a treat – and Eric Revis on bass – on titles that include "Juba Lee", "Sky Lake", "Love Is In The Air", "Gemini Time"- "Say You're Sorry", "Showtime", and "Bedouin Dream". ~ Dusty Groove

Monday Michiru - Free Soul Collection (2022 Japan Record Day Release)

Monday Michiru is one of the few contemporary artists to get the Free Soul treatment – but that's more than ok with us, given the depth of her work, and her near-classic sound! The collection brings together some of the most soulful and deeply flowing tunes by Monday from the past decade or so – numbers that sparkle with a sense of life and joy that you'd be hard pressed to find in most other soul singers, even those from the current Neo Soul underground! A few numbers are more uptempo and dancefloor-oriented, but these are offset by others that are gentler and more introspective – performed in a great range of instrumental styles that really keep things fresh. CD features a few special versions of tracks, and titles include "Loving You (acoustic live version)", "You Make Me (single version)", "Play It By Ear", "Conversations With Myself", "Sunshine After The Rain (radio edit)", "Leaf In The Wind", "Chasing After The Sun (barefoot n pregnant version)", "Tattoo My Heart", "Changes", "Mermaid", "Maiden Voyage – Gone", "Stop N Listen", "Thinking Of You", and "How Deep Is Your Love".  © Dusty Groove

Monday, December 05, 2022

Papik | "Enjoy The Ride"

‘Enjoy The Ride’ is Nerio Papik Poggi’s sixth album with his real and only artist name. Since 2009, the release date of his first album entitled ‘Rhythm Of Life’, the Roman musician and producer has come a long way. In addition to his solo albums, all full of illustrious guests including musicians and singers, he has released about thirty albums / collections dedicated to musical genres, artists or repertoires of famous songs.

His sound, a fusion of Soul, Jazz and West Coast, is now a trademark recognized by his fans all over the world for the refinement, attention to detail and soul that characterize it. Considering the particularity of his products, not destined for pop charts, but followed obsessively by his faithful listeners, his numbers are also important on digital stores with over 100 million streams both on Spotify and Youtube. All his products are printed and distributed also in physical Compact Disc format and often also in vinyl.

Also in this new album we find all the characteristics that distinguish him, including remakes of famous songs and original songs, and many of his closest collaborators such as Peter De Girolamo, Alfredo Bochicchio, Fabio Tullio, Massimo Guerra for the musical part and Alan Scaffardi, Ely Bruna, Walter Ricci, Francesca Gramegna, David Florio for the vocal part. Vocal guests this time also two Brazilian singers: Gustavo Baiao and Rosalia De Souza. 

Papik is a musical project born from an idea of the Roman producer and composer Nerio Poggi, which ranges from Pop to Nu Jazz and from Bossa to Nu Soul. He has collaborated with various artists including Mario Biondi on the albums “Handful of Soul” and on the album “I Love You More” where he appears as an author in both. The choice of the name Papik originates from a nickname given to little Nerio by his mother, who after having seen the scene of the birth of the newborn Papik in Nicholas Ray’s film “White Shadows”, noticed the similarity between the two. In 2009 he released his debut album “Rhythm of Life” (Irma records) which contains the single “Staying For Good” sung by Alan Scaffardi ‘. 

The song is very successful and is broadcast in heavy rotation by the largest Italian national radio networks as well as by many English radios such as Jazz FM and BBC. He begins a close collaboration with the Irma Records label which leads him to the release of 4 other studio albums in his name, an album such as The Soultrend Orchestra, a live album, the soundtrack of the Japanese anime television series Lupine III the Italian Adventure, 8 volumes of a series called Cocktail in which he revisits important songs of Italian music with thematic volumes and genre albums. In addition, he produces solo albums for many of his major collaborators such as Ely Bruna, Alan Scaffardi, Erika Scherlin, Neja, Matteo Brancaleoni, Fred Buccini, Cristiana Polegri, Alessandro Pitoni, Vittoria Siggillino, Massimo Guerra, Fabio Tullio and Alfredo Bochicchio. His popularity abroad also grew, leading him to play, among many live concerts, in 2012 also in the temple of international jazz: the Blue Note in Tokyo and in England twice at the Costwold Park Soul Weekender. He collaborates with the legendary English band Matt Bianco on their album “Hideaway” arranging two songs and with the AngloAustralian singer Jason Donovan very popular in England, with the title track of his album Sign Of Your Love.

WAAN - Omi | Low slung Jazz

WAAN represents the musical marriage of seasoned saxophonist Bart Wirtz and keyboard wiz Emiel van Rijthoven. As a pair of self-confessed tech nerds hailing from The Netherlands, their bromance was a slow burning one, but nevertheless their eventual collaboration fulfilled a dream that they’d both held close since first working together back in 2010.

Omi, the second single to be taken from their debut album Echo Echo, has something of an Ethiopique feel, largely thanks to the low slung groove laid down by guest drummer Jimmi Hueting and the dark, crunchy bass line of Kasper Kalf. The track sprung to life via a piano melody that was eventually, and organically, transformed into alto sax and bass clarinet. The use of those instruments gave Omi a kind of Arabic or Middle Eastern

flavour to add to the already steamy musical stew. The duo then sprinkled on icy synths to cool things down somewhat and give the piece a more electronic and club friendly feel which complements the hot Afro horns that ride the rhythm throughout. And finally, to add the finishing touches to this heady concoction, Emiel and Bart visited renowned beat maker Frank Wienk, better known as BinkBeats, who not only added his trademark percussion but also blended a little vibraphonette (a special kind of Italian vibraphone) into this mystic brew to create a unique and cosmic outernational sound!

With influences as disparate as Floating Points, BadBadNotGood and Eddie Harris, Echo Echo is far more complex than just being a dance music influenced jazz record. Co-producer Oscar de Jong, of Kraak & Smaak fame, encouraged the pair to play freely as part of a jazz group and then add the electronic elements. As a result the album owes as much to Duke Ellington and Lalo Schiffrin as it does NERD and The Eurythmics!

WAAN represents the musical marriage of seasoned saxophonist Bart Wirtz and keyboard wiz Emiel van Rijthoven. As a pair of self-confessed tech nerds hailing from The Netherlands, their bromance was a slow burning one, but nevertheless their eventual collaboration fulfilled a dream that they’d both held close since first working together back in 2010.

Vince Mendoza Reunites with Longtime Collaborator Metropole Orkest on "Olympians"

Vince Mendoza, who has won seven Grammy Awards and been nominated 36 times, reunites with his longtime collaborator Metropole Orkest, to record Olympians, a select collection of the composer/conductor’s works written for the orchestra over their 28-year collaboration. The album follows 2021’s Freedom Over Everything, his Grammy-winning debut for BMG’s Modern Recordings. 

Ever the master arranger and orchestrator, Mendoza deftly explores the language of jazz, classical music, flamenco and samba, rock, and R&B and film music among others, from the vast palette of idiomatic colors he chooses for each of his compositions. To achieve that vision Mendoza requires musicians who are willing to take that journey with him.   

Born out of the ashes of World War II, Metropole Orkest (52 musicians strong) has been a major part of cultural life in the Netherlands for 75 years and remains the only full-time jazz and pop orchestra in the world. They are in high demand for concerts great and small, recordings, festivals, and tours. It’s a small wonder that Mendoza and the Metropole had such an affinity for each other’s work. 

“The term ‘Olympians,’” Mendoza explains, referring to the album’s title, “is something that I use quite often while on the podium with Metropole as I feel that this orchestra continues to play difficult music with grace, enthusiasm, and accuracy, especially given the wide scope of the projects they have done over the years. They’ve really developed the ability to be comfortable with so many different styles of music which is quite unusual for an orchestra. This recording shows them at the height of their Olympian powers.” 

Vocalists Dianne Reeves and Cécile McLorin Salvant, saxophonists Chris Potter and David Binney, percussionist Alex Acuña, and the late guitarist Ramón Stagnaro (playing the charango) all make guest appearances on Olympians. And for each of these musicians as well as the orchestra and its featured soloists, Mendoza crafts the ideal setting for their artistry.  

 “Quixote,” the opening track on Olympians, finds Mendoza joining a long list of composers inspired by Cervantes’ epic novel that stretches from Richard Strauss to Brian Eno. Metropole Orkest, with whom Mendoza has collaborated with since 1995, is in full effect right from the downbeat. The piece showcases the composer’s flair for expressing the full range of the ensemble’s dynamics from the most solemn percussion to the transition and interplay between the lead soprano saxophone and the orchestra’s thematic variations. 

“Partido Alto,” another piece illustrative of Mendoza’s use of percussion and string orchestration is based on the Brazilian rhythms from which the composition’s name is derived. It was originally conceived as a symphonic tone poem commissioned by the Henry Mancini Institute, with whom Mendoza worked for several years during its residence in Los Angeles in the 90’s. Mendoza gives “Partido Alto” a fresh and grooving treatment on Olympians complete with a rousing “samba school” brass anthem at the end. 

When Mendoza won a Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals in 2022 for his composition “To the Edge of Longing”, it simply confirmed what music fans have known, at least since “Esperança,” one of Mendoza’s most beloved compositions appeared on his 1997 recording Epiphany. The vocal version “Esperanto”, with lyrics by Kurt Elling, is loosely inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions. Mendoza’s new Olympians orchestration of “Esperanto” is a long build, taking full advantage of Reeves’ soaring multi-octave voice and vocalese, lending considerable authority to Elling’s lyrics. 

Mendoza recruits Salvant for a brand-new orchestration of “House of Reflections”, a 1992 Mendoza composition with lyrics by the brilliant poet, lyricist, and British jazz vocalist Norma Winstone. The work was inspired by and in tribute to the late trumpet player Kenny Wheeler with whom both Winstone and Mendoza had worked. 

Vocalists aren’t the only soloists who a beneficiaries of Mendoza’s compositional largesse. The role of the saxophonists represented on this recording is a veritable woodwind showcase - from guest altoist David Binney’s fire breathing solo on “Lake Fire” and Chris Potter’s articulate tenor on “Barcelona” to Metropole Orkest’s own Marc Scholten on soprano and alto on “Quixote” and “Miracle Child.” 

There is no composer more adept than Mendoza at using devices most frequently associated with contemporary and indigenous musical genres and making them part of the language of a symphonic orchestra, albeit a jazz symphonic orchestra. Metropole Orkest’s performance of Mendoza’s compositions “Big Night,” “Barcelona,” and the live version of “Bright Lights and Jubilations,” which closes the album, are masterful in the use of the electric guitar and the back beat rhythms seamlessly integrated into an orchestral context. The hip jazz solos provided by both the guest artists and individual members of the orchestra are an absolute delight for both the audience and those musicians lucky enough to be able perform under Mendoza’s baton.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Bassist Andrew Dow debut w/ Michaël Attias & Santiago Leibson, spoken word - ears&eyes

Andrew Dow is a multidisciplinary artist living in New York City. Bass player, composer, photographer and videographer, Andrew has long been developing his personal sound and vision on the electric bass guitar. Inspired by jazz musicians, classical composers, rock music and songwriters alike, he has been following a singular vision, one that he hopes is felt throughout his first recording as a leader, In Motian. From our very first breath to our last, we’re faced each and every day with navigating an ever changing world. In Motian is an attempt to acknowledge those every day changes; changes that we sometimes accept with grace, and sometimes we meet kicking and screaming. Andrew has composed a beautiful album of personal reflections on time; both lived and lost, personal and collective. A musically poetic weaving of  memories, of hopes and dreams, of our shared human experiences. 

Time is at the heart of the album; time and motion. In Motian is a play on words, giving a nod to the great drummer/composer Paul Motian, whose own sense of time, and artistic vision, has long been an inspiration of mine. However, In Motian is my own story, the story of my life. It’s the people that I’ve met, and the music that I’ve lived, learned and played. Singing classical music through college, my time playing with great songwriters, and later, all of my experience playing jazz and avant-garde music, both around Boston and then in New York City. Simply put, this is the debut presentation of my artistic DNA.

  • Andrew Dow - electric bass guitar, compositions, poetry, spoken word
  • Michaël Attias - alto sax 
  • Matt Hull - trumpet
  • Sumner Thompson - voice
  • Santiago Leibson - piano
  • Max Goldman - drums

Finnish fusion bassist Jukka Haavisto releases debut album | "Relections"

Electric bass player Jukka Haavisto's first self-titled album 'Reflections' was just released on November 25th 2022. Recorded live at Latosound in Tampere (Finland), the album brings back thoughts to the best fusion jazz records of the 70's. Catchy compositions, skillful playing and the energy of young virtuosos create an irresistible combination for all fans of electric jazz. 

Haavisto is known as a master of fretless bass, a composer of jazz fusion and world music fusion, and a skilled improviser. He describes Reflections as a guitar-driven album that pays tribute to the best fusion jazz records of the 1970s.

Jukka Haavisto is a virtuoso bass player who has done extensive work both in the studio and as a live musician. In addition to his own band he plays and performs with many different artists and ensembles. Among these, e.g. Jukka Haavisto Trio, Bossapoika, Beat, Bass & Bone, Heiskanen Bayatz Baharatz, VENHA and Helsinki Headnod Convention.

Haavisto studied at the University of Stavanger, Norway, where he graduated with a master's degree in music performance and jazz improvisation in 2016. Haavisto's band is completed by Johannes Granroth, the recent winner of the Jazzkukko festival's guitar competition, Severi Sorjonen, one of the best jazz fusion drummers of his generation, and the young keyboard wizard Vili Itäpelto.

Haavisto himself is an Aguilar Amplification, Soundtools Oy and Maruszczyk Instruments artist. The resume of his previous collaborators covers a wide range of musicians and composers such as Stein Inge Brækhus, Jouni Järvelä, Mikko Hassinen, Marouf Majidi, Mika Säily, Jarno E.J. Tikka, Marc Bernstein, Jussu Pöyhönen, Robin Methlie and Johannes Ulveraker.

New Music Releases: Al Lloyd & His Orchestra, Christian McBride, The New Regency Orchestra, Made In Wood

Al Lloyd & His Orchestra - A Moment In Time

Drawing on influences from across the musical spectrum including Thom Bell, Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones, and Henry Mancini, UK composer, producer and conductor Al Lloyd presents “A Moment In Time,” featuring full orchestral strings, horns, and percussion alongside contemporary rhythm section and vocalists. The four tracks of original compositions includes the Philly Soul-infused ‘Yesteryear Feels Like Yesterday’; the Burt Bacharach-inspired ‘You Don’t Have to Prove I’m a Fool,’ featuring vocals from Emma Watson; ‘I Count the Tears’ with an emphasis on Orchestra’s horn section; and the atmospheric piano and string piece, ‘Rain On Piccadilly Circus’. Available through SoulMusic Records-Digital, distributed worldwide by Warner X on all major digital platforms.

Christian McBride - The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons

Christian McBride’s magnum opus available on vinyl for the first time. The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons is culminating documentation of a richly inspired piece – lauding four key figures of the Civil Rights Movement: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali. Marshaling his ever-sharpening skills as a composer, arranger, conductor, musician and lyricist, Christian McBride has created a historically and culturally illuminating five-part suite for an 18-piece big band, chorus and narrators that places the motivating forces as well as the goals of the Civil Rights Movement within a powerfully relevant artistic context. It is a one-from-the-heart project McBride was, apparently, destined to undertake. This recording of The Movement Revisited marks the addition of a fifth movement, “Apotheosis,” which acknowledges the election of Barack Obama as the first African American President of the United States.

The New Regency Orchestra - Mambo Rama

The New Regency Orchestra’s first offering is here.Two versions of the classic Tito Puente track ‘Mambo Rama’ originally composed and recorded by the timbale maestro Tito Puente in 1952 in New York City. The tune was re-recorded under Eliane Correa’s direction back in July 2022 at the Fish Factory with an eight-piece rhythm section and a storming twelve-piece horn section that includes trombonist Rosie Turton, saxophonist Tamar Osborn (Collocutor) & trumpeter Nick Walters (Ruby Rushton, Riot Jazz) alongside Latin music protagonists, Ernesto Marichales (timbales - Waaju, Jordan Rakei), bongo player Flavio Correa, and bass player Jimmy Martinez. The alternate version imagined by Lex Blondin was produced at the Total Refreshment Centre. This version brings a more modern take on this classic as drums and synth bass elements are brought into the mix, taking a hip hop and dub approach to layering and sound treatement. Almost a remix of the original, the track features instrumentalist and composer Momoko Watanabe Gill (Tirzah, Coby Sey, An Alien Called Harmony) on drums and Korg MS-10 , Alex Burke (Forest Law, Esa, Haha Sounds) on various percussions with contributions from Capitol K and Kissu.

Made In Wood - Simplicity

Made in Wood create a unique instrumental tale and the duo has something to tell you through their music.. something that they convey through their simple and elegant music expression, where there is time and space for the musical tale, time for immersion and to those listeners, who are joining the meditative and dreamy tales. Made in Wood invite you into an intimate and present musical space, in which the simple means of action create intense atmospheres.The new album called "Simplicity" by the Danish/Swedish duo, Made in Wood,  was released Friday, 25 November. The lead single for the album release is the track called "Freedom", but there are also two previous singles, as stated here (both have music videos made).

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Alex Bird & Ewan Farncombe | "Songwriter"

From the heady feeling of being the only one awake at night, to the brooding at the end of a relationship, to the coziness of a rainy day, to the slithering sexiness of a night out on the town, Songwriter is a jazz album of deliciously dark tones and stormy sonic landscapes. It’s the third album – available now – on which vocalist Alex Bird and pianist Ewen Farncombe combine their singular talents, and it reflects deeply on the full spectrum of human mood and the act of songwriting itself.

Songwriter introduces itself with “This Song Is Ours,” meandering in between sunlight and melancholy – “nightbirds that sing” – and featuring introspective interludes juxtaposed with cascading piano. Conversely, “I’ve Seen The Sun” is marching and jaunty, tinkling with hopeful optimism. The following track, “The Soul I’ve Left Behind” is dark and bereft, brooding on a relationship that’s come to an end and lingering on all the ways the narrator has fallen short as both a person and a lover. The gothic theme continues with “Nighttime Grooves,” slinky and sexy with Bird’s voice shimmying through the dark-horse galloping of piano as he challenges, “Can you feel them, those nighttime grooves?”

“Symphony of Love” alternates between lighthearted confessions of love, and the stormier frustrations of being led on by someone who’s not all in  – “So I am waiting and you, you’re contemplating.” Next, “Raindrops” meditates on gray moods and indoor days with beautiful “drizzling” piano, mimicking the sounds of rain in all its iterations and concluding with audio of an actual storm. “If You’re Not Laughing” is a bluesy, full-of-attitude ode to keeping your chin up, staying realistically positive, and maintaining a sense of humor – “If you’re not laughin’, you’re cryin’, my friend.”

“What’s Inside” gives us floating, gauzy vocals and piano sections that beat like the wings of a bird. It’s a particularly dramatic track, sonically cinematic and lyrically dark and poetic, delving into the unknowable psyche of another human being. “I’ll Go Where You Lead” is velvety and exploratory, as lover pledges trust and devotion. “Tiny Warbler,” meanwhile, is a song of nature’s innocence and the beauty of steadfast love. The album concludes with “Songwriter,” another bluesy number that turns the album inward on itself, an honest pulling back of the curtain on the sometimes-punishing grind of writing songs – “Wake up and write that song.”

Bird and Farncombe have taken centre stage on the Canadian jazz scene. Creating timeless and heartfelt originals for a modern audience, this talented duo has spent the past four years producing an alchemy that’s completely unique. 2022 brought JUNO nominations, reviews from around the world, and even the crafting of the single "The Sweetest Moments,” which became known as Canada's “Thanksgiving Anthem” (it was broadcast across the country with a national ad campaign and interviews on CBC, CityTV, and many other news outlets). Bird and Farncombe are making themselves known. 


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