Friday, February 24, 2023

Robert Walter To Release 'Aquarium Drunkard Lagniappe Session (V3)

Robert Walter interprets artists Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, Liquid Liquid, Jackie Mittoo, Eddie Harris, Rammellzee & K-Rob and Les Baxter & Martin Denny on his third session for the beloved music journal, Aquarium Drunkard. The keyboardist—who co-founded The Greyboy Allstars and is currently on tour as a member of Roger Waters’ band—plays all of the instruments. Originally shared exclusively via Aquarium Drunkard on May 14, 2021 in advance of Walter reissuing his 1996 solo debut Spirit Of '70, the five track EP is now being issued through Royal Potato Family on all digital music platforms.

"These tracks were all recorded for Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe series. This was my 3rd installment," explains Walter. "I always try to find some interesting tunes that have inspired me in some way over the years. It’s also a fun challenge to record the music all by myself. I played all the instruments here and arranged, recorded and mixed at home."

Today, the EP's opening track, a reimagination of Melle Mel's "White Lines," which itself was a reinvention of Liquid Liquid's 1983 track "Cavern," has been released.

"I have always loved 'White Lines (Don’t Do It).' I remember hearing this when I was first discovering rap music as a kid. I learned later that the music is based on Liquid Liquid’s 'Cavern.' I love how the interactions between the NYC art scene, punk rock, and emerging hip-hop were happening so naturally and quickly during the late '70s," continues Walter. "This tune manages to be a message song, embrace some avant-garde musical ideas and still work as dance music even to this day. I have been playing it off and on in bands my entire life. I started doing it a lot as an organ vehicle during late night Jazzfest gigs as a comment on the wild party atmosphere. This version references both the original Liquid Liquid track and the brilliant Melle Mel interpolation."

ROBERT WALTER: Aquarium Drunkard Lagniappe Session, Vol. 3

  • White Lines / Cavern
  • Earthquake
  • 1974 Blues
  • Beat Bop
  • Quiet Village

Walter Smith III | "Return To Casual"

Saxophonist and composer Walter Smith III has signed with Blue Note Records and enters a new era of his band leading career with the April 7 release of his remarkable label debut return to casual, the long-anticipated follow-up to his self-released 2014 recording still casual. Reprising their bandmate roles, pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Matt Stevens, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Kendrick Scott reveal a seasoned depth of dimension alongside featured guest appearances by trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianist James Francies. return to casual is available for pre-order now on Blue Note Store exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, or digital download. Listen to the lead single “Contra.”

Smith also makes his debut as a leader at the Village Vanguard tonight when he opens a week-long engagement at the venerable New York City jazz club where he and his quintet will be previewing material from the new album from February 7-12. 

Dedicated to collaborative work with some of the music’s most influential voices — including Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Gerald Clayton, Eric Harland, Jason Moran, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Herbie Hancock, Maria Schneider, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Dee Dee Bridgewater — Smith has crafted a distinct style, personal vocabulary, and compositional approach that serves the individuality of his fellow artists. For the past several years, he has been co-leading the acclaimed In Common project with Stevens, exploring and refining different conceptual approaches to writing.

In releasing return to casual, on which he also serves as producer, Smith unveils the many ways his creative expression has expanded, and the influence these collaborative environments have had on his vision as a leader. The album casts a shifting mood across nine original works (and one new arrangement) all composed within weeks of each other. return to casual opens with humor and virtuosity on “Contra,” an homage to Smith’s childhood. Using the iconic video game’s tester code, up up down down left right left right B A B A start, he sequences a melodic thread through the song.

Through return to casual, Smith renews his identity as a band leader, bringing with him an expansive, resonant artistry and a cooperative vision for his original works. ~ Bluenote

Julian Lage | "The Layers"

On March 17, guitar virtuoso Julian Lage will release The Layers, a stunning companion piece to his acclaimed 2022 album View With A Room. The collection features six original pieces recorded during the same sessions which found Lage discovering new orchestrational possibilities by augmenting his deeply attuned trio of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King with the addition of fellow guitar icon Bill Frisell. The Layers is available for pre-order on vinyl, CD, and download. The title track “The Layers” has been released today as a digital single along with the official live trio performance video.

“At its core, The Layers is a prequel to View With A Room,” explains Lage. “It has all the musical seeds that grew into what I consider the touchstones of View With A Room—a duo with Bill, a duo with Jorge, more atmospheric and expansive writing, Dave and Jorge’s incredible rhythmic and orchestrational sensibilities. View With A Room is a comprehensive look at these musical qualities we were so excited to explore in the studio, and The Layers offers a distillation of the various relationships within the ensemble and production team. Taken as a whole, The Layers has a heartbeat all of its own.”

Imbued with vibrant colors and exquisite interplay, The Layers is a welcome additional offering from this meeting of two of modern jazz’s most distinctive voices with one of the music’s most skilled and inventive rhythm sections. The six songs on The Layers all share a musical spirit that stems from a more atmospheric world then the ten songs on View With A Room. Half of the pieces are centered around the acoustic guitar, which further distinguishes the sonic palette, and they each explore longer form structures with wider improvisational expanses. The Layers was produced by Margaret Glaspy and recorded by Mark Goodell with additional production by Armand Hirsch. ~ Bluenote

Buster Williams | "Unalome"

For those unfamiliar with the meaning of the title of the gorgeous new album from legendary bassist/composer Buster Williams, Unalome, or the lotus flower-topped symbol that graces its cover – “Unalome” is a Buddhist symbol representing individual transcendence and the path to enlightenment over the course of one’s life.

It is a guiding concept that Williams, a long practicing Buddhist himself, has been exploring throughout his life and career. The idea came vividly to life on his forward-looking new album. “It seemed to express perfectly the mood or the collective spirit of the music on this particular project,” Williams explains. “I believe that your life should be a succession of steps, and that those steps should be along an ascending path.

Due out today via Smoke Sessions Records, Unalome is the latest step along what has certainly been a storied path. One of the most revered bassists of the last half century, the Grammy-winning Williams has played, recorded, and collaborated with such jazz giants as Art Blakey, Chet Baker, Chick Corea, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath, Larry Coryell, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, Errol Garner, Freddie Hubbard, and countless others. He was a charter member of Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking Mwandishi band and the all-star Thelonious Monk tribute ensemble Sphere.

Williams’ playing has always been remarkable for being as tasteful and nuanced as it is bold and adventurous, which has made him the accompanist of choice for vocal greats like Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan. Those experiences in part inspired the ensemble that Williams assembled for Unalome, which features vocalist Jean Baylor along with a stellar group featuring saxophonist Bruce Williams, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, pianist George Colligan, and drummer Lenny White.

Along with her husband, drummer Marcus Baylor, Jean co-leads The Baylor Project, whose inspired debut album Be a Light garnered Grammy nominations in both jazz and R&B categories. She also was a pioneer of the neo-soul movement as half of the platinum-selling Motown Records duo Zhané.

Colligan and White have been Williams’ rhythm section of choice for the last two decades, with his relationship with the drummer stretching back even further and including collaborations not only in each other’s bands but in groups led by Wallace Roney, Cyrus Chestnut, and a number of others. Renowned for his membership in the landmark fusion group Return To Forever, White has also served notable tenures with Stanley Clarke, Geri Allen and Larry Coryell. Colligan, meanwhile, has released more than 30 albums as a leader alongside brilliant work with jazz greats like Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Ravi Coltrane and Cassandra Wilson.

Besides his longstanding relationship with Buster, Bruce Williams (no relation) has worked with such jazz legends as Little Jimmy Scott, Frank Foster, Stanley Cowell, Curtis Fuller, and Roy Hargrove, and was recruited into the elite ranks of the World Saxophone Quartet. Buster first met Stefon Harris more than 25 years ago at the urging of trombonist Steve Turre, who raved so highly about the young vibraphone wizard that Williams hired him sight unseen for a gig at now-defunct NYC club Sweet Basil.

Unalome begins with Williams’ dazzling original “Stairways,” with Baylor’s wordless vocals fusing beautifully with the frontline on the tune’s optimistic melody. It was one of three pieces the bassist penned especially for the session, another being the aching ballad “In the Middle of a Rainbow.” The memorable melody is one that had been in Williams’ mind for some time, but he dreamed up the lyric on the drive to the studio just before recording. While he’s long been an acclaimed composer, Williams began to find himself as a lyricist more recently – one of the steps along that ascending pathway he’s traveled.

“I used to think that I couldn't write lyrics,” he says. “I wouldn't even try. But when I wrote the title track and ‘Air Dancing’ for [the 1989 album] Something More, lyrics started coming to me. I don't put barriers up anymore to say, ‘I can't do this.’ I'd rather say, ‘Up till now I haven't.’ Rather than, you know, I can't. That's been part of my growth, and it's very refreshing because it lets me know that doors are not locked. Doors are there to be opened.”

The third new piece, the ethereal “The Wisdom of Silence,” is one that Williams says is still unfinished, which presents another door still to be opened. “I like that, because I'm excited to see where it's going to go.” The composer also reached into his back catalogue for “Tayamisha,” a piece named for Williams’ daughter that he originally recorded on the 1975 album Pinnacle and later with both The Timeless All Stars and Sphere. It was revived here at the behest of his bandmates.

The Brazilian classic “Estate” is another piece that Williams associates with The Timeless All Stars, thought not from performing it with the band, which also featured Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson, and Curtis Fuller. “We did a summer tour of Italy, and I remember riding in the tour bus through the beautiful landscape full of vineyards and spacious land. We were listening to the brilliant Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto’s album Amoroso, and he sang ‘Estate.’ I just loved it; it became one of my favorites. So when I had the opportunity to have Jean sing on the album, I chose ‘Estate’ and ‘Here’s To Life.’ for her.”

The latter was the signature song of Shirley Horn, another immortal vocalist who Williams worked with. Baylor chose “I’ve Got the World on a String,” while the unusual, moody arrangement of “42nd Street” suggests not the hectic vitality of the metropolis but the alluring romance of life in the city. Williams introduced the song into his repertoire when he was invited to lead the NYC-centric Empire State Building Jazz Orchestra.

At 80 years of age, Buster Williams shows no sign of slowing his climb along that ascending path. Unalome brilliantly reflects how far he’s come while looking eagerly head to future chapters. “As I get older, I discover that there's more over the horizon than you think,” he declares. “The horizon may look like the end, but the closer you get the more you realize that you’ll never reach it. What you can see from where you are seems to be limited, but with each step you see more and more.”

"Unalome" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith, and recorded live in New York at Sear Sound's Studio C on a Sear-Avalon custom console at 96KHz/24bit and mixed to 1/2" analog tape. Available in audiophile HD format.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Acclaimed London-Based Organ Group, The Filthy Six, Release the Vinyl EP of 'Soho Filth'

London-based organ group The Filthy Six release their acclaimed EP Soho Filth on vinyl via Color Red. Led by Trumpeter Nick Etwell (Tom Jones/Beck/David Axelrod/Mumford & Sons), this band of musical gunslingers have worked with some of the biggest names in music that include Amy Winehouse, Mavis Staples, Ronnie Spector, Mark Ronson, Jill Scott, Jack White, Dionne Warwick, The Foo Fighters, Robbie Williams, Duran Duran, Chrissie Hynde, Fred Wesley, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and the Atomic Bomb Band to name a few. These instrumental groove merchants produce a hip-shakingly powerful mix of jazz, funk, and boogaloo aligning with the finest traditions of the late 60s Blue Note/Prestige sound creating music for the mind, body and soul.

Formed in a dingy Soho basement 20 years ago, The Filthy Six spent their formative years rehearsing and performing shows in this shabby club off Kingly Court, deep in the heart of London’s Soho, around the corner from Carnaby Street and the legendary Jazz and R&B clubs of the 1960s such as The 41 Club, The Flamingo and Ronnie Scott’s. They eventually moved above ground into slightly more salubrious establishments, swapped the covers for originals, and hit the road.

Here they are, 20 years and several records later, coming full circle and back to creating music in a Soho basement with the release of their new EP, Soho Filth. Recorded live at the noted Dean St Studios, the record comes straight out of the gate with the Cannonball Adderley-inspired “Mr. Shmingle Bangle,” featuring renowned percussionist/DJ Snowboy on congas. The tune serves as a warm tribute to bandleader Nick Etwell’s old college roommate, James Bush, an astute lover of Latin jazz music.

“Swapsies” is an old-school two-chord groover that puts Hammond C3 organist Andrew Noble in the limelight to carry the melody and showcase his skills. “In Time” is up next, taking a measured and harmonically interesting approach to the traditional Blues form. The record closes in signature Filthy Six style with a good old-fashioned boogaloo blues: “The Swagger Junkie” dedicated to the fashionable denizens of Soho, strutting their stuff from the ’60s right up to the present day, never quite getting enough of how damn good they look.

In just 4 tracks listeners get to sample four distinct slices of Soho Filth and can join the band in raising a glass to the next 20 years ahead.

Regarded as one of the most exciting, authentic soul jazz outfits in the UK today, the EP received both rave reviews and airplay from the scene’s most notable luminaries, including Craig Charles, Cerys Mathews, Huey Morgan (BBC 6 Music); DJ Lil’ Koko (Jazz FM UK) and Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2).

Birth Right: A Black Roots Music Compendium

Craft Recordings proudly announces the release of Birthright: A Black Roots Music Compendium, an expansive overview of American Black roots music. Produced by author, professor, and GRAMMY®-nominated music historian Dr. Ted Olson, along with GRAMMY-winning producer, musician, and author Scott Billington, Birthright offers an introduction to the rich and often nuanced world of Black roots music. Spanning generations and genres, the 40 songs in this brand-new collection showcase a broad range of styles: from gospel and blues to Louisiana Creole, jazz, Gullah music, and more, while the artists range from little-known musicians to enduring icons like John Lee Hooker, Odetta, The Staple Singers, and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Due out February 17th on 2-CD/digital formats and available for pre-order today, Birthright features a handful of rarities, as well as the previously unreleased “Georgie Buck” by the Carolina Chocolate Drops (a collective of musicians that includes Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson) featuring fiddler Joe Thompson. The 2-CD edition includes insightful essays from musicians/scholars Corey Harris and Dom Flemons (music from both artists also appears on the album), as well as an introduction and detailed track notes by Olson. Through word and song, Birthright not only seeks to pay tribute to an essential canon of American music, but also demonstrates the pervasive influence of Black roots music on popular culture – from country to hip-hop.

While the recordings on Birthright date back to the ’50s, one must take into account the historical through line, which begins centuries ago. “Music in Africa was woven into every aspect of life and every song was specific to a certain time of year, festival, activity or life event,” writes Harris. “When our captive ancestors were driven off the slave ship on to the shores of a strange land, they had these songs with them.” Amid the horrors of slavery, music served as an important form of communication. While African drums were banned, Harris explains, “Stringed instruments and household items like jugs, spoons, bones and washboards became our weapons of circumstance…. But no matter how many laws were passed, you couldn’t outlaw rhythm.”

Following Emancipation, Black roots music was first recorded in the early 20th century by folklorists like John Lomax. But, in a sharply segregated country, few people would hear it. Flemons notes, “The acknowledgement that any American music could be considered to have ‘Black roots’ was not only unheard of, it was treated with disregard and in many instances, was banned from being performed and disseminated to the general public altogether.”

These foundational recordings were vital, however – particularly because Black music and culture were generally portrayed using grotesque stereotypes or Euro-classical stylings. Instead, the audio “removed all secondary ‘straightening,’ ‘sweetening’ or ‘exaggerating’ of the music,” explains Flemons. “A new dialogue could be had between the folklorist and the musician allowing the subject for the first time to ‘speak for themselves.’” He continues, “The performance could in essence reflect the inherent value of a unique ‘Black’ culture. This early documentation is an essential resource for our understanding of Black roots music of the past.”

In the following decades, with the rise of the record industry, regional music styles developed and spread further into the mainstream, with blues, jazz, and gospel making a significant impact on popular music, leading to rock ’n’ roll, soul, and eventually hip-hop. But while new generations continued to build upon these foundations, Black roots music never stopped thriving, as Birthright proves. “There has been wave after wave of Black roots artists who have built a new bridge to the past,” adds Flemons. “No matter the era, the musical innovations of the African and Caribbean Diaspora are still prevalent in the hands, feet, instruments and voices of each of these artisans no matter how refined or down-home they may sound.”

Each track in Birthright – whether recorded 60 or six years ago – offers an example of this rich musical tradition, including a variety of mid-century field recordings. Among the highlights is Bessie Jones’ “Yonder Come Day,” documented in Georgia in 1973. Jones (1902–1984) was a member of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, which was founded to preserve the music of the Southeast’s coastal Gullah culture. Another notable selection is “Eunice Two Step,” from the renowned duo of accordion player Bois Sec Ardoin and fiddler Canray Fontenot. Recorded in the ’60s and sung in French, the song represents the “Creole” tradition and, as Ted Olson notes, “reflects the older sound of Black music in rural Louisiana before the emergence of the more modern Zydeco genre.” There are also more informal recordings, including those of incarcerated men, singing “work songs.” Among them is Bennie Richardson, who leads a rendition of the traditional “Grizzly Bear,” alongside his fellow inmates at a Texas penitentiary. The song, explains Olson, “employs verbal coding. The ‘Grizzly Bear’ character…was a white prison guard, while “Jack O’ Diamonds” was a veiled reference to a white prison warden.” The audio, recorded in the mid-’60s, features a call-and-response style of singing, which originated in West Africa.

In addition to field recordings, the collection showcases a handful of well-known legends, including The Staple Singers. While best-known as ’70s soul stars, the family group began on the gospel circuit. Their 1963 recording of Willie Johnson’s frequently covered “Motherless Children” features call-and-response vocals from patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his children, Mavis, Yvonne, Cleotha, and Pervis. Civil rights activist, singer, and actress Odetta makes an appearance with “Special Delivery Blues,” a song originally recorded in 1926 by jazz singer Sippie Wallace. Blues stars like John Lee Hooker (delivering the traditional “When I Lay My Burden Down”), Skip James (“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”), and Lightnin’ Hopkins, who performs his influential “Automobile Blues,” are also represented in this collection, while a younger generation of celebrated bluesman, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, revisit Sleepy John Estes’ “Diving Duck Blues” from 1929.

Birthright also looks to the future with inspired tunes from contemporary acts. Among them is Ranky Tanky, who interpret traditional Gullah music. The term “ranky tanky,” which translates roughly to “get funky,” inspired both their group name and the song included in this collection. Another example is the aforementioned “Georgia Buck” from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who share a passion for African American string bands. Their 2006 recording of the traditional tune is a collaboration with their mentor, fiddler Joe Thompson (1918–2012). The internationally renowned a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, meanwhile, delivers the 19th-century spiritual, “Study War No More.” Known more popularly as “Down by the Riverside,” the song not only became a gospel staple, but also an antiwar anthem during the Vietnam War. The even longer-running Preservation Hall Jazz Band – a New Orleans institution – performs Paul Barbarin’s “Bourbon Street Parade,” which pays celebrates the joyful, parade-beat groove which is the heartbeat of the city’s music. Another mainstay of the Big Easy, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, has been keeping the city’s brass band tradition alive since 1977, and appears here with their Caribbean-inspired 2012 tune, “Best of All.”

While the voices on Birthright are unique, they all share a common thread. As Harris puts it so eloquently, “When we listen to the artists on this set, we are hearing the voice of a people determined to express themselves and be heard above the empty, metallic din of progress, above the saccharine pop and soulless glam of the industry. When the power goes out and the internet goes down, some of us will still be playing music and sharing our joys and pains with one another in song. Black roots music is a testament to the fact that if modern civilization were to collapse, we have the power and the spirit to rise up once again. We only need to hold on to our roots. This is an excellent place to start.”

Billy Childs | "The Winds of Change"

As a composer, Billy Childs is a master of two genres: jazz and modern classical music. Simultaneously, he is one of our most dazzling jazz pianists. In between writing violin concertos, chamber music and other pieces for classical ensembles of various sizes, the highly sought-after composer puts on his jazz pianist hat, records GRAMMY® award-winning jazz albums, and plays the world’s leading clubs, concert halls and festivals with his exceptional jazz groups.

Childs draws upon all of his considerable talents as pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader on his latest Mack Avenue album, The Winds of Change. Employing an extraordinary all-star quartet consisting of the phenomenal trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Scott Colley and the incomparable drummer Brian Blade, the album contains some of the most evocative and haunting compositions of his career.

Much of the music, including the title track, was inspired by film noir; great film composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann and John Williams; and nostalgia for the Los Angeles of Childs’ youth.

Reflecting on the album’s title, Childs muses that “as you get older and observe life, the only constant is change. I’ve lived in L.A. my whole life and I remember the city in the ’60s and ’70s. The title track is bittersweet, wistful and nostalgic,” Childs says, in the spirit of movie themes like Chinatown by Jerry Goldsmith and Taxi Driver by Bernard Herrmann, both of which “create a feeling of melancholy about an entire city (L.A. in the former case, New York in the latter).” Both of those films summoned “a sense of an almost mythical urban landscape, one only possible in the movies,” he says. Childs originally wrote the piece for trumpeter Roy Hargrove and what is now the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra. “Here, we attempt to have the trio sound like the accompanying orchestra; my piano is like a condensed orchestral accompaniment for Ambrose’s trumpet.”

Childs cites another influence on the album: Kenny Wheeler’s 1976 album Gnu High, which featured Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. “That pointed me in the direction of an interactive conversation with the other musicians,” he says.

To realize this concept, Childs needed a band of jazz superstars, and found them in Akinmusire, Colley and Blade. “I have been doing all of these lofty projects, chamber things, symphonic things…I wanted to just get back to being a jazz pianist. Fortunately, these extraordinary musicians find my music interesting enough that they want to be a part of it.”

The music, although highly composed and structured, also involves the type of conversation with the other musicians he was seeking. “Lately, I’m a composer first, then a pianist,” Childs says, “but I wanted to do something that emphasizes how the band interacts.” Even though there’s a lot of “specificity” in the compositions, he says, “there’s a lot of conversation as well. I thought it would be extremely interesting to have that kind of conversation with these musicians.

“I’ve always wanted to work with [Akinmusire]. He plays the trumpet compositionally, and, of course, he’s an incredible composer as well. I love his sound – it invites you in and wraps itself around you. And he’s fearless. His solo in ‘Master of the Game’ just says, ‘I’m not gonna deal with changes, just sounds.’ He’s a master of changes, too. But he just feels at that moment it’s more important to explore different sounds, and he makes the rest of us start to play atonally,” despite the fact that the piece was written as “a third-stream kind of thing…That’s why I wanted to play with these guys, because things like that could happen.”

Childs describes bassist Colley as “a spiritual player…He’s always trying to play something that enlightens you, that opens another door to the unknown. His decisions make logical sense, but they open doors – there’s a lot of possibility in his playing.

“Brian is the same way, and so is Ambrose,” Childs says. “Brian to the drum set is like what Ravel was to orchestration. He always knows how to enhance the composition. He’s got a full palette of colors, and he’s brilliant at knowing what to do with all those sounds in the context of the song and the improvisation, always choosing the right colors at the right time.”

The album, replete with strong melodies and cinematic flourishes, dazzles right out of the gate with the high-intensity, kinetic opener, “The Great Western Loop,” named after the 7,000-mile hiking trail from Southern California, to Vancouver, to the Grand Canyon. It’s “a song with a lot of motion in it, lots of quartal harmony, that is, involving fourths,” Childs says. “The End of Innocence,” a melancholy paean to lost childhood, was originally recorded by Childs on one of his four Windham Hill albums from the ’80s, now hard to find. “Master of the Game” is another film noir-inspired tune. “A lot of this stuff has to do with movies,” Childs says, citing Henry Mancini’s score for Charade and Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair as inspirations.

The album also includes two covers: Kenny Barron’s “The Black Angel,” made famous by Freddie Hubbard, with whom Childs played for six years; and Chick Corea’s iconic tune, “Crystal Silence.” “Chick was a dear friend of mine,” Childs notes. “His music brings tears to my eyes. I wanted to do a tribute to him. It’s one of his most beautiful compositions. Ambrose nailed the melody on it, and Scott takes a beautiful solo.”

Childs describes the experience of making The Winds of Change as a peak artistic experience. “When you do things that are intuitive, that aren’t encumbered by too much thought but just what feels right, then you’re getting in tune with something that’s larger than just four guys playing music. That’s what we were going for.”

Billy Childs is one of the most critically acclaimed pianists in contemporary jazz and among America’s most awarded and commissioned modern classical composers. He writes music for small and large jazz groups, chamber ensembles, choral groups and symphony orchestras. His albums have earned him 16 GRAMMY® nominations and five GRAMMY® Awards, including, most recently, in 2018 for his album Rebirth, which was named Best Jazz Instrumental Album. His 2014 GRAMMY® award-winning album Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro paid tribute to one of his earliest and most profound inspirations.

Among the distinguished artists Childs has recorded and performed with are Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Leonard Slatkin, Dianne Reeves, the Ying Quartet, Joshua Bell, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Ron Carter, and Chris Botti. His commissions include works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, The Kronos Quartet, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, The American Brass Quintet, and The Dorian Wind Quintet.

Over the years, his awards include the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award (2013), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Music Award (2015).

Keiko Matsui | "Euphoria"

“This album is about the hope that we all carry inside of us,” shares internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and humanitarian, Keiko Matsui, who has worked with everyone from Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Bob James, and Hugh Masekela. “I have this dream where we can each cherish our own happiness and learn to accept and care for one another.” This declaration is a tall order but if anyone can pull it off it’s Keiko Matsui. There is a reason why the stunning, soft-spoken, and petite powerhouse with such a commanding presence at the piano has amassed a devout following through the years. “When I tour around the world and witness how my music cuts through our differences and connects everyone, it makes me feel euphoric!” exclaims Keiko, who has lent her voice to raise awareness for such causes as The Daniel Pearl and the Susan G. Komen Foundations. Keiko harnesses this joy on her anticipated new and 30th recording Euphoria (March 31, 2023 on Shanachie Entertainment). She enlists an all-star contingency of special guests including vocalist, and daughter of Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mike Stern, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, vibist Joel Ross, harmonica player Grégoire Maret and pianist/arranger John Beasley. Keiko is also joined by her touring band, bassist Rico Belled, guitarist JP Mourao and drummer Jimmy Branly, who she credits for making the rigors of touring bearable. Euphoria is co-produced by Grammy nominated producer and manager Bud Harner, who also co-produced Keiko’s previous recording Echo, as well as albums by David Benoit, Jeff Golub, and Lalah Hathaway, among others. Euphoria promises to be a watershed moment for Keiko as she has poured her heart and soul into this project and the result is an utterly inspiring and epic statement. Keiko declares, “At the core of this album is beauty, strength, energy, love, and hope. These are all the things in life that we need to move forward on a new path. This music is dedicated to a new era.”

Keiko who masters the delicate balance between career and motherhood (she has two daughters) feels an urgency to leave the world a better place for future generations. “I want to make a positive impact for children in this generation and the future. Through prayer and my music, I hope to be able to increase more harmony on this planet.” Keiko succeeds in conjuring a harmonious affair on Euphoria.

The origins of the recording date back to two years ago, when Keiko started composing new music for the album. During the past year, as her tour schedule began to accelerate, she worked between tour dates and finally went into the studio to record in July 2022. She recalls, “There is nothing like the enthusiasm of collaboration born on the spot. I cherish it!” Keiko is inspired by the world around her. “I unconsciously receive inspiration from the things around me, like people I meet while traveling, events happening in the world, the news or the movies,” explains the pianist. A master storyteller, Keiko Matsui crafts passionate, emotive, and timeless anthems colored with rich harmonies and global rhythms. Euphoria opens with the forward-driving and up-tempo groove of “Steps On The Globe,” the album’s catchy first single. Keiko shares, “This song is inspired by the strength of people who live life with joy and courage. They step on the ground one step at a time even when they are facing adversity. We must keep moving forward!” Guitarist Mike Stern, who records with Keiko for the first time, joins the pianist on her composition, “The Choice.” The track miraculously juggles a funk edge with a delicate impressionistic flair. “I met Mike years ago at one of his concerts in New York with Richard Bona, says Keiko. “My impression of Mike was that he is a gentle personality who plays beautifully. When I was thinking about a special guest for this song, I thought the uniqueness of his sound would add a wonderful spice.” The meditative and prayerful “Prairie Morning,” unites Keiko with the core band on the album; bassist Alex Al, drummer Gregg Bissonette, guitarist Tony Pulizzi, percussionist Luis Conte and Ron Pedley on Rhodes and strings. Randy Brecker also makes his inaugural recording date with Keiko on Euphoria. The trumpeter and flugelhornist adds the perfect touch to the percussive and scintillating “Neo.” “We had so much fun playing this song together,” recalls Keiko. “Randy was such a great collaborator, and we enjoyed our musical dialogue and exploding improvisations together. Originally, we were going to fade the song, but the entire band got so excited that we couldn’t stop and just kept playing!”

On the album is the tender love song “Love and Nothing Less,” featuring vocalist Lalah Hathaway and harmonica player Grégoire Maret, who also appears on Keiko’s album Journey To The Heart. “The moment the first melody came to me, I immediately could hear Lalah singing and before I even made contact with her, I had written the complete verse melody while imagining her voice,” explains Keiko. “I really admire her as an artist, so I was so happy we had the opportunity to finally collaborate. Her performance is amazing! When I shared my feelings and thoughts about the song, she delicately captured the vibe and spirit of it and transformed it into beautiful words.” Euphoria is a meeting of old and new friends. Saxophonist Kirk Whalum, the latter, is featured on the reggae-tinged and soul-stirring “Luminescence.” “I feel a similar spirituality with Kirk,” declares Keiko. “When we create together, I feel we share a musical and spiritual connection.” Keiko summons beauty and drama on the striking Tango “Rosso Cantabile,” and she transports us to Paraguay for “Legend of Yaguarón.” “Last summer, I did a charity concert with an orchestra in Paraguay. This is where I first heard about the mysterious Legend of Yaguarón,” recalls the pianist, who composed the song prior to her visit. However, upon visiting she was inspired to title the song after the legend. She explains, “When I visited the city of Yaguarón, there was a mural that expressed the mystic story with monsters and guardian angels, and it seemed like the perfect fit to name my song after this legend.” The serene and majestic “Mossy Mountain,” is penned after Keiko’s manager Bud Harner’s favorite place, the West Central Plains of Illinois and “Blue Waters,” is a gorgeous contemplative number that shines a light on Keiko’s ability to transport us with her stunning melodies. 

“I hope in some small way that these songs stay with people. In some small way, I want to leave a positive impact. Rather than wanting people to receive the message that I want to convey, I would be happier if they can feel the music freely and decide what the music means to them,” says Keiko. The album’s arresting and monumental title track dances with fury and delight. It features the young vibist, Joel Ross. Keiko refers to this track as her “Jazz Symphony.” “When I finished composing “Euphoria,” I knew it had to be the title track. I love the sound of vibraphone and I think Joel’s tone brought a tension and cool vibe to the song. I also enlisted pianist/arranger John Beasley who I met in Istanbul when I was invited to perform at International Jazz Day, where he was the music director. I have admired and respected his work since then. I thought about his arrangement and knew that he would be wonderful for this song.” It is only fitting that Euphoria concludes with the dazzling melody and cascading piano of “New Passage.” Keiko’s message is simple. “If we are open there is a new passage for each one of us. If we lead with our hearts, all of mankind and humanity can take this new direction.”

In 1997, Keiko Matsui launched a tour dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer, and released a four-song CD entitled A Gift of Hope that benefited the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization. Her music was prominently featured in Say It, Fight It, Cure It, a Lifetime special profiling several courageous women battling breast cancer. “My fans come from all backgrounds, and I have been approached by various foundations to join in their efforts. When I hear of a cause that resonates with me that I can dedicate my music to then I am always willing. It is my way to show gratitude and give back,” states Keiko. In 1999, the pianist performed at "A Golden Moment," a skating concert featuring Olympic figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and Katarina Witt, which benefited the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 1998 saw the release of her album Full Moon And The Shrine, which was accompanied by the acclaimed PBS-TV special Keiko Matsui: Light Above The Trees.

Keiko Matsui’s CD Deep Blue (2001) topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts for three consecutive weeks. She is the first Japanese artist to achieve this honor. In 2003 she enjoyed success with her recording The Piano, which featured reinventions of some of her most loved original works. In 2004 the title track of Keiko’s Wildflower was used to support the United Nations World Food Programme’s efforts in Africa. "I decided I wanted to support the WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people’s lives for the better," shares the activist. Keiko has also collaborated with Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M) in numerous charity concerts. In addition, proceeds from her 2001 mini-CD, A Gift of Life, went to The National Donor Program and Marrow Foundation in support of A3M. In December 2009, the highly sought-after pianist was asked to put together a Christmas show at the Blue Note club in Tokyo, which was a major success and in November 2010 she made her highly anticipated debut at the Blue Note in NY, which was sold out. In 2011 Keiko recorded with fellow pianist Bob James on a four-hand piano project called Altair & Vega. Keiko’s depth as a composer has also allowed her to contribute music to soundtracks in Japan, the U.S. and Russia. She also released her critically heralded Billboard Top 5 recording The Road… which featured Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona and saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Jackiem Joyner among others. In 2013, Keiko Matsui celebrated the release of her critically lauded album Soul Quest, which is the musical inspiration behind Live in Toyko. The same year she was also an invited guest in Istanbul for International Jazz Day alongside such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, and Terence Blanchard. Journey To The Heart (2016) and Echo (2019), further solidified Keiko’s place as one of the most significant and thrilling pianists in contemporary jazz.

Keiko concludes, “During the past few years, I have witnessed the loss of life and seen people's sadness and it has been really painful, but it has helped to remind me of the precious gift of time and the importance of gratitude for what I have now,” confides Keiko. “Eurphoria is my gift to my fans around the world.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

U-Nam | "Sunshine Of Mine"

Slated for release in early March, “Sunshine of Mine” is the latest album from Billboard chart-topping artist and multi-platinum producer Emmanuel “U-Nam” Abiteboul. An eclectic concoction of eight original compositions plus two carefully crafted covers it opens with the easy grooving title cut that takes its name from the love U-Nam has for his six year old son Myles who, quite literally, is the sunshine of his life.  Indeed, the sumptuous “Little Dreamer” again underscores the bond a father has with his son. From mellow beginnings that gradually evolve into a pulsating beat, U-Nam calls on the combined artistry of Kim Hansen on keys and Michael White on drums yet still stays at the epicentre of the entire piece. 

A track already setting the airwaves alight is the shimmering “Make a Wish”. Reminiscent of the stellar work U-Nam was doing back in the nineties with some of the biggest R&B acts around, but with the addition of silky strings to bestow a veneer that is both sophisticated and soulful, this exuberant slice of up-tempo Smooth Jazz is just the sort of infectious cut that U-Nam seems able to effortlessly deliver.

A case in point is the Funk laden “First Class”.  It has Bill Steinway on keys plus Dwayne “Smitty” Smith on bass while, in collaboration with Raymond Gimenes, U-Nam creates a sublime string arrangement that in the capable hands of Lyudmila Kadyrbaeva on cello and Maria Grig on violin and viola is a joy to behold.

In similar vein is the high-octane, foot tapping “Hang on to a Star” and U-Nam shows off a different side of his musical persona with "Baile Do Brasil" that taps into the energy of the dance craze in South America and beyond where Latin Funk is the order of the day. 

He stays in Brazil for a jazzy interpretation of Jon Lucien’s 1983 hit “Come with Me to Rio” while his classy reimagining of the Barry White smash “It‘s Only Love” (with Kim Chandler on background vocals) makes it sounds brand new. Another gem in an album crammed full of them is “Coastline”. Built around U-Nam’s impeccable playing and with regulars Frank Sitbon (Piano), Denis Benarrosh (Percussion) and Fran Merante (Drums) around to lend a hand they together conjure up a track that revolves around an irresistible mid tempo groove.

“Juicy Smile” is another example of what U-Nam does best. Cram packed with old school attitude and lifted by a powerhouse horn section that comes courtesy of Christian Martinez (Trumpet & Flugelhorn) and Joabe Reis (Trombone) this thumping dance floor filler in the making is the perfect vehicle to rejuvenate even the most tired of dancing feet.

With an approach that is both innovative and daring U-Nam continues to be fearless in the way he repeatedly shakes the world of smooth jazz to its core.  With "Sunshine of Mine" U-Nam has the perfect platform from which to show off his myriad of talents.

Talking of talents, from his recording studio in Laguna Hills, CA, U-Nam has most recently been reaping international success with his projects California Funk Machine Volumes 1 & 2. Volume 3 is rumored to be in the works while for “Sunshine of Mine” he is front back and center of everything and anything.

As well as playing lead and rhythm guitars, bass, synth bass, rhodes, keyboards, horns and carnival whistle he both programs, edits and adds lead and background vocals.  Not only that, he writes, produces, mixes and masters throughout.

Right now it might be wintertime but for U-Nam it is “Sunshine” all the way.

Reel People | "Love2"

An incredible heart ‘n’ soul story continues this spring with the release of Reel People’s first original album in over a decade, Love2. Produced by core collective Oli Lazarus, Mike Patto and Toni Economides, and with a fresh vocal line-up including Raheem DeVaughn, Muhsinah, Chantae Cann, Michael Champion, Paula, Jill Rock Jones, Eric Roberson and Arrested Development’s Speech, this super-fine, 10-track opus marks a further powerful evolution of the Reel People sound. Weaving contemporary R&B sensibilities into the collective’s classic grooved-out flow, Love2 embraces the out-and-out euphoria of love but offers an entirely unique voice.

Following the epic cascade of Love2’s short but exuberant Intro comes cosmic neo-soul glide Save A Lil Love. Fronted by New Jersey’s smooth yet engaging Eric Roberson, and built upon swirls of spacious synths, heightened rhythms, the track instantly reminds of Reel People’s renown for quality production whilst plumbing new emotive depths. Everything’s So Crazy, performed by US songstress Jill Rock Jones, digs similarly deep – another stirring demonstration of soulful flavour with Jones moving elegantly across languid guitars and spacious beats.

A swaggering piano stomp and some smart phrasing from Michael Champion give If I Was Your Man particular personality. On Fly, meanwhile, Paula ensures dextrous delivery meets snappy production to effectively convey the empowering sass and confidence she intends – “I’ve got one life to live y’all/And I’m sure as hell gonna live it.” It’s the first of two outings for the versatile Atlanta-based singer, who brings earthbound maturity and heft to later lilting and acoustic number Vibe despite its idealistic lover’s gaze.

Déjà vu puts us, rather aptly, in mind of events that have already come to pass. Featuring Grammy-nominated US singer-songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, the track is melodic, honey-sweet bliss and further nods to Reel People’s effortless tapping of influences both old and new. Elsewhere, another gifted Atlanta artist Chantae Cann applies subtle, silky finesse to Dance In Her Eyes, with its warm, hazy and immersive glow, not to mention smart spoken word accompaniments courtesy of Dayne Jordan.

Moving on, Reel People’s final cuts continue to push new ground. Fizzing bars courtesy of Speech give the seriously groove-some I Never Knew pomp, pace and purpose, whilst Washington DC’s Muhsinah (a Grammy nominee like DeVaughn, with huge pedigree for disrupting soulful norms and forms) bosses closing number Something New – a powerful re-draft of the R&B rulebook which layers its song atop tight bossa tempos, sparkling synths and jagged electro-stutters. The contrast of flavours really grabs, as it does across the entire album.

Love2 is a monumental addition to the Reel People canon, following acclaimed album releases Second Guess, Seven Ways To Wonder and Retroflection.

New songs and sounds, but the same soulful passion and craftsmanship. New friends and flourishes but the same mission to move hearts, minds and dancefloors. ~

The Dexter Gordon® Centennial Project (DEX100): Preserving A Legacy for the Next Century of Artistic Excellence

Born on February 27, 1923, Dexter Gordon® (1923-1990) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist who recorded hundreds of albums throughout his lifetime and was among the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Gordon's influence came to personify the very sound of the tenor saxophone in as early as the 1940s through his collaborations with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstine, providing a foundational influence that helped shape the music of such later pioneers as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and countless other legends since. Gordon is the first jazz musician, and the fifth-ever African American, to be nominated for an Academy Award - for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the French Warner Bros. film, Round Midnight (1986).

The Dexter Gordon® Centennial Project is a year-long celebration of the life and legacy of musical icon Dexter Gordon® beginning on the 100th anniversary of his birth - on February 27, 2023 - and commencing throughout the remainder of this year. Organized by The Dexter Gordon® Society, Inc. the commemorative nonprofit preserving Gordon's memory, the project will include events, publications, and initiatives designed to extend Gordon's profound impact, serving as a source of inspiration and cultural enrichment, while guiding the next generation of visionary artists into the future.


Gordon's memory will be commemorated this year through worldwide collaborations with venues throughout 2023. The first of these events, taking place on Gordon's birthday itself (Monday, February 27, 2023) through an all-day 24-hour radio broadcast on Columbia University's WKCR Radio, featuring select recordings from Gordon's extensive discography and an interview with Maxine Gordon from 4PM to 6PM EST.

On March 3, 2023 at 7PM EST, the Cambridge Arts Council will then host a screening of Round Midnight at the Brattle theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For future events, visit and follow latest news on Facebook and Instagram (@dextergordonofficial).


The Centennial Project will then proceed with an initiative which includes previously unreleased research, music, and documents from Gordon's archive, culminating in a newly soon-to-be published book of rare materials not originally included in Gordon's official biography, entitled "Dexter Gordon® Outtakes", along with unreleased live recordings.

In 2010, The Dexter Gordon Society helped organize the acquisition of a large portion of Gordon's historic private archive by the Library of Congress in a collection of over 7,000 of his personal and musical items (physical and digital). The Society plans to commence with preservation of such rare and historical items of Gordon's rich private collection, along with physical and digital release and publication, and thus welcomes public support to continue these efforts so that it can make the many remaining elements of his legacy digitally accessible to artists, students, and researchers worldwide.

Remaining historic material for the centennial's digitization and publication projects exists largely from existing research that did not make its way into Dexter Gordon's award-winning biography, "Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon" (University of California Press, 2018), but which is now being primed for publication, and more. The biography's author, Dexter Gordon's wife and former manager and producer, Maxine Gordon, is currently completing a one-year Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University (visit

Allegra Levy | "Songs For You And Me"

Award-winning jazz singer/songwriter Allegra Levy brings her distinctive brand of sweet, swinging elegance straight to the hearts of young and old alike with her first album for children and families, Songs for You and Me, to be released on April 7, 2023.

Named a Top 10 Rising Star among jazz vocalists in DownBeat’s 2021 Critics’ Poll, Allegra Levy is that rare jazz songbird who pens her own tunes. Songs for You and Me offers families a jewel-box collection of sparkling songs that fit right in with the music Allegra loved while growing up: Raffi, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, and more. “This album was written for everyone,” Allegra notes, “because the little kid in us still just wants to sing along.”

“Coming from a degree in jazz vocal performance from New England Conservatory, the last place I thought I’d end up was recording children’s music … until I became a mom,” adds Allegra. “During the pandemic and once Stella Plum was born, my listening demographic shifted from the city’s crowded, dingy basement clubs to a bright and beaming audience of one. Yet simple melodies have always been my truest form of self-expression,” she observes, “and they have never flowed more naturally than when I’m with my daughter. I didn’t want to ‘dumb’ anything down for a learning child, but I tried to keep things accessible and singable.”

Long involved in activism and human rights, Allegra Levy was shocked, when working for a preschool music program at a Manhattan private school, to discover that some classic children’s songs harken back to the days of Jim Crow. “We don’t always know the history of every children’s song, which is why I feel it’s so important to create a new generation of music,” says Allegra. “I wrote these tunes and lyrics with a goal of contributing to a new sound for today’s world, which values diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Kicking off Songs for You and Me is “Hello Song,” a joyful, multilingual greeting between friends, conceived as a kind of modern-day “It’s a Small World.” Allegra’s daughter, Stella, whose ancestry is a mix of Hong Kong Chinese, German, and Ashkenazi Jewish, is growing up speaking English, Spanish, and Cantonese. Allegra wants children like Stella to see themselves reflected in song. After inviting friends from all around the world to contribute their uniquely rich heritage, Allegra was overwhelmed with responses, including greetings in Farsi, Hebrew, Vietnamese, French, Mandarin, Zulu, Polish, Japanese, and Korean. Allegra says, “There were too many to even use! This really solidified my feeling that music can be a vehicle for peace and change.”

Other highlights include the unbeatably catchy food song, “Noodles!,” which grew out of a sorely trying day in Allegra’s life as a young mom, when it felt like everything she attempted was just wrong. To cope, she sat down at the keyboard, laughed at herself and the situation, and wrote this swinging number. On “Stella for Star,” Allegra’s vocals float like magic, complemented by Katie Seiler’s stellar whistling, beautiful single-string guitar picking from Andrew Baird, and pianistic contributions from Jason Yeager, defining the word “perfection.” 

A native of West Hartford, Connecticut now based in New York, Allegra Levy has been dubbed a “double-barreled talent” and “unquestionably one to watch” by JazzTimes magazine. Allegra is known not only for her richly sweet yet swinging alto voice, but also for writing catchy, emotive songs grounded in tradition, with a nod to the progressive. She has appeared at most of the top clubs in New York City, including The Jazz Standard, Birdland Theater, Zinc Bar, The Bitter End, Cornelia Street Café, and The Blue Note. From 2014 to 2015, Allegra also served as artist in residence at the world-famous Blue Bar in the Hong Kong Four Seasons Hotel. 

“Fresh … exotic… and far beyond the ordinary,” wrote Ben Ratliff in The New York Times of Allegra Levy’s 2014 autobiographical debut album, Lonely City. From Lonely City’s plaintive title track to Allegra’s critically acclaimed 2017 follow-up release, Cities Between Us, and beyond, Allegra Levy has penned a lyrical collection of harmonically adventurous-yet-familiar originals steeped in the spirit of the Great American Songbook. 

Allegra’s third album, 2018’s Looking at the Moon, was named an Editor’s Pick in both DownBeat Magazine and JazzTimes. In 2020, she released a fourth album, Lose My Number: Allegra Levy Sings John McNeil, to rave reviews. Lose My Number features Allegra’s own lyrics set to the tunes of renowned jazz trumpeter John McNeil. The New Yorker called it “a showcase for Levy’s… agile vocalizing and her gift for sculpting words, and for McNeil’s far too neglected abilities as a melodic architect.” Marc Myers of JazzWax enthused, “As I listened to Lose My Number, I flipped. Allegra’s voice was wonderfully hip, the song melodies were unknown but sophisticated and savvy, the lyrics were superb and smart, and she was backed by three women. If ever an album dismissed the notion that female jazz artists don’t measure up to their male counterparts, this one scatters that myth to the wind. Lose My Number is among my favorite jazz vocal albums of the year.”

Allegra Levy’s career continues to accumulate accolades. In addition to being featured in the 2021 DownBeat Critics’ Poll as a Top 10 Rising Star Jazz Vocalist, Allegra won the 2020 John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s “Stuck at Home” edition for “Wash My Hands” (a children’s song to encourage healthy habits during the Covid pandemic), as well as first place in the 2019 Great American Song Contest’s Adult Contemporary Music Category for her original pop tune, “Waste My Time.” Also in 2019, Allegra’s composition, “Man in the Moon,” from the short film Astronaut Hour – for which she wrote the entire score – won Best Original Song in the International Independent Film Awards competition. Allegra is also proud of her work with the Women in Jazz Organization, for which she serves on the leadership team. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, JP, their daughter, Stella Plum, and their dog, Luna.

Songs for You and Me will be available on all streaming services, Amazon, and beginning on Stella Plum’s second birthday, April 7, 2023.


# # #


Album Details: Songs for You and Me

Label: Little Moon Records

Release Date: April 7, 2023

Run time: 34 minutes

Lukas Traxel | "One-Eyed Daruma"

Swiss artist Lukas Traxel releases his powerful debut album ‘One-Eyed Daruma’ on We Jazz Records, March 10.

The trio features Traxel on double bass, Otis Sandsjö on sax and Moritz Baumgärtner on drums. Compact, deep, and organic to the bone, Traxel & co's sound echoes the innovations of rhythmically driven avantgarde jazz while keeping things moving at all times. There's both drive and freedom to this sound.

‘One-Eyed Daruma’ features eight new compositions by Traxel, who crafted the outline for the album while dealing with the loss of his father. The group came together after an open invitation from the Zurich jazz club Moods to present a new group. The trio of Traxel, Sandsjö and Baumgärtner creates a full, symphonic, and powerful body of sound despite the instrumentation without a harmony instrument. The trio functions as a collective where the boundaries between composition, melody, and accompaniment are in flux, while keeping the common goal of creating new music together in sight at all times. Traxel reports that after playing bass in various groups with guitar and/or piano, he wanted to create a counterpoint of sorts with his new group and specifically go about it with a more sparse setup. As ‘One-Eyed Drama’ proves, the idea behind the trio dynamic is a strong one and the unit makes use of their extra space in creating evocative, moody, swinging creative jazz with a distinguishable fingerprint of its own.

Lukas Traxel says:

"The process of composing this music while dealing with the loss of a loved one resulted in a writer's block at first. The notes would just not flow out of my pen until I noticed a mysterious-looking figure in the right upper corner of my piano. It was a daruma, an eyeless figure that in the Japanese tradition brings luck and prosperity. According to the myth, the first eye must be drawn onto the figure while expressing a wish. The second eye can be added only if the wish comes true. My daruma is meant to stay one-eyed as my wish, strongly connected and intertwined with my now gone father, is not meant to be fulfilled. The feeling of unfulfillment and imperfection of life serves as a common thread throughout this album, right down to its title. In a similar fashion, a composition remains incomplete until it is interpreted by musicians, and given form as music. That being said, for me playing together with this trio symbolises the upside: the sense of fulfillment in music and life.

Our musical influences include the American composer and singer Caroline Shaw, Swiss pianist Colin Vallon's trio, and composer/singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. In addition, I have listened a lot to the trio albums of Jimmy Guiffre and Sonny Rollins. Besides that, my musical heroes like Charlie Haden, John Coltrane, and Keith Jarrett always flow into the music. Another very important influence in the music is the work of American visual artist Agnes Martin, in whose works the imperfection of a multiplicity of repetitions results in a lively big whole in the end. 

Live, the trio takes a lot of freedom in interpreting this music, yet we have a deeper, almost pop-like attitude towards the live performance as an experience. For me it's always important to build a strong narrative with the band while on stage."

‘One-Eyed Daruma’ by Lukas Traxel is released on 10 March 2023 by We Jazz Records on LP/CD/digitally. The LP edition is shelved in an inside-out sleeve and pressed on white vinyl. The CD is housed in a cardboard digisleeve with UV lacquer finish.

Ally Venable's New Album & Upcoming Tour w/Buddy Guy

Texas blues/rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Ally Venable is pleased to announce that she will release Real Gone!, her latest solo effort, on March 24th via Ruf Records.

At 23, Venable is a fiery presence well-known in the roots music world. Her name has grown in stature with each new album and high-energy gig. She's a ripping guitar player with style and tone for days, a commanding singer, and a songwriter with the power to make blues music that speaks to contemporary fans. The new record, produced by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi), features guest appearances by Joe Bonamassa and living legend Buddy Guy.  

Venable is that rare musician who can take her old-school influences like Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan and create music that brings their spirits to today's listeners where they live. Together with Isaac Pulido (drums) and EJ Bedford (bass), she gives audiences an entertaining show packed with musical muscle and relatable songs about living, growing, and evolving. 

The first single from Real Gone! is the title track, a straight-up, body-moving rocker. American Blues Scene premiered the video. The second single, to be released on February 24th, is T "exas Louisiana," a crackling duet with the one-and-only Buddy Guy. Ally and Buddy are an absolute dream team, intertwining their guitars and voices into one without losing any identity or impact. 

On the soulful ballad "Next Time I See You," Ally downshifts her vocals and shows every dynamic degree of her impressive range. Her guitar work here is equally lyrical and emotive, displaying a gift for phrasing that few players ever attain. The slow grinding jam "Blues Is My Best Friend" lays out the ups and downs of the guitar lifestyle in no uncertain terms and features some of Venable's most intense playing and singing on the entire set. Ally's deep, cliche-free authenticity is the common thread running through every song on Real Gone! She speaks her mind without hesitation or apology, turning each track into an honest statement of purpose.  

In December 2022, Guitar World named Ally one of the Top 15 'Young Guns,' Making the Gibson Les Paul Cool Again. That same year, she received the Road Warrior Award from the Independent Blues Music Awards. Additionally, she performed as a featured artist on the Experience Hendrix Show in Austin, TX, appearing alongside Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Zack Wilde, Eric Johnson, and Dweezil Zappa, to name a few.

With 2019's Texas Honey and 2021's Heart of Fire, Venable found herself topping the Billboard charts. Early releases No Glass Shoes (2016) and Puppet Show (2018) created her fanbase, charted on radio, and won several East Texas Music Awards. Venable's acclaim for addition med performances on Ruf Records' European Blues Caravan tour brought her international recognition. She has toured the U.S. with Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Canada with Colin James. 

This year, Ally will be opening for Buddy Guy on his farewell tour, supporting Kenny Wayne Shepherd, rocking Europe again on the Blues Caravan Tour, and doing her headline shows domestically.

Friday, February 10, 2023

New Music Releases: Alex Weiss, Dario Margeli, Leones, Tina Hartt

Alex Weiss - Most Don't Have Enough

Let's get this new year started with an absolutely stellar cast of musicians including (but not limited to) Ches Smith and Marta Sanchez! Says Weiss, “at a time when attention spans are fractured by information overload and the importance of satisfying our immediate desires competes with the ability to sustain our focus, listening to an entire album from start to finish is a tall order to ask of anyone. The art of creating an entire album is in fact, archaic; the word album itself is outdated. However, when we come to the end of our lives, if we’ve created some beauty during our stay, then we can rest content. This body of music is a gesture in that direction however old-fashioned. I hope it touches everyone who hears it in a meaningful way and satisfies you even for a fleeting moment." Alex Weiss’ latest album came together during the pandemic lockdown and the Trump presidency; small wonder then, that the album is titled “Most Don’t Have Enough.” Even the more political song such as the Trump-referencing second track, “Your Dark Shadows Arrives at The Door,” (the single available on Spotify and everywhere) doesn’t strain and shout; instead, pensive and understated, it slinks and sways with dark, seductive power, less a reflection on the demagogue himself than on the silken, hypnotic quality of the power that someone like he can cast on the populace.

Dario Margeli - Sacred Mandala (Smooth Jazz Version)

"Sacred Mandala" benefits from jazz guitar solos by Theophile Bourdier. It is a jazz electric guitar-led recording. It can please those who like smooth jazz guitarists, such as Nils, Norman Brown, Jeff Golub, or Chris Standring. The song is upbeat, yet the production is gentle utilizing 80s-style drums and synthesizers. The title "Sacred Mandala" refers to the concept that our daily job and work is something to value and appreciate and not something to escape from. Every day I go to work, knowing it is a privilege and something sacred and valuable to me and to society. Previously, Dario Margeli achieved lots of Smooth Jazz radio airplay with the 2019 recording "Suffering is optional". The song was also added to two very important smooth jazz electric guitar Spotify playlists. This means that to this day the song is getting discovered by new listeners. It has stream counts approaching a hundred thousand when adding the different versions and youtube listens. In 2021 the single Pure Spirit was released featuring guitarists, such as Hugh Williams from Florida. Dario's first release is from 2011 always collaborating with the best session electric guitar players. Being a person interested in meditation and reducing anxiety, there is a constant attempt to have those qualities show up in the artist's recordings, such as 2016s "I'm not my brain", featuring the keyboardist Terrell 'Bishop' Beane.

Leones - Voyage

Mighty nice work from Leones – an Italian duo, but one whose sound is a perfect fit for the Star Creature label – as they come across here with a really cosmic blend of drums and keyboards, often cut with plenty of jazz! The drums are live at most moments, which really opens up the flow of the music – and gives the whole thing a beating heart that's very different from more clubby material of this nature – a spontaneous groove that really has the keyboards stretching out with some solo moments, instead of just vamping along with the groove! The whole thing's nice and lean, and instrumental throughout – on titles that include "Dawn Of The Day", "The Fugitive", "Refresh & Smile", "Love The Sea You'll Be Free", "Last Sunset In The Savannah", and "The Running Gazelle". ~ Dusty Groove

Tina Hartt – Absence of You

Tina Hartt is a singer, composer and musician from Montreal. She has enjoyed a diverse singing career across Canada, including stints with rock bands and church choirs in Montreal, with big bands and jazz combos in Toronto, and work as an actor, singer, and dancer in Nova Scotia and PEI. Her first album was released way back in 2000 – she thought it would be her last. Luckily, life was generous enough to give her a second chance with 2023’s Absence of You. In 2014 she moved west to Calgary, where she decided to focus her musical efforts on jazz. Returning to her french roots, she dusted off a few old french chansons and gave them new life by combining their inherent French romance with latin rhythms and jazz harmony. These elements are the foundation for her original music, and lend a freshness to her interpretations of jazz standards. Absence of You pays homage to the many factors that have influenced Hartt’s life and sound. Her mother was a painter whose preferred medium was water colour – for Hartt, she feels jazz allows her a similar freedom to “paint a little outside the lines” like her mother. Hartt herself is mother to two children, and it was their Venezuelan father who helped nurture and develop her love of latin music and culture. She quickly recognized that the French and Spanish share a common approach to life, full of intensity, mischief and an undeniable “joie de vivre” – all of which is reflected in her singing on this beautiful new album.

Omer Klein's "Life & Fire" Marks His Trio's Tenth Anniversary

Music is a wordless language with a correspondingly rich array of possible interpretations. As a composer, improviser and pianist, Israeli-born Omer Klein (who now lives in Frankfurt) has an excellent command of this language, finding a vocabulary for each new album that can open doors and build bridges without the need for a dictionary.

The album Life & Fire marks an anniversary – Klein and his trio partners bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo and drummer Amir Bresler have been together for ten years. Over this period they have produced four albums and shared their common musical experience with audiences worldwide. To avoid straying onto well-trodden paths in marking the occasion, Klein laid down some clear principles for the new album. One: it should be fun. Two: friends should be involved, because it’s a birthday party. Three: part of celebrating an anniversary is finding fresh ways of honouring the past and carrying it into the future. These three coordinates gave Omer Klein a general direction for the disc. “I decided to go for a small studio, where we would all record together in the same space, without headphones. Half the material would be pieces we’d played countless times and can now present in a fresh way. And let’s invite friends and have them sitting round us.”

It was other factors that triggered the irresistible vitality of the album. It is, in the truest sense of the term, a family album, because over the past ten years Klein, Cohen-Milo and Bresler have become more than just friends. Unlike when he started his career, Klein is now a father of three. The children’s influence on his music cannot be overestimated. They’re always teaching him something about freedom, spontaneity, independence and – something that’s by no means unimportant in music – playfulness. “Children don’t think in set categories, and they don’t worry about the consequences of taking risks.” In Life & Fire, Klein plays with notes like building bricks. He loves building towers, immediately knocking them down again and building new towers with the same building blocks. “In the past few years I’ve learned how to achieve more control over these processes while at the same time letting go. That’s precisely what improvising means for me. It’s as though I’m writing a novel and changing the plot in real time while I’m writing.”

Memory and the future sit cheek by jowl on the album. Klein’s music is full of optimism, it positively stirs up the present for the sake of the future, and yet he’s also got his tune "Niggun," a nod to Jewish folk music, in the program. “My personality unites the two. Nowadays we cherish a certain notion of a time –imaginary or real – when we believe people were able to identify more with one single thing. If you were from a small village, then your world only stretched that far and it determined your culture. Nowadays we’re bombarded with so much input that in art we sometimes lean towards reproducing that kind of authenticity. But at a certain point in my life I realized that my life is actually eclectic. I was born in Israel, which has always been a melting pot for people from all over the world, right from its inception. My parents’ parents came from Eastern Europe and North Africa. As a teenager I got into music from the USA and Brazil and the great European classical composers.” Countless elements have been added to Klein’s sense of himself as an artist since. It cost him time and effort to realize that he really simply doesn’t have just one identity and that he’s the product of a whole range of different influences and experiences. But the way this multifaceted mosaic is realized in Life & Fire is profoundly holistic. It offers a single, powerful message of the unity that lies behind diversity.

Life & Fire is a window on the present for the sake of perpetuity. This spectacular explosion of life carries all of the past two years’ events, experiences and ideas without demanding explanations or trying to preach to the listener. The title speaks for itself – a passionate celebration of life in all its fullness.

Nat King Cole | "From The Capital Vaults (Vol. 3)"

Few voices in music history have elicited such romance and suave cool as the celebrated smooth vocals of Nat King Cole. Following the celebrated From The Capitol Vaults Series that has collected two widely adored digital-only editions, Capitol/UMe today presents the third volume, From The Capitol Vaults (Vol. 3), just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Known for having a voice like cappuccino, perfectly suited to some of the greatest love songs ever written, the third volume of From the Capitol Vaults collects 14 additional rare songs, many of which are available for the first time on streaming platforms. From the gorgeous and lush “How Little We Know” to the sentimental “I Heard You Cried Last Night,” this collection captures the legendary performer at his most heartfelt and moonlit best.

In addition to the release of From the Capitol Vaults (Vol. 3), a lyric video for the romantic classic “The Very Thought of You,” written by Ray Noble and issued by Cole in 1958, has been released today to coincide with Valentine’s Day. Taken from the album of the same name that peaked at #17 on Billboard’s Top LP chart, it’s the perennial love song (“I see your face in every flower / Your eyes in stars above / It's just the thought of you / The very thought of you /My love”). 

Cole’s effervescent swing propelled him to the forefront of the jazz/pop sphere, selling millions, with his voice leaving an indelible mark on the music world. The enduring allure of Cole’s music even spurred his yuletide classic “The Christmas Song” to unbelievable heights on the Billboard Hot 100’s Top Ten in December 2022, six decades after its initial release.

Cole passed at the young age of 45 (in 1965), but his status as an icon from the Swing Era and Jazz Age was already secured. Continuing the release of this series from his extensive and truly awe-inspiring catalogue, the third volume is a great way to revisit and enjoy the Cole tracks that continually permeate our culture. When it comes to American geniuses like him, digging a little deeper now and again is always an excellent idea.

From The Capitol Vaults (Vol. 3)

  1. Make Believe Land
  2. I Still See Elisa
  3. O.K. For TV
  4. I Envy
  5. Marilyn
  6. I'll Never Settle For Less
  7. Up Pops Love
  8. My Dream Sonata
  9. How Little We Know
  10. Should I
  11. Like Someone In Love
  12. Lorelei
  13. I Heard You Cried Last Night
  14. Misery Loves Company


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