Friday, March 31, 2023

New Music From: Marie Mørck, Hyson Green, Louis Stewart, Maelan Abran

Marie Mørck - Songs To Comfort

The 2nd album from Danish jazz singer Marie Mørck was released this Friday, 24 March, and the title has already been added to a handful of Spotify playlists, including Spotify editorial playlists "Cozy Jazz" and "Relaxing Vocal Jazz". The two first singles from the album have been in A-rotation on national Danish radio P8 Jazz. Danish upcoming jazz singer Marie Mørck attracted lots of attention on her debut album from 2019. She had lots of airplay on Danish national radio and was nominated for "Best Vocal Jazz Release" at the Danish Music Awards in 2020. During 2019, she toured with her band in China, France and Scandinavia until the pandemic lockdown. In late April, she will perform a live showcase at the big European jazz fair - jazzahead! - as one of three selected jazz artists by the Danish jazz export organisation. "Song to Comfort" shows clearly what a great singer she is. Enjoy this silk smooth voice of hers.. and by the way - she also excels being a natural and playful composer and songwriter. This single was co-written with Marie's boyfriend, Jonathan Strøm. Musicians: Marie Mørck - voc; and Agnes Darelid - Trombone.

Hyson Green - Keep On Dreaming

The follow-up to  the well-received, and much played, The Needle and the Groove (also available on NubMusic Records) Keep On Dreaming continues in the same musical groove as before with songs that hark back to the music of the English and American soul these two love. From Boz Scaggs to Jess Roden, from Delaney and Bonnie to Robert Palmer, from Hall and Oates to Frankie Miller, from Steely Dan to Chic and Chicago house, and so many more.  Their music harks back to a time when songs and music were shaped by experience and the love of good music and of good times. Keep On Dreaming is the sound of today with a twist of London and a hint of California. Think palm trees in the Market Square, sun kissed beaches alongside the Thames and you've got Keep On Dreaming. A contemporary sound for contemporary times...The full digital release of Keep On Dreaming is slated for 21st April 2023.

Louis Stewart - Out On His Own

“Out On His Own” is a fitting title for Louis Stewart as he is perhaps the only Irish jazz musician to attain international front-rank status. This solo record features a mix of lead only and rhythm with lead tracks with a repertoire of Jazz and American Songbook standards, contemporary composers (Chick Corea, Steve Swallow etc.) plus an interpretation of an Irish traditional tune and a self- composed blues. The album was recorded in Bray, just south of Dublin, while Louis was at his peak and alternating between playing with Ronnie Scott’s band in London with the best of visiting musicians, and his frequent trips back to Dublin to play to packed clubs and bars.“Out On His Own” was Livia Record’s first release meeting with excellent press reviews as follows: Sunday Times critic Derek Jewell: “Louis is revealed here as a guitar virtuoso already of considerable maturity. A virtuoso in anyone's language, and … a musician to be spoken of in the same league as Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, or, among contemporary virtuosos, Joe Pass.” Irish Times critic, Ray Comiskey: “a performance of such virtuosity, that very few guitarists of any era could ever hope to match it ...a brilliant combination of melodic inventiveness, harmonic ingenuity, technical virtuosity and sheer joy in playing that seems certain to win for it an outstanding place in the record of Jazz guitar” Ronnie Scott: “Louis is a superbly talented natural musician. In my book he's one of the world's great jazz guitarists”

Maelan Abran - Time is Now

On her stylistically eclectic, highly autobiographical new album Time Is Now, multi-talented Hawaiian vocalist and poetically insightful songwriter Maelan Abran invites us into a unique, sonically dynamic world. She balances exquisite and vulnerable romantic expressions with edgy social consciousness, an impactful feeling of pop/soul/jazz fired hope and thoughtful, heart wrenching and motivating imagery reflecting on her roots growing up on the Big Island. Adding to the epic, sometimes dreamy and atmospheric, other times, swinging and funky vibe is a beautiful piano and orchestra interlude that serves as a sweeping break between the collection’s powerful dramatic narratives. Helping shape the fascinating soundscapes is Abran’s Grammy nominated co-writer and producer Marlin “Hookman” Bonds, best known for his work with pop superstars Jason Derulo, Swizz Beatz, Jay Sean and Chris Brown.   ~

Marcus Rezak | "Sweet Like Mary Jane"

Since the release of his intrepid debut album Gateway to the Galaxy, Marcus Rezak has become a staple in today’s touring circuit known for his virtuosic guitar playing and flexibility to maneuver through a variety of projects. His road warrior reputation spans bandleader endeavors that include his high-octane Grateful Dead tribute project Shred is Dead; his newly-launched Gumbo project performing notable 90s Phish shows in their entirety and performing original music under his name. The Chicago native has connected with GRAMMY-award-winner Paul Nelson to produce his next body of work entitled Guitar Head, a blues-oriented album that melds his prestige in the jam, improvisation, and songwriting world with his roots that hail from the “Home of the Blues.” The lead single “Sweet Like Mary Jane” will come out via Color Red on Thursday, March 16th in tandem with a 3-night run on the east coast with plays in Newmarket, NH (3/16), Waterbury, VT (3/17), and Cohoes, NY (3/18). Rezak will be joined by Ray Paczkowski (Trey Anastasio Band), Felix Pastorius (Jeff Coffin Mu'Tet / Hipster Assassins), Adrian Tramontano (Twiddle & Kung Fu), Chris DeAngelis (Kung Fu & The Machine), Cotter Ellis (Swimmer), and Matt Dolliver (Swimmer) throughout the performances.

Inspired by late ‘60s freedom rock, the anthemic “Sweet Like Mary Jane” does not leave room for interpretation with its progressive blues homage to women working in the cannabis industry. The song celebrates free spirits who enjoy fine herbs and rock ‘n’ roll drawing influence from Jimi Hendrix’s blues-rock era and a modern vocal and guitar solo style inspired by Warren Haynes. The track features Ray Paczkowski (Trey Anastasio Band), Adrian Tramontano (Twiddle & Kung Fu), and Chris DeAngelis (Kung Fu & The Machine).

Rezak connected with esteemed blues guitarist and producer, Paul Nelson, after a performance he had at The Music Room in Yarmouth, MA. They immediately hit it off after an impressive performance as they dove through Nelson’s distinguished career which includes being hand-picked to join Johnny Winter’s band in 2010 and producing several of his records including his GRAMMY-nominated albums I'm a Blues Man, Roots, and Step Back, which won the GRAMMY Award for Best Blues Album and debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart for Blues Albums. Nelson enthusiastically conveyed that he would love to produce Rezak’s next record. They recorded the album at The Music Room’s world-class, in-house studio laying down Rezak’s initial ideas in one day of pre-production and later joined by Rezak’s frequent collaborators and top-call east coast musicians Adrian Tramontano (Twiddle & Kung Fu) on drums and Chris DeAngelis (Kung Fu & The Machine) on bass laying the rhythm section foundation for Guitar Head in a vigorous 1-day session that produced 10 songs. After Rezak honed the final guitar and vocal parts in subsequent sessions, the tracks were sent to keyboardist Ray Paczkowski of Trey Anastasio Band, whom Rezak had worked with on his 2020 EP Truth in Sound. With Ray’s finessed keyboard parts recorded at his home studio, the final piece of the puzzle was having Eric Lawrence of Little Feat fill out four of the tracks with horn parts.

With a release date TBD, Rezak is assured that Guitar Head will be his best album to date. "Working with GRAMMY-winning producer Paul Nelson has been an absolute pleasure and has brought out the best in my guitar, playing and songwriting for this record,” he says, “Additionally, having a world-class rhythm, section helps make things go smoothly as they did for the making of this album. Adrian Tramontano, Chris DeAngelis, Ray Paczkowski, and Eric Lawrence make for a dream team that can only be heard on this recording."

Nelson shares Rezak’s fervor for the forthcoming record, “Marcus is a force to be reckoned with—as both a guitarist songwriter and vocalist. It was a real pleasure to produce his latest album which I feel showcases his diversity and amazing talent.”

Christine Jensen | "Day Moon"

We’ve witnessed and heard testimonies from countless musicians who were forced to struggle—financially and artistically—through the lockdowns of the pandemic. For some who have survived, there’s been the silver lining of a shift in perspective. Many artists dug deep in isolation and discovered the solution to long-elusive mysteries. Some let go of the tried-and-true and instead explored new means of expression. 

While we’re hopefully emerging from the final Covid surge, it’s a welcome that an artist like Christine Jensen is opening ears to the magic of reflection on her long, turbulent days and months locked down.

 The exceptional alto and soprano saxophonist from Canada releases the compelling Day Moon with her impressive quartet on Justin Time Records. The music is at turns, melancholic and ebullient, sober and playful. It’s a date where she creates an improvisational community of close friends in quartet and duo settings. “I got hit hard by the pandemic because I felt alone and was not doing what I’m supposed to do,” Jensen says. “So, I focused on my saxophones, teaching myself to present my sound, my solo voice. It’s almost like becoming the vocalist.” 

At home leading her own renowned jazz orchestra, Jensen was forced to pull back by necessity into a more intimate space. “I had to shed the extra instrumentation that was always in my head,” she says. “So, I started to once a week play music with my longtime piano friend Steve Amirault. We worked together—he collaborated with me and pushed the boundaries. It created a stable place for me.” 

Jensen invited her regular rhythm team of bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas to mask workshop in small spaces to bring new colors into the ebb and flow of her compositions. The quartet members became, as she writes in her liner notes “my refuge and sanctuary.” She continues, “I feel like we met on thin ice through two cycles of seasons, meeting, greeting, and expanding on this repertoire, so that we could find a place that allowed us to trust and support each other at the highest level—not just in the music, but also in friendship, empathy and love, all words that the lockdown was attempting to repress.” 

The album opens with the title tune that was written pre-pandemic for her chordless collective CODE Quartet that included trumpeter Lex French. The ‘60s Ornette Coleman-inspired band issued its Genealogy album for Justin Time in 2021. “It started out as a demo that ended up being the recording,” Jensen says. “At that point, the tune was just starting to jell, but I never glued to it. So, I thought let’s explore it wider harmonically with the piano instead of trumpet. The changes led to a surprising end.” 

It’s the perfect lead tune inspired by a vision Jensen experienced. She was on her street in the middle of the day and saw a perfect moon in front of her with the sun glowing behind. “It was so strange,” she says. “It’s how the pandemic felt—living in another world. Other worldly and so sci-fi. It makes for a perfect prelude to the rest of the album where the world is shifting.” 

The four-song suite Quiescence was written for a commission from New York’s Jazz Coalition that had raised funds for composers. Jensen sketched compositions including the Brazilian clave-feel “Tolos d’Abril,” her April Fool’s birthday song. “I wrote it because I was alone and I didn’t want to be in the Montreal snow and would just love to be anywhere from here,” Jensen says. “So, I thought of any opposite place, like a beach in Brazil.” 

Highlights of the album feature the duo spots with Amirault, including the short-and-sweet torrent of the playful “Balcony Rules” based on “What Is This Called Love?” and the gem of the album, the gorgeous rendering of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day.” 

“That’s one of my favorite cuts,” Jensen says. “Steve and I hit on the emotion in ballad playing that’s not often captured in this day and age. We just looked at each other, slowed the tune down and played our feelings. I take the melody line and Steve is focused on time. It’s a deep conversation and an elaboration of who we are as musicians. We stole the slowness of this tune from the style of Shirley Horn and her delivery of a ballad."

 Finally, Jensen is happy to play some gigs to support Day Moon. In the future she continues to be on the tenure track at Eastman School of Music and has more music ready to go, including another CODE Quartet album, more recording and performing with her sister Ingrid Jensen and a big band recording to be released by the end of 2023. “It’s all in motion,” she says. “And who knows, maybe even an album of duos in the setting I discovered on Day Moon.”


Newly minted GRAMMY winner Samara Joy, gospel and jazz icons Take 6 and the exciting, genre-bending vocalist Jose James have just been added to the lineup of Chris Botti at Sea, a luxury cruise personally curated by Botti himself. They will join the incomparable musician, David Foster, Gregory Porter, Katharine McPhee, Melody Gardot, International Mentalist Lior Suchard, Keb Mo, and Lisa Fischer as well as Taylor Eigsti,  Sy Smith,  John Splithoff,  Eric Marienthal, Music Director Emmet Cohen,  Randy Brecker,  Wycliffe Gordon and the Chris Botti Band.  Chris Botti at Sea sails February 8 – 15, 2024 from Miami to Aruba and Curacao on Celebrity Cruises’ Summit, the voyage features a world of entertainment, the very best in music, accommodations and destinations.  

Jazz Cruises, LLC, the gold standard for music cruises at sea since 2001, will produce the cruise, undertake the reservation process and provide programming and technical support.  With more than 80 full-ship charters to its credit, Jazz Cruises has produced themed programs of all types throughout the world.  

The cruise features a 2,100-passenger ship and will head out to Aruba and Curacao, the gems of the Caribbean Sea.  But it is the entertainment that separates Chris Botti at Sea from other programs.  Botti hand-picked most of the performers and each one of them is both a star and an exciting performer in their own right.  

Samara Joy is the second jazz artist to win the coveted Best New Artist GRAMMY Award, which she took home earlier this year along with a trophy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  She previously won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and was named the Best New Artist of 2021 by Jazz Times. Samara has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, Winter Jazzfest, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and has toured with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. 

Take 6 is a groundbreaking ensemble, bringing jazz, gospel and a capella together like no other group. They have won eight GRAMMY Awards (with 19 nominations), won 10 Dove Awards, a Soul Train Award and received multiple NAACP Image Award nominations. This year marks the 35th anniversary of their debut, self-titled album. 

Jose James continues to be one of the most innovative vocalists in contemporary music, winning awards and fans with his stirring alchemy of jazz, soul and spoken word. His work has received the Edison Award and the Academie du Jazz Grand Prix’s Best Jazz Album.  James has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Victoria Jazz Festival and Central Park Summerstage in New York City. 

Since the release of his debut recording in 2004, trumpeter Chris Botti has become the largest-selling American instrumental artist.  His success has crossed over to audiences usually reserved for pop music and his ongoing association with PBS has led to four #1 jazz albums, earning certification as both Gold and Platinum selling recordings, as well as numerous Grammy nominations and awards.  Over the past three decades, Botti has recorded and performed with the best in music, including Sting, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, John Mayer, Andrea Bocelli, Joshua Bell, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and even Frank Sinatra. Hitting the road for as many as 300 days per year, the trumpeter has also performed with many of the finest symphonies and at some of the world’s most prestigious venues from Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House and the Real Teatro di San Carlo in Italy.  And Botti’s month-long residency at Blue Note New York is a longstanding staple of the holiday season.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Tito Puente And His Latin Ensemble | "Mambo Diablo"

Craft Latino announces the first-ever vinyl reissue of Mambo Diablo, the acclaimed 1985 album from legendary bandleader and percussionist Tito Puente. Offering a lively blend of standards and originals (including fan favorite “Mambo Diablo”) this long-out-of-print classic finds the King of Latin Jazz putting his own twist on classics like “Take Five,” “Lush Life” and “Lullaby of Birdland” (featuring its composer, George Shearing, on piano). Set for release on May 26 and available for pre-order today, Mambo Diablo was cut from the original master tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl and housed in a tip-on jacket, the album also features its original liner notes by the Emmy®-winning journalist and longtime New York City TV reporter Pablo Guzman. Additionally, Mambo Diablo will make its debut on hi-res audio (192/24).

This special reissue arrives as Craft Latino celebrates the centennial of Tito Puente. Throughout the year, Puente’s vital contributions to Latin music will be honored through special reissues (including an April release of the bandleader’s 1972 classic, Para los Rumberos), exclusive digital content and much more.

Tito Puente (1923–2000) lived countless musical lives during his five-decade-long career. When he signed with Concord Picante in 1983, the celebrated songwriter, bandleader, producer and percussionist was enjoying living legend status, with absolutely no signs of slowing down. For more than 30 years, the New York–born, Puerto Rican timbalero had reigned as the King of Latin Jazz, while his hugely popular records (and hits like 1962’s “Oye Como Va”) brought Afro-Cuban and Caribbean rhythms into the mainstream, popularizing styles like mambo, cha-cha-chá and son. In the ’70s, Carlos Santana’s hit renditions of “Para los Rumberos” and the aforementioned “Oye Como Va” introduced Puente to a new generation of fans, while the ’80s ushered in yet another career resurgence for the prolific bandleader.

1985’s Mambo Diablo stands as a particularly high point in Puente’s catalog during this period and marks the bandleader’s third release with Concord Picante (the then recently established Latin arm of Concord Records). A refreshing blend of classic and original material, Mambo Diablo deftly bridges the gap between Latin and jazz and serves as a testament not only to Puente’s versatility as a musician (his outstanding work on the vibraphone can be heard throughout the album) but also as an expert arranger. “His ideas, segues, choruses, and handling of [the] ensemble’s sections simply [sparkle],” praises Pablo Guzman in his liner notes.

Puente and his all-star Latin Ensemble put their magic touch on standards like Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” the Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields classic “Pick Yourself Up” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” (made famous by Dave Brubeck), while their sublime rendition of “Lullaby of Birdland” features a cameo by the song’s composer, George Shearing, on piano. Rounding out the album is a classic bolero, “No Pienses Así,” courtesy of the legendary Cuban composer Pérez “Pepe” Delgado. Mambo Diablo also features several originals, including “China” and the joyful title track, which opens the album. Led by Puente on the vibes, “Mambo Diablo” showcases the talents of his band members, including Sonny Bravo (piano), Bobby Rodriguez (bass), Jose Madera (congas, percussion), Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez (bongos, percussion), Jimmy Frisaura (valve trombone, trumpet, flute), Mario Rivera (flute, saxophone) and Ray Gonzalez (trumpet, flugelhorn).

Reflecting on the album, Guzman argues that Mambo Diablo—and the diversity of its tracklist—allows fans the opportunity to witness the full scope of Puente’s musicianship: “Puente is about much more than being a richly rhythmic drummer.”

While Puente was in his early 60s when Mambo Diablo was released, he was still very much in the prime of his career—with plenty more to accomplish. In the following years, he would perform at the 1996 Summer Olympics’ closing ceremony, appear in a variety of films (including 1987’s Radio Days, 1992’s The Mambo Kings and the 2000 documentary Calle 54), and even make a cameo on The Simpsons. At the time of his death, his catalog boasted over 100 albums and more than 400 compositions, while his lengthy list of collaborators included such legends as Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Celia Cruz. During his five-decade-long career, Puente also received a multitude of honors, including five GRAMMYS®, Billboard’s Latin Music Lifetime Achievement Award and the prestigious National Medal of Arts from the United States government.

Emilie-Claire Barlow | "Spark Bird"

During the dark isolation days of the coronavirus pandemic, award-winning Canadian songstress Emilie-Claire Barlow found herself at an artistic crossroads. She questioned if she would ever want to make another record to add to her impressive 12-album oeuvre. She hadn’t been able to tour and she wasn’t aroused to assemble a new collection of songs.

In her 25-year career of delivering a distinctive and accessible style of vocal jazz, Barlow has accrued a remarkable resume of critical success, including seven Juno nominations, with two jazz vocal Junoawards—2013’s best Jazz Vocal Recording for her all-French song collection Seule ce soir and her Clear Day collaboration with the Metropole Orkest winning the same award in 2016. Also in 2013, Barlow scored a Felix Award for Seule ce soir as ADISQ’s Album of the Year—Jazz Interpretation. Previously, she had been named Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2008 National Jazz Awards.

So, despite the pause time of recent years, you can’t fully quiet a vital creative artist. Case in point: Barlow’s return to action with her brilliant new album, Spark Bird, that she co-produced with her partner Steve Webster.

After a five-year hiatus from releasing a full album, this year finds Barlow in fine Spark Bird shape to wing her career to a new plateau. Little did she guess during the dark times that a daily visit from a yellow-winged cacique that is native to the southern Pacific Coast of Mexico would inspire her to dedicate an entire album of songs to birds of all shapes and varieties.

Released on her own independent label, Empress Music Group, which she founded in 2005, Spark Bird takes flight in its entirety on March 31. As Barlow writes in her liner notes, “A bird arrives and changes everything.” Before its debut, she is offering a cascade of singles, beginning January 20 and continuing every two weeks until the release date. “Birds have the power to completely transport me,” says Barlow, who splits her time between Toronto and Mexico where she and Webster are building a house with a fully operational studio. “So, when I decided to do the album, I started going down this path of gathering songs about birds. They’re my joy, my fascination. These songs tell a story.”

The first hatching comes with Barlow delivering a bright jazz voyage into the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg standard, “Over the Rainbow” (the single released on January 20). Relaxed yet energetic, Barlow leads the way for her quintet to soar into a percussive bossa swing. True to her theme, she buoyantly sings, “If bluebirds fly over the rainbow, why can’t I fly?”

Barlow follows the first single on February 3 with the playful single “Fais comme l’oiseau” (translated: “Do Like the Bird”) where she delightfully sings in French the hopeful voice of bird-like patience while swinging with tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson’s lyrical lines. Choral translation: “Act like a bird/It lives on pure air and fresh water/On a bit of hunting and fishing/But nothing ever stops it from going higher.”

Both singles offer a fresh beginning to a captivating eight-song avian journey that began with the magical cacique incident.

“In our Mexican home, the biodiversity is incredible,” Barlow says. “The bird activity is off the charts. My first personal experience came when a bird kept tapping on the window of our guest room and squawking loudly. When I tried to catch a glimpse, it would fly out. So we set up a camera and caught this wonderful, comical activity of a yellow-winged cacique that I discovered was a very common bird for this area. I started spotting them everywhere and hearing them—their vocabulary fascinates me.”

She started to tune into the variety of bird voices that she says is a “constant soundtrack,” with rhythmic tapping, high-pitched whistles, piercing calls, soft sporadic whistles, diatonic melodies. “It’s the closest thing to living in an aviary,” she says. “As the sun appears, you hear the orchestra warm up. Birds are nature’s musicians.”

Barlow hastens to note that while she is not a member of an organized birder group, her appreciation of the choirs and colors of birds has heightened her passion to learn more about her winged discoveries.

Other bird songs include a show-stopping, uptempo reimagining of Stevie Wonder’s 1974 hit “Bird of Beauty” (part of the chorus encouraging ”Take a chance and ride the bird of beauty of the sky”). Then there’s Barlow’s unique sexy, romantic, blues-touched read of the Hoagie Carmichael/Johnny Mercer standard “Skylark” with a surprising swell of strings arranged by Drew Jurecka. On the Gershwin & Gershwin classic tune, “Little Jazz Bird,” Barlow swerves from the obvious with the playful song—adding in another popular melody from the ’20s, “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)," as a countermelody and ending the song with guitarist Reg Schwager’s solo that Barlow uses for a noteworthy stretch of vocalese.

Barlow sings deep into the mystery and longing of the futuristic “Where Will I Be?”—“When there’s no more rain, no more sun/Will there still be birds?”—by the Toronto-based composer Hannah Barstow who plays piano on the track and in Spanish renders Manolo Garcia’s “Pájaros de Barro” in a duo format with pianist Chris Donnelly as the appropriate closing song about seizing the day and flying free.

The most poignant song of the collection is Barlow’s moving take on Coldplay’s “O” that was arranged by band pianist Amanda Tosoff. “This song has a special meaning,” the singer says. “I tragically lost a young family member in a plane crash. He and I and his mom were big fans of Coldplay, so the lyrics of ‘fly on’ are so relevant. I played this at his funeral. For this album version, we used strings and Rachel Therrien offers a melancholic, mournful flugelhorn solo.”

In addition to the bird songs of joy and sorrow on Spark Bird, Barlow has worked with graphic designer Caroline Brown of Whitebear Design to create original bird illustrations. “Caroline’s avatars for each song are so whimsical, playful and special,” Barlow says. “And she has me interacting with them in some way. There’s a happy orange-breasted bunting for ‘Over the Rainbow,’ a graceful and solitary great blue heron for the darkness of ‘Fais comme l’oiseau,’ a flock of swallows for ‘O,’ a ridiculously cute Australian pink robin for ‘Little Jazz Bird.’ And the signature bird for ‘Pájaros de Barro’ is my yellow-winged cacique.”

So, Spark Bird ends with the noisy, comical bird that served as the inspiration for her soulful, emotive music. In her liner notes, Barlow writes, “When that cacique tapped on my window, I felt a spark. Not just a budding bird obsession, but the curiosity and desire to see what life would be like if I spent more time in this place that makes me feel so buoyant and full of wonder…the birds—a constant source of joy and inspiration—have reignited my spark. For that, I’m full of gratitude.”

New Music Releases: Dan Wilson, Nevaris, Lucas De Mulder, Will Summer

Dan Wilson - Things Eternal

Dan Wilson has new album coming out May 19! Things Eternal was co-produced by Christian McBride and Wilson and will be available on CD and digital. This album is centered around the shock of losing a lot of people that were central to Wilson's upbringing. Wilsons says that navigating this grief brought back to the surface a hymn lyric that has always resonated with him: "Build your hopes on things eternal and hold on to God's unchanging hand." The first song on guitarist and composer Dan Wilson’s Things Eternal opens with a recorded voicemail from the late organist, personal mentor and dear friend Joey DeFrancesco, serving as a tribute, guiding light and mission statement. Throughout a curated selection of 12 songs, Wilson gathers hope and inspiration from ancestral wisdom, dedicated to the enduring quality of the human spirit. From unique takes on classics from The Beatles, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard and McCoy Tyner to original compositions, Wilson has crafted an impeccable statement for the world to take notice. 

Nevaris - Dub Sol

Touted by Carlos Santana as "a work of supreme creativity”, NYC artist Nevaris presents 'Dub Sol', the lead track from his 'Reverberations' LP, forthcoming via celebrated label M.O.D. Reloaded. Nevaris' third collaboration with Bill Laswell and this lineup of musicians, this album focuses on the dub aspects of their sound, combining dub, funk, Afro-Latin rhythms, turntablism and improvisation. Hailing from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he is of European and Mexican descent with multi-generational roots in NYC and LA. Nevaris has recorded and performed with an evolving lineup of musicians under the name Loud Apartment, most notably Bernie Worrell of P-Funk and Talking Heads fame. 

Lucas De Mulder - Feel The Spirit

‘Feel the Spirit’ finds Lucas De Mulder as the newest bearer of the torch of deep funk and boogaloo guitar work. Produced by Eddie Roberts, bandleader and guitarist of the international funk group, The New Mastersounds, the album is a direct eulogium to Grant Green’s iconic 1962 record ‘Feelin’ the Spirit.’ De Mulder and Roberts connected while Roberts’ all-star soul project Matador! Soul Sounds was touring through Spain and the two found themselves at a jam session at The Intruso Bar where Roberts immediately recognized their simpatico style of playing and acute influence from Grant Green. A few weeks later, De Mulder sent Roberts a demo and was immediately invited to record a record at Roberts’ Color Red Studios in Denver, Colorado. The sessions featured fellow members of The New Mastersounds Joe Tatton (keyboards) and Simon Allen (drums) as well as Nate Edgar (bass) of The Nth Power. The joyful, imaginative spirit of Grant Green’s playing is kept alive in a new generation through De Mulder’s beyond-his-years wisdom and thoughtful navigation on his instrument. 

Will Summer - Meadowlark

After a series of edgy electric guitar driven Smooth Jazz albums featuring beachy and summery titles like C0ast Drive and Ride The Wave, multi-talented musician-composer Will Sumner got more personal with his 2021 release Ocean Street, which featured songs emotionally connected to his longtime former family home in Carlsbad, where his mother lived until her passing at 96. On this latest, truly innovative sonic excursion Meadowlark, Will keeps his trademark blend of buoyant funk/rock, sensual atmospheric balladry and breezy, piano-enhanced melodic grace flowing in loving homage to the beautiful working alfalfa farm in Apple Valley, California. owned by his grandmother in the 1960s and 1970s. The collection of infectious tunes brings to life grandma’s warmth and generosity, as well as the sweet nostalgia of his childhood summer vacations there.  ~   

New Music Releases: Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, The Dining Rooms, Emily Braden, The Composers Collective Big Band

Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra - Lightning Dreamers

A killer set from a group that may well be the most perfectly realized version of the Exploding Star concept from Rob Mazurek – one who've got some fantastic parts that come together here in a wonderfully visionary record! Rob's still in the lead on trumpets and electronics – but the group really resonates from some key contributions from Damon Locks on voice and more electronics – at a level that has him rising to that long-overdue role of stardom, which seems to give the whole group an even greater source of focus and energy. Jeff Parker lays down some wicked guitar, Angelica Sanchez and Craig Taborn are fantastic on Wurlitzer electric pianos and moog – and the great Nicole Mitchell is on flute and a bit of vocals. There's a sense of majesty here that Mazurek has never had before – and the album is maybe one of the most crowning achievements in his long and very storied career. Titles include "Future Shaman", "Shape Shifter", "White River", "Dream Sleeper", and "Black River".  ~ Dusty Groove

The Dining Rooms - Rarities And Outtakes EP1

Milan-based duo The Dining Rooms have been a fixture of the local underground scene for more than 20 years and of the most popular signee of Schema Records. Currently working on their 10th album, due to be released early 2024, the duo consisting of Stefano Ghittoni and Cesare Malfatti is set to release two digital EPs of Outtakes and Rarities. First in line is EP1, a 3-tracker including  'Education of a Scoundrel' featuring Sean Martin, originally released on the French version of the album 'Ink' in 2008; the song takes the cue from the live version of 'M.Dupont'. 'Odd are the words' featuring Chiara Castello is an outtake from the 2002 album 'Turn To See Me' . The third and final track selected for the EP is a new edit of Four Tet's remix of 'Così Ti Amo'

Emily Braden - Cannon & Sparrow

Boise-born, Harlem-honed vocalist, songwriter and lyricist Emily Braden’s sound is an effortless blend of jazz and soul. Winner of New York City’s ‘Best of the Best’ Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, she has been a celebrated name on NYC’s music scene for more than a decade. Braden’s sophomore release Cannon & Sparrow is a vibrant collection of powerful originals and reimagined standards. Both daring and delicate, the album marks the second studio collaboration between Braden and her musical partner of more than fifteen years, Misha Piatigorsky. As producer, pianist, composer and arranger, Piatigorsky expertly spotlights Braden’s vocal freedom and fresh and forward interpretation. The catalyst for Cannon & Sparrow was the passing of Braden’s father within a week of the 2016 presidential election. The recording process began years later, and was completed in the early days of the global pandemic. The songs were largely workshopped in front of international audiences over the course of Braden’s residency at NYC’s famed 55 Bar. Cannon & Sparrow confronts the truth that it is often the heaviest things in life that jolt us alive. Braden’s vocals shine and soar with an uplifting message of love and resilience in dark times. 

The Composers Collective Big Band – The Toronto Project

What is the sound of a city? With The Toronto Project, the Composers Collective Big Band has put together its most ambitious project yet, commissioning Toronto’s top jazz composers to write about the neighbourhoods and aspects of their city that inspire them  the most. The Composers Collective Big Band is an 18 piece jazz ensemble led by trombonist and composer Christian Overton. Since forming in 2005, the group’s mandate has been to present new works for large jazz ensemble by Canadian composers. Toronto has been known as a great jazz city for decades. When jazz fans all over the world hear bands like Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, they instantly recognize the swinging arrangements and immaculate playing as being emblematic of  the Toronto sound. Today, that sound is evolving into something new – an audacious sensibility forged by a diverse new generation of jazz musicians. Discover the unique people and places that make up Toronto as seen through the eyes of its finest jazz artists.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Phillip Bailey - State Of The Heart: The Columbia Recordings 1983 to 1988

A trio of solo albums from Phillip Bailey – presented here with bonus material too! First up is Continuation – an 80s soul classic from Philip Bailey – stepping out here from Earth Wind & Fire in a set that has him sparkling strongly as a solo act! The vocals still have that trademark Bailey sound – a wonderful range that's never overdone, and which seems to shine especially well on the mellow and midtempo tunes in the set! Production is by George Duke, who does a lot to preserve the jazzier warmth of Bailey's previous settings – and although there's a bit more crossover potential here, the sound is still never too commercial or aimed at the charts. Titles include "It's Our Time", "Trapped", "I Know", "I'm Waitin For Your Love", "Desire", "The Good Guy's Supposed To Get The Girls", and "Your Boyfriend's Back". 

Next is Chinese Wall – a big breakthrough for Philip Bailey – and a record that was kind of a second-level explosion for the Earth Wind & Fire sound in the 80s! There's a definite crossover feel to the record – a style that takes Bailey's soulful vocals, and mixes them with lots of catchy hooks – in ways that push the Kalimba aesthetic even more into mainstream modes. Yet the album's still got some solid soul grounding, too – thanks to arrangements by Tom Tom and Arif Mardin – which is a nice contrast to the production by Phil Collins, who also guests on the hit "Easy Lover". Other cuts include "Time Is A Woman", "Go", "Walking On The Chinese Wall", "Photogenic Memory", "I Go Crazy", and "Children Of The Ghetto". 

Last is Inside Out – a set that has Philip Bailey working with Nile Rodgers, who gives him a lean, clean sound that works perfectly with his vocals! The sound is a nice change from the direction Bailey was heading in previously – a return to the focused soul of the later Earth Wind & Fire years, with his amazing lead opening up in ways that few other singers can match. Tunes are pretty well-penned too – catchy, but never cloyingly commercial – and titles include "State Of The Heart", "Welcome To The Club", "Special Effect", "Because Of You", "Take This With You", "The Day Will Come", "Back It Up", and "Echo My Heart". 3CD set features nice bonus material – "I Know (ext dance mix)", "Love Is Alive", "Easy Lover (with Phil Collins)", "Walking On The Chinese Wall (single)", "State Of The Heart (dub mix)", "Twins (with Little Richard)", "Twins (club mix)", and "Easy Lover (ext dance mix)".  ~ Dusty Groove

Ryan Meagher | "AftEarth"

Guitarist and composer Ryan Meagher explores postapocalyptic soundscapes—and imagery—on the scintillating AftEarth, set for a May 19 release on Atroefy Records. On one level a quartet recording—with Portland, Oregon-based saxophonist Tim Willcox, bassist Andrew Jones, and drummer Charlie Doggett delving into 11 Meagher compositions (and a jazz setting of a Felix Mendelssohn composition)—it is also a collaboration with visual artist Tina Granzo, whose lonesome, haunting pen-and-ink images form the album’s packaging.

Though largely created in the shadow of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, AftEarth was initially conceived earlier, as a cross-disciplinary project dealing with themes of apathy, inaction, and the devastating effects they could bring to the world. With the advent of the pandemic, alienation and mortality inevitably became major players among those themes.

“Tina drew a ‘seed’ drawing for each [theme],” explains Meagher (pronounced Marr). “I wrote music for each theme/seed, and then she drew more art for each tune after hearing the music.”

The drawings feature odd juxtapositions of nature and manmade objects, portending the aftermath of ecological and technological disaster. While they unquestionably explore humans’ effects on the world around them, the drawings are empty of humans themselves; while Granzo simply believes that she is “terrible at drawing people,” that emptiness itself is a key component of both the visual and sonic sides of the project. The slow pace and echo effects of “AftEarth,” “End of the Rainbow,” and “The American Scream” suggest vast, lonely landscapes, bereft of companionship, while the melodic shapes of “Refuse, the Redeemer,” “Vanity’s Breath,” and “Scorched Berth” evoke an insular kind of sadness and regret.

Art and music are also featured in a series of videos created by Granzo and posted on Meagher’s web site (, password: AmericanScream). “This project was partly inspired by the animated videos Brad Mehldau released alongside his Finding Gabriel album,” says Meagher (pictured below right with Granzo). “Tina’s videos are one of the more compelling aspects of the abstract storytelling we set out to do. We wanted them to unfold slowly while the music develops, and for the viewer to wonder where this whole thing is going next.”

Yet for all its melancholy, both the art and the music are singularly beautiful. Meagher’s playing uses a variety of moods and colors to build striking melodies and solos, and locks in beautifully with Willcox’s tenor and soprano saxes and, on three tracks, Clay Giberson’s piano and keyboards. Even more locked in are Jones and Doggett, who share a stark instinct for rhythmic punch.

Some of AftEarth’s themes became manifest during its creation. An early version of Meagher’s band fell apart due to their unease at rehearsing during COVID’s reign, and the ultimate recording took place during a freak summer heatwave in Portland. Nevertheless, they persisted, and their efforts paid off handsomely—casting a ray of hope on the dark themes of the project. If these musicians can succeed, the rest of us can, too.

Ryan Meagher was born in 1981 in San Jose, California. His childhood was driven by a love of baseball until, in his early teens, the discovery of grunge music led him first to Nirvana, then to the African American traditions of jazz and blues. The new passion carried him through high school and on to San Diego State University, where he was mentored by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos.

Meagher moved in 2003 to New York City, a year later making his debut album Sun Resounding with pianist Bryn Roberts and drummer Greg Ritchie. Fresh Sound New Talent releases Atroefy (2009) and Tone (2012) followed, the latter made during a bicoastal period: Meagher was living in New York but also attending graduate school at the University of Nevada, Reno. That same year, upon completing his MM, he moved to Portland, Oregon full time.

Upon arrival, Meagher quickly became a crucial component of the Rose City’s bustling jazz scene. He currently serves as cofounder and programming director of the Montavilla Jazz Festival, artistic director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (and director of its attendant record label, PJCE Records), director of jazz programs at Lower Columbia College, and a teacher of guitar at both Mount Hood Community College and the University of Portland. He also works regularly with Portland luminaries including pianists George Colligan and Andrew Durkin, saxophonist Bryan Smith, and bassist Chris Higgins, in addition to Willcox, Jones, and Doggett. AftEarth is his ninth recording.

Gregory Goodloe | "In This Love"

It’s a fragrant love affair and on the eve of Jazz Appreciation Month, R&B-jazz guitarist Gregory Goodloe composed a fervent song of love and appreciation that drops as a single on Monday from Hip Jazz Records. Goodloe wrote “In This Love” with producer Jeff Canady to covey his ardor and affection as well as his gratitude for the gift of music.

“For as long as I can remember, you have been a great part of my life. As long as you stay with me, I know that I will love you all of my life. Unspeakable melodies, harmonies, tones, major and minor keys have given me inspiration every day. ‘In This Love’ is dedicated with devotion to a way of life, and a deep love of music. Let me pass it on,” said Goodloe, who topped the Billboard singles chart for the first time in 2019 with “Stylin’,” receiving more than four million Spotify streams.

Poetically lyrical guitar verses and impassioned improvised solos drive the funky rhythm track, soulful groove and vibrantly cascading choruses on “In This Love.”  With Goodloe’s classic cool jazz electric guitar in the fore, Canady’s sturdy drum beats, Robert Skinner’s rubbery basslines, Demetrius Nabors’s keyboard melodies and Gary Johnson’s rhythm guitar decorate the track with lush sound. 

“I have loved music for as long as I can remember. It’s always been a part of me and my soul. I’ve learned one thing in life and that is music can bring us through our ups and downs, through our good times and bad. My love, devotion and dedication to music has brought me to respect music and the love that it brings to the world. I feel so blessed to be able to share my expression of music,” said Goodloe, a Denver native.

“In This Love” is Goodloe’s second consecutive single with Canady. They teamed on “In Paradise” in 2021. Earlier releases include collaborations with multiple Grammy nominated saxophonist Darren Rahn (“Stylin’”), seminal urban-jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin (“Cool Like That”), Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley (“Somewhere Out There”), and Barbadian saxophonist Elan Trotman (“Step’N Out”).

Growing up strumming the guitar to Wes Montgomery and George Benson records, their presence is heard and felt in Goodloe’s recordings. He played drums and guitar through high school and while attending Bishop College, an HBCU in Dallas. After serving in the United States Army, Goodloe embarked on a recording career, debuting in 2016 with the single “All The Way.” Goodloe has performed at premier jazz festivals and has shared the stage with Howard Hewett, Tank, Ben Tankard, Norman Brown, Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Roy Ayers, Shirley Caesar, Angela Spivey, John P. Key, The Rance Allen Group and Larry Dunn of Earth, Wind & Fire fame, a fellow Denverite. Goodloe hosts his own radio show, “Mile High Smooth Jazz,” which airs on World Wide Jazz Radio.

Monday, March 27, 2023

New Music Releases: Cecile McLorin Salvant, Donald Byrd, Redd Holt Unlimited, Diggin Groove Diggers – Best Of Tribe Records – Selected By DJ Muro

Cecile McLorin Salvant - Melusine

Cecile McLorin Salvant has already been one of the most striking jazz singers to emerge in years – and here, she pushes her talents even further – as she moves past standard material, into a complex realm that's all her own! The album's a unified batch of songs dedicated to the European folkloric figure in the title – and Cecile mixes her own material with older songs from a span of centuries – singing in French on most numbers, and with a style that adapts to the needs of the material from track to track! As a result, she's using her voice in ways that we've never heard before – and which we never would have expected – and many of the songs are relatively spare, which brings an even greater focus on the vocals in a way that's incredible. Titles include "Wedo", "La Route Enchantee", "Dodou", "Fenestra", "Domna N'Almucs", "Dame Iseut", "Petite Musique Terrienne", and "Dites Moi Que Je Suis Belle".  ~ Dusty Groove

Donald Byrd - Street Lady (180 gram pressing)

A landmark album by Donald Byrd – the first one where he really started to click with jazz-funk producer Larry Mizell! Mizell and Byrd had worked together previously on the Black Byrd album – a soaring bit of futuristic jazz funk that took Byrd's career to a whole new level – but this album's the one where they really began to make the formula cook, blending together tight funky rhythms, spacey keyboards, soulful vocals, and some of Donald's best solo work of the 70s! The whole thing's a masterpiece, and all tracks sparkle – including "Lansana's Priestess", "Witch Hunt", and "Street Lady", one of the funkiest tracks ever on Blue Note. A haunting record with a beautiful spacey groove, and one of the best-ever albums on Blue Note!  ~ Dusty Groove

Redd Holt Unlimited - Other Side Of The Moon

A legendary funky drums record from the 70s! Drummer Isaac Redd Holt is maybe best known as part of Young Holt Unlimited, and as part of the first Ramsey Lewis Trio before that – but he more than makes a name for himself on this album – really using his unbridled approach to the drums in a really great way! This isn't a straight break record, with Idris Muhammad-style work – and instead, Redd opens things up with a lot more vibrancy, maybe more in territory that Roy Porter was exploring at the time – using lean instrumentation that includes keyboards from Eugene Curry and guitar from Jose Holmes – leaving plenty of space for Holt to do his thing on the kit! The approach is maybe best summed up in the cut "Do It Baby", a favorite with hip hoppers back in the 80s, with a classic sample riff that you'll recognize instantly – next to his funky nuggets "Gimme Some Mo" and "I Shot The Sherriff" – plus some nice spacey jazz numbers, like "Tica Chita", "Beware Little Girls of The Cannibals", and "Rhu". ~ Dusty Groove

Diggin Groove Diggers – Best Of Tribe Records – Selected By DJ Muro (Japanese paper sleeve edition)

A great presentation of work from the legendary Tribe Records of Detroit – all handled by DJ Muro, who's posed on the front in a way that recalls one of the label's rarest albums! The style here is different than other collections of Tribe Records material – as Muro goes for cuts that showcase some of the more soulful, funky sides of the label – still very righteous overall, but with less of the longer or more avant-oriented tracks that came from the Detroit underground at the time. Muro's been giving us amazing collections for many years, and this one is no exception – a fantastic demonstration of his magical ear, as he makes his way through cuts that include "The Wok" by Wendell Harrison, "Ode To Africa" by Harold McKinney, "Why Don't Love Make Everything Right" by Cosmic Force, "Ginseng Love" by Wendell Harrison, "Freedom Jazz Dance" by Harold McKinney, "For Real" by Doug Hammond, "Glue Fingers (part 2)" by Marcus Belgrave, "Vibes From The Tribe (prelude)" by Phil Ranelin, "What We Need" by Wendell Harrison & Phil Ranelin, "In The Moog" by Harold McKinney, "Farewell To The Welfare" by Wendell Harrison & The Tribe, "Wake Up Brothers" by Doug Hammond, "Sounds From The Village" by Phil Ranelin, and "Belle Isle" by Wendell Harrison.  ~ Dusty Groove

Nicholas Brust | "Daybreak"

Heralded as one of the premiere saxophonists of his generation, Boston-based Nicholas Brust has established his voice, both as an instrumentalist and a composer, in the world of modern instrumental music. He has found his niche as a bandleader and composer, taking advantage of the numerous textures and combinations available in small-group improvised music, evident on his new recording, Daybreak, featuring Brust with guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Julia Chen, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Gary Kerkezou. The album was released on Outside In Music on February 17, 2023. 

Daybreak is the follow up recording to Brust’s debut full-length album, Frozen in Time, released on Fresh Sound in 2020. The album has received international critical acclaim from All About Jazz, Jazz Journal UK, Modern Jazz Today, Rootstime Music, and the Jazz Quad, among many others. Marc Philiips of Part-Time Audophile exclaimed, “It’s as if one of your favorite movie stars from long ago suddenly started telling you about all the secrets of the universe.” 

Nicholas Brust has a crystalline sound, imbued with a life force, vitality and exuberance that is addictive. As Dan Bilawsky stated in All About Jazz, "this leader's skills and solid intuition move beyond his writing and performing, as his personnel choices also reflect excellent taste." Indeed, his band is in lockstep with him throughout every tune on Daybreak, making for an elevated listening experience. Brust and his music sound at once completely familiar and brand new; in the tradition, while breaking new ground. He is influenced by the likes of Pat Metheny, Brian Blade, George Coleman, Robert Glasper, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Kenny Garrett, and Roy Hargrove, among others, and he seems to have taken the best qualities of these stalwarts and forged them into his own elements. “Not only does Brust impress with his versatile playing, but he reveals a flair for composition that sufficiently nods to tradition without the usual predictable patterns, finding a nice balance with more modern jazz sensibilities. He delivers a colorful well-conceived debut that already has us anticipating his next recording,” said Jim Hines in Making A Scene.

New Music Releases: Max Kaplan & The Magics, Ghost Jazz Trio, Dean Mucetti & Rhythm Real, Dee Lucas

Max Kaplan & The Magics  - Mind On My Heart

Max Kaplan & The Magics are the newest generation of Memphis-based bands that captures the essence of the city's rich musical heritage. With soulful guitar leads and a tight rhythm section, the band creates a fresh and original sound that harks back to the sonic landscape of funky Motown and Stax era soul mixed wit h guitar-driven blues of the 1960s. With influences ranging from B.B. King to Leon Bridges, James Brown to Alabama Shakes, and Al Green to The Staples Singers, Kaplan’s music is a perfect blend of old-school soul and modern-day energy. The band’s debut album ‘Mind on my Heart’ is a testament to the band’s deep-rooted love of this linage though the sweet soul waltz “What Kind of Fool” to the upbeat and danceable “Born to Love You.” The band pays homage to one of their favorite soul tunes “99 Pounds” Ann Peebles that has become a fan favorite during their live performances. ‘Mind on My Heart’ is a promising debut that’s perfect for anyone who holds a special place in their heart for nostalgic Memphis-soul music looking to experience it through an exciting new lens.

Ghost Jazz Trio - Groovin' Smooth

After decades leading numerous jazz fusion bands, guitarist/composer/producer James Morgan’s decision to launch his own brand of “West Coast Laid Back Jazz” via the Ghost Jazz Trio has been a spectacular success, including two 'Best Jazz Album of the Year' nominations from the San Diego Music Awards. Recently upgraded from a trio to a funky, hard-poppin’ quintet, the latest full-length jam Groovin' Smooth is an infectious, rhythm-centric showcase for Morgan’s fluid style and the natural wood vibe of his Pat Metheny hollow body signature guitar. Everything is colored, of course, by the skillful and adventurous ensemble of seasoned musicians featuring legendary guitarist (album co-writer, arranger and producer) Dean Brown (Bob James, David Sanborn), bassist Nathan Brown (Bob James, Eric Marienthal, Brian Simpson), keyboardist Chase Pado and holding down the groove, Tres Hodgens on drums. Engineered and recorded by Grammy winner Alan Sanderson (Elton John, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones).  ~

Dean Mucetti & Rhythm Real - Isolate/Integrate

Like most young musicians setting out to learn their craft, drummer Dean Mucetti had plans to earn a living playing music. Little did he know he would become a full-time music educator and a mentor to many young people who may not have had access to a music education otherwise. Mucetti is now releasing his debut album, Isolate/Integrate, with his band called Rhythm Real, which has featured some of his students who have grown up to become top-notch musicians. Isolate/Integrate comprises six songs constructed collectively by the band with Mucetti at the helm. When Covid shut down live performances, Mucetti and the band decided to focus on creating an album. The title of the album, Isolate/Integrate, reflects the trajectory of the pandemic, from the isolation of the lockdown to the methods they used to construct the music. The rhythmic structures of the six compositions on the album were developed over time and were set down as through composed orchestrations with Williams on piano and Hargrove on keys improvising over the complex polyrhythms. Dean Mucetti’s love of drumming and his commitment to teaching and mentoring have helped turn young, aspiring musicians into genuine artists, as reflected on this release. Isolate/Integrate is a funky jazz outing with fascinating complex polyrhythms and a unique instrument configuration.

Dee Lucas - No Boundaries

Fresh off his 2022 Soul Café Radio Indie Soul Awards nomination, versatile saxophonist Dee Lucas – closing in on 20 years as a recording artist – is set on fulfilling a dual mission as he releases his wildly eclectic, genre pushing new album No Boundaries. First, he’s committed to creating music as a coping mechanism for others, which in turn brings joy to his listeners. Second, reflective of the project’s theme, to make music that evolves with less restrictions and expectations. While keeping his infectious melodies and lyrical, ever-grooving horn vibe front and center, Lucas’ outside the box/comfort zone vision leads to an expansive palette of expressions, tapping into his cross-pollinating passions for pop, rock, funk, R&B and jazz and inspiring interactions with Blair Bryant, Gino Rosaria, Selina Albright, David P. Stevens and Ragan Whiteside.  ~

Sunday, March 26, 2023

deVon Russell Gray, Nathan Hanson, Davu Seru | "We Sick"

Performed and recorded in a church just across the street from the Minnesota State Capitol on December 28th, 2020,  only weeks after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, We Sick is a record of staggeringly emotional improvised music, full of contemplation, fear, and fury. deVon Russell Gray's (aka dVRG) piano haunts the corners and cornices and interweaves with Nathan Hanson's lyrical saxophone. Davu Seru's drumming finds its place masterfully everywhere outside of and in between these two other elements, propelling, pulling, and singing. We Sick is a dance and a statement; it will appeal to fans of any work associated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), of which Seru is an affiliate. Cetainly Roscoe Mitchell's playing comes to mind, as do certain selections from Muhal Richard Abrams' Things to Come from Those Now Gone. But We Sick is not simply an echo of musics of the past. It is in fact made, fundamentally, from the materials of the present moment.

In his 1963 speech, “The House Negro and the Field Negro” Malcolm X assigns blame to those in his time who show concern for a master class whom he believes, on sound reason, does not deserve it. Why not just care for yourself?

We Sick thinks backwards through this reasoning to the Word of all Adam's children, received through the power of Eve’s vulnerable questioning. We think that we are all –– insofar as we serve anything beyond ourselves –– both master and servant. We remember that we embody both power and vulnerability; we remember that we have been contaminated, sullied, corrupted, sinner-saints from the karmic jump. We point to this Malcolm in order to point away, since he would keep transforming before being deemed impure and dispatched back to paradise. We take responsibility for being bad at purity, which is to say we each vow: “I take responsibility for this life.” Like the choice to submit to vaccination, or sound. The music of We Sick is surrender: lyricism as it moves from interior to exterior, moaning within the living space of a sanctuary. The sanctuary recorded here–a church 150 years old and rendered vacant by COVID–became an ensemble member through its acoustics and ambiance.

We recorded together on December 28, 2020 weeks after police murdered George Floyd and several months into the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine. Across the street from our sanctuary, the National Guard surrounded the Minnesota State Capitol. Their heavily armed presence provided a tangible reminder of the old dharma that house is field, white is Black and that–without question–we sick.

The music made that day reflects the feelings of isolation from community, hunger for justice, and the weariness of the wait. We offer it to you as a humble confession and renewed covenant.

Das Kondensat | "Andere Planeten"

Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Gebhard Ullmann continues his 65th birthday celebration with the April 7, 2023 release of Andere Planeten, the latest experiment from Das Kondensat, on WhyPlay Jazz. The uncategorizable electro-acoustic trio with bassist Oliver Potratz and drummer/synth player Eric Schaefer expands for their third outing with guest keyboardist Liz Kosack.

Andere Planeten is the final of three wildly exploratory and staggeringly diverse new releases Ullmann released as part of his birthday celebrations. The indefatigable Berlin-based musician continues to strike out in new directions, searching relentlessly to discover new sounds, new territory and new forms for his ever-inventive improvisatory ventures. The first two albums were released on the big day itself, November 4, 2022. They included NotTwo Records release of For New Zealand, the second album from The Chicago Plan, Ullmann’s transatlantic quartet co-led by the saxophonist and trombonist Steve Swell with Windy City mainstays Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, electronics and Michael Zerang on drums. Also out last November, this time via Leo Records, was Transformations and Further Passages, the sixth recording from The Clarinet Trio, Ullmann’s long-running collaboration featuring fellow reedists Jürgen Kupke and Michael Thieke.

There don’t seem to be rules to break where Das Kondensat is concerned. The experimental project spent eight years simply developing an aural vocabulary before entering the studio for their 2017 debut. The boundary-free project has only further evolved since; the title Andere Planeten (Other Planets) not only indicates the alien soundworld of the newly expanded quartet, but references the seismic impact of Arnold Schoenberg’s second string quartet.

Born November 2, 1957 in Bad Godesberg, Germany, tenor and soprano saxophonist, bass clarinetist, flutist, bass flutist and composer Gebhard Ullmann has been considered one of the leading personalities in both the Berlin and international music scenes. Hailed as “one of the finest improvising artists in the world” by the late piano master Paul Bley, Ullmann has recorded well over 60 albums over the course of his career, leading or co-leading a number of eclectic ensembles that blur the lines between jazz, free improvisation, contemporary classical, chamber music and electronica. Ullmann’s most recent accolades include the 2022 Deutscher Jazzpreis for woodwinds, the highest honor for the music in his home country; as well as seeing his compositions distributed by Vienna’s Universal Edition, one of the world’s most respected classical music publishers.

His working bands are the transatlantic projects Basement Research, The Chicago Plan and Conference Call, the Berlin-based Clarinet Trio, the electro-acoustic trio Das Kondensat, the worldwide first quarter-tone-piano-quartet mikroPULS, the electro-acoustic quintet GULFH of Berlin and the low drone project BassX3. He is also a member of the Hannes Zerbe Jazz Orchestra, the Scott DuBois Quartet, the Satoko Fujii Berlin Orchestra, and projects led by vocalist Vesna Pisarovic ad Russian sax genius Alexey Kruglov. As a composer he’s written several chamber music pieces including two string quartets and several solo pieces for woodwind instruments, along with larger works for classical orchestra and a new score for the 1929 movie Berliner Stilleben, directed by László Moholy-Nagy. His compositions are now distributed by Universal Edition, Vienna. Ullmann has recorded or performed with such luminaries as Paul Bley, Han Bennink, William Parker, Barry Altschul, Bob Moses, Keith Tippett, Trilok Gurtu, Andrew Cyrille, Sylvie Courvoisier, Lee Konitz, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Willem Breuker, Matt Wilson, Tyshawn Sorey, Mark Helias, George Schuller, the European Radioorchestra, and many others.

Dominic Miller | "Vagabond"

Dominic Miller has been called “a great, serene storyteller” by Peter Ruedi in the Swiss weekly Weltwoche, and Vagabond, the guitarist’s third recording for ECM, might prove his most poetic tale to date. After Dominic’s debut Silent Light (2017), which captured the guitarist in solo performances with occasional percussive injections by Miles Bould, Absinthe (2019) found him expand his subtle instrumental sketches in a quintet lineup. For Vagabond the guitarist has partnered up with Ziv Ravitz on drums and Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon, while long-time collaborator Nicolas Fiszman returns on bass. Continuing in the collective spirit of his last album, here Dominic finds new ways to present his distinct approach in deeply felt quartet interplay.

“It’s never been my intention to make a guitar album,” says Dominic. “Thanks to the amazing singers I’ve worked with over the years I see myself more as an instrumental songwriter. And as they do, I see it my mission to surround myself with the best musicians who understand the narratives in the ‘songs’. I’m happy to have assembled the right lineup here with Vagabond.”

The album is named after the eponymous poem by English poet John Masefield, which was very dear to Dominic’s late father. Dominic: “Although I don’t see myself as a vagabond I do identify with people who travel, preferring this lifestyle to staying in one place, seeing the same people every day.”

For the music’s inception and development throughout 2020/2021, however, the guitarist had little opportunity for travel and instead focused on his immediate environment in southern France, his adopted home now for several years, where he wrote the new songs. “Naturally I was influenced by my surroundings. I went on many long and solitary walks and the countryside somehow became my collaborator on this album. ‘Vaugines’ is a beautiful small village I would walk through. ‘Clandestine’ refers to a hidden bar I would occasionally meet some locals. ‘Mi Viejo’ simply means my old man, my father.”

On Vagabond these personal connotations are translated to highly reflective musical landscapes, sometimes openly and immediately conveyed as in the dramatic crescendo of “All Change," but more often than not veiled in a softer approach, as in the wistful changes offered on “Cruel But Fair” or the searching exchanges of “Open Heart." Each of Dominic’s collaborators gets more than a word in in the process – the guitarist providing a framework for Ziv, Jakob and Nicolas to spread out in. A fruitful approach, resulting in the slow-burning groove of “Altea”, with drums and piano in telepathic synchronicity with each other, or the mesmerizing balladry of “Lone Waltz," with each player building dynamic momentum.

“As with every album of mine, I like to change the lineups which always encourages me to go in a different direction” explains Dominic. “Once the pieces were written I invited the musicians to spend three days with me in the south of France playing through these tunes learning their structures and melodies. Then we went to the studio where I wanted them to be set free around these arrangements and the result is a strong improvisatory element to all the titles.”

The foursome – each musician a skilled leader in his own right – has a knack for balancing deep grooves with subtle interplay, weaving pastel shades into delicate harmonic changes as they chart a ruminative path through the program. The album was recorded in the south of France in April 2021 and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Born in Argentina to an American father and Irish mother, Miller was raised in the U.S. from age 10 and then educated there and in England. The guitarist’s international mindset has only been deepened through decades touring the globe, working with the likes of Paul Simon, The Chieftains, Plácido Domingo and, most often, Sting. Miller has long been known as the latter’s right-hand man on guitar – and co-writer of “Shape of My Heart,” among others. “I’ve been influenced by Sting’s lateral sense of harmony and how he forms songs,” the guitarist says. “I try to do the same by creating a narrative with instrumental music, which I treat and arrange as songs, with verses, choruses, bridges. I’ve absorbed a lot from him about concept and arrangement, as well concision in telling a story.”

With Vagabond, Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon makes his ECM debut. He has performed alongside the likes of Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and Billy Cobham, though his main current musical outlet is his piano trio with bassist Morten Ramsbøl and drummer Rasmus Kihlberg, with which he has released two studio albums.

Over the past two decades Ziv Rvitz has established himself as one of the most prominent jazz drummers of his generation, performing and recording alongside Shai Maestro, Oded Tzur and most recently Lionel Loueke. He has appeared on ECM as part of Avisahi Cohen’s groups on Big Vicious and Naked Truth.

A much sought-after jazz bassist who initially studied jazz guitar under Philippe Catherine, Nicolas Fiszman has played with everyone from Sting and Charles Aznavour Alphonse Mouzon and Angélique Kidjo. Since 2005 he has been a fixture in Dominic Miller’s groups.


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