Sunday, April 30, 2023

New Music Release: Orrin Evans | "The Red Door"

What’s behind The Red Door? For pianist Orrin Evans, that question has come to symbolize the daring path his life and music have taken over the course of his three-decade career. On his latest album, due out this coming June 16, Orin Evans again flings that door open, delighting in the collaborators, friends, inspiration, and history that he finds inside.

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, Evans explains, the color red came to signify the negative: think blood, sin, the temptation embodied in red light districts, all things infernal. Approaching a red door, then, is a daunting prospect. The image manifested for him recently when he overheard someone say, “I don’t see color” – itself something of a red flag.

“I’ve realized that along with red meaning ‘warning’ or ‘stop,’ it also represents so many beautiful things,” he says. “Roses are red, and Valentine’s hearts. So, I do see color, and we all should see color, but we shouldn't see the negative history that comes along with it. Instead, we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to walk inside and discover what’s behind the red door.”

Looking back, Evans has opened that door time and again, always with fortuitous results. There was the decision to pursue a life in jazz, the initial red door that led to a series of others: summoning the courage to test his mettle in the notorious jam sessions at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus in Philly; braving a move to New York with growing confidence but no sure prospects (“I didn't get a gig, but I got a wife,” he laughs); launching his own big band, a formidable undertaking that’s ended up garnering him two Grammy nominations; joining The Bad Plus, putting him under microscopic scrutiny, the striking out on his own again despite the band’s ongoing success.

Many of the musicians who join Evans on The Red Door connect to those periods of discovery and growth. The album features two core bands: one the rhythm section of bass legend Buster Williams and veteran drummer Gene Jackson, joined by the late trumpet master Wallace Roney or Philly living legend Larry McKenna on tenor; the other a quintet with trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonist/flutist Gary Thomas, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. In addition, the album features guest appearances by vocalists Jazzmeia Horn, Sy Smith, and Alita Moses.

In many cases, the elders on the album are artists whom Evans had long dreamed of working with, or acquaintances from the past whom he felt he was long overdue to reconnect with. Roney, who hired Evans early in the pianist’s career but whose path he hadn’t crossed in the intervening years, passed away in March 2020, an early casualty of the pandemic, bringing home the urgency of working with these masters while they’re still among us.

COVID also claimed the great tenor titan Bootsie Barnes, whom Evans had originally planned to feature along with fellow Philly legend Larry McKenna. McKenna, who was also Evans’ first music theory teacher, unfurls a simmering, lyrical solo on “The Good Life,” his first meeting with the great Buster Williams. “All the Things You Are,” meanwhile, brings West Philly natives Roney and Gene Jackson together for the first time since both were featured on Joey DeFrancesco’s 1990 big band album Where Were You? – and in that case, the two were never in the studio together. The album closes with the aching ballad “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before,” rendered by the trio of Evans, Hurst, and Smith.

The Red Door opens with the title track, which Evans originally recorded with The Bad Plus on 2019’s Activate Infinity. Payton had recorded with Evans as a guest with the collective trio Tarbaby, but Thomas’s presence finally makes up for the saxophonist’s inability to make the session for Evans’ 2002 Palmetto debut, Meant to Shine. Early on, Evans recalls, “Gary was on the other side of that door for me because he was working with Uri Caine and Ralph Peterson.”

Hurst, Smith, and Jackson all harken back to the progressive '80s jazz sound that the pianist was reared on, working with the likes of Kevin Eubanks and Branford Marsalis. Evans had only worked with Hurst and Smith once apiece – the drummer on a never-released Kevin Eubanks recording, the bassist on a Terri Lyne Carrington performance. “I don’t apologize for loving that '80s music and '80s sound,” Evans insists.

“Weezy” and “Phoebe’s Stroll,” the latter of which pares the quintet back to a swaggering trio, are both named for Evans’ godchildren – Sean Jones’ daughter Phoebe and Eloise, the daughter of his booking agents. The trio also essays the lovely “Dexter’s Tune,” a Randy Newman composition from the soundtrack of the 1990 film Awakenings. The quintet reconvenes for Geri Allen’s “Feed the Fire,” and Ralph Peterson Jr.’s “Smoke Rings,” both composed by influential figures lost too soon.

As always, Evans’ recording dates tend to adhere to a liberal open-door policy (red or otherwise), in this case, welcoming three gifted vocalists to the ever-growing village. Jazzmeia Horn gives an impassioned reading of Bill McHenry’s lyric for Evans’ “Big Small,” which originally appeared on his 2012 trio album Flip the Script. Sy Smith took a break from her busy touring schedule with Chris Botti to sing Geri Allen’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” while Alita Moses duets with Evans on a spare, compelling rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

The musicians with whom he collaborates may not always know what to expect when they walk into an Orrin Evans studio date, but he flings that red door open for them. Now it’s the listeners’ turn to enter. “It's a swinging party on the inside.”

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Claire Davis | "Get It Right"

Toronto-based retro-soul artist Claire Davis shares her journey of self-worth and love on her debut album “Get it Right”, released April 2023.

This 10-track analog soul LP was recorded to an 8-track tape machine by engineer Braden Sauder in a converted garage- studio in Toronto, owned by the renowned instrumental jazz/hip-hop group, BADBADNOTGOOD. Featuring some of the city’s top-flight musicians in the R&B/Soul scene, the album was laid down live-off-the-floor in one week during the winter of 2022.

Davis shares, “My heart really lies in live performance so I wanted to recreate that experience as much as possible for this record by having the musicians all record together to tape. I feel like I personally thrive under the limitations that tape gives you; it offers the opportunity to capture a vibe of a performance more so than chasing perfection. Knowing that my favourite soul records were recorded this way gives me an even deeper appreciation for the skill and talent involved in this process.”

“Get it Right” is a record born out of the faith that there’s better things on the other side of fear. Whether that’s breaking toxic cycles or being truly honest about what is and isn’t working in life. The first song written for the record was the title-track of the album which began as a jam between Davis on guitar, producer Scott McCannell on bass, and drummer Chino deVilla. “The lyrics were inspired by my relationship with my partner and the intention that we both have to work on healing ourselves in order to make our partnership work. I’d like to think that it’s a love song with a strong sense of maturity and understanding to it. And the whole record was really shaped around that idea of my relationships and experiences stemming from my own sense of self-love and my desire to live and create from an authentic place.”

The songs on Get It Right feature co-writes from Scott McCannell, Kyla Charter, and Toronto production house Safe Spaceship Music, in addition to horn and background vocal arrangements by composer La-Nai Gabriel. Musicians include Heather Crawford on guitar, Scott McCannell on bass, Adrian Hogan on keys, Chino de Villa on drums, Juan Carlos Medrano on percussion, Aphrose, Tegan Michelle Gordon and Chynna Lewis on background vocals, and horn section The Northern Soul Horns. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

New Music Release: Michael Lington | "Looking Ahead"

Michael Lington is set to release new music,  Looking Ahead, his first collection of new original songs since his acclaimed 2018 album Silver Lining. The hit-making saxophonist has already charted two singles from the forthcoming five-track EP – “Play” and the recently released “Moon Goddess.” He’ll be supporting Looking Ahead with an extensive cross-country tour and select international dates, including a two-night stand in London. See below for itinerary. 

Looking Ahead is fueled by a newfound sense of balance and purpose, reflecting the way finding his soulmate has changed everything about Lington’s life, including his music. Over the past few years, he married his wife Keri and became a family man, a devoted stepfather to her young daughter Lauren and a first-time dad (at 50!) with the birth of his now three-year-old son Landon. After calling Los Angeles home for 32 years, the Danish-born artist made the move to San Diego County. With all those dynamic shifts in his life, it’s no wonder that one of contemporary jazz’s most exhilarating artists is a whole new man – “Michael Lington 2.0.”  

The lead single “Play” is a funked up, high spirited summertime jam that marks Lington’s first time working with longtime friend and fellow horn master Darren Rahn. Offering an optimistic way to keep joy and hope flowing in turbulent times, the groove-intensive vibe features Paul Jackson Jr’s blistering guitar fire and the non-stop grooves of bassist Mel Brown and drummer Tarell Martin.

Jackson’s infectious jangly funk intro and later solo are highlights on Lington’s latest single “Moon Goddess,” a nod to Ramsey Lewis’ “Sun Goddess.” A hard grooving and emotionally empowering track, it showcases the intuitive dynamic Lington creates co-writing and co-producing with famed saxophonist, producer and horn arranger David Mann for the first time. With a freewheeling and soulful energy reminiscent of classic CTI Records releases, it also marks Lington’s first session with veteran jazz and R&B drummer Michael White. 

The heartfelt emotional core of Looking Ahead is “Keri’s Song,” a gorgeous classic-styled urban jazz ballad written for Lington’s wife and performed for her on their wedding day in August 2021. He wrote and recorded the song with two-time GRAMMY® nominee Chris “Big Dog” Davis. The EP also includes two tracks co-written, produced by and featuring the nylon string guitar of two-time GRAMMY winner Paul Brown – the sensual ballad “Til the Morning Light” and the sassy, strutting “South Bay.”

Lington, who has charted more than 25 hit singles and performed in over 40 countries, says, “Looking Ahead captures the hope and positivity in my life, and I look forward to new things with so much more knowledge about myself and love to give others. The transition from then to now was a challenge at times but once the dust settled and I took stock of all the blessings in my life, I realized how much more I like this version of myself. I am truly excited about the next part of my journey as an artist, husband, father and human being.”


  • April 14 – Cincinnati, OH – Ludlow’s Garage w/Paul Taylor
  • April 19 – Panama City Beach, Fl – Seabreeze Jazz Cruise
  • April 20 – Panama City Beach, FL – Seabreeze Jazz Festival
  • May 1-22 – Spain, Morocco, Portugal – Dave Koz & Friends At Sea cruises
  • June 7 – Napa Valley, CA – Napa Valley Jazz Getaway – Rutherford Hills
  • June 8 – Napa Valley, CA – Napa Valley Jazz Getaway – Westin Verasa Napa
  • June 10 – Melbourne, FL – King Center
  • June 11 Virginia Beach, VA – Jazz Legacy Foundation – Virginia Beach Convention Center
  • July 21 – London, UK – Pizza Express Soho
  • July 22 – London, UK – Pizza Express Soho
  • Aug 5 – Temecula, CA – Thornton Winery
  • Aug 18 – Newport Beach, CA – Hyatt Newport Beach – Summer Concert Series
  • Sept 14 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Jazz Getaway – Buddy Guy’s Legends
  • Sept 16 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Jazz Getaway – Fairmount Chicago Millennium Park
  • Nov 11 & 12 – Hampton, VA – Jazz Legacy Foundation – Hampton Roads Convention Center
  • Dec 3 – Seal Beach, CA – Spaghettini – Foreign Affair Christmas
  • Dec 4 – Seal Beach, CA – Spaghettini – Foreign Affair Christmas
  • Dec 7 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Mexico Jazz Experience Festival – Secrets Bahai Mita Surf & Resort

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Marco Antonio Santos | "About: Silence"

Brasilian guitarist, Marco Antonio Santos has a new CD and digital release, due out on May 5th 2023 with live show in Austin TX, May 10th with string quartet & woodwind quartet, conductor, jazz trio (guitar, bass, and drums), dancer, and photography exhibition.

About: Silence, recorded in 2022, is a conceptual visual album that comprises diverse forms of art and media—visual arts (video, painting, and digital drawing), dance, poetry, and music. As a musical composition, the work consists of 11 tracks that can be understood either as free-standing compositions gathered under a unified concept or as multi-movement work.

The album’s 11 tracks feature a jazz guitar trio—guitar, upright bass, and drums—joined on four tracks by a woodwind quartet and on five by a string quartet. Tracks are supplemented by video combining improvisational dance, musicians in the studio, and visual art, as well as poetry. Taken together, the elements express varied meanings of silence—introspection, grief, oppression, and the absence of sound. Only one movement forgoes this chamber quartet element and is written strictly for the guitar trio. A website unites each of the art forms in one place, bringing the full experience of the album to its listener/viewer.

Marco Antonio Santos is a guitarist, arranger, composer, and music educator. Originally from Minas Gerais, Brazil, he is currently based in Austin, Texas. Throughout more than fifteen years as a professional musician, Santos has performed extensively in Brazil and the United States, navigating freely between jazz, funk, pop, and Brazilian music. His singular style blends traces from his multiple musical influences, ranging from Radiohead and Pat Metheny to Maria Schneider and Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento.

Bruno Råberg | "Look Inside"

The bassist’s role in a jazz group is often defined by their relationship to their fellow instrumentalists – as the backbone of the band, the bridge between frontline and rhythm section, the timekeeper, the anchor, the bedrock. Bruno Råberg has played those roles expertly over the course of a career lasting nearly 50 years, releasing a dozen albums as a leader and becoming an in-demand collaborator for a wide array of artists including Kris Davis, Donny McCaslin, George Garzone, Tiger Okoshi, Ben Monder, Matt Wilson, Mike Mainieri, Adam Cruz, Bob Moses, Sam Rivers, Kenny Werner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jerry Bergonzi, and many others.

With Look Inside, Råberg goes it alone for the first time with his debut album for solo bass. The depth and diversity of the music he’s recorded reflect the wealth of experiences and studies he’s undertaken over the course of his journey, from investigations of jazz standards to explorations of Indian and African traditions, free improvisation to through-composed chamber music. Due out May 19, 2023, Look Inside is a new venture for the veteran bassist, but also stands as a capstone to an eclectic and adventurous career.

The title is an apt one for such an introspective effort, as Råberg writes in his liner notes. “As I was embarking on this project I asked myself a lot of questions. Who am I playing for? How will the listener perceive this? Will the listener hear what I hear? My approach ended up shaping the music by trying to imagine a dialogue with you, the imagined listener.”

While a solo bass project was a long-held aspiration, Råberg had rarely performed and never recorded wholly on his own, which meant finding a form that made sense for a full album. Experimenting in his home studio outside of Boston, where he is a professor at Berklee College of Music, Råberg at first found himself overcompensating for the lack of collaborators, overindulging in lengthy solos and crowding the empty space surrounding him. “I had to be very self-critical,” he explains. “I was playing too much. It was fun, but I felt that it wouldn't make sense to the listener. I tried to distill things down more and more to their essence. Otherwise it could become one of those albums that only another bass player would listen to.”

Look Inside suffers from none of that, standing as a passionately musical experience that is rich, expressive, and eclectic enough to command one’s attention from beginning to end. Råberg “aimed to play in a way that would make a composition sound like it is an improvisation and an improvisation like it is a composition,” and the seams between the two are rarely detectable. That can be credited in part to the material that Råberg wrote and selected for the album as well as the challenges that he set for himself with each piece. But mostly it’s due to his own impeccable taste and his agile eloquence on the bass.

The album begins with Råberg navigating through “Island Pathways,” for which he created a series of brief motives that are bridged with improvisation. It’s a compelling piece of storytelling, with key points woven into a vibrant tapestry. Råberg’s knowledge of African music and ability to transform the sound of his instrument come to the fore on “Kansala,” in which he evokes the sound of the African kalimba. The Swedish-born bassist traveled to West Africa for the first time at the age of 22, later living for two years with an African percussionist in Stockholm. The piece melds two primary inspirations, leading directly into a rendition of Miles Davis’ classic “Nardis,” which Råberg first heard via Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard. 

That album played a key role in shaping Råberg’s sonic imagination. Having grown up in the Swedish countryside, he moved to Stockholm at 20 after being discovered by the influential trombonist Eje Thelin. “It was a pretty tumultuous time,” Råberg recalls of the period, when he suddenly found himself touring Europe and playing the Monterey Jazz Festival. “I had a dingy apartment with no furniture, but I had a tape recorder and one tape. It had Sunday at the Village Vanguard on one side and the kora of music of Jali Nayama Suso from Gambia on the other.”

Both sides of that oft-played cassette proved instrumental for Råberg, who later met and played with Suso. The Gershwin favorite “My Man’s Gone Now” is the second tune on the Evans trio album, and the bassist set out to recreate his memory of discovering the piece with his rapturous version of the song. It, along with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” showcase the nimble lyricism of which Råberg is uniquely capable.

“Chennai Reminiscence” reflects on Råberg’s time studying in India, drawing on a descending line from a South Indian classical composition as its starting point, with the bassist’s bow summoning sinuous violin-like lines, percussive rhythms, and vivid harmonies. “A Minor Excursion” and “June Poem” are classically influenced pieces, mostly or wholly through-composed. “Gyrating Spheres,” conversely, is a free improvisation utilizing three different approaches to the bass. “A Space in Between” is an improvised variation on an improvised theme from a film created by the bassist’s daughter, Erika Råberg. “Ode to Spring” and “Stillness – Epilogue” are both mood pieces, the one bristling and joyous, the other meditative and searching.

Look Inside represents a lifetime of musical exploration and evolution, from Råberg’s beginnings in the Swedish countryside, to his deep-end education in Stockholm and across Europe, to his life in the States beginning in 1981. In the end, the album is a singularly personal statement. “I feel like it sounds like me,” Råberg concludes. "Like all musicians I've gone through the process of emulating and learning from other players. Now I just play and trust that whatever happens, that is my sound.”

Bruno Råberg is an internationally renowned bass player and composer. Since coming to the US from his native Sweden in 1981, he has made 13 recordings as a leader, about 30 as a sideman, and has performed with numerous world-class artists, including Kris Davis, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Kenny Werner, Sam Rivers, Tony Malaby, Billy Pierce, Donny McCaslin, Billy Hart, Bob Moses, Mick Goodrick, Ben Monder, Bruce Barth, Jim Black, Matt Wilson, Ted Poor, Bob Mintzer, and Mike Mainieri. He currently leads several constellations of his own Bruno Råberg Trio and the Triloka Ensemble. At 20 Råberg was drafted by Swedish trombone virtuoso Eje Thelin and spent the ensuing years performing and recording with renowned Swedish and European artists such as Bobo Stenson, Monica Zetterlund, Zpigniew Seifert, Nils Landgren and Ulf Wakenius. In 1981, Råberg left his performing career in Europe to come to the USA, thanks to a scholarship to the New England Conservatory in Boston. There he studied with Miroslav Vitous, Mick Goodrick, George Russell, and Bob Moses. Råberg has been a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston since 1986 and teaches in the prestigious Berklee Global Jazz Institute, led by pianist Danilo Perez.


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

International Jazz Day – 30 April 2023

The International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert will be streaming on the worldwide web on 30 April at 4 pm EDT/1 pm PDT/10 pm CET, as well as on on, and International Jazz Day will be also be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. The concert will feature performances in 12 cities, including Beijing, Vienna, Fairbanks, New York, Beirut, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Marondera, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

The All-Star Global Concert, will feature a performances by Dee Dee Bridgewater, Melody Gardot, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Christian McBride, Sérgio Mendes, Cyrille Aimée, Antonio Sánchez, John Beasley and many others from more than 190 countries

As the world’s largest, most inclusive celebration of jazz music, International Jazz Day unites people across the globe. We are thrilled that the All-Star Global Concert will reflect this expansive identity in a new way, by sharing with our audience a rich palette of sounds on more than a dozen stages in every corner of the planet.

An array of acclaimed artist-educators will present a multilingual selection of offerings that will emphasize the richness—and relevance—of jazz to learners at all levels. Programming will be available in Arabic, English, French, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, with topics including music making for kids, improvisation, and the intersection of jazz harmony and diverse international musical traditions. A complete listing and schedule of education programmes will be available at

In the lead-up to the 2023 All-Star Global Concert, a series of free, online education programmes will be presented via,,, the International Jazz Day YouTube and Facebook pages.

The worldwide programme for International Jazz Day 2023 also includes an extraordinary range of programming in more than 190 countries, with concerts and performance-based initiatives complemented by wide-ranging social outreach and educational activities.

In Brazil, the Música na Árvore Solar Festival will pay homage to Louis Armstrong and feature sustainability in its lineup, powering its stage performances with mobile solar panels. The Croatian Radio Television Jazz Orchestra will be toasting its 75th anniversary on Jazz Day with a concert and live broadcast on Croatian national television. In New Zealand, the Whanganui Collegiate School presents three days of events including a jam session, a gala concert and an open forum with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, exploring jazz music in education.

The Tottori Jazz Festival in Japan hosts a five-day series of concerts in addition to an art exhibit, jam sessions and workshops. The Botswana Society for Jazz Education kicks off a week of music workshops, instrumental clinics, master classes and nightly jam sessions, culminating with a grand concert featuring local and international musicians. UNESCO Creative Cities will be hosting a variety of activities around the world, leveraging music as a powerful accelerator for culture-driven sustainable urban development.

Macy Gray Releases New Album | "Ruby"

Rubies hold a special place amongst the world’s rarest natural treasures. The most sought-after of the corundum family, the gemstone’s crimson hue instantly catches attention—as if extracting passion from the earth itself and crystallizing it in mineral form. Similarly, Macy Gray occupies a rare space in the canon of modern music. Now, her tenth full-length album, RUBY (Artistry Music/Mack Avenue), reaffirms and reasserts that signature rarity millions continue to treasure.

Take the first single “Sugar Daddy.” Co-written with none other than pop superstar Meghan Trainor, the track swings from jazz-y piano into a cooing verse that’s as sweet as it is sassy. Her voice takes hold on the hook, “Be my, be my sugar daddy and provide me with your candy.” “Meghan and I thought it be great to collaborate,” Macy recalls. “She had the concept in her head for some time, so we took a stab at it. It’s really great fun and a bit cheeky. Her writing and talent is brilliant. It was the perfect song to come out with first.”

Ruby canvases a wide spectrum for the songstress. Raucous horns that feel ripped from a classic seventies flick augment the grit on “Cold World” as “Jealousy” spins a covetous narrative that soars as it seduces. Gary Clark Jr. adds six-string firepower to “Buddha.” Everything culminates on the reggaeinspired “Witness,” which shuffles between mainland soul and island grooves as she croons, “I wish I was Jesus. I would make sure to fix it. Can I get a witness?”

With‘Ruby’, Macy Gray, reaffirms and reasserts that rare space in the canon of modern music, which she occupies. Channeling the spirit of the “grimy” R&B and smoky jazz closest to her heart, Macy made a leap forward by looking back to formative inspirations. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Carol Albert Releases Stylistically Eclectic New Album | "Magic Mirror"

Written by Jonathan Widran

When Carol Albert released her debut vocal and instrumental album Love in Your Eyes back in 1992, there’s no way the multi-talented pianist/composer could have known that 25-30 years down the road, she’d not only be a Billboard chart sensation, but that her elegant and soulful, dreamy and free flowing melodic piano style, combined with her passion for R&B grooves and sexy tropical Brazilian rhythms, would make her a spot on fit for the urban centric vibe that drives today’s smooth jazz. ​

Though she had released an album of solo piano covers (Morning Music) in 2006 and a lovely holiday album (Christmas Mystique) in 2015, Carol seemed to come out of nowhere in 2016 to launch the most prolific and radio friendly phase of her career with a burning cover of “Mas Que Nada” – the first single from her 2017 breakthrough album Fly Away Butterfly, which also included the Top 5 Billboard title track and her first charting single “One Way.” She’s been smooth jazz radio gold ever since, most recently scoring the Top 5 singles “Perfect Sunday” and “Stronger Now” (from her 2020 album Stronger Now) and “Fire & Water,” the funky, festive and exotic samba lead single from her extraordinary, stylistically eclectic (and provocatively titled!) new album Magic Mirror, which reached #4.

No doubt, the success of “Fire & Water” is just the beginning of the many chart and streaming accolades coming Carol’s way with all the potential hits on Magic Mirror. But the multi-talented Atlanta based performer isn’t just about cranking out infectious hits. On her previous two albums and now this collection, she starts with personally meaningful themes and concepts that reflect her unique emotional journey – from deep sadness to personal empowerment, from desire to enlightenment and, to draw from some of her best known titles, soaring on “Femme Flight” (a SiriusXM Watercolors smash featuring flutist Ragan Whiteside and saxophonist Magdalena Chovancova) to the liberating feeling of “Perfect Sunday” and “Sun’s Out.”

Even on a multi-faceted album that has many potential hits and everything from sumptuous, hot and festive samba (“Fire & Water”) and bossa nova (the breezy and intoxicating/exotic “Sol Ipanema”) to a hard thumping, piano pounding, certifiable dance jam (“The Chase”), it’s indicative of her compositional depth that the tunes on Magic Mirror that resonate most are the ones least likely to be chosen as radio singles.

One of five tracks co-produced by Carol and her new collaborating partner, bassist and genre stalwart Roberto Vally, the Carol-composed “Gemini Sun” reminds me that Carol’s sensibilities harken back to what the genre was like in the early 90s, when a tune like this - gentle, dreamy, laid back, with old school atmospheres and a sweet, witty conversation with Whiteside’s flute – could be a big hit. Its charm and whimsy reminds me of the vibe of one of my favorite albums of the time, Peter Kater’s Rooftops.

My other favorite is the similarly sweet and blissfully ethereal “Someday,” which flows gracefully as a piano-guitar conversation with Paul Brown, who produced the other five songs on the album. Like the closing tune that follows it, the symphonic new age influenced gem “Angels Watching Over Me,” it’s a master class in purposeful relaxation, literally transporting the listener’s heart mind and soul to simpler times where cares can effortlessly drift away for a few minutes. ​

Of note, “Sometime” was written by Carol, Brown, Vally and Tom Schumann (who adds strings), while “Angels…” was composed and arranged by Carol and co-produced and mixed by Vally. Even if the credits are distinctive, with Brown and Vally each adding their unique touches on their home instruments (Vally being particularly effective on bowed bass), in the end, both serve to illuminate the seamless flow of Carol’s rich artistry.

It was insightful to learn that the whole process of developing Magic Mirror began with Brown – who had produced five songs on Stronger Now – sending Carol the foundation of “Sometime” that he had worked up with Vally. Carol of course wanted to collaborate with Brown again, but her love of this track and realization of what Vally brought to it launched a conversation which led to her next great collaborations, all brought to life on the album. ​

Magic Mirror’s second and current radio single is “Paradigm Shift,” a spirited light funk tune that features Carol’s playful piano melody in dialogue with Brown’s snappy acoustic guitar, riding over a tight soulful groove as it heads towards the irrepressible hook. Another tune with obvious hit potential is the opening title track, a silky, seductive, increasingly grooving ballad (penned by Carol, Brown and guitarist Shane Theriot) featuring some of Carol’s most expressive playing and the beautiful sax passion of Greg Vail.

Other tracks include the digital only single “Crashing,” a hypnotic romantic ballad given a touch of dramatic flair with the additional strings of Ben Babylon, who adds similarly lush textures to the lighthearted, easy funk adventure Carol’s ivories take us on in the sharing of her delightful “Sopporo Dream.”

With most albums in the smooth jazz genre these days, if you hear the hits, you’ve pretty much experienced the whole thing. With Albert’s magnificent Magic Mirror, it’s truly the proverbial journey, best immersed in fully and experienced from start to finish – over and over. It’s easily one of the genre’s best albums of 2022.

Among her other accolades, perhaps Carol’s most extraordinary achievement – and testament to her widespread impact and success – is having Spotify streaming totals all but unheard of among even the most popular of her smooth jazz peers. “Perfect Sunday” has racked up nearly 6.7 million streams on Spotify, with “Stronger Now” currently at 2.3 million.

Cooperative Quartet Kaze and Ikue Mori Release Innovative New CD, Crustal Movement

On Crustal Movement (March 17, 2023; Circum/Libra), the pioneering musician Ikue Mori on laptop electronics joins Kaze – the cooperative quartet featuring Japanese composer-pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamuraplus French trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins – to move in new directions as they explore innovative ways of making music. On their first album together since 2020’s incendiary Sand Storm, these five sonic explorers weave together pre-recorded music files and live performance. The results are as exciting, interactive, and detailed as if they had recorded entirely live.

Fujii, Tamura, and Mori then proceeded to follow the compositional guidelines and send music files of their performances back and forth around the world via the Internet. Pruvost and Orins then added a new twist to the file-exchange procedure. “Instead of adding individually to the sound files, they did a very interesting thing,” Fujii said. “They played along with our files at a concert in Lille and recorded it. Ikue, Natsuki and I were not in the concert, but our recordings were. We try many different ways to make music!”

The combination of live and pre-recorded interactions, guided by compositions designed to accommodate the remotely situated players, results in uncommonly fluid and naturally developing music that belies the circumstances under which it was made. For instance, the Pruvost and Orins composition “Masoandro Mitsoka” guides the quintet from a quiet introduction into a kaleidoscopic group improvisation with acoustic and electronic colors swirling around a dialog between the trumpets. Ikue Mori’s “Motion Dynamics” sets up complex ensemble give-and-take that continuously changes the shape and flow of the piece. Fujii’s “Crustal Movement” establishes an irregular rhythm that pushes and pulls the group along a zig-zag path into a roiling mass that throws off sparks of color. Tamura’s “Rolle Cake” is a subtle tone poem that glides easily through subdued, almost lyrical passages and rumbling, anxious moments. The detail in the group interactions, the organic development of each piece, and the lovely flashes of surprise and discovery are exceptional throughout. 

“The music may be quieter than when Kaze plays live,” Fujii noted. “We have a tendency to heat up so much and so easily when we’re on stage together. That’s harder to do when we’re remote, but we can still be exploring and intense.”

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

For more than 25 years and over 100 albums as a leader, she has created a unique, personal music that spans many genres, blending jazz, contemporary classical, rock, and traditional Japanese music into an innovative synthesis instantly recognizable as hers alone. A prolific composer for ensembles of all sizes and a performer who has appeared around the world, she was the recipient of a 2020 Instant Award in Improvised Music, in recognition of her “artistic intelligence, independence, and integrity.”

Japanese trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for a unique musical vocabulary that blends jazz lyricism with extended techniques. This unpredictable virtuoso has led bands with radically different approaches throughout his career. He’s played avant-rock jazz fusion with the Natsuki Tamura Quartet, First Meeting, and Junk Box. Since 2005, he has focused on the intersection of European folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre. He also has recorded four albums of solo trumpet. A member of many of Fujii’s ensembles, ranging from orchestra to trios and quartets, he has also recorded eight duet CDs with her. Last year he released a half-dozen digital albums, including a composition for brass quintet. Tamura’s category-defying abilities make him “unquestionably one of the most adventurous trumpet players on the scene today,” said Marc Chenard in Coda.

Peter Orins is a French drummer, who has been playing jazz, improvised and experimental music since the mid-90’s. In 2001 he created the Circum collective (now called Muzzix) for which he’s still one of the artistic directors. Leading numerous projects inside the collective, from solo works to big orchestras, he also plays with many international musicians (Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, Ikue Mori, Dave Rempis, Joke Lanz, Michael Pisaro-Liu, Anthony Pateras, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Sophie Agnel, and Christine Wodrascka and others), and is very active on the improvised music scene in France and abroad. Since 2004, he has managed Circum-Disc, an artist-run label which has released some 100 recordings.

Christian Pruvost is a composer, improviser and trumpeter who has collaborated widely in jazz, improvised music and the performing arts. During its formation, he dedicated himself to concrete and acousmatic music and to electroacoustic composition with Carole Rieussec and Roger Cochini. His inventiveness and the originality of his approach have led to performances in France and internationally. He serves as artistic director for multiple projects in the Muzzix collective, and collaborates with numerous international musicians and ensembles (Dedalus, Axel Dörner, Otomo Yoshihide, Tom Johnson, Michael Pisaro-Liu, Satoko Fujii, Jérôme Noetinger, Cor Fuhler, Tony Buck, Nicole Mitchell, and others).

2022 MacArthur “Genius” Grant awardee, Ikue Mori moved from her native city of Tokyo to New York in 1977, where she started playing drums and soon formed the seminal No Wave band DNA, creating a new brand of radical rhythms and dissonant sounds and forever altering the face of rock music. In the mid 80's she started in employ drum machines in the unlikely context of improvised music. In 2000 she started using the laptop computer to expand on her already signature sound, thus broadening her scope of musical expression. She has received commissions from the Kitchen, Relache Ensemble, and the Tate Modern, among others. She performs with Mephista, a trio with Sylvie Courvoiser and Susie Ibarra, various John Zorn ensembles, Wadada Leo Smith, Ken Vandermark, and many others.

In the usual collective spirit of the group, each member contributes compositions for the recording. Knowing that this would be a largely remote effort, they each planned out pieces that were more like written outlines than musical scores. “We all composed a structure and made a blueprint,” Fujii said. “In most cases we made a chart on paper, not on music paper. The blueprints have time durations and instrumentation and some instructions like ‘play fast’ or ‘play quietly.’”

Monday, April 24, 2023

"Let's Do This!" R&B-jazz trumpeter-vocalist Johnny Britt follows up his No. 1 hit with another single destined to top the charts

While studying music at the Conservatoire de Versailles near Paris decades ago, R&B-jazz trumpeter-vocalist Johnny Britt found the inspiration for his new single while attending an Earth, Wind & Fire concert in the City of Lights. The high-wattage, horn and guitar-powered “Let’s Do This,” featuring Billboard chart topper Nils, arrives Monday. Britt wrote and produced the follow-up to his No. 1 single, “After We Play,” which is the title track to his sixth solo album that dropped last month on J-Jams Records.

“In writing ‘Let’s Do This,’ the spirit of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ is definitely all over this new song. My intent was to have a strong driving beat to drive the harmonic and melodic elements that make one react to their feelings. The pairing of the open brass trumpet sound along with the Al McKay style of guitar playing makes the two instruments the perfect combination to carry the song. Combined with the happy melody of lyric-less vocals in the chorus that surround the trumpet and guitar is exactly the vision I had,” said Britt who cast Nils to play guitar on the single that will soon be accompanied by a video that was shot in a downtown Los Angeles loft.

Named “Pick of the Week” by Smooth Jazz Network, “Let’s Do This” is illumined by Britt’s trumpet and horn section work as well as his soulful vocalization, keyboards, programming and arranging. With Nils as the spotlight soloist, Keith Henderson adds guitar melodies to the rhythmic groove formed by Marcus Williams (drums), Dean Mark (bass) and Sean J. Lawson (percussion). 

Before the album dropped last month, the “After We Play” single, featuring hitmaking guitarist Peter White, became Britt’s first number one single as a solo artist. He’s written three Billboard No. 1 singles for saxophonist Boney James. Tracks from the album are garnering spins in multiple formats. Britt teamed with soul balladeer Will Downing on “Butterflies,’ which went top ten on the independent R&B charts and was selected as an Editor’s Choice cut by Jazziz. There’s a lot more multi-genre success still to come for this project that boasts guest appearances by Gerald Albright, Tom Browne, Blair Bryant, Kashan and Ricky Peterson. The cut that is a virtual lock to garner Grammy attention is the first ever duet by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Little Anthony on his iconic hit with The Imperials, “Goin’ Out Of My Head.” This dream pop gem is graced with guitar accoutrements by Grammy-winning legend George Benson.

“In a world of killing and bad news every day, I wanted to compose a feel-good track, something that would take the listener’s mind off of the negative news, politics, deaths and wars. As a songwriter and musician, I try to lift burdens and create hope through my music. I really strive to do that and with the help of my good friend Nils on guitar, we went for it. We actually said ‘Let’s do this’ and away we went. It’s time to leave our troubles behind and have some fun.”

Johnny Britt, who will spend the summer singing and playing trumpet alongside the legendary Little Anthony on the Happy Together Tour, will take centerstage with his band at the Capital Jazz Fest on June 3. He launched “After We Play” by playing for packed audiences in Venice, Charlotte, Richmond and Hollywood.   

Seeing Britt on stage, witnessing and hearing his passion, feeling the joy and positive spirit in his musical expression, and inwardly experiencing his faith and hope for the world, when discussing the higher purpose and greater meaning behind “Let’s Do This,” his response resonates.

Ingrid Laubrock's The Last Quiet Place w. Tomeka Reid, Brandon Seabrook, Mazz Swift, Michael Formanek, Tom Rainey

“Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature,” Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her Pulitzer-winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, “it’s not clear that he ever really did.”

When saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock titled her arresting new album The Last Quiet Place, she did so fully aware of the fact that there may in fact be no such place. She composed the music on the album having read Kolbert’s books The Sixth Extinction and Under a White Sky, which argue that we are living in the midst of a sixth global mass extinction and that humanity can’t help but alter the world around us. Those ideas resonated with Laubrock at a time when she sought some escape from the tumultuous modern world.

“Kolbert explains that there's very little in nature that is pure anymore,” Laubrock says. “There is nothing that is untouched or that actually functions as it's supposed to function. I was thinking of these places that are no longer pristine and I realized that the only quiet place you can look for is within yourself – and even finding that seems impossible much of the time.”

Released on Pyroclastic Records, The Last Quiet Place brings together a stellar sextet that contains within it the potential for a jazz ensemble, an avant-rock band, and a mutated string quartet, varied combinations of which Laubrock employs in her captivating compositions. Joining Laubrock (on tenor and soprano saxophones) are violinist Mazz Swift, cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tom Rainey. 

Lest the title be misconstrued, Laubrock’s desire for a “quiet place” had nothing to do with seeking out silence or creating music for meditation. The six pieces on The Last Quiet Place are as challenging, intriguing, and daring as anything she’s written in the past, a catalogue that ranges from ferocious free improvisation to dense and daunting large ensemble compositions. In fact, the bristling tension and barbed angularity that populate the album better capture the chaotic reality than the imagined serenity.

“I feel like we’re in turmoil all the time,” Laubrock says. “It can be true turmoil or invented turmoil – we’re all addicted to the news cycle and constantly online, having signals sent to our brain that we must be alert and worried at all times, when it actually serves us better not to be. I am always searching to maintain a sense of clarity and focus.”

 While she readily admits that a quest for an undisturbed quiet place in the outside world inevitably proves illusory, she does manage to find her own spaces of refuge on a more micro level. She conceived much of the music for A Last Quiet Place at times of escape and contemplation – long hikes or bike rides – and it was largely composed at an outdoor table at a local restaurant.

Bassist Formanek, whom Laubrock had long admired, had recently moved back to New York, making the timing ideal to enlist him for the band, and Rainey has long been one of the saxophonist’s closest collaborators. The band originally toured as a quartet, though Laubrock’s recent experiences writing for strings stoked the desire to expand the new ensemble’s possibilities. Swift and Reid are bandmates with bassist Silvia Bolognesi in the trio Hear In Now and ideal as players equally versed in complex written music and adventurous improvisation.

The impetus for this new ensemble came from working with Seabrook in drummer Andrew Drury’s quartet Content Provider, Laubrock says. “I felt that Brandon and I shared an aesthetic of disrupting and fragmenting ideas and connecting several musical strands in our improvisations. When playing with him, I always feel like we almost become one instrument that divides into two, which is really unusual and an aspect that I wanted to let filter into my compositional approach.”

“I like to have extreme possibilities to flip between various combinations and to explore a range of different textures,” Laubrock explains. Those potentials are clear from the outset, as “Anticipation” rotates between different duo and trio combinations, constantly shifting moods and palettes. The piece is the first of a suite loosely based upon the same tone row, along with the shimmering, propulsive title track and the agitated “Delusions.” The raucous, explosive “Grammy Season” is titled as almost a tongue-in-cheek dare to the Academy, as the conflicted halves of the band shift into string quartet mode in the closing moments.

“Afterglow” alternates between elegant string writing and snarled, wiry improvisations. “Chant II” is one of a series of modular pieces inspired by speech patterns, previously recorded by Laubrock and Rainey on their 2018 duo outing Utter.

If humankind inevitably transforms the world around us, perhaps the notion of “quiet” is the wrong ideal to strive for. Destructive as we may be as a species, we’re also capable of incredible creativity – The Last Quiet Place is a striking example, and a brilliant escape from the noise of the outside world.

Ingrid Laubrock is an experimental saxophonist, interested in exploring the borders between musical realms and creating multi-layered, dense and often evocative sound worlds. A prolific composer, Laubrock was named a “true visionary” by pianist and The Kennedy Center's artistic director Jason Moran, and a “fully committed saxophonist and visionary" by the New Yorker.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Wadada Leo Smith Releases First Of Several Planned Releases For 2023 | "Fire Illuminations"

Throughout 2022, Wadada Leo Smith celebrated his 80th birthday with one of the most prolific and creative year’s worth of releases in his – and perhaps anybody’s – history to date. Lest anyone should imagine that this breathtaking run was in any way valedictory, the now 81-year-old Smith returns with his first of several planned releases for 2023. The exhilarating Fire Illuminations, released this past March on Smith’s own Kabell Records label, features his newly assembled ensemble Orange Wave Electric. 

“Assembled” is the operative word in this case, as Smith recorded the album in a series of sessions and configurations, compiling the final product through extensive post-production. He had an embarrassment of riches to work with: Orange Wave Electric is an all-star electric band including guitarists Nels Cline, Brandon Ross and Lamar Smith; bassists Bill Laswell and Melvin Gibbs; electronic musician Hardedge; percussionist Mauro Refosco; and drummer Pheeroan akLaff.

“Orange is such a vitalizing color,” Smith says in regard to the name of this brilliant new configuration. “It relates to the vitality of electricity that I'm working with in this ensemble.”

Smith shares history with many of these musicians; akLaff in particular has been a vital collaborator for more than four decades. Smith has recorded with Ross and Gibbs in the guise of their bold trio Harriet Tubman, while Laswell joined the trumpeter along with the late percussion master Milford Graves for 2021’s inspired Sacred Ceremonies. Both Cline, famous as a member of Wilco, and Lamar Smith have been members of Wadada’s Organic group. Only Refosco is a new acquaintance, though he’s long been an acclaimed percussionist best known for his work with David Byrne and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Ever innovative in his quest for new methods of composing, guiding, and creating improvised music, Smith crafted the five expansive compositions on Fire Illuminations in the studio from a series of recording dates conducted and edited over the course of nearly four years. He cites such precedents as the groundbreaking work of Jamaican reggae and dub innovator Lee “Scratch” Perry and Miles Davis classics like Bitches Brew and On the Corner.

“That's why the studio is there,” Smith insists. “The studio is not just for capturing or sampling sounds, but it's also an instrument which one can use to not just enhance but build a larger creation.”

The ensemble is utilized in various configurations throughout Fire Illuminations. The full group is present for the opening track, “Ntozake,” on which Smith’s reverberant trumpet and the coruscating guitar tones emerge from a loping, muscular groove and Hardedge’s sub-level sonics. The piece is named for the late playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, best known for her landmark Obie Award-winning 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Citing her powerful poetry and its confrontation of racial and feminist issues, Smith calls Shange “a hero to me.”

All nine musicians also converge on “Tony Williams,” the latest in a number of tributes to the pioneering drummer that Smith has conceived (including a duet with Laswell on Sacred Ceremonies). Smith calls Williams “one of the greatest, most gifted drummers ever. What makes him important is his ability to play multiple metrics, which he intertwined with rhythm. His contribution to the Miles Davis Quintet was so refreshing and creative. He was one of the only musicians that challenged that whole band. The drummer brings another kind of creative energy inside the ensemble that unlocks all of the doors towards inspiration.”

Smith dedicated two pieces to the famed boxer and activist Muhammad Ali. The first, “Muhammad Ali’s Spiritual Horizon,” features only Lamar Smith on guitar along with the roiling, percolating rhythm section, while “Muhammad Ali and George Foreman Rumble in Zaire Africa,” inspired by the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” where Ali won with his rope-a-dope technique, pares the band down to Wadada, Cline, Laswell, Gibbs and akLaff. 

The final piece, “Fire Illuminations Inside the Particles of Light,” was the most challenging to construct from its disparate pieces. It’s a constantly shifting and evolving piece, dense with layers that Smith’s clarion trumpet scythes through like a beacon. The composer relates it to the transformative nature of fire itself, and its foundational role in the development of human civilization. A monumental concept, no doubt, but if Smith’s music has revealed nothing else over the past half-century, it’s that he’s a thinker and creator on the grandest of scales.

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith was part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago‘s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and has established himself as one of the leading composers and performers of creative contemporary music. Since the early 1970s Smith has mostly led his own groups, including the ensembles New Dalta Akhri, N’Da Kulture, the Golden Quartet and Quintet, the Silver Orchestra, Organic, Mbira, the Great Lakes Quartet and Najwa. His epic tribute to the Civil Rights movement, Ten Freedom Summers, was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2013. From 2021-22, Smith celebrated his 80th birthday with a stunning series of releases on TUM Records: a set of solo trumpet music recorded in the beautiful natural acoustics of a medieval stone church on the Southern Coast of Finland; a meeting of three masters of creative music with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Milford Graves; The Emerald Duets, featuring trumpet-drum duos with Pheeroan akLaff, Andrew Cyrille, Han Bennink and Jack DeJohnette; a trio outing with DeJohnette and Vijay Iyer; a set of recordings of his Great Lakes Quartet featuring saxophonist Henry Threadgill; and the groundbreaking seven-volume collection String Quartets Nos. 1 – 12.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Hernán Cassibba - Nuevos Aires

Hernán Cassibba’s sextet is a project that he leads and performs all over Argentina. It is a project whose main objective is the interpretation of his original compositions. In 2018 his first album Homenaje was released and now Nuevos Aires drops on April 21st 2023. Both albums use the same format: a sextet made up of tenor sax, alto sax, electric guitar, piano, double bass, and drums, with the addition of a string quintet (2 violins, viola, cello, and double bass), singer and piano. Furthermore, being a jazz group, the challenge was to develop improvisation on non-traditional structures in the jazz genre. For this, he did a lot of work and research on leading voices, counterpoint, as well as different rhythmic tools (polyrhythms, displacements, filters, etc), timbral tools (extended techniques, effect pedals, etc.) or harmonies to generate contrast with the simplicity of the melodies he composed. That is a challenge that he’s always experienced; the balance between the simple and the complex and generating orchestral contrasts in the forms of the songs.

In this work, he decided to explore even more in the expanded chamber group format and give improvisation a more prominent role, without neglecting the fine work on the arrangements of strings, always enhancing the melody in both pieces (“Perro Blanco” and “Lili”). The harmony in these pieces is modal, with many modulations playing with the harmonic center and generating contrasting material.

The strongest rhythmic work can be found in the piece that gives the album its name "Nuevos Aires", where we can hear a constant 5 over 4 where that rhythmic illusion is generated where the listener begins to feel the tempo on different sides, but in reality, it is always in the same place. In the piano solo, we can see another development of the same 5 but further subdivided into 5/8. By the end of the song, we can hear the use of filters, a technique by Guillermo Klein, where the same fragment is played in binary and in ternary, giving a sensation that everything becomes slower, and then faster. All this, always with a simple melody, so that the contrast is even more noticeable. The same key can be found in the middle of “Isolation Dance”, as well as an 11/4 intro, and a funk groove in 9/4 throughout, with rhythm guitar marking the tonality.

This new album also has more intimate songs, with space to appreciate the sound of the guitar and saxophones, such as ˝Chin˝ and “Loyola”, where there is a strong harmonic, and melodic work, with exciting solos played by Lucas Goicoechea and Nahuel Bracchitta.

There are also spaces for free improvisation – maintaining the harmonic and rhythmic aesthetics – on the “Resistencia” tracks, in the piano and sax solo. As well as the constant exchange of melodies between the different instruments. This is something that amuses him a lot and thinks it generates a lot of freshness in the different moments of the piece.

In addition, his musical background has been spent many years playing rock, and that can be heard a lot in the songs "Anti-Alergico" and "P.Mc" in honor of Paul McCartney, who is his favorite musician. In these themes, you can hear guitar with distortion,  piano marking the rhythm at all times, the bass playing the fundamentals, and the drums playing a continuous rhythm. The harmony in these cases is quite simplified in pursuit of clarity and the development of improvisation.

Hernán Cassibba studied at the EMC (Berklee) and at the Manuel de Falla Superior Conservatory of Music. He leads his sextet and his trio with which he performs on the main stages of the Argentine jazz circuit. He works as a composer and arranger in Anonimus Big Band and as the bassist in La Big Nant. He also participates as a double bass player in several groups of musicians and musicians of the Argentine jazz scene. He has played with musicians such as Charly Garcia, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Jose Luis Fernandez (La máquina de hacer pájaros), Guillermo Klein, Joey Blake, Tim Berne, Guillermo Romero, Hayati Kafe, Abel Rogantini, Marcelo Gutfraind, Carto Brandan, Ernesto Snajer, Juan Cruz de Urquiza, Richard Nant, Oscar Giunta, "Tiki" Cantero, among others.

On a professional level, he’s worked as a session musician on many recordings and has been part of different jazz, funk, rock and fusion groups throughout Argentina. He has won scholarships such as "Música Maestra" on two occasions, a scholarship for the IV Improvisation Meeting of the FNA, the CC Conti scholarship for the Big Band workshop, and the "creation scholarship" of the National Fund for the Arts (FNA) and awards as "best bassist" twice at the Pepsi Music Festival. Currently, he also serves as the jazz ensemble professor at NEMPLA, and bass, double bass, and ensemble private teacher. 

PROEL welcomes jazz musician BRIAN CULBERTSON as an officially endorsed DEXIBELL artist

Brian Culbertson, who has released 25 solo albums with 40 No. 1 Billboard singles and worked with a who’s who of legendary artists throughout his career, is known for his contemporary jazz sound infused with R&B, soul and funk. With his exceptional keyboard, writing, and production skills, he has won numerous awards and accolades, including nominations for an NAACP Image Award and Soul Train Music Award.

Dexibell, the manufacturer of world-class digital pianos and keyboards, handmade in Italy, is proud to announce that Brian Culbertson, renowned contemporary jazz musician, has become a officially endorsed Dexibell artist.

As an officially endorsed artist, Culbertson will be using Dexibell digital pianos and keyboards as well as Proel audio and lighting equipment in his live performances and recordings, which began in March 2023, including a stop at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York among 70+ other cities. He will also be working closely with Dexibell to help develop their new products and technologies that will benefit musicians and music lovers worldwide.

“I’m very excited to be joining the Dexibell team," said Brian Culbertson. “While I’ve known about them for a few years, I’ve finally had the chance to really dig into their new VIVO S10 stage piano, and I’m absolutely blown away by the sound of the piano! It’s just so realistic, far beyond anything I’ve ever heard before. In addition to the sound, the feel of the keyboard, as well as the extensive effects possibilities makes this a no brainer to use on tour as well as in the studio.”

Dexibell's digital pianos and keyboards, designed, engineered and manufactured in Italy, are renowned for their exceptional sound quality, authentic keyboard touch, and innovative technology. They have been embraced by musicians and music enthusiasts around the globe and are used in a variety of settings, from recording studios and performance venues to homes, churches, and schools.

"We at Proel are ecstatic to welcome Brian Culbertson to our Dexibell family of artists," said Antonio Ferranti, President of Proel North America, the exclusive representative of Dexibell in the USA and Canada. "Brian is an exceptionally talented and dedicated musician and a true innovator in the world of jazz. We are honored to welcome him as an officially endorsed artist, and we look forward to working with him to further develop new and exciting sounds and product innovations that will serve musicians worldwide to fully express their artistry and creativity."

Brian Culbertson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer known for his distinct brand of piano-driven contemporary jazz, R&B and funk. Mining the urban sounds of musically-rich Chicago, he began his musical studies on piano at age eight and quickly picked up several other instruments by the time he was twelve, including drums, trombone, bass, trumpet, and euphonium. Inspired by the iconic R&B-jazz-pop artists of the 1970s like Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Chicago, David Sanborn and others, Culbertson started composing original music for his seventh grade piano recital and hasn’t stopped since, amassing a deep catalogue of 25 solo albums, most of which have topped the Billboard contemporary jazz charts.

Brian is about to embark on THE TRILOGY TOUR across the US, a brand-new stage show featuring songs from his latest trio of studio albums plus many fan favorites. And when not on tour, Brian has a weekly streaming show on YouTube called “The Hang with Brian Culbertson” on Friday nights. For more information about Brian Culbertson, his music and tour schedule, visit

Having worked and performed with countless industry all-stars such as Maurice White (EWF), Michael McDonald, Stevie Wonder, Chris Botti, Ray Parker Jr., Barry Manilow, Herb Alpert, Natalie Cole, and Bootsy Collins just to name a few, Culbertson has won numerous awards and accolades along with nominations from the NAACP Image Awards and Soul Train Awards. In 2012, he co-founded the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway with his wife Michelle, a flourishing wine, music and lifestyle experience for which he also serves as artistic director.

Founded in Italy by passionate industry-leading engineers, Dexibell has been designing, crafting, and producing digital pianos, keyboards, organs, and accessories since 2013 and launched to the North American market in 2017.


Denver Sessions from Dave Askren, Jeff Benedict, Ted Piltzecker & Others

Guitarist Dave Askren and saxophonist Jeff Benedict have enjoyed a musical relationship stretching back three decades and spanning a dozen recording projects as well as countless performances throughout the Los Angeles area. Sometimes there’s nothing better to freshen up a longstanding collaboration than a change of scenery, so for their fourth album as co-leaders the duo embarked for the Mile High city. Denver Sessions is the welcome result, a lively, eclectic collection that draws inspiration from throughout the jazz continuum while sounding utterly modern.

Released via Tapestry Records, Denver Sessions was sparked by Askren and Benedict wanting to record with New York-based vibraphonist Ted Piltzecker. “Dave and I are always looking for the next project,” says Benedict. That search is borne out by their shared discography. Each of their collaborative releases has featured a different line-up and setting, allowing them to stretch their well-honed chemistry into new terrain, from the celebration of rhythm on 2013’s It’s All About the Groove to the organ-group outing Come Together in 2017 and the 2020 Wayne Shorter tribute Paraphernalia. 

The move to Denver was encouraged by Paul Romaine, a first-call drummer for touring jazz greats like Eddie Harris, Benny Golson and James Moody – as well as a childhood friend of Benedict’s who last joined the pair on Come Together. It was a homecoming for Benedict, who earned his master’s in composition from the University of Denver and spent ten years on the scene there before relocating to the West Coast. At first the notion seemed absurd – why would a frontline split between the jazz meccas of L.A. and NYC converge in Colorado, of all places? – but Askren and Benedict soon warmed to the idea. Romaine had a close relationship with Mighty Fine Productions, a stellar studio, and with bassist Patrick McDevitt, who completed the quintet. He also arranged for the band to conduct master classes and play local concerts and radio appearances while in town.

Beyond being a virtuoso of the vibraphone, Piltzecker is also the ideal companion for such an excursion. His switch to the vibes after earning a degree in trumpet at Eastman School of Music is just one example of his eccentric talents. “Ted's always a great hang,” Benedict says with a laugh. “He juggles, he rides a unicycle, he's a pilot – and he just happens to play vibes really well. He's a great person to collaborate on music with because he's got big ears and listens to all kinds of music.”

The sax-guitar-vibes frontline led Askren and Benedict to delve into that unique formation’s history for inspiration as they conceived new music for the date. Perhaps the most famous example, the Benny Goodman Sextet with guitarist Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton, led to the inclusion of the album’s sole cover, a dynamic rendition of the classic “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” The gravitational pull of the mid-sixties Golden Age proved irresistible, boasting such legendary figures as Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson.

Jackie McLean recorded with a sax, vibes, and trombone or trumpet line-up featuring Hutcherson on several Blue Note dates. Askren was intrigued by the bass intro to McLean’s “Hootnan” from 1967’s Action, taking a similar approach for his own “Jackie’s Idea,” which opens the album. Action, along with countless other jazz classics, was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed studio in New Jersey, and Askren tips his hat to the site and its legacy on the briskly swinging “Englewood Cliffs.” The guitarist’s airy ballad “Memories” is dedicated in part by the late guitar great Pat Martino. Askren revels in the lyrical and spacious atmosphere of the tune, ceding solo space to Piltzecker and Benedict (on keening alto).

Benedict’s stately, elegant “Marie Adele” is an ode to his late mother, while the pendulum swings to the far extreme for the blistering “Orange Express.” The rollicking “Ennui Anyone?” takes its title from illustrator Edward Gorey’s macabre ABC book The Gashlycrumb Tinies, where N stands for “Neville, who died from ennui.” There’s little chance of that affliction during this tune, whose loping tempo is never less than engaging. Piltzecker takes the album in a Latin direction with his three contributions. The Cuban-inspired “Rhumba Liam” pays tribute to a beloved family pet, while “Poised” is a sinuous samba. The gently buoyant “Resilience” remembers the unsung heroes who guided the country through the recent pandemic.

Whether it was the sonic blend of their instruments with Piltzecker’s vibes, the camaraderie shared by the members of the quintet, or the change of scenery, Askren and Benedict were thrilled by the Denver Sessions and the chemistry they quickly forged with this unique quintet. “On the surface there are several different jazz genres thrown together here,” Askren says. “What’s cool is it’s all the same guys with our own styles, so by the end it really sounds like a band. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else.” 

Guitarist Dave Askren has performed with a variety of artists in both jazz and Latin music, including Bobby Shew, Bob Moses, Antonio Hart, Delfeayo Marsalis, Hendrik Muerkins, David King & Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus, Stuart Hamm, and Kevin Eubanks, as well as pop artists including Marilyn McCoo, Latoya Jackson, The Coasters, The Platters, The Drifters, The Marvelletes, and Brenton Wood. Dave attended and taught guitar at Boston's Berklee College of Music, and also studied privately with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, pianist Charlie Banacos, guitarist Mick Goodrick and drummers Bob Moses and Bob Gullotti.  

Saxophonist Jeff Benedict has been playing professionally since the age of 14. He has performed with such artists as Phil Woods, Harold Danko, Marvin Stamm, Gary Burton, Randy Brecker, Eddie Daniels, Jimmy Heath, Bob Mintzer and Dave Brubeck, among others. For nearly a decade he was the lead alto saxophonist in the Aspen Jazz Ensemble and has been a renowned performer and educator in Los Angeles since 1989. Benedict is also an accomplished classical musician, having performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and the Denver Symphony, among other ensembles.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Delfeayo Marsalis celebrates New Orleans culture with 'Uptown on Mardi Gras Day'

The entire city of New Orleans becomes one big party during Mardi Gras, but Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra know that there’s no place to be quite like Uptown on Mardi Gras Day. With their latest album, the Uptown Jazz Orchestra provides the ultimate soundtrack for Carnival Time in the Crescent City with a spirited collection of Mardi Gras classics and buoyant new originals. Under the leadership of trombonist, composer, NEA Jazz Master and native New Orleanian Delfeayo Marsalis, Uptown on Mardi Gras Day is a celebration like no other, a unique combination of big band swing feel, small group jazz spirit, and brass band funkiness that would feel equally buoyant on the parade route or in the concert hall.

“This album is a celebration of the greatness of New Orleans culture,” Marsalis says. “Mardi Gras is an interesting time because people who are not from New Orleans descend upon the city and want to have a big party. The folks who live here want to be gracious and help them to have a great time, but when everybody leaves the community is still here. The music of Earl King or The Meters or Professor Longhair represents how they lived and who they were as humans. We wanted to do our best to honor that legacy. And besides, it's just so funky. Lord have mercy.”

In addition to the close-knit ensemble of gifted New Orleans musicians that makes up the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Uptown on Mardi Gras Day features guest appearances by Delfeayo’s brother Branford Marsalis on saxophone, along with drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and vocalists Glen-David Andrews, Dr. Brice Miller, and Tonya Boyd-Cannon. All of the arrangements for the session were crafted by both Marsalis and UJO trumpeter Andrew Baham, who also contributes vocals on several tracks.

As Dr. Brice Miller recalls in his lyric for “So New Orleans (2023),” the parades were halted for the pandemic in 2021, the first time since 1979 that Mardi Gras celebrations were cancelled in the city – even Hurricane Katrina only managed to slow, not stop, the marching. So Uptown on Mardi Gras Day is also a tribute to the city’s resilience in the face of yet another in a long history of setbacks. 

Marsalis did his part during the pandemic, founding the non-profit organization Keep New Orleans Music Alive (KNOMA) to provide emergency relief to native New Orleans culture bearers. “Through that work I was able to interact with a number of the Big Chiefs, Big Queens and Indian tribes,” Marsalis says. “It really gave me a greater appreciation for who these individuals are and their importance in the community. Of course, we like to see the wonderful colors and the beautiful feathers, but these are folks who were important leaders in the community during the pandemic. They would cook big pots of food and make the rounds, checking on the elderly and the infirm. One Big Chief told me, ‘We don't have a lot, but we want to make sure that those who have less than us are taken care of.’ In a real sense, this album was inspired by the stories I heard from the Big Chiefs. And while the Mardi Gras season is in the first two months of the year, Uptown on Mardi Gras Day has the type of energy and excitement that will put you in a good mood all year round!”

Uptown on Mardi Gras Day kicks off with one of the iconic anthems of the Mardi Gras season, Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time.” Baham’s rousing vocal against drummer Herlin Riley’s street-shuffle groove gets the joint jumping, as the big band plays punchy riffs before taking over with a rousing shout chorus. The classic “Mardi Gras Mambo” is an even more extreme example of Marsalis’ diverse influences, rendered in two distinct small group versions – the first being an homage to the classic New Orleans style, and the second a blistering, modern reimagining “For the Jazz Cats” featuring Delfeayo’s agile trombone, Branford’s virtuosic soprano, and the thundering swing of Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Like several songs on his critically acclaimed Sweet Thunder, Marsalis masterfully connects the tradition with modern elements on this barn-burner.

Branford also guests, this time on tenor, alongside Glen David Andrews' nimble whistling on the Professor Longhair classic “Big Chief.” That song's composer, Earl King, is also represented by the infectious "Street Parade," which may just compel listeners to clap along and start a Second Line around the house. Another NOLA favorite son, Willie “Tee” Turbinton, is represented here by the lesser known tribute to the Big Chiefs, “New Suit,” which brings out the UJO’s funkier side. The Meters’ “They All Asked For You” is given an update by Glen David Andrews (member of another New Orleans musical dynasty), with references to Lil Wayne and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Marsalis contributes several new entries to the Carnival canon, including the title track, with a soulful vocal by UJO vocalist Tonya Boyd-Cannon; “Midnight at the Zulu Ball,” a sultry swinger fueled by a go-go beat that captures the after-hours feel of the Parade Krewes; and “Uptown Boogie,” a joyous rhumba that evokes the feel of an Allen Toussaint hit. 

“After Hurricane Katrina, I realized that—as New Orleanians and musicians—we have a certain obligation to represent our culture,” Marsalis says. “The country is in a tough spot – the whole world is in a tough spot. New Orleans has always been a place that's provided a certain type of healing for the country, especially with music that carries a joyful optimism. People young and old can’t wait to hear the brass bands coming down the street so they can dance and have a good time, and that’s what we’re trying to capture…a jazz party, all night long!”

An acclaimed trombonist, composer, and producer, Delfeayo Marsalis has also dedicated his prolific career to music theatre and education. He has toured internationally with music legends such as Ray Charles, Art Blakey, Fats Domino, and Elvin Jones, as well as leading his own groups. At the age of 17, Marsalis began his career as a producer and has to date produced over 120 recordings garnering one Grammy award and several nominations. In 2008, he formed the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, a feel-good band that focuses on entertaining folks from the first note to the last. Marsalis also formed the Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, a non-profit organization that empowers youth through musical theatre training. He has written sixteen musicals to date and composed over 100 songs that help introduce kids to jazz. He has reached over 10,000 students nationally with his Swinging with the Cool School jazz workshops.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Fareed Haque pays tribute to Haitian guitarist & composer Frantz Casseus on CASSEUS!

Haitian-American guitarist and composer Frantz Casseus (1915-1993) was one of the most overlooked figures in modern classical music. By fusing the European classical tradition with Haitian folk elements, the “father of Haitian classical guitar” developed a distinctive vocabulary on his instrument that was at once full of contrapuntal complexity and teeming with driving rhythm. Those qualities caught the ear of Chicago-based Fareed Haque, a modern guitar virtuoso who has tirelessly explored the realms of jazz, funk, fusion, Latin, world music and classical over the past four decades.

The son of a Pakistani father and Chilean mother, Fareed Haque studied jazz at North Texas State and classical at Northwestern University before embarking on a successful career, first in the Chicago Latin jazz collective, Chevere, then as a sideman to Cuban saxophonist, Paquito D’Rivera, before debuting as a leader in 1988 with Voices Rising on Sting’s short-lived Pangaea label. Haque has also toured with jazz icons as Joe Zawinul, Dave Holland, and Billy Cobham. But what he has done on this creative reimagining of them music of Frantz Casseus is something entirely different.

There followed a string of successful albums on Blue Note in the 1990’s before he formed his fusion-oriented Fareed Haque Group in 1995, his jamband Faraj Mahal in 2001, and his Indo-fusion flavored Flat Earth Ensemble in 2008. 

‘There’s such a strong ideas in Casseus’ music,” said Fareed Haque. “It definitely comes out of them melodic tradition of Haitian music, so there’s an inherent connection to the French language, French phrasing, French words, French impressionistic music. I’m sure the influence of Ravel ad Debussy was very strong in someone like Casseus. So it is elegant music with a French feeling in there, but there’s also an African feeling coming through in the rhythm. And to me, if you could take all of this incredible impressionistic music and distill it down to it’s essence and put it on one guitar, that would be Casseus.” ~ (Adapted from the liner notes by Bill Milkowski)




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