Friday, May 26, 2023

Hazelrigg Brothers Present SYNCHRONICITY: An interpretation of the album by THE POLICE

Perfectly expressing the political and social temper of the early 1980s, the original landmark album, Synchronicity, was a near-constant soundtrack to George and Geoff Hazelrigg’s upbringing, and a huge influence on their artistic future. Hazelrigg Brothers celebrates the 40th anniversary of this classic album with Synchronicity: An interpretation of the album by The Police, an audiophile experience full of the fire, power and dynamics that have become their trademark. The album was recorded in one room using two stereo microphones, captured in DSD. 

The origins of this recording go back forty years to Princeton, NJ with two precocious kids tuning into MTV and discovering a whole world of music. The opening notes and images of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” captivated their young minds, and they were entranced by the videos for “Synchronicity II” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

“There were a ton of videos that we saw on MTV, but those had such major influence. That shapes your brain when you’re a kid. That record is in our blood,” said Geoff. George added, “Synchronicity I is punk as f*ck! It's so exciting when you hear that riff in the intro. Also, that is the bit of music that Geoff used to test VLCs in the first years of Hazelrigg Industries.” On that note, outside of playing music, the brothers’ “day job” is Hazelrigg Industries, as designers and manufacturers of high-end studio recording gear used by top producers, engineers and artists around the world.

The Hazelrigg Brothers did an arrangement of “Synchronicity II” for a recording they made in the nineties, so the idea for this album had been marinating for a while. George elaborates, “We've been on this kick with The Police for a long time. We worked on the arrangement for “Miss Gradenko” for years. It went through dozens of iterations before we wound up with what we have on this record.”

This album was born out of love for Synchronicity, arguably The Police’s crowning achievement, and a desire to commemorate and celebrate the album’s fortieth anniversary. “I remember being in high school and having that record on nonstop; I had it in my Walkman forever,” said Geoff. Getting right to point, George added, “I think so many of the songs on the record really resonate, I mean, they’re all so good,” a sentiment most of us can wholeheartedly agree with.

Kayla Waters | "Presence"

Kayla Waters, the stunningly beautiful Maryland native who has shared the stage with everyone from Stevie Wonder, Patrice Rushen, Regina Belle, Maysa, and Avery*Sunshine, has emerged as a heroine of sorts in the male dominated Contemporary Jazz world over the past couple years. Kayla, who performed with Marsha Ambrosius and Corinne Bailey Rae, among others on BET’s Black Girls Rock, has garnered four #1 Billboard hits with her songs “I Am,” “Zephyr,” “Full Bloom” and “Open Portals” and managed to make Billboard history. Kayla’s song “Full Bloom” stayed at #1 on the Jazz charts for six consecutive weeks, making her the first female pianist/composer to hold that spot for so long. Grounded in her purpose, nothing fazes Kayla, “I show love and humility everywhere I go, it’s infectious!” shares the daughter of celebrated chart-topping saxophonist and one of the premiere architects of Smooth Urban Jazz (and now labelmate), Kim Waters. “I’ve been blessed to be able to stand my own ground and inhabit space as a thriving artist in this arena! The main focus should be less about gender and more about the music – always the music.” Kayla’s unique signature elixir of jazz, classical and soul is a divine combination of all the elements that inspire her. “Music is vibration, vibration is movement, movement is evolution and evolution is life, therefore; music is life,” philosophizes Kayla, whose name serendipitously means “keeper of the keys.” 

On July 7, 2023 Shanachie Entertainment will release Kayla Waters’ label debut, Presence, a  collection of deeply personal originals inspired by her faith and nature. “I love painting musical portraits with my music and my titles reflect the musical content of each piece. As a nature lover, I’m drawn to the beauty of the earth, it’s elements and fuse that into my writing.” Danny Weiss, VP of Jazz A&R at Shanachie Entertainment, says, “Life is beautiful when you listen to Kayla's music. You're enveloped in a world of warmth, positivity, and beauty, and if you're lucky enough to meet her, you'll understand why!”

 The ten-track excursion on Presence, shines a light on Kayla’s elegant and feathery touch, judicious use of space and dynamics, thoughtful phrasing and dazzling harmonic subtleties. Virtually all of the producing, programming and production on the album was done by Kayla and her Dad Kim Waters. Presence opens ceremoniously with the soothing and ebullient “Abundance.” Kayla’s sailing piano lines delight and draw you near with her sweet touch and languid melody, setting the tone for an intimate spiritual journey that lies at sea. “The abundance or overflow of blessings I have been experiencing is a direct result of my obedience towards my faith,” shares the pianist, who counts George Duke, Keith Jarrett, Frederic Chopin, Maurice Ravel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as among some of her primary piano influences. 

If water is the source of life and a touchstone for renewal, Kayla provides ample inspiration with her jubilant and free flowing beauty “Waterkisses,” produced by Chris “Big Dog” Davis (Kim Burrell, George Clinton, Will Downing, Najee). Presence also features the breezy and ear-catching “Acoustic Wind,” and the funky and rhythmic joy of the free-spirited and dance-inducing “Undulation” (the album’s lead single) The ethereal, impressionistic, and cinematic “At The Well,” is an album highlight with a melody that lingers long after the song concludes. “This is a reflective piece that encourages one to ponder and look within,” explains the introspective pianist. “It’s my hope for listeners to feel as though they are peering into a lake or pond and see their reflection in the water.” 

Presence invites listeners to embark on some astral traveling with Kayla Waters’ luminous and percussive nighttime groove, “Murky Moon.” As she waxes and wanes with her mellifluous flow, she lures us into her orbit to witness the sonic beauty. “Pianissimos” (produced by Chris “Big Dog” Davis) demonstrates Kayla’s ability to craft anthems that enrapture you with her nimble touch, rolling melodies and uplifting soundscapes. Kayla transports us to serenity with her gorgeous R&B inflected “Salt N’ Soak,” which transitions into the ebb and flow of “Oceanz of Love.” The ten-track excursion concludes with the worshipful and meditative title track, as Kayla gingerly plays tender notes underscoring the presence of God’s harmony.

“It’s my passion-purpose to compose meaningful music that shares God’s love through notes of healing, joy, optimism and peace,” confides Kayla, who has become a growing attraction and crowd favorite on the international jazz festival and cruise circuit. “God has blessed me with a unique ability to masterfully weave in and out of different ‘musicals keys’ to compose each song that flows through my fingertips. I embrace my calling, there’s depth and purpose behind it all.” The classically trained pianist who started formal lessons at six, is a twin and grew up in a jazz household and her parents recognized her innate passion for music before she could even walk. She admits to her father’s profound influence both personally and musically. “My Dad is a wonderful father, inspiration and honestly my best friend! It is an honor and a privilege to be his daughter,” exclaims Kayla who is an avid coffee lover, traveler and home interior design fanatic. “I’ve seen my Dad sustain in the music industry for close to 35 years and that is an immense blessing. His tenacity, endurance, and ability to prevail through any circumstance with grace is very inspiring and commendable. My Dad’s musical prowess is unmatched—he is truly a MASTER at melodies, music composition and music production. Such an honor to work collaboratively with him on every album I’ve released!” 

Kayla Waters made her recording debut, Apogee, in 2017 and catapulted to the top of the Billboard Jazz chart with her single “I Am.” Both the single and album hit Billboard’s yearend charts, underscoring her remarkable breakout year. Her sophomore album, Coevolve, followed a year later, and featured two Billboard #1 hits “Zephyr” and “Full Bloom.” The dynamic young artist once again topped the charts in 2021 with her single “Open Portals.” With the release of Presence, Kayla Waters further ensconces her position as one to watch. She concludes, “This album is my heartfelt offering of life-giving pieces, created to replenish the hearts of humanity. Water is a key element of nourishment; and as one listens to this work, an undercurrent of oceanic motifs are harmonically woven in. It is my hope that all will peacefully bask in the Presence of this spiritually rich journey.”


Italian cinematic outfit Calibro 35 presents the new album NOUVELLES AVENTURES

Italian cult cinematic combo Calibro 35 are back with their new studio album NOUVELLES AVENTURES, now available on digital platforms via Virgin Music Italy/Record Kicks. For the international market, the album will also be released on a limited edition crystal clear vinyl and out on June 30th. 

After last year’s Scacco Al Maestro, the 2 tribute-albums dedicated to “il maestro” Ennio Morricone, followed by the Calibro 35 plays Morricone tour and the releasing of the ost of TV drama series Blanca, Calibro 35 are back with NOUVELLES AVENTURES, a new studio album of original material. NOUVELLES AVENTURES was recorded in Naples at Auditorium Novecento, the former Phonotype Records, one of the most legendary and fascinating Italian recording studios. The new LP sees the group making full use of their knowledge and resources, refined and enriched over the years, back to making "Calibro's music": a unique mix of funk, progressive rock, alternative jazz and wide-spectrum cinematic music the public has known them for in fifteen years of career.

“After a couple of intense and stimulating years playing Morricone and writing music for the TV drama Blanca”, Calibro 35 recounted, “we had a great desire to make new inspired music. To do so, we left home and we shut ourselves up in the splendid space-time capsule that is the Auditorium Novecento studio. The result is a series of musical voyages in which we concentrated all our artistic and human experiences. As in Verne's imaginary and extraordinary journeys, we explored distant places where we had never been before. We then happened to return to more familiar shores and discover them with new eyes without realizing it. We borrowed the title NOUVELLES AVENTURES from György Ligeti, precisely because after fifteen years of building ourselves, we are ready for new adventures”.

Calibro 35 will play at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona (Spain) on May 29th, Primavera Sound Festival in Madrid (Spain) on June 6th, OFF Festival in Krakow (Poland) on August 6th and Vodafone Festival in Parades de Coura (Portugal) on August 16th, as well as some shows and festivals around Italy.

Described by Rolling Stone as "the most fascinating, retro-maniac and genuine thing that has happened to Italy in the past few years", Milan-based Calibro 35 enjoy a worldwide reputation as one of the coolest independent bands around. Active since 2007, during their long career they were sampled by Dr. Dre on Compton (“One Shot One Kill” feat. Snoop Dogg), Jay Z (“Picasso Baby”), The Child of Lov & Damon Albarn (“One Day”) and Demigodz (“The Summer Of Sam”). They played major venues and festivals all over Europe and as unique musicians they collaborated with, amongst others, PJ Harvey, Mike Patton, John Parish, Stewart Copeland and Rokia Traoré.

Samara Joy : Linger Awhile - Deluxe Edition

Samara Joy is releasing Linger Awhile (Deluxe Edition) an expanded version of her GRAMMY-winning album Linger Awhile featuring never-before-heard b-sides and alternate arrangements, and Linger Awhile Longer, a D2C Exclusive LP with bonus material. Both editions include brand new music plus fan-favorites like “Guess Who I Saw Today” and “Can’t Get Out Of This Mood,” which Samara performed at the GRAMMY Premiere Ceremony earlier this year before taking home awards for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album. While reinvigorating beloved songs and standards for a fresh audience with her timeless, irresistible sound, the 23-year-old is quickly making the case to join the likes of Sarah, Ella, and Billie as the next mononymous singing sensation recorded by the venerable Verve Records.  

Since Samara’s GRAMMY wins, Linger Awhile has reached #1 on Amazon Best Sellers, Billboard Jazz, Pandora Trendsetters, iTunes and Amazon’s digital-music and CD-sales, and more. Samara has garnered over 2 billion views on TikTok, and her tour dates all over the world are selling out, including highly-anticipated headline shows at NYC’s Village Vanguard that kicked off this week. Simultaneously, outlets like Vulture are declaring “jazz is back, baby” and notable artists like Sam Smith ( are calling her “my favourite female voice right now.” Jimmy Fallon said “unbelievable… she is my jam!” before Samara’s late night TV debut performance on The Tonight Show. Other recent TV appearances include the TODAY Show, MSNBC, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Drew Barrymore. 

The album was recorded at Sear Sound in New York City by Chris Allen and produced by Matt Pierson, Linger Awhile features Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Ben Paterson (piano), David Wong (double bass), and Kenny Washington (drums). The tracklist is comprised of treasured songs by George Gershwin (“Someone To Watch Over Me”) and Thelonious Monk (“Round Midnight”), and also includes Samara’s original lyrics on Fats Navarro’s “Nostalgia (The Day I knew).” While paying homage to those who came before her, Samara is introducing a new audience to standards several times older than she is with her “one of a kind voice” and “ageless talent” (CBS Mornings).

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Brooke Alford | "Heaven On Earth"

Luminously striking a power pose on the cover of her “Heaven on Earth” album, urban-jazz violinist Brooke Alford’s five-year process in writing and recording her second full-length collection has been an honest, emotional and raw journey through traumatic loss and unexpected difficulties. When pushing through is the only option, the album is about overcoming no matter the circumstances thus the music on the nine-song set is an empowering and invigorating listen reflecting “The Artist of the Violin’s” enlightenment, growth and personal development through her lived experiences.

Although she released her debut album, “Expressions,” in 2007 followed by “The Viosocalist” EP in 2012, the Atlanta-based Alford had never gone after radio airplay until she teamed with seminal urban-jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin to produce the single “Closer” in 2018. At the time, she didn’t know the sensual R&B groove with reggae percussion inflections on which she and Baldwin sing the chorus would be the inception of an album project. The single fulfilled her objective of getting radio spins, earning a spot in the top fifty. A remixed version appears on the album that opens with another Baldwin collaboration – the optimistic single, “Heaven on Earth,” illumined by Alford’s exquisite violin play – to bookend the album.

The next year, Alford’s father was diagnosed with cancer, shifting her focus from music to family. Then the pandemic hit, further stifling her artistic output. Her father did succumb to the disease in 2020, leaving the family devastated. Through prayer and reflection, Alford had a realization. Instead of mourning, she decided to shine, determined to honor her father by creating a legacy of hope, inspiration and upliftment.

“2020 by far was the toughest year of my life, yet the most rewarding. I saw a very dark side of life when my father perished from the illness. While transition is very sad and hurtful, I found this experience with my dad to be bittersweet. It takes ‘loss’ in order to ‘gain.’ It is a difficult life lesson. My dad inspired me to just ‘go for it’ and shine bright like a diamond in my music career and life. His legacy will continue to evolve and live through me and my future linage,” said Alford who will remember her father during an album release concert on Father’s Day (June 18) at City Winery in Atlanta.

Taking her father’s cue, Alford wrote “SHINE” with George Freeman. The funky mid-tempo single dropped in 2021.      

Moving on with her life as the world emerged from the pandemic last spring, Alford and Freeman wrote and released the festive “New Day” featuring the keyboardist’s elegant solo buttressed by impassioned violin play.

“Last year was a significant one. A newness had occurred. With the world recovering from the pandemic, it was time to celebrate coming into a fresh season, a ‘new day.’ Writing the melody felt so natural and the creation flowed like water through my fingers. I sent the melody to George (Freeman), and he perfectly matched the energy in the production. The organ that he added to the song gave such a soulful rock and classic feel, just like a fresh Sunday sunrise,” described Alford.

In August 2022, the rousing “On The Move” became the third Alford and Freeman creation to release as a single. It’s a slick and soulful contemporary jazz energizer. Alford said the song is about the certainty found in life’s constant forward motion. 

“Coming off of ‘New Day,’ I wanted to create an upbeat, celebratory tune with lots of strings on the track and several other high-energy musical elements. George sent me his take and he hit the nail on the head on the first go ‘round. As the song began to develop with the versus and bridge, viola parts and arrangements and more percussive instruments were added to fill out the track. It was definitely a fun tune to make,” said Alford who has opened for The Whispers, Mint Condition, Peabo Bryson, Najee, Will Downing, Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor, Marcus Johnson, India.Arie and Tony! Toni! Toné!, and shared the stage with Julian Vaughn, Alex Bugnon, Chubb Rock and reggae superstar Beres Hammond.

At that point, Alford knew she had an album taking shape, one that derived inspiration from the discomfort she had endured and captured her positivity and enthusiastic spirit. As she planned the recording sessions and plotted the release with her team, more unanticipated setbacks forced her to shelve the project for a time.

After regaining her footing yet again, the resilient Alford resumed work on “Heaven on Earth,” which consists of eight of her originals and a completely reimagined version of Michael Jackson’s “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” The cover tune has roots dating back to a 2017 recording date with friends Justin C. Gilbert and Anthony Parrish. Alford experimented by placing her classical violin amidst hip hop beats, cuts and scratches, and a rap.    

“It was pure synergy. Although the energy was right in the studio, the recording process came to a halt because of life happenings and changes. Last fall, Justin and I said simultaneously that we should finish working on the track. The song transformed from simply Rhodes keyboards, percussion and violin to what is heard on the track today. I invited two of my favorite artists in hip-hop, James ‘DJ Jsmoove’ Hayes and emcee Mully Man, to take the production to even greater heights,” said Alford.

On “Feeling Love,” a sophisticated and seductive R&B-jazz dalliance, Alford teamed with crooner Kelley Andre to cowrite and produce the song. His rich baritone voice provides the male counterpart to Alford’s feminine energy presented in the form of lush strings and expressive violin.

Alford tapped Grammy nominee Reggie Hines to cowrite and produce a pair of tunes with her. On the ambient “Wanting More,” she records for the first time playing an electric violin, creating a yearning and desirous sound as the track’s tempo and intensity builds to a crescendo. Alford says her performance pays homage to one of her primary influences, the late violinist Noel Pointer. The second collaboration, “Cascade to the Congo,” is an eclectic amalgam of sounds, styles and textures driven by a throbbing Euro house beat and Hines’ saxophone wails.  

“After we laid down ‘the’ take for ‘Wanting More,’ I was ready for us to create a contrasting tune that was upbeat, had natural sounding percussive instruments, a dance groove, and a violin-saxophone duet. We had to navigate our way to the synergy of this track since there are so many approaches to take based on the elements I wanted in the track. Once we found our groove, we FOUND it,” Alford emphasized.

“Life is a beautiful dance, and ‘Cascade to the Congo’ transcends all age groups, ethnicities, backgrounds, and so much more. The song captures the ethos of the entire album. It is all about getting up, dancing, and celebrating self-love and those special moments with loved ones. This track reminds me that this is such an amazing time to be alive, that one can genuinely experience ‘Heaven on Earth.’”

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Vahagn Stepanyan | "A New Chapter"

A year-and-a-half after moving his family from Armenia to Los Angeles to realize his dream, keyboardist Vahagn Stepanyan surrounded himself with Grammy-winning and world-class musicians, producers and engineers to record his second album, the aptly titled “A New Chapter.” Stepanyan composed and arranged eight songs for the jazz fusion collection releasing May 19.

Stepanyan produced “A New Chapter” with Kitt Wakeley, who earlier this year won the Grammy for Best Classical Compendium for “An Adaption Story” to which Stepanyan contributed to engineering and playing keyboards.             

In the intervening years between those early piano lessons and recording “A New Chapter,” featuring performances by eleven-time Grammy-winning trumpeter Philip Lassiter (Prince, Ariana Grande), Grammy nominated guitarists Greg Howe and Mark Lettieri (Snarky Puppy); platinum-selling saxophonist Dave Koz, bassist Ida Nielsen (Prince) and powerhouse drummer Eric Moore amongst other accomplished players, Stepanyan was classically trained in composition and learned the art of production. He began selling songs to Armenian artists and started playing in jazz clubs in his native land but learned hard-earned music business lessons by getting paid only four dollars if he was paid at all. 

Stepanyan was gifted with a saxophone that he promptly sold to buy a computer so he could learn how to arrange songs. During a 2009 visit to the US, he was encouraged by the reaction to his masterful keyboard capabilities. Four years later, difficult circumstances left him without even a keyboard to practice on.

Undaunted, Stepanyan continued to believe and worked tenaciously, step by step, never losing sight of his goals. Today, he is an award-winning music producer, arranger, songwriter, film and television composer and keyboardist who crafted an album destined to elevate him to elite status in contemporary jazz.

The first single released from “A New Chapter” is “Synergy,” which dropped last month and is accompanied by a teaser video that premiered in Times Square on April 25. The track is constructed of a complex rhythm, Moore’s aggressive and astute drumming, Lettieri’s piercing electric guitar, and rich layers of opulent horns that feature Koz playing soprano sax in a completely different context from which he is best known. Stepanyan adds melodic vocalization to the rocket ship ride that is “Without Limits,” granting the ensemble the autonomy to create free from restrictions. Anthony Crawford’s stratospheric bass solo leaps to the fore on an exploration featuring Lettieri’s fretwork.

Nielsen’s dexterous bass is given star status on “Motion,” which packs powerful horn section blasts, a scorching and gauzy electric rock guitar solo by Roy Ziv, and Stepanyan’s otherworldly synthesizer expositions. Howe and Lassiter topline “Gravity,” floating above the intricate swatches of multiple guitars and horns. Throughout “A New Chapter,” Moore’s knockout drumming dominates in impressive fashion, but he’s officially featured on “So Good,” which is illumined by Stepanyan’s imaginative keyboards and a screaming guitar solo by Feodor Dosumov and Melvin Lee Davis’s (Chaka Kahn, Lee Ritenour, George Benson, Gerald Albright) elastic basslines. Brazilian drummer Cleverson Silva and Venezuelan bassist Isai Romero add Latin flavor to the playful “Toy.” Silva remains to play on the explosive “Revolution,” this time in the company of Dosumov’s shredding guitar and Wojtek Pilichowski’s frenetic bass. Closing with a solo piece that was recorded in one take, Stepanyan exquisitely conveys the emotions of the challenges he’s faced in recent years on “Hold My Hand,” a contemplative, poetic and cinematic beauty.

Stepanyan began writing “A New Chapter” while traveling through Arizona and into Utah where he visited Hanksville, a place described as “Mars on Earth,” the baren, mountainous backdrop that appears on the album cover.  

“It symbolizes the transition from one period of my life to another – a new chapter where you have to create, filling in the colors of life through your own imagination. This is a new chapter for me, and I don’t know where it will take me as an artist. But I do believe that in this new chapter, the best is yet to come,” said Stepanyan, who recently won two awards from the Akademia Music Awards for Best Jazz Songs for “Synergy” and “Motion.” “Motion” also won a Global Music Awards silver medal and garnered a nomination from the Hollywood Independent Music Awards in the Jazz (Fusion/Bebop) category.

Knowing that the process of recording “A New Chapter” would be transformational, Stepanyan documented the sessions in a five-part video series along with a teaser video that encapsulates the short documentary series. Each episode takes viewers into the recording studio and captures the musicians talking about crafting the album. As much as Stepanyan oozes respect and reverence for the virtuoso musicians highlighted on the project, they reflect back just as much admiration and accolades upon the keyboardist-pianist’s prodigious skills.

Although Stepanyan’s early training was in classical music, his muse has been jazz and gospel while incorporating world beat and global music nuances. He produced and collaborated on three volumes of the multicultural “The Ethnos Project” that were released in 2013, 2015 and 2018, truly international compilations that include up to fourteen languages. As a solo artist, Stepanyan debuted in 2015 with “Moonlight,” an offering of jazz, R&B and funk that he produced. Amongst the talents from the US, Armenia, Brazil, Thailand, Israel and Germany that performed on the album were Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley, six-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bassists Crawford and Davis, and drummer Silva. In 2020, Stepanyan collaborated with Grammy-winning gospel singer Percy Bady.

“I still have goals to reach. Mostly, I want people to recognize me not only as a jazz musician but as someone who writes and produces pop, R&B, soul, lo-fi, funk and gospel music as well as film soundtracks. If you have a dream, set your goals and go for it without any excuses. Never give up. Believe in yourself. Keep focused on your passion, work hard and invest in your future.”

Marie Ginocchio | "Wonderland"

Shortly after jazz piano legend Chick Corea passed away a couple of years ago, an introspective teenage pianist began composing solo piano music after listening to his 1978 album “The Mad Hatter.” Although Marie Ginocchio had only been playing piano for four years at the time, the student of the Chick Corea Academy exhibited prodigious composition and performing skills as well as imaginative timing, harmony and phrasing, which caught the ear of Corea’s longtime guitarist Frank Gambale, an acknowledged innovator and virtuoso in his own right. 

Each one of the nine piano sketches encompassing improvisational jazz and neo classical music that comprise the collection is accompanied by a colorful drawing made by Ginocchio, who also created the album cover image.

Entry into Chick Corea’s academy program was a seventeenth birthday gift from Ginocchio’s parents in 2020. She found that Corea’s teaching philosophy suited her because of his belief that artistic freedom trumped music theory or process. Ginocchio derived additional influence from jazz pianists Makoto Ozone and Hiromi Uehara as well as from composer Béla Bartók. She is particularly allured to shifting time signatures and tempos along with dissonant harmonies. Corea passed away a year into her studies, but by then, Gambale and Academy staffers recognized that Ginocchio was exceptional and convinced her to start recording.

“She’s a Chick Corea reincarnation in a female form. I’m really going out of my way to help get her exposure that she really deserves. She’s absolutely amazing and brilliant, and I don’t say that lightly. As someone who has been independent, overlooked and misunderstood for most of my career, I understand what she’s facing, and I don’t want her to lose her spirit. The world needs these bright sparks to counter balance,” said Gambale.

In search of ideas for the project, Ginocchio recalled growing up listening to “The Mad Hatter.” With “Alice in Wonderland” as the underlying motif, she eagerly ventured down the rabbit hole, crafting over fifty minutes of music for “Wonderland.”  

On the set, the now nineteen-year-old college student displays extraordinary technique, remarkable dexterity and dazzling speed that she deploys to tell mesmerizing piano tales. Ginocchio’s masterful finger work crafts hues, coloring and shading to illustrate her cerebral, contemplative and scholarly compositions that were written and committed to memory before being tracked in a recording studio near her parents’ home in Springfield, Missouri.   

Listeners enter “Wonderland” with the precise and pondering “Alice in Analysis.” Ginocchio explains, “I wanted to use lots of lines and patterns in this song emulating how there are many thoughts happening in someone's head.”

The Bartok-influenced “Curiouser and Curiouser” gets its title from the classic story.

“I really wanted a song that would be very chaotic and strange, like how some of Bartok's compositions were. I’ve always loved Bartok and his ideas, so really this song was me trying to emulate him and the energy of his compositions.”

“Cheshire Cat” is Ginocchio’s attempt to capture the character’s personality. 

“Who’d Ever Think to Look for Me Here?” is slower and methodical, which Ginocchio intended to “balance out the rest of the songs on the album.” The title quotes Alice when she was lost in Tulgey Wood and references elements from one of Corea’s compositions, “Where Have I Known You Before.”  

“I used lots of jumping rhythms as well as complex lines. This character had more of a mysterious but also spunky and weird way of presenting himself, so I tried to make the song emulate that.”

Finding musical inspiration from compositions by Ozone and Corea, the upbeat and melodic “Where People Walk Upside Down” is taken from a quote by Alice in the story. Ginocchio brings “The March Hare” to life by writing a chaotic and energetic piece.

“I used a lot of rhythmic elements along with strange chords, transitions and odd time signatures to emulate those qualities.”

Spawned from another Alice quote, Ginocchio said that she didn’t have a specific idea for “What If I Should Fall” and randomly hit a rhythm and set of notes that she liked.

“From there, I went with the flow of what I originally made up in the beginning but tried to make this song slower and more moving emotionally with the periods of silence and chords.”

Ginocchio animates the odd characters lurking in the woods on the mysterious and bizarre “Into Tulgey Wood.”

“I tried to experiment more with some different rhythms and patterns. I wanted to work more with overlapping my hands for rhythms, so I tried to implement that in this song.”

Closing the adventure, “In the Shadow of the Queen” has a lot of moving pieces that revisit some of the elements we’ve heard earlier on the recording such as slowing the tempo to a deliberate cadence adjacent to a more frenzied section.

Ginocchio’s first instrument was clarinet, and she also plays guitar. Her breakthrough on piano came from learning to play via YouTube tutorials. That led to taking lessons from classical and jazz teachers and listening to classical music as well as to jazz piano recordings by Vince Guaraldi, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. But she quickly grew tired of regimented lessons, instead preferring to perform, create and explore her own forms of musical expression.

The ideas for Ginocchio to sketch the album cover and do an illustration for each song on “Wonderland” sprang from Corea’s own passion for sketching. Last year, Corea’s “Children Songs” series inspired Ginocchio to write shorter pieces that she labels minuets and have been shared on social media.

Ginocchio occasionally plays local shows and intends to do some virtual concerts, but she prefers focusing on composing new projects. She plans to experiment by recording in a band setting and adding electronic instruments and keyboards to her works. Along with working on more piano recordings, she plans to compose music pairing acoustic guitar and piano. But for now, Ginocchio’s playground is “Wonderland,” and she hopes listeners will embark on the enchanting escapade with her.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Gecko Turner | "Somebody From Badajoz"

Somebody From Badajoz is the fifth studio album in Gecko Turner’s discography and his first in seven years, eagerly anticipated by both his fans and himself: “This business of dedicating yourself to music and making songs... it’s a long game.”

With the release of his first two, remarkable, albums, Guapapasea! (2003) and Chandalismo Ilustrado (2006), Gecko started cultivating what one astute journalist defined as Afro-maduran soul – the “maduran” bit referencing Extremadura, a region in central-western Spain. 

Badajoz, Gecko’s birthplace, is the biggest city in the area, on the border with Portugal, by the Guadiana River. It is a place that oozes history, where there is constant movement at the border, and people’s character is friendly and open-minded with foreign habits. 

Gecko’s Afro-maduran soul is built on Afro-American music and drenched in Brazilian, African, Latin American and Jamaican sounds. There are also echoes of a youth marked in equal parts by our man’s admiration for the Beatles and the flamenco that could be heard everywhere in Badajoz in the seventies. It makes for a singular sound and a musical language of its own—spicy, succulent, full of nuances, but with a very personal flavour.

The album opens with the Nigerian talking drums of Twenty-twenty Vision, (neo) soul in a magical falsetto, carried by a sumptuous orchestral arrangement with a cinematic flavour: “I’d been thinking about doing something called ‘Twenty-twenty Vision’ for some time, making a play on words with the vision we have of the world after the year 2020 and the medical expression, which, in ophthalmological terms, means ‘normal or complete vision’. Beyond that particular song, I think that’s the mood of the album: a look at society in the twenties of the 21st century and the feelings and demons it produces.”

It’s followed by De balde, a very special song born from a posthumously discovered lyric by the great writer Carlos Lencero, a regular collaborator of Camarón, Pata Negra and Remedios Amaya, and also from Badajoz. While conceived as a fandango, Gecko has moulded it into his sound in such a seamless way it now seems as if the words could only have been written to be embraced by the percussion, brass, and backing vocals heard on the album. It’s the only lyric on Somebody From Badajoz not written by Turner; still it sits rather comfortably with the rest, sharing the same emotivity and sensitivity, as well as the trademark humour and irony.

Other tracks see more protagonism for the rhythm. The beat-driven Ain’t No Fun Preachin’ To The Choir features Gecko’s vocals walking the thin line between singing and talking over a phenomenal afro-disco-funk-infused trailblazer. In Am I Sad? it’s impossible to not bob your head to the queen of Papatosina’s mongrel rhythm, as close to the banks of the Guadiana river as it is to the shores of the Mississippi. Qué siesta tan buena (he babeao y to…) is an ode to the snooze in true Afro-maduran fashion. And in Come And Try, the Caribbean influence is evident—lovers’ rock that invites you to dance in good company.

The groove is always around, moving between the magical border sound of Everybody Knows Somebody From Badajoz and Little Dose, the silky soul of The Sibariteo Appreciation Society, and the exultant celebration of End Of The World (which surprisingly sees Gecko turning to the occasional use of autotune), a piece that could be used for the final credits of a Monty Python film and, in fact, closes the album.

In these songs, and throughout the album, for that matter, the musicians accompanying Gecko, who himself plays many of the instruments as well, shine brightly. All hailing from Extremadura, Javi Mojave (percussion), Álvaro Fdez ‘Dr. Robelto’ (bass), and Rafa Prieto (guitar) have been carrying him with delicate forcefulness since he started out as a solo artist. At the same time, the wonderful and essential voices of Deborah Ayo, Astrid Jones, Fani Ela Nsue, and Miriam Solís give the album a sunny variety of colours. And there are many more—a sensational group of musicians contributes dazzling harmonic bursts to many of the songs. The palette of sounds is very diverse and rich in textures and nuances, including, for example, the ngoni, bells, and various repurposed kitchen utensils.

Gecko Turner has done it again with Somebody From Badajoz, looking to the future without losing sight of the roots. In times of upheaval all over the globe, when people are looking for purity, he delivers a formidable piece of work: risky, optimistic in spite of everything, and with a decidedly bastard sound. Let’s rejoice.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Tunico releases debut album

A new release from Far Out Recording is the self-titled debut album by Rio de Janeiro born multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Tunico. Honing Brazilian roots rhythms like maracatu, forró, and samba, to combine with a global contemporary jazz outlook, the newcomer adds a modern classic to the ever rich vein of Brazilian instrumental music. Tunico is available on digital platforms and CD, and vinyl.

Consider it a natural evolution from the legacies of greats like Quarteto Novo, Hermeto Pascoal, Banda Black Rio, Tamba Trio, and Dom Um Romão, Tunico’s debut brings together an eye catching ensemble of talents from the Rio jazz community, with whom he performs on a weekly basis at celebrated live sessions and jam’s at venues like Macuna and Comuna Lapa, which often go on all night. 

Released in 2022, the album’s rip-roaring lead single “Galope” features the effervescent vocals of Katarina Assef, as well as consummate solos from all over the band, as Sounds & Colours put it “…it exudes distinction and promise”. “Sambola” calls on the signature swagger of Far Out favourite Antonio Neves, indulging us in irresistible swinging samba-funk, undeniably reminiscent of the aforementioned Banda Black Rio in their late 70s heyday.

Born and raised in an artistic Rio household, Antonio Secchin aka Tunico’s father was the painter Guilherme Secchin, whose original work is lovingly repurposed to create the album’s cover. Antonio learned his trade on guitar from a young age, which remains his primary method for composition, but at the age of eighteen he started to gravitate towards the saxophone, and in particular the soprano sax, from which he now leads bands despite being entirely self taught. He would develop his skills busking on curbsides and metro stations before becoming a mainstay player in venues and clubs around the city. 

When the pandemic struck, Antonio retreated to his family home in the Rio countryside. With time and space to breathe and reflect in a natural environment, he set to work at fleshing out the compositions he’d written throughout his musical life into full bodied works. His affinity with his rural surroundings is reflected in the luscious, blossoming feel of this groovy, mystical and poignant instrumental debut album.

Friday, May 12, 2023

New Release: Fiona Ross | "Thoughts, Conversations, and To Do Lists"

UK Jazz singer and songwriter Fiona Ross undertakes the difficulty of capturing the everyday – via both its birds-eye view and its sharp, minute detail – on her new album Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists, which has just been released. It;s on this album that Fiona Ross manages to crystallize the racing interior monologue, the standstill of the post-breakup blues, the gentle flow of a thirst for knowledge. She also deftly paints the party atmosphere, the easy camaraderie between friends, and the steadfast desire for truth.

The album’s first track, “When Will You Leave My Mind,” is a paradoxical song in the sense that it’s sonically full of movement – it has the pace of a cha-cha, a chugging train, a bustling city – while the lyrics capture perfectly the state of stuckness and standstill after a breakup. Replete with a catchy Latin guitar groove, the track makes the internal turmoil palpable with Ross’ syncopated singing, her words moving deftly in and out of the sensual instrumentation as she inquires, “When will you leave my mind/ You’ve spent too long in my mind/ You don’t belong in my mind.” The overall effect, however, is sassiness and steadfastness rather than wilted defeat, and the listener gets the sense that she’s going to solve this – if not right now, then quite soon.

Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists moves from strutting (“I Want To Know More”) to pensive and meandering (like the sax-studded “The Small Things”) to the wild, raucous and adventurous (“When You Walked In The Room”). Ross’ voice soars, strides, and shimmies through “A Single Source of Truth,” about looking for straightforwardness and low-drama in a world of melodrama and fake news.

Trumpet Man” is sexy and undulating, an ode to a sort of renaissance man, with (of course) sublime trumpet accents in all the right places. “The Don’t Stop Just Breathe Ragtime” features wildly fun, almost cartoonish instrumentation with a sense of deep playfulness. And the glittering piano, danceable beats, and groovy guitar on the instrumental “#ThursdayThoughts” at the album’s conclusion replicate a mind racing with ideas and boundless energy.

“Someone asked me what my new album was about and I explained that it’s just really some of my thoughts, some conversations I’ve had, and my To-Do lists,” Ross recalls. “That kind of stuck, so decided to call it exactly that – Thoughts, Conversations and To Do Lists.”

Written, arranged and produced by Ross, the 14-track album is a compendium of several themes reflecting Ross’ day-to-day life. While some songs are busy, with lots going on from every angle, others are more interior and reflective, mirroring Ross’ headspace. 

 Named among the 100 Alternative Power Music List for 2020, multi-award winning jazz artist, editor-in-chief, journalist and founder of the award-winning Women in Jazz Media organization Fiona Ross never stops. As a vocalist, pianist, composer and producer, Ross has become known for creating her own contemporary jazz sound incorporating fast-paced Latin jazz, vintage jazz club, and a little bit of neo-soul along with heart wrenching ballads. She came to the world’s attention as the artist that gave Ed Sheeran his “first push,” but she very quickly established herself as an artist in her own right and has received incredible reviews and awards across the globe for all of her albums.

Fiona Ross has achieved many accolades for her work, including Best Jazz Song from the World Songwriting Awards, Outstanding Achievement awarded by the Global Music Awards, and International Female Songwriter of the Year from the International Singer-Songwriters Association. She has been featured in publications including Tinnitist, Jazziz, Record World Magazine, Jazz Corner, Ink 19 and Jazz Quarterly. Fiona’s song “Mistress” (which was recorded live in a stairwell) was selected to be included in the British Library archives for prosperity. “Ross’s lyric phrasing, vocal register and arrangements deliver brilliant presence and form,” says Music Interview Magazine.

Ramsey Lewis Autobiography "Gentlemen of Jazz: A Life in Music"

Gentleman of Jazz: A Life in Music, written by Ramsey Lewis and Aaron Cohen is out now. This new autobiography provides insight into the early life and illustrious career of one of the most popular jazz pianists of all time, beginning with Lewis’s childhood growing up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood, his experiences in his parents’ church and his early piano lessons, to eventually establishing the Ramsey Lewis Trio and launching an extraordinary, expansive life in music. Lewis died at his Chicago home in September 2022, at age 87.

An NEA Jazz Master, Top 10 hitmaker, and winner of three Grammys, Ramsey Lewis (1935-2022) also hosted popular television and radio shows that honored the history of jazz music. He was not only influential for many modern jazz artists but beats he created decades ago can be heard across R&B and hip-hop. His own musical growth never stopped, even including a foray into symphonic composition and performance. Through it all, Lewis remained grounded, never leaving behind his roots in Chicago.

Aaron Cohen teaches humanities at City Colleges of Chicago and writes for numerous publications, including the Chicago Tribune, DownBeat, and Chicago Reader. He is the author of Move on Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power and Amazing Grace. Cohen has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and is a two-time recipient of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for outstanding music writing.

Earlier this year, Steele Records released The Beatles Songbook: The Saturday Salon Series, Volume One, created during pandemic-era livestreamed sessions in Lewis’s living room and approved for release by the pianist shortly before his passing. His first ever solo piano recording, the CD contains new interpretations of 12 Lennon-McCartney songs, a body of work that Lewis had previously delved into because it was music that, like his own, had demonstrated universal appeal.

Jeff Tamarkin in JazzTimes called the album “a touching, sensitive and intelligently executed tribute... Lewis’ homages never fail to honor the Beatles’ essence, even as he puts his own distinctive stamp on a melody…. A perfect bookend to a long and illustrious career.”

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Rosanna & Zélia - Baiao Da Luna | Rare 7" gets repress by We Jazz Records

We Jazz Records has released a lost MPB gem from rural Finland, and it's the first ever reissue of this rare 1990 local release by Brazilian duo Rosanna & Zélia. This is the second entry of the new archival 7" series by We Jazz Records. 7" EP with inside out 3mm spine sleeve.

This is taken from the liner notes by Mikko Mattlar:

"Rosanna & Zélia were a Brazilian duo of singers and musicians Rosanna Guimarães Tavares and Zélia Nogueira da Fonseca. They moved from Minas Gerais, Brazil to Europe in 1988, released five albums in Germany between 1993–2004 and featured vocals on an Ian Pooley house track Coração Tambor before Rosanna died of cancer in 2006. Zélia still continues her career in Germany, touring actively and releasing new music.

The duo's journey from Brazil to Germany also included two brief visits to Finland. In the years 1989–1990, they spent time in the small town of Seinäjoki in Ostrobothnia. Rosanna & Zélia performed Brazilian music in Finnish clubs and festivals and recorded a 7" EP for local label Maumau Music. The record was distributed mostly in the Seinäjoki area, but the three songs are well-performed and authentic Brazilian MPB, so the largely unknown record now gets its first reissue for a wider audience on We Jazz Records.

But how did two Brazilian women find their way to a small Finnish town to record an EP? The main reason for this was music journalist and promoter Risto Vuorinen, who was on a holiday in Albufeira, Portugal, where a friend of his lived. The streets were almost empty that evening, but Vuorinen and his friend heard fine guitar playing and singing from a bar. There were Rosanna and Zélia performing on a small stage, and the two Finnish men happened to be the only customers. When the artists ended their performance, Vuorinen's friend, who spoke Portuguese, went to talk to them. Rosanna and Zélia told him they had recently come from Brazil and are trying to gain ground in Europe with their music.

Because Rosanna and Zélia didn't know where they would head next, and because Vuorinen liked their music, he thought of bringing the duo to his hometown, Seinäjoki. They immediately liked the idea, and in the autumn of 1989 they arrived in Finland. The national Finnish jazz festival was held in Seinäjoki, and Vuorinen thought Rosanna & Zélia's Brazilian music would fit right in. They performed at the festival and in November 1989, also made recordings in a local studio with backing musicians from Seinäjoki.

Music enthusiast Pertti Hakala had a record shop and label Maumau Music in Seinäjoki releasing music from local artists. He released a three-track EP from the sessions. with two tracks written by Rosanna & Zelia themselves and their cover version of Extra (Brazilian Reggae), written and originally performed by Gilberto Gil in 1983. A small pressing was made for the Finnish market, and Hakala also sent a box of records to Brazil, but for some reason it was sent back.

After their first visit to Finland, Rosanna & Zélia headed back to central Europe, but Vuorinen decided to organize more performances for them for the next summer. Maybe he also wanted to show them the beautiful Finnish summer, as Rosanna and Zélia had so far seen the country only during the darkest autumn. The duo came back to Finland for the summer of 1990 and performed at the Womad world music festival organized as a part of local Provinssirock. They also played in Nummirock and Puistoblues, both respected music festivals, and performed on TV in Helsinki.

Rosanna and Zélia lived in a small apartment in Seinäjoki and played two to three gigs per week all summer. Because there were only two of them, even small pubs could afford to book them, and in 1990 the economic situation in Finland was good. It was before a major economic depression hit the country. The duo travelled by bus or train, and because they were an acoustic duo, they could easily carry their instruments in public transport. Vuorinen got excellent feedback from organizers. Rosanna and Zélia were good performers, but also really nice people.

With the income from their summer gigs, Rosanna and Zélia could buy a PA mixer and other musical equipment. When the summer 1990 turned to autumn, they continued their journey from Seinäjoki to Germany where they settled down."

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

New Music Releases: Paul Murphy Presents The Jazz Room Vol. 2; Tony Higgins & Mike Peden Present Isao Suzuki; Kirk Degiorgio; Remi Kabaka

Paul Murphy Presents The Jazz Room Vol. 2

I.G. Release Day, its Daniel Crawford's clever reworking of a Fela Kuti Classic - Water no got enemy. Jazz Room Vol. 2 now, compiled by DJ legend Paul Murphy. This double vinyl features an amazing range of Jazz dance tracks, from heavy funk to contemporary jazz, and includes covers from Fela Kuti, The Stranglers, Azymuth, and The Human League. This album really is as much for the party people as it it for the headz and links the audiences from his legendary gigs in the 1970s and 80s at the Electric Ballroom, 100 Club and The Blue Note to those at his current appearances at Spiritland, Shiftless Shuffle and Brilliant Corners.

Tony Higgins & Mike Peden Present Isao Suzuki - Approach

BBE Music’s J Jazz Masterclass Series continues with the reissue of Isao Suzuki’s 'Approach'. Recorded and released in 1986, the album features bassist Isao Suzuki, percussionist Masahiko Togashi, keyboardist Hideo Ichikawa, and guitarist Akira Shiomoto, and showcases their individual talents as a unified ensemble across five tracks. The album is both sophisticated and experimental, with serene ambient moments and thunderous and dynamic explosions of energy. 'Approach' demonstrates the group's interplay and control, making it a first-class showcase of contemporary jazz. This is the first time the album has been reissued since its original release 36 years ago. 

Kirk Degiorgio - Beersheba

Get ready to transport yourself back in time to the mid-seventies with Kirk Degiorgio’s forthcoming project, Modal Forces / Percussive Forces. This exciting project explores both Modal Jazz and Seventies Jazz Fusion in the Library album format. The album promises to be a true gem for music aficionados, showcasing tight arrangements built around acoustic bass, electric piano and vintage analogue synth leads.And today, we have a special treat for you! BBE is releasing the first single from the project, Beersheba. This single is a perfect taster of what’s to come on the album, and it does not disappoint. Despite coming in at less than 4 minutes, Beersheba manages to create a captivating atmosphere and story, leaving the listener wanting more. The track features keys overlaying a melody and a refrain on top of a bass and drum break rhythm, building to a lovely mid-tempo dancefloor groove that will leave you wanting to hit repeat. Kirk Degiorgio is a DJ, composer, and music lover whose influences span all genres of Black music. From Soul, Jazz-Funk, and Funk to House and Detroit Techno, he has a love and appreciation for how all these sounds work together and evolve from each other. With the contributions of renowned session drummer Chris Whitten and vintage analogue synths, Modal Forces / Percussive Forces promises to be a true

Remi Kabaka - Son of Africa

The highly elusive and sought-after Afro-Funk LP, Son Of Afica, by Remi Kabaka is being reissued by BBE Music. One of the standout tracks on the album, "Meteorite" is now available for download for free with a pre-order of the album. Kabaka, who is now 85 and retired in America, was a cornerstone of British West African music in the 50s, 60s and 70s, playing sessions and live shows with The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Steve Winwood, among others.The reissued album, which was originally released by Chris Blackwell's Island records in 1976, received little acclaim and almost no promotion. However, it has since become a £700-plus collectors' item. The album is packed with sinuous, spare funk and 90-110 BPM grooves that go straight to the body. Whether you're a turntablist, hip hop sampler, or African Funk lover, don't miss the chance to grab this limited reissue, complete with full, updated liner notes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

New Music Releases: Subatomic Sound System, Lee “Scratch” Perry, & Screechy Dan; Ella And The Bossa Beat with Toco; The Soul Motivators

Subatomic Sound System, Lee “Scratch” Perry, & Screechy Dan - Lee “Scratch” Perry is the Dub Organizer

On the 50th anniversary of the world’s first dub album, “Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Is The Dub Organizer” brings you the classic vibes of Scratch’s 1973 Black Ark studio from Jamaica reimagined for the 21st century with NYC's Subatomic Sound System, Scratch's steady collaborators and touring band for over a decade. The release coincides with a memorial set for Scratch on 4/20 at Red Rocks Amphitheater by Subatomic Sound System & Screechy Dan with special guest Mykal Rose of Black Uhuru plus The Marley Brothers & Steel Pulse. Recorded by Emch & Lee Perry in Jamaica at the New Ark and NYC at Subatomic Sound while working on their acclaimed 2017 “Super Ape Returns to Conquer” album, this song takes a similar approach with deep sub bass and drums laying a solid foundation for phased horns, vocals, and percussion to swim in murky tape echoes. The style and composition define Scratch's legacy as a pioneer of dub, reggae, studio production, and musical experimentation -- including being the first to ever record chatting on a recording. Kingston born & Brooklyn-raised Screechy Dan delivers the chatting to hail up Scratch in the original Jamaican party style of the era while Scratch lets the world know he is the dub inventor and innovator, not Tubby or Jammy, a final diss tune from beyond to set the record straight.

Ella And The Bossa Beat with Toco - Amanhecer (single)

Ella & The Bossa Beat, the father-daughter duo known for their unique blend of Brazilian jazz and Bossa Nova with soulful jazz influences, have teamed up with fellow Brazilian singer-songwriter Toco for their second single together. ‘Amanhecer’ is a chill, bossa nova track that showcases the talents of these accomplished artists and their ability to create a fresh sound that blends traditional Brazilian music with modern influences. The track begins with a gentle piano riff, immediately transporting listeners to a tranquil place. Ella’s smooth and soulful voice blends seamlessly with Toco’s velvety vocal tone, creating a harmonious duet that effortlessly captures the essence of a Brazilian sunrise. The mellow sound of the Bossa Nova groove further adds to the soothing feel of the song, making it perfect for a relaxing evening or a morning coffee. ‘Amanhecer’ joins Schema’s rich catalogue of Brazilian and Brazilian-inspired music.

The Soul Motivators - Do It Together

Canada’s The Soul Motivators (TSM) are a premier funk outfit based in Toronto. TSM blend classic 70s funk, soul, psychedelic grooves, and breaks to create a modern fresh sound with their strong craft for songwriting. In February 2020, the Motivators released their acclaimed third album ‘Do The Damn Thing’, featuring powerhouse frontwoman Shahi Teruko. With the accompanying tour derailed due to the pandemic, the band switched to a series of online and drive-thru concerts to keep them going. Now they’re back and ready with their fourth studio album, ‘Do it Together’. The 8 track album takes the listener on a cosmic trip filled with groove and optimism guided through aural  landscapes. Imagine the Toronto Yonge Street strip in the 70s. Flares, arcades, neon, cinema, record shops – grit and funk. Yet modern beats and rich rhythm infuse each track to lift you up and get you moving – floating  into outer space yet deeply rooted on solid ground. From the first note played on ‘Raise a Glass’, the band switches on their classic Motivators mode: hard- hitting, clav-heavy harmonic, smooth horn line, a timeless deep funk track. Next up, 'Power' pushes the TSM sound to new celestial limits - Interstellar synths and drum n’ bass inspired breakbeats are mediated by Teruko’s ethereal vocals with the fire and passion of Bettye Lavette and tight rhythm of The JB’s. Other highlights include, ‘It is what it is’ - a smooth soul groover that would easily blend into any Hitsville playlist! “It tackles the subject of our collective ups and downs, inspiring us to keep moving through the darkness.” With ‘Try’, TSM channel Muscle Shoals with a deep cut of southern soul, with passionate vocal delivery, evoking Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, infuses this tune with a heavy Daptone influence. “'Do It Together' is The Soul Motivators at our best - fusing familiar influences with new elements and pushing our musical boundaries to new limits.” Since the release of their explosive 2015 full-length debut Free to Believe (Do Right! Music), TSM tirelessly toured to bring their high-octane live show to the masses. The acclaimed Dirt On the Floor EP, and collaboration with Detroit’s Funk Night Records released over two highly sought after 7” singles, saw them dig deep into the funk crates. The core of the band consists of Teruko (vocals), James Robinson (keys), Marc Shapiro (bass), Voltaire Ramos (guitar), Doug Melville (drums), and Derek Thorne (percussion), with a rotating cast of talented horns and special guests.

Monday, May 08, 2023

New Music Release: Tilo Weber | "Tesserae"

Drummer Tilo Weber joins forces with bassist Petter Eldh (Koma Saxo) and Elias Stemeseder, who plays harpsichord and keys here on Weber’s We Jazz debut, ‘Tesserae’, released 21 April 2023.

The three musicians as well as several guests present a unique jazz trio sound for all times, without boundaries. Tilo Weber, based in Berlin, came to the attention of We Jazz Records with his highly inspired drum work on Otis Sandsjö’s Y-OTIS, and has since then also been awarded with the prestigious Deutscher Jazz Preis for the arrangement of the year in 2022.

‘Tesserae’ is the work of not only Tilo Weber the drummer, but also the visionary ”full stack” artist on the rise, and the entire record consists of new, original compositions by Weber. Eldh and Stemeseder, both also part of the first incarnation of the Y-OTIS live band and the first album, are close musical partners to Tilo Weber, and the whole album brims with natural innovation and musical joy shared among the three. Each of the versatile musicians also move beyond their main instruments on the album, with Weber bringing on the vibraphone, Stemeseder tackling the celesta(!), and Eldh picking about acoustic guitar. It’s easy to hear that all three are keen on going beyond what would be expected while creating this music.

The harpsichord dominates the first spin, as the very sound of the instrument sounds so delightfully alien to the modern trio setting. Indeed, ‘Tesserae’ sounds at once baroque and futuristic. Flute, played on two tracks by Anna-Lena Schnabel and ney by Bastian Duncker on one selection, add levels that make the sound float at almost otherworldly dimensions (check ‘Sacre Sacre’ for a case in point). The lead single ‘Nacre Nacre’ introduces the trio in an apt way, snapping with an irresistible groove while moving not only from left to right, but also forward on a 3D spectrum of its own.

These added dimensions are there to be found for the repeated listens, suggesting ‘Tesserae’ is an enduring album with plenty of mileage. The whole kaleidoscope of the sound reveals itself slowly, yet the impact is an instant one. Making something seemingly minimal turn out so colorful is no mean feat, and Tilo Weber & co pull it off here with remarkable ease. The album has a flow that grabs you from the first notes and builds monuments from there on.

Sunday, May 07, 2023

New Music Release: Christian Artmann | "The Middle Of Life"

Christian Artmann contemplates his, and our, moment in time with the June 2 release by Sunnyside Records of the aptly titled The Middle of Life. An introspective but highly emotional affair—with a sensitive quartet featuring pianist Laszlo Gardony, bassist John Lockwood, and drummer Yoron Israel adding their ruminations—the flutist/composer’s fourth album ponders the state of the world, both positive and negative, in both the personal and broad senses.

Like most of the world, San Francisco (by way of Germany and NYC)–based Christian Artmann found himself during the Covid lockdowns with empty space to take stock of life as it had been and was becoming. For him, though, that thoughtful aspect has not dimmed even as the world moved on from the pandemic. “In this time period for me, I find myself looking forward and backward,” Artmann says. “I’m very conscious of where I am, and of the value of life.”

The addition of regular collaborators (and Berklee College of Music colleagues) Gardony, Lockwood, and Israel—along with vocalist Elena McEntire, who appears on three tunes—brings depth and perspective to Artmann’s wondrous compositions and improvisations. It also creates an absolutely crackling chemistry. This is perhaps paradoxical for an album as mellow and contemplative as The Middle of Life. Nevertheless, the je ne sais quoi that passes between the musicians is unmistakable.

It’s also powerful, whether in the artful slow burn of “Turnaround,” the doleful “Twenty Seven,” or the steady-yet-fickle flow of the title track. The players shine as individuals, with Gardony working a fine solo turn on the troubled “Snow River,” both Lockwood and McEntire taking bravura turns on the classic samba standard “Paisagem da Janela,” and Israel doing arresting work on “The Middle of Life.”

Artmann is exemplary throughout, as strong a soloist on the stark "Lament for Ukraine" as on the bittersweet “Last Words.” Equally strong, however, is his work as a composer, arranger, and bandleader, leading his collaborators on The Middle of Life in a contemplative direction without sacrificing its deeply human core.

Christian Artmann was born May 12, 1975 in what was then Koblenz, West Germany. Although he was a child prodigy on the classical flute, performing at just 15 at the Aspen Music Festival in the United States, his parents tried to dissuade him from a career in music given their families’ struggles in postwar Germany. Artmann continued on anyway, even when he had to keep his obsessive studying and practicing a secret.

Although Christian Artmann made two recordings with pianist Philippine Duchateau (2007’s Good News and 2010’s Living Room, both released in 2017), his own leadership debut came with 2011’s self-released Uneasy Dreams. Fields of Pannonia arrived in 2015, followed by Our Story in 2018. The Middle of Life is his fourth album.

His clandestine passion for music continued into his years in higher education, with Artmann earning degrees at Princeton University (even as he whiled away his free time in the school orchestra) and Harvard Law School (while also studying composition and jazz performance at the nearby Berklee College of Music). He returned to Europe as accomplished on the flute as he was in academia—but even cosmopolitan Vienna couldn’t hold him for long, and Artmann came back to the States in 2005, moving to New York and beginning careers in both the corporate and creative worlds.

Reflecting on the album’s title, Artmann quotes a Buddhist poem: “’The world of dew is just a world of dew. And yet… and yet.’ What an amazingly succinct summary of our life! One fleeting moment in time, and yet so very valuable.” 

Saturday, May 06, 2023

New Music Releases: Jonathan Butler, Billy Childs, Donald Byrd, Joe Chambers

Jonathan Butler - Ubuntu

Legendary singer and songwriter Jonathan Butler traveled back to his home country of South Africa to craft his most exciting and deeply personal album to date. Featuring producer and bassist Marcus Miller, Ubuntu is a reintroduction of Jonathan Butler’s life story, going back 60 years to his upbringing in apartheid-era Capetown, which shaped his world view, prompted years of advocacy and instilled the ideology of ‘Oneness’ (Ubuntu). Featuring special guests Keb’ Mo’ and Stevie Wonder, the new album serves both as a rebirth of musical creativity and reconciliation with systemically biased history to forge a brighter future.

Billy Childs - The Winds Of Change

For his third Mack Avenue Records release, 5-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Billy Childs has assembled an all-star quartet with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade. On The Winds of Change, the critically acclaimed pianist/composer offers 5 brand new original compositions alongside exhilarating arrangements of Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” (originally on Corea’s 1972 ECM recording of the same name with vibraphonist Gary Burton) and Kenny Barron’s “The Black Angel” (originally on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s 1970 Atlantic recording of the same name) to push the creative boundaries of the group and inspire a collective new sound to pay homage to jazz legends and the artistry.

Donald Byrd - Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreux 

Donald Byrd’s dynamic 1973 live recording Live: Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreux is out now in its first-ever official release. The legendary trumpeter was fresh off his hit crossover fusion album Black Byrd produced by Larry Mizell, but in a live setting the 10-piece band had a rawer edge as this searing set from the Montreux Jazz Festival attests. The set list includes Larry Mizell’s tune “Black Byrd” along with otherwise unrecorded Byrd originals and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl.” It's available now on Blue Note Store exclusive blue vinyl, black vinyl, CD & digital. Watch video of Byrd performing “Poco-Mania.”

Joe Chambers - Dance Kobina

Drummer, percussionist, vibraphonist, composer & Blue Note legend Joe Chambers returns with the release of Dance Kobina, which explores the deep musical connection between Jazz, Latin, Brazilian, Argentinian & African music. The album was recorded in both New York & Montreal with musicians including pianists Andrés Vial & Richard Germanson, bassists Ira Coleman & Mark Lewandowski, saxophonists Marvin Carter & Caoilainn Power, vibraphonist Michael Davidson, and percussionists Elli Miller Maboungou & Emilio Valdes Cortes. Hear the vibrant title track “Dance Kobina.”


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