Thursday, August 31, 2023

Elvin Jones | "Genesis"

Elvin Jones, one of the true great drummers in jazz, recorded this album in 1971 after having led his own band for several years following his immortal work with the John Coltrane Quartet. This unique recording has a spacious feel with plenty of room for the players to work out the melodic compositions created by the members of the group. At times the recording creates an almost cinematic space, yet always propelling forward into unexpected territory. No pandering to contemporary tastes at this date or following the trends of the time, this is simply a great example of mature musicians given the freedom to create their own vision and place in time. Saxophonists Frank Foster and Dave Liebman instruments intertwine in a spellbinding way with opportunities to showcase Jones' incredible virtuosity as a drummer. 

An album that reveals itself to the listener slowly with new delights every time it's removed from the jacket. 313 Series Detroit has long held a shared respect with New York; a similar outlook on authenticity. Tough to describe, but you know it when you see it. Third Man Records and Blue Note Records share this respect and also a commitment to integrity regarding the musical legacies they support that extends to the collaboration happening on the 313 Series partnership. 

The five unique albums from the Blue Note catalog chosen for limited edition re-release by Blue Note Records President and Detroiter Don Was represent the best of the Motor City; innovative sounds, incredible playing and that inexplicable something you know is real. For an undertaking like this you have to walk the extra mile. The original tapes were sent to Third Man's Detroit mastering and pressing facility where their extensive all analog re-mastering process ensured that the albums delivered live up to the tradition they are part of. The Third Man Records team's commitment to audio purity means no corners can be cut; sound and mastering engineer Warren Defever's goal being to provide the closest possible approximation of the magic found on the original master's tape brought to your living room. 

From the lacquers cut in the studio on the Neumann VMS-70 Cutting Lathe to the 180 gram vinyl pressed across the hall, every step of the process is tested in the facilities against exacting standards. That's the Detroit way and the reason why the musical legacy from the 313 area code remains beloved around the world. Elvin Jones - drums Gene Perla - bass Frank Foster - tenor saxophone, alto flute Dave Liebman - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone Recorded at Van Gelder Studio - Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1971 by Rudy Van Gelde.

The Hutchinson Andrew Trio - The Senator: A Tribute to Tommy Banks | Cecile Strange - Beyond

The Hutchinson Andrew Trio - The Senator: A Tribute to Tommy Banks

The multiple-award-winning Hutchinson Andrew Trio (HAT) is a vital and distinctively western force on the Canadian and international jazz scene. Winners of the prestigious TD Grand Jazz Award at the 34th Annual Montreal International Jazz Festival and a four-time Western Canadian Music Awards nominee, HAT brings a unique perspective to their music inspired by the vast prairie landscapes and majestic Rocky Mountains that surround them. Downbeat Magazine made the group an Editor’s Pick and called them “a terrific listen, with great musicianship throughout.” The Senator pays tribute to the the Honourable Tommy Banks (1936-2018), a jazz legend who was both a world- class musician and a champion of the performing arts in his community. Banks - a pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, TV personality, actor, producer and politician - had an unparalleled, multi-faceted career spanning more than 60 years in virtually every aspect of the entertainment industry in Canada. A professional jazz pianist at age 14, he went on to lead his own bands, conduct symphony orchestras around the world, direct musical ceremonies at international events, host his own long-running television show, and act in film and television. He also served nearly 12 years in the Canadian Senate. Supported by the CKUA radio foundation, this album is a tribute to Banks’s legacy as an artist, but also to the important marks The Senator left on Alberta and Canada as a community leader, politician, and champion of the performing arts.

Cecile Strange - Beyond

Following her acclaimed 2021 release 'Blikan', which has seen Strange gain international recognition in the form of over 1 million plays on Spotify and reviews in wide-reaching publications including Downbeat magazine. The record is a melancholic, spacious, Nordic ode to the circle of life, both literally and conceptually. Recorded by four musicians (her dream team) arranged in a circle, the compositions reflect on those she loves, and those she has loved and lost. It begins with a song dedicated to the grandmother she lost when she was eight years old as well as to her daughter, both who share the name 'Alice'. 'Byssan Lull' is an interpretation of a lullaby Cecilie sings to her children, taught to her by her husband who had it sung to him by his mother when he was a child. 'Where My Heart Lives' is dedicated to her husband, with whom she has spent half of her life. 'Midnight Sun Upon Saltværsøya' was inspired by witnessing the eternal light on a small island off the coast of Norway. Lyrical, lamenting melodies are the focal point of 'Beyond', emerging from every corner of the ensemble and removing the boundaries between the improvised and the composed. Experienced ensemble playing, comforting harmony and sparse, intentional musicality create a sense of delicate intensity that demands to be listened to. This 'dream' quartet of pianist Peter Rosendal, drummer Jakob Høyer and bassist Thommy Andersson accompanied Cecilie on her previous two bodies of work. The mutual understanding and musical chemistry between us allows for a freer approach to ensemble playing she commented. There were no discussions regarding who would take what solo - the four simply arranged themselves in a circle and played. The result - with the addition of guest vocalist Josefine Cronholm on two tracks - is a dynamic, emotive and interactive recording that oozes togetherness and intimacy.

Terell Stafford | "Between Two Worlds"

Trumpeter/composer Terell Stafford explores the balance of personal and musical life in his spirited new album, Between Two Worlds.

Between Two Worlds is the result of Stafford's reexamination of these conundrums, and it speaks to his gifts as a leader that he's able to reconcile so many of them in such spirited fashion. It helps that he's joined by several musicians with whom he shares deep and longstanding relationships: Warfield is the Bird to his Diz, while Barth is a constant in Stafford's bands and Wong shares the stage with him every Monday as part of the renowned Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. All three are also faculty members at Temple. Blake is one of the first drummers that Stafford ever played with in Philly. Stafford refers to all of them, not lightly, as "family."

Acuña is a fellow member of a more recently formed family, the stable of artists convened by Le Coq Records, the label founded by former Flamenco dancer Piero Pata and vocalist Andy James.

Stafford pays loving tribute to his actual family on Between Two Worlds. The buoyant Latin rhythms of "Mi a Mia" are dedicated to his six year-old daughter, recently introduced to the montuno by her Costa Rica-born piano teacher. The gorgeous "Two Hearts As One," exemplifying Stafford's exquisite expressiveness on his horn, is an ode to his wife and their role as shared creators of a new life. "Wruth's Blues," meanwhile, is a boisterous nod to the composer's mother, who was getting a little impatient that her son had yet to write a tune in her honor.

The remainder of the pieces all carry their own significance. The title tune is one that Stafford had played many times before during his days in Lewis' band. Here it is taken at a simmering pace to kick off the proceedings, while the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" is a tender farewell to all those we've lost during these difficult last few years. Among them is the legendary pianist McCoy Tyner, whose "You Taught My Heart To Sing" serves as Stafford's send-off to one of his most important mentors.

Nate Wooley & Ivo Perelman Release Polarity 2

Tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpet player Nate Wooley, whose Polarity was one of the first two releases on Burning Ambulance Music, return for a second collection of intimate, deeply communicative duos. Perelman’s discography numbers in the triple digits at this point, but his encounters with Wooley — himself a deeply creative improviser who has performed in a wide range of contexts — are some of his most surprising and exciting. On this disc, Perelman even lays down the horn and includes vocalizations in his improvisations.

Nate Wooley (b.1974) was born in Clatskanie, Oregon and began playing trumpet professionally with his father, a big band saxophonist, at the age of 13. He made his debut as soloist with the New York Philharmonic at the opening series of their 2019 season. Considered one of the leading lights of the American movement to redefine the physical boundaries of the horn, Wooley has been gathering international acclaim for his idiosyncratic trumpet language.

Wooley moved to New York in 2001 and has since become one of the most in-demand trumpet players in the burgeoning Brooklyn jazz, improv, noise, and new music scenes. He has performed regularly with John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Eliane Radigue, Annea Lockwood, Ken Vandermark, Evan Parker, and Yoshi Wada. He has premiered works for trumpet by Christian Wolff, Michael Pisaro, Annea Lockwood, Ash Fure, Wadada Leo Smith, Sarah Hennies and Eva-Maria Houben.

In recent years, he has built a reputation as a composer of music epic in scope and social in design. His series of solo works based on the International Phonetic Alphabet, The Complete Syllables Music, was compared to the literary work of Georges Perec and hailed as “revolutionary solo repertoire” by All About Jazz. At the other end of the spectrum, his decade-long Seven Storey Mountain cycle has encompassed almost 50 different performers, the most recent version consisting of a 32-person ensemble. This iteration, Seven Storey Mountain VI, “expresses communality, with all of its potential for the profound and the spiritual,” according to Pitchfork. SSMVI appeared on many year-end lists, including as record of the year in El Intruso’s International Critics List and critic Peter Margasak’s personal list.

Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Ivo Perelman was a classical guitar prodigy who tried his hand at many other instruments – including cello, clarinet, and trombone – before gravitating to the tenor saxophone. His initial heroes were the cool jazz saxophonists Stan Getz and Paul Desmond. But although these artists’ romantic bent still shapes Perelman’s voluptuous improvisations, it would be hard to find their direct influence in the fiery, galvanic, iconoclastic solos that have become his trademark. 

Moving to Boston in 1981, to attend Berklee College of Music, Perelman continued to focus on mainstream masters of the tenor sax, to the exclusion of such pioneering avant-gardists as Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Coltrane (all of whom would later be cited as precedents for Perelman’s own work). He left Berklee after a year or so and moved to Los Angeles, where he studied with vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake, at whose monthly jam sessions Perelman discovered his penchant for post-structure improvisation: “I would go berserk, just playing my own thing,” he has stated.

Emboldened by this approach, Perelman began to research the free-jazz saxists who had come before him. In the early 90s he moved to New York, a far more inviting environment for free-jazz experimentation, where he lives to this day. His discography comprises more than 50 recordings, with a dozen of them appearing since 2010, when he entered a remarkable period of artistic growth – and “intense creative frenzy,” in his words. Many of these trace his rewarding long-term relationships with such other new-jazz visionaries as pianist Matthew Shipp, bassists William Parker, guitarist Joe Morris, and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

Critics have lauded Perelman’s no-holds-barred saxophone style, calling him "one of the great colorists of the tenor sax” (Ed Hazell in the Boston Globe); “tremendously lyrical” (Gary Giddins); and “a leather-lunged monster with an expressive rasp, who can rage and spit in violence, yet still leave you feeling heartbroken” (The Wire). Since 2011, he has undertaken an immersive study in the natural trumpet, an instrument popular in the 17th century, before the invention of the valve system used in modern brass instruments; his goal is to achieve even greater control of the tenor saxophone’s altissimo range (of which he is already the world’s most accomplished practitioner). 

New Music Releases: Jerry Bergonzi, Jiro Inagaki, Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen, and Jim Rotondi

Jerry Bergonzi - Extra Extra

Boston doesn't get enough credit as a jazz town. From the days of the Storyville club and Cambridge-based Transition label to the star factory that is Berklee College of Music, the city stands tall against more celebrated places like Chicago and Detroit. One big part of that high level of creative output is Jerry Bergonzi who, for this date, leads his most Bostonian band in recent memory, reuniting with trumpeter pal Phil Grenadier and drummer Luther Gray. Bassist Harvie S came up from New York for the gig and it was he who suggested guitarist Sheryl Bailey for the album. She completes the Boston connection with her position as the Assistant Chair of Berklee's legendary Guitar Department. "To work with Jerry and study and perform his music is the definition of a dream come true," says Bailey who has played with artists ranging from Ken Peplowski to Shingo Okudaira. Here, Bergonzi has convened a fine band for a compelling album, another feather in Boston's tricorn hat.

Jiro Inagaki - Selected by Yusuke Ogawa Universounds

Universounds, HMV Record Shop and 180g team up for an exceptional release in their highly acclaimed WaJazz series, to be out on Jiro Inagaki's 90th birthday, October 3rd, 2023, celebrating the life and music of one of the most iconic Japanese jazz musicians of the last 60+ years. This is the ultimate collection of music from legendary saxophone player Jiro Inagaki and his Soul Media band, covering their 1968-1980 golden age, releasing as a spectacular gold vinyl double LP with extensive and detailed liner notes by Universounds' Yusuke Ogawa, comments by Jiro Inagaki, and exclusive pics. 16 tracks of pure gold music spanning jazz, jazz-funk and jazz-rock, including an unreleased version of the track "Express" - first time on vinyl! Yusuke Ogawa has been running the Universounds store in Tokyo since 2001, specializing in jazz and second-hand, rare, and collector records. He is also a reissue supervisor, label manager, DJ, and music writer. Known for his vast musical knowledge, eye for detail, and archival skills, Ogawa has worked on more than 250 reissues and compilations - including the highly praised Deep Jazz Reality and Project Re: Vinyl series. He is the co-author of the Wa-Jazz Disc Guide and the Independent Black Jazz of America books.

Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen - A Swing Of It's Own

For singer and songwriter Hilde Louise Asbjørnsen, this album with one of Europe's most exciting Swing bands was an urge as natural as breathing. Recorded for a 2020 live gig, she dives headlong into hand-picked songs from her decades-spanning career. Gathering all the threads of inspiration through my years as a songwriter and jazz singer, this is the way they were always meant to be heard. A Swing of its Own took Hilde Louise back to the beginning, to a time when she was falling in love with jazz and spinning her mother's old jazz records on a turntable. And yet, nostalgia is notably absent here. Rather, the album brings back to life the sheer energy and irresistible pull of this music which first swept the USA and then the rest of the world. Hilde Louise's career has been a long and winding journey, but now, she feels, she has finally come home. And to those willing to open up this music - your heart is sure to follow her to that place, too.

Jim Rotondi - Over Here!

By titling his eighth Criss Cross album Over Here!, trumpeter Jim Rotondi picks up on the sentiments he signified with The Move, his seventh for the label. "It doesn't necessarily mean moving somewhere else, but rather returning home, playing tunes with a lot of straight-ahead swing and interesting chord sequences with guys I'm comfortable with, " Rotondi stated in the liner notes I wrote for that kinetic 2009 recital. The Album was recorded May 10, 2023 at the Artesuono Recording Studio in Udine (Italy). Recording engineer Mike Marciano did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two in NY. Photography by Mauro Cionci.

LiV Warfield - The Edge | George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

LiV Warfield - The Edge

LiV Warfield's live show has been described as like watching Tina Turner, Sade and James Brown all in one. Throw in Mary J. Blige, Etta James and Nina Simone and you're getting closer to an accurate description of singer-songwriter and dynamic performer LiV Warfield. 
A Soul Train Music Award winner and former member of Prince's New Power Generation, Warfield showcases her wide-ranging musical tastes on Edge.

From the rock-tinged title track, which bears the stamp of her mentor, to her autobiographical Bloom and her take on the Phil Collins' power ballad, Another Day in Paradise, LiV inhabits a myriad of attitudes while expressing her inner strength and soul on her third album overall and first for Leopard. As she said of the Prince flavored title track, which opens Edge: I had the lyrics written a couple years back, but Jay McK (bass), Ryan Waters (guitar) and Marlon Patton (drums) went into the studio and just came up with this track so fast. It was beautiful to witness. I just started swaying back and forth, thinking about the first time I met Prince and my auditioning process at Paisley Park. The first time I sang for him was quiet and a bit restrained. The second time I sang it was louder, more confident. I remember thinking, 'I'll just close my eyes, 'cause I don't want to look. I'll just feel with my heart. That should be all it takes.' And that is the feeling I wanted this song to have. It's very much a song about how 'Purple music' takes me. It's kind of a nod to Prince, a thank you of sorts for pulling me out of my comfort zone.

George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

George Coleman (born March 8, 1935) is an American jazz saxophonist best known for his work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in the 1960s. Coleman was born in Memphis, Tennessee and learned to play the alto saxophone in his teens. After his work with Ray Charles, George started working with B.B. King in 1953 and switched to playing the tenor saxophone. George Coleman was a member of legendary outfits such as Max Roach's quintet, The Slide Hampton Octet, Miles Davis' Quintet and The Chet Baker Quintet. The list of his collaborations is impressive to say the least, 

Mr. Coleman recorded and performed with greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Ahmad Jamal, Idris Muhammad, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Melvin Sparks, Art Blakey... and many others. Coleman was named an NEA Jazz Master, was added to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015, and received a brass note on the Beale Street Brass Notes Walk of Fame. George Coleman's performances were included on classic recordings released by prominent labels from the likes of Blue Note, Atlantic, Prestige, Strata-East, Muse, Verve and Impulse! On the album we are proudly presenting you today: Amsterdam After Dark (Recorded in 1978 at the famous NY Sound Ideas Studio and released on Timeless Records in 1979) the listener is treated to six majestic tracks of the highest caliber and features a remarkable outing of advanced musicianship by jazz-giants in their prime, delivering an inspirational gem of an album. The all-star line-up includes Sam Jones (Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster) on bass, Billy Higgins (Donald Byrd, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane) on drums and Hilton Ruiz (Roy Brooks, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins) on piano. Most players featured here were also part of the legendary 'Eastern Rebellion' collective responsible for releasing multiple ground-breaking albums over several decades. Amsterdam After Dark shows off George Coleman's mastery of the sax, his brilliant vintage techniques and deep soulful tones. Coleman plays from the heart and is on top of his game. 

Expect both original compositions as well as standards, beautiful ballads with elegant (yet fierce) solos alternating between the instruments, growling blues-oriented themes... this is a contemporary sounding Hard Bop & Post-bop crossover album and a must have for any self-respecting jazz fan or collector! Tidal Waves Music now proudly presents a much-needed and long overdue vinyl reissue of this classic jazz album (originally released in 1979 and out of print on vinyl since 1985). This reissue comes as a deluxe 180g vinyl edition (strictly limited to 500 copies worldwide) featuring the original artwork. This will also be the the first time the album is being released in North America and in the UK.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

New Music Releases: Monty Alexander, Chip Wickham, Trance Map, Steve Lehman And Orchestre National De Jazz

Monty Alexander - The Best Of The MPS Years

Monty Alexander has been one of the most popular pianists in jazz for over 50 years. Early on, his prodigious technique and wide-ranging style garnered comparisons with the great Oscar Peterson. But there has always been another side to Alexander’s playing. Usually, jazz grabs the upper hand, but on occasion he digs deep into his Jamaican roots. The 1974 We’ve Only Just Begun recording signals the beginning of Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander’s fruitful relationship with MPS, lasting over a decade and encompassing some dozen albums. On many he partners with no one else than fellow Jamaican and one of the fathers of ska, guitarist Ernest Ranglin. Among others, this Best Of includes tracks from Monty MPS classics like RASS!, Here Comes The Sun, Live At Montreux, We’ve Only just Begun, Monty Strikes Again, Cobilimbo, or the untitled Monty Alexander & Ernest Ranglin.

Chip Wickham - Love & Life

UK jazz master Chip Wickham follows last year’s brilliant soulful long-player Cloud 10 with a deftly crafted, reflective EP of beautiful spiritual jazz sounds influenced by the soulful sounds of Yusef Lateef. Chip’s music has always drawn from a broad world of influences from hip-hop to Roland Kirk and from classic funk to the classic ‘60s Brit-Jazz sound of Tubby Hayes. But Love & Life finds him foregrounding his wonderful flute playing and producing a perfect four- tracker of reflective, peaceful jazz that elevates and inspires as well as a trademark slice of boppish soul jazz – the jaunty Space Walk. A1. Space Walk A2. Love & Life B1. Seven Worlds B2. Slow Down Look Around

Trance Map - Etching The Ether

Trance Map+ is an electro-acoustic formation in constant motion. Founded by electronic musician, turntable player and sound designer Matt Wright and saxophonist Evan Parker, the band is in a constant process of transformation, renewal and expansion, both conceptually and also due to fluctuations in personnel. Etching the Ether features star trumpeter Peter Evans and percussionist Mark Nauseef. This new musical adventure began with a trio recording byParker, Wright and Evans, with Evan Parker asking Mark Nauseef for "intro, interludes and a coda", material which was added in post-production. "What arises in the process is a determinedly plural space, a temporal cubism, a dream time that's omnidirectional. Reverb is less an effect than a new relationship, echoing 'back' as it moves forward", writes Stuart Broomer in the liner notes.

Steve Lehman And Orchestre National De Jazz - Ex Machine

Ex Machina is a collaboration between saxophonist/composer Steve Lehman, whom the New York Times has called "a state-of-the-art musical thinker," and Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ) that goes far beyond anything attempted before by a jazz big band. Featuring compositions by Lehman and Frédéric Maurin, ONJ's artistic director, the work incorporates elements of French spectral harmony into it's compositional framework while also integrating live, interactive electronics developed at IRCAM in which abstract electronic sounds react to soloist improvisations in real-time. The new work is inspired by Lehman's Octet, whose groundbreaking work were the first to utilize spectral harmony's complex sonorities within a jazz context. Their critically-lauded releases Mise en Abime (Pi 2014) and Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi 2009) were voted the #1 album of the year in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll and the #1 jazz album of the year in The New York Times, respectively.

Miles Davis | "Seven Steps To Heaven"

The Vibrant Bridge Between Miles Davis' First and Second Great Quintets: Seven Steps to Heaven Teems with Originality, Expressivity, Cohesiveness, and Beauty Sourced from the Original Analog Master Tapes: Mobile Fidelity 180g Super Vinyl LP and Hybrid SACD Play with Superb Clarity, Detail, Tone, and Definition Grammy-Nominated 1963 Album Is a Harbinger of Things to Come: Features Definitive Title Track and 'Joshua' Seven Steps to Heaven arrived at a crucial junction in Miles Davis' career. Recorded at two separate locations in spring 1963, it served as Davis' first release in more than a year - a layoff that was then unprecedented for the jazz visionary who had issued at least one LP a year since debuting in the early '50s. Equally notable, Seven Steps to Heaven marks the point at which the core of Davis' Second Great Quintet started to assemble. 

The twice Grammy-nominated effort is also Davis' final studio record to blend standards with originals. And it happens to be one of the most expressive, well-played albums in the jazz canon. There's nary a passage on this landmark that isn't great. That Davis manages to make it feel so cohesive and seamless is a testament to the inspired performances and engaging compositions. Sourced from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity's 180g SuperVinyl LP and hybrid SACD of Seven Steps to Heaven add yet another step towards the bliss suggested by the album title. Playing with standout clarity, detail, tone, and balance, these audiophile reissues pull back the curtain on the instrumentalists. Afforded the tremendous advantages of SuperVinyl - including a nearly inaudible noise floor, dead-quiet surfaces, and superb groove definition - the numbered-edition LP version presents Davis and Co. Amid a wide, deep soundstage whose dimensions and solidity help bring the record's historical importance and musical merit into focus. 

The painstakingly mastered SACD does the same. And why not: The aptly titled Seven Steps to Heaven deserves nothing less.Numbered 180g 33RPM SuperVinyl LP1/4' / 15 IPS DOLBY SR ANALOG REMIX MASTER DSD 256 ANALOG CONSOLE LATHE Track List Side One:1. Basin Street Blues 2. Seven Steps to Heaven 3. I Fall in Love Too Easily Side Two:1. So Near, So Far 2. Baby Won't You Please Come Home 3. Joshua.

New Music Releases: Michael Musillami Trio, Mari Boine & Bugge Wesseltoft, Mike Clark, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

Michael Musillami Trio - Block Party

Block Party is veteran guitarist/composer Michael Musillami’s tenth Playscape Recordings release with his flagship trio, featuring bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller. Block Party celebrates the trio’s 20-year history as a working, touring, and recording ensemble. Jazz critic Robert Iannapollo writes from Block Party’s liner notes, “On December 18, 2002 they went into the studio and recorded their first album as a trio, Beijing, a superb album that got a lot of positive reviews. Released in 2003, not many gigs ensued in the U.S. However, in March of 2004, the trio toured Europe promoting the album and they started building a following.” Since that first release in 2003, the MM3 has been touring Europe, America, and Canada consistently over the past two decades. This aggressive work schedule continues today with a 20-year celebration tour set for November-December 2023 in Europe. “I am so proud of what we have accomplished over the past 20 years” says Musillami. “We’ve continued to play intelligent, expansive, powerful music, just as we did back in 2002. I think Block Party clearly demonstrates the consistent evolution of this dynamic trio.”

Mari Boine & Bugge Wesseltoft - Amane

Iconic Sámi - Norwegian folk artist Mari Boine is known as genre-bending trailblazer with a taste for jazz, folk, rock, and world. Returning with a new album after five years, she has again found something completely different inside her than anything heard before. The album 'Amame', co-written with Norwegian jazz artist Bugge Wesseltoft shows a different and more mature Mari Boine, accompanied by Wesseltoft's tender and responsive piano playing. Songs with seriousness and depth, sung by Mari Boine tells stories about love, human vulnerability, injustice, and struggle, but also about pride and dignity.

Mike Clark - Kosen Rufu With Eddie Henderson

Outstanding Drummer Mike Clark unites with Blue Note trumpeter Eddie Henderson, fellow Headhunter Bill Summers, Skerik, Wayne Horvitz and Blackjazz Records legendary bassist Henry Franklin for an amazing new release on Wide Hive Records. Kosen Rufu is 10 well crafted compositions that are drawn together by awesome musicianship and a classic version of Erik Dolphy's Hat and Beard. Mike Clark is one of the most sampled drummers in history. Here he reunites with Bill Summers; both were in many bands together and most notably Herbie Hancock's Thrust and Man Child. Joining the rhythm section is Henry Franklin on stand up Bass; known for his work with Hugh Masekela, Stevie Wonder and his eponymous release on Blackjazz Records. Also is the band are Skerik on saxophone (Galactic) and virtuoso pianist Wayne Horvitz.

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society - Dynamic Maximum Tension

Acclaimed as an “innovative composer, arranger, and big band leader” by the New Yorker, Argue’s accolades include multiple GRAMMY nominations and a Latin GRAMMY Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Doris Duke Artist Award, and countless commissions and fellowships. His prescient 2016Real Enemies, an album-length exploration of the politics of paranoia, was named one of the twenty best jazz albums of the decade byStereogum. LikeReal Enemies, Argue’s previous recordings—his debutInfernal Machinesand his follow-up,Brooklyn Babylon—were nominated for both GRAMMY and JUNO awards.

New Music Releases: Flora Purim, Steve Oliver. Kate Gentile, and Sofia Grant

Flora Purim - The Complete Warner Recordings

Flora Purim is a Brazilian jazz singer known primarily for her work in the jazz fusion style. She became prominent for her part in Return To Forever with Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke. She has recorded & performed with numerous artists, including George Duke, Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Santana, Mickey Hart, Jaco Pastorius, and her husband Airto Moreira. The Complete Warner Recordings contains the 3 albums she did for that label, Everyday Everynight, Nothing Will Be As It Was... Tomorrow & Carry On plus two rare bonus tracks, Tango Blues & Sad Song. Previous releases of these albums shorted some of the original tracks to fit on CD. This 2 CD set features all the original full length versions.

Steve Oliver - A New Light

With his latest project "A New Light", Oliver finds his way back into the glow of "smooth jazz" radio with a collection of originals that will surely please fans that have known his work for decades. Working with hit co-producer Michael "B" Broening, as well as longtime friend, saxophonist Jeff Kashiwa (featured on the title track), legendary drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Larry Antonino, Steve again conveys his deep passion for memorable compositions, subtle electronics, world influences, pop melodies, and jazz intricacies. Track Listing: 1. Slingshot 2. Skyway 3. Freedom Drive 4. New Heights 5. A New Light (feat. Jeff Kashiwa) 6. Sunkiss 7. A Kind Heart 8. Seven Wonders 9. Open Waters 10. A Simple Gift.

Kate Gentile - Find Letter X

Find Letter X, the eponymous release from the Brooklyn-based band led by drummer/composer Kate Gentile, features saxophonist Jeremy Viner, pianist Matt Mitchell, and bassist Kim Cass. Gentile's 2021 release Snark Horse - co-led with Mitchell - was a gargantuan six-volume set that Downbeat called "Monumental... Creating an abstract galaxy from scratch, they sound like they know every black hole and supercluster in the place." The similarly-ambitious new work - across three densely-packed CDs housed in a custom-designed package - bursts with inventive details and dramatic arcs. Each disc contains a distinct thematic identity while simultaneously contributing to a larger narrative trajectory. Meticulously-constructed and highly intentional, Find Letter X is a wide-ranging exploration of diverse sonics and contrasting forms: a vibrant feedback loop of virtuosic improvisational and compositional ingenuity entirely unified by Gentile's singular musical aesthetic.

Sofia Grant - Extinction

The debut release from Sofia Grant delves into the topic of environmentalism, a subject close to her heart and a topic foremost in the minds of many. With smoky vocals and accompanied by spectacular musicianship from the likes of Poppy Daniels, Ernesto Marichales, Lorenz Osengor Okello, Sofia has created a five track EP that introduces a noteworthy talent to the Jazz re: freshed catalog.In keeping with her values, Sofia specifically requested that the physical format be pressed on eco-friendly vinyl which produces a uniquely colored product that utilizes recycled materials and offsets carbon emissions created in it's manufacture.Tracklisting:1. Walk on Water (6:10)2. Extinction (4:51)3. Circular Motion (4:43)4. Ochre (5:53)5. Storm (5:10).

Grant Green - Live At Club Mozambique Grant Green (Vinyl)

Funk fans have been waiting for this one. Finally available on vinyl, Grant Green's near perfect slice of jazz funk and soul, Live at Club Mozambique, remastered and rendered back in the Motor City. Grant Green's band had been playing a series of live dates at Detroit's Club Mozambique, (before it became a fabled Male dance club) when this session was recorded live on two cold January nights in 1971. Powerhouse drummer Idris Muhammad and soulful tenor star Houston Person were brought in to supplement Green's current band featuring Ronnie Foster on organ and Clarence Thomas on Soprano and Tenor Sax and Blue Note producer Francis Wolff recorded. 

This treasure was never released, though, and (conjectures aside) remained in the Blue Notes vaults for 35 years before a 2006 CD release. Sounding incredibly fresh and live, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more real stamping of Grant Green at the top of his game. The LP blends extremely hypnotic and wild funk such as their opening cover of a local funk hit 'Jan Jan' by the Fabulous Counts next to laidback renditions of early 70's soul favorites 'Walk on By', 'Patches' and 'One More Chance' by the Jackson 5. It perfectly captures the magic of hearing a legendary band effortlessly doing their thing in a small club while the audience unwinds after a long work day. Green pulls it all together with his melodic genius and perfect delivery. Great artists make it seem so easy. No pretensions here, just a great band burning up the stage with unmistakable chemistry on what might be the ultimate jazz funk time capsule. Maybe you can't go back in time, but if you close your eyes and light a cigarette, you might be convinced you're sitting in a wood-paneled club on Detroit's Westside enjoying Grant Green and his band tear it up. 313 Series Detroit has long held a shared respect with New York; a similar outlook on authenticity. Tough to describe, but you know it when you see it. Third Man Records and Blue Note Records share this respect and also a commitment to integrity regarding the musical legacies they support that extends to the collaboration happening on the 313 Series partnership. 

The five unique albums from the Blue Note catalog chosen for limited edition re-release by Blue Note Records President and Detroiter Don Was represent the best of the Motor City; innovative sounds, incredible playing and that inexplicable something you know is real. For an undertaking like this you have to walk the extra mile. The original tapes were sent to Third Man's Detroit mastering and pressing facility where their extensive all analog re-mastering process ensured that the albums delivered live up to the tradition they are part of. The Third Man Records team's commitment to audio purity means no corners can be cut; sound and mastering engineer Warren Defever's goal being to provide the closest possible approximation of the magic found on the original master's tape brought to your living room. From the lacquers cut in the studio on the Neumann VMS-70 Cutting Lathe to the 180 gram vinyl pressed across the hall, every step of the process is tested in the facilities against exacting standards. That's the Detroit way and the reason why the musical legacy from the 313 area code remains beloved around the world. Grant Green - Guitar: Ronnie Foster - Organ: Idris Muhammad - Drums: Clarence Thomas - Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax: Houston Person - Tenor Sax: Recorded live at Club Mozambique - Detroit, MI 1971 by Francis Wolff.

The Tony Williams Lifetime | "Emergency!"

Miles Davis: 'I could definitely hear right away that this was going to be one of the baddest motherfuckers who had ever played a set of drums." The Tony Williams Lifetime's Emergency! Is a furious, stunning, seminal album. In 1969, it's explosive sound divided critics in both jazz and rock but is now rightly regarded as groundbreaking. A musical statement so bold and irreverent that it was revolutionary, it's one of the most important records you will ever hear. With Emergency!, provocative percussionist Tony Williams unified the most vital sounds of the era and galvanised the creation of jazz fusion. A sprawling double LP that shattered the boundaries between jazz and rock, it forged fresh frontiers by unleashing dense, courageous and fantastically mysterious music. 

The group was founded by Tony Williams, a member of Miles Davis' radical 1960s quintet, out of his desire to fuse the influences of modern jazz and rock music. To effectively meld the scorching bop of Coltrane with the raging rock of Hendrix, in the process crafting, as Mojo put it, 'jazz-rock's equivalent of Are You Experienced?'. The album's urgent title was profoundly significant for Williams: "It was an emergency for me to leave Miles and put that band together (... ) and I wanted to play an emerging music that was my own.' The band he formed was one hell of a power trio, comprising nothing but raw virtuosity: Williams's colossal drumming, John McLaughlin's pioneering, aggressive guitar playing and Larry Young's freeform organ work. The album's sound is incredibly fierce and inordinately intense. Indeed, the group were famed for playing "louder than rock'n'roll", as Herbie Hancock said of going to hear them live in 1969: 'This is something new... It was exciting and very arresting. It snatched you. It yanked you out of your seat." Ian Carr, of Nucleus, was equally impressed: 'The only other comparable band that existed... They were incredibly loud, but we liked what they were doing. Fundamentally they had a different approach from ours, with some very highly arranged things that featured Larry Young's organ blending with the guitar, as well as intricate passages where Tony doubled the melody on the drums.' 

Like all the very best records, Emergency! #takes multiple listens for your brain and body to decipher everything going on, to truly process and appreciate the details that our senses are throwing at us. It's a mesmerising, rough sound yet the intuitive interplay of all 3 musicians is super-tight. The tunes are strung out and jamming but retain a tight rhythmic focus. The incendiary title track immediately presents jazz-rock's chaotic birth. After Williams's ominous snare-roll signals the brewing storm, the snarling band blasts it's way through the gate in truly breathtaking fashion, fuzzed-up wahed-out guitar riffs vying for prominence with gnarled, insistent organ. Thrillingly, Williams manages to both acrobatically crash over every element of his drum kit while keeping the whole groove undeniably funky. 'Beyond Games' is a gloriously volatile freeform, featuring Williams' bugged out vocals, whilst the 12-minute 'Where' is another deep, wild jam. It's disorientating and humid with weird rhythms, abrupt vibe shifts and semi-classical lines running between guitar and organ. It's like nothing else you've ever heard, absolutely vital. With the buoyant "Vashkar", we begin to experience jazz-rock's many angles; imaginative melodics, taut dynamics and as torrent of searing heat. Perhaps the most economical track on Emergency!, it's the most instant. 

In a recent retrospective review in Pitchfork, Emergency! #received a monumental 9.0 ranking. The writer Hank Shteamer correctly gushed: 'Driven by a tumbling Williams pulse, the trio dances through the complex stop-start theme, ending each iteration with a dramatic full-band rest. Then, in the middle of McLaughlin's scrambling solo, Williams starts playing an embryonic version of an extreme-metal blastbeat, alternating snare and bass in rapid succession while rising precipitously in volume, as Young joins in with shuddering note clusters. During Young's solo, the organist seems to incite Williams to repeat the move with his increasingly frenzied lines, and soon all three musicians are hurtling toward a supernova climax.' WOW! The laconic 'Via the Spectrum Road', a brilliant pop-psych tune, was sampled by Showbiz & AG on their classic debut LP. It oscillates between a tranquil funk groove and strutting improv interludes. The pyrotechnic jam 'Spectrum' wakes things up again with pure, molten jazz lava and crazy soloing from all involved. A breathtaking, kaleidoscopic 13-minute cycle through ferocious noise, 'Sangria For Three' is a sublimely frenetic detonation of distilled (acid) jazz rock. To quote Shteamer again, 'Don't let the track's breezy title fool you: As much as, say, "Sister Ray" the year before or "Fun House" the year after, this is punk before punk.' Closer 'Something Spiritual' finishes this jaw-dropping set with a driving, unrelenting heavy guitar and organ freakout, backed high in the mix by Williams's untamed funk before unsettled dissonance rides us out. 

Listeners will be struck by the timelessness of Emergency!; dank, trance-inducing voodoo jazz that's intellectually challenging at the same time as viscerally thrilling. The blurred cover photo, whereby the convulsing vibrations of this sonic apocalypse ensure it looks exactly as the record sounds - out of focus - has been delicately restored at Be With HQ. Mastered for vinyl by Simon Francis and cut by Cicely Ralston for Alchemy at AIR Studios, the magnificent grit and spontaneity remains dizzyingly intact. If you're a jazz fusion fan and don't already have this, consider ownership of this record as an Emergency!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Chris Abrahams / Oren Ambarchi / Robbie Avenaim | "Placelessness"

Following nearly 20 years of working together as a trio, and numerous cross-collaborations in different configuration between them, Ideologic Organ presents Placelessness, the debut full-length by Chris Abrahams, Oren Ambarchi, and Robbie Avenaim, comprising two long-form works at juncture of ambient music, minimalism, rigorous experimentalism and improvisation, and machine music. Having carved distinct pathways across a diverse number of musical idioms for decades, Chris Abrahams, Oren Ambarchi, and Robbie Avenaim are each, respectively, among the most noteworthy and groundbreaking figures to have emerged from Australia's thriving experimental music scene. Ambarchi and Avenaim first encountered Abrahams when seeing the Necks - the project that has served as the primary vehicle for his singular approach to the piano since it's founding in 1987 - together during the late 1980s, not long after having met in Sydney's underground music community. 

The pair's collaborations date back more than 35 years, criss-crossing Ambarchi's pioneering solo and ensemble work for guitar and Avenaim's visionary efforts for SARPS (Semi Automated Robotic Percussion System), robotic and kinetic extensions to his drum kit. In 2004, fate brought the three together in a trio performance at the What Is Music? Festival, the annual touring showcase of experimental music founded and run by Ambarchi and Avenaim between 1994-2012. For the nearly two decades since, Abrahams, Ambarchi, and Avenaim have intermittently reformed in exclusively live contexts, in Australia and abroad, cultivating and refining the fertile ground first tilled in that early meeting. Placelessness is the first album to present this remarkable trio's efforts in recorded form. Placelessness is the joining of three highly individualised streams, working in perfect harmony; the point at which friendship, mutual respect, and decades of creative exploration produce a singular spectrum of sound. Featuring Abrahams on piano, Ambarchi on guitar, and Avenaim on drums, the album's two sides draw on each artist's enduring dedication to long-form composition. It's two pieces, Placelessness I and Placelessness II, initially began as a single, 40 minute work, before being divided and reworked into distinct, complimentary gestures for the corresponding sides of the LP. Beginning with restrained clusters of reverberant piano tones, Placelessness I progresses at an almost glacial pace, with Abrahams' interventions increasing met by sparse responses, darting within vast ambiences, on guitar and percussion by Ambarchi and Avenaim.

Remarkably conversational within it's convergences of tonal, rhythmic, and textural abstraction, over the work's duration a progressive sense of tension unfurls and contracts, refusing release, as each of the ensemble's members contribute to an increasingly tangled sense of density at it's resolve.While an entirely autonomous work, Placelessness II rapidly realises a distillation of the energy hinted at across the length of it's predecessor. Following a luring passage of harmonious calm, Abrahams' launches into shimmering lines of repeating arpeggios, complimented at each escalation of tempo by Avenaim's machine gun fire percussion work and Ambarchi's masterful delivery of tonality and texture, as the trio collectively generate dense sheets of pointillistic ambience within which individual identity is almost lost, before slowly unspooling into unexpected abstractions and dissonances that deftly intervene with the work's inner logic and calm. What could easily be termed a maximalist take on Minimalism, Placelessness is a masterstroke of contemporary, real time composition, that blurs the boundaries between ambient music, experimentalism, free improvisation, and machine music. Drawing on Chris Abrahams, Oren Ambarchi, and Robbie Avenaim's decades of respective solo and collaborative practice, and the culmination of nearly twenty years of working together as a trio, it's two durational pieces - Placelessness I and Placelessness II - take form with a startling sense of effortlessness and grace, neither shying away from explicit beauty or rigorously tension within their forms.

New Music Releases: Yussef Dayes, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Jiro Inagaki & Soul Media, and Lage Lund

Yussef Dayes - Black Classical Music

Black Classical Music is Yussef Dayes’ nineteen-track debut solo studio album. His drum licks and Rocco Palladino’s bass are the sturdy anchors, aided by Charlie Stacey (keys/synths), Venna (saxophone), Alexander Bourt (percussion), and a host of features including: Chronixx, Masego, Jamilah Barry, Tom Misch, Elijah Fox, Shabaka Hutchings, Miles James, Sheila Maurice Grey, Nathaniel Cross, Theon Cross, and the Chineke! Orchestra—the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up of majority Black and ethnically diverse musicians.

Jeff Lorber Fusion - The Drop

Jeff Lorber's funkiest album yet, featuring an amazing allstar lineup including Grammy winning jazz greats Jimmy Haslip, Paul Jackson, Jr, Snarky Puppy's Marc Lettieri, Gary Novak, David Mann and more! Grammy winning superstar keyboardist, writer, producer Jeff Lorber is renowned as a pioneer in the Jazz-Fusion movement. Scoring #1 radio hits with Jeff Lorber Fusion and as afounding member of Smooth Jazz super-group Jazz Funk Soul, Lorber performs constantly before his dedicated fans from coast to coast!! Highlights include the uber-funky "The Drop," the warm, intimate "Hang Tight," the bright, uplifting "Reception," and more Lorber originals.

Jiro Inagaki & Soul Media - Funky Stuff

'Masterpiece of Japanese Jazz and Jazz Funk to be re-released on clear pink colored vinyl! A masterpiece of jazz rock by master musician Jiro Inagaki! Jazz Rock, and beyond. Soul Media, led by Jiro Inagaki, has arrived at the ultimate groove, tight and cool. As Inagaki himself says, 'I did black funk.' By combining the burst of jazz rock he had cultivated up to that point with the tenacity and elasticity of black music, his musicality took a leap to another dimension. The groove is polished, shiny, and bewitching, coupled with the masterful arrangements of virtuoso Hiromasa Suzuki. The lively and fast 'Painted Paradise,' the funkiness and mellowness of 'Breeze,' the low center of gravity and sharpness of 'Kool & the Gang,' and 'Funky Stuff' are all part of this album. The entire album is worth listening to, including a cover of 'Funky Stuff. This is a definitive masterpiece that continues to be a worldwide favorite.

Lage Lund - Terrible Animals

Terrible Animals is perhaps the most compositionally ambitious and daringly performed of Lage Lund's five albums on Criss Cross Joined by a never-before-convened, top-of-the-pyramid rhythm section (Sullivan Fortner, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums) the now 45 - year old presented ten far-flung originals that elicit the full measure of their creativity over the 68-minute program, spurring Lund - who makes ingenious use of effects within his flow - to some of his most dynamic and varied playing on record. The Album was recorded April 27, 2018 at the Systems Two Studio in NY. Recording engineer Mike Marciano also did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two in NY. He also did the vinyl remastering. Cover drawing by Robbin Veldman.

New Music Releases: Herb Alpert, Beatrice Andrews, Giant Walking Robots, and Aaron Diehl & The Knights

Herb Alpert - Wish Upon A Star

2023 release. What happens when you wish upon a star? You get new music from Herb Alpert, of course! The prolific trumpet player returns at age 88 with his new studio album (his 49th!) Wish Upon A Star. Filled to the brim with new takes on classic songs we've known and loved for decades, this set of music continues to serve up the unmistakable trumpet playing of the Tijuana Brass master. Herb covers everything from Jerry Reed's "East Bound And Down" to Elvis' "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" and the Beatles' "And I Love Her". Other hits include "Father And Son", "We've Only Just Begun" and the titular song "When You Wish Upon A Star". Let Herb be your Jiminy Cricket through the magical, musical journey of Wish Upon A Star.

Beatrice Andrews - Hurricane

Chicago's Beatrice Andrews makes her debut with the powerful folk pop energy of "Hurricane". The track brings the young artist's energy to light with the masterful production of the legendary Jim Tullio (Mavis Staples, Los Lonely Boys, Levon Helm). While Beatrice is a young artist, her messages and songs are made to strike a chord with listeners of all ages, with "Hurricane" being the first single leading up to her debut album release from Color Red in October 2023. Get ready for this up-and-coming artist to reside in the ranks of indie pop stars such as Phoebe Bridgers and Lizzy McAlpine.

Giant Walking Robots - People Get Ready

Rooted in reggae, infused with jamtronica, and charged by drum and bass, Giant Walking Robots present a sound both familiar and forward-thinking. The dynamic four-piece – out of Denver, Colorado – blend entrancing melodic grooves with a heavyweight rhythm section, while allowing their jams to breathe and explore. Giant Walking Robots reimagines Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” with their signature sound infusing reggae, rock, and synth dub. The group comprised of Denver powerhouses Dave Halchak (vocals & guitar), Wilson Kava (guitar & vocals), George Demopoulos (bass), and Matt Schooley (drums) recorded the track at Color Red Studios putting their personal touch on the gospel & soul classic with bright reggae grooves and warm lush guitars that acknowledges the soulful original while nodding to futuristic flavors Aiming to bridge the gaps between rock, reggae, jam, and electronica, this project was born out of the desire to hear dub sections dig deeper and travel further. Such clever interplay between seemingly disparate genres enables Giant Walking Robots to push the dancefloor’s vibes directly into the future.

Aaron Diehl & The Knights

Critically acclaimed pianist and composer Aaron Diehl's passion for the work of Mary Lou Williams is realized in the release of Zodiac Suite -- the first fully-fledged professional recording of this incredible arrangement. Orchestrated by Williams, this recording gives insight into her greater ambitions for the work, despite setbacks she faced during its premiere in 1945. Diehl and the Knights, with Eric Jacobsen, showcase the composer’s imagination and vision in a suite dedicated to some of her closest friends and collaborators. Mary Lou Williams wrote "Libra" in dedication to Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk—her “very beautiful friends." She described those who fall under this sign as "very charitable people.” The orchestral version not only brings out even more of the melodic and harmonic beauty, but the main theme is repeated three times, first by trumpet (played by Brandon Lee), and then twice in short piano solos. Due out September 15 (180-gram Vinyl / CD)Vinyl Release in Partnership with the American Pianists Association.

Bob Baldwin | "Henna"

Bob Baldwin s 31st offering is a natural feeling. The beauty of our earth produces so many great and prosperous things. In fact, people have actually lived off of the virtues of this beautiful earth, says the native New Yorker. Bob s latest has layers of drums, percussion and his own organic keyboard and piano elements of the 1970 s closes the deal. Tracks 1-6 feature his NY-based band of 30 years with Dave Anderson (bass), Tony Lewis (drums), and Café Da Silva (percussion). 

The album includes the previously-released but newly mixed Club Life , which features over 10 solos on one track, with Tom Browne, Marion Meadows, Lori Williams, Ragan Whiteside, Oli Silk, U-Nam, Nils, Brooke Alford, Walter Beasley, Rohn Lawrence, Barry Danielian, Marcus Anderson, and Baldwin on production and track arrangement. It s a smooth jazz classic for the ages. Other songs include the aforementioned flutist Whiteside, who has blazed the Top-five Billboard charts four times since 2017. She appears on the first single Long Weekend (See You on Tuesday). The aforementioned DC vocalist, Lori Williams, lays her warm sultry tones on No Longer Lost, a Stevie-type throwback track with a simple pop edge seen through the jazz lens of Baldwin ala Quincy Jones. 

The album closes with another organic moment, as he s accompanied with his 10-year Atlanta-based crew of J-Fly (drums) and Tres Gilbert (bass). They offer their funky Southern tones to Fly Breeze and In The Moment , with the latter being an extended remix by Baldwin. I have a hard time trying to fade a good track, so we went with the flow and extended it, laughs Baldwin. He dedicates the vibe of the project to two of his favorite contemporary pianists, George Duke and Joe Sample, who both passed earlier this decade. He met both legends in his musical travels, and even spoke with them both just weeks before their untimely death. you must know that us Pianists/Keyboardists have to stick together. Sample and Duke were great artists and great elders of the genre. I learned a lot from the fruit they bear, says Baldwin. - City Sketches Records

Ember features saxophonist/trumpeter Caleb Wheeler Curtis, bassist Noah Garabedian and drummer Vincent Sperrazza

The meaning of August in March, the title of the third album from the Brooklyn-based collective trio Ember, doesn’t allow for easy interpretation. Is it a lament over the accelerating pace of modern life? A protest against climate change? Simply a bit of lyrical wordplay, or an intentionally obscure puzzle? It could be any of those things, or all at once – Ember isn’t telling. But the mere fact that the phrase is so evocative and open-ended, an invitation to creative examination, may be more to the point. Those are, after all, among the guiding principles of this adventurous and exploratory trio.

“I think that August in March is sort of confusing but at the same time oddly poetic,” ventures saxophonist and trumpeter player Caleb Wheeler Curtis. “It connects in multiple ways to things that we care about.”

Released August 11, 2023, via Orrin Evans’ Imani Records imprint, August in March itself is a vivid representation of the musical, interpersonal and community-oriented ideas that the three forward-thinking musicians that make up Ember – Curtis, bassist Noah Garabedian and drummer Vincent Sperrazza – care deeply about. As Garabedian says, “This record is the most honest representation of who we are. We've always been heading in the direction of this kind of simplicity and exploration, but compositionally this is the clearest expression of who we want to be as a band.”

Sperrazza continues, “What energizes us is the sense that we're part of a much wider moment, connected to a lot of our peers while standing on the shoulders of our mentors and inspirations.” Curtis picks up the idea, saying, “If you can call three people a community, we're trying to create this open environment where the music is shared between us and then shared with whoever's hearing it. August in March is a continuation of that journey.” 

Ember’s journey began directly through the members’ participation in that wider community of creative musicians. Sperrazza and Garabedian met at a session hosted by trombonist Jacob Garchik and bonded over a shared love of a wide spectrum of jazz styles, from the traditional to the avant-garde. The drummer recalls his first encounter with Curtis, when the saxophonist called Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellotone” at a jam session. All three became fast friends and eager collaborators, leading to the recording of New Year in 2018, released under their individual names. They’d become the collective Ember by 2021, when they invited Orrin Evans to join them for their follow-up, No One Is Any One.

In regards to Ember, “collective” has a far deeper meaning than just a co-led band where all three members contribute tunes. The music on August in March in particular seems like an object that can be looked at from any angle, any perspective, and still feel complete. The album’s eleven concise but intricate pieces defy attempts to pinpoint a leader or a soloist, instead feeling at all times like a vibrantly cooperative effort.

“Most of the process of playing together is listening to each other, allowing each other to do what we do and finding a way to fit into that,” Curtis explains. “Most of our rehearsals are spent talking and catching up and getting to know each other personally. The playing is just a continuation of that.”

That communal spirit yields an environment where all three feel comfortable taking risks. Always known as an alto saxophonist, on August in March Curtis plays the stritch (straight alto), trumpet and reed trumpet for the first time. While Garabedian and Sperrazza stick with bass and drums on the album, they’ve both been known to venture into percussion or vocals in live settings, which have also proved amenable to a number of guests open to diving into the deep end with them. Garabedian also experimented with new compositional forms on the album, including the arco-focused title track and the deceptively complex, through-composed “Easy Win,” along with the slithering, stealthy “Snake Tune.”

 “This band is a space that allows and encourages me to move forward in different directions and try new things,” Garabedian says. “In terms of vulnerability and growth, I'm certainly exploring new ways to play the bass and interact musically.”

The trio’s empathetic bonds shine through on “No Signal,” a delicate free improvisation that leads into “Easy Win,” maintaining a balance between the spontaneous and the composed that can also be found within their individual pieces. Curtis contributes four: the airy, slowly unfurling opener, “Suspense;” the bop fragment “Sink and Swim;” “Flotation Device and the Shivers,” which sustains its taut tension through on a relentless bass pulse; and the jabbing blues “Break Tune.” 

Sperrazza’s trio of pieces include the backbeat groove of “Frank in the Morning,” the labyrinthine “Angular Saxon” (the pun borrowed from Errol Garner, the serrated feel from Tim Berne), and the soulful, aptly-named “Sam Cooke.” Beyond simply being a tribute to one of the greatest R&B singers, the latter is also another mission statement for the trio.

“Sam Cooke is someone that hardcore music fanatics get really excited about,” Sperrazza explains, “but you'll also hear one of his songs at a wedding in suburban New Jersey. Not a lot of people so naturally occupy both those zones, and that's important to us. If it's good, it's for everybody.”

The Brooklyn-based collaborative trio Ember finds itself at the crossroads of musical and personal exploration, resulting in true band-hood and non-hierarchical playing. Each of the members - Caleb Wheeler Curtis (alto saxophone, trumpet), Noah Garabedian (bass), and Vincent Sperrazza (drums) - is an integral part of the NY creative music community as leader, collaborator and instigator. The trio’s music is organized but open and expressive, opening up the true freedom of improvisation, exploration, and creativity. Their 2018 debut New Year (released as Curtis+Garabedian+Sperrazza) was followed in 2021 by No One Is Any One, which also featured pianist Orrin Evans.


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