Saturday, September 30, 2023

New music releases: Gregory Porter, lophiile, Apollo Suns and Hiromi

Gregory Porter – Christmas Wish

Gregory Porter, with his customary class, elegance and sophistication, presents his new holiday album Christmas Wish – a cool yule selection of festive favorites as well as brand new songs written by the singer himself. Backed by his long-time band, produced by repeat collaborator Troy Miller in New York and London, with orchestral contributions recorded at Abbey Road, and featuring powerhouse guest vocalist, double Grammy-winning sensation Samara Joy, Gregory Porter’s seventh studio album is a loving tribute to his favourite time of year – and to great songwriters, singers and interpreters including Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Dinah Washington. Across its dozen tracks, Christmas Wish encompasses the saintly and the secular, the funky and the fun, the Great American Songbook and the best of Motown. With Christmas Wish, Gregory Porter has given us a whole new soundtrack to this most wonderful time of year. 

lophiile The Good Days Between

Multi-instrumentalist and producer lophiile releases The Good Days Between, a vibrant new collection that comes out via Bluewerks. The 8-track EP further solidifies lophiile’s reputation as a torchbearer for a new generation of producers melding jazz, hip-hop, and R&B sounds. The latest sonic adventure from lophiile is a musical diary of his time spent living in London, a heartfelt ode to the creative melancholy of the city's atmosphere, weather, and music. The rhythms, harmonies, and textures intertwine into a mosaic that pays tribute to an enchanting and somber muse. The Good Days Between marks lophiile’s first release since his 2019 EP To Forgive, which followed his work as a member of Radiant Children, a contemporary R&B trio who released their debut EP TRYIN' in 2018.

Apollo Suns – Departures

Departures, the debut LP from Winnipeg psychedelic jazz-funk collective Apollo Suns via Do Right! Music, finds the band evolving across new styles and moods, encompassing the shifting tides of the pandemic years. The band stayed busy then, writing over Zoom with midi-programmed instruments in a recording interface. When restrictions relaxed, they flew Juno award-winning producer Ben Kaplan (Bootsy Collins, Five Alarm Funk) to Winnipeg to record the new songs at No Fun Club over 10 days, re-igniting the chemistry of their high-energy live shows. Departures is a cinematic journey inspired as much by artists like Lettuce, Frank Zappa, Goblin, as film, TV and video game scores and soundtracks like those for The Warriors, Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Lupin III, and The Legend of Zelda. The band combines classic compositional techniques with synths and electronics, showcasing genre-melding finesse. Introducing strings, acoustic guitar, grand piano, and lap steel into the mix, Apollo Suns explore the visceral and heavy, the elegant and ethereal, epic house rock to New Orleans-y brass, proggy pathways, string-backed balladry, greasy stank-face funk and beyond, reflecting the many emotions of the pandemic’s unpredictable days.

Hiromi - Sonicwonderland

“Reminiscence” is the second IG track from Hirmoi’s upcoming album, Sonicwonderland and features vocalist Oli Rockberger. Hiromi announces Sonicwonderland, the internationally celebrated and GRAMMY-winning pianist and composer’s new album, out October 6 (Telarc/Concord).  Sonicwonderland represents a new musical adventure for the constantly evolving pianist and composer, who is a star in her native Japan. Recorded with a new quartet, called Hiromi’s Sonicwonder, the album features 9 new works with Hadrien Feraud (bass), Gene Coye (drums) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). Artist Quote: “In 2021, I wrote this piece called ‘Reminiscence’ and heard [Oli Rockberger] singing in my head. So I called him and I said, ‘I wrote this song and I’m hearing your voice. Would you like to co-write the lyrics?’ I thought the song would be perfectly fitting with the sound of this band, so we decided to record it on this album and I’m so happy with how it turned out.” - Hiromi. Hiromi's Sonicwonder band tours US in Oct (Seattle, Santa Cruz, Stanford, New York, Raleigh).

The Adam Deitch Quartet - Roll The Tape

Beyond his sheer virtuosity and versatility, drummer Adam Deitch has proven to be a musician of perpetual motion. In just over a year’s time, he has been the driving force behind psychedelic funk veterans Lettuce’s eighth studio album Unify, released a hip-hop beats album 'Take Your Time', and now returns with the second LP release from his soul-jazz project The Adam Deitch Quartet entitled Roll The Tape. Available via Deitch’s imprint Golden Wolf Records on November 10, 2023, the forthcoming album exemplifies his unwavering commitment to producing authentic music from a broad spectrum of styles, all rooted in his tutelage of rhythmic studies & groove, and his upbringing as a drummer from a young age. Deitch is joined by organist Wil Blades, Lettuce cohorts Eric “Benny” Bloom on trumpet and Ryan Zoidis on saxophone, and the lead single “Mushroom Gravy,” available today, features legendary guitarist John Scofield.

“Mushroom Gravy” is a tribute to Deitch’s Grandma Betty’s chicken mushroom gravy. He cites that she was pivotal in his development as a drummer as her brother and his Great Uncle Dave was the first drummer in their family and helped his father, Bobby Deitch, become a professional musician. Scofield, who joins the quartet after appearing on three tracks on the group’s debut album Egyptian Secrets, has worked with Deitch since the early 00s and has keen insight into his evolution as a musician and bandleader. “It’s tremendous fun to play with the quartet because they fully understand where I’m coming from and hopefully I ‘get’ them the same way. I think Adam and I have very simpatico concepts in music,” says Scofield of their musical chemistry.

Of their collaborative history and Adam’s inherent impact he imparts with his collaborators, Scofield continues, “When I first played with Adam, I knew he was right for me. This kind of chemistry is hard to come by and I’ve only had it a handful of times in my life. Eric Krasno recommended Adam. When we first played together, I liked it so much that I had to change drummers in the band immediately. The result was Uberjam. This period marked a new direction in my career and without Adam, it wouldn’t have worked as well. I’ve heard him improve and get better—more refined—from that original already great drummer that I met way back when. He’s an excellent musician and one of the very best drummers period.”

Roll The Tape was a 1-2 punch effort coming off the heels of Lettuce recording their next full-length album as Blades flew in to join Deitch, Bloom, and Zoidis for a session at Scanhope Sound. Written on ProTools in his home studio in Denver, Colorado, Deitch composed and arranged all parts for the quartet and provided demos for the band to learn on the spot, much like the quartet’s debut LP Egyptian Secrets. “I’d bring the tunes in, play them on the computer, have the guys learn them as fast as possible, and then ‘roll the tape,” Deitch says of the rigor of the back-to-back sessions and marathon studio effort that contrasted the band’s debut effort recorded in two sessions over the course of five years. While the process may seem overwhelming at first glance, Blades speaks to it being a testament to Deitch’s thorough composition process and wholeness as a musician, “I don’t change much of anything at all. All of the harmonies and voicings are spot on. I grew up as a drummer, so the way Adam plays organ is the way I’m already playing organ.”

The quartet was formed when Deitch and Blades joined forces to play a last-minute late-night show at Boom Boom Room in San Francisco after Lettuce performed at The Fillmore and Tedeschi Truck Band performed at Bill Graham Civic Center in December 2013. The impromptu after-show featured an array of special guests including Zoidis and Bloom along with Eric Krasno (Soulive), Maurice “Mo Betta” Brown (Anderson .Paak), and James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band) and Kofi Burbridge (Tedeschi Trucks Band), both who left this earth all too soon. After additional performances at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and some one-offs, Deitch knew the project had to continue and took the reigns to get the group in the studio.

‘Roll The Tape’ features ten brand-new songs that transcend the traditional organ trio format and are accentuated by Deitch’s prowess for funk, breakbeat, hip-hop, and electronic music experiences coupled with highlighting the strengths of every musician in the group. “Wil and I are both basketball fans and homies. He is highly skilled with the organ pedals and lefthand bass and is super smart and easy to work with. Zoidis and Bloom always balance each other out with Zoidis bringing a psychedelic vibe with his effects and Benny bringing his wild, crazy Benny attitude as a great musician with great showmanship,” says Deitch.


Jack Lee and Nathan East - Heart And Soul

“Heart and Soul” is a new concept album of spiritual melodies by legendary bass guitarist Nathan East and Korean Jazz guitarist Jack Lee. This album, a fusion of gospel ethos and jazz virtuosity, is a testament to the power of music to uplift and inspire, especially in these challenging times.

This album transcends the traditional boundaries of the genre; it’s a narrative of hope and resilience, delivered through a rich tapestry of sounds and brilliant performances featuring acclaimed talents; Grammy Award winning pianist John Beasley, legendary drummer Steve Ferrone, and son of Nathan East and organ prodigy Noah East.

Drawing on their extensive backgrounds, East and Lee channel their creativity to craft music that resonates deeply with the human spirit, encapsulating emotions we’ve all felt, yet often struggle to articulate.

From haunting melodies of Bach’s “Joy of man’s desiring”, Gabriel Faure’s Libera Me (from Requiem suite), and Stevie Wonder’s “Have a Talk with God”, Paul Simon’s “Bridge over troubled water” to two heartfelt original compositions (“Heaven Knows” by Jack and “Heart and Soul” by Nathan), along with a very special passionate vocal performance by Japan’s star vocalist, Ayaka Hirahara, and a few contemporary popular gospels and hymns interpreted in unique and creative ways, East and Lee’s synergy and shared vision shines through these recordings with the contributions of the featured artists, and the overarching theme of hope, love and resilience.

”Heart and Soul” is more than just music; It is a glorious power of artistic collaboration and a celebration of the gospel spirit with rich palette of sounds and emotions, infusing the higher and broader messages of love and passion.

Eric Krasno & Stanton Moore - Krasno/Moore Project: Book of Queens

Grammy Award-winning guitarist Eric Krasno and Grammy Award-winning drummer Stanton Moore celebrate women musicians worldwide through their debut joint album Krasno/Moore Project: Book of Queens. The Concord Jazz release is the first official studio collaboration between the longtime friends, who have known each other since the mid-90s. After sharing a stage during last year’s Jazz Fest, Krasno and Moore set off to create a new body of work that would make their wives proud. They teamed up with organist Eric Finland to recreate some of their favorite songs by musical queens. The result is a stunning collection of covers that sound vaguely familiar, yet quite unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. 

Recorded at the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, and mixed by Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Wilco), Krasno/Moore Project: Book of Queens is a moving tribute to women in music. Krasno’s laid-back guitar licks and Moore’s in-the-pocket grooves, transport listeners to the rich musical history of Levon’s upstate barn. Across nine songs, the longtime friends serve up a steady fusion of jazz, soul, and blues, putting a refined instrumental spin on the work of Billie Eilish, Aretha Franklin, H.E.R., Brittany Howard, Sharon Jones, Peggy Lee, Kacey Musgraves, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse. The album features special guest appearances by Cory Henry, Branford Marsalis, and Robert Randolph.

Arriving alongside the album, Krasno/Moore Project share a swingin’ version of Amy Winehouse's iconic “You Know I'm No Good.” Listen here:

The single follows their previously released covers of Brittany Howard’s “Stay High (feat. Cory Henry)” and Billie Eilish’s “Lost Cause.” 

“This song in particular has a very haunting quality to it. When Kraz suggested doing this song, I instantly heard that this swampy groove that we put on it would work. I made a loop of this beat and sent it to Kraz and Finland. They overdubbed their parts to what I sent so we could get an idea of what it would sound like. With the three of us playing on this demo together with each of our sounds, especially Kraz's airy reverb, I knew we were headed toward a concept that could be very cool and unique and we were off to the races!” – Stanton Moore

Eric Krasno and Stanton Moore first met in the mid-90s, when Eric was attending college in Northampton, MA. Stanton frequently passed through the area on tour and Eric became a fan of his drumming. Eager to make an impression on Stanton, Eric would always give Stanton demos of his latest guitar work. Stanton listened to these recordings and soon realized that kid Krasno was on to something with his eccentric guitar work. Krasno went on to found Lettuce and Soulive, while Moore founded Galactic and Garage-a-Trois. Through their various projects, the pair have crossed paths and shared stages countless times over the past 25 years, forging a friendship along the way. After a joint gig during Jazz Fest 2022, Krasno and Moore had an honest sit down about putting their musical ideas on paper. Reflecting on the role their families have played in their lives and how they wanted to create something that would make their wives proud, they decided to form the Krasno/Moore Project, an organ trio featuring Berklee college grad and Hammond B3 organist/keyboardist Eric Finland.

Friday, September 29, 2023

WAR: The Remixes

With more than 20 gold, platinum and multi-platinum records, WAR have cemented their righteous strains of funk and soul in the fabric of global culture and consciousness. But in the 50 years since The World is a Ghetto made the Southern Californian street band a crossover sensation and became the best-selling album of 1973, the group's sound has continued to transcend genres and generations. 

To further mark the 50th Anniversary milestone of The World is a Ghetto, WAR announce a brand new collection called WAR: The Remixes. Out May 12th on Avenue / Rhino Records, the EP expands the influence of WAR's music on the worlds of contemporary hip-hop, as esteemed DJs, producers and musicians including Beastie Boys turntablist Mix Master Mike, DJ Logic, Jesse Perez, Preditah and Saxsquatchreimagine eternal hits like "The World is a Ghetto," "Spill The Wine," "Why Can't We Be Friends" and more that spans several of the band's magnum opuses. 

Across WAR's six decades and counting, the band spread its messages of harmony and inclusion through songs that have soundtracked the anti-Vietnam movement, Watergate, the first Congressional Black Caucus, the first US-Soviet space mission and multiple Barack Obama summer playlists. Bolstered by the gold-selling success of the title track and the boundary-breaking power of "The Cisco Kid," The World is a Ghettotopped Billboard's pop and R&B charts, launching WAR's legacy not only of creative and commercial triumph, but of timely and timeless relevance. Music from The World is a Ghetto has been sampled by 2Pac, A$AP Mob, Cypress Hill, DJ Shadow, Janet Jackson, Method Man and Scarface, among others, while the likes of De La Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Shaggy and many more have honored and celebrated WAR throughout the years. 

Led by Lonnie Jordan, WAR remains one of the busiest bands on the road today, and throughout 2023 they will headline dozens of shows, in addition to appearing at festivals like BottleRock Napa Valley and more to be announced soon.

WAR: The Remixes Tracklist

  • "Slippin' Into Darkness" (Mix Master Mike Remix)
  • "The World is a Ghetto" (Mix Master Mike Remix)
  • "Why Can't We Be Friends" (Saxsquatch & Stephen Walking Remix)
  • "Spill The Wine" (Jesse Perez Remix) 
  • "Galaxy" (Preditah Remix)
  • "Galaxy" (DJ Logic Remix)

Mathew V Makes Vocal Jazz Debut With New Album Anything Goes

All throughout ‘Anything Goes,’ Mathew V speaks out against the vilification of jazz, boldly bringing his thoughts to life with storied tunes such as “Moon River” and “Georgia On My Mind,” each sung from the perspective of a queer man who embodies rebellion, flirtatiousness and glamor. This record allows Mathew to confidently share his stance on love, romantic trials and tribulations with other men. 

“With [Mathew V’s] new album, he is not only leaning into his vocal jazz talent but is creating queer space in a musical genre that is not known for being queer,” wrote GLAAD in a recent interview. Read the full interview here and learn more about Mathew V’s take on subverting jazz’s expectations — oftentimes at the intersection of camp, musical theater, cabaret, and burlesque — with his new album of American classics.

Previously, in addition to the Marilyn Monroe-inspired track Mathew V has released his own glitzy rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Big Spender,” written by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields originally for the musical Sweet Charity, along with a take on George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love.” Upon release the latter was included in the New Music Friday Canada, Contemporary Blend and Sweet Jazz playlists. The single also reached #1 on the Canada iTunes Jazz Chart. Recently the Canadian crooner took to Tik Tok with a brand new genre he’s coined “jazzba,” otherwise known as jazzy ABBA. Thus far, he’s put his playful take on “Money, Money, Money” and “Mamma Mia,” racking up over one million views along the way.

Additionally, Mathew V spoke with Golf Monthly about how he spends his freetime and his return to the sport after a long hiatus. “Life moves so much faster than It once did and golf is a really beautiful pause to all that,” he explains. Read more here.

Mathew V’s timeless musical sensibilities are perhaps most evidently stemming from his youth. 

At age 17 he moved from Vancouver, Canada to London, England and began exploring what would soon become his signature soul-filled vocal style. Following his musical awakening overseas, Mathew penned a deal with 604 Records, has become a sought after topliner in the dance world and now debuts into the vocal jazz world with his tasteful representation of the Great American Songbook. 


  • Moon River (originally written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini)
  • Big Spender (originally written by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields)
  • At Last (originally written by Mark Gordon and Harry Warren)
  • Anything Goes (originally written by Cole Porter)
  • The Man I Love (originally written by George Gershwin)
  • My Boy (Mathew V original song)
  • Georgia On My Mind (originally written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell)
  • Don’t Rain On My Parade (originally by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill)
  • Mamma Mia (originally written by Benny Andersson, Stig Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus)


Charles Mingus Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Recordings

Charles Mingus is the most important American jazz composer after Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. As part of the ongoing celebration of Mingus’ centennial, Rhino will release a new boxed set that spotlights the creative resurgence that defined the final phase of the legendary bassist and composer’s career.

The collection includes the last seven studio albums Mingus recorded for Atlantic Records between 1973 and his death in 1979 and a selection of outtakes - some previously unreleased.

The set brings together newly remastered versions of all seven studio albums Mingus recorded for Atlantic in the 1970s. The LP and CD versions include Mingus Moves (1973), Changes One (1974), Changes Two (1974), Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977), Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (1977), Me, Myself an Eye(1979), and Something Like a Bird (1979). The collection also features previously unreleased session outtakes.

CHANGES: THE COMPLETE 1970s ATLANTIC RECORDINGS comes with an illustrated booklet that delves deep into the final years of Mingus’ music with extensive liner notes by Andrew Homzy, a musician, arranger, jazz scholar, and Grammy® Award Nominee.

Mingus Moves opens the collection, recorded in October 1973, leading a new quintet with youthful musicians – trumpeter Ronald Hampton, tenor saxophonist George Adams, and pianist Don Pullen – and old friend Dannie Richmond on drums. One of the songs they recorded was a new Mingus composition, “Opus 3,” which was built on the chords from the composer’s 1956 landmark piece, “Pithecanthropus Erectus.”

The band’s lineup shifted slightly in 1974 when Jack Walrath replaced Hampton on trumpet. Soon, Mingus and the group returned to the studio for a three-day session that produced two albums, Changes One and Changes Two. A tribute to Mingus’ dynamic wife, “Sue’s Changes” from Changes One is a vibrant masterpiece. With five themes that move through several different keys, tempos, instrumental textures, and emotional registers, it’s a highwater mark not only in Mingus’ career but also in jazz history.

Mingus recorded Three or Four Shades of Blues in 1977 with a rotating cast of stellar musicians. The album includes new versions of two Mingus standards, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and “Better Git Hit In Your Soul.”

Mingus was commissioned to write the score for an Italian film, Todo Modo, in 1976. Performing with a large ensemble, he recorded two extended compositions that rank high among his best work of the 1970s. Ironically, the music wasn’t used in the film; however, it was released on Cumbia & Jazz Fusion in 1977.

Later that year, Mingus was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Undeterred, he continued to compose and direct his last recording sessions from a wheelchair. Me, Myself an Eye, and Something Like a Bird were completed before his death in January 1979 - both included in Changes.

Five previously unreleased recordings debut in the new collection. The CD version includes three outtakes: “Big Alice,” “The Call,” and “Music for ‘Todo Modo.’” The LP version consists of those plus additional unreleased takes for “Big Alice” and “The Call” that are exclusive to the vinyl set.

Otis Redding - Otis Forever: The Albums & Singles (1968-1970)

Otis Redding’s reign as the King of Soul was cut short more than 55 years ago when the Georgia-born singer-songwriter perished in a plane crash en route to play a show. The Big O was gone too soon, but generations of fans still cherish the musical legacy he left behind.

Rhino brings all four of Redding’s posthumous records together for a new vinyl boxed set that includes mono versions of 24 singles from the albums. Limited to 1,000 copies, OTIS FOREVER: THE ALBUMS & SINGLES (1968-1970) will be available on June 9 as a 6-LP set on multi-color vinyl for $149.98. The albums are each pressed on different colors: The Dock of the Bay (yellow), The Immortal Otis Redding (silver), Love Man (green), Tell the Truth (blue), and The Singles 1968-1970(yellow). The set will also be available as a 6-LP black vinyl retail exclusive for $124.98. 

The Singles 1968-1970 is a double album exclusive to the set in a gatefold sleeve illustrated with the 7” labels from all 24 singles. Mono mixes are used for every track, including gems like “The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)” and “Hard To Handle.”

Between 1962 and 1967, Redding was a creative dynamo, recording frequently at Stax Records with Booker T. & The MG’s – keyboardist Booker T. Jones, guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson Jr. During his lifetime, Redding released six studio albums and a succession of R&B and Top 40 hits (“These Arms Of Mine,” “Respect,” “Try A Little Tenderness”) that helped transform Stax from a small Memphis record label into a global musical institution.

When Redding died in December 1967, he’d recorded enough music to fill several albums. The first song from that trove arrived shortly after his death when “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” was released in January 1968. Recorded during his final days, it became Redding’s signature song, biggest hit, and first pop chart-topper.

The song was the title track for the first of Redding’s four posthumous studio albums: The Dock of the Bay (1968), The Immortal Otis Redding (1968), Love Man (1969), and Tell the Truth (1970). The albums sustained Redding’s streak of hits, introducing singles like “Look At That Girl,” “Love Man,” “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember,” and “Amen.”

The OTIS FOREVER: THE ALBUMS & SINGLES (1968-1970) opens with The Dock of the

Bay, a #1 album in the U.S. and U.K. The album’s title track made history in America as the first posthumous #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Through the years, the song has accumulated a multitude of awards and achievements, including over four million copies sold worldwide; two Grammy Awards (Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance); and ranked #38 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Redding’s legacy has only grown since his 1962 Stax debut with “These Arms Of Mine.” He’s been inducted into the halls of fame for Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Songwriters, and Georgia Music. Decades after his passing, Redding’s music has continued to be recognized with a GrammyÒ Lifetime Achievement Award (1999), and three of Redding’s songs have been inducted into the GrammyÒ Hall of Fame: “Respect” (1998), “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (2011), and “Try A Little Tenderness” (2015).

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Terri Lyne Carrington's Debut Album TLC & Friends

Four-time GRAMMY-winner, NEA Jazz Master, composer, activist, and educator Terri Lyne Carrington unveils a remarkable musical treasure to the world. TLC & Friends, Carrington's debut album recorded in October 1981 when she was just 16 years old, finally gets a wide release via Candid Records, providing a rare glimpse into the early talents of this extraordinary multi-faceted artist.

Though it is Carrington’s very first session, TLC & Friends features an epic and enviable lineup of collaborators, including Kenny Barron on piano, George Coleman on saxophone, and Buster Williams on bass. Her father Sonny Carrington also contributes saxophone to the Sonny Rollins classic “Sonnymoon for Two.” The album masterfully showcases Carrington's artistry as a drummer and composer, highlighted by the standout original track "La Bonita," a refreshing interpretation of Billy Joel's beloved composition, "Just The Way You Are,” alongside scorching renditions of standards like "Seven Steps To Heaven," and “What Is This Thing Called Love.” The Candid release features original liner notes by Terri Lyne and Sonny, a new essay by Dianne Reeves and more. The full album is available on CD, Vinyl, and streaming across all digital platforms. 

“It's been over 40 years since this album was recorded,” Carrington writes in a new reflection included with TLC & Friends. “My Dad has been nudging me for quite some time to release this because (in his words) I have not done a legitimate ‘blowing session’ album since then. Generally, it's difficult for me to listen to myself from the past, but after all this time, I can smile. It's hard not to due to the amazing musicians that so graciously recorded with me in the fall of 1981, a few months after my 16th birthday.”

TLC & Friends captures Carrington at the outset of an auspicious recording career, but by age 16, she was nearly a veteran. Hailing from a family of musicians - in addition to her father, Carrington’s grandfather and fellow drummer Matt Carrington, performed with Chu Berry and Fats Waller - Carrington first shared the stage with Rahsaan Roland Kirk at age five. By ten she became the youngest musician in Boston ever to receive a union card, and was impressing audiences with Clark Terry and his All-Stars. At age eleven, Carrington was awarded a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, when the school’s founders Lawrence and Alma Berk, heard her sit in with the great Oscar Peterson at the suggestion of Ella Fitzgerald (today Carrington teaches at the school and is the founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice). Carrington would go on to perform with dozens of other legends including B.B. King, Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, Nat Adderley, Jon Hendricks, and many more before she was old enough to drive, and drum masters Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones invited her to sit in with their bands. 

Earlier this year Terri Lyne Carrington won the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, with another Candid Records release new STANDARDS Vol. 1, a groundbreaking project, created to further acknowledge and shed light on women composers in jazz. new STANDARDS Vol. 1 has been celebrated by The New York Times, NPR, Billboard, The Guardian, Stereogum, a Jazziz cover story, Boston Globe and more for its groundbreaking mission and ambition.

Tina Turner - Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Collection Of All Her Singles From 1975-2023

To celebrate 50 years since the start of Tina Turner’s iconic solo career, Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a huge compilation of 55 tracks that compiles an incredible anthology of Turner’s legendary solo career through her singles. From her cover of “Whole Lotta Love” to the Kygo remix of “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in 2020, this is the first time her singles collection has been released as one set.

Available to pre-order now, it will be released on November 24 as a 3-CD and 5-LP sets and digitally with a cut-back 12-track vinyl version. All sets come with a foreword from Bryan Adams - her longtime friend and collaborator.

Turner’s first release as a solo artist was the 1974 album Tina Turns The Country On! whilst still touring and releasing albums as the duo Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The album spawned no singles, but in 1975, upon the release of her second album - Acid Queen - her cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” was released, which kicks off this set and goes on to include duets with other legendary performers like David Bowie, Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart as well as some of the most unforgettable and celebrated pop and rock singles of all time such as “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “Private Dancer,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” “The Best,” “Steamy Windows,” “I Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Disco Inferno.”

To celebrate the legacy of the undeniable and inimitable Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, this collection also features a new version of “Something Beautiful Remains,” retitled to simply “Something Beautiful.” The track has been reworked by legendary producer and long-time collaborator of Turner, Terry Britten. It is an emotive and fitting final tribute to the power of her legacy that Britten made shortly after her passing. He stated, “Dear Tina, the experience of working with you could never be repeated, but in my heart something beautiful remains. Love, Terry”.

Turner is revered around the world, inspiring millions through her own personal story, her singing, her dancing and beyond; her music legacy is a collection of some of the best-known songs of all time.

She is unquestionably one of the most important artists ever inspiring, amongst many others, Beyoncé who, at the Kennedy Center Honours tribute event for Tina in 2005 said, “I will never forget the first time I saw you [Tina Turner] perform, I had never in my life seen a woman so powerful, so fearless and so fabulous” (watch her tribute here) and their performance of ‘Proud Mary’ together is regarded as some of the most iconic Grammy moments ever. Watch here.

Turner has sold over 200 million records and has had 10 UK top-hit singles and nine UK top 10 albums. She was the first female artist to have a top 40 hit in six consecutive decades in the UK. Her albums combined are 20 times platinum in the UK and nine times platinum in the US, whilst also achieving huge sales throughout the rest of the world. She has won eight Grammy® Awards and has been nominated for 25. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and has stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and St. Louis Walk of Fame. Her 1988 Break Every Rule tour broke the world record for the largest paying audience at a solo concert, with 184,000 at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, and Rolling Stone Magazinenamed her No. 17 in 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and No. 63 in the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. 

Yet, regardless of all the success and fame throughout her career, Turner remained relatable and adored for the person she was. In Bryan Adam’s beautiful and personal foreword, he sums up perfectly the effect she has had on him that reflects on so many around the world…

“From obscurity to the stages of the UK and Europe, I credit Tina for changing the course of my life and I’m so grateful to have had some of her precious time. She was a force of nature, no one had her energy or her voice, I suppose it’s fitting to say, it’s only love, and that's all.”


Keyon Harrold - Foreverland

Keyon Harrold has announced his new album Foreverland, out January 19 on Concord Jazz. A “world class trumpeter” (Essence) and composer, Harrold has performed on a host of GRAMMY-winning projects, and has been widely celebrated for his ability to transcend jazz, R&B, hip-hop and pop with his singular sound, positioning him as go-to performer for a who’s-who of stars: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, Maxwell, Mac Miller, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Foreverland features 10 timely and timeless original compositions that explore themes of empowerment, positivity, love, loss, and vulnerability. The album’s guests include Laura Mvula and Malaya, along with GRAMMY-winning artists Common, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton, Jean Baylor, Chris Dave, and legendary musician Greg Phillinganes. The vinyl version of Foreverland will be released March 1. 

Today Harrold has released “Find Your Peace” (Single Edit), featuring longtime collaborators Common, Robert Glasper and vocalist Jean Baylor. Harrold sings on the track as well. 

“'Find Your Peace' is my ode to finding everlasting happiness in the most aggressive, intentional, thoughtful ways,” says Harrold. “For some it’s found in religion. Others seek peace in rituals, rest, reflection, meditations; love and loved ones; getting lost in books; or lost and found in nature. It’s all part of the lifelong search to find that internal stillness, that eternal peace. Finding that stillness in the troubled waters of life is both the challenge and the goal.”

Foreverland is proudly emotional and dramatic, a triumphant journey that takes the listener through the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful experiences that lead to wisdom. Says Harrold: “What I can offer as a musician who plays an instrument with no words is an honest conveyance of emotion. Some of these notes, I play them because there’s not a better word.”    

Before he set out to make the album, Harrold found himself stuck in the doldrums of the pandemic lockdown, and a birthday that found him adrift. Personal challenges left him exhausted, including the passing of his mother, and the racially charged assault of his 14-year-old son that became part of the national news cycle. 

He broke through the creative block in a most surprising way: a trip to Vegas. But Harrold passed up the slots for the studio, and was invigorated from playing with his musical family after months of isolation. The sessions enabled him to tap into a deeper space of creativity, turning his pain into power that brought his music to a new level. A profound awakening with each note he played, he emerged with a renewed creative spirit not felt in years. Harrold then brought the raw emotion of the Vegas sessions into focus by creating a vivid tapestry of melody, harmony, and instrumental improvisations. Harrold’s most provocative work to date is laced with sultry tempos, sensual vocals, and rich tones that maximize the album’s expressive intentions. He cites a wide-ranging list of inspirations, from Radiohead and Fela Kuti to Coltrane and Fleet Foxes, and the album’s collaborators helped Foreverlandcoalesce into some of the most exciting work of his career. 

“Find Your Peace” - a mashup of jazz, hip-hop and R&B - sets the tone for the album, with the opening lyrics “Gotta find that peace of mind / can’t control things outside,” serving as a mantra. “Beautiful Day” featuring PJ Morton radiates joy over a quick-paced samba with a touch of distortion fuzz. Instrumentals include “The Intellectual,” Harrold dazzling on trumpet over a slow burning groove, and the hard-charging “Gotta Go (Outer Space).” In August, Harrold released the R&B-heavy “Don’t Lie” featuring the lush vocals of Malaya.  

Foreverland is a family affair — nearly every musician is a longtime friend, and Harrold accounts the record’s warmness to this dynamic. “It’s like the ingredients of a great meal: you don’t need just any pepper, you need a certain kind. Every musician on this record is a rare and essential element.” The lineup includes Chris Dave and Marcus Gilmore on drums, Nir Felder, Randy Runyon and Justus West on guitar, Burniss “Boom” Travis and Brandon Owens on bass, Greg Phillinganes, BIGYUKI, Shedrick Mitchell and Jahari Stampley on piano/keyboards, and Jahi Sundance on turntables. In addition to singing on “Find Your Peace,” Harrold also sings or speaks on four other tracks. 

Harrold was born and raised in Ferguson, MO to a musical family - the son of pastors and one of 16 children, and moved to New York to study at The Mannes Conservatory of Music at The New School. While there he landed his first major gig with Common, an experience which he says broadened his musical horizons beyond jazz to include funk, Afrobeat, R&B, and hip hop. He released his solo album, Introducing Keyon Harrold, in 2009, and then won wide acclaim for his trumpet performances in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, which featured him on the GRAMMY-winning soundtrack for the film. 2017’s The Mugicianfeatured Pharoahe Monch, Gary Clark, Jr., Big K.R.I.T., Guy Torry, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Robert Glasper. It was praised by the NY Times as "a stirring piece that consolidates elegy and exhortation" and AllMusic celebrated the album’s “alchemical swagger.” Hailed as “the future of the trumpet” by Wynton Marsalis, Harrold has toured the globe, playing the world’s top venues and festival stages, and will be touring extensively over the next year.

Pharoah, the new box set and first official remastered reissue of Pharoah Sanders’ seminal record from 1977

It’s Harvest Time, declares the Luaka Bop release of Pharoah, the fresh box set and first official remastered reissue of Pharoah Sanders’ seminal record from 1977, out now and quickly cementing itself as a must-hear jazz release of 2023. The New York Times, in its Critic’s Notebook feature, calls it “a touchstone” release hailing the music as “intimate and serene,” while Pitchfork says it’s “unearthly magic” and granted it their Best New Reissue designation. 

Télérama is calling the album “superbe” — and MOJO deems Phaorah a “serene masterpiece” in their dazzling 5-star review. UNCUT dedicated a 6-page spread in its latest November issue as did The New York Review of Books in an extensive cultural examination, further confirming this fall’s celebration of the cosmic jazz legend. “It’s a work of atmospheric, almost tactile beauty, whose pleasures lie in the texture of the playing as much as the melody itself: the liquid warmth of the guitar, the vibrations of the harmonium, the saxophonist’s vibrato and breath, the cycle of sound and sound’s decay,” writes The New York Review of Books.

The Pharoah box set is unique in more than just its unearthing of artifacts and re-mastering of tracks though. It looks closely at this chapter of Pharoah’s life in a way that has never been done before. Through interviews, photographs, and ephemera that have never been shared, including never before seen photographs, and live show recordings, the set is also a one-of-a-kind examination of Pharoah’s personality and his intention for this crucial record. 

Made evident through the work, and liner notes by Harmony Holiday is also just how much Pharoah is “a love letter” to Bedria, his wife at the time of recording. Her presence is all over the album—she was the only one of Pharoah’s wives to ever play on a record of his, and it’s clear from his wild, improvised vocals on “Love Will Find a Way,” that Bedria was the inspiration for much of the music. The result of “Love Will Find a Way,” after all is a 14-minute vocal incantation and fevered improvisation dedicated to a relationship that always had something spiritual about it. The remastering of the album helps this piece shine on the record for perhaps the first time.

Also happening this fall and celebrating the life and music of Pharoah Sanders is the one-time-only performance of his 2021 album Promises also by Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl on September 20th. Created over five years and full of ambient, drone-y textures and passages, it became one of the most talked about works of that year, and went on to top a number of Best Albums of 2021 lists including Time Magazine.  Pitchfork called it a "celestial event" and awarded it a 9.0, and Best New Music, one of the highest reviewed records of that year.  

The meditative 9-part instrumental, experimental suite captured the imagination of music fans during an uneasy, strange time, released at the beginning of 2021. Speaking with The Guardian for one of the very first times about his dear friend and collaborator, Floating Points Sam Shepherd imagines Sanders is in the cosmos,...”hearing music in all of the sounds that he hears. He’ll be sitting in the garden listening to the crickets and he’ll pull out music from that. He listens deep.”

Pharoah’s part will be performed by Shakaba Hutchings, the British musician known for his solo work and his projects The Comet Is Coming and Sons of Kemet.  Shabaka has recently said that he's setting down the saxophone to focus on other creative endeavors, and this will be one of his final saxophone performances for the time being. The Hollywood Bowl show Promises lineup also will feature Dan Snaith (Caribou), Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), Sun Ra Arkestra and many, many more. And read more in another one of Shepherd’s first interviews about the music here at Billboard.

And next month, Saturday October 14th, National Sawdust will host the first occurrence of the Harvest Time Project, an ever-evolving concert which will happen around the world, featuring a selection of different musical ensembles who will come together in different iterations to reinterpret Pharoah Sanders' seminal composition “Harvest Time.”

Featuring Jeff Parker in NY along with the original Pharoah guitarist Tisziji Muñoz and Joshua Abrams as musical director, each performance will diverge from the others as much as Pharoah’s own wildly different live performances. 

Tickets and more information can be found here: 

Forty-five years later, the remastering of the India Navigation Pharoah album seeks to correct for the technical difficulties that plagued the recording process and to finally do the music justice, hemming closer to what Pharoah envisioned. For “Love Will Find a Way” and “Memories of Edith Johnson,” the result is a revelation. Alongside the remastered India Navigation album, Luaka Bop has included two previously unreleased live recordings of “Harvest Time.” Performed during an intense European tour in the late summer of 1977, these exciting live versions turn the original composition on its head. 

For seasoned listeners and new acolytes both, Pharoah will never sound the same.

Pharoah Sanders (October 13, 1940 – September 24, 2022)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas at the height of the Jim Crow era, Pharoah Sanders was one of the last icons of his generation when he passed last fall, on September 24, 2022. He was handpicked by John Coltrane and played on his late-career masterpieces, and thereafter released a string of expansive recordings under his own name for the Impulse! label, which have been cited as a pivotal influence by everyone from Prince to Iggy Pop to Marvin Gaye. Over a career that spanned fifty years, Pharaoh recorded some of the most revered — and controversial — albums in jazz history, embracing a wild, anarchic sound that would reverberate across genres for decades to come, eventually winning a GRAMMY in the late ’80s. 

In 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts bestowed him with its prestigious Jazz Master title, the genre’s highest honor. His last album Promises, released in 2021 with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra, was heralded as “a late-career masterpiece,” and was awarded Album of The Year in several national newspapers around the world, including #1 in TIME Magazine and The New York Times, and #2 in The New Yorker who called it “ extraordinary intimate experience…”.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hiromi Announces New Album Sonicwonderland

Hiromi has announced Sonicwonderland, the internationally celebrated and GRAMMY-winning pianist and composer’s new album to be released on October 6 (Telarc). Sonicwonderland represents a new musical adventure for the constantly evolving pianist and composer, who is a star in her native Japan, and burst onto the music scene 20 years ago with her debut album. Recorded with a new quartet, called Hiromi’s Sonicwonder, the album features 9 new works bursting with synthesizer and deep-in-the pocket grooves. Hiromi dazzles at the keyboard, striking a balance of playing that is powerful, aggressive and delicate. She has also announced a select run of shows performing this new album in North America in October.

Hiromi’s Sonicwonder is a quartet featuring blossoming young talents Hadrien Feraud (bass), Gene Coye (drums), and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet) and began performing live together earlier this spring. Sonicwonderland was recorded May 25-28 at Skywalker Sound Stage in Nicasio, California, where Hiromi also recorded her 2019 solo piano album Spectrum. In addition to new works written for this project, the album includes songs that were released on her "One Minute Portrait" YouTube initiative during the pandemic and rearranged for this band. UK singer/songwriter/keyboardist Oli Rockberger also contributes vocals to "Reminiscence" (lyrics co-written by Hiromi and Rockberger).

“Sonicwonderland” is a preview of the album’s many delights: it kicks off with a thumping sequenced synthesizer groove that’s more dance club than jazz club. It’s fast-paced, fun, and unfurls into an 8-minute adventure of open space and improvisation. While other songs feature quick tempos, funk grooves and synth work (“Trial and Error,” “Go Go”), Hiromi works gracefully on acoustic piano extensively throughout, her elegant playing and composition work shines on pieces such as “Polaris” and “Utopia.” The closing track, “Bonus Stage,” is a lively, modern take on traditional jazz, with a short intro that could be mistaken for a video game soundtrack. "The word 'wonder' has a lot of meaning. It fits the musical view that I have for this project…it is definitely a new adventure for me," says Hiromi.   

Sonicwonderland is Hiromi’s 12th studio album, a prolific artist who has explored a number of musical spheres over the course of her career. Earlier this year she recorded the soundtrack to Blue Giant, a motion picture film based on the manga series of the same name. 2021's Silver Lining Suite features her with a string quartet and 2019's Spectrum a solo piano recording. Her work has been celebrated by the New York Times, NPR and NPR Music, the Washington Post and beyond, and she was a featured performer at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony in 2021. She has worked with Stanley Clark, Chick Corea, Ahmad Jamal (who produced her first album and was her mentor), and many other jazz luminaries throughout her career, is a perennial favorite on DownBeat’s Annual Critics Poll, and has performed at the world’s finest jazz festivals.  

The Sonicwonderland cover was created by Lou Beach, famous for his Weather Report album covers, not to mention Blink 182's Dude Ranch and albums by Flying Burrito Brothers, Madonna and Weird Al. 

Marimba/vibraphone virtuoso Taiko Saito’s new solo album, Tears Of A Cloud

Tears of a Cloud, the new solo album by marimba and vibraphone virtuoso Taiko Saito, throws the spotlight on a major talent in improvised new music. With dazzling precision, and a discerning ear for new textures and colors, Saito makes music that is unprecedented, full of melodic and rhythmic surprise and invention of breathtaking originality.  main instruments.

Her style draws on many sources, but seems indebted to no single tradition. “I’ve been inspired by so many people,” Saito says. “My mentors Prof. Keiko Abe and Prof. David Friedman; the playing and compositions of Kenny Wheeler; a lot of traditional Japanese music—tea ceremony, ikebana, etc. But I was always looking for my own sound.”

That personal sound is on full display on this remarkable recording, her first recorded solo outing since 2008. Saito explains that she took three basic approaches to creating the music—completely spontaneous, developing an initial motif, and experimentation with sound and the characteristics of mallets and sticks. 

Most of the album is totally improvised with no preconceived ideas. Anything might happen once she starts. For instance, “Daichi” alternates between pregnant silences and eruptions of phrases, balancing stillness and sound. Using heavy leather mallets that she handmade herself, Saito explores unique tones with a feeling for proportion, shape, and spontaneous structure. On another improvised piece, “Uneri,” Saito creates a unique sound world by using the vibraphone’s open pedal and motor to make clouds of resonant notes that enshroud her flowing lines. On the title track, gently throbbing overtones also form a backdrop for a delicate improvised melody that grows deliberately note by note.

On other pieces, Saito takes a motif and develops it over the course of her improvisation. On “Rain,” her motifs mimic the irregular rhythms of nature, achieving a graceful asymmetry as they lengthen and morph into a continuous dance of notes. On “Sound Gradation” she ingeniously manipulates rhythmic motifs, subtly shifting accents in the melodic material and using different mallets to create new tone colors. The result is varied yet unified.

And then there’s the arresting “Underground I,” a sound exploration on which Saito uses a double bass bow and two oversized soft sticks. The wide range of textures and colors reveal her to be an explorer of the marimba’s sonic potential, unafraid to push the limits of the instrument’s capacity for new sounds with deep emotional resonances. 

Award-winning mallet player-composer Taiko Saito was born in 1976 in Sapporo and studied with marimba virtuoso Keiko Abe and classical marimba and percussion at the Toho School of Music. In 1997 she began to improvise and to write music, and moved to Berlin to study vibraphone and composition with David Friedman at the Universität der Künste Berlin. In 2003 she co-founded Koko, a marimba/vibraphone-piano duo with German jazz piano player Niko Meinhold. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2005 and Live in Bogotá was released in 2014. Together with Rupert Stamm, she also created the jazz mallets duo Patema whose recording was released by Zerozero in 2007. She is a founding member of the Berlin Mallet Group, which also includes her former teacher Friedman. She is a co-founder of Futari, a duo with pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, and also performs with Fujii and drummer Yuko Oshima in Trio San. In addition, Saito has performed and recorded with the Trickster Orchestra and saxophonist Silke Eberhard’s Potsa Lotsa XL. As a soloist, Taiko has appeared with the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra and with Orchestra d´Auvergne in France. As a composer, she won the originality prize in the International Marimba Competition 2004 for “Landscape IV.” In 2008 she wrote “Hide and Seek for 9 percussionists,” commissioned by the percussion ensemble coup de baguette. In addition to Tears of a Cloud, Saito is also featured on Wald, a trio album with drummer Michael Griener and bassist Jan Roder also coming out in 2023 via Trouble in the East Records.

Emaginario | "Songs Of Mind"

It’s equal parts self-realization, multicultural exploration and multi-genre experimentation. Composer-Guitarist-Vocalist Emaginario aka Ethan Margolis has been creatively crosspollinating acclaimed recording and video projects featuring him in the company of world-class musicians for more than two decades. He wrote seven of the eight songs that comprise “Songs Of Mind,” an intimate and lush collection of acoustic jazz and singer-songwriter Americana tunes with elements of flamenco. Margolis meticulously produced the set that arrives November 17 on the Sir Sultry Music label.   

Having fully realized his identity as a prodigious guitar player, “Songs Of Mind” can be described as Margolis stepping into his identity as a singer-songwriter. Emaginario immersed himself in flamenco guitar in Spain where he lived for more than a decade thus his artistic musical “voice” was primarily instrumental. He relished the freedom inherent in jazz, which he took as a visa to become an alchemist mixing in Cuban, Delta blues and Americana music. As the son of acclaimed singer-songwriter Ken Margolis (The Choir), he was born with an innate skillset that couldn’t be ignored or kept dormant.

“I value songwriting immensely because of its unique ability to transmit human stories in a way that's understandable to everyone. The difficulty in getting here was for me to understand my sound as a singer-songwriter. With so many interests in varying genres and with such a long stint in Spain, it's taken a very long time for me to understand myself as a musician. I am a composer-guitarist foremost, but I am also a singer of songs. It was important for me to get that out in a contemporary way with a sound that reflected my life experiences,” said Margolis who now resides in Southern California after establishing lengthy residencies in Spain.        

Stylistically and sonically for “Songs Of Mind,” Margolis elected to pair his nylon-string flamenco guitar with a jazz piano, the role masterfully filled by Grammy-winning pianist Ruslan Sirota.

“Instead of playing the flamenco guitar like a flamenco musician, I played it with the mindset of a session player on the recordings - doubling guitars, playing softly with no fingernails, recording with many mics and planning for a guitar sound that would be unique to me but also sound like Americana,” said Margolis, who will launch the new album with concert dates in Solvang (November 16 at The Last Chord) and Topanga Canyon (November 17 at Corazón Performing Arts).

Margolis’s voice is as unique as his musical amalgams. His gift is telling stories via singing, scatting and crooning cerebral observations, poetic passages, insightful ruminations and graceful vocalese. Oozing passion and emotional depth, his voice rises and falls from tenor to falsetto and back again, adeptly maintaining full control – even when pivoting on a dime. Margolis’s charismatic voice balances zeal, charm and allure with bouts of bite, sarcasm and snark when his subject matter requires it.   

Mixed by two-time Grammy winner Dave O’Donnell (James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton), “Songs Of Mind” opens with an improvised voice and piano sketch, “Mind Search.” It begins as a vocal exercise and piano warmup that kicks up its heels into snappy flamenco forays seamlessly balanced with freeform jazz runs.

“I have such a strong need to improvise and test my reactions and my heart's output in music that structured recording sessions sometimes bog me down. I knew that Ruslan Sirota was a fantastic improviser and that we could have some fun together, but I never imagined that it would come out the way this one did. There’s an entire painting on one track,” said Margolis, who channeled everything from calypso, Soca, flamenco, R&B, beatbox and scat, resulting in a modern jazz adventure in vocalization with a defined message.

Margolis wrote the hauntingly beautiful “Hoping You Will Find Me” fifteen years ago but held off on recording it. Again, Sirota proves to be the perfect counterpart, providing an exquisite backdrop for the divine love song.

“I knew that it was a strong song when I wrote it, but I never pursued it until it finally made sense. The idea of changing the simple voicings of the chords and recording it with a jazz pianist excited me because I knew it would add the poetic depth the song needed. I believe strongly in doing things with a definitive purpose and sometimes that means...just wait, wait until I can see that it's the right time,” shared Margolis.

Whimsical and joyous, “Mugu Beach” adds a full ensemble to the sublime voice and piano pairing. Romaní percussionist Ramón Porrina constructed the percussion arrangement that backbones the track with augmentation from upright bassist Benjamin Shepherd and soprano saxophonist Katisse Buckingham.

Playing guitar on the track, Margolis said, “Composing jazz and Americana melodies over flamenco rhythms is a passionate and unique point of my musicality. It is extremely hard to do authentically so that both the jazz and flamenco schools are satisfied with the result. On this one, I wanted the production to sound like an older jazz standard with burning accents and slow, melodic vocal phrasing in the styles of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday. I added the soprano saxophone afterwards - played by Katisse - to mimic the accompaniment of Lester Young for Billie Holiday. The vocal phrasing is very much in the Romaní school of the flamenco Bulerías. There are a lot of syncopated stops and vocal rhythmic maneuvers in this song and at the same time, there are many older jazz standard influences.”

Margolis’s defends his jazz-Americana-flamenco doctorate thesis on an imaginative bilingual rendition of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah” that he blends with the Spanish copla "Compañera del Alma." Freeing his hands to focus on delivering an arresting vocal performance, Margolis leaves the improvisational guitar work to Israeli guitarist Dan Ben Lior. Organist Mitchel Forman (Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin) adds the perfect touch. Recorded in Madrid in 2021, the concept for this recording was seeded at shows Margolis performed at Hotel Café and The Baked Potato in Hollywood nine years ago. 

Backed by a premier rhythm section in drummer Gary Novak (George Benson, Chick Corea, David Sanborn) and bassist Reggie Hamilton (George Duke, Seal, Mariah Carey) along with Sirota’s coloring, “How Will You Feel” benefits from illuminating background vocals by Keri Lee (John Legend) whose soulful voice intertwines with Margolis’s dulcet falsetto. It’s another chilled world jazz cocktail, but this one is served with a splash of R&B.

“So many people were suffering during the pandemic and confronting deaths of friends and family. I lost some remarkably close friends to the pandemic and the hopelessness was overpowering. It's like we could all see it coming, and then it came. This song reflects that, but at the same time, it suggests that our souls - when they output love - have done their job. Maybe that's all we need to do in this life,” speculated Margolis.

“Tantrum Town” is a bizarro and eccentric carnival ride penned shortly after the 2020 election and the subsequent attack on the Capitol. Margolis describes the song like “A Clockwork Orange jazz cirque performance in Las Vegas.” It’s a barbed commentary on the politics of the time featuring bassist Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Sting) and Mike Cottone’s gallant trumpeting in Herb Alpert fashion.

“As if we didn't need more insanity than a pandemic, racially motivated police killings, and then, a president like Donald Trump. I wanted to create a song that sounded like an off-kilter circus - something that grooved with a funky, carousel type repetition. I decided it would add to the song's quirkiness if I sang it in a cabaret 'spoken' voice - like an old show tune,” said Margolis.

Ken Margolis wrote “Seasons” forty years ago, but never recorded it. Ethan, who produced his father’s forthcoming album, “Hope and Courage,” found a way to make the song his own by changing the time signature from 4/4 to 12/8 melded with flamenco ideas of the Soleá style. The scion also changed the lyrical focus - from a man mourning lost love to a love song for our planet.

“I re-wrote the lyrics like mankind issuing an apology for what he had done to Mother Earth when all she has given him was love and resource,” said Ethan on the cut that showcases another sterling appearance by Lee on background vocals and Novak’s deft drumming. Indulging in what he called “flamenco life” while living in Seville years ago inspired “Walking Back Home,” a breezy and bouncy jaunt that adds calypso into the jazz, Americana and flamenco mélange.

“Arranging it like a calypso song underneath an Americana melody, the result is different and in a strange way, mimics some of the Brazilian songwriters I have heard. Perhaps it's the side sticking and the nylon guitars. The vocalizations under the guitar solo towards the end are very much in a calypso style. The song sounds like pure Americana, but it reminds me of the streets of Spain.”

A Cleveland native, Margolis has already recorded his next Emaginario record, this one tracked in New York City in an acoustic jazz trio setting flanked by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland that was recorded by five-time Grammy winner James Farber. The album is slated to drop next spring. Margolis is also producing a slate of culturally diverse projects from Latin Grammy nominee Yelsy Heredia featuring percussionist Pedrito Martínez; Jamaican dancehall legend Papa Michigan; and poet Cecilia Woloch about the Romaní Holocaust and Pogroms of Europe.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Groundation Meets Brain Damage "Dreaming From An Iron Gate"

Groundation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their groundbreaking album Hebron Gate with the release of Groundation Meets Brain Damage – Dreaming From An Iron Gate. The album is out now via a partnership between France’s BACO Records and the U.S.’s Easy Star Records. Stream here:

"And I don't want just a bare dub album!" That was Groundation founder Harrison Stafford's last directive to Martin Nathan, the French producer and dub artist known as Brain Damage, after entrusting him with the original tapes of one of the most captivating reggae albums of the past few decades: Hebron Gate. To commemorate the milestone 20th anniversary, the leader of the band asked Brain Damage to remix and rework these nine tracks from top to bottom. It's an exciting new way to hear it for longtime fans and a new door opened for those who haven't experienced the power of Hebron's Gate.

Groundation Meets Damage – Dreaming From An Iron Gate is not a project where the original versions are only briefly referred to, but it is a second birth that holds the spirit of Hebron Gate, while also being accessible and consistent. Keen on this kind of challenging exercise, the French producer Brain Damage tackles it with the precision he is known for, and initially dissects the piece, daring to extract and isolate each note. With this colossal work done, all sorts of moves are now possible: re-composition, harmony changes, integration of recording scraps, outer and new part additions. The Californians’ unique style, melting reggae and jazz, fills here with a different energy, psychedelic, more introspective, surely confusing at first for the fans, but soon exciting, for them as for the neophytes. A true reinvention of a monument of contemporary reggae for a completely new album, in essence highly recommended for Groundation fans for an “Alice in Wonderland” like trip, but also for all reggae and dub enthusiasts and curious music-lovers.

Fans got a taste of the project with the release of “Deaf Ears.” Right from the start, "Deaf Ears" takes a song that originally began as a one chord groove and recreates it into a whole series of chordal movements leading to the entrance of the lead vocal. It's a complete reimagining of "Weeping Pirates." The fading out of the group ensemble during the B3 organ solo is brilliant and all the added reverbs, delays, and effects send us on to the epic conclusion. 

The rest of the songs fit perfectly into the whole album, which is meant to be listened to in its entirety for the full effects of the sonic journey. Dreaming From An Iron Gate, just like the original album Hebron Gate, works best as one cohesive piece of music, and is meant to be digested in one sitting. The songs, their arrangements, and the musical construct all work together as a whole. Harrison adds, “The fact that Martin (Brain Damage) really went inside the music and completely chopped up and rearranged the soundscapes presents this release as a standalone body of work.”

Groundation is currently on a European tour to support the 20th anniversary of Hebron Gate. Harrison enthusiastically states, “The tour is going phenomenal. The crowds every night have been so energetic, so full of positive vibes, you can really see the power of this Hebron Gate music. For all of us on stage, it truly is a wonderful experience. An album released 20 years ago can be performed live from beginning to end and for all of us each night, it is still so moving and inspiring.”

Violinist and Composer Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim Releases Debut Album Starling

NYC-based violinist and composer Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim is a curious mind in the experimental music scene. As co-founder of the improvisation-focused ensembles Muzosynth Orchestra and Impromptuo, the South Korean immigrant trained in European classical music before falling deeply in love with the art of improvisation. Lim’s debut album, Starling, channels some of her particular loves: predilection for geometric patterns, gravitation towards humorous satire, and enjoyment of sound itself (Lim holds a comprehensive musical taste in everything from soul, musical theater to ‘oldies’ and on). Through this trio format with Alfredo Colón (EWI/soprano saxophone) and Kalia Vandever (trombone/fx), the album also channels her deep trust in her friends and community.

Starling showcases an unusual combination of musicians. The trio of violin, trombone with effects, and EWI or soprano saxophone are treated as trifectas of melody-makers, switching between different acoustic and electronic mixtures with each track. Most of the album starts with set, improvised textures. These range from simple acoustic directives, such as playing long tones, to more abstract parameters, such as each artist having to “go against'' each other. In addition, each artist performs one solo as interludes (tracks 4, 6, and 8), highlighting themselves as an individual before recombining into the fabric of the group. The trio leans into the compelling strength of its soaring sounds, which Colón described during recording as feeling “like a flock of starlings murmuring in the sky”.

Starling beckons with its sincerity and bold sentimentality that Lim embraces in all its unfettered glory. It is a statement that causes reflection upon the identity of artists like her, an Asian woman in a field controlled by white men, a field weighted by narrow viewpoints on who Asian women can be. On all levels, Starling demands the right to self-determine, to be the driver of one’s own story, and to say, without apology, who you are.

Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim, violin
Alfredo Colón, EWI/soprano saxophone
Kalia Vandever, trombone/fx

Recorded on July 30th, 2022 at the Jazz Gallery in NYC
Engineered by Kengchakaj Kengkarnka
Mixed and mastered by Lee Meadvin
Album artwork by Nikki Pet

Mark Deutsch and JD Parran's newly unearthed "California Street Sessions" defies genre and convention, cites past and future alike

This music is a sonic exploration that crosses cultural boundaries with a freedom that surprises and challenges any attempt to categorize. Both musicians are classically trained free improvisers who started out as Jazz cats from St. Louis, Missouri. JD has been a presence on the Manhattan music scene since the '70s, while Mark eventually headed west and now haunts the Bay Area with his Bazantar. Always taking an opportunity to make music together, they set up this session in San Francisco in 2011 to capture the unique language they had developed over the years. French Impressionism can be heard morphing, becoming a celestial raga, then hurtling into heavy metal screaming as it stumbles hard into a half-recalled dream version of "Jazz" to conclude with only hints of a Senegalese groove merchant.

This recording's cultural vastness has coherence and freedom of possibility that is vital to its realization and will surprise your ears.

JD Parran is a fearless free improviser. Intuitive, empathetic, and as open to the moment as anyone I have ever created sounds with. I love the bass clarinet. JD has total command of his axe and his hair-raising extended techniques interlace magically with the language I've been developing on the Bazantar. His pitch, timbre, and tonal range are kaleidoscopic and far beyond the conventional. The passion, intelligence, and history behind those chops inspire me to poetry... The outcome, a mystery... as the beginning is unexpressed... becoming, act of faith.  -Mark Deutsch

The Bazantar is a six-string acoustic bass, fitted with an additional twenty-nine sympathetic strings and four drone strings. The instrument possesses a melodic range of over six octaves, while its sympathetic range spans five octaves. This results in an interplay between melodic, sympathetic, and drone strings which weaves an unexpected landscape of resonance that is remarkably rich in texture.

What has Mark Deutsch done?

In the simplest terms, he’s spent decades building a new acoustic instrument, the Bazantar, in which more harmonics can interact with each other with clarity than in any other instrument, and then created music with a higher order of resonance than previous music. You can listen to Mark’s music as a sort of higher-dimensional raga, or as a psychedelic experiment, or as a tool for meditation. All of those frameworks are fine, but each only catches one glint from the gem.

Mark Deutsch is something else. That used to be an expression when I was a kid. “That cat is something else.” Something you can’t classify, something genuinely on the edge of what we know, that we can only barely perceive. I heard the term applied to Monk and Coltrane, Nancarrow and Ligeti. There belongs Mark.

It’s inevitable that the most extraordinary things are the hardest to perceive, much less appreciate.It is infuriatingly difficult to alert you to something extraordinary right in front of you, because everything is called extraordinary. I walked by a theater on Broadway recently, and there was nothing at all but blurbs. No name of the production, no names of stars, nothing about the show itself. Only hyperventilated superlatives. The most extraordinary show, the must utterly beguiling production ever. Whatever it was. The arms race of easy praise has topped out at the ceiling of imagination. There is nothing I can say to properly shake you so you’ll notice how important, how wonderful Mark Deutsch’s music is. You are immune, overdosed. What a shame. John Cage once asked us to listen to everything - to noise - as music, and that was lovely. But we are drowning in shallowness. There are millions of musicians offering work online, much of the work skillful, or funny, or touching, but massiveness loves stasis. More and more variations of the same, searchable, sortable, classified within what we already can express to perfection, in a computer. Computers can only offer numbers that will eventually repeat.

What are we doing here? I mean in the biggest picture? Is there an arc to the human story? Hopefully there is a moral arc. Hopefully we become wiser. Maybe we learn empathy. All wonderful, but I trust that there is even more going on. We become deeper. We feel more, find new ways to be in tune. Music isn’t just in the moment; it elevates our situation in reality. We become a process more entangled in the universe. The universe becomes more sophisticated through us.

What Mark is doing is like what J. S. Bach was doing, or Allauddin Khan, or Robert Johnson. Once in a rare while a musician feels so deeply, goes so far, that something in our ambient situation is thereafter different. Well, I can’t be sure of course. I live with the usual penumbra of blindness from being situated in a time and place. But I suspect that is Mark’s stratum. Listen and know you’re one of the early ones, one of the few. You are listening to the future. -Jaron Lanier, world renowned computer scientist, founding father of virtual reality, author, and composer


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