Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Indigenous Collaborations w/ Sultans of String: Walking Through the Fire

What do Crystal Shawanda, Leela Gilday, Northern Cree powwow group, a dozen other Indigenous artists, and Roots band Sultans of String have in common? They have all come together in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and Final Report that calls for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to work together to find a path forward, and have created Walking Through the Fire. This album and live show are a powerful collection of collaborations between the roots group and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists from across Turtle Island, with the CD releasing September 15, 2023, and a live concert tour launching on September 28, leading up to and following the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Fire can be destructive, as we have seen with the unprecedented forest fires still burning in Canada. But what we see right afterward is interesting, as collaborating Indigenous art director Mark Rutledge explains, referencing the title and cover art of Walking Through the Fire. “You’ll see the burnt-out husks of trees and the ash and the charcoal on the landscape. But fireweed is the first plant after a forest fire that emerges, and you’ll see rivers and fields of magenta within the barren landscape, and those nutrients are going back into the soil for the next generation of trees and flowers and regrowth.”

There is fear instilled within the very notion of fire because it can be so destructive, not just to the landscape, but to the lives of people. But what lies beyond fear that holds people back from achieving what they want to achieve? “The other side of fear is growth and potential with collaboration between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people,” Mark continues. “When we drop the word reconciliation on people, there’s a large group of people who don’t understand what that means. And when you don’t understand something, you are fearful of it. But if we go through the same experience together, we walk through that fire together, and we come out together on the other end and have that unified experience together, that’s the power in this album.”

Together these artists are making a safe, creative space where new connections can be dreamed of – not in the Western way of thinking and problematizing – but instead a deeper sharing and understanding, with music being the common ground to help cultures connect and understand each other. “We are opening doors for each other, as Indigenous peoples, as settler peoples. This project is about creating connections and spaces to learn from each other” explains collaborator Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, violist with Métis Fiddler Quartet.

Nine-time Grammy-nominated Northern Cree and community organisers in Kettle and Stony Point welcomed Sultans of String to their annual powwow for one of these collaborations. Steve Wood, drummer and singer, explains, “When you’re collaborating with mainstream music, it shows that we can work together to bring out the very best in who we are as human beings, and we can bring out something very beautiful.”

A central theme running through Walking Through the Fire is the need for the whole truth of Residential Schools and the Indigenous experience to be told long before reconciliation can possibly take place. Grammy-nominated Elder and poet Dr. Duke Redbird, who in many ways provided the initial inspiration for this project, explains, “The place that we have to start is with truth. Reconciliation will come sometime way in the future, perhaps, but right now, truth is where we need to begin the journey with each other.”

Sultans violinist Chris McKhool, who was recently awarded the Dr. Duke Redbird Lifetime Achievement Award by Redbird and JAYU Arts for Human Rights for working to amplify these truths through collaborations, says, “This country has a history that has been ignored, distorted, twisted to suit colonialist goals of destroying a people. We are so fortunate for the opportunity to work with Indigenous artists, sharing their stories, their experiences, and their lives with us, so we can continue our work of learning about the history of residential schools, genocide, and intergenerational impacts of colonization. Music has a special capacity for healing, connecting, and expressing truth.”

McKhool leads the 3x JUNO nominated, 6x CFMA-winning band, who recorded the bed tracks at Jukasa Studios, an Indigenous-owned world-class recording facility on the Six Nations reserve south of Hamilton, Ontario. “We were so fortunate to be able to work at Jukasa, as well as consult with exceptional Indigenous artists on this project,” says McKhool. “We were lucky to be able to work with Indigenous designer Mark Rutledge and Indigenous filmmakers and videographers Eliza Knockwood and Marc Merilainen, working with our usual team, to come up with a look and feel for the album.”

The Honourable Murray Sinclair, former chair of the TRC, said, “The very fact that you’re doing this tells me that you believe in the validity of our language, you believe in the validity of our art and our music, and that you want to help to bring it out. And that’s really what’s important: for people to have faith that we can do this.” Sinclair also spoke about the importance of using Indigenous languages so these do not become lost. The recording and concert features lyrics in Dene, Inuktitut, Sm’algyax, Cree, and Michif.

Sultans of String is a fiercely independent band that has always tried to lift up those around them and has exposed many of their collaborators and special guests to new audiences at their shows, including at JUNOfest, NYC’s legendary Birdland Jazz Club, Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, and London’s Trafalgar Square. Led by Queen’s Diamond Jubilee recipient McKhool, they have collaborated with orchestras across North America and have played live on CBC’s Canada Live, BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and SiriusXM in Washington. They have recorded and performed with such diverse luminaries as Paddy Moloney & The Chieftains, Sweet Honey in The Rock, Richard Bona, Alex Cuba, Ruben Blades, Benoit Bourque, and Béla Fleck. Their work during the pandemic on The Refuge Project amplified the voices of new immigrants and refugees, earning them CFMAs and Best Musical Film at the Cannes World Film Festival. 

Says Raven Kanatakta of Digging Roots: “We have to move beyond ally-ship, and we have to move into relationships of being co-conspirators, get down into the dirt and start working together and start moving forward. We’re all equals here, and we all need to communicate as equals. We actually need Canadians to step up and take that first move.”

Monday, October 30, 2023

Output / Input – Forward Motion

Output/Input release their debut album ‘Forward Motion‘ on double vinyl LP, December 1st. The album is an eclectic mix of 70’s-inspired soul and funk delivered in a truly 2023-style of recording, with all tracks being recorded remotely across multiple continents. The band is a truly diverse and international group featuring members from countries including the USA, UK, Germany, Hungary and South Korea. Their previous releases have been praised by DJ’s and tastemakers, regularly featuring on Jazz FM, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and a host of specialist Soul radio stations across the globe. The CD and digital album have been No.1 on multiple UK Soul Charts.

Lead vocalist Antonio McLendon has worked and performed with James Ingram, Tata Vega, Gladys Knight and Donna Summer, and features as vocalist on seven of the ten tracks on the album. He has definitely made an impact as a world-class singer this year, with the singles ‘Smilin’ Faces’ and ‘Someone I Used To Love’. both being radio hits. Co-incidentally, Antonio’s daughter, Samara Joy won two Grammy awards this year for her album ‘Linger Awhile’. Here We Go Again’ features the vocals of Audrey Wheeler-Downing, who worked with Unlimited Touch and Chaka Khan, and Brent Carter, the current lead singer of AWB and previous to that, Tower Of Power. ‘Doin’ Alright’ features vocals from O’Bryan, who Davis worked with extensively on his albums for Capitol. This re-recorded version, co-written by Melvin, originally appeared on the album of the same name in 1982, and is widely tipped as a stand-out rare groove revival cut on the album and is already hotly anticipated. ‘Really No Chance‘ features the lead vocals of Katie Holmes-Smith, a globally sought-after singer, who backed Adele on her world tour as well as currently performing with her for the duration of Adele’s residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The CD release featured a bonus track, ‘Every Time You Touch Me’, recorded very recently, written by Noval Smith and Mark Love and sung by Antonio McLendon, while the 2LP features another bonus cut, a fantastic cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire classic ‘Can’t Hide Love’, penned by Skip Scarborough, with vocals by Brent Carter.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Mareike Wiening | "Reveal" - Special Guest Dave Douglas

As she set out to conceive the music for her third album as a leader, drummer/composer Mareike Wiening [pronounced: Mar-EYE-kuh VEE-ning] glanced around and discovered a wealth of potential inspirations in the tumultuous events of recent years. Of course, there were the global upheavals that we’ve all watched unfold with bated breath: the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, political divisiveness in the U.S., Europe and beyond. 

Then there were the life-altering experiences that took place closer to home: Wiening moved back to her native Germany in 2018 after six years in New York, settling in Cologne. She suffered the death of a close family member after witnessing a slow decline in health, and she’s reaching a stage of life where societal pressures to settle down and start a family begin to strongly impinge. All of this set against the backdrop of an uncertain future for the music industry as inflation soars in Germany.

Realizing that such heady subjects could result in a decidedly stark and somber album, Wiening chose not to react but to reveal, searching inward for the warmth and spirit that connected her with music in the first place. On Reveal, her third album for Greenleaf Music, Wiening has crafted her richest and most deeply personal music to date. 

“Personally and as a musician, I’ve been in so many situations in the past few years where the future feels insecure or questionable,” Wiening says. “I really wanted to listen deep inside myself and find the joy and hope in music.”

Reveal reunites Wiening once again with her longtime working band: tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, pianist Glenn Zaleski, guitarist Alex Goodman and bassist Johannes Felscher. They are joined on three tracks by esteemed trumpeter and Greenleaf founder Dave Douglas, a fervent supporter throughout Wiening’s career. 

"Mareike’s become a real force on the scene and I am honored to have been called for this new record date,” Douglas says. “It felt great to play with her and all the band members.”

Despite her relocation to Germany, Wiening’s musical life remains focused on New York City, and in particular on this stellar group of musicians. The quintet was formed in 2014 while the drummer was pursuing her Master’s degree at New York University and has become essential to her musical imagination over the ensuing decade. “From the beginning, this quintet has been my band,” Wiening emphasizes. “I’m not technically a composer – I’m a drummer and I compose only for my band. I know that I can write down whatever I have in my head and they’ll know how to translate it into music. I can trust them, which is very helpful emotionally. They’ve really become my family.”

Reveal, like all of Wiening’s work, never indulges in the kit pyrotechnics that mark the cliché “drummer’s date.” She is a nuanced and subtle player who shapes the music with a delicate sculptor’s finesse, her playing and composing inextricable from one another, the familiar voices of her bandmates becoming an extension of her own thought process.

“When I write music, the drums are usually the last thing I'm thinking about,” she says. “People sometimes point out that there are rarely long drum solos on my records or even in my concerts, but I feel like you can already hear what I want to express in the tunes, so having a drum solo on every song would be redundant.” 

Wiening does take the spotlight from time to time, as in the psychedelic opening moments of “Time for Priorities,” when she pairs off with Goodman’s backwards-mutated guitar. Surprisingly this leads into a bright Latin groove, reflecting the determination to emerge from the darkness that fuels the album as a whole. Zaleski’s lush, resonant chords set the tone for “Old Beginning,” an ode to rebirth that questions how life can expect to go on when it’s so constantly disrupted by ungovernable events.

Wiening switches to brushes for “Encore,” whispering beneath Felscher’s eloquent solo before bursting into an anthemic head, receding again for Perry’s gently probing turn. Goodman and Zaleski pair off for the agitated intro to “Declaration of Truth,” a dizzyingly intricate puzzle that the band solves brilliantly. 

The sole piece not composed by Wiening, “Balada” is an unexpected adaptation of a classical piece by 19th century Romanian composer Ciprian Porumbescu. Inspired by the war in Ukraine, Wiening asked a friend to recommend some Eastern European folk and classical songs. “I was fascinated by their rhythms and strong melodies,” she describes. I discovered a lot of great music that I’d never heard of before, but this ballad stood out. The melody stuck in my head for a long time, so I started to write different arrangements of it until it took the shape it has here.”

Greenleaf and Douglas have also been part of Wiening’s extended family since her full-length debut, Metropolis Paradise, in 2019. (Dan Tepfer stepped in on piano for that date after Zaleski had a bicycle accident prior to the session.) Future Memories followed on the same imprint in 2021, this time with the full quintet intact.

His involvement made Douglas the ideal choice for the band’s first invited guest. “I’ve always been very inspired by how prolific and eclectic Dave’s music is,” Wiening explains. “While composing, I was looking for something new, something I wanted to develop, and I realized that I wanted to add another voice. I immediately thought of Dave.”

“Mareike’s music always has a lightness to it,” Douglas says. “Not a lightness in the sense of easy or simple — a lightness of movement, fleet, and often deceptively floating through time, without being insistent. One of the things that strikes me in playing with Mareike is how much her drumming is shaped around the music without overwhelming or imposing on the music. Like the best bandleaders, Mareike’s strategy seems to be to make everyone else sound as good as they can.”

As Douglas and Perry hail from a similar generation and have both been mainstays across a variety of NYC jazz scenes for decades, Wiening naturally assumed that they’d crossed paths often over the years. She was shocked to discover that Reveal would mark only their second meeting ever, more than fifteen years after recording together on pianist Fred Hersch’s 1995 release Point in Time. 

Wiening makes the most of the pairing on Douglas’ three appearances. She penned “Choral Anthem” with the two in mind, sketching the composition in more skeletal form than usual so as to leave plenty of space for the frontline to explore. During the mesmerizing opening the leader provides the only accompaniment, with Wiening’s drums taking on an evocative and atmospheric role. 

Douglas returns on the muscular, swinging title track, its bristling energy very much in the mold of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers; and on the tender closing track, “The Girl By the Window,” named for (and channeling the soft-hued style of) a painting by American Impressionist T.C. Steele.

Multi-faceted and intriguing, moving and exhilarating, Reveal is ultimately exactly what the title promises: a revelation.

Mareike Wiening studied jazz drums in Mannheim, Copenhagen, and New York City, resided in NYC for six years, and returned to Germany in 2019. Since 2022, she has been a jazz drum instructor at the Zurich University of the Arts. Mareike has performed worldwide with top-tier musicians.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Saxophonist Ada Rovatti Releasing "The Hidden World of Piloo," featuring Randy Brecker, Kurt Elling, Niki Haris, Fay Claassen, Alma Naidu and More

Italy-born, Long Island, New York-based saxophonist/arranger Ada Rovatti delivers a captivating collection of original songs with wide-ranging thematic surprises around every corner. Her seventh album as a leader, The Hidden World of Piloo features six improvisationally rich instrumentals that include blues grooves, samba vibes, straight-up lyricism, melancholic balladry and a comedic finale. Two songs include strings; another features the dobro, a country instrument unlikely to be in a jazz song.

Four Rovatti compositions showcase top-tier vocalists, including jazz-poll champion Kurt Elling, the Netherlands jazz singer Fay Claassen, German pop/jazz star Alma Naidu and fired-up R&B singer Niki Haris (the daughter of jazz great Gene Harris) who once served as a Madonna backing vocalist. They each follow Rovatti’s “impossibly ranged melodies” and settle marvelously into her phrasing.

“This album is clearly not a project where band members solo twenty choruses of the blues,” says Rovatti, who is center stage on tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxophones and flute. “I want to be recognized as a singer/songwriter, saxophonist and arranger. This album shows a different side of me.” In essence, creating space for a round of solos isn’t her intent. She wants to focus on the interplay among her band members—including her husband Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn, organist Simon Oslender, bassist Claus Fischer, drummer Tim Dudek, percussionist Café Da Silva—and other guests.

Rovatti’s sophisticated songs are special. They dive deep into emotional memory. But some throw punches at the causes of the country’s social unrest and injustice.

Case in point: the funk-spiced, dobro-driven “Life Must Go On,” with a harmony arrangement by Naidu sung with a sense of doom in the midst of being “in pure hate and in greed’s name.” Rovatti says, “We’re messing around with too much. There is a higher power that is seeing all these mental glitches of people who want everything, who want power, and it never ends.” Then there’s also “The Naked King,” with a sweet, gentle groove and juicy bass solo that references to the era of the former president.

But of course, there’s the humor at the end.

The Hidden World of Piloo opens with the spirited, percussive, harmonic beauty “Make Up Girl,” dedicated to her teenage daughter who was experimenting with wearing makeup. “I had lyrics, but decided to turn it into an instrumental,” Rovatti says. “There’s a counterpoint for two instruments, which made it perfect for Randy and me to play off each other.”

On her favorite track of the album sung with fire by Claassen, Rovatti embellishes “Hey You (Scintilla of Sonder)” with strings and horns. Rovatti sparks with the intense notion of sonder that even random people passing on the street have their own layers of hidden struggles and complications. She says that’s a fascination and mystery for her. “It’s a deep subject when you realize that,” she says.

Rovatti references the grunge pop life in the ‘90s for the laid-back “Painchiller” featuring Brecker’s charged trumpeting and an injection of pain relief from her guitar friend Tom Guarna. She then turns a corner into jazz party time with the swing and New Orleans blues tune “Grooveland” that she says often ends the set with her band and her outings with Brecker.

“Italians share the Latin groove,” says Rovatti when asked why she changed gears again for the delicious “Simba Samba.” “Naturally I’m attracted to the mood, the groove of Brazilian music. In all my recordings there’s always a Latin feel.”

Rovatti dedicates The Hidden World of Piloo to her father who passed away in 2021 shortly before the recording was completed. In the liner notes, she writes, “A special thanks to my Dad who inspired most of this project and directed from above some of those life lucky oddities.” She also notes that his nickname for her when she was a child was Piloo which is not only in the album name but also is the name of her record label.

Haris sings Rovatti’s moving ballad with strings “Take It Home” in his honor. “I told her the story of the tune, and Niki came back with the perfect take,” she says. “She’s a pro. I wanted someone with a gospel background and a deep voice. I love her phrasing, and her texture reminds me in places of Tina Turner and in other places Aretha.”

Rovatti also mourns her father’s death with the lightly rhythmic “Red August,” the last tune she wrote before he died. It’s melancholic and sad. “It was a painful time,” she says. “I was just on the edge of hanging in there. Red is the color of love and passion.”

The entertaining last song of the album is arguably one of its best. “Done Deal” is a bluesy fantasy of a conversation between Elling and Haris. It’s a hilarious interaction between a husband and wife that includes a trip to heaven. “My original idea was to deal with the struggles of a couple,” Rovatti says. “But I couldn’t talk about cheating and things. I haven’t dated since my twenties, so I don’t remember suffering for love. I’m a happy camper with Randy. So, instead, I thought of comedy with Kurt and Niki improvising the lines.”

The Hidden World of Piloo features Rovatti exercising her creative expertise to its fullest. She wrote all the lyrics, composed and arranged the music, created the packaging that includes a photo shoot with her own light setup and makeup and hair style. “I like to control all the aspects of the work,” she says. “I’m very picky. My mother taught me to take care of myself and not let anyone interfere. It was during the pandemic, so I took up sewing and even designed all the clothes I’m wearing for the cover and album notes.”

Rovatti grew up in Italy playing classical piano before making the switch to saxophone which led her to the Berklee College of Music and later New York where she became active in the jazz community. She worked with many artists, including her future husband Randy Brecker who she became romantically involved with. They married in 2001 and have one child together. Rovatti began recording as a leader with two albums in 2003: Ada Rovatti & The Elephunk Band’s For Rent and her quartet’s Under the Hat. Her discography continued with Airbop. Green Factor, Disguise and in 2019 her Brecker Plays Rovatti—Sacred Bond, with the two playing her compositions. Today Rovatti tours with her own band as well as serves as the tenor saxophonist in Brecker’s band.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

NANCY SINATRA - Keep Walkin’: Singles, Demos & Rarities 1965-1978

Light in the Attic continues to celebrate the influential career of singer, actress, activist, and icon Nancy Sinatra with a captivating new collection, Keep Walkin’: Singles, Demos & Rarities 1965-1978. Exploring the lesser-known gems from Sinatra’s rich catalog through 25 B-sides, rare singles, covers, demos, and previously-unreleased recordings, Keep Walkin’ was remastered by the GRAMMY®-nominated engineer John Baldwin and available in a variety of formats, including vinyl, CD, 8-track, and digital.

This package that goes way past her 60s hits to include a host of lesser-known gems, non-LP singles, rarities, and even a few unissued tracks as well – all presented in a lavish setting that's as vivid as the image on the cover! As you can guess, much of the magic here also comes from Lee Hazlewood, whose studio talents really allows Sinatra to find that special sort of sexy quality that she never seemed to have at the start of her recording career. The whole thing is a great addition to the too few Nancy Sinatra albums of top shelf quality – and titles include a previously unreleased duet with Lee Hazlewood on "I Just Can't Help Believing", the unissued tracks "Something Pretty" and "Do I Hear A Waltz" – and the cuts "Drummer Man", "Shades", "Easy Evil", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Kinky Love", "Sugar Me", "Dolly & Hawkeye", "This Town", "Tony Rome", "100 Yars", "See The Little Children", "Zodiac Blues", "Flowers In The Rain", "Are You Growing Tired Of My Love", "The Last Of The Secret Agents", and "The City Never Sleeps At Night".  

The 2-LP set, pressed at Record Technology, Inc. (RTI), is presented in an expanded gatefold jacket and accompanied by a 24-page booklet (also included in the CD edition as a 40-page booklet), featuring an array of photos from the artist’s personal collection as well as a new in-depth Q&A with Sinatra conducted by the reissue’s GRAMMY®-nominated co-producer, Hunter Lea. The booklet also contains a fascinating interview with keyboardist Don Randi (The Wrecking Crew), who recently spoke to Lea about his hit-filled career and his 50 years of work with Nancy. In addition to the classic black vinyl pressing, a selection of colorful variants can be found exclusively at NancySinatra.com, LightInTheAttic.net, independent record stores, and select online retailers, while limited-edition merchandise, including apparel, accessories, and more are also available at Nancy’s Bootique at NancySinatra.com.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

R&B/jazz saxophonist Jeff Ryan reteams with two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown

After the events that unfolded on the world stage last week, we could all use hope. Billboard chart-topping saxophonist Jeff Ryan teams with two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown on “Where There’s Hope,” a soothing and uplifting R&B/jazz single released by Woodward Avenue Records that began collecting playlist adds on Monday, October 16.

“Where There’s Hope” builds on the chemistry created between Ryan and Brown during the recording sessions for the saxman’s 2021 collection, “Duality.” From the opening notes, Ryan’s horns – he plays both tenor and soprano saxes on the single - engages in encouraging banter with Brown’s spirited electric guitar. Loosely tethered to a midtempo groove anchored by Gorden Campbell’s drums and Roberto Vally’s bass and percussion, the optimistic and impassioned sax and guitar dialogue is an equitable exchange unfolding amidst inviting melodies and warm harmonies crafted by Mark Etheredge’s keyboards and Shane Theriot’s rhythm guitar.      

“Working with Paul always puts one at ease. His playing brought so much life to this track and I’m very proud of the interaction between my sax and his guitar,” said the San Francisco-based Ryan.

Ryan is a very physical sax player, bringing founts of emotion, passion and urgency to his horn work. Whether he’s belting out empowering affirmations on his tenor or dispensing compassionate caresses through his soprano sax, his play on “Where There’s Hope” is lyrically expressive.     

“The title really stands for when challenges come into our lives, to look for the positives that are all around us so that we can make a better future. At this point in my career, my goal is to really show the truest image of myself. No matter all the challenges, the goal is to stay true to the exceptional vision and make that a reality,” said Ryan, who wrote “Where There’s Hope” with Brown, Etheredge and Vally.

Ryan’s 2018 debut album, “Embrace,” which paired him with hitmaking producer-songwriter-keyboardist Greg Manning, earned him JazzTrax’s Breakout Artist honors and Smooth Jazz Network’s Debut Artist of the Year title. The Bay Area musician was named Billboard’s Artist of the Year in 2020 and his 2021 single, “Sentimental Soul,” was Billboard’s Song of the Year. The “Duality” album highlights Ryan collaborating with smooth/contemporary jazz royalty - Brown, Manning, multiple Grammy nominee Darren Rahn and 13-time Billboard chart-topping guitarist Adam Hawley. In the five years since his debut, Ryan has already notched five Billboard No. 1 singles. “Where There’s Hope” bodes to continue Ryan’s hot streak. 

“Here’s to a better life with a strong focus on passion, love, fitness and finesse.”


Monday, October 23, 2023

New music releases – Eunmi Lee, Jason Roebke, The Du-Rites, and Rickey Calloway

Eunmi Lee  Introspection

, composer, and educator Eunmi Lee brings a distinct compositional flair with her debut album, Introspection. Lee hails from South Korea but has been living in New York City since 2020. The album was recorded in New York and features some of the finest musicians the city has to offer. Influenced by diverse musical traditions, from big band jazz, post-bop, chamber music and even Brazilian music, Lee’s compositions are very contemporary but shaded with her Korean culture, creating a unique and engaging soundscape. She named the album Intopspection because the compositions reflect her inner observations, that is, the emotions and images that pop up in her consciousness that she translates into music. Introspection is a captivating debut for emerging jazz artist Eunmi Lee. Backed by a stellar band in the capable hands of producer Alan Ferber, Lee’s contemporary sensibility, poignancy and originality ring true on every note.

Jason Roebke  Four Spheres

A very dynamic set from bassist Jason Roebke – a set that uses graphic scores to direct improvsations by the members of the quartet, who are a very tightly-matched group of players, very able to deliver on Roebke's musical vision! The lineup features some especially great work on clarinet and saxes from Ed Wilkerson – a player we haven't heard as much of in recent years, but who still has the bright fire and imagination that first made us fall in love with his bold music decades ago – and the group also features lots of dark-tinged piano from Mabel Kwan, a player whose depth offsets Wilkerson's energy beautifully. The group also features Marcus Evans on drums, a player who can shake things up in all the right ways – on titles that include "Pulse & Tone", "Quarter Note Equals Eighty", "Stability & Coda", "Piano Spacer", "Four Spheres", and "Starting & Stopping".  Dusty Groove

The Du-Rites –  Plug It In

A set that's almost a back to basics effort for the Du-Rites – one that makes the best use of the massively funky drums of Jay Mumford and fast-riffing guitar of Pablo Martin – as the duo augment their groove with some additional work on bass, percussion, and keyboards too! Yet there's not much else going on here besides the drums and guitar – which is great, as that brings a focus to the funky energy that some other groups have lost along the way – almost in break record territory at times, but with a fuller feeling in the grooves – on instrumentals that include "Tioli", "Du Bo", "Bay B MoMa", "Hole In The Wall", "The Sun", "Asbestos", and "Can I Get Intuit".  Dusty Groove

Rickey Calloway – King Of Funk

Amazing work from Rickey Calloway – an overlooked soul singer with a resume that goes back to the 70s, and one who's definitely kept the spirit of James Brown alive and well with music like this! In a world of young singers trying for a classic vibe, Rickey's the real deal – and served up the goods not just with his fantastic way of putting over a lyric, but also with just the right sort of backup and production – qualities that keep all the tracks on here sounding like some vintage 45s from back in the days when Calloway first started hitting the studios down in Florida! The set's the first-ever vinyl album issued under Rickey's name, and is killer all the way through – with titles that include "Stay In The Groove", "Shed A Tear", "Jump Back (parts 1 & 2)", "That's On You", Tell Me", "Come On Home", "Get It Right", "Shake It Up Shake It Down", and "Work It".  Dusty Groove 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Two-time Grammy Winner Rachel Z is Back With A Jazz Piano Rendition of The Foo Fighters “These Days”

Her Forthcoming 13th Recording Sensual, Out Early 2024 Features Omar Hakim on Drums, Mino Cinelu’s percussion, And Tony Levin, Matt Penman, & Jonathan Toscano on Bass.

Pianist Rachel Z is set to release her 13th album with her talented trio, "Sensual," on February 9, 2024. In this collection of mesmerizing melodies, she takes listeners on a journey through her sensual experiences and emotions. Each track is a testament to her creative brilliance, as she weaves together intricate compositions that evoke a wide range of feelings. The first single “These Days” comes out on October 20, 2023

The Story of Recording “These Days” & Meeting Dave Grohl -

“Having been a Fan of Dave Grohl’s since Nirvana days - I have always loved his writing. He is a brilliant songsmith influenced by the Beatles and Punk, and even hard rock/metal. Dave creates heroic melodic alt-rock that always delivers intelligent life lessons. He is a grand master of drum orchestration.

Our personal journey with the Foo Fighters began during their Wasting Light Tour at MSG on Nov 13, 2011, when we had the fortune to meet them. Dave loved Omar’s work on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and invited us to his gig. There, we briefly discussed the possibility of arranging one of their tracks, my favorite song “These Days”. Fortunately, they were agreeable!

When we were arranging the song for our album version, Omar and I started jamming on the riff and realized we had naturally played the song in 15/8. It then morphs into a few other time signatures like 7/4. I also wrote a few reharms and basically, it turned out to be quite challenging to play.

And so Omar and I, with the young bass master Jonathan Toscano on bass were inspired by this beautiful and profound song about the cycles of life- the paradox of getting f’d over and people saying oh it’s alright just relax- but inside you are crushed by that circumstance. We all fade from this earth and we all die, so we must develop compassion for all humans who will lose everything and everyone they love. At some point, we all return home to source energy.

We hope that fans of punk and rock will feel honored and respected by our efforts as we seek to bring another perspective to this awesome song.

We offer loving kindness and healing energy to the Foo Fighters and to Dave Grohl who have suffered some very heavy losses and have had that play out in real-time in real life. May our experimental exploration bring you peace.” - Rachel Z

Rachel Carmel Hakim (née Nicolazzo), widely acclaimed as Rachel Z, is a luminary of the jazz and rock realm with a dynamic discography and a versatile stand-alone musical spirit, her journey embodies a fusion of innovation and dedication.

Described as a modern-day virtuoso, Rachel Z's musical style, particularly her captivating improvisation, has drawn comparisons to iconic figures such as Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. The London Times has lauded her as "an improviser whose spontaneous playing is by no means eclipsed by the work of presiding geniuses such as Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner" (John Fordham, The Guardian).

In a remarkable collaboration with saxophonist Najee, Rachel Z co-wrote the Grammy Award-winning and certified Gold Record "Tokyo Blue" in 1988, a testament to her songwriting prowess. Her involvement with the fusion band Steps Ahead from 1988 to1996 showcased her keyboard and piano virtuosity, a period marked by artistic exploration and growth.

In addition, contributed to Wayne Shorter's album "High Life," which won her a second Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1997. This collaboration showcased her ability to elevate compositions with her exceptional touch.

In addition to her 13 albums as a bandleader and her work in internationally acclaimed bands such as Steps Ahead, Vertú, the Omar Hakim Experience, and OZmosys, she has played and toured with Wayne Shorter, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Al Di Meola, and Regina Carter. Rachel came to worldwide prominence in the rock world in the Peter Gabriel concert films Growing Up Live and Still Growing Up Live.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Palle Mikkelborg, Jakob Bro, Marilyn Mazur | "Strands"

“When we walked out on stage it felt like a homecoming,” says guitarist Jakob Bro of Strands, this texturally spacious and emotionally charged live recording from Copenhagen, on which three of the defining protagonists of improvisation in Denmark, leading musicians from three generations of Danish jazz, come together. The concert, in February 2023, was particularly poignant since it marked a return to performance for trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, who delivers characteristically thoughtful playing here, always in service of the group context.

Repertoire - primarily by Bro but also including Mikkelborg’s piece “Youth” as well as “Returnings," co-written by Palle and Jakob - is addressed in spontaneous and exploratory spirit. Material is gently transformed and reinvented as Marilyn Mazur’s subtle percussion language of blossoming gongs, bowed metals and rumbling drums blends with Bro’s drifting and rippling washes of sound. The music’s atmospheric qualities, as well its eruptive moments, are enhanced by the resonant acoustics of the Danish Radio Concert Hall.

Reviewing the concert for Nordic music magazine GAFFA, Ivan Rod wrote, “A little hour in the company of Mikkelborg, Mazur and Bro and the world had changed. Familiar frameworks had shifted through obvious moments of beauty and lingering calm."

Jakob Bro and Palle Mikkelborg, friends for many years, had long discussed possibilities of collaboration in diverse idioms. They began to play regularly together a decade ago. Improvisations with Jon Christensen and Thomas Morgan set some directions in motion that led eventually to the Returnings album of 2018. Marilyn Mazur took over the percussion role in 2020: “It seemed a natural extension of the music, which has continued to develop since then,” says Jakob. Of its constantly changing nature, he adds: "There is air in the music, great freedom and a shared desire to create something that cannot necessarily be explained, but felt."

“It’s a search for meaning,” says Mikkelborg of his life’s work as an improviser in Jørgen Leth and Andreas Koefed’s Jakob Bro documentary Music for Black Pigeons, a film currently touring the festivals. “Is there a meaning and if there is, can I be a part of it? And sometimes I’m reminded that there is.”

Marilyn Mazur (born in 1955) and Palle Mikkelborg (born 1941) have considerable musical history together. Marilyn’s contribution to Palle’s large-scale composition Aura, dedicated to and featuring Miles Davis, led to Mazur playing in Miles’s band in the mid-1980s.

Both Mazur and Mikkelborg have recorded often for ECM, Palle’s discography including five albums with Terje Rypdal, among them the late '70s classics Waves and Descendre. He can also be heard on recordings with Edward Vesala, Gary Peacock, Dino Saluzzi and Charlie Haden, and Shankar. Mazur has led ensembles on recordings including Small Labyrinths and Celestial Circle, and appeared on recordings with Jan Garbarek, Jon Balke, Eberhard Weber and Ketil Bjørnstad. Elixir, an album of percussion solos and duos with Jan Garbarek, followed 14 years as a member of the saxophonist’s group. Garbarek once compared Mazur’s playing to the movement of wind through trees, still a potent image for the fluidity and persuasive insistence of her sound.

Jakob Bro (born 1978) was first heard on ECM in the bands of Paul Motian and Tomasz Stanko on Garden of Eden and Dark Eyes. His albums as a leader have brought together improvisers of strikingly different background and experience. The scope of the music continues to widen, as evidenced on recent releases including Uma Elmo, a set of pellucid watercolours generated with Arve Henriksen and Jorge Rossy and the more outgoing Once Around The Room on which Bro and saxophonist Joe Lovano pay tribute to Paul Motian. Common to all these projects is Bro’s conviction that “the music has to breathe. It’s important that a kind of organic conversation is taking place.” Describing Uma Elmo for his Blue Moment blog, Richard Williams noted that Bro’s pieces can be “subtle in effect and gradual in momentum, but employing a surprisingly wide dynamic and emotional range. Exquisite but never effete, they invite the musicians to explore their individual instrumental vocabularies as part of a collective creation.”

Friday, October 20, 2023


Famed for his light touch, exquisite musical sensitivity, and hard-swinging approach to the piano, jazz master Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (山本 剛) has enjoyed a long and storied career that has yielded over 50 albums, seen him play alongside American jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Elvin Jones and witnessed him take the stage at many world-renowned music events, including Switzerland’s iconic Montreux Jazz Festival.  

Now, at the age of 75, Niigata Japan -born Yamamoto, who has no desire to retire despite his advancing years, opens a new chapter by joining the talent roster of the rising high-end label evosound, which is releasing the keenly anticipated A Shade Of Blue, a ten-track album and impeccably shot concert performance that the pianist recorded with his trio live in Tokyo’s Gotanda Cultural Center Music Hall. The album was expertly recorded and mixed by the award-winning, Hideo Irimajiri 入交英雄.

A Shade Of Blue is Yamamoto’s love letter to the piano trio format. It reflects his deep appreciation for the music of Erroll Garner, Wynton Kelly, and Red Garland, three immensely gifted American pianists who had a profound influence on the Japanese musician’s approach to the piano.

The album, his debut for evosound, is a trio album comprising ten tracks recorded live in Tokyo’s Gotanda Culture Center Music Hall. Featuring some of Yamamoto’s favourite tunes, it is almost like a greatest hits compendium; a trip through his back catalogue that features songs made famous by Tokyo-based Three Blind Mice label in the 1970s, which played a key role in bringing high-quality audio value to the Japanese jazz scene.

The trio that Yamamoto assembled for A Shade Of Blue is highly experienced, with a combined age of 215 years; drummer Toshio Osumi (大隅 寿男) is 79 and has been the heartbeat of Yamamoto’s trio since 1974, while the 61-year-old bassist Hiroshi Kagawa (香川 裕史) is the youngest member of the band. Such is the musical empathy between them that together in concert, they breathe, think, and feel as if they were one person.

A Shade Of Blue begins with a lively original number, the Yamamoto-composed “Speed Ball Blues,” a tune he first recorded on his fourth TBM album, 1975’s live LP Blues For Tee.

It is followed by “Speak Low,” a jazz standard written in 1943 by the great German-Jewish composer Kurt Weill (of “Mack The Knife” fame) with lyrics by the American poet, Ogden Nash. Yamamoto made it the title track of his 1999 album for the Venus label and revives it here as a jaunty swinger propelled by Kagawa’s fast-walking bass line and Osuma’s fizzing drum work.

The trio moves away from a revered jazz standard to a much-loved pop classic with their deeply yearning reading of “The Way We Were,” which was a career-defining song for Barbra Streisand. The way Yamamoto caresses the melody is simply sublime, revealing the depth of his musical sensitivity. He previously recorded the tune as a member of Yama & Jiro’s Wave, a trio comprising Yamamoto with Akira Daiyoshi and Tetsujiro Obara on the 1975 album Girl Talk for the Three Blind Mice label.

Beginning with a lush piano intro that recalls the florid style of Erroll Garner, “Like Someone In Love,” has been recorded almost 500 times, by everyone from the Rat Pack boss Frank Sinatra to the Icelandic alt-pop queen Björk. Yamamoto transforms the tune into a sparkling swinger.

“Black Is The Color” is a deeply emotive song indelibly associated with the American singer and pianist Nina Simone, who made it a showstopper in her stage repertoire. Yamamoto recorded the song previously, on his 1999 trio album, Speak Low, and in this new version uses it as a vehicle to display his twinkling, upper-register piano melodies.

Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup’s ‘60 pop hit “Girl Talk” was popularized by singer Tony Bennett and has been in Yamamoto’s repertoire since 1975. The pianist infuses the piece with his distinctive musical personality while finding the perfect balance between flawless technique and deep feeling. 

“Midnight Sugar” was originally written by Yamamoto as the title track of a 1974 album for Three Blind Mice. The tune is a slow, simmering late-night groove that opens with Kagawa’s slow-walking bass line and allows the pianist to reveal his fluency in the rich vocabulary of the blues, the African-American music that is one of jazz’s most important foundation stones.     

Yamamoto first recorded the seductive “Last Tango In Paris,” which highlights his delicately spun right-hand piano filigrees, with Brazilian guitarist Marco Bosco in 2014 on the album Live At The Brazilian Embassy In Tokyo. The Gato Barbieri-written tune first appeared on the soundtrack of the controversial 1972 movie of the same name starring Marlon Brando. 

The Japanese pianist brings a refined sense of elegance and good taste to his interpretation of Erroll Garner’s much-loved ballad “Misty,” which he has recorded several times throughout his long career; he cut it first as the title track of his third album for Three Blind Mice. 

A Shade Of Blue closes with a hard-driving take on the jazz standard “Bye Bye Blackbird,” originally a 1926 hit for pop singer Gene Austin. The Yamamoto trio’s effervescent version ends A Shade Of Blue on a deeply satisfying high note.

Though he’s only five years away from his 80th birthday, Tsuyoshi Yamamoto shows with the stunning A Shade Of Blue that old age does not always equal decline, especially in the artistic sense. In fact, at 76, the Niigata Japan -born piano master displays a level of energy and creativity that would put someone half his age to shame. Above all else, his new album proves that like a well-preserved vintage wine, this Japanese master’s musicality and unique artistry just keep improving with time.

 The eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed 2021 album, Blues For K, A Shade Of Blue captures Tsuyoshi Yamamoto leading a trio featuring bassist Hiroshi Kagawa and drummer Toshio Osumi, recorded playing live at Tokyo’s Gotanda Cultural Center Music Hall. A well-balanced blend of timeless jazz standards (“Misty”), memorable pop tunes (“The Way We Were”) and striking original material (“Speed Ball Blues”), A Shade Of Blue is a stunning showcase for the pianistic brilliance of 76-year-old Yamamoto, who sparkles on up-tempo swingers and achieves a deeply glowing luminosity on his incredible renditions of slow ballads.

The album is available on 180-gram double vinyl LP, SACD - Hybrid Multi-Channel and MQA-CD on the 27th October 2023, and later in the year on MQA-CD + Blu-ray (Dolby Atmos + Stereo) and on an impeccably shot 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Dolby Atmos / Auro /Stereo). The album will be made available on digital platforms on the 8th December 2023. The first single, “Speed Ball Blues” will be released digitally on the 27th October 2023, followed by the second single, “The Way We Were” released digitally on the 17th November 2023.

Hideo Irimajiri (Recording Engineer and Mixing Engineer) on the album: A Shade Of Blue was created as an immersive (3D audio) work. To capture this, we used eight microphones for the piano, three for the bass, twelve for the drums, and 16 for the whole tones.

The stereo and 5.1 channel products were mixed to incorporate the experience of the immersive recordings as much as possible so that when you listen to the album, it feels as realistic as possible - as if the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio were performing right in front of you.

If you enjoy this immersive experience, try out the 3D audio on the Blu-ray, and turn your living room into a concert hall.

Born in 1948 on the Japanese island of Niigata, Yamamoto started playing the piano in elementary school. He was drawn to jazz after hearing the soundtrack to the 1959 French movie, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which featured music by the renowned American hard bop group, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. His professional career began in 1967 when he toured with Mickey Curtis, a noted Japanese actor and musician. In 1974, he began recording for Takeshi Fujii’s iconic Three Blind Mice label and via a series of acclaimed albums, quickly established himself as one of Japan’s leading jazz musicians. A highly respected international figure who has played with US jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, and Carmen McRae, Yamamoto was the house pianist for many years at the Tokyo club Misty and was also the musical director for the popular Japanese TV talk show Ryu's Bar, which ran during the 1980s and ‘90s. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton's 'Grit & Grace' with Bonegasm

In a 2019 article, Forbes Magazine decreed that the two characteristics women need most to thrive in the business world are “grit and grace.” Bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton has exemplified those qualities in the music she’s made with her brass-forward band Bonegasm since its 2019 debut. How else to explain Wharton’s venture into improvising and bandleading after years in the classical world, big band sections and Broadway orchestra pits? Or her dedication to giving the oft-neglected trombone – and more to the point, her own bass trombone – its place in the spotlight? And not least, that she’s done so with a tricky balance of elegant arrangements, bold musicianship, and audacious wit?

On her third outing with Bonegasm, Grit & Grace (due out October 20, 2023 via Sunnyside), Wharton demonstrates both attributes brilliantly on a vibrant and thrilling collection of new music, played with rousing vigor by the stellar ensemble: Wharton on bass trombone, along with trombonists John Fedchock, Nate Mayland and Alan Ferber, pianist Michael Eckroth, bassist Evan Gregor, drummer Don Peretz and, on half the tracks, percussionist Samuel Torres.

“That Forbes article really resonated with me,” Wharton says. “Here I am, a woman playing a ‘man’s instrument’ in jazz, which I started relatively late. I was looking for a way to make music mean more to me, so when I discovered I could have something of my own it changed my whole outlook on music. I just decided to put on my big girl pants and do this.”

The album provides a showcase not only for the leader’s grit and grace, but for that of several women composers that Bonegasm commissioned to write for the album: Vanessa Perica, Miho Hazama, Carolina Calvache, Natalie Cressman and Nadje Noordhuis. Wharton herself joins their ranks, contributing her own compositions to the band’s book for the first time.

“Dare I say, ‘I'm a feminist’?” muses Wharton. “I didn't have any female role models coming up, so I'm trying to encourage young women. Then I looked at my band and realized it's me and a bunch of dudes – just like most other bands I'm in – so I decided the answer was to commission only female composers for the third album.”

Australian composer/conductor Vanessa Perica contributes the moving “In Our Darkest Hour,” a somber yet determined rumination on the political turmoil that swept the U.S. in 2020. The piece is driven by Wharton’s low moan of a melody, a sole lamenting voice that gains in strength and momentum as her compatriots join in. Grammy-nominated composer/conductor Miho Hazama’s “Norhala” draws from an obscure source: A. Merritt’s 1920 fantasy novel The Metal Monster. Norhala is a mysterious character who can control lightning and bring metal objects to life, vividly illustrated by Hazama’s stirring, heavy metal-inspired piece.

Colombian-born pianist Carolina Calvache depicts a period in which the composer was faced with several daunting decisions, its dense layers capturing the sense of overwhelming uncertainty. Singer, songwriter and trombonist Natalie Cressman offers a Brazilian-tinged anthem in keeping with the album’s themes of beauty and solidarity with “Menina Sozinha,” which translates as “girl on her own.” The album ends with Australian-born trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis’ rollicking “Coop’s Condiments,” an homage to the titular Creole restaurant in New Orleans that features Wharton on lead vocals. The bandleader had previously flexed her pipes on Bonegasm’s self-titled debut, albeit in more of a tongue-in-cheek fashion. “I’m not a singer,” Wharton protests. “But I am a giant ham.”

With Grit & Grace, Wharton’s own name can now be added to the ranks of those rising star composers. The album opens with her own “Be Normal,” arranged as a birthday gift by bandmate (and husband) John Fedchock. The title is a bit of self-admonition from the composer over her own frenetic energy, with a wink to a joke from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. “My whole life I’ve wished I didn't feel this constant need to be productive, but I guess my brain is just abnormal.”

Wharton’s first-ever composition, “Virtual Reality,” is a tense and frenetic piece featuring venturesome solos by Alan Ferber and the leader. “Mama’s Alright” is a tribute to the pioneering trombonist Melba Liston, who worked with Randy Weston, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and other icons, but only recorded one album under her own name. Wharton builds on a fragment of Liston’s playing from that album to craft a rousing new piece fueled by Torres’ evocative percussion. The bandleader also arranged “Anita,” a hauntingly gorgeous Dick Oatts piece inspired by the death of a close friend’s daughter; and “La Bruja,” a sultry and venomous Mexican folk song provocatively performed by Salma Hayek in her biopic of painter Frida Kahlo.

It certainly took that unique combination of grit and grace for a band with the beauty, humor and boldness of Bonegasm, to exist. But those same elements prove to be essential ingredients for the band’s most spirited and vivifying album to date, a concoction both bracingly gritty and rapturously graceful.

Jennifer Wharton is a low brass specialist based in New York City. Though getting her start classically, Jen has planted deep roots in jazz and commercial music. She can usually be found honking out low notes in a Broadway pit, a recording studio, on stage or in a big band section. Jen is a member of multiple Grammy-nominated jazz orchestras, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Alan Ferber Big Band, Remy LeBoeuf’s Assembly of Shadows, Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra and the Terraza Big Band. She has also performed or recorded with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band, Woody Herman Orchestra, Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Jihye Lee Jazz Orchestra, Big Heart Machine, and with her favorite husband, trombonist/composer John Fedchock. She has released three albums with her trombone-forward band Bonegasm: a self-titled debut released in 2019, followed by Not a Novelty in 2021 and Grit & Grace in 2023.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Legendary Miles Davis’s Saxophonist Sam Morrison “Whatever : Anthology 1”

Sam Morrison is a multifaceted musician known for his mastery of the soprano and tenor saxophones, as well as his artistry on the alto and bass flutes. With a career that spans several decades, he has left an indelible mark on the world of jazz, collaborating with legendary artists and contributing to iconic recordings.

One of the standout moments in Sam’s career was his membership in the esteemed Miles Davis Band. His performance alongside Miles Davis at the 1975 Newport Jazz Festival, held that year at Avery Fisher Hall, garnered rave reviews from The New York Times. A portion of that historic concert's recording has recently been released in the Miles Davis bootleg series, “Volume 4: 1955-1975 Newport Jazz Festival.” Collectors and enthusiasts can also find bootleg recordings of concert and club performances featuring Sam Morrison with the Miles Davis Band, testifying to the lasting impact of his contributions.

Sam Morrison’s musical journey extends beyond his time with Miles Davis. He has collaborated with an array of jazz, rock, and blues luminaries, including Gil Evans, Al Foster, Buster Williams, Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, T-Bone Walker, Michael Shrieve, Michael Brecker, Masabumi Kikuchi, and Ryo Kawasaki. His presence has graced stages at major jazz festivals across Europe, such as Vienne, Nice, Paris, and Stockholm.

As a member of  “The Children on the Corner,” the Electric Miles reunion band featuring bass legend Michael Henderson and jazz tabla pioneer Badal Roy, Sam continues to explore new dimensions in jazz fusion. His musical education began at Columbia University in New York City, where he immersed himself in the vibrant jazz scene, frequenting legendary clubs like Slugs and the Village Vanguard. He also experienced the groundbreaking rock acts of the era at Fillmore East, further expanding his musical horizons.

Currently, Sam Morrison is actively working on a new trio album featuring Michael Shrieve, the original Santana drummer from Woodstock, and Patrick Gleeson, an electronic music and synth pioneer known for his collaborations with Herbie Hancock. Additionally, his forthcoming solo album is eagerly anticipated, with remixing by the legendary bassist, producer, and remixer Bill Laswell.

Sam Morrison’s contributions to the world of music continue to evolve and inspire. Blue Buddha is proud to have him as part of our roster of exceptional talent, and audiences can look forward to experiencing his innovative and genre-defying artistry in the years to come.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The self-titled debut album by Maiiah & Angels of Libra (soul / rhythm n blues)

The Angels Of Libra are a 10-piece soul outfit from Hamburg with a high affinity to analog recording techniques, 60s soul revue concepts and film scores.

Born out of a recording session in a house in Denmark in which producer & guitarist Dennis Rux, keyboard player Chris Haertel, bassist David Nesselhauf and drummer Lucas Kochbeck spent two weeks writing and recording instrumental songs onto a 1980s TASCAM 388 8-track tape recorder, the project was originally intended to be a soul revue featuring various singers throughout the record. 

A few years previously, Rux had met Nathan Johnston at Clouds Hill Studios in Hamburg while working on their own separate projects. In a search for new voices, Rux asked Johnston if he would like to feature as a vocalist on one of the songs from the Denmark recordings. As a challenge to his own songwriting abilities (with no instruction as to the lyrical content/vocal melodies and complete freedom of expression) Johnston accepted the offer and a few months later sent a demo to Rux of the newly titled track – “Angel Of Libra”. 

After hearing it, the band decided to name themselves after the song’s title.

The newly appointed Angels Of Libra made their debut in March 2021 with digital single “Kung Fu Noir”, a cinematic instrumental with mysterious vibes. Their first physical release however, came almost a year later, in February 2022, with double-sider 45 “Bless My Soul” / “Souvenir” on Légère Recordings, featuring music whiz Shawn Lee getting down over two modern soul steppers: A-side “Bless My Soul” is a dreamy funk track with a catchy hook, while the B side, “Souvenir” is a proper feel good soul number. 

In the meantime, the band enlisted Johnston to come to Rux’s ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah!’ studios in Hamburg to write and record a full length album, featuring 10 tracks of their own compositions reminiscent of Air, Khruangbin or Ennio Morricone. 

The first single off that album is the moody and seductive “Angel Of Libra” set for release on June 3rd 2022 with Berlin-based label Waterfall Records, soon to be followed by the full-length, and more surprises…. stay tuned!

Monday, October 16, 2023

SHORT STORIES, a new recording by pianist-composer DAVID LOPATO & GLOBAL COOLANT

Short Stories, the new recording by award-winning NY-based composer-pianist David Lopato is an eclectic assemblage of eight original compositions and one cover (Prince of Darkness by Wayne Shorter). The music spans 4 decades of writing and, like all of Lopato’s previous recordings, a wide range of musical genres and styles. It features a core quintet of incredible musicians with whom Lopato has worked for many years: Ed Neumeister on trombone, Lucas Pino on saxes and clarinets, Ratzo Harris on string bass and Michael Sarin on drum. The group is augmented by three of New York’s top percussionists: Rogerio Boccato, Keita Ogawa and Bobby Sanabria, and by newcomer Anson Jones on vocals.

The influences on Lopato’s music run far, wide and deep, from traditional jazz, blues and rock to avant-garde improvisation, and the musics of Africa, Brazil and Asia, most notably Indonesia, where Lopato lived for a year as a Fulbright scholar studying Javanese gamelan. His last recording, the South Asian-influenced Gendhing for a Spirit Rising, was cited as one of the top albums of 2017 by Downbeat Magazine, which described it as “unlike anything you are likely to hear this year (or any year). Unlike many experiments with musical fusion, Lopato’s music is the genuine article”.

While Gendhing is steeped in the musics of South Asia, the pieces in Short Stories are closer to home yet no less adventurous. Prince of Darkness, one of only two compositions in Lopato’s entire recorded output not written by him, is a nod to the late, great Wayne Shorter, revered by so many jazz composers. Another homage to a late, great musician is the pensive ballad For Chick, written in memory of Chick Corea. Stuttersteppin’ is a gnarly piece in swing time with open improvisation that is influenced by classical Indian raga and Through the Veil takes yet an entirely different turn. Inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist concept of the Bardo and the notion of the soul choosing its moment of birth, it is a long-form composition which intermingles modern jazz with avant-garde improvisation and includes a startling sprechstimme-like solo by Ed Neumeister. Nelson is another homage, an upbeat celebration written upon Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. Clarity is an atmospheric, straight-8 ballad and Papagayo a rollicking samba infused with a salsa-like solo section by the great Bobby Sanabria. New Orleans is present in Looking for Mr. Babar, with equal nods to dixieland and Randy Newman, one of Lopato’s favorite pop musicians. The Glass Ceiling is a largely notated lament written in the wee hours of Nov. 8, 2016, a profoundly somber moment for millions of Americans. Despite this wide diversity of styles, the album flows seamlessly from start to finish. The writing and playing are both filled with warmth, swing and intensity.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Contemporary jazz guitarist Slim Gambill reteams with hitmaker Adam Hawley on the single "Light This Candle"

Guitarist Slim Gambill’s solo recording career is about to blow up. Twenty years into his professional career that includes a long tenured sideman feature with multi-platinum, 7-time Grammy winners Lady A, the fretman’s own turn in the spotlight bodes to takeoff to another stratosphere when his new single, “Light This Candle,” begins collecting playlist adds on Monday (October 16). He wrote the Ludlow St. Records release with 12-time Billboard chart-topper Adam Hawley who produced the track.

“Light This Candle” is a slick and sleek Chic-styled, Nile Rodgers-riffing, dancefloor filling, disco and contemporary jazz mashup. Rocking his trademark twin braids, Gambill works out on a cool electric jazz guitar, playing dexterous lead and rhythm licks. Hawley decorates the energizing vibe and funky groove with rhythm guitar, Rhodes keyboards, synths and programming. Carnell Harrell enhances the instrumental bed with additional synth shading while the rhythm section comprised of Grammy-winning bassist Mel Brown and percussionist Ramon Yslas (David Sanborn, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera) is locked.

“The Daft Punk-y groove and the hook remind me of a rocket taking off in some crazy 1970s sci-fi disco fantasy,” laughed the Nashville-based Gambill, who then explained the true meaning of the song title.

“This single is coming out at a pivotal juncture for me. It’s my fifth release and I think my sound is unique to contemporary jazz. It’s been a gradual process, and every single has done better and better. It’s time to ‘Light This Candle!”  Let’s get this done! I feel like this track is the one that’s gonna take my music over the top, and everything is pointing in that direction, so it’s all systems go,” said Gambill who lensed a video accompanying the single that can be viewed at https://youtu.be/BEN1ui7YTF4.

“Light This Candle” is the second consecutive single from the Gambill-Hawley team. Although both are graduates of the guitar program at the USC Thornton School of Music, saxophone sensation Mindi Abair introduced them. Earlier this year, Gambill hit the charts hard with the Hawley produced “Heavyweight,” resulting in a top 20 hit on the Billboard and Mediabase charts.

On his collaborative chemistry with Hawley, Gambill said, “You really realize why Adam is who he is. His ideas never, ever hit me as, ‘Yeah, I would have done the same thing.’ It’s really quite the opposite. His ideas add a spark that I never would have thought of and that’s what makes for such a killer musical and co-writing relationship.” 

Born in Nebraska and raised in Colorado as Jason Gambill, Slim’s first passion was rock and roll and blues guitar, idolizing Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. At fifteen, he became mesmerized by George Benson’s music along with seminal jazz figures Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra and his path was set…until he deviated by joining Lady A in their formative stages. Gambill became an integral part of the wild ride that rocketed them to global superstardom.

Gambill started his solo catalogue four years ago with the release of the flippantly titled “Fake Jazz & Theme Songs” followed a year later by his sophomore set, “LCD.” Over the last two years, he’s released a few jazz-R&B singles. Previewing his forthcoming album, “A Fine Vintage,” which is slated to arrive next spring, Gambill hopes “Light This Candle” will propel his career trajectory into another galaxy.

New music releases: Bob Marley & The Wailers / Catch A Fire 50th anniversary reissue, Fat Larry's Band, Reggae Funkyfied, and Ava Mendez & Devin Hoff Revels

Bob Marley & The Wailers / Catch A Fire 50th anniversary reissue

Bob Marley & The Wailers’ 1973 album Catch A Fire is being reissued on vinyl and CD for its 50th anniversary. The 3CD deluxe and 3LP vinyl + 12-inch packages contain the same audio which is the original studio album, a first official release for Live at The Paris Theatre, London and a Sessions disc which includes alternate/extended/instrumental versions of album tracks (including the two alternate versions of Stir It Up which were issued on a seven-inch single for this year’s Record Store Day. Three tracks performed at the Sundown Theatre in Edmonton, North London are appended to CD 3 and make up the content of the 12-inch single which comes with the vinyl box set. Both presentations feature booklets with new notes (by Chris Salewicz) and rare and unseen photos. They also feature both covers the original Zippo lighter on one side and Bob smoking his spliff on the other. A special D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) coloured vinyl edition is also available. Catch A Fire 50th anniversary will be released on 3 November 2023 via UMR/Island.

Fat Larry's Band - I Can Understand It

Fat Larry's Band was formed in Philadelphia in 1976 and fronted by drummer and vocalist Fat Larry James who also played drums in the iconic Philly soul bands The Delfonics and Blue Magic. Over the course of ten years, the group released nine albums and scored big with memorable hits such as "Act Like You Know," "Zoom" and "Lookin' For Love." The band did particularly well in the UK where "Zoom" reached number 2 on the UK singles chart in 1982. They also scored big in the UK with the hits "Center City," "Boogie Town" and "Looking For Love" - songs that attracted a large audience of funk and disco music fans around the globe. Unfortunately, the band folded in 1987 after the premature death of Fat Larry James from a heart attack at the age of 38. The most recent incarnation of the band includes hornman and original founding member Jimmy Lee, original vocalist Art Austin who has been with the band since 1979, and vocalists Dr. Salaam Love and Carl Gray. Recently, the band covered Bobby Womack's 1972 hit "I Can Understand It" and it became one of the stand-out tracks for their critically acclaimed "Memories" album. Recently, while working with legendary Philly soul music producer Butch Ingram, the band reworked the track, utilizing some additional musical performances and backing vocals, and remixed it into a more dynamic version for radio - and so, the resurgence of Fat Larry's Band rolls on...

Reggae Funkyfied (Various)

A killer collection of reggae remakes of famous soul and funk tunes – all served up from a later generation of the scene, which makes a nice change from some of the more ska and rocksteady collections of this nature! It's no secret that Jamaican music was initially given a strong inspiration from American soul – and even in this generation, when the Kingston scene had really found its own groove, other influences would still come into the music in a really great way – as you'll hear on these really cool reworkings of themes from Ohio Players, McFadden & Whitehead, Barry White, and others! The production of most of these cuts is great – different than some of the more disco-oriented material that would copy American work – more laidback, with some currents of lovers rock as well – and funky, but in a laidback way. Titles include "Midnight" by Willie Lindo, "Skin Tight" by Lloyd Charmers, "Strange Compulsion" by Sheila Hylton, "Moving On" by Leslie Butler, "Funky Rasta" by Ronnie Butler, "Crowded City" by The Messengers, "Chemistry Of Love" by Susan Cadogan, "Can't Stop Rasta Now" by Ras Midas, and "Deeper & Deeper" by Lloyd Charmers. ~ Dusty Groove

Ava Mendez & Devin Hoff Revels - Echolocation

A stunning set of punk jazz, and one that maybe hearkens back to key experiments of this nature from the 80s scene – particularly some of the more groundbreaking work on the New York downtown scene! Ava Mendoza plays electric guitar and Devi Hoff play electric bass – but the pair also work here with excellent tenor from James Brandon Lewis, whose presence really balances out the fuzzier electric energy in a great way – different lines, different sounds, and a balance that never has Lewis trying to match the guitars for ferocity, which is a real plus. The quartet also features great drums from Ches Smith – and titles include "The Stumble", "Interwhining", "Dyscalculia", "Babel 17", "New Ghosts", and "Ten Forward".  ~ Dusty Groove

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Funkwrench Blues - Soundtrack For A Film Without Pictures

In his wide-ranging career, bassist, guitarist, arranger, composer, producer, and engineer Frank Swart has contributed to countless sessions covering a wide range of music, from rock and funk to psychedelic acid jazz. In recent times, under the Funkwrench Blues name, he has created and produced 146 singles (at the time of this writing) that have been released once every two weeks, featuring such major artists as Mike Stern, Charlie Hunter, John Medeski, Oz Noy, Fred Wesley, and the late Lucky Peterson. In addition, he has co-produced an extensive series of Folk/Americana seven-inch vinyl singles. Even with all of this activity, with the encouragement of his studio partner Brian Brinkerhoff, Swart decided to "follow his bliss" and make an adventurous modal jazz album.

“I always think about music in a cinematic way. Once we had amassed a full body of work, it was obvious to me that this was a soundtrack to a film without pictures; everything fit together. The pieces did not have permanent titles so I loosely nicked titles from Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. The story starts with the character having an unremarkable lifestyle but then being called upon to experience a life-changing adventure and win an important battle before finally returning to share what he learned.”

The intriguing Soundtrack to A Film Without Pictures begins with the electronic groove of “The Life” which then bursts into a full funkfest, featuring Swart’s bass and guitar playing and Mars Volta's Thomas Pridgen’s virtuosic drumming, setting the introductory scene. Altoist Gary Bartz is featured on “The Call,” soaring above the rolling pensive background that is inspired by the jazz-rock fusion of the 1970s. Evan Hatfield’s sitar and Christopher Hoffman's cello create a discordant conversation on “The Refusal” which also features the crisp drumming of Whitefield Brothers' drummer/producer, Max Weissenfeldt. “The Meeting” includes a repetitive and forceful rhythm riff, admittedly inspired by Miles Davis’ Jack Johnson/Bitches Brew period, behind the fiery playing of the Fringe’s George Garzone on soprano. Warren Wolf’s vibes and Swart’s wah-wah effects and chordal bass co-star in ⅞ time on "The Crossing” while “The Test” has a Charles Mingus-ish theme played by a horn section that is worthy of a dramatic detective television show, including Chris West doing his best Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet.

The second half of the program begins with Bill Evans’ soprano showcased on the aggressive blues of “The Approach.” Idris Ackamoor’s tenor gives “The Ordeal” the anguish it needs including its nod to Mongo Santamaria’s "Afro Blue" in its closing. The thoughtful “The Reward,” features the emotionally rich contributions of cellist Mai Bloomfield and John Deaderick’s keyboard playing. “That track was inspired by Andrew Hill’s 'Illusion - Alternate Take'," Swart enthusiastically proclaims. “The Road Back” has jubilant ensembles, an eccentric and relentless groove, and passionate playing from Dave Liebman on soprano. “The Resurrection” is one of several pieces that feature fine contributions from Swart’s old friend and Junk/post junk trio bandmate saxophonist/flautist David “DR” Robbins, who co-wrote this piece along with “The Life”; Mike Clark’s juxtaposing swing and funk sections and the leader’s guitar are also important parts of the dynamic ensemble. The final section, “The Return,” is more peaceful and has Frank Swart’s bass featured along with Christopher Hoffman’s cello. As with any movie score, Soundtrack To A Film Without Pictures concludes with "The Credits."

It reimagines the electronic groove that introduced the album and then dissolves into a landscape of free sound consisting of Swart’s bowing and drumming, Hoffman this time on electric cello, and Robbins on flute.

Frank Swart remembers, “Because I had a clear sonic vision of what I wanted on this project, I did all of the bass and guitar work myself. After recording my parts, I was fortunate enough to get many of my favorite drummers including Derrek Phillips, Scott Amendola, Thomas Pridgen, Simone Pannozzo, Max Weissenfeldt, Mike Clark and a few others, telling them to simply be themselves. Due to the pandemic, many musicians who had previously been very busy were suddenly available, so I reached out to special guests who were featured on sections of the album.” Those include such greats as saxophonists Gary Bartz, George Garzone, Dave Liebman, and Bill Evans, and vibraphonist Warren Wolf.


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