Monday, April 22, 2024

New Music: Russell Thompkins, Jr., Lenny Williams, Alex Harris, Richard 'Dimples' Fields

Russell Thompkins, Jr. - Riding Solo

SoulMusic Records-Digital in association with Platinum Garage Recordings is very excited to present “Riding Solo,” a brand new album by the iconic Russell Thompkins, Jr.  whose distinctive vocal style graced such classic hits as” You Are Everything”, “Betcha By Golly Wow”and “People Make The World Go ‘Round” as the original lead singer of The Stylistics.  With primary production by Preston Glass and three tracks produced by The Steals Brothers & McKinley Jackson, “Riding Solo” is a powerful addition to Russell’s musical legacy. Songs include "Little Green Apples," "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love," among others.

Lenny Williams - Chill

Vocalist Lenny Williams joined Tower of Power in 1972 after releasing singles as a solo artist on Fantasy, Galaxy, and Atco Records. His first release with the band was their self-titled, third album, which went Gold. After two albums with the group, Williams returned to his solo career - releasing albums through to the end of the 1970's on Warner Bros. Motown, ABC and MCA Records. Material from those albums became a hotbed for sampling decades later by Kanye West, Mobb Deep, Scarface, Young Jeezy, and others. In 1986, Williams was recruited by award winning producer Preston Glass to sing lead vocals on a track by jazz artist Kenny G. The track, 'Don't Make Me Wait for Love', hit #15 on the pop charts, and the album, 'Duotones', went on to sell over five million copies in the US. Lenny would reconnect with Duotones producer Preston Glass in 1994 for a new album - 'Chill'.

Alex Harris - Back To Us

The timing couldn’t be better for the emergence of an exciting new soul star and Alex Harris delivers the goods with heart stopping emotion, a powerful voice and radiant good looks leading to rave reviews. From Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings to Durand Jones & The Indications and Leon Bridges, classic soul music has been a growing part of the contemporary music landscape. Alex’s debut album, ‘Back To Us’, is an impressive mix of original tunes and astute covers recorded with soulful funksters Monophonics in Nashville. Highlights include stunning versions of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me,” Kevin Welch’s “Millionaire” and Alex’s co-written originals “Falling For You” and “Something’s Gotta Change.

Richard 'Dimples' Fields - The Albums 1980-1985

This package kicks off with ‘Dimples’ the first album he recorded after being signed to Boardwalk by Neil Bogart, who had previously run Casablanca Records, the home of Donna Summer and Parliament among others. Bogart had a lot of faith in his talent after spotting him on American Bandstand and his industry clout positioned Dimples to attract a wide, mainstream audience far beyond his previous cult independent LPs. The standout that looms large on ‘Dimples’ is ‘She’s Got Papers on Me’ which sounds much like a stock soul ballad of the day: lush and pretty, with swooning background vocals and a sincere lead, but Dimples isn’t serenading a love, instead, he’s complaining that he’d rather be with his mistress than with his wife who, unfortunately, holds that pesky marriage license (the “papers” in question). Ironically, it was never released as a single. ‘Dimples’ was followed with the ‘Mr Looks So Good’ album, the lead cut ‘If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another’ was his breakthrough track, reaching #1 on the R&B Chart and cracking the Top 50 on the Billboard chart. The ‘Give Everybody Some’ album followed featuring the singles ‘People Treat You Funky (When Ya Ain’t Got No Money)’ and ‘Don’t Ever Stop Chasing Your Dreams’. After leaving Boardwalk, Dimples signed with RCA and recorded the album “MMM…” the label put its weight behind the glossy, uptempo, and double infidelity-themed ‘Your Wife Is Cheatin’ on Us’ which peaked at #32 in the R&B chart. On the follow up album ‘Dark Gable’ Fields simply became Dimples for the standout cut ‘Shake ‘Em Down’. Sadly Richard “Dimples” Fields died in January 2000 following a stroke.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

New Music: Thom Bell, Kirk Whalum, Red Hot & Ra (Meshell Ndegeocello), and Josh Johnson

Thom Bell – Didn’t I Blow Your Mind? The Sound Of Philadelphia Soul 1969-1983 – Various Artists

Thom Bell, along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, was part of the holy trinity of Philly soul. Reaching an apogee in the early to mid-70s with records for the Delfonics (‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time’), Stylistics (‘Betcha By Golly, Wow’), the Detroit Spinners (‘The Rubberband Man’), and Dionne Warwick (‘Then Came You’), Bell was the classically trained arranger who introduced the celeste, the French horn and the harpsichord to soul music. This is the sequel to “Ready Or Not”, Ace’s first acclaimed compilation of the late Thom Bell’s productions and arrangements. Put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley, “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind?” combines some of Bell’s biggest and best loved 70s hits with rarities and 80s quiet storm classics such as Deniece Williams’ ‘Silly’ and Phyllis Hymans seductive ‘Let Somebody Love You’. Elton John lines up alongside soul legends like Lou Rawls and Eloise Laws. This collection will appeal to Northern Soul collectors as well as pulling in lovers of smooth 70s and 80s soul. Bob Stanley’s sleeve-notes – with a rare interview with Bell himself – and a wealth of rare photos are icing on the cake. Bell’s unique and instantly identifiable Philly sound has proved timeless.

Kirk Whalum - Epic Cool

Saxophone icon Kirk Whalum blasts off with his highly-anticipated new album Epic Cool, an electrifying collection of original grooves. Teaming up with producer Greg Manning (Keb’ Mo’, Herb Alpert, 2x GRAMMY® nominee, composer/collaborator on 10 #1 Billboard hits), Whalum focuses on his songwriting to craft an album that’s passionate and spirited on a monumental scale, but with his trademark soul. From danceable hits like “Bah-De-Yah!” to melodic, sultry jams (Whalum calls “Pillow Talk” the strongest song he’s written in 20 years), Epic Cool weaves a musical story that has wide, cross-genre appeal. Get ready to groove, because Epic Cool is anything but ordinary.

Red Hot & Ra (Meshell Ndegeocello) -  Magic City

Maybe the coolest album so far in the Red Hot series – even amidst the unique Sun Ra subgroup – as the album's the brainchild of Meshell Ndegeocello, and comes together with all the complex soulfulness of her own recent albums! Back in the 90s, Meshell was a great but more mainstream soul artist – and over the years, she's developed into a really fascinating talent – one able to reach out with a complex blend of jazz, funk, and soul elements – woven into patterns that are always very much her own – a musical legacy that the great Sun Ra might have appreciated! Ndegeocello leads a very diverse lineup here – playing bass and keyboards, and singing a bit – next to other players who include longtime Arkestra giant Marshall Allen on alto and EWI, plus Immanuel Wilkins on alto, Christopher Bruce on guitar, Darius Jones on saxes, Daniel Mintseris on keyboards, and Justin Hicks, Pink Siifu, Kenita Miller, Nio Levon, and Hanna Benn on vocals. The album channels Ra's spirit through territory that's very much Meshell's own – and titles include "Yet Differently Not Mars Hall", "El Soul The Companion Traveler", "The World Of Shadow", "Reproductive Manatees/Sunny Said Up", "Bedlam Blues", "#9 Venus The Living Myth", and "Departure Guide Of The 7 Sisters".  ~ Dusty Groove

Josh Johnson - Unusual Object

A solo record, but one that's got the sound of more things at once than you might expect – as saxophonist Josh Johnson has this great way of processing the sound from his horns, then layering them with samples and other elements too – but all in a way that's never gimmicky, and really retains the jazz energy at the core! Johnson is already a great saxophonist in a conventional setting, with a sense of tone that's wonderful – and here, he carves out a space that's all his own – with a sense of uniqueness and post-jazz creativity that resonates with some of the hippest recent experiments on the London and Chicago scenes! Titles include "Marvis", "Deep Dark", "Quince", "Telling You", "Jeanette", "Reddish", "Local City Of Industry", and "Free Mechanical".  © 1996-2024, Dusty Groove, Inc.


The Marley Brothers – Ziggy, Stephen, Julian, Ky-Mani and Damian – announce The Marley Brothers: The Legacy Tour, their 22-date run produced by Live Nation which historically marks their first outing together in two decades. The tour will commence on September 5, 2024 at Festival Lawn at Deer Lake Park in Vancouver, BC then continues across the U.S. and Canada through the fall. 

Bob Marley's music endures as a beacon of strength, hope, and unity, attracting a growing global fanbase. For over three decades, his sons have each established themselves as renowned solo artists and collectively boast an impressive count of 22 GRAMMY® Awards, with Julian securing 2024's win for "Best Reggae Album.” 

Now reunited on The Marley Brothers: The Legacy Tour, they'll honor their father's worldwide impact by performing both individual hits and classic Bob Marley songs during a momentous year for the genre. As the world nears what would have been Bob Marley's 80th birthday in 2025, there's no greater homage than experiencing his music live through his sons, who carry on his enduring influence across popular culture. 

VIP PACKAGES:  The tour will also offer a variety of immersive VIP packages and experiences for fans to take their concert experience to the next level. Fans can also purchase VIP Packages, which may include premium tickets, invitation to the pre-show soundcheck with the Marley Brothers’ band, access to the pre-show VIP lounge, specially designed VIP gift item and more.  

Additionally, on April 20th, Bob Marley: One Love will expand its screenings, inviting audiences to celebrate alongside one of the most influential icons of all time. Coming off the heels of a worldwide record-breaking theatrical run and the 40th anniversary of Marley's revolutionary album, Legend, this tour further underscores his enduring impact on the cultural landscape.


  • 9.05 | Vancouver, BC | Festival Lawn at Deer Lake Park
  • 9.06 | Ridgefield, WA | RV Inn Style Resorts Amphitheater
  • 9.08 | Auburn, WA | White River Amphitheatre
  • 9.10 | Concord, CA | Toyota Pavilion at Concord
  • 9.11 | Chula Vista, CA | North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre
  • 9.12 | Phoenix, AZ | Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre
  • 9.13 | Albuquerque, NM | Isleta Amphitheater
  • 9.15 | Austin, TX | Germania Insurance Amphitheater
  • 9.16 | Dallas, TX | Dos Equis Pavilion
  • 9.18 | Cincinnati, OH | Riverbend Music Center
  • 9.19 | Clarkston, MI | Pine Knob Music Theatre
  • 9.22 | Queens, NY | Forest Hills Stadium
  • 9.23 | Holmdel, NJ | PNC Bank Arts Center
  • 9.25 | Bridgeport, CT | Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater
  • 9.26 | Mansfield, MA | Xfinity Center
  • 9.27 | Bristow, VA | Jiffy Lube Live
  • 9.29 | Toronto, ON | Budweiser Stage
  • 9.30 | Laval, QC | Place Bell
  • 10.02 | Wilmington, NC | Live Oak Bank Pavilion
  • 10.03 | Atlanta, GA | Lakewood Amphitheatre
  • 10.04 | Tampa, FL | MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amp
  • 10.05 | Miami, FL | FPL Solar Amphitheatre 

Ziggy Marley is an eight-time Grammy winner, Emmy winner, musician, producer, activist and humanitarian who has cultivated a legendary career for close to 40 years. The eldest son of Bob and Rita Marley, Ziggy has hewed his own path as a musical pioneer, infusing the reggae genre with funk, blues, rock and other elements through mindful songcraft. Equal parts master storyteller and motivational guide, he deftly explores issues from environmental awareness to self-empowerment, social injustice to political inequity, while returning again and again to the transformative power of love. And over the past 15 years with his own companies, Tuff Gong Worldwide and Ishti Music, Marley has complete control of his masters and publishing; alongside his charity URGE – benefiting the well-being of children in Jamaica, Africa and North America.

Stephen “Ragga” Marley is a world-renowned singer, songwriter, and producer whose work has earned no fewer than eight Grammy Awards. Born into a musical family, Stephen is the child of reggae legends Bob Marley and Rita Marley. He began singing professionally at 6, touring the world with his elder siblings Ziggy, Sharon, and Cedella in The Melody Makers. In 2008, he released his first solo album, Mind Control, which won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. His subsequent solo albums include Mind Control Acoustic, Revelation Part I: The Root of Life, and Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life. Stephen’s first new full-length album in more than seven years, Old Soul, was released on September 15 via Tuff Gong Collective/UMe/Ghetto Youths International. The new album is a departure from his previous Reggae repertoire, showcasing more of his bluesy, acoustic soul side, as evidenced by the first single, “Old Soul.” Stephen is also an acclaimed producer, working closely with his brother Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley on the massive crossover hit Welcome To Jamrock. In addition, Stephen continues to champion charitable endeavors centered in Jamaica as a co-founder of the Ghetto Youths Foundation, along with his brothers Damian and Julian Marley. In 2017, Stephen established Kaya Fest, the annual music festival, which features special guests and rare family performances, all with the larger purpose of raising awareness around the benefits of cannabis, guided by the mantra “Education Before Recreation.”

Julian Marley, born in London, England on June 4, 1975, to Bob Marley and Lucy Pounder, embraced a musical upbringing, mastering various instruments as a self-taught musician. Mentored by reggae greats in Jamaica, he released his debut album "Lion in the Morning" in 1996, followed by international tours. He contributed to Lauryn Hill's Grammy-winning album and collaborated on a Stevie Wonder tribute. His sophomore album, "A Time and Place," showcased a fusion of reggae and jazz. Julian spearheaded the 'Africa Unite' performances and performed at the 2008 Olympic Games. His Grammy-nominated album "Awake" in 2009 garnered acclaim, winning 'Best Album of the Year' at the IRAWMAs. Julian, deeply rooted in Rastafarianism like his father, remains committed to spiritual and global messages in his music, embodying a conscious movement in reggae.

Ky-Mani Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley and Anita Belnavis, is a Grammy-nominated artist who burst onto the scene with his 1996 debut album "Like Father Like Son," blending reggae with hip-hop. Born in Falmouth, Jamaica, he has a diverse discography including "Many More Roads" (2001), "Maestro" (2015), and a collaboration with Gentleman titled "Conversations." Beyond music, Ky-Mani has showcased his acting skills in films like "Shottas" (2002) and "One Love" (2003). With his soulful voice and powerful lyrics, he upholds the Marley legacy while forging his own distinctive path in entertainment.

Multi-Grammy winning talent, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley is a highly acclaimed Jamaican singer, songwriter and producer. He is the youngest son of the revered legend, Bob Marley. His musical style fuses reggae with elements of dancehall, hip-hop, R&B, and rock, crafting a fresh and modern sound that is uniquely his own. Damian was the first ever Reggae artist to win a GRAMMY AWARD® outside of the Reggae category. The acclaimed 2005 breakthrough disc, Welcome To Jamrock, won a GRAMMY AWARD® for Best Reggae Album, with the New York Times naming the track “the best reggae song of the decade.” In 2010, Marley teamed up with Nas and brother Stephen Marley for his Distant Relatives project, and went on to partner with Skrillex for their groundbreaking track “Make It Bun Dem,” which Rolling Stone called “a monster mash-up of dubstep and dancehall.” Which went platinum with over 1 Million copies sold in the United States alone. Following the track’s success, the reggae superstar released his fourth studio album, Stony Hill, resulting in his third GRAMMY AWARD® for Best Reggae Album. In September of 2022, Marley produced the studio album, The Kalling, for Kabaka Pyramid which won Best Reggae Album at the 65th Annual GRAMMY AWARDS®. Most recently, “Jr. Gong” released his rendition of the famed George Harrison track, ‘My Sweet Lord.’. The track got the stamp-of-approval by George’s beloved wife, Olivia, as well as the George Harrison Estate. Damian is the co-founder of the renowned Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise, which is gearing up for its 9th annual.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Kamasi Washington | Fearless Movement

Kamasi Washington calls Fearless Movement his dance album. “It’s not literal,” Washington says. “Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it’s the same thing as music—expressing your spirit through your body. That’s what this album is pushing.” Dance as an embodied form of expression signals a shift in focus for Washington. Where previous albums dealt with cosmic ideas and existential concepts, Fearless Movement focuses in on the everyday, an exploration of life on earth. This change in scope is due in large part to the birth of Washington’s first child a few years ago. “Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up,” says Washington. “My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality—realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I’m never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making.” 

The album features Washington’s daughter—who wrote the melody to “Asha The First” during some of her first experimentations on the piano—as well as a host of collaborators new and old. André 3000 appears on flute, George Clinton lends his voice, as do BJ The Chicago Kid, Inglewood rapper D-Smoke and Taj and Ras Austin of Coast Contra, the twin sons of West Coast legend Ras Kass. Washington further enlisted lifelong friends and collaborators Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Patrice Quinn, Brandon Coleman, DJ Battlecat and more. 

The album also features “The Garden Path,” a song Washington performed for the first time ever, making his late-night television debut, on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Kamasi Washington is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and bandleader born and raised in Los Angeles. His three bodies of work to date—The Epic; Harmony of Difference, an EP originally commissioned for the 2017 Whitney Biennial; and Heaven and Earth—are among the most acclaimed of this century.

As Told To G/D Thyself, his short film companion to Heaven and Earth, debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to widespread acclaim. In 2020, Washington scored the Michelle Obama documentary Becoming, earning Emmy and Grammy nominations for his work. Also in 2020, Washington co-founded the supergroup Dinner Party with long-time friends and collaborators Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and 9th Wonder—their EP Dinner Party (Dessert) was subsequently nominated for a Grammy for Best Progressive R&B Album. In 2021, he contributed a cover of Metallica’s “My Friend of Misery” to the band’s Metallica Blacklist covers project. Washington has toured the world over and collaborated and shared stages with Kendrick Lamar, Florence + the Machine, Herbie Hancock and many more.

Christian de Mesones | You Only Live Twice

A lifetime ago, Christian de Mesones was a New York City cabbie and heavy metal bassist who had a voracious appetite for the seedy decadence the Big Apple’s music scene was known for in the 1980s. Determined to change his life, de Mesones did a complete one-eighty, got clean and changed his musical muse to jazz funk. Dedicating his “second life” to pursuing his newfound passion for contemporary jazz and deep soul grooves spiced with Latin rhythms, de Mesones will release his second album, “You Only Live Twice,” on April 12 on the That 555 Lyfe label. Christopher Valentine produced nine of the album’s ten tracks, all but one of which are original songs written or cowritten by de Mesones.

de Mesones’s turnaround began decades ago, but it wasn’t until March of 2020 that he finally assembled his solo debut album, “They Call Me Big New York,” just as Covid-19 put the world on lockdown. Three singles from the set, “Big Tall Wish,” “Spirit” and “Latin Jive Redux,” landed on three national charts. However, pandemic restrictions limited de Mesones’s opportunities to promote the project and grow his brand.

A year later, de Mesones released a sultry Latin-tinged cut titled “Hispanica.” A British DJ sent the song to two-time Grammy-winning keyboardist Bob James, who agreed to play piano on the track. The single went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart, de Mesones’s first.

“I have always believed in the power of composition. One song can change the world. In my case, one of my own compositions forever changed mine. Before releasing ‘Hispanica’ as a single, I felt it was my strongest composition to date. It was featured on my previous album as a vocal track, and on the advice of my radio promoter, it was reimagined as an instrumental. I immediately knew I wanted a piano for the melody. Having the legendary Bob James play on it was a fairytale come true. It has become one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” said de Mesones.

de Mesones dropped the follow-up single, “In His Vision,” in 2022. He wrote the rousing tune on which his bass takes on lyrically expressive qualities and gets a boost from saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr.’s impassioned play. 

“This song written for and inspired by my father-in-law was a challenge for me. I wanted to play the melody and do it justice. It had to have that Wayman Tisdale vibe, so last minute before the recording, I changed to piccolo gauge strings, giving me the sound I envisioned. Eddie Baccus Jr.’s sax put the song over the top, giving it exactly what I thought it needed,” explained de Mesones.

A movie buff, de Mesones is a big James Bond fan and the secret agent’s presence is felt twice on the album, including on the title track, which was released as a single last year. The production and arrangements are sprawling on the track “You Only Live Twice,” layered with majestic horn section parts and a dreamy vocal chorus. 

“The album’s title track holds multiple meanings for me. Putting aside my love for the classic James Bond film with this title, it perfectly represents my second album release as a solo artist as well as the album artwork featuring my custom double neck bass. This song was composed many years ago and has come to fruition at a time when I have found true love and real purpose in my life. I believe in second chances, and love is definitely sweeter the second time around,” said de Mesones who is married to his producer’s sister, Jennifer Valentine.

A fourth single prefaced the album with the release of “Don Pedro” last year. Written in memory of his late father, the contemplative ballad is as beautiful as it is emotional. Two-time Grammy-winning vocalist David Blamires provides a haunting wordless caress throughout the track led by Jaared Arosemena’s soprano sax.

“My personal favorite track on the album captures the essence of my father who was a larger-than-life figure to me when I was a child. As I grew older, we had our difficulties, as many sons and fathers do, but I was blessed to be able to mend our relationship in his later years. Through the completion and release of this song, which I toiled over for years, I found a way to keep his spirit alive and with me everywhere I go,” de Mesones shared.

For the other Bond-connected song on the album, de Mesones reinterprets five-time Academy Award winner John Barry’s “Capsule In Space,” setting it to a funky Latin modern-day groove. Michael “Arch” Thompson’s spiraling flute work adds a floating sensation.

“I love the orchestration and composing skills of John Barry and loved using this music to accompany the visuals for my live shows. This song is a bit sentimental, too, as it conjures memories of growing up in Brooklyn and my father and grandmother taking me to see James Bond movies. Creating an urban take on this masterpiece was a lot of fun,” de Mesones shared. 

Other tracks on the album are the seductive jazz funk prowl of “Sexy Beast”; the mighty five-bass attack “Throb!” on which de Mesones formed a brotherhood of bassists with Bill Dickens, Brendan Rothwell, Andrew Gouche and Vail Johnson on this revamped track that originally appeared on his debut disc; “Arrival,” an exciting, exuberant and explosive space jam that de Mesones plans to use to open his concerts; the sensual “Stay,” an R&B single illumined by Nes Powers’s distinctive voice; and “Sweetnight,” which de Mesones converted from a vocal tune into an instrumental. 

“‘Sweetnight’ went through more changes than any other song in my entire repertoire. This instrumental version represents what I hear when I close my eyes and imagine a world where love rules all things,” de Mesones described. 

Brooklyn-born and bred, de Mesones relocated to a sleepy town in Virginia as he rebuilt his life. He made his concert debut at the Capital Jazz Festival near Washington, DC in 2006 and has persevered ever since to get to the next level. “You Only Live Twice” is a big album on multiple levels. Valentine’s elaborate production and crafty arrangements give the project a grand sound design. de Mesones’s rubbery basslines, dynamic rhythms and equanimity when it comes to sharing the spotlight with an accomplished collective of first-call musicians in service to the song has equipped him with a next-level album meriting a major breakthrough.

“After my days of living a lifestyle of excess, now being surrounded by such loving, supportive friends, family, and fans feels like a rebirth. And my life is so much sweeter the second time around. From sex, drugs, and rock and roll to smooth grooves and funky Latin soul, my feet are now on solid ground. And I’m here to tell you, it's true: your best life is not in the rear-view mirror.”  

de Mesones’s “You Only Live Twice” album contains the following songs: 

  1. “You Only Live Twice”
  2. “Sexy Beast” with Bill McGee and Rob Maletick
  3. “Throb!” (Bass Godz Remix) featuring Bill Dickens, Brendan Rothwell, Andrew Gouche and Vail Johnson
  4. “Arrival”
  5. “Stay” (Big New York Remix) featuring Nes Powers
  6. “Sweetnight”
  7. “Capsule In Space”
  8. “In His Vision” featuring Eddie Baccus Jr.
  9. “Hispanica” featuring Bob James
  10. “Don Pedro” featuring Jaared Arosemena


Stephen Philip Harvey Octet | "Elemental (Live)"

Saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and educator Stephen Philip Harvey leads various ensembles with a drive to explore a vast array of avenues in improvisation and composition, including his wonderful Stephen Philip Harvey Octet (SPH8), heard on the studio album Elemental, and now on the live recording of this music, Elemental (Live). 

To culminate and celebrate the release tour for the studio album, the SPH8 recorded their performance in support of Elemental at Radio Artifact in Cincinnati on June 23, 2023. This exciting evening generated two separate recordings that are slated for release on Harvey’s imprint, Hidden Cinema Records. Elemental (Live) will be released on May 3, 2024, and its companion recording, Live at Radio Artifact, will be released on August 23, 2024, with dynamic arrangements of tunes by Wayne Shorter and Tim Green, and additional original compositions from this rising-star composer and bandleader.

The music on Elemental (Live) is inspired by the elements of water, air, earth, and fire. Fusing modern harmonies, driving vamps, and myriad textures, Harvey brings these forces of nature through his fertile composer’s imagination, to an aural landscape. Harvey, working from a broad palette, also brilliantly displays his practice of weaving together his eclectic musical history into his compositions, fusing jazz and classical elements with pop, funk, hip-hop, rock, and Gospel. It all makes for a rich tapestry of sound unique to the SPH8, as heard on this recording. 

Elemental (Live) follows up five releases, all worthy of one’s time and ears: Suite Childhood (2016, Self-Released), Smash! (2022, Next Level/Outside In Music), Elemental (2023), a recent quintet release, Sphinx (2023), and Library Card (2024) (the latter three recordings were released on Harvey’s label, Hidden Cinema Records).

As a musician and bandleader, Stephen has toured throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the United States. He leads a diverse array of ensembles, including his chordless trio SPH+2, his electric quintet, Sphinx, his mid-sized jazz combo, the Stephen Philip Harvey Octet (SPH8), and his large ensemble the Stephen Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra (SPHJO). As a prolific composer and arranger, Harvey has worked with a diverse array of musicians and instrumentations; composing for solo instrument to wind ensemble, jazz combo to large ensembles. His compositions have been performed by ensembles at universities throughout the USA. As an educator, Stephen has held instructional positions at all levels of education in diverse areas of music education. He currently holds positions at Wicomico High School, Salisbury University, and Youngstown State University. Harvey is an alumnus of Youngstown State University ('16, MM – Jazz Studies) and Seton Hill University ('14, BM – Music Education). Stephen Philip Harvey endorses P. Mauriat Saxophones ( 

The Stephen Philip Harvey Octet (SPH8) is a collective of eight musicians from the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest of the United States, playing the original compositions and arrangements of Stephen Philip Harvey. The ensemble was revived post-pandemic with new compositions and this new line-up of musicians. Boasting their own individual touring histories, the ensemble harnesses their combined musical talents to bring a bold voice to Harvey’s writing. With a rotating roster of dynamic musicians, SPH8 showcases the remarkable musicianship located throughout these regions.

Alison Burns & Martin Taylor | "Songs For Nature"

In an era of global environmental upheaval, the redemptive power of music carves out a sanctuary of solace, a theme resonating deeply in Alison Burns and Martin Taylor’s latest album, 'Songs for Nature'. More than just a collection of timeless jazz standards, ‘Songs for Nature’ acts as a musical love letter to the natural world and the composers, lyricists, and musicians it has inspired.

Alison Burns brings a smoky, sultry, and understated delivery that seems tailor-made for the intimate embrace of a dimly lit jazz club, yet has enthralled everyone from exuberant music festival attendees to British royalty. Her acclaimed albums 'Kissing Bug' and '1:AM' captured the essence of jazz divas like Julie London and Ella Fitzgerald but with a modern sensibility that resonates globally, underscoring her unique ability to marry the spirit of a bygone jazz age with a contemporary and wide-reaching appeal. This musical blend has taken her on four worldwide tours, enchanting audiences in cities from San Francisco to Shanghai, London to Los Angeles, and solidifying her reputation as a modern-day torchbearer of the vocal jazz tradition.

Martin Taylor, described by Pat Metheny as one of the most spectacular solo guitar players in the history of the instrument, co-pilots this journey. Taylor, a virtuoso whose fingers dance over strings with a finesse that's both heart-stopping and profound, ensures that 'Songs for Nature' is imbued with the touch of a master craftsman. With a career that includes collaborations ranging from Jeff Beck and Stephane Grappelli to Bill Wyman and Jamie Cullum, Taylor's guitar playing weaves a rich tapestry of sound that perfectly complements Burns' vocal artistry.

This duo’s collaborative alchemy is on full display across tracks like 'Nature Boy', ‘Lullaby of the Leaves’ and 'The Gentle Rain.' Together they have crafted a soundtrack that is as evocative of the earth’s wonders as it is of human emotion. Recorded amidst the pristine beauty of New York’s Catskill Mountains, each song resonates with the care and intention that only true reverence for nature can inspire.

The album’s first single ‘Nature Boy’ demonstrates Alison Burns’ gift, rare in all but the best jazz singers, to truly connect with a lyric. The result is that she can stir emotions in the listener that are reminiscent of being immersed in nature; from awe and wonder to peace and tranquility, from joy and melancholy, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Meanwhile on the single ‘Lullaby of the Leaves’ we hear why Martin Taylor remains in a class of his own amongst guitarists. He is renowned for his fingerstyle technique, which allows him to play melody, bass, and harmony simultaneously, creating a rich, full sound that is often compared to the complexity of a full orchestra. His playing is marked by smooth, fluid lines, intricate chord voicings, and a keen sense of improvisation. Taylor's ability to blend melody with complex harmonies and his impeccable timing make the tracks sound both elegant and captivating.

Alison and Martin are not just musicians at the height of their powers; they are also sonic naturalists, and this album is their field recording, capturing not the sounds of the wild, but the emotions it stirs within us.

Engineered by John Valesio (Norah Jones), Grammy-Award winner Dave O’Donnell (Jason Mraz, Kurt Elling, Sheryl Crow), Cicely Balston (David Bowie, Nick Cave) and produced by James Taylor, 'Songs for Nature' promises an auditory experience as lush and layered as the ecosystems it seeks to honor.

In these times, when every action towards environmental conservation counts, Alison and Martin offer 'Songs for Nature' as a rallying cry — a cry that echoes with love, harmony, and the hope that their music will inspire a gentler, kinder, more sustainable interaction with our planet.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Staple Singers New Live Album 'Africa 80'

Omnivore Recordings has announced a new live record from The Staple Singers, Africa 80, which features performances from their first ever tour in Africa. The album will be released on CD and Digital on May 10. 

The Staple Singers emerged into the public consciousness in the early 1950s and over the course of their influential career, transformed how listeners experienced Gospel music. During the Civil Rights movement, Roebuck “Pops” Staples discovered that their music could both enlighten and inspire a new generation. Signing with Stax Records, they began to rule not only the Gospel charts, but the Pop and R&B ones as well, with hits like “I’ll Take You There” (which topped both the Pop & R&B charts), “Respect Yourself,” “Touch A Hand, Make A Friend,” and more. After Stax closed, they moved to Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records and 1975 saw them hit #1 on both the Pop and R&B Charts again with “Let’s Do It Again.” Three additional albums for Warner Bros. closed out the decade. [Expanded editions of Let’s Do It Again (1975), Pass It On (1976), Family Tree (1977), and Unlock Your Mind (1978) are available from Omnivore Recordings].

An international tour sponsored by the U.S. Government found the Staples performing across the continent of Africa in 1980. The set included recent and classic hits like “Let’s Do It Again,” “Respect Yourself,” standards “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Come Go With Me,” and choice covers like “Ease On Down The Road” from The Wiz, and the Bacharach/David classic, “A House Is Not A Home.” 

Now, with Restoration and Mastering from multiple Grammy-winning Engineer, Michael Graves, Africa 80 presents a look into this ever-evolving musical and National treasure. New liner notes from Tim Dillinger-Curenton contextualize the band’s story, legacy, and detail the tour and recording. Africa 80 delivers a snapshot of this powerful group on tour for the first time on the African continent.

Africa 80 tracklist:

1. Introduction

2. Ease On Down The Road

3. Let’s Do It Again

4. Respect Yourself

5. Come Go With Me

6. Why Am I Treated So Bad

7. A House Is Not A Home

8. Will The Circle Be Unbroken

9. He’s Alright

10. Touch A Hand, Make A Friend

11. Touch A Hand, Make A Friend (Reprise)

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Nicholas Brust - Daybreak

Heralded as one of the premiere saxophonists of his generation, Boston-based Nicholas Brust has established his voice, both as an instrumentalist and a composer, in the world of modern instrumental music. He has found his niche as a bandleader and composer, taking advantage of the numerous textures and combinations available in small-group improvised music, evident on his new recording, Daybreak, featuring Brust with guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Julia Chen, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Gary Kerkezou. 

Daybreak is the follow up recording to Brust’s debut full-length album, Frozen in Time, released on Fresh Sound in 2020. The album has received international critical acclaim from All About Jazz, Jazz Journal UK, Modern Jazz Today, Rootstime Music, and the Jazz Quad, among many others. Marc Philiips of Part-Time Audophile exclaimed, “It’s as if one of your favorite movie stars from long ago suddenly started telling you about all the secrets of the universe.” 

Nicholas Brust has a crystalline sound, imbued with a life force, vitality and exuberance that is addictive. As Dan Bilawsky stated in All About Jazz, "this leader's skills and solid intuition move beyond his writing and performing, as his personnel choices also reflect excellent taste." Indeed, his band is in lockstep with him throughout every tune on Daybreak, making for an elevated listening experience. Brust and his music sound at once completely familiar and brand new; in the tradition, while breaking new ground. He is influenced by the likes of Pat Metheny, Brian Blade, George Coleman, Robert Glasper, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Kenny Garrett, and Roy Hargrove, among others, and he seems to have taken the best qualities of these stalwarts and forged them into his own elements. “Not only does Brust impress with his versatile playing, but he reveals a flair for composition that sufficiently nods to tradition without the usual predictable patterns, finding a nice balance with more modern jazz sensibilities. He delivers a colorful well-conceived debut that already has us anticipating his next recording,” said Jim Hines in Making A Scene. 

About the music on Daybreak with Nicholas Brust:

“Absence of You,” is about the necessary development of artistic independence and its accompanying isolation. “It is both crucial and challenging for artists to balance the isolation of practicing with time spent with others.”

“Diamonds and Clubs,” is a continuation of a suite that Brust started with “Hearts and Spades,” released on, Frozen in Time. “Both pieces begin with a bowed bass introduction, and this one reminds me of a glimmering diamond.”

“Mind’s Eye”: This composition, “plays with similar melodies in two different keys, as though one is being remembered slightly differently than the original.”

“For Wisdom” is a tribute to Roy Hargrove and the inspiration his music and presence on the NYC jazz scene had on Brust as a musician.

“To Carry the Torch” reflects on the, “complex circumstances and responsibilities each generation inherits from the previous one, and the care we take when we ourselves pass them along.”

“Suspense in Blue” is Brust honoring the importance of the blues. “It has connected just about every genre of music (and subgenres of jazz) for generations and continues to be relevant today.”

"Daybreak,” the title track, was the guiding force for the album’s concept. The melody, encompassing two octaves, was inspired by the possibilities of a new day. “You can hear the sun coming out with a burst of energy, followed by the day’s first shadows. It’s ultimately about making the most of the opportunities that each day brings us. On a more personal note, It is about things coming anew, from the birth of my son to the reemergence of live music in a post-Covid world.”

“In This Moment”: “Spending time with loved ones has only become more precious as I’ve gotten older, and the birth of my son this past year sharpened that feeling. This song is meant to encapsulate the feeling of the fleeting, priceless time spent with the ones you love.”

“The Tempest”: Brust’s attempt to capture the structure of a storm in song - the foreboding, the destruction, and the peace of the aftermath.

“Ballad of a Sea Porpoise”: “The piano and guitar combination, without saxophone, reminds me of being underwater. Writing this song, I wanted the listener to imagine living their whole life submerged.”

“A Midsummer Night” is a contrafact written over the changes of “You Stepped Out of a Dream” by Nacio Herb Brown and is also a reference to Shakespeare. “The rhythms of the melody are meant to reference Shakespeare’s twisting, turning plots.”ly acclaimed musicians, including Gilad Hekselman, The Peter Silver Big Band (sharing the stage with Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Owens, Steve Wilson and others), guitarist Ben Eunson, Kristina Koller (appearing in her Quintet at the 2020 NYC Winter Jazz Fest), and many others. The saxophonist/composer is currently on faculty at New England Conservatory, in addition to maintaining his own private studio.

Nicholas released an EP of original music entitled Brooklyn Folk Songs in January 2015, which, “showcases a set of original compositions that infuse sturdy melodies with a rich, contemporary harmonic the borough for which it’s named - encompasses a variety of moods along with its own unique accent” (David Kastin). Since then Brust has continued to showcase his compositional and improvisational talents both on his previous recording Frozen In Time (Fresh Sound, 2020), and in a series of videos that can be found on his YouTube channel. Brust has a Master of Music in jazz performance from New England Conservatory as well as a Bachelor of Music in jazz studies and music education from the Eastman School of Music.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Kenny Garrett & Svoy - Who Killed AI?

Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kenny Garrett and acclaimed producer Svoy have announced the release of their highly anticipated album "Who Killed AI." Known for their innovative approach to jazz and electrifying performances, Garrett and Svoy once again push the boundaries of the genre with this latest collaboration.

"Who Killed AI" delves into themes of artificial intelligence, technology, and the human experience in the modern age. Through their masterful compositions and virtuosic performances, Garrett and Svoy explore the intersection of humanity and technology, inviting listeners on a thought-provoking sonic journey.

The album features an all-star ensemble, including pianist Vernell Brown Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., and percussionist Rudy Bird. Together, they create a dynamic and immersive musical landscape that captivates audiences from start to finish.

Garrett and Svoy's signature blend of traditional jazz with contemporary influences shines throughout "Who Killed AI." From the infectious grooves of "Electric Dreams" to the introspective melodies of "Ghost in the Machine," each track offers a glimpse into their unparalleled musical vision.

Reflecting on the album, Garrett says, "I wanted to explore the impact of artificial intelligence on our society and the existential questions it raises. 'Who Killed AI' is a reflection of our complex relationship with technology and the profound ways it shapes our lives."

In addition to his groundbreaking work as a recording artist, Kenny Garrett has established himself as one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation. With over 20 albums to his name and collaborations with jazz luminaries such as Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Herbie Hancock, Garrett's impact on the genre is undeniable.

Svoy, a critically acclaimed producer and multi-instrumentalist, brings his unique musical perspective to "Who Killed AI," contributing to the album's innovative sound and compelling narrative.

"Who Killed AI" is now available on all major streaming platforms and digital music stores. To learn more about Kenny Garrett, Svoy, and their music, visit their official website at and

Kenny Garrett is a Grammy Award-winning saxophonist known for his innovative approach to jazz and electrifying performances. With over 20 albums to his name and collaborations with jazz legends Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Herbie Hancock, Garrett has established himself as one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Garrett began playing saxophone at an early age and quickly gained recognition for his extraordinary talent. Throughout his career, he has received numerous accolades, including multiple Grammy Awards and DownBeat Magazine's Critic's Choice for "Best Alto Saxophonist." Garrett's latest album, "Who Killed AI," explores themes of artificial intelligence and technology in the modern age, showcasing his unparalleled musical vision and creativity.

Svoy is a critically acclaimed producer and multi-instrumentalist known for his innovative approach to music production and composition. With a diverse background spanning jazz, classical, and electronic music, Svoy brings a unique musical perspective to every project he undertakes. His collaborations with artists across genres have garnered widespread acclaim, solidifying his reputation as one of the most versatile and forward-thinking producers in the industry.

Melissa Aldana - Ehoes Of The Inner Prophet

On April 5, 2024, Melissa Aldana released her latest album, "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet," marking a significant progression from her acclaimed Blue Note Records debut, "12 Stars," released in 2022. This album encapsulates a fascinating paradox, as Aldana delves into introspection while celebrating collaboration and community.

Aldana describes "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet" as a reflection of her personal journey, emphasizing an introspective viewpoint that connects with her inner self. The album explores themes of maturation and self-discovery, revealing both strengths and vulnerabilities. It is a testament to Aldana's growth as an artist and her willingness to embrace change and uncertainty.

The album also highlights the evolution of Aldana's quintet, featuring Lage Lund on guitar and effects, Fabian Almazan on piano and effects, Pablo Menares on bass, and Kush Abadey on drums. Together, they have honed their collective insight through extensive touring and travel, establishing themselves as one of the most dynamic working groups in jazz today.

Aldana's partnership with Lund is particularly noteworthy, as he serves as her arranger and co-producer. Their collaboration reflects a rare trust and openness, contributing to the album's depth and authenticity. Additionally, "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet" includes heartfelt dedications to influential figures in Aldana's musical journey.

The title track pays homage to Wayne Shorter, the late modern-jazz pioneer who played a pivotal role in Aldana's career. Winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 2013, with Shorter on the judging panel, marked a significant turning point for Aldana. His influence permeates the album, inspiring Aldana's writing and improvisation with constant surprises and a highly listenable allure.

Another track, "Cone of Silence," is dedicated to recording engineer James Farber, who played a crucial role in capturing Aldana's sound. His expertise and understanding of her musical vision allowed Aldana to focus solely on the music-making process, resulting in a seamless collaboration.

Throughout the album, Aldana and Lund showcase their musical chemistry, combining post-production ingenuity with intricate arrangements. Lund's contributions add depth and dimension to the compositions, creating a rich tapestry of sound that captivates listeners.

Overall, "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet" presents small-group jazz at its finest, brimming with engaging dualities and intellectually rigorous compositions. Aldana's masterful improvisation, coupled with the ensemble's dynamic performances, creates a captivating listening experience that resonates with both depth and intensity.

As Aldana continues to explore new musical territories, her Blue Note heritage remains a guiding influence. Drawing inspiration from iconic recordings and legendary musicians, she remains committed to her craft, constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries of contemporary jazz.

In essence, "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet" is a testament to Melissa Aldana's artistic vision and unwavering dedication to her craft, solidifying her status as one of the most compelling voices in modern jazz.

UK Duo Edy Forey Releases its Audacious Urban-Jazz Debut

One can’t help but admire the honest audacity of these lyrics. This song “Take Your Time” is from Culture Today, Edy Forey’s poetic urban-jazz debut album set for release on April 5 on So Soul Records. The UK-based duo enters the music scene with the clarity of self-knowledge, even if that knowledge comes from divergent artistic experiences. 

Vocalist Edy Szewy and keyboardist Guilhem Forey believe music is sacred and musicians matter greatly. For this reason, several guest artists joined them on this record, including founding members of Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League and saxophonist Bob Reynolds. Also, Sharay Reed, of the Funk Apostles, Femi Koleoso of the Ezra Collective and others provided significant contributions. Additionally, Bob Power whose distinguished resume includes Me'Shell N'degéocello, The Roots, D'Angelo, and Erykah Badu and many others mixed and mastered the duo’s entire album. 

Szewy and Forey are as different as they are alike. Szewy was born in Poland to an American father and a Polish mother. Her parents separated early, but her dad would send her CDs from America that you couldn’t find locally. By the time she moved to one of the cultural centers of Europe, Edinburgh Scotland, she had absorbed the very American grooves of TLC and En Vogue, enthralled with the songwriting and production skills of the likes of D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill, imagining that one day she could do it too. 

Conversely, Forey, born in Paris and raised in Nantes, France was a child musical prodigy. Bach spiritually and emotionally pulled him in at the age of three—so much so that this classical music was almost scary to his immature mind. But by the time his grandfather introduced him to American icon Ray Charles and British guitarist Eric Clapton, everyone who heard him play realized he was a gifted pianist. At age 11, his mom walked him into a rehearsal hall for his first jazz piano lessons. So taken was the teacher on this introductory audition, he flung his door open and quickly recruited a bassist and drummer to join in. It was the talented adolescent’s first jam session. By 16, Forey was leading a jazz trio. 

The pair’s teen years were marked by Szewy discovering the melancholy soul side of African American artists like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and the Jacksons. In contrast, Forey dived headfirst into jazz, discovering and studying Herbie Hancock and George Duke. With headphones on, Forey would often fall asleep to Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band album. The duo’s influences were expanding–greatly.  

As young adults, both found themselves mingling in the Edinburgh student circuit. While Forey was new to the city and the music scene, Szewy was studying at the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art - the fruit of which is the album’s cover. At the same time, she was leading a six-piece neo soul band. The two met when Forey filled in for Szewy’s keyboardist. Gradually, their kinship was born.

By the same token, they openly admit to having had pervasive parental challenges. Those challenges created in both feelings of being an ‘outsider.’ As teenagers, they atypically didn’t gravitate to the surrounding fads. A sensibility of non-conformity took root for both, and in time they would discover that this sensibility would anchor their creative union.

Forey was blown away by what he says was, “Edy’s pure artistry.” Similarly, Szewy says, “By far Forey was the best musician I knew in Edinburgh.” Still, initially Forey wasn’t so convinced of becoming a group. He was deep into the spiritual magic of jazz, immersing himself with the work of master organist/pianist/gospel artist Corey Henry. He played in jazz trios but beyond that, his solitary musical world was just that–solitary. Forey says, “I love jazz because it has something to say musically. And sometimes I have to isolate to hear what it is trying to say to me.” Despite that, he couldn’t ignore that Szewy was a visionary and her sky-is-the-limit attitude won him over. Forey put all his other musical endeavors aside and their musical alliance was born. 

When they started composing what would become the genesis of their debut album, they kept this activity private. The duo did not showcase their music to family nor friends. Working together and remotely via WhatsApp, they embraced a style of discreet collaboration that would come in handy during the pandemic. 

As much as the pair are very modern songwriters using very modern tools, their collaborative style was reminiscent of the great songwriting teams of the past where the free spirit of exchange and pushback reaped excellent results. Their sessions were vibrant. Szewy would challenge Forey’s chord choices at the same time Forey would challenge Szewy’s lyrical and production choices. Back and forth they hashed it out, examining their creative energies and impulses all the while persisting in the magic of spontaneity, which is at the heart of their urban-jazz album.

 “We have a very symbiotic creative bond,” Szewy says. “We complement each other's style. Basically, we're both in each other's business.” Forey adds, “We wanted to have a pure approach to it. We didn’t want to focus on perceived outcomes. We wanted to faithful to our original inspiration that we feel comes from above.” 

That quest to fulfill their artistic calling is all over their album Culture Today. The duo has crafted a series of songs that showcase high musicality and themes of personal depth. Whether it’s the Orwellian-vibed, “Eerie Feary” or the critique against celebrity worship in “The System,” it’s clear that the original bonds of non-conformity that brought Szewy and Forey together are still very much intact. 

Equally important are several songs that reach for something more transcendent. They include a poignant yet lighthearted petition to the divine in “The Fire,” while the songs “Your Soul” and “Agape” attempt to pierce the coarse, low-level of bumping and grinding to reveal the more eloquent and elevated feelings of love. This makes Culture Today an album you want to put on, lay back and let it absorb into your spirit, song by song.


Brooklyn based guitarist/composer, Max Light, took 2nd place in the prestigious 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition (judged by Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Lionel Loueke, etc.) His sophomore recording as a leader, Henceforth (released in 2023), was heralded by The New York City Jazz Record, as “Stunning,” and declared Light as, “one of the most promising young guitarists to arrive on the scene in recent years.” JazzTrail added that, “Max Light is a talented instrumentalist and composer to follow closely, and this well-planned album doesn’t disappoint.” His debut recording, Herplusme (released in 2020), garnered a four star review from UKVibe, who stated, “Herplusme gives the guitarist an excellent platform to showcase his talents and with superb interaction and support from Honor and Willson. The trio work intuitively well together . . .”. Most recently, Light and pianist Julian Shore released Duo, in the summer of 2023, and embarked on a successful tour of Japan. 

Max Light has performed and recorded with Noah Preminger, Christian Sands, Donny McCaslin, Jeremy Dutton, Kaisa Maensivu, Jason Palmer, Jon Gordon, John Ellis, Dan Weiss, Colin Stranahan, and Kevin Sun, among many others. Along with DownBeat Magazine “Rising Star” tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, Light released Songs We Love in March 2022. Light also appeared on Preminger’s 2019 album, Genuinity, and the saxophonist’s 2020 album, Contemptment. Light was also featured on the subsequent tour of Europe in the Fall of ‘21. The guitarist has appeared on trumpeter Jason Palmer’s seminal 2018 recording, Live at Wally’s Jazz Club: Volume 1-2, and more recently on Yong Lee’s 2021 album, Touch, alongside Walter Smith III. Light is also featured on bassist/composer Kaisa Mäensivu’s recent recording on Greenleaf Music, Taking Shape, and Christian Sands’ Christmas Stories. He also appeared on Kevin Sun’s 2021 release, <3 Bird. 

A CV of this nature doesn’t come together by chance; Max Light, in accordance with his surname, is in fact a beacon on the NYC and global scenes. Not one that warns however, but one that beckons. He is to many of his collaborators and cohorts, “a deep inspiration and ever-warming bonfire in the often challenging journeys of art and life” (as stated by saxophonist Kevin Sun in the album’s liner notes). As a bandleader, exemplified on his new recording, Chaotic Neutral (dropping April 26, 2024 on AGS Recordings), Light also displays the type of leadership that unearths and inspires performances of the highest level from his bandmates. 

Chaotic Neutral is a declaration of Light’s artistic vision, encompassing improvisations that routinely and expertly seek and find peaks, complex harmonic structures and Light’s wonderful melodies. It is modernist jazz in full acknowledgment of its influences, while asserting Light’s penchant for 21st century harmony (“Is It True,” also a highlight for Julian Shore), and rhythmic adventurousness (“Brown Bear”). The album opens with the exuberant urgency and potency of “Pathos.” Then it becomes clear within seconds of “Vals Quartzite” that Light is intent on raising the artistic bar, searching for the zenith of expression, precision, mastery, and beauty. In spite of the technical aspects of playing the guitar that must be dealt with, Light’s fluidity and relentless spontaneity is heard throughout Chaotic Neutral, with his bandmates, pianist Julian Shore, bassist Walter Stinson, drummer Steven Crammer and Caleb Curtis (on Stritch on several tracks) in absolute lockstep with him. Stinson shines on “Times Had,” as does Crammer with a ferocious solo. ‘Wash” is a meditative ballad, featuring Caleb Curtis on Stritch, whose playing shines with Light’s expressions as perfectly as the moon and the stars.

On Chaotic Neutral we hear an artist seemingly at the peak of his powers, and yet still at the start of his creative ascent. It is thrilling to hear his artistry now, and wonder at what the future holds. Chaotic Neutral closes with “Things,” which brilliantly tests the elasticity of a well-worn standard, and exemplifies much of what Max Light is as a guitarist/composer; a towering edifice of talent built on a rock-solid foundation.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Something Else! Featuring Vincent Herring | 'Soul Jazz|"

When soul jazz was born in the late 1950s/early 1960s, it provided a pathway for the funky, window-rattling grooves of contemporary soul and R&B to infuse the muscular hard bop of the day. For the generation that grew up in that era, soul jazz is the soundtrack of their lives – not to mention an absolute blast to play. 

The new supergroup Something Else! brings together a superb septet that matches impeccable virtuosity with a bottomless feel for this music. Spearheaded by alto saxophone great Vincent Herring, the band’s debut release features trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, guitarist Paul Bollenback, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Essiet Essiet, and drummer Otis Brown III. 

Under the no-nonsense title of Soul Jazz, due out June 7 via Smoke Sessions Records, the album features groove-centric tunes from such masters as Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Donald Byrd, Stanley Turrentine, Eddie Harris, Pee Wee Ellis, and John Coltrane, played with infectious vitality by this unparalleled dream band.

The approach to jazz that these stellar musicians take always comes with its fair share of soul, no matter the stylistic twists and turns it may take. But with Something Else! they places the soul firmly the spotlight, refreshing this classic material with a thrilling, vibrant joy that is electrifying conveyed directly into the listener’s body. Soul Jazz comes with an unspoken challenge not to move. 

“This project represents the music that we love, music that just feels great,” Herring says. “Everybody in the band grew up on soul jazz, where the feeling was paramount. The music of the day was soul and R&B – that’s what my parents played on the stereo when they were in the car or when they would have gatherings. So I think it’s a feeling that we were all craving in our own music.” 

Herring found that electrifying feeling missing in much of the music he was hearing from his students at William Paterson University and the Manhattan School of Music, which inspired him to put out the call to his most gifted compatriots. Herring had learned first-hand from masters of feeling, swing and groove – an invaluable bandstand education forged alongside the legendary likes of Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Jack DeJohnette, Horace Silver, Carla Bley, Lionel Hampton and others, as well as integral collaborations with fellow torchbearers like Steve Turre, Carl Allen, Eric Alexander, Jon Faddis, Wynton Marsalis and James Carter. 

The band’s name, of course, is borrowed from Somethin’ Else, the classic 1958 Cannonball Adderley album. Adderley and his brother Nat can both be counted among the architects of soul jazz, and Herring enjoyed deep ties to both – he toured and recorded for nearly a decade with Nat Adderley following his brother’s death, and went on to form the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band with drummer Louis Hayes. 

The Adderleys are not among the composers included on Soul Jazz, however – unless you count a sly quote of Nat’s immortal “Work Song” during the drum solo on Turrentine’s “Too Blue” – and Something Else! can just as readily be taken as a descriptor of the music, a phrase along the lines of “out of this world” that hails the surprises and thrills contained herein. 

The album kicks in at full throttle with Horace Silver’s bristling anthem “Filthy McNasty,” played here with a breakneck propulsion driven by the take-no-prisoners pocket of Essiet and Brown. Herring, Pelt, Escoffery, Kikoski and Brown all squeeze fiery solos into the track’s less than five-minute length, wasting not a single note (though burning through plenty of them) and revealing from the get-go that they mean business. 

This music represents the members’ musical roots, and Herring chose his collaborators – and a rotating cast that has also included the likes of James Carter and Randy Brecker – from a pool of shared experience. “This is about having a feeling for what's going on,” he explains. “The first person that came to mind was Jeremy Pelt. This music is Jeremy – this is exactly how he grew up. While the spectrum of music that he plays is wide, this is at the core of what he does. The same goes for everybody in the band.” 

Just listen to the way that the blues seeps from Kikoski’s keyboard in the opening moments of “Too Blue,” as the band slides into a gritty, slinky groove. Bollenback’s guitar slithers through that wide-hipped feel before ceding space to high-and-low turns from the saxes. Eddie Harris’ “Mean Greens” provides the opportunity for a lurching shuffle, punctuated by Kikoski’s piquant jabs and the precision licks of the frontline, while Pee Wee Ellis’ “The Chicken” is pure funk bliss buoyed by Essiet’s double-wide bassline. 

Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin’” floats on an airy, floating rhythm that is spacious yet exacting rhythmic swing that the soloists all revel in. The mood turns dark and languorous for Donald Byrd’s unhurried “Slow Drag,” then crackles with the handclap-fueled stroll of Roy Hargrove’s classic “Strasbourg/St. Denis.” CD and digital editions of the album feature an unexpected bonus track: John Coltrane’s “Naima” is a timeless ballad not typically associated with the soul jazz movement, but Herring’s transformative version fits perfectly. 

Herring insists that Something Else! wasn’t formed with the intention of educating that younger generation on how thrilling the music can feel – but if he can lead by example, he says, all the better. 

“This is just meant to be great music that feels good, played by the very best musicians. If it is enlightening to some people, which I'm sure it will be, then that's fine with me.” 

It’s hard to imagine that this session won’t enlighten listeners, even those well versed in the soul jazz genre that grew out of hard bop in the mid-1950s, as the influence of the era’s R&B and soul hitmakers infused the music with a funky, raucous groove. Something Else! not only stocks the date with some of the prime examples of the genre’s music, but attacks these songs with a vigor and passion that breathes dynamic new life into an already lively style.



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