Wednesday, May 29, 2024

JJ Whitefield & Forced Meditation | The Infinity Of Nothingness

Having plied his trade around the world for more than three decades, German guitarist, bandleader and musical explorer JJ Whitefield has always instilled in his craft a natural aesthetic of authenticity, a key component which has seen him amass a sizeable and varied catalogue of material which has remained timeless where some of his contemporaries have faded away.

In the early 90s, as various UK bands were signed up by sizeable labels and enjoyed even mainstream chart success in the Acid Jazz and rare groove boom, Whitefield was a founding member of the Poets Of Rhythm, self-releasing their own uncompromisingly hard-edged take on 70s street funk on the then completely unfashionable 7” single format, forerunning the Deep Funk scene by almost a decade. 30 years on, in spite of a legion of retro-focused bands having followed in their wake, few have yet to come close to matching the energy and spirit of those early Poets 45s.

Since then, Whitefield has applied himself to all manner of new incarnations and innovative side-projects, releasing further funk surveys with his own band under the pseudonym Karl Hector, with releases on labels such as Stones Throw, Daptone, Ninja Tune, Mo’Wax, Strut and more. An avid music lover, explorer and record collector extraordinaire, Whitefield’s music has effortlessly absorbed his expanding interests along the way, particularly drawing influence from Ethiopian Jazz and West African funk and highlife, as well as Kraut-rock and ambient via his Rodinia alter-ego.

More recently, Whitefield has begun to venture into the astral planes of what’s now commonly referred to as ‘spiritual jazz’, and this is very much where we find him manifesting on ‘The Infinity Of Nothingness’. A set of mature, delicate and meditative orchestrations, like much of Whitefield’s best work the album is studiously true to its key influences - and in this instance the twin figureheads of Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders are particularly preeminent - but also completely avoids falling into a trap of mere tribute or facsimile. With subtle yet diverse accents of Hip Hop, Library and the Avant Garde appearing wholly unobtrusively, the album is unified by a marked trance-like feel, beginning with the sparse, processional opener ‘Nothingness’ through to the 3 part ‘Infinity Suite’ of ‘Time’, ‘Space’ and ‘Energy’.

As he did as a schoolboy with the Poets of Rhythm, with ‘The Infinity Of Nothingness’ Whitefield achieves that exceptionally rare feat of creating music that is not only worthy of sitting alongside that of his overarching influences, but will also stand up with it against the tests of time.

Jerome Sabbagh | Heart

Analog Tone Factory announces the release of Heart, tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh’s tenth album as a leader and his first on the newly formed label he runs with pianist and engineer Pete Rende. Heart is due on CD, vinyl, and reel-to-reel August 30, with digital downloads available October 11. Three singles are planned as well: “ESP,” on July 19; “Lead the Way,” August 30; and “Heart,” October 11. 

A consequential, galvanizing presence on the New York scene since the early 2000s, Paris native Sabbagh is a compelling tenor and soprano saxophonist, bandleader, and producer. Heart documents an elegant, creative encounter with the iconic drummer Al Foster and esteemed New York bassist Joe Martin. 

“Al is my favorite living jazz drummer, and I’ve been trying to record with him for a long time,” says Sabbagh. “Over the last 12 years I’ve sat in on gigs with him and developed a rapport that finally came to fruition with this album. 

“Joe and I started playing together around 2003, and I’ve played with him more than any other bassist over the years. He can do anything, but his priority is to make the band sound great, to ensure everything is locked in on every front.” 

The music on Heart and Vintage, its immediate predecessor (which featured a quartet including Kenny Barron), diverges from all but one of Sabbagh’s first eight records. Released on labels like Sunnyside and Bee Jazz, they featured, in his words, “original music that doesn’t always sound like standards.”

Sabbagh recorded Heart 14 years after his first tenor-bass-drums album, an all-standards recital titled One Two Three, with drummer Rodney Green and bassist Ben Street. “I find records featuring original music easier to make than those with standards, because the originals define the direction,” he says. 

“To me, standards and original music are complementary, and I’ve worked hard to connect both sides of my playing. Now I have a deeper understanding of how I want to play the saxophone, and play those tunes.” 

On the opening track, Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” Sabbagh intones the melody deliberately, almost sotto voce, while Foster functions as the soloist, coloring with well-calibrated cymbal interpolations. Although the tempos are slightly brighter, Sabbagh, Martin, and Foster bring a similarly melody-first, no-wasted-notes attitude to “Gone with the Wind,” “When Lights Are Low,” and “Body and Soul,” and medium-up treatments of Wayne Shorter’s “ESP” and “Heart,” Sabbagh’s soulful waltz that titles the album.

The mutual trust and intuition between the members are palpable on the two scratch improvisations. “‘Lead the Way’ is a groove, and ‘Right the First Time’ is a freer, improvised piece,” Sabbagh says. “Al told me he’d never played completely improvised music before. Afterwards he said, ‘Now I understand why people want to do this. I really like it.’” 

The production values on Heart are highest-level, befitting the involvement of hifi high-end companies Stenheim and darTZeel as Executive Producers of the project. Iconic engineer James Farber recorded Heart direct to two-track tape to a custom 1/2-inch Ampex 351 tube tape machine at 30 IPS, with all the musicians playing in the same room. No edits or overdubs were necessary. The legendary Bernie Grundman mastered the proceedings, and the 180g vinyl pressing was cut all analog, as will all future Analog Tone Factory productions. Every sonic detail of the three masters functioning synchronously comes through with three-dimensional presence and transparency. 

Sabbagh adds: “I am proud that this record is the first one on my own label and I hope that, at a time when recorded music can feel disposable, audiophiles and regular listeners alike will band together to support the creation of new music, recorded all analog, so that this can be a sustainable way to document some of what’s happening today, in jazz and beyond!”

The Jerome Sabbagh Trio will perform an album release show with Joe Martin and Al Foster on Wednesday, September 18, at Bar Bayeux, 1066 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn; sets at 8:00 and 9:30pm.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

As For the Future by As For the Future

As For the Future’s debut album is self-titled and self-produced. The release date will be Friday, June 14 on As For the Future Music. The record will be released as a digital download and via streaming services, 12” LP vinyl, and Deluxe Edition CD (including alternate mixes, dub versions, and edits).

Over 90% of the record was recorded entirely remotely at an assortment of home and professional studios. The record was mixed by D. James Goodwin (Kevin Morby, DEVO) at The Isokon in Kingston, NY.

As For the Future is a new Brazilian music-inspired group based in NYC. Drawing on a variety of styles – bossa nova, samba, MPB (Música popular brasileira) – and combining them with rock, jazz, folk, and soul influences, the group mates their distinctive sound with vibrant, original lyrics.

Started by songwriter/musician David Nagler, As For the Future features vocalist Alexia Bomtempo, Mauro Refosco (David Byrne’s American Utopia, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Atoms for Peace), and Ryan Keberle (David Bowie, Maria Schneider Orchestra), among others. The group took shape during the summer of 2020, when over 15 different musicians contributed to the recording of new material – entirely remotely. These sessions resulted in a 10-song full-length album comprised of singularly memorable songs that are topical (“The Mob”), wry (“Koan for the Music Business”), comprehensive (“Encyclopedia of Songs”), and evocative (“Childlike”).

In addition to the numerous Brazilian artists that listeners may hear elements of – Chico Buarque, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil – As For the Future is recommended for fans of the globally-minded indie music of Vampire Weekend, Beirut, Kings of Convenience, and Arto Lindsay, as well as David Byrne’s American Utopia (percussionist Refosco was a music director of the show during its entire Broadway run).

Taking their name from a novel by the great Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, and residing somewhere between a band and a collective (a Tropicália-influenced New Pornographers?), As For the Future is an eclectic musical experience that embodies exploration and discovery, and never looks back.

Black Diamond - Carrying The Stick (single)

Chicago's Black Diamond are about to release 'Carrying The Stick', from their We Jazz Records debut ‘Furniture Of the Mind Rearranging’ (out 5th July).

Co-led by Artie Black and Hunter Diamond (composers, saxophones, and other woodwinds), Black Diamond appears in both quartet and duo formations. The first three album sides present the quartet, complete with long standing band members Matt Ulery (double bass) and Neil Hemphill (drums), under the heading Furniture Of the Mind. The remaining two tracks on side D fall under the title The Mind Rearranging, with Black and Diamond presenting a meditative duo encounter of two tenor saxophones.

‘Furniture Of the Mind Rearranging’ is an assemblage of new compositions and improvisations that develop the band's established sound and exemplify the way in which this band folds into the Chicago creative music community. The quartet traverses their familiar aesthetic ranges between driving off-kilter groove, plaintive minimalism, and intimate chamber music, with the ever-present spirit of small-group jazz and a hovering influence of Chicago’s improvised music culture. And while this collection represents three previous albums and more than a decade of close kinship and artistic evolution between co-leaders Black and Diamond, neither are too precious about any one element on the album. This is very simply the latest work in what continues to be an expanding body work founded on a guiding principle: cultivation without expectation.

Starting right from album opener ‘Carrying the Stick’, Black Diamond shares new music that's immediately engaging. Lean instrumentation with plenty of space, potent groove-based experimentalism and a sense of meditative introspection live effortlessly side by side in the band's work. This is music left of the timeline, topical through belonging on a much broader continuum rather than anything specifically "current" and short-lived. While marinated in the foundational concepts of creative music and Chicago's rich musical tradition, Black Diamond is not afraid to search new paths in their music.

Isaac Edwards | With You

The seven-year itch, the idea that happiness in relationships declines and divorce rates spike after seven years, certainly does not apply to R&B/jazz saxophonist Isaac Edwards’s marriage. Having recently celebrated his eighth wedding anniversary, Edwards teamed with multiple Grammy nominated hitmaker Darren Rahn (Dave Koz, Blake Aaron, Tim Bowman, Nick Colionne) to write “With You,” a jubilant, high-energy single released last Friday (May 17) that he penned as a bright bouquet to honor his wife, Laura. Edwards produced the Songs in My Pocket Music release that began collecting playlist adds on Monday (May 20). 

“With You” finds Edwards in the company of frequent collaborator Jacob Webb, bassist and a Billboard chart-topper in his own right. Playing over the sturdy funk groove constructed by Webb and drummer Kevin Marsh, Jordan Love adds guitar to embellish the ebullient melodies created by Edwards’s saxophone, keyboards and synths. 

With a full and grateful heart, Edwards composed “With You” in an attempt to capture his feelings for his partner. 

“Life with Laura is very upbeat and magical. When I think of her, the phrase that keeps coming to me is that ‘she literally makes everything better,’ which is totally true. Laura lights up the room when she enters, and she's filled my life with so much joy, hope, and happiness,” said Edwards who resides in Southern California with Laura and their two children. 

One of Edwards’s previous singles, “On The Town,” hit the Billboard chart. He’s released four albums, including a gospel-jazz outing titled “Here,” which garnered a Shai Award nomination, the Canadian equivalent to a Dove Award. The saxman studied under the tutelage of six-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Eric Marienthal and three-time Grammy nominated sax player Jeff Clayton. His formal training came by earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance (saxophone) and a master’s degree in jazz studies. An overachiever by nature, Edwards also received a law degree from Pepperdine University. 

Crafting musical collages from jazz, R&B, funk and gospel, Edwards has performed or recorded with Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum, guitarist Adam Hawley, soul/funk band DW3, bassists Darryl Williams and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and ten-time Grammy-winning vocalist Joel Kibble of Take 6.  

Catch Edwards perform “With You” live at the Monserate Winery in Fallbrook, CA on June 23.

Introducing: The Rare Sounds' feat. Eddie Roberts & Members of The Greyboy Allstars

It all started at The Yardbird Suite in Leeds, UK in 1996. The legendary jazz-funk revivalists, The Greyboy Allstars, embarked on their maiden voyage to the UK with a stop at the legendary jazz club hosted by Eddie Roberts and a supporting set from his organ trio, The Three Deuces. That night sparked a mutual admiration between both groups as they had met their cross-continental counterparts who were reinvigorating 60s boogaloo soul-jazz. It was a once-in-a-lifetime connection between devout loyalists of exploring vintage tones, digging for records, and forging paths as trailblazers of the funk and soul revival in the late 90s and early 00s.

Roberts would later form the international funk group The New Mastersounds’ in 1999 whose expansive career has issued 12 studio albums, earned coveted appearances at international festivals, and even made headway on the Billboard contemporary jazz albums charts with the release of their 2019 studio album ‘Shake It’ that celebrated the group’s 20th anniversary. Meanwhile, The Greyboy Allstars continued to preserve the heritage of jazz-funk giants while cultivating timeless music of their own as individual members of the group would flourish into sought-after collaborators, notable film composers, and studio standouts.

With Roberts residing in the US, collaboration with members of The Greyboy Allstars became frequent, especially between him and keyboardist/organist Robert Walter. Using his own record label and music platform, Color Red, as a springboard, they could now travel back in time to their initial meeting 26 years ago and assemble the dream team of funk enthusiasts and analog recording devotees featuring Roberts on guitar, Walter on keyboards, GBA’s Chris Stillwell on bass, and GBA alum Zak Najor on drums.

Despite being a brand new project, all four members of The Rare Sounds have played in numerous projects with each other over the years and have automatic chemistry and musical shorthand. Everyone gets all the references and shares a common language and love for the traditions of the music. The group recorded 10 tracks for their debut LP at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, CA in August 2021 and made their live debut at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, CO for two packed-out nights leaving listeners in eager anticipation of what’s to come. The group is excited to share their debut album release with soul jazz quartet tunes that are as classic as a 1970 El Camino.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Shabaka Hutchings | Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace

Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace by multi-instrumentalist Shabaka Hutchings is, in a sense, a debut album. And yet, the album also serves as a reintroduction to the artist, a levitating, stunning work chock full of the lessons he’s learned over the course of his life and career. And perhaps, most importantly, it represents the spirit of exploration that the artist is most tapped into these days.

London-born, Hutchings spent much of his childhood in Barbados. Beginning at age nine, he studied the clarinet, playing in calypso bands while studying classical repertoire, often practicing over hip hop beats by artists such as Nas, as well as to the music native to Barbados. He imparted that at the time, “The idea of being a particular ‘type’ of musician who limited themselves by genre was totally alien to me and my peers, it was just about playing with skill and dedication, and whether music moved me or left me cold.”

Consequently, after studying clarinet at Guildhall School of Music from 2004-2008, he collaborated on a kaleidoscopic range of projects: recording and/or touring with Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics, Soweto Kinch, Floating Points and Courtney Pine amongst many other bands, as well as being a part of the London Improvisers Orchestra. He’s also composed pieces for the BBC Concert Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Ligeti Quartet, and performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Britten Sinfonietta as well as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Over the course of the past decade, the lion’s share of his touring and recorded work has been with three bands: Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors. “In these formations,” he shared, “I’ve been able to display a fundamental approach to creative practice in different contexts spanning Afro-Caribbean fusion, London dance music club culture and the rich South African jazz tradition - all within the freedom afforded by the legacy of the American ‘jazz’ tradition.” That approach reflects a mantra he absorbed early in his life.

“My primary school teacher told me ‘the music isn’t hard, just practice it mechanically then relax and let your soul shine through’. This is an adage which I’ve kept throughout my life of learning how the musics and instruments of different cultures relate to my personal vision of sound.”

His musical exploration includes employing a variety of flutes, including the ancient Japanese Shakuhachi, which he started playing in 2020 during the pandemic. “Since then, it has slowly changed the scope of my musical inner landscape and drawn me towards a multitude of other instruments in the flute family,” he explained. “As more flutes have been added to my arsenal including Mayan Teotihuacan drone flutes, Brazilian Pifanos, Native American flutes and South American Quenas, I’ve started to appreciate the underlying principles that cause these instruments to resonate most fully and use this understanding to form a concept allowing me to freely move between instruments.”

On New Year’s Day 2023, in the wake of the release of his 2022 debut EP, Afrikan Culture (which notably featured the artist primarily on flutes), Shabaka announced that beginning in 2024 he’d take a hiatus from playing the saxophone publicly. He clarified in July 2023 on his Instagram page his intention to cease playing with bands in which the saxophone was his primary instrument (including The Comet Is Coming, Sons of Kemet and Shabaka and the Ancestors).

For the flute-forward album Perceive its Beauty, Acknowledge its Grace, Hutchings tapped into a remarkable cadre of players, including percussionist Carlos Niño and bassist Esperanza Spalding. Vocalists including Saul Williams and Lianne La Havas contributed to “Managing My Breath, What Fear Had Become” and “Kiss Me Before I Forget”, respectively. Floating Points, with whom Shabaka shared a stage with for their performance of Promises at the Hollywood Bowl, provided additional production on the track “I’ll Do Whatever You Want".

“I invited a bunch of musicians I’ve met and admired over the past few years of touring throughout the United States to collaborate and everyone said yes, which I constantly find breathtaking,” he disclosed. His aim was to gather the musicians at Rudy Van Gelder’s historic studios, which he says “informed the sound of so many seminal jazz albums that have shaped my musical aptitude. We played with no headphones or separation in the room so we could capture the atmosphere of simply playing together in the space without a technological intermediary. After recording hours of inspired interactions, I set to work producing an album from the material.”

Jo Harrop | The Path Of A Tear

THE PATH OF A TEAR, the newest album by English singer and songwriter JO HARROP, is a bluesy, soulful outing featuring mostly original songs co-written by Harrop. THE PATH OF A TEAR is Harrop’s fourth album on London-based jazz label Lateralize Records and follows The Heart Wants (2022), which The Jazz Page called “an outstanding showcase of Harrop’s completely spectacular artistry.” The album hit #13 on the JazzWeek chart.

Harrop has firmly established herself as one of the most distinctive singer/songwriters in British jazz. Having signed to Lateralize Records, she recently made her US debut with shows at some of the most prestigious venues in the country, including Dizzy’s Club in New York (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and SFJAZZ in San Francisco. 

Harrop crossed the pond to record the album in Los Angeles, teaming up with American music producer LARRY KLEIN (best-known for his groundbreaking work with a host of legendary artists, including Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux, and Herbie Hancock). THE PATH OF A TEAR features some of the finest jazz musicians in the world, including guitarist ANTHONY WILSON (Diana Krall, Madeleine Peyroux), drummer VICTOR INDRIZZO (Willie Nelson, Alanis Morissette), pianist and Hammond B3 player JIM COX (Leonard Cohen, B.B King), and DAVID PILTCH (Chet Baker, Art Pepper) and LARRY KLEIN on bass. 

Klein became interested in Harrop when her music was passed to him by an American jazz publicist. “Working with Larry Klein was something that had only been a dream for me for a long time,” Harrop says. “With such a history of iconic albums under his belt, I was extremely excited but also slightly nervous to be collaborating with him. The first time we met, he immediately made everything seem easy and natural, and he was so complimentary about my voice and my songwriting.” Klein was taken with her singing the first time he heard it. He explains, “Jo is a natural talent. Her singing and songwriting come straight from her heart. This kind of honesty is what compels me most in art.” 

THE PATH OF A TEAR comprises eight songs that Harrop co-wrote with different composers, as well as three covers chosen by Klein. Each song tells a story. Harrop writes about finding and losing love, about desire and longing, and about facing the truth, no matter how painful. She conveys worlds of emotion with her smoky, intimate voice.

She opens the album with her romantic original, “Beautiful Fools,” a gentle salute to all the people who wear their hearts on their sleeves and give themselves away. Harrop sings the blues on “Whiskey or the Truth,” a song about drinking a bottle of whiskey to temporarily numb the pain after discovering someone you love and trust has lied to you. Of course, in the end, the truth will always set us free, so what do you choose? Whisky or the truth? 

“A Love Like This” is a deep, dark, bluesy ballad sung by a woman who has been wronged but cannot let go. Harrop wrote the title song, “The Path of a Tear,” with her old friend, Greg Soussan, a French guitar player who named the song Le Chemin D’Une Larme (i.e., “The Path of a Tear”). It is a story about becoming lost and then found again, about grief and hope. Harrop says, “It’s very honest and came from a reflective place deep inside both of us when we sat down and wrote it together.”

Harrop wrote “You’ll Never be Lonely in Soho” about the neighborhood in London. She says, “Soho is one of my favorite places to write. It’s a home to artists, actors, musicians. It feels like a place where all the lonely and lost people come together to find, lose themselves, and then find themselves. It is a place where magic happens behind the doors of all the little clubs and the curious alleyways. The lyrics capture the atmosphere of this legendary part of London and some of the interesting characters I’ve encountered.” “Too Close to the Sun” refers to the myth of Icarus whose wax wings melted when he could not resist the temptation to fly too close to the sun. The song is about two lovers who could not resist the promise of pure love, so they took a risk and were punished for it, because sometimes love alone, no matter how strong, just isn’t enough.

“Hurt” is a melancholy song about a woman who keeps having bad luck with the men she falls for. Although it never works out, she can never resist love when it comes to call. “Stay Here Tonight” is a bonus track with an upbeat message about taking a chance on love with someone who promises to never hurt you.

Harrop also sings covers of songs by Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, and Steve Earle. Harrop loves the coolness of Cohen’s “Travelling Light,” which is about lightening your load by leaving a lover. “If It Wasn’t for Bad” was written by Russell and made famous by Elton John. The song is about being blind to everything that is wrong with a relationship. “Goodbye,” by Earle, has a country feel, and it is about regret over lost love.

Jo Harrop tells stories about the deepest places of the heart. Her smoky, sultry voice draws you in with its intimacy. Her voice conveys the bittersweetness and hope that is always there, right below the surface. Producer Larry Klein and the band of A-list players create the beautiful canvas for Harrop’s seductive, intimate voice. 

Jo Harrop was born and raised in a small town in Northeast England. Her parents felt that music was not a proper career, so she had to learn music by ear, listening to the likes of Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin. The turning point in her life came when her father took her to see Tony Bennett when she was just a teenager. Harrop relates, “I was so moved and so inspired, I realized that I needed to sing. I wanted to be able to touch people with my music in the same way.”

Harrop chased her dream and moved to London where she started going to jam sessions and meeting musicians. It did not take long to establish herself as one of the most unmistakable voices on the British jazz scene. After releasing her debut LP, Weathering The Storm, Harrop burst into the spotlight with a pair of critically-acclaimed, award-winning albums, The Heart Wants and When Winter Turns To Spring, attracting widespread airplay and an eclectic array of highly respected admirers including Iggy Pop, Christian McBride and Chris Seefried.


Tomasz Stanko Quartet | September Night

Recorded at Munich’s Muffathalle in September 2004, this previously-unreleased live album of the Tomasz Stanko Quartet is a fascinating document, capturing a developmental chapter in the group’s music: between the song forms of the Suspended Night repertoire and the improvised areas that the Polish players would explore on Lontano. The Munich show was a highlight in a year in which the Stanko Quartet played a record number of gigs, with extensive tours of the US and Europe. The great trumpeter himself is at his charismatic best here, playing superbly, clearly inspired by the energetic support and communicative power of Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz, the dynamic young musicians for whom he had been a mentor.

The work with his Polish quartet lifted Tomasz Stanko to a new level of recognition. In the wake of the Soul of Things recording, the first of his ECM discs with Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz, the trumpeter won the European Jazz Prize. From the jury’s citation: “While Stanko has obviously drawn on American models, he has developed a unique sound and personal music that is instantly recognizable and unmistakably his own, rooted in his Slavic heritage, romantic upbringing and classical education, which he received in Cracow before starting a jazz career in the early ‘60s. His distinctive rough tone conveys a sense of drama, melancholy, sadness and existential pain. A free-jazz pioneer, he went on to become one of the finest trumpeters, a world-class player, a stylist, a charismatic performer and original composer, his music now assuming simplicity of form and mellowness that comes with years of work, exploration and experience. Tomasz Stanko – a true master and leader of European jazz.”

“My greatest teacher was, of course, Tomasz Stanko,” pianist Marcin Wasilewski would recall, after the trumpeter’s death in 2018. “We were growing by his side and he was watching us. Every concert we played with him was important – the most important, almost as if it was the last one. That’s the approach he taught us: ‘when you play music, play it at a thousand percent!’”

Stanko’s ‘mentoring’ process mostly took place inside the music itself. “Tomasz didn’t talk to us much,” says Michal Miskiewicz, in an interviewer newly published in Modern Drummer. “It was always about playing what you feel. That was the kind of artist and bandleader he was. We felt very free to do what we do. He assumed that if we didn’t talk about how we should play, we would do it better.”

Though Stanko fronted several strong bands concurrently in his later years, the Polish quartet ultimately proved to be his longest lasting line-up – they began playing together in 1993, and their final concert was in Warsaw in 2017.

The special musical understanding between Stanko and Wasilewski was often remarked upon by the press. “Stanko’s rapport with Wasilewski is uncanny,” wrote Alyn Shipton in The Times, “with the two of them sliding almost seamlessly between passages of intricately composed melody to free improvisation over the modal vamps favoured in the writing.”

By 2004 Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz had also established a solid international reputation as a potent force in their own right. After a decade as the Simple Acoustic Trio, a group formed when they were teenagers in Koszalin, they were in the process of transitioning into a new identity as the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, and going from strength to strength artistically. “In the entire history of Polish jazz, we’ve never had a band like this one,” Tomasz Stanko declared at the time. “I’m surprised by these musicians every day. And they just keep getting better and better.”

The Wasilewski Trio’s recent releases including En Attendant and Arctic Riff, the latter a collaboration with Joe Lovano.  The trio is currently celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.

The Stanko Quartet’s Muffathalle concert of September 2004 was presented in the context of a symposium for improvised music under the banner headline Unforeseen, co-curated by Munich’s Kulturreferat and the musicology department of the Ludwig Maximillian University. The week-long event also provided a source for two other live recordings previously released by ECM: Evan Parker’s Boustrophedon and Roscoe Mitchell’s Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3*

September Night was produced by Manfred Eicher, and mixed by Eicher with Marcin Wasilewski and Stefano Amerio.

Citrus Sun | Anaconga

Renowned musician and producer Bluey, along with his band Citrus Sun, are set to release their highly anticipated fourth album, "Anaconga," on Dome Records. This album is a heartfelt homage to the jazz and soul greats who have inspired generations of music lovers.

"Anaconga" opens with a stunning rendition of Maynard Ferguson's Seventies classic, "Mister Mellow." The track features the soulful backing vocals of Tony Momrelle and Deborah Bond, and showcases the expert production talents of Bluey and Richard Bull. The album's lead single, "Down For The Third Time," is a masterful reimagining of Bobby Caldwell's 1978 funk groove, brought to life by the powerful vocals of Natalie Duncan and the vibrant trumpet and guitar performances of Dominic Glover and Charlie Allen.

One of the standout tracks, "Mystic Brew," pays tribute to the legendary funk, soul, and jazz keyboardist Ronnie Foster. Bluey includes this track to express his gratitude for Foster's significant contributions to the music that has deeply influenced him. The album also features a beautiful cover of Erykah Badu's "Honey," with Natalie Duncan's vocals complemented by the exquisite trumpet and flugelhorn work of Kevin Robinson.

"Anaconga" introduces two remarkable new songs. "Santiago" features the young Indonesian harmonica virtuoso Rega Dauna, who previously starred on Citrus Sun's hit instrumental "Hard Boiled" from their last album "Expansions & Visions." Another highlight is "In Search of the Blue Note," inspired by New York City's rich jazz history and nightlife, with Dominic Glover on flugelhorn and Graham Harvey on keyboards.

Bluey reflects on the album's essence, saying, "I hope that the rhythms wrap themselves around your consciousness and the music slithers into your soul, whilst you bask in the light of the Citrus Sun! Unconstricted love, Bluey."

Citrus Sun is the predominantly instrumental side project that runs parallel to Bluey's iconic band Incognito, featuring many of the same talented musicians. The band released their first Dome album, "People Of Tomorrow," in 2014, and has continued to captivate audiences with their unique sound.

"Anaconga" is a testament to Bluey and Citrus Sun's ability to blend contemporary sounds with classic influences, creating a rich tapestry of music that honors the past while pushing the boundaries of the present. This album is a must-listen for jazz and soul aficionados and anyone who appreciates masterful musicianship and heartfelt homage.

Citrus Sun is a project led by Bluey, the mastermind behind the legendary band Incognito. Known for their predominantly instrumental compositions, Citrus Sun features many of the same musicians from Incognito, bringing a fresh yet familiar sound to their fans. Their music blends jazz, funk, and soul, creating an electrifying and uplifting listening experience.

Julius Rodriguez | Evergreen

You can find Julius Rodriguez in many places. You could walk into a packed jazz haunt and bear witness to him behind the piano with energy practically surging from his fingers through the room. You might scroll up on social media and catch him alternating from drums to bass to guitar at the speed of a jump cut. You may also step onto festival grounds and see him on stage either solo or accompanying another likeminded visionary, jamming like his life depends on it. No matter where, the New York-born and Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer electrifies any lane. By doing so, he also transcends perceived boundaries between genres and styles, redefining the music to mirror his own fluid creative inclinations and delivering a sound that’s solely his alone.

Following widespread applause from The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The FADER, and more, collaborations with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to A$AP Rocky, and tens of millions of streams, he grows in as many directions as possible on his second full-length offering, EVERGREEN [Verve Records].

“I kept seeing the word EVERGREEN everywhere,” he recalls. “I looked up the definition, and it struck me. An ‘EVERGREEN’ is a plant whose foliage remains functional for all seasons. That’s similar to how I like to be; I want to be myself no matter the genre I’m playing or what’s going on around me. There are a lot of styles on this record, but it’s recognizably my voice.”

He's honed that voice since his childhood in New York where he participated in his first late-night downtown jam session at barely eleven-years-old. Sharpening his skills with thousands of hours and hundreds of gigs, he established himself as a highly sought-after collaborator—whether on piano, drums, synths, or bass. You could hear him loud and clear on recordings by the likes of Carmen Lundy, Lackecia Benjamin, Brasstracks, Kassa Overall, Baby Rose, Joe Farnsworth, Cautious Clay, Ian Isiah, and Braxton Cook. Moreover, he has shined on stage with the late Roy Hargrove, Remi Wolf, Dev Hynes, Lauren Spencer-Smith, Macy Gray, Kurt Elling, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Morgan James, and Cautious Clay, to name a few. He even lent his talents to Meshell Ndegeocello’s The Omnichord Real Book—which garnered the first-ever GRAMMY® Award in the category of “Best Alternative Jazz Album.” 

Julius’s signature style came to life on his solo debut, Let Sound Tell All. NPR hailed the latter as “a project so dynamic that even the umbrella of jazz couldn’t quite contain its essence,” and noted, “Rodriguez is demonstrating a lively, inspired talent within the genre’s convention while also infusing his own personal musical identity and history into the music.” Not to mention, he made his debut at North See Jazz festival in 2023, charging up the crowd.

As life changed, his music evolved. Spending the bulk of his life in New York, he relocated to Los Angeles during 2022. At this point, he had toured and performed around the globe. Moving away from home and seeing the world exerted a profound impact upon him. He notes, “You don’t understand how different these moments are until you experience them head-on.”

At the top of 2024, he entered a studio in North Hollywood, CA with producer Tim Anderson [Solange, Halsey, Billie Eilish]. They unlocked a distinct chemistry, bonding over the catalog of Herbie Hancock and seventies fusion titans Mahavishnu Orchestra.

“Tim has an appreciation for jazz and the culture, so he understood where I was coming from musically,” Julius goes on. “From there, he brought in other elements. I love what he’s done with artists outside of the tradition I come from like Solange and Banks, and he introduced me to the ambient music world.”

Fittingly, Julius introduces the album with the opener and single “Mission Statement.” Steady handclaps set the track in motion as a spacey loop swims around a slick bass line. Cymbals chatter through vibrant piano, and a saxophone solo sails off towards the horizon.

“‘Mission Statement’ was one of those ideas that initially came to me in the Pandemic,” he recalls. “I was figuring out how to incorporate sounds from hyperpop, drum ‘n’ bass, and other styles that I dig, but I don’t get a chance to play. In terms of the name, I’m not just trying be the jazz musician that everyone knew me as. My vision was to create a different sound that’s unique to my influence. My mission is to break out of what people know and expect of me and just do what I like.”

“Love Everlasting” sees him team up with longtime friend and fellow dynamo Keyon Harold. A dreamy keyboard melody gently echoes as Keyon’s unmistakable trumpet booms in fits of emotion over robust drums and shimmering piano.

“I’ve known Keyon since college,” he goes on. “He was the first person to take me on tour in Europe, and I’d always wanted to work with him on my own material. I invited him to the studio, and he played trumpet and harmonized with himself. Thematically, it felt like a cycle of what I assumed to be a friendship. In a strong friendship, no matter what happens, you’ll always understand the love you and the other person have for each other.”

Then, there’s “Run To It (The CP Song).” It hinges on a boisterous back-and-forth between the bass, beats, guitar, and piano—akin to a vivacious Sunday on stage in a Southern church. “There’s a camaraderie to the melody,” he smiles. “It’s bound to make for a good time.”

On the other end of the spectrum, he injects a “jazz waltz vibe” into his reimagining of Dijon’s “Many Times.” The epic “Stars Talk” unites him with Nate Mercereau whose synths and freestyled guitar samples amplify an exhale of sonic bliss. “It takes you on a bit of a journey,” he notes. “Nate brought it to another level.”

The album crescendos to a triumphant inflection point on the closer “Champion’s Call” [feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow]. A signature piano line from Julius brims with energy as Georgia’s deep wail resounds with earthquaking intensity in a mantra-like motion, “Champions call.”

“I played some shows with Georgia, and I asked, ‘What are we going to play?’,” he remembers. “She replied, ‘I don’t do setlists; we go on stage and just trust God’. She’s big on letting her spirit flow through her from a higher power. That’s exactly what she did on ‘Champion’s Call’. It was pretty magical.”

By breaking boundaries with EVERGREEN, Julius has lived up to the true spirit of jazz by ushering it towards the future freely.

“I hope you hear this and forget about the whole genre labeling thing,” he leaves off. “This is just music you can dance to, feel to, and think to. It’s not about categorizing; it’s about enjoying something for what it is. EVERGREEN goes through a whole bunch of genres, but this is the world I’m seeing and hearing. This is the feeling I’m invoking. I made a statement and said, ‘The genre is just me’.” 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Harold Land | Choma (Burn)

Wewantsounds is reissueing Harold Land's 1971 Mainstream Records LP 'Choma (Burn),' recorded in Los Angeles with Bobby Hutcherson and featuring Reggie Johnson on bass, Ndugu and Woody Theus on drums, Bill Henderson & Harold Land Jr. on piano/Fender Rhodes. Together the musicians create a superb spiritual mix of funky and modal Jazz that was the trademark of the Harold Land-Bobby Hutcherson quintet between 1968 and 72. Choma (Burn) is reissued here in its original gatefold artwork with all the photos scanned from first generation negatives recently found in the Mainstream Records vaults, and comes with newly remastered audio and a 2-page insert including new liner notes by Kevin Le Gendre

Growing up in San Diego, and settling in Los Angeles early on, Harold Land became a pioneer of the Hard Bop style by recording with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet in 1954. Through his involvement with the quintet, he became acquainted to Bob Shad who had produced the recordings on his EmArcy label. Becoming a prominent voice on the West Coast jazz scene at the end of the 50s, Land recorded many albums for Pacific Jazz as a leader and, in the late 60s, he started a fruitful collaboration with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson forming the Harold Land/Bobby Hutcherson Quintet in 1968. The quintet would last until the early 70s and record a handful of highly acclaimed albums for Blue Note, Cadet and Mainstream Records. 

In the meantime, Shad, who had launched his Mainstream label in 1962 and recorded every style from easy listening to soundtrack to Psychedelic rock (discovering Janis Joplin in the process), decided to go back to his jazz roots in 1971. That year, he signed a new crop of jazz musicians together with some old friends like Land. His idea was to plug into the new, adventurous modal and jazz-funk scenes that was flourishing at the time following the developments initiated by John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Mainstream Records was primarily a New York label but Shad would occasionally travel to Los Angeles to record sessions there. One of these produced three albums with Land: two with the Land/Hutcherson Quintet, namely 'A New Shade of Blue' and 'Choma (Burn)' both released in 1971 - and 'Damisi' recorded with Oscar Brashear on Trumpet replacing Hutcherson, released the following year. 

​'Choma (Burn)', comprised of four tracks, has an interesting instrumentation  and features two drummers - Ndugu and Woody 'Sonship' Theus - playing simultaneously alongside Reggie Johnson's chunky double bass and Bill Henderson and Harold Land Jr.'s piano and Fender Rhodes. 

​The album starts with the title track, an uptempo spiritual brew that opens with a rare, inspired flute solo by Land which gives way to Henderson's acoustic piano and then Hutcherson's marimba. The powerful 10-min piece, described in Leroy Robinson's original liner notes as "a percussive tour de force," is followed by the relaxed funky groove of "Our Home", a Henderson composition which highlights Land's superb Tenor Saxophone solo and Henderson's inspired Fender Rhodes playing.

Side 2 follows the same formula with two 10-min tracks. First we have "Black Caucus", a buoyant funky workout with every musician on fire seemingly matching the political overtone of the title, followed by "Up and Down", a more straight-ahead jazz number showcasing Land and Hutcherson's telepathic complicity and that finishes the album on a perfect note . A must have for all fans of the Harold Land-Bobby Hutcherson Quintet fans, "Choma (Burn)" catches the musicians at the height of their creative peak. They album, which has grown in stature over the decades, has become sought-after and Wewantsounds is now delighted to reissue it after more than fifty years after it was released. 

Nils Releases Highly Anticipated New Album "Feelin' Good"

Renowned contemporary jazz guitarist and composer Nils is back with his latest album, "Feelin' Good." This new collection promises to deliver the signature smooth jazz sounds that have made Nils a favorite among jazz enthusiasts worldwide, combined with fresh, uplifting melodies to inspire and delight listeners.

With "Feelin' Good," Nils is continuing a stellar career that has seen him produce numerous chart-topping hits and earn a dedicated following. Known for his impeccable guitar skills and soulful compositions, Nils' music blends elements of jazz, R&B, and pop, creating a unique sound that resonates with a diverse audience.

The new album features tracks, each showcasing Nils' virtuosity and passion for music. From the upbeat, groovy title track "Feelin' Good" to the more contemplative and melodic "Blue Skies," the album offers a rich tapestry of sounds that reflect Nils' journey as an artist and his ability to evoke a wide range of emotions through his music.

Nils' previous albums, including "Pacific Coast Highway," "Jazz Gems – The Best of Nils," and "Ready to Play," have all been critically acclaimed and enjoyed significant commercial success. His single "Pacific Coast Highway" spent over 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart, solidifying his reputation as one of the genre's leading artists.

"Feelin' Good" is produced by Nils himself, with contributions from some of the finest musicians in the jazz world. The album features collaborations adding depth and variety to the overall sound. Each track is meticulously crafted, highlighting Nils' exceptional talent and his commitment to creating music that not only entertains but also uplifts the spirit.

Nils' ability to connect with his audience through his heartfelt performances and engaging stage presence has made him a favorite at jazz festivals and concerts around the globe. With the release of "Feelin' Good," fans can expect more of the captivating music and energetic performances that have defined Nils' illustrious career.

To celebrate the release of "Feelin' Good," Nils will be embarking on a tour, with dates to be announced soon. Fans can look forward to experiencing the new album live, as Nils brings his vibrant and soulful sound to stages across the country.

Nils is a contemporary jazz guitarist and composer known for his smooth, melodic style and exceptional guitar skills. Throughout his career, Nils has released several critically acclaimed albums and chart-topping hits. His music blends jazz, R&B, and pop elements, creating a unique and engaging sound that has earned him a dedicated fan base and widespread acclaim in the jazz community.

Steve Turre | Sanyas

Throughout 2024, Smoke Jazz Club is celebrating its 25th anniversary, its post-pandemic rebirth and renovation, and the first decade of its record label, Smoke Sessions, with a series of live recordings by some of the acclaimed artists who have called the club home. The latest entry in the series is historic for another reason – Sanyas, due out June 28, marks the first live album as a leader from legendary trombonist and shell master Steve Turre, a landmark in a career spanning more than 50 years. 

Recorded over an electrifying weekend at Smoke Jazz Club, Sanyas boasts a dream all-star band that continues the mission of Turre’s previous Smoke Sessions release, Generations, in bringing together stellar artists from multiple generations. Turre is joined by elders in the form of the iconic rhythm section of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White; modern masters trumpeter Nicholas Payton and tenor saxophonist Ron Blake; and the rapidly rising star Isaiah J. Thompson on piano. 

“I’ve been playing at Smoke since the beginning when they were just getting started,” Turre recalls. “Even before that, I played at the club [in its former guise as] Augie’s. I've watched it grow to become one of the major authentic jazz rooms in the city.” 

Though Sanyas provides a welcome and long-overdue opportunity to hear Turre lead a band onstage, he’s been involved in no shortage of live recordings over the course of his half-century career, many of which trace his work with jazz’s most revered names. 

They include Live at the 6th Tokyo Music Joy, the only meeting on record between the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy; Dizzy Gillespie’s Grammy-winning Live at the Royal Festival Hall; McCoy Tyner’s Uptown/Downtown, from the Blue Note in NYC; Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged special; Charles Fambrough’s Blues at Bradley’s; and Turre’s own personal favorite, Woody Shaw’s Master of the Art. And of course he’s been heard and seen most weekends as part of the Saturday Night Live house band for almost 40 years. 

The title track of Sanyas is also significant for harkening back nearly to the dawn of Turre’s career. “Sanyas” was originally recorded by Woody Shaw on the trumpeter’s 1975 album The Moontrane, becoming the trombonist’s first composition and first solo on record. He later reprised the piece on his own 1991 album, Right There. The name comes from Hindu spiritual practice, though Turre’s composition was inspired by the bright orange robes worn by the Sanyasi, monks who have renounced worldly goods and pursuits. 

“Different harmonies or rhythms evoke different colors,” the composer says. “All the musicians on this album are master musicians, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit the tune for a fresh interpretation and see what these masters would bring to it.” 

The results burst with vibrant colors of their own, opening with an explosion of sound from the horns over a surging rhythmic foundation. The tumult quiets for an entrancing, dark-hued, unaccompanied solo by Williams; Blake’s quicksilver turn is later bookended by Turre on first trombone and later shells, showcasing his virtuosity on both instruments. 

The classic “All the Things You Are” is given an uncharacteristically brisk treatment, it’s stop-start rhythm tailored to White’s nimble percussive responses. All three horns take solos that expand on the standard’s indelible melody, lyrical even at this accelerated tempo. The album’s second standard (available only on CD and digital editions) is a breezy, gently funky take on “These Foolish Things,” with Turre approaching the tune with the engaging spirit of a vocalist. 

Lee Morgan’s “Mr. Kenyatta” corrals the three-horn frontline atop a bold groove, spurring a fiery Payton solo stoked by White’s pointed accents. Turre follows with a tightly coiled outing, then Blake, speaking in tongues, over a brass fanfare before Turre returns to the shells for a staggering, breathy pronouncement. 

Turre’s second original contribution is a new ballad entitled “Wishful Thinking.” Beautiful and wistful, the tune opens with the trombonist at his most elegant, the melody passed to an equally graceful Payton over Thompson’s poignant keyboard work. The pianist more than holds his own with this band of giants; his dazzling solo here is an emotional highlight. 

Live albums, at their best, capture lightning in a bottle. Sanyas is rich with that feeling of electricity and spontaneity, a first-time meeting edged with risk-taking but stunning in the conversation between six masters. Turre praised the setting, Smoke Jazz Club, for its adherence to and celebration of the jazz tradition, but it’s clear from the excitement shared by band and audience alike that in his view, “tradition” doesn’t equate to a lack of adventure or challenge. 

“There's a difference between extending tradition and feeling the need to break with tradition,” he concludes. “I'm a firm believer that you don't have to try to be different. You just have to be yourself, which is hard to do. That's where the magic comes in.”

Matthew McDonald | The Long Wait

If you’re a bandleader on the scene hearing trombone for your ensemble, the name Matthew McDonald is surely in your phone, and at the top of your list. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, The Christian McBride Big Band, the Ted Nash Big Band, the Roy Hargrove Big Band, the Max Weinberg Big Band, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Manuel Valera Big Band, The Dan Pugach Big Band, and many others, have all called upon a man who has great command of, and artistry and expression with, about nine feet of tubing, a slide and a bell, aka the trombone. 

His versatility, creative open mindedness, and his other great skill, composing, is displayed in abundance on his new album, and his first for Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, The Long Wait. The album is a musical expression of living in a complicated, fast-paced, but always interesting metropolis that is New York City. The album’s title also expresses the fact that it was written during the long period of isolation we collectively experienced in 2020. The Long Wait is a tour-de-force, with a depth and breadth of styles, feels, passion, joy and virtuosity. All of the qualities that have McDonald’s phone ringing off the hook are here, and then some . . . 

"Liebish" is a tribute to the incredible depth of the scene in New York, where legends roam, and rising stars often cross paths with some of the greatest musical minds of the art form. In this case, the great David Liebman, “who opened my world up to endless musical possibilities,” said McDonald. "Night Scenes" and "Afterwards" are musical reflections of, “how overcoming mental and physical struggles have helped me become more confident and sure-footed in life,” stated McDonald. "Dealin'', "In the Heights", and "A Wee Bit of Fun," all attempt to paint a picture of day to day life in a city which seems to be both frenetic and chaotic, but also hopeful and inspiring. McDonald comments on two compositions near and dear to his heart, “’A Chance Encounter’" and ‘Feng-I’, dedicated to my wife Emily (Feng-I), provide a softer side to the album and express the wonderful encounters that are possible throughout this city and in life. Finally, "Going Back, Moving Forward," is a rumination that sometimes one has to deal with the past before we are allowed to move forward to the next experience. McDonald elaborated, that, “it has been a great pleasure for me to create this music, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy it now that the long wait is over.”

Trombonist Matt McDonald has performed at numerous jazz festivals and venues around the world, including North Sea, Montreux, Umbria, Spoleto, and Ottawa Jazz Festivals, as well as, The Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, Birdland, The Jazz Standard, Smalls, Carnegie Hall, and many other prestigious venues.

Since moving to New York in 2003, he has performed with countless ensembles (mentioned above), and also the Mambo Legends Orchestra, Shaggy, Little Steven and Disciples of Soul, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Danny Seraphine’s “CTA” and Zafem. McDonald has been invited to Manizales and Medellin, Colombia to perform as one of the “Promising Artists of the 21st Century.” He also curated a very successful jazz series in Harlem at “Silvana” for over a decade, featuring some of the most versatile musicians in NYC. McDonald received his Bachelor of Music at DePaul University in Chicago, his Masters of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, as well as receiving his Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School, studying with Wycliffe Gordon.

Upcoming Appearances:

  • May 23 – Manuel Valera Big Band, Terraza 7, Queens, NY
  • May 24 – Matthew McDonald CD Release Celebration, Silvana, NYC
  • June 16 – Terraza Big Band, Terraza 7, Queens, NY
  • June 16 – Peter Louis, Shrine World Music Venue, NYC
  • June 25 – NY Jazzharmonic, Washington Sq. Park, NYC
  • June 30 – Band of Bones, Chris & St. Stephen's Church, NYC
  • July 6 – Max Seigel Nonet, Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, PA
  • July 14 – Peter Louis, Shrine World Music Venue, NYC
  • July 22 – John Eckert Nonet, Westbeth, NYC
  • August 25 - Peter Louis, Shrine World Music Venue, NYC

Ghost-Note | Mustard n’Onions

Written by Sput in the image of his ‘70s soul favorites – Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, and Parliament-Funkadelic – the single features explosive guitar work from blues-rock god Eric Gales. The tune is fever-pitch funk, with an atmosphere of sweet, personal nostalgia just underneath: “When this music was being created in the ’70s,” Sput explains, “I was pulling at my grandma’s curtains when she was babysitting me, ’cause I wanted to look out the window.”

Also along for the funky ride of Mustard n’Onions is a who’s who of groove-music greats. Most moving is the presence of R&B/jazz hero Bernard Wright (1963-2022), whose performances on three tracks would be some of his final recorded appearances. Other guests on Mustard n’Onions include Karl Denson, founding Robert Glasper Experiment member Casey Benjamin, Snarky Puppy standouts Mark Lettieri and Jay Jennings, pedal-steel luminary Travis Toy, electric-bass GOAT Marcus Miller, and the group’s visionary bass player MonoNeon, who co-wrote the first single “Bad Knees.” 

Well over a decade ago, Sput and Werth found themselves gigging together in the Texas-rooted fusion powerhouse Snarky Puppy — Werth on his creatively, globally curated percussion setup, and Sput on keys and, later, drums. What developed was a great mutual respect and a musical kinship between the two that bordered on telepathy. At a certain point during their ceaseless tour schedule, Sput’s nightly improvised solo began to signify a new pathway. “I got bored taking drum solos,” Sput says, “so I asked Nate to join me. It was like we were finishing each other’s sentences. We did it so well to where fans started coming up and asking, ‘What was the name of that song you and the percussion player were quoting?’” An idea for a beat CD was hatched, which quickly flowered into Ghost-Note — a group that would function less as a “collective” à la Snarky Puppy and more as a dedicated squad.  

Mustard n’Onions presents a story of the ensemble maturing and solidifying and finding their identity. On the band’s freewheeling 2018 release, Swagism, the lineup was still developing and, as Sput explains, “We didn’t have a sound; we didn’t know what we were gonna sound like.” The music on Mustard n’Onions, he says, reflects the firmed-up character of a unit whose “camaraderie and chemistry” have accrued over countless gigs, and nearly every band member has at least one writing credit. Sput remains Ghost-Note’s primary writer and de facto musical director, but he’s now shaping his music for and with his bandmates.    

Mustard n’Onions is out April 19th via Mack Avenue Music Group/Artistry Music. 


  1. JB’s Out! (Do It Babay) feat. Mackenzie 
  2. Move With a Purpose feat. Karl Denson
  3. Where’s Danny? 
  4. Origins feat. Keith Anderson
  5. PoundCake feat. Casey Benjamin
  6. Phatbacc 
  7. Grandma’s Curtains feat. Eric Gales 
  8. Revival Island feat. Travis Toy & Mark Lettieri 
  9. Yellow Dan feat. Marcus Miller
  10. Bad Knees 
  11. Synesthesia
  12. Slim Goodie
  13. Mustard n’Onions feat. Jay Jennings
  14. Origins Reprise 
  15. Nard’s Right feat. Bernard Wright

Tour Dates:

  • April 5 - Resonate Festival - Suwanee, FL
  • April 7 - Jazz in the Park - Houston, TX
  • April 14 - First Ward Park - Charlotte, NC
  • May 10 - Thunderbird - Pittsburgh, PA
  • May 11 - Grog Shop - Cleveland, OH
  • May 12 - Rochester Lilac Festival - Rochester, NY
  • May 14 - El Club - Detroit, MI
  • May 15 - Bell's - Kalamazoo, MI
  • May 16 - Chop Shop - Chicago, IL
  • May 17 - Dakota - Minneapolis, MN
  • June 15 - Juneteenth Celebration - Ft. Worth, TX
  • June 28 - Winstons - San Diego, CA
  • June 29 - Pappy + Harriet's - Pioneertown, CA
  • June 30 - Lodge Room - Los Angeles, CA
  • July 4 - Moe's Alley - Santa Cruz, CA
  • July 6-7 - High Sierra Music Festival - Quincy, CA
  • July 9 - Cornerstone - Berkeley, CA
  • July 11 - Neptune Theater - Seattle, WA
  • July 12 - The Get Down - Portland, OR
  • July 13 - Oregon Country Fair - Veneta, OR
  • July 26 - Fuji Rock Festival - Niigata, Japan
  • August 2 - The Egg - Albany, NY
  • August 3 - Newport Jazz Festival - Newport, RI
  • August 5-7 - Blue Note - New York, NY
  • August 24 - Mountain Sol Festival - Santa Cruz, CA
  • August 25 - Blue Note Summer Sessions - Napa, CA
  • September 1 - Detroit Jazz Festival - Detroit, MI

Ari Joshua, Skerik, Delvon Lamarr, & Grant Schroff | Rare Groove

Music Factory Records is excited to announce the release of "Rare Groove," the newest single from an all-star cast of musicians. The single features composer Ari Joshua on guitar, Delvon Lamarr on Hammond organ, Skerik on sax, and Grant Schroff on drums. 

The timeless quartet form a tight-knit ensemble with the ease and comfort of a familiar local crew. As with the previous batch of releases, the whole band plays as one unit. Lamarr’s warm organ sound and the light crunch of Joshua’s guitar sit above the rhythm section locked in the pocket. Skerik’s stellar saxophone phrasing paints vivid pictures all around the groove. 

For this recording, the sources of the fat tone are at once in the instruments, the hands of the players, and a rare form of recording process. Only high-quality ‘vintage only’ audio equipment was used both by Studio Soli for tracking & by Blue Mallard Studios for all the mixing. Mastering was done by Doug Kreb’s Mastering Company and the artwork created by Deep Groove Designs. The bass line, guitar riffs, and sax lines come together to create a sonic masterpiece that moves listeners to the groove — from start to finish.

With over a quarter of a million spins thanks to editorial recommendations from Apple Music, Spotify, and other streaming sites, the first tracks from this album have been well-received. ‘Soulmine’, ‘Fresh’, ‘Spooky’, & ‘Say Whatcha Wanna Say’ from the last batch of releases were featured on a handful of radio stations, magazines, & podcasts. 

Ari Joshua is on a mission to release 24 songs in 2024. Building on the success of last month's releases “Country Stroll”, and “Elephant Walk” featuring the iconic John Medeski and Billy Martin, “Rare Groove” continues the organ funk and groove theme in Joshua’s recent releases.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Nina Simone’s Early Recordings Reissued in Comprehensive 107-Track Collection

Renowned for her distinctive voice and unparalleled musical versatility, Nina Simone's early recordings are being celebrated in an expansive reissue. With an astounding 107 tracks covering over seven hours of music, this collection encompasses her formative years at Colpix Records, presenting the original albums The Amazing Nina Simone (1959), Nina Simone at Town Hall (1959), Nina at Newport (1960), Forbidden Fruit (1961), Nina at the Village Gate (1962), Nina Simone Sings Ellington (1962), Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall (1963), and Folksy Nina (recorded in 1963, released in 1964). Additionally, the set includes 29 bonus tracks consisting of single edits, non-LP sides, and a wealth of other material unearthed from the Colpix tape vaults in the early 2000s.

This collection showcases Simone’s first interpretations of classics such as Wild Is The Wind, I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, and Sinner Man—key tracks that she would revisit in later albums after her tenure with Colpix ended. It also features a diverse array of material, from the emotive torch songs You Can Have Him and The Other Woman to the gospel-flavored Children Go Where I Send You, and a later version of Simone’s first US breakthrough hit I Loves You Porgy. Her unique takes on folk songs like Cotton Eyed Joe, Little Liza Jane, and Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair further illustrate her eclecticism and artistry.

The reissue benefits from stellar remastering by Nick Robbins, ensuring that each track is presented with the highest audio fidelity. The exemplary artwork design by Tony Hodsoll adds a visual charm that complements the musical richness.

In addition to the music, the collection features a personal essay by Aaron Overfield, Simone’s official archivist, offering an intimate glimpse into her life and work. Renowned film producer and storyteller Nia Hill, who serves as the librettist of the opera Nina Simone’s Absurde, provides insightful commentary that contextualizes Simone's cultural and musical impact. Historian and SoulMusic Records’ reissue producer David Nathan, who founded the first UK Appreciation Society for Nina Simone in 1965, contributes extensive notes that detail the significance of Simone's recordings during this period.

This essential reissue not only honors Nina Simone’s early career but also offers a comprehensive look at her development as an artist. It captures the essence of a legendary performer who seamlessly blended genres and transcended musical boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music. For fans and new listeners alike, this collection is a testament to Simone's enduring legacy and unparalleled contribution to the arts.

Maurice White's Final Recordings: 'Manifestation' Released on Omnivore Recordings

In association with SoulMusic Records and Platinum Garage Recordings, Omnivore Recordings proudly presents the final recordings of Maurice White, the legendary founder of Earth, Wind & Fire and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winner. The album, titled Manifestation, showcases the musical genius of White and his long-time collaborator, award-winning producer Preston Glass.

Maurice White, whose career spanned over four decades, is celebrated for his innovative contributions to music, particularly through his work with Earth, Wind & Fire. In 1985, White released a self-titled solo album that marked a significant milestone in his illustrious career. Two years later, while recording Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1987 album Touch The World, White shared the producer’s chair with Preston Glass. Their collaboration yielded the chart-topping hit “System Of Survival,” which marked the beginning of a songwriting partnership that would endure for nearly 30 years.

Their creative synergy resulted in numerous tracks that highlighted White's unique ability to blend soulful melodies with profound lyrics, a hallmark of Earth, Wind & Fire’s timeless sound. This partnership continued to thrive until White's passing in February 2016. In 2019, three years after his death, twelve of their collaborative works were released digitally as Manifestation. This collection was fully authorized by Kalimba Entertainment, and produced in cooperation with Platinum Garage Recordings and SoulMusic Records.

The 2024 release of Manifestation on CD by Omnivore Recordings offers a treat for fans with the inclusion of six previously unissued tracks. These newly discovered gems have been remastered by multiple Grammy-winning engineer Michael Graves, ensuring the highest audio quality for listeners. This expanded edition not only honors the legacy of Maurice White but also provides a deeper insight into his creative process and enduring impact on music.

Manifestation is more than just a compilation of songs; it is a testament to Maurice White's visionary artistry and his lifelong dedication to music. The album features new liner notes by British Ambassador of Soul, David Nathan, who provides context and personal anecdotes that enrich the listening experience. These notes offer fans an intimate glimpse into White's musical journey and his collaboration with Preston Glass.

The tracks on Manifestation encapsulate the essence of Maurice White's musical philosophy—an intricate blend of spirituality, social consciousness, and musical innovation. Songs like "System Of Survival" reflect his commitment to addressing societal issues through music, while other tracks showcase his ability to create uplifting, soulful compositions that resonate across generations.

As fans listen to the remastered and previously unreleased tracks on this album, they are reminded of Maurice White's indomitable spirit and his significant contributions to the world of music. Manifestation is not just a tribute to his legacy but a celebration of the timeless music that continues to inspire and uplift.

This release is essential listening for anyone who appreciates the brilliance of Maurice White and the lasting impact of his work with Earth, Wind & Fire. The album stands as a testament to his genius, ensuring that his music will continue to live on and inspire future generations. 

The Salsoul Orchestra: It’s Good For The Soul-The Vince Montana Years (8CD)

SoulMusic Records (SMR) and The Second Disc present the definitive first-ever box set celebrating The Salsoul Orchestra’s groundbreaking albums produced, arranged, and conducted by Vincent Montana, Jr.

Comprising six Salsoul Orchestra albums including collaborations with “First Lady of Salsoul” Carol Williams and “Cuchi-Cuchi” superstar Charo – all generously expanded.

Plus the only album from The Salsoul Strings, rare compilation tracks, and numerous new-to- CD mixes. A total of 103 sizzling tracks including such floor-fillers as ‘Salsoul Hustle’, ‘It’s Good for the Soul’, the epic ‘Magic Bird of Fire’, ‘Run Away’ featuring Loleatta Holloway, ‘Nice ‘n’ Naasty’, ‘Tangerine’, ‘Salsoul 3001’, Carol Williams’ ‘More’, and Charo’s ‘Dance a Little Bit Closer’ and ‘Cuchi-Cuchi’.

Every album features the legendary musicians of Philadelphia’s MFSB including The Trammps’ Earl Young, Bobby Eli, Jack Faith, Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, Ron Kersey, Charles Collins, Larry Washington, T.J. Tindall, and conductor Vince Montana on the vibes – plus The Sweethearts of Sigma and Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings with percussion legends Manny
Oquendo, Jerry Gonzalez, and Andy Gonzalez of salsa band Libre join Peter “Choki” Quintero, Osvaldo “Chiwawa” Martinez, and Ray Armando to put the “salsa” in Salsoul!

Remastered by Nick Robbins with artwork by Paul Bevoir and a deluxe booklet including comprehensive, album-by-album notes by The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese drawing on quotes from Vince Montana, Bobby Eli, Carol Williams, Charo, The Sweethearts’ Evette Benton, and Salsoul co-founder Ken Cayre.

Vincent Montana, Jr. played the vibes on such all-time classic records as The Delfonics’ ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’ and ‘La-La Means I Love You’, Jerry Butler’s ‘Only the Strong Survive’, Dusty Springfield’s ‘Brand New Me’, and The Intruders’ ‘Cowboys to Girls’. With MFSB, he added his distinctive touch to dozens of favourites from The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, and The Three Degrees.

This definitive box also contains the Salsoul Orchestra’s collaborative albums recorded with Charo and Carol Williams, rare tracks from The Salsoul Strings and the Saturday Night Fever tribute album ‘Saturday Night Dance Party’, and a plethora of remixes from the 1970s through the present day from such illustrious remixers as Tom Moulton, Shep Pettibone, Walter Gibbons, Mike Maurro, Dr. Packer, and Luca Moplen. Truly…it’s good for the soul!

1  Salsoul Hustle
2  Get Happy
3  Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh, I Love It)
4  You’re Just the Right Size
5  Tangerine
6  Tale of Three Cities
7  Salsoul Rainbow
8  Love Letters

Bonus Tracks
9  Salsoul Hustle (Single Version)
10  Tangerine (Single Version)
11  You’re Just the Right Size (Single Version)
12  Chicago Bus Stop (Ooh, I Love It) (Single Version)
13  Salsoul Hustle (Disco Version)
14  Ooh, I Love It (Love Break) (Shep Pettibone Mix)
15  You’re Just the Right Size (Dr. Packer Rework)
16  Ooh, I Love It (Love Break) (Moplen Rework)

1  It’s Good for the Soul
2  Nice ‘n’ Naasty
3  It Don’t Have to Be Funky (To Be a Groove)
4  Nightcrawler
5  Don’t Beat Around the Bush
6  Standing and Waiting on Love
7  Salsoul 3001
8  We’ve Only Just Begun/Feelings
9  Ritzy Mambo
10  Jack and Jill

1  Tale of Three Cities (Mike Maurro Mix)
2  Salsoul Rainbow (A Tom Moulton Mix)
3  Nice ‘n’ Naasty (Single Version)
4  Nightcrawler (Single Version)
5  Salsoul 3001 (UK Single Version)
6  Ritzy Mambo (Single Version)
7  Salsoul 3001 (Single Version)
8  Nice ‘n’ Naasty (Walter Gibbons 12” Disco Mix)
9  Salsoul 3001 (Walter Gibbons 12” Disco Mix)
10  It’s Good for the Soul (Walter Gibbons 12” Disco Mix)
11  It Don’t Have to Be Funky (To Be a Groove) (Tom Moulton 12” Disco Mix)
12  Ritzy Mambo (12” Disco Mix)
13  It’s Good for the Soul (Demarkus Lewis Chocolate Dice Re-Drum Mix)

DISC FOUR: ’LECTRIC LADY – Carol Williams, Music by The Salsoul Orchestra
1  Love Is You
2  This Time May Be The Last Time
3  More
4  Just Feel
5  My Time of Need
6  Come Back
7  Danger Sign
8  Rattlesnake
9  You’re So Much A Part Of Me

Bonus Tracks
10  Love Is You (Single Version)
11  Rattlesnake (Single Version)
12  More of “More” (Disco Version)
13  Come Back (12” Disco Version)
14  More (12” Disco Version)
15  Love Is You (A Tom Moulton Mix)
16  Rattlesnake (Disco Version)

1  It’s a New Day
2  Short Shorts
3  Run Away
4  Guantanamera
5  Themes from Montreal Olympics, 1976: Farewell Song & Ballet of the Closing Ceremony
6  Getaway
7  Magic Bird of Fire
8  Journey to Phoebus
9 Alpha Centauri

Bonus Tracks
10  Getaway (Single Version)
11  Magic Bird of Fire (Single Version)
12  Run Away (Single Version)
13  Magic Bird of Fire (Walter Gibbons Disco Madness Remix)
14  Run Away (Danny Krivit Re-Edit)

DISC SIX: CUCHI-CUCHI – Charo and The Salsoul Orchestra
1  Dance a Little Bit Closer
2  Let’s Spend the Night Together
3  Borriquito
4  More of You
5  El Reloj (The Clock)
6  Speedy Gonzalez
7  Cuchi-Cuchi
8  Cookie Jar
9  You’re Just the Right Size
10  Only You (Can Make My Life Worthwhile)

Bonus Tracks
11  Dance a Little Bit Closer (Single Version)
12  Cuchi-Cuchi (Single Version)
13  Dance a Little Bit Closer (12” Version)
14  Cuchi-Cuchi (12” Version)

1  Ease on Down the Road
2  West Side Story Medley
3  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
4  Fiddler on the Roof Medley
5  Evergreen

Bonus Tracks
6  West Side Encounter/West Side Story (Medley)
7  Evergreen (Single Version)
8  Ease on Down the Road (Single Version)
9  West Side Encounter (12” Disco Version)

1  How Deep Is Your Love
2  Just the Way You Are
3  You Light Up My Life
4  More Than a Woman
5  Yours

6  You Should Be Dancing
7  Night Fever
8  Stayin’ Alive

9  Tangerine (Mike Maurro Mix)
10  Salsoul Hustle (A Tom Moulton Mix)
11  More (Single Version) – Carol Williams and The Salsoul Orchestra


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