Wednesday, September 02, 2015

NEW RELEASES: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN - BLACK LIGHT; HOMMAGE A EBERHARD WEBER; CHICK COREA / BELA FLECK - TWO

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN - BLACK LIGHT

As a musician, composer, and bandleader, John McLaughlin's vast contributions to contemporary improvisational music are only just beginning to be fully understood, appreciated, and absorbed by artists and enthusiasts alike. From Mahavishnu Orchestra, Shakti and his collaboration with Paco De Lucia, to his current band the 4th Dimension, McLaughlin's music has extended across the boundaries dividing jazz, rock, and innumerable global traditions, encompassing a number of genres while emerging fully formed as his own, uniquely personal expressive medium. Now, McLaughlin is prepared to break through yet again, with what he feels is his most personal statement today: Black Light. Black Light includes 8 original McLaughlin compositions, including a heartfelt homage to his departed colleague, collaborator, and friend Paco De Lucia - with whom McLaughlin had intended to compose an album's worth of new material just before De Lucia's untimely passing. McLaughlin has returned to acoustic guitar for a tribute to his friend, entitled 'El Hombre Que Sabia' and brings forth from the instrument a depth of sadness and admiration beyond words. Mclaughlin adds, 'I have explored ways in music and recorded them with happiness. 'Black Light' has opened a portal that is neither Jazz nor Rock, nor Indian nor Blues, and yet all of these: it's an open door. Otherwise electric, Black Light features the 4th Dimension - 'my three favorite musicians,' in McLaughlin's word - in full flight, with their empathy and precision honed on stage and in the studio. The 4th Dimension is composed of the remarkable multi-instrumentalist Gary Husband on keyboards and drums, Etienne Mbappe's nimble, effervescent electric bass, and the powerhouse drumming of Ranjit Barot. ~ Amazon

PAT METHENY / JAN GARBAREK / GARY BURTON / SCOTT COLLEY / DANNY GOTTLIEB / PAUL MCCANDLESS / MICHAEL GIBBS / HELGE SUNDE / SWR BIG BAND - HOMMAGE A EBERHARD WEBER

In January 2015 musicians and listeners converged upon Stuttgarts Theaterhaus for two consecutive nights to celebrate the 75th birthday of Eberhard Weber. The concerts centered around a specially commissioned 35-minute suite by Pat Metheny, with whom Weber had played and recorded back in the 1970s. Featuring Metheny, the SWR Big Band conducted by Helge Sunde, Gary Burton, bassist Scott Colley and Danny Gottlieb on drums, the composition was arranged around recordings of solos by Weber. Other performers during the two nights playing selections from Webers vast body of work were Webers longtime companions Jan Garbarek, Paul McCandless, Manfred Schoof and arranger Michael Gibbs, all drawing ovations from the packed house. A truly special event, this. - Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal.

CHICK COREA / BELA FLECK - TWO

Chick Corea & Béla Fleck, two master songwriters, musicians, and band leaders meet once again in a historic duet of piano and banjo. The Grammy-winning duet, combine Corea and Fleck s classic tunes with the music from their Grammy-winning album The Enchantment! With a mix of jazz and pop standards, crossing a myriad of genres, from jazz, bluegrass, rock, flamenco and gospel, this album captures the casual, intimate playing by both legends from different musical worlds. Fans of legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea and bebop and bluegrass banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck are well aware of the pair's previous collaborations (Corea guests on two Flecktones albums, and Fleck appears on Corea's Rendezvous in New York DVD), but on their full-length release in 2007, The Enchantment, the two went into the project with an intense seriousness of purpose. On Two, they continue to push each other in a live setting, adapting their instruments to genres (bluegrass, country, Latin, ragtime, classical, blues, and world) normally outside their idioms, Corea playing 'grassy banjo patterns on the piano on Fleck's mournful "Mountain" and Fleck stretching on Corea's suite-like "Joban Dna Nopia." With few exceptions, the compositions are only frameworks for vast improvisation, which might be expected. But instead of setting each other up for extended solos, Corea and Fleck join together with breathtaking precision and verve, weaving and intertwining through remarkable contrapuntal excursions, only to break and meet up again in perfect sync. ~ Amazon


NEW RELEASES: THE WRECKING CREW - THERE WAS ONLY ONE BAND BEHIND THEM ALL; CAECILIE NORBY / LARS DANIELSSON - JUST THE TWO OF US; CAROL WELSMAN - ALONE TOGETHER

THE WRECKING CREW - THERE WAS ONLY ONE BAND BEHIND THEM ALL

They were the studio musicians behind some of the biggest hits in the 1960s and 70s. From Be My Baby to California Girls Strangers in the Night to Mrs. Robinson You've Lost that Lovin Feelin to Up, Up and Away and from Viva Las Vegas to Mr. Tambourine Man the group dubbed The Wrecking Crew played on them all. Six years in a row in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Grammy for Record of the Year went to Wrecking Crew member recordings.
The talents of this group of first call players were used on almost every style of recording including television theme songs, film scores, advertising jingles and almost every genre of American popular music, from the Monkees to Bing Crosby. Notable artists employing the Wrecking Crew's talents included Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vee, the Partridge Family, David Cassidy, Jan & Dean, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, the Association, the Carpenters, Glen Campbell, Cher, John Denver, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, the Grass Roots and Nat King Cole. The record producers most often associated with the Wrecking Crew are Phil Spector, who used the Crew to create his trademark Wall of Sound and Beach Boys member and songwriter Brian Wilson, who used the Crew's talents on many of his mid-1960s productions including the songs Good Vibrations, California Girls, Pet Sounds, and the original recordings for Smile. Members of the Wrecking Crew played on the first Byrds single recording, Mr. Tambourine Man, because Columbia Records, namely, producer Terry Melcher did not trust the skills of Byrd musicians except for Roger McGuinn. Spector used the Wrecking Crew on Leonard Cohen's fifth album, Death of a Ladies Man. Two of their members, drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, were among the inaugural Sidemen inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, while the entire Wrecking Crew was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007. According to Blaine, the name the Wrecking Crew was derived from the impression that he and the younger studio musicians made on the business older generation, who felt that they were going to wreck the music industry. ~ Amazon

CAECILIE NORBY / LARS DANIELSSON - JUST THE TWO OF US

Just the Two of Us is an intimate duo album by this husband and wife pairing. Apart from songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Abbey Lincoln, the pair play their own compositions. The variety of expression that they achieve together, the sheer opulence of their musicality will amaze the listener. For many years Norby and Danielsson are a married couple but musically they went their separate paths for a long time: Norby was the pre-eminent funk and jazz singer in Denmark, until she took herself off to America, long before other Scandinavian singers followed her example. She became the first European female artist to be signed to the Blue Note label, a move which led to working with global stars such as Mike Stern and Chick Corea. Lars Danielsson, from Sweden, also has a major international career to his name, working alongside the likes of Charles Lloyd and the Brecker Brothers; but over and above that, he has developed as an artist (and also as a producer) through being a long-standing member of the ACT label family, and is now regarded as one of the most significant European jazz musicians. ~ Amazon

CAROL WELSMAN - ALONE TOGETHER

6-Time Juno (Canadian Grammy) Nominee, Carol Welsman launches Alone Together, showcasing the rhythmic swing of her piano playing, the warm, embracing sound of her voice, and her irresistible way with a lyrc. Early reviews have cited Alone Together as the album that will cement Welsman's ascendency to the upper levels of the contemporary jazz vocal world. Carol's voice and piano are backed by an assemblage of world class players that include trumpeter Wallace Roney, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Lewis Nash and guitarist Jay Azzolina. Together, Carol and her musicians interact with the intuitive togetherness of jazz vocalizing at its finest. The songs sung and played by Carol Welsman are a thrill you can only feel and experience with awe but find hard to explain, like your first ride on a roller coaster. Blessed with so many musical gifts - taste, time, projection and a rhythmic sense of when to change chords - Carol's piano is beyond reproach, warm yet rhythmically sharp, giving her voice a perfect hammock of support to swing in. I'm not an easy pushover, but she's got what it takes to take me. - Don Heckman- International Review of Music



NEW RELEASES: DANILO PEREZ / JOHN PATITUCHI / BRIAN BLADE - CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT; NANCY WILSON / CANNONBALL ADDERLEY; NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN - THE DANCE OF LIFE / VICTORY / CONFIDENCE

DANILO PEREZ / JOHN PATITUCHI / BRIAN BLADE - CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT

Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade have been three quarters of the extraordinary Wayne Shorter Quartet for more than a decade, whilst also leading their own projects and performing in various groups. Now, on 'Children of the Light', they step forward as a trio for the first time with an imagination and fearlessness in their approach that defies the roles and ways of a trio in both obvious and subtle ways. Daring and luminous, often an improbable mix of pointed, questioning turns and childlike joy, the music unfolds with mischievous unpredictability. The eleven tracks include original compositions by all three members of the trio and a fresh take on "Dolores", an old Shorter classic. It's a remarkable balancing act but even as they put their considerable talents to the service of the trio, each of the members maintains his distinct personality. "We can 'comprovise' (spontaneous composition) with dense harmonic and melodic forms, but we can also explore the beauty of a simple harmony," says Pérez. "And you can see the care each one of us put into the songs we brought in." ~ Amazon
  
NANCY WILSON / CANNONBALL ADDERLEY

Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley had worked together on a number of live dates and had enjoyed the experience sufficiently well enough to agree to replicate it in the studio at a later point in time. That time came in 1961, when both were sharing the same manager and record label, thus making a recording collaboration so much easier to arrange. Recorded in New York City over the course of a four day session (vocals tracks were laid down on 27 and 29 of June, instrumental tracks on 23 and 24 August), the album was intended to feature Nancy as a sort of easy-going third horn. The vocal tracks (there are six vocal tracks) are the albums undoubted stand out tracks, with Nancys vocals floating on top of a wonderful musical bed provided by Cannonball and his excellent core musicians. Yet the five instrumentals are not to be overlooked either, with Joe Zawinuls expert piano playing a delightful bonus. The album was a major success when originally released in 1962, peaking at #30 on the Billboard chart, something of a breakthrough for both Nancy and Cannonball. Indeed the concept worked well enough for Nancy to record a further collaborative album with Ramsey Lewis more than twenty years later. ~ Amazon

NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN - THE DANCE OF LIFE / VICTORY / CONFIDENCE

Ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck and Tommy Bolin drummer and producer extraordinaire Walden’s fourth, fifth and sixth albums for Atlantic, released in 1979, 1980 and 1982 ‘I Shoulda Loved Ya’ from ‘The Dance Of Life’ was a UK Top 10 hit single All three albums made the Billboard Top 200 chart Walden’s production credits are impressive – he produced hits for Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey amongst many others Digitally remastered and slipcased Extensive new notes Also available on BGO Records: BGOCD1210 Garden Of Love Light/I Cry, I Smile/ Awakening. ~ Amazon



MARK GUILIANA FOLLOWS UP FAMILY FIRST with THE RELEASE OF FAMILY FIRST - THE ALTERNATE TAKES FEATURING FOUR ALTERNATE TAKES AND TWO NEW SONGS

With the June 4, 2015 release of Family First, drummer, composer, and bandleader Mark Guiliana and his Jazz Quartet featuring Jason Rigby (tenor saxophone), Shai Maestro (piano) and Chris Morrissey (bass), brilliantly created a melodic and rhthymic landscape that delighted audiences and provoked rave reviews from critics. Family First marked the third release in a year on his own Beat Music Productions (following up My Life Starts Now and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations), and Guiliana is now excited to announce the companion/follow-up release to Family First, Family First - The Alternate Takes. The Alternate Takes CD offers up a new listening experience, featuring alternate takes on "Long Branch", "ABED", "The Importance of Brothers" and Bob Marley's "Johnny Was", as well as two new tunes, Guiliana's "1980", and the Quartet's version of Rufus Wainwright's "Beautiful Child".

Guiliana's singular drumset and compositional artistry, once again setting the bar quite high, is on glorious display on Family First - The Alternate Takes, as is the playing of his collaborators. Once again Guiliana has used the freedom of running his own label to bring music to listeners that might never have been heard. "After two incredibly fun and productive days in the studio, I knew we had too much material to fit on one record, " said Guiliana. "Chris, Shai, and Jason consistently delivered inspired performances, making it difficult to choose 'the one,' and in several instances, I felt very connected to versions that didn't end up on the record. It's exciting to be able to share this material that would otherwise just be hiding on a hard drive somewhere in my apartment." 

The sound presented on Family First is quite different from Guiliana's 2014 releases, and Family First - The Alternate Takes presents yet another soundscape, giving the listener a different perspective on the music. This purely acoustic music is presented without edits or isolation, as captured in pristine detail by engineer John Davis at the Bunker Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.While not a tribute recording in any way, this recording is another nod to the jazz drummers that have inspired and informed Guiliana's completely unique approach to the instrument. Guiliana elaborates, "the music that this Quartet plays embodies the deep inspiration I have taken over the years from my earliest drumming heroes, including Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Art Blakey, to name a few."   

Although this is a fairly new band, Guiliana shares a deep musical history with each musician. "These guys are some of my favorite musicians and I've been lucky to be building a musical bond with each of them over the past decade," he explains. "I've been playing with Chris in my electronic project Beat Music, with Jason in my first band Heernt, and I spent a handful of great years on the road with Shai in bassist Avishai Cohen's trio." Family First - The Alternate Takes encapsulates all the best that these musicians have to offer - abundant beauty, ardent propulsion and sheer love of improvisation.

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet On Tour:
September 30 - The Jazz Gallery, NYC(last NYC date before the European tour!)
October 3 - Lantaren Venster, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
October 4 - Vrijstraat O, Ostend, Belgium
October 5 - Fasching, Stockholm, Sweden
October 6 - TBA
October 7 - Moods, Zurich, Switzerland
October 8 - Band on The Wall, Manchester, UK
October 9 - Bimhuis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
October 10 - Paradox, Tiblurg, The Netherlands
October 11 & 12 - Duc Des Lombards, Paris, France
October 13 - Whelan's, Dublin, Ireland
October 14 - Ronnie Scott's, London, UK

Featuring:
Mark Guiliana (drums)
Fabian Almazan (piano)
Jason Rigby (tenor sax)
Chris Morrissey (bass)
 



Tuesday, September 01, 2015

NEW RELEASES: MASTERPIECES OF MODERN SOUL VOLUME 4; KENYA – MY OWN SKIN; SOSPETTO – QUATTRO SPECCHI OPACHI

MASTERPIECES OF MODERN SOUL VOLUME 4

One of the most supremely soulful compilations we've heard in years – and easily the deepest in this series to date! From the start, Kent's Masterpieces Of Modern Soul collections have been all about bringing rare gems to fresh ears, and they've really outdone themselves here. A solid majority of the tunes have never been released before now, and even the tunes that were issued back in the day are pretty darn rare! Most of it was recorded in the 70s, when the more grandly arranged soul and R&B styles of the previous decade were being honed into a slightly stripped down, though still sophisticated modern soul sound. Fantastic stuff! Volume 4 takes a baby step or 2 into the 80s, without losing sight of the 70s-rooted groove – and the titles include "No Limit" by Darrow Fletcher, "It Takes Heart" by Greg Perry, "Baby You Got It All" by Street People, "Gotta Be Loved" by Herman Davis,"I'll Laugh Till I Cry" by Toussaint McCall, "Never Felt This Say Before" by The New Experience", "See Saw Affair" by Cesar, "I've Never Been In Love" by Alvin Robinson, "Don't Matter To Me" by Billy Cee & Freedom Express, "We Communicate" by Gail Anderson, "Midnight Affair" by George Soule, "Daddy Please Stay Home" by Obrey Wilson and more. 23 tracks in all! ~ Dusty Groove


KENYA - MY OWN SKIN

Kenya's plenty warm in her own skin – coming on with this full, rich quality right from the very first note – the kind of indie soul power we haven't heard this well in a while! The album's very down-to-earth and unassuming – just wonderful vocals from the lady herself, well-penned songs, and this straightforward approach to the music that takes us back to classic mellow soul of decades back, but with a very fresh, contemporary vibe throughout. Kenya gets some great help on production and songwriting from equally excellent talents – including Khari Cabral Simmons, Daz I Kue, Brandon McKenzie, and Kendall Duffie of Kloud 9 – and titles include "Be Here", "Let Me", "Wednesday Girl", "My Heart", "Brown Soul", "Sleepless", "Take Me Away", "Makeusmile", "I Can't Help It (Sugaboom rmx)", and "Never Giving Up". ~ Dusty Groove

SOSPETTO - QUATTRO SPECCHI OPACHI

Totally great work from Sospetto – the group's third album, and their best so far! The approach here follows in Sospetto's previous mode of remaking older soundtrack styles – but the album's even more elaborate and involved, given that the group create four different mini film scores in the process – imagined soundtracks for "films" that include Intrappolati Nel Harem Di Satana, L'Exposition De Genevieve, Schwarzes Licht, and Devil's Cops In Angel County – each with a different variety of music! Keyboards figure heavily into the mix – used in the best early 70s Italian style – but there's also lots of nice guitar, earthier percussion, and a broad pastiche of cool effects – those kind of other-worldly elements that can really illuminate a classic soundtrack. Plus, there's also some wordless female vocal bits – which trip nicely through almost half the album, creating an especially moody vibe at times! Titles include "Sabba", "Law Viper", "Le Jardin", "Sans Peau", "Scaramanzia", "Deserto Emotivo", "Condanna A Morte", "Fattaccio", and "La Fille Dans La Milieu Du Lac". ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: SANTANA & MCLAUGHLIN - LIVE AT MONTREUX 2011: INVITATION TO ILLUMINATION; BOB BELDEN - ANIMATION; JOE MAGNARELLI – THREE ON TWO

SANTANA & MCLAUGHLIN - LIVE AT MONTREUX 2011: INVITATION TO ILLUMINATION

On September 18th, we'll see the release of the “Invitation To Illumination – Live At Montreux 2011”. This is the first ever release of the audio from this unique concert featuring the guitar talents of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin and includes most of the tracks from their classic 1973 album “Love Devotion Surrender”. “Invitation To Illumination – Live At Montreux 2011” also features the late Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, playing harmonica on the final track. The evening was a showcase of supreme musical virtuosity and spirituality and typified the approach of these two great artists. “Invitation To Illumination – Live At Montreux 2011” captures an incredible night of live music and is certainly a performance not to be missed. Tracks include: Echoes of Angels / Introduction; Downstairs Blues; The Life Divine; Venus / Upper Egypt; Duende; Let Us Go Into The House of The Lord; Peace On Earth / Dear Lord; Black Satin; A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall; Smooth Criminal; Stairway to Heaven; Land of 1000 Dances; Lord's Prayer; Cindy Blackman Santana Drum Solo; Free America / The 8th of January; A Love Supreme; La Marseillaise; Montreux Boogie (inc. La Grange); Right Off; A Love Supreme; Guitar Interlude; Shake It Up And Go; Right Off; Vuleta Abajo; Vashkar; The Creator Has A Master Plan; Guitar Interludes; Naima; and  Lotus Land Op.47 No.1.        

BOB BELDEN - ANIMATION

Features Bill Laswell on electric bass & Kurt Elling on spoken word. Recorded over three days in the autumn of 2014 at Bill Laswell's Orange Studios in New Jersey, mixed by James Dellatacoma and mastered by Mike Fossenkemper, Machine Language is the last and possibly most ambitious work by American composer, orchestrator, arranger, saxophonist and all-round conceptualizer Bob Belden with his historical group Animation. Belden died on May 20th this year. In order to realize his vision, Bob Belden enlisted Bill Laswell on electric bass and renowned jazz singer Kurt Elling, who acts as narrator. As for the previous album by Animation, Transparent Heart, also released on RareNoiseRecords in 2012, the lineup also comprises Peter Clagett on electrified trumpet, Roberto Verastegui on keyboards and Matt Young on drums. 


JOE MAGNARELLI – THREE ON TWO

A killer from trumpeter Joe Magnarelli – an artist we've already begun to appreciate a lot for his recent work on the Posi-tone label – but a player who really wins us over with this sweet little set! The record sparkles right from the start with contributions from key labelmates – the mighty Brian Charette on Hammond, Mike DiRubbo on alto, and the great Steve Davis on trombone – all players who leap into the fray with Magnarelli right from the start, and come up with these lines that are sophisticated, but always swinging too – stunningly soulful at all the best moments, with a nice sort of sparkle,b ut no too-commercial polish. Solos are great, and Magnarelli's writing is very nice on the album's original tracks – and titles include "Easy", "26 2", "Central Park West", "Paris", "Outlet Pass", "Clockwise", and "My Reverie". ~ Dusty Groove



Billy Cobham Spectrum 40 Headlines Inaugural Wobeon Jazz Fusion Festival in Austin TX

WOBEONFEST returns to Ironwood Hall in Downtown Austin, TX this September, marking the third year of the homegrown festival with a global reach. This year, the festival organizers have added a Jazz Fusion Festival to the 2-day gathering, which will feature a rare US performance by drum legend Billy Cobham (of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame) and guitar great Scott Henderson on Sunday, September 13th. 

Billy Cobham brings his Spectrum 40 quartet with jazz greats Dean Brown and Ric Fierabracci to the inaugural Jazz Fusion Festival. The Modern Drummer Hall of Fame inductee and his band celebrates the music of Cobham’s first album and performs in the spirit of the rich 1970s Fusion era.  Scott Henderson and his new trio with Travis Carlton and Alan Hertz will also be featured.  Henderson is best known for his innovative work with fusion band Tribal Tech, and for his role with Joe Zawinul and The Zawinul Syndicate.

 Festival Founder Jakes Srinivasan speaks on the event’s new extension: “We are always looking at breaking new ground with the kind of music we curate.  If you see the many, many shows and artists we’ve promoted and presented over the last 3 years, you’ll see that you can’t necessarily put these bands in neat boxes.” He elaborates, “All music is world music, as they say, and there’s a huge pool of great artists – even right here in our own backyard that are incredibly exciting to watch and hear, but for whatever reason don’t get the same share of voice or airplay as we think they deserve.  World Music falls in that category, so does Jazz Fusion.” Jazz fusion is a progressive amalgamation of Rock and Jazz that blossomed in the ’70s and ’80s, and continues to have a tremendous global, yet simultaneously niche, following. Fans of legendary artists like Chick Corea, Miles Davis, and Weather Report continue to harbor their passion for jazz fusion even today. Of late, bands like Grammy®-winning Snarky Puppy are bringing new fans to this exciting genre. In 2014, Wobeon introduced Dallas-based jazz fusion band Funky Knuckles to festival fans and received great feedback. Producing separately-programed days with single-day ticketing for each of the two genres allows both audience bases to get a full sampling of music closest to their interest. Local jazz guitarist Glenn Rexach, rising fusion stars Curious Android, and local group Collin Shook Quintet round out the lineup.

Wobeon has featured renowned artists from all corners of the world, from Angola to Morocco to Brooklyn, and from right here in Austin.  Afropop queen Angelique Kidjo, Bermuda reggae sensation Collie Buddz, Electro-cumbia party starters Bomba Estereo, and big beat bhangra juggernauts Red Baraat have all performed at the gathering, along with local favorites like Atash, Bramaya, and Maracatu Texas.

This festival is made possible in part by the generosity and support of organizations such as KUTX Radio Austin, the City of Austin Cultural Affairs Division of the Economic Development Department, Texas Folklife, Ironwood Hall and others.


SFJAZZ Announces New SFJAZZ Collective Member: Trumpeter Sean Jones Joins All-Star Octet

SFJAZZ announces a new lineup of its award-winning all-star octet, the SFJAZZ Collective -- trumpeter Sean Jones is replacing long-time member and trumpeter Avishai Cohen. The SFJAZZ Collective is an all-star award-winning jazz ensemble comprising eight of the finest performers and composers at work in jazz today. Launched in 2004 by SFJAZZ, the Collective has become one of the most exciting and acclaimed groups on the jazz scene. The SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco is the group's home base.

The current lineup now features founding member and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Obed Calvaire.

Jones joins the SFJAZZ Collective as the group prepares for its 2015 Fall Tour. The tour and a Spring Tour in 2016 are devoted to each member's arrangements of the music of Michael Jackson and new original compositions.

For the remarkable composer, trumpeter, educator, and activist Jones, the pursuit of jazz is a most serious endeavor. Deeply influenced by his immersion in Gospel music in the church as a youth, Jones had an epiphany at the age of 19 while he was a student at Youngstown State University. The awakening was his first hearing of the magnificent John Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme. After receiving his Master's Degree from Rutgers University, Jones performed a six-month stint with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Wynton Marsalis offered him a permanent position as lead trumpeter and Jones remained there until 2010, also participating in two recordings. During those years, Jones started touring and performing regularly with his own ensembles and began his longtime relationship with Mack Avenue Records, for whom he released his seventh recording last year.

Education is also a major element in the trumpeter's ongoing activities. Shortly after joining the JLCO, he began teaching at Duquesne University in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, where he served as Associate Professor of Jazz; Jones also served as Professor of Trumpet at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music for some time. In addition, master classes and clinics are a regular part of his activities, providing more than a dozen annually around the world. He also serves as Artistic Director of both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Jazz Orchestras. In 2014, Jones joined Berklee College of Music as Chair of the Brass Department and maintains the position as he tours year-round.

After exploring the work of Ornette Coleman (2004), John Coltrane (2005), Herbie Hancock (2006), Thelonious Monk (2007), Wayne Shorter (2008), McCoy Tyner (2009), Horace Silver (2010), Stevie Wonder (2011-2012), and Joe Henderson (2014), the SFJAZZ Collective now turns its sights on the "King of Pop," Michael Jackson. The arrangements of Michael Jackson's songs and the SFJAZZ Collective's original compositions will be recorded during their residency at the SFJAZZ Center from October 22-25 and released in March 2015.

In addition to its outstanding line-up, the SFJAZZ Collective has been praised for its innovative approach to repertoire. Each year, the ensemble performs a new list of compositions by a modern jazz master and new pieces by the Collective members (commissioned by SFJAZZ). Through this pioneering approach, simultaneously honoring jazz's recent history while championing the music's up-to-the-minute directions, the Collective embodies SFJAZZ's commitment to jazz as a living, ever-relevant art form.

To cultivate its distinctive sound, the SFJAZZ Collective each year convenes at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco for a multi-week residency. Throughout this extended rehearsal period--a rarity in today's jazz--the octet workshops the season's new repertoire and interacts with the Bay Area community through SFJAZZ's education programs for youth and adults. The Collective then takes to road.

SFJAZZ Collective 2015 Fall Tour Dates
October 9 / University of Colorado / Boulder, CO
October 10 / University of Wyoming / Laramie, WY
October 17 / Brubeck Festival / Stockton, CA
October 19 / Capital Theater / Salt Lake City, UT
October 20 / Musical Instrument Museum / Phoenix, AZ
October 22-25 / SFJAZZ Center / San Francisco, CA

SFJAZZ Collective 2016 Spring Tour Dates
March 30-April 2 / Jazz Bistro / St. Louis, MO
April 6 / The Clifton Center / Louisville, KY
April 7 / Purdue Convocations / West Lafayette, IN
April 8 / Carmel Center for the Performing Arts / Carmel, IN
April 9 / University of Dubuque / Dubuque, IA
April 13 / AT&T Performing Arts Center / Dallas, TX
April 16 / Cullen Theater, DaCamera of Houston / Houston, TX
April 19-21 / Jazz Standard / New York, NY
April 22 / Manchester Craftsman's Guild/MCG Jazz / Pittsburgh, PA
April 23 / Massey Hall / Toronto, ONT
April 24 / Berklee Performance Center / Boston, MA
April 27 / Music Center at Strathmore / Bethesda, MD
June 17 / Detroit Symphony Orchestra / Detroit, IL

Founded in 1983, SFJAZZ presents the greatest names in jazz, Latin and other global music and nurtures the art of improvisation through its year-round concert, commissioning and education programs. The West Coast's biggest jazz presenter serves about 200,000 fans and students every year from our SFJAZZ Annual Season, San Francisco Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ Summer Sessions, and SFJAZZ Collective. The extensive SFJAZZ Education programs include Family Matinees, Koret Discover Jazz Classes, Jazz in the Middle, and SFJAZZ High School All Stars.


PROJECT GRAND SLAM TO RELEASE THEIR UNIQUE TAKE ON JIMI HENDRIX’S FIRE (SONG AND VIDEO) ON SEPTEMBER 18th

Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam is gearing up for a busy fall with the September 18th release of their next single featuring their unique take on Jimi Hendrix’s Fire. The song showcases Guest Vocalist Kat Robichaud from NBC’s The Voice, who lends her rock n’ roll and glam roots to the song and the related video.  This cover of Fire is unlike any other.  It’s a sexy, smoldering version that captures the full emotion of the Hendrix classic.

On October 16th PGS will release their new full length album that includes the singles New York City Groove and Fire as well as two tracks recorded “live” at the world famous Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.  All of the songs on the album (except for Fire) were composed by Robert and reflect the band’s distinctive trademark sound and feel.

The band’s most recent single, released on July 10th, is Robert’s catchy, snazzy New York City Groove, also featuring Kat Robichaud on vocals.  The song is “a love letter to my NYC home,” says Robert, leader/bassist/composer for PGS.  In the month since its release, the Groove video has been viewed over 85,000 times on YouTube, and the instrumental version of the song is moving up the charts on jazz radio.

The Groove video (http://smarturl.it/NYCGroove) contains Kat and others doing their own “Groove move”, which in turn has spawned a “Groove Movement” of people dancing their own “move” to the song.  PGS is inviting everyone to join the “Groove Movement” by creating their own individual “Groove Move” video and uploading the video to any of their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) using the hashtag #GrooveMovement.

On September 9th PGS will be performing at The Cutting Room in NYC.  This comes on the heels of their highly regarded performance on August 5th at The Iridium in NYC.

The band has decided to donate 10% of the sales from New York City Groove to three New York City based art and culture non-profit organizations that benefit underprivileged and inner-city children.  “I thought it was appropriate for us to align the success of New York City Groove with our support for several NYC-based arts non-profits that provide great programs and services for children in need,” said Robert, adding: “It’s our way of ‘playing it forward’.”



Pianist Mose Allison in His Final Live Recording: Mose Allison American Legend, Live in California

Mose Allison is an icon. He is said to have been British rock's most influential jazz musician (Time Out London). He inspired Pete Townshend, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits. His own songs have been covered by Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones, Van Morrison, John Mayall, The Who, The Clash, Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds, to name a few. He was honored as a NEA Jazz Master in 2013, which is the United States' highest honor in jazz as well as being honored by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has made more than 40 recordings and was nominated for Grammys® in 1983, 1988 and 2001.

On Mose Allison American Legend, Live in California, Allison teamed up with a veteran trio of longtime drummer Pete Magadini and bassist Bill Douglass. With this team of great musicians, Allison was able to recreate the intimate sessions that he had been renowned for throughout his entire career. Live in California captures the true atmosphere of what made Allison such an influential musician and performer. Even at 79, Allison is able to a give an inspired and enthralling performance that matches the energy of the audience at 19 Broadway. Magadini states, "You will hear that the audience in the room is totally into Mose and the trio. This phenomenon would almost always happen when we performed in clubs but the music never left the room. Now it has and it's been captured and perserved in this live recording."

Allison and his trio performs some of his most cherished works including "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy," "Your Mind is on Vacation," "I Don't Want Much," "Ever Since the World Ended," and "City Home." In all, there are 12 original classic Mose Allison songs as well as some of Allison's favorite standards including songs by Percy Mayfield, Duke Ellington, Big Joe Williams and John D. Loudermilk. All were played and recorded in the intimacy of a very soulful nightclub in front of an equally impassioned audience.

Mose toured jazz festivals and the most renowned stages throughout his life. For the most part Allison never recorded much while playing "live" in clubs. Many of his best performances stayed in those rooms and devoted audiences were left with preserving their experience to memory. This recording now brings the live aspect of Allison to the forefront and encapsulates his career and love of performing. Although Allison has since retired, this recording is a snapshot in history and is a rare gem for his fans and all blues-jazz lovers.

Mose Allison was born in 1927 in Tippo, part of the famous Mississippi Delta that has produced some of the best blues artists. His art has combined these deep blues roots with sophisticated jazz and inspired lyrics. This unique sound rooted in various styles has made Allison a versatile and inspiring performer and when he arrived in New York in 1956 he was able to play piano for significant artists including Al Cohn, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims and more.



Pianist Yelena Eckemoff Reaches New Heights Working with Norwegian Dream Team of Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen, and Tore Brunborg on Everblue

When pianist Yelena Eckemoff released Cold Sun (L & H Production, 2010) - a trio date with drumming legend Peter Erskine and Danish bass whiz Mads Vinding - the jazz world was introduced to a startlingly fresh voice destined for great things.  Over the course of the six albums that followed, Eckemoff lived up to that promise, delivering organically crafted music reflective of her classical background, fascination with the natural world, poetic soul, communicative spirit, and overall open-mindedness.  Now, Eckemoff is poised to make even more waves with the spellbinding Everblue, her third in-studio encounter with Norwegian bass icon Arild Andersen and her first musical meeting with two other Norwegians of note - drummer Jon Christensen and saxophonist Tore Brunborg. 

Those familiar with the background of Eckemoff's musical partners will likely be aware of their shared history, as Andersen and Christensen were both key players in Jan Garbarek's groundbreaking musical odysseys in the early '70s and all three men were involved in the band called Masqualero.  But none of that has to do with Eckemoff's motives for joining forces with this Norwegian dream team.  Instead, she simply notes that she chose to work with these musicians because they "would be the best match to interpret the ideas for the Everblue project." 

The musical affinity that exists between Eckemoff and Andersen is already abundantly clear, having been demonstrated on two beautifully rendered trio outings-Glass Song (L & H Production, 2013), with Peter Erskine on drums, and Lions (L & H Production, 2015), with Billy Hart on drums. On Everblue, their rapport is deepened and broadened, as both players seem to resonate sympathetically throughout.  While Eckemoff has worked with a number of fine bassists in the past, including Vinding and George Mraz, her relationship with Andersen helps to take her work to another level; it's a relationship that, she notes, plays out like "an interactive conversation." 

In summing up her reasoning for choosing to bring Christensen and Brunborg into her musical orbit on Everblue, Eckemoff cites both players' elemental qualities:  she likens Christensen to "an ocean" and she views Brunborg as "the voice of nature: animals, birds, winds, and ghosts."  When merged with her own "wondering and contemplative spirit" and Andersen's deeply resonating bass work-"a bridge between all of us," according to the architect herself-the results are mesmerizing.

With Everblue, Eckemoff doesn't simply present a set of tunes: she presents an overarching musical concept that guides this voyage.  "Part of our human consciousness constantly searches and yearns for the divine, unspeakably beautiful, eternal," she notes.  "In my world, I call this place Everblue."  It's a concept and a world that's plainly laid out in her poetry and music, as everything is drawn around beaches and oceans.   And it's a concept within that concept-the search for beauty-that informs this journey of faith and discovery.

 

Cole Porter Fellow and Pianist Sullivan Fortner Makes Major Label Debut with Aria

After gaining international acclaim for his piano playing in ensembles led by Roy Hargrove, Etienne Charles, Christian Scott, and Stefon Harris, 28-year-old New Orleans native Sullivan Fortner announces his emergence as a solo recording artist with Aria, a remarkable debut for impulse! Records. Produced by Jean-Philippe Allard and Brian Bacchus, Aria showcases Fortner's mastery at both rendering well-chosen standards and composing memorable melodies.

On Aria, Fortner leads a splendid ensemble, comprised of drummer Joe Dyson, Jr., bassist Aidan Carroll, and tenor and soprano saxophonist Tivon Pennicott. Together they forge a warm, bracing sound that suggests an accord that has developed over several years. "I didn't want it to sound like a leader's record. I wanted it sound like a band's record," Sullivan explains.

The album begins with the title-track - a percussive original - on which Sullivan initially tickles a repetitive dance-like rhythm that hints at the music of modern classical composer Steve Reich and Latin jazz, thanks to the buoying rhythm section. After Pennicott's soaring soprano solo, Fortner quickly displays his formidable skills as an improviser with passages that are as sophisticated harmonically as they are rhythmically. Interestingly enough, "Aria" is part of a six-movement suite, "Expansions: Suite in 'B' for Jazz Quintet," which was commissioned by New York City's Jazz Gallery.

Fortner, in fact, uses three other compositions from "Expansions" on the album - the capricious "Parade," which is distinguished by a jaunty melody and a tugging rhythmic undertow, betraying his fondness for Thelonious Monk; the prancing "Passepied," a tune inspired by Fortner's exploration in Baroque classical music, particularly Johann Sebastian Bach's French dance suites; and the spry "Finale," which bounces to a lithe rhythm that implies the second-line drumming of Fortner's Crescent City hometown.

The other original on Aria is "Ballade," a gentle sauntering ballad, written in dedicated to the pianist's mother, Cynthia Fortner, which affords listeners to gleam Sullivan's crisp, impeccable touch and cogent, modest melodic sense in addition to Pennicott's billowing tenor saxophone asides.

As for the covers, Fortner offers a glimpse into his intriguing influences. His love for Monk rears it's head again on his take on
"I Mean You," on which the intricate rhythms and melodies are wonderfully articulated by Dyson and Carroll, which gives Fortner ample support to demonstrate inventive improvisations.

Fortner reflects on his childhood with a gleeful reading of Fred Rogers's "You Are Special," a song that the composer sang regularly on his acclaimed PBS children's TV show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  "As a little kid, I grew up watching that show and being in awe with the music, especially the piano player," Fortner recalls. The pianist got the idea to give the song a modern jazz makeover after saxophonist John Ellis brought it in at the Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Workshop at the Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, California.

Fortner's take of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's classic, "All The Things You Are," is a subtle tribute to the late pianist Cedar Walton. The fanciful modern arrangement with its tricky interplay and Latin feel is reminiscent of the one Walton performed with pianist Barry Harris, with whom Fortner studied, at the Lincoln Center in June 2013 - just months before Walton passed away.  Similarly, Fortner's amorous interpretation of Duke Pearson's 1966 ballad, "You Know I Care" pays tribute to trumpeter Roy Hargrove with whom Fortner has performed with as a sideman.

When Fortner was pondering the auspicious occasion of making his debut on the legendary imprint - impulse! Records - it lead to him delivering a flickering solo piano reading of J. Fred Coots and Sam M Lewis' 1934 ballad, "For All We Know." "I was thinking that I might not get a chance to record for impulse! again, so let me make the best of it," Fortner explains with a robust laugh.

But based upon Fortner's consummate musicianship as a pianist, improviser, composer and arrangement, its doubtful that Aria will be just a one-off. Instead, it promises to be a winning marriage between a venerable label and a gifted pianist who can surely extend its jazz legacy into the 21st century.

Sullivan Fortner is a 28-year-old New Orleans-based jazz pianist, composer and arranger who's already demonstrated prodigious talents. He began playing the piano at age seven and subsequently won the Cable Cox's "Amazing Kid" award at age 11. Two years later, he enrolled at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where he became Valedictorian of his high school graduating class. He continued his formal music studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in jazz performance, and at the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned a Master's degree in jazz performance. Fortner complemented that experience by studying under such jazz piano masters as Peter Martin, Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz, and playing in bands led by Stefon Harris, Etienne Charles, Roy Hargrove, and Christian Scott.  Fortner is also the recipient of the 2015 American Pianists Association's prestigious 2015 Cole Porter Fellow Award.


Saxophonist John Wojciechowski's "Focus" due out September 18

Tenor, alto, and soprano saxophonist John Wojciechowski has been a mainstay of Chicago's world-class jazz scene since his arrival from Detroit in 2002, forging close alliances with first-call musicians such as pianist Ryan Cohan, bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Dana Hall. Those players happen to be the members of his tightly-knit working quartet, who appear on his outstanding new CD Focus. Origin Records will release the disc,Wojciechowski's first for the label, on September 18.

Boasting seven strong original compositions, each one reflecting a different aspect of the saxophonist's style and personality, Focus is one of those supremely enjoyable albums that treats the mainstream not as a comfort zone but a central place from which to push stylistic boundaries and assert original ideas.

Repertoire ranges from the earthy intensity of "Summon the Elders," a spell-casting modal piece reminiscent of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, to the bottom-up inventions of the title cut to the dancing 3/4 patterns of "Twirl," on which Wojciechowski (woy-cha-KOW-ski) shows off his lyrical tenor saxophone sound.

"After the tenor became my 'voice,'" he told CD annotator Neil Tesser, "I think I started to run away from the alto [his first instrument]. So I really wanted to get back to it on this recording." His alto work is featured on the two standards, Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" and Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way": "I like to play alto on those songs; I've been playing them forever."

The two covers on Focus reveal the leader's compositional gift as well. He remakes "Evidence" with the clave-informed Latin arrangement and reharmonizing touches he showed off at the 1996 Thelonious Monk Competition (he placed third behind Jon Gordon and Jimmy Greene). And showing off his love of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, he treats "In Your Own Sweet Way" to a coiled, melodically expansive alto trio reading.
 
"Divided Man," whose two separate sections reflect Wojciechowski's dual existence as a music teacher (at St. Charles North High School, in the historic river city of St. Charles, Illinois) and urban jazz musician, displays the deep-seated unity of this band.
 
"Elegy," a beautiful piece written for his father, who died two years ago, captures both the gentleness of the man and the hard times he underwent dealing with illness. "I don't usually do programmatic pieces," says Wojciechowski, "but this was really a composition that wrote itself. It's based in my reflection that life is short and I still had a lot to say as an artist. And it brought up a lot of memories about my father."

 John WojciechowskiJohn Wojciechowski, 41, was born in Mount Clemens, Michigan, 24 miles northwest of Detroit. His father was a sheet metal worker by day and a jazz organist by night in the manner of such B-3 favorites as Don Patterson, Jimmy McGriff, and Richard "Groove" Holmes.

Young John started playing music at age 8, and, recognizing his son's aptitude, his father asked him what instrument he wanted to play. "I chose the saxophone," he says, "because I was drawn to its sound" -- particularly that of alto great Sonny Stitt, who made such a stellar contribution to countless organ groups of that era.

The elder Wojciechowski went to extra lengths to find his son a good teacher and came up with a winner in Gerry Gravelle. "He knew all the vocabulary," says Wojciechowski, who by the time he was in middle school was playing alto saxophone, plus clarinet and flute, and was conversant with the Great American Songbook.

He earned his music education degree (at Western Michigan University) at the urging of his jazz elders, and after a brief stint in New York moved back to Detroit, where he took up teaching, performed locally, and worked on his tenor saxophone playing.

"Wojo," as he is known, made the move to Chicago in 2002 and before long found himself in such impressive settings as the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. In 2004 he began teaching at St. Charles, and in 2009 he made his recording debut with Lexicon, featuring Dana Hall and Dennis Carroll as well as guitarist Dave Miller and pianist Ron Perrillo. Wojciechowski has also performed in pianist/arranger Laurence Hobgood's first post-Kurt Elling band and with such notable young artists as pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Jeff Campbell, and trombonist Joel Adams.

Whether leading his own group or furthering his already distinguished career as a sideman, John Wojciechowski brings to bear a consummate understanding of where past meets present, where Detroit meets Chicago, where learning meets teaching, and where dedication meets execution.

The John Wojciechowski Quartet with Ryan Cohan, Dennis Carroll, and Dana Hall will be performing the following CD release shows for Focus: Sat. 9/26 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Chicago (6pm, Wagner Midway Stage); Wed. 10/28 St. Charles North High School, St. Charles, IL (7:30pm); Fri. 10/30 Green Mill, Chicago (9pm); Sat. 10/31 Green Mill (8pm).


NEW RELEASES: GROOVE LTD. FEATURING U-NAM & SHANNON KENNEDY - FIRST CLASS; REACHING OUT: CHESS RECORDS AT FAME STUDIOS; WILLIAM PARKER – FOR THOSE WHO ARE STILL

GROOVE LTD. FEATURING U-NAM & SHANNON KENNEDY - FIRST CLASS

Skytown Records presents Groove Ltd. feat. U-Nam & Shannon Kennedy on their debut album "First Class". On the heels of the success of their first single, "It's Only Love", which earned a place on USA Today/Mediabase and was #11 on Allen Kepler's Top 20 Smooth Jazz Countdown as well as being a favorite of his for several months, Groove LTD. is gearing up for the release of their debut album, First Class. Produced and written by Billboard Chart Topping Artist and Multi-Platinum Producer, U-Nam, First Class is an energetic album that will have listeners playing it on repeat. Teaming up with up and coming saxtress Shannon Kennedy, the duo has created a stellar project that weaves through the Smooth Jazz, R&B, and Neo-Soul genres. The project includes an impressive line up of special guests including #1 Billboard Chart Topping Smooth Jazz star and keyboards, Jonathan Fritzen, the legendary, soulful vocalist Maysa Leak, Grammy Award winning percussionist Paulinho DaCosta, drummer Michael White (of Maze, George Benson), bassit Dwayne "Smitty" Smith (Boney James), Neo-Soul singer Myron Davis, steel drums master Andy Narell, as well as many more. The new single is called “Uprising” and is going headed for radio adds.

REACHING OUT: CHESS RECORDS AT FAME STUDIOS

Chicago meets Muscle Shoals – a monumental moment in late 60s soul that's never fully been given its due before! The set brings together work from the late 60s period in which Chicago's Chess Records issued a slew of incredible singles recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals – deep soul gems that have all the grit and power of the usual Chess Records material, but which have a different vibe – given the production by Rick Hall, and backing by the genius studio musicians at Muscle Shoals! Some of the names are ones you'd recognize from Chicago Chess recordings, and others are artists the label discovered in the south – and had Fame handle for them – which makes for a very nice mix of material. In true Ace/Kent style, there's also some unreleased tracks on the set – and the package features a total of 24 tracks that include "It's All Wrong But It's Alright" by Laura Lee, "Good To Me" and "Let's Do It Over" by Irma Thomas, "The Sidewinder" by Charles Chalmers, "Security" and "Don't Lose Your Good Thing" by Etta James, "You're Living A Lie" by Mitty Collier, "Come Back Baby" and "Reaching Out" by Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces, "Party Time" by Lee Webber, "Lean On Me" and "So Much Love" by Maurice & Mac, "Two In The Morning" by Charles Chalmers, and "Too Soon To Know" by Mitty Collier. ~ Dusty Groove

WILLIAM PARKER - FOR THOSE WHO ARE, STILL

A beautiful box of work from bassist William Parker – and a set that actually features three very different projects, all brought together in a single set! First up is a CD that features a long piece commissioned by The Kitchen – "For Fannie Lou Hamer" – with music by Parker in an ensemble that includes JD Parran on reeds, Ravi Best on trumpet, Masahiko Kono on trombone, and a bit of vocals from Leena Conquest. That same CD features shorter pieces grouped under the title Vermeer – dedicated to the painter, and featuring some beautiful, soulful work from Parker on bass, Darryl Foster on soprano sax, Eri Yamamoto on piano, and Leena Conquest on voice. CD two features Red Giraffe With Dreadlocks – a lot better than it sounds from the title, and spiritual sounds from an ensemble that mixes core jazz elements with some wider global musical ideas – featuring Parker on bass, Hamid Drake on drums, Rob Brown on alto, Bill Cole on double reed instruments, Klaas Heckman on flute, Molla Sylla on mbira and ngoni, and Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay on electronic shruti box. Both Sylla and Bandyopadhyay vocalize a bit – and titles include "The Giraffe Cances", "Where Do You Send The Poem", "Tour Of The Flying Poem", and "Souls Have Fallen Like Rain". Last is Ceremonies For Those Who Are Still – which features a core trio with Parker on bass and flutes, Charles Gayle on piano and saxes, and Mike Reed on drums – augmented by the NFM Orchestra, who shade in the jazz performances with some subtle colors and tones – quite an unusual match between these talents. The CD also features a long improvisation – "Escapade For Sonny" – running over 25 minutes, and just featuring the core trio of Parker, Gayle, and Reed. Packaged in a very nice box, with a booklet of notes! ~ Dusty Groove


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Laurie Antonioli's "Varuna," A Duo Session with Pianist Richie Beirach, to Be Released by Origin Records

Since returning to her native Bay Area in 2006 from a period of living and working in Europe, vocalist Laurie Antonioli has concentrated her creative energies on her American Dreams band, which backed her on last year’s breakthrough Origin Records release "Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light." For her new Origin CD, "Varuna," Antonioli returns to an important chapter in her musical life by recording intimate sessions with her collaborator of more than 25 years, the esteemed pianist Richie Beirach. The CD, Antonioli’s 6th as a leader, will be released September 18.

I’ve been sitting on these sessions until the time was right,” says the vocalist of "Varuna," which was recorded in Leipzig, Germany (Beirach’s home base) nearly 10 years ago and completed in Berkeley in 2012. “We do some of Richie’s brand-new original material, with my lyrics, as well as several standards completely reimagined. The 'Resolution Suite' features three pieces improvised by Richie and me with bassist Pepe Berns. The poem on ‘Revelation’ happened in the moment, and ‘Exaltation’ was inspired by Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound.’”

Laurie is the real deal,” says Beirach, “with a rich, elegant alto voice, great intonation and phrasing, and most of all, that unteachable, unexplainable element of humanity in every note she sings. Piano and voice is very intimate, with no place to hide but incredibly free and capable of magic moments. I love working with Laurie because it’s truly like breathing from the same source of air. Especially on this CD, we are as one mind, one will, and one musical entity.”

Antonioli and Beirach’s first recorded encounter, in 1992, was a startlingly inventive date released by Nabel Records in 2005 as "The Duo Session." With Antonioli holding down a professorship at Austria’s KUG University between 2002 and 2006 and Beirach teaching in Leipzig, they performed regularly in top clubs and concert halls around Europe. The prolific Beirach gave Antonioli his latest original tunes so she could write lyrics to them, an activity that has formed the backbone of their creative partnership. “Writing lyrics to Richie’s music feels like an extension of our conversations,” says the vocalist. “And knowing what he had in mind often informs the storyline.” "Varuna" features three of these songs: the hauntingly cinematic “Inside My Dreams”; the sensuous ballad “My Love”; and the gently flowing title track, which establishes a shimmering feel that pervades the entire album.

Varuna, the Vedic god who lives in celestial waters, is also the name of the recently discovered dwarf planet near Pluto. The album’s themes of time and space are echoed throughout—longing for home in “Over the Rainbow,” the night wind in “Summer Night,” the unseen presence of a loved one in “You’re an Angel Now” (Laurie’s lyrics to John Patitucci’s music).

Early on in her career, Laurie Antonioli was a protégée of Joe Henderson, Mark Murphy, and Pony Poindexter, who recruited the 22-year-old singer for an extensive European tour that turned into an eight-month sojourn in 1980.

Following the release of her 1985 recording debut Soul Eyes, a duo album with George Cables, Antonioli was one of the Bay Area’s most visible singers, booked at leading venues and festivals with her own band, performing regularly with Bobby McFerrin, and sitting in with luminaries like Tete Montoliu, Jon Hendricks, and Cedar Walton at Keystone Korner.

Laurie’s second album, 2004’s "Foreign Affair," is a bracing blend of post-bop jazz and Balkan music created with players from Serbia, Albania, Germany, and the U.S. Her fourth, "American Dreams" (2010), was inspired by feelings that arose during her years abroad and features a number of her collaborations with Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer.

Her brilliant 2014 Joni Mitchell tribute, "Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light," appeared on numerous best-album-of-the-year lists and received particularly cherished accolades from Ms. Mitchell herself, who invited Antonioli to perform at SFJAZZ’s May 2015 gala celebration in Mitchell’s honor (alongside Kris Kristofferson, Kurt Elling, and Patti Austin, among others).

For the last nine years Antonioli has served as the Chair of the Vocal Program at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory (formerly the Jazzschool). She created a unique eight-semester curriculum for the Vocal Department’s degree program as well as overseeing hundreds of artists in workshops and concerts she organizes. “I enjoy the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned and implement a program that is both organic and academically sound. That said, artistry is elusive and not necessarily something that can be taught, which is a very provocative challenge. I’m motivated to contribute what I can to preserve this delicate, complex, and soulful art form.”


Laurie Antonioli and her American Dreams band will be appearing 9/6 at JoniFest in Greenville, SC; 10/10 at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley; and 11/20 at the Unitarian Church in Berkeley, before entering Fantasy Studios 12/14 to record their next album. Antonioli and Beirach are planning a European tour, with dates to be announced, in April 2016.


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