Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ESTHER PHILLIPS: Alone Again Naturally (Expanded Edition CD)

Following the 1972 release of her groundbreaking From A Whisper To A Scream album, Esther Phillips—who had enjoyed hits as a child star (Little Esther) in the ‘50s and as a R&B/jazz stylist in the ‘60s— was experiencing a career rejuvenation with Creed Taylor’s Kudu label after kicking a long-time drug addiction and a spell in rehab.  Keeping with the same basic formula of surrounding the distinctive soulful vocalist with redoubtable arranger Don Sebesky, top class label mates Hank Crawford, George Benson, Eric Gale and Ron Carter and all-star players (James Brown alumni Maceo Parker and rhythm arranger Pee Wee Ellis, Billy Cobham, Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Ralph MacDonald and Gordon Edwards), producer Taylor provided the perfect setting for Esther’s interpretative skills.  The result was the best-selling Alone Again Naturally, a Top 20 jazz and Top 30 R&B album in 1973.

The song choices were stellar: two songs from Bill Withers, “Use Me” and “Let Me In Your Life”;  “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (a 1972 hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips), “Let’s Move & Groove Together” (a 1965 R&B charted single for Johnny Nash), Eddie Floyd’s re-gendered “I’ve Never Found A Man,” an Aretha Franklin cover, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and two powerful reinterpretations—of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally” and “Georgia Rose” (previously recorded by Tony Bennett) with a special intro penned by poet/artist Gil Scott-Heron (whose “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” had given Esther a 1972 hit).

A blistering blues, “Cherry Red,” originally cut by Joe Turner, was the perfect showcase for Esther’s emotive approach; this 2014 reissue from Real Gone Music in association with SoulMusic Records also includes a rare live 1972 recording of the song that Esther performed at a CTI All-Stars concert at the Hollywood Bowl in July 1972 as well as her superlative reading of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” from the same show, with accompaniment by Hubert Laws, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Milt Jackson, Deodato, Airto, Bob James and Jack DeJohnette among others.  Liner notes are by renowned U.S. writer A. Scott Galloway from his original essay for the out-of-print (and jaw-droppingly expensive) reissue of the original album. Intense and soulful stuff.

1. Use Me
2. I Don’t Want To Do Wrong 
3.  Let’s Move And Groove 
4. Let Me In Your Life  
5.  Cherry Red 
6.  I’ve Never Found A Man (To Love Me Like You Do) 
7.  Alone Again (Naturally)
8.  Do Right Woman-Do Right Man
9.  You And Me Together Forever /
10.  Monologue /Georgia Rose 
Bonus Tracks:
11. Cherry Red (Live)
12. God Bless The Child (Live)


World-Jazz Quartet Grand Fatilla Releases Debut CD Global Shuffle September 2 on Grand Fatilla Records

Boston-based world-jazz-folk ensemble Grand Fatilla has been delighting audiences for over six years with its unique style of "Global Stomp Music," eliciting cries of "when will you record this music so we can listen to it at home?!" from eager fans. For several months in late 2013 and early 2014 the band sequestered itself in the beautiful environment of an old church-turned-studio (an appropriate setting, given the band's cover of Hermeto Pascoal's Little Church) in West Springfield, MA to record its debut CD, Global Shuffle, set for release on September 2, 2014.

Recorded live in the studio and eschewing the modern approach of artificially building the music piece by piece, the group was able to harness the energy that is such a distinctive part of its live shows, but in a setting where the sound of each instrument is faithfully represented. Argentinian guitarist Claudio Ragazzi, who has recorded with Bebel Gilberto, makes a guest appearance on three tracks, including Pascoal's baiao Bebé.

The band began as an informal trio when Club d'Elf bassist Mike Rivard, electric mandolinist Matt Glover and accordionist Roberto Cassan got together to explore their mutual love for folk music from all over the world, especially the styles born out of the Gypsy diaspora. Occasionally gigging around Boston/Cambridge when schedules with their other bands allowed, the trio became a quartet with the addition of percussionist and singer Fabio Pirozzolo, and Grand Fatilla was born. Honing the music over the course of countless sweaty nights in various venues (including packed houses at the Regattabar) has attracted a considerable following, notable for its raucous enthusiasm and varied ethnic make-up. Audience members from different countries recognize music from their culture and assume at least one of the members must be a fellow countryman, the music being performed so authentically. Like an iPod on shuffle the group jumps from Argentine Tangos to Italian Tarantellas, from Turkish sacred Sufi songs to Irish reels, Moroccan trance to Bulgarian dance music, all performed with an emphasis on improvisational group interplay and playful spontaneity.

In this age of heightened global consciousness the repertoire that Grand Fatilla performs acknowledges and pays homage to the idea that it is indeed One World that we all live in, and the music of diverse cultures enriches us all. At a Grand Fatilla show one finds ex-pats from Italy, Bulgaria, Brazil and all points on the globe rubbing shoulders with tribal belly dancers, bohemian poets and college students, all coming together in the celebration of music that transcends boundaries.

Each member of the band brings a distinct flavor and area of expertise in different world music to the collective sound: Cassan and Pirozzolo both hail from Italy where they were immersed in the folk music of that area (and play with the Italian folk group Newpoli), and have also intensely explored Balkan, Tango, Brazilian and South American music. Glover came to Boston from his native Newfoundland where he absorbed the Celtic influences and fiddle music of that area, as well as studying the South Indian style of mandolinist U. Srinivas. Rivard, who is also a member of Indian-jazz group Natraj and plays with the Boston Pops Orchestra, has a passion for North African music, especially Moroccan trance music. This lead him to study the sintir, a 3-stringed bass lute, which is featured on the tracks Five Of Swords (recorded on an instrument presented to him by Gnawa legend Maalem Mahmoud Guinia during a trip to Morocco) and the shifting time signatures and intricate rhythms of Kasha.

With two members of the group originally from Italy, it's no surprise that the group embraces folk music from that country. Alla Carpinese was originally collected by ethnomusicologists Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella during their 1950s expedition in the little town of Carpino in Southern Italy, and the band gives it a somewhat unorthodox treatment, with an unaccompanied bass solo beginning the track. Southern Italian Medley is a mix of two melodies both from Southern Italy. Lomax and Carpitella collected the opening chant (they called it "Lu Pecuraru") in Basilicata, and Pirozzolo sings it over a haunting drone. The short text announces the marriage of a young shepherd, asking whoever was listening to inform his mother of his decision. The second is a fast tarantella (originally improvised by a singing barber) from the village of Sannicandro Garganico in Apulia. Many of these melodies were used to heal cases of tarantism, a recurring physical and psychological condition believed to be caused by the bite of the Apulian tarantula. The healing ritual of the tarantella would use music, rhythm, dance and colors to cure the afflicted person: audience members at a Grand Fatilla show are often compelled into ecstatic dance, spider bite or not!

The music of Bulgaria is represented by two tracks: Sandansko Oro and Cigansko Oro ("Oro" or "Horo" is a general term to indicate various dances from Bulgaria and Macedonia). The former is a dance tune that comes from the town of Sandanski, in the southwest corner of Bulgaria. The tune features a challenging 22/16 meter, which for the mathematically-inclined can be broken up into two asymmetrical parts: 9/16 (2+2+2+3) and 13/16 (2+2+2+3+2+2). Pirozzolo adds the Bulgarian tapan to his percussion arsenal for this track. Cigansko Oro is an arrangement of a version taken from the Hungarian group Zsaratnok, a leading folk group in Balkan music during the 1980s, and features continuously shifting time signatures which build up to the climax of Cassan's rousing accordion solo in 7/8 time.

Cassan contributes three original tunes: Domenie, which means "Sunday" in the dialect of Friuli, in the Northeast region of Italy where he is from. Although the style of music is more connected with the accordion tradition of the northeast part of Brazil, the tune harkens back to the joy and celebration that that day brought every week in his hometown. Milonga Para Lucia (dedicated to his daughter) is written in the milonga style of the countryside of Argentina, and it is also a tribute to the song Verde Milonga by the great Italian singer-songwriter Paolo Conte). The waltz Corrente refers to the river stream that keeps flowing, and mixes French musette, Venezuelan joropo, and heavy southern Italian and Brazilian tambourine-style playing.

Another composer whom the band has a particular fondness for is Astor Piazzolla, whose hypnotic tango Fracanapa (the name of a Venetian mask) is a perfect vehicle for Fatilla, and rounds out the program. Whether navigating the tricky time signatures of a Bulgarian dance song, trancing to a Moroccan chaabi groove, faithfully rendering an ancient Italian folk ballad, or rocking out with a John Bonham beat, the band is committed to sharing its enthusiasm for all of the styles it loves with an even wider audience, poised to embrace the infectious energy and astonishing variety on Global Shuffle.

Thursday September 4, 2014
The Regattabar at the Charles Hotel
One Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


One would be hard pressed to find a more intrepid musician on the scene today than drummer, composer, bandleader and educator Mark Guiliana. Since audiences were first exposed to his singular drumset and compositional artistry (mainly through his early years with bassist Avishai Cohen), Guiliana has always set the bar extremely high in terms of envelope-pushing, uber-creative playing. 

Fast forward to 2014, and the drummer has already had a storied career, spending the last decade traversing across six continents with celebrated artists such as Meshell Ndegeocello, Gretchen Parlato, the aforementioned Avishai Cohen, Matisyahu, Lionel Loueke, Jason Lindner's Now vs. Now, Dhafer Youssef, not to mention leading his own groups, Beat Music and Heernt, through innovative sonic explorations documented on two critically-acclaimed releases, Beat Music (Rockwood Music Hall Recordings), and Locked In A Basement (RazDaz Records).

Guiliana has appeared on over thirty recordings to date, and his forward-thinking, conceptual approach to the instrument is currently featured in Mehliana, the electric duo he co-leads with Brad Mehldau on keyboards and synthesizers.  After first getting together to play in 2008, their highly anticipated debut album, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon (Nonesuch), was released in early 2014. Mehldau elaborates on working with Guiliana, "Mark has his own thing, quite simply-but, I mean, really . . . Mark's already influencing a lot of other drummers, and influencing the scene more generally . . . I consider this a collaboration in the total sense of the word." (From Mehldau's interview with Ian Patterson on

On September 2, 2014, Guiliana will be diving head first into another creative endeavor, the launch of his new record label, Beat Music Productions. The label will be flying out of the gate with two new recordings, My Life Starts Now, and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. Guiliana will be celebrating the launch of Beat Music Productions, and the new releases, coast to coast, August 28 & 29 at The Blue Whale in Los Angeles, CA, and September 8 at The Blue Note in New York City.

With the release of My Life Starts Now (which is often referred to as the New York album), and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, Guiliana engages in an exercise in duality; two coasts, two albums, two approaches, one completely improvised and one composed, and two sides of this artist's striking arsenal.

On My Life Starts Now, the band, featuring Guiliana on drums and electronics, along with Stu Brooks on electric bass, Yuki Hirano on keyboards, Michael Severson on guitar, the voices of Jeff Taylor and Gretchen Parlato, and spoken word from Meshell Ndegeocello, uses the fourteen original compositions to explore electronic textures married with, and carried by, provoking beats and rhythmic assertions, often augmented with emotive spoken-word performances. The music is reflective of the new beginnings that Guiliana is experiencing in his life now, in 2014; the process of creating new music and launching Beat Music Productions, and the life-altering adventure of starting a family. The music has the potential to move the listener, emotionally, physically, and in its many evocative moments, mentally as well.

On August 19, 2013 Guiliana and three of his favorite musicians set up in a small studio in Los Angeles and improvised for the entire day. The results are here, on Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. All of the music was performed in real time by four distinct musical personalities creating one "voice", in the moment, with no overdubs. The album captures the confluence of four "rivers", influence, inspiration, risk-taking, and open-minded and openhearted engagement in the avant-garde. Guiliana elaborates, "this session was inspired by a handful of shows throughout the past few years that created many musical moments that I wished had been documented. This specific configuration, with Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, Jeff Babko on keyboards, and Troy Zeigler on electronics, has cultivated a selfless and compositional approach to group improvisation that I think we really captured on this album."

 This is just the beginning for Beat Music Productions. Future projects will include the debut album from the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet (featuring new compositions from Guiliana for an acoustic quartet); a solo electronic recording (an exploration of experimental beats and ambient textures); and a long overdue second album from Heernt, Guiliana's experimental-garage-jazz outfit.

Label Launch Events/CD Release Celebrations:
August 28th &29th @ The Blue Whale
BEAT MUSIC: The Los Angeles Improvisations
Featuring Mark Guiliana, Tim Lefebvre, Jeff Babko & Troy Zeigler

September 8th @ The Blue Note, NYC
Mark Guiliana's BEAT MUSIC
Featuring Mark Guiliana, Chris Morrisey, Yuki Hirano & Jason Lindner

OKeh Records Announces New Album from World-Renowned Guitarist BILL FRISELL - GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE!

Just when you think you've got guitarist-composer Bill Frisell all figured out, confident in your expectations, this American original shakes things up with an unexpected glimpse into those layers of consciousness which inform his rootsy, inclusive, oh so personal style of musical outreach. 

With his new album, GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! (available October 7 on OKeh Records), Frisell goes back to the music that first sparked his imagination. "There's something about being the age I'm at now," reflects this iconic guitar hero. "I turned 63 this past spring, and after playing for more than 50 years, it just feels right to once again play some of the music which shaped my consciousness during my formative years, even to play some of it for the first time...and maybe get it right. GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! isn't really an exercise in nostalgia, but about a re-commitment to keep learning, to firm up the foundation.
"On this album is some of the music I was hearing growing up in the '50s and early '60s," notes Frisell. "There is so much history. Back and forth. Before and after. It's impossible to pin things down. That's the beauty. We all learn from each other. When I listen to Jimmy Bryant, I know he must have listened to Charlie Christian, and The Ventures heard Chet Atkins, and Chet Atkins listened to Johnny Smith. It's like a kaleidoscope. You look at one piece of music, and it immediately shoots out into all these directions. All these beams of light cut through whatever words are used to try to box it in." 

As a baby boomer who came of age in the 50s and '60s, there is an undeniably autobiographical element to the tenor and tone of the repertoire which Frisell explores on GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! along with long-time collaborators Greg Leisz (pedal steel & electric guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic bass and electric bass guitar) and Kenny Wolleson (drums and vibraphone). 

"I've known Kenny, Tony, and Greg for a long time now," recalls Frisell. "I learn so much from them. They are my teachers. When I first heard Tony and Kenny play together, they had their own 'sound.' They play together like brothers. The first time I was introduced to Greg, I knew we'd be playing together before we had played a note. Greg and I grew up during the same time. The same generation. His first electric guitar was a Fender Mustang, as was mine. Nothing needs to be said or discussed. There is understanding. He is my guitar brother. My hope is that this band plays together like a family. 

"I hope people don't think this is a joke or nostalgia. It first comes from loving this music and loving these guys. It's about learning and getting deeper into the music, and researching where we come from. I've never been able to buy into the idea of there being a hierarchy in music. Like... folk music is at the bottom, then blues, rock, jazz and classical at the top... or whatever. As though one music is higher or lower or more difficult than another. It's all difficult. It's all beautiful. It's all one thing." 

**Additional Information Coming Soon!
 1. Pipeline (Brian Carman/Bob Spickard)
 2. Turn, Turn, Turn (Pete Seeger)
 3. Messin' with the Kid (Mel London)
 4. Surfer Girl (Brian Wilson)
 5. Rumble (Milt Grant/Link Wray)
 6. Shortest Day (Bill Frisell)
 7. Rebel Rouser (Duane Eddy/Lee Hazlewood)
 8. Baja (Lee Hazlewood)
 9. Cannonball Rag (Merle Travis)
 10. Tired of Waiting for You (Ray Davis)
 11. Reflections from the Moon (Speedy West)
 12. Bryant's Boogie (Jimmy Bryant)
 13. Lift Off (Bill Frisell)
 14. Telstar (Joe Meek)
 Bill Frisell, electric guitar / Greg Leisz, pedal steel & electric guitar / Tony Scherr, acoustic & electric bass / Kenny Wolleson, drums and vibraphone / Produced by Lee Townsend

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek Album Of Classic Jazz Standards To Be Released on Tuesday, September 23

Cheek To Cheek features classic jazz standards sung by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in a combination of vocal duets and solo performances.  Each song was handpicked by the artists, and the album features classic selections from the Great American Songbook including "Anything Goes," "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Sophisticated Lady,"  "Lush Life," and the record's title track, "Cheek To Cheek." Recorded in New York City, the record took over a year to complete and features jazz musicians associated with both artists including members of Bennett's quartet, Mike Renzi, Gray Sargent, Harold Jones and Marshall Wood as well pianist Tom Lanier.  Jazz trumpeter Brian Newman, a long-time friend and colleague of Lady Gaga appears on the album as well with his NYC based jazz quintet. Jazz soloists on selected tracks include tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and flutist Paul Horn, who passed away earlier this month.

Of this new project Lady Gaga commented, "Cheek To Cheek came out of a very organic friendship and relationship that Tony and I have built over the years and it truly was a collaborative effort. It was important to Tony that this was a jazz record. I've been singing jazz since I was a child and really wanted to show the authentic side of the genre. We made an album of jazz classics, but it has a modern twist."

"I have been singing the Great American Songbook my entire career and all along forging a 
bridge between pop and jazz music.  Creating this album with Lady Gaga has been a beautiful experience as she is a fantastic singer and I am hoping that all her fans will embrace this music and swing along with it," said Tony Bennett.

Photographer Steven Klein contributed the photographs and spearheaded the artistic design for the album packaging as well as for the first official image released from Cheek To Cheek, which is featured on the "Anything Goes" cover art.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga first met backstage in 2011 after the two performed at the Robin Hood Foundation gala in New York City and Bennett asked Lady Gaga to sing a duet with him on his DUETS II album that he was beginning to record.   "The Lady is A Tramp" was the result of that endeavor and conversations began about collaborating on a jazz project.  Recently, Bennett and Gaga surprised the student body at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a NYC public arts high school founded by Tony Bennett, when they spoke and performed for the school on the last day of classes in June.  Earlier this month, Gaga surprised the Montreal Jazz Festival audience by joining Bennett on stage when he was performing at the famed jazz festival.  Last night, they taped a television special that will air on PBS later this fall. The two appeared this morning on the TODAY SHOW to official announce CHEEK TO CHEEK.

Legacy Recordings Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Newport Jazz Festival with 6 Classic Album Exclusives; Landmark "Live at Newport" Performances from Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton Available for 1st Time Digitally

Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival this summer with the first digital release of six classic "Live at Newport" albums, available exclusively on iTunes.

Two of the exclusive new releases -- Ellington at Newport: The Original Album and The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Newport 1958 -- have been newly remastered in 24-bit and Mastered for iTunes. This ensures that the music is delivered to listeners with increased audio fidelity that more closely replicates what the artists, recording engineers and producers intended. Originally released on Columbia Records, The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Newport 1958 is now available for the first time digitally and has also been remastered in 24 bit and Mastered for iTunes. Brubeck's concert performance is a tribute to the music of Duke Ellington.

Since its inception as the "First Annual American Jazz Festival" in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival set the standard for large scale outdoor summer music gatherings.  Subsequent music festivals -- from Newport Folk through Montreux, Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Coachella and beyond -- have Newport Jazz to thank for establishing the concept and reality of a music community coming together for a shared outdoor concert experience.

With the 60th anniversary edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, returning to its original home at the Casino and at Fort Adams State Parkon August 1, 2, 3 in Newport, Rhode Island, music fans can enjoy some of the Festival's finest performances from Duke Ellington, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton on six new digital releases.

Jazz impresario and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein called Duke Ellington's 1956 concert at Newport, "the greatest performance of [Ellington's] career," adding that the music "stood for everything that jazz had been and could be."  The digital edition of Ellington At Newport: The Original Album restores the record to its original sequence while adding four live performances that first appeared on Duke Ellington and The Buck Clayton All Stars At Newport (a companion album released in 1956).

Four additional Live at Newport albums are now available for the first time as digital releases:
Ella Fitzgerald - Newport Jazz Festival: Live At Carnegie Hall July 5, 1973
Lionel Hampton - Reunion At Newport 1967
Duke Ellington - Newport 1958
Duke Ellington - Live At Newport 1958


Chick Corea – an NEA Jazz Master and winner of 20 GRAMMY® Awards – has been a prime mover in jazz ever since the late 1960s, when the keyboardist was a youngblood in the electrifying jazz-rock ensembles of Miles Davis. Corea has made classic records as a leader both in acoustic mode (such as the star-making Blue Note trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs) and electric (the pioneering ’70s fusion of Return to Forever), as well as collaborating on acclaimed albums with peers from Gary Burton to Béla Fleck. On September 9, 2014, Stretch Records/Concord Jazz will release Trilogy – a recording to rank with the landmarks of Corea’s career. Trilogy is a triple-CD set recorded live around the world with his spectacularly virtuosic trio featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, both star leaders in their own right (and previously the rhythmic backbone in Corea’s Five Peace Band). In an interview with Spain’s El Pais, Corea said about them, “Both are master musicians and together we have an easy rapport. There is a lot of give and take in our music. It’s always a lot of fun.” And reviewing one of the stops on the trio’s two globe-trekking tours, All About Jazz noted, “Corea, ever the mischievous, puckish protagonist, created a context where the music centered on high-spirited playfulness: pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, and obliquely refracted – as much about the journey as it was the destination.”

A marvel of live recorded sound, particularly for having been captured in multiple stops on the road, Trilogy sees the trio reinvent classic Corea compositions (such as “Spain”), as well as previously unreleased originals (“Piano Sonata: The Moon”). The group also performs an array of jazz standards (including two Thelonious Monk tunes) and even re-imagines a Prelude by fin-de-siècle Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (“Op. 11, No. 9”). The recordings were made live in Washington, D.C., and Oakland, CA; in Spain, Switzerland and Austria; and in Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Corea, McBride and Blade are joined by special guests on three tracks: flutist Jorge Pardo and guitarist Niño Josele in Madrid (“My Foolish Heart” and, aptly, “Spain”) and vocalist Gayle Moran Corea, the pianist’s wife and longtime collaborator, in Sapporo (“Someday My Prince Will Come”). About one of the concerts, WUVT Virginia said, “The performance was mostly fun and relaxed, but as expected from Chick Corea, it had its moments of deep thought in which the music could bring tears to one’s eyes.”

Corea calls the trio experience with McBride and Blade “a joyful exploration,” adding, “There’s a certain chemistry that happens, which is really difficult to describe – it’s simply that thing that happens when the three of us get together to play. I know I find myself trying things that I wouldn’t normally try. The game of live performance – for a performer and a listener – is one of the most basic human pleasures. For me, certainly, the best and most rewarding thing I know to do in music is to play live for a live audience. And no matter how recordings and the mass consumption of music evolve, the fundamental musical experience will always be a live performance. A live album like this is the next best thing to being there, a snapshot of special moments in musical time that we can share.”

One of the album’s special moments is the trio’s interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk.” Along with the sheer life-affirming delight of Corea’s piano in this number, it’s the old-wood tone and earthy swing in McBride’s solos that are a particular sensual pleasure. About the bassist, Corea says, “Christian is a complete musician in all senses. With total command of his instrument and a flowing ability to creatively improvise in any situation, he’s able to bring joyful surprises every time.”

Reviewing the trio’s show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, The New York Times singled out Blade’s contribution as “a crucial factor” to the group’s sound: “Tapping into the deeper currents, Mr. Blade can be startlingly dynamic.” His traps solo on Corea’s vintage composition “Fingerprints” is as rich in color as it is in groove. “Brian is totally unique as a drummer and a highly accomplished musician,” says Corea. “He doesn’t just ‘keep time.’ He colors and comps and orchestrates everything he plays. He transcends the instrument he plays – he’s amazingly artistic.”

In its review of the trio’s concert at Orchestra Hall in the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune singled out Corea’s “feathery touch” in Kurt Weill’s “This Is New,” his “soft tone, free-ranging lines and mercurial rhythms quickly echoed by McBride and Blade. Here were three musicians discarding conventional notions of phrase and song structure, of solo and ensemble passages. Instead, they created a free-flowing, translucent music that thickened or thinned, sped up or slowed down according to the impulse of the moment.” The Tribune also highlighted the trio’s re-envisioning of Scriabin: “The Russian iconoclast's extended harmonies and mystical yearnings are ripe for jazz improvisation. Corea proved the point, riffing on Scriabin with fleet and silvery lines, the pianist’s nervous energy intensified by McBride’s restless phrases on bass and Blade’s shimmering statements on drums. In effect, Corea’s trio got under the skin of music penned on another continent roughly a century earlier – through jazz.”

Corea has always had a special feel for Spanish music, tapping the spirit of Rodrigo for his classic “Spain,” among many other of his pieces that explore Iberian colors and rhythms. Corea recalls the performance of “Spain” included on Trilogy: “The night in Madrid with Jorge Pardo and Niño Josele was magical. It was our final trio concert of that particular tour – and, of course, Jorge and Niño are stars in Spain. You can feel the audience and band’s excited vibe on the recording.” The new piece “Homage” is another in that line, a tribute to the late flamenco guitar genius Paco de Lucía. Corea explains, “This is my homage to flamenco musical roots and culture – so warmly shown to me by the great Paco de Lucía along with Carles Benavent, Jorge Pardo and Rubem Dantas, all of whom were integral members of Paco’s bands for two decades. ‘Homage’ is my tip of the hat and thank you to him and the beauty of this musical culture.”

The previously unrecorded “Piano Sonata: Moon” is the most expansive performance on Trilogy, at an epic half an hour. It’s kaleidoscopic and utterly absorbing music. “This is the first movement of a piano sonata that I began composing several years ago but never completed,” says Corea. “I thought it would be ideal to expand it in this trio setting since Christian and Brian are so adept at reading and interpreting tricky scores. We spent time weaving together the written sections with the improvised sections.”

Trilogy also features interpretations of items from the Great American Songbook: “My Foolish Heart,” “It Could Happen to You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and more, all performances of grace and freshness. The album closes with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” with its guest vocal. Corea says, “My sweet wife, Gayle, always brings the kind of warmth and lyricism to the stage that I love.”

Much of the pleasure in Trilogy is the sheer beauty of the recorded sound, always a challenge to achieve on the road with varying acoustics and equipment. The gorgeous result – full of high-definition depth and detail – is the product of “the deep understanding and artistry of my recording engineer, Bernie Kirsh, who is a genius and with whom I have collaborated since 1975, when we made The Leprechaun together. The techniques that he developed through the years plus the rapport we both have for the kind and quality of sound we love led to the very highest quality live recordings. Brian Vibberts did a great job of mixing on this one, with my and Bernie’s long-distance input. I think we made for a good three-way team.”

Summing up Trilogy, Corea says, “I’ve made a life of learning and inventing ways to make music, but it often seems unproductive for me to try to describe it in words. But I have one about working with this trio and making this live album: pleasure. I hope listeners experience the same.”

Pulsating Afrobeat from Shaolin Afronauts on Follow The Path

The driving force of The Shaolin Afronauts is Ross McHenry, the ARIA nominated composer, bandleader, producer and bassist based in Adelaide. Alongside co collaborators Lachlan Ridge and Dylan Marshall, It is their opmbined wide ranging musical tastes, impeccable production and instrumental skills that always result in music that is original, thought provoking, unexpected and quite beautiful.

2011's debut album 'Flight Of The Ancients' was a critical and commercial success story. The follow up 'Quest Under Capricorn' further cemented the bands reputation for forging their own very particular sound - and now in 2014 - as the band prepare to tour Japan & Europe (including 2 prestigious shows at The Glastonbury Festival) Freestyle Records is proud to present the expansive & epic Follow The Path.

Follow The Path is a 21 track, double album that expands upon and delves further into the musical genres that inspire and influence the group - rhythmic and pulsating afrobeat, and the avant-garde/spiritual jazz inspired by artists such as Sun Ra and Mulatu Astatke.

One superb example of how this band execute their musical vocabulary is Ojo Abameta, a percussive & frenetic number, built on a bed of amazing percussion and topped off with some deeply sweet ensemble horns, the end result is reminiscent of African hi life sounds which acts as a curtain raiser for this incredible album. The albums title track 'Follow The Path' uses afrobeat as a template, but with strong funk undercurrents, as the insistent beat underpins the beautiful ensemble horns and bubbling analogue synth sounds to dramatic and hypnotic effect.

In contrast, the second volume emphasises The Shaolin Afronauts more experimental and introspective side. As an example, the three part suite Outside Beyond/Three Ways Back is a genuine musical journey that takes the listener through many musical moods and textures...;this is deep, spiritually rooted music that locates the band almost in a genre of their very own - having such an original and individual approach and sound.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jane Bunnett and All Female band, Maqueque, Blend Afro-Cuban, Soul and Jazz

For more than thirty years, Canadian flutist and saxophonist Jane Bunnett has been bridging the gulf between Cuba and North America, introducing jazz audiences to some of the finest musicians that the island has to offer. Through her longstanding ensemble Spirits of Havana, Bunnett has provided early opportunities to such future greats as Dafnis Prieto, Yosvany Terry, Pedrito Martínez, and David Virelles, and also becoming a Canadian national treasure as well as an internationally acclaimed jazz artist in the process. Now, with her new sextet Maqueque, she introduces the world to some of Cuba's most promising female musicians, injecting her own music with an invigorating dose of youthful energy in the process. 

On their self-titled debut, Maqueque blends scintillating Afro-Cuban rhythms, folkloric influences, exhilarating jazz, and soulful vocals into an utterly intoxicating blend. Vocalist Daymé Arocena, percussionist Magdelys Savigne, drummer Yissy García, bassist and tres guitarist Yusa, pianist Danae Olano, and bassist Celia Jimenez join the four-time JUNO Award winner, two-time Grammy® Award-nominee, and Officer of the Order of Canada to create a dynamic and hard-driving sound that should suffice to silent any doubts from the boys' clubs of jazz or Cuban music. 

The band's name was provided by Arocena's grandmother, a practitioner of the Afro-Cuban Yorùbá religion. It translates to "the spirit of a young girl," which perfectly captures the vibe of the group and the song that shares its name. "I imagine that's what I was like as a ten-year-old girl," Bunnett says. "I was very energetic, I could be sweet and I could be feisty. That's Maqueque." 

Over her decades of visits to Cuba, Bunnett observed that almost 75% of the students in the country's many conservatories were female, but the jam sessions that she attended at night would be almost exclusively male. "When they finish all their training, you don't see them out on the scene," Bunnett says. "At jam sessions, I would notice some of the young girls I had seen at the schools just sitting on the sidelines, happy to watch their boyfriends up there playing. It seemed really strange." 

She didn't set out to form an all-female band, but the seeds were planted when Bunnett and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, met Arocena during a trip to Havana with Toronto radio station JAZZ.FM91's Jazz Safari program. "I organized a private jam session in the hotel for the Safari folks and invited a few of the Cuban artists from the jazz festival to come and play with me," Bunnett recalls. "I met Daymé in the lobby and she said she was a singer, so I asked her to come. She jumped in and her vocal ability was way beyond her years. She has this very old-soul voice for this young person. It's really unusual and very powerful." 

That voice stuck in Bunnett's mind. A few months later, she was asked to serve as artistic director for "Funny Girls and Dynamic Divas," an annual fundraising event for Sistering, a Toronto-based social service agency for women. She brought Arocena to Toronto to perform for the occasion and the singer, Bunnett says, "brought the house down." 

The response that day planted the seed for Maqueque. Bunnett and Cramer joined Arocena in Cuba to scout for talent, and ended up with the group of women who now make up the sextet, most of them in the early 20s and in the earliest stages of what promise to be fruitful careers. Yusa is slightly older and is an in-demand player in both Cuba and Argentina, while García, only in her mid-20s, is already a well-known figure in the Cuban music scene and has worked with such renowned artists as David Sanborn, Omara Portuondo, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Roy Hargrove. 

The all-female line-up provides the band with a unique energy, Bunnett says. "There's a very happy energy about it," she describes. "All of the women are very supportive of each other.  I've seen a couple of all-women groups in Cuba that are geared toward tourists and can border on being pretty cheesy. What we're doing is creative and collaborative and involves a lot of the Afro-Cuban elements that stem out of traditional folkloric music." 

The tempestuous "Tormenta" was inspired by an experience that Bunnett had while playing a jazz festival in Kansas, watching a tornado on the flat Midwestern horizon as she played on an aluminum stage. "New Angel" stems from a more joyous place, with a celebratory, joyful chorus of voices. "Song for Haiti," originally written for a benefit album for the country's earthquake victims, closes the album with a host of special guests, including Spirits of Havana alum Hilario Durán (who contributes string arrangements throughout the album) on piano, the New Orleans-style Heavyweights Brass Band, and spoken word artist Telmary Diaz. 

Arocena also contributes three pieces: "Guajira," inspired by the self-sufficiency of rural Cuban farmers; "Canto a Babba," an homage to the Yorùbán deity Oba; and "De la Habana de Canada," a cha cha relating her unusual journey. The album also includes a moving, intimately soulful rendition of Bill Withers' classic "Ain't No Sunshine" sung by Arocena and Yusa, and an eccentrically grooving take on 1940s Cuban pianist Pedro Peruchin's "Mamey Colorao." 

Bunnett wrote most of the music for the album in the central Ontario cabin built by her grandfather, a refuge surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Those elements directly influenced the disc's opening track, "Papineau," named for a nearby waterfall. But the music was work-shopped by the group in Cuba, adding a lively Cuban chant far removed from water crashing on rocks in the Great White North. 

That sort of collaboration is what excites Bunnett about the music and has kept her returning to Cuba for so many years. "One of the things that I really love about music is to collaborate with the different personalities who are out there, because everybody can always bring something very different to the table. In Cuba, there's so much music happening and a lot of the time it's of a collaborative nature; I always imagine it's like 52nd Street in its heyday," she explains. "When I go there I feel that I'm surrounded by a lot of creative energy. There's an enthusiasm about embracing the arts, and music is primary to everybody's lives there, even people who aren't musicians.

Upcoming Jane Bunnett Performances:
August 3 / Jazz and Blues Fest / Erie, PA
August 10 / Litchfield Jazz Fest / Goshen Fairgrounds, CT
August 17 / Markham Jazz Festival / Markham, Ontario
September 11 / Scullers Jazz Club / Boston, MA
September 12 / The Side Door / Old Lyme, CT
September 14 / Lake George Jazz Festival / Shepard Park, NY
September 15 - 17 / Friends University / Wichita, KS
September 19 / Mount Vernon Country Club / Golden, CO
September 20 / The Blue Note Jazz Club / New York, NY

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque will be released on Justin Time Records on September 9, 2014

New Releases: Andrew Neu - Everything Happens For A Reason; Lebron - Shades; Nick Colionne - Influences


Saxophonist Andrew Neu follows up his successful NuGroove Records debut with his 4th contemporary jazz CD, Everything Happens for a Reason. Along with producers Brian Bromberg and Steve Oliver, Andrew has assembled an all-star band, featuring Rick Braun, Bobby Caldwell, Jeff Lorber, Tom Schuman and Alex Acuna. Embellished by a horn section and a full orchestra, this project takes you on a musical journey around the world. Andrew co-wrote a song with Bobby Caldwell and arranged a unique take on the jazz classic, "Take Five". Inspired by the soul jazz and Latin music of the 1960s, it's reminiscent of Quincy Jones and Sergio Mendes. ~


Throwing another needle into the growing haystack of smooth jazz saxophonists seems an exercise in futility where they are a dime a dozen, unrecognizable and hardly standout. Next wave sax man Lebron didn't merely want to jump into the stack and release a starter record with a couple of good radio tracks in an effort to attract attention and fans. Lebron eats the contemporary jazz elephant all at once with Shades, his major label CutMore Records debut, a revealing musical masterpiece that is sure to turn some industry heads. 8 out of the 10 sides could easily be huge radio hits and present a unique challenge for the record label picking singles with this much meat on the bone. Not content to just start a ripple, Lebron enlists the help of A list producer Darren Rahn to launch his young career with what is sure to become a tidal wave that will wet the appetite of those who appreciate fresh, vibrant and infectious concoctions. Nobody crafts melodies and hooks better than Rahn and the result is pure magic. Not content with one super producer on the project Paul Brown joins in and takes a ride with cameos on the lead radio single 'Groove City', an infectious number propelled by a driving bass line and sweet guitar licks in all the right places. So pocket that you ll find your change rumbling around with it. Shades should do well to move Lebron to the top of the stack, not to become just another needle, but to set fire to it. ~


Well into his third decade of making the strings sing with his very own sweet Chicago soul, guitarist Nick Colionne digs deep as he takes musical stock of the people and things that helped propel his career and fully establish his place as one of the real cats, a cat that finds connection with his audience in a way that not many can. Influences is a musical journey of self re-discovery, offering a palate of moods and flavors born of life experiences, challenges and the effect of the people past and present that have helped shape and mold his sound. Music can be the ultimate healer not only for the creator but also those of us who seek the escapism. Nick gets this and you immediately feel him from the opening strains as he provides lift with this feel good collection of new sides. His chops have never been more exacting, his melodies more exhilarating, his hooks more infectious.   Collaborating again with the great James Lloyd on 'Pieces Of A Dream' and inviting Maysa on the journey gives 'Influences' just the right amount of spice and pop, but in the end it is all about Nick as he bears his soul though this collection of musical chapters in this his latest book, one written with his strings and sings of the places he s been and the places he still has to go. The lead single Got To Keep It Moving is certain to fire up his legions of fans and find its rightful place atop the radio charts. Never one to take what he has for granted, Colionne knows he has been blessed with a great gift and he will continue to share it as he connects with his fans through live performance in 2014 and share Influences in a way that only he can. ~

Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty Announce Formation of New Music Ensemble - The Anderson Ponty Band

Jean-Luc Ponty
Music legends Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty announce the formation of a new ensemble - The Anderson Ponty Band! YES's original singer/songwriter for 35 years, Jon Anderson has had a successful solo career, which includes working with such notable music artists as Vangelis, Kitaro, and Milton Nascimento. International jazz superstar Jean-Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music. Together these two music icons form a musical synergy that is unparalleled!

“A breakthrough feeling came as I sang with Jean-Luc's music, to be in a band again is very exciting on many levels, we will play and sing our way around the world and have fun, for music is pleasure, music is all that is, music is God” - Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson
The Anderson Ponty Band also includes Jamie Dunlap on guitars - well known as a film and television composer, most notably 'South Park'; Wally Minko on keyboards - virtuoso player and composer who has performed and recorded with many worldwide stars including Pink, Toni Braxton, Jean-Luc Ponty, Tom Jones and Barry Manilow; Baron Browne on bass who has played with Steve Smith, Billy Cobham and Jean-Luc Ponty; and Rayford Griffin on drums and percussion, who has played with Stanley Clarke Band, George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Jackson. The band will visit the music created by Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty over the years with new arrangements, virtuosic performances and new energy, while creating new compositions as well.

The Anderson Ponty Band have been writing and arranging old favorites during the past three months. They will be in residence for three weeks in September at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado rehearsing, recording and playing a public performance on Saturday September 20th. An album will be finished in Los Angeles and is scheduled for release in early 2015. Also, a videography documenting the making of the album will be released as well as videos and performances. A world tour beginning in March 2015 is in the planning stages.

The Anderson Ponty Band announce the launch of a Kickstarter campaign today July 25th beginning at 2PM Eastern. The campaign will encourage fans and friends to become a stakeholder in the project. Numerous tiers of donations will be rewarded by album downloads, premium CD/DVD packages, VIP ticket access, merchandising, special one of a kind collectibles, special meet and greets with the band and much more.

Kickstarter campaign:
Anderson Ponty Band Facebook:
Jon Anderson official website:
Jean-Luc Ponty official website:

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Releases - Sophie Alour - Shaker; Ray Barretto - Eye Of The Beholder / Can You Feel It; Acid Jazz Mod


For her fifth record, young French saxophonist Sophie Alour returns with a new formula, a beautiful trio album, with saxophone, organ, and drums. Is it because she played with Rhoda Scott? Or just because she likes the somewhat historical funky sound it carries. With gusto and a hint of mischief, she sheds a new light on some of her own compositions, plus a colourful version of the Sergio Mendes arrangement of 'My Favourite Things'. Tracks include: Joke; In This World; Comptine;
Shaker; En Ton Absence; Mystère et Boule de Gomme!; I Wanna Move My Body!'; Nos Cendres; My Favourite Things; and En Ton Absence (alternate take). ~ Amazon UK


Raymond Barretto came from New York and was a drummer, percussionist, bandleader, composer and producer. He was born in 1929 and was a member of Tito Puentes orchestra from 1957 to 1960. He recorded for a number of labels including United Artists and Fania Records and was with Atlantic for the two albums we present here for the first time on CD, Eye Of The Beholder and Can You Feel It. Both these albums come from the heyday of jazz fusion in the late 70s (1977 and 1978 respectively), the first a production collaboration with The Crusaders. With Joe Sample penning Here We Go Away, the music is just one step away from what The Crusaders were making themselves at the time, short of Stix Hooper on drums but in the sturdy hands of Frank Zappas Terry Bozzio doing the beats. Elsewhere on the album the UK's Steve Ferrone, a former member of Average White Band, features prominently on drums with Ray focusing on congas and percussion, as he does across these two sets with Wilton Felders Numero Uno (the albums US 45) highly regarded as a masterpiece of jazz fusion. ~ Amazon UK


While the name of Acid Jazz evokes images of the jazz, soul, funk, disco and hip-hop movements that dominated the British music scene during the Nineties, the label (which many credit with naming the musical genre) quickly proved flexible with regards to the roster and the releases that emanated from it. Many of the names signed in its early days are still rightfully regarded as heavyweights in the acid jazz movement, such as Brand New Heavies, JTQ (James Taylor Quartet, for the uninitiated) and Mother Earth. There aren't many labels that can place the likes of Geno Washington in-between Corduroy and Mother Earth and get away with it, but Acid Jazz is certainly one of those. While 'Mods' might lead you to think that this is an album rooted in the Sixties, the Mod scene is still very much alive and kicking, with many of the tracks that appear here being given an airing or two. The end result is a diverse album, but extremely enjoyable. ~ Amazon UK

Amazonian songstress Dona Onete releases debut album - Feitiço Caboclo

Phenomenal debut album from the stunning and until now, undiscovered 73-year-old Amazonian songstress Dona Onete - the work of a lifetime on one CD on the great Mais Um Discos Label. A vibrant blend of Paraense folklore,carimbó, boi bumba, Caribbean salsa, brega, samba and even rap, all rooted in the cultures of the Brazilian interior, this phenomenal debut album from Amazonian septuagenarian songstress Dona Onete has been over 60 years in the making and almost never happened… Sat on the banks of the Amazonian river in the small town of Igarapé Miri as an 11 year old, singing sambas, quadrilhas and boi bumbas to the river dolphins, Dona Onete could have scarcely imagined she'd be seeing the worldwide release of her debut album at the age of 73. 

Whilst not pursuing music as a career when growing up, Onete's heart remained invested in it. Becoming an expert in the rhythms, dances and traditions of the Amazon through her university studies, she'd go on to become Municipal Secretary of Culture of her hometown Igaparé-Miri. Completely enveloped by Amazonian culture and with her latent talents as a singer, Onete began to compose music for herself. Amassing a collection of over 300 original songs throughout her years, it wasn't until she retired that her musical career took off. 

Moving to the quiet area of Pedreira in Belém to while away the rest of her days with her husband, Onete inadvertently moved onto a street where popular Brazilian band Coletivo Radio Cipó lived. The band, hearing Dona perform at a local carimbó party, initially thought they were listening to a much younger singer - due to Onete's vivacious and flirtatious flair, along with her penchant for a cheeky lyric or two. But when they caught sight of her, they were astounded. Knowing they'd stumbled upon someone truly special, the band instantly invited her to sing on their forthcoming album. 

Onete took some convincing but eventually relented, a decision that would lead to her recording as an artist in her own right and see her audience of river dolphins on the banks of the Amazon transform into the people of the cities of Brazil, and soon the world. her audience of river dolphins on the banks of the Amazon transform into the people of the cities of Brazil, and soon the world. ~ Amazon UK

Vocalist Freda Payne Comes Back to Jazz and Big Bands with Come Back To Me Love

"She had the Motown sound before Motown was Motown." - NPR

As iconic in 2014 for her timeless beauty and sex appeal as she is her artistic versatility as an all around entertainer, Ms. Freda Payne remains among music's and show business' brightest shining star survivors. When she is singing her heartbeat music - jazz - love, awe and yearning only grow stronger. Her latest album, Come Back To Me Love (her first for Artistry Music) marks not only a return to the big band and strings-laden classics from her mid-`60s beginnings with Impulse!, but also marks a return to her hometown of Detroit. That makes this 14-song album featuring Grammy® Award-winning arranger Bill Cunliffe's musical arrangements a beautiful homecoming.

"It's a dream come true," Payne enthuses with a smile, "just like in 1968 when I was living in New York seeking my fame and fortune, and ran into Brian Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland. He told me they had just left Motown and started their own company, Invictus. I flew back to Detroit, signed with them and a year later had a Top 5 record, 'Band of Gold.' So signing to Artistry Music with Gretchen Valade and Tom Robinson today is truly serendipitous - a flashback to something really good happening for me at home in Detroit, my good luck charm."

Reflecting on how this opportunity arose, Payne continues, "(Bassist) Ralphe Armstrong and I were on a local big band gig together when he told me about an intimate jazz club in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, with great food, saying, 'You should work there.' I made the contact and that's when I met Gretchen and Tom. Six months later I did a return engagement and they asked me to sing a song for a documentary on Gretchen - When I Have To Smile. Then they asked if I'd like to record an album for their label, Artistry Music. That made me feel very special."

That album became Come Back To Me Love, featuring six selections penned by Gretchen and Tom paired with eight selections of golden favorites. When asked who she would like to be her right hand she called upon a more recent associate of hers, Los Angeles-based Bill Cunliffe. She'd first hired him to accompany her in her acclaimed "Ella: The First Lady of Song" engagement at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood. "I told them Bill was at the top of my list," Freda insists. "Bill is an excellent musician, easy to get along with and respects my ideas."

With her Artistry Music debut, Come Back To Me Love -- on which every instrumental solo sounds like it was played by someone who had a crush on her at one time or another -- Ms. Freda Charcelia Payne won't just be swinging on a star...she'll be clutching that golden Victrola for this, her return to jazz and Detroit.

Upcoming Freda Payne Performances:
August 9 / BB King Blues Club / New York, NY
August 21 / Coral Springs PAC / Ft. Lauderdale, FL
August 30 / Detroit Jazz Festival (w/ USAF Airmen of Note Big Band) / Detroit, MI
* September 6 / Miller Outdoor Theatre / Houston, TX
September 19 - 20 / Catalina's Jazz Club / Los Angeles, CA
October 4 / The American Theater / Hampton, VA
* indicates an "Ella: First Lady of Song in Concert" performance

New Releases - The Brand New Heavies - AllAboutTheFUnk; T-Bone Walker - Super Black Blues; Akira Sakata, Johan Berhtling, Paal Nilssen-Love - Arashi


Long gone are the heady days of the Acid Jazz explosion led by artists such as JTQ, Corduroy, Jamiroquai and at the centre of it all, the Brand New Heavies. All About the Funk, the band's first album for some time doesn't hanker after days gone by, instead it draws influence from the latter day hip-hop soul scene and fuses it with their own very British sound.  The Brand New Heavies, along with Incognito, have been pioneers of the acid-jazz movement and for more than 25 years have remained a vital force for fans of soulful, jazzy club-oriented funk ‘n’ groove.  Aside from their great grooves, the band has been known for outstanding female vocalists ranging from N’Dea Davenport and Siedah Garrett to talented newcomer Nicole Russo.  All Abou the Funk finds The Brand New Heavies delivering just what the title implies - a strong set of grooves leaning on the funk-oriented end of their classic sound.  The extremely passionate and fiercely loyal fan base will find this great “lost” Brand New Heavies album (from 2004 and only previously availalable in Japan)  to be a “must have!” Essentially the main line up of the original three remains with former pop-R&B wannabe Nicole Russo taking the mic, a tough act to follow after N'Dea Davenport, Siedah Garrett and briefly Carleen Anderson, but her fresh voice makes the band seem more current, sounding a lot like Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, especially on the catchy "How we Do This". Another such example of adapting to the modern day is "Need Some More", a mid-tempo groove clearly influenced by Ms Dynamite. However, it's not all change; "What Do You Take Me For?", "Surrender" and opener "Boogie" are classic Heavies--bass up, choppy-guitar and keys with light breezy vocals injecting a bit of summertime into the album.  ~ Amazon/Shanachie


A great little set from T-Bone – recorded at the end of the 60s, with a lineup that includes other blues musicians like Joe Turner, Otis Spann, and George Harmonica Smith, plus jazz funk players like Paul Humphrey and Ernie Watts. The vibe is very laidback – and most tracks on the album stretch out in an extended free-form style that's quite unusual compared to T-Bone's other records. As usual, his guitar and vocals are very soulful – and titles include "Paris Blues", "Blues Jam", and "Jot's Blues". features four long titles that include "Arashi", "Ondo No Huna-Uta", "Dora", and "Fukushima No Ima".  ~ Dusty Groove


Akira Sakata is a player who's never been known to hold back – but he sounds especially powerful here in the company of Paal Nilssen Love on drums and Johan Berthling on bass – two younger players who seem to inspire Sakata to a sort of frenzied height that we haven't heard this strongly in years! Akira's not just mindblowing on alto sax, but also does this incredible vocalization at one point – an almost mystical mode, but extremely powerful and almost frightening too. He also plays clarinet too – at a level that has us wonder how often he's got to be running for new reeds – and the set features four long titles that include "Arashi", "Ondo No Huna-Uta", "Dora", and "Fukushima No Ima". ~ Dusty Groove


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