Friday, January 23, 2015

NEW RELEASES: THE BAKER BROTHERS - HEAR NO EVIL; STREETWIZE - DOES THE DIVAS!; WILLIE WEST – LOST SOUL

THE BAKER BROTHERS - HEAR NO EVIL

Full of renewed attitude, The Baker Brothers are back with a new album for 2014. The band has spent the past year working on this latest project, which features the same line-up as the 2011 release Time to Testify. Hear No Evil is a fine collection of Soul Music infused with elements of Jazz, Rock, Hip-Hop and R&B. The group road tested this material on their latest tour of Japan earlier this year and received an overwhelmingly great response. The Album grew from a creative collaboration between the 5 members of the group. Ideas were worked through, refined, rehearsed and sometimes discarded. With spirit and excitement about the music, it took a year of working Individually and collaboratively to produce this final collection of songs. The result shows us that once again The Baker Brothers can creatively and successfully weave their signature horn hooks through heavy disco bass lines, classy synths, boogallo guitars, and intricate driving grooves. With one critic comparing this to "Average White Band at their best" Hear No Evil offers danceable classics, lyrical melodies and poignant lyrics.

STREETWIZE - DOES THE DIVAS!

Streetwize is famous for delivering sophisticated Smooth Urban Jazz versions of today s hottest grooves from the world of R&B and Hip Hop, delighting a loyal audience that wants their Urban hits smoothed out for that chill-time vibe. Streetwize Does the Divas continues the tradition by paying tribute to today s hottest female R&B stars. Sexy, smooth interpretations of recent smashes from Beyoncè (Blow), Mary J. Blige (Whole Damn Year), Rihanna (Loveeeeeee Song), Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J (Bang Bang) and an old school tribute to Mariah (Dream Lover) and more all reimagined in the Smooth Urban Jazz style made famous by Streetwize.  Smooth Jazz superstar saxophonist/producer Kim Waters and the Streetwize all-stars make all the right moves, creating a non-stop listening experience. ~ Amazon

WILLIE WEST – LOST SOUL

A new album from the great Willie West – an artist we love for his rare vintage New Orleans work of the 60s and 70s – still sounding surprisingly wonderful all these many years later! Willie's vocals have this raspy, honest charm that's totally great – and like Lee Fields during his revival years, West gets superb backing from a small combo of younger players who really appreciate the best roots of the music – tight but unpretentious grooves that feel just like a vintage 45, and suit Willie West to a T! The style is less New Orleans than it is a more righteous, sophisticated version of funky soul – one with some nice dark corners that really raise our opinion of Willie's talents – again with the sort of deeper vibe we love in the recent work by Lee Fields. Titles include "Slow & Easy", "Cold In The Storm", "She's So Wise", "The Devil Gives Me Everything", "Getting Down", and "I'm Aware Of What You Want".  ~ Dusty Groove

 




Thursday, January 22, 2015

ALBERT TOOTIE HEATH / ETHAN IVERSON / BEN STREET - PHILADELPHIA BEAT

There have been pivotal locales which were the nurturing ground for the vanguard in many art forms. Jazz music has had a number of these spots, from New Orleans up to Chicago, then to New York and outward. It would not be hard to argue that the great city of Philadelphia should be recognized with these others as a wellspring of talented musicians.

One of Philadelphia s prominent sons is the fantastic drummer Albert Tootie Heath. He, like so many other Philly natives including his brothers Jimmy and Percy, grew up in the music, as the city was ripe with musicians of the first order and an important stop for many of the progenitors of the music. On his new recording Philadelphia Beat - Heath returns to his native ground to catch the spirit and preserve it.

Heath s story begins in the City of Brotherly Love, where he was born in 1935 into a community that not only supported the music, but truly helped it thrive. Heath began his career early, forming the Bee Boppers with saxophonist Sam Reed and trumpeter Ted Curson, soon adding pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jimmy Garrison. Another group Heath belonged to was Bill Carney s Hi-Tones featuring a young John Coltrane and Shirley Scott. His sideman work with musicians like Lester Young and Thelonious Monk helped to solidify his reputation as a drummer, allowing him to find success soon after leaving Philadelphia.

Joining Heath, on their third recording as a trio, are pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street. Iverson is best known for his work with the lauded collaborative trio The Bad Plus but has also been an invaluable member of groups led by Billy Hart and Lee Konitz, among others. Street has long been a first call bassist for many of the leading lights in the music, including David Sanchez, Danilo Pérez and Kurt Rosenwinkel, and always joins Iverson in the Billy Hart quartet.

In the midst of the trio s stay in Philadelphia and recording sessions at Turtle Studios, they were able to meet up with a handful of Heath s friends and peers at the Clef Club, the headquarters of the city s first black musician s union, located near Heath s childhood home. The guests included fellow Philadelphians Sam Reed, Billy Bonner, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Mickey Roker and Bill Carney. The meeting provided an opportunity for story telling, risqué jokes and a bit of inspiration for the musicians.


For the recording, the trio brought a diverse program of standards and a couple of not so standards. The performances show the ensemble s ability to draw new concepts from well-loved pieces, being contemporary without ignoring the past. ~ Amazon


Surf Roots Radio Launches Reggae Music’s Biggest Online Radio Expansion in 2015

The #1 online reggae radio station*, SURF ROOTS RADIO, has landed aggressive industry partnerships in 2015 allowing the station to exponentially increase it's distribution, media, and market presence creating the first online reggae radio network and breaking ground on a new era for the Reggae Rock industry.

The new Surf Roots Radio Network will launch 4 new music streams (Reggae Nation, Island Mix, 420 Radio, and On The Rise), introduce the new and anticipated Surf Roots Television Channel, and launch it's new Surf Roots App set for release March 1, 2015. This comes as no surprise as Surf Roots Radio is a crucial player in the growth of U.S. based reggae music, supporting the explosion of artists such as Rebelution, SOJA, Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, Pepper, Iration and many more onto the mainstream.

Establishing the first “Pandora-like” Reggae Radio Network, the addition of new streams will allow listeners to experience 5 different styles of the reggae music genre in one location 24/7. REGGAE NATION will be streaming traditional Jamaican reggae and authentic roots; Surf Roots ISLAND MIX will feature the best of Hawaiian and Island Reggae; Surf Roots 420 will feature programming focused strictly on reggae herb tracks, playing tribute to cannabis culture; Surf Roots ON THE RISE will feature a unique opportunity for up and coming and developing artists to be heard. The Surf Roots downloadable app (available on Android and IOS) has also received an upgrade to match Surf Roots’ increased market position. In addition to the four new radio streams, the app has improved streaming quality, smoother buffering and listener customization including sleep timer & alarm clock, more social media connectivity, and renovated design to support all the latest operating systems.

With new distribution partner TuneIn® Radio, the Surf Roots Radio Network has expanded their listeners from an organic 300k+ per month to potentially reaching 50 MILLION active listeners per month in over 230 countries who listen on average to 2.3hrs of radio per day. Surf Roots stations will also be featured in all the new connected cars, as well as computers and hand held devices. TuneIn® will be featuring Surf Roots as one of their featured stations throughout 2015, with co-branded marketing and promotions.

Surf Roots Television is an audio visual augmentation that will bring together an award winning production team to deliver cutting edge programming spanning live performances, music videos, artist interviews, and behind the scenes views of reggae's growing global culture. Featured on YouTube, Apple TV, SurfRoots.com and more, the distribution network reaches the best in surf culture through it's featured distribution partner GrindTV.com. GrindTV.com is the largest extreme sports website, and through GrindTV.com Surf Roots Television will reach 14 MILLION unique, and a total of 41 MILLION users per month. With the third highest distribution rates of any sports site next to ESPN and FOX Sports, GrindTV.com will assure a solid and well honed footprint for these musical productions, bringing high quality audio video programming to your device.

Surf Roots Radio Network’s mission is to deliver the highest quality reggae music programming to it's global listener base. Supporting the reggae industry since 1999 out of a deep rooted love for the artists and music, station owners Dave Resin & Tim Gray launched Surf Roots Radio in 2011 establishing the station as one of the first reggae stations to pay publishing royalties for every spin through full licensing via Sound Exchange, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. "The expanded formats for Surf Roots Radio and TV give us the ability to showcase the world of reggae in a whole new way. This is true multimedia for our audience," says Resin. They are currently accepting new strategic sponsors and partnerships that are looking to capitalize on Surf Roots’ large audience with opportunities for title positions on all radio streams and television programming.



NEW RELEASES: CASSANDRA WILSON - COMING FORTH BY DAY; FAE SIMON - OUTROSPECTIVE; JEREMY PELT - TALES, MUSINGS & OTHER REVERIES

CASSANDRA WILSON - COMING FORTH BY DAY

An otherworldly musical homage to legendary jazz vocalist Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915) on the 100th anniversary of the singer's birth, Coming Forth By Day is Cassandra Wilson's moody, soulful showcase for contemporary yet timeless interpretations of standards associated with Lady Day. Coming Forth By Day was produced by Nick Launay, known as Nick Cave's producer for the last decade among many other adventurous credits. Cassandra Wilson has drawn inspiration from Billie Holiday for her entire life and chose the title as a way to honor the iconic singer: "Coming Forth By Day" is an English translation of the title of the ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead," a collection of magic spells intended to assist the journey of those that have passed on through the afterlife. The album features 11 re-interpretations of standards associated with Lady Day plus an original penned by Cassandra Wilson - the dream-like new "Last Song (For Lester)," imagined as a heartbreaking final message from Billie to her lover, Lester Young. (Upon getting the news that Young had passed away, Billie flew straight from overseas to his funeral but was denied the opportunity to sing by Young's family and was distraught.) Wilson recorded Coming Forth By Day in Los Angeles at Seedy Underbelly studios with an A list musical team including producer Launay (Nick Cave, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Arcade Fire), guitarists T Bone Burnett and Nick Zinner of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, string arranger Van Dyke Parks and rhythm section The Bad Seeds (drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey). "A dream of mine is happening," said Cassandra Wilson, "I've been in love with Billie Holiday's voice since the moment I heard it, and she has inspired me throughout my career." ~ Amazon

FAE SIMON - OUTROSPECTIVE

Fae Simon is a soulful Jazz singer, a gifted song-writer and a vocal performance instructor with over 20 years of on-stage experience. Formally trained in Opera and Jazz, Fae’s performance style fuses these traditional genres with Hip-hop, Rare Groove, Soul and Dub – a unique sound that electrifies audiences when she performs with her live band. Fae is no stranger to the art of the hustle. Over the years she has supported, collaborated, performed and toured with a broad range of successful artists across the UK and Europe - including N'Dambi , Yarah Bravo, Jehst, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Pharoah Monche, MF Doom & Madlib and The legendary Beatnuts. Her second album ‘Outrospective’ moves on from the theme of intensive relationships and personal reflection - and instead projects outwards to a critique on the tensions between art and industry, communities and authorities, past and present, balance and imbalance. It is scheduled for release in March 2015.  

JEREMY PELT - TALES, MUSINGS AND OTHER REVERIES

Sophisticated sounds from trumpeter Jeremy Pelt – a player who seems to find more and more of his own space with each new recording! This time around, Pelt plays with a mostly-compressed vibe that's both very focused in its phrasing, yet also open to new explorations as well – a sense of tone that's almost what you'd hear from a flugelhorn, but expressed in more open, soaring sort of ways – with accompaniment from a unique two-drum group that has Victor Lewis in one channel and Billy Drummond in the other – plus Simona Premazzi on piano and Ben Allison on drums. The leader's tone and vision shape each song strongly – and titles include "Everything You Can Imagine Is Real", "Ruminations On Eric Garner", "Glass Bead Games", "Vonetta", and "Nephthys". ~ Dusty Groove


Allan Harris Releases Black Bar Jukebox, New Album Inspired by Music Emanating from Jukeboxes in African-American Culture in the '70s

Ever since he burst on the jazz scene in the latter part of the twentieth century, The Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation. Aptly described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, "the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat 'King' Cole," the ample and aural evidence of Harris' multifaceted talent can be heard on his ten recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and Washington DC's Kennedy Center, to the 2012 London Olympics, and a number of prestigious bookings in Europe, The Middle East and Asia, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for "Outstanding Jazz Vocalist" - which he won three times - the Backstage Bistro Award for "Ongoing Achievement in Jazz," and the Harlem Speaks "Jazz Museum of Harlem Award."

Harris' new album, Black Bar Jukebox, produced by Grammy® Award-winning producer Brian Bacchus (Norah Jones, Gregory Porter), is his most compelling and comprehensive recording to date. "Believe me, what Brian brought to the table was wonderful," Harris says, "not only because of his music, but also because of the vision, and the way he hears things. I'm enamored with the sound I got." Inspired by the jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds that emanated from jukeboxes in African-American barbershops, clubs, bars, and restaurants, from the mid to late twentieth century, the album - which features Harris' accomplished band of three years: drummer Jake Goldbas, bassist Leon Boykins, and pianist/keyboardist Pascal Le Boeuf; with special guests, percussionist Samuel Torres and guitarist Yotam Silberstein - also marks his moving and momentous return to his jazz-centered, Harlem roots, where he heard all those aforementioned styles, genres and grooves in the Golden Age of the seventies. "Growing up, I heard the sound of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Nat King Cole," Harris says, "I was always cognizant of jazz."

In this soulful setting, Harris would meet many jazz and R&B stars who worked at the Apollo and came by the restaurant to eat and hang out. Another aunt, Theodosia Ingram, won the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night Competition and performed at a number of Manhattan clubs, including The Lenox Lounge under her stage name, "Phoebe." It was through her, that Harris would meet and be mentored by a seminal jazz figure, Clarence Williams. "We used to go to his record store, and he'd come into our house on Lincoln Avenue," explains Harris. "At the time I was a child ... I just thought that was just a part of my life. And later, I understood the gravity of the depth of his history. Yes: Clarence Williams opened up a lot of doors for me, to really get me into this genre called jazz." It was Williams who brought Louis Armstrong to the Harris home, and babysat the future crooner, who was frightened by Satchmo's gravelly, "frog like voice."

Harris is a first call vocalist (especially back in Harlem), as evidenced by his potpourri of engagements, including an impressive run as a featured soloist and producer of Sotheby's three-year jazz series. His commitment to education is as equally impressive as his recordings and engagements. A Gibson guitarist, Harris is a long-time supporter of the St. Mary's Children's Hospital and donates a performance every year to Challenge Aspen/America, along with Vince Gill and Amy Grant.

All of which brings us to Black Bar Jukebox: a diverse and dynamic disc that showcases Allan Harris at the zenith of his all-encompassing artistry. "I'm a storyteller through the genre of jazz," concludes Harris. 

Upcoming Allan Harris Performances:

January 25 / Tucson Jazz Festival / Tucson, AZ
February 9 / Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola / New York, NY
February 14 / Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival / Rockport, MD
February 27 / Scullers / Boston, MA


NEW RELEASES: PRAISE POEMS: A JOURNEY INTO DEEP, SOULFUL JAZZ & FUNK FROM THE 1970s & FALLIN' OFF THE REEL VOLUME 3 & 4

PRAISE POEMS: A JOURNEY INTO DEEP, SOULFUL JAZZ & FUNK FROM THE 1970s (VARIOUS ARTISTS)

Be prepared to listen to this album in tranquility. If you do not do so you will most likely rate this release one out of five stars. And this is something which it certainly does not deserve. This album needs time and patience to be fully understood. And if you do so you will be enlightened by the true beauty of this selection. Not only for Don McCaslin's project Warmth the time has come for representation and appreciation. All the songs on this disc are well worth to be discovered. No matter if you skip to Jorge Darden's jazzy-soulful "Alone Again" or to Seeds of Fulfillment's stunning "Solemn Solitude". Each and every song is a masterpiece in its own right. Funky soul music fans will be pleased to get a chance to listen to Cookie Thomas and Bold Breed, two cuts which are hard to find in its original format. Rarity is one thing, quality is another. The songs to be found here are both rare and good. Better yet, until now, all of these tracks had not yet been compiled. After Movements and Feeling Nice, two already well-established compilation series on Tramp, Praise Poems could be the start of a new successful one. It was solely the title track which lead us to release this album. Don't ask if there will be a Volume 2. We don't know yet. What we do know is that if we ever come across a similar tour de force as Don McCaslin's compostion, then there will certainly be one.

FALLIN' OFF THE REEL VOLUME 3 & 4 (VARIOUS ARTISTS)

Music so great, it's falling off the reels – spinning out of the archives of the Truth & Soul label as they continue to put out some of the freshest funky work around! These guys have their roots way back in the deep funk underground, and they approach the music with a level of maturity that other labels can't even touch – always willing to try new things, expand their sound, and find ways of making the old resonate with the new – but all without any simple tricks or easy gimmicks! The work here is a real testament to the lasting strength of Truth & Soul – and really shows why we continue to love them so much – and the package features long-gone singles, rare mixes, and other unusual tracks. 2LP set features mostly tracks from Volume 4 CD, plus some more from Vol 3 – and titles include"You're The Kind Of Girl" by Lee Fields & The Expressions, "The Rain Song" by The Olympians, "Pimp" by Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, "One Hundred Years From Now" by Quenstine Strong, "I'll Be Home Soon" by Beau Williams, "Nightbird" by The Fabulous Three, "Blackout" by The Original Brothers, "Please Love Me" by Liam Bailey, "Money" by lady, "Girl From The Mountain" by The Ghetto Brothers, "How Can I Love" by The Olympians, "Sunday Kind Of Love" by JDs & The Evil Dynamite Band, "Run Fay Run" by El Michels Affair, "Faithful Man (bare bones version)" by Lee Fields, "Laventille Road March" by Bacao Rhythm & Steel, "All Of Your Life" by Shirley Nanette, "King Masuru" by Zafari, and "Stand Tall" by The Olympians. (Includes download!) ~ Dusty Groove

FALLIN' OFF THE REEL VOLUME 4 (VARIOUS ARTISTS)

Music so great, it's falling off the reels – spinning out of the archives of the Truth & Soul label as they continue to put out some of the freshest funky work around! These guys have their roots way back in the deep funk underground, and they approach the music with a level of maturity that other labels can't even touch – always willing to try new things, expand their sound, and find ways of making the old resonate with the new – but all without any simple tricks or easy gimmicks! The work here is a real testament to the lasting strength of Truth & Soul – and really shows why we continue to love them so much – and the package features long-gone singles, rare mixes, and other unusual tracks – with a set list that includes "You're The Kind Of Girl" by Lee Fields & The Expressions, "The Rain Song" by The Olympians, "Pimp" by Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, "One Hundred Years From Now" by Quenstine Strong, "I'll Be Home Soon" by Beau Williams, "Nightbird" by The Fabulous Three, "Blackout" by The Original Brothers, "Please Love Me" by Liam Bailey, "Money" by lady, "Girl From The Mountain" by The Ghetto Brothers, "Blind Love" by El Michels Affair, "Get Ready (Ticklah rmx inst)" by Lady, "Sunday Kind Of Love" by JD & The Evil's Dynamite Band, "Faithful Man (bare bones version)" by Lee Fields, "Laventille Road March" by Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, "All Of Your Life" by Shirley Nanette, and "King Masuru" by Zafari. 22 tracks in all!  ~ Dusty Groove


JON LUNDBOM & BIG FIVE CHORD RELEASE FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM JEREMIAH

Hot Cup Records has announced the release of Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord's newest album Jeremiah on February 10, 2015. This recording is their fifth studio album and comes on the heels of 2014's live double-album release Liverevil, which was named "Wild Card Album of the Year" by Greg Edwards. Like its predecessor, Jeremiah expands the core quintet with the addition of Hot Cup associate Sam Kulik on trombone and frequent collaborator Justin Wood on alto saxophone and flute.

Few groups in jazz today have such a long history of collaboration and musical growth as Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord, and the rapport between the musicians of the core quintet allows affords each member the freedom and security to take musical risks and constantly push the boundaries of group improvisation.  When looking for other musicians to add to the Big Five Chord ensemble, Lundbom consistently chooses improvisers with a long history of personal collaboration.  Sam Kulik attended the Oberlin Conservatory with bassist Moppa Elliott and has performed with members of Big Five Chord for the last ten years, and Justin Wood has been the most frequent sub for the front line players in the quintet since 2009.  As was the case with Matt Kanelos on Liverevil, the new members of Big Five Chord not only fit perfectly into the established aesthetic of the band, but also provide new energy, creativity, and inspiration.

The album is named after the biblical Jeremiah (the "weeping prophet") and the larger idea of a Jeremiad or "long literary work...in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall" (Wikipedia).  On Jeremiah, Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord expand their musical palate to include everything from open-ended free improvisation to standard practice jazz melodies and harmonies maintaining a core of frenetic collective energy firmly rooted in the jazz-rock tradition.  This recording marks the first time bandleader and guitarist Lundbom has invited other musicians (Kulik and Wood) to arrange material for the band, resulting in an album with a wider emotional range, greater musical variety, and a palpably collaborative spirit.

The album opens with "The Bottle," a quintet composition by Lundbom named after a small town in Alabama, as a nod to bassist Elliott's practice of titling compositions after towns in his native Pennsylvania.  The power and intensity of the longstanding quintet is on full display as is the compositional style Lundbom has honed over the past decade.  The tune begins with a series of passages alternating between written and improvised material over a fragmented figure in the rhythm section before giving way to a guitar solo in which Lundbom combines serpentine chromatic lines with angular chordal clusters over Monaghan and Elliott's constantly shifting interpretation of the written material on the composition's bridge.  The rhythm section returns to the opening figure to support Bryan Murray's balto! solo which exploits the unique characteristics of this bizarre instrument.

"Frog Eye," also named after a small town in Alabama, features the septet performing a Lundbom composition with a haunting initial melody interspersed with short improvised sections before opening up for a soprano saxophone solo by Jon Irabagon.  The horn section provides a transition to a guitar solo in which Lundbom's personal guitar vocabulary is on display.  Few guitarists of his generation have been able to define their playing as personally as Lundbom has and his integration of both the jazz and rock guitar languages is as distinct as it is personal.

The third in his "Alabama" series, "Scratch Ankle" uses written passages to isolate two duo improvisation sections, the first between Bryan Murray on tenor saxophone and Justin Wood on alto, and the second featuring Sam Kulik on trombone and Jon Irabagon on soprano saxophone.

On 2014's Liverevil, Lundbom arranged several compositions based on Wiccan prayer songs that proved to be very compatible with the ensemble's performance style.  For Jeremiah, Lunbom asked both Justin Wood and Sam Kulik to arrange some of these same songs for Big Five Chord.  "First Harvest" is an arrangement by Wood that features a reharmonization of the original melody, beautifully crafted for the septet.  The arranger is the first soloist followed by Bryan Murray on tenor saxophone.  The tonal and blues-based harmonic structure provides an opportunity to hear a new side of the ensemble as they navigate this elegant arrangement.

"Lick Skillet" (AL) opens with an improvised trombone cadenza showcasing Sam Kulik's mastery and control of extended techniques, pacing, and compositional approach. The composition itself is a series of dense chords played by the horns over a jagged, unsettled series of accents by the rhythm section which turn out to be part of a 4/4 swing feel.  This rhythmic figure continues under a flute solo by Justin Wood incorporating a variety of timbral effects and building in intensity

Sam Kulik's Wiccan payer song arrangement takes several melodies and alters their rhythms to fit a single rhythmic sequence which repeats with variations creating layers of contrasting melodies and rhythms as the different layers go in and out of phase.  These composed sections alternate with space for each of the members of the ensemble to improvise in a variety of contexts from unaccompanied to buried under dense ensemble textures.

The album closes with a live recording of "Screamer" performed by the quintet.  When a group of musicians builds a strong rapport over many years, it enables greater risk-taking by each musician.  The energy captured in this recording is wonderful to hear and the ensemble's ability to spontaneously interact places them among the most exciting bands working today.

Formed in 2003, Big Five Chord is the primary vehicle for the music of Austin, TX-based guitarist, composer, and bandleader Jon Lundbom.  Jon's music - described as "Hardbop + Zeppelin + Schoenberg" (Dave Madden, 'SLUG') - is a showcase for his "intense phrasing and mind-altering solo spots" (Glenn Astarita, 'All About Jazz'), a "boundary-shattering shot of adrenaline that screws with your head and messes with your soul" (Jordan Richardson, 'The Seattle PI').  Jon has been called "an idiosyncratic genius harboring boundary-stretching notions in his musical make up" (CJ Bond, 'JazMuzic.com'); "hopefully Lundbom will start getting more attention for his fresh perspective, both as a writer and player" (Mike Shanley, 'ShanleyOnMusic'), "[Jon's playing brings] new ideas to what jazz guitar can be" (Paul Acquaro, 'Free Jazz Blog'); "Big Five Chord, individually and collectively, is one of the most important [ensembles] around today" (Gregory Applegate Edwards, 'Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog'). "Olympic-caliber guitar gymnastics" (Bob Gendron, 'Downbeat'). In addition to Big Five Chord, Lundbom performs with many other groups, most notably Bryan & the Haggards.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NEW RELEASES: BELLA GAIA – BEAUTIFUL EARTH; JOHN ZORN – OLYMPIAD VOLUME 1: DITHER PLAYS ZORN; KEITH JARRETT / CHARLIE HADEN / PAUL MOTIAN – HAMBURG 72

BELLA GAIA – BEAUTIFUL EARTH


World-fusion ensemble Bella Gaia have released their new album, Bella Gaia - Beautiful Earth. Having played over 200 shows in 10 countries at such venues as The Smithsonian Institution, The Guggenheim Museum, and The Museum of Natural History, Bella Gaia is world renowned for their “haunting classical/world fusion music...interspersed with stunning depictions of what climate change is doing to our world.” (The Huffington Post) Now, they’re capturing their “iridescent landscape of gossamer melodies and labyrinthine rhythms” (Nooga) on record for the first time, gaining nods from taste makers like NPR, BBC, and USA Today who said, “this music is out of this world.” Bella Gaia is an unprecedented audiovisual experience that combines NASA satellite imagery of Earth, time lapse nature photography, and cultural heritage footage with stirring live performances of music and dance from around the world.


JOHN ZORN – OLYMPIAD VOLUME 1: DITHER PLAYS ZORN

Early "game" pieces by John Zorn – the kind of groundbreaking improvisational creations that made him an instant legend on the New York scene – performed here by the Dither quartet of guitars and other stringed instruments! The pieces here all pre-date the famous Cobra – perhaps the best-known of Zorn's game works – and Dither presents the music in different modes, with a few different performances of some of the works – some electric, some acoustic, and some mixed. Includes performances of "Hockey", "Curling", and "Fencing".  ~  Dusty Groove

KEITH JARRETT / CHARLIE HADEN / PAUL MOTIAN – HAMBURG 72

Never-heard music from the great Keith Jarrett – a beautifully-recorded concert performance from 1972, and one that draws together so many wonderful strands of his music at the time! The date's a trio one, but has a feel that's quite different than some of the more famous trio dates that Keith would record for ECM in later years – no standards here, just original tunes – and a very free-flowing lineup that has Charlie Haden on bass, Paul Motian on drums and percussion, and Jarrett himself playing a fair bit of flute, soprano sax, and percussion – in addition to his usual piano! That use of multiple instruments echoes some of Jarrett's music for Atlantic or Columbia, but with a bit more focus too – a vibe that really ties together Keith's earlier trio recordings and his early 70s experiments on Impulse – but with a very different feel here. The whole thing's very spiritual, and while there are some echoes of the freer Jarrett piano live dates to come, the structure is what really makes the whole thing great – on titles that include "Rainbow", "Everything That Lives Laments", "Piece For Ornette", "Song For Che", and "Take Me Back". An instant ECM classic!  ~ Dusty Groove


NTJAM ROSIE Returns With Finest Album To Date THE ONE

Ntjam Rosie, the Cameroon-born, Dutch-based Afro-European artist who has become a tastemaker both with her music and her fashion sense, is set to make a big mark in 2015 with her fourth album, The One.

The singer and songwriter, who arrived in Holland from a small village in Cameroon at the age of nine, is now based in Rotterdam and has been turning heads in her adopted home country. A truly independent woman, who runs her own record label, Gentle Daze, Ntjam’s striking creativity in the world of fashion has made her into a style icon. Meanwhile, her blend of soul, jazz, folk, gospel and world music is now set to reach a wider audience than ever before.

The fourth instalment in an increasingly distinguished album catalogue, The One is a huge creative step forward. That’s both in terms of its confident, seductive songwriting ethic and because it marks Ntjam Rosie’s debut as a producer of her own work. It has invigorating elements of India.Arie’s roots-fuelled R&B, Patrice Rushen’s sultry jazz, and even the vocal independence of Beyoncé, all in an atmospheric soundscape that is purely her own.

The new record follows 2013’s At The Back Of Beyond, which was warmly received creatively and commercially, and inspired Ntjam to perform throughout Holland and across Europe. “That was an album that was a part of me, and that needed to explore my poppy side,” she says. “I’m grounded in jazz and soul, and pop. But as a songwriter, I really needed to go through that album to learn how to play the guitar, to see and hear what kind of songs I would write, and also to put the guitar on the palette — literally being able to pick the guitar up to write.”

The songs for The One were written around the time Ntjam got married, in January 2014, and was made with her regular band and engineer Vincent Helbers at her side. Martin Fondse added strings, and there are guest appearances by friends and fellow artists Pink Oculus, Eric Vloeimans and Ronald Snijders.

Her graduation as a cosmopolitan, 21st century woman and musician included nominations both for Holland’s Edison Awards, twice, and the Elle Personal Style Awards; playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, and gigs from Thailand to Turkey and Estonia to China.


Ntjam has already started to introduce The One during her live shows, and looks forward to touring it more in 2015. The future is bright. The future is Rosie.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

BASSIST & VOCALIST KATIE THIROUX RELEASES DEBUT ALBUM "INTRODUCING KATIE THIROUX"

Katie Thiroux, an exceptional bassist, captivating singer and gifted composer, is a West Coast phenomenon ready to be shared with all who love swinging jazz. On her debut recording as a leader, Introducing Katie Thiroux, it's impossible to determine what grabs the ear first, her effervescent singing or the delightful swagger of her oak-solid bass work. What is certain is that both gifts embody Thiroux's natural affinity for no-nonsense music making of the highest caliber. Guided in the studio by Jeff Hamilton - the esteemed drummer who here takes on the role of sharp-eared producer --Thiroux and her seasoned ensemble (guitarist Graham Dechter, tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann and drummer Matt Witek) oxygenate American Songbook standards and jazz classics while also introducing fine new original material.

The album's opening track, the 1936 Rodgers and Hart gem, "There's A Small Hotel," immediately presents us with the impressive dimensions of Thiroux's multidimensional strengths. Her beguiling voice -- light, ever airborne, always emotionally direct and free of both grandstanding virtuosic turns and coy blandishments -- remains at the service of the song, while her muscular and melodic bass playing speaks of her devotion to such giants of the instrument as Ray Brown, John Clayton, Paul Chambers and Israel Crosby. The same zeal for straightforward swing can be heard in such riveting vocal tracks as  "A Beautiful Friendship," "I'm Old Fashioned", "Shiny Stockings," (the Count Basie classic, with its infrequently heard lyrics on display), "The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) -- which transforms itself effortlessly from a delightful waltz to an uptempo swinger and back again - and an extraordinary solo bass-and-vocals performance of "Wives And Lovers" (the Bacharach and David ode to the responsibilities of marital eroticism, offered here with irony-free conviction) that trains the spotlight on Thiroux's outsized talents.

The instrumental pieces are equally arresting. The Thiroux originals, "Ray's Kicks" (an affectionate dedication to Ray Brown, inspired by a pair of the master bassist's stylish shoes gifted to Thiroux), "RoseBird," a snappy bop workout built on the framework of both Earl Hines's "Rosetta" and Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite," and the gorgeous, Ellington-esque ballad, "Can't We Just Pretend," offer up outstanding improvising from each of the quartet while also exhibiting the hand-in-glove unity of the band as a whole. "We sat with these tunes for awhile until everything just clicked with the band, before we decided to record," Thiroux recalls. "We immediately recognized an affinity between us -- our initial encounter as a quartet came together at a jam session that lasted fifteen hours!  We've worked out an ensemble sound that builds on the special chemistry created by the bass, guitar and drums; Roger can then come in almost as a guest voice, a singular musical flavor. It all works because there's no ego involved; we all respect each other as musicians and people."

Studying both bass and voice since her pre-teenage years, Thiroux eventually went on to study at the Berklee College of Music where she performed with Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, Dr. Billy Taylor, Terri Lyne Carrington and others. In 2013, a year after receiving her Master's degree in Jazz Studies from California State University, Long Beach, Thiroux formed her present quartet, which will be making East Coast appearances in early 2015.  For full bio: http://www.katiethiroux.com/about.html

NEW RELEASES: MICHAEL HAGGINS - DARE TO DREAM; LOWELL HOPPER - SOULFUL FEELING; PHIL TRAYNOR - STILL LIFE

MICHAEL HAGGINS – DARE TO DREAM

Michael Haggins is a successful contemporary bass player and songwriter in the L.A. scene. Michael, who was born in Pasadena and began playing music in his early teens, has worked and recorded with many artists while also working in the Network Television industry. Dare to Dream reflects Michael's personal view that we all have greatness within us. Featured Musicians include "Jimmy Roberts" Saxophone, "Andre Frappier" Acoustic & Electric Guitars, "Dee & Brittani Cole" Vocals, "J Michael O'Neal" Keyboards, "Lew Laing" Keyboards, "Adam Hawley" Electric Guitar, "Lance Beckford" Drums. Tracklisting: Dare To Dream; There's Nothing More Beautiful Than You (Instrumental); Natural Wonder; Here I Come; Summer's Gone; World of Dreams (Remix); There's Nothing More Beautiful Than You; and In Your Lifetime (Remix).

LOWELL HOPPER - SOUFUL FEELING

Lowell Hopper is a “soul-jazz” guitarist known for his heavy use of 1970s- and 1980s-style musical nuances. Currently based in Panama City, Florida, Lowell has a distinct funky-jazz style that is a product of performing with a variety of rock, RnB, blues, and fusion jazz bands over the years. Besides playing electric and classical guitars, Lowell is well versed on keyboards, four- and five-string electric basses, and produces as well. He performs regularly in jazz/funk bands in northern Florida. Musicians: Lowell Hopper - Guitars, basses, guitar synth, keyboards, and programming; Vernon Burrell, Jr. - additional programming on "Breakthrough". Tracklisting: Soulful Feeling; Live and Learn; All Night Cruise (Version 2); Picture This; Could Be True Love; Dream Come True; Bay View (Version 2); Breakthrough; Inspiration; and Listen to Your Heart.

PHIL TRAYNOR - STILL LIFE

Still Life is Phil Traynor's fourth CD, and represents over two years of work. Collaborating with some of the finest national and international guitarists, including national fingerstyle champion and Emmy® nominee Pete Huttlinger, Guitar Player Magazine "Guitar Superstar" winner Vicki Genfan, international jazz and fingerstyle virtuoso Adam Rafferty, and some of the Tampa Bay area's finest talent; including Stacey Knights on flute , Dan O'Hara on keyboards , Douglas Lichterman on guitars, Austin Vickrey on saxophone, Kevin Clark on trumpets, and Chris Barbosa on the viola, and dear friends like sax and flute virtuoso Brian Dyre; Still Life is a delightful collection of old-school smooth and contemporary jazz compositions spanning three decades, and bursts with the joy and love that poured into its creation.


Italian Jazz-Funk Supergroup CAMERA SOUL Releases Third Studio Album DRESS CODE

On January 20, 2015, Italian jazz-funk group Camera Soul will release its third studio album, 'Dress Code', through Azzurra Music in Europe and TIMKAT Entertainment in the Americas.

The 14-track 'Dress Code' comes as a progressive follow-up to 2013's 'Not For Ordinary People', and also heralds the debut of lead vocalist Maria Enrica Lotesoriere (aka "Maria Enrica").

For the first three years after the group's formation in Bari, Italy in 2011, Camera Soul worked exclusively as a studio outfit, and its first album, 'Words Don't Speak', did not feature an accompanying tour.

However, with the release of second album 'Not For Ordinary People' in the summer of 2013, its Internet radio popularity grew and the album topped at #2 on the UK Soul Chart, just behind the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire. 'Not For Ordinary People' remained on the chart's Top 30 most-played albums for an impressive 15 weeks. During this time, the group's leaders, composing-brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo (aka "The Brothers Lombardo"), determined that the band needed to continue to book more live shows in order to satisfy Camera Soul's growing public.

Beginning in the spring of 2014, the Brothers Lombardo held auditions for a new lead vocalist and drummer. They chose the lively Maria Enrica to front the growing band and the excellent Fabio Delle Foglie on drums. Throughout 2014, Camera Soul and its powerful horn-line toured southern Italy, opened the famous Multiculturita Jazz Festival in Capurso, and continued to build an international fan base, primarily on Internet radio.

With the release of 'Dress Code', beginning in spring 2015, Camera Soul intends support the album by performing at several notable jazz festivals throughout Europe and is currently making plans to bring their show to the United Kingdom, the home of the majority of its fans.


"Dress Code" will be available for purchase both on CD and digital download after January 20 at azzurramusic.it and all major digital music stores worldwide. TIMKAT Entertainment expects to release in the Americas around the first week of February and will use CDBABY and its partners for further distribution.


Daryl Hall & John Oates: Recorded Live From Dublin’ Brings Epic Emerald Isle Concert to U.S. Movie Theaters

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Daryl Hall and John Oates come to the big screen for a special one-night concert event on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7 p.m. local time, presented by Fathom Events, Cinema 1 and Eagle Rock Entertainment. The number-one selling duo in music history, they played before a sellout crowd in July 2014 at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre which will now come to select theaters as “Daryl Hall & John Oates: Recorded Live From Dublin.” Their set list included their smash hits such as “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” "Rich Girl, "Kiss on My List," "Private Eyes," "Maneater," “She’s Gone,” "Out of Touch" and many more. Over 90 minutes of concert content will be shown along with special interviews and exclusive backstage footage.

“It was the perfect storm for a band, a concert and an audience. There are very few first-time experiences after you’ve been doing this for more than 40 years.”

“Ireland has a very music-oriented culture and a proud musical heritage,” said Hall. “It was the perfect storm for a band, a concert and an audience. There are very few first-time experiences after you’ve been doing this for more than 40 years.”

Daryl Hall & John Oates are soul survivors. Signed to Atlantic by Ahmet Ertegan in the 1970’s, from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, the duo would score six #1 singles, including “Rich Girl” (also #1 R&B), “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (also #1 R&B), “Maneater” and “Out of Touch.” By 1987, the R.I.A.A. recognized Daryl Hall and John Oates as the number-one selling duo in music history, a record they still hold today. In May 2008, the duo was honored with the Icon Award during BMI’s 56th annual Pop Awards. In 2014, the two musicians hit another high as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

NEW RELEASES: OSCAR D’LEON – CLASICOS DE BIG BAND (BIG BAND CLASSICS); SPIKE WILNER - LIVE AT SMALLS; UNIVERSAL TOGETHERNESS BAND

OSCAR D’LEON – CLASICOS DE BIG BAND (BIG BAND CLASSICS)

A really unique album from this salsa legend – a set that has Oscar D'Leon paying tribute to the era of big bands, both Latin and jazz – with full orchestral backing alongside his vocals! The package has a really unusual presentation – in that it features two different CDs of the same material – one set with English language lyrics, one with Spanish – a wise idea, given that this album could be the one to reintroduce Oscar to a larger world outside the Latin music scene! The arrangements are great – very jazzy, and in a classic sort of Nelson Riddle style, but with some more Latin moments – and title sinclude "Strangers In The Night", "New York New York", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Fly Me To The Moon", "My Way", and "Cachito Mio". ~ Dusty Groove

SPIKE WILNER – LIVE AT SMALLS

Beautiful work from pianist Spike Wilner – an artist we already respect for his tireless work running the Live At Smalls series – and one that we've grown to love even more for the fresh new sound of this wonderful record! Spike's always had a way of linking styles and generations with his piano – sometimes very traditional, sometimes very personal – yet here, he finds this really wonderful groove that's somewhere in between, but very unique as well – a trio format that has the guitar of Yotam Silberstein and bass of Paul Gill often dancing alongside his own lines on piano – so that all three instruments resonate out strongly in the melody, and find new ways to spiral out together! The approach is very individual, and especially well-tuned to the wide range of material here – which includes Wilner compositions, and some other surprising choices. Titles include "Blues For The Common Man", "Pathetique", "Variations On A Popular Theme #1", "Magnetic Rag", and "Hopscotch".  ~  Dusty Groove

UNIVERSAL TOGETHERNESS BAND - UNIVERSAL TOGETHERNESS BAND


A Chicago group who never hit the big time during their short run at the start of the 80s – but one who definitely know how to groove! There's a vibe here that really lives up to the "togetherness" in the group's name – a way of coming together with a tight, sharp sound throughout – but one that's never too slick, just surprisingly strong for such an underground funk group from the Windy City! And although the music is upbeat, the style is less disco than it is the kind of faster funk that percolated strongly in the underground scene in the pre-house years – almost more akin to some of the best indie club work coming out of the east coast, but with a very unique vibe too. As usual with Numero, the set does way more than just bring this lost music to light – it also tells the tale of the Universal Togetherness Band, and their never-flagging sense of energy and inspiration during their short but important run. Titles include "Ain't Gonna Cry", "Try Try Try", "My Sentiment", "Real Thrill", "Once In A Lifetime", "Call For Love", "I Want You", and "Taken By Love". ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: THE LIONS - SOUL RIOT; JOHN ZORN - HERMETIC ORGAN VOL 3: ST. PAUL'S HALL; LERON THOMAS - TAKE IT

THE LIONS – SOUL RIOT
The Lions seem to get deeper and deeper with each new release – moving past their start as a funk band with a focus on Kingston sounds – into a group who've got a really fresh feel of their own! Sure, some cuts here are great reggae numbers – the kind of mellow, head-nodding cuts The Lions have always given us – but there's also some more complicated elements going on too, these little touches of darkness at times, especially on the rhythms, which can break from obvious patterns into something nicely unique. Plenty of guests help flesh out the tunes – including Malik The Freq Moore, Black Shakespeare, Alex Desert, and Myron Glasper – and titles include "My Girl", "Going Nowhere", "Rhythm Rock", "Feels Good", "At A Loss", "Smoke & Mirrors", and "When It Rains". (Includes download! Pressed at 45 rpm – for even more booming sound!)  ~ Dusty Groove 

JOHN ZORN - HERMETIC ORGAN VOLUME 3: ST. PAUL'S HALL

Insanely great organ improvisations from John Zorn – an artist you might know best for his groundbreaking reed work, but who turns in a tremendous performance here on a full-voiced church organ! Zorn's range of sounds is mindblowing here – sometimes bold and bracing, sometimes just at the very edge of the sonic spectrum – used in these subtle, quiet ways that build beautifully as John deftly makes his ways over the keys and different stops on the instrument – with almost a building's worth of breadth in the results. All tracks are long – and titles include "Spectral Angels", "The Fall Of Satan", and "The Revelation Of St John".  ~ Dusty Groove


LERON THOMAS - TAKE IT

Totally wonderful work from Leron Thomas – an artist we're only discovering with this full length album, but one who we totally love already! Leron's got this hip style that's a mix of funky soul and darker, more sci fi-styled touches – some crispness on the beats, weird processing on his vocals, and a nice sense of abstraction that really inflects some great moments on the album's lyrics! Leron's worked before with Jason Moran, Guts, and Zara McFarlane – but this full length set on his own is a real revelation – with a sense of power and presence that should well have us hearing a lot more from him in years to come. Titles include "Enemy", "Kept", "Take It", "Appear To Stack", "Cover Band", and "Ass Kickin". (Includes download.) ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: DUANE EUBANKS QUINTET - THINGS OF A PARTICULAR NATURE; COMPLICATED ANIMALS - IN THIS GAME; DAVID GIBSON - BOOM!

DUANE EUBANKS QUINTET - THINGS OF A PARTICULAR NATURE

A damn great album from trumpeter Duane Eubanks – soaring, soulful, and tremendously powerful right from the very first note! The album's got Eubanks working with an excellent lineup that includes Abraham Burton on tenor, Marc Cary on piano and Fender Rhodes, Steve Nelson on vibes, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums – all really top-shelf players who come together beautifully on a set of all original material by Eubanks – compositions that are often nicely compact, but which really show an expansive vision from both the leader and other soloists. There's a real sense of the classic going on here – not rehashed classic jazz, but new material that will soon deserve it's own standing alongside a larger legacy. Titles include "Aborted Dreams", "As Is", "Beer & Water", "Purple Blue & Red", "Rosey", "Holding Hands", and "Slew Footed".  ~  Dusty Groove

COMPLICATED ANIMALS - IN THIS GAME 

Complicated Animals is Monica da Silva and Chad Alger. Their debut EP In This Game (out February 10, 2015 on Socialite Fiasco Music) features 6 songs in the duos’ self-coined Indie Nova genre. The style mixes breezy, Indie Pop with a touch of vintage Brazilian Bossa Nova. Monica and Chad released their first album together, Brasilissima, under Monica’s name in 2011. The album featured songs in both English and Portuguese. In This Game - Tracklist: Roadmap, Que Passou, Phoenix,
Bees Take To Honey, Drive Around In Cars, and Sempre Aqui.



DAVID GIBSON - BOOM!

Trombonist David Gibson has been giving us really great work with his recent albums on the Positone label – and each one seems to have the artist sounding even better and better than before! We're really wowed with the music David gives us this time around – a set of nearly all original compositions, blown with a strength and confidence that's as compelling as the songs themselves – with Gibson's trombone perfectly matched with the trumpet of Josh Evans in the frontline! The pair come together with a special sort of magic – maybe like Curtis Fuller and Freddie Hubbard in a key version of The Jazz Messengers – a unified voice on the leads, but very much their own folks on the solos. The rest of the group includes tight piano from Theo Hill, who really helps move things along – plus Alex Claffy on bass and Kush Abadey on drums – on titles that include "The High Road", "Rare Truth", "Grass Fed", "Eyes Of Argus", "Persephone", and "The Dance". ~ Dusty Groove


Three Swinging Singers - Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner & Melissa Stylianou - Make Their Trio Debut as Duchess

Sure-footed swing, sweet-toned harmony and ever-insouciant charm are embodied in the new jazz vocal trio Duchess, featuring notable New York singers Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou. The group's debut album - Duchess, to be released by Anzic Records on Febuary 17, 2015 - channels the 1930s inspiration of the virtuosic Boswell Sisters into a wonderfully entertaining and contemporary package. Produced by Oded Lev-Ari, who helmed previous acclaimed Anzic releases by Cervini and Stylianou, Duchess pairs the vocal trio with an ace New York band: pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Matt Wilson, plus saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Jesse Lewis. The songs of Duchess range from the Peggy Lee number "I Love Being Here With You" and Johnny Mercer's "P.S. I Love You" to new twists on "Que Sera, Sera" and the indelible standard "I'll Be Seeing You." There's a playful Gershwin rarity with "Blah, Blah, Blah" and a direct Boswell Sisters homage with their arrangement of "Heebie Jeebies." And there are solo spots for each of the Duchess ladies with "My Brooklyn Love Song" (Hilary), "A Doodlin' Song" (Amy) and "Humming to Myself" (Melissa). A blend of the vintage and the fresh, Duchess is a fizzing cocktail of an album.

Duchess - backed by the same band as on the album - will perform an album-release show at New York City's Jazz Standard on March 3, 2015. The group promises "three good-time gals singing together in harmony," Hilary says. "There's a big wink in what we do, a mix of levity and sincerity." Amy had sung previously many times with Hilary and Melissa, separately. It was the suggestion of Amy's husband - producer-arranger Oded Lev-Ari - to convene a threesome at one of her regular nights at the 55 Bar in the West Village, as he envisioned the trio sound in his head. Amy says: "We sang old Boswell Sisters and Andrew Sisters charts, and it went so well that Oded was inspired to write custom arrangements for us. He has a voice in this group, so much so that it's almost a quartet." 

About the magical rapport among the three singers, Amy says: "The chemistry with the three of us was special from the beginning - the sort of chemistry you can't predict and that doesn't happen very often. Honestly, the audience response had a lot to do with us pursuing the group. People were having such a good time, bobbing their heads and bopping in their seats. As Hilary said, Duchess is all about combining swinging with fun. There can be a fine line between entertaining and schtick, but we take care to fall on the right side of that. It's serious fun, in that we take the music seriously but not ourselves."

The historic muses for the Duchess sound are the Boswell Sisters, a trio from New Orleans whose pioneering close-harmony records for Brunswick in the Thirties are a prize in the jazz canon. "The Boswell Sisters were such originals," Hilary explains. "This kind of music got more conservative a decade later in the 1940s, with the Andrew Sisters taking the vocal trio format more mainstream, even though they were swinging and super-tight in their own way. But the Boswell Sisters had a kind of instrumental approach to harmony singing, and there was a wildness to what they did, with abrupt tempo changes, crazy harmonies and ensemble scatting as if they were singing from one brain. We love them. That said, we're not doing re-creations at all. Our voices, personalities and 21st-century sensibilities help impart individuality to what we're doing. We're making these songs our own, naturally. Oded's arrangements are tailored to our singing, and what Jeff Lederer plays isn't something that you'd hear on a Boswell Sisters record. It sounds like now." 

Along with their craft-honing, crowd-pleasing New York shows at the 55 Bar (including a three-month residency) and the Jazz Standard (joining in with Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O), Duchess brought the house down in New Orleans, native ground for the Boswell Sisters sound. The group was invited to the Crescent City to participate in a celebration of the Boswell Sisters by Kyla Titus, a granddaughter of one of the sisters and who runs an association for preserving their music. Melissa recalls: "Groups specializing in Boswell Sisters material from all over the world went down for the event. It was amazing how well they could do the Boswell Sisters music note-for-note. We only do a handful of numbers from the Boswell Sisters repertoire - we're more inspired by the spirit than the letter. But when we sang at Snug Harbor down there, people were so into it. I think they appreciated this tongue-in-cheek, slightly down-and-dirty thing we have going on."

Aside from the original Boswell Sisters chart for "Heebie Jeebies," producer Oded Lev-Ari arranged the songs on Duchess. As Hilary pointed out, the goal was never just a re-enactment of something ultra-hip from the Thirties. "That would be a museum piece, and that isn't what we wanted to create," Oded says. "But there is this playful correspondence with history of the music and the sound of the Boswell Sisters and others. Some of my arrangements for the group are informed by the old-school sound, with parallel movement for the voices, melody in the middle, triad-like structures like in 'A Little Jive' and 'It's a Man.' When I write, I usually try to make very singable melodic lines for musicians to play, and singers are no exception. There is a tradition in big-band composition - particularly with Duke Ellington - that emphasizes writing for the individual playing the instrument, not necessarily for the instrument itself. And getting to know the trio's voices and colors allowed me to do that. It has been a ton of fun. At this point, I can hear what a specific note would sound like when Melissa sings it versus Amy or Hilary, and it makes it possible to really refine the sound and expression." 

As for the band, all-star drummer Matt Wilson is a longtime Amy associate, as is pianist Michael Cabe, who played on her first two solo albums. Guitarist Jesse Lewis plays alongside Amy in their trio Jazz Country. And saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Paul Sikivie are members of Wilson's Christmas Tree-O. Amy sums them up: "The band is just so good. They're really essential to our musical vibe and the humor, too, the way they play off each other and us."

Melissa shares a story about one of the best responses to the Duchess sound and sensibility: "It was from a musician, a vibes player who had a set after us at the 55 Bar. He came up to us and said, 'You know, the audience doesn't realize how difficult what you're doing really is. They're having too good of a time'."
  
Duchess:
1. "I Love Being Here with You" (Peggy Lee, Bill Schluger)
2. "There Ain't No Sweet Man" (Fred Fisher)
3. "Que Sera, Sera" (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
4. "My Brooklyn Love Song" (Ramey Idriss, George Tibbles)
5. "A Doodlin' Song" (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh)
6. "A Little Jive Is Good for You" (Ralph Yaw)
7. "P.S. I Love You" (Johnny Mercer, Gordon Jenkins)
8. "Hummin' to Myself" (Sammy Fain, Herb Magidson, Monty Siegel)
9. "It's a Man" (Cy Coben)
10. "I'll Be Seeing You" (Irving Kahal, Sammy Fain)
11. "Lollipop" (Beverly Ross, Julius Dixon)
12. "Blah, Blah, Blah" (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
13. "Heebie Jeebies" (Boyd Atkins)

Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou, voices
Michael Cabe, piano; Paul Sikivie, double-bass; Matt Wilson, drums
Jeff Lederer, saxophone (1, 5, 6, 9, 11); Jesse Lewis, guitar (1, 2, 7, 8)
Produced and arranged by Oded Lev-Ari
Recorded by Chris Allen at Sear Sound, NYC
Mixed by Brian Montgomery
Mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC


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