Tuesday, April 15, 2014

GUITARIST OSCAR PENAS - MUSIC OF DEPARTURES AND RETURNS - FEATURES ESPERANZA SPALDING, GIL GOLDSTEIN, PAQUITO D'RIVERA

Catalan guitarist, composer and bandleader Oscar Peñas´ fourth album and second release in the United States, Music of Departures and Returns, includes a Brazilian choro and a tribute to flamenco master Paco de Lucia; a jazz standard and a classic from the Cuban Nueva Trova songbook; and music by the great Catalonian composer Frederic Mompou. Yet this is neither a music sampler nor a showcase of Peñas´ talents in different settings and styles.

"This is more or less who I am. I'm not trying to push boundaries, prove anything or show off in any way," explains Peñas. "It's a collection of pieces, some mine, some by other composers that I have always admired, that I felt had a common mood, a certain sound that reflects my personality and where I come from."

Music of Departures and Returns features his quartet, comprised of his long-standing rhythm section featuring six-string electric bassist Moto Fukushima, drummer Richie Barshay, and violinist Sara Caswell. The band is augmented by special guests such as bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, reedman Paquito D'Rivera and pianist, producer and arranger Gil Goldstein who appears on accordion.

Born in Barcelona, Peñas began his career in music studying classical guitar as a child. He graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music and later earned a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance from New England Conservatory before settling Brooklyn. He arrived at his musical discoveries step by step.

"I started to explore jazz a bit out of boredom. As a teenager (and still is the case) it was more appealing to me to pick up my own melodies within a style and interact with other musicians than spend hours of solitude trying to perfect a technical dexterity and devote my youth to learn a repertoire by others. Discoveries and interests come sometimes erratically... listening to Pat Metheny's Letter from Home or Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer you end up coming across Toninho Horta, Gismonti or Milton [Nascimento] and their music opens doors to a sea of possibilities, that's how I learned about choro.

"I didn't study choro, but listened to a lot of them and love Pixinguinha and Guinga. If you ask a purist, maybe he won't approve of the form or the harmonies of  'Paquito's Choro,' but this is my unpretentious take on it." As for incorporating all these influences, "there was never a grand plan," he says. "I've been finding music and what I liked, I researched it and add it to my music. I was not born here and I did not grow up here. I like these different styles as much or more than bebop. Settling in NYC was a kind of wake-up call as I realized that in order to break through in the most vibrant scene on the planet I had to be honest and that meant digging into my own culture to find a personal voice."

Upcoming Oscar Peñas Tour Dates:
April 18 / BAMcafé / Brooklyn, NY
November 7 / Strathmore / Bethesda, MD


THE COOKERS LIVE AT THE IRIDIUM: APRIL 19/20, 2014

Featuring Billy Harper (tenor sax), Craig Handy (alto sax), Eddie Henderson (trumpet), David Weiss (trumpet), George Cables (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), & Billy Hart (drums) 

This exciting new all-star septet summons up an aggressive mid '60s spirit with a potent collection of expansive post-bop originals marked by all the requisite killer instincts and pyrotechnic playing expected of some of the heaviest hitters on the scene today. This Saturday and Sunday the band will take the stage at The Iridium for a not to be missed two-night engagement in anticipation of recording their new album for Motema Music, forthcoming this September, and to be supported by amajor international tour.

Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart all came up in the heady era of the mid '60s. It was a period that found the dimensions of hard bop morphing from their original designs, and each of these guys helped facilitate the process as members of some of the most important bands of the era. Hart and Henderson were members of Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking Mwandishi group; Cecil McBee anchored Charles Lloyd's great '60s quartet alongside Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette; Billy Harper was part of Lee Morgan's last group, as well as being a member of Max Roach's Quartet and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers; while George Cables held down the piano chair in numerous bands including groups led by Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper.

David Weiss and Craig Handy, from a more recent generation and the youngest members of the band, are experts in this forthright lingo, having gained experience performing with Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Tolliver, Roy Haynes and Herbie Hancock. Each member of the Cookers has spent time leading his own series of groups as well, and each has a keenly individual sound. But it's the unmistakable power of teamwork that makes this music so commanding and resonates with a kind of depth and beauty that speaks of the seasoned track record of its principals (combined, the group has over 250 years of experience in the jazz world and has been a part of over 1,000 recordings). You can feel the collective weight of that experience in their CDs and especially in their live performances. Since this version of the band was solidified in 2007 the group has performed at venues around the world, including headlining the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Playboy Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival, Northsea Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, The Jerusalem Jazz Festival, The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, The Burghausen Jazz Festival, Jazz Terrassa,The Healdsburg Jazz Festival, Jazz Viersen, Ronnie Scott's and Yoshi's.

"Talk about truth in advertising: The Cookers, an eye-popping septet, offers the promise of broiling intensity ... the blend of experience and youth, the rich orchestration possibilities offered by four horns, and especially the distinctive collection of personalities gives the band a unique complexion."
 - Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press

JAMIE SAFT / STEVE SWALLOW / BOBBY PREVITE - THE NEW STANDARD

While Jamie Saft has been a significant presence on previous RareNoise recordings by Slobber Pup, Plymouth and Metallic Taste of Blood, the renegade keyboardist and essential Downtown improviser steps into a dramatically different role on The New Standard. A collaborative trio outing featuring the dream rhythm tandem of drummer Bobby Previte and bassist Steve Swallow, both prolific composers and venerable bandleaders in their own right, it showcases Saft alternating between piano and organ and making thoughtful, melodic contributions throughout. On ten original tracks, seven of which the keyboardist composed, Saft blends brilliantly with his esteemed elders on this remarkable RareNoise release. "Bobby suggested that I put together simple structures for us to use as starting points," he explains. "I tried to put together pieces that were super soulful and honest. I wanted compositions that would highlight Steve's absolute mastery of melody and Bobby's incredibly soulful approach to groove. They took my simple pieces and made them into grand structures on which to improvise. Beginnings and endings were all improvised and this gives the album a special type of magic."

Though the three kindred spirits may not have played together before as a unit prior to this recording, their connections run deep and their chemistry in the studio was immediate. As Previte put it, "It was the simplest, chillest record I have ever done. We set up, went out and had a nice lunch, went back to the studio and three hours later it was all done in one take. It's kind of incredible it actually worked out as it did. And my 1965 Rogers Holiday model tubs, which I got when I was 14 years old, have never, and probably will never sound better. The sound is so full, so creamy I feel like licking it!"

Saft, who first met Previte in 1993 when he was hired to play in the drummer's band Weather Clear, Track Fast, calls The New Standard "100% collaborative." As he explains, "Steve and Bobby have been working together for decades and Bobby introduced us many many years ago, at first to discuss espresso, which is a shared passion of ours. Steve was also extremely generous with his knowledge of coffee and we struck up a fond correspondence. Bobby, of course, was secretly trying to put us together musically and finally a few summers ago, we all convened at my new studio near Kingston, New York (Potterville International Sound) for this session. So this album came from the purest of sources -- a genuine desire from old friends to make music together."

Master bassist Swallow, whose track record includes landmark jazz recordings with the likes of George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre, Gary Burton, Paul Bley, Art Farmer, Chico Hamilton, Stan Getz, Steve Kuhn, Carla Bley and John Scofield as well as several of his own recordings as a leader, had previously recorded and toured in Previte's Bump quintet beginning in 2003. 5 time Grammy winning engineer Joe Ferla, who is regarded as the fourth member of the band for this remarkably empathetic session, had been working with Previte for decades. "This recording was accomplished with Joe's incredible mastery at capturing mixes on the spot," says Saft. "Joe recorded everything analog direct to two-track 1/2" tape through a Neve console right here at Potterville International Sound as we played. Joe brought the same magic that Steve and Bobby contributed to this session. He's got absolute attention to detail, he's inside the music like a master, plus he has the wisdom to capture it on the spot direct to tape brilliantly. We're so lucky to have had him as part of this recording."

Adds Previte, who created his own intuitive drum feels throughout the session: "The music is highly improvised, more than you think. We did the entire record in three hours. Some tunes were completely improvised, some were brought in by Jamie but I think even he would agree they were sketches, really. He'd just tell Steve the harmonic rhythm, or we'd discuss it for a second, literally, and we were off! All first takes. And we never ever talked about how to start or how to end. The beginnings and endings are probably my favorite parts of this record because you can hear there was nothing planned in the least. We all dovetailed to the ends together. In fact, the endings are like little pieces in themselves. For instance if you listen to a Coltrane record, often you can tell they didn't have an ending, but there was no panic, no stress. They knew the tune would end itself and there was patience there. That's a quality in short supply today but on The New Standard you can hear that, especially with Steve. For instance, when I will take a left turn on one of those improvised endings, instead of interacting with me he stays at home within himself, and it's just magnificent. When you do that, when you don't cling too tightly to the other musicians, you bestow upon the other players so much freedom. As he said to me once, 'Interaction is overrated.' I couldn't agree more, except for the fact what he does IS interaction. It's just interaction on a much higher level than is usual in improvisation."

The New Standard opens with Saft's relaxed swinger "Clarissa," which is fueled by Swallow's unerring bass pulse and Previte's slick brushwork on the kit. This perfect introduction to the triumvirate leads into another Saft composition, "Minor Soul," which is rendered with all the patience and downhome quality of vintage Wynton Kelly or Junior Mance piano trios. "Step Lively" is a more buoyant rumba-boogie number paced by Previte and Swallow. Jamie's organ makes its first appearance on the gospel-tinged number "Clearing," which bears not a small resemblance to one of Jamie's significant influences, The Band. "About seven years ago I moved my crew to the Hudson Valley between the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. We live right in the seat of where so much essential music from the past 60 years was created -- Bob Dylan, The Band, Woodstock. Certainly these sounds were in my head as I constructed pieces for us to work with. I've been a huge fan and proponent of the music of both Dylan and the Band and certainly they were both heavy influences for this session. I also was looking to capture something placid and serene that reflects my love for country living and a more sustainable way of being."

"Trek" opens with Previte's drum 'n' bugle corps cadence on the kit, setting a compelling foundation for the piano trio piece that follows. The title track is a showcase for Swallow's signature melodic playing on the electric bass guitar while the uptempo swinger "I See No Leader" has Previte setting the pace with his insistent ride cymbal work. Says Saft of that composition, "The idea behind 'I See No Leader' is twofold. The obvious on being there is no real leader to this group. Though I have contributed most of the structures, when you have absolute masters like Steve and Bobby (and Joe for that matter), all it takes is a group of the simplest structures and suddenly there's magic on the tape. The title of this song also refers to the analog tape on which this album was recorded. As we progressed through the sessions I ran out of fresh reels of tape and we were forced to start rolling over old reels from my studio vaults -- a reel in which we 'saw no leader' referred to the leader tape used to mark beginnings and ends."

"Blue Shuffle" opens with some bluesy solo organ by Saft before the trio settles into an early '60s organ lounge vibe with Swallow walking on bass and Previte providing a supple backbeat for the dancers. "All Things to All People" is a throbbing race on the B-3 fueled by Previte's jungle drums and the closer, "Surrender the Chaise," is an intimate, slightly melancholy piano trio number that sounds like one of Chopin's nocturnes as played by Bill Evans. Swallow adds a solo on this closing number that is a sheer masterpiece of melody. Saft has high praise for the great bassist. "It was an absolute honor to work with a musician of Steve's caliber," he says. "It was like walking on air! Steve has the deepest intuition found so rarely these days. It was as if I could go ANYWHERE and Steve was standing there waiting for me with arms outstretched. A true master!"

"The New Standard is an honest and inspired picture of the first meeting of these four minds," adds the pianist-organist-composer. "It is wholly informed by decades of friendship, collaborations and camaraderie. The album's title refers to what I feel is a "New Standard of Excellence" in the improvising arena. I'm absolutely thrilled this album has found a proper home on such a fantastic label as RareNoise Records. The sonic integrity of the session will be realized with a fully analog vinyl master -- the 180-gram dual gatefold vinyl pressing of the album will never have seen ANY computer interference. We were also extremely fortunate to enlist Scott Hull and Alex DeTurk of Masterdisk for both the CD and vinyl masters. The vinyl master was done straight from the original analog master tapes from the session. The record was recorded and mixed direct to two track analog tape and Scott compiled the vinyl masters by editing the original master recordings together one side at a time. Alex DeTurk cut the vinyl lacquers for us under Scott's supervision on the vinyl lathe at Masterdisk direct from the compiled analog masters. The depth of the vinyl masters is, frankly, sonically stunning. It harks back to the golden age of jazz recordings of the '60's. It is absolutely at the highest level. I'm beyond proud of the sound of this one and truly believe that this album will really stand out from the pack, sonically."

TRACKS: Clarissa / Minor Soul / Step Lively / Clearing / Trek / The New Standard / I See No Leader / Blue Shuffle / All Things To All People / Surrender The Chaise


69 ANNEE MELODIQUE - FEATURES DALIDA, SERGE GAINSBOURG, JANE BIRKIN, MICHEL COLOMBIER AND OTHERS...

The popular history of French music in the 60s often pits two opposing sides against each other: the polished ‘varieté’ of the yéyé stars like Françoise Hardy against the socially-engaged singer-songwriters like Léo Ferré, but the story is far more complex.

Alongside their better-known work, stars like Dalida, Dutronc and Sheila recorded music that happily sits next to more ‘serious’ – and often forgotten – socially engaged artists like Jehan Jonas and Michèle Arnaud. This compilation shines a light on the meeting point between these two seemingly disparate styles and the musicians behind them.

Digging deeper into the stories behind the music there is a unifying theme behind the different worlds: more often than not the players behind both styles were the same. Sometimes dismissed as journeymen that were operating at the outer reaches of their ability, the oft-ignored session musicians and arrangers held a wealth of knowledge and ‘savoir-faire’, not only in the lyrics and composition but also in the musical ability, recording, mixing and above all in the arrangements.

Even Serge Gainsbourg – perhaps the only artist of the time who managed to combine huge popular and critical success – collaborated with arrangers (and cult figures in French music) like Michel Colombier and Jean-Claude Vannier for his epoch-defining classics, and it is the work of these unsung figures that is celebrated here.

- CD digipak with 28 pages booklet w/liner notes in English/French
- LP with double page inner sleeve with full liner notes in English/French
  
Tracklisting:
01. Michèle Arnaud – La chanson de Tessa (1964)
02. Dalida – Je me repose (1968)
03. Sheila (Jean Claudric) – Long sera l’hiver (version playback orchestre) (1969)
04. Jane Birkin – Kawasaki (1973)
05. Christophe – The girl from Salina Part.3 (B.O.F. – La route de Salina) (1970)
06. Jacqueline Taïeb – Ce soir, je m’en vais (1967)
07. Michel Colombier – Canon (1969)
08. Ann Sorel – L’amour à plusieurs (1972)
09. Jacques Dutronc – Proverbes (1968)
10. Tonio Rubio – Bass In Action (1973)
11. Jehan Jonas – Nocturnes (1969)
12. Serge Gainsbourg – Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais (version playback orchestre) (1973)


JC SANFORD ORCHESTRA – VIEWS FROM THE INSIDE

One of the most exciting aspects of the current jazz scene is the resurgence of the jazz orchestra -- ensembles that make use of expanded size in order to explore bold instrumental sonorities, unexpected musical colors and arresting sonic textures while joyously mixing and matching musical genres. Critical buzz is all well and good in calling attention to these new big bands, but the solid proof of a vital musical renaissance must come in the form of compelling recorded works. Enter JC Sanford's Views >From the Inside (to be released May 20th on Whirlwind Recordings), an album bursting with ambition and invention that confirms that the promise of the new has actually come to fruition.

Composer, arranger, conductor and trombonist, Sanford employs the resources of fifteen outstanding players (including such celebrated contemporary stylists as trumpeter Taylor Haskins, vibraphonist Tom Beckham and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi) in an ensemble that draws on such unconventional jazz band instrumentation as French horn, accordion, tuba, English horn, oboe, bassoon, violin and cello. Utilizing the diversity of his orchestra, Sanford is able to create sparkling music that references the jazz tradition while also ingeniously incorporating classical, pop and world music sources. His mode of operation could be called selective expansion. "In order to get a wider variety of sound, I needed both more and less in the orchestra," Sanford says. "I may avoid having full horn sections as in a traditional big band, but I use musicians like Ben Kono, Chris Bacas, Dan Willis and Kenny Berger who play multiple instruments, thus giving the band a wide variety of colors."

Calling on creative capital gained from his studies with the legendary arrangers Bob Brookmeyer and Jim McNeely, Sanford makes pointed use of traditional swing conventions, yet just as frequently turns them on their head, tweaking these same conventions by employing daring compositional gambits that endow each performance with freshness and vision.  "I'm always trying to turn that corner that isn't expected," Sanford says, "I was trained in the conventions of swing and big band arranging and I love that idiom, but I don't want to stay in that zone. I'm aiming to avoid the predictable, to find different colors and textures."
 Yet for all its inventiveness, Views From the Inside is also an album stocked with notable melody and inviting performances.  Sanford, inspired by such diverse influences as Richard Strauss, Charles Ives, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel, makes certain that a sure sense of song and expressive drama is never lost amongst the intriguing tonal colors and surprising harmonic and rhythmic structures. "Views From the Inside," "Robins In Snow" (written as part of a new score for the 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur, and featuring the bandleader on trombone) "Brownieland" (spotlighting the accordionist Jacob Garchick), "Sunset Park, Sunset Park" and "Sky. Good. " are each marked by lyricism, shifting moods and a touch of mystery, while "Your Word Alone", "An Attempt At Serenity," "Verrazano Bikeride" and "2nd & 7th" brim with exceptionally cohesive ensemble work and forcefully expressive improvisations, while consistently maintaining strong melodic interest.

Five of the album's twelve tracks are "Brooklyn Vignettes," originally composed as a suite for the American Music Center, pieces that reflect the varied character of the New York borough in which Sanford composed the album and where he currently makes his home. Three compact pieces feature duets between Taylor Haskins and the innovative percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, whom Sanford credits with much of the album's distinctive flavor. "When I give improvisers space, it's their space," Sanford says, "But everyone has to ask the same questions: 'Why am I doing what I'm doing? Does the music demand my contribution?' In the end, you have to allow the music to tell you where to go."

Sanford studied at the University of Northern Iowa and the New England Conservatory where he earned a D.M.A. in Jazz Studies. After relocating to New York, he became involved with the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop under the direction of Manny Albam and Jim McNeely. Currently, in addition to leading his own orchestra, Sanford conducts the twice-Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the Alice Coltrane Orchestra featuring Ravi Coltrane and Jack DeJohnette, the Joel Harrison 19, and the Alan Ferber Nonet With Strings. Sanford also curates the influential Size Matters series at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, which has presented close to 60 big bands over the past four years. Among the jazz and classical artists who have performed Sanford's compositions and arrangements are John Abercrombie, Dave Liebman, Lew Soloff, Andrew Russo and the Swedish Wind Ensemble. Sanford collaborated with composer David Schumacher in the Schumacher/Sanford Sound Assembly jazz orchestra, and is also a founding member (with Darcy James Argue and Joseph Phillips) of the composer's federation, Pulse.



NEW RELEASES: VANESSA DA MATA – SEGUE O SOM; MARTINHO DA VILA – ENREDO; PIERRE DORGE & THE NEW JUNGLE ORCHESTRA – TJAK TJAKA TCHICAI

VANESSA DA MATA – SEGUE O SOM

Really wonderful work from Vanessa Da Mata – a Brazilian singer who just seems to get better and better over the years! The set features sublime production from guitarist Liminha and bassist Kassin – the latter of whom always has this amazing way of folding things together, so that complicated elements come off with effortless ease – really making for a complexity in the music, but one that's quite subtle too. Vanessa's up front, letting her incredible voice really soar out over the top of the tunes – while Kassin and Liminha keep things very fresh from an instrumental perspective. Titles include "Segue O Som", "Homem Preto", "Por Onde Ando Tenho Voce", "My Grandmother Told Me", "Rebola Nega", "Um Sorriso Entre Nos Dois", and "Nao Sei Dizer Adeus".  ~ Dusty Groove

MARTINHO DA VILA – ENREDO

Soulful samba from the great Martinho Da Vila – still every bit as joyous and lively as during his famous years of the 70s! The album's a rock-solid set from start to finish – and really lives up to Martinho's long musical legacy, which hasn't dimmed a bit – while also finding space for collaborations with guest stars who include Alcione, Beth Carvalho, Maria Freitas, Martinho Tonho, Mart'Nalia, and others. Titles include a host of Da Vila's classics, some worked into medley numbers – with tracks that include "Carlos Gomes", "Tamadare/Rui Barbosa", "Travalhadores Do Brasil", "Prece Ao Sol/Iemanja Desperta", "Raizes/Tribo Dos Carajas", and "Por Ti America/Pra Tudo Se Acabar Na Quarta Feira".  ~ Dusty Groove

PIERRE DORGE & THE NEW JUNGLE ORCHESTRA – TJAK TJAKA TCHICAI


Pierre Dorge pays tribute to the late reedman John Tchicai – a frequent musical partner over the years, and a player who's shaped the sound of countless others on both sides of the Atlantic! Tchicai got his start with Archie Shepp on the New York scene of the 60s, but moved over to Denmark by the end of that decade – and ended up having a good deal of interaction with guitarist Pierre Dorge in years to come, including performances on some of the best sessions by the New Jungle Orchestra! This album really recalls those great ones – as Dorge chooses tunes that seem to have an especially spiritual flavor, and evoke Tchicai in ways that most of the group's recent work might not have – using especially strong passages from reed players who include Jakob Mygind on tenor and soprano, Anders Banke on tenor and bass clarinet, and Morten Carlson on tenor and taragot. Titles include "Mozombo", "A Rufous Mot Mot", "Jungle Sketches", "Autobahn Tchicai Zwei", "Lucianus In Congo", and "Tjak Tjaka Tchicai".  ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: MANU DIBANGO – AFRICADELIC; MOUNTAIN MOCHA KILIMANJARO – ICHI NI SAN SHI GO ROKU; THE KUTI MANGOES – AFRO-FIRE

MANU DIBANGO – AFRICADELIC  

Incredibly funky work from Manu Dibango – a set that's easily as great as his classic Soul Makossa album – but which is a lot more obscure overall! The work's got a fiercely-jamming quality all the way through – lots of rumbling percussion at the bottom, and also a bit of keyboards as well – served up in a heady brew that turns out to be a perfect setting for Dibango's sharp-edged reeds! The record's got a few especially great break tracks, but all numbers are pretty darn great too – filled with more funky changes, flaring horns, and 70s-styled grooves than you might ever hope to find in a single album! Tracks include "Black Beauty", "Soul Fiesta", "The Panther", "Africadelic", "Moving Waves", "Afro Soul", "Wa Wa", "Percussion Storm", "Monkey Beat", and "Oriental Sunset".  ~ Dusty Groove

MOUNTAIN MOCHA KILIMANJARO – ICHI NI SAN SHI GO ROKU

These guys are really on fire this time around – and turn in one of the most searing performances we've ever heard from a contemporary funky combo! Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro hail from Japan, and have really earned our attention with their previous funky records – but this time around the really push it over the top, and seem to move with a grit and edge we never would have expected a few years before! Every element in the music is razor sharp, but also a bit offbeat too – so that the keyboards have this fuzzy tone, the guitar this shadowy quality, and the horns this hard-blasting ferocity that's way different than the usual use of the instruments – all qualities that are pushed even further by the album's fresh arrangements and really rich conception of sound. If you thought you'd heard it all from funk groups, you owe it to yourself to check this one out!  ~ Dusty Groove

THE KUTI MANGOES – AFRO-FIRE


An Afro Funk combo, but one who really open up their groove, too – mixing in some great outside instrumentation that still stays close to the roots! The core combo is a sextet with a really firey brace of saxes in the lead – a pair of players, one of whom sometimes shifts to flute – mixed with tight drums, percussion, keyboards, guitar, and a bit of trombone – all with a style that really shows the best merger of deep funk sharpness with older Nigerian styles in recent years. Some cuts add in lots of extra percussion – plus balafon and ngoni as well – and titles include "Fire", "Feeling Good", "Pass It On", "Song For Fela", "Moanin", "Walking Man", "Slowly", and "Something Yellow". CD features bonus remixes of "Fire" and "Song For Fela".  ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: GILBERTO GIL – SAMBA; EMILIO SANTIAGO – COMIGO E ASSIM / O CANTO CRESCENTE / GUERREIRO CORACAO; CAETANO VELOSO – MULTISHOW AO VIVO ABRACAO

GILBERTO GIL – SAMBA

One of the best records we've heard from Gilberto Gil in many, many years – a stripped-down session that focuses on his voice and guitar work – in a style that takes us back to Gil's earliest days in music! The album feels like some lost session that Gilberto might have recorded in the 60s – before his Louvacao debut – done with mostly just a bit of light percussion from the enigmatic Domenico, plus some help from Moreno Veloso – who also co-produced the record as well, with that great sense of space he always brings to his own music too. A few cuts feature extra touches – a bit of accordion, or some flute from Danilo Caymmi – but the main focus is on Gil, who hasn't sounded this great in years – still able to capture our imagination when he works in a straightforward style like this. Titles include "Milagre", "Um Abraco No Joao", "Tim Tim Por Tim Tim", "Eu Sambo Mesmo", "Aos Pes Da Cruz", and "Desde Que O Samba E Samba".  ~ Dusty Groove

EMILIO SANTIAGO – COMIGO E ASSIM / O CANTO CRESCENTE / GUERREIRO CORACAO

A trio of wonderful records from Emilio Santiago – all of which capture him at a key point in his career! Comigo E Assim is a classic batch of jazzy soul from Santiago – one of his best – with sweet 70s arrangements by the likes of Joao Donato, Sivuca, Roberto Menescal, and Antonio Adolfo, all of whom craft a slightly funky style that works wonders with Santiago's vocals. If you've ever bought one of his later, sleepier albums, this is the one to start with – as the record's a great batch of tracks that lives up to the notoriety he's had over the past few years with the international groove scene. Titles include "Nega", "Comigo E Assim", "E Hora", "Danca Mineira", "Preconceito", "Te Cuida, Rapaz", "No Balanco Do Trem", and "Quando Chegares". O Canto Crescente is a wonderful gem from Emilio Santiago – soaring and hip all the way through! After some of his earlier funkier work, this may well be the best full album ever cut by Santiago – thanks to some warm jazzy arrangements from the likes of Antonio Adolfo and Meirelles, both of whom really make the set sparkle with a warm electric piano groove! Emilio's vocals are great – soulful and sophisticated at once, perfectly fitting with the light jazzy changes of the tracks, giving them the right dose of honest emotion. Titles include "Rola Bola", "Recado", "Logo Agora", "Caridade", "Bufete E Cascudo", "Trocando Em Muidos", and "Quase Sempre". Guerreiro Coracao captures Emilio Santiago in a sweet live setting – one that really brings out the sharpest crackle in his music! Titles include "Diariamente", "Perdao", "Pela Metade", "Guerreiro Coracao", "De Repente", "Mistura", "Dama Da Noite", "Minhas Madrugadas", and "Anuncio Classificado".  ~ Dusty Groove

CAETANO VELOSO – MULTISHOW AO VIVO ABRACAO


Caetano Veloso looks like a bit of an old geezer on the back cover of this live set – but damn if he isn't still one of the most exciting talents in the world, even alongside most of the contemporary generation too! The performance is a concert that's very much in the spirit of the studio album Abracao – and the two wonderful records that preceded it – music that's easily some of the most inventive, creative, and immediately appealing that Caetano Veloso has ever recorded – at a level that easily sums up all his past genius in a range of styles, but finds a way to fuse the whole thing down to a very focused core. The vocals alone are wonderful – that haunting style that Veloso really seemed to develop strongly after his years in London – and the instrumentation is often spare and simple, but with these great little twists and turns – especially on the rhythms and phrasing. And despite what must be a relatively large venue, Veloso preserves this sense of intimacy throughout – really reminding us of his undeniable pull, not just in Brazilian culture, but around the globe as well. Titles include "Homem", "Quando", "Um", "Lindeza", "Reconvexo", "Voce", "A", "Funk", "Alguem", and "Eclipse".  ~  Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: BRIAN BLADE & THE FELLOWSHIP BAND – LANDMARKS; THE GETUP – STRAIGHT FROM THE HOB; MAGIC DRUM ORCHESTRA - MDO

BRIAN BLADE & THE FELLOWSHIP BAND – LANDMARKS

Brian Blade's Fellowship Band keeps on getting better and bolder over the years – really soaring out here under the leadership Blade's great drums – with a soulfully expressive feel that takes us back to his Blue Note albums from the last few years of the 20th century! Pianist Jon Cowherd has these solid lines that really set things up right away – matching the rhythmic impulses of Blade, but also really pushing forward with these waves of color embellished by Myron Walden on alto and bass clarinet, and Melvin Butler on soprano and tenor. Titles include "Down River", "Landmarks", "State Lines", "Friends Call Her Dot", "Bonnie Be Good", "Embers", and "Farewell Bluebird". (Includes bonus download of album!)  ~ Dusty Groove.

THE GETUP – STRAIGHT FROM THE HOB


Massive drums really get things going right for The Getup – a funky combo who hit their groove running from the ground up! These guys load plenty of Hammond, trumpet, and tenor on the top of the tracks – but really seem to get even more energy going on the bottom – thanks to snapping drums that always hint at fresh breaks to come, and fast-riffing guitar that chugs along with the mighty basslines to propel the whole thing strongly forward right from the start! Sabina Challenger sings on a few cuts – but honestly, the main appeal of the record lies in the tremendous work of the rhythm section – on tracks that include "Sunday Roast", "Get Lucky", "What If", "Straight From The Hob", "Back To Me", and "Bungle's Twanger".   Dusty Groove
Groove

MAGIC DRUM ORCHESTRA - MDO

Magic Drum Orchestra fuses a passion for Brazilian music, heavy drums and percussion with a love of modern dance beats. Their sound has influences from dubstep, drum & bass and hip hop fused with batucada, samba and afrobeat. With over 100 drummers and percussionists making their way through the studio to record these tracks, high quality, cutting edge production is a big part of the MDO sound, alongside the real human element that only live percussion and drums can bring – there is a truly free spirit feel to this music. This album compiles the two ‘MDO Sessions’ digital EPs into one finished product, featuring every track from the two EPs. With the World Cup taking place in Brazil in 2014, this release is perfectly timed to soundtrack it. As well as original material, the album features percussive cover versions of Snoop Dogg & Pharrell’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, Benga’s dubstep anthem “Crunked Up” and the Cream classic “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Magic Drum Orchestra has an impressive history and pedigree, having been formed by Ralph Cree and Glyn Bush (aka BiggaBush) back in 2005. Whilst joining forces for Glyn’s ‘Lightning Head’ project (Sonar Kollektiv), the duo decided to combine their passion and mastery in a carefully assembled samba band which became the extraordinary Magic Drum Orchestra ~ www.tru-thoughts.co.uk


NEW RELEASES: STANTON MOORE – CONVERSATIONS; THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS – THERAPY; NICOLE MITCHELL’S BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE – INTERGALACTIC BEINGS

STANTON MOORE – CONVERSATIONS

One of the most solid records we've ever heard from drummer Stanton Moore – and a set that's got to be his greatest jazz session to date! Moore's still got all the playful kick he brought to his drums during more funk-based years – but he's working here in a trio with the wonderful pianist David Torkanowsky, who's awash in great tones and colors that we'd never expect from a Stanton Moore album – really long, fluid lines that sometimes follow in the tradition of Cedar Walton or Kenny Barron, other times have a more punctuated feel that works well with the drums, and the basslines of James Singleton. Titles include "Waltz For All Souls", "Magnolia Triangle", "Lauren Z", "Driftin", and "Big Greaze".  ~ Dusty Groove

THE NEW MASTERSOUNDS – THERAPY

Some of the grooviest, funkiest work we've ever heard from New Mastersounds – and that's saying a lot, given how much we dig all their other records! We've been following these guys for over a decade, and they've never let us down – and they're one of the rare funky combos who really seem dedicated to making their sound even sharper, tighter, and more interesting at each new step – working here at a level that still holds onto all the spontaneous energy of their famous recordings, but which also trips things out at a really cool level too! The drums have this crackle we don't remember as strongly before – and Eddie Roberts' guitar and production ranges from unusual psych touches at some times to really well-fleshed jazz impulses at others – really balancing out the record with a tremendous sound overall. These guys have never faltered a bit, but they really knock it out of the park this time around – on titles that include "Monday Meters", "Old Man Noises", "Morning Fly", "Soul Sista", "Stop This Game", "Slow Down", "WWIII", and "Detox".  ~ Dusty Groove

NICOLE MITCHELL’S BLACK EARTH ENSEMBLE – INTERGALACTIC BEINGS


Mindblowing sounds from Chicago flute player Nicole Mitchell – a set of work inspired by the science fiction writings of Octavia Butler – with a striking style to match! Although the music has some arch qualities that live up to the darkness of Butler's writings, the performance here is also still mostly acoustic – in the mode we're used to from Mitchell's Black Earth group – but with odd tones and weird bits of phrasing that keep have us checking the notes to figure out the different instruments! The approach is a bit like the early cosmic visions of Sun Ra – especially when Mitchell hits more spiritual and rhythmic moments – and the well-matched ensemble of players features Nicole on flute, David Boykin on tenor and bass clarinet, David Young on trumpet and srali thom, Renee Baker on violin, Tomeka Reid on cello, Josh Abrams on bass, Jeff Parker on guitar, and Avreeayl Ra on percussion. Mankwe Ndosi sings just a bit on the record – and titles include "Dripping Matter", "Web Of Hope", "Fields Of Possibility", "Resisting Entanglement", "The Inevitable", and "The Ooli Moves".  ~ Dusty Groove


Monday, April 14, 2014

DA PHATFUNK CLIQUE - PHAT JAZZ

Time to ignite your passion for funky, jazzy vibes with some new grooves you haven't heard yet!

Several venues have experienced the funk/jazz sounds of Da Phatfunk Clique. In September of 1998, violinist Darrell “D-Funk” Looney began collaborating with several musicians on what would be the first release in 1999, Pandemic Love. The sound is unique as the violin is the lead instrument. Da Phatfunk Clique was formed as a band by January of 2000, utilizing local talent in support of the album release. Out of this effort came development of a unique sound, both jazzy and funky, that has been described as an amalgamation of jazz from Mahavishnu Orchestra and funk ambience of George Clinton's P-Funk. True to form, these are among the group's influences as are artists such as Jean Luc Ponty, Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Noel Pointer. Da Phatfunk Clique has morphed into a musical collaborative concept with varying members, still under the direction of violinist Darrell Looney. 

The current release entitled “Phat Jazz” builds upon the concept of funky jazz to elevate the mood. Darrell “D-Funk” Looney takes the vibe to the next level with 11 new all original tracks. "I am happy to get back to playing a little keyboards and even some bass guitar for this project", says Darrell Looney. There is still very notable collaborating going on with several fine musicians including jazz luminary Bob Baldwin who brings his own brand of funky jazziness on the track entitled “For Sake Of The Art”. This is a serious vibe to experience!

~ Visit THE JAZZ NETWORK WORLDWIDE "A GREAT PLACE TO HANG" at: http://www.thejazznetworkworldwide.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network


JAZZ FOR SPRING, JAZZ AT THE MOVIES, AND JAZZ IN THE AFTERNOON

Savoy Jazz is set to release three new editions in its successful Jazz For midline series of compilations:  Jazz for Spring, Jazz at the Movies and Jazz in the Afternoon with Cole—Celebrating the Songs of Cole Porter (celebrating the 50th Anniversary of his death in 2014).  The pioneering theme-based collections are aimed at the casual consumer as opposed to the jazz aficionado (they're particularly popular with women), tapping into an eager audience for classic jazz music.  The series has been wildly successful having sold over three million units to date.   The highly appealing collections feature stylish covers and include over an hour's music each and includes classic tracks from legends within the jazz world—from the Count Basie Orchestra, to Dizzy Gillespie, Judy Garland and many others.  Jazz for Spring, Jazz at the Movies and Jazz in the Afternoon with Cole—Celebrating the Songs of Cole Porter will be released on Savoy Jazz April 15th.

Track Listings:
Jazz For Spring
1. "April In Paris" / Count Basie Orchestra
2. "Almost Like Being In Love" / Hank Jones
3. "Stompin' At The Savoy" / Jo Jones
4. "Spring Is Here" / Bobby Hutcherson
5. "Joy Spring" / Larry Corryell
6. "With A Song In My Heart" / Jim Hall
7. "You Are My Sunshine" / Ann Hampton Calloway
8. "Confirmation" / Hank Jones
9. "It Might As Well Be Spring" / Woody Shaw
10. "S'Wonderful" / Herbie Nichols Quartet
11. "It Could Happen To You" / Kenny Burrell
12. "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" / Houston Person & Ron Carter
13. "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" / Dizzy Gillespie
14. "Nearness Of You" / Judy Garland
15. "Bye Bye Blackbird" / Red Garland

Jazz At The Movies
1. "Over The Rainbow" / Judy Garland
2. "The Way You Look Tonight" / Art Pepper
3. "But Beautiful" / Kenny Burrell
4. "Emily" / Al Cohn & Zoot Sims
5. "Stella By Starlight" / Red Rodney
6. "The Bad And The Beautiful" / Mark Murphy
7. "On Green Dolphin Street" / Archie Shepp
8. "Round Midnight" / Hank Jones
9. "The Very Thought Of You" / Tommy Flanagan
10. "Smile" / Jimmy Scott
11. "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" / Sonny Stitt
12. "My Ideal" / Sonny Criss
13. "My Shining Hour" / Larry Coryell
14. "When You Wish Upon A Star" / Eliane Elias
15. "Moon River" / Judy Garland

Jazz In The Afternoon With Cole: Celebrating The Songs Of Cole Porter
1. "Be A Clown" / Judy Garland
2. "Night And Day" / Billy Taylor
3. "Just One Of Those Things" / Stephane Grappelli
4. "I Am Loved" / Judy Garland
5. "Love For Sale" / Wallace Roney
6. "It's All Right With Me" / Red Garland
7. "Easy To Love" / Freddy Cole
8. "Rosalie" / Erroll Garner
9. "What Is This Thing Called Love" / JJ Johnson
10. "Begin The Beguine" / Nobuo Hara And His Sharps & Flats
11. "I Concentrate On You" / Sheila Jordan
12. "In The Still Of The Night" / Kenny Burrell
13. "I Am In Love" / Bobby Hutcherson
14. "I Love You" / Judy Garland
15. "Everytime We Say Goodbye" / Mulgrew Miller

HALIE LOREN NOMINATED FOR 13TH INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS

An award-winning jazz singer/songwriter who brings a classic feel yet entirely fresh perspective to songs ranging from American Songbook standards to re-thought pop hits to original compositions, Halie Loren of Eugene, Oregon joins nearly 400 exceptional self-released and independent label artists named by Music Resource Group (MRG) as Nominees in The 13th Independent Music Awards (The IMAs), the influential awards program for independent artists and fans.

The nominations in more than 80 Album, Song, EP, Music Producer, Music Video and Design categories were culled from thousands of submissions from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Greenland and Europe.

Loren has two original songs nominated from her 2013 CD release, Simply Love - 'Cuando Bailamos', co-written with Larry Wayne Clark, nominated in the Jazz Vocal category and 'Simply Love', co-written with Benita Hill, is nominated in the Acoustic categories.  Says Loren, "I feel so honored that my songs are being considered in this year's IMAs! It's a thrill to be recognized alongside such a talented and diverse array of other artists and writers, and to be able to say to my always-generous and sweet fans "Please vote for my songs in the Independent Music Awards!" Somehow that phrase just never gets old, and I sure am thankful to be able to say it again this year!"

The 13th IMA Nominees represent an eclectic mix of established and rising talent including Melissa Ferrick, Vienna Teng, Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Elizabeth Mitchell are among many other deserving artists whose recordings were released during the 13th IMA program eligibility period.

Winners will be determined by a panel of influential artist and industry judges including Ann Wilson & Nancy Wilson, Sharon Jones, Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chiddy Bang, Shelby Lynne, Joshua Redman, G. Love, Aoife O'Donovan, Jim Lauderdale, Chris Wood & Oliver Wood, Band Of Skulls, Judy Collins, Raul Midon, Bernie Worrell, Dennis Diken, Arturo Sandoval, Alan Light (Live From The Artists Den), Terry McBride (Nettwerk Music Group), Kevin Lyman (Vans Warped Tour), Jason Olaine (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone), Hillary McAndrew Plate (Lincoln Center) Bob Ludwig (Gateway Mastering), Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records), Evan Schlansky (American Songwriter), Delphine Robertson (Playtone Productions), Benji Rogers (PledgeMusic), Megan West (SoundCloud) and others.

In addition to industry-determined Winners, music fans from around the world have until Friday, July 18, 2014 to cast their votes at The IMA Vox Pop Jukebox to determine the fan-selected program winners. The Independent Music Award Winners will be promoted to nearly 1 Billion music fans worldwide. Details and complete list of Nominees and Judges available at: TheIndependentMusicAwards.com


Friday, April 11, 2014

NEW RELEASES: STELVIO CIPRIANI - CONCORDE AFFAIR '79; MIKE MARSHALL & THE TURTLE QUARTET; JONATHAN SIGEL - HARD WATER

STELVIO CIPRIANI - CONCORDE AFFAIR '79 ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK

A really great little soundtrack – one that's got a sound that's as sexy and sophisticated as you might guess from the cover and title – served up by Italian 70s genius Stelvio Cipriani! Stelvio proves himself to be a giant both on the funky numbers and the mellower moments – the former done with these cool stepping basslines mixed with really sweet keyboards – the latter served up with slinky strings that echo some of the best Italian erotic styles of the time, complete with some great watery touches on the production! This masterful reissue really expands past the original 12 track album – to offer up an addition 15 bonus cuts, wrapped up in a lovely-looking package as well. Titles include "Affaire Theme", "Danger Call", "Martinica Feeling", "Soft Dream", "Safe Landing", "Concorde Combo", "Percussion Theme", "Life Alert", and "Suspense Drums". ~ Dusty Groove

MIKE MARSHALL & THE TURTLE QUARTET

A really beautiful setting for the mandolin of Mike Marshall – a set that features his lead instrument alongside the Turtle String Quartet! The group themselves are very open to new ideas, but also bring a very different vibe to the record than some of Marshall's other albums – not entirely a sense of classicism that would normally be associated with their format, but maybe a deepening of Marshall's Americanist vibe. Yet the group also adapt nicely to one of Mike's other loves, too – the music of Brazil – as they provide great accompaniment on a "Brazilian Choro Medley", and also a composition by Egberto Gismonti as well. Titles include the extended "Interplay" suite, plus "House Camp", "Loro", "Egypt", "Gator Strut", and "Crossroads". ~ Dusty Groove.


JONATHAN SIGEL - HARD WATER

Sweet soulful trumpet from Jonathan Sigel – an artist who's got a really great ear for the best fusion styles of the 70s – particularly work by some of the more R&B inflected trumpet players of the time! The grooves are awash in warm keyboard lines, and sometimes feature either a bit of vocals or sax – and although the record's an indie production, it's got this warm glow that takes us back to crossover classics by Herb Alpert or Chuck Mangione in the late 70s – with maybe some echoes of Freddie Hubbard's more R&B work too! Titles include "Partido", "Mr Why", "Orange Blossom", "Darkness & Light", "Journey To Plex", and "Agua Dura". ~ Dusty Groove


ARTURO O'FARRILL & THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA - THE OFFENSE OF THE DRUM

The new album, O’Farrill says, ”serves as a medium for changing the perception of big band music and Afro Latin Jazz by incorporating hip-hop, DJ techniques, and spoken word.” The 75-minute recording ”is a collection of the great new commissions we’ve been working on from our annual Symphony Space season,” he explains. Special guests on the recording include Vijay Iyer, DJ Logic, Edmar Castañeda, Donald Harrison, Pablo Mayor, Miguel Blanco, Antonio Lizana, Jason Lindner, Christopher “Chilo” Cajigas and others, all of whom infuse the recording with the music of New York City, Spain, Colombia, Cuba and New Orleans, all regions that gave birth to the jazz aesthetic.

The Offense of the Drum examines the role of the drum as a vehicle for resistance and liberation, with references to the oppressive policies set forth by New York City police in the ’90s. Regarding the title of the album, Arturo notes, “The drum is an amazing communication tool. It’s a way to connect diverse communities, and is really the heartbeat of our cultures. So, the drum can be seen as offensive to those in power, who try and control our freedom of expression.” A two-part title suite, “The Offense of the Drum: The Oppressor & The Liberator,” is the flagship composition on the album inspired by drum circles in NYC being outlawed, and reflecting the idea that the drum is so politically charged as a means for change.

O’Farrill’s latest recording spotlights percussion from almost every corner of the world, featuring 35 different types of drums: the taiko drum from Japan, djembe from Africa, barriles and bombas from Puerto Rico, tumbadoras from Cuba, bombos from Colombia, cajons, maracas, bongos, shekeres, claves, cowbells, cuicas, tambourines, timbales and turntables. The Offense of the Drum is part of an ongoing commitment by the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, an eighteen-piece big band, to expand the very definition of Latin Jazz, with the drum taking center stage. O’Farrill notes, “Jazz is practiced best in the presence of drums, and enhanced by the presence of drum work. Jazz has really moved away from this, but the drum sets the spirit soaring. In fact, with this album we’ve overcome many constraints of jazz. We are embracing multiple cultures with the use of the drum, while introducing a contemporary exchange of innovative new music.”

”Trying to put into words the multitude of sounds on this album is a difficult task,” says executive producer Kabir Sehgal. “Arturo is many things: maestro, composer, pianist, bandleader, father, son, husband and friend. Most of all, he displays a mighty spirit, enshrined with generosity and love. This album is as much a sacrament of his soul — as it is a meditation on the drumbeats of life.”

The Offense of the Drum is co-produced by O’Farrill, Todd Barkan, Eric Oberstein and Kabir Sehgal, and will be nationally released by Motéma Music in May 2014 in connection with the Apollo Theater performance.

The Apollo Theater Commissions New Work from Arturo O’Farrill:
Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater has enlisted O’Farrill to present newly commissioned work as part of its 80th anniversary program. Coinciding with the 65th anniversary of his father, Afro Latin music pioneer Chico O’Farrill’s (1921-2001) historic ”Afro Cuban Jazz Suite” – a centerpiece of the Afro Cuban Jazz repertoire — Arturo will feature this seminal work along with the world premiere of his “Afro Latin Jazz Suite” at the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival @ the Apollo Theater on Saturday, May 10, 2014. Just as the original score of Chico’s piece included the greatest jazz upstarts of the time, including Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Flip Phillips, Arturo’s band will showcase today’s equivalents such as Guggenheim fellow Rudresh Mahanthappa, NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, saxophone legend Billy Harper, master drummer Lewis Nash, Afro-Peruvian percussion maestro Freddy ”Huevito” Lobatón, and Brazilian percussionist Café. Also part of the Apollo Theater programming is Randy Weston’s “African Sunrise Suite,” which was composed by Weston, and arranged by Melba Liston. The evening serves as the CD release event for Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s latest recording, The Offense of the Drum (Motéma Music: May 2014).


MONTY ALEXANDER, PIANIST, COMPOSER, AND BANDLEADER, CELEBRATES 70th BIRTHDAY WITH RELEASE OF HARLEM-KINGSTON EXPRESS VOL. 2: THE RIVER ROLLS ON

Throughout a career spanning six decades, the New York-based artist Monty Alexander has garnered acclaim for bridging American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica. The New York Times recently described him as “an effervescent pianist and one of Jamaica’s proudest musical exports.” The Wall Street Journal has by turns called him “maybe the first—and certainly the most successful—musician to combine Jamaican music with North American jazz” and said that, “Alexander’s blend of jazz and reggae makes for an outrageously good time.” On April 8, just before Alexander celebrates his 70th birthday, Motéma Music will release Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On, the most seamless integration to date of Alexander’s dual musical heritage.

Although it accomplished a (seemingly) simple musical hybridization, the eponymous first release from the Harlem-Kingston Express was not a concept album—at least not deliberately so. The recording came about serendipitously: It is a 2011 concert at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York City, for which Alexander merged his jazz trio with a full Jamaican rhythm section, recorded for broadcast on Sirius XM. Jana Herzen, founder of Motéma Music, was so moved by the set that she arranged to release it on her label. The album turned out to be one of the most acclaimed entries in Alexander’s vast body of work, which includes over 70 recordings with Alexander as leader. Harlem-Kingston Express elicited an equally warm embrace from reggae and jazz fans and critics, and was nominated for a 2012 GRAMMY for Best Reggae Album.

For the new album, Alexander convened the band for its first studio recordings—primarily at New York City’s Avatar and Dubway. In addition to band members from the project’s first volume—Alexander (piano), Hassan Shakur (acoustic bass), Karl Wright and Obed Calvaire (drums), Andy Bassford and Yotam Silberstein (guitars)—the collection features the keyboardist Earl Appleton, the electric bassist Joshua Thomas and the percussionist Courtney Panton. They perform a mix of Alexander originals (which are themselves steeped in both Caribbean music and American jazz and R&B) and Alexander interpretations of classics, from the soul hits “People Make the World Go Round” and “What’s Going On” (here with the alias “Wa’a Gwan”) to Jimmy Cliff’s reggae landmark “The Harder They Come.” Alexander’s wife, the French-Italian chanteuse Caterina Zapponi, joins him and the band on the album’s title track.

The album also includes Alexander’s “Love Notes,” featuring his friends George Benson, Ramsey Lewis and Joe Sample; a live version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” recorded live in 2005 with vocalist Wendel Ferraro; and previously unreleased live recordings of the Jamaican folk song “Linstead Market” and Alexander’s “Regulator (Reggae-Later),” both from the original 2011 Harlem-Kingston Express concert at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.

Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2: The River Rolls On at once encapsulates the current moment in Alexander’s singular career and finds him returning to its earlier stages: both his teenage years, when he played on sessions helmed by pioneering reggae producers Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid and Chris Blackwell, and his first decades in the U.S., when he had the occasion to record and perform with icons such as Frank Sinatra, Milt Jackson and Ray Brown, among countless others.

Born on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, he took his first piano lessons at age six, although he is largely self-taught. As a teenager, he witnessed concerts by Louis Armstrong and Nat “King” Cole at Kingston’s Carib Theater. These artists had a profound effect on Alexander’s aspirations. He formed Monty and the Cyclones in the late 1950s and also recorded on sessions with the musicians who would catapult Jamaican music to international recognition as The Skatalites (Bob Marley’s first backing band).

Alexander and his family came to the United States at the end of 1961. Less than two years later, while playing in Las Vegas with Art Mooney’s orchestra, he caught the eye of New York City club owner Jilly Rizzo and his friend, Frank Sinatra. Rizzo hired the young pianist to work in his club, Jilly’s, where he accompanied Sinatra and others. There he met Modern Jazz Quartet vibraphonist Milt Jackson, who hired him and eventually introduced him to former Charlie Parker collaborator and legendary bassist Ray Brown. Alexander recorded and performed with the two jazz giants on many occasions. Jazz’s greatest luminaries welcomed Alexander to their “musical fraternity” in the mid-1960s. Among these earliest enthusiasts for his playing were none other than Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Miles Davis.

Monty Alexander’s collaborations span multiple genres, styles, and generations. His projects have been as varied as assisting Natalie Cole in her tribute album to her father, Nat “King” Cole in 1991 (the resulting album, Unforgettable, won seven Grammy awards), performing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” under the direction of Bobby McFerrin at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, and recording the piano track for the film score of Clint Eastwood’s Bird, a movie about the life of jazz titan Charlie Parker.

In August 2000, the Jamaican government awarded Monty Alexander the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador.

In Hal Leonard’s 2005 book The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time, Alexander was listed among the top five Jazz pianists of all time.

Alexander maintains a rigorous touring schedule worldwide, playing in jazz clubs, concert halls and playing at international Jazz Festivals in the USA and across continents; from Europe to Asia; in Montreux, Switzerland; Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; and Japan, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, etc.

To date Monty Alexander has recorded over 70 albums as a leader. His collaboration with Telarc label yielded trio sessions (Impressions in Blue) and live concert recordings (Goin’ Yard). In the late summer of 2005, Alexander traveled to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, and teamed up with Jamaican top session players to record Concrete Jungle, a set of twelve compositions penned by Bob Marley and reinterpreted via Alexander’s jazz piano-oriented arrangements. The resulting union of musical perspectives digs deep into the Marley legend and brings together the two worlds that Alexander most treasures, building the musical bridges that are the very essence of his craft.

As a testament to his versatility, The Good Life, on Chesky Records is a collection of songs written and popularized by one of his all-time favorite artists and good friends, Tony Bennett. His second release on Chesky, Calypso Blues, is tribute to another one of his heroes, Nat “King” Cole.

In 2008, with the invitation of Wynton Marsalis, Alexander conceived and directed the acclaimed program Lords of the West Indies at Jazz at Lincoln Center, broadcast nationally on BETJ. Alexander returned to Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2009 with a new program, Harlem Kingston Express in which he merged classic Jazz with rhythms and vibrations of his native Jamaica.

In the winter of 2008 American singer and icon, Tony Bennett personally invited Monty to record as the featured pianist on his Christmas album, A Swinging Christmas, with the Count Basie Orchestra. Monty can be spotted on the album cover, holding a turkey next to Tony Bennett.

Two collections were released in 2011 that capture the excitement of Monty Alexander’s live performances around the world: Uplift, a trio album on JLP Records, and Harlem-Kingston Express on Motema Music.

Harlem Kinston Express: Live! was singled out by both the recording industry and fans and received a Grammy award nomination in 2012.

Between Uplift and Harlem-Kingston Express: Live! Monty Alexander has officially dominated the US radio charts with three number 1 spots in 2011, as not only Uplift remained at number 1 for several weeks but Harlem-Kingston Express: Live! rose to number 1 on Jazz charts and on World Music charts concurrently.

In the summer of 2012 Monty Alexander was awarded the prestigious German Jazz Trophy, “A Life for Jazz” and in November 2012 he received the Caribbean American Heritage Luminary Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington, D.C.

 

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