Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Johnny Mathis - Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head & Sings the Music of Bacharach & Kaempfert

Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records have kicked off a new series celebrating
the legendary Johnny Mathis’ classic albums of the 1970s and onward with the first-ever expanded CD edition (and standalone U.S. CD premiere!) of the artist’s very first LP of the 1970s. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head was titled after Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Academy Award-winning hit from the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. On Raindrops, Mathis reinterpreted the popular hits of the day in his signature velvety smooth style, aided and abetted by the lush orchestras of Ernie Freeman and Al Capps, and the production of Columbia Records veteran Jack Gold. In addition to Bacharach and David, also represented by Johnny’s hit “Odds and Ends” and “Alfie,” the original album features his renditions of songs by Jimmy Webb (“Honey Come Back”), George Harrison (“Something”), Paul Simon (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), John Barry (“Midnight Cowboy”), and Rod McKuen (“Jean”)—a true “Who’s Who.” The expanded Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head has been bolstered with ve bonus non-LP singles from Mathis’ return to Columbia Records circa 1968-1970, including Bacharach and David’s “Whoever You Are, I Love You” from their Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Promises, Promises; Bert Kaempfert’s “Night Dreams;” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wherefore and Why,” arranged by Harry Nilsson’s frequent collaborator, Perry Botkin, Jr.! The blues they sent to meet you won’t defeat you with this newly-expanded edition of one of Johnny’s most beloved albums!

1. Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
2. Honey Come Back
3. Watch What Happens
4. Something
5. Alfie
6. Midnight Cowboy
7. A Man and a Woman
8. Odds and Ends
9. Jean
10. Everybody's Talkin'
11. Bridge over Troubled Water
12. Night Dreams
13. Whoever You Are, I Love You
14. For All We Know
15. Wherefore and Why
16. The Last Time I Saw Her
In a career spanning over 60 years, Johnny Mathis has always had an unerring ear for a song...witness his new, 2017 album featuring his recordings of future standards by Adele, Bruno Mars, and Pharrell Williams. At the dawn of the 1970s, Mathis was celebrating the great songwriters of that day, too, with a double album entitled Johnny Mathis Sings the Music of Bacharach and Kaempfert. Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to inaugurate a series of Johnny’s greatest albums of the 1970s and beyond on CD with the first-ever expanded reissue of The Music of Bacharach and Kaempfert. Bert Kaempfert may not have achieved the same name recognition in the U.S. as Burt Bacharach, but Kaempfert’s contributions to the standards songbook are indelible, thanks to such songs as “Danke Schoen,” “Spanish Eyes,” “Strangers in the Night,” and “L-O-V-E,” all of which are sung in Johnny’s inimitably intimate style on this collection. Johnny was joined by German arranger-conductor Herbert Rehbein, a close collaborator of Kaempfert’s, for these very special sessions. Johnny’s relationship with Burt Bacharach dated to the late 1950s with classics including “Heavenly” and “Faithfully.” Soon, Bacharach’s style would de ne the sound of the 1960s, and Johnny was bringing his individual stamp to “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” All of these songs and more are featured on Mathis’ Bacharach salute. In true Real Gone/ Second Disc style, though, that’s not all! We’ve added ve rare bonus tracks to this already jam-packed double album: Bert Kaempfert’s “It Makes No Difference,” originally issued only in the U.K., and four hits by Burt Bacharach and Hal David including their very rst song with Johnny, “Warm and Tender,” and three more favorites from Johnny’s Global Records period! Mathis + 1 Burt + 1 Bert = Johnny Mathis Sings the Music of Bacharach and Kaempfert, or 26 tracks of musical bliss!

1. Wonderland by Night
2. Spanish Eyes
3. The Lady Smiles
4. Danke Schoen
5. The Times Will Change
6. Remember When (We Made These Memories)
7. Strangers in the Night
8. Don't Stay
9. If There's a Way
10. Lady
11. L-O-V-E
12. It Makes No Difference
13. Walk On By
14. The Look of Love
15. I Say a Little Prayer
16. Heavenly
17. This Guy's in Love with You
18. I'll Never Fall in Love Again
19. Alfie
20. Odds and Ends
21. Faithfully
22. Don't Go Breakin' My Heart
23. Warm and Tender
24. What the World Needs Now Is Love
25. Saturday Sunshine
26. (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me

Jackie DeShannon: Stone Cold Soul—The Complete Capitol Recordings Presents All 25 Sides Recorded for Capitol

Author of Such Iconic Anthems as “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” Jackie DeShannon is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of her generation.

After a decade spent at Liberty/Imperial Records, Jackie was wooed away by Capitol Records in 1971. The label first sent Jackie to Memphis’ American Recording Studios to record sessions with producer Chips Moman

After spending the first full decade of her recording career at Liberty/ Imperial Records, where she immortalized such iconic anthems as “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon was wooed away to Capitol Records in 1971. Upon landing at her new label, the Kentucky-born DeShannon was dispatched to Memphis’ American Recording Studios, where, with producer Chips Moman and a crack band consisting of Bobby Emmons and Bobby Woods on keyboards, Reggie Young on electric guitar, Mike Leach on Bass, Johnny Christopher on acoustic guitar, and Gene Crisman on drums, she recorded a flavorful mix that embraced her Southern soul roots blended with country, gospel, and pop. 

The wide-ranging repertoire included the DeShannon originals “West Virginia Mine” and “Now That the Desert Is Blooming” along with songs by George Harrison (“Isn’t It a Pity”), Van Morrison (“And It Stoned Me”), Carole King & Gerry Gof n (“Child of Mine”), Emitt Rhodes (“Live till You Die”), Arlo Guthrie (“Gabriel’s Mother’s Highway”), Spooner Oldham & Dan Penn (“Sweet Inspiration”), and others. But those tracks inexplicably remained in the vaults, leapfrogged by the tracks DeShannon cut at Capitol Studios upon returning to California that turned into her Songs album. In fact, of the Memphis tracks, only a single (“Stone Cold Soul”) and a lone track on Songs (“Show Me”) were released at the time. 

The rest of the Songs album, co-produced by DeShannon with Eric Malamud and John Palladino, featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” (retitled “Lay, Baby, Lay”) and Hoyt Axton’s “Ease Your Pain” plus a shimmering trio of DeShannon originals: “Salinas,” “Bad Water,” and a remake of “West Virginia Mine.”  DeShannon’s stay at Capitol proved to be short-lived; legendary producer Jerry Wexler bought out her contract to bring her to Atlantic Records, leaving most of Jackie’s Memphis masters unreleased. Some of those masters emerged as part of a long-out-of-print UK collection decades later, but now, for the first time, all 25 of Jackie’s Capitol recordings are available on this Real Gone Music compilation. Stone Cold Soul—The Complete Capitol Recordings presents Jackie’s rare Memphis tracks including 5 previously unreleased titles along with her Songs album. The CD also offers a stunning selection of never-before-seen period photographs from her personal collection along with in-depth liner notes from Joe Marchese taken from an interview with Jackie. Remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision, Stone Cold Soul offers essential listening for any Jackie DeShannon fan or vintage roots-rocker!

1. You Don't Miss Your Water (Til Your Well Runs Dry)
2. Stone Cold Soul
3. West Virginia Mine (Original Version)
4. Child of Mine
5. Live Till You Die
6. Makes You Beautiful
7. Seven Years from Yesterday
8. They Got You Boy
9. Isn't It a Pity
10. Sweet Inspiration
11. Johnny Joe from California
12. Now That the Desert Is Blooming
13. Sleepin' with Love
14. Gabriel's Mother's Highway
15. And It Stoned Me
16. Show Me
17. Keep Me Warm
18. Lay, Baby, Lay
19. Down by the Riverside
20. International
21. Sunny Days
22. Salinas
23. Bad Water
24. Ease Your Pain
25. West Virginia Mine (Version 2)

Flutist Andrea Brachfeld Releases "If Not Now, When?"

Andrea Brachfeld If Not Now When The "incredible clarity of purpose" flutist-composer Andrea Brachfeld gained after spending 2016 in deep introspection about her life and music generated the nine original compositions on her exhilarating new album If Not Now, When?, which is set for May 18 release by Jazzheads Records. The quartet outing, featuring the dynamic rhythm section of pianist, arranger, co-composer, and co-producer Bill O'Connell, a longtime collaborator, as well as bassist Harvie S and drummer Jason Tiemann, is an uncompromising manifestation of music Brachfeld recalls came to her on a cold day in January 2017.

"It seems that music always chooses me, and I very politely acquiesce to its energy. This has been my journey throughout my life and If Not Now, When? is no exception," she explains. "Of all my projects, this recording is the closest yet to my heart. Every note felt good in my body."

The album's song titles, which include "The Listening Song," "Creating Space," "The Silence," "Anima Mea," "Deeply I Live," and "Moving Forward," allude to the year Brachfeld spent on an inner journey meditating as opposed to composing, an experience that was clearly cathartic. "The way I composed all of the songs was like taking a huge block of marble and chopping away until I got the image inside the marble," she says. "It was about seeing what melodies came out and working on them until they felt right."

A grant from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the CD -- "a wonderful affirmation" -- assured Brachfeld she was on the right path. "In the end," she says, "it's all about your voice, your journey to find your voice."
Brachfeld's flute playing has what the late New York Times critic John S. Wilson described as a "vigorously dark, gutty quality." It's no wonder the first jazz flutist to turn her head was free jazz pioneer Eric Dolphy. In her music, that energy she described can pour out to bruising effect. "If you want to play jazz, you have to be able to get the articulation of Charlie Parker, to make the instrument sound like a trumpet or saxophone," says Brachfeld. "With a lot of flute players, I don't hear those articulations."

Andrea Brachfeld was born May 3, 1954 in Utica, NY and raised in New York City. She began playing piano at age six and flute at 10. In 1969, she enrolled at the High School of Music & Art, and, at 16, got her first jazz gig, playing her own pieces with her quartet at an "All Night Soul" presentation at St. Peter's Church. She attended Saturday morning Jazzmobile workshops; Jimmy Heath was one of her flute instructors.

She went on to study flute at the Manhattan School of Music, where her fellow students included Kenny Kirkland, Fred Hersch, and Angela Bofill. After connecting with the Charanga band Tipica New York, Brachfeld recorded with the legendary band Charanga '76, which catapulted her to fame as the first woman to play flute with a Charanga band in the United States.

Andrea Brachfeld Brachfeld recorded her first album, Andrea (1978), with Tito Puente percussionist José Madera producing. A year later, she accepted an invitation to perform in Venezuela and ended up staying for two and a half years, during which time she led her own group, opening for such visiting luminaries as GaryBurton, Chick Corea, and Paco de Lucia.

When she returned home to New York in 1981, she devoted herself to her family and attended graduate school, acquiring a Master's in education. For nearly 25 years, she taught ESL and bilingual education while maintaining a local profile as a musician.

Then, in 1998, Brachfeld approached acclaimed jazz flutist (and former high school classmate) Dave Valentin with material she had written and asked if he wanted to record any of it. "His response was, 'I want you to record it.'" That she did, acting as her own producer on 2002's Latin-tinged Remembered Dreams (Spirit Nectar). Over the next decade and a half she would release a half dozen albums, eventually moving away from Latin music and back toward her first love, bebop.

Andrea Brachfeld will be performing at the following venues (all dates with Insight -- Bill O'Connell, piano; Harvie S, bass; Jason Tiemann, drums -- except as indicated): 4/28 The Jazz Loft, Stony Brook, NY; 4/29 An Die Musik, Baltimore; 5/18 Trumpets, Montclair, NJ; 6/18 Triad Theater, NYC; 8/10 Pavillion Café, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (with Bill O'Connell, piano; Lincoln Goines, bass; Robby Ameen, drums); 8/25 Long Branch (NJ) Jazz & Blues Festival; 10/4-7 La Cote Flute Festival, Gland, Switzerland; 10/12 Flushing (NY) Town Hall. 



‘LillyGood Party!’ is the brand new BBE compilation from highly respected Swiss DJ Alex Attias. Taking its name from a party he runs in his native Lausanne, LillyGood has gradually evolved into a radio show and even a label, now on its 4th release. Reflecting the music he plays at the club-night, ‘LillyGood Party!’ is packed with funk, disco, deep house and boogie bullets from across the globe. “The idea is to present not only rare or difficult tracks to find, simply good grooves for people to play out, or listen to at home.” From rare Japanese disco gems, through spiritual jazz, to genre defying sounds from broken-beat cohorts Kaidi Tatham and Dego, LillyGood Party! takes a unique trip inside the musical mind of one of dance music’s true nonconformists. Alex Attias got his start in back in ’88 playing funk, house, jazz, and disco, as well as producing under various monikers such as Mustang, Freedom Soundz or Beatless. Moving to London in ’97 he started his ‘Visions’ label and found himself at the epicentre of the emerging West London ‘Broken Beat’ scene which grew around his studio at Goya. Releases on People, Planet E, Ubiquity, Neroli, Archive and Compost followed, as well as remixes for Incognito, 4Hero, Ennio Morricone, Sun RA, Art Blakey, Roni Size and Laurent Garnier among others.


The most righteous cover we've ever seen on a record from reedman Salim Washington – and a great indication of how righteous the music inside is as well! Salim has quietly been giving us genius over the past 20 years or so – and this album really continues that legacy – reaching back to 70s modes of spiritual jazz and loft improvisation, but really finding a way for those older modes to resonate strongly in the new millennium – as Washington leads a core trio that balances his work with the drums of Tyshawn Sorey and bass of Hill Greene – both inventive younger players whose sense of rhythm and texture really bring something new to the table, and push the music out of any stale older modes. Melanie Dyer plays viola on two tracks, and also provides a recitation of Amiri Baraka's "New Invasion Of Africa" – and Salim plays tenor, flute, oboe, and mbira. Titles include "Jamila", "Bitter Sweet", "To Know Yaweh", "Uh Oh", "Four In One", "You Can Fly", "Self Love/Revolutionary Ontology", and a version of Julius Hemphill's "Dogon AD".  © 1996-2018, Dusty Groove, Inc.


Bosq’s aptly titled third full-length effort “Love & Resistance” is a collection of songs that reflect a producer’s continuing emergence by diving deeper into his influences. The strains of Afro and Latin flavors are interwoven and still heavily permeate but the underlying groove and rhythms have taken on a more modern, jazz-funk and disco-soul vibe with nods to Bobby Caldwell, Roy Ayers, the Mizell brothers and Nile Rodgers’ Chic. Originally based out of Boston, MA but now calling Medellin, Colombia home, Bosq’s new surroundings have inspired him to create his most diverse and creative album to date. Already featuring the top tune “Can’t Seem To Hide” with Megan Doherty that made a splash off the gates as the first single from the album (10/10 rating from Mixmag), the whole album is soldered together with each track being a single-worthy release in it’s own right. Featuring guest vocalists on all but one of the tunes including frequent collaborators Kaleta, and Nicole Willis, along with Ray Lugo who’s known for his work in Kokolo and Boogaloo Destroyers. LA based singer Induce and new duo Lucid Paradise (E da Boss & Ishtar) along with vocalist Bruno Morais whose classic Brazilian voice is reminiscent of Jorge Ben round out the cast of Bosq’s most vocally varied album work to date, reflecting both his growth as an artist and his willingness to push his own sonic boundaries. A relentless work ethic fused with a broad and varied music palette all attuned to the groove and a focus on making folks move has led to numerous remix projects, most recently with legendary Benin-based Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou. With a steadily growing fan base and reputation amongst fellow artists and musicians, Bosq’s immediate future is already laden with releases lined up for Fania and his collaborative effort Body Music alongside The Rapture’s Vito Roccoforte.

Django Festival AllStars Set to Release First Studio Album "Attitude Manouche"

Among nomadic peoples like the gypsies, the oral tradition is central to keeping a heritage alive. Customs, beliefs, stories and, of course, music must be passed down from one generation to the next, always honored but continuously evolved and updated as time marches on. With their new album, Attitude Manouche (available June 15 on Resilience Music Alliance), the Django Festival AllStars carry on that tradition in their own way, as modern-day virtuoso Samson Schmitt steps into the crucial lead guitar role long held by his father, legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Dorado Schmitt.

Attitude Manouche reveals that Samson Schmitt has inherited those vital qualities, and brings them to a thrilling new take on the gypsy jazz tradition. The Django Festival AllStars reinterpret Django Reinhardt’s vision through a set of new music that carries forward their namesake’s vision in a way that both honors his legacy while giving them a thoroughly contemporary twist.

While the AllStars’ name represents a community of gifted artists who collaborate in different line-ups depending on the performance, the quintet on Attitude Manouche have forged a distinctive voice together as all are featured soloist which join Schmitt. Ludovic Beier is a renowned accordionist and player of the accordina, Pierre Blanchard a virtuoso of the violin and Grappelli prodigy, Dou Dou Cuillerier – scat singer and rhythm guitarist, and the only Italian – Antonio Licusati on bass: five master musicians with their own innovative voices within this storied tradition.

“We have a great passion for playing music together and for trying to create a new sound,” Beier says. “Every musician is different, but we’ve succeeded in creating a common music together that lets everybody express ourselves very well. That’s really important and also very rare.”

The title of Attitude Manouche reflects the fact that while these French and Italian musicians may not share Reinhardt’s Manouche heritage by blood, they all reflect that heritage in their souls. That’s abundantly clear in the set of mostly original music that makes up the album, which fluidly and spiritedly combines the gypsy jazz tradition with influences from modern jazz, classical music, other world music, and even film scores.

The latter comes to the fore on the album’s sole non-original tune, the main theme from John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score for Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. The AllStars’ rendition not only moving renders an achingly beautiful piece of music, but pays heartfelt tribute to the gypsy people who were victims of the Nazi regime. “A lot of gypsies were deported to concentration camps along with the Jewish community,” Beier explains. “We wanted to pay tribute to that very dark period of history, so we decided to create an arrangement for that song mixing gypsy swing with Jewish traditional music, spearheaded by violinist Pierre Blanchard.” This track in particular coincides strongly with the mission of Resilience Music Alliance, founded by social and political activist Steve Ruchefsky, in celebrating the human driven condition of resilience.

The album opens with Samson Schmitt’s buoyant title track, which in itself is almost a mission statement, fully representing the classic gypsy swing sound but with a modern-day edge. “In that song we can recognize a lot of the gypsy jazz swing and harmonies,” Beier says, “but this is definitely something composed in 2018. It pays tribute to tradition but is open to our own time. That’s our attitude.”

Beier’s lively “Late Train” takes a similar approach, briskly combining the Reinhardt sound with ideas from ‘60s-era jazz greats like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Another legend is paid explicit homage on “Around Toots,” as the accordionist pays touching homage to the late harmonica master Toots Thielemann, with whom Beier had the honor and pleasure of performing. “Laugh With Charlie” winks at the complex figure of filmmaker, comedian and composer Charlie Chaplin in a piece that combines jazz and classical influences with a necessary sense of joyous humor, composed by Samson Schmitt.

Other cultural traditions blend into the sound on tracks like the sultry “Troublant Romeo,” (also by Blanchard) a simmering tango that heats up for some intense soloing. Blanchard’s “Balkanic Dance” finds an unexpected common ground between the gypsy sound and Turkish folk music. The album closes with Beier’s “Tsigane Fantasy,” a reference to the band’s European heritage that takes its name from the generic European word for “gypsy.”

While audiences always thrill at the AllStars’ ability to take blistering runs at breakneck speeds, the band is equally adept at pulling at their listeners’ heartstrings. Take Schmitt’s “Lovely Wife,” a tender ballad that wrings maximum emotion from a plainspoken melody. “Nocturne” is another relaxed Blanchard tune that feels like the wind-down of a hectic day, the perfect soundtrack for a moment’s pause to reflect as the sun begins to set.

The Django Festival AllStars’ eclectic and forward-looking repertoire reimagines Reinhardt’s pioneering sound for modern ears, and in that way, is a fitting tribute to the icon whose name they proudly bear. “Django passed away more than 50 years ago,” says Pat Philips-Stratta, who produced the album. “But I think if he was here today he would be exploring new fields and bringing them into his music. We add new experiences and new influences, but when the audience listens to our music they can hear Django Reinhardt’s legacy. That’s very important to us.”

The release of Attitude Manouche is preceded by a very special concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City on May 1. With Forever Django: Passing the Torch, the AllStars will celebrate the mantle being handed down from father to sons – not only Samson, but also his younger brother, guitarist Amati Schmitt. Both generations will share the stage along with special guests including GRAMMY® Award-winning vocalist Melody Gardot and top clarinetist Ken Peplowski. Additionally, up and coming vocalist Veronica Swift will appear as a guest. The concert will be dedicated to the late Ettore Stratta, the conductor, pianist, composer and producer who created the Django Reinhardt Festival along with his wife, Pat Philips-Stratta.

Django Festival AllStars · Attitude Manouche
Resilience Music Alliance · Release Date: June 15, 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018


Legendary drummer Bernard Purdie has left a huge legacy of music behind him – and here he adds to that legacy in a new small combo set – one that features core work from members of New Mastersounds and Pimps Of Joytime – and which also features Ivan Neville on keyboards, and Cyril Neville on some guest vocals! The groove here is pretty faithful – the set was recorded in Brooklyn, and doesn't have the too-commercial sound that it might if it were on a major label – and titles include "Elevate", "Cool Down", "Money Bags", "Deep In Love", "Stranded", "Frank Funk", "Better Man", and "The Golden Tie". ~ Dusty Groove


In 2018, esteemed pianist Kenny Barron will celebrate his 75th birthday and mark the 50th year of a remarkable recording career. The year will also be punctuated with yet another milestone with the May 4 release of his Blue Note debut Concentric Circles. The sublime 11-song set features new originals plus interpretations of songs by Caetano Veloso and Thelonious Monk, and introduces a new edition of the Kenny Barron Quintet with saxophonist Dayna Stephens, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa , and drummer Johnathan Blake. Hear the lead track "Blue Waters" on our Jazz Now! playlist."


Walter Wolfman Washington is a soulful musician as well as a deep thinker and hip philosopher and his hometown is New Orleans. Walter has cut his teeth for the last 50 years playing everywhere from European festivals to bars that you will never find on a map. New Orleans is notorious for its wildness, parades, and celebrations. New Orleans is Mardi Gras, but it’s also the uptown class of Allen Toussaint and hip style and language of Dr. John. Walter has always embodied both, but finally we have a set of songs that reflects the yin to Walter’s bring-the-party yang. ~ Dusty Groove

Vocalist Tiffany Austin Celebrates the Resilient Spirit of African-American Culture On Her Recording "Unbroken"

Tiffany Austin Unbroken With the June 1st release of Unbroken, on her Con Alma Music imprint, Tiffany Austin further solidifies her standing as one of the leading vocalists on the current international jazz scene.

Austin was propelled onto the national stage in 2016 when her debut recording, Nothing But Soul, received rave reviews from media outlets such as DownBeat and NPR's Fresh Air as well as airplay on jazz radio stations across the U.S. With her sophomore CD Unbroken, Austin has raised her artistry to a higher level both conceptually and musically. Her silky smooth voice has gained an earthy smokiness and a gravitas ideally suited to expressing her broadening, deepening artistic vision.

Unbroken is a soul-steeped affirmation embracing the blues and swing, spirituals and R&B, bebop, post-bop, and Austin's Louisiana Creole heritage. "I've experienced multiple instances of people trying to separate blues from jazz," Austin says. "How can you divide the music that comes from the same diaspora, the same spirit? The idea behind this album is that the African-American spirit remains unbroken. After all of the things we go through we're still here, joyfully creating great art and great music."

Produced by the Grammy Award-winning jazz advocate Richard Seidel and arranged by trombonist Mitch Butler, the music on Unbroken is impeccably executed by the rhythm section of pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer Carl Allen as well as Butler, veteran tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery, and the formidable young trumpeter Ashlin Parker. In addition to four originals, Austin penned lyrics for the arrangements of Charles Mingus's "Better Git It in Your Soul" and Ornette Coleman's "The Blessing."

The multi-generational band mirrors Unbroken's repertoire, which touches on several eras of African-American history. The album opens with two Austin compositions that speak to the vicious response that has sometimes met black accomplishment -- "Blues Creole" evokes the pioneering Louisiana Creole accordionist Amédé Ardoin, and the searing "Greenwood" connects Watts and Ferguson to the 1921 pogrom that wiped out Tulsa, Oklahoma's prosperous "Black Wall Street" neighborhood.

As if in direct response to these tales of oppression, Austin answers with a rollicking version of the old gospel song "Ain't No Grave," which builds to a glorious sanctified scat solo. She embraces the transformative power of love with a sumptuous "You Must Believe in Spring" and offers an object lesson in gratitude with her lyric for Ornette's early free bop invocation. Soaring to the heavens on Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free," Austin also summons the spirit with a wordless sojourn through Coltrane's "Resolution," scatting his entire solo note for note.

Unbroken closes with righteous marching orders by way of a riveting duet with Whitaker on the civil rights anthem "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize." The song provides the key to Austin's overarching argument, that whether the source is Sunday morning worship, Saturday night revelry, or an afternoon protest, African-American music is animated by a liberating imperative. "Freedom songs aren't only about freedom from an oppressor," she says. "It's about living your life soulfully. We must live with soulful connection to ourselves and our history."
Born and raised in South Los Angeles, Tiffany Austin grew up in a house filled with music. Her parents listened to soul and pop masters like Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, while her Louisiana Creole grandmother introduced her to jazz. Austin graduated from the prestigious Los Angeles High School of the Arts and then attended Cal State Northridge where she majored in creative writing, while studying classical voice.

After graduating in 2004, Austin set out for Tokyo with the plan that she'd look for work as a singer and spend a year in Japan. After finding regular work as an R&B chanteuse, Austin ended up staying in Tokyo through 2009 and only returned because UC Berkeley's School of Law made her a scholarship offer she couldn't refuse. Austin submerged herself in law school and left music behind but after her first year realized she desperately needed a musical outlet and began performing with bassist, composer, and bandleader Marcus Shelby on numerous projects, including the title role in Harriet's Spirit, an opera about Harriet Tubman. (She went on to earn her J.D.)

With a series of prestigious gigs and residencies, Austin quickly gained attention as the most exciting new vocalist in the region. Now, with Unbroken, Austin makes it clear that she's far more than a beautiful voice. Claiming her cultural birthright, she's an artist drawing nourishment from all of jazz's roots.

Tiffany Austin has planned a series of CD release concerts on the West Coast and in New York City: 6/7 Birdland, NYC; 6/29 Stanford Jazz Festival; 7/5 Kuumbwa, Santa Cruz; 8/11 SFJAZZ, San Francisco. At all but the Stanford date, Austin's septet will feature special guest Carl Allen; Cyrus Chestnut will be with Tiffany at Birdland.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Record Store Day is a celebration of the different groups that make up a record store- the store staff, the customers, and the artists. A very exciting part of the Day is the opportunity that it gives folks to come to a record store and get up close and personal with those who make the music. This year's Record Store Day has a fantastic lineup, at record stores all over the country. 

Speaking of all over the country, that's exactly where Mike Peters of The Alarm will be as he starts out in London with a Rough Trade in-store event, heads to Long Island NY for a stop at Looney Tunes, and then finishes his Record Store (Long) Day at Fingerprints in Long Beach!  Our first Transatlantic Record Store Day Tour! (More on that here: https://recordstoreday.com/NewsItem/7608)

About Record Store Day:

Record Store Day, the organization, is managed by the Department of Record Stores and is organized in partnership with the Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) and promotes independent record stores year-round with events, special releases and other fun things.

Record Store Day, the global celebration of the culture of the record store, takes place annually in April.

Record Store Day 2018 Sponsors:
ADA, Border City Media, Caroline, Crosley Turntables, Dr Martens Airwair USA, Dogfish Head Brewery, Furnace Record Pressing, Glowtronics, InGrooves, Music Business Association, MVD Entertainment, Okki Nokki, The Orchard, Redeye Distribution, Sony Music, ThinkIndie, URP Distribution, Universal Music Distribution, Vinyl Styl, Warner Bros. Records, WEA.



Cuban-born pianist Miguel de Armas proudly releases What's To Come, a debut album sure to expand his ever-widening audience. Long known as a stalwart in Havana, de Armas has synthesized the musics of his homeland with those from North America and Canada (where he now resides). It is an effortless weave of influences, fulfilling the promise of his working quartet and illuminating Miguel's mastery as an instrumentalist and group leader.
In 1988, Miguel was a graduate of the famed Instituto Superior de Arte, proving himself a rhythm master devoted to the multitude of sounds and influences surrounding Havana - rumbas, chants, the cadence of street life. They served as the basis for his own musical ideas.

He became a founding member of N.G. La Banda, the group that originated the Cuban salsa offshoot called timba. It proved successful, touring Lincoln Center, Montreux, Northsea and other festivals around the world due, in large part, to Miguel's innovations. He had defined an approach that utilized both acoustic and synthesized keyboards, a sound subsequently adopted in the development of Cuban music. That became his launching pad. Since then he has collaborated with a Who's Who of legends and appeared on more than 60 albums.

Miguel´s style draws heavily from the rich contributions of influential predecessors - among them, pianists Chucho Valdés, Emiliano Salvador and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. They have enabled him to create a sound distinctively his own.

Moreover, Miguel has become a musical activist from his new home in Ottawa, Canada, producing shows, inviting collaborations, encouraging stylistic partnerships that further his ideas and those of the greats who walked before him.

What's To Come provides the evidence. It's reach is varied and broad, encompassing elements of elegant danzón ("La Dama y el Perro"); bossas (the title track);and '80s symphonic rock ("A Song For My Little Son"). Special guests from Canada's musical community of Cuban specialists include recent Grammy nominee Jane Bunnett, guitarist Elmer Ferrer, trumpeter Alexis Baró, and bassist Roberto Riverón.

On this record, Miguel de Armas solidifies his place among Cuba's most distinguished musicians. The region that birthed the likes of Cachao, Omar Sosa, the multi-generational families of Valdés and O'Farrill, and countless others, now applauds another forward-thinker, a native son. Introducing Miguel de Armas.

Central Park’s SummerStage Presents: The 3 Sides of Damien Sneed: Classical, Jazz & Sanctified Soul

Photo Credit: Damien Seed.  Top row left to-right: Damien Sneed and Brandie Sutton.  Bottom row left-to-right Keke Wyatt and Stefon Harris

Central Park’s SummerStage Presents: The 3 Sides of Damien Sneed: Classical, Jazz & Sanctified Soul on June 30. The annual main stage concert event will feature Metropolitan Opera rising star Brandie Sutton and Grammy-nominated artists Stefon Harris and Keke Wyatt. Acclaimed vocalist Jazzmeia Horn will open the show.

“‘The 3 Sides of Damien Sneed’ is a milestone in my career,” said the Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient. “I’m finally able to showcase the various styles of music; I’ve been working hard at it since I was in elementary school. It hasn’t been an easy task trying to legitimately exist within three different genres [classical, jazz, and sanctified soul], but the journey has been worth it. I’m truly honored that I’ll be able to share the stage with Brandie Sutton, Stefon Harris, and Keke Wyatt, who are all at the top of their game. I am grateful to the Catskill Jazz Factory who connected me with SummerStage for this concert last year after my show they produced at the New York Botanical Gardens.”

Sneed has been putting the final touches on his three-album, multi-genre project, “The 3 Sides of Damien Sneed,” which is scheduled for release via his label, LeChateau Earl Records, on June 29.

“I didn’t want to release something too quickly,” said the music maestro. “My desire is that this project reflects the heart and soul of what I have been working towards my entire career.”

Joining the summer lineup for “The 3 Sides of Damien Sneed” is Brandie Sutton, who is hailed by Opera News for her “sumptuous, mid-weight soprano,” and the New York Times for her “warm, ample voice,” “ravishing performance” and “distinctive earthy coloring.” The young soprano began her professional career with a solo recital in the province of St. Maarten and numerous presentations of Handel’s “Messiah” across the United States. She has performed in European opera houses, including the Semperoper Dresden, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Grand Théâtre de Genève and Alter Oper Frankfurt. Sutton made her solo recital debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and Merkin Concert Hall in Lincoln Center, and her concert debut at Carnegie Hall. She has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Orpheus Symphony Orchestra in Moscow, and the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. She has also performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In 2017, Sutton joined the roster at The Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Stefon Harris, the four-time Grammy-nominated recording artist and acclaimed vibraphonist, is lauded as “one of the most important artists in jazz” by the Los Angeles Times. As a leader, Harris will release his eleventh recording, “Sonic Creed,” with his band, Blackout, in September 2018 on Motema Records. Currently, he serves as Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts at the Manhattan School of Music. Harris has also recorded as part of The Classical Jazz Quartet with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash, and as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective.

International and multi-genre artist Keke Wyatt has recorded a diverse collection of music throughout her career, including R&B, country, techno-pop, soft acoustic rock, gospel and contemporary inspirational—all served by the wallop of Wyatt’s dynamic vocals. Wyatt’s life has been an open book, as she has starred in the reality shows “Marriage Boot Camp” (WE Network) and “R&B Divas: Atlanta” (TV-One). Recently she made a calculated move from the reality world to scripted television, appearing in the episodic series “Saints & Sinners” (Bounce TV). Music remains Keke’s first love; she not only sings, she is a strong percussionist and is also adept at keyboards, guitar, and bass. Earlier in her career, Wyatt performed with various girl groups, even receiving an invitation to join The Dollz (the Houston group that evolved into Destiny’s Child). Wyatt is best known for hits with former duet partner, R&B singer Avant, including “My First Love,” “Nothing in This World” and “You & I.”

In addition to Sneed’s various projects; he and longtime music collaborator and renowned classical artist Audrey DuBois Harris recently released their current CD project, “God Bless America.” Produced by Sneed, the five-song EP features the title track along with classic and contemporary compositions: “Amazing Grace,” “Give Me Jesus,” “God Can Do Anything But Fail,” “Precious Lord Take My Hand,” which was recorded with Jerroll Lehman. “God Bless America,” released on April 6, is available at digital retail outlets everywhere. This summer, Sneed and DuBois Harris will perform a series of upcoming concert dates to promote the album.

Sneed recently signed with IMG Artists and will embark on a 36-city North American tour in 2019. “Damien Sneed: We Shall Overcome,” a tribute concert to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on  January 11, 2019, at the Empire Center at The Egg in Albany, NY, and will make stops at concert halls and universities in the U.S. and Canada. Other dates  on the two-month tour include: Jan. 13 in Toronto, ON; Jan. 15 in Pittsburgh, PA; Jan. 18 in Princeton, NJ; Jan. 23 in Irmo, SC; Jan. 25 in Mesa, AZ; Jan. 26, in Northridge, CA; Feb. 1 in West Palm Beach, FL; Feb. 7- 8 in St. Paul, MN; Feb. 10 in Overland Park, KS; and Feb. 14 in Omaha, NE. The tour will conclude March 3 in Modesto, CA.

Sneed was commissioned as a composer by the Lyric Opera of Chicago for the world premiere of “Empower” scheduled on May 31. The opera “Empower” is about a group of students who band together to change their south side neighborhood and fight against the negative media representation of a thirsty reporter obsessed with corruption. Members of the opera’s creative and artistic team include Ike Holder, librettist, Jess McLeod, director, Angela Brown, American operatic soprano and Will Liverman, baritone.

Sneed is also finalizing his fall CD release, “Damien Sneed: We Shall Overcome,” scheduled for September 2018. Previously, Sneed has toured with Aretha Franklin, Jessye Norman, Diana Ross and Wynton Marsalis. This year, Sneed will graduate from USC with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting. 



Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements on painful American tragedies. With The E-Collective he addresses the epidemic of gun violence in America with his new album Live, 7 powerful songs culled from concerts performed in communities that have experienced escalating conflicts between law enforcement and African American citizens, reflecting bitter frustration while also providing a balm of emotional healing. With a title that carries a pointed double meaning, the album is an impassioned continuation of their GRAMMY-nominated studio recording Breathless.

Robert Glasper joins forces with the innovative producer KAYTRANADA on Robert Glasper x KAYTRANADA: The ArtScience Remixes, reimagining the songs on Robert Glasper Experiment's 2016 album ArtScience, which The FADER called "a freewheeling, genre-agnostic collection of feel-good songs." The ArtScience Remixes is available now to stream or download, and will be released as a Record Store Day vinyl exclusive on April 21. The set features cameos by Don Cheadle, Talib Kweli, Alex Isley, and Iman Omari, and takes the Experiment's trailblazing blend of R&B, Hip-Hip, and Jazz into new sonic realms.


As singer & pianist Kandace Springs heads out on tour opening for music icons Daryl Hall & John Oates across North America this summer, she also gives fans a taste of her forthcoming album with the 3-song EP Black Orchid, featuring brand new tracks produced by Karriem Riggins. Springs delivers a pair of inspired covers with her simmering take on The Stylistics' "People Make the World Go Round " and a radiant performance of the Roberta Flack-popularized torch song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," along with the ruminative "Black Orchid" by guitarist-songwriter Jesse Harris.


In the annals of jazz history, few events have been more influential than the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series, and the album series of the same name. From 1944 to 1957, pioneering impresario, Verve Records founder, Norman Granz organized a series of prestigious all-star concerts that featured a who's-who of the genre's most popular and influential artists. These shows were instrumental in raising jazz's public profile, and were among the first high-profile performances to feature racially mixed bands performing for integrated audiences.

Granz spun off Jazz at the Philharmonic into a series of album releases, which preserved historic performances from the JATP concerts. Granz licensed many of those live recordings to Mercury Records and later issued them on his own labels, Norgran, Clef and Verve. In the 1980s, Verve reached into the vault for an additional series of releases that included previously unissued performances. The JATP recordings have since attained legendary status, a status that was confirmed in 2010, when the series was chosen by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry, which annually selects recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."

On April 20, Verve Records/UMe issues a trio of beloved vinyl gems from the legendary live series issued in the 1980s: Ella Fitzgerald's Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set, Jazz at the Philharmonic: Lester Young Carnegie Blues and the all-star Jazz at the Philharmonic: Blues In Chicago 1955, featuring Oscar Peterson, Illinois Jacquet and Herb Ellis. All albums are pressed on standard weight black vinyl.

Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set shines the spotlight on one of JATP's favorite artists. The two-LP set is an updated version of its first vinyl release in Verve's original 1983 Jazz at the Philharmonic archival series, now matching the expanded CD edition issued in 2016. The stunning collection – now one dynamic set – incorporates Fitzgerald's performances from 1949, 1953 and 1957 concerts, with the iconic singer fronting all-star bands including such legendary players as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Buddy Rich and Hank Jones, delivering classic interpretations of such standards as "Oh, Lady Be Good!" and "Lullaby Of Birdland," and the memorable jam session "Flying Home." The Ella Fitzgerald Set includes an essay by journalist Will Friedwald. 

Another jewel from the original Jazz at the Philharmonic series, Jazz at the Philharmonic: Lester Young Carnegie Blues is a loose, blowing set with the great tenor saxophonist Lester "Pres" Young sharing the stage with such jazz legends as fellow saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Illinois Jacquet, pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jo Jones. First issued in 1985 with tracks then previously unreleased, Lester Young Carnegie Blues features highlights from three JATP shows recorded at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1946, 1953 and 1957, including the title track, an extended "Tea For Two," and a medley of Young originals centered around "I Cover the Waterfront." 

The third JATP reissue is Jazz at the Philharmonic: Blues in Chicago 1955, a thrilling tour de force led by piano great Oscar Peterson, and featuring his frequent partner, guitarist Herb Ellis, and early saxophone innovator Illinois Jacquet. Recorded at Chicago's Shrine Auditorium in 1955, one side of the album is an audacious 20-minute piece entitled "The Blues," while the other side features a bopping "Modern Set" and a long "Ballad Medley," with appearances by Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Roy Eldridge and Flip Phillips. 

On April 20, Verve/UMe will also celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sarah Vaughan's classic Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin, originally released by Mercury Records in 1958, with a fresh vinyl reissue of this beloved two-LP studio set, in its original mono mix. Throughout the sparkling 22-song session, Vaughan's unmistakable vocals soar over Hal Mooney's impeccable arrangements, bringing new life to such Gershwin standards as "Someone to Watch Over Me," "I've Got A Crush On You," "Summertime," "A Foggy Day," "The Man I Love" and many more. 

Shining as brightly today as when they were recorded, these four long out-of-print classics can once again be enjoyed on vinyl, sounding better than ever.

BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) -‘EMAKHOSINI’

“BCUC will come correct with their energetic, unique and magic formula; the voices of their ancestors, mixed with funk, punk-rock vibrations, hip-hop, Fela-inflections and much more in between.” Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 6 Music/Worldwide FM

A stone’s throw from the church where Desmond Tutu organised the escape of the most wanted anti-Apartheid activists of Soweto, BCUC rehearses in a shipping container-turned-community restaurant, where their indomitable outspokenness echoes in a whole new way.

Make no mistake, this buzzing township has lost none of the creative, rebellious energy it had when the “Rainbow Nation”, with its now less-than-vibrant colours, emerged twenty years ago. Like its elders, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness sees its music as a hedonistic trance, but also as a weapon of political and spiritual liberation.

The seven-piece band has been mesmerising audiences both locally and globally with its indigenous funk and high-energy performances that have fast made it one of South Africa’s most successful musical exports. Artistic heirs to Philip “Malombo” Tabane and Batsumi, they seek to give a contemporary voice to the ancestral traditions of indigenous peoples. Jazz sounds of 1970s and ‘80s productions have been replaced by hip-hop influences and a punk-rock energy.

With new album ‘EMAKHOSINI’, to be released April 20th in the U.S. via Buda Musique, BCUC take the listener on an intriguing epic journey, sharing their controversial yet interesting views on modern Africa. They tackle the harsh realities of the voiceless, especially the plight of the uneducated workers at the bottom of the social food chain. BCUC taps into the elusiveness of the spirit world of ancestors by which they are inspired. The Africa portrayed by BCUC is not poor, but rich in tradition, rituals and beliefs.

Recorded at Back To Mono studios in Lyon, France in the summer of 2017, the band’s music derives from a blend of genres across the ages and they draw inspiration from indigenous music that is not exposed in the mainstream. The music refuses to be formatted and that’s the essence of “Africangungungu”, the name they’ve given to their “afropsychedelic” music. Their “incantations” in Zulu, Sotho and English and their funky modulations extend over twenty minutes in a whirlwind of sound reminiscent of Fela’s Afrobeat. “We bring fun and emo-indigenous Afro psychedelic fire from the hood,” says vocalist Kgomotso Mokone.

BCUC’s willingness to look at social and identity questions in the face has already led to the banning of one song from their only self-produced EP, which points the finger at a national idol. But neither this event, nor the criticism to which they are exposed by their refusal to belong to a specific movement, can change their minds. “Music for the people by the people with the people” –  a people they refuse to box into one community, to circumscribe to one skin colour.

BCUC toured Europe extensively in 2017 with an unforgettable performance at the Roskilde Festival, Denmark alongside the likes of Foo Fighters and A Tribe Called Quest. They were also the highlight of Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival, receiving critical acclaim for their performance with their hypnotic afro-psychedelia.



"I wanted to go back to my roots and do an old school R&B album...what I call a 'Grown Folks' record. I approached it like things from the past that influenced me then wrote my versions. For example, 'Let a Brotha Know' sounds like a song I would have done with my old band L.T.D. while 'Saving My Love' has an Island ballad vibe like things Lionel Richie used to write. I produced the whole album and wrote all of the songs except for one that I co-wrote with my son, Jeffrey Osborne Jr., titled 'Work it.' I wrote the melody and the words while he came up with the track and raps on it. I'm using the guys from my road band along with a few friends like Gerald Albright and Rick Braun. I believe there's still an audience for real music and songs about lasting love. It's important to me to to maintain integrity with our music." - Jeffrey Osborne


Thievery Corporation go back to the vaults – and come up with a host of unusual material from the Temple Of I & I sessions! The music here is a great extension of the sound of that record – and includes unused tracks, remixes, and dubplates – all with the same collaborative vibe of the original, thanks to appearances from Mr Lif, Sitali, Raquel Jones, Notch, Natalia Clavier, and others! As you'd guess from the title of the original album, there's a fair bit of influence from reggae and dub running through the music – and titles include "Music To Make You Stagger", "San San Rock", "Voyage Libre", "Waiting Too Long", "La Force De Melodie", "Joy Ride", "Guidance", "Destroy The Wicked", "Letter To The Editor (TC rmx)", "Water Under The Bridge", and "Road Block (TC rmx)".  ~ Dusty Groove


Chris Brubeck and Dan Brubeck are extensions of a remarkable jazz legacy. Although they toured and recorded with their father extensively, the immensely popular and influential jazz innovator Dave Brubeck, Chris and Dan have forged their own musical identities. Bass player and trombonist Chris and drummer Dan have previously released four albums with their band Brubeck Brothers Quartet. Along with their musical compatriots, Mike DiMicco on guitar and Chuck Lamb on piano, they are releasing their newest CD, Timeline, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Dave Brubeck’s seminal State Department Tour as an official jazz ambassador for the United States. Chris and Dan honed their chops working in Dave’s band for many years, but they also struck out on their own, with each touring and recording in different groups and styles through the years. The brothers’ fresh take on their father’s classic tunes as well as their own original compositions reflect the diversity of their experiences and their instinct to incorporate new ideas in their music. On Timeline the Brubeck Brothers Quartet explore odd time signatures while integrating the blues, contemporary jazz, and world music. The band is not afraid to take chances and pushes the envelope to create a rewarding and inventive musical journey.

Saxophonist Dave McMurray Makes Blue Note Records Debut with Detroit-centric Album, Music Is Life

Dave McMurray’s Blue Note Records debut, Music Is Life, is a reunion of sorts, given the long history the saxophonist shares with the label’s president, and fellow Detroit native, Don Was. McMurray was a member of Was’ genre-defying unit Was (Not Was), first working together on the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. He’s played on all of the band’s albums and many other Was produced projects in the years since.

When Was signed McMurray to Blue Note, the saxophonist says that he gave him no imperatives as to which artistic paths to take. “It was one of those situations in which he just said, ‘Do it,’” McMurray explains.

“I know Dave’s playing really well. He doesn’t bullshit,” Was praises. “He’s never playing licks for the sake of playing licks. He’s not trying to impress people with what all he knows about music or about his dexterity over the instrument. It’s all about honest expressions.”

McMurray proceeded by gathering a batch of strong originals and well-chosen rock and R&B staples then recruited musicians – bassist Ibrahim Jones and drummers Ron Otis and Jeff Canady – with whom he’s forged longstanding rapports. With minimum keyboard and string accompaniments on a few tunes, the music boasts an open, rugged sensibility that optimizes the leader’s burly tone and swaggering lyricism.

McMurray has cemented his reputation for versatility by playing with a vast array of musicians that include B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen, and Bob James. McMurray sounds as assured and inspired in a rock, R&B, funk, pop or folk setting as he does playing hard bop.

McMurray consolidates all of those aforementioned idioms on Music Is Life, creating a cohesive program of groove-based modern jazz that bristles with unalloyed soul. “I wanted it to have the spirit of a funk record,” he says, before rejoicing in the freedom afforded by having minimum chordal support. “I can just hold the melody down or go anywhere else in these songs.” Case in point, the joyous title track “Music Is Life (Live It),” which serves as his personal mantra.

McMurray attributes his saxophone sound and improvisational approach to growing up in Detroit. “Every time I hear an instrumentalist from Detroit play, it feels like they are singing. I don’t care if it’s Yusef Lateef, James Carter or Kenny Garrett. All of those saxophonists incorporated incredible technique too. But they had this singing quality in their playing. I think people hear that and connect with that aspect of it,” McMurray says.

“Dave absorbed a wide range of musical styles, which I think is something that’s consistent with Detroit musicians,” Was says. “You can trace it back to the boom of the auto industry after World War II. Workers not only from all over the country but from all over the world came to work in the auto plants. And they brought their cultures with them. There were so many different styles of music that you could hear; Detroit has such an eclectic blend of influences that I think what you find in music that comes out of Detroit is this genre-busting type music.”

For sure, McMurray stands on Detroit’s mighty music legacy that includes the influential Motown sound, P-Funk, numerous rock acts such as Stooges and the MC5, electronica-music pioneers Carl Craig, Moodymann and Theo Parrish; and hip-hop icons – J Dilla, Eminem and Slum Village. And let’s not forget the legion of jazz artists from Detroit that include Elvin Jones, Betty Carter, Milt Jackson, Regina Carter and Geri Allen.

In some ways, Music Is Life functions as much as celebration of Detroit as it does a reunion for McMurray and Was. “Bop City D” is a burning hard bop number that tips its hat to the Motor City, while the album’s closer, “Turo’s Dream” is a tribute to the memory of one of McMurray’s best friends that he met in elementary school. Other noticeable Detroit references come by way of covers of songs by artists with connections to the city – George Clinton’s funk anthem “Atomic Dog” and the White Stripes’ rock hit “Seven Nation Army.”

McMurray’s hard-hitting “Naked Walk” opens the set. Distinguished by stabbing riffs and a strutting melody, animated by fiery hollers and wails, the song has long been in the saxophonist’s songbook and is frequently played as a crowd-pleasing encore. The album’s other bracing originals include the brooding “After the Storm,” the snapping, hip-hop-centric “Freedom Ain’t Free,” the prowling “Time #5” – which is a part of McMurray’s ongoing “Time” composition series – and the stirring, string-enhanced “Paris Rain,” an evocative homage to one of McMurray’s favorite cities.

Speaking of France, Music Is Life also features a soaring reading of “Que Je T’aime,” a torch ballad that McMurray performed regularly with French rock legend, Johnny Hallyday, who passed away in 2017. “When we played that song live, everybody would be standing up. You’d see guys out there with tears in their eyes while singing along to that song. It was so emotional when he sang it,” McMurray recalls.

McMurray’s journey into music began when he started playing clarinet as kid, and inspired by his older brother’s interest in the saxophone he decided he wanted to learn that instrument, too. He counts seeing Cannonball Adderley perform on The Steve Allen Show as a defining moment in his childhood. While in high school, McMurray attended Cranbook Academy of Arts’ noted summer program, Horizons Upward Bound. He eventually got a scholarship to attend the private school. McMurray furthered his education by attending Wayne State University, where he earned degrees in psychology and urban studies.

While making his way on Detroit’s bustling music scene, McMurray played with the avant-garde jazz ensemble, Griot Galaxy, founded in 1972 by saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey. But McMurray’s catholic taste in music opened the doors for him to explore beyond the realms of jazz. “Any music that I heard – and continue to hear – I can see myself playing it,” McMurray asserts. “It could be rock, jazz, R&B, whatever.” And that’s a good explanation for his multifaceted career.

Dave McMurray · Music Is Life
Blue Note Records · Release Date: May 18, 2018


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