Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy - Let Your Light Shine On | New album


The Italian guitarist and bandleader Nicola Conte has recorded his first album for the legendary, recently re- established MPS records. Conte has brought with him an ensemble of stars including trumpeter Theo Croker, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Magnus Lindgren, and singer Zara McFarlane. Recorded in Bari, Italy and Johannesburg, South Africa, “Let Your Light Shine On” is a cohesive and powerful work of art that crosses the border between soul and spiritual Afro-jazz.

For his new album, Conte has casually interwoven soul and grooves pulsing with the beat and breath of Africa. In doing so, he combined elements that seemingly do not belong together. This innovative jazz revivalist has always been open to sounds of every sort and color. Born in 1964, Conte formed the artist collective Fez in the early ‘90s in his native city of Bari, produced jazz and modern electronic-oriented Bossa Nova, and recorded film scores. Conte’s eighth album conveys his interest in spiritual deceleration (“We should not be hemmed in by materialism. We need new perspectives!”).

The foundation of the album is Conte’s live band, Spiritual Galaxy. Conte plays guitar and is accompanied by such top international stars as trombonist Gianluca Petrella, who has been awarded “Best Emerging Artist” by the prestigious DownBeat jazz magazine, Swedish tenor saxophonist Magnus Lindgren, and Finnish drummer Teppo Mäkynen. They meet up with pianist Pietro Lussu, bassist Luca Alemanno, and singer Bridgette Amofah. The band also includes two up-and-coming stars of the younger generation of jazz musicians from the USA, players who don’t shy away from Hip Hop, R&B, and electronic music – alto saxophonist Logan Richardson and trumpeter Theo Croker.

A Scandinavian-American-Italian all-star band, a truly cosmic and international ensemble – complimented by a sensitive guest appearance by the celebrated British singer Zara McFarlane.

Let Your Light Shine On is Conte’s debut on the legendary MPS label, which has recently resumed releasing new recordings. “For me, when it comes to European labels, MPS has always been leading the way,” the Italian said. “Jazz Meets the World on MPS – that was their motto. It wasn’t about exploiting trends, it was about genuine artistic expression.”



Fire and Music: Nsimbi Tells Human Stories with East African Wisdom, Grace, and Swagger


The day used to end the same way around the world. After the work was done, families and communities would gather around a fire. They would sing, dance, tell stories, distill learning into proverbs.

The fire that brought us together still burns, insists the American-Ugandan power duo Nsimbi. On their eponymous debut (release: June 22, 2018), the Kampala-born star hip hop MC and storyteller GNL Zamba and gifted American singer-songwriter Miriam Tamar trace age-old wisdom that can and should inform modern life, using traditional East African instruments and sounds in utterly contemporary ways.

“The album was inspired by ancient Swahili proverbs, but it centers around African culture, more generally, the ancient insights it conveys,” Zamba explains. “We want to show people today how relevant that knowledge is. We want to promote that oneness this knowledge suggests.”

“The transition to modernity is a big theme on this album. We were looking for roots and we found them in Swahili proverbs,” Tamar agrees. “Every song is based on a proverb. They are the thread, but it all keeps coming back to our need for human connections to thrive.” These connections weave together sonically, via instruments from kalimba to kora, into tight, grooving songs.

These songs are a natural outgrowth of a musical partnership that began several years ago in Kampala, where Zamba and Tamar met. Tamar managed a recording studio, having left a position in the troubled northern part of the country at an NGO dedicated to peace education and recovery after years of devastating war. She had come to the Ugandan capital to focus on her music and began working for a label.

At the studio, she ran into Zamba, a legend on the burgeoning Ugandan hip hop scene who had racked up numerous awards, producing gigs, and brand sponsorships. The two connected, and when Zamba was looking for a singer for a government-supported track to raise HIV awareness, he called on Tamar. The song is credited with making a significant impact, Zamba notes. They went on to more collaborations, as part of Zamba’s hip hop label.

“I was singing more pop and hip hop,” Tamar recalls. “I didn’t really have a strong idea about my voice or message at that point, but I knew I wanted to be singing and writing. I was experimenting and figuring out what I needed to do that felt closer to my own vision.” Then, after five years in Uganda, events drew Tamar back to the States. In the year she spent alone in the US, she found her voice, writing and recording a solo EP, Firedance. The EP debuted in the top five of the iTunes world chart, garnering strong reviews and significant YouTube views.

When Zamba came and joined her in America, he began to explore new ideas. Though he had collaborated with traditional and acoustic musicians in Uganda, his focus and his claim to fame were his accomplishments as a hip hop MC. Known as a “ghetto storyteller” for his frank portrayals of life in Kampala, “I grew up listening to American MCs like Nas and to rappers from South Africa and elsewhere. I had fun as a young man just doing hip hop, but it wasn’t my only center. I was all over the place; I would preach on the record but it never felt whole.” Zamba, too, began to search for a different way to raise his voice.

The romantic ties that bound Zamba and Tamar inevitably blossomed into musical collaboration, as both found a deeper calling as artists. “This album was an opportunity to mature and evolve and promote the things we both believe in,” says Zamba. “We love culture, and we want to encourage international collaboration across cultures.”

They hit upon Swahili proverbs as conceptual anchors, bringing their broad musical loves and diverse experiences together. “There is so much in these proverbs, some of which I first encountered when I studied Swahili in college and in Tanzania,” Tamar notes. “We’d talk about them, and then Zamba would find similar ideas in Baganda culture.” “Leo ni Leo,” for example, reminds listeners that all we have is today, but today is more than enough to find joy. “Dunia ni Matembezi” advises listeners to leave their familiar surroundings and discover the world, literally stating that “the world is walking,” getting out there, seeing new things.

The evocative proverbs were just the beginning. “After we’d thought about the proverb, we’d come up with stories that we could tie together from our two perspectives and experiences, and I’d develop the melody,” recalls Tamar. “We ended up singing in English, Luganda, Lingala, and Swahili.” The linguistic range was enhanced by the duo’s collaborators, US-based Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe and Congolese-born soukous guitarist and singer Jaja Bashengezi, whose musical imprint on tracks like the party-read “Sokota” proved crucial to the album.

Nsimbi has diverse origins but the tracks share a sonic integrity, a sunny acoustic sound and a mesmerizing rhythmic intensity. Within the overarching feel, the contributors’ various styles glimmer through: Tamar’s singer-songwriter instincts (“Gonna Be Alright”), Zamba’s hip hop roots (“Flower of the Heart”), Bashengezi’s red-hot soukous licks, and Kinobe’s expressive kora (“Forsaken,” which addresses the plight of refugees in East Africa and worldwide). Zamba and Tamar’s musical impulses sometimes lead to different understandings of a shared concept, as in “Omugga,” dedicated to the swaying current of a river. Tamar heard the pulse in one way, Zamba another. “You can watch us dancing to these different beats on stage,” laughs Tamar. “But it all came together, even though our sense of a river’s rhythm were so different.”

The differences and variations are part of the point. “We have very different approaches to writing,” reflects Tamar, “and the pace we worked at was scary, but rewarding.” “One thing we both love and agree on, we love music that helps society,” Zamba adds. “We don’t mean this in some corny way; it’s not a trite thing. We honestly believe in music’s positive power in the world.”

 

Erroll Garner: Nightconcert – Live Recording at Midnight Concert in November of 1964 at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam


Features Eight Never-Before-Heard Song Interpretations + Newly Discovered Original Song

There are certain musical artists who have transcended genre limitations, crossing over into other areas of audience appeal. But in very rare cases there are artists who cross over in an entirely different way, becoming iconic and beloved figures to the broader spectrum of humanity by their very existence and essence of their being as universal messengers of love and spirit. Legendary pianist and composer Erroll Garner stands tall among those individuals.

A new addition to his brilliant manifestation of artistry and jubilant expressiveness is always a treat, but when it is at such a majestic peak as in Octave Music/Mack Avenue Records’ spectacular new release, Erroll Garner: Nightconcert, it is a revelation. Nightconcert presents Garner at the peak of his genius, recorded at a midnight concert in November 1964 at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with an audience of 2000 highly enthusiastic and enraptured people of all ages. Also notable is that this album features eight never-before-heard Garner song interpretations, including a newly discovered original.

"The collection of recordings in the Garner Estate archives is immense and substantive," states Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell. "To represent the historical treasure that is Nightconcert is a privilege for Mack Avenue and we are energized by this new collaboration with Octave Music."

Beginning with the immortal 1955 album Concert by the Sea – the best-selling jazz album of its era – Garner consistently proved that there is nothing to match that magical essence of transcendent artistry shared in the same air with a totally connected audience. On this night, the pianist’s consummate artistry is further enhanced by his rhythm section of bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin, with whom he’d been playing for nearly a decade – proving another unquestionable truth, that jazz is never better expressed than by an ensemble of musicians who have played together long enough to develop that telepathic synergy demanded by the music at its highest level. Accompanying Garner demanded that substance in exponential form.

As his longtime manager Martha Glaser wrote in the concert program notes, “one of Garner’s outstanding qualities is his unpredictability and spontaneity,” which followed “the individual selections which Mr. Garner will play have not been listed” – and neither of his accompanists were informed either. But there’s no way one could tell, as they match the master at every twist and turn as though it was just the way they rehearsed it. In fact, they never rehearsed. Their performances were pure magic through mutual awareness.

True to his singularly personal style, each piece begins with Garner’s sumptuous and often impressionistically rubato explorations before exposing the theme of the actual song he’s about to play, further stamping his personal ownership of the piece, no matter how familiar or how many other people may have interpreted it before. Each song is a unique entity, even in comparison to other interpretations that he may have done at another time – a most special talent and a mark of utter originality and immediacy.

The repertoire on this album is pure Garner, heavily drawn from the Great American Songbook with a nice infusion of originals. There are three Cole Porter classics: “Easy to Love,” “Night and Day” and “What Is This Thing Called Love;” and two gems from Rodgers & Hart: “My Funny Valentine” and “Where or When.” The Gershwins are represented by “’S Wonderful;” Irving Berlin by “Cheek to Cheek;” and Harold Arlen by “Over the Rainbow.” A couple of lesser luminaries are included with Einar Aaron Swan’s “When Your Lover Has Gone” and Clay Boland’s “Gypsy in My Soul.” Two great 1940s songs, immortalized by both being the title songs of terrific films and interpreted by scores of heavyweight artists are Bronislaw Kaper’s “On Green Dolphin Street” and David Raksin’s “Laura” – which can now add two more remarkable versions to their storied history.

Another outstanding title song from a film is one of three Garner originals, the exquisite “Theme from ‘A New Kind of Love’ (All Yours);” along with the jaunty “That Amsterdam Swing” and the touching “No More Shadows.” A brief taste of Ralph Rainger’s “Thanks for the Memory” provides the digestif to close this most delightful repast.

Nightconcert is an exhilarating journey through a comprehensive history of jazz piano: smooth stride, rollicking barrelhouse, unfettered swing, loping bop lines, Cecil Taylor-like chord clusters; spiced by potent touches of Debussy/Satie-like impressionistic flair. In other words, pure Erroll Garner: marvelously imaginative, richly lyrical, full of unexpected surprises, and utterly captivating.

This is the third new Garner release through Octave Music since its relaunch in 2015; the first, The Complete Concert By The Sea, was named 2016 historical record of the year by the Jazz Journalist Association and nominated for a GRAMMY® Award and an NAACP Image Award. It was produced by the late and deeply missed master jazz pianist Geri Allen, along with four-time GRAMMY® Award-winner, Steve Rosenthal. The second release, Ready Take One, a collection of previously unreleased studio recordings that was also nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album, was produced by Allen, Rosenthal and Peter Lockhart. Nightconcert is produced by Peter Lockhart, Steve Rosenthal and Mack Avenue Records pianist/composer Christian Sands in his new role as Creative Ambassador for the Erroll Garner Jazz Project. The album is available in both CD and double-vinyl and is beautifully packaged with excellent artwork by White Bicycle, on-site photographs by Nico van der Stam/Maria Austria Instituut and The Erroll Garner archive – housed at the University of Pittsburgh – historical artifacts, and informative notes by renowned writers Nate Chinen and Robin D. G. Kelley.

Erroll Garner · Nightconcert
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: July 13, 2018


Christian Sands Announces Ambitious Summer with Digital-Only Live REACH FURTHER EP


After a dynamic 2017, filled with international touring and the release of his critically acclaimed Mack Avenue Records debut album REACH, singularly talented pianist, GRAMMY® Award-nominee, and Steinway artist Christian Sands is expanding on his story with REACH FURTHER EP. This outing features live performances of three tracks from his latest album, recorded on March 7, 2018 at the popular Los Angeles jazz club Blue Whale, as well as two unreleased tracks from the original studio recording sessions. This digital-only release will be available on May 18, 2018 via Mack Avenue Records.

REACH FURTHER EP serves as a natural platform to showcase Sands’ captivating live performances, as well as a glimpse into what is to come from the ever-evolving and multifaceted artist. “People react to different things musically in a live setting, and that influenced how we play these songs. But for us, mainly there are more chord changes now,” laughs Sands. “We’ve added different pulses and more grooves after playing in Europe and the United States.”

Sands used what little free time he had between touring and recording to lend a hand to the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, (officially becoming the Creative Ambassador for Octave Music) producing the upcoming never-before-heard live album Erroll Garner: Nightconcert. The album is a continuation of the work Sands has done with his mentor, the late and deeply lamented Geri Allen, to ensure Garner’s legacy is never forgotten.

“Geri was one of my teachers. I was studying with her during the same time I was studying with Dr. Billy Taylor. To watch her vision was incredible. When she introduced me to the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, I discovered the deeper idea of Erroll: his time, his phrases,” recalls Sands. “Being the Creative Ambassador to the Erroll Garner Jazz Project is a true honor and to be able to produce this record is something extremely heavy, yet humbling.”

Christian Sands continues to expand into previously unexplored areas of his artistry, continuing to push the boundaries of the “jazz-norm.” Furthering that sentiment and looking to the future, Mack Avenue Records plans to release Sands’ next album this coming fall. Incorporating elements of acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, and Hammond B3, the upcoming album displays his ability to look at the instrument as a tool of orchestration.

Those talents will be further applied with his upcoming Music Director position for the 2018 Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour band this year with Cécile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana, Yasushi Nakamura, and Jamison Ross. With so many elements and projects coming from his young inspired mind, the REACH FURTHER EP solidifies that this is Christian Sands’ world and we are just blessed to be a part of it.

Christian Sands' Upcoming U.S. Performances:

Jun. 14 / McCarter Theatre Center (The Berlind Theater) / Princeton, NJ
Jun. 23 / Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival / Saratoga Springs, NY
Jun. 24 - 25 / Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival / Rochester, NY
Jun. 26 - 27 / Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (JALC) / New York, NY
July 3 - 20th: European Tour
Sept. 3 / Detroit Jazz Festival / Detroit, MI
Sept. 21 / Monterey Jazz Festival / Monterey, CA
Sept. 29 / Hyde Park Jazz Festival / Chicago, IL
Oct. 9 / Kuumbwa Jazz Club / San Jose, CA
Oct. 22 / Dimitriou's Jazz Alley / Seattle, WA
Oct. 25 - 28 / Jazz Standard / New York, NY
Nov. 2 / Christina Cultural Arts Center / Wilmington, DE
Nov. 3 / Montgomery County Community College / Blue Bell, PA


Michael Franks Celebrates 45 Years As A Recording Artist With New Album The Music In My Head


"'The Music In My Head' is my eighteenth studio album of original songs. I still think of these releases as albums and I write and sequence them with that same old-school idea of continuity in mind. On this project, I enjoyed writing and recording every note...from making the demos to working in the studio with so many of my former accomplices and some great new ones. When I started writing the compositions I shut myself up in my little studio room and got lost in the music, fueled by: tea, more tea, vegan lasagna, and punctuated by walking the dogs and deep water cardio workouts." - MICHAEL FRANKS

"As Long As We're Both Together" features Chuck Loeb on guitars and keys, he also produced and arranged the track. Jimmy Haslip-bass, Eric Marienthal, sax, Manuel Quintana-percussion, Veronica Nunn and Leslie Ritter-background vocals

Celebrating 45 years as a recording artist since his highly collectible self-titled debut in 1973, singer/songwriter Michael Franks hovers dragonfly-like in a sacred space all his own within his contributions to the artform of music. Liberatingly non-categorizable, Franks is in possession of unique fan bases around the world across jazz, quiet storm, adult contemporary, pop, contemporary jazz, folk and even blues styles. His songs have been lovingly covered by a wide range of artists that includes Ringo Starr, Natalie Cole, The Carpenters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Al Jarreau, Carmen McRae, The Manhattan Transfer and Patti LaBelle, to name only a few. And some of his most well-known compositions - lyrical marvels wedded to his laidback delivery of vocalizing, produced, arranged and cast with some of the finest musicians in jazz and session lore - range from ethereal ("The Lady Wants to Know") to sensual ("Tell Me All About It") to playful ("Popsicle Toes") to edgy ("The Camera Never Lies") to evocative ("Tiger in the Rain") to cinematic ("Nightmoves") to seasonal ("Christmas in Kyoto") to comforting ("Inside You") to outrageous ("Now That Your Joystick's Broke") to sublime ("Still Life") and beyond. What James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon have contributed to pop-rock music in terms of singer/songwriter excellence, Michael Franks has accomplished as their iconic equivalent in the realms of contemporary jazz and the quiet storm.

For his 18th album and first in seven years, Michael provides America and the world at large a cerebellum- massaging musical survival kit of 10 new songs...an audio travelogue that turns our attention to the wonders of Creation and Mother Nature strewn with bread crumbs that additionally lead us to lofty literature, works of art, love, divinity...and tea. Titled The Music In My Head, it is a snapshot of the artist in his autumnal here and now, lost up in the fruits of his quietly profound career success, his loving wife Claudia, seven cats and two dogs, the idyllic wooded environ in which he lives, and the blessing of still firing on all cylinders in his wondrous endeavors of expression. Joining Michael in the process are producer/arrangers Gil Goldstein, Scott Petito, Charles Blenzig and former Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, along with stellar guest musicians such as guitarist David Spinozza, saxophonists Bob Mintzer, Eric Marienthal and Gary Meek and for the first-time pianist Rachel Z.  Franks' dear friend and guitarist Chuck Loeb (Fourplay) also appears on the album. The singer/songwriter shares, "The loss of my long-time producer and friend, Chuck Loeb, threw the project out of balance for a few months. I sent Chuck the first demo I made, a guitar/vocal/percussion sketch of "As Long As We're Both Together." At this point in time he was struggling bravely against the odds of his health issues. We spoke on the phone a few times, discussing which guitars he might use, and in a few days time he sent me a perfect arrangement with the amazing solos you hear on the record. It's hard to comprehend how, in a time of such physical adversity, he summoned the wherewithal to play at his blazing, signature best. I'll always treasure this last collaboration of ours. I'm grateful to my friends Jimmy Haslip, Eric Marienthal, and Scott Petito, along with percussionist Manuel Quintana, and vocalists Veronica Nunn and Leslie Ritter for helping me finish this song in the sad absence of our late friend Chuck."

The result of "As Long As We're Both Together" and the nine additional gems highlighted on The Music In My Head is a magnificent sonic telegraph of timeless anthems that transcend all boundaries and reach straight for the heart.


Friday, May 11, 2018

NEW MUSIC - EDDIE PALMIERI - SABIDURIA; DOMENICO LANCELLOTTI - THE GOOD IS A BIG GOD; BEADY BELLE - DEDICATION


EDDIE PALMIERI - SABIDURIA

Eddie Palmieri’s influence on the world of modern music is often celebrated, but just as often underestimated. As he completes his 80th year with us, his energy and commitment seem to be increasing, as if to fully emphasize the power of not just the music but also the cross-cultural importance of the process. With no sign of slowing, Mr. Palmieri is the elder of a global culture of musicians, actively teaching young students and leading the way for the next generation. And now Mr. Palmieri brings to the world his first project since his back to back Grammy wins in 2005/2006 - Sabiduría. Sabiduría is the Spanish word for “wisdom”, and the message is clear from the outset that wisdom is the exalted value that should guide us all. His intent with Sabiduría, as it has been with all of his recordings, is to create art that will be analyzed and understood well beyond his time.

DOMENICO LANCELLOTTI - THE GOOD IS A BIG GOD

You've heard Domenico before as part of the groundbreaking +2 trio with Kassin and Moreno Veloso – but this is only the second time the singer has worked on his own, and the first that he's given us his full name on the cover! That difference might mark a new sort of confidence in Domenico – a way of putting forth his careful songwriting genius with a bit more dexterity, which certainly gets a bit of assistance in the album's work by Sean O'Hagan and Kassin! If you've ever liked Domenico before, you'll totally love him here – and if this is your first time discovering his music, then get ready to go backwards – as the strength of this album will win over your ears, and send you searching for all the other wonderful music he's given us over the years. Titles include the very dreamy title cut "The Good Is A Big God" – plus "Insatiable", "Serra Dos Orgaos", "Voltar Se", "A Alma Do Vento", "Terra", "Logo", "Dama Da Noite", "Shanti Luz", "Arvores", and "pare De Correr". ~ Dusty Groove

BEADY BELLE - DEDICATION

Beady Belle never lets us down – and even though the lady's been making music for well over a decade, she still turns out some of the most consistently thoughtful soul we can think of! Forget the fact that the singer's on a Norwegian label, as the lyrics here are all in English, backed by warmly jazzy instrumentation that's always made Beady's music hugely popular with our customers for American neo-soul – and which puts her in the same territory as other classic "in the know" artists, such as Monday Michiru or Incognito! The keyboards are especially nice this time around – as thoughtful as the lyrics and the vocals – and titles include "I Run You Ragged", "Hold Your Breath", "Traces", "Dedication", "Waste Of Grace", "Last Drop Of Blood", "Can You Smile", and "Out Of Orbit". ~ Dusty Groove


NEW MUSIC: IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS – ANGEL FELL; SOIL & PIMP SESSIONS - DAPPER; KASSIN - RELAX


IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS – ANGEL FELL

Saxophonist Idris Ackamoor is a living jazz legend – but not the kind that's stale and stuffy, and instead a continuously vibrant player who's given us mindblowing music since his initial recordings with his Pyramids group in the 70s! This version of the Pyramids is different than that one, but they represent a continuing evolution of Ackamoor's rich spirit – his way of fusing spiritual jazz currents with global rhythmic inspirations – but all without every sounding as hokey as so many others who try for that space, and just fall flat! There's a sense of power and inspiration to Ackamoor's music that still moves us tremendously – and which, today, seems more urgent than ever – especially as Idris has seemed to set a new fire under his talents in the past decade or so, obviously more motivated by the need for social change than in his projects of more recent decades. The album's a mix of vocals and instrumentals – but the vocals are often more chant-like, or handled by the ensemble – at a level that further deepens the spirit of the sound. Titles include "Land Of Ra", "Papyrus", "Soliloquy For Michael Brown", "Message To My People", "An Angel Fell", "Tinoge", and "Warrior Dance".  ~ Dusty Groove

SOIL & PIMP SESSIONS - DAPPER

This great Japanese combo are maybe even more dapper than usual here – still strongly tied up in their tradition of hard-hitting jazz, but also opening the door for work from some guest soul singers and MCs! Leader Shacho is usually the "agitator" in the group – calling out the performances from the players – but this time around, he's more of the music director and songwriter – working in collaboration with the singers when they appear – in a lineup that features work from Nao Kawamura, Yojiro Noda, Shun Ikegai, Ego Wrappin, and Awich. Make no mistake, the instrumentation is as fantastic as ever – maybe even more so, as the group feel leaner and tighter – with some especially fantastic bass, trumpet, and keyboards. Titles include "A New Day", "Heaven On Earth", "Deform Reform", "Comrade", "Drivin", "Dusk", "Drifter", and "Pride Fish Ball". ~ Dusty Groove

KASSIN - RELAX

We admire the hell out of Kassin, but it's hard to imagine that we'd relax when faced with a new record of his – as we always pay fervent attention to everything he ever does! And this time around, that attention is rewarded even more than usual – as the musician and studio genius emerges a bit more from the background than usual – finally putting his face on the cover (sort of!), and really showing off his talents as both a singer and songwriter! Yet as with all of Kassin's other work – including his famous collaborations with Domenico and Moreno Veloso, his time in Orquesta Imperial, and his projects with bigger names in Brazilian music – there's always this understated quality that makes the whole thing even more charming than if Kassin was overstating his talents. Kassin is one of the few contemporary Brazilian artists to really live up to the genius of the golden years that gave us talents like Marcos Valle, Edu Lobo, or Caetano Veloso – and his sense of songwriting, presentation, and overall structure here is wonderful – making the album an instant classic in Brazilian music. Titles include "Seria O Donut", "Comprimidos Demais", "Estricnina", "Momento De Clareza", "O Anestesista", "Su Sugestao", "Enquanto Desaba O Mundo", and "As Coisa Que Nos Nao Fizemos". ~ Dusty Groove


NEW RELEASES: K. AVETT – LIONESS; GRANT GREEN – FUNK IN FRANCE: FROM PARIS TO ANTIBES 1969-1970; TONY RODRIGUEZ – AT LAST


K. AVETT – LIONESS

A great soul singer, and one with a very positive vibe – a sound that maybe grabs us the same way we felt when we first heard Jill Scott – and that's saying a heck of a lot! As you might guess from the title, K Avett's a singer who's not to be taken lightly – yet while her message may come on with the roar of a lioness, her sound is also warmly human – never too smooth, but with a great sense of flow that makes her overall sound as seductive as her lyrics! And despite all this hype, there's also a relatively understated quality to the record – which really helps it keep its charms and focus its energy through the entire set – on titles that include "Feelin Good", "Lioness", "Confusion", "Soldier", "In My Life", "Time Won't Wait", "The Matter", and "Down". ~ Dusty Groove

GRANT GREEN – FUNK IN FRANCE: FROM PARIS TO ANTIBES 1969-1970

Beautiful rare work from the late 60s years of Grant Green – a time when the guitarist was giving us some of his funk classics on Blue Note, and when he really seemed to be opening up his groove! That's definitely the case here – as the tracks aren't just funky, but also spin out at nicely long lengths – first on a set of tracks recorded for radio in Paris in 1969, with Green on guitar, Larry Ridley on bass, and Don Lamond on drums – working in a trio mode with a very different vibe than Grant's earlier work. Barney Kessel joins on second guitar on the tune "I Wish You Love", and other tracks include "I don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing", "Oleo", and "Untitled Blues". The second two thirds of the record are even more unbridled – and feature long live performances from the 1970 Antibes Festival – with a cool quartet that features Claude Bartee on tenor and Clarence Parker on Hammond. All tracks are well past the 10 minute mark, most pushing 20 – and titles include two versions of "Upshot", plus "Hi Heel Sneakers" and "Hurt So Bad". (Hand-numbered limited edition – on 180 gram vinyl pressed at RTI!) ~ Dusty Groove

TONY RODRIGUEZ – AT LAST

After several years of leading the backing bands of star Cuban acts such as Havana D’Primera, Isaac Delgado and Carlos Varela, Tony Rodriguez - the pianist, composer, arranger and producer - has finally let loose his creativity in the form of the jazz album At Last.  For the recording of the album he locked himself away in the Abdala Studios in Havana for three days together with some of the best jazz musicians in Cuba, such as the percussionist Oliver Valdes, the saxophonist Carlos Miyares, the bassist Yandy Martinez and the trumpeter Alejandro Delgado. The five of them recorded seven jazz instrumentals together live in the studio, with melodies and elements that draw comparisons to cool jazz and hard bop.


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.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

OUT OF THE BLUES FINDS BOZ SCAGGS APPLYING HIS ICONIC VOICE AND GRITTY GUITAR SKILLS TO A SET OF VINTAGE CLASSICS


It’s been a life of music – five decades in the case of Boz Scaggs, and spread far and wide with remarkable range in style and influence. From his early West Coast rock and soul bands, through his smooth '70s Hollywood years with hits like "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle," to his more recent explorations in R&B, jazz and the Great American Songbook, the versatile singer/songwriter/guitarist has created a highly personal, unfailingly soulful repertoire. The latest edition, Out of the Blues, set for release on July 27, 2018 on Concord Records, finds Scaggs, born in Ohio and raised in Texas and Oklahoma, reconnecting with his earliest musical loves.

This album marks the final piece of an unofficial trilogy for Scaggs, which began with the Steve Jordan-produced albums Memphis and A Fool to Care.  "I'm a child of the '50s," he explains, "and grew up on the music of my parents’ generation - the post war swingers, the Hit Parade era, the semi-classical Gershwin albums and the American songbook of show and film music.  Then came early rock radio; with Elvis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, the high-watt late night radio out of Nashville and Chicago and doowop out of the East Coast.  All the same stars that dotted the musical heaven our generation grew up under. Particular to my coming of age in the Southwest was hearing that crazy stuff out of south Texas and Louisiana.  It was something different from that which my fellow teenyboppers in other areas were hearing.  These albums, to some degree, are an exploration of those early influences, tracked through different periods of my experience.”

The self-produced Out of the Blues finds Scaggs applying his iconic voice and gritty guitar skills to a set of vintage classics by such blues greats as Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Reed and Magic Sam, an unexpected and stirring reading of Neil Young's "On the Beach" and original compositions by the songwriter Jack Walroth.

For the occasion, Scaggs assembled a star-studded studio band including such prestigious players as guitarists Doyle Bramhall II, Ray Parker Jr. and Charlie Sexton, bassist Willie Weeks, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Jim Cox, as well as Boz himself on guitar, bass and vocoder, and longtime friend Jack Walroth on harmonica.

"This project is sort of a manifestation of where I am in my life," Scaggs comments. "I've been doing a lot of shows these last years and have zeroed in on my voice and guitar in a way that only comes with lotsa live.”

"I'm basically a rhythm guitar player, and not that good technically, but I love the instrument and have my own style, one that ranges from seriously ragged to very infrequently bad-ass… At least in my dreams. But it’s the basic blues that have allowed me a foot in the door to a broader range of thrills as a player and inspired me to call Ray and Doyle and Charlie for these sessions.  (I stay, quite naturally, and wisely in the background guitar-wise.)

"We recorded the rhythm tracks in four days, and then I left to go on tour, and I intentionally didn't listen to them until I got home a few months later. From the first playback though, I felt like we'd hit one out of the park."

Out of the Blues also features four songs written or co-written by Scaggs' longtime friend and kindred musical spirit Jack Walroth, a left-of-center bluesman who Scaggs met in the '60s, when both lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and who relocated to San Francisco at around the same time as Scaggs.

"He's a prolific writer, and he's influenced by a lot of the same music that got to me," Scaggs says of Walroth. "I had been interested in producing Jack for many years. During a period back in the '90s, we'd get together on these Tuesday-night sessions with a variety of players and record Jack's songs with the aim of making an album on him.  Trouble was that whenever I'd get a handful of songs to wrap it up he'd come in with another batch. I had several albums worth of tracks, and the album never got done. So when I was searching out material for this album, I realized that I had this backlog of great songs that I really dug and already had a handle on. Out of the songs on this album and its bonus tracks, I recorded seven of Jack’s songs and co-wrote another one with him. Thanks, man."

Scaggs is currently in the midst of a personal musical renaissance. Liberated from the old-school album/tour cycle, he's worked on his own terms this decade to create a series of eclectic, highly personal recordings that showcase his mastery of multiple musical genres, including the jazz standards collections But Beautiful and Speak Low, which topped the Billboard Jazz charts, the soul-inflected Memphis and the bluesy A Fool to Care, each hitting #1 on Billboard's Blues charts.

"Out of the Blues, from its very onset, feels like one of the most special of my career," Scaggs asserts. "It just came so easily, and the sessions fell into place so effortlessly. Sometimes you assemble your dream team and it doesn't work. But in this case, the chemistry was right and it all came together beautifully. It was a complete joy from beginning to end, and I'm really happy with it."


Blue Note Jazz Fest Lineup: Chris Botti, Art Garfunkel, Gregory Porter Al Di Meola, Gordon Lightfoot, The Manhattan Transfer, Eddie Palmieri, Tab Benoit, Sergio Mendes, Robert Cray, Bilal, Southside Johnny & More


With over 100 events in five venues throughout New York City, the 2018 Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival will take place June 1-30, 2018. Sony Corporation is the Festival's Official Title Sponsor and INGLOT Cosmetics of Poland is the Presenting Sponsor. Ticket information and a current schedule of events are available on the festival's website, www.BlueNoteJazzFestival.com. Additional performances, venues, and events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Highlights for the eighth edition of the festival include GRAMMY® Award winning trumpeter Chris Botti at the newly opened Sony Hall in Times Square; an intimate evening with American music icon Art Garfunkel at The Town Hall; two-time GRAMMY® Award nominee jazz vocalist Gregory Porter (presented by City Parks Foundation at Central Park SummerStage in association with Blue Note Jazz Festival); jazz fusion guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola; renowned folk singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot; a very special 5-night residency with future funk collective Lettuce performing for the first time ever at the historic Blue Note Jazz Club; jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer; Latin jazz legend pianist Eddie Palmieri; three-time GRAMMY® Award nominee and revered blues guitarist Tab Benoit at Highline Ballroom; iconic Brazilian producer, composer, keyboardist and vocalist Sergio Mendes; celebrated blues guitarist Robert Cray; GRAMMY® Award winning multi-genre vocalist/musician Bilal performing with Victory (presented by founding festival partner Jill Newman Productions); New Jersey-based rocker Southside Johnny and many more!

This year's Blue Note Jazz Festival features the addition of several new key partnerships marking a new chapter in the festival's history.

Earlier this year, Sony and Blue Note announced a landmark sponsorship agreement resulting in the creation of a new Manhattan venue, Sony Hall, in addition to Sony's title sponsorship of the festival. Located in the heart of New York's Theatre District (235 W. 46th St at the Paramount Hotel), the space was previously known as the Diamond Horseshoe (est. 1938) and is the newest addition to Blue Note's New York City properties, joining this year's festival venue lineup for the first time, expanding its city-wide takeover. The 12,000 square-foot venue is a platform to showcase Sony's new and exciting audio and video technologies. The multi-dimensional audio technology installed in Sony Hall will provide audiences with a groundbreaking immersive music experience that is the first of its kind for a music venue anywhere in the world.

The festival also welcomes INGLOT Cosmetics of Poland for the inaugural year of their multi-year official presenting sponsorship of the event. In celebration of the partnership, Blue Note Entertainment Group and INGLOT will release a limited edition Blue Note-branded cosmetic collection, as well as special showcases of iconic Polish jazz musicians for the festival. Performances include esteemed Polish pianist Wlodek Pawlik and his trio with special guest Randy Brecker on Monday, May 28th as well as acclaimed jazz fusion band Walk Away on Saturday, June 23.

The festival will spread its international reach even further with the addition of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations as a supporting partner of the Blue Note Jazz Festival. The partnership will present the Blue Note Jazz Festival: European Sounds Series, a special collection of curated performances at Blue Note Jazz Club with the objective to showcase European culture and jazz within the United States. Participants include Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Consulate General of Luxembourg, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Consulate General of Greece in New York and Onassis Foundation USA, Balassi Institute - Hungarian Cultural Center New York, Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, Consulate General of Slovakia, and Consulate General of Spain New York, as well as performers representing each respective country (lineup to be announced soon). The partnership coincides with the European Year of Cultural Heritage, an initiative to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. For more information, visit europa.eu/cultural-heritage/

"2018 is a paramount year for the festival," says Steven Bensusan, President of Blue Note Entertainment Group, "Our new partnerships with Sony Corporation, INGLOT Cosmetics of Poland, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and its associated member states and organizations have allowed us to expand our global footprint and collaborate with different industries to produce an extra special event for fans and artists alike. We are extremely grateful for their contributions and are excited to work together to extend the festival outside of New York City and showcase some of the most talented musicians from all over the world. We are also excited to present some of the industry's biggest icons this year including Chris Botti, Art Garfunkel, Gregory Porter, Al Di Meola and many more."

Established in 2011, the Blue Note Jazz Festival was initially formed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Greenwich Village's iconic Blue Note Jazz Club. Presented by Blue Note Entertainment Group - which owns and operates the diverse venue lineup of Blue Note, Sony Hall, and Highline Ballroom - the festival has quickly grown into an annual 30-day event, emerging as the city's largest jazz festival, with each venue offering its own unique cultural contribution to the New York City musical landscape. Additional venues and partners include The Town Hall, Central Park SummerStage, and Jill Newman Productions. Past festival headliners include Aretha Franklin, The Roots, Wyclef Jean, Natalie Cole, Brian Wilson, and more.



Bassist Jeff Denson's "Outside My Window" Features Reimagined Songs by Jeff Buckley, Peter Gabriel, Abbey Lincoln, and Chris Cornell


At first glance bassist Jeff Denson appears to reinvent himself on every album, and his 12th release as leader or co-leader, Outside My Window, might seem like his biggest departure yet. Possessing a huge, galvanizing sound and a lyrically-charged compositional vision, the supremely versatile Denson has earned recognition over the past 15 years as one of his generation's definitive bassists. Slated for release on his label Ridgeway Records on May 4, 2018, Outside My Window recalibrates his already expansive array of creative outlets by giving equal weight to his vocals. Working with a stellar international quartet, Denson delivers an emotionally taut program weaving together striking interpretations of iconic songs and deeply felt originals.

His mid-career emergence as a supple and engaging singer isn't coming from left field. On 2012's critically hailed Secret World, his first release under his own name, Denson included vocals on two original pieces and has continued in that fashion on most of his solo releases. On last year's Sgt. Pepper tribute May I Introduce to You with the collective San Francisco String Trio, his vocal interpretation of "Fixing a Hole" was one of the album's highlights. Denson's music covers a lot of stylistic territory, "but my voice is a thread running through each one, whether I'm singing or not," he says. "I was a singer before I was a bass player. Going into the jazz world I put my voice away for a long time. But this is a logical step for me, in that I'm using my voice more and more every year. This is the first time I'm singing throughout an entire album, and these songs are a direct continuation of the music I've been writing and arranging."

Denson's arrangements of four songs by other artists don't reimagine the pieces as much as filter them through his subtle sonic palette, starting with a gorgeous, lapidary version of "Grace," a piece inspired by the Negative Press Project album he produced last year for Ridgeway Records, Eternal Life: Jeff Buckley Songs and Sounds. He delivers a sparse, intensely poignant rendition of Abbey Lincoln's "Bird Alone," a re-harmonized 6/8 version of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and a riveting arrangement of "Fell On Black Days" by Chris Cornell, a piece that serves as a tribute to Soundgarden's vocalist, who's music served a high school soundtrack for Denson.

"In my mind, he's arguably the best voice of that rock/grunge generation," Denson says. "I wanted to pay tribute to him and his artistry. And Abbey is one of my favorite jazz vocalists. I've always loved the way she sings, how she pulls on the time like Billie Holiday. She sings with such a full, intense, large sound, and this song of hers always moved me. I wanted to see what I could do with it."

Denson's four original pieces stand up impressively next to his interpretations, from the Beatlesque optimism of "For A Brand New Day" to the clangy prepared-piano accompaniment of the anguished "Have We Really Gone This Far?" On a melancholic piece that feels like it beamed in from a universe neighboring Miles Davis's In a Silent Way, Denson contributes an atmospheric wordless vocal on "Through the Mist," a tune he's radically rearranged since the collective trio Minsarah introduced it in 2006. The closing title track is a wistful invitation into Denson's verdant musical world.

The album is built on some of his deepest musical relationships. Denson and Dayna Stephens met at Berklee and have played together in various contexts ever since. Israeli-born drummer Ronen Itzik is also a Berklee alum, and he and Denson bonded as part of the rhythm section for Joe Lovano's 21st Century Ensemble. They went on to get graduate degrees at Florida State University, where they played together daily and recorded three albums in two years with pianist Bill Peterson and one with vocalist Inga Swearingen. Kari Ikonen, one of Finland's most highly regarded jazz musicians, is a much more recent addition to Denson's musical world, but he's quickly become indispensable. In need of a pianist for a tour with legendary alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, he hired Ikonen and "it was joyously apparent to me that along with Ronen, this was my trio. It felt easy and inspiring and the next few tours I did with Lee Konitz were with them."

Konitz played a crucial role in encouraging the reemergence of Denson's vocals after hearing his singing on Secret World. Performing together at the Bimhaus in Amsterdam, the altoist made an impromptu announcement in the middle of a standard that "Jeff is going to sing," he recalls. "There wasn't even a microphone set up, but I started singing the melody. I booked a West Coast tour with him after that and we'd spontaneously sing together every night. It felt great, playing the standard jazz repertoire and being able to sing on stage with him. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted to do my own music and sing the way I sing, without having to filter anything."

Born on Dec. 20, 1976 in Arlington, Virginia, Denson grew up in the orbit of Washington, DC. After playing alto sax from third grade through junior high, he gave up the horn but was drawn back to music when friends in high school recruited him as a singer for rock bands. When one of those groups also needed a bass player, he took over the spot and before long found himself drawn to the jazz and funk electric bass pantheon, "Players like Jaco, Bootsy Collins, and Stanley Clarke served as the gateway," Denson recalls. "When I heard the virtuosic electric playing in fusion, that opened the door to jazz." Listening to Miles Davis led him to the double bass, but it was Mingus who inspired him to dedicate himself to it. "I heard 'Haitian Fight Song' where he plays that amazing intro, and that was the defining moment," Denson says. "I knew I'd never be able to make sounds like that on an electric bass."

While studying at Northern Virginia Community College Denson supported himself freelancing around DC, playing jazz, orchestral music, rock covers, and leading his own funk combo as a bassist and vocalist. Earning a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, he quickly fell in with German pianist Florian Weber and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz, fellow students with whom he formed Minsarah. The collective trio released its debut album in 2003 on Hubermusic, and followed up in 2006 with a critically hailed eponymous album on Enja Records. Despite touring internationally with the group Denson managed to maintain a rigorous academic career.

Recruited by Florida State University, he graduated Magna Cum Laude an MM in Jazz Studies on a full scholarship and discovered an affinity for teaching. A conversation with bass giant Mark Dresser, who had just been hired as a professor at UC San Diego, brought Denson to UCSD on another full scholarship, leading to a doctorate in contemporary music performance with an emphasis in composition. Throughout his San Diego sojourn, Denson continued to tour widely with Minsarah, and it was during a spate of 2006 concerts in Germany that Lee Konitz first heard the band, "the start of a great adventure," Denson says.

With Minsarah serving as his band, the critically hailed Lee Konitz New Quartet debuted on 2007's Deep Lee and followed up with 2009's Lee Konitz New Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard, Jazzman Magazine's 2010 Album of the Year Award, and 2014's Standards Live: At the Village Vanguard (all on Enja). Denson made his debut as a bandleader with 2012's Secret World, and went on to demonstrate his versatility with simultaneous duo releases, radically reconceiving American hymns and spirituals with San Diego pianist Joshua White on I'll Fly Away and exploring freely improvised dialogues with Swiss clarinet virtuoso Claudio Puntin on Two.

Since relocating to the East Bay in 2011 to take on a full professorship at the California Jazz Conservatory, Denson has forged ties with some of the Bay Area's top players, including bassoonist Paul Hanson, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, guitarist Mimi Fox and violinist Mads Tolling (his partners in the San Francisco String Trio). A prolific composer and arranger, he's written music for an array of jazz settings, as well as for string ensembles, solo bass, and chamber opera.

He's brought his many pursuits under one umbrella with the recent unveiling of Ridgeway Arts, a non-profit designed to enhance and fortify the Bay Area scene, and to make a strong contribution to the national landscape of jazz and the arts in general, through a four-pronged plan of expression, education, presenting and documentation. He introduced the initiative with The Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz, and followed up with Arctic by drummer Alan Hall's critically hailed electro-acoustic ensemble, Ratatet. The label has become an essential conduit to an international cast of musicians, and the portal to Denson's multifarious musical imagination.

"Artists are always dreaming up what we're doing," he says. "My goal has always been very clearly to create my own musical world."



JEF STOTT PRESENTS ASLAN DUB SYSTEM VOL. 1


Bay Area producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, documentary filmmaker, and music educator Jef Stott returns with his first album release in five years. Stott who has released three critically acclaimed albums on Six Degrees Records and over 10 albums in his long career is back in a major musical way with an exciting new project, Aslan Dub System, that focuses on bass music heavily mixed with electro cumbia, Jamaican dub, and Balkan brass all held together with Stott’s signature global fusion foundation. Aslan Dub System Vol. 1 is due out on June 8th on Stott’s new record label Embarka Records and distributed worldwide through Six Degrees.

Aslan Dub System is the fruition of Stott’s life changes and personal growth over the past decade, which included his new teaching job at SF JAZZ, the launch of his video travel series World is Sound (http://worldissound.tv), and marrying into his new Turkish family, as well as his original SF recording studio closing down. Stott’s describes what happened to his project studio “All of my previous work had been written and recorded in my studio in San Francisco and that building was demolished in the ongoing wave of gentrification in S.F. So, my studio of over 10 years was shut down. I embraced the change and took a job in the Education Dept of SFJAZZ and built up an audio production classroom there and became well known as an educator.”

While prospering at his new role as a music educator, Stott also launched the World is Sound project, a video travel series about music. The series presents rich sonic cultures through interviews and performances with musical artists from exciting and vibrant destinations around the globe. The series, that Stott hosts, shoots, edits and produces, provides an engaging look at how performers in major urban settings create their musical art forms. Think of it as Anthony Bourdain, but about music. Stott has already traveled to Japan, Istanbul, New Orleans and Cuba for the project interviewing and jamming with people all over the world. Watch the series and find out more at http://worldissound.tv.

Stott’s inspiration from traveling didn’t stop there. His recent marriage to his Turkish wife whose family is based in Istanbul and the Aegean Coast added to his sonic and personal journey. He passionately states, “I have travelled there several times, which was a huge influence not only culturally, but socially. Being surrounded by such a large loving family had a positive effect on the moody lone wolf artist. Through my travels and my new family overseas, I experienced first-hand how music is the fabric of life, weaving society together, music and community is life. So, I wanted to start creating something that added to that feeling, something collaborative, celebratory and communal.”

The result of these experiences are projected in Aslan Dub System Vol. 1. Stott describes, “I found a renewed passion to create more music with a positive outward looking sound. I am much more interested now in connecting with people globally thru music instead of looking more inward as a studio artist. The sound that is coming out of this new project is sunny, positive and inclusive. I feel more than ever that music is a key to understanding and compassion and we really need that in the world now. I am committed more than ever to bring a positive global vibe to my fans and new audiences.” The project is also debuting on Stott’s new imprint Embarka Records, which will release Stott’s music and the artists he collaborates through the World is Sound project all with an emphasis on global bass music from around the world.

The debut EP Aslan Dub System Vol. 1 is aptly titled as “Aslan” means “Lion” in Turkish and “dub system” is a nod to Jamaican sound system culture. On the five diverse bass music tracks on Aslan Dub System Vol 1.  Stott enlists a talented cast of musicians who join him including Will Magid on trumpet, best known for his work as Balkan Bump signed to Gramatik’s Lowtemp label, Morgan Nilsen on clarinet from La Misa Negra, Inspector Gadje, and Latin American percussionist Vincent de Jesus. Each track has its own unique style, whether it’s the Balkan bass tunes of “Balkan Beach” or “Jelem Cantina” to the old school drum & bass roller “Ready For This” to the electro cumbia dub of “Soñar (to dream)” or the Burning Man festival inspired opener “Yemaya.”

Stott concludes, “I’m excited and grateful to be releasing this music. I hope to continue growing as an artist through these collaborations, using my resources to help other artists release their work on the new Embarka Label and to continue traveling and connecting with people through the World is Sound video series and through more Aslan based musical projects and collaborations. We as artists and citizens need to keep seeking to come together, to find common ground and shared experiences. Pulling back into our safe zones of nationalism is not the way forward. Music is the unifier and the way forward.”



Bassist Stanley Clarke Releases "The Message" Featuring Guests Musicians


45 years after his album debut, four-time Grammy® Award-winning bassist Stanley Clarke shows he is still unapproachable on both the electric and acoustic, wielding a vision of fusion and funk, breakbeats and bass-interpreted cello suites with a little help from friends like rapper/beatboxer Doug E. Fresh and trumpeter Mark Isham. Backed by a young versatile band and a collection of tunes written in the midst of a tumultuous tour of Europe, The Message (available June 29 via Mack Avenue Records) swells with an abundance of strength, soul and astounding musicianship.

“I’m very excited about our work on this album. I wanted to include some of my band members’ contributions and the result is an album that is funky, melodic, musical, contemporary and fresh with a rich multi-genre influence,” Clarke commented. “The guys in this band are consummate young musicians with musical spirits that are very old.”

In 2015 Clarke brought a band through Europe consisting of keyboardists Cameron Graves and Beka Gochiashvili and drummer Mike Mitchell. When a terrorist attack in Tunisia prevented the band from continuing their tour (which was scheduled to go there next), they opted to hunker down in Paris and compose.

“We were in this great hotel and the owner was a fan,” remembers Clarke. “I said, ‘Can you put these three guys in a room where no one can hear them?’ He found a room and after two days, they wrote compositions that reflected their worldview and included their versatility in many different musical genres. A lot of this stuff I would have never written in a million years.”

A few days later the band entered ICP Studios in Belgium and recorded an abundance of material. Clarke returned to his home in Los Angeles with the tapes and began to tinker. “Once I got the raw material, I fleshed it out. My ability is to orchestrate and arrange. I’m very good with taking anything and turning it into something.”

Much of the material from their Paris adventure is collected on this album but the affair opens with a homegrown homage to several soulful great friends that Clarke has lost in the last few years including George Duke, Al Jarreau, Tom Petty, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler and Prince. Clarke slaps out a funky riff for “And Ya Know We’re Missing You” while renowned beatboxer Doug E. Fresh lays down an intrepid beat. A rare pairing that seems instinctual upon first listen.

“After the Cosmic Rain/Dance of the Planetary Prince” encompasses Clarke’s entire career and is the first on the album from those European sessions. The basis of the tune was written in the early ‘70s for his band Return to Forever, but this time the Planetary Prince is keyboardist Cameron Graves. The young keyboardist, a member of the West Coast Get Down phenomenon, has toured with Clarke for many years. His fleet-fingered tornado is the focal point of the performance. “Cameron played one of the most amazing synthesizer solos I heard in a long time. I had gotten blown out on synthesizer solos from all the fusion days in the ‘70s, but Cameron came up with a warm beautiful solo. One of the best synth solos I’ve heard in 10 or 15 years.” 

Amid the barrage of drums and basses on “The Rugged Truth” is Gochiashvili, a native of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, who has toured with Clarke for the past five years. His piano solos in this piece hold a breathless array of eclectic ideas and impeccable technique, integrating seamlessly with Graves’ battalion of keys.

Now 21-years-old, Beka Gochiashvili was an award-winning child jazz piano prodigy and has already performed with many of the jazz greats of our time. He was brought to the US in 2008 with the help of Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State and an accomplished pianist herself. Rice brought Gochiashvili to New York to participate in auditions at the Juilliard School and at the Manhattan School of Music. Not surprisingly, he was accepted in both schools. He has released two of his own albums, the most recent of which is Beck Logic Project: Chillin’ in Batums.

“Heavy, heavy heavy,” says Clarke with a smile speaking of Gochiashvili. “Beka is a tremendous solo pianist, who I predict one day will be as influential as Keith Jarrett. He is truly a hard worker and dedicated musician. I’m very impressed with him.”

The recognizable voice of Steve Blum narrates “Combat Continuum,” an 8-bit fusion fantasy that steps back beyond the galaxy and into a realm that burns with energy.

In a band full of powerhouses, young Texan drummer Mike Mitchell stands out as an incredible force. “He’s probably one of the most energetic drum geniuses that I have ever played with. I’ve never seen a guy that is so creative with drums. If he continues down this path, he could very easily be a Tony Williams or Elvin Jones,” says Clarke.

“The Message” and Bach’s “Cello Suites, No. 1” are two sides of the same coin for Clarke. He is as at home with the electric bass as he is with the upright. But they are still worlds apart. Here he ties them with an empathetic feel, virtuosic but controlled. “The Bach cello suite is like a serious thing to attempt. It’s a hard piece. I do it in the same key as the cello. I don’t change it to suit the bass or make it easier. I worked out the fingering and I’m just trying to make it sound pretty.”

The slow groove of “Lost In A World” is a laidback duet between vocalists Skeyler Kole and Trevor Wesley. Tight harmonies and Gochiashvili’s dreamy piano carry the tune on a cloud while “Alternative Facts” burns that same piano to the ground. The band is playful but centered. Gochiashvili shows off his acoustic chops with startling clarity and control.

“The Legend of Abbas and the Sacred Talisman” is a calming meditation from Clarke on upright bass and Gochiashvili’s piano. They dreamily float on the same wavelength, effortlessly drifting along as though they have played together for decades. The warmth and musicianship is undeniable as the ship points the way home to “Enzo’s Theme,” a track from the European session bolstered by the welcome additions of trumpeter Mark Isham and saxophonist Doug Webb.

The Message is unmistakably a Stanley Clarke record. Five decades of unapproachable bass mastery doesn’t come easy and Clarke has no interest in relinquishing his throne. Propelled by the youthfulness of his bandmates, Clarke reaches even deeper into his bag of tricks for an incredibly satisfying listen.

“Our message is simple. It is a message of love. There is nothing really profound about our message. It’s just love. A lot of artists have said it in their own way. This is ours.”

The Stanley Clarke Band · The Message
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: June 29, 2018


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