Friday, December 19, 2014

Frank Sinatra’s Life and Music Celebrated on the Eve of His Centennial Year

Throughout 2015, one of the world’s most beloved entertainment icons of all time, Frank Sinatra, will be celebrated around the world with commemorative centennial events, exhibitions, and new music and film releases. Ahead of next year’s celebration, the definitive new FRANK SINATRA 100 App, exploring Sinatra’s incredible life and career, has been released worldwide on the App Store and Google Play. The free to download app is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and Android tablets.

“It’s Frank’s world, we’re just livin’ in it.”
Designed and developed by playDEF on behalf of Frank Sinatra Enterprises and Universal Music Group, FRANK SINATRA 100 is a comprehensive and evolving “appumentary,” inviting fans to step into Frank’s world (on a string), with lush, vibrant imagery showcased in several rare and previously unseen photos, a unique, full-screen Sinatra Slideshow feature, as well as exclusive audio recordings and videos, including a 1962 filmed performance excerpted from the new Sinatra: LONDON box set. The app also delves into Frank’s life and career with an interactive timeline, in-depth features, interviews and personal stories about Frank from many who knew him best, including family members and friends.

Over time, the dynamic app will continue to evolve and expand to reveal the complete story of one of the 20th century’s most important pop culture figures – the renowned live performer, prolific recording artist, television personality and Oscar®-winning film star, honored humanitarian and adored family man. To accompany FRANK SINATRA 100’s bounty of visual features, in-app music purchase options are available via major digital service providers, including the new Mastered for iTunes releases on the iTunes Store. Sinatra’s music can also be streamed via in-app connectivity to Spotify, Rdio or Deezer.

On December 9, Universal Music Enterprises and Frank Sinatra Enterprises released Sinatra: LONDON, a new 3-CD/DVD and digital audio collection presenting the remastered Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain studio album with a treasure trove of other London highlights from Sinatra’s career. The sleek, book-style set includes more than 50 previously unreleased recordings and its DVD features a previously unreleased filmed 1962 concert from Royal Festival Hall, plus a 1970 concert appearance from the same venue with a never before released performance of the classic song “A Foggy Day.”

Throughout his six-decade career, Frank Sinatra performed on more than 1,400 recordings and was awarded 31 gold, nine platinum, three double platinum and one triple platinum album by the Recording Industry Association of America. Sinatra demonstrated a remarkable ability to appeal to every generation and continues to do so; his artistry still influences many of today’s music superstars. He also appeared in more than 60 films and produced eight motion pictures.

Sinatra was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Recording Academy, The Screen Actors Guild and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, he remains a legend and an inspiration around the world for his contributions to culture and the arts.

More information about 2015’s global Sinatra 100 celebration will soon be shared. Stay tuned to the FRANK SINATRA 100 App for dynamic enhancements and special features to be added through next year's centennial salute.


Perhaps the hook of interest to the just released 20th album from keyboardist-composer-producer Dan Siegel is that his cerebral compositions masterfully crafted on “Indigo” with co-producer Brian Bromberg do not need sensationalism in order to thrive. The veteran artisan has been making sophisticated piano-driven contemporary jazz records for 35 years thus earning his fine reputation without gimmicks or pandering to the fickle nature of the audience’s passing fancy. Instead he sets the bar high and focuses his muse on making thinking man’s music. The collection’s ten fully orchestrated and deftly arranged live acoustic jazz constructs offer nimble piano and keyboard emotives and evocative melodies amplified by lush horns that certainly live up to that description.

Emerging only when he has something meaningful to share, “Indigo” is Siegel’s first outing in five years. The new set is being swiftly welcomed at contemporary jazz radio hungry for high-quality music. It opens with the sweeping “To Be Continued” on which Siegel receives as adept assist from the impassioned sax play of Bob Sheppard. Mike Miller joins the fray on “By Chance” to add tasty jazz guitar licks to Siegel’s playful piano frolic. The title cut, a bit of a Wild West showdown, is punctuated by a gun slinging brass section and Allen Hinds’ unharnessed guitar shots placed adjacent to Siegel’s structured piano that seems to maintain some semblance of decorum. Contemplative by nature, “Beyond” explores an ambient expanse. Piano and sax swirl and swoon on the breezy “Far And Away.” Sheppard’s sax shadows Siegel’s poignant probings on “If Ever” before climaxing in an emotionally-wrought solo. Bromberg’s upright bass and drummer Will Kennedy (Yellowjackets) make the bluesy rhythm swing on “Spur Of The Moment” boosted by the horn section and another inspired Miller electric guitar improv. Gentle piano and sax radiate hope and promise amidst the pitter-patter brushed beats on “First Light.” The uplifting “Consider This” benefits from Siegel’s rousing and gregarious piano at the fore while “Endless” registers a resonant closing statement that lingers long after the final notes fade with dexterous bass and drum embellishments abound.      

Siegel, a Eugene, Oregon native, is planning a series of spring concert dates in the Pacific Northwest after having showcased the album at a performance last month before an enraptured Southern California audience.

Vocalist THANA ALEXA Immortalizes Personal and Musical Influences on Path to Self-Discovery with Debut Album, Ode To Heroes

By the time an artist discovers their own voice, they've inevitably been shaped by countless influences. On her debut album, Ode To Heroes, vocalist Thana Alexa pays tribute to the personalities both personal and musical who have impacted her on the path to forging her own distinctively individual voice. It's a telling list that encompasses her own family; jazz giants like Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, and Paul Desmond; and the stellar musicians who collaborate with her on the album, including drummer and co-producer Antonio Sanchez, saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Lenart Krecic, bassists Jorge Roeder and Scott Colley, pianist Sergio Salvatore and vibraphonist Christos Rafalides. 

The release of Ode To Heroes, due out March 10 via Harmonia Mundi/Jazz Village, marks the arrival of a rising star on the modern vocal jazz scene. The album mainly features her engaging original compositions, along with vibrant takes on jazz standards like Shorter's "Footprints," Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," and Desmond and Dave Brubeck's "Take 5." Most importantly, it spotlights Alexa's ability to engage in rewarding and illuminating conversation with some of the music's most renowned and forward-thinking players. 

Ode To Heroes' title track opens the album with sudden staccato stabs, and it may take listeners a few moments to realize that there's a voice alongside the sax and drums. It's a fitting introduction for a singer who sees herself as a part of the band, more interested in mixing it up and improvising with her sidemen than standing alone at the front of the stage. Alexa honed that approach while a student at the New School, where she embraced the challenge of breaking down jazz's entrenched borders. 

"This divide between vocalists and instrumentalists was very much a problem for me," Alexa says. "Whether it was through the curriculum or just through the psychology of the musicians, vocalists were oftentimes separated and classed as something different. And I was not cool with that. I ended up putting myself in really uncomfortable situations, becoming the very first vocalist in a lot of ensembles. I really wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and learn through trial and error."

Though she was born in New York City, Alexa was raised in Croatia, so her path was never going to be the expected one. She first encountered jazz at an outdoor café in Dubrovnik. The owner was a bassist who encouraged her to join his band onstage when he spotted her mouthing the lyrics in the audience. "He yelled to me from the stage in broken English and my mom pushed me up there," she recalls. "I must have looked like a tree just standing there; it was my first time ever singing in front of people."

The experience ignited a passion for jazz and soon Alexa was taking voice lessons at the Rock Academy of Zagreb. A few years later vibraphonist and club owner Bosko Petrovic took the young singer under his wing, producing a demo and urging her to discover her own voice. She returned to the States at the age of 18 to attend Northeastern University, majoring in psychology because she still saw jazz as a hobby. "I had the darkest year of my life," she says. "It was only during a jazz course I had once a week that something would light up inside of me when I had my five minutes to sing. The message was clear that a life change had to be made, so I moved to New York City and enrolled at the New School where I received a B.F.A in jazz performance and also finished my B.A. in psychology." 

Alexa looks back at that time on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (listed as "The Wanderer" on the track list), which was one of the songs she studied in class that inspired her to pursue music. Her lyrics for the Mingus classic as well as Shorter's "Footprints" both explore her journey of self-discovery as a musician. The results are evident on Ode To Heroes, where the personal and the aesthetic merge throughout. "When Evening Comes" begins with an intense wordless vocal solo, building to the tune's hypnotic groove. "In a Mode" was inspired by Herbie Hancock, while the title track was written with Antonio Sanchez and Donny McCaslin's virtuosic musicality in mind.

On the aching and delicate "Ghost Hawk," Alexa pens a love letter to her brother, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010. "The song is supposed to be hopeful," she says. "It's supposed to send the message that you should live life to the fullest and not be scared of who you love, how you love, or that you love. That's the way that my brother lived, and he was my main inspiration for this record. He was a larger than life kind of guy - his energy permeated through my whole writing process. It became my way to keep him living, even though he was no longer around physically." 

Closing tunes "M's Lullaby" and "You Are Not Alone" are dedicated to Alexa's mother, who was ailing at the time that she wrote them. "I live very far away from my parents, who are in Croatia. So I wanted to express to my mother through music that no matter where I am, I'm always there for her, and allow her to find her own strength in knowing that I love her."

Alexa met Antonio Sanchez when she saw him unexpectedly playing at Carnegie Hall with Oliver Dragojevic, one of Croatia's biggest pop stars. She references their relationship on two pieces from Ode To Heroes: "Siena," named for the destination where the couple took their first trip together (and where the song was written) and "Groove Tune," which talks about their first encounter over coffee and which provides the band an opportunity to loosen up and stretch out.

Since dedicating herself to music, Alexa has performed and recorded with Antonio Sanchez on his album New Life and his upcoming album The Meridian Suite - performances have included Red Sea Jazz Festival and Montreal Jazz Festival - with legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie and two albums with guitarist Gene Ess. She won the 2011 Jazzon Alpe-Andria International Competition for "Ode To Heroes," while "Siena" was nominated for a Best Jazz Composition award by PORIN, the Croatian Music Academy, an honor equivalent to the Grammy Awards in America. For the last two years she's been in residency at Greenwich Village's 55 Bar.

Upcoming Thana Alexa Performances

March 14 / The Side Door / Old Lyme, CT
** March 23 / SubCulture / New York, NY
** w/ special guests Antonio Sanchez and Donny McCaslin

Thana Alexa · Ode To Heroes
Jazz Village  ·  Release Date: March 10, 2015

Festival Impresario George Wein Honored with The Recording Academy® Trustees Award

George Wein, world-renowned founder and producer of the Newport Jazz Festival®, Newport Folk Festival®, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival® and numerous other music events, will receive The Recording Academy® Trustees Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions in areas other than performance. The award will be presented at a special invitation-only ceremony on Saturday, February 7, 2015 and acknowledged during the 57th Annual GRAMMY® Awards, which will be broadcast live on Sunday, February 8, at 8:00 pm ET on the CBS Television Network. 

Wein joins iconic pop music producer Richard Perry (Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr) and the stellar song-writing duo of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "On Broadway," "Just Once") as 2015 Trustees Award recipients. 

"I am thrilled to receive this recognition for my life's work, and I am grateful that The Recording Academy selected me to join this year's remarkable recipients," said Wein. "It is also an honor to celebrate the same award that has been presented to outstanding music leaders, and friends, including Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Allen Toussaint, Marian McPartland, Norman Granz, John Hammond  and countless others." 

Over the years, this Special Merit Award has been bestowed upon Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, Carole King, Frank Sinatra, Clive Davis, Cole Porter, Dick Clark, Johnny Mercer, George and Ira Gershwin, Don Cornelius, Steve Jobs, Holland/Dozier/Holland, The Beatles, Rudy Van Gelder, Bruce Lundvall, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Thomas A. Dorsey and other individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of recording. 

"This year we pay tribute to exceptional creators who have made prolific contributions to our culture and history," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "It is an honor and a privilege to recognize such a diverse group of talented trailblazers, whose incomparable bodies of work and timeless legacies will continue to be celebrated for generations to come." 

George Wein, chairman of the Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals.  He has spearheaded hundreds of music events since 1954 when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival® - an event which started the festival era. Five years later, Wein and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival®. In 1970, Wein founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  On December 11, Wein celebrated the opening of the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, which is the education and community arm of the  New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

He pioneered the idea of sponsor association with music events, beginning with The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival. His company went on to produce events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry's, CareFusion, Natixis Global Asset Management and others. 

As he approaches his 90th birthday, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music. He created the Newport Festivals Foundation in 2010 to continue the legacies of the famed Jazz and Folk festivals, and continues to lead a team of seasoned professionals to produce both events every summer.

A result of his diverse contributions to jazz and world culture, Wein has been honored by heads of state, educational institutions and leading publications.  He is an NEA Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate), and in 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and New Englander of the Year from the New England Council. In 2012 Wein was given the APAP Award of Merit for Achievement in Performing Arts. In addition, honors and awards have been bestowed upon him by Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, AARP, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the French Legion d'Honneur. Wein is a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and a member of the Board of Trustees at Jazz @ Lincoln Center.

In addition to his work as a producer, George Wein is an accomplished jazz pianist, whose group, Newport All-Stars has toured around the world and has featured some of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz.

Wein's autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (Da Capo Press), which chronicles his life in jazz, was recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association as 2004's best book about jazz. In addition to his life in jazz, Mr. Wein has a long history of involvement with philanthropy and the arts, including the establishment of the Joyce and George Wein Chair of African American Studies at Boston University, the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College and an annual artist prize given through the Studio Museum in Harlem in honor of his late wife, Joyce Alexander Wein.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mahalia Barnes & The Soul Mates to Release Album of Bette Davis Covers - Ooh Yea: The Betty Davis Songbook

Powerhouse singer Mahalia Barnes, one of the most impressive female vocalists to come out of Australia, and her band The Soul Mates have teamed up with American blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa to release an album of Betty Davis covers called Ooh Yea! – The Betty Davis Songbook. Scheduled for release on February 24, 2015, it explores tracks from Davis' sexy, raw funk records of the early '70s.

Download for FREE the intense, rocking song "Steppin' In Her I. Miller Shoes" which features a wailing guitar solo by Bonamassa here:

Betty Davis's unique story is still fairly unknown. She married Miles Davis in the late '60s, influencing him with psychedelic rock, and introducing him to Jimi Hendrix. Later, she released three genre-busting albums, 1973's self-titled debut, 1974's They Say I'm Different and 1975's Nasty Gal that have since influenced artists like Outkast, Prince, Erykah Badu, Rick James, The Roots, Ice Cube, Talib Kweli and Ludacris.

Mahalia Barnes, eldest daughter of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes and recent contestant on The Voice, has been around music her whole life but has always been most heavily influenced by soul, blues and rock n' roll. Throughout the years she was exposed to Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and Ike + Tina and later, became enthralled with artists like Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder as well as grittier singers like Ann Peebles, Betty Lavette and Betty Davis.

Last year, Mahalia was in the studio with her dad and internationally acclaimed super-producer, Kevin Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Journey, Divinyls), when she played Kevin some Betty Davis tracks as a reference. It was then that the idea to record the album Ooh Yeah – The Betty Davis Song Book was born.

"I have been a fan of Betty Davis for years now," said Barnes. "I can remember the first time I heard her stuff, I was hooked! She is wild, free, nasty, raw, funky, intense, powerful and sexy. I love the instrumentation, I love the backing vocals. I've always wanted to make a record that sounds like what she was doing."

Ambitious? Undoubtedly. Left of center? Perhaps. But the result? Nothing short of spectacular. Tackling some of Betty's all-time greatest tracks, it's safe to say that Mahalia holds her own… and then some! Kevin Shirley enlisted Bonamassa to lend his skills on the record. Heralded as one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, Bonamassa soars on this album.

In addition to Barnes on vocals and tambourine and Bonamassa on guitar, the album features The Soul Mates players Franco Raggatt (guitar), Clayton Doley (organ, piano), Lachlan Doley (clav, rhodes), Ben Rodgers (bass), David Hibbard (drums), Yanya Boston (congas), and backing vocalists Darren Percival, Jade MacRae, and Juanita Tippins. It was recorded live over three days at Freight Train Studios in Sydney, Australia. It will be released on J&R Adventures, the independent label founded by Bonamassa and his longtime manager and business partner Roy Weisman.

"Making this album was a real joy. I love the realness. Recording it the way we did kept it really exciting and raw - no tricks or fix ups, old school and real. A perfect take is one that means something and feels great," said Barnes.

Ooh Yea The Betty Davis Song Book is certainly Mahalia's most ambitious and prodigious work to date. It's a record of songs with passion, feeling, power and grit that celebrates one of the most progressive voices of funk and R&B.
Ooh Yea! - The Betty Davis Songbook
1. If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up
2. Steppin' In Her I. Miller Shoes
3. In The Meantime
4. He Was A Big Freak
5. Your Mama Wants You Back
6. Game Is My Middle Name
7. Nasty Gal
8. Ooh Yea!
9. You Won't See Me In The Morning
10. Anti-Love Song
11. Walking Up The Road (featuring guest vocals by Jimmy Barnes)
12. Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him



Duke collaborated with some of the most prominent figures in the industry as a musician (beginning with Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa, and Dizzy Gillespie) and as a producer, crafting dozens of recordings many of them GRAMMY winners. Starting in the 1980s, Duke produced hits for the likes of Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, the Pointer Sisters, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Jeffrey Osborne and Deniece Williams. Busy outside of the studio as well, Duke took on the role as musical director for several large-scale events, including the 1988 Nelson Mandela tribute concert at London's Wembley Stadium. The following year, he served as musical director of NBC's acclaimed late-night music performance program, Sunday Night. The George Duke Collection focuses on the versatile artist's time on the Heads-Up label , an era, seemingly, of reflection: whether Duke found himself returning to his funk roots, employing his signature synth sounds and vintage techniques in the studio (Déjà Vu), or paying tribute to his beloved wife, after her passing (Dreamweaver). The Collection includes plenty of upbeat funk, as well as introspective pieces, like the autobiographical 'Trippin'.' Famous friends join in too: 'Ball & Chain' features the late Teena Marie, while Rachelle Ferrell, Wayman Tisdale and Sheila E. join a handful of other luminaries on these tracks. A compilation for new and old fans alike, The George Duke Collection finds an artist who was 40 years into his career, yet still riding high on the top of his game when he left us, much too soon. ~ Amazon


The soaring spirit of Blue Note Records – served up here with a really special twist to fit the mode of the Free Soul series! The package is overflowing with goodness – four hours' worth of listening, with a special focus on two periods of the label – that great late 60s/early 70s stretch when they were trying out so many new ideas and rhythms, including elements borrowed from soul, Latin, fusion, and Brazilian modes – and the more recent stretch that has seen Blue Note re-emerge as one of the most forward-thinking labels in jazz! CDs 1 and 2 feature older gems – including "Lover To Lover" by Maxi Anderson, "Kathy" by Moacir Santos, "As" by Gene Harris, "Tuesday Heartbreak" by Ronnie Foster, "Harlem River Drive" by Bobbi Humphrey, "To See A Smile" by Ronnie Foster, "Where Are We Going" by Donald Byrd, "You're Welcome Stop On By" by Lou Donaldson, "Save The Children" by Marlena Shaw, "Move Your Hand" by Lonnie Smith, "In Pursuit Of The 27th Man" by Horace Silver, "Early Morning Love" by Moacir Santos, "Montara" by Bobby Hutcherson, and "Stormy" by Duke Pearson. CD3 features newer work – including "Come To My Door" by Jose James, "Holding Onto You" by Derrick Hodge, "Maiden Voyage" by Dianne Reeves, "Praise" by Aaron Parks, "You're Still The One" by Otis Brown III with Gretchen Parlato, "Ain't Misbehavin" by Jason Moran with Meshell Ndegeocello, "No Love Dying" by Gregory Porter, "Afro Blue" by Robert Glasper with Erykah Badu, "Please Set Me At Ease" by Madlib, and "Won't You Open Up Your Senses" by 4Hero with Vanessa Freeman. ~ Dusty Groove


A funky jazz treasure – and the band's landmark first album! The Blackbyrds were a legendary 70s combo that were discovered by Donald Byrd while he was teaching at Howard University – and they had a tight style that mixed raw funk influences with smoother jazz playing, creating a sound that was different from many of their contemporaries, and which pushed funk and soul into a whole new level. Byrd's work with the band was as groundbreaking as Larry Mizell's work on his own Blue Note albums – and coincidentally, Larry Mizzell's Sky High Productions handles the studio chores for the set – but in a way that's much more sharply funky than his albums with Byrd! Titles include the tight choppy funk tracks "Do It, Fluid" and "Funky Junkie", plus other nice groovers like "Summer Love", "Gut Level", and "The Runaway".  ~Dusty Groove


Plenty of magic here from organist Sonny Phillips – who also plays a bit of Fender Rhodes on the album too! The instrument is one that Sonny would use more later in the 70s – and here, it comes across with the same heavy phrasing as a Hammond – nice and blocky, which makes for a great mix with the other instrumentation of the group – which includes Melvin Sparks on guitar, Ben Dixon on drums, and Eddie Pazant (of the Pazant Brothers) on tenor! Some cuts have a sweet mellow approach to funk – especially the excellent cut "Bean Pie" – and other titles include "Make It Plain", "Wakin Up", and "The Brotherhood". ~ Dusty Groove


A cracker of an album – as fresh today as it was when it was first released in 1963! Roy Haynes is probably best known to the world for his bop work, but in the early 60s, he was a budding modernist with a real sense for lyrical improvisation. As part of a generation that was working on newly musical ways of using the drums – players that included Andrew Cyrille and Chico Hamilton – Haynes had a way of making the kit talk that's quite different than his roots in 50s jazz. Here, he's playing with a very hip quartet that includes Frank Strozier on alto and flute, Ronnie Matthews on piano, and Larry Ridley on bass – crafting tunes that swing at a lovely level, yet also have far-reaching and exploratory passages. The whole album's a delight – and titles include "Modette", "Go N Git It", "La Palomeinding", and "Hag".  ~ Dusty Groove


A soulful and ambitious session from saxophonist Nathan Davis – a funky little gem that's got a lot more to offer than just a simple tribute to Dr King! Nathan penned the set in a mode that's expanded from most of his other albums – using larger horns and electric instrumentation to give the record a groove that's almost like funky 70s soundtrack work, but which is also offset by some shorter, more introspective tracks that feature spoken narration about King and his legacy – read by Donald M Henderson, and done in an extremely poetic way. The session's as righteous as it is grooving – and showcases a side of Davis' talents we never even knew he had – a rich larger musical vision, handled perfectly throughout! Nathan plays a range of reed instruments on the album, and Frank Cunimondo plays some sweet electric piano on the record – and singer Brenda Joyce provides lyrics on a few numbers as well. Titles include "Funk A Dilly Molly", "MLK", "Atlanta Walk", "Mean Business", "Latin Happ'n", and "New Dues". ~ Dusty Groove




Sweet funky soul from Les McCann – one of the best of his 70s albums that bring in a lot of vocals with the keyboards – and served up in some tight tunes that really pack a nice sort of punch! The album doesn't have the long jammers of some of McCann's other records from the time – but the shift to shorter, focused tunes is a nice one – thanks to Bert De Coteaux, who keeps things carefully poised to bring out all the best in Les' talents – even his vocals, which seem to sound even more moving on the mellow cuts here than the more upbeat and righteous ones! McCann plays a range of different keyboards – including Fender Rhodes – and the CD's got two great instrumental cuts, "Us" and "Butterflies" – plus the tracks "Well Cuss My Daddy", "Why Is Now", "Changing Seasons", "Says Who Says What", and "Let Your Learning Be Your Eyes".  ~ Dusty Groove


Dreamy soundscapes from cosmic spirit Carlos Nino and a host of diversely talented friends – including fellow Build An Ark alumni Dexter Story and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Dntel, Daedelus, adventurous new age-r Iasos, Beachwood Sparks strings player/sound designer Farmer Dave Scher, John Densmore of The Doors, jazz pianist Nate Morgan and others! There a spacious, hypnotic vibe here that's carried through with a very collaborative spirit – starting with keyboards and percussion-rooted soundscapes and compositions by Carlos, who sends his sketches out to the far-reaching roster of friends to freely contribute their own distinctive magic. We really love the looser, sparer and more hypnotic sounds, but there's some busier, more insistent material that hold it all together nicely. Includes "Aurorasmushroomtenderness" with Iasos, "Constellation Of Dancing Flutes" with Yaakov Levy, "Rhodestargate" with Nate Morgan & Dntel, "Mellohtronn Interlou" with Jim Lang, "Visionquest: Emergence" with Paul Livingstone, "Enter The Nowosphere Spaceways Radio Mix" with Deantoni Parks, Farmer Dave Scher, Cut Chemist, Kelsey Gonzalez, Dexter Story and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, "Meetor Shower" with Dntel, "Familyyy" with Nate Morgan, "8 Moons Blue" with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and more. (Includes code for digital download.)  ~ Dusty Groove


A monster – and one of the best jazz funk albums ever on Prestige! Rusty Bryant blows his top off on this one – taking his tenor stylings out of the more staid R&B mode of earlier years, working with some younger heavy funk jazz players to craft a brilliant album of long searing tunes that's forever been one of the must-haves of the early 70s jazz funk scene! Idris Muhammad's on drums, Wilbert Longmire's on guitar, and the organ work is split between Leon Spencer and Bill Mason, both monstrously great talents, with a propensity for open-stopped hard-wailing playing! Titles include "Fire Eater", "The Hooker", "Mister S", and "Free At Last".  ~ Dusty Groove

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa examines the influence of Charlie Parker through a 21st century jazz lens on new CD Bird Calls

Through a series of critically acclaimed releases over the past decade, saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa has explored the music of his South Indian heritage and translated it through the vocabulary of his own distinctive approach to modern jazz. On his latest release Bird Calls, available February 10, 2015 on ACT, Mahanthappa trains his anthropological imagination on an equally important cultural influence: the music of Charlie Parker. With a stellar quintet of forward-thinking musicians, which includes some long-time collaborators as well as 20-year-old trumpet prodigy Adam O'Farrill, Mahanthappa offers an inspired examination of Bird's foundational influence and how it manifests itself in a decidedly 21st-century context.

"It's easy to say that Bird influenced modern music without dissecting that notion," Mahanthappa says. "If I had any agenda for this album, it was to really demonstrate that. This music says, 'Yes, Bird's influence is absolutely indelible, and here's why.' This is music that is all directly inspired by Charlie Parker, but it sounds as modern as anything today." The album is also a passion project for Mahanthappa, who counts Parker as one of his earliest and most enduring inspirations, saying, "Bird has always been a huge influence on me."

Though it pays homage to one of jazz's Founding Fathers and arrives at the outset of Charlie Parker's 95th birthday year, Bird Calls is not a tribute album in the traditional sense. There isn't a single Parker composition to be found on the album, which consists entirely of new music penned by Mahanthappa for the occasion. But Bird's DNA is strongly present in every one of these pieces, each of which takes a particular Parker melody or solo as its source of inspiration. Each is then wholly reimagined and recontextualized by Mahanthappa and his quintet which, in addition to O'Farrill (son of pianist and Afro Latin Jazz Alliance founder Arturo O'Farrill), features pianist Matt Mitchell (Dave Douglas, Tim Berne), bassist François Moutin (Jean-Michel Pilc, Martial Solal), and drummer Rudy Royston (Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas).
Take the most obvious example, "Talin is Thinking," whose title is both a play on "Parker's Mood" and a loving dedication to Mahanthappa's two-year-old son. The familiar melody of "Parker's Mood" is essentially intact, but it is transformed into a more somber, serpentine piece by the removal of Bird's syncopated rhythmic approach. Less immediately recognizable but similar in approach is "Chillin'," which asks the instrumentalists to navigate melodies derived from Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" both in the written material and in their solos.

"Bird's solos and heads were very advanced harmonically and rhythmically," Mahanthappa says. "They're as cutting edge as anything today, and I always feel like we take that for granted as jazz musicians. We know the melody to 'Donna Lee' and we know these classic solos like we know 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' but what if we were to dig deeper? If you take an excerpt of one of his solos in isolation, it's like 21st-century classical music, with a really modern way of thinking about rhythm and melody and harmony."

"On the DL," for example, dissects the melody of Parker's classic "Donna Lee" and builds an entirely new melody on that foundation. The piece is marked by Mahanthappa's intricate melodicism and vigorous, shape-shifting rhythmic approach; he and O'Farrill weave their lines together in a spirit that wouldn't feel unfamiliar to Dizzy and Bird, even if the material itself would certainly sound startling to 1940s ears. Mahanthappa describes the even more breakneck "Both Hands" as "Bird's melody from 'Dexterity,' but with all the rests removed," and it's every bit as electrifying as that description implies.

Like countless other pieces before it, "Sure Why Not?" sets an original melody against the harmony of Parker's "Confirmation," then disguises its source further by slowing the usually brisk tempo to a tart ballad. "Maybe Later" focuses on Parker's rhythmic originality, changing the notes to the saxophonist's famed solo from "Now's the Time" while keeping the rhythm intact. "Gopuram," with its Indian raga feel, takes its name from the tower at the entrance of Hindu temples as a play on "Steeplechase" (after prayer, Hindus often circle the temple several times, akin to the circular route of the titular race). The album closes with "Man, Thanks for Coming," loosely based on "Anthropology." The CD is punctuated by a series of miniatures called "Bird Calls," solo, duo and group introductions that allow for more open explorations of the compositions' thematic material.
Charlie Parker was a key influence for Mahanthappa from the time a junior high music teacher handed him the Parker album Archetypes along with a copy of Jamey Aebersold's well-known collection of transcriptions, theCharlie Parker Omnibook. "I was blown away," he recalls. "I couldn't believe the way he was playing, gorgeous with so much charisma and flying all over the horn. I think hearing Charlie Parker was what planted the first seeds of wanting to do this for the rest of my life. It was very powerful."

Poring over the transcription book, which listed catalogue numbers for the compositions but not album titles, the young altoist noticed that nearly half of them were accompanied by the label Savoy 2201. Not long after, while searching the bins at a local chain record store, he spotted a copy of the collection Bird: Master Takes - and there, on the spine, was the magic number: Savoy 2201. He describes the moment as "like finding the Holy Grail."

Despite the stunning array of influences that have impacted his playing since that time, Parker has always remained an overweening inspiration. "If I ever feel uninspired or down I can always go back to Charlie Parker," he says. "That always makes me feel invigorated and joyful about playing jazz and playing the saxophone. I always say that what I play still sounds like Bird, just a little bit displaced. It's coming from the same language and the same foundations. I feel like I've always been playing Bird."

Hailed by the New York Times as possessing "a roving intellect and a bladelike articulation," Rudresh Mahanthappa has been awarded a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum. He's also been named alto saxophonist of the year multiple times in DownBeat's International Critics Poll and by the Jazz Journalists Association. His projects include the multi-cultural hybrids Gamak and Samdhi; the cross-generational alto summit Apexfeaturing Bunky Green; trios MSG and Mauger; the quintet Dual Identity co-led with fellow altoist Steve Lehman; and Raw Materials, his long-running duo project with pianist Vijay Iyer. Mahanthappa also continues to partner with Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi and innovative percussionist Dan Weiss in the Indo-Pak Coalition, while giants in both jazz and South Indian music have recognized his success: he was enlisted by Jack DeJohnette for the legendary drummer's most recent working group, while a collaboration with the renowned Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath resulted in Mahanthappa's critically-acclaimed 2008 CDKinsmen (Pi).


As one of the world’s most celebrated opera singers, soprano Rose Kingsley performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera House (the “Met”) for 15 years and wowed audiences throughout Europe singing with opera companies everywhere from the UK to Italy, Germany and Austria. Throughout her extraordinary career, she has performed throughout the U.S. and aboard delivering her arias in the classic operas “Aida,” “Tosca,” “Electra,” “La Boheme” and “Salome” in her longtime signature title role. She has also appeared in concert with Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

After years of exploring and sharing her four octave range, “Simply Rose” taps into the intimate side of her artistry, boldly declaring This is My Life with her highly anticipated, exquisitely arranged independent jazz vocal debut album.

Produced by Norman Miller under the musical direction of veteran pianist and arranger Bob Corwin, the 12 track set features a colorful handpicked mix of classic songs from multiple eras that help Rose share her truest musical soul – jazz with a touch of blues.

She is backed beautifully by the trio of Corwin, Johnny Mercer’s longtime accompanist who has served as Musical Director for jazz legends Carmen McRae, Anita O’Day and Peggy Lee; upright bassist Danny Flahive, 20 year associate of Corwin’s who has also played over 500 shows with Buddy Greco, including Carnegie Hall; and drummer/percussionist Doug Dean.

With love, emotion and perfect phrasing emerging from every note, Rose taps into the genius of Stephen Sondheim (“Send In The Clowns”); Harold Arlen (“Over the Rainbow,” “The Man That Got Away,” lyrics by Ira Gershwin, “One for My Baby,” lyrics by Johnny Mercer); Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II (“Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine”); Melissa Manchester (“Come in From The Rain,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager); Arthur Hamilton (“Cry Me A River”); Johnny Mandel (“Where Do You Start,” lyrics by Marilyn & Alan Bergman); and David Mann and Bob Hillard’s “In The Wee Small Hours.” Bookending the set are two songs that best capture the spirit of celebration and declaration that drives Rose’s vision for this exciting new phase of her career: “Here’s To Life” (first popularized by Shirley Horn) and the title track “This is My Life,” first recorded by Shirley Bassey in 1968.  

The concept for the project was inspired by veteran saxophonist Pat Rizzo, who invited Rose to join him and sing during one of his sets at Vicky’s of Santa Fe in Indian Wells, California, in early 2014. He expected her to sing classical, but when she astounded him and the audience with an intimate, jazzy rendition of “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine,” he hooked her up with his longtime friend Corwin and encouraged her to start recording.

“My goal was to find songs that really come from my soul and that affected me emotionally,” she says. “Some I had sung before, and some I had not. They’re tunes that touched me that I felt could have the same impact on an audience. When I started singing these ballads, I realized that they are my true forte. I always put my heart and passion into everything I sing, and I’m excited that I have now found my niche singing Great American Songbook and contemporary standards. The mixer on the album Leon Becken gave me a great piece of advice when I first went into the vocal booth. He said, ‘I don’t want you to sing, just talk to me. That put me at ease. It’s all about telling a story and singing from the heart.”

At the age of 14, the New Jersey born and raised Rose blossomed into an accomplished ballerina who danced professionally with the American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet of London and the Met. In her teens, she also performed in musicals like “Funny Girl,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Promises, Promises” and “Carousel.” Drawn to later passion of opera, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts NYC and the Julliard School of Music. She performed her first opera “La Boheme” at Lincoln Center and later joined the Met as a soprano. Rose was also the founder and musical director of The International Opera Institute, where she has mentored and trained singers for the opera stage; six of her former students are currently major performers.

Written by, Jonathan Widran Columnist Jazziz Magazine

The man behind ‘The Blaze’ gets in ‘The Groove’ with new jazz station

Twenty-three years after he put “The Blaze” on the air, Chris Devine is back in business on Chicago radio.

With the flip of a switch at 9 p.m. Friday, Devine launched a contemporary jazz outlet on 103.9 FM, a broadcast translator licensed to Windy City Broadcasting. The signal also is carried on Hubbard Radio’s WTMX 101.9 HD2, the secondary digital audio channel linked to the modern adult-contemporary station.

“It’s been fun having an association with a Chicago station again,” Devine said in an interview Sunday. “It’s the first new frequency that’s emerged in the market in a long time.”

Describing his role with Windy City Broadcasting as advisory, Devine has assembled a team that includes veteran Chicago radio programmers Dave Logan and Rick O’Dell and sales executive Robert McAuliff. To accommodate the move, the company has leased the HD2 channel from Hubbard Radio that previously carried O’Dell’s O’Dell serves as operations manager for the new station.

For the first three weeks on the air, Devine said, the station will be airing “jazzy Christmas” music 20 hours a day. In addition, it will feature spoken-word programming promoting the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital from 6 to 8 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. daily.

That’s all leading up to the station’s official debut December 26. “We’re going to launch more of an urbanized-type contemporary jazz,” said Devine, who identified the target audience as adults between 25 and 64. “It won’t be quite as sleepy or soft as [O’Dell’s smooth jazz] format has been. We’re going to call it ‘The Groove.’ ”

Initially broadcasting from atop the John Hancock Center at 15 watts, the station is expected to increase its power to 99 watts, according to a petition Devine plans to file next week with the Federal Communications Commission. The boost should expand the station’s coverage throughout the metropolitan area within 90 days.

Led by John Bridge, a real estate investor from west suburban Sugar Grove, Windy City Broadcasting acquired the construction permit for the translator at 103.9 W280EM for $1 million last July.

Devine, a New Jersey native who grew up in Chicago, first came to prominence here in 1991 when his Major Broadcasting Corp. acquired the former WFYR FM 103.5 for $19 million and transformed it into WWBZ, a hard rock outlet known as “The Blaze.” Two years later he sold the station for $32 million to Evergreen Media Corp., which rechristened it WRCX.

He later ran Marathon Media for aging multimillionaire C. Robert Allen, investing in a variety of broadcast entities, special events and other interests. But the company dissolved after Allen’s heirs sued Devine for racketeering, fraud and embezzlement. “It’s all been settled and put to bed,” Devine said, dismissing reports of criminal charges against him as “uninformed.”

Devine most recently has headed GeoBroadcast Solutions, a company he founded in 2009 to market technologies that help radio broadcasters target commercials to specific segments within their signal areas.




Stanley Cowell has always been one of the greatest pianists of his generation – yet somehow, in recent years, it seems like he just keeps on getting better and better! This album's got an understated brilliance that's a true testament to Cowell's continued growth over the years – as Stanley's able wax warmly in lyrical modes one minute, hit these angular modern elements the next, and still find plenty of space for the deeper, more spiritual ruminations we first came to love in his music. The balance here is subtle, but extremely rewarding – and the group features some equally sensitive accompaniment from Jay Anderson on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. Titles include "The Wedding Recessional", "Photon In A Paper World", "Mrs Parker Of KC", "I Remember Diz", "Are You Real", and "You Taught My Heart To Sing. ‘Dusty Groove


The best we've heard so far from Gui Amabis – a really wonderful little record that we might put right up there with work by Moreno Veloso and his fellow +2 trio members! Gui's got this slow-paced, raspy style of singing that's really compelling – a mode that grabs us strongly, even when we can't understand the lyrics – in a way that has us somehow feeling his intent, as it's echoed by the album's spare, but textural instrumentation – which often have this other sense of rasp too, a mode that evokes older history, even amidst the relatively contemporary presentation of the album. The album's got all the fresh, unique qualities of some of our favorite new Brazilian work of the past ten years – and titles include "Um Bom Filme", "Pausa", "Merece Quem Aceita", "Tiro", and "Crepusculo". ~ Dusty Groove


A beautiful batch of genre-straddling grooves from German guitarist Lars Bartkuhn and his Passion Dance Orchestra – wonderful stuff that brings together jazz and folk, acoustic sounds and electronics, in a warmly cohesive way! Bartkuhn is on guitars, voice and electronics, leading a group that works strongly whether it's intimately-arranged, or fairly sweeping arrangements, depending on the mood at hand – with keys, flutes, oboe, strings and wind. The way he balances bigger sounding orchestrations and more intimate moments is pretty great! Very strong work from a player we've admired from the get-go, and seems to getting better and better! Includes "Folksong", "The Oracle", "All Goes Onward", "Through Hills And Valleys", "Mind And Time", "Quasar", "Alegria (Children's Dance)", "Long Life", "Zenrock", "When We Arive" and "The World Is Everything". ~ Dusty Groove



A totally great project from the legendary Franco Micalizzi – Italian soundtrack maestro of the 70s, working here in a warm fusion style with plenty of soul! The album makes use of all Micalizzi's talent for composition and arrangement – but the format is quite different than some of his crime/cop work of years back – more in the soulful fusion style of that period, which turns out to be a great showcase for the excellent lineup on the record – which includes Fabrizio Bosso on trumpet, Jeff Lorber on keyboards, and Eric Marienthal on alto and tenor sax. Micalizzi himself plays acoustic piano on the record – and although there's vocals on a few tracks, most of the focus is on the instrumental solos. Titles include "Waxing Moon", "Guarda Me", "Ondanuova", "Bubble Blues", "Magico", "Slow Emotion", "Nunca A Certeza", and "Agua Do Mar". ~ Dusty Groove


The Ballister trio is hardly worse for the wear this time around – and instead, the group seem to have a new sort of fire, and one that has them sounding even bolder than ever! Dave Rempis is searing on alto, tenor, and baritone sax – playing at times with a style that makes us wonder if he's ever coming up for air – while Paal Nilssen-Love demonstrates once again that he's one of the true powerhouses in free jazz drumming, with an incredible command on the kit throughout! Fred Lonberg Holm plays both cello and electronics, both used in ways that shade in the music with some crucial colors that make the whole thing way more than just a bombastic expression of freedom – and the album's three long tracks are titled "Fornax", "Scutum", and "Vulpecula".  ~ Dusty Groove


That's a heck of a tall horn on the cover – and the album's got some mighty tall tones from tenorist Stephen Riley too – blowing here in a set of standards handled with a wonderfully relaxed approach! Riley's got a bit of a rasp in his tone – maybe Stan Getz by way of Ben Webster – and he's very much at home with these familiar tunes, and able to make them all his own with these great little inflections, and a personal, poetic statement on his solos. The rhythm trio has just the right sort of vibe to match the leader's desire – quietly swinging at some points, very spare at others – with Peter Zak on piano, Neal Caine on bass, and Jason Marsalis on drums – on titles that include "Baubles Bangles & Beads", "Hellhound On My Trail", "Who", "I Thought About You", "I've Told Every Little Star", "Bewitched", and "Wait Till You See Her".  ~ Dusty Groove



D'Angelo comes back after many years awol from the studio – and the result is a stunning new step in his music! We've loved the man from day one – and some folks could well say that he really helped reinvigorate soul back in the 90s – and all his time away from the studio has definitely been formative, as he comes back here with a righteous power that really blows away all his previous work! D'Angelo still loves the slow beat and mellow approach to funk – but he's also picked up a lot more fuzz and freak, too – righteous energy that more than lives up to the Black Messiah promised by the title, as do the lyrics. Instrumentation includes work by Questlove on drums, Roy Hargrove on trumpet, and Jesse Johnson on guitar – and the grooves have these tripping, slow-percolating elements that really give the lyrics a great sort of crackle. More than worth the wait – as you'll hear on titles that include "Back To The Future (parts 1 & 2)", "Sugah Daddy", "Really Love", "1000 Deaths", "Ain't That Easy", "Betray My Heart", "The Door", and "Till It's Done (Tutu)".  ~ Dusty Groove


Marcus Printup just keeps on getting better and better – a hell of a trumpet player, and a great writer too – as you'll hear in this set of sparkling original compositions, dedicated to his late father! Marcus is hardly lost at all – as the album's got this strong sense of direction – tunes that snap out and really go places right from the start, in the manner of some of the best old Blue Note tunes from the 50s and 60s – given a slightly more contemporary approach in Printup's phrasing, and the way his trumpet mixes with the tenor of Shantawn Kendrick, piano of Helen Sung, bass of Ben Williams, and drums of Ulysses Owens. Tracks are all nice and long, and very expressive – and titles include "G Wiz", "Hopscotch", "Black Bossa", "Homey's Idea", and "To The Mountain Top".  ~ Dusty Groove


A tremendous expression of tones and colors from trumpeter Nate Wooley and saxophonist Dave Rempis – working here together on some long tracks that spin out with really careful, individual textures – in these extended cycles that have both players winning us all over again with their creativity! The group also features bass from Pascal Niggenkemper and drums from Chris Corsano – but much of the main appeal comes from the interaction of the two horns, or the solo passages which can be extremely expressive – on long titles that include "Swingin Apoplexy", "Count Me Out", "Slake", and "Serpents Tooth". ~ Dusty Groove

Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star Grammy® Salute" coming to CBS

The Recording Academy®, AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS will present "Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY® Salute," a primetime entertainment special that will celebrate the iconic songbook and remarkable legacy of the 25-time GRAMMY winner. The two-hour show will tape at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, two days after the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards®, and will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, from 9 – 11 p.m. ET/PT. For updates and breaking news, please visit, and The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Performers and presenters will be announced shortly.

“Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute”
In the 56-year history of the GRAMMY Awards, Wonder is the only artist to have received Album Of The Year honors in three out of four consecutive years with Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and the seminal Songs In The Key Of Life. With a catalog that is one of the richest treasure troves in American music, his songs are still revered and influential today and his longevity as one of America's — and the world's — most respected and beloved artists is well earned. "Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" will feature some of today's top artists covering songs by the legendary GRAMMY winner, as well as other archival material. In addition, various presenters will help highlight the historical impact of Wonder's songs on music and our culture.

"Stevie Wonder is a beloved icon whose golden songbook remains one of America's and music's greatest treasures," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "A 25-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, it's only fitting that Music's Biggest Night® celebrates this legendary musical genius and pays tribute to his enduring music and legacy."

"Some of my most memorable television experiences have been with my friend Stevie, both on the GRAMMYs and off, and to be able to celebrate him in a way that only the GRAMMY stage allows is a treat that I've looked forward to for a long time," said executive producer Ken Ehrlich of AEG Ehrlich Ventures. "He is truly deserving of the term that is often used about him — an American treasure — and the night of Feb. 10 when we tape this show is going to be an amazing time."

"Stevie Wonder epitomizes the very spirit of the GRAMMYs," said Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President, Specials, Music and Live Events, CBS Entertainment. "His music is as poignant as it is appealing and his songs have the ability to illustrate our world in every note. We are thrilled to pay tribute to this legendary man and musician. His influence is present in so much of today's greatest music. This salute will give everyone he's inspired a chance to show our esteem."

"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" continues the tradition begun this past year with "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute," a two-and-a-half-hour special that celebrated the remarkable legacy of the seven-time GRAMMY-winning group. Hailed by media and fans alike as a unique and memorable event in music television, the Beatles special ultimately garnered 20 million viewers and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction (for Music Director Don Was).

Tickets to the taping of this very special evening will go on sale Thursday, Dec. 18, on Call 877.234.8425 or email for more information on ticket availability including VIP ticket packages and group sales.

"Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life — An All-Star GRAMMY Salute" is produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures, LLC. Ken Ehrlich is the executive producer.

Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards — the preeminent peer-recognized award for musical excellence and the most credible brand in music — The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs. The Academy continues to focus on its mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating for the well-being of music makers and ensuring music remains an indelible part of our culture. For more information about The Academy, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @TheGRAMMYs on Twitter, like "The GRAMMYs" on Facebook, and join the GRAMMYs' social communities on Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, and YouTube.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Trombonist Steve Turre Makes an Inspired Return To His Roots on Upcoming Release, Spiritman

Trombonist/composer Steve Turre has forged a distinctive place for himself with a long series of conceptual albums, often focused upon his innovative use of conch shells; but on Spiritman, his new album for Smoke Sessions Records, Turre has decided to go back to basics, centered upon his brilliant trombone playing. "I like to swing and I like to play the blues. I'm not ashamed to swing and I'm not afraid to swing. I think it's the foundation of the music and I'm proud of it." And swing he does -- vibrantly, joyously and vividly on the beat -- in the like-minded company of four truly outstanding musicians: alto/soprano saxophonist Bruce Williams, with Xavier Davis, Gerald Cannon and Willie Jones III on piano, bass and drums. Special guest Chembo Corniel brings his congas mastery to one track as well. The repertoire is a delightful selection of standards, jazz classics and five highly compelling new originals by Turre.

With all but one track featuring his marvelous trombone artistry, Turre clearly demonstrates why he is considered one of the ultimate masters of the instrument on today's scene. His powerful, fluid and expressive sound is rooted in the classic traditions of Lawrence Brown and Vic Dickenson, shaped by the modern giants like J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller, to emerge as a singular force who is now influencing a new generation of players. Williams is establishing himself as one of today's most inventive saxophonists and the rhythm section not only performs with consummate artistry and sensitivity, but also achieves that elusive quality of unified purpose, providing the engine to powerfully drive the music home. The ensemble work is splendid throughout and the solos are stunning, always crafted to perfectly convey the intent of the compositions.

Three items from the Great American Songbook provide a breakneck tempo, take-no-prisoners foray on "With a Song in My Heart;" a jauntily swinging "'S Wonderful;" and a lushly beautiful, but adventurous take on "It's Too Late Now." Horace Silver's "Peace" is treated to a Dameron-esque arrangement that adds another level of radiance to the exquisite ballad; while "Lover Man,"usually painted as a ballad, is instead explored in buoyant swing. The Turre originals provide the blood that runs through the body of this remarkable recording, including the deeply powerful "Trayvon's Blues" channeling sorrow and rage into a gospel-ish lament a la Mingus - a sobering and profound piece, centered by Turre's soulful holler. Soulful is the mode for "Funky Thing," composed for the Saturday Night Live band in a crisp JBs attitude on a fractured ostinato vamp. "Bu," an homage to Turre's mentor Buhaina -- Art Blakey -- is an appropriately driving, modal cooker; and the angular, sinuous "Nangadef" grooves mightily, stoked by Corniel's congas.

The final Turre original, the title piece that closes this extraordinary album, is a crystal clear window to the soul of Steve Turre. Wrapped around a captivating version of Miles Davis' "All Blues" in medley form, this is Steve's only venture here into the use of conch shells that has created another unique space for him in music in the jazz tradition. Employing his personally developed technique of blowing the shell over the strings of the piano with the sustain pedal held down, a haunting, viscerally evocative sound vibrates and resonates, conveying an aura that is truly Spiritman - and a stunning introduction to the spirited version of the Miles classic, featuring a luminous shell solo.

The pursuit of the transcendent has always been at the core of Turre's music. Whether creating arrangements for giants like Ray Charles, Max Roach and Dexter Gordon; performing from his early years with Blakey's Jazz Messengers through his work with with such stellar names as McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Woody Shaw, Lester Bowie, many legends of Latin music and so many others; or in every enthralling musical adventure under his own leadership, Steve Turre has always set his sights intently upon the highest ideals. "Music is about giving and about searching and so that is the spirit....because without spirit, music is just notes."
Steve Turre · Spiritman - Smoke Sessions Records
Release Date: March 10, 2015


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