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Jelly and George brings two composers together for one evening

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Two guys walk into a bar. They might even be frenemies, as pianist Aaron Diehl joked to the audience, but they would have something in common — jazz-imbued music. If Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton and George Gershwin had met in history, the result would be spectacular.

Enter Diehl, who presents the closest thing to such collaboration between the two: a repertoire of pieces from these two renowned composers in one concert. Calling upon the spirit of the early 20th century, Diehl and Adam Birnbaum opened the evening with a piano duet of experimental, unsettling rhythms. Full of elegant trills and syncopated chords, the two piano lines interlaced in an intriguing fashion in Gershwin’s Prelude No. 1.

The duet was soon joined by Paul Sikivie on the bass and Lawrence Leathers on the drums, followed by Riley Mulherkar on the trumpet, Evan Christopher on the clarinet, and Corey Wilcox on the trombone.

When vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant joined in, her rhapsodic voice enchanted the crowd. Salvant’s lilting vocals were reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald’s, with equal lyrical sensitivity and emotional expression. Her style, however, was clearly her own. Salvant’s sultry singing was more subdued in Gershwin’s “Boy! What Has Love Done to Me!” but her voice took on a life of its own with Morton’s “I Hate a Man Like You.” She bellowed Morton’s lyrics with a remarkable dynamic range and clarity. Her guttural delivery of the repeated “I hate a man like you!” delivered the same raw emotion that permeate the lyrics. It is no wonder the vocalist has been critically acclaimed in recent years.

The pianos’ chemistry found its brilliance in later pieces, particularly with Gershwin’s Prelude No. 2, but with the horns carrying the jazzy groove, the performance hall was colored with a newfound sense of thrill. In Morton’s songs “Mississippi Mildred” and “Black Bottom Stomp,” the various solo parts of Mulherkar’s trumpet and Christopher’s clarinet invigorated the atmosphere. Other notable selections included Gershwin’s “Ask Me Again” and “My Man is Dead,” both performed with the same vigor as the previous songs. Salvant’s vocals once again took center stage with Gershwin’s lyrics.

After a standing ovation and two encore performances, it was clear that the concert had something for everyone. The stage where Morton meets Gershwin linked two composers known for innovation in jazz. This haven of lyrical and instrumental intrigue enthralled both the music lover and passerby.


Read the full piece from: The Tech

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Review: ‘Jelly & George’ joins jazz pioneers Morton and Gershwin

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Musical greats Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin probably never met, even though they were contemporaries in the early 20th century.

If that’s true, it’s a pity, but not a surprise: Gershwin lived in New York City, while Morton was from New Orleans. But both created seminal work from culturally diverse influences: African-American, South American for Morton; Eastern European and fellow Jews for Gershwin.

A while back, pianist Aaron Diehl decided that the two jazz pioneers should “meet” posthumously. It was a brilliant decision.

Diehl’s show, “Jelly & George” — featuring pianist Adam Birnbaum and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant — came to the Holland Center on Sunday night. It was clear from the start that it was special, not only for the pairing between two historic composers but also for the collaboration among three emerging jazz stars.

Diehl and Birnbaum opened with Gershwin’s instrumental “Prelude I,” illustrating the composer’s roots with riffs that sounded like city life mixed in with melodies you might hear at a synagogue. Almost without stopping they launched into “Jelly Roll Blues,” joined by bass, drums, trombone and clarinet.

That one-two punch was deliberate and enlightening, a signal that Jelly and George were compatible.

What followed was illuminative, as well as musically amazing and just plain entertaining. Diehl curated a lineup of lesser-known works by the famous and celebrated New Yorker while introducing the audience to a jazz legend who’s considerably more obscure.

With “I Hate a Man Like You,” engagingly performed by Salvant, we learned Morton had a way with words along with his intricate melodies.

“I hate a man like you ... you married me, then stayed out the first night. ... You’re grinnin’ in my face, then winkin’ at my friends.”

With “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me,” we heard a side of Gershwin different from the more classical elements found in his most famous works.

In the hands of Salvant, the song was lazy, bluesy and insouciant. She has a style all her own, with a unique way of phrasing and a light, youthful sound. Her accolades, including a Grammy Award, are well-deserved.

“Spanish Swat” taught us that Morton was an aficionado of “Spanish tinge.” He believed the Afro-Latin rhythm was one of the things that defined jazz. That piece — and some of Salvant’s vocals — featured quiet passages that were meant to be performed at the acoustically acclaimed Holland. And we discovered Diehl and Birnbaum also have earned their rave reviews. On two pianos they seamlessly performed music that would humble even the most facile fingers.

In fact, Diehl dominated “Finger Breaker,” a super-speedy, nearly sadistic solo. Morton wrote it toward the end of his career — when he was toiling in relative obscurity — to prove he still had it.

The ensemble did perform one widely known Gershwin work, “I’ve Got Rhythm,” but with their own playful spin. Each musician played a snippet of the melody as a tease to the entire piece. Before long they were jamming with some incredible improvisations. As if the concert wasn’t enough, Diehl stuck around afterward for a 15-minute talkback, fulfilling the Omaha Performing Arts mission to educate.


Read the full piece from: Omaha.com

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At Berklee, the sounds of ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton and George Gershwin

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Throughout their musical partnership (including 2015’s Grammy-winning “For One to Love”) pianist Aaron Diehl and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant have shared a knack for the theatrical — she with her choice of material, from early folk, blues, and vaudeville to Burt Bacharach, and he with his orchestral arrangements at the keyboard. At a Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Berklee Friday night, they were able to maximize their theatrical flair, in an evening that was as musically broad as it was emotionally deep, focused at every turn on narrative.

The program was “Jelly and George,” for Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton (1890-1941) and George Gershwin (1898-1937).” The usual setup of McLorin Salvant and Diehl’s working trio, with bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers, was for this project expanded to an octet, with trombone (Corey Wilcox), clarinet (Evan Christopher), trumpet (Riley Mulherkar), and a second pianist, Adam Birnbaum.

The second keyboard added another orchestral layer to these pieces by two pianist-composers, especially during the three duo-feature Gershwin preludes. But Diehl and Birnbaum also had plenty of fun trading lead and rhythm figures or, in one dreamy moment, unfurling chromatic scales like one continuous bolt of multi-colored silk.

Subsets of the band varied the arrangements, making cross references between Morton’s sophisticated New Orleans barrelhouse and Gershwin’s Broadway swing, with plenty of contrapuntal interaction among the horns, each piece colored by different mutes and sure dynamic shifts.

Although McLorin Salvant was featured on only five songs in the roughly 90-minute set, she was the binding agent. Her taste in rarities came through in Gershwin’s “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me” and Morton’s “I Hate a Man Like You.” Those songs showed off McLorin Salvant’s ability to modulate her voice like a horn and shade lyrics with ambiguity, provocation, and humor (“When I met you, I thought you was right/You married me and stayed out the first night”).

But the showstopper was no rarity: “My Man’s Gone Now,” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” Here McLorin Salvant’s wordless moans behind “old man sorrow” were like the chill wind in a graveyard at night, her final realization shattering. It capped a night of peerless musical storytelling.


Read the full piece from: Boston Globe

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Raul Midón Embraces Jazz on ‘Badass and Blind’ Album, Premieres ‘Gotta Gotta Give’ Lyric Video

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In 1991, Raul Midón, then a recent graduate of University of Miami's jazz program, was summoned to a vocal session in Miami. "I was called by people who I went to school with," he remembered. "There was a guy that they were working with who they didn't like, so I got asked to sub, and that was all it took. It was 1991, and it was for Carlos Mata, a soap opera star of some sort."

Since then, Midón, a singer and prodigiously talented guitarist who also happens to be blind, has assembled one of the more remarkable resumes in popular music. You can hear his voice on records from modern pop superstars (Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera) and classic crooners (Johnny Mathis). He has laid down guide tracks for the opera singer Pavarotti and contributed to house music from the esteemed New York producer Louie Vega. He's worked on the most commercial edge of the music industry, helping make Coca-Cola commercials, and created a series of idiosyncratic solo albums that draw from acoustic funk, soft jazz, yacht rock, '70s soul, and a long tradition of singer/songwriters unafraid to groove.

Last week Midón sat with a double espresso in the lobby of a hotel in midtown Manhattan and discussed his new album, Badass and Blind. He was dressed in light blue jeans mottled with white, a brown hooded sweater, a tan, fraying blazer with white pinstripes, and Aviator sunglasses. The fingernails on his right hand remained uncut; that's his picking hand. His mild voice was sometimes overwhelmed by the wild cackles of three young children playing in a nearby photo booth.

Raul Midon Returns With 'Don't Hesitate'

After breaking into the music business in 1991, Midón spent roughly a decade doing session work -- including a stint touring as a backing vocalist for Shakira, his first ever road jaunt -- that helped him realize that he was interested in fronting his own project. He started playing songwriter showcases in Miami sponsored by Warner/Chappell and landed a solo record deal in 2002. With the signing came $75,000, and that served to fund a move to New York City, where Midón worked with Vega, among others.

Brimming with adept coffeehouse soul, his 2005 debut State of Mind proved hospitable for guests as far apart as Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz. Midón has made gentle adjustments to this trajectory on subsequent albums, including more of a full rock band approach on 2010's Synthesis and a live record in 2012.

His latest album may be a larger detour: he describes Badass and Blind as "the deep jazz" entry in his catalog. Several songs feature musicians he played with on the 2016 Monterey Jazz Festival tour, including Nicholas Payton on trumpet and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, who help Midón explore linear modal composition, where instrumentalists improvise around a mode or scale instead of a set group of chords. "[Linear modal composition] has a different sonic quality and feeling to it," he explained. "There's quite a few jazz pieces with it, but not songs. That's what I wanted to do -- compose things using that language but have them be songs."

There's also a different streak of experimentalism in the album, one borrowed from electronic music, that pops up in "Gotta Gotta Give." "When I'm not doing music myself, I want to listen to the weirdest most far-out stuff I can," Midón said. "There's this channel on internet radio called SomaFM, and there's a particular station that has the least amount of listeners called Earwaves that plays Steve Reich, Stockhausen, tape-loop stuff.

"'Gotta Gotta Give' has a little bit of that," he continued, referring to the zany electronic noises that zing through the back of the track. "It's got a bit of a quirky, avant garde thing to it." The lyric video for the song is premiering exclusively on Billboard above.

Midón balances the overtly musicianly quests on Badass and Blind with songs like "You & I," the sort of reassuring, creamy soul that comes to him so easily. "That one is all about what I think of as pop: writing a song with a hook, having it being accessible," Midón said. "There's nothing linear modal about 'You & I.'"

Then he backtracked: "Actually, that isn't totally true. Two chords are linear modal, now that I think about it."

After Midón finished the album and came up with the title Badass and Blind, he realized he didn't have a title track. He decided to write one, and the result is an amusing run-down of his many talents delivered over a slick guitar groove. Two-thirds of the way through the song, he suddenly breaks into a rap. The influence of hip-hop is rarely felt in Midón's catalog, and that's the point. "Rap with fancy chords is not too common," he said. "It's part of the whole, 'I'm badass' thing. I'm gonna rap, play a guitar solo, sing -- do it all."


Read the full piece from: Billboard

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Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince Album Release, The Troubadour

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The “world famous” Troubadour is not the first venue that comes to mind for boundary morphing contemporary piano driven ensemble jazz. But then, the L.A. based collective known as the West Coast Get Down, has yet to do anything by the books. It’s been a heady 2017 already for these dudes coming on the heels of bassist Miles Mosley’s headlining date at the El Rey in January, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr.’s album release party at the Teragram a few weekends back and saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s post-Epic musical and visual installation for the Whitney Biennial in NYC.

Last week, it was pianist Cameron Graves turn to front this band of one/band of many, for the drop of his stellar CD, “Planetary Prince” on Mack Avenue Records (disclaimer, more astronomical adjectives could follow). Like Mosley before him, Graves got a well deserved shout out as one of 10 new artists you need to know this year by Rolling Stone, and for good reason IMHO. My ears have been pretty stuck on “Planetary Prince” the past few weeks. With eight tracks covering almost 80 minutes and the shortest clocking in at 7:28, there is an emotional arc to each built on piano driven themes established by Graves with expansive statements from all the players that run deep and always return home. Those players, saxophonist Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, drummer Bruner, Jr. and his brother Stephen (“Thundercat”), and augmented by trumpeter Phillip Dizak and bassist Hadrien Feraud, deliver music with a certain cosmic urgency, with Graves’ melodies often tumbling out like some kaleidoscopic jar of jelly beans turned on its end. These are explorations that don’t so much swing, as they do swerve from one plane to the next. And, while the album is Graves’ baby, when Washington cuts loose, elevation ensues. The sibling rhythm section and Feraud are also unstoppable, constantly percolating, and tugging on Graves’ ivories, especially on the album’s opener, “Satania the Solar System”. “Planetary Prince” announces itself with the swagger of a toreador and you can feel Adam strut through the garden on “Adam & Eve”. “El Diablo” finds Graves’ percussive chording every bit the foil for Bruner, Jr.’s monster fills and the Star Trek pull of “Andromeda” is hard to deny. Floating and exhilarating, it’s easy to imagine it as a soundtrack to galactic scenery.

So, expectations were high going into a live setting. Get Down mates Bruner, Jr., Washington, Porter (and Dizak on trumpet) joined Graves, but unlike the album, guitarist Matt Haze and bassist Carlito del Puerto initially filled out the stage, with a few guests along the way. “Santania the Solar System” was a little looser than on the record with some real giddy up from the horns and a fine solo from del Puerto. Graves gave the WCGD backstory (Graves and Washington were in the “C” band in high school together, while Mosley was in the “A” band) before Mosley stepped in for “Lucifer Rebellion” with his full array of bowed effects, a tune that also featured Get Down drummer Tony Austin.

Graves and company had worked up a pretty good lather by the time legendary bassist Stanley Clarke was introduced by Graves (“ the best bassist ever”). Clarke recalled playing the room on one of the first Return to Forever tours (a show I happened to be at in 1976 that was nothing less than life changing), and how the West Coast jazz scene didn’t have the exposure of the East Coast scene. And when Stanley Clarke tells a crowd “these are the guys who are going to take us into the future”, it’s probably good to listen. And listen we did, as Clarke and Graves took extended flight on Joe Henderson’s beautiful “Black Narcissus”.

Graves rarely colored his tone with more than his ideas and approach, but on “El Diablo”, he used effects to coax a sound I can only describe as not out of place in Westworld or a Vincent Price flick (I’ll dub it “haunted saloon”). In between the lush and dreamy intro/outro to “Andromeda”, trombonist Porter drew one of the largest whoops from the audience with his solo, before the main set wrapped with “End of Corporatism” featuring another launchpad for Washington and a showcase for Bruner, Jr.’s deep, dense and dexterous ideas. I didn’t know coming in that Graves had some metal on the resume with Jada Pinkett-Smith’s led Wicked Wisdom (still trying to wrap my head around all of that) and made the musical context of the night even more unique. Graves brought her onstage before the band came back for their encore of “Adam & Eve”. That classical intro to a metal bop beat thing just made so much more sense now.

So, yes, I’m a fan of these Get Down constellations and yes, there were many musical highlights in the set. But I’ll tell you what really rang my bell. The Troub was packed with the young. The crowd was largely 20s (I being a minority grey hair), and they were digging it from start to finish. Jazz answers to no one, but it can get dusty just playing to the choir and the assumption the audience finds the music and not the other way around is pretty much blown up by these guys. Miles (Davis, that is) said, “Good music is good no matter what kind of music it is“ and with the West Coast Get Down, yeah, it’s good music, really good music, jazz music, that just happens to travel in light years behind their Planetary Prince.


Read the full piece from: Jim Brock Photography

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Raul Midón Premieres “Pedal to the Metal” Music Video

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Today, GuitarWorld.com presents the exclusive premiere of "Pedal to the Metal," a new song and music video by guitarist Raul Midón. The track is from Midón's new album, Bad Ass and Blind, which will be released this Friday, March 24, via Artistry Music.

Blind since birth, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Midón has been shattering boundaries in the jazz and pop worlds for the past decade-plus.

Midón, whose career began as a background singer for Shakira, Julio Iglesias and Jose Feliciano before his unorthodox guitar skills became known, has since collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves and Bill Withers.

As for his guitar playing, there's plenty to get excited about in "Pedal to the Metal" and the rest of Bad Ass and Blind. Midón is so respected in guitar circles that he was the subject of a recent Guitar World lesson by Dale Turner, "The Unorthodox, Percussive-Slapping Style of Singing Guitarist Raul Midón."

"Midón first picked up a guitar at age 6 and grew up in a household where modern 'classical' music was heard just as often as flamenco and Argentine folk," Turner writes. "One key ingredient in Midón’s percussive guitar style points directly to these roots, a palm slap approach derived from flamenco techniques and Argentinian rhythms, where the open hand is used to rhythmically “pat” the guitar strings over the sound hole."

Bad Ass and Blind is available now for preorder via iTunes.

For more about Midón, visit raulmidon.com, and check out his free workshop at Guitar Center in New York City at 6 p.m. today (March 23).


Read the full piece from: Guitar World

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New Jazz Releases from Alex Cline and Cameron Graves Draw on Spiritual Inspiration

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Los Angeles is often described as an atomized metropolis where it’s nearly impossible to build a sense of community. The sprawling geography (and soul-sucking traffic!) certainly present daunting challenges, but new albums by two very different L.A. musicians highlight some of the enduring creative networks thriving in the Southland.

Alex Cline

Percussionist/composer Alex Cline has been a quiet force on the L.A. scene for nearly four decades, and his sumptuous new double album Oceans of Vows (Cryptogramophone) flows from relationships that have defined his life (starting with his twin brother, guitarist Nels Cline). Long interested in setting the poetry of Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and verses from the Avatamsaka Sutra to music, he created two expansive suites of five pieces each for the Flower Garland Orchestra, a 14-piece ensemble conducted by new music pianist, Vicki Ray.

The music takes some patience. The forms are long and often develop slowly, with improvised stretches emerging seamless from the thrumming orchestrations. I love the way Cline uses twinned instrumentation. Every player has a counterpart. There’s Nels Cline and GE Stinson’s guitars, the electric violins of Jeff Gauthier and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and the keyboards of Wayne Peet and Yuka Honda, though Chi Li’s traditional Chinese instruments (two-string erhu, lower pitched zhonghu, and zither like zheng) stand out strikingly in the mix. The crystalline vocalist, Areni Agbabian, delivers the lyrics at an incantatory tempo and adds wordless vocal textures.

Meditative, roiling, and shimmering, the music draws you in, and often arrives at a breathtaking plateau. Enlightenment may not arrive with Atwood-Ferguson’s final solo on the nearly 23-minute closing piece, “The Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva,” but I felt like I’d completed a rewarding journey.

Cameron Graves

Atwood-Ferguson doesn’t play on pianist/composer Cameron Graves’ debut album “Planetary Prince” (Mack Avenue), but as a Kendrick Lamar collaborator he’s one point of connection between Graves’ West Coast Get Down and Cline’s crew. Like Cline, Graves has surrounded himself with artists he’s been making music with his whole life, and it shows.

Where Cline’s music seems to represent an inward journey, Graves is all about mixing it up in the world, and his music is inspired by a mysterious spiritual tome that appeared in Chicago in the 1920s called “The Urantia Book” (an esoteric text that also inspired Stockhausen and Hendrix).

He’s part of a new wave of jazz musicians who intersected with L.A.’s hip-hop scene, particularly Kendrick Lamar. Like Kamasi Washington he’s a founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective, and his piano work is all over The Epic.

Planetary Prince also features Washington’s burly tenor sax, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. But if you’re expecting “The Epic, Part 2” you’ll be disappointed. Like Washington, Graves is bursting with ambition and has no shortage of ideas.

Listening to a piece like the torrential “El Diablo,” I kept thinking he’s learned a lot from the jazz rock fusion of the 1970s, in a good way, as if he took the guitar out of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and added a horn section instead.

With his percussive touch, Graves locks in again and again with Thundercat and Bruner, a remarkable bass and drums tandem. His compositions drill down into grooves and then suddenly spring open, like the stunning “Satania” and the herky funk of “End of Corporatism.” Clocking in at a generous 80 minutes, Planetary Prince is a more fully realized statement than The Epic, which tended to sprawl and repeat itself. As impressive as it is, I get the sense that Planetary Prince is just one small chapter in the unfolding book of Cameron Graves.


Read the full piece from: KQED News

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Rebirth by Billy Childs

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Four- time Grammy Award-winner Billy Childs has released his debut recording for Mack Avenue Records and it’s a keeper. The diverse compositions on Rebirth feature such notable artists as Claudia Acuna who co-wrote the title track with Billy Childs, vocalist Alicia Olatuja on “Stay” and who sang on Childs’ Laura Nyro project, his bandmates Steve Wilson on alto & soprano saxophones, Hans Glawischnig on acoustic bass and Eric Harland on drums. Ido Meshulam and Rogerio Boccato play trombone and percussion respectively on “Rebirth.” Billy plays piano and produced the recording as well as composed and arranged all 8 songs.

On Rebirth, Billy Childs reaches back to the nexus of his varied musical experiences. “Tightrope,” with its insistent pulse and melodic introduction features his classical influences while three songs from his Windham Hill (record label) days - “Stay,” “Backwards Bop,” and “Starry Night” are recast to reflect his artistic growth. The percussive electricity of “Backwards Bop” and “Dance of Shiva” harken back to his days with J.J. Johnson and Freddie Hubbard while the well-placed coloring in his comps to Alicia Olatuja’s vocals on “Stay” are styled from his days with Freddie.

Standout soloing by Billy Childs and Steve Wilson on the beautiful “Rebirth” is worth more than several listens. This song is absolutely beautiful with Claudia Acuna’s stellar vocalese and the band’s excellent accompaniment. Overall, this project is another winner for Billy Childs and deserves to be in your record collection.


Read the full piece from: Sounds of Timeless Jazz

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Raul Midón Lines Up Worldwide Tour

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There are actually two SXSW plays – Scratch House on March 16 and Stephen F. Austin Hotel on March 18. After that Midón has a few headline dates on the East Coast, and an appearance at Singapore International Jazz Festival on April 2. While he is in the Eastern Hemisphere he also plays three nights in Tokyo April 4-6 at Blue Note Tokyo.

The rest of his plan is mostly North America in April and Europe in May. The last date currently on the books is May 22 in Amsterdam.

Midón is blind, which would lead many to draw comparisons with Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano and Ray Charles. His jazz stylings and unique use of his voice as an instrument will also resonate with fans of Bobby McFerrin. Midón has been known to perform as a one-man band, playing drums, guitars and singing simultaneously during the live shows.

The next Raul Midón album, Bad Ass And Blind, drops next week on March 24. Midón wrote, recorded, played on, produced and engineered the album. Check out his cover of “Fly Like An Eagle” off that project:

About the album, Midón said: “Believe it or not I am a shy person especially when it comes to my blindness. This album, in general … represents a sea change for me when it comes to communicating with the public about my disability.”

Here is Raul Midón’s full schedule:

March 16 – Austin, Texas, Scratch House (SXSW)

March 18 – Austin, Texas, Stephen F. Austin Hotel (SXSW)

March 24 – New York, N.Y., HighLine Ballroom

March 25 – Boston, Mass., David end Recital Hall

March 26 – Ridgefield, Conn., Ridgefield Playhouse

March 29 – Reston, Va., Reston Community Center

April 2 – Singapore, Singapore, Marina Bay Sands (Singapore International Jazz Festival)

April 4 – Tokyo, Japan, Blue Note Tokyo

April 5 – Tokyo, Japan, Blue Note Tokyo

April 6 – Tokyo, Japan, Blue Note Tokyo

April 9 – Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Nighttown

April 14 – Detroit, Mich., Jazz Cafe at Music Hall

April 15 – Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Nighttown

April 16 – Evanston, Ill., SPACE

April 17 – Minneapolis, Minn., Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant

April 19 – Denver, Colo., Soiled Dove Underground

April 21 – Los Angeles, Calif., Blue Whale

April 22 – Los Angeles, Calif., Blue Whale

April 23 – Oakland, Calif., Yoshi's Oakland

April 26 – Richmond, Va., The Tin Pan

May 2 – Le Haillan, France, L'Entrepot

May 3 – Massy, France, Centre Bailliart

May 4 – Colombes, France, L'Avant Seine Theatre de Colombes

May 5 – Vernouilette, France, L'Agora

May 6 – Sannois, France, Espace Michel Berger

May 9 – Toulouse, France, Salle Nougaro

May 11 – Rennes, France, Theatre National de Bretagne

May 12 – St Julien Genevois, France, Casino de Saint Julien

May 16 – Perpignan, France, Le Mediator

May 18 – London, England, Under The Bridge

May 19 – Paris, France, New Morning

May 21 – Rotterdam, Netherlands, Lantaren Venster

May 22 – Amsterdam, Netherlands, Paradiso


Read the full piece from: Pollstar

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10 New Artists You Need to Know: March 2017

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Cameron Graves

Sounds Like: The house pianist for the party at the end of the universe, pulling in signals from John Coltrane, J Dilla, Meshuggah and points beyond.

For Fans of: Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Thundercat

Why You Should Pay Attention: A founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective that thundered to global renown with the release of Kamasi Washington's The Epic, Cameron Graves, 35, cut his teeth playing the classic works of Bach, Schubert and Chopin before he hit Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. There, he bonded with Washington over a shared love of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and the mainstream jazz canon. "I met him when I was around 15, and we both would just hang out and listen to Coltrane all day, and practice with each other," says Graves, "just 'shed on tunes like 'Giant Steps' and 'A Love Supreme.'"

Still, spare hours spent shredding out Van Halen and Slipknot tunes on guitar came in handy during Graves's stint in Jada Pinkett Smith's nu-metal project, Wicked Wisdom. Since then, he's also held his own alongside one of the heaviest pioneers of fusion jazz, bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke. Mix up those experiences, stir in a taste for Prince's revolutionary funk and J Dilla's mixing-board skills, then add a twist of cosmic insight gleaned from The Urantia Book, an esoteric tome that purports to sort out the whole of creation. The result is Planetary Prince, Graves's debut album as a bandleader, newly released on the Mack Avenue label.

He Says: "In sports, we always revere the most talented person on the field, the most talented person on the court, and it's through their extreme skills that we end up revering that person, and creating a celebrity out of that person. And that is exactly what my mission is, personally: to do that in music, to showcase the virtuoso and to try to make the virtuoso a celebrity again, because I think that's been lost in our society with all the … I kind of call it 'plastic music.' It's brought the bar down in terms of the talent and the quality of the playing."

Hear for Yourself: "Satania Our Solar System," the opening track on Planetary Prince, presents all the essentials: a classically poised introduction, a writhing beat equally beholden to slick funk and prog-metal, serpentine electric bass lines, and lean, tight jazz-combo interaction. Steve Smith


Read the full piece from: Rolling Stone

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Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince review – Kamasi Washington’s pianist cranks it up

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Cameron Graves' debut recording, Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue) is an original and refreshing "piano jazz" outing. It's horn sextet dynamics provide familiar entry points and references into the musical sphere Graves inhabits as composer, arranger, and performer, but the extreme energy levels and sophisticated ensemble dynamics confidently echo the great bands of the jazz-rock era; perhaps it's no coincidence Graves has been touring with Stanley Clarke's band for the past two years, and has also been an integral presence touring, recording, and performing with saxophonist Kamasi Washington.

The seven tracks which make up Planetary Prince are presented mostly in the format of extended instrumental suites: jazz mini-concertos with hints of neo-classical romanticism, infused with punchy, complex, and lush horn arrangements. Intricate melodic themes set up extended flights of fresh, inventive, and often herculean riffing, setting up a swiftly shifting foundation for a succession of inspired and soulful soloing. Graves' classical chops are often in evidence, but recall with a new perspective and youthful energy a prior generation of masters: names like Jarrett, Corea, and Hancock come to mind—and their fans find some astonishing pianistic pyrotechnics here, rendered within ambitious structures and crescendos, as well as a diverse sampling of hybrid grooves, drawing from rock, R&B, avant-garde, hip-hop, and Latin influences—and beyond.

Graves' choice of ensemble is classic a classic horn sextet with trumpet (Philip Dizack), trombone (Ryan Porter), and tenor saxophone (Kamasi Washington). The secret sauce that underpins a well-orchestrated storm of dynamics is the formidable rhythm section of drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. and one of two virtuoso electric bassists—Hadrien Feraud, and Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat. Feraud, originally from Paris and now living in LA continually offers up a tasteful, restrained virtuosity as a fusioneer bassist and appears on all but two tracks. Ferraud has performed locally with Kamasi Washington, The West Coast Get Down, after gaining recognition earlier in his career recording and touring with John McLaughlin and Chick Corea.

Both Thundercat and Feraud have an uncanny synergy with the intermittently explosive drumming and an endless variations of pocket grooves served up by Ronald Bruner, Jr. The rhythm section throughout shifts effortlessly between atmospheric cruising and maxed-out warp drive, laying a deep foundation for Graves' release of extended torrents of spectacular piano riffs. Whenever you think their ferocity is about teeter out of control, Feraud and Thundercat's creative, but anchoring bass lines and chordal colorings balance like a fine wine with Bruner's endless vocabulary of inventive grooves. Feraud's talents have evolved and matured immensely since his debut tour with John McLaughlin's Fourth Dimension in 2006, and later with Chick Corea; he was also a featured guest soloist appearing on several tracks on Thundercat's bass-heavy debut album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse (2011). One of the shorter pieces, "The End of Corporatism" is a relentlessly up-tempo rococo celebration of fast and devious chord changes. Thundercat's acrobatic solo runs soar, always on the precarious edge of his brother Ronald's nuclear bursts of tom rolls and tsunami swells of cymbals. To hear the two of them locked in under the cascading arpeggios of Graves piano is pure jazz spectacle recalling the '70s jazz rock supergroups.

The longer suites that make up Planetary Prince each unfold with an opening piano "prelude," forming strong themes in slower to breakneck tempos, and alluring emotional canvases. "Andromeda," coalesces and delves into an extended, lush romantic ballad, evoking the grandeur of the milky way on a clear desert night, launching Graves' solo runs into myriad inter-stellar explorations. Throughout these pieces the horn arrangements frame the solo sections—sometimes majestic and mellow, and other times boisterous, punchy, and flamboyant. All six musicians can strip down Graves' conception and ideas its core, and expand a theme and its rhythmic underpinnings with virtuosic expression and emotional intensity over a long progression of chords. "Adam and Eve," encompasses a primal musical journey with a beautiful piano intro, reminiscent of Chopin, which shifts into a joyous barrage of horn motifs, and like all the pieces, sets the stage for Graves' mercurial piano runs. The melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic conversations and interactions found on Planetary Prince are dramatic, soaring, and captivating. As the tension builds I'm imagining what it might have been like to hear John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner blow over Keith Moon and John Entwistle.

Graves' debut release embodies a forward looking, jazz-grounded instrumental music. Graves leads us on a challenging and intoxicating musical journey of imagination, built solidly on the foundation of superb musicianship and craft. Given the range of experience each musician brings to the project, Graves commands a stellar vehicle with the power and imagination to transport listeners young and old to planetary vistas of beauty, struggle, and triumph.

Track Listing: Satania Our Solar System; Planetary Prince; El Diablo; Adam & Eve; The End of Corporatism; Andromeda; Isle of Love; The Lucifer Rebellion.

Personnel: Camon Graves: piano; Ronald Bruner, Jr.: drums; Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner: bass; Philip Dizack: trumpet; Hadrien Feraud: bass; Ryan Porter: trombone; Kamasi Washington: tenor saxophone.

Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Read the full piece from: All About Jazz

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Los Angeles’s Thriving Jazz Scene Produces Four New Albums

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New York remains the popular and commercial center of jazz, but other cities are increasingly dictating its development. Young musicians in places like Philadelphia and Chicago — where systems for intergenerational exchange still thrive outside academia — are marrying established regional patois with a broad base of influences from across the black musical canon, and around the globe.

That’s borne out particularly in Los Angeles, where the saxophonist Kamasi Washington has led the charge onto the national scene. He has famously collaborated with Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, but two years ago, when he released a lauded triple-album, “The Epic,” he threw back the curtain on a crop of young jazz-trained musicians that hail from his hometown. The album featured a string section, a 20-person choir and a loose collective calling itself the West Coast Get Down.

This winter, four members of that crew released solo albums of their own — most of them recorded in the same monthlong stretch of communal recording sessions that produced “The Epic.” All four of these bandleaders appeared as sidemen on Mr. Washington’s album, and each has his own approach to retrofitting the jazz tradition. The breadth of their styles says something about the way a small scene can foster individual voices, and emphasize complementary roles.

Here’s a rundown of recent releases from members of the West Coast Get Down.

Thundercat, ‘Drunk’

Mr. Washington is rightly seen as an heir to Los Angeles’ expansive, Afrocentric acoustic jazz tradition, which runs through Horace Tapscott and Butch Morris. The bassist and vocalist Stephen Bruner, known as Thundercat, relates to a different genealogy: namely the hazy, electric fusion that Stanley Clarke, George Duke and Patrice Rushen were making in the 1980s.

Mr. Bruner plays a six-string bass; in the deep end his sound is big and crumbly, but he often fingerpicks guitar-like harmonies on the higher strings. On “Drunk” — his third full-length, featuring cameos by Mr. Lamar, Michael McDonald and Pharrell Williams — the gravitational center floats in the air, where harmonies rarely resolve and synthesizers waft around his slap-happy falsetto.

But the laxity and wit in much of this music masks a melancholy. It’s something we’ve never heard so clearly in his music. “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II)” is not the first time he’s written a song to his cat — but this time, wistfulness takes center stage amid the wit. “It’s cool to be a cat,” he sings. “Everything the light touches/Is where I would roam.”

The drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., Thundercat’s older brother, has followed a windy musical trajectory, playing with Diana Ross, the jazz saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the hard-core band Suicidal Tendencies. Somehow, all that comes to bear on “Triumph,” a record of steady intensity. Less arch than his brother, the elder Mr. Bruner builds layers of guitar and synth but leaves his heart in full view.

Ecumenism is the album’s gospel — from the prog-rock double guitar lead in “Geome Deome,” which features keyboards from Mr. Duke, to the effervescent swagger of “One Night,” with its redolence of Raphael Saadiq’s neo-soul. “To You/For You” starts as a sizzle of Princely funk, then toggles into heavy trap, with Mr. Bruner rapping over a spare beat. The disc’s lead single, “Take the Time,” rides a chiming pulse reminiscent of some late J. Dilla beats.

“Triumph” is heavy on glimmer and muscle — but Mr. Bruner knows how to open up space and create possibility. On “Open the Gate,” the only track exceeding 10 minutes, the guitarist Charles Altura takes a solo that begins with tuneful modesty, then gives way to a cascade of distorted cries over a writhing drum solo.

“Planetary Prince” by Cameron Graves. Credit Anna Webber

Cameron Graves, ‘Planetary Prince’

If you’re looking for another fix of the same stuff that “The Epic” delivered, the debut album from the pianist Cameron Graves is your answer.

One of the best aspects of Mr. Washington’s shows with the West Coast Get Down is the feeling of communal energy flowing in a straight, unrepentant stream from the stage.

We get that from the word go on “Planetary Prince,” which features both Bruners and Mr. Washington. Hear how the pianist jostles into his first solo, on “Satania Our Solar System,” emerging from a drape of horn harmony with a spray of hard, darting eighth notes. Over a driving funk vamp, he and Ronald Bruner work as a percussive unit; each note has heft and precision, but a chancy momentum too.

The moments of brightest catharsis come on Mr. Washington’s saxophone solos, particularly on “Adam & Eve,” where he rides the song’s bright harmony into a space of buoyant inquiry.

Miles Mosley is a singing upright bassist who draws much of his inspiration from the politically attuned funk of the 1970s — bands like War and Mandrill. His tunes place urgency and nostalgia in contact, as if they were two equally valid strands of idealism.

On the cover of “Uprising,” his solo debut, Mr. Mosley appears in a black beret and sturdy black collar, staring evenly into the camera. There’s no more ambiguity than that in the music, either. Over a cohort of five horns and six strings, he sings declaratory songs of lament and militant determination, over chord changes that always resolve to a tonic. On “More Than This,” he sings, “Baby, the world was promised so much more than this.”

At Mr. Washington’s concerts over the past two years, he has often made time for Mr. Mosley to perform a song of his own, typically the sauntering “Abraham.” There was a sense of rugged, against-the-odds affirmation in these live performances that is not altogether realized on the clean-cut recording. But as a document of song craft, and a rising talent’s broad vision, it delivers.


Read the full piece from: NY Times

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Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince review – Kamasi Washington’s pianist cranks it up

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Cameron Graves was the pianist on saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s much admired 2015 orchestral release The Epic, and Washington’s scalding, hoarsely voiceed tenor sound is conspicuously present in this Graves-led septet that also features such LA luminaries as bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner on two tracks, and his drummer brother Ronald on all.

Graves doesn’t sound much like a clone of any postbop-raised keys player – his unbroken and rhythmically vigorous acoustic lines imply an education from hip-hop drummers as much as pianists, while his contrastingly romantic and ardent chord-work suggest what Rachmaninoff might have sounded like if he’d played in a contemporary fusion band. There are languidly hooky trumpet/trombone themes with Ronald Bruner’s torrential, tom-tom rolling drumming flying beneath; bright staccato themes (like the title track) giving way to Graves’s headlong reshufflings of short motifs; smouldering Latin horn sways that turn to percussion thrashes; briefly lyrical piano reflections that soon, and inevitably, crank up.

This Graves group would ignite an exciting live show, even if it can feel a bit like an unvaryingly breathless never-ending crescendo on record.


Read the full piece from: Guardian

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RAUL MIDÓN ANNOUNCES NINTH ALBUM, ‘BAD ASS AND BLIND’, SHARES TOUR DATES

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His soulful and funky artistry goes way beyond any notion of genre – it is musicianship, charisma, timing, songwriting and personality that unmistakably solidify the context of his songs. His music commands listeners with open minds, open ears and open hearts.

Blind at birth, he is often compared to Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano and while those comparisons are indeed flattering you also will hear influences of Steely Dan, Sting and the late great Al Jarreau. Raul still early in his career has already been endorsed by greats as diverse as Grammy Nominated Louie Vega and the living legend Bill Withers (appearing in his documentary “Still Bill”).

His guitar playing is masterful and enables him to move effortlessly, while creating a sound that’s both warm and familiar. “He plays with such freedom and joy that his hands smile. His slapping style allows him to play a melody while creating percussion as he plays without disrupting either sound, and busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo entirely with his lips, earning himself a spontaneous burst of mid-song applause from the audience in the process” Huffington Post

In his latest effort ‘Bad Ass and Blind’ he attests to enduring ambitions. Raul was a featured artist with the 2016 Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour, which also included the likes of stars Nicholas Payton, Gerald Clayton, and Gregory Hutchinson, whom he tapped to play this project along with Joe Sanders and others.

There are songs on ‘Bad Ass and Blind’ sure to please fans of Midón’s earlier albums, beginning with the title track, which in fact was written and recorded after the album was almost completed. The tour de force piece finds Midón celebrating blindness with a ripping guitar solo, a fierce spoken word rhyme, slamming bass by Richard Hammond (Hamilton) and drumming by Lionel Cordew (Spyro Gyra). These musical gems come with a story that Raul himself breaks down for us.

“Bad Ass and Blind” is a kind of personal coming out party for me. Believe it or not I am a shy person especially when it comes to my blindness. This album, in general, and this song in particular, represents a sea change for me when it comes to communicating with the public about my disability. I am what I am. I travel the world, write, produce, sing, play and, do it all without the benefit of sight. I’m a bad ass.

“Red, Green, Yellow” is both a shout out to Steely Dan and a snapshot view as to my perspective on color. As a child I played red light green Light. So naturally those associations continue. Way beyond this though color figures prominently in the rich descriptions of people, places, and things that populate the pages of great literature. Through the eyes of the great describers, Nabokov, Dickens, etc, I see green pastures, Red Wheel Barrels, and a bright golden sun. Color is a main ingredient in the magic elixir of words that brings to life the imagination.

“Pedal to the Metal” sums up my living philosophy. I am 100 percent committed to what I’m doing. When I’m on stage there is nothing but that moment.

“Wings of Mind” is a musical expression of my belief in the power of creative imagination. It is also an exploration of my continuing fascination with linear modal harmony a la Wayne Shorter or Miles Davis. Before anything can exist there is the idea of that thing. When I write a song I begin with nothing but the idea. “Through the spaces in your mind you’ll find a passage way to anywhere.”

“If Only” is a might have been love song inspired by the Tin Pan Alley poets. Songs like “What’ll I Do?” Irving Berlin and “Night and Day” Cole Porter. I wanted to write something simple yet symmetrical. It is a bossa with a twist.

Light Shadows are created when light from a light source is blocked by an opaque object. They are experienced and spoken about by virtually everyone every day. On the other hand “Sound Shadows” occur in pretty much the same way and can be experienced by anyone with a working set of ears.

And yet most of us don’t know they exist. You can practice listening to sound shadows by closing your eyes and walking very slowly through a narrow doorway without using your hands. You may bump your head a few times but I promise you’ll get better at it with time. Sound shadow, the song, is a tribute to a world that exists just beyond the line of sight.

“Jack/Robert Lorick” is an expression of my appreciation for a fictional character, Jack Flanders voiced by an extraordinary voice actor and human being Robert Lorick. Jack is the protagonist in an audio adventure series produced by ZBS media and written by Tom Lopez. The sound artistry coupled with sublime pearls of wisdom, taken from the world’s religions, scattered throughout, are what keeps me coming back for more. Jack is no ordinary adventurer. While he travels the world physically, his raison D’etre is to solve metaphysical puzzles. Robert Lorick recently passed and this was my tribute to him and the fictional character. If you want to be inspired check it out.

“You & I” is another straight up love song inspired by my relationship with my wife. We live and work together and I am proud to have her as my wife and manager. Love conquers all.

“All that I Am” is an acknowledgment of the role that my Father has played in my life. When I was faced with overwhelming obstacles as a disabled child my Father handed me the most powerful tool you can employ when overcoming such obstacles. A powerful sense of my intrinsic value as a human being. When you are disabled the world foists upon you a sense that you are damaged goods. My father never let me forget that this was wrong. He would remind me constantly that I could do and be anything I wanted.

“Gotta Gotta Give” is a love song to life, with a hook and a little touch of the Avant-garde. I got some much appreciated help on this one from the great French keyboardist Jean Philippe Rykiel.

“Fly like an Eagle” is the first LP I ever bought with my own money. I was enthralled with the synthesizer parts and sparked by the message of revolution and hope. Whenever I do a cover I am challenged by the fact that I like the original so much. It is for me, a tightrope walk, to maintain the integrity of the song and yet make it my own. I changed the key to a darker sounding a flat, slowed down the tempo a bit, and re harmonized the verses to give it a mysterious quality. This is in keeping with the linear model sound found throughout the record. I also wanted the ending to feel wistful, sad, and soulful like you might hear on a Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield record. Fly like an Eagle is a testimonial to the power of possibility.

This is the 2nd album that Raul has both produced and engineered. His work is bold, and dynamic and demonstrates his abilities in the manner of a genius.

Raul Midon is “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus…” -The New York Times

This latest release is sure to leave a lasting impression on both existing fans and new fans alike.

Upcoming Raul Midón Performances:

March 14 | City Winery | Atlanta, GA

March 16-20 | SXSW | Austin, TX

March 23 | Guitar Clinic, Guitar Center Times Square | New York, NY

March 24 | Highline Ballroom | New York, NY

March 25| David Friend Recital Hall- Berklee, Boston

March 26| Ridgefield Playhouse- Ridgefield, CT

March 29| Centerstage- Reston, VA

April 2| Singa Jazz- Singapore

April 4-6| Blue Note – Tokyo

April 9| Nighttown – Cleveland

April 14| Jazz Café at Music Hall- Detroit

April 16| Space- Evanston, IL

April 17| Dakota- Minneapolis

April 19| Soiled Dove- Denver

April 21& 22| Blue Whale- Los Angeles

April 23| Yoshi’s- Oakland

April 26| Tin Pan- Richmond

May 2| L’Entrepot- Le Haillan, France

May 3| Paul B- Massy, France

May 4| L’Avant Seine- Colombes, France

May 5| Salle des Fetes de Vernouillet- Vernouillet, France

May 6| Espace Michel Berger- Franconville, France

May 9| Salle Nougaro- Toulouse, France

May 11| Theatre National De Bretagne- Rennes, France

May 12| Casino De Saint-Julien- St Julien En Genevois

May 16| ElMediator- Perpignan, France

May 18| Under The Bridge- London

May 19| New Morning- Paris

May 21| Lantern Venster- Rotterdam

May 22| Paradiso- Amsterdam


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Not Your Father’s Big Band

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On Monk’estra Vol. 1 (Mack Avenue), L.A. keyboardist-composer-arranger John Beasley brings that same kind of boundless energy and fresh vision to the music of Thelonious Monk. Opening with a reinvention of “Epistrophy” performed by his stellar 21-piece band of first-call L.A. studio musicians, and featuring a glistening solo from guest vibist Gary Burton, Beasley and crew jump into a sprightly rendition of “Skippy” that has drummer Gary Novak shifting from slamming back beats to second line groove to 4/4 swing mode. A chill take on “Oska T” contains a voice excerpt from a rare Monk interview and features outstanding trumpet work by Gabriel Johnson. Beasley puts his stamp on the dynamic, swinging second half of the piece, which includes a bracing solo from trombonist Francisco Torres. “Monk’s Processional” is a funky N’awlins brass band breakdown of “Green Chimneys” while a hip-hop take on “’Round Midnight” may seem irreverent to some and relevant to others. Harmonica ace Gregoire Maret guests on a wholly re-imagined version of one of Monk’s most hauntingly beautiful ballads, “Ask Me Now,” while Beasley harmonizes the horns on a jauntily swinging “Little Rootie Tootie,” one of many remarkably ambitious arrangements here.


Read the full piece from: The Absolute Sound

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Take Five: Joey DeFrancesco, GoGo Penguin, Akua Dixon, Petros Klampanis, Billy Mintz

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There are many paths to a killer groove, and few fixed parameters. The most important criterion is an intangible: just how good, how essentially right, does it feel? Every new track featured in this installment of Take Five is a winner in that respect, whether we’re talking about a hard-swinging churn or a minimalist swirl. As a bonus, you’ll see a first-rate drummer do a goofy dance.

The word “freedom” clearly resonates for Joey DeFrancesco, the Hammond B-3 organ kingpin and veteran hard-bop messenger. As a proud product of Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, he grew up considering individual and collective freedoms; as a jazz musician, he developed a nuanced relationship to the idea. On Project Freedom, due out on Friday on Mack Avenue, his overarching theme is the historic and ongoing struggle for equality: the album includes stirring treatments of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and the spiritual “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” DeFrancesco also introduces new tunes with meaningful titles, like “Peace Bridge” and “Stand Up.” The title track opens in a prayerful rubato, with Jason Brown rumbling in earnest on his toms. Then DeFrancesco, tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts and guitarist Dan Wilson lock in with a boppish melody, followed by a thrilling round-robin of solos: trading choruses, then fours, and finally converging in a heated exchange. (DeFrancesco is currently on tour; for dates and information, visit his website.) — Nate Chinen


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Cameron Graves Planetary Prince [Pitchfork]

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The collective known as the West Coast Get Down may have made its emphatic mark on the jazz world in 2015, but the bandmates have been honing their sound and approach for nearly two decades together in Los Angeles. They’ve put in their Gladwellian 10,000 hours, just not in New York or at Berklee.

If tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington—with his sprawling, uncompromising record The Epic—was the subject of the most column inches in 2015, this may be the year for some of his long-time collaborators like Cameron Graves, a beguiling pianist who just released Planetary Prince, his rousing debut as a bandleader. Fellow WCGD musicians Ryan Porter (trombone), Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner (bass), drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., and Kamasi Washington (as a sideman) return for this set, with the addition of trumpeter Philip Dizack and Hadrien Feraud, another bassist, both of whom are immersed in the L.A. jazz scene.

It’s at once an addendum to The Epic and an extension. It was recorded during an eleven-hour session, and at 80 minutes it has the feel of a concept album, channeling Graves’ interest in astrology and The Urantia Book, the 2,000-page spiritual/science text of unknown provenance that served as inspiration for outré composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seven-day opera “Licht.” (Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia also carried around copies in their rucksacks.)

The authorship of the music, though, is all Graves, who, it’s been reported, enjoys death metal and Chopin, hip-hop and prog rock, and has played with Jada Pinkett-Smith’s band Wicked Wisdom and pioneering fusion bassist Stanley Clarke. The eight tracks on the album reveal Graves’ influences, which seem to come from everywhere and nowhere. There are whiffs of McCoy Tyner, especially from his early- mid-’70s groups, Abdullah Ibrahim, and somehow Joe Sample, yet he doesn’t particularly sound like any of them.

As a youngster, Graves studied classical piano, which is apparent from the gorgeous opening bars of the first piece, “Satania Our Solar System,” before it quickly transitions into an uptempo fusion-esque romp with a charging back beat. In the subsequent title track, Graves, who plays acoustic throughout the set, bursts out in percussive form—he’s often thunderingly percussive, as in “The Lucifer Rebellion” later—and follows with a busy, jabbing solo. Washington, with his singular, bravura tone, soon joins and verges on obfuscating the material, but stays just on the right side of his ecstatic-expressionism. “Andromeda” shifts to a quieter side, or as quiet as the WCGD can get. Feraud, a Parisian, recalls Jaco Pastorius on an inspired electric bass solo, and Ronald Bruner—who also shimmers on “El Diablo”—coerces all sorts of vibrant colors out of just his cymbals. The theme, especially when played by the horns, has a dream-like touch, as if penned by Wayne Shorter.

On “Isle of Love,” the leader opens with vigor, before Kamasi returns for another towering solo. Graves takes us out softly and by himself, which is exactly how “Adam & Eve” begins. Kamasi lets loose one more time, but the three horns that finish the tune—and Porter’s trombone adds lovely texture here, as it did on The Epic—underscores the unselfishness that marks the work of the WCGD. “The End of Corporatism,” an uptempo piece, further captures the Collective’s (and Graves’) drive and spirit, one that is enraptured, assured, grandiose in moments, but never self-aggrandizing. Planetary Prince might not shift the tectonic plates the way The Epic did, but Graves, while earthly-bound, has his gaze set upward.


Read the full piece from: Pitchfork

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Billy Childs: Rebirth

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It's been a while since we've heard pianist Billy Childs really dig in. While he certainly hasn't been dormant, reaching tremendous artistic heights in semi-recent times with a pair of highly refined chamber jazz explorations and a much-lauded tribute to Laura Nyro, the Childs of yore—the man that would throw down the gauntlet night after night while in the employ of legends like trumpet titan Freddie Hubbard or trombonist J.J. Johnson—hasn't been heard from in a while. Rebirth brings that part of Childs' past back into view, but it also continues to shine a light on his clarity of expression and his incredible skills in the arranging department. It's punctilious and unpredictably powerful all at once. Believe it or not, you can have both ways. At least, that is, if you're Billy Childs.

While those aforementioned post-millennial winners were well-staffed affairs—the chamber ensemble projects were chock full or orchestral trappings and the Nyro album had a guest list that ran a mile long—Childs pares things down for this one, running lean in the personnel department. For six of the eight tracks, it's just a quartet at play. Of course, referring to the marshaled forces of Childs, saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Eric Harland as "just a quartet" is akin to referencing the New York Yankees as "just a baseball team." These are heavy hitters that came to play. That fact is made abundantly clear right of the gate on "Backwards Bop," one of three tunes on this program that Childs recorded in his Windham Hill days in the '80s. It's a bold opening stroke, setting the bar incredibly high with precision unison lines, sharp turns, and powerful solo stands. Glawischnig is like a tightly wound spring, Childs works with an authoritative tone that never dulls or blur his incredibly articulate touch, Wilson comes off like a shrewd harmonic navigator, and Harland puts his monumental chops to good use. It's the perfect example of how to hook the ear from the start.

The pair of guest-enhanced tracks—one a unique yet stylistically congruent follow-up to "Backwards Bop" with appearances from trombonist Ido Meshulam, percussionist Rogerio Boccato, and vocalist Claudia Acuna, the other a ballad with vocalist Alicia Olatuja in the spotlight—both immediately follow that slam dunk of an opener. Acuña co-wrote the title track, a piece that benefits greatly from her inimitable wordless vocals. Harland creates a steadily skittering backdrop that gives the song a nervous energy, Wilson's soprano takes to the sky, and Childs scampers around, mixing playfulness and potency in his piano work. "Stay," on the other hand, does just that, giving Olatuja a chance to shine in a mellow musical climate that never really intensifies.

The five remaining numbers are gratifying in so many ways. "Dance Of Shiva," ridiculously intricate in its design, engineering, and realization, features some startlingly fresh statements from Childs and Wilson; "Tightrope" finds all four men moving with lighter steps and listening closely, painting and dancing a varicolored waltz together; "The Starry Night" suggests its title through the dreamiest of piano forewords, skyrockets into the stratosphere with Wilson's soprano acting as the nose cone of the ship, and settles into orbit for solos; and "The Windmills Of Your Mind" glows and burns a deep red, with Childs and company drawing out the most intense flavor notes and emotions buried in the song's structure. Then serenity sets in for the closer—a poetic (piano and saxophone) duo take on Horace Silver's "Peace."

Childs hasn't always put all of his talent cards on the table at once, suppressing one aspect of his artistry in deference to others at times, so it's nice to see that change with Rebirth. He's showing his full hand here—chops, nuance, composing, arranging, and all—and it's a musical royal flush if ever there was one.

Track Listing: Backwards Bop; Rebirth; Stay; Dance Of Shiva; Tightrope; The Starry Night; The Windmills Of Your Mind; Peace.

Personnel: Billy Childs: piano; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Hans Glawischnig: acoustic bass; Eric Harland: drums.


Read the full piece from: All About Jazz

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Pianist Alfredo Rodríguez gets inspired by Havana in ‘Yemayá’ feat Ibeyi

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Featuring Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz (Ibeyi) on vocals, 'Yemayá' is a tribute to the Yoruban Goddess/Saint of the Sea. The melody and rhythm for the song are based on a Yemayá chant, which the Cuban musician then arranged with his trio.


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RAUL MIDÓN ON HIS MAR. 24 SHOW AT THE HIGHLINE BALLROOM, LIVING IN NEW YORK & HIS NEW ALBUM

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Since 1999, Raul Midón has released eight acclaimed studio albums. The latest of which — the aptly-titled Bad Ass And Blind — finds Raul showcasing himself as the guitar virtuoso he is known to be, while still genre-hopping and taking interesting risks. The fanbase of Raul probably includes many of your favorite musicians, as his list of collaborators includes Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Herbie Hancock, Bill Withers, and Jason Mraz; Bill specifically chose Raul to work with him on his first new composition in decades, as shown in the documentary Still Bill.

In support of Bad Ass And Blind, Raul will be headlining at The Highline Ballroom on Mar. 24, the date of the album’s release. One day prior, on Mar. 23, Raul will also be doing a guitar clinic at Guitar Center in Times Square. Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Raul about his history with our city — he is originally from New Mexico — and what he has coming up in his career. He also talked about his surprising passion for ham radio.

What do you remember about the first gig you ever played in New York? Where was it?

Raul Midón: As a musician? The first gig I ever played was with Shakira at Roseland. Then SNL. As a solo artist, the first gig I played was at a Chinese restaurant where the owner insisted on interrupting us during songs. She insisted that a guy had to sit in, the guy played spoons. It was also my last gig at a Chinese restaurant…

When did you first move to New York?

RM: I moved to NYC with my wife in May of 2002.

For you, is playing for a New York audience different than anywhere else?

RM: My mother was a New Yorker so it was in my blood, but since my mom passed when I was four, it was not actualized until I lived there. New York still remains one of the most relevant music scenes in the world.

For someone who hasn’t seen you live before, what should be expected from your show at The Highline Ballroom?

RM: I’m playing material from a new album where I continue to explore eclectic songwriting, rapping etc. But I also have a couple of tunes that I explore modal tunes, tunes in complex time signatures. I have a new band — young cats from Baltimore who grew up with the church and a jazz education. I’m told we’re a good-looking group!

A lot of people call you a “one-man band.” When did you transition from performing into the traditional sense into more of a self-reliant performer?

RM: When I first moved to NYC, I needed to stand out in order to be noticed, so I did my best to cultivate that by creating a rhythm section with my guitar and voice.

Aside from your gig at The Highline Ballroom, what’s coming up for you? What can you tell me about your followup to Don’t Hesitate?

RM: I just got back from Australia and Dubai. After that I am on tour for my new album, Bad Ass And Blind, on Artistry Records. I’ll be going to the Singapore Jazz Festival, Japan and the U.S. then Europe through the summer.

Is there anything you haven’t yet accomplished but still hope to?

RM: So many things! I want to write a book. I received a full scholarship for college to study writing but I chose music and went to the University of Miami.

When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?

RM: You would find it boring. I’m an amateur radio enthusiast. I have a 55-foot tower in my yard in Maryland. I talk to people all over the world on the radio. Lots of times when I go abroad, a ham guy will come get me at the hotel and then we talk on their ham gear to people all over the world!

Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?

RM: Nyonya’s in the Village. I was introduced to it by dear friends Henri and Grace! Cash only — right next to Ferraro’s Bakery! Divine Malaysian food followed by decadent Italian desserts…

Finally, Raul, any last words for the kids?

RM: Don’t do drugs! Just kidding. Kids, whatever you do, be good at it. Work at it. Study it. Be nice to each other.


Read the full piece from: Downtown

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If You Thought Kamasi Washington Got Cosmic, Wait ‘Til You Hear Cameron Graves

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The exact origins of The Urantia Book remain enveloped in mystery, but this much is certain. In the early 20th century, a pair of respected Chicago physicians and committed skeptics, William and Lena Sadler, received contact from a neighbor whose husband — allegedly a “hard-boiled businessman” — plunged into a somnambulant trance state every night, where he was unconsciously possessed by spiritual beings.

Over the course of 250 nocturnal sessions, the Sadlers and a stenographer received the labyrinthine transmissions that became The Urantia Book — a 2,000-page esoteric bible that presents an alternate history of the creation of the earth, the life of Jesus and the future of humanity.

Whether you accept it as divine revelation or not, you can’t deny the fertility of the tome’s imagination. Revered by Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Jaco Pastorius alike, it makes Game of Thrones look like Chutes & Ladders.

This much also is certain: A century later, jazz pianist Cameron Graves, founding member of The West Coast Get Down, has an album called Planetary Prince, whose titular and extraterrestrial inspiration comes from that abstruse text.

“It’ll have you skeptical until you read it, and then start to wonder whether the universe is really that way or whether it’s just a made-up story?” Graves says.

“It’s inspired me in so many ways. I often write in seven time because it’s a really important number in the universe,” he continues. “Take a song like ‘Adam and Eve’: The A side is really emotional, and the B section offers release. It’s a yin-and-yang thing. The yin is Eve, the yang is Adam.”

If this sounds like metaphysical mumbo jumbo, I’ll refer you to the music, which offers a clarity that words often can’t provide. In all aspects of his being, Graves embodies intense seeking and absurd skill. He’s backed Jada Pinkett Smith and jazz icon Stanley Clarke. He’s a master of the martial art Xing Yi Quan, studies Daoism and practices daily standing meditation.

“Chi energy is an amazing thing, and you’ll only know it if you feel it and walk with it every day,” the Van Nuys native says. “It’s the driving force behind me waking up and doing everything. I haven’t felt tired for a long time. I can stay up for two days at a clip.”

Graves wears a black T-shirt, a skull ring and a cross necklace topped with a silver eagle, his long, wavy black hair tied back. If he looks slightly metal, it’s reflective of his lifelong obsession with the genre.

Even if you don’t immediately recognize his name, you’ve likely heard his notes. The son of ’70s soul singer Carl Graves, he’s been playing piano since kindergarten. At Hamilton High’s music academy, he formed a band with classmates Kamasi Washington and Miles Mosley, teaming up with Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and Ronald Bruner at Locke High for after-school sessions with legendary educator Reggie Andrews.

Much of Planetary Prince was first recorded at the now-mythologized “KSL sessions” that yielded Washington’s The Epic. It comes off somewhere between McCoy Tyner and The Time, Chopin and J Dilla — with an extra layer of mystic clashes between celestial princes of good and evil. It’s the score that Urantia always deserved.

“I’m trying to bring music back to the time where virtuosos are celebrities again,” Graves says. “I want to educate the ears of the listener and change their palates to where I can use nontraditional jazz changes and scales and still speak to their soul. So that the music makes you feel like an acid trip without being on acid.”

CAMERON GRAVES & THE WEST COAST GET DOWN | The Troubadour | 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood | Thu., March 16, 9 p.m. | $20 | troubadour.com

An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Bizarre Ride show on RBMA Radio. Follow him on Twitter @passionweiss.


Read the full piece from: LA Weekly

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Hey! Listen to Cameron Graves!

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You know Kamasi Washington? Of course you do—if you were even partially conscious during 2015 you would have been witness to the music world blowing their metaphorical load over his debut album The Epic (deservedly, I might add). And fuck, was it a great album—perhaps a little long at three discs’ worth of content, but nonetheless one of the best albums of the year, and proof that jazz is alive and well in the music world.

What I looked forward to most from the aftermath of The Epic, though, was to see what Kamasi and his group would do next. There were stirrings throughout the interwebs, rumors that the lineup on The Epic would all be releasing solo albums in the next few years. So I waited—I hunkered down and kept my radar pointing towards Pitchfork for that time to come, and, as it happens, 2017 is the year for all of this to start going down. First up was Miles Mosley’s album Uprising—a release that, while not jazz (more soul music than anything), was nonetheless a solid try. But I wanted something more, you know, jazzy. I’m not against well-done soul, but it’s so rare to have that jazz itch scratched for me with contemporary artists. Luckily enough, pianist Cameron Graves announced his debut as well, Planetary Prince—an album that doesn’t disappoint, and instead redefines what can be done with jazz today, blending it with cosmic consciousness from the spiritual text The Urantia Book. Have you ever seen a picture of a nebula before, or a celestial being so massive and beautiful you were at a loss for words? Planetary Prince is the aural equivalent of that—by listening you’re taking a journey through space and noticing the majestic beauty of the universe as you zip by.

Let’s just get this out of the way, though: this isn’t a sequel to The Epic. Not even close. Kamasi may be on this album’s personnel, but it’s something very, very different—another facet of spiritual jazz entirely. Graves’s piano work seems to lend itself to a melange of influences—jazz fusion-ish phrasing, lots of open and light Keith Jarrett-style chords, even some flairs towards classical music—but it’s all played with more of a bebop or hard bop mindset than anything. At the same time, though, it’s spacey and gorgeous, full of twists and turns and an insane sense of rhythm. Even when Graves isn’t the center of attention (such as in Kamasi’s solo in “Adam & Eve”, you can still hear him commanding the rhythm section with his punchy chords. Sometimes it can sound a wee bit out of place, like the beginning of “Satania Our Solar System”, where it feels a little off-beat, but that anxiety is quickly taken away as the track continues.

If the sheer virtuosic piano work isn’t enough for you, the lineup backing Graves on Planetary Prince will more than make up for that. Besides the obvious talent of Kamasi Washington on tenor, there’s also Thundercat and Hadrien Faraud rocking the bass (seriously, fucking Thundercat!), Thundercat’s brother Ronald Bruner Jr. handling percussion, Philip Dizack on trumpet, and Ryan Porter on trombone (who was also on The Epic with Thundercat and Graves). What blew me away was the way these instruments are used—this isn’t like a bebop album where all the instruments get to take their solos all in the same song—everything’s arranged impeccably, making every single note played crucial to the song’s structure. (Just listen to the horns on “El Diablo” if you don’t believe me—it’s like the jazz standard “Caravan” turned up to 11.)

Here’s the deal: if you like jazz, and you liked The Epic, but are open to what a virtuosic, spiritually conscious jazz pianist is capable of, do yourself a favor and listen to Planetary Prince. Like I said, it isn’t similar to The Epic enough to make comparisons—it’s its own beast—but what you give up from not expecting The Epic you gain in a truly singular listening experience.


Read the full piece from: Heavy Blog

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At Berklee, the sounds of ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton and George Gershwin

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Throughout their musical partnership (including 2015’s Grammy-winning “For One to Love”) pianist Aaron Diehl and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant have shared a knack for the theatrical — she with her choice of material, from early folk, blues, and vaudeville to Burt Bacharach, and he with his orchestral arrangements at the keyboard. At a Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Berklee Friday night, they were able to maximize their theatrical flair, in an evening that was as musically broad as it was emotionally deep, focused at every turn on narrative.

The program was “Jelly and George,” for Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton (1890-1941) and George Gershwin (1898-1937).” The usual setup of McLorin Salvant and Diehl’s working trio, with bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers, was for this project expanded to an octet, with trombone (Corey Wilcox), clarinet (Evan Christopher), trumpet (Riley Mulherkar), and a second pianist, Adam Birnbaum.

The second keyboard added another orchestral layer to these pieces by two pianist-composers, especially during the three duo-feature Gershwin preludes. But Diehl and Birnbaum also had plenty of fun trading lead and rhythm figures or, in one dreamy moment, unfurling chromatic scales like one continuous bolt of multi-colored silk.

Subsets of the band varied the arrangements, making cross references between Morton’s sophisticated New Orleans barrelhouse and Gershwin’s Broadway swing, with plenty of contrapuntal interaction among the horns, each piece colored by different mutes and sure dynamic shifts.

Although McLorin Salvant was featured on only five songs in the roughly 90-minute set, she was the binding agent. Her taste in rarities came through in Gershwin’s “Boy! What Love Has Done to Me” and Morton’s “I Hate a Man Like You.” Those songs showed off McLorin Salvant’s ability to modulate her voice like a horn and shade lyrics with ambiguity, provocation, and humor (“When I met you, I thought you was right/You married me and stayed out the first night”).

But the showstopper was no rarity: “My Man’s Gone Now,” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” Here McLorin Salvant’s wordless moans behind “old man sorrow” were like the chill wind in a graveyard at night, her final realization shattering. It capped a night of peerless musical storytelling.


Read the full piece from: Boston Globe

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CUBAN BORN PIANO VIRTUOSO ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ TOURS AUSTRALIA

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“…A pianist so intense, so beautiful and so emotive you never, ever want the music to stop…amazing improvisational skills and beautiful artistic soul.” – Savvant Music

JK: What were the biggest influence in your early days in Cuba?

AR: To be honest, my family was my biggest influence. My father is a famous singer and composer from Cuba, so I grew up listening to a lot of his music. His style was very much influenced by Cuba as well as other global artists, so I was inspired by jazz, improvisation, folk, and so much more. It was a very important time in my life, and my family was super supportive in helping me to make the decision to become a musician. They have always been some of the most important influencers in who I am, and at the same time, my music.

JK: Once you decided to leave Cuba, and take up residence in the US, how did this impact on your playing?

AR: It had a huge impact. My latest album, Tocororo, pretty much sums it all up.The Tocororo is the national bird of Cuba, and if caged, the bird dies of sadness, reflecting not only the desire for freedom, but the necessity of it. Just as the Tocororo needs room to fly, my music needed the platform and opportunity to be heard by more people than would otherwise have been touched if I stayed in Cuba. Because of its many restrictions, Cuba was my cage and it didn’t allow me to spread my wings and do what I love on a larger scale. So this album is a personification of the people of Cuba as well as a representation of freedom, travel and cross-pollination of cultures. The thing that really appeals to me is the fact that we all just happen to be born in different countries and from different cultures but we are all coming from the same place; human beings are all connected in some way or another so I reflect that in my music. My collaborations are my way of fighting for unity. I’m open to learning from cultures and anything in life, so I love to bring everything together to create an outward expression of unity. It’s all about learning from different people and cultures.

JK: I read the story about your journey from Mexico to the US and that you were able to convince the border guards that you had an offer from Jones and that they put you in a cab. Is that a reflection of your persuasiveness and tenacity? How does this influence you musically?

AR: Yes, coming here was very risky and adventurous for me. I had no family in the U.S. and knew very little about the culture or language. As I mentioned earlier, I was culturally isolated for many years in Cuba, so making the decision to leave everything I knew was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and took a lot of courage. Once I made the decision to come to the U.S. and ask for political asylum, I didn’t have a choice to go back. But again, I’ve always been that way with my music…I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you have to follow your dreams. I believe that you have to create new opportunities and learn from them.

JK: For those who are new to your music, what can they expect to hear? (I know this question is a little simplistic, so apologies as I can hear so much complexity and influences in your playing, but it would be great to have them in your words)

AR: They can expect to hear the music of my roots. When I play, I feel like I’m adding up all the musical experiences I’ve had in my life into one performance! It’s very global. I incorporate what I’ve learned from all of my past teachers and trips across the world. Music is a way to express my life and the people I’ve met along the way. I get inspired from sounds…that includes talking, animals, wind…anything really. I believe sound is music, and I love to expand on that idea through my compositions.

JK: What musical plans do you have for 2017?

AR: Many! I’m working on releasing a new album that I recorded with a new trio as well as a few other projects with artists I admire. I’ve also been writing for symphony orchestras for years now and will continue to do that. There’s more to come, but I have to keep some things a surprise!


Read the full piece from: Jazz Australia

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Cameron Graves “Planetary Prince”

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The release of kamasi washington's ‘the epic’ marked a seismic shift in the jazz landscape & the game-changing arrival of the genre-blurring los angeles collective west coast get down, blending elements of jazz, classical, rock & hip-hop. that evolution continues this debut by visionary pianist, keyboardist, composer & wcgd founding member cameron graves. this is packed with the same mind-expanding invention that marked all of wcgd’s prior work - including ‘the epic’ (which prominently featured graves throughout its 3 discs). the core of the band is made up of fellow west coast get down members: tenor saxophonist kamasi washington, trombonist ryan porter, bassist stephen “thundercat” bruner, & drummer ronald bruner jr.


Read the full piece from: Resident

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Dubai Jazz Festival 2017: Opening act Raul Midon will stir festival-goer

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The title of Raúl Midón’s upcoming album reads like a mission statement, and Bad Ass and Blind is a refrain the soul-funk singer-songwriter repeatedly asserts on the opening title track.

It is hard to argue with him. Midón’s phenomenal chops, baritone croon and unique one-man-band stage show would indeed colloquially be described as "bad". And the 50-year-old veteran has lived without sight since his time in an incubator shortly after his birth.

"I don’t necessarily think not having sight helped me," says Midón. "Maybe in show business, maybe being blind is some kind of hook – but most of the really great musicians I know, they can see."

For all his swagger on record and on stage, Midón is a remarkably humble and subdued conversationalist.

"It just sort of came to me, in the same way it always does," he says, of his new LP, which is due for release on March 24. It is his most jazzy to date, he says.

Midón is drastically underselling his wares – this seventh studio album is also bursting with funk grooves, Latin rhythms, quick-fire raps, blistering guitar solos and hummable pop melodies.

A former session musician for superstars such as Shakira and Julio Iglesias, Midón has an uncanny ability to defy categorisation, grabbing, magpie-like, from a variety of musical genres and cooking them together in an almighty smooth, groove-pop stew.

The real treat, however is ­watching him perform this material live – as he will at the Dubai Jazz Festival on Thursday.

Playing solo, Midón has developed a singular style of emulating an entire band without a loop pedal in sight. He plucks acoustic guitar lines with just his left hand, taps a rhythm on the instrument’s body with his right, and uses his voice to emulate the sound of a trumpet so convincingly, you will want to check the stage twice.

This approach evolved by necessity after he moved to the Big Apple in the early 2000s.

"In New York, you’ve got to do something to stand out," he says.

"I could already sing and play – but then a lot of people sing and play."

Adapting in this way paid off and he signed to the historic Manhattan Records. His big breakthrough came in 2005 with State of Mind, an album ­featuring guest turns from Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz.

A year later he was invited to sing a slowed-down, ballad version of Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You on Herbie Hancock’s celebrity duets album Possibilities.

"They were like, ‘Sing it as if you called on the girl, and she’s not there’," he says.

Remarkably, this solo success came midway into his 30s, after years spent in the shadows as a sideman. Born and raised in New Mexico, Midón discovered the guitar at the age of six. After moving south to study jazz at the University of Miami, he gravitated towards the city’s booming Latin-record industry, where he spent much of 1990s as a studio pro, working on records for the likes of Alejandro Sanz, Julio Iglesias and José Feliciano.

It was spending two years touring as a member of Colombian superstar Shakira’s band that hardened Midón’s resolve to move to New York and pursue his own voice.

"It was fun – it was a good job, we went all over the world, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my own life," he says. "I wanted to do my own thing."


Read the full piece from: The National

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Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles

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Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles

Julian Lage’s Arclight, released in April, marked an invigorating new direction for the still-young guitarist. Joined by Scott Colley on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums (the same pair Lage had seen as a child backing Jim Hall), Lage cranked out a spirited but tightly edited set of 11 tunes, ranging from covers of obscure 1930s gems to free-jazz originals, all clocking in at between 2:09 and 4:12 in length.

On this follow-up EP, the trio stretches out on five of those same tunes, albeit by only an extra minute or so on three tracks. It opens with “Persian Rug,” an irresistible burner featuring Lage’s guitar virtuosity, Colley’s race-walking bass and Wollesen’s fleet brushes, which he swaps out for sticks as the volume ratchets up midway through. “Nocturne” fills four and a half minutes with a leisurely country vibe reminiscent of Bill Frisell, another of Lage’s heroes (and a longtime collaborator of Wollesen’s). “Activate,” written to be free but short, moves in and out of uptempo swing, and Lage monopolizes the freedom until the raucous end of this supercharged set-closer.

Tracks 2 and 4, lasting 12:57 and 10:13, respectively, are where the band really gives itself room to ramble. “I’ll Be Seeing You” begins with Lage unaccompanied, his guitar slow and pensive before gliding into the familiar melody three minutes in. The others join: Colley improvises counterpoint, the music revs up and turns free just over halfway in and Colley eventually grabs his lone solo. “Stop Go Start,” an avant-garde crowd-pleaser, opens with three minutes of adventurous, unaccompanied Wollesen. Lage jumps in and takes off, inventing flurries of notes that evolve into quoting Ornette Coleman’s “School Work” for a spell, before exiting in another flurry. Arclight was stellar work, and this EP demonstrates the group is even more exciting live.


Read the full piece from: JazzTimes

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Latin Jazz Is Booming. Look Beyond the Grammys to Find It.

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When the Grammy Awards eliminated the category of best Latin jazz album six years ago, an outcry arose quickly. Musicians and advocates argued that the move cut off a rare source of institutional recognition for a genre at the commercial fringes. And the academy listened. The next year the category returned.

In the years since, the importance of that recognition has become even clearer: Latin jazz is experiencing a kind of creative bloom, with musicians diversifying their work at an uncommon clip. It’s generating some of the most invigorating improvised music around.

So maybe it is a bit disappointing that the Grammy nominations this year don’t fully reflect those developments, focusing instead on older musicians. Every nominee up for best Latin jazz album this Sunday is over 60. And while all have led fabulous careers — especially the pianist Chucho Valdés, the bassist Andy González and the trombonist Wayne Wallace — each of these recordings tends toward a sound that’s now classic.

Look beyond the nominees, though, and you’ll find a proliferating landscape of shape-shifters, particularly among Cuban musicians. In particular, recent records by Pedrito Martínez, Alfredo Rodríguez and Arturo O’Farrill — all released within the Grammys’ eligibility period — offer visions of how the fusion of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz improvisation is no longer an end unto itself, but an invitation to integrate more.

In a sense, this is a continuation of the work Mr. Valdés was doing 40 years ago with his Latin fusion band, Irakere (the subject of his latest Grammy-nominated album, “Tribute to Irakere”). Musicians today are reworking his mission for an even more globalized and diversified world.

The jazz pianist David Virelles. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

“These guys — the third generation, in a way — are brilliant,” said Tomás Peña, an editor of the Latin Jazz Network website, referring to musicians who’ve come of age in the 21st century, two generations down the line from the first marriages of Afro-Cuban music and American jazz. “They have their own sound, they’re writing their own music, and their energy is so strong.”

Mr. Peña added: “They’re not averse to playing R&B, they’ll play straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz. And they’re talented enough, smart enough, where they’re taking things to a whole new level.”

Mr. Martínez’s “Habana Dreams” is the most effortlessly relatable of these new Afro-Latin fusion recordings. It finds this Havana-born virtuoso percussionist and vocalist collaborating with Wynton Marsalis, the jazz trumpeter; Rubén Blades, the salsa vocalist; and Telmary Díaz, the Cuban rapper. The result is an album that couples the liquid pull of Cuban rumba with gently romantic melodies — and some subtly magnetic electric bass playing from Alvaro Benavides. It’s a new form of Latin pop that makes no compromises, and doesn’t let your ear wander.

Arturo O’Farrill, director of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Credit Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Mr. Martínez performed at the Jazz Standard this week with Mr. Rodríguez, another Havana-born musician of wide-ranging ambition. Mr. Rodríguez released an impressive third album last year, “Tocororo.” It shows his piano playing to be both punctilious and expansive — ready to handle a tightly syncopated revamp of Bach (“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”) or a swaying, spacious collaboration with the Indian-American vocalist Ganavya (the title track).

Then there’s David Virelles, 33, a Cuban pianist whose inclinations run rampant. In his tirelessly experimental music, Abakuá and Lucumí folklore become an invitation to enter a diffusely contemplative space.

Mr. Virelles’s latest recording, the 10-inch vinyl album “Antenna,” was released too late in 2016 to be eligible for Sunday night’s Grammys. But with its skewed traditional rhythms, unsettling electronics, tenacious Cuban rap and occasional spurts of improvised delirium, it reveals how open the world of Afro-Cuban jazz is becoming.

The bass player Luques Curtis. Credit Monique Jaques/Getty Images

Mr. O’Farrill is the son of the Latin jazz pioneer Chico O’Farrill and the director of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which won the Latin jazz Grammy in 2015. (It was a surprisingly good year for progressive nominees.) The younger Mr. O’Farrill released an incisive sextet album last year, “Boss Level,” spiced with hints of avant-garde improvising and aggressive, rocklike propulsion.

He suggests that Latin jazz is enjoying a surge in creativity partly because its systems of inheritance remain relatively pure — and loose. Straight-ahead jazz is often taught in the academy, where practices can become codified and recycled, but students of Latin American music frequently have to venture closer to the source. They are also exploring other influences in their daily lives, and pouring the components together.

“If they really want to understand this music,” Mr. O’Farrill said, “they study it themselves, and very often go to Cuba, and sit with older musicians, and bug them until they divulge the secrets. And in a way, that’s real jazz education.”

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In some cases, a trip south is not necessary. The bassist Luques Curtis, 33 — who, along with his brother, Zaccai, recently released “Syzygy,” a strong album of Latin jazz fusions — learned at the elbow of mentors like Andy González (a nominee in the Latin jazz category this year), while also studying straight-ahead jazz at a conservatory.

More recently, musicians seeking direct mentorship have been wise to seek out the Cuban folkloric percussionist, singer and poet Román Díaz, who runs the Midnight Rumba at Zinc Bar every Thursday.

In performances with younger musicians like Mr. Martínez, Mr. Virelles and the remarkable saxophonist Yosvany Terry, he has shown how folkloric tradition can fit into almost any berth. (Mr. Díaz’s own recent recording, “L’ó Dá Fún Bàtá,” is a marvelous document of folkloric rhythm and song. Perhaps too traditional for the Latin jazz category, it ought to have received some kind of Grammy nod this year.)

At Zinc Bar each week, Mr. Díaz gathers roughly a dozen percussionists, vocalists and dancers to play traditional Cuban rhythms. But stay long enough and you may see him welcome other musicians onstage, too — maybe a blues guitarist, a jazz violinist, a flamenco singer. As the complex rhythms open up to accommodate them, the new initiates find themselves fitting in.

Even within the most rigorous realms of Afro-Latin music, other sounds and influences can find a home. The academy doesn’t always recognize it, but by now it’s inescapable.


Read the full piece from: NY Times

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Cameron Graves Is LA’s Cosmic Metalhead Jazz Prince and We Have His New Song

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Cameron Graves, pianist and founding member of the Los Angeles-based West Coast Get Down collective, releases the genre-bending Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue Records) February 24, with a mix of cosmological, spiritual and political themes. It's his debut album as a leader, featuring collective members Kamasi Washington (saxophone), Stephen Bruner, a.k.a Thundercat (bass), Ryan Porter (trombone) and Ronald Bruner Jr. (drums).

Planetary Prince picks up where Washington's impactful album, The Epic (featuring Graves) left off, blending jazz with European classical music, prog rock, metal and hip-hop. With no shortage of infectious energy, superior playing and captivating melodies, the album also strives to be consciousness-broadening; its title is derived from The Urantia Book, an obscure volume addressing God, humanity and Biblical themes through spirituality and cosmology—elements Graves has been fascinated for many years. Other tracks have titles such as "Adam and Eve," "The Lucifer Rebellion," "Satania Our Solar System," "Andromeda" and "Isle of Love" (reference to an imagined place inhabited by a race of pure love).

At 35, Graves has been playing music for over three decades, bringing a unique approach to the piano. His skill is matched by a fluid, imaginative style drawing from multiple genres. Graves' father, a singer/producer/keyboard player, initiated him into music at the age of four. Classically trained, Graves got into jazz as a teenager, when he met Kamasi Washington and other young musicians who would later become members of the WCGD collective. Together they started exploring jazz giants such as John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, both major influences. Rehearsing and playing in a multi-school jazz band, they founded the Young Jazz Giants, made their debut recording, and began performing regularly.

In addition to his longstanding collaboration with WCGD, and earlier with his brother Taylor in the R&B/fusion duo The Graves Brothers, Graves has worked with illustrious jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, as well as Jada Pinkett Smith; his work with her nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom lead into the world of film and television scoring. Polish composer and piano virtuoso Frédéric Chopin (b. 1810) is one of his strongest musical influences, as is the Minneapolis Sound— particularly early Prince, Morris Day and The Time.

Noisey: Planetary Prince is not only your album title, but your pseudonym. Who—or what—is this entity?

Cameron Graves: There are actually planetary princes that are associated with all the planets; one spiritual being, a consciousness that resides around the planet itself. I'm kind of like a messenger, channeling something from the Universe—I'm not sure exactly where. When I'm composing, the tunes people often end up liking come to me very quickly: 2-3 minutes. I don't even have to think about it. It just comes in.

And so you conceive of yourself as the Prince of Planet Earth…?

Many of the tunes I was writing while playing at [Hollywood's] Piano Bar had a lot of energy. We played the title track—a dark jazz tune that mimics a metal energy—and everyone in the club went crazy. They would call that song out every single week. So when I was doing the recording, I thought I could name the whole album Planetary Prince, and build a brand.

You've mentioned J Dilla as one of your most prominent influences. What is it about his work that was so impactful?

The late 1990s-early 2000s were very influential; it was the end of high school, and we were listening to a lot of underground hip hop—especially A Tribe Called Quest, the Roots. J Dilla produced Busta Rhymes and Slum Village. If you study his production, you can tell he researched many obscure records, picking the best samples; that was his whole way of composing. The type of samples he'd choose is amazing, and the way he'd create the drum track and the whole beat was extremely interesting. In a way, it could be considered advanced music, even though it's derived from sampling. Many of his samples have a 4- or 8-bar loop, which influenced me a lot. I started comping with the same type of loop, which was like the glue to the music we were playing. We often get into improvisational stuff, so if you do a 4- or 8-bar loop, it's something that people can hold on to.

And what about [Swedish math-death-metal band] Meshuggah?

I'm a big metalhead. I grew up playing guitar as well, listening to Al Di Meola, Eddie Van Halen, Living Color. I was a huge Slipknot fan—the math, the fast double pedal stuff. And then a friend showed me Meshuggah, and they blew me away. You need to be an advanced musician, to really know the instrument, in order to play like that. They did the craziest time signatures, like Frank Zappa, with a rock approach—but they took it all the way. That changed my brain around; I'm able to hear 7/4 in a very clear-cut way that's beautiful.

I understand you practice [Chinese martial art] Xing Yi Quan. How does this impact your work?

It influences my whole life. The idea is to go forward, to die going forward. You take that and apply it to your whole life—music, business, relationships. If there is a road block, you try to get over the hump and move forward. I don't let anything stop my focus, concentration, or drive. And this goes for music, too. I practice piano the way I practice martial arts: constantly working on technique. I also used to play tabla and studied with Indian musicians for a long time, which influenced the way I practice and play. They do crazy things like practice sessions that last 20 hours a day, for 40-50 days.

The tune we're premiering here, "End of Corporatism"—a searing, abstract funk showcasing both you and Thundercat—seems to have a political message.

Money is now controlling everything. We need to get back to small mom-and-pop businesses, to the bartering system, where people really care about their product and are trying to help others. Then we'd get real things, good food etc.—not just plastic products that numb us. It's easy to hoard money—especially the way corporations do it, with loopholes in federal taxes and interest rates, stealing the people's money and hoarding it. It becomes a kind of aristocracy. The corporation becomes the king, because it has so much lobbying power and special interest power, which takes away our freedom. We're living in a bubble of imaginary freedom.

This is right out of George Orwell. . . But I have hope. When you don't feel sick, you don't feel the need to heal yourself. America got sick, and now we're waking up to that, and we need healing. And the unity that's starting to happen—the protests, the coming together— is good; we discover we are more united than divided.


Read the full piece from: Noisey

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UCLA music lecturer drums up Grammy-nominated jazz album

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UCLA faculty, staff and alumni have contributed musical works that are nominated for the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. Their talents, ranging from playing the saxophone to composing songs to performing in an opera, have been recognized with nominations in five different categories.

Justo Almario’s roots in music started when he was 2 years old growing up in the country of Colombia.

He dabbled in a variety of instruments until age 11, when his older brother showed him a recording of saxophonist Cannonball Adderley – at that moment, Almario said he knew music was the only path he wanted to go down.

Almario, a multi-instrumentalist and jazz lecturer at the Herb Alpert School of Music, creates and records his own music with other jazz musicians, using jazz greats like Thelonious Monk for inspiration, he said.

Last year, Almario played saxophone with pianist and composer John Beasley and his big band on the album “MONK’estra, Vol. 1,” which is currently nominated for a 2017 Grammy Award in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category.

Almario said the album was a way to appreciate Monk – whose would-be 100th birthday falls in 2017 – and experiment with new jazz sounds and musicians.

Almario studied jazz in Boston at the Berklee School of Music after leaving Colombia at age 18. Upon graduating, he traveled to New York City, where Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaria hired Almario to work in his band in 1971.

Almario has been interested in playing music by Monk since his years in New York, he said. Paul Jeffrey, an original saxophonist member of the Thelonious Monk group in the 1970s, met Almario at a jazz club and asked him to play in his jazz octet consisting of a French horn, two saxophones, a trumpet, a trombone, a bass and drums.

The octet played Monk’s songs such as “Monk’s Dream,” “Well You Needn’t” and “Monk’s Mood,” Almario said.

Almario’s experience in the octet was important in shaping his respect for and understanding of Monk, he said. To Almario, playing Monk’s music allowed him to search for his own musical personality embodied in the compositions of Monk.

“From that point on, I was very mesmerized by artist’s compositions of Thelonious Monk,” Almario said. “Monk’s one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.”

“MONK’estra, Vol. 1” is inspired by the work of Monk. Beasley’s work on the album consists of Monk melodies he arranged and orchestrated, along with jazz works by Duke Ellington and Benny Golson. Beasley said he thinks Monk’s music is pliable, allowing him and other musicians to apply their own creativity over it.

“I thought, ‘I should do a Monk thing, just for the heck of it,’” Beasley said. “It was a labor of love and also an experiment.”

Beasley called Almario four years ago to rehearse the music for the album. It was not the first time Beasley and Almario had worked together – the two originally met when Almario moved to Los Angeles in 1979 and they kept in touch ever since, Beasley said.

The 15-piece big band for the album was assembled by people Beasley hand-picked. Beasley chose Almario for his original sound as a musician, as well as for his dependability as a professional, he said.

“He has a unique way of soloing that doesn’t sound like anybody else,” Beasley said. “I really wanted his presence there.”

Another saxophonist Beasley chose to play in the band was Danny Janklow, who had not collaborated with Almario in the past. He enjoyed playing alongside Almario because of his joyous energy and passion for the music, Janklow said.

“He brings the best out of everyone, whether it’s a huge performance or recording session or a serious gig,” Janklow said.

For Janklow, having the album nominated this year for a Grammy is a beautiful sentiment in honoring Monk and his musical legacy.

Almario hopes the Grammy Awards will showcase the oft-overshadowed jazz category as well as groups like MONK’estra more in the future to help others learn about jazz and the figures like Monk that the genre has produced.

“Jazz needs to have a place of importance at the Grammys … Because a lot of the music in general, it comes from jazz,” Almario said.


Read the full piece from: http://dailybruin.com/2017/02/08/ucla-music-lecturer-drums-up-grammy-nominated-jazz-album/

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West Coast Get Down, El Rey Theatre (feat. Cameron Graves)

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The West Coast Get Down is better known as the L.A. collective of talent including saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Washington has commanded a lot of attention the past few years, and for good reason. That audacious 3-disc debut, “The Epic” on Brainfeeder, his collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, and 2016 dates at Bonnaroo and Coachella, to name a few. But for a change, this isn’t about Washington. This is about the band that brings those head spinning sonics to life in studio and performances. When I finally caught up with Washington for the first time at the 2016 Newport Jazz Festival, I was pretty knocked out, but when upright bassist Miles Mosley took center stage, uh, the dimension took on another dimension. Whether feverishly bowing with Hendrix like distortion and effects, or running the neck, Mosley, has mad presence and skills. The LA Weekly dubbed him “an assassin on the upright bass” for good reason and Rolling Stone called him out as one of 10 new artists you need to know, and he has a rather impressive resume of his own (Jeff Beck, Rihanna, Lamar, to drop a few names, not to mention extensive film and television credits). It’s no surprise he is front and center leading the WCGD in another direction, while Washington steps back in support. Same dudes, but way different thing, and even more so than the Washington led unit, drop the jazz box from this constellation.

The El Rey date coincided with the release of Mosley’s new record ,“Uprising”, and had to feel a bit celebratory for the Hamilton High music magnet alums. The WCGD core of Mosley, Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, pianist Cameron Graves and drummer Tony Austin (Ronald Bruner, Jr. was not a part of this one) were accompanied by 6 strings, 4 vocalists and a trumpet player along with Porter and Washington. Opening with one of the singles off Uprising, “Young Lion”, the WCGD covered much of the record throughout the night with Mosley an exuberant and engaging front man for the plethora of players on stage. Straight upright funk-soul-jazz-rock from some very talented jazz musicians. “L.A. Won’t Bring You Down” worked up its saucy finish to the satisfaction of the hometown crowd. And with a title like “Uprising”, it didn’t take long for Mosley to tap into our Trumpian angst, recounting his emotions over an irreparably broken bass, his most prized possession, standing in for his world view. That the instrument beyond repair four days before the biggest gig of his life was in his hands that evening, served as the punch line. This was Mosley’s night. While Washington cut loose with a few powerful solos, he otherwise shared the risers alongside the strings and vocals. Pianist Cameron Graves was a standout, and his album “Planetary Prince”, featuring more of the Get Down, will be out in the coming weeks. Mosley’s parents also got a big shout before launching into “Abraham” (Mosley’s given first name), the record’s other single, with Graves’ “ring tone intro” setting off the piece.


Read the full piece from: Jim Brock Photo

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Jazzing up the winter

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By Yun Suh-young

This year's PyeongChang Winter Music Festival to be held from Feb. 15 to 19 at the Alpensia Concert Hall in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, will be showcasing a warm blend of jazz with classical music featuring a star-studded cast.

The festival is a winter version of the PyeongChang Music Festival & School (formerly the Great Mountains Music Festival and School) which is held every summer in the northeastern province of Korea. The winter festival is a newly created one which began last year at the same location the annual summer program is held. It was created to explore diverse genres of music other than classical and the main theme of the festival is jazz, again this year due to the positive feedback from last year's program mixing the two.

"The repertoires for this year's program are songs that lie in between classical and jazz such as Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or Bernstein's West Side Story. The jazz songs will be centered on the immortal jazz figure Thelonious Monk's works," said artistic director Chung Myung-wha.

Grammy-nominated jazz musician John Beasley, who has collaborated with many famous artists such as Miles Davis, Sergio Mendes, Fourplay, Al Jearreau, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand and James Brown, was invited as the main guest of the festival and will lead five jazz sessions during the event. He will perform in several different setups -- a solo performance, his own band MONK'estra, and the seven-member jazz band Septet as well as a duet performance with Korean jazz singer Woongsan. He was producer of Woongsan's 20th anniversary album "Jazz is My Life" released last year.

In 2013, Beasley released an album called "Monkestra" reinterpreting the works of Thelonious Monk with a jazz orchestra. The album is currently nominated for best arrangement at the Grammy Awards. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk's birth this year, Beasley will be performing his interpretations at the with his own band named after the artist.

He will also perform with Septet consisting of Darryl Jones on electric base, Gene Coye on drums, Bob Sheppard and Tom Luer on saxophone, Lemar Guillary on trombone, Dontae Winslow on trumpet and John Beasley himself on piano.

The festival will open with "Three Sarang-gas for Pansori, Cello, Piano & Buk" by pansori singer Ahn Sook-sun, cellist and artistic director of the festival Chung, pianist Son Yeol-eum and percussionist Jun Kye-youl. John Beasley's solo performance and piano duo Anderson & Roe's performance will open the ceremony Wednesday.

Thursday, Feb. 16 is the jazz night featuring the Woongsan Band and MONK'estra.

On Feb. 17, a chamber music classic concert will be offered. Kim Sang-yoon on clarinet, Isang Enders on cello and Kim Kyu-yeon on piano will play Beethoven's Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in B-flat major, op. Soprano Maggie Finnegan and pianist Son Yeol-eum will perform Gershwin's songs such as "Love Walked In" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" on the same day.

That evening, two jazz performances will take place featuring Lee Ji-yeun's Contemporary Jazz Ensemble and John Beasley's Septet.

Feb. 18 will be another classical concert day featuring the Wonju Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kim Kwang-hyun. Later that evening, 3 Brave Souls, a trio of John Beasley, Darryl Jones and Gene Coye, will present a unique opportunity to hear contemporary sounds of "funk."

The last day, Feb. 19, will be a harmony of classic and jazz, beginning with Schubert and ending with John Beasley's solo recital with Woongsan as guest singer.


Read the full piece from: Korea Times

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​Herlin Riley “New Direction”

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Veteran of Ahmad Jamal and Wynton Marsalis bands, the 59 year old drummer explores the many influences he absorbed in a music family in New Orleans with a band of musicians in their 20s: saxophonist Godwin Louis, pianist Emmet Cohen and bassist Russell Hall. In the tradition of another great jazz drummer/bandleader, Art Blakey, Riley takes his Afro-Cuban, jazz, and blues experiences and shakes them into a sound that is both new yet familiar. An entic- ing collection of modern New Orleans music; funky jazz for folks who enjoy their musical gumbo on the hot side.


Read the full piece from: Ft. Myers magazine — a survey of the Best Albums of 2016

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The Best Jazz Albums We Missed in 2016

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Curating a list as wide and varied as our effort to catalogue the 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2016 was no easy feat. We all have our blind spots. And while I wouldn’t change the order or the lineup of our ranking one iota, it’s only natural to look back at the process and second guess the omission of a few titles that should have very well cracked that final Top 20.

Here are five such albums equally worthy of your ears from the past 12 months.

5) Alfredo Rodriguez, Tocororo (Mack Avenue)

Following up on 2014’s Invasion Parade, pianist Alfredo Rodriguez continues to pay full homage to his Cuban heritage with an album that could easily be considered his most adventurous to wit.

Named after the national bird of Cuba, Tocororo celebrates his motherland’s newfound freedom by collaborating with an enclave of musicians from around the globe, including France, Spain, Lebanon, Cameroon and India, all under the watchful eye of executive producer Quincy Jones.

The result is an equal parts worldly and otherworldly cousin to Q’s own Walking in Space, a celebratory lifting of the embargo that offers Cuban musicians full reign to explore sonic landscapes beyond the parameters of their island to craft a quintessential sound of creative freedom taking first flight.

4) Aggregate Prime, Dream Deferred (Onyx Music)

Not since it was first published in 1951 have the words of Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” resonated with the state of affairs in our country. “Or does it explode?” the laureate asks in reference to the line with which East Coast renaissance jazzman Ralph Peterson utilizes as the title for this stellar debut of his new quintet Aggregate Prime.

That the roots of Dream Deferred took grip as the trial of three Baltimore cops for the murder of Freddie Gray commenced was no coincidence. Recorded in Maryland as it all happened in real time, Peterson and his all-star combo—Vijay Iyer on piano, guitarist Mark Whitfield, reed man Gary Thomas and bassist Kenny Davis—channel their anger over the injustice into fiery rips of such originals as “Strongest Sword” and the Iyer-penned “Father Spirit,” in addition to a house-quaking cover of Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man.”

This is Harlem jazz at its finest, tough as nails and sophisticated as hell.

3) Ches Smith, The Bell (ECM)

Percussionist Ches Smith might have gained his piece of the pie playing drums for art-pop auteurs Xiu Xiu. But as it turns out, jazz is his true love. And his efforts working on recordings by such underground greats as Tim Berne and Mary Halvorson have gained him the golden opportunity to record for the esteemed ECM imprint as a leader.

Coming together with pianist Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri on viola, The Bell far exceeded all expectations. A modal meditation that channels both the jazz and classical sensibilities of his new home, it sounds like a long-lost session between Keith Jarrett and Steven Reich.

2) Carlos Niño and Friends, Flutes, Echoes, It’s All Happening! (Leaving Records)

For a hard 20 years, Stones Throw has successfully zoned the interchange connecting jazz and hip-hop on the West Coast. Flutes, Echoes, It’s All Happening! is the sound of that sonic highway reaching its vanishing point.

Build An Ark chieftain Carlos Niño and his Friends, including Madlib, Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Iasos, Luis Pérez Ixoneztli, Dexter Story, and others, craft an excursion that imagines Lower California’s distinct blend of bop-hop through the canyons occupied by Joni Mitchell and David Crosby.

This is what the former radio host, producer, composer, percussionist, DJ and arranger calls “Space Collage Hybrid” music. More, please.

1) The Bad Plus, It’s Hard (O’Keh)

Few acts have kept jazz music more relevant on college radio for the last 20 years as The Bad Plus. On their latest album, 2016’s It’s Hard, the ever-inventive NYC band pays homage to some of their favorites left of the dial with stunning reinterpretations of such indie faves as “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On the Radio’s “Staring at the Sun” and Kraftwerk’s “The Robots.”

What’s even more impressive: The trio simultaneously honors the heyday of classic Top 40 with knotty spins on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and a stunning meditation on “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince laid to tape shortly after his death.

Bonus points for naming the album after The Who’s most underrated LP to boot.


Read the full piece from: Observer

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Winter in America

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“Welcome to the resistance,” Darcy James Argue said on Friday night to the packed audience at Subculture, a basement club on Bleecker Street. Then the Canadian-born, New York-based composer and bandleader turned to his 18-piece ensemble, Secret Society, and, with deft flicks of his wrists, guided them into the opening of Real Enemies, his cycle of pieces based on the theme of state-sponsored paranoia. A few hours earlier, in another part of New York City, Donald Trump had been forced to listen to the representatives of the CIA and the FBI presenting evidence that Russia’s government and secret services had helped to get him elected as president of the United States.

“Social justice” was the theme of the event in which Argue was participating: the 2017 edition of Winter Jazzfest, the annual showcase featuring a two-day marathon of more than 150 groups at about a dozen venues centred on Greenwich Village. Different bandleaders expressed their attitude to the topic in different ways. The pianist and composer Samora Pinderhughes led his 11 musicians through an extended piece titled The Transformations Suite, a profoundly moving contemporary take on themes no less relevant than when they were explored half a century ago in Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. The Pakistani-American singer and harmonium player Amirtha Kidambi performed a piece inspired by the death of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officers in 2014; she announced that all proceeds from that night’s sales of the new CD by her quartet, Elder Ones, would go to the fund supporting four members of the NAACP arrested earlier in the week for protesting against Trump’s nomination for attorney general of a man who has campaigned against voting rights. The trumpeter Peter Evans called for the recognition of musicians — he gave Matana Roberts as an example — who have a record of campaigning on these issues.

Others preferred to let the music speak for itself, but there was never any doubt of the continuing role that jazz musicians have to play in exposing issues, raising consciousness, and maintaining morale in difficult times. Their inherent independence of spirit, their understanding of the need to reconcile individual and collective action, their roots in an idiom that came from suffering and exploitation, and their acceptance of the need to fight against the commercial odds make them ideally suited to the task.

To get back to the music, Argue is a young man with an intriguing approach both to personal style (he looks as though he might relax at the weekend by putting on a cravat) and to finding new solutions to the problems inherent in playing jazz with a large ensemble. Throughout the performance of Real Enemies, he used a tablet to trigger sound bites from such people as Oliver North and Dick Cheney. With Ingrid Jensen among the trumpeters and Chris Speed among the reeds, the writing contained echoes of Elmer Bernstein, Bob Graettinger and Gil Evans: lots of drama, lots of complexity, lots of variety (particularly in the instrumental colours: a grouping of piccolo, flute, two clarinets and a bass clarinet, for instance, or a trumpet lead supported by four flugelhorns). It would be an important and pathfinding work at any time, never mind now.

Pinderhughes’ The Transformations Suite did not enjoy the same degree of attention when the recorded version came out last year, but it made a deep impression in the New School’s Glass Box space late on Friday night. There was nothing ironic here: the wounds of 400 years of slavery and its aftermath were allowed to bleed openly in the poems and lyrics delivered by the actor Jeremie Harris (who wrote some of the words), the wonderfully soulful South African-born singer Vuyo Solashe, and most of all by Jules Latimer, a young Juilliard drama student who took the considerable risk of acting out grief and fear without restraint. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” occasionally popped up as a leitmotif, and Pinderhughes’ lean but succulent writing for his five-piece horn section provided a platform for improvisations by his extravagantly talented 21-year-old sister Elena, who might just be on her way to becoming the finest flautist jazz has produced, the tenorist Lucas Pino, and Braxton Cook, who took the roof off the place with a roaring alto solo.

John Beasley’s MONK’estra performed their empathetic, swinging and sometimes hiphop-tinged revisions of Thelonious Monk tunes at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Lincoln Centre on Thursday night, in front of a window with a view of Trump Tower. Luckily the arrangements and the solos — notably by the always creative tenorist Greg Tardy, the trombonists Frank Lacy and Conrad Herwig, and a guest from France, the fine harmonica player Grégoire Maret — were more than enough to divert attention away from the new epicentre of American values. And, as Beasley reminded us, Monk himself had grown up literally only a stone’s throw away, on West 63rd Street.

mary-halvorson-octetAs impressive as anything I heard during three crowded days was the octet led by the guitarist Mary Halvorson, which features not just a bunch of great players (including the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and the tenorist Ingrid Laubrock) but the leader’s extraordinary interplay with the pedal steel player Susan Alcom, which elevates the music to a whole different realm of texture and emotion. Halvorson’s compositions are fascinating enough in any case: sounding as though they are through-written, they have the impact of great short stories, full of surprising twists of plot and mood, never quite ending where you expect but always resolving brilliantly.

While the festival was taking place, the great jazz critic Nat Hentoff died in New York at the age of 91. Through his liner notes, his pieces for Down Beat, the Jazz Review and the Village Voice, and books such as Hear Me Talkin’ To You (co-authored with Nat Shapiro) and Jazz Is, he helped shaped the view of several generations of listeners. He was also a lifelong fighter for social justice. And in 1960, for his own short-lived label (which released classic albums by Charles Mingus and Booker Little), he produced Cecil Taylor’s sublime trio version of “This Nearly Was Mine”, which alone would earn him a place wherever the good ones go.

John Beasley’s MONK’estra Vol. 1 is on Mack Avenue. 


Read the full piece from: thebluemoment.com

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2017 Puerto Rico Jazzfest To Honor Pianist, Composer, and Humanitarian, Danilo Pérez

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SAN JUAN – The preparations for the twenty-seventh edition of the most prestigious Jazz festival of the Caribbean, the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest (PRHJF), have begun with the announcement of next year’s honoree of this spectacular event that will sure please all music fans. From March 23 through March 26, the festival will honor Panamanian jazz pianist, composer and humanitarian, Danilo Pérez. Also, the details for this edition’s contest to select the commemorative poster were revealed.

“Danilo Pérez is the perfect musician to dedicate the twenty-seventh edition of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest”, expressed Luis Álvarez, Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest’s producer and vice president of the Liquor Division at Méndez & Compañía. “We are very pleased to dedicate this festival to Danilo, a great musician, friend, and above all, an exceptional human being. With this dedication, we recognize his great musical career as a pianist and composer, his humanitarian labor and his commitment with musical education for the youth. It will be an honor and a privilege to have his presence on the next Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest’s stage” finished Álvarez.

Upon receiving the news of his recognition during the next Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, Danilo Pérez said: “I am very excited with the news. It is a great honor and I take it with great responsibility. My relationship with Puerto Rico is musical and artistic, but it’s also a fraternity. I remember when I first participated in the first Heineken JazzFest back in 1991, so I feel extremely proud that a festival this big and with so much history recognizes me and my career. It’s really wonderful and I take it with a lot of responsibility. As a musician, social activist, educator, mentor and ambassador, I now feel with more energy to continue doing what I am doing.”

Open Call for Poster Design

As it’s been a tradition during past years, the PRHJF team also announced that the contest for the design of the commemorative poster of next year’s edition of the PRHJF is now open. The honoree, Danilo Pérez, will be the central theme. Those interested in participating in the contest must have abilities in graphic arts, as an amateur or professional, and live in Puerto Rico permanently. Each artist will be able to submit one piece in the graphic media of its choice, as it may be reproduced digitally. The submitted piece must measure 20 inches wide and 26 inches tall.

Also, the design submitted by the artist must include graphic references of the artist and it will be responsibility of the creatives to do all the historic research of the artist they find necessary in order to familiarize with his career and the elements that define the honoree’s contribution to the genre. The design must also include a reference to the Heineken brand. The deadline to submit the designed pieces will be on Friday, December 2nd, 2016, before 5:00pm in the main offices of Méndez & Co. Inc., in Guaynabo. The rules for the contest are available at www.facebook.com/puertoricoheinekenjazzfest.

About Danilo Pérez

Since an early stage in life, the talented pianist and composer Danilo Pérez started with passion a successful musical career. At 50, the musician born in Monte Oscuro, Panama City, has conquered the entire world with his dowries as a pianist and composer, and has transcended as a pillar in music through education, as a cultural ambassador, and humanitarian. All these characteristics undoubtedly position him as one of the most influential and dynamic artist of our time.

Graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1988, Pérez had the honor of playing alongside big stars of music when he was still very young. His career as a professional musician vowed quickly after finishing his studies, participating in presentations and recordings with Dizzy Gillespie, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Gary Burton, Roy Haynes, and Puerto Rican legend, Tito Puente, amongst others.

Awards & distinctions

Danilo Pérez has multiple discographic productions that have won him nominations for the Grammy and Latin Grammy, like Central Avenue(Best Jazz Album), Motherland (Best Jazz Album and Best Latin Jazz Album), Across The Crystal Sea, and Providencia (Best Instrumental Jazz Album). His work as a composer has also been recognized in important festivals and venues, being commissioned by The Lincoln Center, Chicago Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall (for the Simon Bolivar Symphonic Orchestra in Venezuela), The Banff Centre, amongst others. In 2002 he was nominated to receive the award for Best Pianist of the Year, awarded by the Jazz Journalist Association. In 2005, the Ibero-American Communication Association gave him the Ibero-American Award, and he was named a Good Will Ambassador by the UNICEF. In 2009, the Smithsonian Institute of Washington gave him the Legacy Award for his contribution to arts as a musician and educator. Next year, his home, Panama, recognized him with the Vasco Núñez de Balboa award.

Educator & philanthropist

The Panamanian pianist and composer maintains his country very present as his career continues evolving. Since a very young age, Danilo Pérez channeled the musical values his father taught him, and he used music as a learning tool, improvising music lessons and music programs free of charge for kids and young ones. In the 80s, he helped create the musical program Jamboree Juventud from Panama, and in the next decade he would help create the jazz program for the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. His participation in productions, presentations, classes, and concerts during all those years led him to create the first international jazz festival in Panama in 2003, followed by the creation of the Danilo Pérez Foundation in 2004. Since then, he has celebrated the Festival that allows young musicians to have the opportunity to take master classes from professors of very important musical institutions from around the world, and present themselves in front of thousands of attendees year after year, in different parts of Panama City, following a very similar model to the Berklee in Puerto Rico program, of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest.

He is currently the Artist for Peace of UNESCO, who recognized his work and commitment to bringing kids and younglings living in poverty in Panama the opportunity to participate in high quality musical programs. Likewise, the UNICEF named him a Good Will Ambassador, he’s the Cultural Ambassador of the Republic of Panama, and serves as the Artistic Director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute in the prestigious Berklee College of Music, in Boston. This last program is an interdisciplinary one, focused on developing the creativity and talent of its student to their maximum potential, understanding how the power of music can be a tool for the good of society and connecting the creative musical thoughts with nature, using sound, rhythms, and harmonies to incorporate in music, all while the student learns and understands the importance of geological preservation.


Read the full piece from: Curacao Chronicle

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Keyboard Magazine’s 2016 Top 10 Music Lists

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As 2016 winds down and we prepare for 2017, the editors at Keyboard magazine have assembled lists of their favorite releases of the year.

These recordings encompass a variety of genres and include numerous gems that had never been commercially released before.

Moreover, we have added a list of the most enjoyable music videos we viewed this year.

Our hope is that the releases below will lead you to artists you haven't heard (or remind you of some you may have missed or forgotten).

Enjoy the sounds and Happy New Year!


Read the full piece from: Keyboard Magazine

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The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

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A decade ago, leading jazz critic Francis Davis corralled 30 jazz writers to create a list of the finest jazz albums of 2006 for the Village Voice. For the 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, Davis has marshaled more than quadruple the forces — 137 voters — to assess the best of an ever-expanding field.

Davis himself expounds on the Top 10 (you should read his analysis of this year's list here), and then the next 40 are ranked, followed by several intriguing specialty lists. We've got the year's best vocal albums, debuts and Latin jazz. The Reissue/Rara Avis category collects music by the likes of Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Count Basie and Lester Young. And all the critics' ballots, compiled by Tom Hull, may be seen here.

In a list this extensive, there's plenty to discover and debate. Even Davis himself admits he's not as fond of one top album as a colleague is. But that's the beauty of this massive annual project. We've got an unparalleled group of contributors with a dizzying range of enthusiasms — some you may share, others you'll come to love. We listen so you can, too.—Mark Mobley


Read the full piece from: NPR

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What Does a Music Director Do?

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What Does a Music Director Do?

Music-industry vet John Beasley defines the gig and offers advice

Miles Davis alum John Beasley has stepped into the role of music director for a diverse slate of projects—from tours with Steely Dan and Queen Latifah to the Thelonious Monk Institute gala, International Jazz Day and American Idol—and though the job varies project to project, there are some constants. “We help pick material, show order, musicians, sometimes sound [engineers], and rehearse the band,” Beasley says.

The job is part arranger-conductor, part logistics and all stress. “You’re trying to help management, the artist, the tour manager, the record company,” he explains. “Everybody’s got their say about what should happen and why, so you’re getting a lot of different information from people and you have to make it work.”

Most important, he hires the best band possible. “You have to hire people that have experience; you can’t hire people that are going to be prima donnas on the road,” Beasley says. “So lesson number one in being an MD: Hire people you know who are totally professional and will have your back.”

On American Idol, Beasley rehearsed contestants, advised on repertoire and wrote arrangements for the band. “Our first season, for the first two episodes I actually had to mix the audio, because they hadn’t hired a fulltime music mixer,” Beasley says. “At that point it was still wild and woolly.”

At the 2016 International Jazz Day Global Concert, held in April at the White House, in addition to managing the acoustics of the Blue Room and holding sound check in a tent erected on the South Lawn, Beasley added heightened security to his list of challenges. There were several mandatory evacuations, but at an event of that scale, the interruptions can offer a welcome moment of relaxation to a harried music director. “At one point, I was going back to check the mixes and I got stuck in the hallway. They said, ‘POTUS on the move! You’ve got to evacuate,’ and they threw me in this room,” Beasley says. “I was stuck there for 25 minutes. So I took the opportunity to sort of reflect and sit there and rest a little bit, because those gigs are balls to the wall every waking minute of the day.”


Read the full piece from: JazzTimes

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5 upcoming albums to get you started for 2017

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Joey DeFrancesco & The People’s Project Freedom

If you dig organ jazz-fusion, there’s nobody better to make that happen than Joey DeFrancesco. He debuts his first quartet album Project Fre

If you dig organ jazz-fusion, there’s nobody better to make that happen than Joey DeFrancesco. He debuts his first quartet album Project Freedom on Mack Avenue Records March 10, 2017. A longtime Hammond B3 organ magician, DeFrancesco effortlessly fuses rock and jazz together for a slamming good time, every time. He still brings that blissed-out Philly blues to the proceedings. But this Project Freedom means a lot more than his other albums. After 41 years in the game, the organist still tries to punch in something new.

“I’ve exhausted the instrument — it's like breathing to me — I've wanted more from what I've already done musically. I find myself asking, ‘How do I expand?’” He answers this question on “The Unifier,” a tune emboldened by a wah-wah pedal. “It makes the organ sound like a Moog and gives it this rich, weird vibrato,” DeFrancesco, who also plays trumpet, added.

DeFrancesco also changes things up with a great group of musicians, including drummer Jason Brown, guitarist Dan Wilson, and tenor/soprano saxophonist Troy Roberts, who fleshes out fiery tempos in the tunes and grounds them on an earthly, lusty plane.

The songs themselves come straight from the featured artist’s innermost longings for “Peace Bridge,” “Karma,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a cover the organist improvised at the 2003 Detroit Jazz Festival for the encore — all an answer to today’s front-page-news of brutality, violence, and injustice.

“The crowd was perfect, the weather was perfect, the song just came out of me and the next thing you know the crowd is swaying, men took their hats off and women began to cry. Me too. It was a truly sanctified experience where we all became one, transcending music and melody. I wanted to relive that story, that feeling, on Project Freedom.”

Artist quotes from a DL Media release.

(March 10, 2017, Mack Avenue Records)

Cameron Graves’ ‘Planetary Prince’

Pianist Cameron Graves appears on bassist Miles Mosley’s upcoming UPRISING, but has already made waves of his own with his debut, June 10, 2016 EP inspired by the 20th century bible called “Urantia.” Planetary Prince takes the what-if concepts of “Urantia” and builds them into a sonic adventure.

The original music relies on the listener’s infinite patience, applying an oddly paced sort of innovation and a backdoor groove that takes its time getting to the climax. “I don't communicate the ‘Urantia’ ideas to the band. They just know that my song titles are kind of weird, but the music is really cool,” Graves said in a DL Media release. “I like to write a lot in odd rhythms, especially in 7, which takes the music somewhere else and lets the cats build off of that.”

“Adam and Eve” is an example of a classically influenced instrumental that patiently builds and builds on strategic piano and big band majesty until the rest of the rhythm section explodes with a potent funk groove.

The four-song EP expands into an eight-track album Feb. 24, 2017, featuring members of the L.A. West Coast Get Down, including The Epic sax god Kamasi Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. Trumpeter Philip Dizack and bassist Hadrien Feraud join the group. Formed back in high school band, the WCGD are famous today for shaking up the music scene by embracing jazz along with hip-hop, classical music, and assorted odds and ends from other styles in a natural modern vibe.

(Feb. 24, 2017, Mack Avenue Records)


Read the full piece from: AXA

New Joey DeFrancesco Album Marks Debut for Mack Avenue

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“Project Freedom” available March 2017; supporting tour dates start in January

By Sean Dennis

Organist Joey DeFrancesco’s upcoming release on Mack Avenue Records, Project Freedom, is his first in a quartet setting and features his stellar work on the Hammond B-3—plus contributions on trumpet and as a vocalist.

Accompanying DeFrancesco on this genre-jumping album are drummer Jason Brown, guitarist Dan Wilson and saxophonist Troy Roberts—collectively billed as the People—who comprise his new touring band for 2017.

Inspired by his experiences playing for audiences around the globe, DeFrancesco explores themes of peace and spirituality on self-penned compositions “Karma,” “The Unifier” and “Peace Bridge,” in addition to covers including “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “So Near, So Far.”

In a press release, DeFrancesco notes, “I always thought that as touring musicians, we were spreading peace. No matter what happens in the world, we keep playing. In a lot of the so-called forbidden places too. When we’re there, through war and conflict, problems melt away through music. We’re playing for these people, hanging out with them, and we all come together and we’re grooving with each other because of the music. That is true freedom. Music is true freedom.”

Project Freedom will be available March 2017. For more information, visit the official websites of Joey DeFrancesco and Mack Avenue Records.

2017 Tour Dates

Jan. 12: Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA

Jan. 13–14: Chris’ Jazz Café, Philadelphia, PA

Jan. 17–21: Birdland, New York City, NY

March 17–18: Catalina Jazz Club, Los Angeles, CA

March 19: The Nash, Phoenix, AZ

March 21–22: DazzleJazz, Denver, CO

March 29: Savannah Music Festival, Savannah, GA

March 30–31: The Velvet Note, Atlanta, GA

April 1: The Tin Pan, Richmond, VA


Read the full piece from: JazzTimes

‘Epic’ Keyboardist Cameron Graves Launches Debut Album

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The release of Kamasi Washington’s The Epic last year heralded the arrival of the West Coast Get Down, the Los Angeles-based consortium of like-minded musicians that would alter the jazz landscape with its cosmic blend of jazz, funk, classical and hip-hop.

Follow-up albums by WCGD-affiliated members such as bassist Miles Mosley and saxophonist Terrace Martin have solidified the group’s placement at the center of the current jazz conversation.

The conversation continues with the release of Planetary Prince, the debut album by pianist, keyboardist, composer and WCGD founding member Cameron Graves. The album will be available Feb. 24 on Mack Avenue Records.

Graves had already compiled a four-track EP called Planetary Prince by the time Mack Avenue approached him for a record deal. Under the label, the keyboardist expanded the project into an eight track full-length album.

Planetary Prince features a number of Graves’ West Coast Get Down compatriots, many of whom have been collaborating with Graves since high school. That crew includes tenor saxophonist Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. To their ranks are added trumpeter Philip Dizack and bassist Hadrien Feraud, both key members of the current L.A. jazz scene.

In its scope and execution, the album builds upon the hurdling intensity and vast ambition of The Epic and other WCGD-related projects.

“Cameron Graves’ music is vigorous and refreshing. There is an infectious raw energy on Planetary Prince that is coupled with these terrific melodies and blistering solo work, the whole album is energizing,” said Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell, in a press statement.

Washington’s penchant for the interstellar has left a bold imprint on Graves’ work—the title Planetary Prince comes from The Urantia Book, an early 20th-century tome that purports to reveal the truth of humanity through cosmological ideas—and the saxophonist was outspoken in his praise of Graves’ debut.

“Cameron Graves is a musical genius. He has an innovative approach to the piano that is completely unique,” Washington said. “Cameron’s new album Planetary Prince is an amazing and almost unbelievable combination of modal jazz, Romantic-era European classical music and mathematical death metal. A style so cool that it deserves it’s own genre … I’m so glad he’s sharing it with the world!”


Read the full piece from: DownBeat

Notes on Jazz Best of Jazz for 2016

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This year I attended many fine performances given by a variety of musicians and I tried to further embed myself into the thriving, local Atlanta jazz scene, where I now reside. I give a special call out to two young musicians, Darren English and Morgan Guerin, who make Atlanta their home and who both had compelling debut albums this year.These young firebrands give us a glimpse into the future of jazz and from where I stand the future is very bright indeed.

With the avalanche of self-produced cds being released these days, I find my desk overflowing with new material and frankly it’s a daunting task to give each release the careful and thoughtful attention its deserves. That said, this is my very subjective choice for the of best of jazz in 2016. Wherever possible I have linked the albums to a video or audio clip that should be representative of the music on the album. I have been greatly privileged to have heard and enjoyed this music and I hope you too will find some if not all of it enjoyable too. I am happy to report that this music we call jazz is alive, well and moving ahead very nicely. Happy Holidays and happy listening to all of you.


Read the full piece from: Huffington Post

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12 Young American Jazz Musicians You Need To Know

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Many music mavens, jazz fans, or otherwise know of American jazz legends like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, but a new generation of artists is bringing refreshing new talent to the genre. From the breakout success of artists like Gregory Porter and Esperanza Spalding, to up-and-coming talents like pianist Aaron Diehl, we uncover the best young American jazz musicians.

Gregory Porter

Hailed by NPR Music as “the next great male jazz singer,” California-born singer and songwriter Gregory Porter’s music career began over 20 years ago, though it wasn’t until he moved to New York City and performed regularly at Harlem’s legendary St. Nick’s Pub that his career really took off. Porter released his debut album, Water, produced by jazz pianist and saxophonist Kamau Kenyatta, in 2010 and his third album, Liquid Spirit, scooped the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2013, solidifying his standing as a future jazz legend.

The Hot Sardines

Formed in Manhattan by New York City native Evan “Bibs” Palazzo and Paris-born chanteuse Miz Elizabeth, The Hot Sardines are a troupe of gifted musicians that take inspiration from early American jazz and count music greats like Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, and Billie Holiday amongst their influences. Lauded by Forbes Magazine as “one of the best jazz bands in NYC today,” The Hot Sardines have played sold out shows at New York’s famed Joe’s Pub and performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In June 2016, the band released their sophomore album, French Fries & Champagne.

Esperanza Spalding

Portland, Oregon-born jazz singer, bassist, and cellist Esperanza Spalding displayed prodigious talents from an early age playing violin with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She burst onto America’s jazz music scene with the release of her debut album Junjo in 2006, receiving favorable reviews from the likes of the New York Times’ critic Ben Ratliff. Since then, Spalding has gone on to win multiple Grammys including Best New Artist of 2010 – the first jazz musician to be awarded this title – and Best Jazz Vocal Album for 2012’s Radio Music Society. Her fifth studio album, Emily’s D+Evolution, is sung through the alter ego of Emily, Esperanza’s middle name, and has received widespread critical acclaim since its release in March 2016.

Robert Glasper

Jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper may not be your typical jazz musician, considering his fusion of the genre with styles like R&B and hip hop, yet his deft merging of genres makes Glasper stand out amongst his contemporaries. By his mid-20s, Glasper had already performed with jazz greats including Terence Blanchard and Christian McBride and a succession of acclaimed albums, including the Grammy-nominated Double-Booked (2009) confirmed his rising star. Glasper’s revered 2012 release Black Radio demonstrated his talent for jazz fusion and scooped a Grammy for Best R&B album in 2013. In May 2016, Glasper released his new album, Everything’s Beautiful, which remixes several Miles Davis tracks from the Columbia/Legacy vault and features an A-list of collaborators.

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Born to a French mother and a Haitian father in Miami, Florida, Cécile McLorin Salvant was singing and playing classical piano before she reached the age of 10. A move to France in 2007 saw her study improvisation and vocal repertoire under respected reedist Jean-François Bonnel. Success followed the recording of her debut album, Cécile, in 2009, winning the the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. McLorin Salvant has performed at legendary events including the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival, while her third album, For One to Love, won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Marquis Hill

Though he started out playing drums in the fourth grade growing up in Chicago’s South Side, it was when he took up the trumpet that Marquis Hill really found his niche. Hill has been the recipient of awards including the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition, and has received rave reviews from the likes of the New York Times, which hailed him as “a dauntingly skilled trumpeter.” His 2016 album, The Way We Play, was released on Concord Records.

Melody Gardot

Grammy-nominated Melody Gardot kick-started her career at an early age playing the bars of her hometown Philadelphia at the age of 16. It wasn’t until a severe car accident in her late teens, however, that she began writing her own songs, which the singer and pianist states aided her in her lengthy recovery. Her 2008 debut album Worrisome Heart, co-produced by acclaimed producer Glenn Barratt, established her trademark edgy, evocative, and intimate style. Today the musician is known for her dramatic, mysterious stage presence. Now four albums deep, Gardot has appeared at events including Brighton’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival.

Mary Halvorson

“NYC’s least predictable improviser” and “a singular talent” are just a few things the press have to say about Boston-born, Brooklyn-based improvisational jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson. After studying under celebrated jazz multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University, Halvorson began playing in New York City and has collaborated with such talents as Marc Ribot, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Curtis Hasselbring. Halvorson regularly performs in the Mary Halvorson Trio alongside bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith and her 2013 album, Illusionary Sea, with the Mary Halvorson Septet was hailed by NPR Music as her “boldest venture yet.” She has released five albums since then.

Aaron Diehl

Pianist Aaron Diehl is a jazz musician with a mission – he seeks to traverse the generational boundaries of the genre, and with compliments such as the New York Times lauding him as “a smart young pianist with a fastidious grasp of jazz traditions,” he is certainly proving his worth. A graduate of the Juilliard School and winner of the 2013 Jazz Journalist Association’s Up-And-Coming Musician of the Year Award, Diehl has toured with the Wynton Marsalis Septet and his latest release, Space Time Continuum, has received wide critical acclaim for its mixture of historic and contemporary styles of jazz.

Tivon Pennicott

A native of Marietta, Georgia, Tivon Pennicott began playing tenor sax in high school, and by his early 20’s had worked with legendary jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell and performed at famous venues like San Francisco’s Yoshi’s Jazz Club. Pennicott has played on Grammy-winning albums including Gregory Porter’s breakout album Liquid Spirit and Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society, and won second place at the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Praised for his tenacity and inventiveness as a saxophonist, Pennicott released his debut album Lover of Nature in late 2014.

Jamison Ross

Currently a resident of the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, award-winning drummer Jamison Ross began honing his talents at a young age playing at his grandfather’s church. By his early 20’s Ross was collaborating with the likes of legendary American jazz singer Carmen Lundy, and has since gone on to work with acclaimed contemporaries including Jon Batiste and Cécile McLorin Salvant. With a clear mission in mind to bring a joyful and soulful sound to his music, Ross is signed with Concord Jazz and released his self-titled debut album in 2015.

Kendrick Scott

Growing up in Houston, Texas listening to genres as diverse as gospel, R&B, and classical, Kendrick Scott’s odyssey began at the age of eight when his parents gifted him a drum kit. His dedication and talent saw him awarded a place at his hometown’s prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. His later career has included tours with legends like Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard. In 2007, he established his music collective, the Kendrick Scott Oracle, whose ambitious 2007 debut The Source was followed by Conviction in 2013.


Read the full piece from: Culture Trip

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From Wynton Marsalis to Vijay Iyer, the best jazz albums of 2016

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Renee Rosnes: "Written in the Rocks" (Smoke Sessions Records): Rosnes long ago earned a reputation as a first-rate pianist, but with "Written in the Rocks" she affirms her gifts as composer with a fertile imagination and a technique to match. Even if you didn't know that "Written in the Rocks" has specific pictorial and programmatic purposes, its stunning array of instrumental colors, exquisitely refined voicings and lush harmonic palette command attention. Rosnes' score benefits greatly from the contributions of vibraphonist Steve Nelson, flutist-saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Bill Stewart, but it's the inventiveness of Rosnes' concept and writing that stand out.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: "The Abyssinian Mass" (Blue Engine Records): The theme of faith has coursed through Marsalis' work for decades, most notably in recordings such as "In This House, On This Morning" (1994), featuring his septet in a gospel service portrayed in jazz; and "All Rise" (2002), an epic that explored struggle and salvation. "The Abyssinian Mass" continues Marsalis' investigations along these lines, the massive forces of the JLCO, the Chorale le Chateau and vocal soloists offering up 23 movements on two discs — a monumental statement brilliantly articulated in jazz, blues and gospel.

Marquis Hill: "The Way We Play" (Concord Jazz): As part of his prize for taking top honors in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition of 2014, trumpeter Hill won a recording contract with Concord Jazz. Expectations were high for his major-label debut, and Hill fulfilled them with a more personal album than one might have thought possible under these circumstances. Though Hill recorded mostly standards, he conjured distinctive arrangements, intensifying his message by featuring social commentary in the form of spoken word from poet Harold Green III. The nimbleness of Hill's technique and the lyrical core of his phrase-making are apparent throughout.

Vijay Iyer/Wadada Leo Smith: "A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke" (ECM Records): The title may sound a bit high-flown, but it reflects the ethereal and hypersensitive character of the music itself (as well as the name of the primary suite on the recording). Pianist/keyboardist Iyer and trumpeter Smith improvise subtly, one gently expressed musical thought responding to the next. You sense the environment in this recording, Smith's streaks of sound and Iyer's richly textured pianism set against plenty of space and silence. Listeners uninterested in traveling into unusual musical terrain may not be pleased, but open-eared audiences will welcome the freshness of the approach, the translucence of the sound and the delicacy of the delivery.

Julian Lage: "Arclight" (Mack Avenue): Fine jazz guitarists are hardly in short supply, but Lage stands out for the clarity of his thought, the sleekness of his sound and the range of his expression. Leading a trio with comparably agile work from drummer Kenny Wollesen and bassist Scott Colley, Lage mixes originals with historical repertoire, the latter giving him ample opportunity for buoyant swing rhythm, the former enabling him to venture into somewhat edgier fare.

Laurin Talese: "Gorgeous Chaos" (Bassic Black Entertainment): The first time I heard Talese, five years ago in Philadelphia, she made a vivid impression via the sumptuousness of her instrument and the creativity of her vocal lines. She sounds still more accomplished on her album "Gorgeous Chaos," Talese bringing heart and spontaneity to standards, obscurities and originals alike. In all of this material, she emerges as an uncommonly persuasive storyteller, accompanied on select tracks by bassist Christian McBride, keyboardist Robert Glasper and other noteworthy instrumentalists who clearly believe in her. "Gorgeous Chaos" should serve as an excellent calling card for a singer very much on the rise.

Melissa Aldana: "Back Home" (Wommusic): Chilean tenor saxophonist Aldana received considerable attention after winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition three years ago, at age 24, and her work ever since has proved she deserved it. "Back Home" crystallizes the appeal of Aldana's music, most notably the austere quality of her sound, the consistently understated manner of her performance and the considerable sophistication of her improvised lines. Bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jochen Rueckert provide continuous, intriguing counterpoint. This music may seem a bit restrained for some listeners' tastes, but to me it's balm in a very noisy world.

Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.


Read the full piece from: Chicago Tribune

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Cameron Graves, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Childs Sign With Mack Avenue Records: Exclusive

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Christmas is starting early for Mack Avenue Records. The independent jazz label has added acclaimed artists Cameron Graves, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Childs to its roster. All three will release new albums in 2017.

Graves, pianist and founding member of West Coast Get Down, will release his anticipated debut album on Feb. 24. The eight-track Planetary Prince, originally a four-song EP, will feature such longtime collaborators as saxophonist Kamasi Washington, trumpeter Philip Dizack, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, bassist Hadrien Feraud and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr.

Jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco will release Project Freedom, his first-ever quartet album, on March 10. Touring as Joey DeFrancesco & the People in 2017, the musician will be joined by guitarist Dan Wilson, saxophonist Troy Roberts and drummer Jason Brown.

Childs returns to his jazz roots on the aptly titled Rebirth arriving March 24. The four-time Grammy Award-winning pianist plays with saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Eric Harland. Special guests include vocalists Alicia Olatuja and Claudia Acuna, trombonist Ido Meshulam and percussionist Rogerio Boccato. His first album under the Mack Avenue banner also marks the 40th anniversary of Childs’ recording debut with legendary trombonist J.J. Johnson, who died in 2001.

Mack Avenue, which acquired the MAXJAZZ label earlier this year, is headed by president Denny Stilwell.


Read the full piece from: Billboard

The 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2016

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For his official debut as a leader on the Mack Avenue imprint, former child prodigy Julian Lage continues to prove why he is the best guitar player in modern jazz with this dazzling tribute to his electric guitar heroes of the early 20th century.

If you are hearing aspects of Chet Atkins and Les Paul throughout the course of Arclight, that’s because Lage and his mind-blowing rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen pay homage to the guys Chester and Lester were influenced by like Merle Travis and George Barnes, crafting a mood that is equally in step and out of time to brilliant effect.

Even better is the recently released digital EP Live in Los Angeles, which adds further weight to the stunning variation of early electric guitar jazz this trio takes in so many different directions across lengthy meditations on Sammy Cain and Irving Kahal’s 1938 standard “I’ll Be Seeing You” and the Arclight highlight “Stop Go Start” cut live at the Los Angeles jazz club The Blue Whale this past June.


Read the full piece from: Observer

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Rising Star Jazzes Up the Philharmonic

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This week the jazz pianist and rising star Aaron Diehl is set to make his New York Philharmonic debut in a prominent slot: opening night.

Mr. Diehl will perform the soloist role in George Gershwin’s Concerto in F on Wednesday, as the composer himself did at the work’s world premiere at Carnegie Hall in 1925. The piece is part of a New York-centric program that will launch the orchestra’s 175th anniversary season, its final one with music director Alan Gilbert.

Classically trained, Mr. Diehl fell in love with jazz in his teens and toured with Wynton Marsalis at age 17.

Now 30, the Juilliard School graduate is known for his meticulous touch and for making music that both nods to and expands on foundations laid by past jazz greats.

He has released two albums on Mack Avenue Records and can also be heard playing with the jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, a frequent collaborator.

“He’s got the soul and the spirit of a jazz player, but he’s got the discipline to play with a symphony orchestra,” said Edward Yim, the Philharmonic’s vice president of artistic planning. “He can fit into our world in the way that not all jazz pianists could.”

The Wall Street Journal sat down for a piano-side interview with Mr. Diehl last week at his Harlem apartment to discuss his debut and the musical layers in Gershwin’s concerto.

WSJ: While jazz musicians have played with the Philharmonic before, this is a very high-profile debut. What does it mean for you to play with New York’s hometown orchestra on opening night?

AD: I’m really grateful.

This is basically my first go-round playing with a major orchestra.

I honestly think the Phil is taking an incredible risk. I’m not Herbie Hancock, I’m not Lang Lang or Chick Corea. So the likelihood of them selling out this concert on my name is low.

But I also think Alan [Gilbert] recognized that I was very serious about playing this piece.

‘I’ve focused on this one piece since March, in addition to everything else I’m doing. I wanted to make sure that I had a specific objective for what I wanted to do at this point, and at that point,’ Mr. Diehl said. ENLARGE

‘I’ve focused on this one piece since March, in addition to everything else I’m doing. I wanted to make sure that I had a specific objective for what I wanted to do at this point, and at that point,’ Mr. Diehl said.

Tell me about this composition.

It is a classical concerto. What makes it so unique, though, is Gershwin’s embrace and use of rhythms, syncopations and folk material that are native to America.

He’s got blues in there...The Charleston is all over the place in this piece.

He has hints of what we call Harlem stride, made famous by James P. Johnson, Willie “the Lion” Smith, and Fats Waller, who wrote “Honeysuckle Rose.” [He plays a few bars.]

You have this boom-chick figure in the left hand. It’s almost like ragtime but it’s a more advanced version, if you will. You have the syncopation in the right hand.

In fact, I take it a step further from what Gershwin wrote, and I make it into a full-blown stride sort of style.

What’s your take on Gershwin’s role in American music?

He definitely set a gold standard for American popular songwriting.

“I Got Rhythm,” “S Wonderful,” “Embraceable You.” They’re just great tunes. I mean... [He plays “Embraceable You.”]

There are several arrangements and orchestrations of classical music of his work. Jazz musicians, we use those songs all the time.

All of these tunes are so rife with harmonic complexity and sophistication. We love that. The more chord changes or harmonic progressions there are, the more we can navigate in our improvisation.

How are you preparing for the concert?

I’ve focused on this one piece since March, in addition to everything else I’m doing. I wanted to make sure that I had a specific objective for what I wanted to do at this point, and at that point.

I met with André Previn yesterday, who has a very definitive recording of this piece.

I told him, I can’t play [the last movement] as fast as you. He said, don’t worry about playing it fast. Worry about being rhythmically accurate.

I played it three or four clicks slower, and it was much better.

Is it different from what you do before club dates or jazz festivals?

With classical music, you can basically plan. I know that the orchestra is going to do what they say they’re going to do. It’s not like playing in a trio, or a small jazz ensemble, where you don’t know what’s going to necessarily happen.

[Whether improvising or playing composed music,] you always make the music feel like it’s fresh and it’s real and it’s tangible. It’s not a museum piece.

You said you do plan to improvise in some spots. How is the orchestra going to handle that?

It’s just a solo by myself, so it’s not going to affect them at all.

I was very aware that this was a piece where you have 80 musicians who are used to having it played a certain way. I found places where I knew that this wouldn’t be too much of an issue for them.

I don’t want to make their job even harder, because what they do is hard enough as it is, and they do it so well.


Read the full piece from: Wall Street Journal

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​GREETINGS FROM CHRISTIAN SANDS!

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GREETINGS FROM NEW YORK!

REACH is mastered! What an awesome experience. Cant wait to share it with you all. CD dropping in April, but get a LIVE sneek-peek next TUESDAY 12/13 at The JAZZ STANDARD NYC - Its going down with the quartet 7:30 and 9:30!
Better see you there! Get tickets while you can and hope to say Hi!

A huge highlight of November at The Blue Note New York.... Such an honor to hang with piano Masters Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock before my late solo set following their night of historic duet. #NoPressure or anything!
Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Corea. What a great hang, thank you!

#RoadLife adventures continue - Got to bring the trio out to sunny CA, played The Loft at UCSD to an amazing crowd! And Spivey Hall Atlanta showed us some GA hospitality. Hope to see you all again really soon!

I know I promised photos from Europe and Azores, but there are toooo many great shots and memories, so go check out the instagram, FB and twitter feeds and let me know what you think!

Dont forget, come by The Jazz Standard next week (Tues 12/1) and hear a little preview of the fresh tracks from REACH - hope to see you there!!!


Read the full piece from: Jazz Standard

Cécile McLorin Salvant On Past, Present, Future

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If jazz is about creating tension between tradition and innovation, singer Cécile McLorin Salvant is an undeniable voice leading the genre today.

Ever since she stunned judges and took first place at the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010, the 27-year-old has established a legacy through an extraordinary command of jazz mythology augmented with her own eclectic tastes and surprising interpretations. Revue talked with Salvant about where her art is headed next and the inspiration and motivations that are driving her.

You won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album last February. With that award under your belt, how are you looking to challenge yourself as an artist in the near future?

I’m working on a partly live album right now with my trio: Aaron Diehl on piano, Lawrence Leathers on drums and Paul Sikivie on bass. We already recorded it and now we’re adding the final touches. I’m also excited to be working in different configurations coming up next year — as a duo with a pianist, and across Europe with a band of all female jazz musicians that includes Terri Lyne Carrington, Renée Rosnes, Nat Collins, Melissa Aldana, Linda Oh and Ingrid Jensen. I’m also writing more and exploring other aspects of art that I’m interested in, and how I can incorporate that into what I do musically with jazz.

You’re known for your malleable onstage persona. Any characters you’ve been experimenting with recently?

I’ve been thinking about all the different ways I could pursue that. I’ve never taken an acting class, so even participating in acting in a way that’s separate than music would be interesting. It could also mean auditioning, or bringing more theatrical elements into a show. It would be interesting to see how far outside myself and my experience I can go as a performer.

You do a lot of research to find some of your material. Have you always had a curiosity to uncover things that have been forgotten with time?

I think I’ve always had a fascination with things that are precious and not well known. To me, it’s fun to spend a day listening to albums and finding connections between them. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you discover that one song that only one person has ever recorded, and it’s a great song. It just excites me and I want to share what I’m discovering in my performances.

You got your start in classical and baroque voice when you studied in France. What was difficult or easy about making the switch to jazz?

What was hard was the improvisation. I never wanted to get off the song on the page, so that was something I really had to work at. It was also a question of getting the vocabulary. Jazz isn’t just about being free — it’s about being free with the right tools. On the easy side, I think classical singing helped me with diction and understanding the characters and their arc within the greater context of the work. I always put myself into my performances, since I tend to choose songs that I connect with at a deep level, but it was helpful to have that background.

Your last album seemed more personal. Are you continuing along that route or looking to explore different stories through your writing?

The compositions I’m working on now are less personal in a way. I mean, it’s always personal when you write, but now it’s less about my own little world. My last album was really like a diary, where the songs that I wrote were about specific events and people. Now all of the things I’m writing are personal in the sense that I’m writing them, but are more universal thoughts about life, people and how they interact.

Jazz can seem intimidating for some. What advice do you have for people who want to get into the genre?

I think the first thing to realize is that jazz is such a huge genre with so many different sounds and dimensions. It’s important to not be stuck on one thing if you don’t like it, or you think it’s too difficult or too corny. But I think it’s one of the more enriching types of music because of the dialogue that you have with other musicians. Once you experience that interaction with others, it’s a huge motivation to keep going. 


Read the full piece from: Revue

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A Jazz Pianist Considers Fidel Castro’s Music Education Legacy

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You can hear Harold Lopez-Nussa's training when he plays. The 33-year-old pianist is reluctant to admit the classical influence on his jazz playing, but he's quick to acknowledge that he, like many other great Cuban pianists, was classically trained. "This is the school that we have to learn music in Cuba; it's classical," he says. "I did all my stuff there from 8 years old to 25."

Ned Sublette, author of the book Cuba and Its Music, From the First Drums to the Mambo, says the education Lopez-Nussa received in Cuban conservatories was unique. "He had a level of training that it's really hard to get anywhere else," he says.

Sublette explains that the Cuban Revolution in 1959 led to more investment in music education. "The new revolutionary government made culture a priority," he says. He also points out that this robust system of conservatories is still operating. "You will meet Cuban musicians who have been trained from childhood to be competitive professional musicians — and most of them have a conservatory background," he says.

But music school isn't the only part of a musician's education. Sublette, quoting British musicologist Geoff Baker, says Cuban musicians have four main streams of influence: "family, conservatory, street and religion."

Harold Lopez-Nussa certainly draws on the first two. His grandparents were musicians, his father is a respected drummer and music educator and his mother was a piano teacher. "I have the music in my body and my blood," Lopez-Nussa says. "Eighty percent of what I'm doing today and why I'm a musician is because of my family."

As for as the last two streams of influence, Lopez-Nussa is not particularly religious, but he's certainly aware of the sounds of the street — and Cuba's long tradition of popular music.

Lopez-Nussa started listening to jazz as a teenager with his friends at the conservatory, and he says he's following in the footsteps of great Cuban pianists like Ernesto Lecuona, Frank Emilio Flynn and Chucho Valdés. He remembers seeing Valdés up close at the age of 10, when he came to play for the students at Lopez-Nussa's school. "I was so impressed by his playing the piano, this kind of freedom that he has with the keyboard," he says. "I'm always thinking of this experience." It's no surprise, then, that a tune Valdés made popular with his band Irakere, "Bacalao con Pan," turns up on López-Nussa's new album, El Viaje.

Lopez-Nussa recently signed with an American label, Mack Avenue. He says improved relations between Cuba and the U.S. — ushered in by the Obama administration — have opened new opportunities that he hopes will continue under the new administration in Washington. He wants more Cuban musicians to play in the U.S., and he'd also like more American musicians to start performing in Cuba. "I have a lot of hope about this approach," he says. "It will be better for all of us."


Read the full piece from: NPR

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Christian McBride Celebrates James Brown, the Godfather of Soul

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But even though McBride’s career path had him zeroed in on jazz, he hastened to add that he was a kid of funk pop music. He loved Larry Graham, the original bassist for Sly & the Family Stone, who launched into his own funkelicious solo career, and he was hip to all that was deep-grooved as he told me this fall when I played him a Thundercat track at the live Monterey Jazz Festival Blindfold Test I curate for DownBeat magazine. After listening to the tune “Oh Sheit It’s X” from the electronic bassist’s 2013 album Apocalypse, McBride said, “In the first couple of seconds I was thinking, oh, my, this was something from middle school, but I don’t remember this tune. I was thinking this is right down to 1984 and an MTV classic. It should be something I know, but I don’t. Then after listening to the lyrics, I thought, no, not 1984.” He ended up figuring out it was Thundercat and praised him: “I like that stuff. It’s so funky. Anything with a strong groove, I like. I don’t care what you do on top, as long as the foundation is strong, I’m there.”

Dial back to the Strings interview. Funk was one thing but the soul and strut of James Brown was quite another. He was tops on McBride’s list of pop heroes. McBride has said that JB made him feel “strong, bold, almost immortal” and labeled him as “that rare type of artist that created an impenetrable force around the listener.”

So imagine his pleasant surprise when Brown tuned into his 1995 debut album Gettin’ to It and liked what he heard and invited the youngster to meet him. McBride said that in first talking with JB, the soul god said he was surprised that jazz musicians loved his music. McBride’s response: “Guess what, Mr. Brown? All jazz musicians enjoy your music—at least the ones who like rhythm!”

The friendly JB soon turned ornery and even abusive over the years, obviously souring their relationship—as it turns out not an anomaly given the testimony of former band members who endured abuse from the leader when they were in his employ. McBride kept his distance, only keeping up his communication with his hero through his manager, Charles Bobbit.

Within ten years, McBride’s career soared to the point where he was named the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association’s Creative Chair for Jazz. Part of his job: creatively curate shows. His immediate impulse was to contact JB through Bobbitt in hopes to get the dynamic singer to revisit his 1970 jazz album Soul on Top at the Hollywood Bowl with a full orchestral cast. After a long period of back-and-force communications, Bobbit finally signaled McBride that Brown had green-lighted the event. Much to his delight, Brown performed the work on September 6, 2006 (just a few months before he passed away on Christmas Day 2006). It was a thrill of McBride’s life who not only conducted the band but also played bass.

Now ten years later, McBride has taken another giant step, becoming not only the top go-to bassist in jazz, but also the idiom’s foremost statesman. This has included his artistic director roles—at the Newport Jazz Festival, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and Jazz House Kids—and his radio shows: NPR’s Jazz Night in America and SiriusXM’s The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian. On the music front he’s a MACK Avenue recording star and a sideman in just about all the major jazz projects going. At the Monterey Jazz Festival this fall, he served as the musical director for the opening night orchestral tribute to Quincy Jones, “The A&M Years,” and was recently announced as the winner of the Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award to be presented by the Jazz Connect Conference in January.

As part of his role at NJPAC, he decided to pay tribute to his old hero and sometimes-friend James Brown with the “Get On Up” all-star celebration of JB’s music as one of the concerts of the James Moody Jazz Festival in the center’s Prudential Hall. Special guests include Sharon Jones—oftentimes called the female JB...but can she do the splits like he did?—Bettye LaVette and the James Brown Alumni Band featuring such former JB sidemen saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and trombonist Fred Wesley. To top the evening off, Apollo Theater’s DJ Jess will spin JB music for a funk dance afterparty.

McBride has said that in the Hollywood Bowl event “I lived my dream. I shared the stage with the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown.” At NJPAC he’ll no doubt be remembering that experience which will make this show all the more special.


Read the full piece from: Huffington Post

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How Newark became one of the greatest jazz cities in the world

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“It was legendary,” said Junius Williams, a Newark author and educator who also saw Dizzy Gillespie at Sparky J’s back in the day.

Five of the best young female jazz musicians

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It was also kind of prescient. In 2016, Newark is one nonstop, ongoing, jazz parade: Wynton Marsalis, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Dianne Reeves, Phil Perry, David Sanborn and Anjelique Kidjo have been in and out town for shows. Dorthaan Kirk, the widow of Rahsaan who goes by the nickname “Newark’s first lady of jazz”, has hosted longtime greats including Freddy Cole, Jon Faddis and Rufus Reid at a pair of local series she organizes (both of them running through 2017, one of them free). And by the end of the year, a new, intimate club called Clement’s Place connected to the city’s renowned Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark will have attracted the TS Monk Sextet and the soul-threaded and Eubie Blake Award-winning Houston Person Quartet.

Behind all the action is a celebration of the city’s birthday – 2016 marks Newark’s 350th year – that, together with the TD James Moody jazz festival, an annual celebration of jazz running through the end of November, has revived its reputation as a serious jazz town.

The Grammy-winning bassist and bandleader Christian McBride, who is performing at Moody Fest on 18 November alongside Sharon Jones, Bettye LaVette and the James Brown Alumni Band at the city’s most thriving jazz venue, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, saw it coming.

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“Newark’s place in jazz history includes Sarah Vaughan, Wayne Shorter, James Moody, Woody Shaw and Larry Young, among others. That coupled with its modern-day vibrancy makes Newark one of the greatest jazz cities in the world,” McBride said in early November from Europe, where he was touring.

He is especially qualified to say so. McBride first played in Newark as a young performer 26 years ago and, since 2012, has been NJPAC’s jazz adviser; he also hosts the NPR show Jazz Night in America, a co-production with Lincoln Center and WBGO-FM, the only full-time jazz format station broadcast in New York and New Jersey. On 20 November he will be among the judges of what John Schreiber, founder of the Moody festival and NJPAC’s president and CEO, called one of the centerpieces of a monthlong event: the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition.

“Jazz singing is bred in the bone. And Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald were kind of No 1 and No 2 in terms of the great individual voices of jazz singing,” Schreiber said. “Sarah Vaughan was an authentic Newark girl – she went to high school here and lived a lot of her life here. And so I said, ‘OK, what can we do to honor Sarah?’”

That was five years ago, when Schreiber signed on with NJPAC after decades of producing and curating festivals including Newport Jazz and JVC Jazz.


Read the full piece from: The Guardian

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Oprah catches up with Philly’s Kevin Eubanks on ‘Where Are They Now?’

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The popular and informative OWN series, “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” continues at 10 p.m. Saturday with an episode featuring Kevin Eubanks, one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, and the former band leader of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” The show also features updates on money expert Suze Orman, “Ferris Bueller’s” hypochondriac best friend and actor Alan Ruck, TV pitchman Paul Marcarelli and former child star Karolyn Grimes.

In a particularly timely testimony, Eubanks, who was inducted onto the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s prestigious Walk of Fame in 2010, observes that the short walk across the stage before a nationally televised interview on a late-night talk show can be a borderline out-of-body experience, even for someone with years of experience appearing before the public.

According to the network, Eubanks, who left the “Tonight Show” on May 28, 2010, recalls an appearance by Hillary Clinton, who recently was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. For one of Clinton’s appearances, Eubanks tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” she requested a particular song to be played while she walked on stage, which was standard procedure on “The Tonight Show.” There was just one problem, Eubanks says. She didn’t recognize the song when the band played it.

The band leader says he was shocked, and maintains that the band had played the correct song.

“What happens when people come out, you know, and they’re not used to being on the show sometimes, even somebody as steeped in politics as Hillary Clinton, when you’re on an entertainment show, variety show or something like that, nobody hears anything. From the time they come out and walk across the stage and sit down, it’s like a blank moment. The applause is going crazy. The lights are flickering. The band is playing.”

Ultimately, Eubanks says, someone from Clinton’s team called to apologize after watching the appearance on tape. For Kevin, it just illustrates how surreal such moments can be for people. “That moment when you come out and then you sit down — that’s like a blank 15 seconds.”


Read the full piece from: The Philadelphia Tribune

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Jonathan Butler At Yoshi’s

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Serious Bay Area fans braved heavily snarled traffic on this rainy dark Thursday night for the second set of renowned South African guitarist Jonathan Butler. Now living in warm Southern California, Butler and his potent band flew in the same day for a two night stand at Yoshis in Oakland. Butler's steadfast band consisted of bassist Dan Lutz, drummer Chaun Horton and keyboardist Arlington Jones.

During his introduction, Butler was greeted with appreciative hoots and vocal support from his eager audience. The nightcap gig consisted of "African Moon, Let There Be Light," "Song for E," "Living My Dream," "Sarah Sarah," "Even The Pain," "Lies," "Free JB."

Butler and company opened the set with blistering instrumental rhythms along with his energized vocalese style. The receptive house quickly got into the funky robust groove with jubilant head nodding. Butler performed a song co-written with imminent bassist Marcus Miller to celebrate late bassist (and retired NBA player) Wayman Tisdale. He talked about how early in his career when he met the band members of the Yellowjackets, a group that was a major influence for him. Over his long career, he loved playing Yoshis and considered it a second home.

Butler planned to perform the title track from his CD Free (Mack Avenue, 2015) but after thoughtful consideration, the Cape Town guitarist decided on an inspirational version of Bob Marley's immortal "No Woman No Cry." The entire venue was mesmerized by his soulful and moving delivery. His performance was an uplifting experience and put Freeinto context. Like an old friend and confidant, Butler said we are all "tested" addressing everyone in the room. He talked eloquently and directly about his faith in God and the extreme times he and his family endured including the devastating house fire. As he scooped up his "screaming grand daughter" from the bathtub in his pajamas and with steely focus for his family's safety, he did not notice he was on fire. After receiving medical attention for his burns, he calmly stated the, "The show must go on," and prepared for a photo shoot for the album cover of Free. The long sleeve shirt he wore hid the bandages. During the subsequent tour, he changed his wrappings nightly, "on the road alone." Recounting the last five years, Butler gave additional testimony to these nearly overwhelming trials he faced which also included a second suicide attempt by his son in San Diego.

Audience members stood up and testified. At one point it felt like you were in an intimate neighborhood church celebrating the Creator. Butler turned the Yoshi's stage into an impromptu pulpit, filling the house with words of strength and optimism. As he thanked everyone at the set's conclusion, Butler had ignited a joyous standing ovation from the sanctified attendees.

Jonathan Butler presented an evening of vibrant music and extraordinary personal faith and strength. His resolute spirit informed his music giving it a soulful, undeniable power and depth. The music gave the listeners exuberance and confirmation. Every heart and the heavens were listening tonight.


Read the full piece from: All About Jazz

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A Night at the Kazbah show: How Lagos jazz lovers defied rain to keep date with Jonathan Butler

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‘This is one great night to remember!’ exclaimed Joe, an Afro soul enthusiast. Another enthusiast, Philip, a regular Island nightclub crooner felt the same way, “Real live music comes alive.’ Indeed, that’s how best to describe the night show that rekindled the appetite of both old and young jazz lovers who thronged the Balmore’s Dome, Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, last weekend, to watch a jazz music legend, Jonathan Butler, perform some of his evergreen songs before them.

It was not the first time, Jonathan Butler performed in Nigeria. But last weekend’s performance was something out of the ordinary. The jazz fusion guitarist and Grammy nominee took the audience to another realm, performing hit songs after hit. It was a night of oldies and jazz music at its best. The soulful jazz crooner who hit the stage at about 10 pm put his powerful talent on display to the admiration of the audience. For more than one and half hours, the legend performed non-stop on stage. And despite the heavy-downpour that almost marred the show, people were not in a hurry to leave the venue. They were busy dancing and singing along with the jazz maestro as he went on and on reeling out his old songs.

Dressed in a majestic way, the jazz fusion guitarist stirred the already charged audience with Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”song with a blend of Soweto fusion. His energetic performance tells less of his age, just as his high pitched vocal prowess kept even the night’s rainfall down. He later sang his “Grace and Mercy”which rose to the top of the Billboard contemporary jazz chart and peaked with singles “Don’t Walk Away” and “I Stand on Your Word” among others. While his performance lasted, people were having swell time, jumping up and down. Butler confessed while on stage that the audience inspired his unimaginable performance just as he claimed it never happened in his previous performance in the country. Butler stepped on stage shortly after Mi Casa’s performance. The South Africans thrilled too with inspiring love songs that won the hearts of many. Speaking backstage after his performance, Jonathan Butler could not hide his excitement. According to him ‘I had an awesome time in Lagos at Smooth 98.1FM’s ‘A Night at The Kazbah’. It was amazing, I can’t wait for another opportunity to come back and do it all over again’. Butler, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, began his career nearly four decades ago, signing his first record deal when he was just a teenager. Since then Butler has seen success in the jazz and RnB arenas, with a particular focus on gospel music. His latest release, Grace and Mercy, rose to the top of the Billboard contemporary jazz chart and peaked with singles “Don’t Walk Away” and “I Stand on Your Word.”


Read the full piece from: Vanguard

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Harold López-Nussa’s Afro-Cuban Sound

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Acclaimed Cuban pianist Harold López-Nussa brings his Afro-Cuban Latin jazz — and view of the world — to our studio. Havana, Cuba, is the hometown of jazz pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa. But his music goes very wide — global — with an African flavor, of course. It’s at the heart of so much Cuban music. But then all over: Latin America, France, the America of Thelonious Monk. And into Cuba’s own rich musical history. It’s beautiful. It’s irresistible. This hour On Point, the Afro-Cuban-Latin-and-more jazz of Harold López-Nussa. — Tom Ashbrook

Harold López-Nussa, Cuban jazz pianist. His new album is "El Viaje." Other albums include "New Day," "Herencia," "Sobre el Atelier" and "Canciones."

Felix Contreras, co-host of NPR's Alt.Latino. Part-time percussionist who regularly plays Afro-Cuban music. (@felixatjazz)


Read the full piece from: On Point

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Christian McBride to Receive Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award from Jazz Connect Conference

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The first musician to be recognized with the honor, multiple Grammy® Award-winner McBride has distinguished himself both on the bandstand and off, but according to JazzTimes publisher Lee Mergner, one of the organizers of the conference, it's for the latter achievements that he was selected for the award. "Christian is truly a force of nature and not just as a player," said Mergner. "For the last few decades, he's been a tireless advocate and spokesman for the music, with a unique knowledge and respect for its past, present and future. And as an educator he's been a mentor and inspiration to several generations of young musicians."


Perhaps McBride's first experience as an educator and advocate came in 1997 when he spoke on former President Bill Clinton's town hall meeting "Racism in the Performing Arts." He has since been named Artistic Director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions (2000), co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (2005), and the Second Creative Chair for Jazz of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (2005). In 1998 he combined roles, composing "The Movement, Revisited," a four-movement suite dedicated to four of the major figures of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece was commissioned by the Portland (ME) Arts Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, and performed throughout New England in the fall of 1998 with McBride's quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir.

Currently he hosts and produces "The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian" on SiriusXM satellite radio and National Public Radio's "Jazz Night in America," a weekly radio show and multimedia collaboration between WBGO, NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, showcasing outstanding live jazz from across the country. With his staggering body of work, McBride is the ideal host, drawing on history, experience, and a gift for storytelling to bridge the gap between artist, music, and audience. He brings that same breadth of experience to bear as Artistic Advisor for Jazz Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and most recently for the Newport Jazz Festival. Completing the circle is his work with Jazz House Kids, the nationally recognized community arts organization founded by his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker.

"I'm very humbled and honored to receive an award that bears the name of one of the most respected and loved visionaries we have ever known, Bruce Lundvall," said McBride. "I wish I could have worked with him more often in my career, but the few times we spent together, I always learned a lot. Mostly I learned just what a great person he was. Just being a great person is always the most important thing."

The 2017 Jazz Connect Conference--co-presented by JazzTimes and Jazz Forward Coalition--brings together the jazz community for a series of panels, workshops and special events, and will be held at Saint Peter's Church at 54th Street & Lexington Avenue in New York City. With a theme of "The Family of Jazz," the conference leads into both the APAP conference and Winter Jazzfest. This past year's conference was attended by over 800 industry professionals and artists and featured a keynote address by Dee Dee Bridgewater, recently named a NEA Jazz Master. The Grammy® Award-winning bandleader/composer/arranger Maria Schneider will give the keynote address at the 2017 Jazz Connect Conference.


Read the full piece from: Bass Player

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Rising Cuban Jazz Star Shines at Old Lyme Jazz Club

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“Oh yes, the transition from classical studies to playing jazz was very hard for me. I was scared of improvising, scared of not having the written music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart right in front of me. I had always been playing classical music, which was pretty much all that I did until I was 18,” Lopez-Nussa said by phone from Paris, a stop on his international promotional tour that includes an encore appearance at Old Lyme’s nationally acclaimed Side Door Jazz Club.

“One day my older brother said to me, ‘What are you afraid of, Harold? Just sit down and play,’” the pianist recalled of his older brother’s pragmatic prescription for conquering his fear of improvising without the safety net of having the written music of the masters right there to read from.

“But today,” he added, “I love that challenge. I love the idea that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s very exciting,” he said of creating music in the moment. Especially, his robust brand of jazz rooted in Cuba’s rich musical traditions, grooving high and free on Afro-Cuban rhythms, an array of various genres and, of course, his own originality and resourcefulness as a performer and composer. 


Read the full piece from: WNPR

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Jonathan Butler And D’Angelico Guitars Partner To Inspire Musicians; Award Custom-Made Instruments

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"It's important to keep music education alive at any age," said Butler. "Music has the power to transcend hardships and generations. It allows the voiceless to create their own song, their own narrative, and it provides a source of solace and inspiration all in one. D'Angelico Guitars are generous in partnering with us to give their incredible instruments to musicians across the country that are committed to music education and preservation."

Recipients of the guitars include the Gospel Music Association's GMA Academy, W.O. Smith Music School, Praise Charts, HBCU school students, and church musicians. The dream guitars will be presented to recipients in October, including at events hosted by Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards on Oct. 11 and the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville, Tennessee, where Butler is speaking to students.

"Music Education is extremely close to our hearts," says Brenden Cohen, CEO of D'Angelico Guitars. "We are honored to be a part of philanthropic opportunities such as these. Schools that uphold the importance of music education and inspire the youth deserve access to the best resources, and we are proud to provide our instruments."

With a genuine and immense philanthropic heart, Butler actively supports causes he is passionate about including the Still Hope Foundation which equips single mothers with parenting tools that will enable them to become self-sufficient leaders of their households, The Grammy Foundation which cultivates the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture, and initiatives that encourage and equip musicians committed to excellence in their craft.

As a youth growing up in South Africa that followed his dreams and became a worldwide musical success, Butler stands as a beacon of hope of just what can be achieved if you put your mind to it.

Hands-on wherever he happens to be in the world, Butler is as passionate and committed to encouraging musicians to be persistent their craft as he is about his own music. In partnership with D'Angelico Guitars, he will recognize and honor musicians and students across the country that are committed to this same ambition and goal.


Read the full piece from: BreatheCast

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Top Picks: ‘MONK’estra, Vol. 1,’ WBUR’s ‘Kind World’ podcast, and more [News Hub]

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Quirky monk 

Jazz legend Thelonious Monk was one of a kind – witty, offbeat, dissonant, totally unpredictable. Musicians and singers have been attempting to re-create the singular Monk magic for years to little avail. Enter the fearless and talented pianist/arranger John Beasley, who not only takes on Monk’s challenging but rewarding music by doubling up on the quirk, wit, and unpredictability, but orchestrates a 15-piece big band of Los Angeles’s finest jazz musicians to pull it off. MONK’estra, Vol. 1 is, as the man himself might say, a gas. 


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Review: A Safe Start to Alan Gilbert’s Final Season With the Philharmonic

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Alan Gilbert began his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic in September 2009 by turning the traditional season-opening gala concert into a strong statement of artistic purpose. Conductors at orchestras everywhere are under institutional pressure to make these gala programs, which also function as fund-raisers for patrons, light and festive. Mr. Gilbert’s inaugural challenged this notion.

He began with something festive in mood, but musically feisty: the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s “EXPO,” a spiky 10-minute score. Then Renée Fleming was the soloist in an early Messiaen work, “Poèmes Pour Mi,” a rapturous 30-minute cycle of love songs. The evening ended with Mr. Gilbert conducting a blazing account of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.”

On Wednesday night at David Geffen Hall, however, Mr. Gilbert, who will step down as the Philharmonic’s music director in the spring, began his valedictory season with a gala program that was less ambitious and certainly not challenging. Still, the performances were excellent.

To start, he led the New York premiere of John Corigliano’s “STOMP,” a breathless, colorful seven-minute piece. The composer adapted this score in 2014 from a solo violin work he wrote as a piece for the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. In this bright, fidgety orchestral version the music hovers somewhere between a perpetual-motion toccata and country-fiddle hoedown, though a pensive middle section alters the mood for a while. True to its title, the orchestra players sometimes had to buttress rhythms in the music by stomping their feet.

Then the acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Aaron Diehl played an animated and uncommonly sensitive account of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. The New York Symphony Society, which merged with the Philharmonic in 1928, gave the premiere of this concerto in 1925 with Gershwin at the piano, so, officially the orchestra can claim premiership.


Read the full piece from: New York Times

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Monterey Jazz highlights: Tribute to Quincy Jones, stellar performances

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MONTEREY, Calif. — Quincy Jones, who grew up in Seattle in the 1940s, was honored this past weekend at the 59th edition of the Monterey Jazz Festival with a crisp re-creation of a bundle of tunes he recorded on three A&M Records albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s — “Walking in Space,” “Gula Matari” and “Smackwater Jack.”

A brass-fortified big band hand-picked by festival artistic director Tim Jackson and the project’s musical director, Christian McBride, brought to life such classics as “Gula Matari,” “Walkin’” and “Walking in Space,” melding jazz, rock, funk and electronics. Jones conducted the infectious last tune, “Killer Joe,” which brought the crowd to its feet as a full moon, shining through misty evening cloud cover, visually echoed the silvery mystery of the music.


Read the full piece from: Seattle Times

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Cecile McLorin Savant [Stereophile]

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For some reason, her publicist passed by my name in sending out review copies of her albums, though that's no excuse: I do pay cash money for new records now and then. I might not have gone to the trouble this time because I tend to be dismissive, or skeptical, of jazz singers. My reasoning: you don't have to sound like Charlie Parker or John Coltrane to be a great saxophone player; but if you want to sing standards, there's only so much you can do without inviting comparison with the great ones—Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, June Christy, Betty Carter, Shirley Horn—and few measure up.

Well, I went to see Cecile McLorin Salvant Thursday night at the Village Vanguard, and let me tell you, she more than measures up. She stands with the best of them. She does it all: her blues are bluesy, her swing swings, she spans every octave (from silky highs to growly lows to everything, every shade in between), with the full range of emotion—joy, rage, wit, whimsy, frothy romance, heavy passion—and she does it naturally, without a trace of show-off. She does it with Gershwin, Berlin, Bessie Smith, and—in the set's jaw-drop closer—Kurt Weill & Langston Hughes' "Somehow I Could Never Believe," from their little-known opera, Street Scene, on which she displayed a vast and subtle range of character and mood, suggesting she could hit it big on Broadway (or at City Opera), if she chose. She's a master storyteller as well as a master singer.

Oh, and she's 28 years old.

She was born in Miami, her father a Haitian doctor, her mother the founder of a French immersion school. She took lessons in classical piano from age five, sang in a local choir at eight. At 18, she moved to Aix-en-Provence to study classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory (she also made time to study law), then took lessons in improvisation and the songbook repertory. Only at this point, in 2009, at the age of 20, did she try her hand at jazz singing; she drew rave reviews for a gig at Ronnie Scott's in London and kept going.

Her band is also top-notch. Pianist Aaron Diehl has a supple touch and inventive chops comparable to the great accompanists to jazz singers—say, Tommy Flanagan to Ella or Mal Waldron to Billie. Paul Sikivie plucks a warm insistence on bass. Lawrence Leathers spreads sticks and brushes on the drums with supreme tastiness.

If you can nab one of the small number of seats for sale this weekend (she and her trio play through Sunday, September 11), rush to do so. If not, catch her the next time she's in your city. Meanwhile, I'm going to check out her albums. I'll let you know.


Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/cecile-mclorin-salvant#BcuXKwwb3jmMDUFE.99


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New York jazz club Blue Note opens in Beijing [China.org]

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He lived in a traditional courtyard house in a hutong (alley) for three weeks and walked for hours every day to explore the city where he found there was no jazz.

"But I am pretty sure if I had played jazz then for my neighbors in the hutong they would have understood because the emotions, especially the struggle, expressed in the music is universal," says Garrett, recounting his first trip to Beijing.

The experience inspired him to produce a CD called Beyond the Wall, which earned him a Grammy nomination in 2006.

During the past 10 years, Garrett has returned to China often to perform at music festivals and teach at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

But he didn't expect that jazz - a genre that originated in African-American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th century - to take root and develop in China quite so quickly.

This summer, he returned to the capital and was excited to perform with his quintet at the opening of Blue Note Beijing, the first Chinese branch of the Blue Note Jazz Club, the famous New York establishment, on Thursday.

"We travel around the world and present music to people. So, for me, opening up for Beijing is special. I like Beijing and I want to give back.

"I am excited to be the first one here to introduce jazz, my version of jazz, to Beijing audiences," he says.

The Blue Note was founded in 1981 by Danny Bensusan in New York's Greenwich Village.

Many legendary jazz musicians, including Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck and Herbie Hancock, have performed on the Blue Note stage.

Bensusan is credited with revitalizing jazz in New York.


Read the full piece from: China.org

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KIRK WHALUM: PASTORING THE FLOCK IN MEMPHIS AND BEYOND [JAZZ WEEKLY]

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PLACES LIKE NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES AND NASHVILLE GET THE REPUTATIONS FOR BEING CENTERS OF MUSIC, BUT THE FACT IS THAT MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL CITIES FOR AMERICAN MUSIC, RANKING MAYBE ONLY SECOND TO NYC TO IT’S BREADTH AND WIDTH.

CARE TO DISAGREE? HOW ABOUT IT BEING THE BIRTHPLACE OF WC HANDY? THEN THERE’S THE STORIES OF BEALE STREET THAT ARE LEGENDARY. AS FAR AS ARTISTS, MEMPHIS HAS DELIVERED MORE THAN IT’S SHARE: BB KING, BOBBY ‘BLUE’ BLAND, HANK CRAWFORD, GEORGE COLEMAN, AL GREEN, HOWLIN’ WOLF, ISAAC HAYES, ARETHA FRANKLIN, CHARLES LLOYD, JIMMIE LUNCEFORD AND MEMPHIS SLIM ARE JUST A HANDFUL THAT FIRST COME TO MIND.

NOT TO MENTION, THE LEGENDARY LABEL, STAX RECORDS, WAS FOUNDED HERE AND WAS THE HOME OF ARTISTS THAT CHANGED THE DIRECTION OF MUSIC, BEING ONE OF THE VERY FIRST LABELS TO HAVE INTEGRATED ROCK GROUPS. WITH THE BACKING OF BOOKER T JONES AND THE BAR-KEYS, THE LABEL STARTED THE CAREERS OF SAM & DAVE, EDDIE FLOYD AND A GUY BY THE NAME OF OTIS REDDING.

THEN, YOU’VE GOT SUN RECORDS, WHICH WAS THE FIRST HOME FOR JOHNNY CASH, SAM PERKINS, ELVIS PRESLEY AND JERRY LEE LEWIS. DRY RUB BBQ WAS INVENTED HERE, WITH ‘THE RENDEVOUS’ STILL OPEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. THROW IN ELVIS’ HOME OF GRACELAND, AND AL GREEN’S CHURCH WHERE HE HOLDS THE PULPIT, AND YOU’VE GOT JUST ABOUT EVERY SIDE OF LIFE COVERED.

KEEPING AND CONTINUING THE TRADITION, KIRK WHALUM STILL LIVES IN THE CITY WHERE HE WAS BORN. HAVING TOURED AND MAKING FAME WITH WHITNEY HOUSTON DURING HER “I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” DAYS, HE NOW LIVES THE LIFE OF MIXING SOULFUL JAZZ AND ‘JAZZING UP’ CHURCH SONGS. HIS COLLECTION OF ALBUMS ENTITLED ‘THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ’ HAS SHOWN WHERE THE SOUL OF JAZZ ACTUALLY BEGAN, WHICH IS THE CHURCH.

HE’S ALSO PARTNERED WITH FRIENDS NORMAN BROWN AND RICK BRAUN FOR A TRIO OF SWINGING ALBUMS. TOGETHER, THEY’VE RECORDED SOUL HITS AND MICHAEL JACKSON MATERIAL THAT FITS THEIR GROOVE. THEIR LATEST ALBUM, ‘BWB’ INCLUDES ORIGINALS THAT ARE TOE TAPPING PIECES OF JOY.

WE RECENTLY CAUGHT UP WITH THE SWINGIN’ REV, AND ASKED HIM TO LET US CATCH UP ON HIS LIFE, AND WHAT THE MEMPHIS LIFE MEANS TO HIM PERSONALLY AND SPIRITUALLY.

HOW ARE THINGS WITH YOU RIGHT NOW?


Read the full piece from: JAZZ WEEKLY

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John Beasley’s MONK’estra Reinvents Thelonious Monk for the 21st Century [LA Weekly]

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While his contemporaries chased the past glories of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Horace Silver Quintet, Beasley was playing piano in the short-lived band Thelonious, the Los Angeles Monk repertory outfit co-led by veteran bassist Buell Neidlinger and emerging tenor sax master Marty Krystall. But unlike the jacket-and-tie-clad bebop revivalistis, Beasley wasn’t learning Monk’s greatest hits from his father’s Blue Note albums. The Thelonious band vibrantly dug into deeper titles in the Monk canon with contemporary zeal.

At 18 and 19, Beasley also worked with Monk’s 1960s bassist Larry Gales, who made his home in L.A. Gales passed along an appropriately opaque bit of Monkian wisdom to the young pianist: “Kid, ya gotta learn how to breathe when ya play.”

You couldn’t mistake the Thelonious version of “Little Rootie Tootie,” with Peter Erskine’s peppery eighth-note drum propulsion and Krystall’s upper register multiphonics, for the dusty museum pieces routinely rendered on jazz festival stages. And Beasley has carried that spirit with him all these years.

“With Buell,” the 55-year old Beasley recalls, “I had to learn a bunch of Monk tunes all at once. And they were all hard to play.”

Though most of the Monk numbers had been composed in the ‘40s and ‘50s, their idiosyncrasies made them avant-garde to Beasley. "I was listening to Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter’s modal stuff,” he recalls, “but this was pre-modal jazz. The challenges were not only harmonic, but rhythmic too.”


Read the full piece from: LA Weekly

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Jonathan Butler One on One Interview [Trumpet Magazine]

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Read the full piece from: Trumpet Magazine

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Jonathan Butler Brings the House Down [The Monitor]

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Hundreds of jazz fans gathered at Stanbic Bank Piazza to witness the headline act Jonathan Butler in action alongside local stars. Prior to the event, so much had been said about the U.S based South African singer-songwriter and guitarist but it was time for the words to turn into action.

The first act on the day was a back up and instrumental fusion band called Elect from Zambia. The Afro Jazz group was able to fuse different sounds.

Elect is one of the hottest young bands in their country.

Re Batswana Music Ensemble, which is made up of Nnunu Ramogotsi, Lister Boleseng, Ndingo Johwa, Banjo Mosele and Lekofi Sejeso, soon took over the stage and the result was amazing.

They performed Lister Boleseng’s song entitled Ke swa hela from his latest offering Moratiso.

The only lady in the ensemble, Nnunu enhanced everything when she took over the mic from Lister Boleseng.


Read the full piece from: The Monitor

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Warren Wolf: Convergence [All About Jazz]

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The paucity of jazz vibraphonists may be due in part to the complexity of mastering an instrument that's like a hybrid of drums, percussion and piano. Notwithstanding, one of the instrument's brightest stars is 36 year old Baltimore native Warren Wolf, a rising virtuoso whose form and technical abilities continue the lineage of great vibe players such as Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Stefon Harris


Convergence is outstanding and features Wolf's superb trio with longtime mentor bassist Christian McBride and the dynamic drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts in a diverse mix up-tempo, ballad, and swing compositions. The icing on the cake comes in the guest appearance of jazz luminaries guitarist John Scofield on the funky boogaloo "Soul Sisters" and pianist Brad Mehldau's spacious delivery in the tone poem "Four Stars from Heaven" both which are two of the recordings many highlights.

The cover of late Bobby Hutcherson's "Montara" may be album's most memorable track with a chilled theme that recalls yet another pioneer vibraphonist Roy Ayers. Its motif is simple perfection: a threaded ostinato where Wolf lays down a soulful soliloquy on marimba while McBride and Watts go deep into the rhythmic pocket. It's a fitting ode to the great legacy of Hutcherson who passed on August 15, 2016.

Wolf's appreciation of the history, his suave control, sensitive touch and fierce percussive skills are not the only qualities which resonate. He's also serving up new memories of timeless gem in poignant covers of Stevie Wonder's "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and "Stardust / The Minute Waltz" which uniquely combines Hoagy Carmichael's classic "Stardust" with Chopin's "The Minute Waltz." Wolf does it all brilliantly.


Track Listing: Soul Sisters; Four Stars From Heaven; King Of Two Fives; New Beginning; Cell Phone; Montara; Havoc; Tergiversation; Knocks Me Off My Feet; A Prayer For The Christian Man; Stardust / The Minute Waltz.

Personnel: Warren Wolf: vibes, marimba (5, 6, 9, 10, 11), Fender Rhodes (2, 9), piano (9); Christian McBride: bass (1-3, 5-10); Brad Mehldau: piano (1, 2, 4, 5, 7); John Scofield (1, 7); Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums (1, 2, 5-10).

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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Raul Midon hits the road for US Tour, finishes new album [SoulTracks]

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Singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón is one of music's most distinctive and searching voices. He is "a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus," according to The New York Times. With eight studio albums under his belt, Raul has just wrapped another studio project, slated for a March 2017 release on Mack Avenue Records. In the meantime, Raul has announced a U.S. tour for September that takes him from coast to coast. We can’t wait to hear his new music! 


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Cecile McLorin Salvant [San Diego Union-Tribune]

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“I never really wanted to play the piano — I was not an enthusiastic student! — but my mother kept me at it for 13 years. She’s a very strong woman and I’m afraid of her, slightly!” Salvant said backstage  shortly after accepting her 2016 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “For One to Love” (Mack Avenue Records), a 13-song aural gem that shines throughout.


Read the full piece from: San Diego Union-Tribune

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“SOUNDS OF SUMMER” WITH JOHN BEASLEY’S MONKESTRA

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Read the full piece from: Bonnie Johnson "Colors of Jazz" WICN.org

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Dominick Farinacci “​Short Stories” [Hot House Jazz]

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Short Stories, Dominick Farinacci (Mack Avenue), finds the 30-something trumpeter fashioning often sophisticated, elaborate versions of tunes culled from the worlds of pop, folk and jazz into distinctive, highly suggestive narrative arcs. The producer is famed pop music auteur Tommy LiPuma who, like the trumpeter, is a native of Cleveland. The production is sleek and lush, recalling the pristine sounds and urbane tastes of mid-20th Century albums from the labels of Creed Taylor, whose CTI brand signaled jazz sophistication.

The rhythm section features not only pianist Larry Goldings, often doubling on organ, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Steve Gadd, but often adds legendary session guitarist Dean Parks and percussionist Jamey Haddad, with Gil Goldstein playing accordion on four of the ten tracks. Six tunes also add a string and woodwind sextet, while two others feature vocals and electronic instruments from Jacob Collier.

A New Orleans R&B vibe infuses the opener, the Gypsy Kings’ “Bamboleo,” Dominick paying tribute to his Louis Armstrong roots, especially in the stop-time breaks, surrounded by churning rhythm and full ensemble sections and echoed by Mark Mauldin’s trombone (in its only appearance). Percussive shakes and rattles add to the south of the border flavor of Horace Silver’s “Senor Blues,” with multi-vocals from Jacob Collier, and the leader’s “Afternoon in Puebla” as well as Dianne Reeves’ “Tango.” Arabic scales and the muezzin-like vocals of Lebanese singer Mike Massy highlight Dominick’s “Doha Blues,” inspired by his time in Qatar.

The most lyrical period of Miles Davis and Gil Evans inspires a lush version of Tom Waits’ “Soldier’s Things,” trumpet caressed by the strings and woodwinds. Another outstanding ballad track is the standard “Black Coffee,” featuring Dominick’s one foray into plunger and muted trumpet. Two songs are appropriated from the pop charts: Cream’s early rock hit, “Sunshine of Your Love,” riding on the original bass riff jazzily swung; and the 2013 Grammy Record of the Year, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” given an electronic treatment and Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies by Jacob. Larry contributes the sly, tongue-in-cheek finale, “Parlour Song.”


Read the full piece from: Hot House Jazz

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John Beasley MONK’estra Review [DownBeat Editor’s Pick]

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BY ED ENRIGHT

John Beasley, Presents MONK’estra Vol. 1 (Mack Avenue)
The first time I listened to this album in my car, I nearly missed my exit on the expressway. There is so much hep stuff happening in these new big band arrangements of tunes by Thelonious Monk that I was transported to another realm, one where the car seems capable of driving itself. Then it struck me: That’s precisely what’s happening with these charts and this ensemble of L.A.’s finest musicians and special guests, all under the direction of pianist/conductor/arranger John Beasley. Everything on Presents MONK’estra Vol. 1 feels so natural and inevitable, it’s almost as if the material plays itself. And if you enjoy Monk—whether for his undeniable logic, quirky song architecture or innate sense of swing—Beasley’s band will leave you rapt. Beasley has been writing big band charts since he was a teenager, and he has long been fascinated by Monk’s music (this debut recording by the MONK’estra is actually Beasley’s third album of material by the High Priest of Bebop). Beasley’s MONK’estra has performed live since 2013, and he has served as musical director for the Monk Institute’s Jazz Day gala concerts since 2011 and for International Jazz Day events since 2012. (He has done plenty of commercial work as well, most notably as the lead arranger for TV’s American Idol from 2005 to 2016.) Beasley knows his Monk inside and out, and he knows his way around a chart. But, most importantly, this onetime member of groups led by Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis knows how to give his bandmembers—including guest stars Gary Burton on vibes (“Epistrophy”) and Grégoire Maret on harmonica (“Ask Me Now”)—sufficient freedom to stylize the written passages and improvise with abandon. In applying all of his acquired skills and personal passions to Presents MONK’estra Vol. 1, Beasley brings Monk to life once again for modern-minded listeners.


Read the full piece from: Downbeat

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Steve Cole “Turn It Up” [Review: Smooth Jazz Magazine]

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It's classic Cole on "Turn It Up" and "She's The One." His signature sax harmonies and up-beat melodies take over and has just the right snap and sauciness to have you craving more.



"Reverence" slows it down a bit (or one may think). If you listen really carefully you'll hear every note from every instrument; from the acoustical guitar peeping through, to the soft beats and percussion. Then there's Steve coming in strong on sax. One of the things I like about Steve, he can make it sound as soft and sexy as you want (remember "Stay Awhile" from his 1998 debut CD) or he can go strong and blow you away. That takes talent, and talent he has!


Read the full piece from: Smooth Jazz Magazine

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Warren Wolf, vibes – Convergence – [Review: Audiophile Audition]

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There was a period back in the 1970s or so, when rock supergroups were all the rage with the likes of Cream, Traffic, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young among others. Jazz never quite went in that direction apart from the unintended exception of The Quintet ( which came together for one performance only at Massey Hall, Toronto in 1953, and the historic recording that followed) and perhaps VSOP. One never quite thought of the classic Bill Evans Trio or Oscar Peterson Trio or the original Miles Davis Quintet along those lines although it would have been possible to do so. The Warren Wolf release Convergence has combined star power and individuality, and thus has all the attributes of a supergroup. Thankfully no such promotional efforts have detracted from the breadth and scope of the originality of the music coming from this band.

With a judicious mix of original material and covers of popular music, Wolf and his cohorts bring their ‘A’ game to the recording studio under the practiced ear of producer Christian McBride. “Soul Sister” is a perfect opener with its Latin/funky groove, that serves as a feature for Scofield’s wickedly bluesy guitar, followed by Wolf’s sonorous vibes, as Watts pushes the band forward with his pulsating beat.


Read the full piece from: Audiophile Audition

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Re-Defining a Life After Fighting the Taliban

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Asa performing artist, I’m fortunate to travel all over the globe. Through the years, music has gone from something that was just fun to do to as much a part of my life as breathing. It’s become increasingly clear to me that it has the power to bring people of different walks of life together, to help foster a deeper understanding of each other, to bring comfort to those going through a difficult time, and to shine a light on an important topic. These experiences are the culmination of a new series called Short Stories — bringing together music and real life stories to encourage dialogue around an important message in our society.


Read the full piece from: medium.com - Dominick Farinacci

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Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance! [Review: WBGO]

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I have a confession to make: Kenny Garrett is the first musician that has ever made me cry during a live performance. I’ll never forget it. Kenny has a way of speaking through his saxophone in such a way that it does something to your spirit…..and you find your soul talking back. And yes, dancing is something I’ve also done to Kenny’s music, and something I found myself doing to this new album from the very start.


Read the full piece from: WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM

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Empathy personified: Dominick Farinacci debuts ‘Short Stories’ on trumpet

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A jazz musician who listens — that’s trumpeter, composer, and humanitarian Dominick Farinacci, 33. His debut album on Mack Avenue Records employs an all-star, all-you-desire global cast all over short stories in lovely, empathic musical snippets, with and without vocals. Designed to uplift the human race through shared emotional upheavals and walks in someone else’s shoes, Farinacci’s Short Stories succeeds where other recordings fail.

With Farinacci’s singular trumpet action woven throughout glimpses into the lives of the familiar and the exotic, Short Stories drips with human emotion, whether it’s the feeling you get when love ripples through like a thunder storm, or a visit to a foreign place of the ancient and the modern (Qatar).

Unlike most jazz recordings, Farinacci pinpoints feelings of pure ecstasy, wonder, and immaculate inception over love, spirituality, the despair of war with eerie accuracy, and immense empathy.

The musicians on Farinacci’s album of empirical empathy are the best ones for the job of fleshing out the wounds and banners of the indomitable, surprising human spirit. They include Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, Modern Drummer Hall of Fame inductee Steve Gadd, prolific keyboard composer Larry Goldings, Lebanese hand drummer Jamey Haddad, London hip mixologist Jacob Collier, and multi-Grammy-winning producer Tommy LiPuma (Paul McCartney, Miles Davis, Barbra Streisand, Diana Krall, George Benson, Natalie Cole).

This isn’t just a one-off recording, either. Farinacci’s understanding of human suffering and the art of redemption goes much, much deeper into effective activism. Together with LiPuma, 79, he’s built substantial solutions to the problem of lack in this world. They helped conceive and build the Cuyahoga Community College’s Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts in Cleveland, Ohio, where both artists are from. They and the recording band conducted workshop sessions for the students and filmed the entire process with GoPro cameras.


Read the full piece from: AXS.com

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NY Times: Jazz Listings for June 3-9

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He’s celebrating the release of “Short Stories,” an album whose personnel includes the pianist Larry Goldings, the bassist Christian McBride and the drummer Steve Gadd. (His band won’t have quite the same star power here.) At 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, 60th Street and Broadway, 212-258-9595, jazz.org. (Chinen)


Read the full piece from: NY Times

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Wynton Marsalis and Christian McBride Wow The Crowd at Inside The Jazz Note

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The chemistry between McBride and Marsalis, who first met when McBride was still in high school and Marsalis, in his 20s, was already a rising star. Marsalis recognized McBride’s talent, saying how he knew when he saw McBride play that he was going to be amazing talent because no one else was playing bass like McBride. The mutual respect and admiration the two had was poignant as was Marsalis’ sharing of his own musical journey, including experiences growing up and some of the obstacles he encountered (as well as some funny anecdotes about Marsalis’ mother).

Marsalis shared what it was like growing up in New Orleans and how he decided to leave to attend Juilliard. “I didn’t like all the racism,” says Marsalis of coming up in New Orleans. “I grew up in segregation and I didn’t like to be messed with or disrespected on any level. The disrespect was too much.”


Read the full piece from: Baristanet.com

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Cecile McLorin Salvant Brings Theatricality, Musicality to Spoleto Jazz Series

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Grammy-winning vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant is gaining renown in Europe and the US for her interpretations of classic jazz standards. Radio France describes her voice as "disarmingly musical” with “the class of Sarah Vaughn, the instinct of Betty Carter and the dark lows of Carmen McCrae.” In 2010, she won the Thelonious Monk Competition in Washington, DC. At this year’s Spoleto Festival, she’ll perform original songs from her 2015 album, For One to Love. Cecile McLorin Salvant performs Friday, June 3rd at 9pm at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard.


Read the full piece from: South Carolina Public Radio

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Brian Bromberg

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The first actually involves Bromberg's back. Full Circle marks Bromberg's return to recording and full-on playing since suffering a debilitating spinal injury several years ago. Always a chops-meister, Bromberg truly projects the sheer joy of music-making throughout. Cutting loose seems like a great thing to do, as Bromberg could barely hold his instruments, let alone play them, even after months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Now returned to his former strength, Full Circle is also Bromberg's first "true jazz" album. There is obviously some risk involved in such a move, as Bromberg has been, first and foremost, a high-energy jazz-rock fusion artist. Though fans of Bromberg's previous albums may find Full Circle to be a little... um... disorienting, they will certainly be pleased by the virtuosic super-tight playing throughout, guest shots by high-profile artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Kirk Whalum, Mitchel Forman, and Bob Sheppard, and the album's ultra-high-gloss production values.

Backstories two and three are Bromberg's return to drumming after forty-odd years, and the dedication of Full Circle to his dad, Howard Bromberg. It turns out that Brian Bromberg's first instrument was the drum set, on which he modeled himself after his father. Bromberg père was an aspiring bebop drummer who was on the brink of a jazz career when military service took him to Tucson, AZ where he married and started a family. Howard kept his sticks at the ready, playing frequently on the local scene. He taught his sons how to play the drums, as well. Brian, however, fell in love with the bass and the rest—as they say—is history. The album is bookended by two recordings Howard Bromberg made with his Tucson-based band about 65 years ago. Using 21st Century technology Brian was able to isolate his father's drum track, along with the trumpet and trombone of Jimmy Saunders and Phil Washburn, and accompany the trio—via overdubbing—on two classic Dixieland pieces. These tracks stand as a sweet and heartfelt tribute, and they are quite enjoyable. 


Read the full piece from: All About Jazz

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Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo review - heading in new and unorthodox directions

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Not that the Havana native has abandoned his roots: the Tocororo is the national bird of Cuba, and the album opens with a deft exploration of Compay Segundo’s Chan Chan, which also opens the all-conquering Buena Vista Social Club album.

His collaborations with Indian vocalist Ganavaya Doraiswamy, French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and, especially, the great Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, take the Cuban virtues of rhythmic precision and heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism in new and unorthodox directions.


Read the full piece from: Irish Times

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****RINGER OF THE WEEK****Brian Bromberg: Full Circle

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Brian Bromberg is one of those consummate bass players around. A highly respected studio stud, he’s released some amazing albums ranging from “smooth” jazz to Hendrix tributes. Here, he picks, plucks strums and even hits just about everything, as he’s on acoustic bass, electic bass, piccolo bass and even drums along with a mix and match team and attitude with Randy Waldman/p and a horn section that changes partners like Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti.

The jazz styles actually do run as the title of the album suggests, with a full circle of swing, starting and ending with some fantastic jive on “Jazz Me Blues” and “Washington and Lee Swing” that could be mistaken for a broadcast from the Roseland Ballroom as Phil Washburn/tb and Jimmy Saunders wail for the Lindy Hoppers. In other instances, you might feel like you’re sitting in on a Wes Montgomery Riverside studio session in Hackensack NJ, as Mitch Forman’s B3 grooves out to Bromberg’s guitar like bass on “Sneaky Pete” and some tight sounds sizzle on trio work with Doug Webb’s beefy sax on “Boomerang” and “Bernie’s Bop.” You even get some sweaty salsa as Arturo Sandoval smokes like a Romeo & Juliet on “Havana Nights” and even better is the Crescent City two stepping on “Naw’lins” with Kirk Whalum preaching from the pulpit.

Some day, people are going to look back on Bromberg’s catalogue and wonder why they didn’t appreciate him back ‘in the day.’ This is the day to start!


Read the full piece from: JazzWeekly.com

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Jazz, soul, blues musicians reveal surprising pre-show   rituals

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Cyrillic Aimée (Let’s Get Lost): Actually, I love having my personal moment to put on makeup before the show. It relaxes me and concentrates me. Plus, I get to have a moment without the boys, and sometimes, while I put on my makeup, I listen to a podcast (RadioLab), or to some comedy (Louis CK). I really enjoy putting it on more than I enjoy wearing it!

I used to never wear makeup, on- or off-stage, and one summer, I went on tour with a very popular electro-swing band called Caravan Palace, and we were playing in front of huge audiences of thousands of people, and when I would see the photos of the concert, I couldn't see my eyes in any of them! I realized that onstage is not like in real life. You have to wear makeup, because of the spotlights and the fact that the audience can be far away. So I bought some makeup and started learning and realized I liked doing it.


Read the full piece from: AXS.com

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Alfredo Rodriguez: Jazz pianist talks about leaving Cuba; new album ‘Tocororo’

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The Caribbean island of Cuba has been in the news a lot lately, mostly in conjunction with the “thawing” of relationships between the nation and the United States, something that will allow for a greater cultural exchange between the two countries. Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez left the island quite some time ago and is now enjoying a life in the US where he works with vaunted musician and producer Quincy Jones. The most recent fruit of their combined labors is Rodriguez’s new album, Tocororo. Rodriguez is currently on tour in the US and he’ll also be appearing with Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July.

We had a chance to speak by email with Rodriguez, who talked about working with Jones and why the album is called Tocororo while also speaking candidly about making the difficult decision to leave Cuba. His insights below are given exclusively to AXS.com.


Read the full piece from: AXS.com

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Busy performer Christian McBride is about to become ubiquitous

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All of this comes as he settles into his new role as Newport’s artistic director, succeeding the festival’s legendary cofounder, George Wein.

McBride was already juggling assorted off-stage roles — most prominently hosting National Public Radio’s “Jazz Night in America” — when Wein announced in March that he was handing over the artistic director gig, and promoting Danny Melnick to producer. But McBride knew all along he would remain an active musician.


Read the full piece from: Boston Globe

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Yellowjackets: Coherence [REVIEW: Jazz Weekly]

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Russell Ferrante and Bob Mintzer are still around, with Dane Alderson/b and William Kennedy/dr-synth being the newest members since Haslip and Bailey have moved on. The team still sounds together, comfortable in the mix of acoustic and electric on this latest album.

The band can still churn out exciting new material, such as “Golden State” which sounds like the hustle and bustle of LA traffic with Ferrante’s hectic piano and Mintzer’s lane changing tenor. Newer members Kennedy’s ride cymbal pushes the jagged edges and mysterious piano on “Guarded Optimism” and Alderson’s bass work around Ferrante’s fingers on “Anticipation” is warm and deft.

The quartet also does some respectful tributes to tenor players of the past; Eddie Harris is felt on the soulful and funky “Eddie’s in the House” with an irresistible soul groove, and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” is reworked with some draping strings, reharmonization and countermelody to give it a more cerebral celebration. Hints of Weather Report are delivered on the playful “Fran’s Dance” while the traditional American tune “Shanendoah” spotlights Mintzer’s glowing tenor.


Read the full piece from: JazzWeekly.com

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Cyrille Aimée: Let’s Get Lost (REVIEW - Latin Jazz Network)

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The record is beautiful and Aimée’s voice is light and limpid, though not without metal. Her roles as the character in these narratives are almost soubrette-ish. Her diction is truly exceptional throughout and impressive in both English and French – and it would seem nearly as good in Spanish too. And there is evidence of real imagination behind her programmes and her interpretations.

This is a bright and chirpy album. Both her last two albums are just so. Her singing is deeply expressive, yet she is far too intelligent a musician ever to be for a moment self-indulgent or self-conscious.


Read the full piece from: LatinJazzNet.com

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Cecile McLorin Salvant@Campbell Hall UCSB 04.27.16

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Salvant has a unique way of turning a song from a simple melody with rhythm into a audible painting, creating intricate textures not unlike a Monet as she goes from a swinging bop feel on “Nothing Like You” but yet twist and turn it into a taffy pull. Her talent for dynamics made her throw out lyrics like a slingshot on “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” whereas the pop 60s hit “Wives and Lovers” mixed prismatic harmonics with kinetic undercurrents by the rhythm team, with the opposing tensions creating an agonizingly glorious contrast.


Read the full piece from: JazzWeekly.com

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Yellowjackets Showcase New Bassist, Fresh Material at Birdland

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Prior to recording the album, the band had road-tested the new tunes during a European tour, including an extended run in London.

For the 11 p.m. set, attendance was strong, particularly for a Tuesday night. With the band’s current lineup—Bob Mintzer on saxophones and EWI, Russell Ferrante on keyboards, Will Kennedy on drums and Australian Dane Alderson, a new addition, on bass (replacing Felix Pastorius)—a more straightahead character is evident, with a lesser degree of fusion bite.


The opening number, “Spirit Of The West” (from 1998’s Club Nocturne), held a guileless cheerfulness, romping with pan-piping synth sounds and warbly bass. Even less than a decade ago, this band had a harder sound, which now seems diluted to a pastoral lightness.


Read the full piece from: DownBeat.com

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Living A Childhood Dream: Music Was Always A Part Of Herlin Riley’s Life

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“As a toddler, my uncles [saxophonist] David Lastie, [trumpeter] Melvin Lastie and [drummer] Walter Lastie had a band, the Lastie Brothers Combo. They would rehearse at my grandparents’ house and with me being there, I got to hear the music. I heard ‘Moanin’’ and ‘Sister Sadie.’ So music was always a part of me.”

Riley’s uncles and grandfather, who played drums in the church, were his first influences in his upward-spiraling career of over 40 years. At 59, Riley is considered one of the finest and most unique jazz drummers in the world and stands strongly in New Orleans’ impressive drum lineage, one that includes Ed Blackwell, James Black, Earl Palmer, Smokey Johnson, Idris Muhammad and more. Those legends too were influential in his development.


Read the full piece from: OffBeat Magazine

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Herlin Riley Quintet, Jazz Tent

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With great spirit and animation he travels the African diaspora from Congo Square to his Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, to New York and beyond. Riley celebrates his strikingly good album New Direction with the guys who joined him in its making – pianist Emmet Cohen, bassist Russell Hall, trumpeter Bruce Harris and saxophonist Godwin Louis. You want the best, you got the best.


Read the full piece from: Louisiana Weekly

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Hear Now: 5 New Jazz Albums You Need to Check Out

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Julian Lage, Arclight (March 11, Mack Avenue Records)

The album starts with a slightly modified rock beat (“Fortune Teller”), and digs in from there -- an emphasis on melody and a lack of politeness set help Lage set himself apart from jazz guitar’s often florid tradition. Notes of prog stay “jazzy” with the sparse ensemble, while Lage’s lyric gift leaves the listener with melodies likely to endure even after just one listen. Even “Nocturne,” though gentle, won’t necessarily lull you to sleep (though it’s not out of the question the song could end up alongside Ed Sheeran on some tactical Spotify playlist). Lage’s inventive arrangements will engage even the most intimidated of jazz listeners, and his omnivorous, memorable flights will keep them on the hook.


Read the full piece from: Billboard.com

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Barack Obama to host International Jazz Day concert at White House

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Barack Obama and wife Michelle have announced plans to hold a concert next month, featuring a string of musical legends including Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Sting and Herbie Hancock.

Other performers on the day will include Joey Alexander, Terence Blanchard, Kris Bowers, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Till Brönner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Chick Corea, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling, Robert Glasper, Buddy Guy, Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Diana Krall, Lionel Loueke, Hugh Masekela, Christian McBride, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller, James Morrison, Danilo Pérez, Rebirth Brass Band, Dianne Reeves, Lee Ritenour, David Sánchez, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Trombone Shorty, Chucho Valdés, Bobby Watson and Ben Williams. John Beasley is overall musical director.


Read the full piece from: The Guardian

Danilo Pérez: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

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Ever since he returned to perform in his war-torn homeland in the 1980s, he's seen the potential for jazz to be a vehicle for social change, and spent much of his time offstage seeding this vision in the form of youth music education programs. The Panama Jazz Festival he founded, for instance, doesn't just feature major international acts — it brings students from all sorts of backgrounds to share the stage, and funnels profits back to them.


Read the full piece from: NPR.org

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Herlin Riley – New Direction – Mack Avenue

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In this release New Direction, he heads a band of young whipper-snappers, who dive into a set list of mostly Herlin Riley originals that run the gamut of styles, but are still jazz-oriented.

The title track “New Direction” kicks things off in exemplary fashion with Riley laying down a rhythmic direction that signifies his inventiveness, with pianist Cohen offering an inspired solo, and guitarist Mark Whitfield demonstrating why he was included in this session. “Spring Fantasy” is a Latin infused number with a bluesy feel, that has some stellar alto work by Godwin Louis. Pianist Cohen also shows some smart single-note playing.


Read the full piece from: Audiophile Audition

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Bassist Christian McBride helms the Mack Avenue Superband at the Triple Door on Tuesday, April 5

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A scaled-down quintet version of the ensemble appears in Seattle next week, with bassist Christian McBride at the helm, plus two saxophonists: Kirk Whalum, playing tenor in a muscular, straight-ahead style that might surprise his smooth-jazz fans, and husky-toned altoist Tia Fuller, who has burning bebop chops. The group, which writes its own tunes and arrangements, is rounded out by Carl Allen (drums) and McBride’s regular trio pianist, Christian Sands.


Read the full piece from: Seattle Times

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