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Thanks for helping to support Mack Avenue Artists!
Jazz Renaissance man John Beasley joins Tim to talk about his multifaceted career and life in jazz music. He’s a jazz pianist, a composer, an arranger, a music director and a producer. And chances are you’ve heard some of his work through film, TV or commercials. In this episode, John talks about his a one-of-a-kind music lineage and how he balances his many music loves.
The Yellowjackets are an anomaly in contemporary jazz. They actually began their career playing accessible fusion, then evolved toward pop-friendly smooth jazz. Over the decades, lineup changes engendered a widening musical philosophy that embraced post-bop, global polyrhythms, and expansive arrangements. They've become one of the most innovative electro-acoustic jazz ensembles. Keyboardist/composer Russell Ferrante, the group's sole founding member, was joined by drummer Will Kennedy in 1987 and saxophonist/EWI player/arranger/composer Bob Mintzer in 1990. Bassist Dane Alderson made his debut on 2016's Cohearance. Jackets XL is a collection of imaginatively rearranged crowd and catalog favorites. Mintzer enlisted the famed WDR Big Band from Koln, Germany as collaborators (he has been their principal conductor since 2016). Seven of the ten tunes here, creating a seamless interaction between ensembles.
Harold López-Nussa has been successfully making records that blur the lines between straight-ahead jazz, Latin Jazz and Cuban folk music for years now. His latest release on Mack Avenue, Te Lo Dije (the title roughly translates to "I Told You" pushes those boundries even further.
López-Nussa once again has his favorite musicians working with him: Julio César González (Bass), his brother Ruy Adrían López-Nussa (Drums, Percussion) and Mayquel González (Trumpet). WIth a handful of guests to fill out the sound where needed, most notably accordanist Vincent Peirani, the band moves from traditional forms of Cuban music to sounds from France ("Windmills of Your Mind") and even Reggaeton ("JazzTón").
Harold is is his usual flashy self, able to lay down a lightning run, but able to use his touch to bring across the emotion at the core of his native sounds. This is López-Nussa's third album since signing with Mack Avenue in 2016. I first became aware of his talent when he wrote for, and played on, the 90 Miles project recorded in Cuba by David Sanchez, Stefon Harris and Christian Scott (now Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah) in 2010.
On Podcast 769 we get to talk with Harold about life in Cuba during the pandemic, the making of Te Lo Dije, and why he tries to make new and different music on each album. Musical selections include "Windmills of Your Mind," "Jazzton," and from 90 Miles, his composition "E'cha."
Pianist Christian Sands came out of the gate with his proverbial wheels screeching. A prodigy who cut his first record at the age of 12, he flashed impressive chops both as a sideman in Christian McBride’s Inside Straight Trio an on his previous three albums as a leader for Mack Avenue. On Be Water, as the Zen-like title might suggest, Sands has learned to relax and let his inherent romanticism come to the fore. That quality is apparent from the outset on “Intro,” an atmospheric prelude to this very ambitious project, and on the restful ballad “Still.” Other tunes like “Sonar” and the lovely waltz-time string quartet piece, “Be Water II,” show a newfound maturity in Sands’ game, revealing a more patient and poetic side. This is not to suggest that Sands keeps his abundance of chops totally in check here. His remarkable facility is showcased on the turbulent burner “Steam,” paced by bassist Yasushi Nakamura’s deep groove and featuring muscular bashing from drummer Clarence Penn, and also on the propulsive “Drive,” with an electrifying guitar solo from Marvin Sewell. An added treat is Sands’ soulful reading of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
GRAMMY® Award-winning group Yellowjackets’ upcoming Jackets XL celebrates their 40th anniversary of collaboration while joining forces with Germany’s iconic WDR Big Band and re-imagining some of the quartet’s classic tunes.
The newest Yellowjackets single, “Even Song,” was originally recorded for 1993’s Run for Your Life arranged by Vince Mendoza. Here the track has been reimagined and revamped in concert with the WDR Big Band. “Even Song” will be released as a single on October 16th, and will be featured on the upcoming album to be released by Mack Avenue Records on November 6th.
Live Q&A with Joey DeFrancesco Hosted by Alonzo Bodden
Dan Wilson - DTC Organ Trio Live at AVClub (9/29/20)
Emmet Cohen - Live From Emmet's Place Vol.26 Ft. Godwin Louis
Warren Wolf Reincarnation CD Release Livestream
For his latest album, Cuban jazz pianist Harold López-Nussa pays tribute to popular music of the island.
“Te Lo Dije!” [I told you so!] Harold López-Nussa seems to brag from the CD cover of his new record. Te Lo Dije is the ninth LP from the Cuban pianist who tours regularly in France.
The previous (and terrific) Un Dia Cualquiera was recorded in the United States. From the first moment here, it’s obvious that we’ve returned to Havana. “Bocadito de Helado!” is the call of the ice cream man, the intoxicating recording that plays everywhere throughout the capital. These are the kinds of street noises that Alfonso Peña, one of the best sound engineers in his country, weaves into “Habana Sin Sábanas.” For this overture, which can be translated as “Havana Without Makeup,” Harold López-Nussa introduces his new quartet instead of the trio that we are used to.
Following his ambitious homage to leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four, Christian McBride returns to his hard-swinging big band with 2020's For Jimmy, Wes, and Oliver. Where The Movement found him drawing inspiration from icons like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, For Jimmy, Wes, and Oliver finds the bassist drawing equal motivation from the work of jazz icons like organist Jimmy Smith, guitarist Wes Montgomery, and saxophonist/arranger Oliver Nelson.
Inspired by their leader, bassist Christian McBride, the musicians in this big band always sound like they are having the times of their lives.
Christian McBride, For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (Mack Avenue)
In the late 90’s, I was assigned by Verve Records the pleasant job of writing the notes to reissues of classic albums by the king of the Hammond organ, Jimmy Smith: Blue Bash! was one, another was The Dynamic Duo, co-led by another prince of the music, guitarist Wes Montgomery, who gives one of his sunniest performances.(I also chose the selections as well as wrote the notes for Verve’s The Finest Hour of Jimmy Smith.) Generally, one talks to the musicians before writing these little essays. I tried. I called Smith so many times that I became friends with his wife. He was unwilling to talk, even when Mrs. Smith said, “Oh, Jimmy, do it for Mike.” The one thing he said to me that I remember — and that is printable — is the bleak “What’s in it for me?” What would he get out of a reissue of his music? Not much in terms of cash and he didn’t want his reissues to be competing with his latest recordings. I had a backup plan for my essay on Blue Bash! I called co-leader guitarist Kenny Burrell, whose son got back to me with the discouraging news that Kenny, one of my musical heroes, wouldn’t be available for a conversation “this year.”
Grammy-winning bassist, composer, and all-round jazz impresario Christian McBride has already released one stunning album this year with his major opus paying tribute to Civil Rights leaders on The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons, reviewed on these pages. Now McBride brings us another poignant effort, featuring his Grammy-winning big band ((CMBB’s third release) and quartets comprised of his lifelong friend and stellar organist Joey DeFrancesco and frequent collaborator guitarist Mark Whitfield. Regular CMBB drummer Quincy Phillips anchors both the big band and quartets which alternate on renditions of songs inspired by the 1966 recordings of organist Jimmy Smith and guitarist Wes Montgomery at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Over the course of three days, the two jazz icons recorded the material for two now-classic albums: The Dynamic Duo (1966) and Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (1968), backed by a big band featuring arrangements by the great Oliver Nelson. As you can imagine McBride and company swing like crazy on this one, inspired by their forbears.
John Beasley has arranged the brass brighter and brasher, the low horns to be more growly and his tasty keyboard parts to be artfully highlighted on his third far-reaching album with MONK’estra. Extending marvelously synchronized section motifs—those indelibly quirky Monk phrases—into swelling backdrops that balance freely impassioned soloists, Beasley as a pianist and composer, too, draws out even more melodic, harmonic and rhythmic implications in music by Monk, Bird and Duke.
The intricate recasting of “Donna Lee” contains several thrills, but the motifs throughout are colored vividly, etched with fine yet robust lines and graceful in their surprising twists. The large ensemble’s performance seems flawless and the small group Beasley’s assembled for a few tracks with longtime colleagues such as bassist John Patitucci, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and soulful harmonica player Grégoire Maret is bonded in camaraderie. Among the virtues of Beasley’s charts is that they never outstay their welcome; instead, they leave us wanting more. And with the abundance of details to absorb here, that’s really saying something. Beasley has a brilliant musical mind and warm yet exploratory touch, and his originals fit sweetly amid the time-honored repertoire. Jazz history is beautifully served here by Beasley leading his orchestra to embody his own unique vision.
Havana-based pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa captures the joyous, dancing, vibrant music of today’s Cuba with an exhilarating marriage of jazz and Cuban pop music, defiantly standing up to the doubters who failed to share his radical vision. To understand the title, many didn’t think he could pull off such a marriage on this, his ninth album and third for Mack Avenue. Much like its near equivalent in English, “I told you so,” the Spanish phrase “Te lo dije” can be deployed as a boast or a put-down – often both at once. López-Nussa throws down that gauntlet on Te Lo Dije, featuring the pianist’s core quartet of drummer Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, bassist Julio César González and trumpeter Mayquel González, bolstered by a number of special guests including Afro-Cuban funk superstar Cimafunk; French accordionist Vincent Peirani; famed Cuban reggaeton vocalist Randy Malcom; and vocalist Kelvis Ochoa.