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The guitarist and singer speaks frankly about his new single “Our Voices Matter,” his lifelong encounters with racism, and his hopes for a new era in the U.S.
Since his rise as a teenage recording artist in South Africa, guitarist and singer/songwriter Jonathan Butler has gained a high international profile with music that crosses boundaries between pop, R&B, smooth jazz, and gospel. His new single, “Our Voices Matter,” is a call for unity against racial injustice in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. It features Butler with a top-flight list of peers including Rick Braun, Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Maysa, Will Kennedy, Jeffrey Osborne, Arlington Jones, Ruslan Sirota, Antonio Sol, and Ramon Yslas. We spoke with Butler from his home in Los Angeles, where he’s lived for over 25 years, about the song and the deep personal history behind it.
Thirty-nine years in and still dropping cracking grooves and catchy melodies, Yellowjackets return with their 25th album, which finds the quartet revisiting original material from its past discography.
If you’re like me, you’ve jumped on or off Yellowjackets’ train at various times in their career. Who could resist their eponymous 1981 debut, a blast of fresh L.A. jazz-funk? I personally dove deep during their ’86-’87 period and the burners Shades and Four Corners. Regardless of year, though, they’ve retained an instantly recognizable sound: knotty drum grooves, brain-glued melodies, clever harmonies, and extended, rip-roaring solos.
You can remember him from the Bratislava Jazz Days 2011 festival, where he performed as a 29-year-old super talent! His name is Harold López-Nussa, he is 37 years old (read the exclusive interview here) and he was born into a musical family in Havana. For the first twenty years he devoted himself exclusively to classical music, but his life changed when he won the piano competition of the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2005. Latin Jazz quickly became his passion! Two years ago he released his latest album, Un Día Cualquiera (Mack Avenue, 2018), which was a mixture of compositions by classical Cuban composers and original compositions by Harold Lopez-Nuss in a beautiful performance by the trio. This time, however, Harold comes in the form of the latest album called Te Lo Dije, which automatically takes you out onto the streets of Havana, where during an evening stroll you will hear music straight from people's homes, sometimes breaking into parties and paladars or a nightclub. Harold López-Nussa, who lives in Havana, captures all these mentioned moments as a combination of jazz and Cuban pop music! The album features Harold's brother and Ruy drummer Adrián López-Nussa, double bass player Julio César González and trumpeter Mayquel González. The album also features some special guests such as African-Cuban superstar Cimafunk, French accordionist Vincent Peirani, famous Cuban reggaeton singer Randy Malcom and singer Kelvis Ochoa and others.
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."