lunes, 17 de julio de 2017

Paul Jones - Clean (OUTSIDE IN MUSIC Aug. 4, 2017)

Saxophonist/composer Paul Jones melds the passion of jazz, the storytelling of hip
hop and the intricacy of minimalism on his innovative second album

Clean brings together a jazz sextet, woodwind octet and chamber duo for a stunning set of
emotionally intellectual music built on Jones’ unique text-based compositional method

"Short HistoryŠ captures the musicality, passion, and promise of a talented artist at the dawn of his career." - Dan Bilawksy, All About Jazz

"Jones and his ensemble shift moods with throttle-forward speed, revealing so many musical possibilities right off the bat that the listener gets the impression that anything can happen." - Anthony Dean Harris, DownBeat

Saxophonist/composer Paul Jones draws from influences as diverse as contemporary hip hop, 20th-century minimalism and leading-edge jazz on his second album as a leader, Clean. Both heady and heartfelt, Jones' compositions may be sparked by a literary turn of phrase or the unexpected passing of a close friend, always finding unique ways to overlay the emotional onto the intellectual.

Clean (due out August 4 from Outside In Music) unfolds with the evocative narrative flow of hip hop groundbreakers like Kendrick Lamar while building on the unique architecture of minimalist pioneers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. This singular music is realized with the help of Jones' core sextet, a group of distinctive artists who are all leaders and composers in their own right: alto saxophonist Alex LoRe, guitarist Matt Davis, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Johannes Felscher and drummer Jimmy Macbride. They're joined at various times by a woodwind octet that brings together The SNAP Saxophone Quartet and a chamber group (clarinetist Mark Dover of the Imani Winds, oboist Ellen Hindson, bassoonist Nanci Belmont and cellist Susan Mandel) as well as genre-blurring duo The Righteous Girls (flutist Gina Izzo and pianist Erika Dohi.

The music on Clean was birthed at the picturesque Banff Creative Arts Centre in Alberta, Canada, where Jones sequestered himself in January 2016 to begin devising the follow-up to his well-received 2015 debut, Short History. With the sounds of austere minimalist compositions ringing in his ears and his love of hip hop reignited by the release of Lamar's landmark To Pimp a Butterfly, Jones set to work finding ways to unite these seemingly disparate passions.

"I used to listen to a lot of hip hop in high school, and Kendrick's album reminded me of my love for the music," he recalls. "One of the things that a lot of hip hop albums do that jazz albums don't do as much is try to tell a story from start to finish. I wanted to try to do that by using different song lengths and textures, and I thought that using woodwinds in the style of Steve Reich and Philip Glass would provide interesting sonic breaks between the jazz songs."

In challenging himself to find new sources of inspiration for his music for Short History, Jones invented a method of assigning different musical notes to each letter of the alphabet, then using different words or phrases to generate melodic material. On Clean he developed that technique further, adding a random number generator that gave a wider range of notes as well as intervals. As mathematical and complex as that may sound (and no doubt is), Jones never loses sight of the emotional core of his music, also dipping into the well of personal experience to deepen these uniquely-devised melodies.

Nowhere is that more striking than on the brief "Romulo's Raga," a dizzying chamber interlude sparked by the murder of Romulo Herrera, the longtime chef at the well-known Cornelia Street Café, where Jones worked by day. "Hearing the news of this incident was almost incomprehensible to me," Jones writes in his liner notes. Composed in the wake of the tragic news, "Romulo's Raga" became the leaping-off point for several other chamber pieces interspersed throughout the album, including opener "Ive Sn Th Gra Md," "It Was Brgh Cold," and "Im Prety Uch Fkd."

Those aren't typos - each of those titles are borrowed from the opening lines of classic novels, with each letter allowed to occur only once. The first is a slight misquote from Allen Ginsberg's era-defining poem "Howl" ("I've seen the [great] minds of my generation destroyed by madness"), the second from George Orwell's ever-timely Nineteen Eighty-Four ("It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen"), and the last from Andy Weir's The Martian (you can guess it). "I Am An American" is the first line of Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March, though with all those A's intact.

"The Generator," though a shimmering ballad in execution, references Jones' "nerdy compositional method" explicitly, as does, albeit in a more self-deferential fashion, "Alphabet Soup." The technique serves two purposes: it takes care of the ever-present challenge of coming up with new song titles while mandating a unique genesis for each piece. "A lot of people just sit down at the piano and expect magic to happen," he explains, "and we all end up coming up with the same ideas over and over again. I wanted to find a way to get at different harmonic and melodic ideas."

The process doesn't stop there, however. Though initially generated by the letters in the two names of its title, "Buckley vs. Vidal" bristles with the adversarial tension of the infamous televised debates between the celebrity intellectuals. "Hola, Amigo" takes its title from a sign spotted in Canada - with a phrase that no native Spanish speaker would ever utter, suggesting, especially as it follows the ambiguous "I Am An American," the fraught territory of cultural difference and miscommunication - especially timely given recent political developments.

The album's title and its namesake track, while hinting at the fastidious intricacies of Jones and his stellar ensemble, simply echoes his own nickname from Maine's Camp Encore/Coda, where he is a faculty member. It's humorously bookended by the jerky rhythms of "Dirty Curty," the less appealing sobriquet of an old friend who went without showering for three months - during which time he met the love of his life. "Centre in the Woods" tips its hat to the scenery of the Banff Centre, while the frenetic "The Minutiae of Existence" tallies the banal necessities of daily life.

His unique blend of jazz, classical and pop music influences unite Jones with a cohort of young innovators on the modern NYC scene. They include artists with whom Jones has worked, including Matt Davis' Aerial Photograph, Nicholas Biello's Vagabond Soul with Clarence Penn, R&B singer-songwriter Eli "Paperboy" Reed, Leon Boykins and Jonathan Parker. While a student at the Manhattan School of Music, Jones also had the opportunity to perform alongside such greats as Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano. He's also taught privately at CenterStage, Harrison School of Music, Needham Music, PS-290, and the Rye Arts Center, and given master classes at the Contemporary Music Institute in Zhuhai, China and the Gimcheon School of the Arts in Korea.

Pianist Laszlo Gardony's new solo recording "Serious Play" (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2017)

Pianist Laszlo Gardony Offers Balm and Fuel for Troubled Times on His Latest Solo Piano Sojourn, 
the Joyously Thoughtful Serious Play

"A formidable improviser who lives in the moment… Laszlo Gardony is one of contemporary music's truly original voices." – JazzTimes

“Gardony’s fingers seem wired to the place where thoughts have not yet formed into speech, from a deep well of emotion and intellect.” – PopMatters

Great artists can’t help but respond to the world around them, absorbing the tensions, angst and joys vibrating throughout society. At the same time, musicians provide energy for the necessary struggle, “washing away the dust of everyday life,” as drum legend Art Blakey said, describing jazz’s transformative power. This double duty is at the core of pianist Laszlo Gardony's new solo album Serious Play. He created most of the music spontaneously in the studio, with a few soulful reimaginations of beloved standards added, providing a potent reminder that the longtime Berklee College of Music professor is one of jazz’s most emotionally trenchant and melodically inventive solo piano practitioners. His 12th album and 9th recording for Sunnyside, Serious Play is slated for release on July 14, 2017.

Possessing a ravishing touch and a singular style that draws on the post-bop continuum, various strains of folk music and his Central European classical training, he “went into the studio with two goals that went hand in hand,” says Gardony, who couldn’t help but carry with him an acute sense of rising anxiety in the country. “One goal was to sit down and improvise for an extended amount of time,” revisiting the compositional approach that led to Clarity, his celebrated 2013 solo piano session. "The other was to organically connect that soul-baring material to soul soothing arrangements of beloved standards.

“In the studio, I asked Paul, the sound engineer, to keep the recorder running. There was the sense that this is again the right time to let spontaneous improvisation unfold and express my feelings about our times and my responsibilities in it, thereby adding my voice to our collective conversation."

He opens and closes Serious Play with familiar standards reimagined, what Jackie McLean called “new wine in old bottles.” He starts his journey with a sublime meditation on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” that builds on a melody that drips with longing. He follows with the album’s longest track, a caressing exploration of Coltrane’s sublime ballad “Naima” that builds between meditation and tension with his rumbling left-hand figures driving his solo, contrasting with his peaceful statement of the melody.

The album’s title track - the first of the improvised pieces - is something of a mission statement, a headlong slalom that seems to pick up momentum without gaining speed. The resounding bass chords keep the tune serious, while his frolicking right hand exalts in a swerving broken-field sprint. The spirit of it is active and positive - a musical call to action. The brief and contemplative “Night Life” is the first of several brief tracks that serve as a thematic bridge to the next statement, the polyrhythmic “Forward Motion,” which develops from a 5/4 groove, and has the feel of wheels in motion, literally and figuratively.

The brief and reflective “Watchful Through the Night” continues the emotional journey and hints at Gardony’s love of prog rock with its concluding diatonic harmony, while “Folk at Heart” evokes a community of people who stand together in their demand for a more compassionate, humane tomorrow. The tune naturally leads to the relentless syncopated energy and almost dissonant harmonies of “Truth to Power,” a song that suggests a clean sweep, a tidal purge of the negative, manipulative forces that attempt to sow dissonance in our hearts. Gardony closes the album with a breathtaking version of Harold Arlen’s chestnut “Over the Rainbow.” Brief and reharmonized, the rendition is haunting -  a sound-vision of a place that ill will cannot touch. 

As Gardony writes about recording this album, “music has a direct effect on our emotions and also on our well-being. What we need at all times - but perhaps now even more - is a clear mind, so we can assess our reality accurately, energy, so we can take positive and protective action, and of course, courage, fearlessness…With this CD my focus was on strengthening us so we can be resilient and resistant, and also on washing away any fatigue, doubt, or desperation we may feel."

Born in Hungary, Gardony took to the piano not long after he started to walk. He wasn’t much older when he started improvising, devising little tunes inspired by the blues, pop and classical music he heard around the house. Immersed in the European classical tradition while growing up, he was drawn to progressive rock as a teenager, and spent countless hours improvising blues-based music at the piano. He investigated gospel and studied jazz, a passion that soon overshadowed his classical pursuits. While there weren’t many jazz musicians around “there were some very knowledgeable people and a lot of records,” he recalls.    

After graduating from the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Science University of Budapest, Gardony quickly earned a reputation as one of the continent’s most accomplished accompanists. He also started recording as a leader. Possessing a powerful sense of swing, a strong feel for the blues and a firm command of post-bop vocabulary, he gained invaluable insight by sharing festival stages with acts like Art Blakey and Abdullah Ibrahim. After several years on the road, Gardony decided he needed to deepen his knowledge of jazz.

In 1983 a full scholarship to Berklee brought Gardony to the United States. Miles ahead of most of his fellow students, he was hired by Berklee to teach upon graduation. He made his US recording debut with the acclaimed 1988 album The Secret (Antilles) featuring Czech bass great Miroslav Vitous and drummer Ian Froman, but it was his 1st place win the following year at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition that catapulted him into the national spotlight.     

He seized the moment with 1989’s brilliant release The Legend of Tsumi (Antilles), a trio session with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Bob Moses focusing on Gardony’s lyrical originals (“Being with Dave and Miroslav was such an education,” Gardony says. “If you really immerse yourself in those moments, it can change you.”) The album earned rave reviews. Over the years he’s collaborated with saxophone greats like David “Fathead” Newman and Dave Liebman, but his subtle and rhythmically intricate pianism has meshed particularly well with jazz’s most inventive guitarists, including Mick Goodrick, John Abercrombie, John Scofield, Mike Stern and the late Garrison Fewell.

His primary vehicle for most of the 21st century has been his state of the art trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, an ensemble first documented on the 2003 Sunnyside release Ever Before Ever After. One of the finest working trios in jazz, the group performs and records regularly, exploring Gardony’s extensive book of originals as well as the occasional standard and jazz classics by the likes of Horace Silver and Billy Strayhorn.   

No band has stretched Gardony more than The Wayfaring Strangers. A long-time fan of Gardony’s who credits the pianist’s first solo album Changing Standards with opening his ears to modern jazz, violinist Matt Glaser initially recruited him to perform on one track of 2001’s Shifting Sands of Time (Rounder), contributing a haunting solo to Ralph Stanley’s elemental rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” By the release the project’s second album, 2003’s This Train (Rounder), Gardony was an essential member of the ensemble. The group continues to perform, exploring its singular synthesis of bluegrass, Appalachian roots music, and jazz. Like every other profound musical experience under his belt, some of the Wayfaring Strangers has shaped Gardony’s expression in straight ahead contexts. With Serious Play, he’s once again extended his creative purview, capturing the emotional pitch of the moment with a timeless statement.

“I always have a reason I make an album,” Gardony says. “It has to be something new. When I was a kid I really appreciated progressive rock, Bartok, folk music, and of course jazz and blues. With all of those musics, people never step into the same river twice.”

At a time of hunger for reason and thirst for peace of mind, Serious Play arrives like an energizing meal, accompanied by a tall drink of pure, clear water. 

Ron Francis Blake, Poncho Sanchez, Seamus Blake, Walt Weiskopf and more (KARI-ON PRODUCTIONS)


A Name You Already Know, Now Releases His Debut Offering, A Regular Member of Poncho Sanchez' Esnemble, Trumpeter Ron Francis Blake


Special Guests
Poncho Sanchez - congas and quijada on tracks #2, #5 Seamus Blake - tenor sax on tracks #1, #5 Walt Weiskopf - tenor sax on track #7 Andy Abad - guitars on track #6 Adonis Puentes - lead vocal on track #1

Ron Francis Blake - trumpet & flugelhorn Rob Hardt - tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet Francisco Torres - trombone Andy Langham - piano Rene Camacho - bass Nick Mancini - vibraphone Jimmy Branly - drums Joey De Leon - timbales, percussion Steve Giraldo - vocals Joe Rotondi - piano on track #1 Dante Pascuzzo - bass on tracks #3, #6

Brass Ensemble on tracks #2, #5, #7
Wayne Bergeron - flugelhorn Javier Gonzales - flugelhorn Lisa McCormick - French horn Tawnee Lillo - French horn Andy Martin - trombone Francisco Torres - bass trombone

Ron’s debut album Assimilation is dedicated to his late father, Frank M. Blake, who continues to be a guiding light in Ron’s musical journey.