Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Recorded in Cavalicco on 2 - 3 February 2017 at Artesuono Recording Studio
Recording engineer Stefano Amerio
1 Pianeti Affini 6:22
2 Rosso Marte 9:45
3 Il Sole E La Luna 7:28
4 La Danza Di Venere 6:15
5 Dimensione Oscura 4:17
6 Stella Nascente 6:54
7 Terra 6:32
8 Mari 6:24
Giovanni Falzone ( Trumpet )
Filippo Vignato ( Trombone )
Fausto Beccalossi ( Accordion )
Giulio Corini ( Bass )
Alessandro Rossi ( Drums )
I’ve heard Oscar Feldman have that effect on a crowd, whether at a large festival like that in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where I first heard him perform, or in the closer quarters of Buenos Aires’ legendary coffee house El Tortoni, where I was privileged to hear him sit in with one of his mentors, pianist Horacio Larumbe. The saxophonist’s technique is beyond reproach, and his ideas are fresh and commanding, but what really got to me and the other listeners was his passionate, attention-grabbing sound.
“I immediately liked my sound,” Feldman explains with a laugh. “It was primitive, and I learned to develop it, but I was happy with where I started; and playing with a lot of singers made me see that it was important to go for more than just straight jazz technique. Gato Barbieri felt that way, too, that your sound is the source. Some people emphasize lines, where I put more effort into living every note.”
Feldman was born and raised in Cordoba, Argentina, where his father was the Director of Culture and owned an art gallery. “He had bought a saxophone to learn himself, but quickly realized that he didn’t have the time to develop like Coltrane and the other guys he was listening to on records. I got his sax in 1976, and really started to grow when I went to the local conservatory in ‘78,” Feldman explains. After becoming a founding member of the band Los Musicos del Centro and working with two of South America’s most influential artists, Hermeto Pascoal and Dino Saluzzi, Feldman moved to Buenos Aires, where he became immersed in that city’s jazz scene for the next decade.
In 1992, Feldman won a scholarship to Berklee College in Boston. When his studies were complete, he moved to New York, and over the past two decades has been heard with leaders including Al Di Meola, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Samuels and Bebo Valdes. He has also previously recorded under his own name, most recently on the 2009 release Oscar e Familia (Sunnyside).
While original compositions were well represented on that collection, GOL (= goal) includes only one. “These are songs that I’ve been playing for a while, and each piece has gotten to the point where it feels like mine,” Feldman notes. “The program reflects how I want to hear music as a listener.” It is also well balanced between Feldman’s two primary horns, the soprano and alto saxophones.
The band Feldman has assembled is comprised of longstanding friends. “We all share the same vision, which means being eclectic enough to play a wide range of music. I can go from a bolero to more contemporary styles, so everyone has to be able to react spontaneously in all directions. Leo Genovese on piano gives me a lot of freedom and a dreamy quality, John Benitez brilliantly commands both acoustic and electric bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums has grown so much since we met at Berklee. I met composer and vocalist Guillermo Klein there as well, although we’re both Argentinians.”
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart is an arrangement originally written for Paquito D’Rivera. By stretching the meter, Feldman gives a more contemporary spin to the Ellington classic. “Just repeating something as wonderful as Johnny Hodges’ approach would be pathetic,” Feldman insists. “I want to transform standards so they become one of my songs.” He does the job here with an alto solo that builds in emotion, a path that Genovese also pursues in the subsequent piano choruses.
Viva Belgrano, the lone Feldman original, celebrates a famous goal that sent his hometown football team from the second to the first league. The composer is on alto, and the band moves seamlessly through the shifting form, with the announcer’s ecstatic call emerging out of Sanchez’s cymbals after the solos. “He talks about `the pride of being a pirate, because the team gained the nickname Pirates after some in-game incidents,” Feldman explains. “When they celebrate a goal, they cover one of their eyes like a pirate rather than raising a fist. The announcer thanks God for life, the founder of Cordoba, the Jesuits, and `tonight, which not even a date with the most beautiful babe will beat.’”
Murmullo is a traditional Cuban bolero popularized in the 1930s by composer Electo `Chepin' Rosell's band `Chepin-Choven’. “It’s a very old one,” Feldman confirms. “I played it with a singer and found it so simple and beautiful, a change from the typical ballad standard.” It gets his juices flowing on soprano, and also features a commanding bass solo by Benitez.
The fierce improvising that Feldman (on soprano), Genovese (on electric piano) and Sanchez (over intense rhythm section support) apply on Klein’s N.N. based on the chacarera rhythm, reflects another side of Feldman’s homeland. “The title stands for `No Name,’ which is a reference to the disappeared in Argentina,” he explains. “The song is dedicated to Guido Carlotto, whose birth parents were disappeared during the dictatorship.”
Beck’s Nobody’s Fault but My Own appealed to Feldman as “kind of Beatlesish, with a George Harrison vibe.” It features alto, electric piano and a lengthy and galvanizing coda. “We had to go through two boring takes to find the groove we were all looking for,” Feldman admits, “but once we found it we knew.”
Is That So? which shows no strains in its finger-popping rhythm, hides its challenges in its structure. Feldman learned the Duke Pearson classic at one of the jam sessions he regularly attends in Manhattan Plaza, the midtown high-rise where he and many prominent artists live. “I wish I could write like that, straight-ahead but unique, where it sounds easy until you try to play it,” he comments, though any formal shifts are traversed smoothly in the alto and piano solos. For variety, Benitez and Sanchez trade eights.
For the collection’s final transformation, Feldman plays I Feel Fine in a soulful seven, with the bridge set at a slower waltz tempo. “Many people do harmonic modulations, but I find meter modulations interesting, and they work well with this harmony. I love the way it gets `smoky’ at the bridge, then goes back to reality. It has a blues feeling in the main melody, then the bridge gives the improvisers a surprise. You have to change emotional and musical gears to tell the story.” This presents no problem for Feldman (on alto) and Genovese, and takes “GOL” out with a return to a mood of unbridled celebration.
Produced by: Oscar Feldman. Recorded at: Bacque Recordings, Roselle, NJ on June 14 and 15, 2015. Recording and mastering engineer: Luis Bacque. Studio photography by: Maria Postigo. Album cover and design by: Fran Pontenpie. Executive Producers: Robert Powley, Joachim “Jochen” Becker.
1 I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart 8:18
2 La Cancion Que Falta 7;31
3 Viva Belgrano 8:19
4 Murmullo 7:04
5 N.N. 8:24
6 Nobody's Fault But My Own 11:45
7 Is That So? 8:12
8 I Feel Fine 6:05
LEO GENOVESE piano, keyboards
JOHN BENITEZ acoustic and electric bass
ANTONIO SANCHEZ drums
GUILLERMO KLEIN vocals and keyboards (2)
Satoko Fujii w/ Wadada Leo Smith, Natsuki Tamura, Ikue Mori – Aspiration (LIBRA RECORDS September 8, 2017)
Dazzling group rapport sparks brilliant performance on Aspiration
featuring Satoko Fujii, Wadada Leo Smith, Natsuki Tamura and Ikue Mori
"Under Satoko Fujii's leadership, every member of an ensemble is empowered to thrive and when musicians of this caliber thrive, otherworldly improvised music results. Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration." - S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews
It's little wonder the album is so subtle and intimate, given the artists involved. Although this is the first time they have worked together as a group, there are ties among them that contribute to the music's beauty and coherence. Smith and Mori displayed an uncommonly close rapport during their duets on Smith's Luminous Axis (Tzadik). "I knew Wadada and Ikue had worked together before," Fujii says, "but that's not why I asked Ikue to join us. Natsuki and I had played with Ikue before on several occasions and we had a great time. When I started composing for the project with Wadada, I heard Ikue's sound in my ears." Of course, Fujii and Tamura share an intimate bond developed over several decades of working together and especially in their duo music, which they've recorded five times since 1997.
Fujii's intuition about the quality of the music proved correct. They venture into the mysteries and potentials - and the risks - of the quartet with fearless openness and discipline. On each track, every aspect of sound production is in spontaneous flux-rhythm, melody, dynamics, texture, density, silence. There is no telling where the music may lead. On "Intent," the unfixed quality keeps the listener on edge in anticipation of where the music will flow next. As the members of the band move in and out of the music, each sonic event blossoms with vibrant immediacy, and fades away as the music evolves. "Floating" opens with extraordinarily graceful piano from Fujii while Mori orchestrates textures and rhythms in parallel to her.
About five minutes in, Smith makes a dramatic entrance and a three-way conversation ensues before Tamura brings the piece to a quiet ending. It's one of the most elusive and obliquely lyrical tracks on the disc, and there isn't a note out of place. Tamura's "Stillness" is a piece of complementary contrasts with a contemplative start that suddenly erupts into roiling energy and subsides. Again, there's a sense of inevitability that feels organic. Even the unaccompanied solos that crop up throughout the performances-for instance, Tamura's sculptural opening to "Evolution," or Fujii's solo later in that same piece-are shaped to function within the context of the composition.
Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She's "a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone. Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including the ma-do quartet, the Min-Yoh Ensemble, and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. She has also established herself as one of the world's leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, "the Ellington of free jazz." Her ultimate goal: "I would love to make music that no one has heard before."
Trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for his unique musical vocabulary blending extended techniques with jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso "has some of the stark, melancholy lyricism of Miles, the bristling rage of late '60s Freddie Hubbard and a dollop of the extended techniques of Wadada Leo Smith and Lester Bowie," observes Mark Keresman of JazzReview.com. Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. On one hand, there are avant rock jazz fusion bands like his quartet, whose album Hada Hada Peter Marsh of the BBC described this way: "Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he'd joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie."
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of our time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as "Creative Music." For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways. Smith received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus.
In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement "honoring brilliance and resilience." In 2017 Smith topped three categories in DownBeat Magazine's 65th Annual Critics Poll: Jazz Artist, Trumpet and Jazz Album (for America's National Parks on Cuneiform.) Smith was also honored by the Jazz Journalists Association as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as the 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).
Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader. His 2016 recording, America's National Parks, a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country's public landscapes, earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith's landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called "A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane's A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach."
Laptop musician, composer, and percussionist Ikue Mori first gained attention in the late '70s as the drummer in the seminal No Wave band DNA, with fellow noise pioneers Arto Lindsay and Tim Wright. In the mid '80s she started in employ drum machines in the context of improvised music. While limited to the standard technology provided by the drum machine, she nevertheless forged her own highly sensitive signature style. In 2000 she started using the laptop computer to expand on her already signature sound, thus broadening her scope of musical expression.
Mori has released more than 20 albums as a leader or co-leader with innovative bands such as Mephista with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and drummer Susie Ibarra; and Phantom Orchard with harpist Zeena Parkins. She is a frequent member of ensembles led by John Zorn, and was a featured soloist with Ensemble Modern on guitarist-composer Fred Frith's Traffic Continues (Winter & Winter). Her most recent releases are Obelisk with Courvoisier, Okkyng Lee, and Jim Black; and Highsmith, a duo with pianist Craig Taborn, both on Tzadik.
Lauren Kinhan Pays Tribute to Legendary Vocalist Nancy Wilson in Transformative Fashion on the First All-Standards Album of her Career
A Sleepin' Bee uses Wilson's iconic collaborations with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing as the starting point for a unique take on the tribute album
"Lauren Kinhan is a tremendously gifted jazz singer." - Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
"Her luscious, velvet voice is a good place to rest your weary head." - Ken Blanchard, Jazznote SD
"A vocal tour de force" - Jazz Journal, Sally Evans-Darby
CD Release Concerts:
November 8, 2017 - Red Room @ Café 939, WBGO Live Stream - Boston, MA
January 3, 2018 - JEN Convention - Inspiration Stage - Dallas, TX
If the sudden appearance of an album's worth of standards in a catalogue dominated by original songs comes as a surprise, the process of its creation is just as atypical. While Kinhan spent much of 2016 conceiving, rehearsing and workshopping the project, the circumstances of the recording arose suddenly through the auspices of her alma mater, Berklee College of Music. The session suddenly became an educational opportunity as well as a record date, providing a small group of Berklee students the invaluable privilege of observing and engaging in a recording session at the highest level.
First and foremost, though, A Sleepin' Bee is a celebration of Nancy Wilson on the occasion of the genre-hopping singer's 80th birthday. While Kinhan shares Wilson's penchant for blurring stylistic boundaries, her choice of material focuses on Wilson's early jazz albums, particularly her collaborations with Cannonball Adderley and George Shearing. Those recordings proved to be a jumping-off point for Kinhan, who utterly transforms these classic and obscure numbers with the help of pianist/creative partner Andy Ezrin and veteran producer Elliot Scheiner as well as a stellar band featuring bassist Matt Penman, drummer Jared Schonig and special guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.
With three brilliant albums of her own songs under her belt, not to mention her game-changing work with three distinctive vocal groups and wide-ranging collaborations with singular artists from Ornette Coleman to Bobby McFerrin, Kinhan decided it was finally time to create an album more in line with the jazz tradition of interpreting a book of standards. Of course, Kinhan has never been one to follow an obvious route, so the results quickly became something wholly her own. "I approached this project similarly to the way I write songs, except that in this case that creativity was expressed in the arranging and approach to the lyrics," she explains. "I wanted to make an album that was inspired by Nancy Wilson but still conveys my point of view in the way that I think about, interpret and reimagine music."
The 12 tracks on Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley were evenly split between vocal and instrumental pieces, and Kinhan interprets all but one of the vocal tunes on A Sleepin' Bee. To fill out the repertoire, she began delving into Wilson's catalogue - only reaching 1964 before she had more than enough to work with. The remaining repertoire is carefully cultivated from Wilson's early-60s releases, the bulk of it coming from The Swingin's Mutual!, Wilson's 1960 collaboration with pianist George Shearing.
"In a way," Kinhan says, "A Sleepin' Bee is also a tribute to Cannonball and George Shearing and the fine musicians that played on the original recordings. The pairing of the voice and great players is what it's all about. It's never just about singing for me; it's the whole creative spectrum of arranging notes and form, and connecting with the musicians."
Those elements are combined and rearranged in disparate and intriguing ways throughout A Sleepin' Bee, from the laid-back swing of "Let's Live Again" to the haunted melancholy of "You Don't Know What Love Is," whether stretching the melody like taffy on "Never Will I Marry" (parried by Berklee classmate Jensen's darting trumpet) or finding a playfully bold character at the heart of the title tune. She effectively melds Nat Adderley's "The Old Country" with Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," and fully imbues "Born To Be Blue" with the remorseful mood inherent in its title. Kinhan's vulnerable, stripped-down version of "Save Your Love For Me" completely reimagines Wilson's iconic take - which Kinhan previously performed both with and for Wilson herself, first on a recording with the New York Voices and later with the Voices as part of Wilson's 2004 induction as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusion is Wilson's debut single, "Guess Who I Saw Today," whose lyrics haven't exactly aged well. Kinhan puts a new twist on the tune not only with her sly vocal performance - which acidly comments on a song that frames its tale of infidelity with some decidedly Eisenhower-era social mores - but with an updated arrangement that makes the song her own, apart from Wilson's quintessential version.
"(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am" was a fresh discovery for Kinhan in her research for the project. Despite Wilson's recording having won a Grammy in 1964, it was not that version but a less ornate live rendition that grabbed Kinhan's ear, and she takes a similar approach, powerfully singing with gospel-inflected soul accompanied only by Ezrin's lyrical piano and Penman's subtle bass. The at times inane lyrics of "Happy Talk" are sent up in a slapstick carnival atmosphere to close the album on a particularly offbeat note.
Recording the album with multiple Grammy-winner Elliot Scheiner at Berklee's state-of-the-art Shames Family Scoring Stage meant turning the studio into a classroom, a prospect that at first seemed daunting but that Kinhan quickly embraced. "The students brought a performance atmosphere to the session that was beautiful," she says. "Normally recording sessions can make you incredibly self-conscious, often putting yourself under the microscope, but knowing there was an audience was really liberating. The students witnessed great players laying it down right in front of their eyes, and that made for an inspired environment. The added bonus of sharing Nancy Wilson's legacy with them was a Sleepin' Bee we hope to have reawakened for generations to come."