Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Elektra Kurtis: Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra - Bridges from the East (2016) KARI-ON PRODUCTIONS

Internationally acclaimed violinist, educator and composer Elektra Kurtis is inspired by living music as well as iconic composers like Bartok, Stravinsky, Bach, Thelonious Monk and other 20th century composers.


Critics, Listings, Features

Elektra Kurtis
#Bridges from the East

Artist: Elektra Kurtis
CD Title: Bridges from the East
Label: Elektra Sound Works/Milo Records
Street Date: May 27, 2016


Western Guilford Stinger Jazz Band - Bones Jones (2016)

The WGHS Instrumental Music Program receives, on average, less than $700 a year from Guildford County. That amount is supposed to fund six performance groups – supplying sheet music, covering travel costs and competition fees, repairing instruments, and equipping the classroom. As a reference, sheet music for single song for one of these groups averages about $100.

Raising the money to fund all these groups, and their activities, one of the primary function of the WGHS Band Boosters. The group is always looking for new ways to do this. Last spring, one of its members suggested the Stinger Jazz Band produce and sell a CD to raise money. Kiyoshi Cater, the director of Instrumental Music as Western Guilford needed no convincing. “What a great opportunity for our students. This is not just a chance for them to showcase their talents, but a wonderful learning experience as well. Studio recording is not an opportunity that most high school musicians have. If this were a break even proposition, it would be well worth it, but to have it make money for the WGHS Music Program, it’s a no brainer.”

Last January, the WGHS Stinger Jazz Band went to Earthtones Recording Studio in downtown Greensboro and recorded their first ever CD, “The Elm Street Sessions”. Benjy Jonson, owner and operator at Earthtones had this to say, “We pushed the boundaries of space and time ... but mostly space. Their horn section (all 16 of them) crammed into my drum room and proceeded to knock my socks off! This ain't just some kids doing it for a grade, this is one killer disc of standards and classics.” 

“This was not only a project for the Instrumental Music Department at Western,” says Graham Murphy, Band Boosters president. “The Art Department at WGHS was involved as well. The artwork for the CD was done by students at Western Guilford. Endless thanks go to Music Director Kiyoshi Carter and Art Teacher Kelsey Gagnon-Mathews for taking on this grand project with such willingness and energy.”

So, how did it turnout? “We sold out, all 200 copies. There are still a few “Elm Street Sessions” CDs available online through cdbaby.com. Maybe the coolest part of this project … it is available for download on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.” The Band Boosters shared a portion of the proceeds from the project with the WGHS Art Department.

“Our first CD was so well received,” says program Kiyoshi Carter, “we decided to make a Holiday CD. The students began working on Christmas tunes as soon as school started in August.” The jazz band recorded in late October and early November. Their Holiday CD, “Comfort & Joy” debuted at the WGHS Holiday Concert on December 15th. Again, it was a success.
“We sold 2/3 of our inventory that night,” recalls Graham Murphy. “It was really special; we were able to incorporate even more artwork from WGHS students, too. The cover art was done by one of the trumpet players in the jazz band. How cool is that!”

The Stinger Jazz Band is not done yet. This semester, they are returning to the studio to make another CD of jazz standards. “Last spring’s cd featured the seniors in the Stinger Jazz Band, with pictures and commentary from each of them. We hope that the spring CD continues to be an annual event, giving the seniors a unique way to commemorate their time at Western. It is a great way to showcase our student’s talents and raise much needed money for our programs”. Like the two previous discs, they will be sold through the WGHS Instrumental Music Department, the Band Boosters, and available for download online with iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. The Western Guilford Stinger Jazz Band also has a Facebook page, with videos and commentary, to follow their progress in the studio.

1. Hay Burner
2. Granada Smoothie
3. Lover Man
4. Two Seconds to Midnight
5. RVA All Day
6. Hip to Be Square
7. Second Line



NEW YORK, March 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Trumpet player Theo Croker's new album, Escape Velocity, arrives unchecked and un-filtered. It doesn't attempt to fit a single specific musical category, but draws upon the first principle of jazz: to merge and interpret history, styles and ideas and create a unique sound. Escape Velocity (DDB Records/OKeh), due May 6th, and featuring his band DVRK FUNK (pronounced DARK FUNK) is Croker's second album since returning from China where he lived and worked for nearly a decade.

DVRK FUNK includes Anthony Ware on tenor saxophone and flute, pianist Michael King, bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Kassa Overall. Saxophone player Irwin Hall also plays on the album. Of the group's name Croker explains: "Darkness has been labeled as a negative thing but the outer reaches of space are dark. Where life starts is dark. Dark is an endless possibility, infinite and unknown. That's what we're about."

It is clear from the opening notes of songs like "Raise Your Vibrations" that this is Croker's world. The glistening glow of keyboards and cymbals float around him as he establishes the band's intentions from mission control. "It's a summons for the listeners to open up their minds and to let them vibrate for the rest of the album."

Songs on the album range from spiritual to upbeat, and are sometimes invested with a commitment to with current events. For example: "We Can't Breathe," Croker observes, "That's about Eric Garner. That's about Trayvon. That's about reflecting everything that is going on in the world, but 'It's Gonna Be Alright' is the response to that. No matter what we deal with, remember it's going to be alright." An anthem of succinct horn lines and joyous vocals, Croker's message carries notes of both optimism and melancholy.

"A Call to the Ancestors" and "Meditations" are the results of communing with the spirits. "A lot of people assume that meditation is very calm, a quiet very clear thing," says Croker. "But it can also have a lot of turbulence. When I get to a good point in meditation, I feel like I am traversing through dimensions." Michael King takes advantage of his opportunity to stride across the piano, digging up a rapid sprint over the pounding percussion.

"Love From The Sun" is an homage to and a collaboration with Dee Dee Bridgewater. The renowned jazz diva, who has served as a mentor to Croker for nearly a decade, revisits a song which she first recorded in 1974. Here Croker overlays a live recording he performed with Bridgewater with a new studio performance from the inimitable vocalist.

The organ-driven pop of "Changes" is loaded with rhythmic energy and cosmic textures, a swelling culmination for a telekinetic band. Marching off in style, DVRK FUNK settles down with "RaHspect (Amen)," a tempered farewell that pairs Croker with King's responsive piano.

"We're always pushing our music as far as we can push it," Croker says of the album. "We're not changing the game, we are creating a new version of the game that hopefully is all our own."

For anyone looking to learn the rules, put your headphones on. 

About Theo Croker

Theo Croker is a trumpeter, vocalist, composer, and bandleader whose powerful and eclectic take on modern jazz pays respect to the tradition of the music while moving the genre forward.

A native of Leesburg, Florida, Croker is the grandson of the late great jazz trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Croker began playing trumpet at age 11 after hearing Cheatham play in New York City, and by his teens was studying music formally at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville followed by the Music Conservatory at Oberlin College.

Croker's musical training has taken him all over the world including Shanghai, China where he took up residency at the House of Blues and refined his style. Shanghai is also where Croker met his mentor, Dee Dee Bridgewater, whom he performs with often.

Escape Velocity is Croker's second album with OKeh Records. His debut, AfroPhysicist, was released in 2014.

Theo Croker · Escape Velocity
DDB Records via Sony Music Masterworks/OKeh · Release Date: May 6, 2016

Sony Music Masterworks comprises the Masterworks, Sony Classical, OKeh, Portrait, Masterworks Broadway and Flying Buddha imprints. For email updates and information please visit www.SonyMasterworks.com

01. Raise Your Vibrations
02. Transcend
03. This Could Be (for the Travelling Soul)
04. In Orbit
05. No Escape from Blues
06. The Right Time
07. A Call to the Ancestors
08. Meditations
09. We Can't Breathe
10. It's Gonna be Alright
11. Because of You
12. Real Episode
13. Love from the Sun (feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater)
14. Changes
15. RaHspect (Amen)

Theo Croker / Trumpet
Kassa Overall / Drums
Irwin Hall / Alto Saxophone / Flute / Bass Clarinet
Michael King / Keys
Eric Wheeler / Bass
Anthony Ware / Baritone Saxophone
Ben Eunson / Guitar
Femi Temowo / Guitar
& guest Dee Dee Bridgewater / Vocals

For more information, please contact:

DL Media
Maureen McFadden · maureen@dlmediamusic.com · 610-667-0501  
Matthew Jurasek · matthew@dlmediamusic.com · 610-667-0501 

Sony Masterworks
Angela Barkan · angela.barkan@sonymusic.com · 212-833-8575 
Larissa Slezak · larissa.slezak@sonymusic.com · 212-833-6075

Connect With Theo:
Twitter: @theocroker 
Instagram: @theocroker                       

Buy/Listen Links:

SOURCE OKeh/Sony Music Masterworks

Peter Bernstein - Let Loose (2016) SMOKE SESSIONS RECORDS



His unerring, relaxed swing, his stunning gift for crafting and developing sophisticated melodies, the un-showy but absorbing narrative arc of his solos, the just plain rightness of his in-the-moment choices—all of these account for his well-established status as one of the most in-demand musicians on the New York jazz scene.

Let Loose, Bernstein’s debut release for Smoke Sessions Records, shifts the focus to Bernstein the composer. Five of the album’s nine tracks stem from the guitarist’s pen. It also features a quartet of artists who are equally well versed in tradition and innovation, who can breathe ecstatic life into these pieces while simultaneously anchoring them with deep roots. Bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart are longtime collaborators stretching back nearly three decades. Gerald Clayton is the newcomer but brings along a reputation as one of the most respected pianists of his generation.

The spirit of the session is pithily captured in the title of the album: Let Loose, a case of simplicity masking complexity. The surface meaning suggests an unbridling of passion, an opening of the floodgates of expression that definitely characterizes the playing of all four members of the quartet. But there’s also the suggestion of the need to allow oneself to be loose, free, open to whatever may come—a guiding principle on the stage as well as off.

1. Let Loose
2. Resplendor
3. Hidden Pockets
4. Tres Palabras
5. Cupcake
6. Lullaby for B
7. Sweet Love of Mine
8. Blue Gardenia
9. This Is New

Gerald Clayton, piano
Doug Weiss, bass
Bill Stewart, drums