Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rez Abbasi & Junction - Behind the Vibration (2016) CUNEIFORM RECORDS



Cover art and high res images available below for download “In his hands, the globe’s music feels relentlessly new and progressive.” - LA Times

"absorbing...engaging...and he’s judicious with his impressively fluent technique." - New York Times

Born in Pakistan’s teeming commercial metropolis Karachi and raised in Southern California, Abbasi is anything but a usual jazz player himself. He’s spent his creative life navigating the crossroads of disparate musical realms. 

While best known for his work as an improviser, and composer, Abbasi also performs internationally with Kiran Ahluwalia, and serves as musical director, arranger and producer in their evolving artistic collaboration. Their creatively charged relationship has resulted in several Juno Award-winning albums hailed as world music masterpieces (such as 2008’s Wanderlust and 2011’s collaboration with Tuareg rockers Tinariwen, Aam Zameen/Common Ground). Over the years he’s performed with a dazzling pantheon of giants such as Ruth Brown, Peter Erskine, Kenny Werner, Barre Phillips, Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, Gary Thomas, Dave Douglas, Mike Clark, Ronu Majumdar, Kadri Gopalnath, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Greg Osby, Howard Levy and many others. 

A junction is the point at which several things converge. For the visionary and award-winning jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi, his new band Junction weaves together musical currents he’s spent his career navigating. Abbasi has been at the center of some of the most enthralling and culturally expansive music of the past two decades, and his Cuneiform debut Behind the Vibration introduces a bracing new body of music, a sinewy 21st century approach to jazz-rock inspired by his far-flung influences. 

In myriad inspired collaborations, from the South Asian jazz synthesis of alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coaltion to the Punjab-meets-Tuareg vocal flights of Kiran Ahluwalia, Abbasi has manifested an uncommon gift for creating new sounds in settings deeply inflected by traditional forms. In his own projects, the Pakistani-American musician has displayed similarly fierce creativity, like his gorgeous unplugged reimagining of jazz-rock classics with the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet’s (RAAQ) critically hailed 2015 album Intents and Purposes (Enja), and his all-star quintet (and sometimes sextet) Invocation with Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, drummer Dan Weiss, (and latest addition cellist Elizabeth Means). 

“Everything I do musically is stimulated by call and response,” Abbasi says. “I did the Acoustic Quartet project of covers from the ‘70s jazz-rock period and that impacted me to want to do an electric project of all originals. The new album reflects a continuum of what I’ve been doing all along – finding fresh orchestrations to present my music through. In some ways this project connects me more directly back to my first love, the energy that comes out of rock music. I wrote new tunes for this band and it was time for all these musical worlds to collide.” 

Junction, the electric project that Abbasi formed to bring his original tunes to life, features Mark Shim on tenor saxophone and the electronic MIDI Wind Controller, Ben Stivers on keyboards, B-3 organ and Rhodes, and drummer Kenny Grohowski. The band is a supremely maleable ensemble that has forged a poised and texturally accute group approach. While exploring a vivid palette of electronic sounds and aggressive grooves, Junction maintains the dynamics, precise calibration, and interactive imperative of an inspired jazz ‘acoustic’ combo. 

Sonically surprising, the album opens with “Holy Butter,” a piece inspired by a collaboration with classical South Indian dancers. In the first of many sonic feints, what sounds like a deeply funky bass solo is actually Shim getting down with his MIDI Wind Controller. Indeed, not having a defined bass player is a significant element of Junction, opening up the band’s sound as Stivers and Shim alternate low end responsibilities. 

Inspired by the Arab Spring, “Groundswell” is a slowly ascending tune that, while originally written for another ensemble, comes home in Junction, with Stivers on B-3—“the first electric keyboard instrument,” Abbasi notes—and a searing Abbasi solo followed by Shim’s oragami-angular tenor. If that piece evokes the mounting of external pressure, “Uncommon Sense” suggests a wending internal spiritual journey with a hypnautically sinuous opening guitar line. As Abbasi puts it, “The title refers to a ‘sense’ that’s beyond our five and one that’s more difficult to connect to due to the clutter in our minds.” Before long, the becalmed lyricism gives way to a frantic search powered by Grohowski’s exceptionally deft trap work. 

A sparsely decorated noir scene that emerges and departs without pausing for a solo, “And I You” is a brief, cinematic mood piece that arrives mid-album like a shimmering urban oasis. “Self-Brewing” is one of the album’s most fusion-y pieces, with a steeplechase theme introduced by Abbasi and Shim on Midi Wind Controller. The album closes with “Matter Falls,” a mid-tempo anthem that hints at South Asian cadences. Both grand and invitingly intimate, it’s a crunching tune that points to further explorations. Clearly, Junction is just one stop on a spectacularly rich and incident-filled sojourn. 

More than a meeting place, Junction is a communion of four distinct voices. Born in Jamaica and raised in Richmond, Virginia, saxophonist Mark Shim has been a stand out on the New York scene since the mid-1990s. He first gained attention via bari legend 
Hamiett Bluiett, who featured him on his classic 1995 album Young Warrior, Old Warior (Mapleshade). He went on to work with heavy weights like Elvin Jones, Betty Carter, David Murray, Greg Osby, and the Mingus Big Band. More recently, he’s played a key role in the adventurous bands led by altoist Steve Lehman and pianist Vijay Iyer. 

“Mark is a ridiculous tenor saxophone player, but he’s also really into production, working with drum machines and producing people’s records,” Abbasi says. “He’s tapped into the Zeitgeist, the vibe that’s going on now and I’m open to all of it.” 

Raised in Las Vegas in a highly musical family, trained in classical and jazz, Ben Stivers got his start on the Miami studio scene collaborating extensively with the Bee Gees. A highly versatile player, he’s been sought out by the likes of Ricky Martin, Chris Botti, Matchbox Twenty, and Jose Feliciano. Since moving to New York, he’s also worked extensively in jazz settings. 

Drummer Kenny Grohowski is engaged in a similarly expansive array of projects. Raised in Miami, he’s a member of several internationally acclaimed ensembles, including bassist Lonnie Plaxico’s band, the heavy metal band Secret Chiefs 3 and Haitian singer Emeline Michel’s Acoustic Quintet. He’s collaborated with artists ranging from Vernon Reid, John Zorn and Bobby Sanabria to Bill T. Jones, Cassandra Wilson, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Daniel Bernard Roumain (a.k.a. DBR). 

“You don’t have many musicians as eclectic as these in the past,” Abbasi says. “For example, Kenny has all this modern heavy metal language and then he can turn around and earnestly play like Paul Motian or Tony Williams. Ben has been musical director and keyboardist for some huge pop acts but has also performed my complex Hindustani-influenced jazz music. The versatility is pretty unusual and tangible and that’s what this project is about, capturing and containing that vastness of energy in a ‘jazz’ experience.” 

Born in Pakistan’s teeming commercial metropolis Karachi and raised in Southern California, Abbasi is anything but a usual jazz player himself. He’s spent his creative life navigating the crossroads of disparate musical realms. Growing up in Torrance, he first gravitated to the guitar under the sway of rock bands like Rush, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. Straight ahead jazz had caught his ear by the time he started Palos Verdes High School and he thrived in the school’s respected band program (future tenor sax star Mark Turner was a classmate). He had his first guitar epiphany when a friend took him to see Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald. 

“I was 16 and at that age, technique and virtuosity are elements that bring you in,” Abbasi says. “The idea that an older gentleman could play circles around Eddie Van Halen was really striking. I realized I had a lot of work ahead of me. That same year, I saw Allan Holdsworth, the polar opposite of Pass, and that was another ear and eye opener that lead me into a different direction.” I do still love Pass and Holdsworth, but they didn’t end up becoming big influences, rather, in combination they revealed two very opposing sides of jazz.”

He wasn’t drawn to Hindustani music until he happened to attend a private party down the street from his house where tabla maestro Zakir Hussain was performing with santoor master Shivkumar Sharma “and it blew me away,” he recalls. “I felt that same elation when I saw Pass and Holdsworth. Sitting five feet away from these gentlemen, I was amazed by the striking sounds coming out of their instruments. I thought, I’ve got to get more involved with this side of my life, my roots.” 

After attending the University of Southern California, Abbasi made the move to New York City in the late 1980s to study jazz and classical music at Manhattan School of Music (while immersing himself in North Indian classical music on a pilgrimage to India under the tutelage of tabla giant Ustad Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain’s father). He made his recording debut as a leader in 1995 with Third Ear. Recognized as a strikingly original voice, Abbasi released a series of landmark sessions in the succeeding two decades focusing on his original compositions, including 2005’s Indo-jazz Snake Charmer with Indian-born vocalist/songwriter and now wife, Kiran Ahluwalia, and 2009’s Things To Come (Sunnyside) with Ahluwalia, Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Johannes Weidenmueller and Dan Weiss (an album hailed by DownBeat as one of the decade’s top CDs). 

In many ways 2009 was a banner year, as Abbasi received a prestigious Chamber Music America commission to compose new works for the same ensemble, Invocation. He also formed the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, or RAAQ, with vibraphonist Bill Ware, drummer Eric McPherson and bassist Stephan Crump, to explore both originals and cover tunes. He introduced a new trio with bassist John Hebért and drummer Satoshi Takeishi on 2013’s Continuous Beat (Enja), a group that like RAAQ interprets originals and ingenious modern jazz compositions. 

While best known for his work as an improviser, and composer, Abbasi also performs internationally with Kiran Ahluwalia, and serves as musical director, arranger and producer in their evolving artistic collaboration. Their creatively charged relationship has resulted in several Juno Award-winning albums hailed as world music masterpieces (such as 2008’s Wanderlust and 2011’s collaboration with Tuareg rockers Tinariwen, Aam Zameen/Common Ground). Over the years he’s performed with a dazzling pantheon of giants such as Ruth Brown, Peter Erskine, Kenny Werner, Barre Phillips, Tim Berne, Michael Formanek, Gary Thomas, Dave Douglas, Mike Clark, Ronu Majumdar, Kadri Gopalnath, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Greg Osby, Howard Levy and many others. 

With this newest album, Behind the Vibration, realized via his new electric Junction, Abbasi takes another bold step, embracing his rock ‘n’ roll roots with a bear hug that encompasses post-bop, South Asian traditions, and state of the art sonics. “More than anything that I’ve ever recorded, this album is the convergence of everything I’m interested in,” he says. “The musicians I’ve chosen are versatile enough to pull it off. It’s not only all of the influences that have come up to this point, it’s also the process of merging it with the technology of today. This is music that could’ve only happened now.”

01. Holy Butter 09:00
02. Groundswell 08:14
03. Inner Context 08:33
04. Uncommon Sense 08:55
05. And I You 03:12
06. Self-Brewing 06:20
07. New Rituals 09:06
08. Matter Falls 04:39

Released May 20, 2016 

Rez Abbasi & Junction: 
Rez Abbasi – guitar & composition 
Mark Shim – tenor saxophone & midi wind-controller 
Ben Stivers – keyboards, B3 organ, Rhodes 
Kenny Grohowski – drums 

All compositions by Rez Abbasi – Feroza Music, BMI. 

Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn by Michael Marciano, August 21–22, 2015. 
Mixed at Systems Two by Michael Marciano, Rez Abbasi & Max Ross. 
Mastered at Turtletone Studio by Michael Fossenkemper. 

Cover photo by Rez Abbasi. 
Band photos by Kiran Ahluwalia. 
Package design by Bill Ellsworth. 

Thank You: Kiran Ahluwalia; my parents; my in-laws; Robert Abbasi; Rudresh Mahanthappa; Tom Chang; Brice Rosenbloom; George Wein; Vikas & Jaishri Kapoor; Ted Makler; James & Mike at Red Hook Jazz Fest; Chris Tarry; Jaimeo Brown; Michael Marciano; Nancy Marciano; Max Ross; Steve and everyone at Cuneiform; Michael Fossenkemper; and, of course, Mark, Ben and Kenny for the music! 

Rez Abbasi uses D’Angelico guitars, D’Addario strings, DVmark & Evans amps, and Reunion Blues bags. 
Kenny Grohowski uses Bosphorus Cymbals.


New Standard Jazz Orchestra - Waltz About Nothing (2016)

Genre: Modern Big Band
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

“... NSJO sets new standards of excellence in contemporary big band music.” Ed Enright, DownBeat

Since its inception in 2013, the New Standard Jazz Orchestra has emerged as a serious musical force in Chicago, one with a voice all its own. Co-led by saxophonist Ken Partyka and trombonist Andy Baker, the band is filled with some of Chicago's finest musicians, composers and arrangers, several who provide the majority of the band's repertoire. Through their monthly residency at the famed Jazz Showcase, NSJO's arrangers mine the ensemble for subtle textures and colors, starting out simply and building in complexity, drawing on musical devices that range beyond the typical as they establish rich backdrops for solos by world-class improvisers such as John Wojciecowski, Marquis Hill, Mark Colby and Tom Garling.

 01. Metamorphosis 6:39
02. Spring and Fall 7:13
03. Waltz About Nothing 5:48
04. This One's For Sturm 7:33
05. Star Crossed Lovers 7:25
06. Samba for Someone 4:48
07. Lexicon 5:22
08. Bu's Groove 4:16
09. Close to You 5:48
10. Sedentary Motion 9:07
11. Milestones 7:30

Ken Partyka - alto & soprano sax, flute
Chris Madsen - alto sax, flute
Mark Colby - tenor sax, clarinet
John Wojciechowski - tenor sax, clarinet
Mark Hiebert - baritone sax, bass clarinet
Steve Leinheiser - additional woodwinds
Andy Baker - Trombone
Tom Garling - Trombone
Tim Coffman - Trombone
John Blane - Bass Trombone
Roger Ingram - Lead Trumpet
Chuck Parrish - Trumpet (split lead)
B.J. Cord - Trumpet
Marquis Hill - Trumpet
Dan Murphy - piano
Tim Fox - bass
Todd Howell - drums



Nich Mueller - Culture in Flames (2016)

Label: Self Released
Source: Anthem Review
Genre: Modern Jazz Creative
GAB's Rating: ★★★★☆

Originally hailing from Kalamazoo, Nich Mueller has been developing original music and a strong following in the Michigan area since his Downbeat Award winning debut album ‘All in A Day’ surfaced in 2011.
Nich received a Bachelors of Music in Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University, and during his formal education he studied under or interacted with great jazz musicians and esteemed educators including Billy Hart, Fred Hersch, Ed Simon, Darmon Meader, and Peter Eldridge, as well as the highly esteemed faculty at WMU.
Throughout his career, he has been privileged enough to have performed alongside greats such as Donny McCaslin, Bob Mintzer, Kurt Elling, Roger Treece, Matt Hughes, Keith Hall, and Phil Palombi; as well to have performed in venues and festivals such as Carnegie Hall, the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, and Jazz Educators Network. Nich Mueller currently resides in New York City.
‘Culture in Flames’ is Nich’s upcoming album set to be released on May 14th this year. It is the personalised musical statement of Nich and his band on the various thrills and issues we face living in the 21st century. Themes include digital age confusion, the experience of living in corporate controlled America, travel and self-discovery, the evolution of religion and spirituality, and personal trifles resulting from an increasingly distracting culture. 
1. I.D.I.C.
2. Top of a Tree
3. Somnambularmy
4. If Only
5. Continuity for the Clarification Crisis
6. Nature Boy
7. The Ultimatum
8. Beauty, Shakes Itself
9. Universe to View
10. Something to Take with You

Nich Mueller - Piano
Dominic Carioti - Sax
Brittney Harris - Cello
Adrian Moring - Bass
Marco Frey - Drums

Wójciński Szmańda Quartet - Delusions (2016) SLUCHAJ FUNDACJA


Thus, an entirely new chapter opened in our artistic careers, and it is no exaggeration to say that inviting Krzysztof Szmańda to collabotrate with us turned out to be its key element. Complete with his talent, we became a new band, which from now on we want to call Wójciński/Szmańda Q-tet. 
When we first entered the recording studio, our intention was simple and modest. We wanted to have a keepsake from our first musical tête-à-tête, whatever it was going to be like. It never even crossed our minds that this recording would soon become our debut album. 

Should we, therefore, abandon ourselves to chance, trust our fate or the -unrelenting and often impossible to see straight away- higher consequence of events? Sometimes when people meet to play together for the first time, something more is created than an even very sophisticated arrangement of sounds. Sometimes he magic of discovering music together again emerges from behind the notes, and a simple meeting becomes something impossible to describe because it only happens once. We believe that we had just such a moment, and would like to share it with you.

Released April 14, 2016

01. Flood 10:24
02. Saga of Dr Paranoid 07:26
03. Fatal Desire 13:13
04. Morning Craving 06:39
05. Face your Fate 10:47
06. No Context 06:27
07. Voice of Nature 09:25
08. Final Destination 05:47

Szymon Wójciński - piano 
Krzysztof Szmańda - drums 
Maurycy Wójciński - trumpet 
Ksawery Wójciński - bass 

Recorded In "Quality" Studio, December 2014 in Warszawie ul. Konwiktorska 7 
Recorded by Maurycy Wójciński 
Mix and Master - Maurycy Wójciński


Allison Burik Quartet - Mythos (2016)

Label: Self Released
Source: Allison Burik
Genre: Modern Creative Jazz
GAB's Rating: ★★★★☆  

Allison Burik grew up in the Kansas City jazz scene, where the tradition of jazz is so deeply rooted that it can be heard in the musicians playing there today. She has performed there as the headliner in her own ensemble, the Allison Burik Quintet, and also in a myriad of other ensembles including the New Jazz Order Big Band and the Black House Collective Composers Ensemble. She has performed as a featured artist at venues such as the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts and Take Five Coffee+Bar. In October of 2015, Burik went on tour with the Vid Jamnik 5tet in the Lorraine region of France and also performed in the Nancy Jazz Pulsations Jazz Fest. Burik released her first album, Lakeside, fall of 2014 and recently released a duo album entitled Umbrella Pine with guitarist Magdalena Abrego in September 2015. Over the years Allison has studied with notable instructors including George Garzone, Frank Tiberi, Bobby Watson, Shannon LeClaire, Tia Fuller and Dan Thomas. Today she is pursuing her degree in performance at Berklee College of Music under a full scholarship, while living and gigging in Boston.

1. Antlers 04:53
2. Wendigo 07:35
3. Kitsune 06:22
4. The House of the North Wind 08:43
5. Hugin and Munin* 04:12
6. Dragon Song 04:42
7. Out of Arcady 04:59

Allison Burik - Saxophone, vocals, compositions
Magdalena Abrego - Guitar
Seulgi Hwang - Bass
Willis Edmundson - Drums

*Special Guest George Garzone - Tenor Sax 



Marcin Olak Quartet - Bessarabian Journey (2016) SLUCHAJ FUNDACJA


Marcin would like to thank: Miron Zajfert - for telling me about Bessarabia and introducing me to this wonderful music, Tomasz Kaliński - for helping us get into NInA for the recording session, Michał Kupicz - for the great sound of the record, and extremely fast work - WOW!, Patryk Zakrocki, Maciej Szczyciński, Krzyś Szmańda - you are great musicians, friends and wonderful people, it's an honour to play with you. If you have managed to get as far as here, the hidden track is called ‘Gone’. Hope you have enjoyed finding it. 
The "Bessarabian Journey" was created especially for the New Jewish Music Festival, inspired by its director Miron Zajfert. 
This album is dedicated to my Wife, Agnieszka.

Released April 14, 2016

01. Doina (trad./M. Olak) 06:54
02. Dem Zeydns Tantz (trad./M. Olak) 03:51
03. Mazltov (trad./M. Olak) 05:09
04. Missing Landscape (P. Zakrocki/M. Olak) 02:33
05. Shabes Nign I (trad./M. Olak) 05:11
06. Shabes Nign II (trad./M. Olak) 05:34
07. Shabes Nign III (trad./M. Olak) 05:20
08. Karliner (trad./M. Olak) 06:01
09. Bessarabian Journey (M. Olak) 04:32
10. Gone 02:19

Marcin Olak - electric and acoustic guitars 
Patryk Zakrocki - viola 
Maciej Szczyciński - double bass 
Krzysztof Szmańda - drums 

Recording and mix - Michał Kupicz 

Recorded live @ Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, Concert Hall “Ziemia Obiecana”, 3. March, 2016.


Lafayette Harris - Hangin' With The Big Boys (2016) JAZZ PROMO SERVICES


Lafayette Harris
"Hangin' With The Big Boys”
CD Release Show

Lafayette Harris  "Hangin' With The Big Boys” 
(Airmen Records AAM3581) Street Date: May 6, 2016

Lafayette Harris Jr. piano
Houston Person tenor sax (on no’s 1,2, 7, 8, 10)
Antoine Drye trumpet
George Delancey bass
Will Terrill drums
Caleb Curtis alto and soprano sax
Jazzmeia Horn vocal
Noel Simone Wippler vocal

This CD was recorded live in front of an invited audience. Except for very small edits, what you hear is what we played.

1. Blue Skies 3:18    
I wanted to interpret this great Irving Berlin standard with the swinging Mr. Houston Person, and I thought the two young vocalists could have fun with it. 

2. In A Sentimental Mood  6:15
This has always been one of my favorite Duke pieces, and Houston Person, who recorded it on his like-titled CD, proves again that he’s the ballad master!

3. Hangin' With The Big Boys 3:33    
I composed the title track back in the 1990s when I had my group with Cindy Blackman, Terell Stafford, and Don Braden. I still think fondly of them when I play it.

4. We In The House 7:25
Another tune from that time. Cindy Blackman put that “Sister Cheryl” beat to it way back then, when I got to do it as a member of her band. We used it as a tribute to Tony Williams when he passed away so suddenly.

5. Don't Worry About It 0:55
This is actually my first composition, written when I was in high school at Baltimore Polytechnic. It stayed in my head all this time and I finally gave it a title and started playing it only a few years ago. Here, I use it as an interlude—sans piano.

6. The Zombie Blues 6:54
In 2011 I was working with the choreographer Candice Franklin. She liked my tune "Blues On The Edge" and asked me to write something similar for her company. I used a piano riff by Duke Ellington as the basis of the composition, along with the free jazz influences I picked up playing with Max Roach and with Roswell Rudd. I wanted a real expression of freedom from the bass and drums. It was a challenge to get the musicians to really go free. Then I mentioned Sonny Murray and it was like I gave them permission to go nuts! 

7. Little Kevin's Embrace 6:31
This tune from my very first CD also appears on my solo CD. I wanted to do it again, adding the human voice. And since it’s very much rooted in the blues, I let Houston Person work his soulful magic.

8. Drinking Wine Blues  5:42
I wrote this blues at the Station Café in Brooklyn, while I was—what else? Drinking wine! After we recorded a couple of takes Jazz Judy, an old friend who’d come to the session, suggested that I not play the melody while Ms. Horn delivers it. So that’s what we did.

9. The Wheelhouse 3:24    
Caleb’s writing is unique, and different from my style. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to interpret his tune in my own voice.

10. The Very Thought Of You 7:40
I’m in awe of Ray Noble’s compositions—they vary so much and are always such fun to play. Houston Person blows this tune up!

11. They All Laughed 5:12
I’d been playing this Barry Harris–influenced arrangement for a while, and then one night at Trumpets, Houston asked me to play a solo piece. The great bassist Ray Drummond joined in, figuring out my arrangement wonderfully as he went along. Houston dug it so much he used it on his CD The Melody Lingers On. Here, Antoine lays out until it’s time for him to solo.


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