Friday, July 1, 2016

Rich Halley 5 - The Outlier (2016)

Saxophonist/composer Rich Halley releases The Outlier

New CD on Pine Eagle Records featuring multi-reed player Vinny Golia, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley

The Outlier is the new recording by the Rich Halley 5 and features a mix of new original compositions by Rich Halley and free improvisations by the group. The addition of Vinny Golia's baritone sax and bass clarinet to the front line creates new colors, textures and harmonic possibilities which energize the music.  The Outlier combines roots, exploration and real emotion in an engaging and powerful statement.

Rich Halley has released nineteen recordings as a leader.  The Outlier follows the Rich Halley 4's earlier Eleven, Creating Structure, The Wisdom of Rocks, Crossing the Passes, Back from Beyond and Requiem for a Pit Viper, all critically acclaimed.

"Creating StructureŠdemonstrates the almost telepathic bond between these musicians, five albums (and counting) into their collective journey." -Phil Freeman, The New York City Jazz Record

"With the captivating "Eleven" Halley hits a high point in his otherwise superlative career. He and his 4, with their original and masterful explorations, keep the innovative spirit of the free jazz movement alive."  - Hrayr Attarian, Jazz Times 

"Halley has a big, full-throated sound that may recall prime Sonny Rollins." -Kevin Whitehead, Fresh Air, National Public Radio

"One of the best working quartets in jazz today." -Robert Ianapollo, Cadence

Francisco Pais Lotus Project - Verde (2016)

Guitarist Francisco Pais' Lotus Project merges genres and keeps pushing boundaries on his new Album Verde

Featuring Myron Walden, Godwin Louis, Ferenc Nemeth, Julian Shore and Connor Schultze

Available September 23, 2016 on Product of Imagination Records

CD release concerts  o October 14 at The Cell, NYC  o October 21 at Gilder Center for the Arts, Providence, RI   o November 19 at Tiverton Sandywoods Arts Center, Tiverton, RI

"Francisco Pais is an incredibly talented composer and arranger; he is dedicated and I support him and believe in him." 

Esperanza Spalding

After three highly acclaimed albums, Portuguese born guitarist Francisco Pais has been exploring new music relentlessly with some of the most influential young lions in NYC. He is a creative tour-de-force who never ceases to try push the limits of what can be done in music.

For Pais this new album Verde means expansion. "When I make an album I am always driven by the creative collaborations I will have in order to give birth to any project. These musicians share my energy, my passion, my emotions and they believe in my music and my message. The expansion means getting bigger in depth though not in size," explains Francisco.

It's hard to describe what makes a musical collaboration work - there has to be just the right balance of tension and sympathy. That's what happens in Verde from the first note in the album. Francisco comments, "To be recording with the people I admire and love, my friends, it's truly a blessing. There is a connection amongst all of us. My goal is to facilitate a point of entry in my music that will allow everyone's unique skills and voice to be heard in a bold and honest manner. I see this recording as a ritual and an opportunity to birth creative impact in a world that needs light to shine trough. I am exploring my capacity for change. I am always evolving."

These musicians have been performing together for over 10 years, and the resulting instinctive, organic rapport shines through on Verde. The lineup for this album features saxophonists Myron Walden and Godwin Louis, longtime partner in crime drummer Ferenc Nemeth, pianist Julian Shore and bassist Connor Schultze.

Although this is a new band, Francisco shares a deep musical history with each musician. "I've been playing and touring with Ferenc since our Berklee years. Berklee sponsored my group to tour in Europe every year over the summer. It was a complete blast. I played several gigs with Myron in NYC and he was the sound that I was looking for. This perfect combination of soulfulness and artistry is why I invited him to play on both my 3rd album Raise Your Vibration and this one  In addition, I spent a handful of great years playing and recording with Julian Shore and Connor Schultze.

The sonic landscape presented on Verde is quite different from Francisco's 2012 and 2014 releases. This is a guitar heavy album, and the music is presented without edits or isolation, as captured in pristine detail by engineer Mike Perez at Big Orange Sheep Studios in Brooklyn and mixed by Grammy award winner and engineering guru James Farber at Shelter Island Studios in Manhattan. Senior mastering engineer Greg Calby at Sterling Sound in NYC did the final polish of Verde. Greg is a Grammy award winner that mastered artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul Simon to name a few.

While not a tribute recording in any way, this recording shows Francisco honoring all the guitarists who have inspired and informed his completely unique approach to the instrument and compostitions. You'll heard a myriad of sounds such as slide guitar, a screaming bluesy distortion, acoustic guitar, some drum'n' bass guitar synth sounds with reverse delays and a warm jazz vibrato guitar sound complementing his compositions in this album.  Francisco says, "This album embodies the deep inspiration I have taken over the years from my earliest guitar heroes, including Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Hendrix and Eric Clapton to name a few." Francisco filters his myriad influences (indie rock, R&B, jazz, Brazilian folk) into a singular, electrifying sound on Verde.

"I use to get all these magazines like Guitar Player and learn all the guitar licks in it. When I was a teenager at 14 I had a rock band and we played all kinds of hard rock, indie rock, funk and blues music. I was both the main vocalist and the lead guitarist. I used a Fender Stratocaster with a Floyd Rose. It was a blast! "

The tittle of the album Verde means green. "I come from a small village in Portugal called Sintra and there are thousands of shades of green over there. It's a magical stretch of mountains with Castles and Palaces that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. For me green is the color of hope and it has always been my favorite color. It also relates to our 4th Chakra located in our heart, called Anahata. I like to be aware of where the music is coming from and more than anything I wanted this music to shine through my heart. I wanted to encourage people to have an awakening during these crazy times. Lots of people are numb, consumed by technology, in fear of sending their children to school when we should be holding hands empowering each other. We must awake and teach each other not to give mental energy and unconscious loyalty to public figures who are shallow role models. We need to shine light and not criticize someone else's ability to shine light. We need a collective awakening."

A devoted yogi, Pais has played his own music all over the world with some of the best musicians in the New York scene. After an audition in Paris in 1998, Pais was awarded a scholarship to come to the United States to study jazz performance at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2002, he graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Music Performance. In the following years he toured throughout the world playing at venues including Smalls, Shapeshifter and Joe's Pub (New York City), Ryles (Boston), The Rex and Trane Studio (Toronto), and Ducs des Lombards (Paris), among many others. Pais has also performed with a number of prominent musicians including Chris Cheek, Marcus Strickland, Seamus Blake, Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens, Myron Walden, Alvin Atkinson and Justin Brown. Pais has received numerous awards for his work from the Doris Duke Foundation, Chamber Music America and Rhode Island State Council for the Arts.

"Francisco's guitar playing is tossed with a challenging and tasteful blend of beautiful harmony and melody lines. What a great player." - Lionel Loueke (Blue Note recording artist / Herbie Hancock guitarist)

"Francisco Pais can really play up a storm" - Lyle Robinson,

" He is an amazingly talented guitarist and band leader." - Bob Karlovits The Pittsburg Tribune Review

"While Pais is a stellar guitarist and a compositional beast, he now assumes the role of vocalist..."

"One does not have to practice yoga or any other meditative practice to gain insight or to have special appreciation for this delightful release. It is rare that an album contains such honesty and passion that both a visceral and cerebral connection can be made by all that should take the time to simply listen....Incredibly inventive and highly entertaining. A stunning recording on more levels then I have space to print..." by Brent Black,   

"...Pais has energy, ambition and desire. He proves through his music that the creative spirit can release thousands of impressions at once. His guitar soars in passionate displays that weave strong ties with his band mates. Their cohesive union makes for a strong foundation, which in turn releases a creative tide...Pais establishes a magical ballad countenance that enchants." By Jim Santella All About Jazz


The Fred Hersch Trio - Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016) PALMETTO RECORDS


Jazz is too often portrayed as an art form defined by blazing young artists. It's true that many jazz masters reach a mid-career plateau marked by small variations on a mature style. But there's also a vanguard of players and composers who continue to refine and expand the art form in middle age and beyond, like Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Henry Threadgill, and piano maestro Fred Hersch, who is marking his 60th year with an astonishing creative surge. Slated for release by his longtime label Palmetto on August 12, 2016, Hersch's new recording Sunday Night at the Vanguard stands as the most profound and enthralling trio statement yet by an improviser whose bands have embodied the enduring relevance of the piano-bass-and-drums format for three decades.

With Sunday, Hersch's trio gracefully leapfrogs past its already daunting accomplishments. Featuring the exquisitely interactive bassist John Hébert and extraordinarily sensitive drummer Eric McPherson, the ensemble has recorded a series of critically hailed albums over the past seven years, including 2012's Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard, a double album that earned France's top jazz award, the Grand Prix du Disque, and 2014's lavishly praised Floating, a double Grammy®-nominee (both on Palmetto).

Recorded at the storied venue that's become Hersch's second home, Sunday Night at the Vanguard unfolds with all the dramatic intensity and narrative drive that make his performances a revelatory experience. Ebulliently playful and ravishingly lyrical, rhythmically elastic and harmonically exploratory, the trio plays with an extraordinary level of trust, assurance, high-wire poise and musicality throughout the set. "The thing that's beautiful about Eric is his touch," Hersch says. "He's the straight man and John is the loose guy, though sometimes they reverse it."

Hersch had only played "A Cockeyed Optimist" with the trio a few times when he called the rarely heard Rodgers and Hammerstein gem as the evening's opening tune. From the first notes of the gentle intro he sensed the group was in a special zone, and aside from two pieces drawn from the night's second set the album unfolds exactly as the trio delivered it. "I'm always looking for tunes on the obscure side," Hersch says. "The trio had played it a couple of times, but never to open a set, and as soon as we started I knew it was going to be a good night. This is by far my best trio album and it represents about as well as we can play."

There are familiar Hersch touchstones along the way, with several memorable new pieces. The latest in his long line of character studies, "Serpentine" was inspired by a close associate of Ornette Coleman's, and the tune captures her mysterious and alluring air. "The Optimum Thing" is his clever contrafact based on the chord changes to Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing for You," and it exemplifies the trio's elastic sense of time, as the song opens at a brisk, tumbling tempo and accelerates into a sweat-inducing gallop (other nights it's a study in deceleration).

Of the album's numerous startlingly beautiful passages, the trio's aching rendition of Lennon and McCartney "For No One," stands out. He recorded the song with Janis Siegel on the 1994 duo project Slow Hot Wind and uses essentially the same arrangement here. But now it's Hersch's piano delivering the melody at a dolorous tempo, drawing out the tune's quiet desperation. While the Beatles recording is more snappy than despondent, "it's really a song about a break up, and maybe the saddest lyric they ever wrote," Hersch says. "I slowed it down with Janis and added some beats on 'linger on.' When we play it people really react to it."

Hersch recorded Kenny Wheeler's jubilant "Everybody's Song But My Own" as the title track of a 2013 Japanese trio album focused on standards. He played the terpsichorean tune with Wheeler many times, and now it serves as a gripping tribute to the brilliant trumpeter/composer, who died last year. He follows with a recent original, "Blackwing Palomino," which not coincidentally is the name of the storied writing implement with which Hersch notated the bluesy piece. A self-confessed pencil geek, he notes that the brand "was the favorite of Tennessee Williams. The company just started making them again, and I buy them by the dozens. I was rehearsing with Ravi Coltrane recently and we started talking pencils and he said I should write a tune with Blackwing in the title. The slogan on the pencil is 'Half the pressure. Twice the result.'"

Cryptic, open-hearted and filigreed, Hersch's "Calligram (for Benoit Delbecq)" is dedicated to the brilliant French pianist who often renders compositions with graphic scores that he calls calligrams. They did a double-trio project with electronics several years ago ("I think he's a genius," Hersch says), and he wrote this pleasingly unresolved tune with Delbecq in mind. If "Calligram" evokes a Rube Goldberg playground, Jimmy Rowles' sylvan ballad "The Peacocks," is a shimmering pastel landscape. Recorded several times previously by Hersch (who got the original sheet music from Rowles himself), this extended version is transcendent.

He closes the set with a rollicking rendition of "We See," a Monk tune he's never recorded before. And then returns for a solo encore, "Valentine," a tune that earned a Grammy nomination for best instrumental composition when it was released on 2002's Live at Bimhaus. "I always end with Monk," Hersch says, "and always play 'Valentine' as an encore, which leaves the audience feeling groovy and happy."

No artist in the past three decades has used the Vanguard more effectively than Hersch. He made his debut at the jazz Mecca in the late 1970s with a 12-piece band co-led by bass legend Sam Jones and rising trumpeter Tom Harrell, the first of dozens of sideman stints at the club. He performed there regularly with Joe Henderson throughout the 1980s, often with Ron Carter and Al Foster ("That was graduate school," Hersch says). He made his Vanguard debut as a leader in 1996 with his celebrated trio featuring Drew Gress and Tom Rainey. "I think I could have played there before 1996 had I been willing to hire an all-star rhythm section, but I wanted to wait until I could do it on my own terms," Hersch says. "Now they say do what you want to do, and it doesn't have to be a concept or tribute. I'm so honored and humbled that my photo is on the wall, next to Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Mingus."

And the Vanguard is hardly Hersch's only showcase. He returns to the Jazz Standard in May for his 10th annual Duo Invitation Series with trumpeter Avishai Cohen, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Julian Lage, Kate McGarry, Yosvany Terry, and Anat Cohen (with whom he's touring the West Coast in June).

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Hersch studied music theory and composition in elementary school and sang in high school theater productions. It wasn't until he started attending Iowa's Grinnell College that he turned on to jazz. (Grinnell is awarding him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters this year). But the bug really bit him when he went home for the holidays and happened into a Cincinnati jazz club. He ended up dropping out of school and earned his stripes with veteran musicians on local bandstands. After honing his chops for 18 months he enrolled at New England Conservatory to work with jazz piano legend Jaki Byard, and made the move to New York City in 1977 after earning a BM with Honors (he started teaching at NEC in 1980 and retired last year after 35 years on faculty).

Hersch quickly gained recognition as a superlative band-mate, performing and recording with masters such as Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Billy Harper, Lee Konitz, Art Farmer, Gary Burton, Toots Thielemans, and many others. Since releasing his first album under his own name he's recorded in an array of settings, including a series of captivating solo recitals, duos with vocalists Janis Siegel and Norma Winstone, and ambitious extended compositional projects including a widely-praised setting of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." As an educator, he has shepherded some of the finest young pianists in jazz through his teaching at NEC, Juilliard, Rutgers and the New School. A leading force in galvanizing the jazz community in the fights against HIV/AIDS, he produced 1994's all-star benefit project Last Night When We Were Young: The Ballad Album.

He's gained the most widespread visibility as the leader of a series of remarkable trios. From his first session with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron, he's pushed at the limits of lyricism and temporal fluidity with similarly searching improvisers. He has consistently drawn deeply from the music's most refined players while forging his own approach. He considers his current trio, with John Hébert and Eric McPherson, as his best to date. "I always say that as a player there are three main threads that come to prominence at different times," Hersch says. "There's the trio, which is a constant. I've been doing duo encounters steadily going way back to Jane Ira Bloom in the early 1980s. But I think solo feels equal to the trio in terms of being the hub of my musical wheel. My solo playing feeds my trio and vice versa."

A feature length film, The Ballad of Fred Hersch, recently premiered to rapturous reviews at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and Hersch is busy at work on a memoir (working title: Good Things Happen Slowly) for Crown/Random House due in stores Spring 2017.


Blackwing Palomino