Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quinsin Nachoff - Flux (September 16, 2016)

Saxophonist/Composer Quinsin Nachoff combines jazz invention 
and classical intricacy on extraordinary new CD

Flux, out September 16, features unconventional bass-less quartet with 
David Binney, Matt Mitchell, and Kenny Wollesen

“Pure, bracing, thought-provoking music…cliche-and convention-free.” 
—Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen, reviewing Flux’s debut concert

“[Nachoff’s writing is] bold, diverse and filled with compelling
counterpoint.” – James Hale, DownBeat

Saxophonist/composer Quinsin Nachoff brilliantly captures the sound of evolution on his latest release, Flux, due out September 16 from Mythology Records. Exploring the elusive terrain between modern jazz and contemporary classical, between the cerebral and the organic, Nachoff reveals a fervently original sound that evokes bold, incisive playing from a singularly innovative quartet. Nachoff’s vision asserts that the state of flux can represent shape-shifting invention rather than uncertainty – though he’s certainly not afraid to venture into the untested unknown.

The bass-less quartet of Flux is entirely composed of leaders in their own right, each known for their groundbreaking adventurousness. Alto saxophonist David Binney, whose Mythology label is releasing the album, is a prolific and forward-thinking player and composer as well as being an influential producer whose collaborators have included Donny McCaslin, Uri Caine and Chris Potter. Pianist/keyboardist Matt Mitchell has seized a place at the leading edge of the music through his jaw-dropping work with the likes of Dave Douglas, Tim Berne and Rudresh Mahanthappa. And drummer Kenny Wollesen is a founding member of the New Klezmer Trio and Sex Mob whose diverse resumé includes work with Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, Tom Waits and John Zorn.

These four come together to breathe vivid life into Nachoff’s wide-ranging compositions, which continue to develop his longtime interest in fusing together eclectic influences from jazz and classical music. Don’t mistake this for a “Third Stream” or “chamber-jazz” project, however; this is radically creative music that forges its own path.

“The kind of music that I’m interested in making isn’t straightahead in either genre,” says Nachoff, who has composed for string and brass ensembles as well as jazz big bands. “I like mixing and matching things. I try to find commonalities between them to put people into different landscapes to improvise in.”

Flux was born out of a time when Nachoff’s life was in a state of flux itself. The Toronto native was in the process of moving to New York City and finding a new niche for himself in the jazz mecca’s ultra-competitive scene. “It’s quite a transition going from working a lot and teaching at well-respected schools to starting again from scratch,” he says.

Nachoff discovered kinships with the members of the Flux quartet in different ways: Binney on shared gigs with bassist Michael Herring, Mitchell during an Australian tour under Nachoff’s leadership, Wollesen simply through hearing the drummer play with bassist Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas ensemble. “I was blown away by his incredible feel,” Nachoff says of his first experience hearing Wollesen live. “I was infatuated with his hi-hat the whole night - which was only playing quarter notes!”

At the core of the sound of Flux is two pairings – the twin saxophone frontline, and the alchemical, opposites-attract meeting of Mitchell and Wollesen. “The concept was to put more heady material that Matt can deal with on top of this really organic feel that Kenny does and have it work as a band sound.”

The compositions that Nachoff brings to the quartet fully explore that tension between the band’s virtuosity and passion, which fuel each other in thrilling ways. With the two saxophones, Mitchell playing a variety of keyboards including Fender Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer, and Moog, and Wollesen incorporating a variety of handmade percussion instruments, the palette that Nachoff had to work with, in his often surprising orchestrations, was vast. 

Several of the pieces on Flux began life as commissions for classical ensembles, reinvented for and by the quartet. Aptly-named opener “Tightrope” is Nachoff’s response to the Toca Loca ensemble’s request for a “pop” influenced piece – allowing for as abstract an interpretation of that proviso as desired. The piece follows a loose verse-chorus structure with an underlying rock feel to the rhythm – and Mitchell interpreting two keyboard parts into one intricate whole.

“Complementary Opposites” is derived from a suite penned for trumpeter Peter Knight’s 5+2 Brass Ensemble and is built on surprising juxtapositions of style and rhythm – as when a reggae groove suddenly takes over the piece somewhere in the middle. The two-part “Mind’s Ear” comes from a suite written for the Greg Runions Jazz Orchestra that featured Nachoff and trumpeter Tim Hagans (who gave the piece its name) as guest soloists. The pieces are marked by unconventional harmonic motion and jarring tonal shifts.

The evocative title of “Astral Echo Poem” is an anagram for the name of its primary influence – Brazliian composer Hermeto Pascoal. Finally, “Tilted,” which erupts with nervous energy, is an apt bookend with “Tightrope,” drawing once again on hard rock inspirations for its driving beat, complicated by the fleet, snarling melodies.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Nachoff has been colliding genres since his 2006 debut, Magic Numbers, which melded a jazz trio with a string quartet. He’s since composed music for a variety of ensembles in both worlds, including the Penderecki String Quartet, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra, and the Cecilia String Quartet, as well as his own Horizons Ensemble, Quiescence Quartet, and FoMo quartet. He also leads the Pyramid Project, which brings together saxophone, brass quintet and drums and features Ralph Alessi, Jonathan Finlayson, John Clark, Ryan Keberle, Marcus Rojas and Jim Black.  As a sideman he’s performed and/or recorded with Kenny Werner, Howard Johnson, Tim Hagans, Kenny Wheeler and Don Thompson among others. He has coached at the Banff Centre for the Arts and taught at the University of Toronto and Humber College, as well as serving as artist-in-residence at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane, Australia. 

Will Calhoun - Celebrating Elvin Jones (2016) MOTÉMA MUSIC


Drummer Will Calhoun Pays Tribute to a
Profound Influence on Celebrating Elvin Jones
Available August 19 on Motéma Music

Album Features Christian McBride,
Antoine Roney, Keyon Harrold, and Special Guests
Jan Hammer and Doudou N’Diaye Rose

Although he’s best known as the hard-driving, groove-oriented drummer for the pioneering rock group Living Colour, Will Calhoun has played in a staggering variety of styles and traditions over the course of his eclectic career. Straight-ahead jazz, fusion, traditional African percussion, funk, hip-hop, and of course hard rock — Calhoun has explored them all, and he traces the roots of all of them to one man: legendary drummer Elvin Jones.

On his second album for Motéma Music, Celebrating Elvin Jones (due out August 19), Calhoun pays tribute to his earliest and most profound influence with a stellar band of musicians, all of whom were impacted by Jones through their personal growth as a musician or their past working with him directly: bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Antoine Roney, pianist/keyboardist Carlos McKinney, and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. The great keyboardist Jan Hammer, a member of Jones’ trio for On the Mountain (1975), joins the band for a reprise of that album’s Gene Perla-penned track “Destiny;” and Senegalese percussionist Doudou N’Diaye Rose joins with a group of drummers for the traditional Japanese folk song “Doll of the Bride.”

“Elvin connected my worlds,” Calhoun says. “Although I saw him playing jazz, I felt rock and roll, I felt fusion, I felt African music. It sounds electric, it sounds acoustic, it sounds very African, it sounds very Latin, there are all these elements in there.”

Calhoun first became acquainted with Jones’ playing as a young child hearing the drummer’s recordings with the classic John Coltrane Quartet — a band that he now considers part of a Holy Trinity with the second great Miles Davis Quintet and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. At the age of 14, Calhoun witnessed Elvin playing for the first time at the Village Vanguard and had the opportunity to meet and speak with the drum legend on various occasions throughout the years prior to Jones’ passing in 2004.

“Listening to Coltrane’s band in my youth reminded me of some kind of an incredible explosion,” Calhoun says. “The music was beyond jazz. There were a few records in those days where you put the needle down and you didn’t make it back to the couch. The Coltrane records were some of those albums where I just stood there staring at the needle and listening, and Elvin was driving that train — no pun intended — by shoving a lot of coals into the fire. He had a profound effect on me.”

Jones also had a profound effect on all of the members of the band that Calhoun assembled for the occasion. McBride only played with the drummer on a few special occasions, including saxophonist Javon Jackson’s debut album, Me and Mr. Jones. Both Roney and McKinney can boast of more extensive experience under Jones’ leadership, with both appearing on the drummer’s final release, The Truth: Heard Live at the Half Note. While Harrold did not have the opportunity to ever perform with Jones, the drummer has long influenced him. Calhoun drew on all of their experiences as he developed the music for Celebrating Elvin Jones.

“Hearing those guys telling stories about when they were on the road with Elvin was helpful,” he says. “I chose according to what music would best represent my vision. I also wanted to put my own vibe into the music.”

“Elvin and Doudou reminded me of each other,” he says. “They have a lot in common in how they speak about rhythm and music in a very respectful, classy, educated and freeform way. I don’t know if they ever met, but I wanted to recognize the energy and spiritual camaraderie between those two gentlemen.”

In recording Jones’ music, Calhoun didn’t want to imitate the drummer, but simply — as is only appropriate for such a restlessly inventive and forward-thinking artist — to absorb his influence and explore his music in a uniquely personal and progressive style. “I wasn’t trying to nail Elvin’s playing or sound,” he explains. “I love Elvin and all of his contributions. He’s inspired me in so many ways, even playing with Living Colour, so this piece, to me, is celebratory. It’s a thank you and a respectful homage to this wonderful musician.”

Will Calhoun · Celebrating Elvin Jones
Motéma Music · Release Date: August 19, 2016

Best known for his role in the fierce and politically incisive rock band Living Colour, Will Calhoun is a drummer whose razor-sharp technique and elastic rhythmic feel defy the bounds of genre. His astounding discography reads like a catchall bin at the record store, with sideman credits for artists as diverse as Herb Alpert and Run-DMC. But for a drummer of such immeasurable rhythmic variation, he can also lay down an undeniably gut-wrenching swing beat. That’s a characteristic he shares with one of his heroes, Elvin Jones, to whom this album is dedicated. Celebrating Elvin Jones is an inspired project, vibrant and emotionally honest, but its greatest success may be that it brings Calhoun’s boundless energy to lesser-known gems of the Jones songbook. Tunes like “EJ Blues,” with its explosive drum fills, “Saramastah,” with its sensitive brushwork, and “Whew,” with its trenchant swing, help paint a portrait of Jones through suggestion and homage, rather than emulation. That’s an artful approach, and Calhoun is wise to have followed it. He’s joined here by a commanding ensemble with bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Antoine Roney, keyboardist Carlos McKinney and trumpeter Keyon Harrold, all of whom bring depth and dimension to the punchy arrangements. The group is augmented on several tracks by guest stars with connections to Jones’ musical legacy. Czech keyboardist Jan Hammer, a member of Jones’ trio for On The Mountain (1975), joins the band for a propulsive take on “Destiny,” and Senegalese percussionist Doudou N’Diaye Rose, a stylistic ancestor to Jones who died in August 2015, contributes a masterful solo on “Doll Of The Bride.”

1. EJ Blues
2. Whew
3. Harmonique
4. Sarmastah
5. Mahjong
6. Shinjitsu
7. Doll of the Bride (feat. Doudou N'Diaye Rose)
8. Destiny (feat. Jan Hammer)


Miles Brown - Middle Game (2016)

The name of Miles Brown's album "Middle Game" refers to chess, one of his other passions besides music. In the middle part of a chess game, the players invoke the spirit of improvisation, creativity within a given set of parameters, shifts in energy and momentum, and aesthetic beauty. He believes that these values inspired the musicians in the creation of this music.

1. A Bishop 7:23
2. Blunder Wonder 9:44
3. Pawn to E5 4:42
4. I'm in Love with the Girl Next Door 6:46
5. Northern Lights 6:21
6. Midwest Arrival 10:11
7. Lullaby of the Fallen Oaks 4:40
8. Fanelli Bread 5:04
9. Fate Plays with Two Queens 2:57
10. Cheese Wicks 5:46

Andrew Bishop, saxophone
Kris Johnson, trumpet
Mike Jellick, piano
Jesse Kramer, drums


Cheese Wicks

Allen Hinds - Fly South (2016)

L.A.-based Alabama native Allen Hinds releases his long awaited 5th solo CD "Fly South".

Multi layers of slide, acoustic, and ambient guitars support thoughtful, expressive melodies throughout all 10 songs. Once again, Hinds has created cinematic, soulful pallets of music. This time driven by acoustic guitar, and then as a bonus, adds his creative "vocal like" solos on top.

Outstanding performances by Vinnie Coaliuta, Jimmy Johnson, Abe Laboriel and others compliment Hinds' sophisticated unique phrasing and heartfelt compositions. In particular, the interplay between Coaliuta and Hinds, is spectacular. Magical moments sprinkled all through this CD. And you can truly hear Hinds' southern roots.

Daniel Lanois meets Lowell George, meets Jeff Beck, meets Robben Ford, meets Allan Holdsworth - all these influences are heard in Allen Hinds unique style as guitarist and composer.

If you like lush guitar tone, expressive unexpected phrases, dynamic performances, interesting chord changes with memorable melodies, all with absolutely no trace of "smooth jazz", ....then you will love "Fly South"

Allen has also released another album simultaneously with his trio “Wonderland Park”, entitled “Just Get In” (available here) which is a great contrasting compliment to “Fly South”. A stripped down trio, it features simple rootsy compositions that expand into brilliant solo sections – an album of energetic playing and improvisation. Together the two CDs are a strong portrait of a great guitarist.

1. Springs Eternal (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta & Abe Laboriel) 6:20
2. Buckley (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta, Matt Rohde & Jimmy Johnson) 5:15
3. Joni (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta, Matt Rohde, Jimmy Johnson & Rogerio Jardim) 4:18
4. Yonder Hills (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta, Matt Rohde & Jimmy Johnson) 4:58
5. Heartfell (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta, Jimmy Johnson, Matt Rohde & Genevieve Artadi) 2:55
6. Little White Lies (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta & Jimmy Johnson) 4:45
7. Boo's Folly (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta & Jimmy Earl) 4:14
8. Old Mill Pond (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta & Abe Laboriel) 4:02
9. June 15th (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta & Maxayn Lewis) 3:20
10. Blues for Ok Tarpley (feat. Vinnie Coaliuta, Matt Rohde & Abe Laboriel) 6:23

Allen Hinds (guitar)
Vinnie Coaliuta (drums)
Jimmy Earl, Jimmy Johnson, Abe Laboriel (bass)
Matt Rohde (keys)
Maxayn Lewis (vocals)
Genevieve Artadi (vocals)


Springs Eternal