Sunday, October 16, 2016

Satoko Fujii & Joe Fonda - Duet (with Special Guest Natsuki Tamura) 2016 LONG SONG RECORDS


Concert recording features two of improvised music’s most creative minds 

“Satoko Fujii is one of the most original pianists in free jazz…”Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe

 “Joe Fonda is a real virtuoso and composer of the highest order.”Anthony Braxton

Great improvisers reveal a lifetime of experience and artistry in every note. For both pianist Satoko Fujii and bassist Joe Fonda, that brings to bear an estimable history of collaboration with some of the music’s greatest practitioners and travel that spans the globe. It also means that despite the fact that their winding paths had never previously crossed, they immediately tapped a rich vein of musical understanding during their first-ever performances together. 

On Duet, a live recording of their second concert in November 2015, they share a seemingly telepathic link that makes the music intimate and mercurial. It’s an adventurous musical exchange that features some of their best playing on record. Duet will be released October 7, 2016, on Long Song Records.

Both artists are travel the world to perform with their ensembles. Fujii is in the midst of a yearlong international celebration of the 20th anniversary of her Libra Records label. Fonda, one of the most in-demand bassists in new jazz, is often on the road leading his own groups, performing with one of the many collaborative bands he’s in, or travelling as a sideman. While Fonda was on tour with Conference Call in Germany, a promoter recommended that Fonda give Fujii a listen. “He thought that I would love her music and might enjoy playing with her,” Fonda says. “I thought if he is so excited about her, I’d better check out her playing. So I did and immediately knew I had to play with her. So I got in touch with her.”

Fujii was surprised to hear from him. Their mutual friend talked about Joe a lot, but she didn’t think that he’d ever heard her music. “Of course, I knew his name, but to tell the truth I hadn’t heard much of his playing,” she says. 

When she mentioned she was coming to New York, Joe organized a few concerts. “As I suspected it would be,” Fonda says, “it was quite magical.”

The rapport between them is magical indeed. They seem to anticipate each other, sometimes spontaneously playing the same phrases at the same time, finishing each other’s thoughts, or concluding independent lines simultaneously. The woody sound, intense physicality, and percussive quality of Fonda’s bass contrasts beautifully with Fujii’s more flowing lines. And both are eager explorers of unusual timbres and extended techniques that add color and depth to the music. Fujii structures her improvisations around sharp contrasts, sudden changes in direction, and her ability to absorb what her bandmates are doing into her own musings. Fonda, with long experience with collective bands, is an unfailingly supportive partner who can subtly insert ideas that shape and direct an improvisation. When they welcome trumpeter Natsuki Tamura to join them for the second set, the music grows richer and even more complex and layered.

“Joe is very open and flexible and that made me feel so free to play anything,” Fujii says. “And he plays very strong, puts all of himself into his music, which inspires me to dig deeper into myself.”

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. Her most recent group, Satoko Fujii Tobira with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, bassist Todd Nicholson, and drummer Takashi Itani, released their debut recording Yamiyo Ni Karasu in 2015. ““There are pulse-pounding rhythms, vibrant tones and dark chords woven together into a multi-shaded tapestry of sound…What an absolute pleasure to listen to Satoko Fujii.” wrote Travis Rogers Jr. in The Jazz Owl. 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.”

Joe Fonda “is a serious seeker of new musical horizons,” according to the Boston Phoenix. From 1984 to 1999, he was the bassist with composer-improviser and NEA Jazz Master Anthony Braxton. Fonda also has been an integral member of several cooperative bands, including the Fonda-Stevens Group with Michael Jefry Stevens, Herb Robertson, and Harvey Sorgen; Conference Call, with Gebhard Ullmann, Stevens, and George Schuller; the Fab Trio with Barry Altschul and Billy Bang; and the Nu Band with Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, and Lou Grassi. He is currently a member of 3dom Factor, Alschul’s trio with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, and guitarist Michael Musillami’s trio, among others. He has collaborated and performed with other artists such as Archie Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Wadada Leo Smith, Randy Weston, and Carla Bley.

Fonda has led some truly unique ensembles of his own including From the Source, which features four instrumentalists, a tap dancer, and a body healer/vocalist; and Bottoms Out, a sextet with Gerry Hemingway, Joe Daley, Michael Rabinowitz, Claire Daly, and Gebhard Ullmann. He has released twelve recordings under his own name. 

From first learning about one another in Bielefeld, Germany, to a stunning performance in Portland, Maine, the duo of Satoko Fujii and Joe Fonda has covered a lot of territory, both geographically and musically. “That’s the way things work in the music business,” Fonda says, “things just happen. And you have no idea why the door swings open so that you end up working with a particular person. It just happens that way—the door swings open, you walk through, and you find your new musical associate on the other side.”


Wadada Leo Smith - America’s National Parks (October 14, 2016) CUNEIFORM RECORDS

Legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith creates a new
masterwork inspired by the country’s most stunning landscapes

The epic America’s National Parks, out October 14 on Cuneiform,
features Smith’s newly expanded Golden Quintet

“Smith uses his magisterial instrumental voice, his inspirational leadership and his command of classical, jazz and blues forms to remind us of what has gone down and what's still happening.” –Bill Meyer, DownBeat’s 80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today

“A trumpeter and composer of penetrating insight.” –Nate Chinen, The New York Times

With America’s National Parks, visionary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith offers his latest epic collection, a sixmovement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes. Writing for his newly expanded Golden Quintet, Smith crafts six extended works that explore, confront and question the preserved natural resources that are considered the most hallowed ground in the U.S. – and some that should be.

The two-CD America’s National Parks will be released on October 14 on Cuneiform Records, shortly before Smith’s 75th birthday in December.

It arrives, coincidentally, in the midst of celebrations for the centennial of the National Park Service, which was created by an act of Congress on August 25, 1916. The spark for the project, however, came from two places: Smith’s own research into the National Park system, beginning with Yellowstone, the world’s first national park; and Ken Burns’ 12-hour documentary series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

“The idea that Ken Burns explored in that documentary was that the grandeur of nature was like a religion or a cathedral,” Smith says. “I reject that image because the natural phenomenon in creation, just like man and stars and light and water, is all one thing, just a diffusion of energy. My focus is on the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the idea of setting aside reserves for common property of the American citizens.”

His 28-page score for America’s National Parks was penned for his Golden Quintet, a fresh reconfiguration of the quartet that’s been a keystone of his expression for the last 16 years. 

Pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan akLaff are joined by cellist Ashley Walters, affording the composer and bandleader new melodic and coloristic possibilities. “The cello as a lead voice with the trumpet is magnificent,” Smith says, “but when you look at the possibilities for melodic formation with the trumpet, the cello, the piano and the bass, that’s paradise for a composer and for a performer. My intent was to prolong or enhance the vitality of the ensemble to live longer.”

That’s an enticing prospect given the vigor and daring on bold display throughout America’s National Parks. Where many composers would be seduced into romantic excess by the sweeping vistas and majestic panoramas of Yellowstone’s grand waterfalls or Kings Canyon’s towering redwoods, Smith takes a far more investigative and expansive view, with inventive and complex scores that prompt stunning improvisations from his ensemble. In fact, he has yet to visit many of the parks paid homage in the pieces, opting instead for thorough historical research.

“You don't really need to visit a park to write about a park,” Smith insists. “Debussy wrote ‘La Mer,’ which is about the sea, and he wasn’t a seafaring person. I would defend his right to do that, and I would contend that ‘La Mer’ is a masterpiece that clearly reflects his psychological connection with the idea of the sea.”

The idea of the parks, rather than their physical and geographical beauty, is central to Smith’s conception for this music. In its marrying of natural landmarks and political challenges it can be traced back to both of the composer’s most recent epic masterpieces,

The Great Lakes and especially Ten Freedom Summers. “It became a political issue for me because the people that they set up to control and regulate the parks were politicians,” Smith says. “My feeling is that the parks should be independent of Congress and organized around an independent source who has no political need to be reelected. So it’s a spiritual/psychological investigation mixed with the political dynamics.”

Smith’s suite also takes inventive liberties with the definition of a “national park;” half of its inspirations aren’t, technically speaking, considered as such. The album opens with “New Orleans: The National Culture Park,” which argues that the entire Crescent City deserves to be recognized for its influential contributions to American history and culture. “New Orleans was the first cultural center in America and therefore it produced the first authentic American music,” Smith says.

The second piece, “Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002: A Literary National Park,” takes an even broader view, suggesting that the African - American musicologist, author and founder of the journal The Black Perspective in Music, to which Smith has contributed, should be honored for her efforts to document a musical common ground shared by all Americans. Another piece represents the “Deep and Dark Dreams” of the Mississippi River, which Smith calls “a memorial site which was used as a dumping place for black bodies by hostile forces in Mississippi. I use the word ‘dark’ to show that these things are buried or hidden, but the body itself doesn’t stay hidden; it floats up.”

The other three pieces are based on more conventionally recognized national parks: Yellowstone, which became the first place in the world so designated in 1872; Sequoia & Kings Canyon, whose trees Smith marvels at as some of the largest and oldest living things on the planet; and Yosemite, which contains striking glaciers and some of the deepest lakes in the world.

America’s National Parks arrives at a time of prolific imagination and universal renown for the composer. Earlier this year Smith, part of the first generation of musicians to come out of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music), was the recipient of a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and an honorary doctorate from CalArts. In March ECM released a cosmic rhythm with each stroke, a duo recording with pianist Vijay Iyer.

While these preserved landscapes offer the inspiration of powerful natural beauty, Smith’s always open-minded view of the world leads him to find that same inspiration wherever he is. “Every concrete house is from nature,” he says. “Every plastic airplane that flies 300 people across the ocean comes out of nature. Every air conditioner conditions a natural piece of air. I think that the human being is constantly enfolded in organic nature and constructed nature, so I’m constantly inspired, inside the house or outside the house.”

For more information on Wadada Leo Smith:

America's National Parks Track Listing:

CD 1
1. New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718 (20:57)

2. Eileen Jackson Southern,1920-2002: A Literary National Park (9:38)

3. Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America – The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872 (12:14)

CD 2
4. The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River – a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC (31:07)

5. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems 1890 (6:46)

6. Yosemite: The Glaciers, the Falls, the Wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890 (15:23)

Golden Quintet
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, director of the ensemble
Anthony Davis: piano
Ashley Walters: cello
John Lindberg: bass
Pheeroan akLaff: drums
Jesse Gilbert: video artist

Music composed by Wadada Leo Smith.

Recorded on May 5, 2016 and mixed by Nick Lloyd
at Firehouse 12 Recording Studio, New Haven, CT.

Mastered by Gene Paul at G&J Audio, Union City, NJ.

Art and Yosemite National Park photography by Jesse Gilbert.

Wadada photo: R.I. Sutherland-Cohen
Anthony photo: Erik Jepsen
Ashley photo: Tim Coburn
John photo: Sotiris Kontos
Pheeroan photo: Jimmy and Deena Katz
Jesse photo: Mona Tian

Package design by Bill Ellsworth.




Ben Allison's "Quiet Revolution" coming out on Newvelle Records

We’re very excited to be releasing Ben Allison’s Quiet Revolution exclusively on vinyl.  For this special project, Ben teams up with two leading lights of the NYC music scene, Steve Cardenas and Ted Nash, to form a group they've named "The Easy Way" modeled after the drummerless trios of Jimmy Giuffre and Jim Hall. The material includes tunes by Jim and Jimmy, as well as originals inspired by their music. It’s conversational and intimate – small-group interplay at it’s best.

Coming this December…  Leo Genovese, Esperanza Spalding and Jack DeJohnette.
An all original outing with this ridiculously talented band caps off our first season…

Next week we are launching our second season on Kickstarter featuring: John Patitucci, Rufus Reid, Lionel Loueke, Kevin Hays, Jon Cowherd, Aruan Ortiz, Chris Tordini and Brian Blade, Becca Stevens, Tony Sher, The Sirius Quartet…

Come see what people are saying about Newvelle Records here: