Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vocalist, composer, educator Mili Bermejo dies at 65

It is with great sorrow and a profound sense of loss that we announce the passing of Mili Bermejo on February 21 after a nine-month battle with cancer. She was 65.

A beloved fixture on the Boston music scene for more than three decades, Mili was a prolific vocalist, composer and educator. Her singular sound was defined by its unique combination of the emotionally resonant poetry and musical traditions of her Latin American heritage with the language of jazz, which she studied with such well-known masters as Jerry Bergonzi, Ran Blake and Mick Goodrick.  

Throughout her long career, she worked extensively as a bandleader and recording artist, joined by such frequent collaborators as Bruce Barth, Gary Chaffee, Eugene Friesen, Bertram Lehman, Vardan Ovsepian, Claudio Ragazzi, Tim Ray, Bert Seager and George Schuller among many others. Her final recording, Arte del Dúo (Ediciones Pentagrama), celebrates her 35-year musical partnership with her husband, bassist Dan Greenspan, and was included on Jon Garelick’s Best Jazz releases of 2016 list in the Boston Globe.

During her 32 years as a Professor at the Berklee College of Music, Mili lovingly passed on her experiences as a third-generation musician, as well as the lessons of her mentors, including soprano Elisabeth Phinney, to such next-generation talents as Chiara Civello, Lauren Kinhan (NY Voices), Alex Panayi, Sara Serpa, Luciana Souza, Esperanza Spaulding and Tierney Sutton. Her long-awaited first book, Jazz Vocal Improvisation: An Instrumental Approach, will be published by Berklee Press this Spring.

More information is available on her web site at

Donations in her memory may be made to the Elizabeth Evarts de Rham Hospice Home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Jonathan Rowden Group - Skyward Eye (2017)

"Jonathan Rowden is a name to watch as a signature voice and self-motivated organizer on the Los Angeles jazz scene." –Joe Woodard, Downbeat Magazine 

Almost immediately following his bold 2014 debut, Becoming, saxophonist and composer Jonathan Rowden dove into writing a follow-up album that would continue the aesthetic and spiritual progression that defines his music. Teaming up with friend and pianist Ryan Pryor, they composed music that launched a two-year conceptual transformation, culminating in the Jonathan Rowden Group’s new release on Orenda Records, Skyward Eye. 

“Becoming felt like this visceral, raw expression; tumultuous, impassioned and often freewheeling in spirit,” says Rowden. “However, as the new music churned within us, we knew we wanted to take an entirely different approach not only to the music of Skyward Eye, but to the process of making the music from the ground up.” 

For Skyward Eye, the quartet enlisted producer Alex Chaloff and embarked on a three-day session of self discovery. In Rowden’s words, “Together, we agreed that our quest was not to simply record the music, but to collectively discover the greater meaning and narrative and find the deeper character of each song and the album as a whole, WHILE recording it. What resulted was three cathartic days filled with creativity and purpose, filled with the happy accidents that come with the luxury of having that amount of time to create and album.” 

Alex Chaloff, who has recorded all of Rowden’s music and films since 2013, described the recording experience in their video documentary mini-series, Making Skyward Eye. “Good music is extremely visual and [though it] transports you into another world sonically, you’re being drawn by the visual, whether your eyes are closed or not. If you feel like you're on top of a mountain, you’ll hear a song and you'll feel a cold breeze come past, you know…it puts you right there.” He went on. “These aren't one or two minute solos where we're 'taking you somewhere'... no, we're REALLY taking you somewhere. These songs have really taken on a life of their own and take you on a visceral journey.” 

The music of Skyward Eye is presented in two chapters, both full of compositional breadth, improvised soundscapes and purposeful solos. Rowden and Pryor split the composing load 50/50 on Skyward Eye. They both share many of the same roots and aesthetics - the interplay between their composing styles allowed them to tell a similar story from two perspectives. Drummer and percussionist, James Yoshizawa’s diverse and massive arsenal of instruments (including Japanese taiko drums, homemade metallics, and celtic percussion) are responsible for the majority of the soundscape creation. Bassist Jordan Richard’s bass-choir overdubs create the heart-wrenching soul of the album on the track “Flight.” Songs flow in and out of one another, crafted with care and purpose. Voices and metal chairs became drum hits, saxophone mouthpieces became war-cries, and the breath of a choir became the sound of ghosts of battle, and the laughter of children in the distance. For the group, Skyward Eye became a film without actors, a book without words. 

The inspiration in literature, video games and all things now called “nerd-culture” runs deep. For the first 19 years of Rowden’s life, he was obsessed with fantasy worlds found in mediums like video game RPG’s of the 1990’s, where he found a certain depth in the idea that one could literally take control of the characters and live out one’s life through these characters and their experiences. As a child, he immersed himself in drawing, writing, creating universes, cultures, worlds, characters, and mythologies. In this respect, Skyward Eye represents his first literal parallel from his early and deep interests in these other mediums. These interests aligned with the talents of New York Times bestselling author and graphic novelist, Kazu Kibuishi, whose works such as ‘Flight’ inspired much of Skyward Eye’s ethos. 

For Rowden, the artwork Kazu Kibuishi created for Skyward Eye is inseparable from the music. After a chance encounter, Rowden reached out to Kazu, who was immediately interested in collaboration. Their first collaboration was in the summer of 2014 where Kibushi painted a massive digital mural during a live performance of Becoming. Two years later, he agreed to create the original artwork for the Skyward Eye album covers, as well as an inner mural and art-book edition.

In a recent interview with Los Angeles-based writer and pianist, Gary Fukushima, Rowden explained what he hoped to convey to listeners of Skyward Eye: “I want listeners to feel like it's okay to escape.” he explained. “I want listeners to imagine themselves on this ‘intrepid airship’ as Kazu delightfully described it, and that they are there with a group of strangers and friends, flying through the horizon into the unknown. Life brings with it so much uncertainty. We can't ever know what will happen. But none of us is meant to face it alone.” Solitude in this binding sense, would run opposed to what Rowden believes it means to be human: “to live as a being imbued with the need for connection and communion.” Skyward Eye is meant to bring people together. From it’s very sound, emphasis on ensemble over solos to its interactive, hand-bound art-book and listening parties the band has hosted. 

Jonathan Rowden and his band expressly hope people connect with a sense of spirituality in their music: “that willingness to reach beyond oneself, and embody a larger sense of what it means to be ‘part of all this’ embracing a certain amount of uncertainty, or mystery surrounding it all. In this way, our music is spiritual… The escape doesn’t have to mean running from your quest - a righteous quest can open doors you never saw until you crossed a different bridge, or climbed a different mountain. I am reminded of this little dialogue from the Super Nintendo Role Playing Game “Chrono Trigger”, when a young scientist names Lucca, having been transported through time and thrown in prison on a quest to restore time and order, finds that their robotic companion Robo has been badly damaged and attempts to bring it ‘back to life’. 

Robo: [visibly shaken] “C…can you r…repair…me? 
Lucca: “Shh, don’t talk” [while fixing him] 
Robo: “You…are trying to save our world?” 
Lucca: “I don’t know how far we’ll get, but that’s the plan. Anyway Robo, what are you 
going to do when you’re repaired?” 
Robo: “What am I…going to do?” 
Lucca: “Yeah. I mean, what plans do you have for the future?” 
Robo: “Lucca, no one has ever asked me that before!” 

For Rowden, Skyward Eye asks this simple but challenging question. “What will you do once you lift yourself up, out of the mire - your eyes turned towards the vastness - and see the adventure before you?”

1. The Dawn of Reclamation 05:17
2. Song of Hiraeth 00:49
3. Ruins 08:21
4. Flight 05:09
5. The Wait 06:03
6. Floating Isle 05:56
7. Carried By The Song 06:06
8. Flight Afield 01:55

Jonathan Rowden tenor & soprano saxophones / electronics / vocals 
Ryan Pryor piano / rhodes / synths / vocals 
James Yoshizawa drumset / taiko / percussion / vocals

Harri Kuusijärvi Koutus - Music For A Family Picnic (ECLIPSE MUSIC 2017)

”Harri Kuusijärvi Koutus totally renews ones image of accordion music. ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Juha Seitz / Soundi

”Unexpected, curious, striking, offbeat, rockin’, avant-garde, and fucking good. Koutus is one of the best discs to emerge this year, regardless of category.”

Harri Kuusijärvi Koutus is a Finnish band led by accordionist Harri Kuusijärvi. Drawing on various contemporary influences the group creates a distinctive soundscape with taste of 70´s prog rock, jazz and world music fueled with improvisation.

1. Naltio (3:03)
2. Music For A Family Picnic (3:37)
3. La Route De Pokka (5:34)
4. UFO Bar (4:34)
5. I Was Driving 160 Miles Per Hour From Turku In The Midnight When I Felt The Time Was Slowing Down (6:40)
6. 78 Days (1:15)
7. Shelter (4:16)
8. 100 m (4:50)
9. Naava (4:12)

Harri Kuusijärvi / accordeon, effects, composer
Veikki Virkajärvi / electric guitar
Eero Tikkanen / bass
Teho Majamäki / vibraphone, effects, percussion
Jesse Ojajärvi / drums

Richard Galliano - New Jazz Musette (2017)

Already 30 years that his first album as a band leader, «Spleen», was released with the “New Musette” Quartet. Already 30 years that he restored the image of a so called old fashioned instrument, bound to play for Saturday nights ballrooms! Already 30 years that he is navigating in all kinds of musical styles, flirting with salsa, merging with tango, without losing his soul, deeply anchored in his French-Italian roots.

Only 5 years on the other hand that Richard Galliano started to express his incredible talent in the nest of classical music. One best-seller on the label Deutsche Grammophon with the ‘Bach Project’, then a tribute to Nino Rota and the Vivaldi “Four Seasons”, all titles released by the prestigious German label. Got even an award at the French “Victoires de la Musique” in 2014, as a composer. Richard Galliano has chosen to celebrate his 30 years of career with his friends and gifted musicians:
“I consider my record “Spleen” (1985) as my first “New Musette” project. 30 years after …it’s with that spirit that I feel like performing again my favourite compositions and introduce the “New Jazz Musette” The “Musette” is an old Italo/French style that makes Jazz musicians so ironically reluctant and afraid….

However the “Musette” (java, waltz …) in France, like the “Blues” in the States and the “Tango” in Argentina appeared all around the world at the same period of time, the beginning of the 20th Century. Those styles are all the fruits and the fusion of a human and cultural blend: Italians and French musicians for “Musette”, Italians and Argentinians for “Tango”, Africans and Americans for “Blues”. All those migrants, far from their motherland, cried through a new musical form, mixing rage and melancholia , so was the “Blues” in US, so was the “Milonga” in Argentina, so was the suburb complaints of the “Musette” in France.

“Piaf is the biggest Blues singer” said Louis Armstrong. Nowadays, I create and recreate the “New Musette” because I feel that this music cannot be performed like in those years of the 30’s. I am playing this music now by joining in my strongest influences: PIAZZOLLA, COLTRANE, BILL EVANS, DEBUSSY…

CD 1
1. A French Touch
2. Billie
3. Coloriage
4. Nice Blues
5. Ballade Pour Marion
6. Fou Rire
7. Giselle
8. Laurita
9. Love Day

CD 2
Waltz For Nicky
Ten Years Ago
Tango Pour Claude
Azul Tango

Richard Galliano: Fisarmonica
Sylvain Luc: Chitarra
Philippe Aerts: Contrabbasso
Andrè Ceccarelli: batteria

Mark de Clive-Lowe - Live At The Blue Whale (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2017)

Mark de Clive-Lowe delivers an outstanding 4 track EP recorded live at Los Angeles’ Blue Whale jazz club. The EP finds MdCL revisiting the grand piano, putting his first instrument front and center with his technological world of keyboards and electronics. It’s his signature amalgamation of acoustic sound sparring with new technology, joined by a world-class crew: Josh Johnson (Miguel Atwood-Ferguson/Wayne Shorter) on sax and flute, Brandon Eugene Owens (Robert Glasper/Terrace Martin) on bass and Gene Coye (Thundercat/Flying Lotus) on drums. 

The instrumental EP opens with an original composition, ‘Evergreen’. Solo piano sets the mood as the composition evolves into a head-nodding, beat- driven journey of improvisational conversation. As the music progresses, we hear MdCL programming beats and electronics live and on the spot – manipulating and sampling his own piano, keyboards and Johnson’s sax – creating a musical palimpsest inspired by hip hop’s sampling aesthetic. Only here, the samples are all organic - performed, captured and manipulated completely on the fly. 

The following tracks pay homage to three of MdCL’s heroes – Yusef Lateef firstly on the loping ‘L+H’ – inspired by Yusef’s ‘Love + Humor’ with Owens and Coye underpinning the groove while MdCL and Johnson play and become live samples themselves. Sun Ra gets honored on the EP’s centrepiece – an 11 minute exploration of his composition ‘The Golden Lady’ – once again, MdCL’s piano is the central focus here, leading the way through a mystically evocative soundscape that reimagines the great master. Johnson switches to flute here bringing his playfulness and musical guile to the mix with the piece culminating in an intoxicating blend of beats, live samples and acoustic band. We close out with an interlude of Ahmad Jamal’s ‘Swahililand’ – most famously sampled for De La Soul’s ‘Stakes is High’ by iconic producer J Dilla. 

It’s a real treat to hear MdCL and band in full-flight live show mode with none of the safety nets of studio production. Live at the Blue Whale hints at what’s more to come from a truly individual musician.

1. Evergreen 09:02
2. L+H (For Yusef Lateef) 04:08
3. The Golden Lady (For Sun Ra) 11:29
4. Swahililand (For Ahmad Jamal) 03:13

Released February 17, 2017 

Mark de Clive-Lowe - piano/keys/live electronics 
Josh Johnson - alto sax/flute 
Brandon Eugene Owens - bass 
Gene Coye - drums 

Recorded live at The Blue Whale, Los Angeles March 18, 2016

David Weiss & Point Of Departure - Wake Up Call (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2017)

The late 1960's were a turbulent but exciting time for jazz. The music seemed to simultaneously get more complex and simpler at the same time as a variety of influences infused the music. Some were experimenting with soul, rock and exotic rhythms from the India and the Far East. Others were carrying on the innovations of the second great Miles Davis quintet, using the groups ever shifting rhythms and harmonic complexities as a springboard to new compositional ideas. Some somehow combined both to create some new, exciting music.

The Point of Departure Quintet is re-examining some of the most innovative music of the period, some of it neglected, some, perhaps, never quite as developed as it could have been as things seemed to move at a pace during that period that left some music from being fully realized as they quickly moved on to the next new thing. Among the composers being re-examined and re-imagined are Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams and music from the unsung Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet (who recorded two seminal but under-appreciated records for Blue Note in the late 1960's). 

Weiss began dabbling with the idea of the Point of Departure band as early as 2004 but began the group in earnest in 2006 when he was offered a regular Thursday night residency at the Greenwich Village club Fat Cat. The regular gig gave Weiss the opportunity to try out many up-and-coming musicians on the scene in various combinations until the personnel became solidified. By the end of the six month run, Weiss felt he had a fully realized new band with a unique sound and approach; a harmonically adventurous band with more of a free approach to the music that could switch grooves from swing to funk to rock in different time signatures on a dime. His original idea for the sound of the band drew on his experiences playing with the Haitian kompa super group Tabou Combo.

That band featured two guitarists playing interweaving guitar lines that defined the sound of the band. When the band recorded the horn section, they had the horns record every line twice and one would be panned far left and the other far right creating a unique stereo effect. Weiss thought using two guitarists could make both these concepts work, the interweaving lines and when the guitarists both played chords in unison could achieve a interesting stereo effect.

After a few failed attempts during their initial residency, the decision was made to stick to one guitarist until a proper 2nd guitarist was found. When conceptualizing the new CD, the decision was made to attempt the two guitar sound again and this time everything fell into place with two new amazing young guitarists, Ben Eunson and Travis Reuter came aboard. The new CD also stretches the parameters of the original group concept a little by adding material from the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Brazilian avant garde fusion band Grupo Um.

David Manuhutu - A Journey (2017)

1. A Journey (feat. Adam Rogers) 9:14
2. Bubuy Bulan (Intro) 1:13
3. Bubuy Bulan 6:19
4. Princess of Surakarta 5:05
5. Leila (feat. Peter Bernstein) 5:45
6. Hit (feat. Peter Bernstein) 4:38
7. Bulan Pake Pajong (feat. Adam Rogers) 7:50

David Manuhutu, piano
Peter Bernstein, guitar (tracks 5 & 6)
Adam Rogers, guitar (tracks 1 & 7)
Alex Clafly, bass
Endang Rukandi - Kendang & Suling (tracks 1 - 3)
Ken Ychicawa, drums

Leo Genovese Trio - Trippeiros (Live at Porta-Jazz) 2017

1. Makedonsko 05:57
2. Ethiopian Blues 05:49
3. Hoshereq 08:55
4. Signs of Transcendence 06:10
5. Reflections 07:51
6. South 07:10

Leo Genovese - Piano
Demian Cabaud - Acoustic Bass
Francisco Mela - Drums

Playlist for Tom Ossana – The Thin Edge – February 22, 2017 MST 7:00 to 9:00p.m. ~ Use this link to access the show online.