Saturday, February 25, 2017

Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr - Landed in Brooklyn (ACT MUSIC 2017)

For their 5th album, German trumpeter Julian and pianist Roman Wasserfuhr are in Brooklyn. If Brooklyn were not one of the five boroughs of New York City, its 2.6 million inhabitants would make it the 4th largest city in the United States. And the secret is out: Manhattan may have the establishment institutions like Lincoln Center or the Village Vanguard, but the real action is in Brooklyn, with an abundance of creativity being generated by musicians from the Wasserfuhr brothers’ generation, working in apartments, lofts, bars, clubs and studios. 

The rise of the Wasserfuhrs has been meteoric, and “Landed in Brooklyn“ documents another important stage of it. The brothers first came to the attention of producer Siggi Loch when they were 17 and 20 years old, joining the roster of ACT’s “Young German Jazz” series. Their “stunning debut album” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) “Remember Chet” was released in 2006, already showing a distinctive and original sound. “Upgraded in Gothenburg” was released in 2009, with Scandinavian greats Nils Landgren, Lars Danielsson und Magnus Lindgren. “Gravity” from 2011 had a quartet involving Wolfgang Haffner and Lars Danielsson, and told a story of how gravity is defied and overcome. By the time they made “Running” in 2013, the brothers were setting their own pace and direction, composing, recording and producing it themselves.

Julian Wasserfuhr explains the origins of “Landed in Brooklyn: “Siggi Loch called us up last year, and asked if we were interested in making another album for the ACT label. Naturally we agreed – but we admitted that we hadn‘t really given it much thought.” So the idea emerged that the magic of the city of New York, as a force to propel and lift them, should became the concept behind the album. The established musicians they would then meet at the legendary System Two Recording Studios would act as their fountainheads of inspiration.

First and foremost among those inspirers is saxophonist Donny McCaslin, the lynchpin of David Bowie’s last revelatory masterpiece “Blackstar”. Tim Lefebvre, known in Europe for his work with the Michael Wollny Trio, and also a member of Bowie’s last band is equally at home in jazz and in rock contexts. Nate Wood is an in-demand first call drummer and close associate of Donny McCaslin.

Is that enough jazz chops and credibility? Well, there’s more, in the form of a GRAMMY winner, producer Al Pryor whose craft, knowledge and deep experience have brought listeners closer to the musicality and emotion of artists such as Cécile McLorin Salvant, Raul Midón and Christian McBride.

Very little had been agreed or set down in advance when Julian und Roman Wasserfuhr arrived at the studio to meet the top-drawer American players. They had brought the sheet music of some pieces with them, but the guiding principle was to see what would transpire and to let things happen:

“Bernie’s Tune” is a wonderfully optimistic up tempo opener. We’re straight into the ensemble sound that these players achieved without rehearsals, but with big ears and inspired playing. The band is here in its quintet form with guest artist Donnie McCaslin’s saxophone weaving and blending his counter melody with Julian’s trumpet. Julian and Roman’s obvious appreciation of funk and back beats is on display in “Tutto”. Julian’s wicked solo is balanced by Roman’s thoughtful, soulful take on the changes of the song. Nate Wood finds a deep and danceable groove. A power ballad, Tokio Hotel’s “Durch den Monsun”, in a clever arrangement by Julian and Roman, showcases their trademark interweaving of melodic lines. There’s a blistering tenor solo by McCaslin, followed by Julian’s intensely rhythmic triple tongued riffs. Nate Wood closes out the tune with a power drum salvo. On “Tinderly” and “S.N.C.F.” Julian and Donny make their bid for a place among the great front line horn players of jazz calling to mind such combinations as the fire of Freddie Hubbard and the cool of Stanley Turrentine. With Sting’s “Seven Days” Julian and Roman Wasserfuhr own the 5/4 time signature – as jazz musicians do. “Carlo” fuses the energy of this ensemble into the discipline, empathy and majesty that can only be found in a great ballad. 

Roman begins the final performance on the record, “First Rays Of Dawn”, just as he began the first: with a motif expressed in his pianism that allows Julian and the band to slip into a rapid and revelatory up tempo waltz; closing out the recording as they began, and in a manner characteristic of what has become a tradition in Brooklyn and beyond: new ideas and the artists who bring them.

1. Bernie`s Tune ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 05:50
2. Tutto ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 05:10
3. Tinderly ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 07:25
4. Durch den Monsun ( P. Benzner, P. Hoffmann, D. Jost, D. Roth & B. Kaulitz) 08:19
5. Carlo ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 06:06
6. S.N.C.F. ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 06:05
7. Ella ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 04:44
8. Seven Days ( Sting) 05:44
9. First Rays Of Dawn ( Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) 07:31

Julian Wasserfuhr / trumpet & flugelhorn
Roman Wasserfuhr / piano, marimba, seaboard
Donny McCaslin / tenor saxophone
Tim Lefebvre / electric & double bass
Nate Wood / drums

Music composed by Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr, unless otherwise noted

Produced by Al Pryor
Curated by Siggi Loch

Recorded by Max Ross 
at Systems Two Recording Studios, Brooklyn (NY), August, 13 & 14, 2016
Mixed and mastered by Klaus Scheuermann, September 2016

Mostly Other People Do the Killing's new septet CD "Loafer's Hollow" (HOT CUP RECORDS 2017)

Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Presents Loafer’s Hollow 

Septet CD to be released February 24, 2017 on Hot Cup Records 

Featuring: Steven Bernstein (Grammy nominated leader of Sex Mob), Jon Irabagon (Winner of the Thelonious Monk Intl. Saxophone Competition), Dave Taylor (NARAS Most Valuable Player Award), Brandon Seabrook (2012 Best Guitarist, Village Voice), Ron Stabinsky (piano), Moppa Elliott (DownBeat Rising Star Composer, Bassist, Arranger), Kevin Shea (2012 Best Drummer, Village Voice)

• DownBeat Critics’ Poll Winners: Rising Star Ensemble • El Intruso Jazz Group of the Year • El Intruso Best Band to See Live

 “After more than ten years, Mostly Other People Do the Killing sounds better than ever; reinvigorated, mischievous and perhaps more willing to take a deep breath in the midst of these multifaceted works.” – Karl Ackerman, All About Jazz

“If you thought the comic avant-garde free-jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing went off the deep end years ago, it just found a deeper spot.” – Steve Greenlee, Jazz Times

“…uber-talented musicians who have fun with jazz tradition and the music itself.” – Kirk Silsbee, DownBeat

Hot Cup Records is proud to present Loafer’s Hollow, the second release by the septet lineup of Mostly Other People Do the Killing.  As always, bassist/bandleader Moppa Elliott juggles multiple sources of inspiration in his singularly inventive, irreverent fashion. Loafer’s Hollow draws upon the literary and the musical, containing eight new compositions that explore pre-bebop era jazz from the first half of the 20th century, five of them dedicated to influential authors.  Each of the compositions is named after the seemingly inexhaustible supply of oddly-christened towns in Elliott’s native Pennsylvania, as has been the case since the band’s earliest recordings.

Loafer’s Hollow is an attempt by Elliott to concentrate the style of MOPDtK by squeezing more musical material into a smaller space.  With hopes of encouraging listeners to engage with the album as a whole in this random-access era, the album clocks in at just over 40 minutes with compositions that are compact and dense but still allow the members of the ensemble to freely interpret the music. Whereas the first MOPDtK septet album, Red Hot, was directly influenced by the jazz and blues recordings of the 1920s and early ‘30s, Loafer’s Hollow owes a great debt to the music of the swing era, and Count Basie’s many ensembles in particular.  From the use of the piano as a melodic instrument to the wide assortment of mutes employed by the brass players, the sounds of the 1930s and 40s big bands and “swing song” tradition is constantly referenced.  Of course, this being a Mostly Other People Do the Killing album, there are innumerable other musical references waiting to be discovered by the astute listener.

With pieces written in homage to such ground-breaking literary figures as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace, Elliott’s obvious choice was to title the album “Library” after a town south of Pittsburgh, PA.  After some research, it turned out that the town of Library had an interesting history, having been known as Loafer’s Hollow before the first library in the area was built there in 1833, lending the album its even more evocative, though equally apt, new name.

The “literary suite” opens with “Bloomsburg,” dedicated to James Joyce and the central character from his novel Ulysses, Leopold Bloom.  Elliott based the melody on the closing lines of Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy, which ends the novel as she drifts off to sleep.  The brass players take turns trading fours while constantly changing mutes, creating a musical exchange that sounds like many more than two people. “Kilgore” is dedicated to Elliott’s favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, and his frequently recurring character, Kilgore Trout. Trout plays a central role in many Vonnegut novels, culminating in his appearance alongside the author in Timequake.  Trombonist Dave Taylor shares Elliott’s love of Vonnegut’s novels, so it was inevitable that Elliott would feature him prominently (and in the lowest possible octave) on this tune.

The reclusive author Thomas Pynchon often weaves songs in the form of lyrics into his novels, and in at least one instance named a novel after something Pennsylvania-related.  Mason and Dixon is Pynchon’s fictional account of the British surveyors who mapped the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and like many of his novels, the characters often break into song.  Elliott took one of these tuneless songs and composed a melody to fit Pynchon’s lyrics.  The track begins with a piano solo that originates from the harmony of “Kilgore” and works its way to “Mason and Dixon” featuring solos by Seabrook and Irabagon that dovetail seamlessly.

“Meridian” is based on the final passage of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and a ruthless character referred to only as “The Judge.”  While the ending of the novel is dark and menacing, Elliott’s melody is wistful and nostalgic.  The opening chorale-like section gives way to bridge of the tune before making space for Steven Bernstein, intent on exploring the lower range of a trumpet he had recently brought back from the West coast. 

In David Foster Wallace’s epic novel Infinite Jest, it is mentioned in passing that one of the minor characters grew up in a town called Glen Riddle, PA.  Upon consulting his handy Pennsylvania state atlas (kept in his piano bench) Elliott realized that no such town exists.  The melody to this composition named after a nonexistent Pennsylvania town was inspired by the ending of the novel wherein one of the central characters (a recovering addict) recalls “hitting bottom.”  Infinite Jest explores the idea of information overload or having too much of a good thing and has been a major influence on the music and members of MOPDtK for several years.

Outside of the suite, the first two pieces, “Hi-Nella” and “Honey Hole,” jump rapidly from section to section, featuring the banjo and electronics of Brandon Seabrook in addition to an epic cadenza from Steven Bernstein and solos from Jon Irabagon and Dave Taylor. The album closes with a composition entitled “Five (Corners, Points, Forks)” after three towns in Pennsylvania whose names share the same first word.  The composition begins with a single theme that gradually expands as different members of the ensemble each take turns stating it.  The players are instructed to play no low notes in an attempt to simulate the sound of low-fi recordings from the 1920s.  Once the band is all in, the lower frequencies appear as a contrast to the earlier sections.  Elliott was inspired to write this piece after listening to Jelly Roll Morton’s music and wishing that it had been possible to record those pieces with booming bass frequencies. 

Over the past thirteen years, MOPDtK has earned a place at the forefront of jazz and improvised music, performing in a style that is at once rooted in the jazz tradition and highly improvised and unstructured.  Their initial albums explored the intersection between common practice hard-bop compositions and free improvisation, incorporating a kaleidoscopic wealth of other influences from pop music to the classical European repertoire.  In 2010, Elliott expanded the group’s framework and began exploring specific eras of jazz, resulting in 2011’s Slippery Rock (an investigation of smooth jazz and fusion styles) and 2012’s Red Hot (featuring an expanded lineup recalling the jazz and blues recordings of the late 1920s and early 1930s).

2014 saw the release of Blue, a note-for-note recreation of Miles Davis’ classic album, Kind of Blue that evoked a wide range of strong responses from both the public and critics and will likely be a part of the discussion of the state of jazz in the 21st century for years to come.  In 2015, the band returned to a quartet format for the album Mauch Chunk, which explored the hard-bop styles common in the 1950s.  Since the release of Mauch Chunk, all four members of the core quartet have released solo recordings including Moppa Elliott’s Still, Up In the Air, and pianist Ron Stabinsky’s Free For One, both on Hot Cup Records.

Steven Bernstein is best known as the leader of Sex Mob, The Millenial Territory Orchestra, and the Hot 9 with Henry Butler.  Sex Mob’s album Sexotica was nominated for a Grammy award in 2006.

Jon Irabagon works with Dave Douglas, Mary Halvorson, and Rudy Royston in addition to leading his own ensembles. He recently showcased his versatility by releasing a daring solo sopranino saxophone recording, Inaction is an Action and a straight-ahead jazz quintet recording on his Irabagast Records Label. 

Dave Taylor is one of the most recorded bass trombonists in history.  He has performed and recorded with everyone from Duke Ellington and Gil Evans to The Village People and Sting. 

Brandon Seabrook was named “Best Guitarist in New York” by the Village Voice and performs in a wide variety of contexts from traditional jazz to experimental noise-rock.  His band Seabrook Power Plant recently released their second album. 

Pianist Ron Stabinsky first joined MOPDtK in 2013 as part of a project at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam commemorating the anniversary of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Live at the Five Spot. In addition to his work with MOPDtK, Stabinsky is an accompanist in virtually every possible context from classical recitals, to community choirs, to improvised music, jazz, pop, and rock.  Stabinsky lives in Plains, PA and is a member of the Peter Evans Quartet and Quintet, Charles Evans Quartet (no relation), and recently recorded his first solo album Free For One on Hot Cup Records.

Kevin Shea was named “Best Drummer in New York” by the Village Voice and regularly tours with the noise-rock-improv duo, Talibam! Shea recently released a third album with the band People featuring Mary Halvorson.

Bassist Moppa Elliott teaches music at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, NY and double bass and trombone at the Long Island Conservatory.  He also produces and releases albums on Hot Cup Records including his solo bass recording Still, Up in the Air.

Mar. 5: Rising saxophonist Walter Smith III opens Jazz at Princeton’s spring season

Rising saxophonist Walter Smith III opens Jazz at Princeton’s spring season on Sunday, March 5

“Walter Smith III is an inspired young saxophonist and composer with a lot to say…”Joe Lovano

“…consistently emerging as an identifiable voice among the masses.” – All About Jazz

Jazz at Princeton University, helmed by acclaimed saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa, presents a diverse and compelling spring 2017 season (March 5-May 13), starting with an appearance by guest artist and saxophonist Walter Smith III. With Princeton’s Small Group I, Smith performs music from his most recent album Still Casual on Sunday, March 5, 8 p.m. in Alexander Hall’s Richardson Auditorium. Admission is $15, $5 students. For tickets call 609-258-9220 or visit

Although it may appear Smith is a young gun on the scene at age 33, he is widely recognized as an adept performer, accomplished composer, and inspired educator. He’s performed and/or appeared on over 75 recordings with a wide range of artists including Terence Blanchard, Eric Harland, Roy Haynes, Jason Moran, Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano, Christian Scott, and Christian McBride. Smith holds degrees from the Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. His most recent release, the 2014 Still Casual, features Taylor Eigsti, Matt Stevens, Kendrick Scott, Harish Raghavan, and Ambrose Akinmusire. Originally from Houston, Smith is on the Jazz Studies faculty at the IU Jacobs School of Music.

Other concerts in the series include Steve Lehman’s Sélébéyone (March 28), Small Group 1 and Small Group A (April 12), Small Group A (April 23), Jazz Vocal Collective I and II with Darmon Meader (April 27), Creative Large Ensemble with Billy Childs (May 13).

Jazz at Princeton University serves to promote this uniquely American music as a contemporary and relevant art form.  Our goals are to convey the vast musical and social history of jazz, establish a strong theoretical and stylistic foundation with regard to improvisation and composition, and emphasize the development of individual expression and creativity. Offerings of this program include academic course work, performing ensembles, master classes, private study, and independent projects.

We Just Reached Our Goal + Only 4 Days Left to Pre-order Our First-ever Box Set which Includes Your Free Exclusive Art Zoyd T-Shirt!

Only 4 Days Left - Art Zoyd Box Set Pre-Sale!

Only 4 Days Left for YOU to Receive a Limited Edition Art Zoyd T-Shirt!

Production of Art Zoyd
Box Set is Confirmed:
We Reached Our Goal!

Cuneiform Records would like to thank those who have made production of Art Zoyd's first ever box set, 44 1/2 Live and Unrealeased Works, possible! Thanks to the pre-sales that we've received, we can begin to manufacture the set. Production will be completed in May 2017.

If you have not yet purchased the pre-sale Art Zoyd Box Set, now is your chance. If you purchase within the next 4 DAYS, you will receive a...FREE LIMITED EDITION ART ZOYD T-SHIRT that will only be made exclusively for those who pre-buy this box set; if someone orders it from us after this pre-sale or anywhere else, the price will remain the same, but they will not receive the shirt!

We will ship the Art Zoyd box sets and shirts to you sometime in May 2017.

If you want to order, please ONLY order this item. If you want other items from us, please place a separate order for those items.

Thank you for your help in making this gargantuan project happen!!

Art Zoyd's 44 1/2:
Live and Unreleased Works

This is what is included in the box set...

12 CDs featuring:
• Live in Berlin, The Loft (April 1986)
• Häxan, Live in Copenhagen, European Capital of Culture (February 1996)
• u•B•I•Q•U•e, Live in Maubeuge, La Luna (January 2000)
• Lindbergh (circa 1990)
• Le mariage du ciel et de l’enfer, Live in Paris, with the Ballet National de Marseille (Roland Petit), Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (March 1985)
• Live in Paris, Le Golf Drouot (1972)
• Live in Nancy (1975)  
• Live at Pop Club avec José Artur, Radio France (1974)• Live in Paris, Théâtre de la Renaissance (1976)
• Live in Mons, with Musiques Nouvelles (2000)• “La Nuit du Jabberwock,” with members of Musiques Nouvelles, Live in Armentières, Le Vivat (2002)
• Live in Grenoble, 38èmes Rugissants Festival (1990)• Live in Maubeuge, Art Zoyd with the Orchestre National de Lille (2000)
• Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités (1975/orch. 2000)• Live in Mexico, Art Zoyd with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México (1999)
• Armageddon, actes 2 & 3, Live in Lille (2004)
• Musiques Inédites demos (1987-1992)
• Faust  (unreleased, 1992)
• Les Présidents (1980)• Korbes (1995)
• Live at Pop Club avec José Artur, Radio France (1975)
• Les Escalators mystérieux (2005)
• Globe Arena (1989)
• Musique pour le Six-Centenaire du Beffroi de Bethune (1988)
• Bethune 1789 (1989)
• Les Inattendus de Maubeuge “Spoutnik” (1993)
• Les Trois Mousquetaires
• Flixecourt Tisserands
• La Guerre de Marguerite
• Au nom du Père (1991)  
• Malbodium (1987)
• L'étrangleur est derrière vous (1983)
• Terra Terra! (1986)
• Live in Nancy (1975)
• Live in Reims, Maison de la Culture (1980)
• Live performance (excerpt) for Radio Tonkraft, Stockholm (October 3, 1979)
• Marco Polo (1984)

2 DVDs featuring:
• 44 1/2, the birthday concert, Live at Maison de la Musique, Cap’Découverte, Le Garric, France, Rock In Opposition Festival 2015 (September 19, 2015)
• Live in Berlin, Centre Culturel Français de Berlin (April 14–15, 1986)
• Live on Phase IV / FR3 TV, Hôtel de Ville de Maubeuge (December 1982)
• Nosferatu - Teaser (1988)
• Musique pour l'Odyssée / FR3 Nord Picardie TV excerpt (1979)
• Le mariage du ciel et de l'enfer (excerpts) / Antenne 2 TV (1985)

Cuneiform Records and Art Zoyd present
Art Zoyd's 44 1/2 : Live and Unreleased Works
A 14-disc Box Set of All Previously Unreleased Recordings

“Art Zoyd is a quartet, but their instrumental arsenal produces the sound of a mighty orchestra.”  – The New York Times

“...the uncompromising classic 1982 opus Phase IV is justifiably considered one of the group's peak accomplishments. The Rock in Opposition co-founders marry dark, unsettling atmospherics à la Univers Zero to precise minimalist constructs with hints of Philip Glass or Steve Reich.”   – AllMusic

Originally founded as a psychedelic / progressive rock band in France in 1969, with the arrival of soon-to-be co-leaders Gerard Hourbette and Thierry Zaboitzeff in 1971 and then with the departure of the band’s founder, the group radically changed direction. By 1975 they were no longer a ‘rock’ band with guitars and drums, the band were now a based around the unique sounds of violins, electric bass and cello and trumpet, with additional instrumentation.

In 1976, Art Zoyd released their first album, toured with Magma and within a few years were invited to become one of only eight members of the Rock In Opposition Movement, a musician-led organization of some of the most cutting edge bands from Europe who banded together to increase their opportunities for work.

By the early 1980s, they were touring internationally and were a figurehead of ‘new music’ or ‘avant rock’. Beginning in the mid 80s into the mid 90s, they were at their peak renown, collaborating with choreographer Roland Petit, who commissioned them to work with him on a full ballet: Le Marriage Du Ciel et De L’Enfer (The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell) as well as performing live, self-penned soundtracks to classic silent films such as Nosferatu, Faust and Haxan. Concurrent with this period and their work in ballet and with films, the music shifts towards a more electronic, stripped-down and modern sound during this era.

In 2014, after a period of inactivity, Gerard and Thierry began to speak to each other about the idea of performing some retrospective concerts to celebrate their many achievements and performing as much music from the past as was practical in a concert with as many old collaborators as could be included. The first of these events was held in September 2015 at the Rock In Opposition Festival in Carmaux, France.

This 14-disc set is an outgrowth of the celebration of the decades of Art Zoyd’s far-sighted musical work.

Every CD is filled to the bursting with nearly 80' of music. There are basically eight CDs of live recordings stretching from the years 1972-2004 and four CDs of studio recordings, sketches and outtakes from 1980-2005.

Of the two DVDs, one is comprised of historical television appearances from the late 70s into the end of the 80s and the other being the entire performance of their celebration at the RIO Festival.

“Art one of the most important collectives in the world - dangerous and challenging.” – The Absolute Sound

“...a description of Art Zoyd can not be contained in a single adjective.” – New York Post

Tobias Frohnhöfer - Informal (RMI RECORDS 2017)

“He knows things a 25 year old musician really shouldn’t know” Dr. Richie Beirach (from liner notes)

RMI Records is happy to announce the release of Informal by the Tobias Frohnhöfer Adventure. The young German drummer, composer, and bandleader is heard here on an authoritative collection of original instrumental compositions with his quartet of American jazz musicians.

Originally from Ludwigshafen, Germany, Tobias Frohnhöfer began playing drums at age 7 and quickly developed his chops playing jazz and other styles. A recent graduate of the Mannheim University of Music and Performing Arts, he has already toured throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, while appearing on over ten albums as a drummer and vibraphonist. His successes in music school earned him the Baden-Württemberg-Exchange scholarship, granting him the opportunity to come to the U.S. for a year, where he enrolled at Wesleyan University, studying jazz with Pheeroan ak Laff and Jay Hoggard and South Indian percussion with David Nelson, as well as spending time in New York. Informal was recorded at the culmination of that year and demonstrates the honing his voice as a player, composer, and bandleader. His drum sound displays his myriad influences, from Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Billy Hart, and his mentor Christian Scheuber to younger players like Johnathan Blake, Bill Stewart, and Eric Harland, but his conception has moved from derivative to distinctive. 

The core of Frohnhöfer’s ensemble on Informal is a trio in which he played frequently during his year at Wesleyan, a group diverse in age and experience. On one end of the spectrum, tenor saxophonist (and leader of that trio while a Ph.D. candidate at Wesleyan) Sean Sonderegger has been an important part of the Los Angeles and subsequently New York jazz scenes for years. In recent years Sean has played in the bands of Adam Rudolph, Roy Nathanson, Karl Berger, Tyshawn Sorey, Curtis Fowlkes, and others, and he has received critical acclaim for his 2015 Skirl Records album Eat the Air. On the other end of the spectrum is virtuoso electric bassist Johnnie Gilmore, a precocious and eclectic player who at the time of the recording was finishing his freshman year at Wesleyan University.

These three musicians honed their synergy through a year of playing Sonderegger’s challenging compositions together, and Frohnhöfer was compelled to document not only this group but his own compositions that he had been developing over that year. Rounding out the quartet for Informal is pianist Noah Baerman (here playing electric piano, Hammond organ, and synthesizer). President of RMI Records and Artistic Director of its parent non-profit, Resonant Motion, Baerman had taught Frohnhöfer that year at Wesleyan in the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Orchestra. Says Baerman, “it was clear very quickly that Tobi was a serious young musician – serious not just in doing the work assigned, but in true devotion to learning all the nuances of this music. He arrived already playing at a professional level and grew exponentially from there. It was a no-brainer for me to participate in this session and, once I heard how potent the music was, to invite him to be part of the RMI Records roster.”

The five tracks on Informal display both his straight-ahead jazz bona fides and his capacity to stretch beyond that. The album opens with a bang with the fiery, hard-swinging “Bilderberger-Style.” This organ-centered blowing vehicle features each band member and evokes the work of Larry Young in the early Tony Williams Lifetime. The moody, Wayne Shorter-esque “Here Comes No Sun” follows, with a lyrical, Latin flavored main theme that gives way to an angular, funky vamp. Sonderegger and Baerman (on synth) solo before Frohnhöfer magnifies the energy with an extended closing solo over the song’s vamp. The emotional height of the album comes with “Blue” a composition Frohnhöfer wrote to evoke the emotions surrounding the illness of his father (who sadly passed away a couple months before the album’s official release) back in Germany.

Frohnhöfer’s compositional process is an organic, emotionally tuned-in one, and one intimately connected with not only the evoking of emotions, but of color as well. Much of the song is a moody, harmonically rich jazz waltz, but it morphs seamlessly into a catchy and upbeat groove section, evocative of Robert Glasper’s work, where Sonderegger has space to shine. After working on this one over a period of several months, Frohnhöfer had a moment when the color blue became clear to him, allowing him to know with certainty that the tune was done. The album moves on with the laid-back, swinging tune “The Coffee Man,” which is much more lighthearted both in musical content and in backstory (referencing the nickname given to him by a friendly food service worker at Wesleyan who helped him remain caffeinated). Wrapping up the album is “Informal Request.” Gilmore opens up with a luscious solo bass rendition of the song’s B-section before the band enters with the main theme, a metrically complex yet grooving vamp reminiscent of Steve Coleman’s work. Sonderegger deftly navigates the snaky melodies that lay over that vamp before taking a tour de force solo and passing the baton to Baerman (on synthesizer) and Frohnhöfer.

This album represents both Frohnhöfer’s first release under his own name and his first opportunity to be heard widely by audiences in North America. There is much to enjoy on Informal and audiences will inevitably look back on this album as an important landmark in his fruitful career as a contributor to the lineage of jazz. 

RMI Records is the label wing of Resonant Motion, Inc., a Connecticut-based non-profit focused on music as a vehicle for positive change, both internal and societal. After gaining national attention for Noah Baerman’s Ripples album, RMI Records has signed both up-and-comers like singer-songwriter Jessica Best, cellist-singer-songwriter Mel Hsu, and guitarist Sean Clapis as well as more established artists like renowned pianist George Colligan and guitarist Amanda Monaco’s Pirkei Avot project.

1. Bilderberger-Style 6:09
2. Here Comes No Sun 9:17
3. Blue 12:27
4. The Coffee Man 8:46
5. Informal Request 9:46

Noah Baerman - Electric Piano, Hammond organ, Synth
Johnnie Gilmore - Bass
Sean Sonderegger - Sax
Tobias Frohnhöfer - Drums

Cameron Graves - Planetary Prince (MACK AVENUE RECORDS 2017)

“Cameron Graves’ music is vigorous and refreshing. There is an infectious raw energy on Planetary Prince that is coupled with these terrific melodies and blistering solo work, the whole album is energizing..." In its full realization, the album only furthers that pulse-quickening, consciousness-broadening energy and maintains it over the course of nearly 80 illuminating minutes. 

Satania Our Solar System
Planetary Prince
El Diablo
Adam & Eve
The End of Corporatism
Isle of Love
The Lucifer Rebellion

Cameron Graves - Piano
Hadrien Faraud- Bass
Kamasi Washington- Sax
Ronald Bruner Jr - Drums
Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner - Bass
Ryan Porter -Trombone
Philip Dizack - Tromba

Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge - Mount Royal (FREE DIRT RECORDS 2017)

Mount Royal, the second full-length album from virtuosic guitar duo Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, is a testament to the visceral power of incredible musicianship and true creative collaboration. Produced by Gabe Witcher (one of Eldridge’s fellow Punch Brothers), Mount Royal includes eight originals, several reimagined versions of old bluegrass songs, and a cover of Eddie Vedder’s “Sleeping By Myself” that is as engrossing as it is surprising.

The arrangements on the album’s twelve, mostly instrumental tracks feature complex, rollicking guitar lines one would expect from such technically gifted players, but these moments are allowed to breathe. That is, Lage and Eldridge understand the potency of space in their compositions, and the sonic hills and valleys illustrate that greatness often lies in the unexpected. Lage’s notable jazz background is apparent, yet Mount Royal ventures into old-time, gospel and bluegrass without ever settling into one genre.

The energy between Lage and Eldridge is remarkable, and Mount Royal does not fail in conveying the pair’s mutual passion for the acoustic guitar and respect for collaboration.

01. Bone Collector
02. Rygar
03. Everything Must Go
04. Things in Life
05. Old Grimes
06. Henry
07. Sleeping By Myself
08. Broadcast
09. Goldacre
10. Lion's Share
11. Life in the Mississippi Valley
12. Greener Grass