Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saxophonist Jason Rigby's trio date "One"

Acclaimed Saxophonist/Composer Jason Rigby releases new trio recording ONE
Out April 28, 2017 on Fresh Sound Records

CD Release Performance April 29th, 2017 at The Jazz Gallery in New York City

Rigby's third recording as a leader is the first of a series of releases featuring his working trio
with bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Gerald Cleaver

Saxophonist Jason Rigby's new album, ONE, is the long-awaited release of his Detroit-Cleveland Trio. Rigby's first two recordings employed larger ensembles as he worked to find his own artistic balance as composer, bandleader, and improviser. This new album is more intimate, putting improvisation first, both from the leader and from the group collectively. The focus of ONE is the connection between three players of different generations, who meet to form a unity of like-minded artists, bending the boundaries between inside and outside. Most of the pieces are Rigby originals.

"I've been composing for this band in a way that gives each player enough compositional material to grab on to, but not too much to stifle open-ended improvisation. Ultimately this recording is about freewheeling improvisation and the unique connection that we have formed over the past 6 years performing together as a trio."

That unique sound has its roots in development for more than a decade. Cameron Brown has been with Rigby in various formats since 2005, and Gerald Cleaver first played with the saxophonist in 2001. "I initially played with Gerald on bassist Eivind Opsvik's debut release, and then did some European touring with him shortly after with bassist Thomas Morgan. I've been a fan of Cameron's since hearing him play with Idris Muhammed in Joe Lovano's trio, and on record with the George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet. I knew that putting Cameron and Gerald together would be an extremely exciting concoction."

In addition to the dazzling alchemic pairing of Brown and Cleaver, Rigby's formation of this trio was an homage to the band members' Midwest roots - Brown and Cleaver from Detroit and Rigby from Cleveland.  Both cities have fostered a lengthy list of jazz luminaries, with the Midwest long being a fertile cradle for musical talent.

The result is an ensemble that deeply grooves, has a strong predilection for free improvisation, and is visionary while respecting the lineage of the music. The trio's cohesiveness is enhanced by the musicians' abilities to effortlessly dance between inside and out playing - no doubt evidence of three experienced players sharing similar artistic ideas.

"'ONE" refers to the musical unity the three of us have with each other," Rigby explains. "There is a deep trust we share with one another, allowing for greater risk-taking. The music is always first, so I know whatever happens, we all have each other's back. Playing with these guys is always an adventure - I never really know what's going to happen, which is exciting."

The album opens with "Dive Bar," a fiery tenor saxophone and drums duet. "I love drummers, and I've been fortunate to play with some really great ones over the past several years." Rigby refers to his work in various situations with the likes of Mark Guiliana, Brian Blade, Tom Rainey, Billy Hart, Rudy Royston, Mark Ferber, and R.J. Miller, to name a few. The title "Dive Bar" refers to the now too-few classic New York City musical haunts, such as the original Five Spot, where bands played night after night. "The great bands that played together nightly formed a deep cohesion, such as with the Miles Davis Quintets." Rigby says. "Cameron, Gerald and I have played together a lot over the years in various formats, which has resulted in a strong bond, and I feel we have developed a unique sound as a group. 'Dive Bar' is a very simple 2-part theme, built to spark the bulk of the performance of uncharted improvisation."

The second track, "Dorian Gray," is inspired by the Oscar Wilde work. "It's is built on 2 opposing themes - the first being an odd-meter ostinato that evolves and shifts into the second, a settled yet slightly askew bass ostinato with a contrasting melody on top." This track showcases the trio's unity with the timing between drum and bass groove, complicated rhythms, and angular melody lining up perfectly.

The third track is a departure from Rigby's original compositions, Rodgers & Hart's "You Are Too Beautiful." "This tune that was a big inspiration for me - mainly from the recordings of John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, and a live Sonny Rollins performance from the late 1950's," explains Rigby. "I read that Dewey Redman expressed frustration with listeners pigeon-holing his playing, as he stated that he loved to play free as much as he loved to play an old standard ballad. The love for both is something I share with Mr. Redman." Cameron Brown's bass solo stretches the time with such patience and musical intent, in a way that wonderfully illuminates his highly melodic style.

Track four, "Newtoon," is a composition by one of Rigby's favorite drummers, George Schuller. The melody is a flowing line that moves through several tonalities in rubato style. The players slip seamlessly into group improvising, while maintaining a consistent thread of connection to the original melody. "I love the idea of playing a tune in a way where the lines between composed material and improvisation become blurred," explains Rigby. "George is such a melodic player on the drums, which is expressed in his composing. I love the way Cameron and Gerald play this piece as if they wrote it."

The Herbie Hancock composition "Speak Like A Child" is track five, and features Rigby's cascading soprano saxophone. "This is another of my favorite compositions, which we pare down into the trio. The absence of a harmonic instrument allows us to stretch into more freedom and space, which I feel has become a defining aspect of this band."

The sixth track is a Rigby original, "Live By The Sword," a free-flowing melodic unison between tenor and bass. Cleaver's swirling playing is particularly atmospheric here. After wisps of melody and space, the performance builds to an intense final statement.

Rigby chose to record a solo version Gershwin's "Embraceable You" for track seven, another of his favorite standards. He begins with an introspective theme that develops into the tune, yet he never fully plays the original melody. The quietest track on the recording, Rigby weaves his improvised lines around the essence of the composition with patience and thoughtful melodic development.

The final track, "Dewey," is part of a suite of music that Rigby composed a few years ago dedicated to saxophonist Dewey Redman and pianist Paul Bley. Beginning with a call-and-response of rhythmic hits and flurrying melodies, the band plunges red-hot into group improvising. Rigby plays with ferocious intensity while Brown and Cleaver stoke the fire. A powerful ending to a varied collection of pieces, this track reveals this band's capacity for primal screaming emotion.

"ONE" is the first of a series of recordings that Rigby plans to release over the next couple of years, showcasing this band of unique unity and vision. They celebrate the CD release on April 29th at The Jazz Gallery in New York City. For more information and tickets, visit

About Jason Rigby

Increasingly considered one of the most creative and unique saxophonists of his generation, Jason Rigby has developed a unique voice as a compelling improviser, as well as a composer. An in-demand sideman, Rigby currently tours and records with Mark Guilliana's Jazz Quartet and Beat Music, and has performed with a wide variety of musicians including Chris Morrissey, Kris Davis, Russ Lossing, Owen Howard, Kermit Driscoll, Dan Wall, Mike Baggetta, Eivind Opsvik, Mike Holober, Jeff Davis, Alan Ferber, David Binney, and Aretha Franklin.

Jim Yanda Trio - Regional Cookin'

Jim Yanda Trio - Home Road (2 CD)

Guitarist/Composer Jim Yanda Releases Two Albums Spanning the 30-Year Career of His Brilliantly Inventive Trio

Featuring bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, Regional Cookin’ finds long-overdue release after decades on the shelf, while Home Road captures 2 CDs’ worth of newly-recorded music

Thirty years is a long time to keep any relationship going. It’s an almost impossibly long time to keep a secret. To a large extent the Jim Yanda Trio has managed to do both, creating exhilarating, spontaneous music together while remaining largely under the radar outside of those lucky enough to catch their sporadic performances in the New York area – despite the fact that the trio features Drew Gress, one of the music’s busiest and most in-demand bassists, and veteran drummer/experimentalist Phil Haynes.

Yanda is finally ready to let the cat out of the bag – in a big way. The guitarist and composer is set to release two albums featuring three CDs’ worth of music spanning the trio’s long history. Regional Cookin’ dates from the band’s earliest days, recorded in 1987 but never before released, while Home Road fills two discs with newly-recorded material illustrating the trio’s evolution. Both will be released on March 24 through Haynes’ Corner Store Jazz label.

Together, these two albums reveal a band with a profound sense of empathy, a thrilling knack for taking sonic chances, deep roots in the blues combined with an era-spanning avant-garde sensibility, and perhaps most importantly, a raw honesty that could only result from such long and enduring friendships – and, Iowa native Yanda might insist, a plainspoken Midwestern directness.

“I think there’s a little more naiveté and abandon on Regional Cookin’,” Yanda says in comparing the two sessions. “I was just trying to hang on for dear life and survive. Home Road is more controlled with, hopefully, a little more maturity and wisdom.”

The fact that a debut as assured and often electrifying as Regional Cookin’ could languish on the shelf for 30 years is a reflection of Yanda’s understated modesty, which in a case like this can allow the perfect to become an enemy of the (very) good. “My initial mistake,” he writes in the album’s liner notes, “of measuring creativity against some idealized version in our mind’s ear while overlooking the achievement of the actual product likely bedevils most recording artists at some point.”

While that error in self-judgment kept this music hidden from the ears of listeners, it fortunately didn’t dissuade Yanda from continuing his fruitful collaboration with Haynes, which stretches back to their student days at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, and Gress, who joined the duo shortly after their arrival in New York City in 1983. Yanda and Haynes shared a Brooklyn storefront where they could both live and play. The drummer, whose extensive credits include releases with Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas, Mark Dresser, Michelle Rosewoman and Theo Bleckmann, discovered in Gress an ideal rhythm partner, launching a vital and long-lasting collaboration and making a trio meeting almost inevitable. Gress, of course, went on to work with an exhaustive list of jazz’s most creative artists, including John Abercrombie, Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Marc Copland, Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck, and John Surman.

Yanda began his professional career playing Western Swing in Iowa honky-tonks near his family’s farm. He turned to rock in his high school years, inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers, then finally discovered jazz in college. After a brief tenure in New York he spent six years in Chicago, regularly playing in local clubs, working with drummer/composer Damon Short and the Déjà Vu Big Band, and frequenting the legendary South Side jam sessions hosted by Von Freeman. He made his permanent return to New York in 1992.

Yanda was inspired to form the trio by his and Haynes’ shared mentor, trumpeter Paul Smoker, whose innovative trio work drew from influences that run the length and breadth of jazz history. “Paul went all the way back to field hollers, rags, New Orleans music, Louis Armstrong - primordial pre-jazz up through swing – then through Charlie Parker to free music, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the World Saxophone Quartet. As a listener it was so refreshing and gave the experience so much more depth to be able to draw on the entire history. The straight ahead stuff sounds fresher and the old stuff sounds more modern when you juxtapose those different eras and open up that wider history.”

Yanda decided to pursue a similar path; the strengths that are shared between the two discs of Home Road and the much earlier recordings on Regional Cookin’ include a vigorous swing coupled with a tightrope-walking freedom, a full-throated blues feeling filtered through a sharp-edged modernism. One common ground between the earliest jazz and the freedom of the avant-garde has always been collective improvisation, and Yanda was eager to pursue that concept with Gress and Haynes.

“We always wanted the interplay and the dialogue to continue among all of the players all of the time while the music is happening,” Yanda explains. “In straight ahead music there’s a tendency to have the rhythm section in the background with a soloist in front. We try to let everyone be free to improvise at any given time, so you get much more of a group improvisation feel and it opens a lot of doors for new sounds and creativity. Phil and Drew are masters at that; you’re always aware that they’re listening and reacting and feeding you ideas. It’s a wide open kind of experience.”

It’s an experience that the members of Yanda’s trio have sought to recreate in a number of different contexts. Yanda is a longtime member of Haynes’ “jazz-grass” string band Free Country, whose work spans the breadth of American music, from jazz to country to bluegrass. The pair also makes up two-thirds of The Hammond Brothers, a reimagining of the classic organ trio featuring B3 master Steve Adams. Yanda has also collaborated with trumpeter Herb Robertson.

Davy Mooney - Hope of Home (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2017)

Guitarist Davy Mooney left his home of New Orleans in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina loomed. He left his newly acquired house and eventually settled into life away, mainly off and on, for six years in the jazz capital of the world, New York City. In 2013, Mooney moved back with his wife, balancing the anxiety of leaving New York and getting acclimated once again with his hometown. His new Hope of Home showcases Mooney’s efforts to integrate his New York and New Orleans personalities in a moving, musical fashion. 

Originally from New Orleans, Mooney went through the famed jazz programs of New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and the University of North Texas. Though he considered a move to New York, as many young musicians do, Mooney held out until Katrina forced his hand. He went on to compete in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition, where he finished third, and then on to the Monk Institute for two years, where he studied with the great trumpeter and New Orleans native Terence Blanchard. After, Mooney settled into the world of a professional musician in the competitive New York market. 

It was during his time in New York that Mooney recorded Perrier Street with an incredible cast of musicians. The record was very well planned and highly structured, performed ably; mainly by musicians with ties to New Orleans, including drummer Brian Blade, pianist Jon Cowherd and saxophonist John Ellis. Along with their connections to the South, these musicians are all ambitious and eclectic in their musical scope. All had gone through a similar developmental process as Mooney (the jazz programs of Loyola and settling in New York), not to mention paying their dues with many of the same musicians along the way. 

For Hope of Home, Mooney insisted on keeping this ensemble, which also included bassist Matt Clohesy. Blade’s The Fellowship Band had long been a touchstone for Mooney’s own musical development, so having Blade and core band member Cowherd on his recording was important to Mooney and certainly worth the wait. It was important to preserve the essence of the continuity between the two scenes, knowing that they connect and you can still go home. 

Interestingly enough, Mooney carried New Orleans with him in the music he created and the people he created it with. The title of the recording comes from a line from the Homer’s The Odyssey about keeping your “hope of home” in your heart while away for an extended time. His roots seep into the music, which he intentionally wrote more straight ahead and blowing. His penchant for writing comes across in the illustrative lyrics that he penned for three tunes. 

The album begins with “Scarlatina,” a propulsive composition evolving from an earlier piece entitled “Crimson” that utilizes a fixed contrapuntal design. Originally written in 30 minutes as an assignment, “Ides of April” is an aural tribute to Blade’s The Fellowship band that Mooney was excited to hear at Lincoln Center on April 15, 2005. The moving “Cold, Sober” is about taking stock and cleaning up in this poetic tune, while “Hope of Home” is an anxious piece written about the time Mooney purchased his first home, but displaying his ability to write catchy. Taken from twisting the melody of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” the bright “Think So Little of Me” is a challenging piece with hard chord changes and a quick tempo. 

The heroic “I’ll Be Freeing You” reinvents a transcription of a Kurt Rosenwinkel solo in the melody and provides an inspiring conversation between Ellis and Blade. The quirky “Stutter Step” is a tribute to New Orleans music sensibility and directly to Mooney’s former teacher, guitarist Steve Masakowski. The harmonically wandering “Peregrine” swings nicely and features a lovely turn by Cowherd, while “Intervalis” is written for Gil Goldstein and features the use of all intervals (e.g. minor second, Major third, etc.) before repeating, a type of serial motive. The catchy “The Clover” is a nostalgic and pastoral piece taking inspiration from the work of Ravel. The recording concludes with the somber “Like Before,” a ballad for voice, guitar and piano. 

On his new recording Hope for Home, Davy Mooney has returned to the foundation of his music: his hometown of New Orleans and a fantastic ensemble that identifies with his history and ambitions.

Throughout the album, Mooney demonstrates his skills as a composer, arranger, and improviser. The fascinating rhythmic "I'll Be Freeing You," are just one example.

-Alex W. Rodriguez, Portland JazzScene, January 2017

Mooney’s fingers fly over the fretboard, though no note sounds superfluous. His playing throughout relies on imagination rather than licks. 

-Geraldine Wyckoff, Offbeat Magazine, March 2017

Mooney reveals his considerable fretboard prowess here, but it’s always in the context of his harmonically sophisticated, literate tunes like the moody “Swingset," “Crimson" (his syncopated meditation on “Little Red Riding Hood") and the darkly alluring ballad “Phelia."

-Bill Milkoswki, Jazz Times, May 2012

…soulful postbop guitar work and lithe, old-school vocal stylings.

-Time Out New York, March 2012

Evocative and emotional, exquisite and elegiac, here the perspicacious artist proves his poetry is as perceptive as his playing.

-Aaron LaFont, Offbeat Magazine, January 2010

Mooney reveals himself to be a fingerstyle, chordal player of the highest order as well as a burning single-note picker. He nimbly integrates both aspects here—cascading lines with rich chordal voicings—often at the same time; a neat trick that only a few…can successfully pull off.

-Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes, December 2009

…A soulful and harmonically savvy guitarist from New Orleans…

-Nate Chinen, New York Times Jazz Listings, May 9, 2008

1. Scarlatina 05:38
2. Ides Of April 06:19
3. Cold, Sober 06:33
4. Hope Of Home 06:11
5. Think So Little Of Me 06:07
6. I'll Be Freeing You 04:56
7. Stutter Step 06:23
8. Peregrine 06:21
9. Intervalis 05:33
10.The Clover 06:25
11.Like Before 02:56
John Ellis - tenor sax (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 10), bass clarinet, clarinet (1, 7)
Jon Cowherd - piano
Matt Clohesy - bass
Brian Blade - drums

Gene Segal - Spiral (SteepleChase Records 2017)

Guitarist/composer Gene Segal is rapidly becoming a stalwart regular player of SteepleChase Lookout with this his 3rd album, for which Gene assembles an organ trio. With his unpredictable, open, unconventional style still intact Segal applies a mini paradigm shift to straighter jazz and reveals a new dimension.

1 SPIRAL (Gene Segal) 6:15
2 CREEPER (Gene Segal) 5:40
3 TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY (Gene Segal) 7:50
4 US (Gene Segal) 5:47
5 DHARMA (Gene Segal) 6:14
6 HIDDEN PLACE (Björk Guðmundsdóttir) 6:11
7 SUNKEN TREASURE (Gene Segal) 5:53
8 INTO NIGHT (Gene Segal) 4:41
9 BLUES OUT (Gene Segal) 4:27
10 SOULSTICE (Gene Segal) 6:34

BRIAN CHARETTE Hammond B3 organ

John Yao Quintet - Presence (2017)

The John Yao Quintet will release its second recording "Presence" on See Tao Recordings available on May 1st. New York Music Daily call Yao "one of New York’s elite trombonists and is also a first-class, ambitious, and witty composer and leader.” AVAILABLE MAY 1ST ON iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby.

1. Tight Rope 5:57
2. Presence 4:39
3. M. Howard 7:46
4. Over the Line 8:46
5. Fuzzy Logic 4:16
6. Nightfall 6:38
7. 1247 Chestnut 7:54
8. Bouncy's Bounce 6:13

John Yao (Trombone)
Jon Irabagon (Soprano Sax)
Randy Ingram (Piano)
Peter Brendler (Bass)
Shawn Baltazor (Drums)

Benny Green - Happiness! Live At Kuumbwa (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2017)

The brilliant pianist Benny Green has made it his purpose to pass on the essence and tools of the masters of jazz. He was fortunate enough to grow up at a time when a young musician could still approach and apprentice with a legend like drummer Art Blakey, as Green did as a member of the Jazz Messengers. Green continues to honor both the musicians and the sound of the music that he grew up admiring on his new album, Happiness!

Green grew up in 1970s Berkeley, California, where he devoured all the jazz he could. He listened to 1950s and 1960s Blue Note recordings relentlessly, imprinting the sound and feel of his heroes into his psyche. In the early 1980s Green was able to put his knowledge to the test as an accompanist for singer and mentor Betty Carter. He then went on to have valuable tenures in the bands of two of his heroes: Art Blakey and bassist Ray Brown. 

The experiences with these exceptional musicians, all scholars of jazz, helped to shape Green’s own music, which grew to embrace swing and blues as essential elements. Green’s subsequent career has shown him to be a true standard bearer for jazz music and it is no surprise that his recordings give testament to that. 

Green’s new recording, Happiness!, came about in serendipitous fashion. On June 13, 2016, Green found himself along with his trio mates, bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green, on the stage at his favorite venue, Kuumbwa Jazz Workshop in Santa Cruz, California. As is his custom, Green brought his Sony PCM-M10 recorder to capture the evening. The results of the recording astounded the pianist and he knew that it was something that he wanted to release. 

Unlike his two previous recordings on Sunnyside, Happiness! is entirely devoted to interpreting the music of other composers. The composers whose work is featured all fit within the arc of jazz classicism that Green holds so dear. The recording is also special because of the energy generated by the ensemble in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

The program begins with an effervescent take on Horace Silver’s “The St. Vitus Dance,” propelled with aplomb by Wong and Green. Freddie Hubbard’s “Down Under” is played with a bombastic swagger, while Cedar Walton’s “Martha’s Prize” is a dynamic piece with many twists and turns. The bluesy “Sixth Avenue” is another by Walton and showcases a warm, gospel sensibility. 

Thad Jones’s “50-21” is played regally with Green’s graceful touch and poignant harmonic sense. The blues are highlighted again in Duke Pearson’s standout “Chant,” while Green’s original “Pittsburgh Brethren” is a lengthy tribute to one of the most important jazz towns in the country and its progeny, including Blakey, Sonny Clark and Erroll Garner. The recording concludes with Wes Montgomery’s knottily titled “Twisted Blues,” a blues workout with some unexpected turns.

A live performance by a master and keeper of the flame is worthy of celebration. This recording provides a wonderful reminder of what it means to find ecstasy in music. Naturally, Benny Green is delighted to spread Happiness! everywhere he goes.

1. Introduction 00:35
2. The St. Vitus Dance 04:33
3. Announcement 00:16
4. Down Under 06:53
5. Martha's Prize 06:46
6. Sixth Avenue 06:37
7. 50-21 06:12
8. Chant 04:27
9. Pittsburgh Brethren 10:13
10. Twisted Blues 03:35

Benny Green - piano
David Wong - bass
Rodney Green - drums

Andy Fusco - Joy-Riding (SteepleChase Records 2017)

Veteran alto saxophonist Andy Fusco, despite his long-time active career which had begun with the 5-year tenure with the Buddy Rich Big Band in the late 70s, has been notoriously under-recorded as a leader.

His SteepleChase debut album last year “Whirlwind” SCCD 31811, though it took 12 years before its release, has marked the new era for the virtuoso instrumentalist.

Here on his new album (only one year has passed since the last one) Fusco leads his hand-picked band to present a tasteful and full-blooded program.

1 EZZ-THETIC (George Russell) 9:08
2 TENDER LEAVES (Walt Weiskopf) 5:39
3 TODAY (Joel Weiskopf) 8:09
4 SKYLARK (Hoagy Carmichael) 7:35
5 ERIN’S BLUES (Andy Fusco) 10:19
7 RELAXIN’ WITH ANDY (Walt Weiskopf) 6:45
8 JOY-RIDING (Walt Weiskopf) 6:25
9 HOT HOUSE (Tadd Dameron) 7:16

ANDY FUSCO alto saxophone
WALT WEISKOPF tenor saxophone
Mike Karn bass
Jason Tieman drums