Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bill Cunliffe's irreverent and gleeful BACHanalia (June 2, 2017)

Pianist/Composer/Arranger Bill Cunliffe Revels in the Melding of Classical and Jazz on New Big Band Album, out June 2, 2017

BACHanalia turns classics by Bach, Prokofiev and Manuel de Falla into briskly swinging jazz featuring Denise Donatelli, Terell Stafford, Joe La Barbera and Bob Sheppard

"Bravo, Bill Cunliffe! You successfully blend your love for the classical world with everything else you embrace. The result is a collection of colors that draw me in from the downbeat to the last fermata." - John Clayton

"Bill Cunliffe is an incredible pianist and unique big band composer/arranger. He combines varied elements in a way that gives his music a sound and feel all its own.He is one of the main voices in the big band genre today." - Bob Mintzer

When composer Gunther Schuller began hybridizing jazz and classical music 60 years ago, he famously coined the term "Third Stream" to describe the results. In 2010, pianist, composer and Grammy-winning arranger Bill Cunliffe wrote a Grammy-nominated concerto for trumpet and orchestra that put his own twist on the merger, calling it fourth stream La Banda. Now, with his newest album, BACHanalia, Cunliffe boldly crosses the streams, mashing together classical repertoire and big band jazz with swinging abandon and irreverent glee.

BACHanalia, out June 2 on Cunliffe's own Metre Records label, obviously tips its hat to a towering figure in the history of music, Johann Sebastian Bach. But it also suggests that audiences are in for a musical bacchanal, an evening of merrymaking and revelry (level of debauchery left to the listener's discretion) that would be temperamentally suited to Cunliffe's raucous, gleam-in-the-eye style. The arrangements spotlight the pianist's gift for transforming a wide range of material into rollicking charts that are as bracingly fun to listen to as they are packed with creative ideas and sparkling wit - all skills learned through working with such legends as Buddy Rich, Frank Sinatra, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and James Moody.

"I was always a wannabe classical pianist," says Cunliffe, modestly downplaying the years of classical training that preceded his college-age immersion in jazz, inspired by hearing Oscar Peterson for the first time. "These days, stylistic differences aren't viewed in quite the same way they used to be. Big band jazz is more intricately written, so it's moving toward European music; and modern classical music uses more indeterminacy, like jazz. And players now can do everything."

Taking a classic big band approach to such revered classical masters as Bach, Sergei Prokofiev and Manuel de Falla, an arranger could get weighed down shouldering the burden of two immense traditions. But Cunliffe's approach is never less than buoyant, juggling those traditions with agile spontaneity and a luxuriant sonic palette. The album, which commingles those reimagined classical pieces with jazz standards and a Latin-tinged original composition, is made even more compelling by the invigorating musicianship of a stellar large ensemble that teams virtuosic L.A. veterans with enthusiastic and skilled younger players, striking an ideal balance of technical excellence and infectious energy.

In addition, Cunliffe invites special guests to enliven the proceedings: Three-time Grammy nominee Denise Donatelli adds evocative wordless vocals to several tracks as well as a seductive interpretation of a Cole Porter classic; trumpeter Terell Stafford, who has played with the bandleader in the Clayton Brothers band and taught alongside him at Philadelphia's Temple University, takes a breathtakingly vulnerable solo turn on "Blame It On My Youth"; saxophonist Bob Sheppard offers a thrilling soprano workout on Cunliffe's "Afluencia"; and the incomparable drummer Joe La Barbera anchors the band throughout with the exhilarating propulsion that Cunliffe insists is central to any music he makes.

"It's got to swing," he states simply. "That rhythmic engine is so important. It brings people together. The structures of classical music lend themselves extremely well to large group jazz improvisation, but you've got to find rhythms that are readily translatable. Bach has always had that pulse. The Russian stuff - Shostakovich, Prokofiev - always feels like bebop to me."

The sound of La Barbera's brushes opens the album, setting the gentle but upbeat tone for "Sleepers Wake." Cunliffe's take on the beloved Bach cantata lets Donatelli's glowing vocalise carry the melody, joined at times by sax, guitar, trumpet, or Cunliffe's piano. A similar setting is given to the Baroque melodic twists and turns of "Solfeggietto," by the great composer's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Donatelli's voice blends into the surging swells of Falla's "The Three-Cornered Hat," which Cunliffe originally arranged at the behest of legendary "Tonight Show" bandleader Doc Severinsen.

An orchestral din leads into the sultry Cuban accents of Cunliffe's own "Afluencia," originally written for and recorded by his Latin band, Imaginación. Sheppard reprises his soloist role from the group's self-titled 2005 recording. Besides that piece, the album deviates from the classical theme on the overcast version of "Blame It On My Youth" and, to close, "I've Got You Under My Skin."

The rich, complex harmonies of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto caught Cunliffe's ear from the first time he heard the piece. Here he transforms it into a lively samba highlighted by his own adventurous solo as well as a hypnotic run by saxophonist Rob Lockart, a former Eastman School of Music classmate. The final classically inspired piece is "Goldberg Contraption," which uses Glenn Gould's acclaimed recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations as a touchstone before veering off in some wild and eclectic directions. The title pays winking homage to cartoonist Rube Goldberg, whose whimsical devices went to ridiculous extremes to achieve simple goals, using a hodgepodge of found items. Cunliffe approached the composition similarly, patchworking a parodic fugue with New Orleans brass and simmering bebop, with the tongues that aren't playing instruments planted firmly in cheeks.

"I think music should be, among other things, funny," Cunliffe says. "I think that musicians - and people in general - who don't laugh at themselves are missing the boat." More often, though, the fun of Cunliffe's music comes from the joy of the players and from the pianist himself, who exults in recomposing his pieces on the bandstand. "I love being able to conduct the ensemble and break things apart at times. It's never the same twice."

Verneri Pohjola 'Pekka' The New Album



‘Pekka’ is the new, epochal album in Finnish trumpeter/composer Verneri Pohjola’s already illustrious and prolific career. 

An album that promises to be a defining moment in Finnish culture, Pekka reinterprets the music of Verneri’s late father Pekka Pohjola, the internationally acclaimed and revered prog-rock bassist and composer, through the prism of his son’s unique vision.


Double LP (The first 100 LPs will be signed by Verneri)
CD (The first 50 CDs will be signed by Verneri)
Listen to 'First Morning'

Due for release worldwide on 2 June 2017, Pekka is one of the most anticipated albums to emerge from the Finnish progressive, rock and jazz scenes for some time. Seeking to combine Pekka’s music, adored in Finland and internationally during the last four decades, with Verneri’s powerful sense of music making, ‘Pekka’ is an album that will excite, inspire and move many fans across borders, generations and genres.

Peter and Will Anderson - Blues for Joe (GUT STRING RECORDS 2017)

This album of music is dedicated to our longtime friend and private teacher for six years,  saxophonist Joe Temperley.  Joe’s youthful spirit, blunt humor, and strong Scottish accent filled  up the room wherever hewas.  His sound and finesse on the baritone saxophone was unparalleled,  whether he was roaring through Ellington's “Cottontail” or singing sweetly on “Single Petal of a Rose.”  It’s no surprise that Joe was recruited by some of the greatest orchestras in jazz,  including Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  

"Double trouble!  It always makes my soul smile when I see siblings playing music together. Creating music is such a magical experience, and being able to do it with members of your family makes it even more special.  I also think Peter and Will have the telepathy thing going on because they've got such a cohesive sound.  When I listen to this album “Blues for Joe,” all I have to do is close my eyes and I feel as though I am transported right back to my days with Bird, Coltrane, and Cannonball!  It doesn't get any better than that.  These cats are definitely the future!

Peter and Will, my beloved brothers, big-time props for your awards.  You two deserve every drop.  I was very happy to hook up with both of you on my trip.  You are two beautiful 360 degrees human beings;my favorite kind.  You will take jazz into the future!"  -Quincy Jones, June 2017

Blues for Joe (Peter Anderson)
The Royal Standard (Peter Anderson)
Exceptional Elegance (Will Anderson)
Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn)
Relaxed Beauty (Will Anderson)
Minor Joe (Peter Anderson)
Vitality (Peter Anderson)
Body and Soul (Johnny Green)
The Truth Will Prevail (Will Anderson)
Few and Far Between (Will Anderson)

Peter Bernstein (guitar) 
Pat Bianchi (B-3 Organ) 
Kenny Washington (drums)

Recorded July 31st, 2016 in NYC

Avi Avital - Avital Meets Avital (DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 2017)

Two superb musicians of international stature – classically trained mandolin player Avi Avital and jazz bassist Omer Avital – have combined their creative energy and set out in search of their cultural roots. Classical music meets jazz, tradition meets modernism, East meets West. Now Avital Meets Avital presents the fascinating results of what is surely one of the most unusual gatherings in classical music.

Early in their careers Avi Avital and Omer Avital already took their musical bearings on the North African traditions of their families and absorbed influences from the multi-cultural melting pot of Israeli society, indulging their fondness for western music. Today the Israeli mandolin player Avi Avital is one of the most accomplished and best-known masters of his instrument. At his concerts with leading orchestras and musicians he is celebrated by fans and media all over the world for his thrilling renditions of klezmer tunes, baroque compositions and his great love, contemporary art music. In 2010 he became the world’s first mandolinist ever to be nominated for the coveted Grammy® Award. His namesake and decades-long friend, the New York-based composer and bass player Omer Avital, stands in high repute as one of the most adventurous and visionary minds in contemporary jazz. Put them together, and two completely antithetical worlds of music overlap.

“The basic idea behind this album was the collaboration of two artists, one who focuses mainly on classical music while the other is primarily at home in jazz.” Thus Avi Avital describes Avital Meets Avital, a work full of exciting opposites and contradictions that Avi and Omer blend into a spellbinding unity. Avital Meets Avital is pure unadulterated exoticism: oriental melodies clash with North African rhythms, swinging jazz improvisations with classical mandolin playing. It’s a musical journey reaching far back to their roots, preserving the legacy of their shared culture while giving it a wholly new and modern guise.

As a result, Avital Meets Avital covers a musical spectrum as varied and exciting as the culture of Israeli itself. Lively dance-floor tunes bursting with joie de vivre alternate with slow, melancholy ballads; classically sculpted motifs merge with free improvisation, western jazz harmony, standard compositional technique, Moroccan beats, cantabile melodies and lilting rhythms.

Omer Avital
1. Zamzama 7:57
2. Lonely Girl 7:42
3. Ana Maghrebi 5:01
Avi Avital, Omer Avital, Yonathan Avishai, Itamar Doari

Avi Avital
4. Avi's Song 4:52
Avi Avital, Omer Avital, Yonathan Avishai, Itamar Doari, Uri Sharlin

Omer Avital
5. Ballad For Eli 4:39
Avi Avital, Omer Avital, Yonathan Avishai

Avi Avital
6. Prelude 2:12
Avi Avital

Omer Avital
7. Maroc 5:35
8. Hijazain 6:33
Avi Avital, Omer Avital, Yonathan Avishai, Itamar Doari

Moshe Vilenski
9. The Source And The Sea (Balada Al Maayan Ve`Yam) 3:24
Avi Avital, Omer Avital

Jeremy Rose (feat. Kurt Rosenwinkel) - Within and Without (EARSHIFT MUSIC 2017)

“I have always been intrigued, amazed, challenged and – to be frank – totally gassed by his restless artistic nature and his consistently questing music, both as a composer and as a soloist.” – 

“His playing shows subtle glimpses of a mature master.” - The Australian 

'Within and Without', the third album by saxophonist/bass clarinetist-composer Jeremy Rose features him in an impressive collaboration with US guitar luminary Kurt Rosenwinkel, along with Berlin rhythm section of bassist Andreas Lang, drummer Tobias Backhaus, and Sydney pianist Jackson Harrison. 

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Rose has travelled extensively, absorbing influences from around the world. Rose shows to be an important emerging voice on ‘Within and Without’, a set of eight distinctive originals, one from Harrison, and an unexpected arrangement of the Australian folk song 'Flashjack'. 

Rose is an award-winning saxophonist-composer with a PhD in composition and almost a dozen releases with his co-led projects including The Vampires, the 17-piece Earshift Orchestra, The Strides and Compass Quartet. Rose recently received the APRA Professional Development Award for Jazz, the Bell Award for Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year, and was runner up at the National Jazz Awards saxophone competition. 

The music was written in a time of great change in Rose’s life; the tumultuous end of a relationship, introspective travels through Morocco and Indonesia, and newfound creative inspiration. Jeremy describes the album as; “opposing forces of attraction and repulsion, joy and anguish, hope and despair, pain and ecstasy.” 

The title track 'Within and Without' suggests simultaneous opposing forces; attraction and repulsion, enchantment and anguish, hope and despair. The title is also inspired by James Turrell’s skyspace installation at National Gallery of Australia, 'Within Without', which transforms in colour with varying angles of fading natural light. 

'Trawangan' was inspired by a recent trip to Trawangan Island (aka ‘Gili T’), off Lombok in Indonesia. Strange Doors is a quote from a David Bowie song 'Scary Monster.' 'Afensou' is a remote village in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco where Rose recently traveled, with stunning views of the scenic rugged landscape. 'Night Wanderer' is a nod to those that seek the quite streets after midnight for their solitude. 'Zombie' was written after watching too many episodes of The Walking Dead, and later regretting it. 'From the River to You' is an exploration of the creative process. 'Second Chance' is for those in life that deserve another chance. 

'Ballad for Charlie' was written for the great jazz bassist, Charlie Haden, following his unfortunate death. 'Flashjack' is an arrangement of the Australian folk song, Flashjack from Gundagai. 

Within and Without will be released 2 June on Earshift Music through MGM / Herbie Martin Music. 

Within and Without will be launched Saturday 17 June at the Sound Lounge, the Seymour Centre, presented by Sydney Improvised Music Association, and 14 October at ZigZag, Berlin. 

1. Trawangan
2. Within and Without
3. Strange Doors
4. Afensou
5. Night Wanderer
6. Zombie
7. From the River to You (Harrison)
8. Second Chance
9. Ballad for Charlie
10. Flashjack (trad. Arranged Rose)

Kurt Rosenwinkel – guitar and effects
Jackson Harrison – piano
Andreas Lang – bass
Tobias Backhaus – drums

All compositions by Rose unless indicated. 

Recorded 18-19 April 2016 at Audiocue Studios, Berlin by Rainer Robben 
Mixed and mastered September 2016 with Bob Scott 

Produced by Jeremy Rose 
Cover photography by Seshanka Samarajiwa 
Studio and live photography by Javier Chiocchio 
Design by Pat Harris 
All Compositions Registered with APRA © 2016 All Rights Reserved. 
Unauthorised Duplication is a violation of applicable laws. 

Special thanks to Milly and everyone at APRA, Kurt, Jackson, Andreas and Tobias for their creative input and beautiful playing, Rainer and Bob for capturing such an great sound, my family and Mei for all their love and support. 

This project has been assisted by the APRA Song Hub initiative.