Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Odradek Records eNews: Silvan Loher – Night, Sleep, Death and the Stars (2017)

Night, Sleep, Death and the Stars
Songs by Silvan Loher

"...poetry is music and music is poetry..."
Silvan Loher

Composer Silvan Loher has long been transfixed by both music and poetry. For Loher, the two worlds are strongly connected; the poetry with which he connects strikes a musical chord in him, and the music he loves most possesses a poetic quality. It was inevitable, then, that Silvan Loher would channel these dual passions into his own compositions. These songs, to poetry by Mascha Kaléko and Walt Whitman, include some of the only music he has written not to commission, but for the sheer pleasure and necessity of setting these poems.

They are performed on this disc by mezzo soprano Silke Gäng and pianist Marco Scilironi. All three musicians were educated at the prestigious Basel Musikhochschule before embarking on their respective musical careers.

Silvan Loher has chosen to set poetry by two very distinct but complementary voices: Mascha Kaléko and Walt Whitman. Loher focusses on those poems by Kaléko which conjure up the smoky cabaret era of Berlin in the 1930s, and his music reflects this atmosphere perfectly. The poet’s themes of introspection and unease, set to dark-hued, richly evocative music, are balanced with moments of wistful nostalgia, when Loher’s love of Grieg and Brahms becomes audible.

In contrast, Walt Whitman’s famously direct and brilliant poetry draws from Loher music as wide-ranging as the texts themselves, reflecting a wealth of emotions from longing, to agitation, to loneliness, to the rapturous celebration of nature. Throughout the collection, Loher’s sensitivity to and understanding of these texts is evident; this is an essential new release for poetry and music lovers alike.

Tawiah Shares Empowering New Live Video For 'Queens

Lifted from her ‘Recreate’ E.P, out now via Lima Limo Records

“Tawiah is back with more soulful heat in the form of the "Recreate" video. Taken from the EP of the same name, "Recreate" is a brief but potent piece of honest self-examination” COMPLEX

“Tawiah’s muscular soul-funk feels like the genuine artefact, an eclectic blend that immediately calls to mind Janelle Monae‘s work while leaving off a bit of the latter’s polish in favour of raw emotion” PIGEONS AND PLANES

South London Alt-Soul explorer Tawiah is back with a stunning and emotive live performance of her uplifting and empowering track ‘Queens’.

Tawiah explains: “I grew up with people saying  "You're pretty for a black girl" when I was in school sadly I thought it was a compliment. It wasn't a compliment. Recently my beautiful niece told me she wanted to be lighter, it broke my heart. How dare society prescribe what makes a beautiful woman. A queen is a woman who stands tall, proud and strong in the face of those ideas, someone who ignores them entirely in favour of knowing their own value, that is beauty.”

Following her previous ‘Run EP’ and ‘Freedom Drop Mixtape’ releases, ‘Recreate’ sees Tawiah exploring new sounds, concepts and textures. Having undergone personal changes (as demonstrated in the thought provoking and introspective video for the title track) and assisted by co-producer Sam Beste (of the critically acclaimed group Hejira) she ventures forward into unexplored territories, seamlessly blending avant-garde musical leanings and beautifully melodic sensibilities, creating a deep, immersive and absorbing body of work. Disjointed, saturated and low slung beats run throughout, cloaked in a thick mist of dark, layered harmonies; pierced occasionally by plucked strings and ominous piano strikes. Her voice is unprocessed and uncompromising, a singular instrument she alternates between thoughtful restraint and impassioned abandon. The vestiges of Tawiah’s early vocal training in church contrast subtly against the distinctive South London accent that has helped to place her firmly at the vanguard of a diverse yet notably British alternative soul movement in recent years.

With collaborative credentials including the likes of Blood Orange, Cee – Lo Green, Wiley, Kindness, Cinematic Orchestra, Ghostpoet, Zed Bias; and a reputation as prodigious live performer in tow (She was personally selected by Mark Ronson to front his band whilst supporting Jay-Z on his world tour) Tawiah (along with her musical collective- turned record label Lima Limo) look set to continue blazing their own trail through 2017.

Tawiah Online

Mike Stern - Trip (2017)

Mike Stern’s fresh new song “Trip” is your signature Stern tune: slithering bop sax/guitar bop lines, a simmering rock guitar solo showcase ending in a rousing climax also peppered by funkified bebop progressions. Yeah, that’s just the stuff that made me turn it up when my ol’ Jigsaw CD was playing. And all fans of this exciting and unique guitarist should be glad that we’re still getting music like this from him for thirty years running.

That’s because no matter how much God-given talent someone has in playing the guitar, the hand of fate can easily snatch that talent away. I’m reminded of the challenges faced by extraordinary guitar players Pat Martino and Larry Carlton whose means of living (and source of great fame) were seriously threatened by unforeseen events and how through sheer determination they fought their way back to their former greatness. That same turn befell Stern in July, 2016 when he tripped and fell while hailing a taxi near his Manhattan apartment. The resulting nerve damage to his right arm left him unable to even hold a guitar pick. After a couple of surgeries, a little ingenuity — such as gluing his right hand fingers to the pick — and a whole lot of grit, Stern had regained his form in a matter of months. Not only was he back gigging and touring, he ventured back to the studio in early 2017 to make his 17th album, dispelling any doubts about his confidence in his craft.

Even Stern’s sense of humor remains intact: Trip (September 8 2017, Heads Up International) is his “it’s all good” declaration, a seamless continuity from one of fusion and jazz guitar’s most consistently strong and unique voices of the last three decades.

Heck, if you got hooked on Stern in the late 80s or 90s, you’d even call this a case of déjà vu. His primary producer and keyboardist since 1991’s Odds Or Evens Jim Beard is on board for this ride, too. Drummer Dennis Chambers, a former mainstay on Stern records, returns for several tracks as well. Saxophonist Bill Evans goes way back with Stern to Miles Davis’ 1981 comeback band and contributes to a couple of tracks. And Stern’s close ties to the Brecker brothers is maintained with an appearance by Randy Brecker.

That only scratches the surface on the accomplished friends brought onto this project. When Chambers isn’t drummer, it’s Dave Weckl, Will Calhoun or Lenny White instead. Wallace Roney’s on here, as is bass extraordinaire Victor Wooten…even Mike’s wife Leni Stern makes an appearance.

Does all this make for good music? The better question might be, how could it not?

Like the title song, “Whatchacallit” (video above) is another one of Stern’s fun hybrids of bop, funk and rock, also with Bob Franceschini on sax. Stern finds all the right notes on a soulful midtempo delight “Blueprint,” and so does Brecker when the baton is handed off to him. “Half Crazy” is a full-on excursion into a toe-tapping, straight ahead swing but Stern’s guitar personality is so dominant and pliable for any type of music, you might not even notice when he changes styles on and Evans is in fine form as well for this semi-Miles band reunion.

Roney supplies the trumpet partner and foil to Stern for “Screws,” featuring a sly bass from Teymur Phell. Stern’s acoustic guitar playing hadn’t taken any noticeable hit, either, as evidenced on the gentle, all-unplugged number “Gone” and check out the calypso groove that Weckl and Arto Tuncboyaciyan (on percussion) make together on “Hope For That.”

“Emilia” showcases Stern’s knack for building a lightly jubilant melody accentuated by background vocals from him and Gio Moretti. On there and another soft tune “I Believe You” Leni Stern brings not her guitar but an n’goni — a three stringed African instrument — to provide just a touch of exotic flavor to these tracks.

The album ends with a couple of jazz classics…sort of. “Scotch Tape and Glue” shares chord changes with “On Green Dolphin Street” highlighted by Evans’ solo aside that’s a respectful nod to the sax masters before him. More straight-jazz ends the whole program with “B Train,” Stern’s cunning re-write of “Take The A Train” that features Roney on the muted horn.

Mikes Stern might not soon forget about his accident but when he plays, he makes everyone else does. Trip is not a ‘return to form’ but rather, a reaffirmation of form. And for that, we can be very grateful.

Rudy Smith Quartet- Glass World (STUNT RECORDS 2017)

Rudy Smith has created a marriage between the most important Afro Caribbean invention in the world of musical instruments, the steelpan, with the most important Afro American musical contribution, jazz. More than that, he has developed a solo style of steelpan playing, which is completely his own. His technique is dazzling. But it is not a matter of mere virtuosity. Rudy Smith’s playing bears the same mark of astonishing inventiveness that created the steelpan.” (Krister Malm)

The pan family was invented in the middle of the 20th century. Despite their short history, they have ancient roots in West African music: the ballophone, the kora and the sanza. Relatives in European music are the vibraphone, the marimba and the xylophone. Originally made from oil barrels, the steelpan was invented in Trinidad during the Second World War. From 1944 to the early 1960’s, steelpans underwent a process involving vari- ous tunings, experiments with materials, and new types of pans ranging from soprano to bass. In Trinidad, pans have been closely associated with the carnival season.

For 35 years, unknown to most Danes, a musical legend has resi- ded in Denmark: steelpan player and panist Rudy Smith (b.1943). He is acknowledged as the man, who in the mid-1960’s transfor- med the steelpan to a jazz instrument and became the role model for soloists on the instrument like Othello Molineaux and Anise Hadeed. His virtuosic and original playing, which draws on inspi- ration from Milt Jackson, Bach and John Coltrane, may be heard on several releases in his own name. A genuine jazz musician, Smith has created his own unique style and sound. He has toured most of the world either with his quartet, as a soloist, a steel band arranger, or as a pan tuner and pan maker. In 2006 and 2008 he performed at New York’s Lincoln Center in a program with many of the greatest acts in calypso and steel band music. Since 1983 he has led his own quartet playing alto pan with Ole Matthiessen on piano, Ole Streenberg on drums and – since 1996 – Henrik Dhyrbye on bass.

Streenberg has been the drummer in bands led by Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, Carsten Meinert, Bent Jædig, Tomas Franck, the jazz/rock group Secret Oyster, and has accompanied many visiting American jazz musicians. Dhyrbye has played with Streenberg since their teens – a unique rhythm group unit with 60 years of experience. Matthiessen has played with Streenberg in various constellations since they were members of the Carsten Meinert quartet in 1967. Since 2007, he has released four Stunt CDs with his own music. Streenberg plays drums on the latest, “Flashbacks & Dedications” (Stunt STUCD 16042).

Two guests join the quartet on some tracks. Bjarne Roupé is a Swedish guitarist, living in Denmark. Hear his own quartet on “Light And Dark” (Stunt STUCD 13102). Tenor saxophonist Jesper Løvdal has been active on the Danish jazz scene for 30 years, as well as being chairman of the Jazz Danmark organization.

Ole Matthiessen wrote six of the nine compositions on the cd, Rudy Smith Blues for Rasta Prasta. Old Lady Walk One Mile and a Half is a calypso evergreen, which is featured here as a jazz tune. Last, but not least a version of the great ballad Body and Soul.

A Danish saxophonist once said that the sound of steel drums made the fillings pop out of your teeth. Something similar was once said of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton’s first recordings. Rudy Smith and Lionel Hampton have long ago put these prejudices to shame.

Let the last statement be the words of a true giant of Danish jazz: “I have been a secret fan of Rudy’s for many years – from the moment I first heard him, I have been raving about his incredible musicianship, his impeccable taste and soulful phrasing. He and Toots Thielemans, who both make you forget the insurmounta- ble technical difficulties inherent in their respective instruments, belong to my personal gallery of heroes along with Louis, Duke, Bird, Stuff, Stan, Dizzy and a few that you probably never heard of.” Svend Asmussen