Saturday, September 23, 2017

Katayoun: love songs for a heartsick world bring the poetry of Rumi to life

We Should: Iranian Poetry, Indian Tunes, and a hint of Jazz Gel on Will You, Love Songs for a Heartsick World

Tune snippets sung over Whatsapp, inspired by translated phrases from a beloved 13th-century poet. Then a studio session, unrehearsed, when all the outpourings of grief, fear, and mad love came to a head.

The close friendship of several culturally diverse musicians is captured on Will You (release date: September 22, 2017 by Tames Records), the latest from Iranian-American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi, master sitar player Shujaat Khan, highly respected saxophonist Tim Ries (who’s played with jazz greats like Jack DeJohnette and Donald Byrd and rock icons like The Rolling Stones, Donald Fagen, and Rod Stewart), artful pianist Kevin Hays, and tabla player Dibyarka Chatterjee. Together, they have forged an unlikely ensemble that finds striking new settings for Rumi’s centuries-old yet ever-urgent words.

“I come up with the skeleton of the tunes, but that’s really just what we build out from,” notes Khan. “We converse to make this music. It’s never the same interpretation, the same sound, the same song twice.” “The music is not classical Persian music,” adds Goudarzi. “It’s Persian classical poetry sung in Indian idioms, but with a touch of jazz. In that respect, it’s perhaps different than things that have been done in the past.”

Goudarzi is a perfectionist who pays meticulous attention to details. She’s constantly experimenting in hopes of honoring the spirit and sense of the poetry she loves. “Don’t”--a plea to save the beloved from arrest and torment--demanded a different vocal approach from Goudarzi. Goudarzi began her vocal career employing traditional recitation of Persian poetry, its sweeping spoken approach. For this album, she decided to return to singing, employing several different vocal styles to heighten the intensity, matched by Khan’s supple, responsive playing.

“That poem was the reason I sang on this album. The lyrics are saying, he’s my life, don’t beat him up, don’t take him away. I had to portray that pain,” muses Goudarzi. “I had to sing those lyrics with all the passion it required. If I couldn't do it right, I wouldn’t touch them. That was one of the inspiring songs that made me think of singing a lot of the album.”

“With Rumi you can find all different kinds of poems, chronicling all different kinds of human experience,” reflects Goudarzi. “Some are wildly romantic. Some are edgier like ‘Don’t.’ Most of the verses we use on the album are love poems. The way I present the lyrics this time, on the title track, is to use three different poems to make sure I’m completing the story.”

Her ensemble-mates expand the story by contributing pieces (Hays’ “Sweet Caroline”) and by weaving their instruments’ voices into Goudarzi’s. Sometimes they respond, as Khan does at the end of “Void,” playing and humming the role of the beloved whom Rumi so often evokes in his poems. Sometimes they set the stage with a dramatic haunting and chilling solo as Ries does skillfully at the beginning of “Don’t.” Sometimes they stop playing entirely and allow Goudarzi to sing solo, heightening the emotional intensity, as at the end of the title track “Will You.”

One of the defining qualities of Rumi’s work is its sustained ability to resonate emotionally, across ages and across cultures. Goudarzi feels this resonance has particular relevance to our day and age. Through the words and music, she and the ensemble want to bring listeners deeper into these varied emotions, feelings universal in nature. “Happiness and sadness. Love and hatred. These are universal feelings, no matter what language we speak, the color of our skin. No matter how you express it, the feelings are the same. We wanted to bring those emotions to the surface.”

In a context of heightened political tensions, when conversation and connection are being abandoned for harsher ways, Goudarzi points to the importance of connecting, of the small symbol the ensemble presents. “Isn’t it something? A diverse group can create things a homogenous group can’t,” reflects Goudarzi. “Each of us interpreted these emotional musical phrases through all our experiences, all different, yet it all gels. Perhaps because at the end of the day, we’re all human. It’s important to remember that.”

Shujaat Husain Khan: Sitar & Vocal
Kevin Hays: Piano
Katayoun Goudarzi: Vocal
Tim Ries: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flue
Dibyarka Chatterjee:  Tabla

Grammy award nominee and Master sitarist Shujaat Husain Khan, Saxophonist Tim Ries (of the The Rolling Stones), award winning Jazz pianist Kevin Hays, Iranian vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi and percussionist Dibyarka Chatterjee create a delicate balance between form, content and creativity in their new album 'Will You?' The band started working together in 2009. Their first album, dawning released by Palmetto records and Tames records was on the top 40 CMJ charts for more than 7 weeks in 2013. Below are what critics have said about their work:

"world music in the truest sense of the world." Rolling Stone

"Katayoun...always tonally luscious" – Songlines

"one of the most fascinating cross-cultural collaborations of the year."  World Music Central

"a band whose work represents the best of a musical union" – Arts Nash

"the quavers and attack in Goudarzi's vocal presentation, while as beautiful as the instruments, add piquancy that sets this music apart. " – Exclaim!

"hypnotic" – New York Music Daily

Malleus Trio - Malleus Trio (2017)

Malleus trio is a high-energy jazz combo; they play through genres, altering traditional sense of form while sneaking across bar lines. The dynamic sound scape is supported by sturdy groove. The group assembles Dominic Conway on tenor sax, Ben Brown on kit and Geordie Hart on upright bass.

1. Salem 04:49
2. Heavyweight 07:07
3. East-Van Holiday 05:01
4. Nets Away 04:49
5. In The Ghost 04:36
6. The Hustler 04:26
7. Throbbing Walrus 06:44

Christian McBride Big Band – Bringin’ It (MACK AVENUE RECORDS 2017)

Iconic bassist Christian McBride has been doing what the title of his upcoming big band album implores for years: Bringin’ It. This highly anticipated release, which follows the Christian McBride Big Band’s 2011 Grammy® Award-winning debut, The Good Feeling,puts his status and skills as an all-around entertainer on full display. With a list of growing accolades including his recent appointment as Artistic Director at the Newport Jazz Festival, hosting shows on SiriusXM (“The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian”) and NPR (“Jazz Night in America,” as well as frequent online contributions to various programs including “All Things Considered”), speaking engagements, and occasional DJ performances under the alias DJ Brother Mister, he’s more than just a bandleader: Christian McBride is transcending that title to something more complete.

Getin' To It
Youthful Bliss
I Thought About You
Upside Dow
Full House
Mr. Bojangles
Used ' Ta
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

Christian McBride: bass
Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Todd Bashore: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo
Ron Blake: tenor saxophone, flute
Dan Pratt: tenor saxophone, flute
Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Frank Greene: trumpet
Freddie Hendrix: trumpet
Brandon Lee: trumpet
Nabate Isles: trumpet
Steve Davis: trombone (11)
Michael Dease: trombone
Joe McDonough: trombone (1-10)
James Burton: trombone
Douglas Purviance: bass trombone
Xavier Davis: piano
Quincy Phillips: drums
Rodney Jones: guitar
Melissa Walker: vocals (6, 8)
Brandee Younger: harp (10)

Dave Rempis Solo - Lattice (AEROPHONIC RECORDS October 10th, 2017)

Dave Rempis is a mid-career artist whose deep roots in the Chicago improvised music scene have by now stretched themselves out across the world through his multiple ongoing collaborations. But he waited a long time to put out this first solo recording. Highly aware of the singular statements in this context put forth by artists such as Coleman Hawkins, Eric Dolphy, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Joe McPhee, Evan Parker, Ab Baars, and Mats Gustafsson to name just a few, left him wary of taking this challenge on too soon. But in the fall of 2016, the time felt right. So he decided to combine the development of a unique solo vocabulary on his instrument into the larger goal of exploring and expanding the crucial network of artists, presenters, and fans that support improvised music in the United States. In the spring of 2017, he brought the idea to fruition by undertaking a massive journey across the country, performing thirty-one solo concerts in twenty-seven different cities, while also collaborating with local artists at each stop. This singular odyssey gave him the opportunity to delve methodically, night after night, into his own process towards solo improvisation. It also gave him a new understanding of the multiplicity of perspectives playing themselves out in the improvised music scene across the country. These lessons had a great effect on the music presented on this recording, culled from several live performances along the way. And the record and overall project were titled with this informal but essential artistic network in mind – Lattice.

The music on Lattice is expansive, incorporating Rempis’ interest in his own Greek musical heritage, his longstanding interest in the many varied musical traditions of Africa, his love for American jazz, and his enthusiasm for the seemingly endless sonic possibilities of the saxophone itself. The sheer physicality of his approach – sometimes achingly gentle, and sometimes a full blown fervor that feels as though it may burst the horn open at its seams, is palpable on all of these pieces. But that raw, human, almost vocal quality combines with a studied control of spontaneous form and structure in each piece to produce explorations of remarkable depth and focus.

1. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing (Billy Strayhorn) 6:09
2. Loose Snus 6:45
3. If You Get Lost In Santa Paula 5:38
4. Linger Longer 7:46
5. Horse Court 10:02
6. Serene (Eric Dolphy) 7:25

Track 1 recorded April 27th, 2017 at Candela Books & Gallery, Richmond, VA
Tracks 2, 4, 5, recorded April 24th, 2017 at The Mothlight, Asheville, NC
Track 3 recorded April 26th, 2017 at Neptune’s Parlour, Raleigh, NC
Track 6 recorded May 4th, 2017 at Hallwalls, Buffalo, NY

Rempis Percussion Quartet, The - Cochonnerie (AEROPHONIC RECORDS October 10, 2017)

With a band that’s been around for thirteen years, one might reasonably ask with a new recording, what’s new here? Are there now dance beats superimposed on the music? Maybe some electronics? A different instrumentation, or perhaps some special guests? The answer on this recording – the eighth official document of this improvising quartet since it started in 2004 - is a resounding no. It’s the same old stuff – a band fiercely committed to reconciling the constantly evolving ideas that each of its members brings to the table as improvisers. 

Sure, you can look at the superficial. Flaten hauls out the electric here for the first time with this band, as an example. That sounds different. But the quartet’s underlying methodology remains the same despite the outward-facing sonic results. The tension of resolving individual ideas and interests requires constant attention, and the intensity and focus for which this quartet’s long-form improvisations are known feed off of that commitment.

Hashing this musical and intellectual dialogue out for over a decade now, the band’s evolution over time is no joke. But those early days of regular work when all four members lived in the same city and could sort it out in a more leisurely manner are long gone. Instead, each one of these musicians travels the world with a myriad of bands, and borrows new perspectives from each one. Interestingly, as each member’s path diverges further, the quartet tours that take place once every year or so provide the backdrop by which to measure those tectonic shifts. 

The music on Cochonnerie demonstrates exactly that type of shift, without moving an inch. A band that hasn’t played a gig for over a year convenes in Chicago to get reacquainted over two nights at the start of a two-week North American tour in the fall of 2015. But the idea of having a warm up period flies out the window as these four dive in fearlessly as ever. Whatever the difference in the sonic output may be on this record compared to previous outings, their fundamental commitment towards reconciling individual ideas into a coherent and compelling sound is exactly what continues to fuel the laser-bream focus and relentless energy on display here.

1. Straggler 32:58
2. Green And Black 07:57
3. Enzymes 17:56

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass
Frank Rosaly – drums
Tim Daisy – drums