Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Nick Maclean Quartet - Rites of Ascension (BROWNTASAURAS RECORDS 2017)

This album, the debut release from the Nick Maclean Quartet, represents a modern re-imagining of the spirit of Herbie Hancock's primordial 60's quartet. Not to be confused with a "tribute" recording, this record has a character of its own, while being an homage to Hancock's influence on Maclean both as pianist and composer. The depth of the synergistic connectivity between all 4 hand-picked members of Maclean's quartet are a cornerstone to the ensemble's sound and group dynamic. Thus its completion represents Maclean's examination of the modern jazz ethos with all the intriguing challenges, opportunities and possibilities that go with it.

This contemplative and often thrilling quartet's explorations of modern, original repertoire is led by a fast-rising star in Toronto's jazz piano community, 25 year old NICK MACLEAN.

Formed in 2016, Maclean's foursome delivers jazz between the two poles of thoughtful introspection and powerhouse conveyance, taking influences from Herbie Hancock's primordial 1960's Blue Note era recordings, while paying tribute to some of the greatest improvisers in jazz history. 

Repeatedly regarded as a modern take on the ferocious and hard-swinging post-bop era, the group has been busy in the Ontario jazz club circuit and featured in numerous festivals and concert series including multiple appearances at the Toronto Jazz Festival both as a featured ensemble and an often requested backing band. In addition to their original material, the ensemble has also mounted several popular tribute series to jazz masters including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry & Cole Porter. 

The group is frequently lauded for the strength of their collective improvisatory vision and features one of Canada's most provocative improvising trumpet-playing iconoclasts Brownman Ali, standing shoulder to shoulder with Maclean & two of Toronto's top-tier rhythm section 20-somethings: Jesse Dietschi on bass and Tyler Goertzen on drums. The synergy of the 4 is always palpable in concert. 

The quartet's debut 11-track full-length album "Rites Of Ascension" features 6 Maclean-penned compositions, 1 Brownman original and 4 re-imagined Herbie Hancock classics, all recorded at the renowned Canterbury Studios in Toronto. Produced by Brownman Ali, this new release will be available on Browntasauras Records internationally in the fall of 2017.

RINI - MAYA (December 8, 2017)

Illusion, Faith, and a Strong Cup of Coffee: The Funky Musical Cosmos of Carnatic-Meets-Electronic Group RINI

What if Ludovico Einaudi was the resident composer on the Starship Enterprise? What if an entire song revolved around a cozy cup of hot coffee, as an entire South Asian city hums around you? Or around the heartache that climate change is poised to wreck on us all?

Chennai-born, New York-based violinist, vocalist, and composer Harini Raghavan spins quirky speculation into grooves and expansive melodies. She draws on her decades of Carnatic music training and her years at Berklee, shifting South Asian classical elements toward pop and jazz sensibilities in a refreshing, organic way. Using Ableton Live to expand the possibilities of her instruments, Raghavan and her band RINI mix the meditative and the funky, the technical and the catchy on Maya. (release: December 8, 2017)

Raghavan’s grandmother urged her and her siblings to study Carnatic music. After taking classes for a time, she found her guru. She adored lessons, feeling increasingly connected to the rich repertoire and technically demanding artform. “I felt spiritually connected. It really centered me,” Raghavan recalls. “I love the technical stuff, but that wasn’t what I thought about then. It was more about what I felt. Singing was one of the most important moments in my day. That was something that made me feel I should just keep going.”

She applied her passion for singing to all sorts of other music, from the American pop ballads she heard on the radio to favorite Bollywood songs she sang as part of school performances. Through the eclectic world of Bollywood compositions, Raghavan caught elements of jazz, blues, and other styles that intrigued her.

As she performed in Chennai, however, she realized something was missing: “After a point, I didn’t feel complete. I was learning songs and singing and playing, but I had this deeper connection to what I was listening. I felt like I could create something. I wanted to develop the skills where I could start composing. I wanted to meet people from all over, hear their stories and learn how they put everything together.”

That quest eventually took her to Berklee in Boston, where she specialized in electronic music. “Toward the end of my time there, I formed RINI,” she recounts. “That was the first time I put a band together, and from our first performance, I loved it.” She had gotten her wish: to explore musical expression with a multicultural group of talented musicians. “The band is comprised of people from all over, from Luxembourg to Indonesia. It was amazing to share the music with them, to create with them.

This spirit of sharing frames Raghavan’s experiments and experience in electronic production, sounds that are front and center on much of Maya. “I love the textures and love how it blends with Indian elements,” says Raghavan. “I use Ableton and lots of loops, as well as sing and play and conduct the band.”

Raghavan moved to New York, where she kept playing and kept the band together. She wrote songs, some fanciful (“Warp 9,” an homage to Star Trek and the restrained drama of Einaudi’s work) and fun (a Tamil lullaby-inspired song to soothe Raghavan’s hyperactive puppy, “Lullaby”), and some serious conceptual explorations that looked at science and belief, at devotion and reason.

Inspired by a talk by writer Amitabh Ghosh, “Maya” reflects the delusion that all is well and the starkly contrasting reality of the threat of climate change, painting two sonic pictures with a tip of the hat to Beats Antique. “The Red Moon,” a modal piece based on a classical raag, incorporates mantras chanted during solar eclipses, asking listeners to reflect on our susceptibility to misreading cosmic phenomena in limited human terms. She also paid tribute to her hometown, capturing the pleasures of a strong cup of coffee during the classical music season on “Filter Kapi,” a tribute to Chennai’s favorite drink.

Raghavan liked what she was crafting, but wasn’t sure when she would feel ready to record an album. Then the country experienced a peculiar political moment in early November 2016. The urgency increased for Raghavan. “I kept thinking about everything that affects us, from the stupidity of our newsfeeds to the challenges of our religious beliefs,” she reflects. “We need to look to the future and work backward. We need to stop focusing on petty things. That’s what I wanted to shout to the world. I had so many tracks. It was time, I decided.”

She forged ahead, creating music as multilayered as her intellectual influences and nuanced emotions, thanks to RINI. With her bandmates (many of them fellow Berklee alums), “We put Indian music in a global context,” she muses. “It feels like the right place to be.”

Amy London Will Release Bridges on November 17

Vocalist Revisits the First Decade of her Career with a
15 Song Retrospective

Fred Hersch, Darmon Meader, Harvie S, Victor Lewis, Bob Mintzer and Dr. Lonnie Smith Are Among the Stellar Cast of Collaborators

Sometimes you must look back in order to move forward. With the November 17 release of Bridges, vocalist Amy London is doing just that, allowing 15 tracks of previously recorded music to finally see the light of day. While most recently recognized for her work with critically acclaimed group The Royal Bopsters, Amy’s career began in the early 1980s after she first arrived in New York City. Within a short time, the Cincinnati native found herself working with the likes of Fred Hersch, Bob Mintzer, Cyro Baptista, and two-time gold record trumpeter Tom Browne, with whom she toured in 1982.

Determined to launch a solo recording career, Amy recorded the bulk of the album’s fifteen songs – 14 classics and 1 original – with Fred Hersch in his home studio in 1987. After an awkward meeting with Concord’s Carl Jefferson didn’t result in a deal and as her ensemble work became increasingly successful, Amy literally put Bridges on the shelf, where it has remained for the past twenty five years. During that time, she did achieve her dream of a solo recording career with the release of two albums on Motema, When I Look in Your Eyes (2007) and Let’s Fly (2010). But the music sitting on the shelf in her bedroom closet, the music that is now featured on Bridges, would not be stilled. Not while she recorded with New York Voices as the fifth singer on their CD, Visions Within (MSR), not while she was cast as the lead singer in the Angel City 4, the vocalese group that was the musical engine of Cy Coleman’s six-time Tony-winning and Grammy-nominated Broadway hit, City of Angels (CBS), not while she helped develop the vocal program at The New School, and not while she raised two daughters.

“I would often listen to these recordings and think, ‘These should be out in the world,” says Amy. “Thanks to the magic of Dave Kowalski, who sent me to West West Side Studios, my two-inch masters, that were on the brink of disintegration, were baked and brought back to life digitally. Dave was then able to open them up and remix them.”

The album opens with Hersch’s arrangement of title track on which he also contributes vocals. Drummer Victor Lewis, Harvie S on bass, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, and Cyro Baptista on percussion comprise the ensemble that supports Amy as she moves through the subsequent seven songs, all from that 1987 recording session, including Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale,” and Oscar Brown’s “Strong Man.”  Amy’s own composition, “This Time,” rounds out this first grouping of tracks.

“When I was on the road with Tom Browne, I was influenced by his crossover jazz style and wrote 'This Time' on the tour bus," recollects Amy. “I predominantly write vocalese lyrics, so it was unique for me to write both melody and lyrics. I showed it to Fred, who wrote this arrangement with all the key changes on the Bob Mintzer solo.”

Amy says that the chronology of the three recording sessions as they appear on Bridges is less important than the fact that the album represents the best of the early recordings she made since first arriving in NYC.  “During the time that I was in City of Angels, I fell in love with bebop,” Amy remembers. “That was the musical progression that’s represented on Bridges’ second five tracks, which were recorded in 1990, when Amy returned to the studio to work with Yaron Gershovsky (who’s been the musical director of Manhattan Transfer for 40 years). For these sessions Amy recruited pianist Peter Madsen (Stan Getz, Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, George Coleman, Oscar Brown Jr., Ravi Coltrane), bassist Dean Johnson (Gerry Mulligan), drummer Eliot Zigmund (Bill Evans, Michael Petruccianni) and trumpeter Byron Stripling (Count Basie, Carla Bley, Joe Henderson) to join her and New York Voices leader Darmon Meader on five additional tracks, including a striking interpretation of Langston Hughes’ poetry on Madsen’s “Dream,” and Amy’s vocalese rendering of Gigi Gryce's solo from Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark.”

Before the two sessions detailed above, in 1984, after her international tour with Tom Browne and a subsequent tour with Charles Aznavour, Amy was invited to perform with Hammond B-3 hero Dr. Lonnie Smith at several gigs. She then invited him, along with Browne’s main tenor sax-man Bobby Franceschini (Mike Stern), guitarist Jack Wilkins (Buddy Rich, Jack DeJohnette), and bassist Harvie S and drummer Akira Tana – who had performed with Amy in Aznavour’s band – for a session that resulted in the two tracks - “You’ve Changed” and “Naima” - that round out this career retrospective.  

To Amy, the music here represents the varied facets of what she brings to her work as a musician, not simply as a vocalist. Bridges confirms that singers can not only hold their own among a strong cadre of instrumentalists, but that they do, in fact, contribute equally to the final product, whether it be a live performance or dusty tapes on a closet shelf. 

“Bridges represents a 'bridge' to my early work as a young jazz singer in NYC, when I was still transitioning from the influence of Laura Nyro and Motown Girl Groups into my lifelong love for bebop singing ala Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. These 15 sides represent my early ideas, and I am so thrilled that I was able to collaborate with these excellent jazz musicians, who took my arranging ideas, added their own, and helped bring Bridges to fruition. As a vocal jazz educator, I have taught hundreds of singers how to be arrangers, and to have faith that the music they hear can be transferred onto the bandstand, and communicated to the band and ultimately end up on recordings.”

About Amy London

Amy London is known and loved in New York City jazz and Broadway circles for her effortless sound, impeccable musicianship and depth of emotion. Her 2015 CD on Motema, The Royal Bopsters Project, features a vocal jazz quartet with Amy as the leader and soprano; Holli Ross, swinging alto; the legendary Darmon Meader, tenor; and bright newcomer Dylan Pramuk, bass. Together they arranged and recorded 12 songs, including 4 with the late bop master Mark Murphy, and one each with Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan and Bob Dorough. This remarkable project received 4 and 1/2 stars in Downbeat, a video feature in the Wall Street Journal, rave reviews in JazzTimes and other jazz periodicals, and was on the Best CDs of 2015 lists of Downbeat, JazzTimes, All About Jazz and Talkin’ Broadway. The CD release event was celebrated by a sold out 6 night run at Birdland.

Ms. London’s two previous critically acclaimed CD’s on Motema as a leader, Let’s Fly and When I Look In Your Eyes feature some of the world’s top jazz musicians, and have led her to engagements in Russia, Italy, Turkey, France, Brazil, England, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Canada, as well as cities across the US.

As a jazz educator, Amy London has been teaching voice since 1984. She has been faculty at New School University’s Jazz BFA program since 1992, and is one of the principal architects of the highly successful vocal department there. In early 2014, Amy launched the Vocal Jazz Academy at Jazz House for Kids, in Montclair, NJ, at the invitation of Christian McBride and Melissa Walker. In the Fall of 2016, she joined the renowned vocal faculty of the BFA jazz program at City College, CUNY, NYC. Amy is in demand at jazz camps and workshops worldwide.

Lutosławski Quartet & Erato Alakiozidou - Light Over Darkness (ODRADEK RECORDS 2017)

Schnittke - Kancheli
Light over Darkness

"Silence exists before sound and sound fades into silence"

Erato Alakiozidou

The music of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) and Giya Kancheli (b.1935) was shaped by the history of the Soviet Union and the politics of Moscow. Both grew up in Stalin’s era, yet neither composer was Russian – Kancheli is Georgian and Schnittke had a German mother and German-speaking Jewish father.  

Both Kancheli and Schnittke have highly distinctive styles; apart from the deep personal feelings they express in various ways, they conserve silence as a key colour in their musical canvases.

These are works which combine the contemporary expressive vocabulary of postmodernism, with the historical narrative of the last three centuries of Western Music. Moments of amazing tension are juxtaposed with passages of fragile introspection.

Schnittke’s Piano Quartet (1988) was composed out of Mahler’s sketch for the unfinished second movement of his student Piano Quartet written in the mid 1870s. While Schnittke sometimes clearly departs from the Mahler original, much of the time it is quite clearly present, often with additional material accumulating round it – chromatic chords, dense canonic treatments – to give the effect of seeing an object through obscure glass or hearing music under water.

If Schnittke’s music is often in uneasy dialogue with that of the Austro-German tradition, the work of Giya Kancheli seems set apart from that tradition, linked rather with Pärt and Górecki. Like Schnittke’s Piano Quintet, Kancheli’s In L’istesso Tempo has a mournful tone, but while Schnittke expresses a personal grief, Kancheli’s is more universal. In a preface to the score Kancheli tells the listener to expect “threads of sorrow caused by the imperfections of the world”.

Pianist Erato Alakiozidou hails from Thessaloniki and has performed internationally in countries including Italy, Serbia, Turkey, Poland and the UK. She has pioneered a number of projects including international music festival Synthermia, contemporary music ensemble Idée Fixe, non-profit organisation Beartive, and the Tangos a cuatro Quartet.

Named after the great 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutosławski, and specialising in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Lutosławski Quartet is one of Poland’s leading quartets. Since its formation in 2007, the group has quickly established itself on the Polish and international classical music scene, appearing in numerous prestigious festivals and concert halls, as well as working with IRCAM at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Jon De Lucia: Octet this weekend and Bach Shapes Updates

Concert News and Book Updates

The Jon De Lucia Octet returns to celebrate Lee Konitz

I am excited to bring my five saxophone Octet to St. John's Lutheran Church in the West Village this Sunday at 3:30pm as part of Janet Sora Chung's awesome series, St. John's Presents. This time around we will be focusing on some arrangements that Lee Konitz, now in his 90th year, originally played on in the 1950s. This includes tunes from the Gerry Mulligan Songbook Recording, Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre, and a few of my own inspired by the great altoist. The band will also feature the great Steve Little, who recorded with Duke Ellington, Paul Simon, Sesame Street and more! Above is a short video of the band doing "Someone to Watch Over Me," from the Giuffre album, thanks to Michael Steinman.

Here are the details:

Jon De Lucia - Alto Sax, Arrangements
John Ludlow - Alto
Jay Rattman - Tenor
Marc Schwartz - Tenor
Andrew Hadro - Bari
Stefan Vasnier - Piano
Aidan O'Donnell - Bass
Steve Little - Drums

St. John's Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher St. 
Sunday November 12, 3:30 -5pm. $15

Keep an eye out for the recording from last year's concert with Ted Brown, I hope to have it finished and released very soon!

Bach Shapes and Other News

Some of you have signed up for this list when you ordered my new book, Bach Shapes: Diatonic Sequences for Saxophone. I truly appreciate you picking it up and ask that you spread the word so that Bach Shapes can be found in more stores worldwide. If you haven't yet, please do write a review of the book on Amazon or on the saxophone forums. Here is some feedback I recently received from some great players and teachers:

“Jazz musicians have naturally gravitated towards the music of JS Bach for years, so a book like this one has been a long time coming. Jon has done a wonderful job capturing various snapshots of Bach’s seemingly infinite musical language, organizing these shapes in a setting that could be very useful to improvisers. A truly interesting and enjoyable book that will hopefully lead to more volumes in the future.”  Miguel Zenon, International Touring Artist

“A valuable tool for students who would like a refreshing change from regular forms of scale exercises. The challenging intervals and ranges would give any serious player a good workout! Thank you for this wonderful addition to our study materials!” – Kenneth Tse, Professor at University of Iowa, President of the Comite International de Saxophone

Read the Press Release here.

The book is available in store at Roberto's Woodwinds in Midtown Manhattan,the Buffet Showroom on 35th st. and also at Music Espresso in Boston.

Jamey Aebersold's, and Van Cott Music along with my site

The book is great for interval and ear training practice, and can also really contribute to your motivic improvising. 4 jazz etudes at the end point the way towards using the material improvisationally, but blog posts on the new Bach Shapes sub-blog will go even further.

Our first series has been on the great Paul Desmond, you can read all three entries at will also be a future source of updates on the book.

Also in classical news, I will be participating once again in a great kids' concert at the Brooklyn Museum with the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra on November 18th, more info here.

Visit for:
Digital Downloads of books and CD's
Blog Posts on jazz history and theory

Playlist for Tom Ossana – The Thin Edge – November 8, 2017 MST 7:00 to 9:00p.m. ~ Use this link to access the show online.