Friday, December 29, 2017

Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters [Expanded Edition] (VERVE RECORDS 2017)

Herbie Hancock's Spellbinding "River: The Joni Letters" Expanded Edition Releasing December 15 In Celebration Of 10th Anniversary

When Herbie Hancock's genre-defying River: The Joni Letters, won the 2007 Grammy® Award for "Album of the Year," beating out Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, Foo Fighters and Vince Gill, it was a victory for musical exploration, inspired musicianship and the kind of creative spirit that the legendary jazz musician has carried throughout his incredible and influential five-decade career. A true milestone, the album was only the second jazz recording to win the top honors in the award's history, with the first being Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and João Gilberto in 1965, 43 years prior. The musical tribute to the iconic Joni Mitchell, which also won "Best Contemporary Jazz Album," soared up the charts where it peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200.

In celebration of the album's first decade anniversary, River: The Joni Letters, will be released as a 2CD expanded edition with four bonus tracks on December 15 via Verve Records/UMe with the digital release to follow on December 29. Last month, the album was released on vinyl for the first time in the U.S. Pre-order River: The Joni Letters here.

Upon release, River was hailed by critics for Hancock's thoughtful interpretations of Mitchell's compositions, which he used as a jumping off point for extended musical meditations. The New York Times declared it "an intimate reinvention issuing from someplace deep inside the music" while NPR remarked, "Hancock is too smart to follow the tribute-record script. He doesn't radically overhaul Mitchell's songs — instead, he gently opens them up and lures the singers into fascinating free-associative conversations." New York enthused, "Hancock comes to these songs with uncommon sensitivity and understanding," adding, he "came of age when pop and jazz overlapped comfortably, and he's at his best when he shows us how they still can."

Hancock first worked with Mitchell on the acclaimed singer/songwriter's Mingus record, an album comprised of collaborations between Mitchell and the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Together with Wayne Shorter, Hancock was part of the ensemble with which Mitchell tried to craft a new "conversational" approach to coupling lyrics with instrumental jazz.

"At this point in my career," Hancock said when the album was announced, "I want to do something that reaches into the lives and hearts of people." With River, he did just that. Hancock enlisted producer/arranger/bassist Larry Klein (a frequent producer and collaborator of Mitchell's), to help him go deeply into Mitchell's body of work to select songs that they could adapt to a genre-less and conversational musical approach, while trying to portray the breadth of Mitchell's gift as a musician and writer. To add another dimension to their picture of Mitchell's musical world, they also included two compositions that were important to her musical development, Shorter's asymmetrical masterpiece "Nefertiti," first recorded by Hancock and Shorter on Miles Davis' classic album of the same name, and Duke Ellington's prescient standard "Solitude."

Hancock and Klein worked for months, carefully reading through Mitchell's lyrics and music, eventually paring their list down to thirteen songs that they hoped comprised a panoramic view of the poet's work.  They then assembled a group of the top musicians in the world, including the incomparable Shorter on soprano and tenor sax, the brilliant bassist and composer Dave Holland, (a musical cohort of Hancock and Shorter's who shared their adventurousness, as well as the Miles Davis imprimatur), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (a then-recent member of Hancock's band as well as having played extensively with Mitchell and Sting), and Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke, also a member of Hancock's band.

They went on to craft arrangements for songs like the often recorded "Both Sides Now," and "Sweet Bird" (from Mitchell's overlooked classic The Hissing of Summer Lawns) that transformed the songs into lyrical and elegant instrumental tone poems, devoid of the trappings of conventional jazz records.  "We wanted to create a new vocabulary, a new way of speaking in a musical sense," Hancock said. Klein added, "We used the words to guide us. All of the music emanated from the poetry."

They were also fortunate to be able to cast the vocal songs with some of the greatest singers in the music world. Mitchell herself sings the autobiographical musing on childhood "The Tea Leaf Prophecy," Tina Turner turns the beautiful prose of "Edith And The Kingpin" into a timeless piece of song-noir, Norah Jones delivers the wistful classic "Court and Spark," Corinne Bailey Rae turns the mournful Christmas classic "River" into an innocent and optimistic poem of bittersweet romance, Brazilian-born Luciana Souza becomes a dark third voice to Hancock and Shorter on "Amelia," and in a stark and cinematic closer, Leonard Cohen recites the brilliant and surreal lyric to "The Jungle Line" as Hancock provides film score-like improvised accompaniment.

The 10th anniversary edition of River adds four additional songs of Mitchells', previously released as Amazon and iTunes exclusives. The extra tracks span Mitchell's expansive career and include "A Case Of You" and "All I Want" (featuring Sonya Kitchell) from her masterpiece Blue, "Harlem In Havana" from her 1998 album Taming The Tiger and "I Had A King," the opening song on Mitchell's debut record Song To A Seagull. "Harlem In Havana" and "I Had A King" are making their debut in any physical format.

River: The Joni Letters represented a journey into a new world in Hancock's search for fresh ground – a world of words – and now with this new expanded release fans can revisit this stunning album again and dive even deeper into Hancock and Mitchell's timeless creations.

Disc 1
Court and Spark (featuring Norah Jones)
Edith And The Kingpin (featuring Tina Turner)
Both Sides Now
River (featuring Corinne Bailey Rae)
Sweet Bird
Tea Leaf Prophecy (featuring Joni Mitchell)
Amelia (featuring Luciana Souza)
The Jungle Line (featuring Leonard Cohen)

Disc 2
A Case Of You*
All I Want (featuring Sonya Kitchell)*
Harlem In Havana*
I Had A King*

* Bonus Tracks

FORQ - Thrēq (GroundUP Music 2017)

Forq is an instrumental quartet with an aggressive sound and a penchant for sonic exploration. This all-star band based in New York has just completed their third album - Thrēq - due for release on August 4, 2017. Originally founded by keyboardist Henry Hey (David Bowie, Empire of the Sun, Jeff "Tain" Watts) and bassist Michael League (Grammy-winning founder of Snarky Puppy), Forq is joined by guitarist Chris McQueen (Snarky Puppy, Foe Destroyer, Bokanté) and drummer Jason ‘JT’ Thomas (Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, Marcus Miller, D’Angelo). Their group sound draws from various musical paths of it’s members, whether it’s Jason’s swampy grooves and shuffles, Chris’ singular sonic approach to guitar, Henry’s zeal for unique keyboard sounds and twisted ear candy, or Michael’s driving world-influenced grooves. The band pushes further down the sonic rabbit hole with the stunning new material on Thrēq.

Tea Time
Blue Diamonds

Samo Salamon / Szilárd Mezei / Achille Succi - Free Sessions Vol. 1: Planets of Kei (NOT TWO RECORDS 2017)

1. Trio I 4.10
2. Duo Achille & Samo 2.46
3. Trio II 4.00
4. Duo Samo & Szilard 4.24
5. Trio III 6.12
6. Trio IV 3.30
7. Trio V 5.32
8. Duo Samo & Szilard II 2.50
9. Trio VI 7.12
10. Duo Achille & Szilard 4.28
11. Trio VII 10.08
12. Trio Suite 13.52

Samo Salamon – acoustic guitar
Szilard Mezei – viola
Achille Succi – bass clarinet, alto sax

All tunes by Salamon, Mezei & Succi, except no. 2 by Succi & Salamon, no. 10 by Succi & Mezei and no. 4 and 8 by Salamon & Mezei.

Recorded in Maribor in September 2016. Recorded and mixed by Darko Kukovič. Mastered by Samo Salamon

Ben Frost Quartet - Selftitled (2017)

Vancouver’s Ben Frost is an emerging composer/trumpeter whose lyrical approach takes inspiration from traditional jazz as well as contemporary players such as Tom Harrell and Ingrid Jensen. His quartet featuring pianist Jenny Xu, bassist Stephen Edwards, and drummer Miles Wong artfully explores Ben’s emotional and thought-provoking originals.

1. Soho 7:22
2. Little Creatures 7:30
3. JJ 6:16
4. Under Over 7:41
5. Ona 8:15
6. Pete's Seat 6:54

Ben Frost trumpet, flugelhorn
Jenny Xu  piano
Stephen Edwards  bass
Miles Wong  drums

Lorenzo Feliciati - Elevator Man (RareNoise Records 2017)


Roberto Gualdi, Roy Powell, Stan Adams, Chad Wackerman, Pierluigi Bastioli, Duilio Ingrosso, Cuong Vu, Alessandro Gwis, Pat Mastelotto, Sandro Satta, Claudio Corvini, Gianni di Renzo, Antonio Jasevoli, Davide Savarese, Davide Pettirossi, DJ Skizo, Luca Giacobbe, Mattias Ia Eklundh, Armando Croce, Marco Sfogli, Aidan Zammit, Gianluca Palmieri

Article by: Roger Trenwith / The Progressive Aspect

Italian bass guitarist Lorenzo Feliciati, in between supplying the lower register for several bands from the RareNoise stable including Mumpbeak, Berserk!, Naked Truth, and Twinscape, has found the time to make his own records, the last being the highly engaging and unusual KOI, returns with his latest escapade in sonic adventure, Elevator Man.

Classy modern fusion is the order of the day here, influenced by Holdsworth, Bruford, and the jazzier end of latter day King Crimson – think ConstrucKtion Of Light. A high degree of musicality is supplied by Lorenzo’s supple and fluid lines, complemented by a revolving supporting cast that includes Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Marco Sfogli (PFM), and the highly experienced Roy Powell, along with several Italian and other session musicians. Lorenzo proudly states that “Elevator Man has a different line up for every song”, there’s even one that contains a DJ Skizo on “Turntables and rhythm design”, a fact that only serves to highlight the thoroughly modern nature of this record. Despite some obvious fusion influences, it is not harking back to a supposed Golden Age, but using that DNA to craft something fresh and vibrant. This is progressive music in action, baby!

You will note several brass and reed instruments, and the jazz orchestra present on 14 Stones lends it a powerful weight, guided by Mastelotto’s masterful rhythms. Elsewhere the brass and saxophones contribute solo lines as on the title track and the achingly melancholic ballad Black Book, Red Letters, and once again come together to form full jazz orchestra goodness on the powerful groove of Three Women.

The second half of the record, from the sinuous rubbery lurch of Unchained Houdini onwards ditches the brass and sax to opt for a stripped down line up, featuring traditional rock band instruments augmented by all manner of electronica, not that this approach lessens the impact.

The album continues in this vein of fascinating electronica and Lorenzo’s snake charmer bass playing, creating a distinct album of two halves in the process, each fascinating in its own right. The Third Door is edgy and modernistic, driven by DJ Skizo’s beats and Lorenzo’s buzzsaw choppy guitar, and a wonderful guitar solo from Mattias IA Eklundh appears on S.O.S., to add yet another layer to this Italian cake. Italians always were masters at enticing desserts, and this is the form taken by this “Side Two” of the album, following the substantial and tasty full-on treats of “Side One”.

This is a thoroughly professional album showcasing an interesting variation of styles, and some classy compositions and arrangements, I commend it to the House.

01. Elevator Man (5:53)
02. The Brick (7:26)
03. 14 Stones (7:47)
04. Black Book, Red Letters (7:31)
05. Three Women (5:30)
06. Unchained Houdini (4:16)
07. The Third Door (5:50)
08. S.O.S. (5:33)
09. Thief Like Me (5:24)
10. U Turn In Falmouth (3:21)

Lorenzo Feliciati – Fretted & Fretless Basses, Electric Guitars, Keyboards
Roberto Gualdi – Drums (track 1)
Stan Adams – Trombone & Horn Section Arrangement (tracks 1,2,3 & 5)
Pierluigi Bastioli – Bass Trombone (tracks 1,2,3 & 5)
Duilio Ingrosso – Baritone Sax (tracks 1,2,3 & 5)
Roy Powell – Hohner Clavinet (track 2)
Chad Wackerman – Drums (track 2)
Cuong Vu – Trumpet (tracks 3 & 5)
Alessandro Gwis – Acoustic Piano with Reaktor running on laptop (track 3)
Pat Mastelotto – Drums (track 3)
Sandro Satta – Alto Sax (track 4)
Claudio Corvini – Trumpet (track 4)
Gianni Di Renzo – Drums (track 4)
Antonio Jasevoli – Electric Guitar Solo (track 5)
Davide Savarese – Drums (track 5 & 10)
Davide Pettirossi – Drums (tracks 6)
DJ Skizo – Turntables & Rhythm Design (track 7)
Mattias IA Eklundh – Electric Guitar Solo (track 8)
Luca Giacobbe – Vibraphone (track 8)
Armando Croce – Drums (track 8)
Marco Sfogli – Electric Guitars (track 9)
Aidan Zammit – Keyboards (track 9)
Gianluca Plamieri – Drums (track 9)

Steve Heckman & Matt Clark - Some Other Time / Slow Café (2017)

Some Other Time/Slow Cafe is Steve Heckman’s 6th album to date, although he has been a featured soloist on numerous other jazz albums over the years. This is also the 5th album on which Steve collaborates with piano virtuoso Matt Clark. These tracks, taken from 2 recording sessions, reflect perhaps the most intimate and reflective sides of Steve and Matt’s playing to date. The additional space created by the absence of bass and drums sets the stage for creative explorations of mood and textural nuance which might not have been achieved in a standard quartet/quintet setting.

The album includes 4 originals (3 by Steve, 1 by Matt), as well as 8 standards, including a number of relatively rarely- heard tunes such as Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”, Duke Pearson’s “Is That So?” and Fred Lacey/Mark Stevens’ moving tribute to the late alto saxophonist Ernie Henry, “Theme for Ernie.” “Some Other Time”, one of Leonard Bernstein’s most beautiful popular songs (co-written with Betty Comden and Adolph Green) is the centerpiece of one of these 2 sessions, performed here with delicacy and finesse, and capturing the almost timeless mood evoked by the song’s title. Also presented in an impressionistic fashion is Jimmy Rowles’ gem, “The Peacocks”, while interspersed among these more introspective pieces are a number of up-tempo explorations, including the burners, “Get Happy” and “Jeannine”, as well as an up-tempo version of the standard “I Should Care.” Notable among the original tunes are 2 waltzes, including Matt’s haunting “Foregone Conclusions” and “Sheila’s Sunday Song”, written by Steve, as well as Steve’s tribute to one of his influences, Lee Konitz (“Admiring-Lee”). Slow Café, the other centerpiece, offers a marked departure, in that it is a funky, Gospel-influenced original by Steve, which fits well as a concluding piece to this satisfying set of material. 

Steve’s playing has been praised by saxophonists as diverse as Charles Lloyd ("A beautiful talent"), Pharoah Sanders ("This cat can play!"), and Stan Getz ("Beautiful!"). Matt Clark has performed with saxophonists Teddy Edwards, Frank Morgan, Eric Alexander, and Vincent Herring, as well as vibrophonist Bobby Hutcherson.

Multi-reedman Steve Heckman has played with such notables as trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Howard McGhee, Chet Baker, and Tom Harrell; trombonist Roswell Rudd; pianists Andrew Hill, Benny Green, Jessica Williams, Jim McNeely, George Cables and Larry Vuckovich; guitarists John Abercrombie, Cal Collins, Mimi Fox, and Bruce Foreman; drummers Jimmy Cobb, Billy Higgins, Eddie Moore, Donald Bailey and Pete Escovedo; saxophonists Andrew Speight and Noel Jewkes; and vocalists Jackie Ryan, Madeline Eastman, Judy Wexler, Julie Kelly, Kellye Gray, Buddy Connor, and Frankye Kelly. His work has been praised by saxophonists as diverse as Stan Getz, Charles Lloyd, and Pharoah Sanders. 

Steve’s 1st and 2nd CD’s (“With John in Mind” and “Live at Yoshi’s”) received international praise, the latter selected by Andrew Gilbert of the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top 11 CDs by a Bay Area jazz musician in 2005. Steve’s 3rd CD as a leader, “Born to be Blue” (Jazzed Media)) featured New York guitar virtuoso Howard Alden, internationally acclaimed drummer Akira Tana, Bay Area icon bassist Marcus Shelby, and keyboard wizard Matt Clark; it had the distinction of remaining on the Jazz Week charts for 12 weeks, peaking at #19 of the top 50 jazz CDs for U.S./Canada airplay, while his 4th CD, Search for Peace (same personnel as Born to Be Blue, also on Jazzed Media) hit #10 on the Jazz Week charts and #3 on the Roots Music Report. Steve’s 5th CD, Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute is a heart-felt tribute to Steve’s primary influence, also receiving national acclaim. 

Tim Price (Saxophone Journal), a highly-respected saxophonist himself, wrote: “This is a kick-ass saxophonist with finesse… Heckman's sound on tenor is world-class.” Other comments: "Virtuosic command of his horns” (Jazz Times); "Some of the best music … anywhere (Jazz Now)." Steve has been featured on 14 other CDs (San Francisco Chamberjazz Quartet with Gini Wilson/Jackie Ryan; Dick Conte; Chuck Metcalf; Gerald Beckett; Heikki Koskinen; Frankye Kellye; Fran Foston; Jesse Foster; Martha Blackard).

Ugly Beauty
Some Other Time
Get Happy
Foregone Conclusions
Theme For Ernie
I Should Care
Sheila's Sunday Song
Is That So?
The Peacocks
Slow Café