Monday, July 16, 2018

Keep Calm, or not...

until July 31

Rafal Sarnecki's new CD Climbing Trees, due out July 27, 2018 via Outside In Music

Polish-Born, NY-Based Guitarist/Composer Rafal Sarnecki Faces and Embraces His Fears on Exhilarating New Album

Climbing Trees, out July 27 on Outside In Music, features Sarnecki's stellar sextet with
Lucas Pino, Bogna Kicinska, Glenn Zaleski, Rick Rosato and Colin Stranahan

"Sarnecki ventures far beyond the bebop and post-bop idioms of the past and into a freer - though still chordal - musical language [that] already shows originality and daring. - Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

"Sarnecki is a composer with a skillful touch at dramatic tension and pacing within his involved but highly melodic tunesŠ they're laden with dense arrangements, but the underpinning is a light touch of single-note guitar lines that vibe like a piano." - Michael J. West, Washington City Paper

As a young child, Polish-born guitarist/composer Rafal Sarnecki suffered from an intense fear of heights and watched with envy as other kids climbed trees. Eventually he gathered the courage to face his fears, ascending branch by branch until he reached the top. That early triumph was the first of several fears that Sarnecki has faced down throughout his life, some of them directly impinging on his passion for music - stage fright, most pointedly, but also a more nebulous trepidation about pushing his music into ever more challenging territory. On his latest album, Climbing Trees, Sarnecki celebrates the ability to overcome one's most deep-seated anxieties and the exhilaration that can come from those confrontations.

"Once I challenged myself to climb to the top of one tree I felt an urge to climb a higher tree," Sarnecki recalls. "The satisfaction from fighting the fear was very strong and addictive. This memory from childhood resembles many situations in my adult life."

On Climbing Trees (due out July 27, 2018 via Outside In Music), Sarnecki takes his cue from that formative experience, crafting a set of risk-taking original compositions that dare him and his remarkable sextet to scale daunting heights. The stellar group - saxophonist Lucas Pino, vocalist Bogna Kicinska, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Rick Rosato, and drummer Colin Stranhan - not only manages to deftly navigate the composition's knotty turns but finds exhilarating inspiration in its surprising branchings. The result is music that combines attentive focus on fine detail with the euphoria of an adrenaline rush.

What's clear from the chemistry and complexity displayed by the sextet is that this is a true working band, a relative rarity on the modern jazz landscape. In its present form the band has played together for nearly seven years, though many of the relationships stretch back even further. Pino and Zaleski have been a part of Sarnecki's band for the better part of a decade; Rosato and Stranahan joined the band in 2011. Since 2009 the guitarist and Zaleski have been members of Pino's acclaimed No Net Nonet, enjoying a monthly residency at Smalls Jazz Club for the past five years.

The sextet originally featured a trumpet as part of the frontline, until Sarnecki acceded to a Brooklyn club owner's request to add a singer to the band. Rather than hiring a standards-crooning chanteuse, Sarnecki enlisted Kicinska - a fellow native of Poland who uses her versatile voice and gift for improvisation like an instrumentalist. The addition gave the band's sound an ethereal but urgent quality, and the line-up fell into place.

"It took me a few years to learn how to take advantage of the potential of the musicians," Sarnecki says. "I have absolutely incredible players in my group that do things that are very unique, so as a composer I feel a responsibility to feature their individuality in my music. That can be a little risky, because sometimes I can push it a little too hard, but fortunately, we're a working band so I don't have to be afraid of that. This allows me to come up with ideas that sound really surprising, not the same as every other modern jazz song."

Zaleski's foreboding chords open the album on "Solar Eclipse," which contrasts Kicinska's airy vocal line with Sarnecki's gnarled lines. The leader's probing solo is a standout, exploring every hidden corner and skewed angle of the tune. The title comes not from the recent astronomical phenomenon but from the unusual way the piece was composed: it originated with a particularly tricky bass line, which eventually was dropped as the tune progressed, essentially eclipsing what was once the core idea of the piece. The growling lurch of "Dadaism" doesn't immediately suggest the subversive art movement that gives the piece its title, but it comes from a time when Sarnecki was studying Dada while working on his PhD in Music Composition at the Fryderyk Chopin Music University in Warsaw. Pino and Kicinska take a tandem soar into their upper registers, launching Zaleski into an intricately focused turn.

Sarnecki's shimmering arpeggios open the three-part "Little Dolphin" suite, which, like the elegant, Rachmaninoff-inspired "Zhongguo," reflects on the guitarist's travels to China. He first visited the country in 2013 at the prompting of saxophonist Nathaniel Gao, and has since returned annually to perform and teach. "I just fell in love with the culture," Sarnecki says. "Jazz was banned in China for about 30 years and in smaller towns people have no idea how to react to this music. But in bigger cities like Beijing or Shanghai there's a huge jazz audience and wherever you go, you feel more appreciated. In New York there's so much music that it's hard to impress people, so when you come to a place like China you feel like someone actually needs what you're doing." ("Little Dolphin" is the translation of "Xi_o h_itún" - the nickname given to Sarnecki by his Chinese fans.)

The heartfelt "Write a Letter to Yourself" was inspired by a friend's self-directed missive on Facebook, while "Disappointing Fresh Peach" takes its title from an anecdote in Kenny Werner's influential book Effortless Mastery. The dizzying "Hydrodynamics" is highlighted by a taut tug-of-war between Sarnecki and Stranahan, while closing track "Homo Sapiens" straddles the line between meditative jazz and chamber music, with Pino and Rosato steering through winding curves in perfect synchronicity.

Originally from Warsaw, Poland, Rafal Sarnecki is a jazz guitarist and composer currently living in New York. As a leader of his own projects Rafa_ has toured China, Malaysia, South Korea, Chile, Israel, the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and many European countries. He has shared the stage with top musicians from the U.S. jazz scene including Joel Frahm, Ben Wendel, Ron Blake, Ingrid Jensen, Alex Sipiagin, Willie Jones III and Gary Thomas, to name a few. Rafa_'s debut album, Song From a New Place (2008), was nominated for the 2009 Fryderyk Award, the Polish equivalent of a Grammy.

Rafal's second album, The Madman Rambles Again, was released in 2011 by Fresh Sound New Talent. Dave Sumner from All About Jazz selected the album as among the 12 most interesting jazz releases of 2011. In August 2014 Rafal's third CD, Cat's Dream, was released by Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records. In 2015 a group of jazz musicians in Kyiv, Ukraine started a sextet project dedicated to his music, performing compositions from all of his albums. In addition to his career as a bandleader Sarnecki is performs in a variety of New York based groups and projects such as the Lucas Pino No-Net Nonet, Annie Chen Group and David Bertrand Quartet.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hazelrigg Brothers - Songs We Like (2018)

Some things in life are worth waiting for. The Hazelrigg Brothers’ debut album, Songs We Like, is one of them. George and Geoff Hazelrigg—pianist and bassist, respectively—have been making music together for most of their lives, but it wasn’t until recently that the New Jersey-born siblings were certain that all of the elements they required were in place to cut an album of their own.

Songs We Like is the result of all of the brothers’ painstaking work and patience. The album’s nine tracks include re-imagined material originally performed by classic rock giants such as Led Zeppelin (“Ten Years Gone” and “What is and What Should Never Be”), the Jimi Hendrix Experience (“If 6 Was 9”), Steely Dan (“King of the World”), Jethro Tull (“Living in the Past”) and the Police (Sting’s “Spirits in the Material World”), plus one from the ’80s Australian band Men at Work (“Catch a Star”) and two classical works, Béla Bartók’s “Evening in the Country” and “Passacaglia,” by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer.

Although most of the tracks on the self-produced Songs We Like are derived from the rock canon, a genre in which Geoff and George have worked in the past, the two brothers long ago gravitated toward jazz as their common means of expression.

For the album, the trio recorded many tunes before deciding on the nine that made the final cut, all of them penned by outside composers. “We are interpreters of music,” says George. “Neither of us feels the need to compose substantial pieces for this idiom.

What you hear on the album is the sound of innovation, originality, inspiration, open-mindedness and care, enough of the latter that the Hazelrigg Brothers had to be 100 percent certain they’d achieved an honest, natual representation of their music before they would release it for public consumption. “We play what we like, for whatever reasons we like it,” says George, echoing the album’s title. One listen and you’ll immediately feel the love that went into Songs We Like.

1. Living in the Past (Ian Anderson) - 4:48
2. Catch a Star (Colin Hay) - 4:20
3. If 6 Was 9 (Jimi Hendrix) - 4:09
4. EveningintheCountry (Bela Bartok) - 3:37
5. Ten Years Gone (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) - 6:46
6. King of the World (Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) - 4:46
7. Passacaglia, from The Daughters of Zeus, Urania (Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer) - 3:42
8. SpiritsintheMaterialWorld (Sting) - 3:34
9. What Is and What Should Never Be (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) - 4:49

George Hazelrigg: piano
Geoff Hazelrigg: bass
John O’Reilly, J.: drums

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hey! This week's wonderful $5.00 album is....

Thumbscrew at the Village Vanguard

Hi there!

Speaking of 'jazz' (well, we will be in a moment), we'd like to take a moment and make sure that everyone on this list, especially folks in the New York City area, are aware of / are reminded about THUMBSCREW's residency at the legendary and legendarily great sounding Village Vanguard next week : July 17-22!

Mary Halvorson (guitar)

Michael Formanek (bass)

Tomas Fujiwara (drums)

Justin Brown - Nyeusi (BIOPHILIA RECORDS 2018)

After years as an essential member of groups led by Ambrose Akinmusire, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus, – he’s also been tapped to round out the sound for Esperanza Spalding, Terence Blanchard, Bilal, Vijay Iyer, and many others – Brown is finally ready to extend his reach beyond the drumset to lead his own band, NYEUSI. 

Rounding out NYEUSI are Jason Lindner and Fabian Almazan on keyboards, Burniss Earl Travis on bass, and Mark Shim on electronic wind controller. Brown on drums is the engine propelling an intoxicating synthesis of varying influences that offers deep groove and charged improvisations. “I cannot think of a more highly anticipated debut by an artist right now that is also a lynchpin in today’s creative music scene,” says WBGO’s Simon Rentner.

1. Jupiter's Giant Red Spot 01:48
2. Lesson 1: DANCE 02:31
3. Lots for Nothin' 04:00
4. Waiting (DUSK) 01:18
5. Waiting on Aubade 06:23
6. At Peace (DAWN) 01:02
7. Lesson 2: PLAY 02:27
8. Entering Purgatory 05:18
9. Replenish 02:44
10. FYFO 03:31
11. Circa 45 06:07
12. Burniss 00:32
13. Lindner's in your Body! 02:37

Justin Brown | Drums, Fender Rhodes, Synths, Yamaha DX7
Mark Shim | Wind Controller
Jason Lindner | Moog Synth, Prophet, Mopho, Schoenhut Piano
Fabian Almazan | Fender Rhodes, Mopho, Wurlitzer, Laptop
Burniss Travis | Bass

Brooklyn Recording Studio: June 24 and 25, 2015
Engineer: Andy Taub
Assistant Engineer: Adam Tilzer

Electric Indigo Studios August 15, 2017
Engineer: Jesse Fischer
Assistant Engineer: Morgan Guerin

Mixing: Andy Taub | Tracks 1-8 & 11-13
Mixing: Jess Fischer | Tracks 9-10

Mastering: Colin Girod

Artwork: Roland Nicol
Layout: Aestheticize MediaJustin Brown

Jim Snidero Quartet - While Your Here (RED RECORDS 2018)

A fine post-bop improviser and alto saxman, Jim Snidero is a bit underrated but is well-appreciated by his fellow musicians. He attended the University of North Texas and moved to New York in 1981. Snidero toured and recorded with Jack McDuff, he's been a member of the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra since the mid-'80s, has worked with the backup bands of Frank Sinatra and Eddie Palmieri, and has spent time playing with the Frank Wess Sextet, the Mel Lewis Orchestra, and the Mingus Big Band. As a leader, Jim Snidero has recorded for the Japanese East World label (1984), Ken, Square Discs, Red, and Criss Cross. He has also recorded as a sideman with Brian Lynch, Conrad Herwig, and Tom Varner, and been active in jazz education both as a teacher and as an author of instructional books. ~ Scott Yanow

1. While Your Here
2. Intimacy
3. A Few To Many
4. Fly Little Birdie
5. State Of Affairs
6. I Concentrate On You
7. I Can't Get Started
8. Front Line

Alto Saxophone – Jim Snidero
Bass – Peter Washington
Drums – Tony Reedus
Piano – Benny Green

Steve Coleman and Five Elements - Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets) PI RECORDINGS August 10, 2018

Steve Coleman and Five Elements - Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets) PI RECORDINGS August 10, 2018

Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman’s Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) is his first live release in over 15 years. It captures his band Five Elements in two joyous sets at the historic New York venue where some of the most famous jazz recording from the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans have been made. Coleman’s personal history is tied deeply with the club: One of the main reasons he moved to New York City from Chicago was for the opportunity to play in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, of which he was a member from 1978 to 1980. After playing there with singer Abbey Lincoln in 1984, there followed by a hiatus of over 30 years before he was invited to perform at the club as a leader in 2015. Since then, he has led his band Five Elements at the Vanguard every year, including these two sets recorded in May, 2017.

Unlike his two most recent releases, Morphogenesis (NPR Critics Poll #2 album of 2017) and Synovial Joints (New York Times #1 jazz album of 2015), both of which are highly composed and arranged, Coleman’s recent goal has been to compose as spontaneously as possible, often completely extemporaneously. Interspersing the set with tracks that feature these new compositional tactics with long-time Coleman favorites, the musicians tackle Coleman’s typically intricate music with an effortless grace. The band’s mastery over the cross-hatching rhythms, tricky counterpoint and percolating funk, inspired by the magical vibe of the Village Vanguard, is captured here at its absolute peak.

1. Horda 7:35
2, Djw 6:47
3. Little Girl I'll Miss You | Embedded #1 16:53
4. idHw 6:46
5. twf 7:16
6. Figit Time 8:05
7. Nfr 8:06
8. Little Girl I'll Miss You 7:36
9. Change The Guard 7:00
10. rmT | Figit Time 16:18
11. Nfr 9:47
12. idHw 7:42
13. twf 6:36
14. Horda 6:26
15. Embedded #1 6:58
16. Djw 7:34
17. rmT | 9 to 5 14:55

Steve Coleman - alto saxophone
Jonathan Finlayson - trumpet
Miles Okazaki - guitar
Anthony Tidd - bass
Sean Rickman - drums

Friday, July 13, 2018

Carol Liebowitz / Bill Payne - Spiderwebmandala (LINE ART RECORDS 2018)

Clarinetist Bill Payne and pianist Carol Liebowitz have been playing together since 2010. Their first release from 2015, Payne Lindal Liebowitz, a trio with violinist Eva Lindal, has been widely praised for its originality, and mix of lyricism and intensity. Bill Payne is “a clarinet player of immense talent and clear distinction” (Cadence). The CD is defined by “high caliber musicianship and intelligent, electrifying artistry” . . . Liebowitz displays a “vibrant and sonorous pianism” with “chords that brim with ardent energy and hypnotic beauty” while Payne “coaxes eloquent and wistful poetry out of his clarinet” (All About Jazz). The disc was voted one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs by Art Lange (Point of Departure) in the 2015 NPR Jazz Critics Poll.

Pianist and singer Carol Liebowitz brings a uniquely expressive and personal sound to the jazz and free improvisation scene. After focusing on classical repertoire at the High School of Performing Arts and NYU, her musical direction turned to improvisation and she began studying with Connie Crothers. Other influential teachers have included Sal Mosca, Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan. She has performed in Europe and throughout the New York City metropolitan area in venues such as Roulette, The Stone, Cornelia Street Cafe, ibeam, The Firehouse Space, Arts for Art, Spectrum, Galapagos and Birdland. In addition to frequent solo concert appearances, Carol has worked in various groups with musicians including Daro Behroozi, Tom Blancarte, Adam Caine, Daniel Carter, Bill Chattin, Claire de Brunner, Maryanne de Prophetis, Andrew Drury, Ken Filiano, Birgitta Flick, Guillermo Gregorio, Ratzo Harris, Ron Horton, Louise D.E. Jensen, Will Jhun, KenYa Kawaguchi, Adam Lane, Eva Lindal, Nick Lyons, Adam Melville, Don Messina, Ryan Messina, Bill Payne, John Pietaro, Lorenzo Sanguedolce, John Wagner, Michael Wimberly,  Andrea Wolper, dancer Michiru Inoue and poet Mark Weber. Carol has two releases on the New Artists label: “Waves of Blue Intensities,” a duo with tenor saxophonist Bob Field, and “Time on My Hands,” a voice and guitar duo with Andy Fite. Recent recordings are on Line Art Records—First Set, a duo with alto saxophonist Nick Lyons, and Poetry from the Future, with the quartet TO BE CONTINUED (Claire de Brunner, Daniel Carter, and Kevin Norton). A duo CD with tenor saxophonist Birgitta Flick, Malita-Malika, will be released in 2018.

Bill Payne was raised in Harvey, Illinois and began playing clarinet at age 10, later studying with Don Kramer and Lewis Wyatt. He has experienced a unique life on the road with theatre companies, Broadway shows, big bands, and traveling circuses. Bill’s improvisations have received spectacular reviews noting his originality, range, beauty of sound and deep expression. He cites meeting Connie Crothers as a major turning point in his musical life, leading to their outstanding performances and recordings. Other artists he has worked with include Eva Lindal, Carol Liebowitz, poet Mark Weber, Richard Tabnik, Roger Mancuso, Kevin Norton, Bud Tristano, Cheryl Richards, Michael Vlatkovich, William Roper, Chris Garcia, and Harry Scorzo. Bill has performed at venues including The Stone, iBeam, Connie Crothers’ Loft Concert Series in Brooklyn, Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, NM, and the Center For The Arts in Eagle Rock, CA.

“Payne’s clarinet moves like a leaf buffeted by the wind…”
Ed Hazell, Point of Departure

Carol Liebowitz, piano
Bill Payne, clarinet

special guest  
Mark Weber, poetry

1. Deep Sky  5:07
2. Spiderweb Mandala Flower Explosion Poem: Drishti*  4:40
3. Desert Dance  3:57
4. Secrets  4:44
5. Tempest  2:40
6. Mixtures of Aroma in the Smoke*  4:24
7. Notes on a Dream  7:04
8. Hidden Canyon  5:39
9. Vanishing Point  4:44

*tracks 2 and 6 with Mark Weber

All tracks by Carol Liebowitz and Bill Payne, except tracks 2 and 6 by Carol Liebowitz, Bill Payne and Mark Weber
Concert produced by Tom Guralnick, Janet Simon & Mark Weber
Recorded live at Outpost Performance Space, May 5 & 6, 2016, Albuquerque, NM
Recorded by Kirk Brown; Soundboard by Andres Martinez
Mixed by Mark Weber & Kirk Brown at Oasis Sound, Edgewood, NM
CD Mastering: Jim Clouse, Park West Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Cover/CD art: JB Bryan, “T’ao Ch’ien Looking South” oil on canvas (details)
Liner Notes: Marc Medwin
Design: Carol Liebowitz

Mark Weber

Mixtures of aroma in the smoke
incense corruscating & swirls


It is as the doctrines suggest
much like the spirit
free and ever re-inventing itself

. . . over the bridge
into the forest of trees

The old roads out of the East

Gossamer wings

Solemn vow to look out for each other

The old roads out of the past. . . .

swirling and cloudy

When those at sea did not return
When a tree is cut down
When sorrow enter’d into the world

Someday I’ll bury this pencil in the garden
and ride a galloping horse into the sun

Mark Weber, November 2012

Tony Kofi And The Organisation - Point Blank (THE LAST MUSIC COMPANY August 31, 2018)

The origins of The Organisation go back over a decade and grew from Simon Fernsby's memorable Manhattan Project sessions, which were a staple of jazz in south London throughout the 2000s. Drummer Pete Cater was an early recruit having been a jazz tutor on Fernsby's music college course. The band went through several incarnations but came into its own with the addition of organist Pete Whittaker and honed its no-nonsense, hard-hitting style as a house rhythm section for multiple venues and festivals.

The quartet on these recordings first emerged in 2010 when Tony Kofi, fresh from recording with Ornette Coleman in New York, serendipitously joined them as a last-minute dep. His playing of both alto and baritone on the date created an instant affinity between the four of them. The Organisation's combination of the bluesy, soul-jazz side of the Hammond canon, and their knowledge of the more modern post-bop side of the repertoire (as typified by Woody Shaw's "Moontrane"), worked perfectly with Tony's approach. To the credit of them all, they have played a long game, developing their craft and style on the UK jazz circuit ensuring that the quartet regularly features in their schedule

Recorded by Paul Riley, the sounds you will hear on POINT BLANK are those of a band who have put the hours in and held an ace in their collective hand until the moment to enshrine it was just right in one magical session at Specific Sound in 2017.

1. Minor League
2. Bossallegro
3. Theme From Mr Lucky
4. Search For Peace
5. L S Blues
6. Cisco
7. Full House
8. Moontrane
9. Summer In Central Park
10. Ready And Able

Pete Whittaker (Organ)
Pete Cater (Drums)
Simon Fernsby (Guitar)

Musaeum Clausum - Musaeum Clausum (2018 UMLAUT RECORDS)

Musæum Clausum is a French-German trio that features Louis Laurain on cornet (Die Hochstapler, Umlaut Big band, ONCEIM), Hannes Lingens on drums (Obliq, Konzert Minimal) and Sebastien Beliah on bass.(Un Poco Loco, Ensemble Hodos, Umlaut Big Band). The music of Musæum Clausum is a constant flow with small variations of speed and intensity without beginning or end. In this music each player is drawing freely and independently a path in the development of his ideas and then reveal the elements of a general frame that moves slowly and patiently to reach sometimes a high level a complexity.

This album was recorded in two days in September 2016 in Halle, in a former East German Ballroom. The music is recorded, mixed and mastered by Christoph Schlimbach.

1. A La Ventura part 1 & 2 (22:42)
2. Rareties in Pictures: A Large Submarine Landscape / A Night Piece (20:05)
3. Remarquable Books (11:12)

Louis Laurain, cornet
Sebastien Beliah, double bass
Hannes Lingens, drums