Tuesday, January 9, 2018

John Raymond & Real Feels - Joy Ride (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS February 9, 2018 2018)

In life, it is easy to become untethered and lose a sense of stability. For many, stability is found in close relationships, whether it be with partners, family or friends. It is exactly these connections that make the journey through life possible and, in John Raymond’s case, a Joy Ride. 

In the unfettered world of the jazz musician, having a long time working group with a unique identity and sound is a rare thing. There are certain regional sensibilities that emerge from around the nation. There does seem to be some instinctual urge from Midwestern musicians that makes them attracted to more familial surroundings, musically speaking: a close-knit band. 

Originally from the Minneapolis area, John Raymond grew to appreciate musicians who wanted not only a connection with their audience but also with their associates on the bandstand and, taking this to heart, the trumpeter applied the sentiment when he created his own band, Real Feels.

Raymond moved to New York City after spending some time studying music in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He was able to establish himself in the New York scene playing alongside well-known musicians like Billy Hart, Orrin Evans, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dan Tepfer and Linda May Han Oh. But Raymond was increasingly drawn to creating and leading a band of his own, which has always been his main focus. 

By the time he moved to the City, Raymond had already been drawn to Gilad Hekselman’s playing. The guitarist’s lyrical style was perfect for Raymond’s musical direction and Raymond began to employ Hekselman in many of his projects. After a few years of playing together, Raymond wanted to experiment with an ensemble sound that he found increasingly more attractive, a flugelhorn-led trio with guitar and drums à la Jim Hall and Art Farmer and, more recently, the collaborations of Ron Miles, Bill Frisell and Brian Blade. 

The initial performance of what would become Real Feels was a revelation for Raymond. He provided simple lead sheets, which allowed the group free reign in terms of interpreting the music. It was shortly thereafter that drummer Colin Stranahan would cement himself as the bedrock of Real Feels. The group would go on to release two albums in 2016, the self titled Real Feels and a live follow up Real Feels: Live, Vol. 1. 

Raymond wants the music of Real Feels to connect to his listeners. So rather than compose “heady” or complex songs, he focused on simplifying and writing music that people could sing along with. The majority of the music on Joy Ride was written during a self-imposed summer retreat in which Raymond spent hours composing each day. He also decided to compose at the piano, an instrument on which he is less in command, creating a natural handicap to insure the pieces would be more natural.

When Real Feels was ready to record, Raymond brought in Matt Pierson as producer to help streamline the recording process and help craft a stronger musical presentation.

The recording begins with “Joy Ride,” a jaunty original that keeps both the band and the listener on the edge of their seats the entire tune. The group’s interpretation of Paul Simon’s “I’d Do It For Your Love” provides a perfect setting for Raymond’s flugelhorn on the sing-song melody and intriguing harmonic underpinning. Raymond’s “Follower” evokes a Radiohead-esque vibe, with a steady groove and winding, mysterious melody. Justin Vernon’s music is a huge influence on Raymond, as Raymond was in Eau Claire when Bon Iver was just in its nascent form. Taking hints from a live Bon Iver performance in Brooklyn, Raymond rearranged “Minnesota, WI” into an incredibly poignant and resonant piece which features Hekselman stretching over his own guitar loops. The group’s take on the hymn “Be Still, My Soul” starts out calm but gradually becomes more edgy and dissonant, ending with a collectively improvised release of acoustic and electronic sounds. 

The bare, yet moving Raymond original “Fortress” further reinforces Raymond’s indie-rock influences. Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” is a perfect pop song set up with a repetitive guitar riff that the group modulates both harmonically and metrically throughout. Raymond’s soulful “En Route” is a lighthearted piece that breezily traverses the musical back roads. A tribute to a Minnesota legend, Raymond’s pastoral take on Bob Dylan’s iconic “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (to this day, still a powerful political statement) subtly shifts and bends, yet retains, the essential sentiment of the song. The recording concludes with “Hymn,” a duo performance with Hekselman leaving the listener with a simple and sincere melody resonating in their ears. 

The journey through the ups and downs of life can be made more smoothly with the influence and love of friends and family. The urge and opportunity to create a band of friends was of high importance to John Raymond. His Real Feels trio is a distinctive and highly listenable ensemble whose care and passion can be heard on their new recording, Joy Ride.

1. Joy Ride 05:47
2. I'd Do It For Your Love
3. Follower
4. Minnesota, WI
5. Be Still, My Soul
6. Fortress
7. Solsbury Hill
8. En Route
9. The Times They Are A-Changin
10. Hymn

Gilad Hekselman - guitar
Colin Stranahan - drums

Josh Kelly Trio - Zoom Recording at 303 (2018)

A trio lead by Melbourne saxophonist, Josh Kelly, which draws influence from two pivotal movements in jazz from the late 50’s: modal jazz and free jazz. Ideas from each movement are used to inform contemporary jazz compositions that are rooted in these traditions, but expand on them through extended harmonic and rhythmic tools influenced by the modern Melbourne and New York jazz scenes.

The music is written over set rhythmic and modal frameworks, to allow the trio to embellish and expand on rhythms and counterpoint melodies over many repeats. The rhythm cycles, or grooves are influenced by jazz and traditional folk music, including African and traditional Korean music.

1. Welcome to Country 05:10
2. Along For The Ride 05:07
3. Taijitu 01:38
4. Juliette 10:44
5. Cup of Truth 07:32
6. Maria Hiroki 02:38
7. Ernst 15:19

All compositions by Joshua Kelly

Hiroki Hoshino - Double Bass
Maria Moles - Drum Kit

Ben Sluijs​ - ​Solo Recordings (2018)

Ben Sluijs followed a 5-year classical saxophone training. During that period he participated in various classical summer-workshops and took lessons with Francois Danneels; Norbert Nozy, Willy Demey….. From the age of 15, Ben’s fascination for jazz grew and after finishing the classical school in excellence, he started a 4-year training at the Antwerp Jazz-Studio where his teacher was John Ruocco. After, he studied with Steve Houben at the conservatory of Brussels and followed lessons with David Liebman in the US. Ben teaches at the conservatory and the academy of Antwerp.

Experiences as sideman with: Octurn, BRT Big Band, Brussels Jazz- Orchestra, Myriam Alter Quintet, Act Big Band, Jean Warland’s Sax No End, Ivan Paduart Septet, Radoni’s Tribe.

Played (or plays) also with: Philip Catherine, Toots Thielemans, Stacy Rowles, Bert Van den Brink, Michel Herr, Bert Joris, Dre Pallemaerts, Hein Van De Geijn, Nathalie Loriers, Chris Joris, Joe Fonda, John Betsch, Serge Lazarevitch...

or solo combined with poetry and spoken-word with: Remco Campert, Jules Deelder, Peter Holvoet Hanssen, Don Fabulist, Pjeroo Roobjee, Tom van Bauwel, Michaël Pas, Rogert de Neef, Jan Decleir...

Besides his own bands and projects you can frequently hear Ben also with: Augusto Pirroda Quartet, Christian Mendoza Group...

In 1997 he represented Belgium in the European Big Band in Slovenia.

In march 2003 he was selected by the Flemish Community to represent Belgium at Euro Jazz Festival in Mexico.

He receives the Antoon Van Dijck-award in 1999 presented by the city of Antwerp. Nominations for: Zamu-Awards 2003, 2007 and d’Jango d’Or 2006.

Performed on various national and international festivals as: Jazz-Middelheim and Blue Note festival (Belgium), Knitting Factory (New York), festival de Montreal (Canada), North Sea festival (Holland), Tremplin Jazz (France)...

1. Easy For You 02:52
2. Presq'heureux 03:04
3. How Did I Get Here 03:35
4. Early Train 04:01
5. Diminished Performance 02:49
6. Lilttle Suede Shoes 02:00
7. Deux Conns 02:25
8. What Reason Could I Give 03:12
9. How Did I Get Here (alternate take) 02:51
10. Dearly Beloved 07:28

Jon Durant - Parting Is (January 18, 2018)

Following three acclaimed CDs with his group Burnt Belief, Jon Durant has returned with his first solo album since 2011's "Dance of the Shadow Planets." Unlike his previous solo albums, however, "Parting Is" is a completely solo guitar album.

A deeply emotional and personal record, "Parting Is" takes the idea of a solo guitar album and transforms it into a stunning sonic landscape of texture and color. Many of the sounds on the album bear no relationship with traditional guitar, but there are no synthesizers employed at all. Everything is played by Jon Durant on guitars (with Durant also playing fretless bass on four pieces).

Durant commented: "In recent years, I have been spending a lot of time away from people and places I love very much. My two boys are out of the house, one graduated college and the other is a senior in college this year. We have a wonderful time when I get to see them, but then they go away and there is a bit of a pang as we part. Also, we have a second home on the other side of the country (Portland, OR) where I spend a fair bit of time, and is also where much of this album began. Frequently my wife will join me for a long weekend, and I will stay on for another week or so, and of course there's the sadness when we part. What is reflected in this music is the sweet sorrow that comes from this parting - recognizing that it's temporary but still longing for more time together."

About the music, Durant stated: "On most days, one of the first things I do is grab a cup of tea or coffee, and begin to experiment with my guitar. The music that comes out is not done with any intention of becoming a composition, or a recording, but is rather more of a meditation. However, a friend heard a brief recording of one such piece and asked why I didn't record more of them. When I began to do so, I felt a pattern was emerging that might be worth exploring.

"Many pieces begin as loops that I would play a melodic lead over. I recorded several of these, then began to deconstruct the loops and record the various parts as separate components which could become less loop like and more dynamic and flowing. The track, 'Open Window' is a perfect example of how that played out."

That track, "Open Window" also provides an opportunity to explore the unusual sound and textures that Durant creates. The primary guitar which began as a loop is an electric 12 string. From there, multiple electric 12 string parts were layered in a minimalistic way. The melodic guitar is a fretless electric guitar, and the low tones (which sound a bit like the old Moog Bass Pedals) are generated from the fretless guitar. Also, swirling around in the background are Jon's unique cloud guitar sounds, notes which hang in the air like clouds with no discernable beginnings or endings.

There are three solo cloud guitar pieces ("Clouds in Advance", "Before the Rain Falls" and "Willamette Fog") and two pieces which remained as a loop with lead guitar over the top. "The Room Where She Waits" is a loop of electric 12 String and the lead is fretless guitar. On "Evolve in Place", the loop is an electric guitar with fretless guitar over the top.

Guitarist Jon Durant brings a unique sense of texture and melody to his instrument. His distinctive "cloud guitar" soundscapes and engaging lead work have graced numerous CD recordings and film soundtracks. As executive producer of Alchemy Records, he produces recordings for internationally acclaimed artists in his small home studio. Alongside Durant's six solo albums and three Burnt Belief records (with Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree), Alchemy has also released albums by artists Michael Manring, Gary Willis, Leni Stern/Wayne Krantz and others.

1 Clouds in Advance
2 Open Window
3 Travels Within
4 The Room Where She Waits
5 Before the Rain Falls
6 Evolve in Place
7 Ecliptic Shadows
8 Returning to the Departure
9 Willamette Fog


The World of Captain Beefheart is a comprehensive overview of the man also known as Don van Vliet’s towering legacy, re-imagined and infused with new blood by vocalist extraordinaire Nona Hendryx and avant-guitar legend Gary Lucas; this pair starred in a symphonic Beefheart Tribute with Amsterdam’s famed 65-piece Metropole Orchestra at the Paradiso a few years ago. The album was co-produced by Gary and Jess Krakow, recorded at Eastside Sound in NYC. The World of Captain Beefheart is being released by Knitting Factory Records on November 10. The World of Captain Beefheart strikes a fine balance between the more bluesy and groove-accessible songs in the good Captain’s oeuvre and the more extreme, darker and weirder side.

The former is well represented by “Sun Zoom Spark” and “Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles” from Beefheart’s 1973 Clear Spot album, “Too Much Time” and “When It Blows Its Stacks” from 1972’s The Spotlight Kid, “Sure ’Nuff ’n Yes I Do” and “I’m Glad” from Safe as Milk, and “Tropical Hot Dog Night” from 1977’s Shiny Beast. The latter is explored via “When Big Joan Sets Up” and “Sugar ’n Spikes” from 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, and “The Smithsonian Institute Blues” from 1970’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

Nona Hendryx is a longtime fierce admirer of Don Van Vliet’s music, and possesses the huge voice and the commanding stage presence necessary to do full justice to repertoire that originally featured Beefheart’s unforgettable multi-octave voice. All though she’s best known as a funk/soul great thanks to her long tenure with international hitmakers Labelle (as well as the group’s antecedent, Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles) as well as her own excellent R&B-rooted solo outing but is no stranger to experimental, rock territory having been featured as guest vocalist with cutting-edge ensembles including Talking Heads, Bil Laswell’s Material, and Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods.

Gary Lucas first made his mark as an incendiary, visionary guitar player on the final last two Beefheart albums, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). A world-renowned instrumentalist and Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer, Gary has released over 30 acclaimed albums in a variety of genres—including last year’s tribute to the soundtracks to Max Fleischer’s cartoons: “Gary Lucas’ FLEISCHEREI”— which was chosen as one of the Best Albums of the Year by DownBeat.

Ably supporting these two are expert practitioners of Beefheartian derring-do Jesse Krakow on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums–both veterans of Fast ’N Bulbous, Lucas’ free-jazz instrumental outfit that specializes in repertoire from the Van Vliet canon. Completing the is keyboardist Jordan Shapiro, who’s played with Gary in his long-running avant-rock crew, Gods and Monsters.

Don Van Vliet a/k/a Captain Beefheart has been provoking and enchanting music lovers since 1966, emerging full-blown out of the High Mojave Desert with a rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” which earned him an appearance cavorting in surf on ABC’s “Where the Action Is” and an on-air interview via phone with Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” while the kids dutifully boogied to this intense blues-rock blast.

In the years that followed, Captain Beefheart achieved worldwide notoriety as one of the most singular voices and uncompromising composers in relatively popular music, a trail-blazing maverick genius who single-handedly changed the face of music as we know it via a series of ground-breaking albums with a series of Magic Band line-ups starting with 1967’s “Safe as Milk” and finishing with 1982’s “Ice Cream for Crow.” His music combined Delta blues, free-jazz, and proto-punk rock with surrealist imagery, ecological obsession, and the highest and airiest of wit. It was a unique and unforgettable sound which proved highly influential on the first wave of punk and new-wave pioneers including John “Rotten” Lydon, Joe Strummer of the Clash , and Talking Heads’ David Byrne as well as seminal artists such as David Lynch, Laurie Anderson, Ed Ruscha, Woody Allen, Julian Schnabel, and Matt Groening. On stage and on record, Don Van Vliet explored musical and lyrical territory never before charted in the confines of a traditional electric band line-up.

He retired after releasing 13 astonishing albums to concentrate on painting. Van Vliet’s tragic passing in 2010 (from complications of MS) saw him eulogized the New York Times editorial pages.

Yet, to this day, Don Van Vliet remains a cult hero, relatively unknown in mainstream circles. If any album is able to change that it’s The World of Captain Beefheart.

01. Sun Zoom Spark
02. My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains
03. Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I Do
04. I'm Glad
05. The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or The Big Dig)
06. Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles
07. Suction Prints
08. Sugar 'n Spikes
09. When Big Joan Sets Up
10. Too Much Time
11. When It Blows Its Stacks
12. Tropical Hot Dog Night

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Gregory Lewis with Marc Ribot - Organ Monk Blue (2018)

Adapting the music and mood of Thelonious Monk to a Hammond B3 organ might be a tricky proposition but Gregory Lewis has literally made a career out of it. Organ Monk Blue is already Lewis’ fifth record since his 2010 debut Organ Monk, quickly following Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite just seven months earlier (in between these two dates was the 100th anniversary of Monk’s birthday, by the way). While the 2017 effort featured a six movement suite that tied to a theme of African-American lives wiped out by deadly police force, Organ Monk Blue is a return to Monk covers, like those found on Lewis’ first two albums. As the title implies, this collection of Monk covers sets out to illuminate the blues that’s found at the core of most every song he composed.

Guitarist Marc Ribot and Jeremy Bean Clemons are held over from The Breathe Suite, and so is Lewis’ inclination to ignore the need to consciously play ‘jazz.’ Broadly speaking, of course, that’s what this music is, but like all the best jazz artists, Lewis stretches that genre to the point that listeners forget what kind of music is being presented, because the presentation successfully transcends that.

Having said all that, I’d call this a blues record. Since the participants involved aren’t ordinary, neither is this an ordinary blues album. The very presence of Ribot insures there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about this organ-guitar-drums combo, but Ribot isn’t such an outlier that he doesn’t understand how a guitar and B3 interacts. After all, he was in Brother Jack McDuff’s band early in his career. He’s not here to do skronky freak outs, but he does lend a whole lot of diverse approaches, which is just what Lewis needs for a record that varies its plan of attack from track to track.

So for example, the basic thematic strain of “Green Chimneys” is retained but that swing is turned into a funky blues-rocker and Ribot complements Lewis’ thick slabs of B3 with jazzy guitar lines. On the other hand, Ribot rhythm guitar is dubbed over itself on “Blue Hawk,” and his lead part tilts on the rock side. The solo he leaves on “Mysterioso” [sic] sounds like no one else, full of inventive licks.

As the leader and brainchild, Lewis again demonstrates the countless ways Monk tunes can be refurbished into something that’s just as original as the original. For example, Lewis takes a small riff Monk played on “Raise Four” and turns it into the opening vamp for his way more combustible version. Lewis, Ribot and Clemons start “Blue Sphere” by playing extemporaneously until Lewis introduces Monk’s key figure nearly two minutes in. From that point, the trio quickly coalesces into a slow burning blues, Ribot and Lewis taking turns making fervent, blues-soaked statements. That epochal melodic figure of “Mysterioso” is retained, but once that’s out of the way, the boys ease back into another slowly-simmering blues.

“Nutty” is another Monk song distinctive for its off-kilter but endearing main figure, and the three exploit it fully. Once again playing untethered at the intro, Lewis & Co. settle into their jazziest stride of the whole album and Ribot is emulating bits of Wes Montgomery and Grant Green in his leads while Lewis evokes a lot of both Charles Earland and Larry Young.

The catawampus tempo “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” is straightened out and made into a hard groove, while “Blues Five Spot” is played as a straight-up blues with a walking bass line. And Lewis doesn’t stick strictly to the classic numbers; “Blue Hawk” is a Monk obscurity but he rightly recognizes its potential and makes a funky little number out of it.

1 Green Chimneys 5:42
2 Blue Sphere 7:30
3 Raise Four 4:53
4 Misterioso 6:50
5 Blue Hawk 9:20
6 Nutty 7:44
7 Blues Five Spot 4:26
8 Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are 5:04

Gregory Lewis, Hammond B3 Organ
Marc Ribot, Guitar
Jeremy Bean Clemons, Drums

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