Friday, January 26, 2018

Gary Smulyan - Alternative Contrafacts (SteepleChase Productions ApS February 15, 2018)

Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan brings here his trademark “contrafacts” (a music making method that shares the chord progressions with other compositions) approach to this first SteepleChase leader outing challenging us (maybe?) to guess the tunes he is employing.

Smulyan whose professional career took shape by joining Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herds at age 22 (1978) has won Critics’ and Readers’ Poll awards numerous times by Downbeat and JazzTimes, among others.

1. Vodka (Mal Waldron)
2. Deep People (Jimmy Guiffre)
3. Tale Of The Fingers (Paul Chambers)
4. Cohn Pone (Al Cohn/Nick Travis)
5. Moodamorphosis (Gil Fuller,Dave Burns)
6. Ahma See Ya (Ted Curson)
7. I've Changed (Gary Smulyan)
8. On The Minute (John Eardley)
9. Hand (Coleman Hawkins)

David Wong bass
Rodney Green drums

Dave Liebman / Adam Rudolph / Tatsuya Nakatani - The Unknowable (RareNoise Records 2018)

'The Unknowable' is a completely improvised, spontaneous group-composed body of music, recorded by three highly regarded players. The music stems from the worlds of free and spiritual jazz, yet goes beyond.

1. Benediction (Opening)
2. The Simple Truth
3. Late Moon
4. The Unknowable
5. Skyway Dream
6. Transmutations
7. The Turning
8. Present Time
9. Distant Twilight
10. Iconographic
11. Cosmogram
12. Premonition
13. Benediction (Closing)

Wayne Escoffery - Vortex (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS January 26, 2018 2018)

Wayne Escoffery reaching his 40th birthday marked a period of big changes for the award-winning saxophonist both artistically and in his personal life. Escoffery had reached a crossroads. He had spent a happy and successful decade in the band of trumpeter/composer Tom Harrell but felt that it was time for him to step out more as a leader. At the end of 2016, Escoffery assembled a tremendous quartet of jazz’s most elite musicians that would record a live album, headline New York’s legendary Village Vanguard, and tour steadily for the next year. 

The current political and cultural landscape of the United States has caused many to take pause and Escoffery has had a lifetime to learn and deal with growing up black and as an immigrant (English born of Jamaican descent). But it was the recent US election and its effects on his young son that had a profound impact on him. Escoffery’s evocative new recording, Vortex, is about the current dizzying maelstrom of racism, bigotry and hate in the U.S. and the saxophonist’s renewed commitment to his responsibilities and artistic goals. 

As a youth in the southern United States, and as a young adult in Connecticut, Escoffery experienced first hand the entire prismatic spectrum of racism. From being too black to not being black enough, he had to be strong and determined to push past the negativity to succeed in the fields he pursued, namely being a professional musician and educator, most recently being appointed “Lecturer in Jazz Improvisation” at the prestigious Yale School of Music.

The 2016 Presidential election left Escoffery perplexed and despondent, as it did a large portion of the nation, but it was the response of his young son that he found most distressing. Escoffery’s eight year-old son was born into a period of hope, dignity and pride through the Obama presidency. It was the aftermath of the Freddie Gray shooting and the upheaval of racism and hate after the election that had his son frightened as though the end of the world was approaching. Escoffery knew his role as a father would become increasingly crucial in educating a boy in how to become a young man in the turbulent US racial environment. 

On his new recording, Escoffery presents this great quartet on a number of original pieces, a standard and an original piece by the ensemble’s brilliant drummer, Ralph Peterson, who Escoffery has worked alongside since Escoffery’s arrival in New York in 2000. The rest of the band is equally pedigreed. Pianist David Kikoski has been a regular collaborator in the Mingus Big Band and with Eddie Henderson, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo has been driving the rhythm section of Tom Harrell’s ensemble for the entirety of Escoffery’s tenure. Escoffery’s quartet is augmented by the percussion of Jaquelene Acevedo on a number of pieces. 

The recording begins with the leader’s “Vortex,” an intense composition characterizing the environmental pull of racism and hate that he guides his son away from. The plaintive “Judgement” is an improvised introduction to Peterson’s “Acceptance,” a challenging piece written in 15/4 that really highlights the ensemble’s interconnectivity and drive, its title stemming from “The Serenity Prayer” written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
Courage to change the things I can, 
And wisdom to know the difference.

Tom Harrell’s penchant for constant writing amazes Escoffery who regularly falls in love with the trumpeter’s compositions. Escoffery rehearsed and played Harrell’s “February” with him only once before the piece was shelved. The saxophonist revives the tune named for his birth month here. Escoffery’s “The Devil’s Den” is an ominous and darkly atmospheric piece evocative of Donald Trump, his entourage and the world they seem intent to create, powered here by the fantastic young drummer, Kush Abadey. 

The wistful “Tears for Carolyn” echoes a mood of both melancholy and perseverance after the unfortunate end of a long relationship. Escoffery learned the Noel and Joe Sherman standard “To The Ends of the Earth” from pianist Monty Alexander. He fell in love with the piece and re-imagined the Nat King Cole favorite in an arrangement reminiscent of the John Coltrane Quartet. Escoffery’s “In His Eyes” is about taking in the world as a child would, specifically the way his son has interpreted the events of the past year, with dramatic turns by guests: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and drummer Abadey. The recording concludes with the saxophonist’s “Baku,” an uptempo piece that reflects a hectic 48-hour period where he had to switch from one gig to another, which required him to visit the Azarbaijani Embassy and get to Baku for a performance with pianist/composer Amina Figarova. 

On his moving new Vortex, Wayne Escoffery uses his music to come to terms with what he confronted as a man of color growing up in the US, how to help his son navigate through the current environment of bigotry and hate, and how to harness his emotions to generate positive momentum in his life and career.

1. Vortex
2. Judgement
3. Acceptance
4. February
5. The Devil's Den
6. Tears For Carolyn
7. To The Ends Of The Earth
8. In His Eyes
9. Baku

David Kikoski - piano
Ugonna Okegwo - bass
Ralph Peterson, Jr. - drums
Jeremy Pelt - trumpet (track 8)
Kush Abadey - drums (tracks 5 & 8)
Jacquelene Acevedo - percussion (tracks 4, 5 & 6)

Coming Later This Year:

Feb. 9 - John Raymond & Real Feels - Joy Ride
Feb. 23 - Adam Nussbaum - The Lead Belly Project
Mar. 23 - Caroline Davis - Heart Tonic
Apr. 13 - Duduka Da Fonseca Trio - Plays Dom Salvador
Apr. 20 - Mike McGinnis - Singular Awakening
Apr. 20 - Edward Simon - Sorrows and Triumphs
May 11 - Román Filiú - Quartería

Sunnyside Artists Live:

Jan. 26-27 - Wayne Escoffery @ Smoke - NYC - CD Release for Vortex
Jan. 26-27 - Randy Ingram w/ Drew Gress @ Bagots Hutton - Dublin, Ireland
Jan. 27 - Camille Bertault & Dan Tepfer - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jan. 27 - Laszlo Gardony @ James Library - Norwell, MA
Jan. 27 - Cristina Pato Quartet @ Clark State Performing Arts Center - Springfield, OH
Jan. 28 - Randy Ingram w/ Drew Gress @ Jazz Dock - Prague, Czech Republic
Jan. 31 - Randy Ingram w/ Drew Gress @ Hot Club - Lisbon, Portugal
Feb. 1 - Cristina Pato Quartet @ Cathedral of San Fernando - San Antonio, TX
Feb. 2 - Duane Eubanks Quartet @ Cornelia St. Café - NYC
Feb. 2-8 - Benny Green @ The Jazz Cruise - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Feb. 7 - Duane Eubanks Trio @ INC American Bar & Kitchen - New Brunswick, NJ
Feb. 7 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ Jazz Standard - NYC - CD Release for Joy Ride
Feb. 8 - Clovis Nicolas @ Minton's - NYC - CD Release for Freedom Suite Ensuite
Feb. 9 - Dan Tepfer - Maui, HI
Feb. 10 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ The Liberty - Cincinnati, OH
Feb. 11 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts - Menomonie, WI
Feb. 12 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ The Icehouse - Minneapolis, MN
Feb. 13 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ Jazz Showcase - Chicago, IL
Feb. 13-14 - Dave King Trio @ Crooners Lounge - Minneapolis, MN
Feb. 14-15 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ Luther College - Decorah, IA
Feb. 15 - Dave King Trio @ Jazz at the Athenaeum - La Jolla, CA
Feb. 15 - Dan Tepfer Trio @ Blue Note - Honolulu, HI
Feb. 16 - Dave King Trio @ Blue Whale - Los Angeles, CA
Feb. 16 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ The Mill - Iowa City, IA
Feb. 16-17 - Abdullah Ibrahim @ Dimitriou's Jazz Alley - Seattle, WA
Feb. 17 - Dave King Trio @ Revolution Hall / PDX Jazz Fest - Portland, OR
Feb. 17 - John Raymond & Real Feels @ Noce - Des Moines, IA

Clovis Nicolas - Freedom Suite Ensuite (feat. Kenny Washington) SUNNYSIDE RECORDS January 19, 2018

The concept of freedom in music relates to many things. Bassist/composer Clovis Nicolas didn’t eschew formal jazz harmony and rhythm in the search for freedom but found a measure of added purpose and space for his bass playing in a chord-less band format without piano or guitar. Freedom Suite Ensuite is a recording of Nicolas’s efforts in this formation and a tribute to the musician who exemplifies playing free within a form, saxophone great Sonny Rollins.

Nicolas has been an important voice in the New York music scene since his arrival from Paris in the early 2000s. Having already established himself as a first-call bassist in Europe, he quickly garnered attention with many of the music’s most noted players, including Peter Bernstein, Jane Monheit, Frank Wess, Joe Magnarelli, Behn Gillece, and Samora Pinderhughes. 

The concept behind Freedom Suite Ensuite came from a succession of regular gigs that Nicolas participated in with a two saxophone, chord-less quartet. He began to find a new identity for his bass within this assemblage, including an increased influence on the music’s direction, expanded range of expression and an added focus on soloing. There were also many examples of similar ensembles whose recordings began to inspire his conception more and more, including John Coltrane and Don Cherry’s Avant Garde, Ron Carter’s Etudes and Ben Wolfe’s 13 Sketches. 

The sound identities of these ensembles were definitely in Nicolas’ s head as he chose who he would record with. Drummer Kenny Washington was a faculty member at Juilliard while Nicolas attended; Washington had a tremendous impact on Nicolas when the two played together. Nicolas’s appreciation for Washington’s breadth and taste were echoed by the master drummer, who recommended the bassist to many. Tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart has been playing with Nicolas since the bassist’s arrival in New York and proves to be an excellent foil and soloist, who is incredibly articulate within the changes. The trumpet duty is split between the introspective Brandon Lee, a supportive bandmate and focused soloist, and the fiery Bruce Harris, a soulful player suited for the recording’s blues and standard tunes.

Nicolas wanted to achieve a few things with the recording. He wanted to attempt a new version of Sonny Rollins’ s incredible “Freedom Suite,” a piece that has been done almost exclusively by saxophone. Here he wanted to add the trumpet to freshen up the piece in a respectful way. The “Suite” would be followed by the “Ensuite,” or in French, “afterwards,” the following program of original compositions and standards. 

The ensemble’s sound is established quickly on the easy-going “The 5:30 PM Dive Bar Rendezvous,” with its title and form emulating the quirkiness of Thad Jones, with a perfect ambiance for happy hour, featuring Harris on trumpet. Rollins’ s “Freedom Suite” is broken down into three parts, which provide different approaches to reorganization of the piece, separated by two “Interludes” without solos. The slightly angular blues of “Grant S” was written for the saxophonist by Nicolas and is a great soloing vehicle with some subtle changes in the harmonic form. The off kilter “Nichols and Nicolas” is inspired by Herbie Nichols’ s idiosyncratic style, the melody springing to Nicolas in an hour while the changes took nearly a month within an unusual AABC form. 

The bouncy “You or Me?” is a contrafact of the Irving Berlin standard “The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me),” while Nicolas’s “Dark and Stormy” is a noir inspired waltz, the composer imagining Montmartre in the rain. A dynamic take on Kay Swift’s “Fine and Dandy” injects energy into the program with some brilliant solos from Stewart, Harris and Washington. The bassist’s “Speak a Gentle Word” (the title is taken from Oscar Wilde’s “Ballad of Reading Gaol”) traverses three sections with separate tonal identities with lyrical solos from Stewart and Lee. The program concludes with Nicolas’ s beautifully played solo rendition of Richard Rodgers’s “Little Girl Blue.” 

Progress in jazz music has come through both addition and subtraction. While Clovis Nicolas retained the elements of formal jazz harmony, his experiments with removing piano and guitar from his ensembles enabled a different side of his playing to emerge. Freedom Suite Ensuite encapsulates all of the elements of Nicolas’s fascination with this system, from inspiration, to composition and to presentation.

1. The 5:30 PM Dive Bar Rendezvous
2. Freedom Suite Part I
3. Interlude
4. Freedom Suite Part II
5. Interlude
6. Freedom Suite Part III
7. Grant S
8. Nichols and Nicolas
9. You or Me? 04:29
10. Dark and Stormy
11. Fine and Dandy
12. Speak a Gentle Word
13. Little Girl Blue

Brandon Lee - trumpet (except 1 & 11)
Bruce Harris - trumpet (on 1 & 11)
Grant Stewart - tenor saxophone

Szymon Brzóska - Migrations (ODRADEK RECORDS 2018)

Szymon Brzóska’s music has frequently been inspired by other art forms, particularly that of contemporary dance. Yet the nature of the music, whilst often evocative, even impressionistic, is not programmatic, and therefore need not be married to its original source. Rather, Brzóska’s oeuvre works just as effectively presented, as here, as a series of stand-alone chamber works, independent of their original contexts. On this disc, the listener is afforded the opportunity of travelling with this music in new directions – different, perhaps from the images, the shapes of the dancers, the artistic ideas, initially connected with the music, but as vividly felt by each person who takes the time to engage with these scores.

Szymon Brzóska has always been drawn towards collaborations with different art forms, composing for film, theatre and visual art. His musical style falls somewhere between contemporary avant-garde and expanded tonality with touch of minimalism.

Eventually his interest focussed on contemporary dance, and seven years of working with choreographers inspired in Szymon Brzóska a specific musical language, slightly different from his autonomous works – more emotional, somehow very pure and honest, often inspired by “holy minimalism”. A minimal structural approach, well suited to movement, added a specific character to this music, as can be heard on this disc.

The chamber works collected on this disc span the nervous energy of minimalism to the rich chromaticism of Expressionism. Each piece is structured with clarity and intimacy, drawing the listener in, taking us on an exhilarating journey or offering moments of contemplation.

Originally from Poland, Szymon Brzóska graduated from the Music Academy in Poznań, Poland and from the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp, Belgium. His compositions, inspired by a range of prestigious collaborations, have been performed across the globe, in venues such as Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Centre and BAM in New York, Esplanade in Singapore and at the Festival D’Avignon.

Hobby Horse - Helm (AUAND RECORDS January 26, 2018)

Collective trio Hobby Horse is among the most prominent groups in Italy’s flowering creative/experimental jazz scene. Their newest record ‘Helm’ is slated for release on January 26, 2018 with Italian independent jazz label Auand on CD, and with underground label ROUS Records on vinyl. On ‘Helm,’ Hobby Horse has managed to concentrate their vast sonic palette with startling clarity, bringing 8 years of performing and recording experience to razor sharp focus in a further maturation of their uniquely irreverent approach to cross-pollinating musical worlds. From the decisive attack of the first bass note on the title track to the menacing final drone that closes the record, there is no wasted space or time to take a breath. The mostly collaborative original compositions are superficially simple, but the trio develops them into minutely detailed, layered arabesques, contrasted with occasional but functional outbursts of characteristic violence.

Continuing to expand Hobby Horse’s unique approach to vocals, ‘The Go Round’ includes a text contributed by Italian experimental radio composer Alessandro Bosetti while side two contains the trio’s take on ‘Born Again Cretin’ by Robert Wyatt and finishes with a sobering version of English performance poet John Cooper Clarke’s ‘Evidently Chickentown’.

Hobby Horse è un trio collettivo fra i principali esponenti della nuova scena creativa e sperimentale del jazz in Italia e ‘Helm’ è il nuovo album in uscita il 26 gennaio 2018 per Auand in cd (distribuzione Goodfellas) e Rous Records in vinile. Un lavoro denso che mette a fuoco le inquietudini stilistiche e timbriche, ‘Helm’ è un riassunto concentrato delle ardite esplorazioni sonore, tra improvvisazione, elettronica e rock, che il trio porta avanti da 8 anni, segnando una nuova maturità linguistica frutto di un accumulo di esperienze condivise su palchi in tutto il mondo. Dal secco attacco del contrabbasso su ‘Helm’ al drone di chiusura minaccioso e ipnotico la tensione si mantiene senza cedimenti. Il materiale composto è apparentemente semplice, ma viene esplorato con straordinaria attenzione al dettaglio e alla stratificazione, con scarti improvvise e violenti che da sempre caratterizzano i lavori del trio, ed un uso sempre più particolare delle voci (da notare il testo del compositore radiofonico Alessandro Bosetti su ‘The Go Round’). Oltre ai 6 brani originali, due canzoni di protesta da autori illustri, Evidently Chickentown del poeta/musicista punk John Cooper Clarke e Born Again Cretin di Robert Wyatt, affinano e completano il punto di vista della formazione.

01 1 Helm
02 2 Salsa Caliente
03 3 The Go Round
04 4 Cascade
05 5 Buckle
06 6 Born Again Cretin
07 7 Amundsen Evidently Chickentown

Produced by Hobby Horse
Executive Producer: Marco Valente
Recorded at Marchisielli, Foligno (PG) – Italy on April 24-28, 2017
Engineer: Dan Kinzelman
Cover Photo: James Anthony Obed

Upcoming Tour dates:

Jan 27 Churchill's Pub, Miami (USA)
Jan 28 The Living Room, Miami (USA)
Jan 29 Space Mountain Miami, Miami (USA)
Jan 31 Kenosha Fusion, Kenosha (USA)
Feb 1 George's Tavern, Racine (USA)
Feb 2 Arts + Literature Laboratory, Madison (USA)

Eric Vloeimans | Kinan Azmeh | Jeroen van Vliet - Levanter (CHALLENGE RECORDS 2018)

Levanter is the new album by trumpet player Eric Vloeimans.  The title references the warm, strong, eastern wind that regularly blows accross southern Europe.

Eric invited the Syrian clarinet viruoso Kinan Azmeh for this project, whom he had met some years back on an "Imagining Europe" collaboration.  Jeroen van Vliet, Boy Edgar winner of 2014, with whom Eric has been performing for more than twenty years, is the pianist who caresses the keys.

This trio will take you along on a musical adventure, flying on a magic carpet of sound, a journey accross the borders of jazz, classical and world music.  Hop on and  be transported on the warm billows of Levanter.

1 November 09:55
2 Wanderer 08:09
3 Jisreen 07:56
4 The Sad Toreador 08:27
5 Balkan Spirits 07:22
6 Ocean of Petals 08:21
7 Mete's Dance 07:03
8 Airports 06:05

Ben Paterson - That Old Feeling (CELLAR LIVE February 2018)

Pianist/vocalist Ben Paterson continues the tradition of bouncy, infectious swing established by the drummerless trios of Nat 'King' Cole and Oscar Peterson, drawing upon his musical experiences in both Chicago and New York to deliver a soulful and engaging recording. Joined by longtime Benny Goodman guitarist Chris Flory and powerhouse bassist George Delancey, Ben's trio mixes sophisticated improvisation with heavy doses of the blues, ranging from well known Jazz standards to more recent popular songs.

01 I'm Old Fashioned
02 You And The Night And The Music
03 Make You Feel My Love
04 Some Of These Days
05 My Ship
06 When I Grow Too Old To Dream
07 Isn't She Lovely
08 Say A Small Prayer
09 The Best Thing For You (Would Be Me)
10 Somewhere Over The Rainbow
11 Hard Times

George Delancey bass
Chris Flory guitar

Scott Hamilton Trio - Live At Pyatt Hall (CELLAR LIVE 2018)

Tenor man Scott Hamilton and pianist Rossano Sportiello have a rare and special musical bond, on full display in this live set at Vancouver's Pyatt Hall. With the remarkably sensitive bassist J.J. Shakur as their anchor, Hamilton and Sportiello spin a whimsical set of standards, obscure gems, and Italian crowd pleasers. Their carefully selected program shines with wit and charm throughout.

1 Tangerine 6:06
2 Estate 8:14
3 Three Little Words 9:33
4 Darn That Dream 4:40
5 You Do Something To Me 7:30
6 Black Orpheus 7:54
7 Just As Though You Were Here 3:36
8 Old Fashioned Love 8:48
9 Torna A Surriento 10:43
10 Nel Blu Dipinto di Blue 6:46

World Electric Band - Confusion (IRMA RECORDS 2018)

The W.E.B., multi-instrumental duo of jazz fusion area, were born in Modena in 2012.

The Band is composed by Gabriele Leucci (Guitars, guitar synth, vocals, loops, ..) and Marco Carnevali (batteries, percussion, marketing, management, ..).

After years of live performances in various north-central clubs and collaboration with different national artists, the musical research of the W.E.B. it is developed with the realization of the first album named: "CONFUSION" 

The title of the CD anticipates the strongly experimental and deliberately "confusing" character that is manifest: the desire to merge the cultural origins of the jazz fusion of the 90s with the more current languages of electronics, creative base to explore new musical landscapes, without but forget the passion for the Latin jazz sounds.

1 Time Disk
2 Big Trance
3 Con Fusion
4 Cantaloupe Island
5 Autumn Dreams
6 November Song
7 Romantic Fuse
8 New Time to Go
9 Sheila
10 Song for Paris
11 Disco Time