Monday, February 19, 2018

Sarah Buechi - Contradiction of Happiness (INTAKT RECORDS 2108)

After Flying Letters and Shadow Garden, Sarah Buechi is releasing her third album on Intakt Records, Contradiction of Happiness. She has seized the opportunity to take her music in a new direction, and has augmented her superb quartet – with pianist Stefan Aeby, bassist André Pousaz and drummer Lionel Friedli – with the addition of three string players. 

"The results are extremely convincing." writes Manfred Papst in the liner notes. "She demonstrates once again that her compositions are far more than run-of-the mill songs with verses, rhymes and a chorus. They are ingeniously structured mini-dramas in which complex stories are told in a confined space. They are poetically dense, with vocal beauty and an enormous spectrum of expression. Their music is sophisticated, thoughtful, but also very sensual. The wonderful ‘After We’ve Kissed’ on the new album is the best example of this.“

Soundsamples of this CD

1. Child of Our Times 4:42
2. Never Enough 5:49
3. After We’ve Kissed 8:00
4. Fahamore (Paradise) 8:25
5. Wheel of Temptation 5:23
6. Here and Now 5:24
7. The Word 7:20
8. Snow Trail 7:03
9. Schönschte Obigst ärn (Trad .) 5:01

Sarah Buechi: Voice
Stefan Aeby: Piano
André Pousaz: Double Bass
Lionel Friedli: Drums
Estelle Beiner: Violin
Isabelle Gottraux: Viola
Sara Oswald: Cello

Lyrics and compositions by Sarah Buechi (except “Schönschte Obigstärn”, trad.). 
Recorded by Andy Neresheimer at Hardstudios Winterthur June 8, 9, 10, 2017, for SRF Kultur and Intakt Records. 
Mixed and mastered by Martin Ruch, Berlin. 
Cover art: Conor Flynn O’Donnell. Graphic design: Jonas Schoder. 
Photo: Lisa & Remo Ubezio. Liner notes: Manfred Papst.
Produced by Sarah Buechi and Intakt Records, Patrik Landolt. Published by Intakt Records

Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton - Music For David Mossman (Live At Vortex London) INTAKT RECORDS 2108

Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton – three legendary figures in the field of improvisation – have each developed their own epochal styles. These long-time friends and collaborators now present the latest of their Trio recordings – part of an ongoing series that began in 1980 with the now out-of-print LP 'Tracks'. Their powerful improvisations reveal them as a trio of unyielding innovation, both conserving and constantly renewing a rich heritage of achievement in free jazz.

Evan Parker writes in the liner notes: "Collective free improvisation is the utopian state arrived at in that other «little life» as the late John Stevens called the mental space of music making that happens when musicians of a like mind («birds of a feather») play freely together. Paul Lytton and I first met in 1967 at a music festival in a park in Birmingham where I was playing in duo with John, Paul was playing with a jazz big band and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac were «topping the bill» (as they used to say). In the next years we all played together in different combinations and permutations including Barry’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the Parker-Lytton duo. In 1980 we started to play as the trio Parker-Guy-Lytton."

Soundsamples of this CD

1. Music for David Mossman I 12:50
2. Music for David Mossman II 11:58
3. Music for David Mossman III 24:15
4. Music for David Mossman IV 12:29

Evan Parker: Saxophone
Barry Guy: Bass
Paul Lytton: Drums

Music by Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton. Recorded live at Vortex Jazz Club London, July 14, 2016. 
Digital recording to multi track: Ali Ward. Mixdown to stereo: Sam Parker. Mastering: Adam Skeaping.
Post production and editing: Matt Wright and Evan Parker. 
Liner notes: Evan Parker. Cover art: Trevor Sutton and Ferdinand Penker.
Graphic design: Jonas Schoder. Photo: Caroline Forbes. 
Produced by Evan Parker and Intakt Records, Patrik Landolt.

Szilárd Mezei Trio - Cink (FMR RECORDS 2018)

Blending Serbian ethnic flavors, rich experience in both improvised and compositional/symphonic music, with inventive and creative free improvisation, viola player Szilard Mezei's leads his trio with double bassist Ervin Malina and drummer Istvan Csik through seven compositions original compositions, two of which were captured live in Novi Sad.

1 Hep 18 9:43
2 Cink / Zinc 31:19
3 Cinke / Tit 4:47
4 Szegénységem / My Poverty 7:59
5 Boszorka / Witch 8:04
6 Hep 19 11:25
7 Szegénységem / My Poverty 5:09

Ervin Malina Double Bass
István Csík Drums

Fernando García - Guasábara Puerto Rico (ZOHO MUSIC March 9, 2018)

It’s a cold, rainy Saturday night in Spanish Harlem in November 2017, but inside Camaradas El Barrio the scene is a fuego! The wine is flowing, the mofongo is tasting good and Fernando García’s sextet is percolating on the bandstand with a fiery abandon that is palpable to the crowd. As they launch into a wild, whirlwind descarga take on the Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol classic “Caravan,” García fuels the clave with his left foot on the cowbell while traversing the kit with polyrhythmic aplomb as pianist Gabriel Chakarji lays down an entrancing montuno. 

A consummate conductor from the behind kit, García nimbly shifts insinuating rhythms from song to song — chachalokafún to bembé to cuembé to sicá to timba — while never letting the groove slip. Slovenian-born saxophonist Jan Kus adds husky-toned tenor over the top as guitarist Gabriel Vicéns dazzles with single note flurries while conguero/barrilero Victor Pablo stokes the flames. It doesn’t get much hotter than this.

Like a master rhythmatist, García juggles all the intricate polyrhythms, odd meters and quick tempo shifts with assuredness and authority. The Puerto Rico native and New York City resident is fast emerging as a talent deserving of wider recognition for both his remarkable adeptness on the kit and his considerable skills as a composer-arranger. On Guasábara Puerto Rico, García organically blends folkloric bomba rhythms and jazz in a myriad of satisfying ways. Backed by his core group of Kus, Vicéns, Chakarji, Pablo and bassist Dan Martínez, the drummer and his simpatico crew of youngbloods push the envelope on García’s third album as a leader and debut for ZOHO Music. 

Special guest Miguel Zenón, the acclaimed saxophonist-composer-bandleader and native of San Juan, elevates the proceedings on the dramatic and turbulent title track. “Miguel is one of my big heroes,” says García. “I’ve been following his music since 2006. His album Esta Plena is a perfect example of mixing the folkloric Puerto Rican music with modern jazz harmony and polyrhythms. So I’ve gotten a lot of influences from him.”

García is following in the footsteps of innovators like Zenón and other Puerto Rican-born musician-composers like David Sánchez, William Cepeda and Edsel Gómez. Growing up in Guaynabo, he absorbed the music of Hector Lavoe, Cortijo, Ismael Rivera, Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars and was also hugely influenced by El Sonido Nuevo, the classic 1966 collaboration between Cal Tjader and Eddie Palmieri. Meeting master percussionist and folklorist Rafael Maya in Guaynabo exposed him to bomba, the folkloric music of Puerto Rico, in a profound way. 

“Rafael’s studied a lot of the cultural history of Puerto Rico in the early 1900s,” García explains. “I met him in 2011 when I lived with my parents in Guaynabo and had a recording studio in their garage. Rafael contacted me about recording a bomba CD with his group, Desde Cero, and before I knew it he started bringing all these really famous bomba musicians into my parents’ garage. So I was hanging with these great people who have played those rhythms for their entire life. And it was then that I got hooked on bomba.”

Maya not only taught García the folkloric track Guaynabo Me Tambor, a calindá rhythm arranged for the ensemble by García on Guasábara Puerto Rico, he also contributed the beautiful Se Va to the album. “Rafael sang those tunes on his iPhone to my voicemail,” García recalls. “That’s how I learned them. ‘Se Va’ actually has lyrics, but I did an arrangement as an instrumental where it goes from a yubá rhythm, which has a 12/8 type of feel, and then changes into an accelerated seis corrido rhythm, which gets really intense.”

The time-shifting opener Audubon, written in 2014 when García was living on Audubon Avenue in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan, makes use of a device by the composer that creates a kind of rhythmic illusion. As he explains, “I was trying to superimpose the four feel on top of a big 3 feel. It flows perfectly with this pattern based in three, played by Victor mimicking batá chachalokafún rhythm on three conga drums. 

Then there’s this section on the guitar solo where it goes into this Afro-Cuban bembé feel in 3, which actually comes from the 12/8 abakuá rhythm. Finally, it goes into the percussion tradings near the end of the tune. So it’s playing games with the time feel without actually shifting the beat.”

On Ideas Convergentes, García skillfully creates a confluence of odd meters — cuembé in 5/4 with an overlying 7/4 with the snare, then a fast seis corrido in 7/4 for the solos and back to cuembé in 5/4 for the barril solo. “It’s like a delta, where the different streams of a river meet before going out to the ocean,” he explains. 

“It gives a sense to the listener of being in a boat ride and you’re constantly shifting on the tides and the waves. There’s definitely a beat going on but you’re not sure when it all meets. And I think it’s cool that I didn’t solo on that tune because I’m just holding it down in five on the drum kit while Victor on the barril has the liberty on his solo to accelerate or decelerate and not feel that we’re going to lose the groove.”

The title track Guasábara Puerto Rico opens with a dramatic chant feel in the drums. Tenor saxophonist Kus enters, channeling his inner Trane on the meditative vibe before taking off in close conversation with Zenón on the melody. Rhythmically the tune shifts from a yubá in 5/4 to a sicá in 5/4 and finally a holandé in 5/4. Vicéns offers up a cleanly-articulated, fleet-fingered solo along the way that sounds like it’s coming out of the Pat Martino school, and he’s followed in kind by potent solos from pianist Chakarji and alto sax great Zenón. Garcia turns in a crackling solo on this turbulent 9-1/2 minute suite. “The term ‘guasábara’ is from our native Taíno language and it means conflict or even in some cases like a battle,’ he explains. “So that’s the drama of this tune.”

The tranquil 7/4 cuembé vehicle Healing Prayer, which finds Kus on soprano sax, is the calm after the storm of “Guasábara Puerto Rico.” And while García composed both tunes before the terrible events of September 20, 2017 when Maria struck Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 hurricane, they stand now as a kind of soundtrack to the devastation and recovery of the composer’s homeland. “The first four songs of the album sound like a timeline of what happened in Puerto Rico and what’s happening in the weeks after,” he says. “It’s an amazing coincidence.”

The Element, one of García’s newer compositions, is a churning sicá in 3/4 that morphs into a yubá along the way. He says it was inspired by taking composition workshops with Argentinian pianist-composer Guillermo Klein, leader of the group Los Guachos. “Working with Guillermo opened up a new way of thinking, a new way of writing and exploring rhythmic illusions.”

The album closes on an exhilarating note with the Afro-Cuban flavored timba-jazz number Tiempo, which has Martínez switching to electric bass and features an incendiary drum solo by García against Pablo’s churning percussive groove at the tag.

Throughout Guasábara Puerto Rico, García has one foot firmly entrenched in the folkloric tradition of bomba while striding confidently into more modernist jazz territory with the other. — Bill Milkowski

Produced by: Fernando García. Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 recorded on June 25, 2017 at East Side Sound, Manhattan. Tracks 3, 4, and 8 recorded on June 28, 2017 at The Samurai Hotel, Queens. Recording Engineer: Danilo Pichardo. Mixed by Bobby Connelly at Little Big Audio, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mastered by Tahir Durkalic at Digital Studio, Denia, Spain. Photography by Claudia Tebar. Package design by: Al Gold. Executive producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.

1. Audubon 7:17
2. Ideas Convergentes 5:42
3. Guasábara Puerto Rico 9:35
4. Healing Prayer 5:32
5. The Element 7:17
6. Guaynabo Mi Tambor 3:59
7. Se Va 4:03
8. Tiempo 7:08

DAN MARTÍNEZ upright bass, electric bass (8)
JAN KUS tenor sax
VICTOR PABLO barril, congas

Special guest:

Jemal Ramirez (with Warren Wolf, Howard Wiley, Mike Olmos, Matthew Clark & John Shifflett) - African Skies (JOYFUL BEAT RECORDS 2018)

This new double album is my best work to date. It is always a pleasure to work with my dream team band. On African Skies we explore some of my original compositions–as well as compositions from some of my favorite musicians who compose. Warren Wolf is so amazing here on this recording–you will truly enjoy […]

1. Latina 4:40
2. On the Move 5:04
3. African Skies 6:35
4. It Always Is 6:24
5. A Long Way Home 6:26
6. A Good Time (A.k.a Spliff) 5:30
7. Where Are They 5:22
8. Save Your Love for Me 5:19
9. Speak Low 4:37
10. Isla's Aria 7:48
11. No Time Left 6:33
12. Stasia 5:56
13. Episode from a Village Dance 5:56
14. Don't Shoot the Messenger 6:15
15. Big Girls 7:02
16. Youthful Bliss 7:17
17. The Big Push 7:04
18. Jitney 6:39
19. Sister Cheryl 7:15

Dan Pugach Nonet - Plus One (UNIT RECORDS February 16, 2018)

Dan Pugach Nonet Transforms Proverbial Styles With A Singular Approach and A Secret Weapon On His Unit Records’ Debut, Plus One 
Set for release, February 16, 2018

“I can’t gush enough about the joyful energy that Dan and his Nonet express in the most open of ways. Dan’s music is thoughtful, exciting and immensely engaging.” —Ingrid Jensen

“Dan's writing is sharp, concise and so is everybody's playing. Beautiful album.”—Antonio Sanchez

"His mastery of the music from the subtle inner workings of his horn orchestrations to his command over shaping larger musical statements puts Dan in a league of his own." —Alan Ferber

CD Release Concerts o Sat. April 21 - The Cutting Room, NYC
Sun. May 6 - Urban Artifact, Cincinnati, OH
Thurs. May 10 - Cliff's Bells, Detroit, MI   
Fri. May 11 - Merriam's Playhouse - South Bend, IN
Sat. May 12 - The Jazz Estate, Milwaukee, WI
Fri. June 1 - Piedmont Piano Co., Oakland, CA

Arriving in the US from his native Israel in 2006 to study at Berklee College of Music before earning his Masters at The City College of New York, drummer/composer Dan Pugach played cash-and-carry gigs, traditional ethnic dates, worked coffee shops–anything to keep his drumming and music pure. Eventually teaching himself arranging and orchestration, his complete reimagining of Horace Silver's "Silver's Serenade" led instructor (and renowned pianist/composer/educator) Mike Holober to exclaim, "Your arrangement departed from the original song; it wasn't just an adaptation, but a rearrangement. Dude, you're going to thrive as an arranger/composer."

Roughly ten years later, Pugach's Plus One is the fruit of years of hard work, practice, writing and rewriting, a joyous and thematically diverse recording that expresses Pugach's vision of a "mini big band."   

"What I like the most about the sound and concept of Dan's Nonet is that the playing and the writing is selfless," says five-time Grammy Award winning composer and perennial Pat Metheny Group member, Antonio Sanchez. "It's all about the music. The writing is on point, sharp, concise and so is everybody's playing. Beautiful album."

Gathering some of New York’s finest musicians in his Nonet, Pugach’s Plus One is an exciting ride encompassing a New Orleans second-line strut, expansive arrangements of familiar pop material, and dynamite original compositions performed in classic small ensemble tradition.  

“I’m not trying to be too modernist; I want to have a few surprises,” Pugach says. “But they're hidden. Each tune has a specific vibe I’m staying loyal to. I'm trying to keep everything focused.”

Pugach’s compositions and arrangements mirror his personality as a drummer. Each note flying off his drums, cymbals and percussion is concise, poised and delivered with purpose. A YouTube search yields Pugach’s drumming blowing the lid off various NYC clubs with different ensembles, his collective rhythms a streamlined approach animated (all too briefly) by fiery solos. Similarly, Plus One is music of a stylized, singular principle with moments of absolute burn.

"I believe playing less is more until it comes to my solo—then I explode,” Pugach explains. “And in my music, I don’t want to hear overblown drumming." 

Pugach is aided on Plus One by his plus-one in life, powerhouse singer Nicole Zuratis, whose recent release, Hive Mind, shows her at full force.

“Nicole is my secret weapon,” Dan confides. “Our relationship onstage is part of the conversation. She handles the mic duties; I might come up to speak and she'll cut me off. The audience laughs. It’s our natural banter.”

Pugach goes from strength to strength on Plus One, the album showcasing his beautifully intricate  compositions, peerless arrangements and yes, his drumming, which is funky, on-point and surprisingly restrained for a musician of such skills and gifts. Dan's arrangements for Nonet recall the classic sounds of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Bob Mintzer, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra–expressed in a far smaller ensemble. Deft compositions, challenging arrangements, brilliant players and Dan's silken rhythmic touch make Plus One a special outing.

The album including moving vocal versions of Dolly Parton’s ”Jolene,” Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence,” Quincy Jones' "Love Dance" and Zuratis' male-ego-impaling rouser, “Our Blues,” Plus One culminates in the two centerpieces: "Coming Here" and "Discourse This."  The former, a circuitous coming-of-age journey with great solos all around, including a dexterous showing by Pugach; the latter, a blustery, sparse Nonet dance that reveals the musicians' glove-tight interplay and cohesion. Through it all, Pugach’s sizzling drumming drives his Nonet—hard.

The Nonet plays as a single organism throughout Plus One, with plenty of soloing power. The Dan Pugach Nonet, plus one, is comprised of Nicole Zuraitis, voice; Ingrid Jensen, David Smith, trumpets; Mike Fahie, trombone; Jen Hinkle, bass trombone; Andrew Gould, alto saxophone; Jeremy Powell, tenor saxophone, Andrew Gutauskas, baritone saxophone; Carmen Staaf, Jorn Swart, piano; Tamir Shmerling, bass; Bernardo Aguiar, pandeiro; and Pugach, drums.

From his experiences growing up near Tel Aviv to the influences of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band and Bob Mintzer Big Band, Pugach’s compositions and arranging on Plus One are a thrill, including the opening, second-line bruiser, “Brooklyn Blues,” to the closing, full-throated, "Discourse This." An album of such high-level ensemble playing and standout vocal tracks is exceedingly rare. Plus One is pure and powerful—simply exceptional music.   

“People love the warmth and interaction between myself and Nicole and the Nonet,” Dan says. “It's natural. The audience feels the connection. And connection is what it’s all about.”   

Dan Pugach is a Brooklyn-based, two-time ASCAP Jazz Composer Award-winning drummer/arranger. Dan has worked with Ingrid Jensen, Rosa Passos, Airto Moreira, Gregoire Maret, Billy Drews, Jeremy Pelt, Wayne Bergeron, Sloan and Lucy Wainwright, and Dave Stryker, among others.  Originally from Israel, Dan served his mandatory three-year military duty as the drummer of the Air-Force Orchestra. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and his Masters from the City College of New York, where he studied with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, George Garzone, John Patitucci, Terri-Lyne Carrington and Ari Hoenig. 

1 Brooklyn Blues 5:32
2 Coming Here 9:06
3 Jolene 5:56
4 Zelda 3:36
5 Belo's Bellow 4:47
6 Crystal Silence 6:44
7 Love Dance 5:54
8 Our Blues 4:34
9 Discourse This 6:19

Ingrid Jensen - trumpet (2,3,5,8)
David Smith - trumpet (1,4,6,7,9)
Mike Fahie - trombone
Jen Hinkle - bass trombone
Andrew Gould - alto saxophone
Jeremy Powell - tenor saxophone
Andrew Gutauskas - baritone saxophone
Nicole Zuraitis - voice (3,6,7,8)
Carmen Staaf - piano (2,3,5,8)
Jorn Swart - piano (1,4,6,7,9)
Tamir Shmerling - bass
Bernardo Aguiar - pandeiro (5)
Dan Pugach - drums

Recorded on August 9, 2016 and March 13, 2017 at Systems Two Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Recorded and mixed by Rich Lamb
Mastered by Michael MacDonald at AlgoRhythms Mastering, Santa Fe, NM
Art Direction by Courtney Ay
Produced by Dan Pugach