Saturday, March 3, 2018

Jay Phelps - Free As The Birds (ROPEADOPE RECORDS March 23, 2018)

Born in Vancouver and transplanted to London, Trumpeter Jay Phelps is a unique cat. His gears are always turning, and his resume shows it - touring with Jazz Jamaica, taking Wynton's chair as the master conducted the band in the epic 'Congo Square, hosting the Late Show at Ronnie Scott's - Jay moves in a variety of roles and keeps the music flowing. Jay's second solo album, Free As The Birds, is cued up for release on March 23rd here at Ropeadope, and it is best described as an exploration in sound. One can hear the breadth of Jay's experience, with a definite theatrical feel, and the warm tone that is his signature shining throughout. To top it off, Jay returns again on April 27th with NBOC - a trumpet and trombone production duo that heads heavily into a new sound. 

1. Intro...Of the world
2. Everyone’s Ethnic
3. Amphitrite’s Bounty
4. Skit: Freedom in the Studio
5. Angel 03:49
6. Flash
7. Skit: Raoni and Cecilia
8. L.S.G (love so good)
9. Free as the Birds
10. FAB outro (Batata)
11. Spread
12. Chaos or Commerce
13. Skit: Common ground
14. Chomtalay Chill
15. Bonus: Dedication

Releases March 23, 2018

All compositions written and arranged by: Jay Phelps Except: 11 (Outkast)

Jay Phelps - Trumpet, Vocals, Producer / Rick Simpson - Piano - 2,3,4,5,8,11 / John Escreet - Piano - 6,9,12,14 / Mark Lewandowski - Bass - 2,3,4,8,11

Russell Hall - Bass - 9 / Barry Stephenson - Bass - 6,12,14 / Shane Forbes - Drums - 5,8,11 / Jon Scott - Drums - 2,3,4

Nasheet Waits - Drums - 6,12,14 / Kyle Poole - Drums - 9 / Rodrigo ‘Pantera’ Rigaud - Percussion - 2,3,14 / Nilson Batata - Percussion - 9,10

Jack Inglesias - Flute, Percussion - 2 / Emilia Martensson - Vocals - 6,14 / Martina DaSilva - Vocals - 2,9 / Cecilia Stalin - Vocals - 7

Luana Soares Harf - Intro Voice - 9 / David Binney - Alto Sax - 6,12,14 / Rachael Cohen - Alto Sax - 9 / Stacy Dillard - Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax - 9

Corey Wilcox - Trombone - 9 / Michela Lerman - Tap - 9 / Raoní Maciel - Composition, Guitar - 7


Neeyz - Production / Chris Benham (Big Orange Sheep Studios) - Mixing, Editing, Mastering / Ben Marc - Post Production - 5

Joe Chiari - Post Vocal Production - 6,9,14 / Bruce Hall - Engineer - 5,8,11 / Danielle White (Raestar Ventures) - Production management

Kris Davis / Craig Taborn - Octopus (2018)

On her 2016 album Duopoly, pianist Kris Davis highlighted her deeply attuned artistry as never before. Conceived as a set of rotating duo performances, Duopoly found Davis in the company of Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Julian Lage, Marcus Gilmore and other musical giants. Of all these fascinating encounters, it was the pairing of Davis and fellow piano great Craig Taborn, that sparked further extensive collaboration. Soon the two pianists would embark on a 12-city tour of the U.S., with new music for the occasion. Octopus, a magisterial live album drawn from three of those concerts, is the result. 

Recalling the Duopoly session with Taborn, Davis writes in her liner notes: “From the moment we started playing I felt instantly transported and free within the music, and had the sense we could go anywhere.” Taborn responded similarly: “It was remarkable how effortless and inspired it felt. It was immediately apparent that it was easy to make music happen in this pairing and that we were well matched in terms of both aesthetics and approach.” 

With the support of The Shifting Foundation, Davis and Taborn set out to translate their in-studio rapport to the concert stage, which resulted in the Octopus tour: from Brooklyn’s Roulette to Seattle’s Earshot Festival, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. Ron Saint Germain, engineer on the Duopoly duo sessions, came along on the road with a recording rig designed to capture two grand pianos in a variety of spaces. 

“The pieces on Octopus are the pieces we played every night on the tour,” Davis explains. “Each concert was different, in some cases radically so. We often left out large sections of the compositions in favor of developing new, wholly improvised sections which became more and more expansive.” Along with their new original works, the duo included absorbing interpretations of Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” and Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space.” 

Of Davis’s two contributions, “Ossining” is the more contemplative and restrained, inspired by the composer’s recent move to the Hudson Valley with her husband, the guitarist Nate Radley, and their son, Benjamin. The move took place while Davis was on the Octopus tour. “Moving is always stressful and I wanted to be there with my family.” she says. “My son was walking me through the new house on the phone while we were traveling to each city, telling me all about his new room and the backyard, which we didn’t have in Brooklyn. I was missing out on those first impressions, but I was happy to have a little piece of the experience with him on the phone that day.” 

Davis’s subtle prepared piano on “Ossining” serves not only to differentiate the piano sounds but to heighten their rhythmic interplay: “When I wrote the piece, I was listening to some West African music and looking into how some of that music is constructed. I began studying this music when I was a student at Banff 20 years ago, studying with Abraham Adzenyah and have continued to be fascinated by it.” 

There’s a very specific, conversational quality to this West African percussion music – trance-like repetition, variation, and contrapuntal pulse. Davis was drawn to this, as it placed her and Taborn on an equal plane from the piece’s onset. She elaborates “In performance, Craig and I intertwine a series of improvised repetitive rhythms, with the idea being that the whole supersedes the sum of the parts.” 

The high dissonance and denser, more urgent rhythmic attack of Davis’s “Chatterbox” creates a striking contrast: brilliantly articulated masses of notes and harmonic ideas unfurl; Taborn ultimately grounds the piece in a more defined bass motion and Davis perceptively responds. 

Taborn’s “Interruptions” transpire as three distinctly different pieces. “The ‘Interruptions’ were conceived as just that,” he reveals, “small composed pieces or objects that could be used within a larger improvisation to redirect or recondition the musical environment. They could be selected and dropped in at some point as a composed statement that interrupts another texture. They seemed to stand on their own enough as compositions, but I intended them almost as interstitial material. So there’s no through-line between them. I intended each one to change the musical space in different ways.” 

The choice of Sun Ra’s elegant “Love in Outer Space” was Taborn’s: “I always liked it and thought it would work well in the two-piano context because of its interlocking groove.” It is here that the contrast between piano voices is most immediately apparent: Taborn plays the intro and the initial bass line, then Davis enters with the main melody. Davis brought in Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” (famously played by Art Farmer with Steve Kuhn in the mid-’60s), a 14-bar blues with a slowly unfolding, lopsided feel that morphs imperceptibly into Taborn’s third and final “Interruption.” 

Whether leading her Capricorn Climber quintet or her four-bass-clarinet-octet Infrasound; working with the great Andrew Cyrille as a member of Eric Revis’s trio; or lifting up recent music by John Zorn, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tom Rainey, Michael Formanek, Ingrid Laubrock and more, Davis is one of the groundbreaking artists of our time, hailed by Jason Moran as “a freethinking, gifted pianist [who] lives in each note that she plays.” 

Taborn’s recent ECM releases Chants, Daylight Ghosts and Avenging Angel, along with his work in Farmers By Nature, Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth and many others, have earned him distinction as “one of the greatest living pianists,” in the words of his colleague Vijay Iyer. Together, Davis and Taborn have a way of merging into “one sort of shape-shifting organism,” as Davis ventures in her liner notes. Octopus, evoking limitless limbs and rapid, graceful, unpredictable movements, is the Davis-Taborn sensibility incarnate.

1. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Interruptions One 10:54
2. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Ossining 08:02
3. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Chatterbox 10:04
4. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Sing Me Softly Of The Blues – Interruptions Two 14:36
5. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Interruptions Three 07:15
6. Kris Davis/Craig Taborn - Love in Outer Space 07:47

Kris Davis (piano / composition) 
Craig Taborn (piano / composition)

Solidarity with George Cables

Perhaps you could help a jazz legend in need by alerting people to his go fund me page. George Cables has to have his leg amputated and needs money to help w/ that long transition.

Thanks for any help you can give.


Kurt Elling - The Questions (March 23, OKEH RECORDS 2018)

The Questions, Kurt Elling’s newest studio recording, is his musical response to this moment in history and the widespread anxiety of our times. It touches artfully on challenges – personal, political, global, spiritual, and existential – and on hopes and aspirations for the future. Elling offers a vibrant and surprising choice of songs, from Bob Dylan and Paul Simon classics to jazz, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook, plus two new originals. The Questions, Elling’s second recording for OKeh Records/Sony Music Masterworks, will be released on March 23, 2018.

The Questions unfolds into a rich and irresistible musical conversation, encouraging listeners to join Elling in living with big questions and finding courage to face our fears in difficult and uncertain times.

Of the ten songs on The Questions, Elling says, “At first I didn’t understand how they were going to relate to each other.” The title finally came to him as the album was being mixed. NEA Jazz Master and celebrated saxophonist Branford Marsalis co-produced The Questions with Elling and performs on three tracks. As Elling and Marsalis worked together on the mix and sequence of songs, Elling realized that they all lined up on various sides of some big, deep questions:

What is this life?

Does meaning have being?

Why is there such suffering and pain?

Where is the wellspring of wisdom?

The Questions opens with the powerful, insistent questions and stark, disturbing answers of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” What follows is the surprising assurance of “A Happy Thought,” a poem by the American poet Franz Wright, set to music by Elling’s collaborator, pianist and arranger Stu Mindeman. This establishes a kind of back-and-forth on The Questions – searching inquiries and thoughtful responses that both challenge and inspire us to find our own answers.

The world-weary resignation of Paul Simon’s “An American Tune” is followed by falling, loss, and redemption in Peter Gabriel’s “Washing of the Water.” The Jaco Pastorius instrumental, “Three Views of a Secret,” becomes the celebratory “A Secret in Three Views” with Elling’s lyric inspired by a poem by the 13th century mystic Rumi. Elling’s lyric concedes that quests to find meaning and purpose may all be for naught, but it also encourages us to take heart and awaken to the transforming power of love. In contrast, “Lonely Town,” from the Broadway musical On the Town, by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, reflects the empty inner landscape when there is no love to come home to.

Carla Bley’s “Lawns” becomes “Endless Lawns,” with Elling’s new lyric interposed with a poem by Sara Teasdale, bearing the weight of emotional suffering and then finding an uplifting freedom. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “I Have Dreamed,” from the musical The King and I, is followed by “The Enchantress,” a new song by pianist Joey Calderazzo with Elling’s lyric adapting parts of a Wallace Stevens poem. This pair touches on the fluid, shifting boundaries between dreams, imagination, and reality. The Questions closes with the gentle, wistful wonder of Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer’s “Skylark.”

Elling notes, “I began experimenting with ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ in November of 2016, just after the U.S. election. Today I wonder what I can possibly say that’s relevant now.” He adds, “Branford brought in ‘Washing of the Water’ and ‘Lonely Town.’ I was doing some Sinatra shows during his 100th birthday year, and I love his rendition of ‘I Have Dreamed.’ Guitarist John McLean came up with the gorgeous arrangement, and Branford has his big solo moment there. I like to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am who can fill in the blanks. John also arranged ‘Skylark.’”

“‘The Enchantress’ began as a song called ‘The Lonely Swan,’” he recalls, “but what brought the new title to mind was a poem by Wallace Stevens (‘The Idea of Order at Key West’) that I draw on. It’s dedicated to Branford’s mother, who died last year, and to my aging mother. The lyric becomes clear once you have that in mind.”

Elling collaborated with Branford Marsalis on their 2016 Grammy-nominated recording, Upward Spiral (OKeh Records), and now Marsalis has collaborated on The Questions. Says Elling of their musical partnership, “We’re two musicians who have dedicated ourselves to a similar task – to be jazz musicians to the greatest extent of our abilities. We pay attention to the real heroes of the music, we play in the style and spirit of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived, and we don’t cut corners. We’re here to play great melodies and express authentic emotion – to be the real deal as much as we can.”

1. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (feat. Branford Marsalis & Jeff "Tain" Watts) 
2. A Happy Thought (feat. Stu Mindeman)
3. American Tune
4. Washing of the Water
5. A Secret in Three Views (feat. John McLean & Stu Mindeman)
6. Lonely Town (feat. Joey Calderazzo & Marquis Hill)
7. Endless Lawns (feat. Marquis Hill)
8. I Have Dreamed (feat. Branford Marsalis)
9. The Enchantress (feat. Joey Calderazzo)
10. Skylark (feat. Stu Mindeman)

Kurt Elling voice
John McLean guitar
Stu Mindeman piano and organ
Clark Sommers double bass
Branford Marsalis tenor and soprano sax
Joey Calderazzo piano
Marquis Hill flugelhorn
Jeff “Tain” Watts drums

Hank Jones - In Copenhagen Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983 (STORYVILLE RECORDS 2018)

The American pianist Hank Jones could, spanning his 65 year career, always be counted on for a joyful presence on the jazz scene, playing sparkling piano solos that uplifted every group that was wise enough to hire him. This set of previously unreleased music from June 6, 1983 puts the spotlight of one of the most consistent geniuses in jazz history.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Jazzhus Slukefter in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, was the site for a large number of live recordings release by Storyville. Hank Jones brought Danish bassist Mads Vinding with him, a bassist with a large sound, the ability to take very original solos, and a love for straight ahead jazz. The third name on the stage was drummer Shelly Mane, whose career was as prolific as Jones’, and who added color and life to every group. This 1983 concert consists of nine jazz standards. Jones takes the lion’s share of the solo spots, changing his style between that of a classical bebop pianist and other times swinging elegantly like Teddy Wilson. The masterful trio comes up with creative variations and give all the songs on the release rewardingly fresh treatments.

Hank Jones (1918-2010) was born in Mississippi and was an early inspiration for his two younger brothers, both of whom would become all-time greats: cornetist Thad Jones and drummer Elvin Jones. He immediately became part of the jazz major leagues once he relocated to New York where he embraced the bebop of Bud Powell without abandoning his roots in swing. Tasteful and lightly swinging, Hank Jones would always be thought of as a class act. His non-stop activity with countless bands, orchestras and musicians only ended when ageless Hank Jones passed away in 2010. Musically, he never declined.

The result of the 1983 Slukefter session is an enjoyable hour of music that, after sitting unheard for over 30 years, sounds as fresh as if it were recorded yesterday.

1 Just Friends (Live) 6:58
2 Au Privave (Live) 7:40
3 Alone Together (Live) 9:47
4 Stablemates (Live) 4:43
5 It Could Happen to You (Live) 6:12
6 Scrapple from the Apple (Live) 4:59
7 Budo (Live) 7:01
8 Tangerine (Live) 6:08
9 What's New (Live) 8:24

Hank Jones piano
Mads Vinding bass
Shelly Manne drums


The third album from Ill Considered has been a revelatory part of the journey for its members. While the first album was completely improvised in a two hour session involving all four musicians and no pre-written tunes, the second album was a live gig recorded at The Crypt Jazz Club, London, involving mainly compositions ( taken from the first album, as well as new tunes and some from Wildflower (the other band in which Leon Brichard and Idris Rahman collaborate with drummer Tom Skinner). The creation of Ill Considered 3 was quite different again. 

A session was booked at the same studio in which Ill Considered’s first album was created, and the four musicians met (this time with Satin Singh on percussion) with a view to recording some pre-written melodies as well as some fresh, improvised material. 

The band soon realised that although the pre-written tunes were to some degree working nicely, there was no comparison with the vibe, energy, spontaneity and overall freedom of the fully improvised material. There is a musical freedom that this particular combination of musicians needs to express - throwing caution to the wind they create soundscapes, atmospheres, dreamy groove based journeys immediately in the moment, held together by deeply felt musical interaction and the interspersion of hooky bass lines and melodies. Using simple but effective motifs, the band again manage to build from delicate, intimate moments of emotion to screaming climaxes and drum and bass inspired head-bangers. 

Meditative and spiritual in essence, there are a wide range of textures in this album: 

Djinn has an ethereal, mystical calm about it, whilst the bass harmonics and minimal percussion of Nada Brahma give an almost Gamelan-like texture. Delusion and Meditation have a head-nodding, deep and dirty jazz-funk-inspired restless energy punctuated by abstract melodic hooks that stay with you long after you’ve finished listening. 
Along with the improvised band tracks, there are three short solo tracks from bass, drums and sax - again created in the spirit of freedom. 

1. Djinn
2. Incantation
3. Nada Brahma
4. Retreat
5. Scatter
6. Delusion 07:28
7. Meditation
8. Perplexity

Personel in alphabetical order:
Leon Brichard: Bass
Idris Rahman: Sax
Emre Ramazanoglu: Drums
Satin Singh: Percussion

Magda Mayas / Damon Smith / Tony Buck - Spill Plus (BALANCE POINT ACOUSTICS 2018)

This disc, which was recorded in 2010 at 1510 Studios in Oakland California, provides a prime example of how an existing duo (Mayas and Buck) can meet with another musician (Smith) to arrive at something new, unique, and quietly powerful. 

Pianist Magda Mayas continues to develop a unique vocabulary using preparations and objects to explore textural, linear, and fast moving sound collages. According to one of her teachers, Georg Graewe, “I was very lucky in having several extremely talented students. Magda Mayas was one of them and has turned out the most determined, original, and internationally active of them all. She’s definitely found her own voice.” 

Double-bassist Damon Smith’s music is rooted in the tradition of “free jazz”; however, he is very interested in all of the manifestations of free improvised music (jazz rooted or not!) around the world. His live and recorded efforts focus on continuing and expanding the possibilities of the double-bass and instant composition. 

Drummer Tony Buck is regarded as one of Australia’s most creative and adventurous exports, with vast experience across the globe. As a drummer, percussionist, improviser, guitarist, video maker, and producer, he has been involved in a highly diverse array of projects. However, he is probably best known around the world as a member of the trio called The Necks. 

This subtle and supple recording, with liner notes from virtuoso bassist James Ilfengritz, is certain to lure you in to explore its myriad of details and innovation for some time to come.

1. Wake 02:49
2. Thinking 10:44
3. Whisk 13:50
4. Perpetual 08:51
5. Diffluence 11:33
6. Recline 03:23

Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp - Oneness 3-CD SET (LEO RECORDS 2018)

Saxophonist Ivo Perelman and 

Pianist Matthew Shipp Reach Apotheosis of

Career Collaboration (For Now) on Oneness

The depth-defying duo, tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and pianist Matthew Shipp, attain their zenith with the new release Oneness (March 2 on Leo Records). This three-CD set, recorded over a five-day period, marks the apotheosis of the Perelman-Shipp duo recording career — at least for now. While they will perform in concert, and may return to the studio at some point, they have no immediate plans for follow-up albums in this most intimate of formats.

“This is it,” Perelman stated shortly after completing work on this boxed set. “I can’t see us making another duo recording in the near future. The process was so intense. . . for now, there’s nothing more to say.”

That seems unlikely in the long run, if only because these two musicians have already said so much without repeating themselves. During an artistic alliance that stretches back more than 20 years, Perelman and Shipp — from Sao Paulo, Brazil and Wilmington, Delaware, and born only a few weeks apart — have released eight previous discs as a pair; they have also performed together, in various formats with other musicians, on another 30-odd albums. During the last decade especially, their interactions have achieved an uncanny connection that compares with other sparkling examples of jazz telepathy, from Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines to John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner — a “oneness” represented on the album cover by the Ouroboros, an ancient depiction of a snake eating its own tail.

Found in many cultures, the Ouroboros symbolizes infinity and the cyclical nature of life. But it also symbolizes unity, as in the meeting of two minds — a rare occurrence that Shipp recognized the first time he and Perelman played together in 1996. “I can remember feeling a connection at that very first session, like this was something that was meant to be,” the pianist recently told JAZZIZ Magazine. As further explanation of this phenomenon, Shipp describes “the third mind,” a term popularized by William S. Burroughs and poet Brion Gysin to convey the idea “that whenever you have two minds working together, there’s a third, superior mind, a gestalt between the two that arises.” (Indeed, one suspects that if technicians were to map Perelman’s and Shipp’s brainwaves during any given performance, the areas of overlap would defy medical science.) “And that really does seem to happen to us a lot of the time.”

It happens often enough that, for Oneness, they sought to distill this “third mind” into a single CD’s worth of recordings, a concept that had discussed for several years, and had even attempted on one or two previous occasions. By digging ever more deeply into this “third mind” during nearly a week devoted to nothing else, they hoped to make Oneness a carefully selected culmination of their duet work up till now by. “The idea was to get just one CD, the best of the very best,” Perelman explained. But they outdid themselves. As Perelman explains: “When we listened back to the recordings we said, ‘We can’t choose.’ So, we have to release these three CDs.”

The individual performances traverse the usual range of emotions that arise when these two artists explore the shared space between them, but even more so; in Perelman’s words, “It’s what it was, but at a higher degree.” There’s the heart-racing thrill of their eddying flights to the stratosphere, led by Perelman’s preternatural command of the altissimo register, and the heart-rending sweetness of soft, pure passages, buoyed by liquidy ostinatos at the piano; the disruptive intoxication that results when Shipp uses neo-baroque figures to inspire equally modern/ancient flurries from the saxophone; the unexpected serenity of long lines that traverse several octaves in a wink, and the galvanizing power that erupts when guttural tenor blasts fuse with densely chorded piano pillars.

But relying on any one of these individual performances to the exclusion of others fails to validate the album’s concept — or, for that matter, the Duo’s history and presence. And perhaps their wish to declare any one set of performances as the pinnacle of its work is, at best, quixotic. “Maybe one day we’ll go and actually get the very best of the very best,” Perelman mused. “Other than that, I think we accomplished our mission.”

All good things must come to an end, and few phases conclude as convincingly as Oneness, the Perelman-Shipp Duo’s valedictory statement on disc — at least, for now.

Mark Hall & Danny Heifetz - Appetite For Illusion (EUPCACCIA RECORDS 2018)

This is an afternoon of improv between myself and Danny. Please note that Danny did not like the drum kit he had to use, nor does he like the album title.

1. Commersalism 09:25
2. FDT pt. 7.9 Billion 16:35
3. Week-long Pannic Attack 13:11

Mark Hall - Guitar
Danny Heifetz - Drums

Art layout - Mark Hall
Recorded, mixed abd mastered by Mark Hall

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