Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Toronto Jazz Orchestra, The - 20 (June 22, 2018)

20 is the fourth independently released album from the Toronto Jazz Orchestra (TJO). Recorded in May, 2017 at Revolution Recording in Toronto, it showcases the composition and arranging work of TJO Artistic Director Josh Grossman. 20 is a celebration of both the TJO’s 20th anniversary, and of Grossman’s evolution as an Artistic Director, composer, and arranger.

The seven original compositions and one arrangement featured on 20 were all written by Grossman between 2009 and 2016, with the most recent work (Georgie and Rose) completed specifically for this recording. The album's repertoire reflects in part the range of musical influences that inform Grossman’s approach to programming and composing: traditional big band swing, funk, rock, hip hop, samba, and free jazz.

Josh Grossman Photo (c) Marie Byers

• Georgie and Rose, a pseudo-samba dedicated to Grossman's kids

• Brad’s Prudence, an arrangement of Dear Prudence, based on Brad Mehldau’s performance of the tune

• 4 PN, a four-movement suite inspired by Phil Nimmons, loosely based on his Atlantic Suite (and other Nimmons compositions), and written in celebration of his 90th birthday

• Reflection, a ballad inspired in part by the passing of Grossman's grandfather, but more generally by any life event which gives us pause

• The Blob, a funk/rock tune which aims to capture the excitement and trepidation of becoming a parent

The production team for 20 features some of the most respected personnel in Toronto. JUNO Award-winning bassist Roberto Occhipinti, who has served as a personal mentor of Grossman's for many years, is the album’s Producer; JUNO Award-winning John “Beetle” Bailey engineered and mixed; Peter Letros, former Chief Mastering Engineer at Sony Music Canada, handled the mastering. 

TJO Photo (c) Hyunwoo Hwang (Oh Happy Day Photography)

The Toronto Jazz Orchestra has established itself as one of Toronto’s most exciting and important big bands, performing repertoire and undertaking special projects not tackled elsewhere. With its 20th anniversary coming this fall - and nearly ten years since the ensemble’s last studio recording - the time is right for 20.

20 will be released worldwide on Friday, June 22nd 2018.

1. Georgie and Rose
2. Brad’s Prudence
3. 4PN, mvt. I: The Land of 2 and 4
4. 4PN, mvt. II: Under a Treeful
5. 4 PN, mvt. III: Birdsong
6. 4PN, mvt. IV: Flat 10 Strikes Again
7. Reflection
8. The Blob

Josh Grossman - Artistic Director / Conductor

Chris Roberts
Jake Koffman
Paul Metcalfe
Chris Hunsburger
Shirantha Beddage

Steve Dyte, James Rhodes,  Alexander Brown, John Pittman

Christian Overton
Pat Blanchard
Mark Grieve
Sylvain Bédard

Todd Elsliger - Guitar
Carissa Neufeld - Piano
Mark Godfrey - Bass
Ben Ball - Drums
Luis Orbegoso - Percussion

Dongfeng Liu Band "China Caribe" CD Release Concert Friday, September 21, 2018

Dongfeng Liu Band
"China Caribe" CD Release Concert
Weill Recital Hall 
@Carnegie Hall
57th Street and Seventh Av

Dongfeng Liu, Piano and Keyboards
John Benitez, Bass
Roberto Quintero, Percussion
Francis Benitez, Drums
Min Xiaofen, Ruan and Pipa
Feifei Yang, Erhu

Dongfeng Liu
China Caribe

Rare is the occasion when an artist arrives on the scene who fundamentally reawakens your understanding not just of music but world history, common cultures, and shared values. Dongfeng Liu is this very type of artist. He is a maestro composer, arranger, jazz pianist and educator who draws upon musical influences from his native China, and fuses them with American jazz harmonies with Caribbean rhythms. China Caribe uncovers those buried pages of history in which Chinese immigrants journeyed to the Americas as early as the 1860s. In fact, Havana boasted the largest Chinese population in the Western hemisphere during this period. 

Liu’s CD celebrates and dramatizes these cultural cross currents. On this album, we hear what happens when cultures collide – a new sound, a unique aesthetic is born. You haven’t heard anything like China Caribe. I hadn’t. In a word, Liu’s music is peerless. These eight original compositions and arrangements are special and sparkling, meditative and magnificent. 

The opening notes of In the Clouds are performed on the morin khuur, a Mongolian instrument that is also called a horsehead fiddle, in soundclips by the Hanggai Band, one of the leading folkloric Rock groups from Mongolia, and friends of Liu’s. This sound alone foreshadows what’s to come: We begin in the East, but by the time John Benitez’s round electric bass enters, we’re not quite back in the West but somewhere in between – a place that China Caribe will inhabit throughout each musical chapter. 

Min Xiaofen plays the melody elegantly on the ruan, a traditional Chinese string instrument similar to a lute, with a round body and four strings. This piece is inspired by the Mongolian throat singing tradition called khoomei in which a vocalist sings two notes at once. In this tune, there is the sustained bass and melody. At the same time, the floating chords, taken together, form the second note. Indeed, the piece is masterfully conceived and arranged.

Mirror Image features Liu with well-placed piano lines, Roberto Quintero on percussion, and Francis Benitez on drums. The melody of the beginning A section is adroitly inverted into a 6/8 feel in the B section. Liu suggests that when we gaze at ourselves, look more closely, because there is more going on than meets the eye. Similarly, when you encounter others, don’t just look for differences, but identify the shared values that we hold dear. We’re more alike than apart.  

Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon takes the melody from an ancient and folkloric Chinese song. Min Xiaofen takes the lead on the pipa, another ancient lute-style stringed instrument. She is followed by Liu performing the melody on the piano. There is a trenchant Afro-Cuban beat in 6/8 that creates an undulating, propulsive feeling until the timba 4/4 rhythm takes over during the solo section, in which Liu unleashes an incandescent improvisation that builds with block chords and dynamic phrasing. 

I Know You starts with the intrepid hand percussion of Roberto Quintero which blends seamlessly into John Benitez’s syncopated bass groove. Indeed, the prelude and A section are in the odd-meter of 5/4, which transitions to 7/4 in the B section. “Latin music makes people want to dance,” says Liu. “But this piece isn’t suitable for dancing,” he observes. He notes that this is one of his favorite songs because the musicians have to interlock over an uneven rhythm, and ultimately have to learn about each other in the process. This piece is unadulterated virtuosity.  

Arcadia is pure fusion. From the heavy synthesizer introduction and forceful back beat of the drums to piano painting and finally the melody on pipa. Liu chose the name of the song because it sounded like that of another world, the feeling he tries to evoke in this piece. Ultimately, the music is harmonious and suggests that it’s possible for people to make music (and live together) in a peaceful manner. Here too, Liu’s piano solo is pitch perfect, inhabiting the empty space, yet not clustering the piece with a barrage of sounds. The maestro uses the stillness, the calmness as an instrument itself which serves to dramatize the melody. 

Coltrane’s Tune is Liu’s tribute to John Coltrane, whom he has long admired. The harmony is from Coltrane’s classic “Countdown.” Liu admits that the song is also inspired by Miles Davis’ “Tune Up.” Indeed, you can hear shades of both these vintage jazz songs. Of course, Liu renders them with novelty and originality. This tune is pure, uninhibited jazz trio.  

Fisherman’s Song At Dusk comes from an ancient Chinese folkloric song. It refers to the performance of the Chinese Jiangnan Water Village during the sunset, as the fishing boats are sailing in the distance. Liu took this melody and recast it with several parts, from the cascading piano to the drums accenting the beats at the same time. Feifei Yang plays the melody on the erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument. 

The album concludes with Moophy which is inspired by an instrument known as the “Moog Sub Phatty,” which Liu thoroughly enjoys playing. The A section has a terrific 7/4 groove that transforms into a 5/4 feel in the B section. The back-and-forth between Liu on the piano and Benitez on bass is the stuff of not just virtuosity but friendship. These two have forged a bond across idioms, styles, and cultures. 

Admittedly, to say that this album is Chinese and Cuban can be reductionist. There are fifty-six ethnic groups in China alone who speak different languages and perform their own styles of music. Cuban and Afro-Caribbean music is certainly not without variety either. But this album will launch any listener onto a journey, even safari of discovery. It has been a pleasure producing Liu’s album with John Benitez and Doug Davis. We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of fusing cultures and civilizations. 

“I wanted to contribute a new voice, my voice to the conversation,” said Liu. Indeed, Liu has given us something to hold dear as we face the future. No matter the shifting sands of time and fate, we’re in a better place when we look for commonality. Liu has enriched and advanced that common language of all mankind – music.

Kabir Sehgal 
Multi-Grammy and Latin Grammy Award Winner New York Times bestselling author

1 In The Clouds 5:45
2 Mirror Image 8:38
3 Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon 6:42
4 I Know You 7:37
5 Arcadia 5:31
6 Coltrane’s Tune 5:09
7 Fisherman’s Song at Dusk 6:03
8 Moophy 12:03

Dongfeng Liu Piano
John Benitez Electric bass, Acoustic bass 
Roberto Quintero Percussion # 1 – 5, 7
Francis Benitez Drums
Min Xiaofen Ruan # 1, Pipa # 3, 5
Feifei Yang Erhu # 7 

Special Guests: 
Hanggai Band Mongolian horsehead fiddle, Mongolian throat singing # 1

Media Contact
Jim Eigo
Jazz Promo Services
272 State Route 94 South #1
Warwick, NY 10990-3363
Ph: 845-986-1677 
Cell / text: 917-755-8960
Skype: jazzpromo
"Specializing in Media Campaigns for the music community, artists, labels, venues and events.”

Playlist for Tom Ossana ~ The Thin Edge ~ June 6, 2018 MST 7:00 to 9:00p.m.

http://www.kzmu.org/listen.m3u ~ Use this link to access the show online.

Szun Waves - New Hymn To Freedom (LEAF LABEL August 31, 2018)

Sometimes in improvised music there can be a distance between listener and players, a sense you’re sitting back and admiring their interplay and abstraction – but with Szun Waves’ second album, you’re right in there with them, inside the playing, experiencing the absolute joy the three musicians feel as they circle around each other, exploring the spaces they’ve opened up.

The three members already have sparkling pedigrees of their own. Norfolk’s Luke Abbott is well known for his explorations of the zones between pure ambience and the leftmost fringes of club culture. With Portico Quartet and Circle Traps, Jack Wyllie has been in the vanguard of UK fusions of jazz, classical and club music. Australian drummer Laurence Pike has likewise found a unique voice in improvised and experimental music-making, whether in the bands Triosk or PVT, or as a solo artist (his debut solo album Distant Early Warning was released in March 2018).

The trio’s musical relationship has grown naturally and steadily, and it shows. From Wyllie adding shimmering sustained sax notes to Abbott’s gorgeous ambient pieces in 2013, Szun Waves emerged when Pike was added to the mix, energising the sound but still keeping its levitational qualities. Their 2016 self-released debut album hit a natural groove – it was a “proof of concept” as Abbott says – and now they’re in a place of pure spontaneity: New Hymn To Freedom is a document of six entirely live improvisations – “no edits or overdubs” – and its title couldn’t be more apt.

In some senses this is jazz, and in its ripples, sparkles and waves of rhythm will certainly chime with anyone turned on by Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra. But just as much it’s in the British electronic tradition of artists like James Holden (in whose studio the first album was recorded), Four Tet and Nathan Fake that Abbott has emerged from – only now instead of his synths echoing Norfolk’s wide open pastoral landscapes, they’re depicting altogether more celestial vistas. Indeed, the drifting ecstasies of this record take you to dimensions that only the most genre-free musicians can reach: you might hear hints of Can, Ryuichi Sakamoto or even Liars.

But really, this isn’t the sound of any influence other than the influence the three players are having on each other, and how happy that makes them. “It still feels to me like a mystical adventure when we play,” says Abbott, “but there’s a musical language developing between us, we’re starting to make more sense together.”

Artist: Szun Waves
Title: New Hymn To Freedom
Label: The Leaf Label
Formats: CD (BAY 111CD) 
Limited edition double vinyl LP + CD (BAY 111V)
Digital (BAY 111E)
Release date: Friday 31 August 2018

CD: LP:  
1. A1. Constellation
2. A2. Fall Into Water 
3. B1. High Szun 
4. B2. Temple 
5. C1. Moon Runes 
6. C2. New Hymn To Freedom 
-- D. Slow Motion (vinyl only bonus track)

Balako Release Funk-filled 'Jungle Music' Video



‘A neat, magnetic anthem’ Complex   ‘undeniably carried by funk momentum’ Vice

‘an enticing melting pot of sounds that feels both retro and current’ XLR8R

Blending a vast array of styles from house to salsa, carimbo and 70’s disco and funk, Brazilian duo Balako (an 80's slang word meaning 'a good type of mess’) released their sublimely infectious debut EP ‘Hora De Balako’ this time last year. Once again made up of 100% live recordings and based on the magical urban jungle that is Rio de Janeiro, Diogo Strausz and Rodrigo Peirao return with ‘Jungle Music,’ set for release via Greco-Roman on June 22nd. 

 Before they were signed, the entirely live element of Balako’s songs caused early confusion to Greco-Roman co-founder and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard who initially assumed their debut was littered with samples. Diogo and Rodrigo insist that sampling, editing, remixing and re-editing are not the only way to make Brazil sound contemporary on the dance floor, and have once again rounded up their musician friends and created their one retro sounding tracks from scratch. Inspired by their vibrant city and its unique inhabitants named Cariocas, they strive to capture the essence of live music in Brazil, providing DJ’s with a chance to drop something organic, messy and funk driven.

"Rio is a city surrounded by chaos and social injustice, it’s people often angered by the corruption and fragility of its make-up, but still we find a reason to smile and have fun... while still hustling” says Diogo. "As Tim Maia once joked: "Here the pimps feel jealous, the drug dealers get coke addictions and poor people are right wing. Contradictions like these create a lot of depth and inspire us to keep creating. Sometimes it feels like surrealism but it’s actually magical realism."

‘Jungle Music’ is out 22nd June on Greco-Roman and it’s colourful video, depicting the duo’s hometown Rio is out today!

Benito Gonzalez / Gerry Gibbs / Essiet Okon Essiet - Passion Reverence Transcendence (WHALING CITY SOUND 2018)

The title says all you need to know about how three musicians—Gonzalez, Gibbs and Essiet—tackle the music (and more) of legendary pianist McCoy Tyner. Pianist Benito Gonzalez, drummer Gerry Gibbs and bass player Essiet Okon Essiet rally around the music of McCoy Tyner on their new Whaling City Sound recording and the result is pure jazz joy.

Lavishly arranged and beautifully played Passion Reverence Transcendence is an unequivocal triumph of sound and spirit. Gonzalez, Gibbs, and Essiet celebrate Tyner with gusto. Gonzalez interprets Tyner’s stuff aggressively, passionately, with modern flourishes to keep pace with Gibbs’ driving rhythms. Gibbs, in typical fashion, charges into it with his brawny, supersonic jazz drumming. Essiet is critical and fabulous in his support role, diving into a blend of traditional, contemporary and fusion lines that push the arrangements into some seriously sparkling terrain.

Produced by Gibbs and beautifully captured, the recording feels live without the rawness. 

And it’s all ridiculously high energy. The trio doesn’t bother kicking back much. Gibbs and Essiet drive the opening tunes, “Fly With the Wind” and “Just Feelin’,” along with “The Greeting,” which features a nice interlude from Essiet. Some of it’s playful, like “Inner Glimpse,” which finds Gonzalez and Gibbs holding onto the rhythmic motif while Essiet dances playfully around. After digging into nine Tyner compositions, the three artists each contribute one of their own tunes to close the record. Essiet launches into the wryly elaborate “Tyner/Train Express” and Gibbs serves up the stylish, bluesy jazz of “Between Friends.” The closer, Gonzalez’s “Brazilian Girls,” explodes with melody about a minute in and spends the rest of its seven-minute length making good on that initial promise. While they are not Tyner compositions per se, they are in the spirit of the great pianist and they settle in nicely with the compositions that came before it on the recording.

Together, the trio embraces, and even supercharges Tyner’s vibe without succumbing to cliches. The material is always melodic, always together, thanks to the dexterity and high energy you’d expect from each of these musicians. They’ve proven themselves on their independent projects, and they prove themselves on Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner.

1. Fly With The Wind
2. Just Feelin'
3. Rotunda
4. Festival In Bahia
5. Blues On The Corner
6. The Greeting
7. You Taught My Heart To Sing
8. Atlantis
9. Inner Glimpse
10. Naima
11. Tyne/Trane Express
12. Between Friends
13. Brazilian Girls