Sunday, August 12, 2018

Night Trains: Lovesick 1987 – 2017 (Album Released September 21 via ACID JAZZ / PIAS)

Night Trains released their eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Checkmate’ (1991) via B.G.P (Beat Goes Public), and it became a huge underground hit, before the band returned to Acid Jazz Records in the early 90's, releasing two more albums; ‘Loaded’ (1992) and ‘Sleazeball’ (1994), the latter featuring the international club hit ‘Lovesick’, a soulful, disco funk groove and the Night Trains’ most well-known track.

Signing a US deal with Instinct Records in New York, Night Trains toured Europe and Japan headlining at venues such as The Jazz Cafe and the Marquee in London, Club Yellow Tokyo, Magazinni Generali Milan and the Paradiso and Melkweg Amsterdam, as well as touring with artists as diverse as Afrika Bambaataa, Jamiroquai and the late great Gil Scott-Heron.

Always looking to keep the sound and vibe fresh, Brooker would constantly change the live and studio line-up of the band and a number of key musicians from the soul, funk and mod fraternity would perform with the band including Spider Johnson, Jennie Bellestar, Damian Hand, Mike “chilli” Watts, Tony Watts, Dave Priseman, Julian Bates and Gary Foote.

Taking a break for Night Trains duties temporarily, in 1993, Brooker formed The Humble Souls with UK rapper and Fatboy Slim cohort, MC Wildski, which resulted in the album ‘Thoughts and Sound Paintings’ (1993), again released on Acid Jazz Records. After a successful year of international promotion, he returned to work on the new Night Trains album ‘Obstruct The Doors Cause Delay and Be Dangerous’ (1997). At the time, Acid Jazz records secured a major sponsorship deal for the band with legendary Italian fashion house Cerruti which resulted in various runway and TV appearances for the band across Europe creating extensive worldwide exposure.

After a hiatus, Night Trains returned to Acid Jazz Records in the summer of 2012, with the 7” vinyl release of ‘No More Heroes’, a stomping northern soul reinterpretation of The Stranglers’ new wave classic. Three years later, the band teamed up with Back Burna Records and released the dancefloor filler ‘Black Whip’, before returning once more to their spiritual home at Acid Jazz Records with the release of ‘Lovesick 1987 – 2017’.

Outside of Night Trains, Hugh Brooker DJs globally and has co-written, remixed and produced for artists as diverse as Sophie Ellie-Bextor and Earth Wind and Fire.

Groundation - The Next Generation via BACO RECORDS / September 21, 2018

‘The Next Generation’ takes off like a rocket, opening with the first ever reggae big band song, ‘Vanity’ (12 horns). Lyrically and conceptually, the album stems from their previous release ‘A Miracle’, here shifting from the Mother of Creation to the child, ‘The Next Generation.’

The album takes you on a journey from the militant ‘Fossil Fuels’ and ‘Prophets & Profit’, to the subtle and heartfelt ‘New Life’ and ‘Father & Child’ and everywhere in between. The sound quality is impeccable, engineered by the great Jim Fox and recorded all on analog equipment from the 1970s.

Harrison Stafford’s unique reggae fusion can be heard from villages in Thailand, to the favelas of Brazil, from the mountains of New Zealand, to Moroccan cafes and college dorm rooms in the United States. “Groundation provides a musical vessel that allows me to create and perform the music that I hear in my head”. The sound comes in part from Harrison’s early childhood hearing Duke Ellington and Miles Davis from his grandfather and father who were both Jazz performers. He formalized his musical education at Sonoma State University (SSU) completing a degree in Jazz Performance, where he honed his skills for composing, arranging and producing. After completion, Harrison went on to teach The History of Reggae Music at SSU before embarking on his own musical journey. 

Since 1998, Groundation have recorded 8 studio albums and performed in more than 40 countries, sharing the stage with such diverse artists as Jimmy Cliff, Sly and the Family Stone, The Roots, Kanye West, and Sonic Youth. In the past two years alone, Groundation has played shows in nineteen countries spanning four continents. Highlights include playing for over 45,000 fans in Morocco, 10,000 people in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and headlining the mighty SummerJam festival in Germany.

‘The Next Generation’ will stand as a testament that Groundation has reclaimed their position as leaders in the search for new original music and that true to form improvisational Reggae/Jazz experience. 

Carrying on Groundation’s rich history and the high standards, that were set by the musicians before are; Harrison Stafford (lead singer and guitarist), Will Blades (organ and clavinet/keyboard), Isaiah Palmer (bass player), Jake Shandling (drummer), Brady Shammar (harmony vocalist), Aleca Smith (harmony vocalist), Eduardo Gross (guitarist), Craig Berletti (keyboard & trumpet) and Roger Cox (saxophone).

Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians (NONESUCH RECORDS 2018)

1998 Grammy Award Winner

Nonesuch Records' 1998 Grammy-winning recording of Steve Reich's landmark piece Music for 18 Musicians, performed by Steve Reich and Musicians, returned to vinyl in July 2018. First released on vinyl in a limited run for Record Store Day 2015, the album, mastered for vinyl by Robert C. Ludwig, is now available at a new, low price, pressed on two 140-gram vinyl LPs at Pallas Manufacturing in Diepholz, Germany. The New York Times says: "It would be hard to think of any American music more important than this."

From the original 1998 release:

At the close of the 1970s, the New York Times declared Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians one of the ten most important works of that decade. But the passage of time has proven that inaccurate. As K. Robert Schwartz writes in his liner notes, it is “one of the handful of late-twentieth-century works that can rightly claim to have altered the course of Western music.”

Twenty-two years after its first release on vinyl, Steve Reich and Musicians deliver a new recording of Music for 18 Musicians on Nonesuch Records. Originally offered as a volume within the composer’s 10-CD retrospective box set in 1997, 18 is now available as its own album with graphics and liner notes prepared expressly for this issue.

Reich himself admits that 18 marks a “high point” in his thirty-year career. “It’s undoubtedly one of the best pieces I’ve ever done. Sometimes everything just comes together and suddenly you’ve created this wonderful organism, and in this piece it happened. That accounts for its durability. but it also has a real structural backbone, so it continues to please me twenty years later.”

The product of virtually continuous work from May 1974 to March 1976, 18 was finished when Reich was nearly forty, and reflects numerous influences that had made their mark on the composer’s life up to that point: bebop and Balinese gamelan, African drumming and modal jazz, the melismas of Perotin and the scat-singing of Ella Fitzgerald. These elements came together to define Reich’s essential harmonic language, one that had evolved well beyond the austere and reductive so-called minimalism of his earlier pieces.

Along with the benefit of digital recording, this new 18 features many of the very same musicians that participated in its first recording as well as many of its concert performances over the last two decades: a team that could be said, over time, to have osmotically absorbed every nuance this richly-detailed score has to offer. A tempo change in the new album—governed by the breathing pattern of the clarinetist—has resulted in a version eleven minutes longer than the original. Some harmonic reinterpretation may be noted as well.

Music for 18 Musicians has influenced a whole generation of young composers, as well as a legion of pop musicians. As much as ever, it remains an alluring marvel of coloristic shimmer and an evocation of non-Western music, of classical music, and of jazz—without sounding like any of them. Viewing it from a modest historical distance, is it still absurd to label it a minimalist work? Steve Reich replies, “Yes, I think it is. You can apply minimalism to 18 if you want, but what you’re really hearing is that whole phenomenon—at least in any recognizable, strict form—fade away into the distance.”

Steve Reich, marimba, piano
Rebecca Armstrong, Marion Beckenstein, Cheryl Bensman Rowe, sopranos
Jay Clayton, alto, piano
Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker, Tim Ferchen marimbas, xylophones
James Preiss, vibraphones, piano
Garry Kvistad, marimba, xylophone, piano
Thad Wheeler, marimba, maracas
Nurit Tilles, Edmund Niemann, pianos
Philip Bush, piano, maracas
Elizabeth Lim, violin
Jeanne LeBlanc, cello
Leslie Scott, Evan Ziporyn, clarinets, bass clarinets

Produced by Judith Sherman
Recorded October 1996 at the Hit Factory, New York City
Engineered by John Kigore
Assistant Engineers: Glen Marchese, Chris Hilt
Mixed November 1996 and January 1997 at the Hit Factory, New York City
Assistant Mix Engineers: Tony Black, Greg Thompson
Production Assistants: Sidney Chen, Jeanne Velonis

Design by John Gall
Cover Photo by Fumio Kurasakai/Photonica

Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz

John Adams - Doctor Atomic (NONESUCH RECORDS 2018)

Nonesuch released the first recording of John Adams's 2005 opera, Doctor Atomic, on June 29, 2018. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the libretto for Doctor Atomic, drawing from original sources. The composer leads the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in this recording, which features a cast led by Gerald Finley, who originated the role of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. The two-CD boxed set includes a 64-page bound booklet with archival photos, libretto, and an essay by Mark Swed.

In addition to the San Francisco premiere, Finley has sung Oppenheimer in productions in New York, Amsterdam, Chicago, and London. He is joined on the album by Julia Bullock (Kitty Oppenheimer), Brindley Sherratt (Edward Teller), Samuel Sakker (Captain James Nolan), Andrew Staples (Robert Wilson), Jennifer Johnston (Pasqualita), and Aubrey Allicock (General Leslie Groves). This recording was made possible in part through generous support from New Music USA.

"His most visionary and ambitious stage work to date," said the Guardian. "Adams's conducting, second to none in his own music, had tremendous conviction and unique authority, with every facet of the score's terrible beauty laid bare … thrilling playing and choral singing … Gerald Finley conveyed Oppenheimer's moral agony with singing of great refinement and subtlety."

"A magnificent accomplishment that easily takes its place alongside the other Adams-Sellars triumphs," exclaimed the Los Angeles Times. "It contains music of unearthly splendor … gorgeous lushness and … rich expressivity."

Doctor Atomic concerns the final hours leading up to the first atomic bomb explosion at the Alamagordo test site in New Mexico in July 1945. The focal characters are the physicist and Manhattan Project director, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer; his wife Kitty; Edward Teller; and General Leslie Groves, US Army commander of the project.

Sellars's libretto draws on original source material, including personal memoirs, recorded interviews, technical manuals of nuclear physics, declassified government documents, and the poetry of Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet and contemporary of Oppenheimer.

John Adams's works, spanning more than four decades, have entered the repertoire and are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music, among them Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Doctor Atomic Symphony, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, all in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012). In November 2017, Adams's new opera Girls of the Golden West, set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, received its world premiere at San Francisco Opera.

The opera's libretto, assembled by Sellars, includes original Gold Rush song lyrics, letters, journal entries, and personal memoirs from the era. Doctor Atomic is Nonesuch's thirty-first recording of the works of John Adams, beginning with Harmonielehre in 1986; the label has released forty-seven first recordings of Adams pieces.

Punch Brothers - All Ashore (NONESUCH RECORDS 2018)

The Story Behind Punch Brothers' New Album, "All Ashore"

All Ashore, Punch Brothers' fifth album and the first to be self-produced by the quintet, is both ambitious and easygoing, a lot like the "ridiculously eclectic" combo, as London's Guardian once called the band. The work has the feel of a nine-song suite, one that invites you to unravel the threads of its connected themes and stories over repeated listening. Each track segues seamlessly, even a little sneakily, into the next. Before you know it, "The Angel of Doubt," a dark-night-of-the-soul drama featuring a vocal from singer-mandolinist Chris Thile, has glided into "Three Dots and a Dash," an instrumental that veers from ruminative to rave up, named in tribute to a classic Tiki cocktail, Thile's latest recreational obsession.

Thile calls All Ashore "a meditation on committed relationships in the present day, particularly in light of the current unsettled political climate—certainly the most unsettled one that anyone in the band has ever experienced." He continues, "We were hoping we could create a thing that would be convincing as a complete thought, sort of a nine-movement or a nine-song thought, even though it's rangy in terms of what it's talking about and in the characters doing the talking."

When Punch Brothers released its last album, The Phosphorescent Blues, in 2015, Rolling Stone noted, "The genius of Thile and bandmates guitar player Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert, banjo player Noam Pikelny, and fiddler Gabe Witcher is the artistry with which they mix bluegrass, roots, rock, pop, jazz, and classical to create a unique, contemporary sound." All Ashore also has an appealingly relaxed virtuosity to it, self-assured but never showy.

In a more pronounced way than on prior discs, All Ashore comes across as a glimpse into Punch Brothers' current real life, as these artists who have spent more than a dozen years playing together grapple with marriage, family, and their ever-accelerating individual careers as producers, composers, arrangers, and front men. On the album's early tracks, it candidly addresses the state of their own world. In smart and satirical later songs like "Jumbo" and "All Part of The Plan," it tackles the state of our collective one. Understated ballad "The Gardener" poignantly combines the personal and political in its evocation of a dedicated tradesman who brings beauty to a family's garden but remains a stranger, a mysterious other, to them, only glimpsed occasionally from a window.

The five band members took time from their families to once again come together United Sound in Los Angeles (formerly Ocean Way), where they'd previously recorded The Phosphorescent Blues with T Bone Burnett as well as their 2010 album, Antifogmatic. Pikelny says. "When we first got together as a band, we were mostly single guys in our mid to late twenties. We shared a musical vision but there was this sense of fraternity, of brotherhood, that really sealed the deal and laid the groundwork for a long lasting collaboration."

He adds, "We had so much more free time than we have now, with fewer family and professional commitments. Our time together early on would happen spontaneously, casually, and often included stumbling home from cocktail bars at 3am in New York. We now have to be much more organized with our time to make sure we have opportunities to be together and make music. We're no longer all living in the same city, three of us are married, and there are three Punch Brothers kids running around."

Pikelny continues "On top of that, the current political and cultural situation in this country really contrasts with anything the five of us have experienced in our lifetimes. All our previous albums were made in times of relative calm, compared to the present time. But who better than your closest musical family to help navigate and makes sense of these increasingly foreign and challenging times? This album seemed like a momentous re-gathering of the band, an opportunity to really get to the core of what Punch Brothers represents. "

Additionally, the band's individual projects influenced them on All Ashore. "We were hearing new things out of everyone," says violinist Witcher, "and that's what going off and doing something else does for you. We had this whole collection of influences, new experiences, a broadening of scope."

Thile has always juggled multiple projects throughout his career with Punch Brothers and as a member of Grammy Award–winning trio Nickel Creek. He currently hosts the public radio show, Live from Here, often abetted on stage by one or more Punch Brother. In 2017 alone, he released a duo album with jazz pianist and Nonesuch labelmate Brad Mehldau; a set of Bach trios with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his longtime mentor and friend, double bassist Edgar Meyer; and Thanks for Listening, a studio set of "Song of the Week" tunes he'd composed for Live from Here.

Witcher produced albums for Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins (2016's Young in All the Wrong Ways), Pikelny (his 2017 solo disc, Universal Favorite), and the acoustic guitar duo of Punch Brother Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage (2017's Mount Royal). Nonesuch label mate Rhiannon Giddens recently engaged Witcher to create orchestral arrangements of her repertoire for concert appearances with symphony orchestras.

Kowert just released Unless, the debut disc with his Nashville-based quartet Hawktail produced by bandmate Eldridge and featuring frequent Live from Here guest star violinist Brittany Haas. Eldridge also recorded and toured with Julian Lage, a prodigious guitarist who melds his jazz background with folk, rock and bluegrass. In early 2017, Pikelny released a purely solo album, Universal Favorite, and toured the country extensively with his one-man show. He produced Motel Bouquet for singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty, with whom he also performs. In fall of 2017, he was again awarded Banjo Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.