Friday, August 24, 2018

Randy Waldman - SUPERHEROES (BFM Jazz September 21, 2018)


Waldman’s newest project is called SUPERHEROES. Five years in the making, SUPERHEROES features the stellar rhythm section of pianist RANDY WALDMAN, drummer VINNIE COLAIUTA and bassist CARLITOS DEL PUERTO, who are joined by jazz luminaries including CHICK COREA, WYNTON MARSALIS, STEVE GADD, RANDY BRECKER, EDDIE DANIELS, GEORGE BENSON, JOE LOVANO, ARTURO SANDOVAL, CHRIS POTTER, and the vocal group TAKE 6.  Waldman re-arranged theme music from his favorite superhero movies and TV shows, transforming them into fun, accessible, and exciting jazz tunes. 

Waldman got the idea for this project a few years ago when he had the good fortune to be seated at an event next to actor Adam West, the original TV Batman. “We talked a lot about music,” relates Waldman. “Adam loved jazz, and the thought occurred to me that he was an actual jazz superhero. That surprising and unexpected conversation stayed in the back of my mind for years.” That chance encounter percolated in Randy’s mind, and inspiration came like a bolt out of the blue. He would make a CD of superhero theme music played by some of his jazz superheroes!  

Although he works with artists across many genres, jazz is Waldman’s first love, and he’s previously produced and released three Randy Waldman Trio CDs. Wigged Out (1998) features jazz greats John Patitucci on bass (Chick Corea) and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums (Herbie Hancock, Sting), as well as several legendary musical guests, including Arturo Sandoval, Michael Brecker, Bob Berg and Freddie Hubbard. UnReel (2001) comprises a variety of soundtrack and theme music from many different films and television shows that Waldman re-arranged and presents as jazz tunes. Timing is Everything (2003) features bass player Brian Bromberg and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. 

Like most kids growing up, Waldman watched all the popular superhero TV shows, but his favorite was “Adventures of Superman,” and he included in this project the themes from both the TV show and the movies. Waldman opens the TV theme with voiceover cameos by JOHN TRAVOLTA, JEFF GOLDBLUM, JAMES BROLIN, OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, MICHAEL BUBLÉ, AND JOSH GROBAN. The track features Eddie Daniels, who leads off with a beautifully crafted tenor sax solo. Trumpeter Randy Brecker effortlessly follows up the piano solo with a harmonically rich and textured improvisation. The track culminates with a drum solo by Colaiuta that defies the rhythmic laws of physics. 

Waldman captures the clash between good and evil on the “Superman Movie” theme in a musical interchange between guitar legend George Benson and bassist del Puerto. 

“Mighty Mouse” was also popular in the movies and on TV. Waldman created a difficult, polyrhythmic arrangement of the theme that features an intricate drum pattern by Colaiuta and a powerful 13-piece horn section with solos by del Puerto and saxophonist Joe Lovano. 

“Spiderman” movies are surely one of the most popular, contemporary superhero franchises, and the theme from the movies is instantly recognizable. The vocal group Take 6 performs an a cappella intro to the tune, arranged by MARK KIBBLE, while saxophonist Chris Potter wails over the Latin groove.

In a unique pairing, drummers Colaiuta and Steve Gadd perform together for the first time on the theme to the “Six Million Dollar Man.” The tune also features trumpet great Arturo Sandoval soaring over the propulsive Latin beat.  

“Super Chicken” begins with a slow, deliberate, ascending Rhapsody in Blue-like clarinet glissando by Eddie Daniels, which quickly turns into a barn-burning 360 beats per minute number that features BOB McCHESNEY on trombone and Sandoval on trumpet.  

For “The Incredible Hulk,” Waldman chose to focus on the character’s sensitive human side rather than on his manifestation as a gigantic green monster. Chick Corea, one of Waldman’s favorite pianists, joins in on this track with a signature synth solo. 

The “X-Men” theme, from another popular and very contemporary movie franchise, features solos by trumpeter TILL BRÖNNER and Colaiuta. 

The “Batman” TV theme is backed by a supercharged 13-piece horn section accentuating the “bam,” “sock,” “pow” hits. Legendary Wynton Marsalis lends his super talents to this caped crusader’s musical mission. The “Batman” movie theme is very different than the TV theme. Waldman captures the dark and mysterious feel of the theme, which is highlighted in a solo by guitarist MICHAEL O’NEILL. 

Colaiuta and Gadd bounce off each other in asymmetrical rhythms in the “Underdog” theme. McChesney’s trombone solo achieves stunning, technical articulations. 

SUPERHEROES is serious music performed by superheroes of the jazz world. This is music of the highest caliber. It’s fun and accessible even for people who don’t normally listen to jazz.

SUPERHEROES can be pre-ordered at starting mid-August, along with a selection of unique SUPERHEROES related merchandise and experiences that can't be found elsewhere. The album will be available online everywhere and at on September 21, 2018.


RANDY WALDMAN  piano, trumpet (3,4,5), background vocals (5)
WAYNE BERGERON lead trumpet (4)
RANDY BRECKER trumpet (1)
TILL BRÖNNER trumpet (10)
CHICK COREA piano (9)
EDDIE DANIELS clarinet (1,11)
STEVE GADD drums (5,7,8)
JOE LOVANO sax (5)
WYNTON MARSALIS trumpet solo (4)
BOB McCHESNEY trombone (7,11)
TAKE 6 vocals (6)
ARTURO SANDOVAL trumpet (8,11)

Cameos by 



8. BATMAN THEME (1989 MOVIE) 4:53
9. X-MEN TV THEME 5:02

Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band - Presence (SMOKE SESSIONS RECORDS September 21, 2018)

Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band

Returns with Raucous Live Recording, Presence

Long-running Ensemble, Led by The Bad Plus’

New Pianist, Creates Family Vibe Onstage in

Philadelphia For Third Album

The influence of the late playwright and educator Donald Evans has always loomed large over the Captain Black Big Band. Pianist and bandleader Orrin Evans named the band for his father’s brand of pipe tobacco, the aroma of which always announced his father’s presence in the house. The big band’s third album, Presence, is a celebration of the warmth and spirit of the elder Evans, but more importantly it’s quite simply a celebration – an approach to not only music but life that Evans inherited directly from his parents.

Presence, due out September 21 via Smoke Sessions Records, features a scaled-down 11-piece version of Evans’ long-running big band, recorded live at a pair of venues in his hometown of Philadelphia: Chris’ Jazz Café (where the band made its debut in late 2008) and South Jazz Parlor. The line-up features a core group of collaborators that the pianist tends to refer to as “a family” or “a village” more than a band. Most of the musicians on this recording have played with Captain Black for years, while many of them have contributed compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s ever-growing book.

The album’s cover art, drawn by a close friend, depicts the face of Donald Evans gazing upon the band, his enlivening spirit embodied by the diversity and raucous sense of joy that Captain Black always brings to the stage. “There was always a party in my household,” Evans says. “I always looked forward to events at the house, where guests would gather around the piano in our living room. That leads into how I approach the Captain Black Big Band. I try to create that party and to have people in the band that are fun seekers.”

That pervasive sense of familial camaraderie shines through the music on Presence, especially in the band’s smaller, tighter incarnation. The band’s downsizing can be explained in part by practical considerations: it makes an easier fit for their long-running stint on the intimate stage of Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, for one. It’s also been easier to manage as Evans’ schedule has become more crowded since joining The Bad Plus in January.

But the 11-piece band also represents a distillation of the larger ensemble, pared down to a close-knit core of players that know each other very well, can navigate the music with the spontaneity of a small band, and simply enjoy the experience of sharing the stage together.

“I look for something different in the Captain Black Big Band,” Evans says. “I look for the ability and desire to be part of a family. I actually get disappointed sometimes when other people don’t see the appeal of that. You have to be ready and down to be a part of this. That all stems from what I saw growing up in my household.”

The Captain Black Big Band’s taut, boisterous energy bursts out of the gate with trombonist David Gibson’s aptly-named “The Scythe.” The tune’s keen-edged theme evokes a ferocious round of soloing from the composer as well as saxophonist Troy Roberts, trumpeter Josh Lawrence and the leader, recently name “Rising Star Pianist” in the 2018 DownBeat Critics’ Poll.

Robert’s vigorous tenor leads the way into Eric Revis’ bracing “Question,” originally recorded by Tarbaby, the collective trio that Revis and Evans share with drummer Nasheet Waits. Evans opens John Raymond’s “Onward” with a meditative intro that lends a spiritual overtone to the piece’s sense of inspirational uplift, answered by the composer’s swelling trumpet solo, which soars ever higher as it draws strength from the band’s powerful backing.

Evans’ own “When It Comes” finds the band teasing out its raw edges, enjoying a playfully tempestuous give and take. Raymond’s blustery solo rides the avalanche of Anwar Marshall’s roiling rhythms, while Evans adds incisive interjections. Another Evans original, the spring-loaded “Flip the Script” prompts a spirited dialogue between Roberts and alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis. The surging groove of Roberts’ “Trams” is established with an audience participation clap-along, parrying the roaring horn thrusts of the tune.

Evans tenderly establishes the mood for his own “The Answer,” while Lawrence’s explosive title track, originally recorded on his own album Color Theory with Evans in the band, ends the set on a characteristically vibrant note. All that’s left is a brief, ramshackle reprise of “When It Comes” that sends listeners off with the band’s rambunctious clamor in their ears.

“In all the bands I lead, my concept is allowing for the unknown to happen,” Evans concludes. “This is a real, raw and honest representation of what happened on stage on those nights.”

Jared Gold “Reemergence” CD Release Show Friday & Saturday August 24-25 @ Smalls

Jared Gold
CD Release Show 

Jared Gold – organ 
Dave Stryker – guitar 
Joel Frahm - sax
Billy Hart – drums

Friday & Saturday August 24-25
83 W 10th St
New York, NY 10014

Christian Sands - Facing Dragons (MACK AVENUE RECORDS September 21, 2018)

Christian Sands Returns with

New Studio Album Facing Dragons,

Album Features Marcus Strickland,

Keyon Harrold, Yasushi Nakamura, Jerome Jennings,

Caio Afiune, Cristian Rivera, & Roberto Quintero
Not yet 30, Christian Sands is currently one of the most in-demand pianists working in jazz. In the last few years he has toured around the world as a bandleader and recently appeared as a sideman on records by Christian McBride and Gregory Porter. After the one-two punch of Reach and Reach Further – EP, Sands’ dynamic 2017 Mack Avenue debut and his live/unreleased studio tracks EP follow-up released earlier this year, Facing Dragons is Sands’ return to the recording studio with an indestructible band and an unwavering allegiance to the groove.

“I like the freedom of the trio format,” says Sands. “It’s more dramatic to me. It’s a smaller entity but with a big personality. I can fit it into different situations dynamically, compositionally.” Opening track “Rebel Music” features Sands’ wide-ranging scope at its most elegant, nimbly jetting through single unison lines and bright block chords. Here and throughout the record he is joined by bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Jerome Jennings, the band that Sands has been relentlessly touring with. The two sensitive accompanists are locked in sync, joined occasionally by a powerhouse pair of horns, a sinewy guitarist and a fiery pair of percussionists.

Saxophonist Marcus Strickland strikes first on the hard swinging “Fight for Freedom,” unleashing a throaty cry over the churning band. “Marcus Strickland brings a certain fire to the band,” says Sands. “Especially on this track. He’s got a rich and deep tone, so it was perfect for the earthy theme of the song.” Trumpeter Keyon Harrold shares the frontline with Strickland, playing in effortless harmony on the melody before getting a little solo space near the tune’s close.

Harrold takes centerstage later on “Frankenstein,” a churning meditation reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s seafaring journeys of the 1960s. Sands is spacious in support and patient on his solo, the tune an energetic workout for all involved.

Earlier this year Sands was named creative ambassador to The Erroll Garner Jazz Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the legacy of the late great pianist Erroll Garner. After inheriting the position from the late Geri Allen – one of Sands’ mentors – he is a natural fit for the role. Sands has that same affable understanding of the audience as he recognizes their innate desire to be entertained as well as enlightened. He tackles the Beatles’ “Yesterday” with a soulful saunter. “Pop music is essential in jazz. It’s new melodies, it’s new stories, or same stories told in different ways. Jazz is about storytelling and pop music has a unique story to tell.”

Sands has yet to bring his band to Venezuela but when he gets there, he’ll be more than ready for the infectious polyrhythms found on the shores of Choroni Beach. On “Sangueo Soul,” Sands bounces above the churning South American rhythms, with Caio Afiune doubling the piano lines on guitar. It alternates between the two sounds, blending them at will, a sprightly dash of octaves on the piano cross paths with intergalactic vibrations. The tune is impossible to resist as a battery of rhythm pushes Sands’ piano into a righteous jaunt; clear the dancefloor. Percussionist Cristian Rivera appeared on Sands’ Mack Avenue Records debut, and the two formed a tight bond over a decade ago in Bobby Sanabria’s Afro Cuban Big Band. Percussionist Roberto Quintero, a native Venezuelan, brings the fire and authenticity to the party.

“Samba da Vela” appears later, continuing the South American travelogue with a trip to Brazil. Guitarist Caio Afiune first played with Sands’ brother Ryan, a drummer who studied at the New England Conservatory. Afiune has been playing with the pianist for over a year now, finding his voice in the tight-knit ensemble. His solo is an energetic but controlled centerpiece of the performance but becomes even more effervescent when he heads to church. 

“Church music is key in not just my sound but most jazz musicians I look up to. It’s a culture that most of us have gone through so it’s embedded in what we do,” says Sands. “Jazz can be a religious experience and for me my playing is my gift to God.” Sands began formal lessons at the age of four but picked up his sense of swing and soul at church well before that. “Sunday Mornings” is Sands tribute to the beginning of the week. He employs soulful clusters of chords and a lackadaisical slide off the beat, aided and embedded by an oscillating organ. The transition to a backyard reggae groove is hip, propelled by Afiune’s scratchy accents.

The lilting “Her Song” features bassist Nakamura. “Yasushi has a great bass sound, great facility and is always easy to work with, which is why he’s still in so many other bands today besides mine,” says Sands. Regardless of Nakamura’s schedule, he is fully committed to Sands’ vision of a rhythm section, a noble accent to the sound, unobtrusive but always present. Jennings is equally sensitive. “What I love about Romey” says Sands, “is the soulful intellect he brings to the instrument. There are layers to what he does and that comes from study and practice and also just being him – a true soul brother.”

The album closes with “Rhodes to Meditation” featuring an electrified Sands drifting into the ether. “The Fender Rhodes adds a different tone to my imagination. It makes me hear and play different.” Sands evokes a spectral world without borders, drifting off like a satellite towards the next adventure. “Like all of my albums, I want people to feel connected through a story that I’m telling. On this record, I want to remind people to always push forward and move in positivity.”

Yellowjackets - Raising Our Voice (MACK AVENUE RECORDS September 14, 2018)

GRAMMY® Award-winning Yellowjackets

Return with New Album & Collaboration

with Vocalist Luciana Souza

Raising Our Voice

While the Los Angeles-based Yellowjackets have been a creative force on the jazz scene since 1981 when they recorded their eponymous debut, their fourth Mack Avenue Records album, Raising Our Voice, once again ups the ante with bold new strides by inviting vocalist extraordinaire Luciana Souza to collaborate with the group for seven of its thirteen tunes as well as subtly taking a resistant stand against the status quo of the cultural and political undercurrent of our times.

The Yellowjackets have consistently forged ahead in their evolving artistic statements. The band has recorded close to 30 albums, been nominated for 17 GRAMMY® Awards, and has adventurously amplified the eclectic, electro-acoustic soundscape, creating a unique jazz sound since its fusion beginnings.

“The band keeps moving forward,” says saxophonist Bob Mintzer who joined the group in 1990. “It’s one of the few partnership bands in the last four decades. It’s democratic, laissez-faire and accommodating to everyone in the band to contribute. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves as a reflection of what’s happening in the world.”

The Jackets are comprised of pianist/keyboardist/co-founder Russell Ferrante, bassist Dane Alderson in his second recording with the group and drummer Will Kennedy, who joined the band in 1987 and then in 2000 took a 10-year hiatus before returning to the drum chair. As a relative outsider, Souza contributes wordless vocals as well as songs sung in Portuguese and English. She was quickly won over by the band.

“They’re killers,” she says. “They’re so serious yet also so much fun. We laughed a lot during the sessions. Their curiosity is alive, and their joy is to make great music. I was originally going to just do three songs, but it ended up that I’m on over half the record.”

The collection features three old Yellowjackets tunes arranged for a fresh ride with Souza’s contributions, two co-writes with Ferrante and Souza, three new originals each for Ferrante and Mintzer, and Alderson’s first original piece for the band along with two short electronics interludes.

Unlike the last album, 2016’s Cohearence, where the music was toured before the studio recordings, Raising Our Voice grew organically from the collaborative nature of the sessions. “There was a gap between the last album and this one,” says Ferrante. “We hadn’t been playing a lot live, so most of these tunes came alive in the studio and were sparked by the electricity and chemistry with Luciana.”

Kennedy adds, “This is the album where we were the least prepared for the writing and rehearsals. It was a bit of a cram. But that gave it an excitement. And then Luciana, who came in at the last moment, was a great discovery for bringing her talents as a gift to the band.”

The Ferrante and Souza collaboration began years earlier when talking about working together. “As they were thinking of the next album, Russ came to the house and we went into my studio and we talked,” explains Souza. “He played some music and I sang along, and it was very sweet and unguarded.”

“We looked through some music that had a Brazilian feel to it,” Ferrante says. “We chose songs that lyrically fit her musicality.”

Raising Our Voice leads off with the vibrant reworking of the grooved “Man Facing North” (originally recorded on the Jackets’ 1993 album Like a River). Ferrante on piano and Mintzer on tenor sax take swinging breaks while Souza follows Alderson’s bass lines and sings counterpoint to the tenor with sweet, lilting wordless vocals that lift the song with storytelling.

Other Souza conversation-like contributions include the gorgeous ballad “Quiet” (she wrote the first half with Portuguese and English lyrics and Ferrante wrote the second half), the reworking of the Brazilian-tinged “Timeline” (a Ferrante composition from the Jackets’ 2011 album of the same name with Souza taking the lead with wordless vocals and conversing with Mintzer) and another re-orchestrated band number, “Solitude” from Like a River, written by Ferrante, with new Portuguese lyrics by the singer who playfully engages in a fetching call-and-response with both Alderson and Mintzer.

Souza also heartens Ferrante’s sprightly “Everyone Else Is Taken” and spices his mysterious “In Search Of” which was inspired from a quote by Thomas Merton: “There is no one so wrong as the one who knows all the answers.”

Ferrante contributes the moving, introspective tune “Mutuality,” based on the Martin Luther King Jr. speech, “Network of Mutuality.” In the midst of Souza’s musing support, the harmony goes through every key (minor and major). “This is a good example of making a statement but on a subtle side,” he says. “It really connects to the title of the album, which has a political slant. It’s about waking up to see what’s going on. A lot of musicians get in their own bubbles of charts and harmony, but don’t connect to the world we live in. We need to be less preoccupied and see the urgency of making music as a resistance.”

Mintzer’s three new songs include the deep-grooved “Ecuador” (his tenor saxophone takes the tasty role of a rhythmic instrument) and the upbeat “Strange Times.” He also contributes the most unusual Yellowjackets tune, “Swinging With It,” a pure swinger complete with walking bass lines. “Straight-ahead music is a big part of my legacy,” he says.

A key component to Raising Our Voice is the band’s stellar rhythm section of Kennedy and Alderson. “We provide a good foundation for our other band mates to stand on” says Kennedy. “Inspired by music from around the world, we all listen, grow, and incorporate those influences in our sound.”

“They gave me the freedom to explore,” says Alderson, the Perth, West Australia native who now lives in Virginia. “I’m a huge fan of the RC-300 Loop Station by Boss combined with the Roland VB99 midi unit, which I used on the two short pieces, ‘Emerge’ and ‘Divert.’”

Alderson’s first full composition for the Jackets is the upbeat “Brotherly,” which buoys with his tumbling bass lines. “It was just a bag of ideas at first,” he says. “But then I corresponded with Will and we talked about grooves. We’re both big fans of the UK band Brotherly, so we were influenced by it when we put this tune together.”

“It’s a different and unusual snapshot of where the Yellowjackets are today,” says Kennedy. “We’re getting older, but we’re still inspired and listening.”

Mintzer sees a bright future for the Yellowjackets. “What attracts me about the group is how stylistically broad we are,” he says. “There are no barriers. We’re free to try new things without making the music overly complex. I always say this is the band you always wanted to be in. We’ll see where we go next.”

Jeremiah Johnson - Straitjacket (RUF RECORDS August 24, 2018)

Take a ride along the banks of the Mississippi River, pull up a stool in any St. Louis blues joint and talk will soon turn to the musician who’s giving the city its soundtrack. Jeremiah Johnson’s towering reputation has been hard-earned. During a two-decade rise, his triumphs have been accompanied by struggles and scars – not to mention the solitude of a life in motion. But those hard knocks have forged him as an artist, and now they feed into Straitjacket (available August 24): the warts-and-all masterpiece that gives it to you straight. “This album is original American rock ‘n’ blues with southern-fried soul,” explains Johnson. “I just close my eyes and feel the music go through me…”

Few are better-qualified to commentate on modern America’s melting pot of people, cultures and musical genres. As Johnson reminds us in the autobiographical groove of 9th & Russell, the bandleader cut his teeth in St. Louis, then honed his craft in Houston, where he won the Regional Blues Challenge for three years running. But it was the return to home-turf in 2009 that truly planted Johnson’s flag, as he hit the stage at the iconic Hammerstone’s blues bar and spliced the two cities’ musical palettes into his own searing original material.

Since then, there’s been victory in the 2011 St Louis Blues Society Challenge, acclaimed albums including 2014’s Devon Allman-produced Grind and 2016’s genre-hopping Blues Heart Attack – not to mention the Ride The Blues documentary that painted a candid portrait of Johnson’s bitter-sweet rise. “Let’s just say I’ve had my days with drugs and alcohol,” he nods, “and it took me a long time to get a grip on it.” In 2018, Straitjacket wears Johnson’s soul proudly on its sleeve. Produced by St. Louis’s favourite son, Mike Zito, at his Mars studios in Texas, the calibre of the lineup of Frank Bauer (sax/vocals), Benet Schaeffer (drums) and Tom Maloney (bass) demanded that these songs were captured on the floor. “We went for a live feel,” says Johnson. “There are a lot of places I could have played a more perfect solo or sang the lyrics more precisely, but in the end it was perfect left alone. Real, human, breathing, imperfected perfection.”

Served raw and searingly honest, these songs examine Johnson’s history, headspace and place in the world. He can be playful, on the title track’s hectic funk-blues complaint to a controlling girlfriend, or the grooving Dirty Mind, about a lover calling up for “a little company” at 2am. But elsewhere, personal moments like Keep On Sailing bleed into the social commentary of Believe In America and Old School. “Keep On Sailing is about realizing the people around you are only there because of the drugs and booze,” he explains. “Believe In America is about seeing people struggling with money and a government that keeps leaving us small people behind – but I also see people who still have faith in this country. Old School is probably the most important song on this record. In my childhood, we got in fights, lessons were learned and we all walked away with our lives. Today, people pull out a gun…”

There might be storm clouds on Straitjacket, but the record ends in a ray of sunshine, as a cover of Alvin Lee’s classic Rock ‘N’ Roll Music To The World sees the band flex their astonishing chemistry and enjoy the ride (“We just cranked it up and let it fly”). The man himself hopes that you will do the same: “I want people to let this record play from the first to the last note, crank it up at a party, zone out while driving or riding through the night on a Harley-Davidson. I want this record to make people feel like throwing it in and going on a trip of emotion…”

1 Straitjacket 4:13
2 Getting Tired 3:41
3 Blues in Her Eyes 4:23
4 Keep on Sailing 3:13
5 Believe in America 4:52
6 King & Queen 6:02
7 Dirty Mind 6:22
8 9th and Russell 4:19
9 Old School 5:24
10 Bonneville Shuffle 3:04
11 Hold My Hand 4:35
12 Rock & Roll Music to the World 2:53

Bob JamesTrio - Espresso (EVOLUTION MUSIC GROUP August 31, 2018)

Legendary Pianist Bob James Returns to

Trio Format After Decade-Long Studio Recording

Hiatus as a Leader for Espresso

Album Features “Submarine” – Follow up to

“Nautilus,” the Track That Earned James’

Unlikely Godfather of Hip-Hop Status

Available August 31 via evosound (Evolution Music Group)

International Touring to Follow Album Release

“… Bob James is to jazz what James Brown is to R&B  the music

“… and the musician go hand and hand.” – NPR

“If you make beats or play an instrument, bow down.” – VICE Noisey

“…James solidified his place in jazz history with a certain touch on the keys

that’s influenced from the pianists he admired while being able to eventually

develop his own style that is often unmatched.” – Huffington Post

“He knew how to grab listeners instantly with a seriously funky intro.” – NPR

Long after establishing himself as one of America’s most accomplished composers, arrangers and instrumentalists, multiple-GRAMMY® Award-winner Bob James achieves his long-time ambition to return to the trio format he last utilized on 2004’s Take It From The Top, and embraced as an up-and-coming artist.

Scheduled to release August 31, 2018 on the evosound label (Evolution Music Group), Espresso is also James’s first studio recording as a leader since 2006’s Urban Flamingo. “Evolution Music Group presents high end and cutting-edge fidelity quality products, from packaging to audio,” says James. The album will be released on multiple formats including high quality 180 gram vinyl, MQA-CD, SACD, and hi-res audio download.

Though busy since 2006 with an array of projects, ranging from albums and appearances with the all-star contemporary jazz ensemble Fourplay to collaborations with David Sanborn, Keiko Matsui and other renowned artists, James hasn’t reclaimed his place in the spotlight as a solo performer — until now.

“I wanted to do this as part of a trio — piano, bass and drums,” James explains. “With Fourplay and in other larger settings, I loved that I could solo and then kind of disappear into the setting to accompany other soloists. To play in a trio requires a different level of commitment, with the piano being much more prominent. You need perhaps a greater degree of optimism and bravery. That was how I felt when I first got into music. Espresso is my attempt to recapture that.”

Inspiration for this project stems from a week-long engagement with sensational young bassist Michael Palazzolo and the respected veteran drummer Billy Kilson at the Blue Note in New York City last October. The musicians felt an immediate chemistry as they tackled standard repertoire as well as new James originals. Audiences sensed it too. “Soon everybody there was encouraging me to have the guts to jump in there and do this,” James recalls.

So, just two months later, the group reconvened at Stagg Street Studios in Van Nuys, California. With their inspired energy and musical bond the trio laid down the varied tracks that comprise Espresso. Two covers were on the list: an ear-opening reconfiguration of Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and an equally fresh perspective on “Mr. Magic” (which James had arranged and conducted on the 1975 Grover Washington session). The rest of the album comprises a stream of original material.

The funk strut of “Submarine” is a direct follow up to 1974’s “Nautilus” – one of the most heavily sampled songs in hip-hop. The classic sound perfectly blends in the fresh, complex, and rich textures from Espresso, which finds James sampling himself and recording over it. “Nautilus” samples range tracks from Jay Z, Tupac, Freddie Gibbs, 9th Wonder, and A Tribe Called Quest to Ghostface Killah, Slick Rick, Danny Brown, Wu Tang Clan, Mary J Blige, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and many others.

The rest of the tunes, penned by James, reflect the same inventiveness and musical fluency that persuaded Quincy Jones to become his mentor and champion in 1963, after which he went on to work with Sarah Vaughan from 1965-1968, prior to his ground-breaking work as a producer and arranger for CTI. His expressiveness through both writing and performance permeates the rocking minor-key blues of “Bulgogi,” the definitive cool jazz of “Topside,” the whispered beauty of “Promenade,” the turbulent, more complex yet supremely listenable “Mojito Ride,” and every other moment on Espresso.

Whether creating and recording the unforgettable theme of TV’s Taxi or ascending to unlikely notoriety as a source of samples for hip-hop legends, James has already left an indelible imprint on American music and culture. Espresso makes it clear that his contributions will continue, and that his impact will only grow in years to come.

Steve Turre - The Very Thought of You (SMOKE SESSIONS RECORDS August 24, 2018)

Virtuoso Trombonist Steve Turre Displays

Brilliant Artistry with Heartfelt Ballads on New Release,

The Very Thought of You

Available August 24 via Smoke Sessions Records

on Double Vinyl LP, Deluxe 8-Panel

Gatefold CD Digipak, and Hi-Res Download

The thought of Steve Turre inevitably conjures the image of a dauntless virtuoso. Over the course of a remarkable career spanning more than five decades, Turre has proved time and time again that he’s one of the foremost masters of the trombone, able to steer his challenging instrument through breakneck turns and imaginative leaps at dizzying speed.

On The Very Thought Of You, Turre shows off a less celebrated side of his brilliant artistry: his moving, heartfelt way with a ballad. Luxuriating in timeless melodies and swathed in lush strings, Turre makes his horn sing with delicate lyricism and subtle beauty. Of course, the irrepressible trombonist can’t help but unleash his fiercely swinging side, peppering his ballad set with a few pulse-quickeners here and there.

Due out August 24, 2018 via Smoke Sessions Records, The Very Thought Of You features a stellar quartet ideal for a session that calls for a light touch combined with the soul-stirring depth of feeling that Turre brings to everything that he plays. Turre is joined by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Willie Jones III, supplemented on four of the pieces by a string octet conducted by veteran arranger Marty Sheller. An outstanding pair of guests, legendary tenor saxophonist George Coleman and guitar great Russell Malone, both lend their breathtaking mastery to the music as well.

“There’s a challenge to playing ballads on any instrument,” Turre admits. “It’s not about showing off; it’s about trying to play beautiful, to touch somebody with your sound and with your phrasing. The reason I wanted to do it is because I’ve never done it before. I’ve done so many records where I play fast and complicated. It was time to play ballads.”

Especially on the four immortal classics to which Sheller added strings – “Never Let Me Go,” “Shadow of Your Smile,” “Danny Boy,” and the title track – Turre likened his role to that of a singer, ceding the solo spotlight to his bandmates while focusing his own playing on the interpretation of the songs’ incredible melodies.

“I don’t know anybody on the trombone that can play faster than Curtis Fuller could,” Turre explains. “But when I first came to New York in 1973, I met Curtis and he told me that the hardest thing to do is to play simple and have it mean something. So my role wasn’t as the improviser; I was the singer, and my focus was to make the melody say something without over-embellishing it.”

It was some of the music’s most renowned vocalists that inspired Turre’s choice of standards on The Very Thought Of You. Nancy Wilson’s versions of the title tune and “Never Let Me Go” convinced the trombonist that he wanted to take on those melodies, while a live rendition of “The Shadow of Your Smile” so captivated him that he added it to the setlist. “Carmen McRae sang nothing but the melody and it was so astounding,” Turre recalls.

The Very Thought of You is not the first time that Turre has melded his voice with strings. On Lotus Flower (1999), he led a sextet where the frontline swapped sax and trumpet for Akua Dixon’s cello and Regina Carter’s violin. And on his 1997 self-titled album he teamed with Sheller – a longtime colleague on the Latin jazz scene – for a string arrangement of the Machito classic “Ayer Lo Vi Llorar” featuring the iconic Afro-Cuban singer Graciela. But the new album marks the first time that Turre has utilized strings in the traditional vein of classics like Clifford Brown with Strings or Nat King Cole’s elegant sound.

“With ballads, it’s not about playing loud and boisterous, it’s about playing with subtlety,” Turre says. “The strings help to bring that out. Plus, Marty Sheller’s writing was just sublime, so tasteful and lush and not overdone but complimentary to a T.”

After opening the album with a swooning “The Very Thought of You,” the band is joined by Malone for the first time on an up-tempo but laid-back romp through “September in the Rain.” Then Turre and Malone pair off for the trombonist’s intimate duet piece “No Regrets.” The song was originally written back in the ‘70s while Turre was playing bass in drummer Chico Hamilton’s band, where once a night the leader would take a break and leave Turre to play duo with guitarist Rodney Jones. On “Freedom Park, SA” Turre and Jones go head to head with a free improv sparked by a melody conceived by Turre while playing a festival in South Africa last year.

Turre contributes his own ballad to the proceedings with the wistful “Time Will Tell,” then nods to his late mentor J.J. Johnson (as well as his wife) on the trombone giant’s touching “Carolyn in the Morning.” Coleman’s heart-wrenching solo on “Never Let Me Go” is a highlight of the album, but Turre welcomes him back to let loose on a rip-roaring take on Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.”

The album concludes on a poignant note with the sentimental Irish ballad “Danny Boy,” a particularly meaningful choice for Turre. He fell in love with the song through Ben Webster’s version, but never played it until his brother-in-law, frail but still alert at 100 -years-old, made the request. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Turre’s gentle but jaunty “Sachiko” is named for a baby whose smile touched his heart during a chance encounter in San Francisco.

There are countless musical moments that might come to mind at the thought of Steve Turre: his formative stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, his innovative collaborations with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, his tenures on the road with Ray Charles or Woody Shaw, his decades as a member of the Saturday Night Live band, his ground-breaking use of conch shells as musical instruments, countless collaborations with the greatest artists in jazz and popular music. With The Very Thought of You, Turre offers a beautifully vulnerable and lyrical side to that catalogue of memories.

1 The Very Thought of You 5:17
2 September in the Rain 6:15
3 No Regrets 4:31
4 Carolyn (In the Morning) 6:23
5 Never Let Me Go 6:05
6 Sachiko 6:17
7 Freedom Park, SA 4:13
8 The Shadow of Your Smile 3:29
9 Time Will Tell 5:27
10 Yardbird Suite 6:56
11 Danny Boy 3:51

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal: New additions to the program

today, from 11:30 a.m. to
10 p.m.

Rufus et Martha Wainwright,
Noel Nights en famille 
with Michel Rivard, Ariane Moffatt,
Patrick Watson, Elisapie, Safia Nolin,
Tire le Coyote and Anna McGarrigle

December 21 and 22, 2018, 7:30 p.m. 
MTELUS  Lay-out in reserved seats

Jean-Michel Blais

May 2, 2019, 8 p.m.

for these concerts

Ziggy Marley
Rebellion Rises 2018 Tour

September 19, 2018, 8 p.m.

Max Richter
With the American Contemporary Music Ensemble performing
Infra and music from
The Blue Notebooks

October 9, 2018, 8 p.m.
Théâtre Maisonneuve

Mike Love

October 10, 2018, 8 p.m.
Le Belmont

Harry Manx

October 13, 2018, 8 p.m.

Marianne Trudel and
Karen Young
Portraits : chansons de
Joni Mitchell

October 26, 2018, 8 p.m.