Sunday, August 26, 2018

Satoko Fujii - Mahobin (Live at Big Apple in Kobe) LIBRA RECORDS

Satoko Fujii Turns 60!

International supergroup Mahobin delivers one sonic surprise after another on debut release Live at Big Apple in Kobe

Quartet features pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, saxophonist Lotte Anker, and electronics from Ikue Mori

“Fujii’s sound world is a kaleidoscope, and those familiar with her work have come to expect the unexpected. If any artist can be said to meet expectations by upsetting them, she’s one.” 
― Mike Chamberlain, Coda

Live at Big Apple in Kobe (Libra Records, release date: August 24, 2018) captures a riveting, wildly unpredictable live performance by Mahobin, a formidable quartet of improvisers gathered together for the first time by pianist-composer Satoko Fujii. The recording is the eighth of Fujii’s yearlong birthday celebration which has her releasing a new CD every month. Joining her on this recording are trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker, and laptop musician Ikue Mori. Performing without any compositions or pre-arranged plan, the quartet improvises a thrilling album of music laced with brilliant colors, compelling rhythms, and melodic beauty balanced with otherworldly abstraction.

Although they had never before performed as a group, the members of Mahobin have worked together in other formats. Mori and Fujii collaborated for the first time in 2013 during Fujii’s residency at The Stone. Then in 2016, Fujii and Anker joined Mori at her Stone residency. Anker later joined Fujii and Tamura for a 2017 tour of Japan. This year, Fujii decided the time was right for them to converge in one group to see what might emerge.

Mori came up with the band’s unusual name. “Mahobin” is a Japanese word for “thermos,” but it literally means “magic bottle.” They all loved the name. “It’s nice to have a band name with the word ‘magic’ in it,” Fujii says, “and I like it because a thermos keeps everything in it hot for a long time.”

And the music does stay hot for long stretches during the two improvisations that comprise the CD. “Rainbow Elephant” slowly wends its way through passage after passage of astonishing sounds, following a slowly evolving path. There’s a continuous weave of sound—sparkling electronics; saxophone clicks and cries; textured, breathy drones on the trumpet; and subtle prepared piano timbres. The sound expands and contracts, dense one moment, open and airy the next. Fujii plays a long melodic arc with scintillating sounds dancing underneath. Later, Anker starts her own extended melody, supported and embellished by the others. “Yellow Sky” grows more directly from soft electronic flutters and breathy tones on saxophone and trumpet to become progressively darker and more agitated with hot raspy trumpet, rumbling piano, clattering electronics, and wailing saxophone. The album is one of the most sustained abstract performances in the Fujii discography.

The quartet is truly a meeting of equals, and everyone’s familiarity and friendship with one another allows a natural give and take between players. “We all are about the same age,” Fujii says. “We are good friends. Before the show, everyone came to our place to have tea and cookies. We talked and talked, but not about music. We knew the music would be good and we let it flow without talking about it.”

Fujii’s unprecedented birthday bash continues in August with Mizu a duet CD with Joe Fonda followed in September with a duet CD with Australian keyboardist Alister Spence. In the final months of the year, there will be a new recording by Orchestra Tokyo, a CD/DVD package featuring Fujii’s collaboration with percussive dancer Mizuki Wildenhahn, and a double CD of selections from Fujii’s “diary project” of compositions written each day before she practices, accompanied by the scores. The unforgettable outpouring of musical riches continues. 

Critics and fans alike hail pianist and composer Satoko Fujii as one of the most original voices in jazz today. She’s “a virtuoso piano improviser, an original composer and a bandleader who gets the best collaborators to deliver," says John Fordham in The Guardian. In concert and on more than 80 albums as a leader or co-leader, she synthesizes jazz, contemporary classical, avant-rock, and Japanese folk music into an innovative music instantly recognizable as hers alone. Over the years, Fujii has led some of the most consistently creative ensembles in modern improvised music, including her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black, the Min-Yoh Ensemble, and an electrifying avant-rock quartet featuring drummer Tatsuya Yoshida of The Ruins. Her ongoing duet project with husband Natsuki Tamura released their sixth recording, Kisaragi, in 2017.

“The duo's commitment to producing new sounds based on fresh ideas is second only to their musicianship,” says Karl Ackermann in All About Jazz. Aspiration, a CD by an ad hoc band featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Tamura, and Ikue Mori, was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. “Four musicians who regularly aspire for greater heights with each venture reach the summit together on Aspiration,” writes S. Victor Aaron in Something Else. She records infrequently as an unaccompanied soloist, but Solo (Libra), the first of her projected 12 birthday-year albums, led Dan McClenaghan to enthuse in All About Jazz, that the album “more so than her other solo affairs—or any of her numerous ensembles for that matter—deals in beauty, delicacy of touch, graceful melodicism.” As the leader of no less than five orchestras in the U.S., Germany, and Japan, Fujii has also established herself as one of the world’s leading composers for large jazz ensembles, leading Cadence magazine to call her, “the Ellington of free jazz.”

Trumpeter and composer Natsuki Tamura is internationally recognized for his unique musical vocabulary blending extended techniques with jazz lyricism. This unpredictable virtuoso “has some of the stark, melancholy lyricism of Miles, the bristling rage of late ’60s Freddie Hubbard and a dollop of the extended techniques of Wadada Leo Smith and Lester Bowie,” observes Mark Keresman of

Throughout his career, Tamura has led bands with radically different approaches. On one hand, there are avant rock jazz fusion bands like his quartet, whose album Hada Hada Peter Marsh of the BBC described this way: “Imagine Don Cherry woke up one morning, found he'd joined an avant goth-rock band and was booked to score an Italian horror movie.” In contrast, Tamura has focused on the intersection of folk music and sound abstraction with Gato Libre since 2003.

The band’s poetic, quietly surreal performances have been praised for their “surprisingly soft and lyrical beauty that at times borders on flat-out impressionism,” by Rick Anderson in CD Hotlist. In addition, Tamura has recorded five CDs in his ongoing duo with pianist (and wife) Satoko Fujii. Tamura also collaborates on many of Fujii’s projects, from quartets and trios to big bands.

As an unaccompanied soloist, he’s released three CDs, including Dragon Nat (2014). He and Fujii are also members of Kaze, a collaborative quartet with French musicians, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. “As unconventional as he may be,” notes Marc Chenard in Coda magazine, “Natsuki Tamura is unquestionably one of the most adventurous trumpet players on the scene today.” 

Laptop musician, composer, and percussionist Ikue Mori first gained attention in the late ’70s as the drummer in the seminal No Wave band DNA, with fellow noise pioneers Arto Lindsay and Tim Wright. In the mid ’80s she started in employ drum machines in the context of improvised music. While limited to the standard technology provided by the drum machine, she nevertheless forged her own highly sensitive signature style. In 2000 she started using the laptop computer to expand on her already signature sound, thus broadening her scope of musical expression. Mori has released more than 20 albums as a leader or co-leader with innovative bands such as Mephista with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and drummer Susie Ibarra; and Phantom Orchard with harpist Zeena Parkins. She is a frequent member of ensembles led by John Zorn, and was a featured soloist with Ensemble Modern on guitarist-composer Fred Frith’s Traffic Continues (Winter & Winter). Her most recent releases are Obelisk with Courvoisier, Okkyng Lee, and Jim Black; and Highsmith, a duo with pianist Craig Taborn, both on Tzadik.

Lotte Anker is a Copenhagen-based saxophone player and composer working in the field between experimental jazz/improvisation and contemporary music. Her music includes both melodic (often twisted or fragmented) elements and more abstract textural material and covers a wide territory from minimal, transparency to dense and dark expressionism. Her recent bands include a trio with pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver and a trio with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and Ikue Mori.

She also leads the 8-piece What River Ensemble and the septet Electric Habitat.  She performs in duo with Fred Frith and Sten Sandell and was a member of a cooperative quartet with the late trombonist Johannes Bauer, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Paul Lovens. In addition, Anker has performed at major festivals and concert spaces around the world and has also played and toured with Marilyn Crispell, Tim Berne, Okkyung Lee, Paal Nilssen-Love, Joelle Leandre, Raymond Strid, Sten Sandell, Andrew Cyrille, Phil Minton, Axel Dörner, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and many others. John Fordham writes in The Guardian, “Anker’s rich saxophone palette takes in skimming falsetto sounds like Evan Parker’s, but she also has a soulfully desolate quaver that recalls Albert Ayler, and a sense of narrative drama that keeps her in compelling motion between ghostly impressionistic effects and brusquely percussive exclamations.” 

Lotte Anker, sax
Natsuki Tamura, trumpet
Ikue Mori, electronics

1 Rainbow Elephant 42:22
2 Yellow Sky 7:10

Christian McBride: Christian McBride's New Jawn (MACK AVENUE RECORDS October 26, 2018)

When Philadelphia-born bassist/bandleader Christian McBride arrived in New York in 1989 as a Juilliard student, he was the “Godchild of the Groove” with unlimited potential. Today, with over 300 recordings as a sideman and 11 critically- acclaimed albums as a leader, he now reigns supreme as the “Lord of the Lower Frequencies.” He’s the influential and ubiquitous bassist of his generation, as evidenced by his quintet Inside Straight, his big band, his trio and his work with everybody from James Brown, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis to Sting, The Roots, Bruce Hornsby and Paul McCartney.

1 Walkin' Funny 2:48
2 Ke-Kelli Sketch 9:54
3 Ballad of Ernie Washington 5:34
4 The Middle Man 4:59
5 Pier One Import 7:43
6 Kush 5:35
7 Seek The Source 7:21
8 John Day 5:19
9 Sightseeing 8:30

Malou Beauvoir - Spiritwalker (PANTHERA MUSIC INTERNATIONAL November 2, 2018)

Haitian-American Singer-Songwriter Malou Beauvoir

Invokes the Spirits of Vaudou to Communicate a Message

of Spiritual Awakening and World Peace

Spiritwalker – Available November 2

on Panthera Music International

Album Brings Together Haitian Folk with Soul, Hip Hop

and Jazz to Create a Uniquely Compelling Blend

of the Traditional and Contemporary

On her new release, Spiritwalker, Haitian-American singer-songwriter Malou Beauvoir communes with and for the spiritual traditions of her island heritage. The album is at once a celebration of the Vaudou spirits that embody and enrich the culture of Haiti, as well as a conveyance of their message of peace and awakening to the world at large.

Beauvoir’s music is a rich blend of Haiti’s folk traditions and a compelling weave of contemporary influences, melding soulful melodies, hip hop grooves and jazz virtuosity. The songs – a blend of original compositions, traditional folk tunes and beloved popular Haitian songs – convey a powerful message of acceptance and community at a time of turmoil in Haiti and polarization around the globe.

“If you have a voice, it’s to be used to communicate for someone or for something,” Beauvoir says. “It’s great to just sing songs, but we (as a group) wanted to focus our art on bringing about change. I wanted these songs that we grew up with – their values, their principles, the ideas behind them –to become hip, to become accessible to the younger generation so that we can use our own identity to express our frustration, and motivate each of us, as individuals, to bring about change.”

Spiritwalker, set for release on November 2 on Panthera Music International, was recorded at Brooklyn’s Kamoken Studios with a multi-national band of gifted musicians. The core group of Haitian musicians included co-producers and instrumentalists Chico Boyer (an activist and community leader who also owns Kamoken Studios) and Cheff Loncher along with acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Beaubrun and percussionists Sirgo Decius and Jean Guy Rene. In addition, the band comprised artists from Cuba (pianist Axel Laugart), Japan (pianist Yayoi Ikawa, guitarist Hiroyuki Yamada) and the U.S. (guitarist Jon Gordon, bassist Calvin Jones, and Haitian-American drummer Gashford Guillaume).

Born in Chicago to Haitian parents, Beauvoir was raised in Long Island while spending summers either in Paris, where her parents met, or in their native Haiti. “My father, who desperately loved Haiti, would constantly regale us with stories,” Beauvoir recalls. “Then every summer you would go and find yourself on this beautiful island with a whole community of friends and family, and it was such a different life from New York that it really tempted you to stay.”

Another compelling aspect of Beauvoir’s time in Haiti was the tutelage of her uncle Max Beauvoir, a biochemist and high-ranking Vaudou priest, who ushered her into the island’s profound spiritual traditions. She considers herself a natural Vaudou priestess or mambo, a word that implies an ongoing quest for knowledge in the Vaudou belief system. “We believe that when someone becomes a priest or priestess, it’s the beginning of their journey,” Beauvoir explains. “It’s your invitation by the spirits to learn, to delve and to continue the rest of your life acquiring that knowledge. It has opened the door for me for a lifetime of learning, to cross that threshold and become a chalice to receive – and to give.”

Beauvoir followed a circuitous path on her road to giving back through her music. After studying at the American University in Paris she earned a master’s degree from the University of Hartford and began a successful career in marketing. A rapid ascent up the corporate ladder proved to be far less satisfying spiritually than it was financially, and she decided to pursue a more fulfilling, less secure life in music.

Malou’s muse drew her into the jazz world, where she performed in Paris, Belgium and New York, released three albums and shared the stage or studio with such modern greats as Donny McCaslin, Terrell Stafford and Donald Vega.

The escalating turmoil in her beloved Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010 and the further havoc visited on the island by Hurricane Matthew led Beauvoir to connect more directly with the music of her cultural roots. Hearing the voices of the Vaudou spirits in her ear, she decided to convey a message of pride and empowerment to the people of Haiti, while communicating the importance of spiritual awakening and togetherness to an increasingly divided world.

“I was tired of seeing things that started out as spiritual beacons being used by politicians and profiteers to forward divisive political messages and greedy economic causes,” Beauvoir says. “I started with Vaudou, saying these are our roots, this is what gave courage to slaves to revolt against Napoleon’s army and win our freedom; why don’t we dig deep down into our culture, our beliefs, our spirituality, and find the courage now to revolt against what’s going on in our country and in the world. Vaudou is not a well-known religion, but I want people to judge it on what it is, not what it is portrayed to be.”

The material on Spiritwalker stems from a variety of sources. The opening call to arms, “Rasenbleman,” was written by Haitian actress and singer Toto Bissainte, who herself brought together folkloric traditions with the modern music of her day. “Papa Loko,” and “Kouzen” are both traditional songs, the former invoking the spirit of the first Vaudou priest, the latter paying homage to the spirit of the land and the hard work of agriculture. “Yoyo” is a folk song about a Haitian street boy, translated into English by Beauvoir and given a twist of simmering, sultry groove. “Gran Bwa,” inspired by James Germain’s arrangement on “Kreole Mandingue,” pays respect to the ancient and venerable tree god who watches over the forest.

“Nwayé,” titled for the Kreyol version of the French word “to drown,” was co-written by Beauvoir and Beaubrun meditates on the tragedies wrought by hurricanes over the course of Haiti’s history, but more importantly addresses the issue of discrimination against marginalized groups in our society, imploring us to see through the lies and see and accept people for what they truly are. The two also worked together on “Simbi Dlo,” which calls to the Snake Spirit of the river and features the piercing guitar work of Jon Gordon, known for his work with Suzanne Vega and Madonna. Beauvoir’s original “There’s a Man” dates back to the time of her own spiritual awakening, referring to a troubling vision that led to her changing her life for the better. The album ends with a reprise of “Papa Damballah,” a jazz take on the Haitian classic “Papa Damballah” originally recorded for her 2016 album Is This Love and featuring Andy Ezrin (piano), Ben Whitman (durms, percussion), David Finck (bass) and Bobby Mann (guitar).

“Spiritwalker has always been a term that I use to describe myself and all people who are in communication with the spiritual world,” Beauvoir concludes. “I believe that everything in our world has a soul, from the grass to the stones to the air, which all have different energies that find their place and create a balance in the world. Spiritwalker strives to walk in step with the spirits that surround us.”

Jay Lawrence - Sonic Paragon (JAZZ HANG RECORDS 2018)

Sonic Paragon is a fantastic collaboration of the amazing drummer, Jay Lawrence, with many of the greatest jazz players on the scene today–John Patitucci, bass; Renee Rosnes, piano; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Anthony Wilson, Yotam Silberstein, and Romero Lubambo, guitars! Do not miss this one!!  Sonic: Sound waves traveling at about 761 miles per hour.  Paragon: A shining example of excellence.  Sonic Paragon is a quintessential paradigm of jazz music drawing from New York to New Orleans, Bop to Brazil, and Hip hop to Swing.

1. Full Moon in Havana (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Romero Lubambo) 6:38
2. What'll I Do (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Anthony Wilson) 5:08
3. Vamonos (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Terell Stafford, Harry Allen & Yotam Silberstein) 7:32
4. Slide (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Anthony Wilson, Terell Stafford & Harry Allen) 7:06
5. Maria (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Romero Lubambo) 5:38
6. Dayspring (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Romero Lubambo) 6:51
7. From Nadir to Zenith (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen, Terell Stafford & Anthony Wilson) 4:18
8. Sonic Paragon (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Anthony Wilson) 6:26
9. Tchoupitoulas (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Terell Stafford, Harry Allen & Yotam Silberstein) 5:16
10. Golden Ratio (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Yotam Silberstein) 5:59
11. Crosstown Traffic (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci, Harry Allen & Yotam Silberstein) 4:41
12. My Winsome Consort (feat. Renee Rosnes, John Patitucci & Harry Allen) 5:39

Renee Rosnes & David Hajdu - Ice on the Hudson (October 12, SMK Jazz)

Pianist/Composer Renee Rosnes and

Author/Lyricist David Hajdu to Release

First Album of Songwriting Collaborations

Ice on the Hudson, Available October 12 via SMK Jazz

Ice on the Hudson features vocalists René Marie, Janis Siegel, Darius de Haas and Karen Oberlin and an all-star ensemble interpreting diverse songs about the emotional complexities of adult life in today’s world.

There’s a special chemistry that’s found only in the rarest of songwriting partnerships, forever linking the names of composer and lyricist in the minds of listeners. The names Renee Rosnes and David Hajdu are already well known to music lovers: Rosnes as one of her generation’s most acclaimed jazz composers and pianists, Hajdu as an award-winning author and critic. With Ice on the Hudson, their first collaborative album of songs, the pair reveals a breathtaking synergy, crafting a collection of deeply felt and genre-defying songs that join words and music with alchemical results.

Ice on the Hudson, due out October 12 via SMK Jazz (a newly launched imprint curated by Smoke Sessions Records), brings together four magnificent vocalists: revered, GRAMMY® Award-nominated jazz singer René Marie; Manhattan Transfer co-founder and nine-time GRAMMY® winner Janis Siegel, celebrated musical-theater actor and art-song interpreter Darius de Haas; and acclaimed jazz/pop performer Karen Oberlin. Their voices are matched by a stunning ensemble, featuring Rosnes at the piano along with cellist Erik Friedlander, saxophonists Steve Wilson and Seamus Blake, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, bassist Sean Smith, drummer Carl Allen, and percussionist Rogerio Boccato.

While both Rosnes and Hajdu can boast considerable accomplishments in their respective fields, songwriting was a fairly new endeavor for both. Rosnes had had a handful of her instrumental compositions set to lyrics, and Hajdu had collaborated on a few songs with Fred Hersch and others. When Rosnes and Hajdu decided to try writing together, five years ago, “Everything clicked,” in Hajdu’s words.

“Renee is one of the most gifted, most sophisticated and most creative composers alive,” Hajdu says. “I consider myself the luckiest boy in the music world for getting to write with this flat-out genius. We both enjoy the exhilarating thrill of doing something that we care about, that draws on our professional and life experiences, but that provides a whole new set of challenges for us.”

For Rosnes, who has long drawn inspiration for her own music from sources as diverse as the natural world and the visual arts, the partnership has given her rich depths of emotion and narrative to plumb. “David is a powerful and compelling storyteller,” she says, “and each of his lyrics has many layers and great substance. It’s been a fulfilling experience to take his words and search for melodies that truly allow the story to shine through.”

Given the tantalizing complexity of Hajdu’s words, Rosnes found herself exploring a wide range of sensibilities, never concerned with genre. Ultimately, while some pieces fit comfortably into the jazz songwriting tradition of Jon Hendricks or Bob Dorough, others evoke the world of musical theater or such respected singer-songwriters as Joni Mitchell or Randy Newman. “When I embarked on this project with David, I put the idea of genre out of my mind,” she explains. “I was most interested in allowing the lyrics to inspire and move me in whatever direction that musically translated to.”

“A Tiny Seed” opens the album with a parable both timeless and timely, about a wall-building king and the seemingly small detail that grows to topple his kingdom. Marie’s wry, soulful vocal offers inspiration to those hoping to turn such fairy tales into reality. Her serpentine lines bring an exotic mystery to “Little Pearl,” a reinterpretation of Rosnes’ instrumental “The Quiet Earth.”

Siegel’s voice seems to float into a whimsical daydream on “I Used to Like to Draw,” a tender reminiscence of the childhood days when we all gave vent to our imaginations, before the supposed reality of adult life quashed such fancies. Siegel also sings “The Passage,” which takes the natural splendor that inspired Rosnes’ instrumental piece “Gabriola Passage” into the realm of transcendence. On the title track, “Ice on the Hudson,” she takes the bizarre fact that the Hudson River flows both upstream and downstream as a metaphor for the often contradictory aspects of grown-up reality – one of several instances of complex ideas that stem from the collaboration between two artists with a wealth of life experience.

Oberlin offers a bit of culinary respite from the world’s divisiveness on the playful “I Like Pie” and a bit of romantic perspective on “I Still Feel the Same.” The moving “All But You” builds from scraps of both songwriters’ biographies to paint a picture of living with a missing someone. Rosnes suggested a song based on her experience as an adopted child wondering about her birth parents, which Hajdu countered with his own background. “Renee said it felt strange growing up not knowing who her biological parents were, but my father sat at the dinner table with me every night my whole life, and I don’t know who my father was either. We share that feeling of a hole in your life, that there are people who could have been there who were not.”

Hajdu based “To Meet My Brother” on the tragic loss of his sister and the feeling of wanting to be reunited, whatever the cost. Darius de Haas brings tender yearning to that piece and an urgent sensuality to “Confound Me.” His knack for theatrical drama illuminates “Trotsky in Mexico,” a Sondheim-like musing on the Russian revolutionary’s fling with Frida Kahlo.

A five-time winner of the JUNO award, Renee Rosnes is one of the premier jazz composers and pianists of her generation. Upon moving to New York City from Vancouver, Canada, she quickly established her enduring reputation as a creative original and versatile collaborator, touring and recording with such masters as Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, BobbyHutcherson, J.J. Johnson, James Moody, and Ron Carter. With 16 recordings as a leader, Rosnes has grown ever more ambitious musically, as her most recent album, Beloved of the Sky (Smoke Sessions Records), attests. 

David Hajdu is an award-winning author, critic, and songwriter. A three-time winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thompson Award for Music Writing as well as a three-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Hajdu is the author of five books, including Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn, Positively 4th Street, and Love for Sale: Pop Music in America.

Vocalist/Composer JOHNAYE KENDRICK's "FLYING," to be released August 28th!


Attending the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in the late 2000s, vocalist and composer JOHNAYE KENDRICK had the opportunity to learn from and work with legendary jazz masters Terence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Brian Blade. While studying with Blanchard, her class was often encouraged to write original music for their assignments. “I was relatively shy about performing my music while in the program, because it was so personal,” says the San Diego born and bred, Seattle based artist. “It felt like performing journal entries, as the pieces were always so honest and literally based on my experiences. I suppose one day I just decided it was time to let people hear my voice.”  

Johnaye says her 2014 debut album HERE was her way of embracing that journey in that it was a full collection of original works. The positive critical and fan response she received from that release led her to overcome any insecurity she had earlier in her career – and provided just the encouragement and momentum she needed to create her bold, even more heartfelt and intimate new album, appropriately titled FLYING (johnygirl Records, August 28, 2018).  

Produced and arranged by Johnaye, who also plays harmonium, the set comprises six stellar originals and six fresh re-imaginings of standards and unique, offbeat selections from the worlds of jazz and pop. Johnaye showcases her exquisite voice, expansive vocal range and otherworldly scatting abilities with an adventurous rhythm section that includes DAWN CLEMENT (piano, keyboards), CHRIS SYMER (bass) and D’VONNE LEWIS (drums). 

“Everything I wrote on HERE was the truth, my reality, snapshots I had written between 2009 and 2012, with a general theme emerging about the importance of just being in and appreciating the moment and worrying about tomorrow’s problems tomorrow,” Johnaye says. “With FLYING, there was more of a process, knowing that I wanted to mix original pieces with favorite songs I had been performing for years. The funny part was that these originals were so new that some weren’t even completed before the recording session. I had to get every detail just right because they address all the new aspects of my life since the last album – including marriage, motherhood and what I call the beautiful mess of life. They’re about personal relationships, family life and issues that have had a deep effect on my heart, that occupy the same space there.”  

“Never You Mind,” Johnaye’s first original on FLYING, is a socially conscious message tune inspired directly from today’s headlines and the Black Lives Matter Movement. A hypnotic piano, keyboard and percussive drum riff lays the foundation for her soulful, pointed vocals and lyrics that remind us, “You come from a legacy of warriors, and though there’s fear/Know that fear’s what fueled the fire of courage that led us here.” Johnaye begins the dreamy ballad “You Two” – a song expressly written for her 3-1/2 year-old twin girls – by ironically singing, “I don’t have the loveliest sound…But I’ll sing for you/I’ll sing to you.” She then proceeds to offer one of the album’s most delicate and graceful vocals.  

With its tribal percussion and energetic blues/jazz vibe, “Scorpion” finds the singer immersed in the tastiest New Orleans gumbo imaginable, singing about the dangers of falling for someone whose dark flaws and hurtful nature are well known. “Secrets” is perhaps FLYING’s most dramatic vocal showcase, a torchy and intense jazz ballad illuminating a relationship that’s been stained by betrayal. The other originals on the album include the sensual neo-soul seduction “Boxed Wine” and “Flying,” a bright, scat-infused empowerment anthem whose lyrics Johnaye rewrote to capture the essence of fearlessness women are feeling in the post #metoo world. Johnaye sings, “Just close your eyes and sing your song/She’s not scared of flying anymore.” 

Johnaye’s choice of outside songs to interpret on FLYING covers a lot of territory in her life. As a little girl, she was obsessed with the film “Pretty Woman” and its soundtrack, which now over two decades later inspired her to record a lush, inviting version of Lauren Wood’s “Fallen.” Coming of age at a time when John Mayer was on his way to superstardom, the singer laughs that she was convinced that she could get him to fall in love with her. Maybe that dream didn’t come true, but she pays homage to Mayer’s clever songwriting with “3x5,” a delightful obscurity from his debut studio album Room For Squares that playfully captures that same sense of living in the moment that was the major theme running throughout her debut album.  

Reaching back in time, Johnaye brings fresh soul-jazz life to “I’ve Got No Strings,” a classic from “Pinocchio” which celebrates freedom from ties and commitments. After years of performing them live, she also includes her cool, swinging, scat and wordless vocal filled arrangements of “It Could Happen To You,” “The Very Thought of You” and the slightly melancholy, lesser known “The Lonely One,” which was penned by Leonard Hambro and Roberta Sue Heller and originally recorded by Nat “King” Cole.

DAWN CLEMENT  piano, nord
D’VONNE LEWIS  drums, percussion

Arranged & Produced by Johnaye Kendrick

1. NEVER YOU MIND (4:45)
2. FALLEN (4:48)
4. YOU TWO (4:19)
7. SCORPION (5:31)
8. THE LONELY ONE (3:49)
9. 3X5 (5:26)
10. SECRETS (4:33)
11. BOXED WINE (4:50)
12. FLYING (5:55)