Friday, September 7, 2018

John Daversa Big Band: American Dreamers (Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom) BFM Jazz September 28, 2018


“The history of music in America is inseparable from the story of immigrants in America.  Our brave young Dreamers embody this proud legacy, adding their vision and patriotism to make America more American.”
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi 

AMERICAN DREAMERS: VOICES OF HOPE, MUSIC OF FREEDOM, the new CD spearheaded by multi-Grammy-nominee JOHN DAVERSA, is a deeply personal, emotional, and timely project. It’s a musical cri de coeur that gives voice to young undocumented people known as “Dreamers” who, through no fault of their own, were brought to this country as children. They grew up here and were instilled with American culture and values.  

But Dreamers now find themselves in a heated immigration debate in which they and their families face great uncertainty. In 2012, Dreamers were afforded temporary status with the Deferred Action for Childhood Early Arrivals (DACA) policy, but it was rescinded in 2017. There are approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, and 90 percent of them are in school or have a job. Many of them are also musicians, who have come together to create this production, which has received bipartisan support from both Democratic and Republican Senators.  

Daversa is a trumpet and electronic valve instrument (EVI) master as well as a composer, arranger, and bandleader. He’s also the Chair of the Studio Music and Jazz Department at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. As an educator and father, he has a strong affinity for young people. And like many Americans, he cherishes the immigrant roots of his ancestors, as his grandparents came from Italy to work in canneries (and play music on the side) in California. 

That’s why the plight of the Dreamers had a visceral effect on him. “I wanted to provide an opportunity for Dreamers to share their stories through music,” says Daversa. “You don’t need polemics or a bullhorn to make yourself heard. The young people I worked with are just amazing, and I want this project to reach a wide audience, so that others could be touched, as I have, by their abundant courage and hope.” 

Daversa and his production team, led by Kabir Sehgal and Doug Davis, worked with several non-profit immigrant organizations to scour the country to find Dreamers who could play musical instruments and would be willing to participate in the project. They found 53 Dreamers in 17 states who fit the bill. The Dreamers originally come from 17 different countries all across the world, including Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, and Venezuela. Daversa and the team also selected professional musicians based in Miami, Los Angeles and New York to serve as the big band on this record. They chose both well-known songs, like “Living in America” and lesser-known ones like ‘Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” 

Daversa is a top-notch arranger who writes intricate and demanding big band charts. Finding music students and nonprofessional musicians who could play his arrangements was one of the biggest challenges of the project. The team started discussions about the CD in November of 2017, and by the time the first recording sessions at the Frost School began in March 2018, they had found fourteen Dreamers who played a range of instruments, from the violin and flute to piano and percussion. The Dreamers’ contributions are woven throughout this recording. They performed featured solos, instrumental accompaniments, spoken word poetry, string swells, multi-layered percussion grooves, lead vocals, shout choruses, and electrifying raps. Their musical performances are rich and diverse. Each of the tunes begins with a narration by a Dreamer. 

They found their first Dreamer through a story in the New York Times. The CD opens with a personal reflection by SALVADOR, a clarinetist majoring in music at Indiana University, and then launches into “Living In America.” Salvador joined Daversa’s big band in laying down each track for the CD. The piece culminates with an Afro-Caribbean groove in which Dreamers sing “I live in America” in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Urdu with JULIE, a Dreamer in Los Angeles, riffing in Korean. The next tune, “Don’t Fence Me In,” opens with a narrative by SABA, a singer, pianist, who speaks five languages and is PhD candidate in mathematical biology at Texas Tech University. She was brought to America at age eleven from Pakistan. Japanese-Americans, who were sent to internment camps in the 1940s, sang this song to provoke their American captors. In a nod to the historical use of the tune, the Dreamers sing in Japanese “Don’t take away our dreams.”  

CALIPH, a Dreamer who came here at the age of seven from Senegal, earned a university scholarship but couldn’t attend because of his immigration status. His spoken improvisations on “Immigrant Song” get increasingly more pointed. At the beginning of “Deportee,” DAISY relates that she came to this country with her family when she was just 9 years old to seek medical help for her sister. The song is a heart-wrenching testament about the plane crash in California in 1948 that was carrying migrant workers. DENZEL, a trombonist who was brought to this country from Singapore at age 5, relates that he wanted to join the US armed services, but he couldn’t because of his immigration status. He introduces us to “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  

JUAN CARLOS is a Dreamer from Mexico who came here at age eight. He is a self-taught organ player and his story introduces “America the Beautiful.” ALICIA, a young Dreamer from Venezuela, speaks about how drumming has been an anodyne for the anxiety she experiences because of her immigration status. Her story introduces “America” from West Side Story. It is an all-percussion track on which over a dozen Dreamers worked with professional musician MURPH AUCAMP to generate the many layers of rhythm. 

MARIA loves the flute and jazz. You can hear the joy in her voice as she introduces the original composition “All is One.” It’s a feel-good, hopeful track that features a soaring solo on the Electronic Valve Instrument by Daversa. EDSON is a poet who was brought here from Mexico when he was eight years old. His gripping spoken word poem opens the piece “Red, White, and Remixed,” which is a creation of JAMES, a Dreamer who mashed together several tracks on the album. As the final track on this record, it presents a hopeful glimmer of the future: America’s music and people will increasingly come together.  

Jazz is perhaps the greatest, intrinsically American art form and one of America's most important cultural exports. Jazz has been the music of freedom and protest, so it is eminently fitting as a vehicle for Dreamers to express their predicament. Putting aside the politics and partisanship of the current debate, all of us can enjoy the songs of our nation. Perhaps this album can inspire us to focus more on what unites rather than divides us. 


Sun, Sept. 23 - Wadada Leo Smith at Monterey Jazz Fest

Iconic composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quintet perform the complete America’s National Parks

"Mr. Smith, a trumpeter of fiery purpose and intrepid imagination… 'America’s National Parks,' as grand and egalitarian a statement as the title suggests."
– Nate Chinen, New York Times

“Wadada Leo Smith – National Treasure.”
– DownBeat Magazine

#1 Jazz CD of of 2016. "Wadada Leo Smith calmly drops another monumental, mythopoetic reimagining of the great American outdoors with America's National Parks... It's rare indeed that instrumental music provides such an urgent commentary on current affairs.  It's never been more necessary.”
– Daniel Spicer, The Wire

Iconic composer, trumpeter and Pulitzer Prize finalist Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quintet – Smith, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and cellist Ashley Walters along with video artist Jesse Gilbert – will perform the complete version of Smith’s masterwork America’s National Parks on Sunday, September 23 at 6 p.m. at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

America’s National Parks is a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes. Smith’s six extended works explore, confront and question the preserved natural resources that are considered the most hallowed ground in the U.S. – and some that should be.

Cuneiform’s 2-CD recording of the work (released October 14, 2016) was named the Jazz Album of the Year by DownBeat’s 65th International Critics Poll and earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including those of the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. JazzTimes wrote that the album “unites political engagement with a soul-deep connection to nature…rich with ineffable majesty, [the suite] fully engages with tensions at the heart of the American experience.”  

The spark for the project came from two places: Smith’s own research into the National Park system, beginning with Yellowstone, the world’s first national park; and Ken Burns’ 12-hour documentary series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

“The idea that Ken Burns explored in that documentary was that the grandeur of nature was like a religion or a cathedral,” Smith says. “I reject that image because the natural phenomenon in creation, just like man and stars and light and water, is all one thing, just a diffusion of energy. My focus is on the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the idea of setting aside reserves for common property of the American citizens.”

Smith’s 28-page score for America’s National Parks, penned for his Golden Quintet, showcases the composer’s vigor and daring.  Where many composers would be seduced into romantic excess by the sweeping vistas and majestic panoramas of Yellowstone’s grand waterfalls or Kings Canyon’s towering redwoods, Smith takes a far more investigative and expansive view, with inventive and complex scores that prompt stunning improvisations from his ensemble.  In fact, he has yet to visit many of the parks paid homage in the pieces, opting instead for thorough historical research.

“You don't really need to visit a park to write about a park,” Smith insists. “Debussy wrote ‘La Mer,’ which is about the sea, and he wasn’t a seafaring person. I would defend his right to do that, and I would contend that ‘La Mer’ is a masterpiece that clearly reflects his psychological connection with the idea of the sea.”

The idea of the parks, rather than their physical and geographical beauty, is central to Smith’s conception for this music. In its marrying of natural landmarks and political challenges it can be traced back to some of the composer’s epic masterpieces like The Great Lakes and especially Ten Freedom Summers. “It became a political issue for me because the people that they set up to control and regulate the parks were politicians,” Smith says. “My feeling is that the parks should be independent of Congress and organized around an independent source who has no political need to be reelected. So it’s a spiritual/psychological investigation mixed with the political dynamics.”

Smith’s suite also takes inventive liberties with the definition of a “national park;” half of its inspirations aren’t, technically speaking, considered as such. The album opens with “New Orleans: The National Culture Park,” which argues that the entire Crescent City deserves to be recognized for its influential contributions to American history and culture. “New Orleans was the first cultural center in America and therefore it produced the first authentic American music,” Smith says.

The second piece, “Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002: A Literary National Park,” takes an even broader view, suggesting that the African-American musicologist, author and founder of the journal The Black Perspective in Music, to which Smith has contributed, should be honored for her efforts to document a musical common ground shared by all Americans. Another piece represents the “Deep and Dark Dreams” of the Mississippi River, which Smith calls “a memorial site which was used as a dumping place for black bodies by hostile forces in Mississippi. I use the word ‘dark’ to show that these things are buried or hidden, but the body itself doesn’t stay hidden; it floats up.”

The other three pieces are based on more conventionally recognized national parks: Yellowstone, which became the first place in the world so designated in 1872; Sequoia & Kings Canyon, whose trees Smith marvels at as some of the largest and oldest living things on the planet; and Yosemite, which contains striking glaciers and some of the deepest lakes in the world.

While these preserved landscapes offer the inspiration of powerful natural beauty, Smith’s always open-minded view of the world leads him to find that same inspiration wherever he is. “Every concrete house is from nature,” he says. “Every plastic airplane that flies 300 people across the ocean comes out of nature. Every air conditioner conditions a natural piece of air. I think that the human being is constantly enfolded in organic nature and constructed nature, so I’m constantly inspired, inside the house or outside the house.”

Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as "Creative Music."

For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.

Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking work.  A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum's 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement "honoring brilliance and resilience."

In 2017 Smith topped three categories in DownBeat Magazine’s 65th Annual Critics Poll: Best Jazz Artist, Trumpeter of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year, and was featured as the subject of a cover story in the August 2017 issue. The Jazz Journalists Association also honored Smith as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA has also named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of the Year, and he earned top billing in two categories in the JazzTimes 2016 Critics Poll: Artist of the Year and Composer of the Year.

Smith's Ankhrasmation scores – which use non-standard visual directions making them works of art in themselves as well as igniting creative sparks in the musicians who perform them – have been exhibited worldwide. In October 2015 The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of these scores, and they have since been featured in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kadist in San Francisco, the University of Virginia and Smith’s CREATE Festival in New Haven, CT, among others.

Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith's early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).

Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His 2016 recording, America’s National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith’s landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in sobriety and reach.”

Introducing The University of Toronto 12TET - When Day Slips Into Night (September 7, 2018)

The University of Toronto 12tet is a contemporary jazz ensemble comprised of students in the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate programs. Since its creation in 2012, the ensemble has established itself as a vehicle for elite players and composers in the jazz performance program and beyond. The band has been featured many times at the Rex Hotel and at U of T’s Walter Hall with a number of notable guest soloists, including Ralph Alessi, Jim Lewis and Chase Sanborn.  

When Day Slips into Night is a compilation of songs, original compositions and jazz standards reflecting the musical aesthetic and artistic sensibility of the University of Toronto jazz students and faculty.  The album focuses on material written exclusively for this band by students of the program in the composition/arranging stream, many of whom are also current members of the 12TET.  The 12TET bandleader Terry Promane - a widely celebrated arranger and composer himself - contributes 2 additional arrangements.

Smaller than a traditional big band, the 12-piece format allows more freedom for soloists while still offering a wide range of ensemble textures. The 12tet takes cues from classic bands like Art Pepper Plus 11 and The Rob McConnell Tentet, but also steps further by embracing more contemporary sounds and approaches.  

When Day Slips into Night will be released on Friday, September 7th, 2018.

Amy Cervini - No One Ever Tells You (AMZIC RECORDS 2018)

I'm really excited to share this music with you and I hope you like it. I hope you'll consider giving it a rating and review on your favorite site. It's very helpful and lets people know that they should check it out.  Hope to see some of you tonight at SubCulture in NYC.


Special guest: 
GARY VERSACE Hammond B3 Organ (1, 2, 8, 9) 

1. I Don't Know 05:10
2. God Will 03:22
3. No One Ever Tells You 06:38
4. Surrey With The Fringe On Top 06:44
5. Please Be Kind 03:47
6. A Good Man Is Hard To Find 05:15
7. You Know Who 05:24
8. Country Boy 05:37
9. One For My Baby 04:02
10. Hit The Road Jack 03:47

Recorded and Mixed by James Farber
Recorded December 2016 at Sear Sound NYC – Assistant Engineer
Owen Mulholland, Mixed at Shelter Island Studios NYC – Assistant Engineer Myles Turney, Additional recording by Oded Lev-Ari at Wooden Bird Productions NYC
Edited by Brian Montgomery | Mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios NYC Photography by Shervin Lainez, Hair and makeup by Lakesha Charles
Graphic Design by Christopher Drukker

Jared Schonig proudly endorses Vic Firth Sticks, Paiste Cymbals and Protection Racket Cases
Jesse Lewis plays D’Addario Strings

Produced by Oded Lev-ArI

Taha El Hmidi - Out Of Nowhere EP (2018)

A rising star of his generation on the guitar and piano , Taha Elhmidi is a multi-faceted Jazz artist with an original sound . Raised in Kenitra town (Morocco). Taha’s upbringing has helped to shape his own unique sound rich in jazz that captures the spirit of the jazz age and also continues to push the genre forward for his generation. 

Out Of Nowhere is the first EP by the the Moroccan Jazz Guitarist / Multi-instrumentalist /Composer Taha El Hmidi .This EP is a mixture of 5 original compositions combined with differnet styles ( Jazz /Funk ,Soul ,Latin ) 

The tracks of this EP were recorded on begning 2018 by Taha El Hmidi on Guitar and Piano then joined by Bertin mirko on Tenor Saxophone , khalil bensouda on Bass and Chafik Ell Khourouj on OUD .

Taha El Hmidi - Guitar / Piano
Bertin Mirko - Tenor Saxophone
Chafik Elkhourouj - Oud
Khalil Bensouda - Solo Bass ( Movin'On Take )

Mixed & Mastered by Othmane Jmad
Design & Artwork by Khalil Bougaizi

1. Movin'On 05:55
2. Out Of Nowhere 05:03
3. Ballad For The Unborn 05:52
4. In A Smart Way 06:14
5. The 5th Road 07:02

Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop - Abundance (ANZIC RECORDS October 5, 2018)

Worldwide Release Date: October 5th, 2018 on Anzic Records

Ernesto Cervini is a Canadian jazz drummer and leader of his own band, Turboprop, in addition to acting as a promoter of other Canadian jazz artists through Orange Grove Publicity. He is, in addition, a nice man and a musicians with “open ears,” as they say, since he promotes a wide range of jazz styles (some of which, and he knows this, I don’t care for), but within his own band there’s a big but imaginary sign hanging up that says, “True Jazz Spoken Here.”

His newest album, due for release on October 5, is a typical example of the high artistic standards he sets for himself and his musicians.

The opener, written by the band’s reed player Tara Davidson, is a wild piece in asymmetric rhythm, with Cervini’s drums churning in the background as the horns play the opening theme statement before moving quickly into a brilliant piano solo by Adrean Farrugia, followed by the composer herself on alto sax. This band not only swings, they’re highly creative soloists who feed into each other with aplomb. Cervini’s own solo is exciting and equally inventive, using cross-rhythms with apparent ease.

I was delighted to see a composition here by Tadd Dameron, the brilliant but self-destructive jazz composer-arranger from the late 1940s/early ‘50s. The original version was by bop legend Theodore “Fats” Navarro in 1949, issued under the title Sid’s Delight (as a tribute to legendary jazz club announcer and DJ “Symphony Sid” Torin). This one really jumps, with tight, excellent solos all round. Two other “old-timers” make an appearance next: Harold Arlen, next to Johnny Mercer the jazziest of jazz-influenced pop tune writers, and Charles Chaplin, who didn’t have a jazz bone in his body.

Turboprop predictably makes a nice soufflé of Arlen’s My Shining Hour, with imaginative rhythmic displacements, embellishments on the original theme, unusual harmonic shifts and quick little solos by Davidson on soprano sax, Carn, Frahm and Farrugia, while Cervini pounds the percussion happily in the background. Chaplin’s Smile (a theme for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual telethons for decades) is played lyrically by Carn on trombone while the reeds provide nice little fills behind him. Carn then gets the bulk of the solo space, doubling the tempo and expanding on Chaplin’s theme.

Dan Loomis’ whimsical Abundance Overture begins with Cervini playing a sort of tap dance on the rims of his snare drum, with the flute, saxophone and trombone entering in a sort of Irish jig tempo. Loomis’ bass then “toughens up” the rhythm with some tight jazz playing in tandem with the leader, and Farrugia’s piano leads us into solo-land. A bit of handclapping backs up a two-part fugue played by the alto and tenor saxes before leading back into the ensemble. What a nifty arrangement!

Although written by pianist Farrugia, The Ten Thousand Things is centered around the bass, which plays the opening chorus and remains a strong presence under the reeds when they perform the theme. When Farrugia does enter, it is after a pause, and the tempo drops down to a slow ballad while he plays a sort of fantasia. The tempo eventually picks back up again and  the whole band plays interesting scored figures, with Frahm on tenor coming out of the ensemble for an excellent solo.

A free-form, wild jam ends it. Cervini’s Gramps, a ballad, opens with some soft brush work by the leader, with the two reeds and arco bass playing the simple theme. Eventually a sort of canon is set up between the tenor sax and trombone behind Davidson on alto. The finale, Song for Cito, is a relaxed 6/8 sort of piece backed by the leader’s enthusiastic drums. Pianist Farrugia is the solo star of this one, however, and he connects the musical material very well. A sort of quick “ta-da!” tag ending closes the piece, and the CD.

This is another fine outing for this talented band, and I highly recommend it to your attention.

© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

Tara Davidson – Alto/Soprano Saxes, Flute
Joel Frahm – Tenor Sax
William Carn – Trombone
Adrean Farrugia – Piano
Dan Loomis – Bass