Monday, October 1, 2018

Aaron Parks - Little Big (ROPEADOPE RECORDS October 19, 2018)

Aaron Parks Little Big, the new Ropeadope album from the acclaimed pianist, keyboardist and composer, is at once the culmination of his brilliant early career and the long-awaited follow-up to his Blue Note Records debut, Invisible Cinema. That 2008 release, with its gorgeously melodic writing and improvising and deft use of indie-rock, electronica and hip-hop elements, established Parks as one of the most gifted and original young voices in jazz. “This is the natural successor to that record,” says the New York-based artist, 34. “It’s taking the ideas of that project and doubling down on them—fully committing to that direction.” 

Little Big also marks the recorded debut of the intuitive working group that gives the album its title (and which takes its name from a fantastical novel by John Crowley—a favorite book of Parks and, the pianist notes, Wayne Shorter). Parks handled the production duties, with engineering by Daniel Schlett (whose credits include The War on Drugs and Ghostface Killah). The album was mixed by both Schlett and Grizzly Bear bassist/producer Chris Taylor, the latter of whom Parks met in a Seattle big band at the age of 10. “We put a lot of time and care into the way this record sounds, and the result”—simultaneously crystalline and warm, postmodern and natural—“makes me really happy,” Parks adds. 

After experimenting with various lineups and sessions, Parks landed on three musicians ideally suited for this atmospheric, genre-bending new work. “This feels like a real band, one that will be around for a while,” he says. Greg Tuohey is the longest-running member, a guitarist who places taste and tone ahead of chops-focused bravado—or, as Parks puts it, “It’s like he’s chasing Miles Davis’ phrasing with Jimi Hendrix’s attitude.” On electric bass is David “DJ” Ginyard Jr., a left-handed player with a distinctively lyrical approach and an aptitude for seeing the bigger musical picture. “He really understands what the bass does, and he thinks super compositionally,” Parks says, noting how some of Ginyard’s basslines have become integral to the songs. Anchoring the unit is Tommy Crane, a forward-looking, stylistically resourceful drummer who brings both explosive creativity and a producer’s knack for precision. “He has a very unique ability to internalize and commit to the particular heartbeat of each song,” Parks explains, “but always with this vital and elastic human element, which is rare to hear in combination with the kinds of grooves we’re exploring.” 

Together they interpret a panoramic set of Parks’ original compositions—from the 21st-century fusion of “Kid,” to the odd-metered studio jam “Professor Strangeweather,” to the trip-hop ambiance and folkish melody of “Bells.” The psychedelic “Aquarium”—“probably the sexiest tune on the album,” Parks says, chuckling—conjures up the trippy, sultry neo-soul vibe of Meshell Ndegeocello, before Tuohey offers a solo that channels Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. “Digital Society” somehow manages to evoke Afrobeat, bluegrass and Aphex Twin. “Lilac” is, as Parks describes it, “a solo-piano pop tune.” The leader’s “secret favorite” cut, “Doors Open,” seeks inspiration in late Talk Talk and the “earnestness” of Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band. That closing track is “definitely not afraid to go straight for your heart,” Parks says with a laugh. 

A prodigal talent raised outside of Seattle, Parks moved with his family to study at the Manhattan School of Music when he was 16. Two years later, on the recommendation of a teacher, NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron, he was invited to join trumpet great Terence Blanchard’s band. That tenure began the relationship with Blue Note that would yield Invisible Cinema, released when Parks was just 24. In The Guardian, John Fordham called the album “a real independent vision,” adding that “Parks is a fast-rising star.” In the September 2008 issue of JazzTimes, Parks was named a “New Jazz Visionary” alongside current giants like Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Over the ensuing decade, Parks certainly made good on that early promise. He was an essential presence in Kurt Rosenwinkel’s band, including on the guitarist’s well-received double album from 2012, Star of Jupiter. As a member of the supergroup James Farm, also featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland, Parks put out two celebrated albums on Nonesuch. In 2013 he released his first disc as an ECM Records artist, Arborescence, which DownBeat’s J.D. Considine called “a forest-invoking solo-piano effort marked by wonderfully detailed narratives and a harmonic palette worthy of Ravel.” Find the Way, an ECM trio session with bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart, followed last year and garnered equally enthusiastic reviews. 

On Little Big, Parks taps into the lessons he’s absorbed throughout those far-reaching experiences, while also progressing some of the au courant sounds he investigated on Invisible Cinema. “This feels like the most personal record I’ve ever made,” he says. What’s more, the album reflects his worldview, an outlook in which optimism and inclusion supersede politics. “There’s a lot out there right now to protest against, and it feels like it’s the artist’s duty to create music that reckons with the issues of the day. Nonetheless, this is not a protest record. It’s not against anything; it’s much more for something. What we’re aiming to do is blend genres and ideas in an open and fluid way, so that structure and freedom work together to serve the larger concept of the song. It’s a way of working together that feels representative of the kind of world I could imagine many of us might want to live in.” 

Aaron Parks - piano, keyboards
Greg Tuohey - guitar
David Ginyard - bass
Tommy Crane - drums

1. Kid
2. Small Planet
3. The Trickster
4. Professor Strangeweather
5. Lilac
6. Aquarium
7. Digital Society
8. Siren
9. Mandala
10. Hearth
11. The Fool
12. Bells
13. Rising Mind
14. Good Morning
15. Doors Open

all songs written by aaron parks (invisible cinema music, bmi)

produced by aaron parks
mixed by chris taylor & daniel schlett
recorded by daniel schlett at strange weather
mastered by greg calbi at sterling sound
executive producers - aaron parks & tommy hawk wilson
creative consultant - judie stein

additional keyboards by eliot krimsky
additional production by chris taylor
additional engineering by zach brown
assistant engineers garret deblock & kiri stensby
assistant mastering engineer steve fallone

album photography by aaron parks
album design by aaron parks & ania parks
album layout assistance by kaya marks
band photography by deneka peniston

Vivian Sessoms - Life (ROPEADOPE RECORDS November 2, 2018)

Vivian Sessoms was born in Harlem, and was raised between Philly and Harlem as a child with some stops in Newark & Camden NJ. As she likes to say – ‘she lived in all the ‘hoods. Her parents were free thinkers, creatives who were immersed in music and cultural expression. Early on she just knew that one day she would be a singer, and that knowledge became a compelling need that drove her forward. With her parents singing and playing music around her, harmonizing and sharing the essence, the structure of music, there was never another option. The church figured in as well, as her grandmother made sure she was in church most Sundays, and the spirit of gospel music was forever entangled with her destiny. 

Many of us are separated from the realization of our destiny, but this is not so with Vivian. As a young girl she expressed the sense of her presence in history through music, and as she began to seek career opportunities she landed a gig with the great Ryuichi Sakamoto. One can not overstate the challenge of performing as a young vocalist with a music master like Sakamoto; singing in Japanese, Vivian was able to match her Black American roots with the expansive knowledge of an acclaimed ethno-musiciologist. Sakamoto brings a unique perspective: rather than expanding out from the root, he begins from a classical background and adds elements of multicultural styles to his final compositions. It is exactly this approach that brings Vivian’s album – LIFE – into sharp focus. The roots of her musical upbringing (soul, jazz, gospel) are there in powerful form, and yet a diverse and universal aspect is presented in every arrangement and composition. 

And so, prepare yourself for the world of Vivian Sessoms - the versatile singer - songwriter - arranger - producer of LIFE. The album is a trans-generational document that manages to speak directly to this time on earth. All of the ingredients of a worldly mix of styles are present, with the groove and feeling of the church, the popular music of her time, and players that make it fresh. Led by Vivian and co-producer, Chris Parks, LIFE features a diverse cast of musicians, beginning with her persistent collaborations with Saxophonist Casey Benjamin and Pianist Shedrick Mitchell and followed by appearances from Brandee Younger, Keyon Harrold, Donny McCaslin, and Gregoire Maret, among others. 

While there is no shortage of acclaimed musicians included in this project, it is clear LIFE is a labor of love, and not just titles. Ever present in the creation of this record is Chris Parks, Vivian’s long time creative partner. Every recorded album is a document - a testament to life at a certain time, or perhaps in a series of times. It would be easy to state that Vivian Sessoms’ voice is transcendent, but LIFE, the album, takes that voice and takes it higher; the songs on LIFE are for all of us, built of collaboration, of love, and of purpose. 

01. 7th Heaven - Intro ft Freedom Bremner (1:03)
Adi Yeshaya & Vivian Sessoms
Arranged by C. Parks
Adi Yeshaya - string arranger
Charissa “The Violin Diva” Rouse - strings
Freedom Bremner - vox

02. No Greater Love - ft Casey Benjamin & Paradigm (4:27)
Isham Jones & Marty Symes
Arranged by V. Sessoms, C. Parks, D. Archer
Dave Archer - keys
Chris Parks - guitar, bass, keys & drum programming
Eric Brown - drums
Adam Jackson - drums
Casey Benjamin - vocoder
Sherrod Barnes - guitar

03. Under My Skin (feat. Paradigm) (6:32)
Cole Porter 
Arranged by D. Archer, V. Sessoms, C. Parks
T. Lewis Dave Archer - keys
Chris Parks - bass, keys & drum programming
Eric Browns - drums
Meku Yisrael - conga
Adi Yeshaya - string arranger & strings

04. Superwoman (feat. Shedrick Mitchell) (5:12)
Steveland Morris
Arranged by S. Mitchell
Shedrick Mitchell - piano
Chris Parks - bass & keys
Donald Edwards - drums

05. Gabriels Lament (feat. Keyon Harrold) (1:03)
Chris Parks & Keyon Harrold
Arranged by C. Parks
Keyon Harrold - trumpet
Chris Parks - keys

06. Dreaming Of A Boy (feat. Keyon Harrold) (6:38)
Vivian Sessoms & Chris Parks
Arranged by V. Sessoms, C. Parks
Shedrick Mitchell - rhodes
Chris Parks - bass, drum programming
Donald Edwards - drums 
Brandee Younger - harp
Keyon Harrold - trumpet

07. See Lude (1:16)
Chris Parks
Arranged by C. Parks
Meku Yisrael - conga
Chris Parks - keys

08. See Line Woman (feat. Vincent Gardner, Kenyatta Beasley & Donny McCaslin) (5:59)
Arranged by M. Baerentzen, V. Sessoms, C. Parks
Mads Baerentzen - piano
Chris Parks - guitar
Carlos Henderson - bass
Eric Brown - drums
Conga - Meku Yisrael
Kenyatta Beasley - trumpet
Vincent Gardner - trombone
Cliff Lyons - saxophone
Donny McCaslin - saxophone solo

09. New Earth (:53)
Chris Parks
Arranged by C. Parks
Chris Parks - guitar, keys & bass

10. People - ft Shedrick Mitchell (4:47)
Linda Creed, Thom Bell
Arranged by R. Angry & S. Mitchell
Shedrick Mitchell - rhodes
Dave Archer - keys
Chris Parks - bass, keys & drum programming
Martin Valihora - drums
Sherrod Barnes - guitar

11. O.O.B.E. (0:41)
Chris Parks
Arranged by C. Parks
Chris Parks - keys & programming

12. Lush Life (For Jenny) (3:20)
Billy Strayhorn
Arranged by S. Mitchell, V. Sessoms
Shedrick Mitchell - rhodes
Chris Parks - bass
Adam Jackson - drums
Gerry Gibbs - additional drums

13. High Life (feat. Charissa “The Violin Diva” Rouse) (1:09)
Chris Parks & Adam Jackson
Arranged by C. Parks
Adam Jackson - drums
Chris Parks - keys & string string arranger
Charissa “The Violin Diva” Rouse - strings

14. Strange Fruit (feat. Shedrick Mitchell) (5:19)
Abel Meerpool
Arranged by V. Sessoms
Shedrick Mitchell - piano
Chris Parks - bass
Donald Edwards - drums
Brandee Younger - harp
Charissa “The Violin Diva” Rouse - strings & string arranger

15. Portal (0:57)
Chris Parks
Arranged by C. Parks
Chris Parks - keys

Big Hands Rhythm & Blues Band - Thoughts and Prayers (ROPEADOPE RECORDS October 26, 2018)

1950 was the year that Leonard and Phil Chess rebranded their record label and began their legendary association with Sam Phillips of the Memphis Recording Service. With the great Willie Dixon writing and co-producing they helped build the foundation of what we call Rock & Roll. Ike Turner, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters are just a few of the key figures that Chess brought to the world. Fast forward to the late 60's and bands like MC5 and The Sonics took the music back to its raw and powerful state. And now, it's time again to get back to the root. 

Big Hands Rhythm & Blues Band takes a little bit from both of these veins of Blues history and infuses it with a growl reminiscent of Chuck E Weiss and Tom Waits, plus a bit of rollicking momentum a la Captain Beefheart. These are times of high energy and purpose, and these cats are ready to reflect and respond with raw guitar and a driving beat. The new album is titled Thoughts And Prayers, and you can well guess this is a sardonic comment on life in 2019.

Simon Kafka - Guitar
Osei Essed - Guitar and Vocals
Zach Jones - Drums and Background Vocals
Chris Kuffner - Bass and Background Vocals
Todd Caldwell - Organ and Piano

Steven Salcedo - Saxophones and Percussion
Matt Owens - Trumpet
Chris Cubeta - Harmonium

1. Joy
2. Shake 04:04
3. Call It Love
4. Used To Be
5. Sun Gonna Shine
6. Easy Baby
7. The Line Below
8. In The Well
9. Find Your Way Back Home

Produced By Big Hands Rhythm & Blues Band and Chris Cubeta
Recorded, Engineered and Mixed by Chris Cubeta at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY
Additional Engineering by Gary Atturio, Ronnie Disimone and Mark Schwartz
Mastered by Bob Power

Artwork and Design by Gabriel Martinez

Jared Sims - The New York Sessions (ROPEADOPE RECORDS October 12, 2018)

Jared Sims seems to often speak of places; with his 2017 release Change Of Address he brought us from the busy streets of Boston to his home in West Virginia as he took the chair heading up the Jazz Studies department at WVU. And now, Jared returns with The New York Sessions, his tribute to the places and sounds of New York City. There's something about the sax that can describe the feeling of New York, that sexy and gritty feel on the street, that energy, that flow, that feeling that you not only belong but that it's YOURS. Jared captures the heat on the street as he and the band are in absolutely top form, taking us through the city with tracks titled Tribeca Tap Bar, The Bodega, Pelham and more.

This is both a story and a journey; tune in here for pre-order info as we prepare for an October 12 release.

Jared Sims - baritone and tenor saxophone 
Chris McCarthy - piano 
Alex Tremblay - bass 
Evan Hyde - drum set

1. Tribeca Tap Bar
2. Wetlands Preserved
3. Brooklyn Tea
4. The Bodega
5. Pelham

Recorded and mixed at Engine Room, NYC 
Recording and mixing - Sasha Jankovic, chief engineer / Igor Bulovic, assistant engineer
Recording/mixing session executive producer: Darko Velichkovski, Director - Mon Hills Records and WVU Music Industry Program
Mastering - Joshua Swiger, Blues Alley Studios, Morgantown, WV
Recording/mixing session project management and assistance: Mon Hills Records managers and associates / WVU Music Industry Program students

Bright Dog Red - Means to the Ends (ROPEADOPE RECORDS October 5, 2018)

Bright Dog Red (BDR), an improvising collective from Albany, New York, fuses free improvisation, electronica, jazz, hip hop, psychedelia, and noise music into a proliferation of beats, bars, and blasts of sonic energy. 

In early 2018, BDR signed on to release an album with Ropeadope, the Philadelphia based record label. The band’s first full-length album, “Means to the Ends,” is due out October 5, 2018. Ropeadope, long at the nexus of jazz, hip hop, and electronica, seems a natural home for BDR’s innovative and psychedelic mesh of jazz, hip-hop and electronica (The Alt Weekly). 

“Means to the Ends” follows two independently distributed EPS, 2017’s “Bullet Proof Shoes” and 2015’s “Teasers.” BDR’s initial forays prompted bloggers Peck and JT to declare, Put Albany’s Bright Dog Red on your radar as this jazzy psychedelic hip hop posse has potential for some progressive golden era goodness. The UK's Emerging Indie deemed the band’s extemporised psychedelic jazz-hop worthy of repeated listening. 

BDR’s regular performances at New York destination venues like ShapeShifter Lab, Nublu, and Spectrum, have garnered the ensemble comparisons to Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Digable Planets (Paul Schulman), electronic Ahmad Jamal, (Don Lucoff), and to other psychedelic, jazz fusion, and hip hop luminaries. 

Founded by drummer and composer Joe Pignato, BDR features core members MC Cully, electronic musician Cody Davies, trumpeter Jarritt Sheel, saxophonist Mike LaBombard, and bassist Anthony Berman. 

The group’s music, all improvised, has its roots in a series of marathon jam sessions. Pignato, a professor at the State University of New York, Oneonta, explains: I was inspired by one of my teachers, Yusef Lateef, who held jam sessions with his students. I’d have students out to my cabin in the Catskills and we’d play for hours, all of it improvised. They had such singular voices, different references than I anticipated. I recorded all of it, often thinking it might become something. 

That “something” remained little more than an inkling until some 10 years later. Encouraged by recordings of those early sessions, Pignato decided to formulate a fixed incarnation of the group, reaching out to former students from the ensembles he directs at Oneonta. 

Although their time in Pignato’s groups proved excellent training for BDR’s particular brand of improvisation, the group stands apart from the members’ previous endeavors. Bassist Berman explains, It’s like spontaneous, collective meditation. We get into a trance state and ideas just flow. MC Cully notes, at its best, the music is an impossibly divided form of unity, with each participant as expressive as a soloist and supportive as a side-player. Saxophonist LaBombard echoes those sentiments, “with BDR, I can stretch, with the support of the others, melodically, harmonically, stylistically. It's the group and the individual.” Cody Davies summed up, “You have to give in. There’s an interdependency to BDR. It feels more like we push each other to be vulnerable rather than jam or play tunes.” Trumpeter Jarritt Sheel, a friend of Pignato's and a faculty member at Berklee College of Music, extolled his immersion into BDR's “heartfelt and inspired improvisational music.” 

Since debuting in September of 2015, Bright Dog Red has played a number of high profile bookings, including opening for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the historic Paramount Hudson Valley Theater, opening for Hip Hop sensation Decora, sharing bills with Italian Surf Academy and with pianist Zack Clarke, and featuring guest soloists such as saxophonist Morgan Guerin and keyboardist Matt Mottel of Talibam! 

In addition, the band has become a fixture on the New York jazz and improvisation scene, playing regularly at venues such as ShapeShifter Lab, Nublu, and Spectrum. Beyond New York, the band has performed at the Berklee College of Music, twice headlined Albany’s Madison Theatre, played BSP Lounge in Kingston NY, Lilypad at Inman in Cambridge, MA, Olive’s in Nyack, NY, and the O+ Festival three years in a row.

Saxophonist Kyle Nasser's Persistent Fancy via ROPEADOPE RECORDS (October 5, 2018)

Saxophonist/Composer Kyle Nasser Strikes a Vivid Balance Between the Cerebral
and the Sensual on New Album

Persistent Fancy, out October 5, 2018 on Ropeadope, draws inspiration from literature and
philosophy as well as personal experience and struggle, with a stellar band

“[Nasser’s] exquisitely balanced works reflect both his ardent creativity and his urbane artistic composure.”
– Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz

“Kyle Nasser… is intelligent and soulful, has a sense of freedom yet understands the concept of structure and is
a leader with a finely tuned sense of organization and order… vital new music.”
– Donald Elfman, The New York City Jazz Record

CD Release Dates:
• Thurs. Oct. 11 – Café 939 Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
• Fri. Oct. 12 – Greasy Luck Brewpub, New Bedford, MA
• Sat. Oct. 13 – Cornelia Street Café, NYC

“’Tis no sin for a man to labour in his vocation.” The words of Sir John Falstaff, Shakespeare’s great
tragicomic rogue, grace the inside cover of Persistent Fancy, the latest release by saxophonist/composer
Kyle Nasser. Granted, Nasser’s passionate pursuit of jazz is more easily defensible than Falstaff’s chosen
profession of purse-snatching, but The Bard’s use of eloquent language in the mouth of such an incorrigible,
gluttonous rascal has a strong appeal for the saxophonist, who strikes his own musical balance between the
cerebral and the sensual.

Persistent Fancy, due out October 5, 2018 via Ropeadope, is highlighted by a pair of three-part suites that
straddle that boundary: the “Baroque Suite,” inspired in particular by Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues,
foregrounds the elegance of classical composition, while the “Eros Suite” dwells on the carnal, tracing the
stages of desire from initial attraction through consummation to reflection. As with all of Nasser’s music,
however, the intellectual and the emotional coexist vividly in both, epitomizing the same mix of impulses that
makes Shakespearean characters like Prince Hal so compellingly complex.

“Prince Hal had a very dissolute upbringing, palling around with Falstaff, this fat, comic philosopher, then has
to leave that behind to become King Henry V,” explains Nasser, who explores the prince’s maturation in his
piece “The Ascent of Henry Monmouth.” The wry wisdom of Falstaff echoes that of Svidrigailov in Crime and
Punishment, whose words provided the epigraph for Nasser’s previous release, Restive Soul. “I always find
that the best insight in literature comes from the most evil characters, or at least the characters that live
outside the mainstream.”

In assembling the ensemble to breathe life into the music of Persistent Fancy, Nasser surrounded himself
with stellar musicians who can deftly navigate the blend of intricacy and fire that these compositions require.
Guitarist Jeff Miles and keyboardist Dov Manski return from Restive Soul; drummer Allan Mednard has
worked with the likes of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Melissa Aldana, bassist Nick Jost swerves between acoustic
jazz virtuosity and powerhouse electric playing with heavy metal band Baroness, and Cuban-born alto
saxophonist Roman Filiú is an innovative voice who has performed with Henry Threadgill, David Murray,
and Chucho Valdés.

Much as Shakespeare’s young prince changed paths to follow his life’s true calling, Nasser switched gears
at a key moment in his own life – albeit somewhat less dramatically. Where Hal left behind a misspent youth
to rule a kingdom, Nasser changed his focus from Economics and Political Philosophy, which he studied at
Harvard, to pursue his love of jazz after crossing paths with iconic pianist Hank Jones. He went on to
Berklee College of Music and hasn’t looked back since, though he’s never wholly turned his back on his
intellectual and literary interests.

Persistent Fancy, in fact, takes its title from an idea posited by the poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor
Coleridge (best known for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), who contrasted the invention of new concepts
(imagination) versus the assembling of pre-existing thoughts or notions (fancy). Nasser comes down on the
side of 20th century critic T.E. Hulme, who countered that modern art should thrive on fancy as it relates to
familiar experience rather than high-flown fantasies.

“I was thinking about the way that thoughts tend to recur over and over again,” Nasser says. “Even if they’re
not the deepest thoughts in the world, they can be insistent and keep coming back so that you can’t shake
them. That’s not imagination, it’s not earth-shattering, it’s fancy – persistent fancy.” The title track is built on
that sort of insistent recurrence, with recurring melodic lines over a cyclical ostinato.

Playing from the gut is one way of praising impassioned musicality, but it became a very literal struggle for
Nasser during the writing of this album. Persistent pain prevented him from playing for a time, until a
physical therapist finally discovered that scar tissue in his abdomen was the cause; it was during Nasser’s
recovery that several of the pieces on Peristent Fancy were composed, including the opening piece, “Split
Gut,” which celebrates the recovery of his voice in dialogue with Roman Filiú’s alto.

The surging “Arrival” was initially written for a trio gig in Chile, where Nasser was collaborating with his
bandmate in the collective quartet Beekman, Chilean drummer Rodrigo Recabarren. Miles is given free rein
to shred over the bombastic grooves of Jost and Mednard on “Sticky Hipster,” named in homage to the rockinclined
denizens of Nasser’s Brooklyn neighborhood.

Despite following the “Eros Suite,” Nasser’s “3-Way” takes its title from a radio term, not a sexual innuendo.
On the air it refers to a conversation between three people, reflecting the tripartite melodic voices of the
composition. The album’s sole non-original tune is “Arioso,” an excerpt from German composer Paul
Hindemith’s “Ludus Tonalis.” Finally, the ebullient “Coffee and Cannabis” ends the album on a joyful note,
finally giving in to those minor vices that may not provide a vocation but can make life that much more

A Massachusetts native and graduate of both Harvard and Berklee, Kyle Nasser has been described as
possessing "superlative musicianship as a performer, writer and a bandleader…ardent creativity and urbane
artistic composure” (All About Jazz). Since moving to New York City in 2010, he has played at some of the
city's most prestigious venues – including the Blue Note, Smalls, Iridium, 55 Bar, and Cornelia St. Cafe –
and has toured the U.S. and South America. Nasser has shared the stage with jazz luminaries such as Jim
Hall, Hank Jones, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Rich Perry, Ethan Iverson, Michael Formanek, and Ben
Monder, among others. In addition to leading his own group, he also plays with and composes for the
international collective Beekman, whose sound has been described as "a joyful and continued speculation
flowing in almost all facts with surprising ease” (Jazz, ese ruido). Nasser's 2015 debut, Restive Soul,
features his quintet presenting "a collection of sophisticated and complex modern jazz originals" (Jazz
Weekly). The album's songs weave together sonata forms, baroque to 20th century counterpoint, and
modern rhythms with modern jazz vocabulary. "The saxophonist's debut is knotty with a contrapuntal weave
of voices, bumpy mixed meters, and alternating rhythmic currents that nonetheless groove, sometime with a
rocking edge" (Boston Globe).

David Cieri: The Mayo Clinic - Unity of Forces (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2018)

Once again David Cieri translates life into music. His recent release - Notes From The Underscore show his work on a variety of documentaries with Florentine Films. His previous work with Yusef Komunyakaa and Mike Brown captures the intersection of poetry and music just as if you were wandering by a downtown club and heard it live. And now, David returns with the soundtrack to the new documentary - The Mayo Clinic: Unity Of Forces. Here David composes for the unique film, with the great Bill Frisell on guitar. He describes the documentary in this way:

‘Talk surrounding our current health care crisis needs to step away from the divisive, un-nuanced, and essentially useless binary modes of I’m right and you’re wrong. The Mayo Clinic model is actively shifting this conversation away from political gridlock and into the realms of discovery and earned possibility.

The music is striving to represent this ideal - historically and into the future. This is perhaps an uncommon story because it offers real hope and prescription rather than description of our ills, which too often get inordinate attention.  My intent was to bake the church pew and Wagner and Americana into the compositions; it’s the most moral music I’ve made to date.  The sessions were challenging; it’s one thing to give the darkness due weight in music but it was another challenge altogether to make very positive gestures have real and earned gravity too.  And the musicians! 

Listening back to Bill and Putnam dialoguing on a few of these cuts is to feel immense love and joy in being here to witness, to watch, to pry, to learn, to become something better than we have imagined.

Bill Frisell – guitars
Putnam Murdock – guitars
Dan Brantigan – flugel horn and trumpet
Jay Frederick – drums and percussion
David Cieri – piano
Rubin Kodheli – cello
Yoko Waynen – violin
Mike Brown – bass
Engineer – Bryan Pugh

All music composed by David Cieri except -
I’ll Twine Mid the Ringlets - Maud Irving and Joseph Philbrick Webster
Wagoner’s Lad – Traditional British Broadside Ballad
Shenandoah – Traditional American Folk Song
Give to the Wind Thy Fears – Paul Gerhardt
Concerto for Two Mandolins – Antonio Vivaldi
Hard Times – Stephen Foster
Slane – Irish Traditional Folk Song
Be Thou My Vision – 8 th century Irish Traditional Folk Song

All music produced by Erik Ewers and David Cieri

1. Unity of Forces 02:21
2. I’ll Twine Mid the Ringlets 02:33
3. Yoko's World/Wagoner's Lad 02:37
4. Shenandoah 01:35
5. Will 02:08
6. Sisters 02:25
7. Give to the Wind Thy Fears 01:53
8. Concerto for Two Mandolins 01:32
9. Charlie 02:36
10. Sister Alfred and the Handshake 02:42
11. April is the Cruelest Month - little variations on Rite of Spring 01:10
12. Hard Times 01:47
13. Give to the Wind Thy Fears (Alt Take) 03:26
14. Slane 03:11
15. Sister Generose In the House 01:20
16. Be Thou My Vision 02:12
17. Henry Plummer's Dream 02:13
18. Unity of Forces in Motion 02:33

Drums & Tuba - Triumph! (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2018)

Drums and Tuba was originally formed sometime in 1995. Tony Nozero (drums) and Brian Wolff (tuba) were working at an unhealthy health food store in Austin, Texas making smoothies together when they came up with the idea of creating a stripped-down marching band (the best laid plans often go astray). Tony had played drums for many years in a variety of rock, punk, and jazz bands. Brian had just recently discovered the tuba (having played trumpet and trombone previously), and was just beginning to explore the possibilities of the instrument. 

Initially going by the moniker "Just Drums and Tuba," the two young men took their creation to the streets of Austin performing weekend nights on downtown sixth street for tips, pocket change, and other assorted odds and ends. Brian and Tony soon realized that their ensemble was missing some important element. The addition of Neal McKeeby on guitars was the essential ingredient needed to complete their trio. The band decided to drop the "Just" and to go by the simple name "Drums and Tuba." 

Without any master plan, the trio pursued some kind of amalgamation of their extremely varied tastes and backgrounds. Wolff is from New York, Nozero is from Madison, Wisconsin, and McKeeby is from Knoxville, Tennessee. The three musicians never intended to create something original or different or unique. For all their pyrotechnics, they are not a novelty act. They simply create music with a strong emphasis on songs and structure as they hear it. The result is music that is not easily described or categorized, but which is extremely accessible to a wide and varied audience. At a show, punks, dead heads, and indie-rockers, both young kids and old folks will find themselves standing together listening to a music which makes them feel both confused and happy. They may not know quite what it is or what it's called, but they do know that they like it. 

Drums and Tuba has played in all kinds of venues and all kinds of situations from tiny shows to crowds of over six thousand and to the continuous surprise of Tony, Brian, and Neal the music always goes over well. An old union worker in Providence, Rhode Island will even praise the band. Says Wolff, "the kind of person who I expect to tell us 'what the hell are you guys doing up there and whose dumb idea was it anyway' will tell us, 'that was nothing like I expected but I really dug your sound.' And that's the kind of thing that makes me realize we're on to something-- when someone who is completely not into experimental music of any kind enjoys what we do simply because it's good music, not because it's impressive or complicated, but just because it sounds good." 

The band plays a variety of different sounding music, encompassing rock, funk, punk, electronica, and other styles. All the music is extremely rhythm-oriented, with Nozero's drums taking front and center. All three instrumentalists will at one time or another play both rhythmically and melodically. Sometimes the guitar is a rhythm instrument and sometimes it carries the melody, and often it does both at the same time. Either McKeeby will play two guitars at once or Wolff will sample him live. The band does a lot of live sampling (nothing is prerecorded), using a variety of digital delay machines. For instance, McKeeby will start a song with a riff and before you know it he's been sampled and has moved on. With the addition of more live samples, the group is able to create songs with dense layers of sound. The tuba can lay down a bass line and then, with the use of a variety of guitar pedals and delay machines, play a swooping melody over the top of the ensuing groove. In addition, this frees up Wolff to play the trumpet as well. Thus, the band is far more than the sum of its parts. All this is done with the express purpose of serving the song. It is all founded in the basic fundamental principles of music. Drums and Tuba is not a gimmick. 

Drums and Tuba has played hundreds of shows all over the United States opening for such acts as Ani DiFranco, Galactic, uze Jsme Doma, Daniel Johnston, and Spaceheads. They have completed four full length cds, one cd ep, one vinyl seven inch, one music video, a whole slew of compilations, and a variety of movie soundtracks.

Tony Nozero - Drums and Percussion
Steve Garofano - Drums and Percussion
Ben Ellman - Saxophone
Jonathon Freilich - Guitar on Boubakar
Francesca Wolff - Vocals on Se Malule
Brian Wolff - Tuba, Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Beatbox, Trumpet, Trombone, Flute

Engineered, Produced, and Mastered by Andrew “Goat” Gilchrist and Brian Wolff
Artwork by Theresa Behnen
Photograph of Boubakar by Paul Widdowson

1. This is the Point 05:44
2. Se Malule 04:24
3. Drowning 06:42
4. Instrument of Brass Destruction 04:12
5. Kevin Essence 04:50
6. Boubacar 04:37
7. On My Own 05:24
8. The Dj Set 05:00
9. A Hard Man 04:52
10. The Triumph of Delusion 05:54
11. True To You 04:42
12. Higher and Higher 06:12
13. Drowning Radio Edit 03:56

Dred Scott - Rides Alone (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2018)

The incomparable renegade pianist who co-founded the ground breaking hip- hop jazz group Alphabet Soup. The musical director for AMFAR's Cinema Against Aids gala at The Cannes Film Festival. Composer and performer in six San Francisco Mime Troupe productions. Film and commercial composer, solo artist, and all around player with celebs too numerous to mention.

And the super subtle and not-as-subtle piano player at Del Posto in New York. dred has graced us with three albums thus far; a live recording from his long running Live At Rockwood residency, and the simultaneous releases Going Nowhere and Prepared Piano. It's been a minute since the maestro of the maelstrom has recorded, and now he returns to the studio to record ALL of the musical parts to his new album - dred scott Rides Alone.

The compositions are sublime, perhaps dred's most accessible and gentle writing and playing in his storied career. dred scott rides alone stands as a mature and melodic statement of life and love.

Yak Attack - Safety Third (ROPEADOPE RECORDS 2018)

Yak Attack is real, organic electronica. Rowan Cobb (The Hill Dogs, Giraffe Dodgers), Dave Dernovsek (Manimalhouse, Emulator) and Nick Werth (GALAXE, Ghost-Note) have combined forces to create a full, lush, danceable sound far beyond what most trios can produce. Using live loops, well-placed samples, thick grooves, and expansive soundscapes, Yak Attack keeps the dance party at full blast. 

1. Pump and Dump 09:22
2. Rule 1 00:32
3. U + Me (+Us) 08:08
4. EYE2EYE 04:11
5. Hear the Sound 07:01
6. Rule 2 00:46
7. Eighth Wonder 06:55
8. Safety Third 07:52

Pianist Frank Kimbrough and his quartet release six-disc set of entire Thelonious Monk oeuvre (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS November 23, 2018)

 Frank Kimbrough Quartet
Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk
A six-disc boxed set of the entire Thelonious Monk repertoire by a quartet led by pianist Frank Kimbrough will be released November 23, 2018!

A celebration of this release will be held Nov. 27th and 28th at the Jazz Standard in New York City!

The genius of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is unassailable. Since his death in 1982, he has become recognized as one of the greatest composers of jazz – and of the wider world of music. The year 2017 was the centennial of Monk’s birth, and brought scores of tributes, including a well-received stay of pianist Frank Kimbrough’s quartet at the Jazz Standard club in New York City.

Like many jazz pianists, Kimbrough found Monk’s music a revelation when he first heard it. From the outset of his career, Kimbrough has returned time and again to Monk’s compositions. After nearly four decades of study, reflection, and performance, Kimbrough has established a relationship with these pieces and found a way to express himself through the prism of Monk.

When the Standard approached Kimbrough to put together a quartet to play Monk’s music, he picked the brilliant rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond. His choice for lead horn voice was the multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, with whom he has played for many years and in many combinations, most notably with the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

© Marielle Solan

After the first set of the October 17th, 2017 performance at the Standard Kimbrough’s friend Mait Jones urged that the group record Monk’s entire oeuvre, a feat that Kimbrough had never considered. A jazz fan and co-presenter of his own Princeton series JazzNights Jones began a lifelong appreciation of Monk when he heard the master live at the Five Spot in New York City in 1957 .

Over the next few days, Jones doubled down on his intent to make the project reach fruition, bringing in his friend and fellow jazz head, Dr. Dorothy Lieberman, to help co-produce the effort.

The musicians began the intensive work such a project demands. Finally, in April of 2018 Kimbrough led a trio and then the quartet at Jazz at the Kitano, polishing 30 new tunes on the way to the full Monk catalog of 70 pieces.

For the recording, Matt Balitsaris provided his renowned Maggie’s Farm studios and an optimistic plan of recording a disc’s worth of material each day for six days. The musicians recorded each day from 11 to 5 or 6 in two three-day intervals broken up by a three-day respite. Miraculously this ambitious plan succeeded, with most tunes needing only one or two takes. Robinson picked his axe of choice on the spot, from the standard (tenor sax and trumpet) to the exotic (bass saxophone, echo cornet, bass clarinet, and contrabass sarrusophone). The resultant tracks are fresh, varied, and inspired.

Highlights of the group’s takes on these classic pieces include Robinson’s juggling of trumpet and tenor sax on “Thelonious” and the ensemble’s free-wheeling energy on “Skippy.” “Locomotive” is the picture of peaceful beauty, whereas “Jackie-ing” is all jumps and starts. Reid and Robinson play beautifully on “Reflections” and a lovely solo performance of  “Crepuscule with Nellie” showcases Kimbrough’s command of the piano and Monk’s language.

The recordings form a fantastically diverse collection.  On the six-CD set, titled Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, Monk’s compositions are played in various configurations, most by the quartet, but others in smaller combinations, even solo piano. The package also includes beautifully penned liner notes from Nate Chinen (New York Times, WBGO and NPR) along with notes from members of the ensemble and the producers of the album.