Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sam Blakeslee Large Group: Live at Blu Jazz​+​ (October 25, 2018)

With his second album release as a leader, dynamic New York City based trombonist and composer Sam Blakeslee releases the debut of his 17-piece contemporary jazz orchestra, the Sam Blakeslee Large Group. The Sam Blakeslee Large Group held a monthly residency from January 2016-July 2017 at Blu Jazz+ in Akron, OH before his departure to New York City in August 2017. The ensemble's repertoire focused heavily on original compositions and arrangements while featuring the very best musical talent in Northeast Ohio as well as collaborations with artists from Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York City. 

Sam Blakeslee

This album encapsulates the diverse music of the residency as well as documenting an incredibly formative time for Blakeslee as a composer and arranger. It also features a special collaboration with NYC jazz musicians David Smith, Jorn Swart, Cory Todd, and Dan Pugach (the latter of the three all played on his debut record "Selective Coverage"), two bonus tracks that feature Blakeslee arrangements of Akron's own, guitar virtuoso Dan Wilson's compositions, and one original composition from esteemed Northeast Ohio composer Dave Morgan. 

Encompassing traditional and avant-garde jazz styles as well as hip-hop influenced grooves, the "Live at Blu Jazz" is sure to leave the listener wondering what the next track will hold.

Bobby Selvaggio - tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9
Nathan-Paul Davis - tracks 1-9
Chris Coles - tracks 1-9
Johnny Cochran - tracks 1-9
Brad Wagner - tracks 1-9
Matt Segall - track 6

Scott McKee - 1-9
Joe Badaczewski - tracks 1-5
Aaron Janik - tracks 1-5, 8-9
Jack Schantz - tracks 1-9
Ed Kline - tracks 6
Tommy Lehman - tracks 8-9

Sam Blakeslee 1-9
Chris Anderson - 1-9
Max Brady - tracks 1-6, 8-9
Mark Mauldin - tracks 1-9
Caleb Smith - track 7

Dan Bruce - track 7

Theron Brown - tracks 1-9
Jorn Swart - track 6

Dave Morgan - tracks 1-5
Aidan Plank - track 6
Kip Reed - tracks 8-9
Cory Todd - track 7

Dustin May - tracks 1-6
Dan Pugach (drums) - track 7
Dave Throckmorton (drums) - tracks 8-9

Anthony Taddeo - track 6

Special Guests: 
Dan Wilson (guitar) - tracks 8-9
David Smith (trumpet) - track 7

Recorded January 2016-2017 at Blu Jazz+ in Akron, OH 
Recording Engineer: Joseph Scott 
Mastered by Kent Heckman at Red Rock Studios

1. New Blood
2. One More Conversation
3. The Universal Dance
4. Lurkin'
5. Divisive Statements
6. Rest
7. Medellin Tango
8. Who Shot John
9. Audible Distraction

Cuong Vu 4Tet - Change In The Air (RareNoise Records 2018)

As a followup to 2017’s acclaimed Ballet: The Music of Michael
Gibbs, Seattle-based trumpeter Cuong Vu joins forces once again
with guitar great Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer
Ted Poor on the boundary-pushing quartet outing for RareNoise
Records, Change in the Air. With all the members of the quartet
contributing compositions, this one finds the four participants on
equal footing on ten adventurous originals. From Poor’s dreamy,
noirish opener “All That’s Left of Me Is You” and his lonesome
echo-laden waltz “Alive” to Bergman’s dynamic “Must
Concentrate,” Frisell’s delicate “Look, Listen” and his beguiling
heartland melody “Long Ago” and Vu’s angular “Round and
Round” and his edgy and electrified “March of the Owl and the
Bat,” these four stellar musicians are truly on one accord and
dealing with a rare level of nuance and depth of communication
on Change in the Air.

“It was a team effort,” said Vu. “The only real leader thing that I
did was make sure everyone had the studio dates in their
calendars, set up rehearsals, made sure they knew where the
studio was; more like secretarial work, is what I did. My only
intention was that we should all bring in tunes to make it as
collective as we could. This collection of people allowed me to let
go and trust, and I knew that we all just wanted to make the best
music that we could together.”

Poor added that the team effort developed quite naturally. “Cuong
invited us all to contribute and I'm very pleased with how the band
was able to sincerely welcome such a broad range of
compositions into the fold. We needed repertoire and I think
everyone felt comfortable and confident bringing in their own
music. At that point we had played a lot of music together and I
for one felt as though we were well on our way to developing a
clear band sound and identity.”

Vu commented on the various compositional qualities that his
three bandmates brought to the table on Change in the Air. “Bill’s
writing, like his playing, at first glance is seemingly simplistic
though always full of character. And when you patiently zoom in
you find that it’s filled with multi-layered info that is cohesively
bonded. His pieces can be played on any collection of
instruments and arranged in any way, and the truth of what he
intended will come through as the listener will find it as deeply
moving as it is beautiful. Luke’s writing is smart, clever, ironic,
funny and feels inevitable. He comes from having seriously
investigated a wide and eclectic range of music but he’s rooted in
a rock band-based type of viewpoint. I think it all comes out in the
music that he writes. And Ted is one of these guys who sounds
like the source music for whatever genre he plays, and he sounds
like a wise, experienced elder playing it. What I find impressive is
in how he’s able to get deep into whatever type of music and so
quickly absorb it. He’s like a jack-of-all-trades type of drummer
because of that ability, along with the technical freedom to
execute it all. I’m not surprised that his writing reflects all that. The
three tunes that he brought to the table are so different from each
other and they all feel extremely rooted and focused in the
specific context that each inhabits.”

Regarding his three stylistically wide-ranging compositions on
Change in the Air, Poor offered: “I liked the idea of trying to writing
something that could pose as an old standard found in an archive
somewhere, and that’s how I came up with ‘All That’s Left of Me
Is You.’ The title is a potential lyric for the final melodic phrase of
the song. While the song does not in fact have lyrics I wanted us
to play it as if we were playing an instrumental version of a
standard song like ‘Embraceable You’ or ‘If You Could See Me
Now.’ For ‘Lately’ I just had the sound of Cuong and Bill playing
the melody and chords vividly in my ears, and I wrote it in one
sitting not long before our recording session. ‘Alive’ was written
back in 2012 for a gig I had in New York with Mark Turner and
Pete Rende. I have enjoyed playing that tune with a number of
different bands but until now it hasn't been recorded. We needed
a few tunes with intensity and tempo to balance the set and ‘Alive’
felt like an obvious choice.”

Poor’s sublime brushwork is beautifully showcased on “All That's
Left of Me Is You,” “Lately” and particularly on the rubato closer
“Far From Here,” which bears the stamp of the late drumming
great and longtime Frisell collaborator Paul Motian. “Paul Motian
is a hero of mine,” said Poor. “Seeing him at the Village Vanguard
with Frisell or with his own bands is something I'll never forget.
His playing was riveting, provocative and pure music. Regarding
brushwork, he’s definitely one of my favorite drummers, along
with Andrew Cyrille, Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones (his brush
playing on ‘Young and Foolish’ from Everybody Digs Bill Evans
comes to mind). All of those great players are able to extract
infinitely nuanced sound and a powerful specificity of mood and
feel. Brushes are exciting for me because they allow you to create
sustain and offer such a wide range of attack, from staccato to a
legato bloom of sound that has no attack at all.”

Frisell, who moved from New York to Seattle in 1988 and
remained there for 30 years before returning to the Big Apple,
says the chemistry for this particular quartet began in the Emerald
City. “I was lucky to have first met Luke Bergman and over the
years we have been playing more and more in all kinds of
different situations together. It’s been awesome connecting with
him. Then as soon as Ted moved to Seattle we started playing a
lot together too, just getting together at his house and playing
tunes. It was the same with Cuong. As soon as he came to
Seattle we started playing together. So it was great to have
someone to be able to get together with and practice together and
just play music together. That happened with all those guys
separately and then eventually the four of us got together as a
quartet. Cuong has been such an incredible inspiration-energizer
for music in Seattle. Luke and Ted too. They all make things

While the quartet tackled the music of composer-arranger and
Frisell's mentor Michael Gibbs on its first RareNoise record
together, they decided to stick strictly with originals on Change in
the Air. Vu’s trumpet work is brilliant throughout. Whether its his
extraordinary lyricism on Frisell’s “Look, Listen” and Poor’s
dreamy jazz ballad “All That’s Left of Me Is You,” his plaintive call
on Poor’s melancholy “Lately” or his staccato bursts and
skronking statements on his own “March of the Owl and the Bat,”
his playing is marked by bold instincts and nuanced expression.
Poor cited one possible influence on Vu’s “March of the Owl and
the Bat”: “Cuong has written a number of pieces over the years
that are based on driving, angular syncopated rhythms. We are
both huge fans of the Swedish heavy metal band Meshuggah and
their rhythmic language informs our approach significantly. We
worked off of a chart in the studio and the biggest challenge was
to internalize the rhythms and meters and make them feel good.
From there the embellishment and shaping of the tune flowed

Frisell offers authoritative solos and beautiful, pianistic
accompaniment to the fabric of these ten tunes on Change in the
Air. “I’m just trying to listen and do the right thing,” he said. “I’m a
huge fan of master accompanists like Hank Jones, John Lewis,
Tommy Flanagan, Richie Powell, Horace Silver…all guys that are
working from the inside out. I for sure love hearing someone play
a great solo but much more than that what really gets me off is
trying to figure out what’s going on with the whole band and how
all the pieces fit together. When I listen to Miles’ band with Herbie
Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter.…man!
Every note from all of them all the time is astounding and
essential. The magic is in how they play together.”

Vu also commented on his uncanny chemistry with Frisell, which
is especially apparent in their intimate interactions on Frisell’s
chamber-like “Look, Listen” and the sparse closer, “Far From
Here”: “It’s pretty much a necessity for me to be surrounded by
deeply empathetic listeners whose main priority is to serve the
music being created in each instance. And it takes a long time to
find the right people who’ll create the right mixture together. I
really do think that all three of us (Luke, Ted, and I) have a natural
strength in ‘empathic listening’ — making the others sound better
while stating your own opinion with an openness to all possibilities
in the immediate moments. And I do really think that we’re pretty
decent at that approach. But add Bill to the mix…that’s his
genius! He makes everybody that he’s ever played with sound
better and always puts them in a different light. It helps that I’m in
that same zone of thinking, but it’s really about Bill making it

Frisell also commented on the the source of the quartet’s
remarkable chemistry: “You play with someone for the first time
and you feel something that makes you want to come back for
more. And I think the key to that is pretty simple. We listen. The
best things happen when everyone’s attention is focused on
everyone else around them ...away from themselves.”

Regarding the source of the album’s title, Vu pointed to the state
of world affairs today as a kind of dark undercurrent to Change in
the Air. “I’ve never felt so much anxiety about the future on so
many levels — environmentally, politically and especially with the
‘leadership’ in our country — than I do now,” he said. “In terms of
what’s going on and how we’ve gotten to this place, it feels
overwhelmingly ominous, dangerous and as if it’s only the
beginning of what will come. I’m scared but, hopefully, just

Born on September 19, 1969 in Saigon, Vietnam’s largest city, Vu
moved with his family to Seattle when he was six years ago. He
picked up trumpet at age 11 and later received a scholarship to
attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. After
moving the New York City in 1994, he formed the group Ragged
Jack with keyboardist Jamie Saft, saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo
and drummer Jim Black in 1997. During his time in New York, Vu
worked with Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Gerry Hemingway,
Myra Melford, Bobby Previte, Dave Douglas and more. He
appeared on Pat Metheny’s Grammy-winning albums Speaking of
Now (2002) and The Way Up (2005). Vu returned to Seattle in
2007 to teach at the University of Washington, where he is
currently a full professor.

3, 9, 10 composed by Bill Frisell
6, 7, 8 composed by Cuong Vu
4 composed by Luke Bergman
1, 2, 5 composed by Ted Poor

1. All That’s Left Of Me Is You
2. Alive
3. Look, Listen
4. Must Concentrate
5. Lately
6. Round And Round
7. March Of The Owl And The Bat
8. Round And Round (Back Around)
9. Long Ago
10. Far From Here

Recorded May 14, 15, 16 2017 at London Bridge Studio, Seattle
Recorded by Julian Anderson
Mixed by Luke Bergman
Mastered by Nich Wilbur at Anacortes Mastering
Executive Producer for RareNoiseRecords : Giacomo Bruzzo
Artwork and Design by Petulia Mattioli

Wayne Shorter - Emanon 3 CDs/ LPs (BLUE NOTE 2018)

Jazz legend and 10-time GRAMMY winner Wayne Shorter is set for the September 14 release of his long-awaited project Emanon, his first release since 2013’s Without A Net, which marked Shorter’s momentous return to Blue Note Records where he began his heralded recording career in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1959. Emanon is an extraordinary musical and visual experience that presents a triple album of original music by Shorter performed by The Wayne Shorter Quartet—featuring Shorter on soprano and tenor saxophone with Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Brian Blade on drums—with and without the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The music is accompanied by a graphic novel penned by Shorter with Monica Sly and illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Emanon is a physical-only release that will be available in two versions; a Standard Edition that packages 3x CDs with the graphic novel, and a Deluxe Edition that packages 3x 180g vinyl LPs and 3x CDs with the graphic novel enclosed in a beautiful hardcover slipcase.


The Wayne Shorter Quartet With Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

1. Pegasus
2. Prometheus Unbound
3. Lotus
4. The Three Marias


The Wayne Shorter Quartet Live In London

1. The Three Marias
2. Lost And Orbits Medley


The Wayne Shorter Quartet Live In London

1. Lotus
2. She Moves Through The Fair
3. Adventures Aboard The Golden Mean
4. Prometheus Unbound

In February 2013 upon the release of Without A Net, The Wayne Shorter Quartet performed four of Shorter’s compositions with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Shorter immediately brought the quartet and orchestra into the studio to record those same four pieces: “Pegasus,” “Prometheus Unbound,” “Lotus,” and “The Three Marias.”

“Just before Miles [Davis] passed,” Shorter remembers, “He said, ‘Wayne, I want you to write something for me with strings and an orchestra, but make sure you put a window in so I can get out of there.’ He definitely did not say, ‘Make the strings swing.’ Working with an orchestra is like crossing the street and talking to a neighbor you haven’t talked to for 10 years. It’s the thing the world needs now: joining forces.”

The title of this four-composition orchestral suite is also Shorter’s title character for the graphic novel: Emanon, or “no name” spelled backward. “When Dizzy Gillespie had a piece of music in the late 40s called ‘Emanon,’ it hit me way back then as a teenager: ‘No name’ means a whole lot. The connection with Emanon and artists and other heroes is the quest to find originality, which is probably the closest thing you can get to creation,” Shorter says. “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and some comic heroes, they lose their power or identity and become something called human, so that a human being has to do the same thing that Superman and all of them do.”

Later, Blue Note president Don Was introduced Shorter, who is an avid comic book aficionado, to DuBurke’s illustrations, and the saxophonist became enamored with the Brooklyn-raised, Switzerland-based artist’s work in graphic novels on Malcolm X and Deadwood Dick. “I could sort of project myself into Randy’s general state of mind from childhood,” Shorter says. “I could see it in his drawings. He has those ‘I wish’ lines in his work; he’s aiming for how he wants the world to be.”

After DuBurke enthusiastically joined the project and had a long talk with Shorter about the composition titles, quantum mechanics, and much else, he got to work using those four pieces as inspiration. “I’d put the Emanon cuts on,” DuBurke says. “Or I’d watch Cosmos videos with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Whatever came into my head as I sat at the drawing board, I sketched in black and white or in color. Wayne said, ‘Nobody’s gonna edit you, just go with it.’ So I felt entirely free creatively, and delivered some first story sketches to Wayne.”

With DuBurke’s panels in hand, Sly, a screenwriter who helped Shorter and Herbie Hancock write their viral 2016 “Open Letter to the Next Generation of Artists,” worked with Shorter to develop and structure the graphic novel. Central to the story was the multiverse theory, or the idea that the universe we inhabit is one of an infinite number that all exist in parallel realities. Listening to each of four orchestral tracks, Sly and Shorter “came up with a fear that matched the vibe of the track,” Sly says. “That ‘fear’ then defined the world Emanon would be inhabiting in that specific universe of the story. And each of the four universes exists simultaneously—from what I know, that’s very in line with the improvisational, everything-exists-in-the-moment aspect of jazz.”

“Emanon is like so many characters in that role of trying to find a way in the world, and also make the world around him a better place,” DuBurke says. Longtime fans of Shorter may read something of the musician himself into the character. “Wayne is fearless in the face of adversity,” Sly says. “Excited by the prospect of the unknown. Brave enough to stand up for justice and stand out in a crowd, yet sensitive and aware of the value of each life around him.”

“Wayne is the great American composer,” Patitucci says. “It’s always been a matter of him having the chance to display all that he can do in large musical forms, and also in his other areas of brilliance and imagination like art and storytelling, too. So Emanon is a fulfillment of a lifetime vision.”

With Emanon, Wayne Shorter shares his artistic multiverse. Everyone will create his or her own experience with the novel and music—but be prepared for that experience to involve the unknown. “After reading and listening to Emanon, you might begin to notice alternative realities glimmering beneath the everyday world around you,” Esperanza Spalding writes in her introduction to the novel.

Keith Jarrett - La Fenice 2 CD (ECM October 26, 2018)

This recording of Keith Jarrett’s extraordinary solo performance at Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice in July 2006 finds Jarrett entering one of Italy’s most famous classical venues and channeling the flow of inspiration to shape something new. In this case, a suite of eight spontaneously created pieces referencing everything from the blues to atonality to heart-rending ballads.

Release of ‘La Fenice’ is timely: The 62nd International Festival of Contemporary Music of the ‘Biennale di Venezia’ has honoured Keith Jarrett with its Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. It’s the first time that a “jazz” musician has received this award, which has previously been given to contemporary composers including, in recent decades, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, Sofia Gubaidulina and Steve Reich.

Keith Jarrett Piano

CD 1
1 PART I (Keith Jarrett) 17:44
2 PART II (Keith Jarrett) 03:26
3 PART III (Keith Jarrett) 09:53
4 PART IV (Keith Jarrett) 07:22
5 PART V (Keith Jarrett) 06:41

CD 2
1 PART VI (Keith Jarrett) 13:32
2 THE SUN WHOSE RAYS (Arthur Gilbert , A.S. Sullivan) 04:26
3 PART VII (Keith Jarrett) 05:30
4 PART VIII (Keith Jarrett) 09:15
5 MY WILD IRISH ROSE (Traditional) 08:36
6 STELLA BY STARLIGHT (Victor Young, Ned Washington) 07:52
7 BLOSSOM (Keith Jarrett) 09:11

James Francies - Flight (BLUE NOTE October 19, 2018)

22-year old Houston-born NYC-based pianist and composer James Francies makes his debut with Flight, an album that presents a bold new vision from one of the brightest young stars in Jazz. Francies, who frequently sits in with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, has already performed with a wide array of artists including Chris Potter, Pat Metheny, Stefon Harris, José James, Ms. Lauryn Hill & Nas. He brings that broad range of influences to this set featuring special appearances by saxophonist Chris Potter and vocalists YEBBA, Chris Turner & Kate Kelsey-Sugg, along with a cast of Jazz youngbloods including vibraphonist Joel Ross, guitarist Mike Moreno, bassist Burniss Travis II, and drummers Jeremy Dutton and Mike Mitchell.

Please note: digital downloads are not available to customers outside of the United States.

1. Leaps
2. Reciprocal
3. Sway
4. My Day Will Come (feat. Yebba)
5. Crib
6. Ain’t Nobody
7. Reciprocal (Reprise)
8. ANB
9. Dark Purple
10. Dreaming
11. A Love And A Fighter

Marcus Strickland - People of the Sun (BLUE NOTE November 9, 2018)

On his thrilling new LP, People of the Sun, saxophonist Marcus Strickland blazes a trail fully at the helm of his music—performing, writing, and producing with his Twi-Life band on deck and special guests including Bilal and Pharoahe Monch along for the ride—as he sonically and socially traces the African diaspora from present to past in an effort to unpack his identity. It’s an album that's busy and beautiful, inventive and contemplative, an amalgam of influences from West Africa (griot culture, Afrobeat, percussion) and America (post-bop, funk-soul, beat music) performed in the key of revelation.

Please note: digital downloads are not available to customers outside of the United States.

01. Lullaby (feat. Weedie Braimah)
02. Timing
03. People Of The Sun (feat. Mitch Henry)
04. On My Mind (feat. Bilal, Pharoahe Monch + Greg Tate)
05. Relentlessness
06. Marvelous (feat. Akie Bermiss)
07. Black Love
08. Build
09. Cloaked In Controversy
10. Aim High (Feat. Jermaine Holmes)
11. Spirt Of The Music

Ambrose Akinmusire - Origami Harvest (BLUE NOTE 2018)

Ambrose Akinmusire's challenging fourth album for Blue Note (and sixth overall), 2018's Origami Harvest, is an ambitious work that finds the trumpeter blending seemingly disparate elements -- including spoken word, classical chamber music, free improvisation, and hip-hop rhythms -- into a textured if often laborious mix. The album was born out of a commission for curators Judd Greenstein of Manhattan's Ecstatic Music Festival and Kate Nordstrum of St. Paul's Liquid Music Series. They dared Akinmusire to bring to fruition his "craziest idea," and he did, crafting what are best described as evocative soundscapes. Helping to fill out these soundscapes are fellow Bay Area native rapper Victor Vazquez (aka Kool A.D.), Brooklyn-based Mivos Quartet, pianist Sam Harris, and drummer Marcus Gilmore. For jazz listeners, or for those who liked Akinmusire's previous albums like 2017's live A Rift in Decorum, Origami Harvest may be a frustrating experience. While there are moments of inventive soloing here, they are rare. More often, as in the opening "A Blooming Bloodfruit in a Hoodie," Akinmusire works to punctuate A.D.'s spoken word sections, fluttering and sparring with delicate urgency underneath the rapper before finally launching into his own synth and drum-backed solos late in the track. In fact, he barely plays any trumpet on "Americana/The Garden Waits..." and "Particle/Spectra," the latter of which showcases a soulful vocal from LMBRCK_T.

Nonetheless, both songs are deeply layered and cinematically constructed, moving from ruminative classical chamber sections to spacy funk midsections before finally pulling back into restrained string endings. All of this is thoughtfully composed, and there are brilliant moments that definitely grab your attention. Particularly compelling is "Miracle and Streetfight," in which Akinmusire's trumpet surfs against the dissonance of Mivos Quartet's sharp string waves as A.D. lays down his laconic invective. Equally engrossing is Akinmusire's fiery opening volley on "The Lingering Velocity of the Dead's Ambitions," in which he squawks and moans with tight-eyed intensity as Mivos Quartet play a buzzing crunch of sustained bass notes and piercing accents. There is much to admire on Origami Harvest, including Akinmusire's scoring for Mivos Quartet, who offer a vibrant harmonic counterpoint to his trumpet playing. Similarly, Harris and Gilmore offer their own layered asides, with Gilmore dropping into circular trap-style beats throughout and Harris shifting from warm piano to unearthly synthesizer as needed. That said, the spotlight given to A.D. deters somewhat from the more interesting musical juxtapositions. The rapper is featured on at least half of the tracks here, a fact that lends Origami Harvest the overall feeling of being more of an avant-garde spoken word album than an instrumental jazz album. Furthermore, whether it's A.D.'s flat delivery or the way he often seems to float over the music, disconnected from the underlying structure, his presence threatens to test one's patience. Origami Harvest may not work for everybody, but for those who take the time to explore the unexpected bends and folds in Akinmusire's construction, a wealth of discoveries can be found.

a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie
miracle and streetfight
Americana / the garden waits for you to match her wildness
Particle/ spectra
Free, White, and 21
The lingering velocity of the dead’s ambitions

Stefon Harris + Blackout - Sonic Creed (MOTEMA MUSIC 2018)

The album is Stefon Harris and Blackout’s first recording since Urbanus (which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2009), and 2004’s Evolution. The conception and birth of Sonic Creed came about as a result of Harris bursting with this music, this sound, and this album, inside of him. “What pushes me to release a new album is the answer to the question, if I don’t record this music will the sound of this music exist in the world? And if the answer is no, then we have to go into the studio!”, said Harris.

Sonic Creed is about music that chronicles the story of a people and their time on earth. It aims to be a reflection of African American life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. And, it is a sonic manifestation and creed of family, community and legacy. “These core assets of the Black community are the messages of Sonic Creed, and we honor our legacy by exploring the music of masters such as Bobby Hutcherson, Abbey Lincoln, Wayne Shorter and Horace Silver. Their music is timeless and is the literal aural expression of those community assets”, said Harris.

The album therefore serves as a representation, through Stefon Harris and Blackout’s existence and experience, of Black American life in the present. “I want to document our time on the planet in the here and NOW! What is the sound of ‘Black Lives Matter’ for example? What is the sound of electing the first African American President of The United States? What is the sound of right now? This is what I’m interested in Blackout representing and reflecting. It’s art for our sake”, stated Harris.

Jason Mears Quartet - Ammonite (October 2018)

JASON MEARS, from Alaska, is a saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, improviser, and educator who is currently living in New York City. As well as being a member of the the highly acclaimed Empty Cage Quartet, Jason’s most recent projects include Anthony Braxton’s Trillium E Orchestra, Wadada Leo Smith’s Silver Orchestra, and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day Octet.

Jason Mears: Sopranino, Alto, and Baritone Saxophones
Quentin Tolimieri: Electric Piano
Ken Filiano: Bass
Andrew Drury: Drumset, Percussion

Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Jim Clouse at Park West Studios, Brooklyn, New York

1. Splitting Apart 18:31
2. Grace 16:30
3. The Cauldron 15:19

Jason Kao Hwang - Blood (October 22, 2018)

Blood by Jason Kao Hwang and his Burning Bridge ensemble represents the latest masterwork to date in the oeuvre of one of the jazz avant-garde’s most original compositional voices: an uncompromising artistic vision as captivating as it is challenging. Hwang succeeds here at incorporating improvisational statements into unified compositional schemes with what strikes me as a cinematic, directorial style, an engaging conception of sonic cinéma vérité. His mastery of musical mise-en-scène allows him to place his outstanding cast of artists within well-structured soundscapes, across which he pans with lyrical lines and propulsive rhythms that his soloists continue seamlessly, as he zooms in to foreground their candid improvised responses to the challenging situations in which they find themselves. 

The compositional stage-sets he conceives showcase an activist aesthetic of polycultural hybridity, in which uniquely orchestrated sounds combine to evoke overtones of his own Asian American history and location. Building upon Burning Bridge’s acclaimed debut recording (2012, Innova), he brings experimental jazz styles into mutually enriching dialogue with traditional Chinese music in order to confront, contemplate, and counteract the unspeakable violence whose disturbing, unrelenting echoes engendered this piece. 

He explores this harrowing theme across some 28 painstakingly staged scenes, comprising a continuous play of sound divided into five acts. The first act begins and ends with the reverberations of distant bass explosions with flying treble debris, in between which ensemble lines guide brass soloists through unfolding ritual contexts, and freeze-frame sustained tones launch duos or trios into intense dialogue; collective improvisations flow seamlessly into individual statements, which in turn give way to lyrical contrapuntal melodies before returning again to ensemble extemporization.

The second act opens with a mournful ceremonial procession that suddenly transforms into a bluesy strut over a sinewy rhythm-section groove that carries violin and cornet solos into juxtaposition with subsequent erhu and pipa solos, which lead into a climactic syncopated ensemble passage. The third act returns to the ritualized austerity of the first, with a tuba solo over processional strings, followed by freeze-frame pipa-percussion and trombone-erhu-bass dialogues, flowing into aggressively rhythmic ensemble figures that set off an explosive drum solo, over which a concluding free-rhythm coda ultimately marches off.

The fourth act brings the beat back, with an angular ensemble passage launching a series of bluesy solos over a muscular shuffle groove, which further propels violin-led call-and-response exchanges into collective improvisation that resolves into to a world-weary ensemble reprise; even the funky violin solo and light-hearted string passage that follow cannot prevent the return of repressed, collectively improvised, traumatic memories. The final act expands the first’s reverberating booms and flying debris into bass and tuba solo salvos underscored by string shrapnel, introduced, bridged, and concluded by poignant ensemble prayers for peace. 

The impassioned realization of this ambitious script owes much to the empathetic artistry of the virtuoso ensemble Hwang has assembled and sustained since 2009, with support from Chamber Music America, the Doris Duke Foundation, and U.S. Artists International, as well as performances at Edgefest, the Vision Festival, the Victoriaville Festival de Musique Actuelle, the Chicago World Music Festival, the University of Massachusetts, Flushing Town Hall, Roulette, and the Bop Shop. 

- Scott Currie 

Driving down on an unlit highway, my headlights flashed upon a bleeding deer carcass. My heart rate thundered and lungs exploded as I swerved away, narrowly avoiding a collision. This shock made me reflect upon my mother’s harrowing experiences in China during World War II. While in a Changsha pharmacy she was knocked unconscious by a Japanese bomb. She awoke as the lone survivor surrounded by the dead. I also thought about Butch Morris and Billy Bang, musicians I’ve worked with who fought in Viet Nam. The magnitude of sorrow that they endured is unimaginable. 

Blood meditates upon the emotional traumas of war retained within the body as unspoken vibrations that reverberate throughout communities and across generations. Through Blood the violence of deeply held memories are not relived but transposed into our sound. Blood in our sound rises within our song. 

Extreme danger triggers powerful forces of “fight or flight”. This conflict can produce an immobility response, which penetrates and remains within the body as emotional trauma. Similarly, when a bomb explodes, there is blast wave outward that leaves a near vacuum in its wake. This is filled by an equally deadly blast wind in the opposite direction. Within an explosion, Blood was created.

– Jason Kao Hwan

Jason Kao Hwang (composer, violin)
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn)
Joseph Daley (tuba)
Andrew Drury (drum set, concert bass drum and percussion)
Ken Filiano (string bass)
Sun Li (pipa)
Steve Swell (trombone)
Wang Guowei (erhu)

1. Breath Within the Bomb 12:31
2. Surge, Part 1 07:11
3. Surge, Part 2 07:16
4. Evolution 11:12
5. Declarations 09:38

Sound Underground - Power of Three (November 9, 2018)

Entering their sixth year, chamber trio Sound Underground returns with their third release 'Power of Three'. While their sophomore effort 'Quiet Spaces' dwelled reflectively in the intimacy of their unconventional instrumentation, 'Power of Three' strives to shatter the limitations of sonic possibility with these three acoustic instruments. Across 71 minutes of original music, the trio perseveres to turn new stones.

Tracks 1, 2, 7, 10, 11 by David Leon 
Tracks 3, 4, 5, 12 by Jonah Udall 
Tracks 6 and 8 by Alec Aldred 
Track 9 by Aldred and Udall 

David Leon - alto saxophone, bells 
Alec Aldred - trumpet 
Jonah Udall - guitar 

Recorded on June 18, 2018 at Lethe Lounge in New York, New York 
Engineered by Mark Ettinger 
Produced by Zubin Hensler 
Mixed by Stephan Van Wylick 
Mastered by Christoph Stickel at ENTERTAPE in Vienna, Austria 
Album Artwork by Marko Jevtović 
Photos by Gaya Feldheim Schorr

1. Power of Three
2. Sun Stealer
3. Belltones
4. False Alarm
5. Demon Dance
6. Feet in the Ground
7. The Potentialist
8. Restful Rapture
9. Smile Back
10. Slow to Anger, Rich in Kindness
11. By Myself
12. Lodore

SKlation - Prohils Underground (2018)

Sound is our freedom. We feel the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity. 

Space is our believe. We accept that it is true, especially without proof, feeling sure that space is capable of moving something in humans. 

Music is our determination. We follow the process of establishing something exactly by emotion or feeling with the controlling or deciding of the nature or outcome of our art. 

Helene Winkler - cello
Henri Reichmann - drums
Vincent Meißner - piano

recorded 25.06.2018 at ballroom studios Dresden

mixed and mastered by Ludwig Barth

all music composed by Helene Winkler/ Henri Reichmann and Vincent Meißner

1. Kleinod 07:00
2. Aproptochrom 15:55
3. Mutters Fleischtopf 07:07
4. Erdbeerstaub 07:57
5. Heppenheim Hausgeburt 13:15

Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio - Ancestry (2018)

This is the fourth album I've done with my Iceland-based trio and it's the first time we've added another musician to the mix. The Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola has been on my radar for a few years and we had been in touch about possibly working together at some point. When the trio was invited to Finland to play at the Tampere Jazz Happening, I knew that was the opportunity we'd been waiting for. After our performance in Tampere we went to the studio at the Sibelius Academy near Helsinki to record and stay for a couple of days. It was wonderful... sauna and all.

Þorgrímur Jónsson (double bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)

Verneri Pohjola

1. Atlantic Lullaby 04:46
2. Ancestry 08:28
3. Spin 12 01:13
4. Movimiento 02:23
5. February 04:57
6. January 06:16
7. Spin 13 01:20
8. A Major Deal 05:19
9. Tricycle 05:52
10. Emu 05:40
11. Spin 14 01:32
12. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go 04:30
13. November 04:48

Produced by Sunna Gunnlaugs and Scott McLemore. Recorded November 5th and 6th 2017 by Markus Bonsdorff at Kallio-Kuninkala Studios, Sibelius Academy in Finland. Mixed and mastered by Kjartan Kjartansson in Reykjavík, Iceland. 
Design by 
Cover Photo by Amy Nicolazzo. Band photo and Pohjola’s hands by Maarit Kytöharju, other hand photos by Sigurdór Guðmundsson. 
Verneri Pohjola appears courtesy of Edition Records.