Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Tom Rainey Obbligato with Ingrid Laubrock, Ralph Alessi, Jacob Sacks and Drew Gress - Untucked in Hannover (April 16, 2021 Intakt Records)

With Untucked in Hannover, Tom Rainey's top-notch quintet Obbligato presents a third album of a collection of jazz standards – with Jacob Sacks on piano replacing regular pianist Kris Davis for this live recording. Wonderful jazz tunes like Stella by Starlight or I Fall in Love Too Easily are interpreted in an open dialogue with stunning joy of playing and improvisation. And though standards are the modus operandi of Obbligato, their approach is intended to be less conventional, less reverential and certainly less solo-centric than many other bands that tackles with Standards. Obbligato sometimes plays with the essences of famous jazz standards in an implied way, sometimes in a teasing and mysterious way, but always in a tantalizing way.

"Close your eyes, imagine sitting in the front row of your favorite jazz club, sit back and enjoy Obbligato playing pieces from the Great American Songbook in a way you've never heard them before: and by one of the most inventive and inspiring live bands of the last decade," writes Laurence Donohue-Greene in the liner notes.
1. If I should Lose You
2. Stella by Starlight
3. What's New – There is No Greater Love
4. I Fall in Love to Easily
5. Just in Time – In Your Own Sweet Way
6. Long Ago and Far Away

Ralph Alessi: Trumpet
Ingrid Laubrock: Saxophones
Jacob Sacks: Piano
Drew Gress: Bass
Tom Rainey: drums

Recorded October 15th, 2018 by NDR, Jens Kunze, at Jazz Club Hannover. Live sound engineer, Raphael Becker-Foss. Recording producer NDR, Felix Behrendt. Recording executive producers NDR, Axel Dürr, Stefan Gerdes. Mastered October 2020 by Michael Brändli, Hardstudios, Winterthur. Cover art: Christine Reifenberger, Graphic design: Jonas Schoder. Liner notes: Laurence donohue-Greene, Photo: Jan-Gerrit Schäfer, Jazzclub Hannover. Produced by Tom Rainey, NDR and Intakt Records.

Irène Schweizer / Hamid Drake - Celebration (April 16, 2021 Intakt Records)

Piano-Drums Duos are the preferred playing arrangement of pianist Irène Schweizer. Her mastery of duets with important drummers of contemporary jazz are documented on numerous Intakt CDs. Han Bennink, Pierre Favre, Louis Moholo, Günter Baby Sommer, Andrew Cyrille and Joey Baron among them.

The Chicago drummer Hamid Drake, born in 1955, and Irène Schweizer, born in 1941, have performed together on numerous occasions both in Europe and Chicago. Together they have appeared on the Intakt CD "Irène Schweizer-Fred Anderson-Hamid Drake". At the 40th anniversary festival "Kontrontationen in Nickelsdorf" (Austria), Schweizer and Drake were the highlight of the event. A celebration of the moment and a declaration of love to South African songs along with their thrilling energy and rhythmic lightness produced a firework of improvisation. A parade of successful interplay.

The CD Celebration is released on the occasion of Irène Schweizer's 80th birthday (2. Juni), accompanied by a catalo- gue of the pianist's works on Intakt Records.
1. A Former Dialogue
2. Hot Sunflowers
3. The Good Life
4. Twister
5. Stringfever
6. Blues for Crelier
7. Nickelsdorf Glow
8. Celebration
9. Song for Johnny – In memory of Johnny Dyani

Irène Schweizer: Piano
Hamid Drake: Drums

Compositions by Irène Schweizer except “a Former dialog” by Schweizer/Drake. Recorded June 26, 2019 at Konfrontationen Nickelsdorf, 40th Festival for Free and Improvised Music, Jazzgallery Nickelsdorf, Austria. Recorded by ORF (Radio Österreich 1). Soundengineer: Gerhard Wald. Recording manager: Jens Jamin. Recording producer: Klaudia Zeininger. Festival organised by Hans Falb and team. Mastered by Michael Brändli at Hardstudios Winterthur, 2020. Cover art: Rosina kuhn. Graphic design: Jonas Schoder. Liner notes: Christian Broecking. Photos: Dawid Laskowski. Produced and published by Intakt Records.

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Breathe (March 2021 Blue Note)

Breathe captures the Hammond B-3 organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith during his 75th birthday run at the Jazz Standard in NYC in 2017, the same week he recorded his acclaimed trio album All In My Mind. On this night the good doctor took the stage with an expanded line-up featuring Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar, Johnathan Blake on drums, John Ellis on tenor saxophone, Jason Marshall on baritone saxophone, Sean Jones on trumpet, and Robin Eubanks on trombone. Two additional studio tracks that open and close the album present the unique collaboration between Doc and Iggy Pop including a sublime cover of Donovan’s 1966 hit “Sunshine Superman.”

The legendary Hammond B-3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith has recorded over thirty albums as a leader, but his favorite setting to document his creativity is live. “It’s so hard to capture what I’m feeling at the moment in the studio,” he says. “Hearing me live is catching me playing in the moment. It’s a good vibe. It’s a loving situation.”

During the 2017 celebration of his 75th birthday, basking in the glow of being named an NEA Jazz Master, Smith settled into the Jazz Standard in New York City for a live recording date. With his steady trio of guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake, the master of improvisational innovation delightfully delivered the spirited All In My Mind album, which was released in 2018.

That celebratory week has now yielded a second fantastic album with Breathe, a dynamic eight-song set that includes six thrilling pieces brimming with foot-tapping grooves, sophisticated harmonic voicings, indelible melodicism, and ethereal atmospherics that were captured on the Jazz Standard stage with the trio as well as an expanded septet. Notably, the album is bookended by two remarkable studio collaborations between Smith and the legendary vocalist Iggy Pop.

“I was playing with my trio at Arts Garage in Delray Beach in Florida,” says Dr. Lonnie, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale. “Iggy would come by and say he wanted to play with me. I let him play slaparoo and he loved it. He enjoyed playing with us. We thought about recording a few songs, so we went in with my trio backing us up, and it worked.”

Pop, Smith, Kreisberg, and Blake headed into a Miami studio with the addition of percussionist Richard Bravo and discovered a unique chemistry that resulted in two striking performances including the album’s opening track “Why Can’t We Live Together,” a 1972 R&B hit by Timmy Thomas that was later recorded by Sade on her 1984 debut album. With its call for unity, the song is given an eased, soulful read by Pop while Smith plays gentle grooves before diving into a juicy solo. “That’s a great tune with a great message,” he says. “It really says something to you. We enjoyed it very much.”
The album closes with Iggy and Dr. Lonnie taking Donovan’s 1966 hit “Sunshine Superman” for a funkified joyride. “Ah, hah!” exclaims Doc. “That’s another good one. You can hear the ones we both like. This fits his voice.”

The entire album is rooted in the deep musical communication Smith has developed with his trio mates over many years. “It’s hard to keep a working group like this,” the good Doctor says. “But my group has been together a long time. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a family. It’s exciting. They’re playing from their hearts. They know what I’m trying to do and enhance what I play. They hear me. I play in the moment all the time, and they’re there for me.”

In the trio takes from the Jazz Standard, Dr. Lonnie’s B-3 sounds like it’s wailing, as on the epic, soulful original “World Weeps” that goes up-tempo with a wall of organ emotion and Kreisberg’s fleet-fingered guitar flight. “It has a New Orleans feel,” says Doc, “like a dirge.”
The trio also takes a playful plunge into Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.” “That’s one of my favorites,” Smith says. “I had to get that in there. It’s a little different, but I think he would have approved of it. There’s funky wisdom.”

The remainder of the album finds the trio expanded to a septet with the addition of John Ellis on tenor saxophone, Sean Jones on trumpet, Jason Marshall on baritone saxophone, and Robin Eubanks on trombone. “Some of my songs need the horns,” Smith says. “I needed that atmosphere.” The lyrical, buoyant “Bright Eyes” is a Dr. Lonnie original that dates back to the days when he played with George Benson. “Too Damn Hot” is another original that starts slowly but then heats up with sizzling solos. “I wrote that song some years ago,” he says. “I like all the surprises. It feels good, almost as if you don’t really know what’s going on.”

Smith’s “Track 9” starts with an edgy horn-filled groove then shifts gears with tempo acceleration that opens into a utopian party. The B-3 maestro steers the proceedings with his bass lines while Jones launches into a scorching solo. “It’s like a train, ‘Track 9.’ It moves like a train. You hear it in the distance, then there’s the horn and the beat is slow then it picks up. I wanted to give it a James Brown feel.”

“Pilgrimage” shines a spotlight on the soulful beauty of vocalist Alicia Olatuja. “Alicia is a helluva singer,” Smith says. “She is something else. The way she sings this song is perfect. She sings it like it’s hers. As her accompanist, my comping was just to lay back and take it easy. I listen carefully, give her what she needs then get the horns to push it. It’s special.”

Breathe is Smith’s third Blue Note album since his 2016 return to the label where he made a name for himself in the late 1960s, first as a sideman with saxophonist Lou Donaldson on soul jazz classics like Alligator Bogaloo, and soon after as a leader with his own classics such as Think! and Turning Point. The 2016 album Evolution marked his Blue Note homecoming, followed by All In My Mind in 2018. His last three albums have all been produced by Blue Note president Don Was. “Don has been hands on, there all the time,” he says. “He believes in you. I’ve worked with producers who don’t understand the musicians they’re working with. But Don, he wants me to be myself, to understand what I like to do. It’s a reminder of the old days when Frank Wolff used to be the same.”

Smith adds, “Blue Note is like family. It’s like I never left. Everybody is great to work with. They give me the opportunity to play my life, to tell my story.”

Phisqa - Pachamama (March 2021 Odradek Records)

“PHISQA: a solid fusion of jazz and Peruvian rhythms” – Diario Jaén

“A superior project: six stars” – Ideal (Granada)

“Phisqa: a very solid fusión between jazz and Peruvian rhythms.” – Cultura Jaen

“This is the next step in the fusion of Peruvian rhythms and jazz...” – Oscar Stangaro

“At their head, Calmet is a young musician at the beginning of what promises to be an interesting journey.” – The Irish Times

“... a young group full of promise.” – All About Jazz

“Super...” – Jazz FM

“Peruvian jazz catches your ear by combining thriving rhythms from the Andes with the splendid musicianship of some of the finest European jazz musicians.” – Jazz Am Sunntig

“A trip” is how its creator, Cote Calmet, defines this project. ‘Phisqa’ (‘five’ in Quechua, the native language of Peru) is a word chosen to inspire our five senses as human beings. PHISQA is also the staging of a new way of merging the rich texture of Afro-Peruvian, Andean and Amazonian rhythms with the elegance, spontaneity, freedom and virtuosity of the jazz language.

Pachamama, meaning Mother Earth in Quechua (the native language used by the Incas in Peru), is a tribute to the one, huge, living organism floating in space which gives life to every single one of us. A tribute to the perfect timing in life that puts everything together at the right moment, in the right place, so that all of us can be walking, breathing, laughing, creating, experimenting, listening. Every composition on the album relates to the Pachamama and its inhabitants. It could be a Guacamayo (macaw) taking flight, a Shipiba (healer from the Amazon jungle) like Elisa Vargas chanting, a poet like Nicomedes studying, or anything or anybody that is trying to make the world a more beautiful place.
Formed in the city of Dublin (Ireland) in 2010, PHISQA escapes the traditional way in which Peruvian rhythms have been fused with jazz. Calmet – composer, conductor and drummer of the group – explains: “First of all I tried to approach Peruvian music, trying to use another method of playing it with jazz. I used a lot of the concepts of opening the solos of the themes, as well as having more architectural structures. I have also avoided having a cajón or other type of native percussion next to the drums, so I passed all those rhythms to my instrument. PHISQA explores the wealth of Afro-Peruvian, Andean and Amazonian music but with jazz instruments: soprano and tenor sax, trumpet, guitar, drums and double bass. That way we can move from a totally Peruvian rhythm to the newest in contemporary jazz and fusion.”

07 – MOCHE
09 – FOLI
10 – MANU

Carlos Ligero tenor saxophone
Miguel de Gemma soprano saxophone
Albetro Martín trumpet & flugelhorn
Mario Alonso electric guitar
Alejandro Tamayo double & electric bass
Cote Calmet drums, percussion, composition & arrangement

Laughing Seabird - I Feeel Fat (March, 2021)

Nouvel album The Transformation Place

Sortie le 28/05 chez Ad Libertam / L'Autre Distribution

Concert de sortie le 16/09 au Studio de l'Ermitage à Paris

Laughing Seabird est de retour le 28 mai 2021 avec son deuxième album The Transformation Place, arrangé par Emmanuel Heyner. En douze titres, le disque creuse le sillon d’une folk-pop envoûtante, élégante et énergisante.

On retrouve des arrangements aux influences pop, souvent celtiques et floydiennes, des mélodies qui nous restent en tête, et la voix ample, expressive, percutante ou douce de Céline.

En français ainsi qu’en anglais, la poésie de ses textes réalistes ou enchanteurs invite à accueillir nos vulnérabilités comme autant de forces en puissance et de moteurs à nos envies. Entre pop et folk, la voix de Laughing Seabird nous caresse et nous emporte aussi bien sur les dix compositions originales que sur les reprises bien choisies que sont Sailor Song de Rickie Lee Jones et Scarborough Fair de Simon & Garfunkel.

Le premier single, I Feel Fat, premier d’une trilogie, aborde les manques qu’on tente d’assouvir, les palliatifs qui ne soulagent pas et qui nous enferment encore plus dans des blocages, des dépendances et des impuissances apprises. Un titre qui nous plonge dans une ambiance de folk irlandaise en plein Far West.
Laughing Seabird, c’est Céline... et c’est aussi le nom de son groupe. La musique de Laughing Seabird rappelle ces expériences où l’on va décoller, individuellement et collectivement. Voyager, s’imprégner d’une énergie émouvante et rémanente.

Fruit d’un apprentissage patient, et d’une forte nécessité intérieure, l’ouvrage de Céline est devenu un défi personnel, un remède, et un appel inévitable. Il y est question de guérison, de rompre avec le connu, de provoquer l’insu et d’escamoter nos programmations. De nous créer autrement et d’ouvrir les portes de nos perceptions pour accéder à… la Transformation.

Admirateurs depuis l’adolescence des Beatles, Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, The Pink Floyd, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Peter Gabriel, Sting et tant d'autres, Céline épaulée par Manu (Emmanuel Heyner) a trouvé une complicité rare qui illumine chaque titre de l'album. Leur travail puise également dans de nombreuses autres inspirations. L’influence celtique notamment est dans l’ADN de Céline de par ses origines bretonnes et son attachement à cette culture qui réunit tous les âges, en des moments emprunts d’une communion libératrice.

Deux titres de l'album The Transformation Place sont présents dans la BO du film « Ça tourne à Saint Pierre et Miquelon » réalisé par Christian Monnier - sortie en salle prochainement - où Céline joue son propre rôle (ou presque…:-) de comédienne et chanteuse… embarquée dans une quête identitaire teintée de poésie et de fantaisie. On pourra retrouver Laughing Seabird en concert le 16/09/21 au Studio de l'Ermitage à Paris.

Steve Gadd Band At Blue Note Tokyo (April 2, 2021 via BFM Jazz)

The iconic drummer, Steve Gadd releases his band's 5th project: At Blue Note Tokyo. This album follows their 2018 Grammy win of Best Contempory / Instrumental Album for the eponymous album Steve Gadd Band. At Blue Note Tokyo was recorded live at this legendary club in December of 2018. Regular band members, Walt Fowler (Flugelhorn/Trumpet), Kevin Hays (Piano/Keys) and Jimmy Johnson (Bass) are joined by an old friend and renown guitarist, David Spinozza. The album highlights live versions of tunes from previous albums. It features a couple of new tunes penned by Spinozza and two tracks with soulful vocals by Hays. At Blue Note Tokyo captures the unique appeal of this venue and reflects the special relationship Steve Gadd has had with this club over the many years.

1. Where's Earth?
2. Doesn't She Know by Now
3. Timpanogos
4. Hidden Drive
5. Walk with Me
6. One Point Five
7. Way Back Home
8. Rat Race
9. Watching the River Flow

Theo Hill - Promethean (May 12, 2017 Posi-Tone Records)

Pianist Theo Hill unleashes a coruscating burst of passionate creativity on his 2017 album "Promethean." It's a hard hitting trio date that features the solid harmonic foundation of bassist Yasushi Nakamura and the bombastically explosive metrics of drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. Listeners are invited to fasten their seat belts and take a trip when the bandleader steers his group into an innovative exploration of the pantheon of musical inspirations. Bursting into flames and rising like the phoenix, Mr. Hill shares with us his stolen sparks of heaven to captivate our attention with his heartfelt musical tale of stunning melodicism.

Featuring a soulfully interpretative program of compositions across a variety of styles, sounds, and moods, Promethean succeeds as a scintillating performance that will certainly spark flames of delight in the hearts of straight-forward jazz enthusiasts everywhere.

1. This Here 04:09
2. Hey, It's Me You're Talking To 03:40
3. Finger Painting 05:00
4. I Love Music 04:07
5. Pee Wee 05:25
6. The Phoenix 04:59
7. Blasphemy 05:16
8. Is That So 05:25
9. Litha 06:24
10. Chance 04:15
11. Citadel 05:43

Theo Hill - piano
Yasushi Nakamura - bass
Mark Whitfield Jr. - drums

Marc Free - producer
Nick O’Toole - engineer
recorded September 26, 2016 at Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, NY
mixed & mastered at Woodland Studio, Lake Oswego, OR
photography by Anna Yatskevich
package design by Jamie Brunson

Throttle Elevator Music - Final Floor (March 2021 Wide Hive Records)

Final Floor is eleven new tracks featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington and trumpeter Erik Jekabson with longtime collaborators and songwriters Matt Montgomery and Gregory Howe. Joining them are Mike Hughes and on drums, Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone, Ross Howe on fender guitar and Mike Blankenship on organ.

As the title indicates this album represents the final original recordings of Throttle Elevator Music. Final Floor has an upscale energy with elements of rock and punk that fuel the overall sound and dynamically bring an edge back to jazz.

1 Supraliminal Space
2 Caste Off
3 Daggerboard
4 Ice Windows
5 Final Floor
6 Recirculate
7 Heart of Hearing
8 Return to Form
9 Standards Reproached
10 Fast Remourse
11 Rooftop Sunrise

Noah Haidu - Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett (May 7, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

SLOWLY: Song for Keith Jarrett was recorded at the end of 2020, a watershed year for pianist Noah Haidu. As critical accolades streamed in for his innovative multi-media release DOCTONE, Haidu was on the verge of realizing another ambitious project: recording a trio album with one of the greatest bass and drum combinations in jazz: Billy Hart and Buster Williams, whose own remarkable collaboration began half a century ago. The project will be released via Sunnyside Records on May 7, 2021, one day before Jarrett’s 75th birthday.

The decision to focus the album’s material around the great Keith Jarrett crystallized when news broke of Keith Jarrett’s retirement due to a pair of debilitating strokes. “When I heard about Keith,” says Haidu. “I was profoundly moved, and I started to envision the recording with Billy and Buster as a kind of musical response to these events and Keith’s body of work.”

Jarrett’s music carries great personal meaning for Haidu. “My father and I had a tradition of going to hear Jarrett together for several years running,” says Noah. “My dad (who was largely responsible for introducing me to jazz) passed away a week before Keith’s final concert. Attending that concert was one of the ways I was able to mark his passing and start a new chapter in my own life. My 17-year marriage came to an end and I refocused my energies on performing and recording with my own group. Dad and I had been planning to attend that show together but his illness came on quite suddenly and a few weeks before the end he handed me the tickets and said, “you’d better find someone else to go with.” No one knew at the time of the concert that it would be Keith’s final performance.”

The music on SLOWLY flowed organically with Hart, Haidu, and Williams all contributing compositions, but the project was not without its challenges. A planned west coast tour/record date in August 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic. The recording was eventually rescheduled for late November, with Covid’s second surge threatening to interfere again. “We decided not to put off the session a second time,” says Haidu. “It was not just another record date for any of us. We booked a large studio (Sear Sound), put on our masks and played our hearts out. I think you can hear the joy in this time when we are all so isolated. I felt honored that they were willing to come into the city and do this record at a time when just walking out of the house feels like a risk to one’s health.”

The trio approached the thematic aspect of the music by maintaining a respectful distance, and a commitment to playing the music their own way rather than recreating performances of the past. “Everyone in the band has such a clearly defined voice,” says Haidu. “There was never a possibility of taking an imitative approach.”

The Jarrett waltz “Rainbow” (which some have credited to his former wife Margot Jarrett) segues into Haidu’s jubilantly rocking “Song for Keith Jarrett,” a nod to Jarrett’s legendary Standards Trio. Haidu elaborates on the repertoire choices in the liner notes: “We decided to include Buster and Billy’s wonderful compositions which highlight the type of interaction and open-ended expression that I feel is the heart of the Jarrett/DeJohnette/ Peacock trio.” Williams brought the dreamy “Air Dancing,” and Hart contributed the lush lyricism of “Duchess” and “Lorca.” The trio also chose a few standards: “Georgia,” “But Beautiful,” and “What a Difference a Day Makes” spontaneously in the studio, building on the songbook canon that helped make Jarrett, DeJohnette, and Peacock into one of the archetypal units in jazz history. Haidu, Williams, and Hart approached the standards with a Jarrett signature: a focus on the original melodies.

The improvisations spring from those melodies and the stories behind the lyrics, eschewing the trend to “rethink” repertoire which has become commonplace in recent years. Haidu elaborates: “The idea was to get at the essence of, rather than reinvent these songs. I think that’s something I have absolutely absorbed from Keith Jarrett.” The titular SLOWLY was penned by Haidu and is dedicated to Jarrett’s solo piano style which Noah calls a “genre unto itself.”
Of his relationship to Jarrett’s music Haidu says: “I’ve never thought of myself as a pianist who ‘plays like Keith’. However, his work has increasingly influenced my trio approach in the last few years. I’m getting back to playing ballads, standards and increasingly finding my own voice on standard repertoire. That evolution has been inspired by Jarrett who plays standards with complete authenticity, never sounding like anyone else on this music.”

Almost everything on the album is an unedited first take. According to Haidu, “These songs have a certain simplicity. There’s not a lot of pyrotechnics, everything depends on the band interaction, you can’t hide behind a complicated form or wild rhythms. You have to make a statement, and everyone has to breathe together in the music. The one song we did a second time was ‘Air Dancing.’ We had paused after the first take when executive producer and president of Sunnyside Records Francois Zalacain arrived at the session. Before we went back to record Buster said to me, ‘You’re doing a beautiful job, but this time just go for anything you hear, don’t worry about downbeats and playing every chord, Billy and I got that covered. ‘When Buster Williams says to ‘go for, it I got your back’ that really resonates.”

2020 was a year of highlights for rising star pianist Noah Haidu: his acclaimed Sunnyside Records debut DOCTONE was the first to address the remarkable legacy of pianist Kenny Kirkland, and arguably the first album exploring the work of any jazz artist to be released in tandem with a film and a book. Haidu and the project were the subject of a nationally broadcast news story on NPR and critic Nate Chinen singled out the recording as an important new release on All Songs Considered. DOCTONE was the follow-up to Haidu’s 6-part suite INFINITE DISTANCES which was included in DownBeat’s 2017 Best Albums of the Year issue receiving a rare 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

At age 19 Haidu studied at Rutgers University with the great pianist Kenny Barron, but was soon skipping classes to sit in at jazz clubs in Barron’s hometown of Philadelphia. After his second year, Haidu left college and moved to Brooklyn to devote all his time to practicing and gigging with artists such as Walter Perkins, Duane Eubanks, Essiet Essiet, Melvin Sparks, Jeanie Bryson, and Norman Connors. After the debut of his first album Slipstream, All About Jazz said of Noah, “The cat can play his butt off.” In 2011, Haidu was called a “rising star” in JazzTimes and “an important new talent” in Jazzwise magazine.

His subsequent albums and sideman work have seen him collaborating with Ambrose Akinmusire, Mike Stern, Jeremy Pelt, Sharel Cassity, and Vincent Herring. After a 2015 MOCA concert his music was dubbed “vibrant and adventurous” in the Miami Herald. Giovanni Russonello described him as “an artist of focus and vision.” In 2017, DownBeat Magazine featured Haidu in an article entitled “Subversive Soul” and singled him out as an “innovative composer.”

Buster Williams and Billy Hart first worked together in 1969 at a concert with vocalist Betty Carter in Chicago. Both played on classic albums by Miles Davis, but it wasn’t until they joined Herbie Hancock’s innovative sextet Mwandishi that they were able to tour and record together for four year years. As members of Mwandishi both took Swahili nicknames: Hart was called ‘Jabali’ meaning “strong like a rock,” and Williams was known in the band as ‘Mchezaji’ or “player.” Widely celebrated for their innovations in acoustic and electric music Williams and Hart have both been in frequent collaboration with legends such as McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz, and Kenny Barron. In recent years they have been lauded as major composers and bandleaders, both headlining regularly at top venues such as The Village Vanguard and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Billy Hart turned 80 years old within a few days of this recording.

1. Air Dancing
2. Duchess
3. What a Difference a Day Makes
4. Rainbow / Keith Jarrett
5. Georgia
6. Slowly
7. Lorca
8. But Beautiful

Noah Haidu - piano
Buster Williams - bass
Billy Hart - drums

Pee Wee Russell - Doing Fine (March 2021 nagel heyer records)

During the last dozen years of his life before passing away in 1969, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell recorded and performed in a variety of surprisingly modern settings. It was not that Russell was not modern himself, for his eccentric style had long been quite distinctive, but he had previously been content to mostly play in freewheeling Dixieland bands.

The small-group swing set has basic arrangements from pianist Nat Pierce, quiet support from bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Karl Kiffe, and Russell is joined by three of his favorite horn players (trumpeter Ruby Braff, trombonist Vic Dickenson, and tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman). One can fully understand why the clarinetist was quite pleased with this music. His playing is much more consistent and comfortable on the mid-tempo material than usual and he mostly gets to avoid the overly hyper Dixieland warhorses. A gem.

In 1962, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, began teaming up with valve trombonist/bass trumpeter Marshall Brown in more modern settings. Utilizing a pianoless quartet, Russell performed music that was a little reminiscent of Gerry Mulligan and often incorporated surprisingly modern songs. On this intriguing set, Russell, Brown, bassist Russell George, and drummer Ron Lundberg perform such songs as "Chelsea Bridge," "Moten Swing," "Good Bait," "'Round Midnight," and even John Coltrane's "Red Planet.“

Tenor-saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell revisit "If I Could Be with You," a song they had recorded together in a classic version back in 1929. Russell was beginning to perform much more modern material than the Dixieland music associated with the Eddie Condon players and on this set (which also features trumpeter Emmett Berry, valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, pianist Nat Pierce, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Jo Jones), he plays a couple of Duke Ellington tunes, two originals and "Tin Tin Deo." Hawkins is also in fine form and this somewhat surprising program is quite successful. AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow 

1. That Old Feeling 04:18
2. My Mother's Eyes 04:41
3. If I Could Be with You (One Hour Tonight ) 06:31
4. It All Depends on You 04:02
5. 'Round Midnight 03:19
6. What Am I Here For 07:53
7. Out of Nowhere 04:52
8. Old Folks 02:43
9. Mean to Me 06:30
10. Chelsea Bridge 02:48
11. Red Planet 04:51
12. Tin Tin Deo 08:58
13. Pee Wee's Blues 04:36
14. I Used to Love You 05:04
15. Moten Swing 04:36
16. Mariooch 07:21
17. Good Bait 04:12

Pee Wee Russell - clarinet
Emmett Berry - trumpet
Ruby Braff - trumpet
Bud Freeman - tenor sax
Coleman Hawkins - tenor sax
Marshal Brown - trombone
Vic Dickenson - trombone
Nat Pierce - piano

Various Artists

Frank Vignola (feat. Frank Wess, Randy Sandke, Roland Hanna) - Off Broadway (March 2021 nagel heyer records)

Whoever decided to include veteran Frank Wess on some tracks deserves a good deal of credit for the success of this album. The Count Basie veteran tenor man has laid-back but commanding solos on such cuts as "It's All Right With Me" and Horace Silver's "Cookin' at the Continental," where he and another jazz veteran, Sir Roland Hanna, assume control of the track, making it an album highlight. This album is a generous 79-plus minutes of solid jazz and is recommended.

1. Funny How 05:24
2. Stars Fell on Alabama I (feat. Roland Hanna) 04:23
3. Off Broadway (feat. Frank Wess) 05:27
4. Limone's Blues (feat. Randy Sandke, Roland Hanna) 05:31
5. The Return (feat. Roland Hanna) 05:21
6. Stardust 05:15
7. Sing That (feat. Roland Hanna) 04:53
8. Cookin' at the Continental (feat. Frank Wess, Randy Sandke) 04:26
9. Never, Never (feat. Frank Wess) 04:54
10. Annie 05:18
11. In the Hills (feat. Randy Sandke) 04:06
12. Frankly Speaking 06:12
13. Stars Fell on Alabama II (feat. Roland Hanna) 04:02
14. It's All Right with Me (feat. Frank Wess) 10:01
15. What's Up 04:23

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Hugh Manwell - Guidance (March 30, 2021)

delivers his second project,
this time taping into the Big Band sound

Big brass and high energy sum up the sounds of Hugh Manwell’s second project of 2021, Guidance. This 6 track EP combines soul, funk, & big band Jazz into a high-energy project. Hugh Manwell, a multi-instrumentalist and composer, plays Drums, Trumpet, Saxophone, Bass, Guitar, Piano, and Synths on Guidance delivering a modern twist on the classic Big Band Jazz sound. From the larger than life epic sounds of Big Time to the more slowed-down sensual vibes of “Walking On Clouds” the project will satisfy the emotional palate no matter the mood. Tap, play, close your eyes, and let Hugh Manwell give you Guidance.

Erin Propp & Larry Roy - We Want All The Same Things (April 23, 2021 Chronograph Records)

There is nuance in the everyday; in its layers of love, joy, and hurt, and in its emotional currents ever present. Erin Propp and Larry Roy reach into the everyday and blur the edges, creating works that are at once deeply personal and achingly relatable. These are songs that take it all in, that read between the lines, that hear the subtext, that feel it, that say it out loud.

Their music rings true with nuance and power, with rare clarity and precision. Their musical abilities are tools of exacting expression, expertly honed. They reach in to resonate; calling the listener inside, sounding the overtones of our shared experience.
Erin and Larry’s debut album Courage, My Love (2012), was met with praise and acclaim. The recording won Best Jazz Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards (2013), and a JUNO nomination in the category of Vocal Jazz Album of the Year (2014). Erin and Larry can do it all, from charming intimate jazz club sets, to moving concert hall performances, and key arts organizations have taken note.

Erin and Larry have performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, and have opened for Gretchen Parlato at the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

1. Each Hidden Joy 4:25
2. Hello Morning 3:51
3. We Want All The Same Things 4:23
4. Farther On 4:17
5. Recomeçar (H. Piccoli, E. Propp) 3:47
6. The Light 4:11
7. Give Me More 4:20
8. So Far Away (Carole King) 4:56
9. Tell Him (Lauryn Hill) 5:28
10. The Nearness of You (H. Carmichael, N. Washington) 6:34
11. Angels Gather There 4:35
12. À La Claire Fontaine (Traditional) 3:45

All songs composed by Erin Propp & Larry Roy unless otherwise indicated

Larry Roy - Guitars, Dobro
Erin Propp - Vocals
Larnell Lewis - Drums
Will Bonness - Piano, Wurlitzer
Julian Bradford - Acoustic Bass (1-2, 4, 6-9)
Mike Downes - Acoustic Bass (3, 5, 10)
Karl Kohut - Acoustic Bass (11)
Rogerio Boccato - Percussion (1, 5)
Shannon Kristjanson - Flute, Alto Flute (2, 10-11)
Ken Gold - Alto & Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet (2, 10-11)
Jimmy Greene - Soprano Sax (2, 8, 11)
Steve Wilson - Alto Sax (3)
Joey Landreth - Slide Guitar (4)
Joel Green - Trombone (10-11)
Miron Rafajlović - Trumpet (10)
Derrick Gardner - Trumpet (11)

Live chat with Mareike Wiening on March 30th with Four on the Floor

Bheki Mseleku - Beyond The Stars (March 2021 Tapestry Works)

Self-taught multi-instrumentalist and composer Bhekumuzi Hyacinth Mseleku (1955-2008), known as Bheki Mseleku, is widely considered to have been the most richly gifted South African jazz musician of his generation. Born in Durban, he moved to Johannesburg in the mid-1970s and played with groups including Spirits Rejoice, The Drive and Philip Tabane’s Malombo. In 1980, he left apartheid South Africa for exile in Europe, travelling with his close friend Eugene Skeef. (A percussionist, educator, poet and former close comrade of Steve Biko, Skeef originally produced the Beyond The Stars session, and contributes liner notes to this release.)

Bheki spent six difficult years in Stockholm before moving to London. After a triumphant debut at Ronnie Scott’s, in 1992 he would release his now classic debut album Celebration for World Circuit, before signing with Verve. He would go on to achieve worldwide recognition, recording and touring with jazz luminaries including Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders, Joe Henderson and Abbey Lincoln.

Throughout his life, Bheki struggled with both his physical and mental health. He was, as Eugene Skeef puts it, ‘a conduit for the healing energy of music to flow into the world’, a gift that came at a cost. At the start of the new century, Bheki returned to live in South Africa, but just a few years later he found himself in compound difficulties: life at home had proved too hard, and he was not well. He had also lost his imported Steinway upright piano in an unwise business deal and had not been able to play. In 2003, Skeef helped him return to London, where they hoped to realign his health and rekindle his career.

Through his work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Skeef arranged for Bheki to have access to the Steinway concert grand pianos held at Henry Wood Hall. After Bheki had spent a few weeks recuperating, Skeef booked a studio session at Gateway Studios.

Beyond The Stars was the result: a stunning, solo piano suite which condenses Mseleku’s visionary overstanding of South African music into a flowing, pulsing statement in six parts. With jazzwise echoes of marabi, amahubo, maskanda and Nguni song forms binding it to the deep music of Mseleku’s Zulu heritage, Beyond The Stars provides what Blue Note recording artist Nduduzo Makhathini describes in his liner notes as ‘a divine summary’ of Bheki’s life story: ‘a sonic pilgrimage from the beautiful and organic landscapes of Durban, to the vibrant energy of London and ultimately toward the inner dimensions of one’s being.’

But releasing the album proved impossible at the time, and so the session has remained unheard. Bheki sadly passed on in 2008, without having released a new album for five years; almost two decades have now passed since any new music by him has emerged. Working with Eugene Skeef, Tapestry Works is proud to break the silence with a first issue for Bheki Mseleku’s visionary masterpiece, Beyond The Stars.

1. Cosmic Dance 06:26
2. Isango (The Gateway) 16:51
3. Izanusi (The Diviners) 06:53
4. Ekhaya 04:42
5. Light of Love 05:49
6. Transcendence 08:54

All compositions by Bheki Mseleku

Bheki Mseleku – piano, voice

Recorded on the 28 November 2003 at Gateway Studios, London
Producer – Eugene Skeef
Co-producer – Derek Johnson
Engineer – Steve Lowe
Assistant Engineer – Gurjit Dhinsa
Mastering – Colin Young at See Why Audio

Christopher Hoffman - Asp Nimbus (March 2021 Out Of Your Head Records)

1. Discretionary 04:03
2. Dylan George 06:00
3. Asp Nimbus 03:40
4. Angles Of Influence 03:33
5. Orb 02:49
6. Non-Submersible 04:25
7. For You 03:14
8. The Heights Of Spectacle 03:46

Christopher Hoffman - cello, compositions
Bryan Carrott - vibraphone
Rashaan Carter - bass
Craig Weinrib - drums
David Virelles - piano (track 2 only)

All Compositions By Christopher Hoffman

Recorded January 8 & 9 2020 by Lily Wen at Figure 8 Studios
Produced, Mixed & Mastered By Christopher Hoffman

Joe Morris / Damon Smith - Gusts Against Particles (May 1, 2021 Open Systems Records)

This LP is the first release for Open Systems and is a limited, hand numbered edition of 200 copies. The digital version is unlimited.

Duets are conversations, pure and simple. They can be long threads, emphatic, full of query and answer, or emotion and subtlety. At best, they have all the hallmarks and inside commentary of an old relationship, but even first-time meetings can feel like the participants have known one another for ages. You might know that feeling, too: someone you’ve been aware of and finally get to spend time with, over the minutes or hours that follow a gentle easing-in becomes a gush of ideas and rejoinders. Joe Morris (b. 1955, New Haven, CT) and Damon Smith (b. 1972, Spokane, WA) have traveled in similar improvised music circles for decades, though Gusts Against Particles is their first duo and first proper album together.

The two met in 2006 under the guise of sessions for Healing Force, a super-group CD put together by guitarist Henry Kaiser to explore the late music of Albert Ayler. At that time Smith was living in the Bay Area and cutting his teeth in its free music scene while Morris was based out East, teaching at the New England Conservatory and leading a number of harmonically and rhythmically game-changing small ensembles.

Flash forward 13 years and Smith was living and working in Boston, performing with artists like pianists Pandelis Karayorgis and Eric Zinman, drummers Ra Kalam Bob Moses and Curt Newton, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and cornetist Stephen Haynes. Just prior to the bassist’s 2019 relocation to St. Louis, a few concerts were set up with Morris alongside this studio recording. Of Morris, Smith says “I got into his work pretty soon after getting into the music. I love that he knows free jazz as well as the European traditions.

He is well versed in the harmonic language of Jimmy Lyons, which is foundational for me since I came up as [alto saxophonist] Marco Eneidi's understudy. Playing with him is more like playing with a horn player than a guitarist. It is unlike playing with [Sandy] Ewen or Kaiser. The main thing about playing with him is I am able to think and play faster and more effortlessly than on my own.”

Morris has also worked frequently as a contrabassist, though the guitar is his primary and longest-lasting mode of expression. He’s performed and recorded in duo with other legendary bassists in free music, people like William Parker, Barre Phillips, and Christian Weber, not to mention in deep dialogues with other modern instrumental travelers (eg. reedist Anthony Braxton, saxophonist Evan Parker, trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Matthew Shipp, and guitarist Mary Halvorson). So, there is a lot of history to reckon with, as well as a lot of instantaneous creation.

As Morris thinks back to meeting Smith and subsequent experience, he notes that “[Damon’s] playing expresses the pulse much more now on the bass than he did back then… I never generalize in any way about the particulars of anyone I play with. I listen for very specific things no matter who I play with, and I respond and interact in very specific ways depending on what I hear from them and what they do in response to me.”

In terms of the dialogic meat, Morris and Smith are both masters of an expanded but very distinct palette, the guitarist using muting objects, pedals, and picking motions that create a hive of sounds from scrabbled density to ghostly drabs hanging between nodes of a western scale. Smith is graceful and also knows how to manhandle the bass, interweaving additional bows, brushes, woody palm-swabs and plastic chain as well as making his presence known through a trusty, surefooted pizzicato walk. The array of string sounds on these pieces is dazzling and often dense, and it’s sometimes hard to believe this music comes from two people composing spontaneously. Morris puts it this way: “the inspiration is in life and the decades of trying to grow as an artist.

The music is made with skill and quick decision making in the moment, using the knowledge I have about improvising. That includes close listening and doing the best I can to decipher the other musicians’ contributions.” Now, the onus is on you, the listener, to enter the conversation and the experience. CLIFFORD ALLEN

1. Waves of Extension
2. Equalization Staggering
3. Momentum Redoubling
4. Double of Any
5. Multiple Presences

Joe Morris, Guitar
Damon Smith, Double Bass

Recorded by Joe Morris, June 10, 2019
Mixed and Mastered by Weasel Walter

Nicolas Bourel Trio - Line Out (April 10, 2021)

1. Line Out
2. Iso
3. It's You?
4. Jaguar
5. Little House
6. Afrosphère
7. Trip 03:10
8. Parenthèse
9. April
10. Espérance
11. Moins Deux

Nicolas Bourel - Guitar
Martin Berauer - acoustic & electric Bass
Daniel Dray - Drums, Percussion

Lilly (feat. Gilad Hekselman & Kirk Knuffke) - The Song is You (March 2021 Challenge Records)

Interpreting the standards from the Great American Songbook is considered by many to be the supreme discipline in jazz. Anyone who dares to sing songs like “My Foolish Heart” by Victor Young and Ned Washington, “It Might As Well Be Spring” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein or “Prelude to a Kiss” by Duke Ellington automatically exposes himself or herself to the comparison with hundreds of performers who have already sung them.

For the Danish jazz singer Lilly – full name Lilly-Ann Hertzman – they also are part of her musical DNA. “I love these songs; they speak to me,” she said with enthusiasm. “I have been listening to and singing jazz since I was a teenager, so I am very familiar with these songs. I mostly only sang my own songs on my first three albums. But it was completely natural for me to sing these other songs now.”

She already did this on her previous album “Tenderly”, in a duet with the Israeli-American guitarist Gilad Hekselman. The album received euphoric reactions. For Lilly, this was a reason to dare something similar without repeating herself. This time, Kirk Knuffke joined the tried-and-tested duet of singer and guitarist. The American cornet player brings an additional tone quality into play.

“The entire album was recorded in New York on one day; it was very spontaneous,” the singer stated with obvious pleasure. “Of course, I was very happy to be able to record with Gilad and Kirk.”

Three years ago, she had a joint performance with the trumpeter at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival and has kept him and his special tone in mind since then. Lilly also finds enthusiastic words for her other musical partner, who is so much more than just a companion, but instead a creator on equal terms.

“Gilad is a wonderful person and also one of the best musicians I have ever played with," she stated. “He makes everything so easy for me. He is very open-minded, but has both feet on the ground. “Let's see what happens” is his attitude, and I share it. He makes me sing better because I can relax with him.”
In addition to nine standards, Lilly's own song “Five Wild Geese” made it onto the album, about whose title and title track the singer was particularly concerned. It is not without reason at the end of the album. “I tried to find a common framework for the songs that made it onto the album,” Lilly said, “and then I decided on the album title 'The Song Is You’. It expresses the spirit of that day for me.”

The song by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein is of course a love song. “To show your love to another person requires courage,” Lilly said. “That's my interpretation of the song.”

But she also finds other levels of interpretation of this song, which has been close to her heart for quite some time. “At the same time, you can also emphasize the ‘You’ from ‘The Song Is You’,” Lilly explained. “It's not about ego, but about following your heart and dreams. You also have to love yourself and be honest if you really want to love.”

And finally, the song expresses something a lot deeper for Lilly. “The title ‘The Song Is You’ is also about what musicians and singers do when they interpret a song,” the singer explained. “The moment you sing or play a song, you become that song. At least that's what I'm interested in. I want to interpret a story and make it my own. I completely blank out who else recorded this song.”

The sensitive and sometimes surprising interpretations that Lilly and her two companions have succeeded in creating here would easily withstand some comparison, but that wouldn’t be something that Lilly considers important. For her, something completely different is in the foreground. “We were very relaxed in the studio and had fun,” she said with pleasure, “and that's what it's all about. Be yourself!”

1. If You Could See Me Now 03:23
2. Up Jumped Spring 06:15
3. My Foolish Heart 04:31
4. Five Wild Geese 04:14
5. Prelude to a Kiss 04:56
6. It Might As Well Be Spring 04:39
7. Scarborough Fair 07:44
8. Lonely Woman 04:20
9. That Old Feeling 04:22
10. The Song is You 04:44

Lilly - vocal
Gilad Hekselman - guitars, percussion (4) & bodypercussion (2 & 4)
Kirk Knuffke - cornet