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

Matthew Halpin - Agreements (May 14, 2021)

When I first put on Matthew’s record, I felt like a kid again—lying on the floor of the living room, dreading the moment when a song would end. Matthew and his band of musicians—Kit Downes on organ, Hanno Busch on guitar, Sean Carpio on drums, and Sergio Martinez on percussion—embody present, past, and future. They expand and contract, maneuver past impossible hairpin turns, and interact with kaleidoscopic intricacy.

The result is a glimpse into Halpin’s vertiginous inner life. On “Dancing with the Devil,” Downes’s organ shrieks above the fray as the band builds into a Boschian orgy. On “To Do,” the same organ paints planar surfaces and hallucinatory shapes, weaving a retrofuturist fugue state in the song's second half. Martinez and Carpio propel “The Beach'' forward with a groove at once relentless and weightless, scintillating like the light that reflects off the water on a perfect summer’s day. In “Treetown,” Halpin and Busch’s electroacoustic bird calls remind me of the Brooklyn mockingbirds that have learned to imitate car alarms: nature adapting to technology. The track recedes like the natural world it represents, increasingly silent in the wake of destruction.

1. To-Do Today, To-Do Dismay

2. Dancing with the Devil

3. Dog Day Afternoon

4. The Beach

5. Swings and Roundabouts

6. Sit Up and Shut Down

7. Awkward Handshakes

8. Pop Fiction

9. Treetown

10. Sigh For Sam

11. Sleep

Matthew Halpin - tenor saxophone, composition

Kit Downes - hammond organ

Hanno Busch - electric guitar

Sergio Martinez - percussion

Sean Carpio - drums 

Veronika Morscher, Rebekka Salomea Ziegler, Laura Totenhagen - voices on “Sleep"

Recorded at Riverside Studios, Cologne

Engineered by Julian David

Mixed and mastered by Oliver Bergner

Artwork by Janet Cruise Halpin

Graphic design by Daniel F. Hirth

Released with Frutex Tracks

Distribution by Hey!Blau

Supported by Generations Jazz Festival and SRF


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.

Vince Mendoza | "Freedom Over Everything" | Available July 2 via Modern Recordings

Celebrated Multi-GRAMMY® Award Winning Arranger,
Composer and Conductor Vince Mendoza
Brings Forth a Life Affirming Cross-Genre Collaboration

Freedom Over Everything,
a Revelatory and Politically Charged Album Set
for July 2 Release on BMG’s Modern Recordings Imprint

Guest Artists include
Joshua Redman, Antonio Sanchez, Derrick Hodge,
and The Roots' MC Black Thought

Six time GRAMMY® Award-winner, and 34-time nominee, Vince Mendoza is considered the foremost arranger of his generation, working with legends such as Björk, Elvis Costello, Sting, and Joni Mitchell. In a new star-studded release, Mendoza returns to his roots as a composer and conductor with a remarkable collaboration—highlighting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, soprano Julia Bullock, guest artists Joshua Redman, Antonio Sanchez, Derrick Hodge, and The Roots' premier MC Black Thought—for his forthcoming album, Freedom Over Everything, on BMG’s Modern Recordings label imprint.

The album opens with Mendoza’s Five movement “Concerto for Orchestra” which was commissioned by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, with whom Mendoza has had a working relationship for the last several years. The collaboration aimed to create a work that would feature soloists in the orchestra but to somewhat forge a new direction in this revered form. “My approach is a departure from the traditions of an orchestra concerto. For me it was more about having an arc that tells a particular story but also incorporates rhythmic and melodic aspects of African American music and improvisation.” explains Mendoza. 

“Coinciding with the composition of the concerto was the 2016 [American] saga of the election of ‘45’ and the resulting tremendous discord in the U.S. during that time. While writing this piece, the events happening in our country invaded my artistic space. For the first time I felt I couldn’t really write music and be removed from what was going on in our environment. I started seriously considering the importance of an artist to reflect the times and how I could make my music a reflection not only of what I was witnessing but what I hoped would occur. So that’s when the arc of this concerto started to take shape.” 

Mendoza, as a skilled practitioner of the classical-jazz fusion that Gunther Schuller once called third stream, was and is ideally suited to meet this challenge. “I sought to design the structure of the concerto to be inspired by M.L. King’s remarks on the moral universe, that the arc is long, but it bends toward justice. The beginning of the concerto (the first movement is called ‘American Noise’) reflects the discord that began leading up to the 2016 election. Of course, it pales in comparison to what we dealt with in 2020 and now 2021,” says Mendoza, “but the arc of the composition goes through that process of pure noise, much needed consolation and the need for ‘hitting the streets’. The end of the concerto seeks to reflect justice and the hope for a peaceful resolution to what we were only entering in 2016. Arguably in 2021 we still haven’t quite gotten there.” 
Throughout the “Concerto for Orchestra,” drummer Antonio Sanchez provides rhythmic  textures using color, placement and variation accenting the various motifs and ideas expressed in Mendoza’s score. “Antonio thinks and plays like a composer,” says Mendoza. “He was the perfect person to step into this music. He was very sympathetic to what I wanted to achieve, while never losing his voice in the process.” Joshua Redman’s saxophone performance in “Meditation” provides an important improvisational voice to the movement. Mendoza points out that the piece was not originally conceived to have improvised commentary in it. “Once we recorded it, I thought that the music asked for Joshua’s dialog with the orchestra. Joshua understood the purpose and the mood that was needed in that moment, and he played so beautifully.” 

The fifth movement of the concerto, “Justice and the Blues,” is a sly reference to two famous quotations from philosopher and public intellectual Dr. Cornel West: “Justice is what Love looks like in public,” and "The Blues responds to the catastrophic with compassion, without drinking from the cup of bitterness." “When we recorded this piece last year in July (of 2019) in particular that last movement – the middle section of that piece that has the groove and the vamp, was originally going to be an instrumental solo,” Mendoza recalls, “I thought we should really have a message there through rap instead. Listening to the recordings of Black Thought, his work seemed to reflect a certain awareness of message I wanted to bring out in this piece. When he agreed to record, Covid hit the U.S. and we were delayed. And then (the death of) George Floyd happened – and then the reaction to George Floyd happened. And so, the shift of consciousness of what we thought was going to be in Black Thought’s performance was entirely different. Then he came up with this amazing heartfelt text,” Hodge provides a foundation of groove for the music and Black Thought’s text of Freedom Over Everything.

“In a way, my plan for a long, constructed arc was interrupted by reality. That’s sort of Jazz sensibility. You can plan your structure but then somebody comes in with their voice and completely changes your point of view. And I love that part of it – things are going to change when the human spirit gets put into it. Improvisation gives us that,” says Mendoza. He is uniquely suited to address these challenges with the ability to speak in the language of the composer and the language of the improviser. It is this denouement which allows for the transition from the end of the “Concerto for Orchestra” to “The Edge of Longing.”

When Mendoza finished writing the concerto the years of turbulence portrayed in the narrative arc of the music seemed to cry out for a piece that might serve as consolation communicating that ‘it’s going to be okay.’ “I wanted it also to be somewhat of an encouraging text that was going to bring people together and bring light into our situation,” Mendoza explains. “To The Edge Of Longing” is an extraordinary art song setting composed by Mendoza for Julia Bullock with orchestral accompaniment, based on verses from the “Book of Hours” by the late 19th, early 20th century poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke. 

Ms. Bullock described her approach to the material this way: “Vince wrote a poignant setting of an English translation of the German text by Rilke, which is what first got me excited about the project. There’s an intimacy in what is said, but the intensity of the words makes the scope far reaching, and Vince’s music follows that framework. The singers and interpreters I most respect and admire have clear intentions in the delivery of whatever music they share, and I aim for that same kind of immediacy—whether it was music written centuries ago or with my voice in mind. As long as there’s a message to be communicated and a genuine connection to that message, I find no reason to limit how to use my voice, or in which context. So, in that respect, it’s wonderful to participate in a project that is also uninhibited.”

There’s a through line music lovers can identify from Mendoza’s body of work as an arranger and from his previous long form orchestra works as a composer; especially Epiphany (1999) and Constant Renaissance (2019.) “New York Stories,” a Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra, was commissioned by the Czech National Symphony featuring trumpeter and orchestra founder Jan Hasenöhrl.

As with the artists and the orchestra, Mendoza selected a co-producer and engineer with the capability and experience to be able to work in both the jazz and classical idioms equal to his own whom he knew from his work with the Metropole Orchestra. Jonathan Allen — formerly the chief engineer at the most famous recording studio in the world, Abbey Road — was responsible for the recording, mixing and mastering of this album. If it is true, as Aristotle once said, that “Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul,” then Vince Mendoza’s Freedom Over Everything is sure to be received as a welcome addition to the times in which we live.

Vince Mendoza | Freedom Over Everything
Modern Recordings | Release Date: July 2, 2021

For more information on Vince Mendoza, please visit:

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)

New album from Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints - Other Worlds (May 7, 2021 Greenleaf Music)

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas
Other Worlds

The third full length album by Sound Prints, co-led by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, includes ten new compositions by the co-leaders and features Lawrence Fields, Linda May Han Oh and Joey Baron

Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas debuted their extraordinary Sound Prints quintet on Blue Note Records in 2013, the year of Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday, and from the outset the group had a joyful but somewhat imposing mandate: to lift up Shorter’s legacy through the writing and performance of new music conceived in his risk-taking, fearlessly inventive spirit. Supported by a powerful multi-generational lineup of pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Joey Baron, the group debuted with Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival, which included world-premiere performances of two brand-new Shorter pieces.

Scandal, the group’s 2018 follow-up on Greenleaf Music, featured the same personnel on a new book of Lovano and Douglas originals as well as fresh arrangements of “JuJu” and “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” two Blue Note-era Shorter classics. With Other Worlds, recorded just days after a triumphant weeklong run at the Village Vanguard in January 2020, the Sound Prints quintet achieves another first, a full album of original compositions. But while no Shorter tunes appear, Shorter’s far-sighted philosophic vision of modern jazz animates these great players in every measure. “Wayne inspires us to think about our place in the universe,” Douglas maintains. “You can’t divorce that from the music.”

Almost every track on Other Worlds is a first take, thanks in no small part to the bandstand chemistry that Sound Prints achieved in set after set at the Vanguard. “Everybody brought their own self but also their Sound Prints self,” Douglas says. “We played a different set list every night, every set, because the order you play things in has a big influence on how they develop. So each night, different tunes would bump up against different tunes. We really figured out the dynamics of the whole thing, and by the time we got to the studio, we knew.”

“The way Dave and I set up together,” adds Lovano, “the way we’d play the themes and improvise together and trade, we were right there next to each other, so we were feeling what each other was playing. Dave and Joey and I have a deep history playing together: I go back to the ’70s with Joey, and the ’80s with Dave.”
Douglas adds: “Joey was on all my sextet records, and then of course he and I were in John Zorn’s Masada for many years together.” Oh, who came onto Douglas’ radar as a student at Banff, has logged many hours in Douglas ’ quintet (not to mention Pat Metheny, Kenny Barron, Fabian Almazan and Vijay Iyer, among many others). Lovano encountered Fields as a student at Berklee; he’s since done high-profile work with Nicholas Payton, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Jeff “Tain” Watts and more.

“The whole concept of the band is dialogue and interaction,” Douglas notes. “And when you play that way, nobody can retreat into the role of their instrument. Everybody’s playing everything, all the time. Some pieces don’t have any chords, others have a lot of chords, and so you look for the piano to provide a balance so it’s not all one thing or the other. Both the free context and the chordal context have the same level of dialogue and conversation. Something new with this book is that we’re writing specifically for that chemistry, whereas in the beginning we were sort of imagining it, letting it unfold.”

Lovano’s “Space Exploration,” “Shooting Stars” and “The Flight” together make up the “Other Worlds Suite,” which appears noncontiguously (much like it might have at the Vanguard). “Those three pieces came together as a sequence of events,” Lovano explains, “and everyone captured the essence of that idea. The quintet is on a voyage together, and so the title ‘Space Exploration’ is about the music too, it’s about this certain way of playing together, not just writing a theme and playing on it, but a flow of ideas.”

It was “Sky Miles,” the first of Lovano’s pieces, that set the album’s space theme in motion, and Douglas was easily able to connect that to his recent interest in the study of antiquity. “I was doing a lot of reading about the period 2500-3000 years ago,” he says, “thinking about Pythagoras and the growth of science. Antiquity can be directly connected to the continuing movement of humanity through countless discoveries, and the cultural growth as we all discover each other around the globe and figure out how to work together and live together.”

In a brief liner note to the band’s 2013 debut, there appears a verse from Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson that begins, “… come, my friends, / ’tis not too late to seek a newer world.” These lines ring all too true today, as music and the arts begin what is sure to be a long recovery process. “The music is moving forward whether we choose to jump on the train or not,” Douglas avers. “We’re incredibly lucky that we recorded Other Worlds when we did — we had talked about doing it later. But one thing led to another and there was no reason to wait. We went right on into it and I’m so glad we did.”

1. Space Exploration (Lovano)
2. Shooting Stars (Lovano)
3. Life On Earth (Douglas)
4. Manitou (Douglas)
5. Antiquity to Outer Space (Douglas)
6. The Flight (Lovano)
7. The Transcendentalists (Douglas)
8. Sky Miles (Lovano)
9. Pythagoras (Douglas)
10. Midnight March (Lovano)

Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone
Dave Douglas, trumpet
Lawrence Fields, piano
Linda May Han Oh, bass
Joey Baron, drums

Produced by Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas
Executive Producer: Dave Douglas
Recorded by Tyler McDiarmid and Geoff Countryman at Bunker Studios, Brooklyn, NY on January 31, 2020.
Assisted by Todd Carder
Mixed and Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid
Musician photos by Geoff Countryman
Artwork by Dave Chisholm
Layout by Lukas Frei
Pre-order on Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes

Stream the first single ‘Pythagoras’ on Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL