Sunday, February 14, 2021

The JCA Orchestra – Live at the BPC

Composers David Harris, Darrell Katz, Bob Pilkington and Mimi Rabson display broad interests in a varied program with inspirations from poetry to Thai folk music to James Bond movie theme music!
“This is music for mind and soul.” — Montreal Gazette
“… the JCAO seamlessly moved from composition to improvisation, chordal improvisation to free extemporization, wide-open structure to well-ordered chaos. The music was daring but incredibly disciplined. Even in their wildest abandon, every musician demonstrated self-control in the service of expression and musical goals larger than themselves.” — Aesthetic, Not Anesthetic

The JCA Orchestra Live at the BPC is a dazzling and diverse album showcasing four master jazz composers working at the top of their game. Since 1985, the Boston-based Jazz Composers Alliance has presented creative, cutting-edge work by member composers both in concert and on recordings. The group’s eleventh album, recorded live at the Berklee Performance Center, presents an eclectic mix of six works by David Harris, Darrell Katz, Bob Pilkington and Mimi Rabson. The rich and varied program draws on a wide range of sources and inspirations from poetry to Thai folk music to James Bond movie theme music. “That balance of pieces is just how it naturally comes out,” says JCA cofounder Katz, “Everyone comes from such different places musically that there’s always a good mix.”  
Composer-violinist Mimi Rabson’s “Romanople” unfolds against a sprawling historical backdrop, but it’s a disciplined, tightly constructed and emotionally rich work. The piece alludes to a time when the Roman Empire had two capitals—Rome and Constantinople—that had little in common culturally. A modest but tuneful, odd-metered folk song from the Turkish metropolis makes its initial appearance then travels to Rome where it’s transformed by a brass band and then subjected to the horrors of war. But the melody endures and dances off, a sign of hope for the future. Helen Sherrah-Davies’ folk-tinged violin, a celebratory Phil Scarff on clarinet, and Junko Fujiwara’s mournful cello solo highlight a composition in which a melody, set off and transformed by the orchestration, provides strong continuity in the midst of change.
Composer-trombonist Bob Pilkington’s “The Sixth Snake” began life in a dramatically different form as an assignment from one of his teachers, composer-trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. It was a rather dissonant piece based on a number sequence. Several years later Pilkington wondered if he could take the number sequence in the opposite direction and come up with a completely new, consonant piece. “I like to play around with ideas and build a piece,” Pilkington says. “I’m a noodler by nature.” Of course, he takes his “noodled” ideas and shapes them into a compelling, finished composition. This piece, commemorating his 60th birthday, is shot through with changing tone colors and textures, moody melodies, and highlighted by a celebratory trombone solo from the composer. It’s varied and complex, but each new development sounds logical and organic.
David Harris’ infectiously grooving cultural mash up, “The Latest,” proposes a melding of the McCoy Tyner big band that recorded Fly with the Wind with traditional Thai music. “There’s no traditional melody in the composition, which is built using a pentatonic scale,” Harris explains. “But I liked the way Thai music develops by taking a repeated melody and adding new phrases and textures to it. That’s how I developed my piece.” Baritone saxophonist Melanie Howell Brooks and guitarist Norm Zocher keep the excitement and momentum going in their solos.
Harris’ other contribution to the album, “Yellow, Orange, Blue,” is quite different. Using a combination of notation and unwritten gestures and cues, Harris and the orchestra shape a performance of the three-part composition that’s unique to the moment. There are multiple textures, dissonance and consonance, groove, and directed group improvisations, much of it organized and created spontaneously by Harris and the band. “It’s real improvisation on a group scale,” Harris says, “and I just think it’s thrilling, even better than taking a solo as an individual.”
Katz reworks his setting of poet Paula Tatarunis’ “A Wallflower in the Amazon,” the title track of his 2010 JCAO album, to accommodate additional strings in the concert orchestra. The poem, evoking a bookish, but intrepid, narrator’s trip to a rainforest, is wry, modest, and full of wonder, and Katz’s prowess at composing for voice brings out all the nuances of the language. “I am always trying to make the melody and words be unified,” Katz says. “I am very much trying to put the poetry across, always looking for what seems like a good fit. I really want the listener to pay attention to the words, and I want the music to help them.” The composition also opens up to provide a setting for several of the band’s stellar soloists, including Jerry Sabatini’s sparkling trumpet and strong statements from saxophonists Lihi Haruvi, Phil Scarff and Rick Stone. Singer Rebecca Shrimpton not only interprets Katz’s score and Tatarunis’ words vividly, but also improvises her own melody to the words in a free improvisation section near the end of the piece. 
The album concludes on an up note with “Super Eyes-Private Heroes,” Rabson’s tribute to the sound tracks of espionage and super-hero movies. Think James Bond films or The Incredibles, she says, singling out a couple of her genre favorites. Soloists Melanie Howell Brooks, Helen Sherrah-Davies, and David Harris are the heroes who swoop in to save the day. It’s a fun, bright composition in keeping with its pop culture inspirations, but Rabson’s use of contrast, texture, and a unifying melodic thread indicate her artistic control of the material. 
“Recording live is really different than recording in the studio,” Katz says. “There’s a more focused energy and a sense of urgency, and a real feeling of a community working together, and on that night, from the audience. There’s no chance to go back and correct mistakes, everything is in the moment, but it’s really about the excitement of being on stage.”

Qwest TV honors Chick Corea’s memory with curated playlist

An the wake of Chick Corea’s passing, Quincy Jones’ Qwest TV has curated a playlist to showcase and honor his contributions to jazz and genres as far-reaching as rock, classical, bossa nova, Latin, and many more.

Among the videos in this playlist are the incredible 2011 documentary Chick Corea: The Musician, and a range of concerts Corea gave across many of the world’s most important stages, both solo and in partnership with artists such as Miles Davis, the great McCoy Tyner (who also recently passed away), Friedrich Gulda, Steve Kujala, Moondog, Nicolas Economou, Gary Burton and more. In addition, Qwest TV had the honor of having Chick Corea as the February 2019 “Guest of the Month,” for which Corea chose a special selection of his favorite concerts, including a Coleman Hawkins concert from 1962, a Thelonious Monk show from 1963, and a live performance by Wayne Shorter, his long-time collaborator, from the 1987 Estival Jazz festival.

Vincent Herring - Preaching to the Choir (Smoke Sessions Records April 30, 2021)

Saxophonist Vincent Herring

Battles Back From Bout with Coronavirus and

Career-Threatening Side Effects with Optimistic New Album

Preaching to the Choir, Due Out April 30, 2021

via Smoke Sessions Records

Album Finds Hope in Face of Pandemics and Politics

with Swinging Help from Cyrus Chestnut,

Yasushi Nakamura and Johnathan Blake

Saxophonist Vincent Herring speaks for nearly all of us when he writes, “2020 into 2021 was a morbid nightmare.” Herring has experienced the effects of the pandemic firsthand, contracting COVID-19 while suffering the same loss of performance opportunities befalling every musician during this trying year. That’s only meant more time spent at home, watching the turbulent presidential election and its violent aftermath.

Despite the prevailing darkness, Herring insists on seeing a silver lining in the looming storm clouds overhead. On his latest album, Preaching to the Choir (due out April 30, 2021 via Smoke Sessions Records), he delivers a sermon of optimism and hope to the jazz faithful, aided by as fervent a congregation as a swing disciple could pray for: pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Johnathan Blake.

“We have to have hope for the future,” Herring insists. “I’ve been in a constant state of disbelief with so much going on that is negative in the world, but I try to look at the positive side of everything. Fate is written with all kinds of twists and turns, and in the end the only thing you can do is realize that as bad as things are – and they are bad –the promise of tomorrow is going to be special.”

Herring’s story has undergone more than its fair share of twists in recent months. Last August, he traveled to Las Vegas to take part in a centennial celebration for one of his heroes, Charlie Parker, with conductor Justin DiCioccio leading a string orchestra. The saxophonist now believes that it was on the flight back to New York that he contracted COVID. “It felt like the flu,” he recalls. “I was tired all the time, but I wasn’t coughing, and I didn’t have any respiratory problems. After less than a week, I felt totally fine.”

Despite the relatively minor effects, though, the virus wasn’t done with Herring yet. A few weeks later he began feeling pain in his joints. “I remembered some comedian talking about when you get to be over 50 you get aches and pains, and when you tell the doctor they’re just like, ‘Yeah, it happens.’ So, I didn’t think anything of it, but then it got progressively worse. My doctor had me do a blood test and she told me I had rheumatoid arthritis – and it was a gift from COVID.”

Chronic joint pain can be a death knell for a musician – it has ended careers, especially for pianists – so Herring entered the studio feeling strong but unsure of his future. “I knew it was a possibility that this would be my last record,” he says. “I wasn’t saying that to other people, but the thought was constantly in my mind.”

“Fear” and “trepidation” are hardly words that come to mind when listening to Preaching to the Choir, however. The buoyant, robust music never sounds like the work of a man in pain, and not once does it take on the solemn character of a swan song. Since the recording, Herring—with the help of specialists—has managed to get the pain under control. And despite the disheartening news of injustice and political divisions, Herring is uplifted by the rallying of young people in support of protest efforts like the Black Lives Matter movement.

The saxophonist’s refusal to let the anxieties surrounding the recording pervade his music is evident from the outset of Preaching to the Choir. The album opens with the relaxed stroll of “Dudli’s Dilemma,” an original tune dedicated to the Swiss drummer Joris Dudli, who the composer calls “a great musician and a true friend.” The warmth of that personal relationship lights up Chestnut’s sprightly solo as well as the gentle precision of Blake’s rhythmic foundation.

Nakamura kicks off the well-worn standard “Old Devil Moon” by crossbreeding it with the famed bass line of Benny Golson’s classic “Killer Joe,” shifting the emphasis to the sly devilishness of the song. “Ojos de Rojo” comes from the prolific pen of the legendary pianist Cedar Walton, in whose band Herring played for more than two decades. The saxophonist feels utterly at home as he unfurls an effortlessly eloquent solo, juggling equal parts intensity and lyricism. The quartet then wrings every ounce of emotion from Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Blake’s ethereal brushwork embracing the heartfelt yearning of the leader’s keening alto.

The mood turns a complete 180 with the gutbucket groove of guitar great Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies.” One can almost smell the sizzling grease during the raucous blues, propelled by the window-rattling bravura of Nakamura and Blake. Chestnut contributes the self-explanatory “Minor Swing,” along with a fleet, explosive solo that leaps around the keyboard with bristling spirit. Herring’s breathy, elegiac tone crafts a haunting atmosphere for Duke Ellington’s immortal “In a Sentimental Mood,” matched by the delicate sensitivities of his bandmates.

The call and response head of the title track is straight out of a roof-raising church service, but the choir being preached to in this instance is multi-denominational, united by the simple love for Herring’s lively brand of swing. “I wrote this song as a tribute to my fans,” he says, recalling the messages of love and support he received throughout his recent ordeal. “During a time like this you need to hear kind words. Thinking this would be my last recording was depressing but hearing from people what my saxophone voice meant to them was very rewarding.”

The band simmers on Joe Henderson’s “Granted,” before bursting out for an incendiary run from Herring and a shimmering turn by Chestnut, capped off by a round of trading with Blake’s effusive outbursts. The album closes on a lovely, tender note with Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” which Herring aptly describes as “a classic song played with love.”

That spirit of love, appreciation and, most of all, hope colors every tune on Preaching to the Choir, which arrives as a much-needed salve after such a divisive and disheartening period in history. “In spite of everything,” Herring declares, “even though I’m in constant pain and discomfort, I still feel grateful because it could have been worse. So, I do count my blessings.”

Vincent Herring
Cyrus Chestnut
Yasushi Nakamura
Johnathan Blake

Samo Salamon Trio (feat. Michel Godard & Roberto Dani) - Live Ones: Vol. 2 (2021)

Love this trio... we toured together with Michel and Roberto a loooooooooooot as a trio all around Europe in the period between 2008 - 2012... here is one of such concerts... from somewhere in Switzerland, I believe...

1. Three Stories 08:38
2. Kei's Secret 06:16
3. Catch the Train 12:58
4. Girl With a Nicotine Kiss 05:46
5. Chinese Bath 07:36
6. Miss Sarcasm 08:06
7. Fall Memories 06:32

Samo Salamon - guitar
Michel Godard - tuba, electric bass
Roberto Dani - drums

Samo Salamon Quartet (feat. Dominique Pifarely, Michel Godard & Dejan Terzić) - Live Ones: Vol. 1

This recording comes from a beautiful European tour in November 2007 with a fantastic European quartet. All these musicians are top of their class. Michel Godard being one of the innovators of modern jazz and improvised tuba, Dominique Pifarely one of the best improvisers on violin and last, but not least, Dejan Terzić on drums, one of my favorite modern jazz drummers.

1. Remy 06:41
2. Tuba Solo 01:42
3. Man of Mystery 08:52
4. Sundays 06:02
5. Moonless 04:07
6. Sunflowers in Her Eyes 06:49
7. Spring Forest 07:20
8. My Rain 02:36
9. Chinese Bath 02:35

Dominique Pifarely - violin
Samo Salamon - guitar
Michel Godard - tuba
Dejan Terzić - drums

Samo Salamon & Francois Houle - Unobservable Mysteries (February 2021)

Liner notes by Samo Salamon:

During the lockdown period in 2020 due to the Covid-19 virus I started investigating other forms of cooperation with other musicians. One such form was the idea of long-distance improvisation. The first musician to come to my mind was Francois Houle. We have never played together, although we played with many musicians in common. I've been a fan of Francois for a really long time - he has been one of my favorite improvisers and composers ever since I heard his two fantastic albums Cryptology and In the Vernacular. I contacted Francois if he wants to do it and he was really enthusiastic about it… the process was so smooth and seemed like we were actually playing live and with each other since there was such a connection immediately. I first recorded six improvisations on acoustic guitar, and then Francois did his improvisations on me. The second part was that Francois first recorded six improvisations and then I did the improvisations on him… Francois did an amazing job also mixing and mastering the album. Furthermore, we both decided to search for the titles in the poetry of the great US poet Mary Oliver. Oliver’s emotional poetry reflects the current situation and also the situation which the musicians are facing and have to deal with in these times. But out of every bad comes something good. Can't wait to do this live on stages everywhere!!!! Here we come!!! I hope! ;)

1. Secret Pools 04:41

2. Roots and Seeds 04:04

3. Common Sense Mutters 04:38

4. Cradles 04:37

5. Garden of Dust 05:49

6. Island of Shade 06:24

7. Hum and Sway 04:40

8. Jug of Breath 05:37

9. Unobservable Mysteries 04:18

10. The Wanderings of Water 05:33

11. Longing Leaving Staying 03:52

Francois Houle - clarinet

Samo Salamon - 6 and 12-string guitar

Recorded individually by Samo Salamon (Maribor, Slovenia) and François Houle (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Editing, Mixing & Mastering: François Houle December 2020


Samo Salamon & New Freequestra - Free Distance, Vol. 1: Love is More Thicker (2021)

During the first lockdown in spring 2020 my creative fire was still burning. All concerts were cancelled, but I still wanted to play and improvise. That's were the idea for long-distance improvisation came up.

I'm really happy that some of the best improvisers in Europe were happy to participate in this project. All tracks are completely improvised or could be even described as structured improvisation. So much thanks goes to all the amazing players for their creativity, kindness and amazing playing.

The title of the album and all the compositions are based on a poem by the great US poet E.E. Cummings, while Kristijan Robič contributed beautiful artwork for the design of the album.

1. love is more 04:48

2. thicker than forget 03:48

3. more thinner 09:14

4. than recall 05:18

5. more seldom 05:06

6. than a wave is wet 04:26

7. more frequent 07:48

8. than to fail 04:52

9. it is most mad 06:44

10. and moonly 15:12

NEW FREEQUESTRA (Italy / Portugal / Slovenia / Spain / Sweden / Switzerland):

Emanuele Marsico – trumpet (7,8,9)

Alberto Mandarini - trumpet (1,7,9)

Mirko Cisilino – trumpet (3)

Luis Vicente – trumpet (3,5,8,9)

Emanuele Parrini – violin (3,5,6,9)

Marco Colonna – baritone and sopranino sax (2,3,9)

Achille Succi – alto sax and bass clarinet (2,3,5,6,7,9,10)

Albert Cirera – sax (3,8,9,10)

Fredrik Ljungkvist – sax (7,9)

Christoph Irniger – sax (6,7)

Alberto Pinton – sax (2)

Beppe Scardino – sax (2)

Martin Küchen – sax (10)

Samo Salamon – guitar (4,5,7,9,10)

Marcelo dos Reis – guitar (3,5,9)

Silvia Bolognesi – bass (4,7)

Vasco Trilla – drums (7)

Mixed, mastered and produced by Samo Salamon.

Beautiful artwork by Kristijan Robič.


Steve Davis - Tribute to Horace Silver, Volume 18 (February 2021)

Drummer Steve Davis has performed with David Liebman, Bill Evans, Richie Beirach, John Pattitucci, Walt Weiskopf, Benny Golson, Ira Sullivan and Lynne Arriale. He has over 170 recordings to his credit, including 8 of his own. Other recording credits include work with Walt Weiskopf, Conrad Herwig, Richie Beirach, Bill Evans, Kenny Werner, John Pattitucci, Manfredo Fest, and Andy LaVerne.

1. Strollin 05:23
2. Song for my Father 04:41
3. Nica's Dream 05:24
4. Summer in Central Park 05:33
5. Nutville 04:12
6. Gregory is Here 04:53
7. Room 608 04:48
8. Jody Grind 04:35
9. Quicksilver 04:51

Ernesto Cervini's Tetrahedron (feat. Alex Goodman) - Live at the Jazz Room (February 2021)

1. Forward Motion 12:30
2. Marta 09:41
3. Stro 10:39
4. Little Girl, I'll Miss You 16:15
5. Summit Song 08:21
6. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise 08:56

Luis Deniz - Alto Sax
Alex Goodman - Guitar
Rich Brown - Electric Bass
Ernesto Cervini Drums

Recorded by Jeremy Bernard
Mixed by Ernesto Cervini
Mastered by Glenn Crosse

Ernesto Cervini - Tetrahedron (feat. Nir Felder)

I’m thrilled to be releasing this new album of music, with these world-class musicians! I’ve known guitarist Nir Felder since 2004, and I always knew I wanted to work and record with him. Since moving back to Toronto from NYC, we fell out of touch as our lives kept us busy in our respective cities, but I was thrilled to reconnect with him and have him join us for this album. I’ve been playing with Luis Deniz and Rich Brown since 2014, and I knew from the beginning that the connection was strong. We have a blast playing music together, and I’m so happy we’ve finally captured this, with the help of our wonderful producer, and my dear friend, Dan Fortin.

The music on this album is a collection of original compositions and covers, curated and/or composed especially for this group. This collection of music brings out the strengths of each musician and provides a wonderful backdrop for us to explore and improvise.

The Sneaky Two was written for a slow-moving #2 train in NYC, and Boo Radley is for the wonderful character from “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Stro was written in dedication to former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Marcus Stroman. I’m so happy to finally be recording Angelicus, by Vince Mendoza. I discovered this song in my first year of university, and I’ve been playing it in various groups for the past 20 years!

I had an absolute blast recording this music with these incredible musicians, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.


Ernesto Cervini

1. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise 04:45

2. Forward Motion 06:58

3. Angelicus 05:51

4. Boo Radley 05:19

5. Stro 07:09

6. Summit Song 05:03

7. Wandering 04:23

8. The Sneaky Two 08:1

Luiz Deniz - Alto Saxophone

Nir Felder - Guitar

Rich Brown - Bass

Ernesto Cervini - Drums