Sunday, February 21, 2021

Florian Arbenz / Hermon Mehari / Nelson Veras - Conversation #1: Condensed (April 23, 2021)

2021 sees the launch of an ambitious project from Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz who is set to release 12 albums (or “conversations”) with 12 radically different groups of musicians.

The 1st of this series, recorded from his studio in Basel and accompanied by a feature-length video of the session, features American trumpeter Hermon Mehari and Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras.

Across a career spanning more than 25 years, drummer and percussionist Florian Arbenz has carved out a reputation as not just a skilled musician, but as a creative collaborator.

Whether with the long-standing trio VEIN who have recorded and toured with Greg Osby & Dave Liebman, or with his own project Convergence which brings together musicians from 4 continents, he is not content to sit still.

In 2021, he launches perhaps his most adventurous collaboration yet: a series of 12 albums - or “conversations” - with 12 different line ups.

The thread that joins them all together is his fascination with bringing visionary musicians together and giving them space to express themselves in his studio. Together, they work through a selection of music curated by Florian to suit the individual musical personalities present.

Conversation #1 - subtitled Condensed - sees Florian joined by American trumpeter Hermon Mehari & Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras.

“I’ve known and played with Nelson for several years and am captivated not only by his highly original and virtuoso playing, but also by his unique character and his great sense of humor. He's a complete player both rhythmically & harmonically so it seemed obvious to get him on board for this series. Hermon, on the other hand, I had never met before our recording session. I had, however, admired his warm tone, open-minded musicality & improvisational skills from afar and am so happy to have finally recorded with him!"

This slightly unusual line up of guitar, trumpet & drums might, at first glance, miss a bass instrument. But despite the challenges, the creativity of the musicians involved, as well as Florian’s addition of custom percussion instruments covering this range, make for a fascinating listen which moves from hard-swinging soloing to dreaming soundscapes. 

1. Boarding The Beat
2. Let's Try This Again 04:57
3. Groove A
4. Olha Maria
5. In Medias Res
6. Vibing With Morton
7. Race Face
8. Dedicated To The Quintessence
9. Circle

Sigmar Matthiasson - Meridian Metaphor (March 12, 2021)

MERIDIAN METAPHOR is the second solo album by Icelandic bassist & composer Sigmar Matthiasson, set for release on March 12th 2021. The record is being released by Reykjavík Record Shop and will be available for sale on vinyl and as a digital download.

The music can be described as modern jazz mixing major influences from Balkan folk music and Arabic world music. The inspiration for the project was Sigmar's collaboration and friendship with two musicians whom he met while studying in New York City - guitarist Taulant Mehmeti from Kosovo and Tunisian percussionist Ayman Boujlida.

Therefore it's possible to hear influences both from East and West, across the Prime Meridian, where the composer (with the help of his bandmates) makes up musical metaphors in each song with various references to people, places and experiences which have shaped him over time.

1. Don

2. Berlin Bacalhau

3. Fordómalausir tímar

4. East River

5. Karthago

6. Nu Rock

7. Stinningskaldi

8. Mehmetaphor

Ásgeir Ásgeirsson - oud & tamboura

Haukur Gröndal - clarinet

Ingi Bjarni Skúlason - piano

Matthías Hemstock - drums

Sigmar Þór Matthíasson - upright bass

Special guests:

Ayman Boujlida - konnakol & percussion on Karthago

Taulant Mehmeti - çifteli on Mehmetaphor

Music composed, arranged and produced by Sigmar Matthiasson - with invaluable input from the band.

Recorded by Birgir Jón Birgisson at Sundlaugin, October 14-16 2020

Mixed by Matti Kallio at Fireland Reykjavik, Iceland

Mastered by Pauli Saastamoinen at Finnvox Studios, Finland


SHIJIN - Theory Of Everything (Full Length) / (February 26, 2021 Alter-Nativ)

The performances by SHIJIN can thus be experienced as a practical application of the "Theory of Everything" in music.

Just like "The Theory of Everything", which is regarded as the Holy Grail of theories and consists of the reconciliation of infinitely large and small, the collegial musical creation by various musicians in different constellations is an exciting and complex principle.

SHIJIN offers 8 interactive pieces, which are first developed as duets, then completed by the other two musicians and finally put together into a complete format that is rarely used in jazz production: the "Concept Album", which combines electrical and acoustic music as well as improvisation and composition. Within this particular conceptual framework, even contemporary music and traditional jazz can be reconciled.

1. Mystery Of A White Dwarf
2. Unexpected Discovery
3. Golden Age
4. Implosion
5. Time Travel
6. Separating Circle
7. You Are Here
8. Curved Wrinkles

Laurent David : Electric Bass, Composition, Production
Stéphane Guillaume : Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Flutes, Bass Clarinet, Composition
Malcolm Braff : Piano, Rhodes, CP-70, Composition
Stéphane Galland : Drums, Composition

Gabriel Vicéns - The Way We Are Created (2021)

Gabriel Vicéns blends Jazz and Puerto Rican Rhythms in his New Album, “The Way We Are Created”

The guitarist expands his musical expression by mixing bomba and plena rhythms from his native Puerto Rico with his unique brand of Jazz.

“The Way We Are Created,” the third album from the brilliant New York City-based musician Gabriel Vicéns, offers a detailed picture of his multiple talents. It portrays the evolution of his own voice, not only as a guitarist but as a composer and conceptualist as well.

Vicéns has previously released two widely acclaimed albums, “Point In Time” and “Days.” He has blossomed into his signature sound on “The Way We Are Created;” a delicate sound that conveys robust, cleanly-articulated ideas, with solos that add depth to his melodic and thematic compositions.

The album becomes a part of the Inner Circle Music canon, a label established by influential saxophonist Greg Osby, which “provides a forum for some of the next generation’s most provocative composers and stylists.” Also behind the release of the album is the Puerto Rican non-profit organization 71 Associates, which was created by Jochi Dávila to help experimental musicians.

Vicéns’ music has arrived at a complex but sentimental soundscape, as this set of compositions live within the world of bomba and plena, which are folkloric Puerto Rican styles. This album enjoys a natural, organic blend of Jazz with fiery, propulsive rhythms, in his own original compositional style.​ ​The Afro-Puerto Rican percussion instruments barril de bomba and panderos de plena intertwine beautifully within the harmonic and melodic complexity of jazz, while Vicéns’ compositions utilize nostalgic yet challenging Afro-Carribean rhythms.

Thus, the album is an array of bold themes brimming with personality, including “It Doesn't Matter,” “The Upcoming,” and “A City of Many Mysteries,” which employ yubá, sicá, and rulé rhythms from the bomba tradition. “To The Unknown” is an energetic plena, and one of the many pieces on the record that stirs up your mind as well as your feet.

“This project is the result of my own investigation into the worlds of these traditions,” says Vicéns, a distinguished graduate from Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico (BM) and Queens College (MM), currently pursuing his Doctorate in Guitar Performance in New York. “When I begin a composition, I first establish a rhythmic foundation which comes from Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric traditions, and then I build the composition from that underlying structure. The music you’ll hear on this record is authentic to my roots and comes directly from my life.”

“The Way We Are Created” was co-produced by star Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and confirms Vicéns’ gifts as a skilled bandleader. Several of the finest New York musicians give life to these compositions with Román Filiú on alto sax, Glenn Zaleski on piano, Rick Rosato on bass, E.J. Strickland on drums, and Víctor Pablo on percussion. Their solos shine with a cool, fluid mastery throughout the whole work. Three short interludes work as breathers while reinforcing the album’s coherence as a whole.

“Being able to release this album in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an incredible and challenging experience for me,” explains Vicéns. “There were moments I asked myself if this was the right time, but I arrived at the idea that art is a relieving outlet for people, can build community, and can comfort pain. I feel good about it.”

“The Way We Are Created,”​ i​s an homage to the power of all artistic expressions, including painting. Vicéns is also an accomplished painter, and the cover of the album is a recent work of his. While discussing the thought process behind the album title, Vicéns says that “When I complete a work, sometimes it seems personified. It’s almost like the composition speaks in the first person, and is their own being. If compositions could speak for themselves, maybe they could explain to us how they were created.”

To the listener, it’s a testimony to Gabriel Vicéns’ constant evolution as a musical thinker and leader, able to show new paths of expression for others to follow. Above all, “The Way We Are Created” is a great listen for jazz aficionados, and bomba and plena lovers alike. “When I came up with this title, it had two meanings. It’s a reflection on the way that all living beings are created to be naturally inventive and imaginative. It is a tribute to how we are all born to be creative.”

2. It Doesn't Matter 06:45
3. Caribeño Pensador 01:51 video
4. The Upcoming 06:12
5. A City of Many Mysteries 06:40
6. Fuera de mi Cuerpo 01:38
7. Definite Purpose 05:28
8. To the Unknown 07:24
9. Retorno 01:47
10. The Mystery of S.T. 07:21

Roman Filiú: alto saxophone
Glenn Zaleski: piano
Rick Rosato: bass
E.J. Strickland: drums
Victor Pablo: percussion

Recorded by Chris Benham at Big Orange Sheep, New York, May 2019.
Mixed and Mastered by David Darlington
Editing Engineer: Danilo Pichardo
Produced by Gabriel Vicéns
Co-produced by Miguel Zenón
Associate producer: Greg Osby
Executive producer: Jochi Dávila & 71 Associates

Schapiro 17 - Human Qualities (March 2021 Summit Records)

Human Qualities is the follow-up to the 2020 debut, New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60.

This recording brings back the 17 members of the progressive New York big band. Unlike New Shoes, which offers a thematic focus on Kind of Blue, Human Qualities features seven Jon Schapiro originals and one arrangement – featuring a powerhouse rhythm section, fiercely swinging ensembles, and sterling solo work.

trumpets: Bryan Davis, Andy Gravish, Eddie Allen, Noyes Bartholomew

trombones: Alex Jeun, Deborah Weisz, Nick Grinder, Walter Harris

saxophones: Rob Wilkerson, Candace DeBartolo, Paul Carlon, Rob Middleton, Matt Hong

piano: Roberta Piket; guitar: Sebastian Noelle; bass: Evan Gregor; drums: Jon Wikan

DOWNBEAT says:  “…ensemble is powered by a first-rate rhythm section…Schapiro’s writing is what really does the trick, fleshing out his ideas through lean, deftly coloristic ensemble passages that manage to convey small-band dynamics with a big-band toolkit…”

The set opens with “Count Me Out”, with roots dug deep into Kansas City, and a destination far from Basie. Rob Middleton, Deborah Weisz, and Roberta Piket handle the solos, maintaining the high energy level. “Tango” is a feature for baritonist Matt Hong, whose work is lyrical and logical. “Hmmm” is close to a shuffle, allowing the band to blow off steam. Andy Gravish and Paul Carlon, on trumpet and tenor respectively, feed off of and contribute to the band’s drive. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, a Schapiro arrangement, features Eddie Allen, whose bright, lyrical trumpet offsets the darker qualities of the orchestration.

The title track opens as an exercise in counterpoint before giving way to a sharp and crisp alto solo from Rob Wilkerson. Nick Grinder’s subsequent trombone solo is dark and cerebral. Roberta Piket joins the return to a contrapuntal mentality, both dynamic and linear, cutting across the orchestration. “Hallelujah,” a dirge, is abstract and muted. Edgy tenor and guitar work from Carlon and Sebastian Noelle make the track a highlight for listeners who like tension in their music. Drummer Jon Wikan has space to add his own idiosyncratic rhythmic layer. “A Bounce in Her Step” is best categorized as bebop. With no clear tonal center early in the chart, listeners hear the chart’s more bebop-oriented rhythms. Walter Harris and Rob Wilkerson take full advantage of the solo space. Bouncy and funky, “House Money” is a showcase for the Alex Jeun’s forceful and kinetic trombone.

Count on Me



The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Human Qualities


A Bounce in Her Step

House Money

Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Trio - Someday, Someday (March 2021 Summit Records)

“REBECCA DUMAINE  & the Dave Miller Trio/Someday, Someday:  Hanging out with her pop again, one of the hippest lawyers we know of, Dumaine serves up some of the tastiest cocktail jazz once again.  With a nicely varied set card that doesn’t stick to just one era, she covers the bases well while hitting it out of the park consistently.  This is a well needed dose of class that comes in handy right about now.  Well done.” -MIDWEST RECORD

“…Deliciously diverse jazz vocals Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Trio.  I give Rebecca and Dave’s trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.98…” -Contemporary Fusion

… beautiful tone, clear articulation, ability to dig deep into the meaning of the lyrics and the joy that she displays while singing are unchanged as is Dave Miller’s swinging solos and tasteful accompaniment…many of the songs (even the vintage ones) relate to the pandemic, and the singer contributed two originals.

With the release of Chez Nous in 2019, the future certainly looked bright for singer Rebecca DuMaine and her father pianist Dave Miller. But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit and, as for virtually everyone, their plans and dreams got put on hold.

“2020 has certainly been a dark year,” says Rebecca. “I found myself gravitating more towards singing melancholy songs and I also started writing. We decided to do an album that deviated a little from our typical sunny upbeat and hopeful mood and looked into songs that were a little bit darker but still ultimately hopeful. It was a cathartic experience for us.”

Dave Miller grew up on Long Island, New York and started playing piano when he was just three. Although classically trained, seeing Ahmad Jamal in concert and loving the music of George Shearing resulted in him switching to jazz as a teenager. His group is heard at its best on 2009’s Rapture and their 2019 tribute to George Shearing Just Imagine plus their recordings with his daughter.

Rebecca DuMaine was raised in the San Francisco Bay area and had a successful career as an actress who appeared on stage, in commercials and voice-overs, and is additionally a professor of voice and speech.

She always loved to sing but found that she preferred singing jazz over musical theater. Since moving back to Northern California from New York in 2010, Rebecca has sung regularly with her father’s trio. They have recorded five CDs for Summit prior to 2020.

Just Friends

Alone Again (Naturally)

Samba De Mon Coeur Qui Bat

The Gentleman Is A Dope

Someday, Someday

Both Sides Now

Time To Get Unstuck (Happy Little New Song)

As Long As I Live

On A Clear Day

I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan

Cry Me A River

La Vie En Rose/Au Privave

Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams


Rebecca DuMaine, vocals

Dave Miller, piano

Chuck Bennett, bass

Bill Belasco, drums

William Hess - Solo Euphonium (February 2021 Summit Records)

William Hess is an internationally renowned euphonium soloist, euphonium professor, and low brass artist who currently resides in his hometown of New Orleans, LA.

Hess studied euphonium performance at the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music, and the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music before becoming the Euphonium Instructor at Montclair State University, and currently the Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba at Loyola University – New Orleans.

Career music performance highlights have seen Hess perform in Carnegie Hall, take four European and two American tours as a soloist, with the Fountain City Brass Band, and with the Twisted Steel Quartet, as well as solo with numerous university and festival bands and orchestras. William has been featured as a Guest Artist at several International Tuba Euphonium Conferences, the US Army Band’s Tuba Euphonium Workshop, and has been invited to lecture at Tuba Euphonium Symposiums across the country. Hess has also won many acclaimed music awards, including winning international solo awards on three different brass instruments (euphonium, trombone, baritone horn), including winning both of the International Tuba Euphonium Conference’s very prestigious Artist Euphonium Solo and Quartet Competition awards when he was nineteen years old.

Caprice no. 24


Paritita Veneziana: 1. At Vivaldi's Church

Paritita Veneziana: 2. A Cold Mist over the Cypress Trees

Paritita Veneziana: 3. Trantella: Plaz San Marco

Polar Vortex


Partita in A minor: 1. Allemande

Partita in A minor: 2. Courante

Partita in A minor: 3. Sarabande

Partita in A minor: 4. Bourée

Blue Lake Fantasies: 1. Firefly

Blue Lake Fantasies: 2. Moonlight Across the Water

Blue Lake Fantasies: 3. All that Jazz

Blue Lake Fantasies: 4. Ancient Native Air

Blue Lake Fantasies: 5. Party Antics

Elegy for Mippy II


Music of Daniel Asia - Ivory II (February 2021 Summit Records)

Critically acclaimed Daniel Asia has been heralded by Fanfare Magazine as “…a terrific contemporary American composer…”, “…a composer of fertile imagination…freshness seeps into his scores…”.  On this recording, Asia’s writing covers a time span from 1975- 2017. The pieces presented here cover a broad and evolutionary compositional terrain.  Almost every work includes music of humor and an evanescent lightness as well as music of seriousness that reaches towards transcendence and a place of reverence.

Daniel Asia has been an eclectic and unique composer from the start. He has enjoyed grants from Meet the Composer, a UK Fulbright award, Guggenheim Fellowship, DAAD, MacDowell and Tanglewood fellowships, ASCAP and BMI prizes, Copland Fund grants, Fromm and Barlow Foundation commissions, among numerous others. He was honored with a Music Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. From 1991-1994 he was the Meet the Composer Composer- in Residence of the Phoenix Symphony.

Asia’s five symphonies have received wide acclaim from live performance and their international recordings. The Fifth Symphony, commissioned for the Tucson and Jerusalem symphony orchestras in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary, is based on the poetry of the Jewish-American writer Paul Pines, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and Psalms.

His orchestral works have been commissioned or performed by symphony orchestras across the world.

In the chamber music arena, Mr. Asia has written for, and been championed by, the Dorian Wind Quintet, American Brass Quintet, Meadowmount Trio, Cypress Quartet, Andre-Michel Schub (piano), Carter Brey (cello), Alex Klein (oboe), Benjamin Verdery (guitar), John Shirley-Quirk and Sara Watkins (baritone and oboe), Jonathan Shames (piano), among others. Under a Barlow Endowment grant, he completed work for The Czech Nonet, the longest continuously performing chamber ensemble on the planet, founded in 1924.

1. Piano Set I: I. Tensely Energetic

2. Piano Set I: II. Dreamlike, with Much Rubato

3. Piano Set I: III. Exuberante!

4. Piano Set I: IV. Metronomic; Absolutely Steady

5. Piano Set I: V. Nostalgic; Cantabile

6. Piano Set II: I. Aggressive and Antagonistic

7. Piano Set II: II. Askew

8. Piano Set II: III. Playful

9. Piano Set II: IV. Meditative

10. Piano Set II: V. Askew

11. Piano Set II: VI. Dominant-Inferior

12. Piano Set II: VII. Mutually Combative-Energetic

13. Piano Variations: I. Majestic

14. Piano Variations: II. Calm and Placid

15. Piano Variations: III. Lively

16. Piano Variations: IV. Majestic

17. No Time: Ruminative, Pondering

18. Ragflections: A Gentle, Easy Swing

19. Iris: I. Jauntily

20. Iris: II. Slow, Almost Lethargic

21. Iris: III. Impetuously

Daniel Linder performs: Piano Set I, Variations for Piano, No Time, and Ragflections

Daniel Linder/Fanya Lin perform: Piano Set II

Dana Muller/Gary Steigerwalt perform: Iris

Joseph Howell Quartet - Live in Japan (February 2021 Summit Records)

In a world full of musicians, it remains a rare instance when multiple players come together and find they are perfectly suited to each other. The group on this recording feels more like a family than a band. All of the players support and enjoy each other’s playing and company.

1. Serenity
2. Good Bait
3. Nefertiti
4. Jinriksha
5. Mamacita
6. My Foolish Heart
7. Take the A Train

Joseph Howell – clarinet
Keigo Hirakawa – piano
Kenji Shimada – bass
Kenichi Nishio – drums

Hennessy Six + Colorado Springs Youth Symphony - The Road Less Traveled (2021 Summit Records)

Bringing its unique jazz voice to the bandstand as well as the orchestra, the original music of the Hennessy 6 spans the gamut seamlessly through intricate arrangements and orchestrations that showcase the band’s versatility and virtuosity.

Collectively, the band’s members have appeared alongside numerous luminaries of the music world, including Dave Liebman, Maria Schneider, Joe Walsh, Ernie Watts, John Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon, Vince Gill and Amy Grant.

Composer and Trumpeter Sean Schafer Hennessy is one of America’s most gifted composer/ instrumentalists. Since winning major competitions since his twelfth year, he remains a brilliant protege of the renowned Wynton Marsalis. Beginning his trumpet studies at age ten, Sean made his concerto debut three years later with the Colorado Symphony. Sean has performed a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, appeared as a guest soloist at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and moved audiences with his appearance on the Public Radio International’s “From the Top”.

The National Alliance for Excellence Award, conferred on Sean, caps a string of honors, including the International Trumpet Guild Young Artist Award, and winner of the National Trumpet Competition. Sean is also one of the gifted young composers who contributed to Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration, providing his Theme for the Mars Millennium Project. Recruited by Maestro Marin Alsop to perform the lead in “Journey Into Jazz” written by Gunther Schueller, Sean dazzled the audience with emotion.

Sean is currently composing in Hollywood.

1. Pneuma

2. Haunted Eyes

3. Funky Winkerbean

4. O & D

5. Desert Fever

6. Dos Mil Uno

7. Stacy's Arabesque

8. The Road Less Traveled

The Hennessy 6:

Sean Schafer Hennessy – Trumpet

Cully Joyce – Tenor Sax / Alto Flute

Colin McAllister – Guitar

Brad Bietry – Piano / Keyboards

Jason Crowe – Acoustic / Electric Bass

Chris Gaona – Drums

* Special Guest Krista Joyce – Vocals (Pneuma, Stacy’s Arabesque)

with the the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony – Gary Nicholson, Conductor