Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Hugh Manwell - Guidance (March 30, 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All compositions by Bheki Mseleku

Bheki Mseleku – piano, voice

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

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

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

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

All Compositions By Christopher Hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Morris, Guitar
Damon Smith, Double Bass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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