Friday, April 9, 2021

Some of Hartford's Finest Jazz Artists, Vol. 1 - Straight from the Hart Vol. 1 (2021)

The Hartford Jazz Society is on the eve of its 61st anniversary and it's an organization that’s been all encompassing in its embrace and sustainment of America’s greatest, artistic contribution, birthed in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century and now taught and performed throughout the world. Hartford, CT has its own niche in the incubation and promulgation of this creative music. This is a pioneering effort by HJS to document some of the recent exciting musicians and older pioneers who grew musically through their tutelage at the Artists Collective, The Greater Hartford Academy For the Performing Arts, Hall High, the Jackie McLean Institute at the Hartt School of Music and other Connecticut institutions. They are now spreading both here and worldwide their musical joie de vivre and chops.

1. Steve Davis - Yesterday 05:01
2. Warren Byrd - Smilin' In The Dark 05:31
3. Dezron Douglas / Black Lion Quintet - Flowers 05:52
4. Jay Hoggard - Piety and Redemption 08:13
5. Noah Baerman - Somethin' Blue (Now!) 02:58
6. Jen Allen - Pieces of Myself 05:08
7. Zaccai and Luques Curtis - Madison 06:13
8. Frank Kozyra - Jerry's Groove 10:32
9. Trombeatz w/ Nelson Bello - Something New 05:59
10. Matt Dwonszyk - Pecan's Delight 08:25
11. Sarah Hanahan - Here For Jackie 07:14

Alban Darche & Le Gros Cube #2 (2021 Yolk Records)

The latest from Alban Darche is a nice reminder that the fascinating eccentricities that mark his music are, in their own way, an extension of jazz tradition. The newest incarnation of his ensemble Le Gros Cube takes the form of a big band, and though the music has everything we’ve come to expect from Darche—bold harmonic surges and melodies wide as the horizon—it also channels the quirky turns of phrase and unorthodox shifts in cadence that characterize his music. Darche’s various ensembles are typically comprised of immensely talented saxophonists, and this one is no different. Jon Irabagon, Loren Stillman, and Matthieu Donarier join the fray, along with trombonists John Fedchock and Samuel Blaser, and double bassist Sébastien Boisseau.

1. A la bougie 06:44
2. Ping-pong 04:35
3. Arcane XV - Le Diable 08:46
4. Arcane XVIIII - Le Soleil 03:34
5. Le Mort Joyeux 03:50
6. Beauty and sadness II 04:10
7. Le chemin (vertueux) 06:48
8. L'oiseau qu'on voit chante sa plainte 03:33
9. Arcane XXII - Le Mat 03:22
10. Le cercle 04:15

Jon Irabagon : alto saxophone
Loren Stillman : alto saxophone
Alban Darche : tenor saxophone
Matthieu Donarier : tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Rémi Sciuto : baritone saxophone, flute

Joël Chausse : trumpet
Geoffroy Tamisier : trumpet
Jean-Paul Estiévenart : trumpet
Olivier Laisney : trumpet

John Fedchock : trombone
Jean-Louis Pommier : trombone
Samuel Blaser : trombone
Matthias Quilbault : tuba

Marie Krüttli : piano
Gilles Coronado : guitar
Sébastien Boisseau : double bass
Christophe Lavergne : drums

All compositions & arrangements by Alban Darche

Recorded and mixed by Jonathan Marcoz at Peninsula studio in January 2020, under live conditions.

Mastered by Pierre Vandewaeter at studio Lakanal.

01. À La Bougie — 06:44
Soloists: A. Darche, tenor — J. Irabagon, alto
02. Ping-Pong — 04:36
Soloists: L. Stillman, alto — C. Lavergne, drums A.Darche, tenor — M.Donarier, tenor
03. Arcane XV — le DiaBle — 08:46
Soloists: A. Darche, tenor — G. Tamisier / O. Laisney, trumpets
04. Arcane XVIIII — le Soleil — 03:35
Soloist: M. Donarier, tenor
05. Le Mort Joyeux — 03:51
Soloist: M. Krüttli, piano
06. Beauty And Sadness II — 04:11
Soloists: G. Coronado, guitar — S. Boisseau, double bass
07. Le Chemin (Vertueux) — 06:49
Soloists: A. Darche, tenor — J. Fedchock / J.L. Pommier / S. Blaser, trombones — L. Stillman, alto — O. Laisney, trumpet
08. L’Oiseau Qu’On Voit Chante Sa Plainte — 03:34
09. Arcane XXII — Le Mat — 03:22
Soloist: L. Stillman, alto
10. Le Cercle — 04:15
Soloist: A. Darche, tenor

Daniel Erdmann & Stéphane Payen - Bricabracomaniacs (2021 Yolk Records)

This new collaboration allows the two saxophonists to polish their speech and create this duo recorded at the National Center for Musical Creation in Reims (Césaré). The repertoire mixes personal compositions and references to melodists who have marked their paths (J.S. Bach, Steve Argüelles, Doug Hammond ...). This selection reflects their bric-a-brac, a polymorphous landscape made of multiple insularities.

Daniel Erdmann and Stéphane Payen met in 2000 in Berlin during a jam session with guitarist/drummer John Schröder. But it’s only in 2012 that they first collaborated and formed Insel Musik (a quintet with Matyas Szandaï on doublebass, Rafaël Koerner and Julien Chamla on drumsets). In 2014, they also took part in the recording of the nonet lead by American saxophonist and composer Joe Rosenberg (together with Edward Perraud, Arnaud Cuisinier, Bruno Angelini, Robin Fincker ...).

In addition to this duo, Stéphane Payen currently performs with The Workshop, Thôt (whose return to the stage is imminent), Ingrid Laubrock, Guillaume Orti, Alban Darche's Orphicube, the Nautilis ensemble, etc... Daniel Erdmann currently performs with Velvet Revolution, Das Kapital, Vincent Courtois ... He received the European Musician of the Year 2019 award from the Académie du Jazz and is the winner of the SWR Jazzpreis 2020.

1. Hijacking 1 01:22
2. Hojnes na? 01:56
3. Wailing - Tidd's Place 03:37
4. Elderberries 02:16
5. 72-2 01:10
6. Les Frigos 03:51
7. 72-1 03:21
8. The Harmolodic Thing 03:23
9. Mini ensemble 02:10
10. The family thing 03:00
11. The Bold Mouse Flight 02:48
12. 1984 03:39
13. Hijacking 2 03:53
14. Native 03:26
15. One Way And The Other 04:57

Daniel Erdmann — tenor Saxophone
Stéphane Payen — alto Saxophone

Max Lance — recording, mix
Sylvain Thévenard — mastering

Recorded in Reims at Césaré (Spring 2018), centre national de création musicale

Lara Solnicki - The One and the Other (2021)

The One and the Other: A New Art Song Project by Laras Solnicki

At times focus is on poetic imagery, with music ‘word painting’, as defined in classical music; other times the focus is on musical elements, with text falling impressionistically into the background which we call 'lyrics'; at yet other times, a guided free improvisation section may take-off from a line of poetry.

"A poet of the most advanced kind... Solnicki is a master in her own modern and post-modern poetic mode, which makes powerful use of the techniques of discontinuity, surprising imagery and juxtaposition of images, and sudden unexpected leaps of thought and mood. The originality and enigma of the language, within an overall clarity, is involving, and expresses itself first emotionally. Lara Solnicki’s great vocal range is matched by an equal emotional range, from intimacy to mystery, from sorrow to rage, exultancy to regret. "

-A.F Moritz, Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto (2019-2021), Griffin Poetry Prize Winner, Guggenheim Fellow
1. Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street 08:33
2. Idée Fixe 04:36
3. The Embrace 03:46
4. Furling Leaf, Retrocede 06:04
5. The One and the Other Part I- Pass a Glass 06:19
6. The One and the Other Part 2- Awe of the Sea 07:16
7. The One and the Other Part 3: Hollow the Need 07:46

Lara Solnicki (music, poetry, voice)
Jonathan Goldsmith (producer, keyboards, electronics, electric bass and guitar)
Hugh Marsh (electric violin)
Peter Lutek (alto sax, electro-acoustic clarinet and bassoon)
Scott Peterson (electric and acoustic bass)
Rich Brown (electric bass)
Davide Di Renzo (drums)

Toldam / Riedel / Berg / Wiklund / Christensen - Tak for dit brev (ILK Music 2021)

“I see experiences as letters that are sent to me. With this album, I’m replying.” – Simon Toldam

The songs on Tak for dit brev (Thank You For Your Letter), the new album from Danish pianist and composer Simon Toldam, are a series of musical letters inspired by personal transformative events and a tribute to the daily shared experience of being unavoidably affected by both the positive and disheartening things around us.

On Tak for dit brev, Toldam explores a melodically-motivated sonic landscape, marking a departure from his more recent chord-centric work. He wrote most of the songs on clarinet, which applied new parameters and added new character to the process. Writing on a single-voice instrument (limited to playing one note at a time) demands and offers a different compositional approach than a multi-voiced instrument like piano does.

This opened up new structural doors to Toldam, compelling him to create the melodic material first, thereafter creating the harmonic context and arrangement around it. His marvelous ability to absorb and create music from surprising and fascinating angles is on full display here as he presents songs which orbit around strong melodies and shine with unabashed influence from Scandinavian Folk and Jazz musical traditions.

For the recording session at Stockholm’s Atlantic Studio in June of 2019, Toldam invited legendary Swedish bassist and composer, Georg Riedel (born 1934). Among other things, Riedel is known for his celebrated collaborations with Swedish pianist Jan Johansson (appearing on the timeless masterpiece, JAZZ PÅ SVENSKA), as well as having scored several Astrid Lindgren films, including Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Maple Hills, and many more. The rest of the band includes some of the most original voices and instrumental story-tellers in Scandinavia – Nils Berg on bass clarinet, Tobias Wiklund on cornet, and Anders Christensen on bass.

Tak for dit brev is Toldam’s 15th album as leader and co-leader. He is a recipient of the prestigious 3-year Working Grant from the Danish Arts Council, and a winner of5 Danish Jazz Grammys (Danish Music Awards), most recently “Jazz Album of the Year” in 2019 for his trio recording, OMHU.
1. Mor 03:54
2. Nu sejler vi 04:23
3. Måneløb 05:33
4. Luft 00:59
5. Et postkort 06:40
6. Opdrift 04:41
7. Den Blå Stol 04:31
8. Alberts Tic Tac 04:38
9. Godmorgen træ 04:16
10. Gå Gå Gå 03:44
11. Dansk Kulturarv ? 05:41
12. To virkeligheder 03:17

Simon Toldam - piano / clarinet
Georg Riedel - bass
Nils Berg - bass clarinet
Tobias Wiklund - cornet
Anders Christensen - bass

FUR - Boîte noire (2021 Suite)

The trio FUR travels through wide landscapes, following a dangerous and sinuous path towards a utopian and magical place, but stops at night for social bonding and a shared warm coffee.

1. Avant 04:07
2. Otanitso 06:19
3. Kaplan 02:34
4. L'Allusion 03:12
5. Prétexte 02:12
6. L'illusion 03:59
7. Lichen 02:58
8. Texture 03:29
9. Le grand partir 03:56

Hélène Duret: clarinet, bass clarinet, compositions (1, 5, 8 & 9)
Benjamin Sauzereau: guitar, compositions (1, 3, 4, 6 & 9)
Maxime Rouayroux: drums, compositions (1, 2, 7 & 9)

Dries Van Ende: recording & mixing
Recorded on December 19th 2020 in Brussels
Mathieu Pion: mastering

Pauline Chassain: artwork
Printed at Chez Rosi, Brussels risograph

Paul Bedal - Cerulean Stars (2021 Bace Records)

On Cerulean Stars, classical leanings and jazz formalism intersect with the post-freedom aesthetic of Chicago’s storied avant-garde. But don’t expect some sort of dialectical mashup; you won’t have to confront some split-personality collision of opposing forces. Instead, pianist Paul Bedal and company have seamlessly blended their diverse experiences, investing his fully structured compositions with liberating energy. He provides the blueprint, and his cohorts color outside the lines.

“It’s amazing to have musicians like Nick, Matt, and Charles with me,” Bedal says, referring to the members of this quartet – the same lineup that recorded his previous album, In Reverse. “They already have such a strong presence of their own, leading their own groups, that I’m excited to have them melding into this music. I think the album would come across as totally different with other sets of players, and I just like this kind of edge that Nick and Charles bring to it.”

That would be altoist Nick Mazzarella and percussionist Charles Rumback, who spend most of their time on the outskirts of the jazz mainstream. Even when such artists travel “back into town,” they usually can’t help but express lessons they’ve learned while away; and when they adapt those lessons to the music at hand, the sparks can fly.

Mazzarella’s work on Cerulean Stars may surprise listeners who know him primarily as a post-freedom improviser, ensconced on the busy and influential Chicago avant-garde landscape. He has appeared in ensembles led by new-music giants Ken Vandermark and Mike Reed; in duos with cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Tim Daisy; and leading or co-leading several small ensembles. But the saxophonist (who has appeared on some 35 albums to date) has recently expressed a desire to move toward more structured formats – his original love – and Cerulean Stars, like its predecessor, serves as a showcase for this side of his artistry. In return, Mazzarella’s intense adventurism, buoyed by his neon tone, lights Bedal’s compositions from within.

For one example, turn to the opening track, “Iris,” an off-kilter melody that reflects the writing of Keith Jarrett, one of Bedal’s main influences. The melody rides atop a complicated, unorthodox harmonic scheme, and even months after the recording, Bedal remains impressed with Mazzarella’s approach to soloing on these chords – “especially some of the ways he tackled the harmonies, which I don’t think many other people would do around here,” Bedal says. “It’s kind of like sheets of sound, but it’s still handling all the harmonies.”

“Iris” also provides a fine introduction to Charles Rumback, Mazzarella’s fellow traveler on Chicago’s contemporary music scene, which boasts a fluidity that allows and even impels improvisers to move freely among genres. His resume includes several highly-regarded albums under his own name, as well as recordings by the groups Stirrup and Colorist, saxophonists Caroline Davis and Dustin Laurenzi, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Lightbox Orchestra. Rumback’s style emphasizes texture and nuance. Rather than barge and bash with untrammeled force, he fills his playing with nuanced colors and novel beats, which seep into the nooks and crannies of his fellows’ improvisations. On “Iris,” his steady beat creates an interior counterpoint to the rhythm of the melody: an idea from the edge? Whatever its origin, it adds complexity to the tune, and particularly to Bedal’s solo, which drops pieces of the theme like bread crumbs for the listener to follow.
Balancing all this is Matt Ulery, whose reputation as a composer – of jazz tunes, art songs, jazz-folk hybrids, big-band charts, orchestral works, and cinematic themes in search of a movie (among others) – almost overshadows his versatility as a bassist. His adaptability has allowed him to collaborate with the GRAMMY-winning classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird on the one hand, and hip-hop/jazz instigator Makaya McCraven on the other; he has also led 10 wide-ranging albums of his own. Bedal considers Ulery an inspiration for his own writing: “Just listening to Matt’s music, and recently playing in a lot of his groups, made me try to write things that I know the players would appreciate,” Bedal notes.

The pianist’s relationship with Ulery and Rumback stretches back nearly a decade, giving these disparate artists the chance to establish a comfort level – an ease, but without complacency – that becomes one of the disc’s real joys over repeated hearings. Since 2016, this rapport has encompassed Mazzarella as well, and it plays a vital role in Bedal’s compositions: deceptively challenging songs that sound less knotty than they ought to, thanks to Bedal’s ingenuity and to the tight mesh of the band.

Bedal gravitates toward pure melody, as befits a pianist who cites not only Jarrett but also Brad Mehldau, Herbie Hancock, and especially Bill Evans among his jazz heroes. But the clear-cut forms of Thelonious Monk’s compositions are another touchstone, along with light touches of Latin rhythms, which he picked up while studying at University of Miami (Florida), and which reinforced his early exposure to the infectious drive of pianist Michel Camilo, a favorite of Bedal’s musician father. Hints of the Caribbean show up on “Citrine,” but Bedal and Rumback employ this element with extreme subtlety. It isn’t garishly slapped onto the tune, but rather infused into the performance’s DNA, where it becomes one of many strands.

On “Panorama” and “Compass,” two of his more recent compositions, Bedal chose to set certain parameters rather than let the song come to him. “Panorama” builds upon varying permutations of the opening strains, which culminate in the ascending/descending motif first heard fully at 00:30; the ebb and flow of these permutations creates a swirling momentum during the solos that follow. On “Compass,” Bedal devised a formula to determine the intervals guiding the movement of the bass line, and then constructed the chord progression upon that. The piece has a majestic sweep epitomized by Mazzarella’s soaring solo – it mixes lyrical stretches with fluttering flights – and a piano solo of particular depth.

Bedal shines again on “Summer Fade,” the melody of which finds commonground with both Keith Jarrett and another longtime favorite of Bedal, the Armenian-born pianist Vardan Ovsepian. Ovsepian’s compositions tend to be more self-consciously pianistic, and that influence figures in Bedal’s solo, which emphasizes the interaction between left- and right-hand movement; after that, Mazzarella channels some inner Coltrane (and a bit of Eddie Harris’ highly evolved funk, too). The album concludes with the aptly titled “Free,” a slow-moving lullaby underscored by Rumback’s chittering brushwork, which leads to a section of unstructured improvisation.

That leaves only the brooding mystery of the title track, which at first recalls the main theme from the “Harry Potter” films. Its clockwork melody would seem to offer the tightest restrictions for improvising of any of these tracks. But the tune opens up into a full-blooded swinger, as Ulery and Rumback propel the melody’s stutter-step rhythm into an asymmetrical but irresistible force. “It started out as more of a piano piece,” Bedal says, “and then I kind of fleshed it out for the group.” That makes “Cerulean Stars” the outlier, since Bedal has so clearly conceived most of this repertoire for the quartet as a whole. But it speaks to that very wholeness – the valence that binds this band together – that this one fits right in. NEIL TESSER

1. Iris 06:27
2. Cerulean Stars 07:33
3. Citrine 05:59
4. Panorama 07:32
5. Compass 06:33
6. Summer Fade 06:33
7. Free 04:21

Paul Bedal - piano/compositions
Nick Mazzarella - alto saxophone
Matt Ulery - double bass
Charles Rumback - drums

Recorded at Pro Musica by Ken Christianson on January 20th, 2020

Artwork and design by Marine Tempels Black

Alfred Kpebesaane & Brittany Anjou - Nong Voru / Fake Love (2021 Chant Records)

Nong Voru, translated from Dagara to English as 'Fake Love', captures the journey of xylophonist Alfred Kpebesaane's (pronounced Kway-Beh-SAH-Nay) origins from the Upper West Region of Ghana to NYC, channeling a novel and eclectic collaboration blending traditional Ghanaian xylophone (gyil) with computer processing and electronic synths by keyboardist producer Brittany Anjou. On Nong Voru, one hears Alfred’s characteristic eccentricities shouted atop his hypnotic master xylophone, Anjou’s melodic at-times-detuned mirroring keyboards playing the traditional role of support xylophone, and the rarest of rare: gyil sampled into electronic sounds of ping pong fractals, by creative Brooklyn-based computer musician Michael Clemow.

1. N Saa Kuuna Veso (The Orphan Song) 05:28
2. Gandaakpina Yangmaa Domme (The Landlord Passed Away) 03:58
3. Yuor Na Nume (Sweet Problem) 09:43
4. The Women Are Taking Over The Men 09:14
5. Nang Nyong Me (Be Poor and See) 08:40
6. The Impossible Song 05:41

Alfred Kpebesaane – vocals, gyil (Ghanaian xylophone)
Brittany Anjou – Nord Electro, Casio 1000P
April Centrone – drums
Oren Bloedow – bass on 3, 4, 5

Michael Clemow – live computer processing on 4, 5, 6
Rich Bennett – recording engineer, mixing engineer, sound design compositor
Kevin Reeves – mastering engineer

All music and lyrics by Alfred Kpebesaane. All tracks recorded on May 28, 2017 by Rich Bennett at Acme Hall Studios in Brooklyn, NY. Additional recording sessions with Michael Clemow and Brittany Anjou at Acme Hall Studios, and Oren Bloedow at The Owl Music Parlor completed in 2018. All tracks mixed at Acme Hall Studios by Rich Bennett. All tracks mastered at Universal Music in NYC by Kevin Reeves.

Emmet Cohen Speaks with GRAMMY Museum's COLLECTION: live - AVAILABLE TODAY

Mack Avenue Music Group Pianist/Composer
and American Pianists Awards Winner EMMET COHEN Speaks with GRAMMY Museum® as Part of Their
Celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month

Will Discuss Critically Acclaimed Album Future Stride,
Popular Livestream Series "Live From Emmet's Place" and Past Experience with GRAMMY Museum

Online Now as Part of COLLECTION:live™
"Common threads on 'Future Stride’ include swinging, often
unpredictable rhythms, inventive interplay and wit.” — Associated Press

"Cohen’s boundless talent is clearly on display here as he draws
from tradition to create his own future path.” — Glide Magazine

"When Cohen is in full flight...he reminds me of Ahmad Jamal:
not the genteel Jamal you hear on record, but the wall-banging,
holy-shit Jamal I saw in concert a few years ago, who rolled
across the keyboard like a thunderstorm.” — Stereogum

Mack Avenue Music Group pianist/composer and American Pianists Awards winner Emmet Cohen has partnered with the GRAMMY Museum in their celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month. An exclusive interview with GRAMMY Museum Host Scott Goldman as well as an exclusive performance is available now as part of their COLLECTION:live series and available through their platforms for 30 days.

COLLECTION:live is the GRAMMY Museum's official online streaming service, featuring an artfully curated collection of newly produced artist interviews, performances and livestreams, as well as special releases from the GRAMMY Museum archive. The Museum's popular Public Programs series has been recorded over the last decade from the Clive Davis Theater in Los Angeles and has since surpassed the 1,000 program mark. Proceeds benefit the Museum's music education initiatives.

Cohen will be discussing his new critically acclaimed album Future Stride (released January 29, 2021 via Mack Avenue Records), where he revisits one of the earliest forms of jazz without a trace of quaintness or throwback pastiche by meticulously covering the genre’s lexicon spanning the past century and melding its context with “modern” music. He's joined here by his longtime rhythm section including bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole, as well as two of modern jazz's most progressive voices in trumpeter Marquis Hill and saxophonist Melissa Aldana, to find the immediacy in a stylistic approach that can speak volumes to modern listeners open to recognizing its thrilling vitality.
The pianist has also proven to be one of the hardest working artists through COVID-19, having completed an international European tour and a recent trip to work in Russia, all while running a weekly livestream series, "Live From Emmet's Place." The popular series launched when Cohen and his rhythm section were returning from Canada and decided to quarantine together in his New York apartment. Over time, they began incorporating special guests as they improved audio and video capabilities and found safe ways to invite others in. So far, the series has seen guests including Jazzmeia Horn, Mark Whitfield, Houston Person, Samara Joy, and many others, amassing tens of thousands of views. The stream didn't stop when Cohen was traveling either -- those segments were hosted internationally.

Cohen will also discuss his own previous experience with the GRAMMY Museum's music education programs and detail how they've shaped his future and helped him reach where he is today. Educational opportunities have continued to play a significant role in Cohen's career, as this new album follows his win at the 2019 American Pianists Awards. He received a cash prize and two years of career advancement and support valued at over $100,000, making this one of the most coveted prizes in the music world and the largest for American jazz pianists. Cohen's recording contract with Mack Avenue Music Group was a part of the prize from the American Pianists Association as well.

Find the interview and performance on COLLECTION:live's website,
and keep up with the socials here: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter