Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rez Abbasi named 2021 Guggenheim Fellow

Acclaimed guitarist/composer Rez Abbasi wins 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition
Abbasi is one of a diverse group of artists, writers, scholars, and scientists selected to receive the honor

Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi, one of the most celebrated artistic voices of his generation, has been named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition. He’s one of 184 artists, writers, scholars and scientists, 13 in the area of Music Composition, receiving this year’s award.  A veteran of fourteen albums as a leader, his deep musicality has been applied with equal conviction to contemporary New York acoustic jazz, the Qawwali and Indian Classical traditions of South Asia and the heady fusion sounds of the 1970s, each time applying the filter of his own musical personality to deliver inimitable results.
“I am truly honored and grateful to be named a Guggenheim Fellow,” says Abbasi. “The award is a concrete affirmation that embracing my intuition and artistic values was the right thing to do.”
The Guggenheim Fellowship is one of the most distinguished awards an artist can receive. Since 1925, the Foundation has awarded nearly $400 million to more than 18,000 individuals. The Foundation offers “fellowships to exceptional individuals in pursuit of scholarship in any field of knowledge and creation in any art form, under the freest possible conditions. After a rigorous review involving hundreds of distinguished scholars and practitioners, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees appoints Fellows on the basis of past achievement and notable promise for future accomplishments.”
Chosen from almost 3000 applicants, the 2021 Fellows represent a broad range of disciplines and pursuits. “A Guggenheim Fellowship has always been meaningful,” says Foundation President Edward Hirsch, “but this year we know it will be a lifeline for many of the new Fellows at a time of great hardship, a survival tool as well as a creative one. The work supported by the Fellowship will help us understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the Foundation to help them do what they were meant to do.”
Guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi is among a rare breed of artists that continue to push boundaries while preserving the traditions he has embraced. Consistently placing on DownBeat’s International Critics Poll alongside luminaries Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny since 2014, Abbasi continues to forge new ground with his many multi-dimensional projects. 
“Abbasi is living, breathing proof that jazz music can be as vital and boundary-pushing as ever.” –
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, migrating to the vastness of Southern California at the age of four, schooled at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music, and undertaking a pilgrimage in India under the guidance of master percussionist Ustad Alla Rakha, Abbasi is a vivid synthesis of many influences. Making New York home for the past 25 years, he has developed a singular sound both as a composer and an instrumentalist.
Among Abbasi’s recent projects is a commission by the New York Guitar Festival to create and perform a live score to the 1929 silent film A Throw of Dice. His Silent Ensemble recorded the score and released the album in 2019. He also received two highly coveted composition grants from Chamber Music America in order to complete a trilogy of albums with his acclaimed ensemble, Invocation.
In 2018 Unfiltered Universe, featuring bandmates Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, was released as the completion of the trilogy. Like the previous two albums, Things to Come and Suno Suno, Unfiltered Universe received accolades worldwide. With fifteen albums of mostly original compositions, Abbasi’s wide-ranging projects continue to capture provocative sounds seldom heard in today’s music.  In 2021 he is featured on a duo album White Lotus with Min Xiao-Fen.

Steven Feifke Big Band - Kinetic (April 2021 Outside In Music)

Outside in Music is proud to announce the release of Kinetic, the spellbinding big band debut from pianist, composer, arranger, orchestrator, educator and Yamaha Recording Artist Steven Feifke.  One of the most in-demand artists of his generation, Feifke has amassed  an impressive discography having appeared on 30 albums all before  turning 30 years old.  After over a decade’s worth of work as a notable  sideman, conductor and arranger for esteemed artists as Steve Tyrell, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Santino Fontana, and most recently, Veronica Swift, Feifke finally comes to the fore on this smashing new album that highlights his singular vision and distinct voice. Kinetic will be available everywhere on April 9, 2021. 

Joining the bandleader is an ensemble  made up of players from the very frontline of the contemporary jazz  scene including drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., vocalist Veronica Swift, tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino, and alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino among many others. The music on Kinetic was refined during the big band’s popular monthly residency at The Django in New York City that ran for nearly two years before COVID brought all live performances to halt. These  regular live performances afforded the band to develop a cohesive  common language and solid rapport, lending a rare intimate air to this  large ensemble recording. 

While Kinetic is his formal label debut, Boston-native Feifke has been a ubiquitous presence on the scene in a plethora of musical arenas. A  two-time semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition,  Feifke has written commissioned work for such notable institutions as  the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra featuring jazz trumpet greats Sean Jones and Jon Faddis, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Ken Peplowski, the Malmo Big Band with Katie Thiroux, and the New Generation Festival Orchestra featuring Dominick Farinacci. Additionally, Feifke works as musical director for musical theater luminary and Tony Award Winning actor and singer Santino Fontanato.  In the realm of television music, Feifke’s compositions and orchestrations have been prominently featured on such hit shows as Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Netflix), Impractical Jokers (TruTV), and Animaniacs (Hulu). Feifke is also a respected educator; he is currently on  faculty at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music where he  teaches composing and arranging.  He has served as a guest educator at  Moravian College, Yale University, Williams College among others, and  was the 2018 recipient of the “Pros Meet Pupils” grant from Arts  Mid-Hudson after developing a comprehensive curriculum about the history  of civil rights in America and its relation to jazz pedagogy and  performance. 

All of this and more informs Feifke’s unique artistry, which is on full display on Kinetic. “I  have been running my big band for the past 10 years — since just after I  moved to New York, pretty much. Of all the musical releases I have been  a part of since then, Kinetic is  the one that contains the most “Feifke” on there. It’s just 100% me.  It’s my own voice, and it’s my own unique stamp on the big band idiom,” Feifke says, adding, “I am really proud of the end result.” 
Acclaimed pianist, producer and arranger Gil Goldstein  notes, “There is a traditional quality to the music but upon closer  listening you can hear Steven’s voice and how he reinvents the big band  format to suit his musical personality. He plays with a similar  adventurous spirit, which is at once rooted in the modern jazz piano  tradition, while showing a curious and probing musical mind.”

Kinetic begins with the  bright tempoed swing of the album’s title track.  Feifke’s Coltrane –  McCoy tinged melodic refrains glide atop an unshakeable swing before the  band descends on the tune’s rich melody.  The track demonstrates the  pianist’s immense improvisational acuity with solo features from the  composer as well as trumpeter Gabriel King Medd and drummer Ulysses  Owens Jr.  The album’s first single, the video for “Kinetic” premiered late last year with JazzTimes. The album continues with another highlight, “Unveiling Of A Mirror”,  a composition rife with impressionistic intrigue.  The two contrasting  parts of the tune (a softer and more mysterious textured beginning, and  hard-hitting swing section) speaks to the complexities of reflections  and our often-diverging perceptions versus realities.  The piece  features solos by trumpeter Benny Benack III, saxophonist Sam Dillon,  and drummer Joe Peri.  The composer won second place, for “Unveiling of a  Mirror,” in the 2016 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Competition  (judged by Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath and Alan Ferber).

“The Sphinx”  is a true feat of sonic exploration and instrumental virtuosity.  The  shifting time signatures and sonorities of the piece serves the overall  energy of the composition, not for one second sacrificing musicality for  the sake of technicality.  The piece is equally served by the stunning  musicianship of the ensemble and especially soloist Lucas Pino who acts  here as the Gonsalves to Feifke’s Ellington.  The album ventures on with  a sultry vocal feature for vocalist Veronica Swift on “Until The Real Thing Comes Along”.   Recalling iconic moments of this song’s rich history, from Andy Kirk to  Jackie Wilson, Feifke’s arrangement ultimately is one of restraint,  romanticism, even reverence.  

Showcasing a who’s who of acclaimed, virtuosic instrumentalists and masterful arrangements, Kinetic  offers audiences the polish of a studio album with the electric  intrigue and emotional ebb and flow of a live performance in a time when  gathering to enjoy live music is impossible. The echoes of the Django  residency ring throughout this album with ebullient arrangements of  gorgeous Feifke-penned originals and jazz standards, reflecting the very  pinnacle of orchestral jazz.

Unveiling of a Mirror
The Sphinx
Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Word Travels Fast
Wollongong; Nica's Dream
On the Street Where You Live
Midnight Beat

Steven Feifke: piano
Andrew Gould: saxophone
Alexa Tarantino: saxophone, alto
Lucas Pino: clarinet, bass
Sam Dillon: saxophone, tenor
Andrew Gutauskas: saxophone, baritone
Max Darché: trumpet
John Lake: trumpet
Benny Benack III: trumpet
Gabriel King Medd: trumpet
Robert Edwards: trombone
Jeffery Miller: trombone
Armando Vergara: trombone
Jennifer Wharton: trombone
Alex Wintz: guitar
Dan Chmielinski: bass
Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums
Veronica Swift: voice / vocals
Jimmy Macbride: drums
Bryan Carter: drums

Sumari - Sumari IV (April 16, 2021 Unseen Rain Records)

SUMARI IV is the group's first studio album featuring the miraculous double-bassist Hilliard Greene. This is also Sumari's first studio album recorded and mixed after the passing of engineer Jim DeSalvo, who was responsible for documenting their previous work. SUMARI IV's commanding music, mixing the utmost in simplicity with taut, intricate layers of rhythm, appears here through the virtuosity of the musicians alone, eschewing overdubs and effects heard on Sumari II and III.

There are moments when a bell-like rhythm appears and one wonders if is it Hill Greene playing harmonics, the bell of Tom Cabrera's ride cymbal, Matt Lavelle's swallowed alto clarinet outcry or Jack DeSalvo's tintabulistic guitar and banjo pluckings, which is to say the players' musical consciousness merged during the many moments of coalescence. This an album of ancient dances and future visions.

1. Piece 1 14:55
2. Piece 2 13:45
3. Piece 3 17:39
4. Piece 4 13:54
5. Piece 5 14:10

MATT LAVELLE - alto and bass clarinets
JACK DeSALVO - guitar and banjo
HILLIARD GREENE -double-bass
TOM CABRERA - drums and percussion

Recorded at Woodshedd Studio, Westbury, NY
Mixed and mastered by Larry Hutter, Orlando, FL

Henrique Albino Quarteto - Música Tronxa (April 15, 2021 Boa Vista Jazz Records)

Encarando a história da música como uma trama de eventos que se sucedem numa dinâmica própria, é possível identificar em sua topografia obras singulares que se destacam ora por romper com cânones estabelecidos e criar um novo código; ora por se conectar à tradição a fim de reinventá-la ou simplesmente para “preservar a chama”, como dizia Mahler; ora por confluir raízes culturais e avant-garde num sincretismo abrangente que aponta novas direções. E este é justamente o caso de “Música Tronxa”, álbum de estreia do saxofonista pernambucano Henrique Albino.

Músico de sólida formação, com vasto domínio do material musical, portador de uma artisticidade vanguardista dedicada à busca incessante pelo inconvencional e com uma mente fervilhando de ideias, Albino apresenta em seu primeiro disco temas que articulam as raízes musicais pernambucanas à liberdade expressiva do jazz, à complexidade da engenharia polimétrica e às possibilidades melódico-harmônicas da música Pós-Tonal. O resultado é uma obra arrojada, mas não hermética ou acadêmica, que coaduna conflitos métricos, frases atonais, motes seriais e sonoplastias a melodias encantadoras que desvelam paisagens etéreas e improvisos incendiários plenos de risco, individualidade e senso de grupo.

Tudo isto, por sinal, sem comprometer qualquer traço da identidade nordestina. Daí que a música é “tronxa”, com “x”, no melhor “pernambuquês”, como revela “Apofenia”, tema de abertura que faz menção às batidas do maracatu rural da Zona da Mata do estado, ou “Salto Quântico”, faixa na qual podemos vislumbrar o frevo voltando-se para o amanhã.

Acompanhando Albino, um time de jovens e brilhantes músicos que incorporaram suas ideias e musicalidade ao ponto de formarem não um combo, e sim um organismo. Na sanfona, o virtuoso, moderno e peculiar Felipe Costta. No baixo elétrico, Filipe de Lima, o chão firme num espaço sonoro transmutável. E na bateria, o multidirecional, técnico e criativo Silva Barros.

Ao fim e ao cabo, só nos resta dizer que “Música Tronxa” é um disco atemporal e urgente, vértice de linguagens musicais diversas e cheio de uma densa e rara substância artística.

Portanto: boa escuta.

1. Apofenia 09:54
2. Diafragmas 06:07
3. Bugando 07:06
4. Claranã 10:06
5. Salto Quântico 09:28
6. Solo Tronxo nº 1 07:50

Todas as composições por Henrique Albino

Henrique Albino (sax tenor, barítono e flauta)
Felipe Costta (sanfona)
Filipe de Lima (baixo elétrico)
Silva Barros (bateria)