Thursday, April 15, 2021

NEW RELEASE: Violinist Tomoko Omura to Release BRANCHES VOL. 2 on June 18, 2021 via Outside in Music

Outside In Music Announces Branches Vol. 2, The Eagerly-Awaited Second Installment of Celebrated Violinist Tomoko Omura’s Roots Series, Out June 18, 2021

“…a gifted composer and passionate instrumentalist.” – Strings Magazine

Outside in Music is thrilled to announce the release of Branches Vol. 2, the eagerly-awaited new installment in imaginative violinist-composer-arranger Tomoko Omura’s Roots series. A companion to last summer’s critically acclaimed Branches Vol. 1, this vibrant issue features six more of the Shizuoka-born artist’s original compositions inspired by Japanese folktales, and arrangements of Japanese popular songs. Accompanying Omura on this exploration of sound and culture is her working quintet made up of guitarist Jeff Miles, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jay Sawyer.

In 2015, New York-based Tomoko Omura released Roots, a ten-track collection of well known Japanese songs rearranged for a modern jazz quintet. Since then, the violinist has made a concerted effort to intertwine her Japanese heritage with her virtuosic jazz artistry on each subsequent recording project. “There’s a promise inherent in contemporary music, and it goes something like this: with people from various backgrounds—culturally, ideologically, religiously, aesthetically—creating art, everyone can benefit from the exposure to new ideas,” remarked Downbeat Magazine’s Dave Cantor in his Editor’s Pick review of Omura’s initial Branches offering. On this riveting follow up, the synergy between the ensemble’s five members has been fortified by continual collaboration. Omura deepens her compelling tribute to Japan with evocative material that builds a causeway between deeply rooted tradition and contemporary invention.

Branches Vol. 2 is split evenly between Omura-penned compositions and folk songs, tallying three of each. The album begins with a stately march leading to a luscious passage of pizzicato violin, vocals and rhythmic underpinnings from Omura’s steadfast rhythm section. The piece is “Come Firefly”, a well known traditional Japanese folk tune.“Fireflies are magical creatures that have always fascinated me,” shared Omura. “My rendition of this folk song has a sci-fi element. I was imagining communication through lights by celestial beings.” Omura’s violin soars above overdriven guitar and discordant pianistic refrains on this surrealist celebration.

Omura’s original “Melancholy Of A Crane” offers a contrapuntal and wistful exploration inspired by the Japanese folktale “Tsuru no Ongaeshi” (The Crane’s Return of Favor) – a melancholy tale of a crane who returns a favor to a man. One can hear the flight of the swan in the gentle melodic musings of the violin over the rhythm section’s triple meter. “To-Ryan-Se” is another popular folk song that dates back to the Edo era (1603 – 1867). “Children sing this song like a game,” Omura described. “It is played by multiple children facing each other, and they form a bridge with their arms, while other children pass through the bridge while singing. At the end of the song, the bridge comes down and one child will be stuck inside the bridge. That’s the game!” Omura also hints at a haunting and yet wondrous meaning behind the song’s actual lyrics. This element is captured in Omura’s arrangement in the playfulness of the melody and the inherent sense of adventure it exudes. The melody features unison playing from Omura and Miles, which elicits a  response by Zaleski, echoing the game from which the material is derived. The piece features stunning solos from Omura, Zaleski and Miles.
Next up is “Bow’s Dance”, a folksong of the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido and some of its nearby Russian territories. A close friend of Omura who extensively researched the Ainu introduced her to the great Ainu singer Umeka Ando. Ando’s interpretation of this song left its mark on Omura, and so she decided to include it here. 

Tomie’s Blues” is Omura’s composition dedicated to her grandmother, Tomie Omura, who passed away several years ago. The artist remarks, “I was very close to her and we lived together for 18 years of my life. This song is 12 bars long, just like the typical blues form, but the melody is repeated multiple times with changing note durations expressing the elasticity of time.” The contemplative ballad features wonderful solos from Menares and Zaleski. 

The concluding track is“Urashima Suite”, the fantastical tale of a young boy’s adventure that encapsulates the bittersweet nature of the passage of time. Omura and Zaleski lead us on this wondrous journey through multiple tonalities, conjuring an array of emotions and experiences including imagery of the ocean and a place called “Dragon Palace” referenced in the original tale.
In a 2021 feature in Strings Magazine, Omura shared that her Roots project is ongoing, and something that she plans to continue exploring. She told journalist Greg Cahill: “It’s developing in a few interesting directions. Just like branches. I like storytelling in music that takes us somewhere else while listening. Also, for me, re-discovering the Japanese musical elements and using them in new ways is a fun thing to do. It’s still an ongoing project, and I’m already thinking about where it can go next.” 

Track listing: 
Come Firefly 5:41 (Japanese Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Melancholy Of A Crane 7:11 (Tomoko Omura)
To Ryan Se 6:44 (Japanese Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Bow’s Dance 6:47 (Ainu Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Tomie’s Blues 5:40 (Tomoko Omura)
Urashima Suite 6:38 (Tomoko Omura)

NEW RELEASE: Saxophonist Tim Mayer’s ‘KEEPER OF THE FLAME’ due out June 4, 2021 via D-Clef Records

D-Clef Records is proud to present the June 4, 2021 release of  Keeper of the Flame, a new album from stalwart saxophonist and composer Tim Mayer and his octet, featuring bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Ulysses Owens, and Emmet Cohen as a guest pianist

Jazz music has taken Mayer all over the world. Boston, Hawaii, the Canary Islands, Colombia, he’s played them all and many more, spreading the gospel of jazz at each port of call. At present, Mayer’s based in Xalapa, Mexico, having just completed his Master’s degree at Universidad Veracruzana; that hasn’t stopped him from recording Keeper of the Flame, his first album as a leader since 2011’s star-studded and critically acclaimed Resilience.

A decade later, Keeper of the Flame reveals that the same fire that’s taken Mayer around the globe to play jazz is still burning plenty hot – and he wants to make sure he passes on his enduring passion for the music to others; that’s what Keeping the Flame is all about. “Jazz is what we as Americans have contributed to the world,” Mayer says. “The music is also a great teacher; it can be a mirror that reflects back who we really are.”

On Keeper of the Flame, Mayer’s octet brings both fiery tenacity and thoughtful erudition. The rhythm section sets the tone for striking this sophisticated balance, with Owens and Whitaker joined by Miki Hayama on piano. Mayer can be heard on both tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as on alto flute (on “Elusive”); joining him in the woodwind section are Adam Rongo (alto sax) and Tony Lustig (baritone sax). And the small but mighty brass section comprises Anthony Stanco (trumpet) and longtime Mayer collaborator Michael Dease (trombone), who in addition to playing has contributed a composition to the session, the intimate and lushly textured “Elusive.” 

The always ascending Cohen guests on Mayer’s “Get Organized,” a stylish, contemporary noirish number inspired directly by the Occupy Wall Street protests of the Great Recession but perfectly suited to contemporary foreboding.

“Whether it’s an old standard or a brand new composition,” Mayer says, “we face the same challenge: to render the moment in music.”
Keeper of the Flame rises to that challenge with a balanced set of originals, standards, and tributes to some of Mayer’s heroes, past generations’ keepers of the flame. Take the opener, “Big P,” a tune written by saxophonist Jimmy Heath for his bass-playing older brother Percy. Whitaker’s playing anchors the tune and, as both driving and contemplative, honors the eldest Heath brother, but Mayer actually presents this one as a tribute to Jimmy, whom Mayer came to know and befriend before he died in early 2020.

And just two tracks later, Mayer honors Cedar Walton’s finely crafted songwriting with a take on the late Jazz Messengers’ “Hand in Glove,” a showcase for the rhythm section that naturally allows the pianist, Hayama, ample time out front. Then there’s the closer, a joyous, bursting rendition of McCoy Tyner’s anthemic “Passion Dance,” with Mayer waking up the echoes of Joe Henderson with his solo and the ensemble leaving nothing in reserve for Tyner’s signature tune.

The octet’s take on Coltrane’s “Naima” is another story. Mayer as a saxophonist considers himself among the keepers of Coltrane’s flame, but this one transcends even that most noble goal here. “Every recording session,” Mayer said, “has one tune that captures the essence of the moment, that embodies the love, music, and respect among the musicians.” For Mayer, “Naima,” is this record’s version of that tune; it’s an exciting new arrangement that doesn’t forsake the soul of the original.
While Mayer and co. are innovators, they’re rooted in history, too, and it shows on their treatment of a couple of standards, “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Blame it on My Youth.” The former features Mayer, Whitaker, and Owens as an intimate trio, with Mayer taking up the soprano sax, while the latter strips things down even further—it’s Mayer speaking his smoky ballad voice on tenor accompanied only by Whitaker this time. It’s about as up close and personal as Mayer gets here, with the possible exception of his other original piece, “Blues by Four,” which Mayer calls a tribute to “the bond of love and friendship I was fortunate enough to share with two enlightened beings”—his two pet pugs.

Dog owners are sure to find emotional resonance here; the pet-free crowd, meanwhile, is sure to enjoy a no-nonsense blues that swings free and easy while showing off the power of a large ensemble combined with the fluidity of a smaller group.

With Keeper of the Flame, Mayer shows more than love for the legends he honors here; he communicates a sense of responsibility to them, one that exists between all musicians and must continually be nurtured, especially, as Mayer notes, in a year where so many greats have passed. “While this causes great sadness,” Mayer says, “it also strengthens my resolve to do my best to keep the flame.”

1. Big P (4:37) (Jimmy Heath)
2. Bye Bye Blackbird (6:51) (Ray Henderson)
3. Hand In Glove (6:27) (Cedar Walton)
4. Blame It On My Youth (6:11) (Oscar Levant)
5. Blues By Four (4:26) (Tim Mayer)
6. Naima (4:41) (John Coltrane)
7. Elusive (5:59) (Michael Dease)
8. Get Organized (7:50) (Tim Mayer)
9. Passion Dance (6:28) (McCoy Tyner)

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)