Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Music Writer Ted Gioia Announces the Launch of an Arts and Culture Newsletter on Substack

Ted Gioia, author of The History of Jazz and Music: A Subversive History, announces the launch today of a newsletter focused on music, books and culture. The newsletter, entitled Culture Notes of an Honest Broker, will be available for both free and paid subscriptions on the Substack platform.

“The Honest Broker,” Gioia explains, “aims to be a trustworthy guide to music, books, and culture—with a mix of longform essays, reviews, commentary, links, observations, and amusements. The perspective is both historical and up-to-date. Readers will find in-depth coverage here of everything from the ritual sex music of ancient Mesopotamia to the latest twists and turns of non-fungible music tokens.”

“I know how difficult it is to find honest, reliable guidance in matters of music and culture,” Gioia adds. “Newspapers have downsized their music and culture coverage to the point of near extinction. There once were full-time jazz writers at every major newspaper in the United States, but I doubt there’s even one left now. And the same is true of other categories of arts coverage. Book reviews, concert reviews, and full-length culture features ought to be put on the endangered species list.”
“I’m committed to offering smart, expansive coverage that will go beyond what readers can find elsewhere. My main focus will be music, but all facets of cultural activity and innovation will be part of my purview.”

The newsletter will be launched on the Substack platform. “Substack is growing at a remarkable pace, and for a good reason,” Gioia explains. “It provides the most fair and supportive environment I’ve encountered for writers. And they empower writers on every front, from financial matters to questions of intellectual property. This is the right place for me to take my vocation to the next level.”

More information is available at Ted Gioia / Substack
Ted Gioia is a pianist, critic, scholar, historian and educator. He is author of 11 books, including The History of Jazz, Delta Blues—both honored by the New York Times on their list of 100 notable books of the year. His three books on the social history of music—Work Songs, Healing Songs, and Love Songs—have each been honored with the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. Gioia holds degrees from Stanford and Oxford, and previously served on the faculty of Stanford University. Praised as one of the leading music historians of our day, Gioia is a preeminent guide to songs of the past, present, and future.

The Cats Talk Back! | Du Bois Black Music Project | We Insist! | We UP - Re UP Jazz Festival

The W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMASS, Amherst
in partnership with the We Insist! Collective & the We Up Re Up Jazz Festival 

"The Cats Talk Back"
Mini Concerts & Panel Discussions on Hot Topics in Jazz 
Reclaiming The Black American Music Known as Jazz

Fridays 7-9PM on 4.23 | 4.30 | 5.7

with Jazz Masters Both Present & Future

Ethnomusicologist, Africanist/African American Scholar, Cultural Activist
Black Music Practitioner (Jazz Vocals)
Ph.D. Candidate, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

(courtesy of the We Up - Re UP Jazz Festival)


Donald Edwards, Drums
Abraham Burton, Tenor Sax
Anthony Wonsey, Piano
Ben Wolfe, Bass
David Gilmore
Anthony Wonsey, Piano
Dmitri Kolesnik, Bass
Chris Beck, Drums
Nasheet Waits, Drums
Abraham Burton, Tenor Sax
Marvin Sewell, Guitar 
Luques Curtis, Bass

The W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies has the extraordinary opportunity to continue the work of legacy faculty like Max Roach, Reggie Workman, Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp with the Spring 2021 inaugural season of the Du Bois Black Music Project. Throughout his time on faculty in the Department, Max Roach engaged in scholarship that addressed major issues of race and power in Black music with a focus on jazz.

We follow in his footsteps with the online event series Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back, which presents mini-concerts and panel discussions to put Black music culture-bearers in conversation with hot topics in jazz. This series was conceived by Afro American Studies doctoral student Maya Cunningham, who is an ethnomusicologist, a cultural activist, and a jazz vocalist.

The Du Bois Black Music Project has partnered with the We Insist! Collective and the We UP - Re Up Online Jazz Festival, led by world renowned tenor saxophonist JD Allen, Nasheet Waits (Drummer, Jason Moran’s Bandwagon), and Eric Revis (Bassist, Branford Marsalis), in collaboration with celebrated jazz trumpeter, Antoine Drye.

This series facilitates intergenerational dialogues with the elder, bridge and young lion generations of jazz culture bearers, who are at the creative vanguard of the music, and who in other Black forms center their voices in controversial topics in jazz scholarship, including cultural appropriation, institutionalization, and contested ownership.

Out Now!: Ylyne - Odd Dance Music (April 2021 Auand Beats)

Out now on Auand Beats Odd Dance Music, the new album by Ylyne, the electronic side of Frank Martino, the Italian guitarist, long collaborator of Auand Records. Odd Dance Music it's not only a title but also a word pun between edm and odd meters, a mix of musical styles featuring Luca Scaggiante (in two tracks, including Metallica's Welcome Home), I Love Degrado, Sarah Stride and Devon Miles.

1 Mind Games (feat. Devon Miles)
2 Closing Loops
3 Nove Febbraio (feat. Sarah Stride)
4 Dub Sickle
5 Days Go By (feat. Luca Scaggiante)
6 Droga Droga Rework  (feat. I Love Degrado)
7 Thirst Trap
8 Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (feat. Luca Scaggiante)
Frank Martino is a guitar player, composer and producer: an eclectic musician, comfortable with rock, electronics and jazz. For the third album of his Disorgan project (on since 2015), Martino welcomes Massimiliano Milesi (tenor sax), who joins Claudio Vignali (keyboards) and Niccolò Romanin (drums).

The album Ego Boost will be out on June 5th for Auand Records. While Martino’s role as a soloist is limited compared to his past works, he’s more present as a music director of the whole project.

The entire band took part in the creation process. Milesi takes the sound to a more jazzy mood, however the general approach is closer to that of a rock act – which gave Martino the opportunity to play bass (which he loves) in some tracks, thanks to his special 8-string guitar.

Martino penned all 7 tracks except ‘Trees of Silence and Fire’ (Milesi/Vignali). They all have a strong rhythm drive and clearly highlight the group sound. There was no post-production: every track was recorded live, with a huge work on sounds.

Enrico Terragnoli underlines the collective composition side of Ego Boost:

“The guitar player knows very well how to serve the band, and follows their suggestions by emphasizing the compositions as well as the polished sound combinations they generate. As a confirmation of their close relationship, you’ll find interesting exchanges on the role of bass player between Martino’s imaginative 8-string guitar and Vignali’s keyboards – an essential harmonic engine in this project. All members follow the same path, which is definitely not granted when such complex meters and forms are used. Credit must be given to Romanin here, and to his being in control and proactive at the same time.

The transition from trio to quartet offers even more chances to play with timbers and narratives, without the use of elaborate post-production or any other studio tricks. Recorded with a live approach, the sound is absolutely real, distant from affectedness even in Milesi’s sax sound range – amazingly super-accurate as usual in his general contribution”.

Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra – Virtual Birdland (April 2021 Zoho Music)

The images of 2020 were scary, nights of ambulance sirens, freezer trucks, sleeplessness, a nation’s economy brought to a halt. Jobs lost, businesses, restaurants, and yoga studios shuttered. With the exception of some high-tech companies and the well ensconced, everybody suffered.

There were other images. Women and men in scrubs and face shields facing an onslaught of suffering with quiet strength. Superheroes clothed in checkout aprons and flight attendant uniforms. People at the lower rungs of the socioeconomic strata who, just by showing up to work, conferred upon themselves wealth of character.

Images of violence visited upon young black lives, millions marching in defiance of that hatred. An honest discussion of racism and a reckoning of the likes we’ve never seen. We discovered a moral abyss at the highest levels of governance and the wisdom of one who urged us to get into “good” trouble. We saw who was who and what was what and can never unsee the differences. Into this reality we meet a group of musicians, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. One week they’re looking at gainful employment. The next they’re faced with the reality that the work they’ve prepared for their whole lives has disappeared.

Free-lance artists have no regular paycheck, no guarantees of employment. They spend hours in practice rooms, doing their scales, their pliés, memorizing soliloquies, writing their stand up, and if they’re very lucky they get to practice their craft. People devoted to those brief moments on stage bring a measure of joy to us, essential workers who may not save lives but do make life worth living. At the beginning of this crisis the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance created an emergency fund for the freelance community, and the orchestra began a weekly stream to raise money to help artists. The production schedule involves musicians donating their time to record individually for hours at a time, then videographers and sound engineers spending days assembling, mixing, syncing, and editing the offering that is shown once a week on Facebook and YouTube.

Two realizations emerged. The first was that only two entities are required for any transaction. Early on in the series we began to see giver and receiver become one. The chat box revealed people from throughout the planet letting us know that in the midst of this dark moment there was at least one time a week that brought them healing. We who labored to give were receiving, knowing our gift was meaningful to people whom we did not know and would most likely never meet. It gave us a sense of global purpose and relevance. The giver becomes the receiver and the gift stays in motion.
The second realization was that the magic of music comes not from the performance or the setting. It comes from the camaraderie of the musicians who bring their best every time they play together, whether in the same room or separated by continents, transcending the artificiality of the computer screen. It’s not the notes but the spirit that creates the swing, the vibe, the whatever you call it, and it’s here in spades. That joy cannot be manufactured, nor contained.

“Gulab Jamón” was commissioned by the Greene Space in New York City. The piece’s title is a mash up of two of my favorite cuisines, Indian and Spanish. The inspiration came from thinking about water and how it can exist in many forms but is essentially the same. We should see humanity as existing in many forms but being of the same essence. We do not dilute our essence when we embrace others.

“Pouvoir” means “power” in French and is written by a very powerful artist born in Morocco, a defender of the sacred Moroccan rhythmic code, Chaabi (a traditional style of North African dance music associated with weddings and festivals.) Malika Zarra, trained in New York, currently residing in Paris, is an archetype of how the music of Mother Africa flows from its sources and travels the globe enriching everyone it touches.

Beautiful human beings make beautiful music. I’m not talking about high cheekbones or sculpted abs. I refer to those whose inner joy radiates in who they are and what they bring. Rafi Malkiel is just such a being. If you know Rafi, you love Rafi. “Desert”, his composition, is an example of that inner joy flowing out. The sound of ancient trade routes connecting with a moment in time where we all need healing.

“Nightfall” by Larry Willis is an example of the compositional prowess of this brilliant pianist. The effortlessness of his swing and the efficacy of his tumbao reveal that the roots, path, and future of this music we call jazz are Afro Latino. Influenced by the middle east and beyond, this music filters through Spain, ferments in Northern African, crystalizes in Western Africa and through a cataclysm called the slave trade, makes its way into all of the Americas.
The next piece is an example of global cooperation, of what could be if artists ran the world. Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi from Kuwait wrote this beautiful song, “Ana Mashoof”, and it was originally performed in Abu Dhabi during a concert called Cuba Meets Khaleeji: The Middle Eastern Roots of Afro Cuban Jazz. In this iteration, Boom Diwan (Boom Diwan is a band of percussionists) records from Kuwait, Ghazi from Abu Dhabi, and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra from the United States and Europe.

Paquito D’Rivera’s “Samba for Carmen” was written for the inimitable Carmen McRae and arranged by Maestro Chico O’Farrill. Paquito is a chameleon and one of the most amazing clarinetists of our time. He is equally at home playing a Mozart concerto, a Guaguanco, or a fast Cherokee. Here, he is featured in a Brazilian samba and sounds like a born and bred “carioca.”
Letieres Leite is my counterpart. He founded Orkestra Rumpilezz and created a universe around performing and teaching Afro Brazilian music. This is not your typical elevator bossa. This is full blown Candomblé, scored for 5 percussionists, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxes and a tuba. “Alafia” is his composition and recorded here by a very happy group of physically, but not socially distant musicians thrilled to be playing such progressive music.

Composed by Rafael Solano and orchestrated by Chico O’Farrill, “En La Oscuridad” is a meditation in elegance and soul. I performed this piece under my father’s direction and marveled at the playing of tenor saxophone giant, Mario Rivera. To hear Mario’s protégé, Ivan Renta, play with so much reverence for his mentor, yet be so much his own voice, reminds me that we are part of an ancestral trail.

Don Angel “Papo” Vazquez is affectionately known as “El Almirante” (The Admiral). He is the creator of bomba jazz and amongst the finest trombonists I know. “Cimarron” was commissioned by The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance and in this setting refers to the wild or untamed runaway. I love this celebration of musical fearlessness.

We close this recording with Tito Puente’s iconic “Para Los Rumberos” arranged by José Madera. A rumbero is someone who is not bound by circumstance. Who when the picture is at its bleakest and the smart thing to do is cave in to fear, does the opposite and celebrates the challenge with song and dance. Are you a rumbero? When life hands you lemons, do you make lechon asado out of it? Tito took the circumstances of his life and created a universe of joy. If you have that skill then you too, are a rumbero.
Closing thoughts
When this thing happened, this pandemic, this time of national and global reckoning, we were blindsided and even though the sky seemed like it was falling, we rose up and were determined to play music and heal others. This recording is proof that we are interconnected globally even if we are not allowed to leave our homes. The musicians on this recording sat in their living rooms, bedrooms, or closets and contributed to the lives of thousands of unseen listeners. No immediate feedback, no discernible applause, no fancy concert halls, no paycheck, just the purest form of art there is, service to others.
- Arturo O’Farrill

Virtual Birdland is a candle in the darkness, which illuminates what is possible when good people come together to create beauty and meaning in the world. The year 2020 will forever be known as annus horribilis, one of misfortune and misgiving, when the people of the world suffered through an pernicious pandemic.

Arturo O’Farrill is the ultimate “artivist,” a terrific blend of artist and activist. When the occasion arises, he rises to it. Instead of cursing the darkness, he creates music and opportunity for all of us to experience. Arturo is a humanitarian who helped to mobilize resources to support the creative community. He made sure that those in the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra had a steady gig, a semblance of normalcy during a time of chaos. While we all hunkered down in our homes, every week we had the Virtual Birdland show to look forward to. This project is indeed an homage to its namesake, named after the iconic Jazz club in midtown Manhattan where Arturo and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra have had a weekly Sunday night residence for many years.

This album is special. It represents many people coming together to create something larger. We cannot be defeated. We cannot be kept down. Because the human spirit will always bring us together. And music will always be a force for unity. This is the seventh album that I’ve been blessed to produce for Arturo. It’s been an honor for Doug Davis, Paul Avgerinos, and me to help bring maestro Arturo’s brilliant artistic vision into the world.
- Kabir Sehgal

Produced by: Kabir Sehgal, Doug Davis and Paul Avgerinos. Recorded online between April through October 2020 around the world from New York, New Jersey, California, Puerto Rico, Quebec, Brazil, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, France, UK, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Post production and engineering by: Amin Farid Abdal in Kuwait. Mixed and mastering by: Peter Karl. Photography: Nurit Sharett (Rafi Malkiel), Melanie Futorian. CD cover design by: Beatriz Salvatierr. Art direction and package design by: Jack Frisch. Executive produced by: Kabir Sehgal, Fred Miller, Joachim “Jochen” Becker, and The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance.

1. Gulab Jamon (Arturo O’Farrill) 7:11
Soloists: Jasper Dutz, Arturo O’Farrill
2. Pouvoir (Malika Zarra) 6:46
Arr. Kali Rodriguez-Peña
Soloists: Mariel Bildsten, Keisel Jimenez
3. Desert (Rafi Malkiel) 6:31
Soloists: Rafi Malkiel, Seneca Black
4. Nightfall (Larry Willis) 7:40
Arr. Miguel Blanco
Soloists: Rachel Therrien, Ivan Renta, Arturo O’Farrill, Keisel Jimenez
5. Ana Mashoof (Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi) 8:12
Soloists: Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi, Alejandro Aviles
6. Samba For Carmen (Paquito D'rivera) 5:11
Arr. Chico O’Farrill
Soloists: Paquito D’Rivera, Adam O’Farrill
7. Lafia (Letieres Leite) 7:35
Soloists: Larry Bustamante
8. En La Oscuridad (Rafael Solano Sanchez) 3:47
Arr. Chico O’Farrill
Soloists: Ivan Renta
9. Cimarron (Papo Vazquez) 8:02
Soloists: Abdulrahman Amer, Alejandro Aviles,
and Carly Maldonado
10. Para Los Rumberos (Tito Puente) 7:20
Arr. Jose Madera
Soloists: Ivan Renta, Rafi Malkiel, Bryan Davis,
Keisel Jimenez, Carly Maldonado, Vince Cherico

Arturo O’Farrill piano, conductor

Special Guests
Malika Zarra voice (2)
Gili Sharett bassoon (3)
Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi guitar and voice (5)
Boom Diwan:
Sulaiman Mayouf Mejally, Abdulaziz Al-Hamli, Abdulwahab Al-Hamli, Khaled Bunashi, Ghanem Salem percussion (5)
Paquito D’Rivera alto saxophone (6)
Richard Miller guitar (6)
Everton Isidoro cuica, pandeiro, caxixi (6, 7)
Gustavo Di Dalva atabaque (7)

Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
Alejandro Aviles alto, flute (1, 5), soprano (4, 5)
Adison Evans alto, all tracks except 3, 7, flute (5, 6);
Roman Filiu alto (3)
Ivan Renta tenor, soprano (9)
Jasper Dutz tenor, all tracks except 6, 7, 10, clarinet (2, 3, 5)
Jeremy Powell tenor (6, 7)
Livio Almeida tenor (10)
Larry Bustamante baritone , bass clarinet (2, 3, 5)

Seneca Black (1, 3, 7, 9)
Bryan Davis
Adam O’Farrill
Walter Cano (2, 9, 10), flugelhorn (4)
Rachel Therrien all except 9, flugelhorn (5)
Kai Sandoval (6, 8)

Rafi Malkiel euphonium (3)
Mariel Bildsten all tracks except 6
Abdulrahmen Amer all tracks except 8
Xito Lovell (6)
Ben Barnett (8)
Earl Mcintyre all except 6, 8, bass trombone, tuba (3, 7)
James Rogers bass trombone (6, 8, 9)

Rhythm Section
Arturo O’Farrill piano
Bam Bam Rodriguez upright bass, electric bass (1, 2, 5, 6); karkabas (3)
Vince Cherico drums
Keisel Jimenez conga drums
Carly Maldonado bongo drums, bell, guiro; cajon (2), doumbek (3, 4); timbales (10)

Amber Weekes / Round Midnight-Re-Imagined (May 1, 2021)

Weekes, who served as Executive Producer, is supported by a superb cast of Southern California musicians including pianists Danny Grissett and Eddy Olivieri, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Sherman Ferguson, saxophonist/flutist Louis Van Taylor, guitarists Phil Upchurch and Greg Cook, trumpeter Scott Steen, and the esteemed producer, string arranger/conductor, and violinist Mark Cargill. With Weekes’ vivid and velvet vocals, and her simpatico ensemble, augmented by Cargill’s magnificent string arrangements, this recording features the music of Oscar Brown, Jr., Duke Pearson, Sting, George Gershwin, J.M. Williams and Danny Barker, Marcos Valle, Rogers & Hart, William Barnes, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, Victor Youmans, Natalie Cole, and Thelonious Monk.

This CD, a fully remixed, remastered, and reorchestrated commercial version of a 2002 promotional recording made for clubs and festivals, features vignettes inspired by the New York stories Weekes heard from her family—especially by her father, the late Martin Weekes. Those stories are sonically signatured by a diverse selection of ballads, blues, a bossa nova, standards, and a jazz classic. Her grandparents, Wilfred and Nettie Weekes, owned a Harlem luncheonette located on the corner of St. Nicholas Ave. & 155th St., which featured some famous customers including Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan and Diahann Carroll. Brown’s bouncy “Hazel’s Hips,” sets the scene where another customer, Sidney Poitier, fell in love with Weekes’ Aunt Dolores, who worked at the luncheonette.

Valle’s “Summer Samba,” celebrates the maiden voyage of a young couple’s love affair. Pearson’s “Cristo Redentor,” with lyrics from the Negro spiritual “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me,” provides the rich, reverent resonance for a religious encounter at the famous St. John The Divine cathedral.

Battery Park below Lower Manhattan, is the location for Sting’s “Sister Moon,” paired with lyrics from Gershwin’s “Summertime,” where a young man contemplates his romantic future, while the Rodgers & Hart classic, “My Romance” and Cole’s uptempo “Lovers”—with background vocals by Lynne Fiddmont—provides the sumptuous sonic settings for a dynamic romantic duet. “Don’t You Feel My Leg” is a bluesy, guys-night-out-at-the-club selection about the limits of flirtation.
The centerpiece of the CD is “The Bar Suite”: A three-track opus Weekes dedicated to her late father, who died in 2016. He was a trombonist and vocalist who graduated New York’s High School of Music and Art, and was a nightclub singer who emulated Frank Sinatra, and turned down a recording contract. The suite consists of Barnes’ “Something Cool,” and two Arlen/Mercer gems, “One For My Baby,” and “The Man That Got Away,” which introduces our anonymous lady who drowns her troubles after hours. The Ware/Olivieri-arranged, Latin-tinged title track, is a musical letter of lament sung by our lonely lady back at her Long Island home, longing for her lover. On Youmans’ “More Than You Know,” arranged by the Grammy nominated, L.A. vocalist Sue Raney, Weekes leaves it up to the listener to decide whether the damsel from Long Island found her man, or it’s the start of another couple’s more perfect union.

Those torch songs have been burning in Weekes ever since she started singing at the age of four. Growing up in a musical household, she heard Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey and Nancy Wilson. Weekes—who also played the viola—took voice lessons with Gwendolyn Wyatt, Jeanne and Phil Moore, Jr., Catherine Hansen, Sue Fink and Sue Raney. She performed in many Southern California venues including the Jazz Bakery, the Sky Room, and Vitello’s. She also performed at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and at the New Rochelle Jazz Festival in New York. Her debut CD, Pure Imagination, was released in 2019, followed by her Christmas album, The Gathering, in 2020, and her 2021 EP, My Romance—A Special Valentine.

Amber Weekes’ ’Round Midnight Re-Imagined is her soulful, swinging tribute to her late father, and his stories of New York!

1. Hazel’s Hips 2:33
2. Summer Samba 4:27
3. Cristo Redentor / I Want Jesus To Walk With Me 5:02
4. Sistermoon/Summertime 5:05
5. My Romance 3:28
6. Don’t You Feel My Leg 3:14

The Bar Suite:
7. Something Cool 5:11
8. One For My Baby 3:50
9. The Man That Got Away 4:31
10. Lovers 4:00
11. ’Round Midnight 4:58
12. More Than You Know 5:49

Amber Weekes - VOCALS
Danny Grissett, Eddy Olivieri - Piano
Trevor Ware - Bass
Sherman Ferguson - Drums
Louis Van Taylor - Alto Saxophone
Phil Upchurch, Greg Cook - Guitar
Scott Steen - Trumpet
Mark Cargill - Producer, String Arranger/Conductor, Violin
Hand Claps: Trevor Ware, Sherman Ferguson, Danny Grissett, Peter C. Ross

Jeannine Otis - Into My Heart (Adrielle Music / Monopolyhouse)

Born and raised in Detroit, and based in Staten Island, NY, Jeannine Otis has been a singular and substantial voice for four decades. Drawing equally from jazz, classical, dance, gospel and pop genres, her first recording, Magic Song, based on the poetry with Finnish poet Eino Leino, and his fellow countryman, pianist/composer Heikki Sarmanto, was originally released in 1980, and re-released in 2003 and 2013.

On Into My Heart, Otis’ supple and silken vocals are supported by guitarists Saul Rubin and Jimmy Ponzi, bassist Stanley Banks, Sam Jacobs on congas, and German producer, DJ Smurf (Frank Koopman), who co-penned and produced the South American-syncopated “Brazilian Jam.” Otis and company breathe new life on the CD’s standards, including two sumptuous vocal/guitar duo renditions of “In A Sentimental Mood,” and “Lover Man” that recall the indigo intimacy of Ella Fitzgerald’s and guitarist Joe Pass’ dynamic duets.

The full ensemble takes Otis on a mellow, magic carpet ride on “Mood Is For Loving,” co-written by Otis and her writing partner, Wilma Classon. “Cokika” is a moving, Latinesque number by composer Betty Shirley and arranged by Otis and Saul Rubin about a bird in fateful flight. Peitor Angeli’s “Sweet Sad Guitar,” is a hypnotic, Quiet Storm track with Rubin playing all of the instruments. Gumbs composed and produced the title track, and the bouncy “Joy of Life,” while “Touch Me Tonight’’ is Otis’ solo composition, laced with her beautiful and spare piano playing.
Otis’ broad vocal talents stem from her rich and varied artistic background. Her mother was a musical director for a number of Detroit-area churches and community centers, and Otis is a cousin to the Motor Citys’ first family of jazz, the Jones brothers: pianist Hank, drummer Elvin, and trumpeter/composer Thad. At the age of twelve, she performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as a soloist on the television show, American Youth Performs. At sixteen, she enrolled at Wellesley College, was the first African-American to become a Presser Music Scholar, earned a BA in Sociology and Musicology, and an MA in Theater Education and Performance at Emerson College, where she landed a teaching fellowship.

Otis has worked with numerous music stars including trumpeter Donald Byrd, Kool & Gang, The New Shirelles, bassist Vishnu Wood, and recorded background vocals on Grover Washington, Jr’s. track, “Do Dat” from his 1978 LP, Reed Seed. She also recorded a number of dance tracks that topped charts in Europe and Australia. A seasoned actress, The New York Times critic Anthony Tomassini described Otis as a “show-stopper” as Ella Worker in the Downtown Music Production staging of The Cradle Will Rock. Her 2007 book, The Gathering, a collection of prayers and reflections from inner city youth, was adapted into a music theater piece called Who Am I? Otis currently serves as music director for St. Marks Church.

Into My Heart is Jeannine Otis’ celebration of life and love through music.

1. Mood Is For Lovin’ (Otis/Classon) 5:16
2. Touch Me Tonight (Otis) Otis/Sherry Duo–arrangement by Johnathan Sherry 3:26
3. Brazilian Jam (Otis/Koopman; produced by Frank Koopman/DJ SMURF) 6:11
4. Sweet Sad Guitar (Angell) Otis/Rubin Duo (Rubin - all instruments) 5:42
5. Lover Man (Davis/Ramirez/Sherman) Otis/Rubin Duo 5:01
6. Cokika (Shirley) Otis/Rubin Duo 4:14
7. Joy Of Life (written and produced by Onaje Allan Gumbs) 5:33
8. In A Sentimental Mood (Ellington) Otis/Rubin Duo 5:08
9. Into My Heart (written and produced by Onaje Allan Gumbs) 3:52

Jeannine Otis - Vocals
Stanley Banks - Bass
Sam Jacobs - Congas
Saul Rubin, Jimmy Ponzi - Guitar
Stanton Davis - trumpet
Johnathan Sherry - piano