Monday, April 26, 2021

Jerome Jennings - The Beast (2021)

Drummer Jerome Jennings, takes the lead in this swinging, soulful sextet. The brass is heavy with trumpet/flugelhorn player Sean Jones, trombonist Dion Tucker, and tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley. McBride is present on his bass as well as fellow Trio pianist Christian Sands. Four of the nine tracks are composed by Jennings himself, with the others from the pens of Ben Webster, Freddie Hubbard, Don Ray & Gene de Paul, Vincent Brantley & Rick Timas, and Jon Burr. Scatting vocalist Jazzmeia Horn appears on You Don't Know What Love Is.

The title track, The Beast, stems from his incident of "driving while being Black" and the photography and text on the album packaging support his outrage. The music of the album, however, is full of love and respect of his craft. Educated at Rutgers and Julliard, Jennings further developed his skills with many esteemed jazz artists; he worked with Sonny Rollins for three years, and his schedule is filled with educational and diverse performance gigs. Jennings drum work is evident in Cool It Now, with Vernel Fournier's Poinciana beats.

The album is cheerful with nice grooves and shuffles, but there is also some side excursions: McBride's solo is the entry to Hubbard's hot and furious piece, The Core; Cammy's Smile is a slow, sweet ballad for the daughter of Jennings' late friend drummer Tony Reedus that has wah-wah muted trumpet; and then there is The Beast, a drama with snare drum introduction, driving, trombone siren, jittery and staggering solos. The final track, New Beginnings, begins with waving chime percussion and harmonious brass; it includes a spoken sampling of a #blacklivesmatter protest speech, which reminds me of Gil Scott-Heron and his early 1970s releases. This debut album is thoroughly satisfying in arrangements and compositions, balance, sonority, and grooves. 

1. Love The Drums - Jon Burr 5:15
2. Cool It Now - Vincent Brantley, Rick Timas 8:48
3. Ice Cream Dreams - Jerome Jennings 5:16
4. You Don’t Know What Love Is - Don Raye (lyrics) and Gene de Paul 6:31
5. Did You Call Her Today - Ben Webster 7:43
6. The Core - Freddie Hubbard 10:09
7. Cammy’s Smile - Jerome Jennings 7:10
8. The Beast - Jerome Jennings 4:58
9. New Beginnings - Jerome Jennings 6:44


LOVE THE DRUMS - Props to my friend, bassist and composer Jon Burr, for writing this tune with me in mind. The title says it all. Not only do I love the drums, I also love to play shuffle grooves.

COOL IT NOW - "Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike..." one of the most important influential R&B vocal groups: New Edition! Actually, this was the first musical group my parents took my brother and me to see at a very popular music hall in northeast Ohio called The Front Row (it no longer exists). Side note: respect to Johnny Gill (who wasn't in the group yet when we saw NE).

ICE CREAM DREAMS - Between the months of May and August there is one tune that puts a smile on every kid's face on most every block in this country. "The Ice Cream Man is coming!!!" The Mister Softee theme is the most ubiquitous tunes I heard while living in Brooklyn, NY. It has a catchy and infectious ring, but most importantly it makes kids happy and laugh. I would see kids joyfully running to the ice cream truck outside of my window.

YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS- This is a classic standard by Don Raye/Gene de Paul. We are all in search of affirmation and love. This arrangement is by Curtis Fuller. I replaced the top trumpet voice with the fantastic vocalist, Jazzmeia Horn.

DID YOU CALL HER TODAY - This swinger is from the pen of Ben Webster. My mom and I have always been really close. Once I moved to the east coast we became even tighter. I suspect it was because of the distance. I tried my best to call her everyday to let her know I was alive and well. This tune is dedicated to her and her constant support.

THE CORE - This is one of my favorite tunes. Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded this on one of my all time favorite records "Free For All." Freddie Hubbard wrote this tune commemorating the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE). The CORE organization played a pivotal role for African Americans during our struggle for Civil Rights during the 1950s and 60s. Its stated mission was "to bring about equality for all people regardless of race, creed, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background." Many jazz musicians performed at CORE benefits during the 1960's.

CAMMY'S SMILE - When I moved to the east coast in fall of 2002 I was blessed to befriend drum great Tony Reedus. The next year he invited me to his place for Thanksgiving. His then fiancée (they later married in 2006), Niecy Grice, treated me like family from day one. They soon had a child, a beautiful girl named Cameron. In November of 2008, Tony unexpectedly passed away. Needless to say this was a very sad time for the family, and our music community was hit hard by the loss of one of the great ones. The year that Cameron Reedus lost her father, she was only five years old. Little Cammy's consistent upbeat attitude and smile was a great source of encouragement. This entire tune represents a conversation between Cammy (the muted trombone) and Reedus (the tenor saxophone).

THE BEAST - This tune was inspired by a troubling encounter with a Mercer County (NJ) police officer. Mom advised me to "put the emotion you felt in a song." Everything that happens in this piece is significant. The drum roll at the beginning represents me driving. It slows down as I pull over to the side of the road. The horns represent me and the rhythm section represents the officers cutting me off as I try to explain what I'm doing in that particular neighborhood at 2am.

NEW BEGINNINGS - This is a piece that I composed with the encouragement of my friend and mentor, Victor Lewis. The title represents a dual meaning: the beginning melody is stated by all of the horns while at the 'B section' each band member passes each phrase around creating a new sound or new beginning before we all unite for the climactic last 8 bars before the last 'A section.' I only hope to show that as individuals we can accomplish amazing things, but together we can do even more. Educator, activist, and actor Jesse Williams gave a courageous speech this year at the 2016 BET Awards. I've included excerpts of it at the end of the piece. I believe that it’s time for a new beginning in our country as well.

Jerome Jenning - drums, percussion on track 9
Sean Jones - trumpet, flugelhorn on track 2
Howard Wiley - tenor sax
Dion Tucker - trombone
Christian Sands - piano
Christian McBride - bass
Jazzmela Horn - vocals on track 4

Ariel Bart - In Between (May 20, 2021 Ropeadope Records)

We are excited to present to you new music from rising chromatic harmonica player, Ariel Bart.

Yes, we said harmonica. here’s the scoop:

Working to extend the harmonica’s boundaries by creating original music, Ariel Bart is bringing a fresh sound to Jazz. The Jazz influences from her mentors are evident on her debut album, In Between, set for release on May 20, 2021, yet she stretches into unknown territory with the unique sound of the harmonica. Hints of Jonathan Levy and Tin Hat Trio are there in her solos, backed by a free flowing composition and playing from Mayu Shviro (Cello), Moshe Elmakias (Piano), David Michaeli (Double Bass), and Amir Bar Akiva (drums). The interplay with the band highlights the unique feelings evoked by a lead harmonica - always longing with a touch of sadness but punctuated with moments of pure joy.

'Storytelling in any form of music always grabs my attention; and my response to Ariel's style was instant. In Between feels like a soundtrack to my own journey; a remarkable connection between artist and listener is immediately evident' (Louis H. Marks, Ropeadope)

1. Spiritual Wars
2. Colors Palette
3. Stranger on the Hill
4. Memory of a Child
5. Deep Down
6. The Year After
7. Intro (feat. Mayu Shviro)
8. In Between

All compositions composed and produced by Ariel Bart

Mayu Shviro - Cello
Moshe Elmakias - Piano
David Michaeli - Double bass
Amir Bar Akiva - Drums
Ariel Bart - Harmonica

Mix - Yaron Mohar
Mastering - Yoram Vazan
Recording engineer: Arik Finkelberg
Recorded and mixed at the "Yellow Submarine JLM”

The Philadelphia Experiment (Uri Caine / Ahmir Thompson / Christian McBride with special guest Pat Martino) - The Philadelphia Experiment (April 2021 Ropeadope Records)

At a time of deep reflection on the 21st Century; of our very lives, of our values, and of the art that is of value, Ropeadope takes a step back to the beginning. While the label began in 1999, it is clear that the 600 albums released in the last 20 years mark a reflection of the times; a chronicle of musical evolution from a centralized marketing machine to a wide field of independent artistic creation. The Philadelphia Experiment stands as the definitive Ropeadope album; three titans of the scene in the studio with producer Aaron Levinson making music on the fly, answering only to their muse and the subject; Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Experiment was met with wonder and acclaim, fusing influences with respect for the legacy and an adventurous spirit. Young artists would look to this album as a starting point, a realization of what is possible. And yet it also stands as a historic document that defines a method of independent creation that defines Ropeadope to this day, and inspires musicians to simply create.

It is with this sense of history that Ropeadope celebrates 20 years since the June 2, 2001, release of The Philadelphia Experiment. A limited run of 1000 Double Vinyl LP’s will be pressed (plus 10 test pressings). With original 2 inch tape lost to time, the audio has been gently remastered from digital files for optimal Vinyl sound by G & J Audio. The lacquer will be etched with a blockchain transaction id, and each copy will carry a unique QR code entitling the buyer to a non-fungible token (NFT) specifically minted for the project as a permanent certificate of ownership. This will be the first time that NFT’s are directly linked to physical Vinyl LP’s. 

1. Philadelphia Experiment 04:15
2. Grover 04:57
3. Lesson #4 02:52
4. Call For All Demons 05:26
5. Trouble Man Theme 04:31
6. Ain’t It The Truth 06:10
7. Ile Ife 05:04
8. The Miles Hit 05:45
9. (Re) Moved 02:06
10. Philadelphia Freedom 03:09
11. Mister Magic 03:33
12. Just The Two Of Us 03:58

Uri Caine / Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Steinway Grand Piano and Hammond B-3 Organ
Ahmir Thompson / Drums
Christian McBride / Electric and Acoustic Bass

Pat Martino / Electric Guitar on (1) (2) and (4)
Jon Swana / Trumpet on (1) and (5)
Larry Gold / Cello & Arranger on (10)
Aaron Luis Levinson / Handclaps and SFX on (2) and (9)

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Andy Blackman Hurwitz
PRODUCED BY: Aaron Luis Levinson
ENGINEERED BY: Jon “Iron Man” Smeltz and Jim Bottari
SECOND ENGINEER: Carlos “Storm” Martinez
ASSISTANT ENGINEERS: Gordon Goss & Jim Bottari
RECORDED & MIXED at The Studio, Philadelphia, PA. from September 25-27, 2000

All songs mixed by Aaron Luis Levinson and Jon Smeltz except: “Philadelphia Experiment” and “Grover” mixed by Uri Caine, Aaron Luis Levinson and Jon Smeltz, and “Philadelphia Freedom” mixed by Jim Bottari

ASSISTANT MIX ENGINEERS: Krystof Zizka and Gordon Goss

This entire jawn was recorded and mixed within the analog universe by the Iron Man. This entire jawn was mastered and tweakified into the digital universe by Mike “The Wizard” Fossenkemper.

REMASTERED BY: G&J Audio, Union City, NJ.
DESIGN: David Bias
PHOTOS: Candice DiCarlo

Ahmir Thompson appears courtesy of MCA Records
Christian McBride appears courtesy of The Verve Music Group
Uri Caine appears courtesy of Winter & Winter Music
Pat Martino appears courtesy of Blue Note Records
Jon Swana appears courtesy of Criss Cross

Daniel Carter / Brad Farberman / Kid Millions - Forever Is an Infinite Always (2021 Ropeadope Records)

One of the joys of being a musician is hopping onstage with people you’ve never played with before. I’d been a fan of Kid Millions since checking out his band Oneida in 2015, but I hadn’t had the right project to pitch him. Daniel had never played with Kid either before this night. I think we hit on a sort of mellow chaos, which is sometimes the best kind of chaos. It’s beautiful when things are both what they are and what they aren’t.

1. Recorded 07:57
2. Live 06:34
3. At 08:24
4. Nublu 06:31

Daniel Carter // flute + trumpet + tenor saxophone
Brad Farberman // guitar
Kid Millions // drums

All songs created right then and there by Daniel Carter, Brad Farberman, and Kid Millions Recorded live at Nublu on August 20, 2019

Mixed by Jonah Rosenberg

The Fergus Quill Trio - Zoop Zoop (April 2021 Tight Lines Records)

The Fergus Quill Trio is an ensemble based in Leeds who are led by the inimitable Fergus Quill and inspired by the whole range of 20th, 21st and 22nd century improvised music: from Jelly Roll Morton to Sun Ra to Derek Bailey to Puture Ferson.

Zoop Zoop’ is the first collection of original music recorded and released by The Fergus Quill Trio, though the trio have been bubbling on the city’s live scene for a short while. Influenced by the classic piano trios of Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans, Contemporary Classical music and free improvisation, it is in equal parts swingin' and disorientating; a dichotomy that’s come to define a subsection of the burgeoning Leeds DIY Jazz scene.

The record was birthed during a single overnight session at Eiger Studios and produced by Hamish Dixon and Will Lakin, who both guest instrumentally. Florence Rutherfood-Jones also contributes the original graphic score, “Echo Location”.

1. ¿Who Shot Pinetop? 03:24
2. Sun Dream 07:44
3. Organ Bellows 03:18
4. Not A Lot There 06:45
5. Itchy & Scratchy 02:44
6. Echo Location 02:09
7. Watusi 03:40

Fergus Quill ~ Double bass, viola, vocals, percussion and composition
Nico Widdowson ~ Piano, vocals and percussion
Theo Goss ~ Drums, vocals and percussion

Hamish Dixon ~ Recording engineer, mixing engineer, producer, alto saxophone, harmonium and percussion
Will Lakin ~ Producer, electric guitar, 12 string guitar, vocals, shruti box and percussion
Florence Rutherfood Jones ~ Composition (Echo Location)
Lewis Dutton Taylor ~ Mastering Engineer
William Rees ~ Cover art
Mike Winnard ~ Digitisation of cover art

Recorded at Eiger Studios, 25th-26th July, 2020