Friday, May 21, 2021

OUT FRIDAY: Ralph Peterson Jr.'s Final Album, RAISE UP OFF ME (with the Curtis Brothers, Jazzmeia Horn, Eguie Castrillo) via Onyx

Onyx Productions Announces the Release of Raise Up Off Me
Ralph Peterson Jr.’s Final Recording

Featuring Zaccai and Luques Curtis
+ special guests Jazzmeia Horn and Eguie Castrillo 

Releasing May 21, 2021 
on all digital platforms, and as compact disc + double vinyl LP

On May 21, 2021, Onyx Productions will release Raise Up Off Me, the final full-length album from master drummer, bandleader and composer Ralph Peterson Jr. To be released one day after what would have been Peterson’s 59th birthday, Raise Up Off Me is a powerful closing statement by the jazz giant that was carefully and meticulously prepared before his passing earlier this month. Peterson’s long-time bandmates and collaborators Zaccai and Luques Curtis are featured here on piano and bass respectively, along with special guests Jazzmeia Horn and percussionist Eguie Castrillo. Raise Up Off Me will be available on all digital platforms, as a compact disc and a special edition double vinyl LP. A virtual listening event will take place around release week- details will be announced shortly. 

Raise Up Off Me is Peterson’s 26th recording as a leader, and the 28th for his Onyx Productions Music Label. A self-described statement on society, this musical log pulled from issues that were important to Peterson: drug addiction and recovery; the importance of and the complexities of mental health; social issues and Black Lives Matter; and overall, the delicate impermanence of the physical life. On the title, Peterson says in a written statement: “In this era where we still feel the foot on our necks, the pepper spray and mace that burns our eyes and face, the bullets and the batons, I find it necessary to remind you that Black Lives Matter… and for my life to matter, you have to raise up off me.” The resulting work is a stirring opus made up of five Peterson-penned originals, and other compositions by Zaccai Curtis, Bud Powell, James Williams, Patrice Rushen and John Hicks. Jazzmeia Horn contributes a bonus track on the digital and LP version.   

Raise Up Off Me was recorded entirely at Peterson’s own Onyx Recording studio in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts with engineer Dean David Albak on December 7, 8, and 9, 2020. The project finds Peterson at home with the Curtis Brothers, to whom he was a mentor and musical father. “It was always one of the greatest honors to play with Ralph. We loved him dearly and he always took the time to show us how much he loved us. This music is the pinnacle of  what we've been striving for as a group. We are extensions of Ralph and his musical visions,” says Zaccai. Luques Curtis adds: "Ralph put a tremendous amount of love and thought into this recording knowing very much that it could be his last. He put his heart into this recording. I remember clearly how much fun he had planning it and his excitement throughout the recording process. I will always be grateful for the time I spent talking and learning from him on how to be a true Messenger of Music." The Curtis Brothers released Triangular III with Peterson in 2016 (Truth Revolution Records), and they appeared on various recordings with Peterson in his later years. Notably, Zaccai is featured on Peterson’s 2020 masterwork Onward & Upward. 
Ralph Peterson passed away on March 1, 2021 after a six year battle with cancer. Peterson’s close confidant and musical brother Orrin Evans reflects on this crucial posthumous recording in his moving liner notes, which are excerpted below. A track listing follows. 

If you knew Ralph Peterson, you knew whenever he titled a song or album, it directly correlated to something going on in his life. Art (1994, Blue Note) was Ralph’s tribute to his mentor, Art Blakey, who had just passed. Reclamation Project (1995, Evidence) was his way of telling us he was reclaiming his life and career. "The Trials of Trust and Treachery" off of Subliminal Seduction (2002, Criss Cross) was his homage to the difficulty but importance of long-term relationships. While Raise Up Off Me can easily be associated with 2020, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the pandemic, the message I hear is Ralph's fight to LIVE! Raise Up Off Me immediately makes me think of my 7:00 AM daily Facebook check. The first post to pop up would be Ralph running on a treadmill, walking, practicing martial arts, or just plain old inspiring through words. From the moment he was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 he fought! “Raise Up Off Me - I GOT SOME SHIT TO DO... and he did it!” 

With the outstanding Curtis Brothers on the team, we are taken on a journey through Ralph's musical and personal legacy. In 1985, Ralph recorded "Blue Hughes" with Out Of The Blue - a band of "young lions" including Ralph on drums and Kenny Garrett, Ralph Bowen, Robert Hurst, and Michael Mossman, to name a few. Thirty-five years later, he brings it back with a fresh new arrangement made perfect for the Curtis Brothers and special guest Eguie Castrillo. "Tears I Cannot Hide" from Subliminal Seduction gets an entirely different treatment with the addition of Jazzmeia Horn's heartfelt vocals and original lyrics. The lyric "I am free, no more misery" speaks to my heart every time. Sprinkled within the record, you'll hear Ralph taking the opportunity to pay homage to his mentors and elders. Compositions by Patrice Rushen, Bud Powell, John Hicks, and the great Walter Davis Jr., whom Ralph recorded with on Scorpio's Rising, are all given new life. 

Anyone who has experienced Ralph Peterson's playing is aware of his deep feeling, "Respect for Truth," and the remarkable clarity he communicates them. Also evident to the listener and bandmates is his dedication to uplifting everyone on the bandstand. When I last saw Ralph, he looked at a few of us sitting there and said, "I'm glad I played the way I played my entire life because I always gave my all and have no regrets". As he was known to say while in the studio when asked to do a second or third take, "I meant what I played ... did you?" 
Years ago, I composed a tune in jest of Ralph. Ralph was confident, secure in his skin, and occasionally braggadocious. I didn't always understand or appreciate where he was coming from, but I enjoyed his "Volition". The tune was titled "Professor Farworthy," a nickname a fellow musician came up with for Ralph. "Ralph is far more worthy in his head than the rest of the world thinks," said the fellow musician. For 20 years, I privately laughed at the song but never told Ralph it was about him. A few years ago, while in a soundcheck, Ralph said, "let's play ‘Farworthy’". I was so paranoid because I had no idea he knew about the song. I looked over at him, and he laughed that loud laugh and said, "If I can be Farworthy, then you will be Savoir-fair!" Even in jest, Ralph found a way to compliment and "learn me" (Ralph's saying). Savoir Faire was his way of saying I was everywhere but needed to focus on where I wanted to be musically and otherwise. At that moment, I realized Ralph did think he was worthy and Far More Worthy for that matter. Far More Worthy than the constraints of a record label, venue, jazz periodical, and any higher learning institution. But not only was he Far More Worthy, but we all were also. All of his students, bandmates, friends, family, and colleagues were better because we knew Ralph Peterson Jr. "Raise Up Off Me" I got shit to do, and SO DO YOU!”

With Love and Respect,
Orrin Evans
88 Keys Productions/Imani Records

1. Raise Up Off Me (Ralph Peterson) 08:02
2. The Right To live (Ralph Peterson) 07:25
3. Four Play (James Williams) 04:31
4. I Want To Be There For You (Zaccai Curtis) 08:21
5. Bouncing With Bud (Bud Powell) 06:59
6. Blue Hughes (Ralph Peterson) 05:56
7. Tears I Can Not Hide (Ralph Peterson) 06:02
8. Naima’s Love Song (John Hicks) 06:51
9. Jodi (Ralph Peterson) 06:49
10. Fantasia Brazil (Ralph Peterson) 06:41
11. Shorties Portion (Patrice Rushen) 04:14
12. Raise Up Off Me Too! (Ralph Peterson) 06:34
13. Please Do Something (Bonus Track) (Jazzmeia Horn) 06:16 (digital/LP only)

Ralph Peterson - drums, trumpet, percussion
Zaccai Curtis - piano, keyboard
Luques Curtis - bass
Jazzmeia Horn - vocals (7, 8, 13 on digital/LP)
Eguie Castrillo - percussion (6)

Pianist James Francies Returns with New Album "Purest Form" out May 21; Hear the 1st Single "713"

Pianist, producer, and composer James Francies has released “713,” a vivid tribute to his Houston hometown that is the first single from his forthcoming album Purest Form, an expansive opus due out May 21. The album is available for pre-order now on CD and digital formats.

Since his debut album Flight entranced listeners in 2018, Francies has expanded personal explorations of sound bending and orchestral approaches to the music. Collaborations across stylistic realms — including those with Childish Gambino, Pat Metheny, Mark Ronson, The Roots, YEBBA, Chris Potter, Common, Eric Harland, Marcus Miller, DJ Dahi and Ms. Lauryn Hill — have enhanced his development and refined his sound. In issuing Purest Form, his second Blue Note release, Francies accesses intimate chambers of his artistry across 14 tracks, interpreting love, grief, frailty, and fortitude.

The album’s core trio includes Francies’ longtime collaborators Burniss Travis on bass and Jeremy Dutton on drums—three Houston-raised artists who have been playing together and developing alongside one another for more than a decade. Additional musicians featured throughout include his Blue Note labelmates alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins and vibraphonist Joel Ross, as well as guitarist Mike Moreno and vocalists Elliott Skinner, Peyton, and Bilal.
Francies’ expression blooms across false borders of genre and style. He nurtures a celestial fascination with melody and texture. “Music, in its purest form, is an honest space we’re trying to get to where there are no preconceived ideas of what we think something should sound like,” he says. “When you really tap into who you are on the inside, musically and as a person, that energy supersedes anything else.”

For Francies, Purest Form is more than a recording. It’s an essence. “I hope that what I was trying to go for — an immersive, multidimensional experience — really reaches people. I hope that for 56 minutes, they step into this world of sounds and textures. That’s the idea. And [laughs] I hope it sounds good on every speaker.”

1. Adoration
2. Levitate
3. Transfiguration
4. Blown Away Feat. Peyton
5. Rose Water Feat. Elliot Skinner
6. My Favorite Things
7. Stratus
8. 713
9. Melting
10. Where We Stand
11. Freedmen’s Town
12. Eyes Wide Shut Feat. Bilal
13. Still Here
14. Oasis

Out May 21 – Two Major Box Sets from Wadada Leo Smith on TUM Recordings

TUM Records Celebrates
Wadada Leo Smith’s 80th Birthday Year!

Throughout 2021, TUM Records will celebrate the coming 80th birthday of renowned composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith with a series of new releases showcasing his monumental artistic vision. The yearlong celebration kicks off on May 21 with a pair of three-CD boxed sets, one an inspiring solo trumpet recording captured in a beautiful historic setting (Trumpet), the other a meeting of three true masters, Smith, Bill Laswell and Milford Graves (Sacred Ceremonies).

The new releases also bring to ten the total number of Wadada Leo Smith’s projects on TUM Records. These releases have ranged from solo and duo settings to large ensembles and an oratorio, always featuring a different aspect of Wadada Leo Smith’s uncompromising artistic vision.

“It is with great pride that TUM Records presents Wadada Leo Smith’s latest releases and thereby commences the celebration of his coming 80th birthday,” says TUM Records founder Petri Haussila. “From the very beginning, it has been our goal to foster longer term relationships with our artists, among whom Wadada Leo Smith has a special place of honor. We now have released ten projects with Wadada, each unique in its own way. Among these, Trumpet and Sacred Ceremonies are the most extensive yet. We salute Wadada for his 80th Anniversary and look forward to our continued collaboration.”

• Sacred Ceremonies – 3 CD Box Set – May 21, 2021
Disc 1: Wadada Leo Smith & Milford Graves
Disc 2: Wadada Leo Smith & Bill Laswell
Disc 3: Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Laswell & Milford Graves

• Trumpet – 3 CD Box Set – May 21, 2021
Featuring 14 new compositions for solo trumpet including four extended works

Other TUM albums coming out in the near future include:
• Title TBA – 2 CD Set – Great Lakes Quartet – release date TBA 
Featuring Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, John Lindberg
• Title TBA – 4 CD set of trumpet & drum duets – release date TBA 
Featuring Wadada with Jack DeJohnette, Andrew Cyrille, Han Bennink, Pheeroan akLaff
• Title TBA – 6 CD set featuring Smith’s 12 String Quartets – release date TBA 

Wadada’s Winter from Four Symphonies, world premiere 
Performed by Ithaca College School of Music Percussion Ensemble directed by Dr Mike Truedell. Live streamed from Ithaca College on March 6 
The Ithaca College’s Percussion Ensemble’s performance of Winter will also be re-broadcast as part of the Necessary Noise Festival in New Jersey in August
April 5 - May 15 – Residency at the New School, NYC
A five-week residency focusing on Winter from Four Symphonies for ensemble

May 3 – 11:30 a.m. – Symphony no. 2 Winter, from Four Symphonies 
presented by the New School’s MM Performer-Composer Ensemble
June 10-13 – Residency at New Music at the Point, Vermont
The JACK Quartet will perform Wadada’s String Quartet No. 13th at the Vermont Jazz Festival.
June 10, 2021 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra Sessions: World premiere of Wadada Leo Smith’s Delta Blues for violin, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, piano and cello. CSO Sessions Episode 21: Cult of Electromagnetic Connectivity
October 7, 2021 – Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Elson Lecture and performance of a new work featuring Wadada, Vijay Iyer and Andrew Cyrille
October 16, 2021 – Other Minds Festival, San Francisco CA
Wadada’s Reflections and Meditations on Monk Project with video artist Jesse Gilbert

December 18, 2021 – Wadada’s 80th Birthday 
Streaming concert featuring Duet performances. More information TBA

Jaimie Branch - Fly or Die Live (May 21, 2021 International Anthem)

Full flight capture of the full Fly or Die suite, parts 1 & 2 compounded & flawlessly communicated in a singular epic of raw cosmic brilliance.

Full story in the words of Piotr Orlov here:

There is a moment near the top of jaimie branch’s FLY or DIE LIVE, the new album recorded by the trumpeter’s quartet in Zurich, Switzerland on January 23rd, 2020, which feels like it bears the weight of both that specific pocket of time, and a prophecy for all that was soon to come. branch and her Fly or Die crew — cellist Lester St. Louis, double bassist Jason Ajemian, and drummer/percussionist/mbira player Chad Taylor — had just kicked off the concert at Moods, with the opening tracks off their then-new studio album FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise, the second of which, “Prayer for Amerikkka” is among the best political songs written during the Tr*mp Era, and when the moment in question pops off.

The multi-part “Prayer” begins as a goth-blues stomp, its moaning ghosts flying around the room. A week into a European tour and after three months of constant live performance, Fly or Die is at home in this new song’s contours, messing with its internal machinery while guiding its meaning. By now, “Prayer” had gained a tough spoken-word intro, bringing the context as it slowly gearshifts the intensity: “It’s a song about America,” off-the-cuffs branch while the band seethes behind her, “but it’s about a whole lotta places — ‘cause it’s not just America where shit’s fucked up...” Then arrives the climax, at once site-specific and far-reaching: “...and it’s not always time to be neutral, do you know what I mean?”

The gathered Swiss crowd knows, understands, and responds vocally, as Taylor’s backbeats cue branch to bring the trumpet to her lips, and let out a high-pitched wail. Her horn doesn’t know what’s about to happen to our world, and yet, somehow, it does — with only the catastrophic details needing to be worked out. For the next 12 minutes, “Prayer” careens through its twists of wide-eyed racism and family separation, Ajemian and Taylor driving branch’s punk-jazz Morricone horn line. “This is a warning, honey…” cries the song, and over the ensuing 70 minutes, the band echoes its sentiment, filled with glee and terror.

Where were you in January of 2020, those last moments of the Before Times? Where was your mind, your body, your soul? Did you have plans, hopes and aspirations for the oncoming calendar trip around the sun just starting its initial turn? Were you embroiled in the turmoil continuing to roil the feeds and the headlines, or steeling yourself for the ones that we all knew were incoming during an especially contentious American election year? Maybe both. Or maybe you felt there was some hope blowing in the air.

“There was so much promise for the year,” remembers branch. A world of possibilities was certainly pending for Fly or Die leading into 2020 and that Zurich gig. The group was in their favored environment, the stage, where their individual relationships had been molded. branch and Ajemian had been playing together since the mid-’00s in Chicago, and admiring Taylor’s work with the Chicago Underground and at the city’s legendary Velvet Lounge jam-session for just as long.

When Fly or Die made its debut at Brooklyn’s Manhattan Inn in 2016, they made up three-quarters of the band. branch and St. Louis met in 2015 after jaimie first moved to New York, while St. Louis was working at the Spectrum club where branch played on occasion. (Soon St. Louis replaced original Fly or Die cellist Tomeka Reid, who departed the band to concentrate on her own myriad of commitments.) In the years since, this quartet had grown into a powerful unit, adept at conjuring musical environments that could be forceful and rhythmic one moment, and fragile the next.

“So much of what the band is about is the trust between the players and the rapport on stage,” says branch. “The trust means no one's going to drop the ball. The band is all improvisers, that's a really key thing. (A lot of people improvise, but not everybody's an improviser.) And I feel like this band especially is made up of them. So much of the music is led with the ears first.”

On Fly or Die’s sophomore album Bird Dogs of Paradise, which dropped in October 2019, branch had composed and recorded a batch of songs that showcased a political perspective and cutting sense of humor, balancing experimentalism and accessibility, party and erudition, “jazz” and the next thing. They were now headed out on the road to show off these songs — “the most touring this band would have ever done,” according to branch — integrating them in suite-like fashion with music from branch’s critically acclaimed 2017 debut. High on the work they were presenting, ready to lock into, and have some fun with it.

The late fall saw a month-long tour of Europe; December featured record release shows in LA, Brooklyn and Chicago; then in January, it was back to the EU for a two-week (no days off) sprint, of which the Thursday night at Zurich fell almost directly in the middle. The night before, January 22nd, at Oslo’s Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene was an upbeat one — St. Louis’ partner had surprised him by flying in from the States; and branch, who earlier thought she’d lost a bag with her passport, documents and cash, had it returned by their van driver after the gig. (No reason for anyone to notice that the Coronavirus had made its debut on the front-page of the New York Times that day.)

The positive energy carried over to Switzerland. Soundcheck at Moods, “a big, nice theater in the middle of Zurich,” went well. branch had to talk the venue into the band doing one long set instead of two, but she also agreed to them making a multi-track recording of the set. “The vibe in the band was pretty high,” says Branch.

From the offset, it sounds like that’s the case on both sides of the stage. The calm before the “Prayer” storm finds Taylor’s mbira and branch’s muted horn in a gentle duet, interweaving textures and melodies. The storm’s aftermath, “Lesterlude,” is a St. Louis-bowed solo feature turn, moving the strings towards the noise. Each individual song connects to the next, performed in a continuous, no-stop style, a part of the group’s DNA on record as well as stage. By “Twenty-Three N Me,” they are beginning to stretch into free spaces, and the crowd’s timely enunciations betray the fact that the audience too is up on every note. “Whales,” an Ajemian-led interlude, brings the sound palette to the bottom of the ocean, before Taylor’s intricate, rim-heavy beat returns us to the surface and gets the debut album’s “Theme 001” rolling into a full-on dance number. Approving screams pile up. The quiet-loud/fast-slow alteration continues: Taylor solos softly (“Meanwhile”), before exploding alongside Ajemian to push branch on a supple, double-time swing (“Theme 002,” with branch in Cootie Williams mode).

Later Ajemian’s bass is joined by Taylor’s thumb-piano and St. Louis’ arco, before going on a solo stroll, upping the tempo and ending in the funky second-line swagger of “Simple Silver Surfer” (with great melodic counterpoint by St. Louis). It’s crisp and fun, the laughter in the audience answered on-stage. By the forever set-ending, self-indicting new-bar-standard, “Love Song (For Assholes and Clowns),” branch is conducting the sing-along. Then, soon, it is over.

So, how was it? At the time, Moods was just another stop on a never-ending tour. Italy next, we gotta go. The following month and a half was a blur too, amidst the increasingly dire headlines: the February Pacific Northwest dates found Fly or Die slaying PDX Jazz, but “we keep hearing whispers of this COVID stuff,” and less than 10 days after playing in Seattle, the city finds itself as the first American virus hotspot. In early March, before a gig at DC’s Kennedy Center, there’s a cancellation or two (“a little bit of gloom”). The following night at Brooklyn’s Roulette — the last gig many in attendance would see before quarantine — the bottom drops out (“six cancellations in an hour”). 

The tour ends, and everything stops. Forever — or what increasingly feels like it. Though a tape arrived from Zurich in early May, branch didn’t actually listen to it until the Fall. “I didn't want to be disappointed,” she says. Such was the headspace.

“I didn't have a memory of the show being an amazing show,” branch says. “But sometimes when you have zero memory of it being good or bad, those are the best shows. Because when you're in the zone, in those moments of channeling creativity, there isn't time for judgment. So oftentimes a memory is not created around that judgment, and that's actually a good indication.” When branch did pop the tape in, she was unequivocal: “I think this is like the best that we've ever played.”

Branch’s personal highlight of FLY or DIE LIVE also comes on “Prayer,” and it too speaks of something greater than what you’ll hear on the recordings, or that the audience at Moods is likely to have picked up on: “There’s a moment in Part Two of the song when Jason flips the bassline and there's this moment of weirdness, but nobody even stops—this is what I'm talking about with trust. So I just added half a bar more of a vocal, because I heard Jason got wonky. And then Chad added a [verbalizes a fill]. It's my favorite part of the whole record because I hear the mistake and I hear us bulldoze through it, turn the mistake into a dance — because that's really what it is at the core of all of this, music as dance.” No neutrality there either. 

1. birds of paradise
2. prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 & 2
3. lesterlude
4. twenty-three n me, jupiter redux
5. reflections on a broken sea
6. whales
7. theme 001
8. ...meanwhile
9. theme 002
10. sun tines
11. leaves of glass
12. the storm
13. waltzer
14. slip tider
15. simple silver surfer
16. bird dogs of paradise
17. nuevo roquero estéreo
18. love song
19. theme nothing

Jaimie Branch – trumpet, vocals, vibraslap
Lester St. Louis – cello, vocals, tiny cymbal
Jason Ajemian – bass, vocals, egg shakers
Chad Taylor – drums, vocals, mbira

Recorded Live at Moods, Zurich, Switzerland, 1/23/2020

Engineered by Thierry Looser
Mixed by Dave Vettraino
Mastered by David Allen

NEW RELEASE: Keith Brown Trio’s AFRICAN RIPPLES (f/ Melanie Charles, Camille Thurman + more) via Space Time Records

Acclaimed Pianist Keith Brown Announces the Release of His Revelatory New Album
African Ripples with his Trio, Out May 20, 2021 On Space Time Records

Space Time Records is proud to announce the May 20, 2021 release of African Ripples, the long-awaited new album by multi-faceted pianist, composer and arranger Keith Brown. The pianist’s third album as a leader, African Ripples introduces a new iteration of the Keith Brown trio now anchored by bassist Dezron Douglas and rotating drummers Darrell Green and Terron “Tank” Gully. Augmenting the mix is an abundance of notable special guests including trumpeter Russell Gunn, saxophonist Anthony Ware, vocalist Melanie Charles, vocalist Camille Thurman, vocalist Tamara Brown, spoken word artist Cyrus Aaron, and percussionist Nêgah Santos

After appearing on a number of universally acclaimed jazz recordings last year, including those by Jazzmeia Horn, Charles Tolliver, and Gregory Tardy, Keith Brown fulfills a long-held artistic vision on African Ripples. “The music of African Ripples was composed and collected to convey my personal experiences through Black music and how it has rippled out in so many different directions,” says Brown. “These ripples serve to bring to light our different relationships and connections and different variations of the same impactful shared experiences. This music has always been an extension of how we express ourselves within these relationships.”

Recorded in November of last year at Samurai Hotel Studios in Queens NY, African Ripples features innovative original compositions by Brown as well as several arrangements of tunes by such luminaries as Fats Waller and Stevie Wonder. Though the trio’s current configuration is new, the musicians on African Ripples have long-standing musical relationships. Terreon Gully is a longtime collaborator of Brown’s, having produced and performed on his previous album The Journey.  On Darrell Green, Brown shares that “[he] was one of the first drummers I met on the scene and has become one of my favorite drummers,” and on Dezron Douglas, he says: “anyone familiar with Dezron’s playing knows how deep his groove is but also how free he allows the music to be as well,” adding, “all these musicians provide exactly what I need to make the music speak.”
African Ripples begins with the deeply soulful “African Ripples Epigraph” featuring the evocative spoken word of Cyrus Aaron. Supple horn refrains cascade in between Aaron’s poignant words, underscored by Dezron Douglas’ deep groove and Brown’s powerful pianistic musings. “512 Arkansas St” provides the listener with some insight on the artist’s upbringing in Knoxville, Tennessee. Dedicated to the composer’s extended family, the song conjures the jubilance of family gatherings and features stunning improvisation by Brown as well as Russell Gunn and Anthony Ware. 

Queen” is dedicated to Brown’s wife Tamara and the musical inspiration for the composition comes from a painting by Nigerian-born artist Uzo Egonu entitled ‘Guinean Girl’. The beauty and intensity of the piano is matched by the strength of Camille Thurman’s soaring vocals.“Prayer For My Nephews” is a composition written by Brown for his nephews, who are 19 and 4 years old. Featuring the words of Cyrus Aaron, the song is filled with affirmations and prayer. Brown notes “growing up as young black men, these words are important to hear, and it can also be uplifting to anyone at any age that needs a word of encouragement.” 

Truth and Comfort” is a song about personal growth and re-education. The composer notes: “Everyone is raised in families and communities that can imprint ideas and beliefs that become a part of who we are. However, I think it is everyone’s responsibility to grow beyond the thoughts and beliefs that make them comfortable and see all the world’s many possibilities. This is something that some people have already done in their lives, so they’ll be able to relate to the experience, and for those who have not, maybe it will be an opportunity for them to think and see where they can open up themselves to truths beyond their comfort level.” The trio displays its stellar interplay on this nuanced track, and Brown offers audiences impassioned improvisation, beautifully supported by Terreon Gully and Dezron Douglas.

With the express purpose of fostering connection and positivity, African Ripples takes listeners on a journey throughout the life of the composer and offers a musical interpretation of many experiences that we all share in common – communion, hope, fear, nostalgia, grief and love. ‘My hope is that the listener will find enjoyment in the sounds, rhythms, harmonies, and melodies familiar to them and the ones that may be unfamiliar,” asserts Brown. “I hope that the energy and soul we put into this recording give them energy and uplift the soul.”

1. African Ripples Epigraph (featuring and lyrics by Cyrus Aaron) [2:03]
2. Truth and Comfort [5:01]
3. NAFID [5:19]
4. Just You, Just Me (Jesse Greer) [4:52]
5. 512 Arkansas St. (featuring Russell Gunn and Anthony Ware) [6:33]
6. African Ripples Part I (Thomas “Fats” Waller) [2:04]
7. African Ripples Part II (Thomas “Fats” Waller) [4:31]
8. Queen (featuring Camille Thurman) [6:37]
9. Come Back As A Flower (featuring Melanie Charles) (Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright) [5:23]
10. 118 & 8th [6:07]
11. What’s Left Behind [6:45]
12. Song of Samson (featuring Russell Gunn and Anthony Ware) [7:14]
13. Eye 2 Eye with the Sun [5:31]
14. Prayer for My Nephews (featuring and lyrics by Cyrus Aaron) [2:32]
15. African Ripples (Thomas “Fats” Waller) [0:46]

Keith Brown Trio:
Keith Brown- Piano, Rhodes, Synths
Dezron Douglas- Acoustic and Electric Bass
Terreon “Tank” Gully- (Drums, except tracks 6, 7, 8, and 13)
Darrell Green- (Drums, tracks 6,7,8, and 13)

Special Guests:
Russell Gunn-(Trumpet, tracks 1,5 and 12)
Anthony Ware- (Tenor saxophone, tracks 1,5 and 12)
Melanie Charles- (Vocals, track 9)
Camille Thurman- (Vocals track 8)
Cyrus Aaron- (Spoken Word, tracks 1 and 14)
Nêgah Santos- (Percussion, tracks 12 and 13)
Tamara Brown- Background Vocals (tracks 8 and 9)

Memphis-born, Knoxville-raised and New York-based Keith Brown is one of the most in-demand pianists on the contemporary jazz scene. Since he began playing jazz at the age of 18, Brown has performed and recorded with a who’s-who of jazz luminaries. He currently tours as the pianist for Charles Tolliver and Jazzmeia Horn and has shared the stage with great jazz artists such as Camille Thurman & The Darrell Green Trio, Dezron Douglas, Sherman Irby, Steve Slagle, Terreon Gully, Kenneth Whalum III, David Weiss, Mike Clark, Bill Saxton, Joe Farnsworth, Greg Tardy, John Clayton, Benny Golson, and Bobby Watson to name a few. 

African Ripples is Brown’s third release as a leader, following the release of The Journey, in 2015 and Sweet and Lovely, in 2011. Brown appears on a number of highly acclaimed recent recordings including Jazzmeia Horn’s Where We Are, Charles Tolliver’s Connect, Janinah Burnett’s Love The Color of Your Butterfly, and Gregory Tardy’s If Time Could Stand Still. 

Silke Eberhard Trio with Jan Roder and Kay Lübke - Being the Up and Down (May 21, 2021 Intakt Records)

"Being the Up And Down", Silke Eberhard’s new CD with her trio with Jan Roder on bass and Kay Lübke on drums was recorded both in the studio as well as at a live concert at the A-Trane in Berlin. This was the result of her winning the prestigious Berlin Jazz Prize, which affords the winner the honor of playing a concert and getting some recording days by Radio Berlin Brandenburg. Thus on this disc you hear a seamless blend of studio and live performances. The artwork on the cover, as on her previous Intakt release The Being Inn, is by Roman Signer, one of the most prestigious Swiss artists of today.

The American jazz critic Lynn René Bayley writes in the liner notes: "Yet whether being sensual or being edgy and experimental, there is so much to like and so much to hear in Silke Eberhard’s playing both solo and when interacting with this trio that one is held spellbound from first note to last. Small wonder that she has such a high reputation in the German jazz world!"

1. U11
2. Strudel
3. Von A Nach B
4. Laika’s Descent
5. Hymne
6. Zeitlupenbossa
7. Damenschrank
8. Stray Around
9. Yuki Neko

Silke Eberhard: Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Jan Roder: Bass
Kay Lübke: Drums

All compositions by Silke Eberhard (GEMA). Recorded August 13, 14, 2020, at Jazzclub A-Trane Berlin, Germany. Radio producer: Ulf Drechsel. Sound supervisor: Ralf-Peter Brinkmann. Recording engineer: Manuel Rieger. Digital cut and mastering: Benjamin Ihnow.
Cover art: Roman Signer, Installation. Kitfox Experimental, 2014. KINDL – Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, Berlin.
Graphic design: Paul Bieri.
Liner notes: Lynn René Bayley.
Produced by Silke Eberhard and Intakt Records, Patrik Landolt, Anja Illmaier, Florian Keller. Published by Intakt Records.

Tim Berne / Chris Speed / Reid Anderson / Dave King - Broken Shadows (May 21, 2021 Intakt Records)

Broken Shadows brings together four luminaries of the American jazz scene: Tim Berne, Chris Speed, Reid Anderson and Dave King. Broken Shadows has very strong connections, intwos. Saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Speed have been playing together since 1992; Bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King – two thirds of the legendary band The Bad Plus –have been playing together for over 35 years.Named after an Ornette Coleman composition, this all-star project honors the legacy of the music of their idols and mentors Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Julius Hemphill.

"Most all of the songs have melodies; infectious and singable.Songs you would want to put in your pocket and take them home.In a time of songs treated as vehicles for improvisation, with this band, the vehicle is the song", writes Branford Marsalis in the liner notes, celebrating the emotional power and impact of BrokenShadows: "Harmonic data does not create emotion; the ability to change color in ones sound does. This is something that Broken Shadows understand, be it explicit or implicit. The twelve tracks range from lamentation, or insouciant swagger, to utter joy, and all the colors in between."

1. Street Woman
2. Body
3. Toy Dance
4. Ecars
5. Civilization Day
6. Comme il Faut
7. Dogon A.D.
8. C.O.D.
9. Una Muy Bonita
10. Song for Ché
11. Walls-Bridges
12. Broken Shadows

Tim Berne: Alto Saxophone
Chris Speed: Tenor Saxophone
Reid Anderson: Bass
Dave King: Drums

Recorded and mixed by Marc Urselli May 21st and 22nd 2018 at East
Sound NYC, New York. First released 2019 vinyl only in a six records
box set on Newvelle Records (except Street Woman and Comme il
Faut). CD remastered December 2020 by Huntley Miller HM Mastering
Cover art and graphic design: Stephen Byram.
Liner notes: Branford Marsalis.
Booklet design: Fiona Ryan.
Copyright by Intakt Records, Patrik Landolt, Anja Illmaier, Florian Keller.

Skúli Sverrisson & Bill Frisell's Strata – May 21 on Newvelle Records

I’ve never been at a session like the one that we had in June of 2017 with Skúli Sverrisson and Bill Frisell. Sometimes you can really sense a connection between two musicians, some fitting together or a frisson of common experience and spontaneous invention. But this was of another order—a quiet and profound communion. With Skúli and Bill there’s a shared internal language—a sense of inevitable logic—hypnotizing and surreal.

The studio is a charged environment—a kinetic energy of ideas about to be born, loaded with expectation and possibility. Emotions tend to come to the surface in both good and bad ways. Bill and Skúli hit a deep vein in the first hour and never needed to come up for air. They would track a song of Skúli’s while seated across from each other, barely speaking. Then we would listen back in the control room. After the song was over, no one would say a word for a moment, as if a spell had been cast. Then Bill might look over at Skúli and say, “What do you think if I tried to overlay something on this one?” While Bill tracked a second guitar, Skúli would sit with his head cradled in his hands. When Bill would return to the control room, Skúli would lift his head, wearing a beatific smile.

This spell was only stirred once. On the second day of tracking, the film maker Jim Jarmusch came by for lunch. Jim is a longtime fan of Bill’s music. His arrival was a brace of movement and charm. He’d tell a couple of stories, and then we’d sit in silence while Bill and Skúli tracked something. “Brothers from another mother, these two,” I caught Jim muttering under his breath.
Skúli Sverrisson: “Bill’s been a thread throughout my creative life. I wrote songs for this session, but Bill has been such an inspiration to me that, even on songs I wrote before I met him, he was already there.”

Bill Frisell: “Skúli was one of those guys that I kept hearing about but hadn’t heard his music. Before I heard what he did, I was already wondering, ‘What’s with this guy?’ He had such a huge range, playing with some of my favorite musicians and in styles all over the map. The first time I heard him, the beauty of it touched me right away... I don’t listen to much music. I mostly listen to someone like Duke Ellington—real classics. But I got two of his albums and I kept putting them on. I wouldn’t have known that he was influenced by me. He was tapped in to something I dream of. When we did the recording, it took it to 100%, it felt like something that was in my imagination, but even deeper and further.”

SS: “There seemed to be a clear path to the center of the music. The session with Bill was so easy—no complications anywhere. And then having Jim Jarmusch there! He was almost like a ‘ghost producer.’ He’s another one of my heroes, such a great and surreal experience. I was only in New York for three days to record the album, and the whole thing came together so easily and to have Jim there... I really came back home and thought, ‘Did that really happen—was that a dream?’”

BF: “This was really special for me, I’d wanted to play with Skúli for a long time and this was an ideal situation. Sometimes you play music with someone in another context, in someone’s band or at a session, and you think, ‘I’d like to do a project with that person’; but this was the first time we played together. It felt so immediate, like ‘This is it, right now.’”

SS: “I knew Marc Urselli from decades ago when he reviewed a rather obscure record of mine, “Seremonie.” Later we did many tours together with Laurie Anderson, when Marc was the front-of-the-house engineer. We became friends and I felt very connected to him.”

Marc Urselli (recording engineer): “Bill and Skúli are two of my favorite musicians of all time and having them together in the studio was most enjoyable. They are both so modest and so soft-spoken that (barely!) hearing their comments and compliments to each other, one incredible take after another, was both delightful and hard to believe. Being there when the two played almost felt imposing, in a way. It was like a sacred experience only a few lucky ones were allowed to be a part of.”

BF: “Playing alone is so difficult because you get nothing back. But as soon as just one other person plays, there’s a direct response , like an electrical current that returns. It starts to go. You play something and right away it comes back, like a two-stroke engine. Everything you need is there... There’s an elegance to it. I almost feel like I didn’t even play on this record. Compositionally, what Skúli brought is so amazing. There wasn’t anything for me to do, everything was there already. So natural for me to fall into, so effortless. What Skúli chose to play and what he wrote—he built this structure that didn’t have anything blocking me but it was holding me up the whole time. It feels like we’ve known each other longer than we have. And it feels like the start of something.”

– Elan Mehler


Side A:
1. Sweet Earth (2:26)
2. Instants (5:15)
3. Vanishing Point (2:57)
4. Ancient Affection (3:57)
5. Came to Light (3:56)

Side B:
1. Cave of Swimmers (2:59)
2. Amedeo (4:06)
3. Afternoon Variant (5:13)
4. Segment (3:06)
5. Her Room (3:50)

Skúli Sverrisson - Electric & Acoustic Bass Guitar
Bill Frisell - Electric & Acoustic Guitar

Rosa Passos Quartet - Dunas (Live in Copenhagen) May 21, 2021 Storyville Records

Rossa Passos is considered one of the most important and loved Brazilian singers. Many music fans view her as the queen of modern bossa nova and samba, and she’s equally loved in South America, Japan, USA and Europe. Whether she’s playing with Kenny Barron or Yo Yo Ma she easily sells out Carnegie Hall in New York. She also enjoys touring with her quartet at jazz festivals and jazz clubs around Europe.

Rosa Passos is part of the golden generation of Brazilan musicians that includes Joao Bosco, Joyce Moreno, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Maria Bethania, Milton Nascimento, Ivan Lins and many other great artists. Rosa Passos is especially loved for her elegance and soft touch. Her musicality is an inspiration to singers all over the world.

Her music speaks to everyone, you don’t need to know about jazz or music to understand and enjoy – there is something universal to her vocal and approach that instantly makes the listener go along on the journey Rosa sets out for. It’s always beautiful and if you close your eyes you can feel the Brasilian soul and see the beaches for your inner eyes.

On July 7th, 2001 Rosa Passos played two sets at the famous Copenhagen Jazzhouse, one of the best jazz clubs in Europe for more than 25 years. The concerts took place as part of a bigger summer tour of Europe, with Rosa Passos playing all the important jazz festivals. In 2001 she was still unknown to the audience in Copenhagen, but Steen Rasmussen, a Danish pianist who was there, remembers:

“Her playing was flawless and sophisticated - and it swung like crazy. It was already the best music I’d ever heard. Then she began to sing - and I was almost in a trance. That voice, that phrasing, that swing, that empathy, that way she accompanied herself – and that low volume. I could tell everyone present felt the same. Rosa Passos had changed all our lives forever”

The experience speaks to the impact Rosa Passos has on people when they have the honor of experiencing her talent first-hand. She’s intimate and powerful at the same time, and the tunes she plays, a mixture of her own compositions and Bossa Nova-classics, support her means of expression in the best way possible. This recording from Jazzhouse presents her and her band at her best. The sound is crisp, and the presence allows for the pure expression to shine through, and makes you wish that you had been there to experience this very special night in Copenhagen.

“Imagine you are rocking a baby to sleep. For me, that’s Bossa Nova” – Rosa Passos

1. Cigano
2. Marina
3. Rosa Morena
4. Sábado Em Copacabana
5. O Que É Que a Baiana Tem?
6. Chuva de Verão
7. Águas de Março
8. Dunas
9. Juras

Rosa Passos: Vocal & Guitar
Fabio Torres: Piano
Paulu Paulelli: Bass
Celso de Almeida: Drums

Dov Manski & Erin Parsch - The Hue of Silence (May 21, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

The visual and aural arts have likely been interconnected since the beginning of human artistic expression. Artists in both mediums utilize similar terminology to describe techniques, processes and aesthetics in their work. Keyboardist/composer Dov Manski and visual artist Erin Parsch began a partnership to explore the ways in which musical performance and painting can communicate. The Hue of Silence is their astounding multimedia project that shows some of their discoveries, centered around their response to color.

Originally from Maine, the Brooklyn based Manski has woven an eclectic career through jazz and contemporary electronic music since leaving the New England Conservatory of Music. His work as the primary pianist for the Erick Hawkins Dance Company led to his collaboration with Parsch, who was a dancer in the company. Parsch has studied dance, classical piano and art since she was a child. She continues to pursue these interests as a painter and performance artist.

The past two years found the pair discussing the meeting place of art and music theory. As their rapport grew, they began to experiment with different methods of performance, where Manski would generate the music and Parsch the visual elements. Utilizing their study and appreciation of the performative aspects in the creations of the abstract visual arts, they began to conceptualize a method to apply their mediums to live performance.

A handful of live performances allowed them to really explore different methods of expression. Their initial performance found Manski on amplified piano while Parsch reacted freely to the music. Rehearsal led to structured performance. A tonal palette was established and cues from both performers initiated. In their next performance, Parsch used a dancing technique of count memorization to help guide her actions, carving with a palette knife into paint, through Manski’s loose compositions played on Wurlitzer electric piano and electronics, a change that allowed for a widening of expressive possibilities.

The duo’s last performance was in February 2020 just before the world was shut down due to COVID 19. As the energy drained from New York City, Manski and Parsch made use of the time by advancing their concept and focusing on one facet central to art: Color.

For generations, composers and visual artists have sought to use color as a theme and subject for their works. Though neither Manski nor Parsch are synesthetic, they both feel strong reactions to the use of color. Parsch has always been interested in the history of color theory, as colors are natural, electro-magnetic spectrums finding themselves manifested in elements of the earth with such a dynamic range. Her interest led her to the question: “What does it mean to hear color?”

The Hue of Silence began to develop organically as the pair discussed color theory and how to express their discoveries. Manski took to electronic instruments to develop his own synthetic sounds. Having mastered the art, Manski found that the control allowed through the generation of synthetic sound was essential to this project, knowing that he had the tonal aspects right after long periods of trial and error. He began by considering a place where the color lived, perhaps in a memory or detail of a certain event. Then he tried to create music to accompany those times and places. Sharing a wall in an apartment, Parsch was able to listen to Manski’s compositional processes, inspiring her visual work. The constant dialog between their sessions kept shaping the project, which really only manifested at the end of their work.
There are two pieces of art for every title on The Hue of Silence: one visual and one aural. The pair chose specific colors as reference points and built alongside one another, informing each other of their progress, discussing and then revising. On a number of the audio pieces, Manski used the ratios of the Fibonacci series to structure events in the music, whether it be rhythmic patterns or harmonic changes.

Images of Parsch’s artworks are included in the package, showing her expressive interpretations in stunning color. As she wasn’t able to go to her studio, Parsch was left to the art materials that she had at home. Many of the pieces were then generated with the elements she had out of necessity. Parsch balanced her work between oil stick and acrylic ink on either cotton rag, yupo paper or fiberglass.

Pieces that were developed with oil on cotton rag, like “Egyptian Violet,” “Cobalt Blue,” “Mars Black” and “Warm Rose,” are spontaneous creations, as the oil stick seems like an extension of Parsch’s arm. Manski approximates that free expression with abstractly played soundscapes, quietly warm as on “Cobalt Blue” or expansively mysterious like “Mars Black.” Parsch enjoys the disruptive beauty of the acrylic ink on yupo paper and the texture it generates. The bubbling “Alizarian Crimson,” resonant “Malachite Green,” meditative “Carbon Black” and pointillistic “Cadmium Orange” mirror the fluid approach of Parsch’s visuals.

Together, the visual and audio components that combine to comprise Manski and Parsch’s The Hue of Silence are ethereally stimulating, creating a complex program that feeds the eyes and ears. 

1. Egyptian Violet
2. Alizarin Crimson
3. Ancient Gold
4. Payne's Grey
5. Cobalt Blue
6. Fluorescent Pink
7. Malachite Green
8. Mars Black
9. Warm Rose
10. Carbon Black
11. Indigo
12. Iridescent Pearl
13. Cadmium Orange
14. Quinacridone Red

Dov Manski - Wurlitzer, keyboards, piano & samples
Erin Parsch - paintings

Aaron Novik - Grounded (May 21, 2021 Astral Spirits)

This album was made with the acoustic sounds of the clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet with minimal effects. It was recorded during lockdown in Elmhurst Queens, NY, April-May 2020.

1. Part 1
2. Part 2
3. Part 3
4. Part 4
5. Part 5
6. Part 6
7. Part 7
8. Part 8
9. Part 9
10. Part 10

Mixed by Eli Crews at Spillway
Mastered by Jon Cohrs at Bear Call