Friday, June 4, 2021

Bruce Harris - Soundview (June 4 via Cellar Music Group)

Celebrated Trumpeter Bruce Harris Announces the Release of His Latest Quartet Album, Soundview, Out June 4, 2021 On Cellar Music Group

Cellar Music Group is thrilled to announce the release of Soundview, the latest studio album from trumpeter, composer and educator Bruce Harris and his A-list quartet of masterful musicians. Striking a personal note with Harris, as it speaks to his upbringing in the Bronx neighborhood of Soundview New York, this Jeremy Pelt-produced masterwork celebrates Harris’ ancestors and the architects of the Black American Songbook to which he is so fervently and passionately devoted. Joining Harris is Sullivan Fortner on piano, David Wong on bass, Aaron Kimmel on drums and rising star vocalist Samara Joy, who guests on two tracks. This release marks the first of several collaborative efforts between Cellar Music and Pelt; an initiative which is geared toward showcasing the voices of Black artists. Keeping in line with Soundview’s theme, a donation has been made on behalf of Bruce Harris to the Bronx Charter School of the Arts in conjunction with this release.

The bandleader remarks that “during the pandemic I looked further and got more into the history of Black people in America. It was a time to learn and reflect. In gratitude, I wanted to pay tribute to all of the African American creators of this music.” All but one of the nine tunes on Soundview were written by Black architects of this music, who all happened to live and thrive in Harris’ birthplace of NYC. A testament to the longevity and vivacity of the artform, Harris’ music harkens back to the spirit of his musical ancestors while remaining an innovative and captivating new work.

This iteration of the Bruce Harris Quartet sees its recording debut with Soundview, however, the deep personal connections within this outfit are made evident in the group’s stellar interplay. Harris first met fellow New Yorker David Wong in the late 1990s when the two players were in the same All City and All State jazz bands. From there, a fruitful collaboration took shape. Since, Wong has gone on to play with the likes of Roy Haynes and Jimmy Heath. Harris has worked extensively with drummer Aaron Kimmel for the past decade, who he dubs “one of the greats here in New York; a young master,” and one of his “top five” in the city. Soundview marks the first collaboration between Harris and pianist Sullivan Fortner whom Harris has long admired.
Harris reflects that his relationship with Soundview’s famed album producer Jeremy Pelt began many years ago when Harris was a college student. Pelt’s words of encouragement for Harris left an impact on him. “We’re all in the rat race here. There’s something for you – just get in,” he said. Over the years, Pelt has become a sort of big brother to Harris. 

Upon producing this message-driven release, Pelt remarks that “…contrary to opinion, Jazz has always reflected the times. Sadly again, we are bearing witness to the racial injustice in the United States, wherein Black people’s lives are constantly at risk, particularly by those sworn to protect its citizens. As harrowing as this is, there seems to be a dialog in which Black voices are finally being heard. The Cellar Music Group recognizes that Jazz is not only a music native to America, but that the progenitors of this music are the very lives that are being threatened daily.” Pelt is pleased to bring this conversation to the fore with Harris’ release. 

Soundview is full of several bright moments. As Harris began writing the title track, he visualized scenes of where he was from. “I almost feel like the chords tell the story of my upbringing; a little dark in the beginning, some conflict worked through in bridge, and a new height harmonically resolving in a beautiful major chord,” he says. It is no mistake that the rhythm of the piece is a mambo rhythm, which Harris dubbed ‘the underlying clave of the Bronx’. ”Although it was not a place filled with privilege and opportunity, Soundview was and is rich in artistic excellence and indomitable spirit.” The piece begins with an ostinato from Wong followed by some rhythmic vamping by the rhythmic section, stating the clave of the composition. This sets the stage for Harris to take it by storm with fiery, soulful melodic musings. The recording features masterful improvisations from Harris and Wong.
Another highlight, “Bird of Red and Gold”, features the gifted Samara Joy on vocals. A fellow Bronx native and former student of Harris’, Samara lends her rich dulcet tones to this composition written by jazz luminary and renowned educator Barry Harris. The bandleader notes that Barry Harris was instrumental in his own musical upbringing and that of pianist Sullivan Fortner’s, and Samara is a current student of his. The powerful musical connection between these players is informed by the fact that all of the players are subscribers to Barry Harris’s unique and powerful conceptions of jazz harmony. 

“Saucer Eyes” is a composition by the late jazz luminary Randy Weston who Harris fondly remembers spending a short time with while on tour in Oman. The track has become a live performance staple for Harris. In the spirit of lineage, Harris is thrilled to now see younger generations of musicians performing this Weston piece more frequently. The melody is delivered here with a gleeful energy. Harris and Fortner soar over the changes in their solos conjuring Weston’s immense spirit. 

With the release of Soundview, Bruce Harris has surely earned his reputation as one of the most important and emerging voices in jazz today. Soundview will be available everywhere on June 4, 2021. 

1. Soundview (Bruce Harris)
2. Satellite (G.Gryce / SECOND FLOOR MUSIC)
3. Maybe It’s Hazy (Bruce Harris)
4. If You Were Mine (J. Mercer, M Malneck / BOURNE CO.)
5. Hank’s Prank (H. Mobley /  EMI UNART CATALOG INC.)
6. You’re Lucky To Me (E. Blake, A. Razaf / SHAPIRO BERNSTEIN & CO INC./RAZAF MUSIC)
7. Ellington Suite (arr. Andy Farber)
8. Bird Of Red and Gold (Barry Harris)
9. Saucer Eyes (R. Weston / MAYFLOWER MUSIC CORP.)


NEW RELEASE: Trumpeter Tim Hagans To Release New Album, ‘A Conversation’ with the NDR Bigband on June 4 via Waiting Moon Records

Celebrated Trumpeter and Composer Tim Hagans Announces the Release of A Conversation, Commissioned and Performed by the NDR Bigband,

3x GRAMMY-nominated composer and trumpeter Tim Hagans is pleased to announce the release of A Conversation, an all-new, original multi-movement concerto performed by the NDR Bigband. On A Conversation, Hagans introduces a musical narrative that is meant to explore, to illuminate, and perhaps, to resolve an exchange of ideas. Hagans’ latest addition to his canon of inventive large ensemble albums will be released on June 4, 2021 via the artist’s own Waiting Moon Records label. A Conversation is Hagans’ 17th recording as a leader, and his fourth recorded collaboration with the NDR Bigband.

Tim Hagans’ illustrious career as a composer began with his tenure performing and recording with the great Thad Jones. “To me, the power of Thad’s writing was that it came directly from his own distinct voice on the trumpet. I remember visiting him in his home. Thad would sit at a table with score paper and his cornet. Those were all the tools he needed to create extraordinary music,” recalls Hagans. It was Jones who encouraged Hagans to write music, and Hagans’ first composition appeared on his Live at Slukefter LP. This propelled Hagans’ career forward; one that includes a 15-year tenure as Artistic Director and Composer-In-Residence for the Norrbotten Big Band, three years as a member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, six recordings as a leader for the Blue Note label, and fruitful collaborations with such luminaries as Dexter Gordon, Joe Lovano, Bob Belden, Ernie Wilkins as well as with the innovative Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble.

For two decades, Hagans has collaborated with the NDR Bigband (also known as the Hamburg Radio Jazz Orchestra) in a variety of roles including guest composer, conductor, arranger and soloist. “Part of what excites me about composing and arranging for the great NDR Bigband is to meet the challenge of creating a sophisticated score while at the same time preserving the spontaneity of a trio or a quintet,” says Hagans. On this five-movement exploration, the composer’s musical conception and innovation extends far beyond the physical score – its emotional intrigue and unique overall sound is affected by Hagans’ decision to physically group the musicians not by section as is traditional, but by sonic and emotional divisions – each one of the four ensembles assembled by the composer charged with different objectives. Hagans’ singular and evocative improvisational prowess is portrayed here beautifully throughout the concerto.
“Movement I” of A Conversation introduces audiences to the NDR Bigband’s spirited ensemble sound. Repeated refrains ricochet from ensemble to ensemble with varying degrees of intensity and with increasing harmonic and rhythmic intrigue before the ensemble falls into a groove driven by a piano and bass ostinato. The piece features transportive improvisation from pianist Vladyslav Sendecki. “When I compose, I’m drawing on my own musical voice to create melody and form,” reflects Hagans, adding “…my writing also reflects musical events that happen often in small group settings—tempo changes, free playing, and so forth—and these become expanded to a big band setting.”

“Movement II” begins on a serene note, exploring elements of ambience and gradually descending into cacophony before establishing a pared down central theme. Baritone saxophonist Daniel Buch and bassist Ingmar Heller offer stunning solos in this movement. “Movement III” begins with Sendecki and Heller performing in a duo context, as the piece expands in instrumentation, entropy reigns with discordant refrains echoed by the horns. Tim Hagans with trumpeters Stephen Meinberg and Claus Stötter, saxophonist Peter Bolte and trombonist Stefan Lottermann are all featured soloists on this vibrant selection.

“Movement IV” kicks off with a passionate solo trumpet by Hagans, leading into a stately, deliberate groove. Cleverly executed feel changes underscore improvisation by saxophonist and flutist Fiete Felsch, percussionist Marcio Doctor as well as by the composer. A Conversation’s final piece, “Movement V” begins by painting an idyllic landscape which transitions into a calming duet for Hagans and pianist Sendecki, followed by a driving, bright-tempoed section featuring a solo by trombonist Klaus Heidenreich. The movement concludes by returning to the spirited themes presented in the beginning, bringing the conversation full circle to a questioning close. Hagans notes “Ultimately, I wouldn’t mind if the listener agrees with a quotation I very much like from Guy de Maupassant: “Conversation … What is it? A mystery!”’

More About the NDR Bigband:
Unique among Germany’s radio big bands, the NDR Bigband is a jazz ensemble composed of premier soloists of diverse backgrounds and influences whose collective endeavors coalesce to produce an original and striking group sound for a large ensemble.

After leaving behind traditional radio entertainment, prime-time TV shows and the rest of everyday light music, the ensemble has focused their energies on pursuing creative music. Known to perform various stylistic programs ranging from swing, latin, to avant-garde, the NDR Bigband sounds different on each occasion, yet retains a unifying character that is immediately recognizable.

The NDR Bigband includes saxophonists Fiete Felsch, Frank Delle, Peter Bolte, Daniel Buch, and Christof Lauer; trumpeters Ingolf Burkhardt, Clause Stötter, Stephan Meinberg, and Thorsten Benkenstein; trombonists Klaus Heidenreich, Dan Gottshall, Stefan Lottermann and Ingo Lahme; percussionists Jukkis Uotila and Marcio Doctor; guitarist Ed Harris, bassist Ingmar Heller and pianist Vladyslav Sendecki.

1. Movement I 14:46
2. Movement II 12:01
3. Movement III 12:51
4. Movement IV 16:16
5. Movement V 11:50

All music composed and arranged by Tim Hagans

In A Conversation, the musicians are grouped not by section, as it might normally be done, but by sonic and emotional divisions, each one charged with different objectives.

TIM HAGANS, composer, arranger, conductor, trumpet
(Solo on Movements III, IV & V)

AVAILABLE NOW: Fatoumata Diawara | "Ambè"

Fatoumata Diawara Assembles
a Revered Cast of Female Musicians
from Around the World for "Ambè"
Video Underlines the Importance of
a World Without Borders
in Difficult and Challenging Times

Artists Include Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves,
China Moses, Inna Modja, Somi, Mayra Andrade,
Thandiswa Mazwai & Terri Lyne Carrington

‘Ambè’ meaning ‘altogether’ in Bambara, underlines the importance of harmony and togetherness in difficult and challenging times, a theme that celebrated Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara often explores in her work. During the first lockdown Diawara enlisted the help of revered female musicians Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, China Moses, Inna Modja, Somi, Mayra Andrade, Thandiswa Mazwai and Terri Lyne Carrington to collaborate on "Ambè" which is available now. This unique video collaboration between female artists of African origin or descent sends a message of cooperation and a world without borders. She invited each musician to contribute vocals and lyrics to a verse on the song and the parts were recorded remotely before being mixed together.

“The idea for the song came to me during the first lock down. Countries were closing their borders because of the pandemic and I was very afraid. I was like, ‘what should I do? what can I do? could we do something together?’. Though I was very afraid, at the same time I felt a huge amount of hope." explains Diawara. "Hope for me has always come through my guitar and my voice. The first thing I did was to cry and that always makes me feel better. The second thing was to sing and put a smile back on my face. I then had the idea to write a song to remind us all that no matter what colour you are, which country you come from, if you’re rich or poor, a doctor or poor person on the street, we are all equal and all the same. COVID reminds us that we are all one and that we should fight for love instead of fighting over our differences. I didn't want to write and record it alone, so I called out to women, my sisters. I would love for others to join in, perhaps 1000 women and we will keep singing to remind people that we are all one and this mentality will save future generations” concludes Diawara.

"Ambè" a stand-alone and non-commercial release only available on YouTube and social media.

For more information on Fatoumata Diawara, please visit:

NEW RELEASE: Jalen Baker’s 'THIS IS ME, THIS IS US' - out June 4, 2021 via Outside In Music

Outside In Music Announces The Electrifying Debut Release From Vibraphonist Jalen Baker
This is Me, This is Us Due Out on June 4th, 2021

Outside in Music is thrilled to introduce vibraphonist, composer and bandleader Jalen Baker with the release of This Is Me, This Is Us on June 4, 2021. On this auspicious and gripping debut, the Houston-based talent makes a major musical statement with the help of star drummer and producer Ulysses Owens Jr. Over the course of nine original compositions, and one reimagined Stevie Wonder classic, Baker expertly fuses his lyrical improvisation with fervent passion and virtuosic ability to create an unforgettable sonic experience. Joining Baker is an amalgam of top-flight musicians from both Texas and New York including pianist Paul Cornish, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, drummer Gavin Moolchan and bassist Gabriel Godoy. The depth of the compositions is augmented by the stellar string quartet made up of violinist Jessica McJunkins, violinist Orlando Wells, violist Andrew Griffin, and cellist Susan Mandel.

On This is Me, This is Us, Baker presents deeply substantive original material centered around themes of spirituality, trauma and healing. “I wrote all of the music based on my life experiences with things such as racism, depression, heartbreak, career disappointments, success, triumph and healing. Even though I have personal experience with all of these things, nothing is unique to just me. These are things most of us deal with and I want people to know that they’re not alone.” The title, This Is Me, This Is Us, is meant to reflect these universal experiences. The album walks listeners through Baker’s musical upbringing, reflecting on the artist’s journey while making poignant statements about the many trials he’s faced. 

This Is Me, This Is Us is produced by acclaimed drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. Baker’s relationship with acclaimed drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. Their relationship began with an encounter at a workshop that Owens Jr. was conducting at Florida A&M University. Owens was so impressed by Baker’s playing, that he made the young vibraphonist a sub for his own touring band. Thus, Baker and Owens have played together throughout the country and overseas, and have formed a long-standing musical connection that reaches its apex on This Is Me, This Is Us. 

“I think Jalen’s voice on the vibraphone will be amplified by his compositions. He had a chance to spend a little free time with Billy Childs who recognized his compositional voice, and I think coupled with his amazing playing, Jalen’s compositional voice will be one that I feel will resonate and create a new generation of listeners,” says Owens. 

Baker offered the following: “Having Ulysses produce this record means everything. He was one of the people to really take a chance on me and jump start my career. It was really important to me to have people from every point in my musical life a part of my first record so getting Ulysses to produce was a no brainer. When you work with someone like Ulysses the product will always be of the highest quality.”
Upon listening to the first track “So Help Me God”, listeners will hear Baker’s sultry vibes underscored by the lush sounds of the string quartet. Harkening back to the iconic sounds of the Modern Jazz Quartet featuring the great vibraphonist Milt Jackson, this track highlights Baker’s tremendous acuity at composing nuanced, ardent pieces. Masterfully arranged, the large ensemble avoids density and is complimentary in nature, the soaring refrains from Trumpeter Giveton Gelin doubled by Baker is underpinned by the steadfast rhythm section and cradled by the silken soundfield created by the strings.

“Healing” is an example of a thematic composition that draws the listener in with its refined dynamic sensibilities and harmonic intrigue. The piece was composed in the summer of 2020 while reflecting on the hardships of the current moment, most notably the pandemic that has afflicted our world for the past year. In order to make sense of the world, Baker strived to heal his mind with composition and practicing. This piece features solos from Baker, Giveton Gelin, and pianist Paul Cornish.

“Patience” is a poignant ballad that showcases the vibist’s maturity in composition by his use of space and affecting melodic content. The strings return, this time beginning the piece by stating the melody prior to the entrance of Baker and Gelin. In a true show of patience, the melody gently builds in both instrumentation and intensity. “Praise” is a decidedly modern sounding piece with a lyrical melody, and a prayerful air throughout, and features masterful solos by Cornish and Baker. The pared down “Faith” features Baker with bass and drum accompaniment, as the sole chordal player and displays the synergy between the three players, while spotlighting Baker’s comping prowess. Baker’s arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Love Is In Need Of Love Today” offers a new dimension to a beautiful classic with a message that rings true in modern times. This solo piece feels like a sultry, contrapuntal prayer for a more peaceful and loving future.

One of Baker’s most ardent supporters is acclaimed vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who contributed the album’s liner notes and cosigns on Baker’s promise. Referencing a quote by Mahatma Gandhi in those notes, the future depends on what you do today, he says: “What Jalen is doing today is bringing the vibraphone to new heights and bringing new compositions to the world. The promising young vibist will continue to emerge; with experience comes wisdom. Watch out for Jalen Baker.”

1. So Help Me God (7:31) 
2. Don’t Shoot (9:16)
3. Interlude (Prayer for the Fallen) (:045)
4. Healing (7:05)
5. Patience (5:19)
6. We Regret to Inform You (6:24)
7. Praise (7:24)
8. Faith (6:09)
9. Obey Disobey (7:28)
10. Love’s In Need of Love Today (2:21)

All music by Jalen Baker, except 10 by Stevie Wonder

Jalen Baker- Vibraphone
Paul Cornish- Piano
Giveton Gelin- Trumpet
Gavin Moolchan- Drums
Gabriel Godoy- Bass
Jessica McJunkins- Violin
Orlando Wells- Violin
Andrew Griffin- Viola
Susan Mandel- Cello

Ulysses Owens- Producer
Dave Darlington – mixing and mastering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vocalist Judy Wexler's "BACK TO THE GARDEN," jazz treatments of iconic songs from the 1960s

Coming June 4th on Jewel City Jazz

Vocalist JUDY WEXLER is known for her soulful, heartfelt vocals and her ability to find under-exposed gems and imbue them with warmth and wit. On BACK TO THE GARDEN (June 4, 2021, Jewel City Jazz), she departs from her usual jazz fare to recast iconic songs of the 1960s as jazz/pop anthems relevant for today’s social and political ethos.

BACK TO THE GARDEN is Wexler’s sixth album. It follows Crowded Heart (2019), What I See (2013), Under a Painted Sky (2011), Dreams & Shadows (2008), and Easy on the Heart (2005). Each album received wide critical acclaim and made it to the top of the national JazzWeek radio charts.

Wexler is a mainstay on the California jazz scene. A Los Angeles native and current resident, she performs regularly around the state, from San Diego to San Francisco to Mendocino. She also headlines major venues across the country, appearing at Birdland and The Blue Note in New York City, Jazz Alley in Seattle, Blues Alley in Washington, DC, among many others. She has sung in clubs and at festivals overseas, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival and the Dubai Jazz Festival. She has appeared on NPR Weekend Edition twice with Susan Stamberg who said, “Based on the evidence, Judy Wexler can sing almost anything.”
Wexler has a sumptuous voice and approaches a song like an actress inhabiting a script. Eschewing vocal pyrotechnics, she focuses on lucid storytelling. She wields her formidable vocals chops, like her spot-on phrasing and sophisticated approach to melody, with great subtlety to capture the emotional essence of a song. In All About Jazz, Nicholas Mondello wrote, “She is balletic light on her vocal feet, dead-on with her pitch, and lyrically smooth. She probes emotional depth and returns gems without melodrama.” UK’s Jazz Journal writes, “An always engaging demonstration of contemporary jazz singing at its best.”

BACK TO THE GARDEN is a departure from Wexler’s previous albums, which featured modern jazz songs and selections from the Great American Songbook with just a smattering of reimagined pop tunes. On this new recording, Wexler points her gaze to interpreting iconic, well-known pop/rock songs from the 1960s with reimagined arrangements.

Wexler says, “Music is truly a reflection of the times, and the music of the 1960s reflected the turbulence engendered by war, political protests, and the rise of important social movements like feminism and racial justice. Fifty years later, we’re still struggling with those issues and more. Although the arrangements of these iconic songs are new, I find their message of hope, love, and change as timely as ever.”

Wexler has been fascinated with the music of the era since 2010, when she created a show in Los Angeles she called “Back to the Garden.” She revised and updated the show in 2016 and was scheduled to do yet another one on her birthday in mid-April 2020 when the pandemic hit and all the music venues closed. Since live gigs were canceled for the foreseeable future, she decided to record an album instead.
Wexler brought on board her longtime pianist and arranger JEFF COLELLA, a consummate accompanist and improviser. Among his many accomplishments are 16 years touring as musical director with the legendary Lou Rawls. He also toured the world with the Jazz Tap Ensemble for seven years, was the Musical Director for Jack Jones, and has worked with a host of top names like Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Sheila Jordan, Kenny Washington, and others. Colella plays piano, wrote most of the arrangements for BACK TO THE GARDEN and co-produced the album with Wexler. Pianist and composer JOSH NELSON also contributed two arrangements.

Wexler and Colella brought in several top musical artists from Southern California and beyond, including guitarist LARRY KOONSE, bass player GABE DAVIS, and drummer STEVE HASS, old friends with whom Wexler has performed and recorded before and who formed the core of the rhythm section. Colella’s arrangements are richly textured and multi-layered, and other players who added their distinctive voices are BOB THIELE, JR. on electric and baritone guitars, DANNY JANKLOW on alto sax, JAY JENNINGS (from the Grammy-winning Snarky Puppy) on trumpet, and NYC-based harmonica master HENDRIK MEURKENS. Grammy-nominated violinist SARA CASWELL is featured on one song, and a string section comprising violinists JOEL PARGMAN and CARRIE KENNEDY, viola player RODNEY WIRTZ, and cellist STEFANIE FIFE perform in various configurations on three tracks. Vocalist ERIN BENTLAGE arranged and contributed layered background vocals on four tracks. Bentlage is a member of the vocal group säje, which snagged a Grammy nomination in 2021 for arranging.
The ten songs on BACK TO THE GARDEN are reflective of the tumultuous era of the 1960s. Wexler includes two songs by Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin',” one of the most famous protest songs of all times, and the sweetly hopeful “Forever Young.” “American Tune,” by Paul Simon, paints a picture of the struggles and weariness of the American experience that stands in stark contrast to the can-do attitude so often portrayed in the media. Stephen Stills was inspired to write “For What It's Worth” after the Hollywood curfew riots in November 1966. The riots were part of a series of counterculture-era clashes that took place between police and young people.

Joni Mitchel’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is about destroying the natural world for the sake of commerce, while “Get Together,” made famous by The Youngbloods, is an appeal for peace and brotherhood. “Everybody’s Talkin’,” sung by Harry Nilsson in the film “Midnight Cowboy,” was written by Fred Neil and deals with the alienation of big city life and the desire to get away. “Up on the Roof,” by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, is another song about the need to escape the pressures of urban life. “Since You've Asked,” with its tender lyric, is the first song Judy Collins wrote. Wexler closes the album with “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” Sandy Denny’s meditation on the passage of time and ephemeral nature of life.

With Wexler’s fine-grained voice and heartfelt interpretations, the updated, modern arrangements, and superb musicianship, the music on BACK TO THE GARDEN is as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago.

1. Get Together (Chet Powers)  6:00
2. Up on the Roof (Gerry Goffin & Carole King)  4:41
3. American Tune (Paul Simon)  4:03
4. Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)  3:24
5. The Times They Are A Changin' (Bob Dylan)  4:45
6. Since You've Asked (Judy Collins)  3:27
7. For What It's Worth (Stephen Stills)  3:53
8. Everybody's Talkin' (Fred Neil)  3:32
9. Forever Young (Bob Dylan)  6:10
10. Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny)  5:15

Jeff Colella piano, melodica (5), background vocals (1)
Larry Koonse nylon string & electric guitar
Gabe Davis bass
Steve Hass drums
Bob Thiele, Jr., electric guitar, baritone guitar (1,7,8,9)
Erin Bentlage background vocals (1,4,7,9)
Danny Janklow alto sax (4)
Jay Jennings trumpet (10)
Hendrik Meurkens harmonica (8)
Sara Caswell violin (9)
Joel Pargman violin (3,6)
Carrie Kennedy violin (6)
Rodney Wirtz viola (3,6)
Stefanie Fife cello (3,5,6)
Talley Sherwood background vocals (1)

Produced by Judy Wexler and Jeff Colella
Arrangements by Jeff Colella (1,2, 4-9) and Josh Nelson (3,10)
String arrangements by Jeff Colella
Trumpet arranged by Jeff Colella 
Background vocal arrangements by Erin Bentlage (1,7,9)
Background vocal arrangement by Jeff Colella & Erin Bentlage (4)

BACK TO THE GARDEN will be available on June 4, 2021 in stores and online everywhere. Distribution by A Train Entertainment.

Dahveed Behroozi - Echos (June 4, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

Trained in both jazz and classical music, West Coast-based pianist Davheed Behroozi is the uncommon musician to earn endorsements from icons in both disciplines. Ursula Oppens, a renowned virtuoso of contemporary classical music, has praised Behroozi’s “creativity, curiosity and integrity,” adding that “his performances are stunning, his interpretations astonishing.” Likewise, jazz piano star Fred Hersch has described Behroozi’s music-making as “intense and immersive,” with the pianist’s evolution as an improviser revealing “deep musical knowledge and devotion.” The best presentation yet of Behroozi’s artistry as a jazz musician now comes with his sophomore album, Echos, to be released digitally and on CD via Sunnyside Records on June 4, 2021. 

Showcasing Behroozi’s richly atmospheric, even hypnotic compositions, the new disc – his first studio recording – features Behroozi in league with two of New York’s finest: bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Billy Mintz, both master improvisers known for their subtle, individual sounds. They are an ideal complement to Behroozi’s rhapsodic, wide-screen pianism, which is as inspired by such jazz masters as Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and Gonzalo Rubalcaba as it is classical exemplars Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich and Glenn Gould.

Echos – its title referring to the Greek for “reflected sound” – starts with the Paul Bley-evoking “Imagery,” an ideal album opener given its darkly enveloping lyricism and ravishing trio resonance. “This music, and the trio itself, is centered on sound rather than structure,” Behroozi explains. “Sound and vibe have become increasingly important to me as a player. Both Thomas and Billy have amazingly personal sounds on their instruments, and I’m especially drawn toward a less-is-more aesthetic, focusing on sheer character of sound.

There is real dynamism in the music of Echos – particularly with a track like ‘Sendoff’ – but I really do love that hypnotic vibe, something you can hear in the tune ‘TDB.’ What’s beautiful about Thomas and Billy is that they can explore just one note for what seems like days and make you realize there can be a world of music in that single note.”

Born in 1981 and raised in San José, California, Behroozi met Morgan while they were nascent jazzers in Bay Area high schools. They re-connected in New York City when the pianist and bassist were both studying at the Manhattan School of Music in the early 2000s. Morgan has since become a veteran of dozens of high-profile recording sessions by the likes Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tomasz Stanko, Jakob Bro, Ron Miles, Dan Weiss, Dan Tepfer, Steve Coleman and Jim Black. The bassist introduced Behroozi to Mintz, who – in addition to working as a bandleader – has played with such diverse figures as Tony Malaby, Alan Broadbent, Sylvie Courvoisier & Mark Feldman, and David Bowie pianist Mike Garson. 

After graduating from the Manhattan School, Behroozi pursued his advanced studies at Brooklyn College, and he continued to play private sessions with Morgan and Mintz for years as well as performing in New York clubs, the trio honing its sense of exploratory, emotionally acute interplay.
“My first album, Games, came out in 2012 – it was a live trio album made in California that also included Thomas, along with Tim Bulkley on drums,” Behroozi says. “Besides the fact that the new record is a studio recording, there has been a lot of evolution from that album to Echos, in both the writing and the playing. The new album is looser, freer. I’m concentrating on my most direct impulses, whether it’s in the choice of notes or how they flow. Playing with Thomas and Billy is perfect for this – reacting in the moment is what they do. I have such trust in them. Thomas is a player of real intimacy, not only with his beautiful sound but with his note choices – and the emotional weight he can invest in each one, drawing you in.

He also has a linear, storytelling dimension to his improvisations that I love. With Billy, he’s able to produce sounds on his kit – especially with cymbals – that I’ve never heard before. He’s a painter on the drums, as beautiful to watch as to hear. There’s a vintage glamour to what he does.”

Behroozi and company recorded Echos in 2019 with engineer Ryan Streber at the high-end Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon, New York, with the pianist manning a gorgeous Steinway instrument. The trio arrayed together on the studio floor with no isolation, allowing keener interaction. The pianist’s favorite tune on the album is “TDB” (titled after the band member’s first initials), for its sense of spaciousness and patience. “Thomas and Billy aren’t afraid of letting there be real space in the music – and that takes a combination of courage and confidence,” Behroozi says. “I aspire to their level.”

There were no rehearsals for Echos, with Behroozi bringing only sketches for the tunes into the studio – sketches unseen by Morgan and Mintz before that day. “The compositions came out of me improvising at home, so I wanted to keep that free-flowing feel of discovery in the studio,” Behroozi explains. “This is a dream trio for that approach – we captured the masters in just a couple of takes. For one tune, ‘Chimes,’ we included both of the takes, because it’s a dynamic piece and each performance was so different.” Kindred to the above-mentioned “Imagery,” album highlight “Gilroy” is a dark-hued, melodious gem, named for the laidback town in California where Behroozi teaches at Gavilan College.

The ruminative yet swinging “Tricks” is one of the album’s more upbeat numbers, while “Royal Star” is another slow-rolling, tune-rich beauty, its title referring to a variety of Magnolia bloom – with gardening having become a new pastime for Behroozi during the pandemic.

Behroozi strives to create “a multi-sensory landscape” with his music, impressionistically. “I’d like to evoke other senses with only sound,” he says. “Something akin to synaesthesia, so you can ‘hear’ the swing and sway of trees, for instance, or visualize colors. Most of all, I hope that Echos – like my favorite records do for me – creates emotional impressions for listeners, a resonance that stays with them.” 

1. Imagery
2. Chimes
3. Gilroy
4. Alliteration
5. Sendoff
6. Royal Star
7. Chimes (Variation)
8. Tricks
9. TDB

Dahveed Behroozi - piano
Thomas Morgan - bass
Billy Mintz - drums

Man On Land - Songs Of Hope (June 4, 2021)

Man On Land is a collectively led trio between pianist Brian Friedland, bassist Greg Loughman, and drummer Austin McMahon.  The band name is formed from the end each band member’s names, driving home the point that this group is a true collaboration. Each member brings their full creativity to the music, and all contribute compositions and arrangements to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Man On Land first performed in 2009 at the Taylor House in Jamaica Plain, playing original music by all three members. The sympathetic connection between them was obvious, and inspired them to keep performing and composing specifically for the group. Through a decade of performing each other’s music, that connection has deepened and is clearly manifested in this debut recording. Their original music places a great emphasis on melody, narrative, atmosphere, and interaction, blending together their distinct compositional voices. The versatility and imagination of their live performances have created a loyal following in the Boston area.​

1. Hope Suite Mvt. I Prelude (Leaving Room)
2. Hope Suite Mvt. II- The Hill We Climb
3. Hope Suite Mvt. III- The Loss We Carry
4. Hope Suite Mvt. IV- The Bridges We've Made
5. Hope Suite Mvt. V- The New Dawn Blooms
6. Oh My, What a Splendid Day!
7. Stride of Pride

"João Donato JID007" | Joao Donato, Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad | June 4 via Jazz Is Dead

Jazz Is Dead’s Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Collaborate with João Donato: An Innovator of Brazilian Bossa Nova, Jazz Fusion and Funk from the Golden Era

João Donato JID007,

Where’s João Donato? It’s a frequently asked question, referring simultaneously to the physical location and the musical moment he inhabits. A sampling of some of his more descriptive song titles suggests Donato’s comfort with musical hybrids: “Bluchanga,” “Sambolero,” and “Sambongo,” to name just a few. Lacking a formal genre for his style of music, Donato’s is a distinct sound, immediately recognizable from the first few bars of any of his compositions. He was funky back when “funk” was a bad word (listen to either of his 1960s Brazilian LPs, Sambou, Sambou and The New Sound if Brasil, for proof). His compositions are deceptively simple, while his arrangements are harmonically complex, revealing their intricate details upon repeat listening.

Today, Donato brings this flavor, now near synonymous with his name, to a new album in the Jazz Is Dead series with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Joāo Donato JID007. “Donato is one of the greatest Brazilian composers from that golden era. His signature style, simple melodies combined with colorful chordal progressions, establishes a new lane for Jazz Is Dead,” explains Younge. “João is one of the most innovative Brazilian jazz composers of the last century. Creating with and learning from this maestro was one of the greatest experiences of my career.”

On the first day of recording, João Donato was so flattered that to learn Younge and Muhammad had crafted some tunes for him to grace that on the second day, the maestro showed up to the studio with a composition in honor of his new musical partners: “Adrian, Ali and Gregory.” Gregory (aka Greg Paul) delivers an effortlessly buoyant rhythm to support Donato’s whimsical and wistful Fender Rhodes. Younge and Muhammad added the flute melody after the sessions, a perfect tribute and compliment to this master arranger, sweet and melancholic at the same time. 

Building off a sinister interlocking drum and bass pattern, Donato, Younge, Muhammad, Paul and vocalist Loren Oden, assemble a swaying and swirling tune with a romantic mantra, “Nāo Negue Seu Coraçāo,” which translates to “Don’t Deny Your Heart.” Aspirational saxophones dance among cascading monophonic synths, a churning Hammond B3 and cutting fuzz guitar while Donato’s subtle and slinky Fender Rhodes leads the way through the musical maelstrom. Delivered in Portuguese, Oden sings the song’s emotional energy into existence.
If Jon Lucien made a fusion album, it would have sounded something like “Forever More.” Oden’s vocals capture the longing and romanticism of the title, while the rhythm section harkens back to the last album Donato recorded in Los Angeles in 1970, a jazz fusion fore-runner full of pulsing polyrhythms and urgent melodies. “You guys made me like L.A. again,” Donato told Younge and Mohammad towards the end of his 2019 trip to record this album and perform at the Jazz Esta Morto series. 

João Donato deserves a place among the legends of Brazilian music, alongside Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Dorival Caymmi, Ary Barroso, and select few others. Ironically, his constant experimentation with different genres – the very essence of his greatness – make him a challenge to classify and perhaps held him back from becoming the household name some of his peers became. Asked how he would describe his own work, he says, “It’s my style of music, the way I think about [music]. I don’t even think about it, it’s just the way I do things. I don’t know if it even has a name.”

Donato has finally received long overdue accolades for his contributions to date. An archetypal “musician’s musician,” Donato’s stepped out of the shadows more recently, recording at an unprecedented rate and collaborating with a variety of musicians, from Brazil and beyond, old and young. Still going strong at over eighty years old, the late praise and recognition is finally coming for the artist who Claus Ogerman offered to arrange an album, who Antonio Carlos Jobim called a genius, and who no other than João Gilberto claims invented the bossa nova beat.

“Has the day unfolded without a smile landing on you? Then follow the road to a João Donato song, you are sure to find one there,” says Muhammad. “João, one of the founding fathers of bossa nova has opened his magical melodious spirit to us here at Jazz Is Dead. Together we found beleza na música.”

Mark Shippy & Alex Cunningham - Ghost Note (June 4, 2021 Personal Archives)

Ghost Note is an inspired duo exchange between guitarist Mark Shippy and violinist Alex Cunningham. Their first recorded collaboration, Ghost Note is alternately dense and spacious, a free improv gut punch from two artists from different generations, steeped in DIY tradition and established in New Music circles.

Shippy is best known for his work with deconstructionist underground legends U.S. Maple. His idiosyncratic approach to the instrument has influenced a generation of avant-rock musicians. Mark began his career in noise rock groups Snailboy and Shorty, which evolved into U.S. Maple. He was a member of Invisible Things and Miracle Condition, and played in Marnie Stern’s touring band. Recent endeavors include trio recordings with Ben Billington (Tiger Hatchery, Quicksails) and guitarist Daniel Wyche, as well as myriad other collaborative ensembles.

Cunningham has quickly risen to prominence among the free improv cognoscenti. Combining academic acumen with a DIY ethos, his virtuosity is augmented by emotion and intensity. Alex collaborated with Claire Rousay for a release on esteemed label Astral Spirits, and was a member of Vernacular String Trio. He is also one-half of Apathist!, with Chris Trull (Grand Ulena, Yowie), and has recorded with Lisa Cameron & Damon Smith.

1. Please Stand Here
2. One Way Stairs
3. Avoid Closet
4. Clear Walkway

Mark Shippy - guitar
Alex Cunningham - violin

Recorded and mastered by Ryan Wasoba
Artwork by Jeremy Kannapell
Layout by Josh Levi

سم [ISM] - Japanese Flower (June 4, 2021 Umlaut Records)

To follow up on their first album Nature in its inscrutability strikes back (Umlaut Records 2015), the unclassifiable European trio سم [ISM] is releasing two new recordings captured during a studio session in Tokyo in November 2018. The first part titled Metaphor was released on CD in the spring of 2019 while the second installment - the LP Japanese Flower - will be available in June 2021.

In this dense and adventurous diptych, the rhythm section of the group أحمد [Ahmed] exposes and propels music populated by sound fictions that pulverise the listening habits of the jazz trio format. Sometimes polyphonic, meditative, pulsed and repetitive, abstract or hypnotic, the music of سم [ISM] is crude, direct, labyrinthine, always rooted in an immediate sound mattere — as consisting of abrupt breaks and renewed continuities. Like the floral compositions of the Ikebana artist Junichi Kakizaki, this music can be listened to « like a flower » and step by step unveils a secret unity where the work of improvisation intensifies each of its moments.

[ISM] is a name written in ink. A dash through European creative music. A round trip, Berlin – Oxford, via Paris. اسم [ISM] is Pat, Joel and Antonin in a dotted silence without name. Acoustically, the trio creates abstract forms close of written contemporary music with sounds reminding us of ancient traditional jazz trios. The groove wich appears in this music is dense, extreme but always quiet. Music in a continuous flow of high voltage charges. In Arabic, اسم [ISM] is a way to connect between different cultural and imaginary worlds. اسم [ISM] is an Arabic word, which means The Name.

1. Dahlia
2. Tomato
3. Tomato EXCERPT

all music by Pat Thomas, Joel Grip and Antonin Gerbal
recorded 23 november 2018 at Knuttel House Tokyo by Taku Unami
remixed and mastered by Taku Unami
floral art on cover and liner notes by Junichi Kakizaki
photo by Joji Okamoto
design by Takashi Nagata
produced by Antonin Gerbal and Joel Grip

Dexter Gordon Quartet - Swiss Radio Days (June 4 , 2021 Challenge Records)

In Willisau in 1978, Dexter is in a very happy period. Columbia signs the prodigal tenor resulting in the significant successes “Sophisticated Giant” and “Manhattan Symphony”, together with a rhythm section that Dexter then tours on club stages across the country. From this rich and sustained collaboration is born an incomparable musical osmosis, which makes the saxophonist's quartet of that time an authentic musical ark. It’s consequently this group, exquisitely road tight and brimming with desire to play, which arrives in Willisau in 1978, a year which sees Dexter awarded “Musician of the Year” by Down Beat magazine, and two years before being inducted into the renowned “Jazz Hall of Fame”. And since Dexter is not the type to let the flow of music unfold without fueling it with endless proposals for his partners, he knows he can rely on and lean luxuriously on the Cables – Reid – Gladden triplets, a trio synonymous with 24-karat! And if we had a mini-doubt concerning the pleasure that Dexter takes playing that night, we only have to let ourselves be carried away by his muscular and intoxicating dialogue, which is particularly riddled with famous quotes, as enjoyable as they are occasionally unexpected. Like the boppers, Dexter has always adored the nod granted by a well-placed melodic quote, which he uses either in relation to a neighboring harmonic sequence which lends itself to it, or in a textual relation with the lyrics of the song he quotes! For the repertoire of the day’s concert, our favorite tenor takes no prisoners! It's meat from start to finish, with themes that are practically tattooed on the soul of this exceptional performer. 

1. On Green Dolphin Street 15:32
2. The Jumpin' Blues 09:35
3. Hi-Fly 14:06
4. Old Folks 16:29
5. Strollin' 15:07

Recorded live at Hotel Mohren, Willisau, March 4, 1978
Recording engineer: Walter Troxler
Digital editing & mastering: Blaise Favre