Thursday, June 10, 2021

Birgit Minichmayr - As An Unperfect Actor (Nine Shakespeare Sonnets) 2021 ACT Music

Birgit Minichmayr captures the imagination and holds centre-stage on “As An Unperfect Actor – Nine Sonnets by William Shakespeare”. This won’t come as a surprise to peop-le in the German-speaking world, where the Austrian actor is well-known from countless appearances on TV and a substan-tial filmography. Perhaps equally unsurprising is the deep expe-rience she can bring to Shakespeare: as an ensemble member of the Burgtheater company in Vienna, she has repeatedly lived out the searingly dramatic lives of the Bard’s characters, no-tably the daemonic anger of Lady Macbeth, the sadness of Ophelia, and even the uncomfortable truths of the Fool in King Lear.

What might be more of a surprise, however, is the exhila-rating musicality she shows on this, her first complete album as a vocalist. One could have predicted the crystal clarity, mean-ing and intent in her words – the desolation in her voice in “the very birds are mute...the leaves look pale” in Sonnet 97, for example. And yet there is more, much more, not least Minich-mayr’s uncannily natural instinct to find artful and felicitous ways to shape musical phrases.

Composer/ pianist Bernd Lhotzky has provided her with a wonderful array of musical contexts. As Minich-mayr says: “He got so deep into the meaning of each sonnet, his music made it different every time. And we talked a lot about the colour, the meaning of each poem.” The opening track, “Mistress Mine”, Sonnet 130 is a masterfully deft piece of gender-fluid irony. In the poem, a man is describing possibly the ugliest woman he has ever seen – while also declaring that she is the one he loves. Lhotzky gives us an acerbic version in that most male-led of dances, the tango, complete with bando-neon, in which the words are sung by...a woman. Minichmayr then gives a masterclass in how to end a song as she hits, holds and nails the words “false compare” with triumphant fearlessness.
Throughout the course of the album, we are magically transported to new musical and emotional places. As Minichmayr says: “Through singing, through just doing it, I was able to find deep love, or deep sadness. I was really touched by it.” We are straight into the elegiac world of “Sin Of Self-Love”, or into world-weariness, tinged with an unmistakable irritation, of “Tired With All These”. And then, unforgettably, we land in the major-key contentment of “Mine Eye Hath Played The Painter”.

One of the secrets to this album’s success is Lhotzky’s wish to find melodies which have a certain ease and straightforwardness about them. He says that he approa-ches all music – whether he is listening to it or writing it – with one simple and direct question: “What story is this telling me?” Lhotzky is known for his work in the field of early jazz, but the range here is far broader, with allusions to examples of fine songwriting: Brassens, Robert Plant, James Taylor...

The collaboration between Minichmayr and Lhotzky had a very propitious start and has gone from strength to strength. They were invited to work together on a Dorothy Parker project in the Austrian spa town of Bad Schallerbach in the summer of 2019. Minichmayr had been booked to do rea-dings, but was also keen to sing...Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” with its reference to Dorothy Parker in the first line. That worked out so well, it led Lhotzky to suggest a Shakespeare project to her which he had already embarked upon – it has been briefly glimpsed already on ACT, on one track of “Winter at Schloss Elmau”.
The instrumentalists are a Munich based group named Quadro Nuevo, with Philipp Schiepek’s contribution a stand-out. As Lhotzky says: “He’s a phenomenal guitarist, and really young. With his acoustic guitar he brings us back to the origins, to Dowland's songs with lute. And the fact that he also plays electric jazz guitar provides a connecting link across the centuries.” And then there is bassist D.D. Lowka’s large-scale Charlie Haden-ish bass sound. “D.D. and Philipp are a dream team,” says Lhotzky. And reedsman Mulo Francel brings a whole range of colours from luscious contrabass clarinet to fluent jazz soloing on saxophones. Accordionist Andreas Hinterseher? “He’s just a phenomenon,” says Lhotz-ky, “he hardly said a thing in the sessions, but every take was perfect.” Bernd Lhotzky's piano playing, for example as he sets the scene for "Let not to the marriage" has a deliciously under-stated and laid-back eloquence and elegance.

Bernd Lhotzky’s kaleidoscopic musical vision and Birgit Minichmayr’s instinct for mood-setting have combined triumphantly in “As An Unperfect Actor”. In this “perfect ceremony of love’s rite,” they never seem to run out of joyous surprises for the listener.

1. My Mistress’ Eyes - Sonnet No. 130 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)04:39
2. When In Disgrace - Sonnet No. 29 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)04:43
3. Tired With All These - Sonnet No. 66 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)03:16
4. When Most I Wink - Sonnet No. 43 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)03:33
5. Sin Of Self-Love - Sonnet No. 62 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)05:26
6. As An Unperfect Actor - Sonnet No. 23 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)05:40
7. Mine Eye Hath Played The Painter - Sonnet No. 24 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)04:38
8. Let Me Not To The Marriage Of True Minds - Sonnet No. 116 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)04:43
9. How Like A Winter - Sonnet No. 97 ( Bernd Lhotzky / William Shakespeare)05:22

Birgit Minichmayr / vocals
Bernd Lhotzky / piano & musical director
Mulo Francel / tenor sax, clarinet, double-bass clarinet & sansula
Andreas Hinterseher / accordion, bandoneon, vibrandoneon
Philipp Schiepek / guitar
D.D. Lowka / double bass & percussion

Nine Sonnets by William Shakespeare
All songs composed and arranged by Bernd Lhotzky

Recorded by Stefan Gienger at Mastermixstudio, Munich
January 29th and 30th, 2021
Mixed & mastered by Stefan Gienger
Produced by Bernd Lhotzky
Executive Producer: Siggi Loch
Cover photo by Sascha Kletzsch
Photo Birgit Minichmayr © Tomas Dashuber

June 13: Pianist/composer Lafayette Gilchrist headlines virtual benefit concert

Baltimore pianist/composer Lafayette Gilchrist headlines Spring Jazz Brunch benefiting hospice services in Baltimore 

Virtual event will be held on Sunday, June 13

The brunch also features Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids

Gilchrist, Maryland’s largest provider of serious illness and end-of-life care, will hold its fifth annual Spring Jazz Brunch on Sunday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. The event will benefit Gilchrist’s Baltimore City inpatient hospice center. The Jazz Brunch will feature acclaimed Baltimore-based jazz pianist and composer Lafayette Gilchrist, whose compositions have graced the soundtracks of David Simon's acclaimed series The Wire, The Deuce and Treme. (Lafayette Gilchrist is not affiliated with Gilchrist, the organization). The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids will also perform. To learn more and register for the Spring Jazz Brunch benefiting Gilchrist Center Baltimore, visit
The event, held virtually this year, will include a brunch delivery from the Classic Catering People for those who purchase tickets. A free option is available without brunch. Proceeds from the event will help provide inpatient and residential hospice care at Gilchrist Center Baltimore for adults and children at the end of life. Gilchrist offers services to anyone in need, including low-income, uninsured and homeless city residents. The facility is the only residential hospice center in Baltimore and houses the only pediatric inpatient hospice unit in Maryland.
“Gilchrist’s Jazz Brunch brings together the sounds and tastes of Baltimore with those who care about helping our city’s most vulnerable,” said Catherine Hamel, president of Gilchrist. “It’s a wonderful cause, and Gilchrist is committed to ensuring that every city resident who needs care and support at the end of life is able to receive it, regardless of ability to pay.”
Gilchrist will relocate its Baltimore City inpatient facility later this year to a new center at Stadium Place on East 33rd Street, the former site of Memorial Stadium. Currently under construction, the new 30,000 square-foot Gilchrist Center Baltimore, situated on 1.5 acres, will contain 18 private adult and four pediatric suites for inpatient residential hospice and respite care. The center will continue Gilchrist’s 30-year legacy of providing end-of-life care for city residents.

Lars Danielsson Liberetto - Cloudland (2021 ACT Music)

When it comes to delivering up music with dreamy melodies, dense atmospherics, and folk music conversational stylings, Lars Danielsson does not disappoint. The Swedish double bassist is joined on this new-school Euro-jazz session by pianist Grégory Privat, guitarist John Parricelli, drummer Magnus Öström and guest trumpeter Arve Henriksen, and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh. Sometimes, the music generates an engaging dialogue; other times, it ranges into daydream territory. But it always radiates a friendly warmth and music like a welcoming smile.

We’ll end this month’s column with a shout-out for some older music.

1. Vildmark 01:12
2. Lars Danielsson feat. Arve Henriksen & Arve Henriksen - Cloudland 04:34
3. The Fifth Grade 05:37
4. Nikita's Dream 04:40
5. Lars Danielsson feat. Arve Henriksen & Arve Henriksen - Tango Magnifique 03:53
6. Lars Danielsson feat. Kinan Azmeh & Kinan Azmeh - Desert of Catanga 06:17
7. River of Little 03:22
8. Lars Danielsson feat. Arve Henriksen & Arve Henriksen - Yes to You 03:35
9. Lars Danielsson feat. Kinan Azmeh & Kinan Azmeh - Intermezzo 01:58
10. Villstad 04:12
11. Lars Danielsson feat. Arve Henriksen & Kinan Azmeh & Arve Henriksen & Kinan Azmeh - Sacred Mind 05:02
12. Imagine Joao 03:41

Hemai - Strange Beauty (Deluxe Edition) 2021 Tru Thoughts

“Fretless bass and splashy synths… Don’t mind if I do!” Lauren Laverne (BBC 6Music)

“This is something special. It’s like Jazz from Mars” Jack Saunders (BBC Radio 1)

“Amazing stuff....I really do love that.” Tony Minvielle (Jazz FM)

“Amazing!” Papaoul (Worldwide FM)

“The Birmingham maestro has lit a fire in the UK jazz underground” Clash Magazine

‘Strange Beauty’ is the debut album from producer and multi-instrumentalist Hemai. A collection of stories of the love, spirit and balance of the universe, the hotly tipped 22-year-old experiments with the idea of movement and the present, bringing together some of his favourite sounds from around the world and melding them with his UK roots.

The release follows previous singles “Relight feat. Laura Roy & Woddy Green” which plays with shifts in tempo to accentuate the hidden depths of the track; Japanese Bossa Nova inspired “Noa Noa feat. Emilia Anastazja”; and the mystical and uplifting “Love Dancer feat. FiFi Robo”.

The vivid and visceral world of ‘Strange Beauty’ is unearthed with opener “We Could Be Jaded feat. Layfullstop”. From the first notes of Melbourne-based musician Erica Tucceri’s flute, the electric warmth of the LP is ignited; “the arrangement takes the shape of the horizon”, Hemai explains. Though indicating the beginning of a journey, the track embraces the importance of being grounded in the present, enticing the listener into the experience of Hemai’s ‘Strange Beauty’.

Hemai utilises the elements around him as a driving force throughout the LP. From the imagery of a beautiful sky on “Awake Indigo feat. Ruby Wood” – a song born out of his love for music that makes you dance, featuring the Submotion Orchestra vocalist – to the beach and coastal ideas that inspire the freedom and boundless instrumental tracks “When Day Breaks” and “Gone Fishing”, the release radiates the joy and spirit that only the natural world can provide.

This Deluxe Edition of 'Strange Beauty' is exclusive to Bandcamp and includes an extra 8 Instrumental versions. 

1. We Could Be Jaded feat. Layfullstop 04:07
2. Vertigo feat. Wallace 04:29
3. Noa Noa feat. Emilia Anastazja 04:08
4. Love Dancer feat. FiFi Robo 06:36
5. Awake Indigo feat. Ruby Wood 04:23
6. When Day Breaks 03:26
7. Bandit's Pockets feat. FiFi Robo 05:10
8. Brother's Shuffle feat. Maralisa 05:12
9. Relight feat. Laura Roy & Woddy Green 04:21
10. Gone Surfing 03:14
11. We Could Be Jaded (Instrumental) 04:07
12. Vertigo (Instrumental) 04:29
13. Noa Noa (Instrumental) 04:08
14. Love Dancer (Instrumental) 06:36
15. Awake Indigo (Instrumental) 04:22
16. Bandit's Pockets (Instrumental) 05:10
17. Brother's Shuffle (Instrumental) 05:12
18. Relight (Instrumental) 04:21

Synthesis - Ostrov (June 10, 2021 SJF Records)

1. Jano Janovice 05:19
2. Ostrovo 06:31
3. Moma Katerina 04:55
4. Filka moma (feat. Vlatko Stefanovski) 06:07
5. Dima ljubit samovila 04:39
6. Sadila Jana 05:51
7. Smiljana mi se armasa (feat. Vlatko Stefanovski) 04:46

Goce Dimovski - kaval, gaida, zurla
Vane Jovcev - piano
Marjan Jovanovski - tambura
Goce Uzunski - tapan, tarabuka
Radoslav Shutevski - drums
Mirjana Majnova - vocals
Biljana Stojanovska - vocals
Aneta Velkoska - vocals
Goran Geshovski - bass

Special guest: Vlatko Stefanovski - guitar (4, 7)

All music traditional arranged by Synthesis
except track 2 composed and arranged by Synthesis

Produced by Synthesis and Angel Kjosev
Recorded and mixed by Angel Kjosev, studio Podrumot
Executive producer: Oliver Belopeta
Design and layout: Ivan Durgutovski

Art Lillard / Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet - Forgotten Wish (June 2021)

Originally recorded in 1984 in New York City, this becomes the earliest recorded release of mine. All original music by myself and Art Lillard featuring Billy Drewes on saxophones and Keiichi Ishibashi on bass.

1. Dedication 06:14
2. Idle Wisdom 05:43
3. Forgotten Wish 06:58
4. Invocation 07:25
5. Waltz Whitman 05:45
6. Sin City Shame 04:02
7. It's Soon 04:38
8. Today, This Moment 18:07
9. Red's Blues 05:33

Greg Burk - Simple Joys (June 28, 2021 Tonos Records)

Recorded one week before the lock down of 2019, this recording is a celebration of melody, groove and the simple joys that music brings.

"Simple Joys" is the debut recording of pianist Greg Burk's quintet featuring:

Greg Burk - piano, fender rhodes
Daniele Tittarelli - alto and soprano saxophones
Andrea Molinari - guitar
Jacopo Ferrazza - bass
Reinaldo Santiago - acoustic and electronic drums

1. Simple Joys
2. Morning Ashes
3. Every Little Thing
4. All At Once
5. Big Bird
6. Violet
7. Take Me Away
8. Tomorrow is Today
9. Sequoia Song