Friday, June 18, 2021

Alex Conde Reimagines Bud Powell on 'DESCARGA FOR BUD' via SedaJazz

Pianist Alex Conde Reimagines Bud Powell Through a Flamenco Lens on Descarga for Bud

New Album via Sedajazz

Descarga for Bud is the exhilarating new album from Spanish pianist and bandleader Alex Conde. A bold reimagining of compositions by one of jazz’s most enigmatic figures, Bud Powell, this illuminating 9-track set uses these bebop landmarks as blueprints for an exciting fusion of Caribbean and Iberoamerican musical lore. Available everywhere on May 28, 2021 via Spanish label Sedajazz, Descarga for Bud is the second installment in Conde’s Descargas series, the first of which was his widely-acclaimed 2015 release Descarga for Monk (Zoho). 

For over a decade, pianist Alex Conde has maintained a fruitful and versatile career as a bandleader and composer. His dazzling technique and unique musical presentation has brought him to some of the most prestigious stages in jazz. Revered critic Raul da Gama says “[Conde] is a pianist whose music is sustained by the fecundity of his Spanish roots. Through it all, Mr. Conde is absolutely thrilling.” On record, Conde has cemented a reputation as an accomplished performer with an astute approach to unifying Latin jazz with music traditions from his native Spain. His adventurous tribute to iconoclast Thelonious Monk, Descarga for Monk, received unanimous praise, as did his 2018 release with Ropeadope, Origins, which explored the roots of Afro-Cuban music and jazz from a flamenco perspective. With Descarga for Bud, Conde reunites with multi-Grammy nominated percussionist John Santos and acclaimed bassist Jeff Chambers, and adds drummer Colin Douglas to the mix. These seasoned and versatile players beautifully adapt to Conde’s astute arrangements of Powell’s compositions.
On tracks such as “Oblivion”, “Parisian Thoroughfare” and the time-tested “Bouncing with Bud”, Conde’s arrangements revolve around traditional flamenco forms such as Bulerías or Soleá, on which he employs the talents of fellow countrymen Sergio Martínez on cajón and claps and flamenco guitarist Jose Luis de la Paz. Paz’s unique contributions bridge the aesthetics of both bebop and flamenco music in a particularly astounding and affecting way. The album also features Mike Olmos on trumpet who effortlessly lays bona-fide bebop lines over the bulerías arrangement of “The Fruit” and the complex and brisk “Tempus Fugit”. “Hallucinations” leans toward the classic Latin jazz idiom, while the rhapsodic melody of “Wail” is played as a joyous calypso with Jeff Narrell doubling the melody on steel pan. 

In his liner notes for Descarga for Bud, Grammy nominee Julio Martí declares, “[this album] is his best work to date. Alex makes the musical universe of this bebop genius his own, and adds to it a rhythmical richness, that is at the same time sophisticated and very refreshing.” 

Throughout this brilliant new release, Alex Conde demonstrates his incredible prowess as a pianist, taking inspired solos and skillfully supporting his bandmates. In his acknowledgement notes he dedicates this album to the fathers of jazz, the black American composers who created this music and who he has admired since an early age. Desacarga for Bud is a loving tribute to one of the architects of jazz, one which explores the massive stylistic potential of Powell’s oeuvre. 
Alex Conde is a highly acclaimed pianist from Valencia, Spain. He graduated from the Conservatorio Jose Iturbi in Valencia before graduating from Berklee College of Music in the mid-2000’s; he subsequently received his Masters in Jazz Piano from Queens College in New York City. 

Conde has performed at esteemed venues throughout the United States and abroad, ranging from the Blue Note in New York City to the Panama Jazz Festival. He has collaborated with flamenco companies such as Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco (with whom Conde was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award in 2012) and the New York Flamenco Festival, among others. He is the director of the Piano Flamenco Institute in New York City. 

His discography includes five albums as a leader: Jazz and Claps [Matt Music 2006], Barrio del Carmen [2013 AC records], Descarga for Monk (2015, Zoho), Origins (2018, Ropeadope) and now, Descarga for Bud [2021, SR]. All of Conde’s works twist jazz and flamenco piano in the form of original music and/or new arrangements.

Conde has composed music for orchestras such as the Miami Chamber Orchestra with violinist Federico Britos and guitarist Jose Luis de la Paz; the Oakland Symphony Orchestra in California, directed by Omid Zoufonoun; and his arrangements of Franz Schubert have been performed at the Symphony Space and at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.

Alex has shared stage with artists such as Vicente Amigo, John Patitucci, Eddie Palmieri, Tomatito and Diego el Cigala, among others at national and international festivals.

1) The Fruit (Bulería) (7:35)
2) Oblivion (Tangos) (6:53)
3) Bouncing with Bud (Alegría) (7:11)
4) Dusk in Saudi (Soleá) (5:30)
5) Wail (Calypso) (4:17)
6) Parisian Thoroughfare (Bulería al golpe) (5:59)
7) Hallucinations (Latin/Jazz) (5:38)
8) Tempus Fugit (Rumba) (3:40)
9) Celia (Bulería) (5:57)

All music composed by Bud Powell 

Alex Conde, Piano/arrangements
John Santos, Congas, Bongos on tracks (2, 5, 7, 8)
Jeff Chambers (Double bass)
Sergio Martínez (Cajon & djembe on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 9)
Mike Olmos (Trumpet on tracks 1 & 8)
Jeff Narell (Steel pan on track 5)
Jose Luis de la Paz (Guitar on track 2 & 6)

Produced by Ricky Fataar
Co-Produced by Denny Abrams 
Label: Sedajazz SJ107

The Mark Masters Ensemble – Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster (June 18, 2021 via Capri Records)

Arranger/Bandleader Mark Masters enlists Duke Ellington Orchestra veteran Art Baron to reimagine the music of the iconic bandleader’s most revered era
Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster, due out June 18, 2021 via Capri Records, transforms Ellington classics through a contemporary lens with Masters’ virtuosic ensemble and special guest trumpeter Tim Hagans
"Mark Masters is an accomplished arranger who comes up with hip, unusual ideas for jazz concerts and recordings."
– Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes
“Masters paints complex, intricate, detailed jazz landscapes, and he has always invited some of the most adventurous and innovative players into his ensemble.”
 – Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Duke Ellington was one of the most iconic and influential composers in the history of jazz, crafting indelible music that continues to be revered and revived to this day. Arguably the pinnacle of his artistry occurred between 1940 and 1942, when his revered Orchestra featured the groundbreaking bassist Jimmie Blanton and the tenor saxophone master Ben Webster. For a genius composer who famously wrote for musicians rather than instruments, this era of the Duke Ellington Orchestra – now known as the Blanton-Webster Band – proved especially inspirational to both Ellington and his frequent collaborator, composer Billy Strayhorn.
That inspiration is carried forward by the brilliant arranger and bandleader Mark Masters, who revisits the music of the Blanton-Webster Band on his latest album, reimagining these classic compositions with his own unique interpretation. In addition to his own virtuosic Mark Masters Ensemble, the project spotlights the legendary Art Baron, the last trombonist hired by Ellington himself in 1973. Baron occupied the plunger trombone chair, a standout element of the Ellington Orchestra, for the final year of the bandleader’s life, and continued with the band under the baton of the founder’s son, Mercer Ellington.
Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster, due out June 18, 2021 via Capri Records, is a generation-spanning summit meeting that offers a fresh perspective on some of jazz’s greatest compositions. In contrast to Baron’s direct link to Ellington’s storied past, special guest Tim Hagans adds a decidedly contemporary twist with his bold, modernist approach to the trumpet.
The Mark Masters Ensemble brings together a supremely gifted group of musicians to conjure Masters’ distinctive palette: four saxophones (Kirsten Edkins and Jerry Pinter splitting Webster’s tenor duties along with Danny House on alto and clarinet and Adam Schroeder on baritone); three trumpets in addition to Hagans (Scott Englebright, Les Lovitt and Ron Stout); trombonists Les Benedict and Dave Woodley alongside Baron; bassist Bruce Lett filling Blanton’s role; and drummer Mark Ferber.
“All eras of Ellington interest me,” Masters says. “But the Blanton-Webster Band represents a really remarkable period of time. Jimmie Blanton is credited with revolutionizing the role of the bass in the jazz orchestra, making it a melodic contributor instead of just keeping time and laying out basic harmony. And Ben Webster was quite simply a giant. It just so happened that the two of them were in the band at the same time, and then you add all the great Ellington and Strayhorn compositions to that.”

The project’s inception can be traced back to 2013, when Masters invited Baron to perform at an Ellington Brass Encounters concert in Southern California. “Art is one of a kind as a player and as a person,” Masters explains. “He’s a great student of the music and knows all the history, plus he’s an original with a unique sound. It was a joy to be able to craft my writing specifically for him and that plunger mute specialty.”
Hagans’ inventive sound introduces a singular element all its own to several pieces, including a stunning muted solo on Masters’ deconstructed “Take the ‘A’ Train.” As Masters describes, “Tim is another one of a kind. I’ve introduced him at concerts as ‘an improviser who has created his own language,’ and there aren't many people that do that. His language is so unique, and I thought it would be interesting to include an element that you wouldn't normally associate with Ellington.”
The material on Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster include some of the most familiar and oft-revisited titles in the Ellington-Strayhorn canon, including “Ko-Ko,” “In a Mellotone,” “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” “I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” and of course, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” among others. Discovering a new angle on such well-worn repertoire might prove daunting to most arrangers; but for Masters, who specializes in recomposing music – taking the composition as raw material to be reworked to sometimes unrecognizable degrees – the familiarity proved freeing. In many cases his transformations required only the most tenuous resemblance to the originals in order to evoke their spirit while becoming an entirely new piece of music.
“All of the tunes are so well known that there would be no point in just going ahead and doing another arrangement of, say, ‘Take the ‘A’ Train,” he says. “I feel like I left enough that people can hear the tunes, but recomposed them enough to make them something of my own and something worth recording again. These classic Ellington compositions have been recorded countless times over the last 25 years, and some people don't want to touch them because they are such classics. But I always want to use the source material to do something dramatically different.”
Mark Masters
Long recognized as one of the great jazz arrangers of the last few decades, Mark Masters formed his first ensemble in 1982. He’s gone on to found the non-profit American Jazz Institute and has recorded tributes to Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Dewey Redman and other greats. The vehicle for his transformative orchestrations, The Mark Masters Ensemble, has featured some of the music’s most revered performers, including Billy Harper, Tim Hagans, Gary Smulyan, Peter Erskine, Steve Kuhn, Ray Drummond and Oliver Lake. His most recent album, Night Talk, delved deep into the catalogue of composer Alex Wilder, whose sophisticated approach blended jazz, classical and American popular song influences. Prior to that Masters reimagined works by Gerry Mulligan and Charles Mingus on 2017’s acclaimed Blue Skylight and assembled an all-star band of creative musicians to perform his own original works for Our Métier (2018). He has been named a Rising Star Arranger in the annual DownBeat Magazine Critics Poll on numerous occasions.

All Too Soon
Duke's Place
I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)
A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing
What Am I Here For?
Jack The Bear
Passion Flower
The The 'A' Train
Introduction To A Mellotone

Kirsten Edkins, Jerry Pinter (tenor and soprano saxes)
Danny House (alto saxophone and clarinet)
Adam Schroeder (baritone saxophone)
Scott Englebright, Les Lovitt, Ron Stout, Tim Hagans (trumpet)
Les Benedict, Dave Woodley, Art Baron (trombone)
Bruse Lett (bass)
Mark Ferber (drums)

The Mark Masters Ensemble – Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster
Capri Records – Capri 74166 – Recorded Oct. 7–8, 2019
Release date June 18, 2021

Barton Think - My Last Album (June 18, 2021 Time Is The Enemy)

For fans of Everything is Recorded, Madlib, Children of Zeus, D’Angelo, Ezra Collective, Four Tet, Loyle Carner, Massive Attack

Jazz:Re:Found's Label Unearth Debut Album From Anonymous Producer Barton Think

‘My Last Album’ features guest spots from Colonel Red, Denitia, Dynamite MC, Monk, Krystal Hardwick and Christopher Ghidoni

It marks the second release on Jazz:Re:Found Festival-affiliated label, Time Is The Enemy

The Album:
For months now, Time Is The Enemy has been on the trail of enigmatic artist Barton Think. Apparently he has been around the music business for decades, but oddly enough, he has left only a few traces of his presence. Like a skilled alchemist, Barton Think combines soulful beats and jazzy downtempo into a unique sound that takes those genres into bold new territories.

They Say:
“We discovered this enigmatic producer from Austin, Texas, through intensive digging and thanks to helpful advice from Colonel Red – an old friend of Jazz:Re:Found and one of the most appreciated voices in the UK.

Barton Think’s identity is still unclear, but this bizarre producer has an incredible music knowledge, as the unreleased gems that we unearthed clearly show.

We found some interesting sources within the Reddit community. Everything remains shrouded in mystery, but we believe Barton Think will be a really crazy and compelling story to delve into.”
Denis Longhi (Art Director)

“I think this record perfectly represents the soul of both Time is The Enemy and the Jazz:Re:Found festival. It’s not an avant-garde record, and Barton Think is not a child of the times. Rather, he is a father of the times; an artist who doesn’t need special effects to amaze the listener and doesn’t follow the fashions of the day. His fascinating music, at once retro and visionary, makes him an artist worth discovering and exploring, including with regard to the mystery of his identity.”
Khalab (Producer)

‘My Last Album’ Tracklist:

1. ‘Dreamin’ (Intro)’
2. ‘Beautiful Place’ (feat. Colonel Red & Dynamite MC)
3. ‘In The Dark’ (feat. Denitia)
4. ‘Everything I Need’ - (feat. Dynamite MC)
5. ‘Umatilla’
6. ‘Voices’ - (feat. Colonel Red)
7. ‘The Big Thing (Interlude)’
8. ‘Inuit Sunset’ (feat. Monk)
9. ‘I Can’t See’
10. ‘Human Family - Maya Angelou Tribute’
11. ‘Grey And Green’
12. ‘You (Rework)’ (feat. Christopher Ghidoni)
13. ‘Another Soft Message’ (feat. Krystal Hardwick)

Music: Barton Think
Master: Cristian Milani & Calyx Studio
Artwork: Unknown
Label: Time Is The Enemy

About Time Is The Enemy:
Time Is The Enemy is a brand new independent label, based in Italy, connected to the effervescent scene, which is growing across the country thanks to new amazing artists and aware actors in the music business who are breaking down bpm and gender barriers. Time Is The Enemy will deal with jazz, hip hop, disco and electronic music, enhancing emerging talents, taking care of retrospectives and collections of underdog authors, and selecting the best international producers representing timeless sounds.

Dal 18 giugno: Santuario di Javier Girotto e Vince Abbracciante (Dodicilune / Ird)

Prodotto da Dodicilune, distribuito in Italia e all’estero da Ird e nei migliori store on line da Believe, venerdì 18 giugno esce “Santuario”, primo progetto discografico del duo composto da Javier Girotto e Vince Abbracciante. Il disco propone undici composizioni originali del saxofonista argentino (“Santuario degli animali”, “Fugorona”, “Trama della Natura”, “2 de Abril”, “Aramboty”) e del fisarmonicista pugliese (“Ninar”, “En Mi”, “Fuga a Sud”, “Pango”, “Impressioni di Puglia” e “Soprano”) e la rilettura de “L'ultima chance” di Luis Bacalov, tema principale della colonna sonora dell’omonimo film di Maurizio Lucidi.

Non è certo la prima volta che il jazz e le tradizioni argentine s’innamorano fino a finire in un abbraccio vigoroso, simile a un tango impetuoso e improvviso. Non è neanche la prima volta che la fisarmonica, strumento popolare (se si può dire) che porta nel suo corpo l’eco di un misto di tutti i folclori del mondo, s’imbaldanzisce per uscire con delizia dal suo universo tradizionale. Ma Abbracciante e Girotto (che alterna sax soprano e bariton e il flauto delle Ande), lirici e molto melodici, cercando sempre conversazioni intimiste con i loro strumenti, hanno la sensibilità e il talento di alzare questo esercizio di “stile” al più alto grado di compimento estetico e di poesia sentimentale. Insieme dal 2015, i due artisti propongono una musica originale, regalando “nuovi ponti tra il jazz, il folclore, il tango”, improvvisazione libera e scrittura neoclassica con stralci malinconici e passionali, raffinatezza espressiva del loro universo musicale che si rivolge tanto all’anima quanto al pensiero introspettivo. 

Il disco sarà presentato ufficialmente venerdì 18 giugno (ore 22 - info e prenotazioni al Trabucco da Mimì di Peschici, in provincia di Foggia.
Classe 1965, Javier Girotto nasce a Cordoba e ha la banda nel cuore grazie alla passione tramandata dal nonno materno. Inizia suonando il rullante, il clarinetto piccolo fino ad app rodare al sax e, dopo pochi anni al jazz, anche grazie a una borsa di studio del Berklee College of Music. Dopo l’esperienza negli Stati Uniti, dove segue le lezioni di Joseph Viola, George Garzone, Hall Crook e Jerry Bergonzi e impara “il mestiere”, suonando con Danilo Perez, George Garzone, Hall Crook, Bob Moses, Herb Pomeroy e tanti altri musicisti, a 25 anni arriva in Italia sulle tracce della sua famiglia di origini pugliesi. Tantissime le sue esperienze e le sue collaborazioni. Il suo progetto più longevo è sicuramente Aires Tango con Alessandro Gwis al pianoforte, Marco Siniscalco al basso e Michele Rabbia alla batteria e percussioni. Ha suonato e suona nei più importanti festival, teatri, rassegne e club in Italia e in giro per il mondo collaborando, tra gli altri, con Ralph Towner, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Paul Mc Candles, Paolo Fresu, Bob Moses, Danilo Rea, Michel Godard, Gianluigi Trovesi, Rita Marcotulli, Roberto Gatto, Nada, Stefano Bollani, Fabrizio Bosso, Enrico Rava, Nicola Piovani, Samuele Bersani e molti altri.
Classe 1983, originario di Ostuni, Vince Abbracciante, a otto anni intraprende gli studi musicali con il padre Franco. Diplomato in musica jazz al Conservatorio “Nino Rota” di Monopoli sotto la guida di Gianni Lenoci e laureato in fisarmonica classica con lode e menzione speciale al Conservatorio Egidio Romualdo Duni di Matera con Gian Vito Tannoia, ha frequentato master class, seminari, corsi. Si è esibito in festival e jazz club in tutto il mondo suonando con numerosi musicisti (Juini Booth, John Medeski, Richard Galliano, Marc Ribot, Javier Girotto, Gabriele Mirabassi, Flavio Boltro, Fabrizio Bosso, Peppe Servillo, Lucio Dalla, Ornella Vanoni, Heidi Vogel). Nel 2006 si avvicina anche alle tastiere vintage. Nel 2009 progetta insieme a Carlo Borsini un nuovo sistema per il cambio dei registri della fisarmonica, che perm ette di ampliare la gamma sonora del suo strumento. Ha scritto colonne sonore per i film del regista Gianni Torres e ha pubblicato vari cd con The Bumps (trio completato da Davide Penta e Antonio Di Lorenzo) e con Paola Arnesano (Tango!, 2012 e MPB, 2017). Dopo “Introducing”, nel quale è affiancato dal leggendario bassista newyorkese Juini Booth (2012, Bumps Records) ha pubblicato per l’etichetta Dodicilune i due cd “Sincretico” (2017) e “Terranima” feat. Gabriele Mirabassi (2019). Nella sua carriera ha conquistato numerosi premi nazionali e internazionali. Dal 2000 è testimonial delle fisarmoniche Borsini di Castelfidardo. Dal 2017 il calco della sua mano destra viene conservato presso il “Museo Internazionale delle Impronte dei Fisarmonicisti” di Recoaro Terme (VI). Nel 2021 ha vinto (ex aequo con Simone Zanchini) l'Orpheus Award nella categoria jazz. 
1 - Santuario degli animali
2 - Fugorona
3 - Ninar
4 - Trama della Natura
5 - En Mi
6 - 2 de Abril
7 - Fuga a Sud
8 - Pango
9 - Aramboty
10 - Impressioni di Puglia
11 - Soprano
12 - L'ultima chance

Le composizioni sono di Javier Girotto (1, 2, 4, 6, 9 - JP Records); Vince Abbracciante ( 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 - Dodicilune edizioni except 3 Art Communications; 5, 8 Musicomania); Luis Bacalov (12).

Javier Girotto - soprano/baritone saxophone, quena flute
Vince Abbracciante - accordion

Produced by Maurizio Bizzochetti, Gabriele Rampino, Dodicilune, Italy
Label manager Maurizio Bizzochetti (
Recorded 9, 10 Ottobre 2020 at Studio Sorriso, Bari, Italy
Mixed and mastered December 2020 at Studio Sorriso, Bari, Italy
Sound engineer Tommy Cavalieri
Cover photo (c) Muhd Fuad Abd Rahim 

Rosie Turton - Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II (June 18, 2021)

Rosie Turton is delighted to announce the release of her new EP, Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II.

It follows the release of the trombonist’s debut LP Rosie’s 5ive (Jazz re:freshed) in 2019, which solidified her unique voice as a composer and band leader within the UK jazz scene, and was supported by Worldwide FM, Stamp The Wax, The Guardian, The Wire, and Mojo to name a few.

Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II is an exploration of impermanence and evolution and how this intertwines music and mind:

“Parts I and II are a story of finding a way to break through the turbulence and remembering that on the other side of the storm there is always the sun shining. I enjoy the sudden emotional contrasts in music, I want to draw people in and take them on a journey as they listen to it. The EP’s concept is about the impermanence of ideas and concepts, acknowledging the contrasts between moments in time. The B Side is reworks of ideas, I really enjoy exploring new directions that a composition can take, it’s limitless. I don’t want it to just stop at when a tune is immortalised through being recorded and put out on a record.”

The EP starts with an intense Part I, unsettling tensions between the rhythm section interspersed with the flickering of electronic sounds. Through this bed of sound comes a melancholic song-like melody. It leads into Part II with a brief calming of the storm, and suddenly erupts into a mood bringing sunshine and brightness. Reminiscent of the joyful music of Pharoah Sanders and Abdullah Ibrahim.

The Unknown (rework) is a ‘re-making’ of the tune of the same title from Rosie’s 5ive. This fits into the EP’s concept of evolution, as it follows the transformation of Rosie’s musical path since her debut release. It is a demonstration of Rosie’s growing voice as a producer, produced in her home studio during the first lockdown.

The EP finishes with an upbeat and dance-floor worthy rework of Part II by one of Rosie’s frequent collaborators, Jitwam (Part II - Jitwam’s Ronnie In The Attic Mixxx).

It is being self-released under Rosie Turton, and will be available digitally and on a very limited run of vinyl. Each vinyl includes a unique hand-printed 30x30cm print of the artwork, numbered and signed by the artist Siraaj Mitha. 
1. Part I
2. Part II
3. The Unknown (rework)
4. Part II - Jitwam's Ronnie in the Attic Mixxx

Rosie Turton – trombone
Johanna Burnheart – violin
Maria Chiara Argirò – piano (Part I & II), synthesizers (The Unknown)
Twm Dylan – bass
Jake Long – drums
Ben Hayes -electronics (Part I & II)
Tom Oldfield – cello (Part I)

Part II - Jitwam’s Ronnie in the Attic Mixxx:
Composed, produced and mixed by Jitwam
NATE08 - bass

Composed and produced by Rosie Turton
Part I & II recorded by David Holmes at Soup Studios, June 2018 & August 2019
The Unknown (rework) recorded during the first lockdown of 2020 at everyone’s homes
Mixed by Oli Barton-Wood
Mastered by Chris Potter at Electric Mastering
Artwork by Siraaj Mitha
Graphic design by Julian Prentis

Nikolaj Hess - Spacelab & Strings (June 18, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

The piano trio is one of the most flexible and dynamic vehicles for musical expression within the genre of jazz. The same can be said of the string quartet in the classical sphere. The intimate confines of both ensembles lead to a fantastic blend of group interplay and individuality expressed by the performers. Boundless possibilities of musical pathways within these combinations have made these the de facto ensembles for composers and performers within these genres.

Pianist/composer Nikolaj Hess has found much to say utilizing the piano trio and the string quartet over his career. Recently, it was his idea to interweave a string quartet together with a piano trio to create a septet, thus multiplying the colors and dynamism of sound that can be produced. Hess’s gorgeous new recording, Spacelab & Strings, brings two ensembles from two musical fields together to amplify his artistic vision in a unique, sweeping way.

Hess grew up in the musically rich environment of the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. The area is well known for its rich musical legacy and was also a regular destination for touring jazz musicians visiting Denmark. Hess’s study of piano and violin gave him a wide exposure to classical and jazz music. Hess eventually settled on piano as his main expressive voice but continued to love the sound of the violin, even going as far as trying to emulate the violin’s sound on the piano.

While growing up, Hess developed long standing musical relationships with bassist Anders Christensen and drummer Mikkel Hess (who is also Hess’s brother). The regular partnership led to a trio that switched leadership depending on projects but has ultimately come to be known as Spacelab. The ensemble’s time-honed rapport makes it an ideal amplifier of Hess’s folk-inspired, Scandinavian-tempered music.

Butch Lacy and Horace Parlan were among Hess’s teachers at the Copenhagen Conservatory and the first to introduce Hess to arranging and transcribing his musical thoughts from the piano to strings (and thinking in orchestral sonorities on the piano. Hess continued to study the art of string writing, studying the works of greats like Beethoven and Ravel. Opportunities to write for strings sprang up in commissions and films over the years, which include Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.
Over the years, Hess collaborated regularly with violinist Cæcilie Balling, the leader of Strings, the quartet featured on this recording, and co-producer of this recording. The other members of the quartet, violinist Christian Ellegård, violist Jakup Lützen, and cellist Josefine Opsahl, are engaged in a wide variety of musical endeavors, from classical fare to improvised music, making the flexible quartet a perfect partner with Spacelab.

The recording begins with “ECM Country,” an austere piece that takes its title from a friend’s reflection on the Scandinavian landscape’s simplistic beauty and the legendary music label’s reflection of it. The melancholic “Piece” plays off its homonym with a melody which uses the American Blues’s penchant of developing tension for a stirring release. “Indigo Meadow” is a delicate composition reflecting a color in nature, reminiscent of Ravel’s work. The aforementioned composer’s Second Movement from his String Quartet is borrowed for “Ravel Reflections,” showing the reflective dimensions of the music when heard in a context different than its original, being able to live expressively in two musical spheres.

Tranquility is sought and found on “Adagio” as the tempered strings yield to Hess’s pensive piano, while “Trio2” seeks a place of freedom in play between the members of Spacelab. The winding “Seven Ate Nine” is a study in polyrhythms and chordal relationship, the odd meters and harmonic relationships creating an untethered feeling akin to the billowing wind over a desert. The title of “Danish Accents Lost In The Bush (In a Broke Down Yellow Volkswagen in Nigeria)” refers to a story that must be heard, about Hess being stuck in the countryside with Fela and Femi Kuti. The piece utilizes patterns adopted from traditional African rhythms along with a more Western chromatic melody, a true blending of musical cultures.

The unstable, bombastic “Kontra Punk” is an anti-counterpoint classical piece, while “Tinir” (meaning “your” or “yours,” here referring to sharing) is an adaptation of a piece that Hess wrote for a Faroese saga sang by three choirs, the folkloric feel lending itself well to the telling of a tale. The trio returns alone for “Trio1,” a beautiful, improvised reverie inspired by the music of composer Arvo Pärt. Hess captures the resonant essence of the celeste on the self-same titled piece, while he tried to capture the unique Scandinavian temperament that balances dark and light on “Black & White.” The piece balances major and minor tonalities, finding beauty within opposing sounds, as Scandinavian composers have done for decades. The recording concludes with the solo “Intro Exit,” a perfect ending and beginning for things to come.

Nikolaj Hess has found a way to capture a very particular Scandinavian identity on his compositions that walk the line between classical and jazz repertory. The cinematic breadth of his musical talents can be heard on Spacelab + Strings, a wonderful meeting between musical entities of tremendous expressive capabilities. 

1. ECM Country
2. Piece
3. Indigo Meadow
4. Ravel Reflections
5. Adagio
6. Trio2
7. Seven Ate Nine
8. Danish Accents Lost In The Bush (IABDYVWIN)
9. Kontra Punk
10. Tinir
11. Trio1
12. Celeste
13. Black & White
14. Intro Exit

Nikolaj Hess - piano
Anders AC Christensen - bass
Mikkel Hess - drums

Cæcilie Balling - violin
Christian Ellegaard - violin
Jakup Lützen - viola
Josefine Opsahl - cello

NEW RELEASE: The Baylor Project, 3X Grammy Nominated Duo, Presents New Album 'GENERATIONS' on June 18, 2021 via Be A Light

3X GRAMMY® Nominated Duo The Baylor Project to Release Second Full-Length Album Generations on June 18, 2021 via Be A Light

Be A Light proudly announces the release of Generations, the highly-anticipated new album by 3X GRAMMY® nominated duo The Baylor Project. Set for release during Black Music Month and on the eve of Juneteenth, June 18th, 2021, this soulful sonic story quilt celebrates the universality of the human condition, viewed through the lens of the Black experience. Married musical partners Marcus and Jean Baylor welcome listeners to their proverbial kitchen table, as they pass on stories of family and faith, and love and legacy over the course of nine original compositions, and two covers. Generations is available for pre-order now for digital download only on iTunes, and includes an instant download of the lead track “Strivin’” featuring special guest Kenny Garrett

Anchored by Jean’s crystal-clear vocals, and Marcus’ commanding mastery on the drums, Generations features an overabundance of first-call collaborators including special guests Kenny Garrett, Dianne Reeves, Jazzmeia Horn, Jamison Ross, and Sullivan Fortner, as well as a rock-solid band featuring pianists Shedrick Mitchell and Terry Brewer, bassists Dezron Douglas, Ben Williams, D.J. Ginyard, Richie Goods guitarists Rayfield “Ray Ray”Holloman and Marvin Sewell, saxophonists Keith Loftis and Korey Riker, trumpeters Freddie Hendrix and Christopher Michael Stevens, trombonists Mark Williams and Aaron “Goody” Goode, percussionists Pablo Batista and Aaron Draper and harpist Brandee Younger. A pristine string section augments three of the albums’ tracks, delivering lush string arrangements by Geoffrey Keezer and Darin Atwater.

Storytelling has always been central to the Baylor Project’s creative output, and they have shown a particular adeptness at making their personal stories universally felt. They accomplish this and then some on Generations, which shares poignant stories of the Black experience, influenced by their own unique perspective. In his liner notes for Generations, noted cultural critic Andre Kimo Stone Guess introduces the age-old traditions of quilt making in Black families, and how when these tri-layer textiles are passed down from one generation to the next, their stories go with it. Generations is just like this, he says, but instead of sewing squares, Marcus and Jean poured their heart and soul into a meaningful audio capsule that celebrates love, family, community and faith. 
The Baylor Project notably rose to prominence in 2017 when they released their debut album The Journey. A smashing international success, it debuted at #1 and #8 on the iTunes and Billboard Jazz charts respectively, garnered world-wide acclaim from top-tier media, and went on to receive two GRAMMY® nominations (for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance for their song “Laugh And Move On”). “The Journey was an introduction to the Baylor Project and established that foundation of our sound,” explains Marcus. “Generations is an extension of that sound and goes way deeper into our story, life and culture.” 

While the majority of Generations was recorded prior to 2020, the coronavirus pandemic kept the project from reaching completion. However, the Baylors continued to work on new music. In April 2020, they released “Sit On Down”, a pandemic-era anthem that went on to snag them their third GRAMMY® nod. They also took this downtime to refocus, and to really re-familiarize themselves with who the Baylor Project really is. By the time Generations was a wrap, Marcus and Jean had created their most fully realized and extraordinary project to date. 

Musically, Generations pulls from Marcus and Jean’s varied backgrounds rooted in the church, and steeped in soul, jazz, gospel and blues. Album opener “Strivin’”, featuring special guest and Marcus’ former bandleader, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, is an invigorating boogaloo bounce that immediately sets the mood with it’s Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles leanings. The interlude that follows instantly transports listeners into the Baylor’s living room, as family members of all ages reminisce on love and life. This endearing introduction gives way to the shuffling high point “Happy To Be With You”, which emits an after-church, celebratory air.

Gears shift on the reflective reimagining of “Loves Makes Me Sing”, made famous by R&B songwriter and singer Michael Wykoff in 1980. On this contemporary update, Jean’s crystalline vocals find support in a lush string arrangement by Geoffrey Keezer. Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” featuring original lyrics by Jean, comes next, followed by one of the album centerpieces. That would be “2020”, a prayer sang in the form of a blues that takes a page from the Negro Spitirual in spirit. The pulse of the beat leads into the heart of Jean’s wrenching cry, which draws parallels between the racial oppression of yesterday, with the all too prevalent injustices seen today.  That same pulsating beat culminates in a fiery drum solo by Marcus that encapsulates the song in its entirety.

A major highlight of Generations is the upbeat vocal summit in session on “We Swing (The Cypher)”. Jean is the intergenerational bridge between Dianne Reeves and Jazzmeia Horn, a couple of powerhouse jazz vocalists representing two different generations in this celebration of resilience and love. The lush “Becoming” takes inspiration from the majestic balladry of Shirley Horn, and lyrically nods to Michelle Obama’s inspiring biography “Becoming”. “[“Becoming”] really connects the story of Generations by highlighting our individual and collective process of growth through seasons of life,” says Jean. 
“Black Boy” is a somber and telling drama shaped by the age-old realities of racism in current society. Haunting and beautiful, this sweeping composition is also adorned by strings, this time arranged by Darin Atwater. This song asks questions nobody can answer – but yet, even in its heaviness, undeterred faith remains strong. The R&B/soul infused “Walk On By” comes next, followed by the Thelonious Monk-inspired “Do You Remember This?” This reminiscence of earlier times features Jean and Sullivan Fortner in angular vocal-piano interplay before easing into a hard-swinging common time break.

Generations comes full circle toward the end, as it brings listeners back to the Baylor Project’s Gospel roots with the help of the multifaceted Jamison Ross on vocals. Coming from a similar upbringing in the Black church like Marcus and Jean, Jamison, the grandson of a pastor, is the perfect vessel to convey a wise parting message that faith is the answer through the darkness. This is further reinforced with the last track “The Benediction”, which closes the album with an electrifying message of purpose delivered by their brother, Apostle Larry J. Baylor. 

On Generations, The Baylor Project has created a masterful musical exploration that is both timely and timeless. “We hope every listener enjoys this celebration and comes away with a renewed desire to honor those who came before us while positively impacting the next generation,” says The Baylors. 

1. Strivin’ (feat. Kenny Garrett) (5:15)
2. A Love Story (Interlude) (1:46)
3. Happy To Be With You (6:12)
4. Love Makes Me Sing (5:27)
5. Infant Eyes (5:49) 
6. 2020 (7:27)        
7. We Swing “The Cypher” (feat. Jazzmeia Horn & Dianne Reeves)  (5:38)
8. Becoming  (7:29)
9. Black Boy (8:53)
10. Walk On By  (6:18)
11. Do You Remember This? (feat. Sullivan Fortner) (6:32)
12. Only Believe (feat. Jamison Ross) (5:42)  
13. The Benediction (feat. Apostle Larry J. Baylor)  (1:57)

All songs written and arranged by The Baylors with the exception of “Infant Eyes” written by Wayne Shorter and “Love Makes Me Sing” written by Michael Wykoff.

Steve Cole | "Smoke and Mirrors" | June 18 via Artistry Music (Mack Avenue Music Group)

Steve Cole Reflects on Turbulent Societal Themes
in Smoke and Mirrors

Album features David Mann, Bernd Schoenhart,
Trevor Neumann, Ricky Peterson, Mel Brown,
Mark Egan, Brian Dunne and Todd Sucherman

Smoke and mirrors” refer to the trickery used by magicians to fool an audience – but don’t we all indulge in a bit of hocus-pocus to represent ourselves to the world? On his new album, Smoke and Mirrors, Steve Cole offers up an intimately personal reflection of his own true self, free of trickery or sleight of hand.

Created entirely in pandemic-necessitated isolation, Smoke and Mirrors (due out June 18, 2021 via Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group) brings together an all-star band with Cole’s longtime producer, co-writer and multi-instrumentalist David Mann. The far-flung ensemble includes guitarist Bernd Schoenhart (Cher, Marc Anthony); trumpet and flugelhorn player Trevor Neumann (The Eagles, Jeff Lorber); organist Ricky Peterson (David Sanborn, Prince); bassists Mel Brown (Stevie Wonder, The Temptations) and Mark Egan (Pat Metheny Group, Sting); drummers Brian Dunne (Hall and Oates, Ariana Grande) and Todd Sucherman (Styx, Brian Wilson).

While there were certainly challenges to corralling this stellar roster of musicians remotely from home recordings or socially distanced studio settings, quarantine did prove an equalizer in another sense. “Everybody’s stuck at home,” Cole points out with a laugh. “There are a lot of musicians that I would love to work with, but it’s impossible because they're always on the road. So there was a little silver lining in the fact that I could call old friends like Todd Sucherman and Brian Dunne, or amazing artists like Mark Egan, and they’re actually available.”

The unusual situation we’ve all found ourselves living in also changed the way that Cole and Mann composed the music for Smoke and Mirrors. In the past, the two collaborators would traditionally meet in a room and write together, trading ideas in the moment. The same creative back and forth happened this time, but long distance, with the two sending audio files between New York and Cole’s home studio in Minneapolis. The result offered the best of both worlds, allowing for a fruitful exchange of ideas with time for reflection.
“The energy of writing together can be really amazing and inspiring,” Cole says. “But you always tend to land on the first right answer and then move on. Having the time and space to contemplate and try things gives you the opportunity to discover a better right answer.”

The answers that Cole and Mann found throughout the writing of Smoke and Mirrors yield a wide spectrum of emotion, from quiet contemplation to funky celebration. The societal turbulence in which the album was crafted couldn’t help but pervade the music, Cole explains. “We're sitting with this stuff in our lives every single day: the pandemic, the political and social climate. How does that not find its way into your creative output, whether deliberately or subconsciously?”

On an even more personal note, Smoke and Mirrors marks Cole’s first outing since the untimely passing of his usual drummer, the great Khari Parker. “I didn't realize how much I thought about Khari when I was writing music,” Cole says. “I remember looking forward to what a tune would end up sounding like, knowing that Khari would be playing it. I have this idea of this groove in my mind that is so informed by how I’m expecting Khari to interpret it. Being cut off from that creativity and from that personality is really rough.”

In many ways, being “cut off” is a theme that weaves through the album. Another loss to the music is represented by “Wayman,” written for the late NBA player-turned bassist Wayman Tisdale, with whom Cole recorded on the bassist’s 2001 tune “Loveplay.” Tisdale was also an inspiration behind the album’s joyous opener, “Living Out Loud,” which took a convoluted route to its eventual shape, with Cole conceiving the melodies on bass a la Tisdale.

Travel has been an indirect casualty of the pandemic, which Cole references on the wistfully buoyant “Covent Garden.” The title is a reference to the area of London where the saxophonist and his wife stay during their yearly sojourns to England, a tradition sorely missed. 
The issues dominating the headlines this past year are more directly confronted on two pieces: “Justice,” which closes the album on a somber note, was written in reaction to the killing of George Floyd, mere miles from Cole’s home in Minneapolis, and the ensuing protest movement. “At a Distance” directly address life during Covid with both longing and optimism, while the soulful “Trust” – which Cole describes as a cross between Van Morrison and Babyface – conveys the composer’s gratitude for those closest to him, whether physically or spiritually.

Not every moment can be spent dwelling on such heavy themes even in such unprecedented times, and Cole does cut loose with some classic funk. “It’s a House Party” is a feel-food slab of Bootsy Collins-inspired funk, while “On the Money” reconnects the saxophonist with his Chicago roots with a song sure to thrill audiences once they can safely reconvene. 

Finally, the title track sums up the themes of the album and the notion of identity that prompted the name. Throughout Smoke and Mirrors, Cole reveals himself in both intimate, personal reflections and the extroverted thrill of his groove-loving spirit. No smoke, no mirrors – just heartfelt, inspiring music for the soul.

Kenton Loewen & JP Carter - It Becomes Us (June 18, 2021 The Infidels A Record Label)

It Becomes Us was recorded in the fall of 2020 by Kenton Loewen (Dan Mangan, Peregrine Falls, The Crackling) and JP Carter (Destroyer, Haram, the Inhabitants), two musicians who have performed and recorded together hundreds of times.

Half of the album was improvised in the studio, and shows their dedication to the "now" at the heart of all improvised music.

The other half features music written by Sonny Sharrock, Ornette Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, and Jaki Byard, and shows a deep love for the history and cultural traditions inherent in jazz, as well as a willingness to explore and create new sounds using those traditions as a launching pad.

The first single is As We Used To Sing, originally written and recorded by Sonny Sharrock for his seminal 1991 album, Ask The Ages.

1. As We Used To Sing (Sharrock)
2. What Is That (Loewen/Carter)
3. From Beyond The Ridge (Loewen/Carter)
4. I Don't Think We're Alone (Loewen/Carter)
5. It Bellows Through The Night (Loewen/Carter)
6. It Becomes Us (Loewen/Carter)
7. Peace (Coleman)
8. Orbits (Shorter)
9. Mrs. Parker of KC (Bird's Mother) (Byard)
10. Odwalla (Mitchell)

Kenton Loewen Drums
JP Carter Trumpet

David Sikula at Demitone Studios Engineering, Mixing, Mastering
Simon Roy Cover Art
Ben Frith Design
Chris Preston Photography

Producer Tim Reinert

NEW RELEASE: Violinist Tomoko Omura to Release BRANCHES VOL. 2 on June 18, 2021 via Outside in Music

Outside In Music Announces Branches Vol. 2, The Eagerly-Awaited Second Installment of Celebrated Violinist Tomoko Omura’s Roots Series, Out June 18, 2021

“…a gifted composer and passionate instrumentalist.” – Strings Magazine

Outside in Music is thrilled to announce the release of Branches Vol. 2, the eagerly-awaited new installment in imaginative violinist-composer-arranger Tomoko Omura’s Roots series. A companion to last summer’s critically acclaimed Branches Vol. 1, this vibrant issue features six more of the Shizuoka-born artist’s original compositions inspired by Japanese folktales, and arrangements of Japanese popular songs. Accompanying Omura on this exploration of sound and culture is her working quintet made up of guitarist Jeff Miles, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Jay Sawyer.

In 2015, New York-based Tomoko Omura released Roots, a ten-track collection of well known Japanese songs rearranged for a modern jazz quintet. Since then, the violinist has made a concerted effort to intertwine her Japanese heritage with her virtuosic jazz artistry on each subsequent recording project. “There’s a promise inherent in contemporary music, and it goes something like this: with people from various backgrounds—culturally, ideologically, religiously, aesthetically—creating art, everyone can benefit from the exposure to new ideas,” remarked Downbeat Magazine’s Dave Cantor in his Editor’s Pick review of Omura’s initial Branches offering. On this riveting follow up, the synergy between the ensemble’s five members has been fortified by continual collaboration. Omura deepens her compelling tribute to Japan with evocative material that builds a causeway between deeply rooted tradition and contemporary invention.

Branches Vol. 2 is split evenly between Omura-penned compositions and folk songs, tallying three of each. The album begins with a stately march leading to a luscious passage of pizzicato violin, vocals and rhythmic underpinnings from Omura’s steadfast rhythm section. The piece is “Come Firefly”, a well known traditional Japanese folk tune.“Fireflies are magical creatures that have always fascinated me,” shared Omura. “My rendition of this folk song has a sci-fi element. I was imagining communication through lights by celestial beings.” Omura’s violin soars above overdriven guitar and discordant pianistic refrains on this surrealist celebration.

Omura’s original “Melancholy Of A Crane” offers a contrapuntal and wistful exploration inspired by the Japanese folktale “Tsuru no Ongaeshi” (The Crane’s Return of Favor) – a melancholy tale of a crane who returns a favor to a man. One can hear the flight of the swan in the gentle melodic musings of the violin over the rhythm section’s triple meter. “To-Ryan-Se” is another popular folk song that dates back to the Edo era (1603 – 1867). “Children sing this song like a game,” Omura described. “It is played by multiple children facing each other, and they form a bridge with their arms, while other children pass through the bridge while singing. At the end of the song, the bridge comes down and one child will be stuck inside the bridge. That’s the game!” Omura also hints at a haunting and yet wondrous meaning behind the song’s actual lyrics. This element is captured in Omura’s arrangement in the playfulness of the melody and the inherent sense of adventure it exudes. The melody features unison playing from Omura and Miles, which elicits a  response by Zaleski, echoing the game from which the material is derived. The piece features stunning solos from Omura, Zaleski and Miles.
Next up is “Bow’s Dance”, a folksong of the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido and some of its nearby Russian territories. A close friend of Omura who extensively researched the Ainu introduced her to the great Ainu singer Umeka Ando. Ando’s interpretation of this song left its mark on Omura, and so she decided to include it here. 

Tomie’s Blues” is Omura’s composition dedicated to her grandmother, Tomie Omura, who passed away several years ago. The artist remarks, “I was very close to her and we lived together for 18 years of my life. This song is 12 bars long, just like the typical blues form, but the melody is repeated multiple times with changing note durations expressing the elasticity of time.” The contemplative ballad features wonderful solos from Menares and Zaleski. 

The concluding track is“Urashima Suite”, the fantastical tale of a young boy’s adventure that encapsulates the bittersweet nature of the passage of time. Omura and Zaleski lead us on this wondrous journey through multiple tonalities, conjuring an array of emotions and experiences including imagery of the ocean and a place called “Dragon Palace” referenced in the original tale.
In a 2021 feature in Strings Magazine, Omura shared that her Roots project is ongoing, and something that she plans to continue exploring. She told journalist Greg Cahill: “It’s developing in a few interesting directions. Just like branches. I like storytelling in music that takes us somewhere else while listening. Also, for me, re-discovering the Japanese musical elements and using them in new ways is a fun thing to do. It’s still an ongoing project, and I’m already thinking about where it can go next.” 

Track listing: 
Come Firefly 5:41 (Japanese Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Melancholy Of A Crane 7:11 (Tomoko Omura)
To Ryan Se 6:44 (Japanese Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Bow’s Dance 6:47 (Ainu Traditional/Tomoko Omura)
Tomie’s Blues 5:40 (Tomoko Omura)
Urashima Suite 6:38 (Tomoko Omura)