Sunday, July 11, 2021

JD Allen - Queen City (July 9, 2021 HighNote/Savant)

"A really powerful solo album from JD Allen – maybe the first we've ever heard from the tenor saxophonist, and a set that's got a very different vibe than some of his recent outings with groups! Allen recorded the music during the height of lockdown in 2020, at a time when he'd had to step back from performing live and collaborating with others – a moment he used to get back to basics on his instrument, and begin to re-explore all the things that first made being a saxophonist so important to him. There's definitely a sense of isolation and melancholy here – as you might expect – but there's also a feeling of hope and new inspiration, a quiet message from a dark time that's great to have on record."

"... he kept things spare, treating the process as an extension of the soul-searching he’d done in the early days of lockdown. “Mother,” an Allen original, starts with a three-note pattern that spins almost into a drone before he leaps off into free improvisation, zagging and curling and, later, painfully scraping his notes, as if to pry them open."





Tenor Saxophonist and Composer JD Allen’s 15th release as a leader, Queen City (July 9, 2021 on High Note/Savant SCD 2194), is a continuation of the tenor titans uncompromisingly bold signature sound cultivated in his prolific and consistent body of work. 

The New York Times praised Allen's “fearless approach to a formidable tradition,”  as he has become known for his, “ragged, searching tone is redolent of jazz’s blues heritage, and his playing reflects his pedigree as a grandson of the Delta, a son of Detroit, and a leader of modern jazz.”

Making it clear that he spent a great deal of time during the Covid-19 pandemic thinking about “what to do with the time that is given us,"  Allen confides in the liner notes. 

“Performing music for and with people is what I do and I've come to the realization that an audience of listeners of any size is a part of the music; it's also a shared experience. Covid-19 changed that and forced me to try to remember why I started playing in the first place, the years before I started performing and recording.”

The tenor saxophonist's response to his period of introspection is this current recording of solo tenor saxophone, is a recording full of stark, uncompromising power, affording some rare insight into the psyche of the performer.
“Mr. Allen is an essential voice on jazz’s landscape for both his force and his restraint, as well as for the beauty of his tenor saxophone’s sound….”
NY TIMES portrait of JD Allen in Giovanni Russonello’s “New Vanguard” Series

“…never one to ease up on the throttle…”
– Nate Chinen, WBGO/NPR
“Channeling an eruption of emotions,”

“The spirit of serious jazz tenor saxophone endures in JD Allen.”

JD ALLEN has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, in The Atlantic, in The New York Times and hailed by one of JDs first champions, jazz critic Ben Ratliff as, “a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” JD Allen is one of the most thoughtful jazz saxophonists on the scene today. Winner of the 2020 Composer of the Year in Downbeat, JazzTimes & NPR polls in categories including NPR’s Best Jazz of the Year, Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, Composer of the Year and Rising Star of the Year and JJA Winner for Short Form Jazz News Documentary, Mario Lathan, for VICTORY! – The Making of JD Allen’s Victory! in 2012. The Detroit natives apprenticeship has largely been in New York, where he has performed, recorded, and toured with legends running the gamut from Betty Carter and Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris to contemporaries Meshell Ndegeocello. Since making a strong impression in his early years in New York and serving an invaluable tenure with Carter, JD has come a long way - now fully possessed of his own sound. JD has appeared on WNYC, NPR, WBGO, WKCR and festivals and venues worldwide including headlining at New York’s Village Vanguard, Newport, North Sea, Saratoga and Summerstage/Charlie Parker Jazz Festivals, among others. At the request of saxophone colossus, Sonny Rollins and filmmaker Dick Fontaine, JD was invited to open up ceremonies for the screening of the lauded, “Sonny Rollins – Beyond The Notes” at The 2013 Woodstock Film Festival to great acclaim. JD also appeared in Fontaine’s documentary on Betty Carter some 20 years ago, New All The Time.

Off the bandstand, Allen is a compelling educator and activist. He is a founder of We Insist!, a nonprofit jazz and Black arts action community and their sister organization, We Up - Re Up, a collective of jazz musicians whose primary goal is to foster jazz performance curating opportunities within non-traditional inner city and rural performance settings. 2021 saw a collaboration with Maya Cunningham and the Du Bois Black Music Project, presenting the inaugural season of “Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back,” from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts.
Dear Listener,
Writing the liner notes for Queen City has proven to be just as challenging as finding and playing the right material for this recording. I felt that it was important that I write directly To Whom It May Concern about our most recent (outside of music) shared experience and new reality that concerns us all. Can’t imagine that the lay person saw Covid-19 coming but it came and changed all of our lives in many different variations and degrees, so in all honesty the thought of writing just about the music seemed small. Once the news broke about the Global pandemic and the world shut down as we have come to know it, I spent the first couple of months after justifying my thinking by attaching “what's the point of?” to my every thought and action. I was down, I'm pretty certain that I wasn't alone in thinking like that. Maybe I should say you and I were down. Whenever I got to thinking “what's the point of practicing my saxophone,” or “what’s the point of thinking about music,” a feeling of guilt or “how dare you think of that!” feeling came over me.  Performing music for and with people is what I do and I've come to the realization that an audience of listeners of any size is a part of the music; it’s also a shared experience. Covid-19 changed that and forced me to try to remember why I started playing in the first place, the years before I started performing and recording. 
Every musician starts out playing alone at the beginning, with hopes of one day being able to perform with others. An important aspect of playing Jazz, at least in my opinion, is being able to adapt to situations presented by your bandmates or being part of a collective story that's being told through music in real time.
It becomes another situation when you’re alone, when the story has to come only from you.  In 2020 live performances had been cancelled due to Covid-19 and it was unknown in the beginning if musicians would even be able to record together in a studio situation.  So once again I was faced with the “what's the point of?” question. Getting in touch with the reason of why I started playing the saxophone in the first place was the only way out of this what's-the-point cycle I was caught in. I needed to find my why again, the why before everything. Playing the saxophone started out for me as a way to release feelings that I couldn't express verbally, even in the beginning when all I could make were sounds.
At that point I realized that it’s just the saxophone and me and I needed to keep dreaming if I'm going to mentally make it through this. It's not about dreaming to escape reality, it's about making hope my center. Dreaming is the projector and movie screen for hope. Practicing the saxophone became my dream in motion. It became evident very quickly that I needed to learn how to tell a story on my saxophone alone, with no bass and drums, but completely alone.  The early part of our shared experience forced me to try to adapt to this new reality. Like any new musical endeavor, studying other artists (Jazz and Classical) who have made solo saxophone recordings was very important.
It was important for me to hear how other saxophonists approached this endeavor. Having a relationship with space (musical and actual performance space) seemed to be the one common thread.  But that is easier said than done.  I've learned a lot from this whole experience and will continue to work on new things, both musical and personal, that I've learned from this.
I tried to structure the recording as if it was a mural, each composition whether it was an original or a standard was performed as vignettes. The goal being that each song can stand on its own and inhabit a certain amount of space but also belonging to a bigger picture and a complete story when the recording is listened to in its entirety.   
I do hope you enjoy this recording and I really appreciate you taking the time to listen.
With love and solidarity in all things that are true.
JD Allen

Jaleel Shaw - Echoes (July 2021)

This recording was made in my home. It documents my thoughts and ideas while being isolated for a whole year during pandemic of 2020/21. I’d recently begun recording myself practice songs and ideas with my phone, which eventually led to me plugging a mic into my computer, hitting record, and seeing where my ideas took me.

I’ve meditated on so many things during this pandemic. From losing my friend/mentors Lee Konitz, Jimmy Heath, and teacher Rayburn Wright recently, to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and one of my favorite artists - MF doom, learning about the Tulsa Massacre and Black Wall St., constantly worrying and thinking about my mother, remembering all of the amazing places I’d traveled to to perform before this pandemic (specifically an opportunity I got to travel to Morocco and play at the Gnawa Festival), and most importantly - focusing on the light at the end of this isolated tunnel and trying to stay as positive as I can be.

Here’s to the future… and life….

1. Lee 03:10
2. Breonna 03:05
3. Tulsa 02:57
4. Improvisation for Mom 02:58
5. Temesgen 04:40
6. On Being Invisible 02:28
7. DOOM 01:57
8. Silence 02:58
9. Isolation 07:36

Jaleel Shaw: Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone (tracks 3 & 8), & Pedals
Recorded at: Jaleel's home.
Mixed and Mastered by Mike Perez Cisneros
Photo: Yusuke Yamanouchi
Artwork: Jaleel Shaw

Arif Mirbaghi - Zohal Milarzad (July 2021)

Side A:
1. Dar Medar Khorshid
2. Zohal Milarzad

Side B:
3. Tark-e Zamin
4. Mah Va Mahtab

Ali Daneshkhah - trumpet
Hamidreza Keshvarpajuh - tenor sax
Sepehr Abbasi - trombone
Kaveh Ghaffari - keys
Shoaib Kaminpour - guitar
Arif Mirbaghi - bass, keys, misc.
Farhad Asadi - drums


Omid Saidi - nayanbun
Mehdi Saki - vocals

Popp - Devi (July 2021 Squama Recordings)

After several collaborative releases, German drummer Simon Popp is back on Squama with his second solo album ‘Devi’.

While his phenomenal debut ‘Laya’ was a percussive take on ambient and third stream minimalism, ‘Devi’ features eight tracks of bold organic grooves, uplifting and hopeful in one moment, sinister and dark in the next. This dualism is reflective of the ups and downs in Simon’s own life, making the album a brutally honest and deeply personal record.

Over the past two years Popp has steadily refined his skills both as a player and an engineer: There are virtuoso drumming parts, revealing his passion for polyrhythm and complex structures and recording techniques such as heavy limiting, using gated reverb and pitch-shifting give the record a modern 90s vibe. ‘Devi’ is a forceful statement of what contemporary drum music can sound like today.

1. Pingo 04:38
2. Gundel 05:15
3. Myna 05:08
4. Holort 04:58
5. Jilu 05:09
6. Xolotl 04:09
7. Dama 03:30
8. Higlehasn 05:25

Enji - Ursgal (2021 Squama Recordings)

On her second album Ursgal Mongolian singer Enji creates a unique blend of Jazz and Folk with the traditions of Mongolian song. Currently based in Munich, her lyrics tell personal stories about unbearable distances, the oddness of being on earth and the simple truths in life. She’s accompanied by Paul Brändle on guitar and Munguntovch Tsolmonbayar on double bass.

Born in Ulaanbaatar, Enji grew up in a yurt to a working-class family. Having always been drawn to music, dance and literature, she initially wanted to become a music teacher with little ambitions to compose or be on stage. A program by the local Goethe Institute sparked her passion for Jazz and eventually led her to become a performing artist. Inspired by the music of Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, Enji started writing songs of her own, cherishing this newfound means of expression. Ursgal is the first record featuring her original compositions.

Enkhjargal Erkhembayar (vocals)
Paul Brändle (guitar)
Munguntovch Tsolmonbayar (double bass)
Moritz Stahl (tenor sax on A1 + B4)
Alistair Duncan (trombone on B1)

Written by Enkjargal Erkhembayar
A5 + B3 written by Enkhjargal Erkhembayar and Paul Brändle
A4 written by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira

Produced and Mixed by Martin Brugger.
Recorded by Jan Krause at Mastermix, Munich.
Mastered by Christoph Stickel at CS Mastering.
Photography and Design by Maximilian Schachtner at Daily Dialogue.

Wings Of An Angel - Nurturing Happiness By Generating A Sustainable Sensation Of Mindfulness With The Tender Sounds Of The Ambient Grand Piano Vol​​.​​2 (July 2021)

1. Tell Your Own Fair Story Instead Of Studying The Same Unfair Stories From The Holy Texts Time After Time; Remember That With Shared Mindfulness Comes Shared Victory Over The Past 06:20
2. You Are Stronger Than It First Seems To The Naked Eye 06:15
3. Heal Yourself Before You Aim To Heal Everybody Else Around 04:45
4. Purposeful Peace Is All About Tedious Negotiations Ending In Stark Confrontations 07:16
5. Without Iconic Self-Flagellation There Can Be No Subsequent Hospitalization 04:29
6. Life Is A Triathlon Of Awe-Inspiring Happy-Go-Lucky Mistakes 04:29
7. Inventing New Forms Of Armour For Couples Who Wish Explore The Cutting-Edge Ways Of Amour 05:28
8. Reinventing The Importance Of Home-Loving Vibrancy 04:35

Wings Of An Angel - The Fourth Narcotic Principal Of Acid Jazz Is Embodied Via Spontaneous Sword Swallowing (Or How Improvisational Jazz Teaches Us About This Planet's Seemingly Random God Given Intoxication) July 2021

1. Delusions Of Limited Destructive Happiness Regarding The Unpredictable Future Of Humanity On A Noiselessly Mutating Planet Are Stemming From Inherent Manmade Contradictions, Because Our Emotions Are Usually Treasonous In The Literal Sense 16:13
2. The Fourth Narcotic Principal Of Acid Jazz Is Embodied Via Spontaneous Sword Swallowing (Or How Improvisational Jazz Teaches Us About This Planet's Seemingly Random God Given Intoxication) 35:27
3. Chronic Pessimism Caused By Professional Burnout Is An Existential Accident Committing Adultery, Thereby Never Rely On An Authority Figure To Be Your Role Model For A Decent Human Being 19:47

Wings Of An Angel - Questionable Psychic Observatory (July 2021)

1. Blessed Is The Day In Which Nobody Could Ever Hurt Me Anymore Because I'm Jewish 11:33
2. Reinvent Those Historical Events Which Make You Suspicious Of Your Closest Kin 08:15
3. Fine Tuning Of Your Reaction To Malignant Stressors Caused By A Fifth Column 08:17
4. A Ritual Sacrifice Of Values Is The Last Refuge Of All The Ideological Thieves Who Had Stolen Our Much Beloved USSR 09:45
5. Beacon Of Creative Indulgence, Which Is An Antithesis To Self-Worth 15:18
6. Under Certain Circumstances, Every Human May Become A Satan, Thereby Never Forget That Essentially Consciousness Is Just One Long Commercial For The Past 12:04
7. Workaholics Like Myself Create A Reactive Chain Of All-Embracing Anxiety, Which Is A Source Of Trouble To All Those Who Wish To Be Sponsored By The State, Claiming They Mustn't Work To Study Torah 13:27