Friday, July 16, 2021

OUT FRIDAY: Greg Ward, Sharel Cassity, & Rajiv Halim - ALTOIZM via AFAR Music

Greg Ward, Rajiv Halim, and Sharel Cassity Are Altoizm

New Self-Titled Album out July 16, 2021 via AFAR Music

AFAR Music is proud to announce the July 16, 2021 release of Altoizm, the self-titled debut recording from a three-headed alto saxophone supergroup led by Greg Ward, Rajiv Halim, and Sharel Cassity

Featuring a rocksteady yet explosive rhythm section of Richard D. Johnson (piano), Jeremiah Hunt (bass), and Michael Piolet (drums), Altoizm is seven tracks and 42 minutes of original jazz. Ward, Cassity, and Johnson have each written two tunes, and Halim adds “Bembe’s Kids,” a melodically complex tune that’s perhaps the first to simultaneously honor both the bembé rhythms native to sub-Saharan West Africa and the madcap animated comedy Bébé’s Kids, a symbolic nod, Halim says, to “the chaotic social, economic, and political environment in which Black American music has been— and continues to be—developed.”

Musically, it’s a bluesy, noirish tune that sees that chaos and raises it a mischievous grin, while getting the absolute most out of three saxophones playing both in unison and in harmony.

It takes great individual talent but also real chemistry as a unit to pull off the kinds of sophisticated arrangements presented here. Even though these three saxophonists are used to being featured soloists and, collectively, have released about a dozen albums as leaders, their chemistry with each other is palpable. Far from being able to discern any ego, what shines through most prominently is the collective desire to produce purposeful and meaningful compositions. 

Maybe it’s a Chicago thing. 

All three—Ward, Halim, and Cassity—are stalwart stewards of the Second City’s jazz scene. Ward, a prolific instrumentalist and composer, counts pioneering free jazz saxophonist Fred Anderson as a mentor and Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco as a colleague. There are few compositional commissions for which he’s not qualified. He’s composed classical music and jazz, scores for ballet and film, and concerti for symphony orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as tunes for his own bands, Fitted Shards and Phonic Juggernaut. His 2010 debut with the former, South Side Story, was named Recording of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, and he’s presently a member of the jazz studies faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

Halim, like Ward, has collaborated regularly with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and, like Ward, possesses a boundless musicality. As a young saxophonist, he found a mentor in iconic Chicago tenorman Von Freeman, frequently sitting in at Freeman’s long running jazz jam at the South Side’s New Apartment Lounge. And not far removed from his high school graduation, he played Lollapalooza as a member of the hip-hop-fueled sonic cauldron that was Kids These Days. From that association, he befriended Chance the Rapper, appearing on the latter’s 2017 Grammy-winner Coloring Book.
Sharel Cassity, Greg Ward, and Rajiv Halim courtesy of AFAR Music Group

A similar thing happened when Halim found himself in the same recording studio as Cassity. The DIVA Jazz Orchestra’s lead alto saxophonist from ’07 to ’14, Cassity has released four albums as a leader (most recently 2018’s Evolve), has played in bands led by Cyrus Chestnut, Nicholas Payton, and the late Jimmy Heath, and has shared stages with Christian McBride, Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgwater, and too many other jazz immortals to properly note here. She and Ward had met touring together a decade prior in New York, but she’d never played with Halim.  Each in the studio working on individual projects, Cassity and Halim got to talking—then soon got to jamming. Feeling instant chemistry, Cassity suggested “an alto summit.” Halim quickly agreed, but they needed one more. It had to be Ward. 

Wise choice. Ward understood instinctively how to get the best out of these three altos, both individually and collectively. Case in point is his first composition here, “The Mighty Mayfly of Truth,” which explodes warmly and gradually like the break of a bluebird day, with brilliant three-part section playing that shines warm on your face and solos that melt it.  

“I thought about each saxophonist and tried to imagine how our sounds would come together,” said Ward. “And then, ‘The Mighty Mayfly of Truth’ almost jumped out of me.”

Next, Cassity’s “Thoroughbred,” introduces an original melody of the highest pedigree over the chord changes to Benny Golson’s “Stablemates,” raising the stakes down the stretch with an eight-bar tag reminiscent of the late Jimmy Heath’s elegant codas. 

Not only can she end a tune with grace and style, Cassity can also open an album with authority; allow “Cedar Groove” to testify. Composing atop the chord changes to Cedar Walton’s “Fantasy in D,” Cassity has constructed a theatrical yet muscly tribute to the late Jazz Messenger, with a couple of rejuvenating micro-cations to Latin America woven into the tune’s hard-swinging and eminently hummable main theme. 

Alto summits bringing together three saxophonists of this caliber are rare. Factor in the quality of the rhythm section—see Johnson’s “Last Minute,” the album’s closer, for masterclasses from both Piolet and Hunt and Ward’s “John Cotton” for bluesy improvisational pianism at its breeziest from Johnson—and you can forget about it.

Cassity knew when she caught Halim in that studio that they couldn’t let the pitch go by. “This opportunity” she said, “has allowed us to work together in a way we never would have been able to otherwise.” 

1. Cedar Groove (4:53) - Cassity
2. Bembe’s Kids (5:36) - Halim
3. The Mighty Mayfly of Truth (6:25) - Ward
4. Thoroughbred (6:46) - Cassity
5. The Time Has Come (5:16) - Johnson
6. John Cotton (6:50) - Ward
7. Last Minute (6:02) - Johnson

Rajiv Halim, Sharel Cassity, Greg Ward - Alto Saxophone
Richard Johnson - Piano
Jeremiah Hunt - Bass
Michael Piolet - Drums

Date and time
Thu, July 29, 2021
8:00 PM – 9:30 PM CDT

Jazz Showcase
806 South Plymouth Ct
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

Out Friday, July 16: Scott Reeves' The Alchemist

Trombonist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Scott Reeves unearths a buried treasure from his past on thrilling new release

The Alchemist, due out July 16, 2021 via Origin Records, rescues a brilliant 2005 performance by the masterful Scott Reeves Quintet, featuring Russ Spiegel, Mike Holober, Howard Britz, Andy Watson, and Reeves on alto flugelhorn, alto valve trombone and electronics
“[Scott Reeves’] compositions are sophisticated yet accessible, his arrangements scrupulously burnished and invariably engaging.”
– Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
 “[The quintet’s] sound slips out of the ‘standard’ description, with its atmosphere of adventure and edgy energy, and an approach that more than hints at the avant-garde in a way that perhaps Jackie McLean did on his '60s Blue Note recordings… [Reeves’] solos are spirited and spontaneous.”
– Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz

Multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and composer Scott Reeves expected to have some time on his hands upon his retirement from teaching, following an illustrious career on the faculties of the City College of New York, Juilliard and other prestigious institutions. But when the pandemic struck just a few months later, Reeves suddenly found himself with an abundance of free time as performance opportunities disappeared. In addition to a productive period of writing for his longstanding big band, the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra (with two recent recordings on Origin), he now had the opportunity to revisit his own archives and discover some hidden gems.
That search unearthed the stunning new release The Alchemist, featuring a previously unheard live date by the Scott Reeves Quintet – a never-recorded band featuring Reeves on alto flugelhorn, alto valve trombone and electronics, alongside guitarist Russ Spiegel, pianist and keyboardist Mike Holober, bassist Howard Britz and drummer Andy Watson. Captured in May 2005 at the City College of New York, the album is set for long-overdue release on July 16, 2021 via Origin Records.
“I don't even know if I ever meant to release it,” Reeves says of the shelved recording. “But when I listened to it last summer I thought the band sounded really inspired that night. I also thought it might have been some of the best playing I've ever done that's been recorded. So I determined to get this project out there.”
The issue that Reeves faced, and that may have discouraged him from attempting to release the concert at the time, was that the recording suffered from audio issues. The evening was well recorded by students from the college’s recording technology program, but it was intended merely to document a collection of new compositions. No baffling was used between the instruments, leading to drum leakage and other flaws.
In the intervening years, however, Reeves had begun working with Grammy Award-winning recording/mixing engineer Brian Montgomery, who has worked with such luminaries as Paul McCartney, Esperanza Spalding, Donald Fagen and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Reeves brought the files to Montgomery, who worked his audio magic and rescued the recording, isolating each instrument and remixing it. “I have high regard for Brian’s abilities to bring out the best quality in a project,” Reeves says. “Eventually he was able to get the sound to what you would expect out of a good studio recording.”
Why go to all this trouble for a single concert recording from a decade and a half in the past? The music speaks for itself in response to that question. The Alchemist finds these five brilliant musicians in top form, exploring what was for Reeves new and adventurous territory. Best known as a trombonist, the axe he yields in big bands led by Dave Liebman and Bill Mobley as well as his own 17-piece Scott Reeves Orchestra, Reeves here focuses on some more unusual instruments from his arsenal: the alto valve trombone and the alto flugelhorn. In addition, he’d recently begun experimenting with altering the sound of his horns with electronics, a path he abandoned not long after. (The rediscovery of this recording, however, has led him to dust off some of that equipment once again.)
“I started playing trombone when I was 10,” Reeves explains. “As I got along in my career I struggled to find my own voice outside the influence of J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Slide Hampton and the like. I found the alto flugelhorn, which is a German instrument between the range of a trombone and a trumpet, and I really fell in love with that sound.” 
The alto valve trombone had been used in 19th military bands but long since passed into obscurity when Reeves had one specially made for him. “The sound of these two instruments being slightly higher than the trombone as well as the use of valves opened up ways of reshaping what I was going to play,” Reeves describes. “I really started finding my own individual identity on them. In fact, Dave Liebman once had me take a solo in his big band and told me, ‘Play that alto whatever-you-call-it thing. You have more of an identity on that.’ Which is similar to what Miles Davis told him about the soprano saxophone.”
Exploring the mysterious contours of a Phrygian vamp, “New Bamboo” opens the album with Reeves’ altered horn and Spiegel’s guitar lines melding into shimmering textures. The Gil Evans-inspired “Shapeshifter,” based on a 12-tone row, is one of three pieces debuted at this concert that has since been revived with the Jazz Orchestra; the melancholy bossa nova “Without the Trace” gave the big band’s 2018 album its title, and Reeves’ funky arrangement of the classic “All Or Nothing At All” was expanded for the same recording. “The Alchemist” is a scintillating soul-jazz burner dedicated to Miles Davis, while “Remembrances” is an achingly tender ballad.
Thoroughly modern in conception and timelessly thrilling in execution, The Alchemist sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday and is every bit as exhilarating as if it was. “I think it's probably the best small group work I've ever done in my life,” Reeves concludes. “I'm very happy to finally have it out there.”

1. New Bamboo 7:57
2. Shapeshifter 8:21
3. Without a Trace 7:57
4. The Alchemist 7:29
5. Remembrances 6:02
6. All or Nothing at All 7:09

Scott Reeves - Alto valve trombone, Alto flugelhorn, Electronics
Russ Spiegel - Guitar
Mike Holober - Piano, Electric piano
Howard Britz - Bass
Andy Watson - Drums

All compositions by Scott Reeves published by Reebone Music, BMI, except: "All or Nothing at All," Arthur Altman & Jack Lawrence, published by Range Road Music, Inc.)

Produced by Scott Reeves
Recorded by Miho Goto in May 2005
at The City College of New York, Harlem, NY
Mixed by Brian Montgomery, Astoria, Queens, NY
Mastered by Michael MacDonald at
Algo Rhythms Mastering, Santa Fe, NM
Photo of Scott by Dennis Connors, with
astrophotography by Vinny Coulehan
Cover photograph by Maksud
Cover design & layout by John Bishop

Michael Mantler | "Coda" | Available July 16th via ECM

Michael Mantler Reimagines New Arrangements
from Several Phases of his Career in Coda

Available July 16 via ECM
The CD booklet begins with a definition: Coda: a concluding statement serving as a summation, based on elaborations of thematic material from selected past work.”

Michael Mantler, who was born in Vienna in 1943, explains that reworking his earlier compositions has been an essential part of his modus operandi over the decades. “Re-using material from my own musical universe has, as a matter of fact, been my compositional procedure for a long time. Musicologists could have an interesting time divining what in my music has come from where and how it might have been re-shaped and recycled… Almost always, when I start a new composition, I begin with materials from previous work. More often than not, that procedure would spark or beget a new line of musical thought from which to continue.”

With the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update, issued in 2014, Mantler made his work method the subject of a new release. Reassessing, re-contextualizing and reshaping material written for his iconic album The Jazz Composers Orchestra in the 1960s, he was able to illuminate the music in new ways. DownBeat hailed the outcome as “pretty fantastic.” “Update is really what it says. Not a reproduction or look back, but a new take on this music… This unique counterpart album is quite simply required listening for anyone with a scintilla of interest in large-scale modern jazz,” London Jazz News emphasized.

Now Coda takes its concept further, as Mantler newly arranges and refashions music from several phases of his career – a personal “best-of “– into musical suites conducted by Christoph Cech. Where the large ensemble on the Jazz Composers Orchestra Update was an augmented jazz big band, here the orchestra is comprised primarily of classical players, although the presence of jazz soloists, including pianist David Helbock, guitarist Bjarne Roupé, and Mantler himself on trumpet “anchors the music in an environment clearly coming from jazz.” The focus is on Mantler compositions premiered between 1975 and 2010, and previously recorded – in very different form – on the WATT albums 13 & 3/4 and Alien, and the ECM albums Cerco un Paese Innocente, Hide and Seek, and For Two. The Coda transformations, complete in themselves, will send the attentive listener also back to the originals: old and new versions each have their own integrity, and Mantler’s compositional signature is unmistakable, then and now.
“I have always considered myself an orchestral composer,” says Michael Mantler, “even when circumstances dictated smaller ensembles. This time I did not retain the original instrumentation but settled on what seems to be my current favourite – a chamber orchestra consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba, guitar, piano, marimba/vibraphone, plus a string section…” explains Mantler.

The chamber orchestra fleshes out ideas sketched on the skeletal original version of “Alien” performed just by Mantler and keyboardist Don Preston back in 1985. Now the composer’s distinctive trumpet moves against evocative, otherworldly strings on the “Alien Suite”, with Bjarne Roupé’s tense guitar also contributing to the uneasy atmosphere. The Swedish-born guitarist has been an important contributor to Mantler’s music of the last 25 years, featured on a number of albums including the 2011 release For Two. The present album opens with the “Two Thirteen Suite” incorporating material from 1975’s 13, which featured two orchestras plus Carla Bley on piano. Expanding and contracting his instrumental forces, merging elements from pieces written in different phases of his life, and featuring Roupé and David Helbock as soloist-interpreters, Mantler signals at once that these Orchestra Suites are indeed new music. 

The “Folly Suite” similarly brings fresh orchestral colours into play, building upon the template of 1992’s Folly Seeing All This. The “Cerco Suite” and the “HideSeek Suite” present music originally created to envelop the words of, respectively, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Paul Auster, with vocal lines assigned now to the instrumentalists. 

The Orchestra Suites were premiered in September 2019 at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess, where Coda was recorded, with additional recording and mixing taking place at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in November 2019 and June 2020. 

1. TWOTHIRTEEN SUITE (Michael Mantler) 11:41
2. FOLLY SUITE (Michael Mantler) 09:53
3. ALIEN SUITE (Michael Mantler) 12:37
4. CERCO SUITE (Michael Mantler) 10:53
5. HIDESEEK SUITE (Michael Mantler) 09:13

For more information on ECM, please visit:

September 10   Michael Mantler   Porgy & Bess   Vienna   Austria
September 11   Michael Mantler   Porgy & Bess   Vienna   Austria

Tommy Ward | From This Moment On | Available July 16th via Le Coq Records

Le Coq Records Presents the New EP
by Acclaimed 25 year-old Vocalist and
Next-Generation Crooner Tommy Ward

From This Moment On, Features Classic Standards
Given New Life by Ward’s Enticing Vocals
and an All-Star ensemble including John Patitucci,
Bill Cunliffe and Marvin “Smitty” Smith

At just 25 years old, singer Tommy Ward is already a veteran entertainer. Born in Houston and raised in Las Vegas, he found himself working alongside seasoned performers by the time he was 16, while at 17 he and his band became one of the youngest opening acts in Vegas history. He’s also garnered more than 10 million views on social media, finding a modern audience for his vintage sound. No less a music industry icon than Quincy Jones took the young singer under his wing, hailing Ward as “the epitome of great music.”

With his new EP, From This Moment On, Ward sets forth on a new chapter. Due out July 16 via Le Coq Records, the vocalist that many have compared to Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé asserts himself as a torchbearer for the legendary crooners and musicians who have inspired him, while carrying their timeless sound forward for a new generation of listeners.

“This EP feels like the first real statement piece that I’ll be able to share with people without any limitations whatsoever,” Ward says. “It's a great first step that opens a new doorway. This is who I am and where I am in my life at this moment, and everything that follows after this is going to be different. I think it's optimistic, it's hopeful, and it's a wonderful marker in my evolution.”

From This Moment On features five classic songs given new life by Ward’s heartfelt interpretations. He’s aided by the stellar contributions of an ensemble of master musicians – many of whom have become key members of the Le Coq Records family since the label’s recent launch – including bassists John Patitucci and Chris Colangelo, drummers Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Ray Brinker, guitarists Larry Koonse and Jake Langley, and pianist Bill Cunliffe, who also penned a tender arrangement of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” featuring Ward himself at the keyboard.
“Le Coq is one of the few labels out there who are truly passionate about the music,” says Ward, now based in Atlanta, GA. “It's been an incredible collaborative effort to work with them. They're making the next generation of jazz records, so to be on that cutting edge with them is more than alluring, it's an honor. I think they’re going to be a huge game changer in the business and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”

Though only one of the album’s songs was released in Ward’s lifetime (Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” came out in 1997, when Ward was two years old), his strong connection to these vintage standards shines through in his performances. The music of classic crooners like Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin provided the soundtrack to his childhood, both at home and via their vital role in establishing Las Vegas as one of the country’s entertainment capitals. His love for the music was ultimately cemented through the influence of Michael Bublé.

The Cole Porter tune that gives the EP its name, “ From This Moment On,” opens the proceedings with that powerhouse big band sound, transporting listeners to the Vegas Strip with its exhilarating blend of virtuoso musicianship and neon-lit glamour. Another Porter classic, “Just One of Those Things” opens at a pulse-quickening simmer before exploding into a lively big band swing propelled by Smith’s muscular drumming. The finale, “The Way You Look Tonight,” strips away the orchestral glitz to reveal Ward alone at the piano, captivating with just his sultry vocal.

Growing up in Vegas, show business never seemed like an unattainable goal for Ward as it does for so many nascent artists; it’s simply his home city’s local industry. “It’s pretty surreal,” he laughs. “Vegas is definitely all that you think it is, but it’s so much more.” 

As much as Ward looks back with respect and admiration at the forebears who have set him on this path, From This Moment On is essentially a forward-looking collection of music. Which is perfect for a point in time when we all hope to move on into a brighter future. “Everything about this music feels right and positive, and I'm excited to share that with people. The artist's job is to convey emotion and make an audience feel something, hopefully this EP helps turn the page past this crazy year on to something a lot more positive and productive and hopeful.” Tommy Ward concludes.

For more information on Le Coq Records, please visit:

Julia Werup interprets Leonard Cohen poetry on her new single (July 16, 2021)

What started as a late-night jamming session became a unique piece of music. In need of lyrics, the Swedish-born singer Julia Werup grabbed a poetry book by Leonard Cohen from the shelf and from 2 random pages in the book, she did a one-take vocal recording on the fly. Julia instinctively knew that this was a truly magical take, and luckily the management of the Leonard Cohen estate fell in love with the way the poetry was used in a song. The approval and blessing of the Leonard Cohen estate was quickly achieved, and now this song is released for the world to hear Julia's eminent and graceful interpretation of Cohens words accompanied by the minimalistic production of drummer Thomas Blachman and double bass player Matthias Petri. This first take of the jam session was so strong that Julia decided to keep it as it is, simply to avoid the song to lose its magic, if she were to record it again. Judge for yourself.
Julia Werup is born and raised in Sweden. Her father is the late jazz musician and poet Jacques Werup, so the mixture of music and poetry has been a part of her life as far back as she remembers. Despite her background, she never planned to become an artist herself, but during the years of young adulthood it came naturally to her to write poetry. Now living in Copenhagen with her fiance, drummer and music producer Thomas Blachman, she has taken up singing along with writing poetry. As of today, she has released two poetry collections with a third is on its way alongside the spoken word album "Blixtra" released in 2019, which consists of Julia's own poetry with music by Thomas Blachman. Further, in 2020 she released a full album of interpretations of jazz standards called "The Thrill Of Loving You" on which she was backed up by a trio consisting of Thomas Blachman (drums), Johnny Åman (double bass) and Sven-Erik Lundequist (piano).

The new single single "Just Let Him Know You Love Him" is released worldwide on Friday, 16 July and can be found via this LINK

NEW RELEASE: Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol's Revelatory Piano Trio Work "An Elegant Ritual" is Due Out July 16, 2021 via DÜNYA

GRAMMY Nominated Pianist, Composer and Scholar Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol Announces the Recording Debut of His Revelatory Piano Trio Works, An Elegant Ritual, Out July 16, 2021 On DÜNYA

Celebrated pianist, composer and noted scholar Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol is thrilled to announce the release of his new full-length album An Elegant Ritual. To be released on July 16, 2021 via the DÜNYA label, this revelatory new recording deepens Sanlıkol’s singular approach to melding the sonorities of Turkish music with contemporary jazz language, striking a distinct balance between tradition and innovation. On his first ever trio recording, the prolific multi-instrumentalist realizes this expanded vision with James Heazlewood-Dale on acoustic bass and George Lernis on drums, gongs and bendir (a wooden-framed drum typical in the music of the Middle East).

Sanlıkol’s eagerly-awaited new release synergizes the concept of the classic piano trio with his own musical paradigm which draws from a diverse array of worldly and spiritual inspirations. The set transcends the typical piano trio format with the addition of Sanlıkol’s expressive vocalisations and captivating performance on the ney (a traditional end-blown flute that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music), as well as with Lernis’ use of Indonesian gongs and the bendir. An Elegant Ritual follows Sanlıkol’s critically-acclaimed 2020 release The Rise Up: Stories of Strife, Struggle and Inspiration which featured his dynamic jazz orchestra Whatsnext? and NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman as soloist. 

Though Sanlıkol has regularly performed in small group formats for nearly two decades, this is his first recorded trio venture. The hold up, he reveals, was in part due to a deep seated desire to innovate, and say something entirely new in the time-honed format. “Perhaps my obsession with wanting to say something new originates from having seen the busts of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin on my mother’s piano since early childhood,” he muses, “I do realize that that model is problematic due to the way it defines newness and innovation in a Eurocentric way, which in turn expresses a type of homegrown exoticism.” Throughout his active and diverse career, in which he has acutely straddled the lines of jazz and a variety of Turkish musics, he has helped carry the notion of newness toward a more pluralistic and inclusive point where improvisation plays an important role. In the end, the urge to say something ‘new’ has always been present in his work and An Elegant Ritual is no exception.

While An Elegant Ritual surely pushes musical boundaries, Sanlıkol made a conscious effort to stay somewhat loyal to the jazz piano trio tradition in reverence to its rich history and craftsmanship. In this spirit, the entire album was recorded live devoid of overdubs or special effects. Furthermore, pieces such as “Invitation” – which is the only standard present – and “Lost Inside” invoke the piano trio aesthetic by keeping with the traditional jazz instrumentation, with no extra instruments added or Turkish/world music influences explicitly heard. 

The bulk of An Elegant Ritual features varying degrees of Turkish and other musical influences, augmented by Sanlıkol’s emotive vocal stylings present on nearly all the tracks with the exception of the title track, the aforementioned “Invitation” and interludes. Whenever Turkish music elements are at play, Sanlıkol also makes a concerted effort to honor that tradition’s subteletlies of the makam (mode) and usul (rhythmic cycles) concepts. 
Structurally, An Elegant Ritual is modeled after a Sufi whirling dervish ritual (Mevlevi ayin) with influences from John Coltrane’s hallmark A Love Supreme. The Mevlevi ayin typically features a central composition bracketed by an opening call and a preparatory piece in front, and two upbeat pieces at the end. Here, the central composition has four movements (like A Love Supreme) with strategically designed appearances of the gongs and ney. And also like A Love Supreme, Sanlıkol desired to imbue a sense of spirituality within the music, a quality that is prominently felt on the title track in particular. 

An Elegant Ritual is set in motion with “The 7th Day”, which after a prelude (or an ‘opening call’), sets the stage with Sanlıkol’s emotive scat-singing and incandescent performance on the piano. This preparatory piece is followed by “Lost Inside”, which kicks off the four-movement album centerpiece. Leaning toward the traditional jazz trio aesthetic, “Lost Inside” showcases the composer’s tremendous improvisational acuity, and the marvelous interplay of the rhythm section. While the majority of this album features pieces that have short forms and are essentially vehicles toward improvisation (in line with the jazz trio tradition), “Arayış / In Search” and the following “An Elegant Ritual” are ambitious compositions which extend that aesthetic toward innovation. 

“An Elegant Ritual” introduces listeners to ideas and timbres that are entirely new, and have never been heard before in this type of setting. “The opening duo of the bass and ney in unison was achieved by having the bass play the challenging natural harmonics at the very top of its range which perfectly complemented the microtonal nature of the ney. On the other hand, the use of gongs originated more than 20 years ago when I first heard Javanese Gamelan. After studying Javanese Gamelan for a number of years and eventually assembling our own set of gongs, I wrote the interlocking gong and usul pattern based on the cyclical structures of that tradition which serves as the foundation of the composition,” describes Sanlıkol. While it took over six months for Lernis and Sanlıkol to find, order and properly arrange the gongs in their set, the most stunning achievement of all is that Lernis learned to play the complex, interlocking gong and drums pattern in a very short period of time with amazing precision. 

And while instruments like the ney can be found in jazz contexts regularly these days, it is Sanlıkol’s observation that a true synthesis of the jazz and the ethnic musical tradition is hard to come by. “After many years of performing jazz followed by an intense and a lengthy period of strictly traditional Turkish music performance, I found myself at a point where I started to ‘speak’ both of those musical languages on a number of instruments and as a singer,” he describes. As a result, Sanlıkol chose to comp himself on the piano while improvising on the ney simultaneously, as heard on “An Elegant Ritual”.

Sanlıkol’s vocals can be heard most notably in the prelude and in “Hasret”. The composer describes his vocal style as a blend of Turkish aesthetics and scat-singing acting as a bridge between two traditions. Doubling melodic and improvised lines, and independently countering Sanlıkol’s harmonic refrains and rhythmic movement from Lernis and Heazlewood–Dale, the fervency and resolve in the bandleader’s voice reminds one of the sound of Coltrane’s horn on A Love Supreme. The album concludes with the sole non-original piece “Invitation”, a masterful nod towards the classic jazz trio sounds of yesteryear. Sanlıkol remarks, that “the two upbeat pieces at the end (traditional in a dervish ritual) are echoed here by the postlude and “Invitation”, which is my invitation to you to join this Elegant Ritual.”

A masterwork of sonancy and cultural interchange, An Elegant Ritual is “an awakening”, New York Times Best Selling author Kabir Sehgal proclaims. “From the first notes, you know that you’re in for an adventure, not just one that spans East and West. But that of a cognitive leap towards what music can be.”

Rare, Intimate, Spiritual Album of Alice Coltrane's Voice & Wurlitzer Organ. First Single "Krishna Krishna" (July 16, 2021 via Impulse! Records)




This summer, the world will finally hear an intimate, spiritual recording made by the godmother of spiritual jazz, Alice Coltrane. Recorded in 1981 and never shared in this form with the world at large, Kirtan: Turiya Sings is a stunning collection of nine devotional songs, featuring the never-before-heard combination of Alice Coltrane's voice and organ. Kirtan: Turiya Sings will be available July 16 on Impulse! Records/UMe, as part of the legendary label's 60th anniversary celebration. 

Though known by many as the musical partner and wife of John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane is revered for her groundbreaking contributions to spiritual jazz with her legendary Impulse! recordings Journey in Satchidananda and Ptah, The El Daoud, among others. Throughout the 1970s, in addition to maintaining the busy schedule of a recording and touring artist, Alice Coltrane was immersing herself in Eastern philosophies, mythologies, and Vedic religious practices. By the early 1980s, she had become a guru and spiritual teacher and began to make music exclusively for her community at The Vedantic Center, northwest of Los Angeles. 

The original recording of these songs, Turiya Sings, was released exclusively on cassette in 1982 for the students of the ashram. In addition to Alice's voice and organ, the recording included synthesizers, strings, and sound effects. In 2004, Alice's son and producer of this record, Ravi Coltrane, found mixes he'd never heard before of just Alice's voice and her Wurlitzer organ. He knew this is what the world had to hear. 
"In this setting I felt the greatest sense of her passion, devotion and exaltation in singing these songs in praise of the Supreme. In that moment, I knew people needed to hear Turiya Sings in this context." Ravi continues, "as her son, growing up and hearing her playing these songs on the very same Wurlitzer you hear on this recording, I recognize this choice maintains the purity and essence of Alice's musical and spiritual vision. In many ways, this new clarity brings these chants to an even higher place." 

The opening chords of Kirtan: Turiya Sings are a curtain opening into a realm of spirituality and devotion that only Alice Coltrane could conjure. This album is not jazz–it is not improvised. It is intentional, devotional, and spiritual. This music, sung in Sanskrit, is spacious and large, Alice's voice has weight and power, her organ playing rock-solid, pulsing, a cauldron of musical influences you can hear from her life. 

Ravi Coltrane summarizes the musical importance of this album best:

"On this album, your ear will be turned toward the sound of the blues, to gospel, to the Black American church, often combined with the Carnatic singing style of southern India. You will hear beautiful harmonies influenced by Alice's Detroit/Motown roots, her bebop roots, John Coltrane's impact, and her absorption of European classical music, particularly that of her favorite: Igor Stravinsky. Yet, at the same time, this is functional music. Its purpose is, with light and love, to praise the names of the Supreme. On this album, your heart and spirit will be turned toward divine inspiration and appreciation."

Kirtan: Turiya Sings was mixed by Steve Genewick and mastered by Kevin Reeves from original 24-track masters. This is the same team that worked with producer Ravi Coltrane on Alice Coltrane's last album, 2004's Translinear Light. The lacquers were cut by Ryan D. Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed at Furnace. The album will be available on vinyl, CD, digital download and streaming, as well as hi-res streaming in studio quality sound, and can be pre-ordered here.

Alice Coltrane

Tommaso Cappellato - Pioneered (July 16, 2021 Domanda Music)

The Italian percussionist-producer-composer Tommaso Cappellato will release his seventh album as a bandleader, Pioneered, on July 16, 2021. It was recorded during the artist’s month-long residency at the venerable Brooklyn contemporary arts space Pioneer Works, in 2018. Pioneered features contributions from a multicultural and sonically diverse cast of electronic, jazz, and experimental players whose own work and ideas about music communities naturally inform Cappellato’s.

The impressive list of contributors to Pioneered includes Shahzad Ismaily, jaimie branch, Val Jeanty, Afrikan Sciences, Michael Blake, Yusuke Yamamoto, Donato Dozzy, and others. Pioneered also marks the first release on Cappellato’s Domanda Music label, devoted to a global-minded eclecticism, rhythm, improvisation and joy.

For more about Tommaso Cappellato, Pioneered, and Domanda Music, read more extensive notes below..

We live in a time whose contemporary music escapes easy categorization, constantly blurring borders—genre, origin, identity, creative tradition—yearning for shared spirituality and freedom, yet bound by the requirements of Earthly description. While largely defined by the limitless availability of an entire century’s recordings, this music demands its definitions: pushed by technological, sonic breakthroughs, grounded in the classic conversations of rhythm and improvisation. Like other aspects of modern life, it needs to be both familiar and innovative.

In many ways, the Italian percussionist-producer-composer Tommaso Cappellato has been striving towards his own version of this music for two decades; and on Pioneered, his seventh album as a bandleader and the inaugural release on his Domanda Music label, he has begun achieving it. Pioneered was born from a global ecosystem of wild ideas, a longtime natural habitat for creative breakthroughs. Yet Cappellato’s work synthesizes elements that are marks of a distinctly modern world of a global culture, and the joys and tragedies that inform it.

Tommaso hails from Northern Italy, and began playing drums at a young age. It drove him towards a jazz studies degree at New York’s New School, where his mentors included Pharoah Sanders’ drummer Michael Carvin, and where he studied with a who’s who of improvisation giants (drummer like Billy Hart, Joe Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, and bassist such as Reggie Workman, Cecil McBee, and Buster Williams). By night, he played in the house band at the world famous Rainbow Room—with, among others, the late Harry Whitaker, pianist with Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity in the ’70s—and soaked in the city’s rap and house music. This resulted in a turn-of-the-century love affair with the sounds of the Big Apple, from hip-hop to hard bop, which, mixed with his homeland’s forever-roots, cemented the permanent multicultural aspirations of Tommaso’s music.

Cappellato never stopped playing what is often regarded as “jazz” (see his spiritual ensemble, Astral Travel), less as its traditionalist minder than a conductor of great Black American music’s ideas to far-flung contexts, often invoking a love of electronic production. He’s found himself in collaborative situations with techno and house producers like Donato Dozzy and Khalab, Egyptian composer Maurice Louca, UK broken-beat multi-instrumentalist Kaidi Tatham, London’s massive saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, and genius vocalists Dwight Trible and Roba El-Essawy, among many others across four continents. Like his oft colleague, the New Zealand keyboards/synths wiz Mark de Clive Lowe, Cappellato is regarded as a rhythmalist and an improviser, shaping the art of the electronic dance from a large arsenal of spontaneous, optimistic creation.
The borderless culture that sowed the seeds for Pioneered also gave rise to the institution where Cappellato brought the album it's kinda named after into being. Pioneer Works is a multi-purpose arts space (gallery venue, studio, clubhouse) in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood; and in September of 2018, Cappellato participated in its highly respected music residency program. The program’s timing was perfect (a long-term relationship in Italy was hitting a rocky path), and for Tommaso the faraway opportunity “came as a breath of fresh air.” Arriving at Pioneer Works with no predetermined creative ideas, Tommaso choose to be guided by chance, spending a month recording tracks with a variety of old friends (reed player Michael Blake, vibraphonist Yusuke Yamammoto, flautist Mariano Gil), new acquaintances (bassist Shahzad Ismaily, trumpeter jaimie branch, electronic producer Afrika Sciences, guitarist Nico Soffiato, saxophonist Francesco Germiani), and those he encountered via circumstance (turntablist Val Jeanty, violinist Justine Celafù). The resulting sounds deeply hinted at the shifts that were shaping all society at the time, imbued with a natural sense of personal and global loss, yet also a strange hope based in the community-building that Cappellato’s music often aspires to.

Though every track on Pioneered rests upon Tommaso’s drums and percussion ideas, what gives the album meaning and a novel depth are contexts shaped by collaboration. Call it fusioneering! This idea is exemplified in the sounds by the two players besides Cappellato who add parts to multiple tracks. Ismaily’s electric bass and Moog bring elements of the future and the funk (“Bikes, Rides & Tides” is a percussive powerhouse, a low-key electronic dub excursion); while Blake’s bansuri flute and layered tenor saxophone elevate the music heavenward (“Angels in Space” splits an intense difference between jazz spirituality and new age mood). Both appear on “Legend of the Bringer,” the album’s jazz-dance stand-out, built on an organ lick that harkens to Stax instrumentals, while a bevy of textures (vibes, woodwinds, light strings) percolate between historicity and modernity, all in the spirit of profound fun.

At other times, sample-based abstraction is the flavor of the day. “The Elite,” with branch’s echo-heavy trumpet and Jeanty’s turntable scratches and vignettes, is the clarion call of a thoroughly modernist, triumphalist trio. On “So Hard to Be Apart,” Cappellato and Afrikan Sciences create a smokey noir scene out of classic piano samples, playing with the emotions of lovers navigating separate darknesses. Raw emotions are also central to the tracks where Tommaso goes it alone, especially “Green Is the Color of the Heart,” a psychologically reflective post-rock moment.

When he was done recording at Pioneer Works, Cappellato took the music back home—first to Italy, then his new home in Los Angeles—where he began shaping it towards finality. He did some mixing on his own before enlisting Dave Vettraino, best known as the in-house engineer for Chicago’s great International Anthem Recordings; then shared the results with his trusted old collaborator Dozzy, who transferred the sounds to tape. Two-plus years and one pandemic later, Pioneered speaks to that month Tommaso spent in Brooklyn, “a story about the experience of recording, about the people who came through during that time, the interesting encounters and conversations, my deep learning and understanding.” Yet Pioneered transcends that finite period to get at something universal, “A desire to tell a different story to the world, another history of the world.” Categories of story-telling be damned.

Liner notes by Piotr Orlov
1. To Be Born And Forget
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, sensory percussion)

2. Legend Of The Bringer
Shahzad Ismaily (electric bass, moog)
Yusuke Yamamoto (electric vibes)
Mariano Gil (flute)
Justine Cefalù (violin)
Michael Blake (bansuri)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, organ)

3. The Elite
Jaimie Branch (trumpet, synths)
Val Jeanty (turntables)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums)

4. So Hard To Be Apart
Afrikan Sciences (synths, programming)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums)

5. Green Is The Color Of The Heart
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, synths, sensory percussion)

6. Angels In Space
Michael Blake (tenor saxophone)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, synths, percussion)

7. Bikes, Rides & Tides
Shahzad Ismaily (moog)
Nico Soffiato (guitar)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, programming)

8. In Need To Slow Down
Yusuke Yamamoto (synths, vibes)
Francesco Geminiani (ewi)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums, synths, percussion)

Mixed by Tommaso Cappellato & Dave Vettraino
Tape Transfer by Donato Dozzy
Mastered by Max Trisotto
Original Artwork by Giorgio Pasini
Art Direction by Raimund Wong
Design by Mattia Tono

Sarah Wilson's 'Kaleidoscope' – July 16, 2021 on Brass Tonic Records

Singular trumpeter, vocalist, and composer Sarah Wilson pays tribute to her mentors on Kaleidoscope, a gorgeous all-star sextet project 

featuring Myra Melford, Matt Wilson, Charles Burnham, Jerome Harris and John Schott

”…one of the most intriguing and promising composers and trumpeters on the contemporary music scene.“ – Derk Richardson, San Francisco Chronicle

At its best music is an act of generosity that flows from creative camaraderie. Slated for release on July 16, 2021 via Brass Tonic Records, Sarah Wilson’s third album Kaleidoscope results from that kind of rarified communion. The San Francisco Bay Area trumpeter, vocalist, and composer wrote and recorded the music in a spirit of gratitude inspired by some of the key figures in her creative life. She’s joined by a nonpareil cast of improvisers, including pianist Myra Melford, drummer Matt Wilson, violinist Charles Burnham, bassist Jerome Harris, and guitarist John Schott. 

While deeply shaped by jazz, Wilson’s music owes as much to avant pop, Afro-Latin grooves and indie rock as the post-bop continuum. Evidencing her profound gift for musical storytelling, Kaleidoscope reflects Wilson’s background composing scores for puppet shows and theatrical productions. Not every piece is dedicated to a mentor or creative beacon, “but this record is about the people who have supported me,” says Wilson, who like so many musicians has gone more than a year without performing. “At a time when putting out an album is a minor miracle, this is music about buoying each other up.”

As the name implies, Kaleidoscope embraces multiple views, approaches and personalities. The album opens with “Aspiration,” a gently descending melody that seems to defy gravity as Burnham’s violin doubles Wilson’s gleaming horn. Dedicated to Renee Baldocchi, who was Director of Public Programs at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, the piece was inspired by the Aaron Douglas painting that provided the creative blueprint for Wilson’s score for “Off the Walls,” the aerial dance production that concluded her fellowship at the de Young. If “Aspiration” serves as the album’s benediction, “Presence” is a joyous, calypso-tinged tune that announces that the celebration is underway. Written for Carla Bley, the piece was inspired by “Major,” the opening track on her 1999 album of duets with bassist and partner Steve Swallow, Are We There Yet?

Wilson’s winsome song “Young Woman” features her beguiling vocals and evocative lyrics. It’s one of several pieces inspired by Myra Melford, a close friend and mentor. The quietly majestic “With Grace” is another piece written with Melford in mind. Composed while Wilson was on a Djerassi artist residency, the melody conjures the rugged California coast south of San Francisco. She was listening to Melford’s music in a very different setting, the possibly haunted 19th century resort Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa, when she wrote “Night Still,” a mysterious theme that features Burnham’s achingly beautiful violin. 

“It wasn’t long after I heard about Myra in the early 1990s that she became my hero,” Wilson says. “She was such an inspiration. I loved her composing and I had a few lessons with her studying Threadgill’s technique. We’d go on walks in Prospect Park. But I had quit the trumpet and was hardly playing at all. She said ‘You have to play your music. This needs to be performed as concert music.’ I’m not sure if I would have had the strength without her support. That was so important.”
Another essential supporter and music mentor was Paul Caputo, and Wilson dedicates the bright, delicately filigreed tune “Color” to the widely esteemed Schoenberg scholar. The piece features Schott, a brilliant guitarist who has created a vast array of music outside of the near-legendary Grammy-nominated post-bop/funk band T.J. Kirk. He also contributes a tightly coiled, stinging solo on the title track, which Wilson dedicated to Peck Allmond, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, key collaborators during her New York years. She brings luminous intensity to her vocal rendition of M. Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile,” and closes the album with “Go,” a celebratory Cuban-inflected tribute to Laurie Frink, the late, legendary trumpeter and brass teacher. 

A project many years in the making, Kaleidoscope is a creative dispatch from an artist on an unlikely path. A lapsed high school trumpet player, Wilson didn't come to music through the usual channels. As an undergraduate anthropology major at the University of California, Berkeley, Wilson took a strong interest in theater. A visiting artist from Vermont's globe-trotting Bread and Puppet Theater inspired her to move east to work on their spectacular giant-puppet productions after graduation. She spent two years as a member of the troupe as her responsibilities expanded to encompass conducting, arranging and performing music for their shows. In 1993, she moved to New York City to concentrate on music, studying with trumpeters John McNeil and Laurie Frink.

Through her affiliation with Bread and Puppet Theater she soon found herself musical director and composer of Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Festival's annual puppet program. "At the time, I didn't really have any formal training or experience composing," Wilson says. "I didn't know much harmony, so I would just write these melodic bass lines and layer contrapuntal melodies on top of them. I was really into Afro-Cuban music and Henry Threadgill and Steve Coleman, so everything had a really strong rhythmic base, sometimes with odd meters. I've formally studied music since then, but my basic composing approach hasn't changed much."
Wilson absorbed other sources of inspiration from the eclectic downtown New York new music scene of the 1990s, while connecting with plenty of open-minded musicians. "I was fortunate to find these amazing musicians, like Kenny Wollesen, Peck Allmond, Tony Scherr, and others who liked my work precisely because it was different and original."

To further blur stylistic boundaries, Wilson began singing and writing her own songs in 2000. "My mom died that year, and I gave up the trumpet,” she says. “I listened to the radio a lot and I started writing songs. It was distracting, soothing as I was dealing with this terrible loss in my life.” She introduced the new material at Performance Space 122, realizing afterwards “that singing gave me this intimate connection with the audience and I felt relaxed doing it,” Wilson says. “It is another avenue for my music to travel down.”

She released her first album, Music for an Imaginary Play (Evander Music), in 2006, earning sterling reviews with her picaresque compositions. Featuring Wilson on trumpet and vocals, Peck Allmond on tenor sax, Steve Cardenas on electric guitar, Jerome Harris on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the project was drawn directly from her many years of writing music for puppet theater.

She followed up with 2010’s Trapeze Project (Brass Tonic Records), an album inspired by a sense of dislocation and freedom after moving from New York to the Bay Area in 2005. Drawing on a far-flung array of sounds from Balkan and Persian folk music to New Orleans jazz, marching bands, blues, and pop music, she developed tunes that sounded utterly personal and unmoored to prevailing jazz fashions. Once again she convened an inimitable cast, including Melford, Harris, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and drummer Scott Amendola. 

Wilson has spent the past decade developing programs for a variety of museums and institutions. Her latest project is a music production for The Tenderloin Museum. Collaborating with Larkin Street Youth Services, a long-standing non-profit organization serving homeless youth based in one of San Francisco’s most poverty-stricken, challenged neighborhoods, “Tenderloin Voices” brings their stories to life through writing workshops and musical performance.

The music on Kaleidoscope was created with support from the de Young Museum Artist Fellows program with commission funding from Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Zellerbach Family Foundation and many generous donors. At a time when the music scene is facing an unprecedented crisis, Wilson offers a candle in the darkness. “The theme of this music is that it makes me happy,” she says. That’s a view that works from any angle. 
1. Aspiration
2. Presence
3. Young Woman
4. Color
5. Kaleidoscope
6. Felta Road
7. Quiet Rust
8. Night Still
9. The Hit
10. Lullaby + Exile
11. With Grace
12. Go

Sarah Wilson (trumpet/vocals)
Charles Burnham (violin)
John Schott (guitar)
Myra Melford (piano)
Jerome Harris (bass)
Matt Wilson (drums)

All compositions written by Sarah Wilson, Sasstone Music (ASCAP) except her arrangement of “Lullaby + Exile” by Matthew Ward, Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc./Obo Crooked Spine Music.

Produced by Hans Wendl
Recorded June 12 & 13, 2012 by Mike Marciano at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY
Mixed & additional recording by Adam Munoz at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
Mastered by Gene Paul at G&J Audio, Union City, NJ