Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Curtis Olawumi - Goat Tape Vol. 1 (August 2021)

Curtis Olawumi is 19 year old Jazz Trumpeter based out of Atlanta, Georgia. He has played for various events such as Atlanta Jazz Festival, Dogwood Festival, Music In The Park, etc. He as also worked with various musicians including Morgan Guerin, Rhonda Thomas, Zacchea'us Paul, etc.

1. Untitled_1 02:48
2. Untitled_2 01:45
3. Untitled_3 03:09

Mixing/Mastering: Curtis Olawumi
Piano: Curtis Olawumi
Bass: Curtis Olawumi
Production: Curtis Olawumi

Palladium - Don't Look Back (August 25, 2021)

Palladium - Don’t Look Back
Liner notes by Jesse Markowitz

Don’t look back…” - Wayne Shorter

Hello young lovers, whoever you are; I hope your troubles are few….welcome to the 2nd Palladium album entitled “Don’t Look Back” and released on Wayne Shorter’s 88th birthday; August 25, 2021. I am writing from Toronto, as I have once again produced an album of Wayne Shorter’s music remotely; recorded in New York, mixed in Panama, mastered in Houston, produced in Toronto. Unlike the first Palladium album “2020” which was different musicians on every song, and almost entirely dictated by the circumstances of the early stages of the pandemic, this one was done at a time when I could afford a little bit more creative control with minimal risk to anyone’s health or safety.

On June 9th I sent my team into the legendary Sear Sound studio in New York and in one day we knocked out the 90 minutes of music you hear before you. I was in Toronto beamed into the studio via Zoom, and a nervous wreck. With so much time, energy and resources put into preparing for that day, I naturally had a meticulous set of expectations mapped out of how every single little thing should go. I wanted this or that song to be played in the way it was played at a particular gig, the recording of which I may have obsessed over for months, while the actual musicians just hit it and quit it, and moved on to the next gig; they are all at the very top level of demand for gigs around New York City which means top shelf the world over, and therefore unless we are gigging steadily, which we are not, then they are going to interpret these songs in the way that comes out on a particular day, and one cannot attempt to mediate that level of skill. Whatever wild 20 minute exploration on “Sanctuary” they conjured in a darkened basement room in front of an audience in April has no bearing on whatever wild exploration will come out in a hallowed 5th floor studio in June. The great lesson I learned that day was that I’m in the wrong business, or perhaps the wrong planet, if I cling to my expectations as dogma. I’ll get into the specifics of that day’s mania later on. First, two stories…

I once took a 25 hour series of buses from New York to Tallahassee, Florida to spend a few days with Wayne & Co; attending rehearsals between the Quartet and a FSU student wind ensemble, filming a great Facebook Live session with Wayne at the breakfast table in his hotel, filming a beautiful half hour of Wayne gabbing with the students about life, and attending a concert performance of Wayne’s piece “The Unfolding”. After the show I was standing with Wayne at the hotel bar; my bags off to the side as I was going straight to the bus station to get back to New York. He ordered a chocolate ice cream, I ordered a Guinness. Wayne looked me in the eye and very earnestly said, “That will make you tired,” to which, without really thinking about it, I responded, “Oh that’s fine I’m about to get on a bus for 25 hours, I could use the rest,” to which he just said, “oh.” There was a pause, and our eyes locked again. It was a rare moment in which whoever he was speaking to didn’t acquiesce to whatever it was he was saying, and his eyes told me he appreciated the sacrifice I was making, and that he trusts me.

Speaking of which, I once posted a bad review to Wayne’s social media. A concert in Wellington, New Zealand was not enjoyed by the arts critic of the local newspaper, who found the show boring and meandering. I posted it because for most, to know and love Wayne is to feel so deeply that one can easily forget that his music isn’t for everyone, and that to read of someone having the exact opposite reaction to his music would be at the very least an interesting endeavor. Wayne’s then agents were flabbergasted at what I did, and took it down as soon as they found out, but Wayne made sure to tell me he understood what I did and appreciated it. Those agents were replaced soon after...not because of this, but it surely didn't help their cause.

OK, now on to the music…

1. ESP 14:48
2. Fee Fi Fo Fum 08:22
3. Contemplation 06:48
4. House Of Jade 03:45
5. Sanctuary 06:51
6. Palladium 10:45
7. Face On The Barroom Floor 05:47
8. She Moves Through The Fair 07:46
9. Ana Maria 20:51
10. Sanctuary > Palladium Reprise 04:15

[from Miles Davis “ESP”; 1965]

For several years now I have known of Sasha Berliner to be a forerunner in the synthesis of music and sound design, which is to say using electronics as an instrument in an otherwise traditional setting. Aside from the various Sasha Berliner concerts with her band and solo, the only other time in my endless consumption of music in which I have noticed this synthesis is the duo music of Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock from around 2014-16. I don’t know if I’m missing some rare groove exotic forgotten subgenre that some jaded old timer will abrasively correct me for not knowing, but my educated guess is that these sounds are the cusp of some new shit, and that within a few years there will be a lot more of this kind of collaboration between human and machine, ideally stopping short of a Skynet-like takeover….if Judgement Day ever comes, you can blame me. What follows is an absolutely wild and out of control rendition of the first song Wayne wrote for the Miles Davis Quintet book; I’d like to think that Miles would dig this version.

Special thanks to Carolina Shorter for facilitating this most special collaboration with my hero Wayne Shorter, who drops 30 seconds of wisdom on all of us that I hope will fuel your imagination and help celebrate your individuality.

That 71 year old Victor Lewis jumps right in with these sounds is so damn inspiring. Victor is the only one in the core band that wasn’t on the first Palladium album, so these sounds were entirely new to him in that moment, and did not phase him one bit. I’ve loved Victor as long as I’ve been hearing jazz; my dad had a cassette tape of the Stan Getz album “Anniversary!” which Victor plays on and was a staple in the car on our various road trips.

Within the first minute of this record we all hear the sweetest dialogue from my dear friend Russell Hall, bassist extraordinaire. The depth of his humanity is matched by the sheer magnitude of strength with which he pulls those bass strings. If Wayne has taught us anything it is that your humanity is your instrument, and that the goal is to be a great person who plays music, and no one struts that mentality with more confidence and ease than Russell.

“Fee Fi Fo Fum”
[from “Speak No Evil”; 1964]

An all time great 2nd track on any gig or record. This was one of the first songs recorded that day, and is the third take. The first two takes were a little bit brighter than I wanted and didn’t have a bass solo. “Too radio friendly,” I told them, and got them to slow it down a bit. I think my nitpicking in this instance inspired (irritated) Sean into putting some really different and creative stuff into his comping which you hear right off the bat. The band swings like a mad dog at this tempo. A great take.

[from Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers “Buhaina’s Delight”; 1961]

This is the first take of the day. Right before they started Nicole suggested they play this ballad with no solos / everyone soloing at the same time. Feeling so relieved that everyone had arrived and set up, the last thing I was going to do in that moment was protest. When it was done I thought that was an interesting experiment, but now let’s get down to business, and a second take was recorded with more conventional solo form. For months the conventional take was the take, until a miscommunication between myself and Rob Griffin the mixer resulted in him sending the first take which I was hearing for the first time since a day or two after the session and wow with only slight hyperbole, my brain exploded. I absolutely love what they did with this piece. At first I was clinging to the idea of this being played as a romantic ballad as it always had been, but that feeling can be left behind as the band drift somewhere in and out of many different textures and levels of synergy. Sometimes ideas bounce off each other, sometimes they clash; but it’s all very musical and reflects the journey of Palladium. I am so enamored with the chances they took on this, the first take of the day.

“House Of Jade”
[from “Juju”; 1964]

General assembly of the Pathos club on this beautiful and melancholy duo rendition of one of Wayne’s most celebrated ballads. Going in the opposite direction of Wayne, Nicole sticks to the lower register which really highlights a buttery tone, which, dare I say, lingers like a haunting refrain. Nicole is easily one of the great saxophone players of her generation, and incidentally, her debut album “Strange Lands” drops this Friday; quite a week! Sean’s accompaniment is the perfect balance of complementary and assertive. The moments of silence between phrases which pop up every now and then on this track say so much. I hope to hear this one on Newark’s WBGO radio some day.

[from Miles Davis “Bitches Brew”; 1969]

More than any other composition on this album, this one has gone through the most transformations since it was first recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet + guest George Benson in 1968, then deconstructed by Miles’ expanded band for the “Bitches Brew” sessions, then used as Miles’ theme song for several years, then completely reworked by Wayne with a pop backbeat on his 1990 quintet tours, and again with the onset of his trusty Quartet and their debut album “Footprints Live”. I first included it in a Palladium set at our annual Christmas Eve concert in 2020 and then again at the debut of this exact quintet in February of this year (both performances are available on the Smalls Jazz Club Youtube page). Neither performance had a rehearsal, nor a competent chart (sorry!), but on the wings of this spellbinding composition the musicians soared into the stratosphere. None of the performances of this song sound alike which speaks to the very nature of this album, “Don’t Look Back”.

[from Weather Report “Heavy Weather”; 1977]

Sean Mason is one of the most special musicians I have ever come across, possessing a very unique and rare set of qualities which call to mind Keith Jarrett at times, Roy Hargrove at others, but in general have no precedent. He is soft spoken, but also immediate to call me on my shit when necessary. His Trio with Butler Knowles & Malcolm Charles must be heard to be believed. Like with Sean’s solo piano take on Wayne’s piece “Pandora Awakened” on the first Palladium album “2020”, Sean takes Wayne’s piece and completely makes it his own. I would describe this as a Keith Jarrett-like improvisation which explodes into a powerhouse gospel revival.

“Face On The Barroom Floor”
[from Weather Report “Sportin’ Life”; 1985]

From Sean Mason’s earthy soulfulness to Sasha Berliner’s futuristic wizardry, I am so delighted to have these two foils with which to bounce off disparate ideas and thus further expand the spectrum of Wayne. I gave Sasha carte blanche with this, one of my very favorite of Wayne’s compositions, and had no idea it would turn into a psychedelic Latin dance number until I heard it at the session. This was one of the last tunes recorded in a long day, and Sasha was an absolute boss. After spending the day trying desperately to balance my producerly suggestions with letting the professionals do their thing, for this track I had absolutely nothing to say, and just watched my Zoom screen with my jaw on the floor while Sasha created layer upon layer of aural kaleidoscope, occasionally looking over to me to which I sheepishly offered a thumbs up.

Big ups to mixer Rob Griffin for bringing out the subtlety of these many layers; each mix revealed new worlds that Sasha had created to the extent that the final version was almost unrecognizable from the rough mix mp3 with which I had originally become familiar with the track. I’m just an idea guy; thank goodness for my team.

“She Moves Through The Fair”
[from “Alegria”; 2003]

This is the only song not composed by Wayne Shorter. Its exact origin is unknown, and it is credited as Traditional. It is from the canon of Irish folk songs of the 19th and early 20th centuries, though some speculate that it was brought to Ireland from eastern Europe or possibly the Middle East early in the last millennium. Wayne heard it on a Charlotte Church record. For this track we have a meeting of Sasha Berliner with the incredible Emilio Modeste in a guest appearance. I’ve always struggled with finding the words that would adequately explain Emilio. When I hung out with Wayne in his living room in the Hollywood Hills, I told him, “Ya so there’s this kid Emilio who plays just like you; you’d swear it was you at Plugged Nickel….” Wayne just stared at me blankly. But Emilio isn’t just some imitator or even someone who has been influenced by Wayne; those words do not suffice. When I hear Emilio play, I’m hearing Wayne. There is no separation from this 21 year old wunderkind and the 88 year old hero; they inhabit the same spirit. It goes beyond music, too; I see Wayne when looking at Emilio as they kinda look alike. They also speak in a very similar way that is both abstract and succinct to the extent that if I didn’t know Emilio was a musician and only talked to him, I would be struck by the similarity. And beyond that, Emilio’s fashion sense, while not directly the style of clothes Wayne wears, is full of gems that Wayne would or could wear, eg, an NBC Sports sweatshirt, a technicolor checkered vest, an NYU hat…oh right, they both go/went to NYU, and not for jazz; Emilio’s major is anthropology while also taking classes in humanities, film scoring and Japanese cinema while Wayne majored in music education. For there to be any person of that age with any sound with such a deep and mature resonance for this music and the sacrifice it entails is completely out of this world. Emilio has expanded my perception of humanity. It’s no coincidence that he grew up hanging around writer Albert Murray, and spent his formative (teenage) years as a member of the Wallace Roney Quintet; Wallace himself being in a similar role of protege to mentors Wayne & Herbie a few decades ago. While Emilio is not a primary member of Palladium, just the fact that he exists gives me confidence in continuing this project and having boundless ideas that I hope to accomplish in my lifetime and hopefully training a protege of my own to take over so this thing never ends. Wayne says, “Don’t look back,” and with these musicians at my side, I look forward with confidence, anticipation and excitement.

“Ana Maria”
[from “Native Dancer”; 1974]

This track was a great lesson for me. “Ana Maria” was debuted by Palladium by this very quintet at the February gig at Smalls. That day they were feeling it as a slow bossa nova which floored me. Like I said before I was a nervous wreck the whole day, as the many things that diverged from my expectations sent me into somewhat of a tailspin, never more than this track. For months I was excited for the record to feature a slow bossa nova rendition of “Ana Maria”, which this very clearly is not. It took a few days of recovery from the session before I truly understood the depth of what they had laid down. This 20 minute quest unfolds like a movie, starting with the quiet elegance of Victor Lewis’ drum solo, easing into a very patient, out of time but also grooving portrayal of the melody, which bursts into the avant garde….Wayne would call it zero gravity. Up from the rubble, around the 17 minute mark they shift to what I call the “Field Of Dreams” vibe, which pulls so gently at my heartstrings and is the culmination of 3 years of fine tuning this band. Thanks to you all.

Some more credits:

Infinite thank you to Rob Griffin who spent countless hours working his magic to make these tracks jump out of the speaker. The traditional credit would be mixer, but what you do goes so far beyond that, resulting in an otherworldly quality to the sound of this album. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have you in my corner. I first met Rob when I went to Chicago 5 years ago to hear Wayne’s Quartet at Symphony Center. I was immediately struck by his boundless energy and supreme knowledge and artistry in running sound as well as taking care of Wayne, two tasks he has been in charge of since the mid 90s. This album is as much Rob’s as it is mine.

Thanks to Harold LaRue who for the second year in a row has mastered my album during the inconvenient week that is both his birthday and anniversary, but at least there wasn’t a hurricane this time. Next year I’ll try to have this all done beforehand.

Thanks to Adekunle Adeleke, a brilliant artist in Nigeria who painted the stunning digital artwork that is the cover to this album. Find him on Instagram @kunle_paints.

Thanks to Madeleine Ertel for the incredible and thorough transcription work, and for your dedication to Wayne’s music. You are on your way.

Thank you to the incredible team at Sear Sound, a beautiful space that has given birth to some of this world’s most treasured music, eg, “Songs In The Key Of Life”; in particular thanks to owner Roberta Findlay, engineer Christopher Allen and assistant engineer Steven Sacco. Bringing this music to your Studio A was a serious level up.

Special thanks to:
Wayne Shorter, Carolina Shorter, Melodie Hebscher, Tom Markowitz, Jen Markowitz, Scout, Debbie, Isaac Ezer, Emma Barnes, Li’l Sebastian Edward Ezer, Chelsea Simpson, Buster Williams, Lily Stern, Dave Drake, Immaculate Mutebi, Daisaku Ikeda, Michelle Mercer, Herbie Hancock, Zoh Amba, Christopher Butcher, Emmet Cohen, Spike Wilner & Jerome Sabbagh.

Last but not least I want to thank all of my clients in this crazy jazz world who have faith in me and without whom I’d surely be passed out in a ditch somewhere: Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Kurt Elling, Fred Hersch, Kevin Hays, Aaron Diehl, Benny Green, Joe Magnarelli, Buster Williams, David Hazeltine, Luba Mason, Melissa Aldana, Sherman Irby, Ben Wolfe, Sullivan Fortner, The Cookers, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra & the magnanimous Johnny O’Neal. And to Roy Hargrove for starting it all.

This album and my whole life is dedicated to the memory of my best friend Salbu Price (1936-2020); somebody got to do it xoxo

Nam myoho renge kyo

“It's more of a celebration of different people's input musically, but more than the music, a celebration of life's eternity, our eternal existence, and on top of eternity, to celebrate what eternity could possibly be for -- what is it for? And what is music for, and what is anything for? But a valuable purpose is to realize that eternity affords us the adventure of life, and the adventure never ends. The answer to living goes on, and I celebrate that.” - Wayne Shorter 

Nicole Glover - Tenor Saxophone
Sasha Berliner - Vibraphone & Sound Design
Sean Mason - Piano
Russell Hall - Bass
Victor Lewis - Drums

plus guests

Wayne Shorter - Spoken Word
Emilio Modeste - Soprano Saxophone

All compositions by Wayne Shorter except "She Moves Through The Fair" (Traditional).

Produced by Jesse Markowitz (Toronto)
Mixed by Rob Griffin (Panama)
Mastered by Harold LaRue (Houston)

Recorded at Sear Sound (New York) on June 9, 2021 & at Wayne's house (Los Angeles) on August 15, 2021.
Recorded by Christopher Allen w/ assistance from Steven Sacco [New York] & Carolina Shorter [Los Angeles].

Cover art by Adekunle Adeleke (IG: @kunle_paints)

Photography by Max Kennedy & Anna Yatskevich.

Nicole Glover appears courtesy of Savant / Highnote Records.

Wayne Shorter appears courtesy of Blue Note Records.