Friday, August 27, 2021

OUT FRIDAY: Carlos Henriquez's THE SOUTH BRONX STORY via Tiger Turn

Virtuosic Bassist Carlos Henriquez pays tribute to the South Bronx on The South Bronx Story, His Revelatory New Album due out August 27th, 2021 via Tiger Turn

“The most important Latin jazz artist in New York City today, the heir to the legacy of Tito Puente.” New York Latin Culture
Tiger Turn is delighted to announce the release of The South Bronx Story, a bold multi-movement work by celebrated bassist and composer Carlos Henriquez. Due out on August 27, 2021, this career-defining release is a retrospective of the social history of the South Bronx, and draws from Henriquez’s personal Puerto Rican heritage. For the occasion Henriquez has enlisted an elite ensemble of musicians for the date in trombonist Marshall Gilkes, saxophonist Melissa Aldana, pianist Robert Rodriguez, drummer Obed Calvaire, trumpeters Michael Rodriguez and Terell Stafford, and percussionist Anthony Almonte as well as the multifaceted Jeremy Bosch on flutes and vocals.

Carlos Henquriez is one of the preeminent bassists of his generation. A member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for over two decades, Henriquez is one of the first truly bilingual musicians, in that he is a master of both jazz and Afro-Latin traditions. His upbringing in the South Bronx, a rich musical hub that boasts local legends such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, played a major role in the virtuoso’s musical and personal development. On The South Bronx Story, which is Henriquez’s third release as a leader and a follow up to his 2018 tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Dizzy Con Clave, the bassist and composer takes listeners on a wide-ranging musical journey through his stomping grounds. This project first premiered in 2018 at Jazz at Lincoln Center to wide acclaim. 

“[On The South Bronx Story], I am using my music, experience, and heritage as a Puerto Rican growing up in the Bronx to tell a story that looks back and forward,” says Henriquez. “Jazz is American, born out of the melting pot of our Afro-American experience. And in the American spirit, jazz has adapted with different cultures, cities, people, and places and become an expression of one’s identity. This project represents just that–the tragedy, violence, and history isn’t over, but there is hope in the future. Music, dance, and the arts can bring that all together and transcend to showcase a common humanity.”

On The South Bronx Story, Henriquez takes inspiration from personal experience and history. Movements like “Soy Humano” (I Am Human) speaks to the obstacles Henriquez and family faced dealing with the housing system and financial turmoils growing up, while “Guajeo De Papi” is a testament to fatherhood in honor of his father, Jorge Henriquez, who provided for his family even during tough times. “My dad is loved by many and a pure example of how a man can be defined. I am so proud of him and truly honored to have written this tune for him,” Henriquez shares. Another standout, the salsa-tinged “Hydrants Love All”, was written with Henriquez’s brother in mind, and the summer days they shared together playing amongst the fire hydrants on the hot Bronx streets. 
Other tracks ingeniously reference significant people as well as events that created the diverse culture of New York’s South Bronx. Movements include “Black Benji”, a piece inspired by Cornell Benjamin, who is credited for promoting peace among the gangs in the Bronx; “Mama Lorraine” about the life and work of activist Lorraine Montenegro who, along with Evelin Lopez Antonetty, founded the United Bronx Parents but tragically died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; “Borough of Fire” for the devastating burnings of low income buildings during the 1970s; and “Moses and the Cross” about the divisive legacy of Robert Moses and the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

The album features many moments of inspired soloing. On “Black Benji”, Melissa Aldana gets plenty of room to stretch, showing absolute command of the horn. Marshall Gilkes and Terell Stafford trade colorful phrases over the form in “Guajeo de Papi”, while Michael Rodriguez spins many beautiful lines with a gorgeous Flugelhorn tone on “Mama Lorraine”. Throughout, the versatile Jeremy Bosch (widely known as one of the lead singers in the GRAMMY winning ensemble Spanish Harlem Orchestra) pivots between burning on the flute and singing; particularly his soneo on the mambo section of “Moses on the Cross” recalls the great singers of the Fania era. 

This seamless blend of lineages into a cohesive whole underscores the massive impact of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the music and culture of the borough, reminding listeners that Latino culture cannot possibly be separated from New York culture, and Bronx culture cannot be separated from Jazz. “Being a born breaded Bronxnite, I have seen first hand the values and instincts which allowed me to understand the family of my community. Integration, which was the key growing up for me, was a cultural aspect that made me appreciate those I grew up playing with. As we listen to the different songs on this project you will see how influential the streets have proven to be for me.” 

1. The South Bronx
Featuring Melissa Aldana [Tenor Sax], Terell Stafford [Trumpet], Anthony Almonte [Congas], Obed Calvaire [Drums]

The first song, The South Bronx expresses the soul of the place. Saxophonist Melissa Aldana plays melodies that encompass the grit, the glory, and the groove of my childhood journey.

2. Hydrants Love All
Featuring Jeremy Bosch [Vocals], Michael Rodriguez [Trumpet] & Terell Stafford [Trumpet]

I wrote Hydrants Love All in remembrance of the many days of joy my brother and I experienced playing in the water from open hydrants. When the heat of summer was most overbearing, those hydrants brought the neighborhood together. We played a competitive game with Goya bean cans with both bottom and top cut out. Whoever could funnel the most water was crowned king of the hydrants. Something so simple provided so much fun…there was never a single problem or fight when we were under those waters; we felt the love that surrounded us. And even though the structural challenges that made life so much harder in The South Bronx are still the norm, these experiences gave me the insight, optimism, and energy to reach higher.

3. Boro of Fire
Featuring Marshall Gilkes [Trombone], Michael Rodriguez [Trumpet], Anthony Almonte [Congas], Obed Calvaire [Drums]

Boro Of Fire is my take on an important event that gave The South Bronx its nickname, “The Burning Boro”. Greedy landlords and corrupt political insiders aided and abetted the burning of buildings, and the fire department had no choice but to let them burn. However, amidst all of this corruption and destruction, there was always a glimmer of hope….the people. They continued fighting to make life as beautiful and hopeful as it could possibly be. I enlisted the horns of Terrell Stafford, Marshall Gilkes, Jeremy Bosch, Melisa Aldana, and Michael Rodriguez to create the discordant sounds of fire trucks, police sirens, and general pandemonium. They each play improvised solos and written parts that reflect the chaos and resolve, evoking characteristic sounds of the streets.

4. Moses on the Cross
Featuring Melissa Aldana [Tenor Sax], Jeremy Bosch [Vocals], Terell Stafford [Trumpet]

Moses On The Cross is a perspective on The Cross Bronx Expressway and its creator Robert Moses. Like many urban renewal programs of that time, The Cross Bronx “unified” New York by destroying ethnic neighborhoods and deepening the racial and economic divide between citizens. As a result, property values on the north side of the highway soared and those on the south side declined. In my ‘hood, we all hated this freeway because it destroyed culture, undermined working-class people, and created greater inequality….and it still does. May Robert Moses live on in infamy for this civic crime.

5. Momma Lorraine
Featuring Michael Rodriguez [Flugel Horn], Robert Rodriguez [Piano]

Mama Lorraine is inspired by Lorraine Montenegro. She was the daughter of Evelina Antonetty, who was the founder of “The United Bronx Parents.” This organization advocated for quality social services and helped single mothers by providing drug rehabilitation and childcare. Her daughter Lorraine became a fighter for all the people of The South Bronx. Lorraine’s name on the streets was “La Americana.” Even gang leaders listened when she spoke. In the documentary “Rabble King” from the 1970s, she discussed neighborhood issues with gang members. Watching it reminded me of how much I loved her, and of how much she and her mother assisted members of the community through dire times.

In researching for this piece, I discovered that Lorraine is the mother of my hero and South Bronx poster child, Joe Canzo, Jr. He is a well-respected firefighter and photographer who documented the South Bronx through the ’70-’80s. His father, Joe Sr. was Tito Puente’s right-hand man and was a staple of our culture. Joe Sr. is a true historian of Afro Cuban and Afro Puerto-Rican music as well as a guiding light for anyone wanting to understand the Mambo Era in NYC. Joe Jr. was inspired by his dad to love the Arts and Hip Hop.

In 2017, we lost Lorraine due to hurricane Maria which devastated Puerto Rico. Her quick action and love for The South Bronx communities will last forever. I’ve composed a lyrical ballad for her which is played majestically by Michael Rodriguez & Robert Rodriguez. This story would be incomplete without a proper testament to her. (Thank you, Lorraine.)
6. Soy Humano
Featuring Jeremy Bosch [Vocals], Michael Rodriguez [Trumpet]

Soy Humano (I am Human) is about the obstacles my family faced dealing with the twin turmoil of not enough money and a broken housing system that gave greater support to families with absent fathers. We lied to survive and were “fatherless on paper.” I came to realize that the system was designed to reward families for being broken and that there were many strange forms of ‘assistance’ designed to reinforce the feeling that we were inferior. Over time, the negative effects of these efficient systems took a crucial toll on us. I can still vividly recall waiting with my dad in long lines to pick up a box of government cheese. Luckily, with a father who served in Vietnam, a mother who was an O.T.C teacher, and a brother who danced his tail off, I was given a strong belief in myself and in the human value we all have. That feeling is in every note of this suite.

7. Black (Benji)
Featuring Melissa Aldana [Tenor Sax], Carlos Henriquez [Spoken Word]

Black ( Benji ) The South Bronx Story remembers Cornell Benjamin, a member of the street gang, The Ghetto Brothers. “Black Benji” was his nickname. Amongst the gangs, he was the sole peacemaker who would call for some sort of unity when things got out of hand. On December 21, 1971, while attempting to bring peace with a rival gang, Cornell was murdered. This caused a chain reaction of vengeance across all of the gangs. His death would eventually lead to a major meeting of gang leaders at the Boys and Girls club on Hoe Avenue. That night, a groundbreaking truce was struck. We began to see a profound unity between Latinos and Blacks on our streets.

Tenor saxophonist Melisa Aldana plays a hopeful melody to evoke the feeling of unity and resolve. It reflects the resilience of South Bronx natives during a time of uncertainty.

8. Guajeo De Papi
Featuring Carlos Henriquez [Bass], Jeremy Bosch [Flute], Terell Stafford [Trumpet], Marshall Gilkes [Trombone], Robert Rodriguez [Piano]

El Guajeo De Papi is another testament to fatherhood. My father, Jorge Henriquez, taught me what it means to provide when times are rough. He walked those tough lines that a father is sometimes forced to walk. He was a pure example of manhood and was loved by many. His extreme cool during tight times for our family showed me how to face pressure with grace. I am so proud of him and truly honored to have written this for him. He was one of those rare dads who consistently figured out a way to provide in spite of relentless uphill battles.

9. Fort Apache
Featuring Michael Rodriguez [Trumpet], Melissa Aldana [Tenor Sax], Robert Rodriguez [Piano], Anthony Almonte [Congas], Obed Calvaire [Drums]

Fort Apache was written to honor the Gonzalez Brothers, Jerry, and Andy. Both made enormous contributions to the worlds of Jazz and Latin Jazz. My musical concept on this entire recording is an extension of their musical innovations. Jerry and Andy each set a path for many young musicians of all backgrounds who continue to search for that very essence that I am reaching for. This album and all of my music will forever have some percentage of their musical DNA.

10. Hip Hop Con Clave
Featuring Jeremy Bosch [Vocals], Robert Rodriguez [Piano], Anthony Almonte [Congas], Obed Calvaire [Drums]

Last but not least, Hip Hop Con Clave, was written to acknowledge a form of expression that was born in the ’70s In the Black and Latino communities of The South Bronx…..Hip Hop. My lyrics and music are in the spirit of the original Hip Hop culture (before it took over mainstream American popular music). In those early days, block parties all over The South Bronx with Latinos and Blacks provided an opportunity for different subcultures to come together. Though violence and discord got all the attention, in real life, people expressed values of unity, freedom, and righteousness through love, family, and the community at these parties.

On this tune, we hear Jeremy Bosch express his Pregones about the subjects at hand. We also get to hear the vibrant rhythms of Obed Calvaire and Anthony Almonte, as they support the iconic Hip Hop Basslines and melodic statements that shook the ’70s in The South Bronx (and will continue to echo for years to come).

This suite of pieces is incredibly personal to me and it represents only the beginning of the building blocks of my musical journey. I am so proud to be from The South Bronx!

These songs were first performed live at the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 16 and 17, 2018. I want to express my deepest gratitude to Jazz at Lincoln Center for supporting me in my career as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and especially for commissioning this composition.´

OUT FRIDAY: Andy Farber and his Orchestra's EARLY BLUE EVENING via ArtistShare

Andy Farber & his Orchestra, featuring vocalist Catherine Russell, present Early Blue Evening, due August 27, 2021 via ArtistShare

Saxophonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Andy Farber is pleased to announce the release of Early Blue Evening, the second big band release from Andy Farber & his Orchestra and Farber’s fourth release as a leader. Over 11 tracks, Farber’s 17-piece big band speaks the foundational language of big band’s forebears — swing and the blues — in a decidedly contemporary dialect, navigating nine originals and two Farber-arranged standards with a rare, elegant blend of verve and verisimilitude that is, at once, inspired by history but never bound by it.

Farber “doesn’t recreate specific existing charts or records,” writes noted author and music critic Will Friedwald in Early Blue Evening’s liner notes. “Nor does he slavishly strive to make everything sound as contemporary as possible. He has found a viable and exciting middle path, expanding the legacy of Duke and the Count, rather than strictly recreating their work.”

Farber is aided in the execution of these humble yet lofty ideals by a band consisting of many of his oldest and closest friends. Anchored by a rhythm section of Adam Birnbaum (piano), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Alvester Garnett (drums), and James Chirillo (guitar), this is a group that came together as the on-stage band for After Midnight, the Broadway revue of Jazz Age nightclub fare from the likes of Ellington, Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, and Harold Arlen. Listening here to the band’s first recording together since that production’s 2014 closing, one quickly perceives a molecular-level chemistry that comes from having played nearly 300 performances together.

Listeners will notice this chemistry manifest itself in myriad contexts. On the album’s more straight-ahead blues tunes— “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” and “Aircheck”—you’ll notice it as a strutting coolness, an attitude and a lifestyle communicated via the casual virtuosity of Dan Block’s clarinet solo on the former and a tenor sax solo from Lance Bryant on the latter.

On more structurally complex compositions—like “Fanfare on Fairfax” and “Feet and Frames”— that baked-in chemistry becomes even more paramount as Farber’s compositional craftsmanship transcends a by-the-numbers feel, eschewing repeating choruses in favor of uninterrupted streams of continuously evolving musical ideas.  The serpentine “Fanfare,” a piece of smoky, hardboiled West Coast noir with cinematic flare, is particularly illustrative. Carl Maraghi’s Mulligan-esque runs on baritone saxophone combine with the warmth and roundness of Chirillo’s tone on electric guitar to form the head of the snake, while stands of woodwinds and muted trumpets form the muscly body, coiled and ready to strike—which, before too long, it does, propelled by the elegant aggression of a Godwin Louis alto saxophone solo.

Louis reappears on the album’s title track, where both his alto sax playing and the Farber composition itself, invite comparison to Benny Carter, the prolific multi-instrumentalist, who, like Clark Terry, is forever linked to several of the era’s leading bandleaders. And speaking of Terry, the groundbreaking soloist for both Ellington and Basie, there’s “Symphony for Dr. T,” a smiling locomotive of a tune powered by Brian Pareschi on flugelhorn.

Early Blue Evening is rife with nods to the big band gods. And not just bandleaders like Ellington and Basie or game-changing instrumentalists like Terry and Carter but also the indispensable composers and arrangers.
Like Basie’s Neal Hefti and Ellington’s Billy Strayhorn.

Friedwald, in his liners, identifies “Portrait of Joe Temperley,” an elegiac tribute to the baritone saxophonist who played in later iterations of Ellington’s band, as “particularly Strayhornian.” Farber’s own playing here is inspired in part by how Temperley used to play “Single Petal of a Rose,” the gorgeous, melodic Ellington ballad that was part of The Queen’s Suite, a work Strayhorn famously composed with Duke in 1958 for an audience of one: Queen Elizabeth II. The emotional coup de grâce here is that Farber plays this most inspired of tunes on the late Temperley’s actual baritone saxophone—even the most austere of royals would be moved.

Farber’s arrangement of Hefti’s “Theme from The Odd Couple” is his salute to the longtime Basie composer/arranger who wrote so many of the charts that came to define Basie’s signature sound. Farber, as Hefti did for so long, writes in a manner that amplifies the strengths of his personnel. Among that personnel are Birnbaum and Farber himself on alto saxophone; with inspired solos, these master improvisors elevate iconic motion picture theme music to bona fide jazz.

Whether it’s the poignant reverence of the Temperley tune or the jazz-pop sensibility of “Odd Couple,” Farber & his Orchestra demonstrate a willingness to cover nearly all the idiomatic ground available to a world class big band. Put simply, there isn’t a note—emotionally and otherwise— Farber and company cannot strike.

Take “The Holidaymakers,” a send-up to Ellington’s Afro-Caribbean catalogue and a true hip-shaker that’s every bit as vivacious as the tribute to Temperley is solemn. Or “Cork Grease and Valve Oil,” the musical equivalent of a knowing smirk, a happy-go-lucky tune concealing a secret weapon: a dialogue of good-natured bravado between Farber’s tenor saxophone and Bruce Harris’ muted trumpet.

Though Farber saves the most showstopping surprise for the very end, bringing out celebrated jazz vocalist Catherine Russell to join the band for his arrangement of the Parker and King standard, “How Am I to Know.” With its maximally supportive dynamics, the band lets Russell’s star shine—she breaks ever so briefly to allow Farber (tenor sax) and James Zollar (trumpet) share in her moonglow—lending credence to what might otherwise sound like hyperbole from Friedwald: “…this is some of the best big band jazz we’ve heard in a long time.” 

Farber is thrilled to release this album with ArtistShare, one of the leading labels in the large ensemble space. ArtistShare has arguably produced some of the most notable releases within the genre over the past fifteen years including albums by Maria Schneider, Brain Lynch, Gil Evans, and others. 

1. Don’t Tell Me What To Do (7:20)
solos: Block, Baron, Zollar, Horne, Birnbaum, Gross

2. Feet and Frames (8:03)
solos: Birnbaum, Gross, Tucker, Harris

3. The Holidaymakers (5:19)
solos: Zollar, Horne, Baron, Goodman, Birnbaum

4. Aircheck (7:11)
solos: Birnbaum, Bryant, Harris

5. Early Blue Evening (5:02)
Featuring Godwin Louis

6. Fanfare on Fairfax (8:03)
solos: Maraghi, Chirillo, Louis, Garnett

7. Cork Grease and Valve Oil (5:33)
Featuring Andy Farber & Bruce Harris

8. Portrait Of Joe Temperley (4:46)
Featuring Andy Farber

9. Symphony For Doctor ’T’ (4:37)
Featuring Brian Pareschi on flügelhorn

10. Theme from The Odd Couple* (4:47)
solos: Farber, Birnbaum

11. How Am I To Know* (5:05)
Featuring Catherine Russell
solos: Farber, Zollar

Andy Farber
Leader, Alto, Tenor, & Baritone Saxophones

Mark Gross (as sop,,fl), Godwin Louis (as,fl,cl), Dan Block (ts,cl,fl,pic),
Lance Bryant (ts,cl), Carl Maraghi (bs, bcl)

Brian Pareschi, Bruce Harris, James Zollar,
Alphonso Horne (1,3,5,6), Shawn Edmonds (2,4, 7-11)

Wayne Goodman, Art Baron, Dion Tucker

James Chirillo (gtr.), Adam Birnbaum (pno.), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Alvester Garnett (dms)

Produced and mixed by Andy Farber 
Producer: Mitchell Farber
Recorded at Oktaven Audio, Mount Vernon, NY
Engineer: Ryan Streber assisted by Michael Quick and Hansdale Hsu
Mastering Engineer: Aaron Spencer
Photographer: Ernest Gregory 
Cover photo: Ken Sargeant
Graphic design: Christopher Drukker
Notes: Will Friedwald

Dedicated to the memory of Jesse Farber (1939-2019)

Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News (August 27, 2021 ECM)

Andrew Cyrille’s album The News carries forward the story from The Declaration of Musical Independence, the 2014 ECM recording described by Down Beat as “an unabashed exploration into time, pulse space and atmosphere…ambitious yet simple, rich yet stripped-down, challenging yet infinitely satisfying.” The New York Times cited the album as evidence of a “late career renaissance” for the drummer.

A force in improvisation for more than sixty years, Cyrille has played across the landscape of jazz from Coleman Hawkins’s The Hawk Relaxes to Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, led his own bands, and worked extensively with Milford Graves, Walt Dickerson, David Murray, Muhal Richard Abrams, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman and many, many more. His first ECM appearance was on 1970’s Afternoon of a Georgia Faun, Marion Brown’s album with Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, Bennie Maupin and Jeanne Lee. Half a century later Cyrille appeared with his Lebroba trio with Wadada Leo Smith and Bill Frisell at Lincoln Center’s 50th birthday tribute to the label.

For The News, recorded at Sound on Sound Studio in New Jersey in August 2019, David Virelles was drafted as last-minute replacement for old associate Richard Teitelbaum, whose involvement had been ruled out by ill-health. Virelles had previously played with Cyrille and Ben Street in contexts including the group Continuum. Gently guiding from the drums, Cyrille gives his revised line-up plenty of freedom while also shaping, subtly, the group’s sonic identity with his flowing sense of pulse.

The title track “The News” revisits a conceptual piece that Andrew first recorded on a solo percussion album, The Loop, made for the Italian Ictus label in the late 1970s. Here a newspaper is placed over the snare drum and toms and played with brushes. In the quartet version, Frisell, Virelles and Street all impressionistically extend its rustling, whispering textures on their own instruments.

“Leaving East of Jordan” is a tune by AACM-associated pianist Adegoke Steve Colson. Cyrille has previously played it both with its composer and with the group Trio 3 with Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman. Cyrille’s “With You In Mind” is also a piece that has gone through diverse interpretations: there are earlier recorded interpretations in trio with Hentry Grimes and Bill McHenry and in duo with Greg Osby. Here the music takes off from Andrew’s unaccompanied spoken word introduction with the band amplifying its sentiments, with a particularly tender guitar solo from Bill Frisell.

The guitarist has three tunes here “Mountain”, “Baby” and “Go Happy Lucky”, the last of which, as an abstracted blues, has a distant kinship with Duke Ellington’s “Happy Go Lucky Local.” Frisell has recorded extensively for ECM, from early leader dates such as In Line and Rambler to the recent duet projects Small Town and Epistrophy with Thomas Morgan. Along the way there has also been a long association with Paul Motian and Joe Lovano documented on recordings from Psalm (1981) to Time and Time Again (2006). Frisell has also contributed to other recordings of enduring significance including Paul Bley’s Fragments, Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, Jan Garbarek’s Paths, Prints and Gavin Bryars’s After the Requiem.
David Virelles. who contributes the tune “Incienso” to the programme and shares composer credits with Cyrille on the exploratory “Dance of the Nuances”, first appeared on ECM with Chris Potter in 2011. Albums with Tomasz Stanko followed (Wisława, December Avenue) as well as Virelles’s own recordings Mbókò, Antenna and Gnosis.
Ben Street and Andrew Cyrille have collaborated in contexts including the trio of Danish pianist Søren Kjærgaard. The bassist’s ECM credits include albums with the Billy Hart Quartet (All Our Reasons, One Is The Other) the Ethan Iverson/Tom Harrell Quartet (Common Practice), and the Aaron Parks Trio (Find The Way).

1 MOUNTAIN (Bill Frisell) 08:25
2 LEAVING EAST OF JAVA (Adegoke Steve Colson) 08:49
3 GO HAPPY LUCKY (Bill Frisell) 05:21
4 THE NEWS (Andrew Cyrille) 05:34
5 INCIENSO (David Virelles) 05:35
6 BABY (Bill Frisell) 05:34
7 DANCE OF THE NUANCES (Andrew Cyrille, David Virelles) 07:24
8 WITH YOU IN MIND (Andrew Cyrille) 07:11

Andrew Cyrille   Drums
Bill Frisell   Guitar
David Virelles   Piano, Syntzesizer
Ben Street   Double Bass

Marc Johnson - Overpass (August 27, 2021 ECM)

With Overpass, Marc Johnson makes a decisive and intriguing contribution to ECM’s solo bass tradition. Johnson’s experiments with the bass and its potential as a lead voice began during his tenure with the Bill Evans Trio, where his nightly solo feature on “Nardis”, Miles Davis’s tune, inspired him to new ideas. “Nardis” is revisited on this new studio album recorded in São Paulo, Brazil, alongside Alex North’s “Love Theme from Spartacus”  (another Evans Trio favourite),  Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance”  and five Johnson originals including “Samurai Fly”,  a recasting of “Samurai Hee-Haw”, which Marc previously recorded for ECM with his Bass Desires band and with the John Abercrombie Trio.

With Overpass, recorded in Brazil in 2018, Marc Johnson makes a decisive and intriguing contribution to ECM’s solo bass recordings. It is an album that takes note of that tradition - Johnson has said that Dave Holland’s Emerald Tears was among the solo recordings that fired his imagination almost half a century ago - and builds upon it in a personal and imaginative way.
The Nebraska-born bassist first came to broader attention in the late 1970s as a member of Bill Evans’s last trio where the tune “Nardis” became effectively a workshop for nightly discoveries about the bass’s potential as a lead voice. The Miles Davis tune, long associated with Evans, is revisited here. As Johnson points out, “‘Nardis’ is where solo bass explorations all started for me and this performance distills much of the conception and vocabulary I am using throughout this album.” Alex North’s “Love Theme from Spartacus”, another tune that Evans liked to play, is featured, too, in an interpretation and arrangement that honours the form of the composition.
Johnson also tackles Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance”, whose dancing pulses have long inspired improvisers, and presents five of his own pieces. Among them is “Samurai Fly”, a recasting of “Samurai Hee-Haw”, the Eastern-tinged Western tune that Marc previously recorded for ECM with his Bass Desires band – the highly influential quartet featuring the twinned guitars of Bill Frisell and John Scofield and Peter Erskine’s drums- and with the John Abercrombie Trio. This version – one of the two tracks that deploys discreet overdubbing - is heavier than its predecessors, perhaps more Sumo than Samurai, Johnson wryly suggests, but still nimble and effective, and with a strong hint of bluegrass bass fiddle in its undercurrents.
Marc Johnson’s music has long been open to influence from multiple sources, and “Whorled Whirled World”, for instance, with its tessellated patterning and spinning, dancing energy alludes both to a kind of earthy, global music blueprint and the mesmeric qualities of minimalistic repetition. Pulsation and drive have strong roles throughout.
Of “And Strike Each Tuneful String” Johnson says,” In the early 80s I made a conscious choice to try to bring something primal to my sound and conception of playing. I discovered a field recording made in the late 60s of musicians from Burundi. One or two tracks in particular from that recording caught my attention. The music was played on an instrument called an Inanga which is a hollowed out log strung with ox tendons for strings. The strings were plucked in various patterns and the earthy sound and repetitiveness was quite hypnotic. With a nod towards that reference, this piece is an improvisation and short reprise of ‘Prayer Beads’ which appeared on the second Bass Desires album.”
If Overpass addresses musical and personal history, it is also an improviser’s in-the-moment response to events. Marc Johnson’s journeys around the globe have sometimes led to meetings with remarkable instruments: in São Paulo he came across a prizewinning bass made by luthier Paulo Gomes that subsequently became his instrument of choice each time he was in the region. The sound of the bass itself with its full-bodied resonance has also been a determining factor for the nature of the music played. On “Yin and Yang” the improvisation takes off from harmonics produced by strumming all four strings of this bass. “The continuity was created by allowing the strings to decay until the next attack. I first recorded a long series of attacks and decays, and then improvised a melody and some bowed effects. This piece is the result.”

1 FREEDOM JAZZ DANCE (Eddie Harries) 06:47
2 NARDIS (Miles Davis) 05:18
3 SAMURAI FLY (Marc Johnson) 04:20
5 LIFE OF PAI (Marc Johnson) 04:25
7 YIN AND YANG (Marc Johnson) 04:16
8 WHORLED WHIRLED WORLD (Marc Johnson) 06:32

Marc Johnson   Double Bass

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - En attendant (August 27, 2021 ECM)

“There’s a galaxy of piano trios in today’s jazz universe,” the BBC Music Magazine has noted, “but few shine as bright as Marcin Wasilewski’s”. On its seventh ECM album the multifaceted Polish group illuminates a characteristically wide span of music. On En attendant, collectively created pieces are juxtaposed with Wasilewski’s malleable “Glimmer of Hope”, Carla Bley’s timeless “Vashkar”, The Doors’ hypnotic “Riders On The Storm” and a selection from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Fluidity is the hallmark , allied to the deep listening made possible by more than a quarter-century of collaborative music-making by pianist Wasilewski, bassist Kurkiewicz and drummer Miskiewicz.  En attendant was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in August 2019, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

1 IN MOTION (PART I) (Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz) 05:29
2 VARIATION NO. 25 (FROM GOLDBERG VARIATIONS) (Johann Sebastian Bach) 07:17
3 VASHKAR (Carla Bley) 04:56
4 IN MOTION (PART II) (Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz) 06:55
5 GLIMMER OF HOPE (Marcin Wasilewski) 05:52
6 RIDERS ON THE STORM (Jim Morrison, John Paul Densmore, Robert A. Krieger, Raymond D. Manzarek) 05:43
7 IN MOTION (PART III) (Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz) 06:46

Marcin Wasilewski   Piano
Slawomir Kurkiewicz   Double Bass
Michal Miskiewicz   Drums

Douglas J. Cuomo (feat. Nels Cline and the Aizuri Quartet) - Seven Limbs (August 27, 2021 Sunnyside Records)

Composer Douglas J. Cuomo’s new piece, Seven Limbs, is unique and unusual. The suite features the simultaneous performance of inspired improvisations by guitar genius Nels Cline and meticulously-notated music performed by the Grammy-nominated Aizuri Quartet. Inspired by an ancient Buddhist prayer, also called Seven Limbs, it is music of great power that is put in service to a spiritual ideal, in the tradition of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and the music of Arvo Pärt.

Cuomo began his musical studies as a jazz guitarist, having studied at both Wesleyan and Miami University, but his interests led him away from instrumental performance to the world of composing, where he remained mainly self-taught. Cuomo found success in the early 1990s writing music for film and television, including the highly regarded drama series, Homicide: Life on the Street. After 15 years in the industry, Cuomo decided to step back and focus on composing for passion projects in theater and contemporary classical fields.

Also a practicing Buddhist, Cuomo writes describing why he choice to compose around the Seven Limbs: “The practice is about exploring your mind and facing what’s there. I tried to make the music reflect the same thing — stillness, turmoil, suppleness, resistance, euphoria, high drama. I wrote it to be like a dream, like looking inward and discovering a terrain.”

Seven musical movements aurally represent the seven parts of this particular prayer, namely: “Prostration,” “Offering,” “Confession & Purification,” “Rejoicing,” “Requesting the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma,” “Beseeching the Buddhas Not to Pass Away,” and “Dedication.” To illustrate the emotive depth of the practice, Seven Limbs presents a kaleidoscopic array of sounds and moods, evoking moments of meditative tranquility, battles with inner demons, and sudden, profound bolts of clarity. Like the mind, the music is by turns wild and unruly or calm and single-pointed.
The music on seven limbs was written specifically for Cline and the Aizuri Quartet, a string quartet composed of violinists Emma Frucht and Miho Aegusa, violist Ayane Kozaasa, and cellist Karen Ouzounian. Cuomo says: “I intended to allow Nels the opportunity to play in all the different ways that he does - explosively and delicately, with lots of electronic effects or totally acoustic. His range drew me to him for this project but equally important, even in his sonic mayhem mode, he is always wonderfully sensitive and reactive to what’s going around him musically. And the first time I heard the Aizuri Quartet, I was knocked out by their sound, precision, and rhythmic suppleness. They have such a beautiful musical and personal energy, and it just beams out at you from the stage. I knew I could write the kind of demanding music I was imagining and they would just eat it up.”

This is not the first time Cuomo has combined jazz improvisation with other musical forms. He is currently composing a major piece for saxophonist Joe Lovano and full orchestra to be performed next year by a number of major orchestras throughout the world. Cuomo’s two chamber operas written for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Arjuna’s Dilemma and Savage Winter, both combine contemporary classical ensembles with improvising musicians from the jazz, North-Indian classical, and rock musical traditions.

“My goal for this kind of writing has always been to build a landscape that is slightly unfamiliar for all the players," Cuomo says, "where the ground is always shifting a bit in unexpected ways. I want them all to be able to do what they do best, but in a slightly different context than they are used to."

Despite being written and recorded during the COVID pandemic, Seven l\Limbs was a true collaboration. Cline and Cuomo met with instruments in hand to talk guitar sounds just before lockdown. Cuomo Skyped and exchanged written music and rough iPhone recordings with the Aizuri. Then in February of 2021, everyone assembled for rehearsal, three livestreams, and the recording of the piece. Though masked and socially distanced, the joy everyone felt to be in a room making music together after so many months of isolation was palpable and it shows in the recording. 

1. Prostration - Part I
2. Prostration - Part II
3. Prostration - Part III
4. Offering - Part I
5. Offering - Part II
6. Offering - Part III
7. Offering - Part IV
8. Confession & Purification - Part I
9. Confession & Purification - Part II
10. Rejoicing - Part I
11. Rejoicing - Part II
12. Requesting - Part I
13. Beseeching - Part I
14. Beseeching - Part II
15. Beseeching - Part III
16. Dedication - Part I
17. Dedication - Part II
18. Dedication - Part III

Douglas J. Cuomo - composer
Nels Cline - guitars & electronics

Aizuri Quartet:
Emma Frucht - violin
Miho Saegusa - violin
Ayane Kozasa -viola
Karen Ouzounian - cello

Kenny Garrett | "Sounds from the Ancestors" | August 27 via Mack Avenue Records

Kenny Garrett Recalls the Sounds of
West African Music and its Role in Jazz,
Gospel, Motown, Hip-Hop and More

Sounds from the Ancestors,
Available August 27 via Mack Avenue Records

Acknowledges Ancestral Roots
with Cosmopolitan Album that Both
Incorporates and Defies the Jazz Genre
with Stellar Contributions from
Vernell Brown, Jr., Corcoran Holt, Ronald Bruner
and Rudy Bird Plus Special Guests

Kenny Garrett’s latest release, Sounds from the Ancestors, is a multi-faceted album. The music, however, doesn’t lodge inside the tight confines of the jazz idiom, which is not surprising considering the alto saxophonist and composer acknowledges the likes of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye as significant touchstones. Similar to how Miles Davis’ seminal LP, On the Corner, subverted its main guiding lights – James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone – then crafted its own unique, polyrhythmic, groove-laden, improv-heavy universe, Sounds from the Ancestors occupies its own space with intellectual clarity, sonic ingenuity and emotional heft.
Sounds from the Ancestors examines the roots of West African music in the framework of jazz, gospel, Motown, hip-hop, and all other genres that have descended from jùjú and Yoruban music,” explains Garrett. “It’s crucial to acknowledge the ancestral roots in the sounds we’ve inhabited under the aesthetics of Western music.”
Indeed, Sounds from the Ancestors reflects the rich jazz, R&B and gospel history of his hometown of Detroit. More important though, it also reverberates with a modern cosmopolitan vibrancy – notably the inclusion of music coming out of France, Cuba, Nigeria and Guadeloupe.
“The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up – sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, ‘A Love Supreme;’ Aretha Franklin, ‘Amazing Grace;’ Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On;’ and the spiritual side of the church,” Garrett explains. “When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.”
The core ensemble for Sounds from the Ancestors consists of musicians that Garrett has recorded and toured with in recent past – pianist Vernell Brown, Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner and percussionist Rudy Bird. The album also features guest appearances from drummer Lenny White, pianist and organist Johnny Mercier, trumpeter Maurice Brown, conguero Pedrito Martinez, batá percussionist Dreiser Durruthy and singers Dwight Trible, Jean Baylor, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony and Sheherazade Holman. And on a couple of cuts, Garrett extends his instrumental palette by playing piano and singing. 
“It’s Time to Come Home,” a sauntering yet evocative Afro-Cuban modern jazz original, kicks off the album. Garrett’s melodic passages, marked by capricious turns and pecking accents, signals a “call to action” for kids around the world to come home after playing outside all day. While Garrett originally composed the song in 2019, this incarnation reflects his experiences playing with iconic Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés.
Garrett then pays tribute to the late, great trumpeter and composer Roy Hargrove with the dynamic “Hargrove,” a bracing original that evokes the namesake’s mastery of reconciling hard-bop’s intricate harmonic and interactive verve with late-20th century hypnotic R&B grooves and hip-hop bounce. The song also slyly references John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which accentuates both the earthy and spiritual nature of Hargrove’s music and Garrett’s saxophone virtuosity. “What I respected about [Hargrove] is that he was borrowing from all the different genres, different experiences and bringing it to the table,” Garrett says. “And that's what I did on this track.”
Traces of the Black American church also surge through “When the Days Were Different,” a warm mid-tempo original with a melody that faintly recalls Sounds of Blackness’ 1991 gospel classic, “Optimistic.” “The idea was to take it back to the church,” Garrett explains. “[The song] reminds me of being at a gathering with family and friends having a good time eating, drinking and spending quality time together.”
On the rhythmically intrepid “For Art’s Sake,” Garrett pays homage to two legendary drummers – Art Blakey and Tony Allen. Bruner concocts a stuttering rhythm that alludes to both modern jazz and Nigerian Afrobeat, while Bird adds polyrhythmic fire with his circular conga patterns. On top, Garrett issues one of his patented searing melodies that twists and swirls as the propulsion slowly gains momentum.
Drums and percussion are again highlighted vividly on the swift “What Was That?” and “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs.” The former finds Garrett in quintessential form as he navigates through a thicket of torrential polyrhythms and a jolting harmonic bed with the steely determination and dexterity associated with Coltrane and Jackie McLean. The latter is a magnificent two-part masterpiece that integrates martial beats, Guadeloupean rhythms and a haunting cyclical motif on which Garrett crafts pirouetting improvisations that dazzle with their initial lithe grace and increasing urgent wails. Garrett explains that “Soldiers of the Fields/Soldats des Champs” is a tribute to the legion of jazz musicians who fought to keep the music alive. “They’re the first ones to get hit and shot at in the line of fire on the fields of justice. ‘Soldats des Champs’ is also a tribute to the Haitian soldiers who fought against the French during the Haitian Revolution.” 
The leader’s love for Afro-Cuban jazz returns on the dramatic title track, which begins with Garrett playing a slow melancholy melody on the piano before the music gives way to a soul-stirring excursion, filled with passionate vocal cries from Trible and moving Yoruban lyrics from Pedrito, paying respect to Orunmila, the deity of wisdom. “[The song] is about remembering the spirit of the sounds of our ancestors – the sounds from their church services, the prayers they recited, the songs they sang in the fields, the African drums that they played and the Yoruban chants,” Garrett says. The album closes as it opened with “It’s Time to Come Home;” this time Garrett uses his saxophone as a rhythmic instrument to have a conversation with the percussionist without the vocal accompaniment.
With his illustrious career that includes hallmark stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as well as a heralded career as a solo artist that began more than 30 years ago, Garrett is easily recognized as one of modern jazz’s brightest and most influential living masters. And with the marvelous Sounds from the Ancestors, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Garrett shows no signs of resting on his laurels.

1. It’s Time to Come Home
2. Hargrove
3. When the Days Were Different
4. For Art’s Sake
5. What Was That?
6. Soldiers of the Fields / Soldats des Champs
7. Sounds from the Ancestors
8. It’s Time to Come Home

Stream Singles "For Art's Sake" (avail. June 18)
and "Sounds from the Ancestors" (avail. July 23)

Web Web x Max Herre - Web Max (August 27, 2021 Compost Records)

The fourth album by Web Web “WEB MAX” is a great spiritual jazz work - sometimes floating, sometimes soulful, always intense, and a wonderful homage to early 70s Jazz. Web Web mastermind Roberto Di Gioia is accompanied for the first time by Max Herre as a composer, musician, and producer. Both came together with guest musicians such as Mulatu Astatke, Brandee Younger, Charles Tolliver (Strata East), and others to deliver a virtuoso masterpiece.

In the winter of 2014, German rapper/producer Max Herre and Italian-German pianist Roberto Di Gioia played a tremendous show together. The two had been guest musicians at a few gigs for Gregory Porter, who in turn kindly accepted their invitation to perform at Herre’s MTV Unplugged session (produced by Herre alongside Di Gioia and Samon Kawamura as production team KAHEDI). Porter’s approach to the jazz quartet inspired Max to reflect how a rap artist could work in a more freely-flowingmusical environment. Di Gioia’s inspiration was a bit more straightforward: in the 80s, Di Gioia had played with jazz legends like Woody Shaw, Johnny Griffin, and James Moody, but he’d largely left the jazz stages of his early years behind — just one random jam session with Porter’s musicians during soundcheck relit his passion immensely. A short time later, Herre called Di Gioia saying “Let’s get a spiritual jazz session going.”

Now, six years later, the album WEB MAX is the amazing result from the spur of that moment. It is a wonderful homage to the cosmic open-mindedness of early 70s jazz, to the transcendent sublimity of spiritual sound.

WEB MAX is the fourth album in four years by the highly acclaimed Web Web quartet, consisting of keyboardist/pianist Roberto Di Gioia, saxophonist Tony Lakatos, bassist Christian von Kaphengst, and drummer Peter Gall, all of them longtime performers of the highest virtuosity, signed to Michael Reinboth’s Compost Records.

The one and a half minute intro is called “The Prequel,” introducing the journey with feverish drums, nervous bass, hoarse saxophone, and splintering piano. It kicks and feels like a lost recording from a jazz cellar of the late 60s. “But it was actually created in the KAHEDI apartment studio in Berlin,Kreuzberg,” says Di Gioia with a grin. On one hand, the song is unusual, because the rest of WEB MAX was recorded during completely analog sessions that the band and Herre recorded between 2018 and 2020 in the legendary Munich Mastermix-Studio.

At the same time, it nicely illustrates the threshold on which the project moves. As impressively as WEB MAX evokes a bygone era, it moves confidently into the here-and-now. The slightly distorted sound, for example, comes from a four-track recorder that Di Gioia transferred the recordings to, and then bounced them from. Not a replica, but an emulation. Or like Roberto Di Gioia states: “The very own derivative of the absorbed.”

A good example is Turquoise,” inspired by the famous Lebanese singer Fairuz (Arabic for turquoise) and her brother-in-law, the composer Elias Rhabani. The wide, flattering melodic arc plays with all sorts of African and Eastern influences, like it was recorded for a Middle-Eastern Quentin Tarantino movie. The ballad “Thesa-Mbawula” – with its flowery, musing melody – is reminiscent of the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Furthermore, it is a nod to Herre’s father-in-law (the father of Herre’s wife, soul singer Joy Denalane) – the title means “Embers,“ which was his nickname as a soccer player during his youth in Johannesburg.

And emphatically, WEB MAX creates a direct connection into history. The song “Intersections” features the 79 year old trumpeter Charles Tolliver, whose label Strata East was perhaps the most important center of spiritual soul jazz in the early 70s. Jazz history also runs through the biography of Di Gioia, who played with deep jazz legends like Clifford Jordan and Buster Williams from Munich to Detroit in the mid-80s.

“Meskel Flower” features Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethio-jazz. That collaboration came about thanks to Ben Abarbanel-Wolff (heard playing saxophone on “The Prequel”), who played with Astatke’s backing band The Heliocentrics. “Ben introduced us to Astatke after a concert in Berlin, and the next day we were together in the studio,” recalls Herre. With his vibraphone, Astatke conjures up the pentatonic scale emblematic of Ethio-jazz, which itself was the result of a cultural exchange — in the early 60s, Astatke was the first African to study at the prestigious Berklee College in Boston, and he brought jazz back to his homeland in the early 70s.

On “Satori Ways,” New York-based Brandee Younger brings a touch of atmospheric depth with her harp, evoking the spirit of pioneers like Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. Tony Lakatos‘s dark-hued alto flute illuminates the unusual timbres and arrangement of this piece.

The only words on the album belong to Yusef Lateef, the great saxophonist and flutist who passed away in 2013. On “Akinuba / The Heart,” in the form of a poem Lateef talks about “The Heart” along a repetitive bass line. “I was particularly impressed by his musical lyrics. And how close his music melts with the topics he is talking about; says Herre. The poem ends with the words: the heart is born pure.”

Herre’s voice, on the other hand, can only be heard as an occasional whispering falsetto in cosmic spheres. His electronic “rustle” (as he calls it) and the groovy, minimalist thrusts of his Wurlitzer may seem modest at first amid the other virtuoso instrumentalists. However, it is precisely this simplicity that proves to be an integral piece. “Simplicity is sometimes the most sophisticated effort”, explains Di Gioia. “And he has something special there that I don’t have. Max plays like an indie guitarist who just hits that one note that makes people freak out.“ And Herre replies with a laugh: “I am a rhythm pianist. I actually just play a few repeating chords at a time, almost like a hip-hop sample.“

Herre’s love for jazz goes back to his teenage years in Stuttgart, way back before his hip-hop career.

And that too began around 1990, when jazz became a go-to for hip-hop groups like A Tribe Called Quest or Gang Starr. This influence carries from Herre‘s former group Freundeskreis, to his solo albums produced with Di Gioia, and finally all the way to WEB MAX. “I benefit from my experience with hip-hop, because there is an importance of continuing on the loop.“ says Herre. 

Of course, it also brings something to bear in the production process, in the subtleties or niceness of its texture. And last but not least, Herre says it was Kendrick Lamar who played an important role in the renewed interest in spiritual jazz by the masses — Lamar’s work with musicians like Kamasi Washington has resulted in a new interest in jazz artists. “But in the end, this genre is also about communication, unity, and being deeply moved,” says Herre in the Zoom call. “Just as with instrumentalists, any virtuosity is internalized. Same as I am coming from the story, I have to conduct the story.” While Di Gioia adds: “It’s very emotional what we’re playing here, it is not interchangeable. It all comes with love from the heart, with all the energy and spirit we have.”

1. The Prequel
2. Satori Ways (feat. Brandee Younger)
3. Akinuba / The Heart (feat. Yusef Lateef)
4. Meskel Flowers (feat. Mulatu Astatke)
5. Intersections (feat. Brandee Younger & Charles Tolliver)
6. Turquoise
7. Liberation March
8. Thesa-Mbawula
9. Whirlin‘
10. The Sequel

Band members:
Max Herre – Wurlitzer, Synthesizers, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Roberto Di Gioia – Fender Rhodes, Piano, Organ, Synthesizers, Percussion Tony Lakatos – Flute, Altoflute, Tenorsaxofone
Christian Von Kaphengst – Upright Bass, Fender Jazzbass
Peter Gall – Drums, Percussion

Special Guests:
Charles Tolliver – Trumpet („Intersections“)
Mulatu Astatke – Vibes („Meskel Flowers”)
Brandee Younger – Harp („Akinuba“, „Intersections“)
Yusef Lateef – Words („Akinuba“)
Ben Abarbanel-Wolff – Tenorsaxofone („The Prequel“)
Philip Sindy – Trumpet („Intersections “, „Thesa-Mbawula“, „The Sequel“)

Alex Lefaivre Quartet - Naufragés (Friday, August 27th 2021 on Multiple Chord Music)

Alex Lefaivre is a bassist, composer and educator based in Montreal. He is a founding member of Parc X Trio, winners of the 2010 TD Grand Prix de Jazz at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. He is also a founding member of Multiple Chord Music (MCM), a jazz label that has released over fifty recordings by many of Quebec’s top jazz artists including Gentiane MG & Frank Lozano, Benjamin Deschamps, Rachel Therrien, Rémi-Jean LeBlanc, Joel Miller, François Jalbert & Jérôme Beaulieu.

On his new album Naufragés (“Castaways”), Lefaivre presents a mix of five original compositions and three covers that reflect his contemporary aesthetic and visceral sound. After many failed attempts at scheduling the recording during to the COVID 19 pandemic, the group finally managed to assemble at Montreal’s Studio Madame Wood on April 5th 2021. Recorded over the course of two spontaneous sets of music, the listener can feel the urgency and sheer joy erupting out of Alex and his bandmates Erik Hove, Nicolas Ferron and Alain Bourgeois. The session was recorded and mixed by Simon l’Espérance and was mastered by LeFaivre himself.

Naufragés’ eclectic and cinematic contemporary jazz style features echoes of punk, disco, Film Noir and even reggae, giving the music a biting energy that oscillates freely between raw, rough textures and moments of refined grace, all the  while leaving lots of room for these brilliant musicians to stretch out.

Naufragés will be released worldwide on Friday, August 27th 2021 on Multiple Chord Music.
1. Time of the Barracudas 5:34
2. Boiler Room 7:43
3. Sneaked 6:09
4. Hommage jazz à “Passe Partout” 3:55
5. Reset 7:39
6. Sly 6:42
7. Sin City 6:21
8. Immigrant Song 4:48

Erik Hove - Alto Saxophone
Nicolas Ferron - Guitar
Alex Lefaivre - Bass
Alain Bourgeois - Drums

Ex-Vitamins | "Ex-Vitamins" | Available August 27th, 2021

Anonymous Performer and Composer
Recruits All-Star Cast for High Energy Project;
Encourages Artists to Respond Instinctually with First Take Recordings

Eponymous Release Ex-Vitamins
Features Mark Guiliana, Nate Smith, Ben Wendel,
Tim Lefebvre, Shayna Steele, and More

Available Everywhere August 27

There is something both soothing and terrifying when a schedule clears. The opportunity to reclaim a bit of time that had been put aside for someone else can feel like an unexpected vacation. How we react and what we create during those unexpected and challenging breaks is what sets us apart. Ex-Vitamins was on that perpetual touring/recording/touring carousel before everybody’s schedule cleared. They worked tirelessly in front of crowds that could rival the population of most American towns.
A curious anonymity can wash over a tight band playing before a stadium crowd. The personality in the spotlight becomes oversized while the rest of the band focuses on that amplification, holding up mirrors to create an even brighter center point. Ex-Vitamins knows those crowds weren’t there to see him. They were there to see his boss. Ex-Vitamins has a lot of friends who did that for a living; musicians who once referred to David Bowie, St. Vincent, Paul Simon, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, or others as the boss. 
During the world’s unexpected hiatus, Ex-Vitamins set about creating a project that resulted in a series of songs and hypnotic music videos that untangle a funky brain far from rehearsals and shows and tours. “I had always wanted to take what I’ve learned in those musical situations and do something creative with it. I kept referring to it as a laptop side project,” the elusive composer said from his modest New Jersey studio. “I didn’t want attachment to any preconceived notions about how it should sound or what lane it goes into. I just wanted to make music.” So, with the spotlight off and the world retreating to their electrified caves, Ex-Vitamins assembled some friends and created a whole different beast.
The energy of contact-less collaboration bursts through from the very first seconds of the album and never slows down. “Some of these guys play in situations where they need to play the same kind of thing night to night. When they did whatever they wanted to, I got some unexpected results. I never had to say, ‘can you try something else?’ I value these guys’ voices so much on their own instruments. I called them for a reason. I didn’t just need a guitar. I needed Max Bernstein on this. I didn’t just need drums. I need what Mark Guiliana or Nate Smith can bring. These are guys that have their own voice.”
And that sound is not bound by time or travel restrictions. This album was recorded by musicians in New York, California, Arizona, Tennessee, and France. Smith, who was in Nashville, pounds out a strong backbeat for “Intro” that makes way for an orchestra of sounds: New Power Generation horns rise up in waves; a limber and soulful piano solo fights for space. “On some of these tunes, when I sent the music out it was, ‘don’t listen to it until you are ready to record. First take. Have as many toys as you can in the room. Send it back.’” 
Guitarists Robin Macatangay and Bernstein join Smith for “Are You Proud.” Together they engage in a funky rhythm guitar battle whose essence floats through the next two tracks as Bernstein stays for “Toronto” and “Ism.,” the latter of which takes the affair down a different ‘80s avenue. Visions of Morris Day and Rick James dance above Guiliana’s unmistakable drum kit. “Some of these songs initially felt like I was waiting for someone to come lay a topline melody, but the more I played them the more I got used to them existing on their own. Now I think adding anything else would get in the way,” says Ex-Vitamins.
“Hello, Let’s Go” features haunting synthesizers amid pounding drums. As the tune builds, another voice enters that shifts the whole experience. “I wrote a bridge to it and sent it to saxophonist Ben Wendel and he put the whole thing into outer space. There’s something very fulfilling about that arpeggiated bass line, that pulsing feel. It feels like it could go on forever.”
Vocalist Shayna Steele provides the swagger for “Fake Out,” her enthusiasm carrying the tune with a force that evokes great shouters like Tina Turner and Merry Clayton. Like any funky endeavor, a lot of weight falls on the bass player. Tim Lefebvre does here, as he does elsewhere on the album, just what makes him such an in-demand low-end master. “Every time I think I know what Tim’s going to play, he plays something else that’s even hipper. That’s the mark of an unbelievably creative musician,” says Ex-Vitamins. Drummer Chris Kimmerer is no slouch either. His driving push makes this collaboration a standout.
Ex-Vitamins bookends the album with a nod to their jazz roots in moments of lithe dexterity. “I wanted something athletic” he says of the unexpected solo, his sound is aggressively showered with a weighty grind. “You Are #9” brings back a few of the albums stand-out performers - Lefebvre, Guiliana, Kimmerer, Bernstein – for one last hurrah, an ascending thump in an optimistic direction.
“This past year was a time when everybody got a lot of perspective on what it is they do and what it is they like to do. That informs what I asked for from them, and it informs what they gave me. I was more open than ever to say, ‘do your thing.’ I want to have even less say in how it is that you do it,” says Ex-Vitamins on his first, self-titled album Ex-Vitamins. And that’s the point. Music for music’s sake. What secrets lie stacked in the basement studio? Who wants to help find out? The results may surprise you.

For more information on Ex-Vitamins, please visit: