Friday, October 1, 2021

Miki Yamanaka (w/ Mark Turner, Orlando le Fleming) to release 'Stairway to the Stars' on October 1 via Outside in Music

Celebrated Pianist, Composer and Bandleader Miki Yamanaka Announces the Release of Her Upcoming Trio Record, Stairway to the Stars, Featuring Saxophonist Mark Turner and Bassist Orlando le Fleming, Out October 1st on Outside In Music

Outside In Music is pleased to announce the October 1st release of Stairway to the Stars, an intimate, pared-down glance into renowned pianist Miki Yamanaka’s musical ethos. A follow-up to 2020’s Human Dust Suite, Stairway to the Stars was recorded on August 12, 2020. Initially slated to be recorded live in front of an audience at Mezzrow Jazz Club during one of Yamanaka’s monthly weekend performances, 2020 had other plans for this esteemed pianist as the city shut down amidst a global health crisis. Recorded at home, Stairway to the Stars captures a fiercely immersive trio session featuring Miki Yamanaka on piano alongside consummate bassist Orlando le Fleming and acclaimed saxophonist Mark Turner.

2020 was no ordinary year, and this is no ordinary album – Stairway to the Stars features a drumless configuration of piano, saxophone and bass and yet does not sacrifice one iota of stellar rhythmic invention. Yamanaka brings a nuanced intensity to the eight tunes presented on this album, especially her two original pieces, “Oatmeal” and “Wonder”. Stairway to the Stars is released while the pianist, composer and bandleader is fresh off the heels from her second studio release Human Dust Suite, which was hailed by master organist Larry Goldings as “a wonderful example of the breadth of Miki’s musical vision” and “a seasoned follow-up to her widely recognized debut Miki” by Mike Jurkovic of All About Jazz.

Yamanaka’s fervent, muscular performance is only augmented by her esteemed houseguests Orlando le Fleming and Mark Turner, both of whom are prolific bandleaders and sidemen with a who’s who of jazz luminaries. Yamanaka notes “I was always a huge fan of Mark, and had never gotten to play with him before COVID. He is busy usually, as a leader and a sideman. I was too excited when both of them showed up to my apartment!”

Yamanaka’s stellar original compositions shine on Stairway to the Stars, her tune “Oatmeal” makes its recording debut, this soulful piece highlights the cohesiveness of this small ensemble of New York staples. Turner’s sax soars over Yamanaka’s bluesy harmonic refrains as le Fleming’s thoughtful bass lines provide the track with a tight-knit swing and buoyancy. Yamanaka demonstrates her stunning facility at melodic invention over the tune’s jaunty changes.
Miki Yamanaka by Rudy Royston

The ensemble lends its instrumental agility and refinement to a diverse array of jazz classics including old chestnuts such as “My Melancholy Baby” and “Tea For Two”; as well as  bebop hits such as Charlie Parker’s 1947 composition “Cheryl”, and Steve Swallow’s lush composition “Eiderdown”. Each composition activates new territory for the seemingly boundless outfit to explore, leaving the listener with a comprehensive album that acts as a masterclass in interplay and dynamics.

Yamanaka notes “I will never take it for granted to be able to be with my favorite people making music, drinking nice wine, eating nice food together, ever again. It made me realize how important that is in my life.” Stairway to the Stars seemingly captures the excited, joyous energy of a confluence of fine musicians and friends gathering together to do what they do best.

The Kobe, Japan native, who has lived in New York City since 2012. A student of Jason Lindner, Jeb Patton, Fred Hersch, Sam Yahel, and Larry Goldings, in 2015 she was one of three pianists selected to participate in “Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead”, an intensive composition residency at the Kennedy Center. She earned her Master of Music degree from Queens College. Miki has appeared in concert with many notable musicians including Steve Nelson, Seamus Blake, Jerry Dodgion, Victor Lewis, Rich Perry, Antonio Hart, and Peter Bernstein. She holds residencies at Smalls and Mezzrow Jazz Clubs in New York City and has had multiple week-long engagements at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola since 2016. She is the current pianist in the Philip Harper Quintet, the Roxy Coss Quintet, and the Antonio Hart Group. Miki recorded an EP, “Songs Without Lyrics” in 2012, which featured Lawrence “Lo” Leathers, Tivon Pennicott, and Spencer Murphy, she released her aforementioned debut album, “Miki” with Steve Nelson, Orlando le Fleming, and Bill Stewart in 2018 and “Human Dust Suite” in 2020 alongside alto saxophonist Anthony Orji, bassist Orlando le Fleming, and drummer Jochen Rueckert.

1. Cheryl
2. My Melancholy Baby
3. Eiderdown
4. Ask Me Now
5. Wonder
6. Oatmeal
7. Stairway to the Stars
8. Tea For Two

Guitarist Juanma Trujillo’s New Album ÍMPETU is due out October 1, 2021 via Falcon Gumba

Falcon Gumba Records is thrilled to announce the release of Ímpetu, the latest album from Venezuelan-born, New York-based guitarist and composer Juanma Trujillo. To be released on October 1st 2021, Ímpetu represents an important period of the prolific bandleader’s career. Motivated by the passing of both of his grandfathers, Trujillo takes the listener through a mesmerizing suite of original music on this spell-binding release which features saxophonist Hery Paz, pianist Santiago Leibson and drummer Robin Baytas

What does music sound like when it remembers and imagines, or when it grieves and consoles? Throughout Ímpetu, Juanma Trujillo meditates on these questions with uncommon delicacy and grace, inviting the listener into an intimate and at times melancholic space. The recent losses of his maternal and paternal grandfathers, Rogerio and Rubito, led him to honor their memories. As two men who did not share the burdens of their experiences openly, they left only the traces of their struggles behind, which Juanma transforms here into a program of serious but unsentimental music.
“Both of my grandfathers were born in Venezuela in the late 1920s which was a period of profound transformation in the country,” explains Trujillo. “For people who grew up in rural areas, like my grandfathers, moving to the capital (Caracas) in pursuit of a better life must really have felt like moving to a different planet. I wanted to write music that would convey that journey and how in some ways mirrors my own journey in life.” The title, Ímpetu, which translates to impetus, was inspired by the strength shown by these two important figures. 

For this sophomore release, Trujillo employs the talents of three close peers who play his compositions with effortless grace. Featured on saxophone, bass clarinet and flute is Cuban musician Hery Paz, who is a frequent collaborator of Trujillo’s. Notably, Paz and Trujillo are two-thirds of the MPT trio along with Francisco Mela; their debut album Volume 1 was released on 577 Records earlier this year to wide-spread critical acclaim. “I admire Hery’s capacity to inject lyricism into any musical context. He does it in a very beautiful way in which he never sounds corny”, Trujillo muses. Paz generates a wild intensity playing tenor saxophone on standout tunes “2rs” and “Rosario” while creating thrilling moments as a flutist on “Adaure” and the lyrical duet “Llanto”.

“Occasionally heavy, but with a calculated deftness, the Venezuelan player is equal parts Sonny Sharrock and David Pajo in his daring guitar lines…The guitarist’s playing is totally novel and utterly batshit, yet effortless in its majesty”
– Cal Cashin, The Quietus 

The Argentinian pianist Santiago Leibson brings an acute approach to the music, adding full orchestral density in the contemplative “La Unión” as well as adding rich textures with the Wurlitzer in “2rs” and “Nieto”. Trujillo notes “As a guitarist, it’s often tricky to play with pianists, but with Santiago, I always feel total comfort and ease in playing how I would normally play while he finds amazing ways to support me that won’t diminish his own role in the music”. 

There’s a broad duality in the playing of drummer Robin Baytas, who brings a vigorous intensity to the compositions “2rs” and “Rosario” while almost disappearing into the music as a colorist on “Adaure”. “My music can go to a lot of different places with someone like Robin playing drums,” says Trujillo. “You can entrust him with anything you would want a drummer to do like playing great time or shaping the music dynamically but he can also do so much more. He’s a musician with an expansive mind.”
Photos of Juanma Trujillo by Kenneth Jimenez

Throughout, Trujillo plays with deep restraint both on acoustic and electric. “Both of my grandfathers loved the acoustic guitar, all the while I was growing up making louder music playing electric, so I wanted the tunes “Adaure” and “La union”, which are the names of the towns they grew up in, to be played acoustic as a reference to that preference.” Conversely, the compositions that take inspiration from Trujillo’s perspective are played on electric. These musical choices act as a narrative device – they, and grandson are represented as characters in the music. 

Within the liner notes, noted saxophonist and composer Kevin Sun writes that “Juanma cherishes that which lingers over the merely captivating or shocking, knowing that, in music as in life, it is more meaningful to affect and to coalesce than to stimulate or to fracture. Ímpetu is a testament to these durable values and to the memories of his grandfathers, and we commune with these artists as we receive this musical tribute, its humility, and its beauty.”

The final track “Llanto” showcases a delicate duet with Trujillo on acoustic guitar and Paz on flute, its reflective mood brings the entire trajectory of the suite to an end on a subdued note. “I’ve always been attracted to unconventional arcs in recordings, the idea is to present the entire document as a cohesive whole, to serve the story I’m trying to tell”. Indeed, Ímpetu features a potent narrative component that’s almost cinematic in scope, while at the same time showcasing the work of a seasoned ensemble that can address myriad aesthetics without losing its identity. 

“…Trujillo’s evocative versatility gives this set a calm center even when the music gets stormy”
– Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz

1. Nieto (Intro) – 3:54
2. Adaure – 7:14
3. 2RS – 5:55
4. La Unión – 9:51
5. Rosario – 7:38
6. Llanto (Outro) – 2:57

Juanma Trujillo - Guitar
Hery Paz - Saxophone, Bass Clarinet & Flute
Santiago Leibson - Piano & Wurlitzer
Robin Baytas - Drums & Percussion

All music composed by Juanma Trujillo (Adaure Publishing, BMI)

Recorded by Chris Gilroy at Douglass Recording
Assistant Engineer - Amogh Agarwal
Mixed by Juanma Trujillo
Mastered by Eivind Opsvik at Greenwood Underground
Artwork and Design by Flóres Soláno
Videography by Kenneth Jimenez

Pablo Held - Embracing You (October 1, 2021)

Pablo Held - Embracing You (October 1, 2021)

Pablo Held’s self-released 13th album, 'Embracing You', which launches his label Hopalit Records, is unique in the 34-year-old pianist-composer’s corpus, following twelve dates with his internationally acclaimed trio. For the first time, Held – who “loves reacting to people, playing off their ideas and developing things together” – presents his lyric, penetrating, meditative vision of the solo space via interpretations of eight originals and three reimagined gems from the canons of Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and John Taylor on piano, mellotron, synths and celesta. This no-safety-net dive into his consciousness constitutes a transparent reflection of Held’s aesthetic and emotional growth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

excerpt from the liner notes by Chris Weisman:
"Though this is the work of one person alone, it is an inclusive wonder of many voices. May Pablo grace us again, in the future, with another such outing. This is my jam."

1. Memorabilia
2. Ruby, My Dear
3. Song Noir
4. Chronic Romantic
5. Embracing You
6. Serenade
7. Face On The Barroom Floor
8. Bowl Song
9. Private Eye Blue
10. Adagio For Nobler Toners
11. Elsa's Idea

Pablo Held plays piano, celesta, mellotron & synthesizers

all compositions by Pablo Held, except "Ruby, My Dear" (Thelonious Monk), "Face On The Barroom Floor" (Wayne Shorter) & "Bowl Song" (John Taylor)

produced by Pablo Held
co-produced by Jason Seizer
radio producer Odilo Clausnitzer
project coordinator Till Kammertöns

mixed by Rob Griffin
mastered by Christoph Stickel
design by Till Kammertöns
photos by Nadine Heller Menzel
liner notes by Chris Weisman

Recording sessions:
June 22nd – 24th 2020 at DLF Kammermusiksaal, Köln
engineers: Oliver Bergner, Eva Pöpplein & Christoph Schumacher

October 24th & November 6th 2020 at Studio Lutz, Köln
engineer: Oliver Lutz

February 8th 2021 at Riverside Studios, Köln
engineer: Oliver Bergner

Hopalit Records

Joe Farnsworth | "City of Sounds" | Available October 1 via Smoke Sessions Records

Drummer Joe Farnsworth Celebrates the Fortitude of
New York City’s Jazz Community with
Second Release for Smoke Sessions Records

Due Out October 1, City of Sounds Features
Kenny Barron and Peter Washington

Prior to the events of 2020, it may have been easy to take New York City’s thriving and diverse music scene for granted. But when clubs went dark and an unsettling silence descended on the metropolis, it served as a stark reminder of just how vitally important it is to keep the music alive. Drummer Joe Farnsworth determined to do just that, and remained a stalwart jazz warrior throughout the pandemic. His celebratory new album, City of Sounds, is both a testament to his efforts and a heartfelt tribute to the musical melting pot he’s called home for more than three decades.

Due out October 1 via Smoke Sessions Records, City of Sounds was captured onstage at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club with a superb trio featuring legendary pianist Kenny Barron and bass titan Peter Washington. The three are reunited from Farnsworth’s Smoke Sessions debut, Time To Swing, which also included Wynton Marsalis in the line-up. Here Farnsworth sticks to the core trio, a format in which he’s thrived throughout his storied career – including collaborations with McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Harold Mabern, Hank Jones, David Hazeltine and ELEW, among many others.

“I've learned so much from this city,” Farnsworth declares. “Then the city got rocked, so I wanted to try to give back. One of the ways I could do that was by staying here and playing whenever and however I could to keep the sounds alive.”

The performance represented by City of Sounds is just one example of that effort. A thrilling live concert from Farnsworth’s birthday week in February 2021, it bears the traces of the strange period we’re just now emerging from, with musicians in masks and separated by plastic barriers, playing to an empty club for an audience of virtual listeners streaming the music live at home.

Not that any of those inconveniences are reflected in the music. The trio plays with as much vigor, wit and muscularity as if the place was packed throughout a rollicking set that spans the stylistic spectrum. That’s one of – if not the main – reasons that Farnsworth remains so dedicated to his adopted hometown, and one that he was proud to see survive the travails of a turbulent period.

“I went on a Black Lives Matter march from Inwood through Harlem that ended up at a park on the West Side Highway,” he recalls. “As we marched, people were flying the flags of the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, and you’d hear salsa music playing from their windows. Then you went through Harlem and heard funk and soul and rap music. Everyone was cheering for the same thing, but there were all these different sounds. You can't get that anywhere else in the world.”

If that trek can be summed up in a single tune, it’s here in Barron’s “Bud-like,” a tribute to bebop pioneer Bud Powell that also bears a slight Latin tinge. Farnsworth continues the Latin feel with his sultry original “Ojos Cariñosos.” Translated as “brown eyes,” the tune is dedicated to a Dominican friend and was inspired by his collaborations with percussionist/bandleader Bobby Sanabria and lessons learned from Miguel “Mike” Amadeo, the Puerto Rican-born songwriter and proprietor of Casa Amadeo, the city’s longest-running Latin music store.

The set gets off to a brisk and swinging start with Barron’s “New York Attitude.” The song was originally recorded on the pianist’s 1996 album of the same name, but it’s an apt kick-off to an exhilarating evening dedicated to the toughness and tenacity of the jazz mecca’s steadfast musical community.
“We're at Smoke and there's no one there, there're baffles between us, and we have masks on – Kenny Barron, who is royalty and could easily have decided just to stay home and not deal with this, is across the stage with a double mask on. But he's out there. That’s the fortitude of the New York musician. You have to have it to be here because you get smacked around by so many different things, but you just keep showing up.”

The flip side of that attitude is the tenderness and grace that Barron brings to a classic standard like “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” buoyed by Washington’s fleet basslines and the airy touch of Farnsworth’s nimble brushwork. “Moonlight in Vermont” is taken at an achingly slow pace, inspired by an encounter that Farnsworth shared with vocalist Betty Carter while playing at the now-defunct Greenwich Village club Sweet Basil in Benny Golson’s band. Album closer “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” meanwhile, takes on an uncharacteristic brightness that represents the dawn after the darkness.

“Kenny suggested that tune,” Farnsworth says. “Everybody was so worried about the future at that point. We were constantly talking about taking things day by day. That's all you heard during the pandemic, but it’s something you should hear every day. So ‘Softly’ is a reminder that today is a new day.”

Farnsworth’s “City of Sounds” is a woozy blues that hints at an after hours jam session, while the blistering “No Fills” recounts a formative lesson taught to him by saxophonist George Coleman. “After the set George asked me, ‘Do you want some butter with them rolls?’ I was playing too much. He wanted me to be more like Billy Higgins. If you listen to Hank Mobley’s Straight No Filter, they do a tune called ‘Soft Impressions’ where McCoy Tyner is on fire but Billy never plays a fill. It's just straight through the top like George was talking about. For me, that's really the bible of no fills.”

The continuity of tradition represented by the album is also captured in its cover photo, which was taken in Weehawken, New Jersey at the same spot where saxophonist Benny Golson is depicted on the cover of 1959’s New York Scene. Golson was one of Farnsworth’s earliest employers, and the site is not far from the homes of Thelonious Monk and Barry Harris, which Farnsworth says affected the very atmosphere of the place.

“People ask all the time if it's still relevant to come to New York anymore,” Farnsworth concludes. “Without a doubt, if you were to spend a year here, you would be a better musician. Why? Charlie Parker's not here, but you still feel him. Monk's not here, but you still feel him. Their presence flows through the streets. It flows through the people. It’s the ultimate power source.”

"City of Sounds" was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith,
recorded live at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, NYC from February 19-21, 2021
and mastered to ½” analog tape using a Studer mastering deck.

Joe Farnsworth · City of Sounds
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: October 1, 2021

For more information on other Smoke Sessions Records releases, please visit:

The Bowie Project - Strange Changes (October 1, 2021)

Since 2014, The Bowie Project has captured jazz and Bowie fans alike with its dynamic and vibrant instrumental interpretations of the compositions of one of popular culture’s most iconic figures. Pianist, composer and broadcaster Adam Rudegeair (PBS 106.7fm Black Wax) deconstructs and re-imagines selections from David Bowie’s five-decade back catalogue – from deep cuts to hits. With humble beginnings as an acoustic jazz quartet, the sound and line-up of The Bowie Project continues to evolve with each album and performance.

Strange Changes is the fourth release from The Bowie Project and is infused with the flavours of New Orleans brass bands, as well as Headhunters era Herbie Hancock.

1. Lady Grinning Soul
2. Oh! You Pretty Things
3. The Man Who Sold the World
4. Let's Dance
5. Ashes 2 Ashes
6. Fame
7. Fashion
8. 'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore

Adam Rudegeair – piano, keyboards
Thom Mitchell – drums
Monty Shnier – acoustic and electric bass
Kumar Shome – electric guitar
Adam Donaldson – percussion
Luke Carbon – baritone sax, bass clarinet
Phil Hayter - tenor and alto sax
Eamon McNelis – trumpet
Jay Scarlett – sousaphone and trombone

Recording Engineer – Jem Savage
Studio Assistant – Hannah Reaney

Additional overdubs recorded by Myles Mumford, Adam Donaldson, Adam Rudegeair
Behind the scenes photography – Tina Behrsin, Lara Wentworth, and Adam Rudegeair
Artwork by Lara Wentworth
Mixed by Myles Mumford
Mastered by Bisho Abdelsayed - Radiate Productions
Recorded in November/December 2020 at:
Box Hill Institute, Rolling Stock Recording Rooms, Funk Noir HQ, and the Lockup.

Produced and arranged by Adam Rudegeair
All compositions by David Bowie except Fame (Bowie/Lennon)

Evan Parker - Winns Win (October 1, 2021 Byrd Out)

Free Jazz pioneer, Evan Parker returns to Walthamstow to record an album taking inspiration from the renowned designer and activist, William Morris at the home of the socialist campaigner, which now houses the William Morris Gallery.

The original working title for the album was 'Barbarism Once More', taken from a longer quotation from Morris, which reflects the passion, spontaneity and iconoclastic nature of Evan's playing. However, in light of the death of Evan’s friend and leading light of the improvising scene, John Russell, who lived on Winns Avenue, adjacent to the Gallery, Evan decided to offer a tribute to John, calling the album ‘Winns Win’.

Evan has spoken about entering "a utopian space" when he plays, to which a parallel can be drawn to Morris's novel 'News from Nowhere', and from there to Free Improvisation's early political leanings. The album presents nine spontaneous compositions that are very dense, though very melodical at the same time, using pattern and repetition as Morris did in his designs. This is music for headphones, or high-quality speakers - you’re in the room, hearing the movement of the saxophone keys and the breathing close at hand, with the sax in the middle of the room and panning providing a three-dimensional experience.

The album will be released on 1 October to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Morris's Death (3 October).

‘WW5’ will be released as a trailing single on 8 September. The track has the air of an expansion of what could have been a short beginning of a longer improvisation.

The original artwork is ‘Design for Flowerpot embroidery’ (designed c.1876) by William Morris, with additional design by Oliver Bancroft. The Gallery notes “Morris based the design on two Italian seventeenth-century lacis-work panels acquired by the South Kensington Museum in 1875. Lacis is a handmade net onto which a design is darned.” Thanks to William Morris Gallery and Waltham Forest Council for their support in producing the record. 

1. WW1
2. WW2
3. WW3
4. WW4
5. WW5
6. WW6
7. WW7
8. WW8
9. WW9

All tracks created and performed by Evan Parker.
Original design work by William Morris, additional design by Oliver Bancroft.
Sound Engineers, Dotan Cohen and Harry Loughlin. Mixing and mastering by Dotan Cohen.

Lis Wessberg - Yellow Map (October 1, 2021 April Records)

Danish trombonist Lis Wessberg has enjoyed a 30-year career as a side(wo)man with a whole host of jazz and pop stars, touring internationally and featuring on more than 40 albums.

Now, three decades after graduating from the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, she prepares to release her debut album Yellow Map (1st Oct, April Records).

The nine original compositions showcase the mellifluous melding of the acoustic trombone with more electronic and groove-based elements - as well as a special guest appearance of long-time collaborator drummer/percussionist Marilyn Mazur.

The tunes were written specifically for this lineup - pianist Steen Rasmussen, bassist Lennart Ginman and drummer Jeppe Gram - bringing a real sense of familiarity to the proceedings and allowing that unpredictable air of mystery and risk-taking that defines many great albums.

Wessberg herself cites ‘Cool Jazz’ icons such as Lee Konitz, Ben Webster, Chet Baker as major influences. It’s perhaps apparent in her personal approach, but the overall effect is much more cinematic: layers of sounds and instruments provide light and darkness, sincerity and excitement, joy and reflection.

Above all, though, Wessberg stays true to her concept that a good melody and a full, rich sound are the two most important elements of both performing and composing.

She leads the way with a vocal trombone tone filled with warmth and emotion.

1. The Strip 04:36
2. The Ancient Road 05:51
3. In Your Absence 04:38
4. Chimes 04:21
5. Midnights 05:00
6. Sister M 04:18
7. The Diver 04:47
8. Roots 05:44
9. Yellow Map 03:30

Lis Wessberg: Trombone
Steen Rasmussen: Fender Rhodes, Moog, Synths and Piano
Lennart Ginman: Bass and Electronics
Jeppe Gram: Drums

Special guest:
Marilyn Mazur: Balafon and Percussion on 'Sister M'

All compositions and arrangements by Lis Wessberg
Published by April Publishing ApS
Recorded by Louise Nipper
Mixed & mastered by Lars Nissen

Recorded at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark, January 12th-14th, 2021

Carlos Barbosa-Lima & Johannes Tonio - Manisero (October 1, 2021 Zoho Music)

The extraordinary life story and career of Brazilian guitarist, arranger and teacher Carlos Barbosa-Lima has now spanned over six decades and crossed many musical genres, from Classical to Brazilian sambas and Bossa Novas, from Latin American folk music to Gershwin and Bernstein. According to his own count, he recorded more than 70 albums, including his most recent ten CDs for ZOHO Music. He has also published over 1000 guitar arrangements and transcriptions so far.

The composers and guitarists Carlos has befriended or collaborated with read like a virtual musical who-is-who of 20th century Classical music, and include Andres Segovia, Alberto Ginastera, Antonio Carlos-Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, and Leo Brouwer. His guitar arrangements and transcriptions have been recorded by many artists, including by his earlier duo partner Sharon Isbin.

In 2017, Carlos was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music at Five Towns College in Long Island, NY in recognition of his lifelong achievements in developing and performing Brazilian and Latin American repertoire for acoustic guitar.

His latest album Manisero, musically adventurous as ever, is covering unique new ground by being Carlos’ first album recorded in Munich, Germany. It is his first recorded collaboration with his frequent German classical guitar duo partner Johannes Tonio Kreusch, featuring a baker’s dozen of Carlos’ new arrangements of some of the most iconic Mexican, Brazilian, and Argentinian 20th century classics.

Johannes Tonio Kreusch, one of the “most creative classical guitarists of the present” (Acoustic Guitar Magazine), studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum and at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Since his solo debut at the Carnegie Recital Hall in 1996, concert tours as a soloist and chamber musician have taken him to many cities in Europe, the USA, the Far East and Latin America. His intensive collaboration with composers of our time resulted in numerous new works for the guitar.

Johannes Tonio Kreusch regularly collaborates with renowned musicians from the fields of classical music and improvised music, such as Markus Stockhausen, Giora Feidman, and his brother, noted jazz pianist Cornelius Claudio Kreusch. Cornelius can be heard providing sparkling, but subtle piano accompaniments on four compositions on this album, in addition to being one of the producers.

With El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor), the duo starts on a brilliant high note with their version of what is arguably one of the most famous and well-loved Cuban songs of all time. It was written in 1927 by Moises Simon, (1889–1945), the Cuban son of a Spanish musician. Not only has the song been recorded hundreds of times since, it was also featured in many classic films, featuring Ernesto Lecuona, Judy Garland, and Groucho Marx,

Of similarly iconic status, but in Brazilian music of the 20th century, "Manhã de Carnaval" ("Carnival Morning"), written by Luiz Bonfa, appeared as a principal musical theme in the 1959 Portuguese-language film Orfeu Negro by French director Marcel Camus. The song’s musical genre-crossing appeal is evidenced by its many recordings by artists as diverse as Astrud Gilbero, Joan Baez, Frank Sinatra, Cher, Julio Iglesias, and Daniel Barenboim. 

Carlos’ arrangement of the slow Mexican bolero Solamente Una Vez by Agustin Lara, written in 1941, is another high point, with its Latin-swing improvisation, and with its sophisticated harmonic treatment. An English version of the song entitled “You Belong to My Heart” is featured in the live action/animated Disney Film “The Three Caballeros” from 1945.
Johannes Tonio Kreusch, Cornelius Claudio Kreusch, Carlos Barbosa-Lima

Canta, Canta Mais is a beautiful Brazilian ballad by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicus de Moraes which was first released by the composer on a privately commissioned studio album in 1987 in a limited edition to celebrate his 60th birthday. It was re-released for the general public in 1995.

¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes! is a Mexican ranchera song by Manuel Esperón and Ernesto Cortázar Sr. It was written in 1941 and became an enormous hit in Mexico. The melody of the song was used as the title song of the previously mentioned Disney film The Three Caballeros.

Por Causa de Voce is a bossa nova song composed in 1957 by Antônio Carlos Jobim. The song became famous when Frank Sinatra recorded the song with Jobim in 1969, under the title "Don't Ever Go Away”, which was then released on his album Sinatra & Company in 1971.

Rosa, a Brazilian choro song, was composed by Alfredo Vianna AKA Pixinguinha when he was 18 years old, in 1917. It marked the beginning of a career which made Pixinguinha one of the most popular composers of Brazilian popular music in the first half of the 20th century.

"Cielito Lindo" is a popular traditional Mexican song, composed by Quirino Mendoza y Cortes in 1882. In recent decades it has come to be widely known as a theme song for Mexicans, particularly in international circumstances, like the Soccer Championship World Cup, where Mexican fans sang it to the Mexican national team.

With the next three tracks on the album, we are reaching one of the central milestones of Carlos’ career – his collaboration with the famous Argentinian classical composer Alberto Ginastera. Ginastera composed his Guitar Sonata op. 47 for Carlos in 1976 and dedicated it to him. As a sign of gratitude and appreciation, Carlos returned the favor to the maestro by creating virtuosic two-guitar arrangements of three compositions on this album: Danzas Criollas I & II are arrangements of Ginastera’s Suite de Danzas Criollas for Piano op. 15 from 1946. Gato originates from the composer’s song cycle Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas op 10, from 1943.

No anthology of Latin American or Brazilian classical music can be possibly comprehensive if it does not include a work by Brazil’s leading 20th century composer Heitor Villa-Lobos! Sentimental Melody is the third movement of a large, 1958 Villa-Lobos composition called Floresta do Amazonas (Forest of the Amazon), a symphonic poem for voice, male chorus & orchestra, A. 551 which Carlos arranged into a stunningly beautiful two-guitar piece.

Beloved Mexican composer Manuel Ponce (1882 – 1948) wrote many compositions in classical and folkloric Mexican styles, but none of them as enduringly famous as his song Estrellita from 1912.

With their bi-cultural Brazilian-German collaboration on Manisero, Carlos and Johannes have given the acoustic guitar world a profoundly beautiful, multi-faceted and deeply touching work of art, giving the listener enjoyment, smiles, reflection and calmness of spirit in equal measure. Music can’t do more.

-- Joachim “Jochen” Becker and Kabir Sehgal
Carlos Barbosa-Lima-Johannes Tonio Kreusch
Street  Date: October 1, 2021

Available From: • Amazon •Apple Music •Bandcamp •iTunes •Spotify

Matthew Stevens - Pittsburgh (October 1, 2021 Whirlwind Recordings)

He may not have known it before, but Toronto-born, New York-based guitarist Matthew Stevens, prized for his forceful, distinctive electric sound on Esperanza Spalding’s groundbreaking Emily’s D+Evolution, Exposure and the GRAMMY-winning 12 Little Spells, was an ideal candidate to make an album fully devoted to solo acoustic guitar: the intimate, unadorned, straightforwardly titled Pittsburgh. Stevens’ previous two outings, Woodwork (2015) and Preverbal (2017), made use of steel-string acoustic as a vibrant textural contrast, notably on “Brothers” and “Our Reunion” (featuring Spalding as guest and co-composer). Still, a solo acoustic album seemed to Stevens like a “maybe someday” prospect, if that. Then came the convergence of two major events — the COVID-19 pandemic and a fractured elbow.

By September 2020, Stevens was hunkering down in his wife’s family's hometown of Pittsburgh, still busy with adjunct teaching (virtually) at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute while navigating his way through the crisis. He had with him a vintage Martin 00-17, a small-body mahogany guitar that he bought not long after recording Exposure with Spalding (the studio had a different one in its possession and Stevens used it fairly extensively on that album). Practicing daily on the Martin, he began generating a series of short song “starts” — ideas and sketches he thought might lead somewhere. With the help of his friend, go-to drummer and producer Eric Doob, he made preliminary versions of some of the Pittsburgh material for The Jazz Gallery’s virtual “Lockdown Sessions” video series, and the vision started to take on a more concrete form.

Then one rainy Pittsburgh day, Stevens’ bike slid out from under him and he broke his right elbow. Rather than getting derailed musically, he became immersed in a creative process that led straight to Pittsburgh: a document of those short song “starts” from the notebook, now hatched as completed compositions. “Playing this music became a big part of my rehab,” Stevens recalls. “My aunt is a physical therapist, so I was doing sessions with her online. She said that what we do as guitar players is so specific, it uses muscle groups we’re not even aware of. She told me I needed to start playing as soon as I could, so those things don’t seize up and you don’t lose strength. She said, ‘I know you can’t lift a shopping bag, but if you feel like you can play at all you should play.’ I really could have been flailing, but the solo project offered me a different path: I had material to work on and I could just lose myself in it because it required so much repetition, such close attention to things that are slow and deliberate. It spared me from a lot of mental anguish."
As the album took shape, it became clear to Stevens that he was headed in the direction of a wholly unaccompanied recital, with no overdubs or sound layering of any kind. Just him and this special Martin, two Neumann U89 mics and enough peace of mind across two separate sessions to make Pittsburgh the triumph that it is. “I’ve always felt that playing acoustic is a great way to develop a touch and a connection to an instrument,” Stevens comments. “There’s no apparatus that helps you be expressive, play dynamically, or create ambience on an acoustic guitar. So when you develop that, it’s something you can carry with you into playing electric.”

Compositionally, there are discernible families of songs on Pittsburgh: the rapidly flowing, intricately arpeggiated pattern pieces such as “Purpose of a Machine,” “Can Am” (named in honor of Stevens’ recently acquired American citizenship) and “Cocoon” (a thorough reworking of a piece first heard on Preverbal); the tranquil, hymn-like songs “Foreign Ghosts,” “Ending Is Beginning” and “Miserere”; and the grittier, more timbrally “outside” inventions such as “Ambler” and “Northern Touch.” Throughout, we hear a rich resonance and immediacy in Stevens’ touch, a flavor all his own, even as he draws inspiration from John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot and other jazz guitar greats who’ve made acoustic exploration a significant part of their legacy.

In addition to his extensive high-profile work with Esperanza Spalding (serving as co-producer on Exposure and 12 Little Spells), Stevens is also a member, songwriter and co-producer of Terri Lyne Carrington’s GRAMMY-nominated Social Science band. He has made vital contributions to groups led by Dave Douglas, Linda May Han Oh, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Ben Williams, Sean Jones, Jacky Terrasson, Justin Kauflin and more. With tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III he co-leads the In Common collective, which will soon release its third volume with an extraordinary lineup featuring Carrington, Kris Davis and Dave Holland. Stevens has also amassed many credits beyond the jazz world, collaborating on forthcoming releases by Anna B Savage, Jamila Woods, Tyler Armes (Murdagang) and Berlin-based electronic artist Robag Wruhme.

1. Ambler
2. Purpose Of A Machine
3. Buckets
4. Can Am
5. Foreign Ghosts
6. Northern Touch
7. Cocoon
8. Ending Is Beginning
9. Blue Blues
10. Broke
11. Miserere

Matthew Stevens - guitar
All songs by Matthew Stevens

Recorded at Audible Images Studio, Pittsburgh PA
(28/01/21 and 04/03/2021)
Mixed and mastered by Jay Dudt
Produced by Matthew Stevens and Eric Doob
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Photography - Katie Brook
Album Artwork - Charles "Teenie" Harris
Graphic Design - Dave Bush

I Hold the Lion's Paw - Lost in Place (October 1, 2021 Earshift Music)

If IHTLP’s first album Abstract Playgrounds was the sound of a close-knit group of improvisors riffing on the twisted funk of Miles Davis’s On the Corner, as filtered through the lens of James Brown and Fela Kuti, then this second, Lost in Place, is a whole other matter.

Instead of a continuation of the groove, this new album has taken a decidedly left turn, journeyed to a far darker place. Whereas previously, we heard the sustained groove of a creative unit playing live in the studio, this time round we find ourselves confronted by a portrait of the composer as alchemist, practising the dark arts in secret. If we were to invoke Miles once more, we could say that this is trumpeter and IHTLP leader Reuben Lewis’s Dark Magus phase, an album of stripped-down trumpet utterances, electronic soundscapes, and weird vibrations.

There is a starkness to this music, exemplified in the three and a half-minute opening track, comprised of a trumpet fanfare, modulated and distorted, played over electronic beats and synths. As the album progresses, we get subtle hints of Reggae, the harmolodics of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, trance, nods to prog rock, gentle refrains and riffs, free jazz, rhythmic percussion, scraps of guitar, saxophone, trombone. It’s a mash-up of influences, put through a grinder, adventurous and experimental at heart.

Reuben Lewis has drawn upon a talented pool of musicians to create this music: saxophonist Cheryl Durongpisitkul, trombonist Jordan Murray, cellist Freya Schack-Arnott, voice artist Emily Bennett, bassist Tom Lee, guitarists Geoff Hughes and Julius Schwing, electric bassists Mick Meagher and David Brown, and drummers Ronny Ferella, Michael McNab and Maria Moles. Rather than playing set pieces, these artists have instead contributed their sound palette, the base metal from which Lewis builds his vision. Each contribution has been broken down, isolated and sampled, filtered through a maze of electronics, then re-assembled, creating a sum distinct from its parts.

This is the musician as bricoleur, taking inspiration from the constructions of Kurt Schwitters and Dada, the raw sounds of Musique Concrète, the patterns and drones of early minimalism. The art of breaking down each performance into its constituent components, and re-building them into new and arresting forms. This is music as assemblage, using the studio as laboratory, a way of thinking about sound other than performance. Samples, loops, pedals, edits, every tool in the toolbox, whatever works. Making decisions on what to put in, and what to take out. Think Teo Macero and Miles carefully crafting ‘Pharoah’s Dance’, practising sorcery in post-production.

If looking to nominate a guiding spirit behind Lost in Place, we would do well to look to visionary late trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell who, through to his ninth decade, continued to make music as vital and powerful as that of any time in his career. Proponent of a Fourth World aesthetic, Hassell was an innovator and touchstone for the experimental layering of sound built upon samples, overdubs, fragments and loops. A sonic explorer, his musical montages are an acknowledged inspiration for Reuben Lewis’s work.
While Lost in Place is sequenced as eleven tracks, it is best approached as two unbroken flows of music, divided into Side A and Side B. But let’s dwell upon those titles for a moment. The album’s title Lost in Place can’t help but feel like a nod to the Sun Ra classic Space is the Place (and there’s plenty of interplanetary synths going on here), or then again it could be an allusion to the Robinson family, bouncing around in space, dedicating each day (or episode) to finding home. The album’s individual track titles, when lined up, form an incantatory sound poem: finding place / place in space / losing place / rest in place / space in place / losing space (and so on). The music circles, jabs and feints, all-the-while trying to find a place to rest. Layer upon layer, ever-searching, it incrementally builds, progressing headlong toward Emily Bennett’s spoken word piece, sounding a crie de coeur, that effectively closes the circle, reprising an echo of the opening fanfare, this time with renewed urgency. But, alas, there are no easy answers, and the album’s ending remains intentionally unresolved, splintering and fracturing into otherworldly sounds, dark and ambiguous.

More than anything, Lost in Place feels like a bold conceptual statement, a recording seeded out of doubt and uncertainty. In toying with the mirrored words place/space, Reuben Lewis has given us a timely meditation on our growing need to navigate a path through overwhelming social, economic and global turmoil, as we seek a place – even if temporarily – to land. Let’s face it, in these times, we need it now more than ever.

1. finding place
2. place in space
3. losing place
4. rest in place
5. space in place
6. losing space
7. place for space
8. in your place
9. fixed in space
10. Queensland
11. lost in place
12. finding place (radio edit)
13. losing space (radio edit)

Creative Team:
Reuben Lewis – trumpet, synthesisers, pedals, samples
Emily Bennett – voice, words
Freya Schack-Arnott – cello
Cheryl Durongpisitkul – alto saxophone
Jordan Murray – trombone
Julius Schwing – electric guitar
Geoff Hughes – electric guitar
Mick Meagher – electric bass
David Brown – electric bass
Tom Lee – acoustic bass
Ronny Ferella – drums
Michael McNab – drums
Maria Moles – drums

Liner Notes: Des Cowley
Compositions: Reuben Lewis
Produced: Reuben Lewis
Co-Produced: Myles Mumford

Recorded: Reuben Lewis, Ari Roze, Myles Mumford
Mixed: Myles Mumford
Mastered: William Bowden
Photography: Jack Lewis
Design: Dianne Fogwell, Jack Lewis, Takashi Takiguchi

Ben Marc - Breathe Suite (October 1, 2021 Innovative Leisure)

It’s a rare talent that can link Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, Afrofuturists Sun Ra Arkestra and grime legend Dizzee Rascal, but Ben Marc has long blurred musical worlds and criss-crossed boundaries. On double and bass guitar, he flits between jazz, classical and electronic music, whether playing on Greenwood’s award-winning score for the film The Master or touring with Mulatu for over 10 years, as well as working with the likes of Matthew Herbert & Charles Mingus.

But as a producer and multi-instrumentalist at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, Ben Marc is now stepping into the spotlight with his debut solo project that recalls the likes of spiritual jazz legends Alice Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders.

1. Breathe Suite A (feat. MidnightRoba)
2. Breathe Improv A
3. Breathe Suite B (feat. Shabaka Hutchings & Rarelyalways)
4. Breathe Improv B

Rachel Flowers - Bigger on the Inside (October 1, 2021)

California artist Rachel Flowers demonstrates with her third solo album that she truly is, as the title suggests, "Bigger on the Inside." As a composer, Rachel seamlessly weaves together elements of progressive rock, jazz, classical, and pop music with cinematic orchestrations, soaring melodies, and virtuosic playing. Top this off with Rachel's 3 1/2 octave vocal range and her uncanny ability to explore universal themes ranging from love, joy, and hope to depression, bullying, and fear of an uncertain future with sensitivity and optimism, and you have an album that is destined to stand the test of time.

1. A B
2. Take Me Away
3. Too Much
4. Love Today
5. This is the Way I Am
6. The Darkness
7. Feel
8. Beautiful Dream
9. With You

Record Producer: Rachel Flowers
Executive Producer: Jeanie Flowers
Project Manager: Robert Minsk
Album Art & Design: Vaughan Flowers @v.d.flowers_art
Recording & Mixing: Rachel Flowers at Bedroom Studios, Oxnard, CA
Mastering: Steven D. Smith At My Loft Studios and The Cannery, Kirkland, WA

All songs composed by Rachel Flowers (ASCAP) except This is the Way I Am music by Rachel Flowers (ASCAP), lyrics by Jeanie Flowers (ASCAP). All vocals and instruments performed by Rachel Flowers.

℗© 2021 Rachel Flowers Music

DE GHOST (Sknail)


DE GHOST is the new electro project (electronica) of Swiss producer Sknail.

"AXIS", the 2nd single from the 10 tracks album
"Luxe" to be released on October 1st,
is out today!


Thollem / Karl Berger - Thollem's Astral Traveling Sessions (October 1, 2021)

I had the great fortune to meet Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso at their home in Kingston, NY through Michal Bisio who also lives there, of course. I came to town to play a concert with Michael at the Lace Mill and Angela and I spent a few days in the area at Bill Brovold's place. Segments of a recording in duo with Bill as well as a duo with Michael are both included in the August compilation album in the series.

Karl Berger is a six time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, recipient of numerous Composition Awards ( commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, European Radio and Television: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy. SWF-Prize 1994 ). Professor of Composition, Artist-in-Residence at universities, schools and festivals worldwide; PhD in Music Esthetics.

Karl Berger became noted for his innovative arrangements for recordings by Jeff Buckley ("Grace"), Natalie Merchant ("Ophelia"), Better Than Ezra, The Cardigans, Jonatha Brooke, Buckethead, Bootsie Collins, The Swans, Sly + Robbie, Angelique Kidjo a.o.; and for his collaborations with producers Bill Laswell, Alan Douglas ("Operazone"), Peter Collins, Andy Wallace, Craig Street, Alain Mallet, Malcolm Burn, Bob Marlett a.m.o. in Woodstock, NY. New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris, Rome.

He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts in the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, India, Phillippines, Japan, Mexico, Brazil.

His recordings and arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Columbia Double Moon, Douglas Music, Elektra , EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, In&Out, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, Pye , RCA, SONY, Stockholm, Vogue a.o.

Founder and director of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., dba The Creative Music Studio, a not-for-profit corporation, dedicated to the research of the power of music and sound and the elements common to all of the world’s music forms; and to educational presentations through workshops, concerts, recordings, with a growing network of artists and CMS members worldwide.

Conducted CMS Residencies worldwide. In the 90s, Dr. Berger was Professor of Composition and Dean of Music Education at the Hochschule fuer Musik, Frankfurt / Germany. Chairman of the Music Department at UMass Dartmouth till 2006.

Now re-establishing CMS programming in collaboration with producer Rob Saffer, directing the CMS Archive Project, recording and producing.

Performing internationally with the Allstar Ensemble "In the Spirit of Don Cherry" and with numerous projects, collaborating with vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso ( contact ). Recording a Trlogy of Piano Music for Tzadik Records. Collaborating with bassist Ken Filiano, vocalist Ingrid Sertso (KIK) + guitarist Kenny Wessel (KIKK). The Karl Berger Improvisers Orchestra, completed 75 performances in New York since the Spring of 2011 (see BLOG at New collaboration in Europe with drummer Baby Sommer, bassist Antonio Borghini, guitarist Carsten Radtke, vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso (DIFFERENT STANDARDS). Collaborating with cornetist Ken Knuffke, violinist Jason Hwang, saxophonists Ivo Perelman, Peter Apfelbaum, Mercedes Figueras, drummers Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Warren Smith, Tyshawn Sorey. bassists Joe Fonda, Mark Helias, Max Johnson, William Parker, trumpeter Steven Bernstein and others for recordings and performances. 

1. Thollem / Berger 1
2. Thollem / Berger 2
3. Thollem / Berger 3

Karl Berger, Vibraphones
Thollem, Piano

Recorded and mixed by Karl Berger at his studio in Kingston, NY, December, 2019
Edited by Thollem

Mastered by Drake Hardin

Wendy Eisenberg - Bloodletting (October 1, 2021 Out Of Your Head Records)

Bloodletting, recorded, March 22th, 2019 at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, is a performance of a long form text score I wrote around late 2018. Unlike directive text scores that indicate through order or poetry what should be played (or evoked), my score is a block of text, written to be memorized and then performed using the nonlinear randomness of memory.The purpose of this form of text-score was to mimic, through memory and temporal distance, the way the eye dances on a page, selecting what it does, when it does. This kind of reading, or recalling, affords the eye, the memory, some separation from the linearity that written language encourages. I wrote these scores because I was curious about why it was that text scores seemed to suggest, by abandoning notation, some kind of populism, when the simplest or most direct language seems (to me) to be the most confusing, especially when remembered. Also, scores which tell a person what to do, via order or poetry, still dictate behaviors. The hierarchy between composer and performer was still there, fluxing as always, not entirely subverted. I wrote this practice to see if memory worked differently.

The nature of this particular suite is personal, in large part because the way memory works is personal, but also because right now, I want the memorized block of text to exist privately for me, ever altered by the process of memory the longer I hold on to it. I have started some similar pieces for other musicians, but for this particular suite, it feels strange to ask another musician to memorize the thousands of words I engaged with in the months prior to this performance, and stranger still to provide an audience with a way to forensically dissect what they hear in a form that is in no way intended to function as a one-to-one translation, if such a thing exists. Such an intimate performance of memorization, such an intimate dissection: these moves are eerily close to some of the practices of loving.

- Wendy Eisenberg

1. Bloodletting (guitar)
2. Ostara (guitar)
3. Scherzo (guitar)
4. Coda (guitar)
5. Bloodletting (banjo)
6. Ostara (banjo)
7. Scherzo (banjo)
8. Coda (banjo)

Wendy Eisenberg - guitar/banjo

Recorded and engineered by the team at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, March 22 2019
Mixed by Peter Atkinson
Mastered by Simon Lancelot

Brett Naucke - Mirror Ensemble (October 1, 2021 American Dreams)

“I guess this is my indie rock record,” jokes Chicago electronic musician and composer Brett Naucke - he’s referring to his new LP Mirror Ensemble, created in conjunction with Windy City mainstays Natalie Chami (TALsounds) and Whitney Johnson (Matchess). The album is still leagues outside the confines of “indie rock,” and yet - with its embrace of other collaborators and robust instrumentation - it’s a major departure from his earlier, fully synth-based output, even if modular synthesizers still form its backbone. For one, the songs on Mirror Ensemble sound like...well, songs, often boasting melodic vocalization, strings, and lush layered synthesis. To curate such a cohesion, Naucke utilized scenes from Andrei Tarkovsky’s foundational 1975 film The Mirror as a signpost for mood and atmosphere. It paid off - Mirror Ensemble is bold and beautiful, demonstrating the peak possibilities of focused creation and trust in those closest to you.

It’s of utmost importance to note that Naucke, Chami, and Johnson are very, very close friends, and that tight kinship is the secret glue for Mirror Ensemble - look no further than the origin point to see. “He invited Whitney and I over for wine and cheese,” begins Chami, “and was like, ‘I have an idea for a record. He showed us clips from The Mirror with the vibe he wanted, and also shared recordings and other ideas. It was straight up like a fucking PowerPoint almost - like an audio-visual presentation for us.” Soon after the group set to creating - recording at Chami’s house, and building off of what Brett had laid down as initial arrangements and synthesizer passages, Chami and Johnson composed and played viola, piano, keyboard synthesizers, and vocal sections.

Film, photography, and visuals have always been important to Naucke’s practice, especially on earlier narrative albums like The Mansion, and it’s fully baked into the sound and feel of Mirror Ensemble. “I remember he played one scene with rain, fire, people kind of moving in and out of the buildings,” recalls Johnson. “It's probably 10 minutes, and there’s a convergence of so many elements.” Specific images like a tattered quilt, a creaky bed, a look between two people - all of these components impacted the trio’s recordings - these were often used as guides for improvisations, which were overlaid on Naucke’s modular synthesizer and other pre-composed sections.

Naucke’s vision for Mirror Ensemble is crystal clear, as are the record’s sonics. From the outset of “The Glass Shifting,” with its evocative viola, textural synth, and duet vocals from Johnson and Chami, it’s clear that Naucke is upping the sense of scale and narrative. Juxtaposing that relatively short piece with the next song, the longform “A Look That Tells Time,” Naucke takes the listener through a massive range of frequencies and timbres. “A Look That Tells Time” moves calmly from organ tones, plucky percussion, and gentle viola to lush, patient synthesizer that swells and stirs. Others like “Sleep With Your Windows Open” are naked, like you stumbled into a rehearsal you weren’t meant to see, but can’t stop watching. On it, Natalie Chami plays piano and sings softly. Room sounds impart a sense of the space, and synthesizer fades in and out, just enough to make its presence known, but never overstaying its welcome.

Mirror Ensemble is Naucke at his compositional and conceptual best. It’s a synthesizer record, an orchestral record, and in some ways even a soundtrack. While not quite indie rock, it’s a fierce burst into new territory, and with Naucke’s adventurous, ambitious writing and recording, there’s no telling where his attention will turn next. 

1. Vanity Well
2. The Glass Shifting
3. A Look That Tells Time
4. Catch Your Breath
5. Parallax
6. Rose Water 03:55
7. Sleep With Your Windows Open
8. Late-Century Reflection

Voice, Synthesizer, Organ, Piano - Natalie Chami
Viola, Violin, Organ - Whitney Johnson
Arrangement, Synthesizer, Organ, Piano - Brett Naucke

Mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri
Photography - Michael Vallera & Brett Naucke