Friday, December 17, 2021

Roddy Ellias Free Spirit Ensemble - Not This Room (December 17, 2021)

When music transcends the notes, it connects our inner and our outer lives, and takes us to another place. It’s a place you’ll want to inhabit for a while, and Not This Room will get you there. These nine songs combine the unique melodic artistry of composer and guitarist Roddy Ellias with unforgettable lyrics by Canadian writer Sandra Nicholls. Sung by Juno awardwinning vocalist Kellyee Evans, with the help of eight other musicians, the songs are a stirring testament to the power of creativity in the face of isolation, a musical light from the darkest days of the pandemic, a jazz-infused message of hope.

Ellias is a composer whose work defies a simple definition, and his musical journey has taken him from his early roots in pop and R&B bands, to the improvised world of jazz, through African and other world beats all the way to the classical world, even writing an opera, and everything in between. The songs on this latest album move seamlessly through different moods and styles, echoing the shifting experience of the pandemic itself. From the simple folky power of Prayer to the hypnotic beat of The Street, from the haunting, melancholy lyricism of the title track, Not This Room, to the luminous harmonies of Draw Me a Circle, the songs on this album linger on long after you first hear them.

This is not his first collaboration with Nicholls, an awardwinning poet and novelist, but they consider it their most important, with songs they hope will connect people in a time of profound disconnection. In addition to Ellias and Evans, the album features New York pianist Marc Copland, Juno-winner Petr Cancura, Richard Page, Pierre-Yves Martel, Guy Pelletier, Justin Orok, Chris Pond and Jose Garcia. It was recorded in the beautiful ambient setting of Mackay United Church in Ottawa.

1. Not This Room 5:11
2. The Street 3:46
3. Draw Me A Circle 4:44
4. Closer 5:50
5. Blood and Bone 4:42
6. Suddenly 6:24
7. What You Needed 3:04
8. Hold On 5:31
9. Prayer 3:34

All compositions by Roddy Ellias (music) and Sandra Nicholls (words)

Roddy Ellias - Acoustic Steel String Guitar
Kellylee Evans - Voice
Marc Copland - Piano
Justin Orok - Nylon String Guitar
Chris Pond - Bass
Jose Garcia - Percussion
Petr Cancura - Soprano & Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Mandolin
Guy Pelletier - Bass Flute, C Flute
Richard Page - Bass Clarinet
Pierre-Yves Martel - Viola da Gamba

Ed Pettersen - The Problem With Livia (December 17, 2021 577 Records)

In 2019, guitarist Ed Pettersen was given the opportunity to explore the incredible acoustic space of the Emmanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, Norway, a dark room covered in frescos of naked figures, with his electric lap steel guitar. As something that had mainly been a bucket list experience, the opportunity represented both a satisfying accomplishment and a deeply spiritual, haunting experience. The freedom of the mausoleum’s arching, hallowed space is paralleled in the exploratory wandering of Pettersen’s guitar, moving with confidence and curiosity through the abstract. The tracks, played on his 8-string Weissenborn guitar, keyboards and modular synth are both relaxed and intense, making equal uses of silence and clarity of sound.

Pettersen is not usually drawn to playing solo, preferring the energy of collaboration—and hadn't been planning to play again until French improvisor Christian Vasseur asked me to contribute to his weekly pandemic collaborations in November 2020. After recording for Christian, Pettersen let the tape roll, and this project documents the winding and wistful improvisations created in memory of his experience at the mausoleum.

1. The Problem With Livia
2. Get Out of Here
3. Completely Unaware
4. Facts Don't Lie
5. C'mon, C'mon, C'mon
6. Can It Really Be You
7. Gimme' a Break
8. Green, Green, Green
9. If I Had a Dollar
10. It Doesn't Matter Anymore
11. Let's Go to the Video
12. Like I Used To
13. Stop Me if You've Heard This
14. Stop, Wait, Don't
15. We Are the Sunset 

Ed Pettersen - 8 string Weissenborn, keyboards and modular synth

Recorded on November 24, 2020 by Ed Pettersen in Nashville, TN
Mixed Ed Pettersen
Mastered by Bob Olhsson

All music by Ed Pettersen, High Line Riders Music (ASCAP)

Jacob Jolliff - Standards, Vol. 1 (December 17, 2021)

1. I'll Be Seeing You 06:59
2. Moose The Mooche 04:58
3. Everything Happens To Me 05:28
4. Have You Met Miss Jones? 06:52
5. Tricotism 04:55
6. Nica's Dream 05:41
7. Inner Urge 05:51
8. Turn Out The Stars 04:55

Jacob Jolliff, mandolin
Randy Porter, piano
Jeff Picker, bass
Alwyn Robinson, drums

Produced and Engineered by Randy Porter
Mixed by Dave Sinko
Mastered by Randy LeRoy at Tonal Park
Graphic Design by Setty Hopkins

Sarah Marie Hughes / Stephen Arnold / Kelton Norris - Still Life (December 17, 2021)

This recording took place in a late Summer afternoon in Alexandria at Jack Kilby’s home studio the Crab Shack. Once all the microphones were set up we asked Jack to just let the tape roll, and we improvised for about an hour with some fun, but mixed results. We took a break and hung out on the porch for a while, catching up and listening to the cicadas. When we came back in, the music really started to gel, and we recorded all the pieces on this record, which are presented in chronological order.

It is difficult to describe the uncertain feeling of that Summer. This session was our first time being together in months, and we didn’t discuss any real plans or expectations beyond wanting to play.

So much in our lives had changed and has changed since this recording, but this is how we were then. I remember thinking in that moment that we were like the buzzing cicadas, but instead of buzzing, we made this music. It’s just what we do.

- Stephen Arnold

1. Re-Entry
2. Plaza Sésamo
3. Stop Making Me Celebrate
4. Tunes, Songs, Pieces, Works
5. Still Life
6. Where's It Gonna Go?
7. Word Association

Sarah Marie Hughes: soprano saxophone, voice
Stephen Arnold: bass
Kelton Norris: drums

Recorded by Jack Kilby at the Crab Shack, Alexandria, VA on Aug. 24, 2020
Mixed by Ben Miller in New York City, NY
Mastered by Mike Pope at Vatican City Sound, Marriottsville, MD

Produced by Stephen Arnold

Cover Art: "Chimera" by Sarah Marie Hughes

All songs by Sarah Marie Hughes, Stephen Frederick Arnold, and Kelton Norris