Friday, January 7, 2022

Rudresh Mahanthappa Hero Trio - Animal Crossing EP (February 4, 2022 Whirlwind Recordings)

Acclaimed alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa reconvenes his Hero Trio with Rudy Royston and François Moutin for new 4-song EP

Animal Crossing, due out digitally February 4, 2022 via Whirlwind Recordings, tackles eclectic repertoire including the theme from the wildly popular video game and songs by Pat Metheny, Chuck Mangione and George Michael

“Its central achievement is bridging the gap between supposed high and lowbrow, as Mahanthappa’s trio convincingly puts a distinctive stamp on the eclectic source material, with sparkling cocktails of grooves, hooks and solos…”
– Kevin LeGendre, Jazzwise

" [Mahanthappa is] making truly some of the most original jazz out there at the moment."
– Brian Zimmerman, Jazziz

Listen! Up on all digital streaming services! It’s a Bird… It’s a Trane…No, it’s Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Hero Trio! The Caped Composer and his intrepid trio with bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston first assembled when the world needed them most, at the height of the pandemic. But the mid-2020 release of their self-titled debut also meant that most audiences were deprived of seeing them in person – great for maintaining secret identities, less ideal for celebrating live music.
 
But like any great superhero, Mahanthappa and the Hero Trio are back with a much-anticipated sequel. Animal Crossing, due out February 4, 2022 via Whirlwind Recordings, is a digital-only EP featuring four new songs, each an unlikely addition to the canon of jazz standards. “The idea behind Hero Trio was to turn the idea of playing a set of standards on its ear and freshen up the idea,” the saxophonist explains.
 
And yes, that includes the title tune – the theme song for the wildly popular video game that became ubiquitous during lockdown. While the choice may reflect the fact that Mahanthappa has two young children at home, allowing the lilting theme to worm its way into his brain and take hold, the game – much like the Hero Trio itself – fulfills a vital need just below its playful surface. For those who somehow managed to avoid the craze, Animal Crossing players take on adorable animal avatars, which can interact with other players within the game’s virtual world.
 
“Animal Crossing ended up being a kind of savior for a lot of people in lockdown,” Mahanthappa says. “It provided an injection of calm and positivity for lots of folks and became a way for isolated people to connect. You could play with your friends online – there were even stories of people having their birthday parties in Animal Crossing. It was amazing to me that this video game had that kind of presence and power.”
All four of the songs on the new EP, along with the entire Hero Trio repertoire, have such personal meaning for Mahanthappa, in one form of another. For much of the innovative altoist’s career, he focused intently on his own original music. He first joined forces with Royston and Moutin in 2015 for Bird Calls, a quintet album that paid unconventional tribute to Charlie Parker with new pieces reconfiguring material from Bird’s iconic compositions. Hero Trio grew out of that project, with Mahanthappa turning his arranger’s vision on material from a variety of eclectic sources.
 
“Partly I think it was spurred by my teaching,” says Mahanthappa, who was named Director of Jazz at Princeton University since 2016. “I find myself playing standards with my students and realizing that I really enjoy that.”
 
The reference in the title of Pat Metheny’s “Missouri Uncompromised” to one of the darkest moments in American history and a direct antecedent to the Civil War certainly has ominous echoes with our current divisive political moment. The tune itself is also simply a longtime favorite, a rarely reprised piece from the guitarist’s 1976 debut album, Bright Size Life. “That’s my favorite Metheny album, and ‘Missouri Uncompromised’ is my favorite tune on the album,” Mahanthappa says. “I never get tired of it, and I always thought that it would be a real challenge to record as a horn player.”
 
The name Chuck Mangione, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly scream “challenging” – the flugelhornist’s 1977 megahit “Feels So Good” instantly became the soundtrack of choice for breezy, carefree good times. That reputation obscures Mangione’s serious jazz chops (he’s an alumni of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, for one) but Mahanthappa chose “Give It All You Got” for reasons much closer to home.
 
“My older brother was a huge Chuck Mangione fan when he was in late high school or early college,” he recalls. “He had a Chuck Mangione t-shirt! A lot of the music that I was exposed to when I was a kid came through my brother. Whatever he was into became what I was into by default. So I wanted to record ‘Give It All You Got’ because the music that you hear when you're really young had an impact, regardless of what you think of it later in life.”
 
In the trio’s transformative hands the original’s loping funk slows to a dirge-like lurch, turning an anthem of upbeat optimism into a dark ballad of determination in the face of overwhelming odds, a perfect reflection of the difficulties we’ve all been living through over the past few years.
Moutin’s vigorous pulse ushers in the album’s final track, which after a full-throttle intro coheres into a spirited take on George Michael’s “Faith.” With Mahanthappa essaying the familiar message with fierce declamation over Royston’s tumultuous rhythm, the song ends the EP on a particularly invigorating note. “George Michael had a special charisma about him,” Mahanthappa says, “and that song has a groove that is just killing. There are all these ways you can kind of manipulate it just by moving an eighth note here or there, but it always remains infectious.” Case in point – the trio’s second pass through the melody of “Faith” is superimposed on the chord changes of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”
 
While Mahanthappa was excited to reconvene the Hero Trio to record these new songs, he’s even more eagerly anticipating playing for actual audiences in 2022. “We released this album in June and proceeded to do no gigs,” he laments. “We weren't even able to wear any of our superhero costumes in public! We at least want to get out there and wear the capes.”
Photos: David Crow

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Hailed by Pitchfork as “jaw-dropping… one of the finest saxophonists going,” alto saxophonist, composer and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa is widely known as one of the premier voices in jazz of the 21st century. He has over a dozen albums to his credit, including the acclaimed Bird Calls, which topped many critics’ best-of-year lists for 2015, and the eclectic self-titled 2020 debut of his Hero Trio with Rudy Royston and François Moutin. Mahanthappa has been named alto saxophonist of the year for nine of eleven years running in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics’ Polls, and for five consecutive years by the Jazz Journalists’ Association (2009-2013) and again in 2016. He’s also won alto saxophonist of the year multiple times in the JazzTimes Magazine and Jazz Journalists Association Critics’ Polls and was named the Village Voice’s "Best Jazz Artist" in 2015.  He has also received the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, among other honors, and is currently the Anthony H. P. Lee ’79 Director of Jazz at Princeton University.

Tracks

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Theme (Kazumi Totaka) 6:08
Missouri Uncompromised (Pat Metheny) 6:42
Give It All You Got (Chuck Mangione) 5:20
Faith (George Michael) 4:29

Rudresh Mahanthappa Alto Saxophone
François Moutin Acoustic Bass
Rudy Royston Drums

Recording Date: November 22, 2021

Studio 
Sound On Sound, Montclair, NJ. 
David Amlen, Engineer

Mixed by Liberty Ellman

Mastered by Liberty Ellman

Producer Rudresh Mahanthappa

Have You Heard? Oz Noy, Ugonna Okegwo, Ray Marchica "All The Things You Are" (January 7, 2022 Outside in Music)

Their first release as a trio, Riverside is a fresh, life-affirming collection of standards that stems from the group’s spontaneously assembled outdoor jams held in Riverside Park, New York City during lockdown.

As individuals, this dynamic trio has a wide range of performing credits – Ugonna Okegwo as a celebrated sideman with Jacky Terrasson and Tom Harrell, Ray Marchica as a Broadway and session player (plus two albums as a leader) and Oz Noy as one of fusion’s most sought after individual voices.

All three have worked on the New York scene for the past two decades, so when the COVID-19 lockdown hit, it was a huge blow to both their livelihoods and their creative spirits. When, summer came around, and the chance presented itself for housebound musicians to meet up and play outdoors. Oz called upon his neighbors Ugonna and Ray and invited them down to the park for a jam session – Ugonna on upright, Marchica with a small drum set, and Noy on electric guitar, with a battery-powered amp. The sessions went on through the summer months until the weather turned in October. But instead of packing up entirely, the group went into the studio, satisfied that they had created a sound, and a feeling amongst the group. We welcome their debut single, "All The Things You Are".


Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, Rebecca Martin & Larry Grenadier - After Midnight (January 28, 2022)

OJM, is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to promote creation, research, education and public awareness in the area of Jazz. Founded in 1999 with the support of the Matosinhos City Council, today OJM plays the role of a National Jazz Orchestra. Combining international ambition with local community responsibility, OJM considers itself a pioneer in a largely unexplored territory.

1. The Space In A Song To Think
2. In The Nick Of Time (State Of The Union)
3. Brother Can You Spare A Dime
4. Kentucky Babe
5. After Midnight
6. Portrait
7. Don’t Mean A Thing At All
8. Willow Weep For Me
9. All Day Long She Wrote
10. Lush Life
11. Joey

Pedro Guedes: Conductor and Arrangements
Rebecca Martin: Voice, Guitar, Lyrics and Compositions
Larry Grenadier: Bass and Composition

Woodwinds: João Pedro Brandão, João Guimarães, Mário Santos, José Pedro Coelho, Rui Teixeira
Trumpets & Flugelhorns: Luís Macedo, Javier Pereiro, Rogério Ribeiro, Ricardo Formoso
Trombones: Daniel Dias, Paulo Perfeito, Andreia Santos, Gonçalo Dias
Guitar: André Fernandes
Piano and Arrangements: Carlos Azevedo
Drums: Marcos Cavaleiro

Recorded at CARA/OJM, Matosinhos, Portugal, January 20-22, 2020
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mário Barreiros
Assistant engineer: Nuno Couto

Cover photo: The interior of Hanover Mountain House thanks to the Town of Olive, NY Archives;
Booklet photos: Images taken during the recording session by Alexandra Côrte-Real
Design: Dobra

Pat Matshikiza & Kippie Moketsi (feat. Basil Mannenberg Coetzee) - Tshona! (April 15, 2022 We Are Busy Bodies)

As a member of the all-star Jazz Epistles in the late 1950s, saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi (also spelled Moketsi during his tenure with the As-Shams record label in the 1970s) was one of the pioneering forces of modern South African jazz. While Jazz Epistles bandmates Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim would go on to build their careers in the United States in the 1970s, it was at home in South Africa that Moeketsi would leave his mark on the domestic jazz discography. From the outset of record store owner Rashid Vally's forays into the production of independent jazz in the early 1970s, Kippie Moeketsi played a key role, notably as a featured sideman on Abdullah Ibrahim's Dollar Brand Plus 3 in 1973.

While Moeketsi had a reputation as a great interpreter of standards with a firm grasp of jazz as an American idiom, he notably steps into deep South African jazz territory with a pair of his own compositions on the album Tshona! (released on Vally's nascent As-Shams/The Sun label in 1975). With equal participation from pianist Pat Matshikiza (also a well established South African jazz figure at the time), Tshona! emerges as one of the great South African jazz collaborations of the 1970s and is revered as a canonical recording from this era. Moeketsi and Matshikiza were flanked by the Soweto's hottest rhythm section by way of drummer Sipho Mabuse and bassist Alec Khaoli of Harari and featured on tenor sax was none other than Basil Coetzee, who's contribution to Abdullah Ibrahim's breakout hit record Mannenbeg - 'Is Where It's Happening' the year prior had earned him the esteemed appellation Basil "Mannenberg" Coetzee.

With the album cover bearing a playful illustration of a pair of township thugs by artist Mafa Ngwenya, Tshona! is the ultimate jazz document of its time and place - modern, urban, original, authentic and unmistakably South Africa. Moeketsi and Matshikiza would continue to record together for As-Shams/The Sun with Moeketsi featured on Pat Mathsikiza's Sikiza Matshikiza album in 1976. Matshikiza returned the favour in 1977, appearing on Moeketsi's Blue Stompin' album, which featured the Hal Singer Quartet on the title track. 

1. Tshona 11:40
2. Stop and Start 05:09
3. Umgababa 11:11
4. Kippie's Prayer 03:35

Pat Matshikiza - Piano
Kippie Moeketsi - Alto Saxophone
Basil Coetzee - Tenor Saxophone
Alec Khaoli - Bass
Sipho Mabuse - Drums
Dennis Phillips - Alto Saxophone on "Tshona"

"Tshona" and "Stop and Start" composed by Pat Matshikiza
"Umgababa" and "Kippie's Prayer" composed by Kippie Moeketsi

Recorded at Gallo Studios
Recording Engineer: Peter Ceronio
Produced by Rashid Vally

Cat. No. GL 1796
Original Release 1975
We Are Busy Bodies Reissue 2022

Lionel Pillay (feat. Basil Mannenberg Coetzee) - Shrimp Boats (April 8, 2022 We Are Busy Bodies)

Assembling unreleased recordings from 1979 and 1980, Shrimp Boats is a South African jazz archival compilation from 1987 built around its epic side-long title track featuring saxophonist Basil "Mannenberg" Coetzee. The recording was made during pianist Lionel Pillay's November 1979 session with Coetzee for the As-Shams/The Sun album Plum and Cherry. Side Two is composed of material recorded in September 1980 from the session for Lionel Pillay's Deeper in Black album. The 1951 pop standard "Shrimp Boats" was first given its unlikely jazz arrangement by Abdullah Ibrahim (recording as Dollar Brand) in 1971.

Pillay and Coetzee take this seed of an arrangement to its furthest reaches with their mesmerising performance. Although the title track casts a big shadow, Pillay's "Slow Blues for Orial" is a welcome original composition on the flip side that stands proudly next to a rare 1970s cover of Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi's "Yakhal 'Inkomo" (Pillay was the pianist on Mankunku's original 1968 recording) featuring saxophonists Barney Rachabane and Duke Makasi. The set closes with a nod to the contemporaneous jazz fusion scene with a take on Weather Report's "Birdland" from 1977.

1. Shrimp Boats 25:07
2. Slow Blues For Orial 07:31
3. Yakhal'Inkomo 09:06
4. Birdland 05:50

Personnel on Track 1:
Lionel Pillay - Piano
Basil Coetzee - Tenor Sax
Stompie Manana - Trumpet
Charles Johnstone - Bass
Rod Clark - Drums
- Recorded 12 November 1979

Personnel on Tracks 2, 3, 4:
Lionel Pillay - Piano
Barney Rachabane - Alto Sax
Duku Makasi - Tenor Sax
Sipho Gumede - Bass
Gilbert Mathews - Drums
- Recorded 29 September 1980

Produced by Rashid Vally
Cat. No. MANDLA 001
Original Release 1987
We Are Busy Bodies Reissue 2022

Alessandro Galati / Palle Danielsson / Peter Erskine - Traction Avant special edition (The Complete Sessions) January 2022 JAzZMUD

I inaugurate this new year with the release of an album in which I have inserted several new songs found while listening to the original tapes of a studio session that has brought a lot of luck to my career, allowing my music to be known all over the world.

After a few days of careful listening, I chose eight unreleased tracks, adding them to those originally contained in the Traction Avant CD.

The result is a double album in which the atmosphere is incredibly magical: my compositions, standards and free improvisations alternate in a new balance that I hope will meet the taste of many old and new fans.

A. Galati

1. How Sweet is the Ozone 06:12
2. Floating #1 04:04
3. Andre 07:44
4. Traction Avant 05:39
5. J.S. What 05:49
6. Wassily 08:14
7. Solar 07:59
8. Floating #2 05:33
9. Amaxonia 08:31
10. Blues as you Please 02:16
11. Someday my prince will come 06:09
12. Crinkle 04:52
13. Palle's solo 01:38
14. Red Milk 07:42
15. Ripple 07:07
16. Blues as you Please (alt.version) 06:51
17. You don't know what love is 07:06
18. Solar (alt. version) 07:51

ALESSANDRO GALATI - piano
PALLE DANIELSSON - bass
PETER ERSKINE - drums

Recorded by Jan Erik Kongshaug at Larione 10 (FI)

Stefan Pasborg - Ritual Dances (February 11, 2022 Sunnyside Records)

Danish drummer/composer Stefan Pasborg grew up in a household of ballet dancers, allowing him to have an intimate relationship with their lifestyle and performances. One of his first formative musical experiences was witnessing a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s legendary ballet, The Rite of Spring, by The Danish Royal Ballet. The experience embedded a love for Stravinsky’s work that has manifested in Pasborg’s new recording, Ritual Dances.

Pasborg has been an important voice in the European jazz and improvised music scenes for the past two decades. His dynamic drumming and eclectic tastes have pushed him into collaborations with many stellar musicians, including Wadada Leo Smith, Tomasz Stańko, Miroslav Vitouš, amongst many others. Pasborg has also led a number of celebrated ensembles, the most notable being Ibrahim Electric.

Even though his compositions were seen as dangerously revolutionary when they premiered, Igor Stravinsky’s music has inspired listeners for generations. His many works have become part of the canon for many philharmonic orchestras but are still presented in more challenging programs. Stravinsky was a key figure in avant-garde symphonic writing, but it was his ballets, The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, and Petrushka, that solidified his legend.

The Rite of Spring and The Firebird were the two ballets that inspired Pasborg to reinterpret the Stravinsky’s work for a jazz big band. Ritual Dances takes music from these two works as a basis for Pasborg’s re-structuring. The pieces are heard performed by two large ensembles: the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra on two live cuts and Blood Sweat Drum+Bass for the complete studio recording. The bands are augmented by a number of soloists and electronic musicians.

The program begins with UMO’s take of “Spring Round Dance,” a bombastic and grooving piece with winding Rhodes and aggressive horns. “Sacrificial Dance” introduces the Blood Sweat Drum+Bass ensemble with a marching cadence, which builds into a rocking ending with Jeppe Kjellberg’s wailing guitar. Mystery and intensity are intertwined on “Ritual Dance,” while Pasborg’s subtle drums lead into “Adoration of the Earth,” where Stravinsky’s famous theme can clearly be heard on Fredrik Lundin’s tenor sax.
Overdriven guitar ambience leads to the edgy, martial cadence of “Dances of the Young Girls;” swirling crescendos feature a brilliant Ståle Storløkken organ solo. Ethereal percussion provides an aural bed for Goran Kajfes’s trumpet on “Introduction,” while “Princess’ Game” borrows from The Firebird in an enticingly spastic jaunt. The slinky sound of “Infernal Dance” has a noirish tinge. The laconic “Tableau” features a warm and slightly western duet between tenor player Anders Banke and guitarist Kjellberg before launching into a challenging rhythmic workout. Blood Sweat revisit “Spring Round Dance” with Lundin’s sax singing over the infectious, churning rhythms. The recording concludes with UMO’s intense and episodic performance of “Dances of the Young Girls,” featuring standout performances by Seppo Kantonen and Jussi Kannaste.

Stefan Pasborg’s reinvention of Igor Stravinsky’s iconic works from The Rite of Spring and The Firebird are as brilliant as they are invigorating. Ritual Dances doesn’t rewrite Stravinsky so much as bring his work into the 21st century in bombastic style. 

1. Spring Round Dance (Live)
2. Sacrificial Dance
3. Ritual Dance
4. Adoration of the Earth
5. Dances of the Young Girls (Studio)
6. Introduction
7. Princess' Game
8. Infernal Dance
9. Tableau
10. Spring Round Dance (Studio)
11. Dances of the Young Girls (Live)

Stefan Pasborg - drums
Anders Banke - tenor sax (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 9), clarinet (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
Anders Filipsen - keyboards (tracks 2-10)
Fredrik Lundin - tenor sax (tracks 3, 4, 10)
Goran Kajfes - trumpet (track 6)
Jeppe Kjellberg - guitar (tracks 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10)
Jeppe Tuxen - Hammond B3 organ (tracks 6, 8)
Jussi Kannaste - tenor sax (tracks 1, 11)
Mikael Myrskog - Moog bass (tracks 1, 7, 8, 11)
Rune Harder Olesen - percussion (tracks 7, 10)
Seppo Kantonen - keyboards (tracks 1, 11)
Ståle Storløkken - Hammond B3 organ (track 5)

UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra (tracks 1 & 11):
Ville Vannemaa - conductor
Mikko Mäkinen - soprano, alto sax
Sampo Kasurinen - tenor sax, flute
Teemu Salminen - tenor sax, bass clarinet
Max Zenger - baritone sax, bass clarinet
Marko Portin - flute
Teemu Mattsson - trumpet
Timo Paasonen - trumpet
Tomi Nikku - trumpet
Tero Saarti - trumpet
Kasperi Sarikoski - trombone
Mikko Mustonen - trombone
Pekka Laukkanen - trombone
Mikael Långbacka - bass trombone
Aarne Riikonen - percussion

Blood Sweat Drum+Bass (tracks 2-10):
Jens Christian "Chappe" Jensen - conductor, saxophones (track 9)
Michael Mølhede - trumpet, flugelhorn
Bent Hjort - trumpet, flugelhorn
Malte Pedersen - trumpet, flugelhorn
René Damsbak - trumpet, flugelhorn
Ole Visby - soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Julie Kjaer - alto sax, flute, alto flute
Jacob Rønne Danielsen - tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet, clarinet
Nikolaj Schneider - tenor sax, clarinet
Harald Langåsdalen - baritone sax, clarinet
Jens Kristian Bang - trombone
Jonathan Bruun Meyer - trombone
Kirstine Kjaerulff Ravn - trombone
Jonathan Henneveld - bass trombone
Rasmus Svale Kjaergård Lund - tuba
Sisse Foged Hyllestad - bass
Magnus Lindgaard Jochumsen - percussion
Søren Lyngsø Knudsen - electronics

Tony Malaby 'The Cave of Winds' – Jan. 7 via Pyroclastic Records

Saxophonist/composer Tony Malaby reconvenes his stunning quartet Sabino with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tom Rainey
 
The Cave of Winds, due out January 7, 2022 via Pyroclastic Records, draws inspiration from Malaby’s Covid-era sessions under a NJ turnpike bridge

" [The] tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby has earned a reputation as one of New York’s stalwart improvisers, through an array of sideman appointments and some rigorously rewarding albums."
– Nate Chinen, New York Times
 
" Malaby will play inside, outside and all around his saxophone, but never once will it sound out of place with whatever else is happening."
– Paul Acquaro, The Free Jazz Collective 

The 2020 pandemic forced most of us indoors, musicians included, resulting in a surfeit of new solo projects and home recordings. Saxophonist Tony Malaby took the opposite approach. Having hosted regular sessions at his home for years, resulting in countless new collaborations and inspired breakthroughs, he decided to take these creative get-togethers out into the streets (both as an antidote for cabin fever and out of consideration for his suddenly homebound neighbors).
 
Beginning in July of 2020, Malaby began hosting regular sessions underneath a turnpike overpass near his home in New Jersey. Leading a trio featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Billy Mintz, Malaby invited such improvising luminaries as Tim Berne, Mark Helias, Ches Smith, William Parker and others to join him in the graffiti-covered, reverberant enclave that buzzed with the sound of nearby pedestrians, overhead traffic and the usual collision of nature and humanity that fuels the city.
 
“My artistic discipline comes from playing sessions,” Malaby says. “I just couldn't let that go. It was something I needed just to keep my head above water with everything that was happening with the pandemic and the [presidential] election. Everything was nuts, so I just had to go down there and throw sound with my guys. It got me through and kept me positive.”
 
The turnpike sessions proved to be not only a respite from Covid-related stir craziness but also a source of considerable inspiration for Malaby. The saxophonist felt rejuvenated by the freedom and unique sonic qualities of the space, elements that he wanted to carry into the studio. Feeling that a guitar quartet would make the ideal setting, he reconvened Sabino, the group with which Malaby recorded his debut album in 2000. With bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Tom Rainey and guitarist Ben Monder (stepping in for the original album’s Marc Ducret), he recorded the adventurous new album The Cave of Winds, due out January 7, 2022 via Pyroclastic Records.
 
While there are natural rock formations that share the name in both Niagara Falls and Colorado, The Cave of Winds is Malaby’s affectionate nickname for the turnpike bridge that he made his musical home for the better part of a year. “It was like a tunnel down there,” Malaby recalls. “Wild, crazy things would happen while we were playing in that cavern. Trucks were rolling by, sirens going off, birds singing. We would be down there in 30-degree February weather and the wind would be howling. It was incredible.”
 
The compositions that make up The Cave of Winds were directly inspired by Malaby’s tenure under the bridge. With the literal and figurative space offered by that environment, he was prompted to pen minimal pieces ripe for expansion by the trio and their guests; at the same time, they also are colored by a return to more traditional jazz contexts by this inveterate free improviser.
“Billy Mintz and John Hébert got me into playing standards and jazz repertoire again,” Malaby explains. That comes into play here. We still play freely, and so, you know, but doing that led me to think about harmonic color, the richness of my roots and the joy of playing changes with someone like Ben Monder.”
 
One of the most striking examples of this collision of the tradition and Malaby’s intrepid spirit is the album’s closing track, “Just Me, Just Me.” A contrafact based on the chord changes of the classic “Just You, Just Me” (memorably recorded by the likes of Nat King Cole and Thelonious Monk, among countless others), the tune is far more agitated experience than its jaunty predecessor, and while the title is a tongue-in-cheek play on the original it also captures the fervent individuality of these four musicians.
 
Similarly, the burnished bop melody of “Corinthian Leather” is a loose reinterpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody ‘n You,” leading to unspooling invention from both Malaby and Monder as they stretch the flexible theme beyond recognition. Monder’s roaring heavy metal distortion introduces “Scratch the Horse,” which draws inspiration from the Native American ceremonies depicted in the Richard Harris western A Man Called Horse. “Recrudescence” is a hypnotic group improvisation reflecting on the cyclical nature of the musical life, interrupted though it may have been by recent events, while “insect Ward” suggests a sanctuary for Malaby’s restless, flitting soprano (parried by Formanek’s buzzing bowed bass). “Life Coach” is a duo improvisation by Malaby and Rainey dedicated to their former bandleader, bassist Mark Helias, whose presence the saxophonist insists he can hear in the rhythm and language they share.
 
The Cave of Winds marks the closing of a few chapters for Malaby. For one, it spells the end of the turnpike sessions and the period of research and exploration they represented. Coinciding with the lifting of pandemic-era restrictions, Malaby also left the New York area after more than 25 years for Boston, where he’s taken a position on the faculty of Berklee College of Music.
 
The album also brings Malaby’s career full circle as he embarks on this new venture. 20 years after the release of Sabino he revisits that quartet with three of his most longstanding collaborators. Malaby met Formanek while the saxophonist was still a student at William Paterson University, when both played with the Mingus Big Band. They were both enlisted by saxophonist Marty Ehrlich for a band that also included Tom Rainey on drums, forging a connection that would remain strong for the next three decades.
 
While Ducret was featured on the 2000 album, Ben Monder actually precedes him as Sabino’s guitarist, in an early version of the quartet that featured Jeff Williams and Ben Street. Malaby had initially heard the brilliant guitarist in Marc Johnson’s short-lived band Right Brain Patrol, then approached him at the bar of the Knitting Factory. They met again a week later on a session led by Guillermo Klein and have been working together regularly and fruitfully ever since.
 
Like the primal space its name implies, The Cave of Winds is vast and tempestuous, opening into a reservoir of mystery and inviting the curious to venture deep within. Encouraged by Malaby’s dauntless curiosity, these four stellar musicians delve into the furthest reaches and emerge with inspired riches.

1. Corinthian Leather
2. Recrudescence
3. Scratch the Horse
4. Insect Ward
5. The Cave of Winds
6. Life Coach (for Helias)
7. Just Me, Just Me

Tony Malaby - Tenor and Soprano Saxophones
Ben Monder - Guitar
Michael Formanek - Double Bass
Tom Rainey - Drums

All compositions by Tony Malaby (Chubasco Music/ Sesac) except 'Recrudescence' by Monder/ Formanek/ Rainey/ Malaby

Recorded at Samurai Hotel Studios on June 24, 2021
Mixed and Mastered by Mike Marciano at Systems Two Long Island

Graphic Design by Hidde Dijkstra
Cover Art: 'Lost in Thoughts' by Marieken Cochius
Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Produced by Tony Malaby
Executive Producer: Kris Davis


Fred Hersch's Breath by Breath out Jan. 7, 2022 via Palmetto

Pianist/Composer Fred Hersch reemerges from pandemic isolation with an ambitious new album pairing jazz piano trio with string quartet
 
Breath By Breath, due out January 7, 2022 via Palmetto Records, features a stunning new suite inspired by Hersch’s meditation practice performed by Hersch with Drew Gress, Jochen Rueckert, Rogerio Boccato, and the Crosby Street String Quartet

"[Fred Hersch is] a pianist, composer and conceptualist of rare imaginative power.” 
– Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“Hersch’s work has developed an intensity of intelligence and emotional directness unparalleled among his peers.”
– Steve Futterman, The New Yorker 

Album release concert January 9 at Village Vanguard, NYC 
Pianist Igor Levit premieres new Hersch work January 13 at Carnegie Hall 

Iconic pianist/composer Fred Hersch was an early adopter of new technologies and new ways forward when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But he’s also been among the most eager to return to live performance and collaboration now that life has begun to resume some semblance of normality. In August he returned to the studio to record one of his most ambitious projects to date: Breath By Breath, his first album ever pairing jazz rhythm section with string quartet.
 
“I’ve put all my streaming gear away,” declares Hersch, whose lockdown months started off with daily performances on Facebook and culminated in last year’s solo release Live From Home. “It was great while that was what it was, and now I'm in this place where it's live or nothing.”
 
Due out January 7, 2022 via Palmetto Records, Breath By Breath draws inspiration from the pianist’s longtime practice of mindfulness meditation, centered on the new eight-movement “Sati Suite.” But while the album is certainly contemplative and lustrous, it’s far from being merely an ambient backdrop for blissful relaxation – the music on Breath By Breath is as fully engaged and emotionally rich as any that Hersch has made over the course of his remarkable career.

In part that’s due to the musicians Hersch has enlisted for the album. Bassist Drew Gress was a member of the pianist’s first trio and has been an inspiring bandstand partner for more than three decades. Jochen Rueckert is one of the most in-demand drummers on the modern scene, having played with such greats as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Melissa Aldana and Pat Metheny. The Crosby Street String Quartet, named for the NYC address where they first rehearsed with Hersch, combines four of the city’s busiest freelance string players: violinists Joyce Hammann and Laura Seaton, violist Lois Martin, and cellist Jody Redhage Ferber. 

“String quartets have been some of my favorite music to listen to my whole life,” Hersch explains. As he writes in the album’s liner notes, “I grew up listening to string quartets as a very young musician in Cincinnati. My piano teacher was the wife of the cellist in the famous LaSalle Quartet. I used to lie on the rug in their living room as an elementary school student while they rehearsed, quietly following along, hearing how the viola part meshed with the first violin, or the second violin and the cello. And ever since I started studying composition at age eight, almost all of my music has always focused on four melodic parts - so string quartets are a natural musical configuration for me.” 

The string writing on Breath By Breath spotlights the broad scope of Hersch’s compositional imagination. With each piece the quartet seems to take on a new role in relation to the piano trio: a lush background on one tune, an equal partner in dialogue on the next, an abstract instigator on yet another. “It was important to me that we record live with the strings so I could interact with what they were playing,” Hersch says. “I didn't want to lay down the music and then have them come in later and overdub. I felt like the fun of the project was to do it live.”

“Sati” is a Pali word meaning “mindfulness” or “awareness,” an idea that is central to Hersch’s meditation practice – which itself took on an even more profound importance during the pandemic. “It basically saved me,” he says with no hint of exaggeration. “Meditation is not about not emptying your mind; it's about observation. The phrase I like to use is, ‘relax, allow and observe.’ When I meditate it’s about recognizing sensations or thoughts as they come in and out, observing them and realizing that they're just phenomena. The brain thinks, and there's nothing wrong with that.”
The first movement, “Begin Again” references the cycle of renewal that begins fresh with each moment. Other pieces touch on different aspects of the process. “Know That You Are,” the composition that initiated the suite, refers to the foundational instruction, “When you sit, know that you are sitting and when you breath, know that you are breathing.” The often frantic activity of a mind struggling to be at rest is the subject of “Monkey Mind,” while “Mara,” which features a guest appearance by percussionist Rogerio Boccato, is the name of the god who tempted Buddha with wine, women and wealth.

Bringing meditation to the forefront of his music brings Hersch full circle in a sense, as he recognized when he began the practice decades ago. “When I started, I realized that in a way I've been meditating my whole life – but on a piano bench. I close my eyes when I play and I go into in that world. Occasionally I get distracted, but I don't get wrapped up in it. Instead of my breath being an anchor, the anchor is the sound that I get, the tactile feeling of my fingers on the keys, hearing the space around the music, and leaving that space for other musicians to contribute.”

Breath By Breath, then, is a recognition that meditation has been a way for Hersch to align his daily existence with the enlightened state he reaches while playing the piano. With the release of this captivating new recording, the rest of us are fortunate enough to glimpse that place and to feel its life-affirming impact on our own hearts and souls.

Fred Hersch
A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is an influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades. A fifteen-time Grammy nominee, Hersch has long set the standard for expressive interpretation and inventive creativity. A revered improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist, Hersch has been proclaimed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, “an elegant force of musical invention” by The L.A. Times, and “a living legend” by The New Yorker. For decades Hersch has been firmly entrenched as one of the most acclaimed and captivating pianists in modern jazz, whether through his exquisite solo performances, as the leader of one of jazz’s era-defining trios, or in eloquent dialogue with his deeply attuned duo partners. His brilliant 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, was named one of 2017’s Five Best Memoirs by the Washington Post and The New York Times.

The Sati Suite

1. Begin Again 6:52
2. Awakened Heart 4:13
3. Breath by Breath 6:22
4. Monkey Mind 4:01
5. Rising, Falling 5:03
6. Mara* 4:38
7. Know That You Are 3:41
8. Worldly Winds 5:26

Fred Hersch, piano

Crosby Street String Quartet
Joyce Hammann & Laura Seaton, violins
Lois Martin, viola
Jody Redhage Ferber, ‘cello

Drew Gress, bass
Jochen Rueckert, drums
*Rogerio Boccato, percussion

Fred Hersch – Breath By Breath
Palmetto Records – PM2198 – Recorded Aug. 24-25, 2021
Release date January 7, 2022

Taru Alexander - Echoes of the Masters (January 7, 2022 Sunnyside Records)

In the jazz community, there are individuals who come to the music as a birthright. There are countless musical families whose members continue to pass the gift of music on from generation to generation. Drummer Taru Alexander was endowed with music by his father, saxophonist Roland Alexander, and an extended family of professional musician mentors in his native Brooklyn, New York.

The younger Alexander celebrates the legacy of his father and his father’s peers on his new recording, Echoes of the Masters, a collection of pieces by well-known jazz composers performed by an outstanding group of musicians who came of age under the tutelage of legendary performers on the bandstand.

Taru Alexander was born into the music. His father, Roland, began taking him to gigs at 3 years old. The boy was entranced by the drums and began to pick them up naturally before he was 10. By the time he was 13 years old, Alexander was performing alongside his father and bass legend Reggie Workman, with whom he studied at Brooklyn’s famed New Muse School in Crown Heights. Further study with drummers Rudy Collins, Andre Strobert, Walter Perkins, and La Guardia Music & Art’s Justin DiCioccio prepared Alexander for life as a professional drummer.

A lifetime of musical experience has imbued Alexander with the skills, the knowledge, and the swagger to play jazz as it should be played. His credentials spread from bands led by Roy Hargrove, Gary Bartz, Carlos Garnett, and many more, so when he was considering who should join him on his new recording, Alexander wanted to include other musicians who had truly paid their dues.

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, pianist James Hurt has been a focal part of the New York jazz scene since he arrived in 1994. Among many ensembles, Hurt was a member of Roland Alexander’s band, where he met Taru Alexander. Hurt also performed with groups led by Abbey Lincoln, Sherman Irby, Russell Gunn, and many others.

Alexander met saxophonist Antoine Roney and bassist Rashaan Carter on a recording session led by saxophonist Michael Marcus in 2008. Alexander was so impressed that he made note to contact them when he was able to record on his own. Roney has been a stalwart leader and sideman in New York alongside fantastic musicians like Jacky Terrasson, Donald Byrd, John Patton, and his brother, Wallace Roney. Carter carries the history of the jazz bass on his shoulders having studied with Buster Williams, Reggie Workman, and Ron Carter. He continues to be one of the strongest players in New York.

During the pandemic, Alexander reached out to these stalwart musicians to be his band of certified players on his new album.

The recording launches into gear with a high octane take of the elder Alexander’s “Change Up,” a piece penned in the 1970s that bridges the gap between the earlier generation’s verve with the younger generation’s swagger. Taru Alexander’s drums propel the quartet with great solos from Roney and Hurt. Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins’s “I Mean You” adds guest vocalist HANKA to the quartet for this swinging rendition of the classic tune, which is followed by Buster Williams’s “Deception” performed in a firey rendition.

Roland Alexander wrote “Kojo Time” for his son at the time of his birth and while the father was in Europe, the echo of a European ambulance signaling the to be drummer’s arrival can be heard in the theme. Alexander fell in love with McCoy Tyner’s “Peresina” from the pianist’s Expansions record, wearing it out after regular listens. The quartet honors the piece with an expansive reading with gorgeous features for the entire band. The recording concludes with Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio,” Hurt’s ambient piano leading to an up-tempo ensemble romp over Alexander’s persistent beat.

On Echoes of the Masters, Taru Alexander creates an aural tribute to his father, the great Roland Alexander, and the tremendous musicians who passed the tradition down to him and the future generations through their impact on the bandstand and their examples off of it. 

1. Change Up
2. I Mean You
3. Deception
4. Kojo Time
5. Peresina
6. Pinocchio

Taru Alexander - drums
Antoine Roney - tenor saxophone
James Hurt - piano
Rashaan Carter - bass
Hanka G. - vocalist (track 2)

Dave Stryker with String Quartet - As We Are (January 7, 2022)

“I’ve always loved the way Dave plays guitar. He’s a soulful, blues-oriented player, with a beautiful touch and tone. His originals were fun to play, with plenty of harmonic sophistication, but lyrical, too. He’s the real deal.”
– John Patitucci

“It’s my dream project,”  Dave Stryker repeats several times in a conversation about his 34th release as a leader, As We Are, on which the guitar master addresses one of the few configurations he hasn’t tackled during 40-plus years in the jazz trenches.
 
Stryker, not predisposed to hyperbole, isn’t exaggerating. How else to describe an opportunity to record a suite of new originals with a band propelled by all-world bass-drum partners John Patitucci and Brian Blade, fleshed out by harmonically erudite pianist Julian Shore’s bespoke string quartet arrangements that include room for a couple of soaring violin solos by the luminous Sara Caswell? Stimulated by the chance to make music together after long isolation, all members interact with crackling, pent-up energy.

“I always wanted to do something where strings would really be integrated into the music, not a coloring or sweetening that comes in later,” Stryker says. Shore rises to the occasion, imparting a lush, fulsome sound to the two violins, viola and cello, creating sections that offer texture and contrast.

In keeping with the dream project Stryker reached out to two of the greatest musicians alive today - Patitucci and Blade who happily signed on. Six new Stryker originals, one Shore original and Nick Drake’s River Man are arranged with string quartet by Shore to create one of the most truly beautiful and exciting recordings in recent times.
1 Overture - Dave Stryker / Julian Shore - BMI) 1:10
2 Lanes - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 6:14
3 River Man - Nick Drake (BMG Rights Management - ASCAP) 9:01
4 Hope - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 6:24
5 Saudade - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 5:52
6 One Thing At A Time - Julian Shore (Julian Shore Music - BMI) 7:17
7 As We Were - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 5:46
8 Dreams Are Real - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 7:18
9 Soul Friend - Dave Stryker (D. Strike Music - BMI) 6:52
 
Dave Stryker - guitar
Julian Shore - piano
John Patitucci - bass
Brian Blade - drums

String Quartet:
Sara Caswell - violin 1 (solo, tracks 3 and 9)
Monica K.Davis - violin 2
Benni von Gutzeit - viola
Marika Hughes - cello
Music Arranged by Julian Shore
 
Produced by Dave Stryker
Executive Producer - Rick Simpson
Engineered and mixed by Chris Sulit at Trading 8s Studio, Paramus NJ June 2, 10,11, 2021
Mastered by Michael Perez-Cisneros

Photos and Graphic Design by Chris Drukker
Cover photo by Charles F. Scott IV
Liner Notes - Ted Panken

Jamie Breiwick & Jay Mollerskov - Solve for X (January 7, 2022 B Side Recordings)

Original improvised works for trumpet and electronics

In approaching this project, our initial discussion led to the idea of creating an album of electronic works based completely on Jamie's trumpet playing as the sole sound source. Any synths and software involved would only be used to process and manipulate recordings of his trumpet playing. This ended up being a fun challenge!

The general approach was that Jamie would start by recording clips of solo trumpet playing. Sometimes these were short melodic improvisations, sometimes single notes. I would then take these and manipulate them electronically. Sometimes this meant processing it with a eurorack modular system (including Make Noise Morphagene, 4MS DLD, Happy Nerding FXAid, Orthogonal Devices ER-301, and many others,) as well as Monome Norns, Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus, and several VST plugins on the computer.

Sometimes I had a pretty concrete idea in mind of how to approach a new track, whether that be granular synthesis, spectral processing, looping etc. Other times I took snippets of material and just explored and played with them, and it was never long before a road forward presented itself.

One of the biggest challenges for me while working on the electronic processing was that, mutes aside, trumpet has a certain timbre to it. While this is great and makes the instrument what it is, I often found that one of the main elements in coming up with new material for each new track was finding ways to manipulate it into a wide array of textures to keep things varied from piece to piece. The upside is that the timbre of the instrument, as well as Jamie's unique and beautiful voice as an artist, lend a cohesiveness to the entire project even when the approach to constructing each track was often quite different

Once I recorded tracks of this manipulated/processed trumpet sound, I sent those back to Jamie and he would record usually around two or three takes, improvising over the material I sent him. Then the last step was me taking this new material to chop/edit it, and constructing it into a final track along with the previously processed material.

I tend to work quickly on this sort of project, a habit going back decades, but the logistics of passing material back and forth and discussion over how to approach new tracks led to this project taking the better part of a year to complete. I think we both knew it was going to be special as soon as we listened to the first completed track back when we first began working on everything.

Jamie & I came up together on trumpet and guitar respectively, spending countless hours practicing, performing, and listening together throughout high school, college, and the years that followed. I would not be the musician I am today without our friendship, especially in those early years of high school and college, learning from/with each other and keeping each other motivated. It is with that in mind that I find it ironic that it took us this long to make an album together! That said, I am not surprised it was something so creatively different than anything I could have imagined back then.

Although we both spent a lot of our time in those student years (although I think most of us that travel these creative channels consider ourselves forever students) really digging into jazz and its legacy, there was always another side to things as well. Between playing in our college Contemporary Music Ensemble and other pursuits outside of school, exploring the works of John Cage, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Cornelius Cardew, Cecil Taylor, and many others was part of a creative path that led us here. I've got much gratitude for that time spent exploring together as well as the many teachers/mentors who introduced us to so many paths to explore. I'm honored to count many of those people as friends now years later.

While this album was a studio project, composed and constructed over time, it is with excitement that I look forward to continuing this duo project in a live setting as well. We've walked down many roads together, but there are so many left to explore!

J. Mollerskov, 12/29/21

1. Unfolding
2. Remainder
3. Heaps
4. Strata
5. Summoning Moons
6. Traces of Things
7. For Norm
8. Reflect

Jamie Breiwick, trumpet and flugelhorn
Jay Mollerskov, electronics
Nolan Breiwick, trumpet (8)

All compositions by Jamie Breiwick and Jay Mollerskov
All trumpets recorded by Jamie Breiwick at home
Edited, mixed, and mastered by Jay Mollerskov
Cover art "Solve for X" by Jay Arpin
Inside photo by Jamie Breiwick
Design by Jamie Breiwick, B Side Graphics