Friday, January 28, 2022

Jim McNeely / Frankfurt Radio Big Band / feat. Chris Potter - Rituals (January 28, 2022 Challenge Records)

“Le Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky is regarded as a key work of classical music of the 20th century. Due to its rhythmic and tonal structures, interspersed with numerous dissonances, it created turmoil in the audience at its world premiere in Paris in 1913, but was then able to quickly establish itself as a central work in the repertoire of concert halls.

With a tribute to this work, the hr Big Band, which plays here as the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, and the American tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, fills essential parts of their new CD “Rituals”.

"The work was commissioned by the Alte Oper Frankfurt, which held a Stravinsky Festival in 2013,” Olaf Stötzler recalled, producer of the hr Big Band. "At that time there was a music festival around a central work of classical music, in this case ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’.

The idea was to commission Jim McNeely to compose this work for Chris Potter. However, it is not a jazz version of *Le Sacre du Printemps’, but instead a new composition. It was inspired by the sound language of 'Le Sacre du Printemps’.” The performance was a huge success, which is why Potter and the hr Big Band decided to record the whole thing again in a studio. With plenty of verve and aplomb, the hr Big Band glides through the complex rhythmic and harmonious score that McNeely composed in the spirit of Stravinsky.

"McNeely didn't just take a theme from Stravinsky and set it differently, but instead created a new composition," Stötzler emphasized. “But you can hear that it is clearly inspired by the sound language of ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’. That's why McNeely extended the standard line-up of the big band to include a French horn, a harp and percussion. In addition, he composed an additional movement called 'Rebirth’, which does not even exist in the original."

With Chris Potter, one of the best contemporary saxophonists could be won over for the role of soloist. With a unique sonorous tone and inexhaustible inventiveness, he actually seems to play as if his life depended on it. "Chris Potter is the voice of this spring sacrifice," Olaf Stötzler explained. "He embodies this character, which is why we chose a soloist in the first place. Musical representation of this spring sacrifice is a mammoth task. He really plays all the time, and that's a challenge for which we wanted to have one of the best."

If you already have someone like Chris Potter in the studio, then his music should also play an important role. That's why the six-part "Rituals" are followed by four pieces from Potter's catalog, which McNeely rearranged for the large orchestral context. "Dawn" and "Wine Dark Sea" are from his album "The Sirens" (ECM 2013), "The Wheel" is from "Underground" (Sunnyside 2006) and "Okinawa" is included on the live album "This Will Be" (Storyville 2001). In them, the musicians of the hr Big Band, such as Steffen Weber, Tony Lakatos, Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn and Axel Schlosser, also have the opportunity to perform as soloists. They once again clearly show how well the collaboration with the American jazz star works and where the strengths of the hr Big Band are.

"Thanks to our daily interaction, we have a very good ensemble sound and we attach great importance to it," Olaf Stötzler emphasized. "The strength of the hr Big Band is that we can offer a lot of doubling in the saxophone set. There are many woodwind instruments that are not to be found in a typical big band. It is precisely these orchestral colors that Jim McNeely needs for his music. We are willing to experiment anyway, and the musicians are grateful for the chance to do it."

The album "Rituals" is the best example of the fact that the joy of experimentation can also be accompanied by fun and impressive sound clarity.

1 Rituals Adoration I 06:58
2 Rituals Adoration II 05:12
3 Rituals Adoration III 02:16
4 Rituals Sacrifice I 07:40
5 Rituals Sacrifice II 06:36
6 Rituals Rebirth 04:21
7 Dawn 07:46
8 The Wheel 08:45
9 Wine Dark Sea 08:32
10 Okinawa 10:22

NEW RELEASE: Pianist Mathis Picard Presents LIVE AT THE MUSEUM due out January 28, 2022 via Outside In Music

Pianist, Composer and Producer Mathis Picard Announces the Release of Live at the Museum, a Thrilling Live Solo Piano Recording, out January 28th, 2022 on Outside In Music

Celebrated pianist Mathis Picard announces the January 28, 2022 release of Live at the Museum, a thrilling solo piano venture recorded live at The National Jazz Museum of Harlem. Recorded in January 2019, the album is a sonic journey through which Mathis explores the museum of his own life in music, honoring and spotlighting his roots in jazz, classical and electronic music. Through Picard’s own refined curatorial lens, Live at the Museum honors the works of the great classical and jazz composers that were so influential to Picard’s personal musical journey with daring and evocative interpretations of classic pieces, and an impressive array of Picard’s own compositions. Both outwardly expressive and inwardly introspective, Live at the Museum cements Picard’s stature as a truly incomparable, revered innovator of his generation. 

Picard’s first solo release offers a new lens through which to view an artist who so seamlessly merges stride, contemporary jazz, classical and electronic music stylings to create his own singular voice. The NYC-based French and Malagasy pianist’s classical training began as a toddler, when he was enrolled at the Suzuki Institute in Pittsburgh, and continued during his pre-teen years at a classical boarding school, Chethams School of Music in Manchester, England, which fostered his love and appreciation for classical composers Maurice Ravel and J.S Bach. However, it wasn’t long until the object of Picard’s fascination became stride piano upon first hearing Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller and Art Tatum. “I found support and belonging within the music of these composers,” Picard reflects. His musical upbringing continued internationally between his studies at the Conservatoire de Fontainebleau and the Centre De Musique De Didier Lockwood, both in France, then in Glasgow under Strathclyde University’s Director of Jazz, Gerri Rossi. As time went on, his comprehension of these challenging standards empowered Picard to explore a wider array of piano styles. After moving to the United States and continuing his collegiate musical path at the Juilliard School, he eventually began touring nationally with his own group ‘Mathis Sound Orchestra’ and shared stages with the likes of Ron Carter, Braxton Cook and Wynton Marsalis. Live at the Museum invites listeners to explore Picard’s early influences and inner musical world.
“I spend a lot of time on the road,” Picard notes, “…the endless ricochet between load-ins and sound checks, lobby calls and pit stops can create a mirage in which life seems to be happening around you, but without you. However, when I am able to find a piano tucked away in a rehearsal room or hotel lobby, I am able to find myself. I find it incredibly grounding to sit down, connect, and create. My personal practice gives me the opportunity to inspect my inner world as I feel it through the piano; and, from this inner world, I am able to share. This process of finding and sharing has kept me glued to music my whole life so that, whether I am connecting to the work of my predecessors or working out my own compositions, I discover joy and presence in spending countless hours at the piano.”

Live at the Museum captures a particularly vibrant evening of live music at the National Jazz Museum of Harlem in New York City. The event featured live painting and drawing, a dance area, face painting and an eager, attentive audience of listeners. Picard recalls that it was “quite the party!” Despite it being a frigid January night, Picard only remembers the heat in the room when he listens back. The album was recorded on location by sound engineer Todd Carter.

From the very first refrains of the fiery “The Creation of the World” by John Lewis, Picard’s hallmark sound is noticeable – a confluence of his inspirations, assembled with grace. “Cuttin Out” is a composition by Willie “The Lion” Smith, one of the kings of the Harlem Stride School. In these cutting sessions, pianists took turns experimenting with a song, altering it to the best of their creative and technical abilities, with the most brilliant version being declared winner. “Although the energy of winning has never been my goal with music, I love this communal practice as a way to show yourself, dig into your story, and share it with the world. Freedom and connection, not winning, is what attracted me to the music.”

Interlude pieces “Earthlude” and “Firelude” are inspired by the use of loops and sequencing within electronic music – another love of Picard’s. Ravel’s “Le Gibet” was introduced to Picard in his early school years. “The piece demanded a technical command that required so much work and guidance.” Picard adds, “There were harmonies within the music that I didn’t quite understand yet, but I kept it by my side. Years later, when I began to learn this music solely aurally, I finally found a real personal connection to the music and began to take liberties with the ideas within the composition. In this way, I attempt to continue the inner musical conversation that the composer would have intended.”

Continuing with the theme of honoring his predecessors, “Like Blue” is a composition dedicated to Thelonious Monk, while “Clouds” is dedicated to Duke Ellington. “Woodland Fantasy” draws inspiration from an album called The Lion & The Tiger which features the piano/drum duet of Willie “The Lion” Smith and Papa “Jo” Jones. This composition is played with the same instrumentation, featuring stunning interplay between Picard and drummer Savannah Harris.

Live at the Museum comes as Picard is fresh off the heels from his critically-acclaimed genre-bending debut EP World Unity which was released in 2020 (Outside In Music). World Unity put Picard on the map as “a fascinating name to follow in any context” (All About Jazz). Long awaited, Picard finally presents his first solo piano outing allowing his unbridled invention to be heard in a pared-down context – a celebration of his inimitable sound.

1. The Creation Of The World (John Lewis)
2. Cuttin Out (Willie “The Lion” Smith)
3. Earthalude (Mathis Picard)
4. Snake Song (Mathis Picard)
5. Leia’s Theme (John Williams)
6. Like Blue (Mathis Picard)
7. Firelude (Mathis Picard)
8. Le Gibet (Maurice Ravel)
9. In A Mist (Bix Beiderbecke)
10. Clouds (Mathis Picard)
11. Woodland Fantasy (Willie “The Lion” Smith) Featuring Savannah Harris on drums

Fabio de Angelis - Third Wave (January 28, 2022 GleAM Records)

Third Wave is a snapshot of the musical universe of the versatile musician and composer from Vicenza. His music shows an opening towards the demands of contemporaneity but also a profound respect for jazz tradition, whose linguistic codes he has studied for a long time. On the one hand the writing and on the other the interpretation of the songs and standards. The common thread that binds these two expressive instances is the 50’s and 60’s jazz tradition, an obsession that crosses the "third phase" of the drummer's stylistic exploration and to which he consecrates this first record.

In this straight-ahead approach, however, there are several elements of freshness. The approach to sound, the metric modulations, the skilful use of dynamics frame the album within a contemporary post-bop where the clarity and balance of the rhythm section are flanked by the harmonic choices and improvisations of the soloists, closer to a controlled modernity. On the guitar we have Luca De Toni, a stable collaborator of the drummer in several projects. Graduated from the Berklee in Boston he had the opportunity to grow with the greatest masters of contemporary jazz. His way of playing gives, in fact, a modern look to the music through an iridescent harmonic spectrum in which the most orthodox solutions coexist and blend with the novelties of contemporary jazz. On tenor saxophone Robert Bonisolo, a musician who needs no introduction. 

Virtuoso of his own instrument, he is stylistically a coltranian, able to reconcile the lessons of saxophonists such as Michael Brecker and Bob Berg with the sound of Dexter Gordon. His meeting with the leader dates back to 2020 and gave rise to a musical collaboration that culminated in the realization of this project. On the double bass Ares Tavolazzi, a musician with a full sound, with a deep knowledge of the jazz tradition but who has explored other musical universes in his career thus reaching a personal synthesis that makes the sound very recognizable. In short, a true master.

The album opens with Tribulacao, a song with a Latin mood and a modal sound with a narrative structure rich in dinamics. De Angelis tells us about it: “The piece is dedicated to my partner Chiara. I tried to photograph a difficult period of his life which, after various tribulations, ended with a certain serenity ”.
Boplicity is an iconic piece of the cool period born from the pen of Miles Davis (who signs himself with the pseudonym of Cleo Henry) and Gil Evans. The leader subjects the theme to rhythmic variations that slightly change the flow thanks also to his underlining with the brushes. The general approach remains a swing medium with solid and relentless accompaniment, a terrain for energetic improvisations by soloists.

Lake Zurich is the only song written by the guitarist, a jazz waltz that strikes for its depth and melancholy. Perfect to tell the loneliness and drama of this historical period that struck us. Beatrice is a wonderful song written by Sam Rivers, fourth track of the disc. De Angelis tells us: "It is the first thing we all played in the studio together, and I decided to keep it. It is a wonderful piece that I never tire of playing even after years ".

Diamond Boy is a song with an introspective atmosphere, with a Shorterian atmosphere and a nocturnal melody. The leader's drumming differs here from the other tracks by revealing a free approach to mood even 8th which contains the best examples of contemporary drumming from Jorge Rossy to Brian Blade.The drummer describes it like this: “it's a song dedicated to my brother. The A was written straight away. B, on the other hand, had a longer gestation. I try to tell the adolescent phase of a person who reaches maturity by making important and difficult choices "

The sixth track is a famous Italian song by Gino Paoli, Senza Fine. The drummer's arrangement brings the song to a more pressing jazz waltz than the original, declined in the present, with an atmosphere devoid of sentimentality where the outside phrasing of Bonisolo and the punctual and dark comping of the guitarist stand out.

Third Wave is the title track of the album. An energetic and assertive piece in which a hard-bop legacy clearly emerges linked to the harmonic world of the first Coltrane and its use of short and incisive motivic cells. The author talks about it like this: "Third Wave was written during the third wave. It is a song that I have played in various contexts and in various ways. It is certainly the one that tells the most about my phase linked to tradition”.

The album ends with the famous Just in Time standard. The author describes his intentions as follows: "It is a standard linked to tradition that I have always liked for its melody. A song that I wanted to record in this way because I wanted a moment in which to play alone with Robert without any accompaniment, bringing out that slightly more aggressive vein that we both have ”.
1 Tribulaçao (F. De Angelis) 4.48
2 Boplicity (C. Henry, G. Evans) 5.27
3 Lake Zurich (L. De Toni) 8.18
4 Beatrice (S. Rivers) 5.27
5 Diamond Boy (F. De Angelis) 8.52
6 Senza Fine (G. Paoli) 6.56
7 Third Wave (F. De Angelis 4.30
8 Just in Time (J. Styne, B. Comden, A. Green) 3.01

Total 47.19

Robert Bonisolo – Tenor Saxophone
Luca De Toni - Guitar
Ares Tavolazzi – Double-bass
Fabio De Angelis - Drums

Recorded, Mixed & Mastered on August 2021 at Digitubestudio, Mantova – Italy
Sound Engineer: Carlo Cantini

Artwork: Simone De Angelis
Produced by GleAM Records 
Printed in Italy 2022

NEW RELEASE: Deanna Witkowski Honors The First Lady of Jazz, Mary Lou Williams, on FORCE OF NATURE due out January 28, 2022 (MCG Jazz)

Pianist and Composer Deanna Witkowski Honors The First Lady of Jazz, Mary Lou Williams, on Force of Nature, due out January 28, 2022

On Force of Nature, her lovingly conceived and radiantly realized seventh album, Deanna Witkowski has created a multi-leveled masterpiece. Due out January 28, 2022 on MCG Jazz, the album displays her glorious musicianship and encyclopedic command of genres and techniques, while also revisiting the compositional genius of the major 20th-century artist Mary Lou Williams. The album also documents the firm musical and spiritual connection between Williams and Witkowski.

Released on the heels of Witkowski’s first book – Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul, her detailed and engaging biography of Williams – Force of Nature caps off 20 years of immersive research into the life and work of the woman called “The First Lady of Jazz.”

To fans and students of her music, Mary Lou (who died in 1981) stands tall as one of the best-known but still undervalued women in jazz history: a marvelous and harmonically intrepid pianist; a pioneering composer-arranger, admired (and hired) by Duke Ellington; an influential educator and early adopter of bebop; and one of the first jazz artists to infuse her music with her Catholic faith, most notably in three jazz Masses.  

To the well-traveled and exhilarating pianist-composer Witkowski, Mary Lou is all those things and something more: an inspiration, certainly, but also a guiding light – and, in absentia, a life coach for the deeply religious Witkowski, whose own resume includes an impressive number of award-winning sacred-music compositions. “I think of Mary Lou as a mentor, because she’s someone who was able to really integrate her spirituality, her Catholicism, with her music,” says Witkowski.

Most of the tracks on Force of Nature were written by Williams. Among them are several movements from the most famous of her extended compositions, the 1945 Zodiac Suite, including an ingenious mashup of the movement titled “Cancer” and “Act of Contrition,” from the late-60s Music for Peace. On “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” which Williams did not write, Witkowski refashions this Swing-era classic into a languorous ballad, well suited to reflect three events that affected Williams’ life and career in the early 40s: her move to Sugar Hill in Harlem, the closing of the Savoy Ballroom, and the 1943 Harlem Riots.

On another album highlight, Witkowski crafts a small medley from the 1938 big-band blues “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory” (one of Williams’ earliest triumphs) and the contemporaneous but little-known “Ghost of Love”; what starts as an achingly soulful trio meditation leads to a wide-ranging, effortlessly flowing and occasionally rhapsodic piano solo. Meanwhile, the title track – the only Witkowski original in the set – channels the vivacity of Mary Lou’s entire oeuvre into a driving Latin beat colored by Witkowski’s genre-spanning expertise.
Photo: Erika Kapin

Over the last two decades, Williams’s music has become an ongoing source of study and interpretation for Witkowski, finally leading her to a new hometown and a side career as a biographer-academic, currently working on her Ph.D. in jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Actually, the book came before the album. In 2019, when Witkowski first sojourned in Pittsburgh to research Mary Lou’s life, she met with guitarist Marty Ashby, the driving force behind the jazz program at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the MCG Jazz label. “I was telling him how the research was going and said, ‘It’s really a shame that I have this book coming out but I don’t have any recordings of myself doing Mary Lou’s music’ – which I have been playing a lot, for quite a while. So Marty said, ‘Well, we should do something about that.’ So that’s kind of how it started.”

The original plan, to record these tracks in May 2020, collapsed under the COVID-19 surge. And by the time of the postponed recording date, in January 2021, circumstances had changed considerably. “It was pretty amazing that we could do this at all,” Witkowski says, “because by then I had moved to Pittsburgh; my drummer, Scott Latzky, was in New York; and my bass player, Daniel Foose, had moved to Austin. But they all came in, and then [trumpeter] Clay Jenkins came down from Rochester, New York.” Pittsburghers Roger Humphries (drums) and Dwayne Dolphin (bass) worked on three tracks as well.

Before embarking on the biography, Witkowski had visited Pittsburgh only once, when she was booked to play a solo piano concert in the city. She arrived more than a week early in order to begin her research in Mary Lou’s birthplace.  “I just started meeting a ton of musicians, and sitting in a lot and – and I felt that the jazz community here is so supportive. They come out to gigs, and I was embraced as part of the community pretty quickly.

“So then I started getting more work opportunities, like playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony, doing some of Mary Lou’s stuff, and doing some teaching for the Catholic diocese. And then in the fall of 2019, I decided to live here for seven weeks to continue my research.” She found more breathing room in Pittsburgh, especially compared to New York, which provided little time to relax and reflect.

Witkowski’s subsequent move to Pittsburgh has placed her in even closer touch with Williams, spiritually and, as it turns out, physically as well. “I now live exactly a mile from Mary Lou’s grave site,” she marvels, a fact unknown to her when she bought her house. “I walked there about six weeks ago, and the GPS led me exactly to her grave site. I really have felt, and I still feel, that Mary Lou has guided me here; I feel like she’s a companion. So it’s pretty meaningful to me to be able to do things like visit her any time I want.” 

1. Gjon Mili Jam Session (4:48)
2. Aries (from Zodiac Suite) (3:03)
3. Taurus (from Zodiac Suite) (3:36)
4. Cancer (from Zodiac Suite)/Act of Contrition (from Mary Lou’s Mass) (5:33)
5. Lonely Moments (5:58)
6. What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?/Ghost of Love (9:54)
7. Force of Nature (5:35)
8. Intermission (6:14)
9. Dirge Blues (7:08)
10. Carcinoma (3:56)
11. Stompin’ at the Savoy (6:06)
12. My Blue Heaven (8:54)
Deanna Witkowski, piano
Clay Jenkins, trumpet (1, 4, 5, 10)
Daniel Foose, bass (1-7, 10, 11)
Scott Latzky, drums (1-7, 11)
Dwayne Dolphin, bass (8, 9, 12)
Roger Humphries, drums (8, 9, 12)

Carlos Franzetti - In The Wee Small Hours (January 28, 2022 Sunnyside Records)

The world at large has experienced a life altering event throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which have touched nearly everyone in some way. There hasn’t been as far-reaching an event since the Second World War in terms of emotional impact on the population. Carlos Franzetti has turned to the optimistic torch songs of the 1940s and 1950s to bring listeners out of their pandemic induced gloom on his new recording, In The Wee Small Hours.

The great Argentine-American pianist, composer, and arranger experienced the full brunt of COVID-19’s destructive energies during the pandemic. Franzetti contracted the COVID virus. One of the effects of his infection was a loss of coordination, leading to several falls. When he couldn’t remember the changes to “All the Things You Are”, he knew something was wrong. CAT scans showed a subdural hematoma.

Three brain surgeries and months of physical rehabilitation brought Franzetti’s coordination back. He also saw firsthand what the solitude of quarantine meant, as he wasn’t allowed to see anybody, including his wife, for 10 days while he recovered in the hospital.

Once he was able, Franzetti felt motivated to not only prove his musical chops were still there, but he also wanted to make music emblematic of the struggles that people had gone through during this unforgettable time. Franzetti brought longtime collaborator, bassist David Finck, and the excellent drummer Billy Drummond in for a recording session at 360 Sound Studio in Orange, New Jersey in late May 2021.
The material that Franzetti chose to record was a mixture of pieces that were evocative of longing and separation from the decades surrounding the Second World War. The pieces were composed during a troubling and confusing time but instilled bits of hope in their listeners, messages of reunions and overcoming obstacles. Many of the pieces are ballads, but they are not somber. Franzetti explored material that he typically wouldn’t choose to play but that felt right under his fingers and in their message.

The recording begins with a poignant take of David Mann and Bob Hilliard’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” Franzetti showing off his delicate touch over the rhythms section’s subtle momentum. The performance of Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf’s “Memories of You” is inspired by Frank Sinatra’s timeless rendition, the trio’s easy swing is infectious. Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” is quietly insistent as Drummond’s drums push the band. The Gershwin classic, “How Long Has This Been Goin’ On,” follows in a sultry but introspective vein, while Charles Strouse and Lee Adam’s “Put On a Happy Face” stirs up the positivity in a gleeful dance.

The rhapsodic take on Bill Evans’s “Time Remembered” is a perfect addition to the emotion filled program. The gorgeous version of Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” is tearfully optimistic, while Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s “Alone Together” is bright and swinging. A second takes on “How Deep Is The Ocean” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” show the depth of the trio’s depth of interpretation and interplay.

Carlos Franzetti put the program to In The Wee Small Hours together to inspire some much needed hope, and emotional balance, to listeners using the wonderful torch songs of the past. Hopefully, the songs will be able to deliver as much solace now as they did in their heyday. 

1. In The Wee Small Hour of the Morning
2. Memories of You
3. How Deep Is The Ocean
4. How Long Has This Been Goin' On
5. Put On a Happy Face
6. Time Remembered
7. I'll Be Seeing You
8. Alone Together
9. How Deep Is The Ocean (Alternate Version)
10. In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning (Alternate Version)
11. Memories of You (Alternate Version)
12. Piccola Musica Nocturna

Carlos Franzetti - piano, Fender Rhodes, conductor (track 12)
David Finck - bass
Billy Drummond - drums
Allison Brewster Franzetti - celesta (track 12)
The City of Prague Orchestra (track 12)

NEW RELEASE + NEWS: Bill O’Connell Announces New Album + GRAMMY® Nomination ('A Change is Gonna Come' - January 28, 2022 - Savant Records)

GRAMMYⓇ Nominated Pianist, Composer and Arranger Bill O’Connell Announces the Release of A Change Is Gonna Come, A Jazz Luminary’s Musings on a Fraught World, Out January 28, 2022 via Savant Records

Savant Records is pleased to announce the January 28, 2022 release of A Change is Gonna Come, the powerful new release from esteemed pianist, composer, arranger and newly-minted GRAMMYⓇ nominee Bill O’Connell. This particular moment in history is a fraught one; A Change Is Gonna Come brings that point home with impassioned music reacting to the rampant racial and political injustice and pandemic-fueled turmoil of the present moment. A Change is Gonna Come features O’Connell alongside bassist Lincoln Goines, drummer Steve Jordan, percussionist Pedrito Martinez, and special guest Craig Handy tenor and soprano saxophone.

Lauded for his boundless, uncompromising prowess in the realm of Latin jazz, O’Connell’s fruitful musical journey began in 1977 when O’Connell began his tenure as the keyboardist for the legendary Mongo Santamaria’s Latin jazz band. A departure from the clavé-driven Latin jazz pocket that so often permeates O’Connell’s work, the pianist is heard here displaying his remarkable facility in the straight-ahead jazz idiom. The release of A Change is Gonna Come comes as O’Connell is fresh off the heels of his thrilling GRAMMYⓇ nomination for ‘Best Arrangement (Instrumental or A Capella)’ for the song “Chopsticks” on Richard Barratta’s album Music in Film: The Reel Deal.

This impassioned release is intrinsically tied to the unique and trying times in which it was created. O’Connell remarks: “I look at recordings this way: each one is a snapshot of how I’m feeling at this particular time in my life... Each song reflects a different feeling at a particular moment.” The pianist and composer channels his frustration, anger and grief for the medical, racial, economic and political turmoil that plagues our country into electrifying compositions that feature the masterful interplay of this tightly-knit outfit of jazz notables.

It was while performing with Sonny Rollins that the pianist first crossed paths with renowned drummer Steve Jordan. “We had an immediate chemistry going, but it was short-lived—about a month. Ever since then we’ve been trying to get together on a project. I finally called him up and I said, ‘Steve, I think it’s time.’ So he was into it, and we finally got it together to do this, so I’m very pleased that he’s on the record,” O’Connell notes. Jordan, who recently joined The Rolling Stones in place of the late Charlie Watts, is the album's co-producer.

A more frequent presence on O’Connell’s dates is bassist Lincoln Goines, with whom he spent some thirty-odd years in flutist Dave Valentin’s rhythm section—before he became the pianist’s go-to bassist. “Lincoln and I have a long musical relationship, and I can’t say enough about what he brings to my music,” he says. “I love what he does on both acoustic and electric bass.” Guest saxophonist Craig Handy puts rich veins of both adventure and soul into O’Connell’s compositions, A Change is Gonna Come is the third album of O’Connell’s that features Handy. The pair first worked together in trombonist Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side big band… which is where O’Connell first encountered Pedrito Martinez, the record’s other guest. 
O’Connell stirs the grey-matter with thoughtful original compositions such as “A Prayer For Us”. The piece is a vulnerable, gospel-inspired number. “I didn’t write it out this way, but you could also think of it as ‘A Prayer for U.S.,’” O’Connell muses, looking back on episodes of turmoil that fell through his country like dominoes. His improvising on the tune’s gentle swing has a bittersweet cast; one isn’t sure whether to be sad or hopeful. Perhaps that’s appropriate, too. “Covid Blues” is a B-flat blues with a plaintive soprano line that captures the anxiety, the ennui, the claustrophobia we’ve all been cycling through. Yet in its playful three-way duel between O’Connell, Handy, and Jordan, it also has a glimmer of hope. “We have to remain optimistic in the crazy time we’re going through,” says O’Connell. “Sun For Sonny” is a tip-of-the-hat to the great Sonny Rollins who once employed each member of the trio. The calypso groove and “St. Thomas” quote in O’Connell’s melody was your answer. It’s also suitably (for a Rollins tribute) percussive—with Martinez returning and Goines switching to the electric bass—and suitably sunny and danceable. After Handy and O’Connell reinforce that feeling in their solos, Goines and Martinez double down on it with two rounds of upbeat funk.

“Moment’s Notice”, which opens the album, is filled with nuance, immediacy and harmonic intrigue. The group takes the classic piece into funk territory which O’Connell indicates is about not wasting valuable resources. “Steve Jordan is one of the greatest funk drummers on the earth. If I didn’t have him playing some funk in there, it’s almost a crime.” For their solos, however, O’Connell, Goines, and Jordan ease off the gas a bit; there’s still plenty of swing, but also plenty of space.” The Sam Cooke anthem for which this album is titled “A Change is Gonna Come” arrives in an arrangement that O’Connell first wrote years ago for Charles Fambrough. It’s charged with gospel but also a surprising delicacy: a vulnerable aspect that tempers the song’s built-in resolve. If anything, the issues the song grappled with 60 years ago have only intensified since. The pianist takes centerstage with a jubilant solo on “My Foolish Heart” which once again features Jordan’s brilliant funk drumming within a sublime arrangement by O’Connell. 

As jazz journalist Michael J. West remarks in the album’s liner notes “It’s what artists do: process the darker aspects of our lives and world into something beautiful and worth holding on to. If it’s true that a change is gonna come, it will be all of us who will have to make it. But it will be the gifts of people like Bill O’Connell who shine their lights on the path to that change.”

1. Moment's Notice 8:08
2. Loco-Motive 6:06
3. Covid Blues 5:08
4. A Change is Gonna Come 6:37
5. Sun for Sonny 4:21
6. Enough is Enough 7:51
7. Sweet Peanut 6:13
8. A Prayer for Us 7:10
9. Chaos 5:11
10. My Foolish Heart 4:40

Bill O'Connell – all arrangements, piano & Fender Rhodes
Craig Handy – tenor & soprano saxophone
Lincoln Goines – acoustic & electric bass
Steve Jordan – drums
Pedrito Martinez – percussion

NEWS: Pianist Bill O’Connell Celebrates GRAMMY® Nomination for Composition “Chopsticks” on Richard Baratta’s Music in Film: The Reel Deal
“Chopsticks” is nominated for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella at the 64th GRAMMY® Awards

“Chopsticks,” the fourth track off of drummer Richard Baratta’s album Music in Film: The Reel Deal, which was released in September of 2020 on Savant Records, has received a GRAMMY® Nomination for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. The song was arranged by the record’s music director, the masterful jazz pianist Bill O’Connell. The 64th annual GRAMMY® Awards will take place on January 31, 2022 in Los Angeles. 

Baratta, who has spent over three decades as a Hollywood film producer, celebrates the coalescence of his two artistic worlds of film and jazz on Music in Film, an assortment of songs notably used in major motion pictures such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Midnight Cowboy, Big and The Wizard of Oz. O’Connell’s killer Latin arrangement of the Euphemia Allen composition “Chopsticks” is a tribute to the classic Tom Hanks-Robert Loggia piano dance scene from the movie Big which Baratta also worked on. On the track, the band blazes through a bright-tempoed montuno, adding melodic and rhythmic intrigue to the classic piano piece.

“It’s always fun for me to conceptualize a song in a way that no one has ever heard it,” O’Connell shares. “That was my thought when Richard Baratta asked me if I could arrange “Chopsticks”… I surrounded the tune with a deep Latin vibe, a few new harmonies and melodies and the band gave a great performance. I am so appreciative of this Grammy nomination.” 

“For this album to be nominated for a Grammy… well that’s off the charts,” Baratta added. “‘Thrilled’ falls far short of describing my emotion.” 

Baratta’s dazzling work across so many artistic genres over the years has not gone unnoticed. He was recently interviewed by Jazziz Magazine to discuss his music portfolio and film production credits, which include the Academy Award nominated films The Irishman, Donnie Brasco, Joker and The Wolf of Wall Street. 

Pianist Bill O’Connell has enjoyed a 40-year long career as a leader, soloist, arranger, musical director, and accompanist for some of the most celebrated names in jazz and Latin music including Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Mongo Santamaria, Gato Barbieri, and Emily Remler. O’Connell is a four-time recipient of the “Jazz Writer of the Year” award from SESAC, the performing rights organization and is presently a member of the jazz faculty at Rutgers University. His upcoming album, A Change Is Gonna Come is slated for release on January 28, 2022 via Savant Records.

Richard Baratta and Bill O’Connell are represented by Redwood Entertainment.

Dirk Serries & Trösta - Island On The Moon (cd & lp) January 28, 2022 CONSOULING SOUNDS)

DIRK SERRIES (worldwide renowned for his ambient alter-ego Vidna Obmana from 1984 till 2007) returns to this expansive sound universe with a new collaborative album that redefines the genre. Together with alto saxophonist TRÖSTA the duo delivers a breathtaking album just in time to comfort, soothe and challenge in these darker times. ISLAND ON THE MOON is a symphony of harmony, depth and nuance. A solace drenched in melancholy and light, made without the aid of computers but by the hands of two crafted musicians on respectfully guitar and saxophone, and some outboard effects. Immerse yourself.

The impressive photography is by Martina Verhoeven in a subtle but striking design by Rutger Zuydervelt.

The album will be released on January 28th, 2022, on both cd and vinyl through Belgium's main independent label CONSOULING SOUNDS.

In pre-order available through the label or through Dirk Serries' bandcamp.
Live Performance on Youtube

To highlight their duo debut the duo will share with you a glimpse of how they create their unique realm of what is ISLAND ON THE MOON. This 3 part live performance premieres on January 29th, 2022 at 10pm (CET).  Bookmark your agenda for this exclusive live performance on youtube.

Nick Walters - Singularity (January 28, 2022 D.O.T. Records)

Nick Walters returns to his D.O.T. Records imprint with a suite of forward thinking, cosmic, electronic-jazz experiments, inspired by NASA & the concept of gravitational singularity. Each track on “Singularity”, his first home studio produced album, is built around an audio sample recorded by NASA in space, then expertly transported back to earth by Walters via some magical trumpet and synth work on his newly purchased Juno-106. The album features key contributions from Ruby Rushton drummer Tim Carnegie, 22a Music’s Tenderlonious on flute and some sublime guitar work from Thibaut Remy.

'Singularity' is an album inspired by the concept of the gravitational singularity, thought to be found at the centre of black holes, and also thought to be the initial state of the universe at the beginning of the Big Bang. These are the points where current scientific understanding breaks down, where general relativity meets quantum mechanics and current theories are unable to comprehend how density or the curvature of spacetime can reach infinite levels. The album is dedicated to Professor Roger Penrose, the scientist who alongside Stephen Hawking did so much to develop theoretical understanding of singularities and black holes, and rightful recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2020.
Each of the tracks features an audio sample recorded by NASA and made available for download and further artistic use. They include samples taken by the Cassini spacecraft as it studied Jupiter, Saturn, and their many moons, whistler waves picked up by NASA's Van Allen Probe as it passed around Earth, and interstellar plasma sounds picked up by the Voyager probe after leaving the Solar System.

The tracks grew gradually over time in an organic process, with key assistance provided by Ruby Rushton drummer Tim Carnegie, whose powerful and lively drumming added real impetus and energy to the programmed drum parts. Tenderlonious also added beautifully melodic flute parts to four of the tracks, and Thibaut Remy also contributed with some tasty guitar. The icing on the cake was the purchase of a Juno-106, which provided a load of spacey synth sounds perfect for the realisation of the project.

The artwork by Lorna Robertson matches the music by utilising a NASA image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, combined with hand drawn elements inspired by the visual style of Kubrick's classic film '2001: A Space Odyssey'. She depicts on the front cover a spacecraft journeying towards a bright star, controlled by operating a Juno-106, the analog synth so important to the sound of the album. The reverse shows a spaceman, trumpet in hand, ready to leave the safety of the ship to explore whatever is to be found outside. 

1. Cosmos
2. Interstellar Void
3. Penrose
4. Event Horizon
5. Enceladus
6. Supernova
7. Sagittarius A*
8. Entropy

Nick Walters - trumpet, synths, piano, percussion
Tenderlonious - flute (tracks 1-3 & 6)
Thibaut Remy - guitar (tracks 1, 3 & 6)
Tim Carnegie - drums (tracks 1-6 & 8)

Live instruments recorded by Thibaut Remy at Peckham Road Studio

Mixing Engineer - Rhys Downing
Artwork - Lorna Robertson
Executive Producer - Oli Reeves

Mark Lockheart - Dreamers (January 28, 2022 Edition Records)


Dreamers is the new project from the legendary British saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart featuring Elliot Galvin (Dinosaur, Elliot Galvin Trio), Tom Herbert (Polar Bear, The Invisible) and Dave Smith (Robert Plant). Stylistically free and psychedelic in nature, the release of Dreamers signals a new trajectory for the musician who has already featured on a wide ranging and diverse catalogue of albums including Radiohead's Kid A. As a founding member of Loose Tubes and Polar Bear, Mark Lockheart has always remained ahead of the curve and has constantly explored new directions in his own music. Dreamers epitomises this adaptation and evolution, allowing the music to speak beyond the boundaries of genre and predictability. Mark has created an album which is direct and unpretentious but also surprising and unexpected.

As Mark explains: “The grooves, the sonics and the musical character of each piece are all hugely important. The process of writing music for these musicians led me into a new sound world that's very different from anything I’d done before”.

“I wanted this music to be unfussy and direct, but also unpredictable and surprising. The writing happened quickly for this album - my only intention being not to be restricted by style or genre. Of course there are influences and with hindsight I can hear many of them, John Zorn, Burt Bacharach, Ellington and  Kraftwerk are all here, not sure how, perhaps they were all in one of my dreams!”

Since 2009’s quintet album In Deep, Mark has become one of the Edition family, releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums under his own name, with the group Malija and with Edition artists including Slowly Rolling Camera, Jasper Hoiby and Laura Jurd. Mark has continued to work with classical artists (a collaboration that began with his group Perfect Houseplants in the 1990s (the Orlando Consort, Andrew Manze and Pamela Thorby) continued with theatrical and operatic work with Mark Anthony Turnage in the 2000s and his English Renaissance music record Salvator Mundi recorded at Temple church in London with organist Roger Sayer in 2019. 

1. Dreamers
2. Weird Weather
3. Jagdish
4. King of the World (Jagdish reprise)
5. Gangster Rat
6. Nature V Nurture
7. Fluorescences
8. Marmalade Skies
9. Mirage
10. Sixteen
11. Dream Weaver
12. Mingle Tingle

Music composed by Mark Lockheart except tracks 4 and 9 written by Mark Lockheart, Elliot Galvin, Tom Herbert & Dave Smith
Produced by Mark Lockheart
Executive producer Dave Stapleton

Recorded at the Fish Factory, London December 3rd-5th 2020 by Sonny Johns
Mixed by Alex Bonney

Mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works

Special thanks to: Matt Calvert, Olivia Maguire, Rita and Daisy Lockheart, Steve Baker

Dave Smith would like to thank Istanbul Agop cymbals

This album is dedicated to John Ashton Thomas

Album artwork by Oli Bentley, Split
Photos by Dave Stapleton

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

Christiane Karam's 'Nar' is due out January 28, 2022

Christiane Karam melds Middle Eastern and Balkan aesthetics with contemporary jazz on Nar, a tribute to her native Beirut and the resilience of humankind, due out January 28, 2022

Vocalist and composer Christiane Karam is thrilled to announce the January 28, 2022 release of her new full-length album Nar. Drawing from a deep well of lived and musical experiences, the Beirut-native’s first release in nine years is a multilingual musical tapestry meant to inspire and uplift in arduous times. For the occasion, Karam has called in her accomplished quintet made up of renowned pianist Vadim Neselovskyi, virtuosic cellist Naseem Alatrash, first-call bassist Peter Slavov and GRAMMY-winning percussionist Keita Ogawa. While her vocals take center stage, Karam also performs here on the tupan and bendir drums. Nar will be released independently as a CD, digital download and limited edition vinyl LP. 

Born and raised in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, Christiane Karam’s unique vocal style stems from her love for different musical traditions. Based in Boston and New York City since 1998, Karam has consistently found creative and compelling ways to combine the musical traditions of her Lebanese and Armenian heritages with modern jazz and other contemporary styles. She is the founder of the award-winning ZiZALA Ensemble (which has been praised for its expert blending of Middle Eastern and Balkan folk music and jazz) and the leader of the critically acclaimed Pletenitsa Balkan Choir. At Berklee College of Music, where she is on the faculty, she founded and directs the Berklee Annual Middle Eastern Festival. She has traveled around the world performing and teaching her ‘Voices’ workshop, and is also known for her work as a co-facilitator of the Circlesongs workshop alongside Bobby McFerrin and his team at the Omega Institute.
Nar, Karam’s fourth recording but first with her quintet, represents a pivotal moment for the artist as it is her most fully realized project to date. Karam describes the time leading up to recording Nar as particularly introspective, as she felt her artistry was developing in new and compelling ways. “Something was shifting and it was time to document who I was now becoming, both as an artist and a composer,” Karam shares. While previous works took on a choral and bigger ensemble approach to composition and improvisation, she felt it was now time for a more intimate take on the voice in a raw quintet setting. With Vadim Neselovskyi on board as Associate Producer, the contour and timeline of the project started emerging in 2019. They intended to go into the studio in the Spring of 2020, but then the pandemic hit. 

The isolating and detrimental effects of the moment were further exacerbated when tragedy struck Karam’s hometown Beirut in the form of the 2020 Beirut Explosion. In August, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut exploded causing a deadly blast that killed over 200 people, and led to over 7000 injured persons. One third of the city was destroyed that day, and the mass-devastation left a lasting imprint on Karam. During these particularly difficult times, she felt solace in creating music, and continued to chip away at her new album. “This work was the lifeline that kept me buoyant when most of our inner and outer worlds, along with many global narratives were collapsing onto themselves,” she reflects. Shortly after the blast, Karam and her band finally made it into the studio to record what would become a career milestone. “The process of making this record in the midst of the pandemic and the tragedy in Beirut was raw, exhilarating, childlike and profound all at once.” 

Nar takes its name from the Arabic word for “fire”. While the title alludes to the tragic event that took place that day in Beirut and is a tribute to those that lost their lives, it is also intended to be joyous and uplifting. Nar is a celebration of resilience, connection, and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Over the course of 13-tracks, listeners are treated to Karam’s take on common themes shared amongst humanity such as love, grief, belonging, overcoming and starting anew. It spans five languages (Arabic, French, English, Bulgarian, and Armenian), all stemming from Karam’s native and adopted homes. Musically, Nar has a lot to offer. With improvisation at its heart, the pieces range from Karam’s exhilarating original compositions to re-imagined traditional material from different folk traditions and vary in mood from wistful and reflective to rhythmic and bold. Modal and rhythmic concepts commonly found in Eastern music meld seamlessly with lush jazz harmonies and a Western classical aesthetic.
One of the highlights on the record is “Beirut”, the album centerpiece composed immediately after the blast. It is dedicated to the victims and their families, as many of the casualties were Karam’s childhood friends and neighbors. It is prefaced by ‘Interlude #1’; poetry that Karam wrote in the aftermath of the explosion over an exquisite solo by Keita Ogawa. The music video, which can be viewed here, is masterfully narrated by director Francesco Gargiulli and tells the poignant story of the human cost of war and violence, not only in terms of the body count, but also in terms of the inner death that occurs in the aftermath of such unspeakable devastation. 

Another standout moment is the track “Voyage”, which is a joyous exploration of Western harmonies, Balkan rhythms and Eastern scales. It brings listeners on an ever-winding road to unexpected places. A rich blend of contrasting textures, the piece is prefaced by “Interlude #2”: a vocal-piano improvisation that showcases unbridled creativity and unwavering commitment to the moment, as well as the deep musical connection Karam shares with Neselovskyi. “Haneen” is another high point of Nar. Co-written with the illustrious Brazilian father-daughter duo Sergio and Clarice Assad, “Haneen” tells the poignant tragedy of the immigrant story and is augmented by the affecting poetry of Gibran Khalil Gibran.

With Nar, Christiane Karam aims to celebrate the trials, tribulations and triumphs of peoples on an interconnected journey together. “I hope this album speaks to you, in these times of reckoning, healing and rebuilding,” she shares. “The freedom is in the dance.”

The album is dedicated to the memory of Bassam Saba, beloved artist, teacher and friend. 

1. Nar (C. Karam)
2. Halla’ Fallayt (Caucasian Traditional)
3. Last Snow (V. Neselovskyi) 
4. Petlite Peyat (Bulgarian Traditional)
5. Interlude #1 (K. Ogawa/Poetry by C. Karam)
6. Beirut (C. Karam)
7. Peine (Hungarian Traditional)
8. Haneen (Sergio & Clarice Assad/C. Karam)
9. Interlude #2 (C.Karam/V.Neselovskyi)
10. Voyage (C. Karam)
11. Btiji Aala Bali (A.C. Jobim)
12. Farandole (C. Karam)
13. Nar (Reprise) (C. Karam/Quintet)

Christiane Karam (Voice, Bendir, Tupan)
Vadim Neselovskyi (Piano)
Naseem Alatrash (Cello)
Peter Slavov (Upright Bass)
Keita Ogawa (Percussion)

Max Kochetov Quartet - Altered Feelings (January 28, 2022 A.MA Records / A.MA Edizioni)

Ukrainian born and Serbian by adoption, saxophonist and composer Max Kochetov has created a 42 minute suite of sublime Jazz that fuses psychedelia, spirituality, bebop, rock, soul and funk into a melange of Latin, Brazilian, Pan-African and Indian influences. Conceived as a suite in eight parts Altered Feelings was recorded in one take in a live studio session with each member of the Quartet (and its two special guest musicians) meeting the challenge, aided by the unique and outstanding acoustics they found in the studio.

Each of the eight compositions reflects and represents an altered mood and the whole suite reveals itself as a coherent flow of narrative with the opening and closing themes creating a symmetry and a resolution.

'There is Coltrane and his vertical gaze in this flow, there is the desire to create music strongly linked to the very hard times we are experiencing and an inner escape from the reality that we are all going through; something more nuanced that can be understood and explained through music and it composition.'

1. Intro
2. Groovin
3. Sultry Requiem
4. Altered Feelings
5. Waltz
6. Rhetorical Morning
7. Impression
8. Outro

Max Kochetov Alto Soprano Saxophones
Andreja Hristic Piano
Boris Sainovic Double Bass
Milos Grbatinic Drums

Special Guests:
Ivan Radivojevic Trumpet (2,3)
Samuel Blaser Trombone (3,6)

Recorded by Danijel Vukovic @ FNS Studio. 7-9 Jun. 2021
Mixed & Mastered by Sinisa Kokeric & Max Kochetov @ FNS StudioExecutive Producer Antonio Martino A.MA Records
©&℗ A.MA Edizioni – Via Luigi Partipilo,36. Bari – Italy