Slavic Soul Party! Celebrates Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Masterpiece, The Far East Suite, with Their Newest Album on Ropeadope Records, Out September 16thPosted on July 18th, 2016 by Matt
The past 50 years have seen a lot of borders come down: the Iron Curtain, the European Union, the Cuban embargo, apartheid in the USA and South Africa all come to mind. But lately we’ve heard talk of reinforcing borders and building walls, watched as refugees from the Middle East pile up on newly reinforced European borders. Many of these borders – between Macedonia and Serbia, Turkey and Europe, “the east” and “the west”, host culture and “other” – are the very same borders that Slavic Soul Party! has crossed for years. They’re also many of the same borders crossed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1963, when the US State Department sent the band on a “jazz diplomacy” mission to the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans. 50 years ago Ellington recorded his brilliant collaboration with Billy Strayhorn, the Far East Suite in New York City masterfully integrating the sounds they heard into the Ellington band, itself one of the defining sounds of jazz.
Slavic Soul Party! celebrates 50 years of the Far East Suite with a new record that re-imagines the iconic suite as an Eastern European brass band discovering an exotic American sound, reversing the “exotic tinge” and reveling in this subtle, funky, and brilliant music. The essence of Ellington and Strayhorn’s collaboration is apparent from the first notes – the pulsing, harmonically rich chords of Tourist Point of View – but there’s something clearly different here. The slight of hand that SSP! has achieved with deft arrangements and strong Balkan playing is wonderfully disorienting. This is music that has taken several trips across the Atlantic, in both directions. It’s obviously a brass band that has fallen in love with the sound of jazz, but where is this music from? Read the rest of this entry »
Alto Saxophonist Jim Snidero Celebrates His 20th Recording as a Leader with MD66, Inspired by Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, Scheduled for Release on August 26, 2016 on Savant RecordsPosted on July 14th, 2016 by Matt
Over the course of a career lasting more than 35 years, Jim Snidero has established his reputation as a leader both on the bandstand and as an influential author of jazz education books. A pioneer in music education technology, with his venture The Jazz Conception Company (TJCC), the release of MD66 only affirms the alto saxophonist’s role as an important and evolving jazz artist.
MD66 is scheduled for release on August 26 on Savant Records, marking Snidero’s 20th album as a leader and sixth release for Savant. The album celebrates 50 years since the heyday of the second great Miles Davis Quintet (with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams). Snidero remarks on how Davis was “a critical beacon for being a great leader. He had a gift for hiring musicians who best fit his evolving vision, often inspiring them to create innovative music.”
Consisting primarily of Snidero’s original compositions, along with a piece by pianist Andy Laverne and Davis’ immortal “Blue in Green,” the music on MD66 came about as a result of Snidero’s careful attention to the musical interplay between the members of Davis’ second great quintet. “That band is at the very top of the ladder of any kind of music that I’ve ever listened to,” says Snidero. Assembling his own stellar band consisting of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, pianist Andy Laverne, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Rudy Royston, Snidero sought to explore his own music while conveying the same sense of intimacy demonstrated by Davis’ second quintet.
Read the rest of this entry »
Prolific Guitarist, Trumpeter, Flutist and Composer RHYS CHATHAM Releases Pythagorean Dream on Foom RecordsPosted on June 8th, 2016 by Matt
Rhys Chatham returns with his first new album in 3 years, the apocryphal and enchanting Pythagorean Dream. Primarily focused on the electric guitar (but also featuring flute and a bit of trumpet) the recording is named after the Pythagorean guitar tuning it employs. The new album is a truly singular endeavour; composed, performed, produced, engineered and mastered solely by Chatham.
Following his Guitar Trio Is My Life! and A Crimson Grail records—the latter: the extensive revisiting of his groundbreaking “Guitar Trio” (1977) which featured the entire guitar section of Sonic Youth, and members of Swans, Tortoise, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Modern Lovers, A Silver Mt. Zion & Hüsker Dü; the former: his work for for 400 guitars which premiered in Paris in 2005 and was reworked for the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Festival in New York City in 2009—Chatham felt a need to get back to basics, returning to that most intimate and direct way of experiencing music: the solo.
Going back to the model of composer as performer that was pioneered in the 1960s by artists such as Tony Conrad and Terry Riley, Chatham began to develop solos that he would play himself, choosing to incorporate the multi-second delay effect pioneered by Terry Riley with two Revox Tape Machines. Feeling that it tied in with his overall minimalist aesthetic (having studied under, and then worked with La Monte Young in the early 1970s) and that the effect (which gives the impression that choirs and choirs of instruments are playing) was fitting as a succession to his 100-guitar idea, Chatham created and layered feedback loops of varying durations using Riley’s method in order to create rich, overlapping layers, which in practice transcend the limitations of their start and end points, blooming into free-flowing melodies in their own right.
Part One of Pythagorean Dream is comprised of a brief trumpet intro, followed by a guitar piece which implements a finger picking technique (Chatham has long been a fan of this style; John Fahey was one of his teenage musical heroes), before moving to an eBow section, and concluding with the fast tremolo flat-picking technique used in the context of his 100 guitar pieces.
Part Two is principally about Chatham’s return to the flute, the instrument which sparked his love of contemporary music; which he mastered in his adolescence prior to experiencing the early Ramones show at CBGB’s and which caused him to changed course and focus on the electric guitar. While composing this solo work, Chatham figured that the flute’s timbre would make a suitably interesting contrast to the guitar and trumpet, which led him to pick up the instrument again. Pythagorean Dream features Chatham on C, alto & bass flutes. The recording is brought to a close with a final guitar piece.
After Years of Steady Collaboration, Sara Gazarek and Josh Nelson Debut as Vocal-Piano Duo with Dream in the Blue, Out August 5, 2016Posted on May 19th, 2016 by Matt
Since 2002, vocalist Sara Gazarek and pianist Josh Nelson have nurtured an uncommonly strong musical bond. It’s no mere happenstance that Nelson played as a band member on all four of Gazarek’s albums, and she, in turn, sang on two of Nelson’s own recording projects. But over the past 18 months, this Los Angeles-based pair has taken their collaboration to a new level, touring extensively as a duo and developing a diverse repertoire that showcases their combined artistic maturation. Gazarek and Nelson recorded their new album Dream in the Blue (funded exclusively through the crowd-sourcing website pledgemusic.com) as a tribute to their extraordinary partnership.
“I remember feeling so incredibly comfortable with Josh that I held on tight and never looked back,” says Gazarek, recalling their very first gig in LA. “We’ve spent the last decade and more writing together, arranging, recording, making silly videos; essentially growing up together, personally and musically.” Nelson, in addition to citing his close rapport with Gazarek, sees Dream in the Blue as “a nice snapshot of our musical tastes in general — decidedly welcoming and accessible for a wide variety of audiences.”
For a young musician, Bobby Avey has quickly establishing himself as an emerging voice in the creative music scene. The Guardian describes him as, “a player and musical thinker with an intriguing future,” who The New Yorker asserts “[Avey is] a young pianist of invention and refinement.” In 2011, he won the Thelonious Monk Competition for Composition, following the release of his first album, A New Face, which the New York Times called “A promising debut.”
Inhuman Wilderness, the fifth recording from the esteemed pianist, promises to be a major artistic statement. The release is a multi-hued tapestry that eloquently portrays the tragedy of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man and to nature. Releasing June 24th, 2016, the album will be Innervoice Jazz’s second release after pianist Marc Copland’s Zenith.
Once again, Avey’s has enlisted longtime bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson to support the underlying framework of his unusual concepts. The trio have almost a decade of playing under their belts. Indeed AllAboutJazz.com proclaimed the three, “a strong, intuitive trio.” The fourth voice joining the quartet for Inhuman Wilderness is alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher. Avey met O’Gallagher in 2014 when the two played a gig together in NYC, and it was in that moment Avey knew he had found the final component to complete a new quartet. Avey says “John was simply the best fit for the repertoire. He internalized the music quickly and brought it to life.” Read the rest of this entry »
Composer, trumpeter, santur player and vocalist, Amir ElSaffar, an expert in Jazz and Iraqi maqam, has forged his novel approach to combining musical languages through his six-piece ensemble Two Rivers. Over the past eight years, the group has released three CD’s on Pi Recordings. Crisis, the most recent, was a Newport Jazz Festival commission. Jazz critic of the The Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich, declared Crisis “one of the most beautiful and evocative jazz recordings of the year.” A reviewer for The Wire, stated that “ElSaffar is uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music without doing either harm…the result of engagement across the board, presented with clarity and eloquence.”
Rivers of Sound: Not Two is a continuation of the Two Rivers concept, but projected onto a wider canvas unprecedented in scope and imagination. Microtonal maqam melodies traverse a richly-textured bed of sound created by oud, buzuk, and santur, in combination with cello, violin, saxophones, English horn and trumpet. Also at play are multilayered, rhythmic patterns and harmonies performed by re-tuned vibraphone, piano and guitar. The drum set, mridangam, dumbek, frame drums and double-bass provide the rhythmic foundation and subdivisions of the multiple currents. Resonance across rhythmic, tonal, and timbral spectra, and across musical traditions, is the guiding principle.
ElSaffar’s music is at once unique and engaging, full of heart and passion. Challenging notions of composition vs. improvisation, tradition vs. modernity, microtonality/modality vs. harmony, his compositions bring to light the universality of music across cultures. Given the catastrophes befalling the people of the Middle Eastern and Arab lands, his music is both timely and urgent as he is preserving elements of these cultures by bringing them into context with contemporary musical forms.
Jeff Lederer Takes A Left Turn with Brooklyn Blowhards – Drawing A Parallel Between Sea Shanties and The Music of Albert AylerPosted on March 21st, 2016 by Matt
“One should play the guitar like a man drowning at sea….” – Captain Beefheart
The sea can be a terrifying place. “I love sea shanties because they embody the spirit of men holding on in the face of a vast and unknowable ocean which combines beauty and fear in equal measure,” says saxophonist and clarinetist Jeff Lederer.
“I love the tension of individual and group that is so present in the very form of these songs through the call and response structure. I love the way this music is connected to the acts of physical labor on a ship – it’s feeling of resistance-the pushing and pulling of the beat; actually, more pulling of the beat than pushing – you don’t push with a rope.”
Years ago in conversation with longtime musical collaborator Matt Wilson (who appears here on various concert percussion), Wilson shared his impressions of first hearing the great Albert Ayler recording Love Cry. “He told me how it sounded very folk-like to him, almost like sea shanties.”
Years later, cornetist Kirk Knuffke (also present on this recording) played Lederer a recording of the traditional vocal group The Foc’sile Singers which contained much of the repertoire we hear on this recording. “The idea of connecting sea shanties with the music of Albert Ayler seemed to me to be not only completely natural, but inevitable. It is sadly relevant to mention that Albert Ayler met his own tragic death at sea,” notes Lederer.
A Los Angeles native, Lederer was initially turned on to the jazz icon when his Oberlin college professor Wendell Logan hipped him to Love Cry. “It spoke to me right away. It has a folk music quality to it, a directness. People don’t always identify the lyricism in play with Albert because they’re so taken aback by the sound and the extended technique. But it’s right there. I’m drawn to tenor players who work that gritty aspect. Like George Adams on Mingus at Carnegie Hall.”
Lots of modern improvisers try to balance the joy of boundless expressionism with the buoyancy of swing, but few do it with Lederer’s sense of ease. On Brooklyn Blowhards the relatively tame sea shanties are punctuated by the leader’s roars and rumbles, which lovingly conjure the heady atmosphere of late-‘60s jazz.
The shrieks here have a soulful purpose, fluttery murmurs have an attractive warmth. When he rockets a solo from 0 to 100, there’s always a story being told between the lines. “When I would do that at the Showman’s Club, they definitely understood that the squeaking and honking wasn’t coming from an artsy intention, but an emotional one. I like that my ecstatic thing differentiates me from other cats, but I like it most when it fits in, when it comes from what’s around me.”
Chemistry is key and Brooklyn Blowhards has a noticeable family feel to it. Wilson, Knuffke and Lederer often work together in Wilson’s quarter. Drummer Allison Miller, here playing concert percussion and bass drum has Knuffke in her band BOOM TIC BOOM and trombonist Brian Drye is a ubiquitous presence on the Brooklyn creative music scene, often playing with everyone here in different contexts. Miller and Lederer are bandmates in Honey Ear Trio. Art Bailey was the perfect man for the job here adding his reedy accordion to the pentatonic sound of the shanties. Petr Cancura is Lederer’s favorite tenor sax player and loves the folky aspect of his sound. He feels they are kindred spirits.
The artwork associated with this project comes from visual artist Matt Kish, whose book Moby Dick: A Picture for Every Page, Lederer discovered in a whaling museum in Nantucket. “The art seemed to me to embody everything that I was feeling about the sea; the creatures that live in it, and the men whose lives centered on killing them.” The artwork is as elemental and spiritual as Herman Melville’s words that inspired it. “The images reflected everything I heard in this music as well – violence, a Quaker spirituality, and a striving for order in the midst of turmoil. These are all qualities that I hear in the music of Albert Ayler as well.”
A key member of The Matt Wilson Quartet & Christmas Tree-O, the 51-year-old saxophonist is one of New York’s most versatile horn players. He has accompanied tap dancers at Harlem’s famed Showman’s Club, grooved the five boroughs as part of Jimmy Bosch’s salsa outfit, and played frequently with larger-than-life Afro-Cuban drummer and bandleader Bobby Sanabria. Regardless of setting, the impassioned peal of his sax is always on display.
Record Store Day Exclusive Vinyl Release April 16th,
Simultaneous with Digital Release By Greenleaf Music (Bandcamp only)
In Wide Digital & CD Release via iTunes/Amazon/Brick & Mortar, July 8th
With the 2015 release of High Risk, Dave Douglas, Shigeto, Mark Guiliana and Jonathan Maron proved they could produce an album where avant-jazz and electronic music met in a spacey atmospheric middle ground, delivering something new in the world of genre. Melding traditional instrumentation and modern electronic music production challenges the ideals of both the traditional term “jazz” as well as the modern term “electronic music.” Pitchfork described it as, “Simultaneously chill and surprising, it’s the sound of a group discovering a valid language, and then proceeding to push the limits of that new aesthetic.”
We now have a second installment to look forward to. All Music declared High Risk, “A hallucinatory and surprisingly organic collaboration.” The quartet, created by veteran trumpeter, composer and bandleader Dave Douglas, will be released on Douglas’ imprint, Greenleaf Music, exclusively on vinyl as a Record Store Day 2016 Exclusive.
Tracked in the same set of sessions as High Risk, Dark Territory was recorded once again by Geoff Countryman at The Bunker in Brooklyn, NY in October 2014, with mixing by Steve Wall, mastering by Mark Wilder and production by Dave Douglas.
“The biggest element in this meeting of the worlds [is] an openness and willingness to put everything at risk,” says Douglas. “I wanted to create a situation where we really were at risk, we were on a high wire, where the exigencies of being in the moment and creating with your wits – from one second to the next – was what it was about.”
Douglas continues, “Dark Territory follows up on this area of risk, going into new, as yet unexplored musical spaces. The title was suggested by the writer Fred Kaplan, whose new book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, talks about the similarly mysterious, murky waters of underground activity. In a way, we’re playing through a similar territory without rules where the dangers and challenges of technology are much greater than normal. I love that Zach, Jon, and Mark are so willing to go that place!” Read the rest of this entry »
Melissa Aldana Is “Back Home” – Rising Tenor Sax Star Releases Second Trio Album & Fourth Album OverallPosted on January 12th, 2016 by Matt
Acclaimed tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana follows up her 2014 Concord release Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio with the explorative and deeply swinging Back Home, this time released on the Wommusic label. Pablo Menares, Aldana’s fellow native of Santiago, Chile, is again on bass. On drums is the in-demand Jochen Rueckert, bringing a supple and unpredictable rhythmic élan to the session. These three musicians turn on a dime and project an uncommonly full orchestral sound, rich in spiritual intensity, all in the absence of a harmony instrument.
The title Back Home might seem to evoke Chile, where Aldana left in 2007 to pursue jazz at ever higher levels in the U.S. In fact, Aldana reveals, Back Home “is not really related to Chile itself. It’s related to the first time I picked up the tenor and I heard Sonny Rollins.” The closing title track carries strong echoes of Rollins’ playful spirit, and reveals much about Aldana’s evolution from a 6-year-old alto player to “a bold new talent” (NPR), one of the most compelling and prodigious tenor saxophonists of her time. In fact she wrote “Back Home” specifically for Rollins, she recalls: “He was one of the first reasons I started playing trio, because the freedom that you have within the music, the interaction, the opportunity you have to express yourself and communicate with the other musicians.”
As a child Aldana studied with her renowned saxophonist father Marcos Aldana (son of saxophonist Enrique Aldana, whose Selmer Mark VI tenor Melissa performs with to this day). She began on alto but after hearing the landmark Sonny Rollins + 4 she switched to tenor and never looked back. Other important influences she cites range from Don Byas, Gene Ammons and Lucky Thompson to Chris Potter and Mark Turner.
In 2007 Aldana moved to Boston to enroll at Berklee, coming under the mentorship of tenor great George Garzone. Pianist Danilo Pérez and saxophonist Patricia Zarate provided Aldana with crucial support and guidance as well. In 2009 she took the plunge to New York and began apprenticing with greats such as Greg Osby and George Coleman, among others. In 2013 she became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American ever to win the Thelonious Monk Competition. She is also a recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center and a double recipient of the Altazor Award, Chile’s highly prestigious national arts prize. In 2014 after two quartet releases for Osby’s Inner Circle label (Free Fall and Second Cycle), she turned her attention to the chordless trio, a jazz aesthetic Sonny Rollins did so much to pioneer. With Back Home she deepens her trio investigations while looking back on her roots, drawing as well from the original compositions of Menares and Rueckert. Read the rest of this entry »