52nd Street Experimental Ensemble is an American project spawned by the pandemic and created in Philadelphia, PA by multi-instrumentalist Ihba Baskette

52nd Street Experimental Ensemble is an American project spawned by the pandemic and created in Philadelphia P.A, by Ihba Baskette a multi-instrumentalist playing all instruments on this recording. The recording takes of every instrument on this album were done in a few weeks; recording a song a day for 13 days as a way to combat the social turmoil, pandemic, and firecracker epidemics in urban areas in the city.

Ihba is known for world music specializing in abstract reggae world dance music and jazz-influenced hints. With 0” years of performing these songs are for an audience who loves the nonconformity and boundaries being juggled.

52 Street A/K/A Area 52 has collaborated and performed with Ra’oof Atelier presents: Ice Station Zero 2.0 @ “The House of Schlesinger “ – a collaborative art happening w/ Installation, sculptures, videos, photography & soundscape provided by Ihba Baskette-reeds & percussions & TR7 – applied piano & synthesizers. John Schlesinger – artworks. As well as Artist and Sculpture maker Anthony Bayne senior on Soprano Saxophone and Percussion. ~BandCamp

Release Date: 9/12/2022

All tracks by Ihba Baskette except Anthony Bayne senior on soprano saxophone on Stone Throw remix.
Schoichi Serigano: track 8.
Cover photograph: Bryant Eugene Varquez.
Additional artwork: Troy Williams and Ihba Baskette
Layout an design: Atharwa Deshingkar.

 

The long awaited project REROOTING by composer/leader, percussion, balaphone and kalimba MARILYN MAZUR

Marilyn Mazur’s collaboration with Miles Davis, Gil Evans, and Wayne Shorter established her worldwide reputation in the mid-to-late ‘80s, as did her career with Jan Garbarek later on. But even before that, percussionist and composer Marilyn Mazur had already realized significant projects of her own. Her Primi Band, an experimental music theatre group that existed from 1978 to 1986, left such a lasting impression that the Copenhagen Jazz Festival wanted to reboot the group four decades later. This was unfortunately not possible, but the evocative spirit of that band has been let out of the bottle through a new project.

Shamania is the name of the band that Marilyn founded in 2015. Its shamanic spirit is based on the idea of a modern tribal gathering of female musical forces that focuses entirely on rhythm, body, and voice in an experimental context and the challenge of finding a common ground.

The ten women of Shamania are among the most independent musicians on the Scandinavian scene and live in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. When they meet, they bring – through their formidable energies – a primal power and fascinating rhythms to the stage and enchant the listener with atmospheric moods and moments of pure amazement. The very same qualities have now been captured on their second album:

REROOTING combines 16 songs, a combination of both Marilyn’s brand new and older compositions, which have all been, with one exception, previously unreleased.

Each of these songs has its own story, such as an original song composed for Marilyn’s son when he was a baby, the sunset canon, the world situation, Nordic nights, April 1 – as well as the title track that was created at the first gathering of the Shamania musicians after pandemic-related self-isolation and many concert cancellations.

From the water phone, which combines the principles of the Tibetan water drum, the African lamellophone, and the nail violin from the 18th century, to udu clay pot drums, various bongos, congas, the kalimba, drums, and tuned gongs from all over the world, to the Norwegian goat horn: the extraordinary wealth of timbres, together with the other instruments, primes the songs, shining out of them, glowing and radiating, results in the unmistakable Shamania sound and, with the brilliant rhythms, form Marilyn Mazur’s trademark: often ritual-type music with an unmistakable instinct for outstanding dialogues, solos, and improvisations – as well as an energetic primal force, and the very personal musical language of the great musician that extends into a world that lies far beyond jazz.

JOSEFINE CRONHOLM vocals
SISSEL VERA PETTERSEN vocals and alto sax
HILDEGUNN ØISETH trumpet and goat horn
LOTTE ANKER tenor and soprano saxophone
LIS WESSBERG trombone
MAKIKO HIRABAYASHI piano and keyboards
IDA GORMSEN electric bass
LISBETH DIERS congas and percussion
ANNA LUND drums
MARILYN MAZUR composer/leader, percussion,
balaphone and kalimba

All compositions and lyrics by Marilyn Mazur,
except for the lyrics of Largo of Voices by Josefine Cronholm

Expected Release Date: 9/16/2022

“Remembering Tomasz Stańko” – a Free All-Star Memorial Concert for the Late, Great Polish Trumpeter, Composer & Bandleader – Will Be Held at Brooklyn’s Roulette on September 18, 2022

In what would have been his 80th birthday year, Stańko’s life and art will be celebrated in New York City – his spiritual home away from home – by 14 key peers and associates: Ambrose Akinmusire & Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet); Ravi Coltrane, Joe Lovano & Chris Potter (saxophone); Jakob Bro (guitar); Craig Taborn, David Virelles & Marcin Wasilewski (piano); Dezron Douglas, Sławomir Kurkiewicz & Reuben Rogers (bass); and Gerald Cleaver & Michał Miśkiewicz (drums)

“Nobody holds a single, long-blown trumpet note like the Polish pioneer Tomasz Stańko – a wearily exhaled, soberly ironic, yet oddly awestruck sound that is unique in jazz.”

— The Guardian, reviewing Stańko’s final album, December Avenue

Tomasz Stańko – one of Europe’s most original and beloved jazz musicians – was born on July 11, 1942, in Rzeszów, Poland, and he passed away in Warsaw on July 29, 2018. In many ways, his life traced the course of modern jazz in Europe, beginning with his tenure – when barely into his twenties – in the band of the great Polish composer-pianist Krzysztof Komeda. Those formative years included recording on Komeda’s timeless album Astigmatic, released in 1965 and soon recognized as representing a sea change for European jazz. Starting in 1975, Stańko began his association as a leader with the iconic German art-house label ECM Records which would produce a dozen masterful albums up to his final release, December Avenue, in 2017. That recording featured his New York Quartet, a band that reflected the trumpeter’s deep affection for its namesake town and the inspiration he found in New York City’s living history of jazz. To mark what would have been his 80th birthday year, an all-star memorial concert – “Remembering Tomasz Stańko” – will be held at Brooklyn’s Roulette at 8:00pm on September 18, 2022, with tickets free of charge. The event will include musicians who worked closest with Stańko in his last, highly productive decades and others who collaborated with him on special latter-day projects.

Remembering Tomasz Stańko” will include two illustrious soloists on trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith and Ambrose Akinmusire. The night’s revolving cast of musicians will be anchored by the rhythm sections from both Stańko’s New York and Polish quartets: pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gerald Cleaver, from the former; and, from the latter, pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz. Stańko discovered the Poles when they were just teenagers; in addition to working as an established trio, they now play with saxophonist Joe Lovano – who will also join them for this event. Guitarist Jakob Bro, who played on Stańko’s Dark Eyes album, will be on hand, as will saxophonist Chris Potter and pianist Craig Taborn – who were part of a special band that Stańko put together for a concert at New York’s Jazz Standard in 2011. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Dezron Douglas will also perform; they, along with Virelles, featured in a quintet that recorded POLIN, a suite that Stańko composed for an exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Stańko’s intensely lyrical sound and sensibility were easily identifiable, with his tone of Slavic melancholy, his expressive peals and smears, and the noir-ish atmospheres that he liked to conjure in his music. Although he was, above all, a darkly melodic improviser, the trumpeter was as at home playing in Cecil Taylor’s Big Band as he was performing with the likes of Dave Holland, John Surman, Lee Konitz, Gary Peacock, Edward Vesala or Bobo Stenson. “Tomasz Stańko is not the first jazz musician to negotiate a rapprochement between gorgeous melodies and free improvisation,” noted the San Francisco Chronicle. “But he is one of the most eloquent proponents of extemporaneous lyricism working today.” And JazzTimes declared: “Stańko writes melodies that pierce the heart like needles… His pieces are open forms, a few strokes or gestures that introduce a mood and set Stańko into motion. He needs musicians around him who can respond with independent creativity to his unique stimuli.”

Having grown up behind the Iron Curtain, Stańko relied on the Voice of America radio network to connect him to the American jazz scene – and the sounds he heard fostered his dream to someday make it to New York City and experience that scene for himself. It was almost exactly 20 years ago that Stańko finally made it to the U.S. for his first stateside tour, with New York everything he expected it would be. He was so inspired that he kept an apartment in the city for the last decade of his life, so that he could split his time between the Big Apple and Warsaw. Although an innovator in modern European improvisation, Stańko always maintained a strong sense of jazz history. “With Krzysztof Komeda, we would mostly listen to modal music, like Miles Davies and John Coltrane,” he recalled. “This was my inspiration. Ornette Coleman was important, too, of course, as an example of a certain attitude toward art – that of searching and rebellion.” Living part-time in New York also kept Stańko in touch with the ongoing vitality of jazz. “Originally, I just wanted to enjoy New York, the city where so much great jazz history has been made,” he said, but it wasn’t long before the trumpeter was interacting with local players and finding “the fantastic cats” he would work with so fruitfully in his New York Quartet, among other ventures.

New York Times critic Ben Ratliff wrote perceptively about Stańko embarking on the last chapter of his career: “It’s good to see an elder artist chase after a new idea. Until quite recently, Tomasz Stańko specialized in beautiful dirges, and rubato soul-ache ballads with rumblings of free jazz. They came out via a string of fine records for the ECM label over a dozen years or so… But the work has an overall unity of mood and purpose… Both as a soloist and as a bandleader, he can pull off the dark emotions in his music. His trumpet tone is steady and stark, crumbled around the edges, and he makes his strong, short themes anchor the arrangements… Without radically changing the character of his music – he still loves ballads, and still foregrounds a lonely melody – Mr. Stańko is allowing its balances to shift. The music can be hard to define but in an excellent way. It uses steady rhythms and vamps as well as free improvisation… Some extraordinary passages unfold without any of the players making them seem formal, almost as if natural forces were moving the musicians’ hands.”

Among the highlights of Stańko’s capacious discography is his deeply felt and beautifully arranged 1997 tribute Litania: The Music of Krzysztof Komeda, which featured a septet including an old Komeda associate, saxophonist Bernt Rosengren, along with Stenson and guitarist Terje Rypdal. In 2011, the Smithsonian Institution published the six-disc, century-spanning Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology – which, after beginning with the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, concludes remarkably with “Suspended Night Variation VIII,” a track from Stańko’s 2004 album Suspended Night. The trumpeter was honored with multiple awards across his career, including the inaugural European Jazz Prize in 2002; the jury stated: “Stańko has developed a unique sound and personal music that is instantly recognizable and unmistakably his own… A world-class player, a stylist, a charismatic performer, and an original composer, his music now assumes simplicity of form and mellowness that comes with years of work, exploration, and experience. Tomasz Stańko – a true master and leader of European jazz.”

Anna Stańko, Tomasz’s daughter and latter-day manager, recalls her father describing New York City as “a modern Rome – a place where all roads lead, especially musically. For him, it’s the place where new trails are blazed in jazz, the place where he wanted to be – and was. He just adored being in New York, walking the streets, experiencing the city, feeling the music in the air. Now, we’ll have the chance to remember him here, one of his favorite places on Earth.” She adds: “Music was the essence of my father’s life, the spice. He felt it so deeply that the language of his art communicated beyond any borders. That’s why we present this free concert here, with these amazing musicians who were like family for my dad.”

“Remembering Tomasz Stańko” is organized by the Tomasz Stańko Foundation thanks to funding from Adam Mickiewicz Institute (culture.pl) and the Kosciuszko Foundation, as well as the support of the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.

Just in case, you missed it… Mesmerism is the new album by drummer Tyshawn Sorey with his colleagues pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer.

Mesmerism is a beautiful, swinging trio meeting led by drummer Tyshawn Sorey featuring two musicians whom he has considered his closest colleagues: pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer. Sorey – a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania, collaborator with Vijay Iyer, Kris Davis, Roscoe Mitchell, Hafez Modirzadeh, Myra Melford, Marilyn Crispell, and other musical luminaries – puts forward his vision for Mesmerism as follows: “My intent was to record this project with only an hour or two of rehearsal and with a group of musicians who never performed on stage together. To that end, Mesmerism is a departure from the recordings I produced that contained thoroughly rehearsed, rigorously notated music for the piano trio. For a long time, I felt an intense desire to record some of my favorite songs from the Great American Songbook as well as those by composers whose work I feel should also exist in this canon. Recording Mesmerism with these two wonderful, inspiring musicians inevitably proved to become the finest occasion for me to document my lifelong connection to the ‘straight-ahead’ continuum of this music.

Diehl, known for his close association with GRAMMY winner Cécile McLorin Salvant and his acclaimed work as a leader for Mack Avenue, brings a refined touch and melodic sense to the project. “Aaron and I connected for the first time many years ago,” Sorey recalls, “and from the start, it felt like a brotherly connection. I wanted to make a recording with Aaron for several years after the first meeting and listen to his brilliant performances of all kinds of music from different eras. Aaron’s level of listening and interaction in this setting is unmistakably individualistic – very sophisticated and full of intention, soul, and depth. His playing never ceases to surprise or astonish me.

Brewer, a bandleader and accomplished player with the SFJAZZ Collective, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and many others, is as rock solid as he is creative and searching, having performed alongside Sorey in projects led by Steve Lehman, Ambrose Akinmusire, Lage Lund, Steve Coleman, and more. “Besides how proficient he is on the bass in so many styles of music,” Sorey declares, “I am constantly amazed by Matt’s ability to swing and groove hard, to play contrapuntally, and to be always fully present in the music. For example, I tend to sometimes play phrases that are considered extremely adventurous over song forms and Matt is always right there with me. He’s a musician who brings with him a well thought out sense of adventure, along with incredibly open ears and a solid approach to rhythm.”

Picking songs for Mesmerism would not necessarily become an excuse to make an album of deconstructed, highly clever reworkings. Put another way, “I wanted to keep things simple and let the beauty of these songs remain in our interpretations while including, to a small degree, simple alterations of the song materials,” says Sorey. While a straightforward approach applies to “Enchantment” by Horace Silver, “Two Over One” by Muhal Richard Abrams, and (on CD and streaming only) the closing “REM Blues” by Duke Ellington, such alterations become readily apparent on the remaining selections. On “Detour Ahead,” for example, Sorey, a self-described Bill Evans aficionado, tips his hat to the late master with an arrangement that “constantly ‘detours’ from the original key that we’ve established by harmonically modulating to other keys of the song within its entire structure.” Later, in Sorey’s treatment of Paul Motian’s “From Time to Time,” the song is nearly unrecognizable, in that “the original melody is suspended in feeling and is also simultaneously conjunct and disjunct with no reference to a particular key center until the song’s closing melodic statement performed by the trio.”

Making a jazz piano trio album like Mesmerism is something Sorey’s admirers might not have expected, but his intent was not to throw curveballs for the sake of doing so. The goal, he explains, was “not to reinvent the wheel or prove anything, but to document the unwavering love and appreciation I have for these songs in the most honest, earnest way I can. I have always welcomed the opportunity to play this music, and, after having been typecast as being a so-called ‘avant-gardist’ for nearly two decades, I decided that it was finally time for me to make this recording date happen myself with musicians I deeply respect and admire.

Tyshawn Sorey has been praised by Modern Drummer Magazine as a musician who “explores the inner and outer reaches of modern jazz and serious contemporary music…[y]et no matter how far he travels, he remains anchored by a firm sense of tradition.” Hailed by The New York Times as “an artist who is at the nexus of the music industry’s artistic and social concerns,” Sorey has numerous extended concert pieces to his credit, including Monochromatic Light (Afterlife), For Roscoe Mitchell, Songs for Death, and For George Lewis. He has also held composer and artist residencies with Opera Philadelphia, the Seattle Symphony, and Harvard University. His recent major appearances on disc as a drummer include Uneasy (with Vijay Iyer and Linda May Han Oh), Tyshawn & King (with Philly DJ and innovator King Britt), and On Common Ground (with Mike Sopko and Bill Laswell). Sorey’s trio with pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini has earned critical acclaim for their releases Alloy and Verisimilitude. His varied ensemble recordings The Inner Spectrum of Variables, Pillars, and Unfiltered have cemented his reputation as “an extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker).

Credits

Released: July 8, 2022
Tyshawn Sorey – drum set
Aaron Diehl – piano
Matt Brewer – bassExecutive producer: Tyshawn Sorey
Producer: Michael Carvin

Rising star pianist/composer Connie Han brings the ancient Sumerian culture to the present day by channelling Inanna — the ancient Sumerian goddess of love, beauty and war — on her third release for Mack Avenue Records.

Rising star pianist/composer Connie Han brings the ancient Sumerian culture to the present day by channeling Inanna — the ancient Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, and war — on her third release for Mack Avenue Records.

Featuring Katisse Buckingham (alto flute and piccolo), John Patitucci (bass), Rich Perry (tenor saxophonist), and drummer Bill WysaskeSecrets of Inanna creates a new world open to interpretation, harkening back to the ethereal soundscapes’ of 1970s spiritual jazz with the modern composition Han has received praise for since her 2018 debut Crime Zone, creating a truly unique soundscape of great depth. ~MackAvenueRecords

At your leisure, stream her new single “PRIMA MATERIA” from her upcoming album

 

Renowned Saxophonist and Composer Miguel Zenón Releases Música de Las Américas, Inspired by the History of the American Continent

Out August 26, 2022, on Miel Music, Música de Las Américas features all-new music from Zenón for his long-time working quartet plus master percussionists from his native Puerto Rico Album release celebration August 23 – 28 at The Village Vanguard, NYC

This music is inspired by the history of the American continent: not only before European colonization but also by what’s happened since—cause and effect,” says Miguel Zenón of his latest album of all original works, Música de Las Américas. The music grew out of Zenón’s passion for the history of the American continent, and the resulting album pays tribute to its diverse cultures while also challenging modern assumptions about who and what “America” is.

 

Featuring his longstanding quartet of pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry ColeMúsica de Las Américas represents a broadening of scope and ambition for Zenón, who is best known for combining cutting-edge modernism with the folkloric and traditional music of Puerto Rico. In realizing such a wide-ranging project, Zenón engaged the illustrious Puerto Rican ensemble Los Pleneros de La Cresta to contribute their unmistakable plena sound to the album, with additional contributions by master musicians Paoli Mejías on percussion, Daniel Díaz on congas, and Victor Emmanuelli on barril de bomba.

 

Zenón’s compositions on Música de Las Américas reflect the dynamism and complexity of America’s indigenous cultures, their encounters with European colonists, and the resulting historical implications. Zenón immersed himself in these topics during the pandemic, reading classics like Eduardo Galeano’s Venas Abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent), which details Western exploitation of South America’s resources and became the inspiration for Zenón’s “Venas Abiertas.”

 

Other sources of inspiration include Sebastián Robiou Lamarche’s Taínos y Caribes”, referring to the two major societies who inhabited the Caribbean prior to European colonization and who are the subject of the album’s opener. “They were the two predominant societies but were very different: the Taínos were a more passive agricultural society while the Caribes were warriors who lived for conquest,” says Zenón, who captures the clashing of the societies in the interlocking rhythms of the piece.

 

Following the thread of indigenous Caribbean societies, “Navegando (Las Estrellas Nos Guían)” pays homage to the seafaring culture that existed across the region. “One thing that blew my mind was how they could travel the sea at long distances just using canoes while being guided by the stars,” says Zenón. “That opens conversations about what’s ‘archaic’ versus what’s ‘advanced’ in terms of scientific achievement between the ‘New World’ and ‘Old World.’”

 

Zenón referred to the star formations used for navigation by those societies as the musical foundation of the song, which prominently features the percussion and vocals of Los Pleneros de la Cresta, who sing and accompany the titular chorus: “Navegando vengo, sigo a las estrellas.”

 

Possibly the most challenging piece on the album in its harmonic dissonance and complexity, “Opresión y Revolución” evokes the tension and release of revolutions on the American continent, notably the Haitian Revolution among others. Featuring the percussion of Paoli Mejías matched with the percussive piano work of Perdomo, the piece also reflects the influence of Haitian vodou music, which Zenón was heavily exposed to while working with drummer Ches Smith and his ensemble “We All Break.”

 

Although for many the term “empire” brings to mind the contemporary Western world, Zenón composed “Imperios” with the various indigenous empires of America in mind, including the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs. “They were some of the most advanced societies at their time; as a matter of fact, they were in some ways more advanced than what was happening in Europe in terms of contemporary mathematics and astronomy, society and politics,” says Zenón. “There was something there already that was really advanced, and it makes me think about what could have been: what would have come out of that?” The melody derives from Zenón’s transcription of music from a ceremony of Aztec descendants, which is the counterpart to the rhythmic structure of the song.

 

“Bambula” features percussion virtuoso Victor Emmanuelli, whom Zenón lauds for pushing the musical envelope as a bandleader in his own right. The term “bambula” refers to a dance that was brought over by African slaves to the Americas. Over time, bambula became the rhythm commonly referred to as “habanera,” which is found in much of Latin American music today. Here, Zenón captures the feeling of connection across time and space that is carried by this single rhythmic cell:

 

“It’s a thread from New Orleans to Brazil to Central America back to Africa, across all these eras from the past to contemporary pop,” says Zenón. “For me, I wanted it to feel like you’re out at the dance, but at the same time hearing this more modern harmony and melody.”

 

In highlighting these connections across geographical regions, Zenón also returns to a major theme throughout the album: the conception of America not as a country—that is, only referring to the modern United States—but as a continent. “América, el Continente” makes that point clear while reminding listeners of the political implications of the United States assuming ownership of the term “America,” with its subtle erasure of the remaining Western hemisphere.

 

“Antillano,” named for the residents of the Antilles, showcases what Zenón is best known for: bringing together past and present in a forward-thinking, musically satisfying way. Ending the album on an optimistic note, the piece emulates aspects of contemporary dance music while serving as a feature for Daniel Díaz on congas. Some odd-meter surprises may fly past the ear of a casual listener, but they do so without any interruption to the musical flow so naturally conveyed by Zenón’s quartet.

 

In confronting often challenging historical topics on Música de Las Américas, Zenón has created a masterwork, whose musical delights will inspire and uplift while spurring a conversation about the problematic power dynamics across the American continent. The premise that modern jazz cannot be both grooving and emotionally resonant to the casual listener while formally and intellectually compelling is patently false, which Zenón proves here as he has time and again throughout his career.

 

© Adrien Tillmann
~Copyright © 2022 Braithwaite & Katz

Sarah Bernstein Convenes All-Star VEER QUARTET To Play Her Adventurous Compositions, Out Sept 03 via New Focus      

Perhaps it’s due to what she’s referred to as her punk rock-inspired “kill-your-idols mentality,” but it seemingly never occurred to Bernstein to explore the setting most common to the violin, the string quartet. That changed when she presented an evening of her chamber music compositions at Brooklyn’s Firehouse Space, using a nine-piece ensemble that she divided into several configurations.

One of the groupings was a string quartet,” she recalls, “and I was really struck by how my music came to life with that instrumentation. The sound just popped – it was so rich.”

Inspired by that experience, Bernstein returned to the string quartet format in 2018 when she called on Nagano, Falcon, and Jozwiak to form VEER Quartet, aptly named for the ability of the individual musicians and the collective ensemble to swerve from one style or concept to the next. What makes the group unique is their shared experience, spanning chamber music, jazz, free improv, and other genres. That gave Bernstein free rein in following her compositional imagination wherever it led.

I wrote the music for the quartet with a range of approaches,” she describes. “Because I’m an improviser, my compositional imagination naturally includes improvisational sounds. Some of these pieces are almost like expressive and artistic games that the soloists play. And some of my pieces are very through-composed with just a small improvisational element.”

Frames No. 1,” for instance, presents a series of brief sketches meant to spark solo and group improvisations, whereas “News Cycle / Progression” pairs two pieces – a harmonic progression with improvisational rules of engagement and a wholly through-composed section built on that progression. Inspiration can come from the visual arts (“Clay Myth,” which puns on the name of painter Paul Klee) or dreams (“Nightmorning”). “World Warrior” instructs the players to be as chaotic as possible, while “Hidden” submerges a solo melody under dense layers of group harmony.

Ultimately Sarah Bernstein offers an expansive, daring vision of what a modern string quartet can be, unbeholden to tradition or genre but fully aware of and engaged with both. VEER Quartet is a vibrant, challenging, and exploratory album that introduces a thrilling new ensemble to several scenes at once.

RELEASE DATE: September 2, 2022

[NOTEWORTHY]… With “Dedications” pianist, Alan Pasqua accomplishes the challenging task of leaving his unique and masterful imprint on this homage to the giants of the tradition.

Thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable. . . .From bop to swing, Alan Pasqua & Co. (in trio, quartet, and quintet settings) joyously explore many facets of the jazz tradition, adding zest and their own voices to every one of Alan’s excellent compositions. — The Music Advocate, May 1996

Pianist Alan Pasqua has dedicated his second Postcards CD to the incredibly rich tradition of jazz. On Dedications, his compositions cover the whole stylistic spectrum from swing and bebop through today’s polytonality and modality and are heard in the trio, quartet, and quintet settings. Building from a core trio featuring Dave Holland and Paul Motian (who have rarely recorded together) on four tunes, Pasqua adds Michael Brecker (on seldom-heard soprano saxophone) on one tune, and then creates two different quintets, one with both Michael and Randy Brecker, and one with Randy Brecker and Gary Bartz. From the lush, ducal “Ellingtonia” through the ethereal modality of “San Michele,” Alan Pasqua accomplishes the challenging task of leaving his unique and masterful imprint on this homage to the giants of the tradition. “Dedications,” says Pasqua, turning to his 1996 CD, “is my way of paying tribute to the positive influences on my life. Art, music, spirituality, family . . . I draw upon all of these whenever I’m playing or composing.

I wanted to take tradition and put my own stamp on it,” he continues, describing how he approached the compositions. “I found myself going back to my roots in jazz, back to an earlier perspective on jazz, to the styles I grew up with musically, and then reshaping the traditions, embellishing them — finding my own voice, making a more modern statement. It was like taking one step backward to take two steps forward.” ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Original Release Date:  October 21, 2006

At your leisure, spin “DEDICATIONS” by Alan Pasqua

[Just in case, you missed it]… During the pandemic pianist-composer, Armen Donelian’s approach to Fresh Start sharpened his ears in the context of a supremely sensitive new trio with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel

When the history of Jazz during the COVID-19 pandemic gets written, Armen Donelian warrants a detailed chapter. Though he composed more than a dozen new pieces through the spring of 2021, the veteran pianist and educator didn’t use the downtime to reinvent his repertoire as much as he deepened his pianistic approach and sharpened his ears in the context of a supremely sensitive new trio with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Dennis Mackrel. The group’s unabashedly beautiful debut, Fresh Start, is Donelian’s 14th album and his 11th for Sunnyside, the label that has documented the bulk of his work as a leader since the mid-1980s.

Like many musicians facing canceled tours and gigs, Donelian sought to push back against the initial depression by redoubling his efforts on his instrument. Before long he’d suffered a practice-induced shoulder injury, which led him to concentrate on composing while he healed. When he started playing again after three months, Donelian continued honing his new pieces, but with a new mindset “that had nothing to do with technique and content,” he says. “Instead of focusing on what I was playing, I was focusing more on how I was playing, on touch, expression, and storytelling, allowing the sound to happen in its own way. That was the main focus of this album.”

Transforming one’s sound is a major undertaking for any musician, but for an acclaimed improviser stepping into his eighth decade, it’s downright audacious. While his name might not be as widely known as some of his contemporaries, Donelian possesses all of the attributes, gifts, and paid dues of a heavyweight improviser, from formative stints with Sonny Rollins, Billy Harper, Chet Baker, and Mongo Santamaria to a discography marked by sublime and unmistakably personal projects documenting enduring relationships and ever-evolving compositional investigations.

Taking a year-long sabbatical from teaching responsibilities at the New School during the pandemic, Donelian solidified the Fresh Start trio, a group that renewed an old friendship and established a new one. Donelian and Anderson, one of the New York scene’s most sought-after bassists, got to know each other in the early ’80s when they worked occasionally as a duo. Though their career paths diverged, they reconnected about a decade ago via saxophonist Marc Mommaas, “which reminded me how much l liked Jay’s playing and planted an idea in the back of my mind,” Donelian says.

Fellow piano master Jim McNeely had recommended Mackrel, whom Donelian knew by reputation as a first-call bandmate. But their paths didn’t cross until about four years ago when the drummer came to hear Donelian’s trio at a Hudson Valley performance. “One of Dennis’s children was a student in the program that was sponsoring that concert and afterwards he said, ‘Armen, I really enjoyed your playing. Anytime you want to play, let me know.’ I saw a door opening. So I got together with Jay and Dennis to see if there was any chemistry between us. I loved what I heard, playing without ego or an agenda other than beauty and sound.”

With Mackrel and Anderson bringing a good deal of bandstand and studio history to Fresh Start, the trio’s foundation couldn’t be stronger. Since first making a mark together on Maria Schneider’s 1994 debut album Evanescence, they’ve played hundreds of gigs as a rhythm section tandem, including dates with pianist/arranger Russ Kassoff, pianist Ted Rosenthal, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and many other leading players. Their deep connection and conversational rapport are evident on every Fresh Start track produced, arranged, and led by Donelian.

In responding to the calamity of the pandemic, the trio offers a balm in troubled times. Healing and stimulating, it’s music that both soothes the soul and sparks the imagination, starting with the bittersweet bossa nova “Noviembre,” a moody piece that culminates in a taut exchange between Donelian and Anderson. The title track is a post-bop workout with a serpentine melody that keeps snaking back on itself. Anderson and Donelian take masterly solos while Mackrel keeps the narrative thread spinning.

Donelian has devoted himself to teaching from the earliest stages of his career. A proud champion of his former students, he includes two alluring pieces by rising musicians that serve the trio well. Vatan Rajan Singh’s winsome 5/4 ballad “Ferry Maiden” features a joyful solo by Anderson that displays his expansive lyricism. And Sophia Bondi contributes “In the Western Night,” a vehicle for the trio to ascend, awestruck, into a blues-drenched skyscape (an excerpt from another take of the piece, capturing some particularly lovely blues passages by Anderson and Donelian, serves as the album’s striking closing track).

No tune better captures the trio’s venturesome spirit than “Madagascar,” which uses Donelian’s two-chord vamp as a magic carpet carrying them deep into modal realms. The tension builds to a sumptuous climax, with a Mackrel passage that’s a marvel of textural calibration. No stranger to small group recordings, Mackrel is best known as one of the era’s finest big band drummers. Long before he directed the Count Basie Orchestra (2010-2013), he’d distinguished himself via his work with the American Jazz Orchestra, the Carla Bley Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Buck Clayton’s Swing Band, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, and most notably the McCoy Tyner Big Band (whose Grammy Award-winning CDs The Turning Point and Journey feature four Mackrel arrangements).

Donelian takes the opportunity to offer a tribute to his former teacher, pianist Richie Beirach, with a gorgeous rendition of “Gale,” a tender melody that belies its fierce, gusty title. It’s been recorded by several other musicians, but not with such exquisite interplay. Harry Warren’s beseeching ballad “Never Let Me Go” offers another master class in melodic invention. And late saxophonist Makanda Ken McIntyre’s “Day Break,” which he recorded as a boiling up-tempo swinger on the 1976 album Open Horizon, gets reimagined as a luminous, spiritually charged ballad.

Donelian got to know McIntyre, a brilliant multi-instrumentalist when they were on faculty together at the New School, and he’s one of several departed masters whose spirit inhabits Fresh Start. The samba-powered “Tirado” is dedicated to the late Brazilian Jazz masters, Cidinho Teixeira and Claudio Roditi. And Donelian dedicated the buoyantly celebratory “Janet Left the Planet” to the memory of two other exceptional musicians, vocalist Janet Lawson, and bassoonist Janet Grice. The album’s biggest surprise is Donelian’s debut as a singer on Herb Magidson and Allie Wrubel’s “I’m Stepping Out with a Memory Tonight,” an overlooked American Songbook gem that was recorded by Ray Eberle and the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1939 before quickly being forgotten. His pleasing vocals along with his formidable pianistic skills should put the delightfully wistful tune back in circulation.

Born to Armenian parents living in New York City’s Jackson Heights neighborhood on December 1, 1950, Armen Hrant Donelian grew up in a household full of intellectual ferment. His Ottoman Empire-born father Khatchik Ohannes Donelian, who lost dozens of family members during the Armenian genocide, was a Columbia University-trained physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. Growing up, Armen was surrounded by Classical and Armenian music, and from seven to 19 years old he studied piano at the Westchester Conservatory of Music in White Plains, NY.

Jazz entered the picture for Donelian at 12, through his older brother’s clarinet work in a Dixieland band directed by the great guitarist Arthur Ryerson Sr., a studio ace who recorded with everyone from Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to Charlie Parker and Fats Waller. Ryerson’s daughter Ali, now an eminent Jazz flutist, played in the band along with her three brothers. Entranced by the music’s energy, Donelian eventually joined the combo, where he learned numerous standards and more significantly how to swing.

Following his father’s path to Columbia University in 1968, Donelian immersed himself in music history, theory, composition, choral arrangement, and conducting, while supporting himself with a regular gig as a lounge pianist (and as a Blues and Folk guitarist). But his Jazz studies didn’t really commence until after graduation when he fell under the sway of Beirach, a brilliantly probing improviser with a rarefied harmonic vocabulary who opened up a vast new musical universe for Donelian.

“But there came a point when I had to break away,” he says. “That’s a very natural process that I often see as a teacher myself. After Richie, I focused on developing my own sound. It was a long process of experimentation from 1980 until the mid-’90s when I feel I really came into my own voice after investigating contemporary Classical music more deeply, and my own Armenian roots.”

While studying with Beirach, Donelian absorbed a series of bandstand master classes with Jazz giants, starting in 1975 with Afro-Cuban percussion legend Mongo Santamaria. Touring internationally with the conguero’s Latin Jazz octet, he recorded four albums on the Fania label, including the Grammy Award-nominated Sofrito, which features three Donelian compositions.

After leaving Santamaria, Donelian immersed himself in Brazilian music, collaborating with artists such as pianist Dom Salvador, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, saxophonist Justo Almario, guitarist Amaury Tristão, and drummer Portinho. Freelancing around New York, he worked with established stars like Chet Baker, Lionel Hampton, Ted Curson, and Ray Barretto, and rising players such as Tom Harrell, Bob Berg, Rory Stuart, Keith Copeland, Ratzo Harris, Dennis Irwin, Jeff Williams, and Harvie S.

He reached his widest audience yet upon joining tenor titan Sonny Rollins’s band in 1977, a thrilling yet daunting experience for the young pianist. Some years later, tenor sax master Billy Harper hired him for a four-year run that brought Donelian to the attention of audiences in Europe and Japan and resulted in four acclaimed albums. “With Billy I felt that I was able to really bring in my own voice,” he says. “He’d take these 20-minute solos and I had to come in afterward. Billy’s music is very powerful and very soulful. That was a really great time in my life.”

In the midst of his tenure in Harper’s band he made his recording debut as a leader with 1981’s Stargazer on the Japanese label Atlas, a trio session with drummer Billy Hart and bassist Eddie Gomez focusing on Donelian’s original compositions. He’s kept the format in play over the years, recording the highly regarded Trio ’87 with Norwegians Carl Morten Iversen (bass) and Audun Kleive (drums), and 2007’s Oasis and 2014’s Sayat-Nova: Songs of My Ancestors with bassist David Clark and drummer George Schuller. The latter project, featuring Donelian’s arrangements of songs by the legendary 18th-century Armenian poet and musician Sayat-Nova, was his last recording, and expanded on his longtime engagement with the music of his ancestral homeland where he resided as a 2002 Fulbright Scholar. After the decade-long endeavor, he took his time before starting his next album.

“I let the feeling develop organically,” he says. “I had all these thoughts about what I might want to do next, lists and lists of ideas like a Leonard Bernstein project or an album of Richard Rodgers tunes. There’s only so much you can do. Then the pandemic came and it was an opportunity for me to reexamine my approach to the piano and composing. But more than that I was looking to deepen how we listen and interact with each other in a responsive way, taking every particle of time as an opportunity to connect with and support each other, contributing in some way to a more beautiful sound.” • ~BandCamp

Released: April 1, 2022

Armen Donelian – piano
Jay Anderson – bass
Dennis Mackrel – drums

[UNRELEASED RECORDINGS]… This collection of Ellingtonia features mostly previously unreleased material from two sources: the Sun Ra Music Archive, maintained by Michael D. Anderson, and the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS)

Despite the fact that Sun Ra has over 1,000 titles copyrighted in his name, a good part of his concert and recorded repertoire consisted of works by other composers. He arranged—in his idiosyncratic way— tunes by Monk, Gershwin, Henderson (Fletcher and Horace), Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and countless others. But no one breezed into Sun Ra setlists more often than the “Duke”—Edward Kennedy Ellington.

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (born 1914) came of age in the 1930s, when big band “Swing” jazz was in vogue. When he later formed his Arkestra, Sonny drew on this legacy, though he re-shaped the big band format into something his own—a singular (afro-)futuristic reinvention that somehow echoed the music of his youth. Ra as an artist looked forward and backward. He relished innovation, but revered tradition. Paradoxically, the older he got—by the 1970s and ’80s—the more Swing Era chestnuts he revived in his work. Despite the fact that many of his admired composers matured to create more advanced works after the 1930s—Ellington a perfect case in point—Ra’s taste remained rooted in the ’30s. Of the 12 titles in this collection, all but two dates from that decade—”East St. Louis Toodle-oo” is even earlier (1926), and “Duke’s Place” dates from 1942.

John Szwed, writing in the biography, SPACE IS THE PLACE: THE LIVES AND TIMES OF SUN RA offers an interesting Ellingtonian vignette. In his twenties, Sonny was listening to, studying, transcribing, and performing contemporary big band jazz with a passion. Yet, writes Szwed, “Swing music was by now easy for him, formulaic and predictable. But he had another book of arrangements which [his] band rehearsed but never performed and whose purpose he never explained. … The compositions and arrangements in this book were inspired by dreams or made up of ideas derived from reading ‘Popular Mechanics,’ pieces … built on complex and oddly shifting rhythm patterns.”

Szwed continues: “When Duke Ellington was in town, Sonny took his book of arrangements backstage to show him. They talked for over an hour, Ellington gracious and regal in his black silk dressing gown. At one point the Duke pulled out his own arrangements. Sonny saw that Ellington also used dissonance in his writing, only it never seemed dissonant. Sonny was thrilled to see his own ideas confirmed.”

This collection of Ellingtonia features mostly previously unreleased material from two sources: the Sun Ra Music Archive, maintained by Michael D. Anderson, and the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS), Chicago. As with any Sun Ra compilation, audio fidelity varies from the sublime to the near-ridiculous. However, as any Ra fan will attest, the fidelity is usually secondary to the excitement of the performance. The collection opens with an early (1951), intimate Ra duet with Wilbur Ware, recorded at Ra’s Chicago apartment. From there things get raucous and reckless with concert recordings and two home-taped jams featuring Ra and a small ensemble of Arkestrans messing around with “Caravan” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing”; the year and location of the latter session are unknown. There’s more where that came from.—I.C. ~BandCamp

Released: May 27, 2022

All keyboards by Sun Ra. Arkestra personnel varies, but the following soloists have been identified:

3. Nöel Scott
5. Michael Ray, John Gilmore
6. Craig Harris, John Gilmore, Michael Ray
7. Marshall Allen
8. Ahmed Abdullah, Marshall Allen, Bruce Edwards
10. Marshall Allen
11. Tyrone Hill, John Gilmore
12. Walter Miller, John Gilmore

Cover art and design by Tony Kellers/Twelve3

Tape transfers: Haruhi Kobayashi and Matt Mehlan of ESS, and Michael D. Anderson/Sun Ra Music Archive
Master rights: Sun Ra LLC

The compilation, audio restoration, annotation: Irwin Chusid