Jazz Fusion Trumpeter & Composer Takuya Kuroda Returns With “Midnight Crisp” Via First Word Records

dense and cosmic” – Pitchfork

Kuroda stitches genres into a colorful patchwork while inventing a new composition process.” – Bandcamp, Best of 2020

He has a forward-thinking mentality that drives him to twist these old sounds into something futuristic” – Brooklyn Vegan

First Word Records is very proud to bring you a brand new mini-album from Takuya Kuroda!Takuya Kuroda is a highly respected trumpeter and arranger born in Kobe, Japan, and based in New York City. ’Midnight Crisp’ is Takuya’s seventh studio album, entirely self-produced and following the 2020s highly acclaimed ’Fly Moon Die Soon’, also released on UK label First Word (winner of the Worldwide Award’s Label of the Year in 2019). Consisting of six new tracks, this once again sees Takuya displaying his unique hybrid sound, blending soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion, and hip hop.After following the footsteps of his trombonist brother playing in big bands, he relocated to New York to study jazz & contemporary music at The New School in Union Square; a course he graduated from in the mid-noughties. It was here that Takuya met vocalist José James, with whom he worked on the ‘Blackmagic‘ and ‘No Beginning No End‘ projects. Following graduation, Takuya established himself further in the NYC jazz scene, performing with the likes of Akoya Afrobeat and in recent years with DJ Premier’s BADDER band. Premier said “The BADDER Band project was put together by my manager, and an agent I’ve known since the beginning of my Gang Starr career. He said, ‘What if you put a band together that revolved around a trumpet player from Japan named Takuya Kuroda? He’s got a hip-hop perspective and respect in the jazz field…” Takuya Kuroda is already incredibly prolific, releasing six albums in the past decade and fortifying a solid reputation in the global jazz scene. 2011 saw the release of Takuya’s independently-produced debut album, ‘Edge‘, followed by ‘Bitter and High‘ the following year and ‘Six Aces‘ on P-Vine in 2013. Takuya was signed to the legendary Blue Note Records in 2014 for his album Rising Son‘, as well as appearing on their 2019 cover versions project, ‘Blue Note Voyage‘. He released his 5th album ‘Zigzagger‘ on Concord in 2016, which also featured Antibalas on a reimagining of the Donald Byrd classic ‘Think Twice.’His last album was the afore-mentioned ‘Fly Moon Die Soon’ on First Word, which received plays and support from the likes of Pitchfork, Earmilk, Bandcamp Weekly, Worldwide FM, All About Jazz, Apple Music, Tidal, Stereogum, Treble, Brooklyn Vegan, FIP (France), Tony Minvielle, Jazz FM, Huey Morgan (BBC 6 Music), BBC Radio 3, Novena Carmel, KCRW and tons more DJs, tastemakers, selectors, radio stations, bloggers & magazines.The new project ’Midnight Crisp’ will be released on October 21st, 2022 on vinyl, CD, and digital, worldwide via First Word Records.

Bobby Broom Celebrates the Jazz Piano Greats With “Keyed Up,” Set for September 23 Release By Steele Records

Album Features Nine Compositions
By or For Iconic Pianists,
With Piano Player Justin Dillard Augmenting Broom’s Longtime Trio with
Bassist Dennis Carroll & Drummer Kobie Watkins
CD Release Show: Studio5 Performing Arts Center, Evanston, IL
Saturday, October 22

Master jazz guitarist Bobby Broom casts his ear on the masters of another instrument—the piano—with the September 23 release of Keyed Up (Steele Records). An exploration of compositions by (or associated with) great jazz pianists, the album is also Broom’s first in almost 30 years to itself feature an acoustic piano player. Justin Dillard, a youngish, fast-rising keyboardist from Broom’s home base of Chicago, joins his working trio with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins.

 

In fact, it was an encounter with Dillard at a Chicago jam session that inspired Broom to realize the project (an idea he had long been nurturing). “I heard something intriguing in Justin that made me want to work with him,” he says. “It was a bit risky because I hadn’t played with him in such an intimate and crucial setting before we made this record. But it didn’t take long for me to know I had made the right choice.”

 

It doesn’t take the listener long, either. Dillard’s incandescent playing is a highlight of the very first track, Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations (Budo),” and maintains that high level throughout the album. From the blues-laden lines of James Williams’s “Soulful Bill” and McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner” to the exquisite tenderness of Erroll Garner’s “Misty,” Dillard earns his place in the spotlight. He also switches to his “laptop Swurlitzer,” an electronic keyboard, in a nod to fusioneers Chick Corea (“Humpty Dumpty”) and Herbie Hancock (“Driftin’”).

 

He’s not alone, of course. Carroll and Watkins are superlative as always, offering both sensitive support and lightning in a bottle that culminates in a spirited exchange of twelves, eights, and fours on “Blues on the Corner.” As for Broom, his excellence is understood—but he outdoes himself with his brilliant work on “Driftin’,” “Hallucinations (Budo),” and Horace Silver’s “Quicksilver.”

 

It’s the joining of these forces, however, that lets magic happen on Keyed Up. “When we make music, we’re never exactly sure how it’s going to turn out. It’s never a matter of ‘we’re just gonna play these tunes,’” Broom says. “In addition to the arrangements and preparation, there’s a great degree of intrigue and mystery in what we do. But we have developed such trust in each other, there’s never any doubt that the end result is going to be good.”

 

Bobby Broom was born on January 18, 1961, in New York City. When he was ten years old, he heard one of his father’s records—by organist Charles Earland—touching off his lifelong love affair with jazz. By the time he was sixteen, Broom was attending New York’s prestigious High School of Music and Art and gigging with pianist Al Haig; by the age of twenty-one, equipped with a freshman year of study at Berklee College of Music, and some already extraordinary pedigree, he began touring with Sonny Rollins.

 

By that time, Broom had also signed with GRP Records and recorded 1981’s Clean Sweep, which was a crossover jazz success. But rather than settle into a comfortable career in the emerging genre of “smooth jazz,” Broom took the road less traveled: He left the New York scene behind and established himself in Chicago.

 

In the 1990s Broom formed the first edition of his bass and drums trio, while also beginning to work with the members of what would eventually become the Deep Blue Organ Trio. During that decade he recorded a couple of quartet records before deciding to make a guitar-bass-drums trio his primary outlet. In 2000, a breakthrough year, he released the statement-making Modern Man (with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummer Idris Muhammad, and Ronnie Cuber on bari sax), as well as the first of what would be many guitar-trio recordings, Stand!. He solidified a trio lineup with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins with 2006’s Song and Dance (although Makaya McCraven filled in for the latter on 2014’s My Shining Hour). After establishing a new organ ensemble (the Organ-isation) with 2018’s Soul Fingers, Broom has returned to his longtime trio, but with the notion of supplementing it with pianist Justin Dillard for Keyed Up.

 

The use of a guitar-and-piano frontline remains somewhat novel in the jazz world, but Broom says overcoming that novelty is just a matter of seasoning. “When I first met Justin, he expressed some misgivings about operating with guitar,” he recalls. “I said to him, just listen and play. And he got better and better playing with me.” Lucky for us that we get to hear the results.

 

Bobby Broom and his quartet will perform a CD release show on Sat. 10/22 at Studio5 Performing Arts Center, 1938 Dempster Street, Evanston, IL. Broom is also appearing at the first annual Fretboard Summit (hosted by Fretboard Journal magazine), taking place at the Old Towne School of Folk Music’s Myron R. Szold Music Hall, Chicago, on Sat. 8/27; and at Western Michigan University’s “Jazz at The Crawlspace 2022” series at the Crawlspace Theater, Kalamazoo, MI, on Thurs. 9/8.

 

Photography: Todd Winters
 

 

“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

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

Yellowjackets Enter Fifth Decade Sounding as Fresh as Tomorrow on Upcoming Album: Parallel Motion

Parallel Motion is out on CD / Digital on August 26, 2022

Maintaining a distinct group identity for 40 years is an exceedingly rare achievement, but what sets Yellowjackets apart isn’t their longevity so much as the consistently inspired quality of their music. Born in the age of fusion, the band has thrived through the decades by steadily seeking out new sounds and approaches, combining elliptical lyricism with a sophisticated and evolving harmonic palette all their own. Slated for release on August 26, Parallel Motion is Yellowjackets’ sixth album for Mack Avenue Records and it captures a vibrant creative communion that shows no signs of an impending midlife crisis.
Since Yellowjackets’ eponymous 1981 debut album, the group has hewed its own creative path, influencing colleagues with enviable compositional craftsmanship and an ever-shifting blend of influences. In many ways Yellowjackets embody both continuity and renewal, with founding­ pianist/keyboardist Russell Ferrante providing the four-decade thread first joined by Will Kennedy­, who took over the drum chair from 1987-99 and returned to the fold in 2010. Bob Mintzer, a Jacket since 1990, contributes on tenor and soprano saxophones and EWI. By the band’s standards Australian-born electric bass virtuoso Dane Alderson is still the new kid, though he’s already anchored the quartet for seven years. Parallel Motion is a Technicolor portrait of a working band that’s still stretching its wings.
“The last two projects were collaborations,” Ferrante said, referring to 2018’s luminous Raising Our Voice with extraordinary Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, and 2020’s orchestral Jackets XL with the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany. “We wanted to do a project focusing on the quartet. In terms of the material, we wanted to broaden the contributions from everyone. Dane is represented by several tunes. Will is in the mix. Everybody’s involved in every aspect.”
While Yellowjackets recorded the album in the midst of the pandemic, the music looks forward rather than exploring the angst and isolation that accompanied the advent of COVID-19. Of course, resilience and optimism in the face of tragedy is in itself a profound statement. For Mintzer, the new work “represents the commitment to stay together and keep moving forward. It’s really about this four-cornered square that functions no matter what. With each record, all four of us are on the hunt for new ways to put the notes together. The music keeps growing. The focus is this band. A clear, identifiable sound. Four equal parts.”
Indeed, every Jacket is well represented on Parallel Motion. The album opens with Mintzer’s “Intrigue,” a lithe but stutter-stepping tune that offers a little surprise around every shifting groove. Lyrical and street smart, the piece showcases all four players at their most responsive. “There’s a singable component, but these little splashes of dissonance,” Mintzer said. “It doesn’t fit into any categories, which is one of the M.O.s of this band.”
Ferrante’s passionate “Il Mio Amico” is a heartfelt ode written in response to his recently acquired Fazioli piano. It’s a spectacular instrument “and the resonance and overtones and response you get is really inspiring,” he said. “We brought it to the studio and used it on the recording, the first workout it got, and as the title says, it’s really my new friend.”
Alderson’s slyly grooving “Early” grew out of a sketch that had been languishing on his laptop for more than a decade. “I brought it to the band and the guys brought it to life,” he said. “It’s a jammy party tune with an R&B flavor that really evolved in the studio.”
Kennedy transformed a tune originally written with vocals into the ravishing “Samaritan,” a piece that expands on Yellowjackets’ long history of singable lines. “The goal was to have a melody that was simple and warm and I think we achieved that,” Kennedy said. “It’s a really calm and relaxing sort of song. As Dane was saying, it’s always an interesting adventure to present a tune to the band and have it take on a life of its own.”
If Parallel Motion offers a snapshot of a band in mid-flight, it’s also a family portrait that includes Ferrante’s “If You Believe,” a track featuring the supremely soulful vocalist Jean Baylor. No stranger to Jackets fans, she’s recorded with the group several times, and of course her husband, drummer Marcus Baylor, was a member of Yellowjackets from 2000-2010. Her gospel-steeped performance adds another incandescent track to Yellowjackets’ deep roster of vocal collaborations, a list that includes Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford, Brenda Russell, Michael Franks, Gino Vannelli, Jonathan Butler and Luciana Souza.
Recorded after a brief European tour, the album documents the process of discovery. “We rehearsed the tunes on the album maybe three times,” Alderson said. “I believe we’re only now on this tour performing these songs live, so what you’re hearing are about as fresh as they can be. Everything really came to life in the studio in those three days.”

Parallel Motion — the new album from jazz fusion legends Yellowjackets — is a true testament to the longevity and resilience of a band that debuted over 40 years ago. Consistently reinventing themselves through elevated instrumentation in their signature electro-acoustic soundscape, the current lineup consists of Bob Mintzer (tenor & soprano saxophone/EWI), Russell Ferrante (piano/keyboards), Will Kennedy (drums, keyboards), and Dane Alderson (electric bass, MIDI Sequencing) showcases a collective at their prime. This album features 9 new original compositions and guest vocalist Jean Baylor (4x GRAMMY® Award Nominee of the Baylor Project and R&B duo Zhané) on “If You Believe.” ~Mack Avenue Music Group

At your leisure, check the single “INTRIGUE” by the Yellowjackets.

 

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

Carnegie Hall Announces Schedule for NYO Jazz’s First US Tour Following June 24 Release of Debut Album We’re Still Here Led by Artistic Director and Bandleader/Trumpeter Sean Jones

US Tour Kicks Off at Carnegie Hall in
New York City on July 28 Featuring
GRAMMY® Award-nominated Vocalist
Jazzmeia Horn as Special Guest
US Tour Dates Include:
July 28 | Carnegie Hall | New York, NY
July 30 | Tri-C Metro Auditorium | Cleveland, OH
August 1 | Chautauqua Amphitheater | Chautauqua, NY
August 2 | The August Wilson African American Cultural Center | Pittsburgh, PA
August 4 | Navy Pier, Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park | Chicago, IL
August 5 | The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center | Detroit, MI
August 7 | Wisconsin Union Theater | Madison, WI
August 9 | John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts | Washington, D.C.

Carnegie Hall today announced the schedule for the first-ever US tour by its acclaimed NYO Jazz set to take place on the heels of the June 24, 2022 release of the ensemble’s first full-length studio album, We’re Still Here. The album features NYO Jazz Artistic Director and Bandleader/trumpeter Sean Jones and special guest Melissa Aldana on tenor saxophone, plus an appearance by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Available for pre-order, the album will be released by Platoon and will be available for digital download and on all streaming platforms in standard and Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio formats.

Following NYO Jazz’s US tour kick-off concert at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, July 28, the ensemble—joined by this summer’s special guest vocalist Jazzmeia Horn—will tour seven US cities under the direction of Sean Jones. The tour stops include Cleveland, OH on July 30 (Tri-C Metro Auditorium); Chautauqua, NY on August 1 (Chautauqua Amphitheater); Pittsburgh, PA on August 2 (The August Wilson African American Cultural Center); Chicago, IL on August 4 (Navy Pier, Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park); Detroit, MI on August 5 (The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center); Madison, WI on August 7 (Wisconsin Union Theater); and Washington, D.C. on August 9 (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts).

“I’m very excited to perform with the amazing young musicians of Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz this summer,” said Jazzmeia Horn. “What a wonderful opportunity as this tour marks my first time playing an entire tour with a big band and I’m especially thrilled to sing selections from my new big band album, Dear Love. I’m curious to see how NYO Jazz will interpret my latest expression of love musically as we connect with audiences in cities around the US. This will be a fun journey to share with them!”

One of Carnegie Hall’s three acclaimed national youth ensembles, NYO Jazz—comprising outstanding young musicians ages 16–19 from across the United States—showcases the legacy and bright future of American jazz. Created in 2018 by the Hall’s Weill Music Institute, NYO Jazz annually brings together some of the nation’s finest teen jazz musicians to train, perform, and tour with world-class jazz masters while also serving as music ambassadors for their country. NYO Jazz’s successful international tours have included a 2018 inaugural European tour with Dianne Reeves as a special guest, and the ensemble’s debut tour to Asia in 2019 with Kurt Elling as a special guest. Although NYO Jazz was unable to travel during the past two years, the musicians convened virtually during the summer of 2020 and at Purchase College, State University of New York (SUNY) just north of New York City, in summer 2021, rehearsing and recording a wide range of repertoire, including its debut album.

We’re Still Here features four new works written for the band since its inception, a range of classic and contemporary charts that are hallmarks of its live concerts, and works exploring themes that include social justice, resilience, and the power of music to spark joy. The four Carnegie Hall-commissioned works on the album are: “Run with Jones” by Miguel Zenón, featuring Melissa Aldana as soloist; “Mr. Jones and Co.” by Ayn Inserto, featuring Sean Jones as soloist; “Fête dans la tête” by John Beasley; and “RPM’s” by Igmar Thomas. In addition to these commissions, among the album highlights include: “We’re Still Here” by—and featuring—trombonist and NYO Jazz faculty member Wycliffe Gordon, which has become the band’s rousing encore theme song; hence, the album’s title; “The Art of War” by Ralph Peterson; “Oyelo” by Miguel Zenón, featuring Melissa Aldana as soloist; “A Taste of Honey” by Duke Pearson; “Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool” by Duke Ellington, arranged by NYO Jazz ensemble coach Reginald Thomas; and “Transitions” by Sean Jones.

“You close your eyes and think they’re all 20 years older than they are,” said Sean Jones, who pays it forward through his passionate leadership of NYO Jazz, carrying on the tradition of mentorship in jazz.

The album—recorded during the ensemble’s summer 2021 training residency at Purchase College, SUNY, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—is a declaration of resilience and longevity. A summer that began with the disappointment of a year without touring evolved into the opportunity to create this 97-minute showcase of the incredible artistry and enormous versatility of this remarkable ensemble, a recording poised to reach audiences around the world just as the ensemble resumes touring in summer 2022.

“We’re thrilled for NYO Jazz to release its debut album this spring—the first recording by any of our national youth ensembles,” said Sarah Johnson, Chief Education Officer and Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for these gifted young players to train, perform, and now record alongside some of today’s leading jazz artists including special guest Melissa Aldana. It was especially meaningful for the musicians to gather for an extended residency last summer as it marked the first time many of them had the opportunity to come together to play in a full ensemble since the start of the pandemic. With We’re Still Here, we are proud to showcase the incredible depth of talent and high level of musicianship of these standout jazz musicians from across the country who will help ensure one of America’s quintessential art forms is preserved for generations to come.”

“The big band has always been America’s orchestral format and one of the most wide-ranging ensembles ever devised,” said Sean Jones, NYO Jazz’s Artistic Director, and Bandleader. “It can convey nearly any style of music in a sonically stimulating and interactive way. This recording exhibits that diversity by placing classics by Duke Ellington and Neil Hefti alongside pieces that utilize the big band as a vehicle for contemporary American music and represent a wide variety of genres.”

“Making this album was an absolute labor of love for the musicians, our incredible faculty and guest artists, and everyone involved,” said Joanna Massey, Director of Learning & Engagement Programs for Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, who has worked with the NYO Jazz program since its inception. “From their individual preparation prior to coming together as an ensemble, through long days of rehearsals and then recording sessions, the musicians were unwavering and inspiring in their dedication to producing something meaningful for the world to hear. It’s particularly special that by recording all of the original music written especially for NYO Jazz, the album also pays tribute to the outstanding musicians from previous NYO Jazz ensembles—who, like the players heard here, embodies the future of jazz.” ~DL Media

About NYO Jazz:

Each summer, NYO Jazz, led by artistic director Sean Jones, shines a spotlight on the depth of talent found among teen jazz players across the United States. The program offers talented young musicians, ages 16-19, the opportunity to perform as cultural ambassadors for their country, sharing a uniquely American musical genre with people around the world through an international tour. The members of NYO Jazz have been recognized by Carnegie Hall as being among the finest jazz musicians in the country, following a rigorous and highly competitive audition process. After its Carnegie Hall debut in 2018, the ensemble embarked on its first-ever international tour for performances with vocalist Dianne Reeves at prestigious concert halls and music festivals in London, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Kassel, and Berlin. In summer 2019, NYO Jazz made its debut tour to Asia, joined by vocalist Kurt Elling, including performances in Taichung, Beijing, Shanghai, Zhuhai, and Hong Kong. As part of their travel schedule, NYO Jazz musicians also have opportunities to meet and collaborate with young local musicians and experience the richness of different cultures and music.

NYO Jazz builds on the success of the acclaimed National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) and its sister ensemble for younger musicians NYO2—programs created by Carnegie Hall in 2013 and 2016, respectively—to bring together the finest young classical musicians from across the country each summer for training, performances and international touring. Each of these prestigious national programs—free to all participants—is dedicated to the proposition that talented young musicians thrive when they have the opportunity to expand their musical, social, and cultural horizons and share their artistry with audiences around the globe. Since 2013, Carnegie Hall’s national youth ensembles have performed in 15 countries on four continents, including tours to China, South Korea, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Russia, and across Europe.

Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz · We’re Still Here
Release Date: June 24, 2022

For more information on NYO Jazz, please visit:

New Cameron Graves Album Live from the Seven Spheres Out April 8

Cameron Graves — a.k.a. The Planetary Prince — expands on the otherworldly inspirations from both of his studio albums to present an interplanetary live concert featuring guitarist Colin Cook, bassist Max Gerl and drummer Mike Mitchell.

Norwegian Keyboardist Jon Balke Celebrates the Concept of Coexistence and Cooperation on Hafla, His Third Album with His Ensemble Siwan

Available April 22 via ECM Records

Hafla is the third album from Norwegian keyboardist-composer-arranger Jon Balke’s Siwan, launched in 2007 as a meeting point for musicians of strikingly different backgrounds and experiences. Siwan celebrates the concept of coexistence and cooperation, making the case for the positive attributes of cultural diversity, as it looks back into history and forwards towards new models for shared work. The legends and the poetry of al-Andalus continue to inspire Balke and company, but this is contemporary music shaped by players who choose to listen, respond and adapt.

Jon Balke brings many musical aspects together in his writing for a unique ensemble that includes an Algerian lead singer, a kemençe player from Turkey, an Iranian master of the tombak, an innovative Norwegian drummer, and an energetic string section of baroque specialists. The interweaving of their creative contributions – in a delicate play of textures, melodies, and rhythms – underlines and envelops verses penned many centuries ago.

The repertoire on Hafla begins with Balke’s setting of lyrics by Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, the free-thinking 11th-century Ummayad princess of Cordoba and the lover of Ibn Zaydun, the great poet of al-Andalus.

“The story of their relationship is legendary,” Balke notes. “And Wallada also wrote some great, short and precise poems. This time, we were looking for poetry descriptive of life as it was lived in that period. Somebody made the observation that the phenomenon of co-existence begins in the neighborhood when someone needs help. It begins in the queue to buy bread. On that kind of basic level. It’s a good perspective, I think.

Composing for Siwan frequently begins with the selection of words to be sung, he explains, as he exchanges ideas with Mona Boutchebak. “Often it’s many processes taking place. I might suggest some poems – perhaps starting from Spanish translations of the words – and then, while walking in Nature, sing or whistle a melody into a recording device. In my home studio, I’ll develop that a bit and send it to Mona who’ll look into the translations and send me back a version sung in Arabic. Checking formal Arabic against dialect versions, and other details. Meanwhile, I’ll start arranging for strings and imagining how the percussion players might work with the material.”

With the musicians coming from diverse traditions, Balke has to be resourceful in his presentation of new pieces. “I’ve had to find ways to write new music for musicians who don’t normally read scores. For the Barokksolistene everything is written down. For the others usually, I record demo versions of the material, with me playing percussion as well as keyboards and sometimes cello, so that everybody has at least a sketch of the songs.”

Already in the Magnetic North Orchestra, the ensemble that was Siwan’s precursor, Balke had drawn inspiration from the sound colors and dynamics of the great Arab orchestras (and in particular the music of Egypt’s Oum Kalthoum) and sought to devise and develop a contemporary equivalent. On Diverted Travels (2004), his collaboration with Bjarte Eike, a baroque violinist also fascinated by the overturning of boundaries, took Balke a step closer to the pulsating chamber music of his imagination. Since then, Eike and his cast of Barroksolistene have been frequent collaborators. Inside present-day Siwan, one of the recurrent pleasures is hearing the ways in which kemençe player Derya Turkan engages with the baroque group, the sound of middle eastern and western string traditions converging or contrasting. “Derya is quite free in his role. He’s deeply rooted in the Ottoman school but also has a great ear for the music of the west and has the ability to adapt and improvise as the music modulates through different keys.”

Equally absorbing is the creative percussion. Helge Norbakken’s idiosyncratic drumming insinuates itself deep into the textural fabric of the music, and the crisp tombak of Pedram Khavar Zamini, which draws upon and extends Persian classical tradition, offers running commentary.

Zamini, Norbakken, and Eike have all been part of Siwan from the outset, but there have been some line-up changes over the years and the first edition – with Amina Alaoui, Jon Hassell, and Kheir Eddine M’Kachiche – set a high bar for musical drama, winning awards including the Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. By the time of 2017’s Nahnou Houm album, Siwan had transitioned from conceptual project to real band, as Balke rallied his instrumental forces around singer Mona Boutchebak.

Mona’s a very creative artist,” Balke emphasizes, “although rather shy about her capacities as a composer and music maker, having grown up singing other people’s songs.” For Hafla, Boutchebak set Ibn Zayud’s poem “Mirada Furtiva” as an elegant ballad: it’s one of the album’s subtle highlights. Boutchebak sings it to the accompaniment of her kwitra, the Algerian oud, and Balke wraps a gently murmuring soundscape around it, like the whispers of the night.

The 2021 recording sessions – at Copenhagen’s Village Recording – called for intuitive solutions, being twice postponed by Coronavirus restrictions and then subject to limitations on the number of musicians permitted to be in the studio at a given time. It was finally recorded in shifts – a session with most of the soloists and Mona, and a second session with Derya Turkan and the string players. Travel bans kept Pedram Khavar Zamini from participating directly: instead, he added his tombak detailing to the work when all other elements were in place. Listening and adapting to the Siwan tradition.

Now, however, the whole ensemble is keen to take to the road. Concerts are currently being finalized, and at several venues, Balke plans to augment the musical performance with a visual presentation, “with video art based upon Islamic geometry.”

More details about the ensemble and Jon Balke can be found at www.siwan.no and www.magnetic.no

Jon Balke’s SiwanHafla
ECM Release Date: April 22, 2022

For more information on ECM, please visit: