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:

Pianist Tord Gustavsen Returns with New Trio Album, Opening, Featuring Steinar Raknes and Jarle Vespestad

Available April 8 via ECM Records

Tord Gustavsen’s album Opening develops the traits and styles explored in his earlier works while introducing a broader spectrum of suppleness and a transformed sense of interplay to the trio’s repertory. It is the first Gustavsen Trio recording with Steinar Raknes on bass and the newcomer feels quite at home supporting his colleagues in the deep end, settling in quickly between Tord’s refined chordal studies and Jarle Vespestad’s delicate stick- and brushwork.

 

There’s a particularly striking openness to the music, marked by spacious improvisations and a tendency to reveal the secrets and melodies at their own pace. “The urge for saying something, be it abstract or lyrical, has to come from within,” Tord reasons. “During the recording of the album, it felt better to do the breathing first, open up the soundscape in more organic ways and let the melody enter when it comes naturally.“

 

Multiple causes may account for the shift in temperament on Opening – the change in the lineup certainly being one of them. Bassist Steinar Raknes establishes a firm counterpoint in the music. “He’s an extroverted bass player, who likes to take center stage, while also being an incredibly supportive and humble accompanist, so he moves very swiftly between background, collective, and soloist roles.” An ideal counterbalance to the variable basslines, Jarle’s percussive rumination acts as a mediator, guiding his fellow musicians through alternating straight-ahead and rubato passages.

 

Here more than ever Tord dwells on minuscule fragments, brief chord chains, and scarce hints of motifs, developing the material patiently: “It’s something I’ve been doing a lot in solo concerts. Having themes just appear out of the dark and disappearing back into a shady undercurrent…

 

In a way picking up where the prior trio album The Other Side left off, album-opening “The Circle“ presents a hymnal refrain, fashioned with a humble design. “I was sitting at the piano and the first four bars just came to me. I worked out and developed the remaining structure deliberately, but more and more I find that the best tunes I’ve written over the years basically just came to me, like gifts. I then have the responsibility to shape the gift, make it grow and turn it into a complete piece”.

 

The trio offers spontaneous moments of dense rubato interplay on “Opening” and “Findings,” the latter of which ends on an instrumental quote of the Swedish folk song “Vis Fran Rattvik,” “It shows that I was listening to the classic Swedish Folk-tune arrangements by the late Jan Johansson, who also happened to be one of the greatest Swedish jazz pianists. I’ve been learning many of his arrangements by heart, just as an exercise and that influence is in evidence here.” These are also the most freely improvised exhibits of the record, as is counterpart “Findings II.” “I really enjoy building these miniatures — it’s something we often do in live situations. It’s about creating a shape, not about free improv in the sense of showing everything you’re capable of doing,”

 

With each song, the trio shifts focus, presenting the reduced, most skeletal shape of composition on “The Longing,” the gentle untangling of melody on “Shepherd Song” and the subtle deconstruction of dance with “Helensburgh Tango” – “to the point where it almost doesn’t qualify as a tango anymore.” Like “Re-opening,” most songs have prescribed harmonic changes and general shapes, “but when to move from one chord or section to the next isn’t pre-composed, but decided between us, in the spur of the moment.”

 

“Stream” uncovers a ‘classic’ piano trio ballad in shape and execution. “Though seemingly counterintuitive, in the studio, our interplay grew densest during Steinar’s solo, then we move into a collective crescendo – both spontaneous decisions that really shed a different light on the track.” “Ritual” follows, seeing Steinar taking the lead with guitar-like treble and Gustavsen being in charge of the lower frequencies, applying subtle electronics in the process.

 

The group goes full circle with the one subject that pulls through Tord Gustavsen’s entire ECM oeuvre, as Opening closes with Norwegian folk themes: “Fløytelåt” (the flute) by composer Gveirr Tveitt and Egil Hovland’s “Vær sterk, min sjel” from the Norsk Salmebok, the Norwegian Hymnal. Instead of stating the obvious and immediately going for the melody, Gustavsen and his accompanists again broach the songs with openness, trading strict organization for thoughtful and effortless improvisation.

 

Opening was recorded in Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo in November 2021 and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Tord Gustavsen Trio | Opening
ECM Release Date: April 8, 2022
For more information on ECM, please visit:

Saxophonist and Composer Kenny Garrett’s Critically Acclaimed Sounds from the Ancestors Wins “Outstanding Jazz Album – Instrumental” at 53rd NAACP Image Awards

“I would like to thank The NAACP for this prestigious award.
I’m honored to be part of the pantheon of artists who have received
this special tribute and I congratulate the NAACP for the
work it does and will continue to do.” – Kenny Garrett


Kenny Garrett’s latest release, Sounds from the Ancestors, is a multi-faceted album. The music, however, doesn’t lodge inside the tight confines of the jazz idiom, which is not surprising considering the alto saxophonist and composer acknowledges the likes of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye as significant touchstones. Similar to how Miles Davis’ seminal LP, On the Corner, subverted its main guiding lights – James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone – then crafted its own unique, polyrhythmic, groove-laden, improv-heavy universe, Sounds from the Ancestors occupies its own space with intellectual clarity, sonic ingenuity, and emotional heft.

Sounds from the Ancestors examines the roots of West African music in the framework of jazz, gospel, Motown, hip-hop, and all other genres that have descended from jùjú and Yoruban music,” explains Garrett. “It’s crucial to acknowledge the ancestral roots in the sounds we’ve inhabited under the aesthetics of Western music.”

Indeed, Sounds from the Ancestors reflects the rich jazz, R&B, and gospel history of his hometown of Detroit. More important though, it also reverberates with a modern cosmopolitan vibrancy – notably the inclusion of music coming out of France, Cuba, Nigeria, and Guadeloupe.

“The concept initially was about trying to get some of the musical sounds that I remembered as a kid growing up – sounds that lift your spirit from people like John Coltrane, ‘A Love Supreme;’ Aretha Franklin, ‘Amazing Grace;’ Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On;’ and the spiritual side of the church,” Garrett explains. “When I started to think about them, I realized it was the spirit from my ancestors.”

The core ensemble for Sounds from the Ancestors consists of musicians that Garrett has recorded and toured within the recent past – pianist Vernell Brown, Jr., bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Ronald Bruner, and percussionist Rudy Bird. The album also features guest appearances from drummer Lenny White, pianist and organist Johnny Mercier, trumpeter Maurice Brown, conguero Pedrito Martinez, batá percussionist Dreiser Durruthy and singers Dwight Trible, Jean Baylor, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony, and Sheherazade Holman. And on a couple of cuts, Garrett extends his instrumental palette by playing piano and singing.

With his illustrious career that includes hallmark stints with Miles Davis, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, as well as a heralded career as a solo artist that began more than 30 years ago, Garrett is easily recognized as one of modern jazz’s brightest and most influential living masters. And with the marvelous Sounds from the Ancestors, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Garrett shows no signs of resting on his laurels.

Saxophonist Mark Turner Leads an Exploratory and Thought Provoking Journey in his Latest Release, Return from the Stars

The quartet features Jason Palmer,
Joe Martin, and Jonathan Pinson
Available March 25 via ECM Records
Mark Turner has been a frequent and significant presence on ECM recordings of the last dozen years, bringing his saxophone artistry and his musical commitment to recordings with Enrico Rava, the Billy Hart Quartet, the cooperative Fly trio (with Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier), Stefano Bollani and, most recently, Ethan Iverson, on the duo recording Temporary Kings. Albums under Turner’s leadership, however, have been rare, and Return from the Stars is the first ECM recording to feature his quartet since 2014’s Lathe of Heaven.

Turner’s writing for his group on Return from the Stars gives the players plenty of space in which to move, on an album both exhilarating and thoughtful in its arc of expression. Solos flow organically out of the arrangements and, beneath the dazzling interplay of Turner’s tenor and Jason Palmer’s trumpet, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jonathan Pinson often roam freely. The absence of a chordal instrument keeps the conversational possibilities in the music wide open, as the compositions modulate between the meticulously structured and the loosely guided. Mark Turner puts a lot of faith in intuition and the shared artistic goals of an ensemble, and cherishes the narrative tension arising from the juxtaposition of freedom and responsibility:

My process in writing is that I write for the people playing,” he says. “I don’t like to say a lot to them about the compositions. I like to write a piece of music and know that the people I’ve chosen are going to play it, basically, the way they play. I’d rather they find themselves in the music. The tunes are written in such a way that each musician has a choice in terms of how they take care of what they’re supposed to be doing. There are parts written for the horns. Not so much is written for the rhythm section, except for a few ‘hits’ and maybe time changes in sections. I just give guidelines about how the section should feel and then I let bass and drums figure out how to do it. Whatever makes the rhythm section sound good, that’s what we do. Then, the horns will play on top of that. “

Bassist Joe Martin is the sole musician retained from the Lathe of Heaven line-up. He’s been playing with Turner in diverse contexts since 1995. And, as he outlined it to Music & Literature magazine: “I always feel, playing with Mark I have to play as well as possible and raise the bar. In the quartet, because there isn’t a piano or guitar player to fill a certain harmonic space for everybody, I’m more probably more conscious of my note choices. Just one single note choice changes everything, suggesting tonality, harmony.”

Turner met dynamic drummer Jonathan Pinson while playing with Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman’s group. Pinson’s CV begins at a high level: he dived into the music at the deep end, touring with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Greg Osby while still in his early twenties. His résumé also includes work with Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dave Liebman, and many others. Pinson makes his ECM debut with Return from the Stars, as does trumpeter Jason Palmer.

Palmer and Mark Turner first encountered each other as sidemen in bands a decade ago. Mark subsequently played in projects led by the trumpeter, also recording in some of his projects (Places, Rhyme and Reason, and The Concert). He singles out Palmer’s “willingness to go into zones unknown to him” among his outstanding qualities. The two of them share an encyclopedic knowledge of the music. The Boston Phoenix has said of Palmer that he “builds fire with his secure tone and the cool deliberation of his solos”. The same could be said of Turner, who, according to National Public Radio, “has an innovative sonic signature, a certain floating chromaticism, rhythmic mindfulness and lightness of tone, filled with subtleties.”

Return from the Stars takes its title from Stanisław Lem’s science fiction novel in which an astronaut returns from an exploratory space mission to find life on earth greatly changed, and his own values out of step with those of a conformist, risk-averse society. Turner’s sci-fi enthusiasms are well known, and some observers have perceived a kind of idiomatic ‘time traveling’ quality in his work: The Guardian described his ECM quartet album Lathe of Heaven (named after an Ursula K. Le Guin story) as “sounding like Birth of the Cool floated over a 21st-century rhythmic concept.” A deep study of a range of jazz masters has informed his style, his expressivity on the full range of the tenor saxophone, and the scope of his writing, which brings the music forward while being acutely aware of its history.

Return from the Stars was recorded at New York’s Sear Sound Studio and mixed at Studios La Buissonne, in Southern France. The album was produced by Manfred Eicher.

Pianist Kit Downes Continues to Push New Concepts through a Trio Format in his Latest Release Vermillion

Available February 11 via ECM Records

After his widely acclaimed ECM leader-debut, Obsidian saw Kit Downes exploring a broad spectrum of organ timbres and the chamber-toned follow-up Dreamlife Of Debris substantially expanded the instrumental pallet, Vermillion now introduces us to Kit’s exceptional pianistic qualities in a trio context with collaborators Petter Eldh on bass and James Maddren on drums.

 

The Guardian has praised Kit for his “uncanny ability to make difficult music sound natural” and Vermillion provides proof of that, capturing the trio in a carefully assorted piano trio program that treads gentle lyricism and bold creative outbursts in equal measures and with a strong penchant for melody.

 

“This record is different from what I’ve done before. We pushed ourselves into an area that we haven’t played in before, which is a more chamber music-oriented sound. The complex rhythmic component is still kept intact, but it’s wrapped in a different aesthetic.” Kit traces his constant search for new musical challenges back to his early mentor, pianist John Taylor, who passed in 2016 and to whom Kit dedicated his first ECM recording: “John sought after real moments in the music, often by doing something unpredictable. He wanted to make new things happen and was obsessed with taking risks musically, which is what I think I did with Obsidian and what we’re doing now on Vermillion.”

 

Risk comes in subtle disguise as the trio navigates rich and varied structures. Powerful bass attack is intercepted by the softest piano touch, uneven meters veiled in rubato feel and Kit’s unique harmonic language hides its intricacies inpatient timing and warm cadences. James Maddren’s percussive contribution is both assertive and adaptable, woven into the music’s fabric.

 

No matter whether written and rehearsed at an earlier point or brought to the group on the day of the recording, the trio gives each idea definition and every impulse precise form. “Rather than just documenting everything we’ve done live, with Manfred Eicher’s help we picked what felt like a great collection of music – some music written a couple of years ago, other songs merely two days old. ‘Class Fails’ for example was brought on the day of the recording by Petter. Its bass line may sound like it’s free, but it’s actually in quite specific time. As we started playing the song it turned into what sounds like an organized rubato.”

 

On Vermillion, construction and deconstruction exist in harmony with each other, creating organic shapes as the two extremes pull at opposite ends and yield gracefully melodious themes in the process. Kit and Petter each came up with five pieces, while the eleventh and final one is an abstract take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made Of Sand” – the trio joining in a careful unraveling of the song’s individual elements. Vermillion, recorded at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano in May and June 2021, was produced by Manfred Eicher.

 

James Maddren and Kit Downes’ musical association goes back to their college days, when the two were flatmates, making music together on a daily basis. James studied with percussionist Martin France at the Royal Academy of Music in London and belongs to the most in-demand percussionists in today’s UK jazz scene – having contributed to recordings and performances by the likes of Norma Winstone, Marc Copland and Gwilym Simcock, on top of being the rhythmic backbone to the majority of Kit’s projects.

 

Known as the bassist in pianist Django Bates’ Belovèd trio – the trio’s album Study of Touch was released on ECM in 2017 – Petter Eldh’s distinct lower-end contributions can be heard in a variety of contexts since joining Bates’ trio in 2010. Besides his work as an accomplished jazz player, Petter also experiments with electronics, hip-hop and other forms of popular music, which he combines with his jazz background in his Berlin-based group Koma Saxo.

 

Kit Downes was an organ scholar at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich before going on to study piano, organ, and composition at the Purcell School and the Royal Academy of Music. He recorded and toured widely with the band Empirical while also working with – among others Django Bates and Lee Konitz. Besides Petter Eldh and James Maddren, over the years Kit has frequently collaborated with drummer Sebastian Rochford, saxophonist Tom Challenger and cellist Lucy Railton, who all appear on his last ECM outing Dreamlife Of Debris.

 

Norwegian Trumpeter and Composer Mathias Eick Returns to Musical Storytelling with When we leave

Available September 24 via ECM

Mathias Eick is among the most immediately recognizable soloists to have emerged from the Norwegian jazz scene, and his wistful trumpet sound and strongly melodic compositions have met with a positive response around the world. When his ECM leader debut The Door was issued in 2008, US magazine JazzTimes described the trumpeter’s tone as “plaintive and spare,” while emphasizing that, “like all good bandleaders, his focus is on the interaction of his musicians. The contrast of his restraint and the energy around him constitutes the album’s driving tension.”

 

Over the years, Eick has focused and strengthened his approach on both fronts, as soloist and ensemble leader, with concepts for the band adjusted to meet the needs of each project, as well as what The Guardian has described as “a cinematic interest in musical storytelling.”

 

Skala (recorded 2009 and 2010), for instance, introduced the two-drummer format, latterly a hallmark of much of Eick’s work. Midwest (2014), a meditation on the voyage of Norwegian music to North America, brought violin into the ensemble sound along with colours and textures from folk music. Ravensburg (2017) turned the spotlight on Eick’s own biography, looking, with affection, at his Norwegian and South German family roots. The full group heard on Ravensburg returns for When we leave, augmented by Stian Carstensen’s pedal steel guitar – last heard in an Eick context on The Door – and the saga continues.

 

Mathias Eick sees When we leave as “a natural continuation of Ravensburg, almost a Ravensburg 2. More of everything.” Where its predecessor drew portraits of friends and family and sketched some personal interactions, the new album follows its protagonists through a troubled year. A sense of narrative could be drawn from the interplay of titles and musical atmosphere: “The songs and titles on When we leave play upon each other, draw inspiration from each other.”

 

Meanwhile, the Eick band continues to grow in confidence and range. Violinist Håkon Aase, increasingly recognized as one of the outstanding improvisers of his generation (his ECM credits also include two albums with Thomas Strønen’s Time Is A Blind Guide ensemble), augments the bandleader’s solos with lines that draw upon folk traditions as well as jazz. There is a mystery, too, in the way that the violin leans into the delicate swell of Stian Carstensen’s pedal steel. Eick: “Stian’s carpet of harmonies adds a feeling of depth – and the combination with the violin creates a special sound. I’m always searching for sounds that are unique and stand out of time.

 

Powerful drummer Torstein Lofthus has played in contexts from pop to free jazz (including sessions with US saxophonist Sonny Simmons) and is known also for his contributions to exploratory rock group Elephant9. When Ravensburg was released, Eick explained his decision to add a second drummer: “I wasn’t trying to make the drumming bigger but rather more three-dimensional. What’s going on in the area of rhythm is very much like what’s happening between Håkon and myself, where a similar idea of shadowing and call and response is taking place.” Co-drummer Helge Andreas Norbakken digs into the textures of the music, creatively detailing the rhythm and working freely with sound as he has on ECM recordings from the Jon Balke/Amina Alaoui project Siwan to the “percussion think-tankBatagraf or Jon Hassell’s Last Night The Moon…, as well as Mathias Eick’s Midwest.

 

Andreas Ulvo, a pianist of lyrical gifts, draws inspiration from classical music, in his own projects juxtaposing Satie and Rodrigo with free playing, and working across a broad range of idioms. Latterly he has been collaborating with Swiss harpist Giovana Pessi in a new project: an ECM release is in preparation. In parallel with his musical activities, he is also a photographer and has contributed images to albums by Dans les arbres and Giovanna Pessi/Susanna Wallumrød, among others.

 

Bassist Audun Erlien’s particular groove, informed by years of playing soul and funk music, has been part of the Eick band sound since The Door. Erlien can also be heard with Nils Petter Molvaer on Solid Ether.

 

Mathias Eick was born into a musical family in Norway in 1979 and took up the piano at the age of five, followed by trumpet a year later. A multi-instrumentalist, he also plays vibraphone, double bass, guitar, and keyboards, although the trumpet was always “the instrument closest to my heart” as he once put it. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the including the International Jazz Festival Organization’sInternational Jazz Talent” prize, the Statoil Scholarship, and the DNB Prize.

 

When we leave was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in August 2020. It was produced by Manfred Eicher. The Eick band presents music from the album in concert at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria, Oslo (September 17), Collage Festival, Copenhagen (October 2), Jazzfest, Brno, Czech Republic (November 1), and Schloß Elmau, Krün, Germany (November 20).

 

Upcoming Releases on ECM
September 24: Marcin Wasilewski Trio | En Attendant
October 8: Enrico Rava | Edizione Speciale
October 8: Craig Taborn | Shadow Plays
October 29: Ayumi Tanaka Trio | Subaqueous Silence
November 5: Jorge Rossy, Robert Landfermann, Jeff BallardPuerta

 

Mathias Eick | When We Leave
ECM | Release DateSeptember 24, 2021
For more information on ECM, please visit:

 

 

Marcin Wasilewski Trio Returns for their Seventh ECM Release with the Imaginative En attendant

Available September 10 via ECM

 

“Their years together have resulted in an ensemble with an utterly symbiotic creative flow,” observed Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times, when the Marcin Wasilewski Trio was first making its presence felt on the international jazz scene. The improvisational communication among the players has continued to deepen with the years, along with their range of creative options. En attendant pays testimony to the musicians’ far-reaching imagination and to the ways in which the group’s lucid musical language can integrate influence from disparate sources.

 

Recorded just prior to their Arctic Riff collaboration with Joe Lovano, En attendant finds Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz in a thoughtful, exploratory mood. The multifaceted Polish group illuminates a characteristically wide span of music, the scope extending from Bach to group improvisation. On En attendant, collectively created pieces are juxtaposed with Wasilewski’s malleable “Glimmer of Hope”, Carla Bley’s timeless “Vashkar”, The Doors’ hypnotic “Riders on the Storm” and a selection from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, transformed in the context. Fluidity is the hallmark, allied to the deep listening made possible by more than a quarter-century of collaborative music-making.

 

The tripartite “In Motion” offers the most thorough account yet of the trio’s capacity for finding forms at the moment, shaping and developing musical structures with a running sense of architectural proportion. “In Motion Part I” gives way to Variation 25 from the Goldberg Variations, a reminder that all roads lead to Bach, eventually. The trio’s take on the minor key aria gently probes its atmosphere of dark passion and encircles its exquisite melody.

 

Paul Bley’s Footloose! recording of 1963 was where many musicians first learned about Carla Bley as a composer. As Marcin Wasilewski recently noted it “opened the gates to something undiscovered”, including the inexhaustible mysteries of tunes like “Vashkar,” which has become one of the pieces the trio likes to revisit, always finding something new inside it.

 

Pop and rock cover versions have also long been part of the trio’s story. Earlier recordings have found the group re-contextualising Björk’s “Hyperballad”, Prince’sDiamonds and Pearls”, the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and more. The Doors’ iconic “Riders on the Storm” now joins the list, in a subtly unconventional arrangement. While the rhythmic feel here hews to a bubbling groove close to the original, bassist Slawomir Kurkewicz is to the fore for much of the tune, soloing inside the form, while Wasilewski mines the harmonies.

 

Marcin’s rubato ballad “Glimmer of Hope” moves like the waves, floating its glistening motive through changing tonalities over Michal Miskiewicz’s detailed cymbals and drums.

 

Marcin Wasilewski and Slawomir Kurkiewicz (both born in 1975) have been playing in trio with Michal Miskiewicz (born 1977) since 1993. The group quickly became an important force on the Polish jazz scene, both in its own right and as three-quarters of Tomasz Stanko’s band.
It was with Stanko that they first came to ECM appearing on the acclaimed albums Soul of Things (recorded 2001), followed by Suspended Night (2003), and Lontano (2005). Stanko, who was also a mentor for the trio, enthused, “In the entire history of Polish jazz, we’ve never had a band like this one. I’m surprised by these musicians every day. They just keep getting better and better.”

 

This sentiment was echoed in the press, with JazzTimes observing, “Marcin Wasilewski does not think like other jazz pianists. His improvisational underpinning, his sense of musical space, and his aural imagery are so fresh they are initially mysterious, then get more so. …It takes nerve for a young trio to create music of such stillness, such patience. The fact that the three have played together since they were teenagers is audible in the way they trust the epiphanies they collectively come upon.”

 

Albums by Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz on ECM include Trio (recorded 2004), January (2007), Faithful (2010), Spark of Life (2014, with Joakim Milder), Live (2016), and Arctic Riff (2019, with Joe Lovano). The trio, plus saxophonist Trygve Seim, also contributes to guitarist Jakob Young’s recording Forever Young (2013). Wasilewski and Kurkuwicz appear, furthermore, on Manu Katché’s albums Neighbourhood (2004) and Playground (2007).

Recorded at Studios La Buissonne in August 2019.

Upcoming Releases on ECM
September 24: Mathias Eick | When We Leave
October 8: Enrico Rava | Edizione Speciale
October 8: Craig Taborn | Shadow Plays
October 29: Ayumi Tanaka Trio | Subaqueous Silence
November 5: Jorge Rossy, Robert Landfermann, Jeff Ballard | Puerta

 

Marcin Wasilewski Trio | En Attendant
ECM | Release DateSeptember 10, 2021

 

Check the single “VASHKAR” from the forthcoming album “EN ATTENDANT” by Marcin Wasilewski Trio

Anonymous Performer and Composer Recruits All-Star Cast for High Energy Project; Encourages Artists to Respond Instinctually with First Take Recordings

Eponymous Release Ex-Vitamins
Features Mark Guiliana, Nate Smith, Ben Wendel,
Tim Lefebvre, Shayna Steele, and more

There is something both soothing and terrifying when a schedule clears. The opportunity to reclaim a bit of time that had been put aside for someone else can feel like an unexpected vacation. How we react and what we create during those unexpected and challenging breaks is what sets us apart. Ex-Vitamins was on that perpetual touring/recording/touring carousel before everybody’s schedule cleared. They worked tirelessly in front of crowds that could rival the population of most American towns.

A curious anonymity can wash over a tight band playing before a stadium crowd. The personality in the spotlight becomes oversized while the rest of the band focuses on that amplification, holding up mirrors to create an even brighter center point. Ex-Vitamins knows those crowds weren’t there to see him. They were there to see his boss. Ex-Vitamins has a lot of friends who did that for a living; musicians who once referred to David Bowie, St. Vincent, Paul Simon, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, or others as the boss.

During the world’s unexpected hiatus, Ex-Vitamins set about creating a project that resulted in a series of songs and hypnotic music videos that untangle a funky brain far from rehearsals and shows and tours. “I had always wanted to take what I’ve learned in those musical situations and do something creative with it. I kept referring to it as a laptop side project,” the elusive composer said from his modest New Jersey studio. “I didn’t want the attachment to any preconceived notions about how it should sound or what lane it goes into. I just wanted to make music.” So, with the spotlight off and the world retreating to their electrified caves, Ex-Vitamins assembled some friends and created a whole different beast.

The energy of contact-less collaboration bursts through from the very first seconds of the album and never slows down. “Some of these guys play in situations where they need to play the same kind of thing night tonight. When they did whatever they wanted to, I got some unexpected results. I never had to say, ‘can you try something else?’ I value these guys’ voices so much on their own instruments. I called them for a reason. I didn’t just need a guitar. I needed Max Bernstein on this. I didn’t just need drums. I need what Mark Guiliana or Nate Smith can bring. These are guys that have their own voice.

And that sound is not bound by time or travel restrictions. This album was recorded by musicians in New York, California, Arizona, Tennessee, and France. Smith, who was in Nashville, pounds out a strong backbeat for “Intro” that makes way for an orchestra of sounds: New Power Generation horns rise up in waves; a limber and soulful piano solo fights for space. “On some of these tunes, when I sent the music out it was, ‘don’t listen to it until you are ready to record. First take. Have as many toys as you can in the room. Send it back.’”

Guitarists Robin Macatangay and Bernstein join Smith for “Are You Proud.” Together they engage in a funky rhythm guitar battle whose essence floats through the next two tracks as Bernstein stays for “Toronto” and “Ism.,” the latter of which takes the affair down a different ‘80s avenue. Visions of Morris Day and Rick James dance above Guiliana’s unmistakable drum kit. “Some of these songs initially felt like I was waiting for someone to come lay a topline melody, but the more I played them the more I got used to them existing on their own. Now I think adding anything else would get in the way,” says Ex-Vitamins.

“Hello, Let’s Go” features haunting synthesizers amid pounding drums. As the tune builds, another voice enters that shifts the whole experience. “I wrote a bridge to it and sent it to saxophonist Ben Wendel and he put the whole thing into outer space. There’s something very fulfilling about that arpeggiated bassline, that pulsing feel. It feels like it could go on forever.”

Vocalist Shayna Steele provides the swagger for “Fake Out,” her enthusiasm carrying the tune with a force that evokes great shouters like Tina Turner and Merry Clayton. Like any funky endeavor, a lot of weight falls on the bass player. Tim Lefebvre does here, as he does elsewhere on the album, just what makes him such an in-demand low-end master. “Every time I think I know what Tim’s going to play, he plays something else that’s even hipper. That’s the mark of an unbelievably creative musician,” says Ex-Vitamins. Drummer Chris Kimmerer is no slouch either. His driving push makes this collaboration a standout.

Ex-Vitamins bookends the album with a nod to their jazz roots in moments of lithe dexterity. “I wanted something athletic,” he says of the unexpected solo, his sound is aggressively showered with a weighty grind. “You Are #9” brings back a few of the album stand-out performers – Lefebvre, Guiliana, Kimmerer, Bernstein – for one last hurrah, an ascending thump in an optimistic direction.

This past year was a time when everybody got a lot of perspective on what it is they do and what it is they like to do. That informs what I asked for from them, and it informs what they gave me. I was more open than ever to say, ‘do your thing.’ I want to have even less say in how it is that you do it,” says Ex-Vitamins on his first, self-titled album Ex-Vitamins. And that’s the point. Music for music’s sake. What secrets lie stacked in the basement studio? Who wants to help find out? The results may surprise you.

Ex-Vitamins| Ex-Vitamins
Release DateAugust 27, 2021

For more information on Ex-Vitamins, please visit:

Listen to the single, “ARE YOU PROUD” by Ex-Vitamins 

 

Dubbed “The Grace Jones of Jazz” by Gilles Peterson, Lady Blackbird Creates Soundtrack to a Revolution with Debut Album, Black Acid Soul

No place big enough for holding / all the tears you’re gonna cry /’Cause your mama’s name was lonely / and your daddy’s name was pain /And they call you little sorrow / ’cause you’ll never love again /Why you wanna fly Blackbird / you ain’t ever gonna fly” ~”Blackbird” (Nina Simone/Herbert Sacker, 1963)

 

Lady Blackbird didn’t mean to soundtrack a revolution. But last spring, that’s exactly what she did. On May 27th, 2020 Los Angeles-based singer Marley Munroe released her debut single. Now, “the Grace Jones of Jazz,” as dubbed by BBC’s Gilles Peterson, presents her debut album, Black Acid Soul.

 

Minimal yet rich, classic yet timely, the album connects backward to Miles Davis (his pianist, Deron Johnson, plays Steinway Baby Grand, Mellotron, and Casio Synth throughout) and forwards to Pete Tong (he made the Bruise mix of ‘Collage’ his Number Two Essential Selection tune of 2020) and, yes, Victoria BeckhamMatthew Herbert’s remix of the second single ‘Beware The Stranger’ soundtracked the designer’s Spring/Summer 2020 Fashion show.

 

Its 11 tracks have a sound, feeling, and attitude that speak of Lady Blackbird’s deep experiences in music, stretching all the way back to infancy. “I don’t ever remember not singing,” she says, recalling performances in church and at fairs from the age of five. “It’s what I knew how to do, and I don’t want to do anything else.

 

By her early teens, Lady Blackbird was traveling to and from Nashville. She was signed to a Christian label but the only music that resulted was some work with rock/rap group DC Talk. After they split, she worked with former member TobyMac, appearing on his first four solo albums. “But I realized that that whole Christian world, which my parents tried to place me in, was so goddamn far from who I was. I did not want to do Christian music, I didn’t believe anything of what they did, and I quit the tour.”

 

A wise young soul already at the age of 16, she then found herself “in limbo, because I was in this contract ‘til I was 18.” Once legally an adult and free, she based herself out of New York while flying to and from sessions in LA. She was working with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Sam Watters, Louis Biancaniello, Tricky Stewart, and The Heavyweights. A production deal led to a record deal with LA Reid’s Epic. But creative differences led to her parting ways with the label. So, the deal ended “and it was back to the drawing board and working with different people.”

 

One of those was an artist-turned-writer-and-producer Chris Seefried, who’d been GRAMMY® Award-nominated for his work on the debut album by Andra Day (seen as Billie Holiday in biopic The United States Vs. Billie Holiday). On meeting Lady Blackbird, he recalls thinking: “Wow, I’m working with the best new vocalists there are – Andra and Lady Blackbird are two of the greatest singers on the planet.”

 

From Lady Blackbird’s point-of-view, “I fucking loved his shit!” she hoots, relieved to have finally found a musical partner who got her. “Chris listened to me, asking, was I feeling this vibe or that vibe? He was able to dig inside what I was feeling. Next thing you know, he had some amazing sounds worked out. We really just connected.” They took their time, working in Seefried’s LA studio, feeling out the bespoke musical path that would work with the fiercely individual performer. Finally, in hitting on the idea of stripping everything back, “we cracked the code.”

 

“I’d written a song, ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart,’ a jazz ballad kind of thing, and asked her to do a vocal,” explains Seefried. “I laid the tune on her – and it’s quite a complicated piece of music – then I played it again.” And she goes: ‘OK, I got it.’ And in two takes she nailed it, live. It’s a real natural genius kind of thing to have that kind of musicality intuitively.

 

A sad, elegantly simple tune, “Nobody’s Sweetheart” was, too, a pathfinder song, and was also the first one they recorded with a beautiful trumpet solo from the great New Orleans virtuoso, TroyTrombone ShortyAndrews. After going all out, they were going all in, deeply in, getting out of the way and letting shine the voice of Lady Blackbird.

 

For the singer, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, that approach, however, didn’t – couldn’t – diminish her onstage persona. “I loved my over-the-top costumes and all this elaborate shit on stage. Chris convinced me we could be jazz and still keep that attitude.” Suffice it to say that, when Seefried played “Nobody’s Sweetheart” to Ross Allen – the British label exec, DJ, and crate-digger who’s signed Lady Blackbird to his new imprint Foundation Music – he was astounded. “I also showed him this picture of her, this radical woman on stage, and it was from the back, wearing this incredible dress and Pattie LaBelle headgear. Ross was like: ‘She sings like that and looks like that? Fucking hell!’”

 

You can hear that personality in “Collage.” An instant earworm which she inhabits in multiple colours, it’s Lady Blackbird’s take on the James Gang original, a soulful psych-rock deep cut from 1969.

 

There’s more inspired reinvention on the aching “It’ll Never Happen Again,” written by Tim Hardin and which first appeared on the folk singer’s seminal 1966 debut. Forthright as ever, Lady admits, “that was one of the ones I didn’t like at first. It wasn’t boring, I just didn’t know how to give it some power or personality at first. But then I tried it, it was a beautiful session, and it’s ended up one of my favorites on the album. It just sounds magical.

 

That spirit of adventure and invention is there, too, on “Beware The Stranger.” It’s a take on “Wanted Dead or Alive,” a rare groove classic recorded by funk/gospel collective Voices of East Harlem in 1973 and co-produced by Curtis Mayfield.

 

Rounding out the album are two killer cuts written by Lady Blackbird and Seefried, “Fix It” and “Five Feet Tall.” The former is an elegant piano ballad that was inspired by the Bill Evans classic instrumental “Peace Piece“. The Evans Estate granted Lady Blackbird and Seefried co-authorship on a song that sounds like a Great American Songbook standard sung by a woman on the side of the angels. Her ability to nail the song in the studio in minimal takes was clearly something to behold.

 

As for “Black Acid Soul,” closing the album, it speaks of both the “Jackson Pollock jams” Seefried describes in the studio and the mantric soul evocative of Hot Buttered Soul-era Isaac Hayes. Explaining how the song became the title and then, again, the vibe, Lady Blackbird says: “We used to hashtag #blackacidsoul, as our sub-genre of music. It just encompassed everything we were doing. It cemented all those ideas and genres in this made-up shit!” 

 

“And because ‘Blackbird’ is a great start to the album because it gets dark and violent and goes somewhere spiritual, we wanted to tail the album with another expression of acid soul. So that became the title track at the end.

 

This is Black Acid Soul, and this is the first crucial album of 2021. Are you ready to fly with Lady Blackbird?

 

 

“This singer that blew my mind, a singer that’s gonna explode,
her name is Lady Blackbird
The Grace Jones of Jazz” – Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 6

 

“I find her mesmerizing. She blew me away.” – Anne Litt, KCRW

 

Lady Blackbird | Black Acid Soul
BMG | Release DateSeptember 3, 2021
For more information on Lady Blackbird, please visit:

 

Pianist/Composer Helen Sung Celebrates Women Composers with Quartet+ — a Vibrant New Album Combining All-Star Quartet with GRAMMY® Award-Winning Harlem Quartet

Available September 17 on Sunnyside Records

 

Album Features Original Music Alongside Pieces by
Geri Allen, Carla Bley, Toshiko Akiyoshi,
Mary Lou Williams, and Marian McPartland

 

Pianist/composer and 2021 Guggenheim Fellow Helen Sung celebrates the work of influential women composers on her latest album Quartet+, crafting new arrangements of tunes by Geri Allen, Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and Toshiko Akiyoshi while carrying the tradition forward with her own stunning new works. Co-produced by violin master Regina Carter, the album pairs Sung’s quartet with the strings of the GRAMMY® Award-winning Harlem Quartet in an inventive meld of jazz and classical influences.

 

Available September 17, 2021, on Sunnyside Records, Quartet+ was conceived and produced during the Covid-19 pandemic and made possible by a grant from the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre with additional support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Queens Arts Council. It allows Sung, who also studied classical violin, to realize a long-held dream of writing for strings while maintaining the improvisatory spark of her stellar quartet, featuring saxophonist and flutist John Ellis, bassist David Wong, and drummer Kendrick Scott.

 

The double quartet format is the latest evolution of Sung’s career-long search for inspiration beyond the boundaries of jazz. Her classical background emerged before 2007’s Sungbird (After Albéniz) – the title track of which is reprised for Quartet+ – a thrilling dialogue between modern jazz and 19th century Romanticism. Her most recent album, Sung With Words, incorporated the words of poet Dana Gioia, while upcoming projects delve into the pianist’s Asian-American heritage and the intersection of jazz and neuroscience.

 

While the Houston native veered away from her classical training after undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Sung admits that the early influence has maintained a strong pull on her musical thinking. “I guess I can’t escape my classical heritage,” she says with a laugh. “It’s definitely part of how I hear and how I write.”

 

It also gives her a connoisseur’s ear for the many ways in which jazz and classical music have converged, not always successfully. “Since I also studied violin, I’m really picky about how I want it to sound in a jazz setting,” she explains. “When I first heard Regina Carter she was playing with Kenny Barron at the Blue Note, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s how I would want to play jazz violin.’ When I heard the Harlem Quartet I had that same feeling.

 

Sung crossed paths with the acclaimed quartet during a cross-genre performance with clarinetist Eddie Daniels at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2018. She immediately approached the musicians after the show to suggest a collaboration. The opportunity came with the NYC Women’s Fund grant, which also gave the project a direction Sung had not previously ventured into with her own music, following on work undertaken with Terri Lyne Carrington’s Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice and Roxy Coss’ Women In Jazz Organization.

 

“In the past, I tried to avoid the whole ‘women in jazz’ thing because I felt music should speak for itself,” she says. “But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to feel that’s not the most complete way to deal with it. So I’m starting to grapple with the issues, and will do my best to approach things with honesty and candor.”

 

It’s hardly the first time she’s explored the work of the composers represented on Quartet+, however. In 2007 she won the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition and has since paid tribute to the history-spanning pianist at Harlem Stage and on NPR. She was a guest on Marian McPartland’s revered Piano Jazz in 2006 and has performed in tributes to Geri Allen in the wake of Allen’s untimely death in 2017.

 

Allen’s “Feed the Fire” begins the album in dramatic fashion, with a striking new countermelody added to the original’s blistering rhythms. Williams’ “Mary’s Waltz” is refashioned in a way that draws from the classical tradition as well as the blues, a multi-faceted approach that the history-spanning composer would surely have appreciated. Sung heard a symphonic element to Akiyoshi’s “Long Yellow Road” which she elaborated on in her arrangement, while “Wrong Key Donkey” vividly captures the originality and eccentricity of Carla Bley’s complex whimsy.

 

Sung’s homage to McPartland fuses a string quartet rewrite of “Melancholy Mood” with group improvisation on “Kaleidoscope,” the theme from her iconic radio show. These pieces are interspersed with snippets of Dr. Billy Taylor’sA Grand Night for Swinging.” Sung discovered the piece from a Mary Lou Williams’ recording and decided to add it to honor Taylor’s early championing of female jazz musicians, which included founding the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival.

 

In addition, Sung’s original composition “Coquette” was inspired by one of German composer Clara Schumann’sRomance” pieces, with Ellis’ playful, lilting flute flirting with the elegant strings. “Lament for Kalief Browder,” dedicated to the Bronx teenager who committed suicide following his arduous three-year imprisonment without trial at Rikers Island, was previously recorded on Sung With Words. Sung had long envisioned the piece with strings, realized here in a breathtaking rendition. “Sungbird,” meanwhile, is reimagined from the original’s Latin-inflected jazz quintet version as a passionate dance sans drums.

 

While the entire album was created during the pandemic, the two-movement “Temporality,” a Jazz Coalition commission, directly addresses the strange year (and counting) we’ve all just come through. “The way I experienced time became very elastic during the pandemic,” Sung says. “Each day felt interminably long, one blurring into the next, and then suddenly an entire month had passed! ‘Time Loops’ is about that, while ‘Elegy for the City’ is my lament for the terrible human loss suffered by New York and other cities.”

 

Despite the stresses of the pandemic, Sung is enjoying a particularly fruitful period, with several fascinating projects in the works aside from the release of Quartet+. She’ll apply her 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship to a multi-movement piece for a big band slated for completion in 2022. With a Chamber Music America Digital Residency grant, she’s producing a series of events this year using the tragic recent attacks on the AAPI community as a catalyst for interdisciplinary events with her quartet and a poet, a DJ, and an installation artist. Sung also received a New Music USA 2021 Music Creator Development Fund grant for a collaborative project with dancer and neuro-rehabilitation researcher Miriam King to create a dance program with original music for dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. Sung remarks, “If I’ve learned anything this past year and a half, it’s to not take anything for granted, be it people, relationships, opportunities…so I’m jumping in with arms wide open. I want to swallow life whole!”

 

Upcoming Helen Sung Performances:

 

September 16 | Flushing Town Hall (feat. Harlem Quartet) | New York, NY
September 18 | Lake George Arts “Jazz on the Lake” (feat. Jannina Norpoth) | Lake George, NY
October 1 | Amherst College (feat. Wistaria String Quartet) | Amherst, MA

 

Helen Sung | Quartet+
Sunnyside Records | Release DateSeptember 17, 2021

 

For more information on Helen Sung, please visit: