[Just in case, you missed it] …pianist/composer Frank Kimbrough’s introspective, original compositions and improvisations encompasses his voice perfectly throughout Ancestors

It is hard to listen to a posthumously released recording without reflecting on what the world has lost in their absence. Pianist and composer Frank Kimbrough was an individual who was beloved by all who knew him. A true musician’s musician and mentor to many, Kimbrough’s legacy lives on in his work and the lives that he touched.

His passing in 2020 has left a hole in the heart of the jazz world. // Kimbrough’s Ancestors is a recording that encompasses much of the leader’s personality, depth, and approach to music-making. Assembling a drummer-less trio with cornetist Kirk Knuffke and bassist Masa Kamaguchi, Kimbrough brought his spontaneity and introspection to the fore on a collection of original compositions and improvisations. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Original Release Date: July 16, 2021

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:

 

Just in case, you missed it…”The reMission” an unexpected journey by pianist/composer Andy Milne w/Unison

Andy Milne and Unison, THE REMISSION (ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: February 5, 2020)

My vision for UNISON has evolved since our first performance in 2017. I’ve endeavored to go deeper into honoring my influences and collectively, we’ve been refining our musical interactions although if I say so I felt like we started off in a pretty magical place. Some of the music presented here was composed or arranged specifically for this trio and some found a new home here.

Originally I imagined UNISON might perform mainly jazz standards, exploring the influences that formed my foundation and entrance into jazz (Oscar Peterson Bill Evans Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal.) Like the unexpected joys of an improvisational journey, our collective conversation guided our path towards the intersection of our combined sensibilities – joy risk & trust. For now, here is where we live. ~ Andy Milne | Amazon

At your leisure, take “THE REMISSION” for a spin by Andy Milne and Unison

Pianist Todd Cochran Emphatically Marks his Acoustic Reincarnation After Nearly Half Century Solo Recording Hiatus

Todd Cochran TC3, THEN and AGIAN, HERE & NEW (RELEASED: June 11, 2021)

Then and Again, Here and Now Features Like-Minded Collaborators Michael Carvin and John Leftwich

The creation of music as a collective art requires participants who are open and engaged. The essence of ensemble jazz music is the collaboration between elements, including sound and time and the musicians and audience. Pianist/composer Todd Cochran views these interchanges of energy and emotions as positive forces for change in the world. In his new album, Then and Again, Here & Now, just released on Sunnyside Records, Cochran’s earlier explorations are folded into this fresh musical creation.

To assist him in his efforts, Cochran enlisted bassist John Leftwich and drummer Michael Carvin. Leftwich has been an important voice in the West Coast’s vibrant music scene for decades and was introduced to Cochran twenty years ago via Freddie Hubbard. The legendary drummer became a part of the pianist’s world even earlier through collaborations with Bobby Hutcherson. Together the Todd Cochran trio – TC3 – is a tremendously vibrant, cerebral and vividly emotive ensemble that breathes life into any piece they endeavor to touch.

Cochran’s musical interests have always been vast in their outlook, from the avant-garde to fusions of jazz and rock. Under the alias Bayeté, his sound can be heard on albums that push the bounds of genres, from Santana, Automatic Man, Peter Gabriel, and Joan Armatrading’s arena filling rock sounds to the explosively spiritual world of his own records. “It was a combination of learning about idioms outside of those with which I was most familiar, and the trajectory of a restless curiosity that pushed me to surmount the challenges of making music outside of my natural affinities. Playing different styles of music authentically rather than as an approximation overtook everything. Each musical idiom had its own aesthetic and particular alchemy” says Cochran. Though, the element that has never escaped Cochran’s work throughout his career has been the blues aesthetic tied to jazz’s legacy, which he re-embraces on Then and Again, Here & Now.

Then and Again, Here & Now presents a collection of stalwart jazz songbook compositions, expressively contemporized and poetically reimagined by Cochran and his trio. Cochran’s philosophy of the development of music through the passing of ideas from generation to generation through evolving syntax can be heard in the approaches that are taken on these pieces. Though experimenting and taking liberties with these classics, the trio remains responsible as keepers of the flame and protectors of the blues vernacular.

From the opening of Romberg and Hammerstein’s “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise,” the trio’s command of the piece’s inherent swing can be interspersed with creative rhythmic experimentation. A variety of approaches can be heard from piece to piece, especially on a pair of Gershwin pieces with “A Foggy Day” morphing from ballad to mid-tempo and “I Got Rhythm” in pointillistic swing. Interstitials connect and introduce a number of pieces in a thoughtful fashion akin to live performance, including Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke,” which flows expansively like a lazy river. “My approach is to accentuate its eloquence and enhance the myth” says Cochran.  

Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” finds a curious pull between the classicism that the song inspires and Cochran’s playful bending, while a solo bass meditation leads into a brilliantly woven version of J.S. Bach’s “Prelude XX” from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier highlighting Cochran’s continued classical inspiration. “After the theme is stated we segue into improvisations around the idea of climbing up and climbing down. Modeling real-life and the reality that we’re continually modulating in one direction or another” says Cochran.

Vernon Duke’s “April In Paris” inspires a sweeping but soft touch from the trio until Leftwich’s unaccompanied bass “Between Spaces – Interstitial” leads to a percussively propulsive take on Kaper and Webster’s “Invitation,” as Carvin, a masterful archetype of empathetic rhythming, imaginatively sets the tone. “It’s played as a song without words, I think about the emotion of finally arriving at the perfect moment to extend an invitation to someone long imagined or hoped for” says Cochran.

An impressionist touch introduces Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy’s “You Must Believe in Spring,” a heart stopping ballad performed solely by Cochran. Monk’s spritely “Bemsha Swing” follows in short order followed by a wistful take on Bobby Hutcherson’s jazz waltz, “Little B’s Poem,” poignantly played by the trio with brilliant solo turns by all. The recording concludes with the resonant “Then and Again, Here & Now,” a brief recapitulation of the elements that brought this recording together: fellowship, history and hope. 

Todd Cochran has made it his life’s work to bring love and understanding to the world. The method he endeavors to accomplish this is through the communal language of improvisation and jazz. Then and Again, Here & Now encapsulates Cochran’s desires in a tangible and invigorating way.

About Todd Cochran:
Growing up, Cochran found a middle ground between the dimensions of the intellectual and spiritual when he discovered jazz music. His parents and grandparents were highly educated and motivated him to become the same. That led to his serious investment in classical piano study; performing and entering competitions as early as when he was just eight years old. His cousin introduced him to jazz at 13 and Cochran found a parallel, magnetizing pulse. He began to revisit his parents’ collection of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Ahmad Jamal recordings, transcribing and analyzing them so he could apply their lessons to his own music. It wasn’t long before Cochran was reaching out to local jazz leaders. 

A San Francisco native, formative school days in the 60s, college and coming-of-age in the 70s, Cochran is a product of the dynamic convergence of attitudes and socio-cultural revolution. His hometown was frontline at a pivotal time in American music history and the visionary principles of the era influenced his worldview and the trajectory of his pursuits. At just 17 years old, he found himself performing alongside the likes of jazz masters John Handy, Mike Nock, and later, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Hancock, Julian Priester, and Eddie Henderson. 


Though his own music would branch out dramatically from his earliest jazz grounding, Cochran always remained in touch with the blues element of the music. Now after a ten-year hiatus from recording while nurturing his son into adulthood, Cochran has returned to the music that has given him so much joy and that he feels is necessary to reinvest in for the betterment of society. 

Todd Cochran | Then and Again, Here & Now Rainy Days Records | Release Date: June 11, 2021
For more information on Todd Cochran, please visit: toddcochran.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

SOURCE:dlmediamusic.com

At your leisure, be sure and check out “Then and Again, Here & Now” by pianist Todd Cochran

Pianist/composer James Carney scores original, inspiring and imaginative compositions on PURE HEART

The combination of concept, effort, and the right collaborators typically leads to good things no matter what the goal might be. These elements are especially integral to cohesion within a musical ensemble in performance, especially a group built of musicians who haven’t previously played together. Pianist/composer James Carney was thinking along these lines when he came up with the idea and chose the musicians for his new recording, Pure Heart. // The sextet that Carney put together is quite an assemblage. For the horns, he recruited his longtime friend and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bass clarinetist and alto saxophonist Oscar Noriega, and recent collaborator and trumpeter Stephanie Richards. Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Tom Rainey met in their first time ever pairing. In fact, most of these players had never played together before, except Coltrane and Douglas and Noriega and Rainey. ~Editorial Reviews | Amazon

Mr. Carney is a sharp pianist and a broadly imaginative conceptualist and composer.” – Nate Chinen, The New York Times.

Award-winning pianist, keyboardist, and composer James Carney is a fearless improviser with a reputation for an original, polystylistic approach to making music – a philosophy that respects and explores both tradition and the avant-garde. 

Recording as a leader for prestige labels including Sunnyside, Clean Feed, Jacaranda, and Songlines, James Carney regularly fronts bands featuring some of the finest musicians working today including Ravi Coltrane, Tony Malaby, Chris Lightcap, Mark Ferber, Josh Roseman, Oscar Noriega, Stephanie Richards, Michael Attias, Dezron Douglas, Tom Rainey, Alex Cline, Nels Cline, Tyshawn Sorey, Ralph Alessi, Todd Sickafoose, Kris Davis, Ches Smith, and many others. ~Biography

At your leisure, check out PURE HEART below.

Rising star pianist/composer Noah Haidu joins with a legendary rhythm section for a major trio statement in SLOWLY: Song for Keith Jarrett

May 7, 2021 via Sunnyside Records

Featuring Haidu with Buster Williams and Billy Hart

Haidu’s ability to express deep feelings is striking.” – Tony Hall, Jazzwise (UK)

Infinite Distances pulses with soul…a sumptuous record that swings and grooves with far-out moments.” – Dan Ouellette, DownBeat Magazine

Noah Haihu, SLOWLY: SONG FOR KEITH JARRETT

SLOWLY: Song for Keith Jarrett was recorded at the end of 2020, a watershed year for pianist Noah Haidu. As critical accolades streamed in for his innovative multi-media release DOCTONE, Haidu was on the verge of realizing another ambitious project: recording a trio album with one of the greatest bass and drum combinations in jazz: Billy Hart and Buster Williams, whose own remarkable collaboration began half a century ago. The project will be released via Sunnyside Records on May 7, 2021, one day before Jarrett’s 76th birthday.

The decision to focus the album’s material around the great Keith Jarrett crystallized when news broke of Keith Jarrett’s retirement due to a pair of debilitating strokes. “When I heard about Keith,” says Haidu. “I was profoundly moved, and I started to envision the recording with Billy and Buster as a kind of musical response to these events and Keith’s body of work.”

Jarrett’s music carries great personal meaning for Haidu. “My father and I had a tradition of going to hear Jarrett together for several years running,” says Noah. “My dad (who was largely responsible for introducing me to jazz) passed away a week before Keith’s final concert. Attending that concert was one of the ways I was able to mark his passing and start a new chapter in my own life. My 17-year marriage came to an end and I refocused my energies on performing and recording with my own group. Dad and I had been planning to attend that show together but his illness came on quite suddenly and a few weeks before the end he handed me the tickets and said, “you’d better find someone else to go with.” No one knew at the time of the concert that it would be Keith’s final performance.”

The music on SLOWLY flowed organically with Hart, Haidu, and Williams all contributing compositions, but the project was not without its challenges. A planned west coast tour/record date in August 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic. The recording was eventually rescheduled for late November, with Covid’s second surge threatening to interfere again. “We decided not to put off the session a second time,” says Haidu. “It was not just another record date for any of us. We booked a large studio (Sear Sound), put on our masks and played our hearts out. I think you can hear the joy in this time when we are all so isolated. I felt honored that they were willing to come into the city and do this record at a time when just walking out of the house feels like a risk to one’s health.” The trio approached the thematic aspect of the music by maintaining a respectful distance, and a commitment to playing the music their own way rather than recreating performances of the past. “Everyone in the band has such a clearly defined voice,” says Haidu. “There was never a possibility of taking an imitative approach.”

The Jarrett waltz “Rainbow” (which some have credited to his former wife Margot Jarrett) segues into Haidu’s jubilantly rocking “Song for Keith Jarrett,” a nod to Jarrett’s legendary Standards Trio. Haidu elaborates on the repertoire choices in the liner notes: “We decided to include Buster and Billy’s wonderful compositions which highlight the type of interaction and open-ended expression that I feel is the heart of the Jarrett/DeJohnette/ Peacock trio.” Williams brought the dreamy “Air Dancing,” and Hart contributed the lush lyricism of “Duchess” and “Lorca.” The trio also chose a few standards: “Georgia,” “But Beautiful,” and “What a Difference a Day Makes” spontaneously in the studio, building on the songbook canon that helped make Jarrett, DeJohnette, and Peacock into one of the archetypal units in jazz history. Haidu, Williams, and Hart approached the standards with a Jarrett signature: a focus on the original melodies. The improvisations spring from those melodies and the stories behind the lyrics, eschewing the trend to “rethink” repertoire which has become commonplace in recent years. Haidu elaborates: “The idea was to get at the essence of, rather than reinvent these songs. I think that’s something I have absolutely absorbed from Keith Jarrett.” The titular SLOWLY was penned by Haidu and is dedicated to Jarrett’s solo piano style which Noah calls a “genre unto itself.”

Of his relationship to Jarrett’s music Haidu says: “I’ve never thought of myself as a pianist who ‘plays like Keith’. However, his work has increasingly influenced my trio approach in the last few years. I’m getting back to playing ballads, standards and increasingly finding my own voice on standard repertoire. That evolution has been inspired by Jarrett who plays standards with complete authenticity, never sounding like anyone else on this music.”

Almost everything on the album is an unedited first take. According to Haidu, “These songs have a certain simplicity. There’s not a lot of pyrotechnics, everything depends on the band interaction, you can’t hide behind a complicated form or wild rhythms. You have to make a statement, and everyone has to breathe together in the music. The one song we did a second time was ‘Air Dancing.’ We had paused after the first take when executive producer and president of Sunnyside Records Francois Zalacain arrived at the session. Before we went back to record Buster said to me, ‘You’re doing a beautiful job, but this time just go for anything you hear, don’t worry about downbeats and playing every chord, Billy and I got that covered. ‘When Buster Williams says to ‘go for, it I got your back’ that really resonates.”

2020 was a year of highlights for rising star pianist Noah Haidu: his acclaimed Sunnyside Records debut DOCTONE was the first to address the remarkable legacy of pianist Kenny Kirkland, and arguably the first album exploring the work of any jazz artist to be released in tandem with a film and a book. Haidu and the project were the subject of a nationally broadcast news story on NPR and critic Nate Chinen singled out the recording as an important new release on All Songs Considered. DOCTONE was the follow-up to Haidu’s 6-part suite INFINITE DISTANCES which was included in DownBeat’s 2017 Best Albums of the Year issue receiving a rare 4 1⁄2 out of 5 stars.

At age 19 Haidu studied at Rutgers University with the great pianist Kenny Barron, but was soon skipping classes to sit in at jazz clubs in Barron’s hometown of Philadelphia. After his second year, Haidu left college and moved to Brooklyn to devote all his time to practicing and gigging with artists such as Walter Perkins, Duane Eubanks, Essiet Essiet, Melvin Sparks, Jeanie Bryson, and Norman Connors. After the debut of his first album Slipstream, All About Jazz said of Noah, “The cat can play his butt off.” In 2011, Haidu was called a “rising star” in JazzTimes and “an important new talent” in Jazzwise magazine. His subsequent albums and sideman work have seen him collaborating with Ambrose Akinmusire, Mike Stern, Jeremy Pelt, Sharel Cassity, and Vincent Herring. After a 2015 MOCA concert his music was dubbed “vibrant and adventurous” in the Miami Herald. Giovanni Russonello described him as “an artist of focus and vision.” In 2017, DownBeat Magazine featured Haidu in an article entitled “Subversive Soul” and singled him out as an “innovative composer.”

Buster Williams and Billy Hart first worked together in 1969 at a concert with vocalist Betty Carter in Chicago. Both played on classic albums by Miles Davis, but it wasn’t until they joined Herbie Hancock’s innovative sextet Mwandishi that they were able to tour and record together for four year years. As members of Mwandishi both took Swahili nicknames: Hart was called ‘Jabali’ meaning “strong like a rock,” and Williams was known in the band as ‘Mchezaji’ or “player.” Widely celebrated for their innovations in acoustic and electric music Williams and Hart have both been in frequent collaboration with legends such as McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz, and Kenny Barron. In recent years they have been lauded as major composers and bandleaders, both headlining regularly at top venues such as The Village Vanguard and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Billy Hart turned 80 years old within a few days of this recording.

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