Cuba-based jazz artist Harold López-Nussa debuts first release in U.S.

cuba

Photo Credit: Eduardo Rawdriguez

“El Viaje (The Journey),” the title track of Cuban pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa’s debut release on Mack Avenue Records, seems to sway gently like a boat in the water – as if readying for a voyage or returning to port after arrival – trumpet and voices whispering memories. This scene aptly describes López-Nussa’s experiences of traveling throughout the world, yet always finding his way back to his hometown of Havana, Cuba. This journey of body and spirit has led simultaneously to a musical exploration where he visits various genres and ideas while staying true to his foundational roots.

The release of López-Nussa’s music stateside is a significant postscript to President Obama’s recent trip to Havana. The conservatory-trained pianist is the first Cuba-based musician (he has dual citizenship in both Cuba and France) to release an album internationally since the lifting of many of the restrictions associated with the longstanding trade embargo. States Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell in a recent news release, “Harold follows in the modern day tradition of exemplary Cuban pianists who have recorded and toured internationally. We feel he is an emerging artist with immense creative potential to breakthrough.”

El Viaje features The Harold López-Nussa Trio with younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion and from Senegal, Alune Wade on bass and vocals. This trio is augmented on certain tracks with guests including his father Ruy Francisco López-Nussa on drums, Mayquel González on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Dreiser Durruthy and Adel González on percussion.

López-Nussa, who collaborated with Wade on the 2015 album Havana-Paris-Dakar, said: “Having a non-Cuban musician on this recording speaks to our contact with other cultures. Especially with African culture, which is so far from ours geographically and yet so close. Every time we play, I believe we enter into a journey we are creating,” he says, speaking from his home in Havana.

“Ever since I was a kid, since I began to study piano, music, I have tried; I have searched for that journey of the mind, always traveling with music. I remember that I started playing ‘El Viaje’ while on tour as a way of feeling closer to home, and when I’m here, it’s also a way for my mind to travel.”

López-Nussa has moved with ease between the classical, popular and jazz music worlds. A quick look at his experiences reveal a recording of Heitor Villa-Lobos´ “Fourth Piano Concerto” with Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra (2003) but also winning the First Prize and Audience Prize of the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, in 2005. He was part of projects as diverse as Ninety Miles (a recording with David Sánchez, Christian Scott and Stefon Harris) and Esencial (an album of compositions by revered Cuban classical guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer), both in 2011.

As for his popular music and on-the-job training, he was part of projects such as the Cuba volume of Rhythms del Mundo, which paired him with veterans from Buena Vista Social Club and he spent three years in the touring band of singer Omara Portuondo, an opportunity he calls “a blessing.” He has distilled all those experiences not only into a rich, personal style, as a player and composer, but it infused López-Nussa with an engaging attitude about making and sharing music.

Charles Jenkins’ solo project reinforces positive thinking

jenkinsBillboard Magazine chart-topping recording artist Charles Jenkins is stepping out of his musical pulpit with his first solo album “Think About These Things” (Inspired People), an urban mainstream set that hits store shelves and digital platforms on Friday.

Jenkins is best know for some of the biggest gospel hits in the last five years – “Awesome” (22 weeks) and “War” (5 weeks) with Fellowship Chicago.

The 10-track “Think About These Things” was produced by Jenkins and Grammy Award winning producer Warryn Campbell (Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Mary Mary). The album is full of motivating messages Jenkins calls #positiveair.

“I wanted to lift people up with a different sound and spread some #positiveair on the radio airwaves,” says Jenkins in a recent news release. “There’s so much bad news, negativity, violence and hopelessness in the world right now that we just wanted to send out some encouragement and remind everyone that they can win and be upbeat in this thing called life.”

The first radio single is the hypnotically catchy “Winning.” The uplifting anthem of hope and determination was the second most added song on the Urban Adult Contemporary radio the week of its release. Jenkins’ other thought-provoking songs have inspired a casual wear clothing line that can be viewed at www.inspiredpeopleclothing.com.

Songstress Kenia reunites with former bandmates on new project

Photo Credit: Layne Anderson

Photo Credit: Layne Anderson

For many jazz fans in the 1980s and ’90s, Kenia’s singing was the gateway to contemporary Brazilian jazz and pop. She stood out from her compatriots because of her intimate, smooth vocals-subtle yet soulful-and her finesse with both American standards and Brazilian material. On We Go (to be released in August) will entice a new generation of listeners, as it showcases Kenia at the top of her form with a seductive, polished vocal phrasing. The intriguing repertoire includes songs co-written by Kenia and the Brazilian songwriting legends Ivan Lins and Antonio Adolfo.

The singer, born Kenia Acioly, grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the U.S. in 1980. She made her recording debut as the featured vocalist on trumpeter Claudio Roditi’s Red on Red, produced by the legendary Creed Taylor, the producer of “Desafinado” and “The Girl from Ipanema.” Kenia established herself as one of the most popular Brazilian vocalists in the U.S. with her MCA solo debut Initial Thrill (1987) and Distant Horizon (1988), both of which gained substantial radio airplay, and were followed by well-received albums with Denon. On these releases, Kenia sang in English and Portuguese and freely mixed composers like Harold Arlen and Stevie Wonder, Djavan and Toninho Horta.

On We Go boasts standards by big names (Gershwin, Lennon and McCartney), works by lesser known contemporary composers (Romero Lubambo, Luis Simas and others) and songs written for Kenia by Adolfo and Lins.

Paul Socolow plays bass and Mark Soskin handles keyboards on the new album, with Sandro Albert on guitar, Lucas Ashby on percussion and Adriano Santos on drums. Guitarist Romero Lubambo and harmonicist Hendrik Meurkens make notable guest appearances.

The album came about, recalls Kenia in a recent news release, when she “reconnected with Socolow and Soskin, who were the original members of my very first band, Pau-Brazil, and played on her first two albums. When we met again after nearly two decades, it just felt so right that I couldn’t resist the urge to do another project with them.”

For more information on Kenia, go to KeniaLive.com.

 

Mitch’s Product Review: Purex plus Clorox 2 Detergent

PurexplusClorox2Detergent_OriginalFreshPurex was kind to send a sample of their Purex plus Clorox 2 detergent, which is specially formulated with Clorox 2 stain-fighting enzymes to remove the toughest stains. Works with all washing machines, including High-Efficiency (HE).

I used it to wash a stain out of a favorite T-shirt I wore. It’s pretty effective, considering you have to pretreat stains by applying some detergent directly to stains and rub into fabric. Available in grocery stories everywhere.

For more information, check out this page.

“The Purex brand provided me with a sample of Purex plus Clorox 2 detergent in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.”

Plans unfold for the 100th anniversary celebration honoring Charlie Christian

Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee

Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee

In a recent new release, Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee, revealed that plans are going well for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the late Charlie Christian and his legacy. Temple said the Deep Deuce Business Association is collaborating with Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc., festival sponsor. to create a memorable experience for Oklahoma and that will attract music lovers from around the world.

The event, to be held June 2 to 5, 2016, near the Deep Deuce area will have a number of special surprises including an appearance of the only remaining guitar that Charlie Christian owned. There will be special moments such as a brief memorial at or near Calvary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City where Christian’s funeral was held and a New Orleans style festival parade. As always, there will be plenty of family type engagement activities right along with good food, good fun and great music.

Musical artist, visual artists as well as food and non-food vendors who wish to participate should call (405) 524-3800 or visit the website at www.charliechristianmusicfestival.com Selection of musicians will begin near the end of April.

“The 100th celebration only comes once in a lifetime, so our intent is to make this festival stand out as no other festival has,” Temple concluded. The event is funded in part by BancFirst, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Sponsorships are still available by calling (405) 524-3800.

Drummer Herlin Riley moves in ‘new direction’ with project

rileySince coming of age in the nurturing environment of a very musical family and a distinguished bloodline of drummers, New Orleans native Herlin Riley emerged from that most creative era of all things rhythmic in the late ’70s and early ’80s, to enliven the ensembles of such influential and demanding improvisers as pianist Ahmad Jamal and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis through his commanding yet elegant rhythmic presence. His authoritative style of melodic percussion is deeply imbued in the fertile creative soil of the Crescent City, encompassing as it does the entire length and breadth of America’s ongoing musical journey.
Now the release of his debut recording for Mack Avenue Records, Riley’s New Direction (available on Feb. 12) is an engaging, wide-ranging recital that distills a lifetime of experience into a swinging body of new music that defines what a big tent the music of New Orleans has always represented stylistically and spiritually.
This joyous cultural amalgam of Afro-Cuban, jazz and blues speak not just to Riley’s command of all things swinging — from the formative days of Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong — but which evoke, what for want of a better term we might call “the pocket” — those deeply dancing grooves that have nurtured parallel streams of rhythm & blues and funk in the tradition of such great Crescent City drummers as Vernel Fournier, Earl Palmer, Ziggy Modeliste and Idris Muhammad.
“You see,” Riley explains, “New Direction  reflects a personal transition from being a musical associate with the likes of Ahmad and Wynton, to functioning in a leadership capacity, both as a bandleader and a composer. Like Art Blakey, I’m trying to maintain a certain exuberance by using all younger musicians, while helping them develop their own voices. So many great musicians and drummers have come out of New Orleans, and that really defines my personal legacy; I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. But I’ve been playing drums since I was three years old; so, while the title New Direction may suggest new bottles, this is surely some well-aged wine.
“As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. On ‘Connection to Congo Square’ I quote the ‘Reveille’ in my intro. It reflects the melodic nature of how I tune my tom toms and is also a symbolic call to arms, for all the cats from the different neighborhoods to gather ‘round, and participate in this celebration, this collective dialog.”
Well-traveled listeners might hear echoes of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo in the Afro-Cuban celebrations of “The Crossbar” and “Connection To Congo Square.” The down and dirty groove of “Harlem Shuffle” suggests a connection to Benny Golson’s venerable “Killer Joe,” while the title tune (in the person of guest guitarist Mark Whitfield) evokes echoes of George Benson and those classic hard bop and grooving CTI sessions of yesteryear.
So when Riley and his band reference iconic elements of the jazz tradition, listeners might very well smile contentedly in recognition of audible gems with which they are conversant. Nevertheless, throughout New Direction, Riley and company also essay a very personal, original rhythmic signature on visceral, dancing arrangements such as “The Big Banana,” “Herlin’s Hurdle” and “Hiccup Smooth.” As Riley explains it, “in everything I play, there’s some reference from my own personal experience, and while it may not be explicit, it’s all underneath there somewhere.

Mitch’s Muse spotlight: Artist and filmmaker David Lynch on Artsy

David Lynch

David Lynch

If you’re a lover of art, feel free to view and browse the David Lynch page. As specified on his Artsy page, considered among the top living American filmmakers, David Lynch is revered for his singular, mind-bending vision of reality that both entrances and disturbs viewers. Among his best-known feature-length films are Eraserhead (1977); The Elephant Man (1980), a critical and commercial success that launched his career; and Blue Velvet (1986). His famed television series, the surrealistic murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–91), has been credited with redefining the possibilities of the medium. Lynch is also a painter, singer-songwriter, and avid practitioner of and advocate for transcendental meditation. His work is lush, dark, and often shot through with violence.

Describing his creative process, he once said: “I used to go to well-lit diners, because in a well-lit diner I could sit and think and daydream and I could go to dark places knowing that I could surface in a well-lit, safe place.”

Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. For more information, go to https://www.artsy.net.

Brandon Camphor & OneWay to release “His Name” on Dec. 4

Photo Provided. Brandon Camphor & OneWay

Photo Provided. Brandon Camphor & OneWay

Brandon Camphor & OneWay, has earned its third Billboard Top 30 Gospel AirPlay hit within two years with the new anthem “His Name.” The inspiring song of praise debuted at No. 30 two weeks ago and continues to build momentum at radio. “His Name,” a digital EP featuring a radio edit and a karaoke track, is available for pre-order on iTunes and will officially release to all major digital retailers on Dec. 4.

The group will perform “His Name “ live on the Word Network’s two-hour primetime cable television program “Rejoice in the Word” at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Dec. 4 (Check local television listings for channel). Fans can also watch the show online at www.thewordnetwork.org during the live broadcast.

A Washington, D.C., area native, Camphor formed OneWay in 2007 with singers Angela Jones, Julia McMillan, and Fred Cleveland. Their debut album “Regeneration” was released in 2009. With Pop-flavored shades of rock and funk, the inspiring songs of faith and worship included fan favorites “It’s Possible (Gotta Have Faith)” and “Bless the Lord.”

The group won Music World Gospel and the Gospel Music Channel’s “The Most Powerful Voices Competition” in 2011 and in 2012, Camphor launched the “Jesus Rock: Live It Loud” college tour that found OneWay touring with Tye Tribbett, Kierra Sheard and Group1Crew. Camphor has also been a soloist on the Grammy Award winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s “Love Lead the Way” and “Pray” albums. In 2014, OneWay hit the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart for the first time with the track “You Are God.” OneWay is now putting the finishing touches on its sophomore album “Hope Is Alive,” tentatively scheduled for a spring 2016 release.

Mitch’s Tuesday night music spotlight: Ken Navarro, “Juliet”

Contemporary smooth jazz guitarist Ken Navarro performs his No. 1 hit single “Juliet” from his 2015 album “Unbreakable Heart.” For more information about Ken, go to http://www.kennavarro.com/.

Jacob Garchik’s ‘Ye Olde’ explores prog rock and faux-medieval influences

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin)

(Photo by Peter Gannushkin) Trombonist/composer/arranger Jacob Garchik with Brooklyn avant guitarists Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook, and Jonathan Goldberger as well as drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.

From trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik comes a fantastical and sublime work of the imagination. Ye Olde is a super band of three of Brooklyn’s baddest guitar heroes, let loose in a fun house, playing ping pong with listeners’ ears: guitarists Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook and Jonathan Goldberger are joined by drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and Garchik on trombone.

Over the past 21 years in New York City, Garchik has created an eclectic career, working with Henry Threadgill, Laurie Anderson, Natalie Merchant, John Hollenbeck, and Lee Konitz; crafting over 50 arrangements as the “in-house”arranger for the Kronos Quartet; leading his award-winning jazz trio; creating his acclaimed solo project The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album; and co-leading Brooklyn’s first Mexican brass band, Banda de los Muertos.

Ye Olde, his fourth CD, draws from such varied influences as prog rock concept albums, Richard Strauss’s tone poems, and 90s game consoles. Garchik envisions Ye Olde as a “band” of heroes, traversing a Brooklyn that never was, taking part in surreal adventures amidst a landscape of ruined castles/apartment buildings. To help his quest he brings along Mary Halvorson (Anthony Braxton, Marc Ribot’s Sun Ship), Brandon Seabrook (Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host, Ben Allison), Jonathan Goldberger (Red Baraat, Bizingas), Vinnie Sperrazza (James Williams, Stew) and a pile of analog electronics.