Composer/drummer Mike Reed releases new project with longtime quartet

reedA New Kind of Dance, the sixth album by Mike Reed’s long-running quartet People, Places & Things presents the same deft interactive rapport between alto saxophonist Greg Ward and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman; the same crisp rhythmic drive provided by the leader and bassist Jason Roebke; and the same indelible mixture of bluesy depth and measured freedom as its superb predecessors. While the quartet was originally conceived to pay homage to an overlooked era in the rich history of Chicago jazz — namely, the soulful hard bop created by the likes of John Jenkins, Wilbur Campbell, Wilbur Ware, John Neely, and Frank Strozier, among others, in the mid-to-late 50s — the combo has since developed an-ever expanding repertoire, whether examining the potency of the Amsterdam scene on the 2013 album Second Cities Vol. 1 or digging into the music of contemporary Chicago figures on its 2009 album About Us. A New Kind of Dance advances the boundaries of the quartet’s repertoire further than ever.

“I don’t think that the group’s original mission has much to do with this project, but I do think, at its core, the music is meant to be nimble and smart with the arrangements,” says Reed in a news release. “However, it’s never meant to be too smart or removed from the audience.”

Reed’s connections to the Amsterdam scene are rooted in family ties — his mother grew up there — but he’s since developed strong relationships to musicians there. He had befriended the South American expat Sean Bergin, who died in September of 2012, and the influence of his music is very clear A New Kind of Dance. Bergin wrote the hard shuffling “Reib Letsma” and his love of South African kwela has long infected the Dutch scene, as heard on Michael Moore’s ebullient “Kwela for Taylor.”

“There’s an influence of grooving improvised music, mostly made in Europe, but which seems to have an original influence from South Africa,” Reed says. “Many of those early recordings did have some participation by former members of [South African expats] the Blue Notes, which made me look a little closer at that, and then made me realize the correlation between the music of Sean Bergin, ICP and many of the Dutch and some of the English Improvisers. It also seems to parallel the highly conceptual improvising of members of the AACM, who also did not shrug off the more grove-heavy nature of their own musical roots. I guess maybes there’s a desire to remember that this band is enjoyed most on a visceral level and to give in to the area that music effects people viscerally, mostly seen in movement.”

 

‘Touchstone’ captures pianist/vocalist Ariel Pocock’s versatility

pocockAriel Pocock, 22, has received international acclaim as a captivating jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer. Recognized by notable institutions such as Downbeat, the Kobe-Seattle International Jazz Vocal Competition and the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center, where she won both the outstanding pianist award as well as the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Vocalist Award.
Touchstone (Justin Time Records), Pocock’s debut album features fresh takes on classic jazz standards, original compositions, and her own arrangements of singer-songwriter material. She worked with producer Matt Pierson to compile this interesting mix of songs.  The inclusion of some of her favorite jazz standards like “Devil May Care,” “Exactly Like You,” and “Ugly Beauty” as well as some of the singer-songwriter material are a glimpse into the music Pocock loves as a musician. Although the music is diverse by category, it is tied together with the distinctive playing and vocal style that Pocock exudes.
Pocock is not the only musician that shines on Touchstone. The featured musicians include saxophonist Seamus Blake, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland.  This all-star band also helped shape the reflective and meditative feel to the album as well. Although this particular group of musicians had never played together, the communication and musical dialogue on this album is apparent from its onset. With some of the arrangements being improvised in-studio with all the musicians contributing ideas and crafting parts, it is easy to tell that all the musicians believed in communicating Pocock’s love for the songs.
On teaming with such a great lineup of musicians Pocock states in a recent news release, “Working with Larry, Eric, Julian, and Seamus was incredible. They are truly some of my favorite musicians alive today. I’ve looked up to them all for years and it was quite surreal getting the opportunity to actually record with them. I arrived at the studio on the first day with some fairly serious nerves, but after meeting the band and showing them my ideas for the recording, I was totally at ease and so excited to get started.
Above all, I genuinely love every song on this album, and I hope that the listener can feel the joy that went into this album. I wanted this album to be an honest snapshot of the music I love and where I am as a musician right now. Touchstone feels organic and introspective to me and I hope that it comes across to the listener.”
A captivating performer, Pocock has headlined many notable venues and music festivals, including Ronnie Scott’s London Club, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Elkhart Jazz Festival, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Stanford Jazz Festival, Bellevue Jazz Festival, and in July 2015 had the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
A recent graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music where she studied under the Stamps Family scholarship, Pocock is based in North Carolina where she continues to compose and maintain an active performing schedule.

Mitch’s Travel: World’s first inland surf lagoon park opens in Wales

Surf Snowdonia in Wales is celebrating the Aug. 1 launch of its much anticipated, world’s first Wavegarden surfing lagoon. Located in the village of Dolgarrog within the Conwy Valley of North Wales, Surf Snowdonia uses revolutionary technology to deliver the longest manmade surfable waves on the planet. Created as a mass appeal concept for guests of all ages and skills, the innovative park is one of Wales’ many world-class adventure options, as 2016 is poised to be the country’s Year of Adventure.

Following an ambitious 13-month construction schedule, the $13.3 million facility’s surf lagoon produces consistent, perfectly formed barreling waves up to 6.5 feet high peeling for up to 492 feet. The waves are generated at the push of a button, using 100 percent rainwater from Snowdonia Mountain, at a rate of one wave per minute. Up to 52 surfers can use the 984 foot lagoon simultaneously. Want to learn how to hang ten? Surf Snowdonia’s Surf Academy offers two-hour lessons for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for ages five and up.

Other Surf Snowdonia draws include the TV-show-style obstacle course activity zone. Built on an area of water the size of two Olympic swimming pools, the Crash and Splash Lagoon is a watery assault course to push agility, balance and determination to the limits — with spectacular splashdowns expected. In addition, the activity lagoon features “The Blob.” Like a giant floating seesaw, one person sits on the huge (15 foot), partially inflated air bag in the water, before another jumps to it from a platform above catapulting their friend high into the air — and then the water.

Other on-site activities are in the works including bodyboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, surf kayaking, surf yoga, surf fitness and early morning swim sessions. Surf Snowdonia will also play host to events, competitions and surf demos, giving the public access to the world’s top surfers.

Jazz band trioKAIT presents electro-acoustic sound on debut project

trioKAITEagerly defying genre boundaries with a fresh, inventive electro-acoustic sound, trioKAIT is a piano trio for a random-access generation. On their self-titled debut, the funky and eclectic Los Angeles-based trio — pianist Kait Dunton, electric bassist Cooper Appelt, and drummer Jake Reed — shuffles wide-ranging influences and Dunton’s unconventional compositions into a refreshingly modern take on instrumental music that is as uncategorizable as it is infectious.

On their first recording together, trioKAIT shows off a cohesive group sound and an electrifying camaraderie that takes most bands years to develop. A former member of the extended clan of Brooklyn-based fusionistas Snarky Puppy, Dunton refers to trioKAIT as a “family band,” a spirit that shines through in their playful and spontaneous interactions. Knowing her bandmates as well as she does — Appelt was a classmate of the pianist in the renowned jazz program at the University of North Texas; Reed was a classmate at USC — Dunton composes music that takes full advantage of their individual strengths and collective identity to forge an utterly singular sound.

Though Dunton’s fingers never stray from the keyboard of her acoustic piano, there are echoes of electronic music throughout her writing for trioKAIT. EDM, classic R&B, various transmutations of electronica, and modern rock music all intermingle with jazz and classical influences on the album, reflective of Dunton’s out-of-the-box tastes and interests. Her compositional focus is on storytelling rather than soloing, the emotional rather than the cerebral.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Dunton was obsessed with the piano, she says, “from the time I was old enough to reach the keys.” But with no models for a career in music, she thought of her passion as a hobby until she was encouraged to pursue it further by teachers at the University of Virginia, where she was majoring in Spanish. They helped her to put together a last-minute tape to apply to the University of North Texas.

Immediately upon arriving in the Lone Star state, Dunton made two life-changing encounters. Among the first musicians she played with were Ross Pederson, now an in-demand drummer with a stunning variety of artists, and Michael League, founder of Snarky Puppy. “I’d never played with people like that,” Dunton says in a news release. “It completely blew my mind. I learned a lot really fast.”

In 2009, Dunton released her debut album, Real & Imagined, which featured Pederson on drums and Daniel Foose on bass. She returned home to earn her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where she studied under pianist Alan Pasqua and composer Vince Mendoza. While there, she recorded her second release, Mountain Suite, with heavy-hitters from the USC faculty, including Peter Erskine on drums, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, John Daversa on trumpet and Darek Oles on bass.

In Appelt and Reed, Dunton has found collaborators who are as open-eared and adventurous as she is. Both instrumentalists are active in a variety of scenes in L.A., playing big band jazz, rock, R&B, and funk music. As trioKAIT, they’ve made three tours of Germany and presented a preview of the new album at the USC Women’s Conference last March. The trio’s growing success is proving writer Don Heckman’s assessment of Dunton as “an extraordinary talent on the rise” as well as her recognition by Jazz.com as one of “10 Future Female Jazz Stars.”

 

Mitch’s Commercial Break: Fla-Ver dispensers and candies make great office treat options

 

flaver1Just what are Fla-Ver Dispensers and Fla-Ver Candies? They are artisan-designed candy dispensers filled with mouth-watering Fla-Ver candies and are like nothing else out there. Each Fla-Ver candy is a treat for your senses with a satisfying texture that is just the right amount of crunch, and delicious natural flavors that are sure to give your mouth a burst with only a few calories. Foodies rejoice — These are the candies your palette has been craving! The natural flavors paired with fun colors make Fla-Ver Candies an adults’ choice for a flavorful treat. Choose from yummy options like Mint, Lime Chipotle, or Cherry — just to name a few.

Fla-Ver Dispensers are the perfect addition to your stylish office or swanky restaurant where you want to offer a sweet treat, without sacrificing your sense of style with a bulky candy dispenser. Each Fla-Ver dispenser is artisan made, and features a slim and attractive design with a sustainable bamboo base. For more information on Fla-Ver Artisan Crafted Candies and Dispenser’s Kickstarter Campaign, view the following video.

New release reflects diverse jazz styles of Mack Avenue SuperBand

superbandUp tempo grooves meet listeners from Mack Avenue SuperBand’s “Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2014″ release. The project documents the third incarnation of the Mack Avenue SuperBand, an all-star ensemble of bandleaders from the superb roster of the Motor City jazz label. Once again, this powerhouse congregation joined forces under the leadership of bassist Rodney Whitaker to dazzle a hometown crowd in picturesque Hart Plaza, with the results captured for another knockout live recording.

Joining Whitaker as three-time veterans are his longtime rhythm section partner, drummer Carl Allen; pianist Aaron Diehl; and guitarist Evan Perri of Hot Club Of Detroit. Alto saxophonist Tia Fuller returns from the SuperBand’s debut outing after taking the second year off, while vibraphonist Warren Wolf and tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum make it two in a row after joining the band for the first time in 2013.

The SuperBand comprises a distinctive blend of generations and styles, which Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell says captures the diversity of the label itself.

“The SuperBand has always been and will always be a mix of veteran players and top younger talent, which really represents the Mack Avenue roster,” Stiwell says in a recent news release. “When you look at this particular line-up, there are a wide range of styles represented: from the Django-influenced guitar approach of Evan Perri to the soulful/gospel leanings of tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and when you consider the other players, you can find just about everything in between. And each of them are bringing performing and writing chops that are top shelf.”

The final – and perhaps most important – member of the ensemble is the enthusiastic Labor Day weekend crowd. “The Detroit Jazz Festival is one of the best live festivals on Earth to play,” Whitaker says. “That audience is pushing you to play and encouraging you. Then you’re on the bandstand with a lot of cats that really admire each other, so the combination of having a good time and an excited and lively audience makes for a great recording.”

Or, as Diehl adds succinctly, “Quite simply: Detroit knows jazz. They’ll let you know when you’re on the right track, and certainly when you’re not.”

Whitaker sees the gospel roots of most of Mack Avenue’s artists as the common thread that binds them together and allows a once-a-year gathering like the SuperBand to be so successful. Even guitarist Perri, who would seem to be an outlier with his gypsy jazz influences, is a Detroit native in whom the bassist recognizes the influences of Motown, funk, and soul. The SuperBand helps to lend a distinctive identity to a label whose artists spans multiple generations, styles, and hometowns.

“These days, not everyone who plays jazz necessarily lives in New York,” Whitaker points out. The Detroit Jazz Festival is the culminating place where we all get together every year and talk about music and career development – and form a mutual admiration society. It makes the label more of a family. The hang is part of the music, and the hang happens every Labor Day weekend.”

For Whitaker as music director, the hang begins several months earlier, as he reaches out to each musician to solicit their contributions to the year’s repertoire. Of the half-dozen tunes on this year’s release, all but one were written by members of the SuperBand. The exception is Herbie Hancock’s “Riot,” which kicks off the album in combustible fashion with fiery solos from Wolf, Perri, Diehl, Whitaker, and Allen.

Rising gospel singer Bri reflects on success of new release

Bri

Bri

Rising gospel star Bri has reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Gospel Digital Tracks Chart for the second time within a month. Last month, Bri’s debut single “I’ll Be The One” hit the top spot, and her second release “Holy Spirit” debuts at No. 7 this week. It also reached No. 16 on the Top Singles chart.

“It’s an invitation for the Holy Spirit to come into our presence,” the 20-year-old singer says in a recent news release. “I connected with the message the first time I heard it because we need the Holy Spirit to flood the atmosphere and give us spiritual guidance on how to deal with our daily ups and downs.”

The smooth “Holy Spirit” (Marquis Boone Enterprises) hails from a digital maxi-single of the same name that features an instrumental version of the song, a radio edit, a sing-a-long track and an a cappella rendition. It’s rounded out with a rousing cover of “Break Every Chain” and “Fill Me Up” songwriter Will Reagan’s popular track “Set A Fire.” The “Set A Fire” tune rose to No. 26 on the Gospel Digital Tracks Chart this week.

Things are really moving for the Louisiana native. She’s got a calendar of concerts coming up, she’s on her way to Washington, D.C., to tape an episode of BET’s “Bobby Jones Gospel” television program, and on Tuesday, July 28, she will perform on Daystar Television’s “Brian Carn Live” at 8:30 p.m. CST.

“She’s a force to be reckoned with,” says Bri’s manager Marquis Boone. “She’s young, beautiful and loves Jesus. She fills a huge age gap in the gospel music industry.” Fans can keep up with Bri and her activities at www.brination.org.

Nirvana’s self-titled collection debuts in August on vinyl and Blu-ray pure audio

NirvanaAccording to a recent news release, on Aug. 28, 2015, Nirvana’s self-titled, double platinum-selling (United States) / 7x platinum-selling (Worldwide) posthumous collection Nirvana (UMe) makes its debut on 45rpm double LP, pressed on 200-gram heavy weight vinyl and packaged in a furnace black gatefold sleeve with liner notes and a digital download card for 96kHz 24-bit HD audio; as well as a 33rpm single LP 150-gram standard weight vinyl edition which will feature a download card for 320kbps MP4 audio. Nirvana will also be released as a Blu-Ray Pure Audio in high resolution 96kHz 24-bit and is available in three stereo audio formats: PCM, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD stereo.

Originally released in 2002, Nirvana features the rare and previously unreleased studio version of “You Know You’re Right,” the last song the band ever recorded, available exclusively  on this compilation. Also among the 14 classics on Nirvana: 1991’s breakthrough “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and fellow Nevermind singles “Come As You Are,” and “In Bloom,” In Utero singles “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Pennyroyal Tea,” as well as deep cuts including “About a Girl” from first album Bleach, “Been a Son” from the Blew EP, the non-LP single “Sliver,” and live acoustic versions of “All Apologies” and David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” from the Grammy winning “MTV Unplugged” in New York.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, Nirvana is one of the most influential rock bands in history. Selling over 43 million albums worldwide and returning unaffected rock ’n’ roll integrity and passion to the top of the charts, Nirvana would prove a singular inspiration to fans and musicians alike over the last two decades — and will undoubtedly do so for generations to come.

Mitch’s Travel: Blue Harbor Resort entices travelers with summer rates

blueharbor
blueharbor1Travelers looking for a summer escape with minimal planning but maximum fun can take advantage of special last-minute summer rates offered on select dates at Blue Harbor Resort on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast. Located in scenic Sheboygan, Wis., less than an hour up the coast from Milwaukee, Blue Harbor Resort is the ideal Midwest “staycation” destination, offering the beauty and recreational activities of faraway beach vacations.  Known as the “Malibu of the Midwest” for its ocean-like waterfront, sailing, boating, paddle boarding and fresh water surfing, the resort is now a mecca of indoor surfing, also, with its recent premier of The Riptide Eastern — Wisconsin’s only indoor double surf simulator.

This exciting new attraction is located in the resort’s 54,000-square-foot entertainment area/waterpark and is great fun for all ages, with custom boards that allow guests to tackle it boogie-board style or by full-on, stand-up surfing. Now is a great time to visit Blue Harbor Resort, which was just awarded “Hospitality Star of the Year” out of the many outstanding hospitality organizations in Sheboygan County. The resort is currently offering special last-minute late summer Hot Dates and Rates.

Dates starting at just $169 per night for a Family Suite City View include July 19-23, July 29-30 and August 3-4. Other room types include Family Suites Lake View (starting at $199), Loft Family Suites City View (starting at $209) and Loft Suites Lake View (starting at only $229). The rates include waterpark and outdoor pool access, access to putting green and bocce ball, nightly bonfire. The Flowrider is included with your guest room or admission to the water park. Mention promo code: JULY.  Select dates after August 23 start at just $159 (no code required). Limited quantities available.

“Blue Harbor Resort offers an easy, last-minute getaway that will leave guests with epic summer memories,” said resort general manager and vice president David Sanderson in a recent news release.   To book special vacation and getaway deals at Blue Harbor Resort and to view the resort’s live beach cam, guests can go online to www.BlueHarborResort.com. With stunning Lake Michigan beachfront and water views, Blue Harbor features 244 suites and villas, more than 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 54,000 square-foot indoor waterpark entertainment area, a new and expanded full service spa, three restaurants, and recreation amenities including watersports and access to the Bull golf course. This Classic Lakeside Resort and Victorian style landmark is a favorite for leisure travelers and groups because of its proximity to Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and other gateway cities.

The resort is located in the Harbor Center District in Sheboygan, Wis., a city known as the “Malibu of the Midwest” for its scenic waterfront, sailing, boating, and fresh water surfing. It has also received many accolades including Best Places to Raise a Family by Bloomberg and other national news organizations. Out of the many outstanding hospitality organizations in the area, Blue Harbor was awarded the outstanding “Hospitality Star of the Year” in Sheboygan County.

Orrin Evan’s project “The Evolution of Oneself” comes in September

orrinevansPianist Orrin Evans takes stock of the pivotal moments that shape the trajectory of a life on The Evolution of Oneself, his new release on Smoke Sessions Records available on Sept. 11. The album is itself a landmark in Evans’ musical evolution, introducing a remarkable new piano trio with two longtime associates but first-time collaborators: bassist Christian McBride and drummer Karriem Riggins. The result is a raw and thrilling excursion incorporating a startlingly wide range of influences, from jazz and neo-soul to country and hip-hop.
As suggested by the title, The Evolution of Oneself explores deeply personal terrain, with Evans reflecting on the road he’s traveled to become the man and musician he is today. “This album is about personal evolution,” he explains in a news release. “For me, there have been different moments or people in my life that have made me evolve. You can call it change, but ultimately you’re still the same person from the day you came out of your mother’s womb. But you evolve, and that process is what this record is about.”
Through 25 albums as a leader and co-leader, including his neo-soul/acid jazz ensemble Luv Park and the bracing collective trio Tarbaby, Evans has always followed a vigorously individual path. The Evolution of Oneself is no exception, with Evans setting a pace that brings out fiery, gut-churning playing from both McBride and Riggins — two of modern jazz’s most renowned and distinctive voices in their own rights.
While The Evolution of Oneself takes the concept more literally than usual, an Orrin Evans recording session is always a family affair, with a party atmosphere and guests stopping by whether they end up contributing or not. “Being in the studio and doing what I do is no different than a cookout on a Saturday night,” Evans says, and that openness is reflected in the raucous verve of this album.