Rob Reddy blurs the lines between improvisation and complex structure

reddySince his emergence onto the scene in 1989, composer/soprano saxophonist Rob Reddy has established himself as an adventurous and original leader in the contemporary jazz realm. Prolific, eclectic and versatile, Reddy is recognized by musicians, critics, and funding institutions. With his new recording Citizen Quintet, Reddy adds another powerful milestone to his reputation. Citizen Quintet is his eighth album where Reddy is again fully within his own territory and in the company of a superb group of musicians — trumpeter John Carlson, guitarist Brandon Ross, double bassist Dom Richards and drummer Pheeroan akLaff — all regular collaborators of his for more than 20 years.
With Citizen Quintet, Reddy has purposefully diminished the emphasis upon the compositional form on behalf of a looser and more open approach to the creative substance, allowing the musicians’ longtime familiarity to breathe more freely. As a result, Reddy says “this session had a real joy & ease to it.” Indeed, the sense of joyful turbulence and free-reined expressiveness that is so fundamental to the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler is vividly displayed throughout this album.
But this is no free improv or loose-knit blowing album by any means. There is a rich and complex structure and overall sense of purpose and shape always in full bloom. Reddy states in a recent news release, “Within the confines of five instrumental voices I attempted to break the ensemble down … solos, duos, trios, entire ensemble improvisations … I continue to explore the idea of juxtaposing the composed melodic material and the improvised music with one another.” They emerge from the compositional structures and sometimes the process is reversed — and often combined. Written and improvised lines are sometimes blurred, sometimes intersected and sometimes indistinguishable within the pure musicality and extraordinary musicianship of the members of the ensemble.

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.

 

New project by violinist Diane Monroe and vibraphonist Tony Miceli available on Aug. 19

miceliTwo of Philadelphia’s most revered jazz artists unite for an intimate, exploratory duo session on Alone Together, due out August 19. Violinist Diane Monroe and vibraphonist Tony Miceli have a decade relationship that is evident throughout their debut collaboration. The album’s thirteen tracks encompass the wide range of the pair’s mutual interests, from jazz to classical, standards to spirituals, originals to classics, and even an unexpected TV theme song.
“I’ve always been fascinated by how two instruments can play together and make a complete picture,” says Miceli in a news release. “A duo is very personal. It’s about as personal as you can get. It’s just the two of you, and every note one plays is going to effect the other.”
“It’s all about blending,” Monroe adds, “finding a sound that works individually as well as collectively.”
Both Monroe and Miceli have long histories of forging rich collaborations in Philadelphia and beyond. Monroe has bridged the jazz and classical traditions for most of her career. She studied at Oberlin Conservatory, Philadelphia Musical Academy, Michigan State University, and the Curtis Institute of Music. She toured for more than a decade with the Max Roach Double Quartet and the Uptown String Quartet and performed extensively as a member of the String Trio of New York, all ensembles which fused classical virtuosity with jazz improvisation. Over the course of her career she’s played with such renowned artists as Percy Heath, Steve Wilson, Dave Grusin, Joe Lovano, Reggie Workman, Wycliffe Gordon, and Uri Caine, and is currently a member of saxophonist/composer Bobby Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound big band.
Miceli has been a force on the Philly jazz scene since 1980 while touring the world and mentoring young players as an educator. In 1990 he co-founded the group Monkadelphia, dedicated to playing the music of Thelonious Monk. He is also a member of the PhilOrch Jazz Ensemble, a quartet featuring members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has worked with countless jazz luminaries as both a leader and a sideman, including David Liebman, Jimmy Bruno, Ken Peplowski, John Blake, John Swana, Joe Magnarelli, Steve Slagle, Larry McKenna, and many others.
During 2009, the two developed a sound together, and by 2010 began a series of live webcasts from Miceli’s basement. These virtual concerts not only placed the pressure of a live situation on the duo’s shoulders, but allowed them to gradually accrue a loyal fan base. “I always felt like we had an audience with the webcasts,” Monroe recalls. “I have a very active imagination, so as soon as I get on stage I get scared, no matter where it is. I play differently, hence that’s where the growth comes in.”
“Over that year, I learned so much about music,” Miceli continues. “We really stuck together through thick and thin and finally felt like we could cover all the bases of the music.”
The diverse material the duo selected for Alone Together reflects the breadth of their experiences. “We wanted to find interesting, different kinds of tunes that would cross over a little bit,” explains Miceli.

OKeh Records announces new signings as part of “The Sound of Next” campaign

okehFollowing its re-activation in January 2013 with releases that included projects by Bill Frisell, Bob James & David Sanborn, Michel Camilo and John Medeski, SONY Masterworks‘ OKeh Records is proud to announce their next wave of signings. The artists, who are part of the label’s “The Sound of Next” campaign are: saxophonist Craig Handy, Tunisian oudist/vocalist Dhafer Youssef, guitarist Nir Felder, drummer Jeff Ballard, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, African vocalist Somi, and trumpeter Theo Croker.

“Each label, and OKeh is no exception, needs a good balance of established artists and newcomers to reflect what is happening in the world of music today,” states Wulf Müller, who oversees A&R for OKeh Records and ideated the re-launch in a recent news release. “The second phase of the re-launch is to focus on great new artists with different backgrounds and different takes on what jazz can be, but they all have one thing in common – they are part of Global Expressions in Jazz.”

To showcase the label’s new talent in “The Sound of Next” campaign, OKeh will release a seven-track “The Sound of Next” sampler featuring one song from each of these artists.

“The first wave of OKeh presented well-known masters of the jazz arts: John Medeski, Bob James and David Sanborn, Michel Camilo, and Bill Frisell,” explains Chuck Mitchell, senior vice president at Sony Masterworks U.S. “Now comes ‘The Sound Of Next’ – fresh expressions by established voices: Craig Handy’s 2nd Line Smith and Jeff Ballard’s Trio. And new dimensions opened by new voices: Somi, James Brandon Lewis, Dhafer Youssef, Theo Croker, and Nir Felder. ‘The Sound Of Next’ is a divining rod, a no-risk device to discover great global expressions in jazz, a midst the daily noise. For OKeh, ‘The Sound of Next’ is also ‘The Sound of Now.'”

Lafiya Music artist Bobby Watson to release new album on in honor of 50th anniversary of March on Washington

watson_check_cashingSaxophonist-composer-producer-educator Bobby Watson is proud to release, Check Cashing Day, the second self-produced recording on Watson’s label, Lafiya Music. Coinciding with Watson’s 60th birthday, the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, the project is now available digitally and set for  release on Nov. 26, 2013.

As Watson reflects, Check Cashing Day serves as “a commentary on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go as a people, as a country, and as a global community.” Instead of focusing on the iconic “I Have A Dream” aspect of Dr. King’s speech, Watson chose to concentrate on another very significant part: the reason why over 300,000 people, black and white, gathered in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Dr. King spoke of coming to Washington to cash a 100-year-old check, a moral check that the founding fathers wrote into the Declaration of Independence, but to this day, the check keeps coming back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ “This, being the year of my 60th birthday, I sadly understand that Dr. King’s dream has not been fully realized and the struggle continues,” says Watson in a news release.

Introducing poet and spoken word artist Glenn North from Kansas City, Mo, Check Cashing Day is a concept recording with 15 tracks portrayed in the vein of musical theatre. “I asked Glenn to put some poetry, from his perspective, to several of my compositions, as well as one written by vocalist Pamela Baskin-Watson and two by bassist Curtis Lundy,” Watson says. “It was my desire with this project to produce poetry that would in some ways cleanse the soul,” North says. In addition, Watson’s release features trumpeter Hermon Mehari, pianist Richard Johnson, drummer Eric Kennedy, flutist Horace Washington, and trombonist Karita Carter.

With Watson’s commentary on the ongoing struggle of today’s racial inequalities spotlighted on compositions such as the title track “Check Cashing Day (For Ms. Trudy)” and “MLK on Jazz (Love Transforms),” he offers a recording that provokes positive conversation and continued movement towards Dr. King’s ‘dream,’ so that the ‘dream’ becomes a reality in today’s world. “The result is something more powerful and thought provoking than I could have imagined,” reflects Watson.

2013 promises to be a banner year for Watson, reuniting with his critically acclaimed Horizon quintet for their 30th anniversary as well as celebrating his own 60th birthday. Boasting a top-notch resume that ranges from his tenure as a member of Art Blakey’s JazzMessengers (eventually becoming musical director) to co-founding Horizon with drummer Victor Lewis as an acoustic quintet modeled after the Jazz Messengers, Watson plans to tour in 2014 with Horizon for their seminal anniversary. Watson will also tour with his “I Have a Dream” project in 2014 and is planning several release performances (to be announced).

 

Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet to headline North American tour through 2014

Big Sur Quintet. Photo by Monica Frisell

Big Sur Quintet. Photo by Monica Frisell

OKeh announces a 12-city North American tour for Bill Frisell‘s Big Sur Quintet (Nov. 6, 2013, through Jan. 23, 2014). The tour is in support of his new album, Big Sur, and will feature violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts and drummer Rudy Royston (who are all featured on the album as well).

The tour will include performances at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel, Calif.; Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz, Calif.; The Shedd in Eugene, Ore.; The Aladdin Theater in Portland, Ore.; The Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, Wash.; Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio; Clifton Center in Louisville, Ky.; SPACE in Evanston, Ill.; Wolftrap in Vienna, Va.; Le Poisson Rouge in New York City; Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, Minn., and SFJAZZ in San Francisco, Calif.
The project marks Frisell’s OKeh debut as well as the first album featuring the Big Sur Quintet (which combines his 858 Quartet and Beautiful Dreamers trio). Born of a Monterey Jazz Festival commission in 2012, Big Sur features an hour of original music, that explicitly references the coastal-mountain environment of Big Sur, California. The quintet recorded Big Sur at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California, with longtime Frisell collaborators Lee Townsend and Adam Muñoz producing and engineering, respectively.
The commission included a residency at Glen Deven Ranch, an 860-acre property bequeathed to the Big Sur Land Trust. Glen Deven’s beauty and quietude provided Frisell with both inspiration and something even more rare: time to be alone with his muse (for the first ten day stay in April 2012).
“It was extraordinary. You’re surrounded by forest, and there’s a trail that you can walk to the end of the bluff, where the land just drops off and you see the whole panorama of the Big Sur coast and the Pacific Ocean,” says Frisell in a news release. “That’s what I woke up to every morning. It was incredible.”

 

Mosaic Records release “The Complete Sun Ship Session” includes new music

Photo Credit: Chuck Stewart

Photo Credit: Chuck Stewart

According to a recent news release, Mosaic Records is set to release The Complete Sun Ship Session which includes newly discovered and previously unissued alternate takes from one of the final studio sessions by the John Coltrane Quartet. The three LP set will be released August 6 and was also made available on a two-disc set through Verve Records on April 16.

Sun Ship, recorded Aug. 26, 1965, captures one of the last sessions by the Classic John Coltrane Quartet (Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones). It comes at the culmination of a year in which Coltrane arguably reached his creative peak, a year rich in such masterworks. The Sun Ship album, though, was not issued until 1971, one of several Coltrane albums issued by Impulse Records after his death. And Sun Ship was, like many jazz albums, the product of editing between takes, a process overseen by John’s widow Alice.

John Coltrane‘s Sun Ship session was recorded at the RCA Recording studio on 24th Street by engineer Bob Simpson who also did superb work with Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and others. The original three-track masters with the tenor sax on one track, the piano and bass on another and the drums on the third track were recently discovered, enabling the complete session to be released for the first time. Kevin Reeves remixed the entire session from the original three-track masters with great sonic results, improving greatly on the original LP mix. Mosaic has remastered them and pressed them on 180-gram vinyl at the renowned Record Technology Inc. plant in Camarillo, Calif.

This limited edition set is available exclusively from Mosaic Records.

Pianist/composer Myra Melford releases first solo recording on October 22

Composer/pianist Myra Melford. Photo Credit: Michael Wilson

Composer/pianist Myra Melford. Photo Credit: Michael Wilson

Pianist, composer and Guggenheim fellow Myra Melford realizes two long-cherished dreams on her beautiful new release, Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12). The album is both Melford’s first solo piano recording and a tribute to her friend, the late California visual artist Don Reich. Each of the eleven tracks was directly inspired by one of Reich’s rich, colorful canvases, brought to vivid sonic life by Melford’s deeply spiritual and personal compositions.

In the artist’s work, Melford found a range of artistic expression equal to the diversity and vibrancy of her own broad palette of invention. “Don takes a wide range of approaches to painting, from very abstract to almost cartoonish,” she explains in a news release. “Seeing his paintings made me want to play the piano, and his very wide range from abstracts to landscapes to still lifes allowed me to cover a range of my own playing from dense, polytonal, high-energy work to very simple, beautiful melodies. I felt like there was room for all of that in the scope of his artwork.”

Reich, who passed away in 2010 after suggesting a number of artworks for Melford’s interpretation, was a longtime friend of the pianist’s family. It was that closeness that led Melford to choose his work as the basis for her long-awaited solo debut. “There’s something so immediate and personal about any kind of solo,” Melford says. “But particularly for me to play solo piano, I’m completely exposed, I’m not covered up by the orchestration or by other people playing. So that seemed to be the best way for me to communicate personally how I feel about Don’s artwork. There’s no one else to interpret it but me.”

Such personal connections were vital to Melford’s approach to writing this music. Reich’s paintings “Barcelona” and “Sagrada Familia” immediately summoned memories of Melford’s own visits to the Spanish city and its landmark Gaudí-designed church. “My experience in those places was overlaid against stories that Don had told me about being there,” Melford says. “So there were several levels of information that went into informing how the music came about for each piece.”

Most important, perhaps, was Melford’s friendship with the artist, whose personality is laced throughout her meditations on his work. “Don was a really quirky, unique individual and a very joyful person,” she recalls. “He took great pleasure in life and was a really keen observer. He was very sense-oriented, so that also informed my perception and my response to his paintings.”

Typically for Melford, who has drawn inspiration from a number of spiritual, musical and artistic traditions throughout her career, Life Carries Me This Way is a solo album that is still something of a collaborative effort. “Another way to describe that would be a sense of connectedness,” she suggests. “Nothing really exists in a vacuum, and of course all of these connections that are important to me are part of how I express myself as an artist.”

Raised in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, Melford grew up literally surrounded by art, and has since crafted a singular sound world that harmonizes the intricate and the expressive, the meditative and the assertive, the cerebral and the playful. She draws inspiration from a vast spectrum of traditions and disciplines, from the writings of Persian poet Rumi and the Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano to the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and the Huichol Indians of Mexico, to the music of mentors like Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Henry Threadgill.

Melford’s palette expands from the piano to the harmonium and electronic keyboards or to amplifying barely audible sounds in the piano’s interior. Her playing can build from the blissful and lyrical to the intense and angular. In 2013, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow and received both the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Performing Artist Award and a Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She was also the winner of the 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music and has been honored numerous times in DownBeat’s Critics Poll since 1991.

Pianist Marc Cary pays tribute to jazz icon Abbey Lincoln in solo piano recording

marcMarc Cary has gained a reputation as one of the most creative pianists of our time, a bandleader with musical interests that encompass jazz, go-go, hip-hop, electronic music, Indian classical music and more. But Cary is also an incisive and sought-after accompanist, a fact famously borne out by his 12-year tenure (beginning in 1994) with the great vocalist, songwriter and jazz icon Abbey Lincoln.

For the Love of Abbey (Motema Music), Cary’s first solo piano recording, is the most personal and heartfelt of tributes, shedding light on Lincoln’s remarkable body of work and honoring her extraordinary gift for melody and song craft.

“Abbey’s compositions are worthy of an instrumental approach because they’re so rich and lend themselves to be interpreted as instrumentals,” says Cary in a news release.

Cary’s tenure with Lincoln was longer than that of any other pianist. And Cary was following in the footsteps of the very best: Mal Waldron, Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly and Kenny Barron, among others.

“I try not to freak myself out by saying, ‘Wow, now I’m the one,'” Cary reflects. “It made me feel good but it didn’t influence me in any way, because Abbey wanted something new, something in the moment.”

Even when paring down to solo piano on For the Love of Abbey, Cary makes music of great orchestrational variety and depth. Still, he heeds the wisdom of Lincoln herself, who would often admonish him with the words: “It’s a simple song.” As Cary says, “With Abbey I had to play differently than I did. It changed my whole perspective. I learned how to deconstruct myself.”

Asked for the single most valuable lesson he got from Abbey Lincoln, Cary responds: “Learning how to shed things you don’t need, and claim what is yours.”

Vocalist Alex Pangman shares a little swing on “Have a Little Fun”

pangmanJustin Time Records is proud to release vocalist Alex Pangman‘s new album, Have a Little Fun (available tomorrow, June 11). The album features legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and is Pangman’s second release for the Canadian music label.
Have a Little Fun finds the young Toronto chanteuse on a baker’s dozen of swing era standards and originals penned in the same vintage style. Along with Pizzarelli, a seven-decade veteran who’s played with Les Paul, Benny Goodman, and Stephane Grappelli, Pangman is joined by her long-running band, The Alleycats.
Since her teens, Pangman has earned a devoted following in her native Canada, garnering three National Jazz Award nominations, twice as “Jazz Vocalist of the Year” and once for “Best Original Song,” and she has performed three showcases at the renowned Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
The carefree attitude expressed in the title has been earned in part through Pangman’s lifelong struggle with lung disease, which culminated in a successful double lung transplant in 2008. “I was born with lung disease so I’ve always had that perspective,” she says in a recent news release, “but it’s been freshly reinvigorated. Life is precious, and if you sit around with your gut in a twist, it’s really not worth it.”
Have a Little Fun came together quickly, when Pangman learned that Pizzarelli would be performing in her hometown of Toronto. Despite a half-century’s difference in their ages, the two quickly bonded over their shared love of 1930s song. “He’s in his eighties and I’m in my thirties,” Pangman says, “but we quickly became friends because we both love these melodies and these songs. That lineage is what binds us together.”
Pangman has been christened “Canada’s Sweetheart of Swing,” a title threatened when her cystic fibrosis began to compromise her ability to sing. A donor was fortuitously located, and she came back from her double lung transplant with her 2011 disc 33.
Since the surgery, Pangman says, Have a Little Fun has taken hold as “my mantra in life. You can have a million smackers and a fancy car, but if you’re not having any fun, what’s the point? You’re not here forever, so try to enjoy yourself.”