New York City proclaims April 25 as “Ella Fitzgerald Day”

Ella Fitzgerald

On the 65th floor at the iconic Rainbow Room, with an expansive view of the city where Ella Fitzgerald got her first big break and performed her last public concert, the singer’s 100th birthday was celebrated. Verve Label Group, in partnership with the Mayor’s office, hosted a proclamation ceremony today to honor this beloved musical icon on her 100th birthday by naming it “Ella Fitzgerald Day,” in New York City. Grammy winner Tony Bennett joined to acknowledge his dear friend and colleague and closed the ceremony with a rendition of “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”  Vocal students from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which Tony Bennett founded in his hometown of Astoria, Queens, opened the Rainbow Room event appropriately with “Blue Skies,” a favorite Ella recording.

Danny Bennett, CEO and president of Verve Label Group acknowledged Ella Fitzgerald’s unique relationship with New York City where she first received public acclaim by winning Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in 1934 and performing her last public concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Danny Bennett said in a news release, “A year ago, I was asked to take over at the helm of Verve which was founded by Ella’s longtime manager Norman Granz, who created Verve Records in 1955 to provide a nurturing and supportive home for Ella’s recording career but also to foster jazz artists and this great American-born musical genre. I am truly humbled to now be the keeper of the flame and contributing to shine a well-deserved light on artists of the magnitude of Ella Fitzgerald.”

Verve/UMe just released several re-issues of Ella’s most beloved recordings including a four-CD set of 100 Songs For A Centennial, and a six-LP vinyl reissue of Ella Sings The George & Ira Gerswhin Songbook.  Later in the year, Verve will release a new album featuring Fitzgerald’s classic vocal recordings accompanied by new orchestral arrangements by the London Symphony Orchestra. Order 100 Songs For A Centennial here: https://UMe.lnk.to/100SongsCent and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Books here: https://UMe.lnk.to/GershwinSB6LP.

Commissioner Julie Menin from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment presented the official proclamation to Richard Rosman and Fran Morris-Rosman of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, and reading from the Proclamation, said, “New York has a long and proud tradition of attracting talented performing artists from around the world, and a standout among them is Ella Fitzgerald, a legendary jazz vocalist who captivated audiences with her distinctive style and incredible talents. Ella has gone down in history as one of the greatest entertainers of all time, and her story and career have continued to inspire singers and performers across our city and far beyond. Together with the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, and her legions of fans around the world, I am proud to join in celebrating Ella’s 100th birthday. Now therefore, I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in the city of New York as:  Ella Fitzgerald Day.”  Tony Bennett presented the Foundation with a framed print of his portrait of Ella Fitzgerald, the original of which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, and was known as the “First Lady of Song.” She received 13 Grammy Awards, was a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of the Arts.

Guitarist Kevin Eubanks merges musical landscape of East and West coasts

Since his 18-year tenure as guitarist and music director of TV’s “The Tonight Show” band ended in 2010, Philadelphia-born guitarist, composer Kevin Eubanks has been on a creative roll. On East West Time Line, Eubanks explores the chemistry he maintains with musicians on both coasts. And once again, his distinctive fingerstyle approach to the instrument is in the service of tunes that run the stylist gamut from urgent swingers to introspective ballads to Latin-tinged numbers and some get-down Philly funk. The Mack Avenue Records project is set for release on April 7.
Joining Eubanks on this stellar outing are longtime collaborator and former Berklee College of Music schoolmate, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, who fuels the West Coast outfit alongside seasoned session bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Pierce. Smith’s East Coast counterpart on this bi-coastal session is the irrepressibly swinging Jeff “Tain” Watts, a force of nature on the kit who combines with bassist Dave Holland, Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans and New York trumpeter Nicholas Payton for a potent lineup. Together these great musicians bring out the best in Eubanks’ six-string prowess and ignite his searching instincts throughout the sessions in Los Angeles and New York.
“Of course, we all came up through New York,” says the Philly guitarist who broke in with Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers during the early ’80s in a recent news release. “But we also got the benefits of seeing the East Coast down and dirty and Hollywood down and dirty, too. We combined both vibes on this recording-the kind of Latin vibe of Los Angeles and the straight-up swinging vibe of New York.”
Overall, Eubanks seems exceedingly pleased with the copacetic nature of his first bi-coastal recording. “I think because I’m so familiar with all the musicians and we played together over the years in different settings, on different tours, that it helped the music quite a bit. There’s something that goes with friendship, knowing everybody’s journey to a large extent, that really enhances the communication between the players on a session. It’s that thing where everybody’s pulling for each other to do well and trying to make each other sound better, and you keep your ego out of it. We all have egos, we’re human beings and everything, but through the love of the music and wanting the best, good things happen. It’s really such a wonderful kind of democracy that you don’t see in other things. I think jazz music is the most perfect example of democracy in action.”

Vocalist Allan Harris releases new project “Black Bar Jukebox”

allanharrisThe Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation. Aptly described by the Miami Herald as an artist blessed with, “the warmth of Tony Bennett, the bite and rhythmic sense of Sinatra, and the sly elegance of Nat ‘King’ Cole.”
Evidence of Harris’ multifaceted talent can be heard on his 10 recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, to the 2012 London Olympics, and a number of prestigious bookings in Europe, The Middle East and Asia, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” – which he won three times – the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” and the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award.”
Harris’ new album, Black Bar Jukebox, produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Brian Bacchus (Norah Jones, Gregory Porter), is his most compelling and comprehensive recording to date.
“Believe me, what Brian brought to the table was wonderful,” Harris says in a news release, “not only because of his music, but also because of the vision, and the way he hears things. I’m enamored with the sound I got.” Inspired by the jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds that emanated from jukeboxes in African-American barbershops, clubs, bars, and restaurants, from the mid to late twentieth century, the album — which features Harris’ accomplished band of three years: drummer Jake Goldbas, bassist Leon Boykins, and pianist/keyboardist Pascal Le Boeuf; with special guests, percussionist Samuel Torres and guitarist Yotam Silberstein — also marks his moving and momentous return to his jazz-centered, Harlem roots, where he heard all those aforementioned styles, genres and grooves in the Golden Age of the seventies.
“Growing up, I heard the sound of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Nat King Cole,” Harris says, “I was always cognizant of jazz.”
In this soulful setting, Harris would meet many jazz and R&B stars who worked at the Apollo and came by the restaurant to eat and hang out. Another aunt, Theodosia Ingram, won the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night Competition and performed at a number of Manhattan clubs, including The Lenox Lounge under her stage name, “Phoebe.” It was through her, that Harris would meet and be mentored by a seminal jazz figure, Clarence Williams. “We used to go to his record store, and he’d come into our house on Lincoln Avenue,” explains Harris. “At the time I was a child … I just thought that was just a part of my life. And later, I understood the gravity of the depth of his history. Yes: Clarence Williams opened up a lot of doors for me, to really get me into this genre calledjazz.” It was Williams who brought Louis Armstrong to the Harris home, and babysat the future crooner, who was frightened by Satchmo’s gravelly, “frog like voice.”
Black Bar Jukebox, a diverse and dynamic disc, showcases Allan Harris at the zenith of his all-encompassing artistry. “I’m a storyteller through the genre of jazz,” concludes Harris.

Radio personality Liz Black partners with network for syndicated radio show

Liz Black

Liz Black

One of the New York City area’s most popular radio personalities Liz Black has gone nationwide with a new syndicated weekend radio program, “Inspirations with Liz Black.” The two-hour show airs Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern time on the Rejoice Musical Soulfood Network.

“Joining forces with Rejoice Radio Networks is another blessed avenue to be able to meet the needs of gospel music lovers,” says Black in a news release. She also hosts weekly radio shows on WBLS 107.5 FM and WLIB 1190 AM in The Big Apple.

“This opportunity will allow me to take my love for Jesus and gospel music to a wider audience,” she said.  “It’s time to take the New York City flava gospel style to the masses.  I love what I do and look forward to working closely with Rejoice and its affiliates.”

“Liz Black is one of the most talented air personalities in the business,” says Mike Chandler, president of Rejoice Radio Networks Musical Soulfood. “We are honored to have Liz join our team. She brings a level of excellence that will enhance our offerings to radio stations across the country.”

Rejoice is a network of radio stations that play a mixture of contemporary and traditional gospel songs.  It also features specialized programming from Dottie Peoples, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Pastor Jamal Bryant, Soulfunny and comedian Akintunde. Fans of gospel music can listen to the network globally on www.musicalsoulfood.com or via the mobile app.

Black began her radio career as an announcer on Tri-State Christian radio stations such as WWDJ, WMCA and WFDU in the late 1990s.  She moved to New York’s 24-hour gospel station WLIB in 2007 where, in addition to hosting her own show, she frequently sits-in for Bishop Hezekiah Walker’s daily “Afternoon Praise” radio program. In 2010 she joined the legendary R&B radio powerhouse WBLS where she hosts “Sunday Praise.” She still finds time to host “Midday Café” on k107 FM Jamz in Toronto, Canada. Black is also the founder of a monthly Gospel Variety Show/Open Mic program at various locations throughout the NY-NJ-CT Tri-State area.

Pianist/composer Luke Celenza bridges gap between jazz and pop with “Back & Forth”

celenzaPianist and composer Luke Celenza speaks about the music on his independently released debut album, Back & Forth, with a clarity and equanimity that defies his young age. He recently turned 21 years old, and it has already been almost 10 years since he was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Pre-College Jazz Division. Additionally, Grammy and two-time Latin Grammy winner Dominican pianist and composer, Michel Camilo was a friend of the family and a key influence in his development.

Such credentials might spark a young musician to intently compose complex music. However on Back & Forth, the 12 original compositions, including two three-song suite-like pieces, often sound deceptively simple — and for a good reason.

“When I write a song,” Celenza said in a news release, “I’m thinking about a groove, what sounds good and feels good — and I’m thinking about the form. I’m thinking about pop songs. I’m trying to be lyrical and melodic. And most of it is in 4/4 [time] whether that’s ‘River Rhodes’ which has more of a backbeat thing or ‘For Charles’ (Charles Flores, bassist), which is straight ahead.” Regardless of the conceptual notions or musical structures binding the music, Celenza’s interest is to connect his band with his audience. In turn, much of the music was written with the idea of having Joshua Crumbly on bass, Jimmy Macbride on drums and Lucas Pino on saxophones.

Meanwhile, family friend Michel Camilo remained close throughout, offering advice and passing on to Celenza his own experiences as an artist and professional musician. “Michel was my dad’s patient for 20 years. They knew each other even before me, since the early 80s,” he recalls. “My dad has been a fan of Michel forever, Michel and Sandra (Camilo’s wife) are great family friends, we would have dinner parties and he would play and I’d sit right next to him on the piano bench. That was my introduction to jazz.”

“It has been so inspiring and refreshing to see how a promising young talent like Luke thrives and succeeds by seriously committing to develop his improvisational and composing skills while studying and researching the jazz tradition,” Camilo says. So while he was never formally Celenza’s teacher, “over the years we had sessions where we discussed subjects like texture, nuance, touch, groove, timing, piano technique, correct posture, telling your story and structural compositional writing,” Camilo recalls. “Luke brings to the table a fresh sound and an uncommon restrained maturity in his music.”

For Celenza, the secret is hidden in plain sight. “Jazz was once the pop music of the day,” he says. “If the pop music of today is in no way improvisatory, then that’s the missing element and something I want to bring back. Good music is good music, I have no qualms about doing something simple and repeating it. If it sounds good and feels good, then it is good.”

Pianist Aaron Diehl to perform “The Music of John Lewis” via live webcast at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola

Aaron Diehl

According to a news release, Aaron Diehl will be performing two sets of “The Music of John Lewis”  via live webcast at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in support of upcoming Mack Avenue Records debut, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative. This performance is part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Birth of the Cool Festival. Joining him will be Warren Wolf, vibraphone; David Wong, bass; and Rodney Green, drums. Special guests are the MIJA String Quartet.

 Fans can view the Live Webcast Here or see the performance live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 10 Columbus Circle #5, in Manhattan, NY.

Trombonist Ryan Keberle to release third album “Music Is Emotion” in February

Thirteen years after arriving in New York City, trombonist/composer Ryan Keberle has performed with a jaw-dropping roster of legendary musicians across a vast array of styles. At 32, his resume is more eclectic and impressive than that of many musicians twice his age.

Keberle has performed with jazz greats including Maria Schneider and Wynton Marsalis as well as being an original member of up-and-comer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society; hip-hop and R&B superstars like Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Keys; Latin jazz leaders like Pedro Giraudo and Ivan Lins; contemporary disco band Escort; played in the house band at Saturday Night Live, on soundtracks of films by Woody Allen, and in the pit for the Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights; and most recently toured with indie rock ground-breaker Sufjan Stevens, ushering him into a new arena of fresh, emotionally charged music.

For a musician with such a stunning range of ability and experience, it can seem daunting to find a common thread running throughout the entire range of inspiration and influence. The shared influence that Keberle found as he studied all of the music he most responded to was the direct emotional connection with listeners stemming from a shared root in the blues. So he set out to forge just such a bond with his own music, assembling an incredible new group in the process.

On his third CD, Music Is Emotion (to be released by Alternate Side Records on Feb. 19, 2013), Keberle combines that wealth of influence and experience into a bold group sound with the debut of his pianoless quartet, Catharsis. The band comprises some of the most compelling up-and-coming voices in jazz – trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Eric Doob – for a vigorous set of melodic invention, heavy groove, and a subtle indie rock sensibility.

“When you boil down everything else that you love about music, it really comes down to the emotional connection that people make with it,” Keberle says in a news release. “Good popular music has this inherent emotional connection because of the history of the blues in our musical society. With all the social media and technology these days, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find that interaction on a personal level. So I’ve been trying to capture that more consciously in my own music.”

Born and raised by music educator parents in Spokane, Washington, Keberle started out playing classical violin and piano before adopting the trombone. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of renowned trombonist Steve Turre and became a member of Jazz at Juilliard’s first graduating class in 2003.

Keberle’s first two releases featured his Double Quartet, a malleable, brass-heavy octet that showcased his deft composing and arranging skills. Catharsis was formed in late 2010 after much experimenting with different line-ups. The four musicians gelled immediately and gave Keberle an opportunity to expand his compositional horizons.

“I’m very much piano-centric when it comes to arranging and composing,” he explains. “Catharsis pushed me out of that box and forced me to come at the music from more of a contrapuntal perspective. It’s really incredible how versatile these guys are; it was a meeting of the minds from the start.”

Free jazz saxophonist Ivo Perelman to release three albums in November

With the simultaneous release of three new albums, available Nov.  13, the relentlessly visionary saxophonist Ivo Perelman extends a remarkable period of artistic growth and “intense creative frenzy” that has consumed him since 2010. This whirlwind of activity has resulted in the release of 10 albums in less than three years, with another three already recorded and due in 2013-each impressively different from the rest, and each a prime example of spontaneous composition at its peak.

As with all of his documented music from the current decade, the new albums: Living Jelly, The Gift, and The Clairvoyant–involve collaborators who boast a long history and deep experience with the saxophonist’s utterly open-ended approach to improvised music. Perelman writes nothing down before entering the studio; once there, he avoids setting preconditions or even sharing an introductory theme for the performances that ensue. The music literally springs out of thin air, then pours down with the power and beauty of a rainforest thunderstorm.

“There are yet to be revealed layers of creativity in this man’s music,” writes Joe Morris in his liner notes to Living Jelly. “This recording displays a rhythmic layer that is quite strong and still personal-there are many manifestations of rhythm going on at once.”

Morris should know, since he’s right in the middle of it. Living Jelly revisits the personnel of the 2012 album Family Ties, but changes its instrumentation: Gerald Cleaver again plays drums, but Morris – who played bass on the earlier album – here plays guitar.

The difference is dramatic, as Morris himself explains in a news release, “The format without bass is one of my favorites. This platform leaves a space that never really gets filled; the placement of musical ideas around it defines its existence, like a vapor might outline a phantom. This setting, with these musicians, gives me the chance to play many roles at once. The grooves add an opportunity for me to use the sort of articulation that I worked to develop on guitar for decades.”

For his part, Perelman has an equally high regard for Morris’s work on guitar, having played the instrument himself before moving to the saxophone. “Joe has an uncanny ability to be an accompanist while making statements so logical and self-sufficient, I wouldn’t even have to be there,” he says. “This happens with other instruments, but not often with the guitar: the way it is constructed, if you look at the neck, it is very visual, very geometric; it lends itself to repetition and playing patterns. But Joe is very different. He’s not playing the guitar; he’s playing music on the guitar. If he played a trombone, it would be the same.”

Morris and drummer Cleaver both belong to Perelman’s current quartet. The remaining member of that band, pianist Matthew Shipp, figures prominently on the saxist’s other new albums, which follow a methodology he has used on several previous projects.

Over the last year or so, Perelman has investigated the inner dynamics of his quartet by exploding it into new configurations, forming trios that omit one of the rhythm-section player, for instance: sax-piano-drums or sax-bass-piano. On The Clairvoyant and The Gift, Perelman applies this technique to Shipp’s own trio, which comprises bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey. “We recorded these albums close to each other in time,” Perelman says, “and the difference is interesting. The trio with drums is a more visceral, rhythm-oriented ensemble; when you remove the drums and replace with the bass, it’s more of a trio de camera (chamber trio).”

Of the bassless trio heard on The Clairvoyant, Shipp writes in his liner notes: “This is my personal favorite equation to deal with Mr. Perelman in. Performing without a bass forces us to dig deep for coherence, thus developing ensemble shape-I love playing in quartet settings with Ivo, but playing without bass absolutely does not allow the music to ever fall into any prescribed roles of sax with a rhythm section.”

“Clairvoyance” may indeed explain what takes place between Perelman and Shipp, after a professional relationship spanning nearly two decades. “Ivo can latch onto a fragment of something I do, melodically or rhythmically, and a couple of decisions seem to be intuitively made by us very early and very quickly when improvising,” Shipp writes. “Whit, Ivo, and myself have an implicit trust to give ourselves over to the collective unconscious, the three of us knowing that the music will naturally shape itself.”

Describing his long history with Perelman, Shipp adds: “The music we make together is like taking a journey through an enchanted forest – there will be some pretty wild vegetation, and along the way, some never-before-seen trees saturating the air with fresh fragrance, not to mention some hybrid species that are new to the listeners. But they’ll become one with the music and chart their own course through this wild organic forest.”

The Gift, as Perelman says, has a quieter but no less compelling focus, as the saxist and pianist circle the rhythms implied by the bass (which, with the absence of drums, loom large despite remaining understated). The title reflects a counter-intuitive realization that speaks to the artist’s need for solitude before sharing his creativity with society. “The most precious thing to give is one’s loneliness,” Perelman explains. “I’ve lived two-thirds of my life in a self-imposed exile in a foreign country, the U.S., and I’ve learned how to deal with cultural isolation, and to make something meaningful and creative out of that.

“I feel my music mirrors that experience. My recordings are my loneliness; I spend countless hours alone, practicing and studying music. The music is my gift. But it comes from my loneliness.”

Lately, Perelman’s study has included a deeply focused immersion in music from the 16th and 17th centuries, and specifically, music written for the natural trumpet-the instrument used before the invention of valves. The natural trumpet required players to create all the notes just from varying the air pressure applied to the horn; the valves on a modern instrument reduce this effort considerably. “Someone once said that trumpet players should never start with valves,” Perelman points out. “When they start with a valved instrument, they think that the notes come from the valves. When you learn on natural horns, playing with ‘buttons’ is a walk in the park.”

Perelman has begun to apply the techniques of natural-trumpet playing to the saxophone, in order to gain even more command of the squeaky-high altissimo range-this despite his already unsurpassed mastery of the highest register. He has gone so far as to commission the construction of saxophones without any keys at all, training himself to play full scales using air pressure alone-something unheard of in the history of reed-instrument praxis.

Perelman began this line of research in the course of preparing the current crop of new albums; while the preliminary results peek through here, he doesn’t expect the impact to be fully evident for another year or two. “I always like challenges, and now I have the greatest one in my life,” he exults. “It’s a fundamental change in attitude.”

Born in 1961 in São Paulo, Brazil, Perelman excelled at classical guitar before finally gravitating to the tenor saxophone. In 1981 he entered Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he focused on the mainstream masters of the tenor sax to the exclusion of such pioneering avant-gardists as Albert Ayler, Peter Brötzmann, and John Coltrane-all of whom would later be cited as precedents for Perelman’s own work. He left Berklee in 1983 and moved to Los Angeles, where he soon discovered his penchant for post-structure improvisation. “I would go berserk, just playing my own thing,” he explains now. Emboldened by this approach, he began to research the free-jazz saxists who had come before him, and in the early 90s he moved to the more inviting artistic milieu of New York, where he lives to this day.