Pianist Bill Carrothers joins trio Red Planet for masterful collaboration

Red Planet with Bill Carrothers, available in stores on April 14, features 10 tracks, dancing between the trio’s typically electrified romps and folk-tinged ballads, while Carrothers’ impressionistic piano weaves through the nooks and crannies of the music, spinning an elegant web of lyricism and texture. In some ways, it acts as a homecoming of sorts for Carrothers, a Twin Cities native who has long since left for New York before moving to the upper peninsula of Michigan and a busy touring schedule in Europe.

Album release shows are scheduled for the Dunsmore Room in Minneapolis on April 18 and 19, with a European tour planned for the fall of 2017. 

 

 

‘Duopoly’ chronicles pianist’s sessions with improvisers

davisCritically acclaimed pianist and composer Kris Davis has released her newest album, Duopoly, on Pyroclastic Records.  The album consists of 16 tracks with eight different highly regarded improvisers.  Each musician performs two pieces alongside Davis, one composed and the other completely improvised.  For Duopoly, Davis chose to work with musicians whom she had never worked with in a recording studio.  They are: guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, and reed players Tim Berne and Don Byron.

The CD comes with a DVD of live performances of each piece performed by Davis and collaborator.  Davis explains in a news release, “We also chose to make a visual record, which we hoped would be as live and uncompromising as the music.  Shot by Mimi Chakarova with one fixed camera and one handheld, the goal was for this film to have a kind of 1:1 or indexical relationship to the music itself.”

Davis continues her celebratory Duopoly tour tonight at Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington DC, with pianist, and album collaborator, Craig Taborn.  The tour will continue through mid-October.

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.”

 

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.”