Jazz trio to release self-titled ‘InterStatic’ on June 12

The genre-defying triumvirate of adept pianist, organist, and composer Roy Powell, guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Jarle Vespestad comes out blazing with a vengeance on InterStatic, their self-titled RareNoiseRecords debut and second release overall, following their ambitious 2011 outing, Anthem. Seamlessly combining elements of jazz, experimental, ambient and rock, the scintillating power trio stretches in typically intense fashion, extending the organ trio tradition established by Jimmy Smith and taken to realms beyond on such groundbreaking recordings as Tony Williams Lifetime’s Emergency! (with Larry Young and John McLaughlin) and John Abercrombie’s Timeless (with Jan Hammer and Jack DeJohnette).
“I love all the organ players who have redefined the instrument and kept it relevant to successive generations,” says Hammond B-3 maestro Powell, who contributes six compositions on InterStatic in a news release. “That includes modern day players like Larry Goldings and Sam Yahel. I´m also very influenced by the sound of pipe organ music such as that of Olivier Messiaen, which I find to be almost an out of body listening experience.” Powell also performed on two recent RareNoiseRecords releases, bassist Lorenzo Feliciati’s Frequent Flyer and Naked Truth’s Shizaru.
With the remarkably flexible drummer Jarle Vespestad (known for his work with Tord Gustavsen, Silje Nergaard, Supersilent, and Farmers Market) alternating between deliberate, big-as-a-house backbeats to surging swing grooves to dreamy rubato playing, and Nordic guitar star Jacob Young summing up myriad tones and textures on his heavily-effected axe, Powell underscores with velvety B-3 cushions while layering on affecting organ melodies and Moog synth solos throughout this evocative collection.
Says Powell, a British émigré living in Oslo, “The music on InterStatic is a change in direction from Anthem in the sense that we were feeling our way on the first one and now we have found it. On this new recording we deliberately wanted to reference (Norwegian guitarist) Terje Rypdal and a general early ECM influence together with more modern bands like Air, Washed Out and post-punk bands like The Durutti Column. In other words, a mix of influences both old and new.”
Adds Young, “InterStatic has a stronger sense of direction than our previous album Anthem had, it has more of an innovative touch than traditional. Much of this has to do with concrete discussions we had about the musical direction we wanted to explore when rehearsing. Essentially, we got bored with making another album that sounded like something we had either done before or heard before. We wanted to get more out and away from the typical jazz scene in Norway and needed a new calling card.”
Powell describes the group’s mission statement on InterStatic: “To create an instrumental organ-guitar-drums band reflecting modern preoccupations, reflecting contemporary musicians’ diverse influences regardless of genre boundaries.”

Bassist & composer Linda Oh releases sophomore album “Initial Here” in May

On her follow-up album, Initial Herebassist/composer Linda Oh draws deeply upon her rich cultural heritage and broad range of inspirations to further define her musical autobiography.

“This album tells a story about identity,” Oh said in a news release. “Cultural identity and musical identity. I wanted to go in a few different directions to explore some more extreme emotions.”

Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and raised in Western Australia, Oh arrived in New York five years ago with a love of jazz, early training in classical bassoon, and an adolescence spent playing electric bass in Aussie rock bands. All of that experience surfaces on Initial Here, from the in-the-tradition ballad playing on “Mr. M” to her buoyant electric basslines on “Deeper than Happy” and the mournful bassoon woven throughout “Thicker than Water.”

The quartet that Oh assembled to realize this eclectic blend of material in Initial Here are all equally adept at integrating diverse influences. Dayna Stephens is a graduate of both Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and is also a skilled bassist in his own right. Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan was a classmate of Oh’s at the Manhattan School of Music, where the two quickly formed a musical bond; Oh continues to perform in Almazan’s thrilling trio. And Rudy Royston has become the drummer of choice for artists as diverse as powerhouse saxophonist JD Allen, groundbreaking guitarist Bill Frisell, and forward-thinking bassist Ben Allison.

Family emerges as a major theme on Initial Here. A trip to Malaysia and China to visit long-unseen relatives made an enormous impact on the compositions for the album. It was Oh’s first trip to either country as an adult, and only her second time back in Malaysia since her family relocated to Australia when she was three years old. 

“It was an eye-opening trip,” she said. “It was nice to go as an adult and to hear the more personal stories that people never would talk about when you were a kid. And we visited Penang, Malaysia, where my great-grandfather was an artist and sculpted a temple. That was really inspiring to see.”

Initial Here will be released on May 22, 2012, on Greenleaf Music/eOne Distribution.

Bassist Pablo Aslan reflects on rebirth of jazz tango on “Piazzolla in Brooklyn”

Not only masterpieces spark new work. Piazzolla in Brooklyn, the new recording by Argentine-born, Brooklyn-based bassist, bandleader, and producer Pablo Aslan, was inspired by a dreadful album.Take Me Dancing, a 1959 jazz tango recording by New Tango master Astor Piazzolla, was dreadful. Piazzolla said so.
Recorded in Buenos Aires with a group of musically bilingual Argentine players, including Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla, the maestro’s grandson, on drums, Piazzolla in Brooklyn updates Takes Me Dancing into state-of-the-art jazz tango.
“I was attracted by the idea of recreating this … Piazzolla album, through the optic of jazz tango, something that I had spent many years developing for myself,” he says in a news release. “I felt there were many places where the music could be opened up and developed further. I began to imagine which aspects of the pieces could use a more extended formal treatment, which ideas just went by too fast and could stand further elaboration, and where the solo sections could occur. That was the Eureka moment, when I realized that the material in this record had a potential that just needed to be unleashed.”
Aslan has been working on jazz tango for the past 20 years. He grew up in Buenos Aires in the 1960s and 70s, but moved to the United States to study music. After graduating from the University of California Santa Cruz, and attending Cal Arts, and UCLA, he headed to New York City in 1990. By then he had rediscovered tango and had become “the tango guy.” He played traditional gigs, for dancers. For years, he was a regular feature in milongas (tango dance halls) around the United States and in concert performances with Raul Jaurena, Pablo Ziegler, and Yo Yo Ma’s Soul of the Tango. But he also started to probe the possibilities of jazz tango.
Early on he formed a trio with the late saxophonist Thomas Chapin and pianist Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus), “without really knowing what I was doing. I just formed this band,” he says. ” I put some charts together where everybody could solo and improvise. Interesting stuff would happen, but I couldn’t necessarily say that it was real tango, which is what I was trying to do.”
But the hard work paid off in recordings such as Avantango (2004), Buenos Aires Tango Standards (2007) and, most notably, Tango Grill (2009), an album that earned Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations.
For Aslan, Piazzolla in Brooklyn was a chance to finally address Piazzolla in his own terms. “He was a model and an inspiration for my work,” he says. “But I also systematically avoided his music. I always felt that it was too strong and defined, and that his own interpretations very rarely have been surpassed. In Piazzolla in Brooklyn, I found my own way into Piazzolla’s music, a place where I could create my own world and actually interact with him.”

Guitarist Rez Abbasi embraces Pakistani musical influences on new album “Suno Suno”

In guitarist Rez Abbasi‘s Suno Suno (“Listen Listen” in Urdu) the music has a heaven-and-earth quality. It’s built on melodies with an elusive, indefinable vocal quality, and solid grooves. It has an almost indescribable center and a hard edge. There is nothing standard about the songs or the soloing. 
Much of the inspiration for this music came from Pakistani Qawwali, a devotional Sufi music (popularized in the west by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) which, not unlike gospel, is meant to elevate the spirit and bring the listener and participants closer to a higher power. However, in Suno Suno there are no obvious references — not for most Western ears anyway. In fact, Abbasi reaches beyond a simple ‘translation into jazz’ for something more essential. 

“I’ve been listening to Qawwali most of my life,” says Abbasi in a news release, “and making a conscious effort to bring that element into my compositions, was a natural and powerful step. Something I was intent on notdoingwas imitating for example, Qawwali melodies. Rather, I wanted to utilize my history with the music as an intuitive tool for composing.”
He continues, “People are used to hearing overt influences in what is called a jazz hybrid, but I think the new paradigm that gets the best results is to write from the raw elements and feelings that lie just under the musical radar. This way the result remains organic and not simply a juxtaposition of genres.”
Performed by a group of singers, two harmoniums, and a percussionist, and paced by the clapping of the ensemble, Qawwali is an expression of praise whereby melodies are often repeated without variation in order to create a trance-like euphoria.
In Suno Suno, his eighth recording as a leader, Abbasi says in the album notes, “The challenge was to capture some of the power, passion and joy of Qawwali with an instrumental jazz group, without direct imitation.” His group, “Invocation” comprises Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone; Vijay Iyer, piano; Johannes Weidenmueller, bass, and Dan Weiss, drums. 

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Abbasi has lived in the United States since he was four. He began his studies at the University of Southern California and soon moved to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music. His influences in guitar evolved quickly from George Benson, to Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, and, most decisively, Jim Hall. Other notable influences were John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Bela Bartok and Claude Debussy.

Vince Mendoza presents all-star cast for new project “Nights on Earth”

After a remarkably productive decade which saw him writing stellar orchestral arrangements for recordings by such popular singers as Bjork, Melody Gardot, Sting and Joni Mitchell (he won two of his six Grammy Awards and 25 nominations for his contributions to her Both Sides Now in 2000 and Travelogue in 2003), Vince Mendoza has shifted focus back to his own compositions for the first time in 13 years. His most personal and compelling project to date, Nights on Earth is yet another crowning achievement in the career of the acclaimed composer-arranger-conductor.
On this eagerly-awaited follow-up to Epiphany (which he recorded in 1997 with the London Symphony Orchestra), Mendoza recruited an all-star cast of longtime collaborators like guitarists John Abercrombie, John Scofield and Nguyen Le, drummer Peter Erskine, percussionist Luis Conte, organist Larry Goldings, steel drummer Andy Narell, pianists Kenny Werner and Alan Pasqua, saxophonists Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano. He is also joined by such new friends as Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, Malian kora player and singer Tom Diakite, Argentinian bandoneon master Hector del Curto, Algerian drummer Karim Ziad, French saxophonist Stéphane Guillaume and young American jazz stars in bassist Christian McBride, drummer Greg Hutchinson and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, a winner of recent awards from the Jazz Journalists Association and DownBeat. Along with members of the Metropole Orkest, the Dutch ensemble that Mendoza has presided over as chief conductor for the past six years, they bring to life these evocative pieces that flow directly from the composer’s heart to his pen.
“I always thought that being a musician is about having a community of artists that inspires you,” says Mendoza in a recent news release, “and I think part of the process of the creation of this recording has to do with the people that I have met and learned from along the way. A lot of what this music has to do with is celebrating that community of the musicians from the many traditions that they represent.”

While names such as Abercrombie, Scofield, Lovano, Werner, Mintzer and Erskine represent the jazzier side of Mendoza’s community of artists (they appeared on his 1990 Blue Note album Start Here and his 1991 follow-up for the label, Instructions Inside), musicians like Souza, del Curto, Diakite and Ziad represent his adventurous explorations into world music (as on 1992’s Jazzpana and more recently on 2009’s Viento: The Garcia Lorca Project).

“I have an affinity with these musicians and their music, as they also have with my writing,” says Mendoza. “I wanted to incorporate them into my compositions, to frame their voice in an interesting way. And I thought they would have a connection to my writing style in their improvisations.”

Detroit Jazz Festival’s 32nd season on Labor Day weekend

Voted one of the top three jazz festivals in North America in national jazz publications this year, the 32nd annual Detroit Jazz Festival continues to demonstrate how much jazz shines as a symbol of freedom and democracy during Labor Day weekend.

Subtitled “We Bring You the World,” artists from Benin, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Japan and the Netherlands will convene in Detroit. Performers include: Toots Thielemans, Dave Holland, Luciana Souza, Gary Burton, Ivan Lins, Paquito D’Rivera, Angélique Kidjo, Kevin Eubanks, Vijay Iyer, Vinicius Cantuária, Joe Lovano, Mandrill, Chuck Jackson, Deacon Jones Blues Revue, Steve Wilson, U.S. Airforce Airmen of Note with Joe Locke, Anthony Wilson, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sammy Figueroa, Tony Monaco, Richie Goods, Rahsaan Patterson, Sean Jones, and Christian McBride with Ernie Andrews and the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, this year presented by MotorCity Casino Hotel.

While artists are visiting from across the globe, some of native Detroit jazz artists will be coming home. The Detroit-born Dianne Reeves, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, Curtis Fuller, Robert Hurst and Karriem Riggins will prove once again that, based on the talent that comes from southeast Michigan, there must be something in the water. The festival will also recognize Detroit’s big band tradition with a J.C. Heard tribute band led by Walt Szymanski, and the music of Detroit’s Jean Goldkette played by Josh Duffee & his Orchestra.

With the drum being the most universal instrument, 2011 artist-in-residence Jeff “Tain” Watts will beat the drum on the JPMorgan Chase Main Stage opening night. He will be joined by his newly created project “The Drum Club,” featuring percussionists Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Tony Allen, Pedro Martinez and, Susie Ibarra, along with vibraphonist Joe Locke and bassist Robert Hurst. The freedom theme will be further celebrated opening night with “Sing The Truth!” featuring Dianne Reeves, Angélique Kidjo and Lizz Wright performing the songs of the legendary Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta. The festival’s closing concert on the same stage aptly features another important drummer, Karriem Riggins, collaborating on a special jazz-based performance with hip hop artist Common. His ensemble will feature Robert Hurst, Perry Hughes, Mike Jellick, Roger Jones, Mic Holden and DJ dez.

For more information on the Detroit Jazz Festival, go to http://detroitjazzfest.com/.

Kurt Rosenwinkel partners with Portugal’s Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos for “Our Secret World” release

Bandleader, composer and improviser Kurt Rosenwinkel collaborates with Portugal’s Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos for his upcoming release, Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM: Our Secret World. The project is to be released on the Wommusic label on Sept. 7, 2010.
The Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM) is a Portugal-based big band with an impressive track record of collaborative projects, ranging from Portology with Lee Konitz and Ohad Talmor, over Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos Invites Chris Cheek, featuring the acclaimed American saxophonist, to performances with Maria Rita – the highly successful and critically acclaimed daughter of Elis Regina.
Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM: Our Secret World took place over a 6-day period in September 2009.
“We had three days of rehearsal which were totally intense – 12-hour rehearsals with almost no breaks,” Rosenwinkel said in a news release. “What made the whole project work was the attitude and enthusiasm of all the musicians. I really felt that everybody was supporting me, supporting the music, and really giving their best. It was a great challenge for them and they rose to the occasion. The spirit that was present during the whole thing was just beautiful.” 
Philadelphia native Rosenwinkel studied at Berklee in Boston and gained his first formative professional experiences in bands led by Gary Burton and Paul Motian. Following his early albums East Coast Love Affair and Intuit came four highly regarded discs on the Verve label: The Enemies of Energy, The Next Step, Heartcore and Deep Song. In particular, Heartcore, produced by rapper Q-Tip (formerly of A Tribe Called Quest), revealed Rosenwinkel’s openness to sonic exploration beyond jazz. He now lives in Berlin, Germany, and heads the guitar department as a tenured professor at the Jazz Institute of Berlin.

Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez to receive honorary degree from Berklee College of Music

According to a recent news release, multi-Grammy Award winning drummer and composer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, will be awarded with an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from Berklee College of Music on Thursday, July 15, 2010, in recognition of his extraordinary musicianship and many career achievements. The honorary degree will be presented on the main stage of the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, by Berklee’s vice president, Larry Monroe.
El Negro has been the power behind the most popular and influential Latin music of the past decade. Since leaving Cuba and arriving in New York, he’s driven the efforts of Grammy Award-winners 
Listen Here (Eddie Palmieri), Live at the Blue Note (Michel Camilo), Supernatural (Carlos Santana), No Es Lo Mismo (Alejandro Sanz), and Crisol (Roy Hargrove). El Negro has also recorded with Chucho Valdes, Paquito D’Rivera, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Robbie Ameen, among others. His performance Live at the Modern Drummer Festival 2000 (Hudson Music), with Allman Brothers’ percussionist Marc Quiñones and late saxophone great Michael Brecker, lives on explosive video footage.
 As a follow up to their last recording, 
Italuba II (Cacao Musica), El Negro’s band will be releasing Italuba III, a double album melding World Jazz with the legacy of Latin Music. The first disc will present Italuba celebrating the Afro-Cuban big band legacy, as the quartet performs both stateside with the Arturo O’Farrill Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and in Rome, Italy with the Parco Della Musica Jazz Orchestra, turning in big band arrangements of Italuba and Italuba II repertoire. The second disc will offer new material performed by the original Italuba quartet, with each track featuring a different percussion maestro of El Negro’s generation: Marc Quiñones, Luis Conte, Karl Perazzo, Luisito Quintero, Richie Flores, and Giovanni Hidalgo. The album, produced under his own record label, “El Negro and Reusing Records Inc.”, will hit the streets in late 2010.
 El Negro has appeared as the cover of over fourteen of the major percussion publications worldwide in countries that include the United States, Brazil, China, South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Japan, Italy, and more.

Amir Gwitzman performs at Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame’s Jazz Depot on Saturday, May 15, 2010

Israeli jazz musician Amir Gwirtzman will play a veritable “United Nations” of 20 wind instruments in a unique layering format that will amaze attendees at an 8 p.m. show on Saturday, May 15, 2010, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame (The Jazz Depot), 111 E. First Street (Upper Level), Tulsa, Oklahoma.  This is a special one-man show that you do not want to miss.  
This show is presented by the Schusterman Visiting Artist Program in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Tulsa. 
General admission is $10 and $5 for students  A few front-row table seats will be available for $20 each.  For more information, call (918) 281-8600 or 
click here for tickets.

Jazz Journalists Association announces musical lineup for awards

According to a news release, the musical lineup is confirmed for the 14th annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards gala to be held from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 14, 2010, at City Winery, 155 Varick St. at Vandam in New York City. 
Bobby Sanabria‘s Big Band, alto saxophonist Tia Fuller‘s Quartet, pianist Marc Cary‘s Focus Trio, Serbian guitarist Rale Micic‘s trio and solo pianist Ayako Shirasaki will perform at the JJA event, which features announcement of Awards winners, “A Team” and “Jazz Hero” honorees followed by a buffet reception. The general public may purchase tickets to either the awards ceremony and the reception ($150, doors open at 3:30 p.m.) or only the reception ($75, doors open at 5 p.m.). Tickets for the Awards, all nominations for JJA 2010 Jazz Awards, information about the JJA and its initiatives and updates about the Awards are available at www.JJAJazzAwards.org
The JJA Jazz Awards is the only broad-based international celebration of jazz excellence. It was begun in 1997 as a collaboration between the Jazz Journalists Association and Michael Dorf (then executive director of the Knitting Factory, now director of City Winery) and has been produced annually since 1999 independently by the JJA, a 501 (c) (3) professional organization dedicated to growing the jazz audience by using all available forms of media. 
JJA Jazz Awards are presented in more than 40 categories encompassing jazz music, presentation and documentation. The JJA’s “A Team” honors activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz whose work has had far-reaching implications, and the new “Jazz Heroes” category celebrates jazz people who have had significant effect on their immediate locales.