Tuesday, October 2, 2018
"FlashPoint" features Erin Bentlage (vocals), Edmar Colon (tenor/soprano saxophones & percussion), Josh Johnson (alto saxophone), Alex Hahn (soprano saxophone), Jon Hatamiya (trombone), Isaac Wilson (piano), Simon Moullier (vibraphone), Mats Sandahl (bass) and percussionists Oscar Cruz, Oscarin Cruz, Manolo Mairena alongside a string quartet comprised of Yu-Ting Wu, Niall Ferguson, Jonathan Tang and Lauren Baba. On FlashPoint, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance alumnus is excited to introduce and exhibit a new global aspect to the realm of jazz.
In contrast to his debut album "Chronicles," Fung takes credit for the composition, arrangement and production of all eight tracks on "Flashpoint." Having honed his craft under the tutelage of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chris Potter and Billy Childs, Fung now sets out on a new course to establish himself as more than a jazz drummer - he is excited to set the focus of this project to his new path as a composer, producer and bandleader.
Although "Flashpoint" serves as a showcase for the fresh perspective Fung takes with this music, the compositional process for each of these tracks pays homage to his former tutors. Recalling the writing approach of these mentors, the inspiration for each of Fung’s tunes has been derived from an array of various mediums.
"Flashpoint" showcases Fung’s desire for social unity and change. Acting as a humanitarian for the music, the LA-based Canadian native has consciously brought together an international ensemble including Swedish bassist Mats Sandahl, French vibraphonist Simon Moullier, and Puerto Rican tenor saxophonist Edmar Colon. While “A Call For Peace” was written for Colon, in remembrance of the terrifying times he endured in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria, “The Flash” draws attention to “Tambor Norte” - a well-known Panamanian rhythm.
Inspired by the Netflix series superhero known for his speedy run, Fung wrote this tune to incorporate the rhythm of Panamanian drums with a cinematic sound. “Forever” - a tune written about heartbreak and Fung’s favourite track of the album - is the bandleader’s first experience with lyric writing, while “St. Augustine and The Devil” highlights the drummer’s string writing. This track, featuring a lone string quartet, is inspired by a painting by Michael Pacher from the 1400’s.
MORE ABOUT ANTHONY FUNG
Drummer, composer, producer and bandleader Anthony Fung was born in Richmond Hill, Canada and has been playing the drums since the age of ten. Currently based in Los Angeles, CA, Anthony has established himself as one of the foremost up-and-coming drummers of his generation.
Anthony is an alumnus of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance (2018), where he earned a master of music (M.M.) degree while studying and performing with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chris Potter, Billy Childs, and many others. Previously, Anthony also earned both his bachelor of music (B.M.) and master of music (M.M.) degrees from the Berklee College of Music and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute under the tutelage of Danilo Pérez.
Having performed at festivals and other venues worldwide, Anthony has appeared at International Jazz Day (St. Petersburg, Russia and Havana, Cuba), Panama Jazz Festival, Panama Percussion Festival, Sitka Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He has performed alongside Danilo Pérez, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenón, Esperanza Spalding, George Garzone, Luciana Souza, David Binney, Dave Douglas, Jerry Bergonzi, Danny Rivera, Ruben Blades, and Ingrid Jensen, among others.
As a bandleader, Anthony released his debut album, "Chronicles" (2014) with the Anthony Fung Quintet, and now his second album, "Flashpoint" in fall 2018. Anthony also co-leads a Toronto-based band called “JabFung” with bassist Julian Anderson-Bowes. This project brings international artists to Toronto to perform alongside local musicians. Occurring on a semiannual basis, JabFung residencies have hosted international artists such as George Garzone (Boston), Simon Moullier (France) and Isaac Wilson (Los Angeles). Anthony proudly endorses Vic Firth Sticks, Canopus Drums, and Zildjian Cymbals.
Monday, October 1, 2018
Jennifer Lee: "My Shining Hour" (SBE Records) 2018
Rating: ***** (music performance & sonic quality)
Co-Produced & Arrangements by Peter Sprague & Jennifer Lee
Recorded by Peter Sprague @ Spragueland Studios (Encinitas, CA) and Gary Mankin @ Knob & Tube (San Francisco, CA)
Graphic Design: Jennifer Lee
Featuring: Jennifer Lee (vocals, piano, guitar), Carey Williams (vocals), Peter Sprague (guitar), Randy Brecker (flugelhorn), Adam Shulman (piano, Rhodes electric piano, organ), Murray Low (piano), Bob Magnusson, Gunnar Biggs and Buca 'Bootza' Necak (bass), Justin Grinell (electric bass), Duncan Moore (drums), John Santos (percussion), Rich Kuhns (accordion), Tripp Sprague (sax), Mads Tolling (violin) etc.
With her first two albums, Oakland-based vocalist Jennifer Lee established herself as a gifted interpreter of the American and Brazilian Songbooks, producing a critically hailed body of work. On her new CD, "My Shining Hour," Lee emerges as a composer who, in the nine years since her last release, has developed a striking repertoire exploring the human condition with humor, compassion, and imagination.
“I always wrote a little bit,” says Lee, “but I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter. Then a shift happened and all this music started channeling in. It’s like some crazy, overactive muse attached itself to me.”
Released on guitarist Peter Sprague’s SBE Records, "My Shining Hour" features Lee in the company of her band, the Ever-Expanding Universe, along with special guests including trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Bob Magnusson, Grammy Award-winning violinist Mads Tolling, and percussion maestro John Santos.
Sprague, known for his extensive work with Chick Corea, Charles McPherson, and Hubert Laws, produced the album, which was recorded at his studio in Encinitas. He also produced Lee’s first two discs—"Jaywalkin’" (2003), named “finest debut of the year, big label or small” by Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz, and "Quiet Joy" (2009), a mix of originals, standards, and Brazilian songs described as “a JOY from start to finish” by the late drummer and Grammy-nominated producer Bud Spangler.
“Peter is an extraordinary musician and a deeply soulful player,” Lee says. “Working with him over the years, watching how he’ll reharmonize or phrase a line, I’ve learned so much. It’s definitely influenced my writing.”
Lee wrote 11 of the 13 songs on "My Shining Hour"; all 13 were co-arranged by Lee and Sprague. The Harold Arlen-composed title track (and album opener), which contains an original vocalese written by Lee, is dedicated to her stepfather. “Song of Happy,” the other non-original on the album, is an ebullient Latin number by guitarist Abel Zarate, best known as a co-writer of the Malo hit “Suavecito.”
“Song of Happy” and “Perfect Rendezvous” are duets pairing Lee’s light and bright sound with the warm, resonant baritone of Carey Williams, Jennifer’s life partner and musical collaborator who played with Zarate in the 1970s rock/funk/fusion band The Force. “Carey and I had been performing ‘Song of Happy’ live since 2011, and I fell in love with the song. It’s just so fun and uplifting,” Lee says. “When I brought it to Peter, he created a super-dynamic arrangement for it, which inspired me to write that intricate tapestry of background vocals. The recording is a gift we get to give to Abel.”
Other album highlights are the soulful ballads “Speak Your Love” and “Home,” and the playful, gospel-like “Crammin’ Crepes with Cathi at the Cock-a-Doodle Café,” a tribute to the late jazz singer/songwriter and Jennifer’s close friend Cathi Walkup: “She was a very clever lyricist who encouraged my songwriting endeavors before I ever thought of myself as a songwriter.”
Born in 1964 in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco, and raised in nearby Menlo Park, Jennifer Lee ended up at Menlo-Atherton High School as a pianist to take advantage of the school’s respected jazz program. She continued her jazz piano studies at Foothill College, often accompanying vocalists, all the while nursing her secret desire to sing. She didn’t take the plunge until an early, unwanted glimpse at mortality radically changed her priorities in the late 1980s, when she dropped out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst to tend to her stricken father.
“My dad got really sick and I came back from school to take care of him,” Lee says. “He died the next year. He was only 51. That really brought things into focus for me. I realized that none of us knows how long we have here on planet earth, so I’d better do what I want to do now.” After her father’s passing, she returned to the Foothill College music department, but instead of backing other singers she took over the microphone herself.
Subsequently studying with esteemed Bay Area jazz singer Kitty Margolis, Lee gradually worked up the courage to start performing in public and honed her jazz technique on a succession of regular gigs around the Bay Area. She made her first appearance on CD in 2001 on "Quintessential," an album featuring three tracks each by five Bay Area singers, including Jenna Mammina and Cathi Walkup.
“It took me so long to come to singing—to finally admit to myself that this is really what I want to do,” says Lee. “Then it took another decade-plus for the songwriter in me to emerge. I’m the epitome of the late bloomer.”
Jennifer Lee brings her Ever-Expanding Universe band to Dizzy’s in San Diego, 8/11, and the Sound Room, Oakland, 9/23, for a pair of concerts showcasing "My Shining Hour."