Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Entries for the Global Jazz Contest 2019!

Let your talent be heard around the world!!!
What are you waiting for?

Prizes and Awards - 2019 Edition
Amateurs & Pros’ Category
Jury Prize to the best musician (soloist or band):
€ 2,000 + live concert in one of the top jazz clubs
in Europe: Jazz Club Ferrara (IT).

Under 25 Students’ Category
Jury Prize to the best under 25 Student:
€ 700 + contract proposal offered by JazzMedia & More (DE)
for one year which includes: booking, media work, promotion

Honorable mention offered by Taklit Publishing &
Production (FR) to one or more talented young students.

All musicians
Web Community Prize to the most voted musician by
the Web Community: € 500 + direct access to the final

Don't delay, the deadline is just days away!
Good luck!!!

Vivian Sessoms named a finalist in the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

A brillian singer, Vivian Sessoms has been selected as a finalist in this years' Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Vivian is also nominated for two 2019 SoulTracks Readers' Choice Awards, which is the biggest awards in the world dedicated to independent soul music. She's in the running for Song of the Year for "People" and up for Female Vocalist of the year. 

The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards in a nod to Vaughan’s nickname, will host a performance of Vivian and the four other finalists on Sunday, November 24 at 3pm in NJPAC‘s Victoria Theater. “I was thrilled to find out I had been chosen as one of the finalists in this prestigious competition. I am honored to be in the company of these incredibly talented performers and look forward to the new chapter this opportunity will bring,” said Sessoms. 

The 2019 finalists of this international competition are Vivian Sessoms (Jersey City, New Jersey), Viktorija Gečytė (Paris, France), Samara McLendon (Bronx, New York), Daniela Spalletta (Mazzarino, Italy), and Christine Fawson (New Mexico). The five finalists will perform before a panel of judges on the final day of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival (November 9-24) at NJPAC. The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize plus a performance slot at the 2020 Newport Jazz Festival.

Born and raised in Harlem, Vivian Sessoms is now a resident of Sarah Vaughan’s birthplace: New Jersey.  This exciting announcement comes during a banner year for the acclaimed vocalist. In the past twelve months, Vivian has released two critically acclaimed releases on Ropeadope records: "Life" (November 2018) and its companion "Life II" (May 2019). The pair of albums has received praise from Downbeat Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, Echoes Magazine, All About Jazz, Jazziz and Glide Magazine, among others. 

Her outstanding video for single “I Can’t Breathe” debuted in February on and her music has been featured by Soulbounce, SoulTracks, and Nextbop. Her placement thus far in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition is a welcome addition to the singer’s upward trajectory. 

The competition has become a platform for a single outstanding jazz singer to gain widespread recognition in the music industry. Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn (winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition), Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, and last year’s winner, Laurin Talese, who performed at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival as part of her triumphant win in last year’s competition.

The panel of judges include multi-Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, Grammy- and Tony Award-winning jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocalist Jane Monheit, WBGO weekend host Monifa Brown, and award-winning producer Matt Pierson. The competition is hosted by WBGO’s morning show host, Gary Walker.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

T.K. Blue honors Randy Weston with "The Rhythms Continue," out next week

Saxophonist T.K. Blue will pay tribute to the memory of NEA Jazz Master Dr. Randy Weston, with the release of his new album "The Rhythms Continue," on November 1st.

Comprising of compositions by T.K. Blue, Melba Liston and Randy Weston, "The Rhythms Continue" features an ensemble of ten musicians: T.K. - who performs on alto and soprano saxophone, flute, kalimba, sanza, lukembi and mbira - is joined by bassist Alex Blake, percussionist Neil Clarke, drummer Vince Ector, saxophonist Billy Harper, alongside Min Xiao Fen on the chinese pipa. Weston’s vacant piano bench is filled by four young pianists who each bring a uniquely original feel to this dedication: Sharp Radway, Mike King, Keith Brown and Kelly Green.

Having contributed to the work of Randy Weston as his musical director and arranger, T.K. is honored to pay homage to the late master and mentor - you can read more about The Rhythms Continue in the press release included below.

The album release show is on October 31st at Minton's in Harlem, New York City. He will also be performing at Headroom in Jersey City, NJ on 11/9, at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA on 11/18 at Mr. Henry's in Washington D.C. on 11/22, and at Chris' Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia on 12/6.
T.K. Blue Honors Randy Weston with The Rhythms Continue out November 1st on JAJA Records

Composer, educator, bandleader and consummate saxophonist T.K. Blue is proud to announce his upcoming release, The Rhythms Continue.  This new suite, which will be released on November 1st on JAJA Records, is dedicated to the memory of T.K’s long-time band-leader and mentor NEA Jazz Master Dr. Randy Weston who passed away in September of 2018. 

Made up of compositions by T.K. Blue, Melba Liston and Randy Weston, The Rhythms Continue features an ensemble of ten musicians who are well-versed in the African Rhythms, jazz sensibility and passionate intensity that is hallmark to the compositions of master Randy Weston.  Aside from arranging each of these compositions, band leader T.K Blue performs alto and soprano saxophone, flute, kalimba, sanza, lukembi and mbira on these recordings.  The rhythm section is made up of the exceptional Alex Blake on bass and master percussionist Neil Clarke (together with Weston, these two made up Randy Weston’s Trio) with in-demand recording artist Vince Ector on drums.  Billy Harper appears on tenor saxophone and Min Xiao Fen performs the chinese pipa, a  traditional lute-like instrument. 

Weston’s vacant piano bench was filled, on this recording, by four young pianists who each bring a uniquely original feel to this dedication to the great piano legend: Sharp Radway, Mike King, Keith Brown and Kelly Green.  The ensemble will celebrate the release of The Rhythms Continue with a performance at Minton’s Playhouse, produced by Jazzmobile Inc, on October 31st.  Sets will be at 7:30 and 9:30, and the performance is free and open to the public.

Dr. Randy Weston was an artist that can be described by several names: NEA jazz master, America’s African Music Ambassador, and Baba. Baba, an African honorific meaning “father” seems the most appropriate title for Mr. Weston to have, as Randy Weston’s music certainly fathered a spiritual awakening within the jazz idiom that traced the art-form back to its African roots, inspiring many African-Americans to assert their heritage amidst a climate of racial and social unrest. 

T.K. Blue performed in Weston’s African Rhythms band for thirty-eight years, for most of which he was musical director. T.K. says “Words cannot adequately express my admiration, love, and respect for such an incredible human being, who exuded generosity and altruism beyond measure. He enriched my life and enhanced my awareness of the magnificent legacy of the African aesthetic via its music and culture.  The Rhythms Continue is my humble offering to say thank you for being a mentor, elder, and teacher by sharing your infinite wisdom, and giving all of us pride in knowing who we are and valuing the brilliant cultural legacy of Africa that sustains and nourishes our existence.”

The first track on the album, “Kasbah 330A”, starts the album off at a bright-tempoed swing.  This blues was dedicated to Randy’s home on Lafayette Ave in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  To the artist, this apartment was like a shrine “complete with a vast library of books on Africa, the African diaspora, and African-American history, culture, and music.” 

Track three on the album, entitled “Going to the East” is dedicated to the very first time that the composer heard Randy perform, T.K. recalls being “overwhelmed by his musicianship, his mastery of pianistic improvisational forays, his compositions, and most of all his intense musical symmetry with his son.  They both knew exactly where the other was heading musically, and they complimented each other in such a profound and spiritual way.” This piece seems to embody some of that musical symmetry with the intensely rhythmic and yet synchronized comping of the stunning rhythm section creating the perfect underlying structure for the soloists to improvise over.

Track six, "Insomnia", was penned by Melba Liston, Weston’s long-time arranger.  According to T.K. “It’s difficult to speak about Dr. Weston without acknowledging the trailblazing Melba Liston, his chief arranger. They shared a profound relationship similar to that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.”  Liston, who passed away in 1999 was the first woman trombonist to play in jazz big bands from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

The final piece to the suite is titled “World 3: The Last Goodbye.” The delicate melody and instrumentation of this composition reflect the tender last moments that composer T.K Blue spent with his dear friend and mentor Randy Weston.  Regarding Weston’s life, T.K said “I will always cherish the love, warmth, generosity, and musical experiences we shared. The dignity and pride he exhibited will be my guiding light. Baba Randy lives on in myself, and many others. The world is a better place because of his life and legacy.”
More about T.K. Blue:

T.K. Blue (Saxophonist/Flautist): composer, educator, bandleader and former musical director and arranger for NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston. T.K. Blue appears on over eighty recordings and has performed with such artists as Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp, Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Melba Liston, Chico Hamilton, Stefon Harris, Regina Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jimmy Scott, Jayne Cortez, Benny Powell, Mal Waldron, Winard Harper, Warren Wolf, Gregoire Maret, Allan Harris, Candido Camera, Bobby Sanabria, Steve Turre, Arturo O’Farrill, David Murray and Hale Smith to name just a few.

In May 2017, T.K. released Amour, his 11th CD, cited as one of the best jazz recordings of the year by DownBeat Magazine (four stars). Deeply indebted to organizations such as Jazzmobile, Jazz-interactions, Henry Street Settlement, and the Muse for his own jazz studies, T.K. has remained committed to music education from pre-K to the university level. In addition Professor Blue has a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from NYU, with a major in Music and Psychology, and a Master’s in Music Education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.  He has taught at Suffolk Community College, Montclair State University, and Long Island University where he was also the Director of Jazz Studies from 2007 to 2014. In 2007, T.K was commissioned by NYSCA and Transart Inc. to compose a work dedicated to the early African American presence in the Hudson Valley area of upstate New York. He released Follow the North Star, a suite based on the life of Solomon Northup and his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave.

Having lived close to ten years in Paris, T.K. Blue was hired by the USIA and his band embarked on three State Department Tours of Africa. He currently resides in Jersey City, New Jersey and continues to perform, teach privately, and engage in clinics and adjudication.

Lastly, from September to December in 2018, T.K. Blue was a principal feature on alto saxophone for a N.Y. Lottery Television Commercial in heavy rotation throughout the tri-state area. The commercial was filmed at the Jazz Standard in NYC.

Roberta Piket showcases the composing talents of Billy Mintz on "Domestic Harmony"

Pianist Roberta Piket showcases the composing talents of husband & collaborator Billy Mintz on
"Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz," set for December 6 release

Appearing at Mezzrow in NYC, on January 16, playing Billy Mintz's tunes with several duos, including Virginia Mayhew, Mike Fahn, & Mintz himself

Roberta Piket Domestic HarmonyPianist Roberta Piket presents a truly intimate musical offering with the December 6 release of Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz on her own Thirteenth Note Records. A solo piano performance (her third, following 2012's Solo and 2015's Solo Volume 2), the album assays ten intriguing compositions by Billy Mintz, the highly regarded drummer who regularly collaborates with Piket -- and who is also her husband.

The intimacy on display throughout Domestic Harmony is authentic: it was intended for an audience of one. Piket originally conceived the album a few years ago as a birthday surprise for Mintz. (She allows that it was "a milestone year" for the intensely private Mintz but declines to say which.) She arranged to record it while he was on tour, completed the editing later, and successfully surprised and delighted him when the big day came.

"It was just something I was doing for Billy, and not for anybody else," says Piket. "It was only later that I started to think about putting it out."

It's a beautiful glimpse of art at its most direct. Every nuance of Piket's lustrous touch, chord voicings, and improvisational energy -- and, on "Destiny," her tender, haunting vocal -- radiates with warmth and fondness for its recipient.

Of course, the recipient in question also played no small part in the creation of this music. "[Billy] has a very personal voice," says Piket. "He has a natural talent for looking at the big picture and going beyond just his instrument.... He writes in a very simple, direct way that's incredibly appealing." He has been honored before by musicians performing his compositions, including saxophonist Adam Kolker, pianist Russ Lossing, and Piket herself, who has previously recorded a few of the tunes on Domestic Harmony.
The context, however, transforms Piket's interpretations of them into something more personal and frank. If "Destiny," with Piket's vocal, is pointed in its expression, her thoughtful piano playing on "Ghost Sanctuary," "Flight," and "Your Touch" is no less so without it. As well, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect balance of affection with the inherent playfulness in "Shmear" and "Cannonball," both of which (uncoincidentally) feature some of the pianist's most assured and inventive improvisational work. Her unique birthday gift for her husband is now their shared gift to the world.

Roberta Piket was born in New York City on August 9, 1965 to a father who was a classical composer father and a mother who was a traditional pop singer. Needless to say, it was a musical household, made more so when at 14 young Roberta stumbled across a secondhand copy of Walter Bishop Jr.'s Speak Low at a synagogue bazaar. It began her journey into jazz piano.

Completing a joint double-degree program at New England Conservatory (in piano) and nearby Tufts University (in computer science), Piket first spent an unfulfilling year in software engineering before deciding that music was her true calling. She returned to New York in 1989 and began building a career and a reputation as a pianist. Within a few years she had established relationships with Marian McPartland (appearing on her National Public Radio program Piano Jazz) and Lionel Hampton (who provided her with her first professional recording session on his 1995 For the Love of Music).

Piket has since established herself as an adventurous and versatile pianist, ready and able to try anything. Her albums (of which Domestic Harmony is the 13th) and performance projects have ranged from straight ahead to free jazz, from solo piano to big band, from chamber jazz ensemble with string quartet to the electric Alternating Current, and any number of other adventures as both leader and sidewoman. In addition, she maintains a working trio with Mintz, in which she has also begun to feature herself more prominently as a vocalist.

In the 2018 Down Beat Critics' Poll, Piket was voted Rising Star in the Organist category and placed 16th in Rising Star Piano, while in the publication's 2018 Readers' Poll she placed 8th in the Jazz Artist category, 7th in Piano, and 5th in Organ.
                                  (Billy Mintz and Roberta Piket) 

Piket will be performing Billy Mintz's music with several duos -- including saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, valve trombonist Mike Fahn, and Mintz himself -- at Mezzrow, NYC, on Thursday 1/16/20.

Other upcoming shows: the Roberta Piket Sextet celebrates the music of Marian McPartland, with special guest Karrin Allyson, at Flushing Town Hall, Friday 12/6; a set of duos with Virginia Mayhew at Maureen's Jazz Cellar, Nyack, NY, Sunday 12/15; the Roberta Piket Organ Trio plays the music of Billy Mintz (featuring tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and John Gross with Mintz on drums) at Quinn's, Beacon, NY, Monday 5/4/20.

In addition, Piket will be a sidewoman on piano and organ with the Billy Mintz Band (also including Rich Perry on tenor saxophone, Adam Kolker on saxophones and woodwinds, Curtis Folkes on trombone, and Hilliard Greene on bass) at Balboa, Brooklyn, Wednesday 12/18; Quinn's, Beacon, NY Monday 12/23; iBeam, Brooklyn, Friday 12/27; and Smalls, NYC, Saturday 12/28.

Photography: John Abbott (Piket), Jason Kahn (Piket & Mintz)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Christian Howes live @ Moss Theater

Jazz Violinist Christian Howes “American Spirit”
with Josh Nelson (piano), Dan Schnelle (drums), Karl McComas (Reichl bass)

Friday, October 11, 8 pm
$35 / Student $25
Free parking adjacent to Moss Theater on New Roads Campus.
KJAZZ 88.1 - official media sponsor.

Russian pianist/composer Evgeny Sivtsov’s "Zoo" is out this week

Russian pianist Evgeny Sivtsov will release his trio record "Zoo" this Friday! The album introduces the virtuosic, idiosyncratic trio music of the Moscow-born-and-based composer/pianist. Recorded in 2017 towards the end of Sivtsov’s nine-year residence in New York City, Zoo comprises six original compositions, each postulating an individualistic sound world, experimental yet grounded, sardonic yet tender. Showcasing the leader’s fluent pianism, the recording displays Sivtsoz’s clear vision for this trio project - one that is informed by comprehensive immersion in vocabulary refracted from the European classical canon and the most consequential figures of 20th century jazz piano. The pianist is thrilled to be joined by bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Shawn Baltazor.

“I tried to make each composition different from the others,” says Sivtsov. “But I also tried to include something that others don’t play, make them different than what we usually hear from other musicians at this time.”

The title track - the album’s oldest composition - exemplifies this compositional approach and springboards off an Ornette Coleman-meets-Thelonious Monk refrain, spurring a linear piano solo that may remind aficionados of Monk crossed with Paul Bley. The conceptual influence is Ornette Coleman’s 1960 avant-garde signpost Free Jazz. The album progresses with “Happy Hippo” - a tune with an opening section evocative of a cross between Fats Waller and Dave Brubeck. Sivtsov describes it as a “rhythmically simple pattern that progresses to different keys and has some leaps to unexpected notes.” For the anthemic “Post-Wild,” Sivtsov thought of “a medium swing where the bass player would never switch to the walking line but would play ‘in 2’ for the whole time — a feel you can find on many of John Coltrane’s early 1960s records.”

The impressionistic “New Anthill,” evokes flavors of Schumann and Profkofiev in the opening section, while Sivtsov’s own blues-tinged solo meshes, completely in his own argot, the worlds of Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans. On “Dragonfliesis”, Sivtsov displays his command of bebop, uncorking long, flowing lines on a melody that references elements from the world of Thelonious Monk.

The album ends with “The Death of the Last Dinosaur,” which opens as a ballad containing surprising intervals in the melody; as Sivtsov proceeds with a melodic solo, the time feel gradually transitions to double-time medium swing propelled by Chmielinski’s supple walking bass line, which morphs into a solo deploying parallel fourths or fifths in the manner of Coltrane’s bassist Jimmy Garrison. On each of the album’s tunes, it’s evident that both Chmielinski and Baltazor have risen to every challenge set by the bandleader, fulfilling Sivtsov’s intentions to perfection.

In 2009, Sivtsov - feeling both the need for a challenge and the desire for opportunity - relocated to New York City. During the ensuing decade, Sivtsov taught privately, wrote charts on commission, led gigs and performed the sideman function at various New York venues, and took a position directing the choir at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan. “I learned a lot from the musicians in New York,” he says. “It’s their professionalism, approach and attitude to playing jazz — preparing for gigs, organizing gigs, making rehearsals. Russian musicians think in a totally different way. For them, jazz music is something unusual, unfamiliar, not natural. For most New York musicians, jazz means playing known music, while for many Russian jazz musicians their professional level is determined by the unpopularity of the tunes they play. In Russia, many musicians specialize in a particular jazz style; in New York, you must be able to play everything.”

That New York attitude is apparent throughout Zoo, which Sivtsov initially planned to self-release in the U.S. But after the U.S. immigration services refused to extend his working visa, he returned to Moscow. “I realized I’m staying in Russia for a while,” he says. He decided to ask drummer Sasha Mashin, an old friend, to bring the album to the Rainy Days label, which jumped at the opportunity to issue this remarkable album.

“Now in Moscow I have more gigs than I had in New York,” Sivtsov says. “After ten years not living here, I can see that everything in the Moscow jazz community has changed in a good way. We have more and more venues, more great musicians — now I don’t have this feeling of touching the ceiling with my head.”

Born in 1987, Sivtsov began performing at 13, first with the jazz ensemble of the Dunaevsky Music School, and then on paid gigs. By 15, he was functioning as a leader and as a sideman at various Moscow jazz clubs and private functions. His primary mentor was the prominent Russian pianist Evgeny Grechishchev, who “taught us some basics and formed in us good taste.” Meanwhile, Sivtsov enrolled at Moscow’s prestigious Gnessin Academy of Music, where he studied with Moscow’s leading jazz piano professor, Igor Bril. As a student, Sivtsov played in the Victor Livshits JVL Big Band, whose repertoire included charts by the formidable arranger Vitaly Dolgov, and formed the Double Drums Band (featuring five horns, piano, bass, and two drum sets) as an entity for his compositional proclivities. He also studied at Prince Claus Conservatory in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Sivtsov has collaborated with leading Russian jazz musicians like Anatoly Kroll, Georgy Garanian, Herman Lukyanov, Sasha Mashin, Igor Butman, Larissa Dolina, and others. He’s also had the pleasure of working with Rosario Giuliani, Dan Barnett, Lew Soloff, and Bobby Watson during their Russian or Ukrainian tours. While living in New York, he played with many prominent musicians including Tom Tallish, Quincy Davis, Ned Goold, Alex Sipiagin and Boris Kozlov. He has performed at many prestigious festivals, such as Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Idaho, and Jazz Jamboree Festival, Warsaw, Poland.

To add to his prestige, Sivtsov was the 2006 winner of Moscow’s IV Piano In Jazz competition, and the 3rd prize winner of Amsterdam’s YPF Jazz Piano competition in 2009. In 2008, with his DoubleDrumsBand, a nonet with 2 drum sets and 5 horns, he performed a concert series of his original music which was highly acclaimed by Russian jazz critics and the jazz community. The selections from this program were recorded and aired across the US by the Voice Of Russia radio station.

Svetlana's album "Night At The Movies" debuts at #1 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Chart!

Svetlana's album Night at the Movies has debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart! We are over the moon for Svetlana and her band- this is an independent release so we're especially thrilled to see it do so well. This follows her sold out release show at Joe's Pub in NYC last week too!

Produced by Matt Pierson, with arrangements by Gil Goldstein and Rob Garcia, the album features Wycliffe Gordon, Sullivan Fortner, Matt Wilson, Pasquale Grasso, Rogerio Bocatto, Jon-Erik Kellso, Chico Pinheiro, Sam Sadigursky, Michael Davis, John Chin, Elias Bailey, Rob Garcia, Antoine Silverman, Entcho Todorov, Chris Cardona, and Emily Brausa.

Growing up in Soviet Russia as a young girl, singer Svetlana dreamed of a world beyond her grim reality. In the midst of Soviet oppression, Svetlana found solace at The Illusionist, a hidden movie theater in Moscow that frequently featured Western films and animated features. These movies were a breath of fresh air; a window into a world that a girl like her could only dream of. She was enraptured by the glamour of Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Sophie Lauren in Marriage Italian Style, lifted by the humor of Louis de Funès in the Le Gendarme movies, and taken by the feeling of unbounded artistic expression and story-telling that was not answering to any political regime. 

Informed by her experiences at the cinema and her imagination and artistic spirit, she began dreaming of the world beyond Russia. Years later, Svetlana made that dream a reality when she immigrated to the United States, and settled in New York where she first became an accomplished business woman and professor before realizing her childhood artistic dreams. As a musician, Svetlana rose to prominence as an in-demand singer and entertainer. She launched Svetlana and the Delancey Five, considered “outstanding” by Will Friedwald of the Wall Street Journal, and the group became known as “one of the best of the many hot jazz bands to emerge in the past decade” (according to Alan Young of Lucid Culture). The group toured nationally and across the world and released their critically acclaimed debut recording A Night At The Speakeasy (Origin) in 2015.

On her new recording, Night at the Movies, Svetlana revisits her love for the artform that has inspired her so: the movies. Now, the singer known as the “Astrud Gilberto via Moscow” (Grammy-winning Producer Guy Ecksteine) released her sophomore effort. Night at the Movies is a fourteen-track collection of film music that spans a century of cinema. Produced by veteran, Grammy-nominated producer Matt Pierson and featuring arrangements by Grammy-winner Gil Goldstein and acclaimed Rob Garcia, Night at the Movies takes listeners on a dynamic musical journey that ranges from the French New Wave and Soviet Cinema, to modern day Academy Award-winners and animated classics. The album release concert will take place on September 21st at Joe’s Pub in New York City. A full tour with performances in Washington DC, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, California and more will be formally announced shortly.

For Night at the Movies’ rich orchestrations and invigorating arrangements, Pierson and Svetlana assembled a who’s-who of heavy contemporary jazz figures including Wycliffe Gordon (trombone /vocals), Sullivan Fortner (piano), Matt Wilson (drums), Pasquale Grasso (guitar), Rogerio Bocatto (percussion), Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), Chico Pinheiro (guitar), Sam Sadigursky (reeds), and Michael Davis (trombone). Rounding out the rhythm section is John Chin (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), and Rob Garcia (drums). Also featured is a string section with Antoine Silverman (violin), Entcho Todorov (violin), Chris Cardona (viola), and Emily Brausa (cello).
Every song on Night at the Movies tells a distinctive story. Svetlana reinvents Sting’s “In the Moonlight” (Sabrina, 1995), as a pillowy bossa bolstered by lush strings -  expressing hushed magic of the night, longing for a better future and fear of whether the magic lasts beyond the moonlight.  Svetlana bridges the century of movie music by jousting with Wycliffe Gordon’s croon and horn on two life-affirming tunes - a classic Ella / Louis rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” (Top Hat, 1934) and a bluesy version of ‪Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” (Despicable Me, 2010). The two express a jauntiness and warmth of interlocking vocal soloing that showcase the strong musical connection between the two friends.

Sullivan Fortner glistens eerily on “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Pinocchio, 1940) with a hushed anticipation that echoes his work with vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant for sheer rapture. Svetlana’s vocals sound vulnerable, much like when one speaks aloud of their far-fetched dreams.  “Remember Me” (Coco, 2018) juxtaposes Svetlana’s airy vocal delivery with John Chin’s fiery piano verve, hinting at the heartbreaking duality between the beautiful memories of those we love and the deep sadness of losing them.  Svetlana weaves a dreamy smoky bolero on “Pure Imaginationl (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971), accented by Chin’s tranquil Rhodes, Roggerio Boccato percussion and a poignant horn section. 

Svetlana gives us a glimpse of her Russian “other-wordiness” (All About Jazz) by adding a subtle tropical flavor to a pensive Russian-language ballad “Noone’s In the House” (Irony of Fate, 1978 - and the Soviet counterpart to It’s A Wonderful Life with darker lyrics by the embattled Soviet poet and dreamer Boris Pasternak) complimented by Boccato’s enigmatic percussion and Pinheiro’s subtle groove.  Her meditative, expanded take of “Moon River” has a breathtaking dreaminess and vastness low-lit by Chico Pinheiro’s guitar and a hushed horn section.  Svetlana’s daughter Isabel joins her in a soothing conversation on the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” (Modern Times, 1936), which speaks to the timelessness of film and music that can cross generations and cultures.
There are several more unexpected takes on movie classics courtesy of Gil Goldstein’s arranger’s pen: a vulnerable “It Might Be You” (Tootsie, 1982); the New Orleans-inspired “Watch What Happens” (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964) a dreamy-eyed enticement of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later” (‪Dick Tracy, 1990) where Matt Wilson and Sullivan Fortner subtlety channel decades of torchy saloon balladry; and a dixieland rave-up of Randy Newman’s “Almost There” (Princess & The Frog, 2009) that is supported by hot jazz super-team Gordon, Fortner, and Jon-Erik Kellso.

The album concludes with “Over the Rainbow” (Wizard of Oz, 1939), a pensive duet with Sony recording artist Pasquale Grasso. The concluding song brings the album full circle as it connects Svetlana’s childhood hopes of making that magical land from the movies a reality.

Film and music both express a fleeting beauty. Night at the Movies reflects these moments of joy and passion, sharp humor and reflection, and most of all, fantasy. Svetlana’s childhood dreams were born from that mysterious movie projector and this is her love-letter back to the cinema that saved her.

Vocal CD of the Month - "Katerina Brown: Mirror"

Vocal CD of the Month
Katerina Brown: "Mirror" (self-produced) 2019
Rating: ****

CD Release Show at the Sound Room, Oakland,
Saturday, November 2 

Vocalist Katerina Brown explores her recently minted identity as a Russian immigrant to the United States with the release of Mirror, her remarkable debut album, on Mellowtone Music. Accompanied by a band of San Francisco Bay Area musicians that includes her husband, bassist Gary Brown (who also produced the album), pianist Adam Shulman, and drummers Akira Tana and Timothy Angulo along with a number of special guests such as legendary percussionist Airto Moreira, Brown offers interpretations of three classic Russian songs (first in her native language, then in English translations) as well as five favorites from the American repertoire.

The tunes on Mirror not only span nations, but also styles. They range from delicate ballads to lilting bossa nova to brash, bluesy swingers. "It's a jazz CD, but it has different styles," says Brown. "I want to show people that I'm still searching. Standards helped me find myself but that's not what defines me. ... I want to explore more."

The stylistic range itself is one of the album's star attractions, opening with a fragile take on the romantic Russian song "The Gate" (featuring violinist Mads Tolling), followed by a saucy treatment of the Gershwins' standard "They Can't Take That Away from Me" (a duet with singer Kenny Washington) and a tremendously swaggering "Moanin'" on which Brown sings Jon Hendricks's vocalese lyrics (with organist Brian Ho, trumpeter Miles Olmos, and saxophonist Robert Roth augmenting the core band). Elsewhere, the Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Peixoto and percussionists Celso Alberti and Airto Moreira lend subtle bossa nova flavors to Dori Caymmi's "Like a Lover" (introduced to American audiences by Sergio Mendes in the 60s and later recreated by Flora Purim) and "I Feel You."

At the same time, however, the three Russian songs, strategically positioned as the opening, closing, and central pieces ("The Gate," "The Mirror," and "It's Snowing," respectively), have undeniable significance for this document of Brown's artistic arrival. "When I came here, I thought, 'To be a Russian jazz singer singing all American songs, that's a bit strange," she says. "I need to bring something from my culture so that American audiences can listen and get familiar with them."

This cultural cross-pollination includes the arrangements as well as the songs themselves. Both Shulman and St. Petersburg pianist Dina Sineglazova provided charts for Mirror, even collaborating in the case of one tune. It further evidences Brown's determination to be as unconstrained by geography as she is by style.
Katerina Brown was born July 16, 1982 in a small town outside St. Petersburg, in what was then the Soviet Union. She was drawn to music as an infant and devoured the few jazz albums in her father's collection (especially those by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington). She studied classical vocals as a teenager, but performed by night in local jazz and blues clubs before moving to St. Petersburg at 19 and forming her own blues band at 21.

Soon afterward, Brown joined the Old Fashioned Blues Project, which took her from the local scene to a national one, touring all around Russia and into Ukraine for the next six years. In 2010, however, she quit the band to matriculate at the Saint-Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts, where she formally studied music theory and on her own dug deeper into jazz vocals. Soon she was performing as featured vocalist for a big band sponsored by Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In 2013, Brown met her future husband Gary Brown when the American bassist -- who was a member of Airto & Flora Purim's band in the 80s -- was touring Russia with pianist Rebeca Mauleón. They struck up an acquaintance that ultimately led to the singer applying for a visa to study jazz in the United States. She first spent time in New York City before moving to the Bay Area in 2015 and establishing herself within its thriving jazz scene. She has worked as the featured vocalist with SFJAZZ's Monday Night Big Band and is a frequent performer at the region's top jazz venues. She also teaches the vocal technique developed by the Complete Vocal Institute in Denmark, which is based on the anatomy and physiology of the human body.

Katerina Brown will be performing a CD release concert at the Sound Room in Oakland on Saturday 11/2 with a quintet composed of saxophonist Gary Meek, guitarist Ricardo Peixoto, pianist Dan Zemelman, bassist Gary Brown, and drummer Jason Lewis.

Photography: Tanya Magnani
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Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month - "Skip & Dan Wilkins Quartet: Someday"

Instrumental Jazz CD of the Month
Skip & Dan Wilkins Quartet: "Someday" (Dear Head Records 010) 2019
Rating: ***** 

"Someday" features father-and-son duo Skip & Dan Wilkins alongside Tony Marino on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums. Through elegant performances of oft-overlooked compositions from the Great American Songbook, this superb quartet offers its love letter to the historic Deer Head Inn of Pennsylvania, the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country. The album was engineered in December 2017 by Paul Wickliffe.

A stunning interplay of the ensemble and musical selections curated by Skip & Dan celebrate the classic sound of the saxophone quartets of years past.  Warm, dulcet melodies from Dan’s tenor adorn the harmonic invention emanating from Skip’s keys. Along with Skip and Dan is the stellar rhythm section of bassist Tony Marino and drummer Bill Goodwin, famous for his long time association with Phil Woods.

The serenity offered by the quartet throughout "Someday" brings the listener into the spirit of the historic Deer Head Inn.  Skip Wilkins is no stranger to this prized Poconos institution, in fact, since 2012 the pianist has lived in the upstairs apartment in the Deer Head Inn’s original carriage house, and prior to that, the Inn served as a getaway for Wilkins and his family.  Both of his children, including Dan, enjoyed debut performances at the club.

Drummer Bill Goodwin -- whom I love since 1980 when I first attended one of his concerts with Phil Woods at the São Paulo/Montreux Jazz Festival -- is a fellow resident at Deer Head Inn, and Skip seized this moment to record with his neighbor, along with his son Dan on tenor saxophone as well as long-time collaborator, bassist Tony Marino. A master in subtleties and dynamics, like the late Billy Higgins, Goodwin also founded and directed a cult label, Omnisound, which released some outstanding albums in the 80s.

"Someday" begins with an effortless, beautiful rendition of Ross Parker & Hughie Charles’ “We’ll Meet Again,” a bright-tempoed jubilant swing tune.  Father and son team Skip and Dan Wilkins perfectly complement each other’s sound. Skip says “It is a special delight to work on music with my son Dan.  You could say that we both have old souls. We both love the canon – the Great American Songbook. We often exchange favorite old songs as well as favorite versions.  I’ve written music for Dan that we’ve recorded on previous CD releases, keeping an ear out for what he does so well in writing those pieces. But this recording proceeded differently, because Dan and I selected the material together.  In my career I have been fortunate to play and record with many great saxophonists both in the U.S. and in Europe, even including two NEA Jazz Masters. But for some music, you just have to grow your own saxophonist.”

Demonstrating the scope of the ensemble, the quartet offers a laid-back latin groove on Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ “Remind Me” which hearkens back to Page One era Joe Henderson.  Skip demonstrates his facility on the keys with a masterful improvisation on Kern’s classic changes.  Another sultry selection from this release is “If Somebody Comes Ever Again” by Alec Wilder and Johnny Mercer.  This tender ballad in a waltz feel features some of the more dynamic interplay on this album – Skip’s piano comping for bassist Tony Marino’s solo is a study in counterpoint, and drummer Bill Goodwin’s support and anticipation throughout Skip’s solo is a masterclass in rhythmic ingenuity.

Dan shines on the Tucker Freeman/Sunny Skylar composition “You’ll Always Be the One I Love” with a marvelous melodic exploration that reminds one of the tone and time-feel of Dexter Gordon, fitting for the melancholy musings of the piece.  The album ends with the group’s interpretation of Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing.” The track features burning solos from the father and son duo, ending "Someday" on a high. With the final notes of this driving swing tune, one can’t help but be transported back to the feeling of a late Saturday night in the Poconos at the Deer Head Inn, the room abuzz with the afterglow of an amazing set of live music, the shouting of the bartender’s ‘last call’ and the applause of a delighted audience.

Skip Wilkins was born in Massachusetts and raised in a musical family. He became interested in jazz at an early age and found his way to the stage in kindergarten. He learned to love singing, played drums for years, but then focused on piano, which became his main instrument by his late teens. As he was coming up in Boston, he worked with drummers Joe Hunt and Bob Moses and with saxophonists Jimmy Mosher and John LaPorta.

For many years, Skip has maintained an active international career as a pianist, composer, vocalist, workshop presenter, jazz choral director and college professor.  He has fourteen CD releases, including multiple international recordings, and has enjoyed performances with a host of international luminaries throughout his career. He performed often with Phil Woods, and is a featured soloist on Phil’s final big band release "New Celebration."

Wherever he has lived, he has performed with and collaborated with top stars whenever they came to town – Phil Woods, David Liebman, Plas Johnson, Mark Murphy, Clark Terry, David Sánchez, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Watson, Bob Dorough, Conte Candoli, Peter Erskine and Zuzana Lapčíková, among so many others.

Skip performs throughout Europe in a variety of ensembles, with regular tours to the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, Greece and France.  He maintains a residence in Prague, Czech Republic, and another at Deer Head Inn. He is associate professor of Music at Lafayette College, where he teaches courses in music theory and jazz improvisation, and directs the Jazz Ensemble.

Beginning in 2011, the pianist took a sabbatical from teaching to begin a fifteen-month residency in the Czech Republic, composing and recording music for his album "Czech Dreams," later released in 2013.  He took another sabbatical there in 2016, composing and recording material for his 2018 release "Czech Wishes."

Saxophonist and composer Dan Wilkins is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music’s prestigious jazz program and has studied with some of the foremost educators in jazz including NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman, Caris Visentin-Liebman, Phil Markowitz, Steve Wilson, Rich Perry and Garry Dial. He has performed throughout the United States as well as internationally. Wilkins musical voyage began early on, when his father first introduced him to the jazz tradition and legacy. Wilkins credits the luscious ballads of Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon for turning him on to the tenor saxophone.  Dan released his own debut album ‘Jnana Vijnana (Awake)’ in 2015 after first recording with his father Skip for the 2012 Steeplechase Lookout CD release ‘Father & Son’. Now, they start a new chapter on their careers.