Monday, November 25, 2019

Randy Brecker and Brian Lynch earn nominations in the 62nd GRAMMY® Awards

Two of the world's most important musicians (that "happen" to be two of my favorite trumpet players in the cirrent jazz scene), Randy Brecker and Brian Lynch, received GRAMMY nominations today!

For Brian Lynch, his two 2020 GRAMMY® nominations bring the artist to a total of six nominations throughout his fruitful career.  In addition, Lynch won a GRAMMY® for his 2006 release Simpático. 
2019’s The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music, released on Hollistic MusicWorks on August 29th, 2019, is an expansive album of music for large ensemble (“big band”) composed and arranged by Lynch and featuring his work as soloist alongside an all star cast of special guests including Regina Carter, Donald Harrison, NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman, GRAMMY® Award winner Dafnis Prieto, Orlando “Maraca” Valle, and Jim Snidero.

Throughout the album, Lynch connects his lifelong passion for reading and the books that have shaped his life with his original music. The books that have shaped Lynch’s consciousness, and thus his music, have been myriad, and his dedications for the music of The Omni-American Book Club reflect both the diversity and the focus of his reading interests.

Lynch’s “Crucible For Crisis”, an Afro-Caribbean jazz infusion featuring drummer/Grammy laureate Dafnis Prieto and virtuoso flautist Orlando “Maraca” Valle, is nominated for Best Instrumental Composition.
Jazz icon Randy Brecker receives his 19th GRAMMY® nomination on the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category, for the composition “Sozinho” off of his recent release Rocks by Randy Brecker & NDR Big Band.

Brecker has won 6 GRAMMY® awards over the course of his illustrious career. Brecker’s latest release Rocks features the Hamburg Jazz Orchestra with guests David Sanborn, Ada Rovatti and Wolfgang Haffner.

Rocks came to fruition after 2 successful tours finding Randy Brecker fronting the NDR BigBand, (The Hamburg Radio Jazz Orchestra), with arranger Jörg Achim Keller conducting his arrangements of Randy Brecker compositions from different periods of Randy's career.

Original Brecker Brothers Band frontline member, alto saxophonist David Sanborn was brought in, along with Ada Rovatti on tenor and soprano saxophones, and world famous drummer Wolfgang Haffner. The end results are wonderfully organic big band arrangements which don't alter the conception of the original ideas behind Randy Brecker's compositions, but add to it in a most refreshing way. Along with the other incredible soloists who are regular members of the NDR BigBand, this CD is one that will stand the test of time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wallace Roney kicks off an European tour

This Saturday (Nov 9), world-renowned trumpeter Wallace Roney will kick off his extensive European tour in Burghausen, Germany with an 8pm performance at Mautner Castle. Joined along the way by saxophonists Emilio Modeste and Gary Bartz, pianist Oscar Williams II, bassists Paul Cuffari and Curtis Lundy and drummers Eric Allen and Malick Koly, Roney is set to embark upon a busy itinerary which will see him in Germany, Spain, France and Romania - all dates are listed in the press release below!

This tour follows the summer release of his latest album Blue Dawn - Blue Nights (HighNote Records). On his twenty-second recording as a leader, the Philadelphia-born trumpeter and bandleader is thrilled to be leading his band with the next generation jazz innovators: saxophonist Emilio Modeste, pianist Oscar Williams II, bassist Paul Cuffari, and his fifteen year old nephew, drummer Kojo Odu Roney. On Blue Dawn - Blue Nights, Roney is the icon to these up-and-comers and he augments this band by enlisting Philly guitarist Quintin Zoto and legendary drummer Lenny White.

"Wallace Roney's eighth album for the HighNote label, 2019's Blue Dawn-Blue Nights, finds the trumpeter collaborating with a cadre of young lions and balancing dusky after-hours warmth and propulsive post-bop modalism."
- Matt Collar, All Music (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

If any of Wallace's upcoming performances are near you, please let me know - we'd be happy to arrange a guest pass! We'd also love to know of any coverage plans you may have.
World-renowned Trumpeter Wallace Roney Kicks Off International Fall/Winter Tour
Following the summer release of his latest album Blue Dawn – Blue Nights

Following the HighNote Records release of his twenty-second recording as a leader, Blue Dawn-Blue Nights, internationally-revered trumpeter Wallace Roney is excited to embark upon an extensive fall/winter tour which will see him perform in eight cities across Europe! Enlisting a line-up which combines contemporary jazz trailblazers with some of the genre’s elite, Roney will be joined throughout this tour by saxophonists Emilio Modeste and Gary Bartz, pianist Oscar Williams II, bassists Paul Cuffari and Curtis Lundy and drummers Eric Allen and Malick Koly. The group will appear in Germany, Spain, France and Romania.

The Wallace Roney Quintet will set their European string of dates into motion by taking to the Jazzkeller stage at Mautner Castle, Burghausen, Germany on Saturday, November 9th. Set: 8pm-10pm. Tickets/more info can be found here. Jazzforum Bayreuth will host Roney’s second German show of the tour on Sunday November 10th. The trumpeter will perform at Becher Hall as part of the annual Jazz November Festival, taking to the stage at 7:30pm. For this performance, Roney will be joined by Emilio Modeste on saxophone, Oscar Williams II on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass and Eric Allen on drums. Tickets/more info. 

On Tuesday, November 12th, the band will make their way to Spain for the first of two appearances across the country. Madrid’s Sala Clamores Jazz Club will welcome Roney for an 8:30pm performance. For this show, the trumpeter will be joined by Emilio Modeste on saxophone, Oscar Williams on piano, Paul Cuffari on bass and Malick Koly on drums – tickets/more info. On Wednesday, November 13th, this same line-up will play a 9pm performance at Teatro Lopez de Ayala, Badajoz. Tickets/more info can be found here.

On Friday November 15th, Roney will kick off his four-night stay in France, with an 8pm performance at Opéra de Limoges, located at 48 Rue Jean Jaures, 87000 Limoges. Tickets/more info. Roney will be joined by Emilio Modeste, Oscar Williams, Curtis Lundy and Eric Allen. Chateaubriand Theater, Saint-Malo, France – in association with La Fabrique à Concert – will proudly host Roney on Saturday, November 16th at 9pm. Tickets/more info. The band will finish their stay in France with two nights of performances in the country’s capital city. On November 22nd & 23rd, Roney will play Sunset/Sunside, located at 60 Rue des Lombards, 75001 Paris. While the Friday night will see the quintet play one set at 9:30pm, Saturday will feature sets at 7:00pm and 9:30pm. For these two performances, Malick Koly will take Eric Allen’s place behind the kit. Tickets and more info can be found here. Wallace Roney will close this extensive European tour with a November 24th appearance at Sala Radio, located at Strada General H. M. Berthelot 60-64, Bucharest, Romania, as part of Jazz Up! Festival.  For this performance, Roney will be joined by Gary Bartz on saxophone, Oscar Williams on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass and Eric Allen on drums.

2020 will see Roney perform at The Velvet Note, Atlanta, GA; Blues Alley, DC; University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, WI; South Jazz Cafe, Philadelphia, PA; Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA & Jazz Alley, Seattle, WA – more on these dates soon!       

On Blue Dawn – Blue Nights, the Philadelphia-born musician is thrilled to be leading his band with the next generation jazz innovators. With exceptional sterling sound by engineer Maureen Sickler at the board of Rudy Van Gelder’s legendary New Jersey studio, the leader’s bold and bravura trumpet tones, are as vivid and vibrant as ever, with a resonance as riveting as it is radiant, buoyed by the dancing and dynamic drumming of Kojo and White, Cuffari’s bone-deep bass lines, Williams’ poetic and profound pianism, Zoto’s lean guitar lines and Modeste speaking no evil on sax.

On this eight-track collection, Roney made a conscious decision not to include any of his own compositions. Reflecting upon the track selection for the album, the bandleader wanted to “give the guys a forum to write and make a statement. I’ve always done that. They come up with something, and I might say, ‘let’s go here, or do this here.’ And by showing them certain things, it extends their knowledge of what can be done musically. And that’s what I do!” Indeed, Wallace Roney proves that being true always make the best leaders.
Wallace Roney has been a significant force on the scene ever since he emerged at Ali’s Alley at the age of sixteen with Philly Joe Jones. Roney has been featured on some impressive work with McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, Chick Corea, and Ornette Coleman. Roney has secured a place in jazz history as a member of VSOP. As a member of Tony Williams Quintet, Wallace took on the responsibility of infusing the band with his fire and innovativeness and won the attention of his idol, Miles Davis. His long-standing association with the jazz icon culminated in the recording of the Grammy award-winning, Quincy Jones-conducted, Miles and Quincy Live at Montreux.

“I was fortunate to have learned from Miles Davis, Tony Williams, Art Blakey and Dizzy [Gillespie],” Roney says. “Horace Silver was another important person in my life who rarely gets the credit he is due and there was Woody Shaw, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and Clark Terry.”

Derived from liner notes by Eugene Holley, Jr. (DownBeat, Publishers Weekly, Hot House, Chamber Music)
Management Contact: Vernon Hammond: The Management Ark:

Sat. Nov. 9th
Burghausen, Germany
Jazzkeller, Mautner Castle

Sun. Nov. 10th
Bayreuth, Germany
Becher Hall, Jazz November Festival

Tues. Nov. 12th
Madrid, Spain
Sala Clamores Jazz Club

Wed. Nov. 13th
Badajoz, Spain
Teatro Lopez de Ayala

Fri. Nov. 15th
Limoges, France
Opéra de Limoges

Sat. Nov. 16th
Saint-Malo, France
Chateaubriand Theater

Fri. & Sat. Nov 22nd & 23rd
Paris, France
9:30pm; 7:00pm & 9:30pm

Sun. Nov. 24th
Bucarest, Romania
Sala Radio -
Jazz Up! Festival

Big Band CD of the Month - "One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2019"

Big Band CD of the Month
One O'Clock Lab Band: "Lab 2019" (UNT)
Rating: ***** (musical performance & sonic quality)

The University of North Texas's renowned One O'Clock Lab Band maintains its uncanny aptitude for both timeliness and timelessness with the November 22 release of Lab 2019 (North Texas Jazz). The latest installment in an annual series that has continued since 1967, the album features six original student compositions, five of them by members of the 20-piece student ensemble, as well as two standards with new student-penned arrangements.

In addition, it offers new work by two of UNT's jazz faculty members and prolific Lab Band contributors: Grammy-nominated composer Rich DeRosa, the school's Director of Jazz Composition and Arranging, and Alan Baylock, the acclaimed big band veteran (Airmen of Note, Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra) and director of the One O'Clock Lab Band.

This 53rd recorded iteration of the Lab Band (named for its long-entrenched rehearsal time) finds the institution in danger of losing neither inspiration, nor its long-held place in the elite of collegiate jazz ensembles. "We want everyone to know that the great UNT tradition going back many years is still alive and well," says Baylock in marking his third year of directorship.
Baylock (pictured above) is also an alumnus of UNT, earning his master's in jazz studies in 1995. Alan BaylockThough he was not an official member of the One O'Clock Lab Band during his time at the university, he wrote 15 charts that were featured in the band's performances and on its recordings. He adds to that legacy with "Confluence," a startling and highly experimental piece that features solos by tenor saxophonist Addison Jordan and trumpeter Chris Van Leeuwen as well as musique concrète work by guitarist Ethan Ditthardt.

DeRosa is a legendary figure among jazz composers and has written a new piece for the One O'Clock Lab Band each year since his arrival at UNT in 2010. "Al-Go-Rhythm" ranks among his most thrillingly ingenious: subtitled "A 21st Century Take on a Gershwin Tune," it's an abstraction of "I Got Rhythm," recognizable by its chord changes and increasingly sneaky use of melodic motifs from the original. Jazz lovers will also identify it with the relentless swing that for DeRosa is as essential an ingredient as Gershwin's notes.
Ultimately, however, the One O'Clock Lab Band is an endeavor by, of, and for its student members, and their work on Lab 2019 rivals that of their elders for excitement and accomplishment. The complexity of trombonist DJ Rice's "Aggro" (which interlaces the harmonies of "Cherokee" and "Giant Steps") is exceeded only by the fun of listening to it; Rice also takes a solo of majesty and pathos on his sectionmate Nathan Davis's luxurious arrangement of the standard "I Can't Get Started." Student composer-arranger John Sturino, a former band member, shines with his sweetly hopeful tune "Frauenfeld" and boisterous setting of Styne & Cahn's standard "The Things We Did Last Summer" that features vocalist Marion Powers. Meanwhile, lead saxophonist Kyle Myers contributes three originals, cresting with the breezy, bluesy, meter-shifting swinger "Third Time's the Charm."
The One O'Clock Lab Band is the premier performing ensemble of the University of North Texas jazz studies program. It began in 1927 as the Aces of Collegeland, an extracurricular dance orchestra at what was then North Texas State Teachers College. It gained academic accreditation (as the Laboratory Dance Band) in 1946-47, when UNT established the world's first collegiate jazz studies program. One O'Clock Lab BandWhen innovative educator Leon Breeden took leadership of the program in 1959, he recast the ensemble as a forum for the serious study of jazz, renaming it for its daily rehearsal time.

With Breeden as its director, the band performed at venues ranging from Birdland to the White House; toured worldwide; and in 1967 began recording its annual albums at the request of legendary Voice of America broadcaster Willis Conover. Eight years later, the One O'Clock Lab Band became the first college band to be nominated for a Grammy Award. (It has been nominated seven times in all.)
Pianist and composer Neil Slater succeeded Breeden in 1981, compounding the ensemble's success over his 27-year run. Slater was then followed by Maynard Ferguson/Doc Severinsen Band alum Steve Wiest; Stan Kenton veteran Jay Saunders; and Alan Baylock, who became director of the One O'Clock Lab Band in 2016, after a highly lauded 20-year tenure as chief arranger for the U.S. Air Force's Airmen of Note jazz ensemble and leader of the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra.

Alumni of the UNT One O'Clock Lab Band include Billy Harper, Bob Belden, Jim Snidero, and Ari Hoenig.

Gary Smulyan is guest artist for the One O'Clock Lab Band's 59th Annual Fall Concert/Lab 2019 CD Release Event, to be held at Winspear Performance Hall, Murchison Performing Arts Center, Denton, TX, on Tuesday 11/26 at 7:30pm. (Tickets: Craig Marshall, longtime manager and producer for the band, notes that "This is a time when our fans really look forward to hearing the current band live and purchasing the latest recording in person."

The One O'Clock Lab Band will also be performing at Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Saturday and Sunday, January 18-19, 2020, having been invited to participate in the first Rudin Jazz Championship for collegiate jazz bands. Ten college bands will spend two days participating in workshops, a combo showcase in the Appel Room, and a friendly competition of big bands.
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Fusion CD of the Month - "Brecker Plays Rovatti / Sacred Bond"

Fusion CD of the Month
Randy Brecker & Ada Rovatti: "Brecker Plays Rovatti - Sacred Bond" (Piloo Records PR011) 2019
Rating: ***** (musical performance & sound quality)

Produced by Ada Rovatti & Randy Brecker
Executive Producer: Joachim Becker
Recorded @ Bunker Studios (Brooklyn, NY) by Aaron Nevezie
Mixed & Mastered @ MonkMusic Studios (East Hampton, NY) by Cynthia Daniels
Photos & Cover Design: Ada Rovatti

All compositions & arrangements by Ada Rovatti
Featuring: Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Ada Rovatti (tenor sax, soprano sax, vocals), David Kikoski (piano, Fender Rhodes), Alexander Claffy (bass, electric Bass), Rodney Holmes (drums)
Special Guests: Jim Beard (Hammond Organ, synths), Café Da Silva (percussion), Adam Rogers (guitar), Stella Brecker (vocals)

Here's a saying that ‘the family that plays together, stays together.' That old adage is put into effect on Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond, which not only features the husband and wife team of Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and fusion pioneer Randy Brecker and saxophonist-composer Ada Rovatti but also includes their 10-year-old daughter Stella in a vocal cameo appearance on one track. Backed by a versatile core group of pianist David Kikoski, bassist Alex Claffy and drummer Rodney Holmes, with guest appearances by keyboardist Jim Beard, guitarist Adam Rogers and Brazilian percussionist Café, the married couple forges an easy chemistry together on the 10 tracks here, all composed by Rovatti.

A stellar showcase for Rovatti's wide-ranging musical tastes, as well as Brecker's inimitable trumpet prowess, Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond shows her remarkable growth as a composer since her 2003 debut as a leader, Under the Hat. "She's very serious about it and she's reached another level in the writing department with this record," said Brecker of his wife, who also released Airbop in 2006, Green Factor in 2009 and Disguise in 2014. "Aside from the fact that I'm her husband, it's so nice to hear these tunes. It all fits together well and it's really enjoyable to listen to. And believe me, they're not easy at all to play over. Ada had to kind of show me some tricks to get through some of these tunes."

In the liner notes, Brecker proudly states about his sax-playing wife: "I've watched her development as both a player and arranger/composer with fascination. Besides music, she's the greatest wife and mother in the world, a master Italian chef with 160 cookbooks, a master seamstress and designer, interior decorator, photographer, master crafts person, website designer, record-cover designer, record company owner and head of our household. Just ask any of our daughter Stella's friends where'd they like to be, other than their own homes, and they'll say: sitting on our living room floor doing craftwork that Ada designed for them...a true Renaissance woman."

Regarding the title of their latest collaboration (they also appear together on Brecker's 2003 album 34th & Lex, 2013's The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion and 2019's Rocks with the NDR Big Band-The Hamburg Jazz Orchestra), Brecker explained that it addresses the unconditional love that exists between mother and daughter over time. "They're as tight as can be," he said of Ada and Stella. "All three of us are. And it was just nice that they're both singing in octaves on the title track, which is pretty cool." Added Rovatti, "It's a sacred bond among the three of us."

Brecker and Rovatti met in 1996 when the trumpeter was guesting with a big band in Italy in which she was playing alto saxophone. As he recalled in his liner notes to Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond: "After exchanging numbers (I slyly gave her my card, but she asked for it!) and many letters (pre-email!), we started seeing each other long distance, then she moved to NYC after spending a year in Paris, eventually working with the great French singer Anne Ducros. We started seeing each other more and more, and were married in December 2001."

While Rovatti has made a strong impression with her bold tenor sax playing in past outings, she admits to feeling somewhat overwhelmed by having to fill the shoes of the late tenor titan Michael Brecker on the frontline, alongside Randy, in The Brecker Brothers Reunion Band. "I've been in a funny spot, as you can imagine," she said. "Being married to Randy and having such an amazing brother in the family as Mike, and me playing the same instrument as Mike, I always felt like the weakest link. Because Randy and Mike...they're playing is just on a different kind of level."

Nevertheless, she acquits herself with equal parts conviction and grace on both tenor and soprano saxes on the 10 eclectic tracks that comprise Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond. And her accomplished, fully-realized compositions speak for themselves. "I'm trying to spend as much time as I can every day to put some ideas down on the keyboard," said Ada. "But there are days when I'm concentrating more on composition and others where I concentrate more on practicing my instrument. It's a good balance, I think."

The collection kicks off with the upbeat "Sacred Bond," which has mother and daughter doubling wordless vocals on the melodic head alongside trumpet and tenor sax, Kikoski's electric piano comping, Claffy's funky baselines and Holmes' insistent backbeat. Rovatti solos first, demonstrating her deeply impactful tone, easy rhythmic assuredness and remarkable facility as she builds to double-timed flurries and a magnificent crescendo. Brecker follows with a typically bright, bristling and eminently melodic trumpet solo - the kind he has been documenting on record for 50 years, beginning with his own debut as a leader, 1969's Score - before mother and daughter return to sing the melodious refrain together.

Rovatti's affinity for Brazilian music is represented by two tracks here. First is the undulating samba "Helping Hands," which features a lovely Brecker flugelhorn solo, a buoyant tenor solo from Rovatti and an outstanding upright bass solo from Claffy. Second is the easy-grooving "Other Side of the Coin," featuring potent solos from husband and wife along with a melodic electric bass solo from Claffy and some playful cucia accents from Café. "Being Italian (she was born in the small town of Pavia in Northern Italy, just 35 km south of Milan), my native language has the same kind of laid back feel, rolling phrases and words that kind come in a wave as Portuguese. And I think there's also a kind of similarity there between Brazilian music and Italian music. It's funny because I don't listen too so much Brazilian jazz but somehow it just kind of grows on me. And, of course, Randy's way of playing on a Brazilian beat is really awesome. He's deeply connected to that sensibility."

Switching gears, Rovatti pays tribute to the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, on the aptly-titled "Reverence" (which is the ultimate form of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"). Guitarist Adam Rogers brings some stinging six-sting work to the proceedings while Jim Beard underscores with churchy organ work as Randy and Ada negotiate the changes of this soulful, gospel-tinged number with Brecker Brothers-like tightness and swagger. Said Ada of her connection on the frontline with her husband, "Your sound and your way of phrasing just kind of blends with the person that you play with the most, and for me it's Randy. And I think that's also why when Randy decided to put together The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion that he felt comfortable asking me to do it with him. Clearly, nobody can take Mike's spot. But he was looking for somebody who had their own voice and also had the same kind of connection with him. And I hope that I bring something special to the band, that kind of deep connection that Randy had with Mike."

Adds the composer about her heartfelt tribute to Aretha: "I remember when I picked up the saxophone at the end of high school and soon after did a gig with a singer who was trying to sing Aretha's hit song, ‘Think.' And then, 20-plus years later, I had the chance to play with Aretha Franklin herself at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Just to be on that stage - one of the most prestigious stages in the United States - with the real Aretha, it was really the highlight of my life. And it made me think back to when I was in a small town in Italy, picking up an instrument and playing with this local singer and fantasizing about maybe one day playing with the real Queen of Soul. So in that moment that I was on stage with Aretha, I was kind of patting myself on the shoulder and saying to myself, "OK, you did it!"

Holmes' gentle brushwork sets a serene tone for the opening to "Baggage," an older tune of Rovatti's that she wrote for a composition competition that she won in Italy a few years ago. Trumpet and tenor wrap around each other in a warm embrace on the melodic head and as the piece picks up steam, Ada digs deep, delivering her most commanding and heightened solo of the set (even dropping in a brief quote from John Coltrane's A Love Supreme along the way). Brecker follows with an adventurous solo of his own and Kikoski channels his inner McCoy Tyner in bringing his own brand of heat to this expansive number.

While Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin is saluted by Ada on this outing, another personage of royalty is saluted on "The Queen of Bibelot." It is none other than Rovatti herself. Acknowledging the dictionary definition of ‘bibelot' as ‘a small decorative ornament or trinket,' she confessed to collecting an inordinate number such baubles. "I'm definitely the Queen of that," she laughed. "I love to go to a thrift store and find an odd object. In fact, I'm looking at one right now. It's a wood zebra doing a squat, which I think it's hilarious. So I have many little teensy objects that to many people don't mean anything. But to me, I can tell you about each one - how I got it, where I got it, why I got it. And that's just like the way I am also in music. I treasure things and value stuff that maybe other people overlook, but I find the beauty in it." The lone bop flavored number of the set, "The Queen of Bibelot" is driven by Holmes' unrelenting swing factor and features killer solos from Kikoski, Rovatti and Brecker.

The cleverly-titled "Britches Blue" hints at Miles Davis' electronic phase in the wake of his 1970 landmark recording, Bitches Brew. The two-keyboard attack of Beard and Kikoski on this quintessentially ‘70s number recalls the spiky interaction between Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea in Miles' touring Bitches Brew band. Kikoski and Beard turn in show-stopping solos here while Randy and Ada follow with some rapid-fire exchanges on the electric modal vamp before Rogers enters with one of his signature flowing legato guitar solos. Holmes and Café add a percussive exclamation point on the solo section before the whole band takes it out in a kind of tight-fitting group counterpoint.

Rovatti switches to soprano sax on "Brainwashed," an upbeat number that carries some heavy connotations. "That tune is regarding the political situation in this country today," said the composer. "In my youth I was never interested too much in politics but now being a U.S. citizen and a mother and seeing what this president is doing, I have become very conscious of the current political situation. You cannot not be shocked, outraged and affected by what's going on. It really was a wake-up call for me to be more active and not just observe what's going on but try to stand up against it." Listen closely and you may hear the seeds of Harold Arlen's "If I Only Had a Brain" (from The Wizard of Oz) woven into the fabric of Rovatti's buoyant melody here.

"Mirror," Ada's reflection on aging, is imbued with some of the most scintillating exchanges between husband and wife on the record. Rovatti doubles the engaging melodic line with wordless vocals and Holmes offers a smoking drum solo midway through. Says the composer of the inspiration behind the tune's title, "It's about looking at yourself in the mirror and just seeing the start of the aging process and thinking about the wisdom that you've gained. So it was kind of an introspective thing of ‘OK, here I am - not that young anymore, not that old yet, but kind of getting there." As for her vocal contributions here, she says, "I consider myself a shower singer...not even a shower singer. But I think it brings a nice texture to the tune."

The haunting minor key closer, "Quietly Me," is an entrancing 6/8 number that features trumpet and tenor sax blending beautifully at the outset and engaging in a kind of shadow play by the tune's end. "Randy has the melody and I kind of play it back to him," says Ada, explaining their telepathic hookup here. "We kind of answer to each other with a delayed kind of phrasing, one following the other in a kind of counterpoint, talking to each other."

That same kind of indelible chemistry can be heard throughout Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond, a stunning showcase for both husband and wife.

Yamaha clinician, Randy Brecker continues to influence musicians from around the world.

1. Sacred Bond [7:19]
2. Helping Hands [8:37]
3. Reverence [8:34]
4. The Baggage [10:30]
5. The Queen Of Bibelot [5:19]
6. Britches Blue [8:30]
7. Brainwashed [5:24]
8. Mirror [5:41]
9. The Other Side Of The Coin [7:02]
10. Quietly Me [6:48]
All compositions by Ada Rovatti (SIAE) // //


Vocal Jazz CD of the Month - "La Tanya Hall: Say Yes"

Vocal Jazz CD of the Month
La Tanya Hall: Say Yes (Blue Canoe) 2019
Rating: **** 

Next Friday, renowned vocalist La Tanya Hall will be releasing her new album "Say Yes", on November 8th, via Blue Canoe Records.  This is Hall's first full length album in a decade.

La Tanya and Andy Milne's Unison Trio will be performing at:
Birdland Theater, New York (11/14)
The Side Door, Old Lyme CT (11/15)
Maureens, Nyack , NY (11/16)
The Cooperage, Honesdale, PA (11/17)
The Union, Kalmazoo, MI (12/19)
Bop Stop, Cleveland, OH (12/20)
Blue Llama, Ann Arbor, MI (21/21)

You can also catch La Tanya in duo with Andy Milne on WBGO's Singer's Unlimited this weekend.

Though her gorgeous, emotionally intuitive vocals take center stage, the expansive collection is, at heart, a collaborative effort with Unison, a newly formed NYC trio led by Hall’s husband Andy Milne on piano, featuring bassist John Hebert, and drummer Clarence Penn. "Say Yes" was produced and arranged by Milne, a distinct and respected voice at the heart of NYC’s creative jazz scene for over 20 years.

While "Say Yes" is technically a follow-up to La Tanya’s 2009 recording, "It’s About Time," she sees the new album as the first project that is a true reflection of her artistic spirit. Fans wondering why it took her so many years to return to the studio can look to her busy schedule touring these past seven years with Steely Dan – and her 10-year career as an instructor, passing along her experience and expertise to the next generation of singers as Associate Professor of Jazz Voice at Oberlin Conservatory and at The New School in NYC.

Over the years, La Tanya’s versatility in a multitude of genres has made her a first-call vocalist for some of music’s most celebrated artists, including Diana Ross, Bobby McFerrin, Harry Belafonte, Michael McDonald, Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Rob Thomas, Patti Labelle, Michael Feinstein and Steve Tyrell. Developing her solo artistry, she has performed in recent years at some of New York’s most renowned venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Symphony Space, Iridium, and Feinstein’s/54 Below. In addition, she has appeared as a soloist with the American Composer’s Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony, the Jefferson Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony.

“I have been busy singing with everybody else,” La Tanya says, “and even though my first album received critical acclaim, it featured arrangements that I couldn’t fully immerse myself in vocally and as an artist. So, with Say Yes, I was eager to present material that would support and showcase my disposition and broad range of musical tastes. Working so closely with my husband afforded me a trusting, collaborative dynamic that allowed me to sing as fully and as freely as I could.”

Besides her exquisite vocal tone and Milne’s elegant arrangements and piano work, the most remarkable aspect of "Say Yes" is La Tanya’s unique choices of material – a set list that truly reflects her deep musical curiosity, spanning generations and many genres. She reaches outside the jazz realm with re-imaginings of folk-rocker Jonatha Brookes’ “Because I Told You So” (which the singer calls “the most personal song on the album to me”) and the controversial choice of Joni Mitchell’s “The Fiddle and the Drum” – a Vietnam era tune whose poetry resonates perfectly in response to today’s intense socio-political climate, but doesn't fits musically with the sophisticated mood of the album.

A better idea that La Tanya develops with this recording is the decision to re-interpret classic jazz pieces that originated as instrumentals before lyrics were added later. These include the album opener, “All You Need To Say,” which first appeared as the instrumental “Never Say Yes” on Cannonball Adderley’s 1961 album with Nancy Wilson, and here features special guest trumpeter Michael Leonhart; Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not,” whose lyrics were added later by jazz historian Leonard Feather; “Pannonica,” Thelonious Monk’s tribute to elusive “patron saint of jazz” Pannonica de Koenigswarter, with lyrics added later by my much missed friend Jon Hendricks; another Monk-Hendricks classic, “Well You Needn’t”; and Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa,” whose lyrics were later penned by Norma Winstone.

In addition, La Tanya reaches back to 1944 and revamps Cole Porter’s classic, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” incorporating a Pablo Neruda poem which adds new life to the already powerful lyrics, to 1942 for a fresh, bourbon-soaked spin on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” and to 1916 for the Raymond Hubbell/John Golden tune “Poor Butterfly,” – the latter of which is a part of La Tanya’s Sarah Vaughan tribute show. There's also a thrilling voice/bass duet on Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein's 1928 pearl "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise." One of the best vocal jazz releases of the year.