Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Louis Armstrong's "Live in Germany" to be released next week on vinyl format!

At long last, after a bit of a delay, Louis Armstrong "Live in Germany" will finally be released next Friday, December 13th, on vinyl format. 

A CD version, with the alternate title "Live in Europe," includes Satchmo's live dates in Paris- due out on vinyl next year.

Part of Dot Time’s Legacy Series, and the fourth Armstrong release on the label, "Live in Germany" features the audio from a Titania Palast-Berlin recording of Louis and his All Stars which was initially broadcasted on RIAS (Radio in the American Sector). Armstrong’s band in 1952, featured Trummy Young on trombone, Bob McCracken on clarinet and vocals, Marty Napoleon on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass, Cozy Cole on drums and Velma Middleton on vocals.

Armstrong made his first tour of England in 1932 and then lived in Europe between July 1933 and January 1935. This 1948 performance as the headliner of the Nice International Jazz Festival marked the consummate trumpet player’s return to Europe. British trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton caught Armstrong’s performance and vividly recalled how he found himself “quaking at the ferocity with which he directed the band. If Sid Catlett’s drums started to intrude too heavily upon a solo, Louis would turn to him and hiss at him like a snake. And more than once Earl Hines’s exuberance was curbed by a sharp ‘Cut it boy!’”

Armstrong’s performance in Nice was momentous to say the least, 1948’s Nice International Jazz Festival was the world’s very first jazz festival on which Newport Jazz Festival and Monterey were both inspired. Armstrong’s performance introduced his music, and jazz music in general, to a much wider audience, one of Armstrong’s first acts as the jazz ambassador to the world.

The 1948 concert at the Nice Opera House sees a flawless performance from Louis and the All Stars.  A showcase of the virtuosity of the ensemble, the unmistakable sound of Earl Hines on piano adorned with the Teagarden’s masterful trombone performance, is a treat to audiences. However, Armstrong demonstrates that he’s the leader on each track, whether shooting for the fences with some fierce improvising on “Panama”, scatting like a demon on “Them There Eyes” or making a serious statement on “Black and Blue.”

Louis and the band started the evening with a groundshakingly ebullient version of Kid Ory’s “Muskrat Ramble”, ending with a pleased Armstrong exclaiming “Yeah!” In his trademark grumble.  The spellbound audience roars with applause as the band transitions into the endearing call-and-response of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rocking Chair”.  Next, the band features Barney Bigard demonstrating his facility on the clarinet over Benny Goodman’s standard “Rose Room”.  The band ends the iconic piece with an extended glissando from Bigard’s clarinet, this dazzling high note, held for nearly 20 seconds, leading to the songs closing downbeat, arouses an unparalleled excitement from the audience.

Armstrong’s voice is truly energetic and refined on these recordings.  Ironically, Promoter Ernie Anderson remembered Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser telling him before a trip to Europe, “Whatever you do, don’t sing. These are all foreigners. Remember, they don’t understand English.” Armstrong “nodded gravely” but according to Anderson, “It should be noted that Louis completely ignored Joe Glaser’s instruction not to sing. He opened every concert singing Fats Waller’s paean to the racial mood in America, ‘Black and Blue.’ It was always marvellously received.”  We, as listeners, can only be grateful that Glaser’s request fell upon deaf ears.
The 1952 recordings in Berlin saw a slew of personnel changes.  Armstrong’s longtime collaborator Arvell shaw reprised his role on the upright bass while Cozy Cole replaced the ailing Catlett in 1949.  Bigard was replaced by Texas-born clarinetist Bob McCracken. Pianist Marty Napoleon and trombonist Trummy Young brought a new, exciting energy to the outfit.  The recording includes a comic duet with Middleton on “Can Anyone Explain,” a slow, throwback instrumental treatment of “Tin Roof Blues” and one of his biggest Decca hits of the period, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.”

Reminiscing to Edward R. Murrow in 1955, Armstrong said, “We played in Germany one concert, the first time we went there, and the people was sitting there with those lorgnettes when they first come in. And when we got down to ‘The Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,’ they put  them down and [starts clapping and stomping his foot], ‘Yeah, Daddy!’”  This new-found treasure goes far to capture the ebullient nature of Satchmo’s performances in Europe that seems to surpass even the vitality of the artist’s home-country performances.  Says the maestro himself, “That's why the people in Europe, they get the benefit of this music that America sleeps on…”.

Recently, Dot Time Records reached an agreement with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation to release four albums of previously unreleased music from the Louis Armstrong collection. These recordings include Armstrong’s Standard Oil Sessions, Armstrong’s 1950’s club date performances, his 1964 Sparks, Las Vegas concert and finally Armstrong in Europe. Legacy series recordings are released on CD, Vinyl and Digital Platforms.

During his lifetime, Louis Armstrong amassed a huge collection of recordings.  From live concerts to studio and broadcast recordings, the range is extensive. The majority of these recordings along with other Armstrong artifacts are held in the Louis Armstrong Collection at Queens College in New York.  The Louis Armstrong Legacy Series will bring a selection of these recordings from Louis’ personal collection to the public for the first time ever.

Series producer Jerry Roche states, “Producing this music will mean people can connect again with the greatness of Louis Armstrong.”

Previous Dot Time Legacy Series Armstrong Releases include:
Volume 1 – The Standard Oil Sessions
A 55 minute recording was recorded in San Francisco, California on January 20, 1950 by the Standard Oil Company for their radio show, “Musical Map of America.” The recording was episode 19, “Musical Story of New Orleans,” and featured Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines. For reasons not known, the broadcast was never made and Armstrong was given the acetate discs of the sessions.

Volume 2 – 1950’s Club Performances
This release includes live club recordings from Storyville, Blue Note and a selection of European shows. Musicians include Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines and Cozy Cole among others. Louis Armstrong recorded multiple radio broadcasts of his nightclub appearances and in many cases the acetate recordings were given personally to Louis Armstrong after broadcast.

Volume 3 – 1964 Sparks, Nevada Concert
A rare live concert recording by the All Stars from Sparks, Nevada recorded in June of 1964 (right after “Hello, Dolly!” became a number one single) featuring Russell “Big Chief” Moore, Joe Darensbourg, Billy Kyle, Arvell Shaw, Danny Barcelona and Jewel Brown. This concert was professionally recorded and given to Louis Armstrong, who dubbed it to two separate reels.

Each of the four releases in the "Legacy Series” are available in a limited edition collector's version featuring exclusive packaging and a 20-page booklet written by Ricky Riccardi - Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum and author of best selling book “What A Wonderful World.” This booklet also contains rare photo material held in the Louis Armstrong Archive.

Known as the “21st century’s foremost expert on Louis Armstrong”, Riccardi is immersed in all things Armstrong. He runs the website, “The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong,” and has given lectures on Armstrong at venues around the world. With a Master’s degree in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers University, he has taught a “Music of Louis Armstrong” graduate course at Queens College and a six-week “Swing University” course on Louis Armstrong at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Fusion CD of the Month - "Darren Barrett: Mr. Steiner"

Fusion CD of the Month
Darren Barrett: "Mr. Steiner" (dB Studios) 2009
Rating: *****

Trumpeter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Darren Barrett is proud to announce the release of his new album "Mr. Steiner" on his label dB Studios. On this nine-track collection of originals, Barrett delves into the world of synthesis guru Nyle Steiner, credited for the invention of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) as well as the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), made popular by saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Created in the 70s, the EVI presents trumpeters with a truly innovative and inventive new sound palette to draw from in performance, composition and production. Here, on "Mr. Steiner," Darren Barrett delivers the true and full potential of the EVI by teaming the instrument with complementary melodies and augmentative orchestration. Barrett exudes, “the EVI for the trumpeter is just another instrument one can add to their arsenal just like the Flugelhorn or mutes…not only fun to play, it opens up your mind to new things.”

Celebrating the marriage of electronic instrumentation and jazz sensibilities, "Mr. Steiner" marks Barrett’s reunion with saxophone legend Kenny Garrett, with whom the trumpeter recorded his first studio album "First One Up," produced by Donald Byrd. Acclaimed guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel is featured on one track on "Mr. Steiner" (his third consecutive appearance for dB studios), and special guest saxophonist Noah Preminger displays his unique forward thinking approach to music here as well.

The EVI is a midi wind controller – a wind instrument that is capable of controlling any midi synthesizer, with breath control being an important component for expression. Similar to a trumpet, octaves are achieved through the octave roller with the left hand while notes are played with the right hand based on conventional trumpet fingerings. To achieve sound, no trumpet buzzing is needed as one simply applies air into the mouthpiece sensor to control volume and brightness.

Although not a widely-known instrument, listeners may recall hearing the sound of the EVI – played by Mr. Steiner – in several movies including Apocalypse Now, Star Trek, Witness and many more. The EVI can be played as a monophonic (1 note) or polyphonic (2 or more notes) instrument.  As a polyphonic instrument it is capable of playing intervals, triads and chords – an example of which can be heard on “Mr. Steiner”, “Nu Vibrations” and “EVI Theme #1”.

Having dedicated a year to the composition of this music, Barrett was thrilled to have this project brought to fruition with the help of such a talented, esteemed line-up including three highly celebrated voices in contemporary music as special guests: Kenny Garrett (“His voice and vision is extraordinary”), Kurt Rosenwinkel (“I’m always excited to hear how he will interpret my music with his powerful and inventive voice”) and Noah Preminger (“I love the way he constructs vocabulary. It’s very unique to me and it was a pleasure to have him on this recording”).

In addition to this stellar company, the recording features two distinctive rhythm sections – the first features Santiago Bosch on keyboards, Daniel Ashkenazy on bass,  Mathéo Techer on drums, Jeffrey Lockhart on guitar and Judy Barrett on percussion.  The second rhythm section consists of Gonn Shani on bass and Roni Kaspi on drums.  The recording also features two up-and-coming guitarists,  Roy Ben Bashat and François Chanvallon.  Chad Selph makes an appearance on organ to add some magic to the composition “dB Plus KG”.

The bandleader was honored to have Mark Steiner – nephew of Nyle Steiner – serve as technical consultant throughout the production stages of this project, helping with EVI issues and programming. Mr. Steiner is among the first recordings to showcase the NuEVI, a new version of the EVI currently being produced by Johan Berglund of Berglund Instruments in Sweden. This new instrument was used on a portion of the project and is an excellent addition to Nyle’s legacy. Matthew Traum of Patchman Music, referred to by the bandleader as “one of our leaders in the wind controller community”, contributed sounds to this recording as well.

On his 11th release as a leader, Darren Barrett continues to solidify his position as one of the foremost innovators and forward thinkers in the contemporary jazz realm. The foundation for this electronic exploration was laid on "The Opener" in 2017 (“Jazz’s future may very well sound like this,” said Downbeat Magazine), which infused soundscapes and samples in modern jazz setting, and built upon on "Time For Romance: But Beautiful" (2018), a ballads record awash in brilliant sound design. Now with "Mr. Steiner," Barrett once again showcases the tremendous possibilities for invention when undeniable talent meets ingenuity.

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.

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.