Justin Morell, Adam Rogers and the Frost Concert Jazz Band under the direction of Grammy-nominee John Daversa join forces to create a splendid concerto for guitar and jazz orchestra. Titled Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra, the recording features Adam Rogers as guest guitarist with the 19-member Frost Concert Jazz Band from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. The three-movement piece beautifully reflects the virtuosity of composer, arranger John Morell and is a most welcome composition to the existing repertoire for the jazz guitar soloist. These compositions are richly expressive and while two of the movements use the classical sonata form as the outline for two of its movements, the concerto does require extensive improvisation from guitarist Adam Rogers. Although Morrell uses elements from concerti penned by classical music giants Mozart and Beethoven, this concerto has a contemporary feel due to the three steel-string guitar parts, the expressive musical fluidity Adams uses to thread musical ideas from one section into the next. Under Daversa’s musical direction the lush, lyrical testimony of the orchestra’s gift for conveying deep emotions (and not just rhythmic excitement), also makes this project successful. Overall, Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra is a must have for all jazz music aficionados.
Sullivan Fortner Trio
Moments Preserved is Sullivan Fortner's follow up to his Impulse! Records debut titled Aria. The pianist and composer returns leading a sterling trio with bassist Ameen Saleem and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons and the great Roy Hargrove as guest on trumpet and flugelhorn. The recording contains 12 songs that span from re-arranged television theme songs such as “Changing Keys” from The Wheel of Fortune, and “You Are Special” from the Mister Rogers television show to originals penned by Fortner and his bandmate Saleem to jazz standards composed by Hope, Ellington, Monk and Styne that Sullivan’s trio revitalized.
Fortner's spry original "Pep Talk," a tune marked by intricate rhythm changes with a decidedly Bud Powell influence, and his graceful ballad "Elegy for Clyde Kerr," which he dedicated to one of his mentors from New Orleans are among the original compositions sequenced on the recording. “Beans and Cornbread” along with “New Port” round out the originals included on Moments Preserved and exemplify Sullivan’s musical growth as a composer.
"Eyes So Beautiful as Yours" marks the first of five jazz standards to appear on the disc. Composed by Elmo Hope, Fortner's poignant rendition features Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn. And it was while playing in Hargrove's quintet that Fortner learned the haunting ballad. Roy Hargrove makes another appearance - this time on trumpet for "Monk Medley," a bracing trumpet and piano duo mash-up of "Ask Me Now" and "Monk's Mood." Fortner also treats listeners to a bonus track - his version of Benny Green's "Phoebe's Samba," (not included on the digital version), which once again showcases Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn. Sadly, Sullivan left Roy Hargrove’s band just months before Hargrove passed away In November 2018 at the age of 47.
Once hearing how the trio captures the essence of Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” Monk’s “Barbara’s Strut” and Styne’s “Just In Time,” you dear listener realize that these updated versions mark a new direction for Sullivan’s musicality and remind you of his virtuosity.
Overall, Moments Preserved has a special meaning to Sullivan Fortner not only because it is among his most emotional offerings, but because it memorializes the late Roy Hargrove’s final studio sessions with Sullivan as a leader. Take the time from your busy schedules to contemplate and relax to this lovely collection of songs by Sullivan Fortner, Ameen Saleem and Jeremy Clemons. You’ll thank yourself…and them.
Dream Catcher (Solo Live Variation)
This amazing live solo performance by Armik is inspired from the track, Dream Catcher from his ALEGRA recording. As one of today’s most revered & best selling Nuevo Flamenco guitarists, Armik’s guitar virtuosity is the real showcase. His playing is brilliant and pure, absolutely authentic, yet extremely advanced in terms of its melodic and rhythmic shifting. Armik is also known for recording purely improvised solos at the time of recording playing freely on a first take. This is true art representing the artist.
Armik’s Dream Catcher (Solo Live Variation) is now available worldwide.
John Beasley talks about the making of MONK'estra
By Paula Edelstein
When you talk about today's most revered musicians and their skill sets, the name John Beasley comes up immediately. He's a true renaissance man with such skills as a composer, pianist, arranger, band leader, lecturer, and is the man who is responsible for the creation of MONK'estra, the Grammy nominated big band orchestra that has captured the contemporary essence of one of jazz's great pianists, Thelonious Monk.
GRAMMY®- and Emmy-nominated recording artist John Beasley leads a smashing big band project MONK’estra. The feel and sound of MONK’estra captures the spirit of Thelonious Monk’s singular style with its off-beat melodies, humor, strange beauty and unbounded swing in fresh arrangements flavored with hints of New Orleans, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban, contemporary and atmospheric rhythms and colors.
SOTJ spoke to John about his upcoming appearance at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA on October 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. and here's what he told us:
SOTJ: Congratulations on MONK'estra's upcoming performance at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA. Let's talk about how the concept for the MONK'estra orchestra came about.
JOHN: Well, sort of by accident a little bit. I was on a break from American Idol and I was learning a new music notation software. So I said, ‘well I haven’t done a big band chart in a while so let me get my chops together on this.’ So I wanted to do something contemporary so I could stretch out harmony and stuff, so I chose Monk’s tune “Epistrophy” because it has a lot of chromaticism on it. I discovered that I could not only get into the harmony of it but I could change the rhythms to Afro Cuban rhythms, and I could stretch out the melody a lot longer than Monk originally intended and you know, it became really fun. So I had that one song done. Do you remember the Luckman Orchestra?
JOHN: Well they did “A Night of Monk” about five or six years ago, something like that, and they asked me to do a couple of more Monk tunes. I did “Ask Me Now,” and can’t remember the other one…but again discovered that I could put a lot of myself into this by way of a large ensemble and sort of do my own take on Monk. I had these two charts, I booked a little rehearsal room at the union and got a bunch of my friends to come over, and everybody had fun. I kept writing and then I had enough songs for one set, so we booked a night at the Blue Whale on a weekend. People came out and seemed to really like it. So it just took on a life of its own…I guess it was sort of a natural progression.
SOTJ: Wonderful, that sounds great. Would you consider this band and its recordings among the brightest gems in your repertoire?
JOHN: Sure. And the band that is going to be at The Broad is the band that’s on the records. Most of the guys are on the records so it’s sort of our home cooking band, the original guys. We have a really good time playing together, playing this music. We’ve been all over the world between our first gig and this one so now the music has evolved even further from the records which is really nice.
SOTJ: How do you manage rotating the personnel? How did you select the musicians? Were they selected through auditions, on your personal knowledge of their work, or through a recommendation from a trusted source?
JOHN: Personal knowledge, guys in the band recommend other musicians. I haven’t had many problems getting guys, particularly here on the West Coast. These guys have been making all the gigs so I’ve been really lucky. I have sort of a hybrid band in New York where I’ll bring some guys from LA and fill it out with guys from New York and Europe. But there is sort of a core group of guys from the original band who make all the different gigs.
SOTJ: That’s great…. As a member of the orchestra, composer, Arranger, producer, and as its music director, how do you prepare for a gig or recording session?
JOHN: Well sometimes when it rains, it pours! It seems like in my life, when I’m booking gigs, everything else is going to happen at the same time. So I don’t know. You know, Quincy had a saying “When it rains, get wet.” (Laughs).
SOTJ: What are some of the financial and creative challenges you’ve experienced just keeping an orchestra of this size together?
JOHN: None really. Well nobody is really making a lot of money per se and it’s a labor of love so they know that going in. So there is not much of a financial challenge, it doesn’t seem a challenge at all, it seems like fun. We get these gigs, we play them, have fun, have some parties afterwards and it’s a really good group of guys and we’re all friends and we all respect each other musically. We all have a deep respect for Monk and that’s what binds us all, is our respect for Monk and the jazz tradition, and we want to keep going.
SOTJ: Is there a possibility that Monk’s son - T.S. Monk - will ever sit in with the orchestra at some point?
JOHN: Yeah, he’s been to a couple of our gigs. I saw him last Winter and yes, who knows, I’d love that.
SOTJ: We know Monk had a great impact on you but who are some other musicians, pianists, arrangers who inspire you?
JOHN: Miles Davis for sure and being able to work with him. I basically grew up with his music and studied him a lot. Piano players? Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder; Arrangers? For sure Quincy Jones, Thad Jones….those are my guys.
SOTJ: Any plans for a new recording with the members of Monk'estra? Do you have any plans for you in a solo format or in a smaller format project?
JOHN: Yes, we’re talking about it right now with the record company. Hopefully something will be out in about a year.
SOTJ: John, when do you rest! Your resume is jam packed with projects as a guest lecturer, a music director for an array of artists, films, television, in touring groups, the Thelonious Monk Institute tribute concerts, International Jazz Day concerts, and as a recording artist. You’ve received a plethora of awards including GRAMMY and Emmy nominations so I know there are many more awards in your future and want to congratulate you! Of all of your achievements, is there one that you are most proud of?
JOHN: Ohhhh, I don’t know. I am actually taking piano lessons again for the first time since high school. About six weeks ago, I started taking piano lessons again. So for me, I’m always…I know I have a lot of room to grow and to learn more. That’s kind of where I live. I know I can’t just rest and think that I can just kinda delve in…that’s not the right word. I hear so many great pianists so I say to myself, “Oh man I’ve got to go home and get my stuff together…I need to shore some stuff up here.” (Laughs).
SOTJ: John, thanks so much for the interview. I know you’re very busy, so have a Happy Birthday. Yours, mine and Monk’s are all on the 10th of October! Congratulations, John.
JOHN: Thanks and have a great day.
SOTJ: For more information about John Beasley, please log on to John Beasley’s website.
Robert Townsend discusses Making The Five Heartbeats
Interview by Cynthia McCoggle
Photos by Vinni Ratcliff
Making The Five Heartbeats is an ode to its legion of faithful fans. Behind-the-scene footage and recollections from the main cast (Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Harry J. Lennix, Leon Robinson, Tico Wells, and co-writer Keenen Ivory Wayans), recounts the sacrifice, comradery, faith, and ultimately, love that created the perfect storm. The Five Heartbeats is a masterful film of art and history that was conceptualized from one question: Why did the Temptations break up?
Robert Townsend spoke to Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com at the premiere of Making The Five Heartbeats and here's what he told us:
SOTJ: Why this movie The Five Heartbeats at that time in 1991?
TOWNSEND: Well, it really started with my childhood when the Temptations broke up in 1968. I just remember I was really devastated because that was my favorite singing group and I was kinda like, “what happened, what went wrong?” I was always fascinated with it. After my break out hit with Hollywood Shuffle,I could do anything and tell the story I wanted to tell in Hollywood. I just wanted to know what happened to the Temptations and groups like that, and that started the journey to make what would become The Five Heartbeats.
SOTJ: I understand certain traits were modeled from multiple singers/groups. Who did you deconstruct to create the characters?
TOWNSEND: I Iove the Dells, so their journey is in there. I talked with the Manhattans. I talked with just different people. So, it’s a mixture of my favorite groups, the O’Jays, the Delfonics, and the Chi-Lites.
SOTJ: Out of all of the characters, why did you choose to play Duck?
TOWNSEND: That’s a very good question. You know, I think Duck is closer to me. I wrote all the characters and I think Duck is more of the innocent and passionate artist. I think I am a little innocent. I’m not as innocent as I was but I’m still crazy-passionate. I’ll push someone off the piano in a second. I’m still that guy.
SOTJ: What was your emotional state while making The Five Heartbeats?
TOWNSEND: Well, I got to be honest, there were days when it was just heaven because I was creating something I wanted to do. Then there were days I was a total wreck because I co-wrote the script. I’m rewriting it, directing, producing, acting, and I got to learn choreography. So on any given day, my brain was ‘ah-ya-ya-ye-yahh’.
SOTJ: What were some of the obstacles you had to face while making The Five Heartbeats?
TOWNSEND: I mean, well, I had a sound in my head of what I wanted the music to sound like, and I had to find songs that sound like they were from the 60s. So luckily, I had a great music supervisor in George Duke and Steve Terrell and they found songs along with John McClain. So, on any given day, there were obstacles and I had to figure things out.
SOTJ: Do you keep in touch with any of the main characters from the movie?
TOWNSEND: We are like a real singing group. We are family. Forever. I mean, it’s funny because we talk to each other all the time. People do movies all the time and never see their cast members or talk to them again. So, whenever the movie is on television, people are tweeting and we’re talking to each other. We are like a real singing group, like the Temptations will forever be the Temptations, the O’Jays are the O’Jays, we are The Five Heartbeats.
SOTJ: After 27 years, what would you tell your younger self on how to maneuver obstacles in life, love and entertainment?
TOWNSEND: I think it’s all about breathing. No matter what’s going on, everything is perfect. There are no obstacles only opportunities. There are no delays, you’re right on time. The other thing, people are “go get that now”, and sometimes you may think that’s the right idea but there’s a better idea that might not come from you, and I would just say, breathe more. During the movie, I trusted my instincts and that’s the only thing I still do to this day. I really trust my instincts.
SOTJ: Watching the movie today, are there any changes you would make?
TOWNSEND: No, no. I gotta tell you the truth, I’m really, really happy. The only thing I have second thoughts about, it’s the first time I’ve shared such personal stuff about me. I tend to be very quiet. I just like to do my work and let my work speak for me, and this is the first time I kinda revealed my creative process, my insecurities, and my fears while I was making this movie. As an artist to help the next generation, you have to share your truth.
SOTJ: What is your most memorable scene in the movie?
TOWNSEND: You know, I will say this, I don’t really have a memorable scene because I love it all. I love creating, so when I look at different scenes, I mean, there are certain scenes that resonate with fans but for me, they all represent different challenges. So, if I have to choose a scene, maybe when we are at the Apollo, and all the stuff is going wrong and Eddie sings that long note, and I push the guy off the piano, and Big Mama stands up and spreads her arms in the air. I mean, all of those moments I was able to capture without dialogue. As a director, I kind of love that scene because it came together. It was really my editor, John Carter, who just passed away two days ago. I have to give it to him for the sequence he cut together in such a magical way.
SOTJ: For one night only,Making The Five Heartbeats, sold out on five hundred AMC screens nationwide. How does that make you feel?
TOWNSEND: The documentary was made for fans of the film, so I’m just excited for them to see the journey and to learn the real secrets behind the movie. I know it’s just going to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people who have been watching it hundreds of times. People always say, “I’ve seen that movie 500 times, every time it comes on television.” My heart is just smiling today because I can’t wait for fans to get the joy.
SOTJ: What’s next for you on or behind the camera?
TOWNSEND: I have a really crazy slate of stuff that I am doing. This year, I directed an episode of “Love Is” for Oprah’s OWN Network with creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I also worked with Salim on “Black Lightning” as an actor and I’m directing an episode. I’m will be working on a new show for BET, and I also created a pilot that BET just picked up called “Faith Zone.” It’s basically a gospel, twilight zone with music. I’m excited about it. I got a lot of stuff - some I’m writing, directing or acting.
SOTJ: What was it like directing the second episode “First Date” for Love Is?
TOWNSEND: It was heaven because Mara is like my cinematic daughter. She has amazing instincts and writes from a pure place. So when I read the script, I was like, oh my God, we’ve never seen love like this, we’ve never seen relationships like this. Not that it’s a manual to make your own relationship work but on one part it is. They give you a little tools and keys to say, if you love someone, sometimes you just gotta be vulnerable. So when I was reading the script, I was like, oh my God, what a gift. I just had the best time. It’s so well cast and the actors are amazing, I was happy to be in the room and to be able to direct the second episode and create a lot of the world. It was just a lot of fun for me.
Bass player extraordinaire Marcus Miller brings the influence of modern urban music to his trademark sound on his highly-anticipated, genre-defying new album Laid Black, (Blue Note Records, 2018). The lead single, "Untamed" is available to stream or download now. The tracks on LaidBlack uses elements from hip-hop, trap, soul, funk, R&B and jazz in a calm but powerful, musical experience. Miller recorded most of the nine tracks on Laid Black with his band in a New York studio and also recruited guest artists Trombone Shorty, Kirk Whalum, Take Six, Jonathan Butler, and Belgian singer Selah Sue to communicate Marcus’ awesome bass chops to the forefront while continuing to push aside all boundaries while taking jazz to new levels.
Miller is a multiple GRAMMY Award winner, a winner of Holland’s Edison Award for Lifetime Achievement In Jazz (2013), a winner of France’s Victoire du Jazz (2010), as well as being a UNESCO Artist For Peace. in 2013. Miller is also known for his iconic film and television scores and recently composed the music for the Oscar nominated film Marshall (2017) directed by Reginald Hudlin and starring Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall and Emmy award-winning actor Sterling Brown. Miller composed the soundtrack to the now classic sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, created by Chris Rock. Miller is also responsible for the soundtracks on landmark cultural classics such as Boomerang (featuring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry), House Party (featuring Kid N’ Play), and he wrote “Da Butt,” the song that inspired the national dance craze from Spike Lee’s 1988 cult classic School Daze.
Miller broadcasts two weekly radio shows, Miller Time With Marcus Miller on SiriusXM which airs on Sunday evenings and Transatlantic Jazz With Marcus Miller which broadcasts each Wednesday in the UK on Jazz FM.Miller is also the official host of several sold-out jazz cruises each year, put on by Entertainment Cruise Productions, including Blue Note at Sea, which sails next on January 26, 2019 featuring a stellar line-up including Miller, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, and more. Miller has a global tour planned behind the release of Laid Black with concerts scheduled worldwide. Visit marcusmiller.com for more details.
LIVE AT VIVA CANTINA
When you hear the Hammond B3 organ as the lead instrument on a recording, your thoughts automatically lean towards such male jazz and rock organists as Al Kooper, Billy Preston, Booker T Jones, Chester Thompson, Brian Auger, Jimmy Smith, Richard “Groove’ Holmes, Joey De Francesco, Felix Cavaliere, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Stevie Winwood, Jimmy McGriff and many others that played this magnificent instrument. But then there are a group of females who made their mark as musicians and bandleaders on the Hammond B3. Among those occupying titles alongside the Queen of the Organ Shirley Scott are such noted artists as the Mother of Contemporary Gospel Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark and Barbara Dennerlein.
But take note, organist Jocelyn Michelle has stepped into the spotlight with her toe tapping, festive project titled Live at Viva Cantina (Chicken Coup Records, 2018), the follow up to her acclaimed debut titled Time To Play. Jocelyn wrote four of the songs for the recording and arranged all of the songs for such notable musicians as saxophonists Steve Mann and Bill Noble, trumpeters Andrea Lindborg and Tony Ferrell, guitarist John Rack, Sammy K and Al Person on drums and percussion, and guest vocalist Laura Dickinson.
She creates exemplary musical experiences on “A Sister’s Love” which gives you, dear listener, some great memories compliments of its soothing motion and rhythmic feel. She also covers “Goovin’” the hit written by Felix Cavaliere of the Young Rascals before seguing into “Last Tango In Paris” composed by the great saxophonist/composer Gato Barbieri. Nobody plays that song like Gato did but the reeds and brass meet comfortably while Jocelyn handles space and rhythm beautifully.
Overall, Live At Viva Cantina which was recorded at Viva Cantina in Burbank, CA reveals another collection of special gifts from Jocelyn Michelle that capture her spontaneity, energy and spotlighted Hammond B3 chops. Check it out.
The project was inspired by the solar eclipse of 2017 and gave rise to Joey Alexander’s fourth album for Motema Music. During Eclipse, Alexander’s skills as a composer, bandleader and musician are front and center on six original compositions which are backed by such great jazz artists as bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Eric Harland and guest saxophonist Joshua Redman. John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice” and Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” are among the jazz classics that get fresh interpretations by the ensemble. Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You” features Joshua Redman doing his thing with exciting results. “Blackbird” – the Lennon/McCartney composition – receives the beautiful pianism of Joey Alexander and remains among the more impressive songs on the recording. The ten-minute title track is a free jazz experience created just after the group viewed the solar eclipse and is a remarkable interpretation of the phenomenon when the moon blocks the sun’s rays. Ironically, the song is not metaphorically “dark” or “flashy” but certainly showcases the young artist’s ability and focus and use certain chords and cadences that symbolized the progression of the eclipse.
Overall, the clarity, accessibility and interplay with his ensemble reveals that the 14-year old Joey Alexander is truly inspired and has become such a multi-dimensional composer in just four years since his Motema debut. Eclipse is mature, sophisticated and innovative beyond his years. Check it out.
Several steps go into choosing and/or producing songs for an album or for that matter, films, personal concert appearances, television and other visual media. But in the case of Love Stone, the latest release on Savant Records by J.D. Allen, the tenor saxophonist deviated from using his own original music and instead chose songs he felt would be “beautiful music in an ugly ass world.” Well, guess what? He delivers with a bang and generates fresh takes on some of your favorite love songs. This special collection emanates from the heart and keeps the terms, love, wanting and alone in perspective and from a creative standpoint. Best of all, these songs work. They work because J.D. Allen knew his context, he knew which love songs would connect with his unforgettable signature tenor sax sound. Sequencing such songs as “Stranger In Paradise,” “Prisoner of Love,” “You’re My Thrill” to name just a few, not only makes this recording a great listen, it makes the recording marketable and assessable to fans who love these songs and want to hear them played in a new way. The tempo, instrumentation of his group Liberty Ellman on guitar, Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, and the jazzy style these songs are played in, send a clear and creative statement about J.D. Allen’s skills as a bandleader, musician and producer. Those attributes set him apart from many of his peers and because he has chosen the “right” love songs for Love Stone and the awesome talents of his bandmates, he has created a memorable and successful recording that his fans will appreciate for some time to come. Check it out.
Leading the British Invasion
Hart, Scone & Albin
While the British music invasion of the 1960s profoundly influenced music around the world in every decade up to the present, the current release by John Hart, Adam Scone and Rudy Albin titled Leading the British Invasion, is heavily steeped in the classic forms of Blues, Soul. R&B and Rock and features songs made famous by such female British singer/songwriters as Sade, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Adele and Dusty Springfield. The trio, brings a tremendous amount of musicality, vigor and inspiration to the songs they have chosen for this recording and while the songs are sung from a male’s point of view, the trio has managed to keep the songs true to their original meanings.
Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” is now a 16-bar blues with a picked up tempo and a street beat. Dusty Springfield’s version of “The Look of Love” is interpreted as a jazz bossa with reinvented exotic harmonies. The trio has interpreted Sade’s “Smooth Operator” as a rockin’ shuffle while Adele’s “Turning Tables” is a jazz waltz and while her “Rolling in the Deep” is given a full-on Band of Gypsies twist.
Leading the British Invasion is a different expression of respect for how well a song can be transcribed from a vocal rendition to an instrumental version so check it out.
For Lisa Hilton’s 20th release as a leader, she wanted to promote peace, tranquility and positive energy so that her listeners would be energized and uplifted. With Escapism, she succeeds via nine original compositions and the Lerner & Lane standard titled “On A Clear Day” while accompanied by saxophonist JD Allen, trumpeter/flugelhornist Terell Stafford, bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston.
Lisa’s breadth of creativity and range of ideas are astounding as she reveals the virtuosity of her pianism, musicality and artful sound. Among the more memorable compositions are “Hot Summer Samba”and “Meltdown” both of which feature face-paced melodic ideas that stretch and loosen any preconceived notions of what lays beneath the surface of these sizzlers. JD Allen’s saxophonics and Terell Stafford’s flugelhorn magic underline Lisa’s signature chops on “Zero Gravity” while her version of the Lerner & Lane classic “On A Clear Day” is calming and inspiring as she celebrates the artistry of these composers through her versatile reading.
Grounded in the jazz tradition, pianist Lisa Hilton has a lot to say. So listen. And then listen again. Buy Escapism today. Simply click on the CD cover.
SHERMAN IRBY & MOMENTUM
Sherman Irby’s latest offering titled Cerulean Canvas is the ultimate manifestation of his virtuosity as a songwriter, alto saxophonist and bandleader. The recording is his eighth as a leader and the fifth for his Black Warrior Records but features a distinctively different ensemble collectively known as Sherman Irby & Momentum. The stellar collective features guest virtuoso Wynton Marsalis playing trumpet on “John Bishop Blues,” and “SYBAD,” trombonist Vincent Gardner, pianist Eric Reed, Gerald Cannon on bass, and Willie Jones, III on drums. A second guest artist, Elliot Mason, plays trombone on “From Day to Day,” “Willie’s Beat, aka The Sweet Science,” and “Contemplation.”
Irby composed five of the ten compositions which consists of expressive musical portraits that are deeply grooved blues, deep ballads, and emotive and emotional remembrance of Irby’s JLCO colleague Joe Temperly who passed away in 2016. The ensemble also covers songs written by Mulgrew Miller (“From Day to Day”), Wayne Shorter (“Contemplation”), Stevie Wonder (“Smile Please”), Vincent Gardner (“Blue Twirl: A Portrait of Sam Gilliam”) and of course, Maceo Pinkard whose 1925 classic, “Sweet Georgia Brown” completes the album. Each performance is steeped in exemplary elements of jazz, great improvisations, artistic excellence and awesome arrangements. Wynton Marsalis is brilliant on “John Bishop Blues” as are the sincere solos emanating through Sherman Irby’s inimitable saxophonics.
From start to finish during Cerulean Canvas these artists really paint memorable blue notes, dynamic colors and at times, deep indigo moods. This is truly Irby’s masterpiece and deserves to be in your jazz collection. Check it out and then buy Cerulean Canvas from the SOTJ store. Click on the CD cover.
Short Notice is the debut recording as a leader by Manny Echazabal, the exciting songwriter/saxophonist out of the University of Miami. Joining Echazabal is Tal Cohen on piano, Dion Kerr on bass and David Chiverton on drums. Manny wrote all of the songs for the recording whose title song emanated from a class project helmed by the great Terence Blanchard who challenged Echazabal to write a composition in one hour. Hence the title “Short Notice” which is an uptempo modal piece that recalls the late great John Coltrane’s quartet at the height of their glory. Tal Cohen makes this song very enjoyable with his exciting pianism and improvisation.
The set opens with “Time Out” during which Manny’s mature solo is performed with passion and skill. The post bop swinging is fresh and features lots of musical logic. The ballad “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” is emotional and serene while “Abraham’s Warriors” is a jazz waltz played by the trio sans pianist Tal Cohen. This song truly reveals Echazabal’s free-spirited saxophonics. The set is rounded out by such songs as “the Green Monk,” the three-part “New Dawn,” and the moodiness of “Unknown Identity” all of which keep the listener interested and satisfied from the opening to closing notes of each song. These gifts are undeniable calling cards for Manny's inevitably promising future as a jazz master.
Overall, Short Notice is an impressive debut for a new jazz trio that should be in demand in the coming years. Check it out at the SOTJ and then buy it today. Click on the CD cover.
Trip is the new jazz-rock fusion release from iconic guitarist Mike Stern and his 17th recording as a leader. Stern, along with his stellar bandmates offer his fans an 11-track set that features his world-class guitar chops along with his band’s mighty accompaniment. Trip features such great musicians as trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, bassists Victor Wooten and Tom Kennedy, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans and drummers Lenny White, Dave Weckl and Dennis Chambers. Together, this union of prodigious musicians play songs that were inspired by Stern’s recovery from serious injuries sustained in a horrific accident. Leni Stern, Mike’s wife, guests on two tracks and plays the n’ goni (a three-stringed African instrument) on “Emilia,” and on the uplifting, pensive ballad “I Believe You.”
From the start, Mike’s fans will recognize his scorching, distorted licks on “Trip” and “Screws” as well as his burning chops on the free swinging “Half Crazy,” “Scotch Tape and Glue,” and “B Train” which feature drummer Lenny White. Wallace Roney’s muted trumpet solo on “B Train” is a pronounced straight-ahead jazz performance laced with Miles Davis’ flavors, while Jim Beard’s pianism is reminiscent of Bill Evans’ stellar comping. Mike also plays the nylon string acoustic guitar on the beautiful and tender ballad titled “Gone” and on “Emilia” during which he also lends his vocals! Mike’s work on “I Believe You” is masterful and truly unforgettable. This song is destined to become a must include in the jazz-rock fusion repertoire.
Overall, the love and energy everyone put into this recording is awesome and certifies the glowing respect Mike’s fellow bandmates have for him. So give Trip a listen. You’ll really enjoy hearing the powerful musical visions inspired by Stern’s experiences and the superlative jazz-rock fusion program performed by some of today’s most admired musicians. Buy it from the SOTJ store. Just click the CD cover.
Four time Grammy nominee Boney James has come a long way in his 16 years as a saxophonist/composer and bandleader. With Honestly, he reveals his superb artistic and musical growth that continues to amaze his global audiences as well as his contemporaries. With the exception of “Skylark” the Hoagy Carmichael standard, the 10 songs on Honestly were written by Boney or co-written with vocalist Avery *Sunshine (on the title track), Eric Roberson (on “If I Can’t Hold You”) and Jairus Mozee, the hit maker behind many of the songs he co-produced for Anthony Hamilton and Robin Thicke. The songs reflect an array of genre specific elements including the notable grooves and funkiness of “Tick Tock,” the straight up R&B feelings on “Honestly,” the contemporary jazz fascination heard on “Up All Night” and the riveting sexy sounds heard on “Kicks.”
Avery * Sunshine’s discourse on all aspects of a lover in need heard in the ballad called “Honestly” is both inspiring and intense while Eric Roberson’s vocals on his ballad “If I Can’t Hold You,” are a don’t miss this one that Boney underscores with his mighty saxophonics. Both ballads are dramatically different from one another, resulting in an unexpected and rich rewarding symbiosis that authenticates Boney’s collaborative songwriting and performance skills.
Overall, Honestly is a transporting recording by a veteran virtuoso who performs this program with drama, beauty, sexiness and exemplary innovation. Check it out then buy it from the SOTJ store. Just click on the CD cover.
Keep It Movin’
This is an illustrious recording of 7 original songs and one cover that is sure to keep you satisfied from start to finish. Guitarist Frank Piombo gives a grand performance of his songs along with several accompanists who add their outstanding musical expertise. Frank keeps it movin’ as a smooth jazz aficionado and with pizazz. Horn charts make sense as do the spirited melodies and sultry grooves.
Among the most memorable highlights are the solos by saxophonist Tony Exum, Jr. and trumpeting by Sam Hankins. But the charmers are led by the guitarist himself on such beautiful songs as “Sogno D/Amore” and “Sunset Beach.”
Keep It Movin’ does just that and will give you several reasons to play this one more than once. Check it out and then buy it at the SOTJ store. Simply click on the CD cover.
Australian, New-York based composer, vocalist, and keyboardist Kathleen Potton has released Nero, her first recording produced by bass/guitar virtuoso Alan Hampton. The 9-track offering reflects the broadening awareness of Potton’s musical experiences and melds influences from artful pop, jazz and R&B.
Songs such as the title track, “Airport,” “Montauk” and “Simple Wishes” are a blend of both soothing and compelling rhythms, melodies and harmonies that define some of Potton’s memories associated with her travels. These evocative lyrical images are brought to life though her soft, quiet, expressive vocals, the lovely pianism of Frank Locastro, the drumming of Bill Campbell and the thoughtful guitar playing of Ben Eunson. In addition to these musicians, Alan Hampton’s musicality does not just lend his bass guitar logic to the soothing quality of Kathleen’s vocals, but his performance adds an additional layer to the high-def production of the entire recording.
Overall, all of Potton’s original songs composed for Nero are intuitive and imaginative. Her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” is momentum branded. Give it a listen and then check her out when she comes your way.
LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT
Tina Raymond, Art Lande and Putter Smith reveal their intense musical relationship on Right, Left, Right, a 10-track recording that shines the spotlight on new arrangements of folk tunes, traditional anthems and a couple of Putter Smith’s originals. Raymond, an up and coming drummer/arranger who is based in Los Angeles, gives her best rim shots and percussive mastery on songs written by Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. Her arrangements jazz up such patriotic anthems as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “America,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” to the point that you will most likely want to hear these renditions as the official ceremonial versions. Additionally, socially conscious tunes made famous in the Sixties, are a mouthpiece for Raymond’s disillusionment with today’s political climate. Overall, creativity abounds on this excellent recording by a new artist that is sure to be around for a very long time.
On In2uition, vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia collaborates with several award-winning pianists to reimagine songs from the Great American Songbook and to spotlight several of her original compositions. The double disc offering features 14 duets that connects her audience with pianists Josh Nelson, John Beasley, Otmaro Ruiz, Dave Moscoe and several others. She cover such standards as Rogers & Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind,” and “Small Hotel” with Dave Moscoe; “Ruby My Dear,” with John Beasley; and “Bonita” with Otmaro Ruiz in addition to presenting four of her original compositions.
Cathy Segal-Garcia has a warm, inviting voice that enhances the original composers’ arrangements while allowing her audience to experience versions that substantiate her creative songwriting. Give In2uition a listen and determine for yourself whether this delightful recording deepens your admiration for Cathy Segal-Garcia’s creative processes.
Flowers - Beautiful Life - Volume 2
Jimmy Greene’s art and heart are all over the 10 original songs he composed for Flowers-Beautiful Life Volume 2. This stellar tribute to his late 6-year old daughter Ana Marquez Greene who was murdered in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, is the continuation of his Mack Avenue debut which is a memorial for Ana Jimmy titled Beautiful Life. While Greene’s first recording honored Ana’s “love of singing and reflecting the way Ana lived,” Flowers – Beautiful Life Volume 2 honors her love of dancing while “inviting us into her playful 6-year old world for a while.”
Joining Jimmy on this heartfelt recording are members from his two touring bands who are also his “friends and heroes” whom he refers to as his Love in Action unit. Renee Rosnes on piano and Fender Rhodes, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, with Rogerio Boccato on an array of percussion instruments and guitarist Mike Moreno, keyboardist Kevin Hays, drummer Otis Brown III and bassist Ben Williams.
These songs are truly played from the heart. Special mention goes to “Big Guy” which was Ana’s nickname for Jimmy. This particular song was inspired by a chord progression given to Jimmy by Jackie McLean; “December” is an emotional spectrum of emotions depicting grief to joyous remembrance while “Stink Thumb” and “Thirty Two” are compositions which feature Greene’s variations on the blues.
Overall, Jimmy Greene’s music is performed with skill, grace, joy and intensity. These excellent compositions reveal his heart and soul as a musical genius and loving father who is using the healing power of music to overcome tragedy and to honor and memorialize his daughter’s spirit. Buy Flowers – Beautiful Life – Volume 2 now. Click on the CD cover to buy this excellent recording.
Luck Be A Lady
Temple University Studio Orchestra
Andreas Delfs conducts the Temple University Studio Orchestra, Terrell Stafford and Dick Oatts at the Temple Performing Arts Center in a stellar tribute to Ole Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Michael Abene arranged 9 songs for this excellent recording which producer Robert T. Stroker titled Luck Be A Lady, and released on BCM+D Records.
The Temple University Studio Orchestra plays orchestral arrangements of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra including “It Was A Very Good Year,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and “Luck Be A Lady.” All of the newly styled versions of these songs exude fresh blends of orchestral hues and textures which make the songs more enjoyable as instrumentals to new and loyal Sinatra fans. Michael Abene, the multi-Grammy nominated and Grammy Award-winning composer, arranger, producer and bandleader, has arranged this set of songs so that each member of the orchestra can present them in articulate and listenable ways. The performances by guest trumpeter Terrell Stafford on trumpet are virtuosic as are the solos by guest saxophonist Dickie Oatts. Delfs deserves particular notice for his exceptional conducting of the 65-member orchestra and guests.
Luck Be A Lady is an exceptional offering and deserves to be in your jazz collection. Buy it today. Click on the CD cover.
Beata Pater has released her fifth album for B&B Records with an entirely new methodology to repertoire. Titled Fire Dance, the recording features eleven new compositions written by Alex Danson all of which are exemplary vehicles for Beata’s unique vocalese. Each member of the 7 member band contributes their precise details and improvised visions to her impeccable intonation and rhythmic vocalese. Sam Newsome on soprano saxophone, Anton Schwartz on tenor saxophone, Aaron Lington on baritone saxophone, Scott Collard on keyboards, Aaron Germain on bass and Alan Hall and Brian Rice on drums and percussion provide the robust and enhanced compliments to Beata’s full palette of colors, textures and patterns.
Along with the impressive use of vocal overdubs and the rich infusions of R&B, folk forms, and World Music influences, Fire Dance meets the excellent standards set Beata set with her previous releases. Check it out and then buy Fire Dance here. Click on the CD cover.
Singer/songwriter/arranger Sidney Jacobs has released his second recording which features songs by a diverse group of songwriters as well as seven original songs written by him. First Man is a highly accomplished offering that Jacobs produced for his Baby Chubs recording label where he reveals his thoughtful, creative interpretations of love ballads, jazz standards and a recent composition by Kendrick Lamar. So if you like songs sung by Al Jarreau, Gregory Porter or Bobby McFerrin, then Sidney Jacobs is your first man!
Among the original songs included on this stellar recording are “First Man,” a samba-inspired song that opens with Jacob’s inviting vocalese and goes on to speak about subject matter he leaves to your interpretation. The swing tune “Say What You Will” extends further into one’s psyche to encourage listeners to face their fears and reach for their dreams - regardless.
With a resonant voice that crosses several octaves, the songs selected for First Man exceed the goals Jacobs set during his first release titled Been So Long. Check it out.
DISTINCTIVE ASSETS’ LEGENDARY "EVERYONE WINS" NOMINEE GIFT BAGS ARE FABULOUS, FUN, & QUIRKY
By Paula Edelstein
“And the nominees are….” During the awards season, this is one of the most suspenseful statements any potential winner could hear. So for the past 15 years, Distinctive Assetshas removed the suspense of winning with their legendary “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags. The Beverly Hills-based marketing company headed by Lash Fary balances the raising and lowering of hopes by honoring this year’s Oscar nominees in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director categories with popular, invigorating and useful brands that are not only beneficial but also a lot of fun.
Since many of the nominees arrive in Los Angeles for a whirlwind of meetings, rehearsals, ceremonies and partying , certain items in Distinctive Assets’ “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags are sure to prove conducive to their successful participation in meetings and socializing.
The full WOOSH BEAUTY COLLECTION allows nominees to freshen up and can be a powerful alternative to hours in the make-up chair. This innovative collection includes MMS (Mobile Makeup System) Bag, Fold Out Face, Essential Brush Set, Corner Brush Eye Stamper, Flex and Curl Mascara & Lash Shield, Spin on Lip Gloss Duo and more!
After shining on the red carpet, who doesn’t want to go casual for the rest of the weekend? The ladies can change into a personally curated wardrobe from BELLDINI, a leading manufacturer of women’s fashions for over 35 years. Simple accessorize that look with PARK AND BUZZ’s hand- made baguette stud earrings crafted with solid sterling silver, plated with 18k gold and inlaid with cubic zircona and YOGAJEWELZ’s 14K solid gold and diamond encrusted OM Bracelet statement piece and you’re good to go!
When the nominees just want to get away, they can unwind, relax and invigorate at the KOLOA LANDING RESORT AT POIPUfor 5 nights/6 days in a luxurious villa on Kauai’s sunny South Shore . On the main land, a 3 day stay at theLOST COAST RANCHin Northern California, offers nominees the chance to experience the sublime beauty of the Pacific Ocean, nearby forests, and the superb services and dining.
In addition to the great American vacation spots the nominees as preferred guests receive, Italian vacation destinations such as the luxurious GRAND HOTEL EXCELSIOR VITTORIAin Sorrento and the spectacular GRAND HOTEL TREMEZZO in Lake Como also offer them an escape from the glare of the paparazzi during their complimentary 3-night stay in a suite as preferred guests!
Many corporate sales and partnership representatives just talk about the value of the gift bags instead of elevating while remaining true to the spirit of giving. Many companies have also attempted to replicate Distinctive Assets’ amazing “Everyone Wins” Nominees Gift Bags, but few achieve it. Past recipients of these gift bags have stated that receiving an "Everyone Wins" Nominees Gift Bag “is among the highpoints of my awards season” and “the items are something I would use for my personal style.” “At the end of the day, the movie industry is about allowing viewers to escape reality and enter a fantasy world. We hope we do that in some small way for these hard-working nominees … help them relax, unwind, unplug and indulge after one of the most intensely hectic weeks of their lives,” added Fary.
So if you want to know how to rock the red carpet, (and the aftermath) check out the items in this year’s Distinctive Assets “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bags. To learn more about and for more information please visit the Distinctive Assets website.
The Comedian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
By Paula Edelstein
Terence Blanchard, the multiple GRAMMY Award-winning trumpeter and composer, offers a sublime score for “The Comedian,” the new movie starring Robert De Niro and Leslie Mann. Directed by Taylor Hackford, the movie is playing in theatres now. The album The Comedian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is now available digitally, and will be released by Blue Note on CD April 7th.
Blanchard composed 8 full tracks (not just music cues) for the film’s soundtrack and features such acclaimed jazz musicians as pianist Kenny Barron, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, alto saxophonist Khari Allen Lee, bassist David Pulphus, and drummer Cary Allen.
The score’s concept translates as a basic sonic branding that helps to tell the story of comedian Jackie Burke (De Niro), a jazz-loving comic icon who collects Art Blakey records and does a spot-on impression of legendary Birdland emcee Pee Wee Marquette. Blanchard uses various sounds – subliminal and otherwise – to regulate the moods, energy and passions of the characters. He is equally committed to introducing new sounds into their experiences when necessary.
Such songs as “Jackie In The Rain,” “Jackie Gets Out,” and “Jackie’s Lament” expertly support DeNiro’s character emotionally and stylistically. “Tit For Tat Nocturne” featuring Ravi Coltrane offers some great, passionate soloing by Blanchard and Coltrane. They exceed your expectations as they reflect Taylor Hackford’s vision by using their virtuosic skills as performers and composer. Blanchard not only pays attention to his responsibilities but to the other elements that combine to make the film, as well. Kenny Barron’s solo during “Kenny Gets Out” is quite moving in the way he merges its sound with Hackford’s vision. The relationship is seamless.
Overall, the creative process Blanchard and his sextet used to score the various musical scenarios from concept to completion has produced an emotionally satisfying outcome for “The Comedian.” To purchase the soundtrack, click on the CD cover.
Groovin’ is Peter White’s follow up to his previous all-covers albums titled Reflections and Playin’ Favorites. It finds the award-winning guitarist/composer in a nostalgic mood and injecting vocalese and bold horn charts into such compositions as The Rascals’ “Groovin’(On A Sunday Afternoon),” The Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere,” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” among other rock and soul hits from the 1970s and 1980s.
There is lots of rhythm, grooves, and just great guitar playing on White’s 10-track offering. His contemporary jazz twists to these classic songs give a new generation of fans something to be excited about as well as a chance to celebrate White’s ongoing legacy that will keep you up all night and enjoying this good time music. The recording is set for release on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group. Buy it here. Keep in touch with Peter White’s tour info atwww.peterwhite.com
Take your pick from any of the great recordings written and performed by Paul Taylor and you’ll have the listens of your life. But there is always that special recording that stays with you long after the last track ends… and that disc is Countdown. It is Paul Taylor’s 11th recording, it includes 10 songs and it’s definitely a 10! His latest features the great saxophonics, his vocals and his excellent songwriting skills that have made Paul Taylor a favorite among urban jazz saxophonists who can do it all.
Not only is Paul talented but he’s a consummate entertainer who brings it bright, true and often when performing at any venue in the world or with such groundbreaking ensembles as Peter, Paul and Euge, Sax and the City or Gentlemen of the Night. The “Taylormade” songs on Countdown are a mix of EDM, neo-soul and jazz inflected sessions that you’ll be ready to groove to, share, network with fellow fans. Paul plays alto and soprano saxophones and sings alongside Dino Esposito who plays keyboards and does the programming & drum programming while Brian Monroney plays guitars on all songs except “Polaris” during which Peter White plays guitar.
All together these great musicians/songwriters provide truly inspired sonic spaces for you to be in when you want to hang out or just unwind. Songs such as “Countdown,” “Club 702,” “Polaris,” and “Arrival,” among others have an unforgettable groove and a certain kind of vibe that registers with your core logic.
There are no limits so just take some time to get involved in and inspired by this important source of new music from Paul Taylor and his long-time collaborator Dino Esposito. Buy Countdown here. Click on the CD cover.
Open The Curtains
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and they’re feeling and sounding great on Carol Duboc’s latest offering titled Open The Curtains. The girl power she has assembled for her Gold Note Music release reads like a Who’s Who of Women in Jazz and includes such notable musicians/composers as herself (of course!), Patrice Rushen, Queen Cora, Rhonda Smith, Sheila E., Mindi Abair, Bibi McGill, Jennifer Batten, Aubrey Logan, Anna Duboc and Ava Dela Cruz. Carol Duboc wrote seven of the ten songs on the recording and makes each one worth more than one listen.
Closely associated as a first call musician with such acclaimed performers as the late greats Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire and George Duke, Carol Duboc’s artistry glistens here as she charts her own musical path that is firmly rooted in jazz and R&B traditons. She sings such songs as the Bricusse/Newly masterpiece made famous by Nina Simone “Feeling Good” with vigor and power; explores issues of self-empowerment and identity with Sheila E.’s percussive mastery and Mindi Abair’s great saxophonics on “In Pieces;” re-imagines Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” and delivers a truly sonic tone poem on “Miss You Missing Me.”
Overall, Open The Curtains is an important offering because of the phenomenal women she employed for the project but also because of Carol Duboc’s new versions of some timeless classics. Check it out and buy it here. Click on CD cover.
Music prodigy Joey Alexander is a double GRAMMY Award-winning pianist/composer who has excited audiences around the world for the past two years. The 13-year old’s performance on the 2015 Grammy Awards program received a standing ovation and his performance at the Hollywood Bowl this summer at the Playboy Jazz Festival was among the best performances of the day. My Favorite Things, his debut recording was a blockbuster, climbing to #1 on Amazon’s Overall Bestsellers Chart and also resided at the top of Billboard’s Jazz charts.
Now, Joey Alexander has released his second recording for Motema Music. Titled Countdown, it features excellent production values by the Grammy-winning producer Jason Olaine. The 9-track recording features Larry Grenadier playing bass on “Countdown,” “Maiden Voyage,” “For Wee Folks,” and “Soul Dreamer,” while Dan Chmielinski plays bass on “City Lights,” “Sunday Waltz,” and “Chelsea Bridge.” Ulysses Owens, Jr. plays drums and sopranto saxophonist Chris Potter makes a guest appearance on “Maiden Voyage.”
Joey and Denny Sila arranged the recording that features compositions written by such renowned composers as John Coltrane (“Countdown”), Herbie Hancock (“Maiden Voyage”), Thelonious Monk (“Criss Cross”), Billy Stayhorn (“Chelsea Bridge”), and Wynton Marsalis (“For Wee Folks”). The Alexander/Sila original compositions – “City Lights,” “Sunday Waltz,” and “Soul Dreamer” – round out the program and add additional credence to Alexander’s compositional integrity. For someone his age, this recording is exemplary of what young virtuosi can accomplish when in a positive guiding light.
All of the songs are beautifully performed and provide a 21st century update to some of your favorite jazz gems. Joey Alexander must be commended for his prolific and accomplished program that deserves your undivided attention. Listen now and then click on the CD cover to purchase Countdown.
Avishai Cohen discusses 'From Darkness'
Interview by Paula Edelstein
SOTJ: Congratulations on your latest release titled From Darkness. Let's talk about your inspiration for the CD, the new member of the trio and your absolute growth as an artist.
Q: There has never been any doubt in my mind about your absolute genius and creativity as a musician, composer, bassist, arranger, and bandleader. Whether it was displayed on Adama, your first recording as leader on Chick Corea’s label or now on From Darkness which is released on Razdaz Recordz, your own recording label, your virtuosity is truly phenomenal. How are you ‘keeping it real’ because of all the fame and adoration that has come your way over the years?
A: I learned that no matter how much fame and success I receive or will get, it's never easy. I always want and try to challenge myself, which for me is the best way to be keeping it real.
Q: Well thank goodness for YouTube.com because your fans here in California haven’t seen you perform live in concert for some time. I’ve noticed you have thousands of subscribers and have close to 100,000 cumulative views for From Darkness already! Wow and it’s only been out a few weeks! Avishai, who, where, what were some of the people, places or events that inspired you to write the songs that are on From Darkness.
A: Just from living life, you know. Being open and aware of everything that is authentic or seems to be. Many things affect me, even the sound of a city, which has a certain kind of rhythm. At the end of the day it's hard to put your finger on what it was exactly that started it. I get always very attached to rhythm, I am a rhythmic person I guess..
Other than the that, I've always been influenced by nature, people, animals, and my family. Especially my two-year-old daughter, Almah, which is where the inspiration for the track "Almah Sleeping" came from. My trio also inspire me! Both Nitai and Daniel take my music to places and perspectives that I had never suspected it would go, and they inspire me more each and every day.
Q: You have a new drummer on this recording named Daniel Dor. Who is he and what did he bring to the table that prompted you to add him to your trio?
A: Daniel is a fellow Israeli musician and friend. What Daniel brought to the table, from the very first concert was energy, joy and excitement which hasn't left us and he took the music to a new and fresh place where it has not been before. He found his way into my music and our synergy works very well. Both Nitai and Daniel are very intelligent and "soulful". It is the combination of their humility, their spirituality and their very high intellectual abilities. It makes for a very high level of music.
Q: Once again, this particular recording opens an essential gateway into a new creative and expressive dimension of your mind, spirit and soul. I understand that you support working with different musicians because they add new dimensions to your creativity. True?
A: Israel is producing many incredible young musicians and the jazz scene has become much bigger than what it was when I first started out. I am always learning from these young musicians.
I tend to work with new and up-coming, young musicians that i've identified and they completely inspire me every day... I take these musicians with me on tour when they are very young and after a few years on the road, they become monsters! I feel I'm a factory for creating new musical talent. I try to help them grow by integrating them within my group, my music and my projects.
Q: One could say that playing with a core group of musicians is also great because you can ‘finish each other’s musical sentences’ due to the synergy you develop over time by playing with the same guys. What are your thoughts about that?
A: Playing with the same musicians for a long time gives me and us the freedom to take the music far and beyond the compositions which keeps it fresh and on the edge, which is essential for ongoing creativity and is the essence of jazz.
Q: From Darkness spotlights your signature style – groove, trance and rhythms – and for many of your fans, this is what keeps bringing them to your concerts around the world. This universal language you’ve developed is awesome Avishai – congrats. Also, the fresh sounds and new talent you’ve introduced on your recordings and in concert also take your music to new places. Speaking of places, you’ve been around the world and back many times, so is there one special place in the world that inspires your many muses most?
A: I'm very lucky to say that almost any place in the world is of potential muse for me.
Q: “Almah Sleeping” is so beautiful. Congratulations on your lovely daughter. I am sure seeing her inspired you to write such a lovely lullaby. Is she musical or can you tell at this point?
A: Almah was actually sleeping next to my piano at home as I was writing the piece and I have to say that she has been a great inspiration for me since her birth.
Q: Your growth as an artist is very apparent on this recording Avishai. What do you feel are your major strengths now as a bandleader, composer and arranger?
A: It's hard for me to say what my biggest forte is, though I'm pretty sure it has to do with my knowledge of what I want to hear and not letting go until I reach that moment.
Q: Do you have a preference – performing, writing or arranging – at this point in your career?
A: I love performing, writing and arranging my music! This is my inspiration, it's inspiring every day and I'm fortunate enough to do all three things on a regular basis. To be in the music, is the most important thing to me.
Q: You know, I’ve never asked whether your acoustic bass has a name!! What is her/his name and what is some of its history, i.e. brand, age, etc. I just love it!!!
A: My bass is a German-made carved bass. The model is called 'Freschner' and it was originally built circa 1910, my bass has no name as it is a she, a he and also an it.
Q: Will you be coming to America in support of the record? If so, when?
A: I hope to return to the US during the Summer with my 'From Darkness' trio! We are all working to make something happen as it would be good to be back in the US.
Q: Thank you so much for the interview Avishai. Keep in touch with him and his happenings atwww.avishaimusic.com .