THE JAZZ CAT HOSTS JAZZ BRUNCH AND JAZZ JAM FOR JAZZ MUSICIANS
Interview by Paula Edelstein
Photo by Bob Barry
Los Angeles-based jazz radio personality, television host and journalist LeRoy Downs aka The Jazz Cat, talks about his latest concept to raise the profile of jazz musicians. Check out what he told Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com:
SOTJ: How did the concept for your Jazz Brunch/Jazz Jam event come about?
LeROY DOWNS : Well, this is a concept that has been with me for quite sometime. I LOVE MY JAZZ MUSICIANS! I listen to their art, write about it, play it on the radio and make television shows out of it! Everything on this end is done to support and represent these great artists and I thought inviting them all to a great space and providing an opportunity to for them to eat, hang and enjoy each other's craft was another chance to pay homage to our brilliant minds young and old.
SOTJ: Will the event happen on a regular basis?
No, this is a one off. I am not sure why Jazz, the greatest music in the world, is so hard to fund but, many people are donating their time. Tone Mesa Inc. is audio / video and post house, that we use on many of our shoots is donating a crew to film. Samuel Pace and Patrick Henry Johnson are fantastic artists that will use canvas to paint inspired the live music. Wayne Peet Sound will be in the house as well as the All Music Television Crew to help manage the performances and interview the musicians!
SOTJ: Who are some of the musicians who will be attending and performing?
LeROY DOWNS: I have reached out to a great deal of our young talented Los Angeles musicians as well as some of our stellar legends. Many of our beautiful cats are on tour and performing all over the world which made it so hard to pick a date but, here are a few of the folks on the guest list: Jamael Dean, Jonathan Pinson, Joshua White, Munyungo Jackson, Marcel Camargo, Jessica Vautor, Bennie Maupin, Billy Childs, John Beasley, Eric Reed, Jacques Lesure, Vince Medoza, William Roper, Carol Robbins, Kamau Daaood, Daniel Rosenboom, Edwin Livingston, Derf Reklaw, Phil Ranelin, Leisei Chen, Mark Maxwell, Dwight Trible just to name a few
SOTJ: Do you have an air date and time for the filmed performances yet on All Music Television?
LeROY DOWNS: No air date as of yet. Producing a television show takes a great deal of time costs to get it right. We put out a few shows that aired across the country, "Live From The Blue Whale", "Christmas Jazz with LeRoy Downs" and a six part series called, "The Jazz Creative" which featured performers like Terence Blanchard, Jason Moran, Christian McBride, Cameron Graves, Nicole Mitchell, Donte Winslow, Danny Janklow, John Beasley, Ben Williams, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Joe Sanders, Will Lee, Ashley Kahn, Theo Croker, Jazzmia Horn and many more!
SOTJ: Samuel Pace is known for his improvised jazz art around the country. How did you become aware of his talents?
LeROY DOWNS: Sam is not only an outstanding artist, he is a great lover of jazz and appreciates the vast qualities of the music. It helps him and inspires many of his works. He has painted work inspired by Miles, Sun Ra, Monk and so many others. I've been to a few of his gallery openings to support and appreciate his work. One of his paintings called "Street of Dreams" featured many of the jazz clubs and jazz musicians that we know. As I looked closer, there was one of the marquees that read, "The Thelonious Monk Sextet with MC LeRoy Downs"! Man, I was so honored to be mentioned in one of his paintings along with Monk, Ella, Sarah, Dwight Trible, Phil Ranelin and others. I invited him down to the KCRW studios on New Years Eve 2016 when I was on the air and he painted a piece during the 3 hour shift and then framed and gave it to me!
SOTJ: Wow! That's awesome. How did you meet Patrick Henry Johnson?
LeROY DOWNS: Patrick Henry Johnson and I have been friends for many years. We used to play basketball together as well as appreciate each other's craft. He used to listen to me on those overnight radio shifts back in the day. Patrick created the my logo for "The Jazzcat". He is so inspired and passionate about life and expresses it through such great work. He also works with children and paints murals all over town. One of his most famous is "The Elixir" used for one of our stellar sky-rocked artists Kamasi Washington's "Epic" album.
SOTJ: What upcoming events will you be hosting and where?
LeROY DOWNS: In September I'll be up at the Monterey Jazz Festival where I have hosted a stage for the last 15 years. This year is the 60th anniversary and the line up is always super incredible so be sure to not miss! Also, I have been the host of the Angel City Jazz Festival which is right here in Los Angeles. Rocco Somazzi, who started a jazz club in Bel Air back in the day called Rocco's and Jeff Gauthier, now Executive Director of The Jazz Bakery have always had the vision and ear to the ground to feature and support today's cutting edge jazz artists. The jazz culture is so alive with incredible music and these guys make sure to present you with the best!
SOTJ: I hear you on your various radio shows playing great music. Do you plan to branch out onto Sirius XM or any of the other satellite stations the near future?
LeROY DOWNS: I have such a passion for this music. And yes I have the opportunity to broadcast on several stations here in Los Angeles. It is my honor and duty to make sure that these exquisite sounds are featured and programed in such a way that the audience has an experience in music; not at all just a bunch of popular songs played in a row. Back in the day people used to listen to their radio personality and not only enjoy the sounds but, learn the music and have it become a part of their lives. We are missing that, and I am working on a radio concept that will put the focus back on the musicians, the cats who make the music. I am super "Serious" about jazz radio and vow to create an entity that will be extremely beautiful and focus on the art of sound; integrity not mediocrity. The future is bright!!!
SOTJ: Thank you for the inteview LeRoy. We look forward to the experiences you offer and the future of jazz.
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 .