Thursday, September 29, 2011
VOLKER GOETZE AND ABLAYE CISSOKO, DUO WHO EARNED CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR THEIR DEBUT CD, SIRA, LAUNCH INTERNATIONAL TOUR IN OCTOBER
Thursday, March 10, 2011
GOWANUS REGGAE AND SKA SOCIETY WILL CELEBRATE RELEASE OF G.R.A.S.S. ON FIRE WITH SHOW AT THE APPLE STORE IN SOHO ON MARCH 22
On March 22, the eleven members of G.R.A.S.S. will celebrate the recent release of G.R.A.S. S. on Fire with a performance at the Apple Store in Soho. Showtime is 7 PM, and the store is located at 103 Prince Street. For more information about the show, visit http://www.apple.com/retail/soho/ or call (212) 226-3126.
With the release of G.R.A.S.S. on Fire, G.R.A.S.S - the appropriately abbreviated Gowanus Reggae and Ska Society - have taken on the challenge of bringing the music of the legendary Bob Marley and the Wailers to an entirely new level. On G.R.A.S.S. On Fire, this collection of eleven intrepid musician/explorers "dedicated to bringing the sounds of classic Ska and Reggae to the fine people of Brooklyn and beyond, "bring a jazz perspective to Marley's seminal 1973 release, Catch A Fire, instrumentally interpreting the reggae pioneer's music so that it retains all of its original passion and sincerity.
G.R.A.S.S features some of the finest players from Brooklyn's vibrant musical community, creating music with the spontaneity of jazz and a deep reverence for Jamaican rhythm. The society is made up of an ever-evolving group of players, including bassist J.A.Granelli, Nate Shaw on keyboards, Mark Miller on trombone, saxophonists Michael Blake, Ohad Talmor, and Paul Carlon, David Barnes on harmonica, Russ Meissner on drums and guitarists Tony Romano, David Bailis, and Brad Shepik.
The goal of the Society, says Granelli, who is the son of legendary drummer Jerry Granelli, "is to bring as many interesting voices to the music as possible." Nate Shaw adds, "the band is made up of jazz musicians who all share the same profound respect for the music of Jamaica. The love runs deep." G.R.A.S.S. is a mere toddler of a band - about three years old - born out of what the musicians called "big ass playdates," at which they would gather at Shaw's house, along with wives and kids, to jam and just hang out. The "Society" came out of those gatherings, as the rhythm section began to regularly focus on dissecting specific reggae songs in what Granelli calls a "free form school of rhythm."
Since its January release, G.R.A.S.S. On Fire has earned considerable critical acclaim:
"...a tanatalizing sweep of giddy delight." - Allaboutjazz.com
"This creative homage to Marley is worthy of its association with the iconic artist, and with genres of both jazz and reggae." - Good Sound.com
"Positive vibes abound from this one-of-a-kind society of kindred spirits." - Jazzreview.com
"Anyone who loved the original is sure to fall in love with this retrofitting." - Midwestrecord.com
ABOUT G.R.A.S.S ON FIRE
Rather than work away at the distinctions between improvisational jazz and Reggae, when the players in G.R.A.S.S. connect, it's obvious that the two genres have vastly more in common than they have differences. "It's impossible to understand jazz fully without an understanding of African and Western European classical music, for instance," say Granelli. "Mento-ska-rocksteady-reggae-dance hall" all spring originally from those same roots, so in effect our study of jazz and other forms of American roots music led us to Jamaican music naturally."
The Society's first foray into presenting reggae in the context of an entire album was in 2009, when they performed the music from the soundtrack to The Harder They Come at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York. The concept was so well received, the players so inspired by what they'd been able to create, that they decided to capture their next effort - G.R.A.S.S. On Fire - on record. Regarding their choice of material, Granelli explains, "Catch A Fire works well for us because the Wailers were really a small, hardened basic unit at that point in their career. We spent a lot of time studying the original Jamaican versions of the songs before they were overdubbed in England, and we all felt very close to those version of the songs."
To be clear, G.R.A.S.S. On Fire is NOT a "tribute" album. Anyone who's heard Granelli's take on the 1950-era hit "Whatever Lola Wants" from Mr. Lucky's El Oh El Ay CD or on AC/DC's "Back In Black" with EZ Pour Spout (another band of which he's a member,) for example, would hardly expect a note-by-note instrumental recreation from musicians whose collective oeuvre ranges from Balkan, Turkish and African influenced jazz to avant-rock to post bop, and then some. What the CD does capture, without benefit of lyrics, is the essence, the spirit, of the music that brought Bob Marley and the Wailers, and through their major label debut, reggae music, to the wider world.
To that end, G.R.A.S.S. chose to alter the order of the songs from that on Catch A Fire, thereby making it as much a reflection of their work as a group as it is of their appreciation for Marley and the Wailers'. "We felt that G.R.A.S.S. On Fire had to hang together as an album, first and foremost," explains Granelli. "Our thing is a pretty different version of the music, so we put it in the order that worked best for what we had created. We also combine two songs ('Kinky Reggae'and 'Midnight Ravers' here meld to become 'Kinky Midnight') and added one that never made the original release ('High Tide, Low Tide') so the original order would not have worked anyway."
Still, although much of the power of Catch A Fire lays in its politically charged lyrical content, Granelli feels that none of that spirit has been lost by the instrumental interpretations on G.R.A.S.S. On Fire. "When we were working on the music, the lyrics were always a part of any decision that was made musically - a printed copy was made for everyone who played on the CD- and we tried to capture the feeling of the words, and translate them into a musical language. Instrumental music is an abstract art form, so all we can hope for is that we have imbued the music with meaning and made an emotionally artistic statement. If we have done that, the listeners will have their own experiences of what it means."
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Vocalist's Second Motéma Music CD Drops Today, 1 -11 11
Let’s Fly, the much anticipated follow-up to Amy London’s acclaimed 2008 Motéma debut, When I Look in Your Eyes, is a swinging and sensual affair, replete with jazz and Brazilian standards, tasty re-imaginings of songs by Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, and rare gems by bop legends Charles Mingus and Elmo Hope. London’s considerable talents, developed through her many years as a first-call New York City jazz, Broadway and big band vocalist, shine on Let’s Fly, her second CD for Motéma . The recording takes its name from the lead track, an uplifting, truly swinging version of ''Let’s Fly," which was penned by vocal legend Annie Ross when she was just 14. Ross submitted the song to a contest for a chance to have Johnny Mercer record the winner. "Let’s Fly" won, and was recorded by Mercer in 1945. It has never been recorded since, until now, where it happily sees the light of day with London's delightful approach, featuring a vocalese verse of her own.
Let’s Fly, released on Jan. 11, 2011, is a true love letter of a CD. "I am in love with every single song on this CD, tunes and lyrics alike. They are all melodies, grooves and stories that I love to share with audiences, wherever I go," enthuses London. "What unites this material for me, is that the stories reflect where I am right now in my life. Every song was sung with certain people in mind, and I wrote the arrangements to ornament the stories."
On this musically impeccable set, London is accompanied by an A-list of New York players who breathe and groove with her as one, as they travel through her solid, unique and deeply personal arrangements. Motèma label-mate Roni Ben-Hur provides an important element of the overall sound. His tone and swing on guitar, which helped make London's When I Look in Your Eyes an international success, is even more prevalent here, where London has chosen to arrange material with a smaller, more intimate, ensemble feel, as opposed to the ‘little big band’ approach of her previous disc. Drummer Steve Williams, known well for his stellar work with Shirley Horn, reveals himself once again to be a quintessential "singer’s drummer," never missing a beat, always in support of the song. Amy gives her regular collaborator, bassist Santi Debriano, a great deal of room in this recording to express his unique improvisational talents, and the ultra-tasty pianists Tardo Hammer, Glauco Sagebin and Richard Wyands also bring delicious musical treats to the table. Under London’s sure leadership, the ensemble effortlessly glides from up-tempo swing classics to complex melodic ballads, portraying a deep emotional musicality that is also accentuated with evocative percussion work by Steve Kroon (Luther Vandross.)
The work of a gifted storyteller with a powerful, poignant voice, London’s Let’s Fly spills over with musical tales of love and passion. She launches her newest musical offering with the wistful reverie of Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer's "Out of This World," which opens with a hypnotic groove and evolves into a stunning showcase for London's soaring vocals. On The CD's title track, London offers up a lighthearted, vocalese take on “leaving your blues behind," supported by cool keyboards and blithe bass lines, courtesy of Tardo Hammer (Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks) and Debriano (Pharoah Sanders, Larry Coryell, Randy Weston.) London's original vocalese verse breathes new life into this carefree gem, as it simultaneously honors Ross as a great pioneer of the vocalese style. " It was immensely intimidating to both compose a solo and write a vocalese for 'Let's Fly.' It sat on my piano for a year, while the mantra of 'How can I ever attempt to write something to a tune by the legendary Annie Ross, the creator of 'Twisted,' the most beloved and clever vocalese ever?' danced in my head! I tossed some ideas around, and finally went with my gut feelings about the meaning of the song," says London in reference to her reworking of "Let's Fly." "This is the third vocalese I've written," she continues. "Each time I write them, I keep in mind the brilliant job done by Eddie Jefferson on 'Moody's Mood for Love.' Eddie took the original lyric of 'I'm in the Mood For Love,' and expounded upon each phrase, digging deeper meaning and more imaginative stories out of each idea, while maintaining the rhyming throughout. That was my goal here as well."
London keeps the energy high on Jobim's "This Happy Madness," which opens with Ben Hur's beautiful guitar styling, and quietly builds through London's enchanting vocals into a joyous solo from Brazilian pianist Glauco Sagebin. With brilliant and astute accompaniment by veteran pianist Richard Wyands, (Ella Fitgerald, Billie Holiday, countless others) the singer covers the unusual Charles Mingus ballad, "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," with sensual soulfulness, a quality that permeates all thirteen selections on Let's Fly, from the tender "You Taught My Heart to Sing," to the affirmative "Here's To Life."
Turning from the Great American Songbook to some of her other significant influences, London plays roles of both pianist and singer on Laura Nyro's "I Never Meant to Hurt You," (off the 1967 album, The First Songs). "I consider Laura Nyro to have been my first vocal coach-as a teenager. I sang along with her constantly and spent hours at the piano learning all of her songs," remembers London. She pays tribute to another of her early influences, Joni Mitchell, on "All I Want," infusing Mitchell's Blue-era tune with a sinuous, rhythmic energy. "I was enormously influenced by both Laura and Joni when I was growing up and first getting into music. I sang and played every single song the two of them wrote. For a long time, as an aspiring jazz singer in New York, I felt guilty about having been influenced by 70s pop music, I thought I wouldn't be taken seriously by the jazz crowd if I performed any of it. Now, I'm finally out of the closet. I grew up in the 70s, I was immersed in and sang along with that music, as did almost everyone in my generation, and I'm not embarrassed about it anymore!" declares London.
"'You and the Night/Habanera' offers an interesting pairing,' London continues. "I sang Habanera, an aria from the opera Carmen, when I was studying opera in college, and I think it makes an intriguing combination with the Arthur Schwarz/Howard Dietz tune from the 1930s. Also, opera singers always sing Habanera in the original, higher key of D minor/D major, but here I've sung it in the key of G."
London interprets the Irving Berlin chestnut from the 1920s, "How Deep Is the Ocean," with a modern groove, and laces "I Love Being Here With You" with a sense of swing that aptly captures the spirit of composer Peggy Lee. "This tune was written in the 1950s (and included on Peggy's 1961 album, Basin Street East) so it's a "younger" jazz standard that's also unique in that the legendary female jazz singers didn't write a lot of tunes, but Peggy's an exception," explains London. The singer says that she chose to include "You Taught My Heart to Sing" because its writers - lyricist Sammy Cahn, from the Tin Pan Alley days, and modern pianist McCoy Tyner - presented her with an unusual paring of different generations and styles.
As disparate as the work of the songwriters included on Let's Fly might seem, London, who teaches at New School University and is one of New York’s most respected jazz vocal instructors, says that all the songs do, in fact, have something in common. "The first thing I look at in a song is the story. It is the most important aspect of any song. Of course, it has to be combined with a great melody to be a great piece overall," she explains. "A good song should be like a one act play, with both a melody and lyric that are built around a beginning, lead to a climax, and then to a resolution at the end." Closing the album on an upbeat note, Amy sings and scats on "Without A Song," her ultimate valentine for her premier passion – music - “After all,” she concludes, “there ain’t no love at all, without a song.”
London's Motèma debut, When I Look In Your Eyes (2008), served as an introduction to her powerful way with lyrical interpretation and inimitable arrangements, bringing her to the attention of an appreciative audience of jazz lovers and garnering excellent reviews internationally. Mark Saleski lauded her "incredible voice" in his review on Blogcritics.org. and Christopher Loudon of JazzTimes noted, “hers is an immense talent deserving of national attention." Midwest Record also raved about the CD, calling it "a fast ball right down the middle for jazz vocal fans. Tasty, tasty, tasty. "
The publicity generated by When I Look in Your Eyes effectively launched Amy London’s international touring career, leading to performances in Russia, Turkey, the UK, Italy, France, Belgium and around the U.S.
One might well wonder why this talented artist’s recording and touring career got such a late start. The fact is that London had chosen to work locally in the metropolis of jazz in order to be able to focus on raising her two daughters. Now that her girls are nearing adulthood, with the solid support of her label, her musical partners, and the press, the auspicious 1/11/11 launch date for this CD also looks to mark the true lift-off date for the career that this vocalist extraordinaire has always believed she would have. Perhaps therein, lies the true meaning behind the CD’s uplifting title, Let’s Fly!
More about Amy London
Born into a culturally active, Ohio-based Jewish family filled with mirth and talent, performing was quite literally in Amy's DNA. Jazz began to officially enter her orbit when she began studying jazz piano as a high-school senior, and then had an opportunity to take voice lessons with Milt Weiner, who had coached Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney. "Milt was the first one to bring my attention to jazz phrasing and putting across the story, he was a huge influence," says Amy. Though she earned her B.A. degree from Syracuse University in opera, Amy's true passion, and most of her college musical experience, was singing in big bands, small bands and in musicals. She joined with singers Judy Niemack and Alexandra Ivanoff to form the vocal trio, 'Jazz Babies.' Seven years with the 'Jazz Babies,' along with experience gained in 'Vocal Jazz, Inc.,' a five-voice group that toured the New York City elementary schools, honed Amy's jazz harmony chops to a high polish.
Further vocal group work with New York Singer's Orchestra in the late eighties brought Amy to the attention of the legendary Broadway composer Cy Coleman, who cast her as the lead singer in the "Angel City 4," the vocalese quartet that was the musical engine of his six-time Tony-winning and Grammy-nominated Broadway hit, City of Angels. After City of Angels closed, Amy enjoyed a three year stint at the 'Rainbow Room,' and also received a call from 'New York Voices' leader Darmon Meader to record with the group as the fifth voice on the CD Ancient Tower. A three year engagement in an Afro-Cuban band led by the NYC leader, Alfredito, gave her a chance to jam with such Latin jazz stars as Charlie Palmieri, Barry Rogers and Jimmy Sabatier while developing her "cool Latin vamp," and led her to add mastery on a variety of percussion toys to her growing arsenal of musical talents. All the while, Amy was building her skills as a solo jazz singer, leading her own groups in NYC clubs such as The Blue Note, Dizzy's, Birdland, Small's, Sweet Rhythm, Kitano, Jazz Gallery and many more.
London is an in-demand vocal coach in NYC, and at New School University, where she helped establish the vocal jazz program (now one of the strongest such programs in the country). She also works and teaches with her husband Roni Ben-Hur, who is a key music educator in his own right.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Benoît Delbecq Awarded Prestigious Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros for 2010 Songlines Releases Circles and Calligrams and The Sixth Jump
Acclaimed Paris-based pianist Benoît Delbecq has been awarded the Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros for his simultaneously released Songlines CDs, Circles and Calligrams and The Sixth Jump, it was announced November 25 in Paris. The prize, which is the most influential music award in France, is accorded annually in some 13 categories, including popular French song, classical music, contemporary music, world music and jazz, encompassing both CDs and DVDs, as well as for outstanding books of musicology. Delbecq is the first artist to have won in the Jazz category for two recordings. Previous jazz winners include Steve Swallow, Daniel Humair/Joachim Kuhn/Tony Malaby and Terence Blanchard.
The Académie Charles Cros (Charles Cros Academy) is a French organization that acts as an intermediary between government cultural policy makers and professionals in music and the recording industry. Founded in 1947, it is composed of fifty members specializing in music criticism, sound recording and culture, and was named in honor of Charles Cros (1842-1888), an inventor and poet who was one of the pioneers of sound recording. Since 1948 the Académie has awarded the Grand Prix du Disque to recognize achievements in recorded music.
The Sixth Jump has also just been named one of Jazz Magazine/Jazzman’s 12 Choc de l’année best of year jazz recordings. The magazine’s review cites Delbecq’s “dreamlike and ultra-sensory” universe and “new purely pianistic élan.”
Circles and Calligrams and The Sixth Jump are Delbecq's ninth and tenth releases for Songlines, including various collaborations and the co-led groups Kartet and Poolplayers. On the two CDs the Paris-based pianist has recorded two slightly overlapping programs of his compositions, some new, some revisited. Returning to the solo piano on Circles and Calligrams following his remarkable piano duo of 2009 with Andy Milne, Where is Pannonica?, and his 2003 solo debut Nu-turn, and presenting his first trio on The Sixth Jump, Delbecq offers a career summary of sorts while continuing to advance and refine his unique approach. Lauded as “one of the avatars of prepared piano” by Jazz Times, he is noted for traveling, as the New York Times review of both CDs states, “...a mixed continuum of modern jazz, indigenous folk, and contemporary classical...”
Delbecq's trio on The Sixth Jump features Jean-Jacques Avenel, who was Steve Lacy's preferred bassist for 20 years, and Congolese drummer Emile Biayenda, who uses two snare drums and two gourds, with an ankle shaker attached to his bass drum. Another notable feature of both releases are the remixes, which present new sonic perspectives on the music making. On The Sixth Jump the remixes are by drummer/electronics wizard Steve Argüelles, who Delbecq has collaborated with for 20 years in groups such as the Recyclers and Delbecq 5, and for the past 13 years in the duo Ambitronix.
For further information:
Monday, October 18, 2010
Singer/Songwriter's 9th CD, Featuring 9 Tracks Recorded with 9 Musicans, Will Be Released on Motema Music on November 9
"This is an album about freedom," says KJ Denhert, reflecting on her ninth release, aptly titled Album No.9, with nine songs, featuring nine musicians and recorded over the span of nine months. "If you are into numerology, you might have guessed by now that my life-path number is 9. Coincidence? Actually, yes. All of it." Derived from one's date of birth, number nines tend to be creative, passionate, and humanitarian (Ghandi, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix are also nines).
Synchronicity has always impressed KJ, but never more so than with this project. "I began to record on September 9, 2009 (or 09/09/09)," she explains. "I'm releasing the CD in Europe just about a year later, in September. I didn't plan it, but we ended up with nine tracks on the CD. And the release of the first video for "Help," the CD's first single, was on September 9, 2010."
Although she continues to define herself as an "urban folk and jazz" artist, KJ decided to step outside of that box a bit for Album No.9, opting to explore a few of the other genres that have also influenced her throughout her career. The result is a collection of jazz, pop and rock covers and original songs that paint a bold portrait of KJ as an artist fully realized. "This is the album where I got over some of my self -consciousness about the music I love" says KJ about granting herself permission to fully explore her creativity on this record. Unrestrained in its musical content and delivery, Album No. 9 marks a number of firsts for KJ. From performing for the first time without her guitar on "Alfie" to writing and recording her first French song - "Chanson Baz Bar"- and her first reggae song - 'Choose Your Weapon,' to unveiling her first video for the iconic Beatles song "Help," KJ continues to push the boundaries of her own definition. The result is one of her most emotionally stirring records to date.
KJ's humanitarian side is particularly obvious on a number of songs, including her rendition of "Help." Touched by the devastating events in Haiti and by the Louisiana oil spill, KJ believed that the essence of the song resonates stronger than ever today. Though she originally hoped that including the tune would inspire listeners to contribute to a cause that touched them personally, during the recording session, KJ came to the realization that the song's message is as personal as it is universal, and that it's just as important to be able ask for and receive help yourself at times of need as it is to be able to give. Album No. 9 exudes a positive outlook on distinctive renditions of such well known songs as "Pennies from Heaven" - "There's no more hopeful song in the world," says KJ - and on powerful originals, such as "Choose Your Weapon." and 'Let it Go.' Recorded completely live, "Pennies from Heaven" remains one of KJ's favorite standards. Originally recorded by Bing Crosby, the song sends a message about the importance of facing challenges head on, believing that everything will be all right in the end. Powered by a strong reggae beat, "Choose your Weapon" rhythmically states KJ's belief in the individual power of one's voice, inspired by Saffire's Gaye Agedbola's quote, "Speaking your heart is your weapon."
KJ returns to her roots on this record, singing family favorites from her childhood. "The Shadow of Your Smile," the CD's opening track, melancholy while remaining hopeful, epitomizes the era in which it was written. Growing up in the sixties, the same period that marked her musical awakening was a time where KJ realized the world was an unpredictable and fragile place. One morning she remembers her parents talking during breakfast and by the next morning she, her mother and only brother were on a plane to her native island of Grenada during the height of the Cuban Missile crisis. Another version of the "Shadow of Your Smile", this one recorded in a single take, with the band unaware that they were being recorded, is featured as a bonus track on the album. "I'm including that track because it represents the very best aspect of freedom," says KJ.
With "Alfie," another childhood favorite. KJ delivers a beautiful and open performance that is especially vulnerable as KJ performs the song without accompanying herself on guitar - a first ever for the singer - with deep and sensitive musical support from Etienne Stadwyjk (Leni Stern, Richard Bona, Groove Collective) on piano and Francois Moutin (Jean-Michel Pilc, Rudresh Mahanthappa) on acoustic bass. When she first performed the song live, at The Blue Note in New York, "Alfie's" lyrics resonated so deeply with KJ that she found herself having to fight back tears during the performance.
KJ's talents have taken her all over the world, including St Barthelemy in the French West Indies, where she has had a winter residency at the popular Baz Bar for nearly a decade. A self-proclaimed Francophile, KJ here debuts "Chanson Baz Bar," the first song in French which she penned with a little help from her Baz Bar friends, St Barth locals Natalie and Armel. The song is marked by a hint of sadness, admits KJ. "What happens when you discover paradise on earth? The joy of experiencing such a beautiful place is balanced with how hard it is to know that your time there is fleeting, as well as with seeing how the passage of time changes even paradise."
KJ's inimitable way with lyrics is obvious throughout, whether she's singing about the misadventures of trying to make a record on her remarkable version of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" ("Richie Blackmore 'borrowed' the song's opening riff from a song recorded by Astrud Gilberto, so because of it's Brazililan roots, it's not such a stretch for me to cover it," laughs KJ) or learning not to sweat the small things on "Let It Go," which was co-written with German singer San Glaser, and which contains what she claims is "her favorite bridge of all time, offering a tip of the hat to Donald Fagen."
Recording at Bicoastal Music Studios in KJ's home town of Ossining, NY, KJ co-produced Album No. 9 with studio owner Hal Winer, whose world class facility has hosted the likes of Rob Thomas, the Yellowjackets and Bjork. She is supported by a strong cadre of players, including longtime band members Mamadou Ba , (Harry Belafonte, Regina Carter) on bass and drummer Ray Levier. Saxophonist, Aaron Heick (Richard Bona, Chaka Khan, Sting) has remained a regular since his debut on KJ's 2007 recording Dal Vivo a Umbria Jazz, while balancing a busy schedule that paired him with Sting on the latest recording of "Englishman in New York."
A string arrangement by Clifford Carter (James Taylor, Michael Franks, Mark Egan) and performances by Ralph Farris (viola) and Dorothy Lawson (cello) of the happening string quartet Ethel (who have also collaborated with David Byrne and Kurt Elling) bring a sophisticated dimension to "Help," which was selected by KJ to be Album No. 9's first single, with a moving video that debuted on the web on 9/9 to fete the European release of Album No. 9 in September 2010.
Album No. 9 embodies all of the inspiring qualities of the number nine, emphasizing creativity, compassion and perseverance despite life's obstacles. With this further step in the evolution of her career, KJ once again reveals her true colors as a completely singular songwriter, musician, and performer.
More about KJ Denhert:
Nominated for four independent music awards, and named one of Jazz.com's top female vocalists of 2009, KJ Denhert has been making audiences laugh, dance and cry for over three decades. Now in her eleventh year of residency at the 55 Bar in New York and at the Baz Bar in the French West Indies, KJ and her band are also set to perform for an eighth time as artists- in- residence at Italy's Umbria Jazz Festival in January of 2011. KJ has had music in her heart ever since she can remember.
KJ, born Karen Jeannne to parents from the island of Grenada, was the first US citizen born to a small family. Her only brother, born in Aruba, had taken an interest in music and it was on one of his discarded guitars that KJ wrote her first song. "I picked up a guitar when I was ten and immediately I started writing music," she recalls. "I loved Sergio Mendes' songs, liked John Hartford on the Glenn Campbell Show and really got into James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, who I still consider my two main influences. I also loved other singer-songwriters of the time including Carole King and Laura Nyro and later fell in love with Steely Dan's music, and just about wore out my LP of Hubert Laws' Rite Of Spring. I was completely self-taught, by listening to records and playing them over and over, teaching myself tablature from a great James Taylor book and modal tunings from Joni Mitchell's For The Roses song book. I didn't really do much but play guitar through my teenage years."
In the 1980s, KJ toured for six years as the lead guitarist and occasional vocalist with an all-female band called Fire, playing rock and top-40 music throughout the US, Canada and Europe. After the group ran its course, she worked at a day job while continuing to write and play music. While working in Cleveland as a financial analyst, she started the Mother Cyclone label and made her first recording. Moving home to New York in 1997, she formed the NY Unit, a group with which she still performs. "I look for players who have an ability to groove and have lots of drama in their playing," says KJ.
In addition to running her own band and Mother Cyclone label, KJ was named among the six winners of the Kerrville New Folk Song contest in June 2006 for "Private Angel" and won the Mountain Stage New Song contest in August 2005 for "Little Mary." Her CD Another Year Gone By (Live) won the 2006 Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
ERIK FRIEDLANDER CELEBRATES HIS 50TH BIRTHDAY WITH FREE DOWNLOAD OF NEW DIGITAL SINGLE, "ACHING SARAH"
New York cellist and composer Erik Friedlander will turn 50 this year. One of the most acclaimed artists on the New York music scene for the past two decades, Friedlander is celebrating his birthday on July 1 with two performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the release of a single, "Aching Sarah," which will be available for free as a download on Friedlander's website.
The single will also be for purchase on iTunes, eMusic, and at Amazon as of July 1.
"Aching Sarah" features the exquisite trumpet playing of Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan, David Byrne, Lenny Kravitz) . Leonhart and Friedlander met while working together on Yoko Ono's recent CD, Between My Head and The Sky, and began exchanging sessions, playing on each others' projects. Friedlander has been captivated by the trumpet/cello combination since his first-ever recording back in 1980, bassist/composer Harvie S's quintet recording, Underneath It All(Gramavision). He continued to explore the creative potential of the two instruments in his later work with Dave Douglas and the String Band projects of the late 90's (Parallel Worlds, Five, Convergence). "Aching Sarah"also features the playing of longtime Friedlander associates Trevor Dunn (bass) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion.)
"Aching Sarah" is part of Friedlander's Cutting-Room Floor Series. "I imagined that characters from movies who are cut from a film live on," he explains. "With lives half realized, they exist in a kind of limbo, unable to live out the arc of their scripted lives."
Some might indulge a mid-life crisis with a new sports car, but others fully hit their stride as they reach middle age. Friedlander, who falls firmly into that latter category, will fill his busy fiftieth year with numerous performances and releases, including a new CD, aptly titled Fifty. Fifty is a series of miniatures - some as brief as 7 seconds - that are snapshots of stylistic variety. The piece was composed for a commission from the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and reworked and remastered for this release. Fifty will be released on September 18 on Skipstone Records.
Joining Erik on the project are Jennifer Choi on violin, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Trevor Dunn on bass and Mike Sarin on drums.
Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer and an improviser in his own right, as well as a first-call studio player. During the last 25 years he has worked with a diverse array of improvisational, jazz and performance artists such as John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, and Laurie Anderson; his career is also marked by relevance outside the close-knit NY improvising scene with contributions to hundreds of recordings including CDs by The Mountain Goats, Courtney Love, Maxwell, and Loudon Wainwright III.
Friedlander's 12 CDs as a leader most recently include Block Ice & Propane, his solo cello reinterpretation of American roots music; The Broken Arm Trio, a trio tribute to jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford; and Volac, a romantic collection of virtuoso solo cello pieces by John Zorn.
Friedlander began his fiftieth year with a 12-day tour of Europe with his Broken Arm Trio. He then traveled to Spain for concerts with the Masada String Trio. In June, Friedlander performed John Zorn's Volac at Canada's RE:Flux festival, and performed five concerts of his solo show, Block Ice & Propane,at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. In July he will join Zorn at the Montreal Jazz Festival for a Masada Festival. Later in the summer Erik will perform Block Ice at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland.
It's been a busy year in the studio for Friedlander as well. Earlier in the year he recorded a new Masada String Trio CD and he just completed the recording of a new CD for his own SkipStone Records label--a quartet featuring Doug Wamble on slide guitar with Trevor Dunn, and Mike Sarin. The new band, called Bone Bridge, will release their new CD later in the year.
Another of Friedlander's many new projects will be the August digital release of Alchemy, which was issued earlier this year on 10" vinyl by the German label Honir. Digital Alchemy is a collection of solos and atmospheric, rich soundtrack work, including bonus tracks that feature Friedlander's collaborations with the Italian film composer Teho Teardo.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Toronto-based Alma Records is kicking into high gear with a slate of spring and summer releases that particularly highlights the label’s commitment to music that transcends geographic boundaries.
Just as the sporting world is about to turn its focus to South Africa this summer for the World Cup, Alma will release the debut recording from the South African group Amabutho (June 8.) Amabutho made its “formal” musical debut in the wildly successful international theatrical phenomenon Umoja as the marimba band that powered the show’s high- energy musical and dance performances. Amabutho was signed to
Sikelela is the eagerly anticipated debut album from these seven young men ,who grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal,
Amabutho’s sound is built around the marimba. Most often described as a wooden variation of the xylophone, the marimba is a crucial component of many styles of South African music. In Amabutho’s skilled hands, it produces a sound that is simultaneously percussive and delightfully melodic. The group features lead, tenor and bass
marimba players, augmented by conga drums, bass drums, djembe, shakers and cow bell.
Amabutho have been chosen to perform at the World Cup opening ceremonies in
On June 22, pianist Hilario Duran will release Motion, the follow up to his Juno Award-winning and Grammy-nominated 2007 CD, From the Heart. The new CD features the acclaimed pianist and his working trio of bassist (and Alma Records label-mate) Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Mark Kelso, as well as contributions from guest percussionists Joaquin Hidalgo, Luis Orbegoso, and Jamey Haddad, and Pandemonium Strings.
Born in Cuba, Hilario Duran was a key member of Arturo Sandoval's band for nine years until Sandoval moved from Cuba to the United States. In 1990. Duran formed his own band, Perspectiva, and was the pianist in Jane Bunnett's award-winning Spirits of Havana band. In 1995, after a final European tour with Perspectiva, Duran established his solo career and moved to Toronto, Canada. A key figure on the Canadian music scene ever since, he has been a member of the jazz faculty at Hunter College, acting as both an adjunct professor and ensemble director. The many musicians he has collaborated with include Tat Guines, Changuito, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Jorge Reyes, Roberto Occhipinti, Larry Cramer, John Patitucci, Michael Brecker, Regina Carter, Dave Valentin, Juan Pablo Torres, John Benitez, Dafnis Prieto, Hugh Marsh, Carlos "Patato" Vales, and Leny Andrade, as well as classical ensembles Quartetto Gelato and the Gryphon Trio. Bunnett's Spirits of Havana CD won a Juno award in 1990, while Duran himself was nominated in 2003 for a June for the CD Havana Remembered, and won in 2005 for New Danzon. In 2007, From the Heart, with special guests Paquito D'Rivera, Dione Taylor and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, won a Juno award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Solo Performance for the Hilario Duran composition, "Paq Man."
Bassist Robert Occhipinti continues the explorations into musical
synthesis that marked his three earlier