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

"Plenty of forward-thinking jazz pianists have been painted with a modern-classical brush, but few have approached improvisation armed with the manual vocabularies demanded by Cage, Ligeti and the like with the same diligence and flair as Parisian keyboardist Delbecq." Time Out New York

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


Prolific Cellist and Composer Will Fill his Fiftieth Year with Numerous Performances and Both Digital, Vinyl and CD Releases

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


Globe Hopping CDs Include New Music from Juno Award Winner/Grammy Nominee Hilario Duran and Bassist Roberto Occhipinti, As Well As Debut Offerings from vocalist Kristy, and South Africa’s Amabutho

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 Alma after the label’s president, producer Peter Cardinali , saw Umoja while visiting London.

Sikelela is the eagerly anticipated debut album from these seven young men ,who grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, and the dusty streets of the Johannesburg township of Soweto. Their name is taken from the term for a regiment of Zulu warriors, but Amabutho are, in fact, the gentlest of warriors. On Sikelela, they deliver a soulful message of peace and unity via the sweet sounds of marimba, percussion and effortless vocal harmonies.

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 South Africa in June of this year as a group in their own right as well as part of the cast of UMOJA, with which they remain active.

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."

Alma’s spring 2010 releases also showcase a blend of emerging and established talent.

Bassist Robert Occhipinti continues the explorations into musical

synthesis that marked his three earlier Alma releases with A Bend in the River. The genesis of A Bend in the River came in 2008, when Occhipinti was the featured artist at a series of concerts presented by Music Toronto, which included musicians from various disciplines. While his earlier CDs featured larger ensembles, on the new CD, Occhipinti chose to primarily work with a basic quartet, drawing upon the talented pool of young Cubanos who have made Toronto and New York their new home: Luis Deniz on alto sax, David Virelles on piano and Dafnis Prieto on drums. Strings, winds and trumpet were added later, and the full orchestra featured on three of the tracks was recorded in Moscow.

Rounding out Alma’s slate of releases for the first half of the year is My Romance, the debut CD from the remarkable new vocalist Kristy. My Romance introduces a talented singer whose ability to interpret and convey the emotional essence of a song shines throughout every one of the twelve tracks on My Romance. Featuring Kevin Breit (Cassandra Wilson, k.d. Lang, Norah Jones) on slide guitar, Matt Brubeck (son of the legendary Dave Brubeck) on cello, jazz icon Guido Basso on trumpet, and rising jazz star Robi Botos on piano, My Romance includes songs by Lennon and McCartney, Rodgers and Hart, and Johnny Mercer, all imbued with a maturity and deftness of touch rarely evidenced on debut recordings.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Shows Include Double Bills with Guitarist Grant Gordy, Performances with Sarah Jarosz and Mike Marshall's Big Trio

By the start of May, high school seniors all over the country have sent in their acceptance letters to the colleges of their choice and are ready to take a much deserved vacation before heading off towards their futures.

That is not the case for 18-year old violin phenomenon Alex Hargreaves, who - riding high on the critical success of his solo recording debut, Prelude - is heading out on the road for a series of shows that will take him across the US.

Hargreaves, whose talent was lauded by the All Music Guide as "undeniable," will share the bill at three east coast shows with guitarist Grant Gordy, who is best known for his work with the David Grisman Quintet. Grisman himself is among Hargreaves's most fervent champions, having followed his career since Hargreaves was just ten years of age, stating that "...he's destined to be one of the fiddle giants of the 21st century."

Those first three shows will take place on June 23 at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA, on June 24th at Caffe Vivaldi in New York City, and on June 26 at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, VA. The double bills are no casual pairing; Gordy's strong guitar presence on Prelude launched a collaborative relationship that will come full circle with Hargreaves' musical contributions to the guitarist's own solo release.

In fact, prior to these three dates Hargreaves will perform as a member of the Grant Gordy Quartet at several concerts in Colorado. On the afternoon of June 12, they will perform at the Swallow Hill Brewgrass Festival in Denver, followed by an evening performance at the Little Church in the Pines in Salina. June 16 will find them at Dazzle Jazz Club in Denver, and on June 17, they'll be at Bongo Billy's Salida Cafe.

In July, Hargreaves will perform with another prodigious teen-ager, 18-year-old Sugar Hill recording artist, vocalist Sarah Jarosz, at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY. In August, he'll travel to Alta, Wyoming for the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival to share the stage with Mike Marshall and Paul Kowert in Marshall's Big Trio, on whose 2009 Adventure Music eponymous release Hargreaves made his debut, before once again performing with Jarosz in September at the Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He will wrap up the month with another double bill with Grant Gordy, in Hargreaves' home town of Corvallis, Oregon, at the Congregational Church.

It's only fitting that Hargreaves kicks off his summer performances in the Boston area, as he'll be returning in September to enroll in the prestigious Berklee College of Music's Global Jazz Institute under the artistic direction of world-renowned pianist Danilo Perez. The class matriculating this fall is only the highly competitive program's second since its inception earlier this year. It is composed of only 30 students, who will participate in an innovative curriculum taught by a select group of Berklee faculty that includes Perez, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Garzone, Bill Pierce, Jamey Haddad, and Allan Chase. Students will also be mentored by world-renowned visiting artists and artists-in-residence, including John Patitucci and Ben Street.

And, while he may be heading off to study at Berklee, Hargreaves' talents have already secured his position as a teacher himself. From June 28th through July 4th, he'll be performing and teaching at Christian Howes' Creative Strings Workshop in Columbus, OH.

More About Alex Hargreaves

Alex Hargreaves of Corvallis, Oregon, plays a wide variety of styles including jazz, bluegrass, new acoustic, Texas style, western swing and classical. Mentored by some of the greats in progressive acoustic music, he has already toured with Mike Marshall, David Grisman, Jerry Douglas and Bruce Molsky, and shared the stage with many others including Mark O'Connor, Chris Thile, Tim O'Brien, Sam Bush and Darol Anger.

At the age of 18, Hargreaves has already received countless honors, including the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin from Mark O'Connor's Strings Conference, and the Alternative Styles Award from the American Strings Teachers Association (ASTA). Alex is also the youngest ever (age 15) to win the Grand Champion division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho, and in 2009, won the Grand Masters Fiddle Championship in Nashville and performed on the Grand Ole Opry.

Also an active performer, Hargreaves has played on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Merlefest, Rockygrass, Wintergrass and the Mandolines De Lunel Festival in Lunel, France, as well as venues in Canada and Italy. He is a member of world-renowned mandolinist Mike Marshall's Big Trio, along with bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers). They have toured extensively following the 2008 release of their self-titled album on Adventure Music. In addition, Alex often performs with singer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz. He appears on her critically acclaimed album, Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill Records), and is featured on her Grammy-nominated instrumental, "Mansinneedof."

In February, 2010, Alex's debut album, Prelude, was released on Adventure Music, featuring master acoustic musicians Mike Marshall, Grant Gordy and Paul Kowert, as well as special guests Bela Fleck and Noam Pikelny. Prelude portrays Hargreaves' maturity not only as a cross-genre violinist and improviser, but also as a composer, with his original compositions comprising half the album.

Hargreaves' playing on Prelude has already been acclaimed by critics and musicians alike. All Music Guide cites Alex's "undeniable," "pure, raw talent," and David Grisman comments, "[Alex] plays with wit, authority and soulfulness belying his years. In my opinion, he's destined to be one of the fiddle giants of the 21st century." For Mike Marshall, Alex is "arguably one of the greatest improvising violinists in America today" and Matt Glaser, artistic director of Berklee College of Music, American Roots Program, simply states, "Truly, Alex Hargreaves is the best young jazz violinist in America."

For additional information, visit www.alexhargreaves.net

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Award Winning Canadian Jazz Trio Will Perform for the First Time Ever in New York and Boston

This June, internationally acclaimed jazz group The October Trio will set out to promote their latest CD, Looks Like it’s Going to Snow (Songlines), with the (no more snow) Tour 2010.

The band's third release, Looks Like it's Going to Snow once again features the classic sounds of the bass-drums-saxophone combo, this time expanded to include one of Canada’s most honored jazz musicians, Brad Turner, on trumpet and flugelhorn. Reviews have been more than complimentary:

“…unmistakable chemistry and artistic purpose…Among the marvelous elements of (Looks Like It's) Going to Snow is the way it easily and off-handedly incorporates funk and rock elements without becoming a collection that is dominated by a backbeat aesthetic.”
– Popmatters.com

Starting June 15th at The Trazac in Toronto, the (no mo
re snow) Tour 2010 tour sees the trio performing in New York and Boston for the first time, further moving them beyond up-and-coming status towards a more visible place on the international jazz stage.

“The disc feels like a culmination and a celebration: a forever set-list crafted on the bandstand and then in the studio,” writes critic Greg Buium. “Everything acts as an invitation to open things up – sonic and emotional space – an unburdened framework for improvisation.”

Since they first formed in 2004 while were still in college, The October Trio has steadily built a reputation for their thoughtful yet adventurous sound. The released their first CD, Live at Rime, in 2005, followed by Day In in 2006. Their hard work and dedication earned them the 2006 CBC Galaxy Rising Star Award for best new group at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

In 2007 the band performed at the Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, and Portland Jazz Festivals. In 2007 and 2009 the group was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for outstanding jazz recording for the albums Day In and Looks Like it's Going to Snow. In 2008 they were invited to perform at the Canadian National Jazz Awards, and in 2009 they opened for Dave Holland and the Monterey Quartet at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

June 15th – The Tranzac, Toronto

June 16th – The Rex, Toronto

June 18th – Cafe Paradiso, Ottawa

June 20th – Cornelia St Cafe w/ Ingird Jensen (trumpet), double bill with Abbasi/Tarry Trio, New York

June 21st ­– Puppets Jazz Bar, double bill with Marcos Varela band, Brooklyn

June 23rd ­– The Lily Pad, Boston

June 26th ­– Montreal Jazz Festival

June 29th ­– Vancouver International Jazz Festival w/ Brad Turner (trumpet)

The October Trio is Evan Arntzen on saxes (Amanda Tosoff Quartet), Josh Cole on bass, and Dan Gaucher on drums (Fond of Tigers).

About The October Trio and Looks Like It's Going to Snow

The October Trio was formed in Vancouver in 2004 when all three members were in the Capilano College jazz program. The immediate chemistry led to a decision to focus on a deeper exploration of the sax trio format, but as Dan Gaucher puts it, "our ideas started out very music specific and have gradually moved more into conceptual and expressive/emotional territory." Two tours of western Canadian festivals grew the music and the band concept further. They won the Galaxie Rising Star Award at the 2006 Vancouver jazz festival and in 2007 were nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for jazz album of the year (Day In, Cellar Live). In 2008 they performed at the National Jazz Awards in Toronto and played a sold-out weekend at Montreal's Upstairs.Jazz Club.

In 2006 they formed a mentor-like relationship with Brad Turner, one of Canada's most honored jazz musicians and certainly one of its most accomplished and versatile trumpeters, equally at home in the progressive mainstream and creative music (he appears on Songlines releases by Michael Blake, Dylan van der Schyff and Chris Gestrin). Brad produced Day In and Looks Like its Going to Snow, and all the compositions on ...Snow were written specifically for the augmented lineup. Good as the trio is on their own, there's a fine synergy at work here based on mutual admiration and a shared aesthetic, a finely honed approach that gives equal consideration to individual storytelling and 4-way conversations, formal concision and a more expansive, imagistic or cinematic approach.

Another thing that characterizes this music is respect for the entire jazz tradition, from New Orleans polyphony to the avant-garde - but not to the exclusion of input from rock and elsewhere. Josh Cole, the trio's main composer, cites Bjork and Wayne Shorter as major inspirations: "Both have the ability to make one small idea have a lot of impact. But upon further investigation of the 'one small idea' you realize that it's surrounded by some rather sophisticated concepts regarding form, phrasing and space. My observation was that by focusing in on one idea, and trying to give it a lot of weight, that allows for the performers to really emotionally invest and explore the idea at a level that might not be possible if you were to present them with a bunch of different ideas in one song."

Evan Arntzen adds: "We know each other pretty well now and when we play we can bring whatever experiences, musical or otherwise, into the mix and have it feel fresh and new. Anyone can speak up at any time, and since it's a fairly stark form of instrumentation, i.e. no chords, that makes it easy to do this." Brad Turner says simply: "For me as a trumpet player this project has been a rejuvenating experience, in some ways reminding me how I approached music earlier in my career. There is true sincerity in what these fellows do as a group, and a serious energy to how they distill their musical concepts."

For more information, visit www.theoctobertrio.com

Friday, April 30, 2010


Vocalist Gregory Porter, who has been lauded by Wynton Marsalis as "a fantastic young singer," will celebrate the release of his Motema Music debut CD, Water, at Smoke Jazz Club this Monday, May 3.

Water will be released on May 11. Although it his Porter's debut, Water flows with a sense of timelessness that reflects the seasoned talents of the giants of blues, gospel and soul that have influenced Porter throughout his career. Some of the singers that Porter cites as influential are familiar - Nat King Cole, Joe Williams and Donny Hathaway - and others - such as the pastor of the church he attended as a child among them - may never realize their impact on his development as an artist. While the work of singers such as Hathaway or Cole obviously helped to shape Porter's vocal styling, his own world view, as evidenced in his seven original compositions and his striking interpretation of classic songs such as "But Beautiful" and "Skylark," adds an emotional intensity that makes each of the CD's eleven tracks speak so eloquently.

For the recording, Porter tapped a powerful cadre of strong players, among them the iconic alto sax player James Spaulding (Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, et al) who plays a featured role on two tracks: "Wisdom" and "Black Nile."

Performing with Porter at Smoke will be several of the same musicians who joined him on the CD, including Spaulding, pianist Chip Crawford, drummer Emanuel Harold, Yoske Sato on alto sax, and Aaron James on bass. For the show at Smoke, Andre Merchison will perform on trumpet, with other special guests also slated to perform.

For tickets and schedule information, visit www.smokejazz.com.

Immediately following the May 11 release of Water, Porter will head to Chicago for a month long run at the Northlight Theatre, starring in the world premier of "Low Down Dirty Blues." The show will run from May 27 through July 3. Visit www.northlight.org for more information.

PR Contact: Cary Goldberg, GoMediaPR cary@gomediapr.com

To learn more about Gregory and Water, visit his page at Motema.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Critically Acclaimed Vocalist Celebrates CD's Release At Smoke in NYC May 3 and
Stars in "Low Down Dirty Blues" in Chicago from May 27 - July 3

With a voice that can caress or confront, embrace or exhort, Gregory Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of vocal mastery that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis has gone on record to call him "a fantastic young singer," which makes the fact that Water (out on May 11 from Motema Music) is his recording debut even more impressive.

A debut release it may be, yet Water flows with a sense of timelessness that reflects the seasoned talents of the giants of blues, gospel and soul that have influenced Porter throughout his career. Some of the singers that Porter cites as influential are familiar - Nat King Cole, Joe Williams and Donny Hathaway - and others – such as the pastor of the church he attended as a child among them - may never realize their impact on his development as an artist. While the work of singers such as Hathaway or Cole obviously helped to shape Porter’s vocal styling, his own world view, as evidenced in his seven original compositions and his striking interpretation of classic songs such as "But Beautiful" and "Skylark," adds an emotional intensity that makes each of the CD's eleven tracks speak so eloquently.

For the recording, Porter tapped a powerful cadre of strong players, among them the iconic alto sax player James Spaulding (Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, et al) who plays a featured role on two tracks: “Wisdom” and “Black Nile.” The CD was produced by saxophonist, pianist and composer Kamau Kenyatta, who Porter refers to as his "best friend."

In fact, it is Kenyatta who bears much of the responsibility for Porter's career trajectory, which can be traced back to Porter's early days singing in small jazz clubs in San Diego. He lived there while at San Diego State University which he attended on a football scholarship, as an outside linebacker, until a shoulder injury sidelined him permanently. Recognizing his talents, Kenyatta - along with saxophonist Daniel Jackson (Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Art Farmer and more) - nurtured the burgeoning performer, and, as Porter says, "taught him what he needed to know."

Kenyatta invited Porter to visit him in the studio in Los Angeles, where he was producing the flutist Hubert Laws' Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole. Certainly Kenyatta was aware of Porter's childhood infatuation with Cole's music, and certainly he could hear the echoes of Cole's mellow baritone in Porter's own voice. What he could not have predicted was that when Laws heard Porter singing along when he was tracking the Charlie Chaplin-penned "Smile," the flutist would be so impressed with the young singer that he would choose to include a 'bonus' track of Porter singing the song on the album.

Just as serendipitous was Laws' sister, Eloise's, presence that day in the studio.
A highly respected singer and recording artist in her own right, Eloise was about to join the cast of a new musical theater work, "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues." Although he'd only had minimal theatrical experience to that point (in the Doo Wop musical "Avenue X"), Porter eventually was cast in one of eight lead roles when the play opened in Colorado at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and eventually followed it to Off-Broadway and then Broadway theater, where the NY Times, in its 1999 rave review, mentioned Porter among the show's "powerhouse line up of singer.” "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues" went on to earn both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations that year.

Although he now says, "I never felt that my career was going to be strictly in the theater," Porter's success on stage with "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues" paved the way for another theatrical outing and pairing with Eloise Laws. In his semi-autobiographical "Nat King Cole and Me," he dramatically documented his childhood, which was marked by an absentee father and the joy and pain he heard when listening to his mother's Nat King Cole records. Apparently, one day, when his mother heard her young son singing along, she remarked that he sounded like Cole. This led to a rich imaginary life where the young Porter actually believed that the legendary crooner was indeed his dad, and that the love songs Cole sang were secretly being sung to him. Porter’s moving “Nat King Cole & Me” ran for two very successful months at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and has since travelled to Houston, TX (without Porter's involvement.)

The intimacy of Porter’s "Nat King Cole and Me," revealed a courageous thespian, who bravely shared his life story with his audience, so it's hardly surprising that many of the songs on Water come also from an emotional place. The CD opens with the ruminative "Illusion," an exquisite duet between Porter and pianist Chip Crawford, which the singer says was inspired by the pain that will accompany every relationship at one time or another. The song ends with Porter exhaling a quiet sigh - whether it's one of resignation or acceptance depends, he says, on perspective. "Love makes us all crazy," he says. "Pretty," a soulful tribute to a woman from Porter's past, is an understated ensemble piece that is bolstered by the alto sax work of Yoske Sato.

"I love coffee," says Porter, "and 'Magic Cup' was written for a beautiful friend who works at my favorite coffee shop."
Percolating with a smooth energy heightened by frenetic sax breaks courtesy of Sato, the song is as rich as a morning cup of French roast. Porter's effluent baritone does the Hoagie Carmichael/Johnny Mercer standard, "Skylark," more than justice, while his rendition of Wayne Shorter's "Black Nile" continues to emphasize the theme of water that runs throughout the CD and features veteran sax player James Spaulding.

Porter contributed the lyrics to "Wisdom," the melody of which was written by one of his mentors, Daniel Jackson. Spaulding's saxophone lends a haunting air to the song, which, Porter says in retrospect could very well be about post-Katrina New Orleans. Emphasizing his gospel roots with lyrics that echo the traditional biblical song "Wade in the Water," Porter metaphorically positions water as an impediment, and wisdom as the means to overcome it. Water's most overly political song is "1960 What?," inspired in part by Kamau Kenyatta's stories of life in Detroit and by the 1963 assassination of Martin Luther King, as well as by his own experiences growing up in Los Angeles.

"I've always loved ballads, and 'But Beautiful' is one of my favorites," says Porter of the standard, on which his vocals and Chip Crawford's piano share center stage. The mournful "Lonely One" paints a lyrical picture of a tragic love story, while the CD's title track reiterates the artist's use of water as metaphor for redemption, cleansing, history and survival. Water's coda is a raw yet soulful Mahalia Jackson-influenced a cappella version of the classic "Feeling Good."

Born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield, and now living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Gregory Porter has made the world his musical home. A frequent guest performer with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Porter also maintains a long-standing residency at Harlem's venerable St. Nick's Pub, and performs internationally. "I've been to Russia about 17 times," says Porter. "I now can make a mean borscht."

Immediately following the May 11 release of Water, Porter will once again return to the stage for a month long run at the Chicago area Northlight Theatre, starring in the world premier of "Low Down Dirty Blues." He'll celebrate the release of Water with a CD release concert at New York's Smoke on May 3, before heading to Chicago for the show's May 27 opening. Visit www.northlight.org for more information.

Bios, photos available at www.motema.com, or contact cary@gomediapr.com.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Music industry veteran Steve Belkin has been named as General Manager of the Aliso Viejo, California-based label Innervision Records and Entertainment, as announced by label VP of A&R and Promotion, Adam Leibovitz.

Belkin brings some three decades of experience in all areas of the music business to the GM post, including work in marketing, sales and distribution and artist management. A musician and songwriter in his own right, Belkin will continue to operate Open All Nite Entertainment, his management, marketing and label consultancy based in Los Angeles, and remains a partner in his company, Left Coast Music Group. Through his companies Belkin has worked with a wide variety of artists, including The Tubes, Narada Michael Walden, Craig Chaquico, Grant Geissman, Ray Parker Jr., Chris Standring, Gaelic Storm and Walela featuring Rita Coolidge, Priscilla Coolidge and Laura Satterfield.

"I've worked with Steve, as well as with many of the artists he's represented, for a number of years," states Leibovitz. "His combination of focus, enthusiasm and honesty coupled with the artistic understanding that only someone who's been on the creative side of the business can bring to running a successful label, made my decision to bring him on board an easy one."

Innervision Records was founded in the 1990s, and has evolved to become an exemplar of the new face of indie label jazz. With a special focus on balancing the advantages of experience with the ability to adapt to the constantly evolving music industry, Innervision is revolutionizing the artist-label relationship.

"Among the factors that most impressed me about Innervision was Adam's commitment to total transparency," says Belkin. "They really work so the artists on the label are always completely aware of everything that is going on."

Innervision specializes in groove/smooth jazz, straight-ahead jazz, chill , neo-soul and world music, and has released CDs from both established and emerging artists in those genres. The label is distributed by IDC.

For additional information, visit www.innervisionrecords.com

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Ancient Harp Brought Back to Life On New CD, Which Will Be Released on March 9th

She plays an ancient harp invented nearly 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Variously named "angular harp," "chang," "kunghou," and "kugo," the instrument on which Tomoko Sugawara performs can be seen in centuries-old Buddhist cave paintings and in artists' depictions from countries along the trade route known as the Silk Road. On March 9th, the classically trained harpist will release her Motema debut, Along the Silk Road, which brings the enchanting music of this historically revered instrument to life once again for the world to hear.

The unique kugo harp on which Sugawara performs is a twenty-first century reconstruction of an angular harp which is pictured on a reliquary box painted during the sixth or seventh century BC. The angular harp disappeared from the world stage some 300 years ago, was only evidenced in paintings from antiquity until Sugawara and her partner, music archaeologist Bo Lawrengren, brought plans for a reconstruction to luthiers Bill and Catherine Campbell, who worked closely with the pair to faithfully recreate a modern rendition that would honor the essence of an instrument that was revered for centuries.

In Buddhist lore, the angular harp was considered one of the glories of paradise, with a sound both celestial and refined. Sugawara's Along the Silk Road reveals these glories; her music is deeply emotional and expressive, interweaving meticulously transcribed historical compositions from the regions where the harp once flourished - Tang Dynasty China and 13th century Iran and Spain - with modern works especially for Kugo as commissioned from noted composers from Japan, Iran and the United States. The traditional compositions on the CD include a medieval Persian Qawl, and two sacred Cantigas, written by King Alfonso X of Spain. The two selections based on the music of China's Tang Dynasty have been expanded and enhanced by the two-time Fulbright scholar and Bearns Prize winning composer Stephen Dydo.

The contemporary composers who have contributed compositions to Along the Silk Road bring forward the cross-cultural heritage of this instrument to the present day. Compositions are included from the Italian-born (and now Chicago-based) Robert Lombardo, Japanese Kikuko Masumoto, and Iranian Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour.

This unique release introduces a new World Music series on Motema Music, known mostly for its releases by noted jazz composer/performers. Label president Jana Herzen explains that she discovered Tomoko and Bo performing at the Rubin Museum of Asian Art. "I was thoroughly enchanted by Tomoko's presence and the delicate sound of the harp. Bo's stories were also so very charming. I asked for a CD, but they didn't have one. So we decided then and there to collaborate on a release."

Engineer Jay Mark, who has worked with such legendary artists as the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton, and noted NYC mastering engineer Allan Tucker of Foothill Digital added a sonic sheen to the recording of the CD. The CD package also features a beautifully illustrated booklet with historical notes and illustrations by Bo Lawergren.

Born in Tokyo, Tomoko Sugawara began to play the Irish harp at age twelve and the grand harp at sixteen. A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Fine Arts, Sugawara first took up the kugo in 1994. She has performed on both the concert harp and kugo in many major international venues, including the World Harp Congresses in Prague and Amsterdam; Meiji University, The New York Qin Society, the Fifth Symposium for Music Archaeology, and at Berlin, Columbia, Princeton and Harvard Universities. She was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council during 2007 - 2008, and a grant from the Rohm Music Foundation in 2007. Along the Silk Road is Sugawara's third recording. Her first, Spring, features her work as a soloist on the concert harp and her second, East Meets West (1998,) was an improvisational duo collaboration with saxophonist Sanshiro Fujimoto. A musician with a taste for adventures in all styles, Ms. Sugawara recently performed in the ensemble of jazz bass legend Charnett Moffett for his upcoming Motema release, Treasure. (May 2010)

Ms. Sugawara will support the release of Along The Silk Road with solo performances as well as in duo and trio configurations with the musicians on the record, the world famous flautist, Robert Dick and Turkish hand drum master and ethno musicologist, Ozan Aksoy. Alone or in ensemble, Ms. Sugawara and her Kugo provide an enchanting, meditative excursion through many cultures, moods and ages. Her partner and manager, music archeologist Bo Lawergren augments her performances with amusing anecdotes and painted illustrations of the Kugo from various historical contexts.

Visit www.motema.com/artist/tomoko-sugawara or www.kugoharp.com for more information.