Friday, September 23, 2016

The Piano Guys Announce New Album Uncharted

Global music internet sensation The Piano Guys, announce the release of their new album Uncharted (Portrait). Uncharted comes out October 28 and includes their brand new song "Okay." Written by hit-makers Andy Grammer and Dave Bassett, the upbeat track features TPG's own Al van der Beek on vocals. 

"We wanted to try something different for our new song, 'Okay,'' says Steven Sharp Nelson. "We sidestepped our standard classically-influenced instrumental niche and did something more pop-driven featuring Al's superb vocal talent! We felt as though this was the best way to spread the positive message behind this song. We hope our fans love it."

For the "Okay" music video, The Piano Guys wanted to pay tribute to their loyal fans who have joined them on this exciting journey. The video opens with TPG recording the new song in the studio, where they create all of their inspirational music.  Next, we find them performing live at the USANA Amphitheatre in front of a cheering crowd of 20,000 in their home state of Utah.  The result is a sense of palpable excitement and the expression of infectious energy exchanged between the band and their passionate fans. 

The new album Uncharted features all of The Piano Guys' recent hits including "Fight Song/Amazing Grace," "A Sky Full of Stars," "Hello/Lacrimosa," and "Jungle Book/Sarabande," all available for the first time on CD.

The Deluxe Edition includes a DVD featuring all of their recent hit music videos including "Fight Song/Amazing Grace" (filmed in Scotland), "Jungle Book/Sarabande" (shot in Chichén Itzá, Mexico), "I Want You Back," and "Indiana Jones and the Arabian Nights" (filmed in Petra, Jordan).

The Piano Guys – Steven Sharp Nelson, Jon Schmidt, Al Van der Beek and Paul Anderson – became an online sensation by way of their immensely successful series of strikingly original self-made music videos, which recently surpassed 1 billion views and garnered over 5 million subscribers on YouTube. They've made over 50 music videos since 2011, including their breakout hit, an innovative multi-handed version of One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" and a gorgeous reinvention of the hit song "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen. To date, the Utah-based classical-pop group has released five major label albums on Portrait/Sony Music Masterworks: Wonders, The Piano Guys, The Piano Guys 2, a holiday album called A Family Christmas, and most recently The Piano Guys – Live!  featuring live music from their sold out Red Rocks and Carnegie Hall concerts. Their latest album Uncharted comes out October 28.
  

Listen to tracks from the new album Uncharted here:


Macy Gray's Stripped Debuts at #3 on Billboard Jazz Chart

One of the most iconic and instantly recognizable voices in music history is back in a way you've never heard before. Macy Gray makes her Chesky Records debut with her new Jazz infused album, Stripped. Paired with an awe inspiring jazz ensemble that includes Ari Hoenig, Daryl Johns, Russell Malone, and Wallace Roney, Macy's voice is given the space and freedom to truly shine. Featuring new original songs, intriguing covers, and stunning new arrangements of her classic hits like "I Try," there's something for everyone on this timeless recording.

Macy Gray was born and raised in Ohio, and moved to California for college. She began singing in her 20s and released her multi-platinum debut album, On How Life Is, in 1999, winning a Grammy for her single, “I Try.”

Gray also enjoys acting, and has had small roles on several TV shows as well as movies, including Training Day with Denzel Washington, and Shadowboxer with Cuba Gooding Junior. Additionally she made cameo appearances as herself in films like Spider-Man (2002) and television shows like Ally McBeal. In 2012, she appeared in the film The Paperboy with Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, and Nicole Kidman. The film was released at the Cannes Film Festival. Gray was also a contestant on the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars in 2009.

Part of the Chesky Binaural + Series, all recorded with a single microphone, the band appears right before you with this spacious, lush and multi-dimensional recording. Now headphone users will hear the same three-dimensional sound and imaging as audiophiles have for the past 25 years with Chesky Recordings. Also these new Binaural+ Series albums capture even more spatial realism for the home audiophile market, bringing you one step closer to the actual event. You will hear some of the most natural and pure cool music ever recorded.


NEW RELEASES: JOHN SCOFIELD – COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN; TOM TOM CLUB – TOM TOM CLUB (LIMITED TRANSLUCENT GREEN VINLYL EDITION) LP; LADY WRAY – QUEEN ALONE

JOHN SCOFIELD – COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

An amazing slice of sound from guitarist John Scofield – a record we might not have expected years ago, but one that comes across beautifully overall – thanks to Scofield's ever-increasing diversity as a musician! The title hints at the contents – as the tracks here showcase John's longtime love of country music – something that's barely hinted at on his other recordings, and which here gets completely re-shaped with the Scofield sound – that boldly chromatic style of guitar that's a million miles from Nashville or Bakersfield, but which turns out some beautiful reworkings of older classics. The group here features Larry Goldings on organ and piano, Steve Swallow on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums – and titles include "Mama Tried", "Wildwood Flower", "Wayfaring Stranger", "Bartenders Blues", "Mr Fool", "Jolene", "You're Still The One", and "Faded Flower". ~ Dusty Groove

TOM TOM CLUB – TOM TOM CLUB (LIMITED TRANSLUCENT GREEN VINLYL EDITION) LP

The Talking Heads spawned a number of worthy side projects and spinoffs—David Byrne & Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Jerry Harrison’s The Red and the Black—but none were as funky, danceable, and flat-out fun as Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s Tom Tom Club. Conceived as something of a larkish break from the grandly realized intellectual and artistic pretensions of the Heads’ Remain in Light record, the duo’s self-titled 1981 debut was recorded in Barbados with Weymouth’s sisters and Adrian Belew and Steven Stanley from the Remain in Light band, and not only spawned a couple of hit singles in “Genius of Love” and “Wordy Rappinghood” but also became, in its own way, enormously influential. This was the sound of downtown New York talking, listening, and rapping to the burgeoning hip hop movement, a hybrid heard in a whole host of acts in the ‘80s and ‘90s, from Madonna to Mariah Carey to the Beastie Boys and beyond. Weymouth and Frantz went on to record several more albums under the Tom Tom Club moniker, but this remains the classic; Real Gone Music is proud to offer Tom Tom Club in a translucent green vinyl edition limited to 800 copies. Fun, natural fun! Trackslisting: As Above, So Below; Wordy Rappinghood; Genius of Love; Lorelei; On, On, On, On...; Tom Tom Theme; Booming and Zooming;and L' Éléphant.

LADY WRAY – QUEEN ALONE

A stunning full length debut from Lady Wray – a voice you might know from her previous collaboration in the duo Lady – but one that's even more amazing out front here on her own! The album's got a rock-solid, totally classic vibe – thanks to Leon "El" Michels – who produced, and provided most of the music with his group – a completely funky ensemble, but one that's also right up to the sense of majesty that Wray brings to her vocals – a soaring, righteous spirit that's way beyond the easy cliches or retro modes of so many other funky singers. Instead, the lady has a way of doing things that's all her own – a knowledge of all the places that R&B-influenced vocals have gone in recent decades, but packed into a simple, straightforward sound that's a perfect fit with Michels' music. Better than we could have hoped – with titles that include "Smiling", "Do It Again", "They Won't Hang Around", "Bad Girl", "Let It Go", "Cut Me Loose", and "Make Me Over". ~ Dusty Groove


Rising Young Soul Jazz Singer/Songwriter Lindsey Webster Scores First Vocal #1 on Contemporary Jazz Charts Since Sade

Growing up in an artist community, the daughter of loving hippie parents, in Woodstock NY, the allure of music was never far from Lindsey Webster. The adorable, instantly likeable and earthy singer/songwriter, who grew up listening to her parents' Jimi Hendrix, Beatles and Elvis Costello LPs and later the Supremes, once pursued medical school before finally settling on music. Webster has been taking the contemporary jazz world by storm, scoring a  #1 hit with her soulful original "Fool Me Once." This feat is remarkable in numerous ways. Not only is Lindsey half the age of the male instrumentalists who dominate the genre, but her #1 is the first vocal driven song that has topped the Billboard smooth jazz chart since Sade's "Soldier of Love" in 2010.  Lindsey exclaims, "This honor has changed the game for me. Once a dream comes into fruition, it really lights a fire."

November 4, 2016, Shanachie Entertainment will release Webster's anticipated label debut, Back To Your Heart. Randall Grass, Shanachie Entertainment General Manager states, "Lindsey Webster is an extraordinary vocalist who effortlessly melds R&B and jazz in a uniquely appealing 'jazzy soul' style that instantly connects with audiences and the world is already taking notice!" Influenced by everyone from Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera to Steely Dan and Earth Wind and Fire, there is an honesty and authenticity that reverberates through Lindsey Webster's enchanting, smoky, rich and soulful honey-toned pipes. Joining forces with her husband, pianist and musical partner, Keith Slattery, the duo crafts evocative soundscapes that fuse the best elements of R&B, jazz, pop and soul. "The knowledge, style and intuition that Keith brings to my songs is amazing," says Lindsey of her husband. "Keith and I are extremely passionate and sensitive people who put the same pride and perfectionism into our writing, recording, and producing. Our philosophy is simple, we do what feels right. I believe this is what has helped us to forge our own sound."

The lead single on Back To Your Heart is the album's title track.  It's an intoxicating and emotive number that sizzles and a song that Webster said wrote itself. "Keith was coming up with the idea for the chorus upstairs on his keyboard one day and I was downstairs cleaning," she shares. "Once he got the chord progression going and played it a few times, the words 'You gotta show me the way back to your heart' popped into my head." Back To Your Heart is a revealing and intimate portrait of Lindsey Webster's life. There are songs like "On Our Way," about Lindsey's personal path and the principals of the Laws of Attraction and her heartfelt and moving tribute to her mother Barbara, who passed in 2014.  "One At A Time," was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and an inspirational speech that saxophonist Kirk Whalum (who guests on the song) gave at one of his concerts about the power of everyday Americans. Lindsey shares, "I realized that one person at a time is how we are going to come to some kind of peace. We have to love and respect and embrace our differences in order to get to the inner peace we need to create widespread peace." Lindsey's mission is to make an emotional connection with her fans. Somewhat of an old-soul, the young singer concludes, "With all the pop tunes out nowadays, literally about nothing, I think it's important to hold the torch for the artists before us who found it important to write real music." With the release of Back To Your Heart, Lindsey Webster is poised to find her way into your heart...and this is just the beginning!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bassist DANIEL FOOSE releases OF WATER AND GHOSTS

In 2015 bassist and composer Daniel Foose returned to his ancestral home of the Mississippi Delta to write an album of music at the crossroads of history, race, and the natural world. Joining Foose on this genre-defying, adventurous and beautiful album, of Water and Ghosts, is Sebastian Noelle on guitar, Keita Ogawa on percussion, Tomoko Omura and Maria Im on violin, Allyson Clare on viola and Jennifer DeVore on cello. "This ensemble, also called 'of Water and Ghosts', is a new outlet for my compositions. It consists of a traditional string quartet with percussion, guitar, and acoustic bass. The name refers to the historic forces that shaped the Mississippi Delta where this music was conceived and composed. It is an area where floods are regular, and fortunes are made and lost based on how much rain one may get in a particular season. Water has always been carving its way through the humanity of that place since it was first inhabited by people over 5000 years ago. In addition to these natural forces, the forces of war, race, slavery, and history imbue this area with ghosts of the past that affect people in conscious and unconscious ways to this day. It is a land rich with stories and I hope to reflect that sense of story telling through this ensemble," said Foose. of Water and Ghosts will be available on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records on October 7, 2016. 

On of Water and Ghosts themes of racial injustice, conflict, and economic terrorism are juxtaposed against the backdrop of a serene and truly majestic natural setting. Foose explains, "I have attempted to reflect this duality musically through textures not typically heard together, notably employing grooves based on West African patterns, New Orleans street beats and Delta-style blues against the backdrop of sometimes sweet, sometimes dissonant string textures reflective of late romantic music."

Like the sculptures of Henry Moore or Richard Serra, or the architecture of Renzo Piano, Daniel Foose's compositional practice is one that, at it's best, is site specific. For his suite, "Sonora" from of Water and Ghosts (tracks 1-4), Foose composed music on the site of the former Sonora Plantation (in the Mississippi Delta) where his maternal ancestors have farmed for over a century. The piece narrates the story of the acquisition of Sonora and the injustices of slavery that were carried out in that place. The artist took his upright bass into the very fields, cemeteries and forests of the area, embracing and ingesting that environment, to compose the themes of the "Sonora" suite. It is his hope that these themes will be imbued with a sense of place that enrich the stories he's attempting to tell musically. He additionally did this for the collection of pieces entitled "Pluto" (tracks 5-9), about a plantation where his paternal family lives and farms. Staying on that land for a month, he composed music about the people of the area and their stories.

"Two lands separated by a few miles along the fertile crescent of the Yazoo River, have borne witness to the rise and fall of tribes from millennia ago, war, enslavement, terrorism, resilience, survival, faith, creation . . . the light in us struggling to overcome our own shadow. On the surface this land seems so quiet and flat, but dig just beneath the surface and the quietness gives way to a cacophony of voices and the flatness becomes textured as a tapestry of bones and memories. I spent a month listening to these voices and exploring this land, composing the themes for each piece in the very places that inspired them. As I improvised with my upright bass in the muddy fields and cemeteries of the area, these melodies very much felt like they came from outside of myself, gifted to me from the land." (excerpted from the liner notes for of Water and Ghosts). 

Daniel Foose has performed all over the world with many different ensembles and is currently a member of Lady Gaga's Band. In 2013 Daniel was awarded 3rd place in the International Society for Bassists Jazz Competition performing his piece 'Circuits (2012)'.




Bassist Marcos Varela Bridges Generations On Debut CD San Ygnacio

New York City is a long way from tiny San Ygnacio, Texas - not only measured in miles (around 2,000, for the record) but also in temperament. Born and raised in Houston, bassist Marcos Varela nonetheless traces his roots back to the historic Texas town where his family has lived on the same ranch since at least the 1750s. Based in New York for the last 12 years, Varela takes stock of how far he's come on his leader debut, San Ygnacio, released March 18 on Origin Records.

Drawing on collaborators from throughout his time in New York, Varela assembles a stand-out cast of veterans and peers. The album's core rhythm section is composed of two jazz giants: pianist George Cables, a key mentor, and drummer Billy Hart, one of Varela's earliest employers. They're joined by another longtime employer, trombonist Clifton Anderson, as well as two of Varela's most gifted contemporaries, saxophonists Dayna Stephens and Logan Richardson. On two tracks, Varela features his one-time collective quartet with up-and-coming players Arnold Lee (alto, son of bassist/composer Bill Lee and half-brother of director Spike Lee), Eden Ladin (piano) and Kush Abadey (drums).

Varela is a graduate of Houston's renowned High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, where his fellow alumni include Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Eric Harland, Chris Dave, and Beyoncé. He arrived in NYC to continue his studies at the New School, leading to opportunities to perform with a wide range of artists including Cables, Hart, Anderson, Moran, Geri Allen, The Last Poets, the Mingus Big Band, Kendrick Scott, Billy Harper and Tyshawn Sorey, among countless others. He has also composed music for several film and TV projects, including director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese's film "Roots in Water."

"This record is a culmination of my New York experience," Varela says of San Ygnacio. "It features some of my favorite people to play with and recalls some of the positive experiences I've had during my New York days."

Legendary bassist Ron Carter contributed the album's liner notes, where he writes that Varela's "tone, choice of notes and compositions will place his playing and name on the list of bassists to be heard." A hero turned mentor, Carter is just one of the jazz elders who have taken note of Varela's talents and encouraged the bassist along his path. While still in college, he was invited to join longtime Dizzy Gillespie drummer Charlie Persip's big band. Around the same time, Hart included Varela in a sextet of young players that also featured rising stars Theo Croker, Sullivan Fortner, and Irwin Hall.

"Billy encouraged us to challenge him and keep him young, and then he wanted to impart his experience and knowledge onto us as well," Varela says. "It was a great learning experience."

Three of the tracks on San Ygnacio come from the repertoire of Hart's sextet: "Pepper" and "Picturesque" are both George Mraz compositions, while "Lullaby for Imke" is a gentle ballad that the drummer recorded on a 2006 quartet release, presented here in a new arrangement by pianist Ezra Weiss. "Picturesque" is the album's sole trio piece, with Varela and Cables doubling up on the angular melody, while the brisk "Pepper" is highlighted by the pairing of Dayna Stephens' tenor and Varela's arco playing.

The album opens with its only standard, Cables' bold arrangement of "I Should Care." Varela says, "Especially on a debut record, the jazz community wants to hear you play over a standard and know that you have that ability. If you can't play a standard, it negates your jazz legitimacy. Besides, I've spent a lot of time playing that music, I loved George's arrangement, and I wanted something that everyone could get together and be creative on immediately."

Varela's "Colinas de Santa Maria" is named for his family's ranch in San Ygnacio, which has been in his family's possession since at least a mid-18th century Spanish land grant. While he grew up in Houston, Varela spent plenty of time visiting family at the ranch and enjoying the town's unchanged Spanish architecture. He evokes a sense of nostalgia for that time and landscape, while saxophonist Arnold Lee contributes a vivid, wistful solo. The same quartet, whose members Varela continues to play with in other contexts, returns on Eden Ladin's simmering "Red on Planet Pluto."

The leader takes the spotlight on "Mitsuru," a bass feature composed by Anderson, who often used the tune to feature Varela in the trombonist's own band. Anderson also contributes and plays on the mid-tempo swinger "Sister Gemini." Cables, who Varela met through the auspices of Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center, wrote the intoxicating waltz "Looking For the Light," which Varela calls "one of my favorite George pieces - it really encourages you to play lyrically."

The album concludes with Varela's "Where the Wild Things Are," a modern burner named for his favorite childhood book. Following a darkly atmospheric introduction, the piece erupts into a bristling melody, finally leading into a raucous solo showcase for Billy Hart. The tune is the prime example of Varela's approach to bridging the generations represented in his band. "I wanted to take the veterans out of their comfort zone," he explains. "I wanted to flip the script a little bit and try something different, have them be adventurous and play some songs they wouldn't normally be heard playing. I wanted to push people in different directions to create a new sound."

An intriguing mix of personalities and influences, generations and sounds, San Ygnacio traces Marcos Varela's journey from Houston to New York, a trek rich with experiences and opportunities. It's a striking debut that points the way toward even more music - and miles - to come.





NEW RELEASES: THROTTLE ELEVATOR MUSIC WITH KAMASI WASHINGTON – THROTTLE ELEVATOR MUSIC IV; MATERIAL – SEVEN SOULS REMIXES; CLUB DE BELUGAS - NINE

THROTTLE ELEVATOR MUSIC WITH KAMASI WASHINGTON – THROTTLE ELEVATOR MUSIC IV

The best album so far from Throttle Elevator music – thanks to some fantastic saxophone from Kamasai Washington! The group was always pretty good before – but this time around, they really rise above their past – and also have Washington handling all the arrangements on the record, which gives them a spiritual sound we never would have expected! Core group members include Gregory Howe and Matt Montgomery on guitars and piano, Mike Hughes on drums, and Erik Jekabson on flugelhorn and trumpet – but the presence of Washington is what really seals the deal, on tracks that include "Gibraltar Road", "We Can Work With That", "Sweet Spot", "No One To Vote For", "Boeske Trail", and "Throwing The Switch". ~ Dusty Groove

MATERIAL – SEVEN SOULS REMIXES

Three remixes from the classic Seven Souls. Material with William S. Burroughs, reading from The Western Lands. Number three, in his epic trilogy that began with "Cities Of The Red Night" and "A Place Of Dead Roads". Featured here - three mutations from the original form. "The Western Lands" by Bill Laswell featuring bass icon Jah Wobble, the original illbient mutant - DJ Spooky, renown Japanese ambient artist - Tetsu Inoue and others. "Seven Souls" by Bomb The Bass founder Tim Simenon. And "Soul Killer" by electronic experimentalist Terre Thaemlitz. The Road To The Western Land is by definition the most dangerous road in the world. for it is a journey beyond death, beyond the basic god standard of fear and danger. Tracks: The Western Lands (A Dangerous Road Mix); Seven Souls (Tim Simenon Mix); and Soul Killer (Remote Control Mix). 

CLUB DE BELUGAS - NINE

Now 14 years and 8 studio albums deep, nu jazz outfit Club des Belugas proudly present their 9th studio album, which is simply called "Nine". It's a 2 CD album with 30 tracks in total, 13 brand new ones and 17 mostly unreleased remixes. This 2 CD album is available for the price of 1 CD! Many well-known vocalists appear on this fantastic album: Anna-Luca (Sweden), Anne Schnell (Germany), Antoine Villoutreix (France), Arema Arega (Cuba), Ashley Slater (UK), Brenda Boykin (USA), Dean Bowman (USA), Ester Rada (Israel), Iain Mackenzie (UK), Nelly Simon (Germany), Saskia Jonker (The Netherlands) and Veronika Harcsa (Hungary). As always Club des Belugas are combining contemporary European Nujazz & Electro Styles with Cuban & Brazilian Beats, Swing and American Black Soul and Funk of the fifties, sixties & seventies using their unique creativity and intensity. 


NEW RELEASES: U-NAM – SURFACE LEVEL; MAGIC IN THREES – IV; TACOSAN – CHIROPRACTIC FUNK

U-NAM – SURFACE LEVEL

The grooves here go way past the surface level – mighty deep overall, and served up in that fantastic mix of jazzy fusion and club that we love so much from U-Nam! The guitarist just seems to get better and better with each new recording – mixing a 70s style of George Benson soloing with well-crafted rhythms that are never too over the top, and which never force the groove so much that U-Nam can't find space to do his own thing! The style's almost like an instrumental version of Incognito, although with more of a jazzy solo instrumental vibe – and titles include "Back In Style", "Mary Jane", "Groove Paradise", "Going For Miles", "Surface Level", and West Indeed". ~ Dusty Groove

MAGIC IN THREES – IV

Magic In Threes is actually a quintet, and the album's numbered four – but don't let these digits confuse you, because the sound is nicely straight ahead – and a really fresh approach to instrumental funk! These guys have a laidback groove that almost reminds us of 70s soundtrack modes, but never tries at all to copy their style – and instead finds a unique space that's very different from so many of the other funky combos working today, and which hardly belies the Tennessee roots of the group! The music has this great sense of space between the rhythms – things are never too fast or too forced, but always funky throughout – served up with a shifting array of instrumentation that includes Fender Rhodes, organ, and other keyboards – plus guitar, flute, sax, and trumpet. Titles include "Vida Lago", "Sunshine", "Up In The Market", "Cinema Six Eight", "Cashin Out", "Beautiful Starship", "For The Champ", "60s Spring", and "Ringworld". (Includes download!) ~ Dusty Groove

TACOSAN – CHIROPRACTIC FUNK

The title may seem a bit strange, but the grooves on this set are so heavy, you might find yourself heading for the chiropractor after your first listen to the record! Tacosan takes strong inspiration from the James Brown band of the late 60s – with all the bumps, grinds, and funky jumps you might imagine – but his music also adds in some fuzzy guitar at times, too – a bit like the contribution that the young Dave Matthews made to JB on the Sho Is Funky Down here album – all of which makes for a super-heavy approach to deep funk! Tacosan sings in Japanese throughout – but his group grooves in an international way, with lots of southern funk currents next to the garagey guitar – all of which makes for a pretty unique blend of sounds. All song titles are in Japanese – save for one, which is enigmatically titled "Hard Boiled Egg". ~ Dusty Groove


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

THE WEE TRIO Announces The Release of Wee + 3: James Westfall (vibes) Dan Loomis (bass) & Jared Schonig (drums)

The Wee Trio, James Westfall (vibes), Dan Loomis (bass) + Jared Schonig (drums), proudly announce the September 30, 2016 release of their fifth recording, Wee + 3, recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn, NY, and featuring three musicians who are near and dear to the members of the Trio; the legendary trumpeter/composer Nicholas Payton (tracks 4, 5 & 6), guitarist/composer Nir Felder (tracks 1, 10 & 11), and pianist/composer Fabian Almazán (tracks 2, 3 & 9). Inviting guests to join this established, working group was born out of the band's collective love of collaboration.

Wee + 3 is an album about relationships. Dan Loomis is from Middle America, Jared Schonig is from the West Coast and James Westfall is from the South. Together they have traveled to every corner of the country and the songs on this album celebrate their individual roots and their travels together. The bonds that The Wee Trio formed as a band happened very soon after they all moved to New York City and has strengthened over the years. In short, musically and personally, they are thick as thieves, and their camaraderie is fully explored and realized on the band's previous four recordings, Capitol Diner Vol. 1 (2008), Capitol Diner Vol. 2 - Animal Style (2010), Ashes To Ashes - A David Bowie Intraspective (2012) and Live at The Bistro (2013). With Wee + 3, the fans are bearing witness to the first expansion of the trio as they welcome in three critically acclaimed, world-class musicians to the fold. Each guest artist has a unique personal relationship with the individual members of the band and all of the music on this record was composed for each of these guest artists, creating a stylistic spectrum that takes the listener through three different worlds, but all within the galaxy of The Wee Trio. 

The guest artists also represent three distinct narrative points in the history of the band. Dan Loomis explains further, "Nicholas Payton is the prelude to our story as a band. We say that the trio connects so well because we had listened to so many of the same records. Mr. Payton's music was definitely an important part of all our lives. His playing, his intention as a bandleader, and his compositions were important building blocks for all of our own musical conceptions and development. Nir Felder is the present tense in the story of the band. We all met Nir very soon after we moved to the city and played with him a lot in our first years here. Our encounter with Fabian Almazán is a look to the future. Jared has known Fabian for a several years, but James and I just started playing with him for this project. Fabian plays with relentless creativity that really brings out the best side of the band. We love to play familiar material and take a lot of risks with it - push it to see what new options we can find hidden in it. With Fabian we got a chance to expand that approach to a quartet setting and bring it some new material that we wrote especially for him. We think the results are magical!"  In drummer Jared Schonig's words, this record was, "really a dream for us to make, both compositionally and musically. We had many long discussions over two years, deciding who our guests would be, and we feel that we made such great choices. To add a fourth musical voice was like taking cake and putting more frosting on it just for the fun of it."

"R T 3" (feat. Nir Felder) - This song is the sound of the ocean as nearly as bassist Dan Loomis can capture it. You can hear the seagull cry in the intro. "My mother grew up in California and spent a lot time exploring the Pacific coast. I was born in Redwood City but raised in the Midwest. I always loved my trips back to California and I never feel right visiting without at least one visit to the ocean," said Loomis.

"Titan UP" (feat. Fabian Almazán) - Westfall grew up in Houston, Texas and was an avid Houston Oilers fan. In the mid 1990's the Oilers packed their bags and relocated to Tennessee changing their name to the Titans. Since Westfall's recent arrival to his new home in Nashville, he has re-adopted the NFL franchise that moved away from him.

"Climb" (feat Fabian Almazán) - An epic composition written by Schonig to feature both Almazán's creativity and Loomis' strength moving around the bass. The title represents the climb to the top that we all inevitably face daily in life.

"Sabotage" (feat. Nicholas Payton) - One of the nation's best venues is in St. Louis, MO (Loomis' hometown), Jazz at the Bistro. The Wee Trio played there many times and even spent a weekend recording a live album there (Live at The Bistro from 2013). Loomis explains, "The second night of the recording we went to play our first set only to discover (mid-song!!) that the microphone cables had been cut!! We never found the culprit but clearly someone set out to sabotage the band! Thus Jared had a title for his new song."

"No Justice" (feat. Nicholas Payton) - This song is a tribute to Loomis' hometown, St. Louis, and particularly the suburb of Ferguson. "We have all been angered and saddened by the senseless violence by police against so many black youth across our country. But these events take on another dimension when they happen close to home. In the aftermath of tragic events like these, one thing that we can do is come together to make our voices heard against a culture that allows such actions. My partner and young boys have been to many demonstrations protesting these events and my kids' favorite chant at these demonstrations is 'No Justice, No Peace!'" said Loomis.

"Belle Femme De Voodoo" (feat. Nicholas Payton) - "As a former resident of New Orleans, this piece was written as a homage to the city. I spent the better part of 15 years living there and the city's influence will always be burned in my personality. One of the city's biggest musical influences today is Nicholas Payton. I've had the privilege of sharing the stage with him about a dozen times while living there and each of those gigs was a huge learning experience that I never took for granted. Having him be a part of this record was an honor. It was only fitting that Nicholas would be featured on a song written for New Orleans. Nicholas' style is the perfect blend of Old New Orleans and New World," said James Westfall.

"Lola" - This is a composition by Meshell Ndegeocello that Schonig arranged for the band. Schonig says "The band originally decided against having covers on this recording, but made an exception for an exceptional artist that we all admire."

"Sound Evidence" - The lone original trio composition comes from Schonig after he sought out to write something both rhythmically interesting yet open enough for the harmonic instruments to have complete freedom while improvising. The title comes from Schonig's brother, who made an astute observation during a game of ping-pong with the band to prove a certain shot had hit the table!

"Redwood" (feat. Fabian Almazán) - This is a tribute to Redwood groves in Northern California. "Walking through them you can have a feeling in an endless horizontal and vertical space. This song tries capture that expansiveness," said Loomis.

"Gibbs Street" (feat. Nir Felder) - Schonig and Loomis met at Eastman School of Music in downtown Rochester, NY. This piece by Schonig is a homage to his experience there, balancing all that life is throwing at you. "Sometimes college can seem incredibly chill and then one moment chaos can ensue; whether it be with schoolwork, gigs, relationships - I tried to encapsulate all of that in this piece," said Schonig.

"Apparition" (feat. Nir Felder) - "Nir is one of our favorite guitarists because, like The Wee Trio, he's not afraid to rock out. Performing the song quartet gave us the opportunity for me to personify a wraith during the melody. The composition's simplicity gave the trio enough room to stylistically take the direction in a more organic world that is true to our influences. The composition is one big launching pad for a shredding Nir Felder solo meant to kick ass and melt faces," said Westfall.

Jazz pianist DAN PARIPANY releases 2015, new album of originals and jazz standards

Dan Papirany is an adventurous Jazz pianist, composer who understands and follows the eloquent philosophy that is to play melodic phrases and rich harmonies.

Originally starting out as a drummer at seventeen years of age, he discovered the music of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett's piano playing which led him to switch instruments to the piano. He remembers a quote from drummer Peter Erskine, "play what you mean and mean what you play” for this quote opened up a whole new horizon as he began to play and record professionally as a serious musician. While studying jazz piano with Leigh Jackson in Wellington, Dan formed his first trio and played in local venues and mainly at "Bar Bodega".

While taking post graduate musicology courses at Victoria University in Wellington Dan was offered the position of Music HOD at a school in Auckland New Zealand teaching Maori students a music curriculum based on Jazz. Dan formed his Auckland trio and performed solos and with his trio at local venues including the famous London Bar and the Jazz Bar.

Dan’s trio recorded their debut album of jazz standards which was released by Ode Records in March of 2004 entitled “Session One” and was nominated for a New Zealand Music Award.

“Session Two” was a compilation of original tunes, the three releases afterward were live albums recorded at the trio residency venue The "MLC Café & Bar”. His 6th album "2011" and his 7th album "2014" includes his original “Bargara" which won second place in the Australia Jazz Convention Original tunes competition in December 2011. His latest recording is titled "2015" and includes one original tune entitled "Eb Major Waltz”.

Dan’s repertoire consists of originals and jazz standards while appearing at local jazz spots in Australia and New Zealand. After many stage performances Dan found that his playing matured, phrases became more melodious, often stretching across the bar line with phrases appearing to be more defined and resolving better than before as he consistently reaches for higher heights in his musical abilities.

His favorite musical setting is to perform at a venue that houses a grand piano with a cohesive group of musicians that listens and interacts with each other as they counter solo with the piano, like the Bill Evans trio is known for presenting.

Papirany’s music is the opposite of where the mainstream jazz sound is today, he finds that current sounds are always experimental and doesn't try to follow these trends, simply because he wouldn't be happy sounding like most modern players. He currently has collaboration with Norwegian vocalist Vibeke Voller resulting in an exciting, rich and creative inspiration to much loved jazz standards! “I took a chance” is their second Duo album which is due to be released at the end of the year. The complimentary interaction of these two unique talents has produced a fresh and polished musical experience!

Dan’s recent collaboration is with Brazilian vocalist Ron Bernard, performing songs with just piano and vocals.

In May 2016 Dan performed with his band two successful shows at EUROPAfest 2016 in Bucharest, and was invited to return next year. Dan is currently seeking opportunities to be featured on one of the emerging platforms, such as streaming tv, radio etc. as well as being listed on non-exclusive booking agencies worldwide.

An Instant Classic Being Released For B.B. King's Birthday

A newly released song featuring B.B. King as released 9/16/16 for what would have been the King of the Blues 91st birthday. The Rainy Day Blues performed by B.B. King and the band DizzyFish is an instant classic even though it was originally recorded some 25 years ago.

The song which was written and produced by Eric Herbst leader of the band DizzyFish was originally recorded shortly after B.B. recorded "When Love Comes To Town" with U2 and before B.B. recorded "Riding With The King" with Eric Clapton, when B.B. was arguably at his peak.

"B.B.'s performance on this is incredible," Herbst said. "We are releasing it now after all these years because it's a great unreleased recording that deserves to be heard. "B.B.'s voice and Lucille (his playing) are timeless on this. Blues fans will be enjoying this new classic every rainy day until the end of time and it's always raining somewhere."

"Working with B.B. on the Rainy Day Blues was an true pleasure and absolutely magical" Herbst said "The song was recorded in the Las Vegas desert and amazingly it rained that day, lol. B.B. was the nicest man I ever met and knowing him changed my life. Honoring him in this way is very important to me. Happy Birthday Mr. King," said Herbst.




GUITARIST PETER WHITE PAYS TRIBUTE TO HIS ROCK AND SOUL ROOTS ON GROOVIN’

Like so many millions of us, guitarist Peter White still feels closest to the music he absorbed while growing up. As a British teen in the ’60s, he kept his ears glued to the radio—soaking up the exciting new sounds of rock bands like the Beatles and soul giants like Stevie Wonder—and tried to learn how to play those songs on the acoustic guitar his dad had given him. It didn’t take him long to get the hang of it, and now, after more than four decades as both a leader and sideman, he’s returning to those tunes that impacted him so forcefully in his youth.

Groovin’, set for release on October 28, 2016 via Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, is White’s third collection of guitar-centric interpretations of timeless compositions from those halcyon years of the 1950s to the ’80s. Taking up where his previous all-covers albums Reflections (1994) and Playin’ Favorites (2006) left off, Groovin’ finds White not only nostalgic but adventurous and playful, injecting vocal shadings and bold horn charts into the mix, and even some tougher guitar sounds than he’s generally known for.

“I always gravitate toward this era,” says White about the songs he chooses to cover. “At that time the music meant more to me than at any other time in my life.”

Groovin’ takes its title from the Rascals’ tropical-hued ballad hit of 1967, and also includes, from that heady decade, the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.” From the same era, the R&B classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a hit for both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight, gets a distinctive new reading here by White, as does Otis Redding’s timeless “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” The oldest tune, “Sleep Walk,” was a number one instrumental hit in 1959 by Santo and Johnny in the United States, but White actually heard it first by the Shadows, a British guitar combo massively popular in the U.K. that never really caught on in the States. For White, the challenge in interpreting such familiar music is in putting his own stamp on a number while retaining the characteristics that make it instantly recognizable.

“I like playing covers because if you can take a song that people know, by a well-known artist, and make it your own, then you have defined yourself as an artist,” he says. “Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley did that and no one complained. One of the purposes in my making these cover albums is that I want to be very faithful to the melody. But I ask myself, if I had just come up with this idea and it had never been recorded before, how would I record this song? Do I need to use any part of the original arrangement, and if I don’t then let’s not. On at least half the songs on this album, if you took my melody off, you would not recognize the song.”

Several songs on Groovin’ originated in the 1970s and ’80s, the decade that White considers his “cutoff point.” The Stevie Wonder track that follows “Groovin’” on the album is “Do I Do,” from 1982, and “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” originally recorded by Stephanie Mills, is also an ’80s-vintage track. “I Can See Clearly Now,” the classic reggae chart-topper by Johnny Nash, the Three Degrees’ Gamble and Huff-penned “When Will I See You Again” and “How Long,” the Paul Carrack-written hit by Ace, all stem from the first half of the ’70s. Once White narrowed down the material he wanted to include, he got to work on the arrangements. “You have to forget the original version,” he says. “I start with a beat and then I start playing the piano—most of these arrangements come from the piano.” Self-producing, White then worked out his guitar parts and fine-tuned the roles that the various musicians would play. Among them was drummer Ricky Lawson, a friend of White’s who passed away shortly after contributing to the album and to whom he dedicates Groovin’.

“A lot of the ideas on Groovin’ were left over from my last two cover songs albums,” White says. “I make song lists and go through them—‘Does this work? Does that work? Oh, that works.’ I had this list of songs and said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”

In a way, “Let’s see what happens” has been White’s modus operandi since he first picked up a guitar. Influenced at first by folk music, he learned fingerstyle picking by listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell recordings. An introduction to the revolutionary rock of Jimi Hendrix sent him scampering toward the electric guitar, but when his first model was destroyed in a fire he returned to the acoustic. He fell for the British blues of bands such as (early) Fleetwood Mac and was introduced to jazz by a friend. It was his ability to adapt his playing to multiple styles of music that got White noticed by British singer-songwriter Al Stewart—first as a pianist, then as a guitarist. White played on Stewart’s top 10 album Year of the Cat in 1976 and co-wrote the hit title track of the singer’s next album, “Time Passages.” White spent 20 years in all accompanying Stewart, and performed sideman duties for many other artists, but by 1990 he was ready to go out on his own.

“I was listening to the radio,” he recalls, “and they played a song I’d recorded with Al Stewart, ‘Ghostly Horses of the Plain,’ which was pretty much a guitar instrumental. The DJ comes on and says, ‘That was Al Stewart.’ I said, ‘No, that was me!’” From that point on, White began concentrating on his own music, composing and recording under his own name. His 1996 Caravan of Dreams album sold over 300,000 copies and by the early 2000s his shelf was bulging with awards for his virtuosic musicianship. “I never thought I’d be in the position of having a career playing my instrumental music,” White says. “When I started out, that wasn’t a road that was open to me. Then it worked.”

It’s still working. “I throw my net far and wide,” he says, “and don’t label it. It’s just instrumental music. I like to play nice songs on the guitar and I hope people like it.” Based on his stellar four-decade track record, and the instantly contagious grooves he’s created on Groovin’, that’s not going to be a problem.

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Vocalist Scott Morgan draws on a lifetime of experience and emotion for his moving debut recording, Songs of Life

One advantage to making a belated debut is the depth of life experience that enriches an artist's work. Scott Morgan may be a name new to listeners outside of New York City, where he's garnered a devoted following for his moving live performances, but Songs of Life reveals a vocalist with a lifelong passion for and immersion in music. The title reflects both a songbook developed over a lifetime's listening and performing, but also Morgan's expressive interpretations, deeply imbued with the loves and losses that accumulate over a life well lived.

The repertoire on Songs of Life (September 12 via Miranda Music) span the spectrum from Great American Songbook standards to pop classics by revered songwriters like James Taylor and The Beatles to more recent contributions by pianist/composer Fred Hersch, Morgan's partner in both life and music. Hersch's sensitive accompaniment can be heard throughout Songs of Life, along with the singer's flexible, supportive rhythm section of bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Ross Pederson. The impeccably eloquent tenor saxophone of Joel Frahm graces three tracks, while Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel is Morgan's duo partner for the soaring "I'll Follow," with lyrics by Morgan to Hersch's piece "Mandevilla."

"Every song has its own story," Morgan says, "and I hope that when people listen to the record they can identify with some if not many of the songs in a personal way. Everybody's had unrequited love as well as fulfilling relationships. And I imagine most people have suffered existential angst as well - so Songs of Life is a musical photo album of the touchstones in our lives."

Some of the songs in particular offer snapshots of very vivid memories from Morgan's past. The breathtaking coupling of Dave Catney's "Little Prayer" and the Lerner and Loewe standard "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" is a particular standout. The first half is the work of a jazz pianist/composer who passed away from complications of AIDS, sung by Morgan in memory of a friend lost to the disease in the 1980s. The latter half wistfully captured the imagined dreams of a woman that Morgan met while traveling in Tanzania, widowed by HIV and living in a mud hut. "She took me into her house and fed me though she had nothing at all," he recalls. "I thought that from her perspective, wouldn't it be lovely to have heat, chocolate, someone to care about."

Morgan brings the same profound humanity and empathy to all of his work. In part, his gift for storytelling and capturing character in song stems from his earliest experiences with music, performing in musical theater productions in his native Sarasota, Florida. "Without my musical theater background I wouldn't be able to tell the stories the way that I'm able to tell them, particularly in live performance," Morgan says. "It's very easy for singers to just get up and run through the songs jazz singers are expected to sing, but I try to make every song special and really engage the audience with what's going on in the story."

After playing piano and singing throughout his time at Florida State University, Morgan took a 15-year break from music while he concentrated on his career in the technology and then in the nonprofit sector, a pursuit that continues to be rewarding off the stage. It was his arrival in New York City in 2001 that led to his reengagement with music, which was only fueled further a few months later when he met Hersch and was ushered into the thriving NYC jazz scene. He studied with influential modern jazz singers like Kate McGarry, Peter Eldridge and Rene Marie, gaining confidence from their encouragement and from the enthusiastic response of audiences as he performed live. Hersch says, "I always knew Scott was a great musician - I am glad that he is now finding that out for himself."

"I've always been close to music, and I was looking for a creative outlet to round out my life," Morgan explains. "I felt like all I was doing was working, working, working, so music started calling me back. I never thought it would turn into anything initially, but I gradually got more serious and my desire to do something more with music than just sing around the house started to grow."

If the arc of Songs of Life can be seen as the story of a life, then it's clear that in Morgan's view love, in its many facets, is central to existence. The album begins with a brisk romp through "It's You or No One," a lively ode to fidelity by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne with a dazzling vocalese lyric by Morgan to a classic Chet Baker solo. New romance is celebrated on "I Just Found About Love" and "This Heart of Mine," while Dori Caymmi's bossa nova classic "Like a Lover," performed in an intimate duo with Hersch, luxuriates in the morning light on a lover's face. The first of two James Taylor compositions on the album, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," becomes a poignant plea for connection. The second, "Secret O' Life," resonates with Morgan's Buddhist leanings in its celebration of being present in the moment.

The album closes with The Beatles' "I Will," rendered in Morgan and Hersch's duo performance as a tender promise of devotion. Its sentiments are echoed in Morgan's lyrics to Hersch's music on "I'll Follow," with Morgan and Siegel painting a vivid portrait of two people in love worthy of a Broadway stage. "It's a story about how when two lives and loves intertwine with each other, things can happen in a beautiful way," Morgan explains.

All of the moments that have inspired Songs of Life are expressed with the same sense of beauty and passion. Like the love stories woven throughout the album, Morgan's auspicious debut combines the thrill of the new with the wisdom and depth of feeling that can only come from a lifetime of experience.

Eclectic Quartet Earprint Creates a Thrilling, Challenging Debut on EARPRINT

Fired by a shared passion for challenging but engaging music, Earprint has quickly forged a sound with what its members refer to as an "aggressively melodic, shamelessly youthful approach." The explosive quartet's self-titled debut, due out October 21 on Endectomorph Music, displays creative invention, intricate composition, and raw combustibility in equal measure.

The chordless collective brings together four musicians from diverse backgrounds: saxophonist Kevin Sun comes from picturesque New Jersey and trumpeter Tree Palmedo from the grayer Pacific Northwest. Bassist Simón Willson hails from Santiago, Chile, while drummer Dor Herskovits was born and raised in Israel. Despite their far-flung histories, the quartet established an immediate rapport while studying together at Boston's New England Conservatory, and Sun encouraged them to work together - and to challenge one another.

"I wanted to put something together where I could really work on writing difficult music," Sun explains, a desire prompted by such inspirations as Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, John Hollenbeck, and Sun's mentor, saxophonist-composer Miguel Zenón. "One thing about being in school is that you can rehearse an insane amount; I could write music that was as hard as I wanted it to be and, eventually, we could make it happen."

Perhaps most impressive about the group's music is that, despite the level of virtuosity demanded to play it, listening to it is anything but an abstruse experience. All four members of Earprint contribute memorable tunes, whose hairpin twists and turns inspire spirited improvisations. The lack of a chordal instrument provides ample space and freedom, which the quartet seizes with bravado.
"We're all players that like to take chances and feel free to venture out to different places in the music, and that's really allowed when there's that space between us," says Herskovits. "After a while, it felt like we could play anything. Eventually it didn't matter if the music was complex or simple - it was all something that we could hear naturally and that felt amazing to play."

The darting horn lines of Sun's "Nonsense" open the album. Written years ago while the saxophonist was participating in the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in the scenic mountains of Alberta, Canada, the piece is a densely layered miniature that serves as a jaunty and odd-angled introduction to the quartet. It's followed by Herskovits's Ornette Coleman-inspired "Happy," where the punchy, speech-inspired melodies and whiplash shifts capture the titular mood, however idiosyncratically.

The title of Willson's "School Days" acknowledges Earprint's beginnings in the halls of NEC, but shares its name with a painting by the late Boston-based, African-American artist Allan Rohan Crite. The color and sense of movement in that piece was a direct model for Willson's taut, supple composition. Sun wrote "Boardroom" from a less obviously inspirational source: after playing a background music gig for a corporate function (hey, those student loans aren't gonna pay themselves), he found himself stuck listening to a litany of quarterly earnings and projected revenues, so he turned those droning numbers into a far more interesting musical equivalent.

Sun's meditative "The Holy Quiet" was inspired by the tragic shootings in Charleston; the piece captures the sorrow and anger invoked by the terrible incident with a percussive clamor featuring both Sun and Palmedo joining Herskovits, while Willson intones a harrowing bowed howl. A driving rock beat fuels Palmedo's more light-hearted tune "The Golden Girder Strikes Again," a fanfare for the "brutish elegance" of an imaginary supervillain whose body has been replaced by a mass of gold-plated support beams.

Sun's "Malingerer" is the album's most spacious piece, featuring a slowly accumulating melody and a languorous air but ending with an unexpectedly vigorous conclusion. The alternately methodical and frenetic "Clock Gears" is Herskovits's sonic portrait of the intermeshed workings of a clock mechanism, while the aptly named "Anthem" is the result of a task that Sun set for himself, scrawled in an old notebook and later rediscovered: to write an "anthemic, two-horn song." Voilà.

Sun's sprightly "Colonel" is named after his family's beloved Yorkshire Terrier, and greets the ear with the hopping, yipping brio of an excited Yorkie. Finally, Herskovits's "Six Nine" is indicative of the evolutionary paths that many of the band's tunes take, starting as a simple groove and growing in emotional and musical complexity to its current form.

In some ways, the members agree, the band itself is following a similar path, with the depth and profundity coming from the players rather than the page. "It's a little bit more balanced between things that are more challenging and things that are more free to play on, with a mixture of styles: free music, jazz, neo-classical, rock and roll, all kinds of stuff," Herskovits says. Sun adds, "In the beginning, I would write a 7-page score for a song that would be six minutes long. Gradually I ended up writing less and less, so by the time we got to the album I could just write one sheet and there would be enough material."

Maybe some of these discoveries have been made by composers before, but with each passing generation inspiration and urgency are found anew. Earprint declares the arrival of a band that's harnessed state-of-the-art composition and earthy tunefulness, with no sign of slowing down.


Guitarist Joshua Breakstone Pays Tribute To Great Pianist-Composers With His Unique Cello Quartet on "88"

Though he may only have six strings at his disposal, guitarist Joshua Breakstone has felt a lifelong connection to jazz's great piano players. On his latest release, 88 (due out October 21 from Capri Records), Breakstone pays tribute to some of his favorite pianist-composers with a smoking set of pieces penned by some of the music's greatest keyboard practitioners. Along with a new composition from Breakstone written in tribute to his piano-playing heroes, the album features classics by the likes of Mal Waldron, Barry Harris, Cedar Walton and Elmo Hope.

"I feel like pianists and guitarists are related, in a way," Breakstone says. "Supplying harmony as well as being a soloist, I'm called on to fill the same interactive role as my brothers on the piano - so I have a lot of appreciation and love for the instrument and those who play it."
Despite the theme of the album and the row of ivories prominently featured on its cover, 88 doesn't actually include a single note played on the piano. Instead, the recording is the third outing for Breakstone's unique Cello Quartet, with cellist Mike Richmond, bassist Lisle Atkinson and drummer Andy Watson. That singular instrumentation provides a different perspective on the music itself, which is precisely what Breakstone intended to celebrate.

"There's so much great music by pianists that I've played over the years," he explains. "These aren't necessarily my favorite tunes by pianists or the greatest songs ever by piano players, nothing like that. It's just a nice set of nine songs that offer my take on the different conceptions of these piano players and composers and what they mean to me."

While in recent years he's played most often with the Cello Quartet or in a trio setting, Breakstone has a long history with some legendary piano players. His 1983 debut release as a leader, Wonderful!, featured Barry Harris, who's represented on 88 by the simmering "Lolita." The guitarist's follow-up, 4/4=1, was the first of several recordings he made alongside Kenny Barron. Over the course of his career he's also worked with Tommy Flanagan, Sid Simmons, Joanne Brackeen and organ great Jack McDuff, and led tributes to Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.

A lovely solo guitar meditation opens the album, setting the stage for Harold Mabern's urgent burner "The Chief," its forceful melody rendered in unison by Breakstone and Richmond. The slinky, serpentine groove of Sonny Clark's "News for Lulu" follows, highlighted by the leader's flowing, elusive lines and a soulful solo turn by the cellist. Atkinson's knotty rubato phrases kick off Cedar Walton's scintillating "Black," while Breakstone virtually whispers his way through Mal Waldron's tender classic "Soul Eyes."

The title tune, Breakstone's sole original on the album, is a finger-snapping mid-tempo bop tune that fits perfectly in the spirit of the album. Watson's vigorous swing fuels Elmo Hope's fiery "Moe Is On," while the drummer's hushed brush work supports Tadd Dameron's mournful ballad "If You Could See Me Now." The album wraps up with the whole band at its most muscular for Lennie Tristano's surging "Lennie's Pennies."

"With each song that I play," Breakstone says, "I try to communicate to the audience what it is that I love about that tune. Is it exciting, is it beautiful, is the harmony stimulating, is it funny, is it sweet, is it romantic, does it break my heart?"

The Cello Quartet is keenly adept at capturing the full gamut of emotions, despite its unusual make-up. The idea for the band was one of many inspirations that Breakstone has taken from his travels in Japan, a country that has eagerly embraced the guitarist and his music for nearly 30 years. His regular tours of the country are one component of a new documentary, Joshua Breakstone, Soft Hands: Jazz Ethereal, that was recently produced for Colorado Public Television.

In the case of the Cello Quartet, its original incarnation was assembled at the behest of the late bassist and promoter Mitsuru Niushiyama, Breakstone's close friend and collaborator. "He was getting a little older," Breakstone recalls, "and didn't feel like dragging around a bass anymore, so he came up with an idea. He called me up and asked if it was cool to book me with a rhythm section plus cello." The idea wasn't unprecedented - bassists including Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Sam Jones and Ron Carter have played the cello, although not with guitar - and Breakstone immediately embraced the concept. Immediately upon returning home he began assembling a Stateside version of the band.

"My original idea was that it was going to be like a guitar trio with the cello as a solo instrument, just like if we added a saxophone or trumpet," Breakstone says. "But after a few nights the group gelled in a different way and became a string section accompanied by percussion."

88 shows off just how dynamic and interactive the Cello Quartet can be. The album offers a fresh slant on the post-bop tradition, deeply rooted in the language of the music yet boasting a distinctive blend of colors and textures that create an utterly contemporary sound. Doubtless these pioneering pianists would approve of being honored that way.

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