Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek Album Of Classic Jazz Standards To Be Released on Tuesday, September 23

Cheek To Cheek features classic jazz standards sung by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in a combination of vocal duets and solo performances.  Each song was handpicked by the artists, and the album features classic selections from the Great American Songbook including "Anything Goes," "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Sophisticated Lady,"  "Lush Life," and the record's title track, "Cheek To Cheek." Recorded in New York City, the record took over a year to complete and features jazz musicians associated with both artists including members of Bennett's quartet, Mike Renzi, Gray Sargent, Harold Jones and Marshall Wood as well pianist Tom Lanier.  Jazz trumpeter Brian Newman, a long-time friend and colleague of Lady Gaga appears on the album as well with his NYC based jazz quintet. Jazz soloists on selected tracks include tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and flutist Paul Horn, who passed away earlier this month.

Of this new project Lady Gaga commented, "Cheek To Cheek came out of a very organic friendship and relationship that Tony and I have built over the years and it truly was a collaborative effort. It was important to Tony that this was a jazz record. I've been singing jazz since I was a child and really wanted to show the authentic side of the genre. We made an album of jazz classics, but it has a modern twist."

"I have been singing the Great American Songbook my entire career and all along forging a 
bridge between pop and jazz music.  Creating this album with Lady Gaga has been a beautiful experience as she is a fantastic singer and I am hoping that all her fans will embrace this music and swing along with it," said Tony Bennett.

Photographer Steven Klein contributed the photographs and spearheaded the artistic design for the album packaging as well as for the first official image released from Cheek To Cheek, which is featured on the "Anything Goes" cover art.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga first met backstage in 2011 after the two performed at the Robin Hood Foundation gala in New York City and Bennett asked Lady Gaga to sing a duet with him on his DUETS II album that he was beginning to record.   "The Lady is A Tramp" was the result of that endeavor and conversations began about collaborating on a jazz project.  Recently, Bennett and Gaga surprised the student body at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a NYC public arts high school founded by Tony Bennett, when they spoke and performed for the school on the last day of classes in June.  Earlier this month, Gaga surprised the Montreal Jazz Festival audience by joining Bennett on stage when he was performing at the famed jazz festival.  Last night, they taped a television special that will air on PBS later this fall. The two appeared this morning on the TODAY SHOW to official announce CHEEK TO CHEEK.

Legacy Recordings Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Newport Jazz Festival with 6 Classic Album Exclusives; Landmark "Live at Newport" Performances from Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton Available for 1st Time Digitally

Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival this summer with the first digital release of six classic "Live at Newport" albums, available exclusively on iTunes.

Two of the exclusive new releases -- Ellington at Newport: The Original Album and The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Newport 1958 -- have been newly remastered in 24-bit and Mastered for iTunes. This ensures that the music is delivered to listeners with increased audio fidelity that more closely replicates what the artists, recording engineers and producers intended. Originally released on Columbia Records, The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Newport 1958 is now available for the first time digitally and has also been remastered in 24 bit and Mastered for iTunes. Brubeck's concert performance is a tribute to the music of Duke Ellington.

Since its inception as the "First Annual American Jazz Festival" in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival set the standard for large scale outdoor summer music gatherings.  Subsequent music festivals -- from Newport Folk through Montreux, Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Coachella and beyond -- have Newport Jazz to thank for establishing the concept and reality of a music community coming together for a shared outdoor concert experience.

With the 60th anniversary edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, returning to its original home at the Casino and at Fort Adams State Parkon August 1, 2, 3 in Newport, Rhode Island, music fans can enjoy some of the Festival's finest performances from Duke Ellington, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton on six new digital releases.

Jazz impresario and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein called Duke Ellington's 1956 concert at Newport, "the greatest performance of [Ellington's] career," adding that the music "stood for everything that jazz had been and could be."  The digital edition of Ellington At Newport: The Original Album restores the record to its original sequence while adding four live performances that first appeared on Duke Ellington and The Buck Clayton All Stars At Newport (a companion album released in 1956).

Four additional Live at Newport albums are now available for the first time as digital releases:
Ella Fitzgerald - Newport Jazz Festival: Live At Carnegie Hall July 5, 1973
Lionel Hampton - Reunion At Newport 1967
Duke Ellington - Newport 1958
Duke Ellington - Live At Newport 1958


Chick Corea – an NEA Jazz Master and winner of 20 GRAMMY® Awards – has been a prime mover in jazz ever since the late 1960s, when the keyboardist was a youngblood in the electrifying jazz-rock ensembles of Miles Davis. Corea has made classic records as a leader both in acoustic mode (such as the star-making Blue Note trio album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs) and electric (the pioneering ’70s fusion of Return to Forever), as well as collaborating on acclaimed albums with peers from Gary Burton to Béla Fleck. On September 9, 2014, Stretch Records/Concord Jazz will release Trilogy – a recording to rank with the landmarks of Corea’s career. Trilogy is a triple-CD set recorded live around the world with his spectacularly virtuosic trio featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, both star leaders in their own right (and previously the rhythmic backbone in Corea’s Five Peace Band). In an interview with Spain’s El Pais, Corea said about them, “Both are master musicians and together we have an easy rapport. There is a lot of give and take in our music. It’s always a lot of fun.” And reviewing one of the stops on the trio’s two globe-trekking tours, All About Jazz noted, “Corea, ever the mischievous, puckish protagonist, created a context where the music centered on high-spirited playfulness: pushed and pulled, twisted and turned, and obliquely refracted – as much about the journey as it was the destination.”

A marvel of live recorded sound, particularly for having been captured in multiple stops on the road, Trilogy sees the trio reinvent classic Corea compositions (such as “Spain”), as well as previously unreleased originals (“Piano Sonata: The Moon”). The group also performs an array of jazz standards (including two Thelonious Monk tunes) and even re-imagines a Prelude by fin-de-siècle Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (“Op. 11, No. 9”). The recordings were made live in Washington, D.C., and Oakland, CA; in Spain, Switzerland and Austria; and in Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Corea, McBride and Blade are joined by special guests on three tracks: flutist Jorge Pardo and guitarist Niño Josele in Madrid (“My Foolish Heart” and, aptly, “Spain”) and vocalist Gayle Moran Corea, the pianist’s wife and longtime collaborator, in Sapporo (“Someday My Prince Will Come”). About one of the concerts, WUVT Virginia said, “The performance was mostly fun and relaxed, but as expected from Chick Corea, it had its moments of deep thought in which the music could bring tears to one’s eyes.”

Corea calls the trio experience with McBride and Blade “a joyful exploration,” adding, “There’s a certain chemistry that happens, which is really difficult to describe – it’s simply that thing that happens when the three of us get together to play. I know I find myself trying things that I wouldn’t normally try. The game of live performance – for a performer and a listener – is one of the most basic human pleasures. For me, certainly, the best and most rewarding thing I know to do in music is to play live for a live audience. And no matter how recordings and the mass consumption of music evolve, the fundamental musical experience will always be a live performance. A live album like this is the next best thing to being there, a snapshot of special moments in musical time that we can share.”

One of the album’s special moments is the trio’s interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk.” Along with the sheer life-affirming delight of Corea’s piano in this number, it’s the old-wood tone and earthy swing in McBride’s solos that are a particular sensual pleasure. About the bassist, Corea says, “Christian is a complete musician in all senses. With total command of his instrument and a flowing ability to creatively improvise in any situation, he’s able to bring joyful surprises every time.”

Reviewing the trio’s show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, The New York Times singled out Blade’s contribution as “a crucial factor” to the group’s sound: “Tapping into the deeper currents, Mr. Blade can be startlingly dynamic.” His traps solo on Corea’s vintage composition “Fingerprints” is as rich in color as it is in groove. “Brian is totally unique as a drummer and a highly accomplished musician,” says Corea. “He doesn’t just ‘keep time.’ He colors and comps and orchestrates everything he plays. He transcends the instrument he plays – he’s amazingly artistic.”

In its review of the trio’s concert at Orchestra Hall in the Windy City, the Chicago Tribune singled out Corea’s “feathery touch” in Kurt Weill’s “This Is New,” his “soft tone, free-ranging lines and mercurial rhythms quickly echoed by McBride and Blade. Here were three musicians discarding conventional notions of phrase and song structure, of solo and ensemble passages. Instead, they created a free-flowing, translucent music that thickened or thinned, sped up or slowed down according to the impulse of the moment.” The Tribune also highlighted the trio’s re-envisioning of Scriabin: “The Russian iconoclast's extended harmonies and mystical yearnings are ripe for jazz improvisation. Corea proved the point, riffing on Scriabin with fleet and silvery lines, the pianist’s nervous energy intensified by McBride’s restless phrases on bass and Blade’s shimmering statements on drums. In effect, Corea’s trio got under the skin of music penned on another continent roughly a century earlier – through jazz.”

Corea has always had a special feel for Spanish music, tapping the spirit of Rodrigo for his classic “Spain,” among many other of his pieces that explore Iberian colors and rhythms. Corea recalls the performance of “Spain” included on Trilogy: “The night in Madrid with Jorge Pardo and Niño Josele was magical. It was our final trio concert of that particular tour – and, of course, Jorge and Niño are stars in Spain. You can feel the audience and band’s excited vibe on the recording.” The new piece “Homage” is another in that line, a tribute to the late flamenco guitar genius Paco de Lucía. Corea explains, “This is my homage to flamenco musical roots and culture – so warmly shown to me by the great Paco de Lucía along with Carles Benavent, Jorge Pardo and Rubem Dantas, all of whom were integral members of Paco’s bands for two decades. ‘Homage’ is my tip of the hat and thank you to him and the beauty of this musical culture.”

The previously unrecorded “Piano Sonata: Moon” is the most expansive performance on Trilogy, at an epic half an hour. It’s kaleidoscopic and utterly absorbing music. “This is the first movement of a piano sonata that I began composing several years ago but never completed,” says Corea. “I thought it would be ideal to expand it in this trio setting since Christian and Brian are so adept at reading and interpreting tricky scores. We spent time weaving together the written sections with the improvised sections.”

Trilogy also features interpretations of items from the Great American Songbook: “My Foolish Heart,” “It Could Happen to You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and more, all performances of grace and freshness. The album closes with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” with its guest vocal. Corea says, “My sweet wife, Gayle, always brings the kind of warmth and lyricism to the stage that I love.”

Much of the pleasure in Trilogy is the sheer beauty of the recorded sound, always a challenge to achieve on the road with varying acoustics and equipment. The gorgeous result – full of high-definition depth and detail – is the product of “the deep understanding and artistry of my recording engineer, Bernie Kirsh, who is a genius and with whom I have collaborated since 1975, when we made The Leprechaun together. The techniques that he developed through the years plus the rapport we both have for the kind and quality of sound we love led to the very highest quality live recordings. Brian Vibberts did a great job of mixing on this one, with my and Bernie’s long-distance input. I think we made for a good three-way team.”

Summing up Trilogy, Corea says, “I’ve made a life of learning and inventing ways to make music, but it often seems unproductive for me to try to describe it in words. But I have one about working with this trio and making this live album: pleasure. I hope listeners experience the same.”

Pulsating Afrobeat from Shaolin Afronauts on Follow The Path

The driving force of The Shaolin Afronauts is Ross McHenry, the ARIA nominated composer, bandleader, producer and bassist based in Adelaide. Alongside co collaborators Lachlan Ridge and Dylan Marshall, It is their opmbined wide ranging musical tastes, impeccable production and instrumental skills that always result in music that is original, thought provoking, unexpected and quite beautiful.

2011's debut album 'Flight Of The Ancients' was a critical and commercial success story. The follow up 'Quest Under Capricorn' further cemented the bands reputation for forging their own very particular sound - and now in 2014 - as the band prepare to tour Japan & Europe (including 2 prestigious shows at The Glastonbury Festival) Freestyle Records is proud to present the expansive & epic Follow The Path.

Follow The Path is a 21 track, double album that expands upon and delves further into the musical genres that inspire and influence the group - rhythmic and pulsating afrobeat, and the avant-garde/spiritual jazz inspired by artists such as Sun Ra and Mulatu Astatke.

One superb example of how this band execute their musical vocabulary is Ojo Abameta, a percussive & frenetic number, built on a bed of amazing percussion and topped off with some deeply sweet ensemble horns, the end result is reminiscent of African hi life sounds which acts as a curtain raiser for this incredible album. The albums title track 'Follow The Path' uses afrobeat as a template, but with strong funk undercurrents, as the insistent beat underpins the beautiful ensemble horns and bubbling analogue synth sounds to dramatic and hypnotic effect.

In contrast, the second volume emphasises The Shaolin Afronauts more experimental and introspective side. As an example, the three part suite Outside Beyond/Three Ways Back is a genuine musical journey that takes the listener through many musical moods and textures...;this is deep, spiritually rooted music that locates the band almost in a genre of their very own - having such an original and individual approach and sound.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jane Bunnett and All Female band, Maqueque, Blend Afro-Cuban, Soul and Jazz

For more than thirty years, Canadian flutist and saxophonist Jane Bunnett has been bridging the gulf between Cuba and North America, introducing jazz audiences to some of the finest musicians that the island has to offer. Through her longstanding ensemble Spirits of Havana, Bunnett has provided early opportunities to such future greats as Dafnis Prieto, Yosvany Terry, Pedrito Martínez, and David Virelles, and also becoming a Canadian national treasure as well as an internationally acclaimed jazz artist in the process. Now, with her new sextet Maqueque, she introduces the world to some of Cuba's most promising female musicians, injecting her own music with an invigorating dose of youthful energy in the process. 

On their self-titled debut, Maqueque blends scintillating Afro-Cuban rhythms, folkloric influences, exhilarating jazz, and soulful vocals into an utterly intoxicating blend. Vocalist Daymé Arocena, percussionist Magdelys Savigne, drummer Yissy García, bassist and tres guitarist Yusa, pianist Danae Olano, and bassist Celia Jimenez join the four-time JUNO Award winner, two-time Grammy® Award-nominee, and Officer of the Order of Canada to create a dynamic and hard-driving sound that should suffice to silent any doubts from the boys' clubs of jazz or Cuban music. 

The band's name was provided by Arocena's grandmother, a practitioner of the Afro-Cuban Yorùbá religion. It translates to "the spirit of a young girl," which perfectly captures the vibe of the group and the song that shares its name. "I imagine that's what I was like as a ten-year-old girl," Bunnett says. "I was very energetic, I could be sweet and I could be feisty. That's Maqueque." 

Over her decades of visits to Cuba, Bunnett observed that almost 75% of the students in the country's many conservatories were female, but the jam sessions that she attended at night would be almost exclusively male. "When they finish all their training, you don't see them out on the scene," Bunnett says. "At jam sessions, I would notice some of the young girls I had seen at the schools just sitting on the sidelines, happy to watch their boyfriends up there playing. It seemed really strange." 

She didn't set out to form an all-female band, but the seeds were planted when Bunnett and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, met Arocena during a trip to Havana with Toronto radio station JAZZ.FM91's Jazz Safari program. "I organized a private jam session in the hotel for the Safari folks and invited a few of the Cuban artists from the jazz festival to come and play with me," Bunnett recalls. "I met Daymé in the lobby and she said she was a singer, so I asked her to come. She jumped in and her vocal ability was way beyond her years. She has this very old-soul voice for this young person. It's really unusual and very powerful." 

That voice stuck in Bunnett's mind. A few months later, she was asked to serve as artistic director for "Funny Girls and Dynamic Divas," an annual fundraising event for Sistering, a Toronto-based social service agency for women. She brought Arocena to Toronto to perform for the occasion and the singer, Bunnett says, "brought the house down." 

The response that day planted the seed for Maqueque. Bunnett and Cramer joined Arocena in Cuba to scout for talent, and ended up with the group of women who now make up the sextet, most of them in the early 20s and in the earliest stages of what promise to be fruitful careers. Yusa is slightly older and is an in-demand player in both Cuba and Argentina, while García, only in her mid-20s, is already a well-known figure in the Cuban music scene and has worked with such renowned artists as David Sanborn, Omara Portuondo, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Roy Hargrove. 

The all-female line-up provides the band with a unique energy, Bunnett says. "There's a very happy energy about it," she describes. "All of the women are very supportive of each other.  I've seen a couple of all-women groups in Cuba that are geared toward tourists and can border on being pretty cheesy. What we're doing is creative and collaborative and involves a lot of the Afro-Cuban elements that stem out of traditional folkloric music." 

The tempestuous "Tormenta" was inspired by an experience that Bunnett had while playing a jazz festival in Kansas, watching a tornado on the flat Midwestern horizon as she played on an aluminum stage. "New Angel" stems from a more joyous place, with a celebratory, joyful chorus of voices. "Song for Haiti," originally written for a benefit album for the country's earthquake victims, closes the album with a host of special guests, including Spirits of Havana alum Hilario Durán (who contributes string arrangements throughout the album) on piano, the New Orleans-style Heavyweights Brass Band, and spoken word artist Telmary Diaz. 

Arocena also contributes three pieces: "Guajira," inspired by the self-sufficiency of rural Cuban farmers; "Canto a Babba," an homage to the Yorùbán deity Oba; and "De la Habana de Canada," a cha cha relating her unusual journey. The album also includes a moving, intimately soulful rendition of Bill Withers' classic "Ain't No Sunshine" sung by Arocena and Yusa, and an eccentrically grooving take on 1940s Cuban pianist Pedro Peruchin's "Mamey Colorao." 

Bunnett wrote most of the music for the album in the central Ontario cabin built by her grandfather, a refuge surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Those elements directly influenced the disc's opening track, "Papineau," named for a nearby waterfall. But the music was work-shopped by the group in Cuba, adding a lively Cuban chant far removed from water crashing on rocks in the Great White North. 

That sort of collaboration is what excites Bunnett about the music and has kept her returning to Cuba for so many years. "One of the things that I really love about music is to collaborate with the different personalities who are out there, because everybody can always bring something very different to the table. In Cuba, there's so much music happening and a lot of the time it's of a collaborative nature; I always imagine it's like 52nd Street in its heyday," she explains. "When I go there I feel that I'm surrounded by a lot of creative energy. There's an enthusiasm about embracing the arts, and music is primary to everybody's lives there, even people who aren't musicians.

Upcoming Jane Bunnett Performances:
August 3 / Jazz and Blues Fest / Erie, PA
August 10 / Litchfield Jazz Fest / Goshen Fairgrounds, CT
August 17 / Markham Jazz Festival / Markham, Ontario
September 11 / Scullers Jazz Club / Boston, MA
September 12 / The Side Door / Old Lyme, CT
September 14 / Lake George Jazz Festival / Shepard Park, NY
September 15 - 17 / Friends University / Wichita, KS
September 19 / Mount Vernon Country Club / Golden, CO
September 20 / The Blue Note Jazz Club / New York, NY

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque will be released on Justin Time Records on September 9, 2014

New Releases: Andrew Neu - Everything Happens For A Reason; Lebron - Shades; Nick Colionne - Influences


Saxophonist Andrew Neu follows up his successful NuGroove Records debut with his 4th contemporary jazz CD, Everything Happens for a Reason. Along with producers Brian Bromberg and Steve Oliver, Andrew has assembled an all-star band, featuring Rick Braun, Bobby Caldwell, Jeff Lorber, Tom Schuman and Alex Acuna. Embellished by a horn section and a full orchestra, this project takes you on a musical journey around the world. Andrew co-wrote a song with Bobby Caldwell and arranged a unique take on the jazz classic, "Take Five". Inspired by the soul jazz and Latin music of the 1960s, it's reminiscent of Quincy Jones and Sergio Mendes. ~ Amazon.com


Throwing another needle into the growing haystack of smooth jazz saxophonists seems an exercise in futility where they are a dime a dozen, unrecognizable and hardly standout. Next wave sax man Lebron didn't merely want to jump into the stack and release a starter record with a couple of good radio tracks in an effort to attract attention and fans. Lebron eats the contemporary jazz elephant all at once with Shades, his major label CutMore Records debut, a revealing musical masterpiece that is sure to turn some industry heads. 8 out of the 10 sides could easily be huge radio hits and present a unique challenge for the record label picking singles with this much meat on the bone. Not content to just start a ripple, Lebron enlists the help of A list producer Darren Rahn to launch his young career with what is sure to become a tidal wave that will wet the appetite of those who appreciate fresh, vibrant and infectious concoctions. Nobody crafts melodies and hooks better than Rahn and the result is pure magic. Not content with one super producer on the project Paul Brown joins in and takes a ride with cameos on the lead radio single 'Groove City', an infectious number propelled by a driving bass line and sweet guitar licks in all the right places. So pocket that you ll find your change rumbling around with it. Shades should do well to move Lebron to the top of the stack, not to become just another needle, but to set fire to it. ~ Amazon.com


Well into his third decade of making the strings sing with his very own sweet Chicago soul, guitarist Nick Colionne digs deep as he takes musical stock of the people and things that helped propel his career and fully establish his place as one of the real cats, a cat that finds connection with his audience in a way that not many can. Influences is a musical journey of self re-discovery, offering a palate of moods and flavors born of life experiences, challenges and the effect of the people past and present that have helped shape and mold his sound. Music can be the ultimate healer not only for the creator but also those of us who seek the escapism. Nick gets this and you immediately feel him from the opening strains as he provides lift with this feel good collection of new sides. His chops have never been more exacting, his melodies more exhilarating, his hooks more infectious.   Collaborating again with the great James Lloyd on 'Pieces Of A Dream' and inviting Maysa on the journey gives 'Influences' just the right amount of spice and pop, but in the end it is all about Nick as he bears his soul though this collection of musical chapters in this his latest book, one written with his strings and sings of the places he s been and the places he still has to go. The lead single Got To Keep It Moving is certain to fire up his legions of fans and find its rightful place atop the radio charts. Never one to take what he has for granted, Colionne knows he has been blessed with a great gift and he will continue to share it as he connects with his fans through live performance in 2014 and share Influences in a way that only he can. ~ Amazon.com

Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty Announce Formation of New Music Ensemble - The Anderson Ponty Band

Jean-Luc Ponty
Music legends Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty announce the formation of a new ensemble - The Anderson Ponty Band! YES's original singer/songwriter for 35 years, Jon Anderson has had a successful solo career, which includes working with such notable music artists as Vangelis, Kitaro, and Milton Nascimento. International jazz superstar Jean-Luc Ponty is a pioneer and undisputed master of violin in the arena of jazz and rock. He is widely regarded as an innovator who has applied his unique visionary spin that has expanded the vocabulary of modern music. Together these two music icons form a musical synergy that is unparalleled!

“A breakthrough feeling came as I sang with Jean-Luc's music, to be in a band again is very exciting on many levels, we will play and sing our way around the world and have fun, for music is pleasure, music is all that is, music is God” - Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson
The Anderson Ponty Band also includes Jamie Dunlap on guitars - well known as a film and television composer, most notably 'South Park'; Wally Minko on keyboards - virtuoso player and composer who has performed and recorded with many worldwide stars including Pink, Toni Braxton, Jean-Luc Ponty, Tom Jones and Barry Manilow; Baron Browne on bass who has played with Steve Smith, Billy Cobham and Jean-Luc Ponty; and Rayford Griffin on drums and percussion, who has played with Stanley Clarke Band, George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Jackson. The band will visit the music created by Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty over the years with new arrangements, virtuosic performances and new energy, while creating new compositions as well.

The Anderson Ponty Band have been writing and arranging old favorites during the past three months. They will be in residence for three weeks in September at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado rehearsing, recording and playing a public performance on Saturday September 20th. An album will be finished in Los Angeles and is scheduled for release in early 2015. Also, a videography documenting the making of the album will be released as well as videos and performances. A world tour beginning in March 2015 is in the planning stages.

The Anderson Ponty Band announce the launch of a Kickstarter campaign today July 25th beginning at 2PM Eastern. The campaign will encourage fans and friends to become a stakeholder in the project. Numerous tiers of donations will be rewarded by album downloads, premium CD/DVD packages, VIP ticket access, merchandising, special one of a kind collectibles, special meet and greets with the band and much more.

Kickstarter campaign: http://bit.ly/apband2014
Anderson Ponty Band Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andersonpontyband
Jon Anderson official website: www.jonanderson.com
Jean-Luc Ponty official website: www.ponty.com

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Releases - Sophie Alour - Shaker; Ray Barretto - Eye Of The Beholder / Can You Feel It; Acid Jazz Mod


For her fifth record, young French saxophonist Sophie Alour returns with a new formula, a beautiful trio album, with saxophone, organ, and drums. Is it because she played with Rhoda Scott? Or just because she likes the somewhat historical funky sound it carries. With gusto and a hint of mischief, she sheds a new light on some of her own compositions, plus a colourful version of the Sergio Mendes arrangement of 'My Favourite Things'. Tracks include: Joke; In This World; Comptine;
Shaker; En Ton Absence; Mystère et Boule de Gomme!; I Wanna Move My Body!'; Nos Cendres; My Favourite Things; and En Ton Absence (alternate take). ~ Amazon UK


Raymond Barretto came from New York and was a drummer, percussionist, bandleader, composer and producer. He was born in 1929 and was a member of Tito Puentes orchestra from 1957 to 1960. He recorded for a number of labels including United Artists and Fania Records and was with Atlantic for the two albums we present here for the first time on CD, Eye Of The Beholder and Can You Feel It. Both these albums come from the heyday of jazz fusion in the late 70s (1977 and 1978 respectively), the first a production collaboration with The Crusaders. With Joe Sample penning Here We Go Away, the music is just one step away from what The Crusaders were making themselves at the time, short of Stix Hooper on drums but in the sturdy hands of Frank Zappas Terry Bozzio doing the beats. Elsewhere on the album the UK's Steve Ferrone, a former member of Average White Band, features prominently on drums with Ray focusing on congas and percussion, as he does across these two sets with Wilton Felders Numero Uno (the albums US 45) highly regarded as a masterpiece of jazz fusion. ~ Amazon UK


While the name of Acid Jazz evokes images of the jazz, soul, funk, disco and hip-hop movements that dominated the British music scene during the Nineties, the label (which many credit with naming the musical genre) quickly proved flexible with regards to the roster and the releases that emanated from it. Many of the names signed in its early days are still rightfully regarded as heavyweights in the acid jazz movement, such as Brand New Heavies, JTQ (James Taylor Quartet, for the uninitiated) and Mother Earth. There aren't many labels that can place the likes of Geno Washington in-between Corduroy and Mother Earth and get away with it, but Acid Jazz is certainly one of those. While 'Mods' might lead you to think that this is an album rooted in the Sixties, the Mod scene is still very much alive and kicking, with many of the tracks that appear here being given an airing or two. The end result is a diverse album, but extremely enjoyable. ~ Amazon UK

Amazonian songstress Dona Onete releases debut album - Feitiço Caboclo

Phenomenal debut album from the stunning and until now, undiscovered 73-year-old Amazonian songstress Dona Onete - the work of a lifetime on one CD on the great Mais Um Discos Label. A vibrant blend of Paraense folklore,carimbó, boi bumba, Caribbean salsa, brega, samba and even rap, all rooted in the cultures of the Brazilian interior, this phenomenal debut album from Amazonian septuagenarian songstress Dona Onete has been over 60 years in the making and almost never happened… Sat on the banks of the Amazonian river in the small town of Igarapé Miri as an 11 year old, singing sambas, quadrilhas and boi bumbas to the river dolphins, Dona Onete could have scarcely imagined she'd be seeing the worldwide release of her debut album at the age of 73. 

Whilst not pursuing music as a career when growing up, Onete's heart remained invested in it. Becoming an expert in the rhythms, dances and traditions of the Amazon through her university studies, she'd go on to become Municipal Secretary of Culture of her hometown Igaparé-Miri. Completely enveloped by Amazonian culture and with her latent talents as a singer, Onete began to compose music for herself. Amassing a collection of over 300 original songs throughout her years, it wasn't until she retired that her musical career took off. 

Moving to the quiet area of Pedreira in Belém to while away the rest of her days with her husband, Onete inadvertently moved onto a street where popular Brazilian band Coletivo Radio Cipó lived. The band, hearing Dona perform at a local carimbó party, initially thought they were listening to a much younger singer - due to Onete's vivacious and flirtatious flair, along with her penchant for a cheeky lyric or two. But when they caught sight of her, they were astounded. Knowing they'd stumbled upon someone truly special, the band instantly invited her to sing on their forthcoming album. 

Onete took some convincing but eventually relented, a decision that would lead to her recording as an artist in her own right and see her audience of river dolphins on the banks of the Amazon transform into the people of the cities of Brazil, and soon the world. her audience of river dolphins on the banks of the Amazon transform into the people of the cities of Brazil, and soon the world. ~ Amazon UK

Vocalist Freda Payne Comes Back to Jazz and Big Bands with Come Back To Me Love

"She had the Motown sound before Motown was Motown." - NPR

As iconic in 2014 for her timeless beauty and sex appeal as she is her artistic versatility as an all around entertainer, Ms. Freda Payne remains among music's and show business' brightest shining star survivors. When she is singing her heartbeat music - jazz - love, awe and yearning only grow stronger. Her latest album, Come Back To Me Love (her first for Artistry Music) marks not only a return to the big band and strings-laden classics from her mid-`60s beginnings with Impulse!, but also marks a return to her hometown of Detroit. That makes this 14-song album featuring Grammy® Award-winning arranger Bill Cunliffe's musical arrangements a beautiful homecoming.

"It's a dream come true," Payne enthuses with a smile, "just like in 1968 when I was living in New York seeking my fame and fortune, and ran into Brian Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland. He told me they had just left Motown and started their own company, Invictus. I flew back to Detroit, signed with them and a year later had a Top 5 record, 'Band of Gold.' So signing to Artistry Music with Gretchen Valade and Tom Robinson today is truly serendipitous - a flashback to something really good happening for me at home in Detroit, my good luck charm."

Reflecting on how this opportunity arose, Payne continues, "(Bassist) Ralphe Armstrong and I were on a local big band gig together when he told me about an intimate jazz club in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, with great food, saying, 'You should work there.' I made the contact and that's when I met Gretchen and Tom. Six months later I did a return engagement and they asked me to sing a song for a documentary on Gretchen - When I Have To Smile. Then they asked if I'd like to record an album for their label, Artistry Music. That made me feel very special."

That album became Come Back To Me Love, featuring six selections penned by Gretchen and Tom paired with eight selections of golden favorites. When asked who she would like to be her right hand she called upon a more recent associate of hers, Los Angeles-based Bill Cunliffe. She'd first hired him to accompany her in her acclaimed "Ella: The First Lady of Song" engagement at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood. "I told them Bill was at the top of my list," Freda insists. "Bill is an excellent musician, easy to get along with and respects my ideas."

With her Artistry Music debut, Come Back To Me Love -- on which every instrumental solo sounds like it was played by someone who had a crush on her at one time or another -- Ms. Freda Charcelia Payne won't just be swinging on a star...she'll be clutching that golden Victrola for this, her return to jazz and Detroit.

Upcoming Freda Payne Performances:
August 9 / BB King Blues Club / New York, NY
August 21 / Coral Springs PAC / Ft. Lauderdale, FL
August 30 / Detroit Jazz Festival (w/ USAF Airmen of Note Big Band) / Detroit, MI
* September 6 / Miller Outdoor Theatre / Houston, TX
September 19 - 20 / Catalina's Jazz Club / Los Angeles, CA
October 4 / The American Theater / Hampton, VA
* indicates an "Ella: First Lady of Song in Concert" performance

New Releases - The Brand New Heavies - AllAboutTheFUnk; T-Bone Walker - Super Black Blues; Akira Sakata, Johan Berhtling, Paal Nilssen-Love - Arashi


Long gone are the heady days of the Acid Jazz explosion led by artists such as JTQ, Corduroy, Jamiroquai and at the centre of it all, the Brand New Heavies. All About the Funk, the band's first album for some time doesn't hanker after days gone by, instead it draws influence from the latter day hip-hop soul scene and fuses it with their own very British sound.  The Brand New Heavies, along with Incognito, have been pioneers of the acid-jazz movement and for more than 25 years have remained a vital force for fans of soulful, jazzy club-oriented funk ‘n’ groove.  Aside from their great grooves, the band has been known for outstanding female vocalists ranging from N’Dea Davenport and Siedah Garrett to talented newcomer Nicole Russo.  All Abou the Funk finds The Brand New Heavies delivering just what the title implies - a strong set of grooves leaning on the funk-oriented end of their classic sound.  The extremely passionate and fiercely loyal fan base will find this great “lost” Brand New Heavies album (from 2004 and only previously availalable in Japan)  to be a “must have!” Essentially the main line up of the original three remains with former pop-R&B wannabe Nicole Russo taking the mic, a tough act to follow after N'Dea Davenport, Siedah Garrett and briefly Carleen Anderson, but her fresh voice makes the band seem more current, sounding a lot like Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, especially on the catchy "How we Do This". Another such example of adapting to the modern day is "Need Some More", a mid-tempo groove clearly influenced by Ms Dynamite. However, it's not all change; "What Do You Take Me For?", "Surrender" and opener "Boogie" are classic Heavies--bass up, choppy-guitar and keys with light breezy vocals injecting a bit of summertime into the album.  ~ Amazon/Shanachie


A great little set from T-Bone – recorded at the end of the 60s, with a lineup that includes other blues musicians like Joe Turner, Otis Spann, and George Harmonica Smith, plus jazz funk players like Paul Humphrey and Ernie Watts. The vibe is very laidback – and most tracks on the album stretch out in an extended free-form style that's quite unusual compared to T-Bone's other records. As usual, his guitar and vocals are very soulful – and titles include "Paris Blues", "Blues Jam", and "Jot's Blues". features four long titles that include "Arashi", "Ondo No Huna-Uta", "Dora", and "Fukushima No Ima".  ~ Dusty Groove


Akira Sakata is a player who's never been known to hold back – but he sounds especially powerful here in the company of Paal Nilssen Love on drums and Johan Berthling on bass – two younger players who seem to inspire Sakata to a sort of frenzied height that we haven't heard this strongly in years! Akira's not just mindblowing on alto sax, but also does this incredible vocalization at one point – an almost mystical mode, but extremely powerful and almost frightening too. He also plays clarinet too – at a level that has us wonder how often he's got to be running for new reeds – and the set features four long titles that include "Arashi", "Ondo No Huna-Uta", "Dora", and "Fukushima No Ima". ~ Dusty Groove

Lineup Announced for the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, September 19-21, 2014

The 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival will be held September 19–21 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds & Event Center, Arena and Grounds. 2014’s GRAMMY Award-winning lineup includes Arena headliners Herbie Hancock, The Roots, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Feinstein, Charles Lloyd Quartet, Booker T. Jones, Robert Glasper Experiment, Marcus Miller, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Billy Childs with special guests Shawn Colvin, Lisa Fischer and Becca Stevens, Aaron Diehl Quartet, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, and the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

98 shows and events will take place over 30 hours from Friday night, September 19 through Sunday night, September 21.

Drummer Eric Harland serves as the 2014 Artist-In-Residence, performing with the Charles Lloyd Quartet, his own group, Voyager; Sangam with Zakir Hussain and Charles Lloyd; and as a soloist with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Charles Lloyd
Legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd returns to Monterey for the first time since 2006 as the 2014 Showcase Artist, performing with his own Quartet (with Jason Moran, Rueben Rogers and Eric Harland); Sangam with Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland, and in a duo with pianist Gerald Clayton.

The 2014 Commission Artist will be pianist Aaron Diehl, who will premiere his tribute to the pianist and MJF Artistic Director for 24 years, John Lewis, Three Streams of Expression.
 The Festival features 500 artists, nearly 100 performances and events on 8 stages and more, for 30 hours of live music over two days and three nights, accompanied by an array of international cuisine, shopping, art exhibits, educational events, seminars and conversations with iconic and emerging jazz artists on the oak-studded 20-acres of the Monterey County Fairgrounds & Event Center.

Booker T. Jones
2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Highlights and Artist Listing
•Return of jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Charles Lloyd, Marcus Miller
•MJF debut of crossover artists The Roots, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Feinstein, Booker T. Jones, The Philadelphia Experiment
•World Premiere of 2014 Commission by the Aaron Diehl Quartet, Three Streams of Expression and special performance of Billy Childs’ new project, Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, with special guests Shawn Colvin, Lisa Fischer, and Becca Stevens
•Musical tribute to Mulgrew Miller & James Williams with Harold Mabern, Donald Brown, and Geoff Keezer trios
•Coffee House Gallery Exhibits: Blue Note Records:  75 Years of Excellence and Earl Newman: 50 Years of Monterey Jazz Festival Posters
57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival
September 19 - 21, 2014
Artist-In-Residence: Eric Harland
Showcase Artist: Charles Lloyd
Commission Artist: Aaron Diehl
Herbie Hancock
 ARENA ARTISTS ● Friday, September 19
Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper Experiment with special guest Jason Moran, Cecile McLorin Salvant

ARENA ARTISTS ● Saturday, September 20
The Roots, Billy Childs with special guests Shawn Colvin, Lisa Fischer and Becca Stevens; Aaron Diehl Quartet; Gary Clark Jr., Booker T. Jones; Davina & The Vagabonds

ARENA ARTISTS ● Sunday, September 21
Michael Feinstein with special guests Russell Malone & Harry Allen and the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra; Charles Lloyd Quartet with Jason Moran, Rueben Rogers, & Eric Harland; Marcus Miller; Jon Batiste & Stay Human; Next Generation Jazz Orchestra

Marcus Miller
GROUNDS ARTISTS ● Friday, September 19
Dizzy’s Den: Sangam with Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland; Red Baraat
Night Club: Cecile McLorin Salvant, Christian McBride Trio; Claudia Villela & Harvey Wainapel
Garden Stage Presented by Alaska Airlines: Sarah McKenzie Quartet, Melissa Aldana Crash Trio, SambaDa
Coffee House: Harold Mabern Trio (3 sets)

GROUNDS ARTISTS ● Saturday, September 20
Dizzy’s Den: Billy Childs Quartet; Charles Lloyd-Gerald Clayton Duo, The Philadelphia Experiment with Christian McBride, ?uestlove, Uri Caine and special guest Booker T. Jones; Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary Band with Ambrose Akinmusire, Kendrick Scott, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge & Lionel Loueke; Becca Stevens, John Hanrahan Quartet, Top bands from the Next Generation Jazz Festival
Night Club: Aaron Diehl Quartet, Eric Harland Voyager, Habaneros, USAF Commanders Jazz Ensemble, Top bands from the Next Generation Jazz Festival
Garden Stage Presented by Alaska Airlines: Pete Escovedo Orchestra with Peter Michael & Juan Escovedo; Jason Moran, Ana Popovic, Davina & The Vagabonds, Red Baraat
Coffee House: Donald Brown Trio (3 sets); Sarah McKenzie Quartet; Conversation about Mulgrew Miller & James Williams; Conversation about Blue Note Records
West Lawn: Sourmash Hug Band (2 sets)

Jon Batiste & Stay Human
GROUNDS ARTISTS ● Sunday, September 21
Dizzy’s Den: Eric Harland Voyager, Tony Monaco, Pamela Rose & Wayne De La Cruz; Daniel Rosenboom Quintet; Conversation with Michael Feinstein, DownBeat Blindfold Test
Night Club: Delfeayo & Ellis Marsalis; Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, Top bands from the Next Generation Jazz Festival
Garden Stage Presented by Alaska Airlines: Harold Lopez-Nussa, Ben Flocks & Battle Mountain; Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band; Youn Sun Nah & Ulf Wakenius; Top bands from the Next Generation Jazz Festival
Coffee House: Geoffrey Keezer Trio (2 sets); Top bands from the Next Generation Jazz Festival; Bari Koral
West Lawn: Minor Thirds Trio (2 sets)

Jazz on Film: Legends of the Tenor Saxophone: Charles Lloyd: Arrows Into Infinity; Jeremy Siskind & Friends on the Yamaha AvantGrand; Arena Simulcasts in The Jazz Theater; Coffee House Gallery Exhibits: Blue Note Records:  75 Years of Excellence; Earl Newman: 50 Years of Monterey Jazz Festival Posters


Thursday, July 24, 2014


Silhouette is the new single from Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40 reunited with Astro and Mickey, released 18th August on Cooking Vinyl. The single is the first to be taken from Silhouette, the new album out October 6th.

Recorded partly in London's renowned RAK Studios, Silhouette is an inspired mix of freshly-minted new songs and sparkling, reggaefied cover versions of classics by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Chi-Lites and others. Silhouette was originally a 1957 hit for the American doo-wop group The Rays, and later helped to break Herman's Hermits in the States. The yearning take that appears on Silhouette, however, owes more to an early 1970s version by the crown prince of reggae, the late Dennis Brown.

As founding members of UB40, Ali, Mickey and Astro helped to define reggae music for a generation. The iconic Birmingham reggae troupe topped the UK singles chart on three occasions and sold 70 million records as they took their smooth yet rootsy musical blend to all corners of the globe. Campbell left the band in 2008 after 28 years and has since released four reggae-themed solo collections, with Mickey, who left UB40 soon after Ali, joining him on keys. Astro remained with the band until November 2013, when he left to team up again with Ali and Mickey.

Ali's voice remains as strong as ever - rich, melodic and instantly recognisable. “He’s a genius in the way he can work a set of lyrics around a great melody,” says Mickey. “Any song he sings could easily be a UB40 tune.”

With the redoubtable Astro lending strong vocal support and Mickey's keyboards to the fore in a new band that includes a three-piece horn section, their lithe but potent sound should delight fans old and new. Having reiterated their credentials as consummate live performers with triumphant gigs this year in places as far flung as Nigeria, South Africa and Papua New Guinea, the trio have a quartet of UK festivals dates this summer and will embark on a headline tour in December.

“When we play live now, it has the feel of a proper group,” says Ali. “The musicians in our band have all played with other reggae acts, so they love what we're doing. And the fact that Astro is back with us after six years speaks volumes about the music we are making.”

Vocalist VENISSA SANTI Pays Homage to Billie Holiday with Eclectic Interpretations on Big Stuff: Afro-Cuban Holiday

Just what is so special about the vocalastics of Venissa Santi - just what is so singularly unique - is so eminently clear on Big Stuff: Afro-Cuban Holiday, the brilliantly innovative follow-up to her 2009 Sunnyside Records debut, Bienvenida. If at first blush this record appears to be a mere tribute to the great Billie Holiday, it is clear that first impressions can be somewhat deceptive. True, this is Santi's homage to the legendary singer. However the music on this record comes from the very depth of her soul that this is so much more than a tribute: it is more like an anguished cry, rich in the metaphor of Afro-Cuban-Blues, cry of sisterhood that is lifted up in elevation to the celebrated ghost of Ms. Holiday. 

Just as she was on her first album, Santi has once again channeled her ideas through percussion-colourist and long-time band mate François Zayas, who is responsible for the majestic arrangements of 12 songs with which Santi, in turn, re-imagines the heartfelt repertoire of Billie Holiday in an idiom that melds the heartbeat of bata and offbeat of clave with African-American deep song. Also joining the vocalist on this musical odyssey are trumpet and flugelhorn players Tim Thompson and Chris Aschman, the late guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, pianist John Stenger and bassist Jason Fraticelli. Special appearances are also made by bassists Paul Klinefelter and Madison Rast, clarinetist Jon Thompson and percussionist Cuco Castellanos.
The origins of this music are vividly recalled by Santi, who remembers how Danilo Pérez invited her to share the stage in Philadelphia's Kimmel Center with such luminaries as Kurt Elling, Sheila Jordan, Lizz Wright and Claudia Acuña among others on a gig that was designed to present a series of homages to Billie Holiday in May of 2010. For Santi to be included in a playbill that comprised of such stellar artists was both a privilege as well as a chance to do something truly special. She and Zayas, went to work on selecting an appropriate Billie Holiday repertoire; then transferring it to the landscape of danzón, guaguancó and bolero. All this happened about a year from May 2010.
Next came learning the challenging arrangements that Zayas came up with, swirling from out of the fiery cauldron of Afro-Cuban music. This took the musicians close to six months to master; a memorable effort that, together with the fact that this homage was written in Afro-Cuban idioms, made the project so distinctive. The memory of a show that played in Billie Holiday's birthplace, and was later broadcast on WRTI radio on Mother's Day a couple of weeks later, lingered long and hard with Santi and Zayas. They concluded this was music worthy of a longer life vis-a-vis a record that would preserve both the beauty and authenticity of this Afro-Cuban odyssey into the heart and soul of Billie Holiday.
Santi acknowledges that following the 2010 performance, it was not easy getting into character for the next stage of the project - the recording of Big Stuff: Afro Cuban Holiday. "Life happened and we had great odds keeping our crew from finishing the record," says the vocalist, "and in the journey of putting these songs together, while I was delving into the lyrics and repertoire that I had started checking out when I was fourteen years old, I realized I had grown up into the songs," explains Santi. "The journey has been long and at times dark. By daring to interpret the tunes as uninhibited as possible it enabled me to come face-to-face with something bordering on danger and I experienced great gratitude. What emerged was an-almost four-year labor of love that overflowed onto this record," she concludes.
Nothing can really prepare the listener for the transcendental melancholy of Billie Holiday's music like "On the Sunny Side of the Street," which is deliberately set as the gateway to the album, in a prelude to dimming the lights and before entering the world of Lady Day, who virtually changed the way a song ought to be interpreted. "I started to sit with the tune daily, doing just what the lyrics require, taking the sunny side with my son on cold morning walks to school to stay warm," says Santi.  "It was an extreme honor to record with Jef Lee Johnson as well. I miss him dearly."

Santi's musical intellect that combined with the erudite delicacy of manipulating phrasing and tempo is brilliantly on display in the breathtaking complexity of "Big Stuff," a song that Santi turns into a musical equivalent of a darkish expressionist film. The footage of a damaged life unravels in the elemental sadness of "What's New" as Santi dialogues with the eminently soft, almost vocal work of John Stenger's piano  and so begins the descent into the nourish life of Billie Holiday. The stark portrait of "My Man" appears on a ghostly canvas daubed as if by the magic of a brush dipped in the "makuta" rhythm of drums and bass. The shock and awe of "Stormy Weather" is propelled by the rhythmic sweep of Central-African "palo" highlighted by a burbling ostinato that churns the melody and harmony into a veritable twister's vortex before Santi enters the narrative, breaking the verses of the song with a pirouetting "coro."

"You're My Thrill" is perhaps the most sensuous song on the album and "Travelin' Light" is a cross-hatching collision between the Cuban "guajira" and the second line rhythm so characteristic of New Orleans. "You get a sense of the interpreter (of the song) travelling light because I am only accompanied by the bass at one time; then by the piano; later the trumpet," Santi explains. The stately, shimmering rhythm of the Cuban "danzón" bathes "Involved Again," with Jon Thompson's sweet clarinet and the singer who is yearning for a new love in her life, yet realizes that she is a fool for love. This is a chart that Billie Holiday wanted dearly to record, but died before she could do so. Dick LaPalm, Nat "King" Cole's promoter suggested that Santi record this song. "It was extremely special to be mailed the lead sheet personally by the composer, Jack Reardon," Santi reveals somewhat in awe of being considered as an interpreter of a song that Ms. Holiday herself yearned to do.

"That Old Devil Called Love" sashays with the voluptuous ecstasy of "son-Abakuá" and is resplendent in the rich imagery of Afro-Cuban music. "There are codes here which only those who listen carefully will hear," Santi says, "including a quote from a famous Cuban song called "El Diablo Tun, Tun," she reveals, almost as a gentle challenge to anyone ready for it. "I Cover the Waterfront /Monk's Dream" is another song worked into the cracked rhythm of a Monk-like idiom and "You'd Better Go Now" is set to a deliciously sexy "yambú" rhythm that is beguiling despite its sad and lonesome lyric.

Perhaps the darkest part of the album is "Strange Fruit" a song that Billie Holiday's infused with the searing imagery of an ugly part of America's tainted history. Performed as a swaying "bolero" this chart infuses the horror of lynching in the deep south of the United States with a prayer to the Yoruba deity, "Oya." "She is the keeper of the cemetery gates and the fierce winds," Ms. Santi warns about a torch song that she sings with breathtaking power. "Strange Fruit is a political and graphic song. I am drawn to repertoire like that. "Strange Fruit," "My Man," "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat" - I have sung these for years," says Santi. "In this performance on the record I very much wanted to sing in a way where there is room for the audience to sing along to it again and I recall performing it in a way where I literally don't breathe." In many respects "Strange Fruit" is the crowning glory of Big Stuff.  It is a song that Ms. Holiday never took lightly and neither does Santi.

As for the absence of one of Holiday's more popular songs, Santi says, "I haven't gotten to 'God Bless the Child' because I have so many thematic ideas regarding that tune, which leads me to believe that I might do a 'God Bless the Child' suite."

A musician of rare and unbridled genius, Venissa Santi was born to parents who filled her life equally with the music of Celia Cruz, Maurice Ravel and Michael Jackson, and numerous other musicians. Her musical heritage goes further back: to a grandfather, Jacobo Ros Capablanca, a Cuban composer. She honored his memory by playing one of his songs on Bienvenida. Santi was born in Ithaca, New York, but moved to Philadelphia after she graduated high school. There, through the study of her grandfather`s compositions, she re-connected with her Cuban roots and majored in Jazz Vocal Performance at the University of the Arts. She was a vocal instructor at the Asociación de Músicos Latino Americanos. In 2008, Ms. Santi won the Pew Fellowship for Folk and Traditional Arts. In 2009 she was signed to Sunnyside Records. She went to Cuba specifically to study Afro-Cuban song, dance and percussion as well as to prepare for this project.

Reflecting on the past three years, Santi reflects, "It's sort of intense to think how close I've been to this repertoire and Billie's story. It's been an extremely existential experience."

New Releases - Sylvie Courvoisier - Double Windsor; Sax Appeal - Funkerdeen; Janette Mason - D'Ranged


Sylvie Courvoisier, Drew Gress, Kenny Wollesen. Double Windsor * The Charlier Cut * Downward Dog * Pendulum * La Cigale * Inscordatura * Corto * Hedgehog in the Fog * The Beauty and the Beast Sylvie Courvoisier steps out with her long awaited first recording for piano trio! One of the most creative pianists in the downtown scene, and a long time collaborator of Mark Feldman, Ikue Mori and many others, Sylvie combines a brilliant technique with a wild imagination that straddles classical, jazz, improvisation and more. Featuring the dynamic rhythm section of Kenny Wollesen and Drew Gress, the music combines the best of improvisation and composition in the classic piano trio format. Three years in the making this is an essential project that highlights an exciting new musical world. ~ Amazon


'Funkerdeen' features a totally original set of compositions and arrangements from leader Derek Nash, he is accompanied on the front line by leading UK sax players support by a steller rhythm section. Special guests include the multi-award winning saxophonist Alan Barnes and global superstar Jools Holland on piano.Sax Appeal was formed by Derek Nash over thirty years ago and, with its unique five sax front line, has recorded six albums, travelled the world and garnered numerous awards, confirming their place in the top rank of British Jazz bands. As always, the band's repertoire on this album encompasses driving swing, groovin' funk, heartfelt blues, vibrant Latin and soulful ballads, and is the first Sax Appeal CD to feature entirely the composing and arranging pen of Derek. The band has always featured the elite of British saxophonists and a world-class rhythm section. This album is no exception. Ronnie Scott's regular, Brandon Allen, and Simon Allen, sideman to the late Stan Tracey, both flex their muscles for the first time with the band. ~ Amazon


'D'Ranged' is the third studio album from the supremely talented pianist, arranger and composer, Janette Mason and includes guest vocalists David McAlmont, Claire Martin OBE, Gwyneth Herbert and Vula Malinga. A departure from her previous two, critically acclaimed, albums, which took a clear jazz path, the concept behind 'D'Ranged' was to take classic soul, jazz and pop tunes and inject them with a brand new jazz-inflected sensibility. To this end, Janette assembled an outstanding group of singers and musicians, who may not normally cross paths, to record nine new arrangements of songs by David Bowie, Burt Bacharach, the Bee Gees, Alison Moyet, Rodgers and Hart and more. The results are simply stunning. A mainstay of the British jazz scene for over a decade, Janette Mason has toured throughout the world and has made her mark as a successful recording artist, pianist, composer and arranger. She has enjoyed an incredibly varied career and has worked with many popular acts, including Pulp, Oasis, Seal, k.d. Lang and Suzanne Vega, as well as writing music for film and TV, including Sex and the City, and Come Dine With Me. She gained a strong reputation as an arranger through her association with the singer Ian Shaw, contributing five arrangements to his Joni Mitchell album, 'Drawn to All Things'. ~ Amazon


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