Thursday, July 2, 2020

Looking at Lives Through Different Windows

Photo: Isabel Roeder
As a youth growing up in Lima, Peru, Jorge Roeder first studied guitar, moved on to cello, but became entranced by the bass in High School, and found his musical calling. He came to the United States in 2002 to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA, and soon came into contact with teachers such as Bob Moses, Dominique Eade, Danilo Perez, and bassists John Lockwood, Cecil McBee, and fellow Peruvian, Oscar Stagnaro. Roeder also began performing with his contemporaries such as drummer Richie Barshay, pianist Carmen Staaf, and pianist Dan Tepfer.  Moving to Brooklyn, NY, in 2007, the bassist started a professional relationship with guitarist Julian Lage which is ongoing today as well as with pianist Shai Maestro, John Zorn, and has been a member of trombonist Ryan Keberle's Catharsis since 2012.

If you have listened to Roeder in any of those groups, you'll know he possesses a wonderful facility for playing melody, rhythm, and counterpoint, with rich tones emanating from both his acoustic and electric basses.  For his debut album as a leader, "El Suelo Mio" (self-released), the bassist goes it alone, playing only his sonorous upright bass––the album title translates to "my ground" or "my soil". His classical training comes through on pieces such as Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman": Roeder plays the tune with his bow, sawing at his instrument to capture the beauty of the melody and the emotion the song contained within the composition.  Other pieces that have great emotion are "El Piebeyo" by legendary Peruvian composer Felipe Pingol Alva (1899-1936) and the lovely original "Silencio De Um Minuto".  The aptly-titled "Bounce" is a rollicking blues with a handsome melody while "Patrona" displays exquisite finger work not unlike a flamenco guitarist. "I'll Remember Paris", the oft-recorded Gene De Paul melody, shines as Roeder caresses the melody and then creates a powerful solo.

Photo: Isabel Roeder
"El Suelo Mio" closes with the slowly unfolding ballad "Les Lapins", the soulful melody highlighting Roeder's articulate playing, the harmonics he creates ring in your ears for just a second before he moves back into the melody.

Jorge Roeder has created an album that resonates in so many ways; with his love of melody, emotion, and communication shines throughout. Yes, the bassist has tremendous facility on his instrument yet that ability is harnessed in order to present songs that sing to your heart, mind, and soul.

For more information, go to You can purchase the album by going to

Here's the title track:

Flutist, composer, and educator Nicole M. Mitchell is one of the most visible contemporary members of the AACM whose recordings cover many different subjects and styles of Black Music.  Lisa E. Harris is a vocalist, composer, creator and manipulator of electronic sounds who is also a filmmaker.  The two artists have come together, along with members of Ms. Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble (including cellist Tomeka Reid), to create "EarthSeed" (FPE Records), the third chapter in Ms. Mitchell's projects inspired by the work and vision of author Octavia Butler (1947-2006).

When you listen to the music on "EarthSeed" (recorded live in concert in January of 2017 at the Art Institute of Chicago), be prepared to enter into a different sonic world. After the brief introduction titled "Evernascence/ Evanescence" for flute and voice (breathing and whistling), "Whispering Flame" begins the story in earnest.  Instruments move in and around each other, cello and bass swirl, percussion rattles, while flute and trumpet rise above the combined voices of Ms. Harris and tenor Julian Otis singing a song of "creation".  Both vocalists also stretch their instruments, creating alien languages, guttural noises, grunts and squeals as the cello creaks beneath. A quiet interlude for flute and cello as trumpeter Ben Lamar Gay roils above the singers.  That's just one song.

Photo: Emily Berl (NYTimes)
There's the fun of "Yes and Know" with its bouncing rhythm courtesy of percussionist Avreeayl Ra, violinist Zara Zaharieva, and Ms. Reid and vocal play of Ms. Harris and Mr. Otis as the flute and trumpet dance above. The mewing, snorting, hissing, babbling, chattering, flirting voices cause the audience to laugh on "Phallus and Chalice"––when the instruments and percussion join, the interactions sound like a chase scene in a cartoon. The gentle interaction of flute, muted trumpet, cello, violin, and percussion frame Mr. Otis and Ms. Harris (who soars and wails behind the poetry) at the onset of "Fluids of Time" before the music erupts into a "Rite of Spring"-like section.

"EarthSeed" closes with "Purify Me with the Power to Self Transform", an impressionistic ballad that blends a gospel influenced lead vocal (Mr. Otis's falsetto) and Ms. Harris's wordless responses) with all the instruments plus synthesizer to create an otherworldly benediction.  Even the 15 seconds of silence at the end holds great power while serving as a re-entrance into our everyday reality. This album that Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris have created with members of the Black Earth Ensemble is filled with sounds, voices, poetry, prose, and the joy of performance.  Get lost in this "new" world.

For more information, go to To hear more of the music and purchase the album, go to

Here's a track:


Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble 

Lisa E. Harris, vocals / theremin / electronics / composition 
Nicole M. Mitchell, flute / electronics / composition 
Julian Otis, vocals 
Zara Zaharieva, violin 
Ben LaMar Gay, trumpet / electronics 
Tomeka Reid, cello 
Avreeayl Ra, percussion 

Photo: Joe Crocetta
Drummer Jeff Cosgrove lives in Maryland and, up until the pandemic, played a lot in the Washington, D.C. area.  Over the last decade or so, he's been working with his group Motian Sickness as well as gigging with numerous local musicians.  Plus, he's invited musicians such as pianists Matthew Shipp and Frank Kimbrough, bassists Ken Filiano and William Parker, saxophonists Scott Robinson, Noah Preminger, and Rob Brown plus guitarist Steve Cardenas to play in clubs in and around the Capitol area, releasing many of the collaborations on his own label and on A majority of the recording sessions––in-studio and live––are improvisations and offer the attentive listener the opportunity to listen to musicians "conversing" and listening to each other for the sake of the music. Cosgrove never "overplays"or "overthinks" the music; that sensitivity is one of the major components of his music, making it all the more interesting.

His newest offering, "History Gets Ahead of the Story" (Grizzley Music/self-released)", finds the drummer in a new trio, alongside John Medeski (organ) and Jeff Lederer (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute). Seven of the program's 10 songs are from the pen of bassist William Parker with two from Lederer and one from Cosgrove. Parker is one of the more important people on the contemporary scene, not just for his music but also for the work that he and his wife, poet and choreographer Patricia Nicholson, have done for artists by creating organizations, most notably the Vision Festival. The blues-soaked sounds this trio produces serve to remind the listener of Mr. Parker's "roots", his connection to "soul" music and the blues as well as to fellow bassist and composer Charles Mingus.

Photo: Joe Crocetta
Opening with "O'Neal's Porch" (from the 2001 album of the same name), the trio sets the easy pace and one can feel the influence of Curtis Mayfield in the melody and groove. These musicians are not afraid to go "out" for a moment yet the song always returns to the walking organ bass lines and Cosgrove's steady cymbal and snare work.  Lederer's solo ranges far afield, something he does with joy, playing with an exuberance that adds fire.  Medeski gets rights into the groove with his soulful Hammond B-3 sound.  Lederer moves to flute for the playful "Little Bird", opening with a cheerful duet with Medeski before dropping into a sweet groove.  The clarinet comes out for "Wood Flute Song", an angular groove that the drummer drives with his innate sense of rhythm. The drummer contributed the other-worldly "Ghost"––again, the richly-hued tones of Lederer's clarinet reads the melody and dances off into a sweet solo while Medeski's gospel chords swell in the background.

Photo: Joe Crocetta
Lederer's two contributions, "Gospel Flowers" and "Purcell's Lament", both show the trio at its musical best.  The former track has a steady groove with powerful solos from Medeski and the tenor saxophonist, all the while Cosgrove pushes them forward.  The latter tune opens with a unaccompanied keening soprano sax before the organ enters.  The piece moves into a lovely ballad, the cymbal and trap set coloring the lines as Medeski supports the voice in front.  The swirling organ moves in and around the lovely soprano phrases while the drummer adds more color (the photo on the left gives you an idea of what Cosgrove is doing as he listens and plays).

"History Gets Ahead of the Story" closes with Mr. Parker's "Harlem" (off his Quartet's 2005 "Sound Unity" album). The power of the tenor sax, Lederer at his bluesiest, is balanced by the quiet organ and drum accompaniment.  Pay attention to Medeski's solo and how Cosgrove gives him so much space but never abandons the groove.  This is 2 a.m. music at its best.

The trio of Jeff Cosgrove, John Medeski, and Jeff Lederer celebrate the music of William Parker by taking his music and not copying it but by putting their own creative voices to the forefront.  The clarity of the recording allows the listener to enter into the studio and really "feel" the conversations going on with the trio and this music.  A delight from start to finish, take an hour to dive into these "Stories."

For more information, go to

Have a listen:

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