Monday, July 27, 2020

The Composer, Her Orchestra, Their Music

Photo: Briene Lermitte
Over the course of her career (which is well into its third decade), composer, arranger, and conductor Maria Schneider has compiled an amazing track record. Nine albums, eight with her Orchestra plus one with soprano Dawn Upshaw, have garnered her six GRAMMY Awards, numerous nominations, and a devoted audience, many willing to give money to support her endeavors. Ms. Schneider was one of the first creators to sign with ArtistShare and has been working with that organization since the release of 2004s "Concert In The Garden".

Cover art: Aaron Horkey
The seeds of her new project with the 18-member Maria Schneider Orchestra, the two-disc "Data Lords", were sown in 2014 when the composer collaborated with David Bowie on his song "Sue (Or In a Season of Crime"––the track appeared on a 2014 compilation and was later re-recorded for Bowie's final album "Blackstar". The first disk, titled "The Digital World", take its edginess not only from the musical experimentation with Bowie but also from Ms. Schneider anger and frustration with the "data farmers", those companies who gather information from users, usually without anyone's permission. For the past decade, the composer has been warning of companies and websites that take your music, use it without your permission, and/ or pay a pittance for that use.  Artists, especially those who are not as famous or who make music that appeals to world-wide audiences, get ripped off on a daily basis, their music shared without compensation. Ms. Schneder has appeared before the US Congressional Subcommittee on Intellectual Property speaking on the topics of "digital rights", copyright infringement, and more.

Photo: David Bazemore
The five songs of "The Digital World" have a darkness fed by the  frustration Ms. Schneider feels. The growl and roar of Ben Monder's guitar is heard throughout those songs, put to good use on "A World Lost" and "Don't Be Evil". The dark sectional writing, the eerie sounds created by Gary Versace on accordion, and the powerful drumming of Johnathan Blake (his debut with the MSO),  the electronics added to the trumpets of Mike Rodriguez and Greg Gisbert, feels new in Ms. Schneider's world. "...Evil", aimed at a failed ad campaign of Google, deconstructs and then reconstructs the melody of "Taps" throughout, giving the music a feeling of dread as well as a political edge.  The sounds of Morse code permeates "CQ CQ Is Anybody There", a piece dedicated to the composer's father who was a devoted ham radio operator.  The satisfaction that the elder Mr. Schneider got from talking to people around the world does not translate to the music.  Underpinned by the bass of Jay Anderson and drummer Blake, the music intimates that the "connections" we make on the Internet are not truly equal to the ones we make "off-line". We may have 500 friends on FaceBook but are no match for sitting down and chatting through the ether with someone a world away.  The dissonance of Gisbert's electronically-modified trumpet, the staccato of the Morse code, the rat-a-tat of the percussion, keep the listener on edge while serving up its dire warnings.

Photo: Siimon
Disk two, "Our Natural World", relates to earlier "pastoral" works of the MSO while still breaking new ground.  "Sanzenin" is a musical tour of an ancient Buddhist temple (found in Japan) posits Versace and his accordion on front of the ensemble (pay close attention to Anderson's excellent bass playing) as one takes a walk through the gardens. The joyful sounds of "Stone Song" adds a healthy touch of levity to the "serious" music and is, arguably, the most fun piece of music the composer and Orchestra have produced to date––the interaction of Versace's accordion with the soprano sax of Steve Wilson is endearing. "Look Up" is a gentle command that we take refuge in the night skys, in the myriad stars and lights we see.  Solos by Frank Kimbrough (piano) and Marshall Gilkes (trombone) stand out as do Blake's drums and the "floating" sounds of the reeds and brass. KImbrough leads the way into "Bluebird" which, after its powerful, soaring, opening melody turns into a spotlight for Wilson's delightful alto sax solo and a superb flight of improvisational fancy from Versace (note the wondrous section writing that serve as the accordionist's dancing partner).

Photo: Kyra Kverno
Two pieces inspired by poet Ted Kooser, "Braided Together" and the album closer "The Sun Waited For Me", are multi-faceted gems.  The former begins slowly but, thanks to Blake's impressive drumming, picks up in intensity as Dave Pietro (alto saxophone) creates his powerful statement. The latter, which was previously recorded by Ms. Schneider with Ms. Fleming on "Winter Morning Walks" as "How Important It Must Be" (the final piece in the medley based on Mr. Kooser's poems), featured the soprano voice interacting with the clarinet of Scott Robinson––here, Gilkes's trombone takes the melody while Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone) is the primary solo voice.  The impressive work of the various reeds, brass, and accordion open the door for McCaslin's handsome and wide-ranging solo.

Photo: Whit Lane
One cannot just take in all that "Data Lords" contains in one sitting or use the albums as background music. In conversation with Maria Schneider, one can feel the excitement she must enjoy when bringing new music to her ensemble, a group that still contains a number of musicians (eight) who appeared on her 1994 debut "Evanessence".  The job of the attentive listener is to hear the music with fresh ears each time you listen. The Maria Schneider Orchestra, like the Duke Ellington Orchestra, like the best works of Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer, and Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis, has a sound all its own. The music comes alive in the creative minds of the musicians, never sounds stale or clichéd, while Ms. Schneider works so hard with the engineers and the mastering person to make this music sound so deep and full. If you're not one of those many, many, people who gave money to bring this music to life through ArtistShare, I have no need to convince you that "Data Lords" is splendid.  If you've never heard the MSO, it's time to get these sounds into your life!

For more information plus buying options, go to


Maria Schneider (composer, conductor)
Steve Wilson (alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute and alto flute)
Dave Pietro (alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute, and piccolo)
Rich Perry (tenor saxophone)
Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone, flute)
Scott Robinson (Bb, bass, and contra-bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, and muson)
Tony Kadleck (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Greg Gisbert (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Mike Rodriguez (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Ryan Keberle (trombone)
Keith O'Quinn (trombone)
Marshall Gilkes (trombone)
George Flynn (bass trombone)
Gary Versace (accordion)
Ben Monder (guitar)
Frank Kimbrough (piano)
Jay Anderson (bass)
Johnathan Blake (drums, percussion)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Season of the Large Ensemble

Photo: Eliza Margarita Bates
One would not be out of place writing that Jacob Garchik is a unique presence on the contemporary music scene. He plays trombone, tenor horn, tuba, and accordion, has played with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, Laurie Anderson, and Mary Halvorson plus many others.  He has arranged for numerous vocalists including kd lang, Rhiannon Giddens, Sophie Von Otter, Natalie Merchant, and Angelique Kidjo.  Over the past 14 years, Garchik has contributed a dozens of arrangements and transcriptions for Kronos Quartet. He's also a member of The Four Bags, the delightful ensemble that eschews genres for a mix of fascinating sounds.

In 2005, Garchik started his own label––Yestereve Records––and has issued five fascinating albums, including two trio dates, one for a trombone choir (2012's "The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album"), and 2015's "Ye Olde" for trombone, drums, and three electric guitarists. His latest recording, "Clear Line", features a large ensemble consisting four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones (two alto, two tenor, and one baritone), and no rhythm section.  Nary a chordal instrument in sight.  The music, all Garchik originals, is fascinating from the opening note right through to the end. The title refers to the "Ligne Claire" style of drawing. Pioneered by French author and illustrator Hergé (1907-1983, the creator of "Tintin"), the drawings combine cartoon characters with "natural" backgrounds.  Garchik, who does not play on the album but who is the conductor, has also developed an interest in architecture, not surprising as an arranger, among other things, needs to understand the framework of the music and what each composition will support.

Condé Nast Traveler
What will the curious listener hear on "Clear Line"?  Nine pieces that feature crisp playing, intelligent and witty arrangements, and a distinctively fluid blend of styles. The album opens with the rippling phrases of "Visualizations of Interior Spaces" which the gives the music the feel of a fanfare. There are also moments that the listener can sense the growth of a new structure.  "Ligne Claire" has a modern classical sound yet one could hear a touch of Bob Brookmeyer in the blend of the sections' phrasings.  Long tones with just a touch of dissonance stand out on the ballad "Hergé: Vision and Blindness" while an infectious rhythm can be felt throughout the opening section of the delightful "Moebius and Mucha"––the latter track breaks down at several times for short solo statements. The composer celebrates the "Line Drawings of Paul Rudolph", the American architect (1918-1997) who was considered one of the leaders of the Modernist Era. It's a slow ballad that moves into a darker tone as the piece develops.

Photo montage: Jacob Garchik
The album closes with the title track. A lively piece, the melody is shared by the different instruments in a playful vein. The ensemble plays around with the rhythmic flow, bouncing beneath the solos, stopping to play an elegiac section, which is interrupted by the playful bouncy opening section then returns to the slower tempo. The two distinct "feels"––bouncy then slow––go back and forth changing somewhat each time.

"Clear Line" is such an enjoyable journey. The project should open your mind to the creative genius of Hergé and Paul Rudolph plus gives another glimpse into the creative world of Jacob Garchik.  Take your time with this music as it's well worth the adventure.

For more information, go to To purchase the album, go to

Here's the opening track:


Jacob Garchik: composer, conductor 
Nathan Eklund, Jonathan Finlayson, Adam O’Farrill, Davy Lazar: trumpets 
Natalie Cressman, Kalia Vandever, Kalun Leung: trombones 
Jennifer Wharton: bass trombone 
Roman Filiu, Charlotte Greve: alto saxophones 
Anna Webber, Kevin Sun: tenor saxophones 
Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone 

Alto saxophonist/ bass clarinetist Andrew D'Angelo is a musician who can light up a room with his incendiary musicianship, His solos can rise from a whisper to a shriek, raining down phrases, riffs, wails, on the listener.  His fiery approach to creative music has been evident since emerging on the scene in the late 1980s and early 90s.  With fellow saxophonist Chris Speed, drummer Jim Black, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, he toured clubs and concert halls as Human Feel. They recorded three albums in the 90s before going their own ways, regrouping to record in 2007 and, again to tour Europe in 2017 resulting in the album "Gold", released on Intakt Records in 2019. D'Angelo has also worked and recorded with Jamie Saft, Cuong Vu, Erik Friedlander, and was a long-time member of the Matt Wilson Quartet.  

In 2008, D'Angelo suffered a seizure and collapsed, was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered he had a brain tumor. That resulted in two surgeries and removal of his right temporal lobe. The saxophonist went the route of alternative healing.  He returned to music as soon as possible, began writing pieces for a large ensemble, and the results can be heard on "DNA Orchestra" (Human Use Records). The 12-member ensemble (plus two guests) features the cream of the crop of fiery younger players, many based in New York City, all of whom are either leaders or co-leaders.  The nine tracks are all D'Angelo compositions, filled with emotional passages, powerful solos, the occasional loud noises and screeching as well as poignant vocals, and a deep desire to communicate.

The 64-minute program, recorded live, can best be described as "raucously joyful and joyously raucous."  Yes, there are quiet moments there and there, especially on "I Love You". The piece has a sweet melody sung by the leader – the arrangement for the orchestra does a great job of framing the vocal as well as filling out the sound. The leader's alto sax lines at the opening of "FELICIA" are heart-felt as they lead in to the lovely viola tones supplied by Nicole Federici.  The sections then enter playing the melody in a style that resembles Abdullah Ibrahim's South African sounds. The band joins in on the lyrics ("Love Felicia") before D'Angelo's strong solo. Strange sounds, courtesy of the human "beat box" Eric Biondo, are heard at the onset of "Big Butt". Drummer Dan Weiss joins the fun leading the band in with a modified James Brown rhythm attack which is echoed in the sections reading the melody.  The forward motion of the rhythm section dares you to put on your dancing shoes. Weiss again kicks up a storm on "Marching Fvckers", its chaotic horn lines hearkening back to the arrangements of the late Fred Ho as well as Pierre Dorge's New Jungle Orchestra. Josh Sinton's baritone sax solo roars atop the thundering ensemble.

Photo: Dave Kaufman
The ensemble romps through "Meg Nam Sa", one of the pieces that came out of D'Angelo's healing process. Again the band roars, goosed forward by the rhythm section with a number of hard-edged solos, building in intensity like a Category 5 hurricane. Weiss's thunderous solo serves as a preamble to a blustery, stunning, finish. It's the final track and that's good as the listener will probably be as spent as the band members.

"DNA Orchestra" is quite an experience. Andrew D'Angelo, along with his very talented friends, create music that is joyous, noisy, exciting, filled with delicious section arrangements, all underpinned by Dan Weiss's drums and Trevor Dunn's great electric bass playing.  Not for the faint of heart but definitely for the adventurous listener––play it loud!!

For more information, go to To purchase the album (and other D'Angelo recordings), go to

Here's the opening track, dedicated to drummer Matt Wilson:

Andrew D’Angelo – Compositions, Arrangements, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Voice, Director 

Bill McHenry – Tenor Saxophone 
Jeremy Udden – Alto Saxophone 
Joshua Sinton – Baritone Saxophone 

Ryan Snow – Trombone 
Bryan Drye – Trombone 
Josh Roseman – Trombone 

John Carlson – Trumpet 
Jacob Wick – Trumpet 
Kirk Knuffke – Cornet 

Nicole Federici – Viola 

Trevor Dunn – Bass 
Dan Weiss – Drums 
Sasha Brown – Guitar 

Eric Biondo – Beat Box 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

"My Coma Dreams" Event

Fred Hersch, pianist and composer, has had a most successful career.  His generation of musicians was among the last to grow up in a time when you work with an older musician serving as a mentor, travel the United States, get a recording contract, play constantly, testing your powers of improvisation and accompaniement. By the mid-2000s, Mr. Hersch had a large following, was traveling the world –– he had publicly acknowledged that he was gay and had been suffering from the long-term effects of HIV-AIDS. His condition was kept in check by a mixture of medications which allowed him to continue to perform, to teach, and to record. But, something went wrong in the Winter of 2007-08 and the pianist soon became quite sick –– originally, his doctors were able to fight the condition but it worsened to the point that Mr. Hersch stopped eating, became painfully ill and, to save him while they helped his system right itself, he was put into a medically-induced coma for two months.

The pianist recovered but it took may months of physical therapy, rest, and relearning the basics (eating, walking, etc) as well as finding his way back to the piano –– he was left so weak by the debacle that there was the fear he would never return to music, let alone t other daily activities.  Happily for Mr. Hersch (and for his many fans), his abilities returned to the point where, within 18 months, he had returned to performance, composing, and teaching. Unlike many coma survivors, the pianist actually remembered a number of vivid dreams during the time he was, technically, "dead" to the outside world.  Soon, he had sketched out melodies, harmonies, and his memories. With the help of librettist Herschel Garfein (who also directed the performances), Mr. Hersch began to make his dreams come to life. Soon, the pair had created an eight-song program for an 11-piece ensemble plus narrator (see personnel below).

Photo:Tom White/NY Times
"My Coma Dreams" never became a vehicle for touring but was performed several times with one presentation at the Miller Theatre on the campus of Columbia University in New York City recorded as a DVD in March 2013.  If you do not own the video, released in 2014 by Palmetto Records, you can watch the entire performance free on YouTube beginning this Friday, July 17 2020 and will be free indefinitely (the link is listed below as well) –– in fact, you should it and not just because it's being presented free of charge but because it's an amazing piece of musical theater (kudos to actor Michael Winther on his powerful performance).

Go to, put in your ear buds or put on your head phones, and get lost in these "...Dreams."

Fred Hersch, piano
John Hébert, bass
John Hollenbeck, drums and percussion
Ralph Alessi, trumpet, flute;horn
Mike Christiansen, trombone
Bruce Williamson, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Adam Kolker, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone
Joyce Hammann, violin and viola
Laura Seaton, violin
Dave Eggar, cello
Gregg Kailor, conductor, music director

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

More Drums In Front

Photo: Gord Loser
Drummer and composer Florian Arbenz, a native of Switzerland, is a musician that has his hands and feet in both the classical and jazz worlds.  Active for over two decades, Arbenz has worked with numerous American musicians –– he co-leads a duo with saxophonist Greg Osby plus has played with trombonist Glenn Ferris, reed masters Bennie Maupin and Dave Liebman, as well as Swiss composer/ conductor Heinz Holliger and American conductor Kent Nagano. Arbenz is also one-third of VEIN, a jazz trio that also features his brother Michael on piano and bassist Thomas Lähns.

The drummer's latest project is dubbed Convergence, an apropos name for a group that features musicians from Cuba, Brazil, Great Britain, Australia, and Europe.  The sextet –– Arbenz (drums, compositions), Jim Hart (vibraphone), Jorge Vistel (trumpet), his brother Mikael (tenor saxophone), Nelson Veras (guitar), and Rafael Jerjen (acoustic bass) –– has just issued its self-titled debut album (on the drummer's Hammer Music label).One can hear the influences of the afore-mentioned Mr. Osby plus Steve Coleman, and Dave Holland (in the blend of vibes with sax and trumpet).  The music jumps out of the speakers with an urgency of the newer sounds of Liberty Ellman and Steve Lehman. Tunes such as the album opener "Little Idea" (listen below) and "Sound" have a funky dance/ M-Base Collective feel.

Once you have listened through the album, go back and check out songs such as "Translacion" and "Nocturne".  The former opens with the unaccompanied Hart setting up a three-chord pattern. Bass and drums enter quietly, then guitar, sax, and trumpet. The foppish melody line is a pleasing contrast to the trance-like rhythm section. Jerjen's fine bass intro leads into a heart-felt ballad with the emotionally rich tenor sax and trumpet glide easily over the gentle cymbal and brush work of the drummer and the long, resonant, tones of the vibes.

Photo: Hans Buerkle
Like most albums, the more you listen to Convergence, the more the individual work of the musicians stand out. Veras's excellent guitar work is featured throughout "Ambar" while the rest of the band movie and around him. Turn up the volume for the aptly-titled "Sound" and listen to the excellent interaction of Arbenz and Jerjen. The album closer, "Edificio 17", is a fast-paced, even breath-taking groove with the Vistel brothers working in tandem and also echoing each other on the opening theme. Mikael's mid-range tenor solo feeds off Arbenz's energy. The leader takes a long yet exciting solo in the middle before Jorge Vistel's fine solo, his tone reminiscent of the late Kenny Wheeler, leads the sextet forward to a rousing close.

One hears plenty of promise in the debut recording of Florian Arbenz & Convergence. Each of the musicians involved have developed strong voices and the more they play the leader's music, the more those voices will push the material forward.  As debuts go, this one rocks!

For more information, go to  To hear more of the album plus purchase the recording, go to

In the meantime, here's a taste:

Are you still mourning the passing of pianist McCoy Tyner? Do you miss the sound the pianist's 1970 albums for both Blue Note and Fantasy?  May I draw your attention to "Happy Synapse", the second album on Rainy Day Records by drummer Sasha Mashin. Mashin, a resident of Moscow, Russia, gathered a mighty sextet with fellow native musicians Dmitry Mospan (tenor saxophone) and Mikan Novikov (acoustic bass) plus Rosario Giuliani (alto saxophone, from the Veneto region of Italy), Benito Gonzalez (piano, from Venezuela, now in NYC), and Josh Evans (trumpet, born in Hartford, CT).  Everyone but the bassist and drummer contributed two pieces to the album (which is split into "1" and "2" on Bandcamp, iTunes, and from other suppliers)

The power in this music comes from the leader who drives each tune as if he were driving a race car through the streets of Moscow. The album opens with a drum solo before the pounding piano chords take the sextet into the theme of Giuliani's "The Hidden Voice" –– Mashin pushes the band in the style of Art Blakey and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Gonzalez's solo harnesses that power and blazes forward before Mospan jumps in and flies away. "Incantation", one of the three tracks on the collection that clocks in near or above 13 minutes, opens with a fiery bass solo. When Novikov drops into a circular bass line, the band enters playing Mospan's composition and its echoing voices.  The composer's powerful tenor solo leans more to Coltrane as he piles up phrase-upon-speedy phrase, setting quite a high bar for those who follow. Evans is more than up to the task before Gonzalez enters and rides the powerful waves of sound generated by the rhythm section.

Evans contributes the most Tyner-ish piece, the delightful "Sulieman Saud" that opens disk 2.  The pianist states the opening theme before the reeds and trumpet enter with a fascinating, if a bit dissonant, second theme. Gonzalez produces a tremendously playful solo giving way to solos from Mospan followed by the composer (his most playful spot as well).  The drummer takes a turn supported by the thunderous chords and booming bass.

The album closes with the longest track (13:19), Giuliani's "The Hidden Face of Stars", its rubato opening giving way to a modified Latin and Blues groove. The theme is a call-and -response between the "front line" and the piano. The sextet takes its time working through lengthy melody section but then they move easily into the solos. Evans goes first and creates a fascinating story moving in and around the beat and the insistent and exploratory piano chords. Mashin sounds busy beneath him but he's really stroking the fire as he does throughout the album.

An album as boisterous as "Happy Synapse" deserves to be heard, to be listened to loud, and, in a less panic-stricken, to be heard in person. The only overt political statement about the album is how this American art form, Creative Black Music, stealthily has made inroads into Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and just about everywhere.  Sasha Mashin and his international sextet play this music with enthusiasm, with joy, and abandon –– enjoy the ride!

For more information, go to To hear more of the album and to purchase the two distinct releases, go to

In the meantime, give a listen:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Returning and Turning

Photo: Ryan Bennett
Pianist, composer, and arranger Ryan Cohan has returned to the recording scene seven years since his last recording "The River." Not that the Chicago, IL-born-and-raised (and still lives) Cohan has been idle––he's appeared on a slew of recordings plus has been commissioned to write scores for several films, orchestras, and artists.  Cohan, before the pandemic, still played throughout the United States as well as conducting clinics for high school students.  And, he's been composing music for a story that has been gestating for a decade.

The music for 2013's "The River" was inspired by a tour that took Cohan to Africa. The new album, "Originations" (his debut on Origin Records), has its inspiration in Cohan's reunion with his long-estranged father who lives in Jordan.  Even before meeting the paternal side of his family, the pianist felt comfortable walking the streets of the Middle-Eastern country. One can hear that in the music he's created to tell his story. The melodies and rhythms of the music point to that part of the world; his blend of reeds and string, the strident and piercing trumpet, the hand percussion plus the string quartet illuminate his ideas, bringing the experiences to life.

Even though Cohan does not bill "Originations" as a suite, the six-song, 51-minute, program certainly feels like one.  The subtext of the music is the composer's coming terms with his parentage and his background, and how the music bridges the gap between countries in the region, doing so without an overt agenda.  As he has worked with and recorded with most of these musicians in the past (save for the KAIA String Quartet plus percussionists Michael Raynor and Omar Musfi), he knows how to write for their "voices"––listening to the ensemble maneuver through the tricky rhythm patterns on "Imaginary Lines", one can hear their familiarity with the material and Cohan's trust in their ability. The "dancing" piano lines that open "Sabra" may remind some of the music of Third World Love, the quartet featuring trumpeter Avishai Cohen and bassist Omer Avital.  The sensuous strings and bass lines create a flow that is enhanced by the excellent drumming and the use of Geof Bradfield's bass clarinet to shadow the bass lines. The leader's dazzling solo is framed by the hand percussion and the shimmering strings. One can hear the influence of maqam (Arabic melody modes) on this piece (and other songs). The lovely ballad "Heart" is graced by a lovely flugelhorn solo from Tito Carrillo––listen to how the clarinet and bass clarinet, trumpet, and strings move around behind the piano solo.

The final track on the album, "Essence", is also the longest (12:27). The opening 90 seconds spotlight the individual voices of the string quartet––when the full band enters, the music begins a fascinating journey with melodies springing up out of the rhythmical forward motion. A lengthy solo by John Wojciechowski (flute) leads to a drum break, then a restatement of an earlier theme, this time with a few more textures. There is a quick break then Cohan takes off on an wide-ranging and dizzying solo over the bass, trap drums, and hand percussion. One hears Latin beats mixing with Middle-Eastern; as the intensity increases, more voices come to support the percussion until the music comes to an abrupt climax.  Makes you want to go back and listen again.

And you should listen again to "Originations."  Climb onto the rhythms, cling to the melodies, savor the arrangements, and, after a while, you fell that the emotional richness of the music stands out. Over his career, one that spans two+ decades, Ryan Cohan has been known for his great technique on piano. Listening to his three previous albums on Motema plus here on his Origin debut, you can really hears how he's grown as a composer and arranger as well as a storyteller.  

For more information, go to  To purchase the album and read more about the project, go to


Ryan Cohan - piano 
John Wojciechowski - Bb clarinet, flute, alto flute, tenor saxophone 
Geof Bradfield - bass clarinet, soprano saxophone 
Tito Carrillo - trumpet, flugelhorn 
James Cammack - acoustic bass 
Michael Raynor - drums 
Omar Musfi - riqq, frame drum, dumbek

KAIA String Quartet:
Victoria Moreira – violin
Naomi Culp – violin
Amanda Grimm – viola
Hope DeCelle – cello

Guitarist and composer David Gilmore, a native of Cambridge, MA, has been active on the contemporary music scene for over two decades. He's worked with artists such as Robin Eubanks, Mavis Staples, Boz Scaggs, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Joss Stone, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Wayne Shorter, Don Bryon, and many more. As a leader, he's issued six albums, his latest just out o Criss Cross Jazz.  "From Here To There" was recorded in September of 2018 but, due to label head Gerry Teekens illness and subsequent death in late October 2019, its release was in limbo.

Happily, his son and grandchildren have released the album, Glmore's second for the label, as tribute to Teekens. Gilmore assembled a dynamite ensemble––pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Brad Jones, and drummer E.J. Strickland (the only holdover from his label debut, 2017's "Transitions"––giving them 10 pieces (eight Gilmore originals plus one piece each from Sam Rivers and Bill Evans) and let them loose.  There's tremendous energy in this music, songs being propelled by the top-notch rhythm section.  Jones, who plays both acoustic and electric basses, joins with Strickland and the two of them really drive the music.  You hear it almost immediately on the opening track, "Focus Pocus"––when Perdomo unites with the duo, the results are powerful. They push Gilmore into a thoughtful yet powerful solo. The drummer gets a spotlight in the middle before the pianist heads into a joyous romp.

The quartet kicks up the volume for "Metaverse", with Jones on electric bass while the guitarist and pianist play a melody line that reminds one of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra.  The guitar solo rises out of the melody, trading choruses with the piano, pushing the intensity higher throughout as the two joust and parry. "When and Then" has a funky feel (listen to Strickland and Jones create such a mighty groove) and both Perdomo and Gilmore stretch out. "Free Radicals" breaks out of the gate, cymbals splashing, into a well-constructed melody line. The pace is quite fast but never feels rushed, the solos hard-edged but always melodic. The Evans tune, "Interplay", is a fun blues with a hint of classical influences in the melody line. Jones (on acoustic bass) gets the first solo, his graceful, melodic, side balanced with his powerful phrases stand out. Sam Rivers "Cyclic Episode" (from his 1965 Blue Note Lp "Fuchsia Swing Song") really does swing. Pay attention to Strickland as he accents throughout the solos until he gets to "trade 4s" with Gilmore.

The leader take out his acoustic guitar for the handsome ballad "Child of Time", a piece that balances quiet melodic passages with moments of intensity. Gilmore's articulate lines rise above the rhythm section, his solo displaying great emotion as well as technical dexterity.

"From Here To Here" brings joy for several different reasons.  The music displays leader David Gilmore's continuing maturity as a composer and a player plus he's got one heck of a band supporting, prodding, pushing, and framing his music.  It's great to have Criss Cross Records back and one hopes they'll continue to support the artists and their music!

For more information about the recording, go to  To find out more about David Gilmore, go to

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.

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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.

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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."

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Have a listen: