Saturday, October 24, 2020

Three Exploratory Quartets

This review introduces you to three albums featuring quartets, two with tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums plus one with tenor and alto saxophones, bass, and drums. The share the language of of modern Black American Music but come at their music from different directions.

Saxophonist Rich Halley has been making music on the West Coast for over five decades working with small groups that often included trombonist Michael Vlatkovich and Halley's son, drummer Carson. In August of 2018, he flew east to Brooklyn, NY where he recorded "Terra Incognita" with the Matthew Shipp Trio (the pianist, bassist Michael Bisio, and drummer Newman Taylor Baker). Halley's "live wire"compositions and fiery playing fit right in with the experimental bent of the Trio anf their first album together was a smash. 

He returned to Brooklyn one year later and, on August 16, went back into the studio with the Trio; the result, "The Shape of Things" (Pine Eagle Music), moves as passionately as the first album. And, just the like the previous release, the four musicians improvised the entire program.  Halley may be the leader but everyone stands out. Whether it's Newman Taylor Baker's powerful drums goosing the saxophonist to powerful shouts on the opening "Tetrahedon" or Shipp's lyrical piano opening to "Spaces Between" or Bisio's rapid-fire bass lines on "Oblique Lines" (note the way Halley dances out of his solo while Shipp dances in), this music does not sit still or make compromises.  Halley and Baker have another one-on-one conversation to open "Lower Strata"––it starts fairly quietly, does not boil over.  In fact, it is Shipp's majestic cascading chords and Bisio's rumbling bass work that raise the intensity. There's even more energy on "The Curved Horizon", the albums longest track at 13:35, especially as Halley and Shipp continually collide in the opening two minutes.  Baker and Bisio stoke their fire until the saxophone drops out and Shipp dances forward. After the Trio tamps down the fire but not the intensity, Halley returns and the music explodes

"The Shape of Things" (not to be confused with The Yardbirds' 1966 hit of the same name) is excellent, reminding one of how great improvised music can be a transcending experience. Rich Halley does not compromise, has no need to, his interactions with the Matthew Shipp Trio shows us music still has the power to makes us sit up and take notice!

For more information, go to

For his sixth release on Whirlwind Recordings, drummer and composer Jeff Williams has issued his second "live" album and third fronting a quartet. Since moving to England over a decade ago (he splits his time between NYC and UK) and signing with Michael Janisch's label, he has produced music that displays power, wit, musicality, and great "swing".  He writes to the strength of his band and they make sure the music sounds vital.  

"Road Tales: Live at London Jazz Festival", recorded in November 2018 at London's famed Pizza Express, features the drummer in the company of long-time associate John O'Gallagher (alto saxophone) and two young members of the British Jazz scene Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone) and Sam Lasserson (acoustic bass), both members of Williams group since 2015. Sit down, put the music on the stereo, and enjoy the 63-minute, nine song, program of the drummer's original pieces. A mix of old and new compositions, the quartet dances, swings, sways, roars, and makes you listen.  Whether it's the bluesy dance of "New and Old", the chatty and boisterous "Borderline" or the quiet ruminations of "Under the Radar" (which features a splendid Arcoleo solo), this music is always moving.  "Scrunge" is a funky, hard-hitting, dance tune that nods towards Ornette Coleman and the bluesier side of Julius Hemphill.  Williams playful "She Can't Be a Spy" stretches out so both saxophonists can dance atop the drummer's powerful beat.  The album closes with "Double Life"––the leader opens the piece by scurrying around his drum set before Lasserson enters to set the pace. The saxophonists introduce the lengthy and twisting melody then both (Arcoleo first) deliver delightful solos egged on by the conversational. drums and powerful bass lines.

"Road Tales" is a delight from start to finish. Take your time to listen to all four musicians but especially the rhythm section and how they interact with each other and how they do not just play "support" beneath the saxophonists. Jeff Williams musically came of age working with Stan Getz and Dave Liebman, at a time when creative music was still absorbing the lessons of Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, John Coltrane, and innovators of the 1950s and 60s.  Jeff Williams and company not only honor the tradition but also push it forward. Enjoy!

For more information, go to

Follow the link to hear a track:

Over the past decade, Jim (drums) and Chet (tenor saxophone), the Doxas Brothers, have been very busy musicians in their native Canada. Jim has been the drummer in pianist Oliver Jones Trio while Chet has worked with Maria Schneider, Rufus Wainwright, and the late John Abercrombie plus is part of the Brooklyn, NY-based quartet LandLine and has recorded with electronics artist/ sound designer Micah Frank.  Together, with Dave Douglas and bassist Steve Swallow, they have released two albums as Riverside for the trumpeter's Greenleaf Music. 

Now, the duo has issued its first album, "The Circle", on Justin Time Records. Joining them are bassist Adrien Vedady and pianist Marc Copland both of whom have been playing with Jim for the past several years in a trio setting. When you first listen through the program, you'll hear finely-constructed compositions, excellent musicianship, smart interplay, and a love for both swing and melody. What you will realize second and third time through is the "flow" in each piece. At times, it's the rhythm section (as they do on tunes such as the album opener "Una a la Vez" and several tracks later on "Old Sport".  When Copland locks in Vedady and Jim Doxas, they create a foundation that Chet's tenor can move through with ease.  Dig the bluesy "A Word From the Wise" where the impressionistic piano support dances around the Coleman Hawkins-inspired tenor sax. 

A poetic unaccompanied piano opens "Objets Nécessaires" leading into a melody that sounds like an interpolation of the spiritual "Go Down Moses."  Copland's crystalline lines build the piece up to the entrance of the tenor saxophone; the piece seems to explode with the power coming from the two brothers with both the piano and bassist roiling below them. The wistful tenor saxophone melody of the next track, "Joan's Song", also has a folkish feel (and a touch of Sonny Rollins) yet listen to how the pianist colors the piece with his fascinating chordal choices.

The album closes with the blues-soaked Gordon Jenkins composition "Goodbye"––originally composed in 1935 for the Benny Goodman Orchestra, this version features splendid brushes work, breathy tenor sax, fine counterpoint from Vedady, and a fascinating exploration from the pianist.  Like the eight tracks before it, "Goodbye" is exemplary of just how deeply these four musicians care about the music, the material, and each other. 
"The Circle" is delightful music, played with passion, intelligence, and the desire to connect on a human level.  The Doxas Brothers, along with Adrien Vedady and Marc Copland, create a listening experience that combines the "tradition" with creative thinking (and playing)––so sit and listen, waiting for the day when this band can make their magic in a club or small convert venue.   

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

Watch and listen below to the opening track:

Friday, October 23, 2020

Election Day 2020 sounds


With the election so close, the division so fractious and potentially explosive, we feel a special event is needed for the public on Election Day. On November 3, Deep Tones for Change will transmit 4 performances each hour, spanning the 17 hours that US polls are open nationwide, from the East Coast to Hawaii - 68 individual performances!

Deep Tones for Peace is a musical initiative that originated in 2009 with a telematic performance between Jerusalem and Manhattan, and has continued with annual iterations until the present day. Deep Tones for Peace 2020 was launched by Mark Dresser and William Parker. A regular streaming of live meditations for peace, healing and transformation is delivered by musicians transmitting deep tones that can strengthen the unseen bonds of our diversity as we oppose economic, educational, and environmental inequities fueled by racism, sexism, and greed.

Contributors play for 5-30 minutes with the intent of musically sending healing vibrations to be felt worldwide. The call for participation is open to all bassists who wish to join in an ongoing musical transmission of vibrations for peace. Any style or form of music and any level bass player is welcome to help promote peace in the world. We truly believe this project will have a positive impact on the balance of life.

To date, the impact of the initiative has been far greater than anticipated, despite being non-monetized and publicized solely via word of mouth and social media. Since its first daily transmission on August 1, 2020, Deep Tones for Peace has broadcast more than 120 individual performances, and membership in the public Facebook group has grown to include nearly 2,100 members in more than 40 countries worldwide. Voluntary contributors have included celebrated artists John Clayton, Christian McBride, Rufus Reid, Robert Black, Pablo Aslan, Kristin Korb, Bertram Turetzky, Thierry Barbé, Jorge Roeder, Scott Colley, and others.

Deep Tones for Peace
is a public Facebook group – membership is open to everyone, and listening is possible for anyone via, whether a Facebook member or not.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Music That has Taken Me Through.....

This pandemic has shaken up everyone's world.  Illnesses are exaggerated, masks are a necessity (not for all but those non-wearers are chancing fate), and we all know someone or ones who has/ have passed. The past month has been quite an emotional time for our family and, while I have not been able to write, I have been listening to a lot of music. This post will include several that have stood out!

Looking at the cover of the new Dayna Stevens 2-CD set, "Right Now: Live at the Village Vanguard" (Contagious Music), just might bring a tear or two to one's eyes. People mingling outside the NYC nightclub, no masks, conversations aplenty, is a sight for sore eyes. Listening to the album might just do the same.  You are posited at a front row table at the Vanguard, the quartet––Stephens (tenor and soprano saxes, EWI), Aaron Parks (piano), Ben Street (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums)––goes through two sets of original material throughout his catalog plus several new pieces (and one Parks composition).  It seems civilized.  The band is fine shape, the leader enjoying their company, and the crowd excited and responsive.  Listen to how the rhythm section pushes Stephens to dig deeply on pieces such as the bluesy "Lesson One" and how the Caribbean rhythms pulsate throughout "Tarifa" (listen below). Stephens playful soprano sax lines are a highlight of the program.

Stephens switches to his EWI (electronic wind instrument) once in each set. His instrument is connected to a Leslie Speaker (the kind often associated with the Hammond B-3 organ) and he exploits that sound on the album's final track "Blakonian Groove" (dedicated to drummer Johnathan Blake)––the piece starts slowly but once Hutchinson starts kicking hard, the moves moves forward with a purpose. In the first set, "Radio-Active Earworm" takes a more introspective approach especially after the leaders long introduction, pianist Parks steps into a handsome musical canvas that builds up to Stephens powerful solo.  The EWI takes on more of a "synth-sound" yet never feels contrived or forced.  

There's plenty of fine music on "Right Now!" from the running start of the opening track "Smoking Gun" to the  Thelonious Monk-inspired  "You Are Me Blues" to the rambunctious "JFK International" and more. Like the best Black American Music, the rhythm section deserves kudos for lighting the fires underneath Dayna Stephens and Aaron Parks while Stephens gets extra credit for doing such an excellent job mining her repertoire.  Live music indeed––enjoy!

For more information, go to  To purchase the specially-priced album, go to

Click the link to hear the delightful "Tarifa"!

Drummer and percussionist Devin Gray was in awe of drummer and percussionist Gerald Cleaver long before they met in 2006––the awe melted into respect as they became friends and musical experimenters.  "27 Licks" (Rataplan Records) is described by Gray as "....a small capture of our “just another day” vibe in the farming of our musical lives."  Nine tracks, 42 minutes, all drums, many rhythms, a delightful conversation during which you can hear all influences disappear and the joy of playing reigns supreme.  It's a waste of time to try and figure out who's playing which part, what's written and what's not––instead, go with their flow and listen with your feet and your body.  Let the songs roll around in your brain, play it loud.  

To find out more and to purchase the album, go to

Click here to check out "The F-Train Drain"!

Brian Shankar Adler goes it alone in the studio for his latest album. "For a Gallery On the Moon" (Chant Records) features the artist on a plethora of instruments; the list reads bowed cymbals, buddha machine, ghatam, gong, kanjira, key chimes, manjira, mridang, opera cymbal, paper, ride cymbals, river rocks, slit drum, tabla, thunder sheet, and electronics.  No traditional drum set to be found or heard. That said, the album is a delightful sound adventure; there are moments that are inventive in the way that books for young children (ages 2-6) can be; in other words, Adler is continually playing with sounds and combinations of instruments, asking the listener to use his/ her imagination to fill in the story. For example, is the use of the thunder sheet in "Flight" meant to symbolize the sounds a flock of geese hear on a late summer evening.  Are the sounds of the gong and ride cymbals on "Cym" inviting or threatening?  The tabla drums on "Relative(s)" create a trance-like rhythm that draws one closer.  

Photo: Jill Steinberg
"For a Gallery On the Moon" lasts just 0ver 31 minutes yet is a travelogue like few you have encountered this year (or, perhaps, other years).  There are moments that bring the music of Terry Riley to mind ("Ghost Box") while the backwards tones of "rahdarkahC" remind this listener of the experimental phase of The Beatle and Jimi Hendrix.  Make up your stories for this music because that's part of what Brian Shankar Adler wants you to do. The percussionist also wants to take you out of your hectic world, make you relax and think about anything but politics and pandemics.  Sounds like a good idea!  

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

Click here for the opening track "Young Blood"!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Large Ensembles: Poetry, Politics, & Presence

Photo: Luke Awtry
Composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Saulnier created the Awakening Orchestra 15 years ago not only to play his original music (and some astute covers) but also to create conversations around the political situation in the United States and the world.  18-members strong, Saulnier has assembled an aggregation of veteran and young musicians from both the New York and Boston musical community, sprinkled in the occasional guest vocalists and a guest soloist––together, they make music that blends many genres to create a sound that soars, roars, cries, and sighs.

"volume II: to call her to a higher plain" (Biophilia Records) is the Orchestra's third recording ("vol. I: this is not the answer" in 2014 on Innova Recordings and "Interlude: Atticus Live–the Music of Jesse Lewis" in 2016)––the music was composed, workshopped, and performed over the past five years. Like all of the recent releases on Biophilia, the 15-song, 116+ minute program has an artistic, origami-foldout cover and is available only as a digital download.

The album is broken into two parts;  "Part 1: the pessimist's folly" includes "prelude & fanfare: the Patriot", an adaption of Nine Inch Nails "burn", an orchestral arrangement of Bill Frisell's "Throughout", and the four-part "i can see my country from here (Symphony No. 2 for the Awakening Orchestra"). "Part II: the optimist's folly" includes an orchestra adaptation of Molly Drake's "I remember", the five part title track which carries the subtitle "Concerto for Violin and Awakening Orchestra", the two part "the (desc/diss)ent", and closes with an instrumental adaptation of Eric Whitacre's chorale "lux arumque".

Photo: Guinara Khamatova
When faced with this much content, it's better to dive right in and start from track one. Sit and listen: this music changes moods often so after the "prelude & fanfare" prepare you for a big band experience, the first sounds you hear on "burn" is Michael McAliister's electric guitar. After his intro, vocalist Nathan Hetherington leads the way––there's a break in the middle where various instrumental vices from the Orchestra play before the intensity ratchets up for a powerful guitar. After a handsome reading of Frisell's piece, "Throughout", featuring excellent solos from bassist Joshua Paris, trombonist Michael Fahie, and trumpeter Seneca Black, the listener enters the musical world of "Symphony No. 2..."

Photo: Richard Velasco
The two long multi-section pieces (one is 41+ minutes, the other 33+ minutes) are quite involved, episodic; the "Symphony.." based on the comparison of the ideas of the French Revolution and how the United States democratic republic seems to have abandoned its ideals in the 21st Century and "Concerto..." is a work based on the 1980 book by Alvin Toffler "The Third Wave" and, the piece like the album, takes its name from a quote from Senator George McGovern.  For the latter piece, the composer wrote the violin parts for his wife Brooke Quiggins Saulnier––the blend of her playing, classically and folk music inspired, with the ensemble adds more shades to the music. Note her work with soloists Samuel Ryder (soprano), John Yao (trombone), Pablo Masis (trumpet), and Vito Chiavuzzo (alto saxophone)––sometimes. the violin is a color in the background, it's counterpoint during a solo, she sets up the solos. Ms. Saulnier is the primary voice on the "Cadenzas" that come after the first and third parts of the "Concerto..."

Photo: Luke Awtry
I't's hard to not attempt to describe each piece of music on this album as each song stands out for its melody, for its emotion, its interplay, the fie solos, and the arrangements. Still, after the tour-de-force of the "Concerto...", the final two tracks should not be missed.  "the (desc/diss)ent" features splendid work from the rhythm section, intelligent section writing plus powerful solos by Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet)––kudos to drummer Will Clark for keeping up his part of the conversation during the solo––followed by a give-and-take with Remy Le Boeuf (soprano sax) and Felipe Salles (tenor sax), also with Clark as a partner. Just past the halfway make of the 13-minute, Ms. Noordhuis steps out for an unaccompanied minute before Michael Caterisano (vibraphone) ushers her back in and slowly, the ensemble reenters.  The soulful trumpet solo takes the song to its close with just high trumpet notes over subdued electric piano.

"volume II: to call her to a higher plain" closes with the Whitacre chorale.  Arranged for the eight brass players, the lovely sounds echo as the melody rises, a spiritual finish to a spirited program.  Kyle Saulnier wants the listener to understand the gravity of the political and social issues that plague the United States but he refuses to lose hope.  There are moments throughout the album where the music asks questions and others where the music and the Awakening Orchestra seems to hold our hands, saying "be strong."

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

Here's the Nine Inch Nails song:


Kyle Saulnier: compositions, arrangements

Remy Le Boeuf, Vito Chiavuzzo, Samuel Ryder, Andrew Gutauskas, and Felipe Salles

Daniel Urness, Seneca Black, Nadje Noordhuis, and Pablo Masis

Michael Fahie, John Yao, Samuel Burtis, and James Rogers

Rhythm Section:
Michael Caterisano, Michael MacAllister, Aaron Kotler, Joshua Paris, and Will Clark

Seth Fruiterman; voice
Julie Hardy; voice
Nathan Hetherington; voice
Brooke Quiggins Saulnier; violin

(Reader, take note––I have known Mr. Saulnier for around six-seven years as we were both teaching at Quinnipiac University in Hamden CT. He's spoken to my classes about contemporary music and we have talked about his writing process and the issues one has trying to get his/her music heard. He's since moved on but we stay in touch. Our discussions barely scratched the surface of how hard he has worked to get this music performed and recorded.  Kudos to Biophilia Records and to Nick Lloyd plus Greg DiCrosta for their efforts in bringing this project to fruition.)

Tenor and soprano saxophonist and composer Marius Neset, a native of Bergen, Norway, has been living in Copenhagen, Denmark, since he began his collegiate career there in 2003. While in school, he met numerous artists and performers, including British keyboard master Django Bates who featured him in his student band at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory.  Upon graduation, Neset began playing in various ensembles (including one with Professor Bates) throughout Europe including several that he lead or co-led.  His debut as a leader, "Suite for Seven Mountains", was issued in 2008 on Edition Records––the saxophonist went on to record several more albums for the British label before signing with the German ACT Music label in 2014, recording his debut album  for them , "Lion" with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.  

In 2019, Neset decided to move back "home" to Norway but, before leaving, he created a program to record with the Danish Radio Big Band with its newly-appointed chief conductor Miho Hazama.  "Tributes", his sixth album as a leader for ACT, features five new original compositions, one ("Bicycle Town") in two parts and another ("Children's Day") in three parts.  The program opens with "Bicycle Town", Neset introducing the song with a circular line that suggests Sonny Rollins without imitating the great master. He goes it alone for several minutes, expanding the melody and his sound until the reeds of the Big Band begins to flutter around him. The playful flutes and the bouncing baritone sax are soon joined by the low brass and eventually the rest of the band.  The music now has a funky feel suggesting Weather Report, especially Joe Zawinul's more rhythmic songs. 

Photo: Nicolas Koch Futtrup
The tune comes to a quick close leaving Neset playing a spiraling line to the close. "...Part 2" is introduced with a new circular line before electric bassist Kaspar Valdsholt digs into his solo.  When the entire band joins, they play a familiar line from "...Part 1" and Neset produces a powerful solo. "Tribute" follows and is a classically-inspired work with a lovely melody––soprano saxophonist Hans Ulrik steps out of the ensemble for a sweet solo.  In fact, his voice dominates the middle of the song before Neset's arrangement for the reeds and brass creates a delightful dance.

The two pieces in the middle of the program, "Farewell" and "Leaving the Dock", would not sound out of place on a Maria Schneider album.  The former starts with a lovely melody for the soprano sax (Neset, this time) supported by the brass, reeds, and piano. The music gently ripples forward as the soprano rises over the ensemble: in this instance, Neset sounds like Wayne Shorter, especially in his most fluid phrasing.  The slow fade leads directly into the next song. One can feel the waves lapping the side of the boat as trumpeter Mads la Cour introduces the melody with the leader and various other reeds shadowing his line. Pianist Henrik Gunde steps out for a thoughtful and poetic solo with the band sitting out for the first few choruses and then offering occasional support. The close of the piece suggests the boat, now on the open sea, looking homeward.

The album closes with the three-part "Children's Day". After its formal opening, "...Part 1" is a delightful and playful piece that suggests the Caribbean with a rollicking solo section for guitarist Per Gade and Neset. The somber theme also opens "...Part 2"––this time, the piece is a ballad with solos by Valdsholt (acoustic bass) and an excellent spotlight for trumpeter Gerard Presencer that covers a lot of time and ideas.  No formality or somber feel as "...Part 3" rides in on hand percussion and thumping bass. Neset dances through his sweet solo with the sections jumping in from time to time. The tenor sax leaps in and out of the sections short phrases before moving into the next part of his solo. The rhythms and the solo are irrepressible and irresistible pushing the band to a rousing climax.  

"Tributes" certainly does not sound like a sad goodbye to Denmark for Marius Neset.  He celebrates his growth as a person and musician, hails his friendships, refers to his musical partnerships, shows how his twin influences of jazz and classical are easily intertwined in this 50-minute program.  A big bow to the work of the Danish Radio Big Band and conductor Miho Hazama (herself an excellent composer-arranger). Music can be and should be a joy to listen to: this recording certainly is!

For more information, go to


Marius Neset; tenor saxophone, compositions

Danish Radio Big Band:

Miho Hazama, conductor

Erik Eilertsen, Thomas Kjærgaard, Dave Vruels, Mads LaCour, and Gerard Presencer

Vincent Nilsson, Peter Dahlgren, Annette Saxe, and Jakob Munck Mortensen

Peter Fuglsang, Nicolai Schultz, Hans Ulrik, Karl-Martin Almqvist, and Anders Gaardmand

Rhythm Section:
Per Gade: guitar
Søren Frost; drums
Kaspar Valdsholt: bass
Henrik Gunde: piano

Here's Marius Neset and the DR Big Band in concert with a song that's not on the album:

Friday, October 2, 2020

Trios Time Again

Pianist and composer Matthew Shipp turns 60 years old in early December and remains one of the busiest, most creative musicians on the Black Music scene.  His current Trio––bassist Michael Bisio and Newman Taylor Baker––is, arguably, his finest ensemble while his music continues to expand.  The band's new album, "The Unidentifiable" (ESP Disk),  captures one's ears and mind from the opening seconds of "Blue Transport System" and refuses to let go until the 10:31 "New Heaven and New Earth" fades to silence. Even then, moments return in snatches of melody, sounds, and beats.  Upon first listening, you might think Newman Taylor Baker's splendid drumming is the reason to return. Perhaps it's Michael Bisio's powerful and often melodic bass work or the muscular piano, long flowing phrases, or thoughtful compositions that the leader supplies that turn your head. In fact, it's all three and more.

Photo Mark Lazarski
I've learned to listen to a new Matthew Shipp Trio all the way through each time. This is not music you "cherry-pick" your favorites and ignore the rest.  Listen to how the rhythm section goes its own way on "Phantom Journey" or provides a gentle cushion of colors for the exploring piano lines on "Dark Sea Negative Charge". Baker's trance-like drums go alone on the short "Virgin Psych Space 1" serving as an intro to the trio's reading of "...Space 2".  Note how each music builds on those drums, Bisio's bass weaving in and around while Shipp's piano travels above.

There is a quiet passion pulsing on the above-mentioned "Dark Sea...."; check out the fascinating hard drumming on "Trance Frame" (another short solo piece) and the powerful piano on "Phantom Journey."  The sound of the album, engineered by Jim Clouse in Park West Studios in Brooklyn, NY, is clean and loud.  Te lengthy final track will glue you to the chair, the thick bass tine, dancing snare work, and the ever-exploratory piano lines slowly build to a powerful climax–Bisio's bowed bass and overtones atop Shipp's gently piano melody become a contrast in light and darkness dropping out so the music can close on Baker's subtle brushwork.

"The Unidentifiable" is one more high point in the creative career of Matthew Shipp, not just for the music he composed for the Trio but also for his continued dialogue with Michael Bisio and Newman Taylor Baker.  There is no compromise, no cliches, just a powerful message of creativity in uncertain times.

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

Here's the opening track:

Pianist and composer Lafayette Gilchrist has created an amazing amount of music, relevant music, over the past three decades.  A resident of Baltimore, MD, since 1987, his music covers a wide swath of territory, from House to Jazz to Hip Hop to Funk to Blues and beyond.  His music has been featured on the HBO series "The Wire" "Treme", and "The Deuce", he's played with the David Murray Quartet as well as drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and bassist William Parker.  The pianist gets compared to many keyboard masters, from McCoy Tyner to Willie :The Lion" Smith––his ability to play so any styles reminds this listener of the late Jaki Byard.

It's been 13 years and myriad experiences since his last Trio album ("3") was issued. "Now" (self-released) has arrived and it's an collection of amazing adventures.  Two CDs, 16 songs (all originals), 150 minutes, and the great rhythm section of Herman Burnie (bass) and Eric Kennedy (drums), the music is an incredible journey.  Opening with "Assume The Position" (first heard on David Simon's "The Wire"), the listener is bowled over by the thundering chords, the rapid-fire drums, and the pounding bass.   Latter on Disk one, "BMore Careful" is a New Orleans-inspired blues that serves a warning and a spotlight for Burnie's handsome arco work. Kennedy's drums and Gilchrist's piano are mixed high and loud making the music jump from the speakers.  

Dig into "On Your Belly Like a Snake", another hard-edged romp. Most of the longer pieces (seven of the 16 tracks are 10 minutes or longer) usually have stretches where the band eases off the intensity but here it's a short break before the drums push the leader to play harder. Disk one closes with "The Midnight Step Rag", a delightful dance with a touch of the Crescent City in Kennedy's drumming and a bouncy piano solo.  You can just about pick out the deep notes of the bass but also listen to the pianist's active left hand.

Photo: Theresa Keil
Disk two opens with the 13:33 "Tomorrow Is Waiting Now (Sharon's Song)", a handsome medium tempo ballad that builds in intensity on the strength of Gilchrist's splendid piano playing.  Burnie creates a fine solo as well and even though Kennedy does not solo, he plays an integral role throughout the piece. The following piece, "The Wonder of Being Here", is a true ballad, a handsome one at that. The bassist shows his melodic side, especially beneath the lovely piano solo.  Later on the disk, "Can You Speak My Language" is a poignant ballad, the two-handed piano playing and Gilchrist's melodic runs seem to nod towards Keith Jarrett.

Disk two and the album closes with "Specials Revealed", a rich melody wrapped in a soulful rhythm. Gilchrist's solo is built off the repeating chords in his left hand and he gracefully moves up the keyboard while Burnie hugs the bass line and Kennedy pushes the rhythm forward.  I understand the title of the song is also the name the leader has given the Trio–that make sense as this is special music. Yes, "Now" is a lot of music to take in all at once, really three good sets of music on two CDs.  But, take your time and do take it all in.  One can hear so much in the music that Lafayette Gilchrist, Herman Burnie, and Eric Kennedy have created for this album.  Gilchrist's collection of songs plumb his own experiences as well as those of his community, reminding us that music not only tells stories but moves us emotionally. "Now" moves, oh yes it moves!  

For more information, go to

Here's the powerful opening track:

The trio of Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano saxophones), Ben Goldberg (clarinet and contra-alto clarinet), and Dana Hall (drums, percussion) first met in 2017 at The Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL.  That chance encounter led to "General Semantics" (Delmark Records), recorded a year later.  All three musicians have years of experiences behind them as leaders, co-leaders, or group members (Bradfield and Hall have worked together over two decades)––one can tell from the music that recorded how comfortable they are with each other, willing to push and be pushed into many different musical areas.

What a splendid sonic journey this is.  Opening with the quiet rush of "Air" (Bradfield on tenor, Goldberg on contra alto, and Hall using brushes), the music dances forward delightfully as the two reed players carry on quite a conversation.  Composed by the late pianist Cecil Taylor and recorded in 1961 by Steve Lacy, the "swinging" track has a timeless feel. "Tioga Street Zenith" is a three-way conversation, a bit more frenzied yet Hall sticks with brushes as the reeds spar and parry.  "Last Important Heartbreak of the Year" may sound like the title of a Country ballad but is really a rollicking tune with New Orleans drumming goosing the reeds right along.  A bit later in the program, "Hit Flip Switch" (from Goldberg's prolific pen) also is a delightful romp, hearkening back to the raucous music of Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds. Bradfield's laughing soprano and Goldberg's playful clarinet should tickle one's fancy!

The soprano sax and clarinet combo returns to dance together yet again on Hermeto Pascoal's happy "8 de Agosto"––again, the two reeds weave around each other as Hall kicks and sticks away with glee.  Bradfield's tenor sax introduces the title song which soon drops into a funky beat, Goldberg's contra alto clarinet producing the bass line. The tenor solo is built off that bass line while Hall keeps the tune close to the ground.  "Half The Fun" opens with a "deep" solo from Goldberg over quiet hand-held percussion.  Several minutes later, Hall drops into a modified "jungle" rhythm a la 1920's Duke Ellington, Goldberg plays a slinky bass line, and Bradfield creates a sweet soprano sax melody.

The album comes to a close with "Under and Over" which has a "freer" feel as the tenor sax and drums open the piece in a fiery conversation.  After they stop, Hall drops into a slow, bluesy, beat, Goldberg's clarinet gets the melody while Bradfield acts as the bass line. There's a feel of Julius Hemphill's "Hard Blues" in the sound of the music, in the way the sax and clarinet move together. The piece closes with a classically-inspired clarinet and tenor saxophone duet.

The trio of Geof Bradfield, Ben Goldberg, and Dana Hall reminds us that when like-minded musicians get together, magic can happen.  Magic does happen on "General Semantics"––this delightful and musical recording is well worth your attention!

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Hear the album's closing track: