Thursday, December 30, 2021

Canadian Wonderlands


Carn Davidson 9, the brainchild of trombonist/ composer William Carn and multi-reed player/ composer Tara Davidson (they are also husband and wife), has been in existence for a decade.  Composed of nine of the busiest musicians and educators in the Toronto, Canada, area, the nonet (see personnel below) features three reeds, four brass, and bass and drums, but no chordal instruments.  The intelligent compositions and arrangements spread the warm sounds of the brass and reeds across the sound spectrum with rich melodies and harmonies that pull in the listener.  Kudos also go to the splendid rhythm section –– bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Ernesto Cervini –– for their great support, enthusiastic as well as musical playing, and sensitivity in propelling the "little big band". 

The nonet's third album, "The History of Us" (Three Pines Records), consists of two three-song suites plus one composition by Carn dedicated to the late Murphy the Cat who is positioned in the middle of the album cover.  The trombonist's "Finding Home Suite" (Pt. 1 – "A New Life") opens the recording in a ballad tempo led in by the flutes and clarinets with the brass and supportive reeds on either side of the sound spectrum.  Kevin Turcotte creates a fine trumpet solo in the middle, reminiscent of the sound and style of the late Kenny Wheeler. The opening brass and reeds fanfare of "A Mother's Song" has the richness of a Bob Brookmeyer arrangement–– as the song progresses, the trumpets open the melody then share it with the reeds and trombones.  The suite closes with "Home" with the baritone saxophone and low tines leading the way to the melody. The emotion of the melody pushes the piece forward to a bluesy and powerful baritone sax solo from Shirantha Beddage that fills the mid-section of the nearly nine-minute piece.  The reeds follow with a repetition of the melody that builds in intensity until a solo trombone line slows the piece down, producing a lovely coda.

As the album title suggests, this is a very "family-centric" program with songs by both co-leaders dedicated to parents (and, yes, the late family cat).  The music is impressionistic but nearly always with a calm center.  On ""Swept Out to Sea (For Dad)", the sweep of the brass and reeds as well as how Kelly Jefferson's tenor sax solo steps out is reminiscent of Maria Schneider's "open sounds" –– the sharp but not harsh brass sounds and the warm reeds blend fill in the musical portrait.

"The History of Us" is a powerful yet mentally soothing program from Carn Davidson 9.  Powerful because the songs and the performances are so heart-felt and soothing because in these uncertain often frightening times, we need "us" more than ever.  To find out more, go to  To hear, watch, and purchase the album, go to

Listen to "A Mother's Song", the second Movement from the "Finding Home Suite":


Tara Davidson – alto & soprano saxophones, clarinet (track 4), flute, piccolo
Kelly Jefferson – tenor & soprano saxophones, clarinet (track 1)
Shirantha Beddage – baritone saxophone & bass clarinet
Jason Logue – trumpet & flugelhorn
Kevin Turcotte - trumpet & flugelhorn
William Carn – trombone & bass trombone (track 4)
Christian Overton – bass trombone
Andrew Downing – acoustic bass
Ernesto Cervini – drums & percussion

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Don Macdonald lives in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada (located 410 miles to the east of Vancouver, BC and 387 miles southwest of Calgary, Alberta, Canada) where he teaches in the Contemporary Music and Technology Program of Selkirk College Contemporary Music and Technology Program. His musical life is delightfully eclectic having composed operas, choral works, movie soundtracks, played in jazz and rock bands plus has worked in World Music settings.  

His latest album, "Shifting Sands" (self-released) is a collection of nine original instrumentals with a group of musicians from or based in Canada plus mandolinist Jason Anick from Boston, MA.  Macdonald plays violin throughout (he's also a saxophonist); besides his fine musicianship and that of his colleagues, it's the musical settings he creates that catch the ear. Yes, this is "fusion" music but with a twist in that the melodies and rhythms get in your ears and stay there. Whether it's the jazzy drive of the title tune or the flamenco-inspired drive of "La Tormenta" (great solo from guitarist Mike Rud) or the flowing melody of "Atacama" or the joyous bounce of "Bayou" (a Crescent City hoedown at its best), the music wraps the listener in its creative embrace (leaving your feet free to dance!).

"Shifting Sands" is an apropos title in that every song stands out from the other yet the program never feels forced or slick.  There are moments that remind this listener of the fusion music violinist Jean-Luc Ponty created through his career (also hear Ponty in Macdonald's tone). Need a musical pick-me-up?  Play this new recording Don Macdonald and your mood is sure to turn brighter!

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

Put on those dancing shoes – here's a taste of "Bayou": 


Don Macdonald - violin/composer/producer
Dave Restivo - piano
Mike Rud - guitar
Steven Parish - drums
Rob Fahie and Jill McKenna - upright bass
Jason Anick and Dylan Ferris - mandolin

Israeli-born pianist, composer, and educator Noam Lemish has issued his second solo piano album, "Erlebnisse" (self-released) but his first with all-original music.  Lemish, who is Assistant Professor of Jazz Instruction and Pedagogy in the Music Department of York University in Toronto, came to the United States, specifically to the San Francisco Bay area, to study music with and perform with W.A. Mathieu and percussionist George Marsh. He co-leads a quartet with Israeli oud player Amos Hoffman and they play original tunes as well as songs from their native land.  Lemish is also the co-director of the Israeli-Iranian Musical Initiative, an ensemble based in Toronto that plays music from both countries with musicians that come from that area of the world.   

"Erlebnisse" can mean "deeply felt experiences" (in conversation, the pianist hinted that translation does not totally the convey the power in the word) – in that spirit, the 16 improvisations that make up the program reflect the various life experiences that Lemish has encountered. Dedicated to Mathieu, the pieces range from dramatic to quiet to nearly without form to quiet rumination and more.  There are myriad musical references but mostly, this is the pianist connecting his inner world to the piano keys. What one hears in  this music is Lemish's sense of wonder, his love of exploration, and who he was at the time of and on the day of the recording.  Shed your own expectations, step into the pianist's world, and listen. Be open. Be vulnerable.
Noam Lemish can't hope for more than that.

To find out more about the artist, go to  To hear more and to purchase the album, go to  

Here is "Erelbnis 2":


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Rest of the Music that Moved, Soothed, Educated, and Inspired in 2021!

Yes, it's a long list but my belief is that the albums I have chosen are all worth listening to, that they speak to our current world situations, that the music can give us strength to more forward.  Will this complete the job for 2021? Lord no, but all of these are albums I received to review and not ones that I purchased.  Do check these out if you haven't already!  Happy & Healthy New Year!!

Amir El Saffar River of Sound – "The Other Shore" (Outnote Music/ Outhere Records) – Trumpeter, santurist (the santur is a dulcimer), vocalist, composer, and arranger ElSaffar formed River of Sound six years ago to continue his explorations into Maqam, jazz forms, and more.  This 17-piece ensemble (plus guests) includes strings, different percussion instruments, guitar, piano, oud, reeds, brass, and the leader's fascinating wordless vocals.  This is music to savor, to get lost in, to marvel at the possibilities, and float away.  

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo – "El Arte Del Bolero" (Miel Music) – This splendid live duo recording finds the alto saxophonist and his long-time quartet pianist playing six Latin "standards", caressing each melody and imbuing each song with emotional solos.  While some might say that this is good "evening" music, these tunes sure sound great early in the morning when the natural world is awakening.  

Artifacts – "...and then there's this" (Astral Spirits) – Artifacts (flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid, and drummer Mike Reed), all members of Chicago's AACM, paid tribute to their elders on its 2015 debut from which they took their name. Here, they mostly concentrate on original music. One might be surprised how funky much of this music sounds yet there is depth, interplay, powerful melodies, and a sense of playfulness that transcends genres and generations.  

Matthew Shipp – "Codebreaker" (TAO Forms) – 2021 was yet another amazing year for pianist Shipp but this solo piano session ranks among his best ever.  While one can still hear the fire that characterizes his earlier album, Mr. Shipp has been exhibiting a delightful melodic streak of late. His ability to create music that eschews genres and cliches remains one of the strongest factors in Matthew Shipp's creative world.

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints – "Other Worlds" (Greenleaf Music)  – The music on "Other Worlds" is a delightful mix of well-developed melodies and sparkling solos with a rhythm section (pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Joey Baron) second to none.  Messrs. Lovano and Douglas say their inspiration for the quintet remains the visionary work of Wayne Shorter. No better choice for a blueprint but the music on this release is even more than that. Also, great music to get lost in!

Jared Schonig – "Two Takes Volumes 1 (Big Band) & Volume 2 (Quintet)" (Anzic Records) – Drummer and composer Schonig, one of the busier players on the NYC scene pre-Pandemic, has released a most impressive debut recording; in fact, two recordings.  The Big Band session features eight original compositions , each one arranged by a different (and fairly famous) resident of the Big Apple. The Quintet album features trumpeter Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, pianist Luis Perdomo, and bassist Matt Clohesy –– with the exception of the three "Drum Interludes" and an electronically processed "Introduction..." intro to the opening track, the repertoire is the same as on the Big Band disk.  Both are worth owning with the edge going to the exhilarating Quintet date.

Jihye Lee Orchestra – "Daring Mind" (Motema Music) – Ms. Lee, who had a good career in her native South Korea as a singer-songwriter, came to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music and discovered a new voice as a composer of large ensemble.  Her self-funded debut album, "April" was issued in 2017, receiving praise from many fellow musicians and arrangers. "Daring Mind" is a delightful blend of melodies, harmonies, and rhythms that takes musical influences from her native country, mixes that with a healthy dose of Western influences plus Ms. Lee's natural curiosity and creates new and quite fascinating.

Go to

Miho Hazama/ Danish Radio Big Band – "Imaginary Visions" (Edition Records) – In 2019, Ms. Hazama took on a new assignment as Chief Conductor of the Danish Radio Big Band and this album bears the first fruits of that new relationship.  She s following in the footsteps of such notable composers, arrangers, and conductors as Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, and Jim McNeely and if this first album with the DRB is any indication, her tenure should be quite productive and enjoyable for fans of large ensemble music.

Dave Holland – "Another Land" (Edition Records) – Master bassist Holland is in the midst of a long and amazing career. This album, which features guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire, roars, whispers, and rushes forward in a glorious blend of sounds. The opening cut, "Grave Walker", is the funkiest music the bassist has created since his days with Miles Davis's "electric" ensemble.  And the title track is a lovely reminder that guitarist Eubanks can draw one in on the strength of his melodies and improvisations.  I can listen to this music all day and revel in its creativity and joy!

Sam Pilnick's Nonet Project – "The Adler Suite" (OutsideIn Music) – Composer, arranger, saxophonist, educator, and bandleader Pilnick looked to the stars for inspiration as he write the material for his Nonet Project.  Based in Chicago, he spent a number of days composing while visiting the Adler Planetarium and the results are an expansive set of compositions for his little Big Band.  The repertoire display Pilnick's wonder and curiosity and, hopefully, is the beginning of a long, productive, career creating music that transports the listener beyond the mundane.

Tim Hagans & the NDR Big Band – "A Conversation" (Waiting Moon Records) – Like the Amir ElSaffar album listed above, the music on composer, arranger, and trumpeter Tim Hagan's new recording takes its time to unfold. The liner notes tell the reader that the arranger broke the Big Band into a number of different "chat rooms" (my words, not Hagan's) so that the various instrumentalists in each would react and respond to each other. It's a fascinating concept that takes the listener a while to grasp; meanwhile, the intelligent melodies and smashing arrangements draws one in to the music.  

Remy Le Bouef's Assembly of Shadows – "Architecture of Storms" (Soundspore Records) – The second large ensemble album from composer, arranger, and alto saxophonist Remy Le Bouef features nine tracks recorded before the pandemic in 2019 and three recorded in Spring 2021. The composer's splendid ear for melodies and smart harmonies that one heard on 2019's "Assembly of Shadows" album are here as well as is his intelligent arrangements plus sense of rhythmic drive.  This time around, the leader solos on five of the nine tracks and it's a distinct to hear his alto soaring about the ensemble.  

Last but not least....

Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller – "In Harmony" (Resonance Records) – Resonance Records is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Producer and coordinator Zev Feldman scouts the world to find live recordings that are either long out-of-print, concerts recorded for radio, and connoisseur recordings committed to tape by zealous fans.  This splendid two-CD set reminds us how great both these musicians were, how the music created through their sadly short lives was so vital, and how sorely many of us miss them. As always, the liner notes are thorough and entertaining, the sound quality excellent, and the music a pure delight!

Friday, December 24, 2021

2021 – Music That Moved, Soothed, Educated, and Inspired (Part 2)

 Since I began this blog in 2009, I realized that every Top Ten list has a number 11, 12, and so on. When hundreds of recordings are released every year, it's physically impossible to give every one of those albums the time it deserves to be heard but I believe that every reviewer/ critic has favorites that could quite easily replace several, if not more, of the recordings listed 1-10.  Ergo, here's Part 2.

Fergus McCreadie – "Cairn" (Edition Records) – The young Scottish pianist and composer has proven himself to be a technical wizard but this album shows he has a delightful and potent lyrical side. Wit an equally impressive rhythm section, this music sings.

Go to

Joe Fiedler's "Open Sesame" – "Fuzzy and Blue" (Multiphonics Music) –  Trombonist, orchestrator, and composer Fiedler has the music director of "Sesame Street" for over a decade embraces his playful side. Along with trumpeter Steven Bernstein, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Sean Conly, drummer Michael Sarin, and (occasional) vocalist Miles Griffith, he takes this "kids music" and brings out the funky, jazzy, side. 

William Parker – "Migrations of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World" (AUM Fidelity) – 10 albums, 10 different ensembles, hours of fascinating music: released early in 2021, this collection continues to display/ uncover the bassist's endless springs of  creativity each time you play one or more of the recordings. In those hours when the despair in the world has tried to overtake the days/ nights, Mr. Parker's music reminds one that music is a welcome oasis.

In 2021, the Finnish label TUM Records celebrated Wadada Leo Smith's 80th birth year by releasing four projects, three in multi-disk boxed sets that the trumpeter, composer, and conceptualist recorded in the past six year. All four deserve to to be listed in Part 1 of these posts and in any "Best of" list. The picture on the left is the cover of "A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday" featuring Wadada with drummer/ percussionist Jack DeJohnette and pianist/ organist/ synth player Vijay Iyer.

"Trumpet" (pictured left) is three albums of solo trumpet music recorded in St Mary's Church in Pohja, Finland. Before you shake your head and walk away, know that this is an amazing journey filled with introspection, joy, feistiness, freedom, and more, never failing to satisfy the adventurous listener. One can hear the spirits of Louis Armstrong, Lester Bowie, Booker Little, and Clifford Brown shaking their collective heads and shouting "Amen"!

"Sacred Ceremonies" is also a three-CD set, one with Wadada and percussionist Milford Graves, one with the trumpeter and bassist Bill Laswell, the third with all three artists.  The sound quality of these albums is stunning, one feels as he or she in the middle of a room watching the the musicians creating in the moment.  Music without borders played by musicians who love and respect each other so they create without ego.

Go to to find out more and also to check the 38-minute video of Wadada's 80th Birthday tribute.  

Gabriel Vicéns – "The Way We Are Created" (Inner Circle Music) – Puerto Rican-born guitarist and composer Vicéns strikes gold with his third album as a leader. His mature, intelligent, and playful compositions are performed by a splendid sextet including Roman Filiú (alto sax), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Rick Rosato (bass), E.J. Strickland (drums), and Victor Pablo (percussion). One can get lost, entranced, in the flow of this wonder-filled collection.

Roxana Amed - "Ontology" (Sony Music/Latin) – The Argentinean-born, Miami, FL, vocalist, composer, and educator has had a long and distinguished career in Latin America. Since moving to the US, Ms. Amed has created alongside Guillermo Klein, Frank Carlberg, Leo Genovese, and others – this album runs the gamut from introspective ballads to performances in a "freer" style and a voice that move one to the edge of his seat.

Go to

Jen Shyu – "Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses" (Pi Recordings) – There are albums and artists whose music enters my brain and soul yet I cannot really describe why. Ms. Shyu, an amazing composer, musician, and performer has the innate ability to make "foreign" sounds feel familiar; in the case of this album, much of which is inspired by the loss of her father, it's because she is telling a story mostly all of us live through, facing pain with the need to create music that "frees" feelings. Her ensemble – Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Dan Weiss (drums, percussion), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Mat Manieri (viola) –  aids in her quest with creativity and dignity for the subject matters.

Lorraine Feather – "My Own Particular Life"  (Relarion Records) – Ms. Feather has proven herself time and time again to be one of the finest lyricists of the past 20 years. Over the past decade, her albums have become even more personal even as she displays quite a love for science as well as more arcane subjects. This may be her most personal album as there are songs that address her former husband's battle with dementia, how one lives a real life during the pandemic, and a few more.  But there are also new examples of her delightful humor. The band, all recorded remotely (including the late percussionist Michael Shapiro who recorded his work in the Philippines!), is her usual band of suspects including the wondrous violin of Charlie Bisharat.  

Art Hirahira – "Open Sky" (Posi-Tone Records) – Over the past decade, pianist and composer Art Hirahira has issued six albums as a leader for the Los Angeles-based Posi-Tone Records: he started out strong in 2011 with "Noble Path" and his music has only gotten stronger and more delightful since.  Here, he is backed by Posi-Tone's "pandemic" rhythm section (bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Rudy Royston with guests vibraphonist Behn Gillece and tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover performing on selected tracks) and the results are exciting, lyrical, exploratory, and so much more.

Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge – "Within Us" (MAMA Records/ Summit Records) – Composer, arranger, and educator Owen (who retired this year) has produced one fine large ensemble album. The lyricism, the musicianship, the delightful violin of guest artist Sara Caswell, and a 19-piece band that is so responsive that the music flows seemingly without effort, Mr. Owen has kept this band together for 25 years (this album celebrates that longevity), continuing to produce music filled with ideas, possibilities, dreams, and realities.  

As I look back over this list, all of them deserve top 10 status so I'll call them #11 A-L.  I'll unveil a list of #12s next week.  

Be safe!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2021 - Music that Moved, Soothed, Educated, and Inspired (Part 1)

 One gets to a certain point in life, especially if one has been reviewing albums for over five decades, that you realize what it is that really moves you. 2021, and all the craziness that has occurred, the anger, the apathy, the bullshit, the miracles, the possibilities, has been filled with a ton of great music.  Impossible to pick one favorite, never mind 10.  This list is split into two parts: the first list contains the 10+ I chose for the Critics Poll. 

James Brandon Lewis/ Red Lily Quintet – "Jesup Wagon" (Tao Forms) – Great story, great playing, important message, JBL and cohorts (drummer Chad Taylor, bassist William Parker, cornettist Kirk Knuffke, and cellist Chris Hoffman) create sounds soaked in blues and country folk, post-bop and more, into one of the freshest programs of this or any year. 
JBL's new Intakt release, "Code of Being", is also worth your close attention but start here!

Various Artists – "Kimbrough" (Newvelle Records Digital only) –– It's been almost a year since pianist/ composer/ educator Frank Kimbrough passed on and the effects of his passing continue to reverberate through the music. To honor Kimbrough's accomplishments as a composer and educator, producer and Newvelle Records co-owner Evan Mehler (also a former student) gathered 65 musicians, many of whom had played and/or studied with FK. The producer and the musicians spent four days in May in the studio in various formations recording 60 of Kimbrough's composition (one song is recorded twice, one with a vocalist, the other time as an instrumental). Two months, Newvelle released the 61 tracks as a digital download and at a reduced price –– the music is well worth exploring, painting multiple portraits of a composer always looking to create new ways of expressing melody and emotion.

Ches Smith and We All Break – Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic Records) - Percussionist, composer, and experimenter Ches Smith first got involved playing Haitian Vodou music over two decades, first as an accompanist for dancers before forming his group and creating new music for a quartet (drums, percussion, and piano) he formed.  That group recorded in 2015 on a small label.  For his second album, We All Break has expanded to an octet, adding a female vocalist, a fourth percussionist, and the evocative alto saxophone of Miguel Zenón. The music is fascinating, hypnotic, the rhythms pouring out of the speakers pushed by the small army of percussionists and pianist Matt Mitchell. Great package (if you buy the CD), so colorful plus informative and you get the quartet album as well!

Kate McGarry & Keith Ganz Ensemble – "
What To Wear in the Dark" (Resilience Music) - Just what one needs in the midst of a dark year is music that teaches us about love, resilience, friendship, creativity, and more.  Ms. McGarry and Mr. Ganz reimagine a number of songs from artists such as The Beatles, Steely Dan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and others, creating a program that often lads the listener back to the possibility of hope. Not only is Ms. McGarry's voice in splendid shape but also the arrangements by Mr. Ganz stand out for their creativity and musicianship.

Go to for more information.

Julius Hemphill – "The Boyé Multi-National Crusade for Harmony: Archival Recordings 1977-2007" (New World Records) – As Historical Recordings/ Reissues go, this seven CD set of live and studio recordings from the late composer, saxophonist, and conceptualist Hemphill (1938-1995) is akin to finding a vein of gold running through your backyard.  Kudos to producer/ curator Marty Ehrlich for his tireless work going through Mr. Hemphill's archives of papers and tapes housed at the Fales Library & Special Collections of New York University.  If you're a fan of Mr. Hemphill's adventurous music, this collection is a must. If you don't know how important he was to Black American Music in the last 25 years of the 20th Century, this set is essential learning.

Steve Coleman and Five Elements – "Live at The Village Vanguard (MDW NTR)" (Pi Recordings) – This two-CD set from MacArthur Genius grant recipient and innovator Coleman's May 2018 three nights at the legendary New York City music venue continues an incredible of amazing music that the Chicago native has produced over the past three+ decades.  Mr. Coleman is his usual fiery self on alto saxophone surrounded by the stunning rhythm section of Anthony Tidd (bass) and Sean Rickman (drums) with the exploratory trumpet of Jonathan Finlayson and the brilliant vocal poetry of Kokayi. This music is relentless and once you start listening, you do not want to stop. 

Henry Threadgill ZOOID – "Poof" (Pi Recordings) - Mr. Threadgill is deep into his sixth decade of stretching the boundaries of Creative Music; ZOOID celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year showing no end to the creative adventures that the composer/ alto saxophonist/ flutist designs for them.  Some people call this music jazz, some classical, but it's so much more than that. This music is storytelling that reaches into both your brain and soul, exposing one to possibilities of melody, sound, interaction, and ideas that seem radical but once absorbed, become part of one's DNA.  And, it's always a treat when Mr. Threadgill plays with his band!

Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet – "The Chicago Symphonies" (TUM Records) – Wadada Leo Smith's music was ubiquitous in 2021 and believe me when I tell you it's hard to pick just one (in fact, all four of his TUM releases make my extended list (the entire list will be posted soon).  While the trumpeter/ composer/ conceptualist is not a Chicago native, his amazing musical vision began to find its shapes while working with various members of the AACM, coming to life as he played alongside Anthony Braxton, the late violinist Leroy Jenkins, and late drummer Steve McCall.  His Great Lake Quartet includes two Chicago stalwarts, Henry Threadgill and drummer Jack DeJohnette, plus long-time ally, bassist John Lindberg (saxophonist Jonathon Haffner replaces Mr. Threadgill on disk 4).  These four "Symphonies" focus on the people and ideas that Mr. Smith encountered in Chicago and the AACM people he encountered later in Paris, France, and New Haven, CT.  I spent the better part of two weeks almost exclusively listening to these disks and still hear new ideas and make new connections when I return to the albums.

Sonny Rollins – "Rollins in Holland: the 1967 Studio & Live Recordings" (Resonance Records) – As the psychedelic era of rock music enveloped the United States in its smoky haze, jazz masters were beginning to lose their places on the Hot 100 albums and many clubs were revising their music policy. Tenor sax master Sonny Rollins was about to on another sabbatical but before he did, he honored a number of outstanding performances. He landed in Holland in May of 1967, met his rhythm section, bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink, played a radio show and a couple of club dates, then moved on.  The music on this two CD set features shorter pieces recorded for the noontime radio show plus a generous helping of longer cuts from the "live" dates.  The sound quality of the broadcasts are top-notch but the relative brevity of the tracks does not give the leader music room to stretch; he's also quite generous in giving solo time to his rhythm section. The longer live cuts have poorer sound quality but Mr. Rollins shines throughout! 

Chet Doxas - "You Can't Take It With You" (Whirlwind Recordings) – Tenor saxophonist Doxas in a trio setting with pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Thomas Morgan playing a delightful and heartfelt program of standards and originals.  The intimacy of this trio sans drums pulls the listener in, seducing one with melodic interplay, thoughtful interpretations, intelligent solos, and a sense of calm.  Doxas can "blow" with the best but here he chooses melody over facility/ technique. It's music for early morning and long nights when one can soak in the sounds without engaging the rest of the world.  

Mario Pavone Dialects Trio + 1 – "Blue Vertical" (Out of Your Head Records) –  In my original list, I posted "Isabella", the album Mr Pavone recorded with his Tampa Quartet in late February of this year but, after going back and listening to both posthumous albums, this one stood out a bit more. Recorded four weeks later (and six weeks before cancer claimed his life), one is amazed by the depth of the compositions (plus the brilliant of trumpeter Dave Ballou) and Mr. Pavone's stellar musicianship. Pianist Matt Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey fill out the band – this ensemble's  history with the bassist explains why the music feels so urgent but not rushed.  Though I knew Mario Pavone for almost five decades, heard him play countless times, this is not a sentimental favorite.  This album shines brightly!

Roy Brooks – "Understanding" (Reel-to-Real Records) – For a time in the late 1960s and 70s, Roy Brooks was the "drummer" from Detroit. Not only did he lead his own ensembles but he also played alongside Horace Silver, Yusef Lateef, Chet Baker, and in Max Roach's percussion ensemble  M'Boom. This "buried" treasure was recorded live in Baltimore, MD, on November 1, 1970 and features the amazing trumpet work of Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist Carlos Garnett, pianist Harold Mabern, and bassist Cecil McBee.  The intensity level this quintet creates leaps out of the speakers (the interactions between Shaw and Brooks are reminiscent of those of John Coltrane and Elvin Jones – no prisoners!) Roy Brooks, who passed in 2005, had a tough life yet his flame shone brightly until his illnesses got the best of him.  

Glenn Close & Ted Nash – "Transformation" (Tiger Turn) – Ms. Close and Mr. Nash decided to work together after the actress hosted the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (of which Mr. Nash is a charter member) after a concert near her summer home in Maine. They threw ideas around for a collaboration and settled on telling stories about people who have made life-changing decisions and the people those decisions affect.  The blend of Mr. Nash's original music with the stories of people such as the saxophonist's son Eli, actor/ comedian Wayne Brady, convicted murderer Judith Clarke, activist Matthew Stevenson, E.O Wilson, playwright Tony Kushner, and others, remind us how complex the world can be and how the simple acts of paying attention and acceptance can make such a difference.  

Go to  

More to follow!  Everyone, be safe!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

From Vinyl to Digital

Newvelle Records, the American-French collaboration that has created an amazing series of modern jazz vinyl albums over the past six years, is just beginning to release some of those albums on their new digital label.  Earlier in 2021, the label released three albums (two new) including the brilliant 61-track tribute to the late pianist Frank Kimbrough plus two duo albums, one by bassist Skúli Sverisson and guitarist Bill Frisell (which had been released on vinyl in 2018) as well as one by vocalist Becca Stevens with label co-owner/ pianist Elan Mehler.

Now, as the year closes, the label has chosen to release three more of the original vinyl albums in a digital format, one from each of their first three "seasons".  Note that the musicians own the rights to the music after two years –– artists who the label has recorded have issued their Newvelle Lps on their own labels including bassist Ben Allison, saxophonist Tim Berne, and guitarist Lionel Loueke (in both a trio session and a duo date with pianist Kevin Hays). 

Let me also state here that when you visit the label's website –– –– you'll also see that there are recordings of artists from New Orleans (among them, the late Ellis Marsalis as well as vocalist Irma Thomas) plus an "international artists" collection that includes vinyl releases by guitarist Gilad Hekselman (Israel) and trumpeter/flugelhornist Nadje Noordhuis (Australia).

The label's first vinyl release was "Meantime" featuring pianist Frank Kimbrough in a quartet/quintet setting with tenor saxophonist Andy Zimmerman, bassist Chris Van Vorst Van Beest, drummer R.J. Miller, and, on several tracks, trumpeter Riley Mulherkar.  The program, expanded from nine to 12 tracks on the new release, features both new and older originals plus several standards.  Zimmerman is a new voice for me –– he's been based in Chicago for several decades and made his debut as a leader on Newvelle in Season Three, a quartet setting with trumpeter Dave Douglas, pianist Kevin Hays, and bassist Matt Penman.  The saxophonist and leader work well together really nicely (check out "Alabama Song" below), his subdued attack on the sax similar to the gentle explorations of Kimbrough. Adding Mulherkar to the mix, especially on the swing take of Andrew Hill's "Laverne", is a treat as the trumpeter gets to display his delightful bop chops. The rhythm section is responsive throughout while the pianist's inventiveness, as usual of his albums, shines brightly. 

There's much more –– if you are a fan of Frank Kimbrough's music and did not spring for the vinyl (mea culpa), this is a very welcome addition to your collection. Go to and purchase this delightful album.

Here's the opening cut:

From Newvelle's second season comes "Cuban Nocturne", a solo piano release featuring the impressive Cuban-born now American artist Aruán Ortiz.  The pianist, a native of Santiago de Cuba, started out on violin and viola as a youth but switched to the keyboard after moving to Havana in his late teens to attend school. He went on to study in Barcelona, Spain, before moving to the Berklee school in Boston, Ma, on a full scholarship.  Ortiz has recorded nine albums as a leader or co-leader but "Cuban Nocturne" is his first program of classical Cuban music.  Pieces from the composers Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905), Antonio María Romeu (1876-1955), Ernesto Lecouna (1895-1963), and Catalan composer Federico Mompou  (1893- 1987) plus the title track which Ortiz created for the 2015 movie "Sin Alas (Without Wings)" as well as two short original "Interludes".  It's a stunning, delightfully impressionistic, 38+ minutes of splendid musicianship, lovely even stately melodies, and certainly well worth your time and money!

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

Here's the title track:

From Newvelle's third season comes "Charlie & Paul", an tribute to bassist Charlie Haden (1937-1914) and drummer Paul Motian (1931-2011) created by guitarist Steve Cardenas with a ensemble that features Loren Stillman (alto saxophone), bassist Thomas Morgan, and drummer Matt Wilson. The program includes five compositions from Motian (three of which are premiered on this album) and five from Haden (one of which, "There In a Dream", is not on the vinyl version). All four musicians had worked with one or both of the two Masters (Cardenas is the only one who played with both) and the listener can tell that by the way they dig into the material with love, passion, respect, and joy. The music runs the gamut from Country-rock ("Prairie Avenue Cowboy") to a Spanish-Latin feel ("La Passionara") to "freer" associations ("Riff Raff") to a gentle acoustic guitar driven folkish tune ("For Turiya") to "electric bebop ("For the Love of Sarah") and elsewhere. The music is a treat from start-to-finish and the digital sound quality is first class!  The crisp, clean, tones of Cardenas's acoustic guitar as well as Morgan's soulful bass work stand out as do the delightful percussion play of Wilson and Stillman's melodic, cool, alto sax lines.  Such an excellent ensemble, splendid material, and enchanting musicianship.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Just the Child in Me

Photo: Peter Gannushkin
It's nearly impossible not to like Joe Fiedler the person. The Pittsburgh, PA, native has a quick sense of humor, is curious about lots of different things, and is a hard worker.  Joe Fiedler the trombonist is a top-notch player who has shared stages with musicians and groups that range from Eddie Palmieri to Maria Schneider, Anthony Braxton to The Four Tops, and beyond.  The trombonist also played in numerous Broadway pit bands including the entire run of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" as well as the soundtrack for the recent movie production of the play.  Since 2009, Joe Fielder has been the music director for "Sesame Street", arranging, orchestrating, and conducting the eight-piece orchestra. On top of all that, he leads an eponymous trio, the all-brass quartet known as Big Sackbut, and the quintet Open Sesame.  

In February of 2019, Fiedler's Multiphonics Music label issued the album "Open Sesame", a 17-song collection 15 of which were from the children's show along with two group improvisations. And, what a group –– joining the trombonist was Jeff Lederer (soprano and tenor saxes), Sean Conly (electric bass), and Michael Sarin (drums) plus special guest Steven Bernstein (trumpet, slide trumpet). The same group, now with Mr. Bernstein as a full-time member, and Conly on mostly acoustic bass), is back for "Fuzzy and Blue" (Multiphonics). Also in the mix for two songs is vocalist Miles Griffith. 13 songs including one three-song suite and two-song medley make up the program with over half the songs credited to Joe Raposo who was the first music director on the "...Street".

Photo: Peter Gannushkin
Chances are good you'll recognize a number of these melodies whether you sat with your children or grandchildren watching the show or you grew up parked in front of PBS in the morning.  The proceedings open where they should with Raposo's "ABC-DEF-GHI" with Conly's bouncy bass line leading the quintet in with a funky Caribbean beat.  Lederer leads the way on soprano while the horns play rhythmic fills and harmonies.  The trombone stands in for Kermit the Frog for the initial run-through of "Bein' Green" then shares the verse with the soprano sax and trumpet.  The solos are quite enjoyable especially the leader's.  Later in the program, one can hear the Palmieri influence on the conga-line inspired "One of These Things."  Note how Conly's electric bass is the counterpoint on both the trombone and trumpet solos.

Miles Griffith shows up on Fiedler's "I Am Somebody" which features original lyrics by Reverend William H. Borders –– In 1972,  Reverend Jesse Jackson led a group of young people on the show in a call-and-response.  Here, the leader provides a funky tune for the vocalist to scat and dance upon while the quartet rocks. Griffith returns on the delightful combination of "I Love Trash" with "C is for Cookie"; Griffith's vocals are such fun, playful, constricting his voice to sound like Oscar the Grouch (he who lives in a trash can) and Cookie Monster (whose name tells of his reason for living).  There's a fun interaction for Griffith and the trombonist before the songs comes to a close.

You do not need to know the music of "Sesame Street" to enjoy the musical shenanigans of "Fuzzy and Blue".  The sound is full and bright, the beats are irresistible (Michael Sarin's drumming stands out throughout the album), the solos playful yet sincere, and the arrangements full of wit and just the right touch of wise-guy!  Joe Fiedler and Open Sesame are just the right antidote to seasonal doldrums –– if this music does not make you smile, tap your feet, or laugh out loud, best to rediscover the "kid" in you.

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

Here's a taste: