Thursday, March 23, 2023

Spring-ing Forward with Music


Violinist, composer, arranger, and educator Sam Bardfeld, a native of New York City, is comfortable in many different settings. He can play "free jazz", country music, folk, blues, swing jazz, Latin, and more.  He's worked with The Jazz Passengers, with Anthony Braxton's Trillium Orchestra, Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, Steven Bernstein's Millennium Orchestra, and Bruce Springsteen (and so many more).  His first album as a leader, "Taxidermy", came out in 1999 on CIMP Records; since then, his albums have appeared on Fresh Sounds New Talent (2004) and BJU Records (2017).  

Now, BJU has issued "Refuge". The album finds the leader in a musical conversation with pianist Jacob Sacks and drummer Michael Sarin (who's now appeared on three of his four releases). The seven-song program features five originals plus one each from Andrew Hill (the title track) and Mr. Springsteen ("Atlantic City").  The music is, at turns, playful, swinging, jazzy, noisy, rhythmic, lyrical and, believe me, never overstays its welcome. Whether it's the funky dancing drums underneath the violin solo on "On the Seat of Which" or Sacks' Monk-like piano on the opening "It Might Not Work" or the bluesy cake-walk strut of "Kick Me", this trio keeps the listener tapping toes, snapping fingers, and being by surprised by what's next.  The trio shines on "Atlantic City" (listen below) giving it the sonic of a Tom Waits ballad––yet one can not miss the heartbreak and emotion in the violin lines. The wistful piano lines and the soft brush work (although note the depth of the bass drum) beneath the soaring violin solo helps to soften the tension.

The album closes with a rousing version of the classic Andrew Hill tune (from his brilliant 1964 Blue Note Lp "Point of Departure"––the trio version here is slower and one hear the influence of Julius Hemphill's "The Hard Blues" on the arrangement. Sack's far-ranging solo stands out as does Sarin's hard-edged drum work. Near the end of the piece, Bardfeld quotes from a classic Paul Simon tune right after he imitates a police car siren.  It's delightfully off-putting, funny, and poignant at the same time.

"Refuge" is an album to get lost in with songs that speak to the listener in many different ways.  The musicianship of Sam Bardfeld, Jacob Sacks, and Michael Sarin is quite impressive plus the emotion they pour into these songs makes the program stand out. While the violinist is a very busy sideman, one hopes to see this Sam Bardfeld Trio bring this program into a concert space!

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

Hear "Atlantic City":

Drummer and composer Sanah Kadoura, born in the country of Lebanon and raised in Canada, has impressed many fellow musicians and listeners over the course of her young career. Since moving to New York City in the mid-2010s, she's played with pianist Kirk Lightsey, guitarist Ed Cherry, vibraphonist Joe Locke, trumpeter/pianist Nicholas Payton, the late Roy Hargrove, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and so many others.  She's a member of the Canadian-based collective Ostara Project, whose 2022 debut album stood out for its creativity and musicianship, and self-released her first solo album "Hawk Eyes" in 2018 which featured, among others, guitarist Mark Whitfield and bassist James Genus.  Ms. Kadoura writes her own music, produces her sessions, and is poised to become an important musical voice over the coming decades. 

"Duality" (self-released) is Ms. Kadoura's new album and it's a winner from the opening note.  Her running mates include Stacy Dillard (soprano saxophone), Virginia MacDonald (clarinet), Rachel Therrien (flugelhorn, trumpet), Michael King (acoustic piano, Rhodes, organ), Jonathan Michel (acoustic and electric basses), and vocalist Joanna Majoko plus Parham Haghighi (vocals on three tracks) and Flavio Silva (electric guitar on one cut). One of the more fascinating is how often Ms. Kadoura uses two or more "voices" to express the song's thematic material––take "The Seer, The Soarer" (listen below) and how the soprano sax, clarinet, and flugelhorn state the theme and how the solos build off Michel's funky electric bass. On the title track, notice how the different instruments move around each after Dillard states the theme. Haghighi's vocal adds a Middle-Eastern touch before the soprano sax and clarinet solo together in conversation. Then, Ms. Majoko joins Haghighi for a repetition of the theme.  These textures are in contrast to each but not in conflict. The arranger is looking for textural diversity in her music.

Photo: Tieran Green
Later in the program, "Zaytoon" mines Ms. Kadoura's country of origin for a playful, dancing, intriguing, tune.  The rhythm section dances below the different soloists with Dillard's soprano sax and Ms. Therrien's flugelhorn building their solos off the traditional-sounding melody. The piece closes with Haghighi chanting the melody as Ms. Majoko and the soprano "scat" behind him.  

The album closes with "Rise", a contemporary r'n'b piece featuring Ms. Majoko's melismatic vocal (check out her vocal chorus overdubs) over a rock-solid drum and Michel's burbling bass lines plus the colors of the Rhodes.  Again, Stacy Dillard's soprano saxophone serves as a delightful counterpoint to the vocal.  at about 3/4s of the way through the tune, the band breaks into a section that sounds more like progressive rock; this features voices coming at the listener from all sides over the throbbing. It makes for a surprising ending to a consistently creative adventure.

"Duality" is filled with good, solid, well-played music, planned out enough to make each song stand on its own yet open enough to allow for impressive solo work by a top-notch ensemble.  One has to believe that Sanah Kadoura knows what she wants, what she can do, and, sooner than later, that the sky may be her only limit! Give a listen, a close listen!

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

Hear "The Seer, The Soarer":

No comments:

Post a Comment