Joyce, Nana Vasconcelos & Mauricio Maestro - Visions of Dawn
Recorded in Paris, in 1976, Visions of Dawn is the stunning ‘lost’ Brazilian acid-folk album by Joyce, Nana Vasconcelos and Mauricio Maestro. First uncovered and released in 2009, the record transfixed Brazilian music lovers and fans of otherworldly psych-folk alike. Led by the sharp lyrics and gorgeous voice of a young Joyce Moreno, the trio is completed by the late great Brazilian percussion legend Nana Vasconcelos, and master arranger, producer and bassist Mauricio Maestro. Having been out of print for years, Visions of Dawn is getting a much deserved vinyl repress. When the album was repressed a few years ago, it sold out immediately. So be sure to grab one from the Far Out Shop | Bandcamp to avoid missing out this time.
Aberdeen - Downpour
With its massive, one-of-a-kind sound, Aberdeen is proud to announce the release of its debut album Downpour. It is Aberdeen’s brand of jazz with pop inflections that contributed to their selection in the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program — in this case a tour to Central Asia — where Aberdeen will perform and teach. Downpour features GRAMMY® Award-winning saxophonist Bob Reynolds (John Mayer, Snarky Puppy) and bassist Adam Neely, who hosts a 650,000+ subscriber music channel on YouTube.
Aberdeen features a brass section with jazz elements, paired with production and songwriting influences of the from pop music of today. Downpour is produced by Aberdeen’s alto saxophonist Brian Plautz. The band's sold-out album release performance at the renowned Rockwood Music Hall in New York City featured 20 musicians spilling off of the stage into the audience — and a similarly large ensemble is featured on the album. Aberdeen’s music is about community; a large collective of musicians with the hope of sharing its music to audiences throughout the world.
Doug Carn And His West Coast Band - Free For All
Fantastic work from jazz organ genius Doug Carn – a player who's been off most folks' radar for a few decades, but has continued to make some really wonderful music of his own! This set's got Doug in tighter, sharper formation than on his 70s classics for the Black Jazz label – working with a quartet that features really searing work on tenor from Howard Riley and Teodross Avery – paired up and soaring to the skies with the bold, modal lines that flow from Carn's fingers with effortless ease! There's no bass at all on the record – Doug handles all of that with the foot pedals – and drummer Deszon Claiborne really gets the groove right, with a mix of complexity and swing that really echoes Doug's best impulses on the Hammond. Titles include "Bad Attitude", "Search For Peace", "Beyond All Limits", "Free For All", "Spiritual Sunrise Spiritual Sunset", and a great version of "Little B's Poem" – different than the style Doug used on the tune in the 70s. ~ Dusty Groove
On Playtime 2050, the third release by his inventive trio, pianist/composer Nick Sanders looks to the future with a unique combination of imaginative complexity and dark humor. Released via Sunnyside, the album presents the latest evolution of Sanders' singular voice which blends influences from a wide swath of jazz history with concepts from contemporary classical music and the composer's offbeat perspective.
Once again, Sanders is joined by bassist Henry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker. Where earlier outings supplemented Sanders' distinctive compositions with aptly-chosen pieces by such heavily influential composers as Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman, Playtime 2050 consists entirely of originals, a diverse repertoire ranging from entirely through-composed pieces to free improvisations, solo piano meditations to raucous swing tunes, tender ballads to prepared piano explosions.
"I like working with different extremes," Sanders says. "When I reflect on the spirit of jazz or improvised music, the greatest musicians always pushed the music forward, looked in a forward direction. A lot of modern jazz is very much stuck in the past, so I'm trying to draw on my experiences and do something different."
To set the mood, Sanders returned to the work of New Mexico-based artist Leah Saulnier, the self-described "Painting Maniac" whose painting of a sideshow contortionist also graced the cover of the trio's last release, You Are a Creature (2014). Her unsettling "Playtime 2050," which gave the album its name, depicts an adorable dystopia, with a young girl in pigtails and gasmasks cuddling a similarly accoutered stuffed bunny.
"When I first saw the image," Sanders recalls, "I found it really interesting and weird, not to mention starkly different from any artwork I've seen in the jazz world. I liked its tongue in cheek look at the state of the world today, with the silver lining being that it's clearly about surviving."
That notion resonated not just with Sanders' own views on the modern socio-political reality, but with his forward-looking take on jazz. It also runs parallel to an optimistic view of the place of art in the world. No matter how dark things get, it seems to suggest, there's always the escape of play - whether that means spending time with a favorite toy or taking the stage with close collaborators.
The painting's dark humor also captures a key element of Sanders' own music, a thread that can be traced back to the wry, puckish playfulness of the iconic Thelonious Monk. The sharp, jaunty angles of album opener "Live Normal" bear traces of Monk's influence, while the title comes from a line spoken by Steven Avery, the subject of the hit docuseries Making a Murderer. While Sanders' own story is far from that of Avery's, the desire to "live normal" is one that every outcast might feel at some point in their life.
The frenetic "Manic Maniac," with its blistering intensity and disorienting shifts in time, shows the influence of greats like Ornette Coleman and Jason Moran, the latter one of Sanders' mentors at NEC. It's followed by the title tune, a slightly skewed swing tune that laces its buoyant melody with a few eccentric touches, perfectly suited for that disturbing cover image. The moody "Prepared for the Blues," meanwhile, is the first of two pieces for prepared piano, here used subtly on slow, noir-ish blues, with just a pair of notes effected by finishing nails placed between the strings. The second prepared piano piece, the freely improvised "Prepared for the Accident," is much more audacious in its use of percussive sounds and unidentifiable noises. The inspiration for preparing the piano comes from legendary composer John Cage, whose work Sanders has studied.
The meditative "Still Considering" is an elegant, through-composed ballad, revealing Sanders' classical music background in its delicate construction and chamber music feel. The piece draws on the pianist's stint at a Buddhist monastery in California's Redwood Valley. That sense is disrupted by the feverish "The Number 3," which evokes the insistent and unpredictable music of avant-garde saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton in its aggressive repetitions and passages of sparse minimalism opening into fierce improvisation.
"Interlude for S.L.B." is a solo tribute to Sanders' late mother, who introduced him to a wealth of diverse music during his youth in New Orleans, from the sounds of her native Cuba to a range of other traditions that helped instill his love of music. "Endless" is built on the close relationship between Sanders and Baker, showcasing the close interaction between the piano and drums while Fraser provides the essential glue that binds them together. "It's Like This" provides another brief respite with its serene, spiraling melody, while "Hungry Ghost" turns dark, with hard-hitting, rock-inflected moments interspersed with uneasy segments of lurking tension.
"RPD" is reprised from Janus, Sanders' duo album with saxophonist Logan Strosahl, its unnerving wistfulness reflecting the themes of its source, the zombie apocalypse video game series Resident Evil. Finally, the reverent "2 Longfellow Park" ends the album on a spiritual note, its title taken from the address of an old church near Boston.
Representing a rich variety of moods, inspirations and approaches, Playtime 2050 feels like a culmination of the trio's tenure together and of Sanders' always expanding compositional palette. "I explored a lot of new territory on this album," Sanders concludes. "This is my contribution to the idea of pushing the music forward, which I think is extremely crucial in keeping the music alive and culturally important."
Pianist Nick Sanders is a truly fresh musical voice, wholly original yet clearly shaped by the masters he has studied and embraced. Sanders' New Orleans upbringing ensured an eclectic ear and musical sensibility. He began playing music before the age of four and was a quick study on the drums, able to almost instantly learn the second-line beat. He tackled the piano in second grade and began to show remarkable promise as a classical performer, winning numerous regional and national competitions. Sanders studied classical piano at the famed New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) before moving to the jazz program after encouragement from pianists Michael Pellera and Danilo Perez. In 2006 Sanders earned a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Perez, Jason Moran, John McNeil, Ran Blake, Cecil McBee and Fred Hersch, who produced Nameless Neighbors, Sanders' critically acclaimed debut recording for Sunnyside Records, as well as its follow-up, You Are A Creature.
In 1619, a Dutch ship carrying 20 enslaved Africans landed off the coast of the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, marking the foundation of slavery in America. To honor those four centuries of struggle, triumph, tragedy and community, drummer, composer, activist and educator Dr. Mark Lomax, II will unveil his monumental new project, 400: An Afrikan Epic on January 23, 2019 via CFG Multimedia.
The stunning 12-album cycle traces the epic history of Black America, not only during the 400 years from the beginning of the Transatlantic slave trade but back through thousands of years of history on the African continent and into an optimistic future for the African diaspora. Telling the story in settings as fundamental as the drum, through the visceral improvisation of jazz interplay and the bracing architecture of modern classical composition, the music celebrates the resilience, brilliance, strength, genius, and creativity of a people who continue to endure while offering an inspired view of the future.
400: An Afrikan Epic is the culmination of a lifetime of musical and historical study for Dr. Lomax. By his early teens Lomax was establishing himself as a gifted drummer on the jazz scene in his native Columbus, Ohio, while being introduced to an Afrocentric view of American history via the work of his father, the renowned pastor and educator Dr. Mark A. "Ogunwale" Lomax. Early in his career, Lomax envisioned a melding of the two pursuits, leading to an ambitious, wide-ranging composition that offers an educational opportunity as well as a breathtaking listening experience.
The release date coincides with Dr. Lomax's 40th birthday and the 12-album collection brings his discography as a leader to a remarkable 40 albums, a prodigious output especially when considered in parallel with the challenging pursuit of his Doctorate in Music Arts at Ohio State University. It was during those studies that Lomax discovered the path his music would take, inspired by Béla Bartók's embrace of the folk music of his own Hungarian heritage as well as the ground-breaking work of early 20th-century American composer and bandleader James Reese Europe.
"We have our own racial feeling," Europe notably said, "and if we try to copy whites we will make bad copies." Lomax eagerly took that pronouncement to heart. "I started to use the music I grew up with, spirituals and the blues, as source material." He drew on his upbringing in the church, his experience touring with jazz artists like Delfeayo Marsalis, Marlon Jordan and Azar Lawrence, and his exploration of African folk traditions.
That decision met with resistance from some of Lomax's professors, who deemed his incorporation of gospel and blues influences as unworthy of the western classical tradition. At the same time, his innovative arrangements of gospel tunes for symphony orchestra were embraced by such esteemed ensembles as the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C., and the Czech National Symphony.
The composition of 400: An Afrikan Epic was a passion project undertaken after he experienced resistance to his concepts in college. The seeds for the project had been sown 20 years earlier, with the writing of his first commissioned piece, "Tales of the Black Experience." An overview of the horrors of slavery, a reimagined version of that work makes up one piece of 400.
The 12-album cycle comprises three suites. The first four albums make up "Alkebulan: The Beginning of Us," which spans the thousands of years that civilization and music had developed in Africa prior to the encroachment of colonialism. Titled for the original Arabic name for the continent, "Alkebulan" begins with "First Ankhcestor," featuring a gathering of master percussionists, and continues with "Song of the Dogon," a tribute to the West African people credited with establishing ancient Nubia and Kemet (the original name of Egypt). "Dance of the Orishas" is inspired by the religion, culture and art of the Yoruba people, while "The Coming" introduces the onset of the slave trade via the words of Daniel Black's novel of the same name, read by the author.
The bulk of "Alkebulan" features Lomax's longstanding Quartet, featuring saxophonist Eddie Bayard, pianist William Menefield, and bassist Dean Hulett. Those same collaborators recombine in various trio and duo combinations throughout 400, reflecting the deep relationship they've forged over more than 15 years together. "These are the musicians I trust most with my compositions." Lomax says. "We've developed a music and a language that have made me a better musician, and I'm grateful to have them a part of this project."
The second suite, "Ma'afa: Great Tragedy," focuses on the 400 years from that fateful day in 1619 until the present moment. The first piece, "Ma'afa," is envisioned as a ballet that takes place during the 90-day voyage of a slave ship. "I was intrigued by the idea of a ballet set in a place where you're physically confined but spiritually free," Lomax says. That piece features the composer's large group, The Urban Art Ensemble, which teams a traditional string quartet with an improvising trio.
"Up South: Conversations on American Idealism" consists of two extended pieces examining the North's economically-driven, complicity in southern slavery, before Lomax narrows his lens to focus on individual icons. "Four Women," written for UCelli: The Columbus Cello Quartet, pays tribute to Queen Nzinga, the 17th-century leader of Angola who used a combination of hard and soft power to resist Portuguese colonization; Ida B. Wells, the pioneering journalist and early Civil Rights leader; Angela Davis, the fierce 1960s counterculture activist; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the modern-day Nigerian novelist. "Blues in August," meanwhile, is inspired by playwright August Wilson's century-spanning Pittsburgh Cycle.
The final suite, "Afro-Futurism: The Return to Uhuru," envisions the healing and thriving of Black America, and all of humanity, over the next 400 years. "The last stage points to where humanity is headed," Lomax explains. "It's about what it means to be a fully optimized human being, collectively as well as with regards to Africans in America who have slavery in their lineage and Africans on the continent who are still dealing with the ramifications of colonialism." The overwhelming history ends as it began, with the unaccompanied drum.
In embracing the story of the African diaspora, Dr. Lomax has not only created a landmark composition but a living, breathing work of musical storytelling that will continue to grow and evolve. He has adapted the full work into a more compact suite for performance, and has created a curriculum to present the story in classrooms through performance and lectures. He also plans to launch a website called "The 400 Years Project," which will promote artists throughout the African diaspora who are using their creative abilities to tell this story.
"My research gave me a cultural and historical context," he explains, "and the music started to come from the research. This has become my life's work."
Critically acclaimed composer, recording artist, drummer, activist, and educator Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University Artist Residency 2018 Award recipient. Dr. Lomax holds a Doctor of Music Arts degree in composition from The Ohio State University. His myriad experiences have allowed him to create a unique blend of styles in his music. Whether he's interpreting the Negro Spiritual through jazz, arranging gospel music for a symphony orchestra, or performing his original works, his music is relevant, probing, and inspiring. Heavily influenced by his father, a pastor, and mother, a composer of gospel music, Lomax was introduced to gospel and jazz at an early age, continuing his study of gospel music with Dr. Raymond Wise, founder of the Center for the Gospel Arts. Besides performing with gospel choirs around the country, Lomax has toured with the Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet and worked with notable artists such as Clark Terry, Marlon Jordan, Azar Lawrence, Bennie Maupin, Billy Harper, Ellis Marsalis, and Wessel Anderson, among others A highly sought-after lecturer, Lomax specializes in the socio-political and spiritual aspects of African-American art, music, race, and the usage of the arts to build community. These ideas are documented in his TED Talk "Activating The Transformative Power Of Trust."
The realization of a long-cherished dream for both vocalist Peter Eldridge and pianist Kenny Werner, their breathtaking new album Somewhere marries timeless romanticism with contemporary attitudes and harmonic sophistication. Swathing Eldridge's rich baritone and Werner's keen piano mastery in lush orchestral strings, the album harkens back to swooning favorites by Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole while offering a decidedly modern take on starry-eyed sentiment.
Somewhere (due out July 5, 2019 on Rosebud Records) takes its yearning title from the West Side Story classic penned by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim; the song is here paired with the Johnny Mandel/Paul Francis Webster standard A Time For Love. Together, they suggest a place of togetherness and romance far removed from the tempestuous rancor of today, offering a dreamy escape from political discord and social media sniping.
Werner's sumptuous string arrangements provide the perfect complement for Eldridge's candlelit crooning, which reveals an exquisite new side to the singer's already diverse artistry. Audiences are already familiar with his vibrant harmonizing as a founding member of the revered New York Voices and the adventurous vocal quintet MOSS. The urbane wit of his own songs can be heard on several albums that smartly bridge the singer-songwriter and jazz realms; later in 2019 he'll release My Museum, a collection of previously unrecorded tunes spanning more than 20 years. When not in the studio or on the road with these wide-ranging projects, he can be found in the classroom as a member of the voice faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Berklee furnished the connections that proved key to finally bringing Somewhere to fruition. Eldridge and Werner are colleagues at the renowned institution along with cellist Eugene Friesen, who conducts the gorgeous 20-piece string orchestra on Somewhere, its members largely culled from the gifted ranks of the Berklee World Strings. Drummer Yoron Israel, who joins in-demand bassist Matt Aronoff in the ensemble's rhythm section, is a professor of percussion at the college, while longtime faculty member George Garzone brings his inimitable tenor sax voice to Werner's angular ode to John Coltrane, "Ballad for Trane."
The idea for Somewhere was born nearly a decade ago, when Werner invited Eldridge into the studio for a library music recording session. Eldridge arrived expecting a simple voice and piano set-up; upon entering the studio he was suddenly confronted by a 40-piece orchestra. "At that point," Eldridge says, "you could either get overwhelmed and freak out, or you could just have the most fun you could possibly have singing in front of an orchestra. Why not do the second one?"
The collaboration worked so well that the two determined to explore an orchestral project on more personal terms. "On that session," Werner recalls, "Peter reminded me of Johnny Hartman, which brought to mind the beautiful treatments that Johnny Hartman could do. But I knew Peter was capable of a lot of different things, so I thought it would be incredible to do a whole album with that kind of musical and emotional relationship: no-nonsense, beautiful, lush, romantic songs with strings."
Eldridge agreed immediately, realizing what a bucket list opportunity the project would be. He instantly called to mind favorite singer-arranger partnerships, including Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle, or Nat "King" Cole and George Shearing - even, though it doesn't include strings, Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane. "It's one of those Top Five thrills of life, to get to stand in front of an orchestra and sing," he says. "Kenny's string writing is so strong and nuanced. We were going for an old school approach but slightly to the left. Instead of just doing a bunch of standards and having it sound like 1964, we wanted to mix it up with different feelings to the music, but under the umbrella of this big, rich, symphonic, warm collection of tunes."
For Werner, the project offered a chance to indulge in his long-held love of opulent string writing, updated with his advanced approach to harmony. "I was influenced as a kid by Mantovani and Muzak strings coming out of the Magnavox stereo in the middle of the living room," the pianist recalls. "That stuff was incredible; it was elevator music, but it was incredibly elegant and lush. I wanted to explore that style, but with a lot more interesting harmony than might have been exhibited at that time."
The album begins at its most traditional, with an achingly beautiful version of the classic "You Don't Know Me." Eldridge wrings every ounce of heartrending emotion from the song, punctuated with Werner's bittersweet interjections. The pianist opens his own "I'm So Glad You're Mine" with a lovely solo statement that perfectly sets the intimate mood. Eldridge next reprises his stunning ode to life's great mysteries, "That Which Can't Be Explained," which he originally recorded on 2000's Fool No More.
With music by Werner and lyrics by Eldridge, "Autumn in 3" is the collaborators' contribution to the seasonal songbook, vividly conjuring the flutter of falling leaves and the first chill in the air. "Minds of Their Own," written by Eldridge with music by the great Brazilian composer Ivan Lins, was previously recorded by the iconic Nancy Wilson, while "Less Than Lovers" is the debut of an Eldridge original with lyrics by one of his mentors, poet and educator Douglas Worth, who also provided words for Werner's "Ballad for Trane."
Friesen's swirling string arrangement gives an off-kilter dizziness to Eldridge's "Difficult," original recorded on Decorum (2005), just right for the song's disorienting infatuation. Werner penned both lyrics and music for the melancholy "Untitled Lament," which begins with Eldridge backed by just the deft jazz trio before the strings finally enter with their longing refrain. One of Eldridge's songwriting students, Mitchell Proctor, co-wrote the tender "Day Is Done (Prayer for Diego)."
Most importantly, Eldridge stresses, Somewhere looks not to a place but to a state of mind, one that allows listeners to abandon themselves to an imaginary world of luxurious romanticism. "It's a bit of a prayer that there will be peace one day soon, that things won't remain as desperate as they are now," Eldridge concludes. We're living in an incredibly strange time, so this music is trying to offset that and help people feel a few moments of hope. We hope it offers a balm for the spirit."
For years Peter Eldridge has remained at the forefront of both the singer-songwriter and jazz realms as a vocalist, pianist, composer, and arranger. He is also a founding member of internationally acclaimed vocal group New York Voices, which continues to tour internationally and has performed in some of the world's most preeminent venues and festivals, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Kennedy Center, and has been involved in two Grammy-award winning projects with Paquito D'Rivera and the Count Basie Orchestra. Some of Eldridge's notable collaborations include Bobby McFerrin, Fred Hersch, Becca Stevens, Chanticleer, George Benson, Michael Brecker, David Byrne, Jonatha Brooke, Kurt Elling, the New West Guitar Trio, Jane Monheit, the Swingles, Anat Cohen, Betty Buckley, Janis Siegel, Paula Cole, Jon Hendricks, and Mark Murphy. Peter's music is featured in Zach Galifianakis' recorded stand-up performance Live at the Purple Onion, and his original songs or collaborations have been covered by artists such as Nancy Wilson, Paquito D'Rivera, and Jane Monheit. He collaborated with playwright Cheryl Coons to co-write The Kiss, a musical about the life and loves of Gustav Klimt. In addition, Peter was head of the Manhattan School of Music's jazz voice department for 18 years and is now part of the voice faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Kenny Werner has been a world-class pianist and composer for over 40 years. His prolific output of compositions, recordings and publications continue to impact audiences around the world. In 1996 he wrote his landmark book, Effortless Mastery, Liberating The Master Musician Within. Werner has since created videos, lectured world-wide and authored many articles on how musicians, artists or even business people can allow their "master creator" within to lift their performance to it's highest level, showing us how to be spontaneous, fearless, joyful and disciplined in our work and in our life. Kenny was awarded the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his seminal work, No Beginning No End, a musical journey exploring tragedy and loss, death and transition, and the path from one lifetime to the next.
Bassist Mark Dresser has always made music at once serious, compelling, and playful, prioritizing creativity while addressing larger questions of the day. So it is with Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You (May 10, 2019, Clean Feed), the sophomore release by the Mark Dresser Seven, a worthy follow-up to the ensemble's highly acclaimed 2016 Clean Feed debut Sedimental You.
Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You showcases new music and improvisations by the seven-piece band that "has the punch of a small group and the detail of an orchestra" (Kevin LeGendre, Jazzwise). Dresser and flutist Nicole Mitchell, multi-reed player Marty Ehrlich, trombonist Michael Dessen, pianist Joshua White, drummer Jim Black, and new addition Keir GoGwilt on violin explore multiple jazz traditions in six new compositions that include pieces for fallen friends and irreverent political commentary, as well as some with purely musical agendas. Between the composed works are brief solo bass interludes improvised on the McLagan Tines, a set of seven graduated steel rods invented by luthier Kent McLagan.
"Black Arthur's Bounce," dedicated to the alto saxophone giant Arthur Blythe, opens the album and features Marty Ehrlich who (along with Dresser) played with Blythe. In the tradition of Charles Mingus, both the title tune, "Ain't Nothing But A Cyber Coup & You" and "Let Them Eat Paper Towels" (the latter initially inspired by the headline of a Paul Krugman column written in response to President Trump's post-Hurricane Maria visit to Puerto Rico), engage with what Dresser describes as our current "reality-horror-show of corruption, malice, xenophobia and class warfare." In contrast, the parametric waltz "Gloaming" uses multiple levels of polyrhythm which expand and contract within shifting meters of lyricism, while "Butch's Balm" pays tribute to Dresser's dear friend, the late pianist and teacher Butch Lacy. "Embodied in Seoul," first conceived for the 2018 telematic concert Interconnections For Peace between ensembles in New York City, San Diego, and Seoul, is
reworked into a smaller, tighter version stemming from a single melody and culminating with the convergence of the entire ensemble in a harmolodic whole.
With Ain't Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You, Mark Dresser continues to prove himself "a giant of the avant-garde jazz scene" (Felipe Freitas, Jazz Trail), exploring new ideas in jazz through vibrant compositions and celebrating the solo power of this ensemble of virtuoso improvisers. The final result is magnificent, as you would expect from this pathfinder.
Mark Dresser is a Grammy nominated, internationally renowned bass player, composer, and interdisciplinary collaborator. He has recorded over one hundred forty CDs including nine CDs as composer/bandleader, three solo CDs, one solo LP and a DVD. From 1985 to 1994, he was a member of Anthony Braxton's Quartet, which recorded nine CDs and was the subject of Graham Locke's book Forces in Motion (Da Capo). He has also performed and recorded with Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Osvaldo Golijov, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, Joe Lovano, Roger Reynolds, Henry Threadgill, Dawn Upshaw, John Zorn. Since 2007 he has been deeply involved in "telematic music performance," which explores the musical, technical, and social dimensions of live performance between multiple geographical locations through high speed Internet. He was a co-coordinator, composer and performer of Deep Tones for Peace, a 2009 performance including thirteen internationally renowned bassists collaborating live between Jerusalem and New York City. He also collaborated with other renowned improvisers in three different cities and spread across the West Coast, East Coast and Europe on The Virtual Tour: A Reduced-Carbon Footprint Concert Series. He was awarded a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award as well as 2015 and 2018 Shifting Foundation Award. He is Professor of Music at University of California, San Diego.
Imagine Meeting You Here pairs two of the world's most adventurous composer-improvisers in a performance of a ground-breaking work for jazz orchestra. Pianist-composer Alister Spence, one of the leading voices in Australian new music, teams up with the Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe, one of several cutting-edge large ensembles helmed by prolific Japanese pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, on Spence's riveting five-part composition for improvising orchestra. Fine craftsmanship and resourceful imagination meet wild spontaneity and instrumental virtuosity in a disciplined yet liberating CD that is both accessible and boundlessly creative. The album was released via Alister Spence Music.
"The project developed as part of my doctoral PhD in creative practice (music composition)," Spence says. "I decided to write a large-scale work for improvising ensemble and approached Satoko Fujii and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra and offered to write this work for them: the same work, called 'Imagine Meeting You Here.' Both Satoko and GIO were very keen about the idea and straight away suggested performances in Japan and Scotland. In February 2016 the work was performed by three of Satoko Fujii's Orchestras in Nagoya, Kobe, and Tokyo, and in November Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra included the work in their annual festival, GioFestIX."
During a return trip to Japan in September 2017, Orchestra Kobe recorded the piece live at the Big Apple jazz club. Besides playing in the orchestra, Fujii handled most of the complex logistics for this international project. "Satoko performed so many tasks in this project!" Spence enthuses.
"I was trying to create what I considered to be a balanced work in terms of energies and weight, tempo, rhythm, my ideas versus the ensembles ideas," says Spence. "And I also was seeking to create different improvisational contexts for solos, duos, trios, and larger ensembles from within the orchestra. Sometimes these were designed as an exploration of textural elements such as breath or key click sounds, and sometimes were more tonal."
Imagine Meeting You Here does indeed strike an artful balance among a wealth of musical elements while blending composition and improvisation. "Part 1" showcases Spence's sure handling of melody and orchestration as it unfolds over a hypnotic heart-beat rhythm. The slowly building tension finally explodes in fiery solos from tenor saxophonist Eiichiro Arasaki and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. The opening trio for Arasaki on shakuhachi, alto saxophonist Yasuhisa Mizutani, and guitarist Takumi Seino blurs the distinction between composed and improvised by specifying notes to play while leaving register, tempo, and time up to the performers.
Spence - Imagine Meeting You Here "Part 2" offers contrast as contrapuntal melodies are layered over an odd-meter 5/4 beat and collective improvisations alternate with fully scored passages. Spence again erases boundaries in this movement, this time by specifying a rhythm for the nonsense vocalizing at the beginning while leaving all other elements up to the players. Then as the group switches to their instruments, they transition from random note choices to specific pitches on a given rhythm. The seamless merger of written and spontaneous is a tribute to how attuned composer and performers are. In "Part 3," the full ensemble is divided into four autonomous units, each with its own conductor-performer, that overlap group entries and exits until they all come back together at the end.
After the fluid interactions and out of tempo interplay of "Part 3," Spence again aims for variety with bold themes and propulsive drums in "Part 4." As melodies and countermelodies intertwine, wailing improvisations by trumpeter Rabito Arimoto and tenor saxophonist Tsutomu Takei sail over the band. When drummer Yoshikazu Isaki drops out, the full ensemble improvises, maintaining the intensity and drive. The final movement is a slow, serene postscript in which sustained melodic passages overlap with collective textural and then modal improvisation, a lush and lyrical example of how composer and orchestra work together to create a fully collaborative, organic piece of music.
"I always felt very welcome with SFO Kobe. We had quite a lot of fun getting this project together, in spite of innumerable hair-raising moments due to my complicated composition!" says Spence. "I am so grateful for the interest, energy, and application of all the members of the orchestra. It is such a wonderful band, full of brilliant, distinctive, dedicated improvisers. I count myself very lucky to have this opportunity to work with them."
Pianist-composer Alister Spence is recognized as one of Australia's most original and distinctive jazz pianist-composers. With a career spanning more than 25 years, his wide-ranging talents have led him to work with some of the world's most respected artists in the areas of contemporary music, improvisation, film, and theatre. For the past 20 years, he has devoted much of his energy to the Alister Spence Trio featuring bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Toby Hall. This celebrated group has recorded six acclaimed CDs and has a growing international reputation. The Australian called their most recent CD, Not Everything But Enough, "Music bordering on a jazz masterpiece." Their previous album, Alister Spence Trio: Live, recorded at the Sound Lounge, Sydney, in 2015, received a 4-star review in Jazzwise Magazine. The online jazz newsletter salt peanuts* has praised the group for its "brilliant musicianship, masterful playing, and imaginative improvisation skills."
Spence has also forged bonds with musicians around the world. Since 2008, he has collaborated with pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, appearing on two of her twelve 2018 kanreki year releases-intelsat, a duet on which he plays electric keyboards, and Bright Force by Kira Kira, a quartet including Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and drummer Ittetsu Takemura. Karl Ackermann in AllAboutJazz called the two pianist-composers, "kindred spirits in terms of boundless musical interests..." Spence's discography also includes several releases with Glasgow-based saxophonist Raymond MacDonald, including two duet CDs; an album with the trio, Sensaround. He holds a doctorate from University of New South Wales, where he is a lecturer in music.
The genius of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is unassailable. Since his death in 1982, he has become recognized as one of the greatest composers of jazz - and of the wider world of music. The year 2017 was the centennial of Monk's birth, and brought scores of tributes, including a well-received stay of pianist Frank Kimbrough's quartet at the Jazz Standard club in New York City.
Like many jazz pianists, Kimbrough found Monk's music a revelation when he first heard it. From the outset of his career, Kimbrough has returned time and again to Monk's compositions. After nearly four decades of study, reflection, and performance, Kimbrough has established a relationship with these pieces and found a way to express himself through the prism of Monk.
When the Standard approached Kimbrough to put together a quartet to play Monk's music, he picked the brilliant rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond. His choice for lead horn voice was the multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, with whom he has played for many years and in many combinations, most notably with the Maria Schneider Orchestra.
After the first set of the October 17th, 2017 performance at the Standard Kimbrough's friend Mait Jones urged that the group record Monk's entire oeuvre, a feat that Kimbrough had never considered. A jazz fan and co-presenter of his own Princeton series JazzNights Jones began a lifelong appreciation of Monk when he heard the master live at the Five Spot in New York City in 1957.
Over the next few days, Jones doubled down on his intent to make the project reach fruition, bringing in his friend and fellow jazz head, Dr. Dorothy Lieberman, to help co-produce the effort.
The musicians began the intensive work such a project demands. Finally, in April of 2018 Kimbrough led a trio and then the quartet at Jazz at the Kitano, polishing 30 new tunes on the way to the full Monk catalog of 70 pieces.
For the recording, Matt Balitsaris provided his renowned Maggie's Farm studios and an optimistic plan of recording a disc's worth of material each day for six days. The musicians recorded each day from 11 to 5 or 6 in two three-day intervals broken up by a three-day respite. Miraculously this ambitious plan succeeded, with most tunes needing only one or two takes. Robinson picked his axe of choice on the spot, from the standard (tenor sax and trumpet) to the exotic (bass saxophone, echo cornet, bass clarinet, and contrabass sarrusophone). The resultant tracks are fresh, varied, and inspired.
Highlights of the group's takes on these classic pieces include Robinson's juggling of trumpet and tenor sax on "Thelonious" and the ensemble's free-wheeling energy on "Skippy." "Locomotive" is the picture of peaceful beauty, whereas "Jackie-ing" is all jumps and starts. Reid and Robinson play beautifully on "Reflections" and a lovely solo performance of "Crepuscule with Nellie" showcases Kimbrough's command of the piano and Monk's language.
The recordings form a fantastically diverse collection. On the six-CD set, titled Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, Monk's compositions are played in various configurations, most by the quartet, but others in smaller combinations, even solo piano. The package also includes beautifully penned liner notes from Nate Chinen (New York Times, WBGO and NPR) along with notes from members of the ensemble and the producers of the album.
Though their journeys began in different countries and their stars rose a generation apart, pianist Aruán Ortiz and clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron share a sweeping curiosity about the scope and history of music as well as a bold adventurousness that has allowed them to explore that wide-ranging soundscape with keen invention and incisive wit. Their debut outing as a duo, Random Dances and (A)tonalities, finds the pair engaged in a series of scintillating musical dialogues that entrance with the compelling interplay and intellectual spark of the best conversations.
Unsurprisingly given both artists' expansive tastes, the repertoire they take on together runs the gamut from reverent investigations of beloved classics to radical transformations of jazz standards; rigorous but nuanced renditions of classical compositions along with freewheeling improvisatory ventures; inspired original pieces and heartfelt tributes to mentors and influences. As the title encapsulates, Random Dances and (A)tonalities (out via Intakt Records) contains multitudes, alternately (sometimes simultaneously) enchanting and challenging, harmonious and fractious, stark and sublime.
"I'm from Santiago de Cuba and Don's from the Bronx and his family's from the Caribbean," Ortiz says. "The element of dancing is always there in our music, even if we're not playing salsa or calypso. That's why they're Random Dances: we expand the idea of dance beyond the dance floor to whenever you hear something that moves you. What does dance really mean? And (A)tonalities comes from the fact that we move freely in and out of a tonal zone, but we always come back."
The Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based Ortiz connected with Byron through a meeting of the minds long before the two were ever introduced. Playing with longtime Byron collaborator Ralph Peterson, Ortiz was fascinated by the harmonic movement and intricate architecture of the drummer's compositions. Asked for some insight, Peterson simply responded, "I got all that from Don Byron."
Over the next several years Ortiz became highly regarded in the jazz world for his daring pianism and profound originality, whether combining his Cuban roots with progressive jazz concepts or combining his improvisatory language with stunning chamber music compositions. He's collaborated with many of the most advanced thinkers across a range of creative musics: Wadada Leo Smith, Esperanza Spalding, Wallace Roney, Nicole Mitchell, William Parker, Oliver Lake, Terri Lyne Carrington, the Milena Zullo Ballet, DJ Logic, The Last Poets' Abiodun Oyewole, and countless others.
It's difficult to summarize the divergent paths that Byron's music has taken. Having studied with Third Stream innovator George Russell at New England Conservatory, Byron personalized that compositional vocabulary to devise his own unique approach. An avid music historian, he's focused his attentions on everything from klezmer to cartoon music, the soul fire of Junior Walker and the heavy sounds of the Black Rock Coalition, along the way playing with everyone from Living Colour to Bill Frisell, Cassandra Wilson to Steve Coleman, Allen Toussaint to Uri Caine.
In 2014, Ortiz invited Byron to take part in "Music & Architecture," a series of concerts inspired by the composer Iannis Xenakis. Soon the clarinetist was calling on the pianist for regular gigs with a variety of ensembles, until finally they decided to try a duo outing. "Don is well versed in so many musical styles and languages," Ortiz says. "The music for this duo came very naturally."
The album opens with Ortiz's "Tete's Blues," written in honor of his oldest son, who he nicknamed "Tete" after the great Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu, a major influence. As Byron's questing lines navigate Ortiz's strident keyboard surges, tempos collide in elusive ways inspired by the pianist's studies with Muhal Richard Abrams. The late AACM founder's concepts also fueled Ortiz's shadowy "Numbers," while his "Arabesque of a Geometrical Rose (Spring)" is the full realization of a piece originally recorded on the pianist's album Hidden Voices, expressing the tune's interwoven counter-melodies in a way impossible in the piano trio setting.
Byron's stunning compositional imagination can be heard on "Joe Btfsplk," a cubist abstraction of the bebop standard "Donna Lee" named for the bearer of bad luck from Al Capp's classic comic strip "Li'l Abner." The darkly moving "Delphian Nuptials" was originally penned as part of Byron's score for a documentary on playwright Lorraine Hansberry, though the duo fully communicates its complex moods without the aid of visuals.
Ortiz became familiar with "Black and Tan Fantasy" through the famed Thelonious Monk rendition, while Byron grew up hearing the Duke Ellington original; those two disparate approaches fuel the intriguing tension in this new version. The later Geri Allen was another formative influence on Ortiz, who set out to transcribe "Dolphy's Dance" from her 1992 album Maroons; as it turned out Byron, who had played often with Allen, had the original chart. The pair undertook this tribute, capturing Allen's boundary-less artistry.
"It was a great feeling to realize that Don's career has been connected to someone I have admired for such a long time," Ortiz says of Allen. "She spans many styles of music; her playing is very solid and rooted yet very avant-garde at the same time. I hold her in very high regard."
Byron's clarinet floats airily through Ortiz's crystalline arrangement of Federico Mompou's "Música Callada: Book 1, No. 5." The clarinetist goes it alone for a captivating reading of Bach's "Violin Partita No. 1 in B Minor," which Ortiz was always thrilled to witness on the bandstand. "Seeing a so-called 'jazz musician' in the middle of a so-called 'jazz concert' playing a classical piece solo -- that made a big impact on me," Ortiz marvels. "I play and compose classical music as well, but for me it's just music - and for Don, too."
The two composers join forces on the album's final track, in spiritual collaboration with a third composer, the legendary Benny Golson. "Impressions of a Golden Theme," with its echo of Golson's name, is a fantasia on the theme of the saxophonist's "Along Came Betty," departing in filigreed flights from any suggestion of the original. While on tour they originally performed the tune but over time, Ortiz recalls, "it evolved and evolved, going to a different place every time. So we decided to just sit down and had a musical conversation, not worry what the result would be."
Pianist and composer Aruán Ortiz - born in Santiago de Cuba, and resident of Brooklyn, NY - has been an acclaimed figure in the progressive jazz and avant-garde scene in the US for more than 15 years. Named "one of the most creative and original composers in the world" (Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge), he has written music for jazz ensembles, orchestras, dance companies, chamber groups, and feature films, incorporating influences from contemporary classical music, Cuban Haitian rhythms, and avant-garde improvisation. He has received multiple accolades including Mid-Atlantic Foundation US Artists International (2017), Composer Fellowship Award at Vermont College of Fine Arts (2016); and the Doris Duke Impact Award (2014); the Composers Now Creative Residency at Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (2014). His 2016 trio album Hidden Voices (Intakt 2016) was lauded as "a solid and unique new sound in today's jazz world" by Matthew Fiander in PopMatters, while his solo piano effort Cub(an)ism (2017) was called "a genius exercise in the exploration of depth and perception that reveals a bright new wrinkle in the relationship between music and mathematics, reimagining Afro-Haitian Gaga rhythms, Afro-Cuban rumba and Yambú into heavily improvised meditations on modernism that recall John Cage and Paul Bley," (Ron Hart, The Observer). Aruán has played, toured, or recorded with jazz luminaries such as Wadada Leo Smith, Don Byron, Greg Osby, Wallace Roney, Nicole Mitchell, William Parker, Adam Rudolph, Andrew Cyrille, Henry Grimes, Oliver Lake, Rufus Reid, Terri Lyne Carrington, and collaborated with choreographer José Mateo; filmmaker Ben Chace; poet Abiodun Oyewole from The Last Poets; DJ Logic and Val Jeanty; and German writers Angelika Hentschel and Anna Breitenbach.
An inspired eclectic, clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Don Byron has performed an array of musical styles with great success. Byron first attained a measure of notoriety for playing Klezmer, specifically the music of the late Mickey Katz. While the novelty of a black man playing Jewish music was enough to grab the attention of critics, it was Byron's jazz-related work that ultimately made him a major figure. Byron is at heart a conceptualist, possessing a profound imagination that best manifests itself in his multifarious compositions. He is a Rome Prize Recipient, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow.
Each of his albums seems based on a different stylistic approach, from the free jazz/classical leanings of his first album, Tuskegee Experiments (Nonesuch, 1992), to the hip-hop/funk of Nu Blaxpoitation (Blue Note, 1998). Byron's composition "There Goes the Neighborhood" was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered in London in 1994. He's also composed for silent film, served as the director of jazz for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and scored for television.
With the evocatively titled Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema, trombonist/composer Peter Nelson retraces his five-year struggle with a debilitating condition that threatened to end his career as a musician just as it was entering its ascendancy. The album's vivid compositions and enthralling playing draw the listener in to experience the grueling emotional journey that Nelson undertook, from the onset of mysterious symptoms through the isolating battle with physical and mental pain through the rigor of healing and the joy and revelation of recovery.
Released via Outside In Music, Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema enlists three different ensembles to tell its compelling story, all featuring Nelson on trombone: an ethereal trio featuring vibraphonist Nikara Warren and the wordless vocals of Alexa Barchini; a hard-swinging quartet with pianist Willerm Delisfort, bassist Raviv Markovitz, and drummer Itay Morchi; and a brilliant septet supplementing the quartet with alto saxophonist Hailey Niswanger, trumpeter Josh Lawrence, and bass clarinetist Yuma Uesaka.
A native of Lansing, Michigan, Nelson earned his degree in Jazz Studies at Michigan State University, where he studied with heavy hitters like bassist Rodney Whitaker. After recording two albums in his home state he decided to move to Brooklyn in 2013, and soon found himself performing with longtime heroes like pianist/bandleader Orrin Evans and drummer Matt Wilson. Almost simultaneously, however, he started to develop strange symptoms while playing.
At first the issues were minor: small, localized pain and subtle feelings of anxiety. Before long, the symptoms escalated to include chronic hyperventilation, severe shortness of breath, and excruciating pain in the face down his back and arms. "Here I was playing with a lot of my heroes, in musical settings that I'd dreamed about and I spent a lot of time trying to cultivate," Nelson recalls. "And it became very difficult to be on the bandstand while at the same time fighting my horn and fighting my body. It felt like a physically violent way of losing my medium for relating to the world, and was emotionally and spiritually crippling."
Nelson sought the help of innumerable doctors, physiologists and educators, failing to find satisfactory answers from any source. After more than a year and a half of intense pain and frustrating questions, Nelson found his way to physiologist and trombonist Jan Kagarice, one of the world's leading authorities on musicians' health. Kagarice diagnosed him with focal dystonia, chronic hyperventilation and Chvostek sign, and in a single lesson reversed 60% of his pain, immediately allowing him to play again.
His symptoms, it turned out, were the result not of some curious illness but of bad pedagogy - bad habits inherited from teachers working from a misunderstanding of the human body and the physical process of making music. "The stereotype is that brass players have chops problems and difficulty with endurance," he explains. "But the entirety of brass pedagogy is not only physiologically destructive but physics-wise has very little to do with how sound is actually made."
Five years after the onset of his symptoms, Nelson is fully recovered and playing as beautifully as ever, pain-free. Writing the ten compositions on this album meant excavating a number of difficult feelings, but the trombonist was intent on engaging fully and honestly with the full spectrum of his ordeal. He brings his experiences vividly to life with the help of his gifted collaborators, each of whom have played an important part in his life in one context or another, from the bandstand to the classroom.
Nelson is hesitant to reveal the meaning behind his somewhat cryptic album title, but a few themes emerge: Ash and Dust make obvious references to things crumbling away and left behind, referring perhaps to the composer's symptoms or incorrect approaches. The Chalkboard Cinema, meanwhile, suggests the somewhat illusory nature of education, jazz education in particular - lessons taught as gospel but more akin to the flickering images of the silver screen.
Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema traces each step along Nelson's road to recovery, from the creeping onset in "It Starts Slowly (First in Your Heart)" to the confounding spiral of "Cyclical Maze (Round and Round We Go)" through the zen-like mantra "Do Nothing (If Less Is More)," a tribute to Kagarice and her life-altering teachings. "Behind Kind Eyes (Thank You)" is a meditation on the loss of a loved one, a nod to the tragedies that can occur around us while we're struggling through our own, while "Closure is a Wasted Prayer (Release, Relax)" ends with the ambiguous acknowledgment that expecting any chapter of life to neatly draw to a conclusion is a fool's errand.
"We always want closure," Nelson says, "but it's an almost laughable concept. I'm always going to be dealing with dystonia, but it's not something that controls my life. The idea of putting a cap on this whole process does a disservice to the process of excavating these feelings and dealing with them. Everything that I learned about brass playing -- and more importantly about myself and what music-making really means to me -those lessons are priceless and I wouldn't change a thing."
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Peter Nelson discovered the trombone at age 10. Earning a bachelors degree in Jazz Studies at Michigan State University allowed him to study and perform with some of today's top jazz artists, including Rodney Whitaker, Etienne Charles, Diego Rivera, Michael Dease and Vincent Chandler. After spending a year after college producing and recording his second album as a leader, Nelson moved to Brooklyn, NY where he currently performs, composes, and teaches in a number of settings. Nelson has been a finalist in every major North American jazz trombone competition and in 2012 was awarded the prestigious Sudler prize in the Arts. He leads multiple groups and is also a sought after section player, having performed with jazz orchestras backing the likes of John Hendricks, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Jamie Cullum and Terence Blanchard. As a composer, Nelson has amassed a body of work that includes everything from jazz ensemble to contemporary pop. His versatility as a performer has led to a wide variety of performances and recordings with artists such as Christian McBride, Verve Pipe, Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band, Jamie Cullum, The Hudson Horns, Marianne Solivan, the Dan Pugach Nonet, Matt Wilson, Grupo Ayé, The George Gee Swing Orchestra, Fleur Seule, Valerie Ponomarev, Michael Dease Big Band, and a score of others.
Brittany Anjou Enamigo Reciprokataj Pianist-composer Brittany Anjou blends the influences of a wide range of jazz and classical piano, and a fascination with the Esperanto language, on her stunning debut Enamiĝo Reciprokataj. A trio album featuring bassist Greg Chudzik and drummer Nicholas Anderson (as well as two tracks with special guests, bassist Ari Folman-Cohen and drummer Ben Perowsky), it also includes 10 original compositions, highlighted by an eponymous five-part suite that showcases both Anjou's ambition and her originality.
Enamiĝo Reciprokataj (pronounced En-ah-mee-joh Reh-sih-pro-kah-tye) translates into English as Reciprocal Love -- or, alternately, as Mutual Breakdown. "[It's] a double entendre about improvisation and the push/pull of relationships," Anjou writes. She also refers to multiple levels of relationships: "It represents the enigma improvisers face to spontaneously fall in love with their instrument/the sound/the situation/each other," she says. "And additionally, to convince an audience to fall in love with their love."
If the concept sounds somewhat esoteric, the music itself is anything but. The album's bookend tracks, "Starlight" and its reprise "Reciproka Elektra," alternate instantly compelling, electronically processed washes with warm and confidently swinging piano-trio melodies. Each of the suite's five parts comprises an expressive, hook-filled tune and improvisation set to a joyful dance of a rhythm, from the whirlwind "Reciprokataj I: Cyrene (Flight of the Butterfly)" to the 5/4 bounce of "Reciprokataj IV: Olive You." Even the grim determination Anjou presents on "Reciprokataj V: Flowery Distress" is offset by Folman-Cohen and Perowsky's irrepressibility.
The album also honors Anjou's most important pianistic influences. Her phrasing and chord voicings channel the respective spirits of Oscar Peterson and Red Garland; in addition, she separates the parts of the suite with songs that directly pay tribute to favorites Ahmad Jamal ("Snuffaluffagas") and McCoy Tyner ("Hard Boiled Soup"). "All of the music celebrates my love affair with great jazz pianists," she says.
Anjou's use of Esperanto is not incidental: With Enamiĝo Reciprokataj, she begins a planned trilogy of albums based on the concepts and structures of world languages. (The next two installments will center on Dagara and Arabic, respectively.) "To me, Esperanto is a romance," she says. "The language mirrors jazz improvisation . . . . Jazz and Esperanto are both contemporary languages of the last century, and both promote intercultural dialogue, democracy, and self-expression."
Brittany Anjou was born in 1984 in Minot, North Dakota, moving to Seattle as a very young child. Her mother was a pianist, flutist, and music teacher, and Brittany began playing piano herself at age five. Her mother also played a lot of jazz recordings around the house, and at 12, hearing a solo by the Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, Brittany was inspired to begin studying jazz.
As a high school student, she joined and toured with Seattle's Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, meeting and performing with Wynton Marsalis in New York. Attending the Stanford Jazz Workshop at 16, she worked with Clark Terry, who became her idol. It was around that same time that Anjou began composing -- including much of the material that eventually became Enamiĝo Reciprokataj.
Arriving in New York to study music at NYU, Anjou studied with Stefon Harris, Tony Moreno, and Sherrie Maricle, as well as with Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer at School for Improvised Music. She also studied classical music in Prague with composer Milan Slavický, and West African gyil music in Ghana with master player Bernard Woma and his protegees. She has since performed in 13 countries on three continents with a number of ensembles including the New York Arabic Orchestra, the Shaggs, Bi TYRANT, and the LARCENY Chamber Orchestra (founding and leading the latter two).
Anjou began performing selections from Enamiĝo Reciprokataj while living in Prague in 2005 and continued honing it thereafter, including in a well-received performance with Bi TYRANT at New York's Zinc Bar during the 2018 Winter Jazz Festival. In the fall of 2018, she returned to Kuwait to teach piano and jazz ensembles as part of a nine-month residency at the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center opera house, in an experimental music program, the first of its kind in the country.