Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Relativity

Relativity

Relativity was a groundbreaking Celtic super group that played traditional Irish and Scottish music with a new edge” as well as original tunes.

It tied together the talents of some of the best Irish and Scottish contemporary folk musicians, featuring members from The Bothy Band (Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill) and Silly Wizard (Johnny and Phil Cunningham).

Several members of the band went on to create another band called Nightnoise which became very popular.

Musicians:

Johnny Cunningham – fiddle
Micheal O Domhnaill – guitar
Phil Cunningham – accordion, keyboards
Triona Ni Dhomhnaill – vocals, keyboards

Discography:

Relativity (Green Linnet, 1985)
Gathering Pace (Green Linnet, 1987)

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Artist Profiles: Reem Kelani

Reem Kelani – Photo by Phillip Ryalls

 

Reem Kelani was born in Manchester, in the UK and brought up in Kuwait. Reem’s father comes from Ya’bad near Jenin and her mother from Nazareth in Galilee. Reem enjoyed early exposure to all sorts of music. She learned the piano and listened to the Jazz standards her father used to sing at home. She studied the Quran as a child and used to hear the calls to prayer about her in Kuwait. Life in the Diaspora also meant that she was exposed to the music of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran East Africa, the Levant and Egypt. It was while at a family wedding in the Galilee that Reem as a child was first taken by Palestinian music.

Reem has been recording and collating folk songs from women in her maternal home of Nazareth, in the refugee camps of Palestine and Lebanon and elsewhere in the Diaspora.

Now considered as one of the foremost researchers and performers of Palestinian music Reem Kelani recorded Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora. Some of the songs on the CD are Reem’s research and arrangement of traditional (and some very old) Palestinian songs; the others are her own musical settings of popular and resistance poetry by Mahmoud Darwish, Salma Khadra, Jayyusi Rashid Husain and Mahmoud Salim al-Hout.

Reem’s band includes a Jazz rhythm section comprising Zoe Rahman on piano, Idris Rahman on tenor saxophone clarinet and bass clarinet, Oli Hayhurst on double bass and Patrick Illingworth on drums. Egyptian violinist Samy Bishai and Iranian percussionist Fariborz Kiani complete the line-up.

Other artists on Sprinting Gazelle D include: Armenian duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan (playing the ancient and haunting Palestinian double-clarinet the yarghul); film-composer Dirk Campbell (who lends his string arrangements and nay playing); Salah Dawson Miller (on Arabic percussion); Paul Clarvis (on drums and frame drums) and Sonia Slany with her Solid Strings Quartet.

Reem Kelani sees her project as a means of demonstrating the fact of the Palestinians’ existence now and in the past. She views her musical journey as both historical and political personal and collective. She seeks to point out suffering and to highlight celebration. Her journey is a musical one through the written and oral history of a people who are proud of their collective sense of poetry stories music and existence. This is manifested in the detailed accompanying booklet which includes introductory notes for each song lyrics in Arabic and English and a comprehensive glossary of musical and cultural terms.

Leon Rosselson of Fuse Records offered his advice and his record label. This gave Reem the opportunity to produce the CD herself thus maintaining her musical and cultural integrity and her independence. Raising the necessary funds for the project was by no means easy but with the help of friends, family and supporters the CD was finally made. It took two years in the process and is the culmination of more than 2 years of effort and hope.

Discography:

Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora (2006)

Reem Kelani: Live at the Tabernacle (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Rebirth Brass Band

Rebirth Brass Band

New Orleans ensemble Rebirth Brass Band was formed in 1983. The group carries musical tradition through the decades with a revolving cast of musicians.

Brothers Philip and Keith Frazier and their friend Kermit Ruffins first started the band with members of the Joseph S. Clark Senior High School marching band. Rebirth has recorded many albums won a Grammy and toured Europe and the U.S.

Rebirth Brass Band has seen its share of hardships. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated their home city including the neighborhood of Treme which is now widely known due to the HBO TV series of the same name which followed neighborhood citizens as they rebuilt their homes and lives. Through the years Rebirth Brass Band which was featured in the series has used music to create hope unity and a sense of place even while marching around the world.

Discography:

Here to Stay! (Arhoolie Records, 1984)
Feel Like Funkin’ It Up (Rounder Records, 1989)
Do Whatcha Wanna (Mardi Gras Records, 1991)
Rebirth Kickin’ It Live (Rounder Records, 1991)
Take It To The Street (Rounder Records, 1992)
Rollin’ (Rounder Records, 1994)
We Come To Party (Shanachie, 1997)
Main Event: Live At The Maple Leaf (Mardi Gras Records, 1999)
Hot Venom (Mardi Gras Records, 2001)
Rebirth for Life (2004)
Ultimate Rebirth Brass Band (Mardi Gras Records, 2004)
Throwback (Basin Street Records, 2005)
25! 25th Anniversary Album (2008)
Rebirth of New Orleans (Basin Street Records, 2011)
Move Your Body (Basin Street Records, 2014)

DVDs:

Never A Dull Moment (2007)

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Artist Profiles: Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon

Rebecca Pidgeon, the acclaimed American actress has also displayed her gift as a singer-songwriter on her several well-received albums with Chesky Records. Pidgeon’s style includes elements from folk, pop, jazz and Celtic traditions.

Rebecca Pidgeon was born October 10, 1965 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA). While a teenager in Scotland, music came as naturally to Pidgeon as breathing. She sang along with the radio and her parents’ Beatles and Joni Mitchell records as a light escape from her demanding acting studies. In Edinburgh, a friend asked her to sing on his demo tape. “I didn’t know I was a singer at all,” she recalls. “At first I felt ridiculous because I hadn’t trained to be a singer hadn’t even planned it. I didn’t feel like a genuine singer and the first songs I wrote didn’t feel like real songs. It was only when people started saying to me ‘That’s a wonderful song’ that I finally began believing I was a singer and a songwriter.”

Pidgeon made two celebrated British albums with the folk-pop band Ruby Blue, shared the stage with Lyle Lovett and Van Morrison and played a series of New York gigs with Anthony Coote while she was starring in the New York stage production of Oleanna.

By the age of 23 the actress had found work in theater film and on BBC television starring with Anthony Hopkins, David Warner, Ian Holm and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. She had just played a lead in a star-strewn BBC production of Uncle Vanya when she moved to the United States in 1990 and married playwright David Mamet. “Coming to America was a huge change. I didn’t have a plan in my head and I had to start all over again with both my acting and my music,” she says.

After returning to the United States, Pidgeon happened to hear a Kenny Rankin album that was released on Chesky Records, the New York-based audiophile record label. “It was recorded without overdubbing and the sound was so beautiful and natural that I knew it was what I wanted. I wished to get away from the over-produced approach I’d known in England.” So began Pidgeon’s relationship with Chesky Records.

Her first Chesky release, The Raven featured Pidgeon’s striking version of “Spanish Harlem.” The Raven went on to become an audiophile classic thanks to Pidgeon’s crystalline voice and Chesky’s high-fidelity recording techniques. Her second album, New York Girls Club brought her unique singing and songwriting to more music lovers. “Songwriting became a very important form of self-expression for me a rich part of my life,” Pidgeon explains.

While growing up in Scotland Pidgeon’s father knew many Scottish songs in addition to American and British music. Pidgeon’s third, Four Marys showcases Rebecca’s unique interpretations of timeless Celtic folk songs.

Between album projects, Pidgeon has starred in the Mamet plays Oleanna, Speed the Plow, The Old Neighborhood and the motion pictures The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy and State & Main.

Discography:

Down From Above with Ruby Blue (1990)
The Raven (Chesky Records, 1994)
New York Girls Club (Chesky Records, 1996)
The Four Marys (Chesky Records, 1998)
Tough On Crime (2005)
Behind The Velvet Curtain (2008)
Slingshot (2012)
Blue Dress On (2013)
Bad Poetry (2014)

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Artist Profiles: Rebeca Mauleon

Rebeca Mauleon

Rebeca Mauleon is a prolific pianist composer arranger as well as author and educator. She has performed with acclaimed luminaries Latin, rock, pop and world music artists, including Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, Tito Puente, Steve Winwood, Israel “Cachao” López, Giovanni Hidalgo, Carlos Patato Valdez, Joe Henderson and others.

Her performing and arranging credits include Tito Puente (Goza Mi Timbal), Steve Winwood (Junction Seven), and Carlos Patato Valdez (Ritmo y Candela). In the 1990s she recorded and toured with Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum as its Musical Director; highlights include Woodstock ’99 the Conan O’Brien show and the Regis and Kathy Lee Show.

As a producer, Mauleon’s first solo release Round Trip garnered international critical acclaim. As the leader of her own ensemble, Rebeca has appeared at numerous renowned music festivals including the Kennedy Center’s “Women in Jazz” festival in 1999, the Monterey Jazz Festival and San Francisco and San Jose Jazz Festivals. In 2001 she was the recipient of the prestigious Meet The Composer New Residencies Award for a three-year residency at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Rebeca is also much in-demand as a teacher and clinician throughout the U.S. and Europe specializing in Latin music performance and history, combining hands-on master classes with high-energy performances by her ensemble. She is the author of several texts on Latin music technique (all published through Sher Music). She has also published articles for top industry magazines including Keyboard, Modern Drummer, Mix en Español and Bass Player.

Rebeca is a tenured professor of Latin American Music at City College of San Francisco, a guest lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, and sits on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

Discography:

Round Trip (Bembe Records, 1999)
Latin Fire (Rumbeca Music, 2004)
Descarga en California (Universal, 2006)

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Artist Profiles: Razón de Son

Raúl Rodriguez, Razón de Son – Photo by Oscar Romero

Razón de Son is a creative research project that investigates the intercultural origin of early flamenco music. The research uses a double method of investigation: on one side the anthropological background and on the other musical experimentation.

Razon de Son aims to expand the musical storyline by tracing back to the deeply mestizo culture heir of the cultural crossover that occurred in the Afro-Caribbean colonies and the Andalusian ports of Seville and Cadiz between 16th and 19th centuries.

Raul Rodriguez creates new tunes and reinterpretations of the ancient Afro-Hispanic dances. He also introduced a new musical instrument that he calls the tres flamenco, combining Cuban son and flamenco toque which opens the possibilities of a new language: Son Flamenco.

Razon de Son also applies the latest historical and musical studies around the multiple sources that influenced flamenco music. This idea was developed over the last few years by several authors such as Faustino Nuez, Jose Luis Ortiz-Nuevo. J. L. Navarro Garcia and Santiago Auseron offering some of the most interesting perspectives around the basic fundamentals of the flamenco culture.
This new perspective not only shows new origins of Flamencos most deeply rooted traditions but also highlights the importance of the contribution of black music from the Andalusian ports of the XVI to XVIII centuries to flamenco music. Detailed studies show that the African dances already existed in the Spanish Golden Age and had a decisive influence on the development of many of the modern Flamenco dances thus opening up a path to follow in order to continue to discover new tools of expression new sones for the future.

In 2003. Raul Rodriguez founded the celebrated band Son de la Frontera featuring for the first time the Cuban tres in Flamenco in an homage work to Diego del Gastor. He produced both albums of the band for Nuevos Medios: Son de la Frontera (2004) and Cal (2006). The band got international reputation receiving several awards as Flamenco Hoy 25 Best Instrumental Album, BBC Radio World Music Awards as Best European Album 2008. Son de la Frontera toured worldwide and played in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, La Habana Miami, Mexico DF, Montreal, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, etc. from 2003 to 2008.

Razon de Son is Raul Rodriguez’s continuation of his musical research of early flamenco.

Line-up: Raul Rodriguez – tres cubano; Mario Mas – Spanish guitar; Aleix Tobias on percussion; and Guillem Aguilar – bass

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Artist Profiles: Ray Heredia

Ray Heredia – Photo by Mario Pacheco

Ray Heredia was one of the most charismatic of the “young flamencos”. He combined Flamenco and Gypsy rumba with Caribbean salsa and jazz. He died prematurely in Madrid the 14th of July of 1991 at the age of 27 a month after his first solo album Quien no Corre Vuela was released.

Heredia was part of a Gypsy family from Madrid with a long musical tradition. Son of the dancer Josele, Ray started performing as a child. At 12 he registered his first recording at a studio and his career developed collaborating in recordings by Flamenco artists such as Camaron, El Chato de la Isla and Enrique de Melchor.

Notwithstanding that he grew up in a Flamenco environment he always showed a great interest in other kinds of music. He himself remembered that at the beginning of his musical career when he was not at a “tablao” (Flamenco nightclub) he spent hours with his ear glued to a radio trying to assimilate all kind of influences.

His anxiety lead him to be the real instigator of Ketama the band that he formed together with the Carmona brothers and Jose Soto Sorderita. Ketama’s debut album ignored at its time by the media showed the brilliance of New Flamenco and was praised by such different people as David Byrne, Jack Nicholson and Angelica Houston.

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Artist Profiles: Raul Jaurena

Raul Jaurena

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay master bandoneon player Raul Jaurena studied with his father at an early age. By age 8 he was playing in a children’s tango orchestra and by age 15 he was a member of the very popular Donato Raciatti Orchestra in Montevideo.

He has accompanied the world’s most well-known tango singers among them Roberto Goyeneche, Edmundo Rivero, Raul Lavie, Agustin Irusta Libertad Lamarque among others and has played with the legendary Uruguayan pianist Cesar Zagnoli. He performed with Astor Piazzolla at the Montreal Jazz Festival. During the 1960’s and 1970’s he was an arranger and bandoneonist for major tango orchestras in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile.

Currently he is the musical director of the acclaimed tango ensemble New York Buenos Aires Connection whose first compact disc came out on VIA Audio and received rave reviews from critics and listeners in North and South America and in Europe. In 1995 the group released their second recording Cabarute on Lyrichord Discs. In 1996 he toured Europe and Russia with the ensemble and the Irene Hultman Dance Company (for whom he wrote a suite that won the coveted New York dance and performance award,” the Bessie”). Jaurena performs regularly with New York Buenos Aires Connection in New York City and in dance halls throughout the United States.

In 2006 he released Te Amo Tango which won the 2007 Latin Grammy for Best Tango Album.Te Amo Tango was conceived at Raul Jaurena’s successful show featuring the Sinopus String Quintet from Uruguay, pianist Octavio Brunetti and vocalist Marga Mitchell at the Thalia Spanish Theater in New York City in 2005. The recoding includes eleven original compositions and Jaurena’s bold arrangements of music by countrymen Oldimar Caceres and Edelmiro D’Amario.

Pasion por La Vida came out in 2007. It was a duet recording with pianist and composer Roger Davidson and featuring eighteen of Davidson’s original new tango compositions. Fuerza Milonguera followed with Jaurena leading his Tango Orchestra exploring the roots and traditions of tango through new and classic compositions.

Discography:

Tango Bar (2001)
Te amo Tango (2006)
Fuerza Milonguera (2010)
Tributango
Tango Mundo

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Artist Profiles: Rasha

Rasha

Rasha was born in 1971 in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, or to be more exact in Ondurman – that suburban part of the vast metropolis which was the capital of the Sudan during the time of the Mahdi and has since been one of the land’s most important cultural centers. Rasha’s family has lived here for many generations so she mentions for example that in the 1880’s her grandfather’s house was a city-wide-known meeting-place for the most prominent musicians of the Sudan. Here they would make music together or compose or just exchange their knowledge and experiences. “I didn’t play music professionally,” she recalls, “but I had a lot of people in my family in music and theater and art generally. I have a painter brother an actress and three musicians.”

Rasha and her 19 siblings were raised in this vivacious cultural and historical climate – as members of a family that has produced artists and intellectuals almost without exception: Rasha’s brothers and sisters are painters actors a theater-director or like herself musicians. One of her older brothers Wafir played with the Spanish cult-band Radio Tarifa and performs with other world music acts based in Madrid.

So it’s not too surprising that Rasha made her way to music as well. Early in life her musical talent was formed within the family and later tried and trained in the outside world with the help of one of her sisters. Rasha worked on productions for radio television and theater for and with that sister and in the process perfected her knowledge of different styles of music as well as her aptitude for composition and arrangement.

Her dream of turning her work with music into the central content of her life only strengthened Rasha’s final resolve to leave her home which was being sought by civil war. Despite the country’s wealth of musical tradition and the dynamic music scene of Khartoum there were – and still are – few possibilities to make a living as a musician in the Sudan. Leaving the country for Cairo in 1991 she eventually moved on to Spain to join family members already living there.

But accomplishing her personal goal was not easy in Spain either. To begin with, Rasha enrolled in University and earned a living with various jobs such as a nanny, hairdresser, janitor and also as an English teacher. In her free time she sought and found connection to the local music-scene, played with various band projects and worked persistently at the realization of her own musical vision culminating in the release of her debut-album “Sudaniyat”.

I spent about six months listening to Sudanese music, different things. And I chose these particular songs because I thought they were what I know about Sudanese music.” She also gave them beautiful acoustic arrangements that feature her warm rich voice. This 1998 release established Rasha as a powerful new player in her country’s music, one with the power to reach new audiences around the world. “I’ve always wanted to introduce my native music to a broader public and at the same time not limit it to the strictly traditional themes. Sudan’s music is incredibly diverse and differs in many ways from all other ‘African’ music: it is not as distinctly rhythmic and danceable – even though it is full of complex rhythms – but puts more emphasis on melody. It is more melancholic. Partially it even sounds downright sad. And even though it is at a first glance very similar to Arabic music Sudanese music is different – a mixture of both and yet unlike either of them.”

For her next recording Let Me Be (2001) Rasha went still further in creating a modern sound informed by jazz and pop. On Let Me Be, she says, “I tried to make Sudanese music more international. I listened to a lot of music that is not from Sudan and I was influenced by all these things.”

Let Me Be brings Rasha together with mostly Spanish accompanists and has a distinctly global sound. It also breaks ground lyrically particularly on a bravely political song about her homeland called “Your Bloody Kingdom.” Recalls Rasha, “I tried to give a message in that song to talk about what’s going on in Sudan in my way. I’m not a political person at all but at the same time I couldn’t just make love songs like most of the Sudanese songs. So I was trying to talk about the situation in Sudan all this war in the 20th century.”

The lyrics are powerful and earned her an enthusiastic following not only in the diaspora but even back home.

“I went back after nine years out of Sudan,” says Rasha, “and it was a completely different place. People are much poorer than ever. Houses looked abandoned. You felt that there was no freedom that people had no chance to express themselves. That was very shocking to me.” But it only strengthened her resolve to succeed and to serve as a role model for young Sudanese especially women who yearn for a career in the arts. Among the things Rasha hopes to change is the approach to producing music in Sudan. Today, the orchestras whose music enchanted her youth have largely been replaced by keyboards.

Rasha is very involved with social issues women’s rights and the plight of the refugees. She cooperated with the United Nations when she performed on the 8th of March 1998 (Working Women’s Day) in New York at the United Nations Building in a concert for the female delegates. In April of the same year she traveled to the Saharawi refugee camps near Tinduf (Algeria) to participate in the “Sahara en el Corazón” (Sahara in the Heart) Festival. In June 2000, as a member of La Banda Negra, she participated in a concert organized by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) of Spain for the benefit of the African refugees.

Rasha appeared at the UNHCR’s 5th Anniversary in Geneva in 2001. Thousands of candles were set afloat down the river Rhone to represent the hopes of millions of refugees.

Discography:

Sudaniyat (Nubenegra, 1997)
La sal de la vida (Nubenegra, 1998)
La Banda Negra (Nubenegra, 1999)
Let me be (Nubenegra, 2000)

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Artist Profiles: Ramón Montoya

Ramón Montoya

Ramón Montoya Salazar is considered a genius by most Flamenco guitarists. He was born November 2, 1879. Some biographies mention he was born near Toledo (Spain), while others indicate his birthplace as Madrid, Spain.

As a child he visited Madrid’s influential Cafe de la Marina, watching guitarists play. The key moment came when he met the most important classical guitarist of that time Miguel Llobet.

Ramón Montoya recorded his first solo piece as a soloist in 1936 in Paris, at the age of 56. Until then Montoya had only recorded as accompanist.

Ramón Montoya died July 20, 1949 in Madrid, Spain.

Discography:

Flamenquistas volume II (Stinson Records, 1962)
Arte Clasico Flamenco. Un Maestro De La Guitarra (Hispavox, 1971)
Le Vrai Flamenco Instrumental ‎(Disc’Az, 1974)
Great Masters of Flamenco, Vol .5 – Grandes Figures Du Flamenco (Le chant du Monde, 1996)
El Genio De La Guitarra Flamenca (2003)
Maestro De La Guitarra Flamenca ‎(Calé Records, 2011)

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