Tag Archives: Jazz

Artist profiles: Ysaye Barnwell

Ysaye Barnwell

Ysaye Barnwell joined Sweet Honey In The Rock in 1979 and along with Bernice Johnson Reagon became one of the group’s main spokeswomen. Barnwell holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Speech Pathology, is a Doctor of Philosophy and Public Health and has been a professor at Howard University. She has worked on various projects as a composer and musical consultant including contributions to Sesame Street, the Dance Company of Pittsburgh and the Women’s Philharmonic of San Francisco.

Her workshop Singing In The African-American Tradition has been conducted all around the world and she is also an actress and an author.

Discography:

Good News (Flying Fish, 1981)
We All…Everyone Of Us (Flying Fish, 1983)
The Other Side (Flying Fish, 1985)
Breaths (Flying Fish, 1988)
Feel Something Drawing Me On (Flying Fish, 1985)
Live At Carnegie Hall (Flying Fish, 1988)
All For Freedom (Music For Little People, 1989)
In This Land (Earthbeat! 1992)
Still On The Journey (Earthbeat! 1993)
I Got Shoes (Music For Little People, 1994)
Sacred Ground (Earthbeat! 1996)
Selections (Flying Fish/Rounder 1997)
Twenty Five enhanced CD (Rykodisc, 1998)
Freedom Song soundtrack (Sony Classical, 2000)
Still the Same Me (Rounder Kids, 2000)
Alive in Australia (2003)
The Women Gather (Earthbeat, 2003)
Endings and Beginnings (2004)
Raise Your Voice (Earthbeat, 2005)
Are We A Nation? (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock

The all-female a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock began in 1973, a project put together by its founder Bernice Johnson Reagon. The name came from their first song, a parable that told of a land so rich that when the rocks were cracked open, honey flowed.

Combining the full range of the African-American vocal tradition, Sweet Honey’s repertoire incorporates original West African songs that were brought by slaves to the Americas, work songs, congregational spirituals, full-on gospel numbers, blues, jazz, freedom songs from the Civil Rights movement, love songs and rap.

Sweet Honey’s members come from a variety of backgrounds. Founder Bernice Johnson Reagon’s scholarly credentials include her appointment as Curator Emerita at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC. She has worked on several award-winning films and documentaries, including the series Eyes On The Prize, We Shall Overcome and Wade In The Water. She received a Presidential Medal in 1995 for her contribution to the humanities and is the author of several books on African-American History.

Over the years the lineup has changed.

Discography:

Sweet Honey In The Rock (Flying Fish, 1976)
B’lieve I’ll Run On… (Redwood, 1978)
Good News (Flying Fish, 1981)
We All…Everyone Of Us (Flying Fish, 1983)
The Other Side (Flying Fish, 1985)
Breaths (Flying Fish, 1988)
Feel Something Drawing Me On (Flying Fish, 1985)
Live At Carnegie Hall (Flying Fish, 1988)
All For Freedom (Music For Little People, 1989)
In This Land (Earthbeat! 1992)
Still On The Journey (Earthbeat! 1993)
I Got Shoes (Music For Little People, 1994)
Sacred Ground (Earthbeat! 1996)
Selections (Flying Fish/Rounder 1997)
Twenty Five enhanced CD (Rykodisc, 1998)
Freedom Song soundtrack (Sony Classical, 2000)
Still the Same Me (Rounder Kids, 2000)
Alive in Australia (2003)
The Women Gather (Earthbeat, 2003)
Endings and Beginnings (2004)
Raise Your Voice (Earthbeat, 2005)
Are We A Nation? (2010)
A Tribute — Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center (2013)
Silent Night (2014)
#LoveInEvolution (2016)

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A Jazz Flute Celebration

Nestor Torres – Jazz Flute Traditions

Nestor Torres – Jazz Flute Traditions (Alfi Records, 2017)

Puerto Rican flute virtuoso Nestor Torres celebrates jazz, classical and Latin jazz stylings on Jazz Flute Traditions. The album includes a wonderful tribute to Spain featuring a medley of the “Concierto De Aranjuez” and Chick Corea’s iconic composition “Spain.”

The album also includes versions of classics by Herbie Mann, Yusef Lateef, Cole Porter and Chick Corea’s “Windows” and various other composers.

The lineup on Jazz Flute Traditions includes Néstor Torres on flute; Silvano Monasterios on piano; Jamie Ousley on bass; Michael Piolet on drums, and José Gregorio Hernández on percussion.

Guests: Miguel Russell, on percussion; Ian Muñoz on alto saxophone; and Marcus Grant on drums.

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Artist Profiles: Roberto Perera

Roberto Perera

Roberto Perera was born in 1952 in Montevideo, Uruguay. His romance with the Paraguayan harp can be traced all the way back to 1964 when the 12-year-old aspiring musician enrolled at the Conservatory of Modern Music in his hometown of Montevideo the capital city of Uruguay.

His multicultural beginnings not doubt played a part in his decision to embrace the 36-string Paraguayan harp and transform the native Indoamerican instrument to incorporate the influences of Latin, pop, jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music styles. “The Paraguayan harp was considered an instrument merely to play folk music,” says Perera.

His complex technique includes precisely bending the strings to create sharps and flats, while gliding across the harp in a seemingly effortless fashion, giving little indication of the tremendous skill and discipline that’s required.

Roberto Perera’s professional career did not begin until 1973. After completing his course of musical studies, Perera moved to the United States in search of wider musical opportunities.
Perera’s point of entry was New York City, where he worked before moving south to Florida. Miami had a burgeoning Latin music scene at the time and Roberto quickly gained status as one of the hot musicians around town.

By the time his self-produced debut Erotica was released by Epic Records in 1990 (re-released by Heads Up in 1997) Perera had already earned a reputation as a pioneer of the electro-acoustic harp.

Perera began his association with Heads Up International in 1991 with the release of Passion, Illusions & Fantasies an album which received overwhelming critical acclaim throughout the Americas and Europe.

The following year Perera released Christmas Fantasies. On his three subsequent releases for Heads Up: Seduction (1994) Harp & Soul (1996) and In the Mood (2000) Perera continued to explore the lush musical landscapes.

My goal has always been to approach the harp in an unorthodox manner – to stylistically play ideas not normally associated with the instrument,” Perera says. “About the time I started playing harp the Beatles were very popular. I listened to a lot of Brazilian music pop from the U.S. tango and folk music. What I really liked was the folk music from Paraguay and soon started mixing using the techniques of folk music to play Beatles tunes.”

Discography:

Erotica (Epic Records 1990/re-released by Heads Up International in 1997)
Passion, Illusions & Fantasies (OXCD 313 1991)
Dreams and Desires (OXCD 318 1992)
Seduction (Heads Up International, 1994)
Christmas Fantasies (Heads Up International, 1993)
Harp & Soul (Heads Up International, 1996)
In the Mood (Heads Up International, 2000)
Sensual (Heads Up International, 2002)
Magical (Heads Up International, 2010)

DVD

Creation (Heads Up Records, 2007)

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Astrid Kuljanic’s Croatian Jazz

Astrid Kuljanic – Transatlantic Exploration Company – Riva

 

Astrid Kuljanic – Transatlantic Exploration Company – Riva (One Trick Dog Records, 2017)

On Riva, Croatian vocalist and composer Astrid Kuljanic combines jazz with Croatian elements. Throughout the album she switches from Croatian to English-language vocals.

The album’s sound focuses around the jazz-style vocals and the accordion, supported by creative bass lines and fascinating percussion work. The Transatlantic Exploration Company plays conventional jazz as well as Brazilian beats.

The line-up on Riva includes Astrid Kuljanic on vocals; Ben Rosenblum on accordion; Mat Muntz on bass; and Rogerio Boccato on percussion.

 

 

 

You can purchase the album from www.pledgemusic.com/projects/astrid

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David Virelles’ Afro-Cuban Piano explorations

David Virelles – Gnosis

David Virelles – Gnosis (ECM Records, 2017)

Gnosis is a multifaceted avant-garde album featuring a extensive series of musical illustrations by Cuban pianist David Virelles. There is unconventional piano experimentation, captivating Afro-Cuban rhythmic performances, and jazz improvisation.

The highlights on Gnosis ae the piano and percussion ensemble pieces where Virelles collaborates with percussionist Román Diaz and the Nosotros Ensemble.

Musicians featured in Gnosis include David Virelles on piano, marimbula, vocals; Román Díaz on lead vocals, percussion; Allison Loggins-Hull on flute, piccolo; Rane Moore on clarinet and bass clarinet; Adam Cruz on steel pan, claves; Alex Lipowksi on percussion; Matthew Gold on marimba, glockenspiel; Mauricio Herrera on ekón, nkonos, erikundi, claves; Thomas Morgan on bass; Yunior Lopez on viola; Christine Chen and Samuel DeCaprio on cello; Melvis Santa and Mauricio Herrera on background vocals.

 

 

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Salsa Meets Jazz for Puerto Rico! Benefit Concert Today in New York City

Some of the finest salsa and jazz musicians will get together later this evening to raise funds and support for musicians in Puerto Rico through the efforts of the Jazz Foundation of America. The show, titled Salsa Meets Jazz for Puerto Rico! is hosted by percussion maestro Bobby Sanabria and Joann Jiménez. The concert takes place at 7:30pm at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

The lineup includes David Amram, Paquito D’Rivera, Cándido, Jimmy Owens, Randy Brecker, Larry Harlow, Eddie Montalvo, Brenda Feliciano, Antoinette Montague, poets Mariposa and Felipe Luciano, DJ Antonio Ocasio and many more.

6:30pm doors, 7:30pm show
(Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012, 212-505-FISH

More at lpr.com

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Dizzy’s Love

Dizzy Gillespie ca. June 1946 – William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress

 

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.  Dizzy as he was affectionately known was one of the greatest jazz innovators of the twentieth century.  His music, Bebop – “Bop” for short, was improvised, with complex and often dissonant chords, and sometimes very rapid tempos.  It began in jam sessions in Harlem, and made a dramatic entrance into the music scene in the mid-1940s.  Listeners were startled by it, and some traditional jazz musicians even described it as noise. But, it took over the world of jazz rapidly, and as a genre would influence generations of musicians to come.

Nothing so amazing and so influential has been heard in jazz since.  Looking back, many writers have focused on Dizzy’s musical genius and technical mastery, but I am going to talk about Dizzy’s love of Cuban music and his connection to Cuban musicians.

Dizzy was born on October 21st, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, and his father was a bandleader.  Dizzy was surrounded by instruments as a young child.  He learned to play piano starting at age four and later taught himself trumpet and trombone. He soon became a professional musician.  It was while he was playing in Cab Calloway’s orchestra in the 1940’s that Calloway introduced him to Mario Bauzá.  Bauzá was one of the first musicians to introduce Latin music to the United States. He would later connect Dizzy to Luciano Pozo Gonzáles, who was known as Chano Pozo.

Chano Pozo cut a strong and charismatic figure on stage. He could dance and sing as hard as he played conga.  Even though it was difficult for them to understand each other.  But, Dizzy said in the documentary film, A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba, that they both “spoke Africa.”  Dizzy saw him as a brother.  Before they met, Cuban music had only an occasional influence on jazz, and vice versa. That would soon change.  Dizzy quickly welcomed Chano Pozo as a conguero into his band.   And, on September 29th 1947, Pozo and the bongo player Chiquitico performed with Dizzy at a Carnegie Hall concert.   As Alyn Shipton wrote in “Groovin’ High: A Life of Dizzy Gillespie”:

Few collaborations capture the heady excitement, virtuosity … that can be found in “Manteca”, “Cubana-be Cubana-bop” (also known as the Afro-Cuban jazz suite) and “Guarachi Guaro” from the first fruits of Pozo’s tenure with Dizzy’s band.”

 

A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba

 

Dizzy incorporated much of Chano Pozo’s Santeria chanting into Bop – something that was new, and at times perplexed his fellow musicians, but later caught on.  Likewise, bands in Bop had hitherto only a single drummer, but suddenly congas and sometimes a group of Cuban percussionists became a regular component of the music, adding additional excitement and rhythmic spice.  Chano Pozo was tragically murdered at the age of only 33, but he left behind a powerful mark on modern jazz that reverberates to this day. Dizzy also recorded several beautiful pieces with the masterful Cuban composer and arranger, Chico O’Farrill, including the album Afro-Cuban jazz moods, on which the well-known Cuban maraca player, Machito, also performed.

Dizzy fell quickly in love with Cuban music.  It was a firm embrace. He said several times in different interviews that slaveholders forbade drumming in the United States, yet drumming was kept alive in the South Americas and Caribbean, a drumming that has as its roots Africa.  Cuban music is a music with rhythm at its center.  The clave rhythm, broken up into a first measure of two notes and a second measure of three or vice versa, finds its origins in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed the word clave means key.  And it is used to help organize many Cuban rhythms, including rumba, son, salsa and mambo.  Dizzy was no stranger to rhythm. He wrote in his autobiography, “To Be or Not … to Bop” of six prerequisites that all successful musicians must have: mastery of instrument, style, taste, communication, chord progressions and rhythm. “Rhythm,” he wrote, “includes all of the other attributes because you may have all of these others and don’t have the rhythmic sense to put them together, then it would negate all of your other accomplishments.”

 

To Be or Not … to Bop

 

The Cuban music that Dizzy fell in love with in the 1940’s would stay with him for the rest of his life.  Forty years later, he was invited to headline the fifth international jazz festival in Havana.  He described going to Cuba as “coming home.” There, like a loving father, he embraced and nurtured the emerging jazz talents of several younger Cuban musicians, including Arturo Sandoval and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Arturo who is a trumpeter later recounted that he thought Dizzy was expecting to find only a group of great percussionists when he arrived in Cuba, but was a bit surprised to find a trumpeter with some technical prowess.

Dizzy’s love of world music did not stop and rest in Cuba.  He travelled the world as part of the Jazz Ambassador program with a band of musicians from all of the Americas on behalf of the United States State Department. They toured South America, the Middle East, and still other countries. He went with a sense of curiosity and openness. But he also felt a deep need for the world to know and to appreciate jazz.  He felt the same need in the United States, where racism impeded its acceptance. For Dizzy, music was a delight, he emanated joy from the stage.

In 2002, Gillespie was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to Afro-Cuban music.  Dizzy had long embraced the Ba’hai faith.  It is no accident that a man who wanted to be remembered not only for his music, but also for his humanitarianism, was so moved by a religion that speaks about the worth of all religions, and the equality and unity of all people.

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Extraordinarily Expressive Contemporary Maqams

Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams (ECM Records, 2017)

Blue Maqams brings together Anouar Brahem, one of the great masters of the oud, and three of the finest jazz musicians. The music on Blue Maqams is an exquisite mix of Arabic modal music known as maqam, and jazz, classical, flamenco and Brazilian influences. Although there is jazz improvisation, all the pieces, composed by Brahem, have a clearly defined structure.

Anouar Brahem’s oud delights with impeccable performances and interplay with the bass, drums and piano. Dave Holland is one of the most open minded jazz bassists, who has collaborated with flamenco, Latin American and American roots music artists.

The lineup includes Anouar Brahem on oud; Dave Holland on double bass; Jack DeJohnette on drums; and Django Bates on piano.

Blue Maqams is an exceptionally expressive album by oud maestro Anouar Brahem and three dazzling improvisers.

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Carmen Souza’s Transatlantic Vocal Brilliance

Carmen Souza – Creology (Galileo Music, 2017)

On Creology, Carmen Souza continues to explore Cape Verdean, Brazilian and other lusophone influences interweaving jazz elements. Carmen’s vocal range continues to marvel, changing her pitch easily, from childlike voices to deep bass tones. She adds great vocal overdubs, plus male choruses and call and response sections.

Carmen Souza’s band is spectacular as always, with composer and bass maestro on electric bass, backing vocals and percussion. The equally talented Elias Kacomanolis utilizes a wide-range of global percussion and also contributes backing vocals. Zoe Pascal is a guest percussionist.

Although Carmen Souza is widely-known as a vocalist, she showcases her talent as an instrumentalist as well, playing superb piano on her tribute to classic American jazz, “Pretty Eyes.”

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