Tag Archives: piano

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.

 

 

Buy Gnosis in Europe

Buy Gnosis in the rest of the world

Share

The Piano Art of the Possible

Fer Isella – The Art of the Possible

 

Fer Isella – The Art of the Possible (Limbo, 2017)

The Art of the Possible is a solo piano album by Argentine musician and composer Fer Isella.

The Art of the Possible contains masterfully-constructed introspective solo piano pieces that straddle the boundaries between classical music, contemporary acoustic and smooth jazz.

 

buy The Art of the Possible

Share

Artist Profiles: Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri’s musical career spans several decades as a bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. His discography includes over 30 albums and various Grammy Awards.

Born in Spanish Harlem (New York city)  in 1936, Palmieri began piano studies at an early age, as did his celebrated older brother, the late salsa legend and pianist Charlie Palmieri. For Hispanic New Yorkers of Eddie’s generation, music was a vehicle out of the barrio. At age 11, he made his classical debut at Carnegie Hall, a venue as far from the Bronx as he could imagine. Possessed by a desire to play the drums, Palmieri joined his uncle’s orchestra at age 13, where he played the timbales. Says Palmieri, “By 15, it was good-bye timbales’ and back to the piano until this day. I’m a frustrated percussionist, so I take it out on the piano.”

He began his professional career as a pianist in the early 1950s with Eddie Forrester’s Orchestra. In 1955 he joined Johnny Segui’s band. He spent a year with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra before forming his own band, the legendary Conjunto La Perfecta in 1961. La Perfecta featured a trombone section (led by the late Barry Rogers) in place of trumpets, something that had been rarely done in Latin music, and which demonstrated the early stages of Palmieri’s unconventional means of orchestration. They were known as “the band with the crazy roaring elephants” for the configuration of two trombones, flute, percussion, bass and vocalist. With an infectious and soaring sound, Palmieri’s band soon joined the ranks of Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and the other major Latin orchestras of the day.

Palmieri’s influences include not only his older brother Charlie but Jesus Lopez, Chapotin, Lili Martinez and other Cuban players of the 1940s and jazz legends Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Equally important were influences derived from Palmieri’s curiosity and incessant search to unearth his family’s roots and seek out the origins of the music that profoundly inspired him.

“In Cuba, there was a development and crystallization of rhythmical patterns that have excited people for years,” said Palmieri. “Cuban music provides the fundamental from which I never move. Whatever has to be built must be built from there. It’s that cross-cultural effect that makes magnificent music.” His solid interpretation of Afro-Caribbean music and its confluence with jazz is evident in Eddie Palmieri’s astute arranging skills, which assemble those components in dramatic and compelling compositions.

His accomplishments have taken him through Europe, Japan and Latin America, showcasing his assemblage of seasoned musicians and kaleidoscope of musical styles. He served as a consultant to Paul Simon on his 1990 release Rhythm of the Saints and in 1993 was appointed to the board of governors of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science. As a member of the New York chapter, Palmieri was instrumental in creating a new category for Latin Jazz in 1995.

On his first salsa album in eleven years, El Rumbero del Piano, Palmieri returned to his roots as leader of one of Latin music’s most phenomenal dance bands. Accompanied by the finest musicians of New York and Puerto Rico, Palmieri presented a sensational combination of salsa, bomba, plena, son montuno and jazz. El Rumbero del Piano is a spectrum of memorable and danceable music in nine outstanding tracks, featuring vocals by Wichy Camacho and Herman Olivera, two of Latin music’s most inspiring singers.

In his modern version of Arsenio Rodriguez’s classic “Oigan mi Guaguanco ” Palmieri pays tribute to Rodriguez, the great Cuban tres player, one of the founding fathers of today’s tropical music. Puerto Rican customs and culture are the centerpiece of the bomba tune “El Dueño Monte” in which the vocalists pay tribute to other legendary figures of Puerto Rico’s folk music, including singer Ismael Rivera and the musicians of the Cepeda family.

In “Donde Esta mi Negra” Palmieri gives new life to a genre known as “the people’s newspaper”—the plena. This is the first plena Palmieri has composed and arranged. Another treat is a salsa version of “La Malagueña Salerosa” composed by Pedro Galindo and Elpidio Ramírez. The final track, “Para que Escuchen” is pure Palmieri, urging listeners to hear the talking drum.

On his exuberant Concord Picante debut, La Perfecta II, Eddie Palmieri took a salsified, mambo-rific trip down memory lane and bought an updated twist of his famed 1960s ensemble to a whole new generation of Latin music lovers.

Now that Tito Puente is gone, Palmieri accepts the passing of the Latin music leader baton and is happy to consider himself a Latin jazz ambassador to the world.

Tito helped extend this music to all parts of the world, and as long as I am still healthy and energetic, I will continue to record and tour to keep this wonderful legacy alive,” says Palmieri. “The rhythms continue to excite because they keep evolving, just as they did when the African captives who started them were taken to the Caribbean. It’s a matter of finding new ways to utilize these complicated patterns and then create exciting new arrangements for my ensemble.”

We’ve been together for many years and work like a good baseball team,” adds Palmieri of his band. “What matters is how we take care of specific synchronizations, and a lot of that takes place first in my head. The structure is there, and I look at it sometimes as a mathematical equation. But then, it must translate to emotion, and that’s where the reaction of the audience comes in.” He jokes about choosing the title of his 2003 album, “I like the sound of Ritmo Caliente on Concord Picante. It is hot and spicy, like the music.” On the CD, Palmieri combines hard core salsa and hard Latin jazz with his classical and chamber string influences. “Concord has been wonderful in offering me this ability to keep taking musical risks,” he said.

In 2005, Palmieri received a series of prestigious awards: he received the Alice Tully African Heritage Award from City College, received the Harlem Renaissance Award and was inducted into both the Bronx Walk of Fame and the Chicago Walk of Fame. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Urban Latino Magazine. He acted as Godfather of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and received the EL Award from El Diario Newspaper. Yet another outstanding achievement that year was the debut of “Caliente ” a radio show hosted by Mr. Palmieri on National Public Radio, making him the first Latino ever to do so. The show has been a tremendous success, being picked up by more than 16 radio stations nationwide.

In 2006, Palmieri’s Listen Here! won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático, released in 2007, a collaborative effort with trumpet master Brian Lynch, won the 2007 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. Simpático was also recognized by the Jazz Journalist Association as Best Latin Jazz Album that same year.

Awards and accolades

Eddie Palmieri received his first Grammy Award in 1975 for his release The Sun of Latin Music, which is often considered the most historic, as it was the first time Latin Music was recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).

He would win again the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece, Palo Pa Rumba, Bajo Con Tumbao in 1984, Solito in 1985 and La Verdad in 1987. He received a Latin Grammy and a traditional Grammy for his 2000 release with Tito Puente entitled Obra Maestra, Listen Here! in 2006 and Simpatico in 2007, a collaborative effort with trumpet master Brian Lynch, for Best Latin Jazz Album.

Palmieri was awarded the Eubie Blake Award by Dr. Billy Taylor in 1991 and is among the few Hispanic musicians recognized by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico and the New York State Assembly. In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution recorded two of Palmieri’s performances for their catalog of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., a rare public honor.

The 1998 Heineken Jazz Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, paid tribute to his contributions as a bandleader, bestowing him an honorary doctorate degree from the Berklee College of Music.

Palmieri remains a powerhouse of brilliance and sound that has stirred audiences for more than 3 decades years, continually and successfully seeking to captivate and elevate the senses, and taking them down paths of intensity to a place where there are no musical boundaries.

Discography:

La Perfecta (Alegre, 1962)

El Molestoso (Alegre, 1963)

Lo Que Traigo Es Sabroso (Alegre, 1964)

Mambo Con Conga Is Mozambique (Tico, 1965)

Palmieri & Tjader: El Sonido Nuevo (Tico, 1966)

Palmieri & Tjader: Bamboleate (Tico, 1967)

Champagne (Tico, 1968)

Justicia (Tico, 1969)

Superimposition (Tico, 197)

Harlem River Drive (Roulette, 1971)

Live At Sing Sing – Vol 1 (Tico, 1972)

Live At Sing Sing – Vol 2 (Tico, 1972)

Sentido (Coco, 1973)

The Sun of Latin Music (Coco, 1974)

Unfinished Masterpiece (Coco, 1974)

Lucumi Macumba Voodoo (Epic, 1978)

Eddie Palmieri (Barbaro, 1982)

Bajo Con Tumbao (1984)

Solito (Musica Latina, 1985)

La Verdad (Sonido, 1987)

Sueño (Intuition, 1992)

Llegó La India Via Eddie Palmieri (Soho Sounds Palmas – Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992)

Arete (Tropijazz, 1995)

Vortex (Tropijazz, 1996)

El Rumbero Del Piano (Tropijazz, 1998)

Obra Maestra (2000)

La Perfecta II (Concord, 2002)

Ritmo Caliente (Concord Records CCD-218-2, 2003)

Listen Here! (Concord Records, 2005)

Simpático (The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project) (2006)

Eddie Palmieri is Doin’ it in the Park (2013)

 

 

Sabiduría (Ropeadope, 2017)

Share

Campaign Started to Build Pianos in Rwanda

A group of three friends has gotten together to build pianos in Rwanda. After the closure of the only piano factory in South Africa years ago, there are currently no piano makers in Africa. The Rwandan workshop intends to build upright pianos with an African twist, using local materials to make it affordable.

There is an Indiegogo campaign running until June: indiegogo.com/projects/kigali-keys-building-pianos-in-rwanda-piano-africa#/

Share

Eliane Elias Celebrates Her Roots

Eliane Elias – Dance of Time (Concord Jazz, 2017)

USA-based Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias has become of the most familiar names in the world of Brazilian-rooted jazz. Her new album Dance of Time takes Eliane back to her Brazilian roots in a brilliant manner.

Dance of Time was recorded in Brazil and the result is a truly exquisite recording. There is not a weak track on this album. Eliane Elias effortlessly balances her talent as a pianist and singer-songwriter, delivering some of her finest material, injecting spirited samba.

Dance of Time features first class talent from Brazil and the United States, including pianist Amilton Godoy, singer- songwriter and guitarist João Bosco, guitarist and vocalist Toquinho, trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and the unmistakable remarkable vocals of Mark Kibble (Take 6).

The performances on Dance of Time are remarkable and the recording quality is superb.

Dance of Time is so far one of the best Brazilian-rooted albums of the year.

Buy Dance of Time

Share

Lush Observations

Tigran Hamasyan – An Ancient Observer (Nonesuch Records, 2018)

Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you heard a piano recording? Seriously, when was the last time you sat and soaked in the frolicking richness or the magically complexity of an entire piano CD? Been a while? When so much peripheral background music screeching from the corners it hardly seems like pleasurable and more like something shoved down the throat, re-exploring the unimaginable richness of the piano can seem like an indulgence.

You deserve an indulgence by way of Tigran Hamasyan’s second offering on the Nonesuch Records label entitled An Ancient Observer. Born in Armenia, Tigran Hamasyan is known for such recordings as World Passion, New Era, A Fable and his first recording with Nonesuch by way of Mockroot. He is also known for collaborations with Dhafer Youssef, Ari Hoenig, Lars Danielsson, Stephane Galland and Sefj Tankian.

Backed by a wealth of folk traditions from his Armenian roots, Mr. Hamasyan has delved into progressive rock and jazz, often pulling at those Armenian musical tradition threads to flesh out his musical compositions.

Mr. Hamasyan explains his new recording, “These songs are musical observations about the world we live in now, and the weight of history we carry with us.”

Pairing charming elegance with musical drama, An Ancient Observer is a bold, razor sharp listen that tugs at the musical tapestry of jazz, classical and his native folk music. Plying the listener with his extraordinary mastery of the piano, Mr. Hamasyan expands the depth by way of vocals, synths, Fender Rhodes and special effects. The result is at once intimate and then expansive as he takes the listener through such musical feats as “Markos and Markos,” “The Cave of Rebirth” and the elegance of “New Baroque I and II.”

 

 

Back in Armenia, where ordinary life inspires his music Mr. Hamasyan explains, “I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with perpetual snow on its peak, with electrical towers with wires in the foreground cutting the picture, and satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses—ancestral smoke coming out of their chimneys—and birds hovering above the trees along with occasional airplane trails in the vast sky. It is a dialogue, this interaction of God-given ancient nature with our modern human achievements” he says.

For me it is an awakening, and a beautiful feeling, to be able to observe the magnificence of this sleeping volcanic giant, which has existed for millions of years and was observed by the Ararat Valley Koura-Arax culture through to the present day citizens of the Armenian republic. I can see and observe the same birds, animals, rivers, and mountains that the craftsman of 4,000 years ago painted on a clay vessel. He was observing the same thing I observe now, and what remains is his or her beautiful work of art.”

Composing all the music on An Ancient Observer and basing “Nairian Odyssey” and “Etude No. 1” on Armenian folk melodies, Mr.Hamasyan enthralls and entrances listeners with “Nairian Odyssey” with its fascinating twists and turns and “Etude No. 1” with its quick and bright clever catchiness, as well as additional tracks like “Egyptian Poet,” Leninagone” and title track “Ancient Observer.” This is simply a lush recording.

Jazz and piano fans are sure to dive into the deep end of An Ancient Observer, but for those jazz novices this might be one of those recordings they might very well enjoy dipping a toe into for the sheer quiet loveliness, expressive drama and poignant expansiveness. An Ancient Observer is one of those easy indulgences begging for us to be quiet and just listen.

Buy An Ancient Observer

Share

Artist Profiles: Pablo Ziegler

Pablo Ziegler

The internationally acclaimed Argentine pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler has been hailed as one of the world’s leading proponent of the nuevo tango. A classically trained pianist and a veteran of the vibrant jazz scene in his native Buenos Aires, Ziegler is taking South America’s most sultry and passionate music into new territory. Ziegler joins a small group of contemporary artists that includes trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and pianist Marcus Roberts who are recording both classical and jazz projects today. Ziegler is the only artist currently involved with tango projects in both genres.

Ziegler and the other members of his Quintet for New Tango – Héctor Del Curto (bandoneón), Oscar Guinta (bass), Horacio López (drums) and Quiqui Sinesi (guitar) are as adept at traditional and contemporary tango forms as they are performing jazz and world music. By using percussion and improvisational elements Ziegler enriches the nuevo tango legacy and further explores the common ground between tango and jazz.

Born in Buenos Aires in September 2, 1944 Ziegler studied music from the age of 4 until 13 in a classical music conservatory. He learned tango from his father, a tango violinist. As a teenager Ziegler fell in love with jazz. Ziegler became a professional jazz musician and formed his own band. The popularity of his jazz trio Pablo Ziegler Terceto led to his being invited in 1978 to join Astor Piazzolla’s New Tango Quintet. Until he joined the Astor Piazzolla Quintet, Ziegler had never performed tango professionally, but his ability to improvise and his virtuosity were exactly what Piazzolla wanted.

Ziegler remained with the Astor Piazzolla Quintet for the next ten years, appearing at jazz festivals all over the world. For him it was like attending the New Tango University.

In 1992, Ziegler started his own quintet and changed the instrument mix, replacing the traditional violin with a drum to explore new rhythm structures. In addition to leading his own ensemble, Ziegler has also collaborated with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton, the Italian singer Milva and other internationally renowned artists.

A chance encounter during the summer of 1997 in Buenos Aires sparked the idea of a musical collaboration between Ziegler and Orpheus, the celebrated, New York-based chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor. The result was Tango Romance, a recording with new arrangements or adaptations written especially for the recording by Ziegler of his own music, works by Piazzolla and two classics from the late 1930s by Juan Carlos Cobián.

Pablo Ziegler is also active composing music for film, theater and television.

Discography

* La Conexión Porteña, cassette (Sony Music 4-461745, 1991)
* Los Tangueros, Emanuel Ax and Pablo Ziegler (Sony Music SK 62728, 1996)
* Asfalto: Street Tango (BMG/RCA Victor 09026-93266-2, 1998)
* Tango Romance – Music of Buenos Aires with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (BMG/RCA Seal 09026-63233-2, 1998)
* Pablo Ziegler &Quinteto (BMG 0902663500-2, 1999)
* Bajo Cero (Enja ENJA 9145-2/US: Khaeon, 2003)
* Tango and all that Jazz, with Stefon Harris (Zoho, 2007)
* Buenos Aires Report, with Walter Castro and Quique Sinesi (Zoho, 2007)
* Amsterdam Meets New Tango, with the Metropole Orkest (Zoho, 2013)
* Desperate Dance (1201 Music, 2015)
* Tango Nuevo (Steinway & Sons, 2016)
* Jazz Tango (Zoho, 2017)

Web Site www.pabloziegler.com

Share

Rising Flamenco pianist Alfonso Aroca to Perform in Chicago and New York

Alfonso Aroca

Flamenco pianist Alfonso Aroca will debut in Chicago on March 10, 2017 with his project Orilla del mundo (Shore of the World). The following day, he will play at the Flamenco Festival in New York.

I really want to perform there because I know the public will appreciate my project. It is a flamenco that fuses with other styles, but always respecting the tradition,” says Aroca, proud to have participated in the SGAE Foundation’s Flamenco Eñe initiative. “Flamenco Eñe has been a great impetus for the careers of artists that move away from traditional flamenco and who belong to disciplines not so well known abroad.”

Share

Artist Profiles: Ignacio Nachito Herrera

Ignacio Nachito Herrera

Recognized as a young genius, Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera stunned Cuban audiences at the age of 12, performing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. Famed Cuban pianist and Buena Vista Social Club member, Ruben Gonzalez invited the 16-year-old Nachito to join him on stage and inspired the teenager to study the traditional rhythms of Cuba. Herrera’s classical grounding, natural abilities, and enthusiasm for his subject paid off. In addition, Herrera has studied with Cuban masters; Chucho Valdes, Ruben Gonzalez & Frank Fernandez.

Following his 1990 Masters Degree in Music from Superior Institute of Art, Havana, Cuba, Nachito Herrera began performing, directing and touring with state-sponsored orchestras and the renowned Tropicana Orchestra. In 1997, he joined Cubanismo, with whom he recorded two albums, eventually becoming the musical director.

Nachito toured Europe, the United States and the Far East with the group and while recording Mardi Gras Mambo in New Orleans, Herrera amazed the Crescent City with his local performances and was named an Honorary Citizen of New Orleans. In 1996, Herrera recorded Ula-Ula, with the renowned Cuban group, Bakuleye, of which he was musical director, producer and composer in addition to winning the Cuban Nobel Prize of the Year for Best Orchestra.

Upon leaving Cubanismo in 2001, Nachito settled in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) of Minnesota, where he gained a following amongst fans of both jazz and Latin music. Now, Herrera’s own band, Puro Cubano includes saxophonist Rodolfo Gomez, bassist Jorge Bringas, veteran percussionist Shai Hayo and master drummer, Gordy Knudtson. Collectively, their credits include working, touring and recording with; Salsa Blanca and the Latin Sounds Orchestra, Celia Cruz, Albita, the Steve Miller Band, Ben Sidran and the renowned Puerto Rican Folklorico group, Proyecto La Plena.

Nachito Herrera’s affection for all types of music is apparent and he often cites the correlations between African rhythms, Cuban guajiras, American jazz, and classical composers. “I love all kinds of music, especially American music, but I love Cuban music the most….I like to combine the older Cuban styles, especially the rhythmic approaches of montunos and tumbaos, with jazz and classical themes. It’s how I see the evolution of Cuban piano,” says Herrera.

Discography

* Live at the Dakota (Dakota Live, 2002)

* Bembé en mi casa (FS Music, 2005)

* Live at the Dakota, Vol. 2 (Dakota Live, 2006)

Share

Artist Profiles: Henry Gray

Henry Gray

Henry Gray was born on January 19, 1925, in Kenner, Louisiana. He created the outline for post World War II Chicago blues piano. Playing for twelve years with legendary Howlin’ Wolf, Henry Gray has remained prominent for decades as an original blues voice in Chicago and Louisiana.

Henry Gray has performed at virtually every New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival since its beginning. A Grammy Nominee for “A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf’,” he also performed at Mick Jagger’s 55th birthday party in Paris in 1998 and is featured in Clint Eastwood and Marin Scorsese blues films. Henry received a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship award in 2006.

In 2015, Delta Groove Music released a selection of collaborations between Henry Gray has and harmonica virtuoso Bob Corritore made over a 19-year period. Vocalists featured include Robert Lockwood Jr., John Brim, Nappy Brown, Tail Dragger and Dave Riley. Guest instrumentalists include Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher, Big Jon Atkinson, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, Bob Stroger, Chico Chism, June Core, Doug James and others.

Partial Discography

* Louisiana Swamp Blues, Vol. 2 (Wolf Records, 1990)
* Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest (Lucky Cat Records, 1999)
* Don’t Start That Stuff (Last Call Records, 2000)
* Henry Gray Plays Chicago Blues (Hightone Record, 2001)
* Watch Yourself (Lucky Cat Records, 1999)
* Henry Gray and the Cats: Live in Paris CD/DVD (Lucky Cat Records, 2003)
* The Blues of Henry Gray & Cousin Joe (Storyville Records, 2004)
* Times Are Gettin Hard (Lucky Cat Productions, 2009)
* Lucky Man (Blind Pig, 2011)
* Vol. 1: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove Music, 2015)

Share