American world jazz ensemble Atlas Maior presents a set of
saxophone-dominated musical pieces inspired by Middle Eastern modes, American
jazz and Latin American rhythms. The band’s overall style revolves around the
sounds of Joshua Thomson’s alto saxophone and the ud (Arabic lute), supported by
bass and drums.
“Our 5th studio release Riptide is the culmination of many creative ideas that have come to fruition,” says saxophonist Joshua Thomson. “This is the band’s most polished album and it’s informed by our experiences working together, and the struggles and achievements we’ve experienced as people. There’s a lot of depth, emotion, and expression within the songs on Riptide. Themes of loss, gain, resilience, and perseverance are all in there.”
Atlas Maior’s members include Joshua Thomson on alto
saxophone; Charlie Lockwood on ud; Josh
Peters on oud; and Ted Camat on drums, percussion. The album includes various
guests: Robert Riggio on violin; Gary Calhoun James on double bass; Tarik
Hassan on double bass; and Palestinian ud player Sari Andoni.
Anouar Brahem was born in 1957 in Halfawine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, and music lover as well, Brahem began his studies of the ud (Arab lute), at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the ud master Ali Sriti.
An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18, he decided to devote himself entirely to music. From 1981 to 1985, Brahem lived and studied in Paris, seeking out points of congruence with other cultures. He was, nonetheless, first heard on disc with an all-Tunisian trio on Barzakh (ECM 1432) in 1991. This was followed by the collaboration with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the late Pakistani tabla master Shaukat Hussain on Madar (ECM 1515) and by an album reworking, with an international cast, music Brahem had written for the Tunisian cinema.
In 1985, he returned to Tunis and an invitation to perform at the Carthage festival provided him with the opportunity of bringing together, for “Liqua 85”, outstanding figures of Tunisian and Turkish music and French jazz. These included Abdelwaheb Berbech, the Erköse [Barbaros Erkose] brothers, François Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, François Couturier and others. The success of the project earned Brahem Tunisia’s Grand National Prize for Music.
In 1987, he became the director of the Musical Ensemble of the City of Tunis. Instead of keeping the large existing orchestra, he broke it up into variable size ensembles, giving it new orientations: one year in the direction of new creations and the next more towards traditional music.
On the recording of Khomsa, his partners were Tunisian violinist Bechir Selmi, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and three musicians from France – accordionist Richard Galliano, keyboardist Frangois Couturier, and saxophonist Jean Marc Larche. Although Dave Holland and John Surman both contributed compositional material to Thimar, Brahem’s following album,most of the writing stems from Brahem’s pen.
Two of the pieces were written originally for the Musical Ensemble of Tunis, two more for the Tunisian Theatre, and one originated as a sketch for the Khomsa ensemble. The majority of the music, however, was prepared specifically for the Thimar session. Dave Holland: “I hadn’t known what to expect. Anouar gave us a pile of music the day before the session. There were no bar lines – and of course there were no chords, because that’s not a reference point in this music. But there were these complex melodies, and one phrase might have seven beats in it, and another phrase nine. And when John and I started to play this, at first we were stumbling all over ourselves. But we persevered, put some pencil marks on the music, talked about how to approach the structures… At the session, things started to fall into place, as they so often do. The moment impresses itself upon you, and you rise to the occasion. Bringing these traditions together is by no means simple, and I think what we ended up with is music that has real value.”
As was the case with Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, the drummerless music of Thimar places special responsibilities on Dave Holland to shoulder most of the rhythm duties. The demands seem to bring forth some of his finest playing. “With John and Anouar, although my main function was to be accompanist and rhythm player, I felt I was getting support from both of them because of their ability to maintain a sense of rhythm independently…” Holland was invited into the session after producer Manfred Eicher played Brahem Angel Song. Brahem: “I listened to that album following the bass. It’s like the heartbeat of the music. And Dave’s sound is so beautiful. Powerful, but rounded, not at all aggressive or harsh.” The ud player first became aware of John Surman’s music with the release of the solo album Road To St. Ives in 1990. “This extraordinary sense of melody that John has. ..I liked that so much. It touched me very deeply. Since then, I’ve listened to everything he’s done.”
In 1994, Surman and Brahem toured Japan together but separately, playing opposite each other in concerts to mark ECM’s 25th anniversary. “We got to know each other and got along well and talked then about making a record one day. His playing on all his instruments is exceptional, but I especially like the blending of the bass clarinet and the ud. The wood in the sound makes it a very satisfying combination, I think. “I was really impressed with the engagement of both Dave and John in the making of this album. Collaborations of this kind can be quite…dangerous. Sometimes musicians of different cultures meet only superficially. But they were both concerned to get to the essence of the music.”
In 1995, Brahem released Khomsa, featuring Richard Galliano, Bechir Selmi and François Couturier. This was followed by 1998’s Thimar with John Surman and Dave Holland.
The Astrakan Café album came out in 2000 as Anouar Brahem Trio with Barbaros Erköse and Lassad Hosni.
In 2002, Brahem released Le Pas du Chat Noir, recorded with François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier, followed by
2006’s Le Voyage de Sahar withe the ame lineup.
In 2009, The Astounding Eyes of Rita came out. Lineup: Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Khaled Yassine.
Souvenance was released in 2014, recorded with Francois Couturier, Klaus Gesing and Björn Meyer.
Anouar Brahem released Blue Maqamns in 2017 with Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and Django Bates.
Chaplin’s Secret is the new album by German jazz singer and book author Dotschy Reinhardt. As her last name indicates, Dotschy is part of the same extended Reinhardt family that also included legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Dotschy Reinhardt is a Sinti, a group of formerly nomadic Central European people also known as gypsies. Although she is a jazz singer who sings primarily in English, she celebrates her heritage with a song in Romani, the language of many of the Sinti and Roma. She also sings in Portuguese.
Chaplin’s Secret includes swinging gypsy jazz, American-style jazz, and bossa nova accompanied by a fabulous band of extraordinary, versatile instrumentalists.
The title of the album makes reference to famed actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin. In 1991 Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, Victoria found a letter that her father had kept in his bedside drawer. The author of the letter, Jack Hill, informed the actor about his genuine birthplace, which was not London, as Chaplin stated in his autobiography, but Black Patch in Smethwick. At the time of Chaplin’s birth, Black Patch was a large tree-lined meadow on which Gypsy (Roma) people and entertainers camped with their caravans. It is said that he was born in 1889 as the son of an artist who had toured through England with her father’s circus, finally ending up in London.
The lineup on Chaplin’s Secret includes Roberto Badoglio on E-Bass; Max Hartmann on double bass; Alexey Krupksky on guitar; Dotschy Reinhardt on vocals; Christian von der Goltz on piano; Alexey Wagner on guitar; and Daniel Weltinger on violin. Guest musician: Nir Sabag.
Saxophonist, flutist and composer Javier Paxariño is considered one of the greatest representatives of world music in Spain. His music is characterized by mixing aspects of the three cultures that have called the Iberian Peninsula: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, but with a view always looking south: to the Mediterranean. Founder of Radio Tarifa, he has collaborated with musicians such as Joaquín Sabina, Aute, Miguel Ríos, Víctor Manuel, Ana Belén and Luis Pastor. He has participated in film soundtracks such as Vacas, La Ardilla Roja, Una casa en las Afueras and Los amantes del Círculo Polar.
He was born in the city of Granada in 1953. He later moved to Málaga, where he studied at the Superior Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Maestro Perfecto Artola. He started his musical activity with Jazz and Rock bands in the 1970s and founded the Onice Jazz Quartet at the end of that decade, which had a great local impact, although they did not record. At that time he also began experimenting with ethnic flutes to introduce himself to his music.
By 1980 he was living in Madrid and played at the iconic Whiskey & Jazz Club. He also played occasionally at La Cova del Drac in Barcelona. At the same time he continued his musical training and attended music seminars, like the one Thad Jones directed in Bañoles (Gerona).
He worked as a teacher at the Taller de Músicos de Madrid and played as a session musician in various groups. He collaborated in recordings of different musicians (Kevin Ayers, Joan Bibiioni, Gerardo Núñez, Miguel Ríos, Joaquín Sabina, L. Aute, Víctor Manuel and Ana Belén, Pablo Guerrero, Luis Pastor, etc). Parallel to this formed Javier Paxariño Group in which he played only his own compositions and in 1988 he recorded his first album “Espacio Interior ?, with very good reception by specialized critics, presenting it at the Jazz Festival of Madrid with the Oregon group. This disc was also published in Mexico with a good impact.
He collaborated in the recording of the documentary series Indico for Televisión Española, with the composer Alberto Iglesias for film soundtracks like Vacas (awarded in Japan), La Ardilla Roja (Winner of the Goya Award), Una casa en las Afueras, as well as how the music of the work Tabulae for the choreography of Nacho Duato in the Compañía Nacional de Danza.
In 1992 he recorded Pangea, a work that involved a musical journey through different continents and that projected him on a national level, presenting it with great success at the Festival of New Music of Madrid, in which they took part: Michael Nyman, Wim Mertens, Balanescu Quartet and John Cale.
He composed with Eduardo Laguillo the original music of the work of F. García Lorca, La Zapatera Prodigiosa for the Teatro de la Danza de Madrid.
He participated in the first recording Rumba Argelina and in the formation of the multiracial group Radio Tarifa, with which he played in Europe until the end of 1994. In that same year he recorded his third album, Temurá, based on the great cultures that existed in Spain (Jewish , Christian and Muslim), in which the percussionist Glen Velez intervened. The disc was distributed in Europe, the United States and Japan, opening good expectations. The group was selected as representative of the New Spanish Music in Pop Kom in Germany. In 1995 the General Society of Authors and Publishers (S.G.A.E.) commissioned a composition to be included in the commemorative CD ROM of the Spanish Presidency of the European Community; He was a member of the jury of the S.G.A.E Awards for the best jazz compositions.
In 1996 he recorded his new album titled Perlhellón. Inspired by Mediterranean music and from sub-Saharan Africa. It was presented in Madrid with a strong public and critical success. At the same time he recorded music for Television and gives concerts with his group.
In 1997 he began a concert tour in the network of National Theaters, Festivals of Navarra, VIII Encontros Musicais da Tradicao Europea in Portugal, etc. He also participated as a guest artist in the recording made by John Cunninghan and has among other guests musicians such as Luis Delgado, Kepa Junkera, Amancio Prada, Manuel Luna and percussionists of the Radio Tarifa group.
In 1998, he took part in the VIII Festival of New Music of León and later in the Interceltic Festival that takes place in Oporto as guest artist with the group La Musgaña. Parallel to this he collaborated in the new record projects of L. Eduardo Aute, Jorge Drexler, Luis Pastor, Tomás San Miguel and was also part of the project? Hispanic Tribes? by Eliseo Parra with J.A. Arteche, the latter was awarded as the best record of the year by the Villa de Madrid and is considered by the specialized critic a fundamental work in the new folklore for his original interpretation of traditional music.
He recorded with the pianist Chano Dominguez and Hozán Yamamoto (master of the Shakuhachi flute), a disc of encounter between Flamenco, traditional Japanese music and New Music, which is also published in Japan.
In September of 2002, he released Ouroboros.
Around 2014, Javier Paxariño formed the Javier Paxariño Trio along with Josete Ordoñez on guitar and Manu de Lucena on drums. The trio incorporated Gnawa music and Ajechao rhythms from Extremadura.
Espácio Interior (Grabaciones Accidentales, 1988) Pangea (Música Sin-Fin, 1992) Temura (Nuba Records, 1994) Perihelion (Nuba Records, 1996) Tribus Hispanas (Música Sin-Fin, 1998) Ouroboros (52 P.M., 2002) Dagas De Fuego Sobre El Laberinto (Icarus, 2014)
Alekos K. Vretos was born in Athens in 1976. In 1978 his family moved to Argos were he grew up. His father was in love with music so he took him for piano lessons at the age of three. That was Alekos’ first contact with music. His first piano teacher was Mrs. Eleni Apostolaki. At the age of sixteen he decided that his route in life would be music. Yiannis Iordanoglou was the first to open his eyes on what music and being a musician is really about.
In 1993, Alekos settled in Athens were he studied classical music in the Athenaeum Conservatory with Panagiotis Adam (harmony) and other great teachers. At the same time, because he was a jazz lover, he enrolled in the Phillipos Nakas Conservatory were he studied jazz with Markos Alexiou (improvisation), Takis Paterelis (composition and arranging), Pantelis Benetatos (jazz piano), Spiros Panagiotopoulos (ensemble training) and Kostas Baltazanis (improvisation and jazz harmony).
In 1995, Berklee College of Music held a weekly seminar in the Nakas Conservatory under the name “Berklee School in Greece”. Alekos won the award for “Outstanding Musicianship” and the doors of Berklee College were open for him. Soon after that he won a Phillipos Nakas scholarship for the year 1995.
In September 1996 he enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. There he studied as a Jazz Composition major. Some of the teachers that gave him more insight for music were: Vuk Kullenovic (composition), Ray Santisi (Jazz piano), Dick Lowell (Jazz composition), David Callahan (Conducting), and Dennis Grillo (Orchestration). During his studies in Boston he performed extensively as a piano player in jazz ensembles and Big Bands. He graduated in 1999.
A year earlier he took up the ud (Arabic lute) and he fell in love with an instrument that had nothing to do with jazz but had a lot to do with Greece and the Mediterranean region. He met the great Master Simon Shaheen who offered him the first steps towards the Arabic music and ud playing. Alekos considers master Shaheen his mentor and his musical benefactor. They see each other once a year at master Shaheen’s Arabic Music Retreat, where Alekos has attended from 1998-2004. Of course, Alekos had lessons with other teachers in Arabic music such us: Marcel Khalif?, Bassam Saba, Dr Ali Jihad Racy, Dr George Sawa, William Shaheen and Charbel Rouhana. He has attended many lectures in Arabic music and in 2004 he won a gold medal in an ud improvisation and artistry contest in the U.S.
As a professional he has performed with different ensembles in Greece with great reviews on his playing and composing. Some of the musicians that he has worked with as an udist are Yiorgos Despotidis, Nikos Androulakis, Panagiotis Mylonas, Kostas Thomaidis, Yiorgos Boufidis and others. Also, he has appeared on TV as a permanent udist in the “Greek Tradition show” in the Hellenic Television for 3 years. He has worked in the Music Ensembles of the Hellenic Radio for over two years as an ud soloist and arranger. He has collaborated with the Great Music Library in the Athens Concert Hall, as a supervisor in the digitalization of the “Mikis Theodorakis” archives. He conducted a research in cataloging the same archive in 1998.
Alekos K. Vretos was the founder and Music Director of The Meliti Ensemble. Their first release “Yunan” was very promising and it was welcomed by media and audiences. One of his great collaborations was with the great composer Mikis Theodorakis in Editions Romanos which manages the total work of the composer.
In 2005 Alekos K. Vretos co-produced with Dimitris Maragopoulos and the Athens Concert Hall a concert featuring master Simon Shaheen and Hussein el Masry. The concert was a great success. Since 2006, Alekos K. Vretos has been collaborating with the Athens Concert Hall as a concert producer.
In 2013 he recorded the album K. on top featuring original tracks along with musical pieces by friends Gilad Atzmon and Ara Dinkjian together with favorite compositions by Anouar Brahem.
Alekos had a new project in 2018 called “Open Strings Project”. The project consisted of Alekos playing his oud and Charis Charalambous on electric bass with a series of loops and electronics.
Hungry March Band has the format of a classic American marching band with a large brass section and drums. However, their sound and look is totally different from school marching bands. Hungry March Band’s foundation is jazz and improvisation. However, this group of men and women in colorful clothes have an eclectic taste, incorporating world music which they perform at street events and concert venues.
Running Through with the Sadness has structured musical pieces and improvisation as well. The global music influences include fast faced Dominican merengue, Malian Wassulu music, irresistible ska, New Orleans-style funk, Latin jazz and more.
The musicians featured in Running Through with the Sadness include Emily Fairey on tenor saxophone; Sasha Sumner on soprano; Jason Candler on alto and baritone saxophone; Tove Langhof on tenor saxophone; Okkon Tomohiko Yokoyama on alto saxophone; Phillippe Boyer on tenor saxophone; Cousin John Heyenga, Jeremy Mushlin, John Waters and Jennifer Harder on trumpets; Sebastian Isler, Cecil Scheib and Kevin Virgilio on trombones; Tom Abbs and Ben Fausch on sousaphones; Kris Anton and Anders Nelson on snare drum; David Rogers-Berry on bass drum; Samantha Tsistinas on cymbals; Adam Loudermilk on hand percussion; Sara Valentine on clave, cowbell; and Theresa Westerdahl on tambourine.
Running Through with the Sadness is a hip-shaking, toe-tapping wild brass ride through the world of jazz and global rhythms.
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.
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.”
Shams is a 2-CD set by Latvian band Baraka. They describe their music ethno jazz, a term used in Eastern Europe to describe fusions of jazz and world music. Baraka’s sound is rooted in Tajik traditions as well as jazz. Most of the material on Shams are smooth jazz songs featuring vocals by Devika Evsikova spiced up with acoustic musical instruments from Tajikistan, India and other parts of the world.
The highlights of the album are the Tajik funk sections along with the tasty electric piano, sitar and rubob solos.
The lineup includes Devika Evsikova on vocals, bass; Dmitry Evsikov on all percussion, arrangements; Artem Sarvi on piano, keyboards, arrangement; Deniss Pashkevich on flute, sax, bass clarinet, Egor Kovaikov on guitar, sitar, rubob, setor, dutor, vocal; Madars Kalninš on piano, keyboards; Viktor Ritov piano, keyboards; Raivo Stašans on saxophone; Valery Korotkov on piano, synths, arrangements; Omed Dost on vocals; Normund Piesis on flugelhorn, trumpet; Sergey Gasanov on saz, dilruba, duduk, vocals; Zigmund Žukovsky on bass; Alijon Boynazarov on rap; Govinda Tiwari on vocals; Alex Suris on accordion; Basel Wehbe on vocala; and Vilnis Kundrats on saxophone.
The set comes nicely packaged in a hard cover sleeve with a CD booklet that includes illustrations and credits.
The Sachal Ensemble was formed by Izzat Majeed, a Pakistani investor and hedge fund manager who became a philanthropist and music producer. Born in Lahore in 1950, Majeed’s dream was to recreate the soundtrack of his childhood. His hometown, the second largest city in Pakistan, was once a cultural and artistic center in the region.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lahore was at a peak as the home of “Lollywood,” the Pakistani equivalent of India’s Bollywood. Movies featured between 10 to 15 songs and the industry employed a considerable number of musicians, composers and arrangers. Music was fundamental to the life of the city.
Izzat’s father, Abdul Majeed, was the chairman of the film producers association of Pakistan and a music lover who would take his son to hear all the touring American jazz musicians passing through Lahore. That’s how an 8-year-old Majeed got to hear pianist Dave Brubeck at a venue near his family home. Brubeck was still a year away from recording “Take Five,” which would become the biggest selling jazz single ever. For the young Izzat, the concert had a profound effect. “That’s where I got hooked on jazz,” says Majeed.
But following a military coup in July 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became president and his dictatorship set out to “cleanse” Pakistan’s cultural landscape. Most non-religious music was declared sinful and the film industry, severely limited by religious bans, fell to pieces. In Lahore, even virtuoso musicians had to become taxi drivers or shopkeepers just to make a living.
Despite his success in finance, Majeed’s true passions “have always been and will always be about art and music,” he affirms. And so, he decided to do something about it.
“These great musicians – from both folk and classical schools – were left hungry and jobless,” said Majeed in a recent interview. “We were losing our instruments, losing our musicians, losing our culture; something had to be done about it.”
Long a patron of the arts and a lover of poetry (he is a published poet himself), Majeed founded Sachal Studios, named after the Sufi poet Saeein Sachal Sarmast, in 2003, on Waris Road, once the center of Lahore’s film studios. He then looked for the city’s great musicians, many of whom had put away their instruments. What’s more, Majeed had to buy instruments for several players.
Initially, Majeed and the Sachal Ensemble focused on the region’s classical and folk music. But then, he started to dream about the possibility of jazz being played on local instruments, and once he introduced the sounds and concepts of jazz, the musicians “took to it very naturally.” As they searched for a broader audience and looked outside Pakistan, they began to explore cross-cultural versions of Western jazz standards, pop and film classics.
Unexpectedly, Sachal Ensemble had a breakthrough when a video of their version of Brubeck’s Paul Desmond classic “Take Five” went viral. Brubeck, who died in December, 2012, in reality got a chance to listen to it, calling it “the most interesting recording of it I have ever heard.”