Melange is a British multi-ethnic ensemble that combines jazz improvisation with the evocative sounds of North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Their latest album Via Maris reflects this fascinating melting pot of musical influences with a fabulous mix of original pieces and recreations of traditional tunes and dances from Turkey, Greece and Iraq.
Cellist Shirley Smart founded Melange after spending 10 years in Jerusalem studying and playing the musics of the region. The ensemble includes musicians from Greece, Spain, Morocco, Iraq, Italy and the UK.
Album lineup: Shirley Smart on cello, Stefanos Tsourelis on oud, Peter Michaels on guitar, Maurizio Minardi on accordion, Joe Browne on saxophones, Jake Painter on trumpet, Michele Montolli on bass, and Demi Garcia Sabat on drums and percussion.
Via Maris is a splendid album where the cello and various other instruments explore the captivating worlds of jazz and global sounds.
Nana Simopoulos – Skins (Na Records NR-9206-2, 2016)
Nana Simopoulos is a talented American multi-instrumentalist and composer who bridges the borders between world music and jazz. On “For No reason, the opening track of hew new album, titled Skins, she features a classic jazz swing rhythm, jazz vocals and guitars and saxophone improvisation.
The next song, “Let the Fire Burn Me” offers Middle Eastern influences in the form of frames drums along with vocal, bouzouki and flute melodies from the Near East.
On track 3, Nana Simopoulos ventures further into the East with a seductive mix of Indian tabla, wood flute and fascinating jazz vocals.
“Owl Woman” mixes jazz saxophone with wonderful Indian sarangi and steel drums, bringing together three global cultures.
The Middle Eastern influences return on “The Pathway” although this time, the frame drums intermingle with a Latin jazz beat.
“Anases” is a love song that features Greek-language vocals, global percussion, bouzouki and jazz saxophone.
Track 7, “Merely to Known” has the best vocal work, with delightful call and response vocals and also some of the best guitar work on the album. This lengthy piece gives the other instrumentalists like the bass player and drummer an opportunity to showcase their talent.
The final track has an Indian jazz flavor, with a mix of tabla, sarangi and saxophone.
The lineup on Skins includes Nάnα Simopoulos on vocals, guitar and bouzouki; the late Ustad Sultan Khan on sarangi; Mary Ann McSweeney on bass; Manos Loutas on bass; Royal Hartigan on drums; Michalis Orphanidis on drums; Solis Barki on percussion; Jamie Haddad on percussion; Greg Beyer on steel drums, percussion, berimbau; Dave Liebman on saxophone, wood flute; Charlie Tokarz on alto flute, saxophone; Dimitri Vassilakis on saxophone; and Caryn Heilman, Daví, Solis Barki and Markos Simopoulos on background vocals.
Adam Rudolph, a native of Chicago, is known as one of the early innovators in what is now called world music. In 1977 he co-founded The Mandingo Griot Society with Gambian musician Foday Musa Suso, one of the first bands to combine African and American music. In 1988, he recorded the first fusion of American and Gnawa music with Moroccan sintir player and vocalist Hassan Hakmoun and jazz trumpet great Don Cherry. In the same year. Rudolph began his association with the legendary Yusef Lateef, which continued until Lateef’s passing in 2013 to this day.
In April of 2002, when Omar Sosa and his Septet arrived in Los Angeles for a run at the Jazz Bakery, it was possible for Rudolph and Sosa, two kindred spirits, to meet and make music together. The result was Pictures of Soul, a journey into the transcendent realms of the creative music process.
Pictures of Soul is an improvised music collaboration between Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Rudolph, based in Los Angeles These two creative musicians had enjoyed each other’s work at a distance for several years. Both share an appreciation of ritual trance music.
Sosa and Rudolph both experience their art as an interactive spiritual voyage. Their approach in the studio called simply for an openness to explore musical landscapes together – without charts, without rehearsal. In Pictures of Soul Sosa plays mostly acoustic piano, both on the keys and inside the instrument. Rudolph is featured on an array of hand drums, including jembe, tarija, dumbek and tabla.
Rudolph leads his own ensemble, Go: Organic Orchestra, an orchestral concept of world/improvisational music.
Ethno-jazz band Baraka dedicates this album to Pamir singer Nargis Bandishoyeva. During the Soviet era, Nargis was the first vocalist who performed on the stage in the Shugnan language, which is spoken in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The singer was adored by her nation and during her life gained real fame throughout Tajikistan. In the early 1990s, her life was sadly cut short in a car accident.
Baraka, based in Latvia, is known for mixing jazz with traditional music from various parts of the world. It’s what some call ethno-jazz or world jazz. In this case, the focus is on the music of Tajikistan, in Central Asia. Baraka’s band leader, percussionist and arranger Dmitry Evsikov along with his daughter Devika (vocals, bass) delve into genuine Tajik and Pamir folk music. On Tribute to Nargis, the music selections includes recreations of original compositions by Oleg Fesov and other composers together with some traditional pieces arranged by Dmitry Evsikov.
Throughout the album, Devika sings heartfelt ballads and love songs in various languages, including Farsi, Shugnan, Dari and Pashto. The music is characterized by the use of Central Asian percussion, electric piano and saxophones, developing an East meets West fusion.
The booklet includes the memories of Nargis collected by Dmitry and Devika. The poetry of Omar Khayyam and Rumi is interlaced with the works of modern Tajik poets.
The lineup on Tribute to Nargis includes Devika Evsikova on vocals and bass; Denis Pashkevich on tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Raivo Stashans on soprano saxophone, flute; Normund Piesis on flugelhorn; Vilnis Kundrats on tenor saxophone; Alex Suris on accordion (and also cover design), Madars Kalnins on piano, Rhodes piano; Artem Sarvi on piano, Rhodes piano; Egor Kovaikov on guitar, acoustic guitar; Zigmund Zukovsky on bass; Andris Grunte on upright bass; Stanislav Judin on double bass; Andrey Markin on fretless bass, rhythm acoustic guitar; Andrey Orlov on bass; and Dmitry Evsikov on percussion.
Tribute to Nargis features a set of effectively crafted songs embracing contemporary jazz and the musical traditions of Central Asia.
Blomington (Indiana), USA – The Paul Winter Consort has released Silver Solstice, a CD with Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, Davy Spillane, Mickey Hart, Arto Tunçboyaciyan, and more.
Paul Winter’s annual Winter Solstice Celebration has now firmly taken its place among the major, durable Holiday traditions of National Public Radio (NPR) and New York City. The event’s 10,000 annual revelers make it among the best-attended celebrations of seasonal change in the country. In the United States, it has consistently been among Billboard magazine’s top-ten grossing events during its week of performance. For at least twelve of its sixteen years on radio, the NPR broadcast of the event has been among NPR’s six most popular cultural program specials of the year.
In the years since Winter’s Celebration has emerged, there has been a proliferation of solstice events, perhaps fulfilling a yearning in the nation for alternative yet inclusive ways of honoring holiday time for people of diverse faiths and spiritual paths.
The cumulative music of the 25th annual Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral is captured on Silver Solstice: The Paul Winter Consort & Friends, on Winter’s Living Music label. This three–disc box set also includes ten tracks from earlier Solstice events, many of which are also previously unreleased. The 142 minutes of music are on two stereo CDs, and in 5.1 Surround Sound on a bonus DVD-Audio disc, which includes four streams: High Resolution 5.1 Surround Sound, High Resolution Stereo, Dolby 5.1 Surround, and Dolby Stereo. Winter says the audiophile recordings may be the “best presentation of our music ever.”
NPR listeners will have a chance to hear the live recording from which the CD was drawn during the nationwide broadcast this year of the 25th anniversary Winter Solstice Celebration. The broadcast will include narration and interview features, but is otherwise similar to the CD. The release comes just in time for Paul Winter’s 26th Annual Solstice Celebration, continuing its tradition as “New York’s Holiday alternative” December 15, 16, and 17, 2005.
“In 1980, the opportunity to play in the Cathedral’s extraordinary space inspired me to look at the big picture,” Winter explains. “I wanted to celebrate the universals, the things we share in common with all peoples. We were coming out of the ’70s. We had become accustomed to seeing the photos of the whole Earth which the astronauts brought back from space. This cosmic dimension gave me the answer I was seeking: the Winter Solstice, at least for northern peoples, has since ancient times been the great turning point of the year, when at this darkest and coldest time, we welcome the return of the Sun. I never dreamed that we were launching a tradition that would still be growing a quarter-century later.”
From all his acoustical explorations with his soprano sax over the decades, in wilderness locations and concert halls on six continents (all but Antarctica), Winter’s two favorite playing spaces are the Cathedral, and the Grand Canyon, a place of pilgrimage for him for over forty years. He considers it no coincidence that the Cathedral, and his primary recording site within the Canyon, both have a reverberation time of seven seconds. The Cathedral’s monumental architecture and enveloping acoustics have a profound effect on musicians and listeners alike—a “Grand Canyon East.” The immensely resonant space of the Cathedral asks you to listen, and to play, in new ways.
“Sound coming from a distance has a certain magic,” says Winter. “It activates instincts from our genetic memory—of ancient times when we lived outdoors, and needed to be able to judge how far away certain sounds were. So we often have musicians playing from different corners and balconies of the Cathedral. When the lights are low and you cannot see the ceiling, it almost feels like you are outdoors in some great canyon. Charles Ives has long been an inspiration for me. He loved to place musicians in different spaces, to get this effect of distant sound. You cannot get it by simply changing the volume level of the music.”
The Cathedral is a fitting forum for Winter’s aural-vision of a genre of “Earth Music,” celebrating the entire community of culture and creatures of the world. During four decades of travel, in 48 countries of the world, Winter has evolved an extended community of kindred players, and the Solstice Celebration in New York has become their annual reunion. This embrace of diversity is, for Winter, the hallmark of the solstice tradition, and he regards this yearly gathering as a kind of musical feast. The Silver Solstice album presents this eclectic cornucopia.
Winter’s Solstice Celebration takes the listener on a symbolic journey through the longest night of the year, incorporating theatrical musical effects that highlight the titanic space of the Cathedral. The centerpiece of the event is a giant, rotating “Solstice Tree” — a 28-foot spiral aluminum sculpture hung with hundreds of bells, gongs, and chimes representing the diversity of life on
Earth. The climactic return of the sun is celebrated by the world’s largest tam-tam gong, seven feet in diameter, which slowly ascends, with its player, to the 100-foot vault of the Cathedral. Presented “in the round,” the Solstice Celebrations feature a stage in the middle of the Cathedral, with audience on both sides.
Silver Solstice is Winter’s first foray into Surround Sound. “I’m thrilled with Surround: this is the way I’ve always dreamed of hearing our music,” says Winter. The effect, for the listener, is that of being amidst the band, in the center of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion