I remember Hargrove

This year’s early January trip to New York was not only because of the Jazz Congress, some meetings and to see and hear some music, but as well about attending the memorial concert for Roy Hargrove, which was held at JALC’s Rose Theatre on January 9th. Christian McBride, the MC of the night, was amazing in the choice of his words, in his jokes that explained what kind of man Roy was, in his praise for the human being, composer, trumpeter und occasional singer – full of love and respect for a fellow musician with whom he played early in his career. Musical proceedings started with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis playing a joyful second line walking through the audience onto the stage. This was followed by the Roy Hargrove Big Band, whose sole album ‘Emergence’ I had released in 2009 on EmArCy, and they performed with trumpeters Theo Croker and Giveton Gelin songs from that record. A variety of quintets originally led by Hargrove followed and featured an array of new and big names and legends, all performing Roy’s compositions, including the famous ‘Strasbourg/Saint Denis’ from the album ‘earfood’, this one featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, who as well performed it here. Before the night was over, we did hear many great trumpet players, featuring, beside others, Jon Faddis, Freddie Hendrix, Jeremy Pelt and Terence Blanchard. Singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini and Norah Jones left us speechless and touched, especially Gambarini’s version of ‘I remember Clifford’, which, with new lyrics, became the theme of the night: ‘I remember Hargrove’! There were over 200 musicians participating and paying their tributes … his Grammy-winning band Crisol, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Orchestra and of course the celebrated soul outfit RH Factor, which performed some of their hits, featuring rapper Common, singer Stephanie McKay on the wonderful “Forget Regret” and, of course, Renee Neufville the original vocalist of that band. This celebration of the life and work of Roy Hargrove was surely an unforgettable event in many ways: 5 hours of music for one of the leading musicians of our time, a celebration of his music and collaborations. But as well a celebration of the music genre we call jazz, a powerful statement of its validity in these times and of its strength and importance.

In terms of music New York is always rewarding and so it was as well for this trip – starting with the incredible Kurt Elling performing at Birdland a program he calls ‘Heroes’, which pays tribute to some of the most important singers and those influential to him: Jon Hendricks, Oscar Brown, jr and many others. With a band featuring Stu Mindeman on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, Ulysses Owens on drums and special guests from Australia James Morrison on trumpet and trombone as well as Troy Roberts on sax, he run through the classics with humour and style, always being himself and performing on the highest level. Fully deserving the standing ovation of the packed house.

On Sunday I had 3 shows on my list, starting in the afternoon with a showcase at the Rizzoli Bookstore by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra. What an amazing and powerful performance! This in the last year has become my favourite Big Band for many reasons: Leonhart is not only a great writer, but a fantastic arranger as well, as the show pointed out again: a mix of his own compositions (from ‘The Painted Lady Suite’ debut album of the band) to arrangements of songs from Spinal Tap and the Wu Tang Clan, to name a few … performed with an energy and fun, that is second to none! Great soloist rounded up the overall strong performance and I can’t wait for their second album to drop later in the year.

Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider performed as part of the Global Fest music from their latest record ‘Dreamers’, a Grammy nominated beauty of an album. Singer Herrera and her fellow musicians, Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen on violin; Nicholas Cords on viola and Michael Nicolas on cello, with some help from percussionist Mathias Kunzli, dug deep into the Latin American songbook and performed outstanding versions of ‘Balderrama’ and ‘La Aurora de Nueva York’ amongst many others. Herrera in top form with vocals that cut right into the emotions of the listener. On CD and live definitely worth checking out!!!

Last on Sunday was Chilean singer and guitarist Camila Meza’s late show at the Jazz Standard. The music mainly came from her forthcoming new album ‘Ambar’ and is an eclectic mix of Latin standards, own compositions and covers. The Nectar Orchestra features beside the singer and guitar player Meza Edin Ladin on piano, Noam Wiesenberg on bass and as arranger of the strings, Ofri Nehemya on drums, as well as Tomoko Omura, Fung Chern Hwei on violin; Karen Waltuch on viola and Brian Sanders on cello. Highlight of the second set for me was her rendition of ‘This Is Not America’, with a classy guitar solo and a powerful overall sound by the band. One to watch out for! The rest of the trip were meetings and running the international panel at the Jazz Congress 2019 and the fitting tribute to Roy. I am looking already forward to my next trip to the city of jazz.

 

 

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2018 review

Musically 2018 has been a very interesting and rewarding year: the OKeh releases received great reviews around the globe and quite a few international awards or nominations and there have been so many great new records and concerts, that, as every year, it is really difficult to select an individual top ten, which only represents a small part of what I listened to, which again is only a very small part of what was released or performed this year. Nevertheless, here are my top lists for 2018:

Concerts

Bill Frisell & John Surman – these two legends have been set at # 1 not only for their outstanding duo concert at North Sea Jazz, but as well for the individual shows I did see/hear this year – Frisell solo in Barcelona and the John Surman Trio in Madrid!

Nels Cline & Julian Lage – together and the Julian Lage Trio shows I was able to attend put these two guitar heroes at # 2

Hudson / John Scofield – Hudson in Rotterdam and Scofield’s Combo 66 in Madrid … fireworks and deep music

Rohey / Gurls – two groups featuring singer Rohey Taalah, three outstanding performances in New York, Rotterdam and Oslo (Gurls)

Shabaka Hutchings – whether with The Comet is Coming (New York) or with Sons Of Kemet (Rotterdam) sax player Hutchings is a powerhouse and a creative force#

Jose James – his Bill Whithers tribute Live in NYC … touching and honest

Arve Henriksen & Duo Medieval – captivating concert by Henriksen and vocalists Anna Maria Friman and Linn Andrea Fuglseth at Bran Castle

Nils Petter Molvaer – whether as a trio or as a quartet, the Nils Petter Molvaer group always delivers

Utel Lemper – a sensational show in Alicante by one of the best singers of our days

Michel Camilo – a powerful and outstanding solo show in every aspect as part of the Madrid International jazz Festival

Recordings

Wayne Shorter / Emanon – everything about this release is special: the compositions, the live performance and the packaging. An instant classic!

Michael Leonhart Orchestra / The Painted Lady Suite – all you want to hear on a big band album .. a masterful MLO debut

Ketil Bjornstad & Anneli Drecker / A Suite Of Poems – Music by Bjornstad and poems by Lars Saabye Christensen – performed by Ketil on piano and Anneli Drecker on vocals .. the loneliness of travelling expressed ..

Wolfgang Muthspiel / Where the river goes – Austrian composer and guitarist with a stellar line up bewitching his audience with beautiful melodies

Kat Edmonson/ Old Fashioned Gal – a unique voice and some wonderful compositions .. Kat Edmonson at her best

Tord Gustavsen Trio / The Other Side – classy return to the trio format by the soulful Gustavsen

Madeleine Peyroux / Anthem – one of her best recordings so far – great song writing and unique delivery

Piotr Schmidt / Tribute to Tomasz Stanko – a wonderful bow to the Polish master and Schmidt’s other 2018 release ‘Saxesful’ is worth checking out as well

Paolo Vinaccia / Dommedag ifølge Paulus / Mystery Man – drummer Vinaccia released with Dommedag a CD/DVD package of touching beauty and a message of love .. Mystery Man is a 6 CD set of his career highlights … European drummer legend!

Dhafer Youssef / Sounds of Mirrors – featuring Zakir Hussain, Hüsnü Şenlendirici and Eivind Aarseth and Dhafers captivating voice and oud. Spiritual and deep music.

 

But in many other ways 2018 has been a tough year: the continuing global move to the political right is frightening and makes it more and more important that we make our liberal voices heard. And we lost to many beloved family members, friends and artists from the jazz world this year: Uli Scherer, a wonderful human being and composer/pianist, with whom I had the honour to work; Roy Hargrove, the trumpet player who bridged the tradition with the now; Randy Weston, Sonny Fortune, Hamiett Bluiett, Erich Kleinschuster, Tomasz Stanko, Jon Hiseman, Cecil Taylor and Mikhail Alperin to name just a few and the ones that I heard, met or worked with – may they Rest In Peace!

 

 

 

2018 saw a lot of great albums coming from the label (see image below)

and we will in 2019 continue to hopefully deliver quality recordings with global appeal. We have ready for early 2019 releases a new Branford Marsalis Quartet and a Theo Croker album that is NOW in Motion, as well as Nils Petter Molvaer with orchestra, to be recorded in January. Watch this space!!!!

 

music travels

I had some meetings in Berlin at the end of November and took the chance to go to my favourite club there, the A-Trane to see Leona Berlin (that’s really her name). I had heard and read about her before and was simply curious to see her perform .. this time to present her first album live and she had put a decent band together with Gustav Anders on keyboards, Richard Müller on bass and electronics and Mathis Grossmann on drums. The repertoire came from the new album, with the exception of a brand-new song performed here for the first time and pretty good. Some of the songs from the album and concert, like ‘Feel The Love’ and ‘Thinking About You’ as well as ‘Make Me Wanna’ are really good and groovy and came across well. It seemed the band and her leader need a bit more time to gel, but that’s only normal. She did a few songs on her own with loops and sounds and sounded really strong doing so. A great talent in terms of her vocals, not a jazz singer, but very much soul and modern R&B. She got still some way to go, but this first step is more than promising.

Back in Madrid I finally got a chance to hear young singer and Flügelhorn player Andrea Motis performing as a trio with Joan Chamorro on bass and saxophone and Josep Traver on guitars. An intimate setting in a beautiful theatre and laid-back music performed on top level … what more can one ask for? Motis is a good player and a great singer, working her ways through the great American songbook and a bunch of Brazilian classics, plus a few originals. Her sidemen did a great job in creating beautiful grooves and sounds for her to sing on and excelled in some pretty amazing soli. A new album is planned for early 2019 .. something to look forward to.

 

CD’s to check out

Piotr Schmidt / Tribute to Tomasz Stanko – Polish trumpeter Schmidt and his fellow musicians, Wojciech Niedziela on piano, Krzysztof Gradziuk on drums and Maciej Garbowski on bass, recorded this beautiful and touching music as a tribute to the late Polish master. The compositions are clear and in the same mood Stanko liked to record and the performance of all four musicians is outstanding. Schmidt can play anything and here he is melancholic and full of emotions and pianist Niedziela adds a lyrical touch to all songs, sublime supported by Garbowski and Gradziuk (both known for their work in the trio RGG). Besides listening to Stanko’s own records, as a tribute and to hear his influence on these players, check this out. Highly recommended.

Benjamin Deschamps / No Codes – Young Canadian alto player Deschamps released a new album with his quartet, featuring highly acclaimed Canadian veteran Frank Lozano on tenor sax, Sébastien Pellerin on bass and Louis-Vincent Hamel on drums. Wonderful how the two sax players communicate and do their ‘call and response’ in the open and flowing compositions. This is a straight jazz recording, with some heavy swinging, free explorations and fantastic ensemble play. Modern and adventurous and them taking their ideas from many different sources to create a unique and powerful album.

The Allison Au Quartet / Wander Wonder – 2016 JUNO Award winner for ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year: Group’ for ‘Forest Grove’, The Allison Au Quartet’s follow-up ‘Wander Wonder’ is another strong release of modern jazz. The four musicians Allison Au on alto saxophone, Todd Pentney on piano and Prophet Rev2, Jon Maharaj on Bass & Electric Bass and Fabio Ragnelli on drums take their inspirations from a wide range of influences, including Brazilian music and Wayne Shorter. Just listen to the outstanding tracks ‘Morning’, ‘Red Herring’ and A Trick of the Moonlight’ and get the swing and feel of these compositions, which represent a wonderful recording.

Jazzland Recordings, the label run by pianist, composer and keyboarder Bugge Wesseltoft and record executive Sten Nilsen, has started a sub-label called OK World, which has and will release jazz, world music and electronic projects from around the globe. Here are some of the recent releases:

NORDJORDET Øyonn Groven Myhren / Bugge Wesseltoft and others create a mix of Norwegian folk music on traditional instruments and ambient music. Incredible!

Bendik Baksaas / Seine sviv – Electronic music mixed with traditional Norwegian vocals by Helga Myhr. Enchanting!

Adama Barry / Lembi – beautiful traditional music from Burkina Faso, featuring Solo Diarra on the original recordings plus some remixes of these songs by Henrik Schwartz, Mental Overdrive and others. A unique production.

Matona’s Afdhal Group  – Matona, a vocalist and oud player from Zanzibar collaborating with Norwegian jazz musicians. Cool.

Sanskriti Shrestha Avatar / Brijanga – tabla player from Nepal, who lives in Oslo, with her debut album, featuring a host of Norwegian musicians and combining tradition with improvisation. Captivating!

 

more great music from JazzMadrid18

John Surman with his ‘Invisible Threads’ Trio at the Conde Duque – beautiful little melodies performed by three masters of their genre: Surman on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, Nelson Ayres on piano and Rob Waring on vibraphone and marimba. John Surman is a European Jazz Legend as a composer as well as a performer and creative improviser and here his compositions, as well as the ones of the other members of the trio, gave the musicians space to develop ideas around the melodies, to follow the mood of the moment and create new music on the spot. The combination of the vibraphone with the piano sounds powerful and supportive to the main improviser, but the vibes on the other hand as well add a percussive element to the music. A wonderful, contemplative musical experience by a trio that revelled in its togetherness … and the album with the same name is a great addition to an already impressive body of work by the British musician.

Violinist Regina Carter hasn’t been in Madrid too often and a visit is always a chance to enjoy her unparalleled playing. Her group featuring Xavier Davis on piano, Chris Lightcap on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums dug deep into the repertoire of her latest album ‘Ella .. Accentuate the Positive’ and delivered a memorable concert mainly of compositions connected to the great singer. Carter is an outstanding improviser, swinging through these songs with ease, who as well did sing on occasion, especially wonderful in a composition by bass player and vocalist Richard Bona. Her band perfectly supported her with Davis outstanding in filling spaces and his melodic improvisations. Exceptional!

Tigran Hamasyan followed up last years impressive solo concert with another wonderful performance, showing his improvisational skills, using his own compositions from his two recent solo albums ‘An Ancient Observer’ and ‘For Gyumri’ as a base for his musical excursions. Floating between jazz parts, Armenian folk music elements and classical themes, Tigran combined his various musical influences into one single and unique voice on the piano. One song performed on keyboards with electronic sounds and loops, was an interesting exercise in what he can do with these instruments, but felt a bit lost within an acoustic piano performance, which entranced the audience.

Antonio Sanchez and his band Migration ended for me JazzMadrid18 with a captivating show. Sanchez made it clear that his music has a political and human message to it, by not only dedicating the concert, but as well the forthcoming album ‘Lines in the sand’, to migrants all over the world. He especially pointed to the situation on the borders between the US and Mexico … and the music of this amazing group reflected all the despair and suffering, but as well all the hope and joy of these migrants. The group Migration features beside the leader and drummer Sanchez vocalist Thana Alexa, Chais Baird on sax and EWI, John Escreet on piano and Orlando de Fleming on bass, all leaders in their own right and they created a powerful sound as a unit, being able to express all emotions together. No matter whether it was a beautiful little melody or a free-flowing soundscape they performed everything as a group and got a deserved standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. A powerful statement in many ways!

story-tellers

Monday, November 12th – as part of the 50th Voll-Damm Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona, Bill Frisell did a workshop and a rare solo concert that day – what a treat. The concert confirmed Frisell’s status as a unique story-teller on his instruments – with the help of some loops and sounds he ’told’ the audience his stories, plus some about what the world needs now and  a finger turning everything into gold that it touches. Stories told in the tradition of the ancient story-tellers, the same in content, but different in the wording, every time. A true story-teller lives his stories and puts emotion into the description of the world the stories play in … Frisell is a master in this and solo he can focus on how he wants to express himself even more than in a group setting. There is no question that Bill Frisell is one of the great musicians and improvisers of our time … and I simply love to listen to him telling his stories.

2 days later trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer visited Madrid as part of JazzMadrid 18 and brought his amazing group featuring Johan Lindstrøm on guitar and pedal steel guitar, Jo Berger Myhre on bass and Erland Dahlen on drums with him to perform the music of ‘Buoyancy’, his latest band album. Molvaers music, in its mix of ambient sounds, jazzy grooves and rock elements can make you fell like you are floating in a sea of music, being thrown around by the different strengths of the sounds, the waves coming in a rhythm and move you as if dancing on the surface … then a tsunami of sounds washes over you and takes you up, only to let you land on your feet again, carried by the crystal clear sound of the trumpet. There is no genre to this, it is just great music, powerful and touching.

Thursday, Michel Camilo performing in Madrid a solo concert in support of his latest release, a solo live recording from London. Camilo is a powerful performer with an incredible left hand and again showcases his amazing technical abilities on his instrument … starting with a groovy ‘Island Beat’, which immediately gets the audience going. But Michel is not only a power player, his sensitive touch in the ballads, like in his own ‘Sandra Serenade’, is beautiful and draws the audience into the essence of the song. But the highlights in his shows are the faster compositions and for me one of these is his incredible solo version of Paul Desmonds ‘Take Five’, which he originally recorded for the ‘What’s Up?’ album, another solo gem in his catalogue. Camilo is a versatile showman and incredible improviser … check him out live or get the Live In London album … definitely worth it!

How better to end this amazing week of great music than with singer Stacey Kent and her band, featuring saxophonist, flautist and composer Jim Tomlinson, Graham Harvey on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass and Josh Morrison on drums. Despite some difficult travel on the performance day and Stacey battling a bit of a cold and a cough, she performed beautifully and the band, especially Tomlinson and Harvey, laid down wonderful support for her voice, as well as playing some touching soli. To keep the voice safe, the repertoire of the evening was mostly ballads and mid-tempo songs, from Brazil or France … compositions by Jobim, Valle, Gainsbourg, Ferrer and others, as well as the song ‘Bullet Train’, composed by Tomlinson with lyrics by Literature Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and one of the highlights of the evening. A very laid back, but musically captivating concert.

a little bit of groove …

Before the 2018 Madrid International Jazz Festival took off on November 6th, I got to see two very impressive and groovy shows in town – on the 4th at Bogui Jazz the James Carter Organ Trio and on the 5th the wonderful Combo 66 by John Scofield. Carter’s organ trio, featuring Gerald Gibbs on Hammond B3 and Alex White on drums, is a powerhouse of grooves and heavy beats, but wonderful as well on delicate ballads. James Carter is one of the most accomplished saxophonists of his generation and his horn gives him an outlet to scream, howl, tell you a story or whisper something into your ears. His range of expression on his instrument seems endless, from powerful wails to simple and beautiful melodic excursions, always given context by the sounds of the organ. Gibbs, a master of his instrument as well, works with Carter for many years and one can hear that by the way they react to each other. Always great to see James Carter and move with the groove of his exceptional trio.

John Scofield performed mostly the music of his new album, Combo 66, titled the same as his new band, featuring Gerald Clayton on keyboards, Vicente Archer on bass and trusted companion of many years, Bill Stewart on drums. This is more of a jazz band than some of the other Scofield groups, but they still groove and rock when asked for! Clayton is a very fine pianist and organ player and with this group he shows that he really is up for the groove as well as the finer things in music … Scofield is an innovative improviser, composer and performer and this gig was no exception … a feast for guitar fans. John will always be the main focus of his shows but without taking the shine off his band, which sounded very tight and together and really acted as a group and less than just the support for the main man. And they got their audience with a passionate and powerful performance of the new compositions by John Scofield. If you don’t get a chance to see this amazing band live .. go and get the album – Combo 66!!

A/B Trio / Trioliloquy – this new record by the Canadian A/B Trio was just released and features next to the trio of saxophonist Dan Davis, bass player Josh McHan and drummer Thom Bennett, the wonderful trumpet master Kevin Turcotte on 5 of the 8 compositions on Trioliloquy.  This is a wonderful swinging, grooving jazz record with some incredible ensemble play and individual contributions. The musicians move in free spaces to then get together on the theme they earlier improvised on, only to take the conversation further into the essence of their music. Outstanding tracks for me are ‘Roundabout’, ‘Trioliloquy’ and ‘Bluesaholic’. Inspiring in its variety and overall quality and a real joy listening to!!

R.I.P. Roy Hargrove (1969 – 2018)

The news of the untimely passing of trumpeter Roy Hargrove at the age of 49 have been a shock to the jazz world and to me personally. Roy has been a companion in my professional life since 1994, when he released his first Verve album ‘With The Tenors Of Our Time’ for which I coordinated the international marketing and promo efforts. I worked with him on most of the follow up albums to that, including such masterpieces as ‘Family’, ‘Moment To Moment’ and the wonderful ‘Habana’, which won him a Grammy. Roy opened the doors for all the young musicians playing  a modern jazz by including R&B and Soul into the mix – his RH Factor recordings and his work with D’Angelo, Common and others are outstanding testimony to that. Later I signed Roy to the EmArCy label and we released his so far last two studio recordings – the amazing quintet album ’Earfood’ and a big band recording entitled ‘Emergence’. But most of all I will remember Roy as the man who made the late-night jam sessions at the Hotel Bel Air something truly special – the place to be during the North Sea Jazz Festival when the event still took place in The Hague – hours of jamming and playing with such energy, power and passion. Once in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the festival there I saw him doing a trumpet battle in the early hours with Wynton and Nicholas, supported by the Eric Reed trio … unforgettable!!! I never heard anything like it since … a true battle, but done with smiles all around and musical inspiration that came from sources within, something only the really great musicians have!! Roy battled most of his life with his demons, then with his kidney problems, but when he went on stage he was pure focus and pure music! When I hear and saw him in Rotterdam in July this year he sounded great and played wonderful Soli to a grateful and enthusiastic audience. Roy Hargrove will always be remembered as a great musician, innovator, improviser and fantastic composer and will be missed by many – me including.