Melodic Improvisations

Young sax player James Brandon Lewis just stopped by in Madrid while on his first European tour with his trio, featuring Max Johnson on bass and Dominic Fragman on drums. The club Clamores was the venue and as James is truly a new artist, I didn’t expect too many people there … but in the end about 200 enthusiastic fans showed up and had a great night!

James and the guys started with Divine, one of the key tracks on his OKeh Records debut album, Divine Travels … and with it set the tone for the night: free flowing improvisations on little melodies, deep spiritual expressions on all instruments, led by an immaculate James, whose ideas never seemed to run out or showed repetition, who was dismantling melodies and putting them together again upside down and it all made sense and sounded great! A song he wrote as a tribute to Charlie Haden had the trio at its best in performing an improvised ballad with a hauntingly beautiful theme that they knitted into the song in a communication of respect for the late bass player. More music from the great album Divine Travels, including the amazing Wading Child in the Motherless Water rounded up the night. This is accessible deep improvised music, free jazz with melodies if you want, but made by a bunch of great guys who love to express their fun in life that way. Without a doubt so far my gig of the year. A jazz star in the making!

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From October 30th to November 6th the first Montreux Academy happened in Montreux, Switzerland: an educational week for young jazz musicians from all over the world, who in the past two years had participated in one of the Montreux competitions – guitar, piano or vocal. They were on guitar: Andres Corredor (Columbia), Yoav Eshed (Israel), Alexander Goodman (Canada) and Leandro Pellegrino (Brazil). On Piano: Lorenz Kellhuber (Germany), Mathis Pecard (France) and Jerry Leonide (Mauritius). And on vocals: Myriam Bouk Mouin (France), Alita Moses (USA), Patrick Rouiller (Switzerland), Woiciech Myrczek (Poland) and Paula Grande (Spain). Mentor of these musicians through the music sessions of the week was the great Lee Ritenour, as well as some guests, some of the being part of the concert at the last evening of the Academy. I had the pleasure doing a session with these young musicians on the music business, especially how agencies, managers and local promoters as well as labels can work together to help the artists to develop their careers – an interesting 2 hours of presentation, discussions and Q&A, which showed the desire of the group to know and understand, to learn. The evening before our session I went with the musicians to dinner and afterwards a relaxed and playful session, just for me to see some of them in action – even so the jams never show the true art of a musician, it can show a lot of other things especially in terms of improvising … Leandro has a really beautiful sound of the guitar and played some great music there;

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Paula and Andres did 2 songs together which showed a very interesting singer and a guitar player who knows how to support and step up when asked for and finally Jerry Leonide, whom I had met before when he played with Somi last June, and Wojciech did a few songs, showcasing both talented musicians and especially the remarkable voice of the Polish singer.

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A great event from what is could see over the two days there and I hope it will last, as these events and the education of the young musicians are extremely important

I wanted to give a quick update on what’s up on OKeh Records as well – so here we go: the fall releases are out, the artist touring Europe and it all seems to be fine. Bill Frisell’s tribute to the 60’s Guitar in the Space Age is getting great reviews and so are his shows … these songs feel so relaxed and bring me back to my youth – the Byrds, Beach Boys, the Kinks etc. performed in what is typical Frisell – with respect for the original, but own ideas and sounds and feel. JUICE, the new recording by Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood is a relaxed groove album that makes you move your legs and dance. These guys get together every once in a few years to record and this time it is just a killer album with great playing, some surprising versions of covers and some incredible new music. What else do you want from a record? And last, but not least, the new Branford Marsalis record In My Solitude – Live At Grace Cathedral, a beautiful and deeply emotional solo saxophone recording in which Branford shows the variety of musical styles he is at home in and makes it all work together – standards, classical pieces, own compositions and improvisations. A great addition to the already impressive catalogue of one of the best saxophone players of our days.

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