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!!

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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.

it’s all music to me …

Myles Sanko, Soul singer, came to Madrid on October 13th for a sold-out show at the club Clamores and he and his band got the all standing audience going from the first song until deep into the night. Sanko has a beautiful voice, perfect for the grooves of his modern, but set in the tradition of the genre, soul and for the ballads he performs touchingly. The repertoire came from his catalogue of 3 albums, mostly from the recent release ‘Just Being Me’, and confirmed his incredible song writing skills. The band was perfect in supporting him, as only a band one is working with for a longer period, can be – intuitively knowing where the singer is going next. A powerful show, which had the audience singing along to his songs and the few, incredibly well-done, Soul covers! Myles Sanko is a singer I will surely try to see and hear for many more times to come.

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The regular reader of this little blog will know how much I do like Madeleine Peyroux and her new album ‘Anthem’ in no exception – another collection of wonderful written and performed originals! On October 28th she presented these new songs, plus some of her older successes, in Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional with Aram Bajakian (guitar/voc), Andy Ezrin (keyboards/voc), Paul Frazier (bass/ voc) and Graham Hawthorne (drums/voc) to an attentive and thankful audience. Her phrasing is so unique and special and the band kept themselves in the background most of the time, to give the voice the ambience to shine. Outstanding her little solo medley – just her and her acoustic guitar doing a song in Spanish, then going into ‘J’ai Deux Amours’, before drifting into a Blues and a Spiritual … intimate, beautiful and touching. One of the most outstanding singers and song writers of our time!

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The month for concerts ended with a show by pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus fame and saxophonist Mark Turner, a member of the amazing FLY trio. The duo just had released their first album ‘Temporary Kings’ and are on tour in Europe to promote the album. This is an intimate musical communication between friends, performing standards like Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ or ‘Chelsea Bridge’ on an extremely high musical level, powerful but as well full of emotions. Their own compositions for the duo are showing understanding and respect for each other and are touchingly beautiful. Both explore wisely the freedom the duo setting gives them and in the end the music and the audience are benefiting from that! Masters of their instruments not holding back!

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R.I.P. Sonny Fortune. I discovered the amazing sax player via his 1974 release ‘Long Before Our Mothers Cried’ and the following two recordings ‘Awakening’ and ‘Waves of Dreams’, from 1975 and 1976 respectively. I enjoyed his Blue Note recordings of the 1990’s, as well as the 1994 album with Gary Bartz ‘Alto Memories’, released on Verve Records. A powerful player who will be surely missed.

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New music:

Wayne Shorter / Emanon – In times when everything goes to streaming platforms and packaging becomes less important, Wayne Shorter and his label Blue Note turned the world on its head: a 3-disc or 3 LP set issued with an 84-page illustrated novel, only available in this format and not digitally … and surprise, surprise: it sells! Deservedly so, as the music of the three discs is simply divine, whether it is performed by the Wayne Shorter Quartet (Wayne, Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade) or the quartet with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Shorter is not only one of the most prolific improvisers of our time, but as well an important composer and the set confirms these statements: the live discs from London show him and his incredible musicians explore the compositions with inventiveness and inspiration and stretching the songs into the unknown, before returning to the essence of the pieces; the orchestral recordings on the other hand focus on the composition, have a more fixed structure, which nevertheless gives Shorter space to improvise over the written parts. This is nothing less than a major musical statement by an artist without limits. Go and get it!

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Paula Grande / SÓC – I really love the second album by Paula – it’s songs, vocal performances, the richness of styles mixed in a way only she can do, the use of language to enhance a song and the use of samples and sounds to create colours and grooves … but always recognisable as her!! Very impressive work! It starts perfectly with ‘Moving On’, showing already in that song that there are no boundaries for her and her music – different languages, grooves and sounds .. this is not jazz, not soul, not pop, but a mix of all of this and makes a lot of sense, as in ‘Ké Mundo’ with it sound bites and her singing, rapping and doubling up her voice … ‘Uno por’, ‘Quiero’ and ‘Me Interesa’ are other gems to check out. Not a boring second on that album.

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Ant Law / Life I Know – for his 3rd album guitar player Law brought together some of the finest young British musicians: Mike Chillingworth on alto saxophone, Ivo Naeme on piano, Tom Farmer on bass and James Maddren on drums, as well as Tim Garland on soprano as a special guest on the closing track ‘Credits’. The compositions are Law’s statement of his art today and are drawing the listener to pay attention and therefore enjoy the richness of this music. Extremely well performed by all musicians with some incredible guitar work by Law. Ant Law is establishing himself as a major player in Europe and deservedly so.

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There is a lot of great music coming out of Canada lately, or maybe it is just I know more about this extremely creative scene now. Some of the new releases getting hold of are ‘Fearless and Kind’ by the group Way North – jazz you can dance to by a group who put fun back into this music. Drummer Ethan Ardelli’s The Island of Form and Toronto big band Collective Order’s Vol. 3, a musical trip through the multicultural city. The most interesting album for me nevertheless is by the Montreal based band Lawful Citizen. Their ‘Internal Combustion’ is a wild and captivating mix of heavy guitars, powerful saxophones and a grooving rhythm section. Evan Shay on tenor sax, Aime Duquet on guitar, Antoine Pelegrin on electric bass and Kyle Hutchins on drums are behind this outstanding music, which successfully integrates jazz, metal, electronica and Americana into something new and definitely worth checking out.

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35 years …

October 15th 2018 – on this day 35 years ago I started my first job in the music industry at PolyGram in Vienna, Austria, being the # 2 of the small operation of their Import Music Service. I had run a jazz club in Vienna with some friends before that and started a jazz magazine with others as well, but this was the start of so far 35 incredibly rewarding years, working with artists and their music. After a few months I took over the little operation IMS and started to sign jazz labels for distribution in Austria – Gramavision for example and imported all the Fantasy, Milestone, Prestige, Riverside and Pablo recordings and with that made some good business and increased the turnover of the little operation. After I moved on to the pop division as a product manager for UK releases, I still kept an eye on the jazz world and was able to secure a deal with ECM for Austria as well. After a few years on the job, meanwhile heading the international product division, I was allowed to begin local jazz productions with Wolfgang Muthspiel, Wolfgang Puschnig, Linda Sharrock and the Vienna Art Orchestra, to name just a few, on the amadeo label. Puschnig’s ‘Pieces Of The Dream’ was the first of these to be made available internationally in 1988, followed by many others.

These productions obviously got the attention of our big bosses, who were planning to re-organize the global jazz structure and they offered me the job to do so. In 1992 I moved to London to co-ordinate the global PolyGram jazz activities and do the worldwide marketing and promotion for the big albums within the jazz world .. these releases coming mainly from the USA (Verve and Antilles), France (EmArCy) and Japan (jmt). It was like a dream – I met all my favourite jazz musicians, got to work with many of them and made a lot of friends. We marketed records by Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Horn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Ornette Coleman, John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Randy Weston, David Sanborn, Dave Holland, George Benson and Michael Brecker among many others. When Universal bought PolyGram in 1998 I was asked to continue in my position as V.P, International Marketing for Classic and Jazz priorities, but added A&R for EmArCy records to my portfolio as we got less records from the US as the international markets needed to have the jazz operation run successfully – therefore I oversaw some local jazz activities and started to sign artists to EmArCy, the old mercury jazz label. John Scofield, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Madeleine Peyroux, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker, Michel Camilo, The Bad Plus, James Carter, Sonny Rollins, Terry Callier, Tuck & Patti, Randy Crawford & Joe Sample, Ketil Bjornstad and others were signed by me then, as well as youngsters Julian Lage and Gerald Clayton, whose first releases appeared on EmArCy in 2009. Artists signed to local Universal companies I worked with at that time include Maria Joao, Till Bronner, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Anna Maria Jopek, Bugge Wesseltoft and his Jazzland Recordings, Monday Michiru, Jef Neve, Karen Mok and Sergio Mendes among many more from various countries.

 

 

After leaving Universal in 2010 I set up All-In-Music-Service with my wife, as a consultancy for labels and artists and we started to book some artists in Europe, like Branford Marsalis, but that we only did until 2016. Since 2012 we are working for Sony Music’s classical division Masterworks. There I was asked to re-built the old OKeh imprint into a jazz label for today. In quick succession I was able to sign and release albums with John Medeski, Bill Frisell, Michel Camilo, Craig Handy, Dave Holland, Dhafer Youssef and Jeff Ballard. To make a point that OKeh was there to be taken seriously we released albums by young musicians such as Nir Felder, Somi, Theo Croker, James Brandon Lewis and Jo-Yu Chen and to show as well that we could attract major talent and have a roster covering all aspects of improvised music I signed and released albums by Sonny Rollins, Sergio Mendes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, David Sanborn and Till Brönner.

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Beside that I was involved in or oversaw local releases within the OKeh family by Kat Edmonson, The Bad Plus, Regina Carter, Nils Petter Molvaer, Robin McKelle, Silje Nergaard, Camille Bertault, Baptiste Trotignon, Mario Biondi, Stacey Kent, Rebekka Bakken, Hugh Coltman, Bria Skonberg, triosence, Markus Stockhausen, BamesreiterSchwartzOrchester, the Polish trio RGG and Sly & Robbie plus Nils Petter Molvaer.

The dream continues and while still looking for new talent and having some on a list as possible signings, the work with the musicians on the roster is as rewarding as it always has been. The artists I worked with directly and the albums they released gathered numerous awards around the world, including 4 Grammys, 1 Latin Grammy, 5 ECHO awards and top awards from France, Japan, Holland and many more countries. I am honoured to call some of these amazingly creative people my friends and I am aware of and grateful for the luck I had in life being able to make a job out of my passion for music and especially jazz. I am happy to share my experience and knowledge with young musicians in events like Take 5, the UK initiative for young jazz musicians, or the Montreux Academy, organised by the jazz festival of Montreux, Switzerland.

Thanks to all the musicians that made these 35 years very special indeed and here’s to a few more … see you hopefully at a festival or gig very soon!

 

a world full of sound

Having some friends in town for a visit, we decided to get some tickets for the concert of flamenco singer Sandra Carrasco with ‘El Amir’ John Haddad, the oud, bouzouki and guitar player of Radio Tarifa for many years. A match made in heaven – Carrasco sings in a traditional flamenco style, but doesn’t restrict her repertoire to songs from that genre only and El Amir is a versatile multi-instrumentalist, using sounds and loops to improve the soundscape of the performed composition. Together they created music of beauty and deep felt emotions, expressed through their instruments and enthusiastically taken on board by the audience in the small venue the AC Recoletos Hotel offers. A powerful performance by Sandra Carrasco with wonderful support by guitarist El Amir – magical moments indeed.

 

Recommended music from all around the globe:

Tal Arditi / Portrait – young Israeli guitarist Tal Arditi earlier this year released his debut album ‘Portrait’, a statement of were his art is at this point in time, a musical portrait one could say. Recorded live in Berlin’s hip A-Trane club it features Andreas Lang on bass and Tobias Backhaus on drums and is a strong first release from Tal. He has a clear, yet full and strong sound on his instrument and bass and drums are together and letting him fly and express himself in his compositions. Beautiful the solo intro to the track ‘Berlin Vibe’ (one of the outstanding compositions of the album,) which as well features a really good solo by the guitarist. One to watch!!!

Andres Vial / Sphereology, Vol. 1 – pianist Vial has studied Monk for many years and only now, for his fourth album, he decided to start working with the master’s material … and as Vol. 1 in the title of his new disc ‘Sphereology’ confirms, this is only the start. And what a beginning it is:  wonderful bands, featuring Peter Bernstein on guitar, Dezron Douglas on bass and Rodney Green on drums or Martin Heslop on bass and drummer Andre White, delving deep into Monks world. Beside Vial it is especially Bernstein who’s interpreting of Monks music stands out – some of his soli are outstanding and work extremely well with Vial’s piano approach of these tunes. Just checkout their duo of ‘Ask Me Now’ and one can hear their love and understanding of Monks composition. A highly recommended album with fantastic playing.  I hope Vol. 2 comes out soon!!

Lars Fiil / Frit Fald II – beside Danish composer and pianist Lars Fiil the trio Frit Fald features Lis Raabjerg Kruse on sax and nay flutes and Bjørn Heebøll on drums and together they create a beautiful soundscape of free improvisations on little melodies and grooves, intimate, flowing and open for the listener to dive in, find emotions, thoughts and questions. Performances are on top level, whether the music is more like a structured chamber music piece or free and intuitive. Challenging, but at the same time mostly lyrical music, which needs the listeners attention, but is extremely rewarding when getting it. Partly recorded live, partly in the studio, this is powerful and exciting music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piotr Schmidt / SaxesFul – Polish trumpeter Schmidt is building quite a following in his country and deservedly so. His new album ‘Saxesful’ is a tribute to the leading Polish sax players of today, featuring his heroes each on one track. The participating saxophonists are Henryk Miskiewicz, Jan Wroblewski, Zbigniew Namyloslowski, Maciej Sikala, Piotr Baron, Adam Wendt and Grzech Piotrowski. The repertoire is almost exclusively standards with the exception of two compositions by the quartet of Schmidt on trumpet, Woiciech Niedziela on piano, Maciej Garbowski on bass and Krzysztof Gradziuk on drums: one a beautiful Interlude and the other Song for Tomasz a fitting musical tribute to Tomasz Stanko. Schmidt and his band are keeping the songs together lead by the various sax players, which all are bringing fantastic performances to the album, as well as Schmidt, whose soli are very impressive and captivating. A record reminiscent of Roy Hargrove’s ‘With the Tenors of Our Time’ in terms of the tribute concept and quality. Classy!

Mike Lorenz, Robinson Morse, Kevin Ripley / speak between – the trio of guitarist Lorenz, bass player Morse and drummer Ripley is creating a free-flowing ambient jazz with lots of spaces for improvisations and interaction. As they state in the press text: “The idea behind speak between is a play on what it means to ‘read between the lines.’ In this case, we are ‘speaking between the lines,’ finding the sounds hidden inside what is on the page”. Creative and challenging music, top communication within the group, acting and re-acting to spontaneous created ideas based on the sparsely written music. Captivating!

Marie Goudy / The Bitter Suite – for a debut album, this is a very ambitious and powerful statement by Canadian composer and trumpeter Marie Goudy, who assembled an incredible group of musicians to record her first work: Goudy – Trumpet & Voice / Jocelyn Barth – Voice / Brad Eaton – Trumpet & Flugelhorn / Matt Woroshyl – Alto & Soprano Saxophones / John Nicholson – Tenor Saxophone & Voice / Conrad Gluch – Baritone Saxophone / Charlotte Alexander – French Horn / Paul Tarussov – Trombone / Zach Smith – Trombone / Chris Platt – Guitar / Josh Smiley – Piano / Alex Lakusta – Bass / Keagan Eskritt – Drums and Andrés Gándara – Vihuela. Goudy states as her influences Maria Schneider, Marty Paich and Kenny Wheeler and Mariachi music, something she was involved in for many years and the Suite is combining and using all these influences to create something unique and beautiful. The Bitter Suite is the telling of a love story through the seasons and Goudy uses her 11 companions perfectly – creating the right atmospheres for the various stages of the love story, drawing from the colourful arrangements of her music. A promising start for the very talented Marie Goudy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally – go and watch the new Netflix documentary QUINCY, which is an interesting and touching portrait of a great music man and human being! Quincy Jones is by any means one of the most important music creators, producers, writers of our time and the docu tells the story and portraits the essence of the man perfectly. I had the pleasure to meet Quincy Jones in the early 2000’s in Montreux once and thanks to the late Claude Nobs got to talk to him for a bit … about music of course .. jazz, the EmArCy label especially, as he was their A&R in the 50’s and I was kind of running it at the time we met … a really nice man, open and ready to talk, to listen and still showing great passion for music … and all that is manifested throughout his career, as the documentary perfectly shows. A must see!

 

Soul Station and other delights ..

I saw Eli Degibri once before, at a show case in Bremen and looked forward to yesterdays concert, as I did enjoy his sound and playing then and hoped a full show would be even more engaging than the 40 minutes he did then – and it was exactly as I expected: Degibri on saxes and his sidemen Tom Oren on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass and Eviatar Slivnik on drums were cooking at Café Central in the centre of Madrid. Starting off with music from his latest album, ‘Cliff Hangin’ the quartet pushed the limits right from the start. Eli’s sound is deep and beautiful and perfect for powerful outbursts, with him shouting to himself and encouraging him and the others to go even deeper into the music and express themselves …One of the highlights here was his playing on the soprano sax in the wonderful ‘The Unknown Neighbour’! His band is tight and they seem to have a great understanding and communication. After playing some more cool compositions from Eli’s catalogue the band went into their forthcoming release, ‘Soul Station / A Tribute To Hank Mobley’, which is basically a re-make of the original Mobley album by the same name plus one new composition by Degibri – ‘Dear Hank’. To re-make a full album is an unusual statement – this is were I come from, what I like and what influenced me and this is as well what I can do with it now. And he totally makes the compositions his own … ‘Soul Station’ grooves and swings hard and ‘If I Lose You’ is a touching ballad with some beautiful playing on the night by Eli and Tom Oren. If you can’t see these guys live in your local club or festival, check out the new album, which will be out early October. Highly Recommended!

 

update:  forthcoming releases include the first Okeh album by Norwegian singer Rebekka Bakken ‘Things You Leave Behind’, a wonderful collection of originals and covers, which will be released September 28th. A new label, new songs, that sound rougher and even more mature than before, edgier, with lyrics that matter to the writer/singer and as well produced by Rebekka, to make it sound the way she heard these songs. As a long time fan, I would say that this is one of her best albums so far and I recommend to listen to the full album of which for the time being the songs ‘Closer’, ‘True North’, Shelter’, the title song and the wonderful version of ‘Time After Time’, which Rebekka had for a while now in her live repertoire and thankfully recorded for this album, are my favourites. European tour dates will follow the release – don’t miss her!!!

Later in the year we will see German singer Lyambiko release ‘My Favourite Christmas Songs’, featuring classics like ‘River’ and ‘Driving Home For Christmas’.

November will see the release of the new Lisa Ekdahl album ‘More Of The Good’. All songs on the new album are written by Lisa together with her long-time collaborator Mathias Blomdahl. The first single of the album, ‘I Know You Love Me’, featuring Ibrahim Maalouf, is available now. Lisa will tour Scandinavia before the end of the year and the rest of Europe in 2019.

In preparation for early 2019 releases: young trumpet star Theo Croker with a truly powerful and modern new album and a brand-new recording by the Branford Marsalis Quartet, recorded in the studio in Australia earlier this year. More on these and other possible releases for 2019 soon.

New Releases I can recommend:

Madeleine Peyroux / Anthem – ‘Anthem’ is simply another wonderful Peyroux album, but this time with her own songs, with the exception of the title track, which is a beautiful Leonard Cohen composition. The rest she wrote with her producer Larry Klein, David Baerwald (of David & David fame) and others. And they all create an album of simplicity and honesty, with a focus on her distinctive vocals, with some true gems of songs, like ‘We might as well dance’ or ‘On My Own’ and ‘All My Heroes’. Can’t wait to hear these new songs live later this year – meanwhile I’ll listen to the album … and so should you!

Concerto Stella Matutina & Rolf Lislevand / Nuove Invenzioni – Now, this is something completely different: Lisleland (lute and guitar) with the Ensemble Concerto Stella Matutina are combining here baroque sounds and compositions with the jazz element of improvisation. Compositions from Handel to Stanko are on display and make musically sense in arrangement and performance. Weird maybe, but captivating, as the period instruments give way to modern instruments and sounds, as in ‘Intrada’. The medley of ‘La Spagna’ by Francesco da Milano (1497-1543) and ‘Suspended Variations’ by Thomas Stanko (1942-2018) is the highlight of the album, building up slowly to a wonderful finale – classic and jazz combined to create simply stunning music. Surprising!

Jeremy Ledbetter Trio / Got A Light? – pianist Ledbetter, known for his work with CaneFire and as a producer for David Rudder, will release his first trio album on September 21st and it features Canadian top musicians Rich Brown (Steve Coleman, Dapp Theory) on bass and drummer Larnell Lewis (Snarky Puppy). The trio recorded a powerful album of Ledbetter’s compositions and one cover: ‘Gift Shop’ by The Tragically Hip which is one of the highlights of this diverse album, next to ‘Amanecer’, ‘About Climbing Mountains’ and ‘The Tightrope Walker’! A strong debut – very promising!

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a few records I did enjoy listening to over the last few weeks:

Weird Turn Pro / Let Me Be Unwound – led by pianist/composer Mike Effenberger, WTP as well features Matt Langley on reeds, Chris Klaxton on trumpet, Chris Gagne on trombone, Rob Gerry on bass and Mike Walsh on drums and creates a floating, repetitive, jazz inspired music that is minimalistic and meditative. The sextet often sounds as a much bigger ensemble, pushing the tiny melodic phrases around and ‘embracing repetition as form of change’. Music like a river: seemingly being the same without ever being so … as minimal changes constantly occur. Fascinating!

Kobie Watkins Grouptet / Movement – Watkins, a former drummer with Sonny Rollins, presents his first album with his new band Grouptet, which features Jonathan Armstrong on sax, Ryan Nielsen on trumpet, Justin Nielsen on piano and Aaron Miller on bass. ‘Movement’ is a hard-swinging traditional jazz album in the best sense – great compositions, wonderful ensemble-play and individual contributions and a really good version of ‘Manteca’!!  Worth checking out!!

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Michael Leonhart Orchestra / The Painted Lady Suite – I had seen the MLO last year in New York and have been waiting ever since for their debut album .. and multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Michael Leonhart does not disappoint with this orchestral debut: powerful compositions and arrangements, plus some incredible individual performances and soli, make this an outstanding album for any fan of larger ensembles. The Suite takes 7 of the 10 tracks of the album and is based on the migration of the Painted Lady Butterfly and has some wonderful compositions and arrangements with a very unique signature. Outstanding soloists in a cast of over 30 musicians are Nels Cline (in ‘Music Your Grandparents Would Like’) and Donny McCaslin (in ‘In the Kingdom Of MQ’). This is a captivating mix of traditional big band arrangements with new sounds and new ideas, a bit of Zappa and Vienna Art Orchestra thrown in and you get one of the most exciting new big ensemble voices for a while. A must!!!!!

Simone Kopmajer / Spotlight On Jazz – leading Austrian Jazz singer Simone Kopmajer recorded her new album with some of the best local musicians – Terry Myers on sax and clarinet, Paul Urbanek on piano, Martin Spitzer on guitar, Karl Sayer on bass and Reinhard Winkler on drums and they give her the background for her swinging and traditional jazz singing. She stylishly mixes her own compositions with standards and is so creating a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere to listen to these extremely well-presented songs. For the quiet hours of the day!

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John Pittman / Kinship – Canadian trumpet player John Pittman, who made himself a name as part of the Heavyweights Brass Band just released his debut album, featuring Shirantha Beddage on baritone sax, Jeff McLeod on piano, Mike Dones on bass and Curtis Nowosad on drums and ‘Kinship’ is a cool and swinging core jazz album, with really good compositions and musicians that were chosen for their kinship with the leader and the way they can communicate via music. Pittman is a great trumpet player and improviser, who surely deserves wider recognition!

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy / Let Your Light Shine On – Italian composer, guitarist and DJ Nicola Conte delivers with ‘Let Your Light Shine On’ a very strong homage to the Afrocentric spiritual music of John Coltrane. And as usual he has assembled to top band to bring his compositions to life – among many others the album features contributions by Theo Croker on trumpet, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Magnus Lindgren, as well as Zara McFarlane on vocals. Great grooves, great ensemble play and soli on what must be seen as one of Conte’s best recordings so far. Recommended!

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Paolo Vinaccia / Mystery Man – This 6 CD box set was released in Norway earlier this year to celebrate the drum masters 64th birthday and features 64 tracks from recordings made between 1981 and 2018 plus an interview disc with an additional 9 tracks from a radio show done by journalist Tor Hammerø. All these tracks of various musical genres have the sensitive drumming of Paolo Vinaccia in common and it is fascinating to listen how he can adapt to whatever musical environment and make the music all his own and still make it work for whoever he is recording. He listens, communicates and makes sure that the music sounds great – keeping himself in the background, only stepping up when needed to increase the groove or add something to lift the composition. The list of musicians with whom Paolo played and recorded is endless and includes almost all the main Norwegian jazz artists of our time – Terje Rypdal, Bugge Wesseltoft, Arild Andersen, Nils Petter Molvaer, Beady Belle, Sidsel Endresen, Eivind Aarset, Bendik Hofseth, etc., plus international acts like Mike Mainieri, Ferenc Snetberger, Tommy Smith and Henry Kaiser. This box confirms what they all knew already: Paolo Vinaccia is one of the most accomplished European drummers of our time.

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