Monday, February 27, 2017

R.I.P.: Horace Parlan (1931-2017)

RIP: Horace Parlan
(born January 19, 1931, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;
died February 24, 2017, Korsør, Denmark)

A soulful hard bop pianist & Charles Mingus collaborator who passed away in Denmark at age 86. Parlan recorded 7 Blue Note sessions as a leader between 1960-63 including "Movin' & Groovin'" "Us Three" & "Speakin' My Piece," and appeared on Mingus classics like "Blues & Roots" & "Mingus Ah Um."

He also played with Dexter Gordon, Thad Jones, Booker Erwin, Lou Donaldson, Dave Bailey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Slide Hampton, and many more. However, the first time I heard him was on Stanley Turrentine's "Salt Song" for CTI. Explore Parlan's Blue Note catalog with the complete Mosaic set on Apple Music.
I treasure this LD because it allows me to watch Horace Parlan playing in top form with Archie Shepp, Wayne Dockery and Marvin Smith. "The Stuttgart Jazz Summit" (Pioneer) also features Sun Ra, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Sonny Fortune, Glen Moore, Steps Ahead with Mike Mainieri, Samul Nori & Red Sun, Jorg Reiter, Charlie Mariano, Mike Stern, Bob Berg, Dennis Chambers, John Zorn Naked City etc.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Composer/bandleader Jihye Lee Turns Tragedy into Lavish, Heart-Wrenching Inspiration on Debut Orchestral Album

Composer/bandleader Jihye Lee releases her sumptuous and heart-rending debut recording titled "April" tomorrow, February 24. The album features a 20-piece orchestra culled from Berklee faculty and Boston-area musicians, with Sean Jones as special guest. Inspired by the Sewol ferry disaster of 2014 in South Korea, Lee's original six-song suite explores the myriad conflicting emotions that a tragedy can engender, vividly embodied by an orchestra that can navigate fluidly from visceral force to impressionistic beauty.

On the morning of April 16, 2014, tragedy struck South Korea when the ferry Sewol capsized and sank, killing more than 300 passengers. Half a world away, composer and native Korean Jihye Lee watched on in horror from Boston, where she was studying at Berklee College of Music. As the hours, days, weeks and now years have passed, reactions to the disaster have mingled grief and anger, sorrow and outrage, protest and sympathy as human tragedy collided with political controversy.

Not long before the wreck of the Sewol, Lee had written two pieces that came to prove eerily prophetic: "April Wind," which gradually builds from gentle and tender to majestic and powerful; and "Deep Blue Sea," through which Lee's soaring voice wends an emotional, wordless lament before being overwhelmed by swelling tides of sound. "Destiny is a big word," Lee admits, "but maybe I was meant to make this album."

Lee expanded upon those two compositions in the wake of the Sewol disaster, creating the heartfelt six-song suite that comprises her new album, "April." Performed by a 20-piece orchestra culled from Berklee faculty and Boston-area musicians, the album (due out tomorrow, February 24) explores the myriad conflicting emotions that a tragedy like the ferry crash can engender, vividly embodied by an orchestra that can navigate fluidly from visceral force to impressionistic beauty. Lee composes from a wide palette, at one moment lush watercolors, the next bold splashes of action painting.

Being so far away from home as events unfolded, Lee says that the worst feeling was being unable to contribute to rescue and relief efforts. "If I were in Korea I would have done something," she says. "But in Boston there was nothing to do. My mind was so chaotic, I couldn't help but write this music."

"April Wind" opens the album, the calm before the storm that sets the scene for the events of the day to unfold. Alain Mallet's piano solo rides the orchestra's cresting waves, while Shannon LeClaire's alto and Allan Chase's soprano usher in the rising tide. It's followed by "Sewol Ho," named for the ferry itself, which begins with John Lockwood's churning, ominous bass, soon joined by frantic, cross-talking horn lines which build in tension and urgency. "Deep Blue Sea" is an oasis of serenity, seemingly peaceful but perhaps suggesting the stunned silence following unimaginable horror. Rick DiMuzio's tenor offers a soulful elegy.

The brisk, manic rhythms of "Whirlwind" capture the chaos of the sinking's aftermath: the frenzied worry of victim's families, the unanswered questions and political turmoil that persist nearly three years later. "Guilty" is aimed squarely at those whose neglect, greed and politicking led to the tragedy and its staggering death toll, the composer's seething contempt for the deceit and disregard for human life mutedly expressed in the tug of war between Bruce Bartlett's guitar and Rick DiMuzio's soprano. Finally, "You Are Here (Every Time I Think of You)" is Lee's outpouring of sympathy for those lost and those left behind, highlighted by the aching, sweepingly gorgeous flugelhorn of guest soloist Sean Jones.

The band was assembled and the album co-produced by trumpeter and longtime Berklee professor Greg Hopkins. "Greg really believed in me and my music," Lee says. "When I shared my vision he was really supportive." Hopkins also helped Lee set up the Kickstarter campaign that funded the album's recording.

Given the singular vision of Lee's writing for big band, which calls to mind the bold narratives and colors of the Maria Schneider Orchestra along with the intricate arrangements of Jim McNeely, with whom she's now studying at the Manhattan School of Music, it's surprising to learn that Lee arrived in Boston with no intention of leading an orchestra and very little knowledge of jazz in general. She'd worked primarily as a folk and R&B-influenced pop singer-songwriter in Korea but came to Berklee hoping to expand her musical horizons.

"I wanted to see something that I didn't see when I was in Korea," she recalls. "I really loved complexity in harmony and rhythm, but I didn't know what genre I could find it in. I just followed my gut, and my gut said you have to go to Berklee. I got to see a lot of concert jazz orchestra music there, and I was overwhelmed. I was enchanted by the energy and complexity, the richness and diversity that we can mix and use in different ways. That's how I got into jazz big band writing."

One of the most striking elements of Lee's pieces throughout April is the way she interweaves her own voice into the orchestral palette. She doesn't write lyrics, uncomfortable with penning words in English, but doesn't see the lack of them as inhibitive of communicating her messages. "Lyrics are too specific to convey some images or emotions that I cannot really express with words," she says.
The use of voice, though, came naturally from her background as a singer. "It was only natural. I think people are very drawn to the human voice because we're all human, and there's some things that only voice can express."

While she doesn't draw on explicit influences from her native country, Lee says that her essential Korean-ness comes through in every note that she writes. "Korean people are very emotional, very expressive," she explains. She mentions a Korean expression, han, that connotes a sense of deep, restrained emotion rooted in the country's long history of war and colonization, similar to the melancholic/nostalgic Brazilian term saudade but in an earthier, more inward form. The stoicism they display on the surface means that their sadness comes through in art as a howl of sadness. "I think it naturally comes through in my melodies: dramatic, lyrical, very sad, that kind of emotional statement."

The title "April" ties into her adopted home of Boston as well, given that the Boston Marathon bombing took place one year almost to the day prior to the Sewol. Lee hopes that her music offers a path to healing from both incidents. "April is a beautiful month, the beginning of spring when everything is new and beautiful and blooming," she says. "I want to make April bloom again."

R.I.P.: Leon Ware (1940-2017)

R.I.P.: Leon Ware
(born on February 16, 1940, Black Bottom, Detroit, Michigan, USA;
died on February 23, 2017, Marina del Rey, California, USA)

The fabulous North American singer & songwriter, recorded many great albums, but this self-titled r&b gem is my favorite. Recorded in 1982 for Elektra, arranged by Marty Paich & Jerry Hey, featuring Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Laudir de Oliveira, Gato Barbieri, Janis Siegel, Nathan East, Chuck Rainey, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, Rita Coolidge, Steve Lukather etc. There are two beautiful songs co-written with Marcos Valle: the haunting ballad Deeper Than Love (Mais Que Amor) and the infectious samba-funk Somewhere (later recorded by Emilio Santiago as Dentro de Você.)

Leon Ware's tunes were recorded by Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Minnie Ripperton, Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes and many others, being sampled by Ice Cub, Tupac, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest etc. Rest in Power.

Monday, February 20, 2017

R.I.P.: Larry Coryell (1943-2017)

R.I.P.: Larry Coryell, at age 73.
(born Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III on April 2, 1943, Galveston, Texas, USA;
died February 19, 2017, New York City, New York, USA)

Terrible news. Another idol & friend is gone, another jazz master. Had the honor to work with him during his CTI years ("Fallen Angel" was a best-selling on the Billboard jazz charts) and when I produced the album "Almost In Love / Ithamara Koorax Sings The Luiz Bonfá Songbook," recorded in 1996, on which he guested. The first time I saw him live was in 1978 in a brilliant duo concert with Philipe Catherine at the Sao Paulo Jazz Festival, during the "Twin House Tour." And the first Coryell album I got, as a gift from my aunt Elge Agricola, was "Introducing The Eleventh House" in 1974. It means I have been "connected" to his artistry for 43 years... Photo by Celso Brando (P. Mallagutti, Arnaldo DeSouteiro, Larry Coryell, Ithamara Koorax)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

TBT: Grady Tate & Arnaldo DeSouteiro

 (legendary drummer/singer Grady Tate & Arnaldo DeSouteiro, 1979)
Photos by Delza Agricola DeSouteiro

R.I.P.: Helio Matheus (1940-2017)

R.I.P.: Helio Matheus (1940-2017),
(born on July 5, 1940; died on February 09, 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, RJ)

Brazilian singer, composer and guitarist. Besides this debut solo album recorded in 1975 for RCA with an all-star cast, Helio had his songs covered by such acts as Elis Regina, Azymuth, Zimbo Trio, Meirelles, Wanderléa, Doris Monteiro, Banda Black Rio etc. My favorite ones are the recordings of "Kriola" by Meirelles and "Que É Que Você Vai Fazer Nesse Carnaval" by Azymuth, which I've included in the volume 3 of the compilation series "A Trip To Brazil" that I produced for Verve. Rest in Power.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

R.I.P.: Orlandivo (1937-2017)

(born Orlandivo Honório de Souza on August 5, 1937 in Itajaí, Santa Catarina, Brazil;
died on February 8, 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil)

Brazilian singer, composer and percussionist aka Orlann Divo. Recorded several albums as a leader, being recognized as one of the fathers of the "Sambalanço" style derived from bossa nova. He started his career as crooner of organist Ed Lincoln's band and co-wrote many songs with guitarist Durval Ferreira.

However, his biggest international hit, "Samba Blim" (aka "Tamanco No Sambo"), recorded by Cal Tjader and Tamba 4 among others, was co-written with Helton Menezes. Orlandivo also recorded as a percussionist on Deodato's "Os Catedráticos 73" albums, later retitled "Skyscrapers."

As a solo artist, his most famous album was released in 1977 by the Copacabana label and shamelessly bootlegged in UK during the Acid Jazz heyday. That album was arranged by keyboardist João Donato, also featuring Azymuth's members Alex Malheiros (bass) and Mamão (drums) plus Zé Menezes, Sivuca, Copinha, Durval Ferreira, Helcio Milito, Chico Batera, Ariovaldo, Papão, Hermes Contesini, Airton Barbosa, Geraldo Bongô and many others. Rest in Groove.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

R.I.P.: Svend Asmussen (1916-2017)

(born on February 28, 1916, in Copenhagen, Denmark;
died on February 7, 2017, Dronningmølle, Denmark)

R.I.P. Svend Asmussen (1916-2017), one of the best violin players in jazz history, and an institution in Danish jazz. He passed away (today) a few days before his 101th Birthday! This is my favorite Svend album, recorded in 1972 with Toots Thielemans plus Red Mitchell, Ed Thigpen, Kjell Ohman and Stefan Brolund. A lovely bossa nova titled "Denise," written by Thigpen, used to receive a lot of airplay at JB-AM radio station in my native Brazil, at the time of the album release in 1973. The repertoire also includes great tunes by Toots, Milt Jackson and Duke Ellington. Besides the violin, Svend plays viola and cello. His career spanned eight decades, with over 80 albums as a leader or co-leader. Rest in Heaven.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sandy Cressman celebrates her passion for Brazilian music with "Entre Amigos," out Feb 3rd

As founder and leader of the group Homenagem Brasileira, San Francisco-based vocalist/ educator Sandy Cressman has had many opportunities over the last 20-plus years to forge creative partnerships with like-minded musicians from the Bay to Brazil. Her entrancing new album, "Entre Amigos," which will be released on February 3 by her Cressman Music imprint, marks the culmination of these relationships and is a celebration of her own deep history with the music and the players.

Though the new CD is her first new recording since 2005's "Brasil--Sempre no Coração," a project devoted to definitive songs by masters of MPB (música popular brasileira), Cressman never stepped away from music. As an educator and linchpin of a bustling creative family including her husband, former longtime Santana trombonist and recording engineer Jeff Cressman; their older daughter, New York trombonist/vocalist Natalie Cressman; and their younger daughter, Los Angeles dancer Julianna Cressman, she's maintained enduring musical ties with some of the region's finest musicians. There's nothing quite like being massively overscheduled to concentrate one's attention, and Cressman came up with an enthralling set of answers to the self-searching question, "What do I really want to do with this music?"

"For a long while I concentrated on mining the treasures in the existing Brazilian music repertoire," says Cressman. "But at a certain point I started writing and asking people to collaborate, and Entre Amigos collects many of these amazing connections."
Among the collaborators on the new CD are rising Brazilian-American guitarist Ian Faquini ("Nossa História," "Deixa a Amor Florescer"), pianist/composer Jovino Santos Neto ("Para Hermeto"), Brazilian pianist Antonio Adolfo ("Eu Vou Lembrar"), and São Paulo-based samba-jazzistas Dani and Debora Gurgel ("Como Eu Quero Cantar"). Significantly, "Entre Amigos" opens a new chapter for Cressman as a tunesmith; she contributed lyrics, in both Portuguese and English, for every track on the album, and also wrote both music and lyrics for "Ela É," recorded in Germany with the 2010 Santana rhythm section, including Dennis Chambers, and for "Não Me Acorde Não," which tells the story of her and her husband's participation in Carnaval 2015 in Recife with renowned Pernambuco frevo composer/bandleader Spok and his Spok Frevo Big Band.

That performance, and her return to Recife to record with Spok earlier this year, led to an intriguing invitation. When the director of music at the Paço do Frevo (Frevo Museum) learned of her recording project, he proposed a cultural exchange with local frevo musicians: the Cressmans will do a concert and some master classes at the Paço do Frevo the week preceding Carnaval 2017, and then they will perform at Carnaval with the Spok Frevo Orquestra.

Sandy continues to work with Homenagem Brasileira, as well as Mistura Fina, a more recent Latin jazz combo led by guitarist Ray Obiedo (a longtime musical partner with whom she co-wrote Entre Amigos' "Eu Mais Você"). In recent months she's collaborated with the acclaimed 17-piece Electric Squeezebox Orchestra led by trumpeter Erik Jekabson, performed with world jazz pioneer Jai Uttal, and celebrated the music of Guinga with Faquini and flutist Rebecca Kleinmann. Somehow, every path seems to lead her back to Brazil.

"I'm thrilled that my musical horizons are widening," she says. "For many years I was very Rio-centric, focused on bossa nova, samba, and Brazilian jazz. This record has São Paulo samba jazz, Northeastern rhythms frevo and maracatu. I keep meeting these people who have different areas of expertise and knowledge, and it's so inspiring and invigorating to be involved in the creation of these songs."

CD Release Shows for "Entre Amigos"
Feb 16 Freight and Salvage, Berkeley, CA
Feb 18-Mar 1 Carnaval/Various Shows and Master Classes, Recife, Brazil
Mar 19 Café Pink House, Saratoga, CA
Mar 25 Armando's, Martinez, CA
Apr 7 Sound Room, Oakland, CA
Apr 12 Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3, New York, NY
May 7 Blue Note, Napa, CA
May 19 California Jazz Conservatory, Berkeley, CA
Jul 2 Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland, CA
Jul 20 Crocker Art Museum Jazz Night Series, Sacramento, CA

Photography: Calixto Júnior Fotografía