Category: jazz fusion

Throwback: Happy 95th Birthday, Miles Davis!

JOVM celebrates Miles Davis’ 95th birthday.

Throwback: Happy 96th Birthday, Roy Haynes!

Yesterday was the legendary Roy Haynes’ 96th birthday. Over the course of his 77 year career — yes, 77! — Haynes has played swing, bop, fusion and avant garde jazz with a who’s who of jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Oliver Nelson and a long list of others. And unsurprisingly because of such a lengthy and productive career, Haynes is one of the most recorded drummers in jazz history.

I had the pleasure and honor of photographing and watching the imitable legend play on a SummerStage bill that featured Ron Carter and McCoy Tyner. At the time, I believe that Haynes was around 91 and even in his advanced age, he was full of energy, charming and incredibly spry: during his set, he got up from his drum kit to tap dance and sing. I hope to have that kind of energy and joy if I get to that age! He’s also still regularly playing and touring. And if it wasn’t for the COVID pandemic, Haynes would have been playing his annual Blue Note residency to celebrate his birthday.

Happy birthday, Mr. Haynes! May there be many, many, many more!

Throwback: Black History Month: Miles Davis

Today is February 26, 2021. It’s the 26th day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

It’s February 27, 2021. The 27th day of Black History Month, which is rapidly coming to a close. I don’t think you can talk about Black History Month without showcasing Miles Davis, one of the towering figures of jazz and modern music.

Throwback: Black History Month: Roy Ayers

Today is the eighth day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.

Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

If James Brown and Parliament Funkddelic are among the most sampled artists ever, Roy Ayers is likely the third most ever. His work automatically creates nostalgia for summer afternoon picnics with your family — but perhaps even more important, for being cool, groovy and defiantly and jubilantly Black.

New Audio: Italian Act The Apex Releases an Expansive, Prog Rock Take on Jazz Fusion

With the release of last year’s debut EP Here Comes The Apex, the Rome-based jazz rock/jazz fusion trio The Apex — Francesco Carrreti (guitar, production). Francesco Ferilli (bass) and Danilo Ombres (drums) — quickly established a songwriting approach and sound inspired by Weather Report, Miles Davis, Robert Glasper, Squarepusher, Snarky Puppy and others.

While supporting their EP with live shows in and around Rome, the act spent the next year writing and working on the compositions that would eventually comprise their forthcoming full-length debut, Kick Me with arranger/producer Toni Armetta. The album’s latest single, the eponymously titled “The Apex” features guest spots from Javier Girotto (sax) and Banco del Mutuo Socorso’s Gianni Nocenzi. Interestingly enough, the expansive composition sonically — to my ears, at least — reminds me of a slick yet soulful synthesis of Nothing Like the Sun-era Sting, Return to Forever/the aforementioned Weather Report with a subtly prog bent.

New Audio: Emerging French Act Yusan Releases a Breezy and Summery New Single

Yusan is a French jazz sextet — Ann Shirley (vocals), Romain Cucq (saxophone), Ralph Lavital (guitar), Kevin Jubert (piano), Gwen Ladeux (bass), and Mathieu Edward (drums) — that can trace its origins back to when its members serendipitously met at at unexpected residency at The Maison Des Artistes in Chamonix, France. Bonding over common musical influences, the members of Yusan felt an instant simpatico and decided to create music together. 

Interestingly, the act, which specializes in sound that draws from Caribbean music, African rhythms, gospel and others was given the name Yusan by a mutual friend — and according to the band Yusan in Korean means “heritage.” 

The act’s latest single “Chiraj” is a breezy swing centered around  an arrangement that features African polyrhythm, Afro-Caribbean scatting, a sinuous Jaco Pastorious-like bass line, shimmering and dexterous guitar work, some and a playful horn line. Each musician seems to know when to push, pull and lead — and with a joyful, fun-loving mischievously air. The expansive song structure allows the act to dabble in Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian jazz, Weather Report-like jazz fusion and funk with a summery air. 

Individually Norwegian-born and-based trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and French-born, Brooklyn-based percussionist Mino Cinelu have had accomplished careers: Cinelu first gained attention playing on Miles Davis‘ We Want Miles and Amandla, which has landed him gigs playing with Weather Report, Gong, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Sting, Santana, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and a eclectic and lengthy list of internationally acclaimed artists. The French percussionist has also released three solo albums and has collaborated with Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks on World Trio. With 1997’s Khmer released through ECM Records, Nils Petter Molvær quickly established his unique sound and aesthetic — one which combines the Nordic feeling of nature with Southeast Asian sound philosophies. But since then, Molvær’s work has found him pushing his sound deeper into uncharted areas, while exploring various combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds. His work has allowed him to collaborate with German electronic producer Moritz von Oswald in 2013 with reggae artists Sly and Robbie in 2018 and with Bill Laswell on several occasions.

Slated for a September 4, 2020 release through BMG’s Modern Recordings, Cinelu and Molvær’s collaboration together SulaMadiana can trace its origins back to 2015 when the duo first met at a solo Molvær played in Turkey. Quickly agreeing to embark on a joint project together, it took several more meetings in different parts of the world and a handful of years before they were able to get together for a studio session in Oslo. Early this year, the recordings were rounded off in Cinelu’s Brooklyn studio with post-production completed as a remote, Transatlantic endeavor as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. Speaking about the process, Cinelu says “The best way to start something is to start it. So I said: ‘let’s get started’. Nils brought a groove along which I liked, we enriched it with sounds and other grooves, wanted to find a melody, and it just made ‘Bang’. It was a real trip. A lot of blood, sweat and tears, but even more love.”

Sonically speaking both artists’ work represents two completely different worlds — Molvær’s work evokes the boreal cold of his homeland while Cinelu’s work evokes the rhythms and heat of Latin America and Africa. The album, which derives its name as a tribute to both artists’ heritage — Sula is the Norwegian island where Molvær grew up and Madiana is a loving nickname for the island of Martinique, where Cinleu’s father was born. The album’s material finds the duo finding a common sonic playground initially inspired by their previous work — but while pushing each other and their sound together into completely new territories: the album’s material finds Cinelu taking up vocal duties while Molvær plays acoustic, electric guitar and various other electronics. Of course for this to work, the interplay between the musicians is key. “We are different, but what we have in common is that we like to give some space to things,” Molvær says. Cinelu adds: “It doesn’t matter who has what share in music. We both know each other’s cultures, we find bridges and crossings, and often we walk these paths that lead in the same direction. We wrote everything together and followed our feelings. There are no limits or barriers.”

The album’s first single, album title track “SulaMadiana (For Manu Dibango)” is an ethereal yet funky tribute to Cinelu’s mentor Manu Dibango, centered around a propulsive acoustic guitar line, pedal effected trumpet, shimmering electric guitar soloing, atmospheric electronics, Afro-Latin percussion and Cinelu’s dreamy vocals. The end result is an adventurous and loving Vulcan mind-meld in which a wintry breeze blows through the propulsive funk in a way that evokes late summer.