Tag: jazz

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  

Released earlier this year, McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context. using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  It’s meant to reconnect Scott-Heron with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments the Chicago-born legendary artist’s imitable voice.

Slated for a July 31, 2020 release through his longtime label home. Universal Beings E&F Sides serves as an addendum to the critically applauded 2018 effort of the same name — but while featuring fourteen new organ beat music compositions that were cut from the original sessions and prepared and produced by McCraven as a soundtrack to a documentary on the recording of the original album. (The physical album will see a September 25, 2020 release.)

The Mark Pallman-directed Universal Beings documentary follows McCraven as he travelled to California, Chicago, London and NYC in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and recording of his breakthrough album, taking the viewer through the story of his life, his process and the community of musicians that brought the album’s material to life.

So to build up buzz for the new album and the documentary, McCraven and International Anthem have released Universal Beings Sides E&F‘s first single, the angular and percussive “Mak Attack.” Clocking in a little under two minutes, the breakneck composition is centered around complex and rolling polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and twinkling bursts of keys.  The composition finds the musicians managing to walk a tightrope between chaos and order, free-flowing improvisation and structured composition and as a result, it explodes with a forceful and vital energy.



Throwback: RIP Jimmy Cobb

Growing up, jazz was a formative part of my childhood. John Coltrane was God and Miles Davis was Jesus. Hallowed be thy names! Hallelujah and amen, forever and ever!  

Copious amounts of ink — both real and virtual — have been spilled writing about Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, the recording sessions that birthed it and the musicians, who recorded it, which included John Coltrane (tenor sax), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans (piano), Wynton Kelly(piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and of course, Miles Davis (trumpet). Personally, Kind of Blue is a quintessential New York album: if you ever get a chance, play the album while walking down a lengthy stretch of Fifth Avenue on a drizzly Spring afternoon. Trust me, it works. 

I was heartbroken to hear that Jimmy Cobb, the last living link to Kind of Blue died yesterday and I wanted to pay a tribute to Cobb and the rest of the legendary musicians, who recorded such a gorgeous and meaningful album. I stumbled across this rare bit of live footage of Miles and the crew performing Kind of Blue album track “So What?” live. Check it out.  And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the album, go to Spotify and spend an afternoon with it. 

Crowd Company is a rising, London-based acid jazz/jazz fusion/funk octet featuring core members Rob Fleming (vocals, guitar), Emil Engstrom (bass), Claudio Corona (keys), Esther Dee (vocals), Jo Marshall (vocals) and Robin Lowrey (drums) with a horn section including a rotating cast of top local players like Piers Green and Ed Benstea that specializes in sound that draws from and features elements of 1960s soul, 70s jazz fusion, contemporary funk, the blues and jam band rock: their material is centered around arrangements that feature Hammond organ, a virtuous horn section, soulful vocals and three part harmonies and funky grooves paired with razor sharp hooks.

The British octet has also built up a reputation for a powerhouse live show, while opening for an impressive list of acclaimed and legendary artists including The MetersGeorge Porter, Jr., JOVM mainstays Soulive, The New Mastersounds, Saun & Starr, James Taylor Quartet and Monophonics among others.

Earlier this year, the band released their most recent album, the Alan Evans-produced and mixed Lowdown, which The Big Takeover lauded as an album “that bursts at the sonic seams with rich, vibrant and varied compositions.”  The rising British act’s latest single “Orbital” was recorded during the Lowdown sessions at Evans’ Iron Wax Studios. And although the track sees the members of Crowd Company continuing their collaboration with Lettuce’s Ryan Zoidis and Eric “Benny” Bloom, it wasn’t included as one of Lowdown‘s album tracks. Clocking in at a little under 5:30, the funky and intergalactic composition sees the act bridging acid jazz, jazz fusion, retro-futuristic funk and psychedelia in a way that reminds me of Switzerland’s merchants of jazzy grooves L’Eclair— but with an enormous Parliament Funkadelic-like horn section.

New Video: Swiss Instrumental Act L’Eclair Release a Hallucinogenic Visual for Shimmering and Funky New Single “Carousel”

Through the course of their first three albums, 2017’s Cruise Control, 2018’s Polymood and last year’s Sauropoda, the Geneva, Switzerland-based instrumental act L’Eclair have perfected and established a difficult to pigeonhole sound, centered around their unique groove-driven vision of instrumental music, which fearlessly blends genres and styles. It shouldn’t be surprising that at one point, the Swiss instrumental act managed to describe their sound in a number of different ways on their Facebook page, including referring to their sound as being “as if Booker T and the MGs came from Eastern Europe,” an obscure 70s movie soundtrack and as “kraut-exo-soul, brutal funk and Turkish groove.” Interestingly, the act closed out last year with a collaborative 7 inch with The Mauskovic Dance Band.

Building upon a growing profile, the Swiss sextet has toured to support those albums across Europe, bringing the funky grooves to audiences in Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK, including thee European Festival circuit, playing sets at Montreux Jazz Festival, Bad Bonn Kilbi, Les Transmusicales, Eurosonic Nooderslag, Copenhagen Jazz Festival and others. 

Continuing the momentum of the past couple of years, the Swiss sextet’s latest effort, Noshtta EP is slated for a May 22, 2020 leas through Bongo Joe Records, and the EP reportedly continues a run of material that’s specifically crafted to make you dance and cry at the same time. “Carousel,” Noshtta EP’s latest single is centered around an expansive and free- flowing arrangement of shifting tempos, shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, propulsive four-on-the floor, twinkling keys and a sinuous and funky bass lines. The track finds the act seamlessly meshing funk, jazz fusion, disco and kraurtock with a mischievously anachronistic retro-futurism — and it may arguably be the most dance floor friendly track they’ve released to date. The recently released video is a trippy mix of old-school CGI graphics, videotape hiss, and geometric shapes undulating in syncopation to the song.

Live Footage: Dani Lòpez Quartet Performs “Cafetera Stuff” at Olot Spain’s Sala El Torin

Dani Lòpez is a rising, Olot, Spain-born and-based composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and producer, who picked up music at a very young age. Learning several different instruments, Lòpez quickly began writing original music for bands across an eclectic variety of genres and styles, including folk, jazz, classical and contemporary chamber music. Lòpez attended the Liceu Conservatory, where he studied classical saxophone under Albert Julià and David Sallers, graduating in 2016 — and composition under renowned composers Benet Casablancas and Benjamin Davies, graduating in 2018, Towards the end of his studies, the rising Spanish multi-instrumentalist earned the Ferrer-Salat Scholarship and a special prize for the composition degree. 

Over the past couple of years, Lòpez has written several chamber music pieces, including two scores for ensemble-based adaptations of Prudenci Betrana’s “Una agonia” and “En Busqueta” centered around flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and soprano vocal. He’s also written “Mirall Trencat,” a piece for saxophone quartet that has been performed in venues across Catalonia and Zurich, as well as a small concert for saxophone that has been performed in Spain, Portugal and Mexico. As a saxophonist, the Spanish multi-instrumentalist has won several contests for solo composition and chamber music, including 2013’s Arjau Catalanmusic and 2014’s Ecoparque de Trasmiera. 

Currently, Lòpez works as a freelance musician, who has played with several different projects including Magalí Sare, El Pot Petit, Holoquè, and Hop al Metro among others. 2020 has been a rather busy year for the rising Spanish artist: he recently produced, co-produce, crafted arrangements and/or cowrote material for three applauded albums: El Pot Petit’s 10 Anys, which won the 2020 Premis Enderrock Award for the Best Recording of Music for Families; Criatures’ Praxinoscopi, which won the 2020 Premis Enderrock Award for Best Folk Recording; and Aires del Montseny’s Lilure Albir. 

Adding to a busy year, the Spanish multi-instrumentalist’s forthcoming album El que fan les cases quan no les mires is slated for release this year through Segell Microscopi. Featuring a backing band of Andreu Moreno (drums, SPD), Vic Moliner (double bass, bass synthesizer), Alejandro Esperanza (piano, Rhodes, synths) and of course, Lopez (sax, flute, piano, synths, vocals), the album was recorded during a three day recording session at Ground Recording Studios in Cornelià de Terri.  The album’s compositions finds the Lòpez-led quartet crafting a sound that meshes elements and blurry the lines  of jazz, contemporary chamber music, folk and pop with a forward-thinking experimentalism, inspired by the Spanish multi-instrumentalist and composer’s fascinating with observing reality from up close. Instead of immediately taking the material to be mixed, there was a month of patient and painstaking post-production of the album’s material with Lòpez hand-picking the best tracks to be included on the album, as well as the album’s overarching theme. 

 El que fan les cases quan no les mires’ latest single “Cafetera Stuff” can trace its origins to a previous composition Lòpez had written for a chamber orchestra “Star Stuff.” As the story goes, in an inspired bout, he had started experimenting by playing the composition in a different chord. Centered around an expansive arrangement of shimmering piano arpeggios, atmospheric synths, rapid-fire rhythms, a propulsive bass line and samples of a coffee machine, the song shifts between tempos and modes with a mischievous and whimsical air. 

The recently released live footage features the quartet performing the song at Olot’s Sala El Torin — and it’s shot in a gorgeous black and white, while capturing the quartet’s energy and connection as a live unit. 

New Video: Joan Pérez-Villegas Releases a Gorgeous and Whimsical Composition from Debut Album

Joan Pérez-Villeagas is a Mallorca, Spain-born, Bern, Switzerland-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer, who began studying percussion at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Palma when he was eight. When he turned 19, he relocated to Barcelona, where he wound up earning a Bachelor’s in Classical and Contemporary Percussion at ESMUC — and while in Barcelona, he developed a deep interest in jazz and traditional music that led him to earn his Masters in Jazz Composition under the tutelage of Lluís Vidal.

So far, the Spanish-born, Swiss-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer’s career has led him to a diverse array of projects across an eclectic and diverse range of styles and genres including chamber music, classical symphonies, pop, traditional music, jazz and scores for dance, theater and film. And during that same period, he’s managed to be rather busy: he’s studied with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, been a guest artist at Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival (SICMF) 2016 in South Africa and at Festival Cistermusica 2016 in Portugal with his percussion duo Face two Phase, with which he won first prize at the fourth annual International Chamber Music Competition Cidade Alcobaça (CIMCA) in Portugal.

Blau Salvatge, the Pérez-Villegas and Marc Urrutia co-produced album is the Spanish-born, Swiss-based artist’s full-length debut as a composer and bandleader. The album, which was recorded over the course of two days with Alberto Pérez at Barcelona’s Sol de Sants Studio and collection of friends and fellow students including Pau Lligadas (bass), Josep Cordobés (drums), Ariadna Rodríguez (violin), Pau Vidal (flute), Toni Pineño (clarinet), Joan Mar Sauqué (trumpet), Max Salgado (French horn), Leire Corpas (guitar)  and of course, Pérez-Villegas (marimba and vibraphone) at Barcelona’s Sol de Sants Studio features six kaleidoscopic compositions that manage to be individually distinct and focused on a different compositional process while part of a larger, cohesive whole centered around some unconventional arrangements. 

The album’s first single “Vaivè” sets up the overall tone and sound of the forthcoming album: Featuring  a cinematic and mind-bending arrangement of French horn, baritone clarinet (a rarity for most contemporary jazz), trumpet, flute, bass, drums and vibraphone, the composition finds this remarkably soulful and thoughtful collection of young musicians darting, weaving, bopping and strutting through several different styles    and tempos including Birth of the Cool and Kind of Blue-era Miles Davis, Horace Silver, breezy Brazilian jazz, Spanish folk music and film and TV scores — while evoking contemplation, awe, wonder and childlike whimsy. 

Shot by Àngel Pérez, the recently released and intimately shot video captures the young Spanish-born, Swiss-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer with his cast of collaborators in the studio as they recorded the composition. 

New Video: Kat Edmonson’s Dreamy Take on Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”

Kat Edmonson is an acclaimed Houston, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, who can trace some of the origins of her musical career to her childhood: her mom adored the Great American songbook and ’40s and 50’s pop — and as a child, Edmonson grew up listening to her mom’s records. She wrote her first song when she was nine, while riding the school bus.

She spent a year, attending the College of Charleston before relocating to Austin, TX to pursue a music career. While in Austin, Edmonson auditioned for the second season of American Idol and wound up being one of the Top 48 contestants invited to Hollywood. After appearing on American Idol, the Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter returned to Austin, where she spent several years performing regularly in local clubs. 

Her full-length debut, 2009’s Take to the Sky landed on the Top 20 of the Billboard Jazz Charts. Edmonson’s sophomore album, 2012’s Way Down Low was released to praise from The New York Times and NPR and reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Her third album, 2014’s The Big Picture continued an impressive run of critical and commercial success with the album reaching  #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.  

The Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has opened for Jamie Cullum and Lyle Lovett, with whom she collaborated on a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which appeared on Lovett’s 2012’s effort Release Me and again on “Long Way Home,” which appeared on Edmonson’s aforementioned sophomore album Way Down Low — and she has headlined the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan and the New York City Jazz Festival.  In 2012, she appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series and Austin City Limits. During 2013 and 2014, Edmonson appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, playing the role of Cat Mandu for the show’s regular skit “Guy Noir, Private Eye.” And adding to a batch of high profile appearances and gigs, Edmonson has maintained a busy national and international touring schedule that has included Montreux Jazz Festival

Edmonson’s fourth album, 2018’s Old Fashioned Gal was conceived as an imaginary, classic Hollywood movie that largely took shape in her imagination,  and naturally, was inspired by the Great American Songbook. Interestingly, the acclaimed Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s recently released fifth album Dreamers Do finds Edmonson tackling beloved mid-20th Century Disney songs — from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Bedknobs on Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Babes in Wonderland, familiar classics like “All I Do is Dream of You” from Singing in the Rain, Louis Armstrong’Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” and two Edmonson originals “Too Late to Dream” and “Someone’s in the House.” 

Structurally, the album’s material is meant to take place during a single night — from bedtime until morning. And as Edmonson explains in press notes, “It’s about our concepts around dreaming — all of the wonderful things and the fearful things, the things that keep us awake in the middle of the night. It’s also about the quiet power of merely having a dream . . . ” Dreamers Do’s latest single is a Edmonson’s rendition of Louis Armstrong’s beloved “What A Wonderful World” centered around a twinkling arrangement and Edmonson’s effortlessly gorgeous and old-timey vocal. And while managing to be a fairly straightforward rendition, Edmonson delivers a lullaby-like take that subtly hints at “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Directed and edited by David Shultz, the recently released video for “What A Wonderful World” follows Edmonson in an empty studio space with a 35mm film camera — and while the viewer isn’t quite sure if she’s awake or dreaming, the video reveals Edmonson to be a beguiling and sweet natured presence.