JOVM celebrates Miles Davis’ 95th birthday.
This weekend has proven to be a rather auspicious weekend for music and music history: Yesterday Roy Haynes celebrated his 96th birthday and the equally legendary Quincy Jones celebrates his 88th birthday today. Much like Haynes, Jones has worked with a who’s who of music. including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and a lengthy list of others.
Of course, Jones has been behind some of the best-selling, most memorable and beloved songs of the past 60 years — including some very obvious ones. So it should be unsurprising that he is one of the most decorated producers, composers and arrangers of the past 60 years. But instead of the regular choices, I went with some earlier and more jazz-based work of Jones’ including some live footage shot in 1960 with his big band.
Happy birthday Quincy! Thank you for so much great music!
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!
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.
Mallorca, Spain-born, Bern, Switzerland-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer Joan Pérez-Villeagas can trace the origins of his music career to when he began studying percussion at eight years ago old at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Palma. When Villegas turned 19, he relocated to Barcelona, where earned a Bachelor’s in Classical and Contemporary Percussion at ESMUC. Interestingly, while in Barcelona, the Mallorca-born, Bern-based artist developed a deep interest in jazz and traditional music that led him to earn a Masters in Jazz Composition under the tutelage of Lluís Vidal.
Throughout his young career, Villegas has been involved with a diverse array of projects across an eclectic array of styles and genres including chamber music, classical symphonies, pop, traditional music, jazz and even scores for dance, theater, and film. During that same period, he has managed to be rather busy: he has 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, which won first prize at the fourth annual International Chamber Music Competition Cidade Alcobaça (CIMCA) in Portugal.
Released earlier this year, the Pérez-Villegas and Marc Urrutia co-produced, Blau Salvatge is Perez-Villages’ full-length debut as a compeer and bandleader. 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, the album’s material is centered around six kaleidoscopic compositions that manage to be individually distinct and focused on a different compositional process. And yet, each composition is part of a larger, cohesive whole.
Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Valvé.” Centered around a cinematic and mind-bending arrangement, the composition finds a talented collection of young musicians darting, weaving, bopping and strutting through several different tempos and styles — 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.
Blau Salvage’s latest single “Algorritme I” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as it’s a whimsical and breezy composition that features elements of hard bop, jazz fusion and film scores in a way that recalls Danny Elfman and JOVM mainstay Jonathan Scales. Of course, what truly makes the composition is the effortless yet soulful playing of each musician.
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.
JOVM celebrates Jimi Hendrix’s 78th birthday.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Dizzy Gillespie’s 103rd birthday.
Óregla is a rising, Reykjavik, Iceland-based jazz/progressive funk octet led by composer and trumpeter Daníel Sigurðsson that derives its name from the Icelandic word for chaos or irregularity. Featuring some of the country’s rising jazz musicians, the act is inspired by a diverse and eclectic array of influences including Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.
While Sigurðsson crafts compositions featuring arrangements centered around a brass section consisting of two tenor saxophones and a trumpet, guitar, bass, keys, drums and some bursts of orchestral percussion, the members of the act aim to push the boundaries of their music and sound with a funky and lively atmospheric and a sense of humor.
The act released their latest album Þröskuldur Góðra Vona (The Threshold of Good Hopes) earlier this year, and the album’s latest single “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” is a expansive track, centered around rapidly changing and very odd time signature changes as the song progresses — and some deft playing, that alternates between mischievous playfulness, contemplation and a breakneck swing.
The live footage features the band performing “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” at Tónkvísl for Reykjavik Sessions back in 2014.
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.