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1. Alan Ferber Big Band - North Rampart

Alan Ferber Big Band - North Rampart

From Alan Ferber Big Band's "Jigsaw" on Sunnyside Records (Aug. 22, 2017).

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2. Oregon - Dolomiti Dance

Oregon - Dolomiti Dance

From Oregon's "Lantern" on CAMJazz (6/30/17).

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3. Caroline Davis - Footloose And Fancy Free

Caroline Davis - Footloose And Fancy Free

From Caroline Davis's "Heart Tonic" (3/23/18) on Sunnyside Records. For the past four years, saxophonist/composer Caroline Davis has been tied up in matters of the heart. Her focus is multi-tiered, however. There are the metaphorical facets, including her feelings about her recent relocation to New York from her longtime home in Chicago and the emotional rigors of navigating the path of an itinerant musician within the City’s bustling jazz scene. There is also a more physiological aspect, as Davis has actively researched the life giving organ and its properties in dealing with her father’s own heart ailment. All of these forces come to bear on her new recording, Heart Tonic. Born in Singapore to a Swedish mother and British father, Davis grew up in the United States from the age of six, settling first in Atlanta, then Texas and ending up in Chicago, where she attended Northwestern University and received a Ph.D in Music Cognition. It was in Chicago that Davis became engrained within the local jazz and improvisatory music community, one that is tight knit, diverse and particularly open to each player’s musical inclinations. Davis’s Chicago experience was instrumental in her development as a player. Regularly hearing local greats, like saxophonist Von Freeman, guitarist Bobby Broom, and pianist Ron Perrillo, playing in wide ranging musical contexts and interdisciplinary collaborations helped to shape her into a well balanced and genre defying artist. Davis was also privy to a range of artists, including one of her biggest influences, the iconoclastic composer/conceptualist Steve Coleman. Upon her move to New York City in 2013, Davis found herself as an outsider looking in. It was difficult to come from a place where she was established to an entirely different community, especially one as fractious as New York’s. Though, Davis soon showed that she was equal to its demands. The roller coaster lifestyle of working as a professional musician in New York was challenging. Davis quickly saw that her days would have some career highpoints alongside humbling lows of everyday musician life. Friends like drummer Jay Sawyer helped her overcome her blues by coming along to sessions and gigs, thus helping establishing herself in the scene. Soon, Davis began to play more regularly with a diverse group of musicians, including Matt Mitchell, Greg Saunier, Billy Kaye, and Curt Sydnor. It was about this time that Davis found out that her father had heart arrhythmia. The news prompted her to do detailed research on the physical aspects of the human heart. It was with all of this in mind that Davis decided to compose this music, using the heart for its emotional connotation or utilizing ventricular rhythms as metrical devices. Composing helped not only in her emotional transition but also focused her study on biological aspects of the body. Heart Tonic finds Davis employing more standard jazz elements than in the music of her previous work, including formal harmonic changes and shifting meters.

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4. Alan Ferber Big Band - Lost In The Hours

Alan Ferber Big Band - Lost In The Hours

From Alan Ferber Big Band's "Jigsaw" (Sept. 22) on Sunnyside Records. There are many reasons why organizing a big band can lead many bandleaders to question their sanity. Despite the challenges, it has become the flagship large ensemble in jazz and a vehicle for countless compositions throughout the years. There is one important element of the modern big band that can help explain its staying power: community. In the capacity of instilling community, trombonist/composer/arranger Alan Ferber is doing major infrastructure work in the field of music. The Grammy Award nominee leads an acclaimed big band, writes and arranges for numerous international ensembles, performs and records with a “who’s who” of big band luminaries, and provides scores and seminars to many student and amateur ensembles, spreading the word of large ensembles to welcoming ears. Ferber’s new recording Jigsaw provides ample proof that his good work is paying off. Taking material that he has lived with, either performing with his ensembles or with those led by others, Ferber revisits and re-arranges the pieces to give what he feels are the songs’ best representations. Picking originals or pieces by his peers, Ferber has generated arrangements that evolved on the bandstand, informed by the response of bandmates and audiences. Ferber has led his big band over the past six years; it is made up of players who are not afraid to be expressive, whether in a big band or small ensemble setting. They have to be comfortable playing lyrically and melodically as well as be acute listeners who are willing to interact and feel time together. To accomplish this, Ferber assembled musicians of stylistically diverse backgrounds. In his trombone section alone there is a veteran of the Woody Herman Big Band and one of Kronos Quartet’s in-house composers. The band features saxophonists John O’Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, John Ellis, Jason Rigby and Chris Cheek; trombonists Ferber, John Fedchock, Jacob Garchik and Jennifer Wharton; trumpeters Tony Kadleck, Scott Wendholt, Alex Norris and Clay Jenkins; and the rhythm section of Anthony Wilson on guitar, David Cook on piano and keyboards, bassist Matt Pavolka, drummer Mark Ferber and additional percussion by Rogerio Boccato. One of the luxuries of playing in or leading a band is connecting to audiences and fellow musicians. Ferber has experienced this with his ensembles and as a sideman in other groups. The program for Jigsaw comes from pieces that he felt really connected with listeners and participants over the past 10 years or so. All of the arrangements are new and function to serve the music, providing the best example of what these revisited pieces can be. Alan Ferber is providing a service that all music lovers can appreciate. He brings a sense of community by providing unifying, satisfying music and a perfect vehicle for its dissemination, the Alan Ferber Big Band. Jigsaw is an especially moving example of music with heart.

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5. Luciana Souza - Night Song

Luciana Souza - Night Song

From Luciana Souza's "The Book of Longing" (8/24/18) on Sunnyside Records. Stunning, provocative, impassioned, esoteric, beautiful and soulful - just a few of the many adjectives that can be used to describe Luciana Souza's remarkable new album, The Book Of Longing, set for release via Sunnyside Records on August 24th, 2018. Produced by veteran music executive Larry Klein and recorded at Village Recording Studios in Los Angeles, The Book Of Longing is a tour-de-force for the Grammy-nominated vocalist whose career continues to cross musical boundaries with unabashed curiosity and unbridled sheer delight. The release of The Book Of Longing will be accompanied by select tour dates across the globe. To put it simply, The Book Of Longing is a song cycle - a passionate melding of poetry by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and Luciana herself - set to beautiful string accompaniment - for which all of the music was written and arranged by Souza. But this album is anything but simple - and its treasure trove of tracks comb the depths of human emotion from start to finish. When describing the creative process behind the making of The Book Of Longing, Luciana was very concise as to how she approached the recording. "It became clear to me that I wanted this recording to be about words and how they make me feel. How a set of ideas can take me places, reveal things I didn’t know or even knew that I needed to know. As I started setting these poems I wanted the words to be heard, but not necessarily defined. To me, the string instruments offer the best canvas for these songs. Like the voice, the sound of plucked strings decay and brings on silence and more possibility for listening. Also, the idea of counterpoint between the voice and strings was essential to me. The music would have to be simple and unadorned. Thus began the process of editing and shedding layers of more complex harmony and melody in favor of the most basic and expressive of landscapes - it’s about the words, I reminded myself - simple triads moving directly, tonal melodies, no fuss or unnecessary activity or ornaments." Accompanying Luciana on the recording are Scott Colley on bass and Chico Pinheiro on guitar, and the album was recorded as a live project with percussion overdub. Added Souza, "Making music with Chico and Scott is a thing of wonder. They have bountiful hearts, incredibly able hands, and abundant musical intelligence. Larry's generous and curious guidance fostered our creativity and kept things transparent and honest. To all of them, I am eternally grateful."

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6. Mike McGinnis - Here Comes Everybody

Mike McGinnis - Here Comes Everybody

From Mike McGinnis's "Singular Awakening" (4/27/18) on Sunnyside Records. Mike McGinnis realized his dream of recording and releasing an album with two of his musical heroes in 2017. The recording, Recurring Dream, featured the saxophonist/clarinetist/composer alongside two legends of jazz and creative music (also his mentors and friends), pianist Art Lande and electric bassist Steve Swallow. Both Lande and Swallow are well known for their compositional expertise, so McGinnis made sure to include original compositions from them both. The three musicians also have a penchant for thoughtful and eclectic approaches toward improvisation. McGinnis wanted to capture the both sides of this trio, the formal compositional and the more free, but equally focused, improvisational identities. The trio’s new recording Singular Awakening was culled from the same session as the original recording but features eight brilliant improvised pieces bookended by compositions written by either Lande or Swallow.

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7. Matt Penman - Mr. Right

Matt Penman - Mr. Right

From Matt Penman's "Good Question" (6/8/18) on Sunnyside Records. "The music on this recording is a series of musical questions I posed to my bandmates over two days, that I might get their input on a range of subjects that interest me. Much like having prescribed topics for conversation, I wrote these tunes in the hope of starting a dialogue that could provoke reactions, new angles and corollaries that were unforeseen, yet welcome. In fact all of the musicians on this album have their own points of view and a strong opinion, as well as a natural inclination to collaborate, and these are the reasons why I wanted to record with them. This is also why the musical discussion proved to be so rich and wide-ranging." – Matt Penman Bassist/composer Matt Penman has spent much of the past decade developing and presenting music for the illustrious SFJazz Collective and the fantastic James Farm collective. That had left a gap between solo recordings that he felt it was time to abate. The result of his efforts are presented here on Good Question, a poignant recording of pieces meant to challenge, engage and entertain both its listeners and the musicians involved in its creation. Originally from New Zealand, Penman, since his arrival in 1995, has been an essential voice in the musical landscape of New York. His experience in the States has provided him with both inspiration and exasperation. He has chosen to address his feelings as a part of his new music: "There are a variety of musical moods and spaces, some written with these exact musicians in mind, some not; some written as a response to the cultural and political climate in the country I have chosen to make my home, and some as purely musical excavations. Overall, you could say that the album represents a general delight, bemusement, indictment and celebration of the American experiment through the eyes of a foreigner who has now lived more than half his life in the States." The ensemble that Penman assembled features not only the top musicians in jazz but also his regular collaborators and friends, including saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Obed Calvaire. There are also guest appearances by guitarist Nir Felder, saxophonist Will Vinson and percussionist Rogerio Boccato. Penman’s compositions are meant to stimulate the ensemble into reactions and conversations within their framework. The pieces either present musical puzzles or are think pieces for reflection on topics, mainly natural or political. The ensemble handled the task with aplomb over three days of recording at Brooklyn Recording during the spring and summer of 2017.

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8. Laszlo Gardony - Serious Play

Laszlo Gardony - Serious Play

From Laszlo Gardony's "Serious Play" on Sunnyside Records (7/14/17).

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9. Laszlo Gardony - Truth To Power

Laszlo Gardony - Truth To Power

From Laszlo Gardony's "Serious Play" on Sunnyside Records (7/14/17).

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10. Dominique Eade & Ran Blake - Open Highway

Dominique Eade & Ran Blake - Open Highway

From Dominique Eade & Ran Blake's "Town and Country" on Sunnyside Records (6/9/17).

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11. Guilhem Flouzat Trio - Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe

Guilhem Flouzat Trio - Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe

From Guilhem Flouzat Trio's "A Thing Called Joe" (10/6/17) on Sunnyside Records.

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12. Martial Solal & Dave Liebman - On Green Dolphin Street

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman - On Green Dolphin Street

From Martial Solal & Dave Liebman's "Masters In Bordeaux" (Sept. 29) on Sunnyside Records.

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13. Judy Niemack with Dan Tepfer - Listening To You

Judy Niemack with Dan Tepfer - Listening To You

From Judy Niemack & Dan Tepfer's "Listening To You" on Sunnyside Records (3/31).

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14. Shamie Royston - Dissimulate

Shamie Royston - Dissimulate

From Shamie Royston's "Beautiful Liar" (6/15/18) on Sunnyside Records. Our light shines brightest in the darkness and things in life don’t always turn out the way that we have planned. It is with these maxims in mind that the brilliant pianist and composer Shamie Royston presents her new recording, Beautiful Liar. Her second release is a testament to perseverance and the proposition that learning from mistakes will help in the pursuit of goals and subsequent triumphs. Though the path might not have always been an easy one, Royston’s light is luminous and her music has served her in establishing herself as a leading voice in the jazz world. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Royston has been an integral part of the New York jazz scene as a performer and educator. Her contributions as a pianist can be heard alongside celebrated leaders like Tia Fuller, Ralph Peterson, Sean Jones and Terri Lyne Carrington. On Beautiful Liar, the core sound is that of the piano trio, embellished by one or two horns for different sonic possibilities. Drummer Rudy Royston provides a strong rhythmic foundation and centric fire when paired up with bassist Yasushi Nakamura, whose strong bass presence is essential to the leader’s compositions. Royston expands the ensemble on a number of pieces, exploring possibilities of a quartet and of a quintet. The melodic approach of saxophonist Jaleel Shaw serves as a perfect voice for Royston’s compositions. Royston also adds trumpet player Josh Evans, who ignites a sound of juxtaposing harmonies into Beautiful Liar. This recording focuses on the piano trio as a lead voice, while the horns’ roles are reminiscent of background singers and soloists, for a few of the compositions. The pieces present on Beautiful Liar are all original compositions, except the great “A Lovely Day,” which was made famous by Bill Withers. Furthermore, every original composition represents trials and tribulations of life, reflecting Royston’s life journey and personal development.

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15. Romero Lubambo - Gostoso Demais

Romero Lubambo - Gostoso Demais

From Romero Lubambo's "Sampa" (May 5, 2017, Sunnyside).

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16. Mikkel Ploug - Faroe

Mikkel Ploug - Faroe

From Mikkel Ploug's "Faroe" (8/17/18) on Sunnyside Records. The actions of simplifying and scaling down can change the dynamics of even the longest relationships. After having toured with the great saxophonist Mark Turner for a decade, guitarist Mikkel Ploug has decided to record a duo album in order to present a new representation of their musical interaction in an intimate setting. Both musicians truly shine on the new recording, Faroe. After he finished his music studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague in 2005, the Danish guitarist visited New York to play some sessions and take some lessons with a number of musicians. Ploug had written some tricky music for jazz quartet that was inspired by Turner’s Dharma Days recording, among others. After presenting the compositions to a number of his peers and heroes, Ploug was encouraged to approach Turner with the music with the goal of playing and, perhaps, recording with him. Turner liked the pieces and was happy to join Ploug’s Group, along with bassist Jeppe Skovbakke and drummer Sean Carpio. The Group has toured regularly over the past decade all over Europe. Although Ploug continues to enjoy the energy that the quartet can provide, he felt that it was time to do something different. Something scaled down to allow for a more subtle interaction between Turner and himself. On a trip to the Faroe Islands, Ploug began writing and planning for a duo recording at his hotel. Ploug intended to keep the core dynamic he had established with Turner, but highlight their melodic and chordal movement without the rhythm section’s percussive bombardment. This allows Turner to remain in a calm and heady role, rather than having to maintain volume and intensity. Having fallen for Turner’s dry tone and creative storytelling, Ploug wanted to establish a broad carpet of guitarsound to support the saxophonist but also allow himself to stretch further and broaden the guitars musical function. Having just completed the solo acoustic guitar record Alleviation, Ploug very much had a sound in his head for a meeting of his vintage Gibson Banner acoustic guitar and Mark's saxophone sound (though he plays electric on half of the record), and he wrote a number of pieces while playing the guitar and singing what would become Turner’s parts. Each piece was written or adapted to Turner’s strengths and this becomes evident as the distinction between written and improvised music becomes blurred.

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17. Martial Solal & Dave Liebman - All The Things You Are

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman - All The Things You Are

From Martial Solal & Dave Liebman's "Masters In Bordeaux" (Sept. 29) on Sunnyside Records.

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18. Gary Smulyan - Laura

Gary Smulyan - Laura

From Gary Smulyan's "Royalty at Le Duc" CD on Groovin High (1/20/17).

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19. Glenn Zaleski - Table Talk

Glenn Zaleski - Table Talk

From Glenn Zaleski's "Fellowship" (2/24/17).

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20. Norma Winstone - Manhattan in the Rain

Norma Winstone - Manhattan in the Rain

From Norma Winstone's "Manhattan In The Rain" reissue on Sunnyside Records (Oct. 13, 2017).

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