Otmaro Ruiz & Bruno Mangueira's album titled, "Essência" is now available in Physical CD format directly in the Blue Canoe Records Store.
Keyboardist Scott Kinsey is known for many things — being a close friend and protege of the late Joe Zawinul, an integral member of the iconic fusion band Tribal Tech and pushing subsequent boundaries with his adventurous groups Human Element, the Zawinul Legacy Band and ARC Trio. In a continually evolving career, Scott’s operational motif is embodied by the word “exploratory.”
Enter vocalist, songwriter and electric bassist Mer Sal (Meridith Salimbeni), a Coloradan with a fresh presence on the LA scene who spent years honing her songwriting, vocal and performance craft while fronting bands around the West to rave reviews. Through a series of recent (and fortuitous) introductions to top players and producers, Mer was invited to participate in The Native Dancer Series: A Tribute to Wayne Shorter and Karl Sterling’s Dream: Parkinson's Global Project. Both of these projects saw her performing along with many other top-shelf musicians, including Jimmy Haslip, Peter Erskine, Nir Felder, Gary Novak and Jeff Richman.
Mer and Scott first crossed paths on one of these sessions and there was something of an instant connection between the two. After their initial meeting they kept in touch, exchanging lyrical and musical ideas. Mer continues, “I sent Scott the beginnings of a song, which he arranged and reharmonized. When I returned to LA to live, he played it for me. It blew my mind, it was so incredible — and incredibly thoughtful.” It’s that uncommon connection and synergy that fires the collaborative and creative union between the two, the fruits of which come through on Adjustments.
Part of the mojo transmitted on the album owes to the individual musical path each has taken and the different processes they have developed to achieve their respective musical ends. They also seem equally taken by the other’s abilities. “It’s interesting,” Kinsey says, “because she writes all this poetry — pages upon pages of text. I look at it and say, ‘There’s no song there.’ But when I ask what she has in mind, she starts singing and I can’t believe it, it’s totally there... a melody, a direction, a concept... everything.”
Sal concurs: “I’m a poet, but I’m equally a singer, so the melody comes out hand in hand with the lyrics. I usually hear some sort of harmonic background to the melodies while I’m writing but now that I know what Scott does with them, I try to come up with melodies that lend themselves to Scott’s process. I love hearing him ‘Scottify’ them.”
Kinsey adds, “She has a full song there — melody, lyrics and chords — but I actually don’t want to hear the chords; I don’t want them to influence what I might do. I want to keep my freshness, with the melody and the lyric and that’s it. This gives us individual roles to play. She comes up with the lyrics and the melody, then I can put my thing to it.”
One might think that Kinsey, with a background steeped in instrumental, soloing-oriented music, would have altered his approach for the album’s song-based collaborations. “To me it’s not really that different.” Kinsey explains. “I still say, what is the melody, what is the story — just as I would with a saxophone player or guitarist — and write around that.” But Scott readily admits that having Sal in the mix sparks different inspirations. “It’s because of her voice. I love orchestrating around that and end up writing more harmony. With busier instrumental records, the music is already dense. But with Mer’s voice I can hear all this lush stuff going on around it.”
The fact that Adjustments displays some of Kinsey’s most innovative writing, playing and arranging to date may indeed owe to having Sal as talented muse, but it’s also the singer’s authenticity that effectively grounds Kinsey’s work like never before. Her original songs, such as the opening “Tiny Circles,” display a certain valiant fearlessness for a songwriter whose emotions run so palpably close to the surface. “I recorded that in my studio in Colorado and it was the first one I sent to Scott. I felt that in my life, I was walking in tiny circles instead of the bigger ones where I wanted to be. It’s kind of admitting my shame — so I could get through it.”
But even when the pen presses hard lyrically, it’s not only taken aloft by Sal’s engaging vocals but by Kinsey’s (sometimes counterintuitive) treatments: “I had a general concept that if it’s a very, very dark lyric, I won’t enhance it with more darkness. I don’t want it to sink deeper into that pit but keep it afloat by lightening it up. Just like I might put slightly darker things around a really happy lyric or melody — enhance it by pulling it the other way a bit.”
This symbiosis also carries over into the duo’s wonderfully creative takes on some classic (if not surprising) cover material on the album. Steely Dan, The Beach Boys, even Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” — (Kinsey’s an unapologetic Blondie fan) — all are freshly reimagined by the pair. Perhaps none of these are more emblematic of the Kinsey/Sal union than the wonderful joining of Joni Mitchell’s “Down to You” with Weather Report’s “Jungle Book” — something of a talisman and surely among the album's high points.
The icing on the cake for Adjustments is undoubtedly how the proceedings are further raised by having so many of the sought-after, A-list musicians of Kinsey’s world (e.g., Scott Henderson, Oz Noy, Tim Lefebvre, Hadrien Feraud, Gergö Borlai and others) uncommonly colliding with Sal’s. This propels the music beyond today’s retrograde “jazz vocalist” albums that seek to rekindle nostalgia for the singer-fronted jazz band. Nor is it another in the recent stream of barely distinguishable, vocal-forward, jazz/neo-soul hybrids that proliferate in the modern soundscape.
In their own way, what Scott Kinsey and Mer Sal exhibit on Adjustments speaks to an intersection as uniquely compelling as when Jaco met Joni. A modern entity, to be heard on its own terms. Says Mer, “We want to change what’s considered the norm a little.” And in light of the music that she and Scott have brought forth here, listeners will happily make their own “adjustments.”
Biography written by Mike Jacobs
“Essência is a joyful romp through the musical landscape of the Americas guided by master pianist Otmaro Ruiz and exciting new guitar virtuoso, Bruno Mangueira. Their musical partnership is informed by their Venezuelan and Brazilian heritages fused with their deep love and understanding of American jazz and the European classical tradition.
Otmaro and Bruno flawlessly navigate this landscape with a program of eight original compositions and two standards. Each song feels like a suite, taking us through a wide range of dynamics and emotional territory. Impressively, their original compositions sound like they could be standards. They evoke the timeless feeling of classic songs by Tom Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, and other Brazilian masters while maintaining the vibrancy of the present. There are hints of Bach, Chopin, and lush harmonic passages that will send music theory students racing for their notepads.
I love the program’s intelligent balance of composition and improvisation. In the Brazilian tradition, one might expect the balance to be weighted toward composition and jazz, toward improvisation. Essência has managed to marry the two in a cohesive and natural way. The song construction is airtight while the performances and improvisations take us for a wild and exciting ride. Neither Otmaro nor Bruno shy away from taking chances. The gorgeous yet sometimes unexpected harmonies are constantly shifting and it takes a skilled improviser to make their way through this treacherous terrain and arrive safely on the other side. Otmaro and Bruno are our able guides.
Duo playing demands an extraordinary level of musicianship. Every note, every gesture is exposed. The musicians must breathe together and have an almost telepathic connection. Each player must fully grasp the entirety of each piece, as their constantly shifting roles require them to alternately supply melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic support for one another. It’s a daring high wire partnership calling for empathy and a deep commitment to the music and to one another. Otmaro and Bruno embody these qualities throughout. Essência celebrates the joy of two master musicians as they explore the essence of their beloved musical traditions in this intimate setting and guide us to new landscapes and possibilities.”
- Russell Ferrante (YellowJackets), August 2019
Duo Elevation Brings the Funk
Dynamic organist David Ellington teams up with powerhouse drummer Chris Burroughs to form Duo Elevation with the release of their debut album, "Omar's Lament". Although a Duo, Duo Elevation is far from sparse; using multi-layered tracking to give listeners a look inside the brilliant arranging and production capabilities of these two masters. The result is a high energy journey of funky exploration into the powerful psychedelia of the early 1970's.
David Ellington studied the traditional classical fare that kids typically learn. But as adolescence hit he became attracted to the many burgeoning styles available to him on the FM airways. Garage bands to church musicals gave way to study at Berklee College of Music and eventually the musical gumbo in the city of New Orleans. Mr. Ellington has taken full advantage of the diverse musical culture and studied with jazz statesman Ellis Marsalis all while playing in stylistically varied bands including leader of Chevere who played the NOLA Jazz Fest each year up until the Katrina Hurricane brought David to Atlanta in 2005. Shortly after arriving in Atlanta, David connected with drummer/percussionist/educator and Duo counterpart Chris Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia with artists as varied as jam-guru Col. Bruce Hampton, blues champion Chris Duarte and Broadway singer and actress Jennifer Holiday. Collectively their musical experiences and special artistic chemistry make for an exciting elevated musical duo, known as Duo Elevation.
The Duo's debut, "Omar's Lament", comes out shootin'. Opener "Slingin'" is a full-tilt, non-stop funk, jazz fusion effort that strikes right between the eyes. This song channels classic Yes songs from the early 1970's...capitalizing on straight-ahead jazz chops and drawing from the funk rock of their youth. The manic romp of Mr. Ellington's organ falls perfectly on the powerful, driving flow of Mr. Burroughs pulse. The explosion takes the listener from hectic to tight and together from second to second until the anthem crescendos, retards into Omar's Lament Pt.1, and gently fades away...where is this dynamic Duo taking us?
Duo Elevation takes the listener to an unexpected station next. The pair pay homage to pop great Prince with a cover of The Beautiful Ones from the game changing album Purple Rain. In an era where Prince covers are not uncommon, this version is a remarkable head-turner. Take a floating trip down a lazy river with an organ melody behind the beat and a back beat right in the center to create a pocket you could drive a truck through. The concluding standard results in a hummable tribute that offers fresh insight into an unforgettable artist from an era of often relatively forgettable peers.
Don't miss Duo Elevation's use of space to offer contemporary vision into funky fusion with elements of jazz, rock, soul and R&B. Featuring six originals and two covers, this psychedelia hard-hitting album keeps the spirit of the 1970’s alive, fused with a modern-day funky edgy twist. Heads are turning...
Duo Elevation Artist Page
"Omar's Lament" Album Page
Dynamite duo Dan Baraszu and David Ellington have teamed up for an explosive eponymous debut album. With live wire Marlon Patton on drums, this band is raising eyebrows in the Atlanta area.
Hammond B-3 superstar Dave Ellington moved to Atlanta, GA in 2005 after 22 years in New Orleans playing and recording with dozens of acts including Walter "Wolfman" Washington and the late gospel and blues great Marva Wright. While in New Orleans he studied with Ellis Marsalis and created Chevere, an afro-Cuban jazz project. Their release entitled, "Baila Mi Ritmo" was chosen by Times Picayune music critic Keith Spera as one of the 'Top 20 recordings' of 2001. Since Hurricane Katrina, Ellington has spent time in Atlanta gigging with numerous jazz, blues and soul outfits while working on the Organ Trio.
Rising jazz guitar dynamo Dan Baraszu had been burning up the Atlanta jazz scene since graduation from Berklee College of Music and The University of Miami. While versed in many styles, Baraszu found his love for jazz at a young age when he discovered Wes Montgomery. Since arriving in Atlanta, he has freelanced for the top jazz players in town and once Ellington arrived, they just seemed to find each other. ”B3 Organ and guitar have always been such a great combination. Something about the sustain of the organ and the percussiveness attack of the guitar are very complimentary. I have always wanted to play with a cat like Dave that knows the tradition but also strives to push the music forward into new realms”, says Baraszu. Since connecting, the dynamic duo have combined in numerous configurations but none felt as satisfying as the Organ Trio. “I love what happens when we play together (in the organ trio format); the sound, the vibe, the songs - everything!” informs Ellington.
Hailing from Atlanta, Marlon Patton has literally played drums his entire life. He studied music at The University of Georgia and has vast experience in genres as diverse as modern and straight ahead jazz, rock, hip hop, Latin, salsa and afro-Cuban. He records and performs year-round all over the world and boast performance credits with John Patitucci, Rufus Reid, Wycliffe Gordon, Mike Wofford and Sade.
The album opens with "Road Rage" and displays magical interplay between guitar and organ. The conversation is colorful and the guitar solo embraces Baraszu's inner George Benson. When Ellington fires up on his B-3, hints of Joey DeFrancesco and Jimmy Smith are exposed while New Orleans echoes throughout. When the funky Doodah Man rolls out, Marlon Patton's groove sets the tone for delightful interaction that is accessible and radio ready. The compilation closes with a smokin' interpretation of the 1962 Quincy Jones classic, Soul Bossa Nova. The intertwined guitar and B-3 forces a smile at the familiar melody while eliciting awe at the fresh delivery.
"Dan Baraszu & David Ellington Organ Trio" is a rollercoaster of jazz, funk and soul that will please a diverse listening audience and leave the listener anxious for more. This is a trio to watch in 2014 and beyond.
An Intimate Christmas Conversation
Phenomenal Guitarist Dan Baraszu and multi-talented bassist/producer Joseph Patrick Moore offer fresh inspiration to twelve Christmas classics on the latest Blue Canoe Records release "Christmas Time is Here". The duo strikes a touching balance between the complex reharmonization of these standards and the simplistic, stripped down interplay between guitar and bass. This musical conversation is especially notable in the sweet, lullaby-infused melodic bass part of "Silent Night". The trading of melody between Mr. Baraszu and Mr. Moore strikes images of a mother gently singing the little ones to sleep as the snow gently falls outside.
The pair jump in with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", an up-tempo number featuring a jumping, rhythmic groove and haunting guitar melody. "Jingle Bells", offers up a unique coloring of another holiday classic. Again, Mr. Moore's creative groove and use of open space provides the perfect backdrop for a truly fresh version of such a seasonally routine melody.
Baraszu and Moore conclude their holiday creation with the traditional, "Angels We Have Heard on High". The bouncing bass line and almost reggae-like rhythmic feel is a sublime counter to Mr. Baraszu's contemporary version of this timeless melody.
"Christmas Time is Here" is an inspirational rendition of Christmas standards that offer a rare perspective unheard during this season. The interaction between these two notable artists is emotive and relevant long after the season is over. Mr. Baraszu and Mr. Moore converse in a beautifully woven and unique accord that's rare in a holiday release.