For the past several years, former Yellowjackets bassist and prolific producer Jimmy Haslip has enjoyed an ongoing working relationship with the Bremen, Germany-based jazz fusion keyboardist and composer Michael Schmidt (aka MSM Schmidt). While Haslip played on Schmidt’s 2007 album Transit and 2009’s Destination, he ended up co-producing 2012’s Evolution, 2015’s Utopia and 2017’s Life. They take their chemistry to new heights on ARCeology: The Music of MSM Schmidt. This dynamic offering finds Haslip and members of his ARC Trio (keyboardist Scott Kinsey and Hungarian drummer Gergö Borlai) joining forces with the GRAMMY® Award-winning John Daversa Big Band on greatly expanded versions of previously recorded Schmidt material, along with two brand new pieces composed by Kinsey and Schmidt. The result is a powerhouse collection of polished, swaggering big band fusion along the lines of the Jaco Pastorius Big Band or The Brecker Brothers’ 2003 collaboration with the WDR Big Band Köln on Some Skunk Funk.
“I wanted to see if I could make this a big band record but somehow make it different,” said Haslip. “I didn’t think it should sound like a vintage big band recording. I wanted it to sound modern and have more of an edge, which is what led me to include guest soloists like Nguyên Lê, Mike Miller, Steve Khan, Oz Noy and others. They bring progressive elements into the big band setting and add compelling ideas to each song.”
Out of the eight songs that appear on ARCeology, six were previously recorded on other Michael Schmidt records. The two brand new compositions here are Schmidt’s “Mirrors” and Kinsey’s “Quartet.” And as Haslip noted, “In approaching this project, there was the thought that if you’re going to redo songs that have already been recorded, what can be done to make them sound like new compositions? And I think with Scott’s rhythm arrangements and John’s input on the horn parts, we came up with some creative solutions.”
Haslip also credited Kinsey, who became de facto co-producer of ARCeology. “Originally, I was the point producer on this whole thing, but as time went on I just knew that Scott needed to be a part of the production team,” he recalled. “We weren’t far into the project when I approached Scott and said, ‘I want you to be my co-producer on this because you’re contributing so much great work and it’s only fair that we do this together.’ He was up for that, so I am happy to say that Scott and I co-produced the record. I can’t take full credit for what’s happened here, as Scott was the real workhorse. He played most of the keyboard and synth parts and did all the keyboard solos, of course. Also, Scott’s rhythm arrangements had a big hand in influencing John’s horn arrangements. There was a lot of cool stuff already in place for John to just embellish. But then again, John has his own unique voice for orchestration. Everything he wrote after the fact was fantastic."
Tennessee-born jazz trumpeter Thomas Heflin delivers a remarkable new collection of songs, titled, “Morning Star”. This dynamic modern jazz, R&B, CrossOver album features eleven original compositions and one cover song by the late great James Williams.
Thomas Heflin is a virtuosic trumpeter, composer, arranger, educator and all of his talents are on full display with his latest release. Jazz and music fans will welcome this creative output from the bright star of Mr. Heflin.
“Reflections from Dave Pope”
This project, which is my first commercial recording, has come to fruition much too late in life in life but better late than never. Juggling family life, a career in banking, and a music career on multiple instruments has been quite an endeavor but one I would not trade for anything. I made a conscious decision in my early twenties to choose a dual career path, knowing the challenge would be to do justice to both. Since then, I have committed to being the best musician I can be under the circumstances and have worked very, very hard at being able to “hang” with musicians at the level on this record.
There are several special aspects of this record worth mentioning. It is the debut recording of my brother Mike on piano, which is actually his “second”instrument. Primarily known as a virtuoso bass player, this record gives Mike the opportunity to make a musical contribution as a pianist and as you will hear, the contribution is remarkable. Also, it joins Mike with his mento on bass, John Patitucci of whom I have always been a big fan and am honored to have on the record.
This recording was tracked in two half-day sessions at Mike’s studio with virtually no pre-session planning. It was also mixed and mastered by Mike with the kind assistance of our brother Peter during tracking. The project was intentionally loose, spontaneous, and not overly produced. My objective was to have fun and document what was happening musically in our lives in the moment. More importantly, I hope you will have fun listening. - DAVE POPE
Blue Canoe artist, Hiroe Sekine, is back in the spotlight with her fourth release, "Hiroe's Spirit". With this bold effort, Ms. Sekine brings fresh, unique arrangements to jazz and classical songs in a very original way.
A native of Japan, pianist Hiroe Sekine has been living in the Los Angeles area since 1993, performing at many venues, festivals, and others, including the Jazz Concert Series at Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) in 2014 and 2016. Ms. Hiroe studied jazz at University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. In 2010, Ms. Sekine's debut album, "a-mé", was named by "All About Jazz" as one of the 25 best albums of the year. Ms. Sekine's long-time musical relationship with Russell Ferrante of the YellowJackets continues on "Hiroe's Spirit" and the result is a classical crossover stunner. Over the years, she has worked with musical greats such as Bob Sheppard (Chick Corea, Steely Dan, Michael Brecker, Joni Mitchell), Tony Dumas (The Manhattan Transfer, Chick Corea, Etta James, Mariah Carey), Peter Erskine (Weather Report, Pat Metheny, John Scofield,) and Abraham Laboriel (Al Jarreau, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles) to name a few.
"Hiroe's Spirit" opens with a dramatic rendition of “Pavane pour une infante défunte” by French composer Maurice Ravel. It begins with Ms. Sekine hinting at the melody with her strong piano phrasing against a simple drum beat. Bob Sheppard floats to the front with his sax and takes over melodic duties before the listener is drawn in by spirited accompaniment with Michael Valerio (bass), James Tate (drums) and Akira Jimbo (shaker). Together they reach the summit with dramatically soaring sax ringing triumphantly in the end.
Another very original take on Spirit is Ms. Hiroe's version of Ave Maria. She chooses a very upbeat approach with riveting drum and bass intro. The great Abraham Laboriel contributes both electric bass and vocals in this unique approach to the standard. The changes in rhythmic patterns throughout the interpretation keep the listener engaged as Ms. Hiroe falls in with a breathtaking piano solo that will leave an audience wanting for more. At the end, all come together in a force of rocket-paced bass groove along with subdued vocals that magically just works. Creatively divine, indeed!
"Hiroe's Spirit" is an intelligent, stand-out creation that will not be matched this year. Take a ride with Hiroe Sekine's "Hiroe's Spirit" today....this one is not to be missed.
EJ Hughes is back in the light with his riveting Blue Canoe Records release "The Emotional Vampire Sessions" a followup to his 2005 release on Blue Canoe "Something to Say". The Saxophonist has traveled extensively performing in many genres with a passion and deep-rooted training in Jazz, Classical, and Contemporary music.
Mr. Hughes has taught, performed, and recorded in New York, Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire, and Singapore as well as extensive cruise ship work traveling to over 20 countries. He has spent much of his life as an educator working with students from elementary school to high school to college and beyond. Mr. Hughes is a current instructor at Music and Arts and has helped Georgia State University’s RYJO high school jazz program. In the past, EJ was the instructor of jazz saxophone for Emory University and also taught Advanced Improvisation and Jazz applied saxophone for Georgia State University before returning to his hometown in New Hampshire to be the band director and general music instructor. Hughes has performed with the likes of Grammy award winner Joe Lovano, Grammy-nominated Sam Rivers and two time Grammy winning hip-hop collective Speech & Arrested Development. Says Sam Rivers, "EJ Hughes is a talented musician who understands the beauties and intricacies of the music, an artist destined to make a valuable contribution to this art form".
"The Emotional Vampire Sessions" (recorded and mixed by John Marshden) leads off with ghosts rather than Vampires with "Ghosts in the Machine". Kevin Bales (Wynton Marsalis, Sam Rivers, and Nat Adderley, Rene Marie) breaks the silence emphatically with the thematic piano groove and makes way for Mr. Hughes’s soaring saxophone and energetic melody. Hughes bounces around the theme with improvisational licks that are familiar yet unique. As drummer Marlon Patton (John Patitucci, Randy Brecker, Rufus Reid, Wycliffe Gordon) pulls and pushes playfully with the rhythm, Mr. Bales takes the helm mid-way through and shows improvisationally mature lead playing that slides away to a Billy Thornton (Dominick Farinacci, Christian Tamburr, Doug Carn) bass solo that continues to intertwine with Mr. Bales injections as the song builds and fades.
The album's title track opens with a sweet, touching piano intro that points the listener to an emotional ballad that one imagines an old crooner from the early 1950s will join. Just as the audience is ready for this sultry voice, Mr. Patton enters with a strong snare lead that explodes into rock-like keyboard interplay. Eventually, Mr. Hughes comes in and exploits the solid foundation that has been laid and the improvisational exploration is awe-inspiring. The vampires are emotional, indeed!
"The Emotional Vampire Sessions" by Atlanta sax-master EJ Hughes is a stunning sophomore release that brings something unique with each listen. The veteran players bring fresh and extraordinary perspective to these modern, straight-ahead jazz expressions. This release is not to be missed.
Atlanta's jazz guitar master Trey Wright has released his latest solo effort, "Begin Again". Mr. Wright puts together a moving group of songs inspired by his recovery from a depressive episode in 2016 and dedicated to ex-bandmate the late Carl Lindberg (Squat, Grogus, Old School Trio). ”Begin Again" also features Marc Miller (bass - The Atlanta Pops Orchestra), Marlon Patton (drums - John Patitucci, Randy Brecker, Rufus Reid, Wycliffe Gordon), Laura Coyle (vocals - twice featured performer at the Atlanta Jazz Festival) plus Sam Skelton (Matchbox 20, Train, Edwin McCain, The Gap Band, and The Ohio Players) and Grammy winner Mace Hibbard (Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, and Tommy Dorsey Orchestra) on sax.
In 1994, Mr. Wright co-founded the Athens/Atlanta based jazz band Squat. The group is a six-time winner of Best Jazz Band at the Flagpole Athens Music Awards and has been a featured artist at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Several of Trey’s compositions with the group have received international airplay and have been featured on Sirius/XM radio and NPR’s All Things Considered. Mr. Wright also performs freelance in the Athens and Atlanta area and has performed with John Patitucci, Joe Lovano among others. Trey has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival and in early 2008, he began playing with the Georgia Symphony Jazz Orchestra.
In 2006, Trey released his first CD "Where I’m Calling From", receiving rave reviews and airplay throughout the United States, New Zealand, England, Australia, Germany, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, Scotland, and The Netherlands. The Trey Wright Trio released "Thinking Out Loud" in 2009 on Blue Canoe Records. In 2010, the CD was included in the first round of Grammy Nominations/Entries for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Trey’s long-awaited collaboration with Grammy-winning saxophonist Mace Hibbard "The Hibbard/Wright Project" was released in May 2013. In 2015, Mr. Wright released his Blue Canoe follow up titled, "Songs From Oak Avenue". Since 2017 Trey has been working with vocalist Laura Coyle as a duo and she is featured on three songs from “Begin Again”.
"Begin Again" leads off with a moving tribute to Carl Lindberg entitled "From Now On". Mr. Wright says of this work, “...it was inspired by Carl’s passing but over time the song began to represent all of the life changes I experienced in my early 40's”. Trey starts off with a sweet-toned arpeggiated bounce that sets the song's theme. He is quickly joined by expert rhythm section Marc Miller on bass and Marlon Patton on drums. Mr. Wright lets it breathe with a spacious solo as the rhythmic dynamics drive the bus. As the solo fades, Mace Hibbard really brings some energy with a soaring saxophone melody. Unique ideas, sympathetic solos and melodic mastery mark this stellar opening track.
Also of note, Laura Coyle knocks out the Joni Mitchell classic "Hissing of Summer Lawns". Ms. Coyle really nails Mitchell's unique phrasing and, while distinctly marking her territory, brings an immediately recognizable feel to the melody. The collaboration is not to be missed and, as Mr. Wright puts it, “Laura and I collaborated on a concert of Joni Mitchell’s music at Kennesaw State University and I thought it would be fun to record one of the songs. The song references suburban ennui which, although the album is overtly hopeful, I think fits the tone of the album”. Wright concludes, “For me, recording this album was cathartic and a reminder that you can always begin again.”
Past Press Quotes:
"Wright’s playing serves to accentuate the rich harmonic ambiance of the compositions. It is sparse and floating, at times almost minimalist, but tastefully captivating." - Mike Reynolds, muzikreciews.com
"Trey Wright knows how to arrange and build a track to tell a story, merging music and drama into a seductive mix that maintains a strong grip on your attention. With its mainstream accessibility and distinctive sound world, Wright's music is truly original." -AllAboutJazz.com