Tag Archives: Jazz

All Aboard the Joy Ride

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Taken during sound check at the Joy Ride NYC debut on February 2, 2013.

Jamison Ross gained the spotlight this past September after winning first place at the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. But I’ve known the drummer as a person, and a musician for six years. Ross contains a palpable passion for life, and it shows in his music. He believes that soulfulness is the key to everything that is good in this world. For more on this topic, I suggest you all stream this video. A drummer who thinks in melodies, Ross is a skilled composer who also knows how to take control and lead a band. He studied with drummer Leon Anderson Jr., and pianist Marcus Roberts at Florida State University before moving to New Orleans in 2011. Since leaving Florida for the Big Easy, Ross has been an in-demand musician. He’s performed with saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson and embarked on tours with pianist Henry Butler and vocalist Carmen Lundy.

My introduction into b&w film photography coincided with my time at the FSU College of Music. Here are some shots of Jamison from 2009 and 2010.

(L to R) Jon Olejnik, Jamison Ross, Steve Wilson // Steve Wilson had come to FSU to conduct a master class and performance for the Cannonball Adderley Festival in Tallahassee.

(L to R) Jon Olejnik, Jamison Ross, Steve Wilson // Steve Wilson had come to FSU to conduct a master class and performance for the Cannonball Adderley Festival in Tallahassee.

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(L to R) Jamison Ross, Alphonso Horne, Ricardo Pascal // They played an uptempo contract of “Cherokee.” Steve Wilson complimented Ross’ ride cymbal work, turning to the student to encourage us all to take a lesson with Jamison’s right hand.

Recitals at FSU's were suprisingly intimate. The musicians pictured here continue to perform together

(L to R) Barry Stephenson, Ricardo Pascal, Jamison Ross // Recitals at FSU were surprisingly intimate, and thanks to great lighting I was able to capture many magical moments.

(L to R) Jamison Ross and Nadav Spigelman. The very photoshoot where I captured the Hardbop llama logo, Jamison performed outside (in the cold) with Nadav and FSU faculty pianist Bill Peterson.

(L to R) Jamison Ross and Nadav Spigelman // This very photo shoot is where I captured the Hardbop llama logo. On a farm outside of Tallahassee there was jazz + llamas.

Walt Weiskopf clinic in Spring 2010 with Jamison Ross on the kit.

Walt Weiskopf clinic in Spring 2010 with Jamison Ross on the kit.

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One of many emotional and exciting moments inside of B Sharp’s Jazz Cafe. This was taken (during someone’s killin’ solo) at Barry Stephenson’s senior recital in 2010. Ross is at the kit, with Emily Fredrickson by his side and Joe Goldberg in the foreground.

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This was taken at trumpeter Alphonso Horne’s senior recital, spring 2010. Also pictured: Barry Stephenson, bass; Jamison Ross, drums; Emily Fredrickson, trombone.

The “Joy Ride” is what Jamison Ross uses to embody his 3-part mission. He explains that the message is that “Joy is captivating; Joy is genuine; Joy is love; Joy is soulful, but most importantly, JOY is an innate feeling. The feeling of joy engages and provokes people of all nations to believe in something greater than themselves. Joy is the most essential ingredient of music. With this ingredient, music expands from a sound to an experience.” The band is “a family of extremely conscious individuals with different perspectives and life experiences.” In spite of their differences, they love and respect the presence that they each bring to the music. Nothing gets in the way of their collective goal: “to take the world on a joyful ride.” The movement is “an army of creators that en ‘JOY’ what they do. They strive for authentic ways to portray and ultimately express the JOY that they feel for their artistry to the world that is without knowledge of their competence.”

“Today is the beginning,” Ross said smiling just before taking the stage on February 2nd at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center in NYC. Each year, the “Monk in Motion” concert series honors first, second, and third place winners of the Monk  Competition. Willard Jenkins and Tribeca PAC Executive Director, Linda Herring started the series in 2003, eventually partnering with the Monk Institute in 2005. Ross’ performance was preceded by a panel moderated by Jenkins featuring drummers Carl Allen and Allison Miller. Runner-up Justin Brown will offer his concert on March 2 @ 8:30pm.

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Chris Pattishall, piano; Alphonso Horne, trumpet; Troy Roberts, saxophone; Cocoran Holt, bass; Jamison Ross, drums; Nate Werth, percussion.

Ross appeared at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (NYC) the last week of October and in mid-January with all FSU alumni quintet led by pianist Chris Pattishall. Pattishall and Alphonso Horne both reside in NYC, but grew into their “jazz skin” playing with Ross in Tallahassee. Their friendships (like many other FSU jazz alumni)  continue to grow, both on and off the bandstand. Before the gig on February 2nd, Horne had just come off a brief tour subbing for Marcus Printup in The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Cocoran Holt, bassist for saxophonist Kenny Garrett among many others, hooked up with Ross when they both began playing with vocalist Carmen Lundy. Nate Werth, while on the road with Snarky Puppy, met Ross last year in New Orleans at a jam session at The Maison on Frenchman Street. For the February 2nd hit, Ross hired saxophonist Troy Roberts as the sub for Joy Ride’s tenorman, David Stewart. Troy Roberts moved to NYC in May 2012 after earning his M.M, followed by a teaching gig, at University of Miami. Roberts is heavy talent and serious presence on the saxophone. He fronts his own band, Nu-Jive (album review coming soon) and last year, he had the privilege of representing his homeland of Australia on “International Jazz Day” playing John Coltrane’s “India.”

Ross performed two vocal numbers: Carmen Lundy's "Forgive Me" and Muddy Waters' "Deep Down in Florida."

Ross performed two vocal numbers: Carmen Lundy’s “Forgive Me” and Muddy Waters’ “Deep Down in Florida.”

(L to R) Pattishall, Horne, Roberts

(L to R) Chris Pattishall, Alphonso Horne, Troy Roberts, Cocoran Holt (behind on bass).

During intermission, Ross participated in a Q&A with Willard Jenkins, and was presented with the “Elizabeth Butson and Nancy Fox Outstanding Young Jazz Artist Award” by Linda Herring. Elizabeth Butson is on the Board of BMCC Fund and has supported the programs, especially jazz, since 1998.  After Butson’s friend Nancy Fox passed away from cancer this past January, Butson created the award as a legacy in her best friend’s name.

Accelerated recognition of Jamison Ross’ talents, hard work, and overall attitude has spun out to make for a busy 2013. Throughout the remainder of February, he’ll be working  in New Orleans with Irvin Mayfield and George French. Throughout the year he’ll b touring with Carmen Lundy, making appearances in South Africa , Europe, Japan, and NYC.  In March, he’ll head to Italy to record with pianist Dominica Sanaa and in April, he’ll appear in NYC for one night special trio performance with pianist Ellis Marsalis and bassist Ben Williams. The full circle: Jamison Ross’ teacher at FSU, Leon Anderson Jr. was mentored by Ellis Marsalis. With the support of Concord Music Group, Ross will enter the studio early July to record his debut record as a leader. He will feature the Joy Ride band plus a few guest appearances. The record is slated for release at the beginning of 2014.

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Jamison Ross and Nate Werth easily interlock rhythms to thicken the groove.

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The Joy Ride Band. (L to R) Pattishall, Horne, Holt, Roberts, Ross, Werth.

In this business that we call music, now more than ever, the artist must wear many hats. The music must connect with their audience on a sonic and a personal level. There is expected to be a steady feed of Jamison Ross, the person, after Jamison Ross, the drummer, has set his sticks down. And that’s what he gives us. The tech-savy 25-year-old is regularly wiring in on his website, Twitter, Facebook, Socialcam and Instagram.  It has given him a necessary advantage in the global music market. At the recent APAP Jazz Connect Conference in NYC, there were panels entitled “How to Make Your Website Awesome!” and “Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr & Beyond (DIY).” This says something about what the jazz community is lacking, but Jamison Ross is holding it down, ahead of the game.

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Donny Wails

This weekend is the 2013 Winter Jazz Fest. If you’re having difficulty deciding what to attend amidst the collage of insane talent splattering lower Manhattan, consider heading to Zinc Bar at 8pm on Saturday to hear Donny McCaslin’s latest project. I sat front row early last month at the Jazz Standard, and was nearly knocked down by McCaslin’s “gargantuan” sound. The group performed selections from his latest record, Casting For Gravity, supported by Jason Linder, keyboards; Tim Lefebvre, bass; and Mark Guiliana, drums.

Casting For Gravity (2012)

Casting For Gravity (Greenleaf Music, 2012)

The record is a commanding piece of sonic aggression and riveting rhythm. Stadium Jazz. The audience the night I attended seemed to be split: about half were 20-somethings prepared for ultimate mind-blowage, while the other half had presumptuously come out to hear some jazz at a nice club. The set list: 1. Says Who // 2. Love Song For An Echo // 3. Tension // 4. Henry // 5. Paria Grande.

McCaslin grew up in Santa Cruz, California absorbing a mix of  funk  (Tower of Power) and the drum and bass (Aphex Twin). Lately, the saxophonist has been morphing these two balls-to-the-wall aesthetics with modern, often angular jazz. Highlights on the record include a Boards of Canada cover and a tune written by producer/saxophonist David Binney entitled “Praia Grande” named for the Portuguese beach where it was composed. Casting For Gravity is, in many ways, a sequel to Perpetual Motion (2011) and an extension of his working relationship with Binney. And like Binney’s own playing, McCaslin’s saxophone soars atop a harmonic and rhythmic rodeo of twisted grooves and contemplative ballads.

McCaslin’s electronic influenced writing forces him out of his comfort zone, but Lefebvre and Guiliana are right at home. Mark Guiliana has molded his career around his superhuman drum capabilities: compounding meters, energetic robotic textures, and aggressive and suspenseful beat drops. Such drops brought orgasmic “ohhs” from a 10-seater table of students from the Collective School of Music. Jason Linder performs regularly with Guiliana—they’re 2/3 of the group Now vs. Now—and the keyboardist will be making two other appearances this Saturday including a set with Omer Avital at 10:30pm at Zinc Bar, and a midnight set at the Cultural Project Theater with his band Breeding Ground.

Donny McCaslin (photo by Alexander Ariff)

Photo by Alexander Ariff

Photo by Alexander Ariff

Photo by Alexander Ariff

Photo by Alexander Ariff

Photo by Alexander Ariff

Tim Lefebrve is nothing short of a bass beast. His resume contains acts from the underground drum and bass duo Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi, to pop-jazz artists Chris Botti and Donald Fagen. When Lefebvre moved his home base from NYC to Los Angeles, bassist Chris Morissey filled his shoes in Guiliana’s band Beat Music (also featuring Linder). Morissey sat next to me and described McCaslin’s dynamic as “beautiful, soulful shredding.” Morissey continued by saying that “everyone [in the band] was playing with their tongues hanging out of their mouths and not with any of that pussyfooting ‘serve the song’ bullshit that could turn that instrumentation into something else entirely.” Morissey, a forward thinking musician who leads two of his own groups, can appreciate a “fearlessness and a trust in [Donny’s] band-leading. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.” It’s worth noting that also in the crowd at the Standard was one of the band’s closest colleagues, woodwind extraordinaire, Anat Cohen.

Donny’s quartet toured extensively before tracking Casting For Gravity. “It feels like we’re breaking a part the songs in a new way,” Linder reflected after the set. “The songs he wrote are conducive to growing.” Experience the growth of this band, and many others this weekend at Winter Jazz Fest, and catch McCaslin on the road:

February 5, 2013 / Blue Wisp / Cincinnati, OH

February 6 & 7, 2013 / Indiana University / Bloomington, IN 

  February 8 & 9, 2013 / The Green Mill / Chicago, IL

 February 15 & 16, 2013 / Tallcorn Jazz Fest / Cedar Falls, IA

 February 22 & 23, 2013 / Holland Performing Arts Center / Omaha, NE

  March 2, 2013 / San Joaquin Valley Jazz Fest / Fresno, CA

 March 4, 2013 / Kuumbwa Jazz Center / Santa Cruz, CA

 April 1-4, 2013 / University of North Florida / Jacksonville, FL 

Jesse Fischer & Soul Cycle: Retro Future

Jesse Fischer & Soul Cycle’s last release, Homebrew (2011), was a hot mess of funk, groove, jazz, and soul. The record grabbed my ears by way of its guest appearances: Stefon Harris, Gretchen Parlato, and Sean Jones. Great performers aside, Fischer’s writing on Homebrew was top-notch, and looking back, Soul Cycle’s debut with Mosaic in 2009 is equally stanky. The group’s new record, Retro Future (ObliqSound 2012), is officially out today on iTunes and other online markets. It’s stirring up quite a buzz on The Revivalist, JazzTimes, Soul Tracks, Soul and Jazz Podcast, and Kevinnottingham.com. Rightfully so, Retro Future delivers in all respects of the groove: sophisticated funk, stellar solos, and head bumpin’ hooks.

Design by Rachel Hennon. Photo by Isabelle Selby.

I love how Fischer manipulates and envelops odd rhythmic groupings or complex meters within sensual textures on such tunes as “Gotham Underground,” “Moon Ship,” and “Cyberphunk.” On “Gothan Underground,” I applaud percussionist Shawn Banks. Check out how he fits in the cross hairs on woodblock/cabasa, enhancing a momentous pulse beneath a swaying chromatic horn melody. Alto saxophonist and Atlanta-based Brian Hogans takes an exhilarating solo, reminding me of Cannonball Adderley or Kenny Garrett, building with weaving, streamline harmonic language. This cut is perfect for those long, late MTA nights…

Fischer situated himself within his spaceship (piano, keyboards, latptop, AKAI trigger pad) to lead Soul Cycle at a CD release party at BAM Café this past Saturday, October 27, 2012. Soul Cycle: Fischer, keys; Jean Caze, trumpet/flugelhorn; David Linaburg, guitar; Solmon Dorsey, bass; Adam Jackson, drums; Shawn Banks, percussion.

The BAM Café is not your  typical East Village café; it’s a venue on the second floor of the glorious BAM complex in Downtown Brooklyn. The large arched corners give the illusion of a massive tunnel. The bandstand isn’t elevated but rather a wide area between opposing bathrooms, which wasn’t too awkward. The live mix was surprisingly balanced given the depth of the room and height of the ceiling. Kudos to the sound-man, and to DJ Idlemind for spinning consistently funky, frequently sampled breaks before the band began.

Photo: Alexander Ariff

The band opened their set like the record, with “Tanqueray & Tonic.” Fischer took the first solo on electric keys followed by Caze on trumpet. Next was “Moon Ship.” Fischer took an nice unaccompanied piano intro, quoting the main melody within jagged rubato rhythms. Drummer Gabiel Wallace wore headphones as to sync with a sample, triggered by Fischer. This is not easy for a live band to accomplish while remaining flexible enough to improvise. One way that the band manages to not fall off course is their use of doubling: Linaburg often doubles Dorsey’s bass line, and the guitarist often lays out during Fischer solos in lieu of comping too much. The guitarist took a really nice solo on West African, pentatonic based “Digital Savanna” where he used a staccato, muted picking technique as to emulate a kora. Other highlights included Caze’s solo on “Cyberphunk” atop pulsating reggaeton infused by Bank’s shekere.  Fischer invited guest vocalist Rachel Eckroth on stage for two numbers: “Aquarius” (from the musical Hair) which appears on Retro Future, and later in the set with a rendition of the often-sampled George Duke number “Someday.”

Fischer (born in 1980) is among a generation of musicians who grew up in the age of hip-hop. These players (Glasper, the Snarky Puppy crew, Hargrove, Esperanza, etc.) with their open-minded, sponge-like musical outlook, have already begun to influence an entire “jazz” generation. Future leaders of this music have spent time with the jazz tradition (in the ivory towers or/and on the bandstand) as much as soul, gospel, r&b, groove, etc. The term “Retro Future” says it all: soul is nothing new, it’s organic and flowing, timeless and universal. But what Fischer is getting at, is an increase in mankind’s rigid routines, and how this mindset parallels the continuing popularity of computer music. How can human musicians transfer this concept into sonic textures? Jazz musicians like of Herbie Hancock, George Duke, and Roy Ayers have always been tackling this question since its inception. Jesse Fischer & Soul Cycle come from the same soulful, forward-thinking trajectory…and in the format of the groove, under the multicolored lighting of venues like BAM Café, patrons will undoubtedly continue to nod, smile, bounce, and applaud.

Photo: Alexander Ariff

To learn more about Fischer, visit his DL Media Music bio, and note that he’ll be back in Brooklyn on December 12 at Littlefield. Here’s a newly released video of Soul Cycle live at Rockwood Music Hall on October 1, 2012.

Guitarky Puppy (8.14.12)

It’s taken me about two years to write about one of my favorite bands on the scene today, Snarky Puppy. With origins in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area and a current home base in Brooklyn, Snarky Puppy’s career has been nothing short of a well-oiled machine. From the Pup’s first studio album (The One Constant, 2006) to their latest, highly acclaimed release (Ground Up, 2012), their evolution has been a sonic journey for the listener as much as the musicians themselves. In short, the band’s members, and their music are all simultaneously getting better. You can catch Snarky Puppy in full force in Brooklyn on October 4, 2012.

Before the band embarked on their second massive tour of the year, I caught a triple-bill at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, featuring sets by the guitarists Bob Lanzetti, Mark Lettieri and Chris McQueen. Lanzetti and McQueen both attended University of North Texas in Denton for jazz studies—along with many other band mates—and Lettieri is based out of DFW. All three sets were drastically different; exposing each guitarist’s personality in a more bare bones, intimate musical setting. The mission of Guitarky Puppy remained in showcasing the compositions equally, if not more than, the musicians themselves.

(L to R) Lanzetti, Lettieri, McQueen (c) Alexander Ariff

Bob Lanzetti’s group featured Justin Stanton, keyboards; Michael League, bass; Robert Searight, drums. Lanzetti has a definitive tone on the guitar evoking textures similar to Andy Summers (The Police) and Jeff Beck. He holds it up close to his chest, articulately picking and graciously strumming with delicate, deliberate control. Lanzetti hopes to debut his solo project on record in 2013; you can also hear his work with Underground System Afrobeat and visit his artist page here. This tune reminds me of the Americana elements that seep through players like Bill Frisell; and like Frisell, when Laznetti chooses, he rips. Here is a video (excuse the iffy audio) courtesy of Martin Cohen of congahead.com.

Mark Lettieri’s group contained the same burning rhythm section (Stanton, League and Searight). Lettieri is a bold player, who blends the precision and confidence the L.A scene, where he grew up, with the soulful sauce of Texas, where he is currently based. He also has a heavy foot in the hip-hop world, backing such acts as Erykah Badu and appearing on the upcoming Xzibit’s record Napalm.

Mark Lettieri (c) Alexander Ariff

Lettieri is an in-demand guitarist who has (finally) released his debut solo album entitled “Knows”. The record features band mates League and Searight in addition to GroundUP label mates Caleb McCampbell, synth; and Wes Stephenson bass; from the Funky Knuckles.

Closing out the night was Chris McQueen’s band Foe Destroyer. Unfortunately,  the band’s gritty sound was masked in the mud of Shapeshifter Lab’s acoustics. McQueen’s sticker covered guitar is perhaps a symbol of his inner-punk, but a look at his credentials will wash away any pretense that he has stayed a narrow course. The band came into fruition in early 2010 by McQueen, Daniel Garcia (from the band Oso Closo), and longtime musical friend Cade Sadler. They have some older tracks on bandcamp and will be releasing a new record soon. In the meantime, crank this cut and dig McQueen’s lovely jazzy solo on Snarky Puppy’s “Like A Light“.

Brian Adler Continues to Rise with “Helium: Phase 2”

Today marks the release of Phase 2 of Brian Adler’s Helium Project. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 can now be purchased digitally here. Adler has been crafting  Helium since 2009. His mission was to expand the recording studio around the globe. Alder’s music blurs the lines between “jazz” and “world” music and  Helium is a delightfully uplifting representation of his musical philosophy.

Brian Adler

Despite his background in American jazz, Alder has open ears and Argentinian roots. “The spread and cross-pollination of musical languages and culture is happening all over the place”, he commented. “When I walk down the street in Queens where I live, I hear hip-hop, Bollywood music, jazz, Turkish music, and Brazilian music within a few blocks”. Before beginning Helium, he formed the Prana Trio in Boston and eventually toured in the United States and Germany. The trio specialized in exploring the ancient spiritual texts of Rumi, Hafiz, Lao Tzu, Kabir, Issa and others. They produced three albums: The Singing Image of Fire (2009), Pranam (2006) and After Dark (2004). Frank Calrberg, one of Adlers professors at the New England Conservatory, is an acclaimed composer in the art of fusing interpreted texts with unique, challenging and often twisted jazz compositions.  Adler cites Carlberg as a mentor for the trio as they gathered texts. Adler’s  application of the female voice in Phase 1 in addition to his lyrical method of drumming can all be heard throughout the entire Helium project. “The [human] voice is very important to me”, Adler added, “many people can relate to it can add many dimensions to the music. Even if there is no vocalist, I often still consider what one might do in terms of phrasing. And this can transfer to my drumming or to composing”.

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A Special Report From Israel – Part 2: Anat Fort in Concert

Hardbop continues its exclusive coverage of the Israeli jazz scene. The most recent concert I went to was at the Givatayim Theater (a suburb of Tel Aviv) on June 18, 2011.  It featured Anat Fort’s quartet of Israeli percussionist Gilad Dobrecky, Israeli bassist Avri Borochov, Ethiopian saxophonist/vocalist Abate Brihon and Fort on piano.

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James Farm: Parks, Harland, Penman and Redman Push The Limit of What Defines A “Jazz” Super Group.

Refection: On December 11, I missed my first flight to Philly to catch night two of the James Farm world premiere. Chris’ Jazz Cafe, on Samson rarely caters this degree of a talent. The entire block seemed to be at a heightened sense of  importance. I was able to snag a 5:45pm out of JAX, which put me into Philadelphia International at 7:30pm. I had to catch an 8:00pm show. The cabby left me off at 13 and Samson at 7:45. Enough time to chat with friends and family,snag a cup of french onion soup and find a safe place for my luggage.

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