Saturday, May 26, 2018

USA/BOOK/JAZZ EDUCATION: World-Class Pros Endorse YOU’RE IN THE BAND Cynthia Sayer’s Jazz Play-Along Program

World Class Pros Endorse


Cynthia Sayer's Jazz Play-Along Program
For All Jazz Instruments
Student, Hobbyist & Professional Players
Jam With Top Pros In The Genre
  • Tunes popularly played in traditional jazz/hot jazz bands
  • Choice of 2 CDs or Downloads
  • Each tune in 2 speeds: "Gig Tempo" & "Practice Tempo"
  • Playing tips & traditions you should know
  • Lingo & Definitions
  • Lead sheets with lyrics in concert key, Bb, Eb, and bass clef
  • Chord Charts
  • Tune Layouts
  • Also available - downloads only: 
    All YITB Tracks Minus Trumpet & All YITB Tracks Minus Banjo ($9.99 per set)
1.  Avalon
2.  Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me
3.  China Boy
4.  Darktown Strutter's Ball
5.  Down By The Riverside
6.  Just  A Closer Walk With Thee
7.  My Gal Sal
8.  Some Of These Days
9.  Take Me Out To The Ball Game
10. The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
11. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
12. When The Saints Go Marching In
13. Whispering
Cynthia Sayer - banjo, arrangements
Bria Skonberg - trumpet
Mike Weatherly - string bass
Kevin Dorn - drums

USA: Jeff Ballard "Fairgrounds" On tour: January 26 - February 2 2019 new album release (OKeh/ Sony)

Jeff Ballard

On tour: January 26 - February 2
 2019 new album release (OKeh/ Sony)


Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds will release their first recording at the end of January 2019. The recording is a selection of the music played during a tour the band made thru Europe. All of the concerts of the tour were recorded in high fidelity and this first release will be a selection of music from those concerts. It truly catches the excitement, intimacies, and inventions in music, revealing the collective and individual  greatness in each musician in the group. This recording clearly shows the freedom and capability the band has to go anywhere musically.
They ride the rides. They take a turn riding all of them. These rides, which make up this amusement park, should be built in places perfect, well studied. It takes a certain strength to build, to manage, and to coordinate. These and other qualities Mr Ballard must have thought about, a cultured and refined musician, when he decided to call his latest creation Fairgrounds. Whomever would like to may participate, the only requirement is that they are emotionally committed. Ballard started from there, with friends, colleagues, who would assure him the right chemistry: Lionel Loueke on guitar (Herbie Hancock, Terrance Blanchard), Chris Cheek on saxs (is one of the most sought after saxophonists in the Jazz world today, having played in the the groups of legends such as Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Steve Swallow and Bill Frisell), and Kevin Hays (Joe Henderson, Benny Golson, John Scofield) on piano and keyboards. As a carousel, anyone can climb aboard this band if he so wishes. So the group's roster expands and contracts. An open workshop, creative, constantly evolving. Those who come in should not behave as simply a "guest" but as a full time essential member of the band, bringing all his or her desires, commitment, and knowledge thru the gate into the fairgrounds.
Musically diverse, sometimes very bold and unexpected, Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds does not have a fixed or pre-established repertoire, the music mostly comes as sound ideas brought in by Ballard and his companions, taking on different forms as the ideas germinate and expand in context. A group with an unusual timbre from their combined strength. A new reality which will act as an arena where one can bring ideas and flex the mind. The creativity and commitment of the leader is well documented also by his stylistic choices. The sharp blades of the avant-garde, the obsessions of free jazz, the intrigue of electronics, wide cultural diversity of rhythm, colors, textures of rock, the splendid virtuosity of the individual involved.
All of this is to describe Jeff Ballard Fairgrounds. Just listen to it and you will no longer have any doubt: when the bell sounds announcing the new round of tournament, stay there. Don't miss it.
Line up: Jeff Ballard (drums), Kevin Hays (piano), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Chris Cheek (saxs).


USA; Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Presents A Tribute to Ed Xiques Sunday, June 3rd 8pm Live At The Falcon

Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Presents:
A Tribute to Ed Xiques

Celebrated Jazz Saxophonist/Composer/Educator Ed Xiques
to be honored on June 3 at The Falcon in Marlboro, NY

Free concert focuses on original compositions
by Hudson Valley resident Ed Xiques

Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band shines a spotlight on the music of veteran jazz musician Ed Xiques at a free concert honoring the saxophonist/composer/arranger/educator at the Falcon in Marlboro, NY, on June 3.

Xiques, a mainstay of the New York jazz scene for several decades, is known for his playing with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, McCoy Tyner, Maria Schneider, Frank Foster and a host of others.

According to Composers Big Band leader Diane Moser, “Performing at The Falcon will give us the chance to share with his friends and family all of the wonderful music Ed Xiques has been writing over the last 20 years. He’s such a gracious, funny, generous and spiritual guy. We love his stories and his wonderful spirit.”
Moser continues, “For our June 3 date at The Falcon, we plan on playing all of Ed’s music. We have 12 big band charts by Ed in our book, eight of which are originals, and we’ll play a few Jaki Byard charts—when Ed was 19 years old, he performed with Jaki in Boston. We’ll also play charts that Ed performed and recorded with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.”

Throughout his five-decade-long performing career, Ed Xiques has repeatedly proved himself the consummate music pro, who can always be counted on to give his all, whether you catch him at the Village Vanguard, a Broadway theater, or an arena. Audiences around the globe have heard Xiques play with jazz greats including Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin, Duke Pearson, Mario Bauza, and Woody Herman, vocal legends such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, and Liza Minnelli, and pop and rock icons like Aerosmith, The Jackson Five, Ten Wheel Drive, and Gladys Knight.

Xiques has appeared on more than 50 recordings, about a third of them with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band. As a leader, he has released two albums featuring his own original compositions. Ed is a long-time member of the music faculty at Vassar College.

The saxophonist is also a long-time resident composer with the Montclair, NJ-based Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band: This month marks the 20thanniversary of his tenure with the ensemble.

“When it came time for me to find a lead alto player for the Composers Big Band in 1997, I called Ed,” Moser remembers. “His wife, Rosemary, answered the phone and told me that he was on a plane coming back from Russia, where he’d been on tour with Liza Minelli. Rosemary added that she knew he would want to come play.” She was right—Ed was onstage with Moser’s band within a week.

“Ed has been the heart and soul of our big band for the past 20 years, and this is our tribute to him, an amazing musician, colleague and dear friend,” Moser declares.

Over the past two decades, pianist and composer Moser has built a cult following in the New York metropolitan area with her Composers Big Band. At their frequent gigs, Moser’s CBB has showcased always-inspired works by band members and more than 100 guest artists, including internationally acclaimed jazz icons such as Jane Ira Bloom, Mark Dresser, Howard Johnson, Oliver Lake, and Michele Rosewoman.

Formed by Moser and a dedicated group of musicians and composers with the intention of exploring the possibilities of big band music and moving it forward, the band has lived up to its mission since its January 1997 debut gig.

Keeping a big band together for 20 years is no small feat, especially when it’s made up of players who lead their own bands and/or are in-demand sidemen. There’s a warm, family vibe to the DMCBB, presuming your family is enormous, talented, and eager to work and play together at every opportunity. After two decades, some of the original band members are still on the bandstand at every gig.

In addition to pianist Moser, the current DMCBB lineup includes: Saxes: Ed Xiques, Rob Middleton, Marty Fogel, Barbara Cifelli, Craig Yaremko, Tom Colao; Trombones: Erick Storckman, Ben Williams, Matt Haviland, Dennis Argul; Trumpets: Mike Spengler, Jim Cifelli, Chris Rogers, Rob Henke; Rhythm: Larry Maltz (guitar), Andy Eulau (bass), Scott Neumann (drums).

Regardless of the occasion or the repertoire, the style, or the complexity of the music, listeners can count on each Diane Moser’s Composer’s Big Band concert being heartfelt, dedicated, adventurous and flat-out fun: Listeners are gonna be entertained and inspired.

Their June 3 appreciation of their long-time and beloved colleague Ed Xiques will be no exception!

Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Presents: A Tribute to Ed Xiques
June 3;8PM

The Falcon
1348 Route 9W; Marlboro NY 12542; (845) 236-7970

No tickets! No cover! Donations encouraged!
For more info: dianemosermusic.con

Dinner & Brunch reservations available.


USA: JIM & JEREMY PELT SNIDERO-Jubilation! - Celebrating Cannonball Adderley(2018)

Jubilation! - Celebrating Cannonball Adderley
Cannonball Adderley is considered to be one of the all-time greatest jazz musicians; one whose playing projected depth and command. But, he also possessed the rare ability to connect and uplift the listener, shouting out "joy" in every phrase. For his 90th birthday, "Jubilation!" celebrates the genius of Cannonball Adderley. Beloved veterans Jim Snidero (Downbeat critics' poll) and Jeremy Pelt create a formidable front line while David Hazeltine, Nat Reeves and Billy Drummond form an incomparable rhythm section. It's an all-star lineup celebrating a true jazz giant.

USA: Majid-Sound of a Flower(2018)

Described as having “a unique blend of improvisation,
groove, and technical sophistication” by legendary
musician Wynton Marsalis, Majid Khaliq is cut from a
different cloth.
A violinist, composer, and a bandleader, Majid graduated
from the Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Music in 2002
and a Master of Arts in Jazz Performance from Aaron
Copland School of Music at Queens College in 2010.
His music expertise knows no bounds, lending his talents
to various artists including Wynton Marsalis, Mr. Cheeks
(from hip hop group The Lost Boyz), Antonio Hart (jazz
saxophonist), Craig G (from hip hop collective The Juice
Crew), John Blake Jr. (jazz violinist), Dyme-a-Duzin (from
band Phony Ppl), Itzhak Perlman (classical musician/
world known violinist), Keith David (actor/singer/voice
actor), Isaac Stern (Grammy award violinist), and Regina
Carter (jazz violinist).

Friday, May 25, 2018


MAY 29 – JUNE 2
With Special Guests          

This magical collaboration of MARCOS VALLE and PAULA & JAQUES MORELENBAUM , direct from Rio in Brazil, hold up the tradition of the era of Bossa Nova and Samba, bringing melodic genius and fabulous infectious swinging Brazilian rhythms . PAULA was a vocalist with the JOBIM band for years before going out on her own to great acclaim.  Her husband, JAQUES is a renowned  cellist who graces the Birdland stage for the first time along with the other great artists in the Band , talented Vocalist Patricia Alves,  top Brazilian bassist Itaiguara Brandao on bass,  exciting Trumpeter Jesse Sadoc and famed Drummer Renato Masssa  from Brazil plus talented jazz guitarist
Roni Ben-Hur.
MARCOS VALLE – The charismatic Composer, Keyboardist, Singer, has had a 50-year career, following in the footsteps of the Jobim/Lyra generation with over 500 songs to his credit composed and recorded by the greats Sarah Vaughan, Chicago, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Ramsey Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Toots Thielemans,  Jay Z, Kanye West and so many more .  Some of his hits include “Summer Samba”, “The Face I Love’, and “Batucada” known around the world .

Valle is also an exciting composer/singer and keyboardost who has toured the world  many times with his Band to sold-out audiences bringing his special brand of music combining Bossa Nova, Pop , and other Brazilian rhythms, including  London’s Barbican Hall, The Blue Note in Japan, Cirque D’Hiver in Paris.  His “Songbook” consisting of 26 hits has recordings by top artists, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethania, Chico Barque, Eumir Deodato, and more. 

Paula Morelenbaum and husband Jaques, cellist, (arranger/producer) are connoisseurs of Bossa Nova having worked ten years with Antonio Carlos Jobim in his brillianat ‘Nova Banda’ band after which they went and followed their own careers.

 Paula has recorded many CD’s of acclaim including “Telecoteco” which was nominated fora ‘Brazilian Music Award” and a  Latin Grammy.  She recorded several times with fames Pianist/Composer  Ryuichi Sakamoto“…also “Samba Preludio” with pianist Ralf Schmid and trumpeter Joo Kraus bridging German and Brazilian cultures with beautiful melodies. 

 Together with Jaques she has recorded many important projects .
Recently , they recorded  “Paula e Jaques Morelenbaum Live in Italia Ommagio a Jobim” . They have performed at major venues around the world, most importantly, Carnegie Hall where the New York Times wrote  “…delivered Jobim’s songs with a sense of almost holy rapture.”

Jaques has also collaborated as cellist, arranger, producer with Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Egberto Gismonti, Gal Costa Ryuichi Sakamoto, Omar Sosa, Henri Sslavador, Sting, among others. 

Pat Philips- Stratta maintains great interest in the this music of Brasil which she and Ettore Stratta , her partner and husband presented for many years.  Philips continues on this path.

BOSSABRASIL at BIRDLAND will be a special collaboration of some of Brazil’s most important artists.

Birdland, 315 W. 44thStreet, NYC 
Reservations: 212 581 3080 or
Full Dinner Menu and Parking nearby

ITALY: 7 Virtual Jazz Club’s Contest – 3rd Edition

7 Virtual Jazz Club’s Contest – 3rd Edition
2018 Applications Are Open.
Special Prizes to The Winner of The Under 25 Student Category. Entry Deadline: October 15th

Milan, Italy, May 16th, 2018
The 7 Virtual Jazz Club continues its worldwide search for emerging and under recognized creative musicians of all ages and backgrounds.
The winner will receive € 2,000 while the best student participant who is under 25 years of age will receive € 700 and a prize offered by Taklit Publishing & Production: an opportunity to meet with Taklit, present a personal project for consideration, and benefit from professional guidance for future career development. Lastly the participant who’s entry tallies he most popular votes by the web community will receive € 500.

How to enroll
To enter the contest, soloists and groups pay a small registration fee and submit a video (maximum seven minutes) of their performance. Entries will be judged by a panel of international jazz experts comprised of some of the most respected journalists, musicians and educators in the field. 

October 15th, 2018

«I am honored to be involved with the 7 Virtual Jazz Club’s Global Competition,» says Marcela Breton (Jazz Journalist Association). «a platform for talented musicians from around the world – veterans & newcomers, women & men, young & old – performing on stage, in the studio, in coffeehouses, bookstores, and libraries, expanding the boundaries of jazz, reinvigorating its traditions, and exploring new directions and connections. The videos submitted to the contest by these diverse musicians, and made available over the web to a universal audience, are sophisticated, original, daring, and inventive; they demonstrate the global reach of jazz, and are helping to shape the future of the music in rich and unexpected ways».

Dubi Lenz (Artistic Director “The Red Sea Jazz Festival”) says: «It’s great to be a jury member on this competition - what a great opportunity to listen to musicians you won’t have otherwise a chance to listen to, play them in my radio show, considering inviting them to the Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival».

Hrayr Attarian (All about jazz) says: «…an innovative competition».

About the 7 Virtual Jazz Club
The 7 Virtual Jazz Club is a non-profit all volunteers’ association dedicated to support jazz music in all its forms. The 7 Virtual Jazz Club website hosts the first fully global online jazz competition in history. The contest welcomes musicians of all ages. Musicians may be amateurs, professionals and students under the age of 25. Our aim is to unearth hidden musical talent focusing on the new trends that have emerged in jazz and creative music.

Winners of the 2017 contest
Jury prize to Gilad Hekselman (USA)
Web community prize to Reveries (ITA)

Valerio Pappi, creator & artistic director

USA: Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival Announces European Sounds Series Lineup

Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival
With supporting partnersEuropean Union Delegation to the United Nations
& Nine EU Member States
Announce the Inaugural European Sounds Series
Featured artists include:
Luba Mason, Petros Klampanis, Yacine Boularès: AJOYO,
Nikolett Pankovits Band, Michel Reis, Alexis Cuadrado Trio
Asen Doykin Band, Manuel Schmiedel Quartet, and Jorn Swart
Weekend Brunch Shows throughout June
at the Blue Note Jazz Club, New York
New York, NY - May 21, 2018 - Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival, in partnership with the European Union Delegation to the United Nations and nine EU Member States, has announcedthe inaugural European Sounds Seriesto showcase European culture and jazz within the United States. The series, which kicks off June 2nd, will take place during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays throughout June at the Blue Note Jazz Club.

The European Sounds Series is curated by Blue Note, the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Consulate General of Luxembourg, Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Consulate General of Greece in New York and Onassis Foundation USA, Balassi Institute - Hungarian Cultural Center New York, Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, Consulate General of Slovakia, and Consulate General of Spain New York. Each country is represented by a performer who embodies the sound and spirit of his/her respective country. Performers include: Luba Mason (Slovakia), Petros Klampanis (Greece), Yacine Boularès: AJOYO(France), Nikolett Pankovits Band (Hungary), Michel Reis (Luxembourg), Alexis Cuadrado Trio(Spain), Asen Doykin Band (Bulgaria), Manuel Schmiedel Quartet (Germany), and Jorn Swart(Netherlands). Full schedule below. Ticket information and a current schedule of events are available on the club's website,

This partnership coincides with the European Year of Cultural Heritage, an EU initiative to encourage people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. For more information, visit
"It is an honor to work with the European Union Delegation to the United Nations and nine European Union Member States and organizations for this year's festival," says Jordy Freed, Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Business Development at Blue Note Entertainment Group. "Our hope with this new series is to explore different European cultures through the lens of music. The lineup for these brunches is comprised of some of Europe's most talented musicians and we couldn't be more excited to showcase their performances at the Blue Note."  

With over 100 events in five venues throughout New York City, the 2018 Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival will take place June 1-30, 2018. This year's festival lineup will feature performances by some of the industry's biggest icons including Chris Botti, Art Garfunkel, Gregory Porter, Al Di Meola and many more. The festival will also expand its city-wide takeover with the addition of a new venue, Sony Hall. Located in the heart of New York's Theatre District (235 W. 46th St at the Paramount Hotel), the venue is a result of a landmark sponsorship agreement between Sony Corporation and Blue Note Entertainment GroupSony Corporation is the festival's Official Title Sponsor and INGLOT Cosmetics of Poland is the Presenting Sponsor.

Established in 2011, the Blue Note Jazz Festival was initially formed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Greenwich Village's iconic Blue Note Jazz Club. Presented by Blue Note Entertainment Group - which owns and operates the diverse venue lineup of Blue NoteSony Hall, and Highline Ballroom - the festival has quickly grown into an annual 30-day event, emerging as the city's largest jazz festival, with each venue offering its own unique cultural contribution to the New York City musical landscape. Additional venues and partners include The Town Hall, Central Park SummerStage, and Jill Newman Productions. Past festival headliners include Aretha Franklin, The Roots, Wyclef Jean, Natalie Cole, Brian Wilson, and more.

Please visit for the most current public lineup and schedule. 
About Blue Note Entertainment Group:
Founded in 1981 by Danny Bensusan, Blue Note Entertainment Group is a multi-faceted entertainment company that owns, operates, licenses and/or programs Blue Note Jazz Clubs worldwide, including New York, NY; Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan; Milan, Italy; Waikiki, Hawaii; Beijing, China; Napa, California; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). The company also owns and operates Sony Hall and Highline Ballroom. Additionally, the company programs the Regattabar Jazz Club (Cambridge, MA) and Blue Note branded concerts throughout Italy. Blue Note Entertainment Group presents shows outside of its club network. The annual Sony presents Blue Note Jazz Festival was established in 2011and has since grown to become the largest jazz festival in New York City each June. Subsidiaries of Blue Note Entertainment Group include the GRAMMY®-nominated record label Half Note Records, whose catalogue includes over fifty titles recorded live at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club, as well as Blue Note Travel and Management Group.

For more information, please contact:
Julia Ryan
Publicist/Marketing Manager
Blue Note Entertainment Group 

USA: Keyboardist David Garfield is joined by George Benson and David Sanborn on the next single previewing his "Jammin' Outside the Box" album

“Jammin’” with legends

Keyboardist David Garfield is joined by George Benson and David Sanborn on the next single previewing his “Jammin’ Outside the Box” album. “Stay” features the Rufus hit’s co-writer, Moon Calhoun, on lead vocals. 

LOS ANGELES (23 May 2018): When asked how he got Grammy-winning legends George Benson and David Sanborn to perform on his new single, “Stay,” keyboardist David Garfield responds dryly with a gleeful grin, “You ask them.” The third single from Garfield’s forthcoming “Jammin’ Outside the Box” album is a remake of the Rufus classic featuring the vintage R&B-funk band’s former drummer Moon Calhoun singing lead on the song he wrote with Chaka Khan. “Stay” goes for radio adds on June 11 and drops digitally from Creatchy Records on June 15.    
As Garfield was gathering material for his multi-disc, multi-genre “Outside the Box” series, he decided to give his long-time friend, Calhoun, the chance to sing the first song he ever wrote, which appeared on Rufus’s “Street Player” (1978). Calhoun was paralyzed in a bike accident 25 years ago and although he can no longer play drums, he can still sing. After inviting Benson and Sanborn to participate, Garfield let Calhoun cast the rest of the track’s musicians, which includes original Rufus guitarist Tony Maiden, along with Maiden’s daughter, Amanda Maiden, on backing vocals. Among the prominent players is a powerhouse sax section comprised of Sanborn on alto, Eric Marienthal on tenor and Tower of Power’s Doc Kupka on baritone; Paul Jackson Jr. (rhythm guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Freddie Washington(bass) and Lenny Castro (percussion). Sanborn and Benson take turns in the spotlight soloing.

“Both George and David were very gracious. It was great to put them together. They compliment each other,” said Garfield, who is Benson’s long-serving music director and has collaborated with Sanborn on numerous occasions. “Initially George was only going to play the solo, but when he heard the guitar tracks, he added some rhythm guitar as well. This track really embodies the idea of musical community, where everyone works hand in hand, gifting each other with their talents. All I think about when I hear the finished song now is, ‘Moon finally got to sing his song!’”  

Scheduled to street on July 20, “Jammin’ Outside the Box” is the second volume of the star-studded “Outside the Box” collection. Released in late March, Garfield’s first ever straight-ahead jazz date, “Jazz Outside the Box,” continues to gather radio spins and receive accolades. “Jammin’ Outside the Box” mixes it up in the smooth/contemporary jazz sandbox showcasing luminaries Benson, Sanborn, Smokey RobinsonMichael McDonald, Ray Parker Jr.Oleta AdamsPhil PerryMarcus MillerKirk WhalumRick Braun and many more. The outing’s first single, “Go Home,” hit No. 2 on the Billboard chart, while the follow up, “Jamming,” rose to No. 8.

Garfield will perform music from “Outside the Box” on May 31at Cleveland’s Night Town and celebrate “Jazz Outside the Box” on June 12 in Hollywood at the Catalina Jazz Club featuring special guests.       
For more information, please visit

Contact: Rick Scott 310.306.0375

USA: The Wyoming Jazz Ensemble, Uw Jazz Faculty, Ben Markley, Director & Terell Stafford-Winds of the Snowys(2018)

The University of Wyoming Jazz Studies Area's premiere group the Wyoming Jazz Ensemble offers their debut album "Winds of the Snowys." This album features world renowned trumpeter Terell Stafford and UW Jazz Faculty, Ben Markley, Scott Turpen, Ryan Fourt, and Ed Breazeale. The album features a variety of music including jazz standards, vocal pieces, and original compositions. Pianist Ben Markley serves as the director for the UW Jazz Studies area and contributed 4 originals and all of the arrangements to the date. All proceeds from this recording go to support the UW Jazz Studies Area.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

USA: Kris Davis & Craig Taborn-Octopus(2018)

On her 2016 album Duopoly, pianist Kris Davis highlighted her deeply attuned artistry as never before. Conceived as set of rotating duo performances, Duopoly found Davis in the company of Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Julian Lage, Marcus Gilmore and other musical giants. Of all these fascinating encounters, it was the pairing of Davis and fellow piano great Craig Taborn that sparked further extensive collaboration. Soon the two pianists would embark on a 12-city tour of the U.S., with new music for the occasion. Octopus, a magisterial live album drawn from three of those concerts, is the result.

Recalling the Duopoly session with Taborn, Davis writes in her liner notes: “From the moment we started playing I felt instantly transported and free within the music, and had the sense we could go anywhere.” Taborn responded similarly: “It was remarkable how effortless and inspired it felt. It was immediately apparent that it was easy to make music happen in this pairing and that we were well matched in terms of both aesthetics and approach.”

With the support of producer David Breskin and the Shifting Foundation, Davis and Taborn set out to translate their in-studio rapport to the concert stage, which resulted in the Octopus tour: from Brooklyn’s Roulette to Seattle’s Earshot Festival, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio and beyond. Ron Saint Germain, engineer on the Duopoly duo sessions, came along on the road with a recording rig designed to capture two grand pianos in a variety of spaces.

“The pieces on Octopus are the pieces we played every night on the tour,” Davis explains. “Each concert was different, in some cases radically so. We often left out large sections of the compositions in favor of developing new, wholly improvised sections which became more and more expansive.” Along with their new original works, the duo included absorbing interpretations of Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” and Sun Ra’s “Love in Outer Space.”

Of Davis’s two contributions, “Ossining” is the more contemplative and restrained, inspired by the composer’s recent move to the Hudson Valley with her husband, the guitarist Nate Radley, and their son, Benjamin. The move took place while Davis was on the Octopus tour. “Moving is always stressful and I wanted to be there with my family,” she says. “My son was walking me through the new house on the phone while we were traveling to each city, telling me all about his new room and the backyard, which we didn’t have in Brooklyn. I was missing out on those first impressions, but I was happy to have a little piece of the experience with him on the phone.”

Davis’s subtle prepared piano on “Ossining” serves not only to differentiate the piano sounds but to heighten their rhythmic interplay: “When I wrote the piece, I was listening to some West African music and looking into how some of it is constructed. I began studying this music with Abraham Adzenyah at Banff 20 years ago, and I’ve continued to be fascinated by it.”
There’s a very specific, conversational quality to this West African percussion music — trance-like repetition, variation and contrapuntal pulse. Davis was drawn to this, as it placed her and Taborn on an equal plane from the piece’s onset. She elaborates: “In performance, Craig and I intertwine a series of improvised repetitive rhythms, with the idea being that the whole supersedes the sum of the parts.”

The high dissonance and denser, more urgent rhythmic attack of Davis’s “Chatterbox” creates a striking contrast: brilliantly articulated masses of notes and harmonic ideas unfurl; Taborn ultimately grounds the piece in a more defined bass motion and Davis perceptively responds.

Taborn’s “Interruptions” transpire as three distinctly different pieces. “The ‘Interruptions’ were conceived as just that,” he reveals, “small composed pieces or objects that could be used within a larger improvisation to redirect or recondition the musical environment. They could be selected and dropped in at some point as a composed statement that interrupts another texture. They seemed to stand on their own enough as compositions, but I intended them almost as interstitial material. So there’s no through-line between them. I intended each one to change the musical space in different ways.”

The choice of Sun Ra’s elegant “Love in Outer Space” was Taborn’s: “I always liked it and thought it would work well in the two-piano context because of its interlocking groove.” It is here that the contrast between piano voices is most immediately apparent: Taborn plays the intro and the initial bass line, then Davis enters with the main melody. Davis brought in Carla Bley’s “Sing Me Softly of the Blues” (famously played by Art Farmer with Steve Kuhn in the mid-’60s), a 14-bar blues with a slowly unfolding, lopsided feel that morphs imperceptibly into Taborn’s third and final “Interruption.”

Whether leading her Capricorn Climber quintet or her four-bass-clarinet-octet Infrasound; working with the great Andrew Cyrille as a member of Eric Revis’s trio; or lifting up recent music by John Zorn, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tom Rainey, Michael Formanek, Ingrid Laubrock and more, Davis is one of the groundbreaking artists of our time, hailed by Jason Moran as “a freethinking, gifted pianist [who] lives in each note that she plays.”

Taborn’s recent ECM releases Chants, Daylight Ghosts and Avenging Angel, along with his work in Farmers By Nature, Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth and many others, have earned him distinction as “one of the greatest living pianists,” in the words of his colleague Vijay Iyer. Together, Davis and Taborn have a way of merging into “one sort of shape-shifting organism,” as Davis ventures in her liner notes. Octopus, evoking limitless limbs and rapid, graceful, unpredictable movements, is the Davis-Taborn sensibility incarnate.

OCTOPUS will be released January 28, 2018. For more information, contact: Matt Merewitz at Fully Altered Media - 914-556-6368 or