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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cuba Groovy!: 2014 Havana Jazz Fest Dec 17-22

The Havana International Jazz Festival (Cuba Jazz Festival) was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other well known Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza in downtown Havana. This is the origin of the title 'International Jazz Festival Plaza' because it finds its birth in this open-air venue. The Casa de la Cultura de Plaza hall, with its pleasant intimate outdoor terrace, is still one of the places where concerts and jam sessions take place. Based on this success, another Jazz festival was organized the following year, featuring pianist Chucho Valdes. Renowned artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Haden, Roy Hargrove, Jack DeJohnette, Danilo Perez became part of the Havana scene on a regular basis.
In 1996 Chucho Valdes became artistic director of the Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival and president of the Organizing Committee with Alexis Vazquez Aguilera as the vice president. The festival has since expanded to include all the main concert halls in downtown Havana, not to mention impromptu street jam sessions along the Malecon.
Chucho Valdes
Among the 2013 performing artists were Chucho Valdes, Arthur O'Farrill, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Bobby Carcasses, Roberto Fonseca, Harold Lopez-Nussa, Jorge Reyes, Yasek Manzano and the Cords Quartet, Naat Berahman, Michel Herrera, Ernan Lopez-Nussa, Klimax, Orlando Sanchez, Bellita y Jazztumbata, Emilio Morales, William Roblejo, Alfred Thompson, Habana d' Primera, Mezcla, Jesus Fuentes y Santo Tomas Conection, Oscar Valdes y Diakara, Ruy Lopez-Nussa, Cesar Lopez y Habana Ensemble, Rolando Luna, Javier Salva, Aire de Concierto, Emir Santa Cruz, Jorge Luis Pacheco, Sexto Sentido, Alejandro Falcon y Cubadentro, Ernesto Camilo Vega, Ta Bueno Jazz, Gala Mayor, Habana Sax and other Cuban Jazz musicians including Alexis Bosch y Proyecto de Jazz Cubano, Frank Fernandez and the Jazz Band conducted by Maestro Joaquin Betancourt, the National Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Enrique Perez Mesa, the Entrevoces Choir conducted by Digna Guerra and the Troy University Jazz Ensemble from the USA. The 2014 artist line-up will be announced very soon.

Travel form Jamaica to The 30th Annual Havana Jazz Festival can be arranged through Caribbean and Latin Travel Consultants Limited -

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Unbelievable Rewind"

Not content with the “Unbeleivable
That the music trail is a torturous one, is well known. The challenge is compounded further by the individual’s refusal to be anything but ordinary – to personify continuous upgrades in ability and accomplishment whilst retaining the in-bred wonder and passion for the artform.
Such has been the quest for Andres Lopez. The son of the Saint Catherine hills, he, like several of his generation,  gravitated to music from an early age.  He spent years in the orbit of several of Jamaica’s finest musicians, gathering knowledge, making his own observations. This exposure has had a tremendous influence on his development both as a performer and a producer. While at his alma mater, Claremont High, under the leadership of Nigel Powell, he became the school’s first band leader
Further refinement of his musical vision came via the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where he spent three years to further his studies in piano/keyboard skills. While there he was a member of the jazz quartet ‘Wide Grin”.  The quartet provided another avenue for him to further hone his skills by way of the many booked gigs they performed at.
Since leaving the institution, the pianist has steadily made a name for himself on the cocktail circuit, working in tandem with his schoolmates, other contemporaries as well as those who have preceded him. Lopez started doing piano gigs playing at weddings, cocktails, parties and cooperate functions. He also became an in-demand “side player” on projects and performances by the likes of gospel stars Chevelle Franklin and Sandra Brooks, and roots reggae stalwarts Fantan Mojah, Etana, Lutan Fyah, Anthony B and Alborosie. Such gigs have expectedly resulted in  the air miles piling up as he accompanied those acts on tours of the US, Canada, South America and Europe.

But Lopez has aspiration towards even brighter horizons and greater accomplishments. The album “Unbelievable”  his first full-length as a leder, manifested from his self-created I-Pez Productions in 2013, reaching the lofty number one spot on Internet channel Reverbnation instrumental charts. The 10-track set features several of his musical fellow-travellers: Nicholas Laraque on saxophones, Craig Henry on trumpet, Dugal Clarke on bass and Michael Mighty on drums. Standout tracks include  Charlie Parker’s be-bop standby, “Little Suede Shoes” an organ-driven cover of the Peter Tosh classic “Equal Rights” “Rubba Dub Ska” and the title track. World Vision.
Lopez is continuing to work in variety of settings – solo, small group and fusion bands. He is also looking to find new forms of expression as well, exploring a number of projects – among them is the “Rock Weh” riddim, which has attracted the attention of France-based production-promotion outfit Talowa Productions. The track features a number of artists, including multi-cultural French reggae group, The Banyans.
“I understand and appreciate the demands of the music business as it stands today, but I believe I can be true to myself and still make a mark both commercially and artistically,” he states, adding “its going to take some flexibility and a different level of effort, but I’m up for it.”
And, judging from the sounds of the disc, greater accomplishments are well in sight.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PINE for The Drum

-From thejazzbreakfast

Saxophonist Courtney Pine has been announced, together with poet Benjamin Zephaniah, as a patron of Birmingham intercultural arts centre The Drum, and will be crucial in encouraging high profile support of the centre’s expansion campaign.
The Drum’s press release reads like this:
Courtney Pine (Photo © John Watson/
Courtney Pine (Photo © John Watson/
We are delighted that Courtney Pine and Benjamin Zephaniah have chosen to lend us their support and encouragement for The Drum’s ongoing development, and in particular our Raising the Roof campaign. Both artists are long-time friends of Birmingham’s cultural scene, appearing and performing at The Drum in the past, and now helping ensure great future opportunities for our audiences and young people.
“It is a great honour to become a Patron of The Drum, particularly during the organisation’s twentieth anniversary. The Drum has evolved into an essential part of Birmingham’s cultural ecology, providing a creative intercultural platform in the UK’s most diverse city, which is home to Europe’s largest Under-16 population.
The Drum’s Raising the Roof campaign will increase the capacity of the Auditorium by a third, transforming it into a flexible, dynamic space… A place where individuals, groups and communities – whatever their age, culture of social background – will be welcome.
I do hope that you will join me in helping to make this visionary scheme a reality for young people in Birmingham.” - Courtney Pine CBE
“The Drum is the kind of place I would have liked to be around when I was growing up in Birmingham. It is so important to have places where young people can explore and develop their talent, which is exactly what The Drum’s Young Gifted Brum achieves so successfully.
Supporting The Drum means supporting some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK by giving them the creative platform they deserve. To do that you need the right place with the right equipment, and that’s why I’m so excited about The Drum’s Raising the Roof campaign, which is going to create a flexible dynamic space fit for the 21st Century.
It’s such an honour to have become a Patron of The Drum, and I am proud to ask you to join me and help bring their vision to reality. That’s what we do. We Keep it Real. ” – Dr Benjamin Zephaniah
Raising the Roof is a revolutionary £4.8 million plan to redesign, refurbish and upgrade The Drum with new features, facilities and equipment, including expanding our Auditorium capacity, and most importantly, improving and upgrading our services and facilities for young people working in Digital Arts, Dance, and Drama.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jazz DAY (2014) in J-A

Its described as THE global Jazz Jam: Since 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. The further caps a month of celebrations marking Jazz Appreciation Month.

Here in Jamaica, while the genre may have gone south in terms of mass appreciation from a few generations ago (when clubs like the Glass Bucket and Silver Slipper and bands like the Skatalites ruled the roost), there remains a nub of hardcore jazzophiles, many of whom will be heading to the Zinc Shack on the famed Hip Strip in second city Montego Bay, for the Jmaaican version of International Jazz Day.

This will take the form of a dance party/selector session presented by Gordon Wedderburn through his GW Jazz outfit. Wedderburn, who has hosted Jazz radio in the UK and also worked in the hospitality industry locally is committed to keeping Jamaica "in swing" with the rest of the world's jazz aficionados.

"Its our small way of recognizing the huge contributions of jazz to popular music and even of Jamaican musicians to jazz and music as a whole," he said in articulating the motive behind the event. "There'll be music for dancing and music for listening and just an overall atmosphere of good vibes."

Wedderburn, with support from musicophile and writer Michael Edwards previously staged a birthday tribute to the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti in October 2013, and plans are afoot to renew that event this year. Overall, the aim is to grow both events so as to be able to welcome live musical participation as the support base - and corporate interest - grows.

Internationally, Jazz Day 2014 celebrations will be centred in Osaka, Japan and will feature a wide array of live and synchronized acts, including giants Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

J& R Goes Under: Requiem for a record Store

One of the last bastions of music retail in the Big Apple having survived Sam Goody, Tower, Virgin, HMV and countless others who came and went over the years J&R Music World was a solid rock of retail.  
Opened in 1971 with one store on Park Row I can remember when Raachele Friedman worked the register in their record department down in the basement under her father’s upstairs electronics store.  From that one store they expanded to pretty much buying up all the real estate on that one block (except the hardware store) to an empire and giant of electronics retail with an international reputation.  
Back in the hey day of the record business J&R Music World probably sold more records per square inch then any retailer in the US.
In fact when they first started they paid all their vendors in cash.  I was a sales rep back then and believe me when I tell you they kept many an independent record distributor afloat with their cash flow.
From 1985 to 1987 I managed their jazz department,  a stand alone store on top of their classical store at 33 Park Row.
Back in those days the record business was flush.  You could sell records with both hands 9 to 5 with no problem.
During the lunch rush (Noon to 2) you could sell a box of records right off the wall of any new release you played in the store. 
I did ‘In Stores' with many jazz legends including Horace Silver, Abbey Lincoln and Wayne Shorter.
You never knew who would stop in the store.  One time the actor Matt Dillion came in looking for classic Be Bop records for a role he was considering.
The article in the New York Times says it’s a reorganization so who know’s what the future will bring.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Hard Rain" lands soflty yet unforgettably

From her sharp yet subtle interpretations of such pop classics as "Once In a Lifetime" [Talking Heads] and "I'm A Believer" [Monkees] to her adaptations of Nina Simone classics, Barb Jungr is one of our very favourite singers - however you wish to classify her music. We can't wait to hear for ourselves.
Advance word - as you can see below - on her latest CD, Hard Raid (in which she appropriates Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen) is more than positive, and we can't wait to hear it 
4 Stars Jazzwise
"Investing everything she sings with telling insight, Jungr's complete affinity with the material lends the collection a galvanising power."
8/10 Uncut
"The commanding and rhapsodic singing brings connection and insight…superlative arrangements….To give such standards precious new life is quite some achievement."
The Sunday Times
"1000 Kisses Deep is simple heart-stopping. Jungr's attention to timbre and nuance brings new depth to every syllable."
5 Stars Independent
"This music is the North American Songbook's climax, revealed by its greatest interpreter."
4 Stars The Times
"Enthralling…Jungr is the perfect interpreter of this kind of material.

Blues Matters
"An unforgettable release. Brilliant."

Doug Boynton

"For my money, Ms. Jungr is one of the best living tellers of Bob Dylan’s tales."
Track listing, track times and composer:
1. Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan)
2. Everybody Knows (Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson)
3. Who By Fire (Leonard Cohen)
4. Hard Rain (Bob Dylan)
5. First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)
6. Masters Of War (Bob Dylan)
7. It’s Alright Ma (Bob Dylan)
8. 1000 Kisses Deep (Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson)
9. Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan)
10. Land Of Plenty (Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson)
11. Chimes Of Freedom (Bob Dylan)


Monday, January 27, 2014

Jazzin the "New Land": Dennis Rushton Group at Terra Nova's Regency Bar & Lounge

its a most rewarding scene for an audience, whether composed of aficionados or musical neophytes, to hear musicians who not only have ability, but are clearly enjoying themselves.
Such was the scene last Thursday evening at the tony Regency bar & lounge, the Terra Nova's category-defining upgrade of its former El Dorado Room. Dennis Rushton on piano, Paul Madden on bass, Obed Davis on drums and Ian Hird on alto sax and flute treated a very receptive gathering to a night of rumbling resonance, sharp stick work, sonorous keyboard runs and plangent horns.

No surprises on the set list, of course. Starting with the Joe Zawinul-Cannonball Adderly classic Mercy Mercy Mercy and encompassing Nat King Cole's "L-O-v-E" Spyro Gyra's "morning Dancer" and "Blue Monk" among others. It is part of the commercial aspirations of the project, after all, to set a familiar and refreshing scene for the executive, professional and self-made types who gradually brought the room to near capacity over the course of the 3-set show.Conversations of all types were conducted in the chic lounge and on the adjoining terrace. A multi-screen plasma composite, mounted on the far wall facing the entrance showed muted hip-hop/r n'b videos, and ironic counterpoint to the music on the floor.

That said, musical aspirations were undoubtedly met, and the interplay between the four - all longtime fellow travelers on the city's cocktail music circuit - was palpable and made for a hugely enjoyable evening. Madden and Davis have grown beyond even their considerable talents of a few years ago - Madden coaxing deep resonance from the irridiscent strings of his instrument. Davis meanwhile continues to show the fruits of continuous application and study of the trapset - offering bursts of speed and power without sacrificing musicality nor slipping too far from his bandmates. His work on the high-hat was particularly distinguished on the night.

While working the flute on a couple selections, Hird reeled off some tart alto sax runs, including one extended solo that literally brought all other proceedings to a halt and elicited cheers from even the white-jacketed bartenders behind the counter. Leader Rushton smartly worked a modulated version of  his more outre show mode - offering tasteful fills punctuated, rather than obliterated, by appropriate flourishes.

This show was the third since the inauguration of the weekly series, the prior ones sadly missed by this writer. Not that it was even needed, but the night's performance provided ample incentive for more consistent attendance going forward.