Filtering by Category: Wildcard

Wildcard - Jason Mears

JASON MEARS, from Alaska, is a saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, improviser, and educator who is currently living in New York City. As well as being a member of the the highly acclaimed Empty Cage Quartet, Jason’s most recent projects include Anthony Braxton’s Trillium E Orchestra, Wadada Leo Smith’s Silver Orchestra, and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day Octet. Jason's 20 TON BRIDGE will be performing this Saturday, June 20th from 8:30-10:30pm at IBeam, 168 7th St, Brooklyn, NY 11215 -- with Quentin Tolimieri - keyboard, James Ilginfritz - bass, Andrew Drury - drums.

imaginative structures and forms music encourages risk-taking not perfection ensembles are fluid voices/orchestration/group dynamics can/do change instantaneously rhythmic elasticity instantly recognizable tones balancing on the edge where composition and improvisation meet myriad influences coalesce ensemble realization and exploitation of unique moments during performance multi-directional multi-dimensional

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Both of these records are like having these masters in your living room playing whatever tunes come to their mind. Wow. Bob Dylan - World Gone Wrong



Wildcard - Theo Bleckmann

A jazz singer and new music composer of eclectic tastes and prodigious gifts, GRAMMY® nominated Theo Bleckmann makes music that is accessibly sophisticated, unsentimentally emotional, and seriously playful, leading his work to be described as “from another planet” (New York Times), as “magical, futuristic,” (AllAboutJazz), “limitless” (Citypaper, Philadelphia) “transcendent” (Village Voice) and “brilliant” (New York Magazine). Theo Bleckmann will be performing June 16-21 in residence at The Stone in New York City. For more information visit:

Also be sure to check out the newly released Julia Hulsmann Quartet with Theo Bleckmann recording "A Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill and America," which just received this great review on

Judee Sill - Judee Sill

I was a bit shocked to see that I had listened to Judee’s Sill song “Jesus was a Cross Maker” 1123 times. And it’s still not enough. She’s probably the biggest secret of any singer-songwriter out there. The lovely folks of Kneebody brought her music to my attention. A few years back we collaborated on a Judee Sill project that we performed only a few times.

Her writing, singing and lyrics are easily on the level of, lets say, Joni Mitchell. Her all too short life (she died in 1979) and her even stranger CV certainly have to potential to make her a cult figure. Why isn’t she more known? Perhaps because she only put out two records? But let’s get back to the actual music, which is deeply influenced by Bach and his forms. Her lyrics speak of Christianity and redemption but somehow don’t come off as proselytizing or missionary to me. He beautifully simple, straightforward singing serves the music and content and there is nothing superfluous or distracting in her delivery - no false emoting. Listen to “The Donor” with its many tracks of male and female overdubs of echo-y voices singing Kyrie Elision, recorded way before looping or that kind of layering were common practice. More than a trailblazer in studio work, her music works in the context of her own recording and as stand-alone compositions. Check out her live studio recording of “The Kiss” on YouTube, shot at the BBC in 1973: Mesmerizing.

Johánn Johannsson - Miners’ Hymns

Obsessed with Johannsson’s music for a while, this might be his crown jewel. The orchestration and performance of these pieces is lush and thick and despite the ambient and repetitive character of his music it never seems to wear off. Or as Brian Eno says: Repetition is a form of change. Miners’ Hymns is the soundtrack to a beautiful and equally epic film by Bill Morrison about the ill-fated coal mining communities in Northeast England. The film has no dialogue, so Johannsson’s music serves as the story teller. I can highly recommend both, as a night of visual and aural immersion.

Gian Slater - Still Still

One of the most interesting (jazz) singer-composer-lyricists comes from Melbourne Australia. I have been listening to this collection of songs since Gian gave me an advance copy three years ago, and it’s been a staple in my listening rotation ever since. Besides her impeccable musicianship, intonation and improvisational skills, her depth really knocks me over each time. She gets to an emotional truth through actual content in her writing and singing. I love Gian’s use of metaphors and images in her lyrics.

“I’m my own worst enemy

And the friend I really need

Take advice that I would give”

In another song (unfortunately not on this record) she sings:

“ I’d like someone who is tall as a tower

who doesn’t move an inch when the wind blows.

With concrete skin, unshakable power, don’t let nobody in through your front door.

But here you go defender of so and so

You stand on your pedestal tall watching them all down below.”

Gian’s voice is light and precise. There is such sweetness and innocence in her pure and clear sound, and yet her lyrics can sometimes be dark or mysterious; a wonderful contradiction that lures you in when you least expect it to.

Peter Garland - The Days Run Away

John Hollenbeck played this record for me over 10 years ago and I am still listening to these solo piano pieces with the same excitement and wonder as I did when I first heard them. The writing on this record has deeply influenced my own writing. The combination of Satie and Mal Waldron in this music shimmers with detail and mystery. The pieces take their time to unravel and I appreciate the calmness and steady pace at which they move. They often feel more like sculptures than music. This is a record that always makes me stop whatever I am doing and truly listen.

Wildcard - Michael Oien

Michael Oien is a bassist and composer who lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Kim. His debut record And Now (Fresh Sound/New Talent) will be released on June 2nd (but is available now on iTunes). The record also features Matthew Stevens (guitar), Nick Videen (alto sax), Jamie Reynolds (piano), Eric Doob (drums), and Travis Laplante (tenor sax). The album release show for And Now will be at Barbès (376 9th st Brooklyn, New York) on July 21st at 7PM.

When attempting to explain my record, I often say that it is a collection of music that I wrote during the last 10 years living in New York. There are quite a few albums that stuck with me over that time period, but these five stuck out to me the most as music that was seemingly always playing on my CD player, computer, or iPod. There won’t be much musical analysis here.

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Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A Changin’

I was super late to the game on Bob Dylan compared to most people and didn’t begin my Dylan-obsessed period until I was maybe 23 and moving to the city. I got into his music during what I would call the “honeymoon phase” of living in New York. During this time I spent my gig-less, jobless, days wandering the Village, going to bars and cafés where Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas etc. would frequent. I really became enamored with Bob Dylan’s gift for melody, but more than anything his poetry. I also embraced our Midwest connection as Bob Dylan was born not too far from where I grew up. I think that I have always felt we shared the feeling that we were outsiders growing up in the upper Midwest, yet didn’t identify as New Yorkers either.



St Vincent – Marry Me

Annie Clark was a student at Berklee at the same time that I was there. The first time that I heard her music under the St. Vincent moniker I fell in love with her/the band on a musical level, not knowing it was someone who had at one point been a classmate of mine at music school. What great songwriting and what a great record. My roommate at the time (and stellar guitarist) Sasha Brown turned me on to this album and it continues to be something that I revisit.



The National – High Violet

I used to see these gentlemen hanging out at Sycamore in Brooklyn all the time and was well aware of them by name because people would always point them out to me. At some point I finally decided to check out their music, and this was the album that I bought. Their lyrics remind me of Bob Dylan's and Adam Duritz’s, in that they paint such beautiful non-literal pictures. The stories that these great lyricists tell are collections of haunting non-sequiturs that eventually and inevitably make sense as a whole. It’s music, but it's also the art of storytelling.

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The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring

I had to write a paper on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring my sophomore year at the University of Minnesota for music history class, which really gave me some insight into how great it is as both a composition and a ballet. I drove from Brooklyn to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin last summer and I will never forget listening to The Bad Plus’ condensed piano trio version over and over while driving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Attempting to do justice to such a great work of art with only piano, bass, and drums takes a lot of nerve. But Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Dave King absolutely hit it out of the park here.

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Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues

Although I admit I am not a big fan of this album title, I absolutely love this record. I cannot claim it to be an influence on my upcoming release (And Now – June 2nd - check it out!) since that was all finished before The Phosphorescent Blues was released, but right now I just can’t stop listening to this music. Chris Thile is a virtuosic Mandolin player and I think that he and this great band are helping to set a new standard for improvisation that defies genre. Perhaps too many of our great improvisers are bound by the jazz world. I think that should change.

Wildcard - Liberté-Anne Lymberiou

Black Saint and the Sinner Lady – Charles Mingus

What can I say? Everyone knows this album is bad. But the first time I heard it, I was put in a trance. I remember where I was, walking up Convent Avenue on a warm May evening, isolated in my headphones, sun coming down... It’s just so raw, so un-inhibited, so focused in the desire to express what is in the soul. Mingus is my soul-mate (I feel), and I love everything he’s done, but this album is so special. It’s tortured, it’s in love, it is anger that morphs into creation. On a technical level, it helped me understand landscaping in long-form composition. It actually encouraged me to write longer form pieces for big band, giving me some kind of road-map. I suggest reading the liner notes. You can even find PDFs of the original manuscript online.

Requiem in D minor – Gabriel Fauré (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus, John Birch, Sir Neville Marriner)

I sang this in the required choir class in college, straight out of high school, when I was not yet into jazz or composition, or anything really. I enjoyed the piece very much, but forgot about it. Some 4 years later, I remembered it. This is Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, I believe written and revised between 1887 and 1900. Let me just specify that I really like this recording because of the balance: none of the voices are over-powering and the orchestra sounds great.

So, I LOVE this piece because the harmonies and the general slowness really pull at my heartstrings. I am plunged (or rather lifted) into some kind of dark heaven (I’m not sure how else to put it). It’s just very sad, but always striving towards optimism (I guess that’s the purpose of a Requiem). Much of the piece is this great, begging, lament that shifts so smoothly yet unexpectedly from minor to major and back that you kept help but letting yourself go, whether listening or performing. Then there are the chords that you just don’t know... but they are chilling, especially in the vocals. Finally, the ecstasy of redemption... a beautiful and moving expression.  The entire text is in Latin, and I feel it’s useful to look up a translation to know what each movement is about. I come back to this piece a lot to lift chords but also just get deeper into the movement of it, the shapes and landscapes of the composition, and how to re-create that in a jazz setting.

Let's Talk About Love – Céline Dion

I know, it’s Céline Dion. But “Let’s Talk About Love” is, I believe, is the only album that I diligently listened to between the ages of 6 and 8, before shame put me off it. I would walk around the block listening to the cassette in my yellow walkman. I could sing all the lyrics of My Heart Will Go On, and I had just learned English. Anyway, in the past couple of years, I started listening to this album again purely from a sentimental standpoint. I realized, with a mix of pride and embarrassment, that I love the climactic pop arrangements and the intensity and determination with which she sings everything and anything! Céline is a powerhouse. There are many beautiful and well-written tunes on this, and several of them serve as encouragement for me when I’m feeling down or in need of direction. Love Is on the Way is one of those. Realizing this in myself serves as a reminder that music has healing power, so I keep that truth in mind when I write. And never forget your inner child!!

Let's Get Free – dead prez

I was introduced to dead prez and “Let’s Get Free” a couple years ago. After hearing one track, “It’s Bigger then Hip Hop”, I quickly bought the album. Now I’m slowly digesting it. This is raw, real hip hop, true reality. No room for “interpretation”. It is clear from the intro what the artists are about: exposing white imperialism, and organizing Black, Brown and oppressed nationalities to change the status quo by any means necessary. This is art for the people: informing us, exposing all, and broadening horizons.
Their lyrics are to the point and un-metaphorical, while leaving much room for the mind to imagine and empathize with the stories. dead prez speak of community control, socialism, communism, mass incarceration, police brutality, government corruption, “education”...  issues that too few artists  really address. dead prez achieves this with much detail and practicality, NO APOLOGIES. This is the kind of album that makes you want to research every line and learn what it’s all about. Besides for politics, this album is also a lesson on healthy living, discipline, and the simple pleasures of life and making love. It’s bigger then hip hop, bigger then jazz. Music has much power of communication and action. I’m trying to figure out how to get this through in my own music.

Ain't Necessarily So – Andy Bey

THE MOST UNDERRATED CAT!!! Too few people know about Andy Bey, master vocalist and pianist. You can catch him at Zinc Bar or Fat Cat or some other dive, maybe once a month (he’s very difficult to track). I think I found this album on iTunes randomly while searching for a tune. I need not praise his technical prowess and fresh pianisisms, you can do that yourself. But this man moves me:  I cried when I heard him live, and I still cry listening to the ballads off this album, like Hey, Love, On Second Thought, and Someone To Watch Over Me. I feel like he’s telling the most personal, painful and ecstatic secrets just to me. All the joys and disappointments of life seem to be contained in this album. The real-life tempos, the way he presses a word, how he soars to emotional sonic heights... it’s beautiful. Please, buy his music, get acquainted, he is such a gem.

Liberté-Anne Lymberiou is a composer, vocalist and pianist from Montreal, now living in NYC. She is the founder and leader of The Liberty Big Band.

Wildcard - Chris Misch-Bloxdorf

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

I’m going to preface this by saying that when I started writing this I had not yet checked out the group Freestyle Fellowship. I will have to say that after listening to the Freestyle Fellowship I felt weird about giving props to any rapper without paying respect to those dudes. If you have any interest in hip-hop…rapped poetics…scatting…or insane rhythm I highly recommend checking out the Freestyle Fellowship.

It is very rare when an album is released that has the potential to affect the course of (popular) music. Kendrick’s major-label sophomore release, although not necessarily redefining hip-hop, has brought the aesthetics of underground hip-hop to a mainstream audience. The album is a genius amalgamation of jazz, hip-hop, soul, and funk that is concisely threaded together by Kendrick’s virtuosic, brimming on the edge of prophetic, rapping. I mean…the dude seriously is a word-smith. The album consists of tons of amazing collaboration including contributions from other redonkulous musicians such as Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, Pharrell, George Clinton, Flying Lotus, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert “Sput” Searight, Robert Glasper and Bilal just to name a few. Although Kendrick is typically at the forefront of the tracks, there are a lot of great musical segues in which each aforementioned musician displays brief snippets of their individual preeminent musicality. However, the overall composite of the collective of musicians on this album creates a perfect visceral soundscape that only increases the effectiveness of Kendrick’s delivery…which makes total sense given the line-up.

Kendrick delivers fully what I had anticipated…but full disclosure that I am a fan of pretty much everything he does. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is still one of the albums I listen to on a weekly basis. To Pimp a Butterfly is not only a response to social and political issues that are relevant on a systemic level, but also remain true to providing a continuation and reflection of Kendrick’s personal narrative that began with GKMC. His content provides masterful metaphors coupled with astounding rhythmic phrasing. At times it seems as if Kendrick is improvising the phrasing around some kind of verbal cadence (check out “For Free?”). Kendrick also does a lot in the realm of voice manipulation sometimes emulating influences such as Tupac, a common theme on this album (“Alright” and “King Kunta”), while at other times executing vocals that sound distraught and even on the verge of tears adding to the overall ethos of the album (“Blacker the Berry” and “u”). The album is progressive in terms of musical definition and social commentary while never reaching the point of being “preachy.” There is a mantra that remains a constant connective tissue for the album that begins, “I remember you was conflicted – Misusing your influence…” This mantra reappears several times over until the full message is revealed at the end of the album with an interview that Kendrick stringed together like Frankenstein’s monster between himself and Tupac Shakur. This final statement just adds to the storybook narrative that Kendrick executes so successfully. My main beef with the album is that it is such a well-constructed album….and by that, I mean that the tracks individually aren’t nearly as strong as the project in its entirety. This is a good problem to have…but I don’t find myself as interested track by track.

THAT’S THAT SHIT I DO LIKE aka if you like Kendrick, you might like these too -- Action Bronson: Mr. Wonderful, Earl Sweatshirt: I Don’t like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, Roc Marciano: Marci Beaucoup, Freestyle Fellowship: Innercity Griots

Ibeyi: Ibeyi

Ibeyi is a duo comprised of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. This album provides a great collective of folk music in an authentic context brought into the mainstream and modern vein through the artistry of these two sisters. Their heritage is brought to the forefront in much of their music exploring avenues of the cross-road between traditional Afro-Cuban folk music and modern popular music. Being the daughters of prominent Afro-Cuban musician Anga Diaz, Ibeyi utilizes instruments such as cahon and bata on several of the tracks. The traditional use of bata is emphasized with some electronic bass to give some more body to the tracks…but man when the beat drops on “Oya” I can’t help but groove/vibe out. I tend to dig the first half of this album more than the back half…but it’s still really good throughout. The album has a lot of variety to it in terms of interesting grooves, mood and super beautiful melodies. I think my favorite track on the album is entitled “Ghosts”…it pretty much has all the component that make me love this band: funky groove, cool vocal layering, and awesome traditional Afro-Cuban folk melodies.

GROOVE…FOLK YEAH! aka if you like Ibeyi, you might like these too -- Bon Iver: Itunes Sessions, Meshell Ndegeocello: Comet, Come to Me, James Blake: Overgrown, Bjork: Vulnicura

Nico Muhly: Drones

Nico Muhly has been one of my favorite contemporary classical composers since I first heard his album Mothertongue a couple years back. As a contemporary of Philip Glass and John Corigliano, Muhly is well-versed in minimalist aesthetics while combining interesting timbres and emotionally compelling chordal structures of an enormous variety. He is part of a stream of modern composers that defy genre captivity and recently co-wrote a suite of music with Bryce Dessner and Sufjan Stevens entitled “Planetarium.” Outside of this, he continues to depart from the typical loop structured compositional style of Glass, and many minimalist composers, in order to create some truly amazing thru-composed material that still evokes a trance-like state.

The concept behind Drones is a collection of duos in which Muhly juxtaposes a series of drones against overarching melodic material. This leads to incredible moments of harmonic tension followed by grandeur moments of resounding resolution. When I heard Drones for the first time I could not figure out how the musicians were able to execute the fluidity of the immensely complex rhythmic ideas against the enduring sequence of drones in such an organic manner. So I emailed Nico…which means I emailed the person who handles Muhly’s emails…and “they” were nice enough to send me the scores. Upon studying the notation I realized quickly that much of the material is written in cells, which allows for the musician to essentially improvise much of their interpretation of the performance. This is one of the reasons I like this album so much; a cross between strongly written material and powerfully emotive interpretations. A personal favorite of mine is “Part 1 Material in D” in which the musicality of performers Nadia Sirota and Thomas Bartlett is captured equally through their responsiveness to each other as their use of breathe. I also reeeeally like “Part III (The 8th Tune)” and “Drones in Large Cycle.”

IT’S SO PRETTY aka if you like Nico, you might like these too -- yMusic: Balance Problems, Cecile Ousset: Debussy & Ravel, David Lang: Death Speaks, Igor Stravinsky: Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky

Ben Wendel: The Seasons

Ben (babe) Wendel is probably one of the most continuously unique voices in the modern jazz community. He is consistently tied to some of the projects I am most excited by…and is really frickin’ good at the saxophone…also… BASSOON! How awesome is that. So recently when a friend sent me a link to his new composition project The Seasons I was pretty amped. The project is a series of 12 duets composed by and featuring Ben, dedicated to 12 musicians released throughout the 12 months of 2015. So thus far there are only three, but they are each super tasty. The first “January” features Taylor Eigsti, the second “February” features Joshua Redman, and the third “March” features Matt Brewer. Each composition seems to be comprised of short melodic fragments tied together by beautifully constructed improvised sections. Two Thumbs UP!! I think my favorite is “March”…that may just be because...bassoon.

KEEP IT UP JAZZ-HOLE aka if you like Ben, you might like these too -- Alan Ferber: March Sublime, Tigran Hamasyan: Mockroot, Happy Apple: Please Refrain From Fronting, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Ike Sturm: Jazz Mass

Chris Misch-Bloxdorf has a hyphenated last name, likes wearing hats, thinks Ample Hills Creamery is the best ice cream around, plays trombone, lives in Brooklyn (but is from WISCONSIN), and composes music. Catch the Chris Misch-Bloxdorf DECTET this Monday, April 13th at 7pm as part of Wing Walker Music Presents: Live at ShapeShifter Lab.

Wildcard - Old Time Musketry

"Drifter" continues 

Old Time Musketry

's pursuit of a distinctly American music that draws on the exuberant spirit of jazz, the poignant melodies and soulful grooves of rock and folk music, and the energy and spontaneity of free improvisation.  The new album is the follow-up to Old Time Musketry's critically acclaimed debut, "Different Times," which received a four-star rating in Downbeat Magazine and inclusion in their year-end "Best Albums" list.

"Drifter" is out March 31st on NCM East Records. The NYC release show is Sunday, April 5th at 8:30pm at Cornelia Street Cafe.

Adam Schneit:

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Dolly Parton / Emmylou Harris / Linda Ronstadt: Trio

I saw Emmylou Harris perform this past summer at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and it was the best show I've seen in a while. Some people make the claim that Emmylou is a more compelling harmony singer than a lead singer...I don't necessarily agree, but it got me thinking about the magic of vocal harmony when wielded by folks as skillful as the ones on this album: Dolly Parton, Emmylou, and Linda Ronstadt. There is nothing that gives me more of a visceral emotional response than voices so attuned to and supportive of one another that one almost embodies the same space as the if for a moment, one could actually understand in a hyper-empathic way what it is actually like to *be* that other person. A total subsuming of one's ego in support of another.  I've had glimpses of this in my own musical life: playing harmonies behind a great singer and feeling chills and losing myself when that indescribable sense of communion is momentarily reached; or with a band or in a free improvisation, where spontaneously something is arrived at that instantly eliminates the space between separate selves and opens up something that feels limitless. It's the greatest feeling. Granted, there's a bit of cheesy production on this album and not all the songs are my favorites. But the depth and weight of these singers' experiences in combination with another represent something really magical and inspirational...something close to real empathy and compassion in music.

JP Schlegelmilch:

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Franz Schubert 


 - Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake

Every winter I like to spend some quality time staring into the abyss of Schubert's dark song cycle 


. This year my listening was intensified by the brutal winter weather and by discovering the tenor Ian Bostridge's amazing recordings. Bostridge also made a series of music videos to accompany the songs which really capture the desolate, existential angst of the music and poetry.

Max Goldman:

"Street Woman" by Ornette Coleman from The Science Fiction Sessions

I recently found myself out late in Williamsburg (don't judge me) and instead of taking a cab or the train home I decided to make the walk back home in the cold.  I put on the Science Fictions Sessions as I made my way along the still industrial East River waterfront.

The melody has an incredible forward  motion and floats in and out of time with the unbelievably propulsive groove of Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell.  I've always felt there was something other worldly and haunting about this record and it's one that I am always grateful to come back to.

Wildcard - TWIN TALK

TWIN TALK is drummer Andrew Green, saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, and bassist/vocalist Katie Ernst. TWIN TALK is a Chicago-based band that tours frequently throughout the US.  They have been featured at the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival and the 2014 Hyde Park Jazz Festival.  In Chicago, TWIN TALK has presented music for the ears&eyes series, Gilt Bar’s Trio in Curio, the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s NextGenJazz series, and the Whistler’s RelaxAttack jazz series.

Listen to TWIN TALK's "Skoops" on the Spring 2015 Wing Walker Mixtape!

Katie Ernst:

Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon

My friend and musical accomplice Stu Mindeman introduced me to Laura Mvula a few months ago, and I have listened to this record eight million times since then.  Note that there are two versions -  the original studio album, and a version featuring the Metropole Orkest.  Both are incredible. Get both.  Laura Mvula is a British singer and composer with so much substance.  The lyrics are wise and well-crafted, the melodies haunting and folksy, and the arrangements are rich and expertly designed.  I've looped the song  "I Don't Know What the Weather Will Be" for days on end. You can dance to "Green Garden" and "That's Alright" and weep openly to "Father Father."  I can't express more praise for this album.

In five words: lush, heartbreaking, orchestral, brilliant, sincere

Betty Carter - Droppin' Things

I was late to the game on Betty Carter, but I'm making up for lost time. This record is pure jazz. Recorded live in 1990, "Droppin Things" swings and mourns, laughs, and whispers.  You can feel the intensity of the rhythm section presence in each current moment, and the music flings forward accordingly.  Betty's voice is elastic and playful and uninhibited. Her version of "Stardust/Memories of You" is a highlight.  Throughout the album, Betty Carter is as much a lyrical storyteller as she is part of the instrumental front line.  I particularly love the poetry of her words in"30 Years" and "Droppin Things."  I'm a big fan of the work of the 1920's poet Dorothy Parker, and Betty's lyrics remind me of the poignant 'punch lines' and cynical wit of a Parker poem.  Treat yourself to this album asap if you haven't heard it yet.

In five words: alive, fearless, malleable, momentum, boundless

Dustin Laurenzi:

Jeff Parker - Bright Light In Winter

I moved to Chicago right around the time Jeff was making the transition to LA, but luckily he’s back fairly frequently. Every time I get to hear or play with him it’s so inspiring, and it’s always a learning experience. This record has such a distinctive vibe, the whole thing really feels like an album, rather than just a collection of songs. Jeff, Chris Lopes, and Chad Taylor are really patient musicians, and part of the beauty of this record is in how they’re able to sort of coast on different grooves and still keep you completely engaged. They’re also super adventurous improvisors, and aren’t afraid to go for something and miss it every once in a while. For me, that’s refreshing to hear in a “modern” jazz recording. This album taught me a lot about simplicity and clarity in composing and improvising, and hopefully some of that comes through in my music.

“Mainz”, “Bright Light Black Site”, and “Good Days (for Lee Anne)” are a few of my favorites.

Tune-Yards - WHOKILL

I have a cassette tape of Merrill Garbus’ first album, Bird-Brains, that I bought after hearing her at a coffee shop in Bloomington, IN probably 5 years ago. I was really amazed by her performance, and listened the tape every once in a while. I liked a lot of the songs and the lo-fi presentation, but eventually I kind of forgot about it. Recently I had been hearing more about Tune-Yards, so I decided to buy WHOKILL. I’m always a fan of combining the familiar and the strange, and this record is full of that. There are catchy melodies all over the place, but they’re usually countered with some jarring samples or displaced rhythms that keep everything from feeling too comfortable (I mean this in a good way). Oh, and her voice is incredible! I think I’ll be coming back to this one for a while.

Some highlights: the vocal sample melody on “Bizness”, the bass line and chaos at the end of “Gangsta”, the groove on “You Yes You”.

Andrew Green:

Tigran Hamasyan - Shadow Theater (2013)

A good friend of mine introduced me to Tigran when we were in college.  I found his music to be highly complex and technically challenging but also quite sensitive and emotional.  With influences ranging from Armenian folk to modern jazz to prog-rock, Tigran’s sound is very exciting and engaging.  While I enjoyed his older albums, Shadow Theater is a more recent outing that seems more mature and focused as a whole record.  I remember reading somewhere that Tigran approached it more as a pop record than a jazz record and the production is intense, but very appropriate throughout, creating a unifying sound palette despite many different styles.  The flow of the album is beautiful, pairing fast and disjunct grooves with slow and lyrical counterparts.  Despite all of the rhythmic complexity, there is a heavy overarching folk vibe to the record.  I suspect this one will stay on my “most-played” list for a long time.

Drummer’s perspective - Tigran’s music is some of the most intense and intricate music that I’ve ever heard.  Nate Wood navigates smoothly through the many meter changes, metric modulations, polyrhythms and hyper-complex beats, matching Tigran’s power note for note.  Check out the 3-note groupings in 5 on “The Poet”, the jagged 5/4 grooves on “Erishta”, whatever is going on in “Drip” and pretty much everything about “The Court Jester”.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk (2013)

This band is blowing up right now!  And for good reason… They have an unique fresh sound and seem to ignore all convention and tradition wherever it would inhibit their ability to freely express themselves.  The album is technically an EP and is only 30 minutes long - just enough time to become completely enraptured before it ends, leaving you wanting more! Nai Palm’s vocals are soulful, floaty, and mysterious and her melodic choices stand out, soaring above the band without leaving it behind.  The futuristic electronic soundscape is often juxtaposed by lo-fi drum and vocal sounds and the production is extensive and innovative without compromising the music.  I could listen to this album anytime.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!  Be on the lookout for their full length new album, Choose Your Weapon, set to be released on May 5th, 2015.

Drummer Perspective - Perrin Moss’ beats are infectious.  They pop into my head all the time.  His playing is confident and yet understated, always serving the song and group vibe.  Check out the slick groove on “Boom Child”, the Dilla-esque “Sphinx Gate”, the crazy hiccuped “Ocelot”, and the 12/8ish grooves on “Lace Skull”.

Wildcard - Michael Sarian

D’Angelo – Black Messiah

As if anyone else hasn’t been listening to this album non-stop, right? I wouldn’t listen to anything else when it came out last December, took a few months off, now it’s back in rotation. When D’Angelo came out with his first two albums, I was a kid in Argentina, so I only heard a few tracks here and there – never got really into him (although I did download Untitled from Napster and listened to that a whole lot). So I wasn’t desperately awaiting this album… but I should have been. It’s incredibly tight and filled with all these nuances and details: like throughout a whole track there’ll be clapping on 2 and 4, but then all of a sudden, just on one bar, for one split second, they won’t clap on 4. That blows my mind – the bass and drums are so together you get into this almost meditative state, and shit like that just snaps you out of it and forces you to pay attention.

Then obviously, once I figured out what D’Angelo was actually saying (thanks to social media and all that), I learned that it’s full of political and social commentary taking it to a whole different level.

Pescado Rabioso – Artaud

Before leaving Argentina for the first time in 2004, I realized that, at 19, I hadn’t really engulfed all that the local rock scene had to offer, so decided to go to as many shows as I could. Among the many, was Luis Alberto Spinetta. I remember being turned off because he yelled at some dude in the audience who was filming him.

Time can change things, and so after 11 years I really don’t care if he chewed some dude out at a show (it didn’t take 11 years, but you get the idea). This guy’s music and voice really defined and changed Argentine music in the past 50 years. I recently took a composition workshop given by Guillermo Klein, and one of the exercises he gave us was writing a melody to a poem that doesn’t rhyme. He then played us Por, by Pescado Rabioso (one of Spinetta’s bands in the 70s), a 1:45min song with Spinetta singing and playing acoustic guitar. The lyrics don’t make sense, but that’s because he apparently took words out of a hat or something, and wrote a melody to those random words. So this is something I’m actually working on: getting sentences/words/poems/lyrics that don’t make sense and writing a melody.

Guillermo Klein – Live At The Village Vanguard

Guillermo has always been one of my favorite composers. I’ve seen him and his band ‘Los Guachos’ countless times. His compositions blur the line between singer-songwriter, jazz, and whatever else you want to call so-called ‘academic music’. Just like with D’Angelo’s tracks, you can get lost in them: the tunes flow, but if you pay attention there are all of these meter changes, metric modulations… moments of brilliance.

I caught a couple of the sets at the Village Vanguard when Guillermo was recording. Some of the guys working at the Vanguard said it was some of the best music they’ve ever heard at the club. Liliana Herrero, an Argentine singer, was with the band for their stay there, and her voice really pierces through your heart. She took it to another level. Guillermo also sings, he always has. It took me a while to really appreciate his singing voice – he’s not your traditional jazz vocalist by a long, very long shot, but you can tell he means what he says, like he’s really telling you something.

There’s nothing like walking around snowy New York City while listening to ‘Eternauta’, the last track.



Kenny Warren – Laila and Smitty

Truth be told, I only have about 4 albums on my iPhone. Three of which are D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Guillermo Klein’s Live At The Village Vanguard, and Kenny Warren’s Laila and Smitty. I downloaded the last one shortly after hearing it on his bandcamp page. Much like Klein, I really dig the story telling and the singer-songwriterish vibe of the songs. Plus Kenny’s singing reminds me of a less pop/corny version of Rod Stewart, in a good way (especially on the track Questions).

I know for a fact Kenny is a ridiculous trumpet player, but he doesn’t really showcase it as much in this album, he puts the compositions in the forefront. His playing throughout the album is really melodic, and not a whole lot of extended improvisation. Plus he’s got that whole Americana thing going on, and he blends his horn perfectly with the slide guitar and rest of the band. The combination of this album and Klein’s (and Pescado Rabioso) is really prompting me to write melodies for lyrics.

Plus there’s this line right here from the track Warm My Soul: “And I want you to be who you are when you’re dreaming. Who you are when you’re drinking, but without all the drinking.”

Michael Sarian is a trumpeter and composer whose work has been heard throughout the United States, South America and Europe. Subtitles, his debut recording as a bandleader, is out now on Pulled Pork Records.

Wildcard - Josh Holcomb

Eddie Lang - A Little Love, a Little Kiss

I love the sound of acoustic guitar (pretty much acoustic anything!) and to me that sound is captured perfectly in this recording. Eddie Lang came from a time before amplification and, as a result, he set up his guitar for maximum projection. This projection had its costs though, the very high action and thick strings on his axe would be considered virtually unplayable by today's standards. While Eddie had dazzling virtuoso technique on both guitar and violin, he almost always opted to play beautiful, subtle and lyrical solos that made the most use of the instrument's natural sound. I always try to promote Eddie Lang in the hope that unamplified acoustic guitar makes a comeback in jazz!



Maxo: Frozen Foot

Maxo was a high school classmate of mine and he's been one of my favorite composers for many years now. Back in 2010 (when he was only 19) Maxo began releasing a series of albums he dubbed "Level Music". Each album features 5 tracks, each track capturing the mood of a fictitious video game level. The titles of the "levels" are always incredibly appropriate to each track. Maxo even creates 8-bit graphics for each level on his album covers! This recording always transports me to an old abandoned and frozen world with mysterious and regal relics of its once glorious past. (epic!) I find it very interesting to see an example of a modern composer using programatic devices in such an accessible and effective way. He is extraordinarily prolific and ha released a dizzying amount of level music albums, check him out!

Gospel Shout at the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, North Carolina

Gospel Shout at the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, North Carolina

United House of Prayer Shout Bands

Founded in the early 1920's, the United House of Prayer For All People boasts a rich and unique musical history. The church's founder used Sousa style concert bands playing gospel hymns for his services, a very unique sound. In the 1960's, a young trombonist in the church received a revelation from God granting him the vision of an all trombone gospel choir. He made that vision a reality and soon the rest of the denomination followed his example. Today there are 135 churches in the House of Prayer, each consisting of at least one "trombone shout band" as they are called. While their music is largely commercially unavailable, there are a few great youtube clips out there. Enjoy and prepare to be amazed!

Miles Davis - Miles Smiles

What can I say about this recording? It's one of the most striking examples of musical conversing I've ever heard. The way the musicians give all of their hearts is beyond beautiful to me. I can feel how much they trust each other. The kind of freedom and abandon this band plays with will never cease to inspire me.

Josh Holcomb is a trombonist native to Queens, New York.