Friday, May 29, 2015

Bolo: Singing to the Divine on Their Debut

It’s a fresh recipe with ancient ingredients. The sweet music of the soul. It’s the sound of Bolo, who make the connections between different cultures and traditions and forge them into something new, still wearing the honor of the past, but also with the ripe taste of the future. What they’ve created shines out on their self-titled debut album, (released June 25, 2015). With all three members highly schooled in many styles of music, from jazz and soul to West African, North African and Indian, it’s the unique chemistry of the trio that’s set them exploring this untrodden path.

“From the time we first played together we knew we had the same approach in terms of trusting the groove,” explains Eliyahu Sills who plays upright bass, and Middle Eastern and Indian flutes. “We don’t feel we need to get our egos involved – we take turns in the lead with the others supporting.”

It’s music that takes its ethos from jazz and funk as well as from older sounds, truly collaborative acoustic music that can spiral and swoop and sometimes just forge its way ahead.

Multi-instrumentalist Evan Fraser had already been involved in many successful global music projects before he met Sills on stage at Burning Man. Soon he was playing on the CD by Eliyahu & The Qadim Ensemble, which reached #7 on Billboard’s World Music charts. Surya Prakasha, a highly sought after drummer in the Bay Area jazz scene, was already an occasional bandmate with Sills. When they finally played all together, it was magic.

The music they made felt right, completely natural, a meeting of minds. And so Bolo was born. In the two years since then they’ve been gigging, rehearsing, and refining their sound. They’ve experimented with different styles, using Fraser’s kamele ngoni harps like a Moroccan bass gimbri, for instance, or playing the kalimba (thumb piano) with Prakasha’s drum kit or harmonium to create moods and change the flow of a piece. All they’ve learned and developed is on Bolo. It’s jazz that draws its heartbeat from the world. All three members are multi-instrumentalists (11 between them) and sing, often switching instruments in the course of a single piece to change the texture and color of the music, both in performance and on CD. Bass can give way to bansuri, drums to harmonium, from instruments to voice, delving deeper into the heart of a melody until they sound like a much larger ensemble.

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Living Colours: ‘Blending Japanese music with jazz wasn’t easy’

Sumie Kaneko, a Japanese traditional music instrumentalist and Jazz singer, is visiting Pakistan for the first time as part of a tour which takes her to Islamabad, Karachi and Dhaka. Her first stop on the tour was Islamabad where she performed multiple concerts playing the Koto and Shamisen.

Q: The traditional Japanese instruments and Jazz seem to be an extremely unlikely combination. How did you fuse the two together?

A: Everyone wonders about that because the two are so different. I play the Koto and Shamisen of course. I also play the piano, violin and flute, and I sing. To me the transformation and blending is very natural. My mother is a musician and when I was a child she took me to all sorts of concerts and exposed me to all sorts of music. The reason I combine all these various forms is simply because I like it. But while bringing traditional Japanese instruments and Jazz together was natural for me, it was not easy. Japanese music is all written and you follow a teacher, while Jazz is all improvisation. My first semester at the Berkeley College of Music was the hardest semester for me because the expectations were completely different from what I had learnt till then. They wanted me to have a vision of my musical path and I had to choose what I had to do but I had to also show that vision in my music. But gradually I found my genre, and now I am writing original music with my Jazz band.

Q: What is a typical day like in your life?

A: Mostly I practice at home and then I go to rehearsals in the evenings. At night if I don’t have a performance I go to places where my friends are performing to see what type of music is popular right now. I have a lot of very talented musician friends and I want to check out what they are doing, which serves as great input for me. I perform two or three times a week and the performances range from clubs and concert halls to restaurants and schools – from kindergartens to colleges, practically anywhere I can go. I love performing for all sorts of audiences whether it’s the four-year-old children in kindergartens or students at Harvard University who want to learn about Japanese traditional music or even hipster places in Brooklyn. That is one of the best things about New York. People in New York are always looking for something cool and it really doesn’t matter what the ‘tradition’ is and that makes it the ideal place for me because I wanted to blend traditional music with Jazz and improvise. In Japan what can occasionally seem like breaking out is simply cool in New York. When I’m relaxing, however, I don’t listen to any music but instead I go to the woods and listen to nature. When I hear music, a part of me is always analysing what I am hearing.

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Georgia Strait Jazz goes Latin with Zandhunga

posted May 27, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Malcolm Holt, Special to The Record
Following last week’s cool jazz, music at the Avalanche Bar takes a Latin spin when Zandhunga takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

This combo never fails to bring its own fans wherever they may be appearing and this week the Georgia Strait Jazz Society is appealing to dancers, as part of the floor will be cleared for those so inclined.

Zandhunga is: Oscar Robles Diaz – congas, timbales, vocals; Britt Bowman – bass, vocals; Kelly Thomas – keyboard, vocals; Jake Masri – trumpet, flugelhorn, and Jeff Agopzowicz – slide trombone.

Rachel Fuller, saxophone, makes an appearance as a special guest in this show.

This is a locally-based ensemble that began in Mexico in 2009, at the time with more Latin members than Canadian-born, but now the reverse is the case. Trombonist Jeff Agopsowicz is the most recent addition and has already contributed some of his original compositions to the repertoire.

“Having a trombone in the band is pretty essential to salsa music,” Bowman said. “We were making do as a quartet but were always on the lookout for a trombonist. We couldn’t believe our luck when Jeff decided to try out a rehearsal. He already had experience playing with salsa bands in Victoria, and he picked up on what we were doing right away. Sometimes, it really is just about being patient and waiting for the right player to come along.”

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It's jazz time again!

Last updated 10:38 28/05/2015
Despite not being on the best terms with Wellington's Jazz Police jazz is one of my great loves - as a reviewer that means, unfortunately, you sometimes have to say that something didn't live up to the hype, or didn't deliver on the night.

And local jazz fans and players don't like that - because they want their discount tickets to as many international acts as possible; if you say the guy or girl on the night didn't deliver it might mean we don't get as many shows.

Anyway, it's very much jazz time once again - the Wellington Jazz Festival, featuring local and international guests, kicks into gear next week. Click on that link to see the highlights of a long weekend of jazz and jazz-derived music. Many of the bars in Wellington have DJs and live acts, the Lighthouse Cinema is playing jazz-themed films. And the Opera House will host a handful of international names - as well as a fascinating collision of styles/worlds when The Rodger Fox Big Band and Michael Houstoun perform together on stage (I'm really looking forward to that one).

It's almost always jazz time in my house - the bulk of my record collection is jazz or jazz-related. I got to funk and soul and hip-hop through jazz. I got to psychedelic rock's extremes and noise and improv and some minimalist/soundscape music through jazz.

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CD REVIEW: Timo Lassy – Love Bullet

Timo Lassy – Love Bullet
(Must Have Jazz 234019. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

Finnish tenor player Timo Lassy started his career in Amsterdam and returned to his homeland to do some notable work with the Five Corners Quintet and then with Fiver Corners alumnus Jukka Eskola 
(Review) , who guests on trumpet here. In a part of the world where electronic music tends to dominate, Lassy has remained faithful to acoustic playing, and performs adroit, world class hard bop and soul jazz.

Having recently supported singer Joyce Elaine Yuille on her debut album (reviewed here), Lassy is now back as a leader on this CD, his fifth album, with virtually the same line-up as featured accompanying Yuille: the gifted Georgios Kontrafourison keyboards, Antti Lötjönen on bass and Abdissa Assefa percussion. They’re a great unit and freed of the discipline of comping, they really soar here.

The title Green Pepper Strut suggests Memphis Rn'B of the Booker T variety, and initially delivers this in spades, a funky, honking, hand-clapping treat with Timo Lassy probing forward and Kontrafouris adding characteristically virtuosic slabs of Wurlitzer. But it rapidly moves into a more polished CTI mode and then onto increasingly complex and modernistic pastures, with Kontrafouris ably conducting the tour and displaying all kinds of ability on the keyboard as he adapts along the way. It’s virtually a compact fifty year survey of popular jazz idioms, returning to its rhythm and blues roots as it wraps up.

Love Bullet presents wonderful soft cloud-of-sound sax from Lassy, alternately gorgeously gruff and beguilingly gossamer, supported by judicious vibes, lazy, lambent and concise, from Panu Savolainen. Subtle keyboard stabs courtesy of Kontrafouris help to set the pace. Hip or Not has a strong soul jazz feel with a hint of modernist astringency. There are superb chiming and shimmering keyboard passages with smart use of space, and lucid virile trumpet from Jukka Eskola. He hands over to Lassy, who raises his game in the afterglow of Eskola’s solo, playing spiky and eloquent tenor. The drumming — from Teppo Mäkynen — and Abdissa Assefa’s percussion are outstanding, contributing a Latin feel.

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Pavel's perfect piano

Submitted Photo
Posted By Kyle Long @DJKyleLong on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 12:36 PM
Pavel Polanco-Safadit is a whirlwind on the piano, unfurling mesmerizing lines of melody and rhythm with charismatic force. A native of the Dominican Republic, he's most known for playing salsa, Latin jazz and other genres associated with his Caribbean roots. But Pavel also possesses an advanced knowledge of Western classical music theory, which adds a significant power to the vocabulary of his unique musical language.

I spoke with Pavel in advance of his May 29 date at the Jazz Kitchen with his band Direct Contact

NUVO: You grew up in the Dominican Republic. Tell us about your childhood there and how you first became interested in playing music.

Polanco-Safadit: I remember growing up I had only one pair of shoes. I had to save them for school only! (laughs) But I had a very supportive family there.

When I was thirteen years old a missionary from the Episcopal church came along and my father took me to learn music from him. According to this teacher, who was named Tim Holt, I developed very quickly. By the time I was 14, I started teaching music at this school where I had been taking lessons. 

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Don Mopsick began his musical career

Don Mopsick began his musical career as a teenager in his hometown of Linden, NJ, performing on trumpet and bass guitar. He attended Rutgers University and Berklee College of Music. His first professional gigs were with Rosemary Clooney around Boston in 1972.

Mopsick's musical interests have always been eclectic and far-ranging. He was graduated from The Manhattan School of Music in 1977 with a degree in Tuba Performance. While in New York, he performed on tuba and bass with The Smith Street Society, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, John Carisi, Paul Jefferey and others.

After a move to Ft. Myers FL in 1977, Mopsick began study on double bass with Lucas Drew at the U. of Miami. He moved to Orlando in 1983 and began work as a free-lance jazz bassist state-wide.

He played concert dates for, among others, The Jazz Club of Sarasota, The Treasure Coast Jazz Society (Vero Beach), and The Gainesville Friends of Jazz, Florida concert dates with Howard Alden, Mousey Alexander, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, John Bunch, Pete Christleib, Al Cohn, Richie Cole, Kenny Davern, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Scott Hamilton, Buddy Morrow, Ken Peplowski, Flip Phillips, Red Rodney, Bob Rosengarden, Ira Sullivan, Clark Terry, Warren Vaché Jr. and others.

Mopsick joined the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in San Antonio in 1991. He played nightly at The Landing jazz club and toured with the band in the US and abroad. He recorded hundreds of hours for the Riverwalk Jazz public radio series with guests Benny Carter, Clark Terry, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman, Kenny Davern, Milt Hinton, Nicholas Payton, Ralph Sutton, "Sweets" Edison, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Joe Williams, Rebecca Kilgore, Bob Barnard, Bria Skonberg, Jon-Erik Kellso, Vince Giordano, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Stephanie Nakasian, and many others. He left Texas in March 2010 to relocate back to Florida's Gulf Coast.

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