Mulberry Street Symphony…
Prolific Danish composer Anders Koppel, whose distinguished career includes music for theatre, film, ballet and over 150 scores for various classical ensembles, pays homage to his fellow countryman, the famed photographer and social reformer Jacob Riis, on Mulberry Street Symphony. Riis, who emigrated from his native Denmark to America in 1870, exposed the poor living conditions of impoverished immigrants in his groundbreaking photojournalism book, “How the Other Half Lives.” Inspired by Riis’ compelling photographs, Koppel created Mulberry Street Symphony, an epic work in seven movements, each one based on a different Riis photo depicting tenement life in New York City during the 1880s. “The work is a eulogy to the life and dreams of these people,” said the composer.
Koppel’s symphony for jazz trio and orchestra (the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates) showcases the composer’s son, alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, as the main voice through all seven movements. The work is underscored by the world-class rhythm tandem of bassist Scott Colley, whose sideman credits include work with Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Carmen McRae and Andrew Hill, and drumming great Brian Blade, a longtime member of the Wayne Shorter Quintet who has also toured and recorded with Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. As Koppel noted of the flexible trio of Colley, Blade and his son Benjamin, “With their profound understanding of the music and their capacity for catching the moment, they melt effortlessly into the symphony orchestra and move the work to where the border between notation and improvising disappears.”
In capturing the essence of Riis’ striking photos in music, Koppel deftly integrates symphonic elements with jazz improvisation while also conjuring up a wide palette of colors and moods along the way. “The whole symphonic score is completely developed and notated, but I didn’t write that much for the trio,” he explained. “Great musicians have fantastic ears. And I wanted to take advantage of that by giving Brian, Scott and Benjamin the freedom that I knew that they could fill. And they interpreted my vision completely.”
Each of the seven movements of Mulberry Street Symphony is a dramatic piece that tells a story in sound. The cinematic opening track, “Stranded in the City,” conveys the sights and sensations of an immigrant’s arrival into New York City during the latter part of the 19th century. Benjamin Koppel commented on his father’s gift for capturing the extra-musical in his scores. “The way that he uses his music to describe feelings and stories and emotions and even actions is more like an abstract painter would paint a feeling. And because we know him so well, we know his intentions and we can hear his stories and we can relate to it all the way. And so that made this collaboration very easy and open for us to just go into exploring mode.”
As the expansive “Stranded in the City” develops, Benjamin’s alto sax alternately darts and soars to convey its shifting moods, from pensive apprehension to giddy optimism. Anders described the newly-arrived immigrant in Riis’ photo this way: “He’s a 19-year old boy in his best, maybe only suit, stranded on a staircase, in the corner, outside closed doors, hoping for food and lodging. Something happened to his eye. The pulsating sounds of the big city resound from the streets. The wondering, curious and shy look of his eye tell a story of arrival, isolation and will to survive.”
Equally cinematic, while also deftly straddling the through-composed and improvisational divide, are the gentle lullaby “Minding the Baby” and the frantic 20-minute “Tommy the Shoeshine Boy,” the latter featuring facile, Bird-like flights by Benjamin throughout, along with some ecstatic blowing over the more turbulent sections. The poignant and moody tone poem “Blind Man” is meant to portray the lonely figure in Riis’ compelling photo. As Koppel noted: “Always standing on the same spot, leaning slightly agains the lamppost at the corner, peddling his rubber-tipped pencils. The darkness in his gaze, the dignity of his posture.” The composer added, “I tried to convey a special character, a man who is very much himself, apart from society, in a sense. But then again, the music took on its own way.”
A dramatic “The Last Mulberry” is trudging, blues-tinged requiem for the last mulberry tree in Little Italy. As Koppel wrote: “A blues for the tree and for the time closing in. Still blooming every spring, its leaves became more and more sparse. In the end it was cut down.” The conversational playing between Benjamin Koppel, Scott Colley and Brian Blade enlivens this track as the orchestra swirls around the interactive trio.
The unabashedly swinging “Bandit’s Roost” is perhaps the most dynamic and freewheeling track of the set. With Colley and Blade setting the kinetic pulse, Benjamin wails with rare abandon and authority over the top of this up-tempo burner. Koppel described the Riis photo that inspired the invigorating music: “Young Italian mobsters posing underneath their mothers’ laundry hanging out to dry. Fragments of a popular song echo between the walls while plans are being made and energies collected, ready to burst.”
Mulberry Street Symphony closes on a comforting note with the hopeful hymn, “The New House,” based on a 1894 Riis photo of a new home for orphans and homeless children that he helped build on a green hill in the countryside. As Koppel noted: “The simplicity of the hymn reflects the hope and knowledge that lies behind this photo: things will change – and it matters what you do.”
In the process of putting the music together for Mulberry Street Symphony, Koppel said, “I was inspired by
the Riis photos but my aim was not to make a sort of programmatic piece. The music has its freedom always, as it should have. The music often has its own will. So my point of departure was the photographs, but then the music sometimes sort of took over.”
The significance of Koppel, born into a musical family in Copenhagen in 1947, now honoring the legacy of the Danish-American immigrant Riis at a time of increasing debate over the growing wave of refugees and immigrants around the world was not lost on the Danish composer. “In my family’s history there are these two immigrant stories: Firstly, my grandparents coming to Denmark in the beginning of the 20th century as Jewish immigrants from Poland. At that time, Poland was occupied by Russia and there were always pogroms on the Jews, so they fled to Denmark and made a living there. And secondly, my parents and my sisters were refugees from Hitler during World War II. When Germany occupied Denmark in 1940, they fled to Sweden. So the idea of being an immigrant has always been very present in my thinking. And these days, in this time of history, the whole issue of refugees that have no home and immigrants desperately trying to come into other countries is ever present. It’s a mess and it’s a tragedy. So that was another line of thinking in this new work.”
The son of classical composer and pianist Herman D. Koppel, Anders Koppel was a child singer in the Copenhagen Boys Choir and studied piano with his sister and father from the age of five. He also played the recorder and later clarinet and made several television and concert appearances as a youngster, including the first performance of his father’s Variations in 1962 at age 15. He took up the Hammond organ in 1966 and the following year founded with his brother Thomas the legendary Danish rock group The Savage Rose. The band toured Europe extensively from 1967 to 1974 and even made a Stateside appearance in 1969 at the Newport Jazz Festival while also recording eight albums in studios located in London, New York, Los Angeles, Rome and Copenhagen. Koppel left the group in 1974 to make his first solo recordings, Valmuevejen with singer Otto Brandenburg, and Aftenlandet, a progressive instrumental album. In 1976 he cofounded with bassoonist-clarinetist Peter Bastian and percussionist Flemming Quist Møller the trendsetting world music trio Bazaar. The band played together for 37 years until 2013.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Koppel wrote music for 50 plays, eight modern large-scale ballets and more than 100 movies. Since 1997, he has devoted himself to composing for classical ensembles and has completed 150 scores to date — solo pieces, chamber music, orchestral and vocal works, an opera and 33 concertos for solo instrument with orchestra. His saxophonist son Benjamin has been a featured player in six of his concertos. Father and son have also been playing together in recent years in a highly interactive quartet setting with Colley and Blade.
In the process of composing Mulberry Street Symphony, Koppel said, “I thought about the relationships between America and my country, and all the fantastic music that has been brought to us from America that has in many ways changed our lives and inspired us endlessy. And then Jacob Riis ran through my mind because I knew his story. I had just seen an exhibition in Copenhagen of his photographs, which impressed me very deeply. And so there was another link between Denmark and America.”
As a fully-realized work seeking to bridge the worlds of classical and modern jazz, Anders Koppel’s Mulberry Street Symphony is in the lineage of such successful orchestral works as Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige (1943), Miles Davis-Gil Evans’ Sketches of Spain (1960), Stan Getz’s Focus (1961) and the Claus Ogerman-Michael Brecker collaboration on Cityscape (1982). And like many of his past works, it brings together Koppel’s love of symphonic music and jazz improvisation in organic fashion. “I think that has been my language ever since I started writing scores,” he said. “I believe that the musical language that you have as a composer is a result of the life you have lived and the music you have studied and loved. My music has traces of all the music that I have been occupied with in my fairly long life —
classical, jazz, Cuban music, Italian folk songs, Turkish music. There’s so much fantastic music that influenced me during my life and all of that is in the music too. It’s all combined in my language, I believe.”
Added Benjamin Koppel, “I think all his music is very much his own music. He has his totally own voice and his own direction, which is this borderland between classical and jazz or rhythmical music. And because he was a performer himself, he has always been able to write music that all the members of the symphony orchestra love to play. He was a clarinet wunderkind when he was a child and performed of a lot of my grandfather’s clarinet pieces when he was 10, 12, 14 years old. So he knows what it’s like to be a wind player, but he’s also an extraordinary Hammond organ player and pianist as well. So he knows the instruments and he knows the importance of having fun while playing but also being challenged by the music. So he makes sure that every voice in the symphony orchestra is swinging and melodic and important. That is very much a part of his sound and his personal approach. And I think that’s a line going through all this orchestral works.”
Mulberry Street Symphony is scheduled to be released on February 18, 2022 via Unit Records.
New Album: Alberto Rigoni, Unexpected Lullabies
Alberto Rigoni, Unexpected Lullabies…
In an exhilarating revelation, the musical genius Alberto Rigoni has announced his latest masterpiece, “Unexpected Lullabies”, set to hit the airwaves on June 4th, 2024.
This album isn’t just any release; it’s a bold exploration of sound, merging the soothing essence of lullabies with the raw energy of rock-metal to create a musical hybrid that’s absolutely groundbreaking. Rigoni’s latest venture is a heartfelt ode to the circle of life, dedicated to newborns everywhere, symbolizing hope and the beautiful continuity of life with the poignant message: “There are no just tragedies in this world, life is going on!”
*A Stellar Lineup of Musical Legends*
What makes ‘Unexpected Lullabies’ even more exciting is the assembly of musical titans. The album features the legendary bassist Michael Manring, the keyboard wizardry of Alessandro Bertoni (of the Graham Bonnet Band) and Vitalij Kuprij (known for Artension and Trans-Siberian Orchestra), and many more yet-to-be-revealed guest artists.
Unexpected Lullabies is now available on pre-order from Shop Sliptrick at deadpulse.com/product/alberto-rigoni-unexpected-lullabies/
FOREIGNER Announces Red Vinyl Farewell Album
FOREIGNER Announces Red Vinyl Farewell Album for Valentine’s Day…
Who needs candy or flowers, when you can give the gift of music to your better half with a red-hot limited-edition vinyl from FOREIGNER. The band continues its epic two-year farewell tour with Las Vegas residences at The Venetian Hotel, a run of Canadian shows, and this summer, co-headlining the “Renegades & Juke Box Heroes” tour with Styx and special guest John Waite. Now, FOREIGNER announces FAREWELL – The Very Best Of Foreigner (HOT BLOODED EDITION), a very special limited-edition album, available exclusively at tour stops and online in time for Valentine’s Day at foreigner.merchmadeeasy.com/hotblooded.
A must-have collector’s album, this limited-edition striking red vinyl features FOREIGNER’s greatest hits produced by Mick Jones with Jeff Pilson. Tracks include FOREIGNER’s most beloved hits including “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” “Urgent,” “Double Vision,” and the worldwide #1 hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” among many more. Only 5,000 individually numbered albums are available, and with many tour dates already selling out, these albums are sure to go quickly! 2024 Foreigner shows commence on March 1st. Please go to www.foreigneronline.com for full information.
The “Renegades & Juke Box Heroes” tour is set to launch June 11, 2024 in Grand Rapids, MI at the Van Andel Arena. Nothing sounds more like summer than collective feel-good anthems such as “Come Sail Away,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Renegade,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Mr. Roboto,” and “Double Vision” plus John Waite’s #1 songs, “Missing You” and “When I See You Smile.” Tickets are going fast, available at LiveNation.com.
Mick Jones continues to elevate FOREIGNER’s influence and guide the band to new horizons with his stylistic songwriting, indelible guitar hooks and multi-layered talents. Lead singer Kelly Hansen, one of rock’s greatest showmen, has led FOREIGNER into the digital age, inspiring a whole new generation of fans. Bassist Jeff Pilson; Michael Bluestein on keyboards; guitarist Bruce Watson; Chris Frazier on drums, and guitarist Luis Maldonado provide an unprecedented level of energy that has resulted in the re-emergence of the astounding music that speaks to FOREIGNER‘s enduring popularity.
With more Billboard Top 10 hits than Journey, and just as many as Fleetwood Mac, FOREIGNER is universally hailed as one of the most popular rock acts in the world with a formidable musical arsenal that continues to propel sold-out tours and album sales, now exceeding 80 million. Responsible for some of rock and roll’s most enduring anthems, including “Juke Box Hero,” “Cold As Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Urgent,” “Head Games,” “Say You Will,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Long, Long Way From Home” and the worldwide #1 hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” FOREIGNER still rocks the charts more than 40 years into the game with massive airplay and continued Billboard Top 200 album success. Streams of FOREIGNER’s hits are approaching 15 million per week.
FAREWELL – THE VERY BEST OF FOREIGNER TRACK LIST:
1. Feels Like The First Time / 2. Cold As Ice / 3. Long, Long Way From Home / 4. Hot Blooded / 5. Double Vision / 6. Head Games
1. Dirty White Boy / 2. Urgent / 3. Waiting For A Girl Like You / 4. Juke Box Hero / 5. I Want To Know What Love Is
To purchase FAREWELL – The Very Best Of Foreigner (HOT BLOODED EDITION), please visit foreigner.merchmadeeasy.com/hotblooded
New Album: Ross Valory Debut Solo Album, All Of The Above + First Single
Ross Valory, All Of The Above + First Single…
ROSS VALORY, regarded as one of rock’s best bass guitarists and an original member of the multi-platinum band Journey until his 2020 departure, returns today (January 17) with the video for “Tomland.” It’s the hypnotic first single from the bassist and songwriter’s debut solo album ALL OF THE ABOVE due out this April (exact date TBA) on OID Music. Watch the movingly atmospheric video, directed by Michael Cotten, HERE for the single which is out this Friday (January 19).
Penned by VALORY, the all-instrumental “Tomland” marks the second piece recorded for the project—and the first done entirely at his new studio in the East Bay area of Northern California. The track builds to a ripping, climactic solo by red-hot guitarist Miles Schon, drummer Prairie Prince and keyboardist Eric Levy. VALORY had the basic parts kicking around since shortly after leaving the Steve Miller Band in 1972, a bluesy set of chords that roll into each other mellifluously, something he had jammed on a lot over the years. He pulled it out to fashion a piece that not only recalls the passing of collaboratorTom Size (accomplished engineer known for his work with Mr. Big, Y&T, and Aerosmith), but also offers an affirmation of resolve to move forward, the sunlight of optimism illuminating the process.
ROSS VALORY always had pieces of music tucked away that he had written, although songwriting contributions to Journey slipped away after the first three “experimental” albums. As a member of Journey, VALORY concentrated on shaping the rhythm section and contributing his baritone vocals to the background blend.
During the band’s second coming following the 1995 reunion album Trial By Fire, VALORY began sorting through his files and polishing up some of his old notes. In between tour dates, he pulled together a tight-knit group of collaborators and slowly began to finish what he started. After a lifetime in music, VALORY scrupulously etched ALL OF THE ABOVE. The album was produced by VALORY and co-produced by Jacob Stowe and Eric Levy.
VALORY developed a repertory company of musicians over the years that came together at his studio. He cultivated individual numbers like sprawling projects, experimenting with different arrangements played by an assortment of musicians. Sometimes spending years jamming on these ideas, the pieces took shape slowly. Different ideas were tried and discarded, remodeled and refurbished. The basic concept was to find the heart of the material and expand upon it until VALORY could refine and shape the music’s path to his supreme satisfaction. He cast specific musicians to specific parts. The studio became his laboratory and the compositions his experiments.
From the Latin-fired intensity of “Wild Kingdom” to the ethereal dirge of “No One Wins a War,” the raucous party on “Low Rider” or the brilliant reprise ofSantana’s “Incident of Neshabur,” the album presents an evolved artist fully in command of his vision, a lifetime of experience behind the project, augmenting his core associates with guest musicians such as Gregg Errico ofSly & the Family Stone, drummer Steve Smith, and saxophonist Marc Russo. The nine tracks on the album represent the full maturity of VALORY’s musical gifts, cutting a broad swath through the instrumental territory the music travels. He plays keyboards, guitar, and, of course, many basses in a display of cultivated virtuosity across a palette far broader than could be found in his work with Journey. He is stepping out from behind his bass and, for the first time in his more than half-century as a professional musician, representing his vision and his compositions.
VALORY left Journey in 2020 and the band members worked out their issues in a peaceful mediated settlement. VALORY, who spent most of his life as a member of Journey, has no regrets. He counts his blessings at having spent an amazing career with a remarkable group of musicians who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
New Album: Mark Egan, Cross Currents
Bassist Mark Egan to release “Cross Currents” with Shawn Pelton and Shane Theriot – Release Date: March 7th, 2024…
After five decades of touring and recording as an in-demand sideman and leader in his own right, acclaimed bassist Mark Egan has finally released an album that encapsulates his myriad of musical influences in one all-encompassing package. “In many ways this is a new production sound for me,” said the bassist who studied privately with Jaco Pastorius during the mid ‘70s while attending the University of Florida before becoming a charter member of The Pat Metheny Group. “My early influences are from playing r&b, soul and rock before becoming indoctrinated into jazz in the Miami years.
This trio record explores those rootsy R&B funk-rock grooves coupled with my jazz and world sensibilities and utilizes the various fretted and fretless basses that I’ve worked with over the years. It’s a culmination of the many worlds of my experiences and is the reason that it’s titled Cross Currents.”
Completing this potent trio with Egan are drummer Shawn Pelton (a 30-year veteran of the Saturday Night Live band and first-call New York City studio player who has recorded with everyone from Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen to Elton John, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, Sheryl Crow, David Byrne, Pink and Luciano Pavarotti) and Louisiana-born guitarist Shane Theriot (musical director for Hall & Oates who has also recorded and/or performed with The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Boz Scaggs, Allen Toussaint, Rickie Lee Jones, Willie Nelson and Todd Rundgren).
Together they cut a wide stylistic swath on Cross Currents, from funk (‘Homebrew’, ‘Pocket Call’) to ambient (‘Big Sky’) to swamp rock (‘Gulf Stream’), second-line (‘Ponchatrain’) and ballads (the Jimi Hendrix flavored ‘Sand Castles’ and the moody ‘Roll With It’) with allusions to Cajun (‘Nonc Rodell’) and Indian Raga (‘Eastern Blue’).
Recorded at Power Station New England in Waterford, CT (a perfect replica of the storied New York City recording studio where Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Madonna, Sting, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer recorded iconic albums), Cross Currents is Egan’s most versatile and ambitious offering to date. While his past outings as a leader, like 2006’s As We Speak, 2010’s Truth Be Told, 2014’s About Now and Direction Home, 2018’s Dreaming Spirits and 2020’s Electric Blue, have been primarily organic trio and duo affairs, Cross Currents is a power trio with orchestrated layers of rhythms and textures by the participants.
“The intent of this recording was to capture the interplay and energy of the trio and orchestrate it by adding additional guitars, bass and percussion to enhance what the songs were calling for.
Everyone had so many great ideas for orchestrating and arranging the material. The record has electric and acoustic guitar as well as bass and percussion overdubs. We wanted to make atmospheric pads to create a backdrop for us to improvise over. Once I had decided on recording this trio format I spent nine months of composing and arranging the compositions. Shane and Shawn also spent a lot of time conceptualizing and contributing songs. We had three days to record and orchestrate the eleven compositions so the preproduction allowed us to have the time to be creative in the studio and focus on the group interplay and soloing.”
For Egan, interplay and soloing means digging down on his fretted bass
groove lines to lock with the rhythm section and using his fretless electric bass for his signature singing sound that has graced his own recordings since 1985’s groundbreaking and decidedly bass-centric Mosaic. That quality comes across throughout Cross Currents and is particularly evident with him carrying the melody on tunes like ‘Gulf Stream’, ‘Big Sky’, ‘Pocket Call’ and the title track or by his uncommonly lyrical improvising on tunes like ‘Ponchatrain’, ‘Homebrew’, ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Eastern Blue’.
The bassist had high praise for his comrades Shawn and Shane on Cross Currents. “They both came very prepared for the sessions. I had sent them demos along with arrangements with suggestions for solo sections and overdub possibilities, and we rehearsed one day before going into the studio to work things out. Shane and Shawn both brought so much to the table and did their homework by creating and practicing grooves, melodies and instrument choices as well as coming up with great orchestration ideas. They are both so fundamentally strong in everything they do that it made the recording process creative and a lot of fun.”
Egan had previously recorded with Theriot on the bassist’s 2018 album, Dreaming Spirits, an Indian flavored trio project with tabla player/percussionist Arjun Bruggeman. “I loved Shane’s contribution on Dreaming Spirits and thought he would be a perfect fit for the trio on Cross Currents. And though Shawn and I have played together on many sessions in New York over the years, he had never played on any of my records before.”
The three players had actually first established some chemistry on a show backing NYC poet Frank Messina back in pre-pandemic times. “This was late 2019, before the COVID shut down,” Egan recalled. “Frank asked me to recommend people for this show that he was performing in New York City and I recommended Shane and Shawn. There was no rehearsal but just a very loose structure to it all with a lot of improvisation. Frank gave us a lot of room to improvise and play off of his poetry. At one point that evening we were playing trio — just Shane, Shawn and myself. That was the ‘light bulb moment’ for me, when I thought, this is very happening. I want to record a project with this trio. In the fall of 2022 I was in touch with Shane and Shawn about recording a trio project and I started writing songs for the group. Shane also sent me a few of his songs that inspired me to write others in a similar style. We co-wrote ‘Big Sky’ as Shane sent me the song as a demo with acoustic guitar chords and a groove and I wrote a melody and added an extended section for his acoustic guitar solo. Shane also contributed ‘Ponchatrain’, ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Homebrew’. Shawn contributed ‘Nonc Rodell’ which is a tribute to his uncle.
‘Nonc Rodell’ showcases Shawn as a world class groove drummer as well as the depth of his creative drumming abilities. Shawn pre recorded his tracks at his studio with his drums, squeezebox (accordion), and added tenor guitar parts as well. We brought those tracks into Power Station New England studio and Shane and I added guitars and basses on top of Shawn’s prerecorded tracks. It’s a very creative track that features Shawn’s amazing drumming and I love it.”
An in-demand New York City studio musician who has played on multi-gold and platinum-selling recordings by Sting, Arcadia, Marc Cohn, GRP Christmas, Mecano and Joan Osborne, Egan has also recorded with a wide variety of artists from pop stars like Roger Daltry, Sophie B. Hawkins, Marianne Faithfull, Judy Collins, Cyndi Lauper and Art Garfunkel to jazz notables like David Sanborn, John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie, Randy Brecker, Gato Barbieri, Freddy Cole, Pat Martino, Jim Hall, Joe Beck, Mark Murphy and Larry Coryell. A member of the Gil Evans Orchestra for 13 years, he has 14 albums as a leader to his credit and another 10 as a co-leader of Elements, the fusion band he formed in 1982 with his Pat Metheny Group bandmate, drummer Danny Gottlieb.
And now Cross Currents, on his own Wavetone label, may be his crowning achievement to date as Egan continues to push the boundaries of his creativity.
For more information visit markegan.com
New Album: Gerald Cannon, Live at Dizzy’s Club – The Music Of Elvin & McCoy
Celebrated Bassist Gerald Cannon Honors McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones on Live at Dizzy’s Club – The Music Of Elvin & McCoy on January 19, 2024…
Woodneck Records is pleased to announce the January 19, 2024 release of Live at Dizzy’s Club – The Music of Elvin & McCoy by consummate bassist Gerald Cannon. Recorded at the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center venue, Cannon’s latest musical endeavor honors two musical giants: McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, with whom Cannon proudly played alongside for 14 years, and nine years respectively. Invoking the true essence of McCoy and Elvin, Cannon’s vehicle features an outstanding ensemble of musicians who also shared the stage with these giants: pianist Dave Kikoski, drummer Lenny White, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, and trombonist Steve Turre.
Nothing says ‘lineage’ like a congruence of living legends paying homage to two of the great architects of the jazz art form. To tap into the immense spirit of Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner is no simple task, and no one is more suited to lead such an ambitious outing than bassist Gerald Cannon. Cannon has McCoy’s adventurous harmonic ethos and Elvin’s rhythmic invention spun into the very strands of his own musical DNA. The Music of Elvin & McCoy tells a story about Cannon’s musical journey, chronicling his years with Elvin, McCoy and also the time that he spent with pianist Larry Willis in the Roy Hargrove Band. These mentors were revered by Cannon who acted as the common thread in their ensembles for many years.
Over the course of two evenings, June 3 – 4, 2022, at New York City’s iconic Dizzy’s Club, audiences were treated to many moments of passion, grace and soul delivered by Cannon and his esteemed bandmates. Bassist Buster Williams, who shares storied histories with Jones, Tyner and Willis, remarks in the liner notes: “…this is the quintessence of art. It’s no surprise that this is an exceptional recording. These guys know how to breathe, they know how to trust, they create freedom for each other.”
The album begins with Elvin Jones’ “EJ’s Blues”, immediately showcasing the sheer tightness of the rhythm section and the communication taking place between the frontline players, Cannon, and drummer Lenny White. The group then changes tempos and delivers one of Gerald Cannon’s compositional gems – “Three Elders”. This heart-rending composition demonstrates the bandleader’s deep love felt for Jones, Tyner and Willis. Henderson begins the piece with a solo trumpet intro reminiscent of ‘taps’, in honor of these three fallen heroes who paved the way for us all.
The band delivers a spirited rendition of Elvin Jones’ “Three Card Molly”, a tune that originally appeared on Jones’ Genesis album. Cannon offers a rousing, lyrical solo before shifting into one of McCoy Tyner’s classic compositions, “Search For Peace”. The piece features Lovano and Henderson who both masterfully convey a story with their horns over McCoy’s changes. The piece gains its buoyancy through Cannon and White’s impeccable feel. McCoy’s “Blues in The Minor” begins with Cannon and White, and then the ensemble joins explosively. Kikoski offers a brilliant solo, harkening to McCoy’s fourth-filled voicings and pentatonic refrains. Cannon, Kikoski and White are so locked that they appear to be joined at the hip. Lovano and Irby bring a true fire to this piece with their supple melodic invention.
The band continues with another McCoy Tyner piece entitled “Home”. White’s driving cymbal-work brings a crispness to the piece that is perfectly complemented by Cannon’s deep groove and Kikoski’s left hand. On this piece in particular, one can hear, undeniably, the joy that this group feels playing together. Kikoski’s solo is both insightful and elegant, befitting McCoy’s composition. The group explores an array of dynamics and textures on “Contemporary Focus”. A bombastic, densely harmonic melody section leads to driving solos by Lovano, Turre, and Irby. The dynamics shift when Henderson comes in for a solo and is accompanied only by Cannon and later being joined by the rest of the group. A true ensemble piece!
The group concludes the album with the McCoy Tyner classic “Inception”. The piece features Kikoski who really stretches out and demonstrates his melodic acuity, White and Cannon offering a muscular accompaniment.
Gerald Cannon Live at Dizzy’s Club – The Music of Elvin & McCoy acts as a stellar document, not only of two swingin’ evenings at Dizzy’s, but of the continued impact of masters Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Larry Willis on the jazz idiom. With his immense and singular voice on his instrument, Cannon is the living through-line to the sound of the masters, carrying the lineage of the artform forward into present day.
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