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Album Review: Brendan Rothwell, Destiny

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Album Review: Brendan Rothwell, Destiny

Brendan Rothwell, Destiny…

Brendan Rothwell has a solid reputation as a smooth Jazz powerhouse so I was very excited to see a new project arrive. Destiny is Brendan’s third album and you can tell his sound is evolving with greater use of piano and synths. That said, the bass is front and center on every track, as that is his main voice and expressive medium. Brendan’s technique is flawless and precise but still emotionally and softly outspoken.

All twelve tracks are original compositions and Brendan did all the performance, recording, and producing. It is amazing that one person can produce such a full and robust sound palate with so much variety.

Musically, Destiny takes the listener on a lovely journey of upbeat exploration. There is a unique blend of smoothness with a funky backbone on many of the tracks. You can close your eyes and just let yourself go with the intricate flow of notes and patterns. I am sure that each person who listens will have a unique interpretation, but this is a perfect treat to share with someone you love… a nice Pinot might compliment the experience.

Destiny is available at brendanrothwell.com and Amazon.com

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New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

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A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at averysharpe.com/

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

Bassist and composer Lucy Clifford has announced the release of her new EP ‘Meeting Place’.

This live studio recording was captured at Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney, and features Australian guitarist Felix Lalanne and Swiss drummer Jessie Cox. 

As a bassist who has dedicated many years to accompanying artists of different kinds, Lucy shares some of her own music in a kaleidoscope of sounds and influences that have shaped her creative identity. The trio explores Lucy’s compositions, which weave between both energy and repose, lyrical soundscapes colliding with dynamic grooves that are sure to occupy your mind. This 4 song EP is presented as an uninterrupted musical odyssey and serves as a dedication to the places and people that hold a profound ability to anchor us in the present moment, our meeting places. 

For Lucy, this meeting place created with Felix and Jessie is a “celebration of collaborative spirit and the immersive spatial movements of sound. In an era where connections are more crucial than ever, this music emerged while reflecting on the many borders, barriers, and structures that currently hold back human connection and communal bonds. We need reminding to rediscover our meeting places, that bring us the love, comfort, truth, and creativity we so urgently need.” 

‘Meeting Place’ will be out April 5th on digital platforms, along with the live studio performance for viewing on Youtube.

Visit online at www.lucycliffordmusic.com

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice…

Reborn, Reimagined and Remixed: Jazz funk bassist Christian de Mesones returns with “You Only Live Twice,” a new album dropping April 12 that contains the Billboard No. 1 hit “Hispanica” featuring keyboard legend Bob James.

A lifetime ago, Christian de Mesones was a New York City cabbie and heavy metal bassist who had a voracious appetite for the seedy decadence the Big Apple’s music scene was known for in the 1980s. Determined to change his life, de Mesones did a complete one-eighty, got clean and changed his musical muse to jazz funk. Dedicating his “second life” to pursuing his newfound passion for contemporary jazz and deep soul grooves spiced with Latin rhythms, de Mesones will release his second album, “You Only Live Twice,” on April 12 on the That 555 Lyfe label. Christopher Valentine produced nine of the album’s ten tracks, all but one of which are original songs written or cowritten by de Mesones.

de Mesones’s turnaround began decades ago, but it wasn’t until March of 2020 that he finally assembled his solo debut album, “They Call Me Big New York,” just as Covid-19 put the world on lockdown. Three singles from the set, “Big Tall Wish,” “Spirit” and “Latin Jive Redux,” landed on three national charts. However, pandemic restrictions limited de Mesones’s opportunities to promote the project and grow his brand.

A year later, de Mesones released a sultry Latin-tinged cut titled “Hispanica.” A British DJ sent the song to two-time Grammy-winning keyboardist Bob James, who agreed to play piano on the track. The single went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart, de Mesones’s first.

“I have always believed in the power of composition. One song can change the world. In my case, one of my own compositions forever changed mine. Before releasing ‘Hispanica’ as a single, I felt it was my strongest composition to date. It was featured on my previous album as a vocal track, and on the advice of my radio promoter, it was reimagined as an instrumental. I immediately knew I wanted a piano for the melody. Having the legendary Bob James play on it was a fairytale come true. It has become one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” said de Mesones.

de Mesones dropped the follow-up single, “In His Vision,” in 2022. He wrote the rousing tune on which his bass takes on lyrically expressive qualities and gets a boost from saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr.’s impassioned play.

“This song written for and inspired by my father-in-law was a challenge for me. I wanted to play the melody and do it justice. It had to have that Wayman Tisdale vibe, so last minute before the recording, I changed to piccolo gauge strings, giving me the sound I envisioned. Eddie Baccus Jr.’s sax put the song over the top, giving it exactly what I thought it needed,” explained de Mesones.

A movie buff, de Mesones is a big James Bond fan and the secret agent’s presence is felt twice on the album, including on the title track, which was released as a single last year. The production and arrangements are sprawling on the track “You Only Live Twice,” layered with majestic horn section parts and a dreamy vocal chorus.

“The album’s title track holds multiple meanings for me. Putting aside my love for the classic James Bond film with this title, it perfectly represents my second album release as a solo artist as well as the album artwork featuring my custom double neck bass. This song was composed many years ago and has come to fruition at a time when I have found true love and real purpose in my life. I believe in second chances, and love is definitely sweeter the second time around,” said de Mesones who is married to his producer’s sister, Jennifer Valentine.

A fourth single prefaced the album with the release of “Don Pedro” last year. Written in memory of his late father, the contemplative ballad is as beautiful as it is emotional. Two-time Grammy-winning vocalist David Blamires provides a haunting wordless caress throughout the track led by Jaared Arosemena’s soprano sax.

“My personal favorite track on the album captures the essence of my father who was a larger-than-life figure to me when I was a child. As I grew older, we had our difficulties, as many sons and fathers do, but I was blessed to be able to mend our relationship in his later years. Through the completion and release of this song, which I toiled over for years, I found a way to keep his spirit alive and with me everywhere I go,” de Mesones shared.

For the other Bond-connected song on the album, de Mesones reinterprets five-time Academy Award winner John Barry’s “Capsule In Space,” setting it to a funky Latin modern-day groove. Michael “Arch” Thompson’s spiraling flute work adds a floating sensation.

“I love the orchestration and composing skills of John Barry and loved using this music to accompany the visuals for my live shows. This song is a bit sentimental, too, as it conjures memories of growing up in Brooklyn and my father and grandmother taking me to see James Bond movies. Creating an urban take on this masterpiece was a lot of fun,” de Mesones shared.

Other tracks on the album are the seductive jazz funk prowl of “Sexy Beast”; the mighty five-bass attack “Throb!” on which de Mesones formed a brotherhood of bassists with Bill DickensBrendan RothwellAndrew Gouche and Vail Johnson on this revamped track that originally appeared on his debut disc; “Arrival,” an exciting, exuberant and explosive space jam that de Mesones plans to use to open his concerts; the sensual “Stay,” an R&B single illumined by Nes Powers’s distinctive voice; and “Sweetnight,” which de Mesones converted from a vocal tune into an instrumental.

“‘Sweetnight’ went through more changes than any other song in my entire repertoire. This instrumental version represents what I hear when I close my eyes and imagine a world where love rules all things,” de Mesones described.

Brooklyn-born and bred, de Mesones relocated to a sleepy town in Virginia as he rebuilt his life. He made his concert debut at the Capital Jazz Festival near Washington, DC in 2006 and has persevered ever since to get to the next level. “You Only Live Twice” is a big album on multiple levels. Valentine’s elaborate production and crafty arrangements give the project a grand sound design. de Mesones’s rubbery basslines, dynamic rhythms and equanimity when it comes to sharing the spotlight with an accomplished collective of first-call musicians in service to the song has equipped him with a next-level album meriting a major breakthrough.

“After my days of living a lifestyle of excess, now being surrounded by such loving, supportive friends, family, and fans feels like a rebirth. And my life is so much sweeter the second time around. From sex, drugs, and rock and roll to smooth grooves and funky Latin soul, my feet are now on solid ground. And I’m here to tell you, it’s true: your best life is not in the rear-view mirror.”

de Mesones’s “You Only Live Twice” album contains the following songs:

“You Only Live Twice”
“Sexy Beast” with Bill McGee and Rob Maletick
“Throb!” (Bass Godz Remix) featuring Bill Dickens, Brendan Rothwell, Andrew Gouche and Vail Johnson
“Arrival”
“Stay” (Big New York Remix) featuring Nes Powers
“Sweetnight”
“Capsule In Space”
“In His Vision” featuring Eddie Baccus Jr.
“Hispanica” featuring Bob James
“Don Pedro” featuring Jaared Arosemena

For more information, please visit bignybassworld.com.

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

Brian Bromberg, LaFaro…

Scott LaFaro was an extraordinary upright bass player who we lost in 1961 at the age of 25. Even though he was a young bassist he worked with the Bill Evans Trio from 1959 to 1961; he was an exceptional musician and his bass work was lightyears ahead of his time.

Brian Bromberg has teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero to produce a tribute album to this legendary player. We are treated to a dozen tracks (with three bonus tracks on the digital platforms) that were Bill Evans Trio standards. While the original band’s work inspired Brian, this tribute album is not an attempt by the musicians to replicate the music but to organically express themselves on these tunes. When you listen, you may note that it doesn’t sound like LaFaro and it isn’t supposed to.

As I have noted on many of Brian’s previous albums, the bass work (all upright here) is extraordinary and he knows how to get a crystal-clear sound. Every note is pristine and balanced perfectly with the piano and drums. Brian’s approach to recording upright bass should be the golden standard for all upright players. He also handpicked the other members of this trio and they are excellent musicians who really deliver the goods.

If you would like more insight into this album, I can share that in my cover interview with Brian, coming soon.

The projected album release date is April 5, 2024, and will be available at www.brianbromberg.net

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