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New Album: Michael Feinberg, Blues Variant

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New Album: Michael Feinberg, Blues Variant

Bassist Michael Feinberg Releases “Blues Variant,” featuring Noah Preminger, Nasheet Waits, Leo Genovese and Dave Liebman.

An intriguing element of Michael Feinberg’s superb Criss Cross debut is that the leader could easily have titled it “Bassist In The Background” (Fans of Duke Ellington’s wonderful 1960 LP Pianist In The Background will know what I mean.) Throughout the ten selections that comprise Blues Variant (which include six tunefully percolating originals by Feinberg, one by tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, one by pianist Leo Genovese, and an ingenious Feinberg arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “Eye Of The Hurricane”), the 35-year-old bass maestro hews to the mantra, “If you want to hear me solo, come to a gig, where I often play a solo on every tune.”

“I’m serving the music,” Feinberg continues. “What I appreciate about a bass player is how they make the other people in the band sound. I love hearing the soloistic abilities of Christian McBride, John Patitucci, Dave Holland and the people I idolize, but they’re amazing because, when they play, it feels incredible and they push their bandmates to be the best versions of themselves or go beyond what they think they can do.” As another example, Feinberg mentions Jimmy Garrison, who triangulated between McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones with the “spiritually transcendent” John Coltrane Quartet between 1961 and 1965. “He rarely plays a solo, but you don’t get the Coltrane quartet with anyone else. So I don’t care about the solos, or being on top of the mix to indicate ‘this is a bass player’s record.’ I play a ton of notes. I’m playing the whole time. Can’t miss it.”

Feinberg’s remarks on the Garrison effect carry a certain gravitas; since the early 2010s, when he did The Elvin Jones Project, he’s delved into Coltrane’s repertoire on its own terms of engagement on numerous gigs, most of them featuring Preminger playing tenor saxophone and Ian Frohman on drums. On the pan-stylistic Blues Variant, he connects with the spirit of the great drum griot via the presence on three intense selections of Elvin alumnus Dave Liebman, Preminger’s teacher during student years who has often employed Frohman. Feinberg’s introduction to Liebman’s singular sound was Earth Jones, a 1982 Elvin-led release with Liebman, trumpeter Terumaso Hino, pianist Kenny Kirkland and bassist George Mraz. “I know every note of it,” Feinberg says. “I’ve been a fan of Dave’s playing for a long time.”

An earlier Liebman-Preminger pairing is on Feinberg’s 2020 Steeplechase date, From Where We Came, which transpired not long after they met. The occasion was a Manhattan restaurant gig, where the septuagenarian saxophonist was dining with his daughter, rising-star publicist Lydia Liebman, who introduced them at set break. “I got his contact info, told him I was playing at Smalls the next month, and said, ‘If you want to play, there’s a gig for you,” Feinberg recounts. “Dave accepted. That began a beautiful relationship.”

In seizing the moment to align with Liebman, Feinberg was following a life-long predisposition to “create opportunities for myself – my hustler’s spirit; I’m always getting the wheels going, busy and active, trying to keep new, exciting things going on.” It’s an attribute he shares with Preminger, himself a two-time Criss Cross leader, a close friend since both moved to New York towards the end of 2000s. “I often have Noah in my mind’s ear because I know he’ll bring the right energy and treat the music with the proper respect,” Feinberg says. “He looks at music differently than most people. He’s one of the most technically virtuosic saxophonists – and that’s the least impressive thing about what he does. What really makes me feel his presence is the way he uses rhythm as a melody instrument in his playing, his long, slow phrases – and how he weaves theme and variation throughout a solo.”

The Feinberg-Genovese relationship is similarly long-standing. “Leo is one my favorite musicians, a real artist, no ego,” Feinberg says. “He’s incredibly well-versed – he travels everywhere, soaks up cultural musical language, and performs with some of the best musicians from all over the world, playing regional ethnic music in their bands. He grew up in the countryside of Argentina and now he plays with Wayne Shorter. He’s like a shaman. He’s free, effortless in expressing himself in all times, in all situations.”

The corollary of Feinberg’s functional, groove-centric approach is a long-standing desire to play and record with such expansive drummers as Frohman, Billy Hart, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and – on Blues Variant – Nasheet Waits. “The drummer makes the band, always and forever, and picking the drummer is what the music is going to sound like,” he says. “With Nasheet, I appreciate the timbre, the sound he gets from the drums. He can bring out heavy and bring out light, and plays all my really hard music in ways that make it sound effortless.

“I’ve always been chasing Elvin – and Jack DeJohnette – sonically,” he adds. “Their ability to keep the foundational groove is always present, but also free, floating, melodic, compositional. You might think of Elvin as more like a bruiser than an artiste, but he brought forth to a magic feeling in the music like no else before or since – brushes, ballad; Afro-Latin, 12/8; swing, medium; down, up. However much he pushes and pulls the time, where it’s not really metric, BAM, he’s going to give you the one, which locks the whole thing. That’s what allows the ambiguity and contrast.”

Asked about his own time feel, Feinberg responds: “The music is alive, so it’s always changing. As long as the drummer and I are locked in, I can play on top of the beat or behind the beat – I know it won’t go to a bad place. But I don’t ever want to sit always in one place. The groove dictates the approach.” 

Feinberg wrote most of the music contained herein during the pandemic with this personnel in mind, around the unifying concept of interrogating “the idea of what is the blues and presenting it in diverse, unique ways.” He first assimilated blues expression in his hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, where, by age 16, was playing professionally with such world-class practitioners as Russell Gunn and Bryan Hogans. His compositional endeavors began during freshman year at Frost Conservatory of Music in Miami, Florida, where – inspired by bassist-composer Ben Allison, and other contemporaneous New York “downtown” figures like Jim Black, Chris Speed, Chris Cheek, Andrew D’Angelo, Skuli Sverisson and the members of the Bad Plus – he organized Miami Creative Music Collective, which played original music by its members in monthly concerts.

“The idea of being a composer and having a band was popular amongst my peer group,” Feinberg says. “But I also played a lot of gigs – a blues band called Juke, Frank Sinatra night on South Beach with a crooner, different Latin gigs, endless jam sessions. I take the relationship with the audience seriously, not in a showman-performative way, but connecting with the general audience so they understand what you’re doing. Melodies, the feeling of blues and swing. A lot of great music is simple. What really inspires me artistically is contrast, and that comes across in all my music – contrast in styles, in instruments, in textures. Playing funk versus playing swing. Playing odd meters that feel like common time meters.”

As an instance of that last-stated juxtaposition, Feinberg cites the surging title track, which proceeds to an ostinato bassline in 13 that briefly transitions to swing at the end of the form. “The title ‘Blues Variant’ relates to the mutations of COVID-19, but also references theme-and-variations on the blues,” he says. “There’s a tonic, a subdominant and a dominant, and utilization of the blues scale and blues dominant chords, but it doesn’t sound like that to me – which is also part of the idea.” Genovese’s opening solo postulates fleet right-hand lines in counterpoint to a rollicking left-hand vamp with enviable independence.

On “Saqqara,” named for an ancient, historically important Egyptian village, Feinberg – whose maternal grandparents are Israeli – channels Middle Eastern roots. After a rubato intro, the flow transitions into an “exotic” refrain in 5/4, inspiring another scintillating Genovese solo. Waits seamlessly metric-modulates to brisk swing, propelling Preminger through a few choruses that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the Hollywood epic Exodus, directed by Otto Preminger, his distant relative.

Genovese plugs in on Preminger’s “High or Booze” (rhymes with “minor blues”) which the saxophonist performed on his own 2022 Criss Cross release, Sky Continuous. “I got the idea for the project – non-traditional blues-based music – playing this tune on a gig with Noah and Nasheet,” Feinberg says. “It’s not an easy song.” Perhaps so, but the degree of difficulty isn’t discernible on this kinetic, elegant track, highlighted by the composer’s far-flung solo, Genovese’s texturally acute percussive comping; the leader’s angular bassline; and Waits’s force-of-nature drumming. 

Waits’ funky backbeat underpins Feinberg’s “Healing Power of GRITS,” signifying not only the soul food staple grain, but also “Girls Raised In The South,” of whom his wife is one. “I wanted to do something in the spirit of Cannonball Adderley’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy session or Ramsey Lewis – a groovy, ’60s-’70s soul jazz vibe,” Feinberg says. Again plugged in, Genovese elicits dark, kaleidoscopic Rhodes colors when soloing and when complementing Preminger’s declamation.

“I love playing the music of the tradition, but why play it the same way all the time?” says Feinberg of his metrically modulated treatment of “Eye Of The Hurricane,” provoking Liebman to uncork an effervescent, swinging soprano solo on the first of his three tracks. Genovese and Preminger follow suit.

Feinberg cites such ’70s-’80s Liebman waltz tunes as “Is Seeing Believing?’ as inspiration the ritualistic “The Water Spirit Brought Us, The Water Spirit Will Take Us Home.” After Feinberg’s well-wrought solo prelude, the ceremony continues with Liebman’s soaring soprano, Genovese’s mystically coruscating turn, and Preminger’s ascendant tenor statement, which channels Coltrane’s fire-in-stillness sound circa 1965-1966.

In response to Feinberg’s request for an unconventional blues, Genovese contributes the stately, spiky “Gather Power.” That sentiment seems to guide the solos – first Liebman, channeling Steve Lacy and Coltrane in his own argot; Genovese atonal, like Bley-meets McCoy, with crystalline touch; Preminger resolutely soulful; Waits incantationally Elvinistic.

After Feinberg’s spontaneously generated a cappella blues improvisation, poignant and honest, the recital continues with “vibey palate cleanser” – “Cycle Song,” a lovely melody based on a 4-bar loop. “This one really lets the musicians speak,” Feinberg says. “Again, it’s making something seemingly complex as simple as possible, making it easy to understand what we’re doing and feel the music.” Preminger’s tenor statement is a master class in melodic interpretation; Feinberg showcases his guitaristic electric bass conception; Genovese dances via on the Rhodes.

For dessert, Feinberg presents the set-closing “Year Of The Ox,” “a hyperactive, topsy-turvy explosion” that he wrote on Chinese New Year’s Day in 2020. Waits’s fresh, surging cascaras fuel apropos solos from each protagonist.

It’s a fitting wrap to a well-integrated musical banquet that fulfills Feinberg’s self-descriptive aesthetic mantra: “There’s a place for everything. But a lot of the greatest music – Kind of Blue, Weather Report, Oscar Peterson – is simple while also being incredibly sophisticated. It all comes down to authenticity.

— Blues Variant liner notes by Ted Panken

Visit online at mfbass.com

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New Album: Ben Wolfe, The Understated

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New Album: Ben Wolfe, The Understated

Acclaimed bassist and composer Ben Wolfe is thrilled to announce the August 9, 2024 release of The Understated.

This evocative new album features a collection of new original compositions by Wolfe paired, with re-imaginings of some of the composer’s classic material, with a particular emphasis on the ballad song-form. The album features ten tracks, five of which are ballads – a bold move for any composer – Wolfe creates a cohesive narrative here that challenges the listeners perception of the classic ballad. The Understated features Wolfe alongside artists who make up the very frontline of modern jazz, including pianist Orrin Evans, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, drummer Aaron Kimmel, guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Sullivan Fortner.

Wolfe has always been drawn to finding beauty in subtlety. He perceives a certain tranquility and elegance in the Coltrane Quartet, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens, the legendary Miles Davis bands and rhythm sections, and the music of Charlie Parker. While he, of course, revels at the immense world-building energy of this music, it’s the “other side” – the elusive, magical aspect that endlessly captivates him – the understated. The composer draws inspiration most from the ensemble work of these hallmark jazz ensembles. Despite the individual parts being extraordinarily beautiful on their own, the musicians in these archetypal ensembles play only what is needed to serve the music, paying particular attention to the band-sound more-so than their individual sound. The Understated embodies this ethos with a tremendously impactful ensemble-oriented approach.

Wolfe sought to continue the thread started by “Lullaby in D” from his previous critically acclaimed release Unjust. Wolfe indicates, “Something about that take was so perfect to me. It had been brought to life, and it had that ensemble thing.” Wolfe assembled the quartet who recorded “Lullaby” (including longtime collaborator Orrin Evans, as well as recent frequent collaborators Aaron Kimmel and Nicole Glover) and two very special guests, Russell Malone and Sullivan Fortner. The recording process took place in one room with no headphones or isolation booths, further emphasizing the group’s collective awareness.

This record succeeds in bringing Wolfe’s expansive music to life through extremely conscientious group playing. Nothing is forced or pushed; everything that needs to be stated is stated. The single from the album, “Waltz,” encapsulates the spirit of the project. Wolfe says, “I view albums like a complete painting, so singles have been difficult for me. This song is very much in the spirit of the whole but doesn’t give away the record.” The piece features a sentimental melody delivered with grace by tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, before Glover and Evans embark on stirring solos dancing in and out of the tune’s harmony.

 Other new original compositions featured here include “Ballad in B”, which perhaps best demonstrates the group’s stunning cohesion. This tune is a refreshing diversion as it features a serene repeated melody without overt melodic improvisation. The following track, “Anagram”, begins with Kimmel’s rhythmic refrains and a unison melody played by Glover and Wolfe and is a true ensemble piece. On this track, Wolfe shines with a lyrical solo. The moody short interlude “So Indeed” is a lyrical masterwork that leaves the listener wanting even more.  “Beautiful You” features master guitarist Russell Malone on the track’s melody. The emphasis here on restrained lyricism is a prime reminder of the old adage “it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play”. Each pocket of space in between melodic moments leaves room for the listener to breathe deeper and deeper into the song. The driving “Triangle Man” features fantastic improvisation from Glover and Kimmel. The tender “Barely Spoken” concludes the album with a feature for pianist Sullivan Fortner.

 The album also weaves in references to Wolfe’s past works, creating a personal musical universe. “The Poet Speaks” is the opening track on his first record, 13 Sketches. “Occam’s Razor” was composed years ago for a collaboration with a choreographer and painter, and was a much different composition in its original form. “Love Is Near” was originally found on The Whisperer. With ballads in particular, Ben uses voicings and sounds that represent certain things to him, intentionally referencing his other compositions to generate connections between his songs.

 Wolfe’s tremendous compositions on this album are also influenced by the group of musicians that he assembled for this release. Wolfe remarks “One of the things these five musicians share in common is that not only are they true ensemble players, they will always play something unexpected and special.” Listeners will find calm and beauty within the ensemble performances throughout The Understated.

Visit online at benwolfe.com/

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New Album: Orlando le Fleming, Wandering Talk

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New Album: Orlando le Fleming, Wandering Talk

Bassist, band leader, and composer Orlando le Fleming continues to make music that crosses genres as readily as he crosses the Atlantic, with this new album ‘Wandering Talk’, to be released physically on 23rd August via the UK’s premiere jazz label, Whirlwind Recordings.

After 20 years in New York City, he’s back in his native UK, forging new pathways and renewing old partnerships. His love for the acoustic tradition continues unabated alongside his deep affection for the robust, muscular electric fusion that emerged in the 1980s, and he has received critical acclaim from media including The Guardian, Financial Times, Jazzwise, and All About Jazz among others. He has also toured and recorded with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians including Branford Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Antonio Sanchez, Ari Hoenig, and Wayne Krantz.

The Romantic Funk project was born in New York’s legendary 55 Bar to explore that legacy: now the new album ‘Wandering Talk’ builds on the critical acclaim generated by ‘The Unfamiliar’ (2020), building on the framework with a set of collaborators that brings together London and New York, past and present, acoustic, and electric, and merges it all into a spectacular whole.

Following the same principles that served the project in NYC, le Fleming booked four Friday nights at London’s renowned Vortex Club to workshop the music that would become the album, with a rotating cast of players which he honed down into the final line-up. Old London friends Tom Cawley (piano/keys) and James Maddren (drums) completed the rhythm section. New acquaintance Nathaniel Facey was picked from the ranks of the UK’s brightest young saxophone players. NYC stalwart Philip Dizack flew in from the US to play trumpet and reaching back to Orlando’s school days and forward to his own family, one-time classmate Chris Martin (Coldplay) and his own daughter Nadia combined to provide vocals on a special setting of Rumi’s poetry.

As before, the music combines fusion’s flash and fire with a contemporary sensibility. This time, Orlando’s questing spirit sends his superb band forward to investigate fresh areas of creativity in dynamic and texture.

Visit online at orlandolefleming.com

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Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

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Album- John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed - Volume Two

Album: John Entwistle, Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is the second of the series of posthumous releases coming from John Entwistle.

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume Two is a compilation that was curated by drummer Steve Luongo, who served as John Entwistle’s producer, bandmate, business partner and good friend for many years. As Luongo states, “When I agreed to do two volumes of John Entwistle rarities, I knew volume two had to be even better than volume one. It is!” The collection of songs on Volume Two are from his years with the John Entwistle Band and include re-mastered versions of studio tracks including “Endless Vacation”, alternate mixes of tracks like “Sometimes”, and live tracks including The Who cuts “Real Me”, “Long Live Rock” and an epic version of “Young Man Blues”. The latest preview track to be released is the Who cut “Had Enough.”

Listen to “Had Enough” here: push.fm/ps/hadenough

Rarities Oxhumed – Volume One was quickly embraced by longtime fans as it featured gems like “Bogey Man” featuring Keith Moon, “Where You Going Now” (demo for the Who), and a raw live version of “Trick of the Light” recorded during the John Entwistle Band’s final tour in 2001. Deko Entertainment is thrilled to have been able to bring both volumes of this unearthed music of John Entwistle to the fans and forever solidify him as one of the greatest rock musicians ever.

For more information, visit online at dekoentertainment.com/john-entwistle

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Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents

Mark Egan, Cross Currents…

It is exciting every time I get a new album from Mark Egan as he is such an amazingly versatile player and I never know what to expect (except for excellent artistry!) In his latest release, Mark has teamed up with Shawn Peyton on drums and Shane Theriot on guitar to bring us “Cross Currents”.

This collection of eleven tracks transports me to the Gulf Coast (New Orleans specifically). Mark’s fretless basses lay down a solid groove and lots of juicy solo work for this rootsy collection of funk, ambient, swamp-rock, second line, ballads, Cajun and even Indian Raga.

This trio is super-tight and the musicianship is flawless as each member has ample opportunity to shine. Even though each player is very talented in their own right, I feel that the collective energy is greater than just the sum of the players on this album. Each musician contributed to composing music for this project but the lion’s share are Mark’s original pieces.

I spent the summer of 1981 in New Orleans and this wonderful music takes me back to those fond memories. I participated in a wacky raft race on Lake Ponchatrain and this opening track elicits images of fun, sunshine, music, and great food.

This is another superb album that everyone will enjoy. Get your copy today! Cross Currents is available online at Amazon.com. Visit Mark online at markegan.com.

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New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album

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New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce "Kingdom of Shred" Album

ALBERTO RIGONI’s New Project NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album, Feat. Super Talented Guests Such as Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner + Many Others

Worldwide known Italian bassist and composer ALBERTO RIGONI (soloist, BAD As, Kim Bingham, Vivaldi Metal Project, etc.) announces the new album “Kingdom of Shred” of his new project NEMESIS CALL. 

Alberto says: 
“Even if my latest album “Unexpected Lullabies”, dedicated to my newborn Vittoria Parini Rigoni, was released on June 4th 2024, I felt the need to compose new music (yes, I really can’t stop!). This time will be quite challenging because I’m willing to release an instrumental shred/prog/rock/metal/melodic album, that will feature many talented top-notch musicians such as drummer Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner, Alexandra Lioness, Aanika Pai (11 years old!), Keiji by Zero (19 years old!), SAKI and many others TBA/TBC). It won’t be easy to manage all such great musicians but I will make it! Are you ready to face a new prog experience? The album will be released in Digipack CD and in high-quality digital format approximately at the beginning of 2025 or maybe for Christmas!.”

As an independent artist, Alberto Rigoni has launched a fundraising campaign to support the project. Support at www.albertorigoni.net/nemesiscall. 20% of the income will be donated to Lega del Filo d’Oro (www.legadelfilodoro.it/it), an Italian association that helps deaf and blind children!

Visit online at www.albertorigoni.net | albertorigoni.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/albertorigonimusic | www.badas.rocks

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