Dave Zinno and his Unisphere bandmates—Mike Tucker on tenor sax, Eric Benny Bloom on trumpet and flugelhorn, Leo Genovese on keyboards, Tim Ray on piano, Rafael Barata, drums and percussion, and special guest Rafael Rocha on trombone—have been writing and practicing, biding their time until jazz scene reopened. In that time, Unisphere took advantage and managed to piece together, Fetish, a brilliant and beautiful album. The colorful panorama, tonal palette, and sonic breadth featured on Fetish are breathtaking. Zinno’s Unisphere is jubilant, rapturous, and free. Everyone contributed compositions or arrangements to the project, which creates a stunning picture of the diversity represented by this group. Fetish is the sound of that catharsis, that anticipation, a primal release of aural energy. “This project is the culmination of a year without live music,” says Zinno. “Every ounce of energy and ambition, in reserve from not expending it for so long, is on this record. I hope people feel what we felt while creating it.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center
10 W 60th St
New York, NY, 10023
on behalf of
with NBC10’s Mario Hilario
Your Digital Marketing Priorities
Having a presence digitally means more than just having a website. Molly Garber of digital marketing firm Capacity Interactive, which counts Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center as clients, shares five core priorities and how you can tackle them successfully, even with limited time and money.
Intro: Aaron Bisman (Jazz at Lincoln Center)
Panelists: Molly Garber (Capacity Interactive)
with vocalist Kristen Lee Sergeant from Inside Out WCS087
Jazz Entrepreneurship: Online Strategies, Offline Results
3 presenters talk about their entrepreneurial ventures: what’s been successful, what’s worked, and what hasn’t. Short individual presentations followed by Q&A.
Moderator: Ashley Kahn
Panelists: Marc Plotkin (Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at NYU), Meghan Stabile (Revive Music), Spike Wilner (Smalls Jazz)
JukeBox Jury Presented by JazzWeek
Many new releases are a slam dunk at jazz radio: down-the-middle post bop, high-profile vocalists, or the latest reissue or “lost” recording. But what about artists and recordings that exist along the fringe or push the envelope? How do radio stations decide what music gets on the air? A panel of radio programmers preview music ranging from the mainstream to the adventurous, and detail why or why not each track would work on jazz radio.
Moderators: Brad Stone and J Hunter (WVCR)
Panelists: Elizabeth A. Farriss (KEWU), Willard Jenkins (WPFW), Michael Valentine (WDNA), Gary Vercelli (KXPR)
Strategic Partnership in Practice: Jazz Night in America
What does an effective strategic partnership look like? How is it created and what does it take to maintain it? What value does each individual partner see in such a relationship and what can the jazz community learn from this unique partnership between NPR Music, WBGO, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Moderator: Neal Shapiro (WNET)
Panelists: Gabrielle Armand (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Anya Grundmann (NPR), Amy Niles (WBGO)
Perfect Pitch: Will This Press Kit Get Me Booked?
Independent artists invited to submit their press kit or EPK to panel of judges for a live review. Beyond personal feedback, the session leverages these real life examples to highlight best practices and opportunities for artists to best represent themselves through their bios, press releases, photos, videos, press clips, etc.
Moderator: Katie Simon (WBGO/Jazz Night in America)
Panelists: Bobby D. Asher (The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland), Janis Burley Wilson (August Wilson Center/Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival), Georgina Javor (Jazz at Lincoln Center)
Grab and Go food/drink with sponsor tables in Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Atrium
Monica Herzig’s SHEROES WCS106 featured on Antidote musician/promoter Ken Avis’ sponsored table
With pianist-composer Greg Murphy (Summer Breeze WCS081 and the soon released Bright Idea WCS111 and keyboard wiz Jason Miles (To Grover With Love / LIVE IN JAPAN WCS078, Kind of New WCS073)
Greg and Ray Blue
with Danny Bacher’s Still Happy WCS110 producer Jeff Levenson
KEYNOTE: Lundvall Visionary Award & Art Blakey Centennial Celebration
The Jazz Congress is honored to present the 2019 Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award to Darlene Chan, a tireless, behind the scenes advocate for so many artists and the music at large.
Immediately following the presentation of the award, members of the Jazz Messengers will reconvene onstage for a once in a lifetime reunion, hosted by Celine Peterson.
Panelists: Terence Blanchard, Randy Brecker, Cameron Brown, Donald Brown, Steve Davis, Leon Lee Dorsey, Essiet Essiet, Kevin Eubanks, Jon Faddis, Benny Green, Billy Harper, Donald Harrison, Eddie Henderson, Vincent Herring, Harold Mabern, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Ralph Peterson Jr., Bill Pierce, Lonnie Plaxico, Wallace Roney, Melissa Slocum, Charles Tolliver, Steve Turre, Bobby Watson
Opening Night Reception sponsored by BOLDEN, opening in theaters spring 2019
Celebrate opening night of Jazz Congress with BOLDEN, inspired by the life of Buddy Bolden. The film reimagines the compelling, powerful and tragic life of an unsung American hero who invented Jazz.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center this week announced the return of Live from the Loading Dock: A Summer Concert Series for the 2022 season.
On five Wednesday evenings beginning in May, the Center will host a variety of talented and local musicians for the concert series with the scheduled lineup* as followed:
May 18 – DAVE ZINNO QUINTET
Featuring Shawnn Monteiro, Matt DeChamplain and Yoron Israel
All concerts begin at 4:30 p.m. with hamburgers and hotdogs to be provided completely free of charge. Performances will be held at the Loading Dock in front of the Center at 20 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Boulevard. Please bring your lawn chairs so you can sit back and enjoy this fun community event.
Bassist and composer Dave Zinno issues his third album, Fetish, with his group Unisphere. Zinno calls it the culmination of a year without live music and thus, it’s a huge, in some cases, unbridled release of energy for he and his band members – Mike Tucker (tenor sax), Eric Benny Bloom (trumpet & flugelhorn), Leo Genovese (keyboards), Tim Ray (piano), and Rafael Barata (drums/percussion), and guest Rafael Rocha on trombone. Most of the dozen tunes, recorded in two six-hour sessions, were composed by band members with Zinno (3), Tucker (3), Genovese (2), and Ray (1). They have their hands in the arrangements as well.
The album kicks off with Zinno’s title track. It’s a rollicking, volcanic thrill ride from the outset, meant to convey both chaos and celebration, that eventually settles into a groove once Genovese takes his keyboard solo, and the leader makes an emphatic bass statement to close it out. Genovese penned the robust, sweeping “Out of the Hole,” one of five where he plays the acoustic piano and Ray sits out. The pace on this one is not quite as frenetic, but it still clips along briskly, propelled by the pianist’s rapid runs and strong horn parts, especially Tucker’s elongated solo. Bloom steps in to make his first compositional contribution to the band on “Unknown Mystery,” a more relaxed pace than the two previous but celebratory and triumphant in tone. The burning pace, (album has not lagged a bit to this point) continues with the first of Tucker’s tunes, “The Golden Age,” one that he Barata crafted together in a 4/4 meter as a tip to hard bop.
“So Close, So Far,” the second of Zinno’s tunes, begins somewhat tentatively, before Tucker and Bloom state the theme, underpinned by the leader’s bass and Genovese comping on the piano, and stellar solos from Tucker and Bloom. Ray arranged “Beatriz,” from Brazilian composer Edu Lobo, presenting the band its first ballad, with Tucker’s gorgeous tenor leading the way. “Future History,” with its dramatic bass intro, is from composer Paul Nagel, a colorful piece featuring a bright sonic palette that again has sparkling turns from the front line and another glistening Genovese piano spot and impressive work on the kit from Barata.
Tucker authored both the sweeping and uplifting “Melancholy Daydream” and “Over the Horizon.” The former features both Ray (piano) and Genovese (keyboards) while the latter has Genovese at the piano. Tucker blows a storm in the former while the “Over the Horizon” breathes more easily but seriously, with Tucker, and Genovese engaged in dialogue before Zinno steps forth with his own poignant statement.
“Into the Whole” is the second Genovese piece, a pulsating jazz waltz that features a glowing flugelhorn solo from Bloom, followed by one of Tucker’s more lyrical statements, a rhythm section break led by Zinno, and a mellow trombone entry that builds into a bright burst of all three horns. “Nile” is one of Zinno’s early 1980s compositions inspired by the film “African Queen.” The band does a great job of creating and improvising the jungle sounds, transporting the listener to those river environs. The final track, “Meu Fraco e Café Forte” is from samba legend Dom Salvador, arranged by Rafael Rocha with assistance from drummer Barata. Unlike the others that were recorded in the studio, this one was recorded remotely with Barata assembling tracks from each member. The title suggests strong coffee and Unisphere, in their consistent fashion, bring the requisite potency, ending with a joyous climax.
This is a most jubilant recording with every track uplifting in its own way. These cats bring their ‘A’ game and swing hard throughout.
Readers have seen this name more than once in the reviews of his releases on the site. Two years ago, we also published a review of the previous album of the Dave Zinno’s Unisphere ensemble called “Stories Told” (2019). And after 2019, as you know, came the year marked by the sign of the COVID-19 pandemic …. … It seems to me that it is just right to introduce a special concept: “post-covid jazz”. Thousands of musicians locked in their homes during a lockdown, deprived of the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, have only one option left: to compose music and hope that the clouds will someday dispel. Some people still managed to give network concerts, but the bulk of them worked at home, for the future. And in 2021, a lot of albums appeared based on these materials, albums in the music of which one can almost physically feel the performers’ joy from the possibility of new meetings, while at least in the studio. “Fetish” is one of them. When Zinno and the musicians of his band gathered in the studio in November 2020, each of them brought the material he had accumulated. It has accumulated in as many as 16 songs. As a result, a 12-track program was selected for recording the album. All the musicians who played on “Stories Told” participated in the recording of the album, plus they were joined by Zinno’s old partner, Argentine keyboardist Leo Genovese, famous for his performances with Esperanza Spaulding, and also, as a guest, another, in addition to Raphael Barata, a Brazilian trombonist Rafael Rocha.
The album contains compositions and arrangements by Ray, Tucker, Genovese, Bloom and, of course, Dave Zinno himself – “Fetish”, “So Close So Far”, and “Nile”. The music of the ensemble, which is still mostly hard-bop in style, breathes with energy, joy of musicians’ communication with each other and, of course, mastery that has not disappeared anywhere. The album was recorded in two sessions, six hours each. As Dave himself says, “This project is the culmination of a year without live music. This record contains all the energy and emotions that have accumulated and have not found a way out for such a long time. Hopefully people will feel what we felt while making this album.” Zinno doesn’t have to worry – you can really hear it in the music of “Fetish”.
Picking up where the enrapturing “River of January” left off, Dave Zinno Unisphere’s follow-up, “Stories Told,” further explores the wild and beautiful jungle of jazz, more specifically, the Brazilian/Latin tributary: electric, funky, passionate, and rhythmic. Zinno (John Medeski, Hal Crook, Adam Nussbaum) here is partnered with Unisphere co-founder Mike Tucker (Arturo Sandoval), Eric “Benny” Bloom (Lettuce), Tim Ray (Tim Ray Trio, Paul Winter Consort) and drummer/percussionist Rafael Barata (Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson, Dianne Reeves). The ensemble is supreme and ambitious, benefiting from having a recording under their collective belt and refinement of the Unisphere mission. The performance is a passionate ode to the band’s multicultural vision.
The recording kicks off with “Neurótico,” by J.T. Meirelles, a samba jazz gem that sets the tone perfectly. Elsewhere, there’s a sweet rendition of Lennon-McCartney’s “Michelle,” arranged by pianist Ray; “Tá,” a rhythmically dynamic fusion of neo-Latin styles; and the powerful “Requiem,” composed by Mike Tucker in his father’s memory, which was heartrending for all of the players. “Stories Told” is, as it should be, a melting pot of pure jazz excitement, performed with verve and executed with inspiration. If you liked “River of January,” a recording with broad appeal and accessibility even considering Unisphere’s gorgeous intricacies, you’ll surely appreciate hearing these Stories.
Most Increased #8 and #5 in Most Added!!
Released, “Stories Told” is already one of the most added and biggest gainers on the JazzWeek chart!
Sharing the Love Dave Zinno Unisphere
brings a jazz celebration to
in late January,
with the release of their new recording, River of January
If there’s one jazz band you’d consider taking a chance to see live, make it Unisphere, Dave Zinno’s tremendous and joyous jazz experience. While the band’s recent recording, River of January—of which this night serves as an official release party—is an immense and beautiful record, there’s no doubt that this music is made for the stage.
The band Zinno has assembled is spectacular and all are citizens/musicians of the world. Unisphere includes the talents of sax man Mike Tucker (Arturo Sandoval), drummer Rafael Barata (Milton Nascimento, Marc Johnson), Leo Genovese (Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spaulding), and Crescent City trumpeter Benny Bloom. Tucker, a co-leader on the date, is frighteningly good and a perfect companion to Zinno. Drummer Rafael Barata is on the Rio jazz scene’s first call list, thanks to astonishing technique and great ideas. Argentine pianist and composer Leo Genovese first worked with Zinno in the band of trombone legend Hal Crook. He’s toured with Spaulding, been a member of Joe Lovano’s band, and played memorably with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Eric “Benny” Bloom, he of quick wit and showmanship, is himself on the verge of stardom. His New England jazz upbringing plays well now in his New Orleans home.
Digging a bit deeper, the recording takes the vibe of traditional jazz and reverses the paradigm, so the songs, while familiar, evolve and explore. There are many highlights here, and while it wouldn’t be a waste of space, it would be easier to say that these tunes all include rushes of adrenaline, sweetness of melody and serious elements of style. River of January is a work of forward thinking tradition and one that has much substance within it to discover. It’ll be fascinating to see how this material translates, what colors it takes on, how Zinno and the band play it and play with it.
Fans of creative license and jazz invention can dig deep into this record, of course. But best would be to see Unisphere live at the Narrows and pick up their CD on New Bedford’s iconic Whaling City Sound label. It’ll be an excellent way to witness some adventurous jazz up close and personal, and it’s certain to leave you with the great aftertaste of pure jazz joy.
Dave Zinno Unisphere River of January WCS101 Sentimental yet devoid of bathos, forward-surging yet never at the expense of thought or taste, River of January flows in two directions, simultaneously. Some laws, including those of hydrodynamics, are written to be broken. Unisphere, the cooperative (in so many ways than one) jazz band led by bassist/ composer/ arranger/pedagogue Dave Zinno, infuses the vanguard of modern jazz with what I hear as a romanticism all too uncommon in artistic expression corrupted by the materialist zeitgeist. “Evolution” and “change” are not synonymous, and these guys know it.
“Cool Water is a jazz album partly inspired by music artist Greg Murphy’s trip to Africa; the title refers to the Nairobi River which flows through the capital of Kenya. Another prominent influence on the ambitious collection is the joy of exploration and discovery with friends. The music is a celebration of camaraderie, resonating with optimism and wonder. Highly recommended! The tracks are “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Green Earrings”, “My Life”, “Theme For Ronnie”, “Friendship”, “Free Fur Nina”, “Enkare Nairobi”, “Body And Soul”, “Coolin’ Me Out”, “Lost”, “Cuttin’ Trane’s Corners”, and “You Decide”.”
The world of jazz, despite legends of gloried lore, is fraught with contradictions, dichotomies and some of the most unlikely stories that boggle the imagination–untold tales lying just beneath the maelstrom of mainstream media, tucked away as a sanguine keepsake measured only in the hearts and minds of those involved. Stories of heartbreak. Stories of triumph.
Pianist Greg Murphy’s story, his all-too-human story, is made of that same kind of tangible heroic fabric–from wandering in the valley low only to gain a celebratory emergence–a joyful spiritual attainment over and above a craggy, pit-laden adversity.
I met an enthusiastic Murphy in the summer of 1980 one afternoon at my downtown Chicago loft venue for jazz, Aziza Artist Space. The set that day was led by the late saxophonist, Fred Anderson. Recommended by his friend and bassist Tyler Mitchell, Murphy was on the gig. Showing a promise that would only be realized years down the road, Murphy exhibited an indelible pianistic presence. His bluesy orchestral swing-filled stylistic technique crackled with an exuberant intensity far beyond his youthful age.
Upon a chance encounter with Marsalis patriarch Ellis Marsalis in Chicago, as fate would have it, soon Murphy was headed for New Orleans. Duly noticing the young pianist’s potential, Murphy was Crescent City bound–this at the height of the Young Lions movement of the early 80s. Recalling their initial meeting, “Ellis Marsalis came to my house, gave me a free piano lesson and subsequently suggested that I apply for a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Study Grant.”
After several months of study with Marsalis and a couple years of performances under his belt, Murphy felt it was time for his New York debut. Finding himself in the hardball, thick pace of the jazz capital of the world, he hit the ground running–gigging and sitting in with a gaggle of who’s who musicians, from leaders to sidemen.
The move was not without its life-altering challenges, however. Murphy, consequently swept up in the netherworld of New York’s swirling, turbulent and unforgiving drug subculture, found himself with a nagging addiction, homeless and scrounging for gigs. After years of struggle and hitting ‘rock bottom’, the pianist sought help not only to bring the desperately needed healing of sobriety but also to resurrect a once budding career, the precipice of which was well within reach.
“The music scene and the fast paced lifestyle in New York kicked a lot of musicians’ asses and sent them back home with their tails between their legs,” Murphy recalls. “I swore that would never happen to me, but it did, and I went back to Chicago wounded. When I returned to Harlem I started to get my act together and began focusing on life, music and recovery.”
Jazz mythos is replete with numerous fringe characters who should have made it to the top echelons, yet for some reason faltered, never to be heard from again. There are countless tales of brilliance, yet their shooting stars ebb and wane, fading into an on-waiting obscurity. Pianist Greg Murphy’s everyday toil and sweat equity is the stuff legends are made of, beating incredible odds against an ofttimes societal indifference when it comes to the needs of those pushed to the castigated margins of American society.
As an adept pianist of universal appeal, Murphy has done it all–from the backroom bar jam sessions, to accompanying a litany of singers, to countless man hours of solo piano gigs in hotels and eateries, to mounting outdoor festival stages with some of the famous and not-so-famous, Murphy’s resume is incredibly outstanding by any measure. Yet it was his association with multidirectional drummer, Rashied Ali, that helped verify his protean credentials as a solid accompanist and soloist. Having met the iconic drummer previously in Chicago, before arriving in New York, was something predestined. Little did he know that he’d become Ali’s pianist of choice. Murphy recalls, “Working with Rashied helped me tremendously as a musician and as a person. He was a father figure and best friend at the same time and we used to hang out a lot on and off the road. When we were on the bandstand, he was a leader both rhythmically and spiritually. He was the most complimentary musician I’ve ever played with.”
Murphy’s 20 year plus tenure with Rashied Ali historically plants him firmly in the branches of the John Coltrane lineage. Through the fruition of the Ali/Trane tree, Murphy would achieve a wider acclaim of peer recognition, particularly with one-time Coltrane bassist Reggie Workman. It turns out that Mr. Workman was originally sought out by the pianist for this recording. Talking with Workman over a period of time, Murphy said, “Reggie’s always working and it was just too difficult for us to find time to get together.” And while the session with Workman (who proposed the June 19th recording date) didn’t work out, Murphy kept his head above water and sought out his long time bassist Eric Wheeler.
The natural choice of in-demand bassist Eric Wheeler was a no-brainer. “Eric’s my favorite bass player and I was happy he was available for the date,” Greg says. “He’s got a huge sound, intricate articulation and a tremendous improvisational conception.”
Key to the overall emotional soundscape and rhythmic projection of this recording is one of the most important drummers of his generation, Jeff “Tain” Watts. His conversant dexterity and unexpectant dropping of syncopation, undergirds flavorful nuances of color and timbre, making Tain not only a drummer for all seasons but an unfailing rhythm mate to be counted on always. “I met Tain after he first started playing with Wynton in the mid-eighties,” Murphy remembers. “I always knew he was a bad cat but didn’t realize the depth of his power, subtlety and musicianship until I played with him. He’s truly one of the great drummers.”
Elemental to any jazz trio session is the profound yet subliminal reciprocity of the players. Underpinned by the blues and swing, so vital to the panoramic musical narrative, Murphy, along with Eric Wheeler and Jeff “Tain” Watts, pour into each tune every drop of sweat and blood they have. Furthermore, the band keeps the music contemporary and timeless, calling attention to themes reflected in the songs, Juneteenth Notes, Earthlings and Happy. These three tunes in and of themselves set the tone.
Also in the program is the newly discovered Coltrane composition, Untitled Original 11383, a twelve-bar blues that Murphy and crew had the foresight to do a fresh cover of. Greg recalls, “I had planned to record a different Bb blues (Theme for Ronnie–written for the late great alto saxophonist, Ron Sutton, Jr.) but after listening to Trane’s tune at the suggestion of bass player, Dezron Douglas two days before the session, I decided to transcribe it and take a shot at it.”
Juneteenth Notes, a showcase for Tain’s telepathic rumbling interplay, pays tribute to the African American holiday recognizing newly freed black slaves of Texas, months following Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. “Many Americans aren’t too familiar with Juneteenth and what it means historically,”says Murphy in regards to the reconciliation of the nation and its sad and unfortunate legacy of slavery. The territory of Texas got the news of freedom later than most of the southern states on June 19th, hence the title Juneteenth.
Of the most memorable pieces is the trio’s rendition of saxophonist Joe Ford’s Earthlings. Murphy recorded the tune as a solo piano vehicle on his Blues for Miles album (JazzIntensity 2016). Surprisingly enough, Jeff “Tain” Watts was the drummer on the original Larry Willis recording, Heavy Blue (Steeplechase 1994). “I heard it on the radio a lot in the mid 90s and loved it,” says Murphy. “Joe Ford’s original version is in 4/4 but Larry needed a ballad so they adapted it to 3/4. It sounds great either way.” This solid trio version should get just as much media attention if not more, as Murphy and crew deliver a classic performance.
Always playing with a burning fire beneath his fingers, Bright Idea, Greg Murphy’s second Whaling City Sound project and fifth overall is perhaps his strongest recording as a leader. Swinging with the best of pianists today, the hunger and desire of Murphy’s fleet, yet muscular edginess and his valiant triumph in life and music lead us to believe that Bright Idea is destined to become a valued aesthetic document in the pantheon of jazz piano recordings.
Summer Breeze is a jazz album brimming with vibrant warmth. Music artists Greg Murphy (piano, keyboards), Eric Wheeler (acoustic and electric bass), and Kush Abadey (drums), supported by additional skilled players of the trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and more, have created an intense listening experience sure to thrill and delight. Highly recommended! The tracks are “Solar” (4:59), “Sophisticated Lady” (6:49), “No One in Particular” (6:33), “A Reason to Smile” (5:10), “Cedar Salad” (8:41), “Fall” (5:03), “Expectations” (5:55), “Summer Breeze” (4:47), “Solid” (6:44), “Leo’s Lullaby” (4:47), “Tsk” (5:45), and “Suspended Times” (7:41).
To view Summer Breeze’s press release, click here.
LINER NOTES by Bill Milkowski
A prodigious talent whose keyboard pyrotechnics have ignited the bandstands of such shamanistic figures as Rashied Ali and Tisziji Muñoz, veteran pianist-composer Greg Murphy has been a firebrand on the scene since moving to New York in 1987. On his fourth outing as a leader, the Chicago native showcases a myriad of musical expressions besides the heightened, McCoy-inspired approach that has been his calling card for decades.
With a core group consisting of fiery trumpeter Josh Evans, Dee Dee Bridgewater bassist Eric Wheeler and sensational young drummer Kush Abadey — augmented on different tracks by stellar improvisers Jay Rodriguez on soprano sax, Eric Wyatt and Scott Robert Avidon on tenor saxes, Corey Wilcox on trombone, Raphael Cruz on percussion and Malou Beauvoir on vocals — Murphy explores some appealing pop material on his “A Reason to Smile” and a cover of Seals & Crofts’ ‘70s hit “Summer Breeze” while also digging into Afro-Cuban grooves (“Suspended Time”), burning hard bop (“Cedar Salad”), free jazz (“Tsk”) and a swinging blues (Sonny Rollins’ “Solid”) on his Whaling City Sound debut.
“I was playing in pop bands when I got started in Chicago, before I started getting deeply into jazz,” says the pianist-composer, who got a grant to study with Ellis Marsalis in New Orleans during the mid ‘80s. “In fact, I wrote ‘A Reason to Smile’ 30 years ago when I was in this group called Lightning Flash Thunder Roar. And I got Malou to help me with the lyrics on this new version of that tune.” Beauvoir delivers supremely soulful vocals on that mellow offering as well as on a re-imaginging of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” which morphs into a 6/4 Afro-Cuban feel midway through. Evans shades Malou’s alluring vocals on muted trumpet throughout their inventive take on this classic bit of Ellingtonia while Cruz provides the appropriate percussive colors to give it that Latin tinge.
“Cedar Salad” is Murphy’s homage to the late, great pianist-composer Cedar Walton. “I actually ran into Cedar in the Village one day and gave him a copy of this piece I had written for him,” the pianist recalls. “My thinking behind this was to emulate the way that Cedar went into the half-step harmonic movement, from major to minor, on his classic tunes ‘Bolivia’ and ‘Ugetsu.’ In this case, it goes from the Bflat minor to the Bmajor to the F#.” Trumpeter Evans and saxophonist Wyatt provide a Messengers-like feel on the front line of this jaunty swinger while Murphy reveals his fluent hard bop chops on his impassioned solo here.
Wyatt, a longtime collaborator of Murphy’s who also happens to be the godson of Sonny Rollins, plays some robust tenor sax on the bluesy Newk vehicle “Solid” while trumpeter Evans is prominently featured on a faithful reading of the hauntingly beautiful Wayne Shorter composition “Fall,” which also has the pianist freely exploring the harmonic fabric of that evocative piece. The core trio of Murphy, Wheeler and Abadey turns in a straightforward reading of Miles Davis’ “Solar,” which is underscored by the young drummer’s briskly swinging touch on the kit. Abadey also provides some gentle brushwork and tasty cymbal colorations on Avidon’s gentle “Leo’s Lullaby” and he fires up Murphy’s modal burner “Expectations,” which features some rapid-fire exchanges of eights with the drummer, trumpeter Evans, soprano saxophonist Rodriguez and tenorist Avidon at the tag. And the drummer’s keen instincts adds to the conversation on the purely improvisational “Tsk.”
“Kush is a phenomenal young cat,” says Murphy. “He really plays beyond his years. He’s played with Wallace Roney and recently he was on the road with Ravi Coltrane. I’ve seen him down at Small’s a lot and he always sounds great. Yeah, he’s a pretty busy cat these days.”
Murphy unleashes with McCoy-esque abandon on his two uptempo workouts, “Expectations” and “No One in Particular,” and he delivers a real-deal son montuno feel on his Afro-Cuban groover “Suspended Time,” which features a pulsating bass solo from Wheeler along with an extended drum flurry at the end by Abadey.
All of Murphy’s experiences — his 20-year tenure in New York with Rashied Ali, his intensive study in New Orleans with Ellis Marsalis, his pop-funk days in Chicago, along with his Latin jazz work in Raphael Cruz’s band — come to bear on Summer Breeze, his most fully self-realized outing to date. — Bill Milkowski
Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Down Beat and Jazziz magazines. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius” (Backbeat Books) and the recipient of the 2015 Bruce Lundvall Award presented by the Montreal Jazz Festival.