ARTIST UPDATE: Frank Woeste

Posted by: mark on April 14, 2017 @ 9:51 pm
Filed under: Artist Update, Frank Woeste

Frank Woeste is a pianist, composer, arranger and producer living in Paris, France. In addition to leading his own groups, he has performed  with Ibrahim Maalouf, Mark Turner, Nasheet Waits, Sylvain Luc and Gretchen Parlato. This week he is on tour in the US with DADA PEOPLE, the collaborative quartet he leads with Dave Douglas.

Frank took some time between shows to discuss his recent musical experiences as well as some future projects:

GLM: You perform regularly in the French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf‘s group along with DADA PEOPLE drummer Clarence Penn. Having logged so many hours on the road, what is it like to play with Clarence in a different context?

Frank Woeste: It is great! Clarence Penn is a very versatile drummer and he’s always adapting to the situation and not afraid to try new music. I like playing with him also because he’s so interactive. He’s supportive but also always making suggestions musically. So despite the fact that we’ve played a lot together, it stays unpredictable in a good way!

GLM: Your video series, “The Libretto Dialogues” features duets with some wonderful musicians, including Lage Lund, Tigran Hamasyan, Mark Turner and Seamus Blake. How did the series come about and what have you learned from played with this broad range of musicians?

FW: I organized a masterclass cycle at my recording studio, the ‘Studio Libretto.’  I started with Larry Grenadier. We were playing together with Ibrahim Maalouf’s ‘Wind’ project and I got several calls from bass players because they wanted a lesson with Larry! So I decided to organize a masterclass with Larry on an off day of the tour. We recorded a duo song and filmed it to document it. We put the masterclass and the duet on Youtube got a lot of good feedback, so now every time an artist did a Masterclass at Studio Libretto I’d ask if they want to record a duo before and that was the beginning of series!

What have I learned? I’d say I have learned that sometimes it can be good to make music in a context where there’s a certain urgency. For the dialogue series we rarely have more than thirty minutes to record and film. And usually one of us doesn’t know the song coming in and since we’re in the same room well it is what it is. There’s no editing possible so you have to really be in the moment!

GLM: You’re on tour with DADA PEOPLE this week. Having touring Europe in the fall, how has the music changed since the original recording through live performance?

I think the music is progressing in a good way because we know the compositions better now and we can stretch out more.

GLM: How would you compare and contrast the jazz scene in Europe and the US?

I’d need pages to answer this and there’s no general answers as the scenes are made up of individuals that are unique and the term jazz is pretty broad today. But I’d say American musicians in general are probably more rooted in the jazz tradition and history than European musicians, which is natural, I guess. European musicians often search for inspiration outside a pure jazz context. That might be local folkore or classical music, etc.

GLM: Do you have summer touring plans? Any new projects happening?

I’ll be touring this summer with my band Pocket Rhapsody. That album is out on ACT Music with Ben Monder and Justin Brown. I’ll touring with a European line up this summer. I’ll also be touring with Ibrahim Maalouf.

There’s a new co-lead project called ‘Reverso – Suite Ravel’ I recorded with American trombonist and composer (and Greenleaf artist! ed.), Ryan Keberle, featuring French cellist Vincent Courtois and drummer Jeff Ballard. The music we wrote is inspired by Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin”, a suite for solo piano composed between 1914 and 1917, in six movements based on those of a traditional Baroque suite.

Not many composers have inspired jazz musicians as often or as intensely as Maurice Ravel who ironically was one of the first 20th century classical composers to acknowledge Jazz as a valuable inspiration. During his US tour in 1928 Ravel said, “You Americans take jazz too lightly. You seem to see it as a music of little value, vulgar and ephemeral. In my point of view, it is jazz that will give rise to the national music of the United States.” The album will come out in October on my new label Phonoart Records in Europe and on Alternate Side Records in the US. We’ll tour Europe in November and the US in December this year.

Learn more about Frank’s at his website. DADA PEOPLE tour dates can be found here. And you can buy the record via Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon.

Dada People has been made possible through the French-American Jazz Exchange, a joint program of FACE Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique (“SACEM”).

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Artist Update: Greg Ward – Spring 2017

Posted by: mark on March 29, 2017 @ 10:05 pm
Filed under: Artist Update, Artists, Greg Ward

Saxophonist and composer Greg Ward is a busy man. Already in 2017 he’s embarked on a multi-week tour of the US as a sideman, hosted a regular weekly gig in Chicago, toured with his trio and performed with innumerable Chicago musicians in a variety of different groups.

His latest project is touring the US Midwest with a new quintet that features some great Chicago musicians: guitarists Dave Miller and Matt Gold, bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Quin Kirchner. The tour takes starts tonight with shows in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. Full details here.

Before departing, Greg checked in with us and provided some insights on his recent musical activities:

The response to your 2016 Greenleaf release Touch My Beloved’s Thought has been wonderful. Now that it has been out in the world for a while, what was it like for you putting out the record? Any surprises?

The Touch My Beloved’s Thought process has been a real pleasure, from start to finish. The entire band is very happy with how the recording came together and with how the record was received. Releasing this recording took a lot of work and planning, which can be strenuous at times, but very rewarding in the end. We performed 7 concerts in support of the release, three of them with dancers included. Every show was incredible. The people who attended the concerts were all very excited and receptive, which is very encouraging. During these shows, the ensemble grew into something different. We really became a band and found all sorts of new ways to perform this music together. I was surprised at how quickly this growth took place.

Are there any future plans with the project? ( I think I heard you were trying get it Europe?)

I’ll be presenting TMBT at the North Sea Jazz Festival in July. Also, there are some future dates coming together for France, possibly. I’d love to record with this project again and have applied for some funding that I’ll hear about in the summer.

You’ve been back living in Chicago after some time in New York City and you’re really active in the thriving jazz scene there. What makes the culture of Chicago there so amenable to creative music? Who are the musicians around town that are inspiring you?

We moved back to Chicago in 2015 and it’s been wonderful. There is a lot of amazing art being created around town at places like Elastic, Constellation, Hungry Brain, California Clipper, The Green Mill and more. The affordability of concerts in Chicago gives musicians a real opportunity to develop an audience. Lately, I’m inspired by incredible artists like Caleb Willitz, Makaya McCraven, Junius Paul, Matt Ulery, Marvin Tate, Mike Reed, Ben LaMar Gay, Joshua Abrams, Rob Clearfield and many more. There’s too many to name but I had to list a few.

You spent a large portion of the winter on the road playing educational concerts with Jazz Reach around the US. How was that experience? What are your favorite places to visit?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with JazzReach for 9 years and we usually spend January/February on the West Coast. Not bad at all!  Most of what we do is presenting multi-media concerts to children of all ages about various aspects of jazz music. Having the opportunity to travel the country and to share our love of jazz with kids is incredible. Also, Hans Schuman, the founder or JazzReach, always has an amazing band put together. When we are out West, I’m always excited to be in Saratoga, CA, where we perform at the Montalvo Arts Center. That area of California amazes me every year.

You’re heading out on a tour of the US Midwest with your quintet this week. How did this group come together and what can audiences expect at these shows? Is the music all original material?

When I moved back to town, in November 2015, I waited a few months before deciding to put together a project. I received a gig from The Whistler and took that opportunity to write some new music for a double-guitar quintet. The instrumentation sounded very interesting in my mind. Our first gig was a lot of fun. That summer, we ended up participating in a residency at The Whistler where we had the opportunity to perform for a month and to explore and  to develop our sound. Everyone in the band was super excited about pursuing this project so I started putting together a tour, with the help of Big Fish Booking. All but one of the tunes are originals.

The Greg Ward Quintet tours the US Midwest March 30th to April 3rd. Check out all of Greg’s activities at his website.

Touch My Beloved’s Thought is available via iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon.

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Dave Douglas Joins Tom Harrell at the Village Vanguard in October

Posted by: mark on September 30, 2016 @ 4:07 pm
Filed under: Artist Update, Dave Douglas

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Dave Douglas will join award-winning trumpeter and composer Tom Harrell and his quintet for a week at New York’s Village Vanguard October 11-16.

The group, which features guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer E.J. Strickland, will be playing music from Tom’s new release, Something Gold, Something Blue.

Reservations can be made here.

See you out there!

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Artist Update: Greg Ward

Posted by: mark on July 7, 2016 @ 12:40 pm
Filed under: Artist Update, Artists, Greg Ward, Releases

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Saxophonist and composer Greg Ward is set to release Touch My Beloved’s Thought, his debut album for Greenleaf Music. The record is receiving some great press and Greg is getting ready for a New York City album release show on July 8 at the Jazz Gallery.

For this artist update, Greg discusses the making of the album, Friday’s album release show, and lessons learned from band leading.

This is your third album as a leader and with a ten piece band and fifteen dancers, this project has been a large undertaking. How was the process of making this record different than previous albums?

There are two important factors that made this project different from other recordings I’ve made. First, Touch My Beloved’s Thought began as a commission from the city of Chicago’s Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz series, which was facilitated by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Mike Reed approached me with the idea of creating a piece that would be inspired by Mingus’ Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, which would incorporate dance. Second, I was paired with an amazing choreographer, Onye Ozuzu. Together we created an artistic voice that bridged dance and music equally. Throughout the entire process we had about six months to work through different ideas. Onye would make videos of herself and her colleagues dancing to excerpts of Mingus’ music or to my original music. This process continued and the piece came together quickly. Usually, composing is such a solitary thing and that’s why this was so exciting for me.

You’ve done performances with and without dancers. What does the dance element bring to the performances? And with those experiences, what do you notice when you perform the material without dancers?

Well, this will actually be the first performance without dancers, besides a radio performance we did in Chicago. The dancers become a part of the music and I feel that when you see their bodies moving with the different melodies and rhythms that something new is created. For example, in an orchestra, when two instruments play a melody in unison and blend their timbres perfectly, a new instrument is created. That was our goal from the beginning. We will miss the dancers on the performance but I’m confident that the music will still be very exciting.

Friday’s album release show will feature some of the musicians who played on the album, as well as some New York musicians. Can you tell us a bit about the musicians in this ensemble and what we can expect at the Jazz Gallery performance?

The band on the recording features a cast of super-creative musicians that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with for years. For example bassist Jason Roebke and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman have been long-collaborators in Mike Reed’s People Places and Things. This is one of the rare playing situations that I’ve been in for over a decade and the rapport we have from all of the tours, recordings, and hangs is very special. Likewise, for drummer, Marcus Evans, and trombonist, Norman Palm. Both of these musicians have been in my early bands in Chicago and we’ve known each other for almost 20 years. In 2012, I had the pleasure of touring Africa with pianist Dennis Luxion, who is incredible in whatever situation you put him in.

I did get to include a few musicians that I haven’t played with but was eager to create a situation for us to make music together including trumpeter Russ Johnson, cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, bass trombonist Christopher Davis, and saxophonist Keefe Jackson. All of these folks have added so much to this project.

For the NYC show, tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino, trombonist Willie Applewhite, bass trombonist Max Seigel, and drummer Kenneth Salters, will join us. I’ve had the pleasure of making music with most all of these musicians in other settings during my stay in NYC and I’m looking forward to what happens on the stage on Friday.

You are busy with various projects as a performer and educator. How does your work as a leader impact your work in other situations?

When you lead a project it’s important to have the clearest idea of what you’re trying to create so you can relay this information to your collaborators easily. From this, I always try to understand what other bandleaders are trying to execute so that I can be the best teammate. The same goes for education; meeting students where they are and helping them reach their goals is very important to me.

You’ve recently made the move back to Chicago after spending some time living in New York City. What is like to be part of the thriving Chicago music scene?

Being back in Chicago is really amazing. Since I left in 2009, the scene has developed quite a bit. There are new clubs, a lot of new amazing musicians and new music. I’m excited to be apart of a scene that has so many interesting voices. Folks are trying things and this is inspiring!

Greg Ward & 10 Tongues play the Jazz Gallery on Friday, July 8th with sets at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. Tickets can be reserved online in advance or purchased at the door.

You can pre-order the album at Bandcamp and iTunes.

The Chicago album release shows will take place on July 29 and 30 at the Green Mill. More details here.

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Artist Update: Rudy Royston

Posted by: mark on June 23, 2016 @ 4:40 pm
Filed under: Artist Update, Rudy Royston

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Drummer Rudy Royston is one of the busiest musicians on the jazz scene. Whether playing in groups led by Ben Allison, Don Byron, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, David Gilmore, Branford Marsalis, Jason Moran, and Greg Osby, or leading his own bands, his creative command of the drum set lifts everyone around him. His debut album as a leader, 303, was released on Greenleaf Music in 2014 to wide critical acclaim.

Next week, Royston will take his ‘303’ band into New York’s Village Vanguard for a week-long run.

Here Rudy discusses what to expect at the Vanguard, his upcoming album and life beyond music.

GLM: Playing with all sorts of musicians and ensembles as a sideman, what is it like to be playing such a broad range of music?

It is perfect for me, because I have all sorts of music ideas constantly invading my playing. But, I love having the opportunity to play all of that music in my heart. The music challenges me to play the drum set differently for each band, not necessarily in glaringly different ways, but to find new ways of sonically presenting different music and grooves. I really want to try and blend with the character and writing style of each composer – to sound like a drummer in the band instead of with the band.

GLM: Guitarist Bill Frisell has included you in a number of his ensembles. What has that experience been like?

I’ve read some people who think of me as a powerhouse drummer, probably because I often play kind of strong, and I have been on some hard-hitting records. Playing with Bill has been the foil to that for me. Playing with Bill is not hard-hitting it’s hard-moment-ing. What I love about playing with Bill is the music is everything at once – grooves, textures, styles, colors, genres – but at all times an intimate, attentive, sharing conversation. It is playing in that moment, and the exploration of every sonic approach you can to create the landscapes and experiences of the music. Just like the previous question, it’s a real opportunity to play all the music in my heart. But that is the heart of Bill’s music. Still, I feel an effortlessness though when playing with Bill (Actually, I don’t think he has ever told me how or what to play on his tunes. I haven’t even seen sheet music for most of his tunes I play). I want to grow to be that way in my music and performance: light, no pressure, no rush, no fear – just music.

GLM: You’re returning to the Village Vanguard with the group that performs on your 2014 release, 303. Can you give us a preview of what to expect?

We will play some of the music from the record, and we have some new tunes to try out as well. I am sort or in another sonic mindset currently, but the spirit of 303 will remain: fun, hitting, grooving, adventurous music.

GLM: You’re working on a new album. What can you tell us about this new record?

I have a trio record called Rise of Orion coming in the fall. I have Jon Irabagon on saxophones and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. I love these guys both personally and as musicians because I hear in them a myriad of music and sounds like those in me…eclecticism and a drive to include it. I’ve heard people say you compose where you are in your life at the time…I’m finding that true. I am in a time where I am sensitive to there being a surface Rudy and then there are the translucent layers of life beneath that surface. This music attempts to touch on those layers. My challenge was how to achieve that in a trio setting. 303 is a record of sound and melodic layers: there are eight sources of sound. But with the trio, I wanted to use the entirety of the record to express those layers. The music is adventurous and thematic, groovy and sometimes a raucous, but overall accessible…a little something for everyone. Ultimately the message of the CD as a whole is Love.

GLM: You’ve been based on the East Coast for ten years now, since moving from Colorado in 2006. Do you feel settled? Do you feel like a New Yorker yet?

I think I need a little more time! I do feel more settled in the pace and rhythm of life in NY. But, I am still not totally sure what it feels like to be a New Yorker since I have lived in New Jersey my whole time on the east coast. I do feel like a New Jerseyan, though. My kids are Jersey kids; my wife has a Jersey style now. Jersey feels a little more settled than New York to me, but New Yorkers have an unbelievably consistent, daily focus. I can say that without reservation I call New York home now. I almost understand alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules!  But, no matter from where in the world I am arriving, I get excited now looking out of the airplane window and seeing the Manhattan facade to one side and the Newark facade on the other. That wasn’t always true when I got here ten years ago – it just looked like a hard life out the window…LOL.

GLM: As a dedicated father, you’re known for planning your travel around family soccer games and recitals. How do you achieve a balance between your work and family?

It is not easy to maintain. I could work much more at times, but it boils down to scheduling as tight as possible around my wife and kid’s lives or just flat out turning down work sometimes. I get lots of videotaped games and recitals on the road. But, I need to see and touch them often or I start to get the jimjams. The good thing is when I am home, I am home. I send the kids to school in the morning and greet them when they get home in the afternoon. We eat together as a family, talk, play, love, hug, laugh A LOT. I help with every project and make every activity they have because we know there will come a time when I will be out for a long period of time. We as a family have learned how to handle those times.

GLM: Do you have any plans for the summer? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?

I am looking forward to 303 at the Vanguard for one. I am also looking forward to John Patitucci and Chris Potter in Mexico. Rudresh Manhanthappa‘s Bird Calls is going out in July for a couple weeks; I am teaching and playing with Luis Perdomo in Langnau at the Langnau Jazz Nights Festival; a George Colligan trio recording project with Boris Koslov; Chicago Jazz Festival with JD Allen Trio.

Rudy’s ‘303’ band will play the Village Vanguard June 28th to July 3rd. The group will feature Jon Irabagon on saxophone, Nadje Noordhuis on trumpet, Sam Harris on piano, Nir Felder on guitar, and Mimi Jones and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. Reservations can be made here.

Check out 303 on Bandcamp, as well as his upcoming tour dates and his website.

 

Vanguard RR 303 June 2016

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Artist Update: Linda Oh

Posted by: mark on June 6, 2016 @ 10:45 am
Filed under: Artist Update, Linda Oh

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Linda Oh is a dynamo. As a bassist, composer and bandleader, she is one of the post in-demand musicians in jazz today, releasing her own albums, and performing with a host of artists including Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer, Joe Lovano, and Steve Wilson. She recently began touring with Pat Metheny in a new group featuring pianist Gwilym Simcock and drummer Antonio Sanchez.

She took a moment from her busy schedule to update us on her activities:

GLM: You’ve been on tour with Pat Metheny’s new quartet. What has that experience been like? 

The experience has really been a life-changing and unforgettable one. We’ve been playing a lot of Pat’s previous material – a lot of his trademark tunes from albums such as Bright Size Life, Question and Answer, and Travels. I’ve truly learned a lot from this new quartet – from the amazing tech crew and from Pat himself – about everything from sound, to gear, to tempos, to “playing the song” vs playing what’s subjectively “hip” or “creative.”

This first tour in Asia we played in venues ranging from intimate clubs – like Blue Note in Nagoya and Tokyo – to larger venues such as Seoul Jazz Festival, one of the most responsive crowds I’ve ever played for. The audiences throughout in Japan, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai have been really warm and receptive. This was my first time doing an extensive tour in Asia.

GLM: You’ve recorded a new album to be released sometime in 2017. Can you give us a sneak peak about the recording?

A follow-up to my latest album Sun Pictures, this record features Ben Wendel on tenor saxophone, Matthew Stevens on guitar and Justin Brown on drums. We have played with this format a lot and it’s kind of a crazy mixture of tunes and some material that has evolved over the last couple of years.

“Mantis” is based on a Korean traditional rhythm, “ochae chilgut.” This was a piece I composed when collaborating with musicians at the 2013 Gwang Ju World Music Festival – a group consisting of Korean, Korean/Japanese and Australian musicians. “Ikan Billis” is the Malay word for anchovy. “Walk Against Wind” is my tribute to Marcel Marceau.

“Speech Impediment” was inspired by a talk given by Australian singer/songwriter Megan Washington, about her life as a “stutterer” and the discrimination she faced. This piece tells a simple fictional story of a man who has a stuttering problem and is unable to use his words to tell a woman he loves her. Eventually he finds other ways to convey his love, and with mutual love and empathy for each other everything ends happily, the way we always wish it would.

GLM: Being an active educator in various capacities, you’ll be teaching at the NJPAC All-Female Jazz Residency in July. What is your approach to teaching young musicians?

My number one goal is finding what sparks the student’s interest and bringing out the best in them. I feel like trying to discover that within themselves will lead them to long-term success, a sustainable work ethic and confidence.

GLM: You’re leading a group at the 55 Bar on June 6 with a different group than your recent gig at the Jazz Gallery. What do you have planned for this performance?

Greg Ward, one of my favorite musicians, is flying in from Chicago! Also two of my favorite musicians: Fabian Almazan on Rhodes (long-time partner in crime) and Justin Brown on drums, who is on the next record. He just played at the Brooklyn Bowl with Thundercat, which I’m sad to have missed. We’ll be playing some newer material from this new record (including some of the ones mentioned above) and some from the previous albums.

GLM: Do have any other plans for the summer?

Other teaching camps include: Stanford Jazz Workshop (alongside Ambrose Akinmusire, Camila Meza, Julian Lage, and Fabian Almazan) where I’ll be playing a short concert with Bobby McFerrin, the Banff Centre directed by Vijay Iyer and the Kimmel Center directed by Anthony Tidd.

I’ll also be at SFJAZZ with Fabian Almazan’s Rhizome on August 12th and I’ll be playing with my band at the Harlem Afternoon Jazz Series on the 26th July run by Craig Harris.

Linda leads her group at the 55 bar tonight.

Check out Linda’s Greenleaf releases Initial Here and Sun Pictures.

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