Donny McCaslin’s Casting For Gravity release day

Posted by: jim on October 2, 2012 @ 5:40 pm
Filed under: Donny McCaslin (News), Listening, Releases

This year has been a whirlwind for us. And we’re proud to announce our final release of 2012. And man, does it rip!

Donny came to Chicago earlier this year with Jason, Tim, and Mark for a run at Green Mill previewing music they were getting ready to record. Needless to say, we were dumbfounded and extremely excited at what we heard and saw.

What we heard was all this new music that was, at the time, dubbed “Stadium Jazz” by Tim. It was big, bigger than anything we’d heard before. Donny flexing his herculean horn, Mark breaking beats and blowing minds, Tim towering in the back muscling his fuzz pedals, and Jason synthing it all to the outer limits. What we saw was more head bobbing than you’d expect at a jazz show. The young kids trying their hardest to record video on the sly while lapping up every note. Maybe it was the Old Fashioneds we were drinking, but this was one of the best shows we’ve ever seen at the Mill.

That excitement was reintroduced when Donny sent us the master a few months later. The album, beautifully produced by David Binney, captured all that we heard that night, and then some. This is a special release for Donny. A major statement to our ears. And now we are happy to say that it’s out in the world ready for your earbuds. Enjoy.

››› Casting For Gravity record release – Scullers – 10.10.12

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Watch “High On A Mountain” from the Be Still recording session

Posted by: jim on September 20, 2012 @ 3:42 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Listening, Video

via NPR’s A Blog Supreme: This is “High On A Mountain,” by Ola Belle Reed, a pioneering folk and bluegrass musician from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. It too has become standard repertoire, at least within the bluegrass community. Reed recorded the song for a 1976 album called My Epitaph, and she talked about the tune for the liner notes (link opens PDF):

I’ve been asked many times to describe my life in the mountains. There’s one point I’d specifically like to make and want to make is that I don’t believe there would be any way in the world that you could possibly describe it. … really and truly we were so close to the earth and the elements and the God’s creation. I think that’s the one thing that made them know. I think that the music and everything comes through communication with people. The people lived with the earth, they had to make their living. That’s why I’m saying that you can not separate your music from your lifestyle. You cannot separate your lifestyle, your religion, your politics from your music. It’s a part of life. And that’s what our music was in the mountains. It was a part of our life.


Donny McCaslin’s “Casting For Gravity” has arrived. Preorder now available.

Posted by: jim on September 13, 2012 @ 8:13 pm
Filed under: Donny McCaslin (News), Listening, Releases, Video

Preorder at

Acclaimed saxophonist Donny McCaslin takes a bold leap forward with his tenth album as a leader, Casting for Gravity. McCaslin’s gargantuan tenor sound finds an ideal setting to rampage through in the ferocious grooves and electronic textures of keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana. Couching his trademark gift for brawny melodies in lurching dub rhythms, swirling electronica-inspired atmospheres, and arena-rock power, McCaslin has crafted a game-changer of an album, fusing a wealth of forward-looking influences into one wholly new modern jazz sound.

Where Donny’s previous album Perpetual Motion was a blistering electro-acoustic hybrid, Casting for Gravity soars past fusion into alchemy, forging a visionary voice from eclectic influences.

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Video: Be Still My Soul

Posted by: jim on September 4, 2012 @ 6:47 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Greenleaf (News), Listening, Video

Track 1 from Dave Douglas’ album Be Still featuring Aoife O’Donovan of Crooked Still, Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston.

Digital preorder at iTunes | Physical preorder at Greenleaf Music

Words by Ka­tha­ri­na A. von Schle­gel, adapted by Aoife O’Donovan, music by Jean Si­bel­ius, arranged by Dave Douglas.

Be still, my soul: for God is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Trust in your God, your savior and your guide
Who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
Through thorny waves leads to a peaceful land.

Be still, my soul: for God will undertake
To guide the future surely as the past
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and wind shall know
The voice that calmed them in this world will roar

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall dwell with God for evermore
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.


Von Freeman: One Remembrance

Posted by: jim on August 15, 2012 @ 11:55 am
Filed under: Chicago News, Listening, Video

Michael Friedman is a long time friend of Greenleaf Music and its co-founder, along with Dave Douglas. For years, Michael has run and continues to run Premonition Records, where he recorded and produced several projects presenting the music of Von Freeman. In acknowledgement of Von’s passing we asked Michael if he had any thoughts he would like to share. We share his sadness in the loss.
—Dave Douglas

Others will no doubt express themselves in writing about the late, great tenor saxophonist Von Freeman better than I. So many wonderful jazz writers in Chicago. But I’m not sure the written word is necessary anyway. Here is seven minutes of tenor saxophone mastery that’s all you really need in order to know the man and what mattered to him.

The background story on this track is that we had just completed the recording of “The Great Divide” in New York. Putting the record together back in Chicago, I thought a solo track would be a nice addition. The two previous Von recordings on Premonition included solo tracks and they were very popular. I asked Von if he would do it and he said he would but with reservations. “I don’t want to mess with what we’ve got too much,” is what he said. By this time we were in a bit of a time crunch to deliver the recording and the studio I wanted to use was booked solid. I managed to convince them to squeeze us in for an hour but the only time they could guarantee would be 8:30 a.m. To my surprise, Von agreed and this track is the result. Turns out we didn’t even need the entire hour.

8:30 a.m., mid-2002, Chicago Recording Company, Studio 4, One Take.


Matt Ulery’s By A Little Light, now available for preorder.

Posted by: jim on June 4, 2012 @ 3:34 pm
Filed under: Listening, Releases

This late spring and early summer has been busy for us, and we ain’t complaining. What with all this great music we’re putting out into the world. Fresh on the heels of bassist Linda Oh’s second album we released in May, another bassist finds a home for his record on our roster on June 19th.

We’re always really excited about music that begs you not to define it, music that is truly unique and individual, music that is a deeply emotional and reaches people. Lucky for us, Matt Ulery sent us his new 2-disc album By A Little Light late last year. We were wowed by the writing and the scale of the work, so today, we announce the preorder of the CD at the Greenleaf store. The MP3s are available at iTunes.

Ulery hails from Chicago — if you didn’t know, the Greenleaf offices are here, too. He has a couple working bands in town — Loom, Eastern Blok — that have recorded great records that you should check out. He’s also the musical director of vocalist Graznya Auguscik band — Graznya appears as a featured guest vocalist on several tracks on By A Little Light.

Though much of the music is through-composed, there is a strong piano trio core in the midst of all the winds-and-strings accompaniment. That piano trio duty is split between pianists Rob Clearfield and Ben Lewis, and the drummers Jon Deitemyer and Michael Caskey with Ulery as the centerpiece.

The accompaniment core consists of members of the two-time Grammy-winning sextet eighth blackbird, violinist Zach Brock, and a few others. This piece of the compositions is what gives the album it’s almost indefinable sound (I was joking the other day that the start of a song called Processional sounded to me like a Stereolab song). Regardless of what I hear on a tune, you should hear a track for yourself.

The full ensemble will perform two nights at Chicago’s Green Mill on June 29-30. It’s sure to be a great night of music. We hope you’ll join us.

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Deeper Than Happy, Album Track + Remix

Posted by: jim on May 23, 2012 @ 3:34 pm
Filed under: Greenleaf (News), Listening

Deeper Than Happy (Studio)

Deeper Than Happy (Remix)

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Why Spotify is the best, and the worst.

Posted by: jim on May 3, 2012 @ 4:29 pm
Filed under: Listening, Music Technology

Spotify raises some serious issues for artists and independent labels these days. Jim Tuerk, who works with us here at Greenleaf Music, has done a lot of thinking (and a lot of listening) around Spotify and other music services. He wrote some of his thoughts down recently and I believe Greenleaf followers will find them interesting and thought-provoking. Enjoy. —Dave Douglas

I’ve been streaming music on Spotify like it’s going out of style these past few months. The free version was just alright, but as with many in the digital music generation, I hate ads. And as you might guess, I have a pretty expansive iTunes library, so it wasn’t a priority to get in deeper with a paid account——paid accounts remove ads and allow you streaming capabilities on your phone. When I did take the plunge into the paid application, it was mostly so I could stay current with new releases in the indie rock world——something I doze off on sometimes only to be met with, “You haven’t heard _____?!” from one of my friends. And I have to say I am pretty hooked now.

A friend of mine recently equated Spotify to giving pirates the key to the booty, meaning that there really isn’t any reason to pirate a song or record if you can stream it for free online. And I’ve found that to be true. Sometimes, I just want to hear the record before I buy it whether that means scouring YouTube for tracks, or searching out other methods of downloading. What inevitably happens is one of two things: 1) I like the record, and buy the vinyl or digital, or 2) I don’t like it, and delete it from my memory (and my computer if it’s there). With Spotify, I rarely have to search illegal avenues and now have a list a mile long of records I have discovered and now need to buy. And that list grows exponentially due to the social piece of Spotify——which in my mind is the nail-head they hit spot on.

Example: A friend sends me a track on Spotify messenger by a band called White Denim. I dig it, check out their catalog further, fall into fan-dom, see a show, buy all the vinyl they have on the merch table, and go home happy to have supported the band directly with an empty wallet and an arm full of music.

But are there more people like me out there? I assume there are, but in far less numbers than the people who simply pay their $10 and stream all they want without a second thought to buy a CD/LP/download or see a show. For me, there’s something about not owning a piece of music I like that rubs me the wrong way. Call me old-school. Maybe it’s because I’m a musician and want to feel I’ve supported folks like me. But more simply, I think it’s that I can’t quite go all-in on consumption without ownership.

One of my favorite singers, David Lowery, is a smart dude. He wrote this expansive article on the current music business model vs. the old model a couple weeks ago. It’s a helluva read. He writes: “’The consumer wants music to be free!’ [the Digerati] shout as they pound their tiny fists on their Skovby tables. The consumer also wants cars to be free. And beer. Especially beer. But any market involves a buyer and a seller. A consumer and a producer.” And furthermore, that some equate, “the unauthorized use of other people’s property (artist’s songs) with freedom,” but “…when it comes to their intellectual property, software patents for instance, these same companies fight tooth and nail.”

(Note: There is so much more to quote from over there. You should read the full article.)

Spotify hasn’t been forthcoming with their payment structure as of yet (Digital Music News is a good resource for that). While their model allows for a company to join up or pull their content, the “freedom” for consumers at the expense of artist revenues is why a lot of labels are pulling their catalogs from there (one of my favorite labels, Drag City, being one of them). But labels can lose a lot by not servicing Spotify——specifically the aforementioned social aspects of the software. It’s a great tool for artists to get their music out there to the people like me, but none of that matters if people use Spotify as a one-stop for all their music consumption. It really only works for artists if those engaged fans are somehow converted into paying consumers——meaning they don’t just pay Spotify, but rather support the artist directly. Think about the example above: I bought their albums, went to a show, and still listen to them on Spotify. But if I were just listening to them over and over again on Spotify without buying, who’s winning besides me and Spotify?

If you’re here reading this post you probably have checked out some of Greenleaf’s music and gone farther than a cursory Spotify relationship. For us at GLM, pulling our music from Spotify isn’t something we want to do. One alternative we’ve created is the Subscription with streaming and downloadable music not available at Spotify (or iTunes or Amazon or anywhere else). We definitely hope you’ll want to hear this music and join up at one of these plans. For us it’s about having a mechanism in place that helps convert those who find music on Spotify or elsewhere into a more direct relationship with our artists. We’re working with Spotify as just another tool to generate interest in the music, whether it’s live shows, CDs, streams, sheet music, or any creative output coming from artists we believe in.

My larger point in all this is that we all need to be thoughtful about how our consumption patterns affect those who are making the content we’re consuming. Paying your $10 to an aggregator like Spotify every month doesn’t get you off the hook. Get out there and see a show, buy an album or even just a song if you like it. Don’t just sit there thinking, “Man, Spotify rules! I never have to pay for an album again!” because you’ll be left one day without a WiFi connection and a deafening silence that could have been cured for a couple extra bucks——money that will help keep your favorite band alive and kicking one more year.


Linda Oh, Initial Here [Preorder, First Listen]

Posted by: jim on May 1, 2012 @ 5:57 pm
Filed under: Greenleaf (News), Greenleaf Cloud Player, Greenleaf Music News, Listening, Releases, Subscriber News

We’re happy to announce the preorder of Linda Oh’s album Initial Here——her second album as a leader, and her first for Greenleaf. Get your order in at iTunes for the MP3s, or at the Greenleaf store for the CD (ships 5/22).

Preorder Initial Here at:

We’re also happy to let our subscribers know that the album is up in-full at the Cloud Player for an exclusive First Listen. And any new subscriber that wants to hear it, your new subscription comes with a free copy of the CD (ships 5/22).

First listen at the Cloud Player:

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For Levon.

Posted by: jim on April 20, 2012 @ 4:34 pm
Filed under: Listening

Dave asked me to post about Levon Helm knowing my love for his music. Dave actually got to play with him on the record Jericho. All of us at Greenleaf mourn the loss.

My heart sank a little bit earlier in the week when I heard that Levon Helm’s family issued a statement regarding his decline. After losing his voice a few years back from radiation treatments only to regain it and reinvigorate his career, I guess I hoped he’d pull through, again—he was only 71.

Get your musician friends together and ask the question: List the greatest singer/drummers of all time. Of course, Levon is on always mentioned on this list—along with the Phil Collins and the Don Henley. But Levon was so much more than just one of the top-tierers in this select-few category. And his work spans too much ground for him to be only on a list like that.

He was one of the greatest singers of all time in my mind. He’s the reason why a Canadian boy could write a song about The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and have it come off as authentic and honest. As my friend Tony says, you can hear that drawled silent “p” at the end of the word “Yankee” in that song. And later, after resting his lost voice for years, he came back and found a new one, one that only seemed frail because you knew where it had been. But soon after, you forgot about it and just listened.

His drumming was so closely tied to the vocal phrase, too, and it’s something that some people forget because his drumming stands on it’s own as amazing. I remember seeing the DVD that came along with A Musical History box set (which is required listening in my circle) and him talking about punching a word with a kick drum or leaving space before the backbeat for the vocals. It’s this reason why I think he’s one of the greatest rock drummers. There was an argument back in high school between whether it was cooler to groove or cooler to rock. Setting aside the ridiculousness of that question, Levon was one of those rare players that seemed to embody both of those concurrently, never overplaying and always feeling head-bobbingly urgent.

The Band was so much more to me than just a band. I have rocknroll friends that aren’t into them. But I always have to say, just like with other band like Big Star and Tom Petty: If you play rocknroll, you like them—you just don’t know it or won’t admit it. Ever wanted to go out to the woods and record your record with your best friends? You know, get away from the city to clear your head and write your roots record? Yeah, well The Band practically invented that with Big Pink. Plus, they got Scorsese to film their final all-night concert playing with Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Joni, Clapton, Ringo, and so many other who’s-who names.

And while The Band may be what Levon is best remembered for, he did so much after all the Big Pink’s and all subsequent legal disputes among that group. Electric Dirt from 2009 is an incredible album for example. Take this opportunity to go back through his catalog. I guarantee you’ll find some gems.

I’ll miss Levon. I was already missing Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. Levon might take me longer to heal from, though. I never made it to a Midnight Ramble and had planned to go last year, but the always regrettable something came up.

But ah well, it’s not about me. It’s about Levon.

“It’s time for you to dream away. Because what a big day you’ve been through. You’ve done all the things that you wanted to do.”

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